Posts tagged with "Manuel Herz":

Humanitarian texts inspired this colorful carpet installation in San Francisco

Basel, Switzerland–based Manuel Herz Architects has designed a 1,550-square-foot carpet installation for this year’s Swissnex San Francisco conference that uses humanitarian texts as stylistic and educational motifs. The project, named Rights on Carpet by the Swiss architects, combines the complete texts from human rights-related declarations with brightly-colored, geometric patterns and symbols. The carpet specifically highlights the 1864, 1906, 1929, and 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1966 Convent on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The carpet—meant to be occupied shoeless—features texts within collections of rectangular frames that are organized in a series of concentric circles. This scheme is meant to gesture toward Muslim prayer rituals. This aspect of the carpet’s design, according to a press release announcing the installation, is meant to highlight “the activity of sitting in groups and debating and learning about a common topic ... exactly what takes place in mosques.” The text of the latter three documents mentioned above is displayed in the circular regions while the Geneva Conventions texts make up the interstitial spaces along the carpet. In an email to The Architect’s Newspaper, Herz said:
At a time when these rights and values have been questioned, and even been grossly undermined, when politicians are openly considering withdrawing from declarations of human rights, and when an appeal to these treaties seen as dated, derided as an expression of political correctness, or even mocked as a symptom of weakness, it has become more important than ever to remind ourselves of the actual wording of these treaties, and to bring their source texts back into our general consciousness. The carpet thus starts to trigger and feed discussions and debates around the topic of humanitarianism. It becomes an architectural device for curating the exchange between people.
The carpet will be on display at Swissnex San Francisco through May of 2017.

AN Lions: 20 must-see things at the 2016 Venice Biennale

The 2016 Venice Biennale is now open to the public until November 27, 2016. "Reporting From the Front" is Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena's manifesto of sorts, a gorgeous aesthetic project with a slightly less clear political overlay. In this Biennale, he was looking to share success stories from engaged practitioners who are working to address the problems facing the world, such as inequality, crime, waste, traffic, and segregation. AN had three editors and a cadre of writers scoping out all of the main exhibition, the national pavilions, auxiliary events, and any other interesting things happening in the city during the opening. We selected 20 of our favorite moments and have awarded them AN Lions, a different take on the Biennale. This collection should also serve as a guidebook of sorts so that visitors throughout the summer can get some perspective on what to see, and how to get to the good stuff, without taking a whole week! 1. Pavilion of the Western Sahara In one of the bolder moves of the Biennale, Aravena assigned Swiss architect Manuel Herz and the Western Sahara a small spot on the lawn where last year sat a wooden replica of Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino, constructed by the Architectural Association. This year’s small, tent-like structure occupied a prominent space in the Giardini, giving the contested nation-state of a place alongside Belgium, the Netherlands, and Finland. The Western Sahara is a region that has been occupied by Morocco, so Herz commissioned a set of photos by Iwan Baan, and a set of large carpet-like tapestries produced by National Union of Sahrawi women in the “permanent” refugee camps where the Sahrawis have been living since the occupation forty years ago. 2. A World of Fragile Parts — Special Project Applied Arts Pavilion A project of the Victoria and Albert Museum and curated by Brendan Cormier, the exhibition shows the complex history of copying, including its role as a form of preservation, museological imperialism, resistance, and reportage. Starting from the plaster casts of the V&A’s 19th century Cast Courts, Cormier gathered contemporary projects that explore copying as an active engagement with the geopolitics of art, architecture, and culture. An illegally scanned bust of Nefertiti is on display, made possible by two artists who “took” it digitally from Germany’s Neues Museum in solidarity with Egypt’s pleas to return it to its original location. 3. Zaha Hadid Retrospective — Palazzo Franchetti If you have been wondering why the passing of Zaha Hadid was so important, then this show will let you into the discussion. If you already loved her work, this show will make you love her more. With original paintings, models, and drawings filling every inch of a baroque palazzo, this show presents Hadid's work that has rarely been seen anywhere else. 4. Bravoure — The Belgium Pavilion The Belgium Pavilion takes a look at the effects of scarcity on architecture. The pavilion, which has not been completely refinished since the last biennale, is filled with projects that blur the lines between built and speculation. The large images by Filip Dujardin are a highlight. 5. Fair Building — The Poland Pavilion This pavilion highlights the dirty little secret of architecture: The workers who build (and sometimes die) in construction. Architecture is social in construction, reception, and use, yet those who actually construct buildings are invisible to most architects. This pavilion, appropriately installed inside a grid of scaffolds, calls for “Fair Trade” buildings that recognize the value of construction labor. 6. Our Amazon Frontline — The Peru Pavilion In this pavilion titled "Our Amazon Frontline," the Peruvians highlight the traditional native visions of the ecologically valuable Amazon with modern ones and try to restore dignity to the native peoples of the region. A beautiful pavilion with an elegant-but-cheap display system of ropes holding plywood displays that focus on modular schools for the children of the region. It’s easy to miss but don’t! 7. Baltic States Pavilion — The Baltic Pavilion One of the most interesting venues—the spectacular Palasport gymnasium just around the corner from the Arsenale entrance—was the perfect venue for a sprawling, three country Baltic exhibition. The three countries banded together to display the history of resource extraction in their region. The display of post-Soviet infrastructures and the geologies, for some, will be a welcome large-scale project in the sea of smaller interventions at the Biennale.

