Search results for "Aaron Betsky"

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Aaron Betsky
Courtesy Aaron Betsky

In January, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation tapped Aaron Betsky to head its school of architecture, which is split between two campuses: Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. Betsky, the former director of the Cincinnati Art Museum will move to Scottsdale in April. Though he assumes the role immediately, Betsky said his specific plans for the curriculum are still in progress.

As dean, Betsky faces a challenge beyond academic leadership. Last year the Higher Learning Commission changed its rules governing for-profit universities and schools that, like the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, are part of institutions whose “missions extend beyond academics.” To retain the school’s accreditation, the Foundation will spin off its academic entity. But to do so it said it must raise $2 million before the end of 2015, or it will lose its standing once the new rules take effect in 2017.

Aaron Betsky.

Chris Bentley: Why did you decide to take this position?

Aaron Betsky: I’ve been involved with architectural education for literally decades and I’ve always been a strong believer in the notion of experimental architecture, and an architectural education that doesn’t perpetuate the myth that architects just go out there and make the dumbest buildings possible. Architecture is a way you can come to an understanding of the human-made environment we’ve all created together and how you can make that better in a social sense, an environmental sense, and in a physical sense. So a chance to do that with a school that has such a great tradition of experimental architecture, that comes out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s engagement with everything from the notions of what makes a home, to what makes a workplace, to the nature of American suburbia and beyond.

What’s been your experience with or impression of the Frank Lloyd Wright School’s academic character? What would you like to change and what would you like to keep the same?

It’s not a big school where people are doing fairly standard building design. It’s a place where people are really trying to figure out what architecture is. They do it not just on the drafting table and the computer but out in the desert itself, especially in Scottsdale building their own shelters. I think a lot of people still think about Taliesin as a place that might continue the forms of Frank Lloyd Wright. But if you look at the student work you can see that Victor [Sidy] and the people who have been there have really begun to think more about how he thought of architecture as very important for what he called democracy—how he saw it in the arts and crafts tradition and the tradition of American pragmatism.


What is Wright’s relevance to contemporary practice?

He addressed issues that are central to the American problem and the world problem, that include: How do you make a home, what is a home? How do you shelter it and yet make it open to its community? What is that community when it is no longer just a center city or out in the farm? What is suburbia and what kind of forms can we developer for suburbia? How can we make an architecture that works with the land instead of being built on it? How can you create work environments that are open and conducive to the kind of creativity and sharing that we now understand is central to work? How can you create places of leisure and play that are again open and that celebrate our achievements and allow us in a playful way to reimagine the American and the world environment?

Are you charged with separating the school from the foundation, the fundraising, or purely focused on the academics?

Yes we need to raise money and I am already working with the school on that. We have a couple of galas. We’re working on some other ways that we’ll need to continue as an independent entity. It’s obviously a very big part of the job.

What is the fundraising situation so far? Are you on track to meet the goal?

Yes I am confident we’ll meet it. Some funds have already been raised. I can’t tell you what the percentage is but there are substantial pledges as well as hard cash in the door. Look, I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life—if not longer—raising money. In Cincinnati I was able to raise about $80 million over the last eight years. Schools are more difficult in some ways than museums, but I’m confident we’ll be able to raise the money for this school with its great traditions and name recognition for an even better future.

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Aaron Betsky to Head Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture
The search for a new leader of Frank Lloyd Wright's School of Architecture concluded today, as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation named Aaron Betsky the new dean in charge of Taliesin. Betsky previously served as director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, but stepped down from that position in January 2014. He was previously the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and he directed the 11th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2008. He has authored numerous books on art and architecture and continues to blog for Architect. Split between campuses in Spring Green, Wisconsin and Scottsdale, Arizona, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is in the middle of a fundraising campaign that could decide the future of the school's accreditation. Facing new rules from the Higher Learning Commission, officials from the institution said they must raise at least $2 million before the end of 2015, or the school will lose its standing once those new rules take effect in 2017. Betsky will "set the intellectual tone or the School," according to a press release, but he will also have to help tackle the school's financial challenges. "Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture broke the box and opened vistas toward a democratic landscape; he made organic architecture and built with, rather than on, the land before anybody talked about sustainable architecture," Betsky said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing the tradition of experimental architecture he did so much to define." The future of that tradition, however, remains uncertain. In December Sean Malone, president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, said the school would remain committed to design education even if they are no longer able to award accredited degrees after 2017. With Betsky at the helm that mission appears intact; the Foundation said they will continue to award degrees at their Taliesin East and Taliesin West campuses either way, perhaps in partnership with accredited institutions. "We wanted a bold thinker and a talented leader," Malone said in a statement, "and we found both in Aaron." Betsky, who was born in Montana but grew up in the Netherlands, succeeds Victor Sidy, who returns to his private architectural practice. Betsky assumes the role of dean immediately.
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Cincinnati Art Museum seeks new director; Aaron Betsky steps down
Aaron Betsky, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum for seven years, announced Thursday he’ll step down. Cincinnati’s WVXU reported that the museum's board will set up a search committee, and that Betsky will help pick his successor. Betsky, an architect, oversaw the first phase of a renovation for which he helped raise more $13 million, and increased the art museum’s endowment by 18 percent. His leadership was at times controversial, as when he oversaw an exhibit by artist Todd Pavlisko that included firing a .30-caliber rifle in the 132-year-old museum’s Schmidlapp Gallery. Before moving to Cincinnati he was the Director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, and previously designed for Frank Gehry. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Board chair Dave Dougherty said Betsky’s successor will need a variery of skills:
* "Someone great at exhibitions, first and foremost." * "Someone who continues to have financial discipline." * "People skills." Dougherty said the art museum is a large organization, with many tentacles, and a chance to influence the broader community. And, of course, there’s a director’s all-important fund-raising role.
Betsky was a finalist for dean of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois, Chicago last year. That position ultimately went to Steve Everett, an Emory University professor of music. “The museum now has the programming and staff in place, and the financial stability that will allow me to openly pursue my next position,” Betsky said in a press release. “I feel that I have accomplished the goals that I and the Board had envisioned when I first arrived and would like to explore opportunities that may include or combine my academic interests and institutional experiences.”
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Aaron Betsky, David Rockwell and Ric Scofidio: Mount Rushmore du Jour

