The MFA Design Department at School of Visual Arts has launched a new podcast series. The “Designer as Author” features lectures by SVA faculty members like Milton Glaser and Paola Antonelli, along with guest speakers from the international design community, emerging designers, thesis projects, and student coursework. Topics range from book jackets to furniture trends. Click the link for more information, or subscribe to the RSS feed or iTunes.
Thirty-two design firms were pre-qualified in the second round of the Mayor’s Design + Construction Excellence Program (D+CEP). In the $10 million and under requirement contracts category, firms are: Andrew Berman Architect; Atelier Pagnamente Torriani; Caples Jefferson Architects; Charles Rose Architects; Christoff:Finio Architecture; CR Studio Architects; Garrison Architects; LARC Studio; Locascio Architect; Lyn Rice Architects; Marble Fairbanks; Marpillero Pollak Architects; Michielli + Wyetzner Architects; Narchitects; OBRA Architects; Pasanella + Klein Stolzman + Berg; Sage & Coombe Architects; Slade Architecture; Steven Harris Architects; Steven Yablon Architects; Toshiko Mori Architects; W Architecture and Landscape Architecture; Weisz + Yoes Architecture; and WORK Architecture Company…
In the $10-$25 million category, firms are: 1100: Architect; Deborah Berke & Partners Architects; Grimshaw; Polshek Partnership Architects; Smith-Miller & Hawkinson Architects; Snøhetta; Steven Holl Architects; and Urbahn Architects…
The AIA announced nine recipients of the 2007 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards including NY firms Gluckman Mayner Architects (Robin Hood Foundation Library for P.S. 192, NYC); and Polshek Partnership Architects (William J. Clinton Presidential Center for the William J. Clinton Foundation, Little Rock, AR)… The Science & Art Center designed by architects Peter Gisolfi Associates for the Agnes Irwin School has received a recognition of excellence from the National School Boards Association (NSBA)…
2007 MIPIM Architectural Review Future Project Awards were given to several NY-based firms, including Peter Marino Architect (105 W. 57th Street), “Tall Buildings” category and “Overall Winner”; Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (122 Greenwich Avenue), “Residential” category; Grimshaw (Eco-Rainforest), commended for sustainability in the “Innovation” category; and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Chongming Island and Bahrain Bay), highly commended and commended respectively, in the “Regeneration and Masterplanning” category…
This past year’s New York City Canstruction Competition donated over 251,000 lbs. of canned food to City Harvest — the largest donation from a single event in City Harvest’s 25-year history… The eighth annual SpecSimple.com Box-A-Thon delivered over 200 boxes and raised over $10,000 for NY and NJ design schools. The winners are: Heather Kane, Perkins Eastman; Victoria Danesco, Ted Moudis Associates; Peter Carey, Butlers Rogers Baskett Architects; Maria Ortiz, GRAD Associates; and Eileen Ragsdale, TPG Architecture…
Roland Lewis, executive director of Habitat for Humanity New York City since 1997, has been named president and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance…
Michael Lischer, AIA
Oculus 2007 Editorial Calendar
If you have ideas, projects, opinions — or perhaps a burning desire to write about a topic below — we’d like to hear from you! Deadlines for submitting suggestions are indicated; projects/topics may be anywhere, but architects must be New York-based. Send suggestions to Kristen Richards.
06.01.07 Fall 2007: Collaboration
09.07.07 Winter 2007-08: Power & Patronage
04.19.07 Call for Recommendations: AIANY College of Fellows
The AIA New York Chapter Fellows Committee is now accepting recommendations for those who will be nominated to fellowship from our chapter. Advancement to the AIA College of Fellows is granted for significant achievement in design, preservation, education, literature and service. Architects who have been members for 10 or more years are eligible for consideration.
05.01.07 Call for Submissions: Reinventing and Galvanizing Downtown
The Alliance for Downtown New York and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council invite artists to creatively look at downtown construction sites. Projects should re-invent and transform community eyesores into places of attraction, curiosity, and anticipation. Proposals in all visual media — paint, collage, light, sculpture, architectural interventions — are encouraged. Projects will be evaluated in terms of effectiveness in ameliorating daily life in a construction zone and monetary feasibility.
