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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.
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Cook's Camden

What can architects learn from London's best social and urban housing projects?
The spectacular demolition of the high-rise Pruitt-Igoe public housing project in 1972 has been described as "the day Modernism died," but a very different dynamic played out across the Atlantic. As documented in a beautiful new book by architect and historian Mark Swenarton, in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, London saw the creation of a wide variety of  low-rise, high-density public housing projects by young architects who adapted Modernist design idioms to the era's intense need for low-cost housing. Focusing on the architectural output of single north London borough, the richly detailed and lushly produced new book, called Cook's Camden: The Making of Modern Housing, documents in vivid detail the design and construction of thousands of affordable homes in Camden, one of London's wealthiest and most historic neighborhoods. Created between 1965 and 1980 under the direction of Camden's visionary chief architect Sydney Cook, the projects described in Mark Swenarton's magisterial book constitute what he describes as "not just the last great output of social housing... but also arguably the most concentrated architectural investigation into urban housing undertaken in the last 50 years." In the foreword to the book, Columbia University historian Kenneth Frampton concurs, describing Cook's Camden as "an exceptionally thorough documentation and analysis of British achievements in the field of low-rise, high-density housing.... part and parcel of this international movement towards achieving denser, anti-suburban, proto-ecological patterns of land settlement." At the heart of Cook's Camden is the work of New York-born architect Neave Brown, whose social housing projects range in scale and ambition, starting with a small terrace of five raw concrete row houses and ending with Alexandra Road, perhaps the most celebrated architectural scheme in England. Alexandra Road turns its back on the adjacent train tracks to form a protected interior street, with front doors facing out onto a pedestrian-friendly, car-free environment from a ziggurat of stepped apartments, each with its own balcony garden. All of the projects Neave Brown designed for Camden have been protected as national landmarks, and last year, his work earned him even greater honor: a much-belated RIBA Gold Medal, bestowed just before his death at age 88, in large part, thanks to the appreciative attention garnered for him by the author Mark Swenarton, who has been conducting  the research for Cook's Camden for more than 12 years. Another designer featured in Cook's Camden is Peter Tabori, whose Highgate New Town complex, located between a large hospital and a Victorian-era cemetery, took inspiration from the dense urbanism of a Tuscan hill town. Like many of the housing schemes described in Cook's Camden, Highgate New Town was first celebrated, then allowed to decline, and in recent years has been revived as one of London's most valuable public-private council estates. A final project described in Cook's Camden, Branch Hill became known as "the country's most expensive council houses." Built on a difficult hillside site in the heart of Hampstead, one of London's most exclusive and expensive residential districts, Branch Hill was designed by architects Gordon Benson and Alan Forsyth, who went on to design the acclaimed Museum of Scotland. In keeping with the goal of maximizing green space, the architects took full advantage of the sloping site to create extensive private roof gardens. For present-day architects or developers looking to "solve" the affordable housing crisis, perhaps the most valuable chapter covers the smaller-scale infill schemes that Swenarton calls "urban dentistry." The projects described and illustrated in this section include Neave Brown's first small-scale effort, on which he joined with fellow early 1960s student architects Michael and Patty Hopkins, to develop, design and build a five-unit terrace of supremely detailed modern homes on a tight urban site.  Another commission went to Edward "Ted" Cullinan, who designed a five-story mix of family duplexes and smaller one-bedroom apartments, composed with contextualist flourishes that put it among London's first postmodern buildings. Along with lush production quality, hundreds of vintage and contemporary photographs and carefully catalogued references, one of the many valuable features of Cook's Camden is a gazetteer and map of all the properties and projects studied in the book, which may well inspire readers to take a trip to London to see these fine designs and inspiring examples of municipal success. In a final section of Cook's Camden, the author digests the era's seismic changes and draws three important lessons for today's designers, planners and builders: one, recognize that the street is the basis for urban housing; two, understand that designing urban housing demands attention not only to physical form but also to the social relationships these forms may engender; finally, and perhaps most importantly, that designers must use all their abilities–"analytical and visionary, rational and imaginative, practical and poetic, to provide something better than what is currently being built around us." Based in London and New York, Jamie Jensen is a writer and advocate for public space and urban sustainability. Cook's Camden: The Making of Modern Housing Lund Humphries $69.51 (hardcover)
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Fair Frenzy

At Collective Design, inflatable landscapes, spinning playgrounds, and other architectural highlights
