I would like to think I am a writer adept enough to tie together the assorted items in the headline. I’m not. These are simply several writing projects that have stretched over months but which coincidentally appeared almost at the same time. They are collected here for your convenience.
I have had a long fascination with architecture that helps organizations reach their aspirations. This would seem like a no-brainer except that architecture that deeply explores and expresses work culture remains exceedingly rare. Facebook took a deep dive with Gehry Partners in its new headquarters building in Menlo Park, and may well have revealed both what works and doesn’t work about its flat non-hierarchical culture: In the Wall Street Journal (apologies in advance if you hit the pay wall. I can’t fix it.)
The Whitney Museum has gotten enormous media coverage for its move to Manhattan’s meatpacking district, most of it surprisingly positive. (Surprising to me because the Whitney has often been the museum critics love to hate—and the building is far from the best by the overused Renzo Piano.) Here’s my take in The Economist, and a scattershot radio tour with WNYC Public Radio host Soterius Johnson and pugnacious art critic Deborah Solomon.
Our era of great private wealth has spawned great private philanthropy. Few could match the city-transforming gifts of acumen and cash by Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad. But with Broad’s generosity comes the urge to control. This has led to great architects designing for important institutions, yet coming up with compromised projects, extending even to the cultural capstone of his long career: The Broad, a museum housing his own substantial collection of art that will open this September. Read all about it in Architectural Record.
The merging of architecture firms into multinational behemoths may sound eye-glazing, but the stakes are surprisingly high—in terms of churn, lost clients, revolving-door leadership—and in terms of where this corporatized trend takes architecture, which has traditionally relied on insightful design to create both human value and profits, but may well succumb to shareholders’ short-term needs. This story is also in Architectural Record, which in its May issue packages a number of eye-opening stories on how architecture is affected by global hyperwealth.
I’m tempted to try and find some big lesson here, but assignments for reporting and criticism can seem about as arbitrary as anything else. Yes, there are common threads here–big wealth changing arts institutions and architecture firms, and a youthful, yet also wealthy corporation trying to find its way in the world and do business a better way. But my next post could, and probably will, if you watch this space—go a different direction, sketching in some of the extraordinary challenges and opportunities facing two cities in America.
Thank you for reading. Don’t hesitate to comment below. (Things got pretty wild in my previous post about Placemaking.) I’m happy to have you share with others.