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Seas are a-risin’

Brooks+Scarpa explore “Salty Urbanism” in latest exhibition at USC
New research by Los Angeles-based architects Brooks+Scarpa is currently on view at the Verle Annis Gallery at the University of Southern California School of Architecture in L.A. The exhibition, Salty Urbanism, presents a case study approach for how two communities—the North Beach Village neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Venice in Los Angeles—can plan and respond to the increasingly present dangers of sea level rise and global climate change. According to the architects, nearly 50% of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coastline, a fact that is increasingly relevant as hurricanes, tidal floods, drought, and other climate change-related events associated with changing sea levels begin to increase in frequency. For this reason, Brooks+Scarpa argue, the time is right for designers to begin to put into practice “best management approaches” that had previously been considered largely on a theoretical basis. The exhibition collects speculative proposals as well as pedagogical perspectives for how architects might work through interdisciplinary means as part of a wider effort to stem the negative impacts of sea level rise on the built environment. They address the expected loss of water storage capacity for urban soils, as well as propose interventions to ease the future burden of legacy stormwater infrastructure systems. The exhibition highlights low-impact development, green infrastructure, and other alternative concepts as possible approaches for mitigating the damaging effects of climate instability in urban areas through a series of speculative proposals that include renderings, diagrams, and other visuals.

The exhibition is on view through Friday, April 19, 2019, and will be accompanied by a lecture given by Angela Brooks and Larry Scarpa at USC on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 6 pm. For more information, see the USC website.

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New Fuksas

Studio Fuksas reworks Los Angeles's Beverly Center

The 886,000-square-foot Beverly Center first opened in 1982, in true Los Angeles fashion, on the site of a former children’s amusement park and next door to an active oil drilling site. Critic Aaron Betsky, appraising the structure ten years later in the Los Angeles Times, consecrated the blob-shaped mega-mall as “the Acropolis of shopping, dedicated to our national religion, consumption.” A new luxury-oriented $500 million overhaul by Studio Fuksas has only made that description more apt.

The eight-story edifice has undergone a midlife facelift that includes the addition of an undulating aluminum mesh facade over the building’s five above-grade parking levels. The expanded metal veil billows around the hulking mass, disappearing to mark three monumental entrances and a pair of glass-wrapped escalator bays.

The mall itself is laid out along the building’s top three floors, where a new 25,000-square-foot skylight and other reconfigured vertical openings bring crisp, white sunlight into its gleaming halls.

8500 Beverly Boulevard Los Angeles 310-854-0070 Designer: Studio Fuksas
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R.I.P.

Los Angeles architect Francois Perrin has passed away
Los Angeles–based architect Francois Perrin has passed away. Perrin was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer in January, 2019, and passed away on April 1, 2019, in Ventura County, California. Born in Paris, France, Perrin would eventually settle in Los Angeles, where his design practice, Air Architecture, was well known for creating materially inventive spaces filled with ethereal physical qualities that transcended everyday experiences. Perrin’s architectural projects were widely published; his Venice Air House from 2006, an addition to a single-family home that used trapped air visible through clear polycarbonate siding as a form of insulation, was well known. Perrin’s Hollywood Hills House from 2012 was designed as a series of terraces that simultaneously disappeared into and were hung off of a steeply-sloped site. In the past, Perrin has organized several exhibitions including "Dialogues" and "Yves Klein-Air Architecture" at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture and "Architectones" in several locations around the world. In 2004, Perrin’s The Weather Garden transformed the courtyard of Materials & Applications in Los Angeles using netting, a wooden platform, and palm tree saplings. In 2016, Perrin and French Canadian architect Francois Dallegret organized a retrospective of Dallegret’s early works at WUHO Gallery in Hollywood. In 2017, Perrin’s Air Houses brought a series of tent-like shelters to the Palm House at the Garfield Park Conservatory for the Chicago Architecture Biennale. A joint project between Perrin and Dallegret was scheduled to go on view earlier this year at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles as part of the Shelter or Playground exhibition, but Perrin’s work on the exhibition was cut short by his illness. Perrin was decorated with the Chevalier de l'Art et des Lettres in June, 2018, at the Residence de France in Los Angeles. On top of everything, Perrin was an avid big-wave surfer and an artist, pursuits that earned him the love of a wide community of artists and architects around the world. As the shocking news of Perrin’s illness spread among his friends last week, several organizations and institutions rallied to his family’s support. Perrin is survived by his partner Eviana Hartman and their 16-month-old daughter. A fund has been set up to help the family navigate this difficult time.
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Railway of Broken Dreams

