Search results for "wHY"

Placeholder Alt Text

Dean's List

The country’s newest architecture deans share their visions, role models, and mascots
For many architecture and design schools across the United States, 2019 marks a shift in institutional leadership. From Charlotte to Berkeley, new deans will assume the helms of some of the country’s most challenging—and exciting—programs. The deans will have the opportunity to shape design pedagogy and practice in significant ways, potentially guiding how academic institutions teach and address issues related to the built environment for years to come. But in an era of collaborative learning and community engagement, what does deanship look like? AN asked eight of the country’s new deans about their plans for the future of their schools and their discipline. Here’s what they have to say: Respondents’ answers have been edited and condensed in some cases. Vishaan Chakrabarti University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design A former principal at SHoP Architects, Vishaan Chakrabarti is a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and the founder of the New York-based Practice for Architecture and Urbanism. The Architect’s Newspaper: What is your vision for the school moving forward? Given the spatial nature of our three existential challenges—climate change, social inequity, and technological dislocation—I believe that schools of architecture are as relevant today as law schools were during the civil and equal rights era. I am keenly interested in exploring with students, staff, and faculty the questions of how to reconcile the demands of professional practice—which takes decades to do well—with the understandable impatience of many students to radically and immediately change our world in light of the environmental, intersectional, economic, and political crises in which they have come of age. How is your new school different from your previous institution, Columbia University? Because [Berkeley] is public, it serves disproportionately large numbers of first-generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, and other diverse groups relative to most private institutions. More broadly, Berkeley is part of the Pacific Rim and therefore exists at a healthy distance from the Eurocentric framework that still dominates many design schools. Harriet Harriss Pratt Institute School of Architecture Before assuming her role at Pratt, Harriet Harriss was the head of the postgraduate program in architecture and interior design at the Royal College of Art in London, where she explored new models of design education addressing gender imbalances that exist at many institutions. What is your vision for the school moving forward? The tradition of parachuting in architectural visionaries ready to superimpose their agenda and aesthetics upon an unsuspecting faculty—with little regard for the established expertise within a school of architecture— is no longer viable. The vision I have is the one I intend to co-design with the talented and dedicated educators, students, and administrators at Pratt Institute School of Architecture… What’s needed is a dean who is willing to facilitate, enable, and empower, who is committed to ensuring talented students’ and educators’ work gets the recognition and exposure it deserves, and one who will work toward ensuring the work is realized across an expanded field of professional practices and public contexts. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Architecture’s habit of focusing upon an individual’s contribution over that of a collective does not reflect the reality of architectural practice or education. Instead, we need to recognize the achievements of collectives in shaping the most successful spatial outcomes and increase our capacity for collaboration in order to respond effectively to challenges ahead. What would you make your school’s mascot? Do we need mascots? Or actions that lead to meaningful impact? Branko Kolarevic New Jersey Institute of Technology Hillier College of Architecture and Design Previously a professor and administrator at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape at the University of Calgary, Branko Kolarevic is a designer and educator with experience at multiple universities across North America and Asia. How is your new school different from your previous institution, the University of Calgary? The urban fabric and the demographics of [Newark and Calgary] are very different, as are the local economies and politics. The school in Calgary was based on graduate and postgraduate education, while the Hillier College is mostly focused on undergraduate degrees, even though we have both professional and post-professional masters degrees (and also a PhD program)… There are similarities, as both NJIT and the University of Calgary place great emphasis on research; both are in the top tier research-wise. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? My role model is late Bill Mitchell, the former dean at MIT, who was my mentor when I was a doctoral student at Harvard GSD, and who provided unwavering support throughout my academic career. I also had a privilege early on to learn about leadership from two great deans: Marvin Malecha, who was dean of the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design in early 1990s when I taught there, and Roger Schluntz, former dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture. They both radiate positive energy that is infectious and are great minds and compassionate leaders who care deeply about people around them. What would you make your school’s mascot? That's a tough one. Given that New Jersey is known as the “Garden State,” I would pick our state bird (American goldfinch) or insect (honeybee) as a mascot. Both the goldfinches and bees are designers and builders of their nests, so in my view they are appropriate mascots for a design school. Lesley Lokko The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York Beyond her training as an architect and her tenure as head of school at the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, Lesley Lokko is a Scottish-born-Ghanaian-raised writer with 12 best-selling novels. How is your new school different from your previous institution, the University of Johannesburg? Managerially and administratively, they are very different, but the hunger that drives the staff and students is very similar. Both places have a desire to say what has previously remained unsaid: that issues of class, race, gender, and power are central to architectural production, not marginal; that diversity strengthens architectural, landscape, and urban culture; that difference matters, not because it is “different,” but because it enriches discourse. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Alvin Boyarsky [chair of the Architectural Association from 1971 to 1990]. He made the marginal mainstream and was committed to change. What would you make your school’s mascot? A chameleon. Shape-shifter. Brook Muller University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture  Brook Muller was an associate dean of the University of Oregon (UO) School of Architecture and Allied Arts, and his work focuses primarily on design theory and ecologically responsible practice. What is your vision for the school moving forward? I seek to build a shared vision for the College of Arts + Architecture, so the idea is to shape it when I hit the ground… My priorities include (1) Introducing [students] to an expansive set of issues and asking them to assume active stances…(2) [Building] community partnership…in the arts and design…(3) Promoting interdisciplinarity and other forms of intra-college community building; (4) Assuming a proactive stance in fostering equity… (5) Pushing the boundaries of sustainability and ecological responsiveness. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Frances Bronet, my former dean at UO, who is now President at the Pratt Institute. [An interview with Frances Bronet is on page tktk] Frances was tireless, visionary, and enthusiastic, always one step ahead. I have seen many different models of leadership; hers was predicated on building effective collaborations and trust. It was a lot of fun to walk into work when Frances was at UO. What would you make your school’s mascot? I like UNC Charlotte’s current team nickname (49ers). This name came about as the institution was founded in the late 1940s after World War II in response to rising educational demand. Focusing on the city and on opening up educational opportunities for those who are deserving—that strikes me as a beautiful pairing. Dan Pitera University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture Dan Pitera served as the executive director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, a community-based nonprofit located at the University of Detroit Mercy. The center’s website describes him as “a political and social activist masquerading as an architect.” What is your vision for the school moving forward? We do not need to abandon the tools of our discipline to engage a wider variety of people in a collaborative way… Working in this way is often viewed as an alternative practice. Instead, I propose that we are working to alter how architects practice. Our school of architecture will interrogate and craft methods to meaningfully incorporate community-driven practice throughout the profession. What would you make your school’s mascot? A mascot for the Detroit Mercy School of Architecture would have to amplify and celebrate our values. It would stand for justice, be inclusive, have a global perspective, be daring and be fun. After consulting several students, we came up with the Canada goose. Yearly, two Canada geese nest on a visible section of roof at our school of architecture on their daring annual journey… The geese are unaware of political boundaries of countries, cities, institutions, or buildings. They have welcomed us into their home. Sarah Whiting Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) Previously the dean of the Rice University School of Architecture, Sarah Whiting is a founding partner of WW Architecture, a practice she established with her husband Ron Witte. How is your new school different from your previous institution, Rice University? The GSD is almost five times bigger than Rice, and it has three departments and multiple programs, whereas Rice was a one-department school. At the same time, both schools are filled with extraordinary faculty and students, and both schools situate design’s importance within global culture, so they really do share a similar ethos. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Two figures who immediately come to mind as role models include Robert (Bob) Geddes at Princeton (dean from 1965 to 1982) and Harry Cobb at the GSD (chair of architecture at the GSD from 1980 to 1985). Both did a remarkable job of building up faculties of diverse yet precise voices—resulting in specific, yet unpredictable conversations within their schools—during extraordinary moments for architectural education. Meejin Yoon Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning Before joining the faculty at Cornell in early 2019, Meejin Yoon led the architecture department at MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning. She is a cofounding principal of the architecture firm Höweler + Yoon. How is your new school different from your previous institution, MIT? [Cornell and MIT’s] overlaps are probably more interesting than their differences. Specifically, I’m thinking of the underlying social and cultural values that drive creative imagination, breadth of scholarship, and depth of research across the domains of architecture, art, and planning at both schools. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Dean William Mitchell… I will never forget Dean Mitchell’s response when I anxiously shared the news that my students, in fulfilling a studio assignment, had caught the building on fire. He acknowledged that no one was hurt, assured me that insurance would take care of the physical damage, and concluded by sharing that experimentation means taking risks and that he was happy that I was stirring up things in the department of architecture. His level of encouragement and support for taking risks that push boundaries was profound, and I have always admired him as a role model for academic leadership. What would you make your school’s mascot? A fire-breathing dragon.
Placeholder Alt Text

