Art Buzz August 5, 2013: Villa Noailles: Architectural Landmark Now a Design Showplace



Architectural Landmark Now a Design Showplace

Source: NYT, 8-5-13

Villa Noailles in southern France, a starkly elegant country home inspired by the radical De Stijl movement, has become a venue for design exhibitions….READ MORE

Art Buzz May 13, 2013: Defending a Scrap of Soul Against MoMA: The American Folk Art Museum Building & the Museum of Modern Art Expansion



Defending a Scrap of Soul Against MoMA

Source: NYT, 5-13-13
Far left, the former home of the American Folk Art Museum. Its neighbor, the Museum of Modern Art, in other photographs above, has sought to raze the folk art museum in an expansion.

Photographs by Robert Wright for The New York Times

Far left, the former home of the American Folk Art Museum. Its neighbor, the Museum of Modern Art, in other photographs above, has sought to raze the folk art museum in an expansion.

West 53rd Street needs the character of the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, a building threatened by a Museum of Modern Art expansion plan….READ MORE

Art Buzz March 28, 2013: Canterbury Cathedral’s Stained-Glass Windows at the Getty Museum



Canterbury’s Windows at the Getty Museum

Source: NYT, 3-28-13

Dean and Chapter of Canterbury

One of the stained glass panels from the Canterbury Cathedral that will be on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Two rare examples of English medieval art — stained-glass panels from the Canterbury Cathedral in Kent and the illuminated book of psalms known as the St. Albans Psalter — will be exhibited together at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles….READ MORE

Art Buzz February 6, 2012: Joseph Siry: Professor’s Bookshelf — Interview with Professor of Art History at Wesleyan University



Professor’s Bookshelf: Professor of Art History Joseph Siry

Source: Wesleyan Argus, 2-6-12
Professor Joseph Siry is the chair of the Art and Art History Department, as well as a professor of modern architectural history. This semester, he is teaching Architecture of the 20th century. Outside of his role as a professor, he has published several books on modern architecture, including his most recent “Beth Sholom: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture.” Professor Siry sat down with The Argus to discuss his colossal collection and the research presented in his new book.

The Argus:
So, what’s on your bookshelf?

Professor Joseph Siry: Virtually everything on this bookshelf has to do with the history of architecture, almost entirely European and American topics from Greek antiquity to the present. This is a set of books that I’ve put together over 30 or 35 years. I even still have some of my high school textbooks—history, physics.

A: Your department just moved from the Davison Art Center to 41 Wyllys Avenue—were you able to bring all of your books with you?

JS: Everything that is of even the remotest utility is now over here. I brought over a lot of student theses. I have my notebooks from my undergraduate and graduate courses, journals that I subscribe to, art bulletins, and the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

A: Which books do you always find yourself returning to?

JS: There are so many excellent authors and studies represented on these shelves. It depends on which course I’m teaching and what topic I’m working on. If I’m teaching the general introductory course on European architecture, I’m thinking of a book like “Architecture and Meaning on the Athenian Acropolis” by Robin Francis Rhodes, or William McDonald’s book on the Pantheon. For someone in a very early stage or first course in the field, these are stimulating, and very beautifully written.

In my mind, there are so many authors here who are models, who wrote books that represent just the very best work in the field. Their lucidity, their depth of learning, their level of insight—it’s that set of qualities that you want to emulate in your own work.

A: Do you ever use your own writing in your classes?

JS: Oh, yes, sure. I particularly use my writing on Frank Lloyd Wright in my courses on American architecture.

A: You just published a new book on Frank Lloyd Wright. Could you talk about what you address in the text?

JS: Basically, it’s a book about the history of his involvement with religious architecture. I published an earlier book on his first major church building, Unity Temple. He was a Unitarian. He had a very broad engagement with comparative study of religion, because that is an emphasis in Unitarian denominational culture.

This [new work] is a book that deals with the history of his development as an architect for worshipping communities, but mainly focuses on his one synagogue, which was designed from 1953 to 1959: the Beth Sholom congregation in Elkins Park, Pa. He had a very close working relationship with the rabbi. They had a rich exchange of ideas about the history of Judaism, its symbolism, and the appropriate architectural space for a modern Jewish community.

