Posts tagged with "Michael Meredith":

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What is Low-resolution architecture?

44 Low-resolution houses was an exhibition of 44 models of houses by 44 architects. It was organized by Michael Meredith and was on display at the Princeton School of Architecture’s North Gallery from September 11-November 9, 2018. Seemingly simple, the show is organized by a strong conceptual framework that puts these houses into dialogue with one another. In the show, “Low-resolution” (Low-res) is posited a way of seeing objects that are not slick surfaces or gridded plans, but rather aggregated, quotidian, and loosely composed. The exhibition is divided into three parts: “first, houses that vaguely resemble houses, using familiar elements like pitched roofs, etc.; second, houses that appear to be constructed, in that one can see the construction, joints, and materials (there is a sort of cheap, unfinished quality to the work); and third, houses that are composed of basic geometric primitives-squares, circles, triangles-arranged in a non-compositional or abstract manner.” In category 1, Montreal practice Atelier Barda’s Maison Gauthiera house that vaguely resembles a house— incorporates narratives of European stables, the gabled roof, arched gateway, vestibule, cathedral ceiling, deep light canyons, and morphological and formal characteristics of Ellsworth Kelly. All of these references were implemented to achieve desired effects while not immediately recognizable as such. Abstracted figural forms escape the cliche of the sign while still holding symbolic meaning, which is a theme of the low-res. In category 2, Ann Arbor firm T+E+A+M’s A Range Life, constructed so that one can see the construction, joints, and materials, creates a feedback loop between the physical and the digital, including printed graphics on the side of the house, but also with similarly weird material approximations such as fake stone bulkheads and foam rocks. The simulations constitute a construction logic that defies the high-tech detailing and material specificity of previous generations such as phenomenologists or the digital avant-garde, as well as big service firms. In category 3, the low-resolution organization (non-compositional or abstract) group, Columbus, OH–based Outpost Office describes their Upstate House as part of a body of work about "openness," or formal and organizational strategy that generates "open systems embedded with multiplicity and/or formal ambiguity." This ambiguity and plurality could provoke new and unexpected social forms.

In this exhibition, these loose, cool compositions are displayed in a highly choreographed, rigorously designed exhibition by New York-based Studio Lin. All-white, 100-pound Bristol paper models at ¼”=1’0” scale with simple AutoCAD hatch patterns showing materials gives each house an equal footing to be compared with others. his is the paradox evident in all of Meredith’s work, where a “Low-res,” nonchalant attitude is hidden deep beneath a refined, clean aesthetic. It is likely what allows him and his practice MOS to have such a distinctive hegemony over young practices today. The problem with this approach for the exhibition is that in architecture, hardcore formalism and the way it strips away material and site sort of undermines the theoretical rigor and novelty of the exhibitions’ content, which relies on more than just massing and abstracted material representations. While this could be read as “Low-res” exhibition design, where only part of the information is available and we get the point, just not in great detail, this would be generous in its reading. IMHO, the conceptual framework of “Low-resseems to be more productive than Meredith’s previous attempt to understand this generation, “indifference.” In Log 39, he wrote an essay “Indifference, Again,” claiming that today's practitioners operate in a condition similar to those in the McCarthy era, and he cited a 1977 Artforum article. This questionable reading of today's political context and the citation of an Artforum article of that vintage left the critical judgment of "indifference" stillborn. However, the shift to the “Low-res” makes more sense in today's neoliberal, late-capitalist world where cultural production is strained by commodification and strained labor. For a group of designers who avoid conflict, “Low-res offers a way to discuss the work that can begin to categorize, understand, and create dialog between the works, rather than simply let the designers off the hook, or veer into nihilistic multivalence like indifference.

Low-res” offer a formal project that becomes extremely productive in part because of the flexibility that arises from the independence of building parts, such as walls and a roof that can be tuned to the needs of program and site, rather than a strict parti of a continuous surface, which can inhibit the finer details of plan and section. The “Low-res” architectural project shares characteristics with certain practices and efforts in both art and product design. Under a broader umbrella of "low"—in the sense of  a "low" production, not necessarily a "low" culture—we can see common threads about how to expose the process of construction or production in the avoidance of what the artist Hito Steyerl describes as "high-end economies of film production were (and still are) firmly anchored in systems of national culture, capitalist studio production, the cult of mostly male genius, and the original version, and thus are often conservative in their very structure."

