Posts tagged with "Speculative Architecture":

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Finalists in the LACMA Not LackMA protest design competition unveiled

The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA, an activist group riled by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s revamp of the Los Angeles County of Museum of Art (LACMA) and the “catastrophic impact” it poses on the 110-year-old institution and L.A. culture at large, has unveiled the six finalists in its LACMA not LACKma international design competition. A juried protest competition of sorts, launched last month in search of alternative proposals to Zumthor’s highly contentious $750 million plan, the proposals solicited by the Citizens’ Brigade—28 in total were submitted—were required to imagine corrective “solutions that would expand gallery space rather than shrink it, and use less rather than more land, while providing a home for the collections and services needed for their care.” To be clear, the Citizens’ Brigade, a collection of design professionals, art experts, and the general public, isn’t staunchly opposed to demolishing some buildings on LACMA’s 1960s-era Wilshire Boulevard campus to make way for a new one. It is, however, concerned about the overall diminishing, growth-prohibiting effect that the redesign will have on the museum’s collections. “The design fails the collections, which will be stored or dispersed to other locations,” explained the group, noting that Zumthor’s vision also “consumes too much land and costs an extravagant price per square foot” while doing away with curator services and the on-site library. Proposals submitted to the competition fall under two categories; the adaptive reuse-focused Existing Buildings and Ground Up, which entails entirely new and more appropriate designs. Three finalists were chosen from each category. As the competition website states: “We are not proposing that any one of them be built as is, but simply suggesting that the public, the museum board, and the County Board of Supervisors view them as possible starting points for developing alternatives that truly capture people’s eyes, hearts, and minds, and showcase LACMA's collections in a practical and architecturally stimulating environment.” The six finalists, which will each receive $1,500 in prize money provided by an anonymous backer, were selected by a jury that included Aaron Betsky, architecture critic and newly instated director of the Virginia Tech School of Architecture and Design; author, critic, and co-chair of the Citizens’ Brigade, Greg Goldin; Joseph Giovannini, an architect who also serves as architecture critic for the Los Angeles Review of Books and co-chair of the Citizens’ Brigade; William Pedersen of New York-based firm Kohn Pedersen Fox; educator and architect Winka Dubbeldam; Los Angeles-based architect and activist Barton Phelps, and former LACMA curator J. Patrice Marandel. “We at The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA are impressed with the creativity, sensitivity, and passion these international architects brought to their ideas, as well as the generosity of their considerable time and effort,” said Giovannini in a statement. It’s now in the hands of the public to select an overall winner from each category via online voting. Each winner will receive an additional $500 prize. Voting is open until May 15. An additional nine submitted proposals considered as “Ideas of Merit” will also be shared on the competition website in the coming days. HILLACMA: TheeAe (The Evolved Architectural Eclectic), Hong Kong (Ground Up)
“TheeAe (The Evolved Architectural Eclectic) considers Los Angeles’ diversity when proposing the museum as ‘a new cultural platform that connects people from different walks of life,’ by simultaeneously offering enclosed cultural spaces and an open, sculpted, outdoor landscape. The tall building (five levels plus garden roof) combines an undulating facade along Wilshire Boulevard to the south with ‘hill’ element sloping into the park on the property’s north side. The jury remarked that the dramatic hybrid design would make it a ‘destination building’ cleverly designed to sustain the urbanity of Wilshire on one side while extending the bucolic nature of the park on the other. ‘The Wilshire facade becomes a kinetic wall, imparting a strong urban experience that changes as you drive by, which is how most Angelenos experience the city,’ noted the jury. ‘The back facade, a built hillside, is a landscape event that adds a surprising new participatory dimension to Hancock Park. This will be a hill you want to climb.’”
LACMA Wing: Coop Himmelb(I)au, Vienna (Ground Up)
“Emphasizing ‘an architecture that combines functionality with aspiration,’ Coop Himmelb(l)au designed three main elements: landscape plinth and two, three-level ‘floating’ gallery wings. Public circulation on ramps connecting the volumes would be encased by expressive amorphous forms whose openness to the outside refreshes the museum visiting experience. These public spaces are accessible without a ticket to the museum, but windows into the galleries are meant to entice people inside. The jury appreciated the curatorial flexibility of generous gallery spaces, with 22-foot floor-to-ceiling heights, the possibility of mezzanines and intimate galleries, and open floor plates. ‘This entry combines issues of great efficiency with moments of drama,’ noted the jury. ‘The ‘bubbles’ offer exciting spaces that celebrate the public realm while connecting to straightforward, practical, functional galleries in the wings.’”
Reimagining/Restructuring: Saffet Kaya Design, London (Existing Buildings)
“Replacing the 1986 building, Kaya Design proposes ‘to preserve the best elements of the past while creating a more contemporary, multi-use alternative space.’ An elevated volume that respects the scale of the existing structures has solid walls on three sides for curatorial flexibility, then opens to the north with an all-glass façade. Circulation into the entrance is through a gentle ramp/walkway leading into the lobby that directs visitors to the other buildings on other floors—the ramps equalizing the importance of all adjacent floors. The new structure is reserved for exhibition space on six above-grade levels, including the interior of the spiral element. ‘This design achieves a considerable service to the campus, making the east campus more coherent than it’s ever been,” said the jury. ‘The biological form of the spiral—as ancient as seashells and hurricanes—gives value to the floors it connects.’”
Re(in)novating LACMA: RUR Architecture, Reiser + Umemoto, New York City (Existing Buildings)
“Reiser + Umemoto’s aim was ‘to create a coherent, retroactive masterplan that builds off the campus’ prior successes and seeks to engage and reinvigorate the full breadth of LACMA’s collection.’ The three-pronged approach includes adding new elements in and around the original 1965 buildings, binding them into a new whole. The Cone sits within and atop the Ahmanson; The Bar, an elevated gallery building, transects the campus from north to south, offering an appropriately scaled Wilshire entrance and new gallery space; The Cluster replaces the 1986 building with a series of interior pod-shaped galleries, as well as exterior exhibition space on a reimagined plaza level. ‘The architects found a way to make the plaza into a connective tissue and strategically make the existing buildings work as an ensemble,’ said the jury, which also commended the clear circulation that employed new interstitial spaces to move people through the building’s interior spaces.”
Tabula LACMA: Barkow Leibinger, Berlin, with Lillian Montalvo Landscape Design (Existing Buildings)
“This ‘reconstitution’ is an unusual hybrid of old and new, as it maintains the scale and context of the original LACMA buildings by reconstructing them with modern, sustainable materials, then interconnecting them with a new plinth form punctured by courtyards. Barkow Leibinger—working with landscape designer Lillian Montalvo—stresses this would ‘provide spaces for art, delight, and public encounter.’ The jury thought this flexible, spacious design addressed the changing role of museums by including a good amount of shopping, cafés, and event venues that urbanize the spaces and engender a lively environment. ‘There’s a powerful idea of using the area around the pavilions to create a whole new programmed space,’ according to the jurors. They enjoyed the rediscovery of the inner plaza and could ‘imagine these would be great spaces to be in, as well as fun to discover.’”
Unified Campus: Paul Murdoch Architects, Los Angeles (Ground Up)
“To create greater institutional cohesion, Paul Murdoch Architects took a holistic approach to the entire LACMA campus and its relationship to the cultural institutions flanking it. The design, according to the architects, is ‘expressive of LA in its openness, multiplicity of urban, natural, and cultural connections, and abundant use of controlled natural light.’ The jury noted how this horizontal skyscraper—an on-axis version of the neighboring tower across Wilshire—corresponds to the urbanism of the area. ‘It restores the continuity of the Wilshire Boulevard streetfront with a respectful attitude by placing the narrow part of the building facing the street and the broad side framing the park.’ The east glass façade offers a strong, complementary visual connection to Hancock Park and the La Brea Tar Pits, and the west ̧facade forms a long public plaza bordered by BCAM and the Resnick Pavilion, uniting the two campuses.”
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Practice, Product, Protocol makes the immaterial tangible