Duke University kills light rail project in North Carolina
Duke University just pulled the plug on a $3.3 billion light rail project that politicians and residents of Durham spent nearly two decades planning. The ambitious proposal involved constructing a streamlined, 17.7-mile-long transit line that would have connected Durham, home of Duke University, to neighboring Chapel Hill, with over a dozen stops in between. Voters approved a sales tax to support the project, and detailed maps and renderings were drawn. Now the project is fighting for its life after Duke withdrew its support. The university’s public and unwavering rejection of the route, which would pass directly through its property, was met with cries of outrage. According to The New York Times, democratic state representatives were shocked by Duke’s decision, criticizing the elite university and its officials for being “out of touch” with the needs of the community, particularly lower-income residents. Even former mayor of Durham, Wib Gulley, compared the situation to a time in 1969 when Duke urged police officers to “gas and beat students” amid civil rights protests. The demise of the transit line will directly impact African Americans and other minorities in the community, many of whom looked forward to opportunities for better housing and employment that the train would bring. It will also affect city contractors, who were excited to be put to work on such a large-scale and complex project. GoTriangle, the agency advancing the project, estimated that the transit line would support roughly 20,000 new jobs for Durham and carry over 26,000 commuters per day. Now Duke is putting the project—along with the education, healthcare, housing, jobs, and economic development it would bring—at great risk. While some university faculty and staff members have been outspoken in urging their higher-ups to grant the project access, Duke executives refuse to budge. In a letter, university officials blamed their decision to reject the proposal on concerns about how the project will affect their medical and research facilities on Erwin Road. Duke noted that the concrete barriers on the track might provoke hazardous conditions for ambulances, while the noise, vibrations, and construction work from the train could upset patients at Duke Hospital. GoTriangle argues that Duke’s worries and concerns are just the latest in a near decade-long laundry list that GoTriangle worked tirelessly to address. For example, GoTriangle agreed to build a $90 million elevated railway track in order to meet Duke's concerns, promising a safe, secure, and easily accessible path to the hospital. The public transportation company also agreed to a $1 billion insurance policy to guarantee that the noise and vibrations from passing trains would not affect Duke's research and diagnostic equipment. Despite these changes, Duke is still not satisfied. This is not an isolated incident. Conflicts like these are widespread. Some cities like Los Angeles and Seattle have worked toward developing new and improved transit lines. Other recent efforts at modernizing cities and implementing public transportation are thwarted by politics, high price tags, or resistance from upper-class citizens who don't want public transport—and the people and congestion that it brings—to "invade" their beloved neighborhoods. While the fate of the light rail line looks bleak, GoTriangle officials still have until April 30 to get 11 agreements signed—which will entail a great deal of negotiating with Duke—and submit an application for $1.2 billion to the Federal Transit Administration.
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Zumth(ingm)or(e)

Peter Zumthor lightens and shortens LACMA design
Peter Zumthor's office has released new renderings of its new building for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). In this latest update, the building's amorphous "canopy" level still sprawls across Wilshire Boulevard, and several pavilions still connect the upper level to the plaza, but now those pavilions are shorter and do not rise above the upper level. The building's material also appears to have been toned down; previous renderings showed striations on the pavilions' exterior, but now all facades seem to be blank concrete. The building's color has come a long way since the building was conceived as a kind of oil slick, referencing the local tar pits. Originally, the building was a sort of black blob, but over the past couple of years, that color seems to have been phased out. The sprawling elevated floor has remained throughout the project's development. The new building will replace an existing William Pereira–designed structure and is scheduled to be finished in 2023.
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The Bigger Apple

