Tagged: Architecture

Modernism and a 500 Year Anniversary in Le Havre, France

Auguste Perret's Modernist Development
Mixed-use buildings with residential towers overlooking Place Auguste Perret

A modernist city designed by Le Corbusier’s mentor, Auguste Perret, sits on the coast of Normandy. Le Havre’s concrete origins date to September 1944, when the British bombed the German-occupied city’s coastal plain. The assault almost completely destroyed the district and killed more than 5,000 people.


Le Havre in January 1945
The commercial core of Le Havre in January 1945
(Image source: stitched panorama from the UNESCO Nomination, “Le Havre, the city rebuilt by Auguste Perret.”)

Rather than abandon the port city, the French government began planning for its reconstruction after liberation. From 1945 until 1964, the city’s core was totally reworked by a team assembled by Perret, yielding the singular city seen today. As with many modernist and brutalist developments, Le Havre fell out of favor towards the end of the 20th century before finding admirers in recent years. Perhaps the pinnacle of this recognition is the listing of the urban core as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005. The designation recognizes the modernist area, with its standouts like Perret’s own Église Saint-Joseph and later structures like Oscar Niemeyer’s spectacular Maison de la Culture.

Now the city celebrates its concrete past and present, but this year it is also commemorating its 500th anniversary with more than a dozen art and architectural works installed as part of “A Summer in Le Havre.”

Earlier this month, I made a two-day visit to the city on behalf of Atout France and used my free time to visit some of the essential buildings of the reconstruction and the anniversary installations. I will publish additional images from the visit later, but these photographs are among my favorites.


Auguste Perret's St. Joseph's Church
Auguste Perret’s Église Saint-Joseph

Auguste Perret's St. Joseph's Church
Auguste Perret’s Église Saint-Joseph interior with Chiharu Shiota’s Accumulation of Power

Oscar Niemeyer's Maison de la Culture du Havre (Le Vulcan)
Oscar Niemeyer’s Maison de la Culture du Havre, now called “Le Vulcan”

Bibliothèque Oscar Niemeyer
Bibliothèque Oscar Niemeyer, originally the smaller theater from the Maison de la Culture du Havre complex

Oscar Niemeyer, Renovation by Sogno Architecture
Interior of Bibliothèque Oscar Niemeyer, renovation by Sogno Architecture

Auguste Perret's Le Havre City Hall Auguste Perret's Modernist Development
The Le Havre city hall tower and a mixed-use building with the Saturday market in the foreground

Auguste Perret's Apartment Building
Interior of a residential tower model apartment with period furniture

Auguste Perret's Modernist Development
Looking south down Rue de Paris towards Vincent Ganivet’s Catène de Containers

Vincent Ganivet's Shipping Container Sculpture
Vincent Ganivet’s Catène de Containers

Lang and Baumann's La Porte Océane
Lang and Baumann’s UP#3, La Porte Océane

In Her Cabana
A resident in her cabana with Karel Martens’ Colors on the Beach

In Their Cabana
In their cabana with Karel Martens’ Colors on the Beach

Le Havre Skate Park
The Le Havre Skate Park

Special thanks go to Eric Baudet and Atout France.

Ethiopian Concrete

A Mixed-Use Building

One of the things I was most excited about for my visit to Ethiopia with Brian Ashby and Susannah Ribstein was the opportunity to see its modernist buildings. The thing was, I didn’t really know what we would see.

African modernist architecture is chronicled in books like African Modernism: The Architecture of Independence or celebrated in international designations like UNESCO “World Heritage” status for the Eritrean city of Asmara; however, those projects don’t represent Ethiopia. When Ethiopian architecture is referenced, it is typically about its spectacular monolithic churches or the most monumental buildings of the modernist period, like Arturo Mezzedimi’s Africa Hall and Addis Ababa City Hall.

Bete Giyorgis
The late 12th or early 13th century monolithic church Bete Giyorgis in Lalibela

But modernist concrete is everywhere in Ethiopia. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, when many other African states were asserting independence from their colonists, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was conceptualizing how to assert Ethiopian modernity through architecture and urban planning. With a vision shared by many other African elites, he worked with European, American, and African architects to augment the dominant International Style with local characteristics.

The marquee buildings are interesting, but I was more intrigued by the smaller buildings scattered throughout Addis Ababa. The following photographs are a sample of the modernist and brutalist buildings we saw strolling through the city during the rainy season. A note about and a few photos of contemporary architecture follow the set.

