German architect Wilfried Wang critiques Herzog & de Meuron’s Museum of the 20th Century extension in Berlin

(Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron / vVgt Landschaftsarchitekten AG)

(Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron / vVgt Landschaftsarchitekten AG)

Herzog & de Meuron’s winning proposal for the Museum of the 20th Century extension in Berlin has been called into question by German architect Wilfried Wang, the co-founder of Berlin-based Hoidn Wang Partner and (since 2002) the O’Neil Ford Centennial Professor at UT Austin’s School of Architecture. Wang believes the Swiss firm’s design is severely lacking in both architectural and urbanist respects.

Speaking in The Competition Project (whose editor translated Wang’s commentary, which first appeared in the German journal Bauwelt last year), Wang first discusses the project’s relationship with its immediate surroundings: Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie (completed in 1968) and the Hans Scharoun’s Berlin Philharmonic concert hall (completed in 1963).

By extending the form of this introverted structure to cover the entire competition site, little or no value is added to the immediate environs. To the contrary, that and the immense surfaces of the facades, right up to the edge of the pedestrian walkways, only serve to diminish the importance of the surrounding buildings. All the trees to the south of the site will disappear, and 90% of the outer walls of the building, regardless of the suggested use of porous brick detailing, are completely closed off.

(Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron / vVgt Landschaftsarchitekten AG)

Interior programming. (Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron / vVgt Landschaftsarchitekten AG)

Next in the firing line was the proposal’s program:

The corridors stacked over one another, labeled “Boulevards” by the architects, are connected in the quadrants by smaller corridors and stairs. The metaphor, “Boulevard,” is as misleading as was Le Corbusier’s “rue intérieur.” Boulevards are accessible 24 hours a day as open public spaces. In the evenings these corridors will be closed to the public. Rectangular exhibit areas are placed on three levels—not easily accessible to the visitor as a result of the labyrinth-like circulation plan.

Wang wasn’t too pleased with much of the competition’s submissions either. Few, he argued, failed to mediate space between the two already existing icons that inhabit the vicinity. New York studios SO-IL, Snøhetta, and REX were in the running for the $218.8 million project, along with British firms Zaha Hadid Architects and David Chipperfield Architects.

The most extreme anti-urbanistic example honored by the jury with a merit award was OMA’s pyramid-like scheme, completely blocking any relationship between Mies and Sharoun by inserting their own icon in between the two.

OMA's submission. (©OMA via Competitions)

OMA’s submission. (©OMA via Competitions)

By contrast, the shortlisted designs that entered the fray during the first open competition, Wang argues, were “more modern, sensitive, and led one to assume that a different solution would be in store.” These notions did filter into the competition’s final stage, said Wang, with SANAA and Sou Fujimoto’s (both from Japan) less disruptive proposed interventions.

Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA's submission. (Courtesy SANAA via Competitions)

Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA’s submission. (Courtesy SANAA via Competitions)

Note: For his Master’s degree in 1981, Wang researched six cultural centers including London’s South Bank Centre, Paris’s Centre Beaubourg and Berlin’s Kulturforum. In 1992 he published a monograph on the work of Herzog & de Meuron.

Residents of tilting Millennium Tower to sue developers

Millennium Tower residents take legal action over its sinking. (Courtesy calpauly07/flickr)

Millennium Tower residents take legal action over its sinking. (Courtesy calpauly07/flickr)

Millennium Partners, the developer of Handel Architects—designed Millennium Tower in San Francisco, is being taken to court over the building’s alarming sinking issue. The tower’s homeowners association (HOA) let residents know last Thursday that it was filing a case against both Millennium Partners and Transbay Joint Powers Authority—the firm behind the substantial transit development adjacent to the tower.

In the months prior to this, the HOA had staved off any legal action, advising tenants to do the same, as they privately discussed workarounds with the developer. (Some residents still filed lawsuits of their own.) During this process, the finger of blame was pointed toward the $2 billion, Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed transit scheme nearby that reportedly destabilized the tower’s foundations.

The 20 tenants that took matters into their own hands, though, made a different case. They argued that Millennium Partners was well aware that the structure had sunk significantly more—and at a faster rate—than expected, and failed to let prospective buyers know. A study in Fall of last year found that the tower and sunk 16 inches since it’s opening in 2008. By contrast, initial predictions for the building suggested that it would only sink six inches over its lifetime. To make matters worse, Millennium Tower is not settling evenly either, something which has result in a two-inch tilt.

According to coverage from NBC Bay Area, the HOA has said: “The lawsuit would be intended to … hold the defendants responsible for the damage to the building and… require the defendants to fund a comprehensive repair and restoration of the building, among other relief.”

A meeting scheduled for March 6 will apparently be held to “to discuss problems that may lead to the filing of a civil action, nonlitigation options, and other considerations.” Whether the residents, unlike their tower, settle, remains to be seen.

A First Look at Álvaro Siza’s First US Building

Courtesy of Noe & Associates and The Boundary; Via The Architects' Newspaper
Courtesy of Noe & Associates and The Boundary; Via The Architects’ Newspaper

An image of Álvaro Siza‘s first US building has been released. The luxury New York tower, planned for the corner of West 56th Street and Eleventh Avenue in Midtown, will rise up to 120 meters (just over 400 feet) and offer 80 units, a private roof garden, sun deck, spa and fitness center, and more.

Siza is working with Sumaida + Khurana on the project, the same developer who is collaborating with Tadao Ando on a luxury condominium at 152 Elizabeth Street.

“Álvaro Siza is one of the world’s most celebrated architects. We are honored to be working with Siza on his first building in the United States and believe that this project will capture the elegance and profound subtlety that is at the heart of his work. His sensitivity and collaborative mentality is teaching us as much about humanity as architecture,” said Sumaida + Khurana founder Amit Khurana.

The project is expected to be completed by 2019.

H/T The Architect’s Newspaper

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