Posts tagged with "London":

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E.U. requests Elgin Marbles return to Greece from British Museum post-Brexit

During his visit to Athens over two hundred years ago, British diplomat Lord Elgin absconded with nearly half of the Parthenon’s architectural marble sculptures and bas relief panels and transported them by sea to Britain over an 11 year period. The event, no doubt, is infamous not only in the minds of Greek citizens, who resent that they are now on display in London’s British Museum. But the absence is especially felt by the curators of Athens’ Acropolis Museum, where the remaining half is displayed among a set of pale facsimiles that will be cheerfully replaced whenever the “Elgin Marbles” return from their unwarranted journey up north. In a surprising turn of events, it seems the 2,500-year-old statuary might be returned amidst Europe’s current political turmoil. If the United Kingdom wishes to continue trading with the European Union post-Brexit, according to a recently leaked clause in the European Union's (E.U.) negotiating mandate, it must return the Elgin Marbles back to Greece. The clause’s declaration that the U.K. must now be committed to the “return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their country of origin” has put the marbles front-and-center of the raging trade debate. Of course, Britain and Greece have been arguing over the Elgin Marbles for years—Greece claims they were taken without permission while under occupation and should be repatriated, while Britain has claimed this could open the door to returning an untenable amount of cultural assets to other countries. But the transaction is not yet set in stone. Negotiators on either side are set to begin a much-needed conversation next month and will attempt to reach an agreement by November 26, when a trade deal must be presented to European Parliament for ratification. Currently, the U.K. refuses to give up the marbles, stating that their acquisition was lawful at the time given Greece’s occupation within the then-existent Ottoman Empire. According to ARTnews, a spokeswoman for the British government said in a statement on Tuesday that the Elgin Marbles are, therefore, “the legal responsibility of the British Museum,” and that they are “not up for discussion as part of our trade negotiations.” “I would expect some of these negotiations to be rather difficult," E.U. aide Stefaan de Rynck told French politician Michel Barnier in a public statement. “Perhaps more difficult than during withdrawal because the scope of issues is much vaster.”
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AN talks to Eyal Weizman about tech in truth-telling ahead of Forensic Architecture’s first U.S. survey

Forensic Architecture has garnered a significant reputation within the field of architecture (they had a major showing at the most recent Chicago Architecture Biennial) and beyond for their work reconstructing violent events perpetrated by state actors and others using architectural tools and emerging technologies. The collective’s work has been displayed everywhere from the courthouse to major art exhibitions, including during this past year’s Whitney Biennial. The video One Building, One Bomb, co-produced with The New York Times, won an Emmy this past year, and in 2018 they were also nominated for the United Kingdom’s prestigious Turner Prize. This month, Forensic Architecture, which is based out of Goldsmiths, University of London, will have its first major U.S. survey; Forensic Architecture: True to Scale will open on February 20 at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College. Ahead of the Miami exhibition, AN spoke with Forensic Architecture founder Eyal Weizman to discuss the changes of the past decade, the power of technology, and the importance of forensics in a “post-truth” era. Drew Zeiba: Forensic architecture began a decade ago. How has the project changed and how have the tools you use evolved since then? Eyal Weizman: When we started around 2010, it was the beginning of the Arab Spring and the really heartbreaking civil war that came in its wake. Those particular sets of conflicts had a particular texture to them. They happened in an environment that had a lot of mobile phones and in the areas where there's internet connectivity, and where the government’s ability to shut down the internet was not always successful. We started being in an environment where increasingly you had more and more videos around incidents that we could map. It was also the early teens where at the time, in London great protest around tuition fees and then the big protest after the police killing of Mark Duggan in North London. This killing was during a period when police did not yet have dash cams. And ever since, we've seen the introduction of body cams and dash cams to police investigations. If you look today at the conflicts that are taking place, we have several thousand videos, hours long, broadcasting live as things are happening. The sheer media density requires us to use different technologies in order to bring accountability. We have recently developed machine vision and machine learning technologies that, working together with human researcher, can speed up the process of sieving through thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of content coming from confrontations with policing Hong Kong, for example. In relation to police violence, we have now concluded the investigation in Chicago [into the police killing of Harith Augustus] with full body cams available, several dash cams, a CCTV, etc. We are working in a much more media-saturated environment and need new tools like artificial intelligence to help us identify materials like our work on Warren Kanders that used machine learning. [Kanders is the ousted vice chairman of the board of the Whitney Museum, whose company Safariland sells tear gas used at the U.S.-Mexico border, in Gaza, and elsewhere, including in U.S. cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.] We're creating virtual reality sites for witnesses to walk through the scene of the together with the psychologists and lawyer and protection, but can also recall events. And we are trying to be at cutting edge of technologies that would help social movement and civil society to invert the balance of epistemological power, against the monopoly of knowledge that states have over information in battlefields and in crime scenes. The abundance of images also has to do with the increasing presence of surveillance—including by CCTV cameras and police body cams, as you mention. How can architectural and technological tools invert the power relationship embedded in some of these commonplace image-making tools? Forensics have to be in the hands of the people. Forensics was developed as a state tools, as a form of state power, as a police tool. But when the police is the agency that dispenses violence and the agency that's investigating it, we have a problem. We absolutely need to be able to have independent groups holding police to account. And what we have is our creativity and we can effectively mobilize and make more of much fewer bits of data and image, because we're working aesthetically and we work socially with those independent groups in producing evidence. We socialize the production of evidence, we make it a collective social practice that involves the communities that are experiencing state violence continuously. At the same time, Forensic Architecture often works in places where there is seemingly a limited amount of the evidence or data that investigators typically rely upon, or with evidence that is biased. Police body cams show the officer’s perspective only, for example. Your work is coming at a time that people are describing as “post-truth.” How does the work of Forensic Architecture fit in to this political context? The very nature of what we call investigative aesthetics is based on working with weak signals and with partial data. You need to fill that gap with a relation between those points you have, sort of like stars in a dark sky. You see very few dots and we need to actually see how they can support the probability of something to have occurred. And any investigative work that comes from the point of view of civil society is both about demolishing and building. So we need to use our training as critical scholars in deconstructing police statements, or military statements taken by secret services or the government—and we need to take those ruins, those scattered bits of media flotsam that exist and build something else with it. There’s always demolition and rebuilding that takes place. That is very structural to our work. Right now, the mistrust in public institutions in the political sphere, In the so-called post-truth era, that trust is not being replaced. Those that tell us not to believe anymore in science and in think tanks and in experts are not building a new epistemology in its stead. They're simply demolishing it. Rhetoric replaces verification. What we do similarly to them is we are questioning state given truths. We are attacking those temples of power and knowledge, but we attempt to replace them with a much more imminent form of evidence production that socializes the production of that evidence.
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Court strikes down appeal in Tate Modern privacy battle

