Ancient Cities Discovered in Mexican Jungle (artnet news)

Sarah Cascone, Tuesday, August 26, 2014 original article here.

The facade at Lagunita, a recently discovered ancient Mayan city. Photo: ZRC SAZU.

The facade at Lagunita, a recently discovered ancient Mayan city. Photo: ZRC SAZU.

Two ancient Mayan cities featuring ball courts, pyramid, plazas, and, in one case, a spectacular entrance shaped like the open jaws of a monster, have been discovered in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. An expedition lead by Ivan Sprajc of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts uncovered both cities in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, which was one of 29 culturally significant areas to receive United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site designation in June (“UNESCO Names Ancient Incan Road a World Heritage Site“).

“Aerial photographs helped us in locating the sites,” Sprajc told Discovery News. “In the jungle you can be as little as 600 feet from a large site and not even suspect it might be there; small mounds are all over the place, but they give you no idea about where an urban center might be.”

One of the cities, called Lagunita, had probably already been found by modern archaeologists including the American Eric Von Euw back in the 1970s. Because he failed to record its exact location, archaeologists had been unable to return to the site in the decades since. A comparison between the city’s monuments and drawings of the lost Von Euw discovery revealed similar reliefs and hieroglyphics.

The other site has been named Tamchen, which means “deep well” in Mayan, after its many underground cisterns, or chultuns used to capture rainwater.

The cities are not the only major discovery of Mayan archaeological sites that have been made recently. As previously reported by artnet News (“Mexican Construction Crew Discovers Ancient Mayan Ball Court“), workers digging the foundations for a basketball court in Meirda, Mexico, unearthed a layer of pink stone in March that was quickly identified as a ball court for the ancient Mayan ballgame.

$4.5 Million Frank Gehry House Sells for Less Than $1 Million (artnet news)

by Eileen Kinsella, Thursday, May 21, 2015 original article here.

The guest house Frank Gehry designed for Penny and Mike Winton in 1982. Image: Courtesy of Wright, Chicago.

The guest house Frank Gehry designed for Penny and Mike Winton in 1982. Image: Courtesy of Wright, Chicago.

Despite considerable hype—including a lengthy catalogue entry with accolades from architecture experts and fellow artists—a custom built house by starchitect Frank Gehry fell far short of earlier estimates and just below the presale estimate at Wright auction house in Chicago yesterday (see Raymond Pettibon Has Gehryish Taste in Apartments and Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial a Go, Geffen Contemporary Remodel Next?).

Winton Guest House, Gehry’s “sculptural building” composed of six geometric forms clad in a range of building materials and finishes, sold for a hammer price of $750,000 ($905,000 total) on May 19, after “five minutes of lackluster bidding,” according to the Minneapolis Star TribuneIt was once valued at $4.5 million, but estimates were tamped down to $1 million to $1.5 million for the sale, the Star Tribune reports (see Frank Gehry Fired From World Trade Center Arts Complex Job and Frank Gehry Gives Spanish Critics the Finger).

The house, which has won numerous awards, was commissioned by Minnesota arts patrons Penny and Mike Winton after they read a feature on Gehry in a 1982 edition of the New York Times Magazine. According to the Wright catalogue, the house was initially situated on the Wintons’ 12-acre Lake Minnetonka property and then moved in 2008 to Owatonna Minnesota. “Upon purchasing this work, the structure will again need to be relocated,” the catalogue states.

The six forms that make up the house include: a 35-foot tall pyramid-shaped living room finished in black painted metal; a curved bedroom covered in dolomite limestone from southern Minnesota; a cube-shaped fireplace alcove covered in brick; a rectangular garage and kitchenette covered in Finnish plywood and strips of aluminum, and a rectangular loft in galvanized steel and a second bedroom with a slanted roof, also painted in black metal.

The house was sold by the University of St. Thomas which acquired it in 2007 as a gift from Kirt Woodhouse, a real estate developer who purchased it from the Wintons in 2001.  The new owner, who was not identified will have to move the house at “substantial additional cost,” the Star Tribune reports.