AN’s editors toured the 6th edition of The Collective Design Fair at the Skylight Clarkson North this morning. At the fair known for its creative installations, we strolled through aisles of booths occupied by design-focused galleries and site-specific creations by local designers and museums. Several, highlighted below, walk that dazzling line between art, design, and architecture.   Natural Workshop by Jesse Seegers and Brook Landscape Tucked behind the show lies an ephemeral playground by Jesse Seegers surrounding a forested landscape by Brook Landscape. Seegers describes the process as “inflatable spaces I design, make the patterns for, cut out, and do physics simulations, digitally, to see what the finished design will look like.” The actualized forms are inflated by a constant stream of air that inflates three "breathing" plastic bellies. “I intentionally designed very simple forms,” explained Seegers. “This one is a standard tube, while the other two are tapered, which exaggerates the perspective.” VIP lounge by Leonidas Trampoukis and Eleni Petaloti of LOT office for architecture Though it is called the VIP lounge, founding partner of LOT and Objects of Common Interest, Leonidas Trampoukis, would describe the topography of glass blocks and slabs of acrylic his firm created as “more an installation.” Fashioned from translucent cuboids from Glass Block Warehouse Inc. and glossy umber-hued acrylic by Plaskolite, the purely decorative furnishings exude whimsical and textural vocabulary. My Reality by Crosby Studios Harry Nuriev, founder of Crosby Studios, is heavily influenced by growing up in Moscow. His Collective booth is lined by larger than life photos of his childhood apartment complex, a place he left at just 10 years old. While he practices primarily in New York City, the artist and architect draws inspiration from his formative years, in this case, the nostalgic memory of the traditional carousels of his younger years. Nuriev reinterpreted his childhood playground as a vibrant purple roundtable that spins in circles, a symbolic gesture to his formative years and inspiration. The Dream by Fernando Mastrangelo Inspired by Henri Rousseau’s painting The Dream, Fernando Mastrangelo created a sumptuous, curvilinear furniture landscape fashioned from sand molded with acrylic resin. Mastrangelo explains that the process to make wall tiles and other furniture, “as kind of like sand castle-style packing sand, only into a mold.” A surreal mountainous landscape surrounds the focal point of the space, a sand-cast sofa upholstered in oxblood cashmere, while the painting is visible through a nook in the wall, making the deep emeralds, reds, and oranges glow richly throughout the tableau.
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Robotic Reads

AN rounds up our favorite tech books of 2018
Art and architecture have always been inexorably intertwined, as new innovations in materials and construction allow buildings to rise higher and branch out into experimental new forms. But after concrete, high-rise timber, and advances in digital design, how will the field continue to progress? What new technologies and typologies will arise in the future, and how can architects and designers not only adapt, but thrive? Below is a roundup of some of 2017 and 2018’s best books on digital fabrication, robotics, redefining architectural scale, and guides on how to design for a science fiction future. Towards a Robotic Architecture Mahesh Daas and Andrew John Wit ORO Editions $40.06 As Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture advocated for an architectural movement unburdened by the weight of historical convention, Towards a Robotic Architecture implores readers to consider what the field will become once automation and robotics fully come of age. Through a series of case studies, Daas and Wit examine cutting-edge fabrication techniques, buildings that interact with their occupants, additive manufacturing, drone-based construction, and the realization of previously impossible forms. 3D Thinking in Design and Architecture: From Antiquity to the Future Roger Burrows Thames & Hudson Pre-order for $41.25, to be released on May 15, 2018 How did the architectural designers of the past work within the confines of numerical systems built on whole numbers? How has the progression of mathematical knowledge influenced the way we see the world? In 3D Thinking in Design and Architecture, Burrows charts the intertwined evolution of geometry and visual logic from the dawn of civilization to the present and beyond. Active Matter Skylar Tibbits MIT Press $32.31 Fabrication has made leaps and bounds over the last few centuries, but material science has made just as many intriguing advances. In Active Matter, Skylar Tibbits curates a discussion between artists, scientists and designers who are working on the cutting-edge of transforming materials, from self-forming furniture to eye-tracking clothing, to pavilions wound up with explosive force. Responsive Landscapes: Strategies for Responsive Technologies in Landscape Architecture Bradley Cantrell and Justine Holzman Routledge $52.22 Landscape architecture is often left out of the conversation when talking about technology, but sensors, advanced modeling techniques and robotic manufacturing will eventually cause a seismic shift in landscape architecture. Responsive Landscapes explores how designers are working to future-proof their landscapes against climate change, monitor usage patterns, and track pollution on their sites, and what the future might hold for the profession. Technically this book was released at the tail end of 2015, but it sheds light on an oft-overlooked part of the field. Hello, Robot.: Design Between Human and Machine Mateo Kries Vitra Design Museum $40.14 Pushing the boundaries of architecture with robotics is one thing, but how do humans interact with and relate to robots? Hello, Robot argues that robots are much more than powerful tools, having preoccupied the human imagination for thousands of years in one form or another. As their presence becomes more commonplace, humans begin to soften and anthropomorphize robots, and they become much more than machines that imitate human effort. Faster, Smarter, Greener: The Future of the Car and Urban Mobility Venkat Sumantran, Charles Fine and David Gonsalvez MIT Press $26.95 Automobiles dominated the twentieth century, with infrastructure around the world built to accommodate unending stretches of roads and interchanges, often to the detriment of surrounding communities. As Faster, Smarter, Greener puts forth though, that outdated method city planning is about to be radically changed as smart, interconnected vehicles will give rise to a new, cleaner age of mobile efficiency. Printing Architecture: Innovative Recipes for 3D Printing Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello Princeton Architectural Press Pre-order for $29.95, to be released on May 1, 2018 3-D printing and the world of architecture and design are natural fits for each other, as the technology allows for rapid prototyping and model-making at a low cost. Printing Architecture runs readers through a series of case studies, from small household items all the way up to complex 3-D-printed structures, to give ground-up examples of how the technology will change the design field. Robot House: Instrumentation, Representation, Fabrication Peter Testa Thames & Hudson $26.99 Robotics are becoming more and more ingrained in our homes, offices, schools and third places, but are we tapping their full potential? Robot House examines robotics through the three “P’s,” projects, principles and platforms, exploring how robots are used, operated and thought about. Every book on this list was selected independently by AN's team of editors. If you buy something via the embedded links, AN will earn a commission. 
