Posts tagged with "SCI-Arc":

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Experience the best student projects in these virtual end-of-year exhibitions

Many architecture students have just wrapped up their final studios and exams, and what an interesting semester it has been. Social distancing has forced the closure of schools, sending design education fleeing from studio halls to online portals like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The translation—or, indeed, migration—has posed serious questions to inherited models of architectural pedagogy, particularly studio instruction. For instance, can Twitch really reproduce the same social fecundity of the studio? How to get everyone—not least the international students who returned home to different times zones after campuses were locked down—on the same schedule? Did your instructor ever figure out how to unmute themselves on that jury? (Tuition refund, anyone?) But what of the work itself? Does it betray the stress and volatility that are characteristic of a time disrupted by pandemic? Judge for yourself. Below, we pull together a baker’s dozen of virtual year-end exhibitions. Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture Earlier this month, CMU’s school of architecture launched the “System Reboot?” microsite, which collects thesis projects spanning undergraduate and graduate programs. Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation A fixture of the New York architecture scene, GSAPP’s student exhibition makes the jump online with a stirring statement from Dean Amale Andraos, for whom the site represents a “singular moment” in the school’s history. To the broad collection of work on view she ascribes a “deeply empathetic and with a revised global outlook.” Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Like its uptown counterpart, The Cooper Union’s end-of-year show was always a calendar event for the city’s architectural community. On June 10, the school will unveil a virtual edition of this year’s exhibition. UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design This so-called “virtual yearbook” foregrounds the 2020 commencement speech, which was delivered by professor Walter J. Hood. You could be forgiven for overlooking the actual student work, which is tucked away in a PDF called Circus. Harvard Graduate School of Design GSD’s end-of-year exhibition will make its online transition on May 27, one day before the school’s first-ever virtual commencement. Conceived by the GSD’s digital and exhibitions teams, the web gallery will be viewable in perpetuity. IIT College of Architecture There is no replacing Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall as a venue. Be that as it may, IIT adapted to the current moment, producing Strata, a virtual open house that offers up a slice of student work across multiple programs and levels. Pratt Institute School of Architecture The recently launched Pratt Shows Portfolio Project aims to promote the best student work across the school's different design degrees, preserving them online indefinitely. Princeton University School of Architecture Princeton's UnBuilding Building is part web gallery, part manifesto. Dedicated to post-professional M.Arch thesis projects, the site makes a case for unburdening architecture of its claims to physical permanence. SCI-Arc As with all things, SCI-Arc adopted a maximalist approach to what can otherwise be a routine affair. A couple of weeks ago, the school broadcast its final studio juries over Twitch (30 streams in all), which can be viewed through May 31. It has also launched a more conventional website for hosting undergraduate thesis projects. UIC School of Architecture Earlier this month, UIC kicked off its annual student exhibition with a cocktail hour-cum-variety show, which it aired live on Zoom. For the curious, the feed is preserved on Youtube. University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning It’s no surprise that Taubman College, a hotbed of digital thinking and research, would easily make the transition from physical to virtual formats for its annual student show. The site features select work from nine studios, as well as projects from its MSDMT program. University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design UPenn’s YES 2020 virtual exhibition plays things straight—no exuberant frills or cross-platform tie-ins. Instead, the tastefully designed site reproduces student work in big, bold images. Yale School of Architecture “Year End (of the World)” is a sensational title for what is another tasteful rendition of the cumulative student exhibition. Tip: The site is best experienced visually, so you might want to start with the directory.
