Grand Central Station Turns 100

GCT-fc3

“Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.”
– “Farewell to Penn Station,” New York Times editorial, October 30, 1963

Grand Central Terminal (GCT)—colloquially called Grand Central Station, or shortened to simply Grand Central—is a commuter rail terminal station at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in New York CityUnited States. Built by and named for the New York Central Railroad in the heyday of American long-distance passenger rail travel, it is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms: 44, with 67 tracks along them. They are on two levels, both below ground, with 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower, though the total number of tracks along platforms and in rail yards exceeds 100. The terminal covers an area of 48 acres.

The terminal serves commuters traveling on the Metro-North Railroad to WestchesterPutnam, and Dutchess counties in New York State, and Fairfieldand New Haven counties in Connecticut. Until 1991 the terminal served Amtrak, which moved to nearby Pennsylvania Station upon completion of the Empire Connection.

Although the terminal has been properly called “Grand Central Terminal” since 1913, many people continue to refer to it as “Grand Central Station”, the name of the previous rail station on the same site, and of the U.S. Post Office station next door, which is not part of the terminal. It is also sometimes used to refer to the Grand Central – 42nd Street subway station, which serves the terminal.

According to the travel magazine Travel + Leisure in its October 2011 survey, Grand Central Terminal is “the world’s number six most visited tourist attraction”, bringing in approximately 21,600,000 visitors annually.

“One hundred years ago, on Feb. 2, 1913, the doors to Grand Central Terminal officially opened to the public, after 10 years of construction and at a cost of more than $2 billion in today’s dollars. The terminal was a product of local politics, bold architecture, brutal flexing of corporate muscle and visionary engineering. No other building embodies New York’s ascent as vividly as Grand Central. Here, the tale of its birth, excerpted from “Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America,” by Sam Roberts, the urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times, to be published later this month by Grand Central Publishing.”  Click Here to Read:  100 Years of Grandeur: The Birth of Grand Central Terminal by By .

The following is an excerpt from the following blog: Bird Feed NYC:

Grand Central Station History

  • 1871- The original Grand Central Depot opened.
  • 1898- Grand Central Depot underwent renovations and was renamed “Grand Central Station”.  Three stories, a new roof and a new facade were all added.
  • 1902- Only four years later, after a deadly accident, plans began to redesign all the tracks and rebuild a new station.
  • 1903-1913-  Construction of the new Grand Central Station. In 1910, the old station itself was demolished and the new station was completed in 1913.
  • 1954- A plan was proposed by William Zeckendorf to demolish and replace Grand Central with an 80-story building.  The plan was abondoned.
  • 1962- The Metlife Building, originally called the Pan Am Building, was completed and opened in 1963.
  • 1994-2000- After the MTA signed a long term lease on the building, Grand Central underwent renovations and restorations.
  • 2007-  Construction began for the East Side Access project which will connect the LIRR to Grand Central.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

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The @FelicianoCenter’s @MIXLabDesign Design Charrette for “B.E.L.A.” Summer High School Program Entailing the Redevelopment of a Significant Urban Historic Site #UrbanPlanning #Redevelopment #Business #Entrepreneur #Education #HighSchool #DesignThink #Innovation #NJEd @MontclairStateU

On July 9, 2019, in the capacity of University Architect at Montclair State University (and Alumni of the Feliciano School of Business). I had the privilege of participating in a design charrette with a local high school. The project consists of an urban redevelopment site with a precious historical building at the site. I was invited by the people who run the Montclair State University MIX Lab (Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship), an interdisciplinary hub for transformative innovation, and digitally mediated making.

M.I.X. stands for Making and Innovating for X, where X is the unknown, that which exceeds our grasp, the future, and the open-ended nature of creativity, good design and big problems. The co-directors of MIX Lab are Iain Kerr, associate professor of Innovation Design, and Jason Frasca, entrepreneurship instructor.

I graciously accepted Jason and Ian’s invitation to participate as a guest critic along with another fellow professional, Frank Gerard Godlewski of Fellsbridge Studio LLC, who specializes in historic preservation in the area where the redevelopment project is located.  The format for the design charrette, hosted by the MIX Lab for the high school program led by high school teacher, Kevin Richburg, included: (1) The students, in groups of 4-5, presented their concepts for the redevelopment of the site (there were 5 teams); (2) the guest critics gave suggestions and further thoughts on how to further explore and develop the student’s ideas; (3) the guest critics summed up their thoughts for all the students with key take-aways.  The following is a recap of what I learned from the students (in so far as what is the most significant to them) and the key take-aways I offered the students (in no particular order of importance) from my perspective as an Architect who has been involved in the planning, design and construction of projects over the past 20-years.

