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Remotely, Of Course

AN checks in with Johnston Marklee
Architecture studio Johnston Marklee is best known for designing sophisticated, site-sensitive buildings befitting the display and production of visual art. The Los Angeles–based firm has designed multiple galleries and exhibition pavilions, and its most internationally renowned work is the 2019 AN Best of Design Award-winning Menil Drawing Institute. Yet principal Sharon Johnston, who founded the firm alongside partner in business and life Mark Lee in 1998, is quick to point out that the eponymous firm has “produced a diverse body of works” that defies any strict scale or type. “Our interest is in history and working within the landscape,” said Johnston. “A key part of our practice is pushing out of bounds to look back at questions we as architects ask with a fresh lens,” Johnston continued. “A diversity of voice is something we cultivate with a lot of intentions.” That diversity is most apparent in the number of private homes that Johnston Marklee has designed in Southern California and locales farther afield, including Argentina, Hawaii, and Marfa, Texas. Each of the firm’s residential projects responds to the surrounding landscape, be it the high desert or abutting the Pacific Ocean, in subtle yet innovative ways. The homes also possess, to quote Johnston, an embedded “sense of intimacy and generosity” that can be found throughout the firm’s output, which also includes retail environments for clients such as Knoll, Aesop, and Chan Luu. “A sense of the domestic is core to all of our work,” said Johnston, who noted that the firm’s approach has benefited from working with a specific group of clients who are “looking for new frames of reference…and we like fitting into this space.” Vault House The buoyant Vault House is stretched out on a bed of piles drilled deep into a sandy beach in Oxnard, California. Comprising a series of stacked rooms inching toward the Pacific, the rectilinear home, with its vaulted ceilings, unidirectional arched windows, and curvy recesses, has a markedly narrow frontage. This is typical for Southern California’s densely settled beach communities, where the architecture can be lofty but the lots constricted. As a result, single-view oceanfront residences are often dim facing the street and flooded with light on the ocean-fronting side. To help distribute natural light equally throughout Vault House, Johnston Marklee inserted a courtyard into its midsection, neatly dividing the guest quarters from more private areas. “When you’re moving through it, it’s more like a kaleidoscope in terms of a floor plan,” Johnston explained. Menil Drawing Institute Nestled on the lush grounds of Houston’s Menil Collection, the Menil Drawing Institute is often described as Johnston Marklee’s “big break,” the firm having won the coveted commission over fellow finalists Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, David Chipperfield Architects, and SANAA. Low-slung and arranged around a trio of open-roof courtyards, the relatively compact museum building—completed in 2018, it’s the fifth to join the Menil Collection’s 30-acre campus—works carefully considered magic with natural daylighting by harnessing sun-blocking steel canopies, light-filtering plantings, and hypercalibrated window placement. The result ultimately feels more domestic than institutional. “There’s a generosity about it, an intimacy with the viewer,” said Johnston. Nicholas Hofstede, managing director at Johnston Marklee, added that the building’s cozy accessibility benefits from a design approach that’s “not so much formalist but pragmatic.” Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios Completed in 2019 for the School of Arts and Architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios breathe new life into an old wallpaper factory in Culver City, California, without stripping the space of its historical patina. Located in a once down-and-out industrial zone known as the Hayden Tract, the project combines an adaptive reuse agenda with a 26,800-square-foot expansion in line, said Johnston, with the architects’ dual objective to find “contemporary expressions within a historic warehouse building” while “thinking about every square inch as a production space.” This approach lends the bustling complex, which includes studios, galleries, classrooms, laboratories, and an artist-in-residence loft, more of a “factory than a school sensibility.” Philadelphia Contemporary Philadelphia Contemporary, a peripatetic four-year-old nonprofit arts organization—or “curatorial institution,” as it describes itself—announced in 2018 that it had enlisted the firm to design its first permanent home following an exhaustive search. What this much-talked-about home might look like has yet to be publicly unveiled. But the project has opened a door for Johnston Marklee—a firm that’s unfailingly mindful of local context and that places such emphasis on architectural fundamentals like light and proportion of space—to “think about buildings that are more like scaffolds for programming,” Johnston suggested. “What does it mean for an itinerant arts institution to have a home?”
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Speaking Up

