Posts tagged with "public art":

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The World’s Fair Grounds in San Antonio gets a playful facelift courtesy of MIG

Some consider the most formative date in San Antonio's history to be the fall of the Alamo, while others believe it’s the day the World’s Fair took over the city for six months in 1968. It was just a dusty city before more than 6.3 million attended the HemisFair ’68. A few of the original structures built for the fair still exist on the 92 acres in the heart of downtown, and many of them were left unused for decades. In 2009, the San Antonio City Council established the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC) to revitalize a 37-acre new development, including a 4-acre park designed by MIG. The project’s name, Yanaguana Garden, comes from a folktale told by the Payaya Native Americans of a blue panther that chases a bird through the night sky. A drop that fell from its wings left the blue hole that came to be the source of San Antonio’s river. This fable inspired the mosaic tile benches, panther sculpture, murals, and a blue paved pathway that represents the river, which snakes through the entire site. HPARC’s mission for Yanaguana Garden was to bring both children and adults to the city center. MIG focused on placemaking, designing a public space with courtyards, greenery, artwork, and playscapes. The park features a winding promenade, partly covered by a vine-draped pergola, which leads to the central square with giant checkerboard paving by Pavestone Company. The entire park is illuminated by Lumascape street light fixtures and lined with Victor Stanley benches. MIG also installed an outdoor theater with a dedicated seating area, play equipment by Landscape Structures, and a splash pad water fountain by Vortex Aquatic Structures. In addition to the frolicsome furnishings, the landscape includes mature trees to provide shade. The saplings prevent soil run-off and help maintain proper irrigation year-round. This environmentally sustainable approach will also be applied by the organization to expand and improve the rest of what used to be the HemisFair World’s Fair Grounds. Yanaguana Garden at HemisFair The ’68 World’s Fair Grounds, San Antonio Landscape Architect: MIG Landscape Planting: Bender Wells Clark Design Lighting: Lumascape Playground Equipment: Landscape Structures, Corocord Splash Pad Water Wall: Vortex Aquatic Structures Custom Precast Spheres: Quickcrete Products Corp. Benches: Victor Stanley Paving: Pavestone Company Mosaic Glass Artist: Oscar Alvarado
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L.A.’s MOCA restages pointed Barbara Kruger mural in time for 2018 elections

Just in time for the Tuesday, November 6, 2018, midterm elections, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles is restaging Untitled (Questions), a graphic installation by Barbara Kruger from 1990 that asks nine pointed, politically-charged questions about today’s troubled cultural climate. In a press release accompanying the 30-foot by 191-foot mural, Kruger said, “I continue to try to address the issues of control, loyalty, hope, fear, and the uses and abuses of power." Kruger added, “It's both tragic and disappointing that this work, thirty years later, might still have some resonance." The public art installation was originally created amid the backdrop of George H.W. Bush’s conservative presidency and at a time when partisan debate in the United States and fears of an impending war with Iraq were at a fever pitch. The mural originally stood on the south wall of what was then known as the Temporary Contemporary (TC), an industrial structure designed by Albert C. Martin in 1940 that was repurposed in 1983 by Frank Gehry into a transitional home for the fledgling museum as its Arata Isozaki–designed Grand Avenue headquarters was under development. Isozaki’s museum was completed in 1986, but the TC has remained in use as an art exhibition space. Last week, the mural was re-installed along the northern wall of the building, which is now named for arts patron David Geffen. Describing the atmosphere surrounding the first installation of the mural, Kruger told The Los Angeles Times, “It was Bush 1 and everyone was wearing flags. And, omigod, the war. It was just horrific.” The mural reads:
WHO IS BEYOND THE LAW? WHO IS BOUGHT AND SOLD? WHO IS FREE TO CHOOSE? WHO DOES TIME? WHO FOLLOWS ORDERS? WHO SALUTES LONGEST? WHO PRAYS LOUDEST? WHO DIES FIRST? WHO LAUGHS LAST?
The mural represents the inaugural effort of MOCA’s new director Klaus Biesenbach, who was appointed earlier this year after the previous director Philippe Vergne stepped down.
Untitled (Questions) will be on view through the 2020 presidential election.
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Studio Cadena’s Happy wins Van Alen’s Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday competition

A shimmering yellow sculpture will pop against Manhattan's Flatiron building as its backdrop this holiday season, courtesy of Studio Cadena. As winners of the fifth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design competition, Happy will be on display for visitors to enjoy in the North Flatiron Public Plaza starting November 19th. According to the architects, this temporary project is a “warm embrace” for the city in the colder winter months and is meant to make people smile. “Happy is both a figure and a place,” writes Studio Cadena. “In our otherwise bleak social and political context, this architectural installation aspires to carve a small yet more positive urban space.” Happy is shaped by 24 transparent vinyl screens hung from an open frame. Throughout the day it’s set to shimmer and reflect the light in the surrounding neighborhood. Towards the end of the day, it’s designed to cast colored shadows on the plaza sidewalk.  Studio Cadena’s design was one of seven other finalists chosen to submit proposals for an invite-only competition. Hosted each year by the Van Alen Institute and Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, the projects are aimed to spread cheer and enliven the plaza. Other finalists include Agency—Agency, Brandt : Haferd, MODU, N H M D, Office III, P.R.O., and Wolfgang & Hite. Last year’s winner, Future Expansion, designed a semi-enclosure of metal tubes resembling a public pipe organ.
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Tony Oursler’s Tear of The Cloud activates a Riverside ruin

In multimedia artist Tony Oursler’s site-specific installation Tear of The Cloud, commissioned by the Public Art Fund (PAF), five video projections converge onto the gantry of Manhattan's landmarked West 69th Street Transfer Bridge and its surroundings in Riverside Park. The images that unfold at the banks of the river comprise a nodal network of symbols, texts, and figures from both reality and myth to establish a vertiginous system of ideas and themes that illuminate the complex and still-evolving past of the Hudson River Valley. The histories and historiographies of this region have been a site of recurrent interest for Oursler since his first mature efforts in the early 1980s. Illuminated by a flowchart designed by the artist and displayed on one of the five projection booths that surround the gantry, the subjects of the video sequences range from the Headless Horseman to Timothy Leary, Morse code, the 19th-century utopian community Oneida, digital facial recognition technology, and the Manhattan Project. Approached from the south, dreamy music accompanies the crouched bodies of various youths crawling across the trusses slanting into the water. This soon gives way to the disembodied faces of various actors reciting characteristically enigmatic phrases written or found by the artist. To the right, a weeping willow gently bends toward the river, its swaying branches animating a montage of sequences projected onto its foliage. The primary structure of the bridge acts as the support for the most extensive section of the work, where a series of scenes describe the evolution of various systems of information distribution across the last few centuries. This theme is apt, as the bridge, which was built in 1911, once functioned as a dock that assisted the transfer of railroad cars to the barges that connected Manhattan to the Weehawken Yards in New Jersey. To the north of the structure, a projection onto the salty waters of the Hudson is visible—and audible—from the pier, providing deeper insight into some of the characters who inhabit the scenes projected onto the gantry. For example, we learn that Dexter and Sinister are the problematic names of a sailor colonist and a Lenape Native American, respectively, who uphold the 1915 official Seal of the City. The northern face of the gantry provides a portraiture-type space for some of the most primary characters in Oursler’s repertoire, including the figure that heads his flowchart: an anthropomorphic white horse head in the form of a knight chess piece. “Reprogram is everything,” she states, reciting a series of chess moves as her image slowly slips off the gantry’s supporting beams. Manifesting the flow of information through a site designed to aid the shipment of raw materials, Tear of The Cloud embodies the rhizomatic complexities of the present moment through the archival impulse that brings us the region’s past. Tear of The Cloud is on view Tuesday through Sunday from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in Riverside Park through October 31. The artist will discuss the work during a talk at The New School’s Tishman Auditorium on November 1.  
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Art on theMART turns Chicago’s Merchandise Mart into an architectural canvas

Until the end of 2018, the façade of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart will become the world’s largest digital art projection, hosting the work of four artists for two hours each on Wednesday through Sunday evenings. Thirty-four projectors located across the Chicago River from The Mart, as the structure is informally called, will work in tandem to project images on the hulking façade of what was once the world's largest building. Art on theMART is a privately funded partnership with the City of Chicago, and marks the first time that a projection of this size is being used exclusively for a creative purpose. The project has no advertising backing or sponsorship, but includes a curatorial advisory board established to consult on all content. Additionally, a civic advisory committee allows communication between city agencies, stakeholders, and the public. Created by large-scale architectural projection mappers Obscura Digital, the technology that supports Art on theMART allows curators and artists to upload an image and select effects and filters, but leaves the software to process the image and slowly render and resolve it over the course of a customizable time period. The projector housing is built into the Chicago Riverwalk, and the projectors are individually calibrated to adjust the light and color over the structure’s façade—a complex combination of fenestration, vertical lines, and setbacks. Windows are masked out in the software, allowing activity to continue inside the building without light interruptions.
 
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Four artists have been tapped to show work until the end of the year. The opening program features a projection by artist Diana Thater, who has mixed together live footage of wild animals living near Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya. Zheng Chongbin’s work, Chimeric Landscape, will project expanding and contracting ink blots. Jason Salavon remixes art and design histories from Georgia O’Keefe to internet cat videos, and Jan Tichy will present Artes in Horto - Seven Gardens for Chicago. Completed in 1931 by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White for Marshall Field & Company, Merchandise Mart consolidated the Chicago department store’s 13 separate warehouses into one massive art deco structure on the north branch of the Chicago River and central to downtown. Jenny Holzer was the first artist to illuminate the building in 2008, when she projected a poem onto it during Art Chicago.
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Mexico City’s public sculpture corridor is a broken dream worth saving

Soon after Mexico City was designated to host the 1968 Olympics, the idea of a year-long cultural program emerged—one which would come to shape the ethos of the games for years to come. Hinting at the Greek Olympics’ legacy, the Mexican Cultural Olympiad would deploy 20 cultural events and projects throughout the year while promoting a modern discourse of peace at a time when the cold war profoundly divided the world. As part of the program, the Polish-born, Mexican artist and architect Mathias Goeritz (who coined the concept of “Emotional Architecture” with Luis Barragán) proposed an ambitious public sculptures route integrated with the city as a way to respond to its rapid urbanization. La Ruta de la Amistad (or the Route of Friendship), as it was named, would offer new ways of navigating the capital while making art available to the masses and celebrating international dialogue. The proposal was received with great enthusiasm from the chair of the Mexican Olympic Organizing Committee, the influential architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. In the lead-up to the Olympics, a total of 22 sculptures were commissioned from 19 artists and architects, including the Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca, the French artist Olivier Seguin, the American sculptor Alexander Calder, and the Mexican sculptor Ángela Gurría. Goeritz’s curatorial brief was simple: All sculptures should be abstract, of monumental scale, and use concrete as their main material. The project would become the largest sculptural thoroughfare in the world, connecting Olympics venues across a distance of 11 miles—and a great source of pride for Mexico. However, a week and a half before the official start of the games, the route, like the rest of the Cultural Olympiad, was obscured by the Massacre of Tlatelolco, in which the Mexican military and the police killed at least 300 students and civilians protesting government repression and corruption. Politicians, used to controlling every aspect of Mexican society, showed little patience for the demonstrations, which they feared would damage their cherished reputation as Olympics hosts. For the government, the games had become a platform to project its progressive, modern ideals and to challenge the perception that it was a developing country. Fifty years on, the sculptures stand neglected, in a state of near