Amal Alamuddin (Clooney), George Clooney, and the Elgin Marbles

This article has NOTHING to do with George Clooney, but let’s be honest, in the news recently we can’t see Amal Alamuddin’s name without being mentioned along side George Clooney and that’s a shame! Alamuddin has an extraordinary reputation on her own as a human rights lawyer and activist who specializes in international and criminal law. Now Ms. Clooney (she took her husband’s name) is on a crusade to rescue the Elgin marbles and have them returned to Greece.

In October of 2014, Ms. Clooney began the process of repatriating the Elgin marbles for the Greek government. If you are unfamiliar about the history of these ancient Greek marble sculptures from Greece, here is your history lesson. The Elgin marbles, also called the Parthenon marbles, once were part of the Parthenon and other buildings that make up the Acropolis in Athens. These classical Greek works of art were mostly made by Phidias and his assistants and are made up of sculptures, inscriptions, and other features of the original architecture of the buildings at this historic site. More specifically, the collection includes 247 feet of the once existing 524-foot frieze, 15 of 92 metopes, 17 figures from the pediments, and an assortment of additional pieces of architecture. This by no means is the only remaining collection of the sculptures that still exist from the Acropolis and Parthenon. Long before Lord Elgin took possession of his portion of the sculptures, many other sculptures were pillaged from this historic site prior to the Ottoman occupation of Greece in the 1800s and are held in other museum collections in the US like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Europe such as The Louvre. Athens also removed all the art from this historic location and relocated it to the museum build especially for it, the Acropolis Museum, in 2007.

These British possessed sculptures received their name from Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, better known as Lord Elgin. He “acquired” these works of art during his time as an ambassador to the Ottoman court of the Sultan in Istanbul between 1799-1803. Lord Elgin later sold them to the British Parliament in 1816 and after, they were gifted to the British Museum. They were put on display in the Elgin Room of the British Museum after its completion in 1832.

File:Elgin Marbles British Museum.jpg

The room containing the Elgin marbles at the British Museum. From Wikipedia Commons © Andrew Dunn, 3 December 2005.

Repatriation talk began approximately 40 year ago spearheaded by the late Melina Mercouri, then the Minster of Culture of Greece in the 1980s, but the British government argued that Athens did not have the space or the means to present or maintain the marbles. Many have taken up the fight for the return on the marbles since Mercouri such as Queen’s Counsel Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer, Clooney, and current Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Once Greece completed the Acropolis Museum however, it was apparent that this was merely an excuse for the British government to keep the Greek treasures. They claimed the possession of the marbles in the museum “allows different complementary stories to be told about them.” (Guardian, 2014)

There are others that don’t feel the marbles should be returned to Greece, specifically of course, the British government. They have made the case that the British Museum attracts a wider audience and therefore more people will be able to experience these sculptures. The are also quick to point out that the existence of the marbles in London for over 200 years is itself a part of history influencing architecture and design in Britain during that period. The New York Times put it best when it said “imperialism isn’t an endearing argument.”(New York Times, 2009)

For more info check out these additional sources:

“What are the ‘Elgin Marbles’?.” British Museum – What are the ‘Elgin Marbles’?. The British Museum, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <;.

Smith, Helena. “Parthenon marbles meet Hollywood as Amal Alamuddin Clooney advises Greece | Art and design.” The Guardian. Guardian News, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <;.

Michael, Kimmelman. “Abroad – Athens Museum Opening Reprises Debate on Elgin Marbles –” The New York Times – Art & Design. The New York Times, 23 June 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <;.

Calvin College openURL resolver

Has Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia Grown Out of Touch? (Hyperallergic)

by Laura C. Mallonee on October 1, 2014 original article here.

La Sagrada Familia in 2009, with cranes digitally removed. (image via Wikimedia)

La Sagrada Familia in 2009, with cranes digitally removed. (image via Wikimedia)

You might say that Antoni Gaudí was an architect of the cloth. From 1883 until his death in 1926, the Catalonian master oversaw the construction of the Roman Catholic basilica Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain. When people asked him why it was taking so long, he purportedly replied, “My client isn’t in a hurry.”

Nearly nine decades after his death, construction is still ongoing, and a new video released by the basilica (below) reveals how it will unfold over the next two years. By 2016, workers will have finished the sacristy and raking cornice and installed new stained glass windows. And if a video released last year (at the bottom of this post) can be believed, the building could be completely finished by 2026. It took less time to build Notre Dame.

he journey hasn’t been easy, though. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Gaudí’s original plans for La Sagrada Familia burned in a fire that destroyed his workshop. A few plaster models, drawings, and photographs were salvaged from the cinders and used, along with notes from Gaudí’s students, to piece together the rest. Through political change and architectural innovation, construction has marched on.

