Posts tagged with "Beatriz Colomina":

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X-Ray Architecture asks us to reimagine building materiality

X-Ray Architecture Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller Publishers MSRP $40.00 One of the many provocative images in Beatriz Colomina’s X-Ray Architecture (Lars Müller Publishers, 2019) is a 1956 Life magazine photograph of three women holding trophies and posing in front of their own X-rays. They are the winners of a beauty contest organized by chiropractors who presumably judged them on both external and (literally) internal beauty. Wilhelm Röntgen called his accidental discovery “X” rays because he didn’t know what they were, and for a while, much fun was had with these mysterious new particles that could pass through matter—it wasn’t until the 1970s that the effects of excessive radiation were a concern. The discovery coincided with the beginning of Modern architecture, and Colomina uses the chronological alignment to theorize how this new way of seeing could be used to reread the modern canon; Loos, Mies, Neutra, and of course Le Corbusier, all make an appearance. The X-ray doesn’t so much reveal what is inside the body as it re-images it as a gradient of opacity, and applying this concept to architecture means imagining a new understanding of building materiality. Colomina begins the book with the architecture designed to prevent or cure tuberculosis—the disease best diagnosed with an X-ray—and finds that the hygienic-white spaces and sunny terraces of modern architecture made perfect machines-for-health. She concludes with an epilogue about tomography scans, the technology for seeing through the body that is to the 21st century what X-rays were to the twentieth. In between, she offers anecdote after anecdote and litanies of examples that support the understanding of architecture either as an explicit medical device, as in the tuberculosis sanatoriums, or more interestingly, as a kind of imaged body that borrows from medical imaging. Take, for example, the use of glass envelopes to reveal the “true structure” within; Colomina argues that these glass skins are never truly transparent. Rather, they are “called on to simulate transparency” because “there is an outer screen that disappears in order to register the ghostly image of the inside” (page 135). The idealized glass of modernism gives us a clear demarcation between the interior and the exterior of a building, and an effacing of materiality since we see through the glass rather than the glass itself. But when Colomina asks us to pay attention to its full presence—the reflection, refraction, and other properties besides transparency—glass blurs the inside-outside boundary and makes the void within seem thickened and fleshy. Colomina invites us to look again at some canonic images of modern architecture such as the 1922 Mies photomontage of his Glass Skyscraper project. We are accustomed to understanding this image in the context of what was built later, including Mies’s own Seagram’s building, as an early, if fuzzy, notation of the glass wrapped structures that have dominated our cities since the 1950s. But Colomina encourages the reader to take the image at face value, mentioning that Mies was fascinated by X-ray imaging, and we are convinced that it does look a bit like an X-ray. If this early image can be newly understood as a gradient of densities, then the significance of modern architecture is relocated from the tectonics of structure and glass to the visual effects of the building’s materialities. In many ways, this book is a continuation of themes in Colomina’s past work; namely the understanding of modern architecture as a mediated thing, and the airing out of its patriarchal undertones. It’s a debunking of modernist myths, similar to what Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky did with their phenomenal transparency essays or Reyner Banham with his arguments about functionalism. It’s also a feminist critique—Colomina takes the primacy away from the tectonics of a building, the all-mighty structure that is associated with the masculine, and shifts it to the visual and mediated experience of space. In her reading of modern architecture, the structural and technical, “serious” components of a building are merely the means to hold up the materials—e.g. glass—that produce the visual experience, the true location of architecture. Jennifer Bloomer did something similar in the 1980s with her Boudoir essay, using her characteristic wit and wordplay to unravel Alberti’s assignment of (masculine) structure as primary, and (feminine) ornament as secondary. X-Ray Architecture takes the reader from the male gaze looking at women’s bodies exercising—in heels—on Le Corbusier’s rooftops to a kind of feminist glazed gaze. The last project she discusses is a temporary installation by SANAA in Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion. It consists entirely of a curved acrylic wall that is in all appearances unobtrusive, like the expected politeness of a female presence, but that in fact vigorously transforms the experience of the building. The acrylic is transparent, but its curvature and layering blur spatial boundaries and makes the former void into a thickened, fleshy space. The intervention also changes the approach into the pavilion, much like Colomina’s work brings us to the modern canon through novel approaches that make us see it anew.
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W Awards reveal winners of Jane Drew and Ada Louise Huxtable Prizes

