11 Writers on Charles Rose Architects
Terence Riley, formerly the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art, NY. “Forward” in Charles Rose, Architect, Princeton Architectural Press
“In Henry James’ novel, The Europeans, the protagonist’s relatives come to visit America and comment on the openness of the New England countryside, referring to it as an ‘uncastled’ landscape. Charles Rose’s architecture seems to have sprung from a similar sentiment. Rather than dominate the site and its surroundings, his architecture habitually seeks the contours rather than the crest. Whether the topography is dramatic or subtle, Rose’s instinct is to reinforce the geometries of the site, at times making the viewers more aware of the landscape than they might have been otherwise.
Rather than idealizing architectural form, Rose privileges that landscape’s tendency to singular expression. Above the structures, the roof planes invariably hover, seeking not the level of the horizon but the exceptional forms of the landscape without as well as the flow of activities within. Moreover, his structures generally meet the ground in a subtle way, feathered into the landscape by walkways and terraces, rejecting the formal podium which so often defined the relationship between classical architecture—as well as classic modernism—and nature. While his architecture most certainly has urban implications, Rose’s work to date is most convincing in its ability to make an Arcadian vision legible.
Rose’s attitude toward the modern past is expanded by a sense of freedom with geometry. While Breuer and Le Corbusier cautiously departed from their strict sense of geometric form in the ‘butterfly’ roofs of the exhibition house in the garden of MoMA and the Erasuriz houses in Chile, respectively, Rose’s manipulation of form more fully embraces a catalogue of prismatic strategies. Even so, this expansive attitude is never detached from the logic of construction. Digital design has opened up a whole new vocabulary of geometric possibilities, yet Rose’s work is not defined by geometric complexity per se, but tethered to the norms of the construction industry prevalent today. While we may live in a world that is only knowable through the physics of relativity, our day-to-day experience—particularly how we make things—is more familiar. As Italo Calvino noted, ‘the heavy machines still exist’, if they are now controlled by weightless bits. In Rose’s architecture, the philosophical impurity of Calvino’s observation is made a virtue.”
Foreword by Terence Riley, formerly The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art from the monograph, Charles Rose, Architect, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006
Paige Williams, “Glossy Skin, Vinyl-Clad Heart,” in The New York Times
CHARLES ROSE bought his three-story house with every intention of tearing it down. Vinyl-clad, built from a 1940’s kit, the mail-order colonial had good bones and occupied an attractive cloistered acre near Cambridge, Mass., where he had lived for 16 years. But the garage blocked the expansive side yard, and the ceilings were so low, the nooks so dark, that Mr. Rose wanted to bring on the bulldozers.
Mr. Rose — an architect who is distinguishing himself with public structures and houses of ethereal lines, space and light — could have renovated, or, of course, demolished. His first marriage was ending, though, and he and his young son and daughter had experienced enough loss. The Belmont house was to be a new start. So he turned to a presumably mundane genre of architecture — the addition — and gave it a twist.
The central challenge with additions is always how to merge old and new without making a discordant, dysfunctional mess, but Mr. Rose’s problem presented itself in the extreme. Adding a modern wing to the existing house would have been like marrying a sleek young comer to a drab old dud.
So Mr. Rose wrapped it. He put the old house in a box.
He constructed an abstract cedar screen around the 3,500-square-foot house, kept the windows but widened them, added a second-floor deck and built his addition onto the deck, in place of the garage. Now the cedar box meets an additional 3,500-square-foot expanse of glass and copper, which is already mellowing nicely in the New England weather.
In certain light you can see through the cedar screen to the old house, to the past. “Maybe this is slightly contradictory, but I do like the layering of history,” said Mr. Rose, 45. “In the case of my two older children and me, this house was where we sort of put our lives back together. I wanted there to be a vestige of that.”
The old wing holds four bedrooms, four and a half baths, a playroom and a music room. (Mr. Rose is a talented classical pianist and an opera devotee.) The new wing has the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the master bedroom, two upstairs offices and three decks, including one on the roof, accessible by an exterior glass staircase that ascends through the limbs of a majestic old maple. A whimsical bonus on the roof deck is a wood-burning fireplace, as well as a downward view of the old house’s pitched roof and bracing, like a stage set.
Copper House, as the $800,000 project was called, has an altogether sculptural, almost balletic, force — at every turn, interplay between extremes of hard, soft, heavy and light. Mr. Rose defined the dining space with a glass and steel staircase, a sculptural beech server and a monolithic bluestone fireplace. The fireplace is repeated in the living room, which steps down with the grade of the site, as if “feathered into the landscape,” as Terence Riley, the curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, has said generally of Mr. Rose’s designs.
FLOOR-TO-CEILING windows make up the north wall, angled to incorporate the maple tree and opening the house to the generous yard. An oversize scupper, another Rose signature, frames the west entrance. Inside, Mr. Rose joined the two wings with a three-story atrium traversed by another glass staircase. This airy unification of past and present is the only place the fusion hasn’t been camouflaged and is the first thing visitors see upon entering the house; Mr. Rose put it right out there, like a confession.
To temper the aggressiveness of the angles made by so much glass, concrete and steel, he used rich woods: mahogany to frame windows, and rosewood, mahogany and bamboo in the floors. Also, subtle colors.
