Archive for September 7th, 2010

September 7, 2010

Great Public Squares by Robert F. Gatje | W.W. Norton & Company, $65.00





Robert Gatje has written a book that makes you want to get on a plane and revisit every historic square you have ever seen—and then go to the ones you’ve missed in slightly out-of-the-way places like Rhodes, Nancy, and Halifax.

Wonderful colored maps, inspired by the Nolli Map of Rome, help you understand solid and void, distinguish parterres from pavement, grasp street patterns, and, in some cases, identify significant works of architecture. Clusters of photographs and occasional monochromatic historic prints enable you to experience the squares (which are rarely square) in elevation. Measurements let you sense the size and scale of each square described and compare them to one another. Brief, clear, and informative text provides just enough historical information for context.

Gatje is a New York architect, a former partner of Marcel Breuer and Richard Meier, and author of Marcel Breuer: A Memoir (Monacelli Press, 2000). This is a book only an architect could have written—with careful observations, measurements, materials, orientation, and alterations emphasized. And though at roughly 11 by 11 inches and 224 pages it is a big, beautiful coffee table book likely to stimulate conversation with visitors, it would be great to have in some small portable form as well. I wish maps like Gatje’s existed for all squares.

The only thing missing—and adding it would have obscured its argument—is use, or what goes on inside these urban spaces. Most of the wonderful Italian piazzas in the book are surrounded by some combination of institutions and residences, or have people living on nearby streets. Many have hotels in the vicinity or tourists wandering around. Also, of course, Italians pass through their piazzas, stop for drinks, and dine there. This is the behavior American planners overlooked (or wished for) in the 1960s and ‘70s, when they tried to plant plazas in city centers devoted solely to commerce.

The effort is still underway, as shown in the last project covered, Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon, begun in 1981. Although it is a good example of its type in a reasonably pedestrian-friendly city, it is surrounded by office towers, department stores, and a courthouse, so it is a very different kind of place than an Italian piazza—or New York City’s Union, Washington, and Madison squares. It is an anomaly in a book with inhabited urban spaces as, frankly, is the one local example included—the dazzling Rockefeller Center Plaza.

I understand completely why he chose these squares, as they bring some geographical and temporal balance to the book. But surrounded by tall buildings in commercial areas, they don’t quite fit. Their inclusion, though, makes me think he should now write a book on American public spaces from New England greens to recent urban interventions of the Portland type, because the American story is a very different one. American cities, except maybe our own, have been designed “to make cars happy,” as Andrés Duany has so aptly put it. And squares need people on foot, as Gatje points out time and again when assessing squares like the Place Vendôme in Paris, where cars have been allowed to intrude.

Without quite saying so, I think he proves that a successful urban public space needs people who live around it—or at least stay around it in apartments, villas, and hotels, as is the case in Venice. Union Square has been remarkably transformed in the last 30 years, not only by the much-touted Greenmarket but by the significant increase in the number of people who live on it or its edges, and the shops and restaurants that serve them.

Besides inspiring wanderlust, this book, which concentrates on European plazas (only four of the 40 are in the U.S.), has made me think more critically about what can be done to make American cities more livable. That is no mean accomplishment.

Jayne Merkel

Historian Jayne Merkel writes for AD and Architectural Record, among other publications. She lives in the middle of the greatest cluster of public squares in America—Washington, Union, Stuyvesant, and Madison squares.

September 7, 2010

Frank Gehry gazes up at his Beekman Tower, which topped out November 19th, 2009

Frank Gehry gazes up at his Beekman Tower, which topped out yesterday.

Yesterday, Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry got together down on Beekman Street to celebrate the topping out of the Santa Monica architect’s one Ratner project that did get off the ground. The inimitable Eliot Brown stopped by to snap some pictures and discuss the condo tower with Gehry—Brown’s sorta right about that unveiling, as we were there, so it kinda happened, making us one of “those magazines”—and their discussion reminded us of two interesting facts.

First, the 76-story jobber is twice as tall as anything Gehry’s ever done, and may yet ever do, given the economy and certain other realities. (Gehry did quip, after all, that the building was achieved with “No Viagra!”) And it is now officially the tallest residential building in the city, taller even, yes, than the Death Star. Our favorite fact, though, is that they apparently had a specially designed (read: spray painted) silver concrete bucket to do the honors of pouring the last batch.

Going up!

Going up!

Really going up: The Beekman Tower is far-and-away Gehrys tallest building, and the tallest residence in the city.

