Posts tagged with "Yale School of Architecture":
This is the second column of “Practice Values,” a bi-monthly series by architect and technologist Phil Bernstein. The column focuses on the evolving role of the architect at the intersection of design and construction, including subjects such as alternative delivery systems and value generation. Bernstein was formerly vice president at Autodesk and now teaches at the Yale School of Architecture.
I recently sat on a midterm design jury for the Yale studio taught by the dynamic duo of Patrick Bellew of Atelier Ten and Andy Bow of Foster + Partners. It’s a rare treat for those of us who teach in the “suburbs” of the curriculum (in my case, professional practice) to visit the hip “downtown nightclub” scene of the design studios. The jury comprised far more talented designers than me, so I kept my focus and comments on issues of process and outcomes.
The brief was both thrilling and daunting: Design a museum and restaurant complex, including production facilities, for a sake company in historic Kyoto, Japan, on one of two challenging sites facing a shallow river; acknowledge the intricate urban context; solve for the production complexities of the ancient art of sake manufacturing; create a strong work of architecture. And, by the way, make your solution environmentally responsible through clear sustainable design strategies. The morning sake tasting we held before the jury began steeled both the jurors and the students for the intense day ahead.
As I watched our students present their projects, I was amazed at their energy, determination, and facility with almost every challenge of the brief. It was midterm, so many issues were not unexpectedly left unresolved, but few were ignored. Andy and Patrick had guided these 10 folks to unique, provocative, and dare I say even poetic solutions. It was hard for this architect, trained in these same jury pits in the pre-digital age, to believe the sheer skill with which these schemes were iterated, analyzed, evaluated, and presented. There was no question that the students’ development as designers was accelerated by an ability to deploy digital tools—visualization, cogent drawing and diagramming, CNC-model fabrication—in the service of their craft augmented with an array of beautiful hand sketches. All these skills were clearly mutually amplifying. I don’t think any of my final presentations in school were nearly as resolved, nor presented so beautifully.
The jury and students met after the review to discuss more general observations, when I explained that the biggest surprise of the day for me, to wit, was the generally tangential treatment that sustainability received in the solutions. There were the typical gestures to ventilation, the movement of the sun, or attempts to co-locate hot and cold functions in the sake factory, but overall the sustainability challenge received much the same treatment that might have been given if the brief had had a building code requirement—it was considered somehow adjacent to the central problems of the Design with a big “D.” I was reminded of a statement made by one of my professors, Vincent Scully, when I asked him about the importance of “solar architecture,” a design approach popular in the 1970s: “Oh, that’s just plumbing.”
Somehow the digital facility applied to solving the context, planning, massing, and compositional challenges of the brief was nowhere apparent in answering questions of sustainability. A wide array of computational analytical tools is easily available to today’s students, ranging from various Rhino-based Grasshopper scripts, through Energy Plus, to Impact Infrastructure’s AutoCASE. It may be that Patrick and Andy will press this particular part of the pedagogical agenda later in the term. If so, our students would benefit from the advice of juror Michelle Addington, Hines Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design at Yale University School of Architecture, who suggested that the tyranny of the sustainable checklist (such as LEED or BREAM) should lead to choosing a single important green strategy, and making sure that it’s accomplished well. The tools are certainly there to do so.
This seems a reasonable teaching strategy if combined with another requirement: demonstrable outcomes of that given green approach. Today’s digital design tools provide vivid answers to design questions of composition, drawing clarity, senses of three-dimensional space. Analytical algorithms that evaluate the quantitative results of a scheme are the “renderings” of sustainability, with hard and fast results. While those results may be only approximations as a design evolves, they are also a measure of sustainable success or failure. And learning to deliver those results in concert with a skillful design prepares these same students to make the demonstrable value arguments that future practice will demand. This will be a central theme of some of my subsequent columns.
