All posts in On View

Placeholder Alt Text

Thinly Veiled

Thinness pavilion stretches concrete to its limits
Syracuse-based APTUM Architecture has designed and fabricated Thinness, an ultra-light concrete pavilion in collaboration with international concrete manufacturer Cemex Global R&D. Concrete is one of the most ubiquitous construction materials in the world. Its advantages are many: it's easy to produce, is remarkably strong, and can take on a variety of forms. It does, however, have one rather weighty constraint: it's heavy. Thinness is an experiment in using contemporary and historical casting methods to create novel forms that stretch concrete to its thinnest and lightest proportions while maintaining structural integrity. The installation uses its shape and a proprietary concrete mix that includes glass beads for aggregate and steel fibers to create a freestanding structure with walls that are only three-quarters-of-an-inch thick. The perforated pavilion, a collection of 12 exterior columns arranged around four central light wells, was designed to be modular and scalable. The columns taper at the base and expand as they rise, vaulting to form a ring of arches. Although the installation is ten feet tall and ten feet long on each side, each column weighs only 200 pounds. Architects Julie Larsen, Assoc. AIA, and Roger Hubeli, founding partners of APTUM and professors at Syracuse University, sought to explore “thinness” and the role of volume in architecture. In collaboration with the research and development department at Cemex, based near Monterrey, Mexico, the team was able to develop a fiber-reinforced concrete mixture that would evenly distribute around the form’s sharp corners without clumping and weakening the structure. Grasshopper was used to map the stress across each column, and the perforations were made smaller or eliminated in the most heavily stressed areas to help distribute the load more evenly. The team ran through different pattern iterations looking for the correct balance between load-bearing ability, aesthetics, and amount of void before settling on the final grid. The columns were cast using the lost-wax technique. First, a silicon mold was cut using a water jet, and then braced in a steel enclosure to protect against bowing as the concrete cured. Wax was then poured into the mold to form a freestanding column; the silicon formwork was then removed, and concrete was poured over the wax. Once the concrete was fully cured, the wax was melted and the process was repeated for the remaining components. Thinness is just the first step in what Aptum sees as a collaborative, interdisciplinary future between academia and concrete manufacturers. In the future, APTUM wants to scale up the technology behind Thinness to encompass structural elements and has released a rendering of a speculative skyscraper made from the same components. Thinness was recognized with a citation in the AIA’s 12th Annual R+D Awards this year. The project was also on display at the Designing Material Innovation exhibition presented by the California College of the Arts earlier this year. Design Firm: Aptum Architecture, Syracuse, N.Y., Roger Hubeli, Julie Larsen, Assoc. AIA (project team) Industry Partner: Cemex Global R&D, Davide Zampini, Alexandre Guerini, Jeremy Esser, Matthew Meyers (project team) Fabricator: Cemex Global R&D Structural Engineer: Sinéad Mac Namar Research Assistants: Sean Morgan, Ethan Schafer
Placeholder Alt Text

Top Models

London gallery show explores the role of models in design
Prototypes and Experiments, the latest exhibition in a series of shows in its tenth year at the Aram Gallery of London, showcases physical models by internationally-renowned names like Mary Duggan Architects and Adjaye Associates, alongside emerging practices like HASA Architects and vPPR Architects. The show will display models of a range of types, from finely detailed presentation pieces to study models and abstracted constructions that evoke the feeling of a space. The exhibition looks critically into the model’s role in the creative process. The gallery asked each exhibitor to present the design process of one particular project and write a commentary explaining the intentions of each exercise and its relation to the final product. London-based design and architecture studio PUP is one of the exhibitors, displaying models from their H-VAC project, which won the inaugural Antepavilion competition in 2017. H-VAC features a snaking linear form that serves as both rooftop ducting and air handling plant. On view at Prototypes and Experiments is a stick model that explores the structure of the sculptural form, as well as a facade study model that illustrates the reversible Tetra-Pak shingles clad on the exterior. Interdisciplinary practice HASA Architects will also participate with their Lone Lane project, which is what they're calling a "contemporary replacement building” for a demolished warehouse. The attention to brickwork is shown in the facade model on view. In a massing model the brickwork is abstracted but the openings and apertures are well detailed. In a stair model the cast stairs are painted in gold to highlight the circulation. The Aram Gallery is an independent gallery directed by Zeev Aram focused on contemporary design. The exhibition is curated by Riya Patel. Architecture Prototypes & Experiments 2 August - 1 September 2018 The Aram Gallery 110 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5SG +44 (0207 557 7526)
Placeholder Alt Text

Made Manifesta

Review: Manifesta 12 is the real deal
Manifesta 12’s The Planetary Garden. Cultivating Coexistence, which opened on June 16 in Palermo, Sicily, is a sprawling and at times fragmented series of venues and events. But unlike other art and architecture biennials whose main purpose is to deliver trends, Manifesta 12 is the real thing. This is an exhibition that’s been hardwired into the city’s fabric, and while undeniably the city of Palermo completely upstages the Manifesta exhibition, this must have been the prime intention of the curatorial team from the start. Manifesta 12 is Palermo, and therefore the exhibition is a diagram to explore the city and to discover some of the most fascinating and haunting architectural spaces anywhere in the European-Mediterranean region. It is precisely this urban-based formula that the Dutch-based Manifesta “franchise” is best known for, and therefore the impressive success of this exhibition has much to do with the way the curators have been able to weave their fertile themes into the city’s fabric. There is art, there is architecture, and there is the city. Given how much there would be to cover in a review of this size, I will try to present some of the biennial’s bolder highlights. Much of the credit for Manifesta’s achievements is thanks to OMA’s partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli who led the curatorial team. Laparelli succeeds in cracking Palermo’s urban code, precisely because he trains his lens on Palermo’s convoluted urban fabric, its magnificent cardo and decumanus, the overgrown gardens, the abandoned urban masterplans, and melancholic housing estates. As Laparelli notes in the opening introduction to OMA’s Palermo Atlas, “the Biennial’s thematic and geographic organization are intertwined, triggering a journey through the city like a section through anatomy; from the abandoned and derelict heritage of the old town to the failed utopia of the outskirts; from the glorious history of its Gardens to its neglected and toxic coast.” This is especially true of the city and its dramatic relationship to its old town, one of the largest historic city centers in Europe. And yet this impressive segment of the city lies in some kind of lethargic black hole when compared with the adjacent districts of Palermo that grew in the thirties and then expanded exponentially in the sixties. The one constant is the draw of the periphery, which serves as the cash cow for the city’s black economy while the old town lies in neglect and disrepair—a condition the city continued to submit to well into the nineties. In order to better comprehend where Palermo was headed, Manifesta enlisted politicians, local associations, patrons of the arts, and institutions to suggest ways to engage the city, to establish new routes of access, and to generate new kinds of cultural experiences. By and large, it’s a project that has pervaded into different levels of society, and it’s not uncommon on the streets to hear locals discuss Manifesta’s merits or problems. And there are viable results: Massimo Valsecchi and his wife Francesca have made it their mission to restore the magnificent Palazzo Butera in the heart of the city. Valsecchi, whom I spoke with during Manifesta’s opening, saw the renovation of Palazzo Butera as a stopgap measure, a way to decisively reengage the city’s historic axis by reasserting the building’s role as both palatial seawall and monumental gateway to the ancient city. For what turns out to be the price of a single Gerhard Richter painting, the purchase of Palazzo Butera by these important Lombard contemporary art collectors could impact the city’s future. But for now, the palace’s impressive interior renovation, in preserved ruin style, frames Manifesta’s verdant exhibition Garden of Flows. Not far from Palazzo Butera one can enter the historic Botanical Gardens, another destination in the procession of Garden of Flows, to become entangled in the rhizomatic plant cultivations. Much of the same could be said about another architectural monument, Palazzo Forcella de Seta, an old bastion with a casino built above it from the 17th century. It’s aligned perpendicularly with the seafront and is just as mesmerizing a stage for this exhibition. This Moorish-influenced venue is one of the spaces around the city that are assembled together and are “Out of Control,” along with the Palazzo Ajutamicristo where we are confronted with projects investigating different conditions on immigration, data, and identity. There are projects by Forensic Architecture’s offshoot, Forensic Oceanography, where they investigate the militarized control of the Mediterranean, and Tania Bruguera’s look at the Mobile User Objective System, known as MUOS, the cordoned off American base in southeastern Sicily directing remote drone warfare. But it’s the urban conundrum that remains most compelling, and beyond the layers of 16th, 17th, and 18th century buildings, streetscapes, and gardens. There is also a ponderous stratum of Fascist-era buildings, many in near states of abandon, but all intriguing for what they once represented in the time of Fascistization when Sicily’s mafia was subjugated and Mussolini’s regime added its symbolic stamp to the island. One building in particular, the Casa del Mutilato, stands out for its unfinished beauty and troublesome iconography. Designed by the architect Giuseppe Spatrisano in 1939, the modern rationalist style building remains surprisingly intact with most of its original statues, icons, murals, furniture, and memorabilia. Inside its main interior hall is Cristina Lucas’s Unending Lightning, a mapping of the long and fatal history of aerial bombing. There’s also an intervention by Alessandro Petti’s "De-colonizing Architecture” developed by the students attending the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Their workshop and symposium, “The Afterlife of Colonial-Fascist Architecture,” featured a scissor lift that extended up into the open dome of the central courtyard, inserted there to disrupt the building’s regimented spatial order. When I asked Petti about their intentions, he responded by saying: "With the re-emergence of today’s fascist ideologies in Europe–and the arrival of populations from north and east Africa–we have had to ask ourselves: how do the material traces of the Italian empire today acquire different meanings in the context of migration from the ex-colonies?” This point is especially onerous because not much inside this building has changed since its opening, and the building still features the original Fascist era maps of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Petti went on to note: “We have had to ask who has the right to reuse this fascist colonial building? Shouldn’t people arriving today from these countries that suffered fascist colonial occupation have the right to re-inhabit these kind of buildings?” But it doesn’t end here. Post-war Palermo continues to be fraught with good architectural intentions gone sour. Nothing encapsulates this urban dilemma more than ZEN (Zona Espansione Nord), a public housing expanse from the late sixties designed by Vittorio Gregotti with a team that included Franco Purini. Like many of these largescale mass housing projects built from this era, ZEN’s reputation belies its origins. According to an interview with Purini from 1998, the strength of this project was in its desire to replicate regional territorial characteristics, specifically the fenced citrus groves found all around the area. Purini, who would go on to develop the master plan for earthquake-devastated Nuovo Gibellina, recalled Gregotti’s close relationship with the Sicilian publisher Sellerio, who sought to ground Gregotti in the island’s local building culture, which resulted in the project’s unusual compactness. Evidently, the project stripped of its amenities was doomed to failure. But here is where Gilles Clément, author of The Third Landscape and guru behind Manifesta’s Planetary Garden concept, is making a significant comeback, precisely in these original disaffected groves. To get the perfect overview of Palermo, one can make his or her way up to the top of the peak Pizzo Sella, where the group Rotor has transformed one of the many unfinished and illegal private homes, basically a concrete frame into a spectacular viewing platform. Manifesta 12 is worth the time and the space. Some might worry it prefigures a wave of gentrification that will certainly kill all that is so enchanting about this city: the entropic streets and gardens, the ruined palaces, the many multi-cultural public spaces, polyvalent cuisines, and the sublime beauty of the city. But I don’t think so, or not just yet given the unusual political direction the city is taking under its current mayor. Leoluca Orlando, a veteran of previous campaigns against the Mafia, sees a bright future for the city in welcoming new immigrants. Palermo should not be considered a European peripheral city, but rather the center of the greater Mediterranean region: Sicily is at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East, and the Ionian islands with a centuries-old history of multi-ethnicism and multi-culturalism. I see Palermo as an alternative model for living, outside the tired economies and nationalistic concerns of an older Europe. It will be interesting to see if Manifesta 13 will keep this kind of critical edge when it lands in Marseille in 2020. Manifesta 12’s The Planetary Garden. Cultivating Coexistence is curated by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Mirjam Varadinis, Andrés Jaque, Bregtje van der Haak and is on view through November 4.
Placeholder Alt Text