It appears to be high time for the beleaguered inhabitants of London’s Neo Bankside, a Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP)-designed luxury development located a little too close to the Tate Modern museum, to finally invest in window treatments. Neo Bankside’s four hexagonal towers, angular affairs constructed from steel and glass with exterior bracing that’s characteristic of RSHP, are located opposite the west entrance of the Tate Modern’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed extension. Dubbed the Blavatnik Building, the brick addition was completed to much fanfare in 2016 with its observation deck touted as a main attraction. Neo Bankside opened four years earlier in 2012. It didn’t take long after the extension opened for residents living in certain Neo Bankside apartments to sense that they were being watched—closely watched. In addition to sweeping panoramic views of London, hordes of Tate Modern visitors were enjoying glimpses of other things from the terrace. Per The Telegraph, one resident complained of needing to be “properly dressed” at all times, lamenting that it was impossible to enjoy a meal at his dining room table without a rapt audience watching from across the way. Another spoke of being “under surveillance” by museum-goers. A female claimant expressed that she no longer felt comfortable hosting birthday celebrations for her young daughter at home, adding: “I feel as though my life revolves around the viewing platform’s opening hours.” Other residents claim to have been filmed, photographed, waved at, taunted, put on social media, and been subjected to lewd gestures by Tate Modern visitors, some of them wielding binoculars. Despite what they called this, what they called a “relentless” invasion of privacy, five residents of Neo Bankside have now experienced yet another blow in an ongoing legal battle with the museum. Earlier this week, the residents lost an appeal that challenged a February 2019 ruling issued by the High Court in favor of Tate Modern. In that ruling, Justice Anthony Mann dismissed an injunction that would have forced the Tate Modern to prevent “hundreds of thousands of visitors” from peering straight into the residents’ multi-million dollar flats across from the wildly popular 10th-floor viewing terrace. Specifically, the injunction demanded that the Tate Modern install privacy screening or block public access to sections of the viewing platform with direct views into the apartments. As reported by The Guardian, Mann suggested that Neo Bankside residents take it upon themselves to halt the onslaught of voyeurism by simply lowering their solar shades, installing privacy film, or opting for good old-fashioned sheer curtains. “These properties are impressive, and no doubt there are great advantages to be enjoyed in such extensive glassed views, but that in effect comes at a price in terms of privacy,” the judge explained. He went on to note that residents had “created their own sensitivity” by purchasing luxury apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows in an increasingly crowded city. In the latest setback for the claimants, the appeal court sided with the previous ruling to throw out the injunction. “The court has dismissed the appeal on the basis that overlooking does not fall within the tort of nuisance,” explained master of the tolls Sir Terence Etherton. In the latest ruling, the Court of Appeal also refused the claimants’ application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. According to the ruling,
“Despite the hundreds of years in which there has been a remedy for causing nuisance to an adjoining owner’s land and the prevalence of overlooking in all cities and towns, there has been no reported case in this country in which a claimant has been successful in a nuisance claim for overlooking by a neighbour.”
Still, despite the most recent defeat, Natasha Rees, the head of property litigation at the law firm representing the five claimants, announced that the case was far from over. “The leaseholders are obviously very disappointed with the outcome of the appeal, not least because they lost on a ground raised by the court of appeal,” Rees told The Guardian. “This is not a case of ‘mere overlooking’ but a situation that can clearly be distinguished from the type of overlooking experienced between residential or commercial flats and houses, a fact that was accepted by the first instance judge.” A Tate Modern spokesperson said of the most recent ruling: “We have noted the decision of the court of appeal and are grateful for their careful consideration of this matter. We continue to be mindful of the amenity of our neighbours and the role of Tate Modern in the local community.”
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London Mayor vows to fight Tulip appeal, assembles $450k war fund