The 2019-2020 college fellowship exhibition at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture is meant to render the invisible visible, and make the inextricable parts of architecture tangible. In Practice, Product, Protocol, on view through April 30, Jacob Comerci, Matiss Groskaufmanis, and Eduardo Mediero interrogate the demands of architectural productivity, the move to communal properties, and the collapse of urban character. As the show’s brief states, technology and cultural shifts have demonstrably blurred the lines between work and home, personal and private, and more control is being given over to third-party commercial providers. Landlords, coworking spaces, technology and financial services companies, et al hoover up personal data—so where can the profession go from here? The three fellows each probe different aspects of this new, somewhat one-sided relationship we all experience, while an open call to design a room that “considers alternative modes of cohabitation through demanial ownership, or public domain,” was realized by contributions from seven different architecture firms from around the world. Groskaufmanis’s contributions recognize the rise of intangible assets, whether they be branding, information, or management services. To visualize the myriad digital programs that have decentralized architecture, he created a speculative, virtual workspace where up to 567 employees could work on up to 288 architecture projects at once. When freed from physical constraints of the office, workers could migrate to environments only constrained by internet bandwidth; however, Groskaufmanis has also seeded his VR office with “hallucinations” of “fatigue studies, commodity forms, BIM protocols and other technologies of management” as cautionary didactics. Comerci’s work touches on similar themes, as he devised a system for conducting guerilla architecture by taking a cue from coworking companies. As middlemen landlords take advantage of economies of scale by renting floors and even entire buildings and then parceling out the space to individuals or small companies while providing amenities, Comerci has envisioned a self-contained station for working that can be easily moved. The flexible office setup, which Comerci describes as a blend between furniture design, industrial design, and architecture, can be easily assembled and disassembled for tactical interventions in the built environment. Mediero took a different, but still related approach, instead choosing to focus on Madrid, where he practices architecture as the founder of HANGHAR. Taking aim at the financial instruments such as real estate speculation, which is forcing Madrid towards a housing crisis, Mediero realized the often opaque structures of “finance capitalism” as real objects. Ultimately, these designs would be put to use in a world where financial structures and property ownership are aimed towards protecting the public rather than for accruing personal wealth. While the show is, obviously, inaccessible due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the ideas presented in Practice, Product, Protocol presciently align themselves with the future the virus is helping to accelerate—as Phil Bernstein noted, cities, the way we work, and even ownership will be very different when this is all said and done.
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Check out the speculative design concepts that have emerged from the coronavirus pandemic

