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reOrder: An Architectural Environment by Situ Studio
Fabrikator 02.11.2011 Brought to you by: 3form

reOrder: An Architectural Environment by Situ Studio

Jennifer K. Gorsche Just months after Ennead completed its renovation of Brooklyn Museum’s Great Hall, originally designed in 1897 by McKim, Mead & White, Situ Studio will transform the 10,000-square-foot colonnaded space with a site-specific installation set to open March 4. Entitled reOrder: An Architectural Environment by Situ Studio, the work will transform the hall’s 16 classical columns with nearly 2,200 yards of Sunbrella Canvas-Natural fabric, which is to be folded and stretched over suspended bent-steel tubing and plywood rings with diameters ranging from 5 to 20 feet. Beneath the fabric shapes, Situ will install benches and tables fabricated with LG Hausys HI-MACS solid surfacing, creating the rounded benches with a controlled heat process called thermoforming.

A temporary installation creates new interactive space at Brooklyn Museum

  • FabricatorSitu Studio
  • DesignerSitu Studio
  • LocationBrooklyn, New York
  • Completion DateMarch 4, 2011
  • MaterialSunbrella fabric donated by Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, LG Hausys HI-MACS solid surfacing, donated by LG Hausys
  • ProcessControlled folding, thermoforming
By reorganizing the 24-foot-high space with the new installation, Situ hopes to create both grand and intimate volumes within the hall, encouraging visitors to spend time there for a wider variety of activities. In order to realize the billowing forms they’d imagined as an extension of the hall’s classical architectural features, the studio examined techniques for folding the forms’ fabric covers, eliminating the need for cutting or patterning. Physical models and mock-ups began at a scale of at ⅛ inch to 1 foot and ½ inch to 1 foot, then grew to quarter- and half-scale models using true column dimensions. Ultimately a full-scale model allowed the studio to study the behavior of various fabrics.
Firm principals Brad Samuels and Aleksey Lukyanov (the project manager) said Sunbrella’s fabric carried key performance characteristics not found in other material tests: strength and durability, resistance to fading, UV light, water, and spills, and the overall easy maintenance needed for a museum environment. As the installation’s opening day draws near, Situ is still testing the lighting component to be suspended within the volumes. But the sculptures’ life won’t end when the museum closes the installation in January 2012—the fabric will be returned to the manufacturer or reused by Situ for a future project.

Situ Studio

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Topping the Train

New Sunset Park development by DXA Studio could rise over tracks in Brooklyn
New York YIMBY revealed this morning that a new development designed by DXA Studio is potentially in the works for Sunset Park. The 240,000-square-foot complex, likely mixed-use with residential and commercial components, will stretch between 7th and 5th Avenues at 6205 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. The upcoming site, spearheaded by New Empire Corp., will feature three mid-rise towers situated atop a platform covering the train tracks. The Hudson Yards-like vision for the project—albeit smaller as YIMBY notes—will bring a much-needed, massive new housing option to the borough’s southwestern industrial neighborhood. Renderings show that the structures will include a terraced design facing west towards the river with rooftop plazas dotted with greenery. On the east side, a lower-level, elongated structure runs two-thirds the length of the development while the taller towers jut out at angles facing south. The facades of each building appear to be clad in muted materials with big, boxy, recessed windows that allow ample light into the interior spaces. Close-up visuals detail the jagged shape the angular towers take on at the edges of the development.  The architects told YIMBY that 6205 7th Avenue will house two blocks of retail, office space, restaurants, a gym with a pool, a hotel, community facilities, as well as public park space. Though the initial designs have been released, permits for the site have not yet been filed.  
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Darkness to Light