The building itself is a wonderful space for worship. It’s a tall, glass-enclosed tetrahedron, with about 1,200 seats with a focus on the arc. The communal self-awareness in the room is very strong, and metaphorically it’s supposed to allude to Mount Sinai—to represent Mount Sinai as the source of the Ten Commandments. This is a very self-consciously modern and American synagogue for the period. It’s not at all traditional.

A: What sort of research did you conduct for this book?

JS: Oh, there were a number of sources. The rabbi’s papers and correspondence are partially at the synagogue and partially at the Jewish theological seminary in New York. Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings and correspondence are at his archives, outside of Scottsdale, Ariz. The other chapters deal with churches in Florida, Kansas City, and Wisconsin. I went to all of those places—and a number of others—where there were records of these institutions, their clerical leaders, and the urban and historical context.

A: You visited all of these sites? How long did that take?

JS: This project started in 2003. I started working on the Pfeiffer Chapel at Florida Southern College. I went down there in 2003, and the book came out in December 2011. The work on Beth Sholom started in 2005.

A: What draws you to Frank Lloyd Wright’s work?

JS: Well, he is very well known, but the more you study his work, the more exceptional it is. He had an extraordinary mind, particularly in terms of the geometric and structural forms of architecture. These are very unusual spaces in terms of their geometry and construction. There is no other building, so far as I know in the world, that is really like Beth Sholom, and that’s true of a number of his other well-known buildings, such as the Guggenheim Museum. He had this capacity to imagine highly original possibilities for different types of buildings.

A: Do you have a favorite building of Wright’s?

JS: I’ve been very involved with Beth Sholom. Unity Temple is another that seems very meaningful. These are worshipping communities, and the strength and continuity of the religious traditions really comes through. It’s partially a question of social history and religious history, and how he’s able to create forms with modern materials that speak to the people who are commissioning and using them.

A: What about Wesleyan’s architecture? Are there any buildings here that you especially admire?

JS: I really like Olin library, particularly the original part of the library. I love its material details and its monumental presence in that part of the campus. Over the years, I’ve really also come to admire the Center for the Arts. In fact, I recently wrote a letter to Kevin Roche (the architect of the CFA) telling him how much I like it. He wrote back right away.

Art Buzz February 3, 2012: Louis Kahn: Can You Tell An Architect Is Jewish By His Style of Building?



Can You Tell An Architect Is Jewish By His Style of Building?

Source: Philly Curbed, 2-3-12


Louis Kahn’s illustration of his design for Mikveh Israel via Louis I. Kahn Archives at Penn

Professor of Visual Studies at California College of the Arts Mitchell Schwarzer reviews Gavriel Rosenfeld‘s latest book, Building After Auschwitz: Jewish Architecture and the Memory of the Holocaust—and finds its “shaky thesis” is largely unsubstantiated. Rosenfeld claims that American Jewish architects in the 20th-century architecture have been markedly influenced by their Jewish identity, creating a “new Jewish architecture.”

Schwarzer is unconvinced. He assesses a few of the architects profiled—like Louis Kahn—and sees little evidence of Jewish thematics in their work.

Schwarzer writes:

It is only when the book reaches Louis Kahn that readers are asked to detect, and then only slightly, a Jewish building sensibility. Yet where does Kahn’s architecture show that sensibility? … We read that Kahn, though not a practicing Jew, visited Israel. This correlation seems a stretch.

In fact, the question of Kahn’s relationship to Judaism and architecture has been asked before. In Louis I. Kahn’s Jewish Architecture: Mikveh Israel and the Midcentury American Synagogue, Susan G. Solomon uses Kahn’s (later abandoned) plans for Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel to broach a larger conversation about the evolution of synagogue architecture. When the book came out, in 2009, it was Rosenfeld who reviewed the book for The Forward:

Does a building’s Jewishness lie in its form, its function, its designers’ personal background, its clients’ program? Solomon does not explore these questions in much detail, and so it remains difficult to glean exactly how Kahn injected “Jewish content.”

Apparently, he thought he could probe the subject more thoroughly than Solomon did, but according to Schwarzer, he’s failed to persuade.

