Bureau Spectacular has designed the 2,000-square-foot flagship store for the Los Angeles–based Frankie, a high-end, ready-to-wear fashion house in L.A.’s Arts District. The retail space, which debuted Friday night with a red carpeted opening party, is the first store for the recently-rebranded label and is billed as a collaboration between Frankie's founder Kevin Chen and Bureau Spectacular's founding partner Jimenez Lai. For starters, Lai designed the store’s exterior facade, a black and white geometric abstraction spanning the post-industrial brick structure’s primary exterior wall. Bureau Spectacular also designed the store’s spartan interior, populating the space with one of the firm’s trademark "Super Furniture" pieces. The piece, when assembled into a single object, takes the shape of an eight-foot-tall staircase with a footprint of roughly 28 feet by 10 feet. This object is composed of nine geometrically complex components that are exploded across the store. Each piece houses some of the store's functional components, such as display areas for art books and trinkets, enclosed fitting rooms, storage spaces, and point of sale consoles. The project features the platonic geometries characteristic of Bureau Spectacular’s earlier work but marks a sharp shift for the designers—who are typically known for their designs' bold colors and graphic qualities—with its stark white material finish. Lai explained to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that the monochromatic turn was a recent one for the firm, with Frankie and the recent Tower of Twelve Stories installation from this year’s Coachella music festival encompassing opposite ends of a new line of architectural inquiry. The Coachella project, with its stacked mass of tumbling geometric shapes collected over two pairs of pilotis, was also painted completely white but features an alternating array of colored lights projected onto it. With the firm’s Frankie piece, color is completely absent. Lai told AN via telephone, “In Southern California—or Los Angeles, anyway—when you paint something over with white, [the paint] deletes the materiality behind it. In both The Tower of Twelve Stories and Frankie, we are working with the idea behind ‘white.’” Lai described the contrasting geometric compositions of the pieces as embodying a tension between, “a ‘nice fit’ versus that of a ‘not very nice fit,’” with the visually dynamic Tower ascribing to the latter quality while Frankie, with its ability to explode and recombine back into a coherent form, aiming into the former. Lai summed up the project, saying, “[With Frankie], we are talking about a ‘nice fit.’”
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The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) will be the location for the Graphic Novels / Novel Architecture Symposium on April 1st. Organized by Kent State University College of Architecture & Environmental Design (CAED), the symposium will explore the relationship between architecture and comics. The influence of animation, cartoons, comics, illustrations, and storyboards will be discussed in two sessions and a keynote discussion. Participants will include architects, illustrators, and educators. Graphic Novels / Novel Architecture will be the first event of an annual series that will explore architecture and different narrative media. The first session, starting at 1:00 pm in CMA’s Gartner Auditorium, is entitled "Hot Technology." The session will include short presentations and a discussion between California-based architect Wes Jones, London-based architect and illustrator Alison Sampson, and Archigram’s Michael Webb. The second session, entitled "Cool Diagrams," will start at 3:00 pm. This session will include presentations and a discussion between University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture Director Robert Somol, Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular, and Dutch cultural anthropologist Mélanie van der Hoorn. A closing keynote discussion will feature acclaimed comic book artist Chris Ware and Françoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are encouraged. For those not able to make it to Cleveland, the entire symposium will be live-streamed online. The proceedings will also be archived on video, and produced into a short video documentary. A book is also planned documenting the event.
L.A. designer Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular recently discovered that he would be designing one of the large installations at Southern California music festival Coachella this summer. Announcing the exciting news on Facebook, he said “I want to kiss the earth Kevin Costner–style. I’m now able to say I’ve been on the same poster as Ice Cube, LCD Soundsystem, and Guns N Roses.”