SITU Research and Amnesty International’s new interactive platform maps atrocities in Myanmar
On Wednesday, SITU Research, an interdisciplinary practice within the Brooklyn-based firm SITU, launched a new collaboration with Amnesty International detailing the systematic destruction of the Rohingya Muslim population and its villages by the Myanmar military. This interactive digital platform weaves together evidence collected from maps, satellite images, testimonies, as well as verified photographs and videos to bring visibility to the atrocities. Designed as a map-based narrative, the platform zeros in on the weeks leading up to the violence that started on August 25, 2017 against the Rohingya people in the northern Rakhine State. It then unveils how and where the military deployed their abusive efforts as well as the recent construction taking place on top of the destroyed villages. In parallel with the platform, Amnesty released a 190-page report citing 13 Myanmar military and police officials as having played integral roles in these violent crimes. The human rights group claims to have evidence that crimes against humanity have been committed against the minority, and have forced over 702,000 people­—more than 80 percent the area’s Rohingya population—to flee into Bangladesh. The intensive research shown in the written report and storied on the platform is based on over 400 interviews as well as expert forensic and weapons analysis on the military’s “clearance operations” following the initial attacks. This is not the first comprehensive account of ethnic cleansing that SITU has helped make public. In late 2016, they teamed up with Amnesty to release their first interactive project together, a digital platform that charted 171 sites where war crimes were committed against civilians in the Jebel Marra region of Sudan. Brad Samuels, a founding partner of SITU Research, said his team originally got involved with Amnesty in order to increase public accessibility to this type of information. With substantial visual evidence, they wanted to present a new form of reporting that leverages the benefits of interactive media. “For us as architects and designers,” he said, “we’re interested in this sense of agency and using these kinds of tools and our skillsets to bring awareness to these types of larger, political issues. We use mapping, 3D modeling, and visual intelligence to create major impact in a new way.” Samuels leads SITU Research’s Spatial Practices as Evidence and Advocacy (SPEA) projects, which use data visualization and satellite mapping to advocate for awareness on human rights abuses around the world.
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The Wight Stuff

Inside the studio of Chicago’s Wight & Company

Three generations of Wight & Company have operated in the Chicago area for over 75 years. With a main office in the western suburb of Darien and an outpost downtown, the company employs over 175 architects, engineers, and builders. Even with this long history, Wight continues to evolve, and in recent years it has seen major changes. Perhaps the most drastic of these changes happened in late 2015 when renowned Chicago architect Dirk Lohan joined the office and brought his entire firm of Lohan Anderson with him. With the addition of Lohan, the company is now venturing in new directions while bolstering their existing repertoire.

As Executive Vice President, Director of Design Kevin Havens put it: Wight is a “design-lead design/build practice.” While the company does not yet build everything it designs, the underlying goal is to recapture some of architecture’s legacy as a field of master-builders. In this, Wight and Lohan found a common value.

Having studied and worked under his grandfather Mies van der Rohe, Lohan maintains a sense of urgency when it comes to architects being in control of the building process.

“That aspect of Wight & Company was of great attraction to me,” Lohan told AN at Wight’s downtown office. “I have had practices with interior designers and planners, but never any engineers or construction managers. At Wight we have structural, mechanical, a sustainability group. I have always wanted to have an office like this.”

While such a large firm has many moving parts, the downtown office where Lohan’s studio is situated is a more intimate setting where a great deal of the design happens. Located in the landmarked Powerhouse Building, snugly flanked by numerous rail lines the building used to power, the office feels like those of many other, much smaller firms. The periodic deep rumbling of passing commuter trains and an occasional leaky roof make the space somehow endearing.

Such an established firm has a history filled with stories and experiences that inform and guide the practice as a whole. In this, Lohan brings another set of connections to the past, which includes more than just his kinship to Mies. With his own extensive portfolio of notable projects, including the much-lauded McDonald’s corporate campus in Oak Brook, Illinois, Lohan has distinguished himself as an architect in his own right. Yet, one can’t help but feel they are somehow closer to Mies himself when speaking to Lohan. In his slight German accent, Lohan recounts a proud moment that took place early in his career when speaking about Wight’s work on courthouses. Lohan recalled the first courtroom he designed at the famed Chicago Federal Plaza. “I came with a green card to the United States in 1962. At the time, it took five years to become a citizen. So, in 1967, after five years at Mies’s office, I detailed this courtroom. I was sworn in in that same courtroom with 150 other new citizens. Somebody told them that I, as a young designer, had designed this interior and I should be the spokesperson. So they made me come up to judge and say some words in front of everybody, in my own space. Those kinds of projects don’t come around too often.”