“I wanted to telegraph to people that children live here,” said Pam Moore, Mr. Rose’s wife. A former reporter for Business Week, Ms. Moore married Mr. Rose in 2001; they have a 3-year-old son who races around the open floors on toy fire engines and adroitly navigates the house’s harder edges. (He eases down the main staircase on his bottom and calls it “frumping.”)
“I wanted the colors to be warm,” Ms. Moore said. “I didn’t want it to be too serious, like a museum.”
They painted the interior steel columns navy blue, echoing tones of the aging exterior copper. The walls (the palest pumpkin and yellow) reflect the summer greens and autumnal reds and golds of the surrounding maples and honey locusts. In this way, the house feels almost organic. The copper shifts color with sun and snow; the cedar is a willing canvas for rain. It’s quite a contrast to the predominant Victorians and Cape Cods, which don’t embrace the frigid New England winter so much as hunker down and bear it.
Mr. Rose brought to Copper House an aesthetic that might have started with backyard projects at his childhood home in Garden City, N.Y., but crystallized when he was an undergraduate and graduate student in architecture at Princeton, Columbia and Harvard. He went to Princeton to study physics but quickly became interested in solar architecture, which, along with later courses in landscape architecture, informs his work today.
“The key thing about him is his wonderful sense of how a building relates to its site and the landscape beyond,” Mr. Riley said. In his introduction to “Charles Rose, Architect,” a monograph to be published in March by Princeton Architectural Press, Mr. Riley recalls Henry James’s impression of New England as an “uncastled” landscape, noting that Mr. Rose’s work seems to spring from similar aesthetic principles: an instinct to conform to the landscape rather than dominate it. “Frank Lloyd Wright understood that as well,” Mr. Riley said.
Mr. Rose applies this awareness far beyond New England, as well as in the classroom. He has taught at universities including Harvard and M.I.T., drawing notice as an architect establishing his name relatively early with increasingly complex, coveted projects. He designs primarily for the arts, government and universities — a 65,000-square-foot campus center at Brandeis University, for instance, and Camp Paint Rock in Wyoming, both of which won American Architecture Awards.
Mr. Rose is particularly proud of his work for Paint Rock, a youth development program founded by John R. Alm, the chief executive of Coca-Cola Enterprises, for smart and ambitious but poor teenagers from Los Angeles. The participants, all rising high school freshmen, spend the summer like cliff dwellers, in cabins cantilevered over the canyon.
“It sets up conditions that are completely dissociative with the environment they come from,” Mr. Rose said. “Some of the philosophy isn’t unlike the transcendentalists — this very reliant, American approach to existence, where there’s power in the landscape.”
Of course landscapes can also mean the searing South Texas plateaus or the urban grid of Manhattan, where Mr. Rose is designing a penthouse on East 22nd Street for the violin star Joshua Bell. In 2004 Mr. Rose’s firm, Charles Rose Architects of Somerville, Mass., won a competitive commission from the Design Excellence Program of the federal General Services Administration for one of a dozen or so new border stations. The entry point — now being built in Del Rio, Tex., on the Mexican border — had to simultaneously convey welcome and authority, on a budget.
“He took a very basic premise and used bold strokes to get across something that could have been as nondescript and uninteresting as a toll booth on the New Jersey Turnpike,” said Ed Feiner, who was the chief architect for the General Services Administration when Mr. Rose won the commission. “Most impressive is his ability to take a somewhat austere budget and a somewhat austere palette of materials and create something extremely innovative and creative in form.”
Mr. Rose built Copper House with similar frugality in mind. Using off-the-shelf copper sheeting, for example, he kept the costs for the project to about $140 a square foot, compared with the $250 to $450 that his projects typically cost.
He finished the house in 2004. Now he and Ms. Moore are slowly furnishing it with their own creations. For her upstairs office Mr. Rose made an origami showpiece of a mahogany desk that includes a built-in work area for their son. And they recently installed the dining room table, which they designed together: an oval bubinga wood surface (Moore) over geometric steel legs (Rose).
“Every architect should have to build a house and then live in it,” Mr. Rose said. “This building gives me great feedback every day.” The handrail on the main stairs, for instance: block mahogany with a finger groove. “I slide my hand down it every morning,” he said. “It’s not a big deal, and yet it’s this wonderful little element that I encounter every day. “Houses only need a few wonderful moments like that if you interact with them in a ritualistic way.”
Randy Gragg, Editor-in-Chief “December Muses,” in Portland Monthly
Jean Vollum Drawing, Painting, and Photography Building, Oregon College of Art and Craft, Portland, OR
At the close of a year that has yielded only fleeting moments of good news, consider pausing to enjoy something great, built to last, and newly finished this fall: Oregon College of Art and Craft’s new Jean Vollum Drawing, Painting, and Photography Building.
If its craftsmanship, the way it shapes the winter light, or the artists buzzing inside don’t juice the urge to take a class in the new year, it may at least inspire you to move your desk next to the best window and start making a better 2011.
Designed by the Boston-based Charles Rose Architects, the $7 million structure is a rare Portland building designed by a great architect from elsewhere. And on that short list, it compares best to another landmark built to inspire: the Mt Angel Abbey Library, completed in St. Benedict, Oregon, in 1970, one of only two buildings in the US designed by the Finnish master Alvar Aalto. Coincidentally, both buildings happened courtesy of major gifts from Howard and Jean Vollum and their Tektronix fortune….But in both cases, the architects beautifully channeled the region’s landscape and light to encourage the tasks inside: the library for learning, the studio building for making art.