Down Where It's Wetter

Artist Mel Chin addresses climate change with virtual reality underwater world in Times Square
This summer, visitors to Times Square can take in an underwater virtual reality experience, courtesy of the North Carolina-based conceptual artist Mel Chin and technology giant Microsoft. The site-specific mixed-reality public art installation titled Unmoored will come to life from July 11 through September 5. Chin tackles the topic of climate change, imagining a future where melting ice caps cause the city to go underwater. As visitors look through VR goggles, they can see a 'nautical traffic jam' of 3-D modeled ships, each with their own unique identification number and name. Ships move slowly in the city, bumping into each other and buildings, creating waves rendered by realistic animation and sound effects. Visitors can also view Wake, another public artwork by Chin, which “evokes the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of marine mammals,” beside a sculpture of the 19th century opera singer Jenny Lind. Chin chose New York City as the site for the word because it represents the center of trade, entertainment, and capitalism for the country. Its history is loaded with topics that resonate today, like guns and slavery. The USS Nightingale, which was historically involved with the shipping of slaves, is digitally recreated in the Unmoored experience. The installations are part of an exhibition titled Mel Chin: All Over the Place, presented with the Queens Museum of Art and NYC-based, nonprofit arts organization No Longer Empty in various sites around New York. Times Square visitors can view the show through mobile devices via Unmoored’s mobile app, which is now available for download and use. Check this link for more details.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Rest Is Still Unwritten

