Posts tagged with "Mark Foster Gage":

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SCI-Arc show postulates a fictional energy future that doesn’t go far enough

In a recent installation at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), Mark Foster Gage Architects attempts to bring the notion of parafictional art fantasy to the realm of architecture—with mixed results. Gage’s Geothermal Futures Lab considers the notion that, given the current regime of “fake news” and “post-truth” reality, architects might have renewed license to create new visions for the future rooted primarily in fantasy. In lectures and writings, Gage argues that architects from Vitruvius onward have always engaged in some form or another with parallel or alternate versions of reality through their works and that conditions are ripe today for this tendency to take hold once again. Furthermore, Gage posits that these efforts represent a facet of the Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) school of thought and could potentially be used to fend off the ever-increasing erosion—or flattening—of a shared reality that occurs when the people who lead and represent the nation are fundamentally preoccupied with telling lies. In the exhibition text, Gage asks, “Might architecture’s power in this new world be conducted through an elasticity of the real that encourages citizens to develop doubt about their presented realities—and therefore perhaps become more resistant to ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts?’” For the installation, Gage seizes this opportunity as a justification for postulating a new energy-generation technology called “laser ablation geothermal resonance” that draws its power from sources deep below the surface of the earth in order to sustainably supply Los Angeles with over two-thirds of its daily energy needs. To convey the fundamentals of this fictional energy revolution, Gage fills the SCI-Arc gallery with a stage setting meant to approximate a control center for the power generator, installing lab equipment, a metal detector, a faceted gold-leaf-covered reactor, a pile of rocks, and a collection of high-powered lasers and imaginary technical drawings for display. Technically speaking, the student-produced machine drawings are exquisite in their effusive and cheeky detail. Drawn to convey exploded axonometric views of the reactor and other components, the starkly outlined assemblage drawings also incorporate recognizable pop cultural elements, with hidden My Little Pony and Mr. Potato Head figurines buried within the constructions. The reactor mock-up is impressive in its detailing as well; it features the fractal and agglomerated geometries Gage’s other academic work is known for, while spewing fog from its lower extremity. But overall, the exhibition—and Gage’s interpretation of what parafictional fantasy in the era of “fake news” can provide to the field of architecture—falls flat. It’s not the physical objects that result from Gage’s exploration that are in question, but rather the interpretations that underlie them. For one, it belies a fundamental misreading of the current political-cultural moment to describe the Trumpian notion of “fake news” as a symptom of the so-called “great flattening” of intellectual hierarchies OOO represents. Practically speaking, “fake news” is not so much a product of the erosion of objective truth as much as it is an acknowledgment of multiple, covalent, and oftentimes contradictory perspectives that have always existed. Like it or not, “fake news” represents not merely plurality, but a new era of simultaneity writ large. The president and his lackeys have not so much created a fantasy world for their devotees to occupy as elevated a parallel existence that has always been very real to its adherents. In a lecture supporting the exhibition, Gage cites the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements as emblematic of “flattening” as well, a comparison that also doesn’t really apply. If OOO ideology is rooted in the “removal of human as primary subject” from perceived reality, how can two movements entirely rooted in acknowledging and prioritizing the fundamental humanity and agency of two often-maligned social groups serve as a case study? The comparison is flawed and problematic, representing a misunderstanding of not just what drives these movements, but also of what we can learn from them as architects, as well. And lastly, like so many other recent attempts at projecting future scenarios, the project is not really “speculative” in the literal sense and represents merely an intensification of existing modes and technologies, raising the question: If architecture’s power right now lies in its ability to speculate, what does it mean to have so many of its fantasies seem so underwhelmingly conventional? Southern California Institute of Architecture January 26 through March 4
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Yale students design for political protest as part of seminar

As part of a four-month-long seminar organized by New York architect and Assistant Dean of the Yale School of Architecture Mark Foster Gage, students investigated new forms of political activism through the design of objects.

The course synopsis began with this quote from Leonardo Da Vinci:

It had long since to come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

By way of some background, in 2014, the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London produced an exhibition titled Disobedient Objects, curated by Catherine Flood. Here, the constraint of urgency amplified the political power of designers' work. Examples included a mask (made from a plastic water bottle) that protects protesters from tear gas and an arrangement of poles that people can climb and avoid being removed from an area by police.

Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), Gage discussed how the October symposium he organized at Yale, titled Aesthetic Activism, explored how architecture’s critical-theory basis for socially engaged design is increasingly ineffectual, as it "merely calls for the revealing of a given social inequality or problem—not a requirement to act to remedy it." "Seeing a problem rarely actually prompts action to solve it," reads the synopsis of his class—an idea that echoes the work of philosopher Jacques Rancière, on whose work the seminar was significantly based.

After guiding students through works by philosophers such as Rancière (who explores the politicization of aesthetics), Elaine Scarry (who wrote Thinking in an Emergency), and Graham Harman and Timothy Morton (significant philosophers in the burgeoning Object Oriented Ontology movement), as well as the more household names from aesthetics including Kant, Fiedler, Burke and Hickey, Gage saw his students produce a series of increasingly politicized design projects that emerged, increasingly, in reaction to the recent election and presidency of Donald Trump.

These included:

  • A 3-D printed monument of Donald Trump (an ostentatious and vulgar creation laden with authoritarian imagery) and model depicting Rancière's "Distribution of the Sensible" philosophical framework (whereby political perceptions are altered; note Trump's back is turned); both by Robert Smith Waters.
  • A ballot box in which only one shape can be placed inside (note the shape of a heart does not fit).
  • A protective face mask that offers guidance on what do if arrested on one side and an eye-less smiley face on the other, by Casey Furman.
  • Roller-blades that can only go in perpendicular directions, by Claire Haugh.
  • A hammock to aid those who climb corporate towers as an act of protest, by Steven McNamara (see AN's coverage of the man who climbed Trump Tower in New York last year).

The Yale School of Architecture has a history of political protests dating back to the 1960’s. This year, numerous large banners of "We won't build your wall" covered the Paul Rudolph–designed structure. Previously, a large banner had read: "United Against Hate." Students also issued a statement in wake of the AIA's initial stance on Trump, saying: “Our profession been plagued by a history of racial and gender inequity. The AIA’s immediate and unquestioning pandering to the Trump administration threatens a continuation of our troubled past and demonstrates a willingness to pursue financial gain at the expense of our values.”

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Cool & Unusual: The story behind Mark Foster Gage’s unique tower proposal for Billionaire’s Row

With a theoretical site on Mahattan’s 57th Street—the so-called Billionaires’ Row—New York–based Mark Foster Gage Architects (MFGA) was recently asked, “What is the next generation of luxury?” The firm's answer? To bring “higher resolution” to those projects by working at a range of textural scales, and his proposed theoretical tower has been making waves in design conversation around the city. For instance, from far away, the building reads as a figure in the skyline, but up close, there is another level of detail that is not legible from far away. Even closer, the ornament has another level of “resolution” that makes it more visually interesting. Gage told AN that the idea comes from a Leon Krier drawing where a man is looking at a column, and then zooms in to see a capital, and then zooms in even further to see an egg-and-dart pattern. The same man then looks at a Modernist building, which looks like a grid. When he zooms in he sees another grid, and then zooms in again to see another grid. Gage wants to develop this concept for the 21st century, creating high- to super-high resolutions using a technique called “kitbashing,” or taking parts of readily available models and repurposing and reanimating them together as a new whole. Three-dimensional models from the internet become like new primitives for MFGA, where a new vocabulary emerges from a wealth of new shapes. “Architecture, and especially abstraction, has become about picking out products,” Gage told AN. “If a building is going to be 102 stories, it should give more to the city than just a facade product.” He cites Rockefeller Center as a building that has multiple readings, from its iconic profile to the narrative relief sculptures on its walls. The proposed tower on 57th Street does not have the overt political meaning that Rockefeller’s ornament does. Gage is adamant about not assigning symbolic meaning to his architecture. He would rather choose the figures for their formal qualities, and let people assign meaning. And people have certainly been assigning meaning. “The comments are hilarious,” said Gage. Critics’ comments include everything from speculation that Bruce Wayne bought the penthouse, to musings about a 21st century Gothic, to comparisons to a temple to the Norse god Odin. Others likened it to Gaudi and Michelangelo. A person going by the name Andres Duany on a University of Miami listserv had the quote of the day. “NO! Ornament must be handcrafted. We must and we will wrench the clock back two centuries!!! That will assure that is [sic] is good ornament. The good looking and durable is the guaranteed result of handcraft. The bad looking and soon-to-be-decrepit is the inevitable result of machine production. Plus returning to handcraft will employ oodles of workers in a satisfying way.” However, aesthetics are slippery slope. Everyone has different opinions. What matters here is that while the forms are extreme, they carry with them a significant set of ideas about ornament in our time, and the importance of resisting the simplification of architecture into a monotonous skyline of dull boxes. With a boom of residential construction producing a large percentage of high-profile architecture in New York and other cities, many of the most exciting projects are not experienced by the public as an actual building, but rather as an image, or a part of a landscape or skyline. In this regard, the contribution architects can make to the city remains mostly visual. Thus, aesthetic research remains important and timely.
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Disheveled Geometry

Brought to you with support from:
Fabrikator
 

Students use parametric design to fashion a porous architectural screen that draws from contemporary marble sculpture.

