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the_shed_is_a_shack pokes fun at Hudson Yards and corporate malfeasance

On June 21, a couple of months after the opening of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group-designed Shed, the anonymous group behind the_shed_is_a_shack Instagram account began trolling the billionaire-real-estate-developer-funded arts center. Its organizers, who include an artist and an executive director of an arts institution, followed their friends' Instagram accounts to attract followers and began lampooning the Shed. They published a photo of a cracked electrical outlet cover and an electrical box with wires sticking out, poked fun at design and programming decisions, and savaged the financing behind the project. Increasingly they focused on its embodiment of extreme economic stratification, poor labor practices, and the "artwashing" of real estate the project embodies. We asked The Shack—as they call themselves—about the account, their trolling of the Shed and Hudson Yards, and their view of what should have happened there instead. They responded with a remarkably cogent argument for an alternative decision-making process for development on public property. AN: Can you tell us about your backgrounds or professional affiliations? Are you connected to any activist groups or have you been in the past? the_shed_is_a_shack: We are arts professionals with many years of experience with cultural institutions and in different aspects of the art world. The Shack includes an executive-level arts leader and an artist who is also active in a number of other social justice/advocacy issues. We are also people who care about our communities, our fellow citizens, and the importance of civic engagement.
 
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Are you creating some of the memes or are you mostly sharing other things you see? We create all of the content ourselves, except in a very few select cases where we have reposted and clearly credited the original poster. Our audience also sometimes sends ideas or news articles to us, and occasionally that’s a prompt for us to create a particular meme or post around that idea.
 
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How do you see this action: As advocacy or activism, or are you mostly just having fun trolling the developers? The account is light-hearted about a dark-hearted thing, and so we’re poking fun while also highlighting some very serious issues. There are a lot of problems with how money and power are distributed and abused in the art world, and also in the world at large, and what has happened (and is happening) at Hudson Yards and with the Shed is representative of some of the most egregious examples. There’s also such a huge gap between how Hudson Yards and the Shed were sold and marketed to the public, and what they have actually become. So much marketing hype was built into the selling of it, and so it feels right that the response should be similarly structured in terms of tone, as memes, faux ads, and hype-speak. Also, we’re in the art world, so we like our visuals. There’s a long history of art world projects that critique the structure and internal systems that underpin cultural institutions. We’d like to see that critique contribute to change, so there’s an advocacy element to our trolling.
 
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Is it connected to a particular set of positions? No matter how much we might have a laugh at some of the more outrageous details of Hudson Yards and the Shed, the development is actually a slap in the face to the people of New York and thus in need of more serious examination. A select group of wealthy individuals and corporations are benefitting from Hudson Yards, along with government officials who actively championed and pushed through the development to advance their own political or business interests (including Bloomberg, De Blasio, Dan Doctoroff, and others). But what did everyone else get? Our tax dollars went to build a private luxury neighborhood billed as “Little Dubai,” while many New Yorkers don’t have access to affordable housing, reliable subway lines, or adequate healthcare. The developers tried to cut out unions and limit worker safety standards, and people lost wages and got hurt. And with the Shed, our tax dollars helped pay for a building and organization that is not serving the cultural community or the public as promised, and instead has created a tax-deductible structure and plaything for the developer and his pals to utilize and benefit from. So, our position is about advocating for the public interest and for the cultural community.
 
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What motivated you in particular to start it, and is Instagram an effective tool so far to forward a message? The account started really just as a cathartic response and half-joke. We visited The Shed soon after it opened and were stunned by the experience. The building itself was in disarray. Hardware was falling off the walls or not properly installed, there were cracks in the glass and electrical socket plates, puddles of leaking lubricant from the escalator, peeling and chipped paint on multiple walls, exit signs with wires sticking out, obvious building code violations, and more.  
 
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For a brand-new, wildly expensive building supported by taxpayer money and on city-owned land—and touted by the developers and the city as representing the future of cultural institutions and civic public-private engagement—it was a massive failure. So many cultural institutions around the city are struggling to pay the bills, and money got poured into this development. It’s unconscionable that it turned out this way and that there has not yet been a reckoning for abusing the public trust. So what started as a joke among friends expanded as we realized how serious and ongoing the problems there were. Instagram is the art world’s preferred social media for the most part, at least for the moment, and so it seemed like a natural choice.
 
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What would be an ideal outcome? The desired outcome is to expand the conversation around the Shed and Hudson Yards. It’s also important to us to emphasize how the final shape of the development is not an accident; it’s what happens when a development that is privately owned and controlled does not include the appropriate level of input, regulation, and safeguarding by community groups and the public. The Shed is an extension of that core problem, with a board controlled by the developers and their buddies, and even the building itself is literally infected by and physically trapped inside the development Alien-style (The Shed ended up being constructed with much of its operational guts shared with and located inside of the skyscraper next door). So now we have a major NYC neighborhood and cultural institution that is being controlled by a small group of private investors, continuing to benefit from tax incentives and public money, in order to advance personal interests that are largely counter to the public’s.
 
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Although Hudson Yards is mostly owned by private developers, the Shed sits on public land owned by the city and is a nonprofit entity that is required to benefit the public good. So we—the public—need to hold the Shed accountable and see that necessary changes are made to the way it operates. There are many different options that might be proposed as an alternative; for example, a consortium of existing cultural institutions and community organizations could come together to re-envision how the space should operate and who should run it. The building could serve as an outpost/off-site programming space for other arts and culture organizations on a rotating basis, among other possibilities. It could also be converted into free or subsidized office/studio space for cultural nonprofits, artists, and community organizations that can’t afford rent because of developments like Hudson Yards, or for events like pop-up free healthcare clinics or other services for those in need. Further, there should be a public conversation to include government officials that rethinks how the next phase of Hudson Yards is allowed to proceed, with an eye toward much more community oversight, regulation, and built-in systems for clawing back public money/tax incentives if and when promises aren’t kept.
 
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What should Hudson Yards have been? Hudson Yards should have been a true public-private partnership, which means careful input, oversight, and regulation by the community at every stage and ongoing for the life of the development. That’s a hard and challenging process, but it’s necessary and fair if developers want to get decades of tax incentives, city- and state-paid infrastructure, and other public money. Hudson Yards could have and should have been an actual mixed-use community, with truly integrated housing for low-income, middle, and yes even some luxury, as well as a range of nonprofit, business, and retail spaces that genuinely serve the neighborhood needs more broadly. It should have true public space (not privately owned space that the developer controls on whim) and cultural venues that more fully reflect the needs and interests of the community. Cultural and creative programming and public artwork should be informed by and ultimately decided by those with expertise in the field alongside community members, not by one rich guy who wants a big Heatherwick bauble because he thinks it’s what other rich guys like. If he wants a Heatherwick (or anything else), he’s welcome to buy it and build it—but not with the support and help of public money and infrastructure.
 
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Because the developers of Hudson Yards are claiming private control of the entire space (even though this isn’t actually correct, with the Shed on city-owned land and the Hudson Yards subway part of the MTA), they are asserting that visitors don’t have the same rights they would normally have in a public space. That’s deeply problematic on many levels (impacting everything from the right to protest, to who gets to sit on benches or be otherwise harassed under what conditions, as well as in their use of facial recognition technology in the kiosks and other surveillance measures by the developers). So there should be requirements that dictate how any development that benefits from public support can control that space.
 
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Also if you have anything to add about the processes by which public property is developed . . . Similar to what we noted should have happened with Hudson Yards, the process for [the] development of public space and property (and public-private developments) needs to be more carefully safeguarded and regulated, and there needs to be oversight by independent community experts and individuals who are not in any way affiliated with the developers. And this oversight should continue for the lifetime of the property and with teeth to match (heavy fines and claw-backs for developers who renege on promises, for example). We all know how arduous these kinds of processes can be, but it’s necessary if we want to ensure projects truly benefit the public. That doesn’t mean there needs to be total consensus on every aspect of a project (which is impossible to obtain in any case and often leads to art-horse-by-committee outcomes), but it means the decision-making needs to be led by a sense of true commitment to the public good and strict, proactive measures to ensure there are not conflicts of interest. There also needs to be a more nuanced understanding and recognition of how we assign expertise and decision-making power within this oversight and community process; for example, there’s a tendency to assume “expert” in the arts only applies to a well-known museum president, a wealthy collector, or a big name artist, when in fact it should include arts workers and others who have active, on-the-job experience within cultural organizations, or an avid arts goer who is not financially able to be a donor/collector but loves art with the same zeal as an Aggie [Agnes] Gund, among other examples. There are many of these people throughout the city, and their voices should be given a place. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our public spaces will be made better by their input.
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#modTEXAS is crowdsourcing midcentury design across the state

Inspired by Oklahoma City’s Okie Mod Squad, a new group of midcentury modern architecture lovers is documenting the leftover treasures from 50 years ago in Texas. modTEXAS, an Instagram crowdsourcing campaign started by Amy Walton and several statewide preservation organizations, is using the hashtag #modtexas to collect content centered on mid-20th-century nostalgia.  Launched in January, the campaign has thus far garnered over 2,000 posts with a range of images featuring famous architecture such as the Johnson Space Center in Houston, to a not-to-miss modernist church in downtown Dallas with a spiral exterior staircase. Even old signs and interior decor are popping up. Walton changes the theme of photographs that can be tagged each month as well. For example, August’s theme in multi-family, and a former photo editor at the Dallas Morning News took a shot of Paul Rudolph’s Brookhollow Plaza. 
To cull together support for the campaign, modTEXAs is working with some major groups on the project including Preservation Dallas, the Texas Historical Commission, the North Texas and San Antonio chapters of Docomomo, and the American Institute of Architects chapters in Corpus Christi and Dallas. As Walton gleans information on the documented projects from various posts, she’s sharing stats and geotags with the groups for their own conservation efforts. D Magazine reported that a real estate site called Candy’s Dirt has also joined the campaign and has created a map of where photographs are taken. Of course, many people are hashtagging images of architecture in more metropolitan cities around the state, so it’s unclear what treasures might be threatened in rural areas if more awareness isn't built on their existence. 
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AMO/OMA and UNStudio on designing in the age of social media

What does it mean for architecture publishing when everyone publishes? PLANE—SITE invited AMO/OMA and UNStudio to talk about how they see the role of social media in architecture and the relationships between image, object, and experience in their new short video “Building Images,” created for the World Architectural Festival 2018. The two firms and their representatives propose an array of different fears, hopes, uses, and possibilities of social media. AMO/OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli is curious about what we capture and how we look—our desire to get at an “authenticity” of real life that instead might just suspend us in a state of “permanent voyeurism.” Of photographing and witnessing so many plural photographs of buildings, he says that there is “an obsession to unveil what are the mechanics behind the project…not just the final output.” UNStudio’s founder Ben van Berkel takes particular interest in the resonances and oscillations between the instantaneousness and ephemerality promoted by social platforms like Instagram and how these timescales relate to architecture, which he points out, is generally meant to last; it’s slow to come up and slow to come down. In this case, AMO/OMA architect Giacomo Ardesio suggests, it is even more important to have a gluttonous stream of images. It makes a building last beyond an individual moment of embodied experience—which is especially important for many of the more temporary works AMO designs—and also documents people’s own intimate experiences, as well as their social ones, with the space. Instagram photos can show how the buildings might be “engaging visitors beyond the program it is meant to solve.” Instagram gives architects and everyone “a more complete view,” says AMO’s Giulio Margheri. He means this both in comparison to a pre-social media era but also against the more “refined” photos of architecture magazines and shelter publications that used to be the only insight into a building short of being in it. But, van Berkel says, all this focus on social media might make some run the risk of being “one-off architects.” It also, like much of the internet, can flatten things: people flock to the same places to take the same photos, overrunning streets and turning them into photo ops. And so often Instagram photos aren’t really of buildings (though some certainly are); a building is just background, or so it seems. But what if we consider a building a background with its own agency? This is a theoretically interesting question, but one that also has a practical side that UNSudio explores by using Instagram and other social media as part of their post-occupancy analysis, in addition to measurements, sensor data, and interviews. It lets them ask, urban designer Dana Behrman says, “how do [people] actually appropriate the spaces?” This question often leads to surprising answers, and she cites the ways that the Arnhem Central Station UNStudio designed has been used as a site for performances.  And even the desire to get behind things that Laparelli seemed cautious of could be a good thing according to some. “Everyone produces images, the whole landscape has democratized,” says Machteld Kors, communications director of UNStudio. “People want to see where things come from, and how things are made. The storytelling in projects is becoming more and more important.” What "Building Images" shows is that perhaps it is architects who are trying to get behind the operations of things, asking why people show themselves in a certain building in certain ways. 
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AMO's first exhibition in China distorts selfie culture

AMO’s tradition of experimentation with imagery, jokey self-referential installations, and the power of perception has arrived in China. From now through August 14, True Me will be on display at the 798 Art Factory in Beijing, presenting guests with distorted selfies, monochrome rooms, and anime-inspired installations. True Me was organized in conjunction with AMO, the Chinese selfie app (and data vacuum) Meitu, and the Beijing Contemporary Arts Foundation to celebrate Meitu’s new logo. The show simultaneously skewers and celebrates “selfie culture”: wavy mirror walls wrap the exhibitions and line the show’s circulation, warping the reflections of guests as they move through the Art Factory. According to AMO, this is to show patrons their heavily post-produced “outer self” that social media users project on image sharing apps. The “inner self” is represented too, with six installations meant to evoke visitors’ raw, softer internal life. These spaces are covered in felt, flannel, and grass, and contain photogenic backdrops that were highly influenced by pop culture. Ironically enough, each installation is highly Instagrammable and will likely feature in just as many “outer self” photographs. The spaces range from neon-pink cosmetic mockups, to a faux arcade wallpapered with anime characters in dynamic poses, to a giant backlit eye, to a long purple hall containing alternative versions of the Meitu logo. True Me was led by OMA Partner and Asia Director Chris van Duijn and is AMO’s first exhibition in China. It’s far from AMO’s parent firm OMA’s first project in the country, however. Most recently the firm won a competition to master plan and design an enormous “Unicorn Island” in Chengdu.
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San Francisco's Instagram-famous Color Factory is headed to New York

Explosions of summer color are coming to New York City as San Francisco’s sold-out Color Factory pop-up installation is set to brighten Manhattan's streets starting on August 20. A 20,000-square-foot interactive exhibition from artist collaborative Color Factory will open in SoHo and will be accompanied by 20 “secret” color installations hidden across Lower Manhattan. The original Color Factory installation opened last August in San Francisco for a four-week run that eventually expanded to last nearly eight months. That show brought together a star-studded roster of local and international artists to create an exploration of color that went viral on Instagram, and Color Factory is looking to replicate that success in New York. Instagram-friendly installations and pavilions have exploded in recent years, and lauded firms from AGENCY to Snarkitecture have all jumped on the bandwagon, delivering selfie walls and all-white takes on the form. Let's not forget pop-ups like the Museum of Ice Cream, either, soon to be joined by its long-lost cousin the Museum of Pizza. The California version of Color Factory involved multiple explorations of color in light works, several monochrome rooms (currently all the rage), rainbow decals, fabric, balloons, and technicolor plastic furniture. The New York version seems like it will keep to the same vein; visitors will be able to experience 16 rooms, including a bar filled with mocha in every color of the rainbow, a light-up dance floor, a room full of ombré balloons, a room where participants can walk through a guided experience to discover their own “personal color," an enormous full-room ball pit, and custom illustrations from New York artists. After guests are finished at the exhibition, they can pick up a map to the 20 “secret experiences” Color Factory has hidden across the island, and the group says that the installation will be inspired by the colors of New York. Manhattan Color Walk from Color Factory on Vimeo. Color Factory is no stranger to New York’s streets. Manhattan Color Walk, a survey of colors from 265 individual Manhattan blocks, recently wrapped up at the Cooper Hewitt. The free installation was on display through June and adorned the museum’s terrace, garden, and walkways with colored bands pulled from New York’s most unique and ubiquitous colors. Color Factory staff walked and biked from West 220th Street all the way down to Battery Park and translated one color per block into a stripe at the museum and released an accompanying guide. General admission tickets for Color Factory are now on sale for $38, and the exhibition will be open at 251 Spring Street after August 20 from Thursday to Tuesday, 10:00 AM through 11:00 PM.
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A museum of selfies pops up in California

Instagrammers who are fed up with the proliferating bans on selfie sticks in more traditional museums can now find solace at a new pop-up in Glendale, California. From April 1 through May 31, visitors to the pop-up Museum of Selfies can learn more about the history of the photographic form, as well as take their own memorable snapshots. Co-founded by two escape room designers, Tommy Honton and Tair Mamedov, the museum’s installations are designed to bridge the gap between mainstream consumerism and the more aloof air of the art world. Through recreations of famous Van Gogh paintings and satirical takes on common selfie locations (gyms, cars, restaurants), guests are encouraged to take their own selfies while also viewing examples of self-representation throughout the ages. In a tour ahead of the museum’s official opening, Hyperallergic spotted hyper-saturated walls with giant placards, an iron throne made of selfie sticks, and a black-and-white photo studio. All of the pieces double as Instagram-worthy backdrops on their own, complete with suggested hashtags. Even the museum’s bathroom is in on the fun, as the “mirror” actually leads to an empty, symmetrically-designed room and fails to reflect viewers. With new work commissioned from both domestic and international artists, including ruminations on how selfies have destroyed priceless art and in some cases lead to death, the museum wants to examine how interactions with art have been changed by technology. The macaque monkey selfie, responsible for a legal battle over ownership of the photograph that bankrupted the camera’s owner, has been put on display along with speculative graphic art and gags. "The relationship between people and art has changed," Mamedov told Mashable. "Now people don’t want to just be a silent consumer, they want to be a part of the art. There are many more selfies with the Mona Lisa than actual Mona Lisas." The Museum of Selfies’ merging of artistic theory with mass-market consumerism is deeper pop-up fare than, say, the Museum of Ice Cream, and the questions raised by the exhibition echoes those that the architectural field are still grappling with.
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How are image-sharing apps affecting architecture and design?