What the Student Teams Focused on as Key Ideas for their Projects:

  • Historic preservation of the existing building
  • Connecting with local community
  • Local and state pride
  • Affordability
  • Sustainability
  • Celebration of diversity and inclusion
  • Love of the arts
  • Focus on the user “experience”
  • Spaces for families to enjoy
  • Entertainment
  • Accessibility to quality food and goods
  • Mixing of “Bright and Bold” historic and modern elements
  • Transformative
  • “Modern” vibe

Proposed Amenities of the Re-Development Site:

  • Supermarkets (one group proposed a two-story whole sale supermarket)
  • Open-air markets (farmer markets, etc.)
  • Retail, restaurants, food trucks
  • Open space, a square or plaza
  • Parking for visitors (possible tunnel or bridge)
  • Parking at perimeter

Types of Buildings (Programmed Spaces)

  • Main historic building’s exterior appearance
  • Main historic building’s exterior appearance
  • Explore modernization of existing historic building interior to suite new uses
  • Mixed use buildings with green roofs and roof top patios
  • Modern, light and transparent
  • Restaurants and sports bars
  • Entertainment – bowling alley, arcade, movie theater
  • Arts – Museum showcasing tradition and innovation
  • Grocery stores
  • Food trucks
  • Retail
  • Technology/electronics-based retail
  • Main historic building’s exterior appearance
  • Explore modernization of existing historic building interior to suite new uses
  • Mixed use buildings with green roofs and roof top patios
  • Modern, light and transparent
  • Restaurants and sports bars
  • Entertainment – bowling alley, arcade, movie theater
  • Arts – Museum showcasing tradition and innovation
  • Grocery stores
  • Food trucks
  • Retail
  • Technology/electronics-based retail

Types of Exterior Spaces

  • Open spaces with green lawns and fountains
  • Places to reflect and remember
  • ·Field with stage and seating
  • Outdoor seating for restaurants
  • Areas to relax

Key Take-Aways & Ideas for Further Exploration:

  • Site plans – Delineate site elements separately from building elements (so easier to comprehend) using color or graphics (Example)
  • Floor plans – Delineate building areas/rooms with designated color so it is easier to understand program of spaces (i.e., circulation vs apartments vs retail vs support spaces, etc.) (Example)
  • Work together as a team – commemorate each other’s strengths but give everyone credit even those whose work may be behind the scenes
  • Focus on one main idea (let other ideas support the one main theme)
  • Context and Scale – Observe and learn from the surrounding community; apply those elements to the proposed project so that it complements the adjoining communities
  • Materials – Understand how the new materials can complement the historic ones (let the original historic building stand on its own and celebrate its historical significance)
  • Consider “big box” retail versus the Local “pop ups” (gentrification good and bad)
  • Parking/Transportation – As mass transportation has changed from ships to locomotives to buses and cars; look to the future as the world heads to autonomous vehicles (particularly China).  If parking is required think about how a parking lot or parking garage can be transformed in the future.  Example
  • Sustainability is important but do not forget to consider W.E.L.L. as well.  LEED/Sustainability concepts Resource 1 ; Resource 2 also check out the following link for ides about other program types for the redevelopment project Resource 3
  • Consider more technology in your projects, for instance: Smart CitiesAR/VR, and other innovate concepts, like: Immersive Experience and Virtual reality in theme park attractions. Also consider utilizing QR Codes as a teaching tool.
  • Consider developing a pedestrian mall by converting an existing street into a pedestrian friendly zone like they have done in Jersey City, NJ or Times Square, New York City, NY or Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas, NV, the taking cars, trucks and buses off the street and giving the spaces back to the pedestrians who can enjoy it (also it would make the entire site one big site instead of two separate parcels dived by thru traffic).
  • Lastly, and not least important, when considering injecting modern elements with historic architecture, it must be considered whether the original is to remain intact or be altered.  There are interesting examples of tasteful alterations, however, the older I get the less comfortable I am with injecting new with old for the sake of “shock” value (where as a student of architecture 20 years ago the concept was more appealing).  I reminded the students of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, and the ensuing debate that is going on whether or not the renovations/upgrades should be true to the original or whether the new design should be bold and innovating and perhaps less true to the original.  Whether the designers choose to go in one direction or another much thought should be given to preserving the historical elements of our precious structures because they are irreplaceable (think Grand Central Station in New York City, NY, which acted as a catalyst for the preservation movement).  Click here to read about the history of the Preservation Battle of Grand Central Station.

Overall, I was impressed by the talent and creativity of all the students and I was pleased with the quality of their presentations. I hope I was able to contribute in some small way to the success of their respective projects.  The high school student participants’ contributions to the build environment would be welcomed by the design and construction industry, since the students are willing to understand and develop their skills in the area of deep thought, innovation, design, construction and socio-economic concepts at an early age.  I gladly encouraged each and every one of them by letting them know that if they choose a career in architecture, engineering, real-estate development, construction or related field that they would certainly all be able to achieve their goals based on their willingness and eagerness to learn and present their visions and concepts.   I hope my involvement was as rewarding for the students as it was for me.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


Some Ideas to Help Aruba Become the Greenest and Happiest Island #Sustainability #Planning #Architect #Island #Eco #Green #ilmaBlog

Having recently visited Aruba earlier this year, and have fallen in love with the island, I would like to take this moment to reflect on ways that the little island nation can achieve its sustainability goals over the next several years.  Over the past few years it has come a long way but there are still many things left to be addressed if it is to be the greenest happiest little island in the Caribbean as it has set out to do.

One Happy Island

Some background information before we begin — Aruba contains 70 square miles (178.91 square kilometers) of happiness and a population of 116,600 (as of July 2018).

The tiny island gem is nestled in the warm southern Caribbean with nearly 100 different nationalities happily living together. We welcome all visitors with sunny smiles and a warm embrace.

Aruba is an island and a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the southern Caribbean Sea, located about 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) west of the main part of the Lesser Antilles and 18 miles (29 kilometers) north of the coast of Venezuela. It measures 20 miles (32 kilometers) long from its northwestern to its southeastern end and 6 miles (10 kilometers) across at its widest point.

Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC islands. Collectively, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Dutch Caribbean. Aruba is one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Saint Maarten; the citizens of these countries are all Dutch nationals. Aruba has no administrative subdivisions, but, for census purposes, is divided into eight regions. Its capital is Oranjestad. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. Fortunately, it lies outside Hurricane Alley.

Aruba’s economy is based largely on tourism with nearly 1.5 million visitors per year, which has contributed to Aruba’s high population density.

Despite having one of the world’s smallest populations, Aruba does have a high population density at 1,490 per square mile (575 people per square kilometer), which is more than New York state.

During the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, the island announced it aim to cover its electricity demand by 100% renewable sources by 2020. In the same year, Aruba together with other Caribbean islands became member of the Carbon War Room’s Ten Island Challenge, an initiative launched at the Rio +20 Conference aiming for islands to shift towards 100% renewable energy. The benefits of becoming 100% renewable for Aruba include: reducing its heavy dependency on fossil fuel, thus making it less vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations, drastically reducing CO2 emissions, and preserving its natural environment.

(Sources: https://www.100-percent.org/aruba/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aruba; http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/aruba-population)

Some of the areas where Aruba seems to be excelling includes their recent ramp up of wind power – capitalizing on the constant wind that keep the tiny island habitable.

Other areas that they can improve on include the following:

Electric Vehicles

A whopping 87 percent of the entire power generation in the Caribbean comes from imported fossil fuels, and because so much of the region’s fuel comes from faraway sources, electricity costs are four times higher than they are in the United States. The economies of these islands are basically at the whim of global oil prices

The Caribbean has some other reasons to be enthusiastic about electric cars powered by a solar electric grid. The islands, on the whole, are small and low in elevation. The vast majority of islands in the Caribbean are smaller than 250 square miles and are fairly flat, with isolated peaks at most. 

This combination makes them ideal for electric vehicles in ways that, just for example, the U.S. is not. Most electric vehicles have limited ranges, with some only offering a hundred miles or less per charge. The higher-end vehicles can go further; the Nissan Leaf boasts 151 miles per charge, the Chevy Bolt 238 miles, and the Tesla Model S 315, but with still-long waiting times for a full charge, that’s about all you’re getting in an individual trip. That’s not great for hour-plus-long commutes from American suburbs, but for smaller islands with fewer hills to climb, that sort of range is just fine.

Customers who drive electric experience common benefits.

  • Charging up with electricity will cost you less than filling your tank with gas. Clients are experiencing savings of up to 50 percent on fuel costs and very low cost of maintenance.
  • Produce no-to-low tailpipe emissions. Even when upstream power plant emissions are considered, electric vehicles are 70 percent cleaner than gas-powered vehicles.
  • “Fuel” up with clean, Aruban-produced electricity and help our island achieve more energy diversity.
  • Drivers enjoy electric vehicles’ silent motor, powerful torque and smooth acceleration.

Although “solar” vehicles would be even better for this region, the ability for the island to “leap frog” ahead of other counties by building in an electric fueling infrastructure would help set it apart from other island nations.

(Sources: http://nymag.com/developing/2018/10/more-like-electric-car-ibbean.html; https://www.elmar.aw/about-elmar/sustainable-energy-and-electric-cars)

Solar Power

Although solar has come down over the past decade I was surprised that not more individuals capitalize on the sunny region with solar roof panels.

The recently constructed government building, Cocolishi, is one of the first buildings on Aruba with a solar roof. The solar panels provide 30 kW of renewable energy.

On the rooftops of the Multifunctional Accommodation Offices (MFA) in Noord and Paradera solar panels are installed. The MFA in Noord is an energy neutral building, this means it produces the same amount of energy as it consumes. The surplus during sunny days will be added to the grid.

Previously, solar panels were installed on the Kudawecha elementary school. These panels produce 175.5 kW solar energy.

The largest school solar rooftop project is installed on the Abramham de Veer School elementary school. This rooftop project produces 976 kW renewable energy.

The Caribbean’s first solar park opened in 2015 over the parking lot of the airport in Aruba. This solar park provide 3.5 MW solar energy and is one of the first renewable energy projects making use of the Free Zone of Aruba.

In Juana Morto, a residential area complex, solar panels are installed on the rooftops of different houses. Together the solar panels generate 13 kW of green energy.

Elmar, the electricity provider of Aruba, installed solar panels on the roofs of their offices. These buildings together provide 9.8 kW solar energy.

There are different decentralized solar projects on Aruba. Together they consist of 5 MW solar PV part and 3 MW rooftop schools & public buildings PV systems. Once built per the 2017 plan, the installation will provide an additional 13.5 MW providing power for approximately 3,000 households.

Given the amount of sunshine this island receives, expanding their solar portfolio seems prudent.

(Source: https://www.freezonearuba.com/business-opportunities/solar-projects-aruba/)

Wind Power

Wind Park ‘Vader Piet’ is located on Aruba’s east coast in the Dutch Caribbean, this wind farm consists of 10 turbines with an actual capacity of 30 megawatts (MW). Aruba’s current wind power production represents about 15-20 percent of its total consumption, which places it fourth globally and still some way behind Denmark, the current global leader, which produces 26 percent of its power from wind. But today, with a second wind farm about to be deployed, Aruba is set to double its wind energy output, placing it firmly in first place.

It’s hard to believe that just a few windmills are able to produce an output of 30 megawatts of energy, suppling 126,000 MWh of electricity to the national grid each year, displacing fossil fuel-generated energy and supporting the island’s transition towards renewable energy sources.