Less than a month after developer Jacob J. Safra filed an appeal to keep the possibility of erecting the Foster + Partners-designed Tulip tower in London alive, Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to keep fighting. Mayor Khan had originally rejected the proposal in July of last year and dismissed it as “poorly designed.” That came after the Greater London Authority (GLA), the agency responsible for enforcing the London Plan, which dictates sustainable growth in the city, dinged the tower. At the time, the GSA cited the 984-foot-tall Tulip’s design—which would balance a 12-story glass observation pod atop a hollow concrete stem—as inappropriate, and the potential for the building to block historic sightlines. They also raised the issue of the Tulip’s base, which would consist of an incongruous two-story retail podium. With the appeal, Safra, founder of the J. Safra Group, which also developed the Foster + Partners-designed Gherkin at the neighboring 30 St Mary Axe, will have the case heard before Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick or another government minister. However, as BDonline notes, Khan already wrote to Jenrick last week to voice his displeasure, and has amassed a $450,000 “war chest” for the GLA to fight the appeal with. BDonline has broken out the costs, but Khan has allocated nearly $200,000 for the leading counsel (legal advice) and another $77,000 for architectural consultation. In his letter to Jenrick, Khan reportedly wrote, “The Tulip is an inappropriately sited visitor attraction, which would make no such economic nor positive social contribution to London that would outweigh its harm to a world heritage site, the City’s skyline, and the public realm at ground level.” This echoes the reasoning Khan gave when he used his veto powers to stop London’s Planning and Transportation Committee from greenlighting the project, despite their earlier approval. No hearing date for the appeal has been set yet, but the battle over the Tulip’s approval is shaping up to be a long one.
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South African studio Counterspace will design the 2020 Serpentine Pavilion

An all-female team from Johannesburg, South Africa, has been selected to design the 2020 Serpentine Pavilion. The 29-years-old architects Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers, and Amina Kaskar of Counterspace are also the youngest designers ever selected to create the annual summer installation in Kensington Gardens, London According to The Guardian, the architects envisioned the pavilion as a series of spaces “inspired by places where people gather across London, particularly migrant and other peripheral communities.” The trio wrote in a statement that “places of memory and care” in parts of the city—from Brixton to Hackney, Whitechapel, Ealing, and more—will come together in a singular shelter within Kensington Gardens. “Where they intersect, they produce spaces to be together,” said Vally, who co-founded the firm in 2015. The pavilion will be comprised of different sections, each representing various existing gathering spaces throughout London. Visitors will be able to see these distinctions through structural breaks, gradient changes, and differences in color and texture, according to the architects. “As an object, experienced through movement,” said Vally, “it has continuity and consistency, but difference and variation are embedded into the essential gesture at every turn.” Counterspaces’ pavilion will be built in waves. The completed sections will be set up in different neighborhoods where they’ll first play host to numerous community events. By the summer, the sections will return to Kensington Gardens and make up the whole structure. Counterspace aims to build the pavilion with earth-friendly materials such as cork and custom K-Briq modules from Kenoteq. Each unfired brick used for the structure will be made with 90 percent recycled construction and demolition waste. Now in its 20th year, the pop-up Serpentine Pavilion has long-been a space for debate and, as The Guardian puts it, selfies. Design teams that have had the recent honor of producing a temporary structure for the Gallery’s site have attempted to capitalize on the Instagram-age. Architects including Sou Fujimoto, Bjarke Ingels, selgascano, and Frida Escobedo have created stand-out spaces that have attracted thousands of visitors from around the world. Last year’s selection, however, left the organization mired in controversy. Pavilion designer Junya Ishigami came under fire for not paying his overworked interns on the project. Soon after the news broke, Yana Peel, head of the Serpentine Galleries, resigned from her post. Bettina Korek, former executive director of Frieze Los Angeles, took over thereafter and, alongside artistic director Hans-Ulrich Obrist, chose Counterspace to design this year’s project. “The idea of working with different communities is very important for us and Counterspace’s proposal does this in a remarkable way,” Obrist said in a statement. “We were totally convinced by the social dimension of their practice. They bring an African perspective, an international perspective, but they are working with locations and communities right here in London and their pavilion design is inspired by that work.”  The 2020 Serpentine Pavilion will go up as part of the institution’s 50th anniversary in London. In a push to produce greener architecture, Serpentine Galleries is now asking its pavilion designers to focus on sustainable construction methods. Additionally, the Gallery’s current events series, the Back to Earth program, explores how architecture can respond to global climate change, promote wellbeing, and rupture social hierarchies. Counterspace's pavilion will be open from June 11 through October 11.
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Architectural Association launches experimental Wood Lab

