SHOWTIME! H-e-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-s-s-Sylvia! Armed with the good stuff. Pirouetting with John Soane, Peter Eisenman, and even Charles Moore. Connecting the dots with intellect, passion, and forensic precision, and trotting out never-before-seen docs blown up to the size of garage doors. Demonstrating not simply with words—which were choice, USDA prime—but with a full-blown demonstration of why what those words were about should matter. And what were they about? Some soon to be forgotten parametric wonder? Some arcane theoretical contest? Or a newly discovered manifesto that intends to change the course of everything? Not at all. They are a reality check, a course correction—maybe, even a scold (though that was never her tone)—that brought many in the room to a thudding encounter with reality. With those words—and the images that accompanied them—Lavin plays Lazarus to a fault, raising tired old post-modern architecture from the dead, breathing new life into what might have been warmed-over pizza and breathing new life into the age-old contest between meaning and symbolism. In the exhibition and lecture “The Duck and the Document: True Stories of Postmodern Procedures” at Southern California Institute of Architecture’s (SCI-Arc) Keck auditorium, Sylvia Lavin unearths implicit links between architecture as diverse as James Wines’s and Robert Venturi’s work for Best products, Eisenman’s handrail phobia, and Moore’s yearning to be “free”—to weave a tale of architecture’s gradual loss of autonomy as mechanization takes command*. Increasing regulation, nearly insurmountable hurdles in the supply chain of—for instance, colorants—drove architects to adopt a myriad of ruses and “workarounds” to achieve the effects they envisioned then, and one must admit, apply even more in today’s supplier-dependent world. Lavin’s message to students and aspiring architects is plain. By displaying well-chosen documents and correspondence which underscore the increasing frustration of the post-modern era’s most celebrated architects, she has been able to reveal the minutia behind their efforts, the tests of authorship, and the ultimate outcomes of conceptual and intellectual battles those architects (mostly) lost. With some surprise we learn that MLTW—Moore’s firm with Bill Turnbull, Richard Whitaker, and Donlyn Lyndon (symmetry: His father was a well-known architect)—is “long overdue” on an invoice for $24.53 from Knoll. In another example, we discover an invoice for a single half hour of Moore’s time, billed at $15.00. Pantone paint chips appended to a specification from Venturi’s office attest to his resignation in a battle over color with porcelain panel manufacturer Ervite and the scrutiny of focus groups is revealed in voluminous correspondence about the Sea Ranch project, MLTW’s celebrated Northern California retreat. In the gallery one is treated to an array of trophies from that era – a twisted handrail from Eisenman’s House I, in which the curator describes the architect wrestling with code requirements which conflicted with his aesthetic vision—a pair of porcelain-enameled Warholesque panels from Venturi’s florid Best products showroom and a quartet of columns from the Deborah Sussman- and Jon Jerde-designed Los Angeles 1984 Olympics signage—all poignant reminders of a time when the decorated shed reigned supreme. One might ask “what is the purpose of such a show at this time”? Is it to be a counterweight to the pervasive grip of digital design? A plea to restore the autonomy of architecture? Or a simple reminder that as bad as it gets, it’s nothing like the travails endured by our predecessors? My guess is that it is all of the above and more. A provocative and thoughtful peek behind the masks of those masters tells us a lot about ourselves and, at the very least, helps us navigate today’s even rougher waters of regulations, stakeholders, and committees. *Yes, that is Gideon’s phrase. Craig Hodgetts is founding principal and creative director at Los Angeles-based architecture firm Hodgetts + Fung. The Duck and the Document, curated by Sylvia Lavin, with associate curator Sarah Hearne and exhibition design by Besler & Sons, is on view at the Southern California Institute of Architecture gallery through May 28, 2017. See the SCI-Arc website for more information.
Posts tagged with "Postmodern Architecture":
Dr. Peter Corrigan, AM, the dean of a vigorous and difficult brand of Australian architecture passed away on December 1, 2016. His passing marks the end of an era—one in which, initially by his own doing, the Melbourne wing of Australian architecture refused the polite modernist postures of a Seidler or the pastoral narratives of a Murcutt and became a full-throated and, one might say angry critique of post-colonial culture. Corrigan was only 77 but had fought illness for a decade. In a half century Peter Corrigan, with his life and work partner Maggie Edmond, had achieved a career that would be enviable on any continent, but especially in Australia. Australia is a country as challenging as any to establish an architectural practice, let alone one with such a passionate and some might say rebellious voice. Corrigan leaves behind a grand legacy: of many buildings and countless awards received; of numerous protégés and perhaps some enemies; of wild ideas shared selflessly with many students in Melbourne and elsewhere; of an architectural voice in the wilderness built of dreams and hopes set against the small-mindedness of the local political leadership and the usual numbing logics of the construction market. There are few parallels to Corrigan’s work anywhere in North America or Europe left to mention these days, especially in light of the limited recent output of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi. Corrigan was a student of Venturi’s at Yale in the late 1960s and yet somehow also a lifelong admirer of Aalto and Schraroun. Despite his vast output he remains, perhaps by design, an internationally undervalued pioneer of what later would be called Postmodern architecture. Charles Jencks and Kenneth Frampton never sang his praise and Corrigan never sought it. However, the life-work speaks to something more than what came to pass as Postmodern in the United States: faux historicism and silly façade games. If Corrigan’s early work too often took up the challenges posed by Kahn’s late work or Venturi’s Guild House and Mother’s House then the mature work extended a unique voice and timbre—as if by kaleidoscopic projection—into an idiomatic and local Australian expressionism. Wildly regional and local in its references and in-jokes, the oeuvre remains oddly imbued with the cosmopolitan and intellectual generosity that characterized the man as a teacher and a scholar. Indeed, Peter was no ordinary architect. His “Cities of Hope,” buildings as varied and often incongruous as suburban churches and fire stations, oddly iconic small home additions, schools, university buildings, galleries, and many designs for single family homes (designed and built or sketched and unexecuted) seem, in retrospect, too provocative for our age. In the place of the needless and endless banality of “next-generation,” technologically-generated, parametric or now object-oriented, nonsensical and mean baubles that get paraded around the schools and the competitions, Corrigan offers us only the sort of aesthetic charms that a Bertold Brecht could understand. Edmond and Corrigan’s work was unstylish, unrefined and lowly (for a love of the Untermenschen and not the Superman). It was sometimes poorly made but never boring, never inoffensive, never generic. The work was ridiculous in the best possible way and always theatrical. In fact, Corrigan spent a great deal of his career designing for the theater and opera, working recently with Barrie Kosky on Falstaff in Graz. His sets were otherworldly. Peter Corrigan was difficult in an age that demands smoothness of both architecture and architects. He was sometimes horrible, even terrifying. He remained a challenging character well into in a time in which upsetting the commons by speaking honestly was increasingly frowned upon. His exhortations to his students were searing and scathing and his demands as a teacher were unrelenting because he knew the world is always so much crueler than the classroom. “Symmetry is Asinine!” he roared one late afternoon to my class. “Architecture is not for Philistines! Next time you come to class bring your brain!” Corrigan was not politically correct but neither was he a bigot. He was usually irate and sometimes publically inebriated, even when he taught a now infamous design studio at Harvard. Yet, as a teacher he supported and nurtured the weakest voices and endured, with patience, the slowest students. As long as his students showed up with work, had hope, or could dream, Peter was their champion as he guided them with a genuine kindness so that they find might their own voices, their own resolve. It would be odd, perhaps, to conclude this dedication without explaining my personal connection to the man and my memories of him, formed over the decade I spent in Melbourne, studying at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT, previously a night school: the Working Men's College of Melbourne where my father studied architecture and design as a European refugee). RMIT, like other independent schools of architecture that formed new voices in the 1980s, was Peter’s laboratory and his ideas were lightening rods for a generation of Melbourne architects who have since reshaped the city. That said, I was never his student or a follower and I never had the desire (or perhaps the will) to endure one of his now famously grueling design studios. In retrospect, I regret the lost opportunity. I did, however, have a few run-ins with Peter. As a first-year or second-year student, I was asked to use some crude and slow early version of CAD to draw up a small project of my choosing. I decided, wrongheadedly, to try draw up one of Edmond and Corrigan’s most complicated projects, the Athan House in Monbulk, Victoria (1986-1988) and I approached his office to acquire the plans. Invited to meet him and then, not surprisingly, made to wait in his remarkable studio library for what seemed like hours, he arrived after what must have been a very long lunch. Corrigan vigorously quizzed me about my intentions and then after vaguely explaining the project to me he instructed me to return for the copies of the plans. I picked them up a few days later but we didn’t speak again for half a decade. The next time we spoke was at an exhibition after party in St. Kilda, a beachside suburb of Melbourne. I don’t recall our conversation exactly but I do remember he and I mixing some red wine and white wine to extend our evening’s merriment. He called it Rose. I thought we were just making do with the night’s leftovers. The house itself is mysteriously a chevron in plan that decided to sprout a series of neo-expressionist spikes, bizarre decks, outriggers, a small masonry bridge and various other unnecessary but crucial appurtenances. Naturally, the house turned out to be nearly impossible to document digitally. While I did eventually manage to faithfully draft up the plans and I returned copies on a floppy disk to his office, I don’t think he ever bothered to review them. Perhaps Peter suspected this would be the case given his suspicions of technology. His office has already painstakingly produced ink on vellum plans and perspectives that were infinitely more refined than anything I could conjure on the computer. Later, as a teacher, I spent the better part of half a decade in RMIT’s Building 8 on Swanston Street, a riotous and rude imposition on an earlier unfinished building by John Andrews (the architect of Harvard’s Gund Hall). At the time I found Corrigan’s polychrome masterwork to be ugly and challenged. But in retrospect I was perhaps too callow to understand his work and even more that a little scared of it as a symbol his formidable and restless intellect. Peter’s impact remains with me over half a globe away and almost two decades on. When I drive or ride around Southern California’s suburbs and communities I have often wondered why so many architects here have elected to see them only as blank canvases for various futurisms or nostalgic recreations instead of places imbued with an extraordinary, beautiful, and melancholy ordinariness. Sometimes I daydream about what an evocatively idiosyncratic but generous architecture might look like in place of the saccharine and anodyne nonsense we render and reproduce, relentlessly in the name of advancing architecture. Last week I looked again with new eyes at Peter Corrigan’s work and I remembered an architect who accepted and valorized the local and the ordinary, an architect who made the most use of the poorest and most mundane materials, accepting the ersatz and kitsch as a good things, not as repulsive things, making the most with the least. Vale Peter Corrigan.
Fun fact: there's a set of fully furnished rooms, designed by Michael Graves, that lives in storage at the Brooklyn Museum. Built between 1979 and 1981 for Susan and John Reinhold, the suite within their duplex at 101 Central Park West was donated to the museum when the couple divorced in 1986. Preserved in situ, the rooms are a rare surviving example of interior postmodern architecture. The couple, prominent members of the art world, asked Graves to turn a bedroom into a playroom for the couple's daughter, and remodel the guest suite into a library. Prior to Graves, however, the Reinholds gave their apartment star treatment: the first renovation was done by Robert A.M. Stern and John Hagmann in 1971. Stern and Hagmann removed walls, ceilings, and thresholds in the unit to create a smooth, all white interior. Graves' renovation complemented the previous one with a pale blue, yellow, brown, and white palette. The library was modeled on a basilica, the central nave flanked by aisles of bookcases. Except for one, the bookcases are styled into pared-down columns. The top of each column conceals a light fixture, adding a soft glow that is complemented by the coffered ceiling, its topmost section painted blue. Graves placed a Corbusier-inspired mural of his own design in the space where an alter would have been. The materials throughout were ordinary plywood and sheetrock. In the bedroom, the bookcase/pilasters theme from the library carries over. Segmented columns separate lightly delineate the space while still maintaining an open flow. The Reinhold's daughter praised the design overall, but complained that the shelves were not wide enough for her records and books. See the gallery below for more images of Graves' suite.
Times Square, 1984: The Postmodern Moment The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Place, New York Through February 15 Once a seedy, crime-ridden corridor, Times Square has since been transformed into a vibrant and safe, neon-lit entertainment hub for theatergoers. But in 1984, the future of The Great White Way was uncertain. A proposal to erect a set of four skyscrapers and demolish the 1904 Times Tower jump started a debate between urban renewal advocates and preservation-minded urbanists, and gave way to an “ideas competition” for the site, organized by the Municipal Art Society and National Endowment for the Arts. The Skyscraper Museum’s Times Square, 1984: The Postmodern Moment highlights 20 drawings from the juried competition, showcasing a real assortment of ideas, ranging from passionate declarations to more eccentric architectural proposals.
The Thompson Center is an easy target. Most Chicagoans only know it as that Po-Mo Behemoth where we transfer between L lines and occasionally visit the DMV in the basement food court, perhaps the only location in America where you can get a slice of Sbarro and a new driver’s license. It’s a beast of a building—so bad, it’s almost good—and has been plagued with problem after problem, most recently the removal of the granite panels along the plaza. Tackling its so obviously deferred maintenance and adapting it for future use would be no small task. That’s why, according to the Sun-Times, the president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and a major labor chief have proposed building a casino in the lower level and first floor of the building. When we think of downtown casinos, we think of Detroit. Look, Eavesdrop loves Detroit and is rooting for its revival on a daily basis, but Chicago doesn’t want to be using Detroit as its urban development role model. If this nutty scheme comes to fruition, there would be a casino in a building located across from City Hall, which also houses hundreds of state government employees. They better get ready to beef up their Employee Assistance Program, as the state might have a few more gambling addicts on their payroll.
