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In case you missed it, a banana duct-taped to a blank wall, that fruit whose peel has been the basis of so much slapstick comedy, sold for no less than $120,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach, the sun-soaked winter outpost of the Swiss art fair. Called Comedian, the sculpture—three editions available—was the creation of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who recently had another brush with mainstream press when his full-functioning 18 karat gold toilet, America, was stolen from Blenheim Palace in England less than two months ago. The banana attracted a great deal of attention at the fair, with people lining up to take selfies with the fruit mounted to the wall of the global mega gallery Perrotin. It also attracted, depending on your perspective, vandalism or critical intervention: The performance artist David Datuna ate the banana on Saturday. Comedian was taken down for the last day of the fair because of the disruption it was causing, after which someone used the opportunity to scrawl “EPSTIEN [SIC] DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF” in blood-red paint on the now-bare wall. It was promptly covered up. https://twitter.com/GiancarloSopo/status/1203875430803087367 While Datuna’s performance may appeal to some as a means of pointing out the relative valuelessness of the work, they would be missing the point. Of course Comedian is just a fruit and some household tape. Nobody is meant to believe that the materials are in-themselves valuable beyond their grocery store price points. What is sold to collectors is not duct tape and a banana, but rather a certificate, which presumably includes maintenance instructions. The inherent ephemerality of the fruit is part of the work: owners can change the banana whenever they see fit. Obviously anybody could make this work at home, that's not in dispute. What’s sold, supposedly, is an idea (and the right to resell it). That is to say, that it is not about the objects. Like much art of the past 100 years, which has included urinals, apples, and canned feces as high-value objects, the intention of art like Comedian is to question how value is produced in the context of art. The controversy, mainstream and art world press, and social media presence is presumably as much as part of the work as the banana mounted in almost painterly gesture by a diagonal strip of duct tape somewhere it doesn’t belong. Even if we were to take Comedian at face value, putting decay on display through constantly-rotting produce isn't a new idea, either. Comedian also references the history of Cattelan’s own practice. The 1999 A Perfect Day, a mainstay of art history classes, used a whole lot more tape to attach Cattelan’s gallerist Massimo De Carlo to the wall for an entire day. Now, 20 years later, with a title that suggests a person—maybe himself, maybe his gallerist—perhaps we can see this banana as a stand-in for the body. Or, depending on one's leanings, it might just be rendering all the art system’s actors (this writer included) as charlatans and jesters. Whoever the joke may be on, Comedian is at the very least an ironic critique of the art market. As Jason Farago points out in his "grudging defense" in the New York Times: “[Cattelan’s] entire career has been a testament to an impossible desire to create art sincerely, stunted here by money, there by his own doubts.” By asking so much money for an idea (successfully, at least one edition has sold) that unifies two cheap, common objects, and creating so much controversy along with it, Cattelan attempts to expose the ways value is generated in art, as well as issues of authorship. Of course, at a time of rising inequality and rising seas that threaten Miami Beach, one might not find it so funny and fairly see it as a further indictment of an art system awash in cash, a playground for the one percent. That's what Comedian has to tell us: it’s all a charade, fresh fruit and painted canvas and plain-old dollar bills alike. Regardless, Cattelan will surely be happy to take his 50 percent cut.
Snøhetta’s vision for an expanded outdoor garden at 550 Madison Avenue—the former AT&T Building in Manhattan’s Midtown East district—was unveiled by developer Olayan Group this week. Set to increase the existing plaza space by 50 percent, the privately owned public space (POPS) will transform what was once considered a dark, narrow plaza stuffed with freestanding retail kiosks into a light, airy, and “welcoming sensory retreat,” according to the architects. Located on the backside of the postmodern office tower between East 55th and East 56th Streets, the glass arcade and four-story annex added in the 1990s will be taken down to make way for the larger, open-air garden. With a delicate glass-and-steel canopy covering the pedestrian space, the overhaul will effectively bring the site closer to the original architects' (Philip Johnson and John Burgee) 35-year-old design intent. Up to 50 new trees will be planted throughout, alongside a wide array of plant varieties including evergreens, and perennials. Ample seating, tables, and low-lighting will be integrated while a cafe with a public restroom will be built adjacent to the building’s west entrance. At just over 21,000-square-feet, the plaza will be the largest of its kind within a five-minute walk. Snøhetta said the overall look for the new POPS is directly connected to Gensler’s newly-released plans for the revamped lobby. “This new garden complements the adjacent tower while drawing upon the vibrancy of the neighborhood and the natural history of the region, offering visitors an immersive respite in the city,” said Michelle Delk, Snøhetta partner and director of landscape architecture, in a press release. Slated to reopen next year, 550 Madison is expected to house as many as 3,000 workers, though when completed in 1984, it was only intended to hold about 800 people across its 37 floors. The Olayan Group, Snøhetta, and Gensler had to go through a controversial approvals process with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to make sure the updated tower’s exterior—which was declared a New York City landmark in mid-2018—and rear plaza respected the history of the entire site.
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Announcing the winners of the 2019 AN Best of Design Awards
After expanding our categories to a whopping 47 and receiving over 800 submissions, the 2019 AN Best of Design Awards were our most successful yet. Of course, this made the judging more difficult than ever. Projects came from firms big and small across every corner of the North American continent. While we are always surprised by the breadth and quantity of submissions, we were not surprised by the quality of the design work put forth by these talented architects and designers. There were some telling trends, however. First, our interior categories received more and better projects than ever before. This resurgence in architects doing interiors, both residential and commercial, seems to mirror what we see in the field: Simpler, less colorful interiors that put more emphasis on materiality than on playful shapes, as in the past. It was also a good year for exhibition design. For the Building of the Year, our esteemed jury was fiercely divided between two exemplary but very different projects. The final debate came down to The TWA Hotel by Beyer Blinder Belle Planners LLP, and LUBRANO CIAVARRA Architects and the Anita May Rosenstein Campus, Los Angeles LGBT Center in Los Angeles by Leong Leong and KFA. In the end, the jury decided that the sensitive restoration and reactivation of Saarinen’s masterpiece merited the Building of the Year award. This selection well illustrates the attitude that this year’s jury had about the projects that were deliberated. Sensitivity and subtlety were at a premium. Winners were chosen for their contextual, tactical approaches rather than big, bombastic ideas. For example, MQ Architecture’s small wooden pavilion in Garrison, New York, and Signal Architecture + Research’s Cottonwood Canyon Experience Center are both examples of structures with simple profiles that were carefully cut to make residential-scale architecture that blends into its surroundings.
