Wilkinsburg, PA. Photograph by Joey Behrens.
This is a love story about two women looking for the right match. For months, Pittsburgh artists Joey Behrens and Haylee Ebersole have been on the hunt for a commercial building they could transform into an artist residency and home. It is an ambitious plan fraught with bureaucratic and financial hurdles. Considering the guts and gumption of these two protagonists, this story is worth hearing from the beginning.
Artistic dreams that trump the nightmare of bureaucratic and financial obstacles are infectious and inspiring. There are many interesting and quirky success stories in Pittsburgh to emulate, starting with Jennifer Beals’s industrial-sized single gal apartment and rehearsal space in Flashdance (1983). Haylee Ebersole’s former studio was located in the Mine Factory, an art collective and exhibition space housed in a 4,000 square foot former mine safety equipment factory in the Homewood/North Point Breeze area. The Mine Factory opened last year after a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, a cultural phenomenon that in the last half decade has offered ebullient hope for making pie-in-the-sky projects a reality. Brick and mortar banks now seem imposing, old fashioned, and sluggish by comparison.
Piers Gough is an eminently English architect responsible for many witty, eclectic buildings across the UK. Based in London, he designed Maggie’s Nottingham, completed in 2011, in collaboration with fashion designer Paul Smith and landscape practice Envert. Raised above the ground, this vivid green pavilion with four oval facades is included in Maggie’s Centres: A Blueprint for Cancer Care on view in the Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art through January 5.
In 1975, as Swinging London morphed into the home of punk and New Wave, Gough formed the practice now known as CZWG (the G is for Gough). He had studied at London’s Architectural Association where he first met historian Charles Jencks and his wife Maggie Keswick. Early projects such as offices for Time Out offset existing built fabric with new Pop aesthetics. In the 1980s, CZWG were pioneers in London’s former docklands with eye-catching residential projects like China Wharf, with its signature red façade, and Circle with its distinctive cobalt blue gables. For many a favorite CZWG building is the triangular, celadon-tiled pavilion accommodating a florist’s kiosk and a public lavatory in tony Notting Hill.
Maggie’s Hong Kong, 2013. Architect: Frank Gehry. Photograph © Kalson Ho, Over and Over Studio.
Maggie Keswick’s personal experience with cancer led to the founding of Maggie’s Centres in Edinburgh now two decades ago. Of Scottish origin, the Keswick family has been involved in trading and business ventures in Southeast Asia since the mid-nineteenth century. Raised in both Britain and Hong Kong, where her father was chairman of Jardine Matheson, Maggie was one of those rare Europeans able to visit the historic sites of mainland China after the rise of communism.
This hybrid and privileged background informs the wonderful book that brought Maggie Keswick to the attention of architects, historians, and landscape enthusiasts in the late 1970s. The Chinese Garden was for many a revelatory exploration of the landscapes and pleasure grounds constructed across China for emperors and traders, traditions that are millennia-old yet then little known in the West. “Like the plans of Gothic cathedrals,” Maggie wrote in her preface, “Chinese gardens are cosmic diagrams, revealing a profound and ancient view of the world, and of man’s place in it.”
Maggie’s Dundee, 2003. Architect: Frank Gehry. Photograph © Raf Makda.
On Thursday, September 18, Scotland votes on independence. Over four centuries after the English and Scottish crowns joined forces, and over three centuries after the original Act of Union, the people of Scotland will democratically elect to remain within or abandon the ideal of a United Kingdom
. When Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh, in 1835, such rupture would have seemed incredible as the British Empire ruled approximately a fifth of the world’s population and one quarter of the Earth’s land area.
Maggie’s West London, 2008. Architect: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Landscape Architect: Dan Pearson. Photograph © Adam Hollier.
Richard Rogers first came to international attention when he and Renzo Piano won the competition for the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1971. That radical intervention into the urban fabric of the French capital placed escalators into a transparent tube along one side of the building and mechanical services into multicolored modular units along the street elevation, such that interior space is freed up for ultimate flexibility and democratic participation in the arts.
Many distinguished buildings later, Rogers and his partners, Graham Stirk and Ivan Harbour, realized the first Maggie’s Centre in London. Awarded the 2009 Stirling Prize, the key prize for a building designed by a UK-registered practice, the Centre offers practical and emotional support to folks undergoing cancer care at the adjacent Charing Cross Hospital. The subject of our fall 2014 exhibition at the Heinz Architectural Center, more than a dozen Maggie’s Centres have been designed over the last two decades by influential architects and landscape designers across Britain.