Posts tagged with "SCI-Arc Gallery":

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Craig Hodgetts reviews Sylvia Lavin’s “The Duck and the Document” exhibition at SCI-Arc

SHOWTIME! H-e-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-s-s-Sylvia! Armed with the good stuff. Pirouetting with John Soane, Peter Eisenman, and even Charles Moore. Connecting the dots with intellect, passion, and forensic precision, and trotting out never-before-seen docs blown up to the size of garage doors. Demonstrating not simply with words—which were choice, USDA prime—but with a full-blown demonstration of why what those words were about should matter. And what were they about? Some soon to be forgotten parametric wonder? Some arcane theoretical contest? Or a newly discovered manifesto that intends to change the course of everything? Not at all. They are a reality check, a course correction—maybe, even a scold (though that was never her tone)—that brought many in the room to a thudding encounter with reality. With those words—and the images that accompanied them—Lavin plays Lazarus to a fault, raising tired old post-modern architecture from the dead, breathing new life into what might have been warmed-over pizza and breathing new life into the age-old contest between meaning and symbolism. In the exhibition and lecture “The Duck and the Document: True Stories of Postmodern Procedures” at Southern California Institute of Architecture’s (SCI-Arc) Keck auditorium, Sylvia Lavin unearths implicit links between architecture as diverse as James Wines’s and Robert Venturi’s work for Best products, Eisenman’s handrail phobia, and Moore’s yearning to be “free”—to weave a tale of architecture’s gradual loss of autonomy as mechanization takes command*. Increasing regulation, nearly insurmountable hurdles in the supply chain of—for instance, colorants—drove architects to adopt a myriad of ruses and “workarounds” to achieve the effects they envisioned then, and one must admit, apply even more in today’s supplier-dependent world. Lavin’s message to students and aspiring architects is plain. By displaying well-chosen documents and correspondence which underscore the increasing frustration of the post-modern era’s most celebrated architects, she has been able to reveal the minutia behind their efforts, the tests of authorship, and the ultimate outcomes of conceptual and intellectual battles those architects (mostly) lost. With some surprise we learn that MLTW—Moore’s firm with Bill Turnbull, Richard Whitaker, and Donlyn Lyndon (symmetry: His father was a well-known architect)—is “long overdue” on an invoice for $24.53 from Knoll. In another example, we discover an invoice for a single half hour of Moore’s time, billed at $15.00. Pantone paint chips appended to a specification from Venturi’s office attest to his resignation in a battle over color with porcelain panel manufacturer Ervite and the scrutiny of focus groups is revealed in voluminous correspondence about the Sea Ranch project, MLTW’s celebrated Northern California retreat. In the gallery one is treated to an array of trophies from that era – a twisted handrail from Eisenman’s House I, in which the curator describes the architect wrestling with code requirements which conflicted with his aesthetic vision—a pair of porcelain-enameled Warholesque panels from Venturi’s florid Best products showroom and a quartet of columns from the Deborah Sussman- and Jon Jerde-designed Los Angeles 1984 Olympics signage—all poignant reminders of a time when the decorated shed reigned supreme. One might ask “what is the purpose of such a show at this time”? Is it to be a counterweight to the pervasive grip of digital design? A plea to restore the autonomy of architecture? Or a simple reminder that as bad as it gets, it’s nothing like the travails endured by our predecessors? My guess is that it is all of the above and more. A provocative and thoughtful peek behind the masks of those masters tells us a lot about ourselves and, at the very least, helps us navigate today’s even rougher waters of regulations, stakeholders, and committees. *Yes, that is Gideon’s phrase. Craig Hodgetts is founding principal and creative director at Los Angeles-based architecture firm Hodgetts + Fung. The Duck and the Document, curated by Sylvia Lavin, with associate curator Sarah Hearne and exhibition design by Besler & Sons, is on view at the Southern California Institute of Architecture gallery through May 28, 2017. See the SCI-Arc website for more information.
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Ecological urbanism to the rescue? Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform explore green cities at SCI-Arc

In the exhibition Metrophysics, New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform (both helmed by Sorkin) have brought their portfolio of eco-futurist-tinged urban designs to Los Angeles’s Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles, displaying a sprawling retrospective of the symbiotic architectural groups’ collective output from over the years. The work presented by Sorkin and Terreform—the latter of which is a 501(c)3 established in 2005 as a self-described “ ‘friend of the court’ dedicated to raising urban expectations and advocating for innovative and progressive ideas as widely as possible”—traces a broad stylistic and conceptual arc across time spanning from the mid-1990s through today. That arc hewed closely to the always-shifting focus of other ecologically-minded architectural firms: From dramatic landscape design in the 1990s to embodying technologically-derived formalism in the early 2000s and, more recently, a hybrid between the two. The exhibition, displayed neatly and semi-chronologically along a series of mounted display boards set atop wooden sawhorses, aims for grandiosity in content if not format. The collected schemes feature board after board of idealized eco-utopias. Some are depicted with Kazimir Malevich-inspired geometric abstraction, verdant, photo-realistic eye wash, or as techno-futurist blobitecture. According to the firm’s website, the body of work acts as a metaphorical extension of Terreform’s ongoing project, New York City (Steady) State, a “comprehensive investigation into urban self-sufficiency…intended to raise issues and propose solutions for cities around the world that seek to take radical measures to secure their respiration and autonomy and to achieve a more sustainably democratic polity, founded in the local.” As a result, each project presented uses the underlying notions of New York City (Steady) State to speculate on the potential for ecologically-minded urbanism in other locales. The works attempt to imbue their architecture with a sense of cosmological meaning by fusing the naturalistic geometries spawned by ecological, parametric design with old-school New Urbanism. New York City is, in fact, featured heavily across the collected projects, with a thoughtful and dramatically rendered vision for a transit hub in the Bronx from 2002 and the firm’s proposal for a temporary enclosure for the rubble at the former World Trade Center site from 2001 providing eloquent and compelling visions that stand somewhat outside some of the exhibition’s more general themes. Ex nihilo East Asian towns and business districts are also featured prominently in the collection of work, with the Penang Peaks project from 2004 (a horseshoe-shaped cluster of mushroom-shaped towers gathered around a body of water), Skyscrapers with Chinese Characteristics (an exploration that translates Sorkin’s collection of “scholar’s rocks” into tall buildings), and an Ecological Golf Resort for Australia from 2014 best showcasing the firms’ ability to generate a sort of contextually-based, ecologically-driven formalism. Central to the groups’ experiments are several notions due to be tested in coming years, namely that cities are in fact resilient and nimble democratic systems that can countenance the ever-growing list of maladies they face, including climate change, growing income disparities, and the ever-increasing flow of antiseptic global capital. Sorkin’s team implies with its research that both new and existing cities have the potential to overcome these stresses, but only if thoughtfully and ecologically designed. This will certainly be a challenge as a new era of incompetent authoritarianism takes hold globally. Terreform’s showcase at SCI-Arc, with its broad stylistic mantle and critical urban approach, has the potential to inject a dose of inspiration for a university in transition and city searching for a new moral compass. The cornucopia of drawing styles alone should provide fertile ground for the current generation of students hungry to cut and paste their way toward new modes of formal expression. And though the works in question vary greatly in terms of representational techniques, muses, and thought bubbles, Sorkin’s detail-oriented gaze remains consistent, whether it involves the tiny white ribbons representing pigeons drawn onto the firm’s Bronx transit plans or the technicolor landscapes of the Weed, Arizona project. The question—for after the exhibition closes—is whether SCI-Arc students will be inspired by techno-ecology and what a transition from designing at an urban scale to designing ecologically-driven urbanism might look like moving forward. --- Metrophysics SCI-Arc Gallery 960 East 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA 90013 Through December 4
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Ellie Abrons’s architectural art at SCI-Arc

Inside Things by Ellie Abrons investigates the relationship between the interior and exterior. Abrons’s background as an architectural designer and educator is reflected in the way the mix of clear architectural forms are juxtaposed with obstructive elements that appear out of sync with the rest of the configuration. Here, collective parts that are alien to each other intentionally create confusion—parts are too big for their wholes and items don’t quite line up. In this way architectural devices can be seen as ambiguous, a notion amplified through the varied use of materiality that prevents the audience from attempting to rationalize the works’ form and objective. Often eccentric and obscure, many pieces in Inside Things appear to be grappling with their own legibility, unsure of the message they wish to convey, and in turn, symbolizing the very message of the exhibition.

Inside Things appeared at the at the SCI-Arc Library Gallery, Southern California Institute of Architecture (960 East 3rd Street) from March 18–May 01, 2016.

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Heather Roberge’s En Pointe installation finds stability in eccentricity

“They don't rely on anything except each other to stand up,” noted Heather Roberge, principal of the architecture practice Murmur, as she wove through the leaning, gleaming steel columns of her installation En Pointe. “There is a structural interdependence between each member, showing that you can use strategies of eccentricity to produce stability.” Notions of stability and collective support—in visual, structural, and historical senses—return time and again in Roberge’s elegant and complex structure, recently exhibited at the at the SCI-Arc Gallery in Los Angeles. En Pointe featured a full-scale installation and a meditation on the column—a collection precedents drawn from of historical and contemporary projects. “We used case study techniques from industrial design for the formation of aluminum to produce surface-active shells that go beyond wrapping,” said Roberge, as she explained how the project’s structural loads travel along thin steel surfaces, without frames or internal structures, assisted by precise folding and fastening. It is telling that at the visitor’s standing eye-level is the so-called “waist” of En Pointe. Horizontal reveals for each column together create a horizon that splits them into two five-foot halves. Above, they widen and fuse to form multi-faceted arches; below, they taper to the ground. “The waist is literally the site of connection,” noted Roberge. “There's a ring inside, to which the top and bottom halves are bolted. This stiffens the column at mid-span and allows us to make the pieces in readily available sheet sizes.” From the gallery’s mezzanine overlook, En Pointe is capped by a single, multi-faceted, horizontal plane, where laterally supported sheets span from column to column, troubling their “individual” nature. “From above, you can really understand its mass,” Roberge added, “whereas below, we’ve found that people were really unafraid to approach it, to feel it, to squeeze it.” This combination of angular planes, elaborate seams, and connecting details produces a form that reads as both delicate and muscular, acknowledging its debt to machine processes as well as the work of human hands. Project components were shaped and folded using a CNC press brake, precise in its calculations but at times less predicting of the materials’ responses. “As a result,” she acknowledged, “the part is very close to the desired shape but isn't identical to it.” But it is at these rich intersections of multiple parts that Roberge is keen to speak to, treating them not as aberrations but as documents of the eccentricity and uncertainty inherent in complex metal fabrication. An associate professor at UCLA and director of the undergraduate program in Architectural Studies, her research focuses on both digital technology and materiality. Careful observation, measurement, and adjustment are clear sources of enthusiasm for Roberge and her team of UCLA and SCI-Arc students who helped construct the project. Predicting behavior is less about risk and more about an ongoing educational process. “I like how a material adjusts, how it strains, how it takes shape,” Roberge said. “Working with certain materials is always an approximation. Throughout the making process, we reached a level of comfort with revealing the contingency of the craft.” The research period that led to En Pointe was conducted with students at UCLA for a design studio that explored “the history of the spatial goals of the column.” Rather than focus on a column's load-bearing efficiency, they took a genealogical approach to examine how discrete variations on a central architectural element have come to articulate space throughout history. A pamphlet assembling the research accompanies the spatial installation, and positions En Pointe as a potential hinge in the column’s innovation and evolution. Still, Roberge is well aware that architectural pavilions present a cautionary tale as end-goals for younger practitioners. There’s a worry of getting caught in a disciplinary echo chamber. “The project is a form of research that does not discretely begin or end,” she said. “Architects don't want to be their own client, that's not how we construct our values. But with the proper support, installation becomes an amazing opportunity to treat experimentation as a form of practice.”
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Just Wrapped: Long Pictures, Copious Pools and Punk Installations

Occasionally we can't cover an exhibition until it's too late. But we want to share some excellent shows that recently closed in Los Angeles: Heather Flood's Punk'd at SCI-Arc Gallery and  WUHO Gallery's Linear City and The Big Atlas of L.A. Pools. For Punk'd, Flood and her team arranged strips of interlocking, twisting aluminum into spiky configurations to demonstrate how two-dimensional graphics could be translated into three dimensional construction, as if the gradient grid of colors were textiles. Its bright red and white color palette was taken from the British Royal Family's Balmoral tartan, a slightly subversive Punk Movement shout out. "I wanted the graphic pattern to emerge out of the logic of construction, explained Flood, who wanted to move away from the common use of graphics as appliqué. In Linear City, photographer Lane Barden captured three of LA's most iconic linear stretches — the Los Angeles River, Wilshire Boulevard, and the Alameda Corridor Railroad Trench--in their entirety in a sprawling visual progression along one of the long gallery's walls. The immensity of these infrastructural projects came to life, revealing the sprawling scope of the city's midcentury engineering ambitions. Details like LA River's wildlife, and Wilshire Boulevard's stunning tectonic and programmatic diversity changed perceptions of viewers used to seeing these urban staples from a much more static and singular perspective. On the other wall in The Big Atlas designer Benedikt Groß and cartographer Joseph K. Lee mapped every neighborhood in Los Angeles through methods such as crowdsourcing, outsourcing, and geo-mapping to chart 43,123 swimming pools. Their effort—presented in volume after volume of booklets laid out on a long table—didn't just illuminate for the first time where all the city's swimming was taking place, but it explored alternative methods of harvesting very specific (and incredibly voluminous) data in the city.
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Interactive Thermoplastic Pavilion by B+U