05.04.07 Submission: Land Development Breakthroughs Visionary Award
This award recognizes projects with creativity, vision, and implementation of best practices in land development. Criteria for the award include effective leadership, team building, public relations successes, sustainable principles, community contributions, innovative solutions, and financial success, along with uniqueness and beauty. Finalists will be showcased at the upcoming Land Development Breakthroughs — Best Practices Conference, June 7-8 in New Orleans, LA. The winning project will be showcased in the Conference Review edition of Land Development Today magazine.
05.31.07 Submission: Urban Landscape Award 2007
This award sponsored by Eurohypo AG with Topos and Architektur&Wohnen seeks to raise the profile of projects that enhance inner-city open spaces, including residential blocks, mixed-use developments, and redesigned neighborhoods. Innovative sustainable development and economic and social integration will be expected. Public and private organizations, planners, and architects are invited to submit. Projects must have been completed between the years 2000 and 2006. The first-prize winner will receive EUR50,000 (appr. $67,000).
06.01.07 Submission: Schedium
The AIA NY Chapter’s Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) invites drawing portfolio submissions as part of its new program, Schedium, intended to celebrate the drawing abilities of emerging architects. Artists selected from the portfolio competition may be asked to participate in a live drawing series. International practitioners are welcome. Eligibility is limited to those with an architecture degree or international equivalent, who have received an architecture degree after 01.01.91 or received their architectural license after 01.01.97, whichever is less restrictive. Four winners will receive a $1,000 stipend plus additional benefits.
06.01.07 Submission: Challenge America: Reaching Every Community Fast-Track Review Grants
This grant category offers support primarily to small- and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations — those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Grants are available, in the amount of $10,000 each, for professional arts programming and for projects that emphasize the potential of the arts in community development. While not required, applicants are encouraged to consider partnerships among organizations, both in and outside of the arts, as appropriate to their project.
06.01.07 Competition: Walla Walla Market Station Design Competition
The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation and Valley Transit announce a competition to design a distinctive downtown transit station integrating various community needs. Walla Walla is an Eastern Washington city renowned for wine production and its picturesque and historic downtown. Three semi-finalists will win $5,000 each, and compete for a final $3,000 prize.
06.17.07 Submission: ShelterMe
ShelterMe calls for designs of temporary emergency shelters for deployment in a natural disaster. In the past two years, widespread catastrophic events have called forth large-scale international relief efforts throughout both urban and rural areas. Designers are challenged to present a cost-effective, short-term shelter that is affordable, lightweight, strong, and easily deployed. The competition is open to all registered members of the DESIGN 21: Social Design Network, who are at least 18 years old.
08.01.07 Competition: Connecting Market East: Student Design Competition
The Ed Bacon Foundation, a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization, launched its second annual national student design competition, open to architecture, planning, and design students across North America. Entrants must create design solutions for improving Market East in Center City Philadelphia focusing on re-connecting Market East and its destinations to the street, transit, and the city at-large.
12.31.07 Submission: Just Jerusalem
Just Jerusalem calls for innovative visions for Jerusalem and what it might be if justice and urban livability — rather than competing nationalist projects — were the principle points of departure. Sponsored by MIT’s Center for International Studies (CIS) and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), the project’s goal is to allow for the envisioning of Jerusalem, real and symbolic, as a just, peaceful, and sustainable urban locale by the year 2050. Entries are open to architects, urbanists, artists, historians, poets, political scientists, philosophers, economists, engineers, and all others who have ideas for the future of the city. Multi-disciplinary teams are encouraged.
Monday–Friday: 9:00am–8:00pm, Saturday: 11:00am–5:00pm, Sunday: CLOSED
Join an Architalker for a Hosted Tour of Center for Architecture
Join us for free Architalker-hosted tours of the Center for Architecture exhibitions Fridays at 4:00pm. To join one of these tours, meet in the Public Resource Area on the ground floor of the Center for Architecture.
April 9-July 7, 2007
2007 AIA New York Chapter Design Awards
Galleries: Kohn Pedersen Fox Gallery, HLW Gallery, South Gallery, Edgar A. Tafel Hall
Monday, February 12, 2007, 6:00–8:00pm
Monday, April 9, 2007, 7:00–10:00pm
Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 11:30am–2:30pm
A showcase of the 2007 award-winning projects in three categories-Architecture, Interiors, and Projects. Selected from hundreds of international, national and local submissions, these projects spotlight the extraordinary achievements in architectural design excellence happening in New York City and around the world.
