Search results for "Columbia University GSAPP"

Placeholder Alt Text

Double Dutch 2.0

Could jump roping robots change how we think about architectural drawing?

"Movement was always an underlying instigator to how I look at form," explains architect Amina Blacksher, who began ballet at age six. Her work crosses boundaries and unifies seemingly disparate practices, as she now, among many other things, uses the tools and methods of an architect to investigate the place of robots in our lives and the relationship between the analog and digital. Most recently, her explorations of movement and robotics have taken the form of two arms that join humans to play jump rope.

Two industrial robotic arms from ABB, jointed similarly to a human's, swing ropes in partnership with a human while people Double Dutch amid the ropes. Custom 3D-printed grips are attached to the robotic manipulators to hold on to the ropes but also to allow for human error, like stepping on a rope, without toppling over the robots.

The Double Dutch project began at Princeton University during the Black Imagination Matters incubator and Blacksher has continued to develop the project, exploring the cultural history of jumping—from children’s games to the Maasai jumping tradition, trying to evoke that “cleansing moment” when suspended in the air.

The Double Dutch robots reveal the intelligence inherent in our bodies: the fact that children’s games possess so much kinetic knowledge that we often overlook and that there is such a profound complexity to sensing and moving through our world. "Rhythm is something we often take for granted," said Blacksher, “but even a simple circle with a jump rope is not a continuous velocity. It’s weighted, it has a rhythmic bias.” It requires choreography, something that is seemingly so "simple" for humans, children even, but incredibly difficult for robots. And these ironies and oppositions are revealing.

The Double Dutch project is part of Blacksher’s mission to help us realize new relationships to robots and a more complicated relationship to the typically divided analog and digital. It's also about normalizing what is likely to become increasingly commonplace human-robot relationships.

As an architectural problem, robots could change how we make and understand space. "No arc is absolutely the same," Blacksher said of the swings made by the jump rope robot. “I’m compiling these micro-deviations to create a pseudospace that could be 3D printed or spun." In a way, the arcs these robots make are a form of architectural drawing, but a drawing through physical space in three dimensions. This is leading Blacksher to ask: “How do you make a drawing that has a duration?”

Architecture began with hand drawing and has obviously been radically impacted by 2D CAD software, then powerful 3D software suites, and more recent technologies like virtual reality. Robotics has the power of "redefining what a drawing is," said Blacksher, moving it into 3D space and “using the body again in the generation of a drawing in a way that makes the design process exponentially more intelligent.” By using digital and physical technology in real space and establishing a unique circuit of the relationships between code, movement, embodiment, image, and space, architects might find new tools and new ways of thinking through design problems. "It’s in the relationship between the analog and digital where I’m interested in finding form."

Blacksher’s research is ongoing. Some of it will be incorporated into future classes at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and updated Double Dutch robots will be exhibited in Los Angeles this fall. Blacksher hopes to "raise the stakes of holding robots to accountability in terms of rhythmic precision, and their relationship to  space and time." She hopes we can see a future where "robots are friends, not just something purely functional."

Placeholder Alt Text

Curatorial Platform

Architect creates app to change how exhibitions are designed
For all the advances in technology over the past decade, the experience of curating and viewing museum shows has remained relatively unchanged. Even though digital archive systems exist and have certainly helped bring old institutions into the present, they have relatively little influence over the ways museum shows are designed and shared. The normal practice is more or less “old school” and even borderline “dysfunctional,” said Bika Rebek, principal of the New York and Vienna–based firm Some Place Studio. In fact, a survey she conducted early on found that many of the different software suites that museum professionals were using were major time sinks for their jobs. Fifty percent said they felt they were “wasting time” trying to fill in data or prepare presentations for design teams. To Rebek, this is very much an architectural problem, or at least a problem architects can solve. She has been working over the past two years, supported by NEW INC and the Knight Foundation, to develop Tools for Show, an interactive web-based application for designing and exploring exhibitions at various scales—from the level of a vitrine to a multi-floor museum. Leveraging her experiences as an architect, 3D graphics expert, and exhibition designer (she’s worked on major shows for the Met and Met Breuer, including the OMA-led design for the 2016 Costume Institute exhibition Manus x Machina), Rebek began developing a web-based application to enable exhibition designers and curators to collaborate, and to empower new ways of engaging with cultural material for users anywhere. Currently, institutions use many different gallery tools, she explained, which don’t necessarily interact and don’t usually let curators think spatially in a straightforward way. Tools for Show allows users to import all sorts of information and metadata from existing collection management software (or enter it anew), which is attached to artworks stored in a library that can then be dragged and dropped into a 3D environment at scale. Paintings and simple 3D shapes are automatically generated, though, for more complex forms where the image projected onto a form of a similar footprint isn’t enough, users could create their own models.  For example, to produce the New Museum’s 2017 show Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Rebek rendered the space and included many of the basic furnishings unique to the museum. For other projects, like a test case with the Louvre's sculptures, she found free-to-use models and 3D scans online. Users can drag these objects across the 3D environments and access in-depth information about them with just a click. With quick visual results and Google Docs-style automatic updates for collaboration, Tools for Show could help not just replace more cumbersome content management systems, but endless emails too. Rebek sees Tools for Show as having many potential uses. It can be used to produce shows, allowing curators to collaboratively and easily design and re-design their exhibitions, and, after the show comes down it can serve as an archive. It can also be its own presentation system—not only allowing “visitors” from across the globe to see shows they might otherwise be unable to see, but also creating new interactive exhibitions or even just vitrines, something she’s been testing out with Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. More than just making work easier for curators and designers, Tools for Show could possibly give a degree of curatorial power and play over to a broader audience. “[Tools for Show] could give all people the ability to curate their own show without any technical knowledge,” she explained. And, after all, you can't move around archival materials IRL, so why not on an iPad? While some of the curator-focused features of Tools for Show are in the testing phase, institutions can already request the new display tools like those shown at Vizcaya. Rebek, as a faculty member at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, has also worked with students to use Tools for Show in conjunction with photogrammetry techniques in an effort to develop new display methods for otherwise inaccessible parts of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, a history and naval and aerospace museum located in a decommissioned aircraft carrier floating in the Hudson River. At a recent critique, museum curators were invited to see the students’ new proposals and explore the spatial visualizations of the museum through interactive 3D models, AR, VR, as well as in-browser and mobile tools that included all sorts of additional media and information.
Placeholder Alt Text

A Look Inside

Unmentionables Symposium promises a fresh look at the current state of interior architecture
This spring, the Woodbury School of Architecture in Los Angeles will once again present the Unmentionables Symposiuman experimental program made up of talks and interactive performances that aims to provide a fresh look at the current state of interior architecture. Presented by Woodbury’s Department of Interior Architecture, the symposium hopes to go further than past years by providing a “forum for rarely mentioned ideas in spatial practice and theory” that also interrogates the conventional format of the symposium itself. Last presented in 2017, the biennial gathering aims to bring to light some of the conveniently ignored elements of interior architecture. The 2017 symposium showcased wide-ranging lectures on the importance of curtains in architecture, for example, as well as panel discussions centered around air and atmosphere, labor issues, and gender, among other topics. Rather than engaging in the conventional lecture- and panel discussion-focused programming for the 2019 event, symposium coordinator Maria Kobalyan explained that the organizers instead hope to embrace new discursive formats and open-ended presentations in tandem with under-sung topics. Kobalyan added, “We just don’t want people to be sitting down all day.” This year’s symposium is set to take place at WUHO Gallery in Hollywood and will feature keynote presentations by Jane Rendell, Director of Architectural Research at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and Joel Sanders of Joel Sanders Architect. Rendell has written extensively on gendered urban spaces and on the blurred lines between art and architectural practice, among other topics, while Sanders practices architecture and has also published a book on inclusive bathroom design. Other speakers include Los Angeles architect Lauren Amador; Los Angeles-, Richmond-, and London-based Peter Culley of Spatial Affairs Bureau; and Deborah Schneiderman of DeSc: Architecture and Pratt University.

The full list of speakers:

  • Lauren Amador, Principal, Amador Architecture
  • Amy Campos, Associate Professor and Chair of Interior Design, California College of the Arts
  • Annie Coggan, Adjunct Associate Professor of Interior Design, Pratt Institute
  • Matthew Gillis, Principal, G!LL!S; Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Interior Architecture, Woodbury University
  • Parsa Rezaee, MArch 1 Candidate, Woodbury University
  • Jennifer Meakins, Adjunct Faculty Adjunct Professor of Interior Architecture, Woodbury University, California Polytechnic State University Pomona
  • Emily Pellicano, Assistant Professor, Marywood University School of Architecture
  • Bryony Roberts, Founder, Bryony Roberts Studio; Assistant Professor, Columbia GSAPP
  • Cathrine Veikos, Professor of Architecture, California College of the Arts
  • Deborah Schneiderman, Principal/Founder, deSc, Professor of Interior Design, Pratt Institute
  • Igor Siddiqui, Associate Professor and Program Director of Interior Design, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Rossen Ventzislavov, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Woodbury University
The symposium is set to take place on April 6. See the Unmentionables Symposium website for more information.
Placeholder Alt Text

Political Innovation

Andrés Jaque offers an approach to "intersectional architecture"

Andrés Jaque is the founder of the New York and Madrid–based Office for Political Innovation. By exploring the expanded potential of architecture through both speculative and realized designs, the firm has received numerous accolades, including the 2015 MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program and the 2016 Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts. In 2014, Jaque’s SALES ODDITY: Milano 2 and the Politics of Direct-to-Home TV Urbanism garnered a 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale Silver Lion award. The 2011 IKEA Disobedients was the first “architectural performance” piece to enter the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. In this project, local residents were invited to hack IKEA furniture, and in doing so publicly perform their everyday private talents and determine their own lifestyles. The project suggests that not all people necessarily abide by the same normative principles or architectural dictates. Jaque is also the director of the Columbia University GSAPP postgraduate Advanced Architectural Design program.

As a member of this year’s AN Best of Design Awards jury, Jaque spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper contributor Adrian Madlener about the current state of architecture. 

The Architect’s Newspaper: What roles do architecture and urbanism play in addressing today’s global challenges?

Andrés Jaque: Architecture and urbanism have a responsibility to mediate some of the most pressing topics reshaping contemporary life: environmental degradation, mounting geopolitical tensions, and the articulation of physical and virtual worlds. There are three unavoidable facts facing society today: Climate change is forcing humanity to redefine how we engage with nature; technology is becoming increasingly autonomous, making it impossible for humanity to maintain control over its impact; and the evolving interaction society has with the offline and the online realms is blurring the distinction between what is real and what is virtual.

Attempting to set clear boundaries between these two realities requires a greater effort. Architecture plays an important role in all these issues. The field has a great capacity and responsibility in the making of facts catering to the collective sense of truth that all forces in society should now—more than ever—respect. Architecture is in the best disciplinary position it has ever been to shape the present and propose potential scenarios for the future.

AN: How can the discipline look to the past to inform the present?

AJ: As architects, we have to reflect on our practice, but also on our legacy. On one hand, we need to develop new ways to operate and respond to changing societal and environmental paradigms. On the other hand, we need to reconsider how we view our predecessors, how we understand and learn from architectural history. Just a few years ago, figures like Cedric Price, Lina Bo Bardi, the Ant Farm collective, and Frederick Kiesler were seen as marginal. Today, these unsung innovators are proving to be the best sources of information for tackling the field’s evolutionary challenges.

AN: You often say that architecture needs to incorporate knowledge from other disciplines. What are the benefits of this interdisciplinary approach?   

AJ: Architecture has the unique capacity to express different perspectives, materialities, temporalities, and scales in interventions charged with multiplicity. Whatever priorities we’re going to address, our response needs to be informed by different realities. Architecture is not an isolated practice. We have to consult other fields: science, art, technology, etcetera. In that way, the discourse around our discipline is becoming more intersectional. It’s important to understand that the design of a building or environment cannot just be accomplished with form and aesthetics alone. Different political, social, economic, and ecological implications need to be considered if a design is to be relevant. 

I defend the concept of intersectional architecture in my capacity as a practitioner and educator. My goal is to develop methodologies that can shift architecture’s interdependence on different realities into an opportunity to engage criticality and to intervene in many areas of contemporary life that are currently being disputed.

AN: Do any of your current projects exemplify the concept of intersectional architecture?

AJ: At Office for Political Innovation, we’re currently designing an experimental school. The project obliges us to simultaneously consider the daily life of its students, but also the larger context that they will occupy. On a larger scale, we’re actually structuring an ecosystem that addresses its own consumption. This aspect will also become an important resource when teaching the students about sustainability. 

We’re also currently designing a house on one of the outer islands near Corpus Christi, Texas. Our proposal offers solutions on different levels. On one hand, it’ll serve as a getaway for a Dallas-based family; on the other, it’ll collect fresh rainfall to irrigate the surrounding mangrove—an important line of defense that can combat erosion and rising sea levels. The house can accommodate the owner’s almost hedonistic desires while still ensuring the survival of its surroundings. What we’re realizing in our practice is that architecture needs to simultaneously cater to different realities within a single response. A design has the ability to address often disparate elements and perspectives.

AN: From your experience as a cocurator of 2018’s Manifesta 12 biennial in Palermo, Italy, how do you think art practice influences the way we imagine and/or create cities?

AJ: Palermo is not a city but rather a hub for the stratified relationships that tie it to distant places like sub-Saharan West Africa, Bangladesh, and the United States. These connections occur through the flow of capital and investment—that dispute the future of the city’s built environment—but also the nearby military base that foreign powers use to strike the Middle East and northern Africa. Palermo’s architecture, the dialectic between its role on a local and global level, has proved to be ineffectual in dealing with these transnational interactions.

In this scenario, architecture and art are the only disciplines that can bring heterogeneous situations together. Whether it’s the migration crisis or a personal struggle, these realities simultaneously develop on different scales. Architecture and art can mediate the evolution of these realities by introducing the values of urbanity, new forms of citizenship, and the aesthetics of inclusivity. This can only happen if such interventions take stock of what is already in place and grasp the full scope of complexity that the context might contain. To be truly impactful, the initiatives must cater to all parts rather than just the most powerful elements. An open cultural platform like the Manifesta art biennial offers architects and artists the space to test out independent action that the urgency of commercial commissions rarely provides. 

AN: How is architecture education changing?

AJ: Within the Advanced Architectural Design Program that I direct at Columbia University, students—who already have significant experience with design as a critical medium—explore new forms of practice in different contexts. They gain an analytical understanding that will allow them to intervene and apply architecture as a contemporary methodology. Various speculative exercises allow them to test out how the field could have a wider scope of influence in the future. They don’t learn a predetermined set of skills, but rather work together and with faculty to reinvent architecture as a discipline that can respond to the world’s greatest problems. 

It is crucial that they are able to translate this discursive approach when entering or reentering the profession. In our program, we’re trying to change architectural education by introducing an experimental pedagogy. Students are given the time and space to develop situated projects that address specific, real-world briefs. With its many firms, experts, advocacy agencies, and organizations, New York offers the perfect context for these investigations.

Placeholder Alt Text

Top Five

MoMA picks five finalists for the Young Architects Program 2019
The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 have announced the five finalists for next year’s 20th annual Young Architects Program (YAP). The finalists are each invited to propose an installation design for PS1’s outdoor courtyard in Long Island City, Queens. The winning proposal will be revealed in early 2019 and installed next summer. The selection below hints at MoMA’s commitment to showcasing forward-thinking architects who use eye-catching design, strategic planning, and social media to garner global influence. Not only do these teams create innovative spaces and experiences, but they incorporate imaginative materials and movement into every project they pursue.  Meet the finalists below: Pedro & Juana Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss Mexico City This Mexican design duo has made major splashes in the architecture world since establishing their firm in 2012. Many of their projects feature furniture-driven designs, as seen in their interior public space installation, Dear Rudolph, for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The pair met in 2005 while attending SCI-Arc and formed their practice years later. Not only do they design their own furnishings and fixtures for many of their projects, but they incorporate art and whimsy into every piece. For the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Pedro & Juana created a festive and colorful ceiling full of lanterns and planters within the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Low Design Office (LOWDO) DK Osseo-Asare State College, Pennsylvania DK Osseo-Asare of the Austin, Texas-based firm LOWDO explores the links between sustainability, technology, and geopolitics. Together with his design partner, Ryan Bollom, the young practitioner designs eco-friendly family homes and living systems. In 2017, they created the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP), a transnational project that helps bolster maker ecosystems in Africa by teaching students and young professionals how to reuse recycled materials. One of the firm's biggest projects includes designing and planning the new towns of Koumbi City in Ghana and Anam City in Nigeria. Oana Stanescu & Akane Moriyama New York Romanian architect Oana Stanescu is a founding partner of the New York–based design firm, Family, and cofounder of the Friends of +Pool nonprofit. Her work in architecture features a multidisciplinary approach, which can be seen in the ambitious design of the world’s first floating pool and Family’s 2013 stage design for Kanye West’s Yeezus tour. Stanescu recently stepped out to start a practice under her own name, taking her extensive experience working on exhibition design, public housing, and commercial projects, as well as urban development, with her. She’s has held teaching positions at MIT and Columbia University GSAPP, and served as a critic at Yale and Harvard.  Stockholm-based artist and designer Akane Moriyama weaves the fields of architecture and textile together in her work. After studying at both the Kyoto University of Technology in Japan and the Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Sweden, she began incorporating the practices of dying, knitting, sewing, and printing into her projects. In 2013, she won the Center for American Architecture and Design's competition CURTAINS, installing a large-scale prism made of billowy, sheer drapes in a courtyard at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has been shown widely from Tokyo to Venice. Matter Design Brandon Clifford Boston Matter Design, led by director and cofounder Brandon Clifford, isn't afraid to experiment. The Boston-based design/research studio regularly publishes architectural research into new fabrication techniques but also combines the theoretical with the practical in using those same techniques to create products. This synthesis of research and practice is at the heart of Matter Design; for example, take The Cannibal's Cookbooka guidebook for constructing walls from interlocking pieces of scrap masonry, and Cyclopean Cannibalism, a real-world realization of a "recipe" from the book. Carving, stacking, and discovering new twists on ancient craft techniques have driven much of Matter Design's research. The studio was also recognized with an Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers in 2013. TO Carlos Facio and Jose G. Amozurrutia Mexico City To TO founders Carlos Facio and Jose G. Amozurrutia, the line between art and architecture was meant to be blurred. TO, a small, three-year-old Mexico City–based practice, regularly blends hand-crafting with architectural ideas. For their 2016 Hermés Pavilion in Milan, the studio collaborated with Taller Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo to abstract one element of a typical building—the colonnade—into a spiraling structure made solely of brick piers. The resultant interplay of light and shadow was just as important to the project as the columns themselves, demonstrating the studio's attention to architecture's more ethereal qualities. Past YAP winners include Dream the Combine (2018), Jenny Sabin (2017), and Escobedo Soliz Studio (2016).
Placeholder Alt Text

Best of the West

AIA | LA design awards highlight Southern California's best design
The American Institute of Architects Los Angeles chapter (AIA|LA) has announced its annual design awards winners for 2018, highlighting the work of many of the region's most creative and thoughtful architecture practices. Awarded across three categories—Design, Next LA, and Committee on the Environment (COTE) LA—the organization's award program is designed to recognize achievements in overall design, highlight the work by emerging designers, and bring attention to hallmark sustainability-focused projects. Within each category, awards are ranked into "honor," "merit," and "citation" rankings.

Design Awards

This year's design category awards acknowledge a wide array of project types, from an undulating transit station in Seattle by Brooks + Scarpa to a Modernist-inspired winery by Bestor Architecture. The highlighted projects feature simple geometries that come outfitted with performative architectural elements like screen walls and shading devices that not only lend formal interest to each project but also manipulate light in essential and evocative ways. A full list of the design winners is below:
HONOR AWARDS
Animo South Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
Parallax Gap
Washington, DC
Camelot Kids Child Development Center
Los Angeles, CA
KeltnerCo Architecture + Design
Mariposa1038
Los Angeles, CA
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects (LOHA)
Fenlon House
Los Angeles, CA
Martin Fenlon Architecture
Mayumi
Culver City, CA
ShubinDonaldson
MERIT AWARD
Ashes & Diamonds
Napa, CA
Stoneview Nature Center
Culver City, CA
Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
UCSB San Joaquin Student Housing
Santa Barbara, CA
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects
Studio Dental II
San Francisco, CA
Montalba Architects, Inc.
 
CITATION AWARDS
Angle Lake Station
Seattle/SeaTac, WA
Brooks + Scarpa
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
Chicago, Illinois
HDR | Gensler with Clive Wilkinson Architects
Advanced Stem & Design Institutes
Los Angeles, CA
 
G-Cubed
Los Angeles, CA
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
2018 AIA|LA Design awards jury:
Steve Dumez, FAIA – Principal and Director of Design, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple
Elaine Molinar, AIA, LEED AP – Partner and Managing Director – The Americas, Snøhetta
Brett Steele, AA DIPL, HON FRIBA, FRSA – Dean, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture
 

Next LA Awards

AIA|LA's Next LA Awards highlight unbuilt or in-the-works projects that push the envelope in terms of design or programmatic configuration. Synthesis Design + Architecture's Nansha Scholar's Tower in Guangzhou, China, for example, is formally inspired by smooth river rock cultural artifacts known as Gongshi and features a pair of pass-through elevated terraces that cycle air through the mid-rise tower's core. R&A Architecture and Design's Sunset Tower, on the other hand, proposes to use extended, undulating floor plates to create variable balcony and terrace spaces for a speculative development in West Hollywood. A full list of the Next LA winners:
HONOR
Boyle Tower
Los Angeles, CA
MUTUO
MERIT
Apertures
Mexico City, Mexico
Belzberg Architects
The New Center of Science & Technology in Suzhou
Shishan Park, Suzhou, China
Kevin Daly Architects
Pioneertown House
Pioneertown, CA
PARA-Project
Camp Lakota
Frazier Park, CA
Perkins+Will
Mercado El Alto
Puebla, Mexico
Rios Clementi Hale Studios
CITATION
MLK1101 Supportive Housing
Los Angeles, CA
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects
Sunset Tower
West Hollywood, CA
R&A Architecture + Design
Nansha Scholar's Tower
Guangzhou, China
Synthesis Design + Architecture & SCUT Architectural Design & Research Institute
2018 AIA|LA Next LA awards jury: 
David Benjamin – Founding Principal, The Living, and Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP
Mario Cipresso, AIA – Associate Principal, Hawkins/Brown
Elizabeth Timme – Co-Founder, LA-Más

