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Laying Down the Law

D.C.’s newest museum goes underground to explore the American police system
The new National Law Enforcement Museum isn’t easy to find, and that’s a good thing. Tucked beneath Washington, D.C.’s Judiciary Square, the 57,000-square-foot facility, which opened in mid-October, is only visible via two glass pavilions that mark its presence on the street. Driving, walking, or pedaling by, you’d never know that under the asphalt lies a structure that dives deep into the history of the policing profession in the United States. In a recent article, The Washington Post noted that the museum, designed by Davis Buckley Architects and Planners (DBA), “exhibits history with a light touch of controversy.” The architecture goes out of its way to minimize that controversy. An attention-grabbing, large-scale structure would have been a mistake given contemporary anger between local communities and law enforcement agencies. The museum goes underground in an apparent sign of humility, but also largely because of the federal building requirements already in place for that specific site. It’s located under a plaza in front of the historic District of Columbia Courthouse, a striking neoclassical building. The museum's pavilions rise 25-feet above the courthouse square, allowing the landmarked structure to retain clear sight lines of the adjacent National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which DBA completed in 1991. In an effort to respect this context and comply with public law, the museum was constructed below-grade, rendering it nearly invisible to the public. Despite this, the space is more rooted in light than shadow. The semi-submerged three-story building boasts ample natural light thanks to the aforementioned above-ground transparent boxes that serve as the entrance and exit. As the sole points of access to the outside world, these portals enliven what would have otherwise been a claustrophobic sunken space. The architects chose to make light a central feature of the design, which is helpful considering the sometimes somber nature of the museum’s content. DBA, a local firm, has plenty of experience with the difficult nature of designing commemorative architecture. Principals Davis Buckley and Tom Striegel have created award-winning designs all over D.C., most notably the National Japanese American MemorialTheir work is thorough and thoughtful, two major reasons why the non-profit organization in charge of the memorial plaza and garden, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, chose them again to build out the major exhibition space. The museum is the result of a near 20-year effort. In 2000, Congress passed a bill supporting the project that President Clinton signed it into law later that year. Though constructed on federal land and supported by the government, the $103 million museum was entirely funded through private donations raised by the Memorial Fund. Nearly a quarter of the money was raised through an annual police bike-riding fundraiser. This allowed the vision for the museum to be dictated solely by its supporters. Based on this timeline, the museum's creation was not intended to be a response to this current political moment, but it's hard to detach from the fact that it came online this year at the height of 21st-century racial tension and police brutality in the U.S. The exhibits, as well as, the building's design, don't explicitly confront these issues. Since the museum opened, it’s maintained a relatively low-profile for smart-but-obvious reasons. According to Rebecca Looney, lead director of exhibits and programs, it isn’t here to address current national politics but to give civilians a “walk in their shoes” experience of what it’s like to be in law enforcement. For all intents and purposes, the museum does just that. With an extensive collection of over 20,000 artifacts from historic moments in our nation’s history, such as the handcuffs used by police to arrest Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin to the bulletproof vest that Al Capone wore, anyone who is remotely interested in crime will be gripped. The curation even caters to pop culture enthusiasts with RoboCop’s full costume and clips of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When a visitor steps into the facility, they get a sweeping view of almost the entire exhibition space simply from traversing the curved, second-floor walkway. With a sneak peek of what’s to come, people of all ages can zero in on the interactive exhibition they’d like to view first, whether it’s hearing about how cops train search-and-sniff dogs or taking a faux emergency call at a police dispatcher’s console. Many of these exhibits are laid out within a single, spacious room that makes other over-crowded local museums seem even more stifling. Several of the museum’s exhibits look at law enforcement through the lens of heroism, but none more respectfully than the small room known as the “Hall of Remembrance.” Photos of officers who have died this year in the line of duty are displayed in row after row on the room's back wall. It’s a startling view, given the wall is nearly full with well over 300 people. The headshots will rotate each year, according to Looney, and will play a special role in National Police Week every May when officers and their families visit for the first time. Other media exhibits show how law enforcement responded to and worked with communities after September 11, 2001, and the Emanuel 9 massacre, among other recent tragedies. One of the museum’s main offerings is a 20-minute introductory video that details the history of law enforcement and current issues officers face every day in police work. It’s set inside a striking, 111-seat theater with dramatic acoustics. According to Looney, weighty topics like police brutality and corruption within the profession won’t be explored in the museum’s main exhibits but will be part of educational programming and temporary shows when possible. Critics are already calling this a major flaw and a missed opportunity.   The National Law Enforcement Museum's completion comes on the heels of the David Adjayedesigned Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which opened in September of 2016. The two museums are starkly different. While the NMAAHC gives much more space to the Black Lives Matter movement and the relationship between the African American community and the police, the law enforcement museum only dips briefly into those issues, touching on the 2014 shooting and subsequent riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Maybe this will change, maybe it won't.   Regardless, the NMAAHC rightfully stands tall in all the glory that its 100-plus years of planning should produce. The Davis Buckley–designed museum for law enforcement—while hidden—is full of light, exuding a subtle poise, and perhaps providing a much-needed point of connection for the American people who are having trouble relating to or caring for law enforcement today. Only time will tell if it makes an impact on our cultural divide. At the very least, the museum will be a place of solace for friends and family who have lost loved ones in this profession, and for those who serve today. The National Law Enforcement Museum is located at 444 E St. NW in Washington, D.C. It’s open Sunday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Buy tickets here.
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The Uncanny Gallery

Assemble masterfully plays with history in its design for a London gallery
Assemble Studio's most recent project is also its most ambitious to date in terms of size and permanence. The group has turned a former public bathhouse in New Cross, a south-east neighborhood of London, into an arts center for Goldsmiths, University of London. The Victorian brick and cast iron Laurie Grove Baths are now recast as the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art for a new kind of creative immersion. When Assemble was awarded Britain’s most prestigious visual arts prize, the Turner, in 2015 it was a moment of celebration for the architecture scene, but also of confusion. Were the architects artists now, and their architecture, in effect, art? Or the other way around? Some saw it as a promotion of architectural work to the realm of fine art, other a demotion. Perhaps it was neither, and what it meant remains unsettled. At the time, the architecture collective had already won the competition to design a new Centre for Contemporary Art at Goldsmiths’ campus as a wild card entry. An art-architecture commission for the artist-architects. Assemble was commissioned for the project following an open architecture competition in 2014, and it has been realized with Paloma Strelitz and Adam Willis acting as lead architects, in collaboration with Alan Baxter Associates and Max Fordham Engineers. The 10,700 square foot building accommodates an event space and cafe alongside seven galleries that opened this fall. In a sense, the building’s purpose further complicates things, and points toward the conventions we still lean toward in defining the roles of artists, architects, cultural institutions, and academia. A group of architects, attributed as great artists by the art world, commissioned to make architecture for art’s sake with affluent alumni artists as patrons. And at that, the building is on the front yard of one of today's international strongholds in the realm of history and theory of art. Assemble has previously made a name for itself in producing design projects where a hands-on approach to design and a close relationship with the local community and the prospective users lays the groundwork. In this case, that end-user community is the art theorists next door. It is the London art world. It is the curators and the museum directors and the interns. It is the gallery-circuit weekend visitors; it is fellow architects; it is the Assemble fan base. It is us. That could be cause for concern, but it could also be a moment for introspection. On the gallery's second day open, a handful of visitors strolled around, peeking up and down through openings in the three-story atrium that has been carved into the building’s heart. Spiraling around it is an array of galleries, transitional spaces, nooks, and crannies that present a buffet of architectural flavors. It is a ruin and a temple, a cave and theater stage, a maze and a manor. It is a murky basement and an airy loft. It is a piece of industrial infrastructure and a quirky contemporary playhouse. The baths have been respectfully added to and carefully taken care of. What once was a public building for the most private of uses, where grimy boilers and shiny tiles worked to unite water and naked skin, has now been brought to a new public for a new solitary-slash-social event: our encounter with art. Some things have been scrubbed away, other kinds of dirt preserved and exposed. It is generous, gentle, masterfully executed. Assemble’s CCA building is a well composed collage. And somehow it is also a monolith. It might sound confusing. It is not. It makes perfect sense, because something about it is eerie. The building is kind of good, extraordinary but also kind of ordinary. And it remains etched in your memory like a familiar face that you can not quite place. In one of the second-floor galleries, we find ourselves standing were only water once stood, inside a black iron box that used to be a cistern. A cut-away to one side now lets daylight in. For the opening exhibition, a work by Mika Rottenberg is on display. On the floor, a half-dozen frying pans are placed on electric stoves. Drops of water slowly rain from the ceiling, evaporating into a thin mist as they hit the hot pans. It is beautiful. Maybe this is what architecture for architects is, today. The “now”. The nuanced material presence of local history, the palette of delicate metalwork dipped in graceful pastels, the robust but cute bespoke detailing. What if it is calculated to fit its purpose. What if this is what it is like to have someone design for your own community. Maybe this is what we have been craving. A machine attuned to serving us this relationship with art.
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Something old, something new