Bookshelves for unwritten books on display at the Storefront for Art and Architecture
The Vito Acconci- and Steven Holl-designed rotating facade panels of the Storefront for Art and Architecture have been retrofitted with bookshelves filled with unwritten books for a new exhibition titled Architecture Books / Yet to Be Written, now on view through August 25. The installation is designed by New York-based practice Abruzzo Bodziak Architects (ABA) and is part of the New York Architecture Book Fair, a new initiative from the Storefront. The shelves are made of painted MDF, and will hold book covers and titles of books “that we should have written, but that we never did, and books yet to be written, that we still should,” according to a statement from the Storefront. The initiative named Yet to be Written was launched to start discussions about the opportunities missed by architects and architectural theorists. The exhibition starts with mostly empty shelves. The shelves gradually fill up as "non-profit organizations, students, independent publishers, creative collectives and gallery visitors” nominate books to the Storefront. Check out this link for more details.
Placeholder Alt Text

Steeling the Show

Virginia Overton’s site-specific work at Socrates Sculpture Park rethinks raw construction materials
Sculptor Virginia Overton often transforms chunky construction materials into dynamic pieces of art. In her latest show, Built, she uses steel and wood to explore issues of labor, economics, and the land in contemporary society. Now on view at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, the exhibition punctuates the waterfront site with large-scale artworks that evoke the industrial past and creative potential of the site. The show’s curator, Socrates’s Director of Exhibitions Jess Wilcox, said Overton’s display not only unveils the artist’s ability to rethink and iterate ordinary objects, it showcases her pragmatic and collaborative relationship to the setting in which she works. “She was interested in working in metal and engaging with the history of metalworking here in the park,” said Wilcox. “She’s site-responsive rather than site-specific in her work because she’s willing to have her ideas evolve when pieces and materials move in an organic way.” As the first female artist to exhibit a solo collection at Socrates, the Williamsburg-based sculptor spent several months riding the ferry to Astoria to study the park and see how visitors interacted with the objects scattered throughout. For her own exhibition, which opened in May, Overton created each piece on site and situated them strategically in the green space to reveal unique perspectives of the Queens waterfront and the Manhattan skyline. Many of the sculptures contain circular forms that act as unexpected viewfinders and feature nature-inspired elements that contrast with the overall industrial aesthetic. Overton took a silver-sprayed Dodge Ram and placed an elegant aquatic feature and fountain in its elongated truck bed. She also suspended an unfinished wooden beam from steel trusses and turned it into an old-fashioned swing set. An upright rectangular structure outlined in steel displays the shapes and colors of various brass, aluminum, and copper steel pipes.  The largest piece on site, a 40-by-18-foot, crystal-shaped sculpture, took the longest to configure and was built from architectural truss systems and angle irons. Dubbed 'The Gem', its seemingly heavy form cantilevers over the ground at an effortless slant, giving viewers framed views of the park through its faceted core. Pieces like this offer a new role to the support structures that often go unseen within a building’s construction. According to Wilcox, Overton’s site-responsive sculptures most importantly tie into the greater role Socrates Sculpture Park plays in New York as a former industrial site-turned-recreational space. They speak to the park as part of two larger ecosystems—its function as the physical land adjacent to the East River Estuary and its social component as an alternative arts institution in Queens. The Nashville-native’s work often conveys undertones of her rural upbringing, which easily translates to places like this that have undergone significant evolution since the industrial era. With Built, Overton not only nods to the evolution of these geographic locations, but also the way in which her iterated objects can evolve and be redefined with time. “I think architects will notice more than other viewers how she takes the basic elements of building blocks of construction and reorients them to create something totally new,” said Wilcox. “Seeing the world through Virginia’s eyes is like having your eyes being reoriented towards the world.” Built is on view through September 3 at Socrates Sculpture Park at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, Queens. Admission is free and open to the public.  
Placeholder Alt Text