Recording Now

Outpost Office explores trampoline parks and more with Site Visit podcast
The founders of Columbus, Ohio-based studio Outpost Office conduct a lot of site visits. Not just for their own emerging architectural practice, established in 2014 in Ukraine, but as a way to have fun, educate themselves, and their peers. Ashley Bigham and Erik Herrmann are both assistant professors of The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture. In their free time—which is few and far-between as academic practitioners—they host a clever podcast called Site Visit where they invite guests to give them tours of random architecture. The best example of how interesting and unpretentious this design podcast is lies in the fact that their first episode ever was recorded in Michigan’s #1 home improvement store.  The first eight-episode season was released last year and attracted nearly 4,000 subscribers. Now in its second season, Site Visit is expanding with more episodes and more diverse points of view. AN spoke with Bigham and Herrmann about the inspiration behind the podcast, how to get good audio of a building, and why they feel they could tour the same space over and over again and still learn something new each time. AN: First, the name. What inspired you to call the show Site Visit Erik Herrmann: We wanted the name to be simple and direct. No one has very much time these days, so we get right to the point. And for architects, it’s also a bit of a wink, which also clues you into the tone. Site visits are the things we do as architects when we leave the confines of the office and get out “into the world.” Site Visits are thrilling, but also a bit intimidating for young architects. You have to improvise, negotiate, and perform in all kinds of fascinating ways. You are often wearing a lot of hats...literally and metaphorically. Every site visit is different, so no one is exactly in their comfort zone. We wanted to produce something that was authentic to the medium of podcasts and wasn’t like a lecture, review, or interview which are the typical formats we get architectural knowledge from. These formats are usually about someone directly demonstrating their expertise. We wanted to cultivate a conversation amongst friends with buildings at the center.  In your roster of episodes, you visit a theater, a military academy, an architecture school, and downtown Denver, among other places. How do all these “architectures” connect?  EH: There are a lot of great podcasts on architecture, but they often tend to be academic and borrow a lot from the traditional formats we discussed earlier. Within that space, we saw an opportunity to try something a little different. There's a particular genre of podcasts we were attracted to that are essentially serialized conversations amongst friends that center around a shared experience. The podcasts Doughboys, which reviews chain restaurants, and The Flophouse, which reviews films, are two examples.  We then started talking a lot about things we genuinely liked to talk to each other about, which to be honest was buildings. But we’re also academics, so we can’t help but talk about buildings in terms of, to borrow Stan Allen’s terms, not only practice but also project. We wanted to find an approachable, straightforward format that allowed our guest’s project or more overarching theory of architecture to organically emerge while the conversation focuses on a specific building. So our initial intention was simply to invite someone who could help unpack a building for us and it worked! Through their choice of that site and their personal description of it, we’ve started to better understand how people see the world around them.  Do you have specific criteria for the sites you visit?  EK: Our guest always chooses the location. Our only rule is that it’s not a space they themselves designed. Our preference, though, is that it’s a public building.  Any highlights from Season 1? Ashley Bigham: Episode 1 with Ellie Abrons remains one of the favorites. We went to Menard’s, which is a midwest chain of home improvement stores, and it was a great way to kick off the podcast. In the beginning, we were worried that our guests would only choose signature buildings by famous architects. Menard’s is great because it is a very complex piece of architecture. It’s basically a fun palace. It’s a densely filled commercial space that has an impact on all people, particularly children. So many people in the Midwest love it and tell us they went there all the time as a kid. Anyone who has ever been into a big box store can relate to what we were talking about in this episode without even visiting that specific one. The episode also offers some insight into Ellie’s approach to architecture. What can listeners expect with Season 2? AB: Our first interview is with Anya Sirota of Akoaki in Detroit. She’s also a professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture. She took us to Airtime in Ann Arbor, which is an indoor trampoline park. Season 2 will also include our first live episode which we’re very excited about. We’ll be recording an episode live during the fall conference for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture at Stanford. EH: We are highlighting a couple of other people located in the Midwest as well for Season 2, an architect and museum curator specifically. We want to expand the conversation to include a lot of new voices.  I noticed you had previously visited an inflatable bouncing park in Season 1 and a trampoline park in Season 2. How were you able to approach Season 2 premiere episode with a fresh perspective?  AB: We could honestly visit the same site every single episode because each of our guests would see it differently, and therefore we would too. What’s been the biggest challenge in producing a podcast on architecture? EH: With every episode, we’ve found it challenging to describe the architecture and the experience. I think that’s the hardest thing to do clearly with the audio format. We try to curb that by offering visuals on our Site Visit Instagram or the website, but when we’re recording it’s a constant challenge trying to remember to experience the space through your words, and not primarily through your eyes.  We also got a very interesting comment once from a friend of ours who is a lawyer. She asked whether we would ever bring on a guest who is visually impaired. People who are blind or are differently-abled might experience space differently than we do. It’d be fascinating.  Do you think you’ll venture into a third season? AB: I think so. When we started the podcast, we knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time to devote to it, but we’ve really grown to enjoy the conversations. We’re actually visiting with episode six guest Whitney Moon later this fall. She’s teaching a course on podcasts and architectural media at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and we’re going to drop in and see what the students are up to. The show has a life long after the microphone is turned off. 
Placeholder Alt Text