The 57th Carnegie International digs where it stands
Within the last three months, two rustbelt cities have opened international art exhibitions. Cleveland, Ohio, debuted FRONT International in July, and this weekend Pittsburgh opened its 57th Carnegie International. While FRONT sends artists and art-tourists into sites throughout the city, this year’s Carnegie International keeps its art in and around its own house. The exhibition draws visitors to Andrew Carnegie’s immense, turn-of-the-century building—a complex with two museums, a concert hall, and library all under one roof—and proves that its long institutional history is a fertile ground for provocative new work. The notion of an “international” exhibition perhaps still conjures the hubris of the industrialist who founded the show in 1896 to identify the “old masters of tomorrow.” But this year’s curators, Ingrid Schaffner along with Liz Park and Ashley McNelis, aimed to use the exhibition to spark “museum joy.” The curatorial joy is certainly contagious, evident even in the team’s abolition of wall texts, which Schaffner denounces in favor of a bound book developed with Dancing Fox Press that hearkens back to a 19th-century travel guide. By saturating the building with new artwork, the 57th Carnegie International strives to construct new narratives and celebrate the art as a lived experience with architectural and artistic juxtapositions. The exhibition may be bounded by the museum walls, but the 32 artists and collectives, as well as one independent exhibition maker have taken it upon themselves to respond to Pittsburgh’s local histories and regional conditions that still have international resonance. The 57th Carnegie International is open now through March 25, 2019. Admission is free with tickets to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History.
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Filler Piece

Martin Filler lyrically recounts the luminaries of modern architecture

Martin Filler's new book Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III: From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin is as moving as the other two editions in the series: not only are his portraits individualized, but their particularities are given broad and vast depth in history. As Filler describes the Italian-born Latin American emigre Lina Bo Bardi’s writings, "they are anything but a dry educational treatise." This is equally true of this text. 

Filler has a literate writing style, smoothly telling stories about individuals both liked or strongly disparaged; Maya Lin is a benign favorite and Albert Speer an ominous criminal. The essays were originally written for The New York Review of Books where they found an apt home. Yet, for me, Filler's style could be better suited for creative literature because of the vivid word pictures he draws of individuals, their works, and the generalized historical fabrics in which they belong. 

On most of his critiques I am in agreement, but on Frank Gehry, I part ways. Filler is not uncritical but ends up agreeing with most of the press that Gehry is deservedly the most celebrated contemporary architect, except for his Seattle Museum of Pop Culture. I think that Gehry’s style is too peculiar and doesn’t fit into its siting, although the famous Guggenheim Bilbao is perfectly sited within the urban fabric, in my opinion. 

Filler becomes somewhat poetic when comparing Louis Kahn’s sculptural powers to Michaelangelo’s: both conceived that all forms are embedded within materials and receive their powerful force by coming into being through the artist’s touch. In the Kahn chapter, Filler also sees Kahn’s "irrepressible egotism" most obviously in his philandering personal life.

In dealing with his subjects Filler exhibits keen or probing observant insight. In the introduction, we find that Renzo Piano won his enviable commissions as much from his superbly able and talented skills as from his ability engaging to potential clients. Filler carefully weighs the religious, social, personal, aesthetic, and political strains of his subjects, so we get a crammed-full picture, a three-dimensional image of the individuals, like in Margot and Rudolf Wittkower’s Born Under Saturn.

When Filler takes on Edwin Lutyens as a figure equal in influence, although polar opposite in style, to Le Corbusier we get a sense of Filler's droll wit. He refers to Christopher Wren’s affecting Lutyens as a "Wrenaissance." In the midst of speaking on Wiener Werkstatte, he brings up Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park's grid, remarking that it resembles a waste paper basket of Josef Hoffman. This is an essay in kitsch, says Filler.

