Last night, representatives of the five design teams proposing plans for West Side Rail Yards development made their first public presentations. The order was randomly chosen, with each team allotted 20 minutes each. Inside Cooper Union's Great Hall, an old man stood directly behind me and began chewing on something loudly. A young Jewfro'd man, not being able to find a seat, simply lay down on the floor, as if star-gazing. Were all development enthusiasts born in a barn? In any event, four proposals were "meh" to interesting. And one was horrific.
Step aside, public editor Clark Hoyt! The Times's impulse for self-assessment takes a more material(ist) turn today with architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's review of the new Renzo Piano-designed Times HQ on Eighth Ave. and 41st Street. Ouroussoff—as far as architecture critics go, really an unimpeachable guy who continues to fight the good fight against the Cialis-crude phallus going up as the so-called Freedom Tower—doesn't dodge the conflict of interest issues. Much.
Frank Gehry, whose daring and whimsical sheet-metal buildings all basically look the same, is being sued by MIT for flaws in his goofy $300-million design for their Stata Center. The center looks, in Gehry's words, "looks like a party of drunken robots," and MIT is apparently surprised that it might not have very good drainage or other things found on non-$300 million buildings that nonetheless have stood up quite well for some time without "masonry creaking" or what have you. Why did everything go wrong? Because fancy architecture is basically like extortion!
Architect Lebbeus Woods on his 1999 drawing of a dammed and dug-out Lower Manhattan: "Le Corbusier was totally misunderstood by New Yorkers who thought, oh, our buildings aren't tall enough—we've got to go higher! Of course, he wasn't interested at all in their height—more in their plan relationship.... New York is not going to be able to compete in terms of size anymore. It used to be a large city, but now it's a small city compared with São Paulo, Mexico City, Kuala Lumpur, or almost any Asian city of any size. So I said maybe New York can establish a new kind of scale." [BLDGBLOG]
While it still has a way to go before it can equal the aesthetic crime against humanity represented by Los Angeles's preeminent residential eyesore, music producer/reality TV nutjob Norwood Young's House of Davids, up-and-coming architectural abomination ALEXANDER, RULER OF THE WORLD is quickly making a name for itself in the exciting world of "Did you fucking see that place?" landmarks.
Two Chelsea buildings, in various stages of erection, are presaging what looks to be the area's latest architectural caprice: queer fa ades. As opposed to the straight fa ades of THOR or even the gentle ugly undulating curves of the Sculpture For Living, the fronts of Jean Nouvel's newest building 100 Eleventh Avenue (left) and Audrey Matlock's ballyhooed Chelsea Modern (right) bend and switch with astonishing muscularity. But for pure sensual gratification, we need a stronger hand. It's better left to professionals like Nicolai Ouroussoff, who surfed the Nouvel vague in the Times this Sunday.
Because we know that your curiosity about the structures in which CAA's phalanx of Armani-clad stormtroopers plan their ongoing takeover of the industry knows no bounds, we direct your attention to today's piece in Slate about the disposition of the agency's recently abandoned, I.M. Pei-designed HQ now that all of its soul-acquiring operations have been shifted to the new Century City location, which ponders why the Evil Zen Temple That Michael Ovitz Built remains without a tenant: