The May issue of The Architect’s Newspaper is out now

Welcome, dear reader, to AN’s annual Facades issue. This effort, which follows an especially rousing Facades+ New York conference, aims to deliver a set of inspiring case studies and a bevy of products for your review.

In particular, the overall issue takes up the traffic of materials as its core concern. Witness KPF’s reskinning of 660 Fifth Avenue or an interview with Daniel Marshall, who founded Re-Assembly to research how to reuse architectural glass. Also check out the photographs from Christopher Payne’s series about Gladding, McBean, a terra-cotta manufacturer in California, along with text by Elizabeth Snowden about her recent visit.

This theme extends to a trio of features that reveal how contemporary architects are closely involved in construction. A pair of houses on opposite ends of the cost spectrum explore concrete, CLT, and cork: I vouch for Donaldson + Partners’s Hill House in Santa Barbara, California, as a masterclass of curvy, voided concrete expression, while David Heymann writes about a home by Cross Cabin in Austin that minimizes the use of oil-based building products. Then, follow Adrienne Economos Miller’s visit to Assembly House 150 in Buffalo, New York, which demonstrates how artist-architect-educator Dennis Maher is educating new generations of craftspeople.

Farther back in the issue, Anjulie Rao reviews Megan Kimble’s City Limits, which chronicles Texan battles over freeway expansion. For fun, Jason Sayer responds to Charles Holland’s new book about how we enjoy architecture.

It’s a similar tune up front: Diana Budds reports on the silicosis crisis; Oscar Fock files on the rise of raw earth; William Richards visits an in-progress mass timber building in Paris by Studio Gang for the University of Chicago; two residential renovations are assessed by Inga Saffron in Philadelphia and AN’s design editor, Kelly Pau, in Brooklyn; and AN’s news editor Dan Roche gets the story of the Good Plastic Company, among other timely articles.

The primacy of material was a major theme during recent events I attended. At last month’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, Jeanne Gang sat in a green-carpeted arena designed by Formafantasma to discuss her new book, The Art of Architectural Grafting, published by Park Books. For Gang, grafting represents an architect’s ability to intervene in existing buildings, an idea that is both historical and urgently needed to help reduce the carbon impact of the construction industry. “I’m not interested in designing stuff for Mars, because the emergency is here,” she said.

The night before, a panel convened in a high-ceilinged apartment to discuss Louis I. Kahn: The Last Notebook, a facsimile edition and supporting volume published by Lars Müller Publishers. Present were Sue Ann Kahn, Kahn’s daughter; Gregory Kahn Melitonov, Kahn’s grandson; Marco Sammicheli, director of the Triennale’s Museo del Design Italiano; and moderator Deyan Sudjic. (Mark Masiello, founder and CEO of Form Portfolios, also spoke to tease an upcoming collection of Kahn’s furniture.) The notebook, reproduced with the original ink stains across its cover, is half empty; it preserves the unfilled pages alongside the scrawled sketches, notes, names, and phone numbers. The release, a longtime project for Sue Ann, gives an intimate look into the architect’s inner life.

CCA60253 2024 04 06 MGagnon 031 Mathilde Cohen
Jean-Louis Cohen’s daughter, Mathilde spoke about her father at a tribute at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. (Mathieu Gagnon © CCA)

Earlier in April, I witnessed Unfinished Business, a tribute to historian and architect Jean-Louis Cohen at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal. Seated around a large table, Cohen’s former students and collaborators—Samia Henni, Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi, Vanessa Grossman, Paul Bouet, Claire Zimmerman, and Christina Crawford—shared ongoing projects and remembrances, while Sylvia Lavin provided responses and read a message from Frank Gehry. A presentation from Cohen’s daughter, Mathilde, about his “unfinished autotopobiography” was particularly moving. (She also shared a rare photo of Cohen with hair.) His archive, numbered AP210 and donated to the CCA in 2019, was a key concern: CCA’s Martien de Vletter and Jillian Forsyth shared the current thinking about its organization and the additional paper and digital resources from the recent era of Cohen’s prolific scholarship. The event was an emotional reminder of how a lifetime of thought—materialized as boxes of papers, digital folder structures, gigabytes of travel photography, and countless emails—can be converted into an accessible repository to be shared.

We are all works in progress, each a temple of our own incompleteness. I often think of the poem “blessing the boats” by Lucille Clifton. Its closing lines provide a welcome benediction: “may you in your innocence / sail through this to that.”

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