Pakistan’s first female architect, Yasmeen Lari, and Princeton University’s Beatriz Colomina have been awarded the top honors at this year’s W Awards. Formerly known as the Women in Architecture Awards, the program is now in its eighth year and celebrates women who’ve impacted the industry beyond just where they work. The Architectural Review and Architects’ Journal, AN’s counterparts in the U.K., helped select Lari and Colomina as the recipients of the 2020 Jane Drew Prize for Architecture and the Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for Contribution to Architecture, respectively.  Born in 1941, Lari studied design at the Oxford School of Architecture prior to moving back to Pakistan and starting her own firm, Lari Associates, in Karachi. Her most famous works include the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Finance and Trade Center, and the Pakistan State Oil House. Though she retired from the field 20 years ago, Lari has continued to take on humanitarian and historical conservation projects throughout her native country. On Lari’s five decades of work, The Architectural Review editor Manon Mollard said:  “From landmark buildings in Karachi to crisis shelters and community centres made of earth and bamboo, Yasmeen Lari’s work has shown that grand schemes are not the only way to make an impact—that architecture that uplifts, provides dignity to the marginalized, can make real and meaningful change.” Colomina, an architecture historian and theorist, began teaching in her native country of Spain after graduating from the Universidad Politécnica de Barcelona. Now a globally-celebrated educator, she’s best-known for starting Princeton University’s Program in Media and Modernity as well as for serving as a long-time professor and director of Graduate Studies in the architecture school. She’s also the author of multiple books including, X-Ray Architecture, Manifesto Architecture: The Ghost of Mies, Are We Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design (based on the 2016 Istanbul Design Biennale), and Privacy and Publicity.  “Beatriz Colomina’s rich and rigorous career has shaped the way we think about architecture, right back to Sexuality & Space—still a much-needed text in architectural education,” said Mollard. “Her writing, her curation, and her teaching have been part of the backbone of architectural theory for many years, and will continue to inspire in years to come.”  Last year’s winners of the Jane Drew and Ada Louise Huxtable prizes included Liz Diller and Swiss photographer Hélène Binet, respectively, while Sheila O'Donnell was named Architect of the Year. This year’s winners of The Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture and the MJ Long Prize for Excellence in Practice will be announced following a series of presentations in March from eight shortlisted women.
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Peruse our favorite spring 2019 architecture book releases

As the weather warms and flowers sprout, so too do a new crop of spring releases. A varied bunch of books offers everything from a meditation on the impermanence of inflatable architecture to a dense taxonomy of trees. So snag one of these new releases for when a sunny day in the park or a rainy spring day spent inside. Ruin and Redemption in Architecture Dan Barasch and Dylan Thuras (contributor) Phaidon $59.95 New A flashy split-tone coffee-table book cover belies a slick collection of ruin-to-redemption case studies. All types of buildings and infrastructure fall to the ravages of time. Some are icons that have been lost forever, demolished or repurposed in a way that destroys their original intent; some have been left dormant for decades and are actively being reimagined; others have been successfully transformed for a second chance at glory. This book takes a look at all types. In a nice touch, the abandoned buildings are all shown in black and white, while their transformed counterparts are rendered in full-color spreads. The “redeemed” buildings include a multitude of well-known rehabs, such as Heatherwick Studio’s Zeitz Museum of South Africa and Ricardo Bofill’s monumental transformation of a 33,000-square-foot Spanish cement factory into his personal home and office. The Architecture of Trees Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi Princeton Architectural Press $76.27 Any landscape architect worth their soil should pick up The Architecture of Trees, an all-encompassing atlas of all things tree-related. The massive 10-inch-by-15-inch compendium is a remastered English edition of L’Architettura degli Alberi, which has been out of print since 1982. Over 550 large-scale pen drawings of 212 tree species are provided at 1:100 scale, and each copy of the book comes with a large ruler-slash-bookmark that allows readers to visualize how tall each specimen would be in the real world. Lavish color studies of how the foliage of each tree changes throughout the seasons—as well as their relative canopy size—are also provided. Information on each family, genus, and species, leaf etchings, essays on utilizing public green space, solar studies for different tree arrangements, and more can be found in this 424-page doorstopper, the result of a twenty-year study. Toward a Living Architecture?: Complexism and Biology in Generative Design Christina Cogdell University Of Minnesota Press $31.35 The popularity of organic parametricism shows no sign of slowing down, especially with the likes of Zaha Hadid Architects and other internationally acclaimed studios continuing to champion the style. But, just because architects have sinewy curves, biomimetic facades, and other tools readily available in their kits, does that mean any of their work is truly sustainable? In Towards a Living Architecture, Cogdell refutes the argument that biological architecture, computer-driven iterative architecture, symbiotic architecture, etc., are inherently “better” or more sustainable. Instead, she calls for a lifecycle analysis of each project and technique and offers pointed questions to each technology in chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. Bubbletecture: Inflatable Architecture and Design Sharon Francis Phaidon $24.95 New Meet the hypersaturated, candy-colored younger sibling of Ruin and Redemption, a pocket-sized compendium to all things inflatable. Everything from inflatable stools to children’s toys to useable bridges are represented in Bubbletecture’s 288 pages and are helpfully coded by size. Colorful pieces from artists, ranging from Kapoor to Kusama and Christo, mingle with large-scale installations from BIG and Snarkitecture (and keep an eye out for the Trump baby balloon). X-Ray Architecture Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller $25.47 As architecture became more about analyzing fragmented portions of the building in the 20th century, so too did medicine. The advent of the x-ray coincidentally—or perhaps not, argues Colomina—came about in tandem with the rise of modern architecture. Buildings offered more light and more glass and became airier in the early 20th century, affording the general public with conditions previously prescribed to those suffering from tuberculosis. At the same time, armed with the ability to peer inside the human body and examine its underpinning structure, medicine became more architectural. Surveillance into either body, whether human-built or organic, increased—an obtrusion that’s continued into the current day.
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Sightings at the Venice Biennale and news from the UC Berkeley expansion

