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AN Book Club

Here are AN’s picks for design reads to enjoy while housebound
With all of AN's staff sheltering in place, we’ve found it an opportune time to catch up on some long-neglected or newly relevant reads. As befits our time of crisis, the following picks thematically converge on the existential, oscillating between the bleak and the restorative. There are fillips to cozy domesticity, incitations toward household intrigue, bleak invocations of abandoned cityscapes, historical reckonings of queasy illness, and implicated in all of them are buildings, interiors, objects. In a word, these are the books we’re reading while stuck at home. Need something more visceral than a book? Don't miss our complementary shut-in's guide to must-see movies and TV! The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition By Don Norman Hachette, 2013 What better time to critically re-examine your collection of household objects than when you’re stuck indoors? In The Design of Everyday Things, the objects you take for granted every day are torn down and put back together again with explanations of how and why the designers made the choices they did. There's a reason this book is required reading in most UI/UX and product design courses. –Jonathan Hilburg, web editor Fewer, Better Things By Glenn Adamson Bloomsbury, 2018 In this somewhat autobiographical book, leading design and craft theorist Glenn Adamson makes the case for paring down our domestic interiors. After all, why would we surround ourselves with things lacking in sentimental or functional value? Through careful recollections of his own experiences, Adamson defends the importance of well-designed, well-made objects, as antidotes to the proliferation of information and services associated with the digital age. –Adrian Madlener, interiors editor The Little House: An Architectural Seduction by Jean-Francois de Bastide (translation by Rodolphe El-Khoury) This out-of-print gem takes the reader on a tantalizing journey through an 18th-century manse, complete with a picturesque garden. From the erotic depths of Jean-Francois de Bastide’s imagination, unfolds the fictitious tale of a woman seduced by the all-encapsulating beauty of the estate. Illustrated with drawings of furnishings and objects, as well as in-detail maps, each scene presents itself in a visually intoxicating aesthetic account. Used copies published by Princeton Architectural Press can still be found via Amazon or Abe Books for your viewing pleasure. –Gabrielle Golenda, products editor The House Next Door By Anne Rivers Siddons Simon & Schuster, 1978 This late 1970s work of character-driven literary horror by Anne Rivers Siddons, a Southern writer best known for beach read-y bestsellers in other genres, garnered renewed attention after her death late last year. Taking place in the affluent Atlanta suburbs (Buckhead is that you?), the Stephen King-beloved book, while not a haunted-house yarn per se, is the most unsettling work of fiction concerning modern residential architecture ever written. Just imagine a Deep South version of John Cheever’s The Swimmer thrown into a blender with Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, and a vintage copy of Architectural Digest and you’re somewhat close. –Matt Hickman, associate editor Sun Seekers: The Cure of California By Lyra Kilston Atelier Éditions, 2019 The second volume in Atelier Éditions’ The Illustrated America series is fascinating, fun, and quite topical. Tracing the history of the often quixotic and quack-y tuberculosis-spurred health trends imported from Europe to Southern California during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sun Seekers pays particular mind to the role that modernist architecture played in the rise of clean living. This beautifully produced book truly has it all: heliotherapy, raw foods, German proto-hippies, naturopathic zealotry, experimental sanatorium design, a brief history of granola, and a discussion of Richard Neutra’s musings for Nude Living magazine. –Matt Hickman, associate editor X-Ray Architecture Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller, 2019 In her latest book, historian Beatriz Colomina argues that the cleanly aesthetics associated with modern architecture are, in part, a response to the turn-of-the-century tuberculosis pandemic. In the work of architects such as Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Richard Neutra, and Friedrich Kiesler, Colomina discovers a medicinal throughline that skillfully challenges preceding histories of modernism. –Shane Reiner-Roth, associate editor Digital Fabrications Galo Canizares Applied Design & Research, 2019 Mixing fiction with applied research, Galo Canizares follows emerging trends in digital design to question our relationship with software, that elusive and often misused term. One of the major pleas found throughout the book is for architecture students to not only learn every software program required to bring their concepts to fruition, but also to consider the impact those programs are quietly having on cultural conventions and the language used for describing architecture itself. –Shane Reiner-Roth, associate editor Map: Exploring the World By John Hessler Phaidon, 2020 (midi format) Take a look at the NYC metro map and you’ll easily get a sense of how you can move from one place to another. Most, if not all, contemporary transit maps are inspired by Harry Beck’s 1933 London Underground map (which famously sacrifices geographic location and scale in favor of representing relative locations of stations and lines). For this reason among others, maps help us to see connections we might not otherwise. From the birth of cartography to today’s high-tech digital maps, this new edition surveys a breadth of visual tools made in both analog and digital formats. –Gabrielle Golenda, products editor Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space By Keller Easterling Verso, 2015 Fun fact: Did you know there’s an extra-governmental body that regulates everything from the thickness of credit cards to the height of doorknobs? How much do you know about free trade zones, business-friendly districts found all over the world technically not under the purview of the countries that host them? Keller Easterling’s dig into the non-governmental bodies that influence how much of the world works—often free of oversight—reads a bit dryly but paints a dystopian picture of the systems already guiding our day-to-day lives. –Jonathan Hilburg, web editor Applied Ballardianism: A Memoir from a Parallel Universe By Simon Sellars Urbanomic, 2018 The mood of the day is undoubtedly dystopian, and no remedy of spirits appears forthcoming. In need of a guide for navigating the new bleak normal? Look no further than J.G. Ballard, docent of alienated modernity. And there is perhaps no better guide to Ballard than Simon Sellars. In his involute book—part-memoir, part-literary hall-of-mirrors—Sellars recounts his personal affinity to the famed British novelist, a bond that spans Sellars’s promising graduate school career and the crisis of identity that brought it to an abrupt end. Along the way, he rescues Ballard from the lazy empirical shorthand Ballardian, a fate not afforded to that other master of the uncanny, Kafka. –Samuel Medina, executive editor
Every book on this list was selected independently by AN’s team of editors. If you buy something via the embedded links, AN will earn a commission. 
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1948–2020