The recent uptick in timber construction across the globe has led to a wave of innovation as firms test the material’s limits by building taller, bolder structures each and every day. In just the past year, timber has been transformed into stadiums, pre-fab homes, and even entire neighborhoods. The Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London hopes to build on this momentum with the launch of its AA Wood Lab, a research center in which scientists and practitioners will come together to transform the future of timber. The Wood Lab will function as part of Hooke Park, the AA’s woodland campus in Dorset, U.K., with the overarching goal of educating architects in the sustainable use of timber for building projects and other research capacities. Guided by a problem-solving approach, the Wood Lab will combine the latest technologies in science, design, and fabrication in order to develop building strategies that pair with the inherent properties of wood. Zachary Mollica, Warden of AA School’s Hooke Park campus, looks forward to the wide-ranging benefits of timber research: “As architects grapple with the need to reduce the negative environmental impact of making buildings, there is no better moment for the AA to further take a leading position in the use of timber within the built environment,” Mollica, who will direct the lab, told AN. “Timber is one of our first building materials, and its carbon locking potential has unparalleled ecological benefits of increasing contemporary relevance given pressing climatic concerns.” In Mollica's view, timber is intimately tied to Hooke Park, as founder John Makepeace and Parnham College were ahead of the curve in realizing the potential of timber construction: They worked closely with architects and engineers like Frei Otto, Richard Burton, and Ted Happold to construct the campus’s first buildings. The Wood Lab recently opened applications for research fellows and team members. In the coming months, founding members will lay the groundwork for long-term research aimed “beyond conventional architectural thinking,” working closely with partner organizations in the process. First in the lineup is a retrospective analysis of projects in Hooke Park by both Parnham College and the AA, ending with the launch of a print publication as the foundation for the Wood Lab’s work to come. For a timber buff like Mollica, the launch is an exciting step in shedding light on a long-underestimated material: “Timber for me is simply the most interesting material we have available—and there is good reason I will always want a wooden desk. Timber’s incredible complexity derives from its formation as a living being. It is a material that we have a long social and cultural connection to.” The Wood Lab was made possible thanks to the generous support of John Makepeace, who as director of Parnham College founded the Hooke Park campus, which was turned over to the AA in 2000. The creation of the Wood Lab is part of a broader initiative at the school launched by director Eva Franch i Gilabert, the AA Residence. “The AA Residence allows for new experimental forms of research to emerge,” said Franch in a statement, “at the intersection of academia and practice, opening up a new space for innovative ideas that can radically change the way we think, build and shape the future.”
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Developer behind Foster + Partners’ London Tulip tower files appeal

The team behind Foster + PartnersTulip tower wants to put the project back on the drawing board after the proposal was blocked last summer by London Mayor Sadiq Kahn. Building Design reported that the tower's developer, billionaire Jacob J. Safra, recently filed paperwork with the City of London Corporation to revitalize the project just three days before the six-month appeal window was set to expire.  Designed for a Central London lot next to the Gherkin (which was also backed by Safra’s company, J. Safra Group), the tulip-shaped observation skyscraper would stand 1,000 feet tall with only 12 stories spread across a thin, concrete support stem and a bulbous glass topper. Since the first visuals of the building emerged in November 2018, critics have claimed that if built, the structure has the potential to block views of the Tower of London, a world heritage site. Khan used his veto power to stop London’s Planning and Transportation Committee from moving forward with the project, despite the fact that the agency had already approved the educational center and external gondola design as a means to bring visitors and public school children to the sky-high space. Khan said the overall design wasn’t sufficient, claiming it wasn’t a piece of “world-class architecture that would be required to justify its prominence.” Increased congestion was also a major concern.  Both Historic England, the London City Airport, and The Greater London Authority (GLA) agreed with Khan’s sentiment. GLA published a 15-page report in early 2019 detailing why the Tulip scheme failed to comply with the London Plan, a framework meant to help achieve economic and sustainable development without sacrificing the city’s historic character.  Now that the appeals process has launched, Tulip fans can expect an inquiry to take place in the near future. Locals have already speculated that the appeal could reach the highest office in British Parliament and that the Robert Jenrick, the current Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, could make the final decision.  
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London developer could turn Victorian gasholder into an alligator farm