COTE LA Awards

The Committee on the Environment (COTE) LA awards focus on performance and sustainability. Gensler's CSUN Sustainability Center at the California State University, Northridge, campus in the San Fernando Valley utilizes recycled materials and furniture, makes efficient use of passive lighting, and features solar-powered electricity and hot water. The Arizona State University Biodesign Institute C complex by ZGF Architects, an Honor award winner, delivers energy savings of over 44 percent when compared to existing campus laboratories. The full list of COTE LA winners:
HONOR
Arizona State University Biodesign Institute C Tempe, AZ
ZGF Architects
CSUN Sustainability Center
Northridge, CA
Gensler
 
MERIT
Otis College of Art and Design Campus Expansion Los Angeles, CA Ehrlich | Fisher   UCSB BioEngineering Santa Barbara, CA Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners   West Hollywood Automated Parking Garage West Hollywood, CA LPA, Inc.   CITATION Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, Pitzer College Claremont, CA Carrier Johnson + Culture  
2018 AIA|LA COTE LA awards jury: 
William Leddy, FAIA – Founding Principal, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
Douglas E. Noble, FAIA – Director, Master of Building Science USC School of Architecture
Anne Schopf, FAIA – Partner, Mahlum Architects
Placeholder Alt Text

The Circle of Life

GSAPP’s DeathLAB examines evolving attitudes towards mortality
The SANAA-designed 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art at Kanazawa, Japan, is hosting the exhibition DeathLAB: Democratizing Death, featuring works by the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP)-based, transdisciplinary lab, led by associate professor of architecture Karla Rothstein. The exhibition is free and runs through March 24, 2019. The exhibition covers DeathLAB's architectural and artistic proposals that address the changing nature of spaces of death in contemporary society, a topic with particular relevance to Japan. The Japanese urban landscape is stressed by over-population, declining birthrates, and an aging population. Due to a shortage of space, people have begun seeking affordable space-saving burial measures. For example, in Tokyo, CNN reported on the Ruriden, a repository of LED-lit Buddha statues, and Shinjuku Rurikoin Byakurengedo, a futuristic temple designed by Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama of Amorphe. It contains a “smart library for ashes” that transports people using a conveyor belt system to underground urns. Alternative practices such as online funerals are also on the rise. The exhibition showcases DeathLAB’s ongoing work in this area through a three-part film and architectural models. The films feature interviews with experts in areas ranging from philosophy to historic preservation.
An illuminated model of Constellation Park, a 2014 unbuilt project, has been assembled for the show. According to a statement by the museum’s curator, Yoshiko Takahashi, “the project proposed nesting thousands of light-emitting ‘memorial vessels’ underneath New Yorkʼs iconic Manhattan Bridge. Harnessing the human bodyʼs latent bio-energy, the memorial vessels would be populated with calibrated microbial colonies to gradually decompose corpses over the course of a year, generating methane that would, in turn, be used to illuminate the vessel network in a dazzling constellation of mourning lights.” The lab believes that death transcends differences of “ethnicity, religion, and political/economic constraints." Constellation Park is meant to be an example of how death can be “democratized” in the metropolis. The project reinterprets the process of biodegradation present in natural burials. It is inspired by the 1960s Japanese Metabolist movement that was enamored with the relationship between organic biological growth and architecture. Check out this link for more details.
Placeholder Alt Text

In Deep Water

Columbia professor Anthony Acciavatti on the technical engineering of India’s sacred river
Anthony Acciavatti, Columbia GSAPP Professor and award-winning author, delivered a lecture at Greenpoint creative space A/D/O earlier this week on his 2015 book titled Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River. The event is part of the company's #Waterfutures Research Program that challenges designers and researchers to rethink the global drinking water crisis. Acciavatti reflected on his decade-long fieldwork where he traveled by foot, boat, and car to document the Ganges River basin from its source in the Himalayas to the historic city of Patna nearly 1,000 kilometers downstream. During the lecture, Acciavatti explained the difficulties of obtaining satellite imagery at a time when web-mapping services such as Google Maps were not yet invented. Instead, he resorted to designing and building his own instruments to map and visualize the region’s data. As a founding partner at Somatic Collaborative, Acciavatti is now actively working with his partner Felipe Correa, who was recently named Chair of Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, as well as Indian authorities to realize his research and designs for the region. The Ganges is a trans-boundary river, which crosses India, Bangladesh, and other South Asian countries. According to various reports, the Ganges is highly polluted by human activity, but it still is the source of drinking water for over 400 million people. Acciavatti's book doesn't focus on the region’s pollution, but instead investigates the 19th century British engineering that made the network of irrigation canals and aqueducts possible. He was also interested in identifying the political implications of how water became a powerful political resource throughout the river’s historical evolution and what it means today.
Placeholder Alt Text

Starting June 1

Andrés Jaque to direct Columbia GSAPP's advanced architectural design program
This week Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP) Dean Amale Andraos broke the news that Andrés Jaque will direct the school's Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design (AAD) program, starting June 1. The program is a three-semester professional degree for those who hold a B.Arch or M.Arch. Current Director and Associate Professor Enrique Walker will cede the reigns to Jaque after a decade of directing the AAD program (Walker will continue to teach at GSAPP).

"I am thrilled for Andrés Jaque to take on the directorship of GSAPP’s Advanced Architectural Design program. He has been an important member of our faculty who is greatly admired by faculty and students alike for his unique reframing of architecture and its ability to engage the urgent issues of our time, as well as his ability to re-shape design and contemporary practice through his influential pedagogical approach,” said Dean Amale Andraos, in prepared remarks. "I’m very thankful for the rigorous vision and dedication that Enrique Walker has brought to the program during his directorship. Enrique established a strong legacy of bringing experimental approaches to research and design, and built a program that is firmly grounded in forming positions through design."

Jaque has taught at GSAPP since 2015. He is the founder of the New York- and Madrid-based studio Office for Political Innovation, which explores architecutre through built work as well as performance.

