Search results for "paola antonelli"

Placeholder Alt Text

Material Ecology

Neri Oxman to get solo show at MoMA
Next year, a solo show on the work of the architect, designer, and inventor Neri Oxman will go on view at the Museum of Modern Art. Neri Oxman: Material Ecology will highlight eight major projects that showcase the evolution of the research and innovative designs Oxman has conducted over the course of her 15-year career.  Curated by Paola Antonelli and Anna Burckhardt, the monographic exhibition will shine a spotlight on the expertise Oxman has harnessed as a professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab, and founder of the now well-known Mediated Matter Group, a research organization that fabricates nature-inspired design. One of Oxman’s biggest claims to fame is “material ecology,” a term she coined to describe the work process by which she utilizes computational design, digital fabrication technologies, and material science to produce projects that are “informed by the structural, systemic, and aesthetic wisdom of nature.”  The American-Israel architect’s self-titled MoMA show will be organized around a site-specific work viewable for the first time. Silk Pavilion II harnesses the strength of 6,500 silkworms to fill in gaps left in a 3D-printed cocoon created from an algorithm that produced the structure from a single, continuous thread. Up close, the object resembles an opaque geodesic dome with patches of thread in varying densities.  Aguahoja (2018) will run alongside Silk Pavilion II, which “aims to subvert the industrial cycle of material extraction and obsolescence” by using nature’s abundant biomaterials to create digitally-fabricated structures that are light, flexible, and react to the environment in ways synthetic materials can not. Glass I and II (2015, 2017) will also be displayed along with Totems (2019), a series of columns made from melanin synthesized from mushrooms. A prototype of these was first commissioned for the XXII Triennale de Milano Broken Nature exhibition, also curated by Antonelli. These pieces will feature a range of 3D-printed liquid channels of melanin pigments from different species. Neri Oxman: Material Ecology will be on display at the MoMA from February 22 through May 25, 2020, after the completion of the museum’s high-profile expansion. A video will accompany each of Oxman’s projects to demonstrate the specific science and production processes behind her work.
Placeholder Alt Text