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Work, work, work

Six commercial furnishings you should see from NeoCon East 2017
We ventured to the City of Brotherly Love to see the latest commercial interior furniture at the 15th installment of NeoCon East. There, 200+ brands showed furnishings for workplace, government, healthcare, hospitality, retail, education, and public space in the Pennsylvania Convention Center on November 15 and 16. We were impressed by various acoustic solutions, integrated ergonomic design, and nature- and craft-inspired aesthetic accoutrements. You’ll find six of our favorite products from the show below. Bower Lounge Collection ICF The Bower Collection is inspired by the rambling-style nests created by the bowerbird of the designer’s birthplace, native Australia. Adam Goodrum designed this collection of work pods, lounge chairs, and adjustable screens that support visual and acoustical privacy. Entirely modular, the Bower range of products is designed for ease of assembling on-site in work places. Cern Collection Nienkämper The Cern collection addresses contemporary office furnishing needs with multifunctional elements that allow for seemingly endless combinations and configurations, from individual offices and workstations to teamwork areas for more collaborative projects. The table range includes modular tables and bench desks, all with height-adjustable options. Continuous Arm Bench Thos. Moser Contract Nodding to the aesthetic and handmade traditions of the American Arts and Crafts, this bench incorporates a laminated arm construction, elbow rest, and curvilinear design that also characterizes the matching arm chair. It is offered in dark and light stain, as well as a combination of both (shown). Framery Q Framery Framery Q meeting pod allows people to have meetings, brainstorming sessions, and important one-on-one conversations in private without disturbing the whole office. It has four layout options and is available in various color and accessory options. Standing Desk Movi Workspace This bamboo bench top is easy attached to an existing desk. It stands up with the press of a single button and a quiet, high-speed, electric motor does the heavy lifting for you. The memory saves your precise standing height to quickly move from sitting and standing. Off The Grid Shaw Contract Drawn by a desire to disconnect from technology, Shaw Contract envisioned a range of carpeting, tiles, and other flooring inspired by grandiose landscapes. The patterns themselves are explorations of micro and macro photography, abstractions of elements from various outdoor journeys the design team took during the research and development phase.
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Reader’s Digest

The best book, building, and exhibition reviews of 2017
We all know the idiom when it comes to everyone having an opinion, but critiques and design discourse are undoubtedly an essential part of the architectural process. The AN office is filled (literally) with piles of architectural and design books, and between our editors and writers, we visit hundreds of exhibitions and buildings each year. Here are the top reviews and critiques that rose above them all. "Five fundamental problems with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial" By Matt Shaw Exhibition: Chicago Architecture Biennial The second Chicago Architecture Biennial opened in September and immediately caused controversy. We analyze the five key elements that went awry and how we can do better. "What can architects learn from Walmart’s fulfillment centers?" By Kazys Varnelis Book: The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment  Kazys Varnelis argues that The Rule of Logistics is an important book in our current political climate where “the culture of Whole Foods [was] shown up by that of Walmart." “A new book explores Bacardi’s use of architecture going back to the 1800s” By James Way Book: Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity Who knew rum would be one of the unsung heroes of architecture? The history of Bacardi’s relationship to its brand design and its buildings is a fascinating one. "Snøhetta masterfully creates a new museum setting for 17,000-year-old cave art" By Michael Franklin Ross Building: Lascaux IV Museum This review delves deeply into the research and design that Snøhetta put into the newest iteration of Lascaux, in addition to the building’s context and accomplishments. "Architecture's Odd Couple" is a rare design-professional page-turner" By Paul Gunther Book: Architecture’s Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson From Wright referring to Johnson’s work as a “monkey cage” to Johnson accusing Wright of acting as though he was born “from the head of Zeus,” Gunther’s lively review of this architecture rivalry book is a real fun read. "A new book explores John Portman’s influence on American architecture with photos by Iwan Baan" By Andrey Wachs Book: Portman’s America and Other Speculations Four essays and a series of photographs by Iwan Baan places the divisive work of John Portman under a new lens. "SOM’s new L.A. courthouse needs almost no artificial lighting during the day" By Michael Webb Building: United States District Courthouse, Los Angeles Learn why SOM’s newLos Angeles courthouse generated such a buzz for its simple, yet impactful glass cube. "How a $500 house tells the story of a changing Detroit" By Matthew Messner Book: A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City If the gritty, American-style story of a 23-year-old buying and renovating a house in Detroit doesn’t lure you in, the thoughtful self-awareness and examination of what “investing in Detroit” really means will.
