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What Can Art Do?

Forensic Architecture sets a high bar at the Whitney Biennial
“While my company and the museum have distinct missions, both are important contributors to our society,” said Whitney Museum of American Art vice chairman Warren B. Kanders. This statement, salvaged from a letter leaked by ARTnews in December, sets the tone as the opening visual for Forensic Architecture’s installation at the Whitney Biennial—a 15-minute video delivering the collective's most recent foray into artificial intelligence, titled Triple Chaser. The London-based architecture and science research group chose to respond to the Kanders tear gas and munitions scandal not with a withdrawal from the biennial, but with the creation of a work of art-as-social justice tool, a submission that infiltrates the subject of derision’s own institution. Their video, created in collaboration with director Laura Poitras and Praxis Films, is narrated by David Byrne cooly explaining how FA approached the training of a computer program to track and recognize images of “Triple Chaser” tear gas canisters and subsequently reduce the amount of human labor needed to do so. The program is trained to recognize the canisters, so named for the way they break into three distinct pieces after being fired, and not become used to identifying just the degraded landscapes they usually occur in. Forensic Architecture’s website, as well as the video, comments that “Whereas the export of military equipment from the US is a matter of public record, the sale and export of tear gas is not.” The analyzed images act as proof of their use, and therefore sale, to over 14 countries including US border states -- and these canisters are just one of the many munitions manufactured by Defense Technology, a subsidiary of the Safariland Group -- Kanders is the founder, chairman, and chief executive. Byrne’s narration clearly and objectively describes the group’s methods in creating a piece of artificial intelligence, accompanied by visuals and music that are at once pragmatic as well as sensually arresting. Viewers are prompted before one section of the video with a seizure warning, as a series of bold geometric backgrounds used to train the program appear, the compositions flashing at rapid speed on screen, a kaleidoscope of color and stimulation. The tear gas cans are highlighted and boxed in bright pinks, yellows and blues that act as sharp contrasts against the dusty, barren landscapes of the war zones they are scattered in. Whole sections of the video are also set to the symphonic music of Richard Strauss, Kander’s personal choice for the Aspen Music Festival section named for him after a multi-million dollar donation. The haunting strings and dramatic woodwind crescendos are fitting for the eerie images they amplify. This video is an overtly collaborative work, and FA reached out to other artists and activists working in zones of political unrest, where the canisters are common, to fill out their image banks. The video shows one video submission of a rusted canister from an artists colony in Israel, one that Byrne introduces as “one of the most heavily gassed artist's colonies in the world.” In FA’s data-driven way, their video encompasses why a cultural institution like the Whitney cannot have, in the opinion of many, a man like Kanders on a board that should be protecting, not attacking, artists and their voices. Forensic Architecture as a firm, a lab, a collective, is inherently interdisciplinary, regularly overstepping traditional boundaries between professions and genres. Their “artwork” is serving a similar focus as well. Is this video just as much “art” as the Arroyo paintings in the same gallery? Politics have always been a subject of art, artists and creative output, but the contemporary climate seems to be showing artists as not only creating political works, but exposing politics and its maneuvering as art inherent in its existence -- politics create culture, and other elements of culture are responding to what politicians and votes are “creating.” But is “Triple Chaser” a work of art, or a work of journalism, or of anthropological research? A reorganization and alt-method of displaying data, the inclusion of Forensic Architecture at the Whitney Biennial sets a possible precedent for contemporary art, one that may be hyper-specific to current events, relevant due to an Internet-age concept of timeliness.