Will County Justice Center Joliet, Illinois

Soon to the be the tallest building in downtown Joliet, a large suburb of Chicago, the Will County Justice Center is designed to be more than just a courthouse. With a focus on literal transparency, the center is defined by a large civic square wrapped on two sides by the building’s wings. Programs are arranged in such a way as to give the public maximum access to the justice system while maintaining the high level of security needed in a court of law. The Will County Justice Center represents a long history of Wight & Co.’s experience with civic institutional work. 353 N. Clark Street Chicago 353 N. Clark Street was added to Wight & Co. portfolio with the merging of Lohan Anderson, Lohan’s former office, into the company. The 45-story tower is situated in the River North Neighborhood of Chicago, just north of the loop. The tower represents the direction in which Wight & Co. is hoping to move under Lohan’s leadership: While Wight has extensive experience in institutional and public projects, Lohan has specialized in high-end private projects for much of his career. Mies van der Rohe Business Park Krefeld, Germany With the addition of Lohan to the Wight & Co. leadership, new avenues opened up to the office. As part of an invited competition, Lohan worked on a design for the adaptive reuse of a former power plant, which once served an industrial park designed by his own grandfather, Mies van der Rohe, in the 1930s. Now renamed Mies van der Rohe Business Park, the new building will be used for performances, large gatherings, meetings, and exhibitions. Though not in the same language as the Bauhaus-style white buildings surrounding it, the building is a protected landmark. The design intervention works to be sensitive to the building’s historical context, while updating it for contemporary uses. Hotel Arista Chicago Designed by Lohan Anderson as part of a larger master plan in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, the Hotel Arista will soon be joined by several other buildings designed by Lohan as part of the Wight and Lohan team. The Hotel is the first piece in a larger “urban” center, known as CityGate, in the western suburb. The 144-room hotel was designed to use and waste less, achieving the hotel industry’s Green Seal certification, as well as being the first LEED-certified hotel in Illinois.
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Studio Gang’s research-based approach to ecological design rethinks the shape of urban waterfronts

As Studio Gang gains respect as an office that builds formally and programmatically ambitious projects, one aspect in particular has helped the firm continue to be a major force: It is an office that does its homework. Every project that the studio does is accompanied by a body of research as well as collaborations with experts often outside of architecture. “As architects, we think of our role as being that of the translator,” explained Claire Cahan, design director at Studio Gang. “Early on in the project we bring in experts from interdisciplinary fields to discuss the past, present, and future conditions of a site. Our job is to ask questions and translate ideas between disciplines.” This becomes particularly visible in projects that involve water ecologies.

After a yearlong study in collaboration with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), the studio released Reverse Effect (2011). The book explored urban and ecological implications of severing the link between the Chicago River and the Mississippi River, effectively reversing the flow of the Chicago River to its original direction (something that has actually happened three times). The book presented a new Chicago that embraced a reshaped river as part of its cultural and civic space.

“We’re interested in the intersection between built and natural environments,” said Cahan about the office’s broader vision and approach. “While building projects typically have distinct property lines and boundaries, natural systems often intersect with property lines in a fluid way. Through research, which includes conversation, mapping, and analysis, we seek to understand the natural, cultural, economic conditions far beyond a property line.”

A similar study, in collaboration with Milwaukee-based Applied Ecological Services and Edgewater Resources, looked at the 1,000-acre Milwaukee harbor. The Edge Effect master plan set out to establish a framework and logic for Milwaukee’s waterfront development. The master plan envisions relocating the current active inner harbor to a new outer harbor, while bringing the city to the water’s edge. The process would include softening the coastline to achieve a more complete and sustainable ecosystem by learning from stable natural coastlines and reefs. This concept is already being deployed in the Studio Gang–designed improvements to Chicago’s Northerly Island, which has a similar geographic situation.

