Posts tagged with "SCI-Arc":

Of prophets and professionals: a response to Peter Zellner

Though I share some of his concerns about the state of contemporary architectural education, I was taken aback by comments from my friend and colleague Peter Zellner in a recent editorial in this paper. In “Architectural Education Is Broken—Here’s How to Fix It,” Peter offers a five-point critique of contemporary education and a matching five-point prescription for a “post-studio and post-digital architectural education.” The criticism, gleaned from twenty-five-year-old comments by John Baldessari about the artist’s development of a “post-studio” course at CalArts nearly 50 years ago, takes aim at hierarchical master-disciple relationships between teachers and students, at the proliferation of academic styles that often result from them, and at the suppression of dissenting opinions such situations often entail. His prescription for change unfolds along a familiar, if vague, trajectory that valorizes shared knowledge, free experimentation, and egalitarian exchange among students and teachers. Some of Peter’s criticisms are justified, if a bit overblown. “Various forms of academic cult worship” indeed exist in architecture schools today, and this “pied-piperism,” to borrow a term from Eric Moss, has led many a promising student into unproductive territory. In my experience, though, most of those lost sheep eventually find their way home, and more often than not they return primed to parlay experience gained in foreign fields into significant contributions within the disciplinary fold. Peter’s complaints about the nefarious forces of digital technology, on the other hand, lack both specificity and substance. He merely states, rather than argues, his contention that digital tools foreclose creativity, and dismisses without comment not only the obvious achievements of several decades of innovative work at schools around the globe but also of his own students. Worse, the statement is not his own, but rather a quote from Peter Eisenman, which adds to an air of older generations kvetching about newfangled habits and, like his invocation of Baldessari, undermines his admonition against undue authority invested in the pronouncements of elder statesmen. However problematic, Peter’s criticisms are for the most part innocuous. I have more serious concerns about his proposals for change. His recipe for post-studio education rests on a specious, if common, elision of art and architecture and a ludicrous, if equally common, contention that architecture “can’t be taught.” Such arguments brush aside significant differences between art and architecture and perpetuate damaging mystifications about the nature of architectural practice and education. I agree with Peter’s assertion that architecture is an art form. But unlike painting, literature, music, and other modes of artistic production, it is also a profession with significant ethical and legal responsibilities, and a discipline with cultural ambitions to advance the public imagination. The latter aspect distinguishes the practice of architecture from the craft of building. The former distinguishes it from the production of fine art. Peter and I share a deep commitment to architecture understood as a cultural practice with professional responsibilities, as opposed to a design profession with cultural ambitions. Nonetheless, I take issue with his proposals, which, in spite of his criticism of a supposedly style-obsessed status quo, continue to portray architecture almost exclusively in aesthetic terms, pay only passing lip service to “technical knowledge,” overemphasize issues of style and individual expression, and disregard questions of professional competence. Any serious proposal about architectural education must take the full gamut of architecture’s professional and disciplinary responsibilities into account. More damaging is Peter’s proposition, also borrowed from Baldessari, that architecture cannot be taught. Apparently, the best we can do is to “set up a situation where [architecture] might happen.” This is a bizarre idea to be put forward by such an intelligent and effective teacher as Peter Zellner. Peter proposes that we can’t teach architecture because he conceives of architecture, as Baldassari apparently conceives of art, as a mystical quality, a transubstantiation of physical matter into some higher form of existence. This is the sort of stuff that routinely pours from the mouths of those academic shamans Peter rails against in his essay. It can be seductive, to be sure, but it is nonsense. Architecture doesn’t just happen. Architecture is made. Architecture can be made, and its methods taught, because “architecture” refers not to a specific object but rather to evidence that an object—usually but not always a building—has been produced in terms of a specific way of working. Just as literature cannot be reduced to books, architecture cannot be reduced to buildings. Neither can it be reduced to drawings, models, or digital animations. Architecture is method all the way down. The Oxford English Dictionary defines architecture not as a kind of building but rather as “the art or science of building.” Another Peter, the historian better known as Reyner Banham, put it better: “What distinguishes architecture is not what is done… but how it is done.” Understanding architecture as having to do with how  rather than what  makes it easier to see that architecture is, like all academic disciplines, a cultural construct. Its techniques and methods, its history and theory, the habits and conventions of those who practice it, can and routinely are taught and learned, as evidenced by the surfeit of students who quickly master the tactics of their teachers that Peter laments in his essay. Of course, those techniques, histories, habits, and conventions also can be developed, transformed, thrown out, and replaced as needed. Such activities rank among the most important work that takes place in architecture schools. Understanding architecture this way also makes it easier to see that the field’s value system, its internal methods for identifying what constitutes good and bad work, is always a work in progress. Architectural quality, like architecture itself, is determined not by the presence or absence of some quasi-spiritual attribute in an object but rather by consensus. Constituencies in support of any architectural work must be constructed long before the project can be built, and even if constructed buildings are not one’s aim, it is an ability to assemble such constituencies, and little else, that transforms individual interests into relevant contributions and, in some cases, canonical achievements. In other words, architecture’s aesthetic ambitions are deeply political. And the disciplinary politics of architectural education, as Peter intimates in his essay, can make for some pretty ugly situations. Luckily, contemporary architecture can and does support a wide range of coexisting genres and associated value systems. In the best schools, a handful of them vie for dominance, motivating proponents of each to hone their political as well as their aesthetic and technical chops as they make their respective cases and build their respective constituencies. In the worst ones, well-meaning but misguided faculty utter empty pronouncements like “you can’t teach architecture.” There are plenty of issues with contemporary architectural education today, and I commend Peter for having put some of them on the table. But at the top of any list of things to fix in architecture schools must surely be the abdication of so many faculty of their responsibility to teach it. Todd Gannon is the Cultural Studies Coordinator at SCI-Arc.