Given that the wind is a constant, exploiting this resource seems like a profitable and intelligent thing to do.

(Source: https://www.utilitiesarubanv.com/main/embracing-the-winds-of-change/)

Off-Roading

I love that the island has embraced off-road vehicles (ORV); it is a great way to experience the beauty around us in a challenging and fun way adding to the experience.  However, it would be very wise to develop designated areas for off-road vehicles to eliminate (or at least minimize) the human impact on the beauty of this island.  Because it’s greatest commodity is the natural beauty – Sun, ocean, nature and wildlife; Aruba (and other island nations) need to consider how to balance the fun aspect with some regulations that will preserve the beauty of the natural world for future generations.

As you may already know, the use ORV’s on coastal beaches is an activity that attracts considerable controversy amongst beach users.

ORV driving is considered as main contributor to land degradation in arid regions.

The most obvious physical impacts of ORV on vegetation include plant crushing, shearing, and uprooting. Such destruction of vegetation in arid ecosystems can lead to land degradation and desertification. Desert plant species exhibit varying degrees of vulnerability to vehicle use intensity, which results in changes in vegetation composition, height, biomass, reproductive structures, cover and seedbank.

(Sources: https://serc.carleton.edu/vignettes/collection/35397.html; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X18301153)

I also notice that many locals and tourists park their vehicles on the shorelines which are inhabited by indigenous plants and animals of all varieties.  This too should be lightly regulated through education or ordinances so that leaky old (or new) vehicles do not stain the natural shorelines that not only belong to us but to our grandchildren’s grandchildren as well.  We need to educate people to be more responsible and not disrupt the natural world with our cars , especially when it can be easily avoided with very little cost impact to the planning of the island.

Stormwater

Following up on vehicle management along the shorelines, another thing I noticed was stormwater runoff; which is not much but should be managed now to avoid a small accumulation over time.  It is still early enough to employ best practices and manage any future problems by building a robust infrastructure now before things get worse.  Because the island is so small it looks like much of the run off drains directly into the ocean.  Following best practices will ensure that the clear waters stay that way long into the future for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Circumstances alone should prompt islanders to manage stormwater runoff:

  • Traditional community boundaries often centered on natural drainages (e.g., Hawaiian ahupua’a and Samoan village structure), so residents are aware of how land use changes can affect watershed hydrology.
  • Local economies rely on clear waters, healthy reefs, and robust fisheries; thus, BMPs designed to eliminate sediment plumes offer immediate, visible results to resource users.
  • In some locations, rainfall is the primary source of freshwater, so using BMPs like cisterns or storage chambers to collect runoff for potable and non-potable reuse makes water supply sense.
  • Tropical vegetation is fast-growing and plays a huge part in the water cycle, so stormwater management approaches that take advantage of canopy interception and evapotranspiration to reduce runoff have a high chance of success.
  • Island infrastructure is subject to big storms, rising seas, and tsunamis; therefore redundancy within the stormwater system improves resiliency.

Things that should be considered as the island faces increased development includes the engagement of “low impact development” which is an approach to land development that meets the following conditions:

  1. Avoids disturbance of existing vegetation, valuable soils, and wetlands to the maximum extent possible (e.g., minimizing site disturbance and maintaining vegetated buffers along waterways);
  2. Reduces the amount of impervious cover and, thus, stormwater runoff generated on a site through careful site planning and design techniques; and
  3. Manages runoff that is generated through structural and non-structural practices that filter, recharge, reuse, or otherwise reduce runoff from the site.

(Source: https://horsleywitten.com/pdf/Feb2014_IslandBMPGuide_wAppendix.pdf)

Desalinization

Tasked with providing water for a population which more than quadruples with tourists throughout the year, the Caribbean island of Aruba is building a new 24,000 m3/day (6,340,130 gallons) desalination facility to process seawater from beach wells. Paul Choules & Ron Sebek discuss technical details of the installation, set to replace older thermal desalination units.

This is so awesome and could become a really great way for Aruba to expand its market into other emerging countries that are facing water issues.  Abruba could use its extensive knowledge to help other arid climates deal with lack of drinking water, taking Aruba to the next level as a global leader in this realm.

(Source: https://www.waterworld.com/international/desalination/article/16201943/desalination-plant-profile-aruba-the-pearl-of-the-caribbean)

Cogeneration of Power

Justin Locke is director of the island energy program at the Carbon War Room, an international nonprofit. He said it makes sense for islands to switch to clean power.

“Islands currently pay some of the highest electricity prices in the world. At the same time, they also have some of the best renewable energy resources,” added Locke. Aruba’s plan includes building new solar and wind farms, converting waste to energy, and working to increase energy efficiency.

Aruba has set the ambitious goal of becoming the first green economy by transitioning to 100% renewable energy use. Currently, Aruba is at 20% renewable energy use.

Aruba is known for being sunny all year long and its cooling trade winds. By capitalizing on these natural resources, the island can generate renewable energy. The island is lowering its dependence on heavy fuel oil, lowering CO2 emissions, and reducing environmental pollution.

By steadily continuing its momentum with its green movement and implementing cogeneration of power production it will help the island become sustainable and resilient.

