Thursday, May 14, 2009

NYT architecture review of Renzo Piano's Unveiling in Chicago

Michelle Litvin for The New York Times

Everyone I have spoken to who has visited the new Morton Wing addition of the Art Institute of Chicago say it is truly breathtaking. It opens to the public on Saturday.

The following is from an article by NICOLAI OUROUSSOF of the New York Times, published: May 13, 2009

"But it is the light that most people will notice. Mr. Piano has been slowly refining his lighting systems since the mid-1980s, when he completed his design for the Menil Collection building in Houston. Over the years these efforts have taken on a quasi-religious aura, with curators and museum directors analyzing the light in his galleries like priests dissecting holy texts.

At the Art Institute Mr. Piano has stripped the system down to its essence. The glass roof of the top-floor galleries is supported on delicate steel trusses. Rows of white blades rest on top of the trusses to filter out strong southern light; thin fabric panels soften the view from below.

The idea is to make you aware of the shifts in daylight — over the course of a visit, from one season to another — without distracting you from the artwork, and the effect is magical. On a clear afternoon you can catch faint glimpses through the structural frame of clouds drifting by overhead. But most of the time the art takes center stage, everything else fading quietly into the background.

It is this obsessive refinement that raises Mr. Piano’s best architecture to the level of art. In an age with few idealists, he exudes a touching faith in the value of slow, incremental progress. He has never fully abandoned the belief that machines can elevate as well as destroy.

The beauty of his designs stems from his stubborn insistence that the placement of a column or a window, when done with enough patience and care, brings us a step closer to a more enlightened society."


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