Art Omi, an arts nonprofit based in upstate New York, has issued an open call for an upcoming exhibition that will explore the future of design for death. Exit Architecture: Speculations on the Hereafter will showcase proposals that present critical and speculative looks at both present and future visions of post-mortem architecture and “new ways of marking our exit” from this world. Organized by Warren James, Julia van den Hout, and Kyle May, it’s the first curated exhibition put together by Art Omi’s architecture program. Art Omi facilitates projects for architects that integrate experimental and innovative landscape, architecture, and art ideas. According to a press release, the purpose behind Exit Architecture is to uncover designs that go beyond traditional memorials and religious symbolism, and ones that react to the changing landscape of modern life on Earth. As the curators note: “The realities of the world today have imposed additional restrictions and opportunities on internment: rapid population growth, densifying urban areas, limited space, environmental concerns, and digitization—all factors that could lead architects to reimagine our own exit.” The chosen works will be on view at Art Omi’s campus in upstate New York at the Newmark Gallery in the Benenson Center from January 12 to March 3, 2019. It will then begin touring on March 15. Architects and architectural teams from any part of the world are invited to propose an idea for the exhibition. See submission guidelines here.
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BIG has designed and built in Upstate New York a prototypical cabin, known as A45, that can be constructed in any location within four-to-six months. Home company Klein commissioned the prototype, and the company plans that homeowners will be able to order, tailor, and customize the unit to suit their individual needs. The design is inspired by traditional A-frame cabins, which feature a pitched roof and angled walls that facilitate rain runoff and construction. The design for A45 was created by taking a square base and twisting the roof 45 degrees, resulting in a crystal-like shape that soars to 13 feet in height. The footprint of the tiny cabin is only around 180 square feet, but contains all of the essentials: an open-plan living and sleeping area, a small cooktop, bath, and lofted area. The house is finished with Douglas fir floors and natural cork walls. The exposed timber frame in solid pine adds to the outside-in feeling of living in the woods. A star-studded team put together the details of the house. The fireplace is designed by Danish wood-burning stove brand Morsøe, while the kitchen is done by Nordic furniture maker Københavns Møbelsnedkeri. Handcrafted furniture is produced by Danish workshop Carl Hansen, and the bed is fitted by Finnish designer Søren Rose Studio finished with Kvadrat fabric. VOLA-designed fixtures go elegantly with the bathroom made of cedar wood. The unit is composed of 100% recyclable modules that are assembled on site. The house is elevated off the ground by four concrete piers so that inhabitants can place it in challenging landscapes without the use of heavy machinery.
Tucked away on a tree-studded, 40-acre plot just a quarter mile from the Hudson River, one of New York’s most unusual construction projects is underway. The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)—a transdenominational church and registered nonprofit—has been constructing the Entheon: “A place to discover god within.” The three-story windowless art space will be a temple to, among other things, original “visionary art” from the church’s husband-and-wife co-founders, Alex and Allyson Grey. The couple, who have been together since first meeting (and dropping acid) in 1975, previously ran an art space in Manhattan. After closing down their Chelsea outpost in 2009, Alex and Allyson moved upstate, where they have been running their collective and a psychedelic variant of a bed-and-breakfast. Their Wappingers Falls location hosts monthly full-moon festivities, as well as large concerts and events. Placing art at the very center of their faith, the estate already features large-scale architectural artworks, such as the three-story gazebo-temple Altered States made by artist Kate Raudenbush, who describes herself as “New York-based, Burning Man–bred.” Alex Grey is perhaps best known for his hyper-detailed paintings of human bodies set on trippy backgrounds that reveal the figures’ underlying circulatory systems, musculature, and spiritual meridian points through translucent skin. Grey's audience has not been limited to a cult following of the chemically inclined; he exhibited at the New Museum in 1986. For members of CoSM, visionary art is at the center of their cosmology—like pre-iconoclastic medieval clerics, they understand art not just as a gateway to the divine, but as the manifestation of the divine itself. It’s only natural that this artist-pastor couple would need to build a sanctuary for creativity. Selecting a point on their 40-acre plot that aligns with the solar plexus of a projected goddess, “the kabbalistic sephirot of justice,” CoSM has begun converting a former carriage house into a three-level, 12,000-square-foot concrete structure replete with modern amenities, including an ADA-compliant elevator. As with the foundation of the Greys’ relationship and their church, psychedelics and entactogens play a central role in the eccentric design of the Entheon. It was, in fact, a (then legal) shared MDMA experience that showed the Greys