(Source: https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/your-country-and-the-netherlands/united-states/about-us/aruba-and-you/sustainability-in-aruba)

Conclusion

Although Aruba has promised to become green it is not absolutely clear that it will be able to achieve its aggressive 2020 goals.  However, the future is bright if Aruba is able to continue on its path and starts to take these issues into greater consideration making it a premier destination for people to enjoy.  Becoming the world’s greenest island will ensure that tourism continues to flourish and that the country will continue to thrive in an environmentally-friendly way that will help restore and maintain the attributes that has made it what it has become famous for – a place for people from all over the world to come and enjoy the natural world away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience the world in a way that seems to be reminiscent of a simpler time and offers us a chance to connect with something much larger than ourselves.  As temporary stewards for the environment it is up to us to protect that which does not belong to us so that future generations can also appreciate these valuable experiences.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


What Makes Notre Dame Cathedral So Important as a Work of Architecture? #NotreDame #Architecture #Design #History

Notre Dame Cathedral is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité located in Paris, France. The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. The innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, the enormous and colorful rose windows, gothic arched windows and doorways, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration all set it apart from earlier Romanesque architecture.

Notre Dame Cathedral is considered to be of the most well-known church buildings in the world. Construction started in 1163 and finished in 1345. It is devoted to Virgin Mary and it is one of the most popular monuments in Paris. The cathedral underwent many changes and restorations throughout time.

The location of this cathedral has a long history of religious cult. The Celts celebrated rituals there before the Romans erected a temple devoted to Jupiter. It was also the place were the first Christian church, Saint Étienne, was built. It was founded by Childeberto I in 528 AD. In 1160 the church was deemed and in 1163 the construction of the cathedral started. Opinions differ as to whether Sully or Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stones of the cathedral. Several architects took part in the construction, so differences in style are clearly seen.

There are around 13 million people who visit the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral every year, which means this is an average of 30,000 people every day, growing to around 50,000 pilgrims and visitors who enter the cathedral on peak days.

History

Construction began in 1163 after Pope Alexander III laid the cornerstone for the new cathedral. By the time of Bishop Maurice de Sully’s death in 1196, the apse, choir and the new High Altar were all finished, while the nave itself was nearing completion. In 1200, work began on the western facade, including the west rose window and the towers, all of which were completed around 1250, along with a new north rose window. Also during the 1250s, the transepts were remodeled in the latest style of Rayonnant Gothic architecture by architects Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil, and the clerestory windows were enlarged. The last remaining elements were gradually completed during the following century.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was built on a site which in Roman Lutetia is believed to have been occupied by a pagan temple, and then by a Romanesque church, the Basilica of Saint Étienne, built between the 4th century and 7th century.

Notre-Dame Cathedral suffered damage and deterioration through the centuries, and after the French Revolution it was rescued from possible destruction by Napoleon, who crowned himself emperor of the French in the cathedral in 1804. Notre-Dame underwent major restorations by the French architect E.-E. Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-19th century. The cathedral is the setting for Victor Hugo’s historical novel Notre-Dame de Paris (1831).

Gothic Cathedral Builders

With the aid of only elementary drawings and templates, master stone masons meticulously directed the construction of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The practices of intuitive calculation, largely based on simple mathematical ratios and structural precedent, were closely guarded and passed between successive generations of masons. Specific site conditions and the insatiable demand by church authorities for higher and lighter buildings provided the impetus for continual development.

The Spire

Symbolically, spires have two functions. Traditionally, one has been to proclaim a martial power of religion. A spire, with its reminiscence of the spear point, gives the impression of strength. The second is to reach up toward the skies. The celestial and hopeful gesture of the spire is one reason for its association with religious buildings.

Holy Christian Relics

The Relics of Sainte-Chapelle are relics of Jesus Christ acquired by the French monarchy in the Middle Ages and now conserved by the Archdiocese of Paris. They were originally housed at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and are now in the cathedral treasury of Notre Dame de Paris.  Relics believed to be a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, as well as the Crown of Thorns he wore, have been kept at the cathedral for centuries. The braided circle held together by golden thread has about 70 or so thorns attached. The relics were obtained from the Byzantine Empire in 1238 and brought to Paris by King Louis IX.

Wood Construction

The framing of Notre-Dame de Paris is certainly one of the oldest structures in Paris with that of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre (1147).

It is poetically and endearingly called the Forest because of the large number of wood beams that had to be used to set it up.  Each beam coming from a different tree. It is a framework of oaks. Its measurements are very impressive: More than 328 feet (100 meters) long, 43  feet (13 meters) wide in the nave, 130 feet (40 meters) in the transept and 33 feet (10 meters) high.

In the choir, there existed a first frame with woods felled around 1160-1170 (it is estimated that some could have 300 to 400 years, which brings us to the 8th or 9th centuries !!!). This first frame has disappeared, but woods were reused in the second frame installation in 1220.

In the nave, the carpentry is set up between 1220 and 1240.  The work of the nave began between 1175 and 1182, after the consecration of the choir. The work stops after the fourth bay leaving the nave unfinished while the elevation of the facade is begun in 1208. The work of the nave will be resumed in 1218 to counter the façade.

On this frame rests a lead roof consisting of 1326 tables 0.20 inches (5 mm) thick weighing 210 tons . In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, roofs were covered with flat tile churches because of the abundant clay deposits. Paris, being far from such deposits, was preferred to lead. In 1196, Bishop Maurice de Sully bequeathed 5,000 pounds for the purchase of lead.

Although the carvings of the choir and the nave went through the centuries, those of the transepts and the spire were redone in the middle of the 19th century during the great restoration campaign of the cathedral under the direction of The Duke . Made according to the principles then in force, they differ from the framework of the choir and the nave, in particular as regards the dimensions of the beams which are much more imposing than those of the Middle Ages and more distant.

