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(Re)mark Your Calendars

Here are the architecture and design events postponed because of coronavirus
Spring is traditionally the season when the international architecture and design community looks forward to the year’s biggest and buzziest exhibitions, events, and openings. This spring is different. As health officials brace for a possible global pandemic, a rapidly spreading outbreak of coronavirus (COVD-19) is hitting the design world, geographically speaking, where it hurts most. Outside of mainland China, where the virus originated in the city of Wuhan, and in South Korea, the most reported cases of coronavirus are in Italy, with a vast majority being in the northern Lombardy region. As a result, the organizers of Salone del Mobile in Milan, the world’s largest furniture trade show, pushed the annual event back two months. While the 2020 Milan Fashion Week was not postponed earlier this month, some shows were notably altered while China’s formidable showing of designers, buyers, and journalists sat this year out due to mounting travel restrictions. As Women’s Wear Daily reported, a handful of major U.S.-based media outlets that sent fashion editors to Milan are advising—and some mandating—their staffers self-quarantine by working from home for two weeks. Meanwhile, China’s own big upcoming fashion events, China Fashion Week in Beijing and Shanghai Fashion Week, have been delayed (some creative workarounds, however, have been hatched). Outside of design fairs, architecture exhibitions, and fashion shows, the status of what’s perhaps the biggest global event to take place this year, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, remains uncertain although there are no immediate plans to cancel at this point. The World Health Organization (WHO) is advising the Swiss-based International Olympics Committee as to how to proceed. Below is a non-exhaustive list of cultural events, programs, and openings—the focus is on art, architecture, and design—that have been rescheduled or outright canceled due to what the WHO has deemed a “global emergency.AN will continue to add to this list as needed.

United States

2020 Tall + Urban Innovation Conference, Chicago: The Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat has postponed its upcoming conference in Chicago scheduled for April 5-7. AIGA Design Conference, Pittsburgh: The Professional Association for Design's annual conference, scheduled to kick-off at the end of this month in Pittsburgh, has been rescheduled for November 12-14. AIA Conference on Architecture 2020, Los Angeles: The American Institute of Architects has canceled its 2020 conference, which was scheduled to take place May 14-16 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The AIA is "exploring options to reschedule." The Architectural Digest Design Show, New York City: Scheduled for March 19-22 at Manhattan's Pier 94, the annual AD Design Show has been pushed back to June 25-28. The Architecture League of New York: In an email sent to members and friends, The Architecture League of New York announced the cancelation of a slew of upcoming lectures and events, including a series of lectures by the 2020 winners of the Emerging Voices program. The lectures will be rescheduled for a later date. Frieze New York:  Scheduled to commence May 7, the New York edition of the massive annual art fair has been canceled. Frieze London is still a go for October 8-11 as of this writing. The Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Harvard GSD has canceled all of its upcoming spring events and public programming. The school itself, like many colleges and universities across America, has shifted to online coursework. The International Contemporary Furniture Fair, New York City: ICFF will return to its home at Manhattan's Javits Center in May 2021. The National Building Museum, Washington, D.C.: The National Building Museum is postponing its March 13 reopening following a three-month closure to complete extensive renovations. All special educational programming and events scheduled through April 30 will also be canceled or postponed. NeoCon, Chicago: Bustling annual commercial design fair NeoCon will not be held June 8-10 at Chicago's Merchandise Mart as scheduled. NYCxDesign: Scheduled to kick off May 12, this five-borough design bonanza features openings, installations, talks, and open houses. It's been rescheduled for October to coincide with a slew of existing planned architecture and design events including Arctober and Open House New York. The Shed, New York City: The Shed cultural center at Hudson Yards has suspended all performances and events through March 30. South by Southwest, Austin, Texas: The massive annual tech, music, film, and arts festival—along with all auxiliary conferences and events associated with it—has been canceled by the City of Austin. It was slated to kick off March 13 and run through March 22. "We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU," reads the SXSW website. The Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles: SCI-Arc is postponing its upcoming slate of public programming through April 7. WantedDesign Brooklyn, WantedDesign Manhattan: The next edition of the popular two-borough annual design show WantedDesign will  be in 2021. “Having anticipated celebrating our 10th anniversary with our dear NYC friends and international design community, we are genuinely disappointed not to be able to proceed with our May exhibitions in Manhattan and Brooklyn as planned,” reads a post on the WantedDesign Facebook page.

Mainland China

China International Furniture Fair, Guangzhou: The 2020 edition of this long-running furniture fair was set to take place March 18-21 at Guangzhou’s Canton Fair Complex. It’s been postponed and be held on a yet-to-be-determined date. Design Shanghai: Asia’s largest international contemporary design fair was scheduled to take place March 12 through 15 at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center. It has been rescheduled for May 26 to 29. “We have made this decision based on advice and information from government and local authorities,” reads the Design Shanghai website, “in China and consultation with our partners, venue and local team. The safety of our customers and team is our first priority. The venue and layout will stay the same and we will keep you fully informed of any further developments.” Festival of Design, Shanghai: As reported by Architectural Digest, this interdisciplinary lecture series launched by architecture practice Neri&Hu and held concurrently to Design Shanghai has been canceled. He Art Museum opening, Shunde, Guangdong: The unveiling of the Tadao Ando-designed He Art Museum (HEM) in the Guangdong province has been pushed back from its original March 21 opening date. The museum “is looking forward to finding a suitable date for which will be announced in due course” reads a notice announcing the postponement. JINGART, Beijing: The third edition of this hip nascent art fair has been canceled. It was scheduled to take place May 21 through 24 at the Beijing Expo Center. Shenzhen International Furniture Exhibition: Held annually in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, this highly attended event was scheduled for March 18-21. It has been postponed. X Museum, Beijing: The March opening of this Millenial-focused private art museum, launched by young collectors Theresa Tese and Michael Xufu Huang, has been postponed.

Dubai

Art Dubai: On March 3, organizers of the annual art fair, now in its 14th year, announced that it would be postponed. It was originally slated for March 25-28.

Germany

Light + Building, Frankfurt: The massive annual lighting and home automation trade show scheduled for March 8-13 at Messe Frankfurt has been postponed after “extensive consultations.” It will now take place through September 27 through October 2.

Hong Kong

Art Basel Hong Kong: The Hong Kong edition of Art Basel, which was scheduled to take place at the Hong Kong Conference and Exhibition Centre from March 19 to 21, has been canceled. As the Art Basel website reads: “We remain committed to Hong Kong and look forward to welcoming you to the next edition of Art Basel Hong Kong on March 25-27, 2021.”  M+ Matters: Archigram Cities: The opening of this highly anticipated series of events showcasing the archives of English avant-garde collective Archigram at visual culture museum M+ was delayed on February 12. A new opening date is forthcoming.

