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Hugh Hardy is the quintessential New York architect. During his long and illustrious career, his contributions to some of the city’s most iconic and beloved cultural institutions have been indelible: Radio City Music Hall, Bryant Park, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New Amsterdam and New Victory Theaters on 42nd Street, and the New York Botanical Garden. It would be difficult to pin him to a particular style or mode of designing. His approach is to derive the best solution possible from each project’s context and client’s needs. For example, at Radio City Music Hall, he restored the building to its original art deco elegance; but at the Harvey Theater at BAM, his restoration retains both new and old elements layered together in the same space.
Although Hugh Hardy is best known for the work he’s done in NYC, he has an impressive portfolio of projects from across the country. Hugh applied his knowledge of theatrical acoustics and sightlines to the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Jackson, MS, where he worked with the chief judge to design courtrooms that make it as easy as possible for the judge and jury to clearly hear every testimony and see each piece of evidence, which traditionally has been eclipsed by other concerns. The Botanical Research Institute of Texas showcases his innovation in landscape design, energy and water management, and materials.
Theater of Architecture features interviews with Hugh’s clients and collaborators, conducted by Mildred Friedman, which demonstrate his commitment to a shared practice. Hugh’s daughter, Penny Hardy, along with Carren Edward Petrosyan, of the graphic design firm PS New York, designed the book.
Sara Stemen, Senior Editor here at Princeton Architectural Press, was the project editor on Theater of Architecture and says that Hugh is “incredibly enthusiastic. He’s mad about the process of architecture, of theater, of language. The meticulous attention Hardy gives to his work and his writing are inspiring; it has been an honor to work with him. His body of work is impressive, and a gift to New York City and beyond.”
For this installment of Five Things, we asked Christopher Bonanos, author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid, to share with us what’s on his mind lately.
1. The Panorama of New York City
The Panorama is a scale model of New York’s five boroughs—with every single building represented individually, complete with painted windows—at the Queens Museum of Art. It was built for the 1964–65 World’s Fair, and, all at once, it’s a legitimate urban-planning tool, a giant and loopy piece of mid-century kitsch, and a completely compelling art installation. My colleague Jerry Saltz once called it the greatest artwork ever made about the insane city where he and I live, and I completely agree with him. I try to get there every year or so, to commune with this crazy thing, and I’m overdue for another visit. Most touching detail: because it was last updated in the 1990s, the Twin Towers remain in place. The curators have draped them, to mark the loss.
2. Little Wonder: The Reader’s Digest and How It Grew,
by John Bainbridge
Bainbridge was a first-class New Yorker writer of long reported stories, and he’s half-forgotten today. He shouldn’t be: his book-length profile of Texas, “The Super-Americans,” is a remarkable piece of immersion journalism, and this little book from 1946 is even better: a snappy, occasionally snide, incredibly funny profile of DeWitt Wallace and the utterly square, utterly American magazine he had built into a multinational empire. I’d be happy to ever write anything as good as this little book.
3. Edward Burtynsky
I am a sucker for industrial photographs of all kinds—Charles Sheeler, the Bechers, Lewis Hine—and I can’t get enough of Burtynsky’s. He takes landscapes that have been (depending on your viewpoint) either destroyed or completely reimagined by technological change, and renders them in ways that are both abstractly beautiful and concretely terrifying. If I had to choose, I’d say his photographs of mining from a few years ago are my favorites, especially those rivers that run tangerine or bottle green, and seem to come from not our own activity but some deep, deep underworld.
4. How It’s Made
From a formal standpoint, this Canadian series (carried in the U.S. by the Science Channel) is the worst show on television. It’s stocked with bad punny narration, atrocious canned music, and a weird indirect scriptwriting style that constantly refers to a mysterious, unexplained “they.” Yet this little series of mini-documentaries—which simply amounts to three factory tours per episode, showing us how “they” make cellos, or fiberglass kayaks, or haggis—is weirdly watchable, maybe because seeing familiar stuff come out of assembly lines in neat little rows, flowing into crates and trucks, is just ridiculously soothing. When I can’t sleep, the worst show on television is also the best.
5. Make It Bigger
A shout-out here to a fellow Princeton Architectural Press author, Paula Scher, with whom I did an onstage Q&A the other day. To prepare, I logged some serious time with her not-quite-a-memoir-not-quite-a-design-textbook, which PAPress published in 2006. I loved it, not just for its insights into the way people respond to type design but also for its canny view of the business of design: Scher’s war stories of dumb bosses, tiresome clients, and navigating pecking orders are useful in many fields besides hers.
CNN Money calls it “Three books in one…”
The Atlantic declares, “It’s rare for any product to be cool twice. But Polaroid film, with its white-framed, kinda-blurry instant pictures, managed to first represent the bright future of technology and then become a beloved, retro-chic relic of the past.”
Slate charts the rise and fall of Polaroid with a lovely slideshow.
Businessweek, in a Q&A with author Christopher Bonanos, discusses the parallels between Edwin Land and Steve Jobs, and a new gadget that joins their two greatest inventions.
The Bleat says, “A great brisk read, more attractive than 99.8% of the books I’ve seen lately, and an utterly American story as well. Applause.”
Time features some of the artists who’ve used Polaroid.
Design Observer interviewed Bonanos and says, “It is the rare design-subject book with a truly dramatic arc, and storytelling that lives up to it.”
Gizmodo excerpts the story recalling the first time the public ever saw a Polaroid picture (in 1947).
The Globe and Mail interviewed Bonanos about the amazing success and technological achievement of Polaroid in its heyday.
Brainpickings calls it “…a fascinating tale of rapid rise, catastrophic collapse, and the riveting ride between the two, at once told like never before and strangely familiar in its allegorical quality….brimming with lessons for modern tech mavericks.”
“The sun never knew how great it was until it hit the side of a building.”
—Louis Kahn (1901–74)
If there’s one thing architects like doing more than designing buildings, it’s talking about architecture.
In The Architect Says Laura S. Dushkes collects some of the most colorful quotes from more than one hundred of history’s most opinionated design minds. Paired like guests at a dinner party—an architect of today might sit next to a contemporary or someone from centuries ago—these quotations convey a remarkable range of viewpoints.
You may not be able to literally join that imaginary dinner party, but if you’re in Seattle on Tuesday you can come close when Secret Garden Bookshop hosts a launch party for Laura and The Architect Says.
Secret Garden Books
Tuesday, October 2 at 7pm