Design for Extremes

Milan shows examine design in the face of disaster
The much anticipated Museo del Design Italiano opened its doors to the public in the same week in April as the Salone del Mobile.Milano. Housed in the storied Milan Triennale, this carefully assembled selection of design artifacts is curated by Joseph Grima, who began his tenure as the museum’s first director. This collection, housed in the Italian Design Museum, is a preeminent example, according to the Triennale Foundation’s president Stefano Boeri, of Italy’s rich post-war cultural heritage. Grima’s formula for the permanent exhibition is to parcel the Triennale’s significant archive into limited sets or editions, that he characterizes as “episodes,” with the first episode serving as the premiere event. Episode 1 is a survey of the postwar years between 1948 and 1981 and is housed in the first half of the curved gallery that winds around the ground floor. Each progressive installment will expand deeper into the Triennale’s bowel-like interiors. The ultimate goal for the Design Museum is to expand beyond Giovanni Muzio’s original 1930s architectural masterpiece. The intention, according to Boeri, is for the museum to grow out by dipping below the rear gardens. An international competition for this future wing will soon be in the offing. It should be pointed out, however, that the exhibition on Italian design is concurrent with, if only through a programming coincidence, a major traveling exhibition located on the second floor above: Broken Nature, curated by Paola Antonelli, the highly successful senior curator of architecture and design at MoMA. Subtitled Design Takes on Human Survival (open through September 1, 2019), this detailed survey of critical strategies dealing directly with the plight of the planet and its increasingly fragile ecosystems aims to be the last word on what is possible through human action in the fuzzy realm of the “technosphere,” a term coined by Peter Haff and adopted by Antonelli’s curatorial team. An impressive number of prominent international designers, thinkers, visual artists and craftspeople share the extensive second-floor space in a sprawling display of human invention and earthly ingenuity. The two inadvertently overlapping exhibitions bring up the question of mutual relevancy, precisely because the similarities between these two exhibitions are much more marked than one would first assume. Looking at the two epochs under consideration, one postwar, the other very recent, both shows are reactions to extreme geopolitical contexts. Italy in the immediate postwar period had to overcome severe wartime devastation; while today, we are evidently firsthand witnesses to a ballooning climatic disaster. Why push the comparison? Because Joseph Grima’s vision of the late fifties to the early eighties serendipitously provides us with a collection of object-time-capsules, or packaged narratives, where we come face to face with an Olivetti typewriter, a pair of Moonboots, a miniature Brionvega television set. These items are neatly arranged alongside related prototype wooden models, publications from promotional advertising campaigns, and in some cases original cardboard packaging. True, as Stefano Mirti, the Milanese designer and critic who was one of the earliest to comment on the exhibit over social media, put it, the objects are readied as if for Instagram shots, but Mirti also took great delight in the immediacy and directness with which these objects are allowed to communicate with us. The famed folding clamshell Grillo telephones, designed in 1965 by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper, are featured. Pick up the phone, try to remember or guess how to use the dial, and you are connected to the designer’s voice responsible for creating the object in front of you. It’s a pretty direct message, with no middleman. Why is everyone still so mesmerized with this by-now relatively familiar collection of top Italian design objects? The something else that characterizes this permanent collection is the inherent irony, cynicism, and deep criticality that underlies almost each and every one of these impressive designs. What could possibly be the reason we are ensnared by Archizoom’s relatively uncomfortable looking Poltrona Mies chair built by Poltronova in 1969 to take just one example? Most of these pieces, developed with sparse financial support from the manufacturers, represent lengthy developments by trial and error, long personal commitments, and rare commercial successes—at least when they first came on the market. A case in point are the colorful names of these creations, Papillon, Rossocactus, Shanghai, CuccioloTrigger of the SpaceVertebraAtollo, etc. The pieces are much more than merely functional objects; they act as totems for a new society. Behind these designs are a nest of ideological structures that reject standardization, often embrace handcrafts and experimental materials, and evidently abandon the strict tenets of modernist rationalism. The pieces are in turn self-ironic, cynically auto destructive, or perversely inefficient. Enzo Mari is the master of this kind of design game, as so many of his pieces in this collection exemplify, like his Box from 1971 for Anonima Castelli, a chair that is its own carrying case, or his Modelli in scala Serie Proposta per autoprogettazione (Scale models for self-design Proposta series), 1973, for Simon International, conceived to empower the user to rethink one’s own domestic environment. The transition from postwar reconstruction to the threat of nuclear annihilation remains all the while a running subtext among these objects. Looking at Broken Nature, one could only hope that there would be an equivalent level of meta-awareness. To be honest, several of the featured designers and creative thinkers in this exhibit do reach these heights, but they are drowned out by the sheer volume of participants. There are the overarching (or overreaching) categories, including “A Changed Climate,” “Complex Environments,” “Made and Unmade,” “More of the Times,” and “Bridges,” and some truly great projects for sure: beginning with the exhibition’s graphic icons, designed by Anna Kulachek. There are many impressive designs, fluent in the parametric, the biomimetic, the diagram, the transgenderative, the playful, but at the end of the day, what can you take away from all these projects, besides a deeply unrequited experience? This is not to slight the many amazing designs featured in Broken Nature, but it calls to question the primary curatorial position, which attempts to be so all-inclusive that there remains little room for personal absorption or reflection on the part of the viewer. There is no way to digest all this comprehensive information into a personal action, or to urge us on as individuals to become more aware or rebellious. The lack of self-reflection, self-criticism, or even some kind of cynical self-abdication leaves the viewer with simply too much useful information to process. Broken Nature is not the only one among these hugely impressive, uber-intelligent, mega-exhibits to come on the circuit in these recent years. But I fear the effects are ultimately counterproductive. In a way, we become frustrated in our attempts to make sense of these works. Go downstairs, to the Museo del Design Italiano, to experience how irony, satire, and self-deprecation draw your curiosity and fuel your imagination. This is what we need more of today.
Placeholder Alt Text

