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The Way, Wayback

In praise of precedent: How do architects use history for inspiration?
In the wake of the looming executive order decreeing neoclassical as the federal government’s “preferred and default style,” how can architects consider the past while still creating buildings and spaces that are of their time? Most architects seek the intriguing and inspiring when it comes to a new project, and for many, this means considering the project’s site, context, and history. And while the recent news about a potential executive order mandating neoclassical as the de-facto style for new federal buildings has architects up in arms, designers can look to the past in countless ways to create spaces that are meaningful reflections of their time and place, but free from the confines of a dictated historical style. For some, an interest in the past began even before practicing architecture. Tal Schori and Rustam Mehta, cofounders of the Brooklyn-based GRT Architects, proudly state that they “studied history before design,” and that this has instilled in them a love and respect for history that “yields an understanding that the past is layered and compatible with new work, executed confidently in its own voice.” Their approach looks to historical references, in particular architectural detailing, craftsmanship, and ornament, to create “something unapologetically new.” At a lobby renovation of the Fashion Tower, an Art Deco office building in New York’s Garment District and the new firm’s first project, Schori and Mehta lined the walls of the entry corridor with vertical panels of angled marble. The pleated pattern of the marble recalls the verticality of Art Deco motifs as well as the folding of textiles as an ode to the building’s origins. GRT’s self-proclaimed “aesthetic and historical agenda” was further explored in a line of concrete tiles for Kaza Concrete. The triangular tiles, available in three different sizes, were cast with asymmetrical grooves in deep relief and designed so that they can be arranged in a variety of ways: Installation in a regular pattern emulates a flattened fluted column; alternating directions can create a herringbone pattern, and a nonrepeating arrangement leads to an abstract pattern. The interplay of symmetry, tone, and texture results in a tile collection that is firmly in the land of modernity while looking over its shoulder to the past. For architect Elizabeth Roberts of the eponymous Brooklyn-based Elizabeth Roberts Architecture, an interest in history led her to complete a master’s in historic preservation before starting her own firm that focuses on renovations and additions to existing buildings that, in her words, “breathe new life into historic buildings.” Yet despite her “love for historic buildings,” she explained, she also believes in “authenticity”—that additions should appear “different” from the original structure while still “respecting their original massing, details, and materials.” Delicately glazed facades, modern furniture, and an eclectic sense of minimalism pervade her work and visually declare old versus new. But even where her work distinguishes itself from the existing fabric, she still begins every project by “understanding a building’s story” through research on its history, context, and neighborhood, she noted. Craftsmanship plays an important role as well, and she “enjoys seeing artisans continue their craft in our projects,” regularly hiring master plasterers and woodworkers who understand historic styles to create new, elaborate elements such as handrails. While some designers are inspired by materials, detailing, and construction techniques of the past, others look to the unique cultural heritage of the region to tell the story of a place through its built environment. In Hawai’i, for example, oral history and genealogy chants were the main means of passing down history for centuries, and many of these oral histories have been collected at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu — a source architect Ma Ry Kim, a principal and design director at the Honolulu-based firm G70, frequently uses as part of her initial research for the project. During the recent renovation of The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali, the museum’s archives revealed that prior to the construction of the 1971 hotel, the site had historically been covered with a native grass “that held morning dew, giving water and life to land,” said Kim. Inspired by this untouched landscape, she employed vertical elements throughout the project that hark back to the site’s tall blades of grass, from the wood battens on the exterior of the building to the carefully selected artwork found throughout the lobby and even in the woven textiles selected for guest’s rooms. For Kim, architecture is an important way to tell Hawai’i’s cultural story. She noted that many sites “tread on indigenous lands that were once protected and considered sacred places,” and she thus tries to “seek balance between the modern world and the historical markings of a place” in her designs. At another hotel renovation project, the Prince Waikiki Hotel, she learned of a long-forgotten ancestral stream that ran below the hotel’s foundations. The stream’s boundaries were graphically resurrected through contrasting flooring materials in the lobby, and the stream inspired the central suspended artwork created by local residents and employees that consists of nearly 1,000 copper hinana, a local fish—an ode to the area’s native landscape. But even projects in the heart of major metropolises like New York City can nod to their existing context, like Foster + Partners’ new tower in Midtown Manhattan at 100 East 53rd Street, which pays homage to the modernist landmarks that surround it: the iconic Seagram Building and equally storied Lever House. Peter Han, partner at Foster + Partners, detailed how the firm “focused on the relationship between 100 East 53rd Street and the Seagram Building, aiming to create an appropriate counterpoint to the classic office tower.” The building’s crisply white, undulating skin contrasts with the Seagram Building’s dark bronze facade, while the massing of a “9-story bustle,” as Han described it, sitting at the base of the tower, “echoes the volumes of its neighbor,” Lever House. Indeed, while styles may come and go, the past—and its use as a source for inspiration—will always exist, ad infinitum.
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True To Scale

Forensic Architecture debuts its first U.S. survey in Miami
A retrospective detailing the intensive work of London-based research agency Forensic Architecture is now on view at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College (MOAD MDC). Forensic Architecture: True to Scale came online last week at the same time news broke that its studio director was excluded from entering the United States for the show’s debut night.  Eyal Weizman, the founder of Forensic Architecture, published an open letter detailing his visa denial by the Department of Homeland Security ahead of the Miami event. According to The New York Times, Weizman first received the news via email and when he tried to apply for another visa application, an interviewer at the U.S. Embassy said: “an algorithm had identified a security threat that was related to him.” The multidisciplinary collective’s work, wrote AN’s Matt Shaw, involves investigating sensitive human rights violations around the world and showing its findings in spatial visualizations such as 3D animations, virtual reality, and digital mapping.  Weizman was offered the chance to “speed up the process” for obtaining a visa ahead of the MOAD exhibition, but he refused to provide names of the people he works with or places he’s recently traveled. “Working in human rights means being in contact with vulnerable communities, activists and experts, and being entrusted with sensitive information,” he wrote in a statement. “These networks are the lifeline of any investigative work. I am alarmed that relations among our colleagues, stakeholders, and staff are being targeted by the U.S. government as security threats.”  Curated by Sophie Landres, the investigations shown at MOAD cover a range of events over the last decade that largely relate to state transgressions in the Middle East. Two projects, however, are dedicated to events in Venezuela and Chicago. Forensic Architecture’s work breaking down the police shooting of Harith Augustus in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood was already been previewed at the 2019 Chicago Biennial, but unlike the fall showcase, the Miami exhibition will feature all six videos produced by the group in partnership with Invisible Institute. Each video overlaps in six different time scales during and following the shooting.  Though Forensic Architecture has widely exhibited its work, most recently in New York for a short time during the controversial 2019 Whitney Biennial, the Miami showcase is the firm’s first survey in the United States. Two years ago, a video produced in collaboration with The New York Times won an Emmy for reconstructing a chemical attack in Al Lataminah, Syria, in 3D. The award-winning result, One Building, One Bomb, is included in the MOAD exhibition.  Another investigation on view is a never-before-seen project co-produced by the museum called Hebron: Testimonies of Violence (2018-20). It dives into the ways in which virtual reality can assist in compelling witness testimony and recreating a crime scene, according to the exhibition press release. For the project, the team modeled the death of a Palestinian man killed by an Israeli soldier in the occupied city of Hebron.  Forensic Architecture: True to Scale will be on view at Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower at 600 Biscayne Blvd. through September 27. 
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You Must Remember This

