Search results for "berlin"
New map pays tribute to concrete and Brutalist buildings across New York City
In today’s gallery world, where stock exchange voracity appears interchangeable with art fair commodity peddling, the anti-commercial and introspective dialogues of the environmental movement during the late 1960s and 70s were like apostolic meditations by comparison. Even the merchandising excesses associated with Pop Art now seem like somber banking conventions, in contrast to the souk-like sales tactics of current international expos...to its historical credit, the Pop era contributed significantly to liberating the 1960s New York art scene from the fusty anti-figurative bias of third generation Abstract Expressionism. By contrast, current events like Miami Basel and the Armory Show appear dominated by hyperbolic celebrations of conceptual vacuity, a disproportionate enthusiasm for transitory talent and a steadfast avoidance of original aesthetic values. There is a ubiquitous re-packaging of influences from the past, defended with such vaguely apologetic labels as ‘Appropriation, Pseudorealism, Post-postmodernism, Metamodernism and Neomimimalism. Too much of the new work, endorsed as hot ticket progressivism is, in reality, a deferent version of ‘if-you-please’ avant-garde.4. "History" was stale and familiar, and largely irrelevant today In this Biennial, there were some interesting bits of lesser-known history and some amazing moments of drawing and architectural assemblage. But the curation was uneven, and swerved from heavy-handedness with no productive end to the usual suspects doing their usual things unrelated to the project at hand. In the "Vertical City" show, for example, the wall texts read like a presentation from a first-year design studio. Very little new information was introduced, and the show took a boring typology—the tall tower—and didn’t even update it. Instead, we got a very personalized response from each designer. There wasn’t much that was “new” or historical in this room. While the 2015 version of the Biennial was simply “all the cool stuff we could find,” it was indeed, cool stuff, at the edge of knowledge both within and outside of the discipline. Biennials don’t have to solve all the world’s problems or solve inequality, but they can at least relate to the outside world in a coherent way. In the end, disciplinary knowledge is at its best when it has productive friction with issues outside the profession. The historical canon is being questioned today more aggressively than ever. There is a real need to probe what kinds of histories we are telling and where. On one of the biggest platforms in the world like the CAB, it was unfortunate that this exhibition only reinforced a Western ideal of architectural history. Almost all of the “history” here was from the Western canon. Now would be the time to really upend some of the stale narratives that have dominated architectural history in the past. 5. Its relationship to art was all wrong The art references made in this Biennial are mostly from the 1960s, such as Ed Ruscha, from whom the title was borrowed, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Claus Oldenburg. While certainly interesting, these antiquated modern art references keep the exhibition from engaging with the contemporary, adding another layer of alienation. Contemporary art biennials have moved so far past these modern art references that it makes this Biennial look completely out of date. The Berlin Biennale 9 (BB9) in 2016, curated by the New York collective DIS, was full of ultra-contemporary works that addressed all kinds of issues today like cryptocurrency, surveillance, wellness, migration, emerging technologies, new social norms, and radical shifts in how we consume media, among a host of topics. It was criticized for not being overtly political enough, but it did access some of the pertinent ideas that are affecting how we live today. There is really no way to compare the sheer horror and excitement that came from BB9 to the dusty 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. So given these five issues, what do we take away from the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial? If this show is any indication, there is a real case to be made for abandoning the language of architectural history entirely and inventing something else. Some of the most interesting times for architecture occurred when we tried to move beyond something prior, or as Bertolt Brecht said, “Erase the traces!” If there is a role for architectural history outside of the academy, it is not obvious what that might be, based on what this show demonstrated. How history was deployed was problematic for the discipline, as it was too narrow in its purview, and made an exciting time in architecture (the re-orientation of the discipline in the age of digital space and ubiquitous digital production) into another worn-out historical trope.