All Fuksas Up

Architects rally behind Doriana Fuksas after prize snub
This month two Italian architecture activist groups disseminated a petition demanding the Istituto Nazionale di Architettura (IN/ARCH) include architect Doriana Fuksas in a lifetime achievement award that was recently bestowed on Massimiliano Fuksas, her partner in work and life. The groups, RebelArchitette and Voices of Women Architects (VOW), posted the petition on December 12. At press time, the petition, a publicly-accessible Google spreadsheet with names verified through Sign Here, had garnered just shy of 500 signatures. Doriana and Massimiliano's names appear at the top, followed closely by the likes of MoMA architecture curator Paola Antonelli, and the architects Toshiko Mori and Denise Scott Brown. Also included are lead organizers Louise Braverman, Caroline James, Arielle Assouline-Lichten, and Francesca Perani. Here's the full text of the letter:
Dear Amedeo Schiattarella, President of the Istituto Nazionale di Architettura Region Lazio, and Andrea Margaritelli, President of the Istituto Nazionale di Architettura, We are writing on behalf of Doriana Fuksas, as we understand that she was overlooked in the selection process of the Premio alla Carriera Architettura. Doriana and Massimiliano are equal partners. We are calling for equal recognition for equal work. We are a diverse group from around the world. We lead our own firms, are directors of schools, are award-winning architects, journalists, and professors. This past May at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, some of us came together as a Flash Mob in the Giardini during the preview days of the Venice Biennale as part of Voices of Women Architects -- VOW Architects. The Flash Mob is a peaceful gathering of individuals asking for a common goal. In this case it’s equal rights and respect for all members of our community. Organizers included Martha Thorne, Louise Braverman, Francesca Perani, Farshid Moussavi, Toshiko Mori, Caroline Bos, Benedetta Tagliabue, Odile Decq, Caroline James and Atxu Amann. We read a manifesto in the Giardini to hundreds of men and women who were there to rally in support towards a change in the Architecture profession. The work continues. Today, with other groups, we are supporting the initiative of RebelArchitette: "Time for 50" - Time for Equality. We are looking at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. When we read last week in the news that Massimiliano Fuksas has received the Premio alla Carriera Architettura, we were stunned that the prize did not include Doriana Fuksas. Doriana and Massimiliano are equal partners. It's important to correct the record now so that young architects can look up to their incredible work and know the whole story -- that the work is strong because of joint creativity and collaboration. We are signing in solidarity to show our support for the tremendous achievements of Doriana and Massimiliano, and ask that you amend the Premio alla Carriera Architettura now to recognize Doriana and Massimiliano, together. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Doriana and Massimiliano launched Fuksas in 1985. Recently, the duo worked on the New Milan Trade Fair, a convention center, as well as an eyepopping bi-conical theater and exhibition hall in Tbilisi, Georgia. In the age of #MeToo and growing acknowledgment of entrenched sexism in architecture, the petition stands on the shoulders of recent attempts to dismantle structural barriers women in the field face at all levels. Attention to women's recognition in architecture's stratosphere extends back decades: Architectural Record reported that two of the Fuksa petition organizers, James and Assouline-Lichten, led a campaign to get the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury to give Scott Brown an equal share of the 1991 Pritzker awarded to her late husband and professional partner Robert Venturi.
Placeholder Alt Text

Broken Nature

Paola Antonelli's upcoming Milan Triennale urges designers to tackle climate change
Next year’s XXII Triennale di Milano couldn’t come at a better time. Curated by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s Paola Antonelli, the exhibition focuses on the one-of-a-kind ways designers are tackling one of the world’s biggest contemporary problems: climate change. Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival introduces the concept of restorative design and analyzes how humans interact with the natural environment. “A healthy concern for the future of our planet and of our species should come as no surprise," said Antonelli in a statement, "and yet the Broken Nature team feels thankful for the eager and consistent restorative design that is at the core of [this event]...It allows us to keep believing in the power of design to help citizens understand complexity, assess risks, adapt behaviors, and demand change.” Running from March 1 to September 1, 2019, the international showcase will bring together thought-provoking commissions from around the world that sit at the intersection of art, industry, and politics. Special projects will be on view by Formafantasma, Sigil Collective, as well as Neri Oxman and the MIT-based Mediated Matter Group, among others. Scientist Stefano Mancuso will present the immersive exhibition, The Nation of Plants, which will explore the role of botany in helping to solve the world’s vast ecological issues.  It was recently announced that Italian architect Stefano Boeri will lead the global event as its new president. He aims to reinstitute the traditional roots of the 85-year-old Milan Triennale as a collaborative design event that centers on modern day issues. The 2016 event, which was the first Triennale held after a 20-year hiatus, didn’t follow the former format that encouraged such widespread cross-disciplinary collaboration. The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with Antonelli about what it means now that the Triennale is back, and why next year’s thematic exhibition is particularly pertinent for cities in Italy and beyond: AN: Broken Nature is a total revamp of the 2016 Milan Triennale. Can you talk about the ways in which the 2019 event will be different? Paola Antonelli: Hopefully it will exist in the same vein of the ones that happened over 20 years ago. The 2016 event was a loose collection of design innovations while the Triennales held before the 21st century very much connected to what was happening in the world. That’s how I think about Broken Nature. We’re creating the opportunity for architects and designers to participate in a dialogue and contribute to the world’s most urgent crisis: the future of the environment. What makes it different is its attempt to connect a network of efforts. Very often you have these events where the curators know each other, but they make something new and original individually. I believe in originality, of course, but I also believe in collaboration. If we’re talking about emergency as the central focus, we might as well join forces. I would like Broken Nature to become not an umbrella, but an embrace for all these efforts, and for curators to complement each others’ efforts. With this theme of climate change and protecting the environment, we have to join forces in order to be taken seriously. What was the inspiration behind giving science as much of a platform as design? PA: I began this exploration 10 years ago with the MoMA exhibition, Design and the Elastic Mind. We put designers and scientists in conversation to discuss recent changes in tech, science, and social habits, and how people can deal with those changes through thoughtful design. The idea for Broken Nature was birthed in 2013 as a proposal for another exhibition at MoMA that didn’t work out. It never left my mind, because soon after that, new solutions and ways to address change emerged out of this growing urgency to save ourselves and the earth from major environmental threats. For the Milan Triennale, we’re not gathering curators to put together new works necessarily. The National Bureau of Expositions will handle organizing the various pavilions by other countries. I am curating part of the exhibition myself, and we’re asking designers worldwide to share projects that they’ve already been working on for some time. We’re looking for eco-visionaries who have already helped start a dialogue on restorative design and how humans can better connect with nature.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by Broken Nature (@broken__nature) on