The Bellinis, toasts, and information exchange about digital technology flowed freely at a reception and rooftop dinner at the Danieli Hotel hosted by David Rockwell, Aaron Betsky, Reed Kroloff and Casey Jones. Liz Diller, Ric Scofidio and Charles Renfro joined the celebrants after decamping from an equally glam—but apparently mosquito infested party at Villa Malcontenta—party hosted by Zaha Hadid celebrating collegue-divided-only-by-the-centuries Palladio. Lise Anne Couture and Hani Rashid stayed in the Villa’s formal gardens, Couture recounted, pretending they were in the characters in the classic flick, Last Year at Marienbad.

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Betsky to Lead Biennale
Courtesy Cincinnati Art Museum

Aaron Betsky, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, has been appointed director of the 11th International Architecture Exhibition at the 2008 Venice Biennale. Before his appointment in Cincinnati in August 2006, Betsky led the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam starting in 2001.

According to Betsky, this year’s exhibition, Out There. Architecture Beyond Building., begins with the premise that architecture today cannot be practiced in isolation; that art, literature, film, landscape architecture, and design have a vital role in the way we think about and live in buildings. “These are ideas I have been thinking about for almost 20 years, starting with my book Violated Perfection,” he said. “I think that some interior designers are producing extraordinary and immediate effects, for example, and that true landscape architecture is not just about designing with plants but about revealing what already exists.” 

In a comment suggesting that this will be an architecture biennale to regard other design disciplines on equal footing with Vitruvius’ mother of the arts, Betsky added that buildings are just the “tombs” of the architectural impulse that also courses through making landscapes, films, theatrical sets, and graphics. It sounds like he already has some of the categories worked out for the biennale. And he had better! He has to fill some 150,000 square feet in the Arsenale alone, which is just one (if the largest) of the venues for exhibits. He has no time to lose, either. In years past, the director was appointed in August not December, whereas Betsky has just nine months to put on the show that attracts some 130,000 visitors and is open for more than two months. 

Talking from Cincinnati, Betsky said he got the call over the holidays when he was on his way to Amalfi, Italy, for a brief vacation, and he made a quick detour to Venice. He said that he would be working with architects, artists, and designers from many fields. “That said, one must continually ask, ‘What is architecture? Where is the line?’” 

When Betsky was appointed to the directorship at the Cincinnati Museum, he was asked to guide the institution through the process of selecting an architect for a major building expansion, which will cost approximately $100 million. The following summer, the Rotterdam-based firm Neutelings Riedijk was selected for the project. According to Betsky, he will direct the biennale with the blessing of his trustees: “They are comfortable about it, knowing that I’ll also keep my eye on the prize, which is this art museum.” He added that there were also plans in the works to develop programming that both institutions will share.

The Venice Biennale alternates between a focus on art and one on architecture, film, theater, and dance, and will open to the public from September 14 through November 23, 2008. 

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Doodling in the Grid
Bryony Roberts and the South Shore Drill Team,
Mimi Zeiger

Chicago has always dreamed of a better version of itself: Founded with big ambitions on a swamp next to Lake Michigan, carried forward by trains, meat-packing, and real estate development, rebuilt after the Great Fire and re-planned by Daniel Burnham three decades later, gridded in plan and girded by skyscrapers, Chicago wants always to be bigger, cleaner, and more rational. Now with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, open through January 3, 2016, Chicago corrals those dreams one more time and to invite an international audience in to view its latest new and improved self.

