LETTER FROM MINNEAPOLIS
Last month, we heeded the call of Minneapolis. After checking into our hotel, across the street from a bronze statue of Mary Tyler Moore (we kid you not), we tossed our hat in the air and snuck peeks at almost-finished projects by Jean Nouvel, Cesar Pelli and Michael Graves for, respectively, the Guthrie Theater, the Minneapolis Central Library, and both the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Children's Theatre Company. We also discovered that the Weisman Art Museum will soon announce a Frank Gehry>designed expansion to the building he completed for it in 1993.
Of course, we were mainly in town for Herzog & de Meuron's spectacular new Walker Art Center addition. Attending its opening night festivities were, among others, Ellsworth Kelly, Matthew Barney and Bjjrk, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, and the usual cotillion of museum directors, curators, and gallerists. As Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were getting besieged by well-wishers, their Harvard colleague, architecture chair Toshiko Mori, told us with wifely pride about the band shell that her husband, James Carpenter, built on a nearby island in St. Paul. Later, once the open bar turned into a cash bar, we got clearheaded enough to convince the folks at Herzog & de Meuron to let us in on their unreleased design for an Ian Schrager condo project on Bond Street, which we've learned will be some sort of radical take on the classic cast-iron building. Then they bought us a drink and we forgot the rest. But we do remember spotting former New York magazine architecture critic Joseph Giovannini pocketing a good half-dozen of the magnetic blinking red lights that Target, one of the event's sponsors, had arranged in the shape of its logo (and that other attendees were also picking off with abandon). They're for my daughter,, Giovannini explained, adding that he's now spending most of his time both teaching and designing in Los Angeles, away from his family. It helps the guilt..
We have to admit we think Charles Gwathmey's Astor Place condo tower is one of the more disappointing buildings to recently rise this side of downtown Houston. So you can imagine our regret when we learned that his latest plan, another luxury highrise for the Related Companies, looks similar. The proposed 250-foot-tall, 200,000-square-foot structure, which would replace the 1919 Superior Ink building on West Street, was publicly unveiled last month at a Community Board 2 hearing where we're told about 200 unhappy locals (citing contextual concerns) came to protest the Related Companies effort (citing hardship) to obtain variances for the project. Like the earlier building, the plan calls for rectilinear forms partly wrapped by a curving glass wall, though much larger. It's like Astor Place with a thyroid problem,, said one attendee. However, Gwathmey is taking the criticism in stride. Anything you propose there will make people unhappy,, he told us. [The building's form] provides more light and air,, he continued, and extends view corridors in a way that a regular walled building would not. Yes, it has references to Astor Place, but it's a very different site context and is not determined in the same way.. Nonetheless, the community board unanimously recommended against Related's application.