Humor aside, Filler is poetically determined to bring out the breathtakingly serious gift that Frederick Law Olmsted gave to mankind in his designing such landscapes as Central Park and its slightly later progeny, Prospect Park, together with his partner, Calvert Vaux. Regardless of their being created in the 19th century, Filler says, they are ageless. This could be extended to Filler’s historical accounts.

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What, Me Worry?

New monograph chronicles Alfred Neumann, Israel’s unsung architect
A fascinating and thoroughly researched book, Space Packed: The Architecture of Alfred Neumannby Rafi Segal (2018, Park Books) investigates the rise and fall of Alfred Neumann, Israel’s perhaps most major, and yet still unknown, architect. In addition to providing a compelling biography, Segal makes the claim for Neumann’s unique significance and demonstrates how his work captured important conversations and conflicts in Israeli architecture of the 1950s and 60s; Neumann's work was a cipher for debates about the future of architecture in the new state. Lavishly illustrated with drawings and photographs and concluded by an appendix that contains Neumann’s own writings, Space Packed convincingly asserts that this man at the margins was ahead of the times. Alfred Neumann was born in 1900, trained with Peter Behrens and Auguste Perret, survived World War II as an inmate at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and then emigrated to Israel in 1949, a year after the state was founded. He became dean of Haifa’s prestigious Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and, in 1956, published the first part of a theory that would inform his work for decades: a pamphlet that called for architecture’s reform through a new, humanizing system of proportion to determine a better measurement unit. Buildings were to be seen not as singular large forms, but as an aggregate assembly of smaller, repeated, and interconnected units that could render them more humane. Beginning with his astonishing Bat Yam City Hall, and through the fabulous seaside holiday villages for Club Méditerranée and Kiryat Yam, Neumann became known for buildings with complex interfaces between interior and exterior. Space packing came to be understood as a mode of making architecture—in her obituary, Ada Louise Huxtable called him the father of the movement—structured on polyhedral forms that could be “packed” for maximum spatial efficiency. The polyhedral and non-orthogonal geometries these ideas produced were impressive in their capacity to relate to local conditions of climate, light, and topography. Bold colors were an important element of Neumann’s work and were used as a way to interpret programmatic space. Pattern and repetition were paramount in space packing. Neumann’s architecture had a major impact in its time and is still alluring today. Zvi Hecker joined Neumann’s studio in 1952 and became a close collaborator for life. Moshe Safdie spoke of the affinity he felt with Neumann’s work, and, for Neumann’s obituary in 1968, Architecture d’Aujourd’hui gave him an entire page alongside Walter Gropius’s full-page announcement. During their lifetimes, Gropius said of Neumann that he had developed the only meaningful system of human proportion except for Le Corbusier. The history of Israeli architecture writ large is a history of dynasties—the Rechters and Sharons among them—to which Neumann, a minor architect, did not belong. For the last two years of his life, Neumann lived in something of an exile in Canada, where he founded the architecture department at the University of Laval in Quebec City. Caught in controversy around his Danciger Building (1963–66), as well as Israeli architecture’s tilt toward historicist postmodernism after the Six-Day War, Neumann no longer had his finger on the pulse of the country’s architecture scene. He was buried in 1968—as a Christian in a Catholic cemetery in Quebec City—per his request.
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Out In FRONT