Perhaps this signals something larger about architecture in 2019, or even the end of the 2010s. Is U.S. architecture becoming more formally muted? Or is 2019 just a quiet year? Is this phenomenon an ongoing reaction to something in the media that has promoted design that is flashier and more figurally exuberant? Or is this just a one-year trend? Our jury this year was a very savvy group that included old AN friends and some new faces as well. By provoking discussions and offering up new ideas, the jury is essential to the mission of AN. We hope you enjoy this selection of winners, honorable mentions, and editor’s picks, and we look forward to hearing from you again next year with new projects! We will be updating this list over the next few days with winner and honorable mention profiles. To see the complete feature, don't miss our 2019 Best of Design Awards Annual issue, out now! 2019 AN Best of Design Awards Building of the Year Winner TWA Hotel Beyer Blinder Belle Planners LLP LUBRANO CIAVARRA Architects New York City Finalists Cottonwood Canyon Experience Center Signal Architecture + Research Wasco, Oregon Anita May Rosenstein Campus, Los Angeles LGBT Center Leong Leong Killefer Flammang Architects Los Angeles Public Winner Anita May Rosenstein Campus, Los Angeles LGBT Center Leong Leong Killefer Flammang Architects Los Angeles Honorable Mentions Discovery Center, Îles-de-Boucherville National Park Smith Vigeant Architectes Hunters Point Community Library Steven Holl Architects Editors' Picks Tsleil-Waututh Administration and Health Centre Lubor Trubka Associates Architects Louis Armstrong Stadium ROSSETTI Urban Design Winner Brooklyn Army Terminal Public Realm WXY Brooklyn, NY Honorable Mention City Thread SPORTS Cultural Winner Menil Drawing Institute Johnston Marklee Houston Honorable Mentions Ruby City Adjaye Associates New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center nARCHITECTS Editors' Pick The Evans Tree House at Garvan Woodland Gardens modus studio Saint Mary Mercy Chapel PLY+ Exhibition Design Winner Calder: Nonspace STEPHANIEGOTO Los Angeles Honorable Mentions Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial Studio Joseph VENTS TEMPO | Catty Dan Zhang Editors' Picks Model Projections Agency—Agency Common Threads ikd Green Building Winner Galenas Medical Cannabis Cultivation Facility Urban Green Design Akron, Ohio Honorable Mentions Tree Pittsburgh Headquarters GBBN 370 Jay Street, New York University Mitchell Giurgola Editor's Picks Marvin Gaye Recreation Center ISTUDIO Architects Greenport Passive House The Turett Collaborative Adjaye Associates New York City Honorable Mentions CME Center Krueck + Sexton 277 Mott Street Toshiko Mori Architect Editors' Picks University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute Perkins and Will 280 St Marks DXA studio Young Architects Winner bld.us Infrastructure Winner North Chiller Plant, University of Massachusetts Amherst Leers Weinzapfel Associates Amherst, Massachusetts Honorable Mentions Richmond Water Transit Ferry Terminal Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects BART Market Street Canopies VIA Architecture Editors' Picks Frances Appleton Pedestrian Bridge Rosales + Partners Northeastern University Pedestrian Crossing Payette Commercial — Hospitality Winner Furioso Vineyards Waechter Architecture Dundee, Oregon Honorable Mentions McDonald’s Chicago Flagship Ross Barney Architects The Carpenter Hotel Specht Architects Editors' Picks Heritage Savvy Studio Lumen at Beacon Park Touloukian Touloukian Commercial — Retail Winner Apple Scottsdale Fashion Square Ennead Architects Scottsdale, Arizona Honorable Mentions Sunshine and National Retail Center Dake Wells Architecture Christian Dior Myefski Architects Editors' Pick Grant Gallery Ted Porter Architecture The Culver Steps Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects Commercial — Office Winner 1000 Maine Avenue KPF FOX Architects Washington, D.C. Honorable Mentions 901 East Sixth Thoughtbarn Delineate Studio Solar Carve Studio Gang Editors' Pick American Express Sunrise Corporate Center Perkins and Will Interior — Workplace Winner HUSH Office Interior Inaba Williams and Kyle May New York City Honorable Mentions ShareCuse Architecture Office Vrbo Headquarters Rios Clementi Hale Studios Editors' Picks McDonald’s HQ Studio O+A Conga Headquarters DLR Group Interior — Institutional Winner Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School Great Hall Renovation tonic design Raleigh, North Carolina Honorable Mentions The Center for Fiction BKSK Architects The Children’s Library at Concourse House Michael K Chen Architecture Editors' Picks Countryside Community Church Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture Gordon Chapel Renovation, St. Hilda’s and St. Hugh’s School MBB Interior — Retail Winner maharishi Tribeca Abruzzo Bodziak Architects New York City Honorable Mentions Malin+Goetz San Francisco Bernheimer Architecture Claus Porto New York tacklebox architecture Editors' Picks Notre Norman Kelley R13 Flagship Leong Leong Interior — Hospitality Winner Tamarindo Stayner Architects San Clemente, California Honorable Mentions All Square Architecture Office ROOST East Market Morris Adjmi Architects Editors' Picks Woodlark Hotel OFFICEUNTITLED The Fleur Room Rockwell Group Interior — Healthcare Winner Chelsea District Health Center Stephen Yablon Architecture New York City Honorable Mention Mount Sinai Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit Perkins Eastman YPMD Pediatric Neurology Clinic Synthesis Design + Architecture Editors' Pick NEXUS Club New York Morris Adjmi Architects Restoration & Preservation Winner Owe'neh Bupingeh Preservation Project Atkin Olshin Schade Architects Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico Honorable Mentions Brant Foundation Art Building Gluckman Tang Avenue C Multi-Family Thoughtbarn Delineate Studio Editors' Picks Chicago Union Station Great Hall Restoration Goettsch Partners Boston City Hall Public Spaces Renovation Utile Healthcare Winner University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute Perkins and Will Cincinnati Honorable Mention Duke University Student Wellness Center Duda|Paine Architects MSK Nassau EwingCole Editor's Pick Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic Foster + Partners Tia Clinic Rockwell Group Interior — Residential Winner Michigan Loft Vladimir Radutny Architects Chicago Honorable Mention Inaba Williamsburg Penthouse Inaba Williams Gallatin House Workstead Editors' Picks Watermark House Barker Associates Architecture Office Lakeview Penthouse Wheeler Kearns Architects Residential — Single Unit Winner Glass Cabin atelierRISTING Iowa Honorable Mentions Bigwin Island Club Cabins MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Triple Barn House Mork Ulnes Architects Editors' Picks Ephemeral Edge Dean/Wolf Architects Manifold House David Jameson Architect Residential — Multiunit Winner 139 Schultz CPDA arquitectos Mexico City Honorable Mentions XS House ISA Origami Waechter Architecture Editors' Picks Solstice on the Park Studio Gang Bastion OJT Landscape — Residential Winner Malibu Overlook Stephen Billings Landscape Architecture & Michael Goorevich Malibu, California Honorable Mention Musician’s Garden Stephen Billings Landscape Architecture Landscape — Public Winner Josey Lake Park Clark Condon Cypress, Texas Honorable Mentions First Avenue Water Plaza SCAPE Landscape Architecture Pier 35 SHoP Architects Editors' Picks Scottsdale’s Museum of the West Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture Drexel Square West 8 & SHoP Architects Education Winner Cottonwood Experience Center Signal Architecture + Research Wasco, Oregon Honorable Mentions Club de Niños y Niñas Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica RISD Student Center WORKac Editors' Picks Santa Monica College Center for Media and Design + KCRW Media Center Clive Wilkinson Architects Cal Poly Pomona Student Services Building CO Architects Lighting — Outdoor Winner Lightweave FUTUREFORMS Washington D.C. Lighting - Indoor Winner TWA Hotel Beyer Blinder Belle Cooley Monato Studio New York City Building Renovation — Commercial Winner Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice Gensler New York City Honorable Mentions Apple Fifth Avenue Foster + Partners Avling Kitchen & Brewery LAMAS Editor's Picks Intelligentsia Bestor Architecture Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Avenue MdeAS Architects Building Renovation — Civic Winner Keller Center Farr Associates Chicago Honorable Mention Centennial Planetarium Lemay + Toker Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art Sparano + Mooney Architecture Editors' Picks Oregon Conservation Center LEVER Architecture National Arts Centre Rejuvenation Diamond Schmitt Architects Building Renovation — Residential Winner Phillipsport Church House Architecture in Formation Wurtsboro, New York Honorable Mention 1/2 House NOW HERE Editors' Pick Case Room Geoffrey von Oeyen Design Adaptive Reuse Winner TWA Hotel Beyer Blinder Belle New York City