Italy

Expocasa, Turin: The start of the long-running trade show, focusing on interior design and renovation, has been pushed back from February 29 to March 28. Fuorisalone, Milan: Fuorisalone, an informal series of events that take place across Milan's different design districts in conjunction with Salone del Mobile, has been postponed to coincide with the rescheduled furniture fair in June. Salone del Mobile, Milan: On February 25, the organizers of Salone del Mobile announced that the international furniture fair was moving from April 21 to 26 to June 16 through 21 as health officials worked to contain the spread of coronavirus in the heavily impacted Lombardy region. Organizers launched a Twitter hashtag #salonemovestojune to help spread the word, proclaiming: "We can't stop. We won't stop." Syracuse University School of Architecture, Florence: The central New York-based university has suspended all of its spring semester study abroad programs in the Tuscan city. This includes the School of Architecture's popular Florence program based at Villa Rossa and Palazzo Donatello. Various other colleges and universities with campuses in Florence have also canceled their spring semesters. Venice Architecture Biennale: The start date of the 17th edition of the Biennale, curated by Hashim Sarkis, has been pushed back to August 29 by organizer La Biennale di Venezia. It was scheduled to commence on May 23. Despite the delay, the exhibition will still conclude on November 29.

South Korea

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul: Housed in buildings designed by Jean Nouvel, Mario Botta, and REM Koolhaas, this popular art museum is closed until further notice. Several other galleries and museums in Seoul are also temporarily shuttered.
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Material Ecology

Neri Oxman grows tools for the future at new MoMA retrospective
A pioneer in materials, objects, and construction, Neri Oxman is showing work from her 20-year career as an architect, designer, and inventor at the Neri Oxman: Material Ecology exhibition currently on view until May 25 at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Curated by Paola Antonelli with help from curatorial assistant Anna Burckhardt, Oxman’s work on display explores the intersection of the science of materials, digital fabrication, and organic design in pieces both extruded from and infused with the wisdom of nature. This is Oxman’s seventh exhibition at MoMA, and Material Ecology is a magnifying glass for the vibrant microstructures that give shape to the world. “My team and I stand in the crossroads, challenging some of the processes that designers face at the intersection of biology and technology, nature and culture,” Oxman said during a media preview of the show on February 20. “There will come a moment where we will find material singularity [a state in which we cannot differentiate between what is man-made and what is grown]—was this made, was this built, or was it grown? And does it matter?” As a professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab and founder and director of The Mediated Matter Group, Oxman observes naturally occurring structures, such as birch tree bark and crustacean shells, and routines, such as silkworm behavior, and presses them forward toward innovative building materials. “We envision these different objects that are processes and materials as tools for the future,” Antonelli said. “As tools for architects, designers, artists to make in a different way together with nature.” The exhibition includes demonstrations of what these processes could ultimately lead to one day, with tables arranged to resemble Oxman’s lab, videos displaying the projects’ progressions, and the artifacts themselves. The works are categorized into “Infusions” and “Extrusions”: Infusions Totems is a series of 3D-printed photopolymer resin infused in melanin. The three 5 7/8” x 5 7/8” x 19 5/16” blocks are set within black columns, suggesting a future as a compressive building material. They stand in front of a rendering of an illuminated structure in Cape Town, South Africa, that employs Totems as walls. A collection of contemporary interpretations of ritualistic death masks made from photopolymer, Vespers are infused with natural minerals and bacteria. The 15 futuristic masks range from the size of a human head to nearly twice that and were created with spatial mapping algorithms. Some seem to be almost coral-like metallic kaleidoscopes, while others resemble opals with frozen whisps of color. Imaginary Beings are multicolored photopolymer interpretations of body armor inspired by Luis Borges’s Libro de los seres imaginarios (Book of Imaginary Beings, 1967), which described 120 mythical animals from folklore. The creations range from protective helmets to breastplates resembling crystalline dragonfly wings. Extrusions Glass, pseudo-cylindrical printed structures, were created with The Mediated Matter Group’s 2015 invention G3DP, or Glass 3D Printer. The exhibition includes smaller samples, roughly 8 inches in diameter as shown below, and larger columns of printed glass, reaching almost 10 feet high. As the focal point of the exhibition, Silk Pavilion II is a suspended structure of water-soluble mesh stretched across an aluminum framework covered in silk spun by 17,532 silkworms. The twisted gossamer cylinder stretches almost 20 feet, nearly doubling the size of the Silk Pavilion I dome constructed at the MIT Media Lab in 2013. Through 3-inch-square studies (exhibited beneath the pavilion), Oxman and her team were able to pinpoint the geometrical situations in which silkworms spin flat sheets as opposed to three-dimensional cocoons, enabling the researchers to design a structure that could be spun by the silkworms themselves, rather than a machine that uses the silk. This discovery allowed for a fabrication process that works in harmony with nature rather than in dominance over it. Aguahoja I is a collection of objects printed from biopolymers, including wood-pulp cellulose, apple pectin, calcium carbonate, acetic acid, vegetable glycerin, and chitosan. The installation stretches across the wall of the gallery and consists of a library of fabricated pieces designed to be compatible with nature. The water-based objects are designed to decay over time, serving as a temporary alternative to plastics.
Oxman and her research team at the Mediated Matter Group operate through what they call the Krebs Cycle of Creativity, which is “a framework that considers the domains for art, science, engineering, and design as synergetic forms of thinking and making in which the input from one becomes the output of another,” as defined in the exhibition’s catalog, designed by Irma Boom. “The input for science is information. Science converts information into knowledge. Engineering then takes knowledge and translates it to utility. Design then takes utility and places it in a cultural context,” Oxman explained. “Then art takes all things designed around us in the built environment and questions the perception of the world.” Funded by Allianz, MoMA’s partner for design and innovation, Material Ecology embodies Oxman’s Krebs Cycle with artifacts that are more grown than made, through a process called templating. The researchers and designers at the Mediated Matter Group used environmental, geometrical, chemical, and genetic influences to manipulate materials. “They are singular materials that differentiate their properties locally to accommodate for environmental and structural strengths,” Oxman said. “They are not made of parts. They are wholes that are bigger than the sum of their parts.”
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Tearing Down the Ceiling

A rarely-seen Noguchi installation is under threat in Midtown renovation
A one-of-a-kind Isamu Noguchi installation is under threat in Manhattan at 666 Fifth Avenue, an office tower undergoing major renovations by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF). The New York Times reported that the sculpture, which spans the ceiling of the 41-story building’s twin lobbies, might be dismantled and sold off in parts. Since the interior space isn’t protected by landmark status, preservationists are worried whether the piece has a fighting chance to survive. The installation, referenced by Noguchi as “a landscape of clouds,” was designed in 1957 and features a series of white aluminum blades backlit from above. Joseph Giovannini of The Times noted that the undulating blades resemble an upside-down ocean. “The entire space glows,” he wrote and, paired with a matching vertical installation in a nearby passageway in which water rippled down and fell into a plant bed, the site once served as “an acoustic oasis in Midtown.”
 