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Film Fest

A trove of profiles and projects at the 9th annual ADFF
This year’s Architecture and Design Film Festival, now in its 9th year, presented 34 films which fall into the categories of profiles of makers, of places, and of users. Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place profiled the 2002 Pritzker Prize-winning Australian architect who was put forward for the award by Frank Gehry, noted for his quiet, site-specific houses and prized by Norman Foster and Renzo Piano. Here we follow an intriguing through-line in the building of a new mosque in Melbourne. The Newport Islamic Society’s creation represents an intensely loaded subject at this moment made tangible through the architecture. Murcutt works in close conjunction with the community, especially Hakan Elevli, who became a collaborating architect. Designing Life: The Modernist Architecture of Albert C. Ledner shines a light on the architect of New York's Maritime Union (now Maritime Hotel) and the Maritime Building, which became St. Vincent’s Medical Center and is now Lenox Hill HealthPlex in New York. Ledner was a product of New Orleans, where he was born. He briefly worked for Frank Lloyd Wright, but unlike many of the master’s acolytes, Ledner knew he had to leave in order not to be trapped in the Taliesin vortex.   His inventive, problem-solving buildings filled with unorthodox solutions, organic forms, and a keen sense of materials are based on solid principles: one of his two sons became a physicist and realized he grew up in a house that was all about physics. Born in 1924, Ledner continues worked until his recent passing on November 20th. His contemporary, Kevin Roche, born in 1922, also goes to the office every day. The ADFF offering, titled Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect, shows he’s really more stealth than quiet. Made by Irish television about a native son who became a Pritzker Prize winner, the film traces Roche's career, first with Eero Saarinen, then under his firm Roche Dinkeloo, who went on to create successful buildings such as the Ford Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum’s expansion and master plan, the Oakland Museum, and corporate headquarters for Union Carbide, General Foods and Cummins Engines. He personally represents elegance as much as his buildings.   Other profiles included Dries on artisanal fashion designer, Dries Van Noten – a few architectural nods are to his country house and garden, a fashion show in a raw industrial space in Paris, and one at the Paris Opera House Garnier; and a sheaf of Pritzker Prize-winning architects: Getting Frank Gehry on the architect building his University of Technology (UTS) in Sydney Australia; Zaha: An Architectural Legacy on Zaha Hadid; Jean Nouvel: Reflections; and Rem on OMA’s Rem Koolhaas. SuperDesign is a group portrait of 19 “revolutionary” Italian designers active in the 1960s, and The Diplomat, the Artist and the Suit: The Story of Denton Corker Marshall is about the long-running Australian firm. For films that centered on place, a good place to start was Integral Man. Built by Canadian mathematician James Stewart, a “calculus rock star” who made his fortune authoring textbooks – he’s called the most published mathematician since Euclid. The building is called Integral House because of its curved walls, a reference to the mathematical integral symbol. Located outside Toronto, the house includes a concert hall seating 150 because of Stewart other passion is music (he was a concert-level violinist). After interviewing Frank Gehry, Steven Holl and Rem Koolhaas, Stewart decided on the Canadian firm Shim-Sutcliffe Architects (Howard Sutcliffe and Brigitte Shim). It’s a Toronto version of Fitzcarraldo’s opera house building project in the Amazon (Werner Herzog’s 1982 film). Alas, Stewart died as the house neared completion. The Neue Nationalgalerie chronicles the creation of this iconic structure by Mies van der Rohe, his last work, and the recent renovation by David Chipperfield. Filmed in lush black and white, intelligent interviews put the building in context, then and now. Greene & Green’s Gamble House in Pasadena tells the story of two Yankee blueblood brothers (the Puritan Mather family; ancestor Cotton oversaw the Salem witch trials) who went to MIT, stopped at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, saw the Japanese pavilion on their way west, and settled in the winter enclave for wealthy Midwesterners near Los Angeles. The Gambles from Cincinnati, from the Proctor and Gamble fortune, patronized the architects in one of several large homes where everything --   furniture, light fixtures, stained glass, rugs, andirons – was designed by the pair and fabricated with local craftsmen, like William Morris’s of the West. Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres showcases the cancer centers, largely in the U.K., by prominent architects who lent their services because of their connection to Charles and Maggie Jencks. Face of a Nation: What Happened to the World's Fair? chronicles architect/filmmaker Mina Chow’s exploration of why world’s fairs have been abandoned in this country. Dynamically, two films featured movement through buildings: Aires Mateus: Matter in Reverse using the Portuguese firm’s work and Ghost Story with dancers using Bjark Ingels Via 57 as their stage.
  • Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place, Catherine Hunter, director
  • Designing Life: The Modernist Architecture of Albert C. Ledner, Catherine Ledner & Roy Beeson, directors
  • Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect, Mark Noonan, director
  • Dries, Reiner Holzemer, director
  • Getting Frank Gehry, Sally Aitken, director
  • Zaha: An Architectural Legacy, Jim Stephenson & Laura Mark, directors
  • Jean Nouvel: Reflections, Matt Tyrnauer, director
  • Rem, Tomas Koolhaas, director
  • SuperDesign, Francesca Molteni, director
  • The Diplomat, the Artist and the Suit: The Story of Denton Corker Marshall, Paul Goldman, director
  • Integral Man, Joseph Clement, director
  • The Neue Nationalgalerie, Ina Weisse, director
  • Gamble House, Don Hahn, director
  • Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centers, Sarah Howitt, director
  • Face of a Nation - What Happened to the World's Fair? Mina Chow, director
  • Aires Mateus: Matter in Reverse, Henrique Câmara Pina, director
  • Ghost Story, Sarah Elgart, director
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Flick Picks

Art and architecture films abound at the 2017 New York Film Festival
The 55th New York Film Festival boasted several art and architecture films, signaled by this year’s poster by Richard Serra: A B&W photograph of a seven-sided Cor-ten steel sculpture forming an oculus looking skyward. Eighty-eight-year old French New Wave director Agnes Varda teams up with 33-year-old street photographer JR in Faces Places, an artists’ road movie across rural France. The two form an unlikely and utterly charming couple (I’ve since heard that Varda is sick of hearing the film is “charming,” which endears her all the more) who celebrate labor—miners, dock workers, hairdressers, mail carriers, farmers—by photographing them, creating large-format prints, and pasting them on buildings, trains, and shipping containers. The pair, both of whom have signature looks—Varda’s is white-haired bowl cut with a thick red rim, JR’s is a hat and sunglasses that never come off—share a passion for images and how they are created, displayed, and shared. Together they up each other’s game. Their empathy with working people is shown by “empowering them through [the] size” of the ephemeral, dignified photos they post. The workers have a keen sense of how art is for everyone, and they enthusiastically choose to participate in this project. Susan Froemke’s The Opera House traces the Metropolitan Opera’s move from its beautiful but inadequate home at 1411 Broadway between 39 and 40th streets to Lincoln Center in 1966. With various schemes to move as early as 1908, a variety of locations and plans were proposed, but the winning scheme, spurred by Title 1 urban renewal, was masterminded by Robert Moses, who envisioned this cultural campus replacing the so-called “slums” of the Upper West Side. With Wallace K. Harrison as the architect of the most prominent building in the complex, we see the compromises made in the design process as well as the needs of Met General Manager Rudolf Bing, and the run-up to the opening performance of Franco Zeffirelli’s Antony and Cleopatra by Samuel Barber. Ninety-year-old soprano Leontyne Price, who sang the role of Cleopatra in this premiere, is the highlight and the true soul of the interviewees who help to tell the story. In Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sara Driver takes us back in time to a musical and artistic time capsule of the 1970s and 80s. Not only a visual artist, whose street graffiti art came inside to galleries and clubs such as Mudd Club, Club 57, and CBGB, Basquiat also played in a band, illustrating the collapsed boundaries between art forms. In interviews with Fred Brathwaite (aka Fab Five Freddy), Lee Quiñones, Luc Sante, Nan Goldin, Jim Jarmusch, and others, plus a rich display of rare archival footage, the period comes alive with Basquiat as the perfect vehicle for telling the story of this era. Arthur Miller: Writer is revealed to us through interviews conducted by his film director daughter, Rebecca, permitting us to see a private side of this public persona not usually visible, the man behind the icon. Son of an illiterate Jewish immigrant father and a brilliant but frustrated mother, Miller found refuge in art and social consciousness. His plays such as Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, All My Sons, and A View from the Bridge explore the underside of the American dream, the repercussions of past actions, and the twin poles of guilt and hope. Miller’s political and moral convictions are set against the backdrop of his marriages to Mary Slattery, Marilyn Monroe, and Inge Morath, and his daily life punctuated by woodworking, furniture making (which he compares to crafting a play), gardening, a through-line of making things. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, also made by a relative, her nephew Griffin Dunne, is more of a hagiography of this important writer and chronicler of our times. Framing the narrative is her own work, from  Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Play It as It Lays, A Book of Common Prayer, and The White Album, to her film scripts, including The Panic in Needle Park. She lives an amazing life partying with Janis Joplin, hanging in a recording studio with Jim Morrison, and cooking dinner for one of Charles Manson’s women. If only the film was as good as her story or her writing. Voyeur is the filmed version of Gay Talese’s article “The Voyeur’s Motel,” the story of Gerald Foos, who purchased the 21-room single story Manor House Motel outside Denver for the purpose of spying on guests. Foos crawled through the ventilation ducts, where he’d constructed peep holes to watch. This practice went on for two decades. Each night he watched life—private, sacred, real—unfold: adultery, debauchery, banality, and a murder. He was never caught, and the motel was destroyed. Fiction films also explore the arts in fascinating ways. The Square shows the chief curator Christian (Claes Bang) of a contemporary art museum in Stockholm who is tall and good looking, lives in designed splendor (he even drives a Tesla), holds a position of prestige and power, and yet… Christian is walking to work when a woman screams, “He’s going to kill me!” When her brute of a boyfriend comes at her, Christian helps out. Afterward, he realizes that his wallet, cell phone and heirloom cuff links have been stolen, and it was all a setup. Christian will be damned if he’s going to let petty crooks get away with it. Through GPSing his phone, now located in a high-rise in a run-down part of town filled with immigrants, the specter of racial and social prejudice arises. The film is filled with art world send-ups including Elisabeth Moss’s art critic asking the author about his jargon-filled manifesto; a performance artist mimicking an ape who goes too far at a black-tie patrons dinner; an advertising video of a blonde homeless child who is blown up to promote “The Square,” a thirteen-by-thirteen-foot zone billed as a “sanctuary of trust of caring” that is Christian’s latest art commission; a janitor mistakenly sweeping up a pile of earth in a Robert Smithson installation; an artist’s talk heckled by a Tourette’s sufferer. The film hits on hot-button issues: class privilege, liberal guilt, urban poverty, viral marketing, and mutually reinforced passivity in the face of mounting inhumanity. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) tells the intergenerational tale of a strong-willed, artist father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman) and the long shadow he casts over his adult children (Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel). Harold has a stalled sculpture career and has retired from teaching art at Bard, where his work is due to be exhibited—at first in a group show, which he rejects, until his children arrange for a one-man show. He is competitive with his far more successful contemporary, L.J. Shapiro (Judd Hirsch), who has an exhibition at MoMA, and Harold, who drags along his son, shows up for the opening overdressed in black tie and without an RSVP. On an architectural note, Ben Stiller’s financial manager goes to visit a client played by Adam Driver, who is building a house in Brooklyn. He solves the budget overrun problem by telling him he can’t have the pool now; instead, he should live on the upper two floors and rent out the rest. The sublime The Florida Project is set in candy-colored buildings including Futureland Inn and the Magic Castle, motels that have become de facto SROs for the poor. A.O. Scott calls it “an unmagical kingdom, a zone of tawdriness and transience, of strip clubs and strip malls, knockoff souvenir shops and soft-serve ice cream shacks.” This is the setting for the adventures of the street-savvy children who live there, led by Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), and for the adults struggling to make ends meet. Willem Dafoe plays the building manager, the steady presence trying to keep all lives on track. The final scene takes place at Disney World, which until now has loomed as a presence but never seen; this sequence was shot on a cellphone, much like director Sean Baker’s previous film Tangerine, since Disney rarely allows film access. Wonderstruck tells two intertwined tales, one in the 1920s and one in the 1970s. The protagonists of both are children and deaf, and their lives are connected. The American Museum of Natural History and its cabinet of curiosities is prominently featured, as is the Queens Museum’s Panorama, the diorama of all New York City buildings. Julianne Moore, the grown-up version of the 1920s child, is the keeper of the Panorama, and we’ve seen her as a child making cutouts and architectural models, and entranced with a store display-maker stacking models in his window. As an adult, she hides personal mementos under building models in the Panorama. In the 1920s, she discovers an enchanting New York City in black and white. In Wonder Wheel, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro lushly captures Coney Island in its heyday. A complete list of films mentioned: Faces Places, Agnès Varda, JR, directors The Opera House, Susan Froemke, director Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sara Driver, director Arthur Miller: Writer, Rebecca Miller, director Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, Griffin Dunne, director Voyeur, Myles Kane, Josh Koury, directors The Square, Ruben Östlund, director The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Noah Baumbach The Florida Project, Sean Hayes, director Wonderstruck, Todd Haynes, director Wonder Wheel, Woody Allen, director
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Superarchitecture

In Florence, an unprecedented gathering at "Radical Utopians"
In 2014, the micro storefront art cooperative Base/Progetti for Art in Florence launched Radical Tools, a series of speaking events held in their single window facing Via San Niccolò on Florence’s “left” bank. Most of Florence’s historic Radicals showed up to participate, and this event proved that, despite past animosities, rivalries, and other unfathomable differences, the Radical generation could possibly come together at last. From there, the exhibit, "Radical Utopians: Beyond Architecture: Florence 1966-1976," evolved, though it originally was to open in 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of emergence of the Superarchitecture movement. But for the usual complications, the exhibit was delayed a year. Perhaps this was a forgivable slip if one considers that there were two debuts for the Superarchitecture movement, one in Pistoia in 1966, and the other in Modena in 1967, and that even those two dates were precariously fixed. The exhibit, nonetheless, is a Florentine first, as up till now, no one was ever able to bring all these main players into the same space. It is also likely that this won’t happen again. The curators, Pino Brugellis, Gianni Pettena, and Alberto Salvadori, with Elisabetta Trincherini acting as curatorial coordinator, faced a heap of criticism for daring to shake up conventions, separating the group’s sacrosanct works by themes, eroding in the process the hierarchies that had been persevered among them. But there were many, like myself, who feasted on this splendid eye-opening smorgasbord of projects, objects, films and other Radical life accessories. After all, this assembly of Florentine Radicals: Superstudio, Archizoom, 9999, UFO, Zziggurat, Gianni Pettena, and Remo Buti, in their native home of Florence, with works collected from group and individual archives as well as from private collectors, manufacturers like Poltronova, and major museums like the Pompidou Center, represents an impressive curatorial feat. Just to see Archizoom's collection of clothing, “Dressing Design,” on display, created principally by Lucia Bartolini, with her modular dress patterns intended to encourage the user to be her or his own stylist, or her intriguing “hairy” leggings, promoted by Fiorucci for his fashion collection, are in themselves worth the while. Besides a good number of precious pieces by Superstudio and Archizoom, this is also an occasion to become immersed in the works of the other Florentine Radicals: Gianni Pettena’s images from different cities featuring his first political “statements” using his monumental alphabet, along with his underground films and American land art-inspired house series. Then there are the images of UFO ‘s pre-postmodern semiotic-inspired performance extravaganzas, and most prominently their enormous Colgate inflatable suspended in the Strozzi palace’s outdoor courtyard. Also on view is 9999’s compilation of videos taken of the Living Theater inside their Space Electronic discotheque along with their Franciscan-inspired illustrations for a film never realized. Along with Remo Buti’s original airbrushed renderings of his ideal cities, one can view his important collection of imprinted architecture white ceramic dinner plates. And then there is Zziggurat, whose name is legendary, but whose works are rarely displayed. Here are the most architectural drawings of the exhibit, including their 1969 project “la citta lineare per Santa Croce (the linear city for Santa Croce),” a jagged and immense superstructure that rips through the heart of Florence, programmed with cultural and public activities. This project, as Elisabetta Trincherini pointed out in a recent exhibit walkthrough, could clearly have inspired Rem Koolhaas’s 1972 Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture. As Andrea Branzi once remarked, this was a generazione esagerata, or an exaggerated generation. These no-holds-barred Radicals lived in the same city, frequented the same university, and mounted the same barricades. Their incredibly fertile years of invention and re-invention have made an enormous mark on our common psyches, whether we are ready to acknowledge their contributions or not. But this is a chance to immerse oneself in their world. If you can’t make it to Florence before January 21, there is a catalogue by Quodlibet Habitat, sold in Italian and English editions. This might well be the most up-to-date and comprehensive publication yet, and will certainly serve as a useful Radical primer. "Radical Utopias" is on view at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence until January 21. 
