By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Art and industry

Space Framed: Richard Gluckman Architect Essay by Hal Foster.Monacelli Press, 2000. 240pp. £35

For the past two decades or so the speciality of New York-based Richard Gluckman has been architecture for art, whether in the design of galleries or museums or just one-off exhibitions. In the process, he has been at the forefront of a late twentieth-century trend - adapting old industrial buildings to new artistic use.

Clients for such schemes have included New York's Dia Foundation for the Arts and high-profile galleries such as Gagosian, Paula Cooper and Mary Boone, while Gluckman has also tackled the sensitive task of enlarging the exhibition space at Marcel Breuer's Whitney Museum.He has turned an eight-storey building in Pittsburgh, that originally made tools for the steel industry, into the Andy Warhol Museum; was shortlisted for the new Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth (on the site beside Kahn's Kimbell); and his current projects include art museums in Texas and North Carolina as well as the Museo Picasso Malaga.

Add to all this art a boutique for Helmut Lang, a theatre executed with Rem Koolhaas, and a few rural houses and you have the contents of Monacelli's monograph.

The presentation is overwhelmingly photographic: descriptions of each project are meagre and unhelpfully confined to a separate section at the back.There is a six-page essay by Hal Foster which, rather unconvincingly, discusses the work in terms of Colin Rowe's distinction between 'phenomenal'and 'literal'transparency.Meanwhile, Gluckman himself supplies a credo of sorts: 'Less architectural detail and decor allows for more emphasis on the basic architectural components: structure, scale, proportion, material and light . . . I seek to create a frame, both structural and volumetric, that becomes complete and unified by the art.'This approach, he says, is 'neither reductive nor neutral'- a comment one might question, for reductive is surely one word for Gluckman as he eliminates clutter to reveal the structure of these redundant buildings.

Yet, as he says, the results aren't neutral; which is where the interest of this book principally lies, and where it might serve as a model.Without upstaging art, as Gehry does so gratuitously at Bilbao, Gluckman makes a positive presence of his ex-industrial shells; and the means by which he does so are more various than it seems.

It is not always a case of recovering the original robust aesthetic of a building; sometimes a suave simulation is involved.At the Gagosian Gallery in New York's SoHo, for instance, all that is left of a former garage is its brick facade: the plastic skylights, steel beams and broad, retractable glass-andaluminium door are all Gluckman's - 'a response to an earlier industrial vocabulary', he says; while the steel trusses that look as if they were always integral to the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea are also his insertion, a substitute for columns to give uninterrupted floor-space.

Out in the country, Gluckman's pitched-roofed and shingleclad houses are invariably polite, responding to 'the local vernacular archetype' (as he puts it), though details of fenestration, or a feature like the monumental stone fireplace at the Cape Breton house, lift them out of the norm.Nice to find, tucked away in the project list at the back and certainly not illustrated, a reminder that Gluckman once took less rarified jobs - 50 branches of David's Cookies Store (1982-85).

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters