My recent posts at World-Architects


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mark Your Calendars: Arakawa + Gins

On March 30, Columbia GSAPP is hosting a conference and opening an exhibition, both pertaining to Arakawa and Madeline Gins. Details are below.

[Critical Holder Chart 2 (detail), c1991 / Image Credit: © 2017 Estate of Madeline Gins.]

Encounters with Arakawa and Madeline Gins
Conference in Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, at 1pm:
A half-day conference on the occasion of the opening of the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery exhibition Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient. The event convenes architects, artists, historians and writers to offer fresh interpretations of Arakawa and Gins’ work and theories in the context of contemporary practices and scholarship.

Among the conference participants are:
Amale Andraos, Dean of Columbia GSAPP and co-founder of WORKac;
Adrienne Hart, Artistic Director/Choreographer of Neon Dance (London), who is developing a new dance piece that draws on the life and work of Arakawa and Gins;
Momoyo Homma (Tokyo), Director of Co-ordinologist Inc.;
Lucy Ives (New York), an author who is currently editing a collection of writings by Gins;
Andrés Jaque (Madrid/New York), founder of Office for Political Innovation;
Thomas Kelley and Carrie Norman (Chicago/New York), founders of architectural and design office Norman Kelley and exhibition designers of Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient;
Léopold Lambert (Paris), The Funambulist editor and architect, who has written extensively on Arakawa and Gins’ partnership and worked closely with Gins in her later years;
Spyros Papapetros (New York), Associate Professor, History and Theory of Architecture, Princeton University;
Miwako Tezuka (New York), art historian who is Consulting Curator at Reversible Destiny Foundation/Estate of Madeline Gins

Organized by Columbia GSAPP Exhibitions.
Free and open to the public.
Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient
Exhibition opening in Arthur Ross Gallery at 6:30pm:
The exhibition Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient traces the emergence of architecture as a wellspring of creativity and theoretical exploration for the artist Arakawa (1936-2010) and poet and philosopher Madeline Gins (1941-2014).

In the early 1960s, Arakawa and Madeline Gins began a remarkably original and prolific collaboration that spanned nearly five decades and encompassed painting, installations, poetry, literature, architecture, urbanism, philosophy, and scientific research. Complementing their independent artistic and literary practices, Arakawa and Gins' creative partnership launched with visual, semiotic, and tactile experiments that questioned the limits and possibilities of human perception and consciousness. During the 1980s—a critical juncture in their careers—this line of inquiry became increasingly spatial as Arakawa and Gins together developed a series of speculative architectural projects that sought to challenge the bodily and psychological experience of users. Through these investigations, the artists began to articulate their concept of reversible destiny, arguing for the transformative capacity of architecture to empower humans to resist their own deaths.

The exhibition examines this pivotal exploratory period through a stunning array of original drawings—many exhibited for the first time—as well as archival material and writings that illuminate the working methods and wide-ranging research interests of Arakawa and Gins. It uncovers a little-known body of visionary work that anticipated the artists’ subsequent commitment to architecture and their realization of various “sites of reversible destiny,” including Ubiquitous Site-Nagi’s Ryoanji (1994, Okayama, Japan); Yoro Park (1995, Gifu, Japan); Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka (2005, Tokyo, Japan); and Bioscleave House (2008, East Hampton, New York).

Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient features over 40 hand drawings, an architectural model, and archival material including ephemera, research materials, poetry, manuscripts, photographs, slides, and other items drawn from the Estate of Madeline Gins.

The exhibition Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient is organized by Irene Sunwoo, Director of Exhibitions and Tiffany Lambert, Assistant Director of Exhibitions

Exhibition Design: Norman Kelley (Carrie Norman & Thomas Kelley)

Graphic Design: Eline Mul

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mark Your Calendars, Updated

Way back in February 2015 I posted a heads up on three exhibitions coming to the Parrish Art Museum – that barn-shaped building designed by Herzog & de Meuron. One of them, Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture, was slated to run in mid-2017. Turns out, it's not opening until March 18, 2018. So if you thought you missed it – you didn't!

[Iwan Baan, Torre David #2, 2011]

Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture
March 18 – June 17, 2018
Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY
Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture is a comprehensive survey that explores the dynamic relationship between architecture, photography, and the viewer. Seen through the lens of historical and architectural photographers from the 1930s to the present, Image Building offers a nuanced perspective on how photographs affect our understanding of the built environment and our social and personal identities. The exhibition features 57 images that explore the social, psychological, and conceptual implications of architecture through the subjective interpretation of those who captured it.