Cleveland’s FRONT festival ties the city together with art and history
The expressed goal of the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art is to shine a spotlight on the cultural landscape of Cleveland, a city many might overlook when thinking of art hubs. The organizers of FRONT, of which there are many, are taking their chances on yet another triennial/biennial event but are decidedly not relying on a market-based model, like Art Basel or the closer Expo Chicago. In doing so the city is hoping to set itself apart and focus on the cultural aspects of the art, rather than the scene of art culture. The first thing that will strike visitors to FRONT is its scope. With this year’s theme, An American City: Eleven Cultural Exercises, it can honestly be said that the show spans much of the city, including dipping its toes into Lake Erie. With no single institution claiming the show as its own, each of the city's major art museums and a number of galleries and universities have worked in unison to produce the encompassing show. It is a credit to Curator Lisa Kurzner, Artistic Director Michelle Grabner, Executive Director Fred Bidwell, and their team that such a complex undertaking could be negotiated. Public spaces and government buildings also get in on the act with massive new murals, large-scale sculptures, and a number of temporary installations. In many ways, these pieces, outside of typical presentation settings, are the most striking. Possibly the least expected of the non-traditional spaces to show art is the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Completed in 1923, and fully adorned in ornate gold and marble details, the lobby of the bank is home to a mesmerizing video and sound installation entitled Volatility Smile by New York-based Midwest-native Philip Vanderhyden. The 24-channel video of digitally rendered abstract forms plays with imagery pulled directly from the space itself. A similarly poignant installation fills the large gallery of the downtown Cleveland Public Library. The American Library continues Yinka Shonibare's research-based cultural art practice. The piece is composed of thousands of books covered in African cloth and embossed with the names of American immigrants. The bright color and context of the piece make accessible the timely content, which builds on Shonibare's work dealing with post-colonialism around the world. The work within the established art museums and galleries is broad-ranging and varied, and many pieces are not to be missed. At Case Western University and MOCA Cleveland, a giant silver hand by sculptor Tony Tasset welcomes guests to the museum and the university, both of which are also participating in FRONT. The inside of the Farshid Moussavi-designed MOCA Cleveland echoes with the soundtrack of Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife, a slow-motion 3-D video installation of animated urban plant life. It is as intoxicatingly beautiful as it is hypnotizing. Equally powerful, if not much quieter, is what may be the hidden gem of the entire exhibition. Located in the oldest church in Cleveland along a quiet street, Night Coming Tenderly, Black by photographer Dawoud Bey exemplifies the type of work that FRONT is aiming to promote. Both regionally specific and universally accessible, the large installation fills the pews of St. John’s Episcopal Church with almost completely black images depicting landscapes that escaped slaves traveling the Underground Railroad would have encountered. Appropriately, the church itself was the final stop along the perilous system of safe heavens before escapees crossed Lake Erie into Canada. The placement of the large-scale prints in the pews allows for viewers to sit unusually close to the images, making them incredibly immersive as one studies their intense shadowy detail. In many ways, FRONT International has set itself up to achieve its goal of bringing the world to Cleveland. The array of work is a testament to the cooperation between institutions, which would seem unlikely to happen in the more competitive art scenes of larger cities. The work is often both specific to Cleveland as well as relevant to outsiders. Taken in all together, the show is exciting and shows the potential when a city like Cleveland puts on an international exhibition. Does the world need another art festival? Perhaps not, but if we are going to get one, Cleveland seems to have figured out a way to make it worthwhile.
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Architecture Is…

Review: Bezalel Academy’s student show celebrates diversity in Jerusalem
Architecture is… is this year’s edition of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design’s Department of Architecture end-of-the-year exhibition in Jerusalem, Israel. Curated by Henry Urbach, former curator of architecture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the exhibition features the year-long design projects of approximately 75 graduating students. The show includes for the first time design work from the department’s branch for ultra-Orthodox women, an innovative program that is now in its fifth year and celebrating its first graduating class. Architectural projects, with their many drawings and models at multiple scales and levels of abstraction, are rarely accessible to a broader public. The show takes on this difficult challenge. The exhibition design—precise and subdued—nods to the problem with beige paint bands that unify the projects, along with other graphic and text elements used to distinguish the eight units, or design studios. The stately front courtyard of Bezalel has been transformed by a collective of fourth-year students into a “garden of reverie,” replete with wooden frames holding plants and flowers, hanging laundry, easels, a sandbox, and games of all sorts, making it a true Jerusalem garden (not to mention the ‘Heterotopia’ described by philosopher Michel Foucault) that is also a 1:1 scale installation, another way in which architects, especially younger ones, work. Inside the school’s foyer, a large wall text piece presents the exhibition title along with student, faculty, and staff reactions to the incomplete phrase; these responses appear in multiple languages and mark out a kind of portrait of the school. Taken together as a whole, Architecture is… provides a compelling frame for viewing Israel’s architectural future, while asking, in a fresh and enjoyable way, the question: “What is an architectural exhibition?” Architecture is… Main Gallery, Department of Architecture Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem, Israel
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Pastel Paradise?