A thin shell pavilion with an audio feedback program invites engagement.

Apertures, the amorphous pavilion designed and fabricated by Baumgartner+Uriu (B+U) with students from SCI-Arc, challenges two of architecture’s defining dualities: the distinction between wall and window, and the division between exterior and interior. “Conceptually, we were looking at objects that are multi-directional and have apertures as their main theme,” said partner Herwig Baumgartner. “That was one aspect of it; the other was the barriers between inside and outside and how we can dissolve these. We’re interested in architecture that’s responsive through either movement or sound.” As visitors pass through or otherwise engage with the 16-foot-tall, 1/8-inch-thick structure’s many rounded openings, attached heat sensors trigger sounds based on human bio-rhythms, creating a feedback loop that encourages active exploration of the space. In addition to the themes of apertures and inside versus outside, B+U were interested in investigating the technology of thin shell structures. “How can you build something that’s over ten feet tall and very thin, and what’s the minimal material you can get away with?” asked Baumgartner. The architects used digital modeling software including Maya to determine the pavilion’s form, then constructed a series of mockups in different materials. “We’d be working with consultants, or we’d ask fabricators: how would they build this?” recalled partner Scott Uriu. “We were thrown quite a few interesting ideas. A lot of them wouldn’t quite pan out, but we were always working back and forth between digital and analog design.” The designers originally tried building Apertures out of acoustic foam. “It was interesting for us because it creates an absorptive environment, but it was very weak,” said Baumgartner. They considered supporting it with an egg-crate structure. “But in the end we said, ‘Let’s get rid of the structure and make the surface the structure,’” he explained. They landed on heat-formed plastic, a thin material that becomes self-supporting when molded into certain shapes. “We did a mockup and we really liked it,” said Baumgartner. “It’s glossy and shiny on the outside, but the inside was matte. It has a very different interior and exterior.” Matt Melnyck, a principal at Nous Engineering, worked closely with B+U to insure the pavilion’s stability.
  • Fabricator B+U with SCI-Arc students
  • Designers B+U
  • Location Los Angeles
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material thermoplastic polymer resin, aluminum rivets
  • Process Maya, modeling, CNC milling, heat forming, bolting, lifting
With 35 students from SCI-Arc, B+U CNC-milled polyurethane foam molds for the pavilion’s 233 panels. At Warner Bros. Staff Shop, they poured the hot plastic resin over the molds, then cut out and painted the components. Reveals and guides milled into the molds indicate attachment points; the panels are joined with aluminum rivets. On site at SCI-Arc, the design team assembled the panels into nine sections of 30-40 panels each before lifting them into place. Designed for easy assembly and disassembly, the structure “breaks down into 233 panels and nests well,” said Uriu. Media artist Hannes Köcher developed Apertures’ audio program based on B+U’s concept. “If you stick your head through the apertures or you walk through them, the majority of them have sensors. Different sensors trigger different sounds—we basically made a thermal map of the object,” said Baumgartner. “When you’re in the space and especially when there’s multiple people in the space, it heats up. The sound starts building up over time, almost like a polyphony thing.” Because the audio is delivered through transducer speakers, visitors feel as well as hear the rhythms. During its spring showing at SCI-Arc, the result was exactly as B+U had hoped, Baumgartner reflected. “People started interacting with it, entering into a sort of feedback with the sounds.”
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Zaha to Take Parametric Design a Step Further at SCI-Arc

Prepare yourselves Angelenos: Zaha is coming to town. Her installation Pleated Shell Structures will be on display at the SCI-Arc gallery beginning October 12. The installation's details are still limited, but it appears that it will further push Hadid's and partner Patrik Schumacher's legendary experimentation with parametric design, giving smooth forms a more tactile, imbedded surface. So if parametric design is 3D, could this be 4D? Which dimension are we in now, anyway?