they should not sell their work, but rather build a chapel to share it with a “worldwide love tribe.” Though currently a bare concrete structure, there are big plans for the Entheon. Highly detailed renderings by Ryan Tottle (an Academy Award-winning animator who has worked on major films such as Disney’s Frozen) promise an architecturally complex and spiritually rich exterior. The proposed building is a veritable mythological bestiary. Four-faced ancient-Egypt-inspired “Soulbirds” guard one door. Another door features a design that returns Adam and Eve to the Garden of Eden. Winged “Angels of the Creative Imagination” punctuate the facade, interspersed between the larger “Godheads” that comprise the bulk of the outer walls. These Godheads “bear symbols of different world-wisdom traditions above each Cosmic Eye.” “DNA dragons” rise up from the corners of the roof to its center—liquid and vibrating creatures whose sides are a continuous double helix, a form that, according to a likely false urban legend, was discovered by British molecular biologist Francis Crick under the influence of LSD. Allyson’s “secret writing,” a script using a 20-letter unpronounceable alphabet, will run the upper edge of the Entheon and be guarded by sculpted “Angels of the Four Directions.” And these are just some of the building’s creatures and spiritual guardians. The roof—trypophobes beware—is a concentric array of eyes; called “Collective Vision,” the imagery inspired by a DMT experience of Alex’s that Allyson had the insight to suggest as a roof pattern, a “canopy of consciousness.” As a free e-book on the Entheon points out, “Collective Vision” is a visual motif that has appeared in the graphics and on the stage sets of “America’s number one cult band, Tool.” The collective hopes to use cast concrete, 3-D printing, and other technologies to realize this energetic facade. The three-level interior of the Entheon is intended to be equally elaborate. Through the ornate gold doors there will be, among other spaces, a Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, with its Gothic-style arches; the All One gallery; a museum shop; and a reliquary room featuring the spectacles of the first person to both synthesize and take LSD, Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman, and the ashes of the legendary Harvard professor and psychedelic evangelist Timothy Leary. Leary’s famous Millbrook mansion, the site of so much psychonautic exploration, is just over 20 miles away from CoSM’s own estate. Fundraising for the Entheon continues. The first cycle of fundraising began in 2013 (plans to build began around 2012). According to its website, the church has raised $2.3 million so far. For devotees, the Entheon is the logical next step in their faith of art and love. As Alex told Mushroom Magazine in July 2015, “We believe the inevitable consequence of love is the building of temples.”
Wintry Buffalo, New York is about the last place you might expect to find a building with no mechanical HVAC system. Yet that's where a pair of architects fired up their custom-designed masonry heater, also called a kachelofen, which warms a contemporary cafe space by burning just six logs per day—even through a record-breaking winter where the average temperature was just 22.8 degrees. Where possible, architects are increasingly ditching mechanical heating and cooling systems to cut carbon footprints and sometimes budgets. But frigid western New York is a tough climate to tackle without the benefits of modern mechanical heating. University at Buffalo architects Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis, who run their own practice, pulled it off using a specially engineered masonry heater. Their kachelofen (pronounced KA-hell-oh-fen) is a wood stove that on a typical day slowly radiates the heat from a single, hour-long burn over the following 24 hours. A long, rectangular flue pipes smoke from the burn around a doubled-over, 30-foot loop, warming up as exhaust from the fire flows through. Charlotte Hsu from The University at Buffalo quotes Davidson:
“Very long horizontal flues are unusual because smoke wants to go up, so it’s very challenging to keep it from stagnating,” says Davidson, a UB clinical assistant professor of architecture. “Many of the masons we talked to said they couldn’t do a horizontal flue longer than 8 feet.”Rochester, New York's Empire Masonry Heaters could, however. They helped the architects enliven the flue chamber, covering the refractory cement with patterned tiles reminiscent of an intricate mosaic. Their ornamental chamber doubles as a café bench. The kachelofen is known in North America simply as a masonry heater. While its winter-busting abilities are new to Buffalo, it is a centuries-old form of heating in Northern Europe. North America is “a fertile ground for new developments on masonry heater construction,” said the architects of the cheekily-dubbed Cafe Fargo. “It seems also with a widening consciousness about 'green' forms of heating, and rising heating costs, the good old masonry heater is grabbing peoples' interest,” they told AN. At only 880 square feet, their cafe is well-suited to the system. But Davidson and Rafailidis said masonry heating could work in larger spaces, too, but it might require several heaters to evenly heat multiple rooms. Wood-fired systems also need to be constantly monitored. Buffalo takes a degree of pride in its cold and snowy conditions, but if you've warmed up to the radiant heat of Cafe Fargo you may want to drop by—it's still looking for a tenant.