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Cooper Troopers

Cooper Hewitt celebrates 20 years of National Design Awards with 2019 winners
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced its 2019 National Design Awards winners, choosing to honor 11 designers and studios who are using design to improve the world for the better. The program was launched in 2000 by the White House Millennium Council and has celebrated a wide variety of architects, designers, and advocates ever since. This year’s winners are as follows: Lifetime Achievement: The San Francisco-based graphic designer Susan Kare was recognized for her decades of contributions to modern icon design. Kare, the creative director of Pinterest since 2015, is responsible for many of the original Mac’s classic icons and typefaces. Susan Kare Design has worked for brands such as Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, and other titans for the last 25 years. Architecture Design: Fresh off the completion of the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, last year, Thomas Phifer was recognized as the 2019 Architecture Design award winner. Phifer, currently the William Henry Bishop Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at the Yale School of Architecture, is the founder of Thomas Phifer and Partners. Interior Design: San Francisco’s IwamotoScott Architecture took home this year’s Interior Design award, as the Cooper Hewitt cited the firm’s willingness to integrate conceptual research into its realized projects. Landscape Architecture: SCAPE Landscape Architecture was recognized for its numerous projects (and master plans, and research) that combine landscape architecture with living ecology. SCAPE works across all scales but its use of regenerative landscapes and public outreach is deeply embedded in the firm's process no matter the size of the project. Design Mind: Patricia Moore, author, designer, and expert on how peoples’ tastes and preferences change as they age, was honored with the Design Mind award. The Cooper Hewitt singled out Moore’s travels across North America from 1979 to 1982, wherein she disguised herself as an older woman to understand the challenges associated with living as an elderly member of society. Corporate & Institutional Achievement: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s D-Lab seeks to bring design and engineering thinking to the problems faced by those living in poverty. Founded in 2002, the lab now runs 20 interdisciplinary courses leading projects run by, and for, people living in poverty. Communication Design: Typeface designer Tobias Frere-Jones was recognized this year for his innumerable font contributions that are used every day, including “Interstate, Poynter Oldstyle, Whitney, Gotham, Surveyor, Tungsten, and Retina,” according to the Cooper Hewitt. Fashion Design: American fashion designer and founder of an eponymous fashion house Derek Lam was recognized for his relaxed, yet refined, take on sportswear. Lam’s work has been shown all over the world, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum at FIT. Interaction Design: Ivan Poupyrev has worn many hats over his storied career and has always brought a multidisciplinary approach to interaction design. This year, Poupyrev was recognized for his work in blending digital and tactile interfaces and advancing more equitable interaction solutions. Poupyrev is currently the director of engineering at Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group. Product Design: The Portland-based Tinker Hatfield was recognized for his four decades of contributions to Nike, during which he worked on the iconic Air Jordan sneakers, among numerous other celebrity collaborations. Hatfield is currently the vice president of creative concepts at the company, and continues to push for, and develop, boundary-pushing athletic shoes. Emerging Designer: The nonprofit Open Style Lab, a studio launched in 2014 as a public service project at MIT, took home this year’s Emerging Designer award and a cash prize intended to accelerate its development. The New York–based Lab is dedicated to designing wearables for everyone, regardless of disability, and its portfolio includes wearable technology, accessories, and novel textile research and applications. It appears that the Cooper Hewitt has increased the stringency of its awards eligibility requirements this year; individual nominees must have at least ten years of experience under their belt, up from seven last year, and Lifetime Achievement nominees now require at least 25 years of experience, up from last year’s 20. To be eligible for the Emerging Designer category, nominees must possess less than eight years of professional experience.
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A GAY OLD TIME

The Glass House celebrates its 70th anniversary with retrospective of gay artists
Gay Gatherings: Philip Johnson, David Whitney, and the Modern Arts, now on view at Philip Johnson’s Glass House, explores the untold history of the iconic home, which served as a retreat for eight of the 20th century’s most culturally influential gay men. The exhibition coincides with the 70th birthday of the Glass House and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising—a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement. Its subjects include the home’s architect, Philip Johnson, and his partner of 45 years, art collector David Whitney, as well as six of their favorite guests: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, producer Lincoln Kirstein, and artists Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol. “As gay men,” explained Donald Albrecht, who curated the show alongside Thomas Mellins, “they presided over an intellectually adventurous site during a period when the artistic contributions of gay men were prevalent and increasingly acknowledged within mainstream culture.” Gay Gatherings occupies two locations on the historic Johnson estate—the Frank Gehry–inspired Da Monsta building and the subterranean Painting Gallery. Inside, the working and personal relationships of the men are revealed through artworks, writings, photographs, postcards, and a digital presentation, created specifically for the show by Pure + Applied. Visitors are also encouraged to explore the bucolic grounds, guided by maps that detail where interactions between the famed guests took place. The landscape, which served as Johnson’s laboratory for 56 years, is peppered with his sculptures and architectural follies, including a towering monument to Kirstein, who died in 1996. Gay Gatherings: Philip Johnson, David Whitney, and the Modern Arts is on view at the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, now through August 15. More information on the show can be found here.
