Choicelessness

Regression trumps Transgression

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 3, 2007

alabamaaxon

Here’s my abstract rewritten yet again, more developer like this time. Although, it’s basically just me cutting and pasting from the Goldberger article…maybe he should present my thesis for me.

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Paul Goldberger, writing in the New Yorker about Robert Sterns new building at 15 Central Park West in Manhattan, said:

I have never seen anything quite like it: historical pastiche is common enough in country houses or museums, but it’s rare on the scale of a skyscraper.

He goes on the express his surprise that this building, which harkens back to the golden years of Rosario Candela, “looks as if it had been put up 75 years ago”, yet it is, in his words, “the most financially successful building in the history of New York.”

“All the apartments were sold before the building was finished, at prices that started at more than two thousand dollars a square foot and were subsequently raised nineteen times. Demand was so extreme that brokers started to worry that the building was taking all the business away from other high-end buildings nearby.”

As Goldberger puts it: “The idea is to create, ready-made, the kind of place you would get by renovating an old apartment.” Atavistic spaces once used by butlers and maids become eat-in kitchens and picture windows. The 45 million dollar penthouse apartment in Stern’s building was at one point the most expensive apartment in all of New York. This pastiched building, not Herzog and DeMueron’s 40 Bond or Calatrava’s tower on 80 South Street, is a potential goldmine for architects.

A short train ride away is a site in South Williamsburg, a place should be swarmed by developers, but instead is being ignored in favor of development in North Williamsburg. It’s positioned close to both the newly constructed addition to the Williamsburg Bridge, directly on the Myrtle stop of the JMZ, near a park, and the BQE. It is one of the largest contiguous single owned blocks in the area and extends from street to street. Most importantly, the building that currently inhabits the site is a classic theater built in the early 1900′s reused at a 99 cent store and apartments. Sadly, the renovation has completely effaced the original theater. This renovated theater could have been an architectural jewel in South Williamsburg, a place that retro hipsters, wealthy Manhattan-ites, conservative Hasids, and Hispanic business owners could all support. And a place that could have been a highly profitable investment for a developer.

The thesis proposes a “renovation” that puts the theater back into the building . That is, the building will be designed to appear as if it is actually a renovated, re-purposed theater that expands both the residential component and the retail component of the existing building. This thesis will revisit antique typologies like that of the movie palace, out-dated architectural techniques like poche and pastiche, and forgotten forms of ornament and plaster.

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Hmmm this is not coming out quite right, especially when I transition from Stern’s building to my site… I need to work on it. But I think I like this better than the Jefferson one. Criticism anyone?

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8 Responses

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  1. johnsnavely said, on October 3, 2007 at 3:25 am

    Also, I’ve been trying to think of a theme song for my thesis. (For the fly through I’ll make at the end…) Right now, the best bet is Beirut. You know, it feels old timey, but it’s not… Anyway, I’m not that musically literate, so any suggestions?

  2. bryan said, on October 3, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    So, how about just editing out some of the Golberger stuff out and then being more explicit about the ways that your project benefits from the old timeyness. If this is really to be developer-speak you probably want to talk a lot more about cash monies. The trick would be to find the ways in which the techniques you’re interested in (pastiche, poche, ornament) allow you to extract more money from the building. Do they let you stuff more program in there? Do they let you combine programs that wouldn’t otherwise sit well together? Does it make alien programs more palatable to the site?

    random edits, remix, and notes below…

    Simulacrum Stimulates Profits

    Paul Goldberger describes Robert Stern’s new highrise apartment building in NYC as “[creating], ready-made, the kind of place you would get by renovating an old apartment.” Rather than the straight imitation of an historical style that requires a consistent aesthetic approach to the entire project, Stern approaches the design of his building in a much more opportunistic fashion. Without any aspirations towards purity he is able to apply a historical pastiche to the facade, draw his plans with an air of nostalgia such that atavistic spaces once used by butlers and maids become eat-in kitchens and picture windows, and yet also incorporate modern amenities, both in spatial and technological terms. This pastiched building, not Herzog and DeMueron’s temple of purity at 40 Bond or Calatrava’s one-liner tower on 80 South Street, is a potential goldmine for architects.

    A short train ride away is a site in South Williamsburg, a place that should be swarmed by developers, but instead is being ignored in favor of North Williamsburg. It’s positioned close to both the newly constructed addition to the Williamsburg Bridge, directly on the Myrtle stop of the JMZ, near a park, and the BQE. It is one of the largest contiguous single owned blocks in the area, extending from street to street.

