FLASH UPDATE – WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

a bit of color opening night, acoustical shell, managua nicaragua glen howard small and roger lewites architects 2005

i was pleased that rosario murillo had removed about six steel trees in front of the acoustical shell, i thought she might have read my blog. that was a month ago. i was told, she probably needed them elsewhere.

to my surprise last night i observed a new use for the acoustical shell. a mannequin for lights

recently she has discovered putting lights on natural trees, so maybe there is hope that all the steel trees will come down and natural trees will be planted to replace them.

i was coming out of the opera house last night after attending a gallery show, and overheard a couple of sophisticated women that were gasping and critical of the new crass light show trappings on the acoustical shell. the propaganda giant cartoons on stage still remain, all so boring.

you would have thought rosario would project colors onto the white clean acoustical shell, like what was done on opening night. standard procedure in stage lighting and buildings.

glen

from the opera house veranda

standing in the plaza

those were the days my friends, i thought they would never end, glen howard small and roger lewites architects
acoustical shell, managua nicaragua 2005

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  • eric chavkin

    Shiny, flashy blinking bits of colored light to hypnotize the proletatiet into thinking they have something. Like a highway strip mall or better yet Las Vegas. Dont they sometimes use flashing lights to herd animals?

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric

      you are right, you have to laugh about this one as the masses are manipulated with glitz. but in that process, what little artistic culture i gave them is trashed.

      glen

      • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

        eric,

        i got a note from orhan that others are talking about rosario. a bit tame and not all that informed, leaving out credit and understanding of my projects, yet talking about the rosario dictator art. not reading my blogs: flash update, when will they ever learn, bye, bye, fountain and Nicaragua part four, before doing the article. an assumption on my part, because of the lack of knowledge in the article. i am glad the world is taking notice.

        glen

        glen

        http://hyperallergic.com/117612/psychedelic-symbols-of-state-power-in-nicaragua/

  • Ben

    Mr. Small,
    I have a question. Did you ever address color in the architecture of the amphitheater, or did you ever create schematics on how it will change it with certain events?
    Perhaps its a good time to revisit it, and also good opportunity for a well deserve re-commission project. I think architecture should be fun and evolving, and not something static and perfect that will never change.

    I can understand the challenges of introducing this type of architecture in Latin America. Especially in countries where color is deeply rooted in the culture.

    Cheers,

    http://assets.inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2014/02/Frank-Gehry-Biomuseo-2.jpg

    • eric chavkin

      I dont think color would be an enhancement to Small’s architectural forms. Color, at least in terms of perceptiuon, tends to break up forms, especually forms based on rthyms. White shows off shadow and changes of surface best. Probably thats why classical buildings tend to be white, to empasize shadow and form.

      The Gehry example is also form. an aggtregate of similiar shape. Adding color exaggerates the discontinuty and ‘jumbledness’. More alook of chaotic shapes than charater of a single form.

  • eric chavkin

    Glen I knocked out a reply on their site. It looks like noboby reads it.

    here is my quickly typed post

    Really? I’ve seen the outdoor concert hall and traffic circle (it was a public fountion) before Rosario Ortega multilated it with her ‘peoples propaganda’ art. Both structures and another monument to a free press were built by the late mayor of Managua Lewittes. The architect and designer was Glen Small, the father of Green Architecture and one of the founders of the architecture school SCI-Arc.
    Lewittes almost defeated Ortega in the election, Th destructuion, mutilation of his civic works are political pay-back by an ignorant dictator.

  • Ben

    Hi Eric,
    My attempt was to challenge Mr. Smalls (in a good way of course, I do enjoy his amphitheater project). I think in design one should always explore every mean, color in this case, would be interesting concept and I just wonder if at one point color was introduced in the original Glen illustrations.

    I always thought the amphitheater lacked something, but that may require conversation.

    And in regards to the classical comment, Mr. Smalls doesn’t strike me as classical per sey, quite the opposite. Saying white white, is very Miere-ish.

    Anyhow I congratulate you on the project.

  • eric chavkin

    I call it white-wall modernism. Early modern architecture, especillay the Expressionist variation, was full of color. Color sort of went the way or decoration or ornament and whate wall took over as the style
    Glen’s work I see as emphasizinf the sculptural aspect.

    The criticism of the bandshell as I see it is that it appears shallow and that it feels incomplete somwhow.

    I would like to know from Glen if the original design was more expansive, deeper.

