The Austrian Cultural Forum’s iconic building by Austrian-American architect Raimund Abraham plays a fitting setting and set-piece for Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America. The exhibition, jointly curated by Stephen Phillips and Axel Schmitzberger, opened on September 25 with a standing-room-only panel and five galleries showcasing the iconic works of expat Austrian masters, from the classic modernist forms of Adolf Loos to the current high-tech work of Peter Trummer. The opening night panel used the contextual significance of the exhibition as a springboard to address broader themes, opening with a conversation between the Austrian passport-carrying panelists including Herwig Baumgartner, Andrea Lenardin, Christoph Kumpusch, Peter Trummer, Bettina Zerza, Duks Koschitz, and Matias del Campo. Their varying generations resulted in the discussion of the contemporary meaning of hyphenated Austrians, as well as the implications of being from an era of voluntary, rather than forceful, migration stateside, differing from their predecessors in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Andrea Lenardin referred to this 20th/21st-century transition as stemming from a collective “idea of the misfit,” to the nods and agreement of everyone else on the stage; “we weren’t forced out, we were free to come here. Hopefully, the 21st-century idea of who you are will not be tied to locality,” said Lenardin. With ideas of identity and the weight of the creators of modernism on the mind, visitors were invited into the galleries after the panel, which was forced to end on time despite the high energy circulating through the conversation to the very end. The galleries are thematically split into the five themes: Primitive Domains, Aggregate Families, Urban Terrestrials, Cloud Natures, and Media Atmospheres, all said to explore the idea of bicultural heritage. However, while the stated intent was ascribed to the sort of heritage discussed on the panel, these five themes were presented more so as shelves on which to categorize interesting projects and objects, rather than come alive as platforms for deeper cultural ideas or placemaking. Starting with Primitive Domains, drawings, models, and photographs explore the beginnings of modernism as geometries set in landscapes, free from ornamentation and following the concept of form and function. As the galleries progress, towards Aggregate Families and Cloud Natures, the architectural forms acquire added complexity, both in form and context—including an evolving urban setting. The works and representations on the walls reach towards increasingly digitized methods of creating, viewing, and building, with the uppermost gallery housing Media Atmospheres, a darkened and immersive space where spatial manipulation—even intangible elements, like neon light—is explored as a manipulation of the human condition itself. While this exhibition explores the physical outcomes of the flow of ideas and design culture from Austria to the U.S, the objects and concepts read more as being a part of the flow of contemporary messages we recognize today, global in scale and adaptation—there is a continuous feedback loop, not a one-way street, in the design world. Today, practicing architects are often true global citizens, like the panelists, all of whom have worked in their home country, the U.S, and around the world, not just as “cosmopolitans” in the dated sense, according to Duks Koschitz. Design and architectural representation, pushing new limits in digital and post-digital worlds, is a language in itself, with an identity untethered from locality, the same untethered existence that Lenardin hopes for the professionals themselves. So while there may indeed be some truth in the humorous myth of the Trummer-suggested Austrian “architect gene” that sent laughs around the stage, it’s no longer contained, but carried by the self-proclaimed misfits in the lab, studio, and world. Resident Alien is on display at the ACFNY until February 17, 2019.
Posts tagged with "Adolf Loos":
What does it say about London-based clothing brand COS that it is targeting architects and designers? Its price points ($99 to $225 for a men’s dress shirt) are relatively accessible when compared to many other boutique or more explicitly luxury-oriented brands. At the same time, within the mass-market fast-fashion sector, COS has a different approach than other stores like Uniqlo or H&M (where dress shirts are more in the $30 range), which can tell us something about the brand and its ethos. Working in this sector, where does COS find its niche? For COS, engagement has come through the design sphere; its target is the attendees of selective, high-end gatherings. In contrast, Uniqlo has partnered with MoMA, an institution that is trying harder everyday to cast as wide a net as possible, with celebrity-driven events like its controversial 2015 Bjork exhibition, or its apparent decision to get rid of permanent, discipline-specific galleries like architecture and design, in favor of cross-disciplinary shows with wider appeal. The Uniqlo-MoMA relationship includes the Japanese fashion brand’s sponsorship of free Fridays at the museum, as well as a line of collaborative T-shirts that are sold at the Fifth Avenue Uniqlo flagship store just a few doors down from MoMA in New York City. COS’s involvement ranges from sponsoring Park Nights at London’s Serpentine, a series of programs in the annual pavilion, to site-specific installations at global design events such as Design Miami/ and Milan Design Week. A recent string of projects has moved the brand away from earlier collaborations that were simpler and fairly vague—such as a 2014 project at Salone del Mobile with Japanese design studio Nendo—toward more interactive, experiential installations that activate space and merge into the architectural.
