Art and architecture thrive on influence, an asset that knows no boundaries, geographic or disciplinary. It is in this spirit that we welcome new voices, perspectives and interpretations. National Building Museum and Metropolis Magazine contributor, Andrew Caruso, begins the 2013 run of Inside the Design Mind with an emerging voice: Yang Yongliang. At only 32, this Chinese born graphic designer-turned digital artist has come of age in one of the most pivotal (and controversial) times in his country’s history. His digital-collage reinterpretations of China’s cities present explorations of the built environment that are simultaneously critical and aspirational, dark and foreboding yet filled with light. Already showing in galleries from Shanghai to Paris, we think he’s one to watch.
Andrew Caruso: What parts of your childhood influenced the way you approach art?
Yang Yongliang: I grew up and learned about art in an old town that had retained its traditional Chinese character. My teacher made oil paintings and he taught me basic exercises in drawing and watercolor. I remember him telling me on his deathbed that he was thinking about painting. His manner and attitude toward art had a far-reaching influence on me and his death had a profound impact.
AC: You originally studied very traditional forms of art making. Why then did you begin your career with digital media?
YY: My childhood education included traditional paintings and calligraphy and at university I learned graphic design. I began using different software programs and studied photography and shooting techniques. Combining these skills became natural.
Parking structure, Roosevelt Island, New York
Do you ever wonder how another person does what you love doing? As a photographer, trained in architecture, I do. So when I get a chance to talk to a person who’s as turned on by cities, structures, and details, I grab the first chance I get a conversation going. Meeting fellow photographer Heike Buelau, known for expressing herself through capturing the poetic aspect of our constructed environment, was like meeting a kindred spirit. As I was to find out, we share some aesthetic sensibilities, but how she arrives at her vision is completely her own.
Jean Nouvel, Chelsea condo tower, New York
With training in classical operatic singing, the German born Heike brings a sound/musical sensibility to her photography, framing every shot she takes, brining to the appreciation of the city and buildings a special flair. Used to the language of rhythmic tempo, the pauses, the piano forte, the crescendos, Buelau visually re-interprets the city as if composing a piece for chamber music: gentle, subtle, every note essential, regardless of how simple.
In a temporary hiatus from the U.S., with her a new show opening in Torino, Italy–as she was preparing the imagery she created while exploring new horizons, sights, cityscapes in the Far East, from Dubai to Abu Dabi and Kuwait–I caught up with Heike and asked her to elaborate on her views on architecture, art, and the Dubai urbanscape.
Smith Gill Architects, Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai
Paul Clemence: What catches your eyes as you navigate the city?
Heike Buelau: Detail, small, hidden, largely undetected detail.
PC: You talk about silence a lot, how you value it….Amidst the urban chaos, how do you find it?
HB: This question ties beautifully into the first. To me a moment of silence is a moment in which I get to experience a pause from the constant influx of imagery and information in daily life, which generally sets off a never ending and unwanted noise in my mind. I have come to find that pause, that silence more and more in the detail of things and structures. The more I close in on the finest feature of a particular building, for example, the more I get drawn into its absolute beauty. Subsequently this results in that magical moment of silence. A moment of having discovered something in which all else gets shut out. All that exists to me at that point is the creative genius of the architect and my very own response to it.
Asymptote , project, Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi
Museum seen from the waters of Biscayne Bay
A year after my first visit I went back to check the progress of the new Miami Art Museum (MAM). This time Jacques Herzog himself lead the tour of the Herzog & de Meuron project, with Christine Binswanger, senior partner accompanying him. Their insights on the design and seeing the construction closer to completion, gave me a comprehensive view of how the building is shaping up.
Museum seen from the Bay, with Highway 395 and Cesar Pelli’s Theatre of the Performing Arts to the right , and Biscayne Blvd condos to the left.
The first thing I noticed was how well MAM connects with its context, both the natural and urban, inside and out. The site is an architect’s dream. It’s a privileged piece of land, bordered on the south by the verdant Bicentennial Park and downtown, on the west by the city and, eventually, by the new Miami Science Museum; to the north by the 395 freeway and MacArthur Causeway leading to Miami Beach, and to the east the back of Biscayne Bay at the exact spot where the cruise ships docking at Port of Miami maneuver upon arrival. Just standing there makes you feel full of energy and vitality!
View looking out at MacArthur Causeway
Looking out, from deep inside the museum, with Freedom Tower in background.