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric and ben,

      thanks for your comments.

      eric got it right when saying a very sculptural shape when painted different colors loses the form. i made pottery, blog “pottery love”, very sculptural shapes, and when i got ready to do the glaze i wanted multicolors. as i remember the pottery people said i would lose the shape. i did a few in earth colors, and i sure did lose the power of the shape and all the shadows and playing of light off the shape.

      the other aspect of the acoustical shell was that it was the screen for a light show. you can not make the screen multi colors, it made no sense. the first image on this blog shows opening night with a projected color pattern on the acoustical shell. it was fantastic. in this blog i was suggesting Rosario project color on the acoustical shell at night if she wanted . plus she could change the patterns and colors to do many different things, rather than the static lights she uses now.

      the other aspect is that, white is very dignified. it is beautiful.
      Rosario took the white journalist rotunda (blog Nicaragua 4} in memory of the dead i did, that had a series of planes, and painted every one of them a different color. the shadow and play of light was instantly lost . the respect to the dead gone. the relation to the plaza paving gone.

      i am waiting for a new government to restore them to their original color of white.

      Eric, as far as depth goes on the acoustical shell . you need to be there to see the depth. it works and is fantastic to be in the shell itself. no it is not shallow.

      color is a latin thing, but the places i made were stages for the color to be performed on or in. the backdrop for color to happen.

      the gehry thing i find dreadful, not so much for the color, as the clash and bang topsy turby thing. gehry at his worst.

      glen

  • Karak

    Glen please contact me asap about a major undertaking in Nashville

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      karak,

      i got your letter and replied. thank you for the opportunity to be considered for your unique project

      glen

  • eric chavkin

    I was thinking about the ‘incomplteness’ feeling that Ben, and myslef noticed. I realize, for me, that feel of missing has to do with an expected typology that is, the audience.

    The configuation of the stage, the expected,audience, the acoustic is the typology of a Greek theater, but missing the seating. I understand that this was an outdoor bandststand and seats make no sense but I think thats what is missing. The bandstand needs to be stretched wide to visuallyy balance the shell and also balnce the audience. v the proporation is off. It needs, in a visual sense. wings.The collande at St Peters in Rome {in minature} comes tio mind.

    I hven’t been there so your observation as architect and audience is the main thing to go on to evaluate..

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric,

      the audience would be nice to show, but i have no pictures when in use, other than the plaza in front filled with 300, 000 people in one of Rosario extravaganzas. the plaza slopes sightly upward as it moves away from the acoustical shell. the pictures shown without audience. the street in front of the acoustical shell becomes part of the audience seating.

      you are trying to make ties to things that you are familiar with that do not apply.
      i personally find the acoustical shell sensational and have never heard your crit from anyone in the 14 years it has been in existence. nothing but praise. ben was referring to latin preferences of vibrant colors, and sent gehy’s panama disaster as an example.

      show me a permanent acoustical shell that comes close to this? gehry did one in Chicago, but used his ribbon ornament thing that was applied decoration. my shell flows out of the pattern of the shell itself and incorporates acoustical washboard planes . the original hollywood bowl by lloyd wright was beautiful, but very different from my shell. i have proposed different acoustical schemes for canada, which resulted from the canadians love of the managua nicaragua shell.

      glen

  • eric chavkin

    Glen I was thinking of a different pattern. Specifically the Greek theatre pattern. Greek theaters had a stage in the middle ( eqiv to your acoustic bandshell), elongated wings the width of the semi-circular stepped seating. You have a slope with no permanent seating and you dont have wings, The Greek stage was primarily for theater,and sometimes music. Didnt have a bandshell. The acoustics I dont know.

    Your is different of course. I was looking for a historical reference, an ancient pattern, for the presentation of music, plays. Yours is more music orientated.
    The Greek theater pattern fuses stage with audience.

    The Hollywood Bowl improves on that with an acoustic shell to project sound . There are no’ wings’ as it is primarily for music not theater. The sating is elliptical not circular emphasing the long axis, Hollywood Bowl has similaries to yours.

    How would you handle seating plan if that was required. If it were used as a theater how would you handle the stage.