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Crítica de Choque

"Pan Americas" conference looks at architectural relationships across a hemisphere
Earlier this month a dozen or so Latin American architects gathered at The City College of New York (CCNY) Spitzer School of Architecture for a “Pan Americas” conference. A few colleagues from New York joined them, including CCNY professor Michael Sorkin, who gave an impassioned speech about the poorly compensated resource extractions imposed on Central and South America by “el norte,” from oil to sugar, and about how Latin American architecture is “a polymorphous tradition that continues with enormous vitality.” There were two thematic pulls in the conference: the realities of the region’s economic and political conditions, and the vital and witty Latin American architecture that manages to emerge out of them anyway. One of the first slides of the conference showed Le Corbusier’s Modulor. It was barely recognizable as it had acquired a domestic environment, and was now found reclining on sofas, in poses other than the familiar one with the outstretched arm. The presenter, Mónica Bertolino, an architect and professor in Córdoba, Argentina, was making the point that when modern architecture arrived in Latin America it had to be tempered with local materials. But this is not to say that the architecture is any less modern, albeit less known. Hans Ibelings and Mauricio Quiros rightly pointed out the lack of coverage of Latin American work in books about modern architecture. They hope to address this with their upcoming publication about Central American architecture, but they also argued that what they call a peripheral condition (relative to Europe and the United States) could be a source of creative strength and encouraged Latin American architects to revel in it. The landscape architect Maria Villalobos, who gave the most impassioned lecture of the conference, is doing just that. She studied at Versailles and Harvard before returning to Venezuela to design the Botanical Garden of Maracaibo and it was this designer, one so deeply knowledgeable on French gardens, who resisted the cliched formal garden approach and came up with something inspired by the diverse Venezuelan habitats. Two other young designers presented outstanding work, Dana Víquez Azofeifa, from Costa Rica, and Inés Guzmán from Guatemala. Víquez Azofeifa uses the native biodiversity of Costa Rica to ameliorate the urban problems of its capital city San José. She grew up in Costa Rica, went north to study and work, and then returned home to start the firm PPAR with her partner Jose Vargas Hidalgo. “El norte” may have in the past robbed its southern neighbors of their raw resources, but now these designers traveling north are bringing home professional experience and intellectual insights. Guzmán was perhaps more aware of the complexity of her geographical allegiance and called herself “a Guatemalan citizen of the world.” She presented several projects by her firm Taller KEN, which she founded in 2013 with Gregory Melitonov. Her stint abroad included working on Renzo Piano’s Whitney Museum, but it was James Wines of SITE (in the audience and also a presenter), whom she credited as her inspiration. Then, when she showed Madero Café in Guatemala City, one couldn’t help but think of SITE’s Ghost Parking Lot project from the 1970s. In that project Wines buried cars under asphalt in a shopping center in Hamden, Connecticut, while Taller KEN impaled them on a forty-five-foot-high red cube. James Wines’s own presentation was a plea for more work like this. He showed images of t-shirts with various calls for social justice written on them—is this what activism looks like today, he asked the audience? He would like to see that activism make its way into built design work, and Taller KEN’s Madero Café is an example of this. The big red box calls attention to itself among undifferentiated stretches of trafficky roads and low-rise commercial strips. Then, inside, the only daylight comes from the top, completely isolating the cafe patrons from the surrounding context. Taller KEN critically responded to the wanton deforestation of Guatemala’s rainforest by putting a piece of it, albeit symbolically, inside the box, like the precious thing that it is. If there’s one insight from this conference that is applicable to the discipline of architecture in general it is that socio-cultural concerns in architecture are not only compatible with exciting design, but can even be the motivators. The last discussion of the conference revolved around the imaging of architecture. What are the possible effects of social media on what gets designed? The best answer came from Fredy Massad, Argentinian by birth but living and working in Barcelona and writing on architecture for the Spanish newspaper ABC. His most recent book of architecture criticism is Crítica de Choque (Shock Criticism), which places recent developments in architecture in the context of major political events—the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the financial collapse of 2008, etc. Massad is critical of the lack of discourse in an image-driven culture of architecture promotion. He rebukes the uncritical production of images of architecture in a book entirely devoid of images, and we readers find respite in this sea of words. With this book, we feel like characters in a Wim Wenders film who, overwhelmed by the bombardment of images, turn to words for redemption. Massad’s lecture did include some images, and notable among them was the portrait of Chilean architect and Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena. Massad argues, and others at the conference agreed, that Aravena aestheticized low-income housing in a way that was not beneficial to those the architecture was meant to serve. Massad has termed what Aravena does a kind of “Adamismo,” as in making himself the “Adam,” the person at the beginning of all things socio-political, and in the process erasing all the efforts that came before him. The future of Latin American architecture depends on its multifariousness, not in the singularity of a star. Perhaps the best moment of the conference was when Álvaro Rojas, co-organizer of the event with Guillermo Honles, started his presentation by playing a song, Ojalá que llueva café (I hope it rains coffee) by the popular Dominican singer Juan Luis Guerra. The students around me looked up from their phones and laptops and broke into roaring laughter. Is this the “shock” that Massad argues is needed in architecture today? For about four minutes an auditorium full of people accustomed to always be doing something did absolutely nothing except listen to a song. Perhaps this is the point of this and any conference, to take time out from the daily grind and just listen.
