Properties from Architects: Frank O. Gehry, Richard Meier, John Belle, Jose Rafael Moneo, and Tadao Ando


Wall Street Journal, 1998



Significant Properties '98: New Projects in America --- As Millennium Approaches, Here Are Five of the Best
By Ericka BlountWall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). New York, N.Y.:Apr 15, 1998.  p. B12 

With a host of ambitious new architectural projects beginning to transform the American landscape, The Wall Street Journal asked a panel of experts to pick the five most significant buildings.

The panelists were asked to consider cost, size and cultural significance in making their choices, as well as architectural styles that pave the way for the new millennium.

The selections each reflect a blending of traditional architecture methods with innovative concepts, and a shared optimism about city life. By many estimates, at least half of all major development projects now under way, or about to begin, are in urban areas.

"We're becoming more tolerant of diverse points of view in terms of design," says Ronald Altoon, president, American Institute of Architects. "Work is becoming less doctrinaire."

Two of the five selections are designed by panelists themselves. But Richard Meier's Federal Building, and Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall were hailed by so many other panelists that they were impossible to ignore.

Similarly, though the experts were asked to make their selections from across the country, most agreed that two projects in Los Angeles were especially worthy of note. A sixth project that was frequently cited by panelists received special mention. Though mired in controversy, Chicago's Near North Redevelopment project could be a model for affordable housing.

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Fort Worth Texas

DESCRIPTION: A 10.96-acre plot of land adjacent to the Kimball Art Museum. Approximately 145,000 square feet, including 50,000 square feet for galleries.

Design Architect: Tadao Ando, a Japanese architect, known for his creative zest and use of concrete. A former Pritzker award winner, he donated the $100,000 award to victims of the earthquake that struck Kobe, Japan, in 1995. Mr. Ando designed 35 buildings in that devastated city, and his designs proved so sturdy that none were destroyed. Mr. Ando, who didn't attend college, learned his craft by studying books and traveling. Don't cross his artistic side: Mr. Ando has been known to throw chairs and punch assistants when dissatisfied with the quality of their work.

Cost: No budget has yet been approved.

Owner: MPA Foundation.

Contractor: Contractors haven't yet been chosen. Expected to begin construction in the summer of 1999.

ANALYSIS: The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth will be a welcome addition to a cultural neighborhood that already includes the Amon Carter Museum, designed by Phillip Johnson, and the Kimball Art Museum, designed by Louis Kahn.

COMMENT: Jose Luis Palacios, up-and-coming architect, DMJM Keating. "Tadao is an architect who bases his structures more on spirit and less on intellectualism. Craft is now becoming more important, because we are seeing fewer buildings that are just temporary. Ando's use of concrete and glass is similar to what Louis Kahn has done with the pools in front of the Kimball Art Museum."

Grand Central Station Terminal Renovation

Midtown Manhattan

DESCRIPTION: The renovation includes the main terminal, passageways to the street, and subways. The project is expected to be completed next year.

Design Architect: John Belle of Beyer, Blinder, Belle in Manhattan. Mr. Belle has been involved in the renovation of Newark Penn Station in Newark, N.J.

Cost: $196 million.

Owner: Penn Central Corp. owns it but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a long-term lease.

Managing Contractor: Lehrer, McGovern, Bovius.

ANALYSIS: The terminal, completed in 1913, is getting a complete face lift, starting with the famed starred ceiling. The renovation will also add entrances at the corners of Park Avenue and 48th Street, Park Avenue and 46th Street, and Madison Avenue and 47th Street. The additions are expected to reduce travel time for commuters.

COMMENT: Arthur Rosenblatt, senior partner in RKK&G Museum of Cultural Facilities Consultants. "This represents the most important urban-restoration project in recent memory in New York City. It not only reaffirms a belief in public transportation and rail travel, but reaffirms the economic vitality of midtown Manhattan."

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles

DESCRIPTION: Lillian Disney, the wife of Walt Disney, who coined the name Mickey Mouse (her husband Walt's original idea was "Mortimer"), died late last year. But before she did, she gave her blessings to the Music Center of Los Angeles as a fitting memorial to her late husband. She had donated $50 million to the center in the late '80s.

Design Architect: Frank O. Gehry, who most recently designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Cost: Estimated $200 million, excluding the parking garage now completed. Cash and pledges for more than 85% of expenses now in hand.

Owner: Walt Disney Concert Hall I, a nonprofit that will ultimately hand ownership to the county of Los Angeles.

Contractor: M.A. Mortenson Co., based in Minneapolis. Construction will begin early in 1999 and will be completed in 2002.

ANALYSIS: Walt Disney Concert Hall is being built as part of a music complex that includes the Ahmanson Theater, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. When the Walt Disney Concert Hall is complete, the Music Center complex will include such projects as a 2,380-seat concert hall and a multipurpose preconcert foyer. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is expected to serve as a major catalyst for economic revitalization in downtown Los Angeles.

