Posts tagged with "SCI-Arc":

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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.
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The future of healing is probably virtual

I was sitting in a hot tub wearing VR goggles and rubber gloves, making swimming strokes with my hands, when a professor walked by, laughed, and waved hello. It may have seemed like some sort of goofy art project where all interested parties were having light-hearted fun, but in actuality, we were experimenting with something quite serious: the future of healing. I was testing CLOUD+ Labs, an immersive installation that combines the experience of VR with physical bathing rituals. Visitors to the spa put on headsets and relax in a jacuzzi hot tub in order to experience a virtual, cave-like spa-world, while a Siri-like voice gives them a guided meditation and psychic reading—based on their Google search history. The “individualized internet guided healing sessions” are a project by Leah Wulfman, a student in the Fiction and Entertainment program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Downtown Los Angeles. Here, architecture is not necessarily a formal endeavor, nor one that is expressed in plan, section, and models. Rather, architecture—whatever that means—is  invented as a relatively small part of a flattened cultural landscape where seeing and living are projected through the creation of new worlds via filmmaking. CLOUD+ Labs is built like a wellness center, complete with receptionist, changing area, robes, bathing suits, and treatment areas. Here, rather than drinking the latest adaptogen blends and doing pilates, the drink of choice is CLOUD+, “Water enhanced physically and spiritually by our data…highly customized and harmonized to your individual internet activity.” https://vimeo.com/291617383 This drink is a metaphor for the script Wulfman wrote, which scrapes Google search data—you have to give her your email and password (!)—and gives you a reading of your past, present, and future. The ritual is based on the Korean spa, where bathing is an indulgent and relaxing activity. In this virtualized version, the internet search history not only fills in for the human psychic, it also adds a layer of meditative reflection. The fictional water brand and spa are slickly branded using the rhetoric of technology and wellness. From the project description:
Following this release of customized products, the CLOUD+ LABS are preparing to open a CLOUD+ enhanced water treatment center. Assembling new purification rituals for the digital age, CLOUD+ LABS allow guests to soak, regenerate and cleanse themselves and their smart devices in data enhanced water. Connect to reconnect. The CLOUD+ wellness guide supports improved, intentional connection to achieve holistic self awareness and restoration.
According to Wulfman, “The piece edges you towards oneness with the internet and your digital identity, while allowing you to recognize and reflect on the process through which this identity is formed in the first place.” Custom scripts using Google’s API mine the entirety of the user’s search history, upload it, and scan it for certain patterns that might lead to conclusions about the user, albeit quite vague, like a real psychic’s musings. This ambiguity leads to more opportunity for reflection and interpretation. One user left a review on the real feedback page on cloudpluslabs.booksy.com, completing the experience of CLOUD+ Labs. It is all very “real,” even if it feels virtual. Is it the future of healing? For some, it probably actually is. https://vimeo.com/291224792
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Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative are among 2018 ACADIA Award winners

ACADIA, or the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, established the ACADIA Awards of Excellence to recognize outstanding individuals and practices that think critically about the impact and possibilities of computer-aided design. This year, the ACADIA Awards recipients, including Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative, will present their work at the conference titled Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City from October 18–20. Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture Mónica Ponce de León won the Teaching Award of Excellence. Ponce de León is a Venezuelan-American architect who is also a renowned educator. She is the founding principal of MPdL Studio, which has officesin New York, Boston, and Ann Arbor. Prior to her deanship at Princeton, she was dean of University of Michigan’s Taubman College and a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). The awards committee commended her for the “integration of digital technologies into architectural education.” Jenny Wu and Dwayne Oyler, partners at Oyler Wu Collaborative, were awarded with the Digital Practice Award of Excellence. The L.A.-based, award-winning firm is widely recognized for its expertise in material research and digital fabrication. The firm is known for projects such as The Exchange in Columbus, IN, the 2013 Beijing Biennale installation named The Cube, and their installations and pavilions with SCI-Arc. The partners are both currently teaching at SCI-Arc and Harvard GSD. Other awards included the Innovative Academic Program Award of Excellence, given to the Institute of Advanced Architecture Catalonia; the Innovative Research Award of Excellence bestowed upon NVIDIA robotics researcher Dr. Madeline Gannon; and the Society Award of Excellence won by Association for Robots in Architecture co-founders Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann. Check out the complete list of winners here.
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SCI-Arc exhibit will explore post-digital attitudes toward environment and landscapes

The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has announced Environment[al], a forthcoming exhibition curated by Herwig Baumgartner and Marcelyn Gow that will explore “contemporary attitudes toward environment in a post-digital context.” The exhibition and installation will feature the work of a slate of renowned international designers, architects, and landscape architects as it seeks to examine the changing character of environmental concerns in the face of technological innovation and climate change.  According to a press release, Environment[al] will feature the work of Izaskun Chinchilla of Izaskun Chinchilla Architects, Enric Ruiz Geli of Cloud 9, Carme Pinós of Estudio Carme Pinós, Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Gilles Retsin, and Günther Vogt of Vogt Landschaftsarchitekten.  The exhibition will be supported by a panel discussion taking place June 15th that will feature Baumgartner, Chinchilla, Geli, Gow, Restin, and Vogt as well as Violeta Burckhardt, Vittoria Di Palma, SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz Alonso, and SCI-Arc history and theory coordinator Marrikka Trotter. The exhibition will seek to engage with the ways sites, objects, and spaces generate “multiple authenticities” in contemporary constructed environments and will include transforming the school’s campus gallery into an interactive installation. The gallery will be transformed into a “landscape/substrate” designed as a diagrammatic facsimile representing the soil and geologic conditions of the Owens Valley to the northeast of Los Angeles. The space will also host a “sound map” installation portraying recordings taken along the banks of the Los Angeles River that will play when participants interact with elements of the installation.  The exhibition is slated to open at the school’s campus gallery June 15, 2018. 
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Kanye West launches “Yeezy Architecture” studio after visit to SCI-Arc

Following another recent Twitter spree and a series of problematic, rambling public interviews, multidisciplinary artist and designer Kanye West has announced the creation of a new architecture arm called “Yeezy Home” that will seek to expand West’s creative output to include architectural and urban design.  In a late-night tweet, the Hidden Hills, California-based rapper solicited the talent of aspiring designers, calling for “architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better.”  https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/993221454740185088?s=21 West’s cryptic tweet comes just over a week after the controversial creative visited the Southern California Institute of Architecture’s (SCI-Arc) Spring Show, a showcase of the school’s spring semester work. The visit prompted a tweet from Kanye highlighting the work of M.Arch I student Ashley Morgan Hastings and her desalination-focused project.  Following the visit, West tweeted out praise for the student: https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/990734224670867456?s=21 West has a long history of associating himself and collaborating with architects and designers, including a 2012 collaboration with Dutch architects OMA for the design of the 7 Screen Pavilion project, a pyramid-shaped projection room used to screen West’s Cruel Summer film at the Cannes Film Festival.  Amid an earlier tweetstorm two weeks ago, West unveiled Axel Vervoordt-designed the interiors for the mausoleum-like Hidden Hills home shared with wife Kim Kardashian. The top-secret designs follow previous collaborations with New York City-based Family and London, England-based architect John Pawson.  After proclaiming his “obligation to show people new ideas” following West’s renewed support for Donald Trump in a recent song, Kanye’s latest foray into design seems to be more involved, however. CityLab reports that the rapper recently purchased a 300-acre property in Los Angeles that West intends on developing himself. In a wide-ranging interview with Charlemagne Tha God, West hints at his future plans, saying, “Yeah, we’re going to develop cities.”
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SCI-Arc show postulates a fictional energy future that doesn't go far enough

