Search results for "erin besler"

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Corner Problems

Erin Besler and Marcel Sanchez-Prieto named 2018 Rome Prize Fellows in architecture
Erin Besler of Los Angeles-based Besler & Sons and Marcel Sanchez-Prieto of San Diego- and Tijuana, Mexico-based CRO Studio have been named among the 2018-2019 Rome Prize fellows. The two designers represent winners in the prize’s architecture category and are among 27 other awardees for the year in various other fields.  The annual prize confers a one- to two-year fellowship at the American Academy in Rome’s headquarters in Rome, Italy that includes a stipend for research and room and board accommodations. The awards will result in an exhibition at the institution following an intensive research period.  Besler’s proposal “The Problem with the Corner Problem" will look into the problematic nature of corner conditions in architecture. Sanchez-Prieto’s proposal is titled “Architectural Divides.” Joannie Bottkol of the National Parks Service and Lori Wong of the Getty Conservation Institute were awarded Rome Prize fellowships in the historic preservation category.  Zaneta Hong, assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia, and Michael James Saltarella of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates were awarded Rome Prize fellowships in the landscape architecture category.    Other Rome Prize winners include: Ancient Studies Liana Brent* Allison L. C. Emmerson Eric J. Kondratieff Mark Letteney Victoria C. Moses** Sean Tandy   Literature Kirstin Valdez Quade Bennett Sims   Medieval Studies Anna Majeski* Austin Powell John F. Romano   Modern Italian Studies Franco Baldasso Jim Carter Alessandra Ciucci Musical Composition Michelle Lou Jessie Marino   Renaissance and Early Modern Studies Talia Di Manno Denis J.-J. Robichaud   Visual Arts Michael Ray Charles Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong Helen O’Leary Karyn Olivier Basil Twist   Italian Fellows Ila Bêka Carmen Belmonte Invernomuto (Simone Bertuzzi and Simone Trabucchi) Renato Leotta Francesco Lovino Virginia Virilli Francesco Zorzi *  year two of two-year fellowship ** year one of two-year fellowship
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Exit Through The Pop-Up

Young designers pop up at L.A.’s Geffen Contemporary
Los Angeles–based design consultancy THIS X THAT has unveiled their new Store Pop-Up, a temporary installation of design objects created by a collection of emerging designers that includes Besler & Sons, Bureau Spectacular, and Welcome Companions taking place at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles. The pop-up shop features “limited-edition objects for home and garden that offer imaginative solutions for everyday life,” according to a press release. The diverse collection of objects includes decorative lamps, paperweights, and even garden gnomes, among others. The display brings together five practices in total, with New York City–based New Affiliates and Syracuse, New York–based Architecture Office rounding out the group. For the store display, Besler & Sons designed a trio of informal mobile kiosks that hold the various objects. The Wabi-sabi look of the display—which is dubbed “Trusses on Trucks” by the designers—is derived from “an interest in the iconicity of vernacular built forms, particularly residential house frames, trusses, and the sloped roof itself,” according to a press release. Made from stacked and butt-jointed sheets of plywood, the displays are held together with industrial tension straps and are made to be assembled and disassembled quickly. In terms of the objects on display Besler & Sons also contributed a series of oversized paperweights made out of pink, white, and blue terrazzo. Bureau Spectacular made two contributions to the store, with principal Jimenez Lai designing a blue neon lamp drawn to resemble a scribble and principal Joanna Grant creating a flexible, tube-shaped body pillow. Lai’s lamp was recently added to the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Describing the so-called “snuggle,” Grant said, “It can function as a pillow or an outrageously large scarf," adding that she envisioned an object with "inexact tendencies" that could "conform to different orientations of the body and take on different readings.” Welcome Companions designed a series of leather charms designed to be affixed to handbag handles and tote bag straps. The charms are shaped like over-easy eggs, slices of toast, popsicles, and pills, among other shapes and represent part of the office’s efforts to “inject a sense of play, suspense, and narrative” into everyday objects. New Affiliates brings a similar playfulness to their work, here manifested as a series of  brightly-colored “garden gnomes,” “quasi-functional ornamental objects” designed by the office as flat-packed objects meant to fit anywhere. For the shop, Architecture Office created runs of bespoke wallpaper “designed, cut, and printed in Upstate New York” and inspired by Los Angeles’s sunrises. The wallpaper comes as a vinyl film that can be applied multiple times over smooth surfaces and is meant to be “put up by anyone anywhere to jazz up a monotonous wall with a graphic sparkle and a splash of color.” The works will be on display—and for sale—at the museum gallery through March 19, 2018.
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Back to the Future

Chicago Architecture Biennial announces 2017 participants
The Chicago Architecture Biennial has announced its 2017 list of participants. Artistic directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of Los Angeles-based firm Johnston Marklee selected the 100 firms to present their work at the second Biennial from September 16th, 2017, through January 7th, 2018. This year’s Biennial, titled "Make New History," will take a decidedly historical look at architecture. The show hopes to address the persistent "insistence on creating works that are unprecedented and unrelated to architectures of the past." The participating architects represent a generation which has a renewed interest in historic precedents, while still being interested in progressive architecture. "This year’s list of participants was carefully chosen to showcase the future of architecture and design rooted in history," said Todd Palmer, Executive Director of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. “Through presenting a variety of work, we aim to give visitors of all kinds, from leaders across the global architecture community to the interested traveler, an in-depth look at architecture as we know it today, and the chance to be inspired by how architecture is making new history in cities around the world.” The following participants will present work at the Chicago Cultural Center, as well as sites across the city. 51N4E (Brussels, Belgium; Tirana, Albania) 6A Architects (London, UK) Ábalos+Sentkiewicz (Madrid, Spain; Cambridge, USA; Shanghai, China) Adamo-Faiden (Buenos Aires, Argentina) AGENdA agencia de arquitectura (Medellin, Colombia) Aires Mateus (Lisbon, Portugal) Ana Prvački and SO-IL (Los Angeles, USA; New York, USA) Andrew Kovacs (Los Angeles, USA) Angela Deuber Architect (Chur, Switzerland) Ania Jaworska (Chicago, USA) Aranda\Lasch and Terrol Dew Johnson (New York, USA; Tucson, USA) Archi-Union (Shanghai, China) Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu (Ghent, Belgium) Arno Brandlhuber and Christopher Roth (Berlin, Germany) Atelier Manferdini (Venice, USA) AWP office for territorial reconfiguration (Paris, France; London, UK) Bak Gordon Arquitectos (Lisbon, Portugal) Barbas Lopes (Lisbon, Portugal) Barkow Leibinger (Berlin, Germany) baukuh (Milan, Italy) Besler & Sons LLC (Los Angeles, USA) BLESS (Berlin, Germany) BUREAU SPECTACULAR (Los Angeles, USA) Caruso St John (London, UK) Charlap Hyman & Herrero (Los Angeles, USA; New York, USA) Charles Waldheim (Cambridge, USA) Christ & Gantenbein (Basel, Switzerland) Daniel Everett (Chicago, USA; Salt Lake City, USA) David Schalliol (Chicago, USA) Dellekamp Arquitectos (Mexico City, Mexico) Design With Company (Chicago, USA) Diego Arraigada Arquitectos (Rosario, Argentina) DOGMA (Brussels, Belgium) DRDH (London, UK) ENSAMBLE STUDIO (Madrid, Spain; Boston, USA) Éric Lapierre Architecture (Paris, France) Estudio Barozzi Veiga (Barcelona, Spain) fala atelier (Porto, Portugal) Filip Dujardin (Ghent, Belgium) Fiona Connor and Erin Besler (Los Angeles, USA; Auckland, New Zealand) First Office (Los Angeles, USA) formlessfinder (New York, USA) Frida Escobedo (Mexico City, Mexico) Gerard and Kelly (Los Angeles, USA; New York, USA) Go Hasegawa (Tokyo, Japan) HHF Architects (Basel, Switzerland) Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (Chicago, USA) J. MAYER H. und Partner, Architekten and Philip Ursprung (Berlin, Germany) James Welling (New York, USA) Jesús Vassallo (Houston, USA) Jorge Otero-Pailos (New York, USA) June14 Meyer-Grohbrügge & Chermayeff (New York, USA; Berlin, Germany) Karamuk * Kuo Architects (New York, USA; Zurich, Switzerland) Keith Krumwiede (New York, USA) Kéré Architecture (Berlin, Germany) Kuehn Malvezzi (Berlin, Germany) Luisa Lambri (Milan, Italy) Lütjens Padmanabhan Architekten (Zurich, Switzerland) Made In (Geneva, Switzerland; Zurich, Switzerland) MAIO (Barcelona, Spain) Marianne Mueller (Zurich, Switzerland) Marshall Brown (Chicago, USA) MG&Co. (Houston, USA) MONADNOCK (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) MOS (New York, USA) Norman Kelley (Chicago, USA; New York, USA) Nuno brandåo costa arquitectos Ida (Porto, Portugal) OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen (Brussels, Belgium) PASCAL FLAMMER (Zurich, Switzerland) Patrick Braouezec (Paris, France) Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner (Chicago, USA; Denver, USA) Pezo Von Ellrichshausen (Concepción, Chile) Philipp Schaerer (Zurich, Switzerland) PRODUCTORA (Mexico City, Mexico) REAL Foundation (London, UK) Robert Somol (Chicago, USA) SADAR+VUGA (Ljubljana, Slovenia) Sam Jacob Studio (London, UK) SAMI-arquitectos (Setubal, Portugal) SANAA (Tokyo, Japan) Sauter von Moos (Basel, Switzerland) Sergison Bates (London, UK; Zurich, Switzerland) Serie Architects (London, UK; Zurich, Switzerland) SHINGO MASUDA+KATSUHISA OTSUBO Architects (Tokyo, Japan) Stan Allen Architect (New York, USA) Studio Anne Holtrop (Muharraq, Bahrain; Amsterdam, The Netherlands) Studiomumbai (Mumbai, India) Sylvia Lavin (Los Angeles, USA) T+E+A+M (Ann Arbor, USA) Tatiana Bilbao Estudio (Mexico City, Mexico) Tham & Videgård Arkitekter (Stockholm, Sweden) The Empire (Verona, Italy) The Living (New York, USA) The Los Angeles Design Group (Los Angeles, USA) Thomas Baecker Bettina Kraus (Berlin, Germany) Tigerman McCurry Architects (Chicago, USA) Toshiko Mori Architect (New York, USA) UrbanLab (Chicago, USA; Los Angeles, USA) Urbanus (Shenzhen, China; Beijing, China) Veronika Kellndorfer (Berlin, Germany) WELCOMEPROJECTS (Los Angeles, USA) Work Architecture Company (New York, USA) Zago Architecture (Los Angeles, USA) ZAO/standardarchitecture (Shanghai, China) “Our goal for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial is to continue to build on the themes and ideas presented in the first edition,” said Mark Lee. Sharon Johnston added, “We hope to examine, through the work of the chosen participants, the continuous engagement with questions of history and architecture as an evolutionary practice.”
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Future History

The Architectural League Prize turns 35

It was 1980 and New York City was experiencing its highest crime rate and worst recession since the 1930s. In spite of the doom and gloom that had set in, some were optimistic about the city’s future. One was a young architect who recently arrived to New York from San Francisco. That year, he entered a competition for young architects by proposing a fantastic village of houses atop an abandoned elevated rail line. The competition was the inaugural Young Architects Forum, and the visionary dreamer who saw potential in the rusted viaduct for a thriving community was architect Steven Holl.

Holl’s now legendary Bridge of Houses, the first suggested revitalization of what is now the High Line, was one of 12 winners that year. It was profoundly poetic, hugely influential, and it made the case for both an ideas-based architecture and for having a prize for young architects. The Architectural League of New York couldn’t have wished for a better start for its new program.