Facades+ New York will explore trends reshaping international architecture
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On April 4 and 5, Facades+ is returning to New York for the eighth year in a row. Organized by The Architect's Newspaper, the New York conference brings together leading AEC practitioners for a robust full-day symposium with a second day of intensive workshops led by manufacturers, architects, and engineers. Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas, and Toshiko Mori are respectively leading the morning and afternoon keynote addresses for the symposium. In between the keynote addresses, representatives from Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Permasteelisa, Cooper Union, Gensler, Heintges, Atelier 10, Transsolar, Walter P. MooreSchüco, Frener & Reifer, and Behnisch Architekten, will be on hand to discuss recently completed innovative projects. New York-and-Frankfurt based practice 1100 Architect is co-chairing the conference. In anticipation of the conference, 1100 Architect's Juergen Riehm sat down with AN to discuss the firm's ongoing work, the conference's program, and trends reshaping New York City's built environment. The Architect's Newspaper: It is safe to say that New York City is undergoing a tremendous period of growth. What do you perceive to be the most exciting trends within the city? Juergen Riehm: You’re right; New York City is undergoing big change and growth. I would say that one of the big drivers of that change—and one of the exciting trends—is the investment in the city’s public spaces. There has been such transformation along the waterfronts and in parks across all five boroughs, and that has really catalyzed growth. We have worked with several city agencies for many years and in different ways, including with the Department of Parks & Recreation, which has been an exciting partnership, contributing to these changes. One of the projects we currently have in design for NYC Parks is a new community center in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. There, we are designing a 33,000-square-foot community center. The facade will perform in a number of ways. Since it is a community center, we want it to be as open and transparent as possible, and it also needs to be robust and durable. The building is on track to meet the city’s new sustainability standards LL31/32 and LEED Gold. There has been so much attention on new large-scale developments like Hudson Yards or the supertall towers in Midtown, but one of the other exciting trends right now is the renewed attention on optimizing the performance of existing buildings. It is something we will address during Facades+ NYC, but there is great work happening now on restorations of historic buildings—at the Ford Foundation or the United Nations, for example—that not only addresses decades of wear and tear, but that also brings these structures up to full 21st-century performance standards. AN: 1100 Architect is based in both New York and Frankfurt. What are the greatest benefits of operating a trans-Atlantic practice? JR: Our practice has always been deeply rooted in New York—just as it has also always had an international footprint. From our earliest days, we delivered projects overseas, so it seems like part of 1100 Architect’s DNA to have an ongoing dialogue with other geographies. We launched our Frankfurt office about 15 years ago, and, as you suggest, it does bring benefits. In general, we find that it has a reciprocal sharpening effect, with each location informing the other with different materials, technologies, and delivery methods. AN: Which projects are 1100 Architect currently working on, or recently completed, that demonstrate the firm's longstanding demonstration of sustainable enclosures? JR: Well, the NYC Parks community center in East Flatbush is a good example. It’s an exciting project in many ways—including the fact that we are designing it to the City’s new LL31/32 sustainability standards. In every way, we are really pushing for optimal performance, and the high-performance envelope plays an integral role toward that end. We were recently awarded a contract with the U.S. Department of State, so we are poised to begin working on diplomatic facilities around the world, so the safety and security of facade systems will be a paramount consideration. In Germany, we are renovating a 19,000-seat soccer stadium and adding a new training facility, using an innovative and high-performance channel-glass facade. We recently completed a Passive House–certified kindergarten there, too, which involved a high-performance facade. AN: Are there any techniques and materials used in Germany or the EU that should be adopted in the United States? JR: In Germany, I find that there is a more closely integrated relationship between government, the building industry, and the architectural profession. With environmental standards, for example, the goals set by the government are quite ambitious, and it has resulted in a closely integrated process of meeting those goals. In this moment of deregulation in the U.S., it seems like a good time to consider the value of the government’s role in moving toward energy efficiency. AN: Where do you see the industry heading in the coming years? JR: By necessity, I see it moving toward higher standards of energy performance. Climate science is calling for it and the marketplace is increasingly looking for it, so the architecture and building industry will need to deliver. And as I mentioned at the start of this conversation, I also think there will be a lot of focus on updating existing buildings to enhance performance. Further information regarding the conference can be found here.
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Fieldworks

