When Wim de Wit stepped down in 2013 from The Getty Research Institute (GRI) after 20 years of overseeing architecture and contemporary art, and co-curating the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: Modern Architecture in L.A., the design community wondered who could fill the vacuum created by his departure. This week, two-and-a-half years later, the GRI announced today the appointment of architectural historian and curator Maristella Casciato as Senior Curator of Architectural Collections. “Maristella Casciato is an exceptionally accomplished scholar and curator who is passionately committed to the study of architectural history and the preservation of architecture. She is the ideal steward for our tremendously significant architecture holdings,” said GRI director Thomas W. Gaehtgens. A historian with expertise in 20th century European architecture as well as research interests that include the architecture of postcolonial India and non-Western contributions to city planning, Casciato previously was chairwoman of the Do.Co.Mo.Mo and the associate director of research at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. AN reached Casciato by phone on her second day on the job. The Architect's Newspaper: Welcome to Los Angeles. What are some of your hopes and plans for the architecture collection at the GRI? Maristella Casciato: Well, as you know, architectural work is changing and so is the scholar's work in archival documentation. As a professor for almost 40 years I come from a research environment, and I’ve seen my own scholarly research going very much towards multidisciplinary and the field is expanding. If you look at the GRI collection as it is now, it is great in terms of architecture, with a variety of collections and data and different media. But in terms of architecture, the archives are distinct: You have the Southern California archive; you have the Avant Garde archive. What I wish to do, really, is to try to break all this separation. My scholarly aptitude is for finding and developing micro-histories—connecting or networking some of the documents or the protagonists of one specific movement to another field. And that’s what I like. I like to break borders. Instead of boundaries I try to merge histories. And I also insist that instead of case studies, micro-histories can become a paradigm for wider thinking. So, it’s not necessarily about fixing any one building in time but about telling the story of a series of people and projects across time. Yes, this is my way of working on architectural history. It is extremely important for architecture because if we think of architecture as frozen within boundaries the we will keep going with the existing cannon—this is avant garde, this is not avant garde, you know, the classification. Why classify something simply as postmodern when the process is interesting? [Architecture] is not only the result, but it’s the process. Looking at process is a way to engage with the producers and you look at them as part of an overarching development, which could be artistic or cultural. I know it’s a bit challenging, but in many fields I see that this is going on, so I think we have to also bring this to architecture.
Posts tagged with "Wim de Wit":
Major news in the world of architectural scholarship. Wim de Wit, Head of the Department of Architecture and Contemporary Art at the Getty Research Institute (GRI), is stepping down. He's moving to Stanford, where he will be Adjunct Curator of architecture and design at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts. De Wit's wife, Nancy Troy, has been a professor of art at Stanford since 2010. Since coming to the Getty in 1993, de Wit has organized major exhibitions like Shaping the Great City: Modern Architecture in Central Europe, 1890-1937 (2001), Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky (2008), and the current show Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future. He also helped amass one of the finest architectural collections in the world, with particular strengths in pre-World War II European modernism and postwar California architecture. The GRI archives include papers and materials from John Lautner, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Pierre Koenig, Ray Kappe, Julius Shulman, Reyner Banham, Lebbeus Woods, Philip Johnson, Aldo Rossi, Bernard Rudofski, Daniel Libeskind, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, among many others. De Wit's last day at the Getty will be July 31. According to Getty spokesperson Julie Jaskol, the research institute will begin an "international search" for de Wit's replacement. In the interim, Glenn Phillips will take over as acting head of the department.
On Monday, members of LA’s design and architecture cognoscenti descended on the Tesla store on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to celebrate the official relaunch of KCRW’s DnA (Design and Architecture). The event featured a discussion between DnA host and executive producer Frances Anderton and Elon Musk, the visionary founder-CEO of Tesla and Space X. Those present included Michael Rotondi, Ray Kappe, Thom Mayne, developer Tom Gilmore, and Getty architecture curators Wim de Wit and Christopher Alexander. After ten years as a monthly on-air program, DnA will re-emerge as a more comprehensive weekly podcast and blog. To help curate what’s being billed as “DnA 2.0", Anderton is enlisting the talents of local design journalists—or “DJs”—that she has hand-picked. “I’m thrilled that we will increase our coverage of, and participation in this creative community and the work that shapes our lives,” said Anderton. In the discussion Ms. Anderton honed in on Mr. Musk’s hands-on approach to design and innovation and how his operations are solidly based in California. “I like to be close enough to be involved,” he said. “With outsourcing, something we at one time considered, you lose the potential for innovation in the process.” Questions from the audience ranged from whether science fiction played a role in his work—“Definitely Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy and Heinlein”— to if he could solve LA’s traffic problem. “I’ve got a design for a double-decker freeway worked out,” he said. When a young member of the audience asked about flying cars, he thoughtfully responded that he thought the challenge wasn’t getting the cars to fly but in preventing them from crashing into everything. When asked if he had any advice for architects about getting more visionary buildings erected in Los Angeles, Mr. Musk demurred, saying “I wouldn’t presume to give advice. The problem isn’t the architects. We just need more clients here who want to put up visionary buildings.”