Eavesdrop from Venice We were wondering if we would see any celebs in Venice this year—perhaps Brad Pitt and Neri Oxman would be strolling the Giardini, or maybe Kanye West would show up at the Arsenale. But instead, AN editors ran into none other than legendary comedian and actor Chevy Chase, who was spending the week at the Biennale. Chase was in town because his old friend, photographer Peter Aaron, was showing a series of pictures about pre-Civil War Syria. Aaron’s wife wasn’t able to make the trip, so Chevy—an old college friend—came with him. The pair was spotted dining with the Architectural League’s Anne Reiselbach at a small osteria in the San Polo neighborhood. What national pavilion at the Venice Biennale seemingly featured more Americans than the U.S. Pavilion? The Dutch! With GSAPP’s curatorial program—including Mark Wasiuta, Felicity Scott, and Dutch Pavilion curator and CCCP grad Marina Otera—talking to themselves and their friends, as well as Beatriz Colomina in bed with other (mostly New York) friends, it seemed more like a U.S. academy than the actual U.S. pavilion. Now that Eva Franch i Gilabert is packing up her paella pans and heading to Brexitland, the Storefront for Art and Architecture needs a new director. It is currently assembling a list of prospective directors from over 100 applicants. A new director will need to be in place by early fall. In the world of architects’ archives, two of the biggest have recently been promised to major collecting organizations, and we will reveal them shortly. Stay tuned. People's Park No More
The University of California, Berkeley recently announced intentions to make good on a 70-year-old plan to convert the university’s People’s Park into a student housing site. The school hopes to replace the notorious park—site of the 1969 “Bloody Thursday” police violence incident—with new student housing structures containing up to 1,000 beds. The move will displace many of the people currently living in and around the park, which officials have likened to a “daytime homeless shelter.” Plans for the site are still in the works, but the university is considering dedicating a portion of the site to supportive housing and social services. The housing is due to be completed by 2022, according to a UC Berkeley spokesperson.