Yet the basilica has never been more at odds with its time. Aside from the fact that the West has grown increasingly secular, much has changed among Christians themselves since the 19th century, when Catholics and Protestants alike constructed costly imitations of Medieval cathedrals. Today, as Pope Francis underscores the need to care for the poor, it’s harder for Catholics to justify the continued construction of a church structure built entirely on expiations (monetary donations many believe will atone for their wrongdoings), not to mention the €12.50 admission fee coughed up by 2 million visitors every year.

Given Gaudí’s acclaim as an architect, it’s easy to ignore this murkier aspect of the building’s funding. The basilica remains an important architectural work; its crypt, constructed between 1884 and 1889, is even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The selection of Gaudí to design La Familia Sagrada represented one of the few modern instances wherein the interests of the church and art world collided, but it may now be in both their interests to halt construction altogether. Over the past few years, many onlookers have raised concerns that the basilica’s contemporary additions fall far short of Gaudí’s vision. In 2008, more than 400 architects and historians signed Fomento de las Artes Decorativasmanifesto demanding that construction be stopped. And in 2011, architecture critic Rowan Moore argued in the Guardian:

The great Catalan architect famously adjusted his buildings as he went along, modifying details in response to unusual stones found in the quarry and forever testing his ideas with full size mock-ups … [La Sagrada Familia] is no longer a work of Gaudí. It cannot overcome the central paradox, which is that Gaudí’s architecture was organic, living and responsive, whereas posthumous simulation of his ideas makes them fixed and lifeless.

Continued construction not only raises questions about the ethics of the basilica’s funding during a time of severe austerity in Spain, but it reduces Gaudí’s masterpiece to the architectural equivalent of an overworked canvas.

For more info see my post about the arson attempt at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia here.

ISIS Destroys Historic Sites in Iraq and Syria (Hyperallergic)

by Hrag Vartanian on July 9, 2014 original article appears here.

From the unverified video of a member of ISIS desecrating the alleged tombs of the prophet Jonah (GIF Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been destroying the artistic and religious heritage of Iraq and Syria as they continue to impose their fundamentalist Sunni doctrine on the lands they’ve occupied. Recent reports, which have been hard to independently confirm, have reported that ISIS most recently destroyed the alleged tomb of the Biblical prophet Jonah (Younis). A short video (posted below) of a black-clad figure hurling a sledgehammer at the tombs, which according to Iraqi authorities includes the prophet’s tomb, is the latest visual evidence of the group’s iconoclastic cultural policy. Jonah is the Biblical figure that was swallowed by a whale, and his tale is recorded both in the Old Testament and the Quran.

The latest bout of destruction by ISIS has raised concerns that the group threatens all religious minorities, including non-fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, and imperils all the monuments and sites affiliated with those groups. Archeological sites are also under threat, and in June the Guardian reported that ISIS “was also known to have reaped windfalls from smuggling all manner of raw materials pillaged from the crumbling state, as well as priceless antiquities from archaeological digs.”

Last month, European Union observers reported that 11 churches were torched by ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul, while the Sunni fundamentalists also raped civilians. Among the many architectural monuments destroyed included the grave of 12th–13th-century historiographer Abu al-Hassan al-Jazari, known as ibn al-Athir, and several churches that had been “burnt to the ground.”

An image posted on social media by ISIS showing what appears to be a Sufi shrine being bulldozed. (Al-Arabiya News/Twitter)

A Shiite Islamic site being destroyed by explosives (image via Al Arabiya)

ISIS’s animosity towards local Christians is not new, and the group has been targeting Christians heavily since they took over parts of eastern Syria. According to Al Jazeera, earlier this year the group demanded “every Christian man pay a tax of up to 17g of gold, a levy that was common in Muslim states centuries ago,” while the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that ISIS has imposed a $250 minimum tax on Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul. There are also numerous videos posted online of the fundamentalist group’s desecration of Christian churches.