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Jebel Marra

SITU Research’s online platform details war crimes in Sudan conflict
Interdisciplinary practice SITU Research—a branch of Brooklyn-based SITU Studio—has partnered with Amnesty International’s Crisis Division to chart the ongoing atrocities committed against civilians in Jebel Marra, a mountainous region located in the Darfur province of Sudan that peacekeeping forces have been unable to reach. The interactive project uses satellite imagery, photographs, and over 200 in-depth interviews to document the conflict in the area. The platform details 171 sites where the government has been using “scorched earth” tactics against its citizens, such as torching entire villages, looting livestock, and raping residents in the area. Researchers have also found 56 witnesses that attest to the use of chemical weapons by the Sudanese military in at least 30 attacks that have occurred since January, according to Quartz. According to an Amnesty International report, about a quarter of a million people have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in Sudan, and over 360 civilians have died as a result of the atrocities, including 95 children. The most recent attack occurred on September 9, 2016, according to The Guardian. The report and interactive platform is the latest of SITU Research’s Spatial Practice as Evidence and Advocacy (SPEA) projects that utilize a combination of satellite mapping and data visualization to make information about human rights abuses accessible to human rights organizations, international leaders, and the broader public.
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Picture Perfect

Studio Gang fuses storage and display in their design for a traveling photography exhibition
Studio Gang Architects, working with art advocate Project&, have produced a traveling photography exhibition that highlights the stories and photographs of 24 American workers. Studio Gang produced 18 modular display cases which double as the show’s shipping containers. The show, entitled Working in America, features the work of Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Lynsey Addario. The opening of the show corresponds with the anniversary of Studs Terkel’s 1974 book Working, which explored similar themes. The show consists of stories and images from across the country. Studio Gang’s design features seven-foot-tall display cases that can be locked together in sets of three. These cases were developed for ease of transportation and the ability to show in difficult situations. This was important as the show will be traveling through the United States on display at public libraries. Exhibiting in libraries presents a special challenge, in that work can be displayed on the walls. “I envisioned self-crating steamer trunks that held an entire world inside, and when opened, revealed the large-scale photographs and the working lives of Americans, putting their voices and narratives at the center,” explained Jane M. Saks, the show's curator. “The team from Studio Gang not only turned that vision into a reality, but they designed the displays so that they lock together and literally hold each other up. The design is elegant and almost poetic in the way it speaks to our interdependence as workers and human beings, and the strength of all of us when we join together.” The cases are built of Baltic Birch plywood and vegetable-tanned leather for the handles. “We wanted to give visual space and dignity to each of the individuals represented in the photographs,” said Jeanne Gang. Studio Gang’s experience with exhibition design includes shows for the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Basel Miami, and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Working in America is currently on display at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center, and will run through the end of January.
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Chosen from 13 Firms

Hala Wardé’s studio, HW Architecture, wins Beirut Museum of Art design competition

Lebanese and French architect Hala Wardé and her studio HW Architecture has been awarded the commission to design the new Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA) in Lebanon. Situated in the center of the Lebanese capital, Wardé's design sees a “Central Campanile Tower” climb to almost 400 feet, aiming to be seen by many far and wide across the city as a symbol of unity. Aside from HW Architecture's winning proposal, New York–based firm WORK Architecture Company (WORKac) was given a special mention by the jury.

The submission from Wardé was chosen from a final shortlist of 13 and selected by a jury comprising Lord Peter Palumbo (chair); Rem KoolhaasLord Richard Rogers, Serpentine Gallery curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Dame Julia Peyton-Jones. Zaha Hadid, now an honorary member, was on the jury until her passing last year.

From a museum perspective, BeMA will be dedicated to displaying art and design as well as contemporary Lebanese culture. As for Wardé's design, the tower will offer a place for artists to reside as well as room for studios and performance areas. Surrounding the Campanile Tower is a publicly accessible garden that will feature a series of site-specific art installations. The site—now part of the Université Sant-Joseph—was once a borderline within Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. Provisions have been made in Wardé's proposal to ensure connectivity to the university is available.