Eleventh edition of SCI-Arc’s academic journal Offramp hits the internet

The Southern California Institute for Architecture (SCI-Arc) released the eleventh edition of its yearly academic journal Offramp this week. This time, the journal pursues the theme of “Ground” and lists SCI-Arc director and CEO Hernan Diaz Alonso as Editor-In-Chief. In a brief for the issue, Alonso puts forth the following provocation: “Issue #11 of Offramp aims to momentarily divert our critical gaze away from the architectural object in order to reflect upon its other: the ground. In a world increasingly resistant to dichotomies between human activity and the natural environment, how should architects conceive of sites, territories, topographies and other manifestations of ground?” The online-only, submissions-based hodgepodge of neo-postmodern eye candy is made up of ten articles supported by heady text and flashy imagery. The issue features an interview with Tom Wiscombe by Zachary Tate Porter, 2015-2016 Design Theory Fellow at SCI-Arc and founder of Office of Contingent Affairs, a thought-experiment of extruded sandwich-inspired buildings by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, a review of Jorge Otero-Pailos’s “Ethics of Dust” by Carolyn Strauss of Slow Research Lab, and a musing on color and background by Erin Besler and Ian Besler of Besler and Sons. The eleventh issue also hosts essays by Nora Wendl, Florencita Pita, Neyran Turan, Alexander Robinson, Stephen Nova, and Benjamin Flowers. Current and past issues of Offramp can be accessed here.

SCI-Arc students and Habitat for Humanity design a sustainable home in South L.A.

Students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, have designed and built a three bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home in L.A.’s West Athens neighborhood. The home, formally known as IVRV House, was developed in a studio led by SCI-Arc faculty member Darin Johnstone and focuses on sustainable and healthy materials throughout. The dwelling was recently purchased by a veteran. The structure’s black metal panel-clad front facade features a garage door, false front door, and second floor picture window, the latter two of which are deeply inset into the wall and feature chamfered frames. The structure’s roof, a modified clipped gable, acts as an oculus for an interior courtyard that connects the false front door to the garage and main entry. This courtyard is clad in what the designers call an 'Eco-Screen,' a floor-over-roof wrapper designed to filter air and provide a secure, shaded outdoor space for residents. The structure’s second floor also contains an opening that looks onto this courtyard, which contains a small planted area. The house’s interiors are spartan, featuring crisp stucco walls and polished concrete floors. The house’s backyard facade features many more openings and is topped by a traditional gable-end roof. A dedication ceremony for the house is scheduled for June 24th at 10 AM.

