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Monday, August 4, 2008

video: Reed Kroloff; architecture, modern and romantic

architecture and designCritic and scholar Reed Kroloff seeks a new lens for judging new architecture: is it modern, or is it romantic? In this TED talk from 2003, which has just been released, he delivers a blistering critique of the Ground Zero planning process. It serves as a springboard into a discussion of architectural approaches which he then filters as being "technocratic" or "romantic". The first being an approach in which design systems and technology are at the heart of the process and aesthetic. While the latter attempts to evoke our senses, culture and memory in the creation of immersive environments.

He uses examples from the works of two New York based architectural firms.SHoP representing the technocratic approach, citing projects such as the Rector Street Bridge in lower Manhattan and the Dunescape installation at MoMA's PS1 a few summers ago (they are also working on, or have completed, several downtown NYC condominium projects including 290 Mullberry, M127, and The Porter House). Representing the romantics is the Rockwell Group. David Rockwell has designed the green residential interiors at Riverhouse in Battery Park City, and is best known for his interiors of Tribeca's Nobu and Nobu Next Door restaurants; as well as his conversion of the W Hotel Union Square. He's also designed sets for several Broadway musicals including Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Legally Blonde.

Frank Ghery: Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain
Frank Ghery, Guggenheim, BilbaoI was left wondering after Mr. Kroloff's presentation if there was any real difference between these approaches. It seems certain architects, Frank Ghery and Norman Foster come to mind, who are able to get an expressive and seductive environmental experience, out of their modernist, and less culturally/historically referential, formal languages. Isn't Ghery's Guggenheim in Bilbao a fusion of the modern and romantic? Isn't the best of all architecture designed to seduce, give comfort, stimulate the senses, and generally transform perceptions? Whether you agree or not, Mr. Kroloff is a compelling speaker. His presentation gives great insight into how two local shops are making their mark on our city; and in fact, I couldn't agree with him more about his comments on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.
about Reed Kroloff

With an outspoken approach to the problems of rebuilding cites and a fearless eye for design, Reed Kroloff is helping to change the urban landscape of cities from New York to New Orleans.

Already known throughout the architecture community for his award-winning tenure as editor-in-chief of Architecture magazine, Reed Kroloff came to the attention of the country at large after Hurricane Katrina. As Dean of Architecture at Tulane University, he was responsible for bringing back 97% of the school's student body and 100% of its faculty after the disaster. In 2005, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin appointed Kroloff to the Bring New Orleans Back Commission to assist in the reconstruction of the city, and to help avoid creating, in Kroloff's words, "a bad cartoon version of what New Orleans actually is."

His searing 2006 essay "Black Like Me" lays out the frustrations of a citizen of post-Katrina New Orleans— "the slow-burning frustration of being at the table but not invited to sit down." It's typical of his desire to look past simple aesthetics to the emotional heart of any building project. Kroloff left New Orleans in 2007 to become the director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He continues to promote excellence in urban design through his writing and his consulting firm Jones | Kroloff. He is also an active organizer and adviser for dozens of New Public Works competitions designed to choose architects for high-profile projects, including the Motown Center in Detroit, and a signature building for the University of Connecticut campus (the contract for which was awarded to Frank Gehry).