Tribute > Oscar Niemeyer (1907 – 2012)

 

“Here, then, is what I wanted to tell you of my architecture. I created it with courage and idealism, but also with an awareness of the fact that what is important is life, friends and attempting to make this unjust world a better place in which to live.”

 

Architect Oscar Niemeyer, one of the last remaining Modernist design icons who were educated and rose to prominence in the early to mid-twentieth century, has died in Rio de Janeiro aged 104 years.

The centenarian designer was revered around the world and especially in his home nation of Brazil as a cultural force who will be best remembered by history for designing an entirely new capital for the country in the 1960s at a remote grasslands site, Brasilia. Among Lucio Costa’s master plan for the new city, Niemeyer designed a series of administrative buildings that adhered closely to the prevalent International Style of the time. That architectural movement’s emphasis upon strict functionalism and rectilinearity was expressed previously in the UN Headquarters in New York City, a project from the late 1940s that was based upon a preliminary concept by Le Corbusier but fully realized after Niemeyer provided significant contributions to the design.

Beyond his assistance with the UN Headquarters project, Niemeyer’s membership and outspoken support for the Communist party prevented him from further commissions in the U.S. even as his architectural prominence rapidly rose and East Coast design institutions were offering him teaching positions throughout the 1940s and 50s.

Niemeyer also collaborated with Corbusier on his first major project in Rio, the Ministry of Education and Health, above, which was completed in 1936 and contains all the Corbusian trademarks: building mass raised on pilotis, bries-soleil shading for the windows, and sculptural rooftop forms. Though he owed much of his early design influence and training to Corbusier, Niemeyer stood apart from many of his fellow modernists and gained widespread recognition for embracing the curve in architecture. In the 1940s, Niemeyer’s stature grew with the realization of a number of huge residential towers in Rio, such as the Edifício Copan, seen below, which employed a curvilinear concrete parti aggressively repeated to a dizzyingly tall and dense effect.

Niemeyer will be best remembered for his tabula rossa design of Brazil’s new capital city at Brasilia, a project spearheaded in the late 1950s by the nation’s President Juscelino Kubitschek, who specifically sought Niemeyer for the work. With the power of the country’s highest office behind him, Niemeyer designed a large number of administrative, residential, and ceremonial buildings within a span of months, all of which were to be operated and leased by the government on a previously uninhabited site located hundreds of miles inland from the country’s established urban centers along the Atlantic coast.

Conceived and completed in four years, Brasilia stands as a grand socialist experiment of spontaneous urban development in the midst of stunning isolation. Characterized by crisply modern administrative building blocks set far apart on grassy lawns but connected via wide, sinewy boulevards and bridges, the city cuts a stark profile on the barren natural landscape. Niemeyer offset the rigidity of these buildings with a series of hyperbolic structures that showcased his penchant for the curvilinear, based ultimately upon the shape of a woman that he found so irresistible.

The Cathedral of Brasilia is the sculptural centerpiece, a building composed of 16 hyperbolic, 90-ton concrete columns, said by Niemeyer to be representative of hands opened upwards toward the heavens. Completed in 1970, well after the rest of the city had been constructed, the religious project designed by an outspoken atheist was not immediately consecrated by the church but nevertheless cemented Niemeyer’s place in the architectural canon, widely admired for its evocative columns and their daring stance towards the sky.

Exiled to Europe because of his communist viewpoints as revolutions took hold in Brazil in the late 1960s, Niemeyer continued to work out of design offices in Paris and Champs-Élysées throughout the 1970s and 80s, focusing on smaller residential and commercial commissions throughout the European countryside. Well into his nineties, Niemeyer eventually returned to Rio and maintained an active role in his design practice, with the saucer ship Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, standing atop a prominent seaside perch since 1996 and representing the best project from the twilight of his architectural career.

Though he maintained his communist allegiances even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, his work has found admiration in newer generations of designers from the world over, for whom the social and structural upheaval of the mid-20th century is nothing but a faded part of history. Oscar Niemeyer was an architect and educator to the very end, teaching and giving interviews as recently as 2010. His utopian vision will live on in the audacious curvature and monumental concrete blocks of Brasilia and beyond, testaments to his lifelong infatuation with the curve and with the important idea that “form follows beauty” rather than function.

-MJC 

Role Model > Shigeru Ban

 

“We don’t need innovative ideas. We just need to build normal things that can be made easily and quickly. A house is a house.”