The AINA has been regularly reporting about the destruction of historic and religious monuments by ISIS. Earlier this year they reported that the group destroyed Assyrian statues and artifacts believed to be 3,000 years old, while more recently they confirmed that ISIS had destroyed a statue of Arab poet Abu Tammam in Mosul last month.

ISIS is not limiting its destruction to non-Muslim sites and four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures, and six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed in the ISIS-controlled regions of Iraq’s Nineveh province, where Mosul is the capital. Al-Arabiya News is reporting that the “Sunni and Sufi shrines were demolished by bulldozers, while the Shiite mosques and shrines were all destroyed by explosives.”

Photos showing what appears to be ISIS militants destroying ancient Assyrian statues. (via



Destruction of a Shiite religious site by ISIS (Twitter via Al-Arabiya)


St. Etchmiadzin Armenian church in Mosul following attacks by ISIS. (via Asbarez)

Living Quarters: The Frick Collection Expansion (Hyperallergic)

by Laura C. Mallonee on June 16, 2014. Original article here.

Elevation of the Frick Collection plan from 70th Street. The artist’s rendering is courtesy of Neoscape Inc., 2014 (all images courtesy of the Frick Collection)
Elevation of the Frick Collection plan from 70th Street. The artist’s rendering is courtesy of Neoscape Inc., 2014 (all images courtesy of the Frick Collection)

If you’ve ever walked down the foyer of the Frick Museum, you’ve probably paused curiously in front of the roped-off white marble staircase anchoring the hall to your right. It ascends toward the neoclassical museum’s second floor, a mysterious realm that has never been open to the public. Now, thanks to a recently announced expansion plan, it won’t be long before you can wander to your heart’s content.

The Grand Staircase at the Frick Collection (photo by Michael Bodycomb)
The Grand Staircase at the Frick Collection (photo by Michael Bodycomb)

The second-floor rooms are set to be converted into galleries, providing a home for those members of the museum’s 1,200-item permanent collection which have until now been banished to storage. Images of the upstairs reveal casual, laid-back quarters where the Frick family slept, studied and took breakfast — a sharp contrast to their former home’s opulent downstairs space.

“Opening gallery space on the second floor will allow us to show more of our collection’s decorative arts, bronze statuettes, small scale paintings, and drawings — works that may be lost in the larger galleries downstairs because of their smaller scale,” Heidi Rosenau, associate director of media relations and marketing, told Hyperallergic.

The conceptual design by Davis Brody Bond Architects and Planners (the firm that helmed the museum’s fourth enlargment in 2011) also has some bold additions that could turn the Frick into a mini Louvre. That dreamy courtyard garden with the birdbath that you’re also not allowed to enter? It’s going to get knocked out to accommodate an additional gallery on the main floor.

The former second-floor study of Mrs. Frick (photo by Michael Bodycomb)
The former second-floor study of Mrs. Frick (photo by Michael Bodycomb)

“[It] will give us greater flexibility and allow us to host special exhibitions of larger individual works, such as full-length paintings, that cannot currently be shown in the special exhibition galleries in our basement,” Rosenau said. The new gallery will also help them avoid displacing permanent works like the much-loved Whistler paintings when they hold temporary shows.

The most dramatic addition of all will be the construction of an “architecturally respectful” six-story wing to the East 70th Street side of the museum. It will house more gallery, library, conservation and administrative space, as well as classrooms, a 220-seat auditorium and a rooftop garden.

Altogether, the expansion will add an additional 42,000 square feet of space, increasing the Frick’s footprint by a third.

The top of the second-floor landing in the former Frick residence (photo by Michael Bodycomb)
The top of the second-floor landing in the former Frick residence (photo by Michael Bodycomb)

The second-floor corridor (photo by Michael Bodycomb)
The second-floor corridor of the Frick Collection (photo by Michael Bodycomb)

The former bedroom of Miss Helen Clay Frick (photo by Michael Bodycomb)
The former bedroom of Miss Helen Clay Frick (photo by Michael Bodycomb)

The former Frick family breakfast room, located on the second floor of the former Frick mansion (photo by Michael Bodycomb)
The former Frick family breakfast room, located on the second floor of the former Frick mansion (photo by Michael Bodycomb)



This Church Seems Completely Normal From The Outside But Go Inside And… NO. (Viral Nova)

-from Viral Nova article January 23, 2014

This quaint Roman Catholic Church located in the Czech Republic is known as the Cemetery Church of All Saints. The name is a little strange for a church, but straightforward. And literal. That’s because, once you step inside the church, you’ll see the bones from 40,000 – 70,000 people adorning the walls. Thousands of human bodies are hanging from the walls, ceilings and fixtures inside of this church.

