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Gimme Shelter

The MoMA delves into designing for refugees but falls short on substance

Modernism’s alienating functionalism seems not so subtly hidden in the perfect grids and modular shelters of refugee camps. The urgency of survival turns shelter into a problem to be solved while ignoring the complexities of refugees’ situations. For example, the 2007 edition of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Handbook for Emergencies presupposes that refugee camp shelters can be organized around nuclear family units (hardly a universal cultural constant). MoMA associate curator Sean Anderson cited a similar example of poor shelter design as the impetus for his exhibition Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter. In Jordan, where Anderson spent extensive time visiting camps, refugees were given metal shelters—a disastrous choice in the punishing desert heat. To counter the seductive notion that “architecture is the solution to assist, aid, represent and help these populations,” as Anderson said, the exhibit presents a range of drawings, photography, artworks, and objects to question whether there is a simple “solution” at all. While Insecurities laudably forefronts this perennial issue (there are some 60 million refugees worldwide) and highlights what makes it challenging (a complex fusion of geography, violence, international politics, and architecture), it also seems like a missed opportunity to take a long, hard look at specific instances where designers failed refugees.

I say a long, hard look because—as Anderson himself said in an interview—refugees often find themselves trapped in camps for years, decades, sometimes in seeming perpetuity. One of the exhibition’s most poignant works is a large wool tapestry designed by Sahrawi refugees in the Western Sahara. The Sahrawis were forced from Morocco some forty years ago and have subsequently remained in a remote region of neighboring Algeria ever since. The National Union of Sahrawi Women, in collaboration with Switzerland and Germany-based architect Manuel Herz, created this map of Rabouni (the camp-turned-capital of the Sahrawi government-in-exile). The camp bears the hallmarks of a proper capital, with ministries of defense, the interior, and education, though with a key difference: The UN’s World Food Program is at the heart of Rabouni.

Much like the Rabouni tapestry, Refugee Republic testifies to how camps evolve. This immersive audiovisual installation mapped the sounds and layout of Camp Domiz, a collection of some 58,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq. On a visceral level, it places you in the camp: Users hear the sounds of a small city while they take an illustrated walking tour of its shops, bus stops, community spaces, restaurants, hairdressers, and more. While permanency and the camp-cities are critical dimensions to the global refugee crises, the exhibition also rightly highlights the extreme and immediate vulnerability of refugees: Liquid Traces: The Left-to-Die Boat is a video, assembled by a team of researchers and designers, that tracks how a boat of migrants was left to drift on the Mediterranean Sea within a NATO surveillance area, leaving 9 survivors out of 72.

Yet, for all the urgency and nuance that some works in Insecurities bring, others fall short. One wall features a grid of photographs depicting different emergency shelters made from plastic, metal, sandbags, etc. It seems dangerous to present these shelters—as well as large photographs of camps from around the world—without context. Tasked with helping respond to a refugee crises, any architect or organizer would immediately face tremendous dilemmas: By preparing a community for the long haul (building permanent homes, economic infrastructure, local government) refugees may fear that tacitly admitting that a return to their homeland would be impossible and, consequently, that they must settle for whatever fate their host country provides.Government-provided shelters and protective fences may later seem like prison cells and walls. Where’s the line between providing shelter and containment? How does architecture—supposedly solid and sturdy—respond to communities in limbo?

This is a paradox the exhibition makes clear and it’s a question that architects must consider if they’re to be part of a response to refugee crises. But when the exhibition displays photographs of countless camps—Nizip II (a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey), Mugombwa in Rwanda, Dadaab in Kenya, Dheisheh in the West Bank, and shelters in Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport—it makes one wonder: What worked? What failed? How can architects respond? Perhaps a tall order, but the exhibition could have investigated further to offer at least bread crumbs toward a new, comprehensive architectural response.

Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter highlights how refugees are caught between invisible borders, relocated to the periphery, and controlled by governments under the guise of protection or security. Those are the symptoms of a deeper reality: Refugees are, by definition, individuals and communities without the protection of architecture or government. The fact that refugees are without the advocacy of their national government (assuming it exists somewhere) makes the role of the designer even more fraught (not to mention the potential shades of colonialism, something the exhibition doesn’t address). The UN can provide instructions to help leaders manage a crisis, but we would hardly expect a single, universal manual for any field of design or planning. If architects are to step up, there must be a deep and broad institutional awareness of past failures and successes to chart a path forward.

Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter Museum of Modern Art, New York, through January 22

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From Reich to Knoll to Perriand

MoMA recreates a dozen interiors for “How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior”

How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior will recreate a dozen full-scale interior spaces dating from the 1920s to the 1950s and feature over 200 objects. Each interior will focus on the design elements within its specific setting, as well as its connection to external factors and attitudes—aesthetic, social, technological, and political.

Divided into three chronological groupings—the late 1920s to the early 1930s, the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, and the late 1940s into the 1950s—the scenes will also explore several designers’ own living spaces, and frequently overlooked areas in the field of design, such as textile furnishings, wallpapers, kitchens, temporary exhibitions, and promotional displays. Works by major women architect-designers, many created in partnerships, also will be highlighted. Featured collaborators include Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe; Florence Knoll and Herbert Matter; and Charlotte Perriand and Le Corbusier. Among the interiors on display will be the 1927 Velvet-Silk Café, designed by Reich for a women’s fashion exhibition in Berlin, with tubular steel furniture by Van der Rohe; 1929 furniture and exhibition designs by Perriand, Le Corbusier, and Pierre Jeanneret; the 1948 Knoll furniture showroom in Manhattan, designed by Knoll and Matter; and a 1959 study bedroom for the Maison du Brésil at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris by Perriand, Le Corbusier, and Lúcio Costa.

How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York Through April 23

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Berlin Win

Herzog & de Meuron win commission to design Berlin’s Museum of the 20th Century
Swiss firm Herzog and de Meuron, working with German landscape architects Vogt, has seen off competition from 41 other practices to design the Museum of the 20th Century in Berlin. New York studios SO-IL, Snøhetta, and REX were in the running for the $218.8 million project, along with British firms Zaha Hadid Architects and David Chipperfield Architects. Danish firm Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter was announced as runner-up, while German practice Bruno Fioretti Marquez Architekten was awarded third prize. Back in November 2014, Germany’s parliament put aside 200 million euros for the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and a new, much-needed building to show 20th-century art at the Cultural Forum (a collection of cultural institutions located at the edge of West Berlin). In September 2015, a competition was launched for a design strategy that would include the site layout, architecture, and landscaping of the museum. The Swiss firm's winning proposal depicts the museum extensively clad in brick, with a pitched roof spanning its entire length. Inside, the space will be divided into four parts with a sycamore tree being placed in the northeast quarter amid a restaurant area. With this space set among the galleries and art storage, the museum will become a place for art, meeting, and archival storage. Circulatory devices inside aim for crossovers between groups of visitors that wouldn't usually meet. Herzog and de Meuron explained: "The museum is the place where different paths cross, where different mentalities and worlds allow an encounter. It has several entrances, as it is oriented in all directions. It draws attention to the local collection of art." “Internationally significant art collections” will be on display, including the National Gallery’s Marx and Pietzsch collections, parts of the Marzona collection, and works from the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings). The museum will also connect to the Mies van der Rohe-designed Neue Nationalgalerie through an underground tunnel. Speaking in a press release, Culture Minister Monika Grütters spoke of the jury process: “The great interest [in] the project shows that it is an attractive challenge for any renowned agency to build in this neighborhood."
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Straight-Up

Utopia to just-in-time production: a new book on the history of urban factories

This compendious, extensively illustrated slab of a book tackles, among other things, the development of the factory system, working conditions and working class resistance, utopian planning and modernist architectural design, the effects of suburbanization of industry, just-in-time production and containerization, fashion, urbanism, gentrification, and craft through such an onrush of dense information that it is often hard to ascertain exactly what the book is about. The nearest thing to a common thread—other than chronology—is an exploration of the factory in the city. That is, the role of industry in urbanism, what it means for a city to be a place of material production, how that production is housed and how its workers live and work, and, crucially, whether or not there is a future for urban manufacturing after 70 years of decentralization and inner-urban de-industrialization in Europe and the United States.

