15 April 2009

pretty gray

Sara Jane Pearman and I went down to Akron today to see the Coop Himmelb(l)au extension to the Akron Art Museum. I've been watching those Vienna-based architects for many years. When I was in Vienna a few years ago, I figured out where the rooftop on Falkestrasse was located. You can barely see it from the street when you're standing in front of Otto Wagner's Post Office Savings Bank. But you can go into the bank building and see the lovely little Wagner museum.

When I was Los Angeles in February this year for College Art, I made a point of checking out the location of Coop Himmelb(l)au's new High School #9 which juts out over the freeway on the North side of downtown, near the new cathedral by Moneo and Gehry's Disney Concert Hall. My host Steve Ong said there was much controversy about the budget of the high school when other schools were going wanting. The school is good-looking though. Good architecture can, of course, have value beyond its cost.

The weather here in Ohio has been gray and drippy and the Akron building is mainly built of metal (non-shiny enameled steel?) and raw concrete, inside and out. We're not talking lots of contrast here: pretty but gray, quite gray. The shapes of the materials reflect and contrast with each other. The entry is low and there are nice stairs up to the main special exhibition galleries. The older building is a nice brick building of the small post office or public library school of turn-of-the-century beaux arts; the new building crows out over the top. The visual parallels between the wide eaves of the older building and the Roof Cloud are also nice.

The Coop Himmelb(l)au site includes a number of rather spectacular pictures. With a less sophisticated camera, one cannot get some of the drama and panorama but when you're there in person, you are much more aware of the close context of the surrounding buildings and streets (especially if it's raining and you don't really want to walk around so much as you might on a sunny April day). Now if I just screw my courage to the sticking point and connect the cable between my new camera and my computer, maybe I can download the modest pictures I did take and do them up on wikicatalog as suggested by Heisdi Djúpivogur, aka Heidi Raatz.

Oh, I guess I should admit that a couple reasons that I've always been interested in the work of this firm is their (jokey?) name with the parenthesis on the L (bau, you know, auf Deutsch) and that one of the architects is Wolf Prix.

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