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Nah

Five fundamental problems with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial
The second Chicago Architecture Biennial opened last week at the Chicago Cultural Center, one of the country’s grandest interior public spaces. Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of Los Angeles–based Johnston Marklee gathered some 140 of the world’s top designers and thinkers to address the main show’s theme, “Make New History.” This theme had the potential to provoke designers to engage the rich history of architecture to innovate the field or imagine ways to inhabit the world at large. This biennial does not do that, and it is a serious problem for the very idea of “history” and thus contemporary architecture. What it does is offer is a strong case study for what we can do better. The following are five critiques in this vein. 1. The theme forced a generation of emerging architects into a narrow and deadening frame Young practitioners today are certainly interested in referencing and recycling ideas and forms, but it is not necessarily “history” and certainly not just “architectural history.” There is a fairly interesting group of designers who are exploring topics like pop culture, hoarding, textures, the everyday, and other reference points in interesting ways. For example, the best projects in this Biennial were about parts, not history. Tatiana Bilbao’s tower in the "Vertical City," as well as MAIO and Andrew Kovacs’s projects in "Horizontal City: Room of Plinths" were provocative and relevant because of their assemblage-like organization, not because they used a particular piece of history in a certain way. When the curators say, as Lee said in a recent Artforum interview, that this generation is bound by the idea that “history is a treasure trove," and "they don’t feel shame or guilt to retrieve from it,” it is an institutional-academic co-optation of a movement that cuts and pastes everything with a digitally-enhanced and inspired slickness. This show makes it seem like another staid disciplinary project, prematurely accelerating all of the participants into what Charles Jencks would call the “Late-Mellow” phase of their careers. This theme of “Make New History” made these nascent practices conform to a prompt. This is manifested formally in the arbitrary conceptual overlay for the mini-exhibition “Horizontal City: Room of Plinths” in GAR Hall, where, according to the exhibit text, “the overall plinth layout and sizes were based upon the 1947 IIT Plan by Mies van der Rohe, which we see as a sort of organizational 'afterimage' or a subtext in the room.” This formal move certainly did not add to the show, and no one would have known about it if it weren’t expressed in the curatorial brief. Instead, what this grid did manage to do was serve as a perfect metaphor for an empty, constricting conceptual framework in which the participants were forced to work. So why participate? It is hard for young practices—essentially all of the practices in this show—to go against the grain of these biennials or refuse to participate, because biennials have become a sort of shadow economy where deals are made and practices are “bought and sold” with institutional currency. There are always people scouting talent at these events, so it is hard to say no to participating. (See point 3) 2. The complexity of history was reduced to precedent Most of the historical references were weak and don't add anything substantive to the projects. They were often simply a pair of precedents, such as in the “Vertical City” mini-exhibition, where architects were challenged to rehash the famous 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower Competition. This competition is an iconic reference point in Chicago architecture history, but like most of the historical references in the show, it pretty much stopped there. Some projects were about “signs” or about “steel construction,” but that label was more or less the extent of it. There was not much criticality in each individual project, and the overall idea of history seemed to simply be about picking a precedent. Precedent and history are two different things: the former is about legal or argumentative justification, while the second is about all the interesting social, political, and formal ideas. Perhaps the exhibition should have simply been “Use Precedent (101).” In 1965, using historical forms such as ornament and classical language was a radical, innovative idea. But today, it looks more like a replay of Philip Johnson’s late version of post-modernism, where attitudes about image and form in architecture—pioneered by people like Charles Moore, Venturi Scott Brown, and Hans Hollein—were reduced to empty signifiers that enforced upper class institutional good taste. ‘Twas this reliance on architectural historicism—rather than the new language of postmodern society—that made pomo into a joke for the dustbin of history. In the past, it has often been clear why we are revisiting particular histories as architectural turns, but here it is not. 3. The biennial's market imperative warped the work that was shown  It is no coincidence that this Biennial is so closely related to the commercial art fair EXPO Chicago. It is in some ways the logical conclusion of the Biennial model: a gathering of celebrities who want to show off their recent work. Obviously the work in the Biennial is not being sold in the same way that the work in the art fair is being sold, but there is an economy at work in both places. And these two markets both influence the work in the exhibitions. Someone should make an artrank.com for architects. In the art fair, collectors speculatively invest in art that will hold value, including art that is produced by future stars, artists whose work is cheap now but will appreciate in years to come. This dictates what kind of work is displayed. In the Biennial, young designers are given a “platform” that will—at least in theory—lead to future work and opportunity. This marketplace, unfortunately, shapes the work. In a forthcoming essay entitled “Peripatetic Pettena" in the book The Curious Mr. Pettena (Humboldt Publishers, 2017), artist and architect James Wines reflects on the state of art fairs and the effects of the commoditized market upon art. In the following excerpt, it would work just as well if you replaced “art fair” with “2017 Chicago Biennial;” “Pop era” with “early postmodernism;” and “Abstract Expressionism” with “modernism.”