“I am delighted and honored to realize my first major project in the city of Beirut where I was born, on such an exceptional site,” said Wardé. “This museum program, in connection with the university, will allow us to create a new cultural and social space with a garden and amphitheater, and will single out this artistic territory with a strong and recognizable urban beacon, which through its multiple expressions, will belong to the new urban landscape of the city.”

BeMA is due to be open by 2020, while dates for groundbreaking are yet to be released.

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Brownsville, Brooklyn

Studio Gang’s ecological firehouse and training facility breaks ground today
Ground has broke on the site of the Fire Department of New York's (FDNY) newest firehouse, designed by Chicago-based Studio Gang for the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC). Set to cost $32 million, the 21,000-square-foot building will sit on 1815 Sterling Place in Brownsville, Brooklyn and become the new home of the FDNY's Rescue Company 2.  Founded in 1925, Rescue Company 2 is one of FDNY’s five rescue companies, elite units that handle a variety of emergency situations ranging from building collapses, high-angle rescues, hazardous materials incidents, water rescues as well as fires. In their new location, Rescue Company 2 will use the building to train for all these scenarios and many more. The project is Studio Gang's first in New York and as a result they have opened up a new Manhattan office. The Architect's Newspaper attended the groundbreaking ceremony and spoke with Studio Gang design principle Weston Walker about the firm's design process and approach to the project. "We wanted the design to fit the [low-rise] scale of the street, while accommodating all the unusual training that will take place here" Walker said. Training facilities will also include specific areas for trench rescue and confined space rescue training as well as a room to simulate the smoke-filled environments in which firefighters operate, and an elevated area that allows firefighters to train to rappel from the roof of a building to perform a rescue. The project's design drivers were "apertures and openings" that paid heavy respect to both the site and typology traditions. Demonstrating this, he pointed out the numerous openings—visible in the renders above—that "ease the building's oppressiveness" in massing. A subtractive structure, the openings allow for interior landscaping as well as facilitate natural ventilation. This is also aided by the fact that the building will be the first firehouse in New York to have a drive-through concourse on the ground floor. The building aims to be as energy efficient as possible. Due to sit 500 feet below the structure is a geothermal heating system. A solar water heating system has also been included which is due to reduce the energy required to heat and cool the building by a third. In addition to this, a green roof and permeable pavement will be implemented to aid the reduction of stormwater runoff and further cut down on the firehouse's carbon footprint.  “In keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s vision for a healthier, more sustainable and resilient city, DDC is proud to partner with FDNY to provide New York’s bravest with a state-of-the-art training and housing facility that is energy efficient and can serve as a beacon of community engagement,” said DDC commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora in a press release. “The design aims to reduce carbon emissions, conserve water and contribute to a healthy urban environment through integrating environmentally responsible practices. A geothermal system, solar water heating system, permeable pavement and a green roof will contribute to this goal and strengthen the City’s commitment to building sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings.” “We are proud to break ground on a state-of-the-art new home for Brooklyn’s Rescue Company 2.  This firehouse will be a leader in energy efficiency, moving our city closer to an environmentally sustainable and resilient future. With ample space for tools and a training facility on the roof, this firehouse will be the impressive space that New York’s bravest deserve,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press release. 
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Argentinian firm Estudio Besonia Almeida unveils concrete dwelling in Buenos Aires
Argentinian firm Estudio Besonia Almeida has published their recently constructed Casa Berazategui residence on their website. Located in Buenos Aires, the dwelling is formed from concrete planes that intersect in perpendicular arrangements that allow for the creation of voids pertaining to both interior and exterior space. As a result, two facades at the front and rear of the building evoke two different Bauhaus-esque qualities. At the front, hints of Marcel Breuer (who trained at the Bauhaus) can be seen with concrete massing that provides privacy. Meanwhile, an L-shaped plan allows for a much more open style to look onto the garden in a Mies van der Rohe (who taught at the Bauhaus) style that makes use of horizontal planes and decking. Timber and glass are also interspersed throughout the building and serve mostly as detailing and furnishings. Glass panes also cut through the building in a similar fashion, often horizontally to form clerestory windows. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors are also used extensively to the rear of the building, opening it up and visually connecting interior spaces such as the kitchen and dining room to the garden. The intersectional planar and massing strategy derives mostly from the study of light. "This is a topic that interests us particularly, so there is, in all the projects, a special intention addressed both to control the incidence of sunlight on glass surfaces as to improve natural light as a project material which brings wealth to the living spaces," the firm said. "If we understand the openings as such, not as standardized elements with preset measures and positions, but rather as carved into the buildings which, of course permit ventilation and lighting environments, but also leave undefined the indoor-outdoor relationship, framing the landscape, filtering light, reflecting it on a wall, etc., these perforations will be the result of the special way in which we want to establish these relationships. The L-shaped plan also facilitates a variety of programs within the building too, accommodating for community and social-based areas. These are situated along the lengthier axis of the plan while bedrooms and offices are situated on the other. As a result the house is clearly divided into private and semi-private sections with the bedrooms being able to gain a view over the garden. According to the firm, the client required room for family growth. "It was clear they needed a generous gathering place with an integrated kitchen, a veranda with barbeque and a swimming pool that should be protagonist," they say on their website.    
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Superstudio’s Lost Offspring
Recent artworks are paired with Superstudio icons like the Onos bed and Sofo modular sofa.
Courtesy PAC Milano