In the third edition of Mark Foster Gage’s Disheveled Geometries seminar at the Yale School of Architecture, students Mary Burr and Katie Stranix began their exploration of extreme surface textures with marble. Inspired by the sculptural work of Tara Donovan and Elizabeth Turk, the student duo set out to design a delicate yet porous screen that transformed a two dimensional panel into a rhythmic and dynamic 3D structure. According to Stranix, the first design emerged as an aggregation of several different parts and wasn’t intended for parametric processes. “We wanted to maintain delicacy in our design but add porosity,” she told AN, referencing Herzog & de Meuron’s ground level screen at 40 Bond Street in Manhattan. Working in Maya, the students added elliptical apertures in varying diameters to transform the two-dimensional form in a wavy, 3D screen that departed significantly from a standard panel format.
  • Fabricators Mary Burr, Katie Stranix
  • Designers Mary Burr, Katie Stranix
  • Location New Haven, Connecticut
  • Date of Completion May 2013
  • Material Obomodulan high density foam, automotive primer and paint
  • Process Maya, Mudbox, Zbrush, Powermill, KUKA robot, drilling, hand sanding
To add texture to the screen, Stranix and Burr imported their work to Mudbox, but found the renderings ineffective. Though the mockups weren’t to scale, extrapolations of the desired micro-texture resulted in a polygon count “somewhere in the millions,” Stranix said. “If we were going to get it fabricated on the real material, the count would have to be under 12,000.” The same micro-texturing attempts were made in Zbrush—the program that rendered the wrinkles on King Kong’s face in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake—but that also produced the same dissatisfactory outcome due to their lack of access to a very small mill. Going back to the drawing board, Burr and Stranix decided to try using a KUKA robot CNC router to apply the desired texture that would appear naturally from veining in marble. “Marble was so prevalent for so many years, and now it’s nearly obsolete,” Burr said. “Architectural materials are desired for their smoothness, so building up that curvature was a rethinking of that.” Taking advantage of the KUKA’s ability to execute undercuts, texture was added with a broader jump of the drill bit across a 20-inch-by-40-inch panel of Obomodulan, a high-density foam. Working in Powermill, the students designed a path to carve the elliptical grooves but also tolerated machine-induced variations. With this method, the process generated deep variations in texture. The highest point measured about 6 inches, whereas the lowest point was only 2 inches. The final finishing was achieved by approximately 14 hours of hand sanding. In addition, any crevices the robot couldn’t reach were drilled out by Burr and Stranix. “Technically, it all could have been done robotically, but we didn’t have an end mill that small in diameter,” Stranix said. A smooth seal was applied with automotive primer and paint.
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Eavesdrop NY 16

WE SMELL RATS Really? The British tabloids (all of them) are reporting that architectural fetishist and actor, Brad Pitt, has built a gerbil “Neverland” for his six children’s herd on his and Angelina’s estate in the South of France. If you believe what they’re reporting, Pitt paid somewhere between $50,000 and $80,000 on an “elaborate gerbil run [that] has a maze of tunnels, seesaws, and platforms for the pets to live in,” according to ever-present anonymous sources. Pets? Gerbils are rodents. Besides, what do gerbils know about architecture? Eavesdrop wants to see the Rodentia brief, renderings, reflected-ceiling and sprinkler plans, specs, etc. YOUNGER THAN SPRINGTIME According to The Yale Daily News, Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the School of Architecture and septuagenarian, has announced that the school will be featuring younger lecturers. “We want to highlight the work of younger faculty on the ladder for promotion,” Stern said. “We would like to hear from the young ones.” What about the conventional wisdom that says, “Architecture is an old(er) person’s profession?” Youngsters Hilary Sample, Mark Foster Gage, and Vikram Prakash are scheduled to lecture this fall. Send hamster wheels and viagra to shart@archpaper.com