decay, like the remnants of a broken dream. “In Mexico, the route isn’t seen as something important. Not for the people, nor the government,” lamented Luis Javier de la Torre, president of Patronato Ruta de la Amistad, as he toured us around its principal site, now overshadowed by the infamous Periferico, a dystopic, elevated highway crossing the city. The organization he cofounded in 1994 with Javier Ramírez Campuzano (the son of Ramírez Vázquez) is in charge of conserving the sculptures and promoting their legacy. Prior to this, the route was largely abandoned and subjected to vandalism. The Patronato was able to restore and relocate a number of pieces at risk of deterioration, creating a centralized location composed of 13 works between 2011 and 2013. To mark the Route’s 50th anniversary, the Patronato is launching a number of activities with partner organizations on a shoestring budget. The Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes is opening an exhibition about it this October, scheduled to coincide with Design Week Mexico (October 10 to 15). Meanwhile, the official program of World Design Capital Mexico City 2018 has incorporated educational projects to bring awareness to the route. “Its values live on,” argued de la Torre. So why does the route fail to receive the public interest and support it deserves? According to de la Torre, a combination of a conflicted sense of national identity, a lack of understanding, and the collective trauma of 1968 are responsible. “We don’t have a proper identity as a country,” he explained, nodding to Mexican poet Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, a series of essays that discusses the existential tension between colonial and indigenous cultures in the country. “No one believed that as a society we were capable of running the Olympics in ways that would be replicated by others around the world,” he continued. Most important, the political turmoil associated with 1968 overbearingly shaped the country’s consciousness of that moment. “This is where the dream broke,” said Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, this year’s Serpentine Pavilion designer, when we visited her studio. At the recent Biennale d’Architecture d’Orléans, Escobedo revisited the Ruta de la Amistad by presenting a reproduction of the metal frame behind the sculpture by Olivier Seguin. The precarious-looking, welded steel structure—now permanently installed at Le Parc Floral de La Source in Orléans, France—was inspired by an installation shot of the original work, which the architect discovered while visiting the archives of the FRAC Centre in France. “The picture presented the reality of 1968,” Escobedo recounted, reflecting on the ambiguous promise of modernism in the construction of Mexico’s national identity. “It’s all a spectacle.” “We haven’t been able to separate things,” explained de la Torre of the troubled legacy of 1968. “I think that now, there is an opportunity for both narratives to coexist.” But should the Olympics’ cultural legacy really be separated from its political context? Before the army opened fire at the crowd on October 2, 1968, anti-government protesters were chanting, “¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución!” (“We don't want the Olympics, we want a revolution!”)
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Oklahoma exhibit showcases graphics of golden age of passenger travel

Ticket to Ride, the show now up at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, gathers paintings, posters, and graphic works by artists and commercial designers who depicted Western rail companies and the landscape they traversed between the late 1880s and early 1930s, the golden age of passenger travel. Private cars were not widely available, so artists and illustrators relied on the Western rail lines, such as the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe, and other Western lines, for travel. The rail companies also commissioned artists and illustrators for images of Western subjects to decorate their offices and hotels. The exhibition features Hudson River School pioneer Thomas Moran and “Master Painter of the American West” Maynard Dixon, among those who rode the Western railways and enjoyed their patronage. Ticket to Ride Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma 555 Elm Avenue Norman, Oklahoma October 5 through December 30
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Brooklyn Museum will activate its public spaces with a year of text-based installations

Beginning in September, the Brooklyn Museum will bring four site-specific installations to its indoor and outdoor public spaces. The installations, which will include existing and new works, are part of Something to Say, a year-long exhibition that will highlight the museum's role in civic conversation through text-based works installed in its entry pavilion, plaza, and lobby, all of which were designed by Ennead Architects. The exhibition is curated by Sharon Matt Atkins, the museum's director of curatorial affairs, and Carmen Hermo, associate curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum. The four selected artists are all Brooklyn-based and include Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Hank Willis Thomas, and Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine (BHAM), a Crown Heights–based collaborative art project of Mildred Beltre and Oasa DuVerney. All four grapple with text and language in their work. BHAM's woven text work, DO NOT DISAPPEAR INTO SILENCE, will take over the facade of the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, reflecting the duo's concerns about gentrification and the role of artists to speak about and with silenced communities. Deborah Kass's giant, eight-foot-tall OY/YO sculpture, which was most recently displayed on the North Fifth Street pier in Williamsburg, will be installed on the museum's plaza and reflects a polyglot sensibility (in Spanish or Yiddish, depending on how the sculpture is read) that the artist believes is an urgent intervention at this fractured political moment. Rasheed's two-part installation will include a series of questions installed on the interior brick arcade that are meant to spur conversation, while her outdoor text-based work will be installed on the steps and invite visitors to reflect on location, time, and direction. Her work will also be accompanied by a programming collaboration with the nearby Brooklyn Public Library, where she will have a solo exhibition in 2019, in the form of a public reading group. The artist is currently engaged in an exhibition at the New Museum alongside The Black School that offers a learning space and library inspired by the community organizing of the Black Panthers and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Finally, Thomas, who founded an artist-led "super PAC" currently leading a massive public art project encouraging voter participation via artist billboards in all 50 U.S. states, will bring something a little less monumental to the show. His nearly seven-foot-tall neon work, Love Rules, will hang above the museum's front desk and flash variations of the words in the work, from "Love Over Rules" to "Love Overrules," based on a phrase that was among his cousin's last recordings before he was killed in 2000. The Brooklyn Museum is located near four Brooklyn neighborhoods: Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Park Slope, and its recent programming has been steadily oriented toward bringing more diverse museum-goers and local community members into the museum. For this show, the museum will kick off with a public event on October 6 at 11 a.m. that is open to the general public. The show is on view until June 30, 2019. Something to Say Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn Through June 30, 2019
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Los Angeles’s first roundabout is a psychedelic sustainable landscape

Roundabouts are all the rage in Europe, but Americans have been slow to adopt this particular form of street design. Despite Los Angeles’s car-centric culture, the glitzy city is no exception, but that might start to change following the success of Riverside Roundabout, a stormwater-retaining traffic island at the intersection of Riverside Bridge, San Fernando Road, and Figueroa Street. The city’s first roundabout definitely brings the spectacle. Greenmeme, a studio working at the intersection of art and architecture, brought nine eye-catching granite sculptures to the site and created a resilient, varied landscape. The egg-shaped pods, ranging from 8 to 12 feet tall, each feature a face from a randomly-chosen local resident. Designers used 3-D scanners to capture the faces of the selected volunteers, and the sculptures bear the likenesses on either side, displaying 18 individuals in total. The sculptures were carved in slices by fabricator Coldspring using a CNC mill, with three sculptures carved from one block of granite. The end result, Faces of Elysian Valley, joins a proud tradition of face-based decorative art. The remaining granite offcuts were used to form a sculptural barricade around the center of the island and protect the “eggs” from traffic. Elongated faces have been stretched into the granite ring as well, creating a perspective trick that reveals undistorted visages as drivers circle the roundabout. Greenmeme worked with Ourston Roundabout Engineering to determine the sculptures’ size constraints, as the team needed to preserve sightlines across the island for drivers without distracting them. In designing the traffic island’s topography, Greenmeme sought to channel stormwater away from the street and adjacent bridge. The landscaped areas have been planted with native plants, and a 25,000-gallon cistern is buried underneath the roundabout, which uses captured rainwater to irrigate the green spaces and feed a water feature. Everything is powered by sun-tracking solar voltaics, including the lights used to illuminate the sculptures at night. The entire roundabout is ringed with permeable green pavers for drivers who need to pull off, and overall the landscape can handle and treat up to 500,000 gallons at a time (a once-every-ten-years rainfall event). Riverside Roundabout and Faces of Elysian Valley opened to the public in February of 2017.