Inside North Korea: A candy-colored fever dream
When British landscape architect Nicholas Bonner set out for North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, in 1993, he anticipated a gloomy concrete metropolis. However, on the flight there, brightly colored sugar and pepper condiment packets hinted that a more florid environment lay in store. Fast forward 25 years and Bonner is offering tours of Pyongyang to visitors, including The Guardian's architecture critic Oliver Wainwright who documents the candy-colored city in his new book, Inside North Korea available August 15 from Taschen. Wainwright only spent a week inside North Korea, but that was sufficient time to take enough photographs to fill a 240-page book. "Every day was jam-packed," Wainwright told The Architect's Newspaper. The photographs along with an introductory essay shed light on what is a typically closed-off country that has strict rules for journalists. Though he was shepherded by three guards at all times, Wainwright was afforded more freedom by traveling as a tourist instead of a journalist and was able to document Pyongyang's built environment through a point-and-shoot camera. The images, particularly the interior shots, could easily be stills from a Wes Anderson movie. Interiors are laid out symmetrically, with portraits of the former North Korean premier, Kim Il-sung, and the former Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, typically hanging at the focal points of the room. Their presence is no accident. According to Kim Jong-il's 160-page treatise, On Architecture, "the leader's image must always be placed in the center of the architectural space," a dictum which is carried through with regulations that stipulate that nothing else can be hung on the same wall as these portraits. Perhaps the most dazzling interior is that of the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre seen above. Originally built in 1989, it can hold an audience of 3,500 people. A 2007 renovation brought the theater up to Grand Budapest Hotel standards with plaster moldings, scalloped peach-colored walls, purple upholstered seats, a bright-blue vinyl floor, polished stone tiles, and a huge mural relief being added. Images of the theater and other interiors can feel staged, which Wainwright acknowledged while saying everything was shot "just as it is." Images of leadership are used even more emphatically outdoors. Streets have been organized to maximize the effect of these portraits, which Wainwright describes as "utterly crushing, giving the impression of a street made for giants." The world's largest bronze statues of people can be found at the top of Mansu Hill. Looking over a stone plaza, 66-foot-high statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung peer onto the Monument to Party Founding situated at the end of an axis one-and-a-quarter miles away. The two former leaders stand in front of a mosaic and are flanked by giant red granite flags which are propped up by bronze workers. One has a plaque which reads: "Let us drive out the U.S. imperialists and reunite our fatherland!" For a country so focused on image, it's unsurprising to learn that it has tried to scrub all foreign influences, U.S. imperialism included, from its aesthetics and architecture. "An architect who is convinced that his country and this are the best will not look upon foreign things or try to copy them, but make tireless efforts to create architecture amenable to his people," wrote Kim Jong-il in On Architecture. Despite all this, images of architectural precedents could be found at the Paektusan Academy of Architecture where images of buildings from around the world could be found, from Moscow's Seven Sisters to Terry Farrell's MI6 Building in London. In all, Pyongyang embodies North Korea's approach to self-presentation: Big Brother-esque images that project the state's power and ability to protect its citizens amplified at a bombastic scale and sweetened with saccharine pastels. Inside North Korea Oliver Wainwright, Julius Wiedemann TASCHEN $60.00
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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.
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Concrete Dreams