What role has public engagement played in the process of putting together this event? PA: We’ve done public symposia on Broken Nature already, which has helped not only spread awareness but organize our ideas and prepare content. Some of our contributors have already written essays about their projects, which we’ll use toward a book later that sums up our learnings. The symposia have also helped us test out a few ideas to see if they will work out on the national stage. What else should we know going into next year’s 7-month-long triennale? PA: Overall, we’re hoping people will be puzzled and inspired by the exhibition, but we do have three main desired outcomes for it. First, we’re doing this not only for the architecture and design community but for the Milanese citizens because we know they’re interested in design. We’re looking to them as the agent of change to exercise pressure on institutions and change behaviors. We hope citizens will come to the show and leave with a short-term sense of what they can do in their everyday lives to be restorative. Second, we want people to leave the building knowing we live in a complex world, so our actions need to be thoughtful as we move forward in interacting with nature. Third, we want people to have a long-term vision. We tend to always think of our children and our children’s children when it comes to caring for the earth. But beyond that into the third generation of humans, it’s hard to psychologically imagine what it will be like. We hope the exhibition will help people put the far-out future into perspective. Leading the curatorial effort alongside Antonelli for XXII Triennale di Milano are Ala Tannir, Laura Maeran, and Azzurra Muzzonigro. Laura Agnesi will act as lead coordinator for the event, while Marco Sammicheli will handle international relations.
Placeholder Alt Text

Van der Leaving

David van der Leer to leave Van Alen Institute, triggering search for successor
Executive director of the New York–based nonprofit Van Alen Institute, David van der Leer, has announced that he’ll be stepping down from his position effective November 21 to focus on his consultancy business. Van der Leer’s transition away from the institution he’s helped lead since 2013 will kick off a global search for Van Alen’s next executive director, although van der Leer will continue to serve in an advisory capacity through the beginning of 2019 to ease the transition. Managing director Elissa Black will serve as the interim director until van der Leer’s successor begins. Van der Leer’s tenure at the 125-year-old Institute has been marked by an outgrowth of interdisciplinary programs, design competitions, media partnerships, international outreach, and the formation of three leadership councils. Climate change has also taken center stage, as the Institute launched Keeping Current, an $850,000 design competition for mitigating sea level rise in Miami, sent their Climate Council across the country to search for urban resiliency solutions, and highlighted the issue in their Van Alen Sessions video series. “If Van Alen and New York have walked hand-in-hand for decades, David van der Leer has opened up the doors (and the minds) of the Institute to the wider world,” said Paola Antonelli, the Museum of Modern Art’s senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design. “He has initiated partnerships that have positioned Van Alen as an important node in the international network of research and debate on the future of cities.” Black said in a press release, "Through innovation and inclusivity, David inspired the vision for the important work of the organization. I and the entire staff are wholly committed to carrying our mission forward and building on the Institute's legacy of forward-thinking programs."
Placeholder Alt Text

Election Season

La Triennale di Milano announces election of Stefano Boeri as president
La Triennale di Milano came back after a 20-year hiatus just two years ago and already it’s getting a revamp. The Triennale, which takes place in the museum of the same name within Milan’s Palazzo dell’Arte, has just elected architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri as its president with a plan to return to the festival's roots that date back 85 years. Boeri’s stated goal is to return the Triennale to its position at the center of the “international dialogue between culture, economics, society, arts, and industry…When governments and political systems are no longer a reference point for progress, we look to other places, such as creative institutions, to facilitate that dialogue." Not limiting these updates to just the theoretical or curatorial realm, the changes are also going to be quite physical—the Giovanni Muzio–designed Palazzo dell’Arte will be restored to its original 1930s rationalist condition. Boeri has previously held positions as the artistic director of MI/ARCH, another international architecture festival in Milan, and as Milan’s Head of Culture, Design, and Fashion, The coming 2019 Triennale is titled Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival and was organized by MoMA curator Paola Antonelli. Broken Nature confronts the relationship between humanity and the environment around us through the lens of “restorative design.”
Placeholder Alt Text