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Prismatic postmodern sculpture removed from Chicago’s Michigan Avenue

A street-level work of postmodern art has been quietly removed from the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street in Chicago. Communication X9 is a 43-foot-tall sculpture by Yaacov Agam designed to be in harmony with the architecture of 150 North Michigan. Designed by A. Epstein and Sons International in 1984, the building currently known by its address has historically been known as the Smurfit-Stone Building, and it caught a substantial amount of notoriety in the late 1980s for its prominence in a climactic scene from the 1987 film Adventures in Babysitting. A. Epstein and Sons International was an early pioneer of design-build, and their services included site-specific outdoor art. According to Crain’s Chicago, the Agam statue was removed by the building’s current management, CBRE Midwest, and was placed in storage in advance of an update to the lobby and gathering spaces. CBRE Midwest has not stated whether it will sell or donate the sculpture, but it does not intend to return the work to the site. The prismatic obelisk was removed in 2005 and reinstalled three years later after undergoing restoration. Agam flew to Chicago to see the results and found the colors of the restored sculpture to be off from the original. The removal of Communication X9 comes on the tails of the City of Chicago’s 2017 Year of Public Art celebration. While the initiative gave Chicagoans new murals by Kerry James Marshall on the alley side of the Chicago Cultural Center, and a twelve-foot-tall fiberglass deer by Chicago-based artist Tony Tasset on the Chicago River along with a spiraling Calatrava sculpture, other significant works of embedded art have been removed, including Alexander Calder’s Universe, a longtime fixture of the Willis Tower lobby. Many neighborhood murals have also disappeared this year at the hands of Chicago’s Graffiti Blasters, including a historic mural in Humboldt Park near the 606 trail depicting the Puerto Rican diaspora in Chicago, and Flyboyan early work in Wicker Park by Chicago street artist Hebru Brantley.
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A pneumatic “Antepavilion” sets sail in London

A great golden gourd has materialized on Regents Canal in northeast London. For the next eight days, the inflatable creation will touch down at five different venues along the canal from Hackney Wick to Kings Cross, where it will invite local artists into its soft, playful belly to host live concerts, improvised comedy, and spoken word poetry, among other events. “AirDraft” by architects Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers is the winning submission for this year’s Antepavilion: an annual competition co-organized by the Architecture Foundation and Shiva Ltd. to produce a public installation on the Hoxton Docks. Established just last year, the initiative has already made a splash as an experimental counter-weight to the more commercially-minded Serpentine Pavilion. By providing an opportunity for younger artists, architects, and designers to create a temporary structure on a modest budget of $32,000 (£25,000), the Antepavilion is a playful foray into new means of living and working together, with a critical edge. Last year’s winning entry by PUP architects—a rooftop hut disguised as an industrial air duct to subvert planning permission—set a bold precedent for AirDraft, which has nonetheless emerged as a true successor in the Antepavilion’s evolving ambition. For Antepavilion 2018, Randall-Page and Rogers have flown the coop of the Hoxton Docks. Their bulbous creation embraces the sinuous, unregulated vibrancy of the canal as an inflatable performance venue. Working in collaboration with Cameron Balloons, the Bristol-based purveyor of balloons, blimps, and other oxygenized joys, alongside London-based structural engineer AKT II, the pneumatic vessel emits a permanent golden aura that is highly conducive to flattering selfies. “More butternut squash than phallus,” according to Randall-Page, AirDraft takes after the work of artist Jeffrey Shaw and the inflatable architecture aficionados of 1970s, Ant Farm. Seemingly torn out from the pages of Ant Farm’s DIY pneumatic manual, Inflatocookbook, AirDraft emerged from its intense 10-week gestation period with remarkably clear vision, complemented by an impressive attention to detail. The entire structure can be deflated in 12 minutes (re-inflation takes half as long), which makes crossing under the canal’s many bridges a breeze. Meanwhile, ventilation and centrifugal fans keep the butternut buoyant without stealing the spotlight from the performers: “The fans can be turned down during events,” explained Rogers. The sunny squash is a striking visual contrast to its local industrial surrounds, but its warm inflatable enclave also serves a deeper purpose as