In a recent installation at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), Mark Foster Gage Architects attempts to bring the notion of parafictional art fantasy to the realm of architecture—with mixed results. Gage’s Geothermal Futures Lab considers the notion that, given the current regime of “fake news” and “post-truth” reality, architects might have renewed license to create new visions for the future rooted primarily in fantasy. In lectures and writings, Gage argues that architects from Vitruvius onward have always engaged in some form or another with parallel or alternate versions of reality through their works and that conditions are ripe today for this tendency to take hold once again. Furthermore, Gage posits that these efforts represent a facet of the Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) school of thought and could potentially be used to fend off the ever-increasing erosion—or flattening—of a shared reality that occurs when the people who lead and represent the nation are fundamentally preoccupied with telling lies. In the exhibition text, Gage asks, “Might architecture’s power in this new world be conducted through an elasticity of the real that encourages citizens to develop doubt about their presented realities—and therefore perhaps become more resistant to ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts?’” For the installation, Gage seizes this opportunity as a justification for postulating a new energy-generation technology called “laser ablation geothermal resonance” that draws its power from sources deep below the surface of the earth in order to sustainably supply Los Angeles with over two-thirds of its daily energy needs. To convey the fundamentals of this fictional energy revolution, Gage fills the SCI-Arc gallery with a stage setting meant to approximate a control center for the power generator, installing lab equipment, a metal detector, a faceted gold-leaf-covered reactor, a pile of rocks, and a collection of high-powered lasers and imaginary technical drawings for display. Technically speaking, the student-produced machine drawings are exquisite in their effusive and cheeky detail. Drawn to convey exploded axonometric views of the reactor and other components, the starkly outlined assemblage drawings also incorporate recognizable pop cultural elements, with hidden My Little Pony and Mr. Potato Head figurines buried within the constructions. The reactor mock-up is impressive in its detailing as well; it features the fractal and agglomerated geometries Gage’s other academic work is known for, while spewing fog from its lower extremity. But overall, the exhibition—and Gage’s interpretation of what parafictional fantasy in the era of “fake news” can provide to the field of architecture—falls flat. It’s not the physical objects that result from Gage’s exploration that are in question, but rather the interpretations that underlie them. For one, it belies a fundamental misreading of the current political-cultural moment to describe the Trumpian notion of “fake news” as a symptom of the so-called “great flattening” of intellectual hierarchies OOO represents. Practically speaking, “fake news” is not so much a product of the erosion of objective truth as much as it is an acknowledgment of multiple, covalent, and oftentimes contradictory perspectives that have always existed. Like it or not, “fake news” represents not merely plurality, but a new era of simultaneity writ large. The president and his lackeys have not so much created a fantasy world for their devotees to occupy as elevated a parallel existence that has always been very real to its adherents. In a lecture supporting the exhibition, Gage cites the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements as emblematic of “flattening” as well, a comparison that also doesn’t really apply. If OOO ideology is rooted in the “removal of human as primary subject” from perceived reality, how can two movements entirely rooted in acknowledging and prioritizing the fundamental humanity and agency of two often-maligned social groups serve as a case study? The comparison is flawed and problematic, representing a misunderstanding of not just what drives these movements, but also of what we can learn from them as architects, as well. And lastly, like so many other recent attempts at projecting future scenarios, the project is not really “speculative” in the literal sense and represents merely an intensification of existing modes and technologies, raising the question: If architecture’s power right now lies in its ability to speculate, what does it mean to have so many of its fantasies seem so underwhelmingly conventional? Southern California Institute of Architecture January 26 through March 4
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How should we really rank architecture schools?

What are we to make of a recent survey that claims MIT, the Bartlett, and Delft University of Technology are the best architecture schools in the world?  This ranking, created by British-based Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) also names Stanford, New York University, and University of California, Santa Barbara, as its top schools for architecture and these institutions don’t even have standalone schools of architecture. This assessment has received a great deal of attention on social media, particularly from those associated with the top schools. But what are we to make of a listing that does not even mention SCI-Arc or the Architectural Association in London? It also lists the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales ahead of Cornell University, and Kyoto University just ahead of Princeton and the University of Michigan. I have nothing against the schools that came out on top, nor am I trying to be chauvinistic by emphasizing U.S. universities, but one has to wonder about a list that puts King Saud University in Saudi Arabia ahead of Rice University in Houston. But what criteria did the QS use in establishing the ranking? First, this firm, which calls itself a “higher education marketing company” and one of the “three most influential university rankings in the world,” looked only at universities. This means that while QS surveyed “2,122 institutions across the globe, offering courses in architecture or the built environment,” schools like Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, Cooper Union, or the Royal College of Art in London were not even considered for evaluation. QS asserts that its evaluation is based on four factors: academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per paper, and what it calls “H-Index citations.” An H-Index citation is a metric that attempts to “measure both the productivity and citation impact of the publications of a scientist or scholar.” It’s hard to learn more about the QS architecture ranking, and it seems rather sloppy and unscientific, but the firm also rates universities worldwide, and these rankings seem to line up fairly closely with its architecture list. Its top universities in the world are, in order, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Harvard University, California Institute of Technology, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University College London, Imperial College London, University of Chicago, and the ETH Zurich. Interestingly, Yale University came in sixteenth in the QS world ranking of universities, but its architecture school ranked a lowly 100th in the world behind the University of Kebangsaan in Malaysia, Texas A&M University, and Monash University in Australia. This QS ranking seems tone deaf to the real qualities that make a great architecture school, even while admitting the value and importance of PhD-level scholarship and research. Architecture is a craft as much as a liberal art, and therefore requires its teaching institutions to transmit a particular set of real-world skills that have to be mastered by students. For this reason, a great lab with CNC milling and robotic machines is important to contemporary design education. The students’ ability to work with their hands, render a plan, and be able to create a working section is as important as learning the history and theory of the discipline. In addition, the realities of the marketplace mean that students need the mentoring of professional working architects who make up the bulk of most design schools. The students who come out of great design schools need the refined focus of building culture, and this has been true since the École des Beaux-Arts and its workshop intern practice that is unique to the field. Furthermore, today’s architecture graduates don’t always find employment in traditional architecture offices—let alone go on to pursue PhDs as the QS ranking would suggest. In the words of cultural critic Brian Holmes, “designers, architects, and other actors in the creative fields must be multidisciplinary, open to collaboration, and motivated to find and initiate these often-amorphous work arrangements.” You can only get these in a full-blown school of architecture, and this need not be a university. There are many problems with the QS evaluation that undermines its usefulness, but one, in particular, is its disregard for educational differences between undergraduate and graduate programs—not to mention overlooking the educational content in two- and four-year degree and non-degree programs. The DesignIntelligence ranking of schools in the United States may also have shortcomings, but at least it gets the finer points of undergrad and graduate education and considers them. It identifies Cornell as the best undergraduate program in the country and the Harvard Graduate School of Design as the best graduate program, and that assessment seems more in line with real-world architecture in 2018. Finally, it may make sense to consider architecture education in a national context, rather than a worldwide one, since the licensing protocols and building requirements are so different from nation to nation.  Sorry, MIT, but this QS ranking is so myopically concerned with academic citations as to be nearly worthless as a guide for what comprises quality architecture education in all its 21st-century variety and subtlety.
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Architects who democratize technology through speculation