Office Kovacs, Kyle May, and MILLIØNS to lead desert design-build festival in California
In May 2019, Southern California’s “community in residence” design-build festival, Space Saloon, is returning to the desert highlands for its second incarnation. Titled Fieldworks, the elbow grease-fueled festival will take its inspiration from “cumulative methods of scientific field research—the approaches, techniques, and processes used to collect raw data outside of a laboratory setting” by staging a series of desert constructions that focus on imbuing quantified data with cultural meaning. The eight-day workshop is open to anyone age 18 or older and will cost between $1350 and $1500 to attend; the program price includes room and board, three meals a day, and all of the necessary construction materials. As with the previous iteration of the festival, organizers hope to draw an interdisciplinary group of students that will complement the diverse set of practitioners leading the project. Project leaders for this year include architects Andrew Kovacs (Office Kovacs), Zeina Koreitem and John May (MILLIØNS), Kyle May (KMA), as well as workshop leaders Alex Braidwood (Listening Instruments), Noémie Despland-Lichtert and Brendan Sullivan Shea (Roundhouse Platform), Lena Pozdnyakova and Eldar Tagi (the2vvo), among others. According to a press release, program participants will work to undermine the “constructs and apparatuses through which we perceive a place,” investigations that could include questioning how knowledge is produced, manipulating one’s perception of the desert landscape, and creating “new methods for presenting subjective realities.” The workshop joins an ever-increasing number of arts- and architecture-related events taking place across the desert regions surrounding Los Angeles, including the Desert X art biennial, the High Desert Test Sites program, and the Coachella Arts and Music festival. For a collection of last year’s projects, see the Space Saloon website. Applications for the program will be accepted through April with the workshops taking place in California’s Morongo Valley between May 25 and June 1, 2019.
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America Last

“Great” construction projects in America? Starchitects say: look elsewhere

A strange thing has been happening at some public architecture talks lately, perhaps you’ve noticed. Over the course of otherwise hopeful and positive discussions covering amazing new projects from around the globe, at some point, usually toward the end of a talk, conversation turns to the current state of American building and infrastructure. And, it's safe to say, people are not happy. Sometimes, the presenter will rip off the bandaid, as Thom Mayne of Morphosis did at a recent Facades+  talk in Los Angeles, when he said, “I hate to be negative, but there’s not much going on in this country architecturally,” before adding, “[But] if you look at architecture around the world, it’s startling…It’s unbelievable, the research [taking place]—I just came back from Shenzhen [China] and I’m looking around [at the skyline] there wondering ‘is there anything left for me to do?’” Other times, a perplexed-sounding audience member will ask what it seems many in attendance had been pondering privately: “Why can’t we build like this here?” 

 It’s a debilitating question that really only has one answer. And although, even when speaking bluntly, everyone tries their best to truth-tell without offending, but the writing is right on the projection screen—building big in America simply isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t know what to do about it.

 “The United States is falling behind,” architect Moshe Safdie explained to a packed room during a recent keynote talk at Palm Springs Modernism Week when asked why the inventive array of projects he had just presented are mostly located outside the United States. “Around the world, the competition [for bold infrastructure] doesn’t stop,” he said, half-jokingly, “until you land at Kennedy or LAX.” 

 To prove his point, Safdie pointed out further that although the Hudson Yards development in New York City is the largest privately-led construction project in the country by square footage, it is easily dwarfed in terms of vision by countless projects around the globe of a similar or larger size. 

 He’s right. Hudson Yards is a dime a dozen as far as global mega-projects are concerned. Safdie’s own Raffles City development in Chongqing, China, for example, might be roughly two-thirds the size of Hudson Yards, but it is going up in less than one-third the time and is almost entirely designed by a single architecture firm—Safdie Architects—with P&T Group International Ltd. serving as architect of record. Safdie’s own portfolio of recent work shows that while New York occasionally will build an elevated billionaire citadel, Chongqing, Singapore, and other cities have tasked his office with erecting bold new structures designed for working people and the public at large, all without sacrificing design quality. 

 Safdie explained that one possible reason why American projects no longer lead the world in terms of size or scale might be due to a “lack of urban initiative,” the type of sustained and calculated political and managerial energy necessary for bringing to life the types of large-scale and lasting projects that have transformed other countries around the world in recent decades. 

It’s a sentiment echoed by Rem Koolhaas, who, when recently asked about the prevalence of NIMBYism in America, explained, “I think you can divide the world into one part that is eager to change and doesn’t have hesitations about things changing, and another part that is totally nervous about change and actually aspires to a kind of stability.” Koolhaas added, “As an architect, every one of your efforts is impacted by this. In the end, however, architecture is always controversial because it proposes to make things different than they are.”

 Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the realm of high-speed rail (HSR), where American decision makers across all levels of government have persisted in remaining tethered to auto-centric planning, condemning the nation to antiquated transportation for at least another generation. A recent article in The New York Times covering the ongoing debacle with California’s tragic HSR project, for example, brings this condition into sharp relief with the following line: “California’s High-Speed Rail Authority…was established 23 years ago. During that time China has built 16,000 miles of high-speed rail.”