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Direct Action

Forensic Architecture joins the 2019 Whitney Biennial as controversy grows
The Whitney Museum is ramping up for its 2019 Biennial and has revealed its list of 75 contributing artists. The Biennial has, since 1932, been a prestige showcase of the contemporary art landscape in the United States. While this year’s show won't open until May 17, it has already courted controversy. This year’s exhibition, curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, will also include the London-based arts-architecture-and-science research collective Forensic Architecture, which is hot off of its nomination for a Turner Prize last year. The run-up to the exhibition has been fraught. After Hyperallergic revealed in November of last year that Warren Kanders, a Whitney vice chairman, was the owner and CEO of Safariland—a weapons company responsible for manufacturing tear gas used at the border and the Standing Rock protests—a number of artists have spoken out in protest. Artist Michael Rakowitz has already withdrawn from the show as several other contributors, including Forensic Architecture, have indicated that their contributions will directly address the Safariland issue. With the Whitney refusing to remove Kanders from his position, the activist group Decolonize This Place has pledged to hold nine weeks of “art and action” before the Biennial’s start. In a statement released on Twitter, the group has also promised that it will work with the Biennial’s artists to pressure the museum into removing Kanders, as well as hold supplemental events that spotlight the voices of indigenous and marginalized peoples. Decolonize This Place has emphasized its belief that the museum should not be able to profit through “state-sponsored violence” and has iterated its support for any artists who choose to drop out from the Biennial in the coming months. When reached for comment, Forensic Architecture directed AN to the following statement released on Twitter earlier today. “In light of recent reporting by @hyperallergic & protests by @decolonize_this & others, our invitation to the 2019 #WhitneyBiennial has become a challenge which unites the political & cultural dimensions of our practice. We will respond through our contribution.”
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Drawn and Quartered

Drawing Codes ironically gets the rules all wrong
Upon entering Drawing Codes, you might be struck by a sense of familiarity, as though everything looks somehow as it should. It’s comforting to be surrounded by beautiful drawings hung neatly in well-spaced, black-framed squares, little perfect windows into a collection of works by a close-knit circle of designers. But there’s also something unsettling in the comfort and familiarity of the exhibition—closing at the Cooper Union on February 23 and formally titled Drawing Codes: Experimental Protocols of Architectural Representation, Volume IIas though we are being sold something too slick, too friendly, too complete, as though everything’s been face-tuned, flattened into a collection that articulates a narrative without agonism or a predetermined history without contestation. The show’s brief itself leaves its subject quite open. In their introductory text, curators Andrew Kudless and Adam Marcus outline four prompts to consider the theme: code as generative constraint, code as language, code as cipher, and code as script. “Code” might encompass building regulations and energy standards, syntax and encryption, recipes and typologies. But an assumption underlies the brief that the project is really about computational code; the curators’ text opens with a comment explaining that emergent technologies have changed how we practice. This internal conflict of the theme—between its presumed meaning and purported openness—produces a collection that commits to neither. And while the curators’ prompt cleaves “code” open, Kudless and Marcus restrict the content through their own rules: square format, black and white drawings, only orthographic projection. These rules reference early digital aesthetics and we need look no further than to the Whitney’s concurrent show Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, 1965-2018 to see evidence of that history. There, works like Joan Truckenbrod’s 1975 Coded Algorithmic Drawing (#45), Manfred Mohr’s Band Structures studies from the 1960s-’70s, and Frederick Hammersley’s No Title (1969) lay out a coding style that persists in contemporary practice, as seen in that same show in works by Tauba Auerbach, Casey Reas, and Alex Dodge among others. By and large, the drawings in Drawing Codes are individually impressive and conceptually rich. They are beautiful and obtuse, like Projectors by MILLIØNS or Anomalous Corner by Studio Sean Canty or DoubleVision by IwamotoScott Architecture; they are funny and smart, like Another Circle GPS Plan by Aranda\Lasch or Twisted Concrete Codes by Tsz Yan Ng with Mehrdad Hadighi; they are unexpected, like Stephanie Lin’s Accumulated Error No. 41, which uses coding to explore the blurry boundaries between rendering and drawing through visual effect. Each of the drawings could be described individually, and each has a novel take on the brief—they display a range of talented designers who should be lauded for their work—but together, they become muddled into a quasi-similar set of too-tasteful objects that don’t illustrate the potential of the topic. They seem forced into a mold