It’s hard to determine if this is respect for the dead or some kind of twisted art display. Given that the bones were exhumed and arranged, at the beginning, by a monk, it seems like it is the former.

Either way, it would be hard to take a breath inside of this church, knowing that thousands of dead bodies surround you, forever silent.

-Source: and

Pritzker Prize winner Ito seeks ideas in nature (Associated Press)

By ELAINE KURTENBACH March 18, 2013 8:29 PM

TOKYO (AP) — When he says why he especially likes Sendai Mediatheque, the public library that ranks among his most famous works, Toyo Ito, the Japanese architect awarded the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize, says he likes to see people napping and relaxing inside the transparent structure.

Ito, the sixth Japanese to win the honor likened to a Nobel Prize for architecture, said Monday that the field needs to evolve to suit changing times, to “be more open to nature.”

“Architects have made architecture too complex. We need to simplify it and use a language that everyone can understand,” Ito said at one of his offices in Tokyo, a strictly functional place whose only frills were the lavish bouquets of orchids, lilies and other blooms sent to congratulate him for the award.

Ito’s buildings, from libraries and theaters to offices and homes, have won praise for their fluid, airy beauty and balance between nature and function, the physical and virtual worlds.

Among the best-known works are the spiral White O residence in Marbella, Chile, the angular 2002 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London and the arch-laced, curving Tama Art University in suburban Tokyo.

This publicity photo provided courtesy of Toyo Ito …

Architecture needs to change to suit changing needs brought on by declining populations, climate change and scarce resources, he said, likening a more sustainable design approach to the growth of a tree, which expands, branch by branch, in relation to the light and its surroundings.

“We have to base architecture on the environment. Whatever age it is, people are people,” he said. “I want it to be fresh.”

The Sendai Mediatheque is a library transparent even down to the internal tubes used for its ventilation and wiring — like the tubes in a human body, he says — was lauded for withstanding the massive earthquake that struck offshore from the city in northeastern Japan in March 2011.

Ito had been working as an architect for 30 years when it opened in 2001.

“That was the time I really felt I was glad to have become an architect,” he said. “It is like a wall-less gallery space, where people are able to walk around. You often see people taking naps or couples behaving if they are on dates.”

This publicity photo provided courtesy of Toyo Ito …

Though the Sendai structure is boxy in design, many of his works are enlivened with webs, arches and curbs that enliven and deflect the traditional grid structure that underlies most modern buildings.

Ito has been involved in several projects aimed at aiding survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters, which killed nearly 20,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless. The aim is to create communal spaces where residents displaced to temporary housing units can chat and find connections with their neighbors, he said.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who served on the Pritzker Prize jury, praised Ito for improving the “quality of both public and private spaces.”

“His buildings are complex, yet his high degree of synthesis means that his works attain a level of calmness, which ultimately allows the inhabitants to freely develop their life and activities in them,” said another jury member, Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena.

Other recipients of the Pritzker have included masters such as Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano and Wang Shu.

This publicity photo provided courtesy of Toyo Ito …

In accepting the prize, Ito said he was determined to “never fix my architectural style and never be satisfied with my works.” Completing a work, Ito said, makes him “painfully aware of my own inadequacy, and it turns into energy to challenge the next project.”

Ito began his career at Kiyonori Kikutake & Associates after he was graduated from Tokyo University in 1965. He founded his own firm in 1971. His works have been exhibited in museums in the United States, England, Denmark, Italy, Chile and numerous cities in Japan.

He will receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion at the formal Pritzker ceremony May 29 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation, the Pritzker Prize was established in 1979 by the late entrepreneur Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, to honor “a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”

The Pritzker family founded the prize because of its involvement with developing Hyatt Hotel properties around the world and because architecture was not included in the Nobel Prizes. The Pritzker selection process is modeled after the Nobels.

This publicity photo provided courtesy of Toyo Ito …

All publicity photos provided courtesy of Toyo Ito and Associates, Architects,