While there are scant upsides to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, there has been a flurry of speculative solution-oriented design concepts that implore us to think a bit outside of the proverbial box and reconsider how we live, work, play, and interact with the built environment. When this is all behind us, things will likely never quite be the same. These speculative designs, as quixotic as some might seem, give us a glimpse into that altered future where public health and imaginative design are even more closely intertwined. Below are a few such design proposals to emerge in recent weeks from a range of international firms large and small. All of these concepts tackle unique topics and concerns: A more prudent use of public green space, contagion-safe produce shopping, the adaptive reuse of unorthodox spaces, and working where you live for the long-haul, to name a few. And while some might seem unconventional or outright implausible, these concepts all imagine a world where we are all safe, comfortable, healthy, productive, and able to get the help that we need.

Parc de la Distance, Studio Precht

Reminiscent of a particularly panic-inducing hedge maze, Parc de la Distance is more a pandemic-appropriate riff on a Japanese Zen garden, where park-goers would be able to enjoy a contemplative and orderly constitutional without worrying about hordes of fellow fresh air-seekers coming from every which way. Studio Precht, a small Austrian firm based in a secluded, mountainous area outside of Salzburg, elaborated on the concept, which is geared toward a vacant lot in Vienna but can be replicated on any unused patch of urban land:
“Although our ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance, the design is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint. Like a fingerprint, parallel lanes guide visitors through the undulating landscape. Every lane has a gateway on the entrance and exit, which indicates if the path is occupied or free to stroll. The lanes are distanced 240cm [8 foot] from each other and have a 90cm [3 foot] wide hedge as a division. Along their path, people walk on reddish granite gravel. Although people are visually separated most of the time, they might hear footsteps on the pebbles from the neighbouring paths. Each individual journey is about 600m [1,968 foot] long. The height of the planters varies along this journey and gives different levels to the hedges throughout the park. Sometimes visitors are fully immersed by nature, other times they emerge over the hedge and can see across the garden. But at all times, they keep a safe physical distance to each other.”
Studio Precht envisions the concept as being a useful feature for green space-starved cities in the post-COVID era as it “offers something very unique for bustling urban areas: A brief time of solitude. A temporary seclusion from the public. A moment to think, to meditate or just to walk alone through nature.”