The bust, the sculptural counterpart of the portrait that dates back to classical antiquity, immortalizes not only the likeness of a person from the chest upwards, but the values of both the sculptor and the era in their concepts of beauty and nobility. An object no bigger than a head and a pair of shoulders, centuries later, is a relic embedded with cultural meaning—the preference towards an aquiline nose, for example, or a fixation with youth. With BUST, a group show on view at Jai & Jai in Los Angeles, curator William O’Brien, Jr. asked designers to apply the titular sculptural form to architecture. “Broadly speaking, the primary motivation for the exhibit is to provide a forum for the declaration of new cultures of form-making in architecture,” said O’Brien, a MIT professor and principal of WOJR. He commissioned busts by 11 firms: Andrew Kovacs, Bureau Spectacular, CODA, First Office, MILLIØNS, MOS Architects, Norman Kelley, PARA Project, Pita + Bloom, SO-IL, and WOJR (his own). The design brief asked that each practice take the notion of a basic architecture feature and reinterpret it as a figure of human scale that could be displayed on a plinth. Specifically, he was looking for individual interpretations of “characteristics associated with the facade,” according to the design brief: frontality, proportionality, symmetry, as well as anthropomorphism and zoomorphism. “The conception of a bust within an architectural context privileges certain architectural concerns—such as those related to form, figure, facade, hierarchy, orientation, exteriority, interiority—while diminishing many other architectural considerations that must ordinarily be addressed when designing buildings,” he explained. Each firm was given a relative autonomy to their approach, and in the absence of the real-world constraints typically posed by architectural-scale construction, the resulting works of sculptural abstraction lining the walls of the gallery in pantheonic rows are purely expressive. Wide variations in material and form reflect the varying mindsets. SO-IL’s Losing Face, an object of protruding surfaces shrink-wrapped in a semi-translucent plastic, brings to mind their recent Blueprint project, in which they used a similar wrapping method not to conserve the Steven Holl- and Vito Acconci-designed facade of the Storefront of Art and Architecture, but to “reinvigorate” it. Bureau Spectacular’s Contrapposto Institute cheekily takes the signature S-curve posture of Michaelangelo’s David and applies it three-story building, a tripartite stack with dangerously sloping floors. “This group represents the widest possible spectrum of contemporary architects thinking about form in new and as-of-yet-uncodified terms,” said O’Brien, with little exaggeration; other busts include a deflated Tyvek sac; a composition of mirrors and faux fur; and a humanoid bust studded with matches. “It’s my belief that the “center of gravity” of the discipline has become increasingly clouded. My feeling was that this array of contributors could help us understand the landscape of architecture-as-cultural-production ongoing today.”
Opening August 20, Shelter: Rethinking How We Live in Los Angeles, the inaugural exhibition at the A+D Museum's new Arts District space presents works by architects and designers that challenge and improve upon L.A. housing typologies. The single-family house has long been the touchstone for experimental architecture in Los Angeles, from the Case Study Houses to Gehry’s own home in Santa Monica, replete with (now-removed) domesticated chain-link fencing. But as the cost of real estate puts pressure on residential architecture, new solutions for single- and multi-family housing are desperately needed. Curators Sam Lubell and Danielle Rago invited local practices to develop proposals for the Wilshire Corridor and along the Los Angeles River, these include Bureau Spectacular, LA Más, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, MAD Architects, PAR, and wHY Architecture. (Editor's Note: Both Lubell and Rago are regular contributors to AN, and Lubell is AN's former West Coast editor.) Works by Kevin Daly Architects, Michael Maltzan Architects, Bestor Architecture, OMA, R&A, and Koning Eizenberg, will also be on view. AN spoke with the curators. The title is Shelter, the absolute basis for architecture, but what does it mean to “rethink how we live” and why is this reassessment so pressing right now? Sam Lubell: LA is going through monumental changes, re-embracing density, transit, and the public realm while facing unprecedented challenges around affordability, the environment, and congestion. But while the city has always been a center for residential innovation, most residential architecture here today does not properly respond to the changes taking place. We're hoping to help spur a dialogue about reshaping our housing and our lifestyles to today's realities. It’s a great line up of practices in the show. What were your criteria for selecting participants? Danielle Rago: The show features [six new proposals] by Los Angeles design practices—each occupies a different position in the field of architecture. Yet, we believe all approach residential design in interesting and innovative ways. SL: We also wanted a mix of emerging and established firms, and practice-oriented and research-oriented firms. We think it's a great mix, full of energy, creativity, and some surprise. How did the designers address some of Los Angeles’ hot button topics: density, affordability, accessibility, and sustainability? SL: The designers have done an excellent job addressing several of these issues. wHY, for instance, tackled both density and affordability by proposing new configurations of development in underused, residual public spaces along Wilshire Boulevard. LOHA tackled environmental issues by creating homes that utilize the aquifers near the L.A. River to capture and store water. And MAD has created a new type of outdoor living within a dense cluster of interconnected, extensively landscaped towers. DR: The invited teams all investigated one if not more of these pressing issues currently affecting Angelenos. LA Más' design addressed density and affordability by reconsidering the granny flat as a new model for low-rise high-density development in Elysian Valley along the L.A. River. PAR responded to increasing density and new transit offerings on the Wilshire Corridor with their proposal for a courtyard housing tower, where each unit maintains a visual connection to nature. And Bureau Spectacular investigated environmental challenges through the study and re-application of vernacular domestic architecture in L.A.
Chatter: Architecture Talks Back The Art Institute of Chicago 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois Through July 12 The age of texting and tweeting has given more and more people a platform from which to opine, snipe, and complain about, well, everything—including architecture and development projects. Such is the backdrop for Chatter: Architecture Talks Back, an exhibition on view at The Art Institute of Chicago through Sunday, July 12. The multimedia show features work by five emerging architectural firms: Bureau Spectacular, Erin Besler, Fake Industries Architectural Agonism, Formlessfinder, and John Szot Studio. A custom installation by Iker Gil, director of the design publication Mas Context, accompanies Chatter, designed “to explore the multitude of ways in which architecture can be communicated and how the active qualities of chatter—from being constant to satirical—spark conversations.” In the spirit of such conversations, The Art Institute is hosting two roundtable discussions—“Chatter Chats”—in the space. The first took place on April 11, the second will occur on May 16.
Chicagoisms Art Institute of Chicago 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Ilinois Through January 4, 2015 Chicagoisms is an ongoing exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago that focuses on key historical principles—“Chicagoisms”—that went into creating and shaping the city that we know today. The exhibition was put together by architectural theorist Alexander Eisenschmidt and art historian Jonathan Mekinda working with designer Matt Wizinsky. The show features interpretations of five Chicagoisms from nine different architects—Bureau Spectacular, DOGMA, MVDRV, Organization for Permanent Modernity, PORT, Sam Jacob, UrbanLab, Weathers, and WW. The architects paired architectural models with manifestos regarding their significance and present them in juxtaposition with historical black-and-white photographs. The result is a double vision showing both the contrast between the art and architecture of today’s Chicago and that of the past, as well as how historical factors continue to act as a catalyst for contemporary innovators.
Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) has announced seven finalists for the $100,000 Wheelwright Grant which is awarded annually for travel-based architectural research. This prize was first given in 1935 to purely GSD grads until it was revamped in 2013 to be an open competition. The 2014 competition received nearly 200 submissions from 46 countries. The jury awarded special commendation to seven individuals for their exceptional design talent and imaginative research proposals. The winner will be announced on April 30th. Jose Ahedo Studio Ahedo Barcelona Wheelwright proposal: Domesticated Grounds: Design and Domesticity Within Animal Farming Systems. Jose Ahedo established his own firm, Studio Ahedo, in 2010. His first completed project is Blanca, a dairy complex in the Pyrenees, which includes 13 buildings comprising animal facilities, research labs, and an education center. Ana Dana Beros Think Space Zagreb, Croatia Wheelwright proposal: INTERMUNDIA: Re-Imagining Border-Scape in Mediterranean Countries. Ana Dana Beros is an independent architect, curator, editor, educator, and exhibition designer. Alison Crawshaw Alison Crawshaw Architecture London Wheelwright proposal: The Poison and the Cure: Rubbish in the Information Age. Alison wrote a thesis on illegal building practices in Rome during her time as a Rome Scholar. Masaaki Iwamoto Vo Trong Nghia Architects Ho Chi Minh City Wheelwright proposal: Tropical Skin: Study on New Building Envelope for Tropical Megacities. His work includes low-cost housing, a kindergarten, and workplaces, has been widely published. Jimenez Lai Bureau Spectacular Chicago Wheelwright proposal: Caricatures, Fictions and Hyperboles: A Revisit of the World of Wonders. Jimenez Lai is the principal of Bureau Spectacular and an assistant architecture professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Sean Lally Weathers Chicago Wheelwright proposal: Climate Design: The Architecture of Energies. Sean Lally is the founder of the firm Weathers and assistant architecture professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Kaz Yoneda Takram Design Engineering Tokyo Wheelwright proposal: Utopics of Cities: Amorphous Contemporaneity of Ideal. Kaz Yoneda is the founder of the Architecture and Space Design Unit at Takram Design Engineering
Chicago-based architect Jimenez Lai, principal of Bureau Spectacular, has been awarded the first BPC Debut Award for architects under 35. Lai is known for his bold, formally-inventive work, which he describes as "cartoon narratives" that "swerve into the physical world through architectural installations models, and small buildings." He is the author of Citizen of No Place and an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Selected from a pool of more than 180 entrants, Lai's work was recognized for its "original design thinking and pursuit of critical ideas." The prize comes with a modest monetary award of 5,000 euros.
The results are in and the winners of the 31st annual Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers were announced on Friday. The recipients of the 2012 awards are: Jorge Arvizu, Ignacio del Rio, Emmanuel Ramirez, and Diego Ricalde, MMX Studio, Mexico City; Jimenez Lai, Bureau Spectacular, Chicago; Sean Lally, WEATHERS / Sean Lally, Chicago; Seung Teak Lee and Mi Jung Lim, STPMJ, Brooklyn; Michael Szivos, SOFTlab, New York; and Koji Tsutsui, Koji Tsutsui & Associates, San Francisco and Tokyo. Formerly the Young Architects Forum, the League Prize is considered one of North America's most prestigious awards for young architects. The renderings and images reflect the theme of this year's prize, No Precedent. League committee members and competition jurors valued the competition entries based on a perception of the career of a young architect. According to the League's announcement, jurors sought "ideas, works, and methodologies that are unfounded, ungrounded, and suspect…the things no one has done before, and that one has little experience with.” The winners reflected the notion of their burgeoning careers by displaying work that is, “suggestive, speculative, and on the brink." Beginning June 21st, the winners will display their work at Parsons The New School for Design. Their work will also be featured in a new volume of the Young Architects series jointly published by Princeton Architectural Press and the League.