SCI-Arc announces full tuition scholarship for young European architects

The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has announced a new scholarship open to European architecture students that will fully cover tuition for its two-year Master of Architecture program. Dubbed the European Union 2016 scholarship, it will provide young residents of the European Union with the opportunity to study at SCI-Arc’s Downtown Los Angeles campus. Graduate Program Chair Elena Manferdini received an undergraduate degree in her native Italy before studying architecture at UCLA and is now leading this scholarship program. “I know firsthand how a scholarship and the trust of an institution can change someone’s career,” said Manferdini in a SCI-Arc press release. “At 22, I came to Los Angeles on a scholarship to pursue a Master of Architecture degree. Twenty years later, I have built a career in this country; now, as Graduate Chair of one of the most prestigious architectural schools in the US, I am proud to be able to give back and offer the same opportunity to another talented young architect to realize his or her dreams by receiving a full tuition scholarship to study at SCI-Arc.” SCI-Arc has a large international community, with over half its students hailing from one of 46 different countries. According to SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz Alonso, “Europe has always had and continues to have a critical and decisive role in how architecture is shaped.” According to SCI-Arc, this scholarship will help it grow its international presence and enable a meeting of the minds between Europe and US based architecture students. In order to be eligible for the European Union 2016 scholarship, students must provide proof of citizenship of any of the European Union’s 28 member countries as well as an architecture degree equivalent to a United States undergraduate degree. The deadline for submission will be June 30, 2016. More information about the scholarship can be found at the SCI-Arc website.

Art and architecture takes over a motel in L.A. for one night only

One-Night Stand LA (ONSLA) is holding its second annual pop-up art show May 14th at the Holiday Lodge Motel in Los Angeles’s Westlake neighborhood. The tongue-in-cheek name comes from the ephemeral nature of an exhibition that brings together dozens of various emerging art and architecture practices in one courtyard motel for one night only. “This event was in response to social media,” Anthony Morey, co-founder of ONSLA said in a press release for the event. “Instead of viewing work online, like most of us already do, we decided to hold an annual event to give people an opportunity to see work in person.” The show was conceived by Morey, William Hu, and Ryan Tyler Martinez as a platform for a wide spectrum of artists and architects to “explore vices, provocations, tendencies, or questions that kept them awake at night” in 2015. Aside from holding the exhibition for a single night, the organizers also pledge to show a featured practices’ work only once, aiming to establish a rotating door for new creative suitors for the L.A. arts scene that opens once every year. Last year’s show featured the work of 20 emerging creative practices, many with ties to the organizers’ alma mater, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) including Mike Nesbit, Besler and Sons, and Sarah Newby. As a result, that year's program showcased a provocative array of digital media-heavy installations, including virtual reality projections and cuddling robots. This year’s show promises more of the same, with ONSLA exhibiting work in each of the motel’s rooms as well as in various locations scattered across the site. 2016's happening is guest curated by Duygun Inal, Debbie Garcia, and Jonathan Crisman and focuses on the theme of “Rendezvous,” that, according to the curators, “encompasses a lot of feelings coming with an expectation but being open to anything that may or may not happen.” Curators Inal and Garcia told AN via telephone, "We are excited to see a lot of construction processs-based work this year. We like to showcase work that maybe isn't cool yet or might never be cool, but that's part of the point for us." With featured work from 30 artists and architects, including works by Andrew Kovacs, Jennifer Bonner & Volkan Alkanoglu, Weather Projects, and Sophie Lauriault, One-Night Stand LA’s promises to bring a sampling of experiences, new and to the city’s art-design scene.    

SCI-Arc’s spring show features 16 models from a diverse collection of architects

SCI-Arc’s Spring show, Close-up, curated by Hernan Diaz Alonso and David Ruy, opened in the usually staid SCI-Arc atrium that’s now filled with 16 prototypes designed by practitioners from across the spectrum of the architectural discipline. The prototypes explore the power of magnification in digital and physical expressions of architecture. The exhibition examines the architectural detail through the lens of technology’s impacts on “the traditions of tectonic expression….An often overlooked condition of digital design technologies is the ability to design objects through continuous degrees of magnification. The consequences of this very basic fact are more significant than we may realize. The traditional premise that some architectural ideas only reside at standardized scales of magnification at this point is nostalgic,” explained Alonso, discussing the impetus behind the exhibition. Close-up features work from UNStudio, Neil M. Denari Architects, Gehry Partners, Griffin Enright Architects, Greg Lynn FORM, Atelier Elena Manferdini, Morphosis, Oyler Wu Collaborative, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, and Tom Wiscombe Architecture among others. The exhibition remains open through May 29.

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.