Cities are complex systems. But they are incomplete systems. These features take on urbanized formats that vary enormously across time and place. In this mix of complexity and incompleteness lies the capacity of cities to outlive far more powerful but formal and closed systems: many a city has outlived governments, kings, the leading corporation of an epoch. Herein also lies the possibility of making—making the urban, the political, the civic, a history. Thus, much of today’s dense built-up terrain, such as a vast stretch of high-rise housing or of office buildings, is not a city; it is simply dense built-up terrain. On the other hand, a working slum can have many of the features of a city, and indeed, some slums are a type of city—poor, but deeply urban. It is also in this mix of incompleteness and complexity that the possibility exists for the powerless to hack power in the city, in a way that they could not in a plantation, for example, and to hack particular features of the city. They are thereby able to make a history, a politics, even if they do not get empowered. Thus, current conditions in global cities, especially, are creating not only new structurations of power but also operational and rhetorical openings for new types of actors and their projects. In these cities those without power can make themselves present: in the richest neighborhoods where they are the indispensable household support, in the corporate center where they are indispensable service workers, and so on. Thus powerlessness can become complex in the city. And this is, in itself, a transversal type of hacking. One way of conceiving of some of this is as instances of urban capabilities. In this essay I am particularly interested in two features of the city. One is that the global city is a strategic frontier zone that enables those who lack power, those who are disadvantaged, outsiders, and minorities who are discriminated against—even though it decimates the modest middle classes. The disadvantaged and excluded can gain presence in such cities in a way they cannot in neat, homogenous provincial cities. In the global city, they become present to power and to each other, which may include learning to negotiate their multiple differences. They can hack power and they can hack their differences of origin, religion, phenotype. The second feature is the strategic importance of the city today for shaping new orders—or, if you will, hacking old orders. As a complex space, the city can bring together multiple, very diverse struggles and engender a larger, more encompassing push for a new normative order. It enables people with different passions and obsessions to work together—more precisely, to hack power together. Global Cities Are Today’s Frontier Zones The large complex city, especially if it’s a global city, is a new frontier zone. In frontiers, actors from different worlds meet, but there are no clear rules of engagement. Whereas historically the frontier lay in the far stretches of colonial empires, today’s frontier zone is in our large, messy global cities. Cities are now the places where actors from different spheres have an encounter for which there are no established rules. The historic frontier lay at the creeping and expanding edges of empires; but those edges of empires no longer exist today. Today that space of encounter with differences lies deep inside our large, messy cities. Thus, these cities are strategic for both global corporate capital and the powerless. Much of the work of forcing deregulation, privatization, and new fiscal and monetary policies on governments actually took place in the corporate sector of global cities rather than in legislatures and parliaments. In this sense, then, the corporates hacked the city because that making of new instruments was a way of constructing the equivalent of the old military “fort” of the historic frontier: the corporate zone in our cities is a protected, de facto private space. And corporate actors have been doing this since the late 1980s in city after city worldwide to ensure they have a global operational space that suits their interests. The global city is then also a frontier zone because it is where strategic spaces of power can be hacked— though they rarely are, which has always surprised me. But global cities are also strategic places for those without power. They signal the possibility of a new type of politics, centered in new types of political actors. That is one instance of what I seek to capture with the concept of urban capabilities. It is not simply a matter of having or not having power. For the powerless, the city is a strategic space because the political goes well beyond routinized voting and having to accept corporate utility logics, or the dominance of narratives that strengthen powerful actors. Urban space in powerful cities provides new hybrid bases from which to act. One outcome we are seeing in city after city is the making of new kinds of informal politics. For instance, there is a kind of public-making work that can produce disruptive narratives, and make legible the local and the silenced. Political work gets done this way: it becomes the work of making a new kind of contestatory public that uses urban space as a medium, a tool to hack power, even if it does not bring power down. The Occupy movements that rose in countries in very different parts of the world were momentarily disruptive but educational in the long term. They rhetoricized inequality and provided a narrative to large sectors of the impoverished middle classes, usually a rather conservative and prudent sector. It has evolved as a politics that is making headway at the level of political speech and mobilization, but not necessarily system change: Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, the rise of a seventy-year-old long-term socialist in the United States as a presidential candidate appealing to all ages, but especially the young. Deeper have been the changes in Bolivia and Venezuela, encompassing a whole new vocabulary and governmental logic; less radical but still significant are Peru and Quito. All of these, across their differences, and with varying levels of intensity, share a partial or full repudiation of politics as usual. It also signals the possibility of making a new type of subject, one abundant in cities across time and place, but always somewhat rare: the urban subject that results from hacking ethnicity, religion, phenotype, inequality, physical disability. Old Baghdad and Jerusalem, industrializing Chicago and New York, early-twentieth-century Berlin and Buenos Aires were such cities. This is not to deny the specific histories and geographies that generated what I like to call the “urban subject.” The urban subject is at home with enormous differences of religion, ethnicity, etc. A city’s sociality can