1 March 2018
Evening Lecture organised by Octave Perrault
Architectural historian Daniel Paul will present the history of mirror glass architecture. Used for the first time by the Eero Saarinen and Associates office for the Nokia Bell Laboratories, it was Anthony Lumsden and Cesar Pelli who initially developed the reflective glass skin in mid-1960s Southern California. The material’s distinctive performance and aesthetic allowed it to quickly establish itself as a global archetype of late-modern ‘corporate vernacular’. But beyond the material itself, the history presented in this lecture shines a light on a common yet disregarded building typology, in which the technologies and economies of our contemporary condition were incubated.
Daniel Paul is a Los Angeles-based architectural historian, employed by the global consulting firm of ICF. His 15-year investigation of the history of late-modern glass skin architecture has never been presented in Europe. He has over 20 years’ experience in preservation advocacy, filing numerous landmark nominations that include late-modern works.
Gordon McKay Professor of Materials Science; Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor;
Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
"Natural Glass Houses in the Deep: Lessons in Design"
In the course of evolution, Nature has developed strategies that endow biological processes with exquisite selectivity and specificity, and produce superior materials and structures. This is wonderfully exemplified in the realm of inorganic materials formation by organisms, so-called "biomineralization".
Learning from and mastering Nature's concepts not only satisfies humankind's insatiable curiosity for understanding the world around us, but also promises to drive a paradigm shift in modern materials science and technology.
Professor Aizenberg's research is aimed at understanding some of the basic principles of biomineralization and the economy with which biology solves complex problems in the design of functional inorganic materials. She then uses biological principles as guidance in developing new, bio-inspired synthetic routes and nanofabrication strategies that would lead to advanced materials and devices. Aizenberg is one of the pioneers of this rapidly developing field of biomimetic inorganic materials synthesis.
Professor Aizenberg pursues a broad range of research interests that include biomimetics, self-assembly, crystal engineering, surface chemistry, nanofabrication, biomaterials, biomechanics, and biooptics.
Lecture date: 2009-01-13
The history of the modern window is the history of communication: Le Corbusier's horizontal window is unthinkable outside of cinema, the Eames House unthinkable outside of the colour slide, and the midcentury picture window unthinkable outside television. In each case, the ambition to dissolve the line between inside and outside is realised by absorbing the latest realities of communication. Today, new forms of advanced surveillance technologies operate in the city, and these models of vision act as new paradigms. The glass box has become something else altogether.
Beatriz Colomina is Professor of Architecture and Director of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University. Her books include Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media and Domesticity at War.
Brett Steele introduces Beatriz Colomina.
BEATRIZ COLOMINA: Thank you very much, it’s very exciting to be here at the AA, and I was just thinking that it was here where I first lectured outside the United States, on what would later become my article on Loos and the windows, given here on the last sprint of Alvin Boyarsky.
I’m going to talk about the glass pavilions between let’s say, Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe, and SANAA. I’m going to put that in context of technologies of communication, and technologies of surveillance. In fact, this question of the relationship with glass and the technologies of communication has been an ongoing inspiration, so to speak, in my research, a thread. The history of the modern window, for me, it’s a history of communication. Le Corbusier’s horizontal window, for example, I think it’s completely unthinkable outside cinema, not only did Le Corbusier think that film was the best way to represent modern architecture, but the frame itself, the way we see the world, if you think of architecture as a machine to see—is unthinkable outside the cinematographic frame. Likewise, I have tried to demonstrate quite recently that the Eames house is unthinkable outside the colour slide that was introduced during this years, and made possible for them to make thousands and thousands of colour slides of their house, and this is the way in which it’s represented, in this kaleidoscopic view of colour slides. The picture window at mid century is unthinkable outside television, that is in each case the case the ambitions of modern architecture to dissolve the line between inside and outside, by absorbing the latest technologies of communication. So, if communication is always about bringing the outside in, for example when reading a newspaper, to bring in world events into your life, or getting the inside out, by sending a letter. It’s quite beautiful in this advertisement of 1950 windows in America, that there is precisely a mailman bringing a letter. So, if communication is about bringing the outside in or the inside out, it will seem as if glass represents this act of communication. It is almost as if the glass, takes more and more of the building, as the systems of communication become more and more fluid. Having dissolved the wall into glass, the question becomes how to dissolve the glass itself, into a delicate line between inside and outside. It is the relentless quest for greater fluidity between outside and inside s no longer as simply driven towards transparency, but as we will see with SANAA, the glass box has become something else altogether. So, to show this I will like to go back to the glass house at mid century, the glass house of Philip Johnson and then move from there to the glass house of today, as represented in the world of Kazuyo Sejima. So lets go back to Philip Johnson: the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Philip Johnson is the glass house, but I’m going to introduce another question here, which is methodological: what if instead of relying on his 1950s article where he gives us all the laundry list of the influences that Boulé influenced him, that he copied from Mies, that all the sources, all the mountains of articles accumulated over the years about this house—what if instead of all of this, we take the 20 to 30 television programs that Johnson did in the course of his life? So the hypothesis is: what if the glass house was made for TV? What if Johnson was himself made for TV? I’m going to pass you a clip of one of these TV programs. [Shows clip].