Super Superstudio
Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC)
Via Palestro, 14
20122 Milano
Through January 6, 2016

There is a lot happening in Milan these days. The Milan Expo is attracting record crowds in its closing month; apartment towers are cropping up around the city center like trees in a forest; and on Milan’s immediate periphery, the Prada Foundation has opened its gilded quarters to an eager public of art and architecture aficionados. This jigsaw puzzle of renovated factory structures and new building additions by Rem Koolhaas are set against a broad expanse of freight rail lines, highway billboards, and graffitied walls. Featuring a collection of courtyards, ramped terraces, labyrinthine underground vaults, repurposed industrial spaces, and a singularly phantasmagoric floating glass pavilion, there is little doubt this ex-distillery turned contemporary-art-environment has set a new standard for the art patronage elite. The Prada Foundation is one of Koolhaas’s best works—and his most precious—yet it retains just the right proportion of off-kilter detailing to remind the visitor that Koolhaas won’t be tamed by any formal architectural system, not even of his own making.

The Prada Foundation was very much on my mind when I made my way to the opening press conference for the exhibition Super Superstudio at the Padiglione D’Arte Contemporanea (PAC), the latest overview on the Florentine Radical group Superstudio. Rem Koolhaas, without a doubt, is the most direct heir of the Superstudio legacy: Were it not for the Continuous Monument (1969–1970) and the Twelve Ideal Cities (1971), Koolhaas would have been at loss for both images and words. The 1972 Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture project (with Madelon Vriesendorp, Elia Zenghelis and Zoe Zenghelis) is a fusion between the spectacular imagery of the Continuous Monument and the verbal mastery and sheer imaginative stretch of Twelve Ideal Cities.


The discussion on legitimate heirs comes up precisely because the lead architecture curator of Super Superstudio is Andreas Angelidakis—who is also currently involved in the Chicago Architecture Biennial—introduced this show as a dialogue between the first inhabitants living on the surface of Supersurface and their imaginary offspring. Super Superstudio is the collaborative effort of three architect curators, Angelidakis, Vittorio Pizzigoni, and Valter Scelsi, who are responsible for assembling the collection and designing the in-situ Continuous Monument that succeeds in boldly rearranging the PAC’s modern interiors—completed in 1954 by the noted Milanese architect Ignazio Gardella.

The two-story, 30-meter-long exposed steel stud and gyp-board corridor serves as an arcaded spine to organize the display spaces into thematic collections—combining works by Superstudio with those of a younger generation of contemporary artists. Clearly the curators were aware that their choices as intergenerational matchmakers would appear controversial. Could the cryptic grids by RO/LU, the delicate armatures by Patrick Tuttofuoco, the apocalyptic plastic castings by Danai Anesiadou, the weightless paintings of Priscilla Tea, or the hermetic creations of Petrit Halilaj and Alvaro Urbano interact side by side with Superstudio’s mercurial creations? Evidently, credit goes to Vittorio Pizzigoni and Valter Scelsi for several years’ research to bring together the kind of comprehensive collection that would give ample material for these artists to play off of.