The Village of Cold Spring, New York is set within a beautiful landscape along the Hudson River. Strewn about the bucolic landscape are the ruins of the West Point Foundry, begun by President James Madison for metal and brass production after the War of 1812. The 87-acre site housing the foundry was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the spring of 2011 and now, with partial funding assistance from a Preserve America grant and in collaboration with Scenic Hudson, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects has enhanced the historic locale as a sustainably-designed preservation park. Last week, the West Point Foundry Preserve Park officially opened to the public. Famous for its development and manufacture of Parrott guns, the Union army and navy’s weapon of choice during the Civil War, and for its role in the United States’ Industrial Revolution, the West Point Foundry helped unite and progress America from 1817 to 1960, more than a century and a half. The site is home to housing and machine ruins, bridges, dams, paths, roadbeds, rail tracks, and a dock from the original foundry. However, the natural forest and marsh wetlands in which they stand are also of preservation significance. In the design of the Foundry Preserve Park, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects took care to “respect the site’s history and ecology.” Combining existing pathways and rail lines to create a walking narrative among the ruins and placing educational displays near important sites, the landscape architecture attempts the least intrusive path for visitors. Exhibitions at the park’s Foundry Cove illuminate on marsh renewal and the natural wildlife. Working with the Michigan Technological University’s Industrial History and Archeology Program, the firm researched for a design that allowed sustainability of the industrial history and of the valley environment. “Good design is often a matter of working with, not competing with, nature," Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects said in a statement. "The historic Village of Cold Spring marks one of the most stunning geologic expanses of the Hudson River. When Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects designed the West Point Foundry Preserve, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, we let the landscape be our guide.”
Marina Abramović owes 4,765 hugs to the supporters of her successfully funded $600,000 Kickstarter. Last month, the artist launched the online campaign to fund her own Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) in upstate New York, a performance center conceptualized as a laboratory that will be dedicated to the practice of long-durational performance art and the “Marina Abramović Method.” Project donations ranged from $1 to $10,000 and all donors are invited to receive a personal hug from the artist in a future performance event called “The Embrace.” With help from social media, celebrity interest, and a few encouragements from Abramović herself, the center surpassed its goal by more than $60,000 before the end of its month-long funding period this past Sunday. Designed by OMA’s Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu, the center’s focus is the large hall where Abramović and other performance artists will show six-hour art pieces to an audience donning lab coats. Contracted to stay for the duration, visitors will be trained in the Marina Abramović Method, being led through a variety of sensory exercises in rooms surrounding the great theater space. A few weeks ago, a viral video of pop singer Lady Gaga practicing the Method in the nude raised interest in the MAI campaign. Last month, rapper Jay-Z’s recent six-hour performance of “Picasso Baby” at Pace Gallery in New York City paid homage to Abramović’s 2010 The Artist is Present performance at the Museum of Modern Art. Even the artist herself posted a playful clip, explaining how many long durational performance artists it takes to screw in a lightbulb. With celebrity support and interest generated through Abramović's #whyMAI blog and Reddit Q&A sessions, this unique vision is now on course to be realized. Overall, the Kickstarter campaign raised $661,452 and MAI became the largest cultural institution to be funded in this way. Soon, OMA will begin to transform a 29,000-square-foot former theater in Hudson, New York, into an institute devoted solely to long durational performance art, definitely the first of its kind.