Organized by guest curator Therese Lichtenstein, Ph. D, Image Building brings together works by 19 renowned, under-recognized, and emerging artists ranging from early modern to contemporary architectural photographers. In addition to photographs, Image Building includes ephemera such as magazines and books that illustrate how the meaning of photography shifts when presented in the context of high art or mass culture.

Organized thematically into Cityscapes, Domestic Spaces, and Public Places, the exhibition examines the relationship between contemporary and historical approaches to photographing buildings in urban, suburban, and rural environments, looking at influences, similarities and differences.By juxtaposing these photographs, Image Building creates a dialogue between the past and present, revealing the ways photography shapes and frames the perception of architecture, and how that perception is transformed over time.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Projective Drawing

This morning I stopped by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York to check out The Projective Drawing, a new exhibition curated by Brett Littman with ten artists responding to Robin Evans's classic 1995 book, The Projective Cast. Head on over to World-Architects to see some photos I took and learn a little bit about the show that's on display until May 13.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Today's archidose #996

Here are a few photos of GLASS (2015) in Miami Beach, Florida, by Rene Gonzalez Architect. (Photos: Maciek Lulko)

Glass Condos
Glass Condos
Glass Condos

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: John Vinci: Life and Landmarks

John Vinci: Life and Landmarks by Robert Sharoff, William Zbaren
Northwestern University Press, 2017
Hardcover, 272 pages

Being a preservation architect means toiling in relative obscurity. After all, it's the details of what is being preserved – the building, the creation of a particularly architect, the place where a famous event took place or a person lived – that are at the forefront of a preservation project, not the person in charge of its restoration. Gunny Harboe, for instance, is known by just about all architects in Chicago, but outside of the city his is hardly a common name, even though he's been responsible for the restoration of buildings by Wright, Mies, and many others. Ditto John Vinci, who's restored many notable buildings but was responsible for one in particular – the Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room – that I first experienced as a teenager, on a field trip to the Art Institute. I learned that the space and building it came from were designed by Louis Sullivan; that the original was demolished in the 1970s; and that photographer and preservationist Richard Nickel died while salvaging some architectural artifacts from it (a floor collapsed and buried him in the basement for three weeks before his body was found). But did I know architect John Vinci was behind the removal of the original Trading Room and its reconstruction in the Art Institute addition? Nope, not until this amazing book on Vinci by Robert Sharoff and William Zbaren.

One thing that separates Vinci's firm, Vinci Hamp Architects, from Harboe Architects and other firms specializing in preservation is that Vinci also tackles new construction – he is not just a preservation architect. With his new buildings I had more familiarity. His most high-profile commission in this vein is the Arts Club of Chicago, located one block east of Michigan Avenue in the Streeterville neighborhood. It was completed in 1997, the year I moved back to Chicago after architecture school; I took a job in the area and therefore walked by the building a few times a week. While I didn't love the building immediately (I was fresh from an education steeped in Deconstructivism and therefore found it timid), it grew on me over time, as I saw exhibitions in the ground-floor galleries and got to eat lunch in the second-floor dining room a couple times. Connecting the two floors is a stair designed by Mies van der Rohe and salvaged from the Arts Club's previous location. The stair sits in the heart of the building, paralleling the way preservation exists in Vinci's heart. The stair echoes what he did decades earlier with Sullivan's Trading Room and the Art Institute, but in a minimally modern manner that permeates the rest of the building.

Crossing Through Colors
[My 2006 photo of Daniel Buren's "Crossing Through Colors" on display at the Arts Club of Chicago, with Mies's stair in the background.]

Although the statement that preservation exists in Vinci's heart may seem a bit sappy (I'm writing this on Valentine's Day, too), it's pretty accurate – not only because of the energy he has devoted to preservation, but because of the insight yielded by Robert Sharoff's essay that starts this book. We learn about Vinci from his upbringing on Chicago's South Side (he attended IIT because it was in his neighborhood) to the 2010 publication of The Complete Architecture of Adler & Sullivan, an unfinished book by Aaron Siskind and his friend Richard Nickel that he resurrected after a nearly 40-year hiatus and completed with the Richard Nickel Committee. Vinci, like many architects in Chicago, worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill after graduating from IIT. But as we learn in the essay, he spent more time boycotting the demolition of a Sullivan building than carrying out his entry-level tasks as SOM. (Not surprisingly, he lasted only six months at SOM.)