LEFT: WORKac reimagines antfarm. right: Mark Wasiuta’s, Marco Sanchez’s, and Adam Bandler’s environmental communications exhibition.
steve hall/tom harris

Supported by the city, British Petroleum, and a host of other partners, the Biennial certainly got off to a grand and ambitious start that had the media buzzing. Then reality intruded. The reality check first took the form of the Biennial’s main venue, the Chicago Cultural Center. Formerly the city’s main downtown library, it is an ornate, neo-classical number, opened in 1897 with designs by Shelpley, Ruttan, and Bulfinch, of weight and integrity but no particular distinction, beyond some lovely stained glass. It presents the exhibitors with the Cooper-Hewitt problem: a building that draws so much attention to it’s own weight of history and ambition that it is difficult for the exhibitors to breathe. Luckily (sort of), many of the spaces have long since lost some of their luster, so that exhibitors in the lower levels have white-walled halls in which to draw attention to what seems to be a plethora of 1960s utopian thinking and style.

a drawing by moon hoon.
courtesy moon hoon

We do seem to be having a particular postmodern moment here, one that focuses on the intersection of melting classicism and space age faith in technology that brings to mind as much Barbarella as it does Archigram. Between workAC’s collaboration with Ant Farm and Mark Wasiuta’s, Marco Sanchez’s, and Adam Bandler’s unveiling of archival material belonging to the archi-media collective Evironmental Communications—who collaborated with like-minded radical practices like Superstudio and Ant Farm—there is plenty that recalls the era of acid-colored day dreaming of a more voluptuous and fluid future infested with the ruins of a dying order.

Along the same lines are Moon Hoon’s “Doodle Constructivism” drawings. They draw inspiration from similar postmodern sources, but carry the aesthetic forward with a combination of K-Pop, manga sensibility, and Hoon’s signature nonchalance. Smout Allen and Geoff Manaugh work in a similar mode, though their inspiration is more Lebbeus Woods than Peter Cook and his posse.

Doodling also permeates the work of what I think is the most successful exhibition in the Cultural Center, Sou Fujimoto’s array of ashtrays, shredded paper, pine cones, and tea strainers re-imagined as koans for architecture, merely through the device of adding tiny model figures that make these everyday objects look huge. Whether statements such as, “The faint depth becomes architecture that connects the society and individuals” are meaningful matters less than the visual revelations and the respite from the grand visions and big rooms you achieve when hunched over these little maquettes.

sou fujimoto's "everything is architecture"
tom harris

Biennials, when they work, tend to sprawl throughout the city, and this one is no exception. Some of the best work is offsite and temporary, such as Bryony Roberts’ corralling of the South Shore Drill Team to take over Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Plaza, turning the grand grids into human twirls and swirls. Unfortunately, many such performances only took place during the opening weekend.

My favorite offsite discovery was Xavier Wrona’s installation in the Theaster Gates-designed Dorchester Houses, where the self-proclaimed Marxist architect has been in residence for the last few months. When I arrived with former Cranbrook Dean Reed Kroloff, Wrona daubed his face and hands with red war paint and proceeded to lead us on a twenty-minute tour of the interior, whose recycled boards and intricate built-in furniture was festooned with copies of quotes, diagrams, and citations, all leading to the conclusion that we need to move beyond the affirmation of capitalism through standard building techniques, and toward a more open and revolutionary form of production.

I am not sure either Wrona (who admitted it is a work in progress), nor I, know exactly what it all might mean, but his three-dimensional essay did sum up the contrary conclusion of this Biennial: Less emphasis on traditional buildings and grand plans (Save for the exhibition of David Adjaye’s work at the Chicago Art Institute, which felt like it was preparing the natives for his seemingly inevitable anointment as the architect of the Obama Presidential Library) and more on doodling, postmodern reconsiderations, and fragmentary constructions. “Make no big plans,” the exhibition seemed to whisper from the corners of its Beaux-Arts prison, “Just subvert the order.”

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100 Acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Andrea Zittel's Indianapolis Island at the Indianapolis Museum of Art's new 100 Acres sculpture park.
Courtesy IMA

“Who needs another Richard Serra sculpture plunked down on a lawn?” asked Indianapolis Museum of Art Director Max Anderson. “What we wanted was something that was a space, an experience that was art, a landscape that would always be changing.” 100 Acres, the museum’s new art park of that size, manages to fulfill that vision: a place where art appears out of, or is part of, the landscape, creating spaces and inhabitable objects that may or may not outlast the passing of a few seasons.

The site for this new showcase—a hybrid of landscape, art, and architecture increasingly prevalent around the world—is a former gravel pit between a bend in the White River and a tow canal that separates the new park from the Olmsted & Olmsted landscape of the museum grounds proper that holds more traditional “plunk art.” After the pit was donated to the museum several decades ago, it continued as a wilderness, its void, denuded of Indiana limestone, filling up with water and becoming a popular swimming hole.

Park of the Laments (Top) by Alfredo Jaar. Free Basket by Los Carpinteros.

Once the museum raised enough money to recuperate the area, it hired landscape architect Edward L. Blake, principal of the Hattiesburg, Mississippi–based Landscape Studio. Blake’s work in itself is a lesson in what (landscape) architecture can and increasingly does do: It is an act of recuperation and subtle adjustment, wherein he removed most of the non-native “blow-ins” and planted trees and bushes to define larger and smaller spaces, winding paths through the park to connect it all together. Spaces appear and sequences evolve, what can be is preserved, and the new appears as a comment on or in contrast to the old.

A small visitor center, designed by the Arkansas architect Marlon Blackwell, serves not so much as a focal point but as a respite in the woods, providing geothermally produced warmth or cooling in a triangular volume lifted off the floodplain between a sandwich of Ipe wood planes. It is the only piece of more or less traditional architecture. The one other inhabitable and enclosed space is a fiberglass volume by artist Andrea Zittel that floats in the middle of the lake. Inhabited in the summer months by art students and accessible by rowboat, its blob-like shape might seem a condensation of current theories on computer-assisted form-making, but for the artist it is a simple, non-referential form.