As Seen

Pioneering exhibitions that changed architecture and design
For addressing what some consider to be an extremely niche topic, As Seen: Exhibitions that Made Architecture and Design History makes a convincing argument for the importance of exhibitions in broader design. While the book may not convince those who are already skeptical of the role of exhibition in the design fields, those who are at all interested will find it an invaluable resource for understanding historical and contemporary exhibition practices. Using 11 benchmark exhibitions, editor Zoë Ryan builds a conversation between a number of today’s most noted curators, architects, designers, and academics through a series of essays. The end result is a brief critical history of historic and contemporary exhibitions that changed the way architecture and design are understood. Ryan, the John H. Bryan Chair and curator of architecture and design at the Art Institute of Chicago, opens the book with an argument for each of the exhibitions and their places in history. These exhibitions include: This is Tomorrow (1956), the IBM Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair (1964), aper22 (1970), Italy: The New Domestic Landscape (1972), Man Transforms (1976), Memphis (1981), Droog (1993), Mutant Materials in Contemporary Design (1995–97), Massive Change: The Future of Global Design (2004– 06), Sense of the City: An Alternate Approach to Urbanism (2005), and Super Normal: Sensations of the Ordinary (2007). The remainder of the book is divided up into sections covering the exhibitions themselves, their catalogs, their critical reception, and thoughts on their lasting impact on the design fields. Interestingly, as is pointed out multiple times in the text, many of these exhibitions were not necessarily popular or critically successful when they were first on show. This is Tomorrow, which was shown at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (now the Whitechapel Gallery) in London, was covered extensively by the press, and called everything from confusing to exciting. Memphis—which ran in what would now be called a collateral gallery, located at the edge of the Salone del Mobile in Milan—caused a stir among critics and designers alike, some feeling like the show was some sort of media stunt to elevate the career of Ettore Sottsass. Notably, there are no photographs of the Memphis show. The IBM Pavilion structure, designed by Eero Saarinen and Roche Dinkeloo was not altogether loved, but the interior exhibition, Think, produced by Ray and Charles Eames, received rave reviews and a constant stream of visitors. In all cases, the book lays out why we should care about these shows today, despite or thanks to their initial reception. It is carefully pointed out early in the book that the most recent show was over ten years ago, in order to maintain a critical distance from early reactions. Even with this distance, the book does bring some of the shows in very close with its choice of contributors. In more than one case, curators from the shows covered are given a chance to comment on the larger topic of exhibitions, if not their own work. Mirko Zardini outlines (in a text originally published in Log 20) what it means to show architectural work in Montreal, where his show Sense of the City was exhibited at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). Paola Antonelli talks more directly about the role of digital content and how it relates to her show Mutant Materials, which was the first show at the Museum of Modern Art to be accompanied by a website. A prevailing theme throughout the essays, if not the book as a whole, is the changing nature and role of exhibitions throughout time. Sylvia Lavin discusses the allure of contemporary exhibitions thanks to their blend of demonstration (full-scale architecture-artifacts), aesthetics (design as art), and information, all of which developed in design and architectural exhibitions in stops and starts in the past century. Meredith Carruthers dedicates an essay to the exhibition catalogs, another topic that pops up throughout the book. Stepping back even further from the exhibitions themselves, Penelope Dean and Alice Rawsthorn specifically discuss the changing shape of design criticism in the form of exhibition reviews over time. The physical book, designed by Project Projects, is appropriately reminiscent of a museum catalog. Highly stylized graphic design, rich imagery, and bold use of multiple paper stocks and colors make it an artifact in itself, an idea discussed extensively in the text about catalogs. This is doubly fitting, as the genesis of the book was a research project conducted by Ryan and displayed at the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial and eventually as a show at the Art Institute. While not actually a catalog of that show, the meta idea of a book about an exhibition about exhibitions seems fitting for the topic, more so than a simple catalog. As Seen is not for everybody. Those who believe that the field of architecture and design is most importantly a professional one will likely find the conversation about long over exhibitions esoteric if not unnecessary. This book is not for them, though. For those who are interested in the expression of theoretical and avant-garde design concepts through exhibitions (which seems to be a growing number, considering the recent explosion of biennales and triennials around the world), As Seen: Exhibitions that Made Architecture and Design History is the closest thing to a textbook on the subject. As Seen: Exhibitions that Made Architecture and Design History Zoë Ryan Art Institute of Chicago, $30.49
Placeholder Alt Text

