SHOWTIME! H-e-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-s-s-Sylvia! Armed with the good stuff. Pirouetting with John Soane, Peter Eisenman, and even Charles Moore. Connecting the dots with intellect, passion, and forensic precision, and trotting out never-before-seen docs blown up to the size of garage doors. Demonstrating not simply with words—which were choice, USDA prime—but with a full-blown demonstration of why what those words were about should matter. And what were they about? Some soon to be forgotten parametric wonder? Some arcane theoretical contest? Or a newly discovered manifesto that intends to change the course of everything? Not at all. They are a reality check, a course correction—maybe, even a scold (though that was never her tone)—that brought many in the room to a thudding encounter with reality. With those words—and the images that accompanied them—Lavin plays Lazarus to a fault, raising tired old post-modern architecture from the dead, breathing new life into what might have been warmed-over pizza and breathing new life into the age-old contest between meaning and symbolism. In the exhibition and lecture “The Duck and the Document: True Stories of Postmodern Procedures” at Southern California Institute of Architecture’s (SCI-Arc) Keck auditorium, Sylvia Lavin unearths implicit links between architecture as diverse as James Wines’s and Robert Venturi’s work for Best products, Eisenman’s handrail phobia, and Moore’s yearning to be “free”—to weave a tale of architecture’s gradual loss of autonomy as mechanization takes command*. Increasing regulation, nearly insurmountable hurdles in the supply chain of—for instance, colorants—drove architects to adopt a myriad of ruses and “workarounds” to achieve the effects they envisioned then, and one must admit, apply even more in today’s supplier-dependent world. Lavin’s message to students and aspiring architects is plain. By displaying well-chosen documents and correspondence which underscore the increasing frustration of the post-modern era’s most celebrated architects, she has been able to reveal the minutia behind their efforts, the tests of authorship, and the ultimate outcomes of conceptual and intellectual battles those architects (mostly) lost. With some surprise we learn that MLTW—Moore’s firm with Bill Turnbull, Richard Whitaker, and Donlyn Lyndon (symmetry: His father was a well-known architect)—is “long overdue” on an invoice for $24.53 from Knoll. In another example, we discover an invoice for a single half hour of Moore’s time, billed at $15.00. Pantone paint chips appended to a specification from Venturi’s office attest to his resignation in a battle over color with porcelain panel manufacturer Ervite and the scrutiny of focus groups is revealed in voluminous correspondence about the Sea Ranch project, MLTW’s celebrated Northern California retreat. In the gallery one is treated to an array of trophies from that era – a twisted handrail from Eisenman’s House I, in which the curator describes the architect wrestling with code requirements which conflicted with his aesthetic vision—a pair of porcelain-enameled Warholesque panels from Venturi’s florid Best products showroom and a quartet of columns from the Deborah Sussman- and Jon Jerde-designed Los Angeles 1984 Olympics signage—all poignant reminders of a time when the decorated shed reigned supreme. One might ask “what is the purpose of such a show at this time”? Is it to be a counterweight to the pervasive grip of digital design? A plea to restore the autonomy of architecture? Or a simple reminder that as bad as it gets, it’s nothing like the travails endured by our predecessors? My guess is that it is all of the above and more. A provocative and thoughtful peek behind the masks of those masters tells us a lot about ourselves and, at the very least, helps us navigate today’s even rougher waters of regulations, stakeholders, and committees. *Yes, that is Gideon’s phrase. Craig Hodgetts is founding principal and creative director at Los Angeles-based architecture firm Hodgetts + Fung. The Duck and the Document, curated by Sylvia Lavin, with associate curator Sarah Hearne and exhibition design by Besler & Sons, is on view at the Southern California Institute of Architecture gallery through May 28, 2017. See the SCI-Arc website for more information.
Posts tagged with "Sylvia Lavin":
The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has released a list of its featured public programs for the Spring 2017 semester that includes, among its events, a debate between controversial Slovenian philosopher Slajov Žižek and SCI-Arc Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Graham Harman. SCI-Arc’s lecture series will be complemented by two exhibitions that will occur throughout the semester. The Duck and the Document, curated by Sylvia Lavin, will showcase a collection of architectural ephemera that includes handrails and facade panels salvaged from canonical buildings from the 20th century. Drawing Conclusions, curated by Jeffrey Kipnis and designed by Andrew Zago, will explore the year of 1990 as a potential “apex” for hand drawing as a representational, technical, and conceptual tool for architects. The university's public program for the semester will include the following events: Didier Fiuza Faustino Lecture, 01/25/2017 Mat Olson Lecture, 02/01/2017 José Oubrerie: Chapel of the Mosquitos Library Gallery Exhibition Opening, 02/03/2017 José Oubrerie + Todd Gannon Duel + Duet, 02/06/2017 Graham Harman + Slajov Žižek Duel + Duet, 03/01/2017 Peter Cook Lecture, 03/08/2017 Neil M. Denari Lecture, 03/15/2017 Jeffrey Schnapp Lecture, 03/20/2017 Drawing Conclusions Symposium + Exhibition Closing Reception, 03/24/2017 Sylvia Lavin Lecture, 03/29/2017 Jake Matatyaou + Amalia Ulman Lecture, 04/03/2017 Giancarlo Mazzanti Lecture, 04/05/2017 The Duck and the Document SCI-Arc Gallery Exhibition Opening Reception, 04/14/2017 Spring Show Exhibition Opening Reception, 04/29/2017 Maxi Spina: Thick SCI-Arc Gallery Exhibition Opening Reception, 06/16/2017 For more information on SCI-Arc’s events, see the SCI-Arc website.
Postmodern Procedures is a two-day conference at Princeton School of Architecture that offers an alternate history of Postmodernism. The goal is to find something that is less about signs and symbols or historic references, and more about longer-form processes that produced the visual syntax of some of the most interesting projects in architectural history. Follow along as AN will be posting updates all day on Saturday, December 5. 9:25 James Wines gets day 2 started off with a series of stories about 1970's New York and a group of architects and artists who lived near each other on Greene St. in Soho, many of which worked in between architecture and art. He calls this Arch-Art, drawing upon the interdisciplinary contributions made by his firm SITE, as well as artists like Beuys and Henry Moore. There was a comment about rejecting "Plop Art" or "The Turd in the Plaza," favoring a process, such as in his Ghost Parking Lot, a public art project where SITE paved over a parking lot full of cars. Wines calls big box stores the ultimate found object that everyone recognizes. Wines used the BEST Stores to put art where you would least expect it. "It was a transformation," he said, explaining that the stores were a process of making the usual shopping center into something new and fantastic, through process. As for the Indeterminate Facade, the first BEST store, "There was alot of 'not getting it," he said, "Saying that this store was about destruction was like saying that a Giocometti sculpture was about starving people." "Not getting it" became his theme as he showed how many of his ideas became Pomo tropes, such as "tilting" and "falling apart." Some other highlights of his career were shown, including the process behind Shake Shack and the bookstore at MAK Vienna, both of which pushed the limits of building codes, legal contingencies, and historic landmark rules. 10:15 Amale Andraos of WORKac is giving a presentation of their work, with clear echoes of many of the issues that Wines introduced. Slicing, peeling, and the relationship of interior and exterior become organizing principles. "Collage Garage" is a facade for a parking structure in Miami. A four-foot wide ant farm for people includes circulation functions as well as environmental features like ventilation and water collection. The thickness produces a new way of inhabiting a facade, through a process of pushing the limits of the thin slice of space. 10:31 Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee remarks that he saw Wines speak at Sci-Arc 25 years ago when he was young and impressionable. "Seeing him speak again today made me feel young and impressionable," Lee said. Collage and layering are just a couple of the processes that Lee sees as valuable takeaways from Wines' work. Lee showing examples from photography and film to illustrate his concept of "loose fit," including John Baldessari's experiments with throwing balls in the air to approximate geometries. Their Vault House is a beach house that uses this concept to arrange a series of vault-like sections into a long passage of ill-fitting vaults. this process creates a long series of overlapping forms in a complex whole. 10:44 Panel starting off with Lavin asking Wines about living in Soho in the early days with artists like Bob Smithson and Alice Aycock. There were complex relationships between art and architecture, and the lines were not always clear. Wines speaks of it in a very pragmatic way, saying that on Greene St., artists were simply trying to see what they could get away with. Andraos makes the connection that this is probably how SITE shifted the boundaries of what could be considered architecture. "If it looks normal, you have something that is really avant-garde," said Wines. 11:48 And we're back with Diana Agrest, architect and urbanist. She is tracing the procedures that lead to retention and transference of ideas, both in her own work, and in the academic world, especially at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, where a group of non-commercial young architects were trying to find themselves and figure out how to engage with the city and their own practices. 