Four pieces from Jeppe Hein's Bench Around the Lake, with Andrea Zittel's Indianapolis Island at bottom left.

Near the Zittel piece, a rusty boat appears to make its way across the lake. It is part of Eden II, an installation by Tea Makipaa, and includes a guard tower on the shore. In this bit of set design, invisible performers, whose voices you hear in the tower, worry about illegal immigrants trying to come onshore, and gunfire rings out somewhere in the woods. You can watch it all from an undulating bench, a work by Kendall Buster, which traces the shoreline and provides a place for local fishermen to pass the day. Another set of benches designed by Jeppe Hein pop up throughout the park. They are part of a continuous ribbon that, at least conceptually, runs through the park, surfacing mid-curve or swerve to give you a place to sit and rest.

The most complete space is a square carved out by the usually strident political artist Alfredo Jaar, Park of the Laments. A path guides you into a tunnel that slopes into the ground before you rise on steps into a raised platform surrounded by loose stone walls. It is an isolated, empty, demarcated space, where he encourages you to contemplate all those who have been displaced or lost in wars. It might, however, also become a party space, a place for a picnic, or a site for sunbathing. It is above all a clearly human-made space, a monument of sorts that stands in contrast to the near-chaos of the landscape surrounding it.


Stratum Pier (top) by Kendall Buster. A visitor's center designed specifically for 100 acres by Marlon Blackwell Architect.

The Park of the Laments is, however, not the best space in the park. Much more successful is Team Building (Align) by the artist duo calling itself Type A. It consists of two aluminum rings suspended between trees. At the summer solstice, they project a perfect circle in the middle of the little clearing they define, but the rest of the time they inscribe a much more complex and allusive space, a moment of the difficult, shifting, and elusive perfection you find, like Adolf Loos’ gravemarker, in the middle of the woods.

The most exuberant space, however, is Los Carpinteros’ Free Basket. Its blue- and red-painted steel loops surround two basketball backboards, mimicking possible throws and leaps. It forms the park’s back door, and has become a popular place for neighborhood kids to play in and with the art. Here, 100 Acres achieves its goal of art as a real part of community everyday life, which comes out of and provides an alternative to both the natural and the human landscape from which it arose. Over the years, Anderson said, the museum might add a few pieces, and a few might fade into the landscape as they deteriorate. But 100 Acres will remain a place where landscape becomes art, and art that looks an awful lot like good architecture.

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XI International Architecture Biennale
Rockwell Group with Jones/Kroloff
Martin Perrin

The Arsenale

The theme was “Out There” but the experience was over the top as the leading lights of the profession plus a smattering of young up-and-comers from around the world produced a heroically-scaled display of performance architecture.

By Julie V. Iovine

To make sharp critical observers out of his audiences, German playwright Bertolt Brecht inserted blackout moments into scenes. The 11th International Architecture Biennale offered its own alienation effect in a dark-as-pitch room—a forecourt to the vast two-mile long Arsenale exhibition space—featuring an installation by Rockwell Group with Jones/Kroloff involving towering interactive screens where scenes from architecture’s favorite movies (Cleopatra,The Fountainhead, A Clockwork Orange, etc.) as complex XY-axis projections leapt up in response to the crowd moving through. This Hall of Fragments set a seductive stage for the subsequent installations commissioned from 24 architecture practices by Biennale director Aaron Betsky. The brief was to show architecture “beyond building,” that is “revelatory, utopian, and critical.” Visitors marched past a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of gargantuan works: elegantly embalmed prototyped extrusions by Asymptote; Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Oz-like Feed Back Space first envisioned in 1969; and Zaha Hadid’s brand-perfect acid green furniture/architecture. Most breathtaking in this sequence was Frank Gehry’s Ungapatchket, a three-story timber model of a Moscow hotel that the architect is designing, slabbed over with clay in the spirit of Cai Guo Qiang’s ephemeral Rent Collection Courtyard figurines shown in New York last winter, but originally exhibited in the Arsenale in 1999.

Even if you had not already been over to the Giardini, the other part of the Biennale dedicated to national pavilions and their individually curated exhibits, and seen the Estonian’s big yellow “pipeline” providentially and ominously running down a gravel slope to the steps of the Russian pavilion, you might have questioned the relevance of the Arsenale’s fabulously blousy installations. The European press has already come down hard, especially on the nudes brought in by French architect Philippe Rahm in an effort to demonstrate space-making through convection air currents instead of walls. The concept was certainly clever, and might have been enough for an art installation, but it cannot pass muster at an architecture fair if it doesn’t actually work. Betsky tried to make an end-run around buildings that “just stand there” in favor of architecture that inspires and “transforms one’s perception of one’s world.” And while there was plenty of food for thought about the latest way to turn data into structure, from artist Matthew Ritchie & Aranda/Lasch’s scale-less, fractal-turned-structural-doily to M-A-D’s AirXY, which replicated the technology of Hall of Fragments with LED lights instead of movies, many of the installations looked as if they could too easily end up as catalog fodder for the amusement of galleristas.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Iwan Baan

The urban problems that preoccupied some architects—the lives of singletons for the Dutch collective Droog; the pile-up of unrecyclable and ghastly plastic toys for Greg Lynn—didn’t seem global enough. Pros at performance architecture like Diller Scofidio + Renfro did not disappoint with a video installation that mashed up interviews with gondoliers in three different Venices—Italy, Las Vegas, and Macau—along with anyone’s belief in authenticity of place. UNStudio, too, satisfied with a slitheringly stunning rendition of a villa fit for Zoolander that served as a screen for footage from an Alexander McQueen fashion show.