    Most importantly, the building that currently inhabits the site is a classic theater built in the early 1900’s reused as a 99 cent store and apartments. Sadly, the renovation has completely effaced the original theater. This renovated theater could have been an architectural jewel in South Williamsburg, a place that retro hipsters, wealthy Manhattan-ites, conservative Hasids, and Hispanic business owners could all support. And a place that could have been a highly profitable investment for a developer. [ but why? a developer would argue profitability very directly, probably in terms of pro forma. e.g. potential profits from the program mix ]

    The thesis proposes a renovation to the block that reinstates the theater. That is, the building will be designed to appear as if it is simply a renovated, re-purposed theater but both the residential and retail components of the existing building will be expanded [ is this true? ]. Taking cues from Stern’s ability to opportunistically dissect the aesthetic project and treat each element in whatever style seems most fruitful, this thesis will revisit antique typologies like that of the movie palace, out-dated architectural techniques like poche and pastiche, and forgotten forms of ornament and plaster. Benefitting from techniques of pastiche and poche that strategically obscure the host/hosted relationship, new programs will be inserted into the block to increase the pro forma of the building. Iconography and ornamentation [??], rather than being mere decoration of the interior, form a membrane which acts as a cultural interface to site the building in a strong, diverse, and ultimately stubborn neighborhood. [ this shouldn't sound pejorative, but there is something to be said for w'burg's ability to maintain such a consistent outward appearance despite a huge influx of cash in the last 10 years ]

  3. johnsnavely said, on October 4, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Bryan, this is awesome! Thanks so much for your edits and input. I’m still processing all that you’ve written, which has a lot of insights I haven’t really been able to verbalize so concisely. One question, though, what’s pro forma? Like price per square foot? (I should have taken professional practice over at Harvard…)

  4. bryan said, on October 4, 2007 at 2:39 am

    the way I understand a pro forma is a sort of hypothetical balance sheet. in other words, it’s a prediction of the balance of income and expenses that a transaction is expected to produce. If you watch Ramus’ speech from TED he talks about working with the developer to build the program mix for the towers that would allow the development to sustain (pay for) a museum (which aint bringing in the big bucks). Now, whether this is actually true or not is another question, but it’s an appealing idea nonetheless.

  5. johnsnavely said, on October 6, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    That’s a great video. Joshua Prince-Ramos seems pretty cool. The visuals are dope.

    Is this who Ritchie is working for?

  6. Jenny said, on October 17, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    I also read that Goldberger article in the New Yorker, and I have to say that I was not impressed. His writing has gotten worse over the years – did you read that one on the Holl museum in Kansas City? It’s like he got stuck in the past twenty years ago.

    Ok, enough bashing. I didn’t read the Jefferson version so I will make comments on this version. Your last paragraph should be first; always put the big claims and big ideas up front. This section should be longer. No one wants to hash out through developer language or Bob Stern to get to your thoughts. All architectural case studies should be footnotes. I was hoping for some more thesis “concepts.”

    1. New title is needed – something more provocative and accurate – such as “Pastiche, Plaster, Poche: The Renovation of a Movie Palace in Williamsburg, NYC, 2007.” Bam! You have the reader’s attention. He then rhetorically asks, “what is this pastiche and plaster of which he speaks?”

    2. Introduction (rewritten): A short train away from Manhattan in South Williamsburg, populated by nocturnal hipsters, conservative Hasids, and Hispanic business owners, lies a classic movie theater originally constructed in the 1900s called X. Through a renovation to reinstate the theater in this local neighborhood, this thesis investigates the potential of pastiche and ornamental techniques, both formal and strategic, to create new possibilities for architectural programs. The “remixing” of historical styles, or pastiche, has widely been associated with the postmodern works of John Outram, Robert Stern or even neoclassical European buildings such as Soufflot’s St. Genevieve. However, this thesis proposes to use pastiche as an architectural model to deploy new designs for all scales of the building, from staircase balustrades and ceiling patterns, to structural trusses. Similarly, poche, as a device of rendering and shading grey areas, will be utilized to invert conventional relationships between figure and ground, interior and exterior, and scale changes between architectural elements. (Explain how plaster works as a material and why it is necessary). By reinserting residual spaces, formerly residential and retail-based, the theater is transformed into a physical site of experimentation through which the “grammar of ornament” is given free rein to become a fully realized three-dimensional language.

    3. Question of potential profits (pro-forma): is this your real aim in the project? I think it’s okay that more money could be made from a mix of programs but you should also state your ideological argument in here too. Why use pastiche and ornament to achieve this? You should explain your methods and why they are pertinent to this design problem. Why not use paper blocks again?

    4. Developer angle – from my perspective, the architect should have a clear vision from the start and then works with the developer to achieve that vision in built form. This part could come later as you develop the building itself – some of your final boards could have comparative cost analysis, with and without residential/retail. How much given details will cost (and from the looks of your Illustrator diagrams, this would be a pricey building). But you need more designs, “designed” in order to get to the numbers…

    Anyways, hope you find these comments useful! The visuals look great as usual…your sections will be important as well as 3D models of all scales, from sconce to ceiling :)

  7. Luta Snavely said, on November 6, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Hi Cousin, I googled you and this is what I found.
    you should e-mail me and tell me whats up with you.
    wiluta@hotmail.com

  8. Post Hyper Post « John Snavely’s Blog said, on November 26, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    [...] once sent me to this TED talk by Joshua Prince-Ramos of REX, formally of OMA. (And now Bryan blogs this post, [...]


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