Posts tagged with "The Museum of Modern Art MoMA":

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Dream the Combine wins 2018 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program

Minneapolis, Minnesota—based Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers of Dream the Combine have won the 19th annual Young Architects Program (YAP), sponsored by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and MoMA PS1, with their project entitled Hide & Seek. The responsive and kinetic installation is developed in collaboration with Clayton Binkley of ARUP and will be on view in the MoMA courtyard starting in June 2018. Hide & Seek promises to bring several dynamic, performance-based pavilions to PS1’s courtyard spaces in order to create a “multiplicity of viewpoints where everyone’s experience is valid,” Newsom explained over telephone. The installation is made up of nine discrete compositional elements that run throughout the courtyards, including three platform areas containing opposing, movable mirrored walls. These mirrored spaces will attempt to unify the adjoining courtyard areas while integrating a performance stage, a concessions stand, and a cool-down spot into the installation. A small ancillary courtyard will contain an oversized catamaran fabric hammock. Portions of the remaining installation will be shaded by overhead fabric sails outfitted with misters calibrated to give the space an ethereal atmosphere after dark. Each of the three main steel-framed structures will contain two inward-facing, gimbaled mirrors that can be manipulated by party goers to reflect each weekend’s unique “catharsis of movement,” according to Newsom. The infinitely-reflective mirrors create an “illusion of space [that] expands beyond the physical boundaries [of PS1] and bends into new forms, creating visual connections within the courtyard and onto the streets outside,” a press release states. Regarding the proposal for Hide & Seek, Sean Anderson, associate curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, said, “Conceived as a temporary site of exchange, the proposal activates the MoMA PS1 courtyard as a speculative frontier to be magnified, transgressed, and re-occupied.” For the proposal, the designers were inspired partially by the dramatic change in use seen within the courtyard between the raucous weekend parties and more reserved weekday uses of the space. In reference to the opposing nature of the courtyard’s activities throughout the week, Carruthers said, “We are trying to create an installation that’s not just an object, but that is able to be responsive at different times of use.” Dream the Combine beat out LeCavalier R+D, FreelandBuck, OFICINAA, and BairBalliet for the YAP commission. An exhibition highlighting the five finalists' proposed projects will be on view at MoMA over the summer.
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The Met’s new admission policy is a real design problem

The new year has kicked off with the news of the Metropolitan Museum of Art changing its admission policy. Instead of a voluntary contribution, any adult without a New York State proof of residence will have to pay the full price of $25, with few exceptions. I used to work at the Met as an exhibition designer. Well aware of the financial troubles of the institution, I participated in brainstorming sessions among the departments to think of ways to generate revenue from visitors without adding a non-negotiable admission fee. I was working at the Met when it rebranded itself under the tagline of being "open" and trying to be more accessible "for everyone." The museum spent millions of dollars on a new identity and logo geared towards appealing to a broader public and getting rid of its elitist image. In this vein, the question of admission is not merely a financial one–it is a design and visitor experience problem. Ironically, the decision to charge selective admission fees will affect exactly the people the museum is trying to reach through expensive outreach and education programs. From a design standpoint, the visitor journey into the museum is now a divided one, with financial and psychological barriers to entry for those who are least likely to come. By drawing a line based on people’s ability to afford rent within the five boroughs, the Met is revealing its own contradictory nature. It wants to be exclusive and sophisticated, while still "for everyone." Even for locals who would technically be able to enter, the policy presents a deterring tactic. New Yorkers who lack proper documentation, including those without legal status, are affected, as are commuters who work in the city every day but live in a nearby state. It also excludes family and friends who visit their New York-based relatives on a budget and might not be able to afford what the Met leadership considers a "fair" price. This is not the only instance of the paradoxical spending priorities at the Met. The Met Gala swallows millions while the exhibitions department can’t afford necessary equipment. The cafeteria increased rates on subprime food the same year nobody got a raise. The museum was planning a $600-million-dollar expansion while not updating the completely antiquated signage in the Great Hall. Seen this way, the new ticketing policy is just the tip of the iceberg of irrational financial decisions. From a financial standpoint, the new admissions policy also entails a number of hidden costs. It makes the ticketing and admission process more expensive because of the added time needed for ID-checking and negotiating. New signage and way-finding needs to be designed and installed to explain the new policy to visitors. The Great Hall needs to be re-organized with new stanchioning to address the two-tier system. While tickets are one way of generating revenue, there are other ways to raise money from visitors while keeping admissions fees voluntary. They are all connected to a perceived value of the visit for one-off visitors and to a sense of identification for returning ones. This is where design can play a critical role in helping people understand that their contribution is actually valuable to the museum. The visitor journey starts with the online presence of the Met, and continues as people enter the museum and wait in line for their ticket. There are currently six ticketing booths at the Met, with long lines in front of the coat check and the sprawling retail store tucked in the corner. Because of confusing signage, people return to the Great Hall multiple times per visit to re-orient themselves, adding to the crowded feeling. A reorganization of the Great Hall is long overdue and could drive revenue with more effective ticket processing times combined with nudges towards retail and hospitality opportunities. Clear messaging and signage, open retail displays and optimized ticketing are all ways to make the visitor experience better and drive revenue at the same time. While the Met has discussed and tried to implement some of these ideas in the past years, the measures cannot be implemented simultaneously, so it is hard to measure their collective impact. Secondly, the internal priorities of different stakeholders make it hard to proceed in a unified and consistent direction. Perhaps the Met could start seeing the phased rollout as an advantage, where each measure can be fine-tuned and evaluated before final implementation. One hidden motivation behind the policy may have been to actually decrease the number of total visitors to address overcrowding. The argument goes that more people will end up coming who truly appreciate the Met, as the visit is something of value since it has a price tag. However, looking at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which charges a mandatory admission fee of $25, the new policy is not likely to change the number of visitors significantly, just the make-up of the crowd. For that reason, the Met needs to evaluate beyond just numbers, and understand how the changed policy affects who can visit and who is kept out. While argued as a economic necessity, the Met’s decision to abolish free entrance for everyone but those with the right identification is designed to exclude society's weakest. It is not a coincidence that the measure was put in place in absence of a director. One can only hope that the new director will recognize the opportunity to roll back this exclusionary policy. At a time when the political climate is hostile to the values forwarded by museums and cultural public institutions, it is vital that the Met's mission of openness and access is actually put into practice.
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Ten architecture shows to see in 2018