Innovation in Arkansas shouldn’t be overlooked
A powerful combination of natural resources and local initiative is pushing one southern state to the forefront of architectural innovation in the country. In Arkansas, a place that’s far from the profession’s traditional epicenters in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, big things are happening. In Bentonville, Wheeler Kearns Architects just repurposed a defunct Kraft cheese factory into The Momentary, the contemporary offshoot of the Moshe Safdie–designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Over two hundred miles south in Little Rock, Studio Gang and SCAPE Landscape Architecture are working together to renovate and extend the Arkansas Arts Center, a 104-year-old cultural institution attached to MacArthur Park. Construction on the 127,000-square-foot project broke ground last fall. At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, a massive research complex, the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation is slated to come online in 2022 courtesy of Grafton Architects, and last year the school finished the country’s largest mass timber building, Adohi Hall, a 202,027-square-foot dormitory designed by a team led by Leers Weinzapfel Associates. Topographically, Arkansas varies widely from its forested and rocky northwest corner to the eastern wetlands that follow the Mississippi River. Fifty-six percent of the state is covered in forestland. From the mountainous Ozarks region in the northwest to the deep-soil Delta in the southeast, the state’s diverse wood basket supplies yield high-quality forest products, along with 27,000 jobs in paper production and wood-related manufacturing. According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, some of the state’s largest employers include Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Weyerhaeuser, and WestRock Corporation, each owning at least two manufacturing facilities or more within the borders of Arkansas. The timber industry is one of the state’s biggest economic drivers. The Walton family, a.k.a. the founders of Walmart, Inc., is another. The Walton Family Foundation has made it its mission to develop high-design public buildings and community gathering spaces for the state’s Benton and Washington counties, home of Fayetteville, Springdale, and Bentonville. Since Walmart made the latter its home base in 1971, it’s required all collaborators and retailers to set up shop in the area as well, thereby forcefully growing the population of the city year after year. The ripple effects of Walmart’s investment are already being felt around the state. While Adohi Hall might hold the title of America’s biggest mass timber building now, Gensler’s design for Walmart’s new timber-structured Home Office in nearby Bentonville will surpass it with 2.5 million square feet of mid-rise office space and amenity buildings. Canadian manufacturer Structurlam announced in December that it had bought an existing building in Conway, Arkansas, for $90 million and will retrofit it into a mass timber facility so that it can, in part, supply Walmart with the 1.1 million cubic feet of timber products needed for the project. Hardy Wentzel, CEO of Structurlam, said that latching onto a large-scale construction project at the start of a new site investment is a dream come true. “It really helped solidify our desire to move to Arkansas in our first U.S. expansion. I wanted to anchor my investment with a large contract and Walmart was the perfect opportunity.” Structurlam isn’t the only timber manufacturer expanding into the state. Texas CLT recently reopened a defunct laminating mill in the southwest city of Magnolia where it produces CLT products from southern pine and Douglas fir. Walmart, however, doesn’t compete with hardly anyone—especially in Arkansas. For the last six years since 2015, the Foundation has utilized its burgeoning Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program to get major firms working to reshape the region such as Ross Barney Architects and de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop. Other firms slated to do future work include Architecture Research Office, Deborah Berke Partners, MASS Design Group, Trahan Architects, and Michael Van Valkenburgh Architects. Last summer, LTL Architects completed an early childhood education center in Bentonville and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects was chosen to create a 50-acre cultural arts corridor in Fayetteville. The latter project will thread through downtown near the city’s recently-opened performing arts center, TheatreSquared, designed by Marvel Architects. When asked about her first impression of Arkansas and the Design Excellence Program’s work to fabricate these places with consistent new construction, Lissa So, founding partner of Marvel, said the initiative, which “seeks to preserve a sense of place by encouraging quality design of public spaces,” according its website, doesn't feel contrived. “Arkansas feels like home to me,” So told AN. “I grew up in Upstate New York and I love the close-knit community and emphasis on connecting with nature.” So sees the 50,0000-square-foot TheatreSquared—which has attracted much buzz since opening in August—as part of a cultural renaissance in Northwest Arkansas. The project embodies Fayetteville’s desire to develop its arts-related offerings and get more people interested in downtown. In 2006, it adopted a citywide master plan with zoning updates and street enhancements that enabled these goals. “Arkansas thinks of itself as the epicenter of arts between Chicago and Miami and if you look around, it feels that way,” said Jonathan Marvel, principal of Marvel Architects. “When it comes to building the city of Fayetteville itself, there’s a significant amount of attention and pride devoted to craftsmanship and ownership here.” The local design community is also rife with regional pride and uses the state’s abundant resources like timber and stone to build structures that speak to local designers’ mission-driven ambition, according to Chris Baribeau. Baribeau is the design principal and cofounder of modus studio—one of the teams behind the $79 million Adohi Hall and the university’s new corrugated aluminum Sculpture Studio. Much of the firm’s work involves designing K-12 schools for Arkansas’ rural communities, which fulfills its bent toward helping underserved populations. “There’s a real opportunity here to do something that’s meaningful,” he said. “We can prove that our approach to design and construction is actually for the betterment of people, not just about making beautiful objects or celebrating ourselves. There’s certainly a strong contingent of architects in Arkansas that believe in that ethos and work hard to make a difference here.” To many young architects like Baribeau, Marlon Blackwell is at the heart of this approach to design. Blackwell has worked in Arkansas since 1992 and is the most recent recipient of the American Institute of Architect’s highest honor, the 2020 AIA Gold Medal. If anyone has observed and influenced the changes that Arkansas has experienced in the last 30 years, it’s him. His eponymous firm’s seminal projects, such as the Keenan TowerHouse, completed in 2000, and the St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church, finished just over a decade later, shaped what became a new vernacular in Arkansas, one that’s continually broken down preconceived notions of what buildings look like in the American South. To bridge the gap of recognition that the state deserves, Blackwell, like other area firms, promotes projects from other practices and preaches about the culture of working in the region. “Many of us are standing on the shoulders of great native architects like E. Fay Jones and Warren Dennis Segraves,” he said, “but the difference between our work and theirs is that we are now taking on the public realm. There are many younger firms out there willing to fight the good fight and push progressive thinking on major civic projects. It’s a continual battle, but much of our recent success has also come from an enlightened clientele.” Whether it’s the university or the Walton family providing opportunity in Northwest Arkansas or arts organizations, the public school system, or business development districts looking to invest in the state’s southern half, projects are aplenty. As part of the architectural profession, Blackwell said, it’s his responsibility to demonstrate that every one of those opportunities deserves good design. “Our mission is to provide alternative models that change the benchmark of reality for folks here,” he added. “The more examples you can point to, the more reality is improved.” Take the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, the focus of a design competition facilitated by the University of Arkansas. Timber is a dominant focus of study at the university’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, where students get to work with a cast of high-profile professors like Blackwell, who shares his passion for sustainable materials, and Stephen Luoni, who directs the award-winning University of Arkansas Community Design Center. Since Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School, came to Fayetteville from St. Louis in 2014, he’s been working to deepen the school’s timber research program. A major part of this is the Timberlands Center, which will expand the university’s ability to undertake research projects, MacKeith said. The school already operates out of its longtime home Vol Walker Hall and the Marlon Blackwell Architects–designed Steven L. Anderson Design Center. “So much of what we’re doing across the school is emphasizing the relationship of thinking to making and the ambitions of our students have become larger in scale, tools, and techniques,” MacKeith said. “We’ve outgrown the capacities of what we can do in our existing building.” In mid-March, Grafton Architects, led by 2020 Pritzker Prize winners Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, won an international competition for the Timberlands Center, besting 68 other entries and five other shortlisted firms: WT/GO Architecture, Dorte Mandrup A/S, Shigeru Ban Architects, Kennedy & Violich Architecture, and Lever Architecture. The competition was partially funded by grants from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. To MacKeith, the momentum that the university has built over the last five years is due in part, because Arkansas is a small state and the school’s reach of influence extends all the way to the top. “We saw an opportunity where design education could be a benefit to the state’s greatest natural resource and my approach has been to make sure that the governor, the state legislature, as well as investors, and people at companies in Arkansas, understand that we can be part of the forest ecosystem,” he said. “Generally speaking, our students are quite concerned about the world they are going to be practicing in and living in and they want to be able to act responsibly. As a public land grant university, that’s why we work so much with people outside the corners of our campus.” It’s this open-minded ambition that is pushing a distinctive architectural agenda in the state. Chris Baribeau added that there’s an undertone of respect across Arkansas for the critical thinking and people-first attitude that local architects are bringing to projects, though he acknowledged that it’s taking some work to get that same respect on a national stage. Arkansas is speaking up.
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Nobody Puts Getty in a Corner

Jacob Jonas The Company spotlights architecture through dance
The mingling of soft bodies and hard architectural structures is a guaranteed way to generate high-contrast, memorable photos, and the Los Angeles-based dance company Jacob Jonas The Company (JJTC) is certainly using that to their advantage. The company, which blends contemporary ballet with breakdancing and acrobatics, has been collaborating with photographers, other dance companies, and institutions to draw attention to each structure. Aside from putting on live shows, JJTC also functions as a production company for commercials and other visual projects; the #CamerasandDancers initiative grew out of what founder Jacob Jonas described as “Instameets.” Creatives gather in cities around the world and take photos, so Jonas extended the idea to pair photography influencers with dancers and use architectural icons as the backdrop. After the fifth shoot, the Getty Museum reached out to the group to stage a meetup, and now JJTC puts on about one a month (each photo series takes about three-to-six months to stage). The company has produced over 50 collaborations and is still actively soliciting photographers, dancers, and venues to work with. Part of the inspiration came from #emptymet, both an Instagram hashtag and series of tours the Metropolitan Museum of Art stages to take visitors through the museum sans people. As Jonas mentioned, it’s a great way for people to experience cultural institutions in a new light, where one can focus on the structure itself without worrying about being jostled. For what it’s worth, #CamerasandDancers has also come to the Met itself, staging a shoot in the soaring Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates-designed Sackler Wing that houses the Temple of Dendur and faces Central Park. Because each shoot is choreographed in entirely empty buildings without an audience, what the public sees is carefully controlled; the photography and dance itself are equally as important in creating the final image. Of course, while juxtaposing dance with historic structures isn’t new—see Gerard & Kelly’s sumptuous Villa Savoye show from last year, or Solange’s Getty installations—JJTC’s work has taken on a new poignancy at a time when most, if not all, of these institutions are now closed.
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In Memoriam