rather than freed to explore new territories. The show’s restrictions put the content into a curious double-bind: individual artist statements offer a posteriori rationalizations designed to satisfy the brief, while the brief itself seems built around a priori ideas about what a show about code (or drawing) might look like. For example, that the curators eradicated perspective (in order to ensure participants wouldn’t send renderings) precludes a reading of “perspective” as itself coded, rule-based, and programmable. It also means that some of the most exciting work in computation around deep learning, neural networks, and artificial intelligence, built around interrogating and constructing perspective,are off the table here. The rules of the exhibition are curiously conservative given the topic and are too aligned with a trend towards early computer graphics popular across schools and young offices today. The statements also draw attention to how responding to the brief becomes more rhetorical than generative. Together, the works read as a compilation of exceptions that demonstrate how adept we all are at bending a brief to our work. This makes it more difficult to identify dominant narratives or sub-narratives across drawings, less compelling as a portrait of code, and privileges the individuality of the authors over the ethos of the collective. And this collective is producing a tremendous amount right now. Many, if not most of the participants in the show (and in its first volume, which debuted at the California College of Arts in January, 2017) are part of an emerging generation of practices (in which my own studio is often a part) that often cohabitate in exhibitions, publications, biennials, and conferences. These platforms should be pushing us all to do better, to produce more critically, to learn from each other. The idea of this show is great. Its constraints, however, produce a condition where expectation limits the possibility of discovery or invention across the work. The show seems dedicated to reiterating things we already know about drawing, code, and each other, and rejects the ugliness of experimentation. Which made it nice to see V. Mitch McEwen’s Arduino Bot Print and Maria Yablonina’s The perpetual spline machine, both of which foregrounded haptic process over graphic order. The former, through producing a map of avoidance as the penguinbot tried to avoid retracing its steps on paper; the latter, through the creation of a solar-powered bending machine that produces splines as it collects whatever energy it can, like some tragic figure of a near-future Greek myth. In these cases, the format enabled and helped frame the works, which indicates the productive potential latent in the project. Ultimately the comfort of the show—its sanctioned and familiar take on the aesthetics of code, its politeness over an inclusive brief—is its greatest limitation. In the exhibition press release, the curators say that they want to explore the impact of “computation and code-based processes” on “conventions of architectural representation,” a clear, straightforward proposal for an exhibition that would be great to see. Without the exceptions, without the rules, and with a more open and inclusive attitude towards aesthetics not bound by known tropes but encouraged through expansive definitions of generative practice. Comfort, for all its comfort, is too safe to compel.
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By Jennifer Egan

James Corner Field Operations is bringing a public beach to Manhattan
The Hudson River Park Trust has announced Manhattan’s first public beach. The nonprofit group has tapped James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) to transform the disused Gansevoort Peninsula (the site of the old salt shed) into a 5.5-acre park and beach in the Hudson River. The jagged track of land sits just west of the Whitney Museum, at the southern terminus of another JCFO project, the High Line. The renovation will turn the vacant plot into a public park, complete with a beach—though the Trust admits that it won’t be open for swimming, likely because of the Hudson’s poor water quality. The new park will also be a buffer for storm surges and flooding and will be the largest green space in the entire Hudson River Park once complete. Gansevoort Peninsula sits adjacent to where artist David Hammons’ ethereal recreation of the demolished Pier 52Day’s End, will rise in stainless steel, and the Trust has pledged that the work will be integrated into the future park. That’s not all—the Trust is overseeing a suite of new projects up and down the western coast of Manhattan. Pier 55, the Thomas Heatherwick and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects–designed island—park financed by billionaire Barry Diller—is rising just north of Day’s End on top of sculptural concrete caps. Down the coast is the ongoing $30 million renovation of Pier 26, which OLIN is transforming into an ecology center. Rafael Viñoly Architects is also building a two-story education center nearby. So far, $152 million has already been raised for the Trust's combined projects via air rights sales, and private, state, and city funding will be used to reach the required $900 million. The Trust will be soliciting feedback from the public and Community Board 2 before finalizing the revamped Gansevoort Peninsula's design and beginning construction in 2020. If everything goes as planned, the park and beach are slated to open in 2022.
