The Architecture Top Ten

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As identified by me in this week’s list-mad issue of Time. Actually it’s just five — and one of them is a sculpture park — plus five hopefuls for next year.

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Bloch Building, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City — Photo: Nelson-Atkins Museum

Why only five? Even though Steven Holl’s Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum may be the best new American building I’ve seen since Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall, I can’t honestly say I saw nine other new buildings this year that rose to the bar. (There are American projects only on this list by the way. For some reason even Time‘s travel budget doesn’t allow me to circle the globe at will.)

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New York Times Headquarters, Renzo Piano — Photo: Davers Steel

Biggest disappointment? Renzo Piano’s New York Times headquarters in Manhattan. We were promised a diaphanous, semi-transparent tower. What we got was more like a battleship grey metal slab. Of course with Piano these days you only to have to wait a few months and another completed American project comes rolling out of his shop. Next up, the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. And the new campus for the Los Angeles County Museum. And the addition to the Art Institute of Chicago. And the Whitney’s satellite museum in lower Manhattan. And…..

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Akron Art Museum addition, Coop Himmelb(l)au — Photo: Akron Art Museum/Roland Halbe Photografie

Building I wish I had gotten out to see? The addition to the Akron Art Museum by the Vienna firm Coop Himmelb(l)au. It looks great in pictures. I’ll get there.

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Glass House, Philip Johnson — Photo: Eirik Johnson

Best old new building? Philip Johnson’s Glass House and the whole mixed bag of structures he built over the years across his compound in New Canaan, Conn., which opened to the public for the first time this year.

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Proposal for Transbay Transit Center, San Francisco, Cesar Pelli — Image: Transbay Transit Center

Most promising development? I was glad when Cesar Pelli’s proposal won the competition for the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco. What’s most interesting about Pelli’s scheme is not so much the tower — which is a variation on a fairly elegant template he’s already provided for towers in Hong Kong and Jersey City — but the 5.4 acre park that the design provides on the six block-long roof of the transit center, which is a hub for bus and rail lines. If all goes as planned it’ll be a green roof that’s also a true public amenity.

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Proposed towers for World Trade Center site — Image: Port Authority of N. Y. and N. J.

Most unpromising development? The row of office towers planned for the eastern edge of the World Trade Center site in New York. Whatever their merits as individual buildings — and this time developer Larry Silverstein called in names like Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Fumihiko Maki — taken as a whole they represent a complete failure to think urbanistically, to conceive the site as an ensemble of large and smaller buildings and open space. When people describe the Trade Center site as a tragically missed opportunity, this is what they mean. The place has become a graveyard of ideas.

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American Folk Art Museum, Tod Williams + Billie Tsien — Photo: AFAM/Michael Moran

Most exquisite predicament? The selection of Tod Williams + Billie Tsien to design the new home for the Barnes Foundation collection, assuming it does move to Philadelphia from its proper home in Merion, Pa. Tod and Billie are superb architects. Their American Folk Art Museum in New York is a small gem. So we may end up confronted with a brilliant solution for moving a collection that still should not be moved in the first place.

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Riverview High School, Paul Rudolph — Photo — Sarasota Herald-Tribune/Dan Wagner

Worst trend? Tear down threats against buildings designed by the late American Modernist Paul Rudolph. One Rudolph house went down this year, and there are threats against an office building in Boston and Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida. The good news? Yale University has brought in Charles Gwathmey to oversee a renewal and restoration of Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building.

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Art and Architecture Building, Paul Rudolph — Photo: Yale

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