The Facade

Notre Dame’s iconic facade evokes a harmony of design based on nature and represents a level of detailed craftsmanship that no longer subsists in contemporaneous architecture. From Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s immense plaza the visitor is captivated by a stunning view of the facade’s three elaborately-decorated portals.

The left-side portal of the Virgin depicts the life of the Virgin Mary, as well as a coronation scene and an astrological calendar. The central portal depicts the Last Judgement in a kind of vertical triptych. The first and second panels show the resurrection of the dead, the judgment, Christ, and apostles.The pièce de résistance is the reigning Christ which crowns the scene.

The portal of Saint-Anne on the right features Notre Dame’s oldest and finest surviving statuary (12th century) and depicts the Virgin Mary sitting on a throne, the Christ child in her arms. Above the portals is the gallery of kings, a series of 28 statues of the kings of Israel.

The magnificent exterior of Notre Dame’s West rose window depicts the biblical figures of Adam and Eve on the outer rim. It measures an impressive 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter, which was the largest rose window constructed in its day.

The final level of the facade before reaching the towers is the “Grande Galerie” which connects the two towers at their bases. Fierce demons and birds decorate the grand gallery but are not easily visible from the ground.

The Cathedral Towers

Notre Dame’s ornate towers became a legend thanks to 19th-century novelist Victor Hugo, who invented a hunchback named Quasimodo and had him inhabit the South tower in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

The towers are 223 feet (68 meters) tall offering remarkable views of the Ile de la Cité, the Seine River and the entire city itself.  After climbing 400 stairs you are rewarded with gargoyles of grimacing demons and menacing carrion birds. The South tower houses Notre Dame’s infamous 13-ton bell.

You can also admire the detail of Notre Dame’s magnificent spire, destroyed during the revolution and restored by Viollet-le-Duc.

The Magnificent Interior

Medieval architects represented their idea of human earthliness in relation to heaven through structures that were at once grandiose and ethereal–and Notre Dame’s interior achieves exactly this. The cathedral’s long halls, vaulted ceilings, and soft light filtered through intricate stained glass help us understand the medieval perspective of humanity and divinity. There is no access to the cathedral’s upper levels, obliging visitors to remain earthbound, gazing upward. The experience is breathtaking, especially on a first visit.

The cathedral’s three stained-glass rose windows are the interior’s outstanding feature. Two are found in the transept: the North rose window dates to the 13th century and is widely considered to be the most stunning. It depicts Old Testament figures surrounding the Virgin Mary. The South rose window, meanwhile, depicts the Christ surrounded by saints and angels. More modern stained glass, dating to as late as 1965, is also visible around the cathedral.

Notre Dame’s organs were restored in the 1990’s and are among the largest in France.

The choir includes a 14th-century screen which portrays the biblical Last Supper. A statue of the Virgin and Christ child, as well as funeral monuments to religious figures, are also found here.

Near the rear, Notre Dame’s treasury includes precious objects, such as crosses and crowns, made of gold and other materials.

Countless processions and historical moments took place inside the cathedral, including the crowning of Henry VI, Mary Stuart, and Emperor Napoleon I.

Sources:

http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/en/la-cathedrale/architecture/la-charpente

https://www.tripsavvy.com/notre-dame-cathedral-highlights-and-facts-1618863

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haussmann%27s_renovation_of_Paris

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre-Dame_de_Paris

We would love to hear from you about what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,

FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


ILMA of the Week: I. M. Pei

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Ieoh Ming Pei (born April 26, 1917), commonly known as I. M. Pei, is a Chinese American architect often called a master of modern architecture. Born in Canton (Guangzhou) and raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Pei drew inspiration at an early age from the gardens at Suzhou. In 1935, he moved to the United States and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s architecture school, but quickly transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was unhappy with the focus at both schools on Beaux-Arts architecture, and spent his free time researching emerging architects, especially Le Corbusier. After graduating, he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and became friends with the Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. In 1939, he married Eileen Loo, who had introduced him to the GSD community. They have been married for over seventy years, and have four children, including architects Chien Chung “Didi” Pei and Li Chung “Sandi” Pei.

MIT’s architecture faculty was also focused on the Beaux-Arts school, and Pei found himself uninspired by the work. In the library he found three books by the Swiss-French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier. Pei was inspired by the innovative designs of the new International style, characterized by simplified form and the use of glass and steel materials. Le Corbusier visited MIT in November 1935, an occasion which powerfully affected Pei: “The two days with Le Corbusier, or ‘Corbu’ as we used to call him, were probably the most important days in my architectural education.” Pei was also influenced by the work of US architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1938 he drove to Spring Green, Wisconsin, to visit Wright’s famous Taliesin building. After waiting for two hours, however, he left without meeting Wright.

Le Grand Louvre

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Pei was acutely aware, as he said, that “the history of Paris was embedded in the stones of the Louvre.”

When François Mitterrand was elected President of France in 1981, he laid out an ambitious plan for a variety of construction projects. One of these was the renovation of the Louvre Museum. Mitterrand appointed a civil servant named Emile Biasini to oversee it. After visiting museums in Europe and the United States, including the US National Gallery, he asked Pei to join the team. The architect made three secretive trips to Paris, to determine the feasibility of the project; only one museum employee knew why he was there. Pei finally agreed that a reconstruction project was not only possible, but necessary for the future of the museum. He thus became the first foreign architect to work on the Louvre.