This central thread is so interesting that much of the rest of the book—basically a history of design and factories, familiar from the likes of Gillian Darley’s Factory—could have been cut away to make the book more lean. The eclecticism of the source material could do with major pruning, and the editing is often careless: Robert Owen’s Clydeside Utopia was New Lanark, not New Harmony, the account of Chicago slaughterhouses in The Jungle was written by Upton Sinclair, not Sinclair Lewis, to name two of several slips. Nonetheless, this excess might be the point—an appropriately daunting mesh of interlinked processes and stories. The question of why the factory left the city is put down to wartime paranoia and social planning; Rappaport takes the Jane Jacobs line that zoning industry out of inner cities was unnecessary and damaging to urban economies, which may have been true, but as recent histories like John Grindrod’s Concretopia might remind us, urban industry in dense 19th century cities like Glasgow was often extremely toxic and unsafe to the working class communities who had to live next door to it. However, her case here draws also on more radical sources, such as French Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s assertion of the “right to the city,” and especially the inner city, being cleared of undesirables in Lefebvre’s 1960s Paris. The end result of “the removal of industries  away from public view” was also the removal of certain groups of people. As counter-examples, she traces a history of integrated factory settlements, like Berlin’s modernist Siemensstadt, to suggest that there were other possible approaches than zoning and suburbanization.

Beginning with the wartime U.S.—with its vast, single-story complexes like Willow Run—and continuing even through socially experimental factories like Volvo’s more democratic, collaborative factory at Kalmar, the factory left the city and settled into sprawling, off-motorway sites, expansive of land and elusive of view. Perhaps the most exciting parts of the book are Rappaport’s studies of some “vertical urban factories,” as opposed to the flat, hidden, exurban factories where most things get made—in the west, at any rate. These go from 1820s Manchester, where, in Schinkel’s words, “the life of the city runs along the massive houses of the cotton mills, to Manhattan’s astonishing, multifunctional Starrett-Lehigh Building, where a train could enter the building from West 27th Street and proceed to the elevators located in the central core, load or unload onto trucks and the exit onto 28th Street,” and to more recent examples like Zaha Hadid’s BMW Leipzig, where workers walk past the souvenir shop on their way to work. These genuinely do feel like a better way of designing production into cities than placing “pancakes” on the edge of motorways—a means of planning that makes production and distribution networks (and their workers) visible, and by implication, changeable.

However, many cities outside of the U.S. and Europe really are made up of vertical urban factories even today—Shenzhen and Dhaka being a particular case in point. The 400,000-strong Foxconn factory, integrated with eight-to-a-room dormitories is one she describes at length, while the multi-story textile factories of Dhaka are sketched out more lightly, though the fact that the worst industrial accident in decades, at Rana Plaza, took place in a vertical urban factory would seem to temper its validity as a means to create fairer cities. Although Rappaport never loses sight of the consequences of design and industrial processes on actual workers’working conditions, the emphasis falls too much on best practices. These include the new vertical urban factories that exist in the west—craft beer breweries in Canada, bike factories in Detroit, American Apparel in the U.S.—which use a seductive combination of adaptive re-use, renewed craft traditions, and inner city sites, which somewhat masksthe fact that they’re just as much part of the process of inner-city gentrification as Willow Run was part of post-war suburbanization. None of them can even begin to offer the quantity of jobs once offered to the cities they stand in that the motor industry or textile industry once did; she points here to a gap between celebrated middle class “makers” and invisible proletarian“‘workers.” The last quarter of the book features many examples of beautifully designed, sustainable, semi-automated actories integrated into the city; but whether these could ever have the role in most people’s lives that the factory once did is a very different matter.