Hyperlocal Markets for Shutdown Realities, Shift Architecture Urbanism

Described by Rotterdam-based studio Shift Architecture Urbanism as a “self-initiated research-by-design project,” the aim of this concept is twofold: To keep fresh, nutritious, and locally grown food flowing into local produce markets while reducing the risk of spreading the virus among shoppers at said markets, which are frequently prone to overcrowding but are also often lower cost than supermarkets in many areas.
“Shift’s proposal is to keep the vital function of the fresh produce markets fully intact, even strengthening it, while at the same time minimizing its potential role in spreading the virus. For this, the large markets have to continue in a different form, place and time. Its former model of concentration has to be replaced by a model of dispersion, both in space and time. This is done by breaking down the large markets into so-called micro markets that are spread over the city and opening them up for a longer time. Instead of you going to the market, the market is coming to your neighborhood. These hyper-local markets are open at least 5 days a week instead of twice a week to further reduce the concentration of people. “The micro market’s standard spatial setup consists of a 16 square grid, aligned with three market stalls, each selling a different kind of fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products or meat. The grid is taped on the pavement and fenced off with standard crush barriers. It has one entrance and 2 exits. In order to maintain social distancing each cell can only hold one person. In order to permit movement, the grid can only hold a maximum of 6 people. These rules are made clear at the entrance of the micro market, that has a waiting line taped on the pavement. The stalls will offer packages instead of separate products, to limit the time customers spend in the grid.”
Shift added that current restrictions on open-air produce markets vary wildly in the Netherlands from location-to-location and region-to-region.

Airport Superhospital, Opposite Office

Everything from convention centers to soccer stadiums have been transformed into temporary medical hubs during the coronavirus pandemic. Benedikt Hartl of the Munich-based Opposite Office, the same firm that pitched transforming Buckingham Palace into a co-living complex, envisioned this form of emergency adaptive reuse as also being extended to incomplete airport terminals. Under construction since 2006 with a potential completion date of 2021, Hartl sees promise in the delay-plagued Berlin Brandenburg Airport—or other underserved and non-operational airports, really—during the crisis (although said crisis in Germany has now largely passed). Hartl’s concept involves populating the uncompleted airport’s vast floor space with round modular steel cabins that serve as self-contained treatment units for patients.

“Flying was no longer in vogue even before the outbreak of COVID-19 and now the avenge of shame has given way to a deadly risk of infection. We agree that we will certainly not need this new airport in the near future,” read a press release from Opposite Office. “An advantage would be that infected people would be completely isolated at the airport area and would not come into contact with other patients. The main building alone, with an area of ​​220,000m2 [2.4 million square feet], offers plenty of space for medical (emergency) care. The existing airport offers untapped potential.”

Container Ship Hospitals, Weston Williamson + Partners

While converting seafaring vessels into floating hospitals is far from something new, a concept from London-headquartered architecture firm Weston Williamson+ Partners proposes the specific repurposing of container ships to serve a similar purpose. Well, kind of. Ideally, the containers would be unloaded at different ports in hard-hit regions and then used as makeshift intensive care units on land. “The idea came to us because we work around the world and wanted to try to encourage a global response,” firm co-founder Chris Williamson told AN in an email of the scheme, which is somewhat similar to an initiative underway in India with modified rail cars. “Many countries do not have an exhibition centre waiting to be fitted out as a hospital as we have done in Manchester and London.” “The speed at which Excel in London and GMex in Manchester have been repurposed suggest that the idea is possible and the container module is ideal for an intensive care bed and equipment for the benefit of emerging economies,” Willamson elaborated. “We have ascertained from the shipping companies that there is an available capacity of around 1,000 ships with around 3,500 containers per vessel.” Williams goes on to make clear that “patients would not stay on the ship except in circumstances where there is no place to deploy the containers” and that the container-based care units would have one of the steel doors removed and a transparent Perspex door installed in its place. The modules would also include built-in air conditioning units. “All we need is the political will to make this work and we are working with a few influential people to that aim,” Williamson said. It should be noted that, as with many shipping container-based projects, the feedback online hasn't been entirely positive.

Mobile PPS (Personal Protective Space), Plastique Fantastique

Plastique Fantastique, a Berlin-founded art collective known for eye-popping inflated installations, has created a PPS (personal protective space) for healthcare workers that can be swiftly deployed to a wide array of environments. As Plastique Fantastique explained, this “pneumatic space where doctors can treat patients in transparent protective space. It has constant overpressure, which means, the air flows only toward [the] outside of the space, not letting the virus coming inside. The clean air supply is guaranteed by a ventilator located outside or in an extra decontaminated space.” The bubbly blow-up Care Units, made from transparent polyurethane, can be attached to each to form larger contiguous spaces, and are accessed through special airlock chambers that maintain air pressure and provides medical workers with a space to prepare and disinfect before entering.

AD-APT, Woods Bagot 

With offices shuttered across the globe and workforces now operating in domestic trappings without any clear end in sight, global architecture firm Woods Bagot has envisioned a super-versatile living modular system dubbed AD-APT that “supports a range of activities throughout people’s days” while more easily accommodating “spaces for exercise, entertainment, digital collaboration, connection, and focus (without becoming isolated), alongside the traditional activities of eating, sleeping, and washing.” “While this trend has been on the rise over recent years the immediate, en masse shift to WFH exposes the benefits (and challenges) to a far wider range of the population than ever before,” explained the firm. “This will lead to significant change in people’s work habits and expectations. As more people become comfortable with working remotely, they will expect to be able to do so more often. This will change the way we design and use our workplaces, schools, and homes.” In response to this quickly changing dynamic, AD-APT enables WFH-ers to modify open-plan apartments to suit their needs whether they're in a so-called “split-shift” residence where working parents tag-team childcare responsibilities and job-related tasks or a “double desk” living environment where roommates rotate to different work-friendly spaces throughout the day. “Creating a spine of the fixed needs of a home (bathroom, entry, storage etc.) allows us to create an open and flexible apartment that can adapt to varying needs across modes, ” elaborated Woods Bagot. “The AD-APT includes a range of consistent elements which support the mode switching of the main spaces. AD-APT includes an entry porch which provides both an opportunity to meet and stay in touch with your neighbours and additional storage for bikes, coats and shoes. Beyond the entry porch the spine includes a bathroom and two flexi-booths. Around the entire apartment extensive storage is provided to allow for filing/appliance and other materials needed to blend living, working, and learning.”
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Superflux brings climate change home in a speculative Singapore apartment

Plants sprout from coolers and plastic pots. There is reflective silver mylar everywhere, and animal skins. On the kitchen, shelf cookbooks offer instructions on foraging and recipes call for cockroaches. This is the Singaporean apartment of the future as imagined by the U.K. design studio Superflux. Mitigation of Shock, which is currently on display in the exhibition 2219: Futures Imagined at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum shows possible climate futures at a human scale. By using the domestic interior, Superflux defamiliarizes the every day to show us just how foreign—or not—our new normal might be. “We use narrative and speculation as a means of exploring complex problems that are often discussed in terms of data and abstract projections,” Superflux partners Jon Ardern and Anab Jain explained over email. The apartment takes the shape of a Singaporean HDB—or public housing—flat. “In the installation, visitors experience the themes we were thinking about through tangible evidence, artifacts, tools, growing systems, window views, and so on.” There is a circular farming system, an upgrade from the “fogponics” system in previous versions of the project in London and Barcelona. While those apartments had been outfitted with hacked IKEA furniture—a sort of post-crisis version of reclaimed heritage wood—in this version. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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SCI-Arc launches new program on emerging topics in landscape architecture