REVIEW: MITCHELL SCHWARZER / Building After Auschwitz [Places]

Art Buzz February 2, 2012: David Resnick: The Amir Center — a mixed modernist message — known as Jerusalem’s ugliest building now might be torn down



A mixed modernist message

The Amir Center was known as Jerusalem’s ugliest building, but the publicity won its architect a raft of projects. It now might be torn down.

Source: Haaretz, 2-2-12

In 1958, shortly after going out on his own, Architect David Resnick was asked to design a new residential building at the intersection of King George and Agron streets in the heart of Jerusalem. The plot chosen was surrounded by several buildings of historical and architectural value such as the Terra Sancta building and the American consulate.

But in the spirit of the times, Resnick decided to build a daring modernist response across from those structures: a square high-rise sitting on a commercial space and flashing its innovation in every detail.

Amir Center -  From the book 'David Resnick, Retrospective' The Amir Center in the 1960s. Its unusual facade won fans.
Photo by: From the book ‘David Resnick, Retrospective’

The residential building known as the Amir Center (sometimes referred to as Beit Agron or the Supersol Building ) recently marked its 50th anniversary. Over the years, it has become one of Jerusalem’s best-known residential buildings thanks to its location, unusual facade and design innovations.

Veteran Jerusalemites still remember the steel crane brought over from Sweden specifically for this project; it hoisted up the prefab parts. Yet the Amir Center is now threatened by an evacuation-construction plan promoted by a group of residents and welcomed by the municipality. Given the renewal marathon underway in downtown Jerusalem, there’s a chance the building will be razed to make way for a luxury high-rise.

“For me, it was very important to have modern construction in Jerusalem, but most of the people opposed my building and said it wasn’t in the Jerusalem tradition,” Resnick said this week.

The Amir Center indeed sparked an intense dispute, and in a series of street interviews earned the dubious honor of “Jerusalem’s ugliest building.” In hindsight, this too is a form of public relations. In the week of the dispute, Resnick was commissioned for a variety of projects all over the city. “When you do something that’s disputed, it sometimes yields good results,” he adds….READ MORE

Art Buzz January 27, 2012: The Architectural History of Bankers Hill From Victorian manors to modernist homes



The Architectural History of Bankers Hill

From Victorian manors to modernist homes

Source: San Diego News, 1-27-12

In its heyday, Bankers Hill was the center of luxury and wealth in San Diego. The end of the Victorian era brought huge growth to the city as a whole, but especially propelled the few blocks west of Balboa Park into popularity among the financial elite.

The name “Bankers Hill” comes from the great number of financiers and banking tycoons who made their homes in the area. Perhaps the most culturally important mark Bankers Hill made on San Diego’s history was its abundance of architectural gems, some of which still stand today.

From Victorian manors to modernist homes, the neighborhood is a visual, living history of major movements in architecture, with enormous contributions from often overlooked founding fathers of modern San Diego. Bankers Hill undeniably has its roots in the Victorian era, when it began to rise in prominence. Architect and Southern California congressman William Bowers designed the Florence Hotel at Fourth Avenue and Fir Street, in 1884….READ MORE

Art Buzz January 23, 2012: Frank Gehry: Design for President Eisenhower’s national memorial misses the mark



Gehry’s design for Eisenhower memorial misses the mark

Source: Washington Post, 1-23-12

Anonymous/AP – This artist rendering provided by the Eisenhower Commission on Oct. 6, 2011, shows an updated model which shows the Maryland Avenue vista and promenade for the national memorial in Washington for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s family wants a memorial in the nation’s capital redesigned, saying the current plans overemphasize his humble Kansas roots and neglect…Architect Frank Gehry’s design for the congressionally authorized memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower is creatively unconventional, innovative in form and use of materials, monumental in scale — and the wrong thing to build.

Gehry’s initial concept, first unveiled early last year by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, has elicited much criticism, including from Eisenhower family members. Critics have faulted the design’s non-traditional style and unusual interpretive strategy, as well as the process that led to the design.


Whatever your view, any design critique must address two basic questions: Will the form and content of the memorial meaningfully and movingly commemorate Eisenhower? And, as an artistic work of urban design and landscape architecture, will the memorial enhance the form and fabric of America’s capital city? Regrettably, the current design has serious problems on both counts…READ MORE