bring out and underline the urbanity of subject and setting, and dilute more essentialist markers. The need for new solidarities (for instance, when cities confront major challenges) is often what can bring about this shift. Urban space, especially a city’s center, can hack our essentialisms, as it forces us into joint responses, into crowded public transport, into highly mixed work situations, into public hospitals and universities, and so on. From there it can move us on to the appreciation of an urban subject, rather than more specific individual or group identities that might rule in a neighborhood. The big, messy, slightly anarchic city enables such shifts. The corporatized city or the office park does not. There is yet another type of hacking of long-time orders that is taking place today. It is the hacking of well-established larger units, notably nation-states, that are beginning to lose their grip on domains where they once had considerable control. This is an important even if partial and not always desirable change. In Territory, Authority, Rights, I identified a vast proliferation of such partial disassemblings and reassemblings that arise from the remix of bits of territory, authority, and rights, once all ensconced in national institutional frames. In Europe, these novel assemblages include those resulting from the formation and ongoing development of the European Union, but also those resulting in a variety of cross-city alliances around protecting the environment, fighting racism, and other important causes. These generate a European subject for whom protecting the local or global environment matters more than nationality. And they also result from subnational struggles and the desire to make new regulations for self-governance at the level of the neighborhood and the city. Against the background of a partial disassembling of empires and nation-states, the city emerges as a strategic site for making elements of new partial orders. Where in the past national law might have been the law, today subsidiarity and the new strategic role of cities make it possible for us to imagine a return to urban law. We see a resurgence of urban law-making, a subject I discuss in depth elsewhere (see Territory, Authority, Rights, chapters 2 and 6). For instance, in the United States, a growing number of cities have passed local laws (ordinances) that make themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants; other cities have passed environmental laws that only hold for those particular cities because they are far more radical than national law, or have developed currencies for local transactions that only function in those cities. These are among the features that make cities a space of great complexity and diversity. But today, cities confront major conflicts that can reduce that complexity to mere built-up terrain or a cement jungle. The urban way of confronting extreme racism, governmental wars on terror, and the future crises of climate change is to make these challenges occasions to further expand diverse urban capabilities and to expand the meaning of membership. Yet much national government policy and the “needs” of powerful corporate actors go against this mode. In the next section, I discuss a range of issues that illustrate how the powerless can hack power in the city.
This article originally appeared as Can Cities Help Us Hack Formal Power Systems? on urbanNext. 1- I develop this argument in “Does the City Have Speech?,” Public Culture 25(2) (April 2013): 209–21; see also Expulsions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014; Dutch translation forthcoming with ACCO). 2- This is the process I describe at great length in The Global City, 2nd updated ed. (1991; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), and in Cities in a World Economy, 4th ed. (CITY: Sage, 2012). 3- The emergent landscape I am describing promotes a multiplication of diverse spatiotemporal framings and diverse normative mini-orders, where once the dominant logic was toward producing grand unitary national spatial, temporal, and normative framings. See Saskia Sassen, Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), chaps. 8 and 9. 4- One synthesizing image we might use to capture these dynamics is the movement from centripetal nation-state articulation to a centrifugal multiplication of specialized assemblages, where one of many examples might be the transborder networks of specific types of struggles, enactments, art, and so on.
From Bjarke in Edinburgh to Adjaye in Mogadishu: Where top architects were this week
David Adjaye was in Mogadishu, Somalia, and snapping pics, including this one titled "the aesthetics of barricading."
Both Bjarke Ingels and Sou Fujimoto were in Edinburgh, Scotland—perhaps because they're competing to design the Ross Pavilion, located the foot of the city's iconic castle?
Norman Foster documented his trip into Cupertino, California, where he was visiting his firm's design for the new Apple headquarters (dubbed Apple Park).
Meanwhile, Alexander Gorlin posted this picture of the Oscar-Niemeyer-Haus in Berlin.
Last but not least, Deborah Berke Partners gave a sneak peek of one its projects going up in Long Island, New York.
Architect and Educator
Architect Peter Pran passes away
Costumes, capitalism, and poetry: new exhibit re-examines Walter Benjamin’s “Arcades Project”
For one delirious week, visitors to the Jewish Museum in New York could view the exhibit Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design downstairs, and go upstairs to see the exhibition The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin. Chareau—the architect of the famous Parisian Maison de Verre—escaped successfully from Nazi Paris to New York, while Benjamin did not. In all probability, Benjamin never visited Chareau’s super-deluxe, bourgeois home-office of Dr. Jean Dalsace (built 1928–32), despite Benjamin’s admiration for metal-and-glass building fabrication as a symbol of modern life—following the modernist architectural historian Siegfried Gideon.
Benjamin, like the Surrealist poet Louis Aragon, author of Paris Peasant (1927), preferred to enjoy the ruins of bourgeois life: the decaying 19th-century glass-covered Parisian shopping arcades. There, the Surrealists met in their favorite cafe and imagined assignations with prostitutes, posing as tailors, service personnel, photographers, card engravers, or launderers in the small shops of the arcade. Before his suicide at the Spanish border fleeing the Nazis in 1940, Benjamin wrote the short essay “Paris: Capital of the 19th Century” (1935). This outlined his intention, beginning with the arcades, to describe the history of Paris as a modern city through its detritus—its fragmentary waste and destruction. It was a part of his larger project for a negative history of the bourgeoisie.
