In 1920, western society was either embracing social progress and financial prosperity or bracing for political revolution and economic insecurity. In architecture and design, a polarity would also emerge between the rationalist International Style and the eclectic Art Deco style. While certain practitioners and theorists were still trying to codify the form-follows-function principle—a tenet inspired by the rapid advancement of industrialization in previous decades—others were looking to reintroduce ornamentation and historical reference to soften the blow of this systemic change. An ongoing clash between purist and pastiche styles would come to define much of the following century. Although architectural historians usually focus on monumental buildings and grand urban masterplans to define styles like postmodernism and deconstructivism, those movements are also formed by domestic interiors. Our homes have always been an expression of the way we live. They mold our everyday routines and fundamentally affect our well-being. These environments reflect the social behaviors, cultural norms, and political beliefs that shape our time. A new comprehensive exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum in Southern Germany validates the historical value of interior design and surveys its radical evolution over the past hundred years. On view until August 23, Home Stories 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors brings together a group of emblematic projects. Spanning from the 1920s to the present day, this timeline of domestic design reveals how interiors have mirrored and, in certain cases, cemented societal shifts and technological innovations. By looking back at such epochal moments as the introduction of appliances in suburban homes during the ’50s, radical interventions in the ’60s, and the loft living trend in the ’70s, the Vitra show provides context for the serious issues facing society today: the shrinking of urban living spaces, for example. Read the full trippy retrospective on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Posts tagged with "Exhibitions":
Agnes Denes’s watershed retrospective at The Shed, the sliding art hall at New York’s Hudson Yards, Absolutes and Intermediates (open through March 22), feels at times audaciously oracular. With its global environmental themes, conceptual graphs of the totality of human knowledge, and exaggerated post-human scale drawings, the exhibition speaks to a millenarianism powerfully present today among anyone paying attention. Yet, much of it she conceived a half-century ago. At times, it makes Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion domes and the previous heroic gestures of land art look like frivolous child’s play. “I asked her once how she knew in the early ’60s what we know now about this place, where in the early ’60s you didn’t have phrases like climate change,” said curator Emma Enderby, who organized the show. “She just said that it was there. Scientists were talking about it. You just had to have your ears open and your tentacles out. You had to be reading the texts and reading between the lines.” Before joining The Shed as a curator, Enderby worked at Public Art Fund, where she became familiar with Denes through her landmark Wheatfield—A Confrontation (1982), which the organization sponsored. Back in 1982, Denes planted two acres on landfill dug up from the World Trade Center while the site sat empty waiting to be developed into Battery Park City, arguably her most famous work. Enderby suggested a retrospective, along with the idea of commissioning unrealized pieces, in line with The Shed’s mission to support original cross-disciplinary work. The work is well organized and emphasized thanks to the work of the New York-based New Affiliates, who designed the exhibition. Photographs of Wheatfield staged by a TIME Magazine photographer show Denes standing Moses-like with a staff in the field of golden wheat, the gray towers of Wall Street on the horizon, contrasting the subduing, objectified, and commodification of the built environment with an image of resurgent nature. The figure of a woman projected as a life-giving force alongside one of the earliest human technologies, agriculture, hinted at a possible regeneration of incessant urban verticality and sprawl. “It was insane. It was impossible,” Denes wrote. “But it would draw people’s attention to having to rethink their priorities and realize that unless human values were reassessed, the quality of life, even life itself, was in danger.” The exhibition sprawls through two floors of The Shed’s double-height galleries, taking its title from a radically-scaled parametric chart Denes plotted on a sheet of AT&T Bell Labs graph paper in 1970. Absolutes and Intermediates visualizes nothing less than the history and future of the universe, from its formation to its disappearance into nothing, sweeping through the emergence of human life, the development of abstract reasoning, the creation of superintelligent machines and artificial life forms, and the evolution of a future species of homo sapiens. Expansive, minutely detailed drawings of Denes’s grand alternative systems and condensations of knowledge are displayed in long vitrines—some of them longer than 20 feet—beside study models and video interviews that show Denes as much a thinker as a visual artist. Another uncanny early piece from 1970, Matrix of Knowledge, predicts information overload in ways that are halfway too optimistic, halfway right on the mark. Charted using dialectic triangulation, in which Denes represents interconnected fields of knowledge as intersections of that construct larger geometric structures, she wrote that the sum of accumulated information doubles every ten years, more than the mind can handle. In the future systems will have to be set up to preselect and reduce incoming data, leading to loss of freedom. “Mass media is already making choices for us,” she wrote at the time, “a[nd] specialization is also leading in that direction by trapping valuable data within each specialty where it remains undigested, hindering accurate deductions and combination as the flow of communication is blocked.” A maximalist ecological intervention conceived in 1982, Tree Mountain-A Living Time Capsule—11,000 Trees, 11,000 People, 400 Years is breathtaking in its ambition and gets a dedicated display room at The Shed. Commissioned on the occasion of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and realized by 1996, 11,000 trees were planted in a gravel pit in Ylöjärvi, Finland, that was being reclaimed from environmental destruction. Each tree was assigned a dedicated custodian, along with a certificate naming its owner. Planted in a swirling pyramidal pattern, Tree Mountain would take on its full meaning over the course of centuries, Denes wrote, changing from a shrine to a decadent era to a monument of a great civilization to benefit future generations. The entire second floor is devoted to a large number of Denes’s conceptual pyramidal drawings, along with three special commissions created for the show. The pyramids are largely thought experiments expressed as drawings on a crazy scale, such as her iteration of Pascal’s Triangle, no. 3 (1974), which extends halfway across the gargantuan Shed gallery, displayed in a glass case, all drawn by hand in painstaking detail. Others use dots, thin lines, and stick figures to sketch out eccentric forms—probability, a flying fish, silk, reflection, a flexible space station—creating pyramids in which slight individual variations result in reverberating distortions in the whole. The gallery commissioned a version of the probability pyramid, Model for Probability Pyramid—Study for Crystal Pyramid (2019) and built it from nearly 6,000 3D-printed corn-based bricks, taking advantage of the venue’s unusual ceiling height and technical capacity. Illuminated from the inside, the crystalline structure stretches to 30-feet-by-22.5-feet at its base and reaches 17 feet in height. As originally conceived, the pyramid would be constructed of 100,000 glass blocks, rivaling the ancient pyramids and carrying mathematical information into the future. Another special commission was a translucent, teardrop-shaped object, also lit from inside, and hovering mid-air. A custom electromagnetic circuit in the base and a magnet within the sculpture suspends the teardrop as if by magic. It’s a model for a monumental architectural structure, a floating city conceived in 1984 as a part of a series of organic forms. The structures reference back to 4000 B.C Egyptian pyramids and were created for a future in which their inhabitants live in space or self-contained floating environments. They’re intended as mandalas that define benevolent destinies: The structures “break loose from the tyranny of being built,” Denes wrote, becoming “flexible to take on dynamic forms of their own choosing. At this point they decide to fend for themselves and create their own destiny.” The other special project, Model for a Forest for New York (2014— ), is a much more recent one: A plan to plant 100,000 trees in a form that looks like a flower from the sky on a 120-acre landfill in Edgemere, Queens, with support from the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance. The forest’s conception is also more straightforwardly contemporary, appealing to public health concerns, as it would address asthma problems in the adjacent neighborhood, remove carbon dioxide from the air, and help clean the groundwater. That makes the project somewhat more prosaic, and in a way disappointing—in the same manner as a waterfront berm with a park on top, which suggests the greater truth of her aesthetic project. Well-known ecological artists like Peter Fend have complained for ages that artists are not taken seriously when proposing environmental interventions because they are not trained engineers, and the resultant projects are often wildly out of scale and untested. But with the world as we now know it is coming to an end, be it the current political order or via the climate crisis, Denes’s visionary planetary-scale retorts have a fitting rejoinder: Absolutes and Intermediates suggests the potential of aesthetic imagination—not just quantitative trading and tech engineers—to regenerate it anew.