A building inserted into such a site needs to hold its own and yet not be a carnival ride full of bells and whistles. This is no easy task. But this is what exactly what the architects seem to be accomplishing. When I asked Thom Collins, the museum’s director, what had surprised him most upon seeing the building take shape, he told me: “ There’s no place inside, whether a gallery or hallway, where you can’t look to the outdoors in at least two directions.” Indeed, the vistas are presented at every opportunity, yet they’re not distracting. I imagine that when completed, these rooms, though they will certainly be fit for the introspection required to connect with art, will have a more airy, inspiring feel than other somber, taciturn museum galleries. This couldn’t be more appropriate for a city like Miami, where just a single glance at the expansive sky and the ocean can evoke a fresh perspective, both literally and metaphorically.
Window opening with view of American Airlines Arena, by Arquitectonica and dowtown.
View out South from top floor, looking into park and downtown.
I picked up the phone one morning and heard a man say in Hungarian, “Korab Boldizsar vagyok,” I’m Balthazar Korab. He needn’t have followed up by adding, “I’m a photographer.” I had known that for some time. As a young design magazine editor I was drawn to his crisp, moody, beautifully framed black and white images of the built environment, including the best of modernism. But I did not know, until that morning, that we shared a homeland and were both shaped by the cold war.
His story, like mine, began in Hungary. He came to the US in 1955. I arrived here in 1956. We were both refugees from post-WWII Eastern Europe. He left Hungary in 1949 when the Iron Curtain closed around the Soviet Union’s newly claimed satellites. Eight years later my parents whisked my sister and me out of Hungary, when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed the revolution.
After I heard Korab’s voice and I learned of our shared beginnings, I redoubled my interest in his work. His color photos taught me to appreciate the modernist innovators who built a small mid-western town, long before I visited there (Columbus, Indiana: An American Landmark, 1989). Then I found out that his intense images of Eero Saarinen’s work also revealed the story of the architect’s design process. In 1955 when he arrived in Michigan, Korab was hired by Saarinen to document the design development on buildings that were destined to gain iconic status. It’s not hard to make the connection between the initial fame and historic legacy of buildings like Dulles Airport in Virginia and the photographer’s eye.
As a longtime subscriber to NASA News Services and a frequent user of Google Maps I get to see some thrilling and, often sobering, views of the Earth from space. For some time now, I’ve been watching the polar ice cap recede at an alarming rate while hoping that millions of others, too, are looking at the same images. It’s hard to deny that climate change is real when the evidence is right in front of you.
Image Credit: NASA/Aqua
Now we have another image to ponder: Snow Covered Desert. This phenomena, notes NASA, is “rare but that’s exactly what the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite observed as it passed over the Taklimakan Desert in western China on Jan. 2, 2013. Snow has covered much of the desert since a storm blew through the area on Dec. 26. (more…)
The largest book I own is the 20th Century World Architecture: The Phaidon Atlas. It’s 13.5 by 22 inches. Amazon indicates that its shipping weight is 18.2 pounds. The cardboard carrying case with handles helps. So yes, that’s a lot of architecture. “The most outstanding works of architecture built between 1900 ad 1999” means 757 buildings to the publisher, though some of your favorite buildings may be missing. But you get the distinct sense that if Phaidon had produced a more comprehensive volume the world may have run out of paper. Those on offer are, of course, excellent.
Any comment about the selections is simply going to layer my cherry picking on top of that of the “expert industry panel with input from over 150 specialist advisors from every geographic region” that determined the book’s contents. So before getting to that part of the orchard, an overview. One interesting conceit is that all of the buildings in the book are still extant (find your Imperial Hotel in some other book) and even accompanied by coordinates of longitude and latitude, which might be practically useful if you happen to have a GPS and a native porter for carrying the book.
The buildings within are organized by regional groupings whose representation plays out around the way that these things normally do: about half of them are European, although more-frequently-unnoticed architectural continents aren’t quite glossed over. There are 72 pages on South America and 52 in Africa. The atlas doesn’t stop at that. Each subsection includes a breakdown of projects by local as opposed to foreign architects, which largely displays the ebbing of European global design hegemony. Additional early charts illustrate the movements of architects: There’s of course an influx to the US and the UK in the 1930s and 40s, but otherwise a riot of lines of intriguing origin and destination.