With 800 million active users and 95 million photos and videos shared each day, Instagram is affecting our visual perception like no other platform. Users distribute literally millions of photos, spreading trends, popularizing places, and ultimately, influencing built and designed environments. Although it is still early for major buildings to outwardly reflect Instagram’s impact, architecture is rapidly becoming saturated from the inside out. Philippe Maidenberg, known for his interior work in hotels across Paris and the UK, including the Holiday House London, is very aware of how social media has altered clients’ expectations. “Clients have shifted from thinking about design to envisioning new ways of life,” he explained. “Hotel owners want public spaces that are more alive and more comfortable than ever before; office owners want spaces that look like hotels. The standards are getting higher and higher for the greater good.” In New York, firms like Paperwhite Studio and Home Studios have made veritable reputations from crafting “Instagrammable interiors” for restaurants such as Jack’s Wife Freda, Cha Cha Matcha (Paperwhite), and Elsa, Ramona, Sisters, and The Spaniard (Home Studios). Rich, memorable colors, personal touches—down to the custom sugar packets—and dramatic moments such as sweeping brass lamps and neon signs all apparently contribute to the restaurants’ Instagram popularity. Maidenberg believes the portmanteau “Instagrammable” merely means photogenic: “In reality, every space inside a project has to be ‘Instagrammable.’ There is a similar way of thinking among architects, directors, and photographers. On the top of their minds, they’re always considering, ‘What will visitors see when they see the building? When they go inside the building? How can we surprise them?’” Obviously, the basic notion of creating photogenic architecture is not new. It can almost be simplified to a 21st-century version of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s “ducks” versus “decorated sheds” in Learning From Las Vegas. But although there are definite parallels to postmodernism replacing modernism and maximalism writ large in pastel whimsy replacing high-minded minimalism, new equivalent definitions of ducks and decorated sheds remain murky. Somewhere in this vague category is the plethora of “museums” that opened in 2017. More pop-up galleries than actual museums, these repositories of vibrant mise-en-scènes provide opportunities for snap-happy visitors to create totally next-level selfies to share with their friends. The most notable are the Museum of Ice Cream (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami), the Color Factory (San Francisco), and 29 Rooms (Los Angeles and Brooklyn). And by notable, we mean that going up against museums such as the Louvre, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Ice Cream landed the tenth spot on Instagram’s “Most Instagrammed Museums” list in 2017, and its Los Angeles location alone claimed the sixth top spot in “Most Instagrammed Museums in the U.S.” Legitimate museums have taken note, crafting photo-worthy installations and creating hashtags to promote sharing across social media. “It’s a level of feedback that we have never really had before,” said Andrea Lipps, assistant curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. “People do use the hashtags, and then we notice the trends of where people are taking these photos and how they are accessing the information and what they are interested in. It’s become a really valuable tool.” But those whose work is on display may see it differently. Brooklyn-based artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz believes that the best name for these spaces and our new era of obsessive image sharing is “prop art.” “It is very disappointing to see work being misused as a prop for a self-portrait because when that happens, it stops being seen,” Errazuriz said. “And when more content is created just to be shared and to function as a prop, more people will see that as successful content to create and will emulate it.” At the same time, Errazuriz learned to harness the power of Instagram early when he created the entrance installation for the Collective Design Fair in 2013: a series of box fans that had “Blow Me” written across them in neon. “The ‘Blow Me’ fan, if you see it just by itself, is a funny association that is provocative and sexual in nature. But, when I get commissioned to design something like an entry piece in an art fair, I am essentially being told, ‘Go, Sebastian, do that thing you do, do the monkey dance, show me something impressive.’ So, in this case, I made a fan that literally blows them away. It takes a lot of balls for the artist to say ‘blow me,’ and it takes a lot of balls for the client to tell everyone to ‘blow me.’ Then, it has the neon pink which is the cliché of every art fair and was designed as a square precisely to be as Instagrammable as possible. It generated more press than the whole fair combined; and I did the monkey dance and it undermined the effects of the fair.… It was all about distilling enormous amount of stuff in one thing.” Errazuriz was also concerned about the implications of the Snapchat x Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in Central Park. “There is a very real risk of corporations like Snapchat taking over the digital art space and dictating new representations of what art is, like Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog,” Errazuriz said. “So when I saw that, everyone in my studio stopped what we were doing and in 24 hours managed to recreate an exact replica of the dog, tagged it with graffiti, uploaded it, geotagged it to the same destination, submitted it to Snapchat, and sent out the press release. I think it generated a lot of interesting articles about public space and the notion of virtual vandalizing.” This is the inherent irony in Instagram: Even as designers and architects decry its influence, they are aware that they rely on it. Consider OMA: When it updated its website in 2014, the firm opted to change its landing page to an Instagram feed with software that picked up the geotagged images in a certain perimeter around OMA’s buildings and projects. “We’ve discovered that amateur pictures tell a different story,” said OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli. “There are a lot of unexpected surprises and beautiful moments that are not as present in staged photography.” Shifting the power of perspective to boundless viewers creates possibilities, but also engenders limitations. The art, design, and fashion worlds have already begun to chafe against the effects of shortened trend cycles, altered client demands, and distorted design priorities. Will architecture follow suit? #maybe.
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AGENCY uses deep research to push architectural boundaries