Moss, Mayne, Holl, and more remember the late Michael Sorkin
Michael Sorkin, inimitable scribe of the built environment and leading design mind, passed away in New York at age 71 last Thursday after contracting COVID-19. Survived by his wife Joan Copjec, Sorkin leaves behind an invaluable body of work, as the following tributes—from friends, colleagues, peers—readily acknowledge. This is the first of a two-part series; the second can be read here. Eric Owen Moss, principal, Eric Owen Moss Architects: Michael Sorkin, Where are you? In sight of the invisible. Loyal to that cause. Michael the critic. Michael the urbanist. Michael the politico polemicist. Michael the architect. Michael the sardonic humorist. Homeless and everywhere at home. Educating the educators. Colleague’s definition. Friend’s definition. Redrawing the criticalurbanistpolicoarchitecthumorist’s map. In perpetuity. So those in arrears can follow. If they can. Michael, where are you? Eating at Rosa? Laughing together at the prima ballerina and the qb? Someone once told us, “the sun also ariseth.” Just not today. Love you. Thom Mayne, founding partner, Morphosis Architects: In the eighties when we were all starving, Michael would put me up in his apartment where I would occupy an unforgettable Pesce Feltri chair while we talked late into the night about the subject we both loved—architecture. Exhausted and enfolded in the wings of that chair, I would sleep and then awaken as though no time had passed before we were at it again. His voice, then as it was yesterday, was incisive and fearless and sometimes stinging. He challenged me repeatedly with words I often didn’t want to hear. But I trusted him—his comments were clearly coming from a place of generosity and honesty and commitment to his project which was, finally, about social justice. He spoke of our awesome responsibilities, he spoke relentlessly of the power of architecture to change lives, he never stopped insisting that we must never stop fighting—for what we believed in, for a resistance to the status quo. His prodigious intelligence combined with his obvious love of humanity gave his words a rare gravitas and power. Finally, I ask myself why I am thinking about that room, that chair, that time, and I realize that it’s the gift of connection with people that made Michael so special. I’m thinking about that chair, those hours, that mind, and I, like every single person I’ve spoken with these last few days, am undone, feeling lost in a fog of sadness whose edges I can’t quite find. Steven Holl, principal, Steven Holl Architects: The shocking tragic news that Michael Sorkin was taken out by COVID-19 is unbelievable—tragically surreal. I had known Michael for over forty years. He invited me to an event on New Year’s Eve when I first arrived in New York City. He was a very rare architect of deep intellect and sharp wit. He was a champion of remarkable urban visions, and like our close friend Lebbeus Woods, he had fearless convictions about architecture. Michael was a character like Cervantes’s Don Quixote in the best way. I remember him saying, “I may not achieve all my visions, but I will die fighting for them.” Let’s pay attention to this tragic moment in humanity. As Malebranche said, “attention is the natural prayer of the soul.” Deborah Gans, founding principal, Gans Studio: I have been revisiting Michael’s responses to our troubles, both immediate and looming, Katrina and Jerusalem, climate change and global violence. There is always the razor-sharp text that lays bare difficult truths with their ethical demands and their physical consequences for architecture and planning. But then there is most often a drawn proposal, filled with exuberance, for our way out. He was this binary as a person—as committed to optimism as to confrontation with injustice, as joyful in his being, as devastating in his wit. Through his writing, we understand the precariousness of New Orleans; but then, through his inspired design for a neighborhood of inhabited levees, we are hopeful. In crystalline prose, he dispatches the ethical follies of the Israel-Palestinian impasse, with its competing narratives of suffering, ownership, environmental stewardship, holiness, diaspora, and nationality; but then, in signature pink plans, he imagines a green armature for a new Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and we ask ourselves, “Why not?” We need him now to help us unpack the rhetoric of an urbanism of distance and a city of essential services, and all the political dimensions of the plague that took him. We also need the plan that he would have given us to take back our cities after this deluge. Of that plan, we can be sure of one thing—it would be green, democratic, and joyful. Achva Benzinberg Stein, landscape architect: “Dahling,” Michael often said to me, “stop complaining and get to work.” And that is what he always did. Working at living as well as he could, teaching through mentoring, encouraging, opening our minds to new ideas and new ways to implement them, writing so very eloquently using his special language, laced with nuances, built with rich vocabulary, evidence to his immense knowledge in many fields. When we met once in 1994, most of his work at that time was speculative. But he trusted in the power of a good concept to convince people to act. If money was needed to pay his helpers who depended on him, there was no question of what was to be done. “Dahling, you will see everything will be covered sooner or later. The main thing is not to be afraid." And that was his way in design, playing with objects and forms and never afraid to try or to admit failure, inventing solutions to any problem that entered his mind with incredible humor, with a love of people, with deep concern but strong belief in the potential embedded in the collective, in the City. Farewell, my soul brother. I miss you terribly. Lesley Lokko, dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City University of New York: I met Michael Sorkin once, briefly, at a conference in Johannesburg exactly a decade ago. It was at one of those post-event dinners where everybody meets everybody and the conversation was brief. I was a bit starstruck. We didn't exchange contact details and were never in touch again. Nine years later, he put my name into the hat for a new dean at City College's Spitzer School of Architecture. In the three short months since I've been “on seat,” as we say in West Africa, we met a handful of times at faculty meetings or occasionally in the corridor. Three weeks ago, he quickly organized a dinner with the Israeli filmmaker, Amos Gitai, simply because I mentioned, in passing, that I was a huge fan of his work. “I'll get you guys together for dinner.” And he did. It was a brilliant dinner and Michael, although “off the wagon,” was a brilliant host. It was the last time I saw him. Through the tributes that have flooded into my inbox over the past few days, I now understand that generosity, acumen, and the immensely social ability to foster—and retain—the trust, affection, and respect of so many widely dispersed and unrelated people was not only his hallmark, it was the man. It's a cliché but, like most clichés, it's rooted in truth: You don't realize what you have until it's gone. Harriet Harris, dean of Pratt Institute School of Architecture: Thankfully, there are no easy words for a difficult man; one who challenged architects to grow some proverbial ethics, to stand up for others, to even stand up for themselves, and to resist the spatial crimes of unbridled neoliberalism. I will remember Michael because he gave me and others permission to use architecture as a form of poetically charged, social protest. Few educator-practitioners have done this, in truth. I will not forget the debt I owe him. His impatience with the debilitating conventions of the canon super-charged our conversations, disrupted debates, and endeared him to students who were otherwise pressed up against the electric fence that divides practice from academe. Michael insisted that there were 250 things we architects should all know about architecture, but perhaps there is only one thing to know about Michael: we are a much-diminished community without him. Mike Davis, writer, activist, and urban theorist: Michael Sorkin died today of coronavirus in an overcrowded hospital and it is a shattering loss. If some people consider me an “urban theorist” it’s only because in 1992 Michael conscripted me to write a chapter in his volume Variations in a Theme Park. His ideas have had an immense influence in shaping my own. He was by any measure the most important radical theorist of city life and architecture in the last half century. New Yorkers old enough to have been Village Voice readers in the 1980s when he was the paper’s architecture critic will never forget the war he waged against mega-developers and urban rapists like Donald Trump. Or how in Whitmanesque prose he weekly sang the ballad of New York’s unruly, democratic streets. At a time when postmodernists were throwing dirt over the corpse of the twentieth century, Michael was resurrecting the socialist dreams and libertarian utopias that were the original soul of architectural modernism. When the peoples’ city was under attack he was inevitably the first to march to the sound of the guns. And then…his devilish glee, his kindness, his soaring imagination, his 50,000 volts of creative energy…. I’m drowning my keyboard in tears. Michael, you rat, why did you go when we need you most? Dean MacCannell, emeritus professor, Environmental Design & Landscape Architecture, University of California, Davis: Death suddenly snatched Michael Sorkin away from us. But we can’t let him go. He was in our lives in too many ways. There are so many points of attachment no amount of time can undo them. Michael was a teacher to us all—not just those fortunate enough to be enrolled in his seminars and studios. When he asked me to work on problems I knew little about—as he often did—he always overlooked my ignorance and demanded that I work with him. He was an architect beyond architecture. He knew exactly how to create the openings that would draw me fully into his schemes. Michael was enormously learned across many fields and disciplines, but he wore his learning lightly and deployed it strategically with a wicked sense of humor. He wrote beautifully, giving form to our consciousness an instant in advance. Michael left behind his belief in the future promise of urban life together—creatively re-imagined. Unfinished work for the rest of us, and the necessary tools to do it: an unshakable confidence in humanity; in our capacity for self-governance; our ability to realize other enlightenment ideals; and to create a beautiful common ground. Thank you, Michael. We’ll try to do our best, but dammit, it would be so much easier if you were still here to guide us. Eyal Weizman, founding director of Forensic Architecture and professor of spatial and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London: Locked down in stunned, helpless isolation with the exit sign switched off, I heard that Michael had died, without a warning or a goodbye. The contemporary prophet of public space and urban conviviality died in a hospital—one of the last places where physical proximity is still possible, indeed, unavoidable. The virus diagrams the kind of social interaction that Michael championed in a vibrant city that had now nearly totally closed down, the price of human contact having become too high. On the evening when the horrible message arrived, the people of our London neighborhood, seeking some form of communion, stood each at their window to clap for the medical workers like those who were by Michael’s side in his last days, risking their lives to try to save his and ours. Michael was our family friend—Alma, my daughter, was spoiled being his goddaughter—and so we were at our window, simultaneously sobbing, clapping, and hitting pots with wooden spoons, giving Michael the send-off we thought he’d appreciate. The rest of the mourning must be done in isolation—and my heart goes to Joan who cannot benefit from the proximity of those that loved them dearly. Michael was also my architectural godfather. In a number of small but crucially corrective interventions, he put me on my path. He read my books when they were still drafts, giving comments, helping find titles and publishers. Only a few weeks ago he took the time to campaign for me when I was not allowed to travel to the United States, just as he often did for others less privileged. We met in 1994, when, as a young admiring student at the Architectural Association (AA), I was one of those campaigning for him to be the new director of the school. When Michael finally won the vote and got the post, he decided to decline it, opting instead to pursue his own singular path: he set up his studio; founded the research organization Terreform and the publishing imprint UR (Urban Research); and became the Director of Graduate Design at the City College, where he was Distinguished Professor. In short, he constructed on his own a polymorphous entity through which to realize various aspects of his wide urban visions. At the same time, he continued to advocate his ideas in a stream of essays and books, and to sketch them in numerous visionary schemes and drawings. (Many of the latter are still unpublished, but Joan assures me that they will be coming out soon.) Drawing on the vocabulary of 1970s New York activism, he expanded the spectrum of architectural and urban action: sit-ins, town-hall-meetings, petitions, appeals, the writing of codes and bills of rights. Learning from his struggles with the kind of New York developers that now run the United States, he brought his sense of urban justice, and feisty activism to Palestine, Northern-Ireland, and the U.S.-Mexico border. Since architecture was part of the problem, it owed a certain debt, and Michael encouraged architects to pay up by inventing solutions. In 1998, an impish trickster, Michael seduced a group of Palestinian and Israeli architects and other intellectuals to a conference on occupied and segregated Jerusalem at a lake-side villa in Bellagio, Italy. It was here that I first met Suad Amiry, Rashid Khalidi, Omar Yusuf, and Ariella Azoulay. We listened together as Michael insisted, more optimistically than most of us, that we could use architecture to do something about this injustice, although he understood that, by itself, unaccompanied by the fundamental political changes we must all struggle for, architecture could do very little. His subsequent book projects on Palestine—The Next Jerusalem, Against the Wall, and Open Gaza—demonstrate what he meant. He was right, at a time when the grip of architecture tightens all around us, when the builders of walls, towers, and digital surveillance systems are in charge, and when authoritarianism is using the global health emergency to encroach on our civil liberties—we all need to channel something of Michael and continue the fight. He will now bring his to gods and angels. Go on Michael, give them hell! Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University: When I moved to New York in the late eighties, I got into the habit of seeing the city through Michael’s eyes, and I suppose I always will. Already a unique kind of critic, he then turned into a doer, which I especially admired. We worked together in various ways, but most memorably on two competition juries. The first was for a Public Space project associated with the Atlanta Olympics. The aggressive charm with which Michael lobbied fellow jury members on behalf of his picks won me over. I became his willing accomplice, and we went all in for the most audacious entries, knowing full well that, in the real world, the odds of them being greenlighted were slim. Many years later, we both had the idea, independently, of mounting an alternative to the competition for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki, and so we joined forces to see it through. In sheer expenditure by firms all over the world, the official competition was the most labor-intensive and costly ever seen. A true bonfire of the vanities. Ours was run on a budget of five thousand euros and operated more like a think tank for ideas for infusing arts and urbanism. The whole thing brought out the best in Michael—his fierce distaste for architectural elitism, his appetite for popular quality, his spontaneous fellow-feeling, and, yes, his legendary sense of mischief, now so sadly extinguished. Daniel Monk, George R. and Myra T. Cooley chair in peace and conflict studies at Colgate University: When Michael Sorkin died last week, he left behind the draft of a work—a soon-to-be published volume of essays in honor of Mike Davis—that we had been editing together. In it, Michael records his own first encounters with the national mall in Washington, D.C. In these memories of “the American agora,” he presents the immanent logic of the mall’s development, amounting to a perpetual betrayal of its promise. If, as so many others have already noted, Michael could always adopt the standpoint of hope, good humor, and mischief in the face of despair, this is because he knew that it is precisely in broken promises that a regulative ideal—the demand for political freedom he always championed—was being kept alive, despite our collective efforts to close our eyes and pretend otherwise. Charles Waldheim, John E. Irving professor of landscape architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design: I was fortunate to know Michael Sorkin as a public intellectual, as a personal role model, and as a friend. His loss leaves an enormous void in the heart of the city and in those of us who have committed our lives to understanding it. Michael brought a journalist’s eye and a critic’s wry wit to writing about the city, describing it as a collective social construct and a set of lived experiences. His insightful prose cut through layers of accumulated capital, both economic and cultural. His wildly imaginative design propositions for intervening in the city double as a form of cultural criticism, revealing the archeology of power structures, class construction, and collective resistance. Most contemporary discourse on the design of the city has atrophied into one of two mutually exclusive and ultimately inadequate narratives. On the one hand, our discussions of the city devolve into an exclusive preoccupation with policy, participation, and governance as disconnected from its spatial and cultural contexts. On the other hand, our accounts are equally often constrained to the description of individual sites, projects, and protagonists as architectural singularities lacking any meaningful connection to the collective. Describing the city as a collective cultural project was Michael Sorkin’s great gift to us. Who among us will take up that project now?
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Change Your View