12:27 Erin Besler takes the podium to discuss her intellectual project that deals with problems of construction and participation, a term that she is suspicous of. In her practice, Besler and Sons, she and her husband Ian Besler work with the conventional tools and resources of the everyday architect. At the Chicago Architecture Biennial, they looked at BIM as an open platform of participation that the public can engage with by sketching a wall that is produced by software in 3D. Studfindr.org is a kinkily-named platform that displays the creations of Biennial-visitors. Parallel to the open BIM project, a physical constructed light steel-framed wall system interrogates the space within the pedantic construction we might find in a big box store. Each step of the process is reflected upon. The unusual construction produced a set of operational follies along the way, The end project is a hand-scale sight gag—a set of off-kilter details that act visually much like Wine's Best Stores, but at a small scale. Lavin asks, "Who and What is communicating?" She says that in the original Postmodernism, there was architecture communicating with broader audiences, while today, it seems like the work is attempting to communicate with a smaller cadre of people. Agrest says that the work of Venturi and Scott Brown among others was looking for more direct communication, while Besler and Sons' project is communicating both inside and outside and outside of the profession. 2:09 Andrew Holmes explaining how he made a drawing of The Pompidou Center in 1972 while at Piano Rogers Architects. The competition-winning, 36-foot long drawing was made entirely by hand with multiple mediums. Rapidographs, blueprint machines, and a host of other now-arcane drawing techniques came together for the intensive representation. This live blogger is fascinated, but utterly lost in the process of this drawing. Is that ok? Ok, now talking about the relationship of line weights and the finished project. A .8 Rapidograph produces a thicker piece of metal, for instance, while a thinner one is nearly invisible in the final table. During high school, Jimenez Lai got a co-op placement at an animation studio. This was nearly 20 years ago. This is where he developed his relationship to ink, which is the topic of the pairing of Lai and Holmes. This is a thinkpiece about ink. From more recent copies of Noguchi and Tschumi, to living in a gallery in London, Lai is always pushing the boundaries of drawing in social contexts. There are not only physical boundaries in the galleries, but also limits on the audiences and spectators that might enter the space. I remember that London project in 2012 where Lai asked the gallery to buy him a robe. I was there, man. "Yes, I do do sloppy work," he said, referencing Norman Kelley (NK) and Speedism. On one end of the spectrum is NK's immaculate craft of incorrect compositions, while Speedism's fast and dirty accelerationist collages thrive on sloppiness as a political stance within internet culture. Holmes is promiscuous and boring to watch draw, while Lai is "very committal," and more fun to watch draw, as his practice of spectacular public drawing. Holmes says that his drawings are love objects for him, that have supported him throughout his life. 3:10 Wondering what it means to liveblog an event if no one is watching. Will people read it later? Is it still a live blog? Wonder what James Wines is thinking right now. 3:45 Chad Floyd up next. He is going to mix it up with some urbanism. Talking about the components of making a design process work for multiple parties. Floyd worked with Charles Moore to facilitate public TV programming that included a general population in the design process. They even built a storefront office that gave them a presence in Dayton for meetings. As ideas would come in, they would write down ideas on large papers on the wall. They also had a TV Show that broadcast the plans, while accepting calls from the public. Concepts, zoning plans and models were on TV throughout the communities where they were developed. Roanoke Design 79, Riverdesign Springfield, and were the most robust program. "This is not avant-garde architecture. It is bringing back a city that has been down, and doing it in a real way that people appreciate," Floyd said. This is one of the babies that was thrown out with the bathwater of Postmodernism. The engaged process of including local agencies and publics is a lost art. There are examples of firms doing it today, most notably FAT and the AOC in London. 4:16 Andrew Kovacs takes the stage to talk about making architecture from architecture. First, there is a two-part process, which I will reductively describe as collecting and editing. An analysis of Jencks's charts led into Kovacs's own analysis of internet searches and file management. The searching an browsing is compared to persistence hunting, a technique of outlasting your opponent. It leads him to libraries and trashcans and dollar stores. By scanning books and objects in the same scanner, it levels them all out, and allows the Photoshop arrangements to become the narratives (or lack thereof) that animate the work. Appropriating objects becomes a way of animating space. Although it is very Postmodern, "the dogs don't know the difference." Michael Meredith sits facing the screen to scroll through his website. "This is a little wierd for me too." The talk is called "Indifference as a Posture." The talk scrolled slowly through the website while describing the connections he sees through Pop and minimalism that make his practice. 4:58 Final discussion has Denise Scott Brown talking about participation and her experiments with including inner city people in the process.