We can also see this in contemporary art today in the attitude of COMP USA Live, "The original live desktop theater internet television show." The producers created a custom software that allows for a completely anarchic and disorganized aesthetic. Filmed in front of a live studio audience, the show takes place inside of a Windows 2000 desktop. While the technology behind the show is advanced, and the artists are skilled, the show comes off as something more “low-resolution,” as members of the cast are/appear unprepared. They fight with each other, and the low production value is expressed in every sense, from costumes to props and the stage itself. For Meredith, the three categories of “Low-res” point to a similar condition in architecture, one that rejects the futures where virtuosic technology is the answer—the techno-dystopias we see unfolding before us, such as gender-recognition technology—and points to attitudes that make their own ideas about how the world should be: a compositional, material, and organizational “Low-res,” where columns and parts are left articulated in construction, much like the video effects and software glitches (a result of a looseness about color-selection tolerances within the green-screen technology) are left on display in COMP USA Live.

https://vimeo.com/289594891

44 Low-resolution houses showcases some of the best designers in the world, but in the wrong hands, low-resolution seems to have the potential to devolve—or be co-opted—into a techno-dystopian uber-shabby-chic aesthetic, like in District 9, one where the sheddings of capitalism—cheap materials and trash—are recast into aesthetic objects infused with a realism and an almost survivalist fashionability. Given enough space, this kind of formal looseness starts to absorb other loose-nesses in the world, bordering on the ad-hoc or informal. For example, at the 2016 Venice Biennale, curator Alejandro Aravena, a Chilean Aristocrat born of the Post-Pinochet neoliberal order, seemed to suggest that the whole world learns from the practices of the developing world, and build cities out of trash that is disposed of by the machinations of global materialism. The Low-resolution (Low-res) project is not complete, but this show in Princeton’s gallery was a successful attempt to define a set of characteristics and conditions that define contemporary practice for these architects. And this is not easy these days. The remaining question is what causes one to be “Low-res?” How can an entire set of practices be working in this way? It could be that the aesthetics of virtuosity—perfect Grasshopper models—have been absorbed into institutions so deeply that all that is left is some new rethinking of parts as a way to slow down attention but at the same time speed up production, reducing the time spent on generating form and spending more of it looking at material and construction details. Comparing this to Aravena’s Biennale (the aesthetic project of collecting pieces, as well as the social one of helping others), we can see some similarities. Both had dramatic, hi-fidelity exhibition design. While Aravena's Biennale was first a social project that directly attempted to offer solutions to problems, Low-resolution is not. Rather, it grows from conditions underlying the context in which it is produced. Most notably, both are post-digital, Aravena's seeking low-tech solutions that might fill in where the promise of the digital utopia has fallen short, while Meredith's assessment of today's elite design practices arises from a similar condition, probably one where our experience of the digital is less about tools such as Grasshopper, and more about digital space and the feedback loop between online culture, identity politics, and the cut-paste culture of the internet, where anyone can easily piece together an online persona with some clicks of a mouse. Overall, 44 Low-resolution Houses is an important show that could serve as the start of understanding more about how we make architecture today.

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Experimental glass block tower by MOS debuts at Chicago Architecture Biennial

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AN caught up with co-founders of MOS Architects, Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, and Seattle-based artist and designer John Hogan. The group collaborated with structural engineer Nat Oppenheimer of Silman Engineering to develop a prototype of an interlocking structural glass block. The work is part of Vertical City, a central installation at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, where sixteen "towers" respond to one of architectural history's most significant competitions: the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower. Curated by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the towers will remain on exhibit in the Sidney R. Yates Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center through January 7, 2018.
  • Facade Manufacturer John Hogan Designs
  • Architects MOS Architects (Project Team: Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, John Yurchyk, Nile Greenberg, Mark Acciari, Michael Abel, Paul Ruppert, Fancheng Fei.)
  • Additional Project Support Columbia University GSAPP, Princeton University School of Architecture, and College for Creative Studies Detroit
  • Facade Consultants Nat Oppenheimer, Silman Engineering (structural engineering)
  • Location Chicago, IL
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System load bearing glass block w/ aluminum support
  • Products soda-lime-silica glass hot-cast in custom manufactured graphite formwork
Called “& Another (Chicago Tribune Tower),” the project is an orderly stack of three types of modular block units rising to approximately sixteen feet tall. A custom-milled aluminum plate system interfaces with the glass block wall every two courses, providing lateral bracing. The assembly creates a translucent effect, blurring the legibility of the tower’s structural core. "We would like this to be a real building," said Michael Meredith. "This is a full-scale mockup of a 16-foot-tall glass wall. We didn't know what we were going to get at first. It was all a big experiment." The office tapped into technical Ph.D. papers and engineering research utilized in MVRDV's recent glass block project and looked into precedents from offices like Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Michael Meredith said the aesthetic qualities of the glass are what pique most visitors’ interest, but expects the work will spark a deeper conversation about architectural history. The installation pairs the repetitive, rational, and modular thinking of Ludwig Hilberseimer, best known for his ties to the Bauhaus and to Mies van der Rohe, with “one-liner” tectonic jokes—tower as a fluted column, a skyscraper with crenellation, etc.—in the manner of Adolf Loos who submitted a “joke” entry to the original 1922 competition. The tower sits just shy of sixteen feet, remaining "unfinished," with a final course of blocks scattered on the ground below. The glass blocks were handmade, so ensuring the assembly stayed vertically true was a primary concern to the project team. A "peg registration" system—precisely located bumps and divets—was incorporated into the formwork to assist in stacking the modular units. Despite this planning, Hogan said the group was not sure how much tolerance the individual units would have. The solution was to incorporate CNC-milled aluminum plates to provide a rigid template for the glass walls. "Engineering a system that basically gives you a reset every two courses was the best way for us to be confident the tower would stand straight." The glass block manufacturing process lasted only six days and resulting in 750 blocks from three distinct forms. The team used soda-lime glass, one of the most prevalent types of glass available, accounting for about 90% of manufactured glass today. For Hogan, the project is a continuation of techniques picked up at Alfred University in Western New York, a top-notch casting facility with what he calls “an incredible collection of scrap graphite” (an ideal material for hot-casting glass). Hot-casting is a process that involves pouring molten glass into a form. Graphite is an ideal form material as it can be removed almost immediately after the pour, whereas other materials require the glass to cool completely prior to removal—a lengthier process that is inherently more labor intensive.
Hogan said despite the fast timeframe and limited budget, the creative process was fluid and not predetermined from the start. "The lack of pressure MOS put on themselves to have a predetermined idea of where this thing is going and what it might become is something that aligns well with how I work." So what’s next now that the "mock-up" is complete? Hogan continues to “scale up” his efforts and will be completing a rooftop exterior screen installation later this year in Seattle. He credits this repetitive modular design approach as a way to continue working at a larger architectural scale. MOS Architects and Hogan plan to collaborate on future projects as well. "For me, this is just the beginning of a conversation," said Hogan. "The potential for building larger structures or any number of facade systems with this approach is something we are very excited about. Everything is automated and precise today, so the handmade qualities of building materials have become increasingly relevant.”
 