LAMAS builds practice through perspectives
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, and now an AN interview series. On October 31, 2019, Anna Korneeva and Irmak Turanli, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Wei-Han Vivian Lee and James Macgillivray, principals of Toronto-based architecture office LAMAS. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. Anna Korneeva and Irmak Turanli: After studying your projects and observing what you were working on with students while teaching here in Syracuse last year, we see a strong relationship between your practice, research, and teaching. How do you work across these three areas and how do they benefit each other? James Macgillivray: There is an economic relationship between practicing and teaching. I think people who teach and practice are more willing to take risks with competitions and even with private clients. You can present things that are more conceptual because you always know that it's not the only job. It's important to point out that this is a condition from which many of the practices you are interviewing benefit. It also creates opportunities to apply our academic research in our professional work from time to time, effectively allowing us to transcend simply providing a service. We can test design concepts in a client-based situation… if they don't land, they can be offloaded to our academic research. For example, at the beginning of Townships Farmhouse, the client was very interested in agricultural buildings, farmhouses, and barns. So, initially we had an academic response… we looked at the history of those building types and researched how they worked. Whether or not we apply that research is separate from the value the research has for us in an academic context. Wei-Han Vivian Lee: It’s also important to note that these three areas don't always overlap. We’re always doing research, and we try to inject that research into our professional projects as much as is possible. But practice is more often the outlier. There's a clearer alliance between our design research and the work our students produce in classes we teach. James: Beyond practice, research, and teaching exists our hobbies. Sometimes our hobbies inform these other three areas. Regarding hobbies… both of you have different interests and backgrounds. Vivian, we know you have a background in painting, and James, we know you’re interested in film. How are these hobbies and your unique backgrounds folded into your practice? Vivian: I studied Painting as an undergrad. My undergraduate thesis used painting as a medium to explore perspective construction methods in architectural representation. As projects come to us, there's a constellation of maybe four or five things we are interested in and looking to incorporate… whether it’s film, representation, or any number of other interests. To be honest, I'm not sure we even have a game plan when we start working on a project. Sometimes it’s liberating to know that we don’t have to force certain interests or aesthetic ambitions into each project. We let the defining features of each project emerge naturally and over time. James: And it can either be instrumental or a matter of taste. It can just be something that gives a certain style. Regarding my background, I did two theses on film. One was at the undergraduate level at Princeton, where I studied under P. Adams Sitney and Alessandra Ponte. Then I did another film thesis at Harvard with Preston Scott Cohen. Since then I've been writing academic research papers on film… not "operative criticism" but literally film history, film criticism, film technique, etc. I also completed a research and teaching fellowship at the University Michigan that featured film as a primary topic of interest. At that point, after I got it out of my system, we did a bunch of studios that were dealing with optical or "op" art and architecture. Op art was a way to address film as a method of engaging optical aspects of architecture… we were interested in exploring how architecture produces different effects as you walk around it, rather than simply look at it. This particular interest has found its way into more than a few of our projects. So, there are ways that my interest in film comes in, but mostly it's something that occupies my time in the background, something that we do in our spare time. We recently traveled to Greece to go to a film festival in the middle of the Peloponnese… Vivian: James also makes films… weird experimental films that are actually now mostly family films. James: But they don't screen anywhere. This reminds me of a show we’ve been watching recently. In "Terrace House," a Japanese reality TV show, there's a character Shohei who insists that he's going to be equally good at every single thing he does. So, he's a carpenter, an actor, a chef… and it drives the other members of the house crazy. They can't deal with the fact that he wants to do several different things at the same time. Sometimes we're like the character on “Terrace House,” which is not necessarily a good model to follow. To Vivian’s point about an intentional lack of overwhelming coherence across our work… either by circumstance or because of our personalities, the capital P, Project is not something that we were interested in pursuing. We tried, but every time we did a new rendering, we were interested in testing a different rendering style. We’re comfortable with a consistently evolving aesthetic and set of interests. Why did you decide to start your own firm? Was it an ambition, or was it born out of necessity or something else? Vivian: After graduate school we both thought we would work our way up in an office, and maybe become partner at whichever firms we were at. We started working together in 2008, and the recession did impact us. I actually quit my job at SHoP because I started another firm together with two female colleagues of mine. We had a lot of work in Williamsburg. This firm lasted for six or eight months, and then the recession hit… and that was the end of most of our commissioned projects. Around this time, Monica [Ponce de Leon] became Dean at the University of Michigan and she was looking to hire new lecturers at Michigan. Fortunately, I received an eight-month teaching contract at University of Michigan, thinking that I would move back to New York immediately afterwards. James continued working at Peter Gluck and Partners in New York through all of this. But long story short, the eight-month teaching contract gradually evolved into a tenure-track position. What I realized was that when you begin teaching, you can essentially be a graduate student again. You can initiate your own projects and start thinking about architecture from other vantage points that are not solely practice-based. So, the practice was, in part, born out of this realization. You are very experimental with tools of production. For example, the food cart for the Stop Night Market project experiments with a marble texture, where you were mixing liquids to achieve a marbling effect. In other projects, you’ve experimented with hydrographics and thatching. What is the inspiration and idea behind these handcrafted production techniques? How do they help you during the design process? Vivian: We've always been interested in things that are indeterminate or messy, where one can’t quite figure out the exact processes executed to accomplish the overall assembly. Having come from SHoP, I felt pretty versed in digital fabrication and thinking about the assembly of parts. When I started teaching, I was interested in revisiting vernacular oral traditions through the new lens of contemporary technology. I was very interested in materials reacting to control imposed from an external source. James: When we started working with hydrographics it was the first indication to us that the digital could be something that was not smooth and could have something in common with things like marbling and other processes that were indeterminate. Some of this was a reaction against the version of digital that we came up with. When we were in school it was during the first wave of digital technology being applied and mastered in practice. But there was no way into that digital work because it was so smooth. It evaded engagement by being completely worked out and completely seamless. We wanted something that was a little bit broken and appeared to have cracks in it. Vivian: I will add one more dimension to this. There was something really laborious about the way digital output was realized and made physical in the early 2000s… especially at the scale of temporary installations. While working at LTL and SHoP, I contributed to installation designs that were the assembly of many parts. The infinitely unique components in the digital environment simply made for an increasingly complex process of physical assembly. So, expediency is another thing that was interesting in relation to traditional crafts. As much as they're indeterminate, they're messy and fast. There's a relationship to labor that seems more interactive, rather than demanding the human laborer to act like a super precise, fast robot. We have a few questions about Townships Farmhouse. We know that the client for the house is an artist who paints the landscape around the site. How is it different to work with clients who are involved in art and architecture? Did her interests affect the concept and design of the house? Vivian: The client is an artist and her husband studied agriculture and is a farmer. She's also been collecting work produced by emerging Canadian artists. That commission was in part related to their interest in fostering young talent. James: The working relationship with the client was very, very good. It was a very unorthodox sequence of design in relation to how a project would typically develop. We went all-in on 100 percent schematic design for two schemes, which we developed to a significant degree of specification. It's much more than what we would do in schematic design now. Each scheme was represented through many drawings and a quarter-scale model. Through conversation around these two schemes we arrived at the configuration that was eventually built. Vivian: The reason there are two schemes is that she was very interested in a design that related to the context. The brief called for [the] design of either a farmhouse or a barn, two types of buildings that are very common in that area. Each scheme is our take on the barn or the farmhouse, both of which we conceptually reinvented. The barn scheme was built. We uncovered an old courtyard barn typology, and repurposed its form as a landscape and view framing device. Did you face any significant difficulties during the design or construction process of Townships Farmhouse? James:  In Quebec there’s an interesting situation where, in the middle of summer, at the peak of any kind of ability to build, they have a two-week construction holiday where all works seizes on all construction projects. So, in the most productive time they take two weeks off… even most engineering and architectural firms take those two weeks off. So, they found out a way to be more productive in winter and remain unburdened by weather. Vivian: The project had a very unique schedule. Over the course of almost two and a half years, we were doing design work in Revit. When it came time to build, we really understood every aspect of construction in great detail. The house had to be wheelchair accessible, and even the foundation was cast to make sure that all the different depths of finishes were completely flush. Everything was fully resolved prior to construction. The contractors were very helpful throughout the process and we had a very good working relationship with them, in part because we had such a complete drawing set and a long time to discuss everything with them. Nowadays, we're involved with a lot of projects that people want fast-tracked, and they don't want to decide on a contractor until after the bid process. In Townships Farmhouse, collaborating with the contractor early in the process made it easier for us to draw the project exactly as it would be built. What has been the most rewarding aspect of practicing architecture? Vivian: There is satisfaction in the relationship we have with our employees. They bring a lot of ideas to every design decision which really enhances the overall project. It is very rewarding to have the privilege of having employees.
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Be Less Bored

Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore is a delightful distraction during troubled times
If there ever was a time to slip away from reality for a moment to feast your eyes on buildings that are exaggerated, extravagant, eccentric, exuberantly colored, overly embellished, unabashedly hodgepodge-y, and incorporate cartoon dwarves as supporting columns, now is the time. Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore, released late last month by Phaidon Press, is the perfect architectural tome for hunkering down with for an extended spell at home. Compiled and written by London-based curator and architectural historian Owen Hopkins, this is a photo-driven architectural survey that’s hefty in size, exhaustive in scope, and, most important, a lot of fun. Featuring over 200 globe-spanning projects of all types and sizes, Postmodern Architecture—a more rambunctious companion piece to previous Phaidon surveys of modernism and brutalism—includes multiple works by the usual suspects: Michael Graves, Philip Johnson, Denise Scott Brown, Stanley Tigerman, Aldo Rossi, and, of course, Robert Venturi, the so-called father of postmodernism himself who coined the Mies-ribbing, anti-minimalist adage that the book borrows as its subtitle. “It’s a celebration and a global survey,” Hopkins told AN of the book. “When creating a book like this there’s always the sense that you are establishing and promoting the canon. But at the same time, there’s an opportunity to broaden the canon, by including both the familiar projects and some unexpected stuff as well.” To achieve this, Hopkins includes lesser-known practitioners of postmodern architecture; obscure and overlooked buildings; and in some cases, nonconformist structures that met the wrecking ball long ago. Also featured are works by architects who dabbled in postmodernism during the movement’s mid-1970s through late-1980s heyday but who are generally known for being more restrained in their approach. What’s more, Hopkins also included numerous examples of more contemporary postmodern architecture, as well as a sizable assortment of buildings that are playful, iconoclastic, and distinctly Dutch. Hopkins noted to AN that when curating Postmodern Architecture, he was “instinctively drawn to the classic buildings of that moment” like Arquitectonica’s Atlantis Condominium, a 1982 Miami luxury apartment tower that’s “so very redolent of that era.” A personal fan of the radically altered big-box showrooms designed by SITE for now-defunct American retailer Best Products, Hopkins was also “really interested and very eager to point out” the lesser-known work of the late, great postmodernist architect Charles Moore. “Everyone knows the Piazza d’Italia, said Hopkins referring to Moore’s cheeky, column-heavy public plaza completed in downtown New Orleans in 1978. “But there’s much more to his work, and there’s a real kind of intellectual depth to it.” Hopkins pointed out Moore’s own home in Austin, Texas, as being “just this most extraordinary composition of ideas and forms and objects.” In addition to big photos of bold buildings, Postmodern Architecture is also peppered with quotes from a range of architects, critics, and cultural figures—Andy Warhol, David Byrne, Charles Jencks, Noam Chomsky, Jane Jacobs, and Venturi to name just a few—who are either associated with postmodernism or “whose work has provided some kinds of inspiration or backdrop to the movement,” as the book’s preface explains. “These quotations provide both context or counterpoint. Some are rather more condemnatory than complimentary. Yet this is wholly fitting for a movement that revels in provocation and very often defines itself against a moribund status quo.” “Postmodernism has been tainted with the brush of being a very kind of commercial architecture, and in many ways it is,” Hopkins told AN when asked why reactions—particularly contemporary reactions—to postmodern architecture are frequently disparaging. “And therefore it has been seen, partly at the time but particularly retrospectively, as kind of the embodiment of the worst aspects of 1980s individualism—so there’s that kind of more ideologically motivated prejudice against this moment.” “Also, aesthetically, postmodern buildings, for the most part, are designed to stand out,” Hopkins continued. “They are often very bold in the forms that they employ and their colors, and in their decorative languages. And buildings that stand out do polarize opinion. At the same time, there’s lots of contextual, kind of polite postmodern architecture—but maybe not that much of it is in the book.” “Maybe there’s a groundswell of architects who don’t like postmodernism,” Hopkins added. “But I think with the public, it’s always been popular.” Below are eight projects featured in Postmodern Architecture—some quite iconic and others more under-the-radar—that run the gamut from private homes to public spaces to municipal office buildings and beyond. These are strictly North American projects, but there’s obviously a lot more where they came from.