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If you’re a self-described archiphile, you’ll love these podcasts

Architecture, you might think, cannot be made sense of without visual aids. After all, imagine an architectural history lecture minus the slides. What are you even left with? Plenty. Strip away their aesthetic gloss, and buildings become repositories of personal and historical narratives, sites of political struggle, and nuclei for experimental living. The following podcasts bear this out. Compared with mainstream programs like 99% Invisible, Frances Anderton's DnA, or The Curbed Appeal, they may seem a little niche. But they are well worth your time. Failed Architecture: A Podcast on Architecture and the Real World Failure gets a bad rap. For example, Silicon Valley shibboleths about the purported instructiveness of failure only serve to foreground the indomitable entrepreneurial instinct that, no doubt, lies deep down in each and every one of us. (Except, of course, in the inveterate lazybones or unlucky underprivileged.) Taken along these lines, failure becomes exclusively personal and purely instrumental. Neither applies to this podcast, which, by taking architecture as its overarching medium, necessarily implicates broad swathes of people, classes, and entire social projects. Or, as the podcast’s subtitle contends, the real world. What appear to be discrete tales about the failure of architecture—say, a modernist housing estate in the suburbs of Amsterdam—actually accrue to a wider narrative about the architecture of failure. But lest the stated outlook appear overly glum, there are moments of optimism, as in a recent pod about current union drives within architecture firms. Suggested episodes: “Modernism Distorted: Selling Utopia From Kleiburg to Keeling House”; “Architects Unionise!” Buildings on Air The motto for this contradictorily named, leftist podcast (or more accurately, radio show) should be “the fight continues.” What fight and where? Within architecture? Who are its prosecutors, and what are their demands? And how might I (or you) join in? The struggle, it turns out, is broad, encompassing union efforts by architects, community organizing, and agitating for a green stimulus package. Host Keefer Dunn is a member of both The Architecture Lobby and the Democratic Socialists of America. And in the big-tent spirit of those organizations, Dunn does not impose an ideological line on his listeners or guests, which have included Billy Fleming, director of the McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Ann Lui, director of Future Firm. Quite the opposite of the sectarian, Dunn is an exceedingly affable presence and often self-deprecating. As he admitted, self-critically, in a recent episode, “The show has become, by accident, entirely about Green New Deal stuff. Green New Deal and unionizing architecture. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Suggested episodes: “Episode 36 - March 24, 2020”; “Episode 26 - March 16, 2019” Interstitial The conceit is simple: Each week, a writer, journalist, or historian launches into a 10-minute spiel about their new book. But what appears to be a monologue is actually a series of fragments, cunningly spliced together and hemmed in by musical blips and bloops, which cut through the otherwise intense sobriety of the recordings. A few words from producer David Huber serve as an outro. In 30+ episodes, the format has never once varied—nor has the timbre of Huber’s Standard American English, which spurns the vocal fry characteristic of his podcasting cohort—and that commitment to formality is, indeed, part of the appeal. In addition to the professionalism Huber brings to the series is an unimpeachable sense of taste. The selection of authors never privileges disciplinary standing (you’ll find mercifully few feted academics among the roster of guests), but rather seems predicated on the substance of their research and writing. Which, in a better world, is how things would be. Suggested episodes: “Architecture in Global Socialism by Łukasz Stanek”; “After Geoengineering by Holly Jean Buck” Scratching the Surface Designer/writer Jarrett Fuller’s charm and evident dedication to this project—which emerged out of an MFA thesis—are infectious. One gets the feeling that Fuller is a good drinking buddy. He’s gracious to every one of his guests, never rushing them and always signaling recognition, approval, or surprise with an audible chuckle, yeah!, or hm-hmm. While his manner is relentlessly relaxed, he isn’t a sounding board, and he always seems to steer conversations toward a particularly interesting anecdote or punctum. Fuller also evinces an appreciable concern for criticism—all forms, but especially that of the designed environment—a mood that is reflected in his choice of guests: Alexandra Lange, Kate Wagner, Olly Wainwright, Mimi Zeiger, and Edwin Heathcote have all made appearances. Suggested episodes: “Alexandra Lange”; “Kate Wagner”; “Henry N. Cobb” Scaffold Prosody and