As South East London's Old Kent Road area undergoes a massive redevelopment, several ideas have been tossed around regarding what to do with its centerpiece, a towering gasholder remaining from the Victorian era. Followers of the project have snapped to attention in light of the latest announcement: Developer Avanton is recruiting architects to sink their teeth into designing London’s first alligator farm. Maccreanor Lavington, Patel Taylor, and Farrells are the firms working with Avanton to explore the feasibility of the project, according to a report byBuilding Design. Avanton’s project information describes the park is the “green heart” of the larger Ruby Triangle, Avanton’s extensive mixed-use development of the Old Kent Road area in South East London. The result will be five new buildings with a total of 1,152 residential units, as well as commercial space and a community sports and recreation center. The gasholder stands at the center of the park zone, and while it has been defunct for more than ten years, Avanton plans to keep the 160-foot metal skeleton as a tribute to the heyday of the Old Kent Road gasworks industry in the mid-19th century. The frame would be outfitted with glass and essentially converted into a circular conservatory with a 65-foot-deep water feature. This type of enclosure would allow the park, along with its accompanying educational facility and visitor’s center, to remain open to visitors year-round. While the alligator farm is just one of at least three distinct park concepts for the area, it has understandably caught the attention of many who wonder what a public space of this nature might look like. In a statement to Londonist, Katheryn Wise of World Animal Protection expressed concern:
“Not only is the busy and noisy environment of a property on the Old Kent Road no place for a wild animal, the transportation and handling of these alligators is likely to cause them unnecessary stress, fear and anxiety. Wild animal exploitation to boost the profits of a property developer is the wrong message to be sending and we are urging the company to rethink their decision.”
Alligators require warm, humid climates not just to survive, but also to reproduce and feel at ease within their habitat. In a press statement, Avanton claimed that it treats all environmental and ethical implications seriously, and the project will not move forward without consulting the appropriate experts. All of the park concepts are currently under discussion with Southwark Borough Council, and commentary will soon open up to a public forum.
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A thrilling journey through the history of the car is on show in London

The automobile—a long-time fetish object of architects, the car is arguably the object that defines the 20th Century and one that has perhaps sent us crashing us into the 21st. The development of the car was once fuelled by optimism, able to set people free to go where they wanted, when they wanted. Today, however, its image has been tainted by its contribution to the climate crisis. The car is both personal and global, shaping lives, cities and nations, and it is the subject of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) latest exhibition: Cars: Accelerating the Modern World.

There’s no Lamborghini Countach, no Citroen DS or Aston Martin DB5 here, this isn’t that kind of show. Cars is a critique of the automobile and its impact. Expect instead to find posters about workers rights relating to Fordist assembly lines, maps tracking global oil production, the world’s first commercial car designed using wind tunnel testing (the Tatra 77), and Graham, the viral, life-sized latex figurine born from the Transport Accident Commission of Australia that shows how humans could evolve to survive a car crash.

Tucking the exhibition into the new AL_A-designed Sainsbury Gallery at the V&A in London, curators Brendan Cormier and Lizzie Bisley have, through a welcome variety of mediums, given audiences a thrilling ride through the history of the car that’s full of unexpected turns.

With regards to architecture, we’re given Prussian-American architect Albert Khan’s plans for the Henry Ford’s Highland Park plant, the place where assembly lines were first used for industrial production. Next to it is a model of Italian architect Giacomo Mattè-Trucco’s Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, complete with rooftop test track. But nearby is something more sinister—a letter from a Highland Park factory worker’s wife to Mr Ford. “The chain system you have is a slave driver! My God!” it reads, detailing the perils of the factory conditions.

It comes as no surprise to learn that Ford was a control freak. In 1926 he purchased land in Amazon Rainforest to produce his own rubber. Brazilian workers were banned from smoking, drinking alcohol and playing football, while American customs such as square-dancing in community halls and working in the sun, as well as hamburgers in the canteen, were introduced. The workers revolted and “Fordlandia”, as it was known, was abandoned in 1945.