Blue House, New Buffalo, Michigan; Margaret McCurry (1993)

Best Products Showroom, Miami; James Wine/SITE (1979)

Franklin Court, Philadelphia; Venturi Scott Brown and Associates (1976)

James R. Thompson Center, Chicago; Helmut Jahn (1985)

Academic Center at Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, Georgia; John Portman Associates (2003)

Casa Wolf, Ridgeway Colorado; Sottsass Associati (1989)

Team Disney Building, Burbank, California; Michael Graves (1986)

The Charles Moore House, Austin, Texas; Charles Moore

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Ahem, Hem

On opening day of Hem’s New York studio, AN Interior talked shop with founder Petrus Palmer
Returning to the cobblestone streets of Manhattan, Stockholm-based furniture brand Hem opened the doors to its new permanent home in New York City. The studio has made a name for itself with affordable, well-made furnishings and designer collaborations with Max Lamb, Luca Nichetto, Pauline Deltour, GamFratesi, and Philippe Malouin, among others. Now open on Broome Street, the space features furniture vignettes where visitors can browse the collections and purchase for same week delivery. The location operates more like a design studio (as opposed to a typical showroom), offering by-appointment creative services, in a setting furnished with the independent design brand’s sustainable furniture, lighting, and accessories. AN Interiors’ products editor Gabrielle Golenda sat down with Hem’s founder Petrus Palmer to discuss how he designed the New York studio and how he plans to engage the city’s creative community.

AN Interior: How did you pick the showroom location?

Petrus Palmer: It’s our second space in the United States. We opened our first store in downtown Los Angeles last fall. Coming to New York, we wanted to make sure we were in a neighborhood that matches the creative values of Hem. Soho is home to most of the design brands and there are a lot of design firms and architects. Maybe, more importantly, it’s the only truly walkable part of the U.S. You can walk around and be inspired.

We didn’t want to have a street-level space because we’re not yet open for the weekends. It’s a by-appointment studio for interior designers and architects.

What was it about the space that drew you to it?

It’s a beautiful brick and iron building. It has intrinsic value that you can build on. Then there are high ceilings and windows in both directions.

Why are you bring a permanent location to New York City now?

To meet more people. As a brand and purveyor of quality and design, trust is our main goal. You need to get that final piece of the puzzle that you don’t get online—online, you can see everything from the quantity that we have in stock to the price level, but you won’t actually get to touch anything. That’s so important. In the end, to be able to get face to face with the brand and touch the products is imperative.

Read the full interview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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1927 - 2020

Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti dies of coronavirus at 92
Vittorio Gregotti, the Italian urban planner, writer, and architect behind the Barcelona Olympic Stadium died today, Sunday, March 15, of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. He had developed pneumonia and passed aged 92 away in the San Giuseppe hospital in Milan, where his wife Marina Mazza is also being treated. Gregotti was born in Novara, east of Milan, in 1927. After graduating from the Politecnico di Milano in 1952 he worked for Italian architecture magazine Casabella, first as an editor from 1953-1955, then as editor-in-chief until 1963. Later he founded Gregotti Associati International in 1974, going on to design the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon alongside architect Manuel Salgado, the Grand Theater of Provence in France, the Arcimboldi Opera Theater in Milan, and numerous stadia including the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. As an urban planner, his studio worked on the Bicocca district of Milan and Pujiang New Town in Shanghai, China. Outside the world of design, Gregotti was a major cultural figure in the Italian Communist Party. Some of his most notable work, however, was a curator. In 1975 he curated Regarding the Stucky Mill (A proposito del Mulino Stucky) which explored options for abandoned granary mills on Venice's Giudecca, being hosted in the Magazzini del Sale alle Zattere. The exhibition focused on land art and architecture and signaled the first steps to be taken by La Biennale di Venezia towards an exhibition on architecture, being a precursor for the Venice Architecture Biennal, established in 1980. “I don’t really know why [they asked an architect to curate the Biennale]—it was very strange,” Gregotti told AN's editor-in-chief William Menking in 2010. “I agreed to do it only if we also had a small first exhibition of architecture. That was the condition because if not, well, I wasn’t going to do it. The biennale had never had an architecture section, so this would be the first one.” In 1976 Gregotti was appointed as Director of the Visual Arts Section of the Biennale and he titled that year’s Art Biennale Werkbund 1907. He expanded the festival to include the visual arts and architecture, hosting exhibitions in seven venues across Venice, with five being dedicated to architecture and design. Gregotti was also Director for the 1978 Biennale, Utopia and the Crisis of Anti-Nature: Architectural Intentions in Italy. “In 1976 we started a different approach to exhibiting architecture,” said Gregotti. “One part was a historical exhibition, and the other was an exhibition of modern architecture featuring a group of Europeans and Americans in order to compare the two different positions. It was the 23 time of the New York Five, and in Europe there were two or three different positions, such as Oswald Mathias Ungers in Germany, James Stirling in England, Serge Chermayeff and a few others.” In response to Gregotti’s death, fellow Italian architect Stefano Boeri in a post on Facebook described a “master of international architecture” who “created the story of our culture.” Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage also added: “With deep sadness I learn of the disappearance of Professor Vittorio Gregotti. A great Italian architect and urban planner who has given prestige to our country in the world. I cling to the family on this sad day.”
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It's Raining Soffits