Vertical Urban Factory Nina Rappaport, Actar Publishing, $64.95

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“House for everyone”

World Architecture Festival program announced! Arena Berlin, 16-18 November 2016
The World Architecture Festival brings together over 2,500 of the world’s leading architects and presents live 411 shortlisted projects by newly discovered architects alongside some of the most respected names in architecture. This year’s theme of WAF is “House for everyone.” This is prompted by a variety of influences, not least the situation of displaced communities, like war refugees and refugees from natural and man-made disasters. There's a growing understanding of how demographics and global urbanization are forcing changes in the way we think about “housing”. Wolf Prix will discuss “What’s changed? How we live now and how we will live tomorrow?” How population movements, demographic shifts and lifestyle trends have informed how we live collectively and as individuals. How this has impacted on the function, design and servicing of dwellings today and how these factors will affect the housing, and life, of tomorrow. View our interactive day by day guide: https://www.worldarchitecturefestival.com/resources/waf-2016-day-day-guide Limited tickets are available now: www.worldarchitecturefestival.com
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Winging It

A new book explores the formative ideas that shaped major American art museums

Kathleen Curran uses the erudite German term Kulturgeschichte for the kind of art museum display known more commonly as composite or contextual installation. Her research has unearthed the minutiae of U.S. museum history, adding to the extensive, existing publications about its European precedents.

The author starts with the well-known roots of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (called the South Kensington Museum when it moved to its first permanent building in 1857) in industry and the mechanical arts. Installation of the collections was based on materials and technique, and Curran fails to tell the reader that the change to a cultural, rather than a craft, display began to take place in the mid-1930s. 

In contrast with the V&A, museums in Munich, Berlin, and Zurich had adopted chronological arrangements of objects in period settings—also favored by directors and board members in the United States. Likewise, the Americans looked to national museums like the Musée de Cluny in Paris. Their interest in emphasizing the era of each gallery was guided by the Cluny’s unusual chronological arrangements, exhibits of sculpture and architectural elements in the period style of the rooms where they were exhibited, and illumination that heightened the historical emphasis.

Considering that early museum installations were not photographed, the author has done a good job in supplementing existing black and white illustrations with plans of the buildings under discussion. Within the text, figure numbers printed in red are helpful.

Upon its completion in 1902, the Boston Museum of Fine Art took the lead in what Curran describes as setting “the standards for the first great era of public art museum construction in the U.S.” Among other fine points, it is fascinating to learn that in contrast to the whirlwind visits of comparable trips undertaken by search committees today, the museum’s president, building committee chairman, and the architects they had chosen (Sturgis Wheelwright) spent three months in Europe, visiting every major museum and gallery there. Their investigation decided the group on the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt (Alfred Messel, 1906), a Kulturgeschichte museum, as a model.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City followed suit. In describing its beginnings, Curran brings to light the outstanding men responsible for it. Wilhelm R. Valentiner, a young and talented Dutch Rembrandt scholar almost single-handedly created the Met’s new decorative arts department, where he began to work in 1907 at the request of John Pierpont Morgan. Valentiner, was in turn influenced by the formidable Wilhelm von Bode, director of the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum in Berlin, whom he assisted for two years. Then and now—after a sensitive renovation completed in 2006—the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum is a touchstone of high-quality composite arrangements of decorative arts, painting, and predominantly, sculpture.

When it opened in 1910, the Met’s Wing of Decorative Arts designed by McKim, Mead and White was the first part of the museum building planned with direct reference to the objects it would contain. Based on the open court plan of the Musée des Art Decoratifs in Paris, the New York museum followed the ideals of Kulturgeschichte that were expressed throughout the Boston MFA.

Morgan’s relationship with Francis Goodwin (president of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, 1890–1919), another luminary in this constellation of brilliant museum enthusiasts, produced strong architectural similarities between the two buildings. I, for one, had never noticed that the Morgan Hall in Hartford (by Benjamin Wistar Morris) is almost an exact replica, although slightly smaller, of the Met’s Decorative Art Wing. 

A chapter devoted to midwestern art museums also contains riveting nuggets of information. One, for example, explains the origin of “period rooms” in Minneapolis (inaugurated in 1915), where Valentiner’s associate curator, Joseph Breck, was the first director. Breck was able to include paintings in his composite displays, something Valentiner had not been allowed to do at the Met. For the Minneapolis director “period rooms” contained objects selected to represent a specific period of art; they were not rooms transferred intact from historical houses.

According to Curran, Cleveland’s museum (1916), which turned out to be a condensed version of the Boston MFA, set the standard for a series of midwestern museums. The garden court in Cleveland, with walls designed to reflect the artistic periods of adjoining galleries, was particularly influential. An interesting issue raised in this chapter is the contentious relationship that developed at times between the museum architect and its staff, with critics divided as to which should take the lead.