World of Whimsy

Postmodernism comes back to life in vivid color at the Soane Museum in London
A new exhibition devoted to postmodern British architecture is designed to spark a revival of interest in the movement. The exhibition titled The Return of the Past: Postmodernism in British Architecture is now showing at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London through August 26. The exhibition will display a selection of important works by some of the country’s most prominent architects such as Terry Farrell, CZWG, Sir Jeremy and Fenella Dixon, John Outram, and James Stirling. Their works emerged as part of the postmodern movement, which was a reaction against the confining modernist style used in designing many British towns and cities at the time. Postmodernist architecture generally emphasized the reconnection of architecture to the past through “ornament, materials, form or typology,” according to a statement from the Soane Museum. The SIS building designed by Terry Farrell houses the headquarters of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency Secret Intelligence Service MI6. Located on the bank of the River Thames in central London, the cascading building looks like a fortress, finished with a cream-colored facade and green-tinted windows. Another highlight is a project for 200 Queen Victoria Street for Rosehaugh-Stanhope Developers by John Outram. Although unbuilt, its signature image, featuring oversized Greco-Roman columns, chinoiserie posts, mosaic patterns, turbine flourishes, and fantastical additions make it a shining example of the movement's style. CZWG’s work is also celebrated in the exhibition. Cascades is a twenty-story apartment building located on the Isle of Dogs in London. Its design offered an alternative appearance to the high rise typology. According to CWZG, the “Pharaonic references” signify the high-reaching ambition of the construction, making it a postmodernist centerpiece. China Wharf is also a significant piece by the same firm. The building combines functionalism and aesthetics. The scalloped wall “is used to twist windows, both towards the rising sun and away from the neighbors directly across the courtyard,” according to the designers. As part of a regeneration scheme for the London Docklands, the building includes a pastiche of stylistic references such as naval and pagoda motifs. “Postmodern architecture in Britain is frequently written-off as an expression of 1980s Thatcherism and still little understood. We conceived this exhibition to set the record straight and reveal this period as one of such amazing creativity and innovation that can hold its own with any moment in British architecture history,” said Owen Hopkins, Senior Curator at Soane. “Full of color, ingenuity, and exuberance, the exhibition will also show the serious intellectual basis that underlay a movement whose legacy still shapes how we create and understand architecture today.” The organizers of the exhibition hope to renew attention to postmodern buildings in the U.K. Later this year, Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s historic environment, will launch a project to assess postmodern buildings for listing.
Placeholder Alt Text

Cut and Paste

The visionary paper cities of artist Bodys Isek Kingelez come to life at the MoMA
Upon arriving at the Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez’s City Dreams retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)—the first full retrospective for him or any other African artist at the museum—there is a feeling of ascension. Having climbed many floors to get here, one reaches a room where humans hover over the cities and look down, not up, into the buildings, windows and boulevards. The viewers look like gods around a creation, but Kingelez’s work decidedly belongs in the kingdom of this earth. His “extreme maquettes,” as he referred to the ornate buildings and cities he constructed, are all units of a larger project that demonstrates the desire for a harmonious future among all peoples; beauty and grace as a reflection of this harmony; and a rejection of the violence commonplace in the immediate post-colonial era, a legacy of the country’s rule under the brutal Kingdom of Belgium. “I’m dreaming cities of peace,” he explained. “I’d like to help the earth above all.” In his Project Pour le Kinshasa du Troisième Millénaire, a re-envisioning of Kinshasa, “police and prisons do not exist.” It was, in essence, the cosmopolitan post-independence vision of the era. Kingelez’s, however, extended beyond dreams of self-rule, asserting a seat at the table for the African imagination of what was possible in the new, truly free world. Bodys Isek Kingelez was born Jean Baptiste on August 27, 1948 in the town of Kimbembele Ihunga in what was then the Belgian Congo. At the age of 22, after receiving his high school diploma, he left for Kinshasa, the capital city. There, he studied economics and an assortment of other subjects like industrial design at the University of Lovanium (now Kinshasa). “I came from a traditional village where everyday I used to watch the men making masks or working at the forge,” Kingelez explained of the mysterious origins of his craftsmanship. “There was no need to learn, then, what I used to see all the time.” Remarkably, he didn't travel outside Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) until 1989, and so had never interacted up close with architectural design in other countries. Undoubtedly, however, the colonial Belgian Art Deco buildings that lined the streets of Kinshasa and the eccentric palaces (including a pagoda) constructed around the country by ruler Mobutu Sese Seko indubitably seeped into his sense of aesthetics. His first maquette, he recalls, came to him in a dream one night. Feeling “compelled” by the revelation, he made the work under its direction. Throughout his life, his process was similar. First the title came to him. Then the vision to make it, which “gives me all I need, even the shape and colors.” On one such instance, in 1978, he showed the result of his work, Musee National, made from simple tools like paper, glue, scissors, and razors, to the Institut des Musées Nationaux du Zaire. The museum staffers doubted Kingelez could build a work of such sophistication and challenged him to make another work on site, leading to his Commissariat Atomique. The impressed museum hired him to become a “technicien restaurateur” of historical artifacts. The experience of working with invaluable abstract art traditional sculptures left a mark on Kingelez, who confessed “the ruined statues led me to the pinnacle of my skills” Like these African masks of old, the maquettes aim not to depict reality but act as a record of a time and the ideas and the imagination that marked that time. In Kinshasa, Kingelez absorbed elements of the national movement for African authenticity. It is under the aegis of this movement that we see Leopoldville become Kinshasa, the Congo river and the nation, Zaire. As a former Commissioner of National Orientation put it, it was a movement based on reaching into the past to find traditional elements “which adapt themselves well to modern life, those which encourage progress, and those which create a way of life and thought which are essentially ours.” A self-described “favored poet of his traditional sources,” one can imagine very clearly the figure of Kingelez hidden away in his studio in Kinshasa, hovering over a project with tweezers in hand, moving the hitherto possible around and making way for the impossible. But, like his previous work in the museums on African masks of old, Kingelez’s project was a restorative one. Having himself traveled from the village to the city and later the metropole, his work rejected hierarchies and the geographic isolation of the human experience. Instead, it collapsed the time between an African past and a future where no societies were more advanced than others. His 1994 work Kimbembele Ihunga, a reimagining of his home village, represented a “concrete imaginative leap” and “a real bridge between world civilizations of the past, present and future.” Filled with skyscrapers and tree-lined streets, the boulevards provide “pleasant, easy access to all parts of the town.” A stadium named after himself, “Stade Kingelez,” sits in one corner of the town, and in front of the town center stands a monument of a man holding a book who “simply represents the intellectual heritage of common sense and good manners which belongs to multicultural people.” “People flock here,” he said, “because the wind blows in off the sea and the mountains, refreshing its complex beauty in which all the heightened colors join forces consistently to create an environment where everyone can feel at home.” The town and dream of it was not one he would ever live in, but one which lived in him. Multiculturalism is paramount in Kingelez’s work, and we see it not only in the foreign design present in some of his Congolese maquettes, but also in the maquettes dedicated to places, like the outstanding purple and yellow Mongolique Sovietique (1989), in Palais d’Hirochima (1991) whose tiered, raised buildings are inspired by a real imperial palace with paper lanterns suspended between buildings, and Céntrale Palestinienne (1993). His New Manhattan, built a year after the attack on the World Trade Center, is a take on the Manhattan skyline with a third tower filled with water whose “cooling effect will prevent any bombs from exploding.” In insisting on a world crafted for peace, Kingelez, who died three years ago, challenged our imagination to consider what this would require. His work, he insisted, was as much a “gauntlet thrown down to professional artists” as a prodding of our “ability to create a new world.” With salvaged materials like colored paper, scissors, and glue, the self-anointed “prophet of African art” constructed dream cities and a universe of peace, equality, and equity for all. Surely today, with better instruments, we can reflect on his vision and fulfill it down here on earth. Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) On view through January 1, 2019
Placeholder Alt Text