It’s difficult to detect a curatorial bias in terms of styles or years. Europe’s strongest decade was the 1930s. North America and Africa boast the largest relative number of buildings from the 1950s and 1960s. Asia shows the greatest comparative strength in the 1980s. Aalto, Breuer, Le Corbusier, Mendelsohn, Van Der Rohe, and Wright lead the pack in individual selections represented; no surprise there. Some entries stretch beyond the linear “building”. New Delhi and Brasilia are represented along with a few master plans that seem worthy of recognition even if their constituent structures had varied designers, such as Potsdamner Platz in Berlin or EUR in Rome. It’s difficult to argue with these grand inclusions on any categorical ground.
As an architecture student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, I was a bit put off by the cult of Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil. While I knew how talented and what a visionary he was, I found it upsetting that every new project of any significance was automatically assigned to the “living legend”. There was at the time, and still is, a practice by politicians that goes like this: whenever a public project is in need of exposure or dealing with a controversial proposal, they would attach Niemeyer’s name to, in order to avoid debate and discord. Who could, after all, argue with a “genius” creation? Without a doubt, most often than not, the Niemeyer creations were, indeed, genius. But what about the abundance talented architects prevented from even proposing their own visions?
It took some time for me to separate the circumstances in which Niemeyer’s talents where applied from his designs, career, and humanity and thus fully appreciate what he was all about. Like my fellow student, now architect and entrepreneur Henrique Thoni, said to me when discussing Niemeyer’s legacy, “Many can question his design, his social, and political beliefs. But drawing a curve is a challenge that only a few dare to face. He chose this path. Moreover, he did it when the straight line was the rule.” (more…)
When I asked philanthropist Eli Broad what he was looking for amidst the many competition entries for the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, his answer was clear. He wanted the most iconic design, one that could make a statement about the institution’s ambition. And what was that ambition? to make a difference in the community.
Eli Broad knows a thing or two about architecture and community, having been a cultural benefactor and funder of buildings by Frank Gehry, Diller Scofidio Renfro, and Renzo Piano. He’s also a creative and financial force behind countless educational programs around the U.S.
The chosen entry was by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), known for their radical and cutting edge design, in line with Broad’s and the university’s desire to shake things up in East Lansing.
When the lights went out in lower Manhattan on that evening in late October, darkness enveloped everything around me. A week later I was grateful to see what two New York photographers and filmmakers saw that night. Their work helped me understand the magnitude of the blackout Superstorm Sandy visited on my beloved city, of which I could see only a small sliver from my windows. Here Ruggero and Valentina Vanni write about what it was like to be out on the streets as they documented this frightening and beautiful short film, which turns out to be a cautionary tale of modern life.—SSS
“Downtown New York, October 29, 10:13 pm.–The lights had gone out. The brunt of the hurricane just passed us. The wind fell and the rain stopped. We had to go out and see.
“We have been living here for over 30 years and photographed all over the city. We are in love with downtown Manhattan and its ever-changing urban environment at day and night. We knew this time it will be different. We could not imagine how different.
Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography
By John Comazzi
Princeton Architectural Press, 192 pages, $40.00
Image courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press
Balthazar Korab always wanted to be known as “an architect who makes pictures rather than a photographer who is knowledgeable about architecture,” John Comazzi tells his readers. Korab’s career can hardly be summoned up so easily.
The story of the celebrated architecture photographer begins in 1920s and 30s Hungary where he was raised in an upper-middle-class family, studying art, music, and poetry, even as his country was rocked with economic and social instability. With the aftermath of World War II he was forced to flee Hungary and landed in Paris where he studied architecture at École des Beaux-Arts. In between his formal studies he traveled through Europe, documenting the relationships between architecture, culture, and public life. It wasn’t, however, until he moved to Michigan and began working as a staff photographer for Eero Saarinen, that Korab established himself to be the man who documented midcentury modernism.
One video on the Inside Out website explains how to make a homemade glue from flour, sugar and water. Another shows the best way to plaster paper portraits onto outside walls. The website suggests finding approved locations for the exhibits, but doesn’t seem to insist on it; the mission of Inside Out, which prints and ships oversized, black and white photographic portraits, is rooted in activist public art, and its m.o. is akin to writing graffiti, only tamer.
Photo by Roger Edwards
Photo by Matthew Pillsbury
Nineteen Rooms for September 11, by Jill Magi; part of InSite: Art+Communication
In our September issue, we closely consider the task of memorializing both Ground Zero, and the events of September 11, 2001. Philip Nobel wonders if the official memoria…