The Harsh Truth

Sojourner Truth added to women's suffrage statue in Central Park, academics criticize decision
The nonprofit behind building Central Park’s first-ever monument dedicated to women’s suffrage announced last week that it’s including abolitionist and activist Sojourner Truth alongside suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the bronze cast slated for Literary Walk. Critics who previously said the Monumental Women’s Statue Fund was whitewashing women’s suffrage are already saying it’s has made another major mistake by grouping the three historic females together and is calling for a redesign. 
“If Sojourner Truth is added in a manner that simply shows her working together with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Stanton’s home, it could obscure the substantial differences between white and black suffrage activists, and would be misleading.” 
That’s an excerpt from a letter sent to the Fund that was signed by 20 leading academics on African American history and black culture, including professors from Barnard College, NYU, Brown, and Yale, among others. Leslie Podell, creator of “The Sojourner Truth Project” signed as well. They noted that while Truth did have a relationship with Stanton and Anthony and that they did all attend the May 1867 meeting of the Equal Rights Association, it’s not actually known whether or not they all were at Stanton’s house at the same time.  It was previously announced that the design of sculptor Meredith Bergmann, which featured just Stanton and Anthony, was approved as the official suffragette statue by the Public Design Commission (PDC) if the Fund made an effort to acknowledge women of color and their role in the movement in a future project. A model of the statue is now on view at the New York Historical Society through August 26. Though the addition of Truth to the piece shows that leadership behind the project is listening, their move feels less than transparent to some.  Hyperallergic spoke with Todd Fine, president of the Washington Street Advocacy Group and co-organizer of the letter with Jacob Morris of the Harlem Historical Society. He said he’s confused as to why the nonprofit didn’t include an image of the new proposal with the public statement. That would have given people the opportunity to weigh in on the final product before it was presented to the PDC. According to the article, the Fund has already submitted the new idea.  Those in opposition don't want the process to be rushed, or that a new design be chosen in haste. Either way, the piece is expected to be placed in Central Park one year from next Monday, so a dialogue to redesign it must begin now. And the signees want to talk. 
“We believe that there may be elegant ways to memorialize the full scope of the suffrage movement to incorporate these challenging differences,” the letter reads, “but they will require careful consideration, explicitly including black community voices and scholars of this history.”
 
Placeholder Alt Text

A Calatravesty

Venice fines Santiago Calatrava for slippery, inaccessible bridge
Santiago Calatrava is being fined—again—for his work.  This time it’s $87,000 for his Ponte della Costituzione, or Constitution Bridge, in Venice, Italy. An Italian court recently ruled that the Spanish architect needs to pay the city for cost over-runs and “negligence” in faulty design. According to The Telegraph, the 300-foot-long steel and glass piece of infrastructure ended up being weaker than intended.  Completed in 2008, the project was controversial from the beginning. Protests and heated criticism over its placement rang out upon its announcement in 1999. The biggest issues included its lack of accessibility for wheelchair users, the conflict between its modernist design and the city’s historic scenery, and the fact that it’s located very close to one of the other three walking bridges that span the Grand Canal. Nevertheless, the structure was installed after years of delays for a total of $12.9 million and now leads locals and tourists over the water from a bus terminal (many of them with rolling luggage in tow) in Santa Croce to the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia.  The Telegraph reports that one of the other unexpected problems that people have complained about over the years involves the glass steps. They noted how slippery the stairs get when it rains or the fog descends on Venice in the winter, but Calatrava's office recently told AN that the steps are "no more slippery than other parts of the city." In addition to this, due to the bridge’s location in a highly-trafficked area, the steps have become worn-down. Some of them have already been replaced, according to the ruling judges, even though they were expected to last 20 years.   Furthermore, the court determined that the steel tubes used on the bridge were too small and the egg-shaped glass elevator, which was later added for accessibility, overheated too much. A court found earlier this year it had to be removed for safety reasons, costing the city $44,000.  The Telegraph noted that when asked over a decade ago to respond to all the criticism, Calatrava noted that he had “no influence in the selection of the contracting company that built the structure.” His work, he said, was limited to the aesthetic. In a call with AN, the firm clarified that the stairlift was, in fact, incorporated into the initial design that was revealed in the late 90s, but it was rejected by the city council. They claimed wheelchair users could take the Vaporetto water taxi instead. Years later, a new mayor commissioned the glass elevator "against Calatrava's advice," the firm said.  This isn’t the first time the famed architect has gotten in trouble with a municipality over the complexity of his projects and the time it takes to build them. Despite that, bridges are one of his specialties having designed 35 total in his career. The first, located in Barcelona, was completed in 1987—which is why the fines against him due to the mistakes on the Constitution Bridge are so high, according to the court.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Remembrances from 2002-2015