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric,

      “what if” is another solution at a different time.

      the acoustical shell was primarily for music and speeches.

      greek theraters are cool.

      glen

  • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

    glen,

    White is color. As has been said before, the shell is designed as a universal presentation place. White allows custom polychrome variations of the shell for specific events by use of lights and colored materials. The physical depth of the shell is fixed, like most stages. It is standard stagecraft to manipulate the illusion of space upon the stage with color, light intensities, screens and drops, physical constructions. Also, placement and movement of performers can expand or contract, deepen or diminish depth, contributing to the illusion of the apparent dimensions of the stage space. So, from a design standpoint, white is the optimum color for the shell. It is an architectural chameleon that can wear a coat of many colors or, unlike the leopard, can change its spots.

    The notion of white structures representing purity has no relevance here. White is simply functional, the best color for a multitude of functions that, in turn, temporarily modify the white canvas to suit their needs. Pure white in architecture and building exists only in the mind. No matter how insistent the desire for white, nature and the very nature of materials will always modify the white with impure and caustic air, water, heat and cold, wind driven erosion, oxidation, guano, the infinite variations of light. These inevitable effects tend to emphasize, highlight the deterioration, conveying a lack of quality, or a sense that the structure is flawed and perhaps not enduring. White as a style seems silly. A stance that disallows a full potential in architectural expression, but does relieve the architect from a deeper investigation into the most visible aspect of a work: its color(s) Yes, from a sculptural point of view, white allows for the maximum effect of ambient light on form. And, the shell is equally a sculpture as it is an architectural form. This is seldom the case in architecture. There is form, but not sculpture. Thus, pure white has little meaning as a sculptural asset. The less sculptural structures could be well served by use of the wide spectrum of color beside white. A sculptor can reinforce the modeling of a form by subtle applications of color. But this assumes a more constant light upon form, because of the very specific colorations. In other words, creates visual limits, special conditions, that the white form tends to neutralize.

    The shell is a very strong form. This is necessary to create and hold the space for a wide variety of events. This physical form is very successful in achieving this goal, despite the fact that the concept for the design of the whole environment has yet to be manifested. I think it a mistake to install permanent seating. Doing so assumes patrons will always be sitting. This creates an unnecessary limitation. It’s possible the stage action will spill out onto the plaza, enlarging the performance space. People will dance spontaneously. Like at PowWows, folks bring their own light weight folding chairs, or stand and move around, or sit on the ground. Each event is unique and the patrons will organize according to the uniqueness of each performance. A viable business: renting chairs at the site. I don’t know what the paving surface is. But here is an opportunity to integrate plaza in support of the shell in a purposeful way. The Rio paving patterns of Roberto Burle Marx come to mind.

    I believe that color, in all its dimensions, can be much more than decorative. Color that is organic to the form and space in architecture, enriches, contributes to what we call quality. Space can be made to seem smaller or larger with color. One’s feelings can be influenced by color. Color is a very subtle phenomenon. One works with light and tries to see, and to paint in color. The paint might be paint, or the color of given materials, or the vagaries of light.

    Glen Small’s shell in Managua is unique, of the highest order in architecture. Form and function are totally integrated in the shell and, don’t forget, the whole environment that forms the presentation space.
    This powerful expression succeeds, where so many efforts fail, to solve the practical problem and then to infuse the design with an abundant spirit that will uplift. The low minded desecrations with permanent metal figures on stage and metal trees dominating the view, and whatever else compromises the democracy of this public place, must go. Political events, yes, but leave the shell unencumbered for the next event.

    It is interesting, that the shell, which successfully grabs the space and creates an unambiguous focus in the physical environment of Managua, is grabbing the attention of commentators and focusing the attention on architectural issues, from the Greeks, to color, to politics, to the relation of form to function. Even in virtual space, the shell provides a focused environment for the pageantry of public discourse. We are witnessing success in architecture. A round of applause for the architect please.

    david teachout

  • eric chavkin

    David, Excellenr summary. I am glad somebody else wrote as this was turniung into a monlogue. I agree that some hardscape patterns would help. As for seating. A limited amount like at Ravenna outside Chicago would of mabe staved off the kitsch metal forest. The temp folding seats reminded me of Lincoln Park, where the police just ran thru protestors,

    What I like about the shell that I have’nt seen before are the ‘flares’ at the top. Maybe symbolic of flowers or perhaps simpll just pointing skywards. A sign of hope.

  • ben

    I applaud Mr. Small, I praise the fact that he shares his work and allow for dialogue, Its neat that the architect is accessible.