Diller Scofidio + Renfro tapped to restore Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater in Dallas
Dallas’s iconic but ailing Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only completed freestanding theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the only public Wright building in Texas, will be restored based on a master plan devised by New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). Mark Lamster, architecture critic at the Dallas Morning News, writes that the announcement, which was made by the city-owned building’s longtime tenant (and original owner) the Dallas Theater Center (DTC), comes with a “combination of optimism, trepidation, and vigilance.” Reads a statement released by DTC:
“The building has been home to DTC since its opening in 1959, and the renovation efforts aim to preserve the theater’s distinct architecture while equipping it to inspire a new generation. A steering committee made up of diverse community stakeholders selected Diller Scofidio + Renfro after a thorough selection process, and the firm —with DTC—also will create a master plan for the nine-acre Kalita Humphreys site, which will include new theater spaces and a connection to the Katy Trail.
Completed several months after Wright’s death, the Kalita Humphreys Theater is one of the final projects designed by the influential American architect. The design was technically conceived, however, decades earlier for another theater company in a project that was ultimately never realized. The theater was subsequently adapted for its current Dallas site, perched on a heavily wooded bluff above Turtle Creek, when then-fledgling regional theater company DTC approached Wright to design a venue. At the time he claimed he was too busy to design something new, and suggested that DTC use the never-completed design. The theater is named after a local actress who perished in a plane crash in 1954—a year before construction kicked off—and whose parents made a significant donation to DTC to ensure the building would be named in her memory. The building famously features a revolving stage that, in the words of DTC, “exemplifies Wright’s Organic Theory of architecture,” which stressed the unification of the building’s form and function.” The theater, which has suffered through shoddy previous renovations and years of general negligence, was declared a City of Dallas Historic Landmark Structure in 2007. In 2009, DTC relocated its administrative offices from the languishing Wright-designed building along Turtle Creek to the newly-built Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX | OMA, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas. The Tony Award-winning organization currently stages performances at both venues. As detailed by DTC, the master plan will entail general restoration work of Wright’s deteriorating main building as well as the creation of two new, smaller performance venues to be used by other regional theater companies. The theater will also be further incorporated into the surrounding natural landscape. “By creating new spaces and opening up the site, the new master plan will boost the natural beauty of the theater’s surroundings and improve its ability to serve as a welcoming, accessible space for all,” said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. Texas-born Charles Renfro, working in collaboration with his partners at DS+R, will lead the project. He remarked in DTC’s announcement that:
“As a native Texan, I am particularly excited to contribute to our state’s architectural heritage and partner with Dallas Theater Center, whose bold productions are equally matched by their bold commitment to architectural innovation. This project is an opportunity to restore the Kalita Humphreys—one of Dallas’s most overlooked pieces of architecture—to its rightful place in the pantheon of design masterpieces in the city. Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built theater, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theater has been presented and seen. “Since it was built, the theater’s bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways. Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programs grown out of the surrounding urban green. The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city.”
DTC is slated to present a master plan developed by Renfro and his colleagues to the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture by the end of this year. The Dallas City Council will then vote to give the plan final approval. The public and various local stakeholders have been invited to attend an information session to be held on March 4 at the theater, and are encouraged to provide feedback. In sharing the news, Lamster pointed out that the involvement of a firm with such a high level of prestige as DS+R is agreeable, but they have a mixed track record when it comes to preservation-based projects. He mentioned the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art and the renovation of Lincoln Center, both in New York City, involved demolishing beloved nearby spaces—a neighboring museum and public plaza, respectively. In 2018, Lamster referred to the Kalita Humphreys theater as “the most neglected, misunderstood, and mismanaged building in Dallas.” Preservation architect Ann Abernathy of advocacy group Kalita Humphreys Theater at Turtle Creek Conservancy also expressed reservations, particularly with regard to the potential for overbuilding at such a bucolic site. She told the Dallas Morning News that: “The way they’re looking to sustain this property is to build more venues, and to build an income-producing garage, and an income-producing restaurant, and by the time they do that, they lose the economic value of a property of immense cultural importance.” The renovation's estimated budget has yet to be disclosed, but as Moriarty told the Dallas Morning News, he expects “it’s gonna be a lot.” “The final figure will be contingent on the master plan, which would then require the approval of the City Council. Once that happens we will move earnestly and aggressively into fundraising,” he said. While the Kalita Humphreys Theater is the only Wright-designed public building in Texas, he did design three private homes in the Lone Star State during the last decade of his career, including a Usonian house in Dallas that was featured in the 1996 Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket. Another, located in Houston, hit the market in June 2019 with a price tag just shy of $3 million.
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New Affiliates on the Block