Now in its 35th year, the Architectural League Prize (formerly the Young Architects Forum) is a prize with gravitas for young architects that rewards winners with a plum lecture opportunity and a part in an exhibition in New York. It is highly sought after by promising young guns and for good reason. Of the prize’s 200-plus winners, only a small percentage have drifted into obscurity. Most are heading up significant practices and running design schools. Some, like Holl, Billie Tsien, Rick Joy, and Neil Denari are truly famous, bringing to fruition buildings of extraordinary quality that are making their marks on history and influencing generations of architects to come. The prize is not a perfect predictor of future prominence, as it casts its net widely and is open to all architects in North America out of undergraduate or graduate school fewer than 10 years. However, it’s been a pretty good indicator of the people and the ideas likely to matter next.

When it began in 1981, the League Prize was an oasis in a desert of opportunity for young architects. “There was really nothing like it,” said Anne Rieselbach, who as program director for the Architectural League of New York, has shepherded the League Prize program for the past 29 years. There was the P/A Awards sponsored by Progressive Architecture magazine, but that was a different opportunity. And some, like architect Claire Weisz, who won the prize in 1991, considered the P/A Awards to be “out of reach and unattainable.” Weisz credits the League Prize as being hugely influential and an important forum where architects just starting out could get validation amongst their peers. Her winning project, “Beg Borrow and Steal,” which was conceived from borrowed and bartered materials sourced from a closing fashion store and cleverly exhibited on clothes hangers, was her first public collaboration with Mark Yoes, now her partner in WXY.

Architect James Sanders got the program up and running. Prompted by the dearth of opportunities for young architects in a city that was coming out of a recession, Sanders and others established the inaugural competition, which had many of the hallmarks of the current one. There was a poster to get the word out, a competition theme around which contestants organized their work, and a jury. The poster the first year was designed by a young Michael Bierut. And the theme was “Dwelling in the Cracks: Responses to the City.” Like all of the competition themes to follow, it was topical, reflecting current concerns and issues confronting architectural practice, this one being the state of the city. In addition to Sanders, who teamed up with Roy Strickland, the winners that year were Dodie Acklie, David Cagle, Steven Forman, Robert Grzywacz, Alexander Gorlin, Ralph Lerner, Michael McDonough, Mark Schimmenti, David Spiker, Donna Robertson, and Holl. Holl and Gorlin went on to have distinguished careers as designers and Robertson and Lerner (now deceased) made their marks in education as deans: The former at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the latter at Princeton.

When Rieselbach took the reins in 1987, five years into the program, she ushered in some changes: She limited past winners from entering the competition again (Denari was one of two people who won it twice), introduced a publication of the winners’ work in 1999, and secured a new venue for the program in 2010. Prior to 2010, the projects were exhibited at the Villard Houses in the Urban Center’s galleries on 30-by-30-inch boards. Since 2010, Parsons has hosted the show at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center.

Rieselbach recalled some interesting moments. “2006 was a watershed year where everyone did CNC milling. It was really quite amazing.” In terms of where people are from, “A lot of people teaching at Michigan, a lot of interesting young architects from Canada, and plenty of women,” she continued. Most recently, Rieselbach observed a return of the hand in the work, a hybridization of digital and manual techniques. She went on to say that recent winners like Jenny Sabin (2014), Skylar Tibbits (2013), Sean Lally (2012) and, Michael Loverich (2010), in particular, are doing work that tests the boundaries of architecture.

The prize has nurtured many hook ups both personal and professional: Dan and Marie Adams of Landing Studio (2015), Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott of Iwamoto Scott (2002), Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang of nARCHITECTS (2001), Shih-Fu Peng and Roisin Heneghan of Heneghan Peng (1999), David and Paul Lewis (1997) and Marc Tsurumaki (1992) of LTL Architects; Stephen Cassell and Adam Yarinsky, of ARO, (1996); Weisz and Mark Yoes of WXY Studio (1993); and Mónica Ponce de León and Nader Tehrani,(1997), formerly of Office dA. Especially interesting are the three deans of Princeton’s School of Architecture: Ralph Lerner (1981), Stan Allen (1988) and Monica Ponce de Leon (2016).

Many of the winners are now dominating the headlines. nARCHITECTS’s Carmel Place, WXYs’ Salt Shed (with Dattner Architects), and City View Garage in the Miami Design District designed by Dominic Leong (2007) of Leong Leong, and Iwamoto Scott (2012) have been in the pages of many national and international publications, including AN. Without a doubt, the League Prize winners are a fascinating group of mavericks most likely to shape architecture’s future.

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Eleventh edition of SCI-Arc’s academic journal Offramp hits the internet
The Southern California Institute for Architecture (SCI-Arc) released the eleventh edition of its yearly academic journal Offramp this week. This time, the journal pursues the theme of “Ground” and lists SCI-Arc director and CEO Hernan Diaz Alonso as Editor-In-Chief. In a brief for the issue, Alonso puts forth the following provocation: “Issue #11 of Offramp aims to momentarily divert our critical gaze away from the architectural object in order to reflect upon its other: the ground. In a world increasingly resistant to dichotomies between human activity and the natural environment, how should architects conceive of sites, territories, topographies and other manifestations of ground?” The online-only, submissions-based hodgepodge of neo-postmodern eye candy is made up of ten articles supported by heady text and flashy imagery. The issue features an interview with Tom Wiscombe by Zachary Tate Porter, 2015-2016 Design Theory Fellow at SCI-Arc and founder of Office of Contingent Affairs, a thought-experiment of extruded sandwich-inspired buildings by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, a review of Jorge Otero-Pailos’s “Ethics of Dust” by Carolyn Strauss of Slow Research Lab, and a musing on color and background by Erin Besler and Ian Besler of Besler and Sons. The eleventh issue also hosts essays by Nora Wendl, Florencita Pita, Neyran Turan, Alexander Robinson, Stephen Nova, and Benjamin Flowers. Current and past issues of Offramp can be accessed here.
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One-Night Stand

Art and architecture takes over a motel in L.A. for one night only
One-Night Stand LA (ONSLA) is holding its second annual pop-up art show May 14th at the Holiday Lodge Motel in Los Angeles’s Westlake neighborhood. The tongue-in-cheek name comes from the ephemeral nature of an exhibition that brings together dozens of various emerging art and architecture practices in one courtyard motel for one night only. “This event was in response to social media,” Anthony Morey, co-founder of ONSLA said in a press release for the event. “Instead of viewing work online, like most of us already do, we decided to hold an annual event to give people an opportunity to see work in person.” The show was conceived by Morey, William Hu, and Ryan Tyler Martinez as a platform for a wide spectrum of artists and architects to “explore vices, provocations, tendencies, or questions that kept them awake at night” in 2015. Aside from holding the exhibition for a single night, the organizers also pledge to show a featured practices’ work only once, aiming to establish a rotating door for new creative suitors for the L.A. arts scene that opens once every year. Last year’s show featured the work of 20 emerging creative practices, many with ties to the organizers’ alma mater, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) including Mike Nesbit, Besler and Sons, and Sarah Newby. As a result, that year's program showcased a provocative array of digital media-heavy installations, including virtual reality projections and cuddling robots. This year’s show promises more of the same, with ONSLA exhibiting work in each of the motel’s rooms as well as in various locations scattered across the site. 2016's happening is guest curated by Duygun Inal, Debbie Garcia, and Jonathan Crisman and focuses on the theme of “Rendezvous,” that, according to the curators, “encompasses a lot of feelings coming with an expectation but being open to anything that may or may not happen.” Curators Inal and Garcia told AN via telephone, "We are excited to see a lot of construction processs-based work this year. We like to showcase work that maybe isn't cool yet or might never be cool, but that's part of the point for us." With featured work from 30 artists and architects, including works by Andrew Kovacs, Jennifer Bonner & Volkan Alkanoglu, Weather Projects, and Sophie Lauriault, One-Night Stand LA’s promises to bring a sampling of experiences, new and to the city’s art-design scene.    
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TURF, Territory, & Terrain: Materials & Applications uses mini-golf to explore Los Angeles
An upcoming pop-up exhibit at Materials & Applications (M&A), an outdoor experimental space dedicated to architecture and landscape research in Los Angeles, probes the meanings of urban territory and terrain. The project, appropriately named TURF, invited architects, designers, and artists to use the architectural landscape of the mini-golf course as a vessel for exploring the contemporary L.A. condition. The golf course is both plentiful and contentious in Los Angeles: the site of the water-guzzling golf course has been subject to drought-shaming and angry hashtags; the mini-golf course, on the other hand, has become what M&A calls a “playful trope of the city of Los Angeles.” The term “turf”, frequently associated with golf, also connotes territoriality. “When you think golf, you think country club; you think exclusivity,” curator Courtney Coffman told AN. Coffman and co-curator Jia Gu thought the idea of turf would be an interesting point of departure. “We like that it was kind of a loaded term to work with,” Coffman said. The nine winning submissions, which will be constructed for temporary installation, created fantastical mini obstacles exploring themes ranging from drought to traffic to topography, featuring tongue-in-cheek names such as “Pie in the Sky” and “Putt-to-Fit.” Although the project focuses on Los Angeles specifically, not all submissions were by locals, resulting in a wide array of ideas and representations of the city. “We were really happy about the range...We like seeing the different voices overlap,” said Coffman. According to Coffman, the awarded entries showed potential for people to really engage, pushing beyond a linear interpretation of the mini-golf course. In choosing the nine submissions, she looked at how successful the proposals were in translating a big idea at the scale of something small. “This is not just for the sake of something fun,” said Coffman, “It has to be a little deeper.” Although the exact dates for TURF are to be determined, the exhibition will run for three weeks this spring, according to M&A. Programming leading up to the exhibit includes panel discussions featuring outside voices, such as experts on mini-golf architecture, in an effort to “open it up to fields that architects don’t know a ton about.” Ultimately, the goal of M&A is to allow visitors to look at architecture and design dialogue through a different lens. “We want to continue the discussion for up and coming designers and artists who are using architecture as a medium,” said Coffman, “We want people to look at the built environment in a new way even in the every day Los Angeles.” The winning teams include: —club LA Andrea Kamilaris, Brian Koehler, Drew Stanley —Putt-to-Fit Knowhow Shop (Justin Rice + Kagan Taylor) —Terrains TAG-LA (Angel Gonzalez and Trenman Yau) —Driving DE(rang)ED La Fabrica (Kami Hadidian, Luis Ixta, Kristine Edinchikyan, Oscar Corletto) —The Electric Palm Tree Turbine House Ordinary Architecture (Elly Ward and Charles Holland) —SiNK Kyle May, Architect (Kyle May with Maria Moersen and Julia van den Hout) —Practice Mat Besler & Sons (Erin Besler and Ian H. Besler) —Pie in the Sky Heyday Partnership (Patrick Fromm, Devyn Miska, Cristiano Teixeira, Kevin Wronske) —Artificial Turf G!LL!S (Matthew Gillis) Honorable Mentions include: —Swirl Ariel Padilla Grimaldo —Authority Figures Kyle Miller —On Par David Eskenazi & Mark Acciari —Elbows Kristy Balliet with Sam Fudala —Dude, Where’s My LA Heron-Mazy Studio (John Maruszczak) —Gilded Sphere on Sticks Endemic (Clark Thenhaus)
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On Horizons
For Todd Gannon, Ultramoderne's lakeshore kiosk offers perspective.
Tom Harris

Chicago Architectural Biennial
Chicago Cultural Center
Through January 3, 2016

The first Chicago Architecture Biennial—curated by Sarah Herda and Joseph Grima and staged at the Chicago Cultural Center and other venues throughout the Windy City— opened to great fanfare October 2. The events drew throngs of architects and journalists from around the world; a formidable sampling of the Chicago’s political and social elite; and, perhaps most importantly, a strong showing from the general public. There were more events than even the most dedicated biennialist could attend, and the whole affair was without doubt a boon to architecture culture in the United States. It was also enough to make one wonder if the designers gathered to represent the titular State of the Art of Architecture might be a little too comfortable in the territory they have staked out at the fringe of the discipline.

Though the breadth of the exhibition made it difficult to determine a clear curatorial position, much of the work on display loosely clustered into two opposing camps: the snarky neo-postmodernism that has become fashionable with young American designers climbing the tenure track, and the earnest output of mostly international practices seeking to affect change in underprivileged locales around the world.

There was strong work on both fronts. Amanda Williams’s “Color(ed) Theory,” for example, advanced a subtle yet biting critique of racial and economic imbalance by painting a series of destitute structures on Chicago’s South Side in bold colors. Norman Kelly’s “Chicago: How Do You See?” drastically altered the complexion of the Cultural Center’s flamboyant Michigan Avenue facade by augmenting its fenestration with vinyl caricatures of historically significant Chicago windows. Both projects stood out by virtue of the forceful impact each made on the fabric of the city.

Chutes and ladders from Atelier Bow Wow’s “Piranesi Circus.”
Steve Hall

Too many other participants seemed content to exhaust the efficacy of their work within the gallery walls. Consider the wealth of socially motivated data gathering and photo documentation on view. Just about all of it was not only statistically but also architecturally irrelevant. Besler & Sons provided a neo-pomo complement with “The Entire Situation.” A meditation on the unconsidered ubiquity of cheap construction materials that invited comparisons to the early work of Frank Gehry, this hermetically self-contained piece had none of the punch—because its designers took none of the risks—of Gehry’s early experiments with corrugated cardboard and chain link. In spite of the interactive fun of the “StudFindr,” programmed by Satoru Sugihara and situated on the adjacent wall, the most lasting takeaway from “The Entire Situation” was the hilarious, if unintended, irony of its title.

My quarrel with the neo-pomo and “neo-critical” projects that dominated the biennial has less to do with the self-indulgent frivolity and self-righteous banality to which its authors so often succumb than with the fact that so many talented architects set their sights so low.

Such was the case with the full-scale “houses” by Tatiana Bilbao S.C. and Vo Trong Nghia Architects on the third floor on the Cultural Center. Each architect wagered on cost-effectiveness as the driving force of their design, and each delivered results that, however laudable their social aims, ultimately underwhelmed as buildings. Bilbao’s scheme, admittedly, was a prototype for projects rendered in somewhat more substantial materials (several have been completed in Mexico), but given that it and Nghia’s scheme were presented as “real projects” tackling “real issues,” their failure to compel conviction as architecture was all the more problematic. Each gave the impression of a nose thumbed at more aesthetically driven projects in the exhibition, and came off as less serious than cynical.

With “Corridor House,” the third full-scale “house” on the third floor, Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of MOS offered a canny counterpoint to Bilbao’s and Nghia’s efforts. Though the architects paid lip service to the idea of affordability and ease of construction (particularly in interviews with trade publications), they also made much of the project’s status as an oversized and meticulously crafted model. Fantastically ersatz “boulders” (stitched together from paper sheets printed to resemble stone) along with cheekily reimagined interior furnishings completed the scene. A provocative meditation on the necessary artifice of architectural design, the scheme proved far more engaging than its purportedly more engaged counterparts.

For all the tension on the third floor, the most exciting projects in the exhibition were located outside the neo-pomo, neo-critical dyad. The Swiss firm Gramazio Kohler joined forces with the MIT Self-Assembly Lab to stage “Rockprint,” a productive mash-up of robotic fabrication, material science, and a hell of a lot of gravel. Los Angeles-based Johnston Marklee assembled an arresting collection of their own photo collages and artful images of their completed buildings by photographers including James Welling, Livia Corona, and Marianne Mueller.

“In Oblicuo,” a multi-panel presentation of several competition projects in Budapest, architects Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich of PATTERNS joined forces with Casey Rehm to produce a striking re-imagination of the border between abstraction and photo-realism. Tomás Saraceno’s nearby spider web constructions were just plain cool.

Some of the most satisfying projects were also the most straightforward. Junya Ishigami’s exquisitely spare models of the Kanagawa Institute of Technology were a case in point, as were designs for environmentally sensitive campsites rendered in drawings and an impressive model by the Canadian firm Lateral Office.

Also notable was Atelier Bow Wow’s “Piranesi Circus,” which filled the Cultural Center’s inaccessible courtyard with a series of catwalks, ladders, and platforms designed, according to the architects, with circus performers and, in another nod to postmodernist themes, “imaginary prisoners” in mind. To my eye, the scene suggested not only the collision (and collusion) of entertainment and entrapment but also, via the precarious ladder which drew visitors’ eyes up past the cornice line to the sky above, the possibility of a way out.

After several hours at the biennial, the suggestion of an exit was a welcome gesture. I, for one, was jonesing for actual buildings. The Cultural Center itself, which proved that architecture can be both frivolous and substantial, offered welcome respite, as did “Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye,” the handsome retrospective assembled at the Art Institute of Chicago by Okwui Enwezor and Zoë Ryan. So too did the opportunity to duck out to revisit nearby masterpieces by the likes of Sullivan, Wright, Mies, and Gehry.

Getting out was a good thing, for it was well beyond the main venues that I found clearest presentation of the confidence and optimism I had hoped to find at the heart of the biennial. “Chicago Horizon,” the elegantly understated pavilion assembled by Ultramoderne just above the ominously churning (at least when I visited) Lake Michigan, powerfully suggested that The State of the Art of Architecture might best be sought not in the turbulent froth of a directionless present, but rather in those rare and remarkable buildings that lift us above the fray to direct our attention toward the more profound possibilities of an unknown horizon.

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Live: Postmodern Procedures at Princeton
Postmodern Procedures is a two-day conference at Princeton School of Architecture that offers an alternate history of Postmodernism. The goal is to find something that is less about signs and symbols or historic references, and more about longer-form processes that produced the visual syntax of some of the most interesting projects in architectural history. Follow along as AN will be posting updates all day on Saturday, December 5. 9:25 James Wines gets day 2 started off with a series of stories about 1970's New York and a group of architects and artists who lived near each other on Greene St. in Soho, many of which worked in between architecture and art. He calls this Arch-Art, drawing upon the interdisciplinary contributions made by his firm SITE, as well as artists like Beuys and Henry Moore. There was a comment about rejecting "Plop Art" or "The Turd in the Plaza," favoring a process, such as in his Ghost Parking Lot, a public art project where SITE paved over a parking lot full of cars. Wines calls big box stores the ultimate found object that everyone recognizes. Wines used the BEST Stores to put art where you would least expect it. "It was a transformation," he said, explaining that the stores were a process of making the usual shopping center into something new and fantastic, through process. As for the Indeterminate Facade, the first BEST store, "There was alot of 'not getting it," he said, "Saying that this store was about destruction was like saying that a Giocometti sculpture was about starving people." "Not getting it" became his theme as he showed how many of his ideas became Pomo tropes, such as "tilting" and "falling apart." Some other highlights of his career were shown, including the process behind Shake Shack and the bookstore at MAK Vienna, both of which pushed the limits of building codes, legal contingencies, and historic landmark rules. 10:15 Amale Andraos of WORKac is giving a presentation of their work, with clear echoes of many of the issues that Wines introduced. Slicing, peeling, and the relationship of interior and exterior become organizing principles. "Collage Garage" is a facade for a parking structure in Miami. A four-foot wide ant farm for people includes circulation functions as well as environmental features like ventilation and water collection. The thickness produces a new way of inhabiting a facade, through a process of pushing the limits of the thin slice of space. 10:31 Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee remarks that he saw Wines speak at Sci-Arc 25 years ago when he was young and impressionable. "Seeing him speak again today made me feel young and impressionable," Lee said. Collage and layering are just a couple of the processes that Lee sees as valuable takeaways from Wines' work. Lee showing examples from photography and film to illustrate his concept of "loose fit," including John Baldessari's experiments with throwing balls in the air to approximate geometries. Their Vault House is a beach house that uses this concept to arrange a series of vault-like sections into a long passage of ill-fitting vaults. this process creates a long series of overlapping forms in a complex whole. 10:44 Panel starting off with Lavin asking Wines about living in Soho in the early days with artists like Bob Smithson and Alice Aycock. There were complex relationships between art and architecture, and the lines were not always clear. Wines speaks of it in a very pragmatic way, saying that on Greene St., artists were simply trying to see what they could get away with. Andraos makes the connection that this is probably how SITE shifted the boundaries of what could be considered architecture. "If it looks normal, you have something that is really avant-garde," said Wines. 11:48 And we're back with Diana Agrest, architect and urbanist. She is tracing the procedures that lead to retention and transference of ideas, both in her own work, and in the academic world, especially at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, where a group of non-commercial young architects were trying to find themselves and figure out how to engage with the city and their own practices. 12:27 Erin Besler takes the podium to discuss her intellectual project that deals with problems of construction and participation, a term that she is suspicous of. In her practice, Besler and Sons, she and her husband Ian Besler work with the conventional tools and resources of the everyday architect. At the Chicago Architecture Biennial, they looked at BIM as an open platform of participation that the public can engage with by sketching a wall that is produced by software in 3D. is a kinkily-named platform that displays the creations of Biennial-visitors. Parallel to the open BIM project, a physical constructed light steel-framed wall system interrogates the space within the pedantic construction we might find in a big box store. Each step of the process is reflected upon. The unusual construction produced a set of operational follies along the way, The end project is a hand-scale sight gag—a set of off-kilter details that act visually much like Wine's Best Stores, but at a small scale. Lavin asks, "Who and What is communicating?" She says that in the original Postmodernism, there was architecture communicating with broader audiences, while today, it seems like the work is attempting to communicate with a smaller cadre of people. Agrest says that the work of Venturi and Scott Brown among others was looking for more direct communication, while Besler and Sons' project is communicating both inside and outside and outside of the profession. 2:09 Andrew Holmes explaining how he made a drawing of The Pompidou Center in 1972 while at Piano Rogers Architects. The competition-winning, 36-foot long drawing was made entirely by hand with multiple mediums. Rapidographs, blueprint machines, and a host of other now-arcane drawing techniques came together for the intensive representation. This live blogger is fascinated, but utterly lost in the process of this drawing. Is that ok? Ok, now talking about the relationship of line weights and the finished project. A .8 Rapidograph produces a thicker piece of metal, for instance, while a thinner one is nearly invisible in the final table. During high school, Jimenez Lai got a co-op placement at an animation studio. This was nearly 20 years ago. This is where he developed his relationship to ink, which is the topic of the pairing of Lai and Holmes. This is a thinkpiece about ink. From more recent copies of Noguchi and Tschumi, to living in a gallery in London, Lai is always pushing the boundaries of drawing in social contexts. There are not only physical boundaries in the galleries, but also limits on the audiences and spectators that might enter the space. I remember that London project in 2012 where Lai asked the gallery to buy him a robe. I was there, man. "Yes, I do do sloppy work," he said, referencing Norman Kelley (NK) and Speedism. On one end of the spectrum is NK's immaculate craft of incorrect compositions, while Speedism's fast and dirty accelerationist collages thrive on sloppiness as a political stance within internet culture. Holmes is promiscuous and boring to watch draw, while Lai is "very committal," and more fun to watch draw, as his practice of spectacular public drawing. Holmes says that his drawings are love objects for him, that have supported him throughout his life. 3:10 Wondering what it means to liveblog an event if no one is watching. Will people read it later? Is it still a live blog? Wonder what James Wines is thinking right now. 3:45 Chad Floyd up next. He is going to mix it up with some urbanism. Talking about the components of making a design process work for multiple parties. Floyd worked with Charles Moore to facilitate public TV programming that included a general population in the design process. They even built a storefront office that gave them a presence in Dayton for meetings. As ideas would come in, they would write down ideas on large papers on the wall. They also had a TV Show that broadcast the plans, while accepting calls from the public. Concepts, zoning plans and models were on TV throughout the communities where they were developed. Roanoke Design 79, Riverdesign Springfield, and were the most robust program. "This is not avant-garde architecture. It is bringing back a city that has been down, and doing it in a real way that people appreciate," Floyd said. This is one of the babies that was thrown out with the bathwater of Postmodernism. The engaged process of including local agencies and publics is a lost art. There are examples of firms doing it today, most notably FAT and the AOC in London. 4:16 Andrew Kovacs takes the stage to talk about making architecture from architecture. First, there is a two-part process, which I will reductively describe as collecting and editing. An analysis of Jencks's charts led into Kovacs's own analysis of internet searches and file management. The searching an browsing is compared to persistence hunting, a technique of outlasting your opponent. It leads him to libraries and trashcans and dollar stores. By scanning books and objects in the same scanner, it levels them all out, and allows the Photoshop arrangements to become the narratives (or lack thereof) that animate the work. Appropriating objects becomes a way of animating space. Although it is very Postmodern, "the dogs don't know the difference." Michael Meredith sits facing the screen to scroll through his website. "This is a little wierd for me too." The talk is called "Indifference as a Posture." The talk scrolled slowly through the website while describing the connections he sees through Pop and minimalism that make his practice. 4:58 Final discussion has Denise Scott Brown talking about participation and her experiments with including inner city people in the process.
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Closing Notes
New technologies shape design approaches such as the Eames' extensive slide collection.
Lesley Pedraza / Courtesy MAK Center

The New Creativity: Man and Machines
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Los Angeles
June 10–August 16, 2015

Technology and architecture have been deeply intertwined since the Industrial Revolution—mechanized production, coupled with innovations in structural technology, radically transformed the space of production. Delving into more recent history, Frank Lloyd Wright reinvented the modern office landscape with his Johnson Wax Headquarters while Eero Saarinen, in his project for Bell Laboratories, exploited the aesthetics and flexibility that resulted from postwar modernism to suit the needs of scientific research at the dawn of computation. In response to emergent technologies, both designs generated spaces to serve the new machines while creating efficient workplaces for managers and employees.

Though architects’ embrace of new technologies as inspiration and mode of production is not novel, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture’s exhibition The New Creativity: Man and Machines, curated by Sylvia Lavin with the UCLA Curatorial Project, demonstrates that there is still undiscovered territory to be considered.

The curators divide the artifacts of the show into four distinct categories: Home, Office, Studio, and Shop. In doing so, they present a discretely compartmentalized view of how technology drove the creation of avant-garde themes within architectural culture during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Situated in what was once Rudolph Schindler’s own space of professional production and bohemian domesticity on Kings Road, the exhibition draws conclusive links between the creative process and often mundane technologies that produce innovations in design. In addition to using Schindler’s home and studio as an armature for the show, the curators included a Plan Hold drafting machine as an example of a catalytic design tool. Introduced into Schindler’s office by Esther McCoy, it purportedly put a “kink” in his Austrian rationalism, as evidenced in the drawings depicting the hinged plan of the Kallis House.

In the Shop section, offerings from contemporary practitioners Greg Lynn, Craig Hodgetts, Erin Besler, and others illustrate a future-present where the computational machine is no longer a mere mode of production, but merges directly into the architecture.

The exhibition’s thesis, that the melding of technology and creativity has a seismic impact on design intelligence, resonates in Lynn’s RV (Room Vehicle) House Prototype. The scale model studies the impact organic form and mechanized technology has on the traditional idea of domestic inhabitancy. Lynn’s pod-like vessel shifts orientation as the needs of the homeowner change throughout the day, allowing the floor to become wall and the ceiling to transform into furniture. When juxtaposed against other works in the exhibition, such as the authorless process inherent in the Peter Vikar’s Synthia the Drawing Machine, or the Low Fidelity models developed by Erin Besler and her hot wire cutter, the spatial impact of Lynn’s rotating house and Hodgetts’ Mobile Theater are the only elements from Shop that suggest that technology truly elevates the human condition.


The Office mines design history for mundane examples to prove a humanistic point. Renowned for their consummate dedication to promoting modernism’s stripped-down aesthetic, Herman Miller promoted workplace furniture—cubicles, storage cabinets, chairs, and executive desks—through quirky sales videos that celebrate the activities of secretary and manager alike. Developed by Robert Probst in 1964, the Action Office presents a flexible order to a 1970s corporate landscape quickly being overrun with word processing machines and appliance-sized computers. Action Office transformed office managers into architects. When one considers the impact Herman Miller’s product  had on the space by simply deploying well-designed furniture and cubicle systems, one wonders if the technologically-driven form-making favored by some of the contemporary designers in the Shop section of the show produce the type of cultural-spatial impact as the “office in a box” that came out of Zeeland, Michigan, almost a half century ago. The issue here is that, despite providing seductive form, technical proficiency doesn’t always deliver pleasurable space, no matter how many compound curves or tweaked angles in the design.

The value of The New Creativity: Man and Machines really lies in selectively magnifying transformative moments within design culture that most would overlook, drawing them together into a soft manifesto. The exhibition, however, trends more toward promoting visual representation and aesthetic output over spatial impact. It takes a critical eye to cut through the history-porn and find the true value in a majority of the work. It is troubling that there is little discourse around the architecture (realized or proposed) produced by the tools in the show beyond its representational value.

While Paul Rudolph may have been a quick study of the repro-machine, his monolithic housing proposal in the show leaves much to be considered in humanist terms, especially when examined through the lens of postwar urban development and the well-documented negative sociological impact such projects had on the more intimate prewar metropolitan culture. Similarly, for anyone who has lived Office Space at some point in their career, the Action Office System cubicle promoted by Herman Miller might seem more like a dystopian flashback, rather than innovative social and spatial tool.

The archival objects, drawings, and models in The New Creativity: Man and Machines invite a certain degree of introspection about the discipline’s hermetic tendencies. Why should we care about office furniture, when during the same decade Action Office invaded office space, humanity had its sights on a lunar landing?

There’s a comfortable clarity and pleasurable visual eroticism to be celebrated in the realm of cool machines, or hip representational proficiency. But more is at stake. Saarinen’s Bell Labs, which through its lifespan transformed from a space of deep computing into a space of deep consuming, endured as a testament to modernism’s infinite spatial flexibility. That shifting paradigm parallels the move from the 20th to 21st century and makes a point that The New Creativity hesitates to point out: While technology is temporal, the architecture it produces, for good or bad, is here to stay.