Curran considers the galleries devoted to American art the greatest evidence of Kulturgeschichte’s impact. Beginning with the display of this country’s art at the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in 1909, she describes how Kulturgeschichte installations combined with elements of European national museums influenced the American Wing. Opened in 1924, the Met wing was among many near contemporary ones that “embraced historical rooms and composite displays as the preferred method for presenting life and art in colonial America.”

Fiske Kimball, the prodigious scholar of American history, enters the narrative here in his seminal role in the creation of the Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing. He exerted an equally decisive influence on the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he became director in 1925, and mapped out an alternation of period rooms and composite display galleries in a triumph of Kulturgeschichte.

Curran’s work on the invention of the American art museum calls to mind Mary Anne Staniszewski’s illuminating history of installations at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. Curran’s concern is historical fine and decorative art; Staniszewki’s is modern art. For all those interested in museums and their origins, these behind-the-scenes accounts are deeply engaging, not least in their revelation of how what goes around, eventually comes around.

The Invention of the American Art Museum From Craft to Kulturgeschichte, 1870–1930 Kathleen Curran, Getty Trust Research Institute, $49.95

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A World of Fragile Parts

The Victoria & Albert Museum grapples with art, architecture, and authenticity at the Venice Biennale

As the Palmyra arch—destroyed by ISIS and recreated by archeologists and scientists—tours the world, preservation has been a hot topic this year. Building on this fervent global discussion, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) from London exhibited A World of Fragile Parts at this year’s Biennale in Venice.

Located in the Arsenale, the exhibition was designed by London architecture studio Ordinary Architecture and curated by Brendan Cormier. This was also the first time the V&A and La Biennale di Venezia had worked together. A World of Fragile Parts focuses on the phenomena of copies and raises questions about authenticity and the act of emulating artifacts. Does copying result in fakes? Rip-offs? Or acts of cultural preservation?

The exhibition illustrates how museums have long been displaying duplicates. The V&A itself did so from the 1800s onwards by creating plaster casts of art and sculpture work. In 1867, “The Convention for Promoting Universally Reproductions of Works of Art” was set up by the V&A to aid the exchange of such copies (a reproduction of which is on show). "The [V&A] founding director, Henry Cole, had a mandate to bring examples of great art and architecture to a British public," Cormier told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) over email. "Since certain pieces were unmovable, especially architectural details from churches across Europe, he instead decided to commission plaster cast copies of those details and bring them to London." The practice allowed locals to view artwork from across the globe, however, it eventually fell out of favor in the 20th century, with public opinion swaying to view such copies as unauthentic.

On display in the exhibition is the head of the former Egyptian queen, Nefertiti. Originally discovered in 1912, the bust has been on display in the Neues Museum in Berlin since 1924. Despite many calls from Egypt to return it, the German museum has refused and has blocked access to the artifact. That didn’t stop artists Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, though. Without the permission of the museum, Al-Badri and Nelles scanned the head of Nefertiti using an Xbox Kinect controller and made a 3D print.

The artists' 3D-print—exhibited in Cairo but also publicly available under a Creative Commons License—is the most precise scan ever made public of the original artifact. “With the data leak as a part of this counter-narrative we want to activate the artifact, to inspire a critical re-assessment of today’s conditions and to overcome the colonial notion of possession in Germany,” the two artists said on their website.

A World of Fragile Parts doesn’t just cover this passage of history: Cormier has sampled modern reproductions too. Part of the remade Palmyra arch can be found in the exhibition. The arch was fabricated with precise stone-cutting tools and information from a 3D model built using photographs of the original. In this example, and indeed many others, a sense of urgency is installed throughout the exhibition. "Despite best efforts to preserve originals, there will always be a level of uncertainty—the potential damage of violent attacks, environmental disasters, and accidents—that put our material culture at risk," said Cormier. "Compiling a vast database of digital backups, which then can be reconstituted physically, offers an immense opportunity."

Working with Cormier, architect Sam Jacob created a full-size mock-up of a refugee camp from Calais, northern France. Using, wood, plastic, and CNC milled synthetic stone, the installation referenced the camp which has become a talking point between France and the U.K. as refugees camp on the border between the two countries.