But as one continued down the vast Arsenale where in the 12th century, entire battleships could be built in a week, the impression that today powerful minds were bent to far less mighty tasks was hard to ignore. Ten months ago when Betsky set to work, presidents and vice presidents had not been nominated, Georgian borders had not been crossed, and hurricanes both natural and financial had not rocked our foundations. Now that they have, architects working in high concepts rather than hard realities seem somehow passé.



Arsenale Interrota

By Anne Guiney

After the machined perfection of so many of the Arsenale’s massive installations, the drawings of Roma Interrota provided the show’s first real jolt. The recreation of a 1978 exhibition of the same name was inspired by the 1748 Nolli Map of Rome. The drawings show the eternal city reimagined by 12 architects, including Aldo Rossi (pictured), Paolo Portoghesi, Robert Venturi, Leon and Robert Krier, and Colin Rowe, who were themselves monumental practitioners in the 1970s. The reinstallation was an eye-opener for a new generation, including Casey Jones and Reed Kroloff, who collaborated with David Rockwell on the video installation Hall of Fragments. For them, the juxtaposition provided a revealing contrast in the ways architects look at cities. “It has the stillness of a time capsule,” said Kroloff, “and it’s amazing to see how radically the tools of expression have changed.”

The original Roma Interrota was organized by then-mayor of Rome Giulio Carlo Argan, and took as its premise the idea that since the publication of Giovanni Battista Nolli’s famous New Plan for Rome, planning in the city had been stymied and destructive. Argan asked architects to start where the 230-year-old plan left off and dream of what the city could be. Revisiting the new reinstallation at the Arsenale, Argan wrote, “It is comprised not of proposals for urban planning, naturally, but of a series of gymnastic exercises for the imagination whose course runs parallel to that of memory… [Here] are hypotheses for the Rome which would have resulted had man continued to imagine it and not to plan it (badly.)”


Belgium's curators David van Severen and Kersten Geers commemorated a missed centennial—the country first entered the Biennale in 1907—with after the party, an installation whose main components are confetti and mostly empty rooms.
Martin Perrin


At the mouth of the Grand Canal, the city’s largest public garden is dotted with 35 national pavilions and a series of outdoor installations. Inside, a few curators showed how architecture can indeed be pushed “beyond building,” with results ranging from poetic to pragmatic.

By Anne Guiney

By taking the Biennale’s theme “Out There—Architecture Beyond Building” as more guideline than directive, curators of more than 30 national exhibitions in the Giardini found expansive and fertile ground for their ideas. Expansive enough, in fact, to encompass almost anything. Freed from the physical limitations of building, architecture could relate to everything.

The two most prevalent (and often intertwined) ideas curators explored were politics and the environment, but the work ranged from the poetic approach of Japan’s Junya Ishigumi, who created a dreamland of flower-structures, to Russia, whose installation of a competitive architectural chess game could be read as a mirror held up to contemporary politics.

Perhaps the most immediately satisfying project was not in a pavilion, but running between two. Estonia put a real-scale gas pipe on the ground between the German and Russian pavilions to represent a Gazprom proposal to build the Nord Stream pipeline connecting the two countries through the Baltic Sea. It was wonderfully concise in its ability to make a political argument physically manifest, and to raise questions about issues from regional power dynamics to environmental damage.

martin perrin 

Eric holm

martin perrin

Poland’s curators took the seldom-sexy idea of recycling and gave it some style by repurposing their pavilion as the Hotel Polonia, complete with beds. Inside, there were a series of photographic triptychs showing a building as it looks today and then one that Photoshops it into the future. A 2004 basilica becomes a fantastic water park, since after a while the only people attending church would be tourists anyway, so why not? Likewise, a university library is rebranded as a mall, and cheekily, a Foster-designed building became a convincingly ominous jail. The mixture of solid ideas and a light touch led the jurors to award it the Golden Lion. 

Germany, too, drew attention to the use and abuse of nature, though without the humor of its neighbor. To highlight the way we often squander our resources, the curators did some squandering of their own: The neoclassical German pavilion’s portico was lit with 32 massive spotlights, which gave it an unfortunate eerie glow, and each visitor passing underneath felt their heat. The physical sensation made an effective point, and while there was a notice inside that team members were reducing energy consumption to offset the 50,000 kilowatts of electricity the piece will ultimately consume, the choice seemed dubious. A second inadvertently funny moment was an indoor grove of apple trees under Gro-lights, fed by an IV-like sack of radioactively bright liquid that suggested nothing more than Soylent Green.