Built for the monks (but open to the public), Aalto’s library unfolds with an expansive, semicircular room that stair-steps down the abbey’s hilltop in a series of tiers filled with book stacks and study tables, all naturally lit through the high, curving window above. The abbey’s breathtaking views of the Willamette Valley can be experienced only with effort—you have to stand up and walk over to the small windows at the end of the stacks, a kind of brief study break before you return to the life of the mind. With every detail, Aalto fashioned a calming invitation to think more expansively.
Charles Rose’s studio building is, appropriately, all about energy. There’s scarcely a right angle. Walls, roofs, and even windows jut and fold, in, out, up, and down. The views here come in pieces. A long, linear window gracing the entrance hallway/gallery frames the angular plantings of grasses outside
into an abstract mural. In the studio classrooms, high clerestory windows reach for the clouds, but dip just low enough to catch the tops of surrounding hills. Every corner is a carefully composed and crafted convergence of forces that turns the artmaking inside into a collaboration with the surroundings.
I often end the year with a visit to the Mt Angel Abbey Library on my late-December birthday to let Aalto’s orchestration of space and light help me find my next horizon. Although far more modest in size and aim, Charles Rose’s design for the Vollum building has a similarly powerful effect, inviting you to rally your wits, feel the possibilities of the moment, and get on with adding something creative to the world.
Randy Gragg, Editor in Chief, “December Muses,” Portland Monthly, December 2010
Brian Carter and Annette Lecuyer, in All-American: Innovation in American Architecture, Thames & Hudson
The work of Charles Rose stands apart in the context of contemporary American architecture; while it is clearly preoccupied with the nature of the object and the particularities of site, it strives to reveal deeper understandings of the wider landscape. Developed from a series of modest projects on predominantly rural sites, the buildings designed by Rose now include large and complex educational facilities, galleries, centers for the performing arts, propositions that engage intense urban conditions, and a significant new international gateway.
After completing his studies at Princeton and Harvard universities, Rose worked with the landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh before establishing his own practice. Shaped by that experience, he frequently speaks of formulating an architecture that “sees the site”. His search, however, not only embraces considerations of site but also looks for inspiration to the work of Le Corbusier, Siza, and Aalto. Recalling their preoccupations with the land and building, it brings to mind Aalto’s observation that “nothing old is ever reborn. But it never completely disappears either. And everything that ever has been emerges in a new form.”
In searching for new form in the presence of that which “never completely disappears,” Rose focuses on the confluence of landscape, site, and building. Camp Paint Rock, a summer camp for underprivileged inner-city teenagers from Los Angeles, is animated by that search. Consisting of a series of modest buildings in Wyoming, it combines considerations of extensive natural systems with the fine details of construction. In establishing the basis for a new settlement in an expansive landscape, Rose first sought to create an appropriate gathering place. Located strategically at the mouth of a canyon, the camp is designed around a series of terraces cut in the ground, centered on two substantial stone hearths and defined by a light timber-framed shelter. In exploring earthwork and frame, this building references the primordial dwelling and those essential forms of construction defined by Semper. In sharp contrast, a series of tiny cabins designed to provide basic shelter has been scattered on the surrounding slopes. Perched on platforms and situated within the trees, they establish a direct connection between the natural and constructed worlds and, by overlooking the canyon, clearly recognize the omnipresence of the landscape. At the same time, these “flying” fragments leave that landscape virtually untouched. The emphatic distinctions between group and individual, heavy and light, rational and whimsical, at Camp Paint Rock create a group of buildings that successfully establishes a new community in this place and, at the same time, provides a basis for young people of the city to comprehend a vast, new, and unfamiliar world.
While their siting is informed by readings of the landscape, these fragments have been shaped by other characteristics of the place. Reflecting the architect’s curiosity about landform and weather and their impact on construction, the cabins take on original and often surprising traits as they twist to lean in to the wind, tilt to catch rainwater, open up to take in the sun, and fold in ways that create eccentric but effective shelters.
However, the work of Charles Rose is not an architecture that merely seeks to provide shelter or reflect on a search for stasis. It provokes movement. At Camp Paint Rock, this provocation projects movement beyond simple connections between buildings. Networks of elevated boardwalks, footpaths, and horseback-riding trails offer different readings of the place, and, in reinterpreting the promenade, Rose has been able to create experiential sequences that order the site through a series of carefully composed views. In these sequences, the buildings that he has designed, both at Camp Paint Rock and elsewhere, appear to evolve and change along these contrived routes where they seem to be “emerging from the earth.”
The body of work also demonstrates an aggressive pursuit of the development of form through rigorous explorations of construction. At a time when manufacturing processes and construction systems are increasingly being deployed to save time and consequently replace craft, Rose sets up resistance. A deep appreciation for sound building, shaped by a thorough understanding of materials and traditional construction techniques, clearly underpins his approach to design. In several projects, this has resulted in an inspired use of wood and an impressive precision in the detail of its assembly. In the Orleans House on Cape Cod, construction systems are made explicit and the details of cladding and connections conspicuously refined. Parts of the building, like the office tower, which have been transformed into totemic elements that prompt ways of moving across the site, are also made with extraordinary care. Similarly, external wood screens and finely detailed moveable panels, designed to provide shade and offer privacy, become intimately scaled pieces of refined construction that create moments of intensity within a larger whole.