 America has built none. But America’s last-place finish doesn’t end with rail or with deteriorating airports; it includes city-building, too, as Safdie pointed out. Much of America is suffering from some form of housing crisis, whether it’s so-called Rust Belt cities struggling to retain residents or coastal cities that can’t figure out how and where to build new housing fast enough. While American cities have doubled-down on onerous building restrictions and lengthy bureaucratic reviews, politically polarized state and federal governments have worked at cross purposes, too, failing to enact bold plans and avoiding future-oriented thinking at almost all costs. The overarching legacy of redlining, racial segregation, and income inequality has placed a stranglehold over American cities, as well, contributing to intense gentrification when development does occur and debilitating displacement when it doesn’t. Over the last decade, it has become clear that America's public health, land-use, and transportation policies are all woefully out of whack, and the result is stifling the abilities of a generation of well-trained architects and engineers eager to build a better nation. Meanwhile, the world’s urbanizing areas have embraced building vertically, have expanded transit of all sorts, and have worked to enact bold planning initiatives that over a generation have remade the face of global urbanism in the name of interconnectedness, density, and place-making.

 In Europe, for example, France is currently enacting its “Le Grand Paris” plan, a vision that will stitch together the Paris city center with its inner and outer ring suburbs to bring together an urban region of 10 million inhabitants. The plan includes a €30 billion public transit expansion initiative that will create a network of regional transit routes connecting suburbs with one another as well as sizable new investments in social housing, parks, and other equity-minded initiatives.

 But it’s not just Europe. 

 Cairo, Egypt, is building a new $45 billion capital city that, when completed, will become the largest purpose-built capital city by population in the world.

 In India, the country’s largest infrastructure project, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, aims to connect the nation’s political and economic capitals with a 900-mile long conurbation made up of 24 urban “nodes.” The plan aims to urbanize 14 percent of India’s population—180 million people—over the next 30 years and will take $100 billion in investment to realize.

 In South America, Argentina’s so-called Belgrano Plan will bring $16 billion in rail expansion to 10 of the country’s neglected northern provinces and will create up to 250,000 new housing units and 1,100 childhood education centers. 

 Saudi Arabia is building new mega cities from scratch, as are China, Singapore, Nigeria, Mauritius, and countless others. 

 None of these projects are perfect socially or environmentally-speaking, to be sure, but one thing they do not lack is vision.

 If it feels like the most impressive work is taking place in other countries, that’s because in many ways, it is, and international architects know perhaps better than anyone else the truth of that reality. Even more, the hesitation, hedging, and hand-wringing that accompanies talk of the current state of American infrastructure and urban vision indicate that the problem runs deeper than a mere lack of funding or risk-averse clients. 

Whether it’s California’s flailing HSR project, the nation’s intractable housing crises, or even, the sad, dispirited political discourse surrounding the Green New Deal—a potentially transformative plan that is barely supported by the party that conceived it—it is clear that America has a crisis of vision, a failure of political will, and perhaps most alarmingly, no real interest in solving its own problems. Look at the Salesforce Transit Center debacle in San Francisco, Elon Musk’s substandard and retrograde transit ideas in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the steady stream of failing bridges and tunnels across the country for further proof. Even Amazon’s HQ2 extravaganza, a year-long publicity stunt by the world’s richest company that wrung billions in incentives from some of the most desperate cities around the country, rightfully withered on the vine. What’s going on here?

 As Safdie quipped, “We were promised infrastructure!” But the truth is that it’s just not happening in America anymore.
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Only the Bestor