cadence being loosely reliable indicators about one’s inner life, it seems as though host Matthew Blunderfield was using this self-described “interview project” to work through a few things. As an interviewer, his questions can be tinged with feelings of doubt, expectation, and appreciation, and he sometimes draws the very same qualities out in his guests. Like a few other podcasts on this list, Scaffold luxuriates in biographical detail, which can be both pro and con, depending on the interlocutor. So from Barbara Penner, a historian of bathrooms, among other architectural subjects, we learn about her personal past with psychoanalytic study, and from writer Geoff Manaugh, the thrill of blogging about architecture in a pre-Dezeen (prelapsarian?) world. Suggested episodes: “Barbara Penner”; “Geoff Manaugh”; “Shumi Bose” The Arc One for the theory heads out there, this “casual, unscripted, and intimate” podcast never feels as impromptu as its self-description makes out. That has mostly to do with host Marikka Trotter, an architectural historian and theorist teaching at SCI-Arc, who is ruminative yet still conversational, exhibiting an enviable power of ratiocination from moment to moment. The dialogues often skew toward obliqueness—“slippery interfaces” are invoked—and some of the rhetorical prompts inadvertently skirt the edge of bong-rip speculation. (“What happens when you zoom into a line so much that it starts to act like a volume? Or what happens when you zoom out so far away from a volume that it starts to seem like a point?”) Even so, Trotter manages to ground all the airy conjecture in concrete projects and proposals. Suggested episodes: “Lines”; “Roughness” About Buildings + Cities In this educational podcast, hosts Luke Jones and George Gingell bring a theater-kidlike enthusiasm to that most arid of subjects—architectural historiography. To be sure, the show, among the slickest on this list, assumes a certain familiarity on the part of its listeners with various –isms of style or the twists and turns taken by postwar discourse (and also…the village churches of England). This somewhat high bar notwithstanding, Jones and Gingell are ideal guides to such abstruse texts as Aldo Rossi’s The Architecture of the City and to such bombastic characters as Reyner Banham. Their commitment to study is admirable, even if the giddiness it inspires is entirely their own. Suggested episodes: “Reyner Banham”; “The Reactionaries"
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Architectural Bestia at SCI-Arc will display the ambiguities of creative authorship

This fall, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) will present an exhibition that attempts to draw subconscious connections between the work of several of its faculty members to potentially discover new, previously undefined methods of design practice. “Today, perhaps as never before,” the description for Architectural Bestia begins, “we share a technical language that flows from discipline to discipline, altering the paths of previously discrete branches of knowledge.” Supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the show will bring together the design work of several SCI-Arc faculty members that have independently relied on burgeoning digital technologies, including Liam Young, Marcelo Spina, Devyn Weiser, and Peter Testa, and Lucy McRae. Their work will be embellished through an artificial intelligence (AI) visualization software program that will expose each to “a perpetual state of transformation and mutation” in a series of animations output to television screens. Over the course of the exhibition, the images will become progressively deformed to reveal the facets of the “strange beast” that is theorized to have previously laid dormant in all of the work being presented. The concept for Architectural Bestia mirrors the discoveries made by Steven Johnson in his 2001 book Emergence: The Secret Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, which attempted to lay out the history of technological and creative innovations through and the unintended interconnections of seemingly unrelated elements known as ‘complexity theory.’ Where Johnson implores his reader to “embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle; reinvent," and “build a tangled bank,” Architectural Bestia will perform Frankensteinian operations on carefully composed works of art and architecture to arrive at unforeseeable outcomes. In small part, Architectural Bestia will be a recreation of The Architectural Beast, an exhibition that was on display at the 2019 Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Biennale in Orléans, France. Conceived by SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz Alonso and SCI-Arc professor Casey Rehm, the exhibition transformed the original work by giving creative agency to an AI program of Rehm’s design. Architectural Bestia was originally intended to go on display April 24 but has been postponed to the fall due to ongoing coronavirus concerns.