The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices”, singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights. 2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien. AN originally profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. AGENCY founders Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller will deliver their lecture on March 8, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller started AGENCY to consider the margins of the world. “We use our architectural training to uncover the shrinking of individual agency in public space and the reduction of human rights or potential human rights violations,” Kripa said. Working out of El Paso, Texas, the pair deploys words, maps, wearables, and installations to uncover contradictions in liminal spaces like military training sites, refugee camps, and borders—especially the one between the United States and Mexico. The architects completed their first project as AGENCY in 2008. A decade later, the firm continues to be defined by deep research into contested urban spaces and humans’ relationships to environments, built and digital, that are increasingly designed to collect personal data and monitor people’s actions without their consent. Kripa and Mueller, both instructors at Texas Tech University College of Architecture – El Paso, wound up in the city after a research visit for their forthcoming book, Fronts: Security and the Developing World. They were studying military training environments, like Playas, New Mexico—a village of hundreds of empty homes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses for counter-terrorism training. Increasingly, these simulated spaces feature shantytowns and junkyards, informal typologies associated with the developing world. AGENCY, Mueller said, believes these are both a “preamble to where the U.S. military can engage in the future” as well as a reflection of state attitudes toward public space in the contemporary city. Along similar lines of inquiry, the duo writes "Border Dispatches," a series for AN that explores these and other expressions of militarism along the U.S.-Mexico border. These are worthy topics, but are they architecture? AGENCY believes its designs could not manifest without the deep research it conducts. “In our built work, we start with intensive research and problem identification, where we proactively uncover hidden or emerging realities that are just beneath the surface of contemporary urban space,” Mueller said. “We try to imagine a scenario that can be inflected by designed objects or spaces that have a discreet presence.” The approach is apparent in Selfie Wall – A Public Sphere for Private Data,¹ a subversion of the made-for-Instagram interiors that trend online. For El Paso’s annual art fair, Kripa and Mueller fashioned the ideal selfie sphere from 162 units of CNC-milled composite aluminum panels that diffuse soft LED light. The pair asked visitors to hashtag their photos from the installation so they could be collected and tracked. “People were very on board with hashtagging selfies so we could collect them,” Kripa said. “That was surprising.” AGENCY may remake Selfie Wall in Juarez, the Mexican city right across from El Paso, with an eye toward connecting people on both sides of the border. Design, they believe, can—and should—be deployed to control data, as well. For Delta Fabrics – Air Pollution Data Mapping,² a project executed during the 2017 Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, the pair walked the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen with Arduino sensors to monitor air quality. The region’s air is cleaner than it was in the past, but it’s sometimes hard to tell what pollutants still linger, as the Chinese government often releases inaccurate data. To empower people with knowledge about the air they breathe, Kripa and Mueller are looking to mass-produce the sensors and distribute them to residents, who can then track air quality throughout their day. This should be a busy year for AGENCY. At home, Kripa and Mueller are working with a local entrepreneur to adaptively reuse a warehouse site, transforming it into a kitchen incubator and outdoor public market. Fronts is coming out this fall, and after that, the duo is scaling up the Delta Fabrics project. “We want to dive deeper into understanding how to democratize data so [people can] measure their own environment on their own, to take back agency a little bit,” Kripa said.

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¹ Selfie Wall – A Public Sphere for Private Data was commissioned by the El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department

² Delta Fabrics – Air Pollution Data Mapping was a one-month residency in Shenzhen for New Cities Future Ruins with Future+ Aformal Academy and Handshake 302. The project was supported by Design Trust Hong Kong and Texas Tech College of Architecture as part of the 2017 Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture

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MVRDV's stacked desires, Zaha Hadid's latticework roofs, and other updates from the architects of Instagram

