post-digital turn in architecture. The book glimpses a generation paradoxically invested in using obscure methods to make charismatic forms. Unlike other postmodern camps (pomo, deconstructivism, parametricism), this generation eschews stylistic cohesion, instead claiming diversity and eclecticism as its hallmark. Inspired by philosopher Michel Foucault’s reading of a fictional Chinese encyclopedia in The Order of Things (the incoherence of which undermines Western epistemology itself), Possible Mediums’ preface essay, “Notes from the Middle,” relishes pluralism and how “the delightfully weird work of…colleagues challenged preconceived notions of order.” However, by deliberately withholding a theoretical framework, the editors leave their uninitiated readers to wonder whether the volume marks a new architectural movement or is simply a yearbook filled with the signatures of well-wishing friends. Whether Possible Mediums is a yearbook or Oriental arcana, the book’s format is infectious and invites casual, nonlinear, and occasional reading. In the same spirit of the volume’s meandering musings, this review will proceed as a loose collection of entries. #71 Arguing for strength in numbers, this volume is full of them. The editors treat their own numbers as a conceptual argument, noting, “We began as a group of four, but quickly grew to 16, then to 25, and now have over 40 project contributors…” They could go on: John McMorrough’s six examples of architectural mediums explicitly numbered, 71 total projects, 16 jam-packed guest essays, 16 mediums [sic], 18 paper stocks, etc. The editors claim, “Possible Mediums is not a systematic theory, a manifesto, or banal survey—it is a projection of architecture and knowledge to come.” And in the absence of knowledge per se, quantity becomes quality. A slow reading might go something like this: The book contains 71 projects, a number sufficiently large, indicating something historic underfoot. Moreover, 71 seems sufficiently precise, an irreducible prime number, the inelegance of which also suggests that there can neither be more nor less, neither 70 nor 72. In sum, 71 is an architectural movement, at once historical, irreducible, and singular. Listicle Beginning with the editors’ reference to Foucault’s Chinese encyclopedia, this book continues to make happy use of lists throughout. Along with lists of paper stocks, architectural media, and guest essays, there are lists of influential UCLA faculty, supply stores, types of sandwiches, questions for readers to ask themselves, etc. The explicit use of lists by both the editors and contributors is reminiscent of the proliferation of useless content on the internet, necessitating the novel curation of listicles as a new literary genre. We now revel in the veneration of tiny, insignificant yet common phenomena. In the post-internet age, architecture defers to everyday non-architectural objects, high and low, from CAD Blocks to Google’s 3-D Warehouse. These things are all worthy of appropriation in the process of making new forms. Debris Flipping through the book, there’s a lot of debris. Some of it is more like piles, rubble, clutter, junk, or ruins, depending on which page you land on. The volume’s insistence on including so many different types of debris makes one think that there is something important about this seemingly unimportant form. In fact, these architects are much more interested in architecture as things rather than forms. Most of their projects look like they are in disuse—things that are falling apart, recycled, decomposing, and on their backsides. Perhaps in reaction to the pageantry of elegant and hyper-engineered surfaces of the digital age, debris ushers in a new cycle of decomposition to architectural discourse. However, unlike the previous antagonism and violence of deconstructivism, debris is more casual, informal, and nonchalant. According to the architects, debris has a purpose: It disrupts part-to-whole relations, celebrates ambiguity, and elevates the ordinary. Inconclusive Like their digital predecessors, this group is invested in formal complex exuberance. Unlike their precursors, this crew is invested in the misappropriation of citations and readymades to such a degree that disciplinary norms and hierarchies are overturned. Such preoccupations, however, are never explicitly acknowledged, and adopt a thinglike quality. Once noted, this degree of thingness becomes an index of contemporaneity: The 2000s are malleable, diagrammatic, and morphological, while the mid-to-late 2010s are full of referential things in semi-disarray. To an outsider, this shift may feel solipsistic and inconsequential—but make no mistake, this generation is distrustful of formal mastery, and instead agnostically embraces the detritus of what’s left of meaning. Nothing is taken for granted, and every thing is worked on as a medium of inquiry. For architecture, this novelty is not only formal, but also etymological in an intriguing, almost imperceptible, way. Max Kuo designs with ALLTHATISSOLID and teaches at Harvard Graduate School of Design.