a temporary events space for London’s vibrant yet precarious canal culture. A short stroll or sail along Regents reveals a plethora of waterborne businesses and houseboats, as well as the countless galleries, studios, and grassroots venues clustering around its banks. But as rent continues to climb, licensing laws tighten, and some fear the London houseboat dream is at risk of drying up, the AirDraft intends to “flag the importance of cultural institutions in danger,” according to Randall-Page. As part of their winning proposal, Randall-Page and Rogers organized an onboard event program that draws upon local (sub)cultural institutions, from theatre venues to nightclubs. Their eclectic list of collaborators includes Total Refreshment Centre, a staple of London’s emergent underground jazz scene that was forced into closure earlier this summer by Hackney Council. “If being able to pop-up and disappear is a way around these regulations, that’s great,” consents Randall-Page. “But we shouldn’t really have to seek out these loopholes in the first place.” With a “boat for a mother and an airship for a father,” according to it design duo, AirDraft is an ebullient, if existentially troubled, intervention into Hackney’s canal culture. The 2018 Antepavilion reflects through its hybrid, flexible, intimate and informal structure all that is precious, unique, and worth saving about north-east London’s canal culture. While not for those prone to seasickness, what it lacks in vertebrae it more than makes up for in vibrancy.
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Prada Marfa’s immigrant architecture is more relevant than ever

This article is the last in a series that originally appeared in AN’s July/August 2018 issue which focuses exclusively on Texas and was guest edited by AGENCY. The essays examine architecture and practice across the southern border of the United States. Political Context Prada Marfa is a building born out of the political tensions arising in post-9/11 America, in which Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mexico become scapegoats. In 2003, a United States-led coalition invaded Iraq, beginning an eight-year war, and in 2005, Duncan Hunter, who at the time was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called for the construction of a wall along the entire border between the U.S. and Mexico. This led to his amendment to the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, which called for 698 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. This paved the way for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which President George W. Bush signed to “help protect the American people” from several purported threats, but primarily terrorism, which was the major focus of the era’s political rhetoric. Borderlands Architecture Prada Marfa is constructed out of traditional adobe bricks which have long been used in the region but are frequently perceived as an inferior material despite their ecological and climatological responsiveness. Adobe bricks provide the foundation for the oldest extant buildings in the region, as well as many of the area’s most important cultural and heritage sites, including artist Donald Judd’s own Block compound in Marfa. Directly referencing Judd and the military building traditions he emulated, the adobe bricks are intentionally set in a cement-based mortar. Judd recognized that this was the technique employed in the construction of barracks, hangars, and forts in the region, and Prada Marfa is constructed to reflect this mistrust of local traditions of the militaristic architecture that secures the border displays. Adobe brick was validated as a construction material, but not adobe mortar, which is more likely to be used on the humble houses of Mexicans and Mexican Americans on both sides of the contemporary border. Material Lineage While the adobe walls of Prada Marfa are indigenous, they are not perceived to be native to the United States, as the tradition is a spoil of the Mexican-American war. The form of the building recalls a West Texas vernacular, which is influenced by the melding of many cultures at the border. The artists Elmgreen and Dragset are from Denmark and Norway, respectively. The details of the interior come from Italy. The specifications for the shelves, the typography (a variation of a type popular with American engravers and typefounders in the last third of the 19th century), the color of paint for the interior walls, the lighting, and the carpet were directly sampled from Prada’s own architectural details for retail outlets in Milan. The inspiration for the facade is sampled from German photographer Andreas Gursky’s photograph Prada II. The building is sprayed with an elastomeric white latex coating to reflect the powerful rays of the sun and withstand the extreme expansion and contraction of the building’s structure in the fluctuating desert temperatures. Xenophobia