Exhibition for Equality

Traveling exhibition covers 50 years of activism in architecture and asks, 'Now What?!'
A pop-up exhibition showcasing the little-known history of civil rights movements within architecture is on view at the Pratt Institute through Friday. Now What?! Advocacy, Activism and Alliances in American Architecture since 1968 shines a light on the work of the architects and organizations who have advocated for equality and social justice in the profession over the last 50 years. Organized by ArchiteXX, a nonprofit that promotes gender equity in the architectural profession, the exhibit covers groups that have sought racial, gender, and LGBTQ equality. ArchiteXX’s primary initiatives revolve around highlighting the roles women play in the field, but for Now What?!, the group wanted to take on a broader series of issues including gay marriage, Black Lives Matter, and feminism in modern America. The show moves in chronological order, starting with civil rights leader Whitney Young Jr.’s influential speech at the 1968 AIA National Convention in Portland, Oregon. Angry at the scant attention the nearly all-white, male-dominated profession was paying to the civil rights movement, his powerful words challenged the attending architects to speak up and serve as leaders within the heated political climate. The exhibition connects that exhortation to the present day. While the industry has made great strides toward the inclusion of people of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds, it still remains less diverse than the general population. Sarah Rafson, an architectural editor and curator who serves on the board of ArchiteXX, says the exhibit was inspired by Susana Torre’s 1977 exhibition for The Architectural League, Women in Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective. “That was the first comprehensive history of women’s achievements in the built environment,” said Rafson. “It radically opened up the topic of how feminism could impact architecture and design. For this exhibit, we thought, how can we replicate it in 2017? So we decided to include many marginalized groups, not just women, and show that their struggles in architecture have been quite common.”   The exhibition includes never-before-seen content that is rarely taught in architectural education. One of ArchiteXX’s core goals is to bridge the gap between the study and practice of architecture, and the group looks at the exhibit as part of an expanded curriculum that engages both students and practitioners with historical and contemporary activism.    “We saw an opportunity to create a program that forces the discipline to acknowledge these different groups that have had incredible impact within architecture and design,” said Rafson. “It’s also become a chance for us to collaborate with other organizations and groups who are working towards solving social justice issues,” said ArchiteXX founder Lori Brown, “and it’s becoming a really important venue to build solidarity across many different areas of architecture.” Now What?! can be seen at Pratt’s Robert H. Siegel Gallery through Friday and is scheduled to appear in at least four more cities across the U.S. and Canada. New content will be added as it stops in each city to reflect the local people and events within those architectural communities. Its first stop is at Woodbury University in Los Angeles.
Placeholder Alt Text

Another White House

Snarkitecture brings their indoor beach back to D.C., along with a few new surprises

The beach balls are back, and they’ve been joined by Kith sneakers, Dig, Playhouse, and Light Cavern. They’re all part of Fun House, the new Summer Block Party exhibit that opened July 4 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D. C., and runs through Labor Day.