At The Architect’s Newspaper, we’re plain addicted to Instagram. Sure, we love seeing Brutalist concrete through “Inkwell” or “Ludwig” filters, but there’s also no better place to see where architects are getting their inspiration, how they’re documenting the built environment, and where they’ve traveled of late. Below, we bring you some of the best Instagrams of this past week! (Also, don’t forget to check out our Instagram account here.) Last Friday, Rotterdam-based firm MVRDV opened The Why Factory (W)ego: The Future City is Flexible, a bright new installation for Dutch Design Week 2017 in Eindhoven. According to MVRDV co-director Winy Maas, the project is "based on the hypothesis that the maximum density could be equal to the maximum of desires." https://www.instagram.com/p/BaguLgZBAbV/?taken-by=mvrdv AN contributor and designer Adam Nathaniel Furman shared an alarmingly value-engineered facade in the UK. Beneath the fake brick, a hollow duct–a compelling metaphor for our current newscape. In the comments, there is a bit of hope: Furman and friends list British architects who would never do such a thing, like Sergison Bates, FAT Architects, Outram, or Caruso St. John. https://www.instagram.com/p/Baqmp7ag80u/ Bloomberg is getting a new $1.3 billion, Foster+Partners-designed headquarters in London. The bronze fin-covered building boasts artwork and installations by Cristina Iglesias, Michael Craig-Martin, Olafur Eliasson, and Langlands & Bell. Eliasson's No future is possible without a past crowns a central room within the building, resembling the silvery surface of a pond inverted onto the ceiling. https://www.instagram.com/p/Ban9Gxvnt8u/?taken-by=studioolafureliasson Zaha Hadid Architects completed the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre (KAPSARC) in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The 70,000-square-foot, five-building complex includes an auditorium, library, exhibit hall, and a prayer room sheathed in white latticework (pictured below).  https://www.instagram.com/p/Barov2bFJr6/?taken-by=zahahadidarchitects
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Bone-inspired buildings, MVRDV's grass carpet rooms, and other updates from the architects of Instagram

At The Architect’s Newspaper, we’re plain addicted to Instagram. Sure, we love seeing Brutalist concrete through “Inkwell” or “Ludwig” filters, but there’s also no better place to see where architects are getting their inspiration, how they’re documenting the built environment, and where they’ve traveled of late. Below, we bring you some of the best Instagrams of this past week! (Also, don’t forget to check out our Instagram account here.) Today, the modular design-build company Cover revealed its first unit designed, manufactured, and installed in L.A. The backyard studio is kind of a tiny home and definitely modernist, a fusion of two design trends that define the internet.
Out in Norway, Snøhetta has designed a new building for the Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design (UiB) at Bergen with a glimmering metal cassette facade that changes with the light. It's all flash, in a good way.
While Snøhetta's newest project sparkles from the outside, Foster + Partners is looking deep within the body for architectural inspiration. The firm has partnered with a PhD candidate at the Royal Veterinary College, London, to "study the relationship between structure and function in bone biology and architectural design at various scales." To achieve this, Foster + Partners developed a Grasshopper plugin that helps designers create 3D space frames within almost any shape.
Despite all the talk that digital technologies have killed architectural drawing, there are still many designers who love to render spaces by hand (with a computer assist). KoozA/rch just featured Challenging The Threshold Between Image and Space, a eerily calming pastel computer collage by architect Sven Jansse, founder of Rotterdam's Image & Space, in collaboration with Alexandra Sonnemans.

Challenging The Threshold Between Image and Space by Sven Jansse in collaboration with Alexandra Sonnemans#art #artitecture #architecture #koozarch To what extent do you agree with the medium is the message – how does the use of collage reinforce the concept behind fragments? Probably the most fundamental concept behind the current work done by Image & Space, is that each visualisation should be able to generate its own value, independently of what they (appear to) represent. They are designed to tell their own story, establish a new truth and present it to the audience to evaluate. The medium is thus even more than the message; the visualisations become the project. They are no longer bound by the physical or economical limits of what they have to make understandable or try to sell, and by presenting the images without their expected context of drawings or a presentation, the spectator gains the freedom to interpret them in a very personal way. In order to stimulate people’s imagination, it’s important that one visualisation never shows the whole building, because it’s up to the audience to connect the different ‘fragments’. In this way, each visitor will ‘build’ a different building, and curate their own spatial experience.

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In meatspace, there's nothing better than plonking yourself down onto a thick carpet. For a lecture hall at Taipei's Jut Foundation for Arts and Architecture, MVRDV teamed up with Argentine rug maker Alexandra Kehayoglou to create a verdant greenscape that covers the stepped floors, creeps up the walls, and conceals an exit door.