New Affiliates builds practice through scavenging
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at the Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, and now an AN interview series. On September 26, 2019, Genevieve Dominiak and Hannah Michaelson, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb of the New York-based New Affiliates. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. Genevieve Dominiak and Hannah Michaelson: Thanks for joining us! We know that you met in graduate school at Princeton. We’re curious to know how you two came together to start an office. Is it something that you had been planning for some time, or did it happen rather quickly? Ivi Diamantopoulou: It was quite organic for us. We started very informally. There was a project we started looking at together while working for other offices. And it made sense: it was fun and interesting and exciting, and we wanted to keep doing it. So, we had a moment of realizing this is what we wanted to do. We convinced ourselves that if the infrastructure was there, everything would work out. We had no clients, but we had insurance! It's been about three years now, and it's somehow worked out. Jaffer Kolb: Part of it was working through an inquiry into the formula of how practice works. For us, it was really about coming together as two people who are very different. Ivi had a much stronger background in practice, and I came more from curating, writing, and working on installations. We wanted to use these differences to test architecture as a variable condition that we could play around with using the small office model to combine teaching, practicing, writing, and research. But instead of trying to do it all at once, we use every opportunity to trial various combinations of our skills. From residential work to installations to warehouse conversions, your portfolio is full of very diverse projects. Do you have a unique approach to each project type? Jaffer: We really like working on different kinds of projects. Within each project, we are less concerned with typology than we are with a general approach to design. We’ve designed a lot of exhibitions and residential spaces. The projects are unique, but it’s not necessarily because they have different programs or are different types, it’s more because we bring different interests at the beginning of each project. We like those strange hybrids, which we seek out regardless of the project. Ivi: But there are differences between the exhibition projects and the residential projects. They each have very different timelines and budgets, and different degrees of openness to experimentation. For example, if we want to test a particular material application, we can do that in an institutional context more easily, because those projects are often fast and temporary. And then we can use that material again in a project that is commercial or residential, where we generally have less room to take risks and experiment. The two different speeds at which projects get developed generate slightly different approaches and opportunities. We know that you both teach. How do you balance your time between teaching and practice? And regarding your identities and the identity of your practice, do you view one of these venues as primary? Who do you consider your primary audience? Jaffer: These are good questions. We're really interested in academia and are grateful for opportunities to teach and be included in academic events such as this interview series. We both teach, but teaching is secondary to our practice. For now, neither of us are looking for full-time jobs at universities. Practice comes before teaching, at least while we’re figuring out how to run the office. Hopefully over time we can refocus our attention back and forth between the two, because we find the dialogue productive. Ivi: We come after a generation of architects that somehow managed to juggle everything at once—not only teaching and practice, but also academic administration, curation, experimental work, writing… It seemed admirable, but also overwhelming to us. We’d like to start with practice… we are invested in making it work, while maintaining a loose relationship to academia. We see it as a space where we can observe, grow, develop expertise. Jaffer: And to answer your question about what audience we're catering to or speaking to… on the one hand, we want to be recognized within our peer group and in academia, but most of our work tends to have an element of public engagement. Right now, we're putting a lot of our energy into communicating with the city and working through formats that have broader audiences. It's very difficult to make something interesting to the discipline of architecture and architects specifically, while also communicating broader principles to a larger audience. When we do our best, we're doing both. Regarding your interest in construction and demolition material waste and reuse, do you think about the second life or the material life cycle of your projects while you're designing them? Ivi: Absolutely. This is something that we have been looking at very closely, especially with exhibition design. It’s only through our ongoing involvement with these types of projects that we’re able to look closely and internalize such issues before we begin to address them through design. We recently did a show on Leonard Cohen for the Jewish Museum in New York, and at the same time were collaborating with the city’s Department of Sanitation to understand museum waste. From the outset, we looked for materials that could be taken apart and reused after the show was over. This changed both the kinds of finishes we were using and how we detailed their installation. We made sure that everything resisted wear and was easily removable. Following the exhibition, most of those materials were donated for new uses all around New York City. I’m super excited about that! Jaffer: Our reuse projects are in this really weird niche, where we're mostly looking at what architects make and how we produce waste—looking at what we produce that’s superfluous, or excessive—and to treat that as inherited material. But this work is less about responsibility and more about methodology—investigations into local economies and material flows. I don't want to pretend that we’re experts in reuse. We use these projects to think about detailing and assembly, but also to think about how architecture operates as a narrative within the city. In this sense, the second life might intersect with things like form or program as a means of perpetual reinvention.  We’d like to ask some questions about the Tunbridge Winter Cabin in Vermont. Did your experience in exhibition design influence the design of this house? Jaffer: To start, we really wanted to avoid the typical modern cabin design and be strategic about how we used framing and aperture. Those motivations come from exhibition design… thinking through perspective as an immediate visual issue. We were interested in how different events would unfold in a contained space, as a time-based medium. We coupled an idea about how one moves in a domestic environment with an idea about how to organize an exhibition relative to framed views and orientation. We were thinking a lot about landscape painting—not just about the content of the image, but about arranging landscape paintings which become interior elevations. We read that the project was designed and constructed very quickly. Did the pace of the project limit your ability to explore different ideas? What was your relationship with the client throughout the process? Jaffer: It was very fast. It was also very collaborative. Sitting together with our client, we would literally project a Rhino model on a wall and rotate around to ensure that there was no room for misinterpretation. Issues could be addressed, and problems could be solved together in real time. We did not follow the typical model of preparing polished presentations, receiving feedback, spending a week making revisions just to present again. How we work is honestly a bit messy and impromptu. We're more interested in what we can learn through collaboration with contractors, clients, and even with living artists in our exhibition projects. We understand working with others as a chance to express something about a collective, even if just for a moment. We're not here to push an agenda. Ivi: Working on the house was very fast, informal, and conversational. We didn't have the luxury to study every design detail or to iterate through thousands of options. We were lucky to work with a contractor who was a great communicator. We often joked that he was like a 3d printer—we would sketch something on site and then a day later it would be built. The process was easygoing and laid back: let's do it this way, let's try this other thing, let’s improvise. It’s a big part of how our practice was formed, in terms of our early experiences. Can you give an example of this? How did collaboration play a role in the development of the cabin? Jaffer: We didn't go in with a 70-page construction document set and ask the contractor to execute our drawings. We knew the form of the cabin and we had an idea about what the interior and exterior elevations would look like. It's not that we came with nothing, but we were trying to draw from his expertise as someone who's been working in Vermont his entire life. We had some ideas of how we wanted the project to look and how interior spaces would relate to one another, but we needed guidance from a local expert, especially when it came to details and environmental issues. One example was with the baseboards. We kept resisting certain tolerances that he insisted on given Vermont’s extreme temperatures, but in the end, we followed his recommendation. He did it as a custom inset baseboard, though. While we listened, we also never wanted to go with an easy default. Ivi: Working with him, we were able to strike a balance between an exquisitely designed house where every detail and material transition and connection is considered and precious, and a house that is durable and casual and provides a sense of comfort. It's kind of funny for us to realize that with the Vermont project, we established a standard for our practice where we leave certain things deliberately incomplete. We have a client right now—a graphic designer—who we leaned on to help lay out a pattern on a large custom millwork element of his home. We had a conversation where we told him… “You know, you do this for a living, you should just do this.” We should do this together. This is not a matter of us knowing better than anyone else. Did your interest in material life cycles, waste, and reuse inform the design of the winter cabin? Ivi: Yes, definitely. There’s a material sensibility in the cabin. For example, the baseboard material is all recycled plastic. That plastic comes in large sheets, so we were compelled to make room in the design to retrofit all off-cuts—you’ll see it pop-up between window sills and panel frames to avoid excess waste. Also, we worked to incorporate passive strategies that will enable the house to climate control itself through the winter, even going back to the windows being smaller framing devices instead of giant picture-planes. It’s a bit introverted, a bit closed. Jaffer: I would say… unfortunately, not as much as it should have. For example, there was nothing on the land when we got there. In order to make a half-mile driveway, we had to cut down a lot of trees… which is not a huge deal because there are a billion trees in Vermont. We also had to blow up a lot of ledge, but that ledge became the front porch and paving. The trees have all been milled and that wood is going to be used on the main house structure. There is a sense that everything that gets destroyed on the land to clear space for the house gets reused in the house. It's almost like a semi-enclosed material economy. But I wouldn't take credit for this phenomenon. That came from the contractors and landscapers. Where do you see yourselves in ten years? Do you hope to continue to work on smaller projects or would you like to evolve into a practice that can take on bigger projects? Ivi: I don't even know if the two of us are on the same page, but I can tell you what I hope for. I imagine that these two worlds, institutional and private; temporary and permanent, might begin to move closer to one another. I’d love to think that our ongoing affiliation with the art world and our increasing expertise in design and construction could enable us to work on projects that are larger and maybe more permanent. Jaffer: Ten years is a long time from now! The easier answer is for the next few years. Originally, I had always imagined that we would keep growing. More recently, I’m resisting the desire to grow. We are still exploring how to create an interesting form of practice. If you'd asked us this question two years ago, I would have said that in ten years, we're going to be 45 people and we're going to have large commissions. After being in this for a couple of years, I actually want to slow down and invest more time and energy into figuring out how we can do better work before we start getting more work. We’ve been concluding the interviews by asking everyone the same question… What's been the most rewarding moment as a practice thus far? Ivi: Not quitting on ourselves! Every single day we decide to not apply to work for a corporate office is very rewarding. Jaffer: I'm going to give an earnest answer: I think this moment is one of the most rewarding. I'm being very sincere. When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about how meaningful it is that our work can sustain the interest of a class, that it can sustain a close read, or prolonged attention. It’s incredibly gratifying!
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RIP