    However the answer you gave me wasn’t what I was expecting to hear, but a good one indeed, your point is valid. I questioned the subject of color because of your discontent to the changes being done by the governing entities. From your drawings I can see you are a person of schema and evolution. I was merely challenging the fact, is your design perpetual or piece of transformation. Yeah, yeah I said color I know, but I wasn’t really referring to latex paint, it was geared more to architectural elements, like translucency, reflection and materials, the stuff that makes architecture expressive and sorry for your using the word stuff, but you know what I mean. Your monument stands in continent of color and splendor, I place the gehry’s work, because I found it interesting that he took his architectural vocabulary and conformed to the local environ. But I don’t think this is the forum to crit to Gehry’s work, he doesn’t have a blog, so there is no dialogue to talk about.
    My comment of incompleteness comes from the method of construction and the form shell. But the method is another conversation. In regards to the form, when I look at the shell, immediately your eyes are drawn you to the top and as one begins to glance down the form looses itself and conforms to the orthogonal site. I know its too late to change it, but that’s why I said it was a good opportunity to re-commission. It would of been nice if the horizontal form made its way to touch the floor and spill its patterns and architecture to some “concha” decorative paving and landscape.

    The seating arrangement is not necessary, I like the concept the that people and crowds roam free, a vital part of Latin American planning usually found in plazas.
    Thank you for answering.

    Cheers.

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      BEN,

      THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO COMMENT,
      YOU ARE A BIT TRICKY, SAYING ONE THING AND ASKING FOR ANOTHER.

      THE SITE WAS VERY SPECIFIC. A MAJOR ROAD AT THE TIME THAT WOULD FOLLOW THE WATERS EDGE OF LAKE MANAGUA. SHUTTING DOWN FOR PERFORMANCES. THE SKIRT ALONG THE BOTTOM ADAPTS TO THE ANGLE OF THE ROAD. ONE OF THE BETTER PARTS OF THE DESIGN. BY ROTATING TO ADAPT. I DESIGNED A PLANTING STRIP FRONTING THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL, BUT MY CLIENT HERTY LEWITES REFUSED TO BUILD IT. THE STAGE BEING 10′ OFF GRADE AND NEEDINGS A SOFT LANDING FOR PERFORMERS. THE ORIGINAL SITE WAS A REVIEWING STAND FOR MILITARY PARADES. THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL WAS A PLANNED TERMINATION OF THAT THINKING. THE SHELL GRABS THE EDGE OF THE ROAD IN A DRAMATIC WAY. I LIKE YOUR IDEA FOR A REFLECTION IN THE ROAD. BUT AS OF THE MOMENT ALL SOPHICATED DESIGN IN NICARAGUA IS OUT, AND GRINGOS ARE NOT POPULAR. MAYBE A FUTURE REGIME WILL SEND FOR ME, BUT I DOUBT IT. NATIONALISM BEING A SPIRITED GOAL. SO SAD FOR UNIVERSAL GLOBAL EMBRACE. MY GOAL THERE WAS TO MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY WITH TROPICAL UNIVERSAL BEAUTY. THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL DID THAT.

      THE IMAGE YOU CHOOSE FOR oscar niemeyer IS A CHAPLE. I HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF USING IT FOR THE JOURALIST ROTUDA DESIGN, SEE MY BLOG NICARAGUA 3. I GAVE ZERO THOUGHT TO NIEMEYER WHEN DESIGNING . OSCAR WAS FORMAL AND SERVING THE RICH. CLAIMING TO BE A COMMUNIST WITH TASTE. I CAN RELATE TO HIS FRUSTRATION OF GETTING THE MASSES TO RELATE. I AM MORE FLUID AND ABSTRACT, BUT SEEKING UNIVERSAL BEAUTY WHICH OCAR ACHIEVED.

      FRANK IN HIS OLD AGE HAS FIGURED OUT THAT HE DOES NOT WANT AN OPEN DISCUSSION. NOT HIS EXPERTISE. EVERYTHING IS CONTROLLED . LOOK AT THE SYDNEY POLLACK MOVIE ON HIM. WHERE IS ANY DISCUSSION WITH A PERSON LIKE MYSELF THAT WILL BRING UP ISSUES? NO FRANK KNOWS HOW TO CHARM THE CLIENTS IN PRIVATE. THE EISENHOWER MEMORIAL IS OUT OF CONTROL, BUT HE HAS LOTS OF NEW PROJECTS TO CONCENTRATE ON IN THE BACK ROOM.

      GLEN