Peter Lang on Cristiano Toraldo di Francia's 'incredible love'
Cristiano Toraldo di Francia sadly passed away on July 30. Cofounder, along with Adolfo Natalini, of the Florentine Radical design and architecture group Superstudio, Cristiano was the kind of person who was incredibly open-minded, shared a sharp sense of humor, and professed a deep love for humanity. While accolades spread across the internet following news of his passing, there was a lot to Cristiano that didn’t make it into these postings, tributes, and memorials. What might have been most lacking in all these accounts was the way he shrugged off fame and shunned formality. Yet he never wasted a moment, had infinite stamina, and to stick by him you needed to react fast and move quickly. Cristiano was a perceptive and ever-present photographer, and it is thanks to him that so many historical moments during their superlative adventure were captured for posterity. When I asked him about how he got into photography, he spoke about his father, Giuliano, who was a renowned physicist, recounting an odd story about how he was introduced to his first photo-camera. As Cristiano told me, in an interview at his house in Filottrano back in 2005, his father “…designed lenses for Ducati, at that time they made electronics—now they´re making motorcycles. They made cameras, radios. And they made a micro-camera, which anticipated the cameras of today, instead of the normal 35 mm film --24x36mm, they were using 24x18mm film, so it was fantastic. Italy was poor at the time, everything had to be reduced! Cristiano couldn’t help make a quip about the States, and while proudly acknowledging that Italian technology was inventing incredible things that were “almost too advanced for their time,” in America “everything was big—big cameras, big cars. But that camera was a jewel... Just to say that since I was a child I was initiated to the mysteries of photography—the images coming out of the acids, of the paper.” Probing further, I asked Cristiano what his relationship was to the burgeoning Florentine fashion industry in the early sixties when he was a professional photographer. “I was making family portraits at the time to raise money. In Florence, there is a big tradition around the Alinari family that besides all the city portraits,” now in the Alinari Archive in Florence, “they shot a lot of family portraits, but these were like paintings, all retouched, like Photoshop. “They were perfect photographers- so this tradition was present. I was trying to do a very different kind of photography. I looked more to the American model. A journalistic kind of picture, Diane Arbus... Not so much Man Ray or the historical ones.I became quite successful at the time. All these noble mothers came to make photos in my studio. After a while, I was asked to do fashion photography, but after a while, Superstudio started and I quit. But of course, I had all the contacts and all the people- I was friends with Oliviero Toscani for example,” who would go on to make the controversial photographic campaigns for Bennetton. With his usual irony, Cristiano pointed out that he also worked as a fashion model, for the kind of magazines that were constantly referencing architecture. It’s hard not to talk about the origins of the Italian Radical movement without getting into influences, of which there were many: “We started…” as Cristiano clarified in that same interview, “…on parallel levels, looking at Archigram, but even more we looked back at Dada and then to Pop-art that was bringing the Dada methods up to date. Fluxus—breaking boundaries and being completely interdisciplinary, fluctuating from one activity to the other. But on the other hand, Archigram had this political information as background—for which we could say maybe we were more idealistic than them. They were more pragmatic, more Anglo-Saxon.” Dan Graham connected his generation to Rock and Roll, and given the times, it is clear that music played a considerable role for Cristiano. When I spoke to Cristiano about music when we met in December of 2002, he had this to say: “When I talk about the importance of music, we don’t deny having discovered a person like Bob Dylan, or the Beatles, it was a time when popular music reached great artistic levels, Laurie Anderson, the whole group of Fluxus, back then there was a system of self-propulsion, in every field…” What is critical in understanding Superstudio is precisely this level of mixing passions that the art and architecture curator Lara Vinca Masini referred to as “contaminations.” Cristiano stabbed at this point by bringing in Aldo Rossi: “Yes the work of Rossi and others was interesting, but it was always inside a discipline with few confrontations with the world that went much faster than their own reasoning.” Getting back to the Florentine music scene, Cristiano credited his father with exposing him to experimental music when he was beginning university. In a conversation I had with him in 2005, Cristiano remarked: “My father was a scientist, and as a scientist he was traveling a lot and, in a way, disillusioned and relativistic. He was asked in 1963 to become president of the young contemporary music association. One of those members was Sylvano Bussotti,” a Florentine native, musical polyglot and noted dandy. “One was Giuseppe Chiari,” the atonal musician, close to John Cage and a member of Fluxus, “and the other was Pietro Grossi,” a Venetian electronic musician and composer living in Florence. “I remember they were making concerts of electronic music, and one concert was in the Conservatorio di Musica Cherubini which is a traditional music conservatory. And after 10 minutes of this music people went crazy.” Evidently, for this generation of young architects living in Florence in the sixties, these were incredibly stimulating years. Superstudio detoured around the traditional tools of the architect, experimenting with alternative forms of expression and representation. When Emilio Ambasz showed up in Florence around 1971, scouting for ideas for the upcoming exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape for MoMA, the young curator was seeking out experimental “environments.” These would be full-scale prototypes for living, accompanied by films serving as animated captions. Yet I wanted to know just how Superstudio produced this project, what kind of technology was used to build this elaborate environment and how did they create their 12-minute film Supersurface. The main backer for the environment was the manufacturer Print but they also had to procure other funders, due to the elevated expenses. According to Cristiano, they found the supplies they needed in Florence, the special reflective glass and the electronic components key to simulate alternating moods of day and night inside the environment. It took 15 days to manually assemble it before the show opened in New York on May 26th, 1972. The movie was instead made during the winter of 1971- 72 and it was filmed in 36 mm. “I worked on that with Sandro Poli,” the Superstudio member officially present between 1970 and 1972, “we found the music, made the soundtrack, with the professional help of a guy who made advertising for TV (Marchi Producers), who had that mentality, and in fact, we wanted it to be projected as if it would be an advertisement for the Supersurface. The first part presents in a scientific way how the thing is done, and the second one tells how happy you will be living there.” In fact, both making the environment and directing the animated film were very labor-intensive hands-on processes. I asked Cristiano what role the Italian manufacturers had in producing Superstudio’s concepts. Cristiano’s response was that these factories were mostly made up of artisans. “That is why we managed to make a series of objects from very different things and from really different materials. Most of these objects are coming out of a kind of bricolage. The factory made almost nothing—we had to find artisans who did the different parts. The industry would just put the parts together. We were doing a kind of bricolage Cheap-scape—as Frank Gehry would say—for the industries.” The Italian design industry seemed to work as an artisanal chain assembly. But what was still not clear, was why did these manufacturers get behind a group like Superstudio to make things that worked against the idea of mass consumption? Why would they sponsor designs that were against their best interests? “We thought these objects we were making were a kind of trojan horses that coming from inside the system would produce criticism, which means creativity, which means refusal, or incredible love. They were objects of poetic reaction for the people. They were not mass-produced, they were in little series, multiples, like works of art.” To this day I still think about Cristiano’s trojan horses, and his incredible love.
Placeholder Alt Text

Post-Patriot Rumors

Does Tom Brady want to be an architect when he retires from football?
Well, it appears as though the next multi-hyphenate celebrity looking to add "architect" to their roster of titles is: You guessed it, Tom Brady. In an interview on WEEI’sThe Greg Hill Show,” the New England Patriots quarterback mentioned he may want to get into residential design after retiring from professional football. “Maybe I’ll be an architectural designer,” Brady said, “because I love building houses." That much may be true. He’s really into personal building projects. Brady and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, have built several homes together, including their 14,000-square-foot Brookline mansion which just went on the market last week for nearly $40 million. Patriots fans have been freaking out over the rumors of its sale, speculating that he’s likely to retire after this upcoming season. Brady squashed the chatter in the WEEI interview, telling fans not to look too much into it. It’s yet to be determined whether fans will believe him—with the sale of the home it means Brady is decreasing proximity to Patriots owner Bob Kraft who owns property next door. Brady and Bundchen also custom-designed an 18,000-square-foot mansion in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles together. Though they sold it to record producer Dr. Dre in 2017, they clearly put a thoughtful lot of work into the home: It boasts an eco-conscious build-out created in tandem with architect Richard Landry, known as the “King of MegaMansions,” and expensive interior designer Joan Behnke With the Brookline mansion now up for grabs and their Brentwood home in the hands of Dr. Dre, the question remains whether Brady and Bundchen will take up another design project for their next residence. For now, they'll have their 5,000-square-foot, 5-bedroom condominium in New York to return to in 70 Vestry, a 14-story limestone tower in Tribeca designed by Robert A.M. Stern. Forbes reported that the family moved there in 2017 for $20 million.  Should Brady officially go into the architectural profession post-Patriots, he’ll join other personalities such as Kanye West, Brad Pitt, Bill Clinton, and Travis Scott who’ve all expressed interest in design.   
Placeholder Alt Text