2018 is shaping up to be a solid year for striking and thought-provoking architecture exhibits. From Yugoslavian architecture to California design, here are ten shows not to miss: The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion: New York Edition Center for Architecture 536 LaGuardia Place Through March 31 Curated and designed by Interboro Partners, The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion: New York Edition presents 156 “weapons” used by political groups, developers, and community organizations to restrict or increase access to urban space. Inside the Walls: Architects Design Friedman Benda 515 West 26th Street Through February 17 This January, Friedman Benda gallery presents its annual guest-curated exhibition Inside the Walls: Architects Design, a survey spanning over a century that will encompass a broad range of architects from across the globe. The exhibit will feature the works of such architects as Philip Johnson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Luis Barragán, through the mediums of archival photographs and historical ephemera. Mark McDonald, a pre-eminent dealer of 20th-century modernist design, curated the sweeping exhibition. Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation 1172 Amsterdam Avenue March 30, 1:00 p.m. The opening of Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient includes a half-day conference with speakers such as Adrienne Hart, Steven Holl, Momoyo Homma, Lucy Ives, Andrés Jaque, Thomas Kelley, Leopold Lambert, Carrie Norman, Spyros Papetros, Irene Sunwoo, and Miwako Tezuka. The exhibit features the work of the former artistic and architectural partnership between Madeline Arakawa Gins and Shusaku Arakawa. Copy + Paste: Hall of Architecture  Carnegie Museum of Art 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh Through May 6 The Carnegie Museum of Art's Hall of Architecture possesses almost 150 facades, monuments, and architectural details sourced from across the world, which are predominantly cast and assembled in plaster. Copy + Paste explores this tradition of recreation through the investigation of augmented reality, 3-D printing, and potential robotic applications in the art of replication. The Open Workshop: New Investigations in Collective Form  Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 701 Mission Street, San Francisco March 9–July 15 Based in the Bay Area, The Open Workshop is an interdisciplinary design workshop focusing on urbanism, politics, and infrastructure. Featured as part of the Center’s The City Initiative, the group looks to create provocative and daring works within the urban environment. The Open Workshop founder Neeraj Bhatia is an architect and urban designer from Toronto and an assistant professor of architecture at the California College of the Arts. Designed in California San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 151 3rd Street, San Francisco Through May 27 Over the 20th century, California emerged as leader in design in both the United States and the world. Designed in California focuses on the output of design addressing socioeconomic and environmental awareness. The exhibit also examines the role of the digital revolution and the transformation of the consumer to digital user, one connected by the Internet of Things. Drawing Codes: Experimental Protocols of Architectural Representation University of Michigan Taubman College 2000 Bonisteel Boulevard, Ann Arbor, Michigan March 7–March 28 The use of innovative technologies in the realms of design and production has opened new avenues for architectural drawing and rendering. Through the use of 24 experimental drawings, Drawing Codes: Experimental Protocols of Architectural Representation examines the engagement between architectural drawing and design within the constraints of coding, be it zoning ordinances or technological scripts. The intended goal of the exhibit is to display the many approaches available for designers when confronted with a diversity of rules and restraints. Then, Now, Next: Evolution of an Architectural Icon Denver Art Museum 100 W 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver Through February 25 Architect Gio Ponti designed the Denver Art Museum and this exhibit traces the history of Ponti’s work featuring his historical photos, original architectural sketches, building models, and project renderings to tell the story of the North Building’s evolution. Not to Scale: Highlights from the Flys Eye Dome Archive Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas Through March 28 This exhibit features drawings, models, and concept sketches from the architect Buckminister Fuller during his work on the project Fly’s Eye Dome. Not to Scale: Highlights from the Fly’s Eye Dome Archive illuminates the work of Fuller and his collaborators, engineer John Warren and architect Norman Foster. Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980 The Museum of Modern Art 11 W 53rd Street October 10, 2018–January 13, 2019 This exhibit will feature more than 400 drawings, photographs, models, and film reels from across the former Yugoslavia, depicting the unique Brutalist style that developed in that sprawling Balkan state. Toward a Concrete Utopia will be the first exhibit of its kind to focus on Brutalism across the Balkan peninsula.
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Architects protest AA publication staff cuts