In the design of public buildings, these considerations of material and detailing of constructional systems have been directed to explore a broader range of ideas relative to building and landscape. So while Rose’s design for the new campus center at Brandies University pursues the use of stone as a response to nearby orthogonal modernist pavilions, the new skins of fossilized limestone that he has developed are also assertively sculpted in ways that recall the rocky outcroppings that define the more expansive natural setting of this particular campus.
In this project, Rose has created a series of communal rooms at the heart of the building that underlines the vitality of student life and at the same time transforms the building into an observatory with panoramic views out across the campus. Together with competition designs for the American University of Beirut and the Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas, the Gulf Coast Museum of Art, and the new Business School at the University of South Dakota, this work projects Rose’s design contribution emphatically beyond the private world of the house into the public domain of the campus and the city.
These commissions to design larger and more complex buildings, coupled with the prescriptive demands of institutional clients, have encouraged the development of new ways of working. Collaborations with technical specialists, including Arup and Buro Happold, are furthering studies of materials, passive systems, and structure to expand the intuitive responses that inspired earlier projects. The Currier Center for the Performing Arts at The Putney School, with its sheltering forms backed up to the edge of an existing forest, advances the range of ideas related to the development of a distinctly rural campus. By planning an ambitious range of new civic spaces under a series of folded and planted roofs, it clearly acknowledges its setting while furthering ideas of sustainability that qualify the center for LEED certification. Rose’s proposal for the United States Port of Entry in Del Rio, Texas developed under the U.S. General Services Administration’s Design Excellence Program, defines an important threshold on the international border between the United States and Mexico.
Located in the harsh environment of western Texas, the design effectively combines the ingenuity of the vernacular with ideas developed through focused research, interdisciplinary work, and the rigorous testing of prototypes. Within a new landscape created by the construction of an extensive infrastructure, sweeping canopies form generous and welcome shaded spaces that define a particularly appropriate version of this increasingly important architectural type. Working closely with engineers, the detailed design of the structure and cladding of these canopies has been developed to emphasize lightness yet also induce passive ventilation. At the same time, a collection of buildings sheltered by these canopies benefits from plentiful but carefully filtered natural light and has been planned around a series of enclosed gardens that in turn encourage evaporative cooling. These informed design moves will clearly improve the quality of the workplace for staff and create a necessary moment of calm for travelers moving between these two countries.
Rose has spoken of “creating an architecture that stands in relationship to its surroundings, heightens the experience of the natural conditions at work in the setting, and focuses, orients, and re-orients one’s perception of the land through the nature of the constructed object.” This is an approach that is in stark contrast to many current architectural preoccupations with self-indulgent form making, the digital toolbox and building skin. By focusing on the nature, character, and perception of the land, Charles Rose is not only discovering but actively demonstrating other and arguably more profound ways of creating modern architecture and defining place.
Brian Carter and Annette Lecuyer, All American: Innovation in American Architecture
Sarah Amelar, “Camp Paintrock: Wyoming,” in Architectural Record
Hyattville, Wyoming: population 100. It’s a place where cattle far outnumber people – a town, bordering the Big Horn Mountains, so remote you’d have to drive an hour each way just to pick up, say, a quart of milk. Yet it’s where many teens from Los Angeles’s inner city now vie to spend five weeks each summer.
At first glance, this scenario may seem improbable, but Hyattville has become home to Camp Paint Rock, a program offering potentially life-transforming experiences to disadvantaged young Los Angelenos. Paint Rock is the brainchild and philanthropic creation of John Alm, 56, president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola Enterprises. His idea was to take motivated, high-performing minority students just as they’re about to enter high school – teens from difficult family conditions and neighborhoods blighted with poverty, youth gangs, rampant crime, and soaring drop-out rates – and place them in a healthy but challenging setting, unlike anything they’ve ever known before.
With an intense back-to-basics program of riding and caring for horses, rappelling canyon faces, swimming, bow-and-arrow hunting, and whitewater rafting, the camp may resemble getaways for more privileged kids, except that here the activities are likely to be new, if not dauting, to the campers. A major goal is to build self-esteem, self-reliance, and positive ways of overcoming fear. But that’s just the kickoff. After one five-week session, the participants can return, except as counselors, but Paint Rock stays in touch with them, providing counseling and financial aid, keeping peers in contact with one another, and helping them stay on track to later reenter society, Alm hopes, “ as college-educated, make-a-difference adults.”
This is the kind of dream one might plan to realize “in retirement,” says Alm of Paint Rock. But, after suffering a major heart attack at age 37 and later losing his first wife to cancer, he began to wonder: “Who knows how long any of us will be around? Why wait?” He’d seen how much his own two children had gained from camp – and had also witnessed tough childhood conditions firsthand. He “started from nothing,” he says, weathered the “total disintegration” of his family, and then bounced from one inner city to another. A two-time college dropout, he joined the military, finally got on course, and completed his undergraduate degree at age 28. Alm emerged as a man who clearly values education.