Homes for the Domeless

Zappos invests in startup Geoship to build domes for the homeless
Geoship, a startup with a plan to revolutionize single-family housing, has caught the attention of Zappos via Tyler Williams, director of brand experience at the shoe retailer's Las Vegas headquarters. The two companies are now working together to make geodesic dome structures the homes of the future, addressing a variety of mounting social and environmental concerns in what they're calling affordable, regenerative architecture. Geoship’s dome structures are made of bioceramic, a self-adhesive material made largely out of phosphate, which can be recycled from wastewater. The material is touted as being "nearly indestructible," making it suitable for a world hurtling towards a climate crisis—the homes can withstand a heat of up to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit without burning, resist insects and mold, and can weather tremors and storm surge from earthquakes and hurricanes alike. All of this?  “Essentially, it’s like Legos going together,” Geoship founder Morgan Bierschenk told Fast Company. The startup claims their domes cost 40 percent less to build than traditional existing construction methods. The geodesic domed shape, similar to that of a soccer ball, is made up of faceted triangles and pentagons welded together via the bioceramic’s self-gluing properties. The form and its translucent, light-filled nature were popularized by great 20th-century architect and engineer Buckminster Fuller, who used the form and technology to build structures like his pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal or the Dymaxion House. The shape is inherently strong and structurally sound and this is further enhanced by Geoship’s combination of the classic form with a new material. Zappos jumped on the fundraising wagon with Geoship when Williams recognized the domes’ potential to address homelessness around its Las Vegas headquarters. The idea of a collective of the domes, made available for free to the homeless adjacent to Zappos's office, was a shared vision of both Bierschenk and Williams. The solution combines low-cost housing with extreme environmental sensitivity; Geoship claims that there is even a possibility that the domes could become carbon negative, as bioceramic has the ability to absorb amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Geoship also argues some more theoretical points—the domes are supposedly said to align with Vastu Shastra, a traditional Indian theory of architecture. The goal, though, is to appeal to a mass audience and modernize home building: “We started to question why we’re still pounding nails in wood, like people were doing 100 years ago,” said Bierschenk.   It may take some time before the unlikely partnership bears dome-shaped fruit; Bierschenk estimates it will be at least two years before the structures begin production. Whether we can "envision a new future for Earth" as Geoship encourages us to do remains to be seen—as well as the company's claims that the interiors of their domes harmonize the electromagnetic environment with biological systems—but at least the homeless population in Las Vegas may be getting a new form of housing.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

Can you envision a new future for Earth? The converging global crises of ecosystem disruption, democratic dysfunction, unaffordable housing, and increasing chronic disease are clear signals that it's time to dramatically transform where and how we live. Geoship's vision for the future of home is a natural earth sanctuary that calms your senses and restores balance; a place of maximum efficiency, beauty, and resilience. Where the light and electromagnetic environment harmonizes with biological systems. Inside, you feel connected to all that exists outside – nature, community, and the universe. Your dome is calling! #futureofhome #buckminsterfuller #domesweetdome #newparadigm #domehomes #geoship

A post shared by Geoship (@geoship) on

Placeholder Alt Text

Space is the Place

Space Settlements explores what happens when we run out of Earth
Space Settlements By Fred Scharmen Columbia Books on Architecture and the City $24.00 The Earth is finite, and the sky is limitless. So proposed Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill during the convening of the NASA Summer Study in 1975, when O’Neill gathered engineers, architects, astrophysicists, and others to flesh out logistics for the space settlements originally conceived by his students. With fears of resource shortages and overpopulation dominating the 1970s, O’Neill, his students, and prominent science fiction authors proposed massive rotating spaceborne structures that could perpetuate humanity among the stars. Of course, as Fred Scharmen meticulously documents in Space Settlements, that’s easier said than done. How can humans make the leap to living in pastoral orbital colonies when every artificial biosphere on Earth has failed? How would placemaking work in a wholly artificial environment, where every vista must be carefully curated as to not alienate inhabitants? What is the “ground,” normally a constant constraint to push against, in a habitat where even that is constructed? Scharmen’s book starts as a history of the creation and impact of a series of Summer Study paintings from artists Rick Guidice and Don Davis, but it quickly turns into a deeper examination of what it means to exist outside of Earth’s atmosphere. If building vertically allows architects to imagine new spaces unconstrained by the ground plane, as Rem Koolhaas proclaimed in Delirious New York, then building in space presents designers with the ultimate freedom—while ironically constraining them with the most stringent challenges. The images that emerged from the Summer Study are, by design, both familiar and alien. They show pastoral landscapes and familiar building typologies curved around the interior of massive toroidal or spherical spaceships, rotating to create artificial gravity at their edges. While O’Neill emphasized the need to consider these settlements as places with logistical needs and eschewed flashy pop culture depictions of his work, Guidice and Davis knew that illustrating the space stations as occupiable places would drum up public interest for the research. These megastructures, half-a-mile wide or wider with names like O’Neill Cylinders, Bernal Spheres, and Stanford Tori, would be anchored into orbits or Lagrange Points—places where the gravitational pull from the Earth and the Moon were equal, meaning whatever's put there, stays there. That imagery is still powerful 40 years later. With the fears of the ’70s once again resurgent as climate change, resource shortages, and mass migration dominate the headlines, billionaires are looking for ways to leave this world behind and move to the stars. Take the Jeff Bezos–founded Blue Origin, a spaceflight and rocketry company founded by the world’s richest man for the express purpose of eventually moving humanity off this planet. In May of this year, the company released a suite of renderings of spacefaring toroidal colonies, each depicting idyllic countrysides and architectural pastiches protected by a glass-enclosed sky, clear references to the Summer Study images from 40 years prior. The renderings were created to gin up excitement—and financial backing—for extracting resources from the moon as the first phase of launching an extraterrestrial settlement, but exactly what’s depicted has a deeper significance. Scharmen devotes much of Space Settlements to the human considerations of living in space. Humans, like all animals, need certain things to thrive, including open space and greenery, and the opportunity to watch something grow; hence the abundance of agricultural landscapes and wide vistas in Davis’s, Guidice’s, and Blue Origin’s images. However, as Scharmen points out (and landscape architect Marc Miller highlighted in an online article for AN), the renderings are very conscious throwbacks to Hudson River School paintings. These paintings were intended, in part, to encourage white observers to move west and assert their dominance over the North American wilderness. In depicting their landscapes as (artificial) wildernesses to be tamed, Blue Origin is trying to entice a very specific, well-educated population to “settle” these massive structures. Therein lies the rub. Both the Summer Study artists and O’Neill knew that their depictions of leisure were a bit misleading, as all colonists would have to work hard to keep their city-in-the-sky running even with advanced automation. More importantly, the rationale behind expanding into these megastructures in the first place is rooted in an outgrowth of extractive capitalism. As Scharmen and O’Neill both discuss in the book, and as the Earth-bound billionaires of today surely know, space outposts would have to justify their immense cost, likely through extraterrestrial mineral mining. However, go one level deeper, and the implications become even darker. As Bezos and his peers have repeatedly stated, they feel that the only way to “save” humanity from our doomed planet is to expand into space. Bezos frequently claims that he has too much money to spend on Earth and that expanding into space is the only logical next step. "The solar system can easily support a trillion humans,” Bezos told Business Insider. “And if we had a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources and solar power." To say that entirely artificial and dangerous habitats are the next logical step in humankind’s progression presupposes that this planet, one that we evolved specifically to inhabit, is already full. What was once proposed as a way to foster unique communities in the sky and expand humanity’s consciousness beyond the borders of this world has taken on a nihilist tinge. No one else has summed it up better than Elon Musk, another stargazing tech billionaire. When asked why he wanted to settle other planets in an interview with Aeon, Musk famously replied, “Fuck Earth! Who cares about Earth?”
Placeholder Alt Text

Back in Motion

For its 250th anniversary, San Diego gets an update
This is the third article of AN‘s July/August 2019 print edition feature focused on development. The first, “A new breed of skyscraper threatens to devastate the fabric of New York,” can be read here. The second, "Why the developer’s vision matters in the experience economy," can be read here. As it celebrates the 250th anniversary of its founding this year, San Diego is rethinking past projects, planning billions of dollars’ worth of new projects, and coping with a housing shortage that is making it one of the nation’s least affordable markets. The most significant project on the boards is the redevelopment planned for Horton Plaza shopping center, a 1985 postmodernist downtown mall designed by Jon Jerde. But there are many other megaprojects under construction or in the offing throughout this county of 3.3 million residents. Laura Warner, an architect who moved from the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s, watches all this action from her perch as cochair of the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Orchids & Onions program. This 43-year-old education effort celebrates the good and shames the bad in local building, landscape, planning, and historic preservation projects. “We’ve got some really well crafted, well designed, and well detailed buildings that are places that people like to go to, where they want to create memories,” Warner said. San Diego’s architectural zeitgeist goes back to its founding in 1769 by Spanish colonizers intent on protecting the area from European rivals and the local Kumeyaay population. The colonists introduced new building techniques, laid out towns as required by Spain’s “Laws of the Indies,” and built adobe and stucco ranch houses that remain the local go-to style, especially for residential development. The city’s iconic buildings and structures include the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, Reid & Reid’s 1888 Hotel del Coronado, the 1915 Panama-California Exposition grounds in Balboa Park, the 1920s Navy and Marine Corps bases, the 1938 County Administration Center on the downtown waterfront, Louis Kahn’s 1964 Salk Institute, and William Pereira’s 1970 Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, campus. Post–World War II car culture led to sprawl, center-city blight, and urban ills shared with other American cities. Some midcentury mistakes are being reversed, but challenges remain: homelessness, high-priced housing (the median home price in May was $591,000), large wage gaps between tourism service workers and high-tech engineers, and relations with Tijuana across the Mexican border. Ten major projects in the works promise to add to San Diego’s collection of notable buildings, but it remains to be seen if any of them rise to world-class, must-see status in the decades ahead. The Campus at Horton Stockdale Capital Partners of Los Angeles bought the Horton Plaza shopping center in 2018 for $175 million with plans to turn it into a high-tech office complex with only half the 600,000 square feet of retail originally required in the center. The Jerde Partnership’s original postmodern design was copied worldwide, and the new owners are seeking ways to retain some of its quirky features. L.A.-area firms RCH Studios and EYRC Architects are the design architects, and RDC is the executive architect for the redesign. The developers hope to complete the first phase by the end of 2020. Chula Vista Bayfront A 535-acre World War II-era industrial zone is being transformed into a complex comprising hotels, housing, retail, parks, and a conference center in this South Bay city’s portion of the San Diego port tidelands. Houston-based RIDA Development plans a $1.1 billion hotel and conference center on 36 acres. RIDA’s architect is HKS of Dallas. Courthouse Redevelopment Another repurposing project involves the 1960s downtown county courthouse. On the first of three blocks owned by the county government would be a $400 million, 37-story mixed-use building developed by Vancouver, Washington–based Holland Partner Group and designed by local firm Carrier Johnson + Culture. Manchester Pacific Gateway The Navy Broadway Complex, which dates back to the 1920s, has been leased to local developer Doug Manchester, who agreed to build the Navy a new West Coast headquarters. He, in turn, won rights to build hotels, offices, a retail galleria, and a museum on the balance of the complex’s 13.7 acres. Gensler is the architect, and construction of the tower is well underway in the $1.3 billion, 3 million-square-foot complex. NAVWAR The Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR, formerly the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command or SPAWAR) occupies former Air Force hangars dating to World War II located between Old Town San Diego and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot north of downtown. The Navy, seeking a modern research and development home, would like to repeat its deal on the Naval Broadway Complex by signing up a developer who would deliver such a building in exchange for the right to develop the rest of the site privately. The 71-acre location is also being eyed by regional planners as a “Grand Central” multimodal transportation center. The Navy expects to issue a request for proposals. In the meantime, the local National Association of Industrial and Office Parks chapter sponsored a “university challenge” for a portion of the site. The winning $1.6 billion, 4.1 million-square-foot “Delta District” plan from students at the University of San Diego includes offices, housing, and retail, plus an “innovation center” where education and R&D would meet. De Bartolo + Rimanic Design Studio of San Diego aided the UCSD students. One Paseo Suburban development continues in San Diego County, and one of the most controversial suburban projects, One Paseo, opened earlier this year east of Del Mar on the North County coast. Opponents, led by a rival shopping center company, objected to the density and launched an initiative to kill the project, and the developer, Kilroy Realty, downsized the plans. The retail portion, by the Hollywood architecture firm 5+design, opened earlier this year, and the first apartments are due this summer. San Diego Convention Center Expansion The center, built in 1989 and last expanded in 2001, will appear on the March 2020 city ballot in the form of a hotel tax increase that will fund an $800 million expansion, plus homeless and transportation improvements if it can gain the required two-thirds approval. The main new feature would be a rooftop public park. The project designer is Fentress Architects of Denver. SDSU Mission Valley San Diego State University won voter approval in 2018 over local developers’ rival “SoccerCity” to redevelop the 166-acre site of the former Chargers NFL football stadium site in Mission Valley, north of downtown. When the Chargers returned to Los Angeles, the future of the 70,000-seat, 52-year-old stadium was up for grabs. SDSU plans to replace what is now called SDCCU Stadium with a smaller facility for its Aztecs football team. Developers would be selected to build 4,600 housing units and 1 million square feet of office and retail space that ultimately could be repurposed for academic use to complement the university’s 250-acre campus a few miles to the east. Carrier Johnson + Culture prepared a conceptual master plan, and Gensler is the architect for the new $250 million stadium, which is targeted to open for the 2022 football season. Seaport Village The downtown Embarcadero postindustrial transformation began with the construction of the Robert Mosher–designed San Diego–Coronado Bridge in 1969. The obsolete ferry landing was redeveloped as the Seaport Village specialty retail center in 1980. Now it’s time to turn the 39-acres of one-story buildings into something denser and more sophisticated. The current $1.6 billion plan calls for the usual mix of hotel and commercial uses plus an aquarium, ocean-oriented learning center, a 500-foot skytower ride designed by BIG, and water-centric recreational and commercial fishing features. The project architect is San Diego–based AVRP Skyport. UC San Diego The UC San Diego campus, whose first class of fewer than 200 students took up residence in 1964, is nearing an enrollment of 40,000 and is planning to add three more undergraduate residential colleges to the six already in place. The 2,100-acre campus, spanning Interstate 5 in San Diego’s La Jolla neighborhood plus a community hospital near downtown, has about $10 billion dollars in projects planned over the next 10 years. That doesn’t count the $2.1 billion extension of the San Diego Trolley light-rail system which is due to reach the campus in 2021. The campus trolley stop will lead to a new campus gateway entrance, where several major buildings and an outdoor amphitheater are in the works. An off-campus downtown hub on the trolley line is already under construction. Numerous architectural firms, both local and national, have been engaged to build out the campus, including HKS and San Diego–based Safdie Rabines Architects for Sixth College, now under construction; Seattle-based LMN Partners for the Triton Pavilion, a six-building complex at the new trolley stop; and the downtown hub by Carrier Johnson + Culture. Roger Showley is a freelance writer who recently retired from The San Diego Union-Tribune.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Place Setting