Since the Architectural Association (AA) announced it would slash staff from its publications division last week, the architecture community in Britain and abroad has expressed deep concern over cuts that could impact the AA Files, the school's influential journal of record. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) has obtained copies of letters to the AA sent by alums, former teachers, design curators, and others. In a letter to AA Board of Trustees President David Porter, the three curators of MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design expressed "strongest concern" over the closing of the AA Files and the school's publications and exhibitions departments. Martino Stierli, chief curator; Barry Bergdoll, curator; and Sean Anderson, associate curator asked the AA to wait until a new director is appointed before making drastic changes to the institution. "While we do not have a full understanding of the complex situation that the school is facing in this difficult moment, we nevertheless unequivocally urge you to consider whether it might not be possible to work with interested parties to see if there is another solution," they said. The cuts come as the AA searches for a new director after director Brett Steele left in 2016 after 11 years of service. Interim director Samantha Hardingham has handled operations since Steele's departure. Alum Peter Wilson, founding principal of BOLLES+WILSON, expressed "shock and horror" at the decision to get rid of the AA Publications department. (Editor's note: The AA hasn't confirmed whether the division will be shut down entirely.) Writing to Hardingham, Tim Benton, professor emeritus of art history at the Open University and longtime AA instructor, addressed the difficult role of the interim director but asked the school to find a different money-saving alternative to staff cuts. "The AA has always published and exhibited," Benton said. "To downgrade the reputation of the school is not a wise move and those who decide to dumb down an historic institution should also be held accountable." Porter commented on the school's process in an email to AN: "No final decisions have yet been made in respect of AA publications or indeed any other function subject to restructuring proposals," he wrote. "Every effort is being made to ensure the essential value of these functions will not be lost." AN has reached out to Porter for additional comment on staff cuts, but has not heard back at press time. In a five-page memo from August, before staff cuts were announced, Archigram founder Peter Cook lamented the school's direction and what he sees as a cultural shift towards put-together "'corporate'" Ivy League–type students. "Whatever happened to those picky, witty, contentious, interesting, resourceful, Identifiable [sic] AA types? Did they die out?" Cook asked. The letters are collected here for public review, and AN will add to the folder as more letters reach our inbox.
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New MoMA show plots the impact of computers on architecture and design

