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 Object, Guerrilla 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."
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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 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.
Los Angeles' often-mobile A+D Architecture and Design Museum, which has been displaced from its perch on Museum Row by Metro's Purple Line Extension, has found a new home in city's Arts District. Its new building, at 900 East 4th Street, is across the street from SCI-Arc. It features 8,000 square feet of space, brick walls, and a bow truss ceiling. The museum's two year lease began this month, and they hope to complete buildout by May. The effort will be led by Gensler, RTKL, and Matt Construction, but others will soon get involved, explained Executive Director Tibbie Dunbar, who appears thrilled to be out of limbo, despite regrets to be leaving the city's museum center. "It feels terrific," said Dunbar. "I'm excited to be near SCI-Arc, and I'm excited about what's going on in the Arts District. We'll be a big part of attracting people to the area." The A+D will be the burgeoning neighborhood's first museum. They also plan to sublease space to a design-focused tenant, such as a retailer or cafe. The museum, which depended on pro bono spaces early in its life, has a history of traveling. After starting in the Bradbury Building, its trajectory has involved a lot of numbers: 8560 Sunset Blvd, 5900 Wilshire Blvd, and 6032 Wilshire Blvd. After the museum's lease expires, it hopes to join forces with the AIA's Center for Architecture and Urban Design (CALA), which is still undergoing a search for its home.
[Editor's Note: The following comment was left at archpaper.com in response to “Eavesdrop> SCI-Arc Expected to Tap Diaz Alonso to Succeed Eric Owen Moss” (AN Blog 06.20.2014). Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ] In both the immediate SCI-Arc community and Architecture as a whole, a condition has emerged where all those involved have become a shattered group of individuals, unable to join cohesively in order to communicate about the issues directly at hand. This threatens our position as a student body, as we are inherently responsible for the progression of the field of Architecture we stand to inherit. In a way, it is our duty to consolidate our many abilities so that we can actively take some action in the events that emerge before us. This letter is therefore a call to the student body to gather productively to discuss how we may engage ourselves as a constituency of Architecture. SCIarc Students
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.
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. 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.”
A collection of anonymous students at SCI-Arc calling themselves SCI-Arc Community have taken to Tumblr to express their concern over the hiring process for future school director Hernan Diaz Alonso. Their biggest complaint: the "extreme secrecy of the Director Search Committee." According to the group, the committee, after determining that only one of the two candidates for the position—professor Wes Jones and Graduate Programs Chair Diaz Alonso—was "viable," never followed through on its promise to broadcast Diaz Alonso's presentation via live webcast. "SCI-Arc was founded in 1972 by Ray Kappe in the spirit of 'institution without walls' literally and metaphorically, but it seems in 2014 we now have 'walls, floors, and stairs' due to the lack of dialogue," the students have said. "The SCI-Arc community, especially the student body, should be engaged in this process...We would like to see at minimum level, both candidates be given the chance to present to the entire SCI-Arc community." SCI-Arc spokesperson Georgiana Ceausu said the Director's Office had no comment on the group's letter. She added that the search committee received it, but "no other actions or new decisions have been taken as a result." Diaz Alonso has been recommended by the school's search committee to be SCI-Arc's next dean, but the choice will not be official until the school's board makes an appointment, likely in the next month or two.
It's not official, so don't tell anyone we told you it was. But… It looks like SCI-Arc Graduate Programs Chair and Principal of Xefirotarch Hernan Diaz Alonso is going to be the next director of SCI-Arc, taking over for Eric Owen Moss in September 2015. According to SCI-Arc spokesperson Georgiana Ceausu, the school's Executive Search Committee yesterday recommended Diaz Alonso to the school's board, which is now "in the process of making the decision." There won't be any official appointment until July or August. Diaz Alonso's mesmerizing, fluid, alien, and digitally-based images and installations have been featured in museums around the world, including SFMOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the MAK Center, and the FRAC Center. But he will be the first SCI-Arc director to have not built a building (despite numerous competition entries), perhaps signaling a new direction for the school. We'll have more on Diaz Alonso, and the future of SCI-Arc, if and when the appointment becomes official.
On April 11, Los Angeles–based firm B+U will open their latest installation, called Apertures, at SCI-Arc Gallery. The structure, already assembled inside the space, is 16-feet-tall and made up of 233 1/8-inch-thick plastic panels. Its warped shape resembles a natural organ or organism (a heart? a strange alien plant?), and in many ways it acts like one. Its thin shell structure relies on its molded surfaces for support. Each of its CNC-milled, heat-formed panels is unique in shape, and, through seven heat sensors, it responds to visitors via sound, which will be directed from the floor. The piece's name—Apertures—refers to the many varied (both in size and shape) openings in the structure, which act, as B+U principal Herwig Baumgartner described, "not as punched openings, but as three-dimensional objects." Baumgartner noted that installation makes a good case for thin shell structures in architecture, a field that colleagues like Tom Wiscombe and Greg Lynn are also exploring with industries like shipbuilding and aerospace: "Why do we have this approach with so many layers? Why can't we reduce them and make them do more?" said Baumgartner. The structure was engineered by LA company Nous.
Austria comes to Los Angeles with a lecture series dubbed “Viennese Week in LA.” The talks will take place at SCI-Arc as part of the Wolf D. Prix/COOP HIMMELB(L)AU design studio. Prix himself is the headliner, with a lecture on Raimund Abraham happening on March 5 at 7:00p.m. In “Visions in Exile or: Before we were so rudely interrupted,” Prix will talk about his mentor and friend’s influence on the early works of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU. He will also probe the digitization of architecture practice, asking how architects like Abraham would have designed using the tools available today. On Monday, March 3 at 7:00p.m., architect Gregor Eichinger will talk on “Remembering the Future.” Eichinger co-founded Eichinger oder Knechtl in Vienna in 1985 after studying architecture at the Technical University in Vienna. He has been design principal and CEO of Eichinger Offices, also in Vienna, since 2005. Eichinger has taught at a number of international schools of architecture, including SCI-Arc, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the ETH Zurich, and, most recently, the Academy of Applied Arts in Munich, Germany. Also tonight at 7:00p.m., multimedia artist Peter Kogler will present “Light and Flat.” Educated at the HTL Bau + Kunst in Innsburck and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Kogler has taught in France, Austria, and Germany. His work has been exhibited around the globe. Friday, March 7 at 7:00p.m., structural engineer Klaus Bollinger will speak on “Open Systems and Structural Design.” Bollinger received both his undergraduate degree and his PhD in Germany before establishing Bollinger + Grohmann, now with offices in Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Oslo, and Melbourne. The firm provides structural design services on both architectural and civil engineering projects, often collaborating with internationally-renowned architects. Bollinger, who has taught in Vienna and Frankfurt, is a member of the European Academy of the Sciences and Arts. For more information, see the SCI-Arc website. Lectures are free and are broadcast live here.