The show is a retrospective of the work of Snarkitecture, a 10-year-old design collaborative known for its playful approach to art and architecture. The opening marks a return engagement for the firm, which also created the museum’s popular 2015 summer exhibit, The Beach, which featured nearly one million translucent beach balls.

The exhibit’s centerpiece is a freestanding white house that has been constructed in the museum’s Great Hall. It serves as a framework for a series of environments and objects that Snarkitecture has created over the years, including settings for the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, Design Miami in Florida, and the Exhibit Columbus design biennial in Columbus, Indiana.

In the back is a kidney-shaped swimming pool filled with the same plastic balls that Snarkitecture used for its Beach exhibit.

Founded in 2008, the New York-based collaborative is headed by Alex Mustonen, Daniel Arsham, and Benjamin Porto. The Fun House exhibit was curated by Maria Cristina Didero, who also wrote the foreword to the 2018 Phaidon monograph, Snarkitecture.

According to Mustonen, this is the first comprehensive museum exhibit for Snarkitecture, and it brings together many of the environments and objects its partners have created over the past decade. Separately, the different rooms and spaces are playfully engaging environments for children and adults. Together, they tell a story about the partners’ idiosyncratic approach to interpreting the built environment.

Mustonen said he didn’t think of the exhibit so much as a 'greatest hits' collection but as an opportunity to show how the designers think about the world. He said the group has completed dozens of installations in separate locations, and this is the first time they have been put together to create one immersive experience.

“One of the priorities of Snarkitecture is to make architecture perform in unexpected ways,” Mustonen said. “We are excited that everyone is going to be able to tour the Fun House and explore the wide array of Snarkitecture projects.”

A house was created to provide the framework for many of the installations because of the symbolic value and iconography of the house in the field of architecture, explained Didero, the curator.

“A house is the first thing most children learn to draw spontaneously, adding a triangle to a rectangular shape,” Didero said. For Fun House, the designers reimagined the conventional structure as a way of conveying Snarkitecture’s “unconventional theoretical journey” during its first ten years, she said.

Many of the objects and spaces are rendered in white as a way to encourage viewers to focus on the objects themselves, the designers said.

“A lot of our work is about reduction,” explained Arsham. “By removing color, you can concentrate on the form.”

Besides the pool filled with plastic balls, the exhibit includes environments such as Dig, from a 2011 Storefront for Art and Architecture installation about excavation, and Drift, from Design Miami in 2012.

There’s a ceiling-level display of Jordan One sneakers that recalls the stores Snarkitecture created for Kith, a bubble bath from Design Miami, Light Cavern, commissioned by COS for Salone del Mobile in Milan, and Playhouse, a kid-friendly structure from Exhibit Columbus.

“Everything you’ll see has an element of surprise, something that makes you see…in a whole new way,” observed Chase Rynd, the museum’s executive director. “Nothing is as it seems.”

Snarkitecture takes its name from the Lewis Carroll poem The Hunting of the Snark, which Mustonen says describes an “impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature.”

This is the fifth year for the museum’s Summer Block Party, which has featured the work of the Bjarke Ingels Group (The BIG Maze, 2014), James Corner Field Operations, (ICEBERGS, 2016), and Studio Gang (Hive, 2017.)

Mustonen said his firm hopes to take on more permanent projects, perhaps in the realm of residential design. According to representative Ali Moran, it has been commissioned to design a club in Bangkok that is scheduled to open this fall.

Housed inside the Montgomery Meigs-designed former-U. S. Pension Bureau headquarters at 401 F Street N. W., the museum has organized a series of summer programs and events in conjunction with Fun House, starting with a dance program called Daybreaker on July 6.