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At the ForeFRONT

FRONT International names artistic directors for its 2021 triennial
Prem Krishnamurthy and Tina Kukielski have been chosen as co-artistic directors of the second edition of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art in 2021. The duo will help curate the large-scale exhibition based in Northeast Ohio that elevates the region as a center of arts and culture. Both art leaders have extensive design and curatorial experience. Krishnamurthy, a founding principal of the award-winning New York firm Project Projects is now partner and director of Wkshops where he designs visual identities for cultural organizations and brands. He champions the power of graphic design as a tool to shape narratives and bring social awareness. Krishnamurthy is a member of the creative team for the currently-open 57th Carnegie International. He also works as an independent exhibition maker and writer. Kukielski directs and serves as chief curator of Art21, a nonprofit arts organization that crafts stories on contemporary art and artists through documentary film. She produces the group’s longest-running TV program, “Art in the Twenty-First Century,” in which recent features included artists Nathalie Djurberg, Olafur Eliasson, David Goldblatt, and Hans Berg. Kukielski previously held curatorial positions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York as well as the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. In 2013, she co-curated the Carnegie International with Daniel Baumann and Dan Byers. Krishnamurthy and Kukielski’s appointment comes on the heels of last summer’s highly successful first edition of FRONT. Themed An American City, the inaugural triennial was directed by artist and curator Michelle Grabner and presented the work of over 120 global artists. The showcase, which was held in 28 different institutions and spaces across Northeast Ohio, brought in over 90,000 visitors and $31 million for the region. The next edition of FRONT will run from July 17 through October 2, 2021.
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The Big Wins

AIA announces its 2019 Firm of the Year, Whitney M. Young, Jr., Award
Everyone’s been talking about Richard Rogers’s big win as the 2019 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal recipient, but he isn’t the only visionary being honored at next year’s AIA National Conference on Architecture in Las Vegas. Four other firms and leading architects will be recognized by the AIA for their career-long contributions to the fields of architecture, engineering, and design. Check out the boundary-breaking winners below: 2019 AIA Architecture Firm of the Year: Payette This 86-year-old, Boston-based firm paved the way for some of the industry’s biggest technical advancements. Founded in 1932 by industrial engineers Fred Markus and Paul Nocka, the interdisciplinary organization is home to over 160 employees that specialize not only in architecture, but visualization technology, building science, landscape design, interior architecture, fabrication, and data science. Its massive portfolio features large-scale health, science, and academic facilities for global institutions such as Grainger Hall for the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts; and the Biosciences Research Building at the National University of Ireland in Galway, Ireland. 2019 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion: Toshiko Mori Toshiko Mori, founder and principal of her namesake firm, has an extensive background teaching architecture. The AIA and the Association of the Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) will recognize Mori next year for excellence in architectural education. She’s taught at the Cooper Union, Columbia University, Yale University, as well as the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she’d worked for 23 years. She was the first female faculty member there to get tenure, and became chair of the architecture department in 2002, leading the program for six years. Through her New York–based firm, which she established in 1981, Mori most recently designed the Thread Artist Residency & Cultural Centre in Sinthian, Senegal, as well as the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland, Maine. 2019 AIA Whitney M. Young Jr. Award: Karen Braitmayer As founder of the Seattle-based consulting firm Studio Pacifica, Karen Braitmayer advises architects, developers, government and state agencies, as well as schools on accessible design. After starting her organization in 1993, she’s become widely recognized for her leadership in promoting equality, inclusivity, and social sustainability for people living with disabilities. The AIA’s Whitney M. Young Jr. Award will be given to Braitmayer for her work in advancing human rights. She’s served on the boards of the Northwest ADA Center, the Northwest Center for People with Developmental Disabilities, and the United States Access Board, which President Barack Obama appointed her to in 2010. Her firm works regularly with Olson Kundig, the city of Seattle, and Starbucks. She’s consulted on projects with Kiernan Timberlake, Oregon State University, REI, Kaiser Permanente, Nike, and Amazon. 2019 Edward C. Kemper Award: Robert Traynham Coles Robert Traynham Coles’s eponymous firm, opened in 1963, is the oldest African-American–owned architecture studio in the Northeast U.S. His work has widely influenced the city of Buffalo, where he was born, raised, and spent most of his 50-year career. Coles will receive the Edward C. Kemper Award for his legacy within the AIA. From 1974-1976, he served as the organization’s Deputy Vice President for Minority Affairs and was appointed to the College of Fellows in 1981. That same year he received the Whitney M. Young, Jr., Award for his commitment to social justice and equality in the industry. In 2016, Coles published his memoir Architecture + Advocacy in which he detailed his career-long effort to design architecture with a social conscience. He has taught at various institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Buffalo, and the University of Kansas.