Japan’s curator Junya Ishigumi took a very different stance on the issue of our relationship to nature, and imagined a world where architecture was not set in a landscape but inextricably a part of it. The seemingly blank white walls of the pavilion were covered with dozens of drawings of greenery-clad structures in different scenarios, and outside were a series of delicate glass greenhouses filled with flowers. Its dreamy beauty made it a favorite, but the ideas it raised were really no more far-fetched than much of the more ecologically-minded work in the Italian Pavilion.


Ryan Reitbauer

U.S. Pavilion

By William Menking

When word first went out that the theme of this year’s architecture biennale was “Out There: Beyond Building,” I suspected that Aaron Betsky would take a more formalist approach and not include the kind of social activism that has recently engaged an increasing number of architects frustrated by a sense of impotence in the face of the country’s crumbling infrastructure and frayed social fabric. I turned to Teddy Cruz, whose housing proposals for Hudson, NY, we’ve covered in AN, and he started a conversation with Pratt Institute’s Deborah Gans. Soon the team also included Andy Sturm of the PARC Foundation and Aaron Levy of the Slought Foundation, two non-profits often involved with architects pursuing alternative practices. There seemed to be an opportunity to provide a counterpoint to the main exhibition with something that focused more on new approaches to engaging with communities and shaping local infrastructure.

Time was not on our side: We had only four months to conceive, develop, design, ship, and install everything down to the guestbook to Venice. Right at the start, Leanne Mella, with years of experience as a biennale coordinator and with the State Department, warned me, “I’ve done exhibits in Africa, and it can be a difficult place to mount an exhibition, but Venice is tougher!” and then she joined our team, an unbeatable vote of confidence.

Our goal was not modest: We were basically trying to develop and encourage an architecture culture that doesn’t yet exist in the United States. And while we included efforts like The Heidelberg Project, where abandoned houses in Detroit have been encrusted by recycled refuse collected in the neighborhood, or Kyong Park’s New Silk Road video montage, the impulse was to provoke new thinking about architecture, not to feature art projects.

While some of the work we decided to include (and that you may have read about in the last issue of AN) was very critical about aspects of American culture and the built environment, some of it was equally proactive about our problems, because they are in fact hard to believe. The reality is that in the last 25 years, this country hasn’t really invested in our infrastructure, and so a lot of the projects in the pavilion looked at that rather than at buildings in order to make a connection between an architectural sensibility and a larger social infrastructure. Finally, I believe that architects are by and large urbanists who love cities and want to make them function better, and the projects we chose to include represented a range of ways to do just that.



Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Wei Wei
Martin Perrin

Experimental Architecture

Inside the Italian Pavilion, 56 exhibits showed the range of experiment across the spectrum, from Lebbeus Woods’ drawings to architecture’s future as seen through the I Ching. With a tone set by the early, ground-breaking work of masters like Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, the work suggests that the spirit of the new is alive and engaged.

By Anne Guiney

The Italian Pavilion in the Giardini promises an overview on the state of progressive practice in architecture, and while it certainly delivers, it does so in a way that is alternately provocative, satisfying, and dispiriting. Curator Aaron Betsky chose to devote the building that once housed the host country’s installation (now relocated to the Arsenale) with the work of 55 experimental firms, many of whom are younger, like MOS, NL Architects, and LOT-EK, and seven of the avant-garde’s old school, most now prolific builders, including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Morphosis. Most of the masters pulled work from their archives—Zaha Hadid’s drawings were particularly spectacular, and a reminder of her extraordinary talent. A noteworthy exception was Herzog & de Meuron, who teamed up with Ai Wei Wei, their collaborator on the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, and made a simple but beautiful installation from the bamboo poles so prevalent on construction sites in China.

NL Architects

courtesy the architects

Almost all of the work on display is drawn from projects that were underway long before the Biennale, and Betsky has grouped like with like. Teddy Cruz’s cross-border work in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego is catercorner to FAST’s planning and community organizing project in the Arab-Israeli town of Ein Hawd, while Field Operations’ large-scale and long-term efforts in landscape urbanism share a room with the Colombia-based Husos’ engaging Proyecto Cali, which wonderfully manages to include the restoration of a habitat for Monarch butterflies, an exhibitions building, and a soap opera called Butterflies and Passions.

One of the more striking things that emerges from the contrast Betsky sets up between the old-new and the new-new is the preoccupation with creating a more socially engaged practice over form-making, and the use of different means to tell a story. Along with Husos and its racy telenovela, AOC developed a Monopoly-based board game to help Venetians rethink their shrinking city, and J,P:A Jones Partners put together a Marvel-style comic book projecting 50 years into the future of Dubai. CUP’s intentionally crude Xeroxed posters diagram a link between sneakers and poverty, while Urban Think Tank’s colorful wall of posters from Caracas, Venezuela is as suggestive of a vibrant public realm as any in the show.