French architect and theorist Yona Friedman dies at 96
Yona Friedman, the Hungarian-born French architect and urban planner whose 1956 manifesto Mobile Architecture argued that the built environment, above anything else, should empower its inhabitants to take charge of their own individual destinies, has died at the age of 96. News of his passing was shared on his Instagram account. Born in Budapest in 1923 to a Jewish family, Friedman escaped persecution during World War II and resettled in Haifa, Israel. In 1957, Friedman emigrated to Paris at the invitation of Jean Prouvé, where he established the Groupe d’Études d’Architecture Mobile (GEAM) with Dutch architect Jan Trapman that same year. Friedman gained French citizenship nearly a decade later. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, an era when utopian visions were largely scoffed at or outright ignored by the greater architectural community, Friedman gained international prominence for his revolutionary-for-the-time meditations on architecture and social mobility. A proponent of self-sufficiency, Friedman rallied against rigidity and oppression within the built environment, arguing that a building’s users should be afforded freedom and flexibility that was unheard of at the time.
Springing from his manifesto, Friedman’s visionary concept for Ville Spatiale, the Spatial City, perhaps remains his best-known contribution to urban planning and architectural theory. The Spatial City envisioned dense, compact urban centers in which outward growth was limited and new development spanned over existing buildings as part of a larger superstructure. Friedman’s numerous drawings and visualizations of the Spatial City garnered considerable attention for their playfulness and neo-futuristic approach. The influence of the Spatial City is vast and can be seen in the works of Archigram, Superstudio, and countless other artists, thinkers, and convention-pushing design collectives. In the 1970s, the United Nations and UNESCO took note of Friedman's humanistic approach and commissioned him to assist with disaster-relief housing campaigns in Africa and India. Friedman’s work has shown at countless exhibitions including the Venice Biennale (2003, 2005, 2009) and Shanghai Biennale (2007), and his drawings are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and at Paris’s Centre Pompidou. He enjoyed a flurry of renewed interest in 1999 thanks to an exhibition held at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam that recreated his Paris living room, along with the release of an accompanying monograph, Yona Friedman. Structures Serving the Unpredictable. In 2019, a public sculpture designed by Friedman titled Space-Chain Phantasy-Miami 2019, was unveiled at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. Friedman received numerous accolades and awards for his contributions to architecture and urban planning including the Austrian Frederick Kiesler Prize in 2018. Early in his career, Friedman taught at a number of American universities including Harvard University, Columbia University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was also a prolific writer, publishing over 500 articles and several books over the course of his career, according to a biographic Dutch website that exhaustively documents Friedman's life, art, and teachings. His final published book was Yona Friedman. The Dilution of Architecture (2015). Friedman was married to French film editor Denise Charvein, whom he collaborated with closely over the course of his career. In the early 1960s, the duo collaborated on a series of animated films titled Stories of Africa that brought African folk tales to life. Charvein passed away in 2007. In a 2018 interview conducted at Milan Design Week, Friedman was asked if there were any projects that he would have liked to take on but didn't have the chance to. “The best expression for this is the everyday life, so my real project is to live tomorrow and I am repeating this project every day,” he responded.
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Architecture Sans Borders

Eyal Weizman barred from U.S. ahead of Forensic Architecture retrospective
London-based research collective Forensic Architecture, known for its use of architectural, spatial, and technological analysis to uncover state and corporate violence, opens its first major U.S. exhibition today at Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design (MOAD). However, as the collective’s founder, Eyal Weizman was preparing to fly to Miami from his home of London for the opening, he received an email from the U.S. Embassy informing him that his visa had been revoked and he would not be allowed to travel to the United States.
When Weizman went to apply for another visa, an interviewer at the Embassy told him that an “algorithm” had identified him as a security threat due to people he had interacted with, places he had traveled recently, or an unidentified combination of the two. When given the opportunity to “speed up the process” by giving names he felt might have been the cause for setting off alarms, Weizman refused.
Here is the full statement, which will be read by his partner professor Ines Weizman at the MOAD tonight, and was sent to AN by Weizman via email.
Today (February 19th) I was meant to be here with you at the Museum of Art and Design in Miami to open Forensic Architecture’s first major survey exhibition in the United States, True to Scale.
But on Wednesday, February 12th, two days before my scheduled flight to the U.S, I was informed in an email from the U.S. Embassy that my visa-waiver (ESTA) had been revoked and that I was not authorised to travel to the United States. The revocation notice stated no reason and the situation gave me no opportunity to appeal or to arrange for an alternative visa that would allow me be here.
It was also a family trip. My wife Prof. Ines Weizman, who was scheduled to give talks in the U.S. herself, and our two children traveled a day before I was supposed to go. They were stopped at JFK airport in New York where Ines was separated from our children and interrogated by immigration officials for two and a half hours before being allowed entry.
The following day I went to the U.S. Embassy in London to apply for a visa. In my interview the officer informed me that my authorization to travel had been revoked because the “algorithm” had identified a security threat. He said he did not know what had triggered the algorithm but suggested that it could be something I was involved in, people I am or was in contact with, places to which I had traveled (had I recently been in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia or met their nationals?), hotels at which I stayed, or a certain pattern of relations among these things. I was asked to supply the Embassy with additional information, including fifteen years of travel history, in particular where I had gone and who had paid for it. The officer said that Homeland Security’s investigators could assess my case more promptly if I supplied the names of anyone in my network whom I believed might have triggered the algorithm. I declined to provide this information.
This much we know: we are being electronically monitored for a set of connections—the network of associations, people, places, calls, and transactions—that make up our lives. Such network analysis poses many problems, some of which are well known. Working in human rights means being in contact with vulnerable communities, activists and experts, and being entrusted with sensitive information. These networks are the lifeline of any investigative work. I am alarmed that relations among our colleagues, stakeholders, and staff are being targeted by the U.S. government as security threats.
This incident exemplifies—albeit in a far less intense manner and at a much less drastic scale—critical aspects of the “arbitrary logic of the border” that our exhibition seeks to expose. The racialized violations of the rights of migrants at the U.S. southern border are of course much more serious and brutal than the procedural difficulties a U.K. national may experience, and these migrants have very limited avenues for accountability when contesting the violence of the U.S. border.
As I would have announced in today’s lecture, this exhibition is an occasion to launch a joint investigation with local groups into human rights violations in the Homestead detention center in Florida, not far from here, where migrant children have been held in what activists describe as “regimented, austere and inhumane conditions”.
In our practice, exhibitions are treated as alternative forums for accountability, ways of informing the public about serious human rights violations. Importantly, they are also opportunities to share with local activists and community groups the methods and techniques we have assembled over years of work in the field.
To that effect, this exhibition includes an investigation into a CIA drone strike in Pakistan that was presented by a UN Special Rapporteur in the General Assembly; an analysis of the Chicago police killing of a barber that lead to an investigation by the mayor and the city’s police department; and an inquiry into the Israeli bombing of Rafah in Gaza that informed the International Criminal Court’s recent decision to open an investigation into the possibility of Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestine—all alongside other investigations we have conducted with communities and human rights collaborators in Germany, Venezuela, the Mediterranean, and Syria.
These works seek to demonstrate that we can invert the forensic gaze and turn it against the actors—police, militaries, secret services, border agencies—that usually seek to monopolise information. But in employing the counter-forensic gaze one is also exposed to higher level monitoring by the very state agencies investigated.
I would like to thank all those who showed enormous commitment to make this exhibition possible, especially Sophie Landres, Francisco Canestri, Gladys Hernando, Nicole Martinez and Rina Carvajal from MOAD, members of Forensic Architecture here and there, friends who helped through this process, Ines for reading this statement, and you all for coming.
Mostly though I would like to thank our partner communities who continue to resist violent state and corporate practices and who are increasingly exposed to the regime of “security algorithms”—a form of governance that aims to map, monitor, and—all too often—police their movements and their struggles for safety and justice.
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The Ignored Realm

Rem Koolhaas sets a global non-urban agenda with Countryside at the Guggenheim
In both pre-Christianity Rome and China, the countryside was a place of retreat where those seeking respite from the bustle and grime of the city would go for rest, relaxation, and creative inspiration. The Chinese founders of Taoism called this freedom and wondering Xiaoyao, while Roman philosophers referred to time away as Otium: and idealized existences—from off-the-grid hippy utopias to the peaceful bliss of Arcadia—have continued to crystallize in the natural landscapes of the rural. Contemporary ideas around wellness, mindfulness, ayahuasca startup retreats, and glamping at Burning Man fill the same role in our society as a full-circle return to pre-industrial, pre-capitalist, nature-centric lifestyles that are paradoxically a product of our neoliberal consumerist culture and sold as an antidote to it. This lineage, from the beginning of western civilization and ancient eastern philosophy to 21st-century marketing culture, is just part of Rem Koolhaas’s ten-year transcultural, transhistorical research and analysis of non-urban territories, or what he calls the “ignored realm.” On view at New York’s Guggenheim Museum through August 14, Countryside: The Future is a project of Koolhaas, AMO director Samir Bantal, and Troy Conrad Therrien of the Guggenheim. The show fills the museum’s entire main rotunda. It is meant to upend traditional notions of the countryside by investigating the places where the influence, as well as the oddities, normally associated with the urban can be found outside the city. If, at one time in the not-so-distant past, the countryside was an idyllic place where each human had a role, Koolhaas posits that the “romantic” landscape of creek beds, hillsides, and family farms is now unrecognizable as a stable, human-centered place, but rather a hyper-efficient, inorganic, non-place where Cartesian technological systems define life. The show reverses course on much of what we have come to accept as the baseline for thinking about development. Take that famous statistic: by 2050, 70- to-80 percent of humanity would live in cities. “Are we really heading for this absurd outcome, where the vast majority of humanity lives on only 2% of the earth’s surface, and the remaining 98%, inhabited by only one-fifth of humanity, exists to serve cities?” Of course, Rem is not the first person to do research on the rural. But he has the resources (5 partner schools and AMO), the storytelling ability, and the platform (an entire museum in NYC) to reorient the conversation, as he has on other topics such as cities, Dubai, and toilets. The exhibition starts outside the museum, with a tractor next to a small, high-tech indoor tomato farm under pink lights that illuminate passing pedestrians. In the lobby, a requisite hanging sculpture in the rotunda is made from a bale of hay, an imaging satellite akin those used by Google Maps, and an underwater robot that kills fish threatening coral reefs. Land, sea, and even space are all implicated in this broad survey of the rural, as this sculpture sets the tone for the rest of the show, which launches into an outpouring of information. It is reminiscent of OMA/AMO publications Content, Volume, or the Elements exhibition and books, as visitors are greeted by a wall text of 1,000 questions posed by Koolhaas. Nearby is a table showcasing publications that provided context: The Red Book and the Great Wall, The Future of the Great Plains, Golf Courses of the World, and a German publication about Muammar al-Gaddafi. At the core of the show, the Guggenheim’s iconic ramp houses a set of themed vignettes. ‘Political Redesign’ is a catalog of ‘heroic’ 20th-century geopolitical operations, ranging from the founding of several United States federal agencies during the Dust Bowl, to German Architect Herman Sörgel’s plan to unite Europe and Africa by lowering the level of the Mediterranean Sea and building a bridge over the resulting span. Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and the evolution of the Jeffersonian grid from squares to circles are also highlights. Countryside then moves away from these governmental models into more polyvalent experiments with nature, technology, politics, planning, and preservation. Many of these we might normally associate with the urban, such as the anarchist community in Tarnac, France that was raided by police in 2008 but is now home to an informal university hidden in the forest. There are also glimpses of rural China, most beautifully Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming channel that allows sellers in the countryside to broadcast their produce and foodstuffs to audiences in the cities. Arcosanti, afro-futurism, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative are among the other kaleidoscopic ways that the narrative extends beyond industrial farming into a host of other social and political spheres. Working through contemporary preservation methods, proposals, and scenarios, including a curious example from Siberia where valuable mammoth tusks are becoming exposed in the ground by climate change and creating new economies for local, amateur “archaeologists,” the exhibitions closes on ‘cartesian euphoria,’ a kind of paranoiac-critical reading of the technologies and systems that are rearranging nature and politics in the countryside, complete with a full-scale installation of a PhenoMate, a cutting-edge farming tool that uses machine learning to identify which plants in a nursery bed photosynthesizing the most, and selectively breeds stronger strains without genetic modification. The show operates politically in a context where the countryside, and those who live in it are a marginalized group, at least culturally. Urban elites deride rural areas as many things, most out-of-touchedly as “fly-over states.” After a decade or more or the architectural world focusing on cities and urban areas as the main spaces of inquiry, Rem’s turn to the countryside —most likely born from a desire to look where most others are not— and his ability to show the public that the so-called hinterlands are a place where not only are some of the most important agricultural, industrial, and social mechanisms of society operating, but it is also where many of the interesting intersections of experimental politics, economics, engineering, and social relationships are taking place. To ignore the rural because we don’t agree with the politics of those who live there, or think that their culture is not sophisticated is not only missing out on experiencing a countryside beyond a luxury faux-rustic retreat, but it is also disregarding the fact that the countryside and the city are and always will be inextricably linked, as elucidated by a brilliant provocation that cities have become stuck in “frivolity,” while supported by complex, managed landscapes in the countryside. For example, urbanites underneath London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit leisurely eat ice cream brought in from factory farms in the outskirts. It is also a show with a decidedly top-down lens on the countryside. Some will not like the relative lack of representation of small-scale communities in the show, but the acknowledgment of systems and technology is an important way of seeing these territories. Had the curators included more grassroots narratives, it likely would have watered down the larger, geopolitical stories being told, and the show is better off for staying focused on larger-scale issues rather than getting into the folk aspects of the countryside, which would be more predictable and less compelling. Countryside is definitely a magazine- or book-on-the-wall type of exhibition, but not in a bad way. The texts are snappily written in typical Koolhaasian style, and there are not too many complex maps or charts, making the exhibition feel more like a journalistic analysis of what is interesting about the countryside, not necessarily a theoretical treatise or prescriptive path forward. It could be read as a transformation of the museum into a publication, a curatorial strategy that upturns not only our ideas about the Guggenheim but about how to leverage a hyper-didactic exhibition into an aesthetic experience.  The show is literally distorted by the Guggenheim’s double-curved surfaces, spiraling ramp, and constantly shifting vantage points, with a string of text spiraling around the underside of the ramps like a dizzying thesis statement, always to be revisited. If there is a sticking point, it is that the aesthetic of the exhibition will be familiar to many, as it harkens back to previous OMA/AMO publications. Koolhaas has long collaborated with Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, who created a custom Countryside typeface for the show, which resembles both handwriting and her Neutral typeface used throughout. In an exhibition that is really a publication, typefaces matter, and the familiar layouts and fonts make the exhibition seem more like the work of a signature architect or firm, not a global coalition. No, but seriously, folks, go see the show! Taschen has published an accompanying publication, available for 24.95 online or at the gift shop.
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Cultural Lensing