When the northeastern coast of Japan was devastated in March 2011 by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resultant tsunamis, imagery of the destruction was broadcast in real time and continuously replayed throughout the civilized world. The apocalyptic scale in which numerous coastal settlements were wiped off the map by unrelenting walls of water soon made the natural disaster Japan’s greatest tragedy and loss of life since World War II, and prompted a huge outpouring of support from well-heeled government and private aid organizations.

To date, Japan has tallied over 13,000 fatalities and the total loss of over 45,000 buildings, with hundreds of thousands more standing but significantly damaged. In the immediate wake of this calamitous physical loss, I couldn’t help but think of the acclaimed Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who is internationally known for his work with paper architecture and its implementation in the aftermath of numerous disasters around the globe. As the leader of a successful architecture practice with offices in Tokyo and Paris, Mr. Ban has designed a wide array of permanent residential and institutional projects in addition to his portfolio of paper works. In 1994, Ban first made his name in disaster aid by deploying a design for temporary tents to shelter Rwandans displaced by that country’s civil war.

Presenting a low cost and low impact alternative to aluminum or wood structural supports, Ban was able to build fifty paper tube and tarp shelters to temporarily house a portion of the war’s displaced, his first chance to evaluate the paper architecture system in practical use. Sixteen years later, Ban also employed a similar design for fifty relief structures in Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince, which is still reeling from the devastating earthquake of January 2010 and coping with a refugee population lingering in the hundreds of thousands.

After proving that his paper housing prototypes could be deployed with minimal cost and effort, Ban furthered his expertise with relief architecture after a January 1995 earthquake devastated the city of Kobe, Japan. The temporary shelters that he designed for occupation by disaster survivors there consisted of a beer crate and sandbag foundation, 4mm thick paper tube walls with waterproof sponge tape for insulation, and a tensile fabric roof. By deploying common and easily recyclable materials to their maximum effect, Mr. Ban’s prototype for a dry and sturdy 170 sqf home cost under $2000 and took a matter of hours to build. The comfort, expedient fabrication, and low cost of these paper relief structures caught the attention of many in the architecture and disaster aid fields, and soon helped establish Mr. Ban as architecture’s preeminent designer of temporary relief structures.

In the nearly two decades since these early relief projects, Mr. Ban’s expertise has been utilized to shelter disaster victims in places like Turkey, Sri Lanka, China, and Italy. The latest of these projects in the town of L’Aquila, Italy, which was struck by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2009, infuses Ban’s signature paper shelter template with a civic and artistic component.

Completed in May of 2011, the Temporary Concert Hall is a simple circular structure surrounded by a square peristyle, with four sides of operable window walls providing enclosure from the elements. This scheme of a rectangular columned perimeter enclosing a circular interior partition creates a transitional zone defined simply by the paper columns and their shadows. A similar design has also been employed in other paper projects of Mr. Ban’s without a disaster relief function, such as the Paper House in Yamanashi Japan, seen below.

Outside of their capacity to simply and quickly house the newly homeless, Mr. Ban’s paper structures have also been utilized as temporary schools, theaters, architecture studios, exhibition pavilions, and even an arched bridge. By arranging slender tubes in a rigid triangular space frame, Ban pushes their ability to constitute a variety of arched and planar shapes and reveals the capacity of paper architecture to embody a more complex and poetic function than is required from simple relief shelters.

Demonstrating remarkable dexterity across a range of budgets and clients, this year Mr. Ban’s practice has simultaneously completed work on a boutique residential project in burgeoning West Chelsea, Manhattan while also providing design services for the temporary housing of northern Japan’s quake and tsunami victims. As opposed to the freestanding and afield tube structures seen in Rwanda and Kobe, in this instance many Japanese refugees are being sheltered for months at a time in large gymnasiums or stadiums until they can be moved into temporary government housing. Mr. Ban was tapped to design simple paper tube and canvas partitions in order to subdivide the open plan of these facilities and give families a variable measure of privacy among their neighbors. The contrast between these simple partitions and the automated metal shutters in his luxury Chelsea project epitomize Ban’s flexibility with a diversity of project scales and budgets.

With the impending completion of his Chelsea condos and a new 12,500 sqf. art museum planned in Aspen Colorado, Mr. Ban’s reputation and portfolio continues to grow in stature. Though these permanent projects help to bolster his status as an internationally recognized designer, Shigeru Ban’s greatest contribution to the architectural canon will surely be his innovative paper structures and their repeatedly successful deployment for humanitarian purposes around the world.