Honorable Mentions Senate of Canada Building D Diamond Schmitt Architects Redfox Commons LEVER Architecture Editors' Picks Fifth Avenue Adaptive Re-use Inaba Williams 10 Jay Street ODA New York Temporary Installation Winner Soft Civic Bryony Roberts Studio Columbus, Indiana Honorable Mention Salvage Swings Somewhere Studio Editors' Picks Lawn for the National Building Museum Summer Block Party Rockwell Group Coshocton Ray Trace Behin Ha Design Studio New Materials Winner Grass House bld.us Washington, D.C. Honorable Mention Walking Assembly Matter Design & CEMEX Global R&D Digital Fabrication Winner Knitcandela Block Research Group, ETH Zürich & ZHCode, Zaha Hadid Architects Mexico City Architectural Representation Winner Support KEVIN HIRTH Co. New York City Honorable Mentions Other Medians Studio Ames Manual of Instructions NEMESTUDIO Editors' Picks Shaped Places of Carroll County New Hampshire EXTENTS Interim Urbanism: Youth, Dwelling, City N H D M Small Spaces Winner Small Wooden Pavilion MQ Architecture Garrison, New York Honorable Mentions Aesop Shaw DC David Jameson Architect Schaefer Residence Duo Dickinson Architect Student Work — Group Winner A Home for MJ Drury University Design-Build Program, Jordan Valley Community Health Center Springfield, Missouri Student Work — Individual Winner Museum/Park Design Alberto Arostegui, Savannah College of Art and Design Unbuilt — Urban Design Winner St. John's Park Ballman Khapalova New York City Honorable Mentions Pensacola Waterfront Framework SCAPE Landscape Architecture Pier 70 SITELAB urban studio Editors' Picks Chicago Transit Authority Damen Green Line Station Perkins and Will Boston Coastal Flood Resilience Design Guidelines & Zoning Overlay District Utile Research Winner Delirious Facade LAMAS Honorable Mentions The Water Alert and Testing Resource (WALTER) Ennead Architects USModernist Masters and Library Databases USModernist Editors' Picks Sound Pavilion UNC Charlotte Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab Architectural Ecologies Lab Unbuilt — Residential Winner Ambrosia Gensler Los Angeles Honorable Mentions Little Berkeley Kevin Daly Architects Stump House PARA Project Editors' Picks Aqualuna 3XN Micro Unit Studio Ames Unbuilt — Interior Winner Life on Mars: From Feces to Food Lydia Kallipoliti Mars Honorable Mention The Renovation and Reuse of a Historic Granite Bank musumanoco Unbuilt - Commercial Winner Aurora Belzberg Architects Mexico City Honorable Mention Surf Entertainment Facility BLUR Workshop Editors' Picks Folded Wings Form4 Architecture Nanotronics Smart Factory Rogers Partners Unbuilt — Cultural Winner Arkansas Arts Center Studio Gang Little Rock, Arkansas Honorable Mentions Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History Studio Gang Terminal B Performance Venue Touloukian Touloukian Editors' Pick SynaCondo Studio ST Architects Unbuilt — Education Winner Otto Speech School Charles Rose Architects Chestnut Ridge, New York Honorable Mentions University of Arkansas Center for Farm and Food System Entrepreneurship University of Arkansas Community Design Center Church Hill North O’Neill McVoy Architects Editors' Picks Del Mar College Southside Campus Gensler Tecnano FGP Atelier Unbuilt — Green Building Winner Sendero Verde Handel Architects New York City Honorable Mention Coleridge Street Residences Touloukian Touloukian Unbuilt — Public Winner Adams Street Branch Library NADAAA Boston Honorable Mentions Northeast Bronx YMCA Marvel Architects 7Hills Homeless Day Center University of Arkansas Community Design Center Editors' Picks Memorial Garden for Victims of Gun Violence Svigals + Partners Bus Shelter Design for the City of Miami Beach Pininfarina Unbuilt — Landscape Winner Boston Children's Hospital Green Master Plan Mikyoung Kim Design Boston Honorable Mentions Tom Lee Park SCAPE Landscape Architecture and Studio Gang The Clearing: Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial SWA Group Editors' Picks Beaubien Woods Action Plan Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture Chicago South Lakefront Framework Plan SmithGroup A special thanks to our 2019 AN Best of Design Awards Jury! Jaffer Kolb, Cofounder, New Affiliates Sara Lopergolo, Partner, Selldorf Architects Carlos Madrid III, Associate Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Anne Rieselbach, Program Director, The Architectural League of New York Oana Stănescu, Founder, Oana Stănescu Studio
2019 Holiday Gift Guide
What do architects want for the holidays?
Putting together your wish list? Feeling the call of consumption? Stuffing a stocking for that special someone? We’ve crafted a list of some seriously covetable objects to help you out, including an Alessi lunch box and ceramic tiles designed by Gio Ponti. This compilation of curiosities will measure up to any architect’s standards. Sacred Ground: The Cemeteries of New Orleans By Robert S. Brantley Princeton Architectural Press papress.com | $40 Architectural photographer Robert S. Brantley has surveyed New Orleans’s most notorious cemeteries for more than 40 years. Sacred Ground presents his sublime duotone photographs of the gravesites of 20 notable individuals (comprehensively detailed in each chapter index), organized by cemetery. Dana Butterfly rug Classic Rug Collection classicrug.com | $249 Many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s rugs were designed specifically for each project or to pair with his furniture designs—but few were actually produced. This winter, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation collaborated with Classic Rug Collection on a series of rugs, including an art glass–inspired textile that references the 1902 Dana-Thomas House. Food à porter lunch box Alessi alessi.com | $78 Japanese-born, Milan-based designer Sakura Adachi teamed up with Alessi on this thermoplastic lunch box inspired by bento boxes and lacquerware. The box is organized into three compartments hermetically sealed by two interior dividers and held together by plastic, handbag-like straps. Portagioie - Oggetti collection Dimorestudio dimorestudio.eu | $2,000 For this holiday season, Milan-based design firm Dimorestudio created a collection of festive tabletop accessories, including this sumptuous jewel box. The Art Deco-inspired case is fashioned in a glossy lacquered wood featuring brass, satin steel, and Pietra Paesina marble inlays. Scale Bar Scarf Sam Jacob Studio samjacob.com | £30 ($38) This scarf can be used in the field as a measuring tool. At two meters long, the scarf has black and white scale divisions that make it easy to size things up. Palace tableware Seletti seletti.it | $150–$700 Pilasters and pediments adorn this Italian Renaissance-inspired series of plates, bowls, and trays. The series is shaped like four iconic mansions from the era, including the della Signoria, Palazzo Borghese, and Palazzo del Governo. Gio Ponti Ceramic Tiles Fattobene, exclusively at MoMA Design Store store.moma.org | $25 each These ceramic tiles were originally designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti in 1960 for a hotel project. They are now available as single pieces for the first time ever, as part of a special selection of Italian-made design at the MoMA Fattobene pop-up. Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women By Jane Hall Phaidon phaidon.com | $49.95 Breaking Ground celebrates women in architecture from the early 20th century through the present day with a detailed account of over 200 masterpieces around the world. Quotes from the likes of Eileen Gray and Elizabeth Diller provide inspiration from women of the past, present, and future. Glass House Snow Globe The Glass House Design Store designstore.theglasshouse.org | $75 Frozen in time inside a snow globe lies a miniature version of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, the most iconic of all of his works. Shake it gently to see snow float gently over its flat roof. Daniel Libeskind Eternal Star Hanging Frosted Ornament Atelier Swarovski atelierswarovski.com | $89 This bright and beautiful ornament designed by Daniel Libeskind features a laser-inscribed star. When it catches the light, the star sparkles like a glimmering night sky. A-Pack by Leon Ransmeier Maharam maharam.com | $385 New York-based industrial designer Leon Ransmeier was asked by textile purveyor Maharam to design a bag that he would use himself. With both utility and beauty in mind, Ransmeier chose a waxed cotton canvas sourced in Scotland to compose a sloped apex backpack with a handle directly on the center of gravity—which ensures the shape will not slump when it is worn or handled. Hudson Yards "The Vessel" Novelty Plug Wolfgang & Hite wolfgang-hite.com | $75 Last but certainly not least, design firm Wolfgang & Hite has produced a limited edition run of their butt plugs modeled after Thomas Heatherwick's massive contribution to Hudson Yards. "Made of medical-grade silicone, this simulacrum of the original Vessel will take you to dizzying heights," reads Wolfgang & Hite's product description. Only 50 were made for this holiday season, so act fast.