Liquid La Habana: Ice Cream, Rum, Waves, Sweat and Spouts

April 9–May 11, 2018 Exhibition Opening: April 9, 5–6pm Princeton University School of Architecture The Princeton University School of ArchitectureMedia + Modernity ProgramProgram in Latin American Studies, and Mellon Initiative announce the opening of LIQUID LA HABANA: ICE CREAM, RUM, WAVES, SWEAT AND SPOUTS curated by Beatriz ColominaIvan L. Munuera, and Bart-Jan Polman and designed by Diana Cristobal and KnitKnot Architecture. The exhibition research team includes Ingrid Brioso Rieumont, Gillian Shaffer and Eda Yetim. Graphic design by Fru*Fru. Architecture in La Habana, Cuba is usually understood from the point of view of colonialism, whether Spanish or North-American, Cold War politics, or tourist economies and ideologies. But it could also be seen as generating wholly new points of view – more fluid and less familiar. Liquid La Habana presents 5 different case studies from the late 19th century until today and challenges their common interpretations. The exhibition explores the ways in which these fluid projects of ICE CREAM, RUM, WAVES, SWEAT AND SPOUTS reshuffle social contracts, radically confronting ideas of modernity, society, economy, sexuality, privacy, diplomacy, aesthetics, geopolitics, race, and development. [1] Coppelia, the ICE CREAM parlor of 1966 that became a symbol of the new revolutionary society, is discussed as a laboratory in which the creation of a new species, the “Ubre Blanca,” a super cow that would produce more milk than any cow before, went hand in hand with international agreements and socioeconomic aspects. [2] Mies van der Rohe’s unbuilt 1957 project for a Bacardi Building in Santiago de Cuba is not presented as the work of an international architect that created a decontextualized object for promoting RUM, but for how it was closely tied to La Habana’s existing architecture and led several afterlives around the world, reshaping the architect. [3] The Malecón, La Habana’s 5 mile long sea walk begun in 1901, is an engineering work of both concrete and silicon, a Wi-Fi spot in which the notion of public space has been redefined by electronic WAVES and the public sphere has been extended through the paquete semanal (a weekly terabyte of digital information). [4] The Tropicana Night Club is not simply a glistening stage for tourist entertainment, but a place where the bodies in motion and SWEAT relocate the conception of political architecture in a simultaneously capitalist and socialist spectacle. [5] The National Schools of Arts deployed the sensuality of waterworks and forms, such as the so called “vulva” SPOUT, as a controversial architectural symbol of revolution.

ARE WE HUMAN? The Design of the Species: 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years

The exhibition ARE WE HUMAN? : The Design of the Species : 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years will be on view at the Princeton University School of Architecture from November 6, 2017 through January 5, 2018. Curators Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley will give a presentation and gallery talk at 5:00pm on November 6th in the School of Architecture building. The installation is designed by Andres Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation, an international practice that explores material politics at the intersection of design, research and activism. The entire School of Architecture will be filled with a dense collage of overlapping works by architects, artists, designers, scientists, filmmakers, research groups and think tanks. The effect is a kaleidoscope of artistic, technical, philosophical, theoretical and ethical reflection on the intimate relation between “design” and “human.” It is the first time the exhibition will be shown in the United States. The exhibition is supplemented by a set of special installations prepared by the curators and a joint team of Princeton University and Columbia University students. Exhibition participants include Diller Scofidio + RenfroEyal Weizman and Forensic Architecture, Hito Steyerl, Marshmallow Laser Feast, MOS ArchitectsArmin LinkePhilipp Meuser, Galina BalashovaFrancois DallegretCenter for Land Use InterpretationLaura KurganOrkan Telhan, Lu Yang, Tom Keenan and Sohrab MohebbiLorenzo PezzaniCommon AccountsDaniel EisenbergJuan HerrerosSebastian SeungHet Nieuwe InstituutLucia AllaisJoyce Hsiang and Bimal MendisLydia KallipolitiAli KazmaAxel Kilian, Spyros Papapetros, V. Mitch McEwen, and Universal Space Program.
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Does design make us human?

