Posts tagged with "Temple Hoyne Buell Center":

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“House Housing” exhibit miserably fails at addressing Los Angeles’s housing crisis

Billed as part of an ongoing, multiyear, multivenue, and multiauthor “19 episode” blockbuster research project conducted by the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University, House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate landed in L.A., a city facing an unprecedented housing shortage and a parallel homelessness crisis, with an unfortunate but predictable thud.

An impenetrable and arcane little book, The Art of Inequality, along with a well-organized and intelligent panel discussion, accompanied House Housing’s Los Angeles’s appearance. The panel was moderated by the Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, and included a witty, knowledgeable, and acerbic group: L.A. architect Julie Eizenberg, and San Diego–based academics Juliana Maxim and Andrew Wiese. The panel, as it turned out, was better than the show and the book combined because it was focused, relevant, and brief. If there is one broad criticism I might offer here it is this: The never-ending parade of traveling shows, publications, events, social media feeds, and inscrutable websites that now stand in for academic research and dedicated curatorial work has tanked.

And sadly, this effort seems to highlight the entire dilemma. What started in the mid-to-late ’90s with the Harvard “Project on the City” and the Architectural Association of London’s Design Research Laboratory as an attempt to realign architecture with reality, has now descended into a farce where loosely appropriated data and reality samples are presented as research—and petulant attacks on practitioners as political action. Forced to absorb a series of half-baked guest essays, useless charts, graphs, meanly redrawn housing unit plans (what a waste of some poor grad student’s time), and attacks on well-known octogenarian architects, the audience must somehow surmise that this is meaningful academic work. How dumb do the curators think the audience, professional or otherwise, really is? Is there an even an audience for this sort of work? Do the authors care if no one shows up?

Despite its appropriate setting, House Housing perfectly illustrates all that is wrong with these sort of airless engagements with the realpolitik of contemporary city-making by architects today. If the aim of the exhibition was to invite “scholars and practitioners to discuss how we might reframe our understanding of the relationships among architecture, housing, and real estate in light of the inequalities they both produce and reflect,” the net effect is a misreading of the jujitsu-hold many practitioners find themselves in as they attempt to negotiate the market forces that have been at work reformatting our cities since at least the dawn of the Reagan-Thatcher era. House Housing parades out real-estate and architectural-atrocity exhibits, “from architect-designed houses to prefabricated apartment blocks to suburban gated communities,” presented less as a coherent analysis of the tragedy of housing inequality than as some sort of evidence of the intrepid academic’s adventures in the “real city” wherein the desire, ambition, and greed of the inevitably evil developer class squash the dreams of the proletariat. Architecture, predictably, plays the role of the villain’s guileless and dim-witted sidekick. Architects are caricatured as willing handmaidens to the construction of socioeconomic injustice. “More than just a building type or a market sector,” the editors argue, “housing is a primary architectural act—where architecture is understood as that which makes real estate real.”

An easy target like Frank Gehry ends up demonized for being part of market-rate development in New York and the author of an oddball suburban house renovation, while Bernard Tschumi, formerly a radical leftist and current dean emeritus at the Columbia GSAPP, gets no censure for the Blue Condominium housing tower on the Lower East Side—average sale price, $1.5 million as recently noted by Alex Cocotas in the JacobinOne wonders, here, if the author-editors are even aware of their own biases.

It has to be stated that the entire effort is also very condescending. Once again we are offered that late-20th-century academic cliché, Institutional Critique, as an innovative model of cultural production. Instead of a more genuine or provocative proposal for redefining the role of architecture in city-making we are served up, yet again, the now-zombified Standard Marxist Critique of State Capitalism. As neoliberalism accelerates the transfer of urban control from a near-dead public sector to the hyper-advanced private sector, the best the authors can suggest is that if “architecture is imagined first and foremost as an investment…thinking and making it otherwise remains a fundamental, unmet challenge for our times.” The political ambivalence of this statement reveals that the very academic tools used to draw attention to social inequality and architecture’s role in its production fall far short of the potentially radical and ferocious work that will need to be done by architects on their discipline and the professional organizations, academies, museums, and research bodies that support them in order to change the situation. Nothing less than total outrage and focused action will address the social violence of radicalized poverty and its caustic effects on the 21st-century city. 