Wild Futures

Robots prevail in our society, but what roles can they really play?
Amelie Klein is a curator at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, and she organized the show Hello, Robot. Design between Human and Machine, a centerpiece of the Vienna Biennale. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) sat down with Klein to discuss robots and the speculation that comes along with them. The Architect’s Newspaper: What role does speculation play in your new exhibition Hello, Robot., which is on view now as part of the Vienna Biennale? Amelie Klein: Well, it is funny because dealing with robots is inherently dealing with a lot of speculation. But our definition of “robot” is very broad, so it is not always so clear. What is a robot? Architect Carlo Ratti says there are three criteria: A robot must have sensors that gather; intelligence that interprets; and actuators, or tools, that produce a reaction. This is slightly different than what we usually consider to be a robot, which is more about doing something physical or having artificial intelligence. But if we look at the smartphone as a robot, we are not in the speculative; we are talking about the real. However, at the same time, the stuff we see that resembles science fiction robots is built to work for like five days, usually at a fair next to a highly sophisticated technician who will help make it run. So in that regard, it is not really as advanced as we might think. If you look at what is around, it is mostly all super fragile and doesn’t work at all. So robotics today is inherently speculative. But what about design? What role does design play in realizing new futures? Bruce Sterling always says, “Science fiction is never about the future, it is always about the present.” Speculation is looking at the present and taking it one step further. Paola Antonelli once gave a presentation in the mid-’90s about the future of work. She had commissioned a piece to Hella Jongerius, who came up with a bed with a screen built into the piece of furniture. Today, that is ridiculous to think of having [a bed with] a built-in screen, but at the same time we all work in bed. So people are articulating these ideas in a way that corresponds to our own reality today. Since the modernism movement, we have had this fetish of function—as if functionality is what makes design. I don’t think this is a very useful concept for what design can offer. Design practices like Dunne + Raby and Superflux use speculative design to talk about how we deal with our physical environment now. They are asking some very important questions, which has liberated design from this fetish of functionality. Do you see the same level of speculative thinking in architecture? There is certainly speculative thinking, such as Greg Lynn’s work or the Vertical Village. Archigram and Ant Farm were also highly speculative. In general, in the 1970s there were radical architects, but maybe this is not so prevalent anymore. What we have found in our research for this show is really well-researched architecture that isn’t necessarily speculative, it‘s just real—such as parametricism. We had this moment when all these architects came up with a new aesthetic that was born from the digital. But now people are really bored with that and they are looking at what else we can do with that technology. If you look at what Ratti is doing, he says that the medieval city will always look like the medieval city, but we will just use it differently. What is really new is actually invisible. The same is true for design. We might have new gadgets, but it might be more about how we interact with these objects, not how things look. It is interesting. It is almost impossible to build architecture that relates to technology, because it ends up obsolete with a few years and must be retrofit. Achim Menges is dealing with some of these issues at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction. He is asking, “What does it mean to have larger cities, and how will we deal with having to construct more buildings?” It is less about speculation; it is very much about nuts and bolts in a very architectural way. He is thinking about how we can use architecture like nature uses material. For example, every building is built to carry maximum weight, which is a waste of material. He looks at how we can save material. How much room for innovation is there? So we can speculate about new ways of making? I rarely get excited about a chair, unless it totally rethinks how to make a chair, such as the CurVoxels 3-D Printed Cantilever Chair, which is based on an algorithm that feeds into a robot that prints it in the air. It does for furniture design what Menges is doing for architecture. CurVoxels Design Research Group took the Panton Chair by Vernor Panton and tested a new method [of fabrication] with a very traditional chair. It is like the old analogy of the iron bridge, where it looks like a wooden bridge, even though it’s made of this new material. We are figuring out still what the possibility of these materials is and what that might mean for making and what that might mean for aesthetics. So how can design speculate about the city? One thing that is very fresh and prescient is a project by Dunne & Raby called United Micro Kingdoms, where they reimagined how four communities would live. For example, the digitarians would have a society that was quite authoritarian. It is also kind of neoliberal, as they are obsessed with cost efficiency, etc. It raises issues that we might not be thinking about, like how do we pay for autonomous vehicles? We may not own these self-driving cars—we might have to share and rent them. We have these great visions of the city without congestion and everything is running smoothly, but it likely won’t happen that way. We will probably see something more like what Dunne & Raby came up with, which is very easyJet-like, with bare-bones amenities. If you pay more, it might be luxurious with more privacy and speed. This is how we live today, so why would it change? There is hope. Superflux was invited by one of the Arab Emirates to give a presentation about potential cities of the future. They suggested that cars must be given up, and these oil sheiks, who are filthy rich, said, “Forget it! I am not going to do that, my son is not going to do that!” Superflux anticipated this and, working with scientists and physicists, created a series of air samples that illustrated what the air would smell like if we don’t change our present habits. It worked to convince them. The sheiks didn’t want their sons [sic] to live in air like that. This can be very powerful, if designers look to social progress rather than simply working within the neoliberal or market frameworks. All this technology is being sold as changing the world, but how are Airbnb or Uber changing the world? They are undermining conventions in society that we have worked for centuries to install. They are not saving the world, they are taking us steps backwards, and it is causing disenchantment and disappointment. Critical thinking is all we have to avoid these hyper-efficient futures. The experiments might be inefficient, but we need that and we need speculation to move forward.
Placeholder Alt Text

Winner's Circle

Japanese designer Hiroto Yoshizoe wins Lexus Design Award 2017 Grand Prix
After one year, 1,152 entries from 63 countries, 12 finalists, and four prototype presentations, Japan's Hiroto Yoshizoe has been named the winner of the Lexus Design Award 2017 Grand Prix during Milan's Salone del Mobile. The designer, who was a finalist in last year's competition with his water-activated color-changing planters, impressed the judges with PIXEL: an interactive device that utilizes a series of visors to create a range of light and shadow effects, inspired by a childhood memory of falling asleep to the glow of a television. The international design competition was first launched in 2013 to support up-and-coming creatives using design to build a better future. For its fifth edition, the innovation competition focused on the theme “Yet,” which Yoshizoe interpreted as the interplay between light and shadow—much like the way a sunset can be reflected on a cloud as a gradation of color. Yoshizoe is based in Tokyo and is a graduate from Musashino Art University. He explained PIXEL further in a press release: “This work does the same by acting as a filter screen to show the viewer the existence and fascination of light and shadow,” he said. In the final phase of the competition, Yoshizoe was partnered with Snarkitecture’s Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen, who mentored him during the prototype process. (The contest’s other industry mentors were Neri & Hu, Max Lamb and Elena Manferdini.) “What I personally was interested in were designs or concepts or projects that are more experiential, more about a sort of overall impression,” Mustonen said of the choice to partner with Yoshizoe. “The advice given from my mentors was very precise and accurate,” added Yoshizoe. "Their suggestion to test a form that I had not considered in the beginning allowed me to develop this work. They also gave me suggestions on new materials, which led me to a path that I did not expect. I am grateful for their advice.” Along with the industry mentors, the contest was judged by a panel of leading names including Paola Antonelli, Aric Chen, Toyo Ito and Alice Rawsthorn. As the Grand Prix winner, Yoshizoe’s design PIXEL will be on display at the LEXUS YET pavilion at the Triennial di Milano.
Placeholder Alt Text

¯_(ツ)_/¯

MoMA has acquired the original 176 emojis
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York announced today that it has acquired the original 176-character set of emojis for their permanent collection. The original "12 x 12 pixel humble masterpieces," as MoMA called them in their Medium post, were developed by NTT DOCOMO under the supervision of  Shigetaka Kurita. The original set was released to cell phones in 1999. This set off the beginning of an entirely new language that would eventually become ubiquitous in mobile messaging. MoMA credits the new language with altering the way we communicate. "The design of a chair dictates our posture; so, too, does the format of electronic communication shape our voice." The institution gained notoriety for these cheeky acquisitions when they got the "@" symbol and a set of seminal video games, all of which is a 21st-century continuation of curator Paola Antonelli's famous Humble Masterpieces show from 2003 that set off a decade-plus exploration of the beautiful in everyday objects. That show, which displayed everything from band-aids to light bulbs under plexiglass, even made references to Philip Johnson's original Machine Art show by including the ball bearings that were one of the first acquisitions by MoMA in 1934. As for emojis, this set was seminal in the history of telecommunications. The 176 emoji (picture characters) became an instant hit and were copied by rival companies in Japan. When Apple released the updated, unicode version for iPhone in 2011, they became the new form of communication we know today. Paul Galloway, MoMA architecture & design collection specialist, said that "This acquisition was the work of many people both at MoMA and at NTT DOCOMO. First and foremost I must thank the indefatigable Paola Antonelli, our fearless advocate for expanding an appreciation of the field of design to new realms, who initiated this project. I also thank our Chief Curator, Martino Stierli, A&D Curatorial Assistant Michelle Fisher, Alexis Sandler of the MoMA General Counsel office, and Betty Fisher in the Exhibition Design department. And I commend and send thanks to NTT DOCOMO’s large team, who exhibited tremendous patience, flexibility, and an adventurous spirit well in keeping with their company’s great heritage."
Placeholder Alt Text