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The Noguchi sculpture, now 63 years old, doesn’t reflect the artist’s original design intent, according to building’s developer Brookfield Properties. The building itself, designed by New York firm Carson & Lundin, has been subject to multiple controversial ownership changes over its lifespan and several serious renovations, the first of which included the lobby and lower floors in 1998. During that $20 million project, it was also anticipated that the Noguchi sculpture would be removed, but the building's owner, Sumitomo Realty & Development, instead rehabilitated the piece and restored the waterfall mentioned above.  That wasn’t the last time the artwork was in danger. Before the 2008 recession, Kushner Properties purchased 666 Fifth Avenue in a move to re-establish itself post-family scandal and, years later before Brookfield bought the building, Kushner planned to redevelop the entire site into a 1,400-foot supertall designed by Zaha Hadid Architects Brookfield’s aim, like so many developers before it, is to make the building continuously profitable. To do so, the company announced a $400 million renovation project last fall which will not only revamp the internal lobby, but also its public appearance. KPF has proposed replacing the building’s thick aluminum skin with a custom glass curtain wall, as well as adding four outdoor terraces for tenants to use during the warmer months. The renderings, released last October, reveal drastic changes to the six-decade-old structure, as Brookfield intends to reposition it as coveted office space in busy Midtown with sweeping views of the city.  Internally, KPF plans to upgrade the lobby with amenity and retail space, while also knocking out the columns that previously shortened floor heights and blocked access to daylight. New double-height ceilings and interconnected floors will allow companies to easily maneuver through multiple stories. The new rent for the building, which is now valued at $1.29 billion, will be among the most expensive in New York.  While many of the changes described here seem promising (including the fact that the building’s iconic name will be changed to 660 Fifth Avenue), the Noguchi problem remains. Brookfield now holds a 99-year lease on the tower and its vision for a modern Midtown lobby doesn’t include the artwork. It determined that the late ’90s renovation, which deconstructed the original lobby’s marble floors and walls, destroyed the integrity of the sculpture’s preservation. But a board member of Docomomo’s New York/Tri-State chapter told The Times that the sculpture is as good as it’s going to get: “You already have this strong, creative treatment of the walls and the ceiling and you can’t expect to come up with something nearly as artistically effective again,” said John Morris Dixon. “Why risk it when you’ve got it already? The lobby is a great asset that gives a high degree of individuality to the building.”  Brookfield and KPF plan to complete the entire renovation by 2023. Representatives of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum said that it will do everything possible to make sure the artwork is still there when all is said and done.
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Re-Construction

MoMA will open a major black architecture exhibition this fall
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s new curatorial strategy looks to move beyond the Western canon into histories and territories that have been overlooked, underrepresented, or downright ignored. The museum describes this new approach and their new, Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed galleries, as offering “a deeper experience of art through all mediums and by artists from more diverse geographies and backgrounds than ever before...recognizing that there is no single or complete history of modern and contemporary art.” One of the more exciting shows in the MoMA’s upcoming fall season will center black architects and the ways that architecture has configured sensibilities around blackness in the U.S. MoMA associate curator Sean Anderson, Columbia GSAPP professor Mabel O. Wilson, and MoMA curatorial assistant Arièle Dionne-Krosnick are organizing Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, opening October 17. The show is described by the team as “an investigation into the intersections of architecture, Blackness and anti–Black racism in the American context.” How can we understand contemporary architecture through a lens of systemic racism and the violent, discriminatory histories it has fostered in the United States? This exhibition will be the fourth iteration of the ‘Issues in Contemporary Architecture’ series, which began in 2010 with Rising Currents: Projects for NY’s Waterfront (March 24 through October 11, 2010), followed by Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream (February 15 through August 13, 2012) and Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities (November 22, 2014, through May 25, 2015). Reconstructions will feature a series of ten newly commissioned works that will, according to the MoMA “explore how people have mobilized Black cultural spaces, forms, and practices as sites of imagination, liberation, resistance, and refusal.” Engaging with public policy, city planning, and architecture, these projects will respond to narratives and conditions found in Atlanta, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Syracuse through consideration of the impacts on African-American and African diaspora communities. The exhibition will include the work of black architects, designers, and artists such as: Emanuel Admassu, Germane Barnes, Sekou Cooke, J. Yolande Daniels, Felecia Davis, Mario Gooden, Walter Hood, Olalekan Jeyifous, V. Mitch McEwen, and Amanda Williams. As with previous exhibitions in the series, community workshops and panel discussions will be held that will inform the works on view from each contributor. April workshops in New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles will engage students from local architecture schools who will collaborate on a set of public forums and workshops with the curatorial team and the 10 architects, designers, and artists. A “field guide” publication will feature newly commissioned photographs from artist David Hartt and the book will be designed by Brooklyn-based Morcos Key. Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America will be on view from October 17, 2020, through January 18, 2021.
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The Way, Wayback

In praise of precedent: How do architects use history for inspiration?
In the wake of the looming executive order decreeing neoclassical as the federal government’s “preferred and default style,” how can architects consider the past while still creating buildings and spaces that are of their time? Most architects seek the intriguing and inspiring when it comes to a new project, and for many, this means considering the project’s site, context, and history. And while the recent news about a potential executive order mandating neoclassical as the de-facto style for new federal buildings has architects up in arms, designers can look to the past in countless ways to create spaces that are meaningful reflections of their time and place, but free from the confines of a dictated historical style. For some, an interest in the past began even before practicing architecture. Tal Schori and Rustam Mehta, cofounders of the Brooklyn-based GRT Architects, proudly state that they “studied history before design,” and that this has instilled in them a love and respect for history that “yields an understanding that the past is layered and compatible with new work, executed confidently in its own voice.” Their approach looks to historical references, in particular architectural detailing, craftsmanship, and ornament, to create “something unapologetically new.” At a lobby renovation of the Fashion Tower, an Art Deco office building in New York’s Garment District and the new firm’s first project, Schori and Mehta lined the walls of the entry corridor with vertical panels of angled marble. The pleated pattern of the marble recalls the verticality of Art Deco motifs as well as the folding of textiles as an ode to the building’s origins. GRT’s self-proclaimed “aesthetic and historical agenda” was further explored in a line of concrete tiles for Kaza Concrete. The triangular tiles, available in three different sizes, were cast with asymmetrical grooves in deep relief and designed so that they can be arranged in a variety of ways: Installation in a regular pattern emulates a flattened fluted column; alternating directions can create a herringbone pattern, and a nonrepeating arrangement leads to an abstract pattern. The interplay of symmetry, tone, and texture results in a tile collection that is firmly in the land of modernity while looking over its shoulder to the past. For architect Elizabeth Roberts of the eponymous Brooklyn-based Elizabeth Roberts Architecture, an interest in history led her to complete a master’s in historic preservation before starting her own firm that focuses on renovations and additions to existing buildings that, in her words, “breathe new life into historic buildings.” Yet despite her “love for historic buildings,” she explained, she also believes in “authenticity”—that additions should appear “different” from the original structure while still “respecting their original massing, details, and materials.” Delicately glazed facades, modern furniture, and an eclectic sense of minimalism pervade her work and visually declare old versus new. But even where her work distinguishes itself from the existing fabric, she still begins every project by “understanding a building’s story” through research on its history, context, and neighborhood, she noted. Craftsmanship plays an important role as well, and she “enjoys seeing artisans continue their craft in our projects,” regularly hiring master plasterers and woodworkers who understand historic styles to create new, elaborate elements such as handrails. While some designers are inspired by materials, detailing, and construction techniques of the past, others look to the unique cultural heritage of the region to tell the story of a place through its built environment. In Hawai’i, for example, oral history and genealogy chants were the main means of passing down history for centuries, and many of these oral histories have been collected at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu — a source architect Ma Ry Kim, a principal and design director at the Honolulu-based firm G70, frequently uses as part of her initial research for the project. During the recent renovation of The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali, the museum’s archives revealed that prior to the construction of the 1971 hotel, the site had historically been covered with a native grass “that held morning dew, giving water and life to land,” said Kim. Inspired by this untouched landscape, she employed vertical elements throughout the project that hark back to the site’s tall blades of grass, from the wood battens on the exterior of the building to the carefully selected artwork found throughout the lobby and even in the woven textiles selected for guest’s rooms. For Kim, architecture is an important way to tell Hawai’i’s cultural story. She noted that many sites “tread on indigenous lands that were once protected and considered sacred places,” and she thus tries to “seek balance between the modern world and the historical markings of a place” in her designs. At another hotel renovation project, the Prince Waikiki Hotel, she learned of a long-forgotten ancestral stream that ran below the hotel’s foundations. The stream’s boundaries were graphically resurrected through contrasting flooring materials in the lobby, and the stream inspired the central suspended artwork created by local residents and employees that consists of nearly 1,000 copper hinana, a local fish—an ode to the area’s native landscape. But even projects in the heart of major metropolises like New York City can nod to their existing context, like Foster + Partners’ new tower in Midtown Manhattan at 100 East 53rd Street, which pays homage to the modernist landmarks that surround it: the iconic Seagram Building and equally storied Lever House. Peter Han, partner at Foster + Partners, detailed how the firm “focused on the relationship between 100 East 53rd Street and the Seagram Building, aiming to create an appropriate counterpoint to the classic office tower.” The building’s crisply white, undulating skin contrasts with the Seagram Building’s dark bronze facade, while the massing of a “9-story bustle,” as Han described it, sitting at the base of the tower, “echoes the volumes of its neighbor,” Lever House. Indeed, while styles may come and go, the past—and its use as a source for inspiration—will always exist, ad infinitum.
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True To Scale