To transform his vision into reality, this Coca-Cola C.O.O. and his second wife, Carol, joined forces with Greg Kovacs, an M.B.A. with extensive youth-development and nonprofit experience, who now directs Paint Rock’s program. But to give the concept physical form and character, the team turned to the Boston firm of Charles Rose Architects. Rose had not designed a camp before, but his work had been consistently responsive to natural settings.
By the time the Alms met Rose, they’d already obtained the land for Paint Rock. The site, at the mouth of two small canyons, is part of 110,000 acre ranch, where John now spends as much time as possible, and Carol raises thousands of head of cattle. Like much of northern Wyoming, it is landscape with a big sky and multiple personalities – passing from mesas and rolling hills silvery with juniper and dry sage brush to vast meadows flecked with occasional wild deer or elk to billowy cottonwood trees bordering the Paint Rock Creek to massive terra-cotta colored rock formations, seemingly surging up in long horizontal striations.
The project brief included a horse barn, a dining hall, a counselor’s lodge, a director’s house, and cabins for the 36 campers at each summer’s two sessions (a remarkably small group of students, drawn annually from a pool of 10,000 eighth graders in the Los Angeles Unified School District). Taking bold, but calculated, risks, the Almses stipulated that the camp would be co-ed “to teach boys and girls to live together” – though males are explicitly forbidden from the female cabin zone, and vice versa. To develop further responsible attitudes, the campers would sleep in bunks without a counselor present. And, according to Rose, his clients favored rugged and challenging over cushy conditions, separating bathrooms from sleeping cabins, offering no paved paths, and omitting handrails wherever possible.
The landscape and its geologic formations provided immediate inspiration for Rose. At the same time, a tight budget, the remote location, and a mandate for a fast-track schedule (ultimately lasting 15 months from start to finish) persuaded him to enlist materials – steel, corrugated galvanized aluminum, concrete, regional river rock, and cedar siding – that matched the experience of local builders. The resulting schemes responds in scale, color, and texture to the site’s existing farm structures, as it disperses 30,000 square feet of space among 16 new buildings over a 10-acre parcel. The largest of Rose’s structures are a horse barn and a dining hall that doubles as a great room.
“We were trying to do something that’d be fun for the kids, but not cutesy – sophisticated instead of playing down to them,” says Rose. The horse barn echoes the low-lying quality of a large lambing shed on the site, while, at the same time, bursting open the traditional barn form. Hardly a conventionally boxy volume with a dark interior, Rose’s stable is light and airy, clad in pale galvanized aluminum, with translucent polycarbonate-paned skylights and clerestories. The building’s dogtrot, linking the stables to a storage room, frames views of Paint Rock Canyon. At this juncture, the roof folds and jauntily tilts upward, following the silhouette of a mesa to the south and evoking the sliding plates and induction processes of nearby geologic formations.
Across the pastures, the dining hall, the prime indoor communal space, also rises to a playfully folding, lilting, and overlapping standing-seam roof. The roof’s exposed heavy-timber structures forms inverted king-post trusses with steel-rod tension chords. A glazed south-facing wall with wood Mondrianesque mullions opens the room to spectacular views (as well as extreme heat when summer temperatures soar into the 100s).
Just as the campers use the site – its rock faces, streams, meadows, and trails – in varied ways, so too has the architect shaped and sited his buildings in response to a range of landscape conditions. The three boys’ cabins, hovering over a canyon wall, are raised on columns, carefully placed to minimize site disturbance. Meanwhile, the three girls’ cabins, across a gully, nestled into the land, and the shower buildings, with deep-set retaining walls, are further embedded into the hillside. Large rolling screen doors and outer wooden panels open the cabins to the outside. Through roof decks, lookouts, and elevated, interconnecting walkways, the scheme offers lots of views and overviews, encouraging different ways of seeing the landscape, as well as the complex array of roof configurations.
And the campers really seem to get it. A Paint Rock teen named Michelle recently commented on “how you can see the night sky from every single bunk.” Her fellow camper Betty chimed in: “And all the cabins are unique – some have roof decks, some don’t but are close to the stream (which can help hot nights feel a lot cooler), some are near the bathrooms (which can be a very good thing), and one has this great boulder coming through the floor.” By design, there’s no best or worst cabin: They all have carefully calculated trade-offs.
Of course, inner cities have many more deserving teens than Paint Rock alone can accommodate. But its influence is spreading. Camp Coca-Cola (with a strong corporate backer, rather than the hands-on presence and personal touch of the Almses) opened this summer in St. Louis. “ I may scare people,” says John Alm exuberantly, “but other corporations and The Alm Foundation (which supports Paint Rock) need to do a whole lot more – we should build at least 500 of these camps, all across the nation.”
James Grayson Trulove, in Designing the New Museum, Rockport Publishing
Gulf Coast Museum of Art, Largo, FL
The local climate and quality of light as well as the local flora and fauna influenced the design of the Florida Gulf Coast Arts Center – its simple volumes, light-weight structures, and the admittance of an abundance of natural light. Such is the work of [Charles Rose Architects Inc.], a firm that strives to successfully weave together architecture and the landscape.
The new 50,000-square-foot meter arts center spreads out on land between the 60-acre botanical gardens and the Pinellas waterway. There, galleries house the center’s permanent modern art collection. Studios hold classes for instruction in painting, photography, metalsmithing, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, fiber arts, woodworking, and glass blowing.