Eavesdrop> I See a Red Door: At SCI-Arc, black is the new black

The mark of directorial change is happening at SCI-Arc. It’s not just a new website with modelesque faculty photos, but keen observers have tracked a gradual darkening on campus. Touches of black are spreading through the library and offices. Gone are the schools trademark wooden seminar tables, replaced by sleek, black showroom furniture. Kylo Ren would feel at home.

Graham Harman Joins SCI-Arc’s Liberal Arts Faculty

The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has announced the appointment of philosopher Graham Harman to its Liberal Arts Faculty as "Distinguished Professor of Philosophy." Harman will fill the post in this fall. Harman is a well-regarded figure within the discipline of philosophy, respected for his contribution to contemporary speculative realism movement and for his development of object-oriented ontology. He has published 12 books including The Quadruple ObjectGuerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things, and Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy, and is currently editor of the Speculative Realism book series at Edinburgh University Press. "During my lectures over the years, I have rarely felt as challenged and inspired as I do when speaking at schools of architecture," said Harman speaking of his appointment. "Along with the chance to give whatever I can to the SCI-Arc community, I see this move as a remarkable learning opportunity.” Harman engages in critical discourse involving science, art, and architecture, landing him on a list of the top 100 most influential people in the art world, as collated by Art Review. “We are thrilled and honored that someone of Graham’s stature and reputation will join our faculty,” said SCI-Arc Director Hernan Diaz Alonso in a press release. “This appointment clearly demonstrates our mission to deepen the school’s Liberal Arts agenda to one of architecture as a human endeavor.” Chair of the B.Arch. Program, Tom Wiscombe, said of his appointment, “Graham is a unique and notorious figure in philosophy and the arts. His fresh metaphysical project offers a way of understanding reality not as a product of the human mind, but rather as a cornucopia of independent and vibrant objects, large and small, human and non-human. Graham is irreverent, with as many adversaries as acolytes; he is at home in the battlefield of ideas. His remarkable imagination and style, and his ability to leap in and out of realms of ideas and aesthetics will be huge assets for our school. In the coming years, Graham will no doubt engage and provoke the speculative design culture of SCI-Arc, as well as being a crucial contributor to our Liberal Arts Program."

Eavesdrop> Town ‘n Gown: Fall means change in Los Angeles

Although the weather seems like summer will never end, fall has been a tizzy of school daze–related comings and goings. After raising eyebrows a couple years ago when he left his practice and teaching behind to join AECOM’s Los Angeles office, Peter Zellner recently left the corporate world to hang a shingle with former AECOM-er Paul Naecker and is back molding young minds at SCI-Arc. Going from gown to town, Roger Sherman, long-time UCLA faculty and co-director of the urban think tank CityLAB, is now Urban Projects Director at Gensler. Splitting the difference, Predock Frane Architects shuttered after 15 years, with principals Hadrian Predock and John Frane going their separate ways. The former is heading to USC to don cardinal and gold as undergraduate director of architecture and the latter will be joining the executive suite at HGA Architects and Engineers as associate vice president and principal in the L.A. office.

Q+A> AIA Los Angeles Educator Award Recipient Sarah Lorenzen on the future of architectural education