Arts and architecture advocate Merry Norris dies
Merry Norris, an arts and architecture advocate based in Los Angeles, passed away on March 16. As one of the city’s first Cultural Affairs Commissioners when she was appointed in 1984, the first Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA/LA), and a board member and an honorary trustee at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) since 1987, Norris was widely known throughout the city for her open embrace of all things groundbreaking and on the cutting edge. Like fellow philanthropists Eli Broad and Robert H. Ahmanson, Norris helped shaped the cultural identity of the young city by drawing connections between a wide range of creative fields. Hernán Díaz Alonso, the current Director of SCI-Arc, expressed in a press statement that “Merry Norris was in a league of her own,” and that “her generosity and passion for SCI-Arc and the arts was unparalleled. Over the years, her contributions have made her inseparable from what SCI-Arc is and will continue to be.” Faculty member and founder of Morphosis Thom Mayne said that Norris “approached everything with wonder and enthusiasm—she loved the world and the people in it,” and SCI-Arc Chairman of the Board of Trustees Kevin Ratner added that she was “a fixture of LA’s cultural fabric; a committed board member who connected the school to the greater arts community and whose strong opinion always mattered.” Norris was behind the enhancement of many of the city’s public spaces through the inclusion of work from local artists, such as those of Shepard Fairey and David Wisemen throughout the West Hollywood Library, and a large mural by Kenny Scharf adorning the sides of a parking garage for the Pasadena Museum of California Art. But she is perhaps most well known for her instrumental role in the founding and building of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), one of the most city’s most important art institutions, as well as the James Corner Field Operations-designed Tongva Park in Santa Monica. Her own home, perched above the Sunset Strip, was itself a veritable museum of contemporary art and design, according to an interview with Curbed, including furniture designed by Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne, as well as artwork by Ed Ruscha, Mark Bradford, and Jenny Holzer.
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Hanging on the Precipice

UNESCO and Google spotlight climate change’s impact on World Heritage Sites
Last month, Google Arts & Culture launched a new online platform drawing attention to the devastating effect that climate change has had—and will continue to have—on five diverse and vulnerable UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The exhaustive and expertly organized initiative, Heritage on the Edge, achieves this through an array of mediums including photography, detailed 3D models, 2D maps and Street View tours, historical information, audio, interactive graphics, and present-day interviews with local conservationists and residents living in the impacted areas. Two of the endangered World Heritage Sites are also brought to life using augmented reality “pocket galleries." Most important, the multimedia platform, which spans over 60 pages and is illuminating as it is devastating, illustrates how people in these five unique locales have come together to protect their most cherished cultural sites against rising seas, extreme weather, coastal erosion, and drought. Describing itself as “one of the most ambitious efforts to date to realize the power of heritage to tell the story of climate change,” Heritage on the Edge was conceived as part of a partnership between Google, California-based nonprofit 3D-surveying firm CyArk, and the Climate Change and Heritage Working Group (CCHWG) of the International Council for Museums and Sites (ICOMOS), which serves as an advisory body for UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. The five featured UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Rapa Nui, the remote Chilean territory also known as Easter Island, where iconic monumental stone statues are suffering damage caused by rising seas; the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, where ancient and ultra-porous landmark buildings are decaying at an increased speed due to more frequent and severe rain events; the pre-Columbian desert city of Chan Chan, Peru, that’s threatened by both flood and drought; the mosque city of Bagerhat, Bangladesh, where salty floodwaters are wreaking havoc on its ancient buildings, and Kilwa Kisiwana, a Tanzanian port city at risk of being destroyed by coastal erosion. “The heritage narrative opens so many angles on climate change—justice, livelihoods, migration, mitigation, identity, loss, impacts, solutions and of course urgency,” Dr. Will Megarry, an archeologist and lecturer in Geographical Information Science at Queen’s University Belfast who coordinated ICOMOS’s participation, said in a statement. “The Heritage on the Edge project touches on all these and more, experimenting with multiple media, from high technology to traditional oral storytelling to make its points.” “While climate change is predominately fuelled by large industrialised countries, it is vulnerable communities and heritage which are most impacted. This is one of the reasons why sites were chosen from across the world,” Megarry added, noting that the project “helps blaze a trail for climate communication.” In total, five ICOMOS CCWG members coordinated the ambitious undertaking. Each oversaw efforts with local stakeholders and conservation experts to bring the platform fully to life through networking, providing climate- and heritage-related expertise and conservation support to site managers, and helping carry out “local training programs to assess site vulnerabilities.” Megarry headed up the Kilwa Kisiwana project; Jane Downes, director of the Archaeology Institute at Scotland’s University of Highlands and Islands coordinated efforts on Rapa Nui; Andrew Potts, the U.S.-based coordinator for ICOMOS and CCHWG, organized in Bagerhat; Milagros Flores, former President of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Fortifications and Military Heritage, oversaw work in Chan Chan; and Peter Cox, managing director of Carrig Conservation International Limited and president of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Energy and Sustainability, served as lead in Edinburgh. “Above all, the project is a call to action,” wrote Dr. Toshiyuki Kono, president of ICOMOS and professor of private international law and heritage law at Kyushu University in Japan, in an introductory essay published by Google Arts & Culture. “The effects of climate change on our cultural heritage mirror wider impacts on our planet, and require a robust and meaningful response. While actions at individual sites can prevent loss locally, the only sustainable solution is systemic change and the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” Launched in 2011 as the Google Art Project through the Google Cultural Institute Initiative, Google Arts & Culture has partnered with over 1,000 museums, cultural organizations, and heritage groups—the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum among them—to make a countless number of artworks and artifacts digitally accessible to the public using various existing and newly created technologies.
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The Ignored Realm

