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Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen, Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (detail), 2007

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New Architecture
January 9-22, 2008

Looking back on the new architecture of 2007, we highlight a handful of experimental projects boasting radical forms and advanced green design. Our top-ten list includes unusual residences by R&Sie;(n), MVRDV, and UNStudio, as well as stunning institutional projects by David Adjaye and Steven Holl. We interview Japanese architect Kengo Kuma about his sublime fusion of traditional and modern aesthetics, and we profile progressive Boston-based practice Office dA. Opportunistic Architecture, a book of Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis' unorthodox designs, is our media pick, and we review current exhibitions around the globe, including work by Wangechi Mutu in London and Richard Hawkins in Amsterdam.

Beijing Preps Olympic Towers
(Telegraph, December 29)
With the 2008 Olympics rapidly approaching, China is scrambling to complete the headquarters for China Central Television. Designed by Rem Koolhaas' OMA, the joined CCTV towers lean toward each other at seemingly risky, steep angles. Critics have asked whether Koolhaas' position as a subcontractor to an authoritarian regime is a wise political move. East of the city, construction continues on the enormous Norman Foster-designed Beijing Airport, expected to process some 53 million travelers a year. In a related story, the Chinese government's struggle to clean up the country's heavily polluted air in time for the Olympics is going poorly.

The Art Year in Review
(Guardian, December 16)
Taking a look back at the year in art, the Guardian praised Louise Bourgeois' Tate exhibition, while New York tipped its collective cap to the Met and Matthew Barney. Los Angeles critics saluted Tim Hawkinson's Getty show, the Financial Times looked once more at the expanding art-market bubble, and the New York Times got self-reflexive with an essay on the year in art-world verbiage. Meanwhile, Artforum asked an international group of artists to pick their highlights of 2007. Lecia Dole-Recio named Richard Hawkins' Los Angeles show as a favorite, while Dan Graham touted Ceal Floyer's NYC installations.

Museums Think Big in Small Cities
(Los Angeles Times, December 29)
Several smaller American cities are hoping for a "Bilbao effect" by hiring internationally renowned architects to contribute bold designs to new museums. North Carolina's Fayetteville Museum of Art tapped Mexican architect Enrique Norten to build a cross-shaped structure that museum directors and community leaders hope will draw business and tourists to the area. Similarly, in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was designed by American-Israeli architect Moshe Safdie; the museum is slated to open in 2010 and will showcase works by Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and Asher B. Durand. In a related story, the $66 million Art Museum of Western Virginia, designed by Frank Gehry protégé Randall Stout, is scheduled to open later this year.

Sculptures Stolen — for Scrap
(Burlington Free Press, December 5)
Thirty bronzes were recently stolen from the Vermont home of sculptor Joel Fisher. The pilfered work represents the bulk of Fisher's career and is estimated to be worth $1 million. Fisher had not insured the work because he could not afford to pay the premiums. George Pearlman, executive director of the Vermont Studio Center, where Fisher is a visiting artist, said that the rising value of copper — the primary constituent of bronze — likely prompted the heist. Pearlman and Fisher's friends have posted notices at local scrap yards in an attempt to keep the sculptures from the smelter.

Royal Academy's Russia show gets go-ahead more »

Two proposals compete for museum plan in SF's Presidio more »

Globe-trotting with Norman Foster more »

Major museums hope for a better '08 more »

Family of collectors ruffles art world more »

Jenny Holzer lights up MASS MoCA more »

Discussing women in architecture more »

A beginner's guide to Net art more »

Graciela Iturbide's dreamy photographs at the Getty more »

Majestic highs and leaky lows in the year in architecture more »

Warhol Foundation celebrates 20 years more »

William Kentridge reveals another side with show of tapestries more »

Artist paints the Rolling Stones, aged ten more »

Embroidery gets "extreme" at the Museum of Arts and Design more »

Cultural elite, RIP? more »

Chelsea may be the art capital of NYC, but don't count out the Lower East Side more »

The case for preserving 20th-century architecture more »

Popular DC public sculpture moving to private collection more »

Thai art rising with Asian markets more »

Mala Iqbal's "acid" paintings blowing minds more »

Gazing at glass art more »

Brazil police recover stolen Picasso, Portinari paintings more »

Make room for Richard Deacon's wooden sculptures more »

Paola Antonelli named senior curator at MoMA more »

Controversial gallerist Stephen Radich dies at 85 more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try a shared username and password from BugMeNot.

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[ Ten Best Buildings of 2007 ]


Studio Pei-Zhu & Urbanus / Rojkind Arquitectos / R&Sie;(n) / UNStudio

Over the last year, developments in sustainability, building materials, and computer-aided design have dramatically changed the field of architecture. Seizing the opportunity for experimentation, a number of architects have created surprising additions to urban and natural landscapes. The ten best buildings of 2007, which range from tiny homes to towering monuments, embrace the latest architectural thinking while offering poetic responses to local and global conditions.

In five new residential projects, architects subverted traditional domestic spaces with unusual materials, contorted forms, and porous boundaries between nature and structure. For Spidernethewood in Nîmes, France, French firm R&Sie;(n) created a building that disappears into the natural landscape; an elaborate system of netting delineates rooms and supports vines and shrubs, which ultimately grow to camouflage the house. For their forest Ring House outside of Tokyo, Japanese designers TNA alternated horizontal bands of glass and wood to create floors that appear to float among the trees. Highlighting natural materials, Foreign Office Architects designed bamboo shades for their Carabanchel 16 social-housing project in Madrid, Spain, generating a flexible and interactive facade and ensuring sustainability. In contrast, playful Dutch architects MVRDV made a boldly incongruous statement on the rooftops of Rotterdam with Didden Village, a complex of simplistic houses painted in brilliant, robin's-egg blue. Experimenting with new geometries, Amsterdam-based UNStudio fused twisting rectangular solids to create the smooth, continuous spaces of the VilLA NM in upstate New York.

The year's outstanding institutional and commercial projects surpassed project requirements to offer sensual new public spaces. For the 2007 Serpentine Pavilion in London, artist Olafur Eliasson and Norwegian architect Kjetil Thorsen created an evocative, sculptural building wrapped by a ribbon-like walkway. Mexican architect Michel Rojkind expressed the lip-smacking pleasure of candy with his Nestlé Museum in Mexico — a dynamic, angular red gem. In designs for art institutions, two leading architects turned to the evocative power of light. For his Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, American architect Steven Holl nestled glowing galleries in an undulating sculpture garden, and London-based David Adjaye used a syncopated arrangement of windows to create varied light sources in London's Rivington Place. Finally, Beijing-based offices Studio Pei-Zhu and Urbanus created a dramatic addition to the Beijing Olympic complex. Already open for use, the Digital Beijing information center evokes an enormous, glowing barcode.

Looking ahead, the coming year also promises a stunning crop of architectural monuments, including the much-anticipated projects for the Beijing Olympics. Collaborations between exceptional architects and engineers open in Beijing this summer: Herzog & de Meuron's Olympic Stadium, OMA's CCTV Tower, Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid Complex, PTW's National Swimming Center, and Norman Foster's Beijing Airport. When the games have ended, the world will look to the booming construction in the United Arab Emirates. Besides the underwater Hydropolis hotel and Dubailand in Dubai, the starchitect-packed Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi is marked to be the next architectural destination. With projects such as Jean Nouvel's Classical Museum, Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, Zaha Hadid's Saadiyat Performing Arts Center, and Tadao Ando's Maritime Museum, the UAE will take the lead in the international competition for architectural prestige. (BR)