On October 29, Angelenos will gather for the 2015 AIA|LA Design Awards and Next LA Awards to toast the city’s best contributions to architecture and design. Every year the AIA|LA Board of Directors chooses outstanding and passionate individuals as winners of the Presidential Honoree program. AN spoke to Educator Award recipient Sarah Lorenzen. An architect, professor, and chair of Cal Poly Pomona's Department of Architecture, she reflected on the honor and shared her thoughts on the direction architectural education. The Architect's Newspaper: What does it mean to you to receive this recognition from your peers? Sarah Lorenzen: I was incredibly surprised and pleased to receive this award, especially given all the terrific architecture programs and talented faculty that reside here in Los Angeles. Even though the award is given to an individual, I see it as validation for the work being produced by the students and faculty at Cal Poly Pomona. Over the last few years we have revamped the program and made a concerted effort to showcase what we do well at our school. What have you taken from your experience and own architecture education and applied to your role as chair at Cal Poly Pomona? I had a varied education. My undergraduate degree focused on liberal studies and studio arts and I attended two different graduate programs: Georgia Tech in the mid 90s and SCI-Arc in 2003. The two programs had very different pedagogies and design interests based in part on their locations and in part on the times. My education at Georgia Tech was heavily influenced by poststructuralism, while at SCI-Arc it was all about the Information Age. During one of my final presentation Georgia Tech I remember clutching a copy of Roland Barthes’ Image, Music, Text… while at SCI-Arc Michael Speaks proclaimed, “Theory is dead. Long live architecture.” As someone that now heads an architecture program I embrace many points of view, but I try to steer clear of dogma and certainty in approach. I love a good argument and lean towards a Socratic method of teaching, but I am also keenly aware that as architects we need to take a position and be able to express that position in visual form. I would say that I am most interested in giving students a “professional” knowledge base while having them understand that this knowledge is culturally constructed and shaped by social and aesthetic biases. How do you see design education changing in the next 5, 10 years? It’s really hard to tell where we will be in 5–10 years. From the work being produced today at most architecture programs, at least here in Southern California, there seems to be a backlash against the all-digital, doom-and-gloom project. Students are digging up books that I haven’t looked at since my days at Georgia Tech. I have no objection to this renewed interest in postmodernism, as long as it is utilized as lens to investigate contemporary situations and not simply as a style to be appropriated. I am pleased to see a renewed interest in drawing in our program, especially when students take advantage of new digital tools to reimagine and reinterpret pre-digital drawing techniques. I imagine that it 5–10 years the realities of a world in crisis will hit our profession very hard. The situation to me looks pretty dire. I don’t expect that the primitive forms and My Little Pony–palette will be too long-lived. Which is too bad, the cynical side of me likes their ignorance is bliss attitude. How might design pedagogies adapt to or even lead technological advances in the field and respond to a changing urban landscape? In 1987 the Statistician George E. P. Box wrote that, "Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful." This statement certainly rings true when we see how data mining and Google Analytics now shape our understanding of the world. Technological advances of this sort are as significant to architecture as was Greg Lynn and Maya, or Frank Gehry and CATIA. Since the 1990s the use of computer-driven heuristic models has gained currency in a number of architectural schools and design firms, particularly as a means to address the changing urban landscape. Technological advances, such as those employed by data and analytics companies, offer the potential for architects to understand previously unimaginable relationships between social, environmental, and physical factors acting on a site. I well understand that there are no perfect models. For one thing the world is mutable, it will never reach a perfect balance. The models we use to represent the urban environment are, and always will be, approximations. Still, models can be helpful if we accept the fallacy of their construction. The heuristically derived models of the petabyte age can help us become aware of the problem of complexity, they can be highly creative endeavors that help us see the world in a new way, and they can help us find gaps in our knowledge about the urban environments we live and work in.

Hennessey +Ingalls to move from Santa Monica to Michael Maltzan’s One Santa Fe in 2016

Hennessey + Ingalls is a rarity in an age when bookstores that survived the rise of Amazon are often indistinctive superstores or exercises in hipster curation. Los Angeles’ long-established mecca for art and architecture is neither. Fans were nervous when the store shuttered its Hollywood annex in Space Fifteen Twenty last spring. While the Santa Monica store on Wilshire and 2nd will close at the end of the year, it will reopen in a new space at One Santa Fe, the mixed-use development complex designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture. When Reginald Hennessey first set up the store in 1963, it catered to an up and coming community of artists, architects, and art enthusiasts. The tradition of stocking its wooden shelves with rare, sometimes out-of-print books has continued to enthrall readers from around Los Angeles and has even managed to attract the attention of design institutions from all over America. The family owned store was passed down from Reginald to his son and finally grandson, Brett, who now runs the business. He was responsible for computerizing the operations and increasing the store’s online presence. Initially based out of Santa Monica with a branch in Hollywood, the business had to close down the latter due to an increase in rent and a smaller customer base. The store, currently 8,000 square feet, is downsizing to a smaller, but better-located 5,000-square-foot location in the Arts District. “We were focusing on Downtown L.A. and crossed paths with Michael Maltzan. It just turned into a really good partnership because One Santa Fe is right up our alley. The curation of businesses there are kind of what we like most about it,” said Brett Hennessey. The bookstore anticipates a bigger customer base at its new location, located right across the street from SCI-Arc, a few minutes away from FIDM, and even close by to the University of Southern California. “People can drive in from 360 degrees around us. The problem with Santa Monica is that only half the side can drive to the store” quipped Hennessey. Hennessey + Ingalls will celebrate the last holiday season out of Santa Monica and will open its doors again in February 2016. This time in DTLA.