Bestor Architecture and Jamie Bush + Co. bring an unfinished Lautner into the 21st century
In 2013, Bestor Architecture, interior designer Jamie Bush + Co., and landscape architects Studio-MLA were tapped to restore and complete the Silvertop Residence, a domed, cave-like home designed by John Lautner in 1956 for industrialist-inventor Kenneth Reiner. “Big chunks of the house weren’t finished,” Barbara Bestor of Bestor Architecture explained as she described the ad hoc kitchen and bathroom spaces she initially found in the home. “But we tried to bring a 21st-century idea of what progressive architecture might be in this context.” The Los Angeles home represents Lautner’s own attempts to create a progressive architectural vision for domestic life and includes his first spanning concrete shell structure as well as movable glass walls and interior finishes that can conveniently snap off for maintenance and replacement. Within a T-shaped composition of intersecting semicircles in plan, the home is divided into sleeping, kitchen, and living zones that frame opposing outdoor spaces, including a pool patio and a tree-filled courtyard. Bestor explained that Lautner and Reiner had infused the home with a spirit of material inventiveness that included Portuguese cork ceiling tiles, thin-shell concrete finishes, and other factory-produced elements. It was an ethos that Bestor sought to channel, but rather than imposing a new order on the home, her restoration is instead geared toward reviving and perfecting many of Lautner’s original ideas. For example, the architect replaced rudimentary mechanical systems for a movable window wall with a state-of-the-art motorized pulley concealed by scalloped concrete edging and an upturned swoop of terrazzo flooring. She also perfected the home’s master bathroom through the addition of a fully retractable 20-ton glass partition that disappears into the floor. Coupled with a disappearing skylight system, the shower is now a completely outdoor experience that is more true to the original intent for the space than 1950s-era technology allowed. Bestor’s hand also worked silently below the floors and within the walls of the house, where transformative HVAC, digital, lighting, and sound systems were added. In the master bedroom, an original moonroof above the bed has been redesigned to completely disappear. Fully concealed by dummy ceiling panels when closed, the opening is one of several precisely designed and exactly located operable windows around the house. The home’s kitchen received some of the most dramatic transformations of the project. Tucked into a low block between the entry and the space-age living room, the new kitchen is wrapped in vertical bands of thin cypress slats and is lit from above by square-shaped skylights. Glimmering stainless appliances designed by Ilan Dei Studio fill out the space, while overhead, restored and original pieces of cork ceiling intermingle and conceal technological equipment. The stealthy and informed approach, according to Bestor, allowed her team to “think aloud through forms and ideas” in a way that mirrored Lautner’s original work while still remaining respectful to those designs. Today, the home lives on as it was always meant to: completed, occupied, and at least for now, technologically up-to-date.
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In Memoriam

Lithuanian-born environmental artist and designer Aleksandra Kasuba passes
Aleksandra Kasuba, a Lithuanian-born environmental artist and designer responsible for numerous public art commissions in the 1970s and 1980s as well as pioneering environments made of tensile fabrics, died on March 5 in New Mexico. Kasuba originally intended to be an architect, but with the University of Kaunas closed by the occupying Nazi regime, she enrolled in art school until that too was shuttered. Fleeing with her art teacher and future husband, sculptor Vytautas Kašuba, she wound up in a Displaced Persons’ Camp in Germany until they were allowed to emigrate to the United States in 1947. Possessed with a restless curiosity, Kasuba sought out every opportunity to learn more about visual art, attending the famous Four O’clock Forums held by Louise Nevelson while developing a practice in mosaic and tile to supplement her husband’s income. At a show of hers in the Waddell Gallery in 1965, Edward Larrabee Barnes approached her and asked if she would work in brick. Seizing the opportunity, she deduced how to represent the invisible forces of structure in brick wall relief and launched a successful line of large-scale works, such as the wall at Barnes’s 1971 Dining Hall at Rochester Institute of Technology, a brick relief at 560 Lexington Avenue for the Eggers Group, and a wall at 7 World Trade Center which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. At the same time, Kasuba continued her experimentation with materials, shaping light and shadow with lucite for the seminal Experiments in Art and Technology exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1968 and the Art and Technology program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A breakthrough came when she found she could make tensile structures out of synthetic fabrics. Just as she sought to represent the structural forces in her brick walls, she made visible the forces flowing through the fabric. Among her noted achievements with fabric were her 1971 Live-In Environment, in which she erased any traces of 90-degree angles in a floor of her West 90th Street townhouse, creating a space for contemplation and creativity. In 1973, she was commissioned by the Carborundum Museum of Ceramics in Niagara Falls to build an environment for the display of ceramics. In 1975, she realized The Spectral Passage at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, composed of seven structures, relating form to color. Inspired by this show, she devised Spectrum, An Afterthought, which would be revisited at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius in 2014 (a retrospective of her will open there in 2020). Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Kasuba continued research with curvilinear walls, experimenting with how tensile membranes might be made rigid and self-supporting. After the death of her husband, she moved to New Mexico where she built a traditionally framed house in the desert together with two prototype shell structures. In these, she stretched wire between wooden frames as a base that she covered with building materials and aluminum surfacing. Kasuba was also a prolific author, producing a series of books on her life, utopian communities, and reflections on creativity. She is survived by her daughter, two grandsons, sixteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson. Her archive is at the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C.
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High Desert Test Sites