In November 2017, COS and New York-based Snarkitecture presented Loop, where visitors to Seoul’s Gana Art Center gallery could place a white glass marble on a light- blue metal track, where it would descend to the gallery floor below. Similarly, London designers Studio Swine brought their Salone del Mobile installation New Spring to Miami for Design Miami/. There, visitors could play with special bubbles that fell from an arched sculpture and were filled with one of five scented mists. Next up is a collaboration with the Palm Springs-based artist Phillip K. Smith III in Milan, for which details are still pending. While these installations might seem random, they make sense as an outreach and audience-building strategy for COS. Material and geometry are an important part of the COS brand, and in this sense, it shares DNA with modernism in architecture and design. “Ornament and Crime,” by Austrian architect Adolf Loos, is one of the most important treatises on the role of decoration after the industrial revolution. Personally, Loos preferred to wear very simple English wools suits. “When the English set it upon themselves to rule the world, they freed themselves from the imitation of silly costumes that they had been condemned to by other nations, and imposed the primeval dress around the globe,” he once said, albeit extremely problematically by today’s standards. But as a material analysis of post-national modernism, it can be applied to understanding his work.
In his architecture, such as the iconic Villa Müller and its rich marble and wood surfaces that layer over one another through adjacent spaces in a raumplan, Loos preferred simple geometries with rich materials that let the texture become the ornament—one of the major tenets of Miesian modernism and the International Style. Similarly, for COS Creative Director Karin Gustafsson, “We are interested in research such as materials or finishes. We also talk a lot about tactility.” But simplicity wasn’t just a stylistic choice for Loos. He also famously said in 1908 that “when I look back over past centuries and ask myself in which age I would prefer to have lived, my answer is, ‘in the present age.’” He believed that fashion and the reuse of older styles were an unnecessary infatuation with the past. Not surprisingly, he also was one of the pioneers of the modernist aesthetic, which abandoned ornament that he felt harkened back to a premodern sentimentality. To be thoroughly modern, one had to move beyond the past. For COS, modernity also comes from the timeless. “We are a fashion brand the focuses on well-made design and design that is made to last. It is timeless, it is about modernity,” Gustafsson said.
But Loos’s criticisms of older styles were also part of his commitment to the International project and his disdain for ornament, which he thought represented antiquated nationalism. As for COS, “We are a global brand,” COS CEO Marie Honda said. “We want to always represent this through our projects and activations.”
Recently, the brand released Creating Shapes, a book about fashion designer Usha Doshi, one of Gustafsson’s teachers at the Royal College of Art in London. “She is one of the links between the designers and pattern cutters,” Gustafsson told The Architect’s Newspaper. Here, we see another connection between the COS brand and the design world, where making and materials are in a constant feedback loop, and often designers become the connection between the world of material innovation and the world of form-making. Designers and architects alike are always in search of the newest things to form into a chair or the latest glass technique that might lead to a beautiful window.