Atlantic City declares Trump Plaza a public safety hazard
Officials in Atlantic City have filed an injunction in New Jersey Superior Court in an attempt to hasten the demolition of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. The Martin Stern Jr.-design property, completed in 1984 and now owned by billionaire hedge fund manager and Donald Trump ally Carl Icahn, closed in September 2014 and has remained unoccupied since. Icahn took control of the blighted building in 2016. In a press conference held on Thursday, officials deemed the 39-story building an “imminent hazard” due to the fact that chunks of the building’s concrete and stucco facade are actively raining onto nearby streets. Some falling debris has almost reached Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk, as per the Philadelphia Inquirer. The city's court filing claims Tower Plaza poses “an actual and immediate danger to life” and needs to be demolished without delay. “A part of my vision is to have a clean city and a safe city,” Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. said in a news conference. “Right now, Trump Plaza isn’t clean or safe.” “Today we’re saying to Carl Icahn, we want this building torn down,” Small told reporters. “We are negotiating in good faith. But it changes when we have to dispatch emergency police and personnel 24 hours a day around the building.” As the Inquirer notes, Small opted to hold the conference at Boardwalk Hall in lieu of the crumbling hotel because “we didn’t feel safe enough to stand near Trump Plaza.” As the Inquirer details, fire and public safety officials recently carried out an emergency inspection in which a drone was used to pinpoint the source of the structural shedding. During the inspection, five large holes in the facade of the hotel’s tower between the 15th and 19th floors were identified as was damage to the seams of the structure caused by unchecked water damage. Further up, soffits on the penthouse level have been deteriorating and falling to the street. “These buildings need to maintained, and they need to be kept safe,”  Scott Evans, chief of the Atlantic City Fire Department, said. “The most important thing for us is public safety. We need to ensure that the owners of these buildings do not create a situation that is going to pose a threat or risk to the city, or to any pedestrians for that matter, that are within the vicinity of this building.” However, as the need for a court order demonstrates, razing this gone-to-seed former Atlantic City landmark won't be easy. Despite a longstanding desire by Atlantic City officials to demolish the Trump-branded architectural blemish, the city can’t take action and demolish Trump Plaza itself, and condemning it comes with exorbitantly high costs. Previous attempts to raze Trump Plaza in 2018 never came to fruition largely because Icahn failed to receive state funding via the Reinvestment Development Authority that would have been used to cover the cost of the demolition, a cost currently estimated to be in the ballpark of $14 million according the Inquirer. And so, demolition permit deadlines came and went much to the chagrin or local officials and residents alike. As local daily The Press of Atlantic City wrote in 2018, many believe the shuttered building to be “responsible for stifling growth and contributing to a negative perception of the city from visitors.” “My administration’s goal is to tear Trump Plaza down,” Small said at the beginning of this year. “That’s not accepted in any other city but Atlantic City. It’s an embarrassment, it’s blight on our skyline, and that’s the biggest eyesore in town.” In this week's press conference, Small explained that Icahn is now on the same page regarding the building's demolition. He said, however, that the city and Icahn have “different paths on how we get there.” “We are puzzled by the city’s actions,” Hunter Gary, president of Real Estate for Ichan Enterprises, said in a statement in response to the city seeking injunctive relief. “In fact, we have already decided to demo the building and have commenced the process including finalizing contracts. If the mayor had simply called us instead of holding a press conference, we could have updated him too.” Once upon a time, Trump Plaza, opened as Harrah's at Trump Plaza, was the Trump Organization’s flamboyant flagship Atlantic City development with 906 guest rooms, 86,000 square feet of gaming space, and regularly held wrestling matches. But following decades of legal issues and financial failures including a 1992 bankruptcy filing, Trump Plaza was “finally put out of its stained-carpet, squeaky-revolving-door, no-room-service, center-of-the-Boardwalk misery” in 2014. Another Trump property in Atlantic City, the Trump Taj Mahal, went belly-up in 2016 and reopened two years later under new ownership as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City. In the meantime, city officials have enlisted an around-the-clock police detail to stop pedestrians from using a particularly perilous sidewalk next to Trump Plaza. The Press also reports that there are plans to erect fencing around a section of the Boardwalk in order to keep people safe from falling debris.
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A Life Well Lived

The Canadian Centre for Architecture gets reflective in The Museum is Not Enough
What can an institution like the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) do, for architecture and for the world at large? The Museum is Not Enough offers a not unexpected answer. While the CCA certainly does what museums do—collecting architectural archives, producing exhibitions, running a research center—the scope of its ambition mirrors the vastness of contemporary dilemmas. Museums are institutions with social agency, but their power is dwarfed by the issues they are tempted to tackle. The CCA’s location in Montreal highlights this ambivalence: it is central by disciplinary measures but geographically and politically peripheral. This situation has inculcated a strong avant-garde spirit at the CCA. To pick a few examples of current topics, the CCA has made a film on homelessness (What It Takes to Make a Home), exhibitions on happiness and the medicalization of architecture (Our Happy Life and Imperfect Health), and an illustrated book on fossil fuel (Goodbye, Oil) that is part of a sweeping “counter-history of the modern Canadian environment.” Seemingly no big issue is left untouched, and every discursive genre is conscripted for the fight. The Museum is Not Enough muses through the many roles of contemporary architectural institutions in a series of nine open-ended manifestos. Its timing is calculated, arriving just as the CCA's director of the past 15 years, Mirko Zardini, has stepped down and Giovanna Borasi has been promoted to take his place. The book was a group effort (Borasi and Zardini are joined by Albert Ferré, Francesco Garutti, Jayne Kelley as editors), though it is written in the first person. It feels like listening in on an ongoing internal conversation among a close-knit team: “I try to act as a frame for making sense of, anticipating, and projecting on the world. I do this by focusing on architecture.” The quick but thoughtful writing draws out the complexities and contradictions of its subject matter. To say it is not complacent about the role of the CCA would be an understatement. The dialogue often tips into a hyper-self-awareness that recalls David Foster Wallace: “I'm not sure to what degree we should protect (fetishize?) the experience of being in the archives, of uncovering something seemingly tangential or trivial that unlocks a new idea... Maybe we've become a little too obsessed with this. I know I'm also responsible.” Emerging from this self-questioning are gems of clarity. A series of interviews stand out in this regard. Kalle Lasn, the founder and editor-in-chief of Adbusters, says easily that “architects are living in their own bubble” and distills simple advice: "follow the money, always, and maintain a healthy allergy to cant... It's about who benefits, where, how, and why.” A lively conversation between Kieran Long and Mark Wigley also catches the eye for its comparison of archives to graveyards—“that's where the action is.” The book coheres as a multi-genre, multidisciplinary provocation for architects to be both more critical and more open to discovering vitality in unexpected places. This attitude was imparted on the CCA by its founder, Phyllis Lambert—“we try to make people think”—and it is echoed on the last page of book in a quote from Gordon Matta-Clark: “Here is what we have to offer you... confusion guided by a clear sense of purpose.” The purpose here does not focus on buildings or representations. Sometimes it is presented with a dash of mysticism: the chapter on exhibitions starts by noting that "architecture is a way of reading and redefining the present, the society in which we're living and working.” For all its questioning, however, The Museum is Not Enough offers a reassuring sense that architecture is a field that takes in all things. Pictures of architecture abound, but they don't dominate. The freeform but careful graphic design (by Studio Jonathan Hares) works primarily through juxtaposition, generating connections between disparate words and things: Archival photographs, floorplans, scribbled questionnaires, screenshots of the CCA's website, book covers, furtive snapshots taken through security doors. What emerges is a sense of the hidden order of the material world and the agency of design over everything from scrap of paper to vast landscapes. There is an inescapable sense that a vague institutional or disciplinary “center” is somehow at work to organize these operations. Architecture is in charge. The book's concluding chapter helpfully asks “what else might be enough?” The answer is somehow both specific and vaguely allegorical: to “really think differently” we need to “inhabit another persona” or “become a strange animal.” Before planning we may need to forget. A series of events at the CCA called Come and Forget led audiences on “fruitful acts of mass amnesia.” This invitation to clear the slate is followed by a conceptual art piece in the form of a series of fictive grant applications for possible institutions, modeled after a proposal by Gordon Matta-Clark. This is all certainly food for thought. One senses affinity with the loose movement in art known as Relational Aesthetics. Maybe the gallery is not a place for hanging paintings but rather for conversation and enjoying a meal? The chief curator has, after all, been hosting a series of events called Curatorial Loaf, which do just that. What may be enough, then, is something very much in the spirit of Montreal: encouraging lives to be well-lived. The Museum is Not Enough will appeal to architects and curators for its ability to transport readers into the backstage conversations at an institution not afraid to interrogate itself and its major subject. It is clear by the end that architects very often work like curators even if they like to imagine themselves producing iconic works of art. They set the stage for things to happen. And they face the same challenge as curators: museums have a history as rarified citadels of cultural value, separate from the messy life of society around them. The Museum is Not Enough shows that it doesn't have to be this way. Intelligence and beauty emerge also from the mundane.
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Invisible No More