Two really persistent dreams of the 20th century, that of the glass house and of television, were finally realized at around the same time and around the same place: the suburbs of America. Experimental glass with glass fantasies have been playing a role in science fiction, and also in modern architecture since at least the mid 19th century, only by mid 20th century was the dream finally in
The Enticing and Threatening Face of Prehistory: Walter Benjamin and the Utopia of Glass The architect, historian and critic Detlef Mertins examines Walter Benjamins transformative readings of the histories and theories of modern architecture through the lens of Paul Scheerbarts 1914 utopian treatise Glass Architecture.
Mertins is Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and previously taught at the University of Toronto and was a visiting professor at Columbia University, Harvard University, Princeton University and Rice University. His books include The Victory of the New Building Style; The Presence of Mies; and Metropolitan Mutations: The Architecture of Emerging Public Spaces.
Recorded: March 16, 2011
WXY architecture + urban design was founded in 1998 as Weisz + Yoes by Claire Weisz and Mark Yoes. In 2009, the New York-based studio renamed itself WXY to reflect the ethos of the firm and the addition of a third partner, Layng Pew. In this excerpt from their lecture, Claire Weisz and Mark Yoes present the Battery Bosque and Sea Glass Carousel; the Times Square Visitors Center; and the Official NYC Information Center, all in New York. The firm is known for the realization of innovative architecture by means of public and community-initiated commissions. Its work ranges from single buildings to public landscapes to urban design plans to urban furniture, including The Battery Bosque and Sea Glass Carousel in lower Manhattan; the Hudson River Park Activities Buildings; the Bronx Charter School for the Arts; NYPD Security Kiosks; the NYC Information Center; Fordham Plaza Conceptual Master Plan; and Nanhe River Landscape Bridge in Xinjin, China. Weisz + Yoes was selected by the League in 1998 to participate in its Young Architects Forum and was recognized in 2006 as a Design Innovator by Chrysler/House Beautiful. Claire Weisz edited the AD issue Extreme Sites: Greening the Brownfield.
The Architectural League’s annual Emerging Voices Award spotlights North American individuals and firms with distinct design “voices” that have the potential to influence the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. The work of each Emerging Voice represents the best of its kind, and addresses larger issues within architecture, landscape, and the built environment.
Nat Oppenheimer is the executive vice president of Silman, which has served as the structural engineer for more than 21,000 projects. In this lecture, he discusses projects including:
- Menokin Glass Concept Project
- Wieden+Kennedy New York
- Whitney Museum of American Art
The lecture was followed by a conversation with Paul Lewis, a principal at LTL Architects.
Recorded: April 7, 2014
Farshid Moussavi established London-based Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA) in 2011, following 18 years as a co-founder and partner at Foreign Office Architecture (FOA). Research is an integral part of Moussavi’s practice, carried out both in her office and academic positions. Since 2006, she has been a Professor in Practice of Architecture at Harvard University.
Her Current Work lecture is titled “Style Matters,” a reference to her most recent book in the “The Function of…” series that has explored the theory and history of ornament, form, and style. She presents style as process rather than formalism, with decisions about style the “specific agency” of the discipline of architecture. Moussavi gives examples of conventions of form that have become codified, such as the layout of theaters and work arrangements in offices, which have led to “a sense of inevitability about certain activities.” She presents an argument for identifying and then breaking these conventions, allowing for arrangements that inspire new habits of behavior and engagement with form.
Moussavi presents six projects from FOA and FMA, organizing the presentation of each around the convention in form, envelope, or structure that the project seeks to subvert:
+ The Yokohama Port Terminal questions the monumentality and isolation of traditional ports through a form that is integrated with the landscape of the city, “appropriating the terminal” as a public space.
+ Subverting the closed or blank façade of the department store, the John Lewis Department Store in Leicester employs a semi-transparent glazed screen that creates privacy without limiting light and views.
+ The One La Défense building outside of Paris takes advantage of a shallow, irregular site through a slab building divided laterally with five elevator cores, creating light-filled, naturally ventilated apartments in a form normally organized with interior corridors and single-aspect units.