Pratt Manhattan Gallery presents New Old: Designing for our Future Selves, an exhibition exploring cutting-edge design solutions for our rapidly aging society. The design concepts are centered around six themes: Identity, Community, Mobility, Home, Aging and Working. From robotic clothing to driverless cars, New Old rethinks design approaches that will help people lead fuller, healthier and more rewarding lives into old age. With work by Yves Béhar / fuseproject, Konstantin Grcic, Future Facility, Special Projects, IDEO, and PriestmanGoode, this installment is updated with work by five faculty members from the School of Design, including Mitchell Reece Johnson (Graduate Communications/Package Design), Andrea Katz (Fashion); Karol Murlak (Industrial Design); Alex Schweder (Industrial and Interior Design) and Keena Suh (Interior Design). Curated by Jeremy Myerson, Professor at the Royal College of Art, this is a touring exhibition from the Design Museum, London, in partnership with the Helen Hamlyn Trust.
ASMR—Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or the tingles you feel on your scalp when someone whispers in your ear—is making the leap to ArkDes, Sweden’s national center for architecture and design in Stockholm. From April 8 through May 31, WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD will be on display at Boxen, ArkDes’s gallery-within-a-gallery for experimental work. ASMR is a nebulous concept that varies from person to person, but the exhibition will attempt to translate the phenomenon into the physical world and contextualize it as a craft, design typology, and art at the intersection of the technological and the “real” world. As ArkDes notes in the press release for WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD, ASMR is a divisive internet industry. Some people watch videos of whispering, scraping nails, paper crinkling, or popping bubble wrap to relax, but others are just unnerved by it. It doesn’t help that ASMR videos can sometimes veer into incredibly esoteric topics with little delineation of whether something is a “joke” or intended for serious consumption. Still, for many, ASMR represents a way of slowing down and finding their center in an ever-quickening and connected society. “The incredible growth and emerging appreciation of ASMR over the last decade can tell us much about the way we live today,” said Taylor-Foster in a press release. “At a moment governed by a feverish speed, ASMR offers slowness. In harnessing the very technologies it seeks to subvert—hyperconnectivity and the Internet, the screen, and streaming platforms—it carves out a niche for kindness, care, empathy, and new forms of hospitality online.” ArkDes hasn’t announced the full list of show participants yet, but curator James Taylor-Foster has so far put together a preliminary whos-who of sensory stimulators. That includes audio and visual works from Apple, Björke, IKEA, pieces from pop painter Bob Ross, Marc Teyssier's Artificial Skin for Mobile Devices (a pinchable, prod-able fake flesh covering for phones), and more. Multinational architecture studio ĒTER will be designing the exhibition, and design and animation firm PostNew and Irene Stracuzzi will be responsible for the graphic design.