Invisible City reveals Philly’s avant-garde side
In the novel Invisible Cities, written by Italo Calvino, we learn of fantastical cities of monumental silver domes, elevated cities of catwalks, and cities made of cities, where residents reinvent themselves with every move. All these cities are, in fact, Venice. In the exhibition Invisible City, cocurated by Sid Sachs, director of exhibitions at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and Jennie Hirsh, assistant curator, professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at MICA, we learn of fanciful cities of roads lined with giant pretzels, cities where twisting towers rise above verdant parkways, and where anthropomorphic puzzle pieces search for connection. All these cities are, in fact, Philadelphia—visions of Philadelphia, anyway, as dreamt up and occasionally realized by avant-garde artists and architects at midcentury. Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde celebrates the City of Brotherly Love’s unique contributions to art and culture from 1956 to 1976, a time when “Philadelphia was fundamental to urban planning, popular music, post-minimalist sculptural installations, and postmodern architecture.” Featuring significant works from the era, the interdisciplinary exhibition spans four venues and an expansive website, with related talks, tours, and capital-H Happenings happening across the city throughout March. Although the architecture gallery at the Philadelphia Art Alliance will be of particular interest to AN readers, visitors would be remiss to skip past the other venues because Invisible City is best experienced as a whole. The show is an ambitious, sprawling, impressionistic portrait of a creative city at midcentury. It's beautiful and inspiring, but, like an impressionist portrait, hard to understand what you're seeing when you get too close. At the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, sculptures made from stacked brick, planks of wood, and repurposed lawn ornaments fill the space like a minimalist construction site. The artists on display were clearly influenced by their exposure to Marcel Duchamp’s work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In another venue, plastic paintings by James Harvard, which look like they were produced in an autobody shop, hang just a few feet away from collages of hypothetical highway roadsigns by Venturi and Rauch with Murphy Levy Wurman—including the aforementioned giant pretzels. It feels like there’s an affinity between these works: the Duchampian interest in the found objects: the Venturian embrace of the ordinary, and the shared interest in witty appropriation, but the show doesn’t make any explicit connection between disciplines or ideas. Things aren’t much clearer at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, where the architecture gallery is bookended by grand visions created for the Bicentennial by Venturi & Rauch and Mitchell/Giurgola. Between these monumental proposals are models, drawings, collages, and ephemera representing works that are more modest in scale, but not in concept: an original basswood model of Anne Tyng's 1971 Four-Poster Home; a model of Tyng and Louis Kahn's unbuilt geometric City Tower; hand-corrected pages from Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. It’s an impressive display of some of the best work ever produced by Philadelphia architects. Much of it is familiar. And if it’s not, you’ve got some work to do, because other than name, date, and medium, the exhibit provides no information for most of the work on display. Were these architects all talking to each other? Were they looking at local artists who were looking at Duchamp? Maybe! The highlight of the show, for me, was discovering some lesser-known talents, like David Slovic and the firm Friday. However, I had to conduct my own research to learn about Friday’s complex, contradictory, and delightfully democratic designs. For any context at all that, you have to go online. Thankfully, Invisible City's virtual venue, invisiblecity.uarts.edu, features an extensive chronology and interviews with many of the artists and cultural figures from the era. Whereas the minimal labels and works-behind-glass are cold and distant, the interviews are warm and often personal. Denise Scott Brown shares the story about their fight to preserve South Street, a historic black community that was going to be destroyed for a ring road. Richard Saul Wurman, creator of TED Talks, shares stories about his time as a designer in the offices of Louis Kahn, looking back on his professional experiences with a genuine sense of awe: “Lou changed my life. He taught me you could tell the truth. There were huge penalties...but it was worth it.” I enjoyed my trip through the Invisible City, despite leaving with more questions than answers: Why is Philadelphia a city where Pop Art and postmodernism germinated but never blossomed? Why is it a city that was home to architects who transformed the discipline, but whose contributions in their own town are surprisingly invisible? “It's the ultimate question about our city,” says Slovic in his interview. “Why isn't [Philadelphia] leading the way instead of following?” Why is it an invisible city? Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde runs until April 4, 2020. 
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MALL of America