Open for only a month, from October 22nd through November 20th, the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial was a quick look at an extremely expanded understanding of design. Far from a trade show of the latest in design objects or material innovations, Are We Human? The Design of the Species 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years explored the relationship between what it is to design and what it means to be human. In order to provoke a response to this instigation, co-curators Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley set out eight interlinked propositions to which the participating 250 designers, architects, scholars, and scientists reacted:
  1. Design is always design of the human
  2. The Human is the designing animal
  3. Our species is completely suspended in endless layers of design
  4. Design radically expands human capability
  5. Design routinely constructs radical inequalities
  6. Design is even the design of neglect
  7. “Good Design” is an anesthetic
  8. Design without anesthetic asks urgent questions about our humanity
These propositions set up a standing provocation: What defines a human is the act of design. The resulting show investigated this claim, presenting evidence in support of, and questioning of, these eight statements. The array of work ranged from very physical infrastructures of resources, power, and movement around the world, to the ephemeral space of social media. The show specifically rejected the construct of looking at the immediate past and future, usually two years before and after a biennial, and instead looked back to the beginning of humanity and the path to its current state. The defined understanding of design presented by the show was nothing less than extreme in its scope, temporally and ideologically. The work of the participants was divided into four overlapping “clouds”: Designing the Body, Designing the Planet, Designing Life, and Designing Time. Together the show strove to present a worldview in which humans were at once defined by and inseparable from the things they design. In many cases, the curators and participants would not have to look far to find evidence to support their many investigations. Istanbul itself was leveraged repeatedly to enforce the narrative of the show. In one striking exhibit, a cast of hundreds of footprints, recently found during a subway excavation in the city, shows evidence of Neolithic humans ritually gathering in large groups, while all wearing shoes. A room away, a dance floor produced a space that highlights the much-misunderstood world of the Köçek, a sexually ambiguous class of dancers from Turkey’s recent history. In both cases, clothing was presented as an augmentation for either utility or performance, expanding the definition of the human condition. Such investigations continued through the show, looking into the human body and to its immediate relationship to the world. Over and over throughout the Biennial, the idea of human existence was defined by endless layers of design. Prosthetics, complex neural maps, medical pedagogy, and the body of Olympic athletes all highlighted the direct and indirect indications of design's relationship to the human body. Turkish gravestones, atomic testing sites, oil production infrastructure, and geopolitical gerrymandering, questioned society’s—and design's—relationship to the planet as a whole. As a whole, the Biennial felt neither cynical nor optimistic. Rather, it built an image of the world that, for good or for bad, was a construct of humanity. This image was less about dividing the world into artificial or natural, or destructive or constructive. Instead, it illuminated a world of facts and situations, each intertwined with a definition of what it means to be human. Often invoking the concept of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological age in which humans are the dominant influence on the world’s environment and climate, the show was unflinching in laying out a case for humans’ role in shaping every aspect of the world we live in. By broadening the topic and scope of the Biennial, Colomina and Wigley, admittedly, were attempting to questions the very role of all biennials. With the proliferation of biennials and triennials around the word, each one is undoubtedly compared to every other. The breadth of this show's topic set it in opposition those with very specific investigations as well as those events with loose or ambiguous themes. Yet despite the seemingly expansive vision of this show, its tightly curated thematic prompts and Andres Jaque’s subtle exhibition design held it together. The result was a biennial that allowed visitors to focus on whether they agreed or disagreed with the show's premise, rather than trying to figure out what the show was even about. A note must also be said about who actually went to this exhibition. While many biennials may attract a majority of visitors from around the world (but within the design field), Istanbul was decidedly attended by locals. The organizers and the curators knew well that the Istanbul Design Biennial, this being the third iteration, is mostly attended by Turkish residents. The country’s recent political situation has only exasperated this point. Some estimates put Turkey’s tourism numbers down by over 30% in the past year. At the same time, Turkey has taken on more than 2.5 million refugees from Syria. And though it may be hard to quantify exactly who is coming to the show, these facts felt somewhat fitting as part of Are We Human? The thoughts of shifting populations, global economic and political systems, all enforced the thesis of the unrelenting impact of humans on the world as a whole. While short in length, Are We Human? The Design of the Species 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years, was big on vision. By just asking “are we human?” it opened up a dialogue that could be as short as “yes” or considerably protracted. In either case, it put forward that the key to any discussion of this topic is a relationship to, and the act of, design. In effect, it raised the discourse of design above mere products and objects while grounding it in the very fabric of humanity.