The beginnings of digital drafting and computational design will be on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) starting November 13th, as the museum presents Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age, 1959–1989. Spanning 30 years of works by artists, photographers, and architects, Thinking Machines captures the postwar period of reconciliation between traditional techniques and the advent of the computer age. Organized by Sean Anderson, associate curator in the museum's Department of Architecture and Design, and Giampaolo Bianconi, a curatorial assistant in the Department of Media and Performance Art, the exhibition examines how computer-aided design became permanently entangled with art, industrial design, and space planning. Drawings, sketches, and models from Cedric Price’s 1978-80 Generator Project, the never-built “first intelligent building project” will also be shown. The response to a prompt put out by the Gilman Paper Corporation for its White Oak, Florida, site to house theater and dance performances alongside travelling artists, Price’s Generator proposal sought to stimulate innovation by constantly shifting arrangements. Ceding control of the floor plan to a master computer program and crane system, a series of 13-by-13-foot rooms would have been continuously rearranged according to the users’ needs. Only constrained by a general set of Price’s design guidelines, Generator’s program would even have been capable of rearranging rooms on its own if it felt the layout hadn’t been changed frequently enough. Raising important questions about the interaction between a space and its occupants, Generator House laid the groundwork for computational architecture and smart building systems. Exploring the rise of rise of the plotter and production of computer-generated images, Thinking Machines provides a valuable look into the transition between hand drawn imagery and today’s modern suite of design tools. The sinuous works of Zaha Hadid and other architects who rely on computational design to make their projects a reality all owe a debt to the artists on display at Thinking Machines. Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age, 1959–1989 will be running from November 13th to April 8th, 2018. MoMA members can preview the show from November 10th through the 12th.
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FBI files, a missing MoMA house, and the life of modernist architect Gregory Ain

On show now at the Center for Architecture (CFA) in New York is an exhibition on the late architect Gregory Ain. Titled This Future Has a Past, the show looks at Ain's life while focusing on his Exhibition House for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Garden, a project that mysteriously disappeared. Guiding audiences through Ain's personal life, This Future Has a Past attempts to shed light on the house's curious history. Ain practiced mostly around Los Angeles and his style comes under the umbrella of midcentury modernism. He even taught the likes of Frank Gehry. However, as Phillip Denny points out in his New York Times article, not much else is known about the architect, especially by those outside L.A. Unless you are the F.B.I., that is. Ain, who died in 1988 at the age of 80, was a Leftist and his political stance meant he was under scrutiny during the Red Scare. This happened after a housing complex (which never came to fruition) appeared on the F.B.I.'s radar; it was rumored the scheme was connected to the Communist Party. In 1950, Philip Johnson, who the F.B.I. was also monitoring due to his supposed connections to the Nazi Party, commissioned Ain to design a house for the MoMA to stand as an exhibit in its garden. The house was the second of its kind. Marcel Breuer, also commissioned by Johnson, had controversially supplied the previous MoMA Garden house in 1949. Mysteriously, however, Ain's house appears to have gone missing, with little clues as to its whereabouts. Breuer's house and the house that came after it, the Japanese House by Junzo Yoshimura, meanwhile, still survive having been relocated elsewhere. Christiane Robbins, founding principal at Metropolitan Architectural Practice (MAP) and professor of architecture at California College of the Arts, created the CFA exhibition with Katherine Lambert, who is principal and director of special projects at MAP. The pair's interest was piqued when the photographer Julius Schulman mentioned Ain's mysterious past. “He said there was a story there that wasn’t getting told,” Lambert told the New York Times. “But he wouldn’t tell us what it was.”

The exhibition at the CFA includes a model of Ain's MoMA house. The model had turned up at architect Theodore "The Dean of Models" Conrad's house in New Jersey. In addition to this, F.B.I. files procured by Robbins after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request are also on display. The files disclose oddly specific details on Ain, such as his weight and also his alias, Fred Grant.

Despite the unearthed files, Ain's house is yet to be found. “To put all of that money into the exhibition house only to demolish it doesn’t make sense,” said Robbins.

This Future Has a Past is presented in cooperation with Anyspace. The exhibition was initially intended for the 15th International Venice Biennale of Architecture but is on show at the CFA until September 12, 2017. A special talk, "Who was Gregory Ain?" is planned for September 7. More details on that can be found here.

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Digital Frank Lloyd Wright catalogue is almost as good as the hardcover

In conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: Unpacking the Archive, a new online version of the exhibition catalogue book is now available to preview and purchase. 

Unlike a standard ebook, this digital version is designed specifically for an art book reading experience. While the catalogue is available in print format—and there still is nothing like thumbing through physical pages—the digitized version offers a user-friendly interface whose features make up for the lack of tactility.