Battersea

Herzog & de Meuron, Studio Gang, and DS+R among those shortlisted for new Royal College of Art campus in South London
The Royal College of Art (RCA) in London has a unveiled a shortlist of seven invited studios that will compete to design the school's new $140 million campus in Battersea, South London. The list features practices from Europe and the U.S. including Swiss duo Herzog & de Meuron, Chicago-based Studio Gang and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DSR) from New York. Organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants, who claim that the college is set to "embark upon the most exciting phase of development" in its 179 year history, the RCA will align itself into being a primarily science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics-based institution. As a result, it aims to coalesce these disciplines to "create transformational impact in such areas as connected cities; robotics, the internet of things and intelligent mobility; sustainability, mass migration and city design." Specifically, this will include the expansion of the RCA's "research and knowledge exchange centers into the domains of computer and materials science, the impact of the digital economy, and intelligent mobility." The shortlisted practices are:
  • Christian Kerez (Switzerland)
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro (U.S.)
  • Herzog & de Meuron (Switzerland)
  • Lacaton & Vassal (France)
  • Robbrecht en Daem architecten (Belgium)
  • Serie Architects (UK/Singapore)
  • Studio Gang (U.S.)
"At the centre of the Battersea South vision are the practices of artists and designers," said Dean of Architecture Dr. Adrian Lahoud. "The project should support and inspire their work, offering an incredible opportunity to explore new frontiers in learning and research in art and design." Malcolm Reading, competition director, added: "This is a dazzling list of architectural thought-leaders who have connected with a project that will create a renewed sense of place in this part of Battersea.  We very much look forward to the teams’ analyses of the brief at the second stage of the competition." The selection panel members include:
  • Dr. Paul Thompson (Chair)
  • Professor Naren Barfield
  • Richard Benson
  • Dr. Adrian Lahoud
  • Professor Judith Mottram
  • Baroness Gail Rebuck
  • Alan Leibowitz (lay member of Council)
  • Professor Ricky Burdett (lay member of Council)
  • Professor Rachel Cooper OBE (lay member of Council)
  • Paola Antonelli
  • Marcus Cole (student)
Placeholder Alt Text

Flavor: Faking It and Making It

The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) and Brooklyn-based Labour on how to design for taste and smell
Design rarely ventures into your nose and onto your tongue. Or, at least, not design as most of us recognize it. An exhibition at Brooklyn's Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) Lab explores how flavorists—essentially specialized chemists—have been simulating natural tastes and smells for generations, dramatically shaping our collective palate in the process. (Read our initial coverage of the exhibition, dubbed Flavor: Faking It and Making It, here). But how did Brooklyn-based creative office Labour and MOFAD create a physical exhibition around the ephemeral sensations and nervous stimuli that creative flavor? MOFAD's Program Director Emma Boast sat down with Labour's Ryan Dunn and Wyeth Hansen in a discussion moderated by the MoMA's Paola Antonelli to explore just that. "Flavor is the synthesis of smell and taste," said Boast, and the exhibit caters to both with multiple flavor pill dispensers and tubes that blow flavor molecule-scented air into your face. In the educational spirit of the exhibition, these smell stations reveal how they work: small glass jars of labelled flavor concentrate are in plain view when you lean into the nozzle. Dunn, Hansen, and Boast wanted to avoid more conventional scented paper samples. Or as Dunn put it, "It had to look bonkers." They contacted a neuroscientist who helped Labour and MOFAD Founder, President, and culinary maestro Dave Arnold develop the smell puffer technology. The consoles are easy to approach and fun to use, in no small part thanks to some familiar design elements. "The brief said it has to have arcade buttons," Dunn said. When partaking of the smell tubes and flavor pills, there is an inherent leap of faith. When you eat a seaweed umami pill, or inhale a molecule used to simulate lemon flavor, you can't be entirely sure what will happen. And that's very much by design. "Disorientation as a means to discovery," said Hansen, was a core idea in designing the exhibition. The lenticular wall graphic that adorns the exhibition interior similarly disorients visitors, forcing them to decipher its dual meaning. In fact, MOFAD's inaugural exhibition, which traveled around New York City, was even more disorientating: MOFAD deployed an early, industrial cereal "cannon" that popped grains into breakfast cereal with a thunderous, shotgun-like boom. (The machine is on display at MOFAD Lab, but not in use.) The cereal cannon, which predated the MOFAD Lab, set a high bar. "The lineage we're trying to follow," said Hansen, "it's not easy." While crowds could naturally gather around the cannon, the MOFAD Lab would have to work harder to create a shared experience among visitors. The MOFAD Lab had to be equally democratic: "Food is something we should all be excited about, not just the foodie elite," said Dunn. People do easily mix among the smell machines, and pairs or groups can step up to sample the flavors together. The design "emphasizes community: friends, strangers...it's more intimate," said Hansen. Antonelli quizzed the trio towards the end, asking if there were crazy ideas for MOFAD Lab that didn't pan out. One such idea was a "tongue theater" that would've projected footage taken from within a chewing mouth onto the walls of a small room. Antonelli and this reported lamented that it didn't come to fruition, but MOFAD one day hopes to inhabit a larger, permanent space, so there may yet be hope. In the broader context of global food culture, which can range from militant nutritionists to daredevil gourmets, Flavor: Faking It and Making It invites visitors to pause and question our idea of flavor. And critically, it's visceral and not some vicarious television experience. As Antonelli put it, "If I see another white guy chewing on stuff around the world...."