That Vinci's portfolio spans the opposite poles of historic preservation and new construction makes him a unique architect – in Chicago or elsewhere. His understanding of history is deep – not just canonical and far from superficial – it infuses his original creations, and, Sharoff writes, "it is that which separates him from the orthodox modernists of his generation and lends his work its peculiar power and richness." That richness is captured vividly in Life and Landmarks by photographer William Zbaren. He and Sharoff have co-authored numerous handsome coffee table books over the years, such as those on Mies and St. Louis, but here they have outdone themselves. The mix of biography and monograph – the former in Sharoff's essay and the latter in about twenty projects presented in photos, drawings, and text – is far from atypical, but it's done so well that learning about Vinci's life and work is a treat. Credit for the book's quality should be extended to the publisher, Northwestern University Press, and the designer, Studio Blue, who have packaged and laid out Sharoff's words and Zbaren's photos with an attention to detail that suitably parallels the work of Vinci himself.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Today's archidose #995

Here are a few photos of House Van Wassenhove (1974) in Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium, by Juliaan Lampens. (Photos: Lukas Schlatter)

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Friday, February 09, 2018

Book Review: Neighbourhood: Where Álvaro meets Aldo

Neighbourhood: Where Álvaro meets Aldo edited by Nuno Grande, Roberto Cremascoli
Hatje Cantz, 2017
Paperback, 208 pages

Of the many countries that participate in the Venice Architecture Biennale, Portugal is one of those that does not have a home in the Giardini. As such, it ventures out into the city for a venue – not necessarily a bad thing, since it spreads out the exhibition beyond the confines of the Giardini and Arsenale and further embeds the exhibition in the city. In 2016, Portugal's contribution to the Biennale was located on Giudecca, the long island that, outside of Palladio's Il Redentore, doesn't see as many tourists as the rest of Venice. Curators Nuno Grande and Roberto Cremascoli did this for a good reason though: they wanted to draw attention to an unfinished work by Alvaro Siza, Portugal's most famous modern architect.

[Exhibition at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale | Photo: John Hill]

Neighbourhood: Where Alvaro meets Aldo occupied a portion (photo above) of Siza's competition-winning project for a residential development (the renovation of Campo di Marte) on Giudecca. Siza broke down the project into four parts and brought in three other architects (Carlo Aymonino, Rafael Moneo, and Aldo Rossi) to design other pieces. This happened in 1985, but only the designs of the two Italian architects were realized, making the meeting of Alvaro and Aldo, who died in 1997, a somewhat sad one. Well, not entirely, since the actions of Grande and Cremascoli led to the rejuvenation of Siza's building and the partial completion of it before the exhibition opened in May 2016.

[Size visiting residents of his "Bonjour Tristesse" project in Berlin | Photo: Nicolò Galeazzi]

The exhibition and book of the same name go beyond the residential project in Venice to include projects in Berlin, the Hague, and Porto. All four cities are host to Siza projects, while all but Porto are home to Rossi residential buildings. Therefore the selection of cities/projects by Grande, who is from Portugal, and Cremascoli, who is from Italy, accentuates the relationship between the two architects who were born only two years apart. Unfortunately, but understandably given Rossi's premature death 21 years ago, the book is focused almost entirely on Siza (the same might have been the case with the exhibition, but I don't recall and my photos don't capture enough to elucidate things). This situation is further understandable given the format the curators adopted: following Siza on post-occupany-type visits (photo above) to all four of the residential projects. That said, it would have been great if Siza also visited residents of the Rossi projects to further bridge the work of the two architects.

[My pamphlets from the Biennale exhibition]

The book is basically split up into five sections: "Where Alvaro meets Aldo" followed by the four projects/cities: Campo di Marte, Giudecca, Venice, 1983/2016; Schilderswijk, The Hague, 1984/2016; Schlesisches Tor, Kreuzberg, Berlin, 1980/2016; and Bouça, Porto, 1973/2016; followed by an essay by architect Vittorio Gregotti and a portfolio of photos and film stills on Siza's visits. Those who visited the exhibition, like me, and picked up the pamphlets (photo above) will not find much new; most of the essays and some of the images in the book can be found there. But, of course, the book shares the exhibitions with a wider audience – and does it in a handsome package that elevates the importance of the trips Siza made at the behest of Grande and Cremascoli.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Book Review: Built Unbuilt