COMMENT: Robert H. Timme, dean of the School of Architecture, University of Southern California. "The Disney Concert Hall breaks new ground in architecture. Much like New York's Lincoln Center, it will elevate the performing arts. In terms of the architecture, it represents an exciting exploration between space and the exterior skin of the building."

Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse

Downtown Phoenix

DESCRIPTION: The intersection of Washington and Jefferson streets in downtown Phoenix. The 589,000-square-foot project will include six circuit-court chambers, judges chambers, 18 courtrooms, related chambers and other facilities.

Design Architect: Richard Meier & Partners, which designed Los Angeles's Getty Center.

Cost: $90.3 million.

Owner: U.S. government.

Contractor: Not determined yet. To be completed January 2000.

ANALYSIS: Building a courthouse with a glass atrium in the desert of Phoenix, where summer temperatures average 105 to 110 degrees, seemed slightly sadistic. But the courthouse will be one of the first to use a natural form of cooling. The six-story courthouse will enable hot air to rise to the roof, where it will escape through louver vents. Meanwhile, fresh air will enter at ground level through a misting filter that will cool it.

COMMENT: J. Windom Kimsey, a vice president with Tate & Snyder Architects in Henderson, Nev. "The project, which will be a very high-tech building, is about managing energy in an environmental way. It is a climate-sensitive design on a large-scale project. Mr. Meier is designing a large glass atrium in the desert, which is a strange place to do it. They will be using special cooling techniques to make it feasible."

Los Angeles Cathedral

Our Lady of The Angels

DESCRIPTION: The 5.6-acre site is located at the intersection of Temple Street and Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles.

Design Architect: Jose Rafael Moneo. Mr. Moneo lives in Madrid, but teaches at Harvard's School of Architecture each spring. He designed the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and his most critically acclaimed work, the National Museum of Roman Art at Merida, Spain.

Cost: More than $163 million.

Owner: Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Contractor: Morley Construction Co., based in Santa Monica, Calif.

ANALYSIS: When complete, it will boast 48,000 square feet and enough pews to accommodate 2,600 people. A series of Devotional Chapels will line both sides of the cathedral. The 36 bells located in the bell tower will be programmed to play hymns throughout the day. They will also call people to worship. The Los Angeles Cathedral, to be built on the site of a former parking lot, will be the mother church for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Cardinal Roger Mahony will reside in the new rectory. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 1998.

COMMENT: Frank O. Gehry, architect of Frank O. Gehry and Associates."It is an achievement for the city to finally have a big cathedral to represent the Catholic community. Many people from Latin America who come here are Catholic, and it is significant to have a symbolic center."

Also Frequently Cited

Near North Redevelopment

Near downtown Chicago

DESCRIPTION: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the city, and the Chicago Housing Authority are defendants in a lawsuit filed by a group of residents to prevent demolition of some of the Cabrini Green Housing Projects. Cabrini Green is the focus of the redevelopment. The suit contends that fewer than half of existing apartments will be replaced under the mayor's redevelopment plan.

Estimated Cost: 2,000 to 2,300 units at $200 million to $230 million; 100 units of senior housing at $12 million; a community center and shopping center at $15.5 million; infrastructure improvements at $12 million; libraries, schools, and other public buildings at $79 million, and parks at $4.5 million.

Design Architect: A preliminary master plan by JJR/Inc., based in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Goody, Clancy & Associates, based in Boston.

Owner: Chicago Housing Authority in conjunction with the city of Chicago and other agencies.

Contractor: Requests for proposals for contractors recently went out. The residential component of redevelopment has begun.

ANALYSIS: The Cabrini Green projects in Chicago, which house approximately 4,500 residents, are infamous for their dilapidated condition and crime. But the project announced a renovation plan that will look to demolish eight of 23 high-rise buildings -- which mainly house residents in the lowest income brackets -- to make room for low-rise buildings that will house tenants with a mix of incomes. The project also intends to redevelop the entire neighborhood near Cabrini Green.

A controversy stems from the fact that low-income residents feel that they were left out of the planning process.

COMMENT: Robert Ivy, architect and editor in chief of Architectural Record. "Cabrini Green represents ambitious planning by contemporary architects and planners working with the community. There has been resistance from the residents to the plans because they have not felt fully incorporated into the planning process. If they are able to succeed, it will bode well for the future of affordable housing nationally."

The panelists:

Paul R. Neel, former dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo.

Richard Meier, architect. Renowned for the design of the Getty Center, Los Angeles.

Joseph Valerio, principal of Valerio, Dewault, Train Inc., architect for the new 3Com Corp. campus in Chicago.

Ronald A. Altoon, partner in Altoon & Porter Architects.

Jose Luis Palacios, architect at DMJM Keating.

Arthur Rosenblatt, senior partner at RKK&G Museum of Cultural Facilities.

Robert H. Timme, dean of the School of Architecture, University of Southern California.

J. Windom Kimsey, a vice president with Tate & Snyder Architects.

Frank O. Gehry of Frank O. Gehry & Associates.

Robert Ivy, architect and editor of Architectural Record.