Access for All aims to inspire New York through São Paulo's urban design
From an urban design perspective, São Paulo, Brazil, Munich, in Germany, and New York could not be any more different—they exist on separate continents, have vastly different densities, and utilize space in their own distinct ways. So, what, you might ask, could these cities possibly have in common? The answer, according to Andres Lepik and Daniel Talesnik, is more than you think. Access for All: São Paulo’s Architectural Infrastructures, which opened this week at the AIA New York’s Center for Architecture, sets the stage for comparison between São Paulo and its peer cities across the globe. Curated by Talesnik, a trained architect and Bauhaus expert, the exhibition was originally presented at Architekturmuseum Der Tum under the direction of Lepik. Although São Paulo has a significantly greater population density than Munich, Talesnik felt that the German city had plenty to learn from the Brazilian city’s avid use of public space. For decades, the megacity of 12 million has seen a growing investment in public infrastructure in order to ease its open space shortages and respond to the demand for cultural and recreational programming. Access for All presents a selection of these projects since the 1950s, organized into three categories: large-scale, multi-programmatic projects; open public spaces; and projects located along the iconic Paulista Avenue. The exhibition comes 10 years after Lepik’s curation of Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement at the Museum of Modern Art, which highlighted architectural projects on five continents that aided underserved communities. Lepik’s research was an appropriate precursor for a case study in São Paulo, a city deeply affected by economic inequality, high crime rates, traffic congestion, and public health hazards. Talesnik views the selected projects as microcosms of urban life. From the pedestrianized Minhocão highway to the multi-story SESC Pompeía cultural center, the projects are analyzed through sociocultural impact rather than formal characteristics, highlighting the dynamic relationship between the built environment and its inhabitants. In its new home at the Center for Architecture, the exhibition intends to teach New York a few lessons. The large infographic at the start of the exhibition has been stripped of its “Munich” column and replaced with a “New York” column to compare and contrast figures alongside São Paulo’s. At the exhibition’s opening, visitors wanted to know what exactly New York might take away from the São Paulo method. Figuring out that mystery is one of Lepik’s and Talesnik’s favorite parts of the exhibition: “Who knows,” Talesnik laughed. “But we’re certainly curious.” Access for All is on display through May 23.
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Glass-and-Brick

UN Studio enlivens a storefront in Amsterdam with flowing glass
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Completed in December 2019, The Looking Glass is a four-story mixed-use renovation for developer Warenar Real Estate that offers a thoughtful solution for merging contemporary design within the centuries-old Museum Quarter of Amsterdam. Designed by Dutch architectural practice UN Studio, the approach addresses both the contextual and use demands of the site with finely curved glass panels and well-crafted brick masonry. The project faces the Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat, one of Amsterdam's primary retail corridors. Like much of the Netherlands’ architectural vernacular, the area is composed of three to four-story structures of sober restraint. Ornament is largely limited to spandrel brickwork detailing and carved wood brackets at the cornice—this is not a setting for ostentatiousness. UN Studio’s design respects this heritage while heightening the streetscape with a constrained aesthetic flourish, that, in its curvaceousness and subtle steelwork, bears resemblance to a playful Art Noveau storefront in the style of Victor Horta or Frantz Jourdain.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cricursa Octatube Van der Sanden Group
  • Architect UN Studio Gietermans & Van Dijk Architecten (executive architect)
  • Facade Installer Octatube Nederland Wessels Zeist
  • Facade Engineer ARUP
  • Structural Engineer Brouwer en Kok
  • Location Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Date of Completion Decembr 2019
  • System Custom glass-and-steel system
  • Products Low-iron Cricursa glass Van der Sanden Group brick slips
Each bay is comprised of two primary features, low-iron glass boxes and brickwork. At the second story, the glass boxes protrude significantly from the facade before curving and overlapping the groundfloor’s glazing. The maneuver lends a flowing quality to the facade while maintaining full transparency of the lintel and brick-chevron frieze. Each of the glass panels is bonded with structural silicone, and their seams are obscured by narrow and polished stainless steel frames. On the ground floor, the concave underbelly of each curved panel transitions to a broad stainless steel strip that furthers material differentiation at street level. The windows were assembled off-site—no small feat considering that their average height is approximately 27 feet—and installed as prefabricated pieces. The renovation, which removed the first three stories of brick in favor of glazing, required the insertion of narrow columns of glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels between the window bays. Following the installation of glazing, the GFRC components were covered in a rigid insulation layer. The new masonry is entirely comprised of hand-molded, reddish-brown brick slips produced by the Van der Sanden Group; the brick slips are glued to the insulation membrane and largely follow a Dutch-bond pattern. Although the inclusion of brick on the renovated facade is only surface level, their hand-molded fabrication lends an imperfect and wrinkled surface with slight variances in dimension—a gradient of patina blending with the overall streetwall. UN Studio founder Ben van Berkel will discuss The Looking Glass, and other projects, at the opening keynote for Facades+ New York City on April 2nd.
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Drumroll, Please

AN presents the Architectural League’s 2020 Emerging Voices winners

The Architectural League of New York’s annual Emerging Voices program once again delivers eight up-and-coming practices making an impact on building and discourse. This year’s jury was composed of Stella Betts, Mario Gooden, Mimi Hoang, Lisa Iwamoto, Dominic Leong, Paul Lewis, Matt Shaw, and Lisa Switkin. Approximately 50 firms were evaluated throughout the invited competition. As in past years, the winners were varied and represented practices from across North America, although many of the 2020 winners can be found on the East Coast. All of the winners will be honored next month and will participate in a lecture series at 130 Mercer Street in Manhattan:

Olalekan Jeyifous and PORT on March 5 at 7:00 p.m. Mork Ulnes Architects and Young Projects on March 12 at 7:00 p.m. Escobedo Soliz and Dake Wells Architecture on March 19 at 7:00 p.m. Blouin Orzes architectes and Peterson Rich Office on March 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Escobedo Soliz

Only four years after founding their firm, Pavel Escobedo and Andres Soliz have built a trusted brand in Mexico City’s saturated design market. Escobedo Soliz formed soon after the pair graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and together won the 2016 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP) summer installation competition.

Their YAP project, Weaving the Courtyard, brought acclaim in the U.S. but not at home, Soliz said. “That award is amazing for people in New York and holds a lot of prestige among those people, but here in Mexico, sadly, developers don’t care as much. What we took from that experience was a foundation of concepts and rules that we have used to build our practice, like the value of using simple or prefabricated materials and constructing by hand.”

After struggling to get commissions back in Mexico, the duo moved to Bolivia for a year to begin work on an ongoing design-build structure: a 17,200-square-foot funeral chapel made of artisanal brick on a shoestring budget. This project helped define the studio’s emerging focus on social service. When the pair returned to Mexico, their first major project was the José Maria Morelos Primary Rural School in Santa Isabel Cholula, part of the recovery from the deadly 2017 Puebla earthquake, which damaged over 200 public school buildings in the state. The design team conceptualized and built the school in just nine months.

“In Mexico, the country’s laws are very strict and the architect frequently has to be the builder,” said Soliz. “That’s why we go after custom projects in different contexts and with low budgets, whether it's for someone’s home or a special typology like the funerary chapel. We like to focus on the quality of materials and controlling the details. As young architects in Mexico, this keeps us competitive.” - Sydney Franklin

Young Projects

Bryan Young, principal and founder of Brooklyn-based Young Projects, aims for ambiguity. His buildings lend themselves to spatial and material misreadings that disrupt conventional hierarchies, inviting occupants to recalibrate their relationships with their surroundings.

“A tension exists between a normative reading and a misreading, but the misreading is just subtly off,” Young said. “It’s always something that is just a little bit off that draws you into the work.”