And for something more serious, the salmon-colored site also has a look at a new study out by NYU’s Furman real estate center that finds, lamentably but perhaps unsurprisingly—especially if you’ve read this gem—that New York’s minority residents were primarily the target of sub-prime (some call it predatory) lending and eight-times as likely as a white New Yorker to get a bad loan.

September 7, 2010

Hard to believe it’s Gehry’s website:


Gehry Partners, LLP is a full service firm with broad international experience in academic, commercial, museum, performance, and residential projects.

Frank Gehry established his practice in Los Angeles, California in 1962. The Gehry partnership, Gehry Partners, LLP, was formed in 2001 and currently supports a staff of over 120 people. Gehry Partners employs a large number of senior architects who have extensive experience in the technical development of building systems and construction documents, and who are highly qualified in the management of complex projects.

Every project undertaken by Gehry Partners is designed personally and directly by Frank Gehry. All of the resources of the firm and the extensive experience of the firm’s partners are available to assist in the design effort and to carry this effort forward through technical development and construction administration. The firm relies on the use of Digital Project, a sophisticated 3D computer modeling program originally created for use by the aerospace industry, to thoroughly document designs and to rationalize the bidding, fabrication, and construction processes.

The partners in Gehry Partners, LLP are: Frank Gehry, Brian Aamoth, Terry Bell, John Bowers, Edwin Chan, Jennifer Ehrman, Berta Gehry, Meaghan Lloyd, Tensho Takemori, Laurence Tighe & Craig Webb.

Preliminary sketches for the Panama Puente de Vida Museo | © Frank O. Gehry


The following positions offer the opportunity to work on (or in some cases support) the design, documentation and construction administration of significant and complex structures around the world, including museums, concert halls, entertainment, retail, housing, and mixed use.

All qualified persons are welcome to submit their work for consideration should job opportunities arise in the future by clicking “submit online” next to the position of interest, where you will be able to attach a resume or curriculum vitae, at least five (5) excerpts that best represent your professional and academic architecture work, and a letter describing your interest (all in a single PDF file no larger than 10MB). Or you may send those same materials to: Human Resources, Gehry Partners, LLP, 12541 Beatrice Street, Los Angeles, CA 90066. Please note work submitted by hard copy will not be returned.

Submissions without work samples will NOT be considered; submissions with only a reference to a website will not be considered. Architects who are not U.S. citizens must describe their status to work in the United States, including detailing visa type and duration.

Please do not respond if you are not fully qualified. Fluency in English, both written and spoken, is required. All candidates for architectural positions must hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in architecture, or higher.

We do not respond individually to submissions. We will contact you in the future should job opportunities arise and if we decide to move forward with your submission. No telephone calls, please.

Architect 4: Job Captain/Intermediate Architect submit online
Experience Required: 6-8 Years
Job Captains/Intermediate Architects must have strong experience in the preparation of DDs and CDs; can demonstrate effective technical abilities; have demonstrated superior problem defining and solving skills; and who have strong design sensibilities and interests.
Architect 5: Intermediate Architect submit online
Experience Required: 3-6 Years
Intermediate Architects must have experience in the preparation of DD and CD documentation for a range of building types for medium to large scale projects. This position requires experience in coordinating building systems and technical issues in all phases of the design process. Candidates should have effective communication, organizational and leadership skills. Proficiency in AutoCAD and knowledge of 3D modeling are essential.
Architect 6: Junior Architect submit online
Experience Required: 2-3 Years
Junior Architects must have strong design and 3d modeling skills, have experience in working in collaborative environment to develop project documentation on complex projects, and who demonstrate effective problem solving and communication skills. This position requires experience in AutoCAD and knowledge of 3D modeling as part of the design and documentation process.
Architect 7: Entry Junior Architect submit online
Experience Required: 0-2 Years
Entry Junior Architects must have a professional degree in architecture, strong design and model building skills and experience, have experience in AutoCAD and who are seriously interested in developing 3D modeling experience. Strong organizational and communication skills and a demonstrated ability to work collaboratively on teams and/or in a studio setting are essential.
Information Architect submit online
Experience Required: 5-10+ Years
Information Architects must have demonstrated computing and organizational skills to coordinate and structure the effective and accurate flow of information in a project team, including with consultants. Information Architects must also be capable of being simultaneously engaged with the overall scope and nature of the project while managing the myriad details of its execution. This requires experienced conceptual and organizational skills with an emphasis on technical proficiency and attention to detail, and strong and clear organization and communication skills as well as experience with a wide range of 2D and 3D software applications.

and nothing about his projects, i think his name is well enough for clients…