2016 Istanbul Biennial announces participants and projects

The 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial has announced its participants and project titles. More than 70 projects are being produced for the exhibition entitled ARE WE HUMAN? : The Design of the Species: 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years. Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley are curating the show that will include “designers, architects, artists, theorists, choreographers, filmmakers, historians, archaeologists, scientists, labs, centers, institutes and NGOs.” The biennial will run from October 22nd through November 20th at five sites throughout the city of Istanbul. These venues include the Galata Greek Primary School, Studio-X Istanbul, Depo in Karaköy, Alt Art Space in Bomonti, and Istanbul Archaeological Museums in Sultanahmet. The work will also be divided into four “Clouds.” Themes for these “Clouds” are Designing the Body, Designing the Planet, Designing Life, and Designing Time. Each of them takes a look at the changing relationship of design and the world around us. The show will also include six curatorial interventions lead by Colomina and Wigley. The interventions are the work of Princeton and Columbia students who have been working in seminars for the past year. The interventions will be installed in the exhibition with the other participants' works. The range of participants, from five continents, range from individual practices to well-established design firms. The projects and the participants include: The Shepherd, Bager Akbay (Turkey) Mutant Space, Atif Akin (Turkey) Observer Affect / Observer Effect, Zeynep Çelik Alexander (Turkey), Vanessa Heddle, Elliott Sturtevant (Canada) Mixed Being, Lucia Allais (United Kingdom/Italy) Archaeology of Things Larger than Earth, Pedro Alonso & Hugo Palmarola (Chile) Milano Animal City, Stefano Boeri (Italy) Window Behaviorology, Atelier Bow-Wow / Yoshiharu Tsukamoto Lab. at Tokyo Institute of Technology / YKK AP Window Research Institute (Japan) Space Design by Galina Balashova, Galina Balashova (Russia), Philipp Meuser (Germany)  Fictional Humanisms: A Critical Reportage, Marco Brizzi & Davide Rapp (Italy) 1 Brain, 100 Billion Neurons, 100 Trillion connections, Brown Institute for Media Innovation, Center for Spatial Research with the Zuckerman Institute, Columbia University (USA) Texas City Landscan, Center for Land Use Interpretation (USA) Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo, Laura Kurgan (South Africa/USA) and the Center for Spatial Research (USA) The Immortal, Revital Cohen (United Kingdom), Tuur Van Balen (Belgium) Going Fluid: The Cosmetic Protocols of Gangnam, Common Accounts, Igor Bragado (Spain), Miles Gertler (Canada) Art Fiction, François Dallegret (Canada) Human Treasure, Tacita Dean (United Kingdom) Kontrollraum / Control Room, Thomas Demand (Germany) Unspoken, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (USA) World Brain: Automatism, Stéphane Dougoutin (France), Gwenola Wagon (Canada) The Unstable Object (II), Daniel Eisenberg (USA) You will not be able to do it, Keller Easterling (USA) The Designer Designed by the Humans, estudio Herreros (Spain) Portable Indo Pacific, Fake Industries Architectural Agonism and UTS (Spain/Australia) A Natural History of Human Rights, Forensic Architecture in collaboration with FIBAR: Baltasar Garzón, m7red and Irendra Radjawali (United Kingdom/Spain/Brazil/Argentina) City of Abstracts and Lectures from Improvisation Technologies, William Forsythe (Germany/USA) The Breaking Point, or The Paradox of Origins, Anselm Franke (Germany) Welcome to the Anthropocene, Globaïa (Canada) Space Debris 1957-2016, Stuart Grey (United Kingdom) 5TH HELENA, Mathew Hale (United Kingdom) 51Sprints, Het Nieuwe Instituut (Netherlands) City of 7 Billion, Joyce Hsiang, Bimal Mendis (USA) MUSSELxCHOIR, Natalie Jeremijenko (Australia) GUINEA PIGS; A Minor History of Engineered Man, Lydia Kallipoliti, Andreas Theodoridis (Greece/USA) Anatomy and Safe, Ali Kazma (Turkey) “It is obvious from the map,” Thomas Keenan (USA) and Sohrab Mohebbi (Iran), with Charles Heller (USA) and Lorenzo Pezzani (Italy) Embodied Computation, Axel Kilian (Germany) The Perfect Human, Jørgen Leth (Denmark) The Anthropophagic Body and the City: Flavio de Carvalho, Jose Lirá (Brazil) Open Future, The Living / Sculpting Evolution Group, MIT Media Lab (USA) Maropeng Acts I & II, Lesley Lokko (Ghana) Memex, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Analog, FBFX, Duologue (United Kingdom) Köçek Dance Floor, m-a-u-s-e-r (Germany/Turkey) Glitter Disaster, McEwen Studio (USA) The Institute of Isolation, Lucy McRae in collaboration with Lotje Sodderland (United Kingdom) Ines-table, Enric Miralles (Spain) & Benedetta Tagliabue (Italy) Manchas Mies, Domi Mora (Spain) An Unfinished Encyclopedia of Scale Figures Without Architecture / Model Furniture, MOS Architects (USA) Architektur / Räume / Gesten, Antoni Muntadas (Spain) Nine Islands: Matters Around Architecture, NEMESTUDIO, Neyran Turan & Mete Sonmez (Turkey) Please let me go, away…, New Territories / M4 with Pierre Huyghe (Thailand/France) Frederick Kiesler’s Magic Architecture: Caves, Animals, and Tools from the Prehistoric to the Atomic Era, Spyros Papapetros (Greece) A Media Archaeology of Ingenious Designs, Jussi Parikka (Finland), Ayhan Ayteş (Turkey) Objects of Daydreaming, PATTU, Cem Kozar, Işıl Ünal (Turkey) South Africa on the Cusp of Revolution, Martha Rosler (USA) Beirut Bombastic!, Rana Salam (Lebanon) White on White, Alfredo Thiermann & Ariel Bustamante (Chile) Spidernauts… Dark webs…,  Tomás Saraceno (Argentina) The Connectome: A New Dimension of Humanity, Seung Lab, H. Sebastion Seung & Amie R. Sterling (USA) The Visit, SO? (Turkey) Autonomy of Images, Hito Steyerl (Germany) Portable Person, Studio Works (USA) Archaeology of Violence (The Forest as Design), Paulo Tavares (Brazil) & Armin Linke (Germany) The Microbial Design Studio: 30-day Simit Diet, Orkan Telhan (Turkey) Museum of Oil—Deep Space and After Fire Territorial Agency (Italy/Finland/United Kingdom) Voyager—Humanity in Interstellar Space, Universal Space Program, Evangelos Kotsioris (Greece) and Rutger Huiberts (Netherlands) The Hand—The Whole Man in Miniature, Madelon Vriesendrop (Netherlands) Detox USA, Mark Wasiuta (Canada), Florencia Alvarez (Argentina) Information Fall-Out: Buckminster Fuller’s World Game, Mark Wasiuta (Canada), Adam Bandler (USA) Delusional Mandala, Lu Yang (China) Virtual Interior Istanbul, Annett Zinsmeister (Germany)
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Modern design, pleasure, and media blur at "Playboy Architecture, 1953–1979"