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The heart of the new design included not only a renovation of the Cour Napoléon in the midst of the buildings, but also a transformation of the interiors. Pei proposed a central entrance, not unlike the lobby of the National Gallery East Building, which would link the three major buildings. Below would be a complex of additional floors for research, storage, and maintenance purposes. At the center of the courtyard he designed a glass and steel pyramid, first proposed with the Kennedy Library, to serve as entrance and anteroom skylight. It was mirrored by another inverted pyramid underneath, to reflect sunlight into the room. These designs were partly an homage to the fastidious geometry of the famous French landscape architect André Le Nôtre (1613–1700). Pei also found the pyramid shape best suited for stable transparency, and considered it “most compatible with the architecture of the Louvre, especially with the faceted planes of its roofs”.

Biasini and Mitterrand liked the plans, but the scope of the renovation displeased Louvre director André Chabaud. He resigned from his post, complaining that the project was “unfeasible” and posed “architectural risks”. The public also reacted harshly to the design, mostly because of the proposed pyramid. One critic called it a “gigantic, ruinous gadget”; another charged Mitterrand with “despotism” for inflicting Paris with the “atrocity”. Pei estimated that 90 percent of Parisians opposed his design. “I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris,” he said. Some condemnations carried nationalistic overtones. One opponent wrote: “I am surprised that one would go looking for a Chinese architect in America to deal with the historic heart of the capital of France.”

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Pei decided that a pyramid was “most compatible” with the other structures at the Louvre, complementing their roofs’ faceted planes.

Soon, however, Pei and his team won the support of several key cultural icons, including the conductor Pierre Boulez and Claude Pompidou, widow of former French President Georges Pompidou, after whom another controversial museum was named. In an attempt to soothe public ire, Pei took a suggestion from then-mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac and placed a full-sized cable model of the pyramid in the courtyard. During the four days of its exhibition, an estimated 60,000 people visited the site. Some critics eased their opposition after witnessing the proposed scale of the pyramid.

To minimize the impact of the structure, Pei demanded a method of glass production that resulted in clear panes. The pyramid was constructed at the same time as the subterranean levels below, which caused difficulties during the building stages. As they worked, construction teams came upon an abandoned set of rooms containing 25,000 historical items; these were incorporated into the rest of the structure to add a new exhibition zone.

The new Louvre courtyard was opened to the public on October 14, 1988, and the Pyramid entrance was opened the following March. By this time, public opinion had softened on the new installation; a poll found a fifty-six percent approval rating for the pyramid, with twenty-three percent still opposed. The newspaper Le Figaro had vehemently criticized Pei’s design, but later celebrated the tenth anniversary of its magazine supplement at the pyramid. Prince Charles of Britain surveyed the new site with curiosity, and declared it “marvelous, very exciting”. A writer in Le Quotidien de Paris wrote: “The much-feared pyramid has become adorable.”. The experience was exhausting for Pei, but also rewarding. “After the Louvre,” he said later, “I thought no project would be too difficult.”. The Louvre Pyramid has become Pei’s most famous structure.

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We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

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Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
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e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
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Peace is OK

In this political season, no matter who wins the election may they lead and serve our country in the best interest of the people of the country and the world.

Buckminster Fuller’s “Dymaxion Map” indicating that we are one island surrounded by one ocean.


Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040

My fellow Americans:

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

II.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

III.

Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology — global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle — with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research — these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs — balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage — balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.

IV.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

V.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

VI.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war — as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years — I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

VII.

So — in this my last good night to you as your President — I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I — my fellow citizens — need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation’s great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
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Licensed in NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.


Gordon Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta-Clark (June 22, 1943– August 27, 1978) was an American Artist best known for his site-specific artworks he made in the 1970s. He is famous for his “building cuts,” a series of works in abandoned buildings in which he variously removed sections of floors, ceilings, and walls.

In the early 1970s as part of the Anarchitecture group, Matta-Clark was interested in the idea of entropy, metamorphic gaps, and leftover/ambiguous space. Fake Estates was a project engaged with the issue of land ownership and the myth of the American dream – that everyone could become “landed gentry” by owning property. Matta-Clark “buys” into this dream by purchasing 15 leftover and unwanted properties in Manhattan for $25–$75 a plot. Ironically, these “estates” were unusable or inaccessible for development, and so his ability to capitalize on the land, and thus his ownership of them, existed virtually only on paper.

In 1971 Matta-Clark cofounded Food, in SoHoNew York, with Carol Goodden, a restaurant managed and staffed by artists. The restaurant turned dining into an event with an open kitchen and exotic ingredients that celebrated cooking. The activities at Food helped delineate how the art community defined itself in downtown Manhattan.  The first of its kind in SoHo, Food became well known among artists and was a central meeting-place for groups such as the Philip Glass EnsembleMabou Mines, and the dancers of Grand Union. He ran Food until 1973.

In 1974, he performed a literal deconstruction, by removing the facade of a condemned house along the Love Canal, and moving the resulting walls to Artpark, in his work Bingo.

For the Biennale de Paris in 1975, he made the piece titled Conical Intersect by cutting a large cone-shaped hole through two townhouses dating from the 17th century in the market district known as Les Halleswhich were to be knocked down in order to construct the then-controversial Centre Georges Pompidou.

For his final major project, Circus or The Caribbean Orange (1978), Matta-Clark made circle cuts in the walls and floors of a townhouse next-door to the first Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, building (237 East Ontario Street), thus altering the space entirely. Following his 1978 project, the MCA presented two retrospectives of Matta-Clark’s work, in 1985 and in 2008.  The 2008 exhibition You Are the Measure included never-before-displayed archival material of his 1978 Chicago project. You Are the Measure traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.


Pringiers House by Tadao Ando Architects, Mirissa, Sri Lanka

4 March 2011 | Story by Rob Gregory

All Photographs by Edmund Sumner Photographer / Sumner Partnership Ltd.

This adventurous new house in Sri Lanka intelligently and dramatically exploits its stunning clifftop setting.

Recent works by Japanese architect Tadao Ando featured in the AR showed something of a departure from his signature use of exposed concrete, with two projects of irregular form, cloaked in sheet steel (AR November 2005 and August 2007). Designed concurrently but finished a number of years later, this project for a house in Sri Lanka returns to a more familiar language of pristine exposed concrete, arranged to contain a series of protected courtyards and voids.

In an urban setting Ando would typically build a wall around the site to control and bring distinction to the relationship of inner and outer realms, using tension between found and imposed geometries to create dynamically lit spaces. On this site, however, fewer constraints existed so the architect was free to compose a form that responded to key views and aspects of orientation.

Remarkably, Ando never visited the site before construction and has not been there since its completion. He relied instead on the coordination skills of two long-term Japanese collaborators, Kiyoshi Aoki and Yukio Tanaka, who liaised with local firm PWA Architects. Ando describes his envoys as being of ‘around retirement age’, but ‘still fit’ and ‘wanting to put their experience to good use’.

They teamed up with PWA founder Philip Weeraratne and his associate Ravindu Karunanayake, to ensure Ando’s exacting standards were maintained, while also, according to Weeraratne, ‘developing a partiality for Sri Lankan curry’. Checking progress and enjoying local cuisine, they made many trips to the remote coastal site. Described as one of the country’s most spectacular places, it perches on cliffs above Mirrisa Beach on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean.

The site was acquired by Belgian entrepreneur Pierre Pringiers, who came to Sri Lanka as a traveller, on which he got work in a local factory. After a while, he started his own factory, manufacturing solid rubber tyres. The fruits of his enterprise are clear to see in the scale and quality of this home. But he is also known to be generous with his wealth and time. Described by Weeraratne as a philanthropist, he has made a significant contribution to the local economy by leading the post-Asian tsunami recovery initiative in 2004.

He has launched programmes such as the Building a Future Foundation, which develops the practical skills of local workers, training them in boat-building crafts for tourism and fishing-related activities. The house was a gift to his wife Saskia Pintelon, a respected artist, who chose Ando as her preferred architect shortly before the natural disaster struck.

The impact of the Asian tsunami and the subsequent civil unrest is thought to account for Ando’s reluctance to visit the country.Instead, Weeraratne and his team, including representatives from the concrete subcontractor, who had to produce mock-ups before being awarded the contract, all travelled to Japan to experience Ando’s work. After this meeting, the Japanese office issued a simple set of drawings, before the Sri Lankan team set about producing nearly all the detailed drawings for construction.

Being only in their early thirties when the project began, they learnt a huge amount. Weeraratne describes the design process as the equivalent to ‘doing a doctorate’, taking him out of his comfort zone by re-establishing geometrical proportions and exacting standards of detail as key priorities. ‘Ando was a hero of mine,’ he recalls. ‘As a student I would have done anything to work with him, so this was the fulfilment of my foolish teenage dreams.’

Accommodation is arranged into three wings that lock into a central courtyard and a grand stair. Rising up to the piano nobile, to the left of the stair is a bedroom wing. To the right, at 90° is the studio and gallery wing that tapers as it extends into the surrounding landscape. And cutting across, at 45° is a lower two-storey wing, which contains a double-height living and dining room, complete with rooftop swimming pool and cantilevered terrace, which looks back over the stair.

In the knuckle between the studio and the living rooms is a service core that holds the kitchen and ancillary spaces. This area includes a master suite on the upper level and a service entrance that separates the artist’s studio from the domestic quarters that occupy the ground floor.

The studio is described by Weeraratne as the grandest of all spaces, being the most ‘characteristic of Ando’s use of light on plane’. He could not avoid mentioning the gadget, which takes the form of the 6m x 6m window at the end of the dining room that smoothly drops down into the basement void below to open up the interiors to one of Ando’s framed views.

Weeraratne applauds Ando’s ability to capture the scenery so well, stating that ‘what amazed me most was what a true master Ando was. He had not even visited the site, yet was able to be so precise with positioning views. That is the evidence of years of practice.’ Taking a more objective stance, however, you may ask, precisely how accurate do you need to be when working with such a stunning panorama.

Nevertheless, Weeraratne’s respect for his master is palpable,and the experience has been rewarding for all. When asked if this project has influenced later work, he concedes that ‘not everyone can afford to spend five times the normal price on a home, but what this process has given us is a proven reputation for being able to produce high-quality work’.

Architect Tadao Ando Architects & Associates, Osaka
Project team Kiyoshi Aoki, Yukio Tanaka
Associate architects Philip Weeratatne & Ravindu Karunanayake, PWA Architects

All Photographs by Edmund Sumner Photographer / Sumner Partnership Ltd.
9 Grove Hill Road London SE5 8DF
t/f +44 20 7501 6477
+44 7957 141 018
edmund@edmundsumner.co.uk