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MOS Architects, Michael Graves among winners of the 2015 Cooper Hewitt Design Awards

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum started awarding a yearly Design Award in 2000. The award is a jury-selected process that includes among its ten categories honors for Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Design, and for Lifetime Achievement that has been won by architects. This year's awards were elegantly introduced by the Museum’s Director Caroline Baumann and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. They honored MOS Architects' Hilary Sample and Michael Meredith, landscape designer Shane Coen at Coen + Partners, and Commune, the Los Angeles interior design firm. In addition, Common Ground founder Rosanne Haggerty was given a Design Mind award, Jack Lenor Larson was awarded the Director's Award, and, fittingly, the late Michael Graves (whose partners claim he told them before he died that he would win the award this year) was given the annual Lifetime Achievement award.
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AN senior editor Matt Shaw interviews MOS Architects

New York-based studio MOS's experimental projects use technology not to produce extreme digital forms, but to create scenarios for different forces to generate new and novel solutions. Senior editor Matt Shaw sat down with principals Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample in their Harlem home-studio to learn more.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How would you characterize your practice in general?

Hilary Sample: Well, I think it is still evolving—it’s not a set thing, it doesn’t run by itself. We don’t have a fixed methodology. It is unconventional and we try to make it that way on purpose. We are working through a set of problems. We have recently evolved from working on the single-family house to art-related projects and installations, artist’s studios at Krabbesholm, and now mixed use as well.

Michael Meredith: One part of running an office is to produce a culture. We’re a small group, we aren’t corporate, and we live above the office, so it’s an intimate thing. Everybody knows us, they know our kids. We interact all the time. They see our dogs. It’s literally Mom and Pop. We set up a culture where we are working on commercial projects, projects for clients that have to meet budgets and stuff, but at the same time we are making stuff for no clients whatsoever. We are a normal office too though—we have deadlines, crises, the usual.

AN: Your work incorporates a subtle sense of humor in it. How do you reconcile that with a more refined sense of good taste?

MM: It’s not one of these things where if you are one you aren’t the other. It’s more like a mannerism, where you can see the slipped keystone as a kind of sense of humor to some degree. At Solo House there was a kind of humor in a way it could be tragedy. One of the T-shapes has fallen over and becomes the bedroom. That kind of physical humor seems like part of architecture’s history. The buildings have a kind of clunkiness, so it’s kind of childish, but it also works really well, it solves the client’s needs, it stays within budgets, it’s hopefully a place between something beautiful and clunky.

HS: We are interested in refined things that can still be playful too. Lately, we have been talking about putting together a body of our work. Now that we have a history of our own, we can start to look at it more seriously and ask what the next steps are now. You know when you do something that it will work for multiple projects.

MM: If you look at Alvaro Siza, he is an amazing architect who has had obsessions about single ideas for an entire lifetime, he is still trying to work through them. It’s different, but you can put the pieces together. That is something we would strive toward, rather than the corporate model where everything is unique and different and is driven by its site and client. I get worried about that with some offices.

AN: How do you approach a new design problem?

MM: We go back to the previous work and then go from there. I think.

HS: I think that’s right. It depends on the project. Houses have house issues, Cultural projects have cultural issues. So we look at our previous work and then we start to research. It’s kind of a typical architectural process: We look at the site, the program, and the environmental issues.

We are really excited to be included in the upcoming Chicago Biennial. It’s a great group. We were in the Ordos 100, which was almost ten years ago. There are starting to be little exhibitions around that now. To be included in Chicago is great. I’m really excited that there is something like this happening in the United States. It’s a really great moment.

MM: We are doing a house at full scale in a room right next to Tatiana Bilbao and Vo Trong Nghia, a Vietnamese architect. There will be three full-scale houses and we are one of them. The Chicago thing should be interesting. It’s like a generation is starting to emerge.