Placeholder Alt Text

Make Your Voice Heard

How can architecture criticism give everyone a seat at the table?
As Christopher Hawthorne moves on from the Los Angeles Times and as new forms of criticism proliferate, we asked the architecture community what the role of the critic is today, and what it might be missing. What do you see as the role of the critic in architecture today? Why is it important? What aspects of architecture are not being addressed today by critics? What are the problems with criticism today? Here are the responses we received from those who felt that architecture criticism is inherently political and should be approached as such, from across the country and abroad. How can women and people of color be included in the conversation when the field has typically buried their voices? This article was originally published in our May print issue, and was preceded by a selection of answers from architecture critics themselves and those who thought that the internet has fundamentally changed the field. Nolan Boomer Arts critic and editor of Take Shape. “At the core of architectural criticism is the realization that setting is not the backdrop of humankind’s story, but actually a character that shapes its plot...some of the best criticism appears in other genres like fiction and poetry, but it often isn’t considered as such.” Alice Twemlow Head of Design Curating and Writing Masters at Design Academy Eindhoven and professor of design at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. “If you take architecture to be less about individual buildings, and more about the structural, political, and conceptual framing of the shifting relationship between public and private space, (which I do) then the role of the architecture critic merges with that of the social critic and, in that respect, is immensely important. When that framing is thoughtful and brilliant, she should make sure we hear about it; and when the framing is uninformed or unfair, she should also make sure we hear about it. She should remind us of the past, respond to the current situation, and anticipate or lead future moves. She should advocate for the right of every public citizen to access the aesthetic and practical benefits of the built environment whilst being protected from it failings and harmful effects. And if that sounds like hard work, and that it encroaches on the territory of urban planning, social politics, environmental science, ethics, and philosophy, that’s because it is, and it does.” Mitch McEwen Assistant professor at Princeton University School of Architecture and partner of A(n) Office. “Architecture has made so many heroic and visionary claims, and also failed so many people for so long. The architecture critic can sort through these claims and failures and new potentials, both for us and for a wider public.” Mark Foster Gage Principal of Mark Foster Gage Architects and the assistant dean of the Yale School of Architecture. “I think there is an old notion of a critic who tells you if something is good or not. This is outdated and it probably comes from [Gene] Siskel and [Roger] Ebert on television, watching movies—‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down.’ Here the critic is an arbiter of taste. It’s not helpful: it’s about judgment rather than a new opening of discussion. It’s a closure, stopping conversation cold. Once you call a movie bad, why discuss it? I believe a critic is a person that opens people’s eyes as to WHY certain things are notable in various disciplines (or outside of them). A critic should be opening conversations, prompting curiosity, and inciting interest. I also think it is the responsibility of the critic to focus on contemporary work and issues—‘the new’ is always in most need of support and discussion, especially among those who feel intimidated or uncomfortable about it. This is what the critic is supposed to do, make it possible to bring more people into the conversation about any type of work. They are stewards of curiosity and interest, not judges of success or failure.” Enrique Ramirez Writer and architectural historian based in Brooklyn. “This question presumes that criticism is important to the discipline and practice of architecture. To say so is to admit to a certain kind of hubris. Criticism is not needed, for no matter if critics decide to take on the mantle of an investigative magistrate and try to shed light on a particular issue, to watch different actors scurry about once their particular malfeasances become exposed, to say: ‘Aha, Architecture...YOU’VE BEEN CAUGHT’...this is criticizing, but is it criticism? I used to think, ‘Yes, it is.’ It’s not. An architectural critic may tell you, ‘Look at this building ...Modernism is EVIL!’ or ‘Postmodernism is TRITE!’ or ‘Everything coming out of UCLA or Michigan is MAGENTA and CORNFLOWER BLUE!’ Okay, but so what? If that is the mode of engagement that architectural critics prefer, then I want no part of it. As critics, we need to look at colleagues in other fields to see how they advocate for the cultural relevance of their object of inquiry, for this is at the heart of criticism. Architectural criticism seems stuck in a kind [of] mode that conflates ‘criticism’ with ‘criticizing,’ one that privileges the dressing down of a building over everything else. Architecture lives in the world at large, and as critics, we need to state how this is the case.” José Esparza Chong Cuy Associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. “I believe that an informed public opinion of what needs to be celebrated and denounced is more important than ever. Contemporary life is shaped by so many invisible mechanisms that need to be exposed to the day-to-day eye. There are so many things at play regulated by sociopolitical, economic, and environmental factors in the spaces we inhabit that we need to have thought out critical positions to be able to act accordingly, both socially and professionally. Having a better understanding of these invisible mechanisms could potentially open new ways of operating. Moreover, I believe that all critical mediums should make an attempt to cover rural environments. It is clear that city-living is not the only option, but critics should make an effort to cover stories about rural life and the rural landscapes to connect the practice or architecture to these settings as well. We tend to forget how interconnected the rural and urban contexts are, and the critic should use its platform to inform how one setting feeds off the other and vice versa.” Bika Rebek Founding principal of Some Place, and an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia GSAPP. “A master of expansive writing reaching all fringes, and perhaps my favorite critic is Karl Kraus. While architecture is just one of his wide-ranging interests, his writing is personal, angry, funny, extremely timely and unconcerned with the consequences. Contemporary architectural criticism would benefit from this fearlessness and sense of humor. With more pointed controversy, critics could attract wider audiences and become part of an age-old dialogue, spinning the web further through the lens of our time.” Jesse LeCavalier  Designer, writer, and educator whose work explores the architectural and urban implications of contemporary logistics. He is the author of The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment, assistant professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the Daniel Rose Visiting Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Architecture. “Foucault’s appeal to a kind of criticism focused on curiosity, attention, stewardship, and imagination remains, for me, an appealing statement about the potential role of the critic: ‘I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes—all the better. All the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination.’ While thoughtful and perceptive engagement with buildings will always be important, I feel like now more than ever we need to develop an expanded understanding the larger forces shaping the built environment, from our own consumer choices to larger policy transformations, their implications, and ways to engage them.” Kate Wagner Creator of McMansion Hell and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University researching concert hall design in transition from late- to post-modernism. “Architecture is inherently political on its own! While the city is relevant to the building, we should avoid using the city as a crutch.” Fred Scharmen Teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning. His first book, Space Settlements, will be out later this year. “I saw a joke on Twitter the other week that said: ‘Every academic discipline has another academic discipline which watches them, occasionally making sarcastic comments.’ For architecture, criticism gets even weirder, because this shadow discipline is supposed to do at least two more other things: it’s meant to be internalized, so architects should be working and self-critiquing at almost the same time; and it’s also supposed to be outward-facing, to explain what’s going on inside the discipline to an external audience. So somehow we’re all meant to be our own worst and best critics, hecklers, and narrators, all at once. This situation is messed up.” Peggy Deamer Professor of architecture at Yale University, an architect practicing in New York, and content coordinator of the Architecture Lobby. “The role of the critic is to inform both the public and the discipline about what aesthetic, economic, cultural, or social value is potentially embedded in that discipline and point out examples that are good or bad in relation to that potential. Critics aren’t identifying the connection between how we in the discipline work—with illegal, economically naive, sexist, and formally myopic protocols—and the poverty of what we are asked to work on (rich peoples second houses; the occasional private institution) and the consequent lack of respect and financial stability.” David Grahame Shane Adjunct professor in the Urban Design program at Columbia GSAPP. “Architectural criticism is not important as there is so little architecture of quality produced today by large firms or clients to consider. Look at Hudson Yards or the World Trade Center, and weep. The profession is BIM-ed and value-engineered to death. Public commissions and competitions that once gave openings to critics and young firms have disappeared along with small bookstores and magazines. Chat rooms and the academy remain as hermetic critical fortresses with their own private codes and handshakes. Sadly public intellectuals and critics are a disappearing breed, dying off in the new architectural ecology, occasionally spotlighted by museums as avant-garde and remote insights. It’s not a pretty picture, but surely in the future people will regain a sense of shared communities in the city and countryside and a new breed of architectural critics and architectural practice will re-emerge.” Michael Sorkin Architect, author, educator and founding principal of Michael Sorkin Studio. “The critic’s duty is resistance!  As the country careens toward full-on fascism, its environment assailed and warfare looming, we must defend the social architectures of civility and not lose ourselves in the artistic weeds.  A critic who fails to assail Trump, supports him.” Kelsey Keith Editor-in-Chief of Curbed. “Architecture as a study and as a practice has done a lot to isolate itself. I think that the built environment matters so much because it affects and influences people in the places they live. I speak not as an academic or as a critical theorist, but as someone who genuinely loves all this, wants it to be better, and believes that end is achieved in part via criticism. An architecture critic’s role in society today is to contextualize—whether the point is to educate, or entertain, or satisfy some curiosity: ‘Why are A-frames suddenly so popular again? Why is it important to preserve the work of a rare woman project lead from a midcentury architecture firm?’ Most critics are too busy broadcasting their own well-formed opinions to actually listen to the zeitgeist. Dialogue is important, but so is listening to others—as a knowledge-gathering tool or when their perspectives differ from your own.” Abdalilah Qutub (Abdul Qutub)   Co-founder of Socially Condensed Fully-Built Enviromemes. “The role of the architectural critic today goes beyond the immediate issues surrounding a building, but also includes the larger ethical practices and impacts in which the participants in the architectural field might be involved. There are two main themes that are not really being fully addressed today: Workers’ rights issues and the overwhelming whiteness of the field. The dominance of white men now only further keeps alive the whiteness of the field that has been passed on by previous generations. Recent efforts within the #MeToo movement and the allegations that have recently come out against Richard Meier further reveal some of the underlying power structures in the field and how they are being abused. Criticism alone is not going to solve these problems without the provocation of direct action from the architectural and associated fields (strikes, demonstrations, and protests).” Nicholas Korody Co-founder of the experimental architecture practice Adjustments Agency, co-curator of the architecture store domesti.city, and editor-in-chief of the architecture publication Ed. “The role of the critic today is first and foremost to draw attention to the architecture of architecture—that is, the ways in which ‘architecture’ is not a given, but rather something constructed and therefore mutable. Within the discipline and profession, we take for granted that certain things, from exploitative labor practices to rampant sexism and even assault, come with the territory. They do not have to. Alongside this, we accept with little criticality the complicity of architecture with capital, with the end result that not only do we now design only for the select few, we also help fuel the conversion of our cities into playgrounds for speculative finance. This relationship is historically specific, and the role of the critic is to both point this out and to imagine alternatives. Critics today tend toward the myopic. They see a form and not what’s behind it: labor relations, environmental degradation, capital accumulation, displacement of people. Every act of construction has cascading effects far beyond the building site. Critics must contend with this. Broadly speaking, it is a conservative field. Many supposedly liberal or even leftist critics are in fact advocating for a maintenance of the status quo, which is a violent position to take. There are far too few voices demanding truly radical change within the discipline. Criticism is itself a form of practice, a way of imagining possibilities where others see none. Integral to that is looking far beyond the discipline, far beyond buildings. Most importantly, critics must take positions—albeit ones capable of change—and fight for them. Political neutrality does not exist. A good critic loves architecture so much they despise everything about it.” Ana María León Trained as an architect, León is a researcher and architecture historian at the University of Michigan. “Critics link the discipline not only to a broader audience, but also to larger concerns that often escape architecture’s purview. If good histories take a critical view of the past, good critiques are able to historicize the present. Our current political moment urgently needs more critical voices. Critics are still overwhelmingly white, male, and Western. This is not to say that white, male, Western critics are unable to look beyond their own identities, but representation matters, and a diversity of voices tends to insure a diversity of opinions and points of view. I would love it if say, The Architect’s Newspaper reached out to critics in South America, Africa, Asia, and asked them to review events and buildings there for a broader public.” Eva Franch i Gilabert Architect, educator, curator, founder of Office of Architectural Affairs (OOAA), current executive director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture and future director of the Architectural Association. “A critic is the historian of the present, or the present future, or as Reyner Banham’s intellectual biography points out, of the immediate future. To understand the power of architecture, unveil it, and transmit it to a larger audience is the most benevolent image of the critic, but the most seminal and most needed is to allow the field to find positions beyond obsessions; to position design culture in relation to the most important issues affecting contemporary culture and the built environment. Any critic needs to go beyond the cliché, the commonplace assumptions behind good design, and understand radical, powerful designs that are able to produce more equitable societies. A critic that is able to read beyond press releases, instant gratifications, three minute impressions of what should be and help us all imagine what actions, ideas, and form could be. The problems with criticism today are the same as the ones with architecture: it is extremely hard to go beyond client-oriented work, to produce designs that question the status quo and the forces at play. The making and buying of history in the PR age is an issue to be investigated thoroughly. It is extremely hard for editors, critics, and architects to keep a critical distance. While this might not be any different than in times past, at least I think there is now a more transparent understanding of sponsored articles, and the influence and power of certain lobbies. The real difficulty of being a critic is that we do not have editorial structures that support criticism in its full flesh. As in many other fields false criticism, sensationalism, scandalous headlines, ...are more in vogue than rigorous - maybe less sensationalist- forms of criticism. The problem is that bad criticism is more profitable in terms of business models; good criticism needs of idea models, less business models....”
Placeholder Alt Text