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Midwest Calling
Iwan Baan

Next month, all heads will turn to the Midwest for the opening of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial. As North America’s largest survey of contemporary architecture, the event will draw participants from around the globe to create exhibitions, installations, and performances—including several practices that call Los Angeles home: Besler & Sons, Bureau Spectacular, Bryony Roberts, Johnston Marklee, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, and Productora, a Mexico City-based practice with a principal who splits his time between L.A. and DF.

Project titles form a kind of poetry of their own and speak to the breadth of experimental works we should expect in Chicago: Furniture Urbanism, We Know How To Order, House is a House is a House is a House, Grid is a Grid is a Grid is a Grid, Hotel Tulum, The Entire Situation, Mute Icons. The projects range from drill team choreography to software interfaces to collaborative multi-media installations.

AN asked participants to share their thoughts on the upcoming Biennial, which is on view October 3, 2015 through January 3, 2016.

Left to right: Erin Besler, Besler & Sons; Jimenez Lai, Bureau Spectacular; Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, Johnston Marklee.
Courtesy Besler & Sons; Jimenez Lai; Johnston Marklee

Do you consider yourself a West Coast designer?

Mark Lee and Sharon Johnston, Johnston Marklee: There is a perpetual sense of foreignness, a sense of constant discovery related to L.A., that we find very attractive. We try to bring this mentality to the projects we are doing outside of Los Angeles.

Jimenez Lai, Bureau Spectacular: I am not from Los Angeles and not from Chicago. I have never been a citizen of anywhere.

Marcelo Spina, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S: We do and we don’t at the same time, but this is not being ambiguous. Being from Rosario, Argentina, makes us very close to the ethos of Los Angeles as a mecca of architectural innovation in close proximity to cultural speculation and physical production. We have been in Los Angeles for almost 15 years and this is where our office has grown, so this city, with all its freedom, excess, and clichés, is very much part of who we are as architects and thinkers. However, our projects are as much here as they are elsewhere so we always strive to position our ideas within a larger cultural context, precisely so as to avoid being easily classified as either West Coast, South American, etc.

Bryony Roberts: I consider myself a global practitioner with a soft spot for Los Angeles.

The team from Productora.
Ramiro Chaves

The title of the Chicago Architecture Biennial is “The State of the Art of Architecture.” How do you interpret this art-architecture relationship? What can an interdisciplinary approach contribute to architecture culture in general? Are there hazards?

Wonne Ickx, Productora: We believe there is “art” in every form of productive activity as soon as there is a real commitment with the discipline and a will to question that same discipline. We feel that the art is a very natural component of everything we do. Art and the art world is an obvious part of the context in which we work.

Erin Besler and Ian Besler, Besler & Sons: The hazards are many, but fortunately they tend to be just inconvenient rather than mortal hazards. Kind of like a video game where you can’t save. The interdisciplinary approach, for us, seems to really just come down to issues of vernacular, like: How the hell do we communicate with other discourses and design methodologies?

Roberts: I interpreted the title to mean an emphasis on the cultural capacity of architecture, which I definitely appreciate, since for me architecture is as much a cultural endeavor as a tectonic or functional one. I think of my practice as moving between different scales rather than between the different fields of art and architecture. Working from the scale of the body to that of the city helps me break out of the convention of the architect producing only singular buildings. But of course it leaves a lot of uncertainty as a business model.

Spina: We find this a “call to arms” to take on this contemporary paradox between autonomy and engagement at the highest possible level.

I do think architecture needs to be open to speculative dialogues and creative exchanges with philosophy and the sciences, but without giving away its own set of core principles and powers. There are hazards and rewards for this kind of cultural engagement, and with a healthy degree of curiosity and skepticism, we are all for taking risks.

Lee & Johnston: What is provocative about the title of the biennial is the underlying question: What does architecture do best that no other discipline can do?

Left to right: Marcelo Spina, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S; Ian Besler, Besler & Sons; Bryony Roberts.
Courtesy Patterns; Besler & Sons; Bryony Roberts

What can L.A. (or Mexico City) teach Chicago about architecture?

Besler & Besler: We go through a weird adjustment period when we travel back and forth between L.A. and Chicago. It does strange things to your proprioception and the color temperature and stuff because the two cities are so different in terms of building materials.

If we had to stretch, we might say that Los Angeles seems to have a lot more interesting and novel residential applications for gutters and downspouts than Chicago—all sorts of strange spans, splits, and transitions. Maybe since they rarely have to serve a hydrologic function they’ve become pure ornament in Los Angeles. But if anyone has documentation of some nice gutter or downspout details from Chicago, please do send them to us!

Ickx: The lack of high-end materials or specific building technologies in Mexico demands very basic and straightforward architectural proposals. We think that it is interesting to develop buildings that do not depend on specific constructive processes, technology, or detailing. We believe that in the U.S. there is far too much emphasis on technological innovation and/or representation.

Lai: I think saying one city can teach another city about architecture is potentially a dangerous way of thinking about the function of cultural differences. Chicago and Los Angeles have independent and valuable sensibilities, and I do not think the values of one city can be applied to another.

Spina: The limits of history as a source for architectural invention.

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On View> Chatter: Architecture Talks Back at the Art Institute of Chicago
Chatter: Architecture Talks Back The Art Institute of Chicago 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois Through July 12 The age of texting and tweeting has given more and more people a platform from which to opine, snipe, and complain about, well, everything—including architecture and development projects. Such is the backdrop for Chatter: Architecture Talks Back, an exhibition on view at The Art Institute of Chicago through Sunday, July 12. The multimedia show features work by five emerging architectural firms: Bureau Spectacular, Erin Besler, Fake Industries Architectural Agonism, Formlessfinder, and John Szot Studio. A custom installation by Iker Gil, director of the design publication Mas Context, accompanies Chatter, designed “to explore the multitude of ways in which architecture can be communicated and how the active qualities of chatter—from being constant to satirical—spark conversations.” In the spirit of such conversations, The Art Institute is hosting two roundtable discussions—“Chatter Chats”—in the space. The first took place on April 11, the second will occur on May 16.