Young founded his firm in 2010 after working for Allied Works, Architecture Research Office (ARO), and Peter Pfau, all previous Emerging Voices winners that explore and exploit material properties. Since then, Young has designed polished residential projects that reinterpret familiar materials or layouts. Several walls of the Pulled Plaster Loft in Tribeca ripple with a custom pulled-plaster treatment that adapts techniques used to make traditional crown molding; the plan of the forthcoming 6 Square House in Bridgehampton, New York, is simultaneously a cluster of squares, a crossing of bars, and a fragment of an extendable pattern; and the Glitch House in the Dominican Republic is clad in encaustic cement tiles arranged to confuse light and shadow.

Smaller, in-house experiments (Young refers to them as “young projects”) incubate ideas and processes that could be applied to larger work, or just inspire new ways of creating. Currently sitting in his office is a tensile structure encrusted with salt crystals that might—or might not—point toward what Young Projects has in store. - Jack Balderrama Morley

Mork Ulnes

Dividing his time between Oslo, Norway, and San Francisco, Casper Mork-Ulnes has learned to synthesize design principles from the two regions as the basis for Mork Ulnes, the firm he founded in 2005. “Simply put,” he explained, his eight-person team is “influenced by Scandinavian practicality and California’s spirit of innovation.”

Residential design makes up the majority of the firm’s completed work, including the dramatic renovation of several Victorian-era homes throughout San Francisco. When updating antiquated interiors, Mork Ulnes “strives to make [homes] more efficient, more light-filled, and less compartmentalized,” according to the architect, “to perhaps hark back to a California way of living in which buildings were once more extroverted.”

When given the opportunity to design from the ground up, the firm favors locally sourced woods and distinctly minimal forms. For example, the exterior of Mylla Hytte, a 940-square-foot cabin set within a Norwegian forest, is clad in untreated heart-pine planks that will weather over time, in contrast to the plywood of its interior walls and built-in furniture. - Shane Reiner-Roth

PORT

The members of Chicago and Philadelphia–based firm PORT have made it their mission to elevate urban navigation from a chore to a pleasure. The firm believes that a city’s highways, byways, and interstitial spaces reflect a collective attitude toward equity, democracy, and civil rights, and that those values can be bolstered by creative design intervention.

Christopher Marcinkoski and Andrew Moddrell both trained as architects and formally established PORT in 2013 after setting their sights on the spaces in between buildings. They demonstrated their passion for the interstitial with their Lakeview Low-Line project, a collection of bright yellow urban furniture installed beneath the elevated train tracks of Chicago’s Brown Line. “Lakeview takes a site that no one pays attention to,” said Marcinkoski, “and demonstrates the possibility of transforming that space into something that is generous and welcoming.”

PORT has also taken to increasing public engagement at sites that have long been the center of civic attention, as in its OVAL+ series of temporary pavilions for Eakins Oval, the 8-acre park in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. - Shane Reiner-Roth

Peterson Rich Office

Sculptural gallery interiors, high-end retail, and housing and maintenance strategies for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)—three areas that might seem incongruous, but at the eight-year-old Peterson Rich Office (PRO), designing airy, light-filled spaces is part and parcel of considerate urban planning.

Founders Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich trace their approach to experiences working at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Steven Holl Architects—two firms known for their bright institutional projects—as well as SHoP, which Rich says taught him to break down the profession’s “traditional barriers and open [himself] up to different types of work.” Because of often tight budget constraints, PRO’s projects focus on form, gesture, and filling spaces with natural light instead of expensive materials.

The studio is working with New York’s Regional Plan Association to come up with suggestions for how NYCHA can simultaneously make up its $31.8 billion maintenance deficit while capitalizing on the agency’s 68.5 million square feet of undeveloped floor area. This isn’t the firm’s first dance with NYCHA; in 2014, PRO’s 9x18 project provided a blueprint for turning the housing agency’s 20 million square feet of parking into infill housing, and those strategies made their way into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.

“We always start with a certain amount of research, and try to draw from that research a series of goals for the project,” Rich said. “We try to introduce what we call ‘five points’; these are values and goals built with the client, guiding principles, and those things emerge from context, institution, and need. It’s narrative, and we try to stay true to those things.” - Jonathan Hilburg

Dake Wells

“People are often surprised by how our projects end up looking like they do in these really rural areas,” said Andrew Wells, cofounder of Springfield- and Kansas City-based firm Dake Wells Architecture. “The common question we get is, How did you do that? For us, it boils down to solving peoples’ problems. There is an aesthetic component to that, yes, but it’s just a response.”

On numerous occasions, Wells and Brandon Dake, who together started the studio in 2004, have presented several design options to a client who ended up choosing the most challenging proposal on the table. Take Reeds Spring Middle School in rural southwestern Missouri. Set on 150 acres of undeveloped land beneath the Ozark Mountains, this 2017 project is tucked into a sloping ravine. “Finding the right spot to put the school was hard, so one of our ideas was to allow the building to negotiate the steep topography of the site,” said Wells, “but we didn’t think they'd go for it.” In the end, the semisubterranean design allowed Dake Wells to add a storm shelter to protect students, teachers, and staff during tornado season, one of the client’s biggest goals, and resulted in a striking exterior.

According to the design team, using few materials and a muted color palette also helps them concentrate on forming shapes that will stand out. Both Dake and Wells are from small towns in Missouri and feel most rooted in their work when they return to similar spots throughout the region on commission, often collaborating with low-income school districts with tight budgets. “We don’t subscribe to the notion that good design is for elite clients with money to spend,” Dake said. “We take on low-budget projects and push them as far as we can.” - Sydney Franklin

Blouin Orzes

Few have mastered the nuanced art of designing for the extreme climate of Canada’s Circumpolar North in the face of global warming. But Marc Blouin and Catherine Orzes of Montreal-based Blouin Orzes architectes have made that challenge the heart of their practice. Dedicated to what they describe as a “tireless journey” through the villages of Nunavik, the vast northern third of Quebec, Blouin and Orzes create buildings that empathetically address the pressing needs of Inuit communities.

For Blouin Orzes, the work doesn’t stop at the building itself—the architects also play an active role in public consultation processes, sourcing funding and filing grants on behalf of their clients. “It’s a constant search for a balance between tradition and modernity in the contemporary realities of northern communities,” the architects explained. “We have discovered the importance of patiently learning from a culture distinct from our own and have come to love the landscapes and respect nature’s harsh conditions.”

The Katittavik Cultural Centre in Kuujjuarapik, a village on the coast of Hudson Bay, is representative of the firm’s work providing much-needed social spaces for people in remote locations. Upward of 10,000 people use the center, located in one of Nunavit’s 14 communities north of the 55th parallel. The area’s harsh conditions create construction challenges, like high costs, a limited labor force, protracted schedules, and concerns about sustainability. Yet building here takes not only resources and time, but also considerable trust—which the designers work continually and respectfully to earn. - Leilah Stone

Olalekan Jeyifous

For Olalekan Jeyifous, the physical world doesn’t take precedence over the space of imagination. By embracing the tension between reality and invented narratives, his work produces a panoply of architectural inquiries in various media, including hyperreal photomontages, public sculpture, whimsical installations, and immersive VR experiences. Rather than prescribing function, his projects encourage their audiences to reconsider architecture’s relationship to the communities it affects.

Jeyifous describes his work as a result of the “process of connection as opposed to reaction, evoking a notion of ‘place’ rooted in immanence and possibility.” His built public work embraces multiplicity and interpretation, and engages each community’s historic and contemporary challenges, including histories of mobility and displacement, issues of equity in urban housing markets, and the importance of public spaces as sites of protest.

His unbuilt work is equally rooted in social justice. Born in Nigeria, Jeyifous has developed various projects that envision the future of the country’s sprawling megacity, Lagos, in a way that questions ideas of what progress looks like. In Shanty Mega-structures, he produced a series of renderings depicting the city’s informal settlements at the scale of large commercial developments, asking viewers to reconsider who visionary architecture should be for and what practices should inspire it. -  Leilah Stone

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Heart Squared

MODU and Eric Forman reveal the 2020 Times Square Valentine’s heart
An 800-lb multi-mirrored heart sculpture was unveiled yesterday as the 12th winner of the Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition. Heart Squared was designed by architects Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem of MODU and artist Eric Forman from Eric Forman Studios, both based in Brooklyn.  Designed to function like a kaleidoscope, multi-directional mirrors have been suspended in a thin metal space-frame to reflect the bright lights of Times Square from every angle. The 10-foot-tall sculpture prompts visitors to circle around until the frame and mirrors align to reveal a heart, creating the perfect backdrop for a New York Valentine’s Day selfie. “It is the public floor of the city, chaotic, crowded, noisy, it's a character we love about the city. In these public spaces, we feel the freedom to be ourselves amongst others who are different than us,” said Rotem at the sculpture's unveiling. “In our piece, we want to emphasize and amplify this amazing character of the city.” MODU was recognized with a Rome Prize for architecture in 2017, and in 2019 the firm was one of the Architectural League of New York's  Emerging Voices. They collaborated with Eric Forman, who founded his eponymous studio in 2003 and specializes in pieces that facilitate interaction between technology and design.  “We designed this as a balancing act between structure and air, buildings and sky, people and the city, movement, and slowness,” said Forman at the opening.  Times Square Arts partnered with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for this year's competition. Heart Squared was selected from a shortlist of five other New York-based firms, including Agency—Agency, Hou de Sousa, Isometric, Office III, and Other Means.  The jury selected Heart Squared because it was dynamic, animated, inclusive, and accessible, according to Andrea Lipps, associate curator of design at the Cooper Hewitt. The jury also included Sean Anderson from MoMA; Victor Calise, the commissioner from the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities; Kevin Davey from UAP, and last year’s winner, Suchi Reddy from Reddymade.  The competition was made possible from support by the Warhol Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Ripple Foundation, Silman, and New Project. The project’s 125 mirrors will be on display in Father Duffy Square between West 46th and 47th Streets throughout the month of February. 
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New Year's Reading Resolution

Kick off 2020 with these architecture primers
Start the new decade off right with these freshly released architecture and urbanism books. From the lasting architectural influence of Thomas Jefferson (with a dash of character examination), to cutting edge research in timber construction, to 10,000 years of earthen construction, the following books all present new examinations of what might seem like familiar topics. Pick up one (or all) of these titles to keep you warm on those long February nights. The Responsive Environment: Design Aesthetics, and the Human in the 1970s By Larry D. Busbea University of Minnesota Press MSRP: $30.00 Busbea begins this book with a question: “Where do we—as subjects and objects—begin and end?” Exploring the new interactions between humans and their environments that characterized the 1970s, Busbea delves into emerging practices in design, art, architecture, and technology. The Responsive Environment analyzes theories developed by Gregory Bateson, Marshall McLuhan, Wolf Hilbertz, and many others, to examine the changes of how we perceive our spatial identities and physical boundaries in the latter part of the 20th century. Ways of Knowing Cities Edited by Laura Kurgan and Dare Brawley Columbia Books on Architecture and the City MSRP: $28.00 Co-edited by Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) researchers, Ways of Knowing Cities compiles 16 essays on the influence of technology on urban experiences. The texts broach the undeniable politics of reshaping urbanity through data, calling on architects, anthropologists, migration and media specialists to analyze the information systems that affect cities. The book is a product of a 2018 GSAPP symposium of the same name. Planetary Mine: Territories of Extraction under Late Capitalism By Martín Arboleda Verso MSRP: $29.95 Arboleda opens this book with a description of a miners’ strike in northern Chile as just one example of the effect of global resource extraction on the human experience. He traces the geographic development of supply chain capitalism from South American to East-Asian economies, questioning exploitations of resource-based industries like construction. Planetary Mine rethinks global development in terms of world political climate and geography. The Art of Earth Architecture: Past, Present, Future By Jean Dethier Princeton Architectural Press MSRP: $125.00 In a global survey of raw earth construction techniques, 1987 Grand Prix d'Architecture winner Dethier investigates over 250 instances of environmentally sustainable architecture through technical, cultural, and historical lenses. This encyclopedia of raw earth construction depicts projects built over the last ten thousand years, including UNESCO World Heritage sites from the Great Wall of China to the Great Mosque of Djenné. Over 700 high-resolution photographs and illustrations are paired with essays from 20 experts to explore projects from ancestral palaces to contemporary dwellings. Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals By Mabel O. Wilson Edited by Lloyd DeWitt and Corey Piper Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk (Yale University Press) MSRP: $45.00 A publication stemming from a 2019 exhibition at the Chrysler Museum of Art of the same name, Thomas Jefferson, Architect provides an inside look into the architectural works of the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. This book examines Jefferson's designs with a new perspective, highlighting the neoclassical influences on the contention between Jefferson's ideology of liberty and property. Jefferson's complex character is explored through the designs of Monticello, Poplar Forest, and the University of Virginia campus, as well as his prioritizations of both democracy and slavery. Wood Urbanism: From the Molecular to the Territorial Edited by Daniel Ibañez, Jane Hutton, and Kiel Moe Actar Publishers MSRP: $54.95 From microscopic biology to the macrocosms of cities, wood has been an invaluable component of construction throughout history. Wood Urbanism explores the scalar properties of wood in terms of species, carbon impact, thermal qualities, ecology, cities, and metabolism. Case studies and visual essays are separated by full-spread photos and technical graphics that question the role of wood in today's industry. Both a manual and a challenge for architects, this book investigates how wood can continue to be a dynamic, multi-faceted material in an ever-changing landscape. Frederick Kiesler: Face-to-face With the Avant-garde: Essential Essays on Network and Impact Edited by Peter Bogner, Gerd Zillner, and the Frederick Kiesler Foundation Birkhäuser MSPR: $44.99 The father of the Correalism theory (the continuous interactions between people and their built environments), Frederick Kiesler was a visionary of architecture and design in both Austria and New York. This monograph is comprised of 21 essays that explore his work in regard to his contemporaries, including Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian, Arshile Gorky, and more. The book's release marks the 20th anniversary of the Frederick Kiesler Foundation, and a celebration of the network of avant-garde artists of the time, placing Kiesler's contributions in fuller context. Bodybuilding: Architecture and Performance Edited by Charles Aubin and Carlos Mínguez Carrasco Performa MSRP: $35.00 Where architecture traditionally functions on permanence, Bodybuilding is the first publication specifically devoted to the ephemerality of live performance in design. Featuring architects and collectives from Lina Bo Bardi to Toyo Ito, the book traces staged performances, rather than constructed buildings, that have questioned the built environment. Bodybuilding was launched as a part of Performa's eighth biennale, examining trends that stemmed from the Bauhaus. The book surveys performance art curated by contemporary designers, who searched for other creative outlets during economic downturns that stymied construction projects. AN uses affiliate links; if you purchase a product through this page, AN may receive a commission.