+ With an “assemblage of floors and balconies,” La Folie Divine in Montpellier uses varied floor plates and balcony configurations to create privacy, flexibility, and diversity in a residential tower.
+ The 130 Fenchurch Street office tower in London transforms the standard glass curtain wall with a fluted black glass whose concave pieces “neither mirror its context nor act as a transparent window.”
+ Moussavi’s first project in the US, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, defies the traditional white cube gallery with flexible, reconfigurable spaces in which art and social activities can cohabitate and deep blue walls that create continuity from exterior to interior.
The Current Work series invites significant international figures who powerfully influence contemporary architectural practice and shape the future of the built environment to present their work and ideas to a public audience.
Lecture date: 2001-05-23
RFR, a Paris-based engineering company, was founded in the 1980s by Peter Rice, Martin Francis and Ian Ritchie. Rice was the engineer of a number of well-known projects including the Pompidou Centre. The firm specializes in lightweight and suspended glass structures. Projects include the inverted glass pyramid at the Louvre, the cloud hanging from the Grande Arche de la Defense, and the glazed facade of the Channel 4 headquarters.
Bernard Vaudeville, a director of RFR, discusses the history of the company and some of their key projects. Vaudeville is the head of the Civil Engineering department of the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausses, Paris.
Hernan Diaz Alonso introduces Todd Gannon, recently SCI-Arc’s History + Theory coordinator, currently head of the Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State University.
Gannon discusses the trajectory of Reyner Banham’s career, from the 1950s through the 1980s, drawing from his recent book, Reyner Banham and the Paradoxes of High Tech (Getty Research Institute, 2017). Gannon argues that focusing on Banham’s idea of otherness - “un architecture autre” and “the other tradition” of modern architecture – reveals a Banham who is paradoxical, and engaged with other historians of modernism: Nikolaus Pevsner, Sigfried Gideon, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, and Philip Johnson.
Gannon characterizes the conception of Brutalism Banham explored in his 1955 article, “The New Brutalism” and the 1966 book of the same title as a rejection of the nostalgia, sentimentality and nationalism of orthodox modernism in Post-World War II Britain, especially the revival of the picturesque. He championed the works of Alison and Peter Smithson, such as the Hunstanton Secondary Modern School (1954), Sugden house (1956), and Sheffield University Extension (1953).
However Gannon demonstrates that the language with which Banham championed Brutalism, calling for architecture to disappear except for a structure to support equipment and environmental controls, did not fit any buildings being built. Banham’s 1965 essay “A Clip-on architecture” identifies the work of Cedric Price and Archigram as more relevant to this vision of dematerialized architecture. Gannon points out that when structures that seemed to fit Banham’s description began to be built – Farrell and Grimshaw’s Service tower for student housing (1968), Team 4’s Extention to Design Research Unit (1971) – the otherwise prolific Banham published nothing about them. The exception was James Stirling’s Olivetti Training Center (1974) which Banham dismissed as gimmicky, except for the interior renovation by Edward Cullinan.
Gannon describes the extreme form of architecture’s dematerialization promoted in Banham’s essay “A home is not a house” (1965), subsequently expanded into Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (1969). Banham went on to reinterpret Philip Johnson’s Glass house (1949) as architecture distilled into interior design and landscape.
Banham’s subsequent books – Los Angeles: architecture of four ecologies (1971) and Scenes in America Deserta (1982) seemed to suggest Banham has abandoned architecture, but in fact he was writing against historicizing postmodernism and promoting a revived modernism of exposed structure, exposed services, and bold colors: High Tech, as seen in Piano and Roger’s Pompidou center (1977). Gannon sees this as an attempt to displace Pevsner’s Stylistic Modernism (Victorian engineering, Arts & Crafts, plus Art nouveau) with an updated version of Gideon’s Tectonic Modernism (Steel, Glass Reinforced concrete). Banham stressed carefully elaborated details that hold in tension architecture and technology.
Gannon explains how Banham never completed his proposed book on High Tech, but his last publications propose yet another alternative: Ethical Modernism, valuing Clarity, Honesty, Unity and Wit. Stressing architecture as method; not what but how.
Gannon concludes by proposing that if he had been able to continue his trajectory, Banham might have seen a synthesis of his various positions in Norman Foster’s Willis Faber & Dumas headquarters (1975), including not only High Tech, but Corbusier’s Five Points, but also Gordon Cullen’s neo-picturesque Townscape ideas, plus the Aesthetic, Stylistic and Tectonic traditions of modernism, suggesting updated criteria of Complexity/Density, Fiction, Diversity/Promiscuity, and Wit.