Padiglione Italia_biennale 2016 #airesmateus #includeme

A photo posted by Daniela (@daniela_gorini) on

8. Aires Mateus — Central Pavilion Mezzanine This installation is a response to those critics who argue that, while they agree with Aravena’s crises theme, there is no beauty in this biennale. This small, easy-to-miss installation tucked away in the Central Pavilion mezzanine is all about beauty. It argues that beauty is not an added layer of good taste but the capacity to capture and express human desires. The dark space was an inspiration to stumble into after a long day of forensic research.
9. The Class of 6.3: Rebuilding Nine Schools after the 2014 Chiang Rai Earthquake — The Thailand Pavilion This beautiful installation hidden in the back of the Arsenale takes the "building on stick" trope to a new level by suspending hundreds of wooden buildings that are attached to a spring-loaded plywood floor. This produces a chilling, quaking effect that provides the underlay for the nine projects. The earthquake-proof educations facilities are models above the sea of shaking buildings. 10. Home Economics: Five new models for domestic life — The British Pavilion Led by Jack Self, Shumi Bose, and Finn Williams, the British Pavilion addresses structural problems in the late capitalist housing market. It is a slightly more cynical version of Aravena’s position on scarcity. They propose new models of living that are rooted in real estate models and lifestyle arrangements. While it is impossible to escape the logic of the market, the British Pavilion looks at its structural foundations, from mobile technology to minimum furnishings to getting a mortgage, and projects possible futures ranging from inflatables to a bunk-like unit. 11. The Architectural Imagination — The U.S. Pavilion If only because of, or in spite of, the controversy surrounding the U.S. Pavilion, it is well worth seeing. Controversy aside, the pavilion holds some of the most beautiful drawings and models in the entire biennale. If you don’t agree with what you see, simply download the augmented reality app from Detroit Resists to see the pavilion through a new lens. 12. Makoko Floating School by Kunlé Adeyemi/NLÉ — Arsenale We have all seen Kunlé Adeyemi’s floating school barge on the internet for the last couple of years. It makes a celebrity appearance at this year’s biennale after a trip down the Grand Canal. Perhaps it's like the “Reporting From the Front” version of Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del Mundo, the floating companion to Strata Novissima (1980). Adeyemi originally designed the floating school structures for the lagoons of Lagos, Nigeria, where access to education is an ongoing struggle. The version that appeared in Venice is actually a second generation Floating School that has bigger structural members. The original was decommissioned and has since come down in Lagos. 13. Masonry arch by Solano Benítez/gabinete de arquitectura — Central Pavilion A spectacular start to the Central Pavilion, this brick structure hovers over visitors, giving a beautiful form to what Aravena calls “scarcity.” The architects claim it is built with just bricks and unqualified labor, which might be an exaggeration, but nonetheless, it is a stunning piece of architecture, and it won the Golden Lion for a reason. 14. Heroic: Free Shipping — The Serbian Pavilion The sublime Serbian Pavilion takes a look back in on architecture and critiques the treatment of freelance and intern workers. The boat shaped blue room is devoid of architectural proposals, and instead is meant to be a respite from the rest of the show. The pithy description and pile of thousands of intern rejection letters at the entrance give you something to read while recharging in the space. 15. Making Heimet. Germany, Arrival Country — The German Pavilion The German Pavilion is a must-see, especially if you have been to a past biennale. Winning a battle to alter the historic building, the curators cut four large entrances in exterior walls, changing the entire space of the pavilion. The wall graphics are a bit heavy handed and the message of openness is a bit literal, but it is a great place to rest and congregate. 16. The War on Bending — Ochsendorf, Block, and DeJong This exhibit in the Arsenale makes a case for compression in building. Rejecting the flatness and tension, the War on Bending produces a spectacular vaulting space that is held in place completely be compression. Of many of the material-based projects in the show, this one is the clearest in showing how old and new technology can be blended to make evocative space. 17. Blue: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions — The Dutch Pavilion The Dutch Pavilion is a simple but brilliant idea to highlight United Nations peacekeeping mission buildings that can be usefully repurposed if and when the peacekeepers move on. Curated by Malkit Shoshan of the think-tank FAST, it highlights the spatial challenges and opportunities of this complex situation and proposes that design be made part of peacekeeping buildings and be based on the conditions that arise post-peacekeeping mission. 18. Reboot — The Uruguay Pavilion The Uruguayans challenged visitors to don "invisibility cloaks" and steal items from other pavilions. The action is a response to the concept of informality, as the curators claim that illegality is "a main component of informality beyond its pauperism and hypocritical perception." The objects will be shipped back to Montevideo for an exhibition that reports from the front. You may have a hard time seeing the actual object, however, as the action has caused some controversy and some of the pricier booty has been returned, while the rest is hidden away. 19. Nordic Pavilion The Nordic Pavilion has a deceptively simple setup, as projects are presented bluntly on flyers. The curators constructed a wooden pyramid that acts as a social condenser and blocks the iconic trees in Sverre Finn's famous building that many call the most beautiful in the Giardini. The new construction is a metaphor for the relationship of contemporary architects with the masters of Nordic architecture's past. The pyramid obscures the trees, but still allows visitors to see them. It also gives a new perspective on the eight-foot-deep lightwell-roof-structure for which the building is known. Go climb the installation and look at the exquisite detailing of the board-formed concrete beams. Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 3.24.21 PM 20. Wayward Eye: The Photography of Denise Scott Brown — Palazzo Mora This exhibition of Denise's photos "from Venice to Venice" shows her broad range of interests in the 1950s and 1960s: automobile cities of the American Southwest, social change, multiculturalism, action, everyday architecture, “messy vitality,” iconography, and Pop Art. There is quite a bit to see in this show, which also includes strip signs and a Rezzonico-Tourisissimo chandelier, purpose-made for the show in Murano alongside her pictures of 1950s Venice and 1960s California and Nevada.