Rem Koolhaas sets a global non-urban agenda with Countryside at the Guggenheim
In both pre-Christianity Rome and China, the countryside was a place of retreat where those seeking respite from the bustle and grime of the city would go for rest, relaxation, and creative inspiration. The Chinese founders of Taoism called this freedom and wondering Xiaoyao, while Roman philosophers referred to time away as Otium: and idealized existences—from off-the-grid hippy utopias to the peaceful bliss of Arcadia—have continued to crystallize in the natural landscapes of the rural. Contemporary ideas around wellness, mindfulness, ayahuasca startup retreats, and glamping at Burning Man fill the same role in our society as a full-circle return to pre-industrial, pre-capitalist, nature-centric lifestyles that are paradoxically a product of our neoliberal consumerist culture and sold as an antidote to it. This lineage, from the beginning of western civilization and ancient eastern philosophy to 21st-century marketing culture, is just part of Rem Koolhaas’s ten-year transcultural, transhistorical research and analysis of non-urban territories, or what he calls the “ignored realm.” On view at New York’s Guggenheim Museum through August 14, Countryside: The Future is a project of Koolhaas, AMO director Samir Bantal, and Troy Conrad Therrien of the Guggenheim. The show fills the museum’s entire main rotunda. It is meant to upend traditional notions of the countryside by investigating the places where the influence, as well as the oddities, normally associated with the urban can be found outside the city. If, at one time in the not-so-distant past, the countryside was an idyllic place where each human had a role, Koolhaas posits that the “romantic” landscape of creek beds, hillsides, and family farms is now unrecognizable as a stable, human-centered place, but rather a hyper-efficient, inorganic, non-place where Cartesian technological systems define life. The show reverses course on much of what we have come to accept as the baseline for thinking about development. Take that famous statistic: by 2050, 70- to-80 percent of humanity would live in cities. “Are we really heading for this absurd outcome, where the vast majority of humanity lives on only 2% of the earth’s surface, and the remaining 98%, inhabited by only one-fifth of humanity, exists to serve cities?” Of course, Rem is not the first person to do research on the rural. But he has the resources (5 partner schools and AMO), the storytelling ability, and the platform (an entire museum in NYC) to reorient the conversation, as he has on other topics such as cities, Dubai, and toilets. The exhibition starts outside the museum, with a tractor next to a small, high-tech indoor tomato farm under pink lights that illuminate passing pedestrians. In the lobby, a requisite hanging sculpture in the rotunda is made from a bale of hay, an imaging satellite akin those used by Google Maps, and an underwater robot that kills fish threatening coral reefs. Land, sea, and even space are all implicated in this broad survey of the rural, as this sculpture sets the tone for the rest of the show, which launches into an outpouring of information. It is reminiscent of OMA/AMO publications Content, Volume, or the Elements exhibition and books, as visitors are greeted by a wall text of 1,000 questions posed by Koolhaas. Nearby is a table showcasing publications that provided context: The Red Book and the Great Wall, The Future of the Great Plains, Golf Courses of the World, and a German publication about Muammar al-Gaddafi. At the core of the show, the Guggenheim’s iconic ramp houses a set of themed vignettes. ‘Political Redesign’ is a catalog of ‘heroic’ 20th-century geopolitical operations, ranging from the founding of several United States federal agencies during the Dust Bowl, to German Architect Herman Sörgel’s plan to unite Europe and Africa by lowering the level of the Mediterranean Sea and building a bridge over the resulting span. Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and the evolution of the Jeffersonian grid from squares to circles are also highlights. Countryside then moves away from these governmental models into more polyvalent experiments with nature, technology, politics, planning, and preservation. Many of these we might normally associate with the urban, such as the anarchist community in Tarnac, France that was raided by police in 2008 but is now home to an informal university hidden in the forest. There are also glimpses of rural China, most beautifully Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming channel that allows sellers in the countryside to broadcast their produce and foodstuffs to audiences in the cities. Arcosanti, afro-futurism, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative are among the other kaleidoscopic ways that the narrative extends beyond industrial farming into a host of other social and political spheres. Working through contemporary preservation methods, proposals, and scenarios, including a curious example from Siberia where valuable mammoth tusks are becoming exposed in the ground by climate change and creating new economies for local, amateur “archaeologists,” the exhibitions closes on ‘cartesian euphoria,’ a kind of paranoiac-critical reading of the technologies and systems that are rearranging nature and politics in the countryside, complete with a full-scale installation of a PhenoMate, a cutting-edge farming tool that uses machine learning to identify which plants in a nursery bed photosynthesizing the most, and selectively breeds stronger strains without genetic modification. The show operates politically in a context where the countryside, and those who live in it are a marginalized group, at least culturally. Urban elites deride rural areas as many things, most out-of-touchedly as “fly-over states.” After a decade or more or the architectural world focusing on cities and urban areas as the main spaces of inquiry, Rem’s turn to the countryside —most likely born from a desire to look where most others are not— and his ability to show the public that the so-called hinterlands are a place where not only are some of the most important agricultural, industrial, and social mechanisms of society operating, but it is also where many of the interesting intersections of experimental politics, economics, engineering, and social relationships are taking place. To ignore the rural because we don’t agree with the politics of those who live there, or think that their culture is not sophisticated is not only missing out on experiencing a countryside beyond a luxury faux-rustic retreat, but it is also disregarding the fact that the countryside and the city are and always will be inextricably linked, as elucidated by a brilliant provocation that cities have become stuck in “frivolity,” while supported by complex, managed landscapes in the countryside. For example, urbanites underneath London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit leisurely eat ice cream brought in from factory farms in the outskirts. It is also a show with a decidedly top-down lens on the countryside. Some will not like the relative lack of representation of small-scale communities in the show, but the acknowledgment of systems and technology is an important way of seeing these territories. Had the curators included more grassroots narratives, it likely would have watered down the larger, geopolitical stories being told, and the show is better off for staying focused on larger-scale issues rather than getting into the folk aspects of the countryside, which would be more predictable and less compelling. Countryside is definitely a magazine- or book-on-the-wall type of exhibition, but not in a bad way. The texts are snappily written in typical Koolhaasian style, and there are not too many complex maps or charts, making the exhibition feel more like a journalistic analysis of what is interesting about the countryside, not necessarily a theoretical treatise or prescriptive path forward. It could be read as a transformation of the museum into a publication, a curatorial strategy that upturns not only our ideas about the Guggenheim but about how to leverage a hyper-didactic exhibition into an aesthetic experience.  The show is literally distorted by the Guggenheim’s double-curved surfaces, spiraling ramp, and constantly shifting vantage points, with a string of text spiraling around the underside of the ramps like a dizzying thesis statement, always to be revisited. If there is a sticking point, it is that the aesthetic of the exhibition will be familiar to many, as it harkens back to previous OMA/AMO publications. Koolhaas has long collaborated with Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, who created a custom Countryside typeface for the show, which resembles both handwriting and her Neutral typeface used throughout. In an exhibition that is really a publication, typefaces matter, and the familiar layouts and fonts make the exhibition seem more like the work of a signature architect or firm, not a global coalition. No, but seriously, folks, go see the show! Taschen has published an accompanying publication, available for 24.95 online or at the gift shop.
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Heart Squared

MODU and Eric Forman reveal the 2020 Times Square Valentine’s heart
An 800-lb multi-mirrored heart sculpture was unveiled yesterday as the 12th winner of the Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition. Heart Squared was designed by architects Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem of MODU and artist Eric Forman from Eric Forman Studios, both based in Brooklyn.  Designed to function like a kaleidoscope, multi-directional mirrors have been suspended in a thin metal space-frame to reflect the bright lights of Times Square from every angle. The 10-foot-tall sculpture prompts visitors to circle around until the frame and mirrors align to reveal a heart, creating the perfect backdrop for a New York Valentine’s Day selfie. “It is the public floor of the city, chaotic, crowded, noisy, it's a character we love about the city. In these public spaces, we feel the freedom to be ourselves amongst others who are different than us,” said Rotem at the sculpture's unveiling. “In our piece, we want to emphasize and amplify this amazing character of the city.” MODU was recognized with a Rome Prize for architecture in 2017, and in 2019 the firm was one of the Architectural League of New York's  Emerging Voices. They collaborated with Eric Forman, who founded his eponymous studio in 2003 and specializes in pieces that facilitate interaction between technology and design.  “We designed this as a balancing act between structure and air, buildings and sky, people and the city, movement, and slowness,” said Forman at the opening.  Times Square Arts partnered with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for this year's competition. Heart Squared was selected from a shortlist of five other New York-based firms, including Agency—Agency, Hou de Sousa, Isometric, Office III, and Other Means.  The jury selected Heart Squared because it was dynamic, animated, inclusive, and accessible, according to Andrea Lipps, associate curator of design at the Cooper Hewitt. The jury also included Sean Anderson from MoMA; Victor Calise, the commissioner from the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities; Kevin Davey from UAP, and last year’s winner, Suchi Reddy from Reddymade.  The competition was made possible from support by the Warhol Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Ripple Foundation, Silman, and New Project. The project’s 125 mirrors will be on display in Father Duffy Square between West 46th and 47th Streets throughout the month of February. 
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Stocking Stuffers

AN rounds up 2019's must-reads for the holiday season
With the end of the decade on the horizon, AN has once again rounded up the best new releases for holiday reading. This list has something for everyone on your list, whether they want to dive back into Michelangelo's renaissance work, learn the ins-and-outs of socialist architecture, or explore the world's contemporary architectural biennials. While it's too late for holiday shopping, that doesn't mean you can't pick up something for the New Year's break. Note: AN may receive a commission for items purchased through the following affiliate links.  Biennials/Triennials: Conversations on the Geography of Itinerant Display  Léa-Catherine Szacka Columbia Books on Architecture and the City  MSRP: $17.99 Recent decades have brought about an onslaught of -ennials (or -iennales), indicating both the growing importance in exhibition design for architects as well as increased capital and spectator entertainment value; architecture for show, but also a “taking the temperature” of the current climate. This little book colleccts conversations between the author and dozens of biennial and triennial curators, as they discuss the showpiece of our contemporary moment in context.  Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design  Edited by Guy Nordenson  MoMA MSRP: $39.57 This collection of 10 seminal essays outlines the contributions of Japanese post-war architect-engineer collaborations that led to some of the country’s most iconic buildings. Japanese domes, bubbles, and sweeping forms fascinated architects and designers worldwide and led to an unprecedented non-linear chapter in architectural history.  The essays, and their generous accompanying images and archival materials, show how the ideas and concepts of these collaborations were passed down seamlessly over several generations, and in some ways, how they still persists as a scientific feat in design imagination today.  Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War By Łukasz Stanek Princeton University Press   MSRP: $60.00 Political regimes have used architecture as a way of transmitting power, legacy, and permanence throughout all of history, and the socialist movements of the mid and late 20th century were no different. Throughout the Cold War years, architects and planners from socialist Eastern Europe worked closely with those in regions such as West Africa and the Middle East, resulting in a substantial reshaping of the great cities of Accra, Lagos and Abu Dhabi, among others.  This text-heavy book brings this story of cross-continent collaboration to life with previously unpublished images and original archival research, revisiting the connective powers, as well as lessons through longevity, of architecture.  A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change By Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual, and Andrea Bagnato Columbia Books on Architecture and the City  MSRP:  $25.52 A moving border is not a border at all—movement becomes negotiable, and the ebb and flow of human fabrication and implication are thrown out of balance. This is a phenomenon observed by ZKM researchers, who have dispatched equipment along the mountainous border between Italy and Austria, the ridge that forms the disparate water flows towards either Northern or Southern Europe. Their findings and cartographic visual language remind the reader that borders and the human political mind are in flux and impermanent, but that our actions towards melting glaciers and climate change are not: in fact, they’re reflected as hiccups in the very borders we try so hard to maintain. As glaciers melt, rivers flood, and borders shift, the environment is literally reshaping political boundaries. The Shenzhen Experiment: The Story  of China’s Instant City Juan Du Harvard University Press MSRP: $35.00 The “instant city” concept of Chinese mega-development is crystallized in the success of Shenzhen, a government-planned city that seemingly sprouted from the ground. Recognized for its role as an international technology center, economic powerhouse, and mega-city population of over 20 million, Shenzhen also a bit of a mystery, as the same model has been applied to dozens of other "insta-city projects," but none have approached Shenzhen’s overnight celebrity. This book explores the blurry history of the city, beginning with its farmers and oyster fishermen. Tracing policymakers, government regulation, and that the concept of explosive overnight growth is desirable the world over, is an important story for architects and planners everywhere facing the excitement as well as perils of rapid urbanization and industrialization.  Michelangelo, God’s Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece By William E. Wallace  Princeton University Press  MSRP: $29.95 The last two decades of Michelangelo’s life were at first expected to be marked by failure and decline—the Renaissance artist even began to carve his own tomb. However, intervention via the Catholic Church landed Michelangelo with the master plan of St. Peter’s Basilica, a commission that would change his legacy, as well as the course of the Renaissance's architectural history. A fresh look at a portion of the artist’s life that often goes overlooked, the narrative aspects bring to light many myths and very human struggles that the venerated figure overcame. City on a Hill: Urban Idealism in America from the Puritans to the Present By Alex Krieger Harvard University Press MSRP: $35.00 A critically deep dive into the visions of utopia that have shaped American development, City on a Hill outlines the idealisms underlying various urban design movements, starting with the first wave of pilgrims looking for a new start. Krieger honors the grand ideas that have moved America and its cities forward over the centuries but also underwrites with a critical eye the lessons that can be learned as we move forward towards contemporary ideals of sustainability and smart cities today. 
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Trees, Frieze, and

AN rounds-up the best exhibitions to see before the end of the year
As the year comes to a close, AN has gathered some of the best architecture exhibitions worldwide to feast your eyes upon before (and into) 2020. Historical retrospectives, site-specific installations in starchitect designed museums, even methods for how to scale the walls of the Eastern State Penitentiarythe list represents the breadth of subjects that architectural theory and curatorial practice have explored this past year and decade. Gio Ponti. Loving Architecture November 27, 2019, through April 13, 2020 MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts Via Guido Reni, 4A, 00196 Rome, Italy
Love architecture, be it ancient or modern. Love it for its fantastic, adventurous and solemn creations; for its inventions; for the abstract, allusive and figurative forms that enchant our spirit and enrapture our thoughts. Love architecture, the stage, and support of our lives. -Gio Ponti, Amate l’architettura (In praise of architecture) 1957
In collaboration with CSAC of Parma and Gio Ponti Archives, MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts has put on a major retrospective of work by Italian architect, Gio Ponti. The exhibition is curated by Maristella Casciato (the senior curator of architectural collections at the Getty Research Institute) and surveys Ponti’s prolific, multifaceted career as an architect, designer, poet, and critic through models, photographs, books, objects, and more.  Margherita Guccione, director of MAXXI Architettura said in a recent press release, “Neither classical nor modern, the work of Gio Ponti was unique... ranging from the design of objects of everyday use to the invention of spatial configurations for the modern home and the creation of complex projects embedded within the urban context, maintaining architecture, setting and saving grace of our lives, as the fixed core of his research.” Alexander Rosenberg: A Climber's Guide to Eastern State Penitentiary or, Eastern State's Architecture, and How to Escape It On view now through January 1, 2020 Eastern State Penitentiary 2027 Fairmount Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19130 Alexander Rosenberg is a Philadelphia-based artist, educator, and writer. Receiving his BFA in Glass from RISD and Master of Science in Visual Studies from MIT, much of his work is a deep exploration of the study of glass as a material. In this body of work, Rosenberg produced a site-specific installation and performance in response to the architecture and preservation of Eastern State Penitentiary.  Rosenberg has developed and climbed more than a dozen possible routes to scale the prison’s 30-foot walls using “clean climbing” techniques. For the climbs, the artist fabricated climbing gear from materials that would have been readily available within the penitentiary at the year of its closing in 1971, as well as maps of the climbs and a guidebook for “how to escape” the architecture. According to an artist’s statement, the project aims to “provoke discussion about conservation and preservation between nature and artifice in the built and ‘natural’ worlds.” Architecture Arboretum November 4, 2019, through January 21, 2020 Princeton University School of Architecture North Gallery School of Architecture, Princeton, NJ 08544 A new exhibition at Princeton University School of Architecture investigates the important relationship between architecture and trees. Architecture Arboretum, curated by Sylvia Lavin, a professor of history and theory of architecture at the university, evaluates trees as natural objects that have influenced major shifts in architectural thinking. The exhibition looks at how modern architectural drawings are filled with a variety of carefully considered trees that have been used as objects of observation, linguistic signs, as well as objects in themselves that can be designed. The concept of the show, as described on the University’s website, is that “Architecture and trees share important features—the capacity to define space, produce climates, and shape the visual field—but also because trees perform architectural tasks in ways that care for the earth’s surface better than most buildings.” Lauren Henkin: Props November 22, 2019, through March 2020 Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati 44 East 6 Street, Downtown Cincinnati Conceived as a dialogue between site-specific installation work and Zaha Hadid’s first U.S. building, Lauren Henkin’s, Props, will be on view at Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati through March 2020. The exhibition features eight sculptures scattered throughout the museum in locations considered “unconventional” or “unintended” exhibition spaces, never before used to display art.  “Henkin’s pieces will invite visitors to consider with greater care and nuance often overlooked architectural details and spaces,” said Harris Weston, director and chief curator in a press release. The physical access given to the artist provides her with the room to interrogate the architectural and stylistic elements of the starchitect-designed museum. The Architect’s Studio: Tatiana Bilbao October 18, 2019, through March 5, 2020 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao explores Mexico’s culture and building traditions in a new exhibition at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The show is the third in The Architect’s Studio series, which focuses on a new generation of architects who work with sustainability and social practice in mind.  “When you come from a country without resources, you are used to not wasting them,” Bilbao explained in an interview on the museum’s website. The analysis of both landscape and cultural traditions plays a major role in Bilbao’s work which makes use of materials such as rammed earth and ideas on how the built environment influences those who occupy it. Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience Through May 3, 2020 The Museum of Craft and Design 2569 Third Street, San Francisco, CA An exhibition at San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Design will showcase visionary solutions for emergency shelters in the wake of natural disasters. Curated by Randy Jayne Rosenberg of Art Works for Change, Survival Architecture and The Art of Resilience imagines the future of a climate-constrained world by addressing the need for adaptable housing for vulnerable populations.  One project, Cardborigami (2016) by Tina Hovsepian, is a compact and foldable cardboard structure suitable for two people to sleep in. Other projects by over 20 artists and studios illustrate similar radical proposals for navigating the possibility of extreme weather. Organized into four themes—Circular, Portable, Visionary, and Resilientevery project begs the viewers to examine how the built environment can be designed flexibly when change is the only constant.
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From Within