Factory revolts and angry letters to bosses may be fewer and far between now, particularly as machines usurp humans in factory line production. A lengthy and eerily slow panning projection of the inside of the BMW Group Plant in Munich duly demonstrates this. Here machines do the heavy lifting while humans keep watch.

Cars also delves into the wider spatial implications of the automobile. Le Corbusier, who was as obsessed with the car as any architect (maybe more), designed the Maison Citröhan (1922)—named in the car manufacturer’s honor—to be as efficient as the car. Tire manufacturer Michelin, meanwhile, carried out an exhaustive photographic study of dangerous roads in America in the 1930s, highlighting the need for urgent improvement, and an array of photos from this shows just how poor America's roads once were. Missing, however, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s conception of the garage. The car’s impact on suburbs, roadside architecture (notably the work of Denise Scott-Brown), along with highways and freeways and drive-in cinemas is also amiss, but these do all feature in the exhibition’s accompanying book, which has been beautifully produced.

“In the end we ran out of space,” Cormier told AN. More important to the curators was to expose the rush for oil extraction the car created and the devastating effect this is having on the environment, which is understandable.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors are continually exposed to visions of a future which will never exist. One example: adverts and sci-fi films from 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s show many men in many cars, but none are stuck in traffic. By analyzing the automobile through the rear-view-mirror, Cars highlights how the car and modernity have failed to deliver on many promises. That hasn't stopped the industry, though. In the last room is 'Pop.Up Next', a concept from Italdesign which combines an electric car and a drone that is able to clip onto the pod-like vehicle—or rather, another attempt at a flying car, a never-realized fantasy of old which, like its predecessors, may be destined to forever belong in a museum. 

Cars: Accelerating the Modern World runs through 19 April 2020.

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Museum of Architecture’s 2019 Gingerbread City explores transportation

Every year, London's Museum of Architecture challenges architects to create a fantastic and futuristic city made entirely out of gingerbread, marshmallows, and other sweet treats. Now in its fourth year, Gingerbread City is a miniature candy land designed to consider the future of the urban environment and spark public dialogue about architecture and how we interact with the cities around us.  While the city itself is delightfully whimsical and theoretically edible, the ideas embodied within its sugar-coated walls represent real insights on technology and sustainability. With transportation as this year’s theme, over 100 designers contributed imaginative ways of rethinking mobility in cities while shining the holiday lights on how architects and planners approach both the urban and natural landscapes. In order to participate, architects, designers, and engineers selected and purchased a plot from a master plan of the tiered city developed by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design. Plot options ranged in size from “tiny” to “large,” as well as plots for specific London landmarks, landscapes, and bridges.  Gingerbread City is a really important project for Tibbalds because of the way it makes everyone who visits think about cities and what they mean. It prompts questions about the many things that designers and place-makers have to deal with in creating interesting places that work for those that use them,” said Hilary Satchwell, director of Tibbalds, said in a recent press release. “Fast, fun, edible urbanism is a great way into some important discussions about the value of place.” Complete with lighting, an operational train, and tons of punny names such as “Waffle Iron Tower,” “Wafer Bridge,” and “Gingerbread Modern,” this year's Gingerbread City takes place at Somerset House, or “Sugarset House” as Hawkins\Brown titled their submission. Participants include returning architects such as Foster + Partners, SOM, PDP London, PLP Architecture, and Phase3. Many other firms have joined for the first time including Grimshaw, KPF, and HKS. The city is complete with various districts including a University District, Cultural Quarter, Sustainable Quarter, Gingerbread Waterfront, Castle Hill, and London Quarter Island. Building types include mixed-use, bridges, houses, a stadium, university, train station, urban farm, ferry terminal, and many other spaces that are critical to the contemporary city.  With more than 40,000 public visitors annually, this year’s exhibition will also include a series of gingerbread house making workshops for families as well as a shop. The Museum of Architecture is also celebrating the launch of a new grant-giving fund which will support projects that engage the public with architecture. According to Melissa Woolford, the museum's founder and director, “The Gingerbread exhibition supports our year-round work as an architectural charity and this year sees us able to set up a grant-giving fund so we can support more public-facing and entrepreneurial projects.”  Gingerbread City is currently on display at Somerset House and will be on view through January 5, 2020.
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Re-imagining the Avant-Garde re-examines the state of the field