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Brutalist D.C. Next

Find the best of Moscow’s constructivist architecture with this new map
The motherland of constructivist architecture, Moscow is home to many of the world's best examples of the former hallmark Soviet style. However, many constructivist buildings such as the Narkomfin and Shukhov Tower are now at risk of demolition. This map of Moscow detailing the whereabouts of the city's constructivist icons, which was released this month, makes viewing them (while they're still here) all the easier. "For us, the highlight, more than any individual building or architect, was walking for days across Moscow to find and explore these buildings," said Derek Lamberton, founder of Blue Crow Media, the company who published the map. "It was as good a way to see the city that I've experienced." Lamberton, in fact, focused his Master's dissertation at the University College London on the Russian avant-garde. The map's designer Jaakko Tuomivaara also did the same while at the Royal Academy of Art. Together, the pair travelled to Moscow, sampling the city's constructivist offerings to help them create and aesthetic for the map. The resultant map showcases 50 buildings. Working with preservation campaigner and photographer Natalia Melikova and Nikolai Vassiliev of DOCOMOMO Russia, Lamberton was able to identify the most critical and influential examples of constructivist architecture in the city. Many of these come from the prolific constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov. "The highlights, stylistically, are certainly Melnikov's buildings, but historically Ginzburg's Narkomfin with its early attempt to manifest the experiment of communal living is essential," Lamberton said. Poignantly, the Narkomfin's tenuous existence was recently in the news when it was announced that it's owners plan to transform it into “business class accommodation.” Lamberton added: "Constructivism is remarkable stylistically and as a representation of such an intensely rich historical moment. It embodies the spirit of the complicated and exciting post-revolution era in a dynamic manner that is easily comprehensible to an onlooker today. The highlights, stylistically, are certainly Melnikov's buildings, but historically Ginzburg's Narkomfin with its early attempt to manifest the experiment of communal living is essential." Up next is the "Brutalist Washington, DC Map," due out in October. The maps keep coming after that too. "In November we will release a 20th-century overview of Berlin," Lamberton said. "For Spring 2017 we have the following: Brutalist Sydney Map, Modernist Belgrade Map, Brutalist Paris Map." Those interested can find their maps here.
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Tag Team

Chicago Architecture Biennial announces 2017 artistic directors
Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of the Los Angeles–based firm JohnstonMarklee have been announced as the artistic directors of the second Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB). Along with this new leadership, announcements were made about a theme, returning sponsors SC Johnson and BP, as well as dates and location for the event. The second iteration of the first and largest architectural biennial in North America will be entitled Make New History. The biennial will focus on two central themes, “The axis between history and modernity and the axis between architecture and art.” The themes look to discuss the role that history has to play in the making of contemporary architecture, as well as the relationship of architecture to art. Chicago itself will act as a lens through which to raise and debate these issues. The new artistic directors, Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, are founding partners of JohnstonMarklee. They have taught at universities including Princeton University, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the University of California, Los Angeles, the Technical University of Berlin, and ETH Zurich. They have also held the Cullinan Chair at Rice University and the Frank Gehry Chair at the University of Toronto. Their firm has been awarded over 300 major awards and has recently authored a book, entitled House Is a House Is a House Is a House Is a House, that was published by Birkhauser in 2016. JohnstonMarklee’s work has also been published and exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Menil Collection, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Architecture Museum of TU Munich. The 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial will be held at the historic Chicago Cultural Center from September 16th through December 31st, 2017. These dates align the opening of CAB with the sixth annual EXPO Chicago, the international Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, which will run from September 13th through September 17th, 2017. “The Chicago Architecture Biennial’s return in 2017 confirms Chicago as an architectural hub,” remarked Mayor Emanuel in a press release. “Last year’s edition was a resounding success, and I’m pleased to see the great planning and support for the second Biennial, which will be even better. Not only is the Biennial’s return a testament to our city’s architectural significance, but it speaks to Chicago’s place as one of the world’s cultural destinations and our place in the world of architecture and design.”
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Core Strength

Stacking boxes in downtown Toronto
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  Sharing a downtown Toronto city block with the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario College of Art and Design, 12 Degrees is a mid-rise urban infill project that employs a plan rotation strategy to produce a “stacked box” massing effect. The 90-unit, 11-story condo building fits tightly into a compact urban infill lot that measures just over 100 by 100 feet. The tower’s base interfaces with the nearby Victorian homes characteristic of historic Grange Park—a residential neighborhood consisting of housing stock ranging from semi-detached townhouses to mansions constructed in the 1800s. Set at three stories tall to match neighboring historic masonry homes, the ledgerock-clad base of the tower features a repetitive set of two-story tall projecting bays clad in black zinc. Beyond the base of the tower, the upper stories are composed of three sets of offset plans, including a rotated glass-clad mid-section. All of the upper floors are clad in a unitized dark gray aluminum window wall system with prefinished aluminum soffit panels. One of the benefits of the system, which can be installed in buildings up to 50 stories high, is that the glass panels can be installed from the interior. Outdoor terraces are located opportunistically in areas where a plan has shifted or rotated. These exterior spaces are contained by glass guardrails with a panelization that—from below—is camouflaged into the composition of the elevation.
  • Facade Manufacturer Primeline Windows and Doors
  • Architects CORE Architects
  • Facade Installer Primeline Windows and Doors
  • Facade Consultants SPL Consultants Limited
  • Location Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System reinforced concrete
  • Products Unitized dark grey aluminum window wall prefinished aluminum soffit panels.  ‘Manganese Ironspot’ Brick w/ black precast coping.  ‘Wiarton Black’ Limestone, ‘Anthrazic’ zinc panels.  ‘Ipe’ wood canopy, entry/TH doors, pool deck and trellis
Charles Gane, principal at CORE Architects, said the massing strategy of the building was picked up early on by LA Ads, a Toronto-based marketing and communications firm. “The marketing team came up with a whole series of things—stacks of objects with one item rotated. This became a constant theme throughout the project." Gane said the wood-clad main entrance to the building was particularly successful: "The rotation suggests the building opens up at the corner.” The desire to minimize the impact of the facade through careful compositional games and material selections is due in large part to the building's location within a largely residential neighborhood that continues to attempt a balance between a park-like setting of historic homes and larger civic-scaled institutions. Despite a daylight-absorbing matte-black zinc-clad facade finish and multiple facade setbacks, regulatory agencies shaved four stories off the overall building height prior to construction. A reinforced concrete slab system accommodates column offsets with thickened slabs in selective areas. The construction system allows for floor plates that average 10 units per floor and a penthouse level that cantilevers over lower level floors. Every floor that changes has to accommodate a one-foot offset for building systems that must shift and reroute to adjust to the skewed plan layout, which remained orthogonal to the facade. 12 Degrees has been shortlisted in the “housing” category for the World Architecture Festival Awards, which will be helpful in Berlin this upcoming November. This is the second time in the past three years that CORE has produced a shortlisted entry (Six50 King in 2014 being the other project). 12 Degrees is up against BIG, Zaha Hadid Architects, and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, among others.
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Building for Community

Francis Kéré’s diverse work featured at Philadelphia Museum of Art

Berlin-based, Burkina Faso–born Diebedo Francis Kéré is far from a typical architect, and his current one-man exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on display through September 25, is also far from typical.

Kéré, 51, was born in Gando, an agricultural village in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, which has one of the world’s poorest and least educated populations. The first son of the tribal head of Gando, he was the only child in his village permitted to attend school, which he did in Burkina Faso’s second largest city, not far from Gando. He apprenticed to a carpenter there and in 1985 received a scholarship for a training program in Germany. After taking night classes in Berlin to earn his high school diploma, he studied architecture at the Technische Universitate and established his architecture practice there in 2005.

One of his earliest projects—which won him the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004 and a prominent role in MoMA’s 2010 exhibition, Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement—is the 1999–2001 primary school he designed for Gando, which illustrates the cover of MoMA’s exhibition catalogue. It consists of three detached, rectangular classrooms, constructed of adobe and cement bricks, hand-made by locals; the school is covered with a corrugated metal roof and a dry-stacked ceiling of clay bricks that lets hot air escape from the classroom interiors.

According to the MoMA catalogue—which describes the construction of the school as “truly a community endeavor”—some Gando workers who built the school subsequently became skilled laborers on other projects, while local families’ interest in the school skyrocketed, with the enrollment of children who previously did not attend school from surrounding villages.

