Last night I went to go see Moshe Safdie speak at the National Building Museum. He discussed several of his past, current, and future projects in a lecture entitled “Symbols in the Public Realm.” I was hoping he would speak at greater length about his recently opened US Institute of Peace building, which sits on the west end of the national mall, almost directly north of the Lincoln Memorial. However, he touched upon his work in a more global sense — including the Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, the Khalsa Heritage Centre in India, his Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore, and (somewhat closer to home) the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Truth be told, I wasn’t familiar with many of these projects at all, so it was interesting to hear him describe the work first-hand while also seeing it for the first time.
Towards the end, he did show several process sketches and models for the Institute of Peace while discussing his intentions to create an iconic symbol on the mall. Part of this included imagery of birds and bird-wing structures which are very apparent in the design of the building. There have been criticisms of the building in the press, which I remember reading several months back, asserting that perhaps his use of iconic imagery is too obvious (ie. a dount shop shaped like a donut), but perhaps there is nothing wrong with using the symbol of a bird wing to denote a building of peace. He closed with a quote by Theodore Cook, “Beauty connotes humanity. We call a natural object beautiful because we see that it’s form expresses fitness. The perfect fulfillment of function.” I think it’s a very true and fitting statement.
Here is a TED talk by Safdie, it’s very similar to what he spoke of last night, if you are interested in viewing it :
The National Building Museum consistently has wonderfully interesting exhibits, their current offering is no exception.
Today I checked out the Philip Trager exhibit: “Form and Movement.” This show was curated by Reed Haslach Humphery and Laura Burd Schiavo. Trager has made a career of focusing intensely on individual subjects. These subjects include vernacular New England homes, modern dancers, Parisian cityscapes, and Italian villas. Humphery and Schiavo juxtaposed and grouped these seeming subjects into a cohesive and robust exhibit. One of the many examples of this is the masterful pairing of the image of statuary from Jardin Tuileries (1995) with the 1989 photograph of the Second Hand Dance Company. These subjects, one frozen in time and the other frozen in the moment, capture the same spirit and motion.
Trager’s photos exhibit his delicate control of light, reflection, and texture. From the soft look of a charcoal drawing in the sky over Birmingham, to the playful reflection of light on a solemn facade in Hartford his works take on a life of their own. The dynamic perspective of West 34th St in NYC hints at the motion that the city is so well known for. The versatility of Trager is clearly demonstrated in this exhibit.
One particularly strong component of the exhibit is a series of photos taken in a head-on, straight-forward manner. In this group, traditional Connecticut americana, Paladian villas, and posed dancer exhibit the same architectural gravity. Taken decades apart, these images were the perfect complement to one another.
In addition to showing the images, Form and Motion includes an educational component. Trager’s photograph of Palladio’s Villa Barbaro is exhibited as a Gelatin Silver, Platinum/Palladium, and Digital Ink Jet print. Each image is accompanied with a description of the process and benefits associated with each printing techniques. Further, the exhibit demonstrates Trager’s proofing and darkroom manipulations. One of Trager’s architectural shots from New Haven is shown as a marked-up test print and as a final image. The control of light and shadow demonstrated between the two versions is impressive.
I highly recommend visiting the NBM and seeing Trager’s exhibit.
Tomorrow, Matt and I are volunteering at the National Museum for the Festival of the Building Arts (FOBA). It runs from 10am to 4:30pm and, from their website , involves the A,B,C’s, and D’s of the built environment: Artisans and Architects, Builders, Craftsmen, Contractors, and Construction Workers, Designers and Decorators. There will be tons of demonstrations, hands-on, and activities for kids. Come check it out if you’re free tomorrow! (red line, Judiciary Square metro)
I took this photo of Virginia Tech’s solar decathlon house, LumenHaus, this past weekend as it was being constructed on the 5th St lawn outside the National Building Museum. It will be there until Sept 27th, when it will then move to the National Mall for October 9-13 and 15-18. The house features the sliding glass doors (seen in the picture) on the north and south facades, which are all about allowing in the *light*. But more importantly, there’s an app for that — the heating, cooling, lighting, insulation, and sunshades can be controlled by using a computer or iPhone. Now we’re talking! Good luck to the team as they participate in Solar Decathlon Europe in Madrid next summer! US represent.
We have stated before that the National Building Museum is one of our favorite places in DC not only for its ever so interesting exhibits and award winning gift shop but for its stunning grand hall. Today the NBM hosted the race packet pickup for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. This was the first year that they held the pickup at the NBM and it was a pleasant change having to trek over to a hotel in Crystal City (and subsequently getting lost in the underground tunnels). The hall was very busy, and t-shirt hander outers were working at a frenetic pace but I was able to get in and grab my packet (and Lori’s and Mark’s and Annabelle’s) relatively quickly. I came back by about an hour later and there was a line literally wrapping the entire block so I dodged a bullet. Hopefully the organizers will be happy with how the NBM worked to host the event and keep it in DC instead of sending it back over the river.
Just wrapped up our carbo-loading dinner and am ready to go!