Dutch furniture designer Ineke Hans works from London with her Holland-based studio to lead international manufacturers on projects that explore the future of furniture design. With works in museum collections and participation in furniture fairs and symposiums around the world, she has built a body of work that address global issues in design, the role of the designer, and the role of manufacturing. Recently she was asked to collaborate with the Kunsthalle Wien, a Viennese exhibitions space, to design a chair for an exhibit showcasing her recent work. Was ist Loos? [a pun that pairs the German phrase for ‘What is happening?’ with the name of architect Adolf Loos] explores Vienna as a site for design and production shaped by Adolf Loos and the Thonet brothers. The show also addresses broader questions, such as new ways to develop and distribute design concepts. The Architect's Newspaper spoke with her about conventional and innovative production methods, as well as the regional characteristics of design. The Architect’s Newspaper: What choices did you make to come up with a final chair design that is contemporary, yet inspired by 19th century architecture and design in Vienna? Ineke Hans: A few years before Kunsthalle Vienna invited me for this exhibition, they asked me to think about sitting objects for their public spaces, but I did not have much time then to work on it. This year I decided to go back to their initial request and design a new chair that could also be presented in the exhibition. In reference to the Viennese architect and designer Adolf Loos, who wrote modernist design manifesto Ornament & Crime in 1908, the current exhibition asks where we are in design today. I approached Gebrüder Thonet Vienna because of their history in producing chairs for cultural places in Vienna and their past experience working with designers like Loos, Hans Wagner, and Josef Hoffmann. The Thonet wood-bending technique invented a new way to make cheaper mass-produced furniture. Now the wood-bending technique is rather labor intensive. I decided to make a chair typology that fits the historical context with the techniques of our time, specifically CNC routering and laser cutting. What are your favorite design features of this chair? It is a stackable chair and good to place in rows for conferences—because of this, it works very well in contract environments. What obstacles, if any, were there in the design process? The prototyping was – as often in these cases – very last-minute. It all worked out very well and the models show the wonderful quality of Thonet manufacturing. In your opinion, how does your chair consider the role of manufacturing, both physically (in comparison to the other objects) and historically? Thonet was the first mass producer of furniture in the world, using a technology that speeded up making chairs in a semi-industrial way, offering affordable furniture. That process has become rather labor-intensive compared with furniture production in over the last century. With possibilities to combine digital production and handwork, it is interesting to look at some other aspects that are valuable for design today. They could fit 36 pieces of disassembled Thonet No 14s (and the screws needed to build them to be packed into a box measuring) in one cubic meter. This emancipated worldwide shipping (marking the beginnings of flat-pack furniture), becoming available in the U.S. to immigrants who arrived with big families and were in need of affordable furniture. Hundred of years later, IKEA started to flatpack. Today you could say we are at 'flatpack 3.0.’ With online sales and distribution of furniture, that means people expect 3-seat sofas to arrive at their homes through their letterbox. Flatpack is not an issue in this chair, the design is made with open source platform Opendesk. Nowadays, we have to think about production and materials of new items we design for the world, but also the meaning of things and how they relate to each other. The KHW chair is a new chair embedded in the rich historical design history of Vienna. Ineke Hans: Was ist Loos? is on view at the Kunsthalle Wien in Viena through December 11. For more information, visit the exhibition webpage.
A design auction, featuring a few rare and standout pieces by the late architect Zaha Hadid, will take place at one of Europe's largest auction houses, Palais Dorotheum in Vienna, on June 20, 2017. The “Design First” auction focuses on radical designs from the 1960s. Besides pieces designed by Hadid, works from architecture firm Superstudio and Austrian architect Adolf Loos are also up for bidding. Hadid’s “Project in Red” sofa, which is a part of her Wave Collection and was presented at Milan’s nightclub Studio 54 in September 1988, is a highlight. Another design by Hadid that will be in the auction includes a pair of “Monsoon” seats, which were custom-made in the 1990s for the Monsoon Restaurant in Sapporo, Japan. The other Zaha pieces include a tea and coffee set, as well as an ash "Ordrupgaard Bench." The items are now on view at the site before the auction tomorrow. Bidders can also bid online on the Palais Dorotheum's website, which ends in a few hours.
