Go for the Atmosphere? Food critic Pete Wells just eviscerated Villard Michel Richard, a new restaurant in an historic and much-loved Midtown hotel. Stanford White is the only person who comes out of this takedown unscathed, and he's been dead for more than a century. Of Richard's take on the 19th-century French style perfected by Georges Escoffier, Wells writes, "If soldiers had killed Escoffier's family in front of him and then forced him to make dinner, this is what he would have cooked." He has gentler things to say about the Villard Mansion, designed by White and completed in 1882, where Villard Michel Richard opened last October. "The Stanford White interiors look better than they have in years, thanks to the attention the design firm Jeffrey Beers International paid to the way light strikes the paintings and fireplaces," Wells writes. "White’s giddily opulent Gilded Age rooms can awe out-of-town visitors." [The New York Times]

Hanging With 41 Cooper: In a fit of awkward timing, the Louisiana Channel, a nonprofit associated with Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (in Humlebæk, Denmark), just published an interview with Thom Mayne, FAIA, about 41 Cooper Union—only days after Cooper Union trustees voted to end the legacy of free tuition for undergraduate students. Some critics, notably Felix Salmon, have pegged the school's financial problems to the $175 million mortgage that leaders took out to build 41 Cooper Union. None of this is Mayne's fault, of course—as the architect, he works for the client. But he nevertheless sounds a bit tone deaf when he talks about the school.

Here's what Mayne has to say:

I have a preference for what would be considered by many a kind of rough architecture. It's real, it's left sort of unfinished, and it's made out of inexpensive materials. Its qualities come from the complexity of the language, the relationship of how things are made, and the numbers of things it does—made out of a very simple material. I'm interested in proletarian, straight concrete, metals—everything you've seen we've done. They're actually quite inexpensive buildings.

We would have really suffered if we would have had twice the budget, and built an absolutely, state-of-the-art, pristine, super-taut architectural thing, in that it would have completely not fit the community. And the roughness, regardless of the architecture, they understood it. It's just about working class.

That all sounds totally plausible for 41 Cooper Union, the building. But it couldn't sound more out of touch with what's happening at the school this week. [Huffington Post]

More news driving the day:

The owners of the Empire State Building are suing photographer Allen Henderson for taking pictures of a topless model on the building’s observation deck, claiming that the photoshoot was inappropriate for a family-friendly tourist attraction. Henderson, who is being sued for $1.1 million, claims it was a “social experiment” that drew little interest from surrounding tourists… really? [USA Today]

Critic Michael Kimmelman tears into MoMA’s plans to raze the former American Folk Art Museum building. [The New York TimesNew York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz writes an open letter to the MoMA trustees. [Vulture] And the Architectural League isn't happy, either. [Architectural League]

Here's a new kind of concrete made from, among other things, sand and urine. [Wired]

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of New York.
Courtesy Fletcher via Wikimedia Commons The Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of New York.

The Tenement Museum in New York’s Lower East Side (pictured) is slated to expand. [ Crain’s New York Business] Creative Time will be sponsoring a large public installation by Kara Walker in the former Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn starting in May, before SHoP Architects has its way with the site. [Creative Time]

Valentino opens Paris men’s flagship store with David Chipperfield store design. [FashionUnited]

Columnist David Charron predicts that higher interests rates will mean slow, steady growth in the housing market this year: “The positive growth that took place during 2013 was healthy, stable and free from any major swings in market forces. All signs point to 2014 being a solid year for real estate." [The Washington Post]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that the renovated Costume Institute will be called the Anna Wintour Costume Center. [The New York Times]

Tulane University professor emeritus of architecture Stephen Paul Jacobs has died at 72. [The Times-Picayune]

City officials in Helsinki, Finland, voted this week to reserve a parcel of land for a new Guggenheim Museum outpost. The Guggenheim is expected to host an international architecture competition beginning this spring to design the building. [The New York Times]

Early details on Chicago's latest tower, 150 North Riverside, designed by Goettsch Partners. [Chicago Architecture Blog]

Even non-tech companies—so like, regular companies—in the Bay Area are designing their offices like tech companies. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Oprah Winfrey’s Chicago water tower condo is on the market for $7.75 million. [Chicago Tribune]

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