and Cultural Assimilation Prada Marfa was a very new kind of work. Unlike the reserved and apolitical work of Judd—who in Marfa had already laid claim to art and what it should be—Prada Marfa blurs the boundaries between architecture, art, politics, and culture. The very same night that Prada Marfa opened, xenophobes attacked the work, stealing the shoes and purses, destroying the building’s facade, and spray painting “dum” [sic] and “dumb” on the inside and outside of the building. Prada Marfa represented a very new kind of artistic expression that was unfamiliar in the region and challenged conservative artistic sensibilities, calling into question the juxtapositions between wealth and poverty, the U.S. and Mexico, anglo and Mejicano, of the region that the building highlighted. Since Prada Marfa’s construction, it has had to evolve to survive in the political and environmental climate of both art and the borderlands. Since the first attack on the building, it has been vandalized several times—the glass windows were shoddily replaced by scratch-resistant and shatterproof acrylic to withstand bullets and the continual “peeling out” of cars in front of the building, which kicks up rocks and debris onto the facade. The fabric awnings had to be replaced due to smokers continually burning holes in the cloth with their cigarettes, and the font size of PRADA was increased to almost match the size of the letters on the black metal signs above, suggesting that the delicate typography on the original awnings may not have been good enough in a state where “everything is bigger.” Many other forms of vandalism have taken place. Men’s underwear was shoved into the drain pipes, causing the roof to flood and inundate the interior, which required the shelving to be rebuilt and repainted and the carpet to be replaced. Most dramatically, an artist by the name of Joe Magnano was found guilty of two counts of misdemeanor criminal mischief and required to pay Ballroom Marfa, the caretaker of Prada Marfa, $10,700 and a $1,000 fine for attempting to paint the building blue and pasting TOMS, the logo of a shoe brand founded by Texan Blake Mycoskie, on it, perhaps in an inadvertent attempt to make a structure perceived to be “not from around these parts” more Texan. The vandals who destroyed the building after it first opened, however, have never come forward, although it has been suggested that the borderland surveillance systems used to monitor immigrants traveling in the desert may be able to reveal these criminals. Hajj Prada Marfa has become a pilgrimage site where those making the journey to visit the building have left mementos as part of what has become a kind of hajj to this art Mecca. The various offerings at the Prada Marfa site have included visitors leaving one used shoe, placed around the building or atop the fencing surrounding the building. Perhaps this references the single shoe found in the faux shoe shelves of the store, or maybe the worn-out shoes of immigrants who journey by foot to the U.S. from Mexico until the soles of their shoes wear away, before being picked up in the landscape surrounding Prada Marfa. Not unlike the Jewish mitzvah where visitors to a grave leave small pebbles on a gravestone, visitors have also left small rocks, holding down a piece of paper with a name, message, or a business card, on the narrow ledge that surrounds Prada Marfa. This act reminds us of the harsh reality of a landscape where countless die in the desert, just as the wall has pushed people to greater extremes on their journey north. The shoes and the pebbles left by art pilgrims were systematically removed as they were also perceived as a form of vandalism—a crime, rather than a new tradition—and a fence was constructed around the building made of welded wire mesh, reminiscent of the transformation of the U.S.–Mexico border from a barbed wire fence to stretches of welded steel. The construction of the fence surrounding Prada Marfa, however, has prompted another tradition of offering at the site. While called Prada Marfa, the building is technically just outside the small town of Valentine, Texas. Despite a population of 217, the town is inundated with over 1,000 people on Valentine’s Day, as well as hundreds of Valentine’s Day cards that are sent through the local post office, which has been known as a “love station.” Today, “love locks,” padlocks used by sweethearts to symbolize their love, are attached to the new fence surrounding Prada Marfa, and the keys are thrown away. Perhaps this, too, symbolizes the time we live in, mired in a national struggle between the fences that divide and the love that could bring us together in the borderlands. Ronald Rael holds the Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and his architectural practice, Rael San Fratello, was the designer of Prada Marfa. He is the author of Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary.