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Glass Ramps / Glass Wall: Deviations from the Normative

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By Bernard Tschumi and Hugh Dutton. AA Publications, 2001. 96pp. £16

Susanna Sirefman's New York: A Guide to Recent Architecture (Ellipsis, £10), which has just been reissued in an updated edition, sums up the reaction to Bernard Tschumi's first American building, the Alfred Lerner Hall at Columbia University (1999): '. . . a bit of an architectural fiasco.

Tschumi's career as dean of the Columbia School of Architecture makes the universal panning all the more painful.'

In Glass Ramps / Glass Wall , which deals with just a part of Alfred Lerner Hall, Tschumi describes the building as 'a hybrid between the traditional and inventive': the inventive being the ramped glass-and-steel centrepiece and the traditional being the blocks that border it on either side.

These are a dutiful response to McKim, Mead and White's campus masterplan and materials, and Serifman calls them 'confused'and 'pastiched'. But does the centrepiece, which Tschumi isolates for this AA publication, redeem them?

'Also a let-down, 'says Serifman. 'The structural system is unexpectedly massive and heavy. . . the list of inconsistencies and sloppy design details goes on and on.'

Tschumi and engineer Hugh Dutton do their best to convince you otherwise in their contributions to the book, but the photographs give credence to Sirefman's view.

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