The architecture of independence? Or colonialism?

Architecture of Independence(!): African Modernism(!). (Exclamation points mine). The title of the current exhibition at the Graham Foundation is the first hint that the show is a departure from the Graham’s usual oeuvre. More historical survey than discursive inquisition, Architecture of Independence presents an impressive catalogue of architecture from five sub-Saharan countries (rarely- or never-before-seen by Western audiences) built at the height of late-modernism, at the moment just after independence from colonial rule.

Rigorously researched and curated by Swiss architect Manuel Herz, the exhibition is the outgrowth of a book dominated by photographs by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster. Originally presented at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery in Germany, the mounting at the Graham is the first scheduled presentation in the United States. (It will also appear at the AIA New York Center for Architecture in Feb. 2017).

According to Herz, the aim of the research is to bring the architecture into the discourse through documentation and presentation. “There is virtue in just documenting these buildings,” he said. Focusing on the multitude of public and cultural institutions built during the era, the exhibition argues that architecture was used as a nation building tool in post-colonial Africa, and that the buildings themselves act as witnesses to the complicated and often violent history and politics of the regions following independence.

Aside from a case of archival materials that includes historical photographs, postcards, and architectural plans and sketches, the exhibition is an abbreviated representation of the book, exploded throughout the galleries. Like the book, the exhibit is organized by country: Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire are on the first floor of the Madlener House, and Ghana, Zambia, and Kenya are on the second. 

