Whitney Museum of American Art

Architype Dialogue presents

John Beckmann

What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?

We wanted to create gallery spaces that were unobstructed by columns, so we hit upon the idea of a structural cage or lattice, that would have suspended galleries that would be essentially bridges. Then we tied in axes from major landmarks to reveal the genius loci of the site.

Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?

I think it’s important to always ask why — why does a building have to look a certain way, have a certain program, and be made with certain materials? Are we repeating ourselves, are we really looking at this in a fresh way, in a way that will make the project unique?

How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?

I think we’re living in really extraordinary times. In terms of architecture, there has been more exciting work created in the past decade, both practically and theoretically, then the entire history of the 20th Century. The digital tools are enabling very compelling ways of strategizing about new typologies. They are contributing to a radical democratization of the profession, so a small nimble firm can compete and perhaps even outdo a larger one.

In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

I’m very impressed with the new generation of designers who are well versed in Rhino and Grasshopper. Parametric modeling software has interesting applications, and we’ve use it when appropriate.

I also think the architectural blogs such as yours and some others, and aggregators like Architizer, have greatly contributed to the ways that ideas bounce around the virtual ether. Good ideas move across vast geographical distances and that’s contributed to a highly accelerated visual culture, and I see that as a very positive development.


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