“The project aims to provide potential employees with a robust tool for gaining a sense of which firms will treat them fairly, with respect, and support their development as architects, while giving certified JustDesign firms an edge in attracting the best possible designers.”Planning to release its inaugural list in December of this year, the organization will deploy its operation in two phases; first, solicit nominations online from employees themselves, then certify that the nominated firms comply with “best labor practices.” The initial employee nominations will survey issues such as "labor conditions pertaining to flexibility, agency, fair pay, salary transparency, employee diversity, and family-friendly policies." While the website and its associated documents are light on the specific methodologies to be employed in phase two of the process, or indeed who will be evaluating the firms, the ambition of this program is to cultivate a field that is symbiotically beneficial to workers and employers alike. JustDesign.Us is endorsed by a handful of groups, mostly academic in nature, however has not yet recruited professional organizations such as The American Institute of Architects and The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. The nomination process is not meant to be punitive and will only review positive employee questionnaires, celebrating firms that excel in fair treatment of their employees not shaming companies that underperform in this regard. Nominations for the first round of review are due by July 15.
Final part of Greg Lynn’s exhibition on early digital design goes on view at Yale School of Architecture
Archaeology of the Digital: Complexity and Convention, at the Yale School of Architecture, is presented by the Canadian Centre for Architecture as part of a research project that began in 2013. Curated by Greg Lynn, a professor at UCLA, the exhibition hosts five themes: high fidelity 3-D, structure and cladding, data, photorealism, and topography and topology. It draws from materials that have been built, dissected, and then reassembled in the 1990s and 2000s by international firms such as Van Berkel & Bos Architectuurbureau, OCEAN North, and Office dA. The exhibition will focus on how digital methods were integrated into architectural practice and will address the challenges of preserving digital architectural archives and making them accessible. Complexity and Convention is the final phase of a three-part exhibition.
Archaeology of the Digital: Complexity and Convention Yale School of Architecture 180 York Street, New Haven, Connecticut Through May 7, 2017
This is the inaugural column “Practice Values,” a new bi-monthly series by architect and technologist Phil Bernstein. The column will focus on the evolving role of the architect at the intersection of design and construction, including subjects such as alternative delivery systems and value generation. Bernstein was formerly vice president at Autodesk and now teaches at the Yale School of Architecture.
This semester, I’m teaching a course called “Exploring New Value Propositions for Practice” that’s based on the premise that the changing role of architects in the building industry requires us to think critically about our value as designers in that system. After studying the structure and dynamics of practice business models, the supply chain, and other examples of innovative design enterprises, they’ll be asked to create a business plan for a “next generation” architectural practice. I’m agnostic as to what this practice does per se, as long as it operates somewhere in the constellation of things that architects can do, but there is one constraint—your proposed firm can’t be paid fixed or hourly rate fees. It has to create value (and profit) through some other strategy.
I want our students to think critically about this question of value propositions: Where do architects contribute to the making of buildings and how is the resulting value realized, and to whose benefit? Technology has begun to change those value equations. Increasing reliance on design information created as a result of the architect’s process—the “big data” of design representations, geometry that drives computer-controlled fabrication equipment, “smart building” telemetry—is but one opportunity to argue that architects are the lynchpin of the building delivery system. But we must both design the methods and protocols that demonstrate our value, and as an important result, reap the financial benefits accordingly. This, it seems to me, is a much more direct route to assuring the relevance of architects to architecture, various television marketing campaigns insisting that clients “look up” to really appreciate their architects notwithstanding.
In discussing these ideas with my architectural colleagues I’m often faced with skepticism that puts this perspective in opposition with two perceived realities of practice. First is the assertion that architecture is in essence an artistic, expressive endeavor that will be sullied by considerations of money, business, or even the implications of digital instrumentation on the design process itself. I agree with the first part of this conclusion, but—as you can imagine—I take exception to the second. That design is the core value of the profession isn’t arguable, but also isn’t the point: The more interesting question is how we best empower clients to understand that value, architects to enable it, and other members of the delivery systems of building to rally behind it. And since architects operate in a supply chain (of building purveyors and consumers) that is a complex web of exchanges of money, information, and risk (and therefore value), how does design make us more valued participants?