To planet Earth, the city of Venice being a designated UNESCO World Heritage site is meaningless. It can, and will, treat the city with abject indifference as was demonstrated earlier this month. In more recent climate chaos news, floods have devastated other parts of Italy, causing a viaduct to collapse near the city of Savona; meanwhile, across the other side of the world, fires are raging across the Amazon and Australia. Bizarrely, and tragically, many governments lack the impetus to make any meaningful change in this regard. We find ourselves in a dire situation, crying out for radical approaches that will galvanize the human race into action, something that Eco-Visionaries, which opened last weekend at London's Royal Academy of Arts (RA), strives to do. First of all, what an exciting name: "Eco-Visionaries," does it get more enticing than that? Upon entering the exhibition, audiences are greeted with a rotating model globe shrouded in green, murky dust. Playing through speakers in the background meanwhile, is Clara Rockmore's ominous rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns' Le Cygne (The Swan). This is Domestic Catastrophies nº3: La Planète en Laboratoire by French artist collective HeHe and it sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition, which is a sobering affair; but the vision of what, exactly, is as about as clear as HeHe's installation, despite being populated with visionaries. But that's not to say it's all doom and gloom either, despite the fact that the second installation you see features a giraffe being graphically shot, with blood spewing rapidly from its neck. A journey has been crafted by in-house RA curator Gonzalo Herrero Delicado (who worked with Pedro Gadanho and Mariana Pestana to curate the original show for Lisbon's MAAT) taking patrons through installations that highlight the climate crisis we find ourselves in and propositions that attempt to mitigate it. This seems like a natural progression one should take when addressing the issue of saving the planet: here's a problem and here's how we might solve it. However, Eco-Visionaries jumps between art as commentary and architecture as proposition, and struggles to get a strong grip on either. The architecture that does hint at radical change has to build upon the success of others—New York firm WORKac developed The Dolphin Embassy from Ant Farm, while Paris-based Studio Malka Architecture's Green Machine riffs on Archigram's Walking City. Both fall short, and architects don't come off as potential planetary saviors by any stretch. The strongest installations, meanwhile, are presented as art. An imaginative proposition comes from Turkish designer-artist-researcher Pinar Yoldas, whose Ecosystem of Excess envisages plastic-gobbling pelagic insects populating a post-human planet and cleaning it up in the process. On a similar strand, working alongside DeepMind artificial intelligence, artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg's recreation of a white rhinoceros is powerful. The now-extinct creature comes to life at a 1:1 scale, developing from a wandering cluster of pixels into a great beast that seems confused by the white box it finds itself in. Here we question, besides humanity, what lies ahead for the animals of this Earth. Extinction? Digital archival? That's certainly not the case for jellyfish, who, as it turns out, are seemingly the harbinger of the end times. The pulsating creatures thrive in the conditions created by climate change. "More warm water," says a narrator in the exhibition's final, and best, exhibit, "is a disaster for anything that breathes and a dream come true for anything that doesn’t breathe much, like jellyfish.” Titled win > < win, the installation is by Berlin-based artist group Rimini Protokoll and occupies a room in the third and last gallery of the exhibition. win > < win splits audiences in two with a circular tank filled with jellyfish—something the RA had to obtain a zoological license to host. With clever lighting, the two audiences are revealed and hidden from each other, the tank acting as both a mirror and portal for the divided audiences. Through headphones, we learn about the ascendance of jellyfish, a species that benefits from humans killing their predators with overfishing and pollution as plastic bags kill turtles and other animals. The influx of jellyfish has direct consequences for humans too, as they clog up nuclear power and desalination plants across the world. "Jellyfish will be the only survivors when everything else has fallen apart," the narrator ominously intones. Despite this sombre note, win > < win is fun, engaging and informative all at the same time and makes the $15 exhibition fee is worth it. It also represents a success for Delicado, who told AN that he wanted the exhibition "to talk a younger audience," hence the inclusion of more familiar names like Virgil Abloh and Olafur Eliasson, whose installations—a gold, supposedly sunken chair and pictures of melting ice, respectively—do little to inspire. And that's what we need, inspiration. In his book, The is no Planet B, author Mike Berners-Lee writes: "Whilst the idea of limiting climate change seems like essential damage limitation, in itself, it spectacularly fails to excite most of us. More often than not, it gets framed primarily as the need to forego things we enjoy. And since humans–all of us–hate thinking about anything unpleasant, the temptation to switch off is hard to resist."
Eco-Visionaries, as its title tantalizingly suggested, might change that. This was a great chance to show the world that we might, by the skin of our teeth, be able to claw ourselves out from climate change-induced catastrophe. In this regard, Eco-Visionaries falls short. Perhaps this was because the RA only allowed the exhibition to have three rooms, preventing it from going further. However, while filled with insight and inquisitive introspection into how humanity lives on this earth, the feeling of future inspiration is sadly lacking. Eco-Visionaries runs through 23 February 2020.
Brought to you with support fromThe neo-Georgian Tammany Hall located on the northeastern corner of Union Square has assumed multiple identities over the course of its nearly century-long existence: It has been the home of the notoriously corrupt Society of St. Tammany, a union headquarters, and a theater and film school. Now, BKSK Architects and BuroHappold Engineering are leading the conversion of the building into a contemporary office space, which will be topped by a bulbous glass dome ringed with terra-cotta panels.
glass dome derives from both international Georgian precedents as well as the historical origins of the Society of St. Tammany—named after renowned Lenape leader Chief Tamanend, whose clan’s symbol was a turtle. According to BKSK partner Todd Poisson, the design team interpreted Chief Tamanend’s tribal imagery “With a turtle shell-like dome rising from this neo-Georgian landmark building, reimagining its tepid hipped roof with a new steel, glass, and terra-cotta base supporting an undulating glass dome.” Austrian manufacturer Eckelt, a member of the Saint-Gobain group, produced the structurally glazed insulated glass units. To reduce solar exposure to the office space below, the outer shell is built of tinted Saint-Gobain Parsol Grey panels treated with a high-performance sputter solar coating. The second layer of the carapace, separated from the tinted panels by a layer of air space, is comprised of clear glass panels. The roof, made of 850 isosceles triangular panels ranging from a 5- to 9-foot base, encompass a total surface area of approximately 12,000 square feet. Rising from the rear of the cornice line, the glass panels are fastened to an undulating steel free-form shell grid fabricated by Gartner. To support the weight of the dome, and to facilitate the straightforward installation of structural members, the entire structural system of the historic building was replaced with a poured-in-place concrete core—effectively transforming the original load-bearing brick enclosure into a freestanding rain screen. The project is scheduled to wrap up in 2020. BKSK partner Todd Poisson and BuroHappold Engineering associate principal John Ivanoff will present the Tamanny Hall project at Facades+ NYC on April 2 as part of the "Adaptive Reuse Challenges in NYC Historic Icons" panel.The design of the
Now towering over Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek is Heatherwick Studio’s latest landscape-heavy development: a veritable mountain of trees populating a sprawling, mixed-use facility made for the city’s burgeoning M50 arts district. 1,000 Trees—the project's official name—has been under construction for the past five years and its first phase, spanning 3.2 million square feet, is slated to open in 2020. As a whole, the project is made up of two buildings split across two sites totaling 14.8 acres, each featuring a jagged facade with a “mountain peak” where the highest floors top out. So far, only the exterior of the first mountain has been unveiled to the public, revealing an undulating frontage punctuated by an array of plants atop structural concrete columns. In initial photos, the project looks like a shrine to landscape architecture, or more specifically, the diversity of plants capable of outfitting buildings. Sourced locally from Chongming Island just northeast of Shanghai, 25,000 individual plants representing 46 species make up the vision of 1,000 Trees. Over half are evergreen to ensure a yearlong verdant look for the massive structure. Heatherwick Studio used grey-green granite to create a striped or striated facade that further accentuates the plants throughout. Shangai's M50 arts district is located in an old manufacturing neighborhood where textile production used to take place. Now, the industrial area is a boon for contemporary art and 1,000 Trees is being built to amplify that theme. At 10 stories, the first section of the development, when open next year will boast eight levels of retail, restaurants, and commercial office space, as well as room for events programming and art galleries. Its southern, street-facing facade, is practically flat compared to the rippled, creek-front portion, but it does include a series of boxy windows of varying sizes that are set back from the building's frame. Natural light from the floor-to-ceiling glass will be allowed to percolate inside the building, while multiple tall atriums throughout the elongated structure will bring a nice glow all the way down to the ground-floor from above. Heatherwick Studio partnered with local graffiti artists to cover some of the southern windows with large-scale murals. 1,000 Trees was commissioned following the completion of Heatherwick’s U.K. Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo nearly a decade ago. As China continues to push towards building extra-large developments, architects are also considering the role landscape plays in the country's increasingly dense environment. For example, a new green-roofed hospital with a terraced design by Foster + Partners and the Cleveland Clinic is set to rise in Shanghai as well, bringing wellness to the forefront of contemporary architecture. Compared to Heatherwick’s smaller, albeit still plant-focused projects, such as the nearly-complete, 2.75-acre Pier 55 or “Little Island” in New York (which utilizes a similar sculpted concrete pillar approach), 1,000 Trees will completely change the look and appeal of Shanghai’s M50 arts district. Phase two of the mega-project will connect to the existing structure through an enclosed link bridge, a tunnel, and a ground-floor drop-off area. It will feature even more public space and a 129,000-square-foot park.