Yet does it make sense to associate categories and works together irrespective of what they might signify as an ensemble? Could one could have just as purposely created a random pairing of old and new elements with similar results?

Among the attending public, including Gian Piero Frassinelli, the only Superstudio member to make the trip up to Milan from Florence for the opening, there was in fact noticeable dissatisfaction. Frassinelli would have preferred matching their work to more familiar and respected brethren; Stefano Boeri, one of Milan’s most prominent architects and critical theorists, insisted that Superstudio should have merited the entire PAC space on its own. But others, mainly from the art world, were intrigued, especially as they were drawn to PAC precisely by the younger generation of artists featured, only to discover, many for the first time, the works of Superstudio.


Architectural curators are becoming converted by the art world’s engaged discourse on the nature of curating and display. It’s hard to fathom an art exhibition produced today that is not in some way conscious of not only what it puts on evidence but also what it wants to communicate, to represent. The visionary works by Superstudio were really never intended to be made concrete in the first place—they acted more like conceptual time bombs, as evidenced in the way their ideas keep creeping back. To place them like mere objects around a room diffuses their revolutionary impact, turning their projects into nothing more than fetishized things.

So it is a loaded question as to whether the PAC exhibition is worth it or not. On the one hand, a series of hitherto rare works are now on display. Consider the Bazaar plastic and pink fur sofa, or the Onos plastic bed, both made in 1968 and on loan by the design manufacturing firm Giovanetti. These, as well as the recently restored Sofo modular couch originally designed in 1968 and made from leftover stock fabric by Poltronova specifically for this exhibition, were never exhibited together. And then there are the hand-carved Alabaster lamps from 1969–71, the antithetical objects that defied mass production, and therefore mass consumption, curiosities rarely brought out into public view. These, along with the full scale reproduction of the Museum of Modern Art’s 1972 Micro-Event Micro-Environment, a number of rare photos from the archive collection from Superstudio cofounder Cristiano Toraldo di Francia along with restored videos and slide shows from Ceremony 1973, and the Five Fundamental Acts, 1972–74, make this show a historical event in its own right.

The catalogue comes in both English and Italian and provides an ample collection of Superstudio writings and Radical pronouncements. There are, of course, lacunae; missing are the original works on Interplanetary Architecture from 1971 developed with Alessandro Poli, the Superstudio member whose tenure officially lasted two years but whose creative association with the group deserves clearer recognition.

On the other hand, the formula to bring together radical architects with a collective of artistic ingenui, does work to reveal some of the buried ideals behind Superstudio’s provocations by setting up dialectical skirmishes between them. This mythic selection of artists that allegedly grew up on the compact gridded supersurfaces confirms the proposition that children are rarely acquiescent and tend to make their own dream worlds. Daniel Keller’s and Ella Previn’s Pure Disclosure combines their own designs for mesh shirts by DISown with detritus spread across the floor, alluding to today’s gloomier design future, Andrew Kovacs’s finely drawn Proposal for a Social Condenser, could refer to Twelve Ideal Cities, or Ila Beka and Louise Lemoine’s La Maddalena might evoke Global Tools. Yes, it’s a stretch to say the least.

Like the utopian Christiania in Denmark whose offspring run the kind of gentrified shops and businesses their parents once abhorred, there will be anguished truth in discovering who are today’s enfants terribles. Rem Koolhaas, let’s not forget, is nearly of the same generation as the members of Superstudio, and years of his toying with the Radical’s anti-consumerist ideology has led him right into the devil’s den: Prada.

It won’t be long before someone will be pairing him with a narrative he would utterly disapprove. And I am very much looking forward to seeing this come about. Until then, Koolhaas will remain masterfully in charge of his historic destiny, with few offspring willing to challenge him.