I recently spoke on a panel with two other architects to a large group of architecture students. When asked what I thought was a critical issue that would face them in their careers, I answered along the lines of the argument above. In response, a panelist declared to the students that architects don’t enter the profession because they’re interested in money, but rather because of their passion for design—and that he never made much money practicing but was far happier in his career than his very well-paid lawyer sister. The message here was clear: An interest in the business of architecture, or, worse, the resulting financial opportunities, is beneath our dignity as passionate designers.
Both of these assertions are false binaries at best, and potentially harmful conclusions to the profession at worst. Every architect wants clients, collaborators, even builders to realize the value of our design work. That’s wishful thinking, however, until we can position ourselves in the systems of delivery—the financial and technical protocols by which the architect’s ideas are built—and make that case. In subsequent columns I’ll explore how we might do so, and design a profession that might better satisfy our passions and, as a result, our pocketbooks.
As part of a four-month-long seminar organized by New York architect and Assistant Dean of the Yale School of Architecture Mark Foster Gage, students investigated new forms of political activism through the design of objects.
The course synopsis began with this quote from Leonardo Da Vinci:
It had long since to come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
By way of some background, in 2014, the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London produced an exhibition titled Disobedient Objects, curated by Catherine Flood. Here, the constraint of urgency amplified the political power of designers' work. Examples included a mask (made from a plastic water bottle) that protects protesters from tear gas and an arrangement of poles that people can climb and avoid being removed from an area by police.
Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), Gage discussed how the October symposium he organized at Yale, titled Aesthetic Activism, explored how architecture’s critical-theory basis for socially engaged design is increasingly ineffectual, as it "merely calls for the revealing of a given social inequality or problem—not a requirement to act to remedy it." "Seeing a problem rarely actually prompts action to solve it," reads the synopsis of his class—an idea that echoes the work of philosopher Jacques Rancière, on whose work the seminar was significantly based.
After guiding students through works by philosophers such as Rancière (who explores the politicization of aesthetics), Elaine Scarry (who wrote Thinking in an Emergency), and Graham Harman and Timothy Morton (significant philosophers in the burgeoning Object Oriented Ontology movement), as well as the more household names from aesthetics including Kant, Fiedler, Burke and Hickey, Gage saw his students produce a series of increasingly politicized design projects that emerged, increasingly, in reaction to the recent election and presidency of Donald Trump.
- A 3-D printed monument of Donald Trump (an ostentatious and vulgar creation laden with authoritarian imagery) and model depicting Rancière's "Distribution of the Sensible" philosophical framework (whereby political perceptions are altered; note Trump's back is turned); both by Robert Smith Waters.
- A ballot box in which only one shape can be placed inside (note the shape of a heart does not fit).
- A protective face mask that offers guidance on what do if arrested on one side and an eye-less smiley face on the other, by Casey Furman.
- Roller-blades that can only go in perpendicular directions, by Claire Haugh.
- A hammock to aid those who climb corporate towers as an act of protest, by Steven McNamara (see AN's coverage of the man who climbed Trump Tower in New York last year).
The Yale School of Architecture has a history of political protests dating back to the 1960’s. This year, numerous large banners of "We won't build your wall" covered the Paul Rudolph–designed structure. Previously, a large banner had read: "United Against Hate." Students also issued a statement in wake of the AIA's initial stance on Trump, saying: “Our profession been plagued by a history of racial and gender inequity. The AIA’s immediate and unquestioning pandering to the Trump administration threatens a continuation of our troubled past and demonstrates a willingness to pursue financial gain at the expense of our values.”
In an interview with Yale School of Architecture’s Paprika! magazine, former dean Robert A.M. Stern recounts a 1969 party in which “I had to peel Denise Scott Brown away from fighting with Paul Rudolph in my apartment over the subject of the way Denise and Bob Venturi had treated Rudolph’s Crawford Manor.” Scott Brown and Venturi had “savaged” the building in Learning From Las Vegas. Stern describes architect Ulrich Franzen telling him: “Bob you better go into the library, Denise is about to kill Paul Rudolph.”