BERKELEY’S NEW MUSEUM SHINES

— By Robert Atkins

DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO seems to be everywhere in California these days. Since October, three major projects by the firm have debuted around the state: the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, the McMurtry Building (home to Stanford University’s Department of Art and Art History), and, most recently, the University of California’s Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. This conjoined art and film resource is not only the best of the three buildings, but the most accomplished of DS + R’s flourishing career.

It is also the only one that is not wholly new. It is a suave adaptation and expansion of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project—the university’s 1939 art moderne printing plant. DS + R enlarged the facility in several directions: it excavated a vast lower level, designed a new addition at the rear, and lightened and brightened the building’s interior with skylights and large new windows on the fac?ade that blur the visual distinction between inside and out. The complexity of the redesign is a reminder that the firm’s forte is thoughtful attention to function and context, resulting in such urbane syntheses of old and new as the High Line and its nuanced alterations to Lincoln Center.

DS + R’s charge at Berkeley was far from simple—to clarify, enhance, and unify an institution that has seemed like two given its double focus on art and film. For the first time, the museum and the Pacific Film Archive—one of the nation’s premier film presenters and study centers—will share an entrance. 450 films will be screened annually in the museum’s theaters and occasionally on the thirty-foot-wide screen on the building’s exterior north wall. Other innovative features include a printmaking studio open to the public and a stunning amphitheater adjacent to the entrance and designed for either performance or simply hanging out. Its seating constructed of lovingly hand-hewn pine by craftsman Paul Discoe from trees felled on the site is one of several echoes of the past. Others include the preservation of a bit of the printing plant’s badly worn, end-grain redwood floors for the museum’s single permanent collection gallery and a circular staircase in the office wing.

DS + R had a tough act to follow in Mario Ciampi’s seismically challenged, 101,000-square-foot museum completed in 1970 and now shuttered. As idiosyncratic as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim—and as controversial—Ciampi’s cavernous concrete building suggests a brutalist bunker as imagined by Picasso in his cubist period. DS + R has produced a maller but more functional, 82,000-square-foot structure in the new museum across campus with more exhibition space than its predecessor—25,000 square feet in six distinct galleries. All of them are currently devoted to Architecture of Life, a celebratory exhibition organized by museum director Lawrence Rinder. It not only features gems from the permanent collection (primarily), but works culled from the university’s scientific labs, architectural archives, and other non-traditional sources. A poetic ode to the richness of creative vision and ways of knowing, it is also a valentine to the authority and vitality of this newly repurposed building and its talented creators.

IWAN BAAN PHOTO COURTESY OF DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO; EHDD; AND UC BERKELEY ART MUSEUM AND PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE

Inside Out: At Seomi Gallery, An Illuminating Show of Modern Lighting

— By Adam Dunlop-Farkas

A TWO-PART EXHIBITION AT Seomi International’s Case Study House 21 (Bailey House) in Los Angeles focuses on the role of lighting in design. Organized by Seomi’s P. J. Park in conjunction with Evan Snyderman of the New York–based R & Company, A Case Study in Lighting presents itself as an examination of contrasting motifs: natural and artificial light, East and West, past and present. The first part of the show, which was on display until February 19, featured works by contemporary designers and artists from South Korea, the United States, and Europe. The second part, which opened after MODERN went to press and is on view until June 5, switches over to vintage pieces with a concentration on mid- century modern and Scandinavian design. Continue reading→

In Le Corbusier’s Footsteps

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, c. 1910

“For Jacob Brillhart, drawing is a way of seeing. Fresh from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Brillhart determined that he would follow the time-honored tradition of a drawing trip. Later calling it “a slow grand tour for a young, restless architect,” he set out with his sketchbooks, pencils, and watercolors. Along the way, he became fascinated with what he would come to call “Le Corbusier’s early mysterious time of intellectual development and most specifically his early sketchbooks.” That early curiosity turned into a quest to follow the master as he traveled through Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany—both as an homage and as a way to see what Le Corbusier saw and learn from him. The following excerpt comes from Voyage Le Corbusier: Drawing on the Road (W. W. Norton), Brillhart’s new book about Le Corbusier’s own grand tours and the drawings they produced.” Continue reading→

Design Miami/ Basel 2016 Exhibitor List Announced

Rebar in Gold by Ai Weiwei 2013 at Elisabetta Cipriani courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.