In front of a packed room inside the Capitol Records building in Hollywood yesterday, the Getty announced details of the next installment of Pacific Standard Time, the popular series of art and architecture exhibitions that helped reframe Los Angeles’ position on the map of worldwide arts and culture. Sporting a new moniker, Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A. will be smaller in scope than the previous iteration, with eleven exhibitions and accompanying programs in and around Los Angeles scheduled for April through July 2013. Among the offerings, anticipated favorites include Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940–1990 at the Getty, A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California at MOCA, and A. Quincy Jones: Building for Better Living at the Hammer Museum. The one noticeable outlier among the offerings of PSTP’s museum partners is the name Peter Zumthor, who will be the focus of one of LACMA’s exhibits: The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA. The kickoff event’s final speakers, Eric Owen Moss and Michael Maltzan, balked at the larger implications of lionizing the tradition of architecture in Los Angeles. Moss pointed out the “paradox of benediction” by the Getty for Los Angeles architecture scene: "What makes this a speculative endeavor is exactly the prospect that it might fail," he noted. Maltzan echoed the idea that L.A.’s history is still in the process of revision: “It’s reasonable to argue that there is not another city in the world that has a more continuous project of modernist development than in Los Angeles.” While worrying that "the mistakes we make here are often played out again and again at even greater scale," Maltzan pointed to experimentation as the attraction for so many architects that have come to Los Angeles: “The majority that came here and stayed here did so because Los Angeles was a hotbed of creativity and possibility. You can make things here. You’ve always been able to. While that seems like a simple idea—it should be easy anywhere—it isn’t.” Here's a full list of institutions taking part in Modern Architecture in L.A.: Exhibitions A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California (MOCA)
Quincy Jones: Building For Better Living (Hammer) The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA (LACMA) Stephen Prina: As He Remembered It (LACMA) Technology and Environment: The Postwar House in Southern California (W. Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery, Cal Poly Pomona) Everything Loose Will Land (MAK Center for Art and Architecture) Windshield Perspective (A+D Architecture and Design Museum) A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979 (SCI-Arc) Outside In: The Architecture of Smith and Williams (Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara)
ProgrammingCenter for Land Use Interpretation for On-Site Office Trailers: Invisible Architecture of the Urban Environment, an exhibition of original photography and related construction site tours. Community Art Resources, Inc. for CicLAvia: Modern Architecture on Wilshire Blvd, an architectural guide and special programming as part of their June 2013 car-free/open streets event. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens for the online exhibition, Form and Landscape: Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Basin, and public programming. Los Angeles Conservancy for Curating the City: Modern Architecture in L.A., an interactive online resource as well as tours, public programs and print material. Los Angeles Philharmonic for The Mozart/Da Ponte Trilogy Conversation, a discussion with Pritzker Prize-winning architects who are designing sets for this unique interdisciplinary series. Machine Project for The Machine Project Field Guide to L.A. Architecture, a performance series at architectural sites across the city. Pasadena Heritage for Pasadena 1940 Forward: Residential Architecture of the Recent Past, a tour of modernist homes in the Pasadena area along with a related lecture and oral history project. UCLA Architecture and Urban Design for Extreme IDEAS: Architecture at the Intersection, a series of discussions about the dynamic and interdisciplinary future of architecture.
Blair Kamin seems to have joined the reconsider PoMo chorus, stating in his Sunday column that the movement “deserves a more sophisticated reappraisal.” The focus of the Tribune tribute was Michael Graves’s Humana building in Louisville, Kentucky. By drawing comparisons to Johnson’s AT&T building in its unabashed commercialism and to Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 333 Wacker Drive for its national significance, Kamin writes that “Graves crafted a tower that could only have been built in Louisville.” The reassessment comes on the heel of Graves receiving the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for classical and traditional architecture in Chicago last month, which in turn came after last fall's PoMo Conference at New York’s Institute for Classical Architecture and Art. Seems that the classicists are going gaga for PoMo.
AN's Julie Iovine held a freewheeling conversation last week with architect Rafael Viñoly under the subject heading "What Comes After Postmodern Architecture." The architect had some choice words about the period before moving on to a variety of other topics, including corporate architecture, collaboration, and New York. https://vimeo.com/22260678