In today’s gallery world, where stock exchange voracity appears interchangeable with art fair commodity peddling, the anti-commercial and introspective dialogues of the environmental movement during the late 1960s and 70s were like apostolic meditations by comparison.  Even the merchandising excesses associated with Pop Art now seem like somber banking conventions, in contrast to the souk-like sales tactics of current international expos...to its historical credit, the Pop era contributed significantly to liberating the 1960s New York art scene from the fusty anti-figurative bias of third generation Abstract Expressionism.  By contrast, current events like Miami Basel and the Armory Show appear dominated by hyperbolic celebrations of conceptual vacuity, a disproportionate enthusiasm for transitory talent and a steadfast avoidance of original aesthetic values. There is a ubiquitous re-packaging of influences from the past, defended with such vaguely apologetic labels as ‘Appropriation, Pseudorealism, Post-postmodernism, Metamodernism and Neomimimalism.  Too much of the new work, endorsed as hot ticket progressivism is, in reality, a deferent version of ‘if-you-please’ avant-garde.

4. "History" was stale and familiar, and largely irrelevant today  In this Biennial, there were some interesting bits of lesser-known history and some amazing moments of drawing and architectural assemblage. But the curation was uneven, and swerved from heavy-handedness with no productive end to the usual suspects doing their usual things unrelated to the project at hand. In the "Vertical City" show, for example, the wall texts read like a presentation from a first-year design studio. Very little new information was introduced,  and the show took a boring typology—the tall tower—and didn’t even update it. Instead, we got a very personalized response from each designer. There wasn’t much that was “new” or historical in this room. While the 2015 version of the Biennial was simply “all the cool stuff we could find,” it was indeed, cool stuff, at the edge of knowledge both within and outside of the discipline. Biennials don’t have to solve all the world’s problems or solve inequality, but they can at least relate to the outside world in a coherent way. In the end, disciplinary knowledge is at its best when it has productive friction with issues outside the profession. The historical canon is being questioned today more aggressively than ever. There is a real need to probe what kinds of histories we are telling and where. On one of the biggest platforms in the world like the CAB, it was unfortunate that this exhibition only reinforced a Western ideal of architectural history. Almost all of the “history” here was from the Western canon. Now would be the time to really upend some of the stale narratives that have dominated architectural history in the past. 5. Its relationship to art was all wrong The art references made in this Biennial are mostly from the 1960s, such as Ed Ruscha, from whom the title was borrowed, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Claus Oldenburg. While certainly interesting, these antiquated modern art references keep the exhibition from engaging with the contemporary, adding another layer of alienation. Contemporary art biennials have moved so far past these modern art references that it makes this Biennial look completely out of date. The Berlin Biennale 9 (BB9) in 2016, curated by the New York collective DIS, was full of ultra-contemporary works that addressed all kinds of issues today like cryptocurrency, surveillance, wellness, migration, emerging technologies, new social norms, and radical shifts in how we consume media, among a host of topics. It was criticized for not being overtly political enough, but it did access some of the pertinent ideas that are affecting how we live today. There is really no way to compare the sheer horror and excitement that came from BB9 to the dusty 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. So given these five issues, what do we take away from the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial? If this show is any indication, there is a real case to be made for abandoning the language of architectural history entirely and inventing something else. Some of the most interesting times for architecture occurred when we tried to move beyond something prior, or as Bertolt Brecht said, “Erase the traces!” If there is a role for architectural history outside of the academy, it is not obvious what that might be, based on what this show demonstrated. How history was deployed was problematic for the discipline, as it was too narrow in its purview, and made an exciting time in architecture (the re-orientation of the discipline in the age of digital space and ubiquitous digital production) into another worn-out historical trope.