Yogi Berra, as usual, had it right: The future ain’t what it used to be, and utopia as we know and love it is in fairly short supply in the pavilion. One of the more provocative pieces calls the very idea into question: Abitare editor Stefano Boeri and a student team took on the eco-enthusiasm so prevalent in the pavilion and beyond and ask what it would really be like if nature once again was deeply integrated into our cities. Boeri’s Sustainable Dystopias presents three scenarios—the city of energy devices, the city of vegetable surfaces, and the city of wild animals, each of which pushes the proposal to its logical conclusion and points out the pros and cons. As neat as it might sound, the piece argues, there’s also a downside to having elk and moose wandering through protected greenbelts in a city. NL Architects also presents cut-n’-paste what-if scenarios in Virtual Realities that are a little uncomfortable, in spite of their humor. The ice caps are melting? Let’s make one out of trash, since there’s plenty of that! The two projects stand in marked contrast to the visually appealing yet thin suggestion represented by ma0/emmeazero’s Footprints, whose vision for new types of public space seems more grounded in the possibilities of Photoshop than in a meaningful sense of how people use city streets and parks.

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Did You Hear?

The best gossip from 15 years of The Architect’s Newspaper
To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we looked back through the archives for our favorite moments since we started. We found stories that aged well (and some that didn’t), as well as a wide range of interviews, editorials, and other articles that we feel contributed to the broader conversation. We also took a closer look at the most memorable tributes to those we lost, and heard from editors past and present about their time here. The Architect’s Newspaper has run an Eavesdrop column in its print edition that collects gossip from across the architecture community. It has served as a playful way to keep track of thoughts, feelings, and actions that have run in design's undercurrents. 2005 Architects in tight jeans "Zaha Hadid did it for Vitra. Winka Dubbeldam posed for Panasonic. But soon, it's one of the boys who's modeling for a Levi's advertisement. We went on the lookout when we heard about the company's casting call for male architects, between the ages of 18 and 45, for a New York ad shoot. Candidates has to be 'Real-looking men with good bodies, handsome, interesting, rugged.' (Notice that 'wears chunky black eyewear' was NOT listed.)" 2006 Sex and the icky "When this dirty old man isn't grossing out female co-workers by discussing the goings-on in their nether regions, we're told he can be found inducting new office interns—those poor interns!—with visits to a nudie bar." 2009 Pearls before SCI-Arc "Few talking heads can dent an architectural ego like critic, curator, and professor Jeff Kipnis, who moderated a chat at SCI-Arc on July 29 with Eric Owen Moss and Thom Mayne about Moss’ new installation at the school. Among Kipnis’ gems, he praised Moss’ garrulousness with the bon mot that he got paid by the hour for such events, and marveled at Moss and Mayne’s ability to argue with themselves—not among themselves, mind you, but each with his own self!" 2010 Eavesdrop: Knock Knock "This tidbit just in from the 12th International Architecture Biennale now underway in Venice. Approaching the entrance of the main exhibition hall in the Arsenale on opening day, Aaron Betsky, the director of the 11th architecture biennale, was refused admittance because he had no ticket. Betsky’s protests were met with an implacable shrug indicating, What have you done for us lately?" Check out a selection of our best interviews here and a fuller timeline of our articles here.
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Frank Lloyd…Wrong?

Frank Lloyd Wright’s David and Gladys Wright House back on the market
It looked like Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiraling David and Gladys House in Phoenix, Arizona, had been saved from the wrecking ball back in June of last year, but a deal to donate the building to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has reportedly fallen through. Now the house is back on the market for $13 million, over $10 million more than when it first went up for sale in 2012. After being purchased in 2012 by homebuilder and architecture aficionado Zach Rawling, it appeared that the house, built in 1952, would be restored and put to good use. Rawling donated the building to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin for use as a learning center and in-situ design studio, which kicked off during the 2017-2018 academic year. Although the school was able to produce videos with several well-known architects at the house and successfully complete the scheduled studios there, funding concerns seem to have scuttled the partnership. In a joint statement released in June of this year, Rawling and the school's dean Aaron Betsky announced that due to conflicting funding obligations and an uncertain timetable, the school and house would part ways.
The relationship between the School and the House is formally manifested in the David Wright House Collaborative Fund, a supporting organization of the Arizona Community Foundation. The principal focus of the David Wright House Collaborative Fund was to develop a vehicle to raise the $7-million endowment on which the pledge of the House for the benefit of the School was conditioned. Over the past year, we have learned that the fundraising timetables of both parties do not lend themselves to a joint campaign.
The original terms of the donation, which required that the school raise $7 million by 2020, proved difficult. Additionally, Phoenix residents reportedly weren’t thrilled over the potential conversion of the house into an educational facility and were worried about the traffic and noise the transformation would bring. Interested in buying a progenitor to the Guggenheim? You can put down your $12.9-million bids here. AN will follow up on this story when updates become available.
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Design Architects

Architecture abounds at Design Miami 2017

The 14th edition of Design Miami will take place in Miami Beach from December 6-10, 2017, with a series of gallery highlights, auxiliary events, and design curios that will highlight architectural elements and lesser-known pieces from designers both old and new. Highlights include a solo show of furniture designed by Swiss architect Albert Frey for his own Palm Springs home, completed in 1949; a dining table by Chinese architect Ma Yansong of MAD, part of his MAD Martian collection, and an immersive “Isolation Sphere” by French architect Maurice-Claude Vidili from 1971.

New York’s Patrick Parrish Gallery has collaborated with MIT’s Self Assembly Lab to present a series of experimental robotic fabrication displays, including a 3-D calligraphy process that makes objects in a gel suspension. Salon 94 will show a monumental 11.5-foot-tall concrete bench titled Core by London-based designer Philippe Malouin. Clothing brand COS brings their successful Milan bubble installation to Miami this year, this time titled “New Spring Miami.”