Yugoslav architecture: Hidden no more
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is hosting an extraordinary exhibition surveying late modern architecture from a country that no longer exists: YugoslaviaToward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 is on view now through January 13, 2019. Approximately six hundred items are on display in salon style across MoMA’s galleries including original drawings, newly crafted scale models, and a series of commissioned photographs by a Swiss photographer Valentin Jeck. The material is not presented chronologically but rather arranged spatially as a series of sequential topics ranging from Global Networks to Everyday Life and Identities, each branching into sub-topics. Distinct rooms are reserved for individual architects that the curators have highlighted as key thinkers in the spatialization of the Yugoslav socialist identity, including Bogdan Bogdanović, Juraj Neidhardt, Vjenceslav Richter, and Edvard Ravnikar. An entire gallery is devoted to the brutalist reconstruction of Skopje featuring the work of Kenzo Tange with Janko Konstantinov, a graduate of Yale. While female architects like Milica Šterić, Melanija Marušić, and Svetlana Kana Radević did not get a separate booth, they were largely present in galleries and through an essay on gender in Yugoslav architecture published in the exhibition catalog, written by curatorial assistant Anna Kats and Theodossis Issaias. The show's curators, MoMA’s Martino Stierli and guest curator Vladimir Kulić, begin the show by asserting that this exhibition is a survey of architecture that has been all but absent from modern history. They also make clear that Yugoslavia was expelled from the Soviet bloc in 1948, removing it from Stalin’s grip on spatial esthetics. The country had a need to search for its collective identity elsewhere. As Vladimir Kulić states, the architecture from Yugoslav socialism is an adaptation rather than copy, giving the work a quality of enhanced interpretation. The work exhibited draws a range of inspiration from U.S. postwar corporate architecture, brutalism on the global stage, most notably from Paul Rudolph and Kenzo Tange, Scandinavia’s organic volumetrics, Alvar Aalto’s sensibility towards nature, and playful forms in concrete relating to Oscar Niemeyer’s Brazilian freeing of form to allow expression of permeability and elegance. MoMA’s exhibit suggests that socialist architecture in Yugoslavia was a success of its own time. Its unique adaptation of late modernism was complementary with other grand narratives of modern architecture worldwide. To someone like me who lived in the architecture of Yugoslavia on display at MoMA, the success of the exhibit is two-fold. First, thanks to daring curatorial decisions to organize the material in topics rather than chronologically or as a fixed narrative, the exhibit avoids the nostalgia that surrounds avant-garde Soviet architecture. And second, these Yugoslav examples are cast as success stories from the recent socialist past, with a post-avant-garde afterlife increasingly relevant to contemporary times. As Stierli points out, a majority of the architecture presented in the exhibition is still in use today. Included in the exhibit are two outstanding works, namely the excerpts from Mila Turajlić’s video arrangement Living Space/Loving Space (2018), and Jasmina Čibić’s mesmerizing video entitled Nada: Act 1 (2016), which turned Richter’s model for the Yugoslav Pavilion at Expo 1958 in Brussels into a string musical instrument. At the entrance to the galleries, visitors will find a legendary pan-Yugoslav kiosk K67 by Saša Mächtig of Slovenia doing precisely what the kiosk was meant for: providing information. Barry Bergdoll noted in a follow-up event at the AIA Center for Architecture that this exhibition celebrates an architecture that came out of a now superseded political system, and the show suggests that Yugoslavia's socialism was perhaps not that nefarious after all. Toward a Concrete Utopia is an extraordinary exhibition that is opening doors for research on the subject. Expanding scholarship was reportedly an ambition of Stierli from the beginning of planning for the exhibit. This widening will help bring to view Yugoslav architecture beyond MoMA’s selection. According to the warm reception, architecture from socialist Yugoslavia is on its way to being secured in the legacy of global modernism. Including a single shelf with topical books published thus far would have helped augment the high quality of the exhibition. Such an insertion would have also offset possible critiques of a neo-colonial approach, seemingly the only possible approach while addressing the highly diverse modern design heritage of today’s balkanized countries as a single Yugoslavia, under the roof of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hidden no more. Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, PhD grew up in socialist Yugoslavia and is now a research architect based in New York. He is the author of Socialist Architecture: The Vanishing Act (JRP Ringier, Zuerich) and Socialist Architecture: The Reappearing Act. He is currently faculty at CUNY’s CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture and founder of NAO.NYC.
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Miss the Mark

Gropius Bau exhibition promises a great deal but delivers small pleasures
The exhibition Immersive Spaces Since the 1960s (Welt Ohne Außen) at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau promises a great deal but delivers only a few small pleasures. The gallery suggests it will show “a wide range of art forms and disciplines that mark a transition from object to spatial situation.” But if you go to the Gropius Bau expecting to see a survey of immersive environments you will be disappointed. Curated by Thomas Oberender and Tino Sehgal, it does include two California light, surface, and space experiments by Larry Bell and Doug Wheeler, along with a precedent-setting installation by Lucio Fontana and Nanda Vega. These sparse servings set up the real reason for the show: to act as precedents for installations by Sehgal. Further, the show posits that immersive environments have usually operated within a format of an “almost opposed modality: the exhibition.” But there it is in the Martin without any attempt to move outside the museum. The venue excludes outdoor experiments like Dan Graham’s mirrored pavilions let alone a James Turrell in situ light room. Sadly, the Gropius Bau’s walled spaces do not allow for any casual flow or unknown engagement with a work. With super-efficient Gropius Bau guards placed in front of the installation rooms there is little chance to even walk unprepared into an installation. In fact, the sort of immersive light rooms featured in the show require a museum exhibition space with sealed off perimeter walls. This not to say that there are not small pleasures to be gained in this exhibit, like Isabel Lewis and Dambi Kim’s tasty and fragrant Tea Room “live work” scheduled through the run of the show. The opening presented only a few of the live performances or workshops that will take place at the Martin, and perhaps these small discreet ‘happenings’ will enliven the show, just don’t expect anything approaching a complete or scholarly examination of the topic. The exhibition at the Martin Gropius Bau runs through August 5.
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Zevi's Eye