Mezzedimi's Zauditu Building
Mezzedimi’s Zauditu building

A Crown

A Mixed-Use Building

A Mixed-Use Building

SHOA
From the traffic circle

SHOA, Second View
A second view

John F. Kennedy Library at Addis Ababa University
John F. Kennedy Library at Addis Ababa University

Kobil Service Station and Apartments

Modern Building

With Central Stairwell

Bedilu Hintsa
Bedilu Hintsa

Today, Addis Ababa is a construction site. The Ethiopian government is displacing thousands of residents and clearing large portions of the city in order to “modernize” the “slums.” New buildings for new people and businesses are replacing those areas, and shoddy low-rise “condominiums” are being built on the edges of the city to house the displaced and others.

In the context of this calamity, the occasional building is rising to serve social functions with spectacular design, like Vilalta Arquitectura’s Lideta Market. I wish we’d had more time to see other examples and better understand the entire situation.


New construction
New construction in Geja Sefer

Under Construction
New construction along Airport Road

CU9I9159
New condominium construction

From the Light Rail
A modernist mixed-use building dwarfed by new construction

Vilalta Arquitectura's Lideta Market
A detail of the Lideta Market

Vilalta Arquitectura's Lideta Market
The Lideta Market

Special thanks to Zacharias Abubeker and Marjan Kloosterboer.

Visiting Japanese Cities

The most challenging portion of my trip to Japan was the time in Tōhoku’s recovering disaster areas, but I spent the majority of my visit in urban Japan. The first half of my trip was structured around Kobe, where I was exhibiting my Isolated Building Studies, and Tokyo served as the base for the second half of the excursion. Whether in Kobe, Tokyo or Sendai, I was excited to have the opportunity to experience Japan’s distinctive urban character alongside some of the most idealistic examples of mid-century architecture — and some of the boldest contemporary styles. The following photographs feature the most typical and atypical locations.

Yaesu Buildings Akihabara Buildings
Representative buildings in the Yaesu and Akihabara districts of Tokyo

Kisho Kurokawa's Nakagin Capsule Tower Kenz? Tange's Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center
Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower and Kenzō Tange’s Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center, both in Tokyo

Aoyama Kitamachi Danchi
Aoyama Kitamachi Danchi, a social housing development on the edge of Tokyo’s Omotesando commercial district
[Special thanks go to Luis Mendo, who walked me through this district.]

Dior Herzog & de Meuron's Prada Aoyama
SANAA’s Christian Dior Omotesando and Herzog & de Meuron’s Prada Aoyama, both in Tokyo

Harajuku Protestant Church IMG_6780_1
Ciel Rouge Création’s Harajuku Protestant Church in Tokyo and Toyo Ito’s Sendai Mediatheque in Sendai

At Night
A restaurant just beyond Tokyo Station

From the Playing Field
Looking over Kobe from the Hyogo Prefectural Kobe High School

Tokyo Vending Machines Kobe Vending Machine Vending Machines
Ubiquitous vending machines in Tokyo, Kobe and Tokyo, respectively

Along the Street
A typical commercial street near downtown Kobe

Tokyo Street
A typical mixed-use street near Tokyo’s famous Omotesando shopping district

Buffalo, New York

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Buffalo, New York to help the Society of Architectural Historians prepare for their April conference. Subsequently, I spent most of my time preparing traditional architectural photographs, but I did have time to do some personal work. No matter which kind of subject, I was immersed in buildings constructed before WWII.

Thanks to Buffalo’s early access to hydroelectric power, it is among the cities with the best per capita early Twentieth Century architecture. Among the luminaries are those familiar to Chicagoans, including Adler and Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright and the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Still, the decline of the Erie Canal’s importance and well-known effects of deindustrialization and suburbanization have challenged the city since the 1950s. That contrast is clear as one moves through the city.

The following is a small selection of images from the visit. As always, more are available on flickr.


Towards the New York Central Terminal (Buffalo)

Ellicott Square Building, 1895-6

Buffalo City Hall Lobby Temple Beth David, 1924

Sloan's Antiques & Modern Furniture Office

St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, 1883-1886 (Towers, 1908) Dun Building, 1894-5

Memorial, New York Lottery Advertisement

Silos at Night

Detroit, Michigan

I spent last week in Detroit attending the Society of Architectural Historians‘ annual meeting, where I also had a few opportunities to continue working on my Detroit project. Selections from that work are below, followed by a few traditional architectural photographs.

Walking in the Morning

Residential Buildings at Dusk

On His Motor Bike

Down the Street

Now Burnt

Late Afternoon Snacks

Special Events $25

With Car


Fox Theatre
The Fox Theatre

Guardian Building Interior
The Guardian Building

Guardian Building Interior - Lobby
The Guardian Building

McGregor Memorial Conference Center Detail
McGregor Memorial Conference Center

The Fillmore Detroit
The Fillmore Detroit