The annual Panerai Design Miami/ Visionary Award goes to Mwabwindo School, a collaborative educational project in Zambia by Joseph Mizzi’s 14+ Foundation. The project is designed by Selldorf Architects and will feature original artwork by Rashid Johnson and newly-commissioned furniture by Christ & Gantenbein.

Other talks that are part of Design Miami include  about queer space with Rafael de Cardenas and Aaron Betsky, and “Spatializing Blackness,” with USC architecture dean Milton S.F. Curry, architect Sir David Adjaye, artist/designer Amanda Williams, artist Hank Willis Thomas, and Watts House Project cofounder Edgar Arceneaux.

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Bent Into Shape

How Ball-Nogues Studio crafted this sculptural steel pavilion for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
The Max Factor Building—built in 1974 by A.C. Martin & Associates as an extension to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles—has never really been well-loved. The forlorn hospital complex is made up of a trio of institutional towers placed atop a pair of parking structures that are arranged around what should be a courtyard but is actually a five-lane boulevard that delves underneath the main tower. In a 1992 review of complex for The Los Angeles Times, critic Aaron Betsky described the black glass and limestone-clad structures as an example of “purposeful blandness” and labeled the hospital an “anti-urban bunker of bad form.” Flash forward to 2017: The towers remain unchanged in their appearance but stand renewed along the podium terraces that flank either side of Gracie Allen Drive, where AHBE Landscape Architects and Ball-Nogues Studio (BNS) recently completed work on new healing gardens and a pavilion, respectively. According to Calvin Abe, principal at AHBE Landscape Architects, the terraces had been a forgotten public space at the hospital for many years, a fact Abe hoped his interventions could shift by reorienting the way patients and visitors arrived at Cedars, as they made their way from the parking structure to the hospital proper. Benjamin Ball, principal at BNS, explained that the neglected terrace “had not been given much consideration as public place for the hospital” when originally designed, a fact worsened by its sensitive location sandwiched between air intake grilles and operating rooms. The arrangement meant that any construction activity would have to be undertaken rather silently and without generating much dust. To boot, the site’s existing structural arrangement meant that improvements would need to be vigorously studied in order to guarantee that new loads were being resolved without disrupting the podium’s original structural grid. As a result, the project team came to consider the site as more of a performative skin than a static structure. The surface-level project tries to heal the “epidermis of the complex,” as Abe explains, referring to the outermost public region of the hospital, by “grafting a piece of living, breathing landscape above the existing parking decks.” To achieve this goal, the firm re-designed the two terrace areas as a series of multi-functional outdoor garden rooms—what they call “portable gardens” due to the fact that the structural requirements forbade permanent installation of these new planters. Even so, Abe was able to soften the edges of the terraces with wide swaths of tall grasses, wooden boardwalks and benches, and ancillary, succulent-rich beds framed in three eights inch thick stainless steel sheets. Along the north arm of the terrace, sinuous benches made from kiln-dried Brazilian hardwood pop in and out of their surroundings, sometimes nestled into supple berms, at other times sitting proudly under the sun above the boardwalk. The planted areas are mirrored in a more minimal and integrated fashion across the way, where the edges of the wide, wavy beds seamlessly transition from stainless steel border to wooden bench and back again. The north arm of the terrace is organized as a tripartite band of terraces, with a large wooden boardwalk sandwiched between the grassy precipice and succulent bed. At the center of the run, the path bulges out to make room for BNS’s pavilion, a looming husk crafted by humans and CNC machines out of woven networks of stainless steel tubes. Ball explained that his team wanted to contrast the prototypical architecture of the medical towers with a sculptural pavilion that could stand out on the improved terrace. To counter the geometric, stone-clad exposures of the towers, BNS designed a multi-lobed shade structure that would be inspired by self-supported concrete shell structures but be constructed out of CNC-shaped steel tubing. “We tried to develop a language that could only be achieved using this type of machine-shaped caged shell,” Ball explained. Ball described the pavilion as having “no hierarchy in terms of structure,” a quality that would instead be lended by the pavilion’s billowing forms, which themselves were finessed by the quotidien requirements of the structure’s lateral loads. The billowing form wraps over the walkway on one side and frames a smooth, J-shaped bench underneath a parallel and transversal lobe. When seen from the boardwalk, the structures appear squat and wide, a quality that disappears entirely when the pavilion is viewed from the opposite edge, where the shells rise proud of the boardwalk and slip past one another. BNS, working with local fabricator Hensel Phelps, worked to meld into reality a form that not only faithfully represented the computer-generated mass—Rhino and Maya were used, among other programs—but that also reflected what the CNC machines could ultimately produce. Ball explained that the design and fabrication teams had to work iteratively to establish limitations for the structure, adding that  the back-and-forth process ultimately “outlined the aesthetics of the project—It created the rule book, not the other way around.” The structure was eventually fabricated off site, assembled in its entirety prior to installation, and finally craned into place. Ultimately, the structure came within a two centimeter tolerance of the digital model, due in equal measure to the digital tools and the highly skilled craftwork of the fabricators. Ball explained finally: “To get a project like this to look polished and highly crafted, you need hand skills.”