Why the developer’s vision matters in the experience economy
This is the second article of AN's July/August 2019 print edition feature focused on development. The first, "A new breed of skyscraper threatens to devastate the fabric of New York," can be read here. As our economy moves from one of consumerism to one of experience, the real estate industry needs to change. It’s time to shift focus from the hardware of buildings to the software of place. Developers are great at spotting the potential of land and what mix of uses and development will make land viable—what they’re less good at is what happens next. When they hand over that mix and program to an architect and ask them to squeeze it all into the site, developers may be doing all they’ve ever done historically, but they are neglecting the most critical of steps: agreeing on a vision for the place. “Vision” here means a strongly defined collective destination, the north star that guides and aligns all decision-making and allows teams to answer that most valuable question, “What should we do?” rather than that far more expensive question, “What could we do?” This process begins by asking, “Who is this place for? Why will they come? What will they do here?” When a place lacks vision, the end result is often at worst a commercial or critical failure and at best a bunch of people asking themselves, “What might this site have been if we’d only known then what we know now?” Architects often say that a project is only ever as good as the client. One of the challenges faced by developers is that many of them outsource the visioning process to architects rather than cocreating it with them. The best projects, and the best places, are always those that have a strong and shared vision delivered with unerring confidence. The absence of a place vision, and the reliance solely on a technical brief, can easily lead to cost overruns, design team disputes, ineffective communication, community objections, and ultimately simply soulless places. As we move from a consumer economy to an experience economy, we are reaching “peak stuff.” Millennials are far less interested in acquiring things and more interested in seeking experiences. Whereas their parents measured success by working hard to afford a luxury automobile, today’s youth measure their status by the stories they can tell about the latest hip restaurant, a pop-up retail experience, or an amazing vacation cabin in the woods. Instagram is full of the experiences people sought as opposed to the stuff they bought. This is putting ever more pressure on developers to provide a level of experience traditionally only provided by historic or organically emerging postindustrial neighborhoods. It’s time for real estate to step up. Office developments are no longer about grand statements that appease the corporation. Organizations have shifted their focus to the individual and the attraction and retention of talent over the cathedral to capitalism that has typified so many office buildings of old. In parallel, online retail is winning over homogenous retail streets and shopping centers; places like this will die unless they can shift to provide nontransactional experiences. Online shopping means consumers won’t bother to go to a shopping center or high street filled with chain stores to get things that they can simply buy with one click. There’s more choice online and goods can be delivered, and even returned, on the same day. People will only venture to physical shops if the basic act of consumption is complemented by outstanding service or experience. So the long-term viability of retail environments is predicated on their ability to provide some form of experience that provides enjoyment to the consumer. Architecture alone is no longer the answer. There is good news. Developers that are willing to take the “missing step” and really focus in on vision, purpose, and establishing a place brief will do well. They are not just stemming the tide of failure but actually achieving premium values across all real estate sectors. Kings Cross and Battersea Power Station in London have both proved that considered thought—rather than additional capital—can result in increased demand and value; Google and Apple both moved their operations to the respective projects—proof, if ever it were needed, that a strong vision leads to solid capital results. Closer to home, a strong vision and early communication for SOM’s The 78 development in Chicago allowed Related Midwest to secure stakeholder support for its ambition even before finalizing the massing, which paved the way for faster approvals. We need to embrace the synergy between great places and their consequent value appreciation. This is how we create a culture of self-perpetuating success, which will enable change where planning policy has failed. A small number of progressive developers have recognized that the market is changing. They can see that customers are increasingly seeking out experiential places that are engaging to live in, work at, or visit. Successful development is increasingly about the software of experience rather than the hardware of buildings. How you invest in creating place can vary whether you are investing millions into a sculpture at Hudson Yards or into a tech incubator to seed market momentum in Tampa. In contrast, traditional developers that are failing to develop or repurpose projects with such a sense of purpose and life are seeing their investment values stagnate. The scale of postindustrial sites that are now coming forward means we are no longer developing infill buildings that work off the historic character of established neighborhoods. Developers are working across entire districts, and it is essential that an overarching vision and purpose is established at the earliest opportunity. Failure to do so will result in incoherent and unsuccessful new districts; cookie-cutter, big brand monoculture; and disappointing, unpopular places. We are all familiar with places that have failed; they are globally prevalent, and the reason the real estate development industry is treated with such contempt and skepticism by the general public. But as new case studies emerge, such as King’s Cross in London, they act as a showcase for the synergy between the creation of great and thoughtful places and a more viable business practice. David Twohig is a founding partner of Wordsearch Place.
Placeholder Alt Text