Shedding the Shed
the_shed_is_a_shack pokes fun at Hudson Yards and corporate malfeasance
On June 21, a couple of months after the opening of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group-designed Shed, the anonymous group behind the_shed_is_a_shack Instagram account began trolling the billionaire-real-estate-developer-funded arts center. Its organizers, who include an artist and an executive director of an arts institution, followed their friends' Instagram accounts to attract followers and began lampooning the Shed. They published a photo of a cracked electrical outlet cover and an electrical box with wires sticking out, poked fun at design and programming decisions, and savaged the financing behind the project. Increasingly they focused on its embodiment of extreme economic stratification, poor labor practices, and the "artwashing" of real estate the project embodies. We asked The Shack—as they call themselves—about the account, their trolling of the Shed and Hudson Yards, and their view of what should have happened there instead. They responded with a remarkably cogent argument for an alternative decision-making process for development on public property. AN: Can you tell us about your backgrounds or professional affiliations? Are you connected to any activist groups or have you been in the past? the_shed_is_a_shack: We are arts professionals with many years of experience with cultural institutions and in different aspects of the art world. The Shack includes an executive-level arts leader and an artist who is also active in a number of other social justice/advocacy issues. We are also people who care about our communities, our fellow citizens, and the importance of civic engagement.
Are you creating some of the memes or are you mostly sharing other things you see? We create all of the content ourselves, except in a very few select cases where we have reposted and clearly credited the original poster. Our audience also sometimes sends ideas or news articles to us, and occasionally that’s a prompt for us to create a particular meme or post around that idea.View this post on Instagram
How do you see this action: As advocacy or activism, or are you mostly just having fun trolling the developers? The account is light-hearted about a dark-hearted thing, and so we’re poking fun while also highlighting some very serious issues. There are a lot of problems with how money and power are distributed and abused in the art world, and also in the world at large, and what has happened (and is happening) at Hudson Yards and with the Shed is representative of some of the most egregious examples. There’s also such a huge gap between how Hudson Yards and the Shed were sold and marketed to the public, and what they have actually become. So much marketing hype was built into the selling of it, and so it feels right that the response should be similarly structured in terms of tone, as memes, faux ads, and hype-speak. Also, we’re in the art world, so we like our visuals. There’s a long history of art world projects that critique the structure and internal systems that underpin cultural institutions. We’d like to see that critique contribute to change, so there’s an advocacy element to our trolling.View this post on Instagram
Is it connected to a particular set of positions? No matter how much we might have a laugh at some of the more outrageous details of Hudson Yards and the Shed, the development is actually a slap in the face to the people of New York and thus in need of more serious examination. A select group of wealthy individuals and corporations are benefitting from Hudson Yards, along with government officials who actively championed and pushed through the development to advance their own political or business interests (including Bloomberg, De Blasio, Dan Doctoroff, and others). But what did everyone else get? Our tax dollars went to build a private luxury neighborhood billed as “Little Dubai,” while many New Yorkers don’t have access to affordable housing, reliable subway lines, or adequate healthcare. The developers tried to cut out unions and limit worker safety standards, and people lost wages and got hurt. And with the Shed, our tax dollars helped pay for a building and organization that is not serving the cultural community or the public as promised, and instead has created a tax-deductible structure and plaything for the developer and his pals to utilize and benefit from. So, our position is about advocating for the public interest and for the cultural community.View this post on Instagram
What motivated you in particular to start it, and is Instagram an effective tool so far to forward a message? The account started really just as a cathartic response and half-joke. We visited The Shed soon after it opened and were stunned by the experience. The building itself was in disarray. Hardware was falling off the walls or not properly installed, there were cracks in the glass and electrical socket plates, puddles of leaking lubricant from the escalator, peeling and chipped paint on multiple walls, exit signs with wires sticking out, obvious building code violations, and more.View this post on Instagram
For a brand-new, wildly expensive building supported by taxpayer money and on city-owned land—and touted by the developers and the city as representing the future of cultural institutions and civic public-private engagement—it was a massive failure. So many cultural institutions around the city are struggling to pay the bills, and money got poured into this development. It’s unconscionable that it turned out this way and that there has not yet been a reckoning for abusing the public trust. So what started as a joke among friends expanded as we realized how serious and ongoing the problems there were. Instagram is the art world’s preferred social media for the most part, at least for the moment, and so it seemed like a natural choice.View this post on Instagram
What would be an ideal outcome? The desired outcome is to expand the conversation around the Shed and Hudson Yards. It’s also important to us to emphasize how the final shape of the development is not an accident; it’s what happens when a development that is privately owned and controlled does not include the appropriate level of input, regulation, and safeguarding by community groups and the public. The Shed is an extension of that core problem, with a board controlled by the developers and their buddies, and even the building itself is literally infected by and physically trapped inside the development Alien-style (The Shed ended up being constructed with much of its operational guts shared with and located inside of the skyscraper next door). So now we have a major NYC neighborhood and cultural institution that is being controlled by a small group of private investors, continuing to benefit from tax incentives and public money, in order to advance personal interests that are largely counter to the public’s.View this post on Instagram
Although Hudson Yards is mostly owned by private developers, the Shed sits on public land owned by the city and is a nonprofit entity that is required to benefit the public good. So we—the public—need to hold the Shed accountable and see that necessary changes are made to the way it operates. There are many different options that might be proposed as an alternative; for example, a consortium of existing cultural institutions and community organizations could come together to re-envision how the space should operate and who should run it. The building could serve as an outpost/off-site programming space for other arts and culture organizations on a rotating basis, among other possibilities. It could also be converted into free or subsidized office/studio space for cultural nonprofits, artists, and community organizations that can’t afford rent because of developments like Hudson Yards, or for events like pop-up free healthcare clinics or other services for those in need. Further, there should be a public conversation to include government officials that rethinks how the next phase of Hudson Yards is allowed to proceed, with an eye toward much more community oversight, regulation, and built-in systems for clawing back public money/tax incentives if and when promises aren’t kept.View this post on Instagram
What should Hudson Yards have been? Hudson Yards should have been a true public-private partnership, which means careful input, oversight, and regulation by the community at every stage and ongoing for the life of the development. That’s a hard and challenging process, but it’s necessary and fair if developers want to get decades of tax incentives, city- and state-paid infrastructure, and other public money. Hudson Yards could have and should have been an actual mixed-use community, with truly integrated housing for low-income, middle, and yes even some luxury, as well as a range of nonprofit, business, and retail spaces that genuinely serve the neighborhood needs more broadly. It should have true public space (not privately owned space that the developer controls on whim) and cultural venues that more fully reflect the needs and interests of the community. Cultural and creative programming and public artwork should be informed by and ultimately decided by those with expertise in the field alongside community members, not by one rich guy who wants a big Heatherwick bauble because he thinks it’s what other rich guys like. If he wants a Heatherwick (or anything else), he’s welcome to buy it and build it—but not with the support and help of public money and infrastructure.View this post on Instagram
Because the developers of Hudson Yards are claiming private control of the entire space (even though this isn’t actually correct, with the Shed on city-owned land and the Hudson Yards subway part of the MTA), they are asserting that visitors don’t have the same rights they would normally have in a public space. That’s deeply problematic on many levels (impacting everything from the right to protest, to who gets to sit on benches or be otherwise harassed under what conditions, as well as in their use of facial recognition technology in the kiosks and other surveillance measures by the developers). So there should be requirements that dictate how any development that benefits from public support can control that space.View this post on Instagram
Also if you have anything to add about the processes by which public property is developed . . . Similar to what we noted should have happened with Hudson Yards, the process for [the] development of public space and property (and public-private developments) needs to be more carefully safeguarded and regulated, and there needs to be oversight by independent community experts and individuals who are not in any way affiliated with the developers. And this oversight should continue for the lifetime of the property and with teeth to match (heavy fines and claw-backs for developers who renege on promises, for example). We all know how arduous these kinds of processes can be, but it’s necessary if we want to ensure projects truly benefit the public. That doesn’t mean there needs to be total consensus on every aspect of a project (which is impossible to obtain in any case and often leads to art-horse-by-committee outcomes), but it means the decision-making needs to be led by a sense of true commitment to the public good and strict, proactive measures to ensure there are not conflicts of interest. There also needs to be a more nuanced understanding and recognition of how we assign expertise and decision-making power within this oversight and community process; for example, there’s a tendency to assume “expert” in the arts only applies to a well-known museum president, a wealthy collector, or a big name artist, when in fact it should include arts workers and others who have active, on-the-job experience within cultural organizations, or an avid arts goer who is not financially able to be a donor/collector but loves art with the same zeal as an Aggie [Agnes] Gund, among other examples. There are many of these people throughout the city, and their voices should be given a place. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our public spaces will be made better by their input.View this post on Instagram
Oh oh oh oh, it's Essex
Mourning the old Essex Street Market
How do we say farewell to buildings? Through what strategies or mechanisms might we experience parts of the city marked by disuse or disaster? Aside from traditional adaptive rehabilitation or cosmetic upgrades, simply refraining from intervening is one possibility. Providing equitable, safe access to an otherwise untouched site can be a radical act of civic elegy. For example, earlier this year, Seattle gave its residents the opportunity to inhabit the elevated freeway on its waterfront before scheduled demolition. Indeed, numerous cultural practices celebrate the death (and/or rebirth) of structures, ritualistic events in contrast to morbid photographs documenting implosions or ruins. Such performative acts of remembrance might approach what artist-architect Jorge Otero-Pailos called "experimental preservation," whose proponents “choose objects that might be considered ugly or unsavory, or unworthy of preservation, objects that might have been ignored or excluded by official narratives, perhaps because they embody the material, social, and environmental costs of development which governments and corporations seldom account for.” The old Essex Street Market in New York’s Lower East Side, slated to be torn down, is presently a time capsule, largely unchanged since May when vendors left or relocated to the new market digs in the recently opened mixed-use Essex Crossing complex across Delancey. The historic market’s past dates to the late-19th century, when pushcart peddlers congregated on Hester and Ludlow Streets, later formalized in 1940 by Mayor La Guardia, who opened indoor public market buildings to not only alleviate unsanitary conditions and congestion but also to limit and control street vendors. In the mid-1990s the city consolidated the remaining tenants. Throughout its lifespan, the area’s changing demographics—predominantly Eastern European Jewish, Italian, and Puerto Rican immigrants—shaped the space, transforming it into a vital working-class community hub. New Yorkers had one last chance to visit before it is razed and enters the next phase. Organized by Artists Alliance Inc., Italian artist Andrea Nacciarriti’s site-specific 00 00 00 00 00 [Essex Street Retail Market] intervened into the brick building with the sparest of means, yet achieved a dramatic and visceral effect. His project blacked out the large skylights, “installing darkness,” according to curator Alessandro Facente. After signing a waiver, visitors equipped with flashlights had the chance to explore the pitch-black environment practically alone. The low visibility was pierced by a bright white cube: the former Cuchifritos gallery, now housed in the location across the street. Its door and partitions were ripped away in a pile nearby, echoing other architectural instances of institutional critique removing gallery facades or opening up such hermetic spaces. The only foreign object introduced to the building was a representation of time in the form of a mysterious, red digital clock, reminiscent of the giant one in Union Square, counting down presumably to the end of the show’s run and thus civilian access. Markets are a vibrant typology defined and energized by temporal human activity. Without people buying, selling, and surveying goods, the physical infrastructure comprises a modest stage set sans actors. Wandering amongst the abandoned stalls and empty shelves induced an exhilarating, unsettling vibe. The building’s materiality and remaining appliances/furniture all registered traces of past lives and usage; each object is information. Residual evidence dotted the abandoned aisles and walls, ranging from dry onion skins to drawings by local school children. Barren deli counters and their ilk hinted at missing wares or services. The graphic design on leftover cheese labels and flattened cardboard boxes narrated geographic origins. Prices advertised phantom radishes, leeks, baby bok choy, tomatillo, and okra. The darkness and silence attuned one’s senses moving through space, sharpening visual attention and heightening aural or tactile stimulation. Throughout the defamiliarized setting, your flashlight illuminated entropic fragments along the way. Overall, the project indexes, and invited guests to bear witness to, the types of old school New York institutions disappearing due to development, gentrification, or negligence. In this way, the ephemeral installation offered a spatio-historical experience similar to the nearby Tenement Museum. Nacciarriti framed the project in terms of a Greek play’s choral intermission, a pause and commentary in between scenes. The intention is not to freeze bits of urban fabric forever, but to acknowledge and celebrate buildings and social relations amidst brute state changes. As the city continually evolves at breakneck speeds, nuanced moments like these, of reflection and silence, become all the more valuable to help process our surroundings. 00 00 00 00 00 [Essex Street Retail Market] ran from September 13 through November 17, 2019, at 120 Essex St, New York, NY.