In developing the design, [Charles Rose Architects Inc.] analyzed the specific site conditions – the movement of the sun, the topography, the geological conditions, the water and wind movement, the flora and fauna species. The goal was to create an architecture that ‘sees’ it sites, an architecture that stands in relationship to its surroundings and heightens the experience and effect of the natural environment.
For the arts center, the structures are simple volumes of concrete block with light-weight steel joists supporting membrane roofs. Metal clad light monitors punctuate the simple volumes and provide ambient north light to the studios and galleries. Overhanging awnings provide shade to the south, west, and east. These components – sculpted roof lights and projecting sunshades – reveal the unique influence of the Florida sun to determine a building’s shape.
A curved colonnade runs along the studio and shop buildings and becomes an outdoor classroom. A path for pedestrians, the colonnade is defined by a lightweight steel structure.
James Grayson Trulove, Designing the New Museum, Building a Destination (Rockport Publishers)
Linda Lee, Editor, “Introduction”, Charles Rose, Architect, Princeton Architectural Press
“Charles Rose embraces the vast and varied panorama of the American landscape. Sensitive to his sites, the architect recognizes the poetry of every locale and uses his fascination with place as a central character in his designs. Regionalism, a term at times used to underrate architecture that is seen as too parochial or that eschews universal ‘truths’ (most often those of modernism) in favor of a local style, becomes a practice of the highest order in the hands of Rose, one of America’s most accomplished young architects. With both the rigor of geometry and a commitment to ecosensitivity, his work is as attuned to the dense urban fabric of New York City as it is to the rural outback of Wyoming. The profile of his award-winning Camp Paint Rock in Hyattville, Wyoming, follows the contours of a nearby canyon; Rose’s adaptive reuse of an industrial structure in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood preserves the existing streetscape while creating a seamless flow between inside and out; and the shape of his United States Port of Entry project in Del Rio, Texas, was determined by the scorching Texan sun and features sustainable landscapes.
With surprising use of volumes, materials, and geometries, agile movement of spaces, and an active language of planes and lines, Rose creates dynamic, expressive architecture that reminds us that buildings can be both sensitive to their locale and embrace the timeless principles of geometry, material, light, and shadow.”
Linda Lee, Editor, Princeton Architectural Press, Charles Rose, Architect
Steven M.L. Aronson, “Orchestrating a penthouse in New York for the virtuoso violinist,” in Architectural Digest
JOSHUA BELL ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST – Orchestrating a penthouse in New York for the virtuoso violinist
Stay quality: that thing which, as the Edwardian artist Walter Sickert once showily defined it, “can shine, on peacock days, like a plume of luck above your genius.” Joshua Bell has it. Resoundingly.
He’s a world-class classical violinist equally at home with popular music (Joshua Bell at Home with Friends, his first duets CD, was recently released, and the friends tellingly include Sting, Josh Groban, Kristin Chenoweth and Marvin Hamlisch). And he’s starred in six television specials, performed all the solos on the Oscar-winning soundtrack for The Red Violin and won a Grammy, a Gramophone and a Mercury, not to mention the Avery Fisher Prize. On the more corporeal side, Bell was one of Glamour’s “It Men of the Millenium” and one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful.”
Home is the top two floors, plus roof, of a former manufacturing plant in Manhattan’s Flat-iron District, named for its signature building – “To me, the Flatiron Building is New York,” Bell enthuses. He hired architect Charles Rose to guy and then combine the floors and to transform the sagging old roof into a positively pagan outdoor spa (there’s a hot tub and a shower open to the sky, a trellised pergola, a fireplace and a copper-clad chimney.) Rose confidently proceeded to create a spectacular glass-and-steel stair and a dazzling mezzanine balcony above the living area – all under a high pitch of skylight through which natural light rains down on both floors.
Bell pointed to his violin – the storied 1713 Gibson Stradivarius – and encouraged the architect to take it as his source of inspiration (“I paid about the same for my violin as for my apartment,” he confides). Suggestion taken: The grille patterns in the cabinet doors resemble abstracted f-holes; the handrail to the roof apes the violin’s waist; and the apartment’s two dominating woods – reclaimed bubinga for the floors and reclaimed wenge for the millwork – approximate the instrument’s aged maple, ebony, and spruce.
Rose’s work is sculptural and lyrical. “In a lot of the forms here, the movement was inspired by Josh’s music,” he recounts. “I often would draw in one room and he’d be practicing in the next.” The top-floor ceiling does have a kind of undulation not unlike a melodic line – in fact, an incantation.
The wenge window seating, which Bell says puts him in mind of the fingerboard of a violin, doubles in the living room as storage for his sheet-music collection and serves in the kitchen as a banquette for the wenge-topped table Rose designed. Bell “really fussed over that kitchen,” according to the architect. He was playing a concert in Boston, and afterward I went back to congratulate him, and less than three minutes after he had come off stage we were having a design meeting about his kitchen.”
Bell asked for a wood-burning fireplace between the kitchen and the living area, and Rose provided a permeable and exceptionally handsome one, all limestone tiles and patinated steel. “I couldn’t live without a fireplace,” Bel l declares. “When I was growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, we would always gather around the hearth.” (His father, he goes on to disclose, was a sex researcher at the Kinsey Institute there, as well as a psychotherapist who saw patients in a converted chicken coop on the family place.)
