What’s Modern Now? Less is More and Too Much is Never Enough. pI
The recent pickle over the The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s Tod Williams and Billie Tsien designed former Folk Art Museum facade along Manhattan’s 53rd Street leads to wonder. What’s Modern now? It’s sad people aren’t speaking. Sad people believe M0MA’s move to remove designed by Diller, Scofiidio + Renfro lacks vision. Sad.
“Architecture is different from painting and sculpture,” Mr. Lowry said. “We don’t collect buildings and we don’t collect them for a reason.”
Past, Present, Possible. Every VIADUCTgreene walking tour notes the Tod Williams and Billie Tsien designed Parkway campus of the Barnes Foundation….notes that it’s the best building in Philadelphia since the 1929 PSFS Building, cornering the grand Francis Kimball designed 1893 Reading Terminal Headhouse at 12th & Market Streets. World class.
It’s fun to put things into context. Past, Present, Possible. Yes – on their way up into the trainshed, passenger trains slipped through the City Branch passing beneath 20th and 21st streets. Then, there was Bement Pond. Now there’s the Barnes Foundation. Yes, the same trains were seen beneath Broad Street. Yes, Pierre Du Pont, William Glackens and his good friend Albert Barnes knew this intersection well in the 1880s and ’90′s when so much was going on.
In 1926 Paul Cret designed a nice Bozart box for Jules Mastbaum’s Rodin Museum. No one was looking back. It was different, but there was still a lot going on. World class.
After Word War II not so much was going on. As in Philadelphia, “most buildings put up in New York City since World War II are dull. Two exceptions were museums: the Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle, designed by Edward Durell Stone, and the American Folk Art Museum on West 53rd Street, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. The former had a light quirky charm, the latter a striking dark presence. Both were unique and stood out. How odd that the death knell for both came from other museums that took them over. The Museum of Arts and Design eviscerated Stone’s building, and the Museum of Modern Art has the same fate planned for that of Mr. Williams and Ms. Tsien.”
Maybe odd, but what about it? Museums are institutions; they’re businesses with an intent to be sustainable. The American Folk Art Museum location on 53rd Street didn’t work too well. Neither did the Barnes Foundation location in Merion. Is what it is. Move on.
While we do move on, as we always do, it sure is interesting to mull over just what it is that makes us tick. What do we want anyhow?? When the powers that move the Barnes art collection from Merion to the Parkway look to architecture, they look to Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. What is it they’re looking for?
A “modernist legacy of orthogonal, functional minimalism, but placed it in a wider context of earthen, material richness…a tactile Modernism where the form persists, but the experiential palette of sight and touch deliver the subtlest murmurs of geographic and cultural specificity. ’Mr. Williams and Ms. Tsien practice a kinder, gentler Modernism with an enormous sensitivity to materials and textures, and a particular affinity for crafts,’ wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Ada Louise Huxtable, Hon. AIA….‘Their firm’s work brings forth the ideals of Modernism, yet is moderated with a contemporary sensibility and intelligence which makes their work rich, tactile, and useful.‘” Multicultural Modernism.
From 1920′s PSFS modern to the Barnes “new” kinder gentler, multicultural modernism. High Line = High Modern. So, we want minimalist form with earthen, tactile and visual material richness, plus an affinity for craft that delivers subtle murmurs of where we are.
When New York developer Tony Goldman arrived in Philadelphia with plans to revitalize Center City’s seedy 13th Street, almost everyone here wondered whether he was crazy…Michael Nutter, a city councilman in 1999 when Mr. Goldman sought tax incentives for his project. ”We just all kind of looked at him and thought, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ ” In a 1999 Inquirer interview, Mr. Goldman lamented Philadelphia’s lack of an Armani store. He diagnosed the city as “aesthetically depressed.”
We want Luxe life. Experience. Economy. Beauty. Appropriateness.
Take these guys for instance. This Luxe life? What’s modern now? They define it. Wild.
Karl Lagerfeld & Peter Marino in 2010. AP Photo/Francois Mori
Karl Lagerfeld: “has devoted his existence to living as much as possible in the present, keeping himself attuned to trends, not just in fashion but in art, politics, movies, and music…“He said to me once, almost in a worried way, that he has to find out everything there is to know, read everything,” she says. “The curiosity is ceaseless…”Lagerfeld’s determination to stay current requires ruthlessness and a lack of sentimentality. He periodically rids himself of art, objects, and places that, previously, had been sources of inspiration and pleasure. People are not exempt. “He kind of passes on, because he doesn’t like the past,” one of the people who travels in Lagerfeld’s circle says. “So then he decides you’re the past and then he just puts you in the trash.” Lagerfeld says, “I have an entourage of people of today. Because people can work with me for a hundred years but they have to stay informed. And no regrets, no remove, not saying, ‘Oh, things were better then.’ ” According to his publishing partner, Gerhard Steidl, when Lagerfeld reads a thick paperback, he tears out the pages as he finishes them. -In the Now. Where Karl Lagerfeld. The New Yorker. John Colapinto.
Peter Marino: Georgi Armani? Designed his house and many stores. Celine, Fendi, Lancome, Zegna. 15+ stores for Dior. 20+ stores for Louis Vuitton! 30+ stores for Chanel! Marino’s genius is to give each its own clear identity, creating stores that are cool and contemporary but also subtly envelop you in the brand’s heritage. when Peter Marino walks into the Chanel show–and the Dior show, and the Céline show, and the Louis Vuitton show (all brands for which he has created stores)–flashbulbs will go off, people will call his name and photographs of him in the front row will go viral on the internet.
Catching up with Peter Marino here.
One thing about what’s modern now, at MoMa, it all about the garden! So, imagine our delight, when press released what’s modern now – Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s plans for a new MOMA. Most exciting is Robin Pogrebin reporting in the New York Times, “the opening of its entire first floor, including the beloved sculpture garden, free to the public.”
Read Robin Pogrebin reporting in the New York Times here. Read the esteemed Paul Goldberger’s lament about removal of the Tod Williams and Billie TsienWest designed former home of the American Folk Art Museum facade in his Vanity Fair Magazine piece here.
And what of the garden?
“I could just walk down 53rd and use it for my club….They had jazz concerts in the garden. The garden had just been redone. That was interesting because I found it to be the most beautiful outdoor room in America. I thought, “God, this thing is really good, you know”. And it was, the Bob Zion redo [of the garden] that was finished in about 1963-64, was a very good project. Philip Johnson had done the second addition to the museum, the black steel piece with the upper raised terrace where the George Rickey sculpture was. I just loved that garden. I really looked at it and later I wrote an article about the rise and fall of a Modern landscape. About how it’s been ruined and it ain’t what it was. But it was Mies van der Rohe’s best unbuilt project. You know, there’s the things you think of that you don’t get to do and somebody else does. [Philip] Johnson built a homage to Mies there that really goes back to all of his urban houses from the 20’s and 30’s and to a series of his writings and projects. And if you don’t know the articles, it’s a good article. I published in JDH’s journal a few years back. So anyway, I kind of memorized that garden and I memorized Central Park. -Philadelphia’s Laurie Olin
Wow. World class.
Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 MoMA design ‘reintroduced’ “The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden as the heart of the Museum by preserving Philip Johnson’s original 1953 design.” Spectacular.” In 2014, Diller Scofidio+Renfro’s design opens MoMA’s entire first floor, including the beloved sculpture garden, free to the public!
What of gardens today? What’s Present? What’s world class? Happily and necessarily, direction today is toward more “ecological.” More planterly. More wild. More more. Mies said “less is more,” and Morris Lapidus said “too much is never enough.” It all meets in the garden. VIADUCTgreene creates a garden of intersecting culture and wildness.
Best exemlfying the “less is more and too much is never enough“ in gardens today is Piet Oudolf. Try as we have, we can’t find any pics of Piet Oudolf looking anywhere near as badass as the perennially uniformed Karl Lagerfeld and Peter Marino. No matter where they go, gardeners get their hands dirty…
From Uomo Vogue. Piet Oudolf. Roberto Baldassarre.
“Minimalist form with earthen, tactile and visual material richness, plus an affinity for craft that delivers subtle murmurs of where we are.” Sounds like a great garden to me. Todays “New World” plantastic’ gardens look their finest when powerful modernist tendencies organize their space…
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. When Chanel gardens a poetic evocation of N°5, it does through the design of Piet Oudolf. More about here.
Like KL and PM above, Piet’s modernism represents a variety of brands. Private gardens around the world, public places like the High Line with James Corner Field Operationsand Millennium Park with Kathryn Gustafson.
Looking ahead is likely Luxe. From the luxe haute rusty rails of the High Line, Oudolf seems to be wheeling along the world’s ribbons of steel. Powerhouse contemporary art and modern masters gallery Hauser and Wirth contrasts their spaces on Peter Marino’s Bond Street and Zurich’s former Löwenbräu brewery building with a new gallery and arts centre at a derelict farm on the outskirts of Bruton, Somerset. Hauser & Wirth Somerset opens to the public in 2014, a stone’s throw from engineering genius of VictorianEngland – Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s c.1850′s fabled Great Western main line, route of the Cornish Riviera Express. All aboard for Bruton!
The Hauser & Wirth Garden at Durslade Farm is planted. ”Somerset does not have any significant contemporary art galleries, there’s a great arts scene in Bath and Bristol but they are a good hour away.” The gallery and arts centre is built on what was originally a “model farm” dating back to 1760. There is a cowshed, a piggery, stables, barns, a farmhouse and land… It could become something of a country retreat for Hauser & Wirth’s artists and the farm has already been visited by names such as Pipilotti Rist, Roni Horn, Phyllida Barlow and Paul McCarthy.
The place resonates with Past, Present Possible. In 1776, it was sold to the Hoare family who also owned nearby Stourhead! Great garden roots amass deeply, thickly.
I think KL, PM and Piet too, must be pleased. Back in the golden age of steam, chocolate-and-cream liveried carriages hauled by 79-ton King Class and Castle Class locomotives painted a deep, rich Brunswick green set the stage at rural Bruton. Luxe…
Cornish Riviera Express.
A bit further afield, Piet may be planting along the the steel rail of Thomas the Tank Engine!
A year ago it was reported that “Richmond Square Design has submitted the plans to the Isle of Man Government on behalf of billionaire businessman and philanthropist Mark Shuttleworth, who was the first South African in space.”
Mr. Shuttleworth proposes to have the nature park on land he owns in Ballavale, Santon. It would include wetlands, a glen, an orchard, a Japanese garden, as well as wildlife. He also hopes to build a sensory garden in collaboration with a number of charities including the Manx Blind Welfare Society and Rebecca House children’s hospice. Also outlined in the plans is an amphitheater to be used as an outdoor stage for theatrical performances and educational presentations. In the design statement it says the intention of the project is to create an estate that will contribute to the Island’s heritage and be a botanical garden of global standing.
Collaborators on the project, at Mallards Estate, Santon, include landscape architect Gross Max and Japanese garden designer Shunmyo Masuno. Shuttleworth is also in discussions with natural swimming pool expert Peter Petrich and plans to consult perennial landscape specialist Piet Oudolf.
For a great distance, the property adjoins the Isle of Man Railway at Santon Station. Sodor is a fictional island which is supposed to be located in England in the Irish Sea between Cumbria and the Isle of Man that is used as the setting for The Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry, and later used in the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends television series. Inspiration came on a visit to the Diocese of Sodor and Man in 1950. Awdry noted that while there was an Isle of Man, there was no similar Island of Sodor. A large island would meet the criteria he required, giving him the isolation from changes to the British railway system while giving him somewhere that people could believe in.
We want Luxe life. Experience. Economy. Beauty. Appropriateness. Fantasy.
As always, possibilities intrigue. Like Hauser and Wirth, one can suspect that a man who’s looked at the epic view of Earth from Space sees certain order in seeming chaos, much the same as so many seed heads, blades, spikelets and awns are ordered in a winter meadow.
What Piet Oudolf calls the ugly, the dead. “…the journey…discover beauty in things that on first site are not beautiful.” It is a New World Garden!
It’s a pleasure to share a short, very beautiful, glimpse of PIET OUDOLF: FALL, WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, A Feature-Length Documentary, now in production by the Checkerboard Film Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation you can make a contribution to at Checkerboard Film Foundation. 1 East 53rd St, 14th Floor. New York, NY 10022.
Click below for the teaser. Listen carefully. See Beauty in the Unexpected:
“I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.” — Alexander McQueen
Jeff the Koons, 2009
Aluminum, Photographed by Norman Jean Roy
wan and Manuela Wirth with Thomas Houseago’s Hermaphrodite, 2011. Photographed by Norman Jean Roy