As part of the lineup, Mustonen will talk about Snarkitecture and Fun House during a Spotlight on Design program on July 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Placeholder Alt Text

Model Students

MoMA showcases 2018 Young Architects Program finalists ahead of PS1 opening
From now until September 3, the MoMA will be exhibiting Dream The Combine’s winning scheme for this year’s Young Architects Program (YAP), as well as the other four finalists’ work. Hide & Seek opens to the public at MoMA PS1 on June 28, but until then, the MoMA exhibition provides a sneak peek that should tide over visitors. Hide & Seek Design: Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers of Dream The Combine in collaboration with Clayton Binkley of ARUP Structural Engineering: Clayton Binkley and Kristen Strobel, ARUP Project Team: Max Ouellette-Howitz, Nero He, Tom Vogel, Emmy Tong, and Erik Grinde, with support from UMN School of Architecture Dream The Combine is the 19th YAP winner. The firm's scheme will create a series of dynamic pavilions across PS1’s courtyard and up the steps to the museum. Nine overlapping black steel catwalks will stretch across the open area, including inaccessible platforms hovering overhead. Three of the paths will hold giant, moveable mirrors that can “turn an individual into a crowd” or unify separate elements of the installation. Fabric sails will be floated overhead at certain points and fitted with misters to create an ethereal and spacey feeling at night. Hide & Seek is, according to Jennifer Newsom, an attempt to create an ever-changing experience in PS1’s courtyard by building new visual connections throughout the space and beyond. Shelf Life Design: LECAVALIER R+D, Jesse LeCavalier Project team: Ayesha Ghosh, Jesse McCormick, Zachary White Structural engineering support: LED - Laufs Engineering Design, New York City & Berlin What exactly is “logistics”? How can we better connect and explore the invisible machinery that drives modern global commerce? For Shelf Life, LECAVALIER R+D re-appropriates the stacking and racking machinery usually found in factories and turns it into an immersive exhibition structure. In their proposal, furniture is built straight into the massive frame, and the entire pavilion would be disassembled and integrated back into the global logistics stream at the end of summer. Out of the Picture Project Team: FreelandBuck, Alex Kim, Taka Tachibe, Belinda Lee, Braden Young, Adin Rimland, Michael Raymundo, Adrian Lanetti, Evan Preuss, Jose Avila Structural Engineering by Matthew Melnyk of Nous Engineering Out of the Picture sought, much like Hide and Seek, to “bring the outside in” to PS1’s courtyard. Enormous fabric banners are stretched across the central plaza and decorated with distorted images of the surrounding buildings. The result is a reinterpretation of the neighborhood from a new perspective, transformed but still readable. Loud Lines Design: BairBalliet Structural Consultants: Walter P Moore, Kais Al-Rawi, Quinton Champer Project Team: Chaoqun Chen, Jose Garcia, Andrew Lang, Spencer McNeil, Ruta Misiunas Lines and vectors are often abstract concepts on a screen in architecture, but BairBalliet sought to translate the often-striking lines in diagrams into tangible structures. During the day, Loud Lines is solid black and imposing, but at night, the structure pulses with neon light from within. The rods emit a cooling mist to further blur the lines between the real and the immaterial. The Beastie Design: OFICINAA: Silvia Benedito and Alexander Häusler. Cambridge, MA, and Ingolstadt, Germany The Beastie proposed a technologically forward-thinking assemblage in PS1’s courtyard; an interactive structure that would have turned solar energy into ice. Inside the multi-walled chambers of The Beastie, visitors would explore a range of different temperatures, ranging from pleasant to freezing. More than a cool-down station, The Beastie was intended to raise awareness of climate change by exposing guests to “climatic confusion”. All of the YAP finalists were required to design an outdoor shelter that included shade, water, and seating. After the proposals are finished showing at the MoMA, the installation will travel to MAXXI (Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo) in Rome, and CONSTRUCTO in Santiago.
Placeholder Alt Text

Set in Concrete

Striking architecture from the former Yugoslavia to go on view at MoMA
Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980 is the first major exhibition in the United States to display the compelling portfolio of architecture from the former Yugoslavia. The exhibition will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) from July 15, 2018–January 13, 2019, and will include more than 400 visual documents from Yugoslavia’s prominent architects during the 45 years of the country’s existence. The architecture ranges from both soaring International Style skyscrapers and Brutalist structures of concrete geometric forms, representing the postwar style Yugoslavia’s architects developed in response to conflicting influences from both “the capitalist East and the socialist West,” according to a statement from the MoMA. Yugoslavia avoided the Cold War, instead became a leading figure in the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. At the same time, the government built extensively in the hopes of modernizing and stimulating the economy to improve the lives of their citizens. The state also expanded its political influence in other Non-Aligned countries in Africa and the Middle East by building in and urbanizing those countries. Many memorials and monuments can be seen in the exhibition, showcasing Yugoslavia’s socialist ambition. Important architects such as Bogdan Bogdanović, Juraj Neidhardt, Svetlana Kana Radević, Edvard Ravnikar, Vjenceslav Richter, and Milica Šterić are featured in the exhibition. Check out this link for further details.