The New York City Council voted to approve the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project yesterday, with little opposition from officials. Local councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the affected area, fell in favor of the $1.45 billion project, which will raise East River Park to 8- to-10 feet above sea level with landfill from Montgomery Street to 25th street to protect against future floods. Forty-six members voted in favor, with only one against and one abstention, and the plan now only has to cross Mayor de Blasio's desk, and he's indicated that he'll sign it. The project has experienced strong ongoing opposition from organized community groups, civic associations, and neighborhood parks advocates, who voiced opposition to the extended loss of play areas, removal of trees, and lack of consultation during the design process. A coalition of community groups had drafted an alternative People's Plan, which the final project considered as a part of its community engagement, along with the EDC's Waterfront Esplanade plan and WXY Studio's East River Blueway Plan. The city responded with a plan to phase work over a longer period to ensure the availability of parks during the construction. Others, like architect William Rockwell, who lives in an Amalgamated Dwellings Cooperative building and experienced severe flooding and loss of power during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, voiced support. Among the notable benefits of the design, apart from potentially live-saving flood protection, will be vastly improved pedestrian connections to the East River across on grade bridges spanning FDR Drive. The areas protected from flooding, according to the Scope of Work in the Environmental Impact Statement, fall within the 100-year flood zone and extend upland to meet the 90th percentile projection of sea-level rise to the 2050s. That includes large parts of the Lower East Side and East Village, Stuy Town, Peter Cooper Village, and Stuyvesant Cove Park, which was built on top of low-lying marshes. Originated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as part of the BIG U Rebuild by Design project—with Bjarke Ingels Group as the lead urban designer in collaboration with One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, ARCADIS, and Buro Happold—the ESCR became the northern half of two separate projects, with the other part section, the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, extending below the Manhattan bridge. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development originally committed $511 million to the project during the Rebuild by Design phase, with New York promising an additional $305 million. The environmental impact statement (EIS), however, only cites the $1.45 billion cost and $335 million committed by HUD from a federal Community Development Block Grant. An October 2019 independent review of the ESCR by the U.S. arm of Dutch water research institute Deltares noted the lack of publicly available information on aspects of the project, making it impossible to review in its totality. The report argues that "transparency of the decision-making process by city agencies will help rebuild trust and gain [the] support of the community," and recommended establishing a community advisory group and keeping community representatives involved in the later, more detailed stages of project design. It also recommended adding two more feet of fill, coordinating with the green infrastructure program, and studying groundwater patterns in the East Village to evaluate the impact of rainfall on the neighborhood and basement flooding. The implementation is being led by the New York City Department of Design and Construction with AKRF/KSE Engineering as the lead consultant.
Makin’ my way downtown, I zip along on my Lime® scooter through the ersatz Japanese village of Little Tokyo, past taxis, buses, and Prii, to a bustling, small-scale warehouse district on the fringe of Los Angeles’s central core. The whirlwind of scales, land uses, languages, and people is dizzying, but I finally land at my destination: Sonoratown, a lively taco spot famous for its soft tortillas, which are made with flour driven up from Sonora, Mexico, in small batches by the owner’s mom. This delirious, quasi-urban experience is one that could only happen in the messy, diverse urban fabric of Los Angeles. You are free to grab whatever pieces of the kaleidoscopic surroundings you can, and the faster you are moving, the more there is to take. Somehow, this frantic energy and free movement seem unaffected or held back by the past. The cultural critic Sean Monahan called LA the capital of the 2010s, describing it as:
...a city whose attributes anticipate collapse: flat and amorphous, rather than vertical and defined; kitsch and pop, rather than avant-garde and tech; individualistic and mass, rather than institutional and elite. You can suggest San Francisco, HQ of disruption, or New York, backdrop for protest movements (#OWS, #BLM). But both places fail to capture the spirit of the age, because they are fighting so hard to change it. They are relics of empire, unsure of themselves after a decade in which success was indistinguishable from failure… Built on celebrity, media, and lifestyle, L.A. doesn’t presume to be building the future, merely inhabiting it. It’s a pick your poison kind of place. [Go wild] at Chateau Marmont. Spend half your paycheck on inscrutable health food at Erewhon. Commute four hours so you can live in a Riverside McMansion. Drive Uber every day, write screenplays every night. Sell out, drop out, suck up, fuck up. There is no right or wrong way to do L.A.Monahan accurately describes why Los Angeles encapsulates the present, and why it’s the most exciting place in the US right now. However, it is also important to note where the city is moving in the 2020s. With the 2028 Olympics as a finish line, Los Angeles is at a crossroads, on a path to become a different place in the next decade. But with the city already at the forefront of global media culture (The Kardashians, Moon Juice, Goop, etc.), it doesn’t need global architecture to maintain its position as a worldwide force. How it defines itself as a physical place is still up for grabs, and it should learn lessons from other hyper-globalized cities, namely New York. Tomorrow’s Los Angeles is one of layers. Moving on from its days as a bastion of mythological American modernism centered around mobility (cars), individuality (single-family homes), and triumph over nature (lawns), it will add new collectivities on to itself. These layers will arise from the constant flux of the new: Technologies and emerging social patterns meld nicely into the loose, still-codifying culture and its corresponding urban forms. It is the flickering of new, communal, car-free, publicly subsidized lifestyles against the old, car-centric, low-density, low-regulation, “libertarian” bones of the urban landscape that make it such an interesting place for urbanism today. The oft-bandied-about claim that the city is libertarian is also not entirely accurate, as California is a sea of regulation and red tape, continually votes to raise its already high taxes, and both California and Los Angeles are leading on climate action. The city is quietly building public infrastructure at a pace that vastly outpaces New York. New York’s Second Avenue Subway took somewhere between 10 and 100 years to complete three stations, and the next phase will be three stops and will be completed by 2029 at the earliest. Meanwhile Los Angeles is (optimistically) on course to build 28 new lines by 2028. This includes an airport-connection line that will allow a direct link from LAX to the city. Meanwhile, New York’s MTA is in a worsening crisis with crumbling stations and delays only getting worse, and New Jersey’s NJ Transit recently gave up on accounting for the traffic expected to reach the American Dream Mall, instead calling on private industry to complete the line, citing none other than Los Angeles’s electric rail airport connector as an example. That’s right—L.A. is leading the way in public transit. Meanwhile, Uber, a municipal car share and micro-mobility options such as scooters have already altered how people get around (many young people don’t have cars at all) and where they live, partly due to an explosion in transit-oriented development around the new metro lines. It is unclear exactly how successful, affordable, and sustainable this will be, but change is certainly underway. New transit networks both public and private, along with lower parking requirements for new construction will profoundly impact development and housing typologies in the future. But it is no secret that Los Angeles is careening toward a New York–like affordability crisis (if it isn’t there already) that goes hand-in-hand with the urban whitewash of global capital. Homelessness is at record levels and only getting worse. In response, architects are working to develop new housing typologies, from affordable prototypes and accessory dwelling units, to larger, multi-family schemes that continue to evolve with new regulations and design challenges. The L.A. River and the L.A River Greenway in the San Fernando Valley are also emerging sites of urban experimentation and reclamation/rehabilitation of greenspace. Los Angeles has a unique architectural culture and urban fabric, but red flags are emerging. First, Bjarke Ingels Group and Herzog & de Meuron, international firms that are both very popular with the New York development community, have projects downtown. Related Group (of Hudson Yards fame) has moved in and is developing a large Frank Gehry project across from Gehry’s own Disney Concert Hall. It perfectly illustrates the lower design quality of developer-led construction and echoes Related Companies’ other project, Hudson Yards: “The project is anchored by a central plaza wrapped with shopping areas and public art.” The biggest red flag might be the shortlist for the La Brea Tar Pits project. In Miracle Mile’s Museum Row, a neighborhood that already has been marred by architectural globalists—once by KPF and twice by Renzo Piano—the shortlist for the La Brea master plan is New York establishment firms WEISS/MANFREDI and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, along with Danish firm Dorte Mandrup. It is a truly odd and troubling list. All three are talented firms, but their selection signals the wind turning toward a placeless architecture where, in California terms, “there is no there there,” reflecting classic donor-class aesthetics. Don’t even get me started on what director Michael Govan and the LACMA board are doing to push through their new building. Joseph Giovannini said it best:
