Posts tagged with "Storefront for Art and Architecture":

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Chasing After Zero

Kevin Greenberg sends us another insightful dispatch from Kenmare Street: Last Tuesday, the Storefront for Art and Architecture felt like a satellite campus of the GSD as Harvard students and other Cambridgians joined locals at the Storefront for a release party for the second issue of New Geographies, a doctoral student-edited periodical recently launched by the GSD’s Aga Khan Program. The editors of New Geographies, Neyran Turan and Stephan Ramos, told us that they had several meanings in mind when they chose the theme for the second issue. Titled “After Zero,” the issue centers on the slippery idea of a “zero point." The editors cite zero carbon and “zero context” urban developments (or “cities from scratch”) as contemporary examples that force designers to question design methodologies and justifications. Nothing makes for compelling architectural discourse like a nice, open-ended theme. The zero in question might be seen as a tabula rasa from which to proceed, but it’s also a means of marking a significant event. In the context of the current climate, zero is also a code word for crisis. How should architects and designers re-frame interventions after the global economic downturn, in an age when the glitzy mega-developments that grew like crystals in the Persian Gulf suddenly seem like relics of a recently bygone age? What kind of models for future urbanism can we realistically project? These are among the questions that interest the journal’s editors and contributors. You have to hand it to them, too: “After Zero” is a handsome, considered object. Design duties were handled by NYC-based Thumb, who also manage graphic design for Princeton Architectural Press’s 306090, and they do a great job presenting articles from a host of notables, including Keller Easterling, Joseph Grima and Peter Hall. While a few contributors chose to focus on the bizarre urbanism of the Persian Gulf, the “geographies” analyzed really range in their scope and locale from the arctic to Africa, from China to goode olde Europe. Matthew Gandy’s article on French landscape architect Gilles Clement’s “paradise of weeds,” for example, is an interesting interpretation of the issue’s theme and will seem timely to anyone who’s recently visited the High Line. Turan and Ramos were on hand Tuesday to briefly present the new volume, and Harvard professor Hashim Sarkis offered a few words both on the significance of some of the nascent issues that are the theme of “After Zero” and of New Geographies itself. Sarkis gave a little insight into yet another shade of meaning of the “zero” in the volume’s title: It’s a nod to the survival of the journal itself. The inaugural issue of New Geographies, released last year, was numbered zero. Since, as Sarkis noted, many student-run publications start with the first issue and end with the first issue, the release of “After Zero” is cause for celebration indeed. Afterwards the audience sipped prosecco and queued up to purchase copies of the journal, which quickly sold out.
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Welcome to Biodome

Architect and man about town Kevin Greenberg sends along this dispatch from Kenmare Street. Reef, a new kinetic installation at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, exists at the intersection of “the super-exclusive and the trite,” according to its creators, Rob Ley and Joshua Stein. Composed primarily of densely-packed rows of lightweight fins anchored by Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs) across a metal armature, Reef simulates the unmistakable movement of muscle on bone, eschewing the jerky mechanical inelegance of a previous age in favor of bio-mimesis and the “semi-conscious willfulness” of a school of startled guppies or a field of flowers in thrall to the sun. The materials that afford Reef its movement profile (each fin commands a 160-degree range of motion) have previously been applied to both military technology and cheap toys—Stein and Ley initially were inspired by a $10 plastic butterfly—imbuing the system with a pleasant friction between the high and low. Reef’s ambiguity extends beyond its material composition. By design, Reef occupies a grey area between sculpture and structure, and its subtle, fluid movements evoke a basic form of life. Stein and Ley hope that those who encounter Reef will be forced to engage it in an unfamiliar way—to, in their words, “befriend” the softly undulating fins, or to be repelled by them. For its creators, Reef represents a new model for architecture: sidestepping usefulness, it is a study for environment as companion, or at least co-presence. Stein and Ley envision users eventually experiencing a biokinetic environment like Reef in the same way one might approach an encounter with a domestic robot or other form of semi-sentient intelligence. “It’s a type of movement that connotes consciousness,” Ley told us. “Like a Venus flytrap, or a sea anemone.” And Stein added: “We asked ourselves, could you get the average person to project consciousness onto the installation?” Depending on your perspective, the elegant palpitation of the fins is, according to Ley, “creepy, sexy, friendly, or bizarre.” It’s also capricious. “We were very conscious that we were treading in a territory that’s the realm of novelty toys,” Stein says. At a glance, it’s clear that Reef’s moving parts are not in any sense functional. Although the architects concede that the technology that animates Reef could be tailored to a more practical application (they’ve been approached to conduct façade studies and climate control modeling), for Ley and Stein such concerns are beside the point. Reef is an attempt to create a new kind of relationship between structure and end user. For Stein and Ley, who both have training in the visual arts as well as architecture, Storefront was the perfect setting for Reef. From the street, Reef’s long, sinuous profile, with its rows of translucent plastic fins, contrasts beautifully with the hard angles of Storefront’s signature swiveling apertures. Lit from above, the installation takes on the luminous quality of an alien form nestled in the ocean’s silent depths. On Tuesday night, as curious visitors filled the space and (as is often the case at Storefront events) spilled out into the humid evening air, Reef’s fins billowed coolly beneath the lights, seductively evoking a quality of animal potential. Reef will be on display through August 1. And next Thursday, June 4th, Ley and Stein will make an appearance at Storefront to discuss Reef and their collaborative practice.