"Ornament is crime" is crime: In London, the debate over architectural ornamentation settled over beer and shot of vodka
There are six clear reasons why Turncoats, a new architectural debating format, is continuing to ruffle more than just a few feathers in Hoxton, East London. 1) It is free. 2) You are given a bottle of craft beer upon entry. 3) A musical comedy act featuring a game of "Hitler or Ham" introduces the evening. 4) The audience must do a shot of vodka before the debate. 5) An intellectual debate on whether ornament is crime proceeds and 6) everyone cheers at the end and goes home smiling. All very well, but what was the result of all this? As tempting as it is to go into detail over the "Hitler or ham" debacle, the real issue in Hoxton Hall on the 27th January was the debate on whether the statement "ornament is crime" is a crime itself. In order to solve this, three panels were put in place with two arguing for and against and the other an independent adjudicator dubbed "Switzerland." And so Adam Nathaniel Furman, architect, furniture designer and founder of the Postmodern Society, stepped forward with the first of what would be four prewritten arguments. Here, he compared ornament to wearing clothes, inferring that dressing our buildings is no different. Further still, ornament evokes a sense of freedom, liberality and identity. "If form was really so pure, we should all walk round naked!" Furman exclaimed. We dress up to represent our ideals and what we stand for and architecture should do the same he concluded. To counter this, Studio Weave co-founder Jane Hall retorted that ornament hides a building's true identity and distracts us from the faults and failings of reality within the built environment. A window decoration, for example, guides our gaze from the cracks in the pavement and potholes in the street. Money is hence more willingly spent on splendor rather than maintenance of our everyday basic needs when the opposite should enforced. Now, the debate was in full swing, and up stepped fashion satirist Bertie Brandes who wasted no time in slating those against decoration. “Minimalists are basic b*****s to the highest degree.” Interestingly, Brandes pointed out that ornament is literally a crime in rented accommodation whereby nailing a picture in to the wall can break the tenancy agreement. From this we can take solace in the fact that implementing decoration is indeed part of the great struggle against the "facist" orthodoxy. “Why should we let architectural class dictate the aesthetic of our cities?” Brandes questioned, suggesting that ornament can help aesthetically democratise our built environment. Finally, Rory Hyde, curator of Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism at the V&A Museum in London, came forward. Like Brandes, he was quick to make an equally sweeping statement: “Ornament is just s**t smearing” he said. Hyde went on to say how Donald Trump's home/palace is rather heavily decorated, posing the question (albeit not so seriously) that to endorse ornament essentially means that one also endorses his policies. However, Hyde later went on to say that the the thing about real palaces is that they do have power and indeed are the pinnacle of ornamentation. With real monarchial palaces, you are always born into them and hence ornamentation is inherently classist. After some light-hearted exchanges, somehow moderated by Charles Holland (co-founder of Ordinary Architecture), the debate eventually boiled down to fascism versus democracy. AN also weighed in on the debate, posing the following dilemma: “In which of the two scenarios is the most powerful ornamental statement made? Scenario One, a street full of flamboyant, heavily decorated structures juxtaposed by one minimalist building, or Scenario Two, a street full of minimalist structures, all uniform in style juxtaposed by one flamboyant, heavily decorated building?” Furman was quick to respond. “I like this idea, in a sense you think of it being similar school uniforms as we dress our buildings. On school days, we all have to look the same, but on the weekends we get to wear what we want.” Hence, freedom only becomes liberating when one is oppressed or when one has the knowledge that one will be oppressed in the future (like on Monday, once the weekend is over). As the evening progressed, the case for ornamentation became stronger. Ornament can be useful for way-finding, it was said using the example that taxi drivers use ornamentation on buildings to guide them around London. Hyde pointed out that while Aravena despises ornamentation, he lets the occupants of his buildings dictate their own ornamental style. Decoration from the user symbolizes pride of place and lets the place become their own. Hyde continued, noting that on the flip side of this, how much choice or freedom do we really have to make it our own? Most look to IKEA to furnish their dwellings. To be truly democratic or liberated would be to make the furniture ourself. Furman essentially closed the lid on the debate. “We pretend that modernism is the pioneer of neutrality, looking at everyone as equal. It may do this, but in doing so just perpetuates a power struggle within this society. Instead, let’s celebrate our differences.” At the end of the evening, with many of the audience drunk on well-presented architectural arguments on ornament (and slightly tipsy from the alcohol) the statement “ornament is not crime” got the biggest cheer. Democracy had triumphed and we were all architecturally liberated.
All summer the Los Bar—built by MAK Center residents Andreas Bauer, Christoph Meier, Robert Schwarz, and Lukas Stopczynski—gave those without airline travel points a taste of Vienna. Constructed in a garage of R.M. Schindler’s Mackey Apartments, the saloon mimics Adolf Loos’ American Bar, swapping out onyx and marble for painted MDF and cardboard. Police shut down the blind pig due to neighbor complaints, but we’re hoping all is not lost for Los/Loos. AN may volunteer the LA HQ for a Loos weekend.
Since long before Adolf Loos published his seminal Principles of Cladding, architects have pondered the relationship between the surfaces of our environment and the secrets that lie beneath them. With his new installation at the Rokko Meets Art festival in Japan, street artist Jun Kitagawa has playfully un-zipped our curiosity. Through a series of giant, oversized zippers grafted onto the surfaces of everyday life, Kitagawa offers a glimpse into the world that lies only a few inches beyond our perception. Painted on walls, cutting through a house, and traversing a lake, Kitagawa’s giant zippers allow passersby to whimsically interact with their surroundings. [H/T Spoon & Tamago]