Forensic Architecture debuts its first U.S. survey in Miami
A retrospective detailing the intensive work of London-based research agency Forensic Architecture is now on view at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College (MOAD MDC). Forensic Architecture: True to Scale came online last week at the same time news broke that its studio director was excluded from entering the United States for the show’s debut night.  Eyal Weizman, the founder of Forensic Architecture, published an open letter detailing his visa denial by the Department of Homeland Security ahead of the Miami event. According to The New York Times, Weizman first received the news via email and when he tried to apply for another visa application, an interviewer at the U.S. Embassy said: “an algorithm had identified a security threat that was related to him.” The multidisciplinary collective’s work, wrote AN’s Matt Shaw, involves investigating sensitive human rights violations around the world and showing its findings in spatial visualizations such as 3D animations, virtual reality, and digital mapping.  Weizman was offered the chance to “speed up the process” for obtaining a visa ahead of the MOAD exhibition, but he refused to provide names of the people he works with or places he’s recently traveled. “Working in human rights means being in contact with vulnerable communities, activists and experts, and being entrusted with sensitive information,” he wrote in a statement. “These networks are the lifeline of any investigative work. I am alarmed that relations among our colleagues, stakeholders, and staff are being targeted by the U.S. government as security threats.”  Curated by Sophie Landres, the investigations shown at MOAD cover a range of events over the last decade that largely relate to state transgressions in the Middle East. Two projects, however, are dedicated to events in Venezuela and Chicago. Forensic Architecture’s work breaking down the police shooting of Harith Augustus in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood was already been previewed at the 2019 Chicago Biennial, but unlike the fall showcase, the Miami exhibition will feature all six videos produced by the group in partnership with Invisible Institute. Each video overlaps in six different time scales during and following the shooting.  Though Forensic Architecture has widely exhibited its work, most recently in New York for a short time during the controversial 2019 Whitney Biennial, the Miami showcase is the firm’s first survey in the United States. Two years ago, a video produced in collaboration with The New York Times won an Emmy for reconstructing a chemical attack in Al Lataminah, Syria, in 3D. The award-winning result, One Building, One Bomb, is included in the MOAD exhibition.  Another investigation on view is a never-before-seen project co-produced by the museum called Hebron: Testimonies of Violence (2018-20). It dives into the ways in which virtual reality can assist in compelling witness testimony and recreating a crime scene, according to the exhibition press release. For the project, the team modeled the death of a Palestinian man killed by an Israeli soldier in the occupied city of Hebron.  Forensic Architecture: True to Scale will be on view at Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower at 600 Biscayne Blvd. through September 27. 
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You Must Remember This

Diller Scofidio + Renfro tapped to restore Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater in Dallas
Dallas’s iconic but ailing Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only completed freestanding theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the only public Wright building in Texas, will be restored based on a master plan devised by New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). Mark Lamster, architecture critic at the Dallas Morning News, writes that the announcement, which was made by the city-owned building’s longtime tenant (and original owner) the Dallas Theater Center (DTC), comes with a “combination of optimism, trepidation, and vigilance.” Reads a statement released by DTC:
“The building has been home to DTC since its opening in 1959, and the renovation efforts aim to preserve the theater’s distinct architecture while equipping it to inspire a new generation. A steering committee made up of diverse community stakeholders selected Diller Scofidio + Renfro after a thorough selection process, and the firm —with DTC—also will create a master plan for the nine-acre Kalita Humphreys site, which will include new theater spaces and a connection to the Katy Trail.
Completed several months after Wright’s death, the Kalita Humphreys Theater is one of the final projects designed by the influential American architect. The design was technically conceived, however, decades earlier for another theater company in a project that was ultimately never realized. The theater was subsequently adapted for its current Dallas site, perched on a heavily wooded bluff above Turtle Creek, when then-fledgling regional theater company DTC approached Wright to design a venue. At the time he claimed he was too busy to design something new, and suggested that DTC use the never-completed design. The theater is named after a local actress who perished in a plane crash in 1954—a year before construction kicked off—and whose parents made a significant donation to DTC to ensure the building would be named in her memory. The building famously features a revolving stage that, in the words of DTC, “exemplifies Wright’s Organic Theory of architecture,” which stressed the unification of the building’s form and function.” The theater, which has suffered through shoddy previous renovations and years of general negligence, was declared a City of Dallas Historic Landmark Structure in 2007. In 2009, DTC relocated its administrative offices from the languishing Wright-designed building along Turtle Creek to the newly-built Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX | OMA, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas. The Tony Award-winning organization currently stages performances at both venues. As detailed by DTC, the master plan will entail general restoration work of Wright’s deteriorating main building as well as the creation of two new, smaller performance venues to be used by other regional theater companies. The theater will also be further incorporated into the surrounding natural landscape. “By creating new spaces and opening up the site, the new master plan will boost the natural beauty of the theater’s surroundings and improve its ability to serve as a welcoming, accessible space for all,” said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. Texas-born Charles Renfro, working in collaboration with his partners at DS+R, will lead the project. He remarked in DTC’s announcement that:
“As a native Texan, I am particularly excited to contribute to our state’s architectural heritage and partner with Dallas Theater Center, whose bold productions are equally matched by their bold commitment to architectural innovation. This project is an opportunity to restore the Kalita Humphreys—one of Dallas’s most overlooked pieces of architecture—to its rightful place in the pantheon of design masterpieces in the city. Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built theater, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theater has been presented and seen. “Since it was built, the theater’s bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways. Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programs grown out of the surrounding urban green. The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city.”
DTC is slated to present a master plan developed by Renfro and his colleagues to the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture by the end of this year. The Dallas City Council will then vote to give the plan final approval. The public and various local stakeholders have been invited to attend an information session to be held on March 4 at the theater, and are encouraged to provide feedback. In sharing the news, Lamster pointed out that the involvement of a firm with such a high level of prestige as DS+R is agreeable, but they have a mixed track record when it comes to preservation-based projects. He mentioned the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art and the renovation of Lincoln Center, both in New York City, involved demolishing beloved nearby spaces—a neighboring museum and public plaza, respectively. In 2018, Lamster referred to the Kalita Humphreys theater as “the most neglected, misunderstood, and mismanaged building in Dallas.” Preservation architect Ann Abernathy of advocacy group Kalita Humphreys Theater at Turtle Creek Conservancy also expressed reservations, particularly with regard to the potential for overbuilding at such a bucolic site. She told the Dallas Morning News that: “The way they’re looking to sustain this property is to build more venues, and to build an income-producing garage, and an income-producing restaurant, and by the time they do that, they lose the economic value of a property of immense cultural importance.” The renovation's estimated budget has yet to be disclosed, but as Moriarty told the Dallas Morning News, he expects “it’s gonna be a lot.” “The final figure will be contingent on the master plan, which would then require the approval of the City Council. Once that happens we will move earnestly and aggressively into fundraising,” he said. While the Kalita Humphreys Theater is the only Wright-designed public building in Texas, he did design three private homes in the Lone Star State during the last decade of his career, including a Usonian house in Dallas that was featured in the 1996 Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket. Another, located in Houston, hit the market in June 2019 with a price tag just shy of $3 million.
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New Affiliates on the Block

