Architect, Metropolis, previously New York) are rolling in for Weiss/Manfredi’s Diana Center at Barnard College, every review has praised two things that I quickly dismissed as the most basic architectural bullshit: the copper glass and the street-level transparency."/>

Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 06.17.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Diana Center & Architectural Bull----


Rave reviews (Architect, Metropolis, previously New York) are rolling in for Weiss/Manfredi’s Diana Center at Barnard College. I toured this semester with my NYU students (who were as blown away by the grass and campus as they were by the building, poor things) and thought it was a fine piece of work. But every review has praised two things that I quickly dismissed as the most basic architectural bullshit: the copper glass and the street-level transparency.

The copper glass, from Architect:

Its terra-cotta color matches the largely brick Barnard and Columbia University campuses, which face each other across Broadway.

It does not match the brick. It doesn’t even refer to the brick. It is a completely different color, a pink-tinged copper, that is a pleasant change from all the icy-hued glass put up as part of the stampede, but is hardly contextual. To pretend it “goes with” the historic architecture requires closing the eyes, or looking only at photos of the building online. As one of my students suggested, it might have looked more like brick if the glass varied in tone, from tan to copper to blush to barn. It’s not mirrored, but it is flat and artificial.

Second, Columbia and Barnard’s new openness, a.k.a. the street level transparency. Yes, you can see into the building at ground level, intermittently, as the frits recede and clear glass prevails. But you can’t get into the building. The main entrance is through Barnard’s main gate, past the SOM library, and up some stairs, a full half-circle. The service entrance is behind a gate a block north on Broadway.

The facade is just as much of a wall as the rusticated base of Columbia’s campus across the street, though it acts as more of a tease. As with the designs for the U.S. Embassy in London, it is time we stopped acting like glass alone = openness. I understand the security issues, let’s just own up to them architecturally. In this case, the Diana Center actually feels more bulletproof than stone.

The part I liked best about the building was this view, from the cafe and sidelong terrace, up the trays of gallery space and offices to the top floor. This shows the architects working hard to get sectional drama into a long skinny shoebox site, and it is drama that works. I am not as sure about the jutting boxes on the backside, which are pretty hard to see from most points on campus because the buildings are so close to one another. I wonder about the longevity of all the candy-colored trendy furniture, installed to give the bare-bones interiors a little pop. I also wonder if it might not have been wise to spend less on the glass and cantilevers, and a little more on the interior finishes—there’s an obvious economic divide.

|
Share This Story

Comments

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

More books by contributors >>

RELATED POSTS


Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).

The Astrodome and the Challenges of Preservation
The Astrodome and the future of preservation.

Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.

Genzken and the City
A review of Isa Genzken's current retrospective on view at the MOMA.

Premature Demolition
The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.