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Send in the Clowns

MoMA stages a delirious Bruce Nauman retrospective 50 years in the making
At a panel discussion a week after the October 21 opening of Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts at the Museum of the Modern Art (MoMA), Laurenz Foundation curator and advisor to the director at the MoMA, Kathy Halbreich, discussed how poorly Nauman’s last two retrospectives were received. The first, a major solo show that traveled from the Whitney Museum of American Art to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 1972, was pilloried by the press as vapid. The second, a 1995 exhibition at the MoMA (co-organized by Halbreich) was criticized as overly loud and chaotic. The volume has been turned down for the versatile artist’s third show but his stinging examinations of surveillance, “fake news,” bodies in space, and the ultimate futility of life are more relevant now than ever. The MoMA has pulled out all of the stops for Disappearing Acts, literally in some instances. The walls of MoMA's sixth floor have been cleared so the whole floor can be dedicated to Nauman’s larger, more architectural explorations of space, while the entirety of PS1 in Queens has been handed over to smaller installations. All told, the MoMA has put 165 pieces of sculpture, drawings, video art, neon work, soundscapes, paintings, and more on display, much of it on loan from other institutions and private collectors. In Midtown, visitors are guided through a chronological tour of Nauman’s larger works across the repurposed special exhibition galleries, beginning with his own experiments in using the body as a tool of art. Arms were used as both paintbrushes and hole-punchers in Nauman’s earlier work, and pieces were formed and named according to his own body proportions. Further in, Nauman’s meditations on surveillance in the urban environment become evident; take Going Around the Corner Piece, a “room” with no way to enter, covered in security cameras that relay their feeds to televisions on the ground. Visitors are encouraged to encircle the room as they “chase” the digital reflections ahead of them. The massive Model for Trench and Four Buried Passages has been installed beyond that, placing an “architectural model” of the titular trench, arranged in five circles, on the floor of the museum for 360-degree examination. Behind that, a small monitor sits on the wall displaying Audio-Video Underground Chamber, a live 24-hour feed from inside of a concrete box that’s been buried offsite. Kassel Corridor: Elliptical Space has been erected in the MoMA for the first time since 1972, and although it looks like two unfinished stud-mounted walls facing each other, the “sculpture” actually contains an ultra-narrow room. Only one visitor per hour is allowed inside, where they can wedge themselves inside the seafoam green “viewing chamber.” The audio installation Days occupies the last room. Fourteen super thin speakers have been suspended at head-height in two rows, with each pair featuring a different voice repeating days of the week in a random order. Nauman has carved out audio “corridors” for visitors to wander through, spatializing the installation. Across the river, PS1 is home to Nauman’s more intimate—but more terrifying—pieces. The former classrooms of PS1 have been transformed into private enclaves for his audio-visual pieces. Nauman’s most famous work, the 1987 video Clown Torture (it’s unclear whether the clowns, or the viewer, are being tortured) has been given its own room, though it’s unclear whether any visitor will stick around for its 60-minute runtime. Mapping the Studio II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage), a sped-up surveillance tape covering 24 hours of Nauman’s empty studio, has been given a similar staging. A selection of lithographs, paintings, and smaller neon tube pieces can also be found at the MoMA’s Queens outpost. Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts will be on display at the Manhattan MoMA until February 18, 2019, and at PS1 until February 25, 2019. The museum will also be presenting live performances of the 1965 performance piece Wall/Floor Positions from 12:00 PM through 4:00 PM every Thursday and Sunday, and every Friday and Saturday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM at PS1.