Jut Group Lecture Hall by MVRDV and @alexkeha #mvrdv #greenliving #landscape

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Mirage houses, Mongolian blob museums, and other updates from the architects of Instagram

At The Architect’s Newspaper, we’re plain addicted to Instagram. Sure, we love seeing Brutalist concrete through “Inkwell” or “Ludwig” filters, but there’s also no better place to see where architects are getting their inspiration, how they’re documenting the built environment, and where they’ve traveled of late. Below, we bring you some of the best Instagrams of this past week! (Also, don’t forget to check out our Instagram account here.) A new exhibit on the historical iterations and potential of scaffolding went up at the Center for Architecture, and Shohei Shigematsu of OMA was the exhibition's lead designer. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZmIjN-hQh0/?taken-by=centerforarch A short hop across the East River, the Noguchi Museum is gearing up for the October 25 opening of Gonzalo Fonseca's architectural sculptures, many carved from stone. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ1f0wpHH1F/?taken-by=noguchimuseum SO-IL's Florian Idenburg paid a visit to a panopticon prison in Haarlem, Netherlands called Kijk in de Koepel. His visit was timed perfectly with two news bits that had us chuckling this week: One upsettingly real (Jeremy Bentham's literal severed head displayed in an upcoming exhibit), and the other pure satire (meet Synergon). https://www.instagram.com/p/BZoAOCVn8AC/?taken-by=florianidenburg Andrés Jaque, founder of Office for Political Innovation, posted the opening of his new exhibit titled Transmaterial Politics, which opened at Tabacalera Madrid on September 28. Poppy and probing as always. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZpq6FJAz4E/?taken-by=andres_jaque MAD Architects threw us back to their Ordos Museum in inner Mongolia, a mass of organic and rigid forms cloaked under an undulating shell of metal tiles. Without wanting to, we will imagine it springing to life at night and prowling the Gobi Desert under a shrouded moon, much like Gehry museums (wherever they live). https://www.instagram.com/p/BZnkPdyFNdq/?taken-by=madarchitects Geoff Manaugh, author of BLGBLOG, visited the extremely Instagrammable Mirage by Douglas Aitken in the California Desert which is clad with mirrors both inside and out. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ4WEW5j_M1/?taken-by=bldgblog The DesignPhiladelphia conference shared their city's redeveloped Navy Yards, landscaped by James Corner Field Operations. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZy-YJzF9WA/?taken-by=designphilly This last one is short and sweet, and we tell you this only because of the crushing guilt that would consume us otherwise. Winka Dubbeldam ate a grasshopper. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ0lE02BVh9/?taken-by=winkadub That’s it for today, hashtag archilovers and quote-on-quote gallerinas. See you next week for more drama.
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David Adjaye in Finland, contemporary wigwams, and other updates from the architects of Instagram

At The Architect’s Newspaper, we’re plain addicted to Instagram. Sure, we love seeing Brutalist concrete through “Inkwell” or “Ludwig” filters, but there’s also no better place to see where architects are getting their inspiration, how they’re documenting the built environment, and where they’ve traveled of late. Below, we bring you some of the best Instagrams of this past week! (Also, don’t forget to check out our Instagram account here.) It was a busy weekend in New York. In Sara D. Roosevelt Park on Saturday morning, the New Museum's latest iteration of IdeasCity kicked off with a host of temporary wooden structures hosting keynotes by speakers like Trevor Paglen, who lectured on visual recognition technologies. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZG5fWFhG4W/?taken-by=ideascity Later, on Saturday night, Storefront for Art and Architecture opened their new exhibit Souvenirs: New York IconsMore than 59 artists, architects, and designers were asked to create souvenirs for each of the city's community districts. It was so crowded we had to escape through the Holl in the wall. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZTw_02nC1c/?taken-by=oma.eu Across the pond, OMA posted renderings of their designs for Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, clutch the pearls. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZQy_0sHBIt/?taken-by=3xn_gxn Danish firm 3XN demonstrated how their new children's hospital design was inspired by the movement of two hands opening. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZTYEh-AjFr/?taken-by=ekeneijeoma Artist Ekene Ijeoma announced he had created a new sculpture focusing on New York's immigrant community while reposting another sculpture we wrote about a while back that mapped out where low-wage workers can afford the rent, essentially forming islands of affordability. Still very relevant. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZNkVlflw7v/?taken-by=adjaye_visual_sketchbook We don't have favorites, but our perennial fave Sir David Adjaye has the best feed of all. He recently posted from the Aalto University in Finland—a beautiful little chapel by Hiekki and Kaija Siren from 1957. Take that, Louisiana Museum (1958). https://www.instagram.com/p/BZOy-16HlJf/?taken-by=exhibitcolumbus Jetting seamlessly back to rural Indiana, Exhibit Columbus highlighted a contemporary wigwam made of copper scales by Chris Cornelius of studio:indigenous. That's it for today, hashtag archilovers and quote-on-quote gallerinas. See you next week for more drama.