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

We have to imagine a place before we can actually be there. So St. Louis–based artists and curators Gavin Kroeber, Tim Portlock, and Rebecca Wanzo invited their fellow citizens to imagine the urban future with “a two-day festival of art and ideas that explores the collisions of race, urbanism, and futurism, providing a platform for alternate visions of the St. Louis to come.” The name of the event, “Dwell in Other Futures,” comes from the novel Dhalgren by the Afrofuturist writer Samuel R. Delaney, who also served as the keynote speaker and underpinning force that bound together a number of the program’s participants. To open the event, Delaney recited a chapter from his most recent novel that bolstered the role that intimacy might play in how we understand our spaces. Held on April 27 and 28, the program included a collection of workshops and presentations, with special emphasis on performances. For example, the multidisciplinary artist Eric Ellingsen, along with his team of Tyvek-hazmat-suit-clad landscape architecture faculty and students from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, invited the public to join as they performed a choreographic ritual on an empty land parcel across the street from the Pulitzer Foundation. Inspired by the spray paint markings that often indicate underground utility lines, Ellingsen’s team challenged the audience to assume agency over the colored ground markings that make up our cities in order to speculate how infrastructure may connect us in more creative ways. Children and adults took charge of rolling paint applicators to inscribe the site with colorful lines while an overhead drone recorded the real-time mapmaking from a bird’s-eye view. Inside, artist Autumn Knight invited audience members to offer impromptu proposals for civic institutions as part of her La-A Consortium performance, positing playful yet bureaucratic titles such as “Shephanique Center for Literacy” and the “Jadavian Center for Creative Ecologies” as a starting point. By leveraging the power of intentional naming, Knight prompted the audience to consider how they might creatively impact the identities and activities of the organizations that constitute our society. The event closed with a bang as six different local participants delivered “Manifestos for a Future St. Louis.” These brief, bold, and highly choreographed proclamations required each participant to articulate a scenario about a possible future through whatever artistic means necessary. Architectural historian Michael Allen delivered a prescient soliloquy set to a Hollywood soundtrack, warning of a “non-topian” future that intensifies our troubled present, brimming with privatization and distrust of the public sphere. Maxi Glamour, the self-proclaimed “Demon Queen of Polka and Baklava” projected a nonbinary, gender-fluid future enacted by a spectacular drag performance. Social practice designer De Nichols closed the series with an optimistic call to action, imploring us to consider what parts of the status quo need to be destroyed in order to make space for “audacious” culture-makers and “fearless” justice-makers. What conclusions did the festival draw? Its participants proposed more questions than answers, implicating the audience every step of the way, but most assuredly, the celebratory collective voice proclaimed that the future will be black, the future will be queer, and the future city demands all of our emphatic participation.
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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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Queens Museum show brings unrealized architecture to life

This Sunday, September 17, the Queens Museum opens Never Built New York, organized by the co-curators of Never Built Los Angeles (2013)—AN's Contributing Editor Sam Lubell alongside contributor, critic, and writer Greg Goldin. The exhibit, designed by Christian Wassmann, highlights unrealized architectural gems and urban design as its predecessors did, with a focus on New York. Spanning 150 years, the show presents works that would have "dramatically changed the landscape of New York for better or worse," according to Lubell. In Goldin's words, it's meant to examine "the capacity of draftsmen and model makers to seduce you, when the real world effects [of those designs] could have been disastrous." Divided into three discrete spaces, the show features the speculative work of recognized architects like Harvey Wiley Corbett, Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei, Steven Holl, Buckminster Fuller, and others. Each of the three spaces—the Rubin Gallery, the Panorama of the City of New York, and the Skylight Room—approaches the plans and drawings at a decidedly different scale. The Queens Museum itself is the only remaining in-use building from New York's 1939 World's Fair—its open, light-filled lobby was revamped by Grimshaw Architects in 2013. In the show, Eliot Noyes' proposal for the Westinghouse Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair is represented as a 1:6 scale silver bouncy castle, gleaming under a skylight. It's by far the splashiest piece of the show – the original would have been much less fun, a series of concentric spheres clustered around a rotating platform showcasing Westinghouse's utilities business, resembling a giant fidget spinner to the contemporary eye. On the walls surrounding the plush pneumatic project are models and drawings for projects related to the Museum and its home, Flushing Meadows. One highlight is a massive star-viewing platform called Galaxon by Paul Rudolph that was designed for the space where the Unisphere now stands, but was rejected from the 1964 New York World's Fair. Tilted at 23 degrees (supposedly the best angle for star-observing), this massive saucer epitomizes the rush of scientific and popular excitement in the 1950s and '60s leading up to the lunar landing, while the Unisphere, in contrast, centers Earth and earthly endeavors as monumental (its size is still astonishing at 140 feet tall). In the Rubin Gallery, a dim, tapered room roughly resembling the shape of Manhattan, models, renderings, and drawings are arranged salon-style on the black walls. Organized geographically rather than temporally, this is the meat of the show, though much of it is contextualized only by a fold-out newspaper guide. At the entrance, viewers find work located in Staten Island and Lower Manhattan; at the exit, work located in Upper Manhattan and Queens. The first item on view is Thomas Hastings's National American Indian Memorial. In 1913, project leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony on Staten Island attended by 32 Native chiefs, only to discover later that fundraising for the project had been a sham. Many monoliths and megaprojects lie within the elongated space: a plan for Ellis Island sketched by Frank Lloyd Wright on a napkin (translated into beautiful renderings by Taliesen Associated Architects), Robert Moses' infamous Lower and Midtown Manhattan Expressways, Steven Holl's aqueous urbanist experiments the Bridge of Houses (1981) and Parallax Towers (1990), and Buckminster Fuller's 1960 solution to house a quarter of a million people—fifteen 100-foot conical towers in Harlem — and so many more architectural relics. The projects in the room represent only about a fifth of the material that the curators combed through in the almost two years it took to put together the exhibition and its companion book. The third area, the Panorama of the City of New York, is already familiar to many urbanists and architects, and reason enough to make the trek out to Flushing Meadows. In the familiar model landscape of the city, the curators have placed 26 luminous models of the unbuilt projects, fabricated over a summer by students from Columbia University's GSAPP program. Gazing down from a platform surrounding its perimeter, the massive structures from the previous room suddenly appear small – or rather, at scale with the city's existing fabric, scattered throughout the boroughs, emitting a ghostly light. In the words of the curators, this lighting choice was meant to evoke the perspective of astronauts gazing down at a lonely planet, evoking a sense of fragility. On the opposite side of the model, a virtual reality station is set up with several headsets containing graphics generated by Shimihara Illustration of five keystone projects in the exhibit. Making use of spherical photography, the headsets allow viewers to toggle from a bird's eye view of New York City to a ground-level perspective of each project as it would have appeared in real life, in some cases with terrifying grandeur, as is the case for Fuller's spiky-crowned, towering Harlem housing units. When asked about the inspiration for the exhibit, Lubell referred to Rebecca Shanor's The City That Never Was (1991) as a particularly influential text, Robert A.M. Stern's famous New York book series, and Hugh Ferriss' examinations of the art of rendering, from practical urban interventions to lurid, futuristic daydreams. The curators were wary of remarking positively on most of the projects, suggesting that many were perhaps best suited for the realm of imagination alone. "Thank God that never came to pass" was a frequent aside. Due to the colossal scale of the majority of works featured (a hint at why they might not have received adequate funding), many would have resulted in the destruction of existing architectural treasures, such as a 55-story Park Avenue skyscraper by Marcel Breuer that would have cut its foundation directly through Grand Central Terminal. The show does spotlight a few modest, jewel box pieces, including Joseph Urban's design for the 1926 Metropolitan Opera, which was squelched by the institution's board. Architects will find in Never Built New York a parallel New York full of architectural wonders, whether better off unbuilt or not. The show is on view through February 2018.
Location:
Queens Museum
New York City Building
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
On view:
September 17, 2017 – February 18, 2018
The Architect's Newspaper is a media sponsor of the exhibition.
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What happened to speculation in architecture?