Exhibition and Graphic Design: Graham Hanson Design
Organized by: AIA New York Chapter and the AIA New York Chapter Design Awards Committee
Lead Sponsor: Certified of New York, Inc., Columbia, KI, Langan, Mancini Duffy, Richter + Ratner, Syska & Hennessy
Atkinson Koven Feinberg; Bauerschmidt & Sons, Inc.; Bentley Prince Street; Beyer Blinder Belle: Architects and Planners; Cosentini Associates; Costas Kondylis & Partners; Forest City Ratner Companies; FXFOWLE ARCHITECTS; Gensler; Gilsanz Murray Steficek; Haworth; Hopkins Foodservice Specialists, Inc.; The I. Grace Company, Inc.; Ingram, Yuzek, Gainen, Caroll & Bertolotti; Lutron; Mechoshade Systems; New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies: The Real Estate Institute; Perkins + Will; Peter Marino Architect; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Steelcase, Inc.; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Swanke Hayden Connell Architects; Thornton-Tomasetti Group; Turner Construction
April 12–June 23, 2007
NY 150+: A Timeline
Ideas, Civic Institutions, and Futures
Galleries: Gerald D. Hines Gallery
Thursday, April 12, 2007, 7:00–10:00pm
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the American Institute of Architects in New York City, the AIA New York Chapter will feature an exhibition charting the transformation of the city and the profession from 1857 through the present and into the future. Genetic lines tracing the founding of the institute will intersect with various democratic and social movements and the architecture of New York’s civic structures.
Curator: Diane Lewis
Organized by: Organized by the AIA New York Chapter and the Center for Architecture Foundation
*opening presented by Ibex
The exhibition is supported in part by an Arnold W. Brunner grant from the AIA New York Chapter
Additional support is provided by: Peter Schubert, AIA; FXFOWLE ARCHITECTS
March 22 to June 16, 2007
New Housing New York
Galleries: Street Gallery, Public Resource Center, Judith and Walter Hunt Gallery, Mezzanine Gallery
Phipps Rose Dattner Grimshaw
Monday, April 9, 2007, 6:00 8:00pm,
CES 1.5, HSW
Panel Discussion with Winning Team
and Honorable Mention Team
Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 5:30 7:30pm
384 East 149th St., Bronx, NY, 3rd Floor
BX Community Board 1 Presentation
Saturday, April 14, 2007, 1:00 4:00pm
FamilyDay@theCenter: House + Home
Saturday, April 14, 2007, 12:00 2:00pm
1040 Grand Concourse at 165th St., Bronx, NY
FamilyDay@the Bronx Museum of the Arts
Monday, April 16, 2007, 6:00 8:00pm, CES 1.5, HSW
Panel Discussion with Three Finalists
Wednesday, May 16, 2007, 6:00 8:00pm, CES 1.5, HSW
NHNY: Best Practices for Affordable Sustainable Housing –
What worked, what didn’t?
Making Green Design More Accessible
TBD, CES 1.5, HSW
Power House illuminates the people, projects, and public policies that fuel the affordable housing landscape in New York City.
As New York City’s first juried design competition for affordable, sustainable housing, the New Housing New York Legacy Project (NHNY) is generating creative, replicable approaches to urban development. The exhibition focuses on the NHNY competition and sets it within the context of the city’s efforts to preserve and development sustainable, financially viable residences for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. The show’s emphasis is on the future of housing in the city, as represented by the competition winner, Phipps Rose Dattner Grimshaw (Phipps Houses / Jonathan Rose Companies / Dattner Architects / Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners), the four finalists, and the development mechanisms put in place by Mayor Bloomberg’s 10-year New Housing Marketplace initiative and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Building on the 2004 New Housing New York Ideas Competition, the 2006 two-stage contest will result in construction of the winning design on a 40,000 square-foot Bronx site, which is valued at $4.3 million and was donated by The City of New York.
For the full list of finalists click here
Curator: Abby Bussel
Exhibition and Graphic Design: Casey Maher
Organized by: AIA New York Chapter,
New Housing New York Steering Committee and the
City of New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development with the additional support of the Center for Architecture Foundation and the AIA New York Chapter Housing Committee
For more information on the New Housing New York Legacy Project click here
NHNY is a partnership between the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, the City of New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Additional support is provided by the Center for Architecture Foundation, and City University of New York.