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Arts and architecture advocate Merry Norris dies

Merry Norris, an arts and architecture advocate based in Los Angeles, passed away on March 16. As one of the city’s first Cultural Affairs Commissioners when she was appointed in 1984, the first Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA/LA), and a board member and an honorary trustee at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) since 1987, Norris was widely known throughout the city for her open embrace of all things groundbreaking and on the cutting edge. Like fellow philanthropists Eli Broad and Robert H. Ahmanson, Norris helped shaped the cultural identity of the young city by drawing connections between a wide range of creative fields. Hernán Díaz Alonso, the current Director of SCI-Arc, expressed in a press statement that “Merry Norris was in a league of her own,” and that “her generosity and passion for SCI-Arc and the arts was unparalleled. Over the years, her contributions have made her inseparable from what SCI-Arc is and will continue to be.” Faculty member and founder of Morphosis Thom Mayne said that Norris “approached everything with wonder and enthusiasm—she loved the world and the people in it,” and SCI-Arc Chairman of the Board of Trustees Kevin Ratner added that she was “a fixture of LA’s cultural fabric; a committed board member who connected the school to the greater arts community and whose strong opinion always mattered.” Norris was behind the enhancement of many of the city’s public spaces through the inclusion of work from local artists, such as those of Shepard Fairey and David Wisemen throughout the West Hollywood Library, and a large mural by Kenny Scharf adorning the sides of a parking garage for the Pasadena Museum of California Art. But she is perhaps most well known for her instrumental role in the founding and building of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), one of the most city’s most important art institutions, as well as the James Corner Field Operations-designed Tongva Park in Santa Monica. Her own home, perched above the Sunset Strip, was itself a veritable museum of contemporary art and design, according to an interview with Curbed, including furniture designed by Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne, as well as artwork by Ed Ruscha, Mark Bradford, and Jenny Holzer.
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Architects apply the latest in fabrication, design, and visualization to age-old timber

Every so often, the field of architecture is presented with what is hailed as the next “miracle building material.” Concrete enabled the expansion of the Roman Empire, steel densified cities to previously unthinkable heights, and plastic reconstituted the architectural interior and the building economy along with it.  But it would be reasonable to question why and how, in the 21st century, timber was accorded a miracle status on the tail-end of a timeline several millennia long. Though its rough-hewn surface and the puzzle-like assembly it engenders might seem antithetical to the current global demand for exponential building development, it is timber’s durability, renewability, and capacity for sequestering carbon—rather than release it—that inspires the building industry to heavily invest in its future.  Cross-laminated timber (CLT), a highly resilient form of engineered wood made by gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together, was first developed in Europe in the early 1990s, yet the product was not commonly used until the 2000s and was only introduced into the International Building Code in 2015. While mid-to-large range firms around the world have been in competition to build the largest or the tallest timber structures to demonstrate its comparability to concrete and steel, a number of independent practitioners have been applying the latest methods of fabrication, computational design techniques, and visualization software to the primordial material. Here, AN exhibits a cross-section of the experimental work currently being pursued with the belief that timber can be for the future what concrete, steel, and plastic have been in the past. AnnaLisa Meyboom In the Fall of 2018, 15 of professor AnnaLisa Meyboom’s students at the University of British Columbia (UBC), along with David Correa at University of Waterloo, Oliver David Krieg of Intelligent City, and 22 industry participants designed and constructed the third annual Wander Wood Pavilion, a twisting, latticed timber structure made up entirely of non-identical components.  By taking advantage of the advanced fabrication resources available at the UBC Centre for Advanced Wood Processing, including a CNC mill and an multi-axis industrial robot, the project was both a learning opportunity for its design team and a demonstration to a broader public that timber is a more than viable material to which contemporary fabrication technologies can be applied. The pavilion forms a bench on one end that's large enough for two people, a public invitation test the structure's strength and durability for themselves. While the pavilion only required three days to fabricate and assemble on-site, a significant amount of time and energy was spent ensuring its quick assembly when the time came. A rigorous design workflow was established that balanced an iterative design process with rapid geometric output that accounted for logical assembly sequencing. Every piece of the pavilion was then milled to interlock into place and be further secured by metal rivets. The project was devised in part to teach students one strategy for narrowing the gap between digital design and physical fabrication while applying a novel material. In this vein, a standard industrial robot was used throughout the fabrication process that was then “set up with an integrator specifically to work on wood,” according to Meyboom. Gilles Retsin While Gilles Retsin, the London-based architect and professor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, has long experimented with both computational design and novel methods of fabrication, a recent focus on timber has propelled his practice into a bold new direction. A giant wooden structure installed at London’s Royal Academy in early 2019, for instance, was the architect’s first attempt at applying augmented reality to modular timber construction through the use of Microsoft’s Hololens. “We used AR to send instructions directly from the digital model to the team working on-site,” Retsin explained. “AR therefore helps us understand what a fully-automated construction process would look like, where a digital model communicates directly with people and robots on site.” In a recent international competition set in Nuremberg, Germany, Retsin set his sights on a much larger scale for what would have been the world’s first robotically prefabricated timber concert hall. Designed in collaboration with architect Stephan Markus Albrecht, engineering consultancy Bollinger-Grohmann, and climate engineers Transsolar and acoustic specialists Theatre Projects, the proposal takes advantage of the site’s location in a region with an abundance of timber while envisioning the material’s application to a uniquely challenging building type. The building’s form exhibits the material’s lightness using 30-foot sawtooth CLT prefabricated modules over the main lobby spaces, which are exposed from the exterior thanks to a seamless glass envelope.  “Designing in timber not only means a more sustainable future, but also has architects profoundly redesigning buildings from the ground up,” said Retsin. “It’s a challenging creative task, we’re really questioning the fundamental parts, the building blocks of architecture again.”  Casey Rehm For SCI-Arc professor Casey Rehm, working with timber has meant challenging many issues in the field of architecture at once. Timber is a rarely-considered building material in Los Angeles given the high time and material costs associated with its transportation and manufacturing. “Right now,” Rehm said, “the industry is manually laying up two-by-sixes into industrial presses, pressing them into panels, and then manually cutting window openings.” But if timber waste itself was adopted as a building material, he argued, the material could be far more globally cost-efficient.  While timber has been used in the construction of increasingly large structures around the world, such as multistory housing developments and office buildings, Rehm believes the material can be reasonably adapted to a smaller scale for quick deployment. In this vein, Rehm has been researching strategies with his students for producing inexpensive CLT panels for the construction of homeless housing and accessory dwelling units in Los Angeles, a city with a particularly conspicuous housing shortage.  But aside from its potential as a cost and material-efficient material, the architect has applied timber to even his most exploratory design work. NN_House 1, a sprawling single-floor home Rehm proposed in 2018 for the desert plains of Joshua Tree, California, was designed in part using a 3D neural network to develop ambiguous divisions between rooms, as well as to blur the divide between interior and exterior. The AI was trained on the work of modernist architects—while producing idiosyncrasies of its own—to develop a living space with multiple spatial readings. Kivi Sotamaa As an architect practicing in Finland, Kivi Sotamaa is certainly not unique in his community for his admiration of the far-reaching possibilities of timber construction. He is, however, producing novel research into its application at a domestic scale to reimagine how wood can be used as a primary material for home construction. The Meteorite, a three-story home the architect has designed near Helsinki constructed entirely of locally-grown CLT, was designed using an organizational strategy the architect has nicknamed ‘the misfit.’ This system, as Sotamaa defines it, creates two distinct formal systems to generate room-sized interstitial spaces that simultaneously act as insulation, storage space, and housing for the building’s technical systems. “Aesthetically,” Sotamaa elaborated, “the misfit strategy allows for the creation of a large scale monolithic form on the outside, which addresses the scale of the forest, and an intricate human-scale spatial arrangement on the interior.” Altogether, the architect estimates, the home’s CLT slabs have sequestered 59,488 kilograms, or roughly 65 tons, of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Meteorite was developed and introduced to the client using virtual reality, and Sotamaa hopes to apply other visualization technologies to the design and production of timber architecture, including augmented reality that could allow builders to view assembly instructions in real-time on site. “When the pieces are in order on-site and [with clear] instructions,” Sotamaa explained, “the assembly of the three-dimensional puzzle can happen swiftly and efficiently, saving energy and resources when compared with conventional construction processes.” 
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The Architectural Beast distorts architectural imagery at the FRAC Biennale

For the 2019 Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Biennale in Orléans, France, SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz-Alonso curated The Architectural Beast, an installation featuring 17 contemporary artists and architects. Together with Diaz-Alonso, Los Angeles-based designer Casey Rehm co-produced the installation: 12 paired video screens that nod towards Marcel Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (or The Large Glass installation). The top panel exhibits printed images the artists have selected to represent their work, while the lower screens show that same imagery being transformed by artificial intelligence software developed by Rehm. Also named The Architectural Beast, the software was designed to independently alter the imagery presented over the course of the three-month installation. According to Rehm, the program's AI is "initially trained on curated datasets of images and texts of the artists representing an institutional understanding of architecture, to an understanding of architecture of populist valuation." The AI, in other words, spends each night conducting image searches for the day's most popular architectural images and then uses the results to manipulate the original imagery. "By the second month of its life," Rehm explains, "it should cross the 50 percent line of curated artist and internet images in its network."
"Through artificial intelligence," wrote Diaz-Alonso in the installation description, "the work featured will be exposed to a perpetual state of transformation and mutation. The exhibition gathers a key set of practices, primarily from architecture, but also from art and fashion, to reveal facets of the strange beast that the tumultuous paradigm shifts of recent decades have left behind." The AI also uploads the imagery as individual posts on Instagram daily under the username @thearchitecturalbeast, each of which is complemented by cryptic texts that are developed by a separate AI program. This writing, which at first glance read like heavy theoretical essays with the aid of predictive text, was initially trained on the written work of Rehm, Liam Young, and Damjan Jovanovic. The combination of text and imagery created by The Architectural Beast demonstrates one way architects can let go of the wheel and give artificial intelligence greater agency in the role of human-centered design. The installation is currently on view through January 19.
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SCI-Arc launches new program on emerging topics in landscape architecture

Shortly after Hernan Diaz Alonso became the dean of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 2015, a suite of four postgraduate programs (Architectural Technologies, Design of Cities, Fiction and Entertainment, and Design Theory and Pedagogy) were offered that confirmed the progressive, speculative stance the school first took when it opened in 1972. Yesterday, SCI-Arc announced that a fifth postgraduate program will soon be added into the mix. Synthetic Landscapes will be a one-year, three-semester Master of Science degree program that, according to the school’s website, “focuse[s] on advancing knowledge and developing expertise in the design of complex landscapes for the twenty-first century.” Reflecting on the decision to establish the program, Postgraduate Programs chair David Ruy commented that “Landscape design, the often overlooked counterpart to building design, is increasingly becoming a primary arena for the development of ecological awareness and innovation.” The curriculum will incorporate lessons familiar to a landscape architecture program—including those of horticulture, botany, climatic systems, and zoology—while challenging the conventions currently present in landscape design to imagine alternate relationships between the built and natural environments. “There shouldn’t be a distinction in landscape between the metropolitan and the natural,” said SCI-Arc Director Hernan Diaz Alonso. “With Synthetic Landscapes, we're trying to figure out if there is a SCI-Arc way to conceptualize landscape architecture as a synthetic problem and tackle the largest scales of architectural thinking. I want to see if we can think of new forms of nature as a way to both produce and unsettle our built environments. Landscapes are cultural objects as much as anything else we would design.” Joining the Synthetic Landscapes program as visiting faculty will be Timothy Morton, a long-standing member of the Object-Oriented Ontology school of thought and author of more than 20 books on the subject, including The Ecological Thought (2010), Hyperobjects (2013), and Dark Ecology (2016). “Besides authoring what have already become seminal books,” said Ruy. “Timothy has also had a profound influence on cinema, music, fashion, and art. The opportunity to work closely with such an important thinker within the context of an exciting new landscape architecture program is truly unique.”
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Ray Kappe, founding director of SCI-Arc, dies at 92

Architect and founding director of SCI-Arc, Ray Kappe, passed away yesterday at 92 due to lung failure after battling pneumonia. Kappe had been an internationally recognized architect, urban planner, and educator since 1953. Before starting the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 1972, Kappe founded the Department of Architecture at California Polytechnic State University of Pomona and was recognized as a pioneer in architectural theory and education. SCI-Arc is now considered one of the top architecture schools in the United States.  As both a theorist and a practicing architect, Kappe’s work played a strong role in the legacy of early Southern California Modernism. “Only one architect truly signifies the seamless combination of Modernism and canyon vernacular, and his name is Ray Kappe,” Brad Dunning wrote in the New York Times in 2004. In 2013, Kappe was honored with the L.A. Architectural Lifetime Achievement Award for over 60 years in architectural practice and education. He had also been awarded the Richard Neutra International Medal for Design Excellence and the Topaz Medal, the highest award in architectural education.  Later in his career, Kappe worked with the custom home fabrication company LivingHomes, where he practiced his extensive research and applied techniques with “warm, modern” prefab housing. Stephen Kanner, co-founder and former president of the Architecture + Design Museum in Los Angeles once said, “Ray’s own home may be the greatest house in all of Southern California.”
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Barbara Bestor’s SCI-Arc commencement speech evokes L.A.'s unique architecture history

Despite its youth, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has educated a surprising number of figures that have come to define the field. One such figure is local architect Barbara Bestor, who graduated from the school with a master’s degree in 1992 and has since designed several prestigious projects in and around Los Angeles, including the Silverlake Conservatory for Music, and the Beats by Dre campus in Culver City, and also oversaw the renovation of the Silvertop Residence, a hillside home first built in 1956 by local legend John Lautner. As the commencement speaker for SCI-Arc’s 2019 graduation ceremony, Bestor elaborated on the storied history of the city and how it directly influenced her career. “I think that, like the city of Los Angeles,” began Bestor, “our culture of freedom as architects is a uniquely West Coast culture that's actually in touch with our past history.” She then went on to recount how the unique qualities of the city that inspired experimentation among luminaries including Frank Lloyd Wright, Ray Kappe, Deborah Sussman, and Rudolph Schindler, who had a “habit of driving around to job sites with a load of two-by-fours in his station wagon so that he could improvise new ideas in real-time.” Bestor then reminded the audience that the freedom afforded by the relative lack of history Los Angeles can be liberating but also daunting. “It demands that we grapple with big existential questions like ‘what am I doing here,’ ‘what's my artistic voice,’ and ‘will my voice ever be part of the larger architectural conversation around the world?’” Bestor’s way of first navigating the city’s creative landscape was to work on houses, coffee shops, clothing stores, kitchen renovations, and several other small projects. “Even the most pragmatic and mundane programs,” she explained, “contain some freedom for the architect to create extra value, ideas about gender politics, fun experiments, and so on.” Bestor ended her speech by advising her listeners, “whether you’re staying here in L.A., or going off to Mexico City, or Beijing, or Seoul,” to “take that sense of freedom with you… You are all now West Coast Architects... part of this great, living tradition of experimentation and innovation.” It seemed fitting that, following her speech, an honorary M.Arch degree was presented to Frank Gehry, an architect who has called Los Angeles his home since 1947 and found a career by tapping into the experimental spirit of the city recounted by Bestor.
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SCI-Arc undertakes all-school public charrette addressing homelessness

The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and the Goethe-Institut will be holding a four-day charrette this weekend focused on generating ideas and approaches that could help address the prevalence of homelessness among Los Angeles residents. According to a press release issued by the school, all of SCI-Arc’s 506 students will be involved with the initiative, which starts Friday and runs through Monday evening. The event will feature contributions from a bevy of local and international experts, including Lorcan O’Herlihy, Frances Anderton, Deborah Weintraub, Mimi Zeiger, and other local politicians, designers, and non-profit directors. In a statement, SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz Alonso said, “SCI-Arc is committed to playing an integral role in solving the homeless crisis. We are committed not only because of our proximity to Skid Row but because there is a moral imperative and an architectural challenge. Design must be implemented as a means for social change.” Following a day-long symposium on Friday, students and interested parties will engage in a weekend-long research and design session that will culminate in a public exhibition on Monday evening. Several of the events will be available via livestream for those who cannot attend. See below for a full schedule of the charrette. Friday, January 11, 2019 W.M. Keck Hall Lecture Hall Welcome and Introduction 1:00 p.m. – 1:20 p.m. Hernan Diaz Alonso, SCI-Arc Director Lien Heidenreich-Seleme, Goethe-Institut Director Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA County Supervisor Livestream link Presentation: Framing the Problem 1:20 p.m. – 1:40 p.m. Jerry Neuman, SCI-Arc trustee Chris Ko, United Way of Greater Los Angeles Livestream link Panel Discussion 1 1:40 p.m. – 2:40 p.m. Marqueece Harris-Dawson, LA City Councilmember (Moderator) Jerry Neuman, SCI-Arc trustee Jerry Ramirez, County Homelessness Initiative Christopher Hawthorne, LA City Chief Design Officer Thomas Newman, United Way of Greater Los Angeles Livestream link Panel Discussion 2 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Frances Anderton, KCRW (Moderator) Deborah Weintraub, Chief Deputy City Engineer of Los Angeles Carlos Zedillo, Head of Pienza Sostenible Kevin Hirai, President of Flyaway Homes Lorcan O'Herlihy, Architect Livestream link Closing Remarks 4:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Hernan Diaz Alonso, SCI-Arc Director Livestream link Saturday, January 12, 2019 Conversations Livestreamed 10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Mimi Zeiger, Journalist and Curator Tanner Blackman, City Planner Volunteer faculty, alumni and guests Pin-up 2:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Keck Hall SCI-Arc Students + Volunteer Faculty Livestream link Monday, January 14 Exhibition 4:00pm–7:00pm Student work exhibited throughout the school
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2018 Best of Design Awards winners for Student Work

2018 Best of Design Awards winner for Student Work: mise-en-sand Designer: Jonah Merris, University of California, Berkeley Nature is artificial, and occasionally, it is artifice. So how can architecture act as a register of constructed ground in the era of the human geomorphic agent? Jonah Merris designed mise-en-sand, a proposal for a 21st-century exposition that addresses the extraction and exploitation of sand, as a series of six composed set designs that would allow visitors to consider the high volume–low value-paradox of sand as a global commodity. The sites and processes depicted in these vignettes showcase the breadth of scales and geographies across which the construction and deconstruction of ground occurs. Within mise-en-sand, architecture becomes a performance wherein objects are staged and meaning implied—a sandbox where observers can reconsider naturalism as it applies to something as ubiquitous as sand. Honorable Mentions Project name: Cloud Fabuland Designer: Eleonora Orlandi, SCI-Arc Project name: Real Fake Designer: James Skarzenski, University of California, Berkeley
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Thom Mayne to take over SCI-Arc’s cities program

Thom Mayne of Morphosis will be rejoining the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) as a full-time distinguished faculty member as the new coordinator for the SCI-Arc EDGE Design of Cities postgraduate program. Mayne, one of the original founders of SCI-Arc, will be taking over the Design of Cities program from current coordinator David Ruy, who will stay on as head of postgraduate studies at the school. Regarding Mayne’s new post, SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz Alonso said:
“It is wonderful to have Thom Mayne come back home. He is a major part of what SCI-Arc is, was, and will be. Thom Mayne represents everything that we want our students to aspire to. Thom embodies the best aspirations of architecture as a historical, cultural, and political force that is unique among creative disciplines. Thom will help us to maintain the unique spirit of exploration that defines SCI-Arc. In the contemporary world, architectural thinking should be a platform for challenging the status quo. We welcome back to SCI-Arc, one of the pioneers of this idea.”
Mayne has extensive experience as an educator and has held teaching positions at Columbia, Yale, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Berlage Institute in the Netherlands, the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, and most recently at the University of California, Los Angeles, where Mayne led the school’s Suprastudio, among other institutions. The Design of Cities program is focused, according to the SCI-Arc website, “against the conventional wisdom that cities are hopelessly complex, informal networks beyond the reach of any design model, this program fundamentally believes in the power of the architectural imagination to create sustainable urban designs for the twenty-first century and beyond.” With a long legacy of urban- and sustainability-focused work and research under his belt and a growing momentum toward regional urban transformation in Los Angeles and California more broadly, expect to see Mayne’s provocative ideas take on new life as he undertakes his new position.