One thing is certain about Beatriz Colomina and Pep Aviles’s Playboy Architecture, 1953–1979: It is an evidentiary display proving that architecture and media are complicit partners in shaping society’s view of itself. Born out of research within the Ph.D. program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University’s School of Architecture, Playboy Architecture is an exhaustive index of the ways magazines, architecture, design, furniture, fashion, and sex influence Western society. From the pages of Playboy, one could dream of a glossy packaged life. However, the role of the architect in this context has never been clearer: a precise purveyor of taste, a consummate expert on lifestyles, and a key to liberation—sexual and/or otherwise.

On display through August 28 at the Elmhurst Art Museum in Elmhurst, Illinois, 18 miles west of downtown Chicago, Playboy Architecture is situated within Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House, a centerpiece of the museum and one of three built Mies houses in the United States. Perhaps there can be no better space to display and curate a show like Playboy Architecture, simply due to the fact that this house was meant to be mass produced—a cog in a suburban machine that Mies was never able to create, in part because modernism and its sultry packaging were just not tasteful to the inhabitants of Elmhurst.

The show is divided into four parts: Playboy Pads, Vehicles + Mobility, the Bedroom, and Playboy Architecture. Shifting scales from beds to interiors and from airplanes to houses, the curators locate different punctuations of a complex “lifestylescape,” where design and architecture provide not only the backdrop to where you live, but also a proposition on how to live. The first room in the exhibition when you enter is the Playboy Pads, situated within the old living room of the McCormick House. Sitting on a circular pedestal are some iconic chairs, like Mies’s Barcelona, coupled with blown-up pages of Playboy showing drawings of different interiors. The most compelling pad shown is the one-inch-by-one-foot-long sectional model of the proposed Playboy House in the Gold Coast of Chicago, which is three stories and divided in the center by a pool with a water-to-glass-ceiling atrium, allowing for views through adjacent windows all the way up—a truly panoptic voyeurism.

The next room shows Vehicles + Mobility: Hugh Hefner was famous for living and traveling in style. A vertically displayed plan-section model of an airplane gives an incredible glimpse into the almost Corbusian floor plan of walls within, replete with the creature comforts of high modernism, extending lifestyle during commutes to other far away pads.

In the adjacent room, lies a bed. The Bedroom—or, more specifically, a circular bed—is hidden behind a velvet curtain with peepholes, dimly lit and perhaps the most compelling piece of design in the entire exhibition. This bed was not only meant for the purposes of sleeping and sex, but also was an office and a conference center with shelves and phones, but no chairs. The bed extended past its typical uses and became an ambiguous small architecture in and of itself, suggesting that the real place of modernity in society was to help it reinvent itself, one bed at a time.

Finally, viewers enter Playboy Architecture, situated inside the old kid’s playroom of the McCormick House, albeit non-ironically. This section gives users a glimpse into built residential and visionary housing projects. Matti Suuronen’s portable metabolist Futuro House, John Lautner’s Elrod House, and Ant Farm’s House of the Century are all shown as “evidence of an ever expanding blurring between modern design and pleasure,” according to Colomina.

The physical and conceptual thread that ties all the rooms together is the original magazines themselves, complete with white gloves to handle them carefully. The back and forth between the curated magazine and the modernist McCormick House provides a ripe environment to imagine oneself within the image of modernism. Playboy has always been equated with male sexual pleasure, but Colomina’s curation suggests a much deeper understanding of the relationship between sexuality, architecture, and design, not from a purely objectified space, where this exhibition might be misunderstood to be, but from a transcendent redefinition of oneself fittingly tied into the construction of lifestyle. This inversion is a critical product of the exhibition curation that directly challenges our historical understanding of Playboy, and uses the revolutionary edge of modernist architecture to suggest that creating future images of visionary, free spaces for anybody is what architects have, can, and should continue to do.

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On View> Radical Pedagogies: ACTION-REACTION-INTERACTION at the 2014 Venice Biennale

AN just had a quick Arsenale walkthrough of Radical Pedagogies: ACTION-REACTION-INTERACTION by creator and Princeton professor Beatriz Colomina. The Arsenale has been given over in this biennale to Monditalia, a single-theme exhibition with exhibits, events, and theatrical productions engaging Italian architecture with politics, economics, religion, technology, and industry. In this installation the other festivals of la Biennale di Venezia—film, dance, theatre, and music—will be mobilized through the architecture event to contribute to a comprehensive portrait of the host country. In Radical-Pedagogies, Colomina's team (that includes Britt Eversole, Ignacio G. Galán, Evangelos Kotsioris, Anna-Maria Meister, Federica Vannucchi, Amunátegui Valdés Architects, and has created a wondrous wall display of the effects of the radical years in Italy and as their influence spread around the world to architecture schools and movements on every content. The display is a wall of information that, rather than make definitive claims to all inclusiveness, uses an open-source strategy to feature what's known so far about the these multiple international movements and that asks others to add their own information to the wall. The wall includes original journals, fantastic period images of major protagonists from Giancarlo de Carlo, Manfredo Tafuri, and many others. The display makes use of augmented reality that allows users with mobile devices to scan the display which then creates an interactive display of films, videos, images, and other displays. Its is a not-to-be-missed part of Monditalia in the biennale.
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What Were You Thinking, Mr. Foster?

Last night, I was lucky enough to enjoy assorted swells (but not very many architects) at the Hearst building for a screening of the enigmatic “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?", a film devoted to his lordship’s extravagantly photogenic architecture and life of work. Or so it looks in this approximately 90 minute film which sweeps us from the Engadin Alps where Foster annually plows through a 26-mile mile cross-country ski marathon in tight black lycra with some 14,000 others to his redbrick childhood home quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Manchester to his current home in a Swiss villa, spectacularly void of human touches, to his 1,000-plus strong office in London to the early Sainsbury Centre; the Swiss Re gherkin; the British Museum Great Court; the Berlin Reichstag, etc, etc, and of course, the Hong Kong Beijing Airport that is the largest building on earth as narrator Deyan Sudjic intones mellifluously. (The trailor below provides but a morsel of this delight.) Many of his buildings are seen as if from the wing of a Cessna gliding overhead—especially the great dinosaur-scaled Millau Viaduct in France—with the nice touch of swelling slow-mo clouds, and almost as if Foster himself were at the controls. And possibly he was, as we learn that he is quite the speed and height freak.  All is accompanied by an original, also very swelling, score performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra. The cocktail party was not so dizzying with guests including Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Mark Wigley, Beatriz  Colomina, Bob Stern, and Paul Goldberger who after the film said he had no recall whatsoever of where or when he was filmed speaking so glowingly of the Hearst tower. Pelli remembered exactly when he first met Foster in the 70s, when he was the partner in charge of design at Victor Gruen and Foster insisted on a meeting. Meanwhile, Foster smiled as graciously and blankly as the many on-hand socialites known primarily to Lady Foster, who produced the film. When asked about the film, Foster said he was amazed that it was so deep in detail. Agreed! And then we were all called into the auditorium where Lady Foster by way of introduction to “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?” said: “And we were able to follow Foster closely for three years!” As his wife, I should hope so. And, oh yes, the title comes from a question Buckminster Fuller, a mentor of sorts for Foster in the 70s, asked on visiting his Faber headquarters in Ipswich many years ago.  Apparently it weighed quite a few tons. And for one night of fun, so did his film.