In a sleight of hand that still has serious consequences for LACMA and Los Angeles, Govan introduced [Peter] Zumthor, the architect who presumably could achieve this world-class building, to his Board of Trustees. There was no competition, no public review or discussion, no transparency, just a shoo-in of the architect who had arrived in Los Angeles in Govan’s back pocket. “It won’t be the seventh Renzo Piano building in the country,” Govan explained to me in an interview. “We’ll have the only Zumthor.” …Had he even made it into a normal architect selection process, the jury might have concluded that he was mismatched and dangerously underequipped for the commission.Some Angelenos say that local architects should get their due. L.A. has been defined in many ways by outsiders such as Neutra and Schindler, but also by local legends like Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry, as well as a younger generation like Barbara Bestor, Michael Maltzan, and a host of others who can deliver top-notch design. Los Angeles doesn't need the continental, polite, same-as-everywhere architecture that plagues institutions around the world. The architecture scene has always valued experimentation and allowed younger, more avant-garde approaches and diverse practices to gain ground, outside of the institutional weight that plagues places like the East Coast. It is not “provincial”—as some claim—to want to preserve this well-established local flavor while moving forward. In fact, what would be provincial is thinking that it is necessary to look outward for world-class architecture, or that a mythical global culture needs to be imported for the city to become a world-class place. Nothing defines the periphery like the center, and nothing makes one more provincial than defining oneself against New York. Of course, outside architects can come in and add to the culture; it just takes a bit of judgment. For instance, Spanish firm SelgasCano’s bright, breezy, kit-of-parts style seems to fit with L.A.’s pop modernist aesthetic, and Arata Isozaki’s MOCA has also become an iconic part of L.A. architecture. So let L.A. be regional and different. Don’t let it succumb to the pressures of global capital and “global architecture.” Don’t let Boyle Heights—a strong Latino neighborhood under development pressure, with several buildings already being renovated—become Hudson Yards. New York City has been ruined by capital, which was weaponized to take away the grittiness of places like Times Square, a project of Ed Koch and eventually of Rudy Guiliani. Later, technocrat billionaire Michael Bloomberg finished the sanitization of the city with sloppy rezonings of Williamsburg, West Chelsea, and Long Island City most notably, which ushered in the era of bland office towers and mega mall-like sterility. Developers like President Donald Trump and Related Companies, along with their elected enablers like Bloomberg and Guiliani have shared class interests that threaten the small-scale, local and regional urban landscapes where artists, immigrants, and the working class foment culture. How can Los Angeles be a laboratory for resisting the entropic, hegemonic cancer that is global capital, the global donor class, and the donor-class aesthetic? One tactic, and to be fair, something that the Bloomberg administration got right in places like Brooklyn and Staten Island, is downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods. This is also tricky and can lead to NIMBYism, which L.A. has certainly had its share of recently. In a similar vein, Thom Mayne provocatively suggested clustering development on the Wilshire corridor in order to protect other areas. The Wilshire area has seen some development, but not at the scale Mayne has suggested. Additionally, serious and innovative criticism is needed. Critics must not fall into 20th-century modes of operating; they have to get out in front of these debacles rather than react to them. There are a host of critics operating in Los Angeles, and no one is better positioned to have an impact than former L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who is now in a unique role as the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles, a position where he is literally helping craft RFPs (request for proposals). As long as Hawthorne is able to be heard in the government and in the public and can surround himself with good people who will help guide L.A. through this crucial time, there is a real opportunity to have more and more expert opinions in the process that will avoid the disasters that haunt New York. This, along with more equitable and compensated juried design competitions, can help the people who make financial decisions make "better" aesthetic and cultural decisions. Regionalism, when connected to local ecology, provokes more interesting and nuanced design than a totalizing, global aesthetic. In terms of what resistance might look like outside of design review, Los Angeles is already taking on challenges in a unique way. In Boyle Heights, gentrifying art galleries have been pushed out by strong neighborhood coalitions demanding affordable housing and neighborhood services. Los Angeles could also adopt anti-gentrification policies such as rent control or downzoning to prevent the displacement of both residential and retail spaces. Many cities have adopted such plans, while Berlin and other cities have enacted rent freezes and other regulations on the housing market to ensure affordability. Los Angeles in many ways is the logical conclusion of the myth of the American West. Several time zones and thousands of miles in distance from New York and other global cities, it has historically been connected to global culture through mass media, not physical space. This isolation has left it to its own devices as an urban place. This doesn’t need to change as it grows into more of a global force. New forms and ways of living can be cultivated without abandoning what makes it a special place: its resistance to the forces of the outside. In the 2020s, defining a new localism would be quite an amazing achievement.
Here are fall's hottest architecture, sustainability, and social theory events on the East Coast
AN has assembled another collection of exhibitions, lectures, and conferences in the coming week that feature artists, architects, policymakers, and thinkers reflecting on aesthetic, social, ecological, and design strategies for the modern world. If you're in or around New York City, stop by and enrich yourself. Check out the events below: Rashid Johnson, The Hikers at Hauser + Wirth Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street Opening reception: November 12, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. November 12 through January 25, 2020 Rashid Johnson's The Hikers show includes ceramic tile mosaics, collaged paintings, a large-scale bronze sculpture sprouting plants, and an installation of his latest film shot in Colorado, using the combination of mountain landscapes and body movement to express the psychological consequences and challenges of the modern world and its injustices. Johnson asks: "What are the movements like when a black man is walking past a police officer? Or when a black man is suffering from agoraphobia?" Urban Thinkers Campus: Accelerating the SDGs in Cities Kellogg Center, Columbia University, SIPA 15th Floor November 13, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. GSAPP, Wood Auditorium, 1st Floor 420 West 118th Street, Room 1501 November 14, 10:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. The Urban Thinkers Campus is a UN Habitat framework for critical exchange between stakeholders and partners to promote sustainable urbanization. Columbia University's Center for Sustainable Urban Development is hosting Accelerating the SDGs in Cities, promoting the Paris Climate Agreement's Sustainable Development Goals as a tool to evaluate projects on the basis of the 193-nation agreement. Emphasizing the urgency of meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it shepherds academics, professionals, and participants of civil society to generate ideas for action and methodologies to expedite action on the SDGs. The event will also include a complementary gallery of 100 local projects from more than 30 countries, considered according to how they meet the goals. The Great Hall, Cooper Union November 14 through 16, various times Kickoff Event: November 14, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. LOLA, 169 Avenue A, New York The tenth Creative Time Summit, Speaking Truth, continues the public art organization's discussion of social, political, and aesthetic questions through keynote presentations, group discussions, workshops, and performances. Traveling to DC, Toronto, and Miami in recent years, it returns to New York City to the Great Hall at Cooper Union and sites around the East Village, asking whether the long-time activist cliche of "speaking truth to power" can rescue us from disillusionment. Maybe not, but some of the usual suspects of socially engaged art will be mixed with new faces to challenge whether art can be more than another sideshow of collapsing civic life, politics, and media culture. Francis Kéré: Work Report Yale Architecture Hastings Hall, 180 York Street, Basement Level, New Haven, CT November 14, 6:30 p.m. Kéré's lecture at Yale promises an update on his recent projects, with an emphasis on his communal approach to design and commitment to sustainable materials and modes of construction, drawing on the social and physical particularities of localities. Based in Berlin, Kéré Architecture's current work includes the Burkina Faso National Assembly, the Lycée Schorge Secondary School, the Léo Surgical Clinic & Health Centre, the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion, and Xylem, the recently opened pavilion for Tippet Rise Art Center. The Green New Deal: A Public Assembly Queens Museum New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens November 17, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Advocates, organizers, and elected officials—including a rumored appearance by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her district—will gather for this conference jointly organized by the Buell Center at Columbia GSAPP with the Queens Museum, AIA New York, the Architecture Lobby, Francisco J. Casablanca (¿Quién Nos Representa?), and Green New Deal organizer and architect Gabriel Hernández Solano. Following the drafting of a set of general principles for how to equitably redress climate crisis in House Resolution 109 and Senate Resolution 59, The Green New Deal: A Public Assembly includes morning workshops and an afternoon series of discussions to encourage invited guests and the public to think systemically and across scales. Alphonso Lingis, "Irrevocable" The New School GIDEST Lab at 63 Fifth Avenue, Room 411 November 22, 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. The philosopher Alphonso Lingis lectures on the "irrevocable" at the GIDEST Seminar, the New School's weekly discussion at the Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography & Social Thought. Author of a series of books on places of alterity and social cohesion, including The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common, The Imperative, Dangerous Emotions, Trust, and Violence and Splendor, Lingis's work draws from continental philosophy, phenomenology, and engages in philosophical-ethnographic travel meditations, often focused on bodily experience.