MALL builds practice with pop culture
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, and now an AN interview series. On October 17, 2019, Isabella Calidonio and Tanvi Rao, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Jennifer Bonner, principal of MALL. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity.  Isabella Calidonio and Tanvi Rao: Can you tell us how MALL began, and more generally about your path from graduate school at Harvard to today? Jennifer Bonner: I finished at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 2009, almost exactly when the recession started. I had already worked in London for Foster and Partners and David Chipperfield Architects, but I wanted to work for another architect before I started my own practice. Unfortunately, there were no job openings anywhere, so I applied to teach at various schools. Georgia Tech offered me an adjunct position for a semester. The question then became, “How do you start teaching and build a practice at the same time?” I next started wondering what the name of my office should be. Perhaps it would have been more beneficial to first ask myself where I would find clients! I began with Studio Bonner with full intentions of getting licensed and using the word architect in the name of my firm, but that never happened. My work at that time, during the recession, was directly linked to academia and the majority of the projects were speculative ideas installed in galleries or within the institutions where I was teaching. After practicing for five years, I moved to Cambridge to teach at the GSD with an ambition to rethink the identity of my practice. That's when MALL was born. A lot of people use their own name and a lot of people use acronyms… There are two kinds of acronyms: SOM, which is an acronym for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the founding partners, but if you ask your generation, most do not know their names or what it stands for. The second model would be the acronym OMA, or Office for Metropolitan Architecture, which has nothing to do with Rem Koolhaas’s name. I was more interested in the OMA model, and imagining an acronym that is flexible and might even change from project to project. There have been a few different variations, "Mass Architectural Loopty Loops" and "Maximum Angles, Little Lines." Beyond the name, the practice has been running for about ten years now. The first five years were hard work, figuring out my architectural interests by setting up a series of conceptual projects, while the last five have been really enjoyable and productive, and include building those ideas. What is it like to run an office by yourself? During my first three years in practice, I partnered with Christian Stayner, an architect in Los Angeles. It was a very useful time to gain momentum together, especially in the beginning of our careers. Now we are working independently and developing very different types of projects. That partnership and pursuing public art projects was one way of coping with the recession. Today, MALL is what I call a “one-woman band” and I hire various employees on a project-by-project basis. It is liberating to run an office on my own and to define what that looks like. You are a mother, a sole-practitioner, a curator, a writer, an Associate Professor and Director of the M.Arch II program at Harvard. How do you manage to stay afloat, and how do you bring together all of these different identities? In particular, do you reflect often on your identity as a female architect? Last year I won a Progressive Architecture Honorable Mention Award. Apart from one other firm, eight other winners were male, and it got me thinking about the importance of being a female solo-practitioner. I also asked myself “Why aren't there more women winning these awards?” and whether I should be teaching less and practicing more. At the same time, I wondered how I could devote hours to teaching and administrative roles while also making highly creative work? Part of the magic at MALL is the ability to remain small and to be highly selective about what projects that I take on. Most projects begin with a research question, not an inquiry from a client. In the case of the PA Award, the project began four years ago as a body of conceptual work titled “Best Sandwiches”, later, we pitched it to several developers as a midrise tower, “Office Stack”. To answer your question about how I balance all of these roles, after a decade of being in the thick of it all… I couldn’t imagine it any other way.  We know that you're really interested in pop culture, and encourage your students to look outside of the discipline for ideas about representation. Can you talk a bit about your sources of inspiration and how you incorporate them into practice and teaching? I am inspired by popular culture and tendencies found in art. I often wonder if art can push architecture in new directions today. I believe it's possible. For example, when selecting materials for Haus Gables, I was looking at contemporary art practices and traditions found in the American South, not references from the discipline of architecture. From a geographic standpoint, I'm constantly moving… seemingly every three years over the past two decades and so I'm always in a different city, which creates a persistent curiosity that encourages me to carefully observe the world around me. I also believe that Instagram is very useful for this as well, because now I have access to what others are observing in the world even if I’m sitting in a basement studio space in Cambridge. Regarding teaching, I just started a new course at Harvard called “Representation First (!!!), Then Architecture.” We’re not looking at architectural representation. We’re looking at art practice, popular culture, and material found in the every day, as a way to encourage inspiration from places other than within our own discipline. We’re looking at cake decorating techniques from the 18th century which include intricate piping from French masters, but also methods found in America with the use of marzipan in the 1950s. Other things we obsess over in that course… food photography, 1980s bubble letters, or the origins of clipart. Perhaps these cultural eccentricities can offer architectural design and representation something new, or at least unexpected. When you share your work, have you found that these non-architectural influences and modes of representation resonate with a broader audience? Do you alter your presentations relative to your audience? It’s important to know your audience, but I don’t think we have to make such a strong distinction between academic audiences and the general public. I’m interested in using devices that already have a broad appeal—like the image of a gable or the medium of a guidebook—to draw people in, to educate them by making them feel included in a discussion about architecture. For example, in the interior of Haus Gables, I wanted to select a material palette that linked the house to local cultures in Atlanta. The soft white wood used in the primary structure of the house draws associations to Scandinavian architecture. But I was building a house in Atlanta, in Goodie Mob’s “Dirty South”… it couldn’t have been a Scandinavian house. I put pressure on myself to create environments on the interior that resonate with Atlanta’s aesthetic culture. This is where the faux finishing comes in. There is a tradition of faux finishing, where southerners could not afford precious materials such as Italian marble and instead painted it onto domestic surfaces. To answer your question about audience… is it locals who rent the house out for amateur photoshoots with big ambitions to “fake it until you make it”, or the fan base for Atlanta rapper Mulatto who shot her “Longway” video there, or is it architectural academia all along? Perhaps it’s all of them. Beyond incorporating faux finishes in Haus Gables, we see a very playful array of colors, patterns, shapes, and textures on the interior. How did you select these interior finishes? Is it simply a matter of taste or is there some science behind it? It may be bit of playing out taste… you have to start somewhere. But the design of the interior environments was also very intentional and conceptually oriented. There is an idea about combining expensive materials with inexpensive materials, like rubber vinyl you might see in hospitals or fake wood vinyl from Home Depot. The expensive materials elevate the inexpensive ones. So, there is an economic argument to make here, too. Overall, each room took on a unique identity relative to the material selections. To reinforce difference, transitioning between rooms and around corners became important moments. When I received the final architectural photographs of the house, I saw something that I did not anticipate. All of the colors tend to flatten space. It reminds me of a trend in contemporary fashion—color blocking—where bright yellow, pink, and mint green become a color block. In one 55’ long view through the house, you can see similarities to color blocking in fashion as the bedroom, dining room, and kitchen start to look like a Marni sweater. It's interesting that you've thought so much about the color and the overall visual experience of the interior of Haus Gables. Why is the exterior white? The cross-laminated timber that is exposed on the interior is monochromatic. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a soft white wood. And I knew that the finishes should be kind of daring or bold, to create an environment that the soft white wood could not create alone. The idea for the exterior in white was really because of Domestic Hats, a project that served as the conceptual precursor to Haus Gables. I was drawn to the idea that Haus Gables is a full-scale model, almost a replica of one of the massing models I created for Domestic Hats. So white, as a color, links the built house to the white foam architectural massing model. The exterior of the house also has a unique texture. I was inspired by John Chase’s Glitter Stucco & Dumpster Diving. In that book, Chase writes about how ordinary houses in Los Angeles finished with stucco are often additionally finished by the owner with glitter… to make the house sparkle. A kind of upgrade. The glitter in Haus Gables is a reference to this phenomenon in Los Angeles. I was also inspired by Mary Corse, who painted with glass beads. The same glass beads that are used by the Department of Transportation in road striping. Chase’s Glitter Stucco and Corse’s reflective beads become a “dash finish” in the façade of Haus Gables. Maybe it's a house with way too many ideas, but it was my first building at MALL, I couldn’t help myself! We recently learned that Haus Gables had no client. How did this affect the design, and what was it like to design a house without a client? I have a bunch of family members… aunts, uncles, sister, mom, dad, but none of them have asked me to design a house and it’s fair to say that they don't see the value in architecture. And then there's me… I've invested 20 years of my life in architecture. As you may know, many architects receive their first commissions from a family member. This was not going to happen for me. We, meaning me and my husband, decided we had to do it ourselves. We bought a piece of land in Atlanta when we were teaching at Georgia Tech, and applied for a construction loan. On one hand, there's a lot of freedom. Nobody was presenting demands like where to put the bathroom or how many closets to have. But there's still a budget, and there's tremendous stress associated with taking on the financial risk of such an experimental construction project. For example, the CLT panels were from Austria and required payment in full before they started manufacturing the product. That doesn’t totally align with bank financing. Overall, there were many difficulties as a result of moving forward without a client. Still… it was totally worth it! I believe I was able to achieve several of MALL’s architectural ideas faster than if there was a traditional client involved. We just have one more question. What has been the most rewarding moment in your practice thus far? That’s an easy question for me to answer. Completing Haus Gables has been the most rewarding moment. To build something after talking about it for years and years… it was very liberating and very rewarding. Despite the struggle to get it built, I wouldn't change a thing.
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Lush Hint

In conversation with selgascano

Spanish practice selgascano finds joy in the material economy, a critical skill at a time that could use a lot more of it. Though José Selgas and Lucía Cano founded the firm back in 1998, the studio is only now getting widespread recognition in the United States.

Part of that is because the duo’s first U.S. project, a Los Angeles outpost of the British co-working company Second Home, opened late last year—but it’s also because the architecture world is finally catching up with the firm’s tectonic explorations. Few contemporary offices have played so deftly and on such a large scale with color, flexible materials, and plant life. Projects that ten years ago may have been considered outré for substituting lightweight plastics for glass or incorporating hundreds of indoor seedlings now look prescient as designers search for new ways to leave lighter footprints. AN managing editor Jack Balderrama Morley spoke with Selgas about how the studio developed its approach.

AN Interior: How would you describe your firm’s design philosophy?

José Selgas: We like to be open to every possibility in every project. We come with open eyes and with the possibility to go in any direction. We are architects, not artists. We always try to bring something to the table that is beyond our personal thoughts. All of our projects incorporate different inputs that come from different directions, but typically, they’re always related to nature, climate, society, history, scale, and—more than anything—economy.

Economics are always fundamental. More and more, we have to deal with economics. When we look at how to produce a certain part of a project, we have to ask where it is, who’s paying for it, how much it is, and how we’re going to cover our costs. We avoid making expensive moves or choosing expensive treatments. The simplest solution is always best, but that doesn’t mean we pick the stupidest one—it has to be the most appropriate option to achieve whatever idea we are trying to develop.

The lightest material is often the best solution for whatever problem we’re faced with because less energy is needed to produce it, move it, transform it, and install it. We typically use ETFE plastic as an alternative to glass, for example, because transforming and installing glass is more expensive.

The dimensions and scales of most buildings right now are off. Everything is too big. We try to make spaces as small as possible. Why create a space that is 32 feet tall if that space can also function at 10 feet? Fifty or 70 years ago, houses and commercial spaces were smaller. Even cars were smaller in Spain.

Read the full interview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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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.