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Sheet Ghost-Chic

Anthony McCall brings his light works back to New York
English artist Anthony McCall is bringing his ghostly, “solid-light” installations back to New York City in December, with a new solo show at the Sean Kelly Gallery in East Midtown, his sixth in the space. From December 14 through January 26, 2019, visitors can catch two new works from McCall, and his 2003 piece Doubling Back, which was first shown at the 2004 Whitney Biennial. A number of McCall’s black-and-white photographs will also be on display. While McCall’s show at Brooklyn's Pioneer Works in February was able to take advantage of the space’s cavernous ceilings and present vertical light pieces, horizontal installations are the focus of the Sean Kelly show, Split Second. Despite the format change, McCall’s hallmark exploration of volumetric forms using a volume-less medium, light, will be fully on display. Split Second and Split Second (Mirror) will be making their world debut at their namesake show. In Split Second, a flat blade and elliptical cone will be projected on the gallery’s back wall and slowly combine and form intersecting planes that rotate around each other. In Split Second (Mirror), McCall will split a projected “cone” with a wall-sized mirror, “cutting” the shape with a plane of light reflected back at the source. Doubling Back was McCall’s first return to the form after a 20-year hiatus. Each of McCall’s solid-light installations are actually very slowly moving films—up to a half hour or longer—and Doubling Back is no exception. Two sinuous waves, one moving horizontally and the other vertically, overlap and form pockets of light and shadow, integrating the architecture of the gallery itself into the piece. A selection of photos from McCall’s solid-light installations from the 1970s and 2000s will also be on display, capturing still images, or slices of time, from past work. That sort of snapshot is a bit ironic considering McCall’s description of his work as intentionally slowed down, creating an ever-changing relationship between the viewer and the piece. For best results, patrons will have to experience McCall’s “sculptures” for themselves. Sean Kelly Gallery is located at 475 10th Avenue in Manhattan and is open from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday.
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New Kind of Winner

AIA Baltimore presents inaugural Social Equity award
Last week, AIA Baltimore presented the inaugural Social Equity Design Award to Cho Benn Holback + Associates (CBH), a Quinn Evans Architects company (QEA), in recognition of their design for the Dorothy I. Height Elementary School in West Baltimore. The architects renovated an existing building and designed an addition to accommodate the merging of two area elementary schools and create a new actor for the community. The new award was created in collaboration with the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC), a nonprofit group that traces its origin back to a speech given by civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr. at the 1968 AIA National Convention. Young’s fiery wake-up call, which challenged architects to embrace diversity and social responsibility to improve American cities, was heeded by a group of Baltimore designers who formed the NDC to help neighborhoods rebuild after the riots. Today, the organization facilitates collaborations between area residents, architects, government officials, and other stakeholders to improve neighborhoods through community-led design and planning. Cho Benn Holback + Associates' winning project was selected based on its alignment with NDC’s belief that good design can create healthier and more just communities, and that everyone deserves good design. Initiated as part of the $1 billion 21st Century Schools Building Project, Height Elementary is a truly collaborative effort between architect, client, and community. The architects immediately engaged with the students, faculty, and nearby residents, learning about their needs, values, and aspirations through meetings, workshops, and good old-fashioned door-knocking. They maintained this dialogue throughout the design and development process, and the feedback they received had an immediate and profound effect on the building’s design. An existing auditorium, for example, would likely have been demolished had the school not expressed their appreciation for the arts and their need for large gathering spaces. The desire for spaces shared by the school and the surrounding community was another common sentiment among those surveyed. In response, the architects created a “town square” in front of the school and a public park in back; inside, in addition to flexible classrooms that promote different types of teaching, they designed spaces for social outreach programs. The jury, comprising architect Leon Bridges, FAIA, NDC Executive Director Jennifer Goold, and Jessica Solomon, senior program officer of the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, highlighted the building’s engagement with the greater community as one of the primary reasons for awarding the prize. The Social Equity Design Award recognizes the current sea-change happening in architecture. More and more, professionals are beginning to question how and why projects are recognized and celebrated. Every prize stirs up debate about the purpose of the professional the values and behaviors we want to uphold as paragons of the profession. What is the purpose of architecture? What’s at stake? Who does it serve? In the case of the Dorothy I. Height Elementary School, that answer is clear: it serves the community of West Baltimore.