Postopolis, Here We Come

     Postopolis! LA is onto the second day of its second year now, and from the looks of the streaming video, things are off to a great start. But the fun doesn't really start until tomorrow. Why? Because that's when we arrive! I've been invited to join the media panel Sunday, along with my beautiful Cali colleague Alissa Walker. Not exactly sure what we'll be talking about--*gulp*--but it's something along the lines of print-web integration/the future of media/doomsday/etc. After all, I was invited on Twitter. Speaking of which, if you want to follow along, you can certainly do it there--I'll do my damnest to figure out how to Tweet from my phone, which has so far been a resounding failure. And be sure to tune back in here for daily, if not hourly, dispatches; the full schedule is here. And you better be on-hand Saturday, when the panel airs at 6:20 p.m. PACIFIC time. (That's 9:20 p.m. for all you New Yorkers, because we all know you've all got nothing better to do on a Saturday night.) Don't have too much fun without me, and I'll try to do the same.
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Postopolis! Comes to LA

You remember Postopolis! don't you? The reality show-worthy architecture blog-a-thon that sequestered five bloggers for five days at the Storefront for Art and Architecture two years ago? Well, hold onto your laptops, kids, because Postopolis! is back and promises to be bigger, better, bloggier and more exclamation-pointy than ever before...because it's coming to LA, baby! Geoff Manaugh announced the lineup today and it's a doozy; six bloggers hailing from Sydney to San Fran (and including Manaugh himself, who we know is still an Angeleno at heart): —David Basulto from Plataforma Arquitectura and ArchDaily (Santiago, Chile) —Jace Clayton from Mudd Up! (New York City, USA) —Régine Debatty from we make money not art (Paris, France) —Bryan Finoki from Subtopia (San Francisco, USA) —Dan Hill from City of Sound (Sydney, Australia) —Geoff Manaugh from BLDGBLOG (San Francisco, USA) Postopolis! will still be sponsored by the Storefront (who had temporary digs here last year) and the lovely folks at ForYourArt as part of the LA Art Weekend. From March 31 to April 4 at a TBD location, the bloggers will post at a feverish, around-the-clock pace. Students from local architecture schools will be hired to monitor feeding tubes, administer 20 oz. Monster energy drinks on the hour and empty their bedpans as needed. In addition to the ancillary interviews, presentations, lectures, panel discussions, and slideshows that we saw last Postopolis!, Manaugh promises: "This time it will be all that plus more art, film, and music, a larger international scope, hopefully several Spanish-language events and lectures, hopefully at least one minor earthquake." We'll try our best to deliver on that last one.
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The R Is For “Rey”

The board of directors of the Storefront for Art and Architecture met this week at a Noho restaurant to honor its long-serving president El Comandante Belmont(e) Freeman. Monty--who directed the Storefront through the 1990s and the early Aughts and traces his family back to Cuba--shares with the nation's own former presidente a strong ability to lead. At the dinner, director Joseph Grima presented el rey with the letter "R" (rebirth? revolution?) that formerly graced the Storefront's transom. (It was replaced during the recent renovation.) Viva Monty! Viva Monty! VIVA MONTY!