The violinist’s apartment works not only as a domestic setting but as no less than a concert hall. A velvet theatrical curtain can be used to divide the library from the living area, functioning as a proscenium for bimonthly musical salons (the piano is slid into the library from the living area, which is then set up with chairs). “I use the curtain to add a little theater – I come out from behind it. Why not?” he laughs. The motif of the room’s Tibetan wool rug struck Bell as a musical staff, he says – “little hints without knocking you over the head.” Covering one wall are autographed photographs of his musician heroes, including the violinist from whose Carnegie Hall dressing room the Stradivarius that is now his own was notoriously stolen back in 1936.
The apartment’s lower floor contains a media room that boasts a Cool Hand Luke poster signed by its star, Paul Newman, “to Joshua, to his excellence!” In the master bedroom, Rose carved out a window to frame in its entirety his client’s beloved Flatiron Building with its Beaux Arts boldness. Bell commissioned his friend the designer and director Doug Fitch to make the dried-silk headboard. “I told him I wanted it to look like a Rothko; I’ve even had it lit – I treat it like a piece of art,” he says, admitting, “I had the hardest time finding the right furniture. I didn’t just buy a space, you know. I was really determined to put my own stamp on things.”
“Josh was singularly focused on achieving a sense of utmost quality,” his architect concurs. “Just like in his beautiful music.”
Brian Carter, “Swamp thing,” in World Architecture
Swamp thing – Thompson and Rose Architects take time to understand a site. The Gulf Coast Museum of Art, located in a Florida swamp, took even longer than usual.
Combining the skills of architect and landscape architect Charles Rose Architects has responded to a complex site by seeking out ways to articulate positions of resistance. This small, relatively young practice, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has designed a series of buildings which demonstrate obvious awareness of materials and the details of construction, but focused on the specific sites.
The site for the Gulf Coast Museum of Art, near Clearwater in Florida, conspicuously connects land and water. Located at the boundary between a newly created 24ha botanical garden and the Pinellas waterway, the building has been planned as the first phase of a development to house a growing collection of modern art. With the addition of artists’ studios, kiln house, café and an auditorium, it will become a centre for a public arts programme where professional artists work with the community.
Both the siting and the form of the building were inspired by the waterside setting. Influenced by the restrictive demands established to ensure that new development respects the flood plain, it was also planned to take account of requirements for water retention of the marsh. The resulting design is a series of long strands of space, planned at right angles to the waterway and linked by a colonnade inflected toward the water’s edge. This strategy, avoids the creation of a single large building, creating a complex of small pavilions and a promenade that frames new gardens and generous views of the water.
The museum consists of a series of naturally lit galleries together with a shop and studios, planned in three parallel strands. Administrative offices, a conference room and library are housed in a fourth strand, separated by a sculpture garden from the others.
This small group of buildings has a modest overall budget of US$1,130 per sqm, necessitating a limited palette of everyday materials. For example, the parallel concrete block walls are infilled with metal cladding, which becomes both roof and wall. Finally, it is distorted to create several tall linear monitors, which scoop natural light into galleries below. The bright Florida sun, combined with stringent requirements for gallery lighting, has defined the shape of these monitors; emphatic sculptural elements that readily identify the building. Metal is also used for a series of sunshade canopies, for the structure and to roof the colonnade.
This parallel masonry walls set in the landscape recall the pavilion in Arnhem by Aldo van Eyck in 1966, as well as a more recent house by Steven Holl, who uses contrasting masonry walls and metal roofs to recall overlapping ponds of water and the musical concept “stretto”.
At Clearwater the long parallel masonry walls, although rendered and painted, are clearly expressed by the detail of the elevations, which articulate the vertical panels of metal cladding on the western faces of the building. On the southern elevation the walls are explicitly overlapped by the skin of metal that makes the rooflight monitors. While the thickened edges of the metal canopies and colonnade tend to reduce the contrast between the thickness of masonry and the thinness of metal, the overall composition emphasizes that difference by juxtaposing the colour, texture and single-like quality of the sheets of metal cladding with the monolithic solidity of the masonry walls. Internally these systems of construction are subverted to create well-lit white gallery spaces designed as neutral holders for the collection.
Charles Rose Architects have spoken of how they “take time to understand a site”, and of their interest in creating an architecture that “heightens the experience and effect of the natural conditions, and focuses, orients and reorients one’s perception of the site.”
In designing the Museum of Art [Charles Rose Architects] spent time carefully observing a new site to reveal an influential presence and the inspiration to create an architecture rooted in a particular place between the land and water of the Florida Gulf Coast.
Marc Kristal, “The Gift of a Garden,” in Dwell
The Gift of a Garden. In crowded Chelsea, that may be hard to beat, but it’s not the only thing Charles Rose Architects gave their client when they converted an old brick warehouse into a multilevel home.
Adaptive reuse – the preservation of buildings by altering their function – has been taken to the limit in what was once a light-industrial building in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. All that remains of Heavenly Bodyworks is the sign and the skin. Within, architect Charles Rose inserted a double-height retail space and, above that, an almost 5,000 square-foot private home, its C-shape surrounding – incredibly – a lawn.