New Affiliates builds practice through scavenging
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at the Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, and now an AN interview series. On September 26, 2019, Genevieve Dominiak and Hannah Michaelson, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb of the New York-based New Affiliates. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. Genevieve Dominiak and Hannah Michaelson: Thanks for joining us! We know that you met in graduate school at Princeton. We’re curious to know how you two came together to start an office. Is it something that you had been planning for some time, or did it happen rather quickly? Ivi Diamantopoulou: It was quite organic for us. We started very informally. There was a project we started looking at together while working for other offices. And it made sense: it was fun and interesting and exciting, and we wanted to keep doing it. So, we had a moment of realizing this is what we wanted to do. We convinced ourselves that if the infrastructure was there, everything would work out. We had no clients, but we had insurance! It's been about three years now, and it's somehow worked out. Jaffer Kolb: Part of it was working through an inquiry into the formula of how practice works. For us, it was really about coming together as two people who are very different. Ivi had a much stronger background in practice, and I came more from curating, writing, and working on installations. We wanted to use these differences to test architecture as a variable condition that we could play around with using the small office model to combine teaching, practicing, writing, and research. But instead of trying to do it all at once, we use every opportunity to trial various combinations of our skills. From residential work to installations to warehouse conversions, your portfolio is full of very diverse projects. Do you have a unique approach to each project type? Jaffer: We really like working on different kinds of projects. Within each project, we are less concerned with typology than we are with a general approach to design. We’ve designed a lot of exhibitions and residential spaces. The projects are unique, but it’s not necessarily because they have different programs or are different types, it’s more because we bring different interests at the beginning of each project. We like those strange hybrids, which we seek out regardless of the project. Ivi: But there are differences between the exhibition projects and the residential projects. They each have very different timelines and budgets, and different degrees of openness to experimentation. For example, if we want to test a particular material application, we can do that in an institutional context more easily, because those projects are often fast and temporary. And then we can use that material again in a project that is commercial or residential, where we generally have less room to take risks and experiment. The two different speeds at which projects get developed generate slightly different approaches and opportunities. We know that you both teach. How do you balance your time between teaching and practice? And regarding your identities and the identity of your practice, do you view one of these venues as primary? Who do you consider your primary audience? Jaffer: These are good questions. We're really interested in academia and are grateful for opportunities to teach and be included in academic events such as this interview series. We both teach, but teaching is secondary to our practice. For now, neither of us are looking for full-time jobs at universities. Practice comes before teaching, at least while we’re figuring out how to run the office. Hopefully over time we can refocus our attention back and forth between the two, because we find the dialogue productive. Ivi: We come after a generation of architects that somehow managed to juggle everything at once—not only teaching and practice, but also academic administration, curation, experimental work, writing… It seemed admirable, but also overwhelming to us. We’d like to start with practice… we are invested in making it work, while maintaining a loose relationship to academia. We see it as a space where we can observe, grow, develop expertise. Jaffer: And to answer your question about what audience we're catering to or speaking to… on the one hand, we want to be recognized within our peer group and in academia, but most of our work tends to have an element of public engagement. Right now, we're putting a lot of our energy into communicating with the city and working through formats that have broader audiences. It's very difficult to make something interesting to the discipline of architecture and architects specifically, while also communicating broader principles to a larger audience. When we do our best, we're doing both. Regarding your interest in construction and demolition material waste and reuse, do you think about the second life or the material life cycle of your projects while you're designing them? Ivi: Absolutely. This is something that we have been looking at very closely, especially with exhibition design. It’s only through our ongoing involvement with these types of projects that we’re able to look closely and internalize such issues before we begin to address them through design. We recently did a show on Leonard Cohen for the Jewish Museum in New York, and at the same time were collaborating with the city’s Department of Sanitation to understand museum waste. From the outset, we looked for materials that could be taken apart and reused after the show was over. This changed both the kinds of finishes we were using and how we detailed their installation. We made sure that everything resisted wear and was easily removable. Following the exhibition, most of those materials were donated for new uses all around New York City. I’m super excited about that! Jaffer: Our reuse projects are in this really weird niche, where we're mostly looking at what architects make and how we produce waste—looking at what we produce that’s superfluous, or excessive—and to treat that as inherited material. But this work is less about responsibility and more about methodology—investigations into local economies and material flows. I don't want to pretend that we’re experts in reuse. We use these projects to think about detailing and assembly, but also to think about how architecture operates as a narrative within the city. In this sense, the second life might intersect with things like form or program as a means of perpetual reinvention.  We’d like to ask some questions about the Tunbridge Winter Cabin in Vermont. Did your experience in exhibition design influence the design of this house? Jaffer: To start, we really wanted to avoid the typical modern cabin design and be strategic about how we used framing and aperture. Those motivations come from exhibition design… thinking through perspective as an immediate visual issue. We were interested in how different events would unfold in a contained space, as a time-based medium. We coupled an idea about how one moves in a domestic environment with an idea about how to organize an exhibition relative to framed views and orientation. We were thinking a lot about landscape painting—not just about the content of the image, but about arranging landscape paintings which become interior elevations. We read that the project was designed and constructed very quickly. Did the pace of the project limit your ability to explore different ideas? What was your relationship with the client throughout the process? Jaffer: It was very fast. It was also very collaborative. Sitting together with our client, we would literally project a Rhino model on a wall and rotate around to ensure that there was no room for misinterpretation. Issues could be addressed, and problems could be solved together in real time. We did not follow the typical model of preparing polished presentations, receiving feedback, spending a week making revisions just to present again. How we work is honestly a bit messy and impromptu. We're more interested in what we can learn through collaboration with contractors, clients, and even with living artists in our exhibition projects. We understand working with others as a chance to express something about a collective, even if just for a moment. We're not here to push an agenda. Ivi: Working on the house was very fast, informal, and conversational. We didn't have the luxury to study every design detail or to iterate through thousands of options. We were lucky to work with a contractor who was a great communicator. We often joked that he was like a 3d printer—we would sketch something on site and then a day later it would be built. The process was easygoing and laid back: let's do it this way, let's try this other thing, let’s improvise. It’s a big part of how our practice was formed, in terms of our early experiences. Can you give an example of this? How did collaboration play a role in the development of the cabin? Jaffer: We didn't go in with a 70-page construction document set and ask the contractor to execute our drawings. We knew the form of the cabin and we had an idea about what the interior and exterior elevations would look like. It's not that we came with nothing, but we were trying to draw from his expertise as someone who's been working in Vermont his entire life. We had some ideas of how we wanted the project to look and how interior spaces would relate to one another, but we needed guidance from a local expert, especially when it came to details and environmental issues. One example was with the baseboards. We kept resisting certain tolerances that he insisted on given Vermont’s extreme temperatures, but in the end, we followed his recommendation. He did it as a custom inset baseboard, though. While we listened, we also never wanted to go with an easy default. Ivi: Working with him, we were able to strike a balance between an exquisitely designed house where every detail and material transition and connection is considered and precious, and a house that is durable and casual and provides a sense of comfort. It's kind of funny for us to realize that with the Vermont project, we established a standard for our practice where we leave certain things deliberately incomplete. We have a client right now—a graphic designer—who we leaned on to help lay out a pattern on a large custom millwork element of his home. We had a conversation where we told him… “You know, you do this for a living, you should just do this.” We should do this together. This is not a matter of us knowing better than anyone else. Did your interest in material life cycles, waste, and reuse inform the design of the winter cabin? Ivi: Yes, definitely. There’s a material sensibility in the cabin. For example, the baseboard material is all recycled plastic. That plastic comes in large sheets, so we were compelled to make room in the design to retrofit all off-cuts—you’ll see it pop-up between window sills and panel frames to avoid excess waste. Also, we worked to incorporate passive strategies that will enable the house to climate control itself through the winter, even going back to the windows being smaller framing devices instead of giant picture-planes. It’s a bit introverted, a bit closed. Jaffer: I would say… unfortunately, not as much as it should have. For example, there was nothing on the land when we got there. In order to make a half-mile driveway, we had to cut down a lot of trees… which is not a huge deal because there are a billion trees in Vermont. We also had to blow up a lot of ledge, but that ledge became the front porch and paving. The trees have all been milled and that wood is going to be used on the main house structure. There is a sense that everything that gets destroyed on the land to clear space for the house gets reused in the house. It's almost like a semi-enclosed material economy. But I wouldn't take credit for this phenomenon. That came from the contractors and landscapers. Where do you see yourselves in ten years? Do you hope to continue to work on smaller projects or would you like to evolve into a practice that can take on bigger projects? Ivi: I don't even know if the two of us are on the same page, but I can tell you what I hope for. I imagine that these two worlds, institutional and private; temporary and permanent, might begin to move closer to one another. I’d love to think that our ongoing affiliation with the art world and our increasing expertise in design and construction could enable us to work on projects that are larger and maybe more permanent. Jaffer: Ten years is a long time from now! The easier answer is for the next few years. Originally, I had always imagined that we would keep growing. More recently, I’m resisting the desire to grow. We are still exploring how to create an interesting form of practice. If you'd asked us this question two years ago, I would have said that in ten years, we're going to be 45 people and we're going to have large commissions. After being in this for a couple of years, I actually want to slow down and invest more time and energy into figuring out how we can do better work before we start getting more work. We’ve been concluding the interviews by asking everyone the same question… What's been the most rewarding moment as a practice thus far? Ivi: Not quitting on ourselves! Every single day we decide to not apply to work for a corporate office is very rewarding. Jaffer: I'm going to give an earnest answer: I think this moment is one of the most rewarding. I'm being very sincere. When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about how meaningful it is that our work can sustain the interest of a class, that it can sustain a close read, or prolonged attention. It’s incredibly gratifying!
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RIP