Factory Finish

Autodesk invests in prefab home startup to help with disaster housing
Autodesk is making a bet on the future of prefabrication for disaster housing with an investment in FactoryOS and the company’s California-based “Rapid Response Factory.” In addition to allowing the startup to begin experimenting with constructing post-natural disaster homes on the factory floor, the funding will reportedly allow the Bay Area startup to create a Factory Floor Learning Center that will focus on housing policy in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. FactoryOS founder Rick Holiday explained to Fast Company that after several major natural disasters in California, like the recent forest fires, he received requests to build disaster housing; however, the company was not equipped to meet that demand, nor to build the smaller homes required. Thanks to the investment from Autodesk, Holiday told Fast Company that FactoryOS is “going to explore if [they] can create a standardized unit that could be used for supportive housing, or could be stitched together to create a small-to-medium to a larger-sized building after a natural disaster quickly.” FactoryOS has been able to streamline homebuilding through vertically integrating the construction process and creating a factory floor that can be used in all weather by union labor while easily integrating digital design and manufacturing. They claim that this precision has allowed them to reduce waste over traditional construction by as much as 40 percent, and costs by over 30 percent. The company believes that prefabrication could be a major answer during this time of national housing crises, when productivity in construction is not only stagnating but decreasing. At the moment, FactoryOS reports that they can create four-to-six apartment units in a day, however, with their continued growth and the addition of the Rapid Response Factory, they are hoping to bring that number up to as many as 16 units in 2021. According to Fast Company, this new deal will also require intensive data collection and tracking of social impact metrics, as well as environmental impact and cost. FactoryOS, which previously received an investment from Alphabet, has also just received an influx of cash from a Citigroup-funded incubator focused on affordable housing, according to The Verge's weekly newsletter.
Placeholder Alt Text

The time for failure is now

Meet Afterparti: The architecture collective that wants to fail better

“The time for failure is now” reads the front cover of Afterparti, printed emphatically in sans-serif, white type on thick, matte black paper. It’s not the only message on the magazine's cover: “Bring the justice of space to people. Build a new political conversation. You are all the agents of change,” reads another, followed by “p22” — the page where such inspiration can be found. Already, Afterparti, a new architecture "zine" hot off the presses, feels like a call to arms.

Afterparti, I should point out, is a collective, not just a publication. In June 2018, the group held a panel discussion at the Royal College of Art in London also titled, “The time for failure is now.” The group's inaugural members comprise Shukri Sultan; Aoi Philips; Tara Okeke; Marwa El Mubark; Thomas Aquilina; Nile Bridgeman; Samson Famusan; Josh Fenton, and Siufan Adey. Together, the collective is striving to further platforms for radical, underrepresented voices, advocating for a culture of collaboration and inclusivity. “We want to fail better,” they state inside their first magazine, which also includes an interview (read: argument) with Royal Institute of British Architects President Ben Derbyshire, survival tips and tunes for BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) architects, and articles from leading BAME industry professionals such as Pooja Agrawal of municipal planning initiative Public Practice and Akile Scafe-Smith of London design firm, Resolve.

AN sat down with Afterparti—who respond in this article as a collective rather than individually, as is the “parti line”—to find out more.

AN: What’s in the name "Afterparti"? AP: Afterparti is in two parts. The term parti is something that we all share in the language of architecture. What does parti mean? A big idea, a conceptual framing device. And so we take the term ‘parti' to connect with our architectural background and inject playfulness — by which we mean accessible, as the events we put on are for everyone. We want people to share their experiences and input on how we can make the city better for everyone. There's an openness to the term, too. We could roll out a series of different interpretations, but hopefully, the kinds of things we write or put on or stage or curate are going to be open-ended and not too closed. We want it to be a conversation that goes beyond the normal sphere of architecture. Ignoring race, it's often just middle-class people talking among themselves.

The term 'Afterparti' also suggests ourselves as a continuation of the New Architectural Writers (N.A.W.) program, as an idea, a platform, to bring together underrepresented voices. 

What is the N.A.W. program? Is that how you all met? N.A.W is a free writing program for black and minority ethnic people interested in writing about design. There was a mass email which asked: Are you under 30, based in London, interested in writing, with a background in architecture and of this minority? You kinda had to do it, it didn't matter how busy you were — that’s how we felt at least. 

Really what we're doing is an extension of this program but at the same time is the idea of events and a zine series. It’s always about extending that conversation as well: the conversation that happens on stage can happen in print and therefore there's an afterlife to any event. 

Why have you chosen to focus on failure? It was definitely a collective decision. Regarding the initial event we held, we wanted to find a theme for the panelists who were going to be on stage for a live debate. We wanted them to speak more openly and personally about ideas and issues that that might not be able to answer through the theme of failure. We challenged them on how they adapt and respond to failure, putting people on the spot, stopping them from giving us a readymade answer. 

In fact, that's a theme within our work. The zine is a very personal product. Whoever's article you read, it's a very personal piece. We put ourselves into it. The N.A.W. program came about because there's not enough of us [minorities who are writing] out there, so we take great pride putting ourselves into our work, in part, because we have a different background to share. We are a disadvantaged generation, there is potential failure at every turn. Failure isn’t just a singular event, it's systemic and we can develop ourselves through it. 

Why a zine instead of more events? The basis of why we came together was because we could all write in a sense and that was a common denominator. Afterparti is a lot more than just writing, everybody is doing different things and we have different skillsets. Events can take a range: we could be curating something, throwing a disco party, or something else, who knows what might come next. The zine, however, is always the reflection of those events. In this case, it builds upon the panel discussion we had at the Royal College of Art.

The zine also a way of opening up our platform to other BAME people within architecture. 

What made you produce your own publication instead of writing for somewhere else? It's not that we disagree with everything that architectural journalism stands for, it's just that we want a different flavor, something that represents us and how we feel about [architecture].

Aside from N.A.W., we've made it our own thing. There's no glossy front cover, no building reviews. This was all a deliberate choice. We were less interested in the aesthetics of single projects — though we don't ignore this by any stretch, we just don't feel as if what we have to stay stems from this. Of course, we do care about aesthetics in general, our magazine is beautiful! However, all of our articles are socially minded and/or politically motivated. It's less about a shallow, pictorial review of architecture. We are nine individuals, as has been said, all with individual takes and perspectives, on architectural practice and education and the myriad of things that entwine all of that and more together. Our approach to creating this written product comes from a place of play as well as a place of process. Plus we've only got so many pages as well, we want to write about the stuff that's important — important, but often overlooked. 

Did you fail along the way? Of course! We tried to have the awareness that we are in the midst of failure, but that's not a new thing.

What’s next for Afterparti? We are going to try to take more opportunities with different groups and not just stay strictly architecture. We want to continue going outside that sphere: being more intersectional and maintaining accessibility.

That's all we can say for now! Whatever the next theme is, it's going to be about holding the relevant people in power to account. It's always going to be a call to action.