A MAXXI exhibit shows Bruno Zevi as a critic of difference
The exhibition Zevi’s Architects: History and Counter-History of Italian Architecture, 1944-2000, curated by Pippo Ciorra and Jean-Louis Cohen at MAXXI in Rome, interweaves three strands of research and documentation based on the life and work of Bruno Zevi: his biography; an architectural history that brings together a selection of projects culled from Zevi’s writings; and finally Zevi’s media, which extend from books to TV broadcasting and exhibitions. It presents, on one hand, Zevi’s voice (which one can literally hear broadcast on TV) and the scope of his work as an architectural critic, theorist and public intellectual. Encountering Zevi’s voice and work is important, especially for generations of architects and historians who know Zevi as an “operative critic,” the title given to him by Manfredo Tafuri in Theories and History of Architecture, and the title that Zevi himself embraced when he founded the Institute of Operative Criticism. On the other hand, the exhibition presents a history of Italian architecture after World War II that brings together well-known projects along with lesser-known ones to narrate an understanding of architecture—one that is not only deeply rooted in society and social transformation, but also diverse. It is this history that makes a difference and gives the exhibition its taste: a fresh view of Italian architecture after WWII that begins with usual suspects, but expands to include more unfamiliar projects, singular attempts, and different trajectories. The selected projects are presented with quotes from Zevi’s writings about them. The selection starts with projects that are common to the architectural discourse in the fifties and sixties and then expands to include projects that are more idiosyncratic. It is through this selection that Zevi’s voice forms as well—initially part of common discourse and then becoming more individualized. The result is an exhibition where Zevi becomes a posthumous curator of Italian architecture in the second half of the 20th century. And by suggestion, one can conclude that today’s operative critic is a curator. Zevi’s voice carries controversies within itself. We learn, for instance, that Zevi, an Italian Jew, emigrated to England and the United States, and became a member of USIS (United States Information Service). USIS was a U.S. government agency devoted to explaining American policies and views to foreign publics during the Cold War. Broadcasting was an important activity of USIS. Zevi’s fascination with Frank Lloyd Wright and American architecture may have something to do with this, and his entire emphasis on organic architecture as the architecture of democracy may have to do with this as well. Even his emphasis on broadcasting his views on TV may have been influenced by this. There is perhaps no surprise in this congruity between thoughts and actions. Yet considering Italy had one of the strongest communist parties and traditions in Europe, this information places Zevi’s work in in a more controversial light within its context and helps to distinguish him as a distinct voice. What does one find in this voice and through the exhibition? One finds an openness to accept every example of architecture with its politics as part of a diverse cultural and social landscape. One finds determination to discuss architecture first as the work of an architect and with terms and constraints set by design, and then consider the roles design decisions play in social and cultural realms. For instance, Sergio Musmeci’s Ponte sul Basento in Potenza is an engineering feat of elegant form but also a “pedestrian walkway filled with surprises” leading toward the city from the industrial zone. In Zevi’s words, there is joy of architecture. One way to think about Zevi after the exhibition Zevi’s Architects is as the critic of difference. This is not a difference that is articulated or generated through the analysis of historical conditions. This is difference in the sense that everybody has a slightly different view of a given situation. Such a difference of views may be constructed by means of history but it is also a matter of hic et nunc. It is difference that occurs because everyone occupies a slightly different place and hence may have a different view. It is the kind of difference that constitutes a public realm according to Hannah Arendt: “Only where things can be seen by many in a variety of aspects without changing their identity, so that those who are gathered around them know they see sameness in utter diversity, can worldly reality truly and reliably appear.” Ultimately, this is also the kind of difference that makes democracy possible. Going through Zevi’s Architects feels like reading a perfect film script. As the story of architecture in Italy after WWII unfolds, the protagonist, the architectural critic develops, takes charge and begins impacting the story. Eventually, the story and the protagonist are intrinsically linked. The exhibition, in presenting a diversified history of Italian architecture, makes visible the work of the critic. Through Zevi’s biography and the selected projects, it allows for a reflection on democracy today and how different it is than today’s populisms due to the difference that constitutes it.