Everything Loose Will Land Graham Foundation 4 West Burton Place, Chicago Through July 26 Everything Loose Will Land explores the intersection of art and architecture in Los Angeles during the 1970s. The show’s title refers to a Frank Lloyd Wright quote that if you “tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” This freeness alludes to the fact that this dislodging did not lead to chaos but rather a multidisciplinary artistic community that redefined LA. The exhibition features one hundred and twenty drawings, photographs, media works, sculptures, prototypes, models, and ephemera. The presentations function as a kind of archive of architectural ideas that connect a variety of disciplines. Projects by Carl Andre, Ed Moses, Peter Alexander, Michael Asher, James Turrell, Maria Nordman, Robert Irwin, Frank Gehry, Richard Serra, Coy Howard, Craig Ellwood, Peter Pearce, Morphosis, Bruce Nauman, Craig Hodgetts, Jeff Raskin, Ed Ruscha, Noah Purifoy, Paolo Soleri, Ray Kappe, Denise Scott Brown, Archigram, L.A. Fine Arts Squad, Bernard Tschumi, Eleanor Antin, Peter Kamnitzer, Cesar Pelli, Andrew Holmes, Elizabeth Orr, and others are explored. Curated by Sylvia Lavin, Director of Critical Studies in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA, the show began its journey at the MAK Center for Architecture and then traveled to the Yale School of Architecture before arriving at the Graham Foundation.
The venerable American Academy of Arts and Letters announced the winners of their various prizes in architecture to an impressive array of writers and practitioners. The judges were Henry N. Cobb, Peter Eisenman, Hugh Hardy, Richard Meier, James Polshek, Billie Tsien (chair), and Tod Williams. The Bruner Memorial prize emphasizes the artistic aspect of the trade and the jury selected Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam of Atlanta. The couple has been practicing architecture for more than 25 years. Tod Williams called out the "simultaneously humane and bold" aspects of their work which conveys an "optimistic and joyous" spirit. The award for Arts and Letters, which focuses on a "strong personal direction", went to William E. Massie of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Julie VandenBerg Snow of Minneapolis, Minnesota. James Polshek calls Massie a "free spirited constructivist inventor" and Billie Tsien noted the "invention within convention" in VandenBerg Snow's buildings. The winners for expressing architectural ideas though any medium were LA based Sylvia Lavin and NYC based Anthony Vidler. Peter Eisenman cited Lavin's "intelligence in a battle with mediocrity," while Richard Meier admired Vidler's "extraordinary contributions to the academic and architectural community through teaching and writings."
From our roving correspondent Alex Gorlin, who was party-hopping the other night:
Among the guests at Aaron Betsky's 50th birthday celebration on Thursday were Henry Urbach, curator of Architecture at SFMOMA, Laurie Beckelman, UCLA's Sylvia Lavin (who was complaining to Jeff Kipnis about the mosquitoes), Susan Grant Lewin the PR Queen—she barely made the "haj" to the party—the Modern's Barry Bergdoll with Bill Ryall, his partner, Reed Kroloff and Casey Jones. Last and certainly not least was Katherine Gustafson, the Zaha of landscape design, who appeared in a regally flowing white toga-like gown. The setting was her "Garden of Paradise" at the Arsenale, a coyly-renamed installation in the Garden of Virgins, with vegetables and flowers culminating in a swirling ridge of grassy mounds above which floated giant white ballons and what looked like the remains of a parachute. All in all, an elegant evening, although with no lights on, it was pitch black and so far away that one can only imagine half the guests, a little tipsy perhaps, falling into canals on the trek home.
Robert and Holly Ivy hosted their annual Architectural Record party at the same time as Aaron's fete, causing high anxiety and handwringing among the smart set who wanted to attend both. Many cleverly thought they could go to the Garden of the Virgins and then sprint over to the Accademia Bridge where Bob's soiree was held, not knowing of the tremendous distance between the two. Bergdoll, Kroloff and Jones, and David Rockwell showed up late in the evening exhausted by the trek. Hans Hollein was already there, looking somewhat fearsome, as were Joseph and Mrs. Rykwert, Charles Jencks, and AN's own Bill Menking and Diana Darling."—Alex Gorlin