Liam Young calls himself an “architectural storyteller.” He uses fiction and film to explore visions of the future that amplify trends and technologies already present, challenging viewers to confront a not-so-distant reality. Young, who often collaborates with science fiction writers, technologists, and urbanists, casts a wide net: In addition to his London-based think tank Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today (cofounded with urbanist Darryl Chen), he helps run Unknown Fields Division, a roving global research studio that scours little-explored parts of the world for hints of future technologies and alternative narratives, and helms SCI-Arc’s Master of Arts in Fiction and Entertainment program. AN asked Young about his practice, his recent films, and the power of storytelling.

The Architect’s Newspaper: Let’s start by talking about Tomorrow’s Storeys, the film you produced for the Documenta exhibition in Athens this year.

Liam Young: Basically, the setup is that the evolution of Airbnb and other smart city systems has created a condition where ownership as we know it has been totally rewritten and we now just lease a full area or volume. It’s an animated film where you drift through a building, eavesdropping on conversations that were written as part of a public futurist think tank. The Athens apartment blocks [in the film] are based on the dominant building form in Athens, this housing block that’s almost conceived like Corbusier’s Dom-Ino: a concrete frame with flat slabs that are infilled across time. The film imagines a fleet of builder bots that remake, demolish, and build partition spaces and volumes as they are required. So you no longer own a piece of property, you just own volume—but that volume might shift or reform itself at any time as needed. So cities are remade based on networking technology.

And what’s the premise of your film that’s premiering at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism?

It is an abstract, non-narrative sequence of vignettes, fragments, and moments of a future Seoul, a city in which all of the hopes and dreams, fears and wonders of emerging technologies have come true. Scenes of contemporary Seoul are overlaid with seamless visual effects depicting a world where the sky is filled with drones, cars are driverless, the street is draped in augmented reality, and everyone is connected to everything. It is narrated by the disembodied voice of the city’s operating system, who tells us its story and how it produces and manages the environments we will soon all occupy.

Right now, it seems like tech companies are really driving the development of smart cities like the ones you depict. But what role do—or should—architects play?

The issue is that, for the most part, these technologies have supplanted the traditional forces that define and shape cities. The [digital] network is now a more significant infrastructure for affecting change within a city than physical public space or traditional infrastructures like road networks and water grids. So the role of architects and urbanists is rapidly diminishing. We’re interested in exploring where new forms of agency for the architect might exist when so much of what defines cities is being outsourced to large-scale tech companies.

The role of the storyteller is certainly one that I’ve kind of fashioned myself around. However, I think it goes deeper. I’m looking at [technologies that] have evolved faster than our cultural capacity to understand what they mean or what they might do. In that sense, it’s really important to imagine the implications of these technologies before they’re actually implemented. We try to explore the role of the architect as a speculator, as someone who can prototype those implications in visual and spatial mediums.

Take something like driverless car technology. A number of architecture studios are asking, “What happens to a city when the driverless car comes into being?” The problem is that car companies have already spent billions and billions of dollars developing this technology. They’ve invested so much in it that this future is going to happen whether we want it or not. [Architects] should have been running these design studios, we should have been involved in the planning meetings of Ford and General Motors ten years ago, but we weren’t. For the most part we sat by idly waiting for it to happen. If we were in those rooms $15 billion ago, we actually might have been able to make a difference in the way that these car companies are thinking.