Kéré’s work in Gando continues. It’s illustrated in the Philadelphia exhibition with photographs, and actual building materials and tools, such as clay and wood samples, machine-pressed and hand-formed bricks, and laterite stones. He has designed teachers’ housing and an extension of the primary school, both complete, while a primary school library and a center for sustainable construction technologies and research are under construction.

Tall kiosks throughout the exhibition feature photographs of Kéré’s past, present, and future projects in Africa, including the Center for Earth Architecture in Mopti, Mali, and the Obama Legacy Campus in Kogelo, Kenya, birthplace of President Barack Obama’s father, as well as his work in Europe and the United States. The former includes a Camper pop-up store at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany; an installation at this year’s Fuorisalone in Milan inspired by the social and spatial dynamics of a typical African village; and the repurposing of former military barracks in Mannheim, Germany, into a hub for local engineering industries, now under development. His only U.S. project so far is the Place for Gathering, a “seating terrain” of locally-sourced wood that was designed for visitors from around the world attending the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Also unusual in the Philadelphia exhibition is the subject matter and presentation of three videos, all shot in Africa and never displayed before. One video about a recently built school in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, depicts many stages of the project, all performed by locals without the use of heavy machinery. Seating here is provided by chairs made in Philadelphia, using the same materials (steel rebar and plywood) and design as Kéré’s chairs for Burkina Faso schools. Another video, which depicts overhead enclosures—including tree canopies, traditional thatch, and modern roofs made of steel trusses—was shot skyward and is shown on a large monitor hanging from the ceiling; a viewing platform below encourages visitors to lie back and observe. The third video, projected from the ceiling directly onto the floor below, explores the concept of shadow, whether in a classroom with chalkboards and desks, or under a baobab tree, and how shadows facilitate learning. One can walk into the projection, literally stepping into the gathering place.

Visitors pass the final part of the exhibition, a site-specific installation called Colorscape, as they enter the exhibition’s primary gallery, Suspended from the museum’s ceiling are steel frames threaded with hundreds of pieces of Philadelphia-made lightweight cord in many different colors. The rectilinear layout of the frames represents the formally-planned grid of William Penn’s Philadelphia, while the paths and spaces carved from the mass of strings represent the organic grid of Gando.

Those passing through the variously colored elements also can hear the Sounds of the Village, audio recorded in both Burkina Faso and Philadelphia, the former including sounds of the wind, birds, and chickens, the latter sounds of local streets and a Philadelphia Flyers hockey game. Just as Kéré enlists local people to work on his projects in Africa, Philadelphians—including University of Pennsylvania architecture students, museum staff, volunteers, and visitors—helped construct this installation.

In Gando and other agrarian societies, children learn from their elders, who teach them orally; they also learn by doing. Similarly, since he started his practice, Kéré has aimed to communicate design and architecture simply and directly, to be understood by African laborers not educated in reading sophisticated plans or architectural drawings, as well as by children. All these concepts inform the Philadelphia exhibition, stimulating thought and visual pleasure.

The Architecture of Francis Kéré: Building for Community runs through September 25, 2016. For more on the exhibit, visit here.
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From Studio Gang to SHoP

World Architecture Festival: Taking American architecture global
WAF is your annual dose of the very latest in architectural thought, practice, ideas, and activism. Be inspired, gain knowledge, and make contacts with your global peers. The world's largest annual architectural forum will be held in Berlin this November. Be at WAF to:
  • Hear from the American finalists including CTA Cermak-McCormick Place Station by Ross Barney Architects and Writers Theatre by Studio Gang. View the full shortlist.
  • Learn from the likes of Matthias Hollwich of Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), Alan Balfour and Coren Sharples of SHoP Architects in 50+ inspirational seminars. See the program.
  • Attend the many fringe events taking place across Berlin, including parties, architect tours, and more.
  • Grow your contacts book and connect with 3,000 future collaborators and clients. WAF is your passport to the international architecture scene.
Learn more and book your pass by the 25 September at the early bird rate. Secure your flights early to ensure the best rates. If you need help finding the best rates and locations for accommodation the WAF concierge team will be able to help.