Interested in the architectural transformations that occur in towns founded by European immigrants in the United States, Swissness Applied, curated by Swiss-born architect Nicole McIntosh, cofounder of the Texas and Zurich-based firm Architecture Office, focuses on one in particular—New Glarus, Wisconsin, the self-proclaimed “Little Switzerland” of America. With similarly themed towns in Michigan and California, the exhibition, currently on view at the Yale Architecture Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, investigates the appropriation of imagery and translation of architectural styles into mutant cultural heritage sites. Through models, drawings, and photographs, Swissness Applied describes the codification of cultural heritage into building law. Founded by Swiss immigrants in the late 19th century, New Glarus capitalized on its Nordic connection by converting the town's storefronts into the classic “Swiss Chalet '' style. The drive to preserve a traditional national architectural style in New Glarus, ironically, has simplified and combined many varied forms of Swiss architecture in a completely novel and artificial architectural style. Rather than critiquing the appropriation of Swiss architectural styles, the exhibition instead uses the building codes as a generative tool to imagine and design new forms of Swiss architecture. The exhibition is split into three sections that each document New Glarus’s unique style. In Tell no Cabbage, 10 intricate wooden models show the construction style of New Glarus’s buildings. Folding paper models document the facades of 14 existing buildings in John what Henry. The section subtitled It has as long as it has is comprised of 18 fictional New Glarus buildings, all designed by Architecture Office, that offer a new interpretation of the town’s building codes. This is the third presentation of the exhibition, having previously shown at SARUP Gallery at the Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning and at Kunsthaus Glarus Güterschuppen in Switzerland. Swissness Applied is on view at Yale until February 15. The exhibition will also take part in a gallery talk and panel discussion on February 13th.
When watching the Amsterdam-based Fiona Tan’s animated video installation Archive (2019) at Peter Freeman's Manhattan gallery in SoHo, one feels as though they have been transported into a visual, Foucaultian metaphor for the passage of time. Rendered in silent 3D, the camera glides across derelict stacks of virtual card catalog cabinets, with artificial shudders, dust, and scratches expertly woven into the 5-minute tour of an imaginary, panoptic archive in black-and-white. The video is just one piece of a concise selection of works on view in Archive / Ruins, Tan’s first solo show in the city since 2010. Based on the Belgian pioneer of information science Paul Otlet’s conception of an archive that contained all human knowledge—an idea with uncanny similarities to the present-day internet—Archive gives cinematic treatment to Otlet’s vision, presenting a medium-conscious vision of history. Like the larger exhibition, Archive might feel slightly anemic at first glance, but what the installation lacks in formal contrast is more than outweighed by the conceptual and technical richness of the work on display. In an accompanying booklet, A Walk Among Ruins, Tan explains in her usual clear, concise language the primary concepts and processes on display. A detailed recalling of the highly physical process of editing celluloid film is bookended by texts on the Renaissance engagement with classical architecture in Rome, and a short but poignant entry describing poet Ludovico Ariosto’s sixteenth-century epic poem about a voyage to the moon, which he imagined as a receptacle for all the structures lost to the ravages of time:
Ruins of cities and of fortresses Lay scattered all about, with precious stores, Plots ill-contrived, broken alliances, Feuds and vendettas and abortive wars…The booklet exemplifies the multilayered experiences made possible by Tan’s presentation. Whether one reads the entire text or none of it, the images on display resonate with each other and our own experience with historical and personal ruins. As one's eye moves about the real and imagined vestiges of Tan’s historical facts and fictions, we are reminded that our knowledge of history is shaped by the texts and ruins it leaves for us, and our grasp of the past is based on the fickle lens of memory. Analog film enthusiasts will enjoy Ruins (2020), a room-sized dual projection of one high definition video and one 16 mm film, both of which project a similar, but not identical, 4-minute film on a continuous loop. Each feed is a silent amalgamation of static shots that variously frame the dilapidated arches, freestanding columns, and crumbling surfaces of the Grand-Hornu, an abandoned mining complex in Belgium—a company town (cité ouvrière)—built between 1810 and 1830. Projected onto opposite walls, the films demonstrate their inherent fragility; the HD digital video provides a cool, crisp contrast to the soft yellow images of the celluloid, subtly evoking the longevity of each medium. Where analog film can last for at least (as far as we know) 100 years, the digital film will, without being transferred to a newer memory chip, decay into an unplayable video file after less than a decade. However, Ruins simultaneously highlights an important caveat to this comparison: The 16 mm film runs through the projector on a continuous loop, the act of playing the print decaying it to the point of being unusable after a matter of days, when a new print must then be made from the master copy. The holistic conception of the exhibition, and the many avenues through which one may enter and exit the concepts in play, is characteristic for Tan, yet the austerity of her images here provides subtle emphasis on the theme of shadow and light. A set of photogravures—a type of mechanical print traditionally made from a photographic negative—are the first thing visitors observe upon entering the gallery, their high contrast, black-and-white images display screenshots from Archive’s virtual stacks. If, as Walter Benjamin (one of the many historical luminaries with whom Tan is in direct conversation) suggests, history decays into images, then Tan’s cinematic musings on the material future of architectures lays bare, with her usual deftness, the delicacy of both structure and image in the face of our eternal, ever-evolving, unavoidably-mediated future. Archive / Ruins runs through February 15.
One mid-century ceramicist, the late Maija Grotell, finds herself in conversation with another, the living Ian McDonald at Turning Still: Historical & Contemporary Ceramics. At Patrick Parrish gallery in lower Manhattan, the two ceramicists—McDonald, the current artist-in-residence and Grotell, former artist-in-residence at The Cranbrook Art Academy—dialogue through pieces that reference Cranbrook’s campus in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Grotell’s modernist vases and vessels, rendered in strong forms with geometric patterns painted in surface slip (colored clay), are in stark tension alongside McDonald’s strong, yet soft, bowls finished with colored terra sigillata (ultra-fine clay that’s sieved, applied, and then burnished for a soft look). In Turning Still, Grotell’s work—11 pieces on loan from The Cranbrook Art Museum’s permanent collection—have rough surfaces built up with slip and glaze, creating peaks and valleys (and sometimes representative images). Compare that to McDonald’s contributions, all new for this show; the bowls and jars are simple and angular, but adorned with fully realized “pipes,” “bars,” and “rails,” turning what’s implied into actual geometry. The effect is especially pronounced as Turning Still mixes and mingles the two artists’ work to create maximum contrast. While Grotell’s vases, cups, and bowls are decorated, they still suggest functionality, an effect that McDonald’s filled-in, covered, or obscured objects eschews. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Luisa Caldas is a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, where she leads the XR Lab, focused on using augmented reality (AR), virtual reality, and other extended reality tools as part of architectural practice. Recently, Caldas created the Augmented Time exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), housed in a 2016 Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed building in Berkeley, California. The exhibition used iPad-based augmented reality and physical artifacts to allow the narratives of the building—originally opened in 1940—and those who built it to shine through. AN spoke to Caldas about augmented storytelling, the narrative power of architecture, and what “extended reality” could mean to architects in the future. Drew Zeiba: What was the initial inspiration behind Augmented Time? Luisa Caldas: I was intrigued by the potential of AR to tell a story. I wanted to show a number of interwoven realities that I saw happening in this particular piece of architecture. The building was the Berkeley Printing Press, which was later abandoned and covered in graffiti, before becoming a museum designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. So, I saw the potential for a timeline kind of storytelling that would be engaging because the building itself was to become its own storyteller. You could embed all this multi-modal digital information that was captured in so many places and just have it congregated on the building itself. The other motivation was to show the workers that actually built the building. I wanted to make visible those faces and those stories that, as an architect who has built buildings, I know are there. Often, all these dramas, all this magic about putting something together, completely fades away and/or is told as the work of an architect. The people who build it actually kind of disappear. I’m really interested in the relation between this powerful new technology to tell invisible or forgotten stories. Not just as a tool. I think one of the things this project touches on his how AR could shape how we think about built history, and not only frame discussions of the history of a building, but even question what “preservation” and site-specificity mean in a post-digital age. Totally, because a lot of the preliminary work that architects do on sites has to do with precedent, has to do with history, has to ask “What is there? How did it come to be there?” We architects always tend to do that research, but it just becomes another invisibility, unless there is a very clear reference in the building design about site context or historical context. And so it becomes our first conceptual stages, our first approaches to the site, to the building, to the program, but it just usually vanishes away. I enjoy asking how process captures or preserves or ignores or incorporates or shows that history, that resonance of the site. For me, that was very fascinating, how to embody that enquiry in this AR experience. It also shows the potential for AR as a tool for experiencing buildings and the built world as things that don’t just exist in a single moment, but unfold over time. Exactly, which is such a part of human narratives, isn’t it? And it’s so many times built by layering things over one another. So, being able to peel those layers away, to turn the skin into a derma. You know, a skin is a surface, but a derma is a layered reality. That was also the idea: peeling the visible surface away and revealing those layers. Can you tell me a little more about the technical aspects of the project and the process of realizing it? I lead a lab of virtual and augmented reality so there was initially a discussion: “Should we have AR headsets or should we have handheld devices?” And headsets were, at the time at least and even today, not really up to what we wanted to do. Also, I like the more democratic access to the experience that the handheld device provides you. We developed the app for iPads, but we can have the app for a smartphone, so anyone can access AR, like you do popular Snapchat filters. This is a project that had to be done in augmented reality, not virtual reality, because it had to be related to the physical artifact of building. There was a lot of interaction with the museum about visitor access, about how to make invisible things appear in a museum. When you get to a museum you expect to see things, right? And there you want to view was not available. You have to get these devices and you have to understand where to go. That led us to a lot of research on what is called user interface and user experience (UI/UX). We had to invent this new way of showing an exhibition, and to understand how people related to the content and to the technology, and so we did two or three previews where we open the exhibit and we were there seeing what people did and how they used it in a fluid, public event. Of course, I had a lot of students coming up to try it in the lab, but it is very different how tech savvy students and how seniors or kids use it, for example. We saw all these people using the technology and we learned from it, and we kept refining the UI/UX. We had to create everything from scratch, really, there wasn’t a precedent—we basically invented it. In terms of the technical solution, we decided to go for the Apple platform. As Apple was releasing more of its technology, we were constantly adapting to what was being made possible, to create more and more ambitious projects. Computer science at Berkeley is excellent. So I had a large team of computer scientists, architects, and also UI/UX designers, and the level of integration was very high. We met every week. Everyone was bringing ideas to the table, everybody was super excited. So there was a big integration between the creative side and the technical side. The technologists and computer scientists could come up with a really creative solution, or the architects or designers could suggest something to the computer scientists that they were not expecting. I think the team was very committed and we knew we were breaking new ground so, it was a lot of fun. After closing at the museum, BAMPFA AR — Augmented Time reopened at the Wurster Hall Room 108 gallery at UC Berkeley, where it will be on display until January 30. It will later travel to other locations around the country. 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Archaic methods and practices in the context of contemporary architecture are the common themes for two new exhibitions presented by Art Omi: Architecture, the nonprofit Hudson Valley, New York, arts foundation and exhibition space. The two shows, Single-Handedly: Contemporary Architects Draw by Hand and InConstruction: SO – IL, both opened on January 11. Single-Handedly brings together a collection of hand drawings from a group of 44 contemporary architects, focusing on a practice that seems to have become all but obsolete in the architecture industry today. The exhibition showcases the work of architects from all over the world, including Fernanda Canales and Liesbeth van der Pol. Taking on a range of materials and subject matter, the exhibition suggests that an important place for handmade drawings continues to exist outside the regime of digital and computational technologies. Bending the rules and traditions of architectural representation, the collection shows handwork is as relevant as ever for practicing architects. Single-Handedly was co-curated by Warren James, director of Art Omi: Architecture, and Nalina Moses, author of Single-Handedly: Contemporary Architects Draw by Hand. The exhibition will be on view through March 1 in the Newmark Gallery. InConstruction: SO – IL highlights the construction of Site Verrier de Meisenthal, an art and cultural center set within an 18th-century glass factory designed by the New York-based architectural firm SO – IL. The MoMA PS1 Young Architects prize-winning firm designed an “intervention” of the historic space that would bring a “contemporary institutional identity in dialogue with an industrial heritage” Through models, drawings, and photographs, the exhibition explores Site Verrier de Meisenthal, located in a French village near the German border, as a contemporary art and community space that continues the area’s glasswork tradition. Once completed in 2021, the project will contain a glass museum, glass arts center, as well as a flexible exhibition and event space. With a poured concrete plaza that connects the disparate institutions, SO – IL will also bring renewed public involvement to the historic industrial space. InConstruction: SO - IL is on-view through February 9th in the Kantor Lobby.
Future Architecture, a pan-European consortium bringing together architects, galleries, museums, publishers, and curators, has announced the 2020 Future Architecture Fellows. In November, an open call invited emerging practitioners in the architecture field to submit their ideas and 25 submissions (all viewable here) were selected to be presented at Creative Exchange, an annual three-day event taking place at the Museum of Architecture and Design in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The 2020 call received a total of 433 entries from across 53 countries. Taking place from February 13 through 15, the Creative Exchange will feature speakers and events on the future of architecture with keynote speakers Gustavo Utrabo of Aleph Zero architects, Freek Persyn of 51N4E Architects, and Špela Videčnik of OFIS Architects. Submissions were selected by alumni and member votes, which includes institutions like the MAXXI, the Royal Academy of Arts, and the Oslo Architecture Triennale. One submission was also chosen by a popular vote, with 19,849 votes cast by the public. The winner of the members’ vote was Rethinking Clients, Forms of Alliance, Affording Risk by Critical Practice, an interdisciplinary architectural collaboration by Architectural Association alumni Love Di Marco, Tobias Hentzer Dausgaard, and Arya Arabshahi that rethinks the client-practitioner relationship for the architectural profession. The winner by public vote was Pais(vi)agem by Barcelona-based duo Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani—the project investigates tourism as a tool for supporting local landscapes and economies. Selected ideas, addressing systemic changes, site-specific cases, and future alliances, hailed from across Europe, the United States, Australia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At around this point last year, The Guardian ran the headline, “Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth.” This was, you could say, concrete’s watershed moment. Attitudes towards the material have shifted significantly as architects ditch their béton love affair and look for something new with cork and hemp emerging as new kids on the block. However, perhaps it’s an old friend which will be the most help to architects amid the climate catastrophe: wood. “Timber is the new concrete,” said Alex de Rijke, cofounder and partner at the London-based dRMM (de Rijke Marsh Morgan). It’s a belief de Rijke has held since 2006 and one his firm has practiced too, the results of which are currently on display at RIBA North, the Royal Institute of British Architects' center in Liverpool, U.K. Titled Forest of Fabrication, the exhibition showcases 24 projects from dRMM, each represented primarily as wood models. Some are speculative studies into the possibilities of timber, while others are real, built projects. The models range in scale from 1:1 to 1:1000 with the majority resting on upright logs throughout the relatively small gallery space (hence the exhibition’s name). Timber is celebrated in its natural state and as a construction material. Chipboard flooring installed for the exhibition adds to the experience and ensures that the smell of wood is immediately apparent when you enter the gallery. Most importantly, though, Forest of Fabrication demonstrates novel forms and ways of building achieved with timber which may not be immediately obvious or apparent. A timber factory prototype, for example, shows how cross-laminated timber (CLT) walls can support interlocking, cellular insulated long-span panels to create a naturally lit, column-free 215,000-square-foot space. Another model depicts the Kingsdale School in London. Completed in 2004, the project saw an auditorium created through joining larch poles together to form an asymmetric dome frame, while CNC plywood panels formed the dome’s secondary skin. More experiments in curvature can be found with a swimming pool roof concept model that explores woven engineered timber. Drawing on the work of Pier Luigi Nervi—an architect-engineer famed for his concrete parabolic structures—the proposal exploits the flexibility of laminated timber to create a vaulting, column-free arena. Of course, it would be impossible to talk about timber and dRMM without mentioning the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize-winning Hastings Pier, a model of which is duly afforded more space than most. The reinvented pier brought the area’s jaunt from the beach into the sea back to life through a spacious, open timber platform used to stage events, and a visitor center to create a dynamic public space. The visitor center also made extensive use of what had been left untouched by a fire in 2010, deploying salvaged wood arranged as zig-zagging boards to clad its walls and support a glulam roof deck. “Timber has never been more relevant than it is now, with climate change awareness having entered the domain of global emergency,” de Rijke told AN over email. In the U.K., the construction industry is responsible for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Architects have responded accordingly, and dRMM was among the 17 founding signatories of Architects Declare, which now has 845 practices on board. While filled with a healthy dose of timber prototypes and concepts, Forest of Fabrication falls short of informing audiences on the potential future of timber. Admittedly this would be a tall order for such a small exhibition; however, de Rijke was on hand. “Going forward, sustainable forestry management is going to be a really important step for how the world reduces its carbon footprint,” he said. “[We] also need to look at the biodiversity element, the cultural element, the issue of land use—all things that will require the promotion of using varied species.” De Rijke also touched on the separation of architect and engineer, and of designer and maker in contemporary construction. “The need for specialists to translate designs into material, and the builder on-site being cut off from the design development, prevents iterative innovation. Real collaboration between consultants, manufacturers, and contractors is required from [the] inception of the building concept onwards.” Forest of Fabrication runs through 11 April 2020.
A dense forest 300 miles wide spans the distance between the bustling Japanese cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. In the northern region of this divide lies Hida, a city in the Gifu Prefecture that has maintained a vibrant woodworking tradition for over 1,300 years (the first use of the term Hida no takuma, or “master craftsman of Hida,” first appeared in a written document in 467 AD). Wood bending machines introduced to the region from Germany and Austria between 1906 and 1909 led to the flourishing of the region's industry; perhaps most notable among them is Hida Sangyo Co., Ltd., a furniture manufacturer established in 1920 whose work now adorns the Japanese imperial palace and regularly exhibits at the Milan Furniture Fair. Japan House Los Angeles, one of three global exhibition spaces conceived by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is currently displaying Hida Sangyo Co.’s signature products with an in-depth look at what goes on behind the scenes. The show, Hida: A Woodwork Tradition in the Making, demonstrates the range of handcrafted products originated by Hida Sangyo a century after its founding, as well as the range of creative talent the company has called upon, including designers Kenya Hara, Enzo Mari, and even architect Kengo Kuma. Exhibition designer Daigo Daikoku interspersed woodworking tools and untreated wood samples throughout to underscore the work's deep connection to handicraft. A table demonstrating the company's patented wood bending technology, for instance, reveals how an unremarkable block of wood is shaped into a finely-detailed chair back and set of armrest using only three steps. Another table features six glass domes containing wood samples—among them, cypress, Japanese magnolia, five-needle pine, and sansho pepper. Visitors are encouraged to lift the domes, “take a deep breath and experience the abundance of Hida's beautiful forests through all five senses.” Nearly all six, I was convinced, could easily be distilled and sold as cologne for the rugged consumer market with little alteration. Along the back wall, Daikoku included a series of wooden toys of his own design. His stacked, compressed wood blocks and the interlocking boards both recall toy designs produced by Charles and Ray Eames, the mid-century duo that also found success in experimenting with wood and wood bending devices. “Please enjoy the charm of wood in tune with the soul and aesthetic of Japanese craft," Daikoku implored the viewer, “and imagine you are walking through the forests of Hida.” The exhibition succeeds in showcasing the phenomenal tactile qualities of wood and its seemingly limitless potential as a resource for design. Hida: A Woodwork Tradition in the Making will be on display until April 12.