The NHNY Legacy Project is sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the National Endowment for the Arts, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., an AIA National Blueprint Grant, JP Morgan Chase, and Citibank.
March 22 — June 2, 2007
Making Housing Home
Photographs with residents of New York City housing developments
Saturday, April 14, 2007, 1:00 – 4:00pm
FamilyDay@theCenter: House + Home
This photographic exhibition explores how people inhabit housing to create homes in two of New York City’s affordable housing developments, each of which were developed to provide good homes for all. Because units of housing are in essence homes for families, this project takes an interior look at what architecture can allow and support, to afford the crucial process of making space for oneself within designed spaces and housing markets. If social housing reflects the social covenant of our society, what is it to which every citizen is entitled? What does it take for a life to flourish and can a building help or hinder this process? What becomes of designed spaces once they are inhabited?
An Installation by Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
Exhibition underwriters: Related Apartment Preservation, 42nd Street Development Corporation, Barbara Stanton
Organized with: Center for Human Environments, Housing Environments Research Group, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Courtesy Times Square Alliance
Times Square Through the Lens
This free exhibition includes more than 40 Times Square photographs culled from The New York Times archives, including teenagers screaming at the arrival of the Beatles; the USO serving doughnuts and coffee to WWII soldiers; crowds and cameras at the opening of the film, “The Sound of Music.”
Times Square Information Center
7th Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets
Courtesy Architectural League of New York
New New York: Fast Forward
The Architectural League of NY presents the fifth in ongoing series of exhibitions highlighting new architecture in NY. A snapshot of the changing city, this exhibition serves as an opportunity to evaluate and inform the current wave of redevelopment, and hopes to encourage more informed discussion. The centerpiece is a gallery-sized map, an aerial photograph of the five boroughs, featuring more than 500 projects, ranging from single buildings to neighborhood rezoning, now under construction or being planned. In addition, the exhibition looks at three areas that are undergoing particularly significant change: High Line District, Bronx River Greenway, and Spring Creek Housing. Included is a series of videotaped interviews with a cross-section of NY architects, ranging from emerging designers to internationally-recognized figures.
457 Madison Avenue
Courtesy The Chelsea Art Museum
04.19.07 through 05.12.07
The Sims: In the Hands of Artists
Using the world of the popular video game, “The Sims,” as inspiration, Parsons The New School for Design presents an exhibition of work by students in its Design and Technology, Communication Design, and Illustration programs. Works combine the art forms of “machinima” (using a game engine to produce animations or films), physical computing, interactive media, 3-dimensional printing, and traditional media.
The Chelsea Art Museum
556 West 22nd Street at 11th Avenue
Courtesy Storefront for Art and Architecture
04.24.07 through 05.26.07
CCCP — Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed
During the course of his travels in the former Soviet Union over the past five years, French photographer Frederic Chaubin has documented architectural artifacts born during the last 20 years of the Cold War. Some architects in the peripheral regions of the Eastern Bloc countries, working on governmental commissions during the 1970s and 1980s, enjoyed a degree of creative freedom, drawing inspiration from expressionism, science fiction, early European modernism, and the Russian Suprematist legacy. As well as presenting the architecture itself, the exhibition traces the intellectual and political undercurrents.
Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street, NYC
AIA America’s Favorite Architecture Green Exhibition
NY-based C&G Partners has designed a “green” exhibition system created for “America’s Favorite Architecture,” a traveling exhibition presented by the AIA. The lightweight, compact system incorporates sustainable materials and recyclable components. An interactive web site, also designed by C&G Partners, accessible at kiosks within the exhibition, allows visitors to vote for their own favorite architecture at each location.
AIA Washington DC Headquarters
1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.
and at AIA’s National Convention
San Antonio, TX, from May 3-5, 2007.
Next week is Architecture Week! Included among the many celebratory events is a plaque unveiling at the site where the founding of the AIA took place — 111 Broadway (the Trinity Building) designed by Francis Hatch Kimball. Stop by at 6:00pm, Friday, April 13. And check out the AIA NY Chapter’s online calendar for more related events.
– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP
Event: 2007 Temko Critics Panel: A Critical Situation: What to Make of Starchitecture, And Who To Blame For It
Location: Baruch College, 03.28.07
Speakers: Karrie Jacobs and Philip Nobel — Contributing Editors, Metropolis; Jeremy Melvin — Architectural Review, consultant to Royal Academy of Arts Architecture Program, London; Rowan Moore — Director, The Architecture Foundation, and critic for Evening Standard, London; Moderator: Joseph Grima — Director, Storefront For Art and Architecture
Sponsors: Forum for Urban Design and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; hosted by the Newman Institute for Real Estate Studies, Baruch College
“I’ll jump into the deep end: starchitecture isn’t such a bad thing,” moderator Joseph Grima posited to the panel of design journalists and critics. “It’s good for your profession — it gives you something to write about.” Using Frank Gehry, FAIA, as an example of a global brand, he asked, “Are journalists to be blamed or credited?”
Jeremy Melvin, author of Isms: Understanding Architectural Styles (Universe 2006), commented that the conversation has been the same for the last 100 years, and will be the same for the next 100. The problem, as he sees it, is that in the last 15 to 20 years, there’s been more money to spend on architecture, causing “brand inflation.” He cited the Gazprom Tower competition as a “significant” example: “Invite all the same architects, and the winner is RMJM, a firm not that well known outside of the U.K. The design was not very good, but not worse than the others.” But it was a competition where “the quality of design dissolved.”
Philip Nobel asked if there is a connection between celebrity and quality. Melvin responded, wryly, that “celebrity can be achieved without doing anything,” yet there’s also the “irony” of those who reach “hyper-celebrity” because they have huge organizations behind them (he finds Norman Foster looking to sell his firm for £500 million “absurd”). Nobel pointed out that Zaha Hadid came to celebrity through her art and media buzz — which “is problematic — does that mean it’s good or just photogenic?”
Grima wondered if there’s complicity between architects and the press. Rowan Moore sees a “major shift in the scale of the phenomenon of starchitecture” where “clients and architects are controlling access to those they know will be positive; the balance of power has changed.” He said it boils down to “persuasion and charm, similar to the games fashion houses play.” Karrie Jacobs agreed, saying developers are buying into starchitecture in a big way, with “Broadway-style lists of credits in real estate ads. As architecture is recognized by popular culture, it becomes less the domain of a small group of experts and opinion makers.” She suggested someone should draw up a chart of how much a starchitect’s name adds to the square-foot value of a project.
To Grima’s question, “Has any building been killed by the press?” With a devilish grin, Melvin answered, “I’ve done quite a bit of slaughtering. Critics should be in the business of criticizing. Otherwise, what’s the point?” He later said that if the art world has experts who authenticate artworks, “why not have critics to authenticate good design?”
Grima then asked the panel if starchitecture has replaced what used to be “movements” or “isms.” Moore said, “I’d rather have starchitecture than isms or ideologies as style. Maybe it is progress. Or maybe I’m being too optimistic.” Nobel countered that in architectural education, “what might be good about isms is you’d have something to teach — not graphic chicanery. There are victims here — us — when these juniors start building.”
Audience Q&A: Is starchitecture a good thing? Moore: “I don’t think it’s fantastic; it’s open to abuse, but it doesn’t kill people.” Melvin: “You’re being too kind. It can hurt people.” Jacobs: “Ostentatious, over-the-top buildings used to show off nationalism. It beats the hell out of an arms race.”
How do you teach a client to think differently about architecture, to make better choices? Moore: “Call out bad buildings and bad shortlists.”
Would a global economic downturn affect starchitects? Nobel: “They’re trying to build practices that are recession-proof. You won’t kill starchitecture.”
Event: 3×3 A Perspective On China, Monthly Lecture Series: Part Eight — Conversation With Yung Ho Chang
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.19.07
Speaker: Yung Ho Chang — Principal Architect, Atelier Feichang Jianzhu (FCJZ) & Professor and Head, Department of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Organizer: People’s Architecture
Sponsor: Center for Architecture
Yung Ho Chang has hurdled conventional boundaries of place, culture, and professional specialization. Founder and principal partner of Beijing-based Atelier Feichang Jianzhu (FCJZ), he has also directed MIT’s architecture program since 2005. His trans-Pacific design career exemplifies an interdisciplinary ambition to complement history with modernity, landscape with buildings, and most recently, architectural rumination with popular film noir.
Chang presented a series of cinematic stills of his firm’s work superimposed with scenes from the Hong Kong film trilogy, Wu Jian Zao (Infernal Affairs, 2002-03), which inspired Martin Scorcese’s The Departed. FCJZ implanted stills from the original film with new objects and characters, such as a bicycle, a Van Gogh painting, or a mysterious hand and body. Simultaneously provocative and absurd, the vignettes mingle fiction with reality. Chang said he chose Infernal Affairs over the visually lush In the Mood for Love (dir. Wong Kar Wai, 2000) because he could tell the story with only a handful of images. He also cited the French New Wave movement and Alfred Hitchcock as cinematic inspirations.
This experiment represents Chang’s latest attempt to study and catalyze the act of perception. Long interested in Chinese scroll landscape painting as well as early Renaissance painting, photography, and film, he has designed exhibitions and buildings that challenge viewers to see their environs anew. For example, a landmark series of projects emerged from an enquiry into peepshow mechanics and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic take on urban voyeurism, Rear Window. In 2003, FCJZ worked with two video artists to create a series of giant, inhabitable sculptures modeled on Leica, Nikon, Polaroid, and Seagull rangefinder cameras.
This “Camera” exhibition helped fuel the design of the dramatic Villa Shizilin, a 45,000-square-foot home located in a rolling persimmon orchard outside Beijing. Chang conceived the house as an interlocking assembly of tapered, wedge-like volumes that function as focused lenses to frame views of the landscape. Drawing the viewer’s eyes horizontally along the landscape, the villa’s distinctly long, low window stripes recall the continuous, kinetic quality of scroll landscape paintings.
The work of Yung Ho Chang and FCJZ is the subject of the current exhibition “DEVELOP” on display at the MIT Wolk Gallery in Cambridge, MA, through 04.13.07.
Event: Emerging Voices Lecture Series
Location: Urban Center, 03.22.07
Speakers: An Te Liu — artist, associate professor & director, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto; Jared Della Valle, AIA, Andrew Bernheimer, AIA — Principals, Della Valle Bernheimer
Organizers: The Architectural League of New York
qubdesign, courtesy Della Valle Bernheimer
“I hate it and I’ve almost rid my life of it,” proclaimed An Te Liu about IKEA furniture. Jared Della Valle, AIA, and Andrew Bernheimer, AIA, have no fondness for the mass-market designs either. For them, buying from IKEA and scavenging from the trash were equally distasteful methods for furnishing their office in their early days.
But Liu confessed to liking the designs better with a few not-so-minor alternations. Ignoring IKEA’s arcane instruction sheets, he assembled the parts for a desk into an angular hanging sculpture; he also reconstituted table panels to form a striped wall mural.
Like Andy Warhol, Liu, an artist and director of the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, is known for using mundane objects as building blocks for new, unexpected forms. Drawn to the cheery colors of 3M sponges, he used them to create walls and pillars in his Soft series. In another project, he constructed totemic pillars out of air purifiers. He appropriated a photo of Levittown as source material for endlessly repeating ornamental wallpaper — an ironic critique of the myth of individual autonomy within a vast built network of sameness, he explained.
Bernheimer and Della Valle, principals of Della Valle Bernheimer, also delight in reinventing familiar forms, but with a highly utilitarian bent. When their firm needed new office furniture, they decided to sidestep stores like IKEA and buy a CNC milling machine to make their own ultra-customizable modular table. The duo’s love of individual variation characterizes their condominium at 245 10th Avenue, whose textured, reflective façade resembles an ever-shifting steam cloud, and a residence in Connecticut that appears to float in the treetops that surround it.
Perhaps the perfect complement to Liu’s Levittown wallpaper was Della Valle Bernheimer’s recent affordable housing project in East New York. The firm strove to break the mold of cookie-cutter design in the collaborative project, built for a mere $108 per square foot but offering a high level of architectural variation. Instead of “I live in the third house down the block on the left,” the owner can say, “I live there,” Bernheimer said.
Though a cynical police officer once challenged him, claiming the houses were “too nice for this neighborhood,” he holds on to the hope that the development may have a regenerative effect on the area. Certainly it’s been a positive step for the first-time homeowners who are beginning to move in, a group of people whose houses are as diverse as they are.