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Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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Michael Webb

Friday
Feb182011

REVIEW: David Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector

David Adjaye: a House for an Art Collector
Texts by Peter Allison, Adam Lindemann and interviews with David Adjaye
Principal photography by Robert Polidori and Lyndon Douglas
(Rizzoli International, $50)

David Adjaye is the Michael Maltzan of British architecture, fusing the cerebral and the tactile, collaborating with artists and collectors, and creating buildings at both ends of the price spectrum. The National Museum of African Art in Washington DC will make him a household name when it’s completed, four years from now. Meanwhile, his reputation rests on the houses and community centers he built in the gritty East End of London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. It’s a big jump to the affluent Upper East Side of New York, a National Historical District where everything that’s visible from the street is sacrosanct. Adam Lindemann needed more space in which to display large contemporary works, bought an abandoned carriage house just off Park Avenue, and commissioned Adjaye to build an edgy, black concrete structure on six levels, concealed behind the protected Beaux Arts façade.

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Saturday
Feb122011

PATRICK TIGHE BUILDS ON MEMORIES AT SCI-ARC

“Out of Memory” is a womb-like cave of wonders that occupies the SCI-Arc gallery though March 13. Conceived by Patrick Tighe, it’s a radical departure from the sharp angles that characterize his built work, most recently the Sierra Bonita apartments in West Hollywood. Inspired by memories of his late father, he collaborated with composer Ken Ueno to create a parabolic structure of foam that is sculpted from within by six-axis robotic milling.

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Tuesday
Feb082011

REVIEW: Brasilia-Chandigarh: Living with Modernity

Brasilia-Chandigarh: Living with Modernity
Photographs by Iwan Baan
Essays by Cees Nooteboom and Martino Stierli
(Lars Muller Publishers, $60)

Le Corbusier planned and designed the civic core of Chandigarh, the new capital of India’s Punjab region, and Oscar Niemeyer designed the buildings that fleshed out Lucio Costa’s plan for Brasilia. Both cities represented the last mad thrust of modernism as a revolutionary force that would sweep away the past and start anew on a clean slate. Carefully composed images dazzled the world and then became a familiar part of modernist iconography. Fifty years on, these two cities have grown explosively and taken on a character that has little to do with their founders’ vision.

Iwan Baan, the flying Dutchman who photographs the latest iconic buildings around the word, has captured the surreal juxtaposition of monuments and everyday life. People, parked cars, and a torrential downpour upstage the architecture. An improvised game of cricket, an Indian passion, is played on a scrubby field beside the Chandigarh parliament building. Children play in dusty streets and bureaucrats doze over stacked papers that may never be read. The images are soft and hazy—a deliberate choice by one of the world’s most accomplished photographers and one of its most exacting publishers.

Monday
Jan312011

A STUNNING ARTS CENTER FOR THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY

 

 

Disaster can be turned to advantage and the CSU campus in Northridge, devastated by the 1994 earthquake, has been rebuilt and has gained a facility—the Valley Performing Arts Center—that will benefit students and the population at large. Ten years in the making, it was driven to completion by CSU President Jolene Koester, who shared the vision that inspired Dale Franzen to collaborate with the Santa Monica Community College in the creation of the Broad Theater. VPAC is a much larger complex, comprising a 1700-seat multi-purpose auditorium, a 180-seat black box, classrooms, support spaces, and a studio for the KCSN public radio station. It was designed by HGA Architects of Minneapolis, a specialist in this field, and lead architect Kara Hill saw it through to completion before leaving to establish her own firm.

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Thursday
Jan272011

Kahn in Venice

Kahn presenting his model

One of the great what-ifs of architectural history is on view at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood: a congress center that Louis Kahn designed as a tensile bridge spanning a canal in the Arsenale of Venice. Had it been realized, it might have rivaled the Kimball Museum, the Salk Institute, and the Parliament of Dhaka among his masterworks.  But the client was Venice, a museum city dedicated to mass tourism, which prefers mediocre replicas to inspired originals. Kahn died in 1974 before his design was completed, and it joins the Frank Lloyd Wright palazzo of 1953, and Le Corbusier’s hospital of 1964, as one of the lost opportunities for La Serenissima to infuse the old with the best of the new. Only now, with Calatrava’s footbridge across from the station, and David Chipperfield’s extension to the San Michele Cemetery have the Venetian authorities begun, haltingly, to address the present day.

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