2019 Best of Design Awards winners for Unbuilt — Cultural
2019 Best of Design Award for Unbuilt – Cultural: Arkansas Arts Center Designer: Studio Gang Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Creating a vibrant space for social interaction, education, and appreciation for the arts, Studio Gang’s design for the Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) transforms this premier cultural institution into a signature civic asset. Working from the inside out, the design—which includes both new construction and renovations—clarifies the organization of the building’s interior while also extending the AAC’s presence into historic MacArthur Park, opening the center to the city of Little Rock and beckoning the public within.

Conceived as a stem that blossoms to the north and south and anchored by major new visitor amenities, the design mediates between the center’s existing architecture to define a new public gallery and gathering space that provides an unprecedented axis of connectivity linking the AAC’s disparate programs.

Client: Arkansas Arts Center Associate Architect: Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects Landscape Architect: SCAPE Landscape Architects Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti

Honorable Mentions Project Name: Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History Designer: Studio Gang Project Name: Terminal B Performance Venue Designer: Touloukian Touloukian Editors' Pick Project Name: SynaCondo Designer: Studio ST Architects
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Less Spectacle, More Beauty

The 2019 Monterey Design Conference was as rowdy as it was informative
This year’s Monterey Design Conference (MDC), held from October 25 through 27 was hot and crowded. With over 900 registrants, the main hall was packed, and the overflow lounged in comfortable chairs in the chapel. There was music around the campfire, and for the first time in my memory, marijuana smoked openly. The bar was in full swing. It was the "partiest" MDC in ages. As David Hecht, the new chair of the MDC committee told me, they hoped that each participant could find their own theme—this time, it felt like “Humility Not Spectacle.” Many architects mentioned inspirations, teachers, and mentors. On Friday, October 25, the first headliner was Alberto Kalach of TAX/Taller de Arquitectura X in Mexico City. He set the tone with humor, humility, self-effacement, and beauty. As Kalach said, “We are the canvas of the planet” and advocated reconnecting vegetation and water systems to create integrated cities. Kalach moved on to show some of his best-known projects, including his own office building and his controversial "hanging" library in Mexico City (a concept recently mimicked by the renovation of Cornell's Mui Ho Fine Arts Library). Like much of Kalach's work, it felt as if the structure has grown out of the garden. Every project Kalach shared integrated nature in a way most Californians advocate, but don’t often achieve in practice. Mark Cavagnero, one of the luminaries of the Bay Area scene, linked his personal story to his architectural one. Edward Larrabee Barnes was Cavagnero’s mentor and early employer, and Barnes was one of Marcel Breuer’s students. Cavagnero knew some of Breuer’s Connecticut homes as a child, as well as the Torin Building, where Cavagnero’s father worked. These early lessons in what Cavagnero calls “the long, low line” still hold. Cavagnero’s presentation was humble and precise, similar to his buildings. One of my favorite Cavagnero projects is the subtle renovation of the Oakland Museum of California, originally designed by 20th-century modernist Kevin Roche. Cavagnero inserted alterations that could be easily identified yet support the original concept. While most of Cavagnero’s horizontal buildings have very developed ideas about space, light, and a limited palette, he is just beginning to apply his reductive and horizontal approach to larger scales. The San Francisco Public Safety Campus he designed with HOK looks a little tough. More recently, with SOM, he has helped turn the bland Moscone Convention Center into something more distinctive. Following this lecture was the surprise announcement of the 2019 Maybeck Medal, bestowed to another San Francisco modernist, Jim Jennings, who received a well-deserved standing ovation. Saturday’s first speaker, Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects in Dublin, Ireland, stole the show. Along with her partner Shelley McNamara, Farrell has picked up the modernist mantle and moved it forward with gentle good humor. Although their powerful buildings are not exactly humble, they read as humane. Farrell cited Jørn Utzon as one of her influences, beginning with his porch in Mallorca. One of Farrell's main themes was architecture as the new geography, the container of our lives. Like Cavagnero, she does not use context as a pattern for replication but as inspiration for new forms, shaped with light and space. Saturday’s second headliner, Brian MacKay-Lyons, is another architect of place. One of his memorable phrases was “buildings hung from the horizon.” Although his approach is very different from Cavagnero’s, he faces a similar challenge. How does one scale up? MacKay-Lyons sticks to some of his basic ideas of framing views and seeing light and air as free. But his larger buildings, although derived from place, don’t feel tucked in the way his smaller buildings do. He also cited Charles Moore as an influence. Moore seemed to hang over much of the conference like a guardian angel. Bob Harris of Lake|Flato knew Moore in Austin and mentioned the sparkle in his eye. More than the other presenters, Harris focused on his practice, how it was organized, and emphasized the value of collaboration. One of the core values of Lake|Flato’s practice is restraint, and this came across at a variety of scales. Charles Moore’s former business partner in San Francisco, Donlyn Lyndon, talked about their early years together at a session with architect and historian Pierluigi Serraino. Moore wanted architecture to create new kinds of spaces that enhanced the sense of place. It was a kind of humble position that he staked out. But as Lyndon said in his presentation, “he held onto the pencil,” which meant control. In addition to showing Moore’s hedonistic exuberance within his own small Orinda house, Lyndon presented images of the Hubbard House (1959) in Corral de Tierra. Lyndon also said something critically important about Moore: “He was thinking about the movement of the body,” a key thread in the work. Over drinks afterward, longtime MDC committee member David Meckel of California College of the Arts joked, “It was well into day two before we saw any parametric design!” That sums up the 2019 Monterey Design Conference pretty well.
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Spirit of MoMA Past, Present, and Future

MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program curators and alumni talk about its future
Less than a month after the $450 million expansion of MoMA, hints began circulating of the potential cancellation of MoMA PS1's Young Architecture Program (YAP). Begun in 1999 as the first collaboration between the merged institutions, Philip Johnson celebrated his birthday party that summer with a DJ booth commemorating the disco era, spinning Frank Sinatra's "My Way" as the program's initial gesture. For the next 20 years, the jury asked deans, critics, and editors to nominate 30 young firms to compete, selecting a shortlist of five to develop concepts for the annual outdoor pavilion in the Queens-based PS1's courtyard. "The two most open departments to collaboration from day one of the announcement were film and architecture," said PS1 founder Alanna Heiss. "We had a gigantic space that had been used for large-scale installations of sculpture and big outdoor performance programs. We'd done a summer before of a kind of trial Warm Up, which had been more successful than, shall we say, we wanted it to be; ie., we had crowds and crowds of people that we had to devise systems to control for safety. But to merge architecture with the beginning of Warm Up was just a dream." MoMA's chief architecture curator at the time was Terence Riley, who conceived of the initial framework. "An opportunity presented itself in that a couple proposed to MoMA in a meeting with Glenn Lowry [the museum's director] and myself a prize for young architects in honor of the husband's father," said Riley. "He was focused on young architects, and he was thinking that it would be a prize. I was wary and am now about museums giving out prizes. It was really at the spur of the moment that we flipped the conversation to this Young Architects Program. Probably more than any kind of a medal, getting the opportunity for a young architect to actually build something in New York City—which is a freestanding element rather than an interior—I thought this would be super exciting for the museum and for the cadre of young architects of the period." Marcel Breuer had built a temporary house in MoMA's garden in the 1950s, and the Serpentine Pavilion in London also began in 2000 with a much larger budget. The Venice Architecture Biennale's pavilions bear some resemblance, too. During his time as MoMA's chief architecture curator, Barry Bergdoll instigated the impressive Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling in 2008, building housing models in MoMA-owned adjacent lots, which pushed the temporary building program in another productive direction. But YAP was the first temporary pavilion program of its kind in the world. "The first winner was SHoP, and it set a very high standard," Riley said. "It immediately became super competitive, and what I think is amazing, people put so much effort into it, many of the installations stand out as being a turning point in a lot of careers for some amazing architects. You can make a list of them. It's pretty incredible." YAP became an influential model around the world, with MoMA organizing partner pavilions at the National Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI) in Rome, with CONSTRUCTO in Santiago, Chile, at Istanbul Modern, and at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul. "The fact that it has a use was critical in the sense that it wasn't just architects scribbling and coming up with seductive forms, although they often did, but they did often have a focus and guidelines," Riley said of YAP. "That gave it some rigor and also some humor. This was for a DJ event. It was about fun; it was about enjoyment. It had it's own character, which was really great." AN asked past YAP winners and curators to comment on its value to their careers, to young architects, and to the field, and to suggest possible future directions for the program. AN: How would you evaluate the program as a platform for you or other young architects to develop their ideas and gain recognition? Florian Idenburg, SO-IL For SO-IL, our installation, Pole Dance, was career-defining. We cannot recognize enough the importance that the program has had on a generation of architects. This potential is something MoMA should not underestimate and should try to maintain as it finds its new form. After two decades, any temporary event starts to lose its potential. I am excited to see what comes next. Eric Bunge, nARCHITECTS The program has undoubtedly been a launchpad for architecture firms, including ours, but its more important impact has been as a petri dish for ideas. Pedro Gadanho, former MoMA curator of architecture and design In a context in which debt-ridden young architects probably have to enter corporate offices just to survive, YAP provided one of the few design opportunities in the U.S. in which a smaller scale, more experimental studio could try out architectural ideas outside the market. And with MoMA’s notoriety [renown] behind it, winning it surely provided a boost in visibility at [an] international level. In this sense, after such a history has been made, scrapping it sounds profoundly unfortunate for the architectural field in the States, as well as for MoMA’s role within it. Gregg Pasquarelli, SHoP founding principal This program was an incredibly important platform for SHoP and other young firms. Dunescape [in inaugural 2000] was one of the first projects that put SHoP on the map in a meaningful way, and we are very grateful to have been a part of MoMA’s incubator. It showed us the tremendous R&D value of designing and constructing exhibitions and temporary pavilions and informs the way that we work to this day. What we learned through Dunescape has proven scalable and enabled us to conceptualize a new way of working that we are hopeful will revolutionize the entire architecture and construction industry. Jenny Sabin, Jenny Sabin Studio Winning the 2017 MoMA and MoMA PS1 YAP competition marked a major transition point in my professional creative career. My built work up until that point had been largely experimental, indoors, and at the pavilion scale. The platform enabled me to push design research to an entirely different scale, to engage active environmental conditions, diverse publics, and to respond to and integrate unique public programs for Warm Up. I can't underscore enough the positive role and impact YAP plays in our field and practice. It was the most rewarding and meaningful project that I have completed to date. It was an incredible honor and the international exposure was mind-boggling. YAP elevated my practice to an entirely new level with new and ongoing projects all over the world. Tobias Armborst, Interboro Partners For Interboro the program was important, changing the trajectory of our work. The particular response we found to the question of temporary architecture really brought forward our interest in rethinking community engagement and developing architecture not only as a product but as an open process that can involve many actors. Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee, OBRA The YAP program was of course not perfect, the budget was too modest and so were the design fees—in our case our aim to adequately respond to the programmatic requirement of shade ended up being achievable only after being supplemented by a huge other fundraising effort on our part. In later years YAP had also become a franchise for MoMA, sprouting sideshows all over the world. Museums in Santiago, Istanbul, Rome, and Seoul had their own versions of YAP. Sometimes the work produced for these colonial outposts was interesting, but one can't help but wonder if it would not have been better to focus more concentratedly in advancing the conceptual intentions of the effort instead of multiplying it without any kind of contextual adjustment all over the globe. By 2006 when, thanks to YAP, OBRA got its chance to build Beatfuse! in the courtyards of the museum, one could already sense in the place a feeling of being under the intervention of some kind of colonial financial overlord. We were lucky enough to still enjoy the residual presence of the original "guerrilla" attitude which was alive and well in the people that ran and worked in the place: Alanna herself, a great champion of the daring and inspired; Brett Littman, the deputy director who saved our skin several times as we were trying to build Obra's overly-ambitious proposal; Tony Guerrero, the chief installer who—as I remember—used to keep a huge cage full of birds inside his office; and Sixto Figueroa, the congenial head of the Boricua-dominated PS1 shop, the place which, that spring, all of the sudden became our second home. How would you evaluate its success or limits as a model? Pedro Gadanho Its success depended entirely on the architect’s propositions, and how [over] time these could provide yet another design insight into a constricted site, namely by advancing more conceptual alternatives into low-budget construction systems, environmental inventions, and sometimes fascinating functional add-ons. Its limits were the usual ones for this type of initiative: that budgets were never as elastic as architects would love them to be. Terence Riley, former MoMA architecture and design curator, founding partner K/R Architects I definitely think it's a really good thing. Architecture is so abstract now: BIM modeling and so on—I just remember someone asking me, is that a photograph or a rendering? There's this lack of certainty, at least in the world of reproduction. The young architects who got involved in these projects, I am certain it's the first time they were on a job site in such an extended manner and felt the building up close in terms of materials and how things went together. In the beginning, it also addressed the local issue: the lack of younger people to build a building in New York City. It was amazing how much it expanded because of this hyper-competitiveness that seized that whole generation. Where should it go in the future, if it continues, or has the temporary pavilion framework been exhausted, as some critics have suggested? Or what should they do instead? Florian Idenburg Yes, a rethink is very timely. The wide range of issues that at this moment is leading to rage and despair on the streets of the world are real signals that there is an urgent need for real action and real change. The institutions that we brought into the world to “educate” the people—the museums, libraries, and universities—will have to decide. Either remain on the sidelines and continue to offer repose and shelter from the pressures of this much-needed realignment or become active participants. One can imagine the MoMA partnering with city agencies or nonprofits and developing a program in which they sponsor design fees for young architects to work on actual projects that have lasting benefits for people. One can imagine projects that take multiple years and are developed collectively, possibly using PS1 as a space for debate, work, and communication. Eric Bunge It should definitely continue, not only to maintain MoMA’s crucial role in catalyzing architectural ideas, but to continue engaging wider publics. The framework that is important to maintain is the constant renewal of the courtyard, not necessarily one that produces a pavilion. That’s just a problem definition. I think MoMA should find a way to bring back some of the simplicity of the early years, and address the increasingly [difficult] challenges faced by young architects:
  • Cover or reduce the insurance requirements. There were none when we built Canopy; we therefore made it as safe as possible.
  • Start the process much sooner, to allow for more time to design and build.
  • Encourage the architects to design ephemeral environments with the thousands of users in mind, as opposed to (only) creating objects.
Pedro Gadanho The inventiveness with which every participant’s solution showed new possibilities for that site showed that the model was the opposite of exhausted... Gregg Pasquarelli We’re big fans of the temporary nature of the pavilion framework. There’s something exciting and liberating about a project that exists only for a moment in time. The best pavilions have come from the freedom and invention of this approach. Jenny Sabin In taking this hiatus to reevaluate YAP, MoMA is in a unique position to reframe the value of architecture to the broader public and within our niche architecture communities. I don't think the temporary pavilion framework will ever be exhausted. That's like saying architecture has been exhausted. I think the platform needs to be evaluated, and refreshed with eyes on the pressing issues of our time. Important areas that should be examined and discussed include labor, budget, waste and sustainable materials, liability, context, and program—all of which are integral architectural constraints and parameters. Tobias Armborst I went to a discussion of former YAP winners at MoMA recently, and some of those questions were raised there: Is the pavilion still relevant given that there are so many competitions for temporary pavilions now? Is this still the right site? I came away from it thinking that in spite of the changing context, YAP still kind of works as a stage for young architects to present ideas. It’s great to see all these different responses to the site and the temporary nature of the project. However, one aspect in which the program could use an update is perhaps less a change in venue, program, or duration, but in rethinking the compensation. It seems like the program is still based on an outdated idea of self-exploitation on the part of architects, and the expectation of a lot of free labor on the part of students, volunteers, etc. Thinking about new ways of providing fair compensation for design labor (at least the labor of “volunteers”) I think would be [a] very timely update. I don’t mean to just ask for more money, but I think there could be a greater acknowledgment of how architecture is actually made, and by whom, in a rethinking of the compensation model. Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee Seeing the YAP program suspended is indeed not only sad but also a little bit ominous. In a way, we fear YAP's demise corresponds all too well with the less-than-absolutely-thrilling zeitgeist under which we all live these days in New York City. It makes it only too obvious that time has run out for art (and architecture) as a form of insidious and idealistic cultural guerrilla-warfare. We fancy that was the spirit under which PS1 was originally created by Alanna Heiss in 1971. Should they commission a more durable conversion of the courtyard? Eric Bunge A durable conversion would be a huge missed opportunity. Better a series of interesting potential small mistakes than a permanent potential big one. The emptiness and randomness of that courtyard is the cool counterpoint to MoMA’s sculpture garden. If only every other cultural institution had such a powerful void and the bravery to periodically fill it and empty it. So much of its value is its perpetual renewal. Pedro Gadanho I don’t think a "more durable conversion" substitutes the curatorial trajectory that YAP represented. That would be just another commission, which any museum does regularly to update spaces [to fill] to their needs. Gregg Pasquarelli I’m not sure it’s our place to comment on what form the program should take, but we look forward to seeing what they come up with next! Terence Riley A lot of programs in museums are dependent on one donor who is willing to subsidize it in perpetuity. People wanted to be involved with this because it was frankly a success, and having SHoP lead with such a strong project definitely set a fairly high bar. When I say it's still useful, that doesn't mean in an abstract sense—where that happens isn't really relevant. Could it have gotten stale in Long Island City at PS1? Certainly at this point I would find it hard to think that there was a huge amount of excitement, at least the kind of excitement that there was in the first decade, shall we say. It wasn't just among the young architects, it was also in the media it was covered nationally and internationally; and so on one hand, it's still relevant, on the other hand, a pause doesn't sound like a terrible thing. Things could be done in different ways. I did start the program, but I don't feel that the museum's doing something unethical or whatever. Maybe it's time for a pause. Jenny Sabin I think this requires discussion with previous YAP winners, nominators, students, the architecture community, and Warm Up partygoers, and that's exactly what MoMA is doing. I'm excited to see what happens next. Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee The successive curators of architecture at MoMA, Terence Riley, Barry Bergdoll, Andres Lepik, Pedro Gadagno, and Martino Stierli all seemed to have done their best to steer YAP toward a position of meaningful significance every year by proposing enlightened programmatic propositions: The project aims to explore and improve upon the quality of public space by implementing the elements of shade, water, seating, bars, and sustainability at this site... The commission is to design and realize a project for summer relaxation and interaction—offering the sort of space often denied to urbanites... After over a decade of successful YAP projects, we now focus the competition to encourage designs based on themes of sustainability, recycling, and reuse... This year, we are keen to consider new materials and materiality as a component of the portfolio (and, ultimately, the final design schemes)... We seek designs that are environmentally sensitive, provide elements of shade, water, and seating while also having [the] potential for fun! All these goals were of course very worthy and desirable, but also hardly in keeping with the revolutionary disruptive objectives with which MoMA first came into prominence in the early 20th century. To be fair, by the turn of the century perhaps the boat had also already sailed on that. Nonetheless, we daydreamed that YAP could have evolved at some point to become the vehicle for putting forward a more considered project for the future of architecture and the city using its public platform to publicize and disseminate a more progressive vision of the future of the built environment. Perhaps something other than urbanism via real estate speculation and architecture via marketing spectacle? Who knows? Notwithstanding these shortcomings, YAP was a valuable program that allowed a rare channel of expression for architects making their first foray into the discipline. As one of the beneficiaries of such initiative, we regret its discontinuation and hope for its return.