For more on the wide variety of architectural and logistical responses to major disasters, follow the jump.

-MJC

Role Model > Zaha Hadid

As the bravest and boldest designer to shatter architecture’s glass ceiling since Julia Morgan, Zaha Hadid has been called a diva more than a few times. This kneejerk sexism is an unfortunate result of architecture’s waning but persistent domination by men in practice. While my own architecture class and faculty was pretty evenly split along the gender line, many firms at the highest levels of practice are still lingering in a boys-only era. In the century since Julia Morgan first broke barriers into the profession, few female architects have solely achieved a level of success and renown in their field such as Zaha Hadid can claim. The first female Pritzker Prize recipient in 2004, Ms. Hadid stands out among a generation of architectural designers who reject pointless classicism and rigidity for orthography-eschewing plasticity, reconciling form in a world where the perpetual constant is change.

Hadid has risen steadily up the ladder of elite architectural education and practice. She was born in Baghdad and studied math at the American University of Beirut before attending the Architectural Association in London, where she was taught by the likes of Rem Koolhaas and Leon Krier. After school she went on to work for Koolhaas at OMA London, and had her first major burst onto the scene with a series of paintings for the Peak Leisure Club competition (1983) in Hong Kong. The vibrant, sharply textured composition of objects in her works defy quick recognition in lieu of nuanced comprehension, and helped provide an early visual justification for the emerging deconstructivist movement of the time.

The crux of Hadid’s anti-orthagonal philosophy is that the line – the geometric construct between two points, upon which all of architecture relies – is inescapable from its orbital roots within the body of the individual. Advancing the idea that modern space is borne entirely of optical perception, Hadid views the universe as a series of vortexes rather than a static grid, comprised of “fields of distributed tension where things are poised to erupt”. By emphasizing the spherical and tangential over the rigidly symmetrical, Hadid’s built works seek to place the eye back into the body of the individual and radically trace their velocities within and throughout a collection of static spaces.

Vitra Fire House, Weil am Rhein Germany

The Vitra Fire Station (1994) in Weil am Rhein Germany is one of Ms. Hadid’s first permanent projects. This tiny lightning bolt of a building contains a modest program of garage and basic support spaces for the firefighters, housed neatly within a series of subtly canted and offset concrete walls. These shallow vertical obliques are anchored by a a sharply angled overhang springing out above the garage door, which dominates the approach composition and choreographs the movement of fire trucks into and out of the station. The daring design for this firehouse proved to be so popular that within just a few years of completion, the building was converted into the Vitra Design Museum and now houses a comprehensive collection of chairs and other industrial design pieces.

Another small but potent project of Hadid’s is the Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck Austria (2002), whose main function as a  ramp is supplemented by sports support facilities as well as a cafe and viewing terrace. I imagine that Ms. Hadid relished the chance to design a facility for a sport whose inherent velocity and defiance of gravity suits her own fixation with movement and speed. As she has said, “I almost believed there was such a thing as zero gravity”, a concept that all ski jumpers can probably relate to. In this vein, the peak of the ski jump spirals around 180 degrees and cants upward into a sleek steel box containing the public program and support requirements, propped atop a slender stair and elevator core. The asymmetrical profile and height of this skybox cuts a distinctive profile in the alpine sky while giving occupants panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Bergisel Ski Jump, Inssbruck Austria

By the early aughts, Hadid’s bravado and well-established reputation among the architectural elite began to result in a growing roster of realized buildings, characterized by increasing scale and prestige. The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati (2004) is Hadid’s first permanent work within the United States, and was hailed by Time Magazine upon its completion as one of the most important American works of architecture to be built in decades. Although the CAC’s oblique arrangement of monolithic concrete masses and glassy interstitial volumes was a huge leap forward for Cincinnati’s architectural pedigree, the design is comparatively tame when viewed alongside Hadid’s subsequent projects from overseas.

Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg Germany

The Phaeno Science Center and BMW Central Building, both located in Germany, give an idea of Hadid’s potential when working with a grander program and budget. The Phaeno Center is comprised of a generously scaled, horizontally slung exhibition space perched above ground level on a series of vortically cast structural piers. The main exhibition volume is enclosed by a subtly faceted concrete perimeter wall, punctuated by an erratic pattern of rounded windows that evoke futuristic starship imagery. Another daringly angled building is the BMW Central Plant, whose design is deliberately evocative of the sleekness and speed of the machines manufactured and housed therein. With a cascading, overlapping sequence of metallic and concrete bands that define paths of circulation for people and product alike, the sharp composition of this factory provides a suitably avant-garde setting for the luxury carmaker’s production and delivery activities.

MAXXI Museum of XXI Century Art, Rome

Bolstered by these well-admired and publicized projects, Ms. Hadid has entered the new decade on an increasingly upward trajectory. Capitalizing on her success in architecture, she has branched into other design fields and brought her cutting edge aesthetic to a variety of product lines, ranging from furniture to interior fixtures to personal accessories. While raising her profile and reputation among denizens of the haute fashion world, Hadid’s architectural portfolio has simultaneously been amplified by the realization of two huge projects, the MAXXI Museum of XXI Century Art (2009) outside Rome and Ghangzhou Opera House (2011) in China. The former is a nearly 100,000 sq. ft. museum conceived as a “field of buildings” rather than a monolithic art vault, with “major streams” for gallery spaces and “minor streams” for their interwoven connections. Exploiting an L-shaped site, Hadid’s composition of flowing circulatory paths and undulating structural joists creates an energetic gathering space for users moving within and between exhibition spaces.

Still undergoing its finishing touches as of this writing, the Ghangzhou Opera House is a 70,000 sq. ft. project containing a main auditorium, black box theater, rehearsal support spaces, and a large public park. The interior of the main opera hall is lined by a system of rippling parabolic panels that conceal the connections between adjacent balcony trays, while a similarly swoopy foyer encloses the ancillary black box theater. As with her other projects, Hadid’s emphasis on movement and the act of traveling between different programmatic zones drives the design, with spiral ramps and undulating escalators providing links between different levels and a large plaza and park. Connected to the opera house by paths running alongside a large reflecting pool, this park gives the building an indelible social purpose in a previously impressive yet generic business district on the outskirts of town.

As we head into a new decade, Zaha Hadid’s portfolio and stature among the circles of influential, globe-trotting architects is only poised to grow. Next year, her London Aquatics Centre will be completed and take center stage in that city’s hosting of the Summer Olympics, followed by a number of institutional, educational, and civic projects in many different corners of the globe. It is truly exciting to witness Ms. Hadid’s ascendancy into a highly male-driven field like architecture, and I count myself as one of the many young designers who are awaiting this diva’s next stateside project with open minds and sketchbooks.

-MJC

Role Model > Gwen Stefani

When she first found success in the mid 90s as the extremely photogenic lead of the ska band No Doubt, Gwen Stefani epitomized the Gen-Y southern California girl. More than just a gorgeous face for the album and magazine covers, over the course of four No Doubt albums she repeatedly proved herself as a rock/R&B singer with the vocal range, free styling ability, and outlandish stage presence to propel that group to huge success. I remember listening to Tragic Kingdom while growing up, and especially watching the legendary “Don’t Speak” video when MTV and VH1 played it seemingly every hour on the hour in the year of its release, 1996.

After the huge radio and TV success of Tragic Kingdom propelled No Doubt to the top of the pop/rock game by the close of the century, the band followed up with the less admired but lovably funky Return of Saturn in 2000. The video for its leading single “Ex-girlfriend” debuted Gwen’s new pink hair color, a look that was far more successful on Gwen then it was on her Top 40 stablemate, the too-literal Pink. Thanks to my dear friend Bobby (who is the ultimate source for all things Gwen) I later learned that the song’s lyrics “you say you’re gonna burn before you mellow / I’ll be the one to burn you” are a direct shot at her and boyfriend Gavin Rossdale’s tumultuous relationship.

Within two years of releasing Return of Saturn, No Doubt followed up with the wildly popular Rock Steady. The production of this dance pop/reggae fusion album was assisted by the Neptunes, finding inspiration from global dancehall musical styles and giving the it a worldwide appeal. Around the same time, Gwen began to capitalize on the established success of her band in order to break off and guest star on tracks with artists like Moby and Eve, the latter of which lead to the amazing “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”:

With the success of these guest spots, it was clear that Gwen was about to graduate from No Doubt into her own solo career. In 2004, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. was released, again featuring production assistance from some of the biggest names in R&B (Neptunes, Andre 3000, Dallas Austin) but also finding inspiration from new wave acts like New Order and Depeche Mode. Spawning six singles and inspiring a new generation of devotees, L.A.M.B. also marked the start of Gwen’s career as fashion designer and her newfound obsessions with eastern culture, epitomized by the Harajuku Girls. I will forever associate the song “What You Waiting For?” with my freshman year at Northeastern, with its incessant beat and parabolic vocals inspiring countless impromptu dance parties in the dorms.

The Sweet Escape followed at the end of 2006, with the leading single “Wind it Up” sampling The Sound of Music and further proving Gwen’s willingness to take risks with her music. The album’s titular track, with its Akon guest spot and earwig “wee-oooh” backup, was the definitive song of summer 2007. Besides these summery singles, my other favorite from TSE is the recently rediscovered cold weather jam, “Early Winter”:

In the years since her last album, Gwen has been busy raising a family with Gavin and re-joining No Doubt – which she never officially left – for a nationwide tour in 2009. Proving that you can go solo and return to the roots that made you a star, Gwen and the rest of No Doubt have reportedly been in production on their sixth studio album since May. This post is just a glimpse of Gwen’s musical trajectory thus far, and I excitedly await the results of her return to No Doubt and any future solo projects.

-MJC

Role Model > Louis Kahn

“I merely defend, because I admire, the architect who possesses the will to grow with the many angles of our development. For such a man finds himself far ahead of his fellow workers”

Ask any architecture student in their first few years of school about their favorite historical architects, and you’re likely to hear the standard bearers like Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, or any other influential figure whose work dominates discussions of twentieth century design. Wait a few years and then ask them the same question, and chances are they’ll mention Louis I. Kahn.

Although there are many architects whose popularity is exclusive to those studying and practicing the profession, (Peter Zumthor comes to mind, but after his 2009 Pritzker Prize win that classification might no longer be valid) Louis Kahn, whose career spanned four decades from the 1940s until his death in 1974, occupies a unique place among his mid-century peers whose work is celebrated in mainstream culture. A true architect’s architect, Louis I. Kahn is widely considered to have been the driving force that introduced historicist monumentality to American modern architecture.

Perhaps because he was educated in the traditional Beaux-Arts pedagogy of classical proportions, symmetry, and scale, Kahn always found himself on the fringe of the minimalist International Style that had become the preferred hallmark of avant-garde designers of the mid-twentieth century. Rejecting the modernist doctrine of “form follows function”, Kahn employed pure geometric forms, repetitive massing, and substantial scale to elevate the stature of his varied educational and institutional projects. The following is a brief chronological exploration of his greatest buildings, fully realized:

Yale University Art Gallery (1951-1953) His best known commission from the early part of his career, this building was an addition onto an existing gallery located on the neo-Gothic campus of the esteemed Ivy League University in New Haven, CT. Standing in contrast to the overly arched and sculpturally complex character of the historic building to which it is attached, Kahn’s addition reads from the outside as a simple box comprising unadorned expanses of glass and brick, projected with horizontal datums that indicate the interior floor plates.

It is within the galleries themselves that Kahn reveals his penchant for repetitive geometries, with a concrete ceiling cast in a triangular pattern and concealing the lighting and mechanical systems above. This motif is repeated at a grand scale in the building’s monumental staircase, which is circumscribed in a large cylindrical void. The aforementioned separation of mechanical functions into their own distinct volume above the ceiling was just the beginning of Kahn’s explorations of a building’s served and servant spaces

University of Pennsylvania Medical Research Building (1957-1961) Commissioned by his Alma Mater for a new scientific building on their Philadelphia campus, Kahn’s design for the university’s newest research building is best known for its vertical articulation of servant spaces (mechanical shafts, stairs) as expressed through monumental brick towers. Cantilevered from these massive service cores are the scientific labs, partially supported by concrete columns that appear inconspicuous next to their immense brick counterparts.

The goal of this structural orientation was to free the labs from impediment by the many mechanical systems that were necessary for proper medical research, an objective that was further achieved with a deep floor-to-ceiling plate that allowed for future reconfigurations to take place uninhibited by ductwork or plumbing.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies (1959-1965) This seaside institute in La Jolla, CA is probably Kahn’s best known building in the United States. While cursory examinations of the large and complex medical campus usually focus on the majestic outdoor courtyard, with its narrow channel of water that bisects the whole composition and visually connects ocean to sky, the configuration of the large lab buildings is the real showcase of Kahn’s design.

Taking his notions of served and servant spaces to new heights, each of the three main labs in the mirrored buildings are served by interstitial mechanical ceilings whose full height allows for easy access to the ducts, tubes, and wiring that run from the campus physical plants. The sectional diagram below shows how these interstitial levels also conceal catenary trusses that support the concrete floor plates. The color gradients express the difference between the naturally ventilated interstitial floors and their sealed, climate-controlled counterparts in the labs.

Philips Exeter Library (1965-1971) Employing geometric forms and perspectival views to their maximum effect, this library for the distinguished New Hampshire boarding school is one of Kahn’s smallest but most powerful projects. Whereas the exterior is a wholly unremarkable brick-clad cube with canted corners, the real magic of the design is found inside the large rectangular void at the center of the plan.

The four concrete walls of this ceremonial central volume are punctuated by huge circular openings that stretch over four stories of library stacks, revealing the spatial complexity of the main library floors and offering dynamic views outward and across the void. The literal crux of the symmetrically oriented structure is found when standing on the floor of the Central Hall and gazing upward to see a concrete X spanning from the corners of the rectangular volume to support the roof above.

Any profile of Louis Kahn has to include the story of his convoluted and untimely death in 1974. At the height of his practice’s success, Kahn was traveling back from Bangladesh, India where he had been overseeing progress on a series of huge government assembly buildings. While in the men’s room at Pennsylvania Station in New York City, Louis Kahn died from a heart attack. Because he had crossed out the address on his passport, he sat unclaimed in a morgue for three days before his colleagues traced his whereabouts and discovered that they had lost their beloved mentor. It was a truly awkward ending to the life and career of a quietly brilliant designer. For more on Louis Kahn’s professional and sordid personal lives, see his youngest son’s 2003 documentary My Architect:


-MJC

Music > Robyn

Considering all the pop singers to be channelled through producer Max Martin’s late 90s superstar factory (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC), Sweden’s prodigal daughter Robyn has proven to be the most capable and talented of the bunch. As opposed to the shallow talents whose success massively outweighed their abilities, Robyn has shown herself to be a genuinely skilled songwriter and performer. I can remember when her first U.S. hit “Show Me Love” was all over the airwaves back in 1997. I didn’t appreciate that track nearly as much as I do nowadays, since Robyn’s career experienced a critical and popular resurgence after the 2005 release of her self-titled EP.

Just before dropping her new sound on Sweden, Robyn wisely abandoned Jive, her first record label, after their negative reaction to her new electro beat flavor (influenced heavily by fellow Swedish act The Knife). instead establishing her own label Konichiwa Records, a surefire way to ensure her artistic freedom. It was nearly three years after the European release of Robyn that the album finally made it to North America in the spring of 2008. To stateside audiences that were familiar with Robyn’s squeaky clean pop image from the 90s, this declaration of her musical independence and new R&B electronica sound was a welcome departure from that tired confectionary pop business of the previous decade.

Although it barely registered a blip on the Billboard 100, the album proved to be a major success among the ficklest of all demographics, the gays. With a total runtime that mercifully clocks in under 35 minutes, Robyn was perfectly suited for the ADD hipster generation whose musical teeth were cut on canned synth tracks and auto tuned R&B. Highlights include “Handle Me”, a half-rapped send up of those overly cologned, self-important club owners and promoters everyone loves to hate.

“With Every Heartbeat” is another gem, starting slowly with a repetitive backdrop of strings and a tight snare and bass beat, then sprawling into a gorgeous paean to moving on from your past heartbreaks with chin firmly up in the air. This album’s rise in popularity coincided with my half-year stint in New York City, and thus conjures memories of my wide-eyed walks throughout the canyons of Manhattan, Robyn’s beats pumping through my earbuds and empowering me to pound the filthy downtown pavement.

With all that hipster acclaim to back up her burgeoning pop creativity, Robyn began 2010 with the intent of releasing three albums within a year’s time. Body Talk Part 1 debuted just in time for summer beach season, and only furthers Robyn’s ascent into the upper crust of credible electro pop musicians. The first single “Dancing on my Own” is arguably the summer’s definitive club song, with its declaration to ignore the guy you had your eyes on and just give it your all, dancing the night away for your own sake. Watch her recent performance on Letterman and try not to feel the empowerment:

Another highlight of Body Talk Part 1 is the uncharacteristically somber “Hang With Me”, which has recently gone through the Swedish electro-beat ringer and will be released on Part 2 as a fully fleshed out dance club track. If this is any indicator of the rest of the album, the release of Body Talk Part 2 should be an occasion worth celebrating. I can’t wait to hear whatever else Robyn has up her sleeve for us later this year.

Update: Thanks to my supremely tech-y friend Isaac, I have acquired a leaked copy of Part 2.

-MJC