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Beatriz Milhazes
São Paolo

Galeria Fortes Vilaça
Now through January 26

  Looking toward a major retrospective this fall at São Paolo's Pinacoteca do Estado, Brazilian painter Beatriz Milhazes salutes her home country with a solo exhibition of seven large works on canvas and paper. Employing a palette that taps into the vibrant spectrum of the tropics as well as the Brazilian tropicália art movement, Milhazes carefully layers acrylic designs of spirals, garlands, and begonia-like blossoms into intricate geometrical compositions. Titles such as Love and Dancing further an atmosphere of visual abandonment, with surfaces erupting in writhing, silhouetted tendrils. In her collages, Milhazes brings her optical contortions to a fever pitch, with foil and marbled papers reverberating on the picture plane. Milhazes' reverential treatment of decorative patterning calls to mind the dense graphics of medieval illuminated manuscripts, similarly invoking the sublime by engaging the eye. (CK)

Wangechi Mutu: Yo.n.I

Victoria Miro
Now through January 19

  Wangechi Mutu's titles reveal her primary themes: Cancer of the Uterus is a portrait created with paper — culled from medical journals, porno mags, and art books — juxtaposed with swirled ink and acrylics. For Yo.n.I — a revision of "yoni," the Sanskrit word for sacred female sexuality, and a phonetic approximation of "you and I" — the Kenyan artist fills three ground-floor rooms with her fantastical, mythical collages on X-ray paper and Mylar. One such piece, mixed-media work A Dragon Kiss Always Ends in Ashes, features a recumbent woman and a serpentine creature entwined in a pose both grotesque and sensual. Upstairs, in the installation Dutty Water, Mutu utilizes water from neighboring Regent's Canal, bare-bulb lighting, plastic tubing, and shoes to dramatic effect, highlighting the widespread global struggle to access clean drinking water. (LCD)

Richard Hawkins: Of Two Minds, Simultaneously

de Appel Arts Centre
Now through February 3

  Los Angeles-based artist Richard Hawkins produces prolific and diverse explorations of contemporary culture. Over the past two decades, Hawkins has mastered a unique iconography of grotesque beauty. His first European retrospective at Amsterdam's de Appel presents more than 90 works, spanning from the early '90s to the present. Collages of teenage male pinups, such as RRSPS, are exhibited alongside Hawkins' infamous Disembodied Zombie Guy Peach, an inkjet print that gives decapitation an erotic spin. More recent paintings, including Sunburn (spitting off the balcony) and Wintergarden, reveal Hawkins' close ties to Belgian expressionist James Ensor in both his dramatic coloring and melding of realism and allegory. New sculptures such as Bordello on rue St. Lazare employ decadent, 19th-century symbolism to touch on the pageantry of present-day humanity. (LK)

Fabrice Gygi

Galerie Guy Bärtschi
Now through January 11

  Swiss artist Fabrice Gygi actuates objects that embody notions of power and authority in this slick, apocalyptic show, which revolves around the theme of emergency response. In the front room, two giant tires with metal chains sit alongside Gas & Gaz, a locked steel shelving unit that contains rows of beige-lacquered gas tanks. An X-shaped leather-and-steel punching bag is elaborately roped from the ceiling of the next room, suggesting an act of bondage. In the basement, Gygi evokes the interior of a moving van by lining the walls with eight massive black panels with steel racks. The artist's sizable show extends into the BFAS space, where he arranges galvanized steel and wood furniture in two sterile installations titled Press Conference Room and Meeting Room, recreating the scenes of executive control. (MS)

Nic Hess: I Would Eat Them Anywhere

Arndt & Partner
Now through January 17

  In Nic Hess' current installation at Zürich's Arndt & Partner, the Swiss artist reanimates and transforms ubiquitous consumer logos from brands such as Nike and Mercedes-Benz. In the expansive wall painting I Would Eat Them Anywhere, Hess combines cutouts with strips of colored adhesive and eclectic objects, including an accumulation of sealed red books and a video monitor. Elsewhere, the artist organizes four light-box collages and miscellaneous items — triple-lens glasses made from buffalo horns, hospital scales, cardboard columns, and a mobile figure — according to the gallery architecture in an free-associative arrangement. Utilizing this site-specific approach, Hess distills the impact of familiar symbols by dispersing them within a colorful, claustrophobic jumble and creating a void of meaning where old contexts are undermined and new contexts unexpectedly appear. (SS)

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[ Office dA ]

Office dA

After 15 years of practice, Boston-based Office dA has recently won overdue recognition for its progressive projects. The multidisciplinary firm synthesizes green consciousness, respect for craft, and a love of iterating forms. Office dA's most outlandish combination of eco-friendly and algorithmic methods is the new Helios House, a LEED-certified BP gas station in Los Angeles. The silvery, multi-faceted form is a notable departure from the firm's characteristic, understated elegance.

Led by Venezuelan-born Monica Ponce de Leon and London-born Nader Tehrani — professors at Harvard's Graduate School of Design and MIT, respectively — Office dA got its start in the early '90s after the duo graduated from the GSD. In several of their early residential projects — notably the Toledo House in Bilbao, Casa la Roca in Caracas, and the Zahedi Residence in Massachusetts — they crafted fluid structural skins from standard materials. These dynamic forms wrap portions of the buildings to obfuscate the relationship between interior and exterior.

More recently, Office dA has won numerous competitions and commissions, including a luxury condo tower in South Boston and the Tongxian Gatehouse, a multipurpose arts center in Beijing. For its redesign of the RISD library, the firm added two multi-level pavilions to the existing barrel-vaulted, 19th-century space. The influence of Louis Kahn's pared-down spiritualism is evident in Office dA's design for the Interfaith Spiritual Center at Northeastern University, a worship hall that achieves a transcendent atmosphere with suspended apertures and luminous panels. Alongside these architectural projects, Office dA also experiments with urban planning, conceptual furniture, and prototypes for radical forms. In an exhibition organized by the ICA Boston, Office dA showcased Voromuro, a contorting wall of translucent, honeycombed cells based on the Voronoi diagram, embodying the firm's commitment to innovation through unconventional pragmatism. (HGM)

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[ Kengo Kuma ]


Kengo Kuma & Associates

One of Japan's most celebrated architects, Kengo Kuma is widely known in his home country for his modern take on traditional materials and methods. His work has become increasingly known in the West through a traveling exhibition and several recent publications. Artkrush editor Paul Laster caught up with the architect, who rarely travels to the US, at the Dellis Cay booth in the Art Basel Miami Beach Collectors Lounge in December 2007.
AK: What motivated you to become an architect?

KK: I was born in a very old, traditional-style home, which prompted my interest in architecture. My house was quite different from my friends' houses, and I learned something from that difference.

AK: Was there any one person or architectural style that influenced your early work?

KK: When I started out, I was very much influenced by the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. He, in turn, had been inspired by traditional Japanese architecture, so maybe a long cycle of Japanese traditions came back to me through Wright.

AK: What was your first building to receive critical acclaim?

KK: The first building to get a lot of attention was a small villa/bathhouse in the Izu Pennisula that was completed in 1988. It had a hot spring — water is very important to me, and most of my buildings are situated near water or incorporate water into their interiors.

AK: How have you best used traditional materials?

keep reading the interview »

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  Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis: Opportunistic Architecture
Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis
Princeton Architectural Press

Award-winning architecture firm Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis (LTL) was founded in New York in 1997 by Marc Tsurumaki and twin brothers Paul and David Lewis. Lauded for its innovative designs and inventive use of materials, LTL has designed intimate spaces, including the Ini Ani Coffee Shop and Fluff Bakery in New York, and large-scale buildings such as Bornhuetter Hall, a dormitory for the College of Wooster, and Arthouse, an ongoing project that renovates and expands the Austin contemporary art center. This sleek monograph — the seventh in the Graham Foundation and Princeton Architectural Press's New Voices in Architecture series — presents ten years of completed projects, proposals, installations, and speculations via drawings, photographs, and texts written by the architects. The principals also lay out their five-pronged "Tactics for an Opportunistic Architecture," which offers a possible trajectory for the future of design. (PL)

Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis' work is on view in the exhibition Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from February 16 through May 18.

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Cover Art
Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, 2007
London, England
Photo: Luke Hayes Photography
© 2007 Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen
Courtesy Serpentine Gallery, London
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

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