What is required now of architecture, especially academic architecture, is not another retreading of the usual antagonisms. Resipsa loquitur: The boring and never-ending Facebook-adjacent arguments around this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale are primarily about mindless parametricist fundamentalism versus patronizing do-gooder fundamentalism. Who cares? Only the difficulty of real adversarial engagement, not fantasy critiques launched from the ivory tower at the profession, will further the conversation. Architecture will not advance one step as either a symbol of the one percent or as a tool of the other 99 percent; it must adapt and grow beyond its currently servile relationships with capital and/or community. What is required is nothing less than a wholesale attack on the discipline’s stagnating orthodoxies, left and right.

House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate ran from April 9 – May 8, 2016 at the MAK Center at the Schindler House.

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GSAPP’s House Housing exhibit comes to The Schindler House

Like many cities across the country, Los Angeles is suffering from a chronic shortage of housing, period. So, it's quite timely that House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate in Thirty­ One Episodes is set to arrive April 9. The exhibition, to be held at the Schindler House's MAK Center, showcases recently published research from the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University. The product of a multi-year research project, House Housing is being published as a book and traveling exhibition, both of the same name and designed by New York City-based graphic design studio MTWTF. The research analyzes contemporary American housing typologies through the lens of design, policy, and finance, aiming to elucidate the interdependency between these topics in American housing today. The exhibition comes to Los Angeles after being exhibited at the recent architecture biennales in Venice and Chicago as well as in conjunction with the Wohnungsfrage ("The Housing Question") project at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin.  The opening event is scheduled for Saturday April 9 from 3-5pm and will be accompanied by a panel discussion moderated by LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne featuring Juliana Maxim, Julie Eizenberg and Andrew Wiese, to be followed by a free public reception. The exhibition runs through May 8th.
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A new website from Columbia traces the intersection of real estate and architecture

buell-website Architects, perhaps more than any other professional group, understand property and real estate and the role it plays in the construction of buildings. But it's not often talked about it in their monographs or symposia where they prefer to speak about their designs as internally generated or part of a closed history of architecture. A new website, House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate, from Columbia University's Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, hopes to help foreground the importance of real estate in the design, development, and construction of buildings. House Housing will attempt, as it grows in content and reach, to focus on the repetitious themes, tendencies, and actions of property relations on which architecture rests. Finally, it will broaden these themes by locating housing at the center of the current economic regime, with the United States as an influential node in a transnational network. This website could not be more timely or needed as a reference point in the discussion between real estate and architecture. Have a look!
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Foreclosed Forum: Suburbs, Cities, and Crisis

It might have been the first time that the works of Jay-Z, Malice, and Nas were evoked under the great dome of Columbia’s Low Library, but given the trend among young academics to cite rap alongside Socrates, it’s probably won't be the last. That the quotes were used in the panel discussion called “Suburbs, Cities and Crisis,” spoke to a slightly skewed perspective of discussing the suburbs within the confines of Manhattan. The panel discussion was held last Saturday by GSAPP and Temple Hoyne Buell Center to compliment the the Foreclosed exhibit at MoMA. CUNY’s Setha Low was joined by Robert Fishman of University of Michigan, Superfront’s Mitch McEwen, and Newark’s Urban Design Chief Damon Rich. McEwen compared Jay-Z’s “exalted freedom” within housing projects to that of Nas’s lack of hope impressions. Given the content, it might seem safe to believe McEwen was referring to conditions in the inner city, but she pointed out that the “suburb as ghetto” isn’t that far from current reality. She noted Parisian suburbs are experiencing the trend, but so are the Oranges of New Jersey. The show at MoMA responds to demographic and economic trends that were exacerbated by the foreclosure crisis. “Architects are repositioning to undo this violent work that we as architects and planners have undertaken,” said Rich. “The built environment helped create the crisis.” Rich also addressed criticism that Forclosed show was too theoretical. “It takes a theory to makes something happen,” he said. Later when the discussion opened to the floor, the general consensus was that theoretical work done at the architecture school often gets dismissed by the schools of economics, business and international studies—the very audiences architects need to engage. “How do we hitch them so that we do connect reality to theory,” he asked. “If the folks in development told us what research to do we wouldn’t have parametrics,” quipped McEwen. Fishman said that perhaps developers should have paid more attention to work coming out of architecture schools. “The economics didn’t take into consideration that the demographic movement was going back to the core,” he said. He added that the subdivisions promoted sprawl, and while they may have been cheap to build, developers never factored in eventual transportation costs. Quite often when developers do consider design a factor it's not always top notch. He cited advertising for Toll Brothers that trumpet “award winning design” but never tell you what award they won. Low encouraged the theoretical approach provided it kept in mind "the people holding the bag" of the foreclosure crisis. "There's a material reality that ripped us apart," she said.