Built Unbuilt by Julien De Smedt and Julien Lanoo
Frame Publishers, 2017
Paperback, 328 pages

Back in 2011, when I reviewed JDS Architects' Agenda: Can We Sustain Our Ability to Crisis? alongside a few other monographs, I described the format of Agenda as a "diary."& That book's many projects by Julien De Smedt – both on his own and with Bjarke Ingels as PLOT – were structured via timeline: a year in the life of JDS that started with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. The new monograph, Built Unbuilt, sets aside a chronological format in favor of two halves: built works and unbuilt projects. Nevertheless, parts of the book have a casualness that makes them read like a diary.

[Spread from "Built"]

The first half of the book, "Built," is where the co-authorship comes across: Julien De Smedt is the architect, the head of the firm that designed the buildings, and Julien Lanoo is the photographer capturing them in context and in use. The photos come across as most important on these pages, since the words and drawings are minimal, the photos take up the most real estate (usually one to a page but sometimes, as with Casa Jura above, filling a two-page spread), and therefore the photos are the primary means for readers to understand JDS's built works. There are about 30 buildings and pieces of furniture in the book, ranging from chairs and tables to housing and a ski jump.

[Spread from "Unbuilt"]

The second half of the book, "Unbuilt," is where the monograph makes a turn toward a diary. The short descriptions, drawings, and photos of the first half give way to a first-person narrative by De Smedt called "50 Shades of Trace" (followed by the primarily visual "Introspections" that documents over 25 projects from 2001 to 2017). It is a highly enjoyable read that highlights what is missing in monographs today (and perhaps has always been missing): a point of view, honesty, a bit of modesty, stories, and reflection. Drawings and model views of the unbuilt PLOT and JDS projects accompany the chronological essay, helping to pull the reader along but also tracking the evolution of De Smedt's evolving design and visual sense.

But most important in "Unbuilt" is the acknowledgment of the importance of unbuilt projects. Architectural history is full of them (Boullee's Newton Cenotaph, the Tatlin Tower, almost anything by Lebbeus Woods), but the lessons learned on the part of the architects are usually secret. Here they are revealed for all they were worth, be it in dealing with clients, hitting deadlines, or retaining an optimistic perspective even when so much time has been devoted to designs that will never move beyond the foam cutter.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Today's archidose #994

Here are some photos of La città lineare per Santa Croce (1969) by Zziggurat (Alberto Breschi, Roberto Pecchioli) from Radical Utopias Beyond Architecture: Florence 1966–1976, which closed on January 21 at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. (Photos: Trevor Patt, who has lots of photos of the exhibition in his "Utopie Radicali" Flickr set.)


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Saturday, February 03, 2018

Window to the Heart

Window to the Heart

On Thursday the tenth annual Times Square Valentine Heart Design was unveiled. I didn't make it to the press event that morning, but I did head there yesterday afternoon. I'm glad I did, because the installation's presence is more impressive after the sun goes down – appropriately so, given its location.

Window to the Heart

Window to the Heart is the creation of ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho with Formlabs, with Laufs Engineering Design as structural engineer. This year's competition was curated by Design Trust for Public Space. Billed as "the world’s largest lens," the 12-foot-diameter installation was designed by ArandaLasch with 3D-printing manufacturer Formlabs "to distort and capture the image of Times Square, optically bending light – and attention – to the heart-shaped window at its center."

Window to the Heart

With this goal in mind, the resulting effect is hard to grasp during the day:
Window to the Heart

But is more understandable once the sun goes down:
Window to the Heart

Times Square Arts, which commissioned the piece, describes Times Square as "one of the world's most Instagrammed places." Going along with that, the annual Heart entices people (couples, mainly) already looking for a photo opportunity to step up to the installation and use it as a frame for their sweetheart shot. I could have taken shots like this all evening:
Window to the Heart

Though I preferred this view of the installation, where people had to awkwardly crouch in order to pose at the level of the heart cutout (intentional on the part of the designers?):
Window to the Heart

Although the installation looks like glass (as most lenses tend to be), Window to the Heart was 3D-printed at a high resolution by Formlabs using clear resin. In turn, it's profile is close to nonexistent:
Window to the Heart

Window to the Heart is on display at Father Duffy Square in Times Square until February 28, 2018.