Published through Musebooks, perhaps the best feature of this digital version is the ability to toggle between text view, image view, and page view while staying in the same section. The image view compiles all of the catalogue’s illustrations into one webpage and allows readers to zoom into the detailed drawings without losing much of the resolution, a feature that is critical for discerning readers.

The catalogue and exhibition highlight Wright’s expansive practice and feature architectural drawings, models, furniture, films, and television broadcasts. Focusing on objects from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, they include essays penned by architecture professors and critics like Mabel O. Wilson, Michael Desmond, and Ken Tadashi Oshima, accompanied by almost 300 illustrations.

A preview of the digital version of Frank Lloyd Wright: Unpacking the Archive is available through Musebooks, where it is also being sold for $25.99. (The hardcover, meanwhile, will set you back $44.15 on Amazon.)

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As Frank Lloyd Wright turns 150, the MoMA immerses visitors in 450 works by the iconic American architect

The Museum of Modern Art is throwing Frank Lloyd Wright a birthday party by brushing the dust off of some of his oldest works in the new exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive.

Opening June 12, four days after the architect’s 150th birthday, the exhibit features approximately 450 works in the form of drawings, models, films, furniture, textiles, photos, and building fragments. The works are organized into 12 sections to present Wright’s work as an anthology, exploring the timeline of major events and projects in his life and career.

A catalogue will accompany the exhibition, featuring newly photographed drawings, models, and buildings, as well as a series of critiques and essays by guest scholars—including a piece by Barry Bergdoll, curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA and organizer of the exhibit.

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive The Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53rd Street, New York June 12–October 1

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See Frank Lloyd Wright in three places this June

At three places this June, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to see Frank Lloyd Wright's work, and a bit of the man himself. New York's Yossi Milo Gallery is presenting Ezra Stoller's images of Wright's most iconic buildings on the 150th anniversary of his birth. Stoller, a master chronicler of modern architecture who died in 2004, first photographed Frank Lloyd Wright's schools in Spring Green, Wisconsin and Scottsdale, Arizona in 1945. Black-and-white images of Taliesin and Taliesin West (the summer and winter campuses, respectively) will share wall space alongside prints of the Marin County Civic Center, the SC Johnson Research Tower, Fallingwater, and the Guggenheim, just uptown. That exhibition, aptly named Ezra Stoller Photographs Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture, opens June 29 and runs through the end of the summer. Over at MoMA, curators are set to unveil a new anthology-style show that will address Wright's multiple practices as an architect, designer, builder, and thinker. Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive divides itself into 12 sections, each devoted to a selection of objects from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives. These items, from the 1890s through the 1950s, will be displayed alongside objects from the MoMA and other collections. Unpacking the Archive opens June 12 and is organized in collaboration with Columbia University's Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. But wait, there's more: the Guggenheim Museum is celebrating Wright's birthday on June 8 with, among other things, reduced-price admission for all visitors and an actor/historian playing Wright who will blow out birthday candles in the rotunda.
Ezra Stoller Photographs Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture is on view at Yossi Milo Gallery from June 29 through August 25. More information can be found on the gallery's websiteFrank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive runs from June 12 through October 1 at MoMA, with hours and additional programming information at moma.orgFrank Lloyd Wright 150th Birthday Celebration will be held on June 8 at the Guggenheim, and the fête's full schedule is here.
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Carlo Caldini, co-founder of Gruppo 9999, passes away

Carlo Caldini, co-founder of Gruppo 9999, passed away on February 22 in his home in Florence, Italy. He was 76 years old. Together with fellow members Giorgio Birelli, Fabrizio Fiumi, and Paolo Galli, Gruppo 9999 was selected through an open competition to participate in the ground-breaking exhibition Italy: the New Domestic Landscape at MoMA in 1972, curated by Emilio Ambasz. Their contribution, Casa Orto—Vegetable Garden House, would become one of the defining projects in the early ecology movement. In revisiting the teachings of St. Francis the group introduced a new kind of architectural sensitivity, combining a deep respect for nature with advanced technology. Their “tondo” portrait of St. Francis, with a television monitor broadcasting the Saint’s image above, eloquently spoke to the great dichotomy of their era, where technology was seen to defile nature. For Gruppo 9999, nature and technology could co-exist in building a better environment for living. Gruppo 9999 emerged from the same post-war generation that engendered the Florentine Superarchitecture movement, from which emerged Archizoom and Superstudio. The first collective assembly formed in 1968 was called 1999, but reconstituted itself in 1970 as 9999. They went on to found the discotheque Space Electronic in 1969, a self-organized production, constructed on collective know-how and communal labor. Inspired by a visit to Andy Warhol’s Electric Circus in New York, half ludic dance hall, half cybernetic chamber, the Space Electronic discotheque succeeded in consolidating 9999’s reputation as a critical player among this second wave of Radical Italian designers. While the discotheque hosted a number of major acts, including the Living Theatre’s Paradise Now directed by Julian Beck and Judith Malina, the Nobel prize winner Dario Fo with Franca Rame, along with Rory Gallagher and Van Der Graaf Generator, it is this author’s opinion that one of their most significant contributions was the launching of a new form of temporary radical design school. Born from a collaborative effort with Superstudio, the Florentine discotheque was transformed into a tactical site for full-scale installations and performance spaces during the Mondial Festival: Life, Death and Miracles of Architecture, that culminated in a three-day event in November of 1971. This festival included the experimental learning center called S-Space: the Separate School for Expanded Conceptual Architecture. It was the first school of its kind to chart the progress of the Italian Radical design movement. This short-lived project, to an extent related to Alvin Boyarsky’s International Institute of Design (IID) whose summer sessions included the participation of many of these same Italian groups, is one of the lesser-known chapters in the Radical movement’s history. The Mondial Festival featured Gianni Pettena, UFO., Remo Butti, and Zziggurat, the Milanese pamphleteer and media theorist Ugo La Pietra, the Florence-based Fluxus musician Giuseppe Chiari and Florentine artist/musician Renato Ranaldi, along with several international contributors, including the American Ant Farm, and the San Francisco–based Portola Institute and from England, Street Farmer. With the slogan, “…we should better love our planet!”  the event proved to be a significant study in cross-disciplinary actions, and just as importantly, the testing grounds for full-scale installations and live interventions. Space Electronic was an ideally receptive environment for the type of multi-purpose and interactive happenings that so distinctly characterized the Radical Italian design movement in this prime moment. The catalog, a white fake fur covered publication, remains a rare collector’s item. Carlo Caldini ran Space Electronic right up until the end, remaining an important figure in Florentine culture. With his passing, we lose another important eye witness to this critical period in architectural history.
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Jenny Sabin wins this year’s MoMA Young Architects Program

Ithaca, New York—based practice Jenny Sabin Studio has won the 18th iteration of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and MoMA PS1’s annual Young Architects Program for her project entitled Lumen. The immersive design will be on show starting June 27 at the MoMA PS1 courtyard in Long Island City.

Lumen changes throughout the day, offering shade and shelter from the sun, while also providing artificial illumination after sunset. This is achieved thanks to a tubular lattice canopy comprised of recycled, photo-luminescent, and solar active textiles that absorb, collect, and emit light. The canopy reacts to changes in daylight, absorbing and producing light when necessary. In conjunction with this, fabric stalactites will release mist in response to visitors' proximity, allowing the adaptive structure to respond to changes in heat and the density of the crowd.

Sabin's design will be present for the 20th season of Warm Up, an outdoor music series from MoMA PS1, and will stay on view for the rest of summer. Lumen was chosen as the winner ahead of four other projects. The competition brief called for projects that address environmental issues such as sustainability and recycling. The temporary outdoor installation had to be capable of providing water as well as seating and shade.

"Jenny Sabin's catalytic immersive environment, Lumen, captured the jury's attention for imaginatively merging public and private spaces," said Sean Anderson, associate curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design. "With innovative construction and design processes borne from a critical merging of technology and nature to precise attention to detail at every scale, Lumen will no doubt engage visitors from day to night in a series of graduated environments and experiences."

Losing out to Sabin were four other finalists. These included Bureau Spectacular (Jimenez Lai and Joanna Grant), Ania Jaworska, Office of III (Sean Canty, Ryan Golenberg, and Stephanie Lin), and SCHAUM/SHIEH (Rosalyne Shieh and Troy Schaum). Despite not being realized, their work will be on show at the MoMA during the summer.

“The Young Architects Program remains one of the most significant opportunities for architects and designers from across the country and world to build radical yet transformative ideas. This year's finalists are no exception; their projects illustrate a diversity of approaches and refreshing ideas for architecture today,” Anderson added.

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The MoMA delves into designing for refugees but falls short on substance

Modernism’s alienating functionalism seems not so subtly hidden in the perfect grids and modular shelters of refugee camps. The urgency of survival turns shelter into a problem to be solved while ignoring the complexities of refugees’ situations. For example, the 2007 edition of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Handbook for Emergencies presupposes that refugee camp shelters can be organized around nuclear family units (hardly a universal cultural constant). MoMA associate curator Sean Anderson cited a similar example of poor shelter design as the impetus for his exhibition Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter. In Jordan, where Anderson spent extensive time visiting camps, refugees were given metal shelters—a disastrous choice in the punishing desert heat. To counter the seductive notion that “architecture is the solution to assist, aid, represent and help these populations,” as Anderson said, the exhibit presents a range of drawings, photography, artworks, and objects to question whether there is a simple “solution” at all. While Insecurities laudably forefronts this perennial issue (there are some 60 million refugees worldwide) and highlights what makes it challenging (a complex fusion of geography, violence, international politics, and architecture), it also seems like a missed opportunity to take a long, hard look at specific instances where designers failed refugees.

I say a long, hard look because—as Anderson himself said in an interview—refugees often find themselves trapped in camps for years, decades, sometimes in seeming perpetuity. One of the exhibition’s most poignant works is a large wool tapestry designed by Sahrawi refugees in the Western Sahara. The Sahrawis were forced from Morocco some forty years ago and have subsequently remained in a remote region of neighboring Algeria ever since. The National Union of Sahrawi Women, in collaboration with Switzerland and Germany-based architect Manuel Herz, created this map of Rabouni (the camp-turned-capital of the Sahrawi government-in-exile). The camp bears the hallmarks of a proper capital, with ministries of defense, the interior, and education, though with a key difference: The UN’s World Food Program is at the heart of Rabouni.

Much like the Rabouni tapestry, Refugee Republic testifies to how camps evolve. This immersive audiovisual installation mapped the sounds and layout of Camp Domiz, a collection of some 58,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq. On a visceral level, it places you in the camp: Users hear the sounds of a small city while they take an illustrated walking tour of its shops, bus stops, community spaces, restaurants, hairdressers, and more. While permanency and the camp-cities are critical dimensions to the global refugee crises, the exhibition also rightly highlights the extreme and immediate vulnerability of refugees: Liquid Traces: The Left-to-Die Boat is a video, assembled by a team of researchers and designers, that tracks how a boat of migrants was left to drift on the Mediterranean Sea within a NATO surveillance area, leaving 9 survivors out of 72.

Yet, for all the urgency and nuance that some works in Insecurities bring, others fall short. One wall features a grid of photographs depicting different emergency shelters made from plastic, metal, sandbags, etc. It seems dangerous to present these shelters—as well as large photographs of camps from around the world—without context. Tasked with helping respond to a refugee crises, any architect or organizer would immediately face tremendous dilemmas: By preparing a community for the long haul (building permanent homes, economic infrastructure, local government) refugees may fear that tacitly admitting that a return to their homeland would be impossible and, consequently, that they must settle for whatever fate their host country provides.Government-provided shelters and protective fences may later seem like prison cells and walls. Where’s the line between providing shelter and containment? How does architecture—supposedly solid and sturdy—respond to communities in limbo?

This is a paradox the exhibition makes clear and it’s a question that architects must consider if they’re to be part of a response to refugee crises. But when the exhibition displays photographs of countless camps—Nizip II (a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey), Mugombwa in Rwanda, Dadaab in Kenya, Dheisheh in the West Bank, and shelters in Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport—it makes one wonder: What worked? What failed? How can architects respond? Perhaps a tall order, but the exhibition could have investigated further to offer at least bread crumbs toward a new, comprehensive architectural response.

Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter highlights how refugees are caught between invisible borders, relocated to the periphery, and controlled by governments under the guise of protection or security. Those are the symptoms of a deeper reality: Refugees are, by definition, individuals and communities without the protection of architecture or government. The fact that refugees are without the advocacy of their national government (assuming it exists somewhere) makes the role of the designer even more fraught (not to mention the potential shades of colonialism, something the exhibition doesn’t address). The UN can provide instructions to help leaders manage a crisis, but we would hardly expect a single, universal manual for any field of design or planning. If architects are to step up, there must be a deep and broad institutional awareness of past failures and successes to chart a path forward.

Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter Museum of Modern Art, New York, through January 22