Another arts festival returns to the Southern California desert
It’s getting rather busy in California’s High Desert these days. With an ever-expanding set of art-related events, programs, and biennials taking place across the region, High Desert Test Sites (HDTS), a long-running artist showcase in the area, has announced its 2020 return. The event, titled HDTS2020 and conceived of as a “free-roving” art exposition, aims to revisit a 1972 slideshow lecture given by American land artist Robert Smithson titled Hotel Palenque via a series of new public artworks and events. The lecture, given by Smithson to his students at the University of Utah after a trip through Mexico in 1969, centers on an “eccentrically built hotel…simultaneously undergoing decay and renovation” that Smithson encountered while on his travels. Smithson considered the hotel a “de-architecturalized” space that existed both as a ruin and a site of reconstruction in keeping with the artist’s interests in fragmented landscapes and simultaneous states of being. The work, according to the Guggenheim website, was developed in tandem with a photographic series titled Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1–9) that Smithson created by photographing dispersed sites that had been augmented with the installation of 12-inch, square-shaped mirrors. For the 2020 run, HDTS has brought on guest curator Iwona Blazwick from the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The series will feature the work of eight artists, including Alice Channer, Gerald Clarke, Jr., Dineo Seshee Bopape, Erkan Özgen, Dana Sherwood, Paloma Varga Weisz, and Rachel Whiteread. Smithson will also be included in the showcase, which will focus on creating “a poetic narrative on the geometry of ruin, the entropic play of nature, and the ghosts of cultures both ancient and modern.” The artists are slated to create or place their works across the High Desert region, both in urbanized areas and within the desert landscapes. HDTS, a non-profit organization founded by artist Andrea Zittel, Los Angeles gallerist Shaun Caley Regen, and others in 2003, aims to “support immersive experiences and exchanges between artists, critical thinkers, and general audiences—challenging all to expand their definition of art to take on new areas of relevancy,” according to Zittel’s website. HDTS2020 will include a public discussion titled Desert as Situation on April 7 hosted by the Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM) and moderated by Brooke Hodge, director of architecture and design at PSAM. The exhibition series itself runs from April 18 through May 9, 2020.
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Sky-lightness

Griffin Enright Architects’ Birch Residence tracks the sun with a jagged skylight
While curmudgeonly critics lament the return of pomo styling in architecture schools, it can be easy to forget that in Los Angeles, few architectural modes ever go fully out of style. A case in point is the Birch Residence, designed by Griffin Enright Architects (GEA), which was not specifically conceived as a deconstructivist work, but bears the movement’s expansive and explosive feel. From the street, the home’s erupting components—smooth white stucco boxes, projecting and frameless windows, and a central light well—stand out amid the surrounding suburban tract houses. Though situated on a mostly flat site, the main level, containing entertainment-focused kitchen and living areas, is elevated several steps above grade due to an underground garage. As a result, the home spreads from setback to setback, allowing for inventive uses of the tight urban lot. The home’s boxy volumes push and pull against a jagged two-story skylight that runs through the center of the building and divides its constituent parts with glass, steel, and freeform refractive panels. The slinking, canted skylight is topped with an angular shade designed to track the sun from east to west on its daily journey. A clear glass bridge bisects the light well, providing access between the two bedroom wings on the second floor. Below, splayed living spaces and a sculptural stair further accentuate the light well’s vertical orientation. According to Margaret Griffin, principal at GEA, the skylight “brings a seasonal component to the house” while also creating a promontory from which to catch views of the nearby Hollywood sign. The skylight, a tour de force of structural engineering, construction detailing, and exacting handiwork, folds down over the back facade of the house, where a single sheet of canted glass meets a polished travertine floor that spills out onto a backyard patio and reflecting pool. “We try to bring particular innovations that transform the way people live,” said Griffin, explaining the dark-colored paneling that wraps the living room ceiling as well as the main kitchen areas. “We realized that a dark ceiling makes space feel bigger than it really is, so one plane is darker to give a greater depth of space as well as a more expansive feeling to the home.”