This is a preview of our September issue, out tomorrow. What happened to speculation in architecture? At a recent symposium at the Yale School of Architecture titled “Aesthetic Activism,” Dean of the Syracuse School of Architecture Michael Speaks noted that curiously, architecture has lost its penchant for speculation in recent years. He cited the two most recent Venice Biennales as evidence of this trend, as the curators chose to look at the elements of building (Rem Koolhaas’s Elements, 2014) and reporting on reality in regions beyond what the Biennale had traditionally addressed (Alejandro Aravena’s Reporting from the Front, 2016). He also discussed the Chicago Biennial in 2015, which arguably focused on practice, rather than architecture. What happened to architecture’s ability to speculate on the world around us, as was the ordinary in the 20th century, from Le Corbusier and the modernists to Archigram and the radical architects of the 1960s and 1970s? In the latest issue of The Architect's Newspaper (AN), we set out to survey the state of architectural speculation today. AN Contributing Editor Sam Lubell will be opening the exhibition Never Built New York, which features proposals that were never realized. You could say that looking at the history of unbuilt architecture is speculation. So we set out to find what might be in the Never Built exhibition of 2050. What is speculation today? We found that in architecture, most speculation is more like plausible futures. It is being developed by private industry in some cases, well within the realm of possibility. Many think that self-driving cars are a revolutionary technology, and are a matter of “when,” not “if.” But why have so few architects gotten out in front of this technology looking for opportunities to change the city? Solar technologies, like those being developed at Tesla, would also have the potential to radically change how we build. Our research confirms that in many ways Speaks is correct in his thinking about a lack of speculation. Architects are not really thinking much about new ways of living and relating to the world outside of our own history and discourse. I would argue that the upcoming Chicago Biennial appears to confirm this idea. We did manage to find an interesting mélange of projects that project toward that future. From automation and smart cities, to floating islands (front page), there are some plausible futures that might be very real someday. So it is not necessarily speculation, but just futurist realism, which we found to be a fruitful endeavor. In an interview with Amelie Klein of the Vitra Design Museum about her exhibition as part of the Vienna Biennale, she reported that many of the most speculative work in architecture that she has come across is actually happening in the realm of construction, such as the algorithms used by Achim Menges at the University of Stuttgart, Institute for Computational Design, to minimize material use and create new ways of making. While the discipline might be struggling to imagine new ways of living, it is not a boring time for architecture. The world around us is changing quickly, and we can see several new futures simultaneously developing before our eyes. It may not be about predicting or producing new futures, but about reflecting on the present and what plausible near futures could be on the horizon and how they will affect our cities.
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Chicago Architectural Club calls for speculative proposals on Obama Library

As several Chicago sites—as well as institutions in New York City and Hawaii—vie to host Barack Obama's Presidential Library, the Chicago Architectural Club is “calling for speculative proposals” to consider the design impacts of the nation's 14th presidential library. Submissions are due January 10, one month after official contenders for the library have to submit their proposals to The Barack Obama Foundation. Winners will be announced February 3 at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 South Michigan Avenue. First prize nets $1,500, while second takes $1,000 and third gets $750. The Architectural Club and CAF will exhibit the winning projects on their websites. Jurors for the award include Andy Metter (Epstein), Brian Lee (SOM), Dan Wheeler (Wheeler Kearns Architects), Elva Rubio (Gensler), Geoffrey Goldberg, (G. Goldberg + Associates) and John Ronan (John Ronan Architects). More information on submission protocol is available on the Chicago Architectural Club's website AN's editorial page has called for the library to catalyze the development of public space wherever it ends up, and the speculative designs offered by the Club's annual Chicago Prize are sure to spur good conversation on that topic. The competition literature identifies the site as the rail yard at the southwest corner of the Chicago River confluence—a site already devoted to Goettsch Partners' River Point development, currently under construction. In library news more likely to materialize as built work, the University of Chicago is mulling Jackson Park as a potential site. The Hyde Park university where Obama taught law is also reportedly considering an empty lot at Garfield Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive, the South Shore Cultural Center, and an area of Jackson Park across from Hyde Park Academy High School at Cornell Avenue and Hayes Drive, according to DNAinfo Chicago.
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On View> Unseen City: Designs for a Future Chicago

There were about as many ideas for development on Chicago’s high-profile real estate at Wolf Point as there are Chicagoans. One you didn’t hear about during Alderman Brendan Reilly’s initial public meeting was The Clean Tower—a supertall that would return filtered wastewater to the Chicago River beneath its slanted profile. The Clean Tower wasn’t actually on the table for Wolf Point, but it does occupy real estate on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s model of downtown. That’s because it’s part of Unseen City: Designs for a Future Chicago, an exhibition of imaginative projects from Illinois Institute of Technology's “Hi-Rise, Lo-Carb” studio. Hi-Rise, Lo-Carb—led by Antony Wood of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), and Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture—begat six projects, including a vertical neighborhood in the Loop complete with “streets in the sky,” and a "Post [Waste] Office" that envisions the vacant Old Chicago Main Post Office as a sustainable waste management center with a rooftop arboretum. This is the first time the Chicago Architecture Foundation has opened up its model of downtown for use as an exhibit space, and Unseen City is an excellent start. The model’s urban context legitimizes the ambitions of these inventive projects — placed alongside existing institutions in the Loop, they inspire progressive thoughts. Glimpse the unseen city in the lobby of the Santa Fe building, 224 S. Michigan Ave., through November 4.