Design Miami/ Basel announced the exhibitors for its 2016 edition, returning to Basel this June with over 40 participating galleries from around the world, featuring all areas of collectible design. Among those making their Design Miami/ Basel debut are Galerie Alain Marcelpoil (Paris), featuring French Art Deco designer André Sornay, MANIERA (Brussels) and Gate 5 (Monaco). In addition, several solo exhibitions will be presented, including returning galleries Friedman Benda (New York), with works by Dutch designer Joris Laarman and Elisabetta Cipriani (London) featuring the first pieces of wearable design ever created by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The fair will run from June 14 to June 19. Continue reading→

The Kagan Touch

by Beth Dunlop

Kagan worked closely with Hirtenstein to develop the back-to-back custom sofa for his Amy Lau-designed apartment.

Vladimir Kagan is hard at work. It is a breezy, bright day in Palm Beach, and though other octogenarians might be out on the shuffleboard court or lining up for the early-bird special, he is behind his desk (ocean view included) busily refining new designs, shooting off business e-mails, adding photos to his blog, vetting the images for a new catalogue, and much more. His assistant, the recent furniture design graduate Christopher Eitel, is in deep concentration at another computer, but when asked, jumps up to make mid-afternoon cappuccinos. Kagan pauses to give a bit of barista advice and then goes back to his analysis of a sofa he’s been designing, pausing to make a comment or two. “Multitasking is my way,” he says. “It’s my middle name. Call me Vladimir Multitask Kagan.” Though at eighty-seven he is walking more laboriously than he once did (and with the occasional aid of a scooter or walking poles), he is otherwise not slowing down. In this era of technology his work goes where he goes—which is Palm Beach for the winter, Nantucket for the summer, and New York in between. Continue reading→

“Style and Substance”: A Look at Architecture Firm Design With Company and the Road to its Recent Star Turn

by David Sokol

For the 2015 Design Miami, Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer of Design with Company created the Airbnb installation Belong. Here. Now.—a 5,000-square-foot interactive space featuring experiential works and performances hosted by different artists.

EVERY YEAR has its breakout performers. In 2015 the spotlight belonged to such young talents as Swedish-born actor Alicia Vikander, Brooklyn author Garth Risk Hallberg—and architects Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer. Like their peers in film and literary fiction, the founders of the Chicago-based studio Design with Company earned broad exposure in the span of just months. In addition to winning the Ragdale Ring pavilion and Robson Redux Design-Build competitions last summer, they presented work at last fall’s first Chicago Architectural Biennial and created the Airbnb installation Belong. Here. Now., mounted across the street from Design Miami in early December. Continue reading→

Zaha Hadid, pioneering architect, dies at 65

Portrait of Zaha Hadid. Photograph by Steve Double.

Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-British architect, whose robust, sinuous structures have made an indelible mark on architecture, died last Thursday morning from a heart attack in a Miami hospital where she was being treated for bronchitis, according to her firm. She was 65. Continue reading→

Roberto Lugo Is Changing the World, One Teapot at a Time

by Elizabeth Essner

The artist Roberto Lugo.

Chances are you haven’t seen portraits of hip-hop legends the Wu-Tang Clan or artist Frida Kahlo painted on a porcelain teapot. That is, unless you’re familiar with the work of Roberto Lugo, thirty-four, a ceramics star on the rise. Lugo’s work combines his Puerto Rican heritage, graffiti—learned from the streets of his Philadelphia upbringing—and his love of porcelain. Of blending street art and fine china, he says, “my work and my life are really about bringing my culture and my background to places where they don’t necessarily belong.” Continue reading→

Cooper Hewitt’s Triennial: Beauty From Frivolous to Functional

BACK IN 2010 the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial broke from a purely U.S. focus to take in the global landscape for its design survey. As such, its latest iteration, Beauty, brings in diverse visions from Johannesburg to Canada, Tokyo to London, and, of course, New York. Continue reading→

Thomas Gentille: An American Master Gets His Turn

UNTIL JUNE 5, Die Neue Sammlung–The Design Museum in Munich is celebrating the illustrious career of Thomas Gentille, one of the great artist jewelers of our time. Called Untitled (Gentille abhors the word retrospective and its implication of an imminent end to the artist’s career), the exhibition will include some 180 pieces of jewelry, sixty-three watercolors, and a two-hour film shot by Gentille called Stairs. He is the first American artist jeweler to be exhibited at the museum, and this honor is well deserved and timely for Gentille, who has devoted half a century to making jewelry. He is truly an American master, says Petra Hölscher, senior curator at Die Neue Sammlung. Continue reading→