In contrast to the clarity and precision of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed Chareau exhibition downstairs, with its historical documentation, imaginative recreations, virtual reality, and moving sectional projections, the Benjamin Arcades exhibition is perhaps appropriately a jumble of fragments. This impression seems strange at first, as Benjamin’s most famous essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), was a model of clarity, founding the discipline of modern media studies in mass societies. Here, Benjamin identified the handcraft aura of true artistic production as a still-humanist value in a modern, Marxist universe. Chareau’s handcrafted machine design downstairs might seem to successfully exemplify this desire for authenticity, yet nothing of this exemplary quality appears upstairs.
Benjamin’s unfinished Arcades Project consisted of 26 alphabetically ordered folders in capital letters—ten in lower case—with seemingly random titles containing photographs, research material, press cuttings, and pieces of his text that might be useful for the project. These are like word clouds surrounding a confusing and complex hidden virtual object of intellectual inquiry that would emerge in writing. Many scholars have investigated, prodded, and projected their thoughts into these word clouds, searching their meaning for several generations. The catalogue contains two worthy essays further contributing to this enormous scholarship, one explicitly exploring Benjamin’s idea of an urban, collective “optical unconscious.” Each exhibition piece is itself accompanied by a word cloud created by the contemporary American poet Kenneth Goldsmith. (There are also conventional wall texts.)
The idea of linking each of Benjamin’s alphabetical Parisian folders to a contemporary art piece drove the selection of the exhibition, which is entered through a ghostly and deliberately weak re-creation of a scaled-down Parisian arcade. Cindy Sherman, disguised as “a collector” in a huge framed photograph, confronts this tight entry in by far the most powerful correlation in the show. Sherman’s art of disguising her personal identity in other people’s apparatuses, clothes, styling, and cosmetics, ties directly to Benjamin’s reading of the modern city.
This selection highlights masks, alienation, and the “sandwich-board men” of Benjamin’s youth who carried advertisements on their fronts and backs on the Berlin sidewalks, hiding their humanity, like the Surrealists’ vision of the prostitutes marketing their beauty and bodies as products in the arcades. Other choices like an early Andy Warhol movie (in the “Boredom” folder!) echo this weakly. Still other choices, like Chris Burden’s miniature Tower of London Bridge model from a child’s construction kit, mock Benjamin’s enthusiastic predilection for the Positivist triumphs of bourgeois civil engineering (following Gideon), such as giant iron bridges and the Eiffel Tower.
The problem of the exhibition arises from the supposition that it is possible now to make a correct correlation back to Benjamin’s fragmentary notes that carries any real meaning. We live in a very different age of digital, not mechanical, reproduction. It is an age in which Sherman represents the new normal of what Benjamin would have called, following Marx, commodity fetishes and distractive phantasmagoria. As an architect and urbanist, I found Lee Friedlander’s 2011 photographs of New York shop windows reflecting the street, buildings, and sidewalks, and showing the clothing mannequins, to be the most evocative of Benjamin’s much-cited flâneur (whose leisurely gaze captured the working life of the city and its denizens). My other favorite item was only in the catalogue, a Benjamin’s Dream comic book (2016) by Vito Manola Roma. Here all of Benjamin’s fears and insecurities about capitalist monsters, women and sex, the city and infinite mazes, alienation and authenticity come alive in an evocative, furious, sometimes violent literary and visual fantasy world.
Benjamin’s unfinished project and fragmentary notes do remind us of just how fragile bourgeois life, freedoms, and culture are in times of economic distress and political extremism. Benjamin was a complicated character: a Marxist who resisted Communism having visited Moscow, a high bourgeois who sought social justice and a decent life for the majority following Bertolt Brecht, a secular, rational modernist who thought there were limits to our knowledge and believed in ancient myths, like the Jewish Kabbalah.
Leaving the aesthetics of the Arcades exhibition aside and its distractive phantasmagoria behind, and returning to the world outside, we enter the universe that drove him to suicide. The curators of this exhibition could not have foreseen this contemporary turn of American politics. So sadly, this exhibition reminds us powerfully of our own fragile situation and Benjamin’s horrible, confused, depressed, and weakened condition at the Spanish frontier in 1940. His companions crossed the frontier the next day; let us hope we will be so lucky.
The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin The Jewish Museum Through August 6