Letters to the Editor

American Academy of Arts and Letters announces its 2018 Architecture Award winners
The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the honor society for architects, artists, writers, and composers in the U.S., has announced its 2018 Architecture Award winners. This year’s five chosen individuals and firms were whittled down from an initial pool of 32 by jurors Annabelle Selldorf (chair), Kenneth Frampton, Steven Holl, Thom Mayne, James Polshek, Billie Tsien (Academy president), and Tod Williams. The 2018 Arts and Letters Award in Architecture winners will receive $10,000, and are as follows: Brad Cloepfil, principal of the Portland and New York City-based Allied Works Architecture. In his jury statement, Kenneth Frampton said that Brad Cloepfil’s architecture is “exceptionally varied, with a wide range of material expression.” Allied Works has tackled a number of diverse projects as of late, ranging from the National Veterans Museum in Columbus, Ohio, to a stadium expansion in Portland. Boston’s MASS Design Group was cited for its sensitive projects that strengthen community ties. MASS “challenges architectural preconceptions,” Tod Williams said, and focuses on “how architecture might be used as a tool for healing.” “Architecture is inextricably united to social equity,” added Williams. Most recently the firm has drawn nationwide attention for its striking lynching memorial in Montgomery. Author, planner, and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation professor Cassim Shepard was cited for his contributions to urbanism. Billie Tsien lauded Shepard for exploring “the unseen lesser-known city that we all inhabit” in her jury statement. Shepard is the founding editor of the Architectural League of New York’s Urban Omnibus, which examines the modern city through the lenses of justice, design, and urbanism. Most recently, Shepard has published the book Citymakers: the Culture and Craft of Practical Urbanism. Bookseller and architectural publisher William Stout “has nourished architecture culture for over forty years,” according to Steven Holl. William Stout Architectural Books, with locations in San Francisco and Richmond, California, highlights local work as well as essential texts. Chilean architect Smiljan Radic has won the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize, which awards $20,000 to architects of any nationality who have “made a significant contribution to architecture as an art.” Radic “creates strong atmospheric spaces that resonate deeply and transcend the visual,” said Annabelle Selldorf in her jury statement. Radic has been lauded for his clever forms and integration of the landscape into his projects. He was the youngest architect ever selected (at the time) to design a Serpentine Pavilion in 2014, and more recently, Radic was tapped to handle Chile’s contribution to the Vatican’s pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
Placeholder Alt Text

Kenneth Frampton is awarded Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at Venice Biennale
Architect, educator, and author Kenneth Frampton has received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Frampton joins the ranks of past winners such as Paulo Mendes da Rocha in 2016, Phyllis Lambert in 2014, and Álvaro Siza Vieira in 2012. Born in London in 1930 and educated at the Architectural Association, Frampton has worked as an architect, critic, and historian, and taught at a number of vaunted schools over the course of his career. He’s perhaps most well-known for his 1980 work Modern Architecture: A Critical History, which has since become a seminal text in the field. Frampton has also taught consistently at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) since 1972. This year’s decision was made by the chair of the Board of La Biennale di Venezia, Paolo Baratta, with recommendations from the International Architecture Exhibition curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. "Through his work, Kenneth Frampton occupies a position of extraordinary insight and intelligence combined with a unique sense of integrity,” said Farrell and McNamara in a joint statement. “He stands out as the voice of truth in the promotion of key values of architecture and its role in society.  His humanistic philosophy in relation to architecture is embedded in his writing and he has consistently argued for this humanistic component throughout all the various ‘movements’ and trends often misguided in architecture in the 20th and 21st century.” "There is no student of the faculties of architecture who is unfamiliar with his Modern Architecture: A Critical History,” said Baratta in a press release. “The Golden Lion goes this year to a 'maestro,' and in this sense it also intended to be a recognition of the importance of the critical approach to the teaching of architecture.” Other than Modern Architecture: A Critical History, Frampton has authored numerous other influential books clarifying the internal language of the built environment, including Studies in Tectonic CultureLabour, Work and Architecture, and A Genealogy of Modern Architecture: Comparative Critical Analysis of Built Form. Frampton will officially receive his award on Saturday, May 26, 1018, during the award ceremony and inauguration of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. The event will open to the public at 10:00 AM and will be held in the Biennale’s headquarters of Ca’ Giustinian.