I think that’s one of the urgent projects of our current generation of designers: To tackle imminent tech, play it out in multiple scenarios that explore desired consequences as well as unintended consequences, then feed those stories back to a general public and to the tech companies that are developing them so that we can make more informed choices about the future we want to have.

What about the traditional role of architects, even in just advocating for housing or basic infrastructure?

I don’t think the necessity for architects, as we traditionally define ourselves, is going to cease to exist. There are still going to be architects designing houses and talking about space as service infrastructure, but the role of those architects is going to fundamentally change or it’s going to rapidly diminish. I’m not advocating for the total dissolution of traditional architecture; I can’t claim that every architect should be a storyteller, but some of us need to do that in more systematic ways than we currently do.

Your film Where the City Can’t See presented a way for people to use technology to fight back—become hackers. Smart city technology is usually very top-down: even when tech companies are supposedly giving you choices, those choices inevitably benefit their business model.

That’s essentially what we are focusing on at the moment: the way that technology generates new forms of subculture. These technologies become the most interesting when they’re no longer in the hands of the companies that developed them, but when they get democratized and people start inventing their own uses for things, and we start seeing the unintended consequences of these technologies. That’s when they become really exciting.

[Another] big part of our practice is talking about the consequences of smart technologies. In order for everyone in a first-world city like New York to be running around on the latest smartphone, a whole lot of kids in Africa are going down the bottom of a mine with a gun to their head to dig out rare-earth minerals needed to make that smartphone. It’s no longer sufficient to describe those contexts as being pre-technology or pre-urban, because they’re part of an urban system, they’re part of the supply chain that produces the smart city.

So the people on the other end of the fiber-optic cable, they don’t have the latest smartphone, they’re not hooked into Nest adjusting the thermostat in their homes or uploading their data to the cloud, but they’re a consequence of the system that generates all those things for us in New York. We’re trying to tell these different kinds of stories, which all are part of the smart city—just not the smart city where we choose to point the marketing lens.

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Frank Gehry to teach “The Future of Prison” course at SCI-Arc

This post is part of our years-long running Eavesdrop series (think page 6 for the architectural field). It’s your best source for gossip, insider stories, and more. Have an eavesdrop of your own? Send it to: eavesdrop[at]archpaper.com.

The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) announced last winter that architect Frank Gehry would be teaching one of the school’s elective vertical studios for the spring 2017 semester. According to an image promoting the studio on the university’s Instagram, the studio is titled “The Future of Prison” and “calls on emerging architects to break free of current conventions and re-imagine what we now refer to as ‘prison’ for a new era.”

Could Gehry and his students re-imagine the carceral system the way his firm did with tourist-driven arts destinations? Perhaps the class could propose new designs for the Metropolitan Detention Center in Downtown Los Angeles, the 757-bed jail located just one mile from the SCI-Arc campus. The jail is due to be replaced sometime between 2027 and 2030 under the auspices of the city’s new Civic Center Master Plan. If rebuilt elsewhere, planners would be wise to look to Gehry’s SCI-Arc studio for ideas and inspiration.

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Watch Slavoj Žižek and Graham Harman argue at SCI-Arc

Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) hosted controversial philosopher Slavoj Žižek last week during the most recent installment of the university’s Duel + Duets speakers’ series. The event—moderated by Anna Neimark, SCI-Arc faculty and principal at architecture firm First Office —took the form of an extended debate between Žižek and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at SCI-Arc, Graham Harman. In opening the debate, SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz-Alonso lauded the speakers as necessary poles in philosophical discourse, saying, “these are two thinkers that are fearless: They don’t operate in gray zones. They have clear, strong opinions and they define different views. That’s something that we treasure (at SCI-Arc).” Debate strayed across the philosophical spectrum and included a full-throated explanation by Harman of the Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) theory. Of course, Žižek issued an extended, hilarious rebuttal. Žižek, who controversially supported Donald Trump during the 2016 election, commented on the current political situation in the United States, calling Trump an “assemblage” of cultural and political currents. Despite the setting, the conversation stayed largely away from architectural matters except in the most abstract terms, including a reference to the architectural symbolism of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Harman argued that at this unstable political moment, architects should make a turn toward formalism. Ultimately, the trio duked it out for nearly two hours, including an extended back-and-forth with the audience. SCI-Arc has posted a recording of the entire talk to its Facebook page.