Recently in architecture Category

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detail of Stampflehmbauweise (rammed-earth process) wall


Berlin's Kapelle der Versöhnung (chapel of the reconciliation) was built on the exact site of the Versöhnungskirche, which had survived the Anglo-American bombings of Berlin but not the pathology of the GDR. The 1895 church was destroyed in 1985 in order to improve the security of the wall standing adjacent to it. The history is a little complex, making the story of the new chapel, and its construction, even richer than it might be otherwise.

Today the Kapelle is a part of the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse.

The image at the top shows pieces of various materials (which here or elsewhere include stone, tile glass) which came from the rubble of the original church.

This is a view of the entire chapel, the rammed-earth wall can be detected behind the vertical square-section raw wood slats:

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large detail of the seating in the anatomical theater


It was an immense privilege to visit the newly-restored 1789/90 Tieranatomische Theater in Berlin's Humboldt University today. The building, designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, using Palladio's Villa Rotonda as a model, was commissioned by King Frederick William II to serve as a research centre to control and combat animal and equine diseases.

Barry and I, along with our friend Daniel, were almost alone today while we explored the outer rooms, the staircases, the vault, and especially the remarkable steeply-tiered auditorium where veterinary students learned their profession.

Horses and other large animals were dissected by their teachers on a large round platform which could neatly be raised above and lowered below the floor in the center by the wooden machinery designed by the architect. The didactic which accompanied a working model in the undercroft explained the rational for the device: The route chosen for introducing and removing the bodies to and from the elegant space was intended to minimize both the smell and the mess.

As history and architecture buffs, our own experience in the former royal veterinary faculty was less critical to world betterment, but possibly more exhilarating. And incidentally, the museum attendants could not have been more gracious.

The university will be using the building, restored between 2005 and 2012, for exhibitions and events. The artist Jodie Carey's site-specific piece, "Shroud", was installed in the auditorium in July. I wish we had seen it.


There are more pictures here.

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untitled (no parking) 2013


This is an image, taken in the late afternoon, of a large section of the facade of a 19th-century Berlin building on Münzstraße which is being renovated while covered with a green safety net.

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Patti Smith performing for the one percent at the Chelsea Wednesday night


UPDATE: Citing the wishes of the Chelsea's tenants, Patti Smith cancelled Thursday night's concert, to which they had been invited. Her statement appears on her web site. Score another one for the 99%.


The Chelsea Hotel seems to be attracting more tourists than ever these days; do they know that what they have come to photograph is now a shell, that it has already been destroyed, in a process begun three and a half years ago?

We live almost directly across the street from it, and I have passed by its front doors almost every day for 25 years. I also have wonderful memories of both strangers and friends, and of the provocations of both visual and performance art projects which could only have come out of this amazing community.

I can't bring myself to look inside the lobby these days. I stopped going in when the bouncers appeared, and later the new owners removed all traces of the life with which the building had been so richly endowed as they tossed out the odd furniture and the amazing collection of art, both accumulated over many decades. Adding insult to injury, the walls were then essentially - and revealingly - whitewashed.

Those of us who remember the Chelsea Hotel when it was still a vibrant cultural hive have been made both saddened and angered by the unfolding story of its demise, driven by an unfettered greed absent during the 70 years it was under the management of the Bard family.

I admit I don't understand much of what is happening inside 222 West 23rd Street, and I don't think many people do. More to the point, I can't believe that so little is known about the owners' plans for such an important landmark and once-living monument, if only because of its importance as real estate in a real estate-obsessed city. Permits have to be applied for - and granted (or not) - and I would think the media would be on top of any developments in the story, even if they turned out to be rumors.

All of this brings me to the latest development in the saga of the beautiful 127-year-old relic of brick, iron, and passion: A Patti Smith concert is to be held tonight inside the old hotel ballroom, a concert which may or may not be sponsored by the Chetrit Group, the new corporate owners. The New York Times finds the response to the announcement newsworthy, but doesn't add much light to the larger story. The newspaper neglected to mention that last night Smith was at the hotel to play what the Village Voice wrote "appears to have been a new-hotel-management-planned event to which tenants were not invited, but the architect and others were".

This is a story which wouldn't exist at all if it weren't for the fact that a number of people still live in the 12-story landmark, and obviously have a more personal stake in its future than those who merely love it; these people have paid for their attachment to the Chelsea, and they continue to do so. It is their home, but they also stewards of its heritage, on behalf of all of us. We should do them the honor of respecting their concerns and join them in asking for answers to questions apparently not being asked anywhere else.

I was moved, in coming up with a title to this post, by the indispensable in-house Chelsea Hotel blog, "Living with Legends", published by our friend Ed Hamilton. We want to see Ed, his blog, and the Chelsea thrive; our hope is for continuing living legends, not just ghosts.

"Jeremiah's Vanishing New York" and "Living with Legends" are asking friends of the real Chelsea to meet outside the hotel tonight at 8pm during the second, tenants' concert, to raise lit lighters, and recite the lyrics of Smith's song "People Have the Power":


I was dreaming in my dreaming of an aspect bright and fair

And my sleeping it was broken
but my dream it lingered near

In the form of shining valleys
where the pure air recognized

And my senses newly opened
I awakened to cry -
That the people have the power to redeem the works of fools

Upon the meek the graces shower
it's decreed
the people rule.

The people have the power
the people have the power

The people have the power
the people have the power.

Vengeful aspects became suspect and bending low as if to hear

And the armies ceased advancing because the people had their ear.
And the shepherds and the soldiers lay beneath the stars


Exchanging visions and laying arms to waste in the dust

In the form of shining valleys where the pure air recognized

And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry -

The people have the power
the people have the power

The people have the power
the people have the power.

The power to dream
to rule
to wrestle the world from fools

It's decreed
the people rule
it's decreed
the people rule.
Listen: I believe everything we dream can come to pass through our
union

We can tun the world around
we can turn the earths revolution.
We have the power
the people have the power

The people have the power
the people have the power.
The power to dream
to rule
to wrestle us from fools

It's decreed
the people rule.
We have the power
we have the power

The people have the power
we have the power.


[image by Maydersen via the Village Voice; lyrics from STLyrics.com]

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The last time we were on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum we were partially rained out, even if it was not quite raining. It was the press preview of the completed first stage of Brothers Mike and Doug Starn's extraordinary installation, "Big Bambú" (the Museum closes the beautiful bamboo gates if the surfaces are too wet). We were only able to admire the "forest" from below and, staring up, we could only imagine the experience of actually walking along its ascending, curving, elevated trails.

We were back for another try last Monday, four months later, also to see how much more had been completed by the artists and their team of rock climbers in the interim. Since it had been raining earlier in the morning our chances for getting any higher than we had in April didn't look good, but we were eager to chance it (it was another press preview and we would be able to record the work with our cameras).

We did check roof conditions with the Communications Department before we left, and it sounded promising. By the time we arrived at two the rain had long stopped and a favorable zephyr had done much to dry the reeds. The rewards of our gentle climb were those of being able to see the beauties of the work's more functional forms close up, and the thrill of knowing we were walking where no one would have been able to before this spring, and would not be able to again after this fall.

Once up in the air, born by the squeaky bamboo and its nylon bindings, seduced by the rhythms and the patterns of the paths, and listening to the sound of birds on a misty afternoon, I found it very difficult to come back down. Only the sight of two hawks circling high above, visible through a clearing of the tapering verticals, could remind me of my customary attachment to the earth.

We slowly retraced our steps to the roof surface, and still we lingered.

Oh, by the way, "Big Bambú" is big, and getting still bigger: It's probably about the size of the Temple of Dendur downstairs. Maybe bigger.


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Dream_Hotel_Downtown.jpg


Because I believe so strongly in preserving an interesting building's integrity, and an artist's vision, I find it hard to say this, but what's happening to the building that once housed Fr. Bruce Ritter's Covenant House shelter for homeless and runaway youth may just possibly be an improvement over the original concept - and execution.

I've now seen what looks to be the almost-finished "Dream Hotel Downtown" of hotelier Vikram Chatwal, located at 346 West 17th Street. It is a refitting of a building designed and constructed for the Maritime Union half a century ago to accommodate medical and recreational facilities for its members. The 11-story building is located behind the re-conceived Maritime Hotel, and both eccentric structures were designed by a young architect named Albert Ledner.

I remember the buildings when they were new, and the excitement they created, and I'm delighted that at least two of this architect's trio of Village commissions has survived at all.

I say that the new building may be an improvement because, while I've always loved its perfect round windows, along with their beautifully-crafted frames and hopper-like opening mechanisms, the new dancing pattern punched out by the current design team, Handel Architects LLP, in two different sizes of openings, really makes me smile. Also, the building's original tiny ceramic tiles were replaced by stucco years ago, probably because of problems inherent in the materials, and the way the horizontal lines of the (tile-like) rectangles composing the new shiny (hull-like) metal skin wrap around the tilted corners of the main facade, and dip down along the sides, showcases a very different effect, one at least equal to the 1960's original.

The overall building shape remains unchanged.

Now if only somebody would change that name: "Dream Hotel" scares me silly.


NOTE: Except for its romance-novel appellation, I think I could love this building, but now I'm wondering if it's already a doomed affair: While looking for additional information on the building's design and construction, and searching, sometimes fruitlessly, for links to incorporate in this blog, I got the impression that the project may be on hold. There are some indications that the "dream" may be trouble, because of problems related to money, the health of the principal, or (perhaps the least daunting challenge) engineering problems, and I notice that the hotel web site itself is still "under construction".


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