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From now until September 3, the MoMA will be exhibiting Dream The Combine’s winning scheme for this year’s Young Architects Program (YAP), as well as the other four finalists’ work. Hide & Seek opens to the public at MoMA PS1 on June 28, but until then, the MoMA exhibition provides a sneak peek that should tide over visitors. Hide & Seek Design: Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers of Dream The Combine in collaboration with Clayton Binkley of ARUP Structural Engineering: Clayton Binkley and Kristen Strobel, ARUP Project Team: Max Ouellette-Howitz, Nero He, Tom Vogel, Emmy Tong, and Erik Grinde, with support from UMN School of Architecture Dream The Combine is the 19th YAP winner. The firm's scheme will create a series of dynamic pavilions across PS1’s courtyard and up the steps to the museum. Nine overlapping black steel catwalks will stretch across the open area, including inaccessible platforms hovering overhead. Three of the paths will hold giant, moveable mirrors that can “turn an individual into a crowd” or unify separate elements of the installation. Fabric sails will be floated overhead at certain points and fitted with misters to create an ethereal and spacey feeling at night. Hide & Seek is, according to Jennifer Newsom, an attempt to create an ever-changing experience in PS1’s courtyard by building new visual connections throughout the space and beyond. Shelf Life Design: LECAVALIER R+D, Jesse LeCavalier Project team: Ayesha Ghosh, Jesse McCormick, Zachary White Structural engineering support: LED - Laufs Engineering Design, New York City & Berlin What exactly is “logistics”? How can we better connect and explore the invisible machinery that drives modern global commerce? For Shelf Life, LECAVALIER R+D re-appropriates the stacking and racking machinery usually found in factories and turns it into an immersive exhibition structure. In their proposal, furniture is built straight into the massive frame, and the entire pavilion would be disassembled and integrated back into the global logistics stream at the end of summer. Out of the Picture Project Team: FreelandBuck, Alex Kim, Taka Tachibe, Belinda Lee, Braden Young, Adin Rimland, Michael Raymundo, Adrian Lanetti, Evan Preuss, Jose Avila Structural Engineering by Matthew Melnyk of Nous Engineering Out of the Picture sought, much like Hide and Seek, to “bring the outside in” to PS1’s courtyard. Enormous fabric banners are stretched across the central plaza and decorated with distorted images of the surrounding buildings. The result is a reinterpretation of the neighborhood from a new perspective, transformed but still readable. Loud Lines Design: BairBalliet Structural Consultants: Walter P Moore, Kais Al-Rawi, Quinton Champer Project Team: Chaoqun Chen, Jose Garcia, Andrew Lang, Spencer McNeil, Ruta Misiunas Lines and vectors are often abstract concepts on a screen in architecture, but BairBalliet sought to translate the often-striking lines in diagrams into tangible structures. During the day, Loud Lines is solid black and imposing, but at night, the structure pulses with neon light from within. The rods emit a cooling mist to further blur the lines between the real and the immaterial. The Beastie Design: OFICINAA: Silvia Benedito and Alexander Häusler. Cambridge, MA, and Ingolstadt, Germany The Beastie proposed a technologically forward-thinking assemblage in PS1’s courtyard; an interactive structure that would have turned solar energy into ice. Inside the multi-walled chambers of The Beastie, visitors would explore a range of different temperatures, ranging from pleasant to freezing. More than a cool-down station, The Beastie was intended to raise awareness of climate change by exposing guests to “climatic confusion”. All of the YAP finalists were required to design an outdoor shelter that included shade, water, and seating. After the proposals are finished showing at the MoMA, the installation will travel to MAXXI (Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo) in Rome, and CONSTRUCTO in Santiago.
The finalists for the 2018 Young Architects Program (YAP) have been announced by the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1. Each year, 30 young practices are nominated by deans of architecture schools and editors of architecture publications for a chance to compete to build a temporary outdoor installation in the courtyard of MoMA PS1. After a portfolio review, the initial group of 30 is culled down to five firms, who are asked to submit initial proposals for the project. This year’s finalists are LeCavalier R+D, FreelandBuck, OFICINAA, BairBalliet, and Jennifer Newsom & Tom Carruthers. The 2017 winner of YAP was Jenny E. Sabin with her project Lumen, which employed a web-like woven canopy made of photo-luminescent and solar-active yarns that collected and emitted light. Learn more about each of the 2018 finalists below. BairBalliet BairBalliet is a collaborative effort between Chicago-based Kelly Bair and Los Angeles-based Kristy Balliet. BairBalliet’s work was presented as part of the US Pavilion for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennial. Along with co-founding BairBalliet, Kelly Bair is the principal of Central Standard Office of Design and is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture. Kristy Balliet, principal of Balliet Studio, is currently faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and an associate professor at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture. Through both speculative and built work, the team explores precedent and form in two and three dimensions. FreelandBuck The bi-coastal FreelandBuck is led by David Freeland and Brennan Buck. Freeland is currently a faculty member at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), and Buck is a faculty member at the Yale School of Architecture. FreelandBuck’s work ranges from residential and commercial through urban and institutional projects, with an emphasis on complex digitally-fabricated geometries. Jennifer Newsom & Tom Carruthers Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers make up the Minneapolis-based art and architecture practice DREAM THE COMBINE. As installation artists and licensed architects, the team has produced numerous site-specific installations in the United States and Canada. Each project explores concepts of reality, perception, material, and often social and cultural constructs, such as race and metaphor. LeCavalier R+D New Jersey-based LeCavalier R+D is led by Jesse LeCavalier. Currently an assistant professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, LeCavalier is the former Sanders Fellow at the University of Michigan, a Poiesis Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, and a researcher at the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory. With a focus on contemporary spaces of logistics, LeCavalier is the author of The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment. OFICINAA Ingolstadt, Germany-based OFICINAA is a collaboration between Silvia Benedito and Alexander Häusler. With a wide range of work in different mediums and scales, OFICINAA draws on its principal’s diverse backgrounds to produce work that covers multiple facets of design. Benedito’s work often focuses on atmospheres and microclimate landscapes, while Häusler’s background is in sculpture and installation work. Together, they have produced everything from urban planning projects and architecture projects to installations and videos. The judging panel this year included: Glenn D. Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art; Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1; Peter Reed, Senior Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs; Martino Stierli, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design; Barry Bergdoll, Curator of Architecture and Design; Sean Anderson, Associate Curator of Architecture and Design; Jeannette Plaut and Marcelo Sarovic, Directors, CONSTRUCTO, from Santiago, Chile; and Pippo Ciorra, Senior Curator, MAXXI Architettura, of Rome, Italy. The winner will be announced in early 2018.