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Field Trips

// See local architecture and interiors through the eyes of our NYC architects and designers.

Whitney Museum by Renzo Piano

A Professor once told me something that has haunted me for years. He said there are five major elements to any Architectural project (concept, function, structure, systems, and site) and you will never be able to have all five seamlessly connect until you are at least 60 years old. As a naive design student this seemed so ridiculous to me. If my concept was strong, then the HVAC ducts would just have to work, right? However, five years into running our firm I'm starting to understand his point.

Last week our team went to visit the Whitney Museum in New York's Meatpacking District by Renzo Piano. If I'm going to be honest Renzo isn't one of my favorite architects, however, I wanted to go in with an open mind. Whatever your take on the design, you simply can't ignore how well all of the elements come together. At entry, the awning clips sit perfectly inside the gaps between facade panels. In the galleries, the gasket of the curtain wall sits perfectly against the substructure. The structure then PERFECTLY aligns with a concealed floor vent which then aligns, aligns, and aligns... Everything aligns. (and don't get me started with the f*#king perfectly flush-mounted exit signs!)

What I'm saying is: I was really blown away by the clear love for the details, and this reminded me of that nagging concept that my professor preached years ago. Standing in the Whitney it seems that this level of execution can only to be accomplished by a seasoned hand and after years and years of fixing and learning from misfires. Perhaps I'm saying this to justify our past misfires OR maybe Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour theory is a generous estimate.

On my way to the Whitney I paused in front of a new building going UP by a great young Architect. The design concept is very strong, however, I couldn't help but notice that none of the facade panels lined UP. Every joint had different spacing and not in an intentional, parametric pattern. It seemed to scream "We're figuring this out as we go!" and I can certainly relate.

In any profession when you are just starting out you overthink, second guess, and miss details. However, as you practice and learn you are able to see conflicts before they happen and can manage so many issues at once. Team Renzo was not only able to address those five architectural elements but was also able to create a really beautiful and seamless building.