This approach works best with an illustrated timeline that spans the north wall of the library, charting the political, economic, demographic, and cultural histories of each country from the time of independence to the present. Where each country’s timeline is separate in the book, the exhibit overlays them all, quickly revealing trends and discrepancies between them.

Each building is presented within a wood box with photographs and texts arranged behind glass on a wooden back.

To fit over 700 images of over 80 buildings into the frames, the photographs are snapshot-sized and the text is small, forcing an intimate proximity to the walls. While the archival-style presentation unfortunately precludes large-format prints of most of the architecture, the clustering is reminiscent of a family portrait wall, which plays nicely against the residual domesticity of the Madlener House.

To absorb the scope of the assemblage is staggering. It inspires the speculation of an entire city composed of these buildings alone: skylines full of experimental, strangely expressive, beautifully dominating, concrete and steel monoliths. It is like a hyper-Brasilia, which is itself a close relative of the work on display, both in terms of architectural style and political ambitions.

The writing accompanying each building sticks mostly to close readings and formal descriptions of the architecture. The wall text introducing each country positions the architecture as intensely optimistic projections of the hopes and dreams of newly independent nations. Like La Pyramide market building in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, or Independence Square in Accra, Ghana, massive buildings were constructed to facilitate and anticipate the rapid cultural and economic development of each nation. Now both defunct, the exhibition reveals how the architectural style and utopian rhetoric of modernism were widely adopted to bring post-colonial Africa into conversation and competition with the Western world.

Also like La Pyramide and Independence Square, most of the architecture on display was designed by European or American architects, in many cases from each country’s former colonial power.

In fact, it could be argued that the work is not the Architecture of Independence at all, but is, in every way, the architecture of colonialism; the architectural manifestation of a kind of cultural Stockholm syndrome. The authorship and intentions of the architecture presented raise important questions about the meaning of freedom, autonomy, and independence in the wake of colonialism, the effects of which continue to play out today around the world. As Audre Lorde wrote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

In the introductory essay to the book, Herz examines the complexities and problems of authorship and architectural expression in relation to the slippery meanings of the terms “independence” and “modernism” in the context of Africa. Unfortunately, that critical framework is not explicitly carried over into the exhibition.

There is also the unavoidable problem of the white gaze. The framing and narration of the exhibition and the book are situated firmly in the scholarly, white, Western view, for a Western audience, fetishizing both the architecture and the anonymous black bodies populating the images. The existence of the white gaze is not as troubling in and of itself as the fact that it goes completely unacknowledged.

From a purely disciplinary perspective, the Architecture of Independence brings attention to a canon of architectural history (for five countries) that is full  of important and interesting work by European, American, and some African architects. However, it raises the questions: Who can lay claim to this work Where does it belong? In the Western discourse of modern architecture, studied alongside other known works by Denys Lasdun, Harry Weese, and Henri Chomette, or through the lens of African politics, history, and culture? While the exhibition seems to be saying both, the framing of the work seizes it solely for the Western discourse.

Many of these issues could have been addressed by simply changing the title from a statement to a question. Changing “The Architecture of Independence” to “The Architecture of Independence?” would not only shift grammar and tone to be more reflective of the complexities and idiosyncrasies presented, but it would also provide a more compelling framework for the exhibition.

Go see this show. The architecture is stunning, the research rigorous, and the images striking. Stand too close to images of iconic architecture you have probably never seen, get a crash course in the recent history of five African countries, take in the sublime photography of Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster. Do it. It’s worth it. But do so with one eye sideways, craning around the singular gaze presented to the complex questions that the exhibition raises.

On View> Architecture of Independence: African Modernism at the Graham Foundation

Architecture of Independence: African Modernism Graham Foundation Madlener House, 4 West Burton Place, Chicago Through April 9, 2016 Based on a book of the same name, Architecture of Independence: African Modernism explores the boom of modernist buildings in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. With research by architect and writer Manuel Herz and photographs by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster, Architecture of Independence looks at 80 buildings in five countries. From new parliament buildings to schools and central banks, the show presents architecture as a means of declaring and expressing independence after centuries of colonization. Along with local architects and planners, architects from Poland, Yugoslavia, Scandinavia, Israel, and, surprisingly, former colonial powers, transformed urban and government centers across the continent. This exhibition is being shown for the first time in the United States at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts in cooperation with the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Numerous talks and film screenings will accompany the exhibition throughout its run.