The owner, restauranteur Michael Weinstein, initially wanted a third-floor loft on top of a two-story store, which would have fit within the building’s original container. Architect and owner thusly planned for a small-scale renovation. But as the project grew, so did their ideas – in the shape of a new house rising up from the original building. The century-old structure required a gut renovation, leaving only some of the interior structure intact. “Basically,” says Rose, “all we had left was the façade and a gaping hole where the lawn would go.” Weinstein loved the façade, and Rose wanted to preserve it, he explains, “as an urbanistic gesture. Too much of the original character of the streetscape was being consumed by art galleries. But we began to think the façade might be a foil – you would pass through it and enter a new kind of space.”
Atop the Comme de Garcons store that, with a second-floor apartment, occupies the first two stories, Rose and his team constructed a sculptural, transparent two-story residence, positioning the spaces to take advantage of the copious natural light, views of the neighboring rooftops, and the unusual central lawn, which sits on what was once the building’s third floor. The house’s openness is such that, says Rose, “you can stand in the guest bedroom in front and look through the lass exterior wall, across the lawn through another glass wall, all the way back through to the living room and stairs up to the next floor.” The architect enhanced this porosity by holding back the second-floor hallway and master bedroom from the glass exterior wall, so that you can see the upstairs space from below, and adding an exterior catwalk that connects all the upstairs spaces, including the two terrace gardens.
How did Rose pull off the lawn? “It’s not that hard,” he admits.” A lot of our sustainable projects have turf roofs – it’s basically the same technology. There’s a waterproofing system, and on top of that gravel bed that drains into the roof system and then into the storm water system.” The architect laughs. “It’s even easy to maintain – they have a little electric lawn mower.”
Nancy Levinson, “Shapiro Campus Center,” in Architectural Record
Shapiro Campus Center, Charles Rose placed a light-dappled atrium where four campus paths collide and wrapped it with a hive of activity.
Brandeis University welcomed its first students in the fall of 1948, and since then the institution has been more or less under construction. In the past half-century, the wooded campus in Waltham, Massachusetts, has grown from a 90-acre site with a motley group of existing buildings – purchased from a defunct medical school – to more than a hundred structures on 235 acres.
Given the rapid pace of development, it’s not surprising that functional imperative at times ran ahead of planning logic. By the mid-1990s, it was apparent that the pastoral postwar campus of the early years had long since grown into what the school’s Web site describes as a “dense, more urban place.” The question of how to deal with that growth spurred a 1997 planning and design charrette. One of its key recommendations produced the Shapiro Campus Center, designed by Charles Rose Architects. “At the charette there had been general agreement that the campus lacked a real center,” says Peter French, the university’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. French notes that the center of the campus was then occupied by a nondescript redbrick building – one of the structures bought when the school was founded – and a big parking lot. “The location was a major campus crossroads,” says French, “but it sent all the wrong signals.”
The new campus center would augment an existing student center to the north, and it would house diverse tenants: the university bookstore, an electronic library, a 250-seat theater, the school radio station, the school newspaper, administrative offices that oversee student life, assorted student organizations, a café, and exhibition space. And beyond its program, the new facility would need to answer to evolving campus lifestyles: It had to be open and available round-the-clock, and it had to provide what the school had long lacked, a vital center worthy of both the name and location.
For Rose, who has training and experience in landscape architecture, the opportunity to enhance cross-campus connections was compelling. So too was the chance to create outdoor spaces that would enliven and extend the interiors. To the south, these include ground-level and second-floor terraces and an expansive green lawn; and to the west, a quiet and shady courtyard defined by Shapiro and the adjacent Faculty Club.
The Faculty Club, designed by Harrison & Abramovitz, is Modernist. In this, it’s like much of the postwar campus: Eero Saarinen created the initial site plan, and the roster of campus architects also includes The Architects Collaborative, Hugh Stubbins, Benjamin Thompson, Hideo Sasaki, and Edward Larrabee Barnes. Before beginning Shapiro, Rose studied the campus carefully, noting the patterns and characteristics of its buildings and open spaces, and as a result he has made a strong, clear structure that neither mimics nor clashes with its context. In its forms and materials, Shapiro is by turns Minimalist and bold. The south façade, clad in limestone and pre-patinated copper, with windows of tinted glass, is gently inflected toward the large lawn. The sculptural north façade features large expanses of glass and copper. The copper is especially striking. “We wanted to add texture to the building,” says Rose. “The copper, which we’ve used in small and large panels, seemed a good, interesting way to do that.”
The 65,000-square foot building provides for its numerous users in two wings connected by a three-story atrium. The atrium is more than the literal center of the building: With large glass walls to the north and south and bridges crisscrossing the upper levels, the space is energetic and inviting, and it has become the nonstop scene of assorted events, including art exhibitions and craft sales, dances and concerts, midnight buffets and slumber parties. And with its strong north/south and east/west axes, and entrances on all sides, the atrium is a major campus circulation link, drawing students and faculty to and through Shapiro both day and night.
The Shapiro Campus Center clearly appears to be fulfilling its mandate to serve not merely as the geographic but also the functional and perceptual heart of campus. On a recent visit, the place was bustling: The library was standing room only; the atrium was hosting a poster sale; the café was packed. Administrators and students enthusiastically described how much they liked the building and how well it accommodated activities ranging from peer counseling to tango lessons. And one juror was especially effusive: “I practically live in this building,” she said. Brandeis and its architect have given her a great place to live in.