“We are in pursuits of an idea, a new vernacular, something to stand alongside the space capsules, computers and throw-away packages of an atomic/electronic age,” Warren Chalk, member of former British architecture studio Archigram once said. Chalk's quote epitomized Archigram's outlook and approach—daring, brave, looking firmly into the future, and slightly tongue-in-cheek. Archigram and its contemporaries of similarly brilliant names (Ant Farm, Superstudio and Archizoom) have since been canonized as being part of an elite group of supposedly Avant-Garde architects. But if that was the crème-de-la-crème of 50 years ago, what is the equivalent today? Re-imagining the Avant-Garde, on show at Betts Project in East London, might have the answer. If you want to see some good drawings, this is the place to go—not surprising given the star-studded exhibitor list: Ant Farm, Pablo Bronstein, Peter Eisenman, Sam Jacob, OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Jimenez Lai/Bureau Spectacular, and Aldo Rossi, to name a few, are all on show and none disappoint. Neither do the smaller studios: UrbanLab, WAI Think Tank, Warehouse of Architecture and Research (WAR), and Office Kovacs. Those exhibited are either mentioned in or have contributed to a special edition of AD Magazine which takes the same name as the exhibition at Betts Project. British duo Matthew Butcher and Luke Pearson, both academics, writers, and designers guest co-edited the magazine and co-curated this exhibition. "Avant-Garde" used in relation to architecture today brings to mind the work of Archigram et al., all of who sprouted from the fervent experimental ground of the 1960s and ’70s. It's through this moment in architectural history which Re-Imagining the Avant-Garde attempts to frame contemporary architectural practice and thought. So how does the historical and contemporary sit next to each other? Rather comfortably, it turns out. As images and models, all arguably fall under the umbrella of Pop Architecture; British critic Reyner Banham's definition holding true. Take Belgium firm Office Kersten Geers' Border Wall, for example. The studio helped popularize the collage style of architectural representation a few years ago and it's a useful medium for Border Wall. Here it is employed to highlight tensions between territories—in this case, a walled forest in the middle of a desert divided by a fence. The desert landscape is a blurry image, while the tree trunks are conveniently hidden, all of which consequently obfuscates any sense of scale, adding a layer of ambiguity to the piece. Other exhibitors reference the Avant-Garde architectural canon explicitly, like WAR for example, who projects its architecture through a comic strip akin to the drawings of Archigram. L.A.-based Office Kovacs, run by Andrew Kovacs, meanwhile provides a palimpsest of readymade architectural artifacts in Miniature maze, a work that draws on the archive of affinities found in Kovacs' blog of architectural b-sides. As these works are displayed next to photos of Ant Farm's famous touring truck, and with other ’60s radicals in mind, it's evident that the contemporary practices on show are producing work that is just as visually arresting as their predecessors. But what's the difference between then and now? "Yes, ’70s utopian groups have influenced us—it's obvious, no? The difference is that we work out there in reality," Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius of the Berlin-based raumlabor told AN editor-in-chief William Menking in his article for the issue of AD Magazine. Like all good exhibitions, Re-imagining the Avant-Garde provokes more questions. Is this the Avant-Garde reimagined? Why are we being asked to re-imagine the Avant-Garde in the first place, is it the hope of stumbling upon another wave of Avant-Garde architects? Very few, if any, realize they are part of an Avant-Garde, even if they have Avant-Gardist ambitions (see Chalk's quote). The term is, for the most part, applied through a historical lens. We only realize there was an Avant-Garde once it has been and, sadly, gone. We might even find that the more we search for an Avant-Garde, the more it will evade us. When Abbot Suger worked with his Master Masons on the Basilica of Saint-Denis in 12th-Century France, he probably didn't expect the Gothic-style church he commissioned to end up defining the built landscape of Medieval Europe. Far less did Suger realize that he was part of an architectural Avant-Garde (or equivalent seeing as the phrase emerged some 700 years after). Defining a historical Avant-Garde imposes restrictions on a supposed contemporary Avant-Garde. Also writing in the same issue of AD Magazine, critic Mimi Zeiger argues that "The work of Italian radicals Superstudio [and others] provides endless fodder for appropriation," which is the case with much the work on show at Betts Project. Furthermore, the elite Avant-Garde club which Butcher and Pearson refer to is essentially an all-white gentleman's club. "Re-imagining the avant-garde might seem celebratory at first but unless radically re-contextualized and critiqued, it can be a trap. Old biases and omissions are reinforced: canons crystallized, hierarchies hardened, patriarchal practices protected," adds Zeiger. In light of this, instead of aspiring to be part of an Avant-Garde, today's architects should forget about the term altogether and strive to make a more sustainable planet. Much as how Chalk imagined building for an "atomic/electronic age," a similarly forward-thinking vision will surely prove to be Avant-Garde in time. Re-imagining the Avant-Garde runs through December 21.
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Where are the so-called Eco-Visionaries coming to save our planet?

To planet Earth, the city of Venice being a designated UNESCO World Heritage site is meaningless. It can, and will, treat the city with abject indifference as was demonstrated earlier this month. In more recent climate chaos news, floods have devastated other parts of Italy, causing a viaduct to collapse near the city of Savona; meanwhile, across the other side of the world, fires are raging across the Amazon and Australia. Bizarrely, and tragically, many governments lack the impetus to make any meaningful change in this regard. We find ourselves in a dire situation, crying out for radical approaches that will galvanize the human race into action, something that Eco-Visionaries, which opened last weekend at London's Royal Academy of Arts (RA), strives to do. First of all, what an exciting name: "Eco-Visionaries," does it get more enticing than that? Upon entering the exhibition, audiences are greeted with a rotating model globe shrouded in green, murky dust. Playing through speakers in the background meanwhile, is Clara Rockmore's ominous rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns' Le Cygne (The Swan). This is Domestic Catastrophies nº3: La Planète en Laboratoire by French artist collective HeHe and it sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition, which is a sobering affair; but the vision of what, exactly, is as about as clear as HeHe's installation, despite being populated with visionaries. But that's not to say it's all doom and gloom either, despite the fact that the second installation you see features a giraffe being graphically shot, with blood spewing rapidly from its neck. A journey has been crafted by in-house RA curator Gonzalo Herrero Delicado (who worked with Pedro Gadanho and Mariana Pestana to curate the original show for Lisbon's MAAT) taking patrons through installations that highlight the climate crisis we find ourselves in and propositions that attempt to mitigate it. This seems like a natural progression one should take when addressing the issue of saving the planet: here's a problem and here's how we might solve it. However, Eco-Visionaries jumps between art as commentary and architecture as proposition, and struggles to get a strong grip on either. The architecture that does hint at radical change has to build upon the success of others—New York firm WORKac developed The Dolphin Embassy from Ant Farm, while Paris-based Studio Malka Architecture's Green Machine riffs on Archigram's Walking City. Both fall short, and architects don't come off as potential planetary saviors by any stretch. The strongest installations, meanwhile, are presented as art. An imaginative proposition comes from Turkish designer-artist-researcher Pinar Yoldas, whose Ecosystem of Excess envisages plastic-gobbling pelagic insects populating a post-human planet and cleaning it up in the process. On a similar strand, working alongside DeepMind artificial intelligence, artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg's recreation of a white rhinoceros is powerful. The now-extinct creature comes to life at a 1:1 scale, developing from a wandering cluster of pixels into a great beast that seems confused by the white box it finds itself in. Here we question, besides humanity, what lies ahead for the animals of this Earth. Extinction? Digital archival? That's certainly not the case for jellyfish, who, as it turns out, are seemingly the harbinger of the end times. The pulsating creatures thrive in the conditions created by climate change. "More warm water," says a narrator in the exhibition's final, and best, exhibit, "is a disaster for anything that breathes and a dream come true for anything that doesn’t breathe much, like jellyfish.” Titled win > < win, the installation is by Berlin-based artist group Rimini Protokoll and occupies a room in the third and last gallery of the exhibition. win > < win splits audiences in two with a circular tank filled with jellyfish—something the RA had to obtain a zoological license to host. With clever lighting, the two audiences are revealed and hidden from each other, the tank acting as both a mirror and portal for the divided audiences. Through headphones, we learn about the ascendance of jellyfish, a species that benefits from humans killing their predators with overfishing and pollution as plastic bags kill turtles and other animals. The influx of jellyfish has direct consequences for humans too, as they clog up nuclear power and desalination plants across the world. "Jellyfish will be the only survivors when everything else has fallen apart," the narrator ominously intones. Despite this sombre note, win > < win is fun, engaging and informative all at the same time and makes the $15 exhibition fee is worth it. It also represents a success for Delicado, who told AN that he wanted the exhibition "to talk a younger audience," hence the inclusion of more familiar names like Virgil Abloh and Olafur Eliasson, whose installations—a gold, supposedly sunken chair and pictures of melting ice, respectively—do little to inspire. And that's what we need, inspiration. In his book, The is no Planet B, author Mike Berners-Lee writes: "Whilst the idea of limiting climate change seems like essential damage limitation, in itself, it spectacularly fails to excite most of us. More often than not, it gets framed primarily as the need to forego things we enjoy. And since humans–all of us–hate thinking about anything unpleasant, the temptation to switch off is hard to resist."
Eco-Visionaries, as its title tantalizingly suggested, might change that. This was a great chance to show the world that we might, by the skin of our teeth, be able to claw ourselves out from climate change-induced catastrophe. In this regard, Eco-Visionaries falls short. Perhaps this was because the RA only allowed the exhibition to have three rooms, preventing it from going further. However, while filled with insight and inquisitive introspection into how humanity lives on this earth, the feeling of future inspiration is sadly lacking. Eco-Visionaries runs through 23 February 2020.