French architect and theorist Yona Friedman dies at 96
Yona Friedman, the Hungarian-born French architect and urban planner whose 1956 manifesto Mobile Architecture argued that the built environment, above anything else, should empower its inhabitants to take charge of their own individual destinies, has died at the age of 96. News of his passing was shared on his Instagram account. Born in Budapest in 1923 to a Jewish family, Friedman escaped persecution during World War II and resettled in Haifa, Israel. In 1957, Friedman emigrated to Paris at the invitation of Jean Prouvé, where he established the Groupe d’Études d’Architecture Mobile (GEAM) with Dutch architect Jan Trapman that same year. Friedman gained French citizenship nearly a decade later. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, an era when utopian visions were largely scoffed at or outright ignored by the greater architectural community, Friedman gained international prominence for his revolutionary-for-the-time meditations on architecture and social mobility. A proponent of self-sufficiency, Friedman rallied against rigidity and oppression within the built environment, arguing that a building’s users should be afforded freedom and flexibility that was unheard of at the time.
Springing from his manifesto, Friedman’s visionary concept for Ville Spatiale, the Spatial City, perhaps remains his best-known contribution to urban planning and architectural theory. The Spatial City envisioned dense, compact urban centers in which outward growth was limited and new development spanned over existing buildings as part of a larger superstructure. Friedman’s numerous drawings and visualizations of the Spatial City garnered considerable attention for their playfulness and neo-futuristic approach. The influence of the Spatial City is vast and can be seen in the works of Archigram, Superstudio, and countless other artists, thinkers, and convention-pushing design collectives. In the 1970s, the United Nations and UNESCO took note of Friedman's humanistic approach and commissioned him to assist with disaster-relief housing campaigns in Africa and India. Friedman’s work has shown at countless exhibitions including the Venice Biennale (2003, 2005, 2009) and Shanghai Biennale (2007), and his drawings are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and at Paris’s Centre Pompidou. He enjoyed a flurry of renewed interest in 1999 thanks to an exhibition held at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam that recreated his Paris living room, along with the release of an accompanying monograph, Yona Friedman. Structures Serving the Unpredictable. In 2019, a public sculpture designed by Friedman titled Space-Chain Phantasy-Miami 2019, was unveiled at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. Friedman received numerous accolades and awards for his contributions to architecture and urban planning including the Austrian Frederick Kiesler Prize in 2018. Early in his career, Friedman taught at a number of American universities including Harvard University, Columbia University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was also a prolific writer, publishing over 500 articles and several books over the course of his career, according to a biographic Dutch website that exhaustively documents Friedman's life, art, and teachings. His final published book was Yona Friedman. The Dilution of Architecture (2015). Friedman was married to French film editor Denise Charvein, whom he collaborated with closely over the course of his career. In the early 1960s, the duo collaborated on a series of animated films titled Stories of Africa that brought African folk tales to life. Charvein passed away in 2007. In a 2018 interview conducted at Milan Design Week, Friedman was asked if there were any projects that he would have liked to take on but didn't have the chance to. “The best expression for this is the everyday life, so my real project is to live tomorrow and I am repeating this project every day,” he responded.
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Architecture Sans Borders

Eyal Weizman barred from U.S. ahead of Forensic Architecture retrospective
London-based research collective Forensic Architecture, known for its use of architectural, spatial, and technological analysis to uncover state and corporate violence, opens its first major U.S. exhibition today at Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design (MOAD). However, as the collective’s founder, Eyal Weizman was preparing to fly to Miami from his home of London for the opening, he received an email from the U.S. Embassy informing him that his visa had been revoked and he would not be allowed to travel to the United States.
When Weizman went to apply for another visa, an interviewer at the Embassy told him that an “algorithm” had identified him as a security threat due to people he had interacted with, places he had traveled recently, or an unidentified combination of the two. When given the opportunity to “speed up the process” by giving names he felt might have been the cause for setting off alarms, Weizman refused.
Here is the full statement, which will be read by his partner professor Ines Weizman at the MOAD tonight, and was sent to AN by Weizman via email.
Today (February 19th) I was meant to be here with you at the Museum of Art and Design in Miami to open Forensic Architecture’s first major survey exhibition in the United States, True to Scale.
But on Wednesday, February 12th, two days before my scheduled flight to the U.S, I was informed in an email from the U.S. Embassy that my visa-waiver (ESTA) had been revoked and that I was not authorised to travel to the United States. The revocation notice stated no reason and the situation gave me no opportunity to appeal or to arrange for an alternative visa that would allow me be here.
It was also a family trip. My wife Prof. Ines Weizman, who was scheduled to give talks in the U.S. herself, and our two children traveled a day before I was supposed to go. They were stopped at JFK airport in New York where Ines was separated from our children and interrogated by immigration officials for two and a half hours before being allowed entry.
The following day I went to the U.S. Embassy in London to apply for a visa. In my interview the officer informed me that my authorization to travel had been revoked because the “algorithm” had identified a security threat. He said he did not know what had triggered the algorithm but suggested that it could be something I was involved in, people I am or was in contact with, places to which I had traveled (had I recently been in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia or met their nationals?), hotels at which I stayed, or a certain pattern of relations among these things. I was asked to supply the Embassy with additional information, including fifteen years of travel history, in particular where I had gone and who had paid for it. The officer said that Homeland Security’s investigators could assess my case more promptly if I supplied the names of anyone in my network whom I believed might have triggered the algorithm. I declined to provide this information.
This much we know: we are being electronically monitored for a set of connections—the network of associations, people, places, calls, and transactions—that make up our lives. Such network analysis poses many problems, some of which are well known. Working in human rights means being in contact with vulnerable communities, activists and experts, and being entrusted with sensitive information. These networks are the lifeline of any investigative work. I am alarmed that relations among our colleagues, stakeholders, and staff are being targeted by the U.S. government as security threats.
This incident exemplifies—albeit in a far less intense manner and at a much less drastic scale—critical aspects of the “arbitrary logic of the border” that our exhibition seeks to expose. The racialized violations of the rights of migrants at the U.S. southern border are of course much more serious and brutal than the procedural difficulties a U.K. national may experience, and these migrants have very limited avenues for accountability when contesting the violence of the U.S. border.
As I would have announced in today’s lecture, this exhibition is an occasion to launch a joint investigation with local groups into human rights violations in the Homestead detention center in Florida, not far from here, where migrant children have been held in what activists describe as “regimented, austere and inhumane conditions”.
In our practice, exhibitions are treated as alternative forums for accountability, ways of informing the public about serious human rights violations. Importantly, they are also opportunities to share with local activists and community groups the methods and techniques we have assembled over years of work in the field.
To that effect, this exhibition includes an investigation into a CIA drone strike in Pakistan that was presented by a UN Special Rapporteur in the General Assembly; an analysis of the Chicago police killing of a barber that lead to an investigation by the mayor and the city’s police department; and an inquiry into the Israeli bombing of Rafah in Gaza that informed the International Criminal Court’s recent decision to open an investigation into the possibility of Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestine—all alongside other investigations we have conducted with communities and human rights collaborators in Germany, Venezuela, the Mediterranean, and Syria.
These works seek to demonstrate that we can invert the forensic gaze and turn it against the actors—police, militaries, secret services, border agencies—that usually seek to monopolise information. But in employing the counter-forensic gaze one is also exposed to higher level monitoring by the very state agencies investigated.
I would like to thank all those who showed enormous commitment to make this exhibition possible, especially Sophie Landres, Francisco Canestri, Gladys Hernando, Nicole Martinez and Rina Carvajal from MOAD, members of Forensic Architecture here and there, friends who helped through this process, Ines for reading this statement, and you all for coming.
Mostly though I would like to thank our partner communities who continue to resist violent state and corporate practices and who are increasingly exposed to the regime of “security algorithms”—a form of governance that aims to map, monitor, and—all too often—police their movements and their struggles for safety and justice.
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The Ignored Realm

Rem Koolhaas sets a global non-urban agenda with Countryside at the Guggenheim
In both pre-Christianity Rome and China, the countryside was a place of retreat where those seeking respite from the bustle and grime of the city would go for rest, relaxation, and creative inspiration. The Chinese founders of Taoism called this freedom and wondering Xiaoyao, while Roman philosophers referred to time away as Otium: and idealized existences—from off-the-grid hippy utopias to the peaceful bliss of Arcadia—have continued to crystallize in the natural landscapes of the rural. Contemporary ideas around wellness, mindfulness, ayahuasca startup retreats, and glamping at Burning Man fill the same role in our society as a full-circle return to pre-industrial, pre-capitalist, nature-centric lifestyles that are paradoxically a product of our neoliberal consumerist culture and sold as an antidote to it. This lineage, from the beginning of western civilization and ancient eastern philosophy to 21st-century marketing culture, is just part of Rem Koolhaas’s ten-year transcultural, transhistorical research and analysis of non-urban territories, or what he calls the “ignored realm.” On view at New York’s Guggenheim Museum through August 14, Countryside: The Future is a project of Koolhaas, AMO director Samir Bantal, and Troy Conrad Therrien of the Guggenheim. The show fills the museum’s entire main rotunda. It is meant to upend traditional notions of the countryside by investigating the places where the influence, as well as the oddities, normally associated with the urban can be found outside the city. If, at one time in the not-so-distant past, the countryside was an idyllic place where each human had a role, Koolhaas posits that the “romantic” landscape of creek beds, hillsides, and family farms is now unrecognizable as a stable, human-centered place, but rather a hyper-efficient, inorganic, non-place where Cartesian technological systems define life. The show reverses course on much of what we have come to accept as the baseline for thinking about development. Take that famous statistic: by 2050, 70- to-80 percent of humanity would live in cities. “Are we really heading for this absurd outcome, where the vast majority of humanity lives on only 2% of the earth’s surface, and the remaining 98%, inhabited by only one-fifth of humanity, exists to serve cities?” Of course, Rem is not the first person to do research on the rural. But he has the resources (5 partner schools and AMO), the storytelling ability, and the platform (an entire museum in NYC) to reorient the conversation, as he has on other topics such as cities, Dubai, and toilets. The exhibition starts outside the museum, with a tractor next to a small, high-tech indoor tomato farm under pink lights that illuminate passing pedestrians. In the lobby, a requisite hanging sculpture in the rotunda is made from a bale of hay, an imaging satellite akin those used by Google Maps, and an underwater robot that kills fish threatening coral reefs. Land, sea, and even space are all implicated in this broad survey of the rural, as this sculpture sets the tone for the rest of the show, which launches into an outpouring of information. It is reminiscent of OMA/AMO publications Content, Volume, or the Elements exhibition and books, as visitors are greeted by a wall text of 1,000 questions posed by Koolhaas. Nearby is a table showcasing publications that provided context: The Red Book and the Great Wall, The Future of the Great Plains, Golf Courses of the World, and a German publication about Muammar al-Gaddafi. At the core of the show, the Guggenheim’s iconic ramp houses a set of themed vignettes. ‘Political Redesign’ is a catalog of ‘heroic’ 20th-century geopolitical operations, ranging from the founding of several United States federal agencies during the Dust Bowl, to German Architect Herman Sörgel’s plan to unite Europe and Africa by lowering the level of the Mediterranean Sea and building a bridge over the resulting span. Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and the evolution of the Jeffersonian grid from squares to circles are also highlights. Countryside then moves away from these governmental models into more polyvalent experiments with nature, technology, politics, planning, and preservation. Many of these we might normally associate with the urban, such as the anarchist community in Tarnac, France that was raided by police in 2008 but is now home to an informal university hidden in the forest. There are also glimpses of rural China, most beautifully Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming channel that allows sellers in the countryside to broadcast their produce and foodstuffs to audiences in the cities. Arcosanti, afro-futurism, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative are among the other kaleidoscopic ways that the narrative extends beyond industrial farming into a host of other social and political spheres. Working through contemporary preservation methods, proposals, and scenarios, including a curious example from Siberia where valuable mammoth tusks are becoming exposed in the ground by climate change and creating new economies for local, amateur “archaeologists,” the exhibitions closes on ‘cartesian euphoria,’ a kind of paranoiac-critical reading of the technologies and systems that are rearranging nature and politics in the countryside, complete with a full-scale installation of a PhenoMate, a cutting-edge farming tool that uses machine learning to identify which plants in a nursery bed photosynthesizing the most, and selectively breeds stronger strains without genetic modification. The show operates politically in a context where the countryside, and those who live in it are a marginalized group, at least culturally. Urban elites deride rural areas as many things, most out-of-touchedly as “fly-over states.” After a decade or more or the architectural world focusing on cities and urban areas as the main spaces of inquiry, Rem’s turn to the countryside —most likely born from a desire to look where most others are not— and his ability to show the public that the so-called hinterlands are a place where not only are some of the most important agricultural, industrial, and social mechanisms of society operating, but it is also where many of the interesting intersections of experimental politics, economics, engineering, and social relationships are taking place. To ignore the rural because we don’t agree with the politics of those who live there, or think that their culture is not sophisticated is not only missing out on experiencing a countryside beyond a luxury faux-rustic retreat, but it is also disregarding the fact that the countryside and the city are and always will be inextricably linked, as elucidated by a brilliant provocation that cities have become stuck in “frivolity,” while supported by complex, managed landscapes in the countryside. For example, urbanites underneath London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit leisurely eat ice cream brought in from factory farms in the outskirts. It is also a show with a decidedly top-down lens on the countryside. Some will not like the relative lack of representation of small-scale communities in the show, but the acknowledgment of systems and technology is an important way of seeing these territories. Had the curators included more grassroots narratives, it likely would have watered down the larger, geopolitical stories being told, and the show is better off for staying focused on larger-scale issues rather than getting into the folk aspects of the countryside, which would be more predictable and less compelling. Countryside is definitely a magazine- or book-on-the-wall type of exhibition, but not in a bad way. The texts are snappily written in typical Koolhaasian style, and there are not too many complex maps or charts, making the exhibition feel more like a journalistic analysis of what is interesting about the countryside, not necessarily a theoretical treatise or prescriptive path forward. It could be read as a transformation of the museum into a publication, a curatorial strategy that upturns not only our ideas about the Guggenheim but about how to leverage a hyper-didactic exhibition into an aesthetic experience.  The show is literally distorted by the Guggenheim’s double-curved surfaces, spiraling ramp, and constantly shifting vantage points, with a string of text spiraling around the underside of the ramps like a dizzying thesis statement, always to be revisited. If there is a sticking point, it is that the aesthetic of the exhibition will be familiar to many, as it harkens back to previous OMA/AMO publications. Koolhaas has long collaborated with Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, who created a custom Countryside typeface for the show, which resembles both handwriting and her Neutral typeface used throughout. In an exhibition that is really a publication, typefaces matter, and the familiar layouts and fonts make the exhibition seem more like the work of a signature architect or firm, not a global coalition. No, but seriously, folks, go see the show! Taschen has published an accompanying publication, available for 24.95 online or at the gift shop.
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Cultural Lensing

Access for All aims to inspire New York through São Paulo's urban design
From an urban design perspective, São Paulo, Brazil, Munich, in Germany, and New York could not be any more different—they exist on separate continents, have vastly different densities, and utilize space in their own distinct ways. So, what, you might ask, could these cities possibly have in common? The answer, according to Andres Lepik and Daniel Talesnik, is more than you think. Access for All: São Paulo’s Architectural Infrastructures, which opened this week at the AIA New York’s Center for Architecture, sets the stage for comparison between São Paulo and its peer cities across the globe. Curated by Talesnik, a trained architect and Bauhaus expert, the exhibition was originally presented at Architekturmuseum Der Tum under the direction of Lepik. Although São Paulo has a significantly greater population density than Munich, Talesnik felt that the German city had plenty to learn from the Brazilian city’s avid use of public space. For decades, the megacity of 12 million has seen a growing investment in public infrastructure in order to ease its open space shortages and respond to the demand for cultural and recreational programming. Access for All presents a selection of these projects since the 1950s, organized into three categories: large-scale, multi-programmatic projects; open public spaces; and projects located along the iconic Paulista Avenue. The exhibition comes 10 years after Lepik’s curation of Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement at the Museum of Modern Art, which highlighted architectural projects on five continents that aided underserved communities. Lepik’s research was an appropriate precursor for a case study in São Paulo, a city deeply affected by economic inequality, high crime rates, traffic congestion, and public health hazards. Talesnik views the selected projects as microcosms of urban life. From the pedestrianized Minhocão highway to the multi-story SESC Pompeía cultural center, the projects are analyzed through sociocultural impact rather than formal characteristics, highlighting the dynamic relationship between the built environment and its inhabitants. In its new home at the Center for Architecture, the exhibition intends to teach New York a few lessons. The large infographic at the start of the exhibition has been stripped of its “Munich” column and replaced with a “New York” column to compare and contrast figures alongside São Paulo’s. At the exhibition’s opening, visitors wanted to know what exactly New York might take away from the São Paulo method. Figuring out that mystery is one of Lepik’s and Talesnik’s favorite parts of the exhibition: “Who knows,” Talesnik laughed. “But we’re certainly curious.” Access for All is on display through May 23.