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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Curious Minds

Seeing this photos of MUMA Architects' community center in Cambridge, England, via today's Dezeen Daily...

[Photo: Alan Williams]

...I couldn't help think of this photo of Antoine Predock's Ventana Vista Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona:

[Photo: Timothy Hursley (I think)]

Uniting the two are the small, low apertures that enable children to peer through them, instances captured by both photographers. With that, I decided to look around for similar images, finding the ones below. My point here is that it behooves architects designing early education buildings to cater apertures to curious minds, not just furniture and fixtures. These examples show that many architects are already doing just that.

New Building for Nursery and Kindergarten in Zaldibar by Hiribarren-Gonzalez + Estudio Urgari:

[Photo: Egoin]

El Guadual Children Center by Daniel Joseph Feldman Mowerman and Iván Dario Quiñones Sanchez:

[Photo: Ivan Dario Quiñones Sanchez]

Guardería de Vélez-Rubio by LosdelDesierto:

[Photo: Jesús Granda]

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dancing with Barragán

The timing of this is too good to pass up. Yesterday NOWNESS posted a film by Andres Arochi in which dancers move in slow motion about Luis Barragán's house and studio in Mexico City.



And tonight I'm heading to see Jill Magid's The Proposal as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. In the documentary, part of the larger The Barragán Archives project, the artist "explores the contested legacy of Luis Barragán ... and how his legacy is affected by the fact that a private corporation, Vitra, owns his archives and controls the rights in his name and work." Look for a review of the film in a week or two.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Old+New Book Review: Paul Shepheard

What Is Architecture? An Essay on Landscapes, Buildings, and Machines by Paul Shepheard
MIT Press, 1994
Paperback, 132 pages

Buildings: Between Living Time and Rocky Space by Paul Shepheard
Circa Press, 2016
Hardcover, 180 pages



"There is a scale of things all to do with the land, at on end of which are the forces of nature, the perception of which, at any given place, I would call landscape. At the other end of the scale are the local difficulties solved, and the opportunities opened, by our use of machines — and somewhere in between are the buildings, which, if conceived grandly and accurately enough, can extend outward to embrace each end of the scale. Landscapes, buildings, and machines."
This quote falls on page 41 of What Is Architecture? and it serves as a decent encapsulation of the three subjects Paul Shepheard tackles in the popular book. The book came out in 1994, when I was in the middle of earning my architecture degree, and it became a popular text for discussion in classes, particularly before and after Shepheard gave a lecture at our school, an event I've referred to in the past. These three subjects — landscapes, buildings, machines — were not just fodder for his first book; they served as topics for three of his subsequent books: The Cultivated Wilderness" Or, What is Landscape? (MIT Press, 1997), Artificial Love: A Story of Machines and Architecture (MIT Press, 2003), and, most recently, Buildings: Between Living Time and Rocky Space. Although I've yet to read the middle two books, these four books could be seen as one work: the first an exposition of the three subjects and each of the following delving into the subjects deeper. But with Shepheard, things are not exactly what they seem. So a clear framework or distinction between the books such as this belies their complexity and the enjoyable nature of Shepheard's writing and his enlightening points of view.

The question posed by his first book points to it being an introductory textbook or something that gives laypeople a handle on an important profession. While What Is Architecture? could (and should) be read by those camps, it came at a time when architecture was grappling with an identity crisis of sorts, theorizing itself through such areas as literary criticism. Shepheard therefore aims to define the limits of architecture, even as he opens it beyond the design of buildings. Ironically, he departs from just about every convention of architectural writing in the way he argues those limits, resulting in a book that is refreshing and revealing. The author speaks sometimes in first person, something that many works of architectural theory shy away from, while the stories he tells blend history, fiction, and observation — a unique melange that really doesn't need any more boasting nearly 25 years later.

Much of the same can be said about Buildings, which Shepheard admits in the Prologue to being "not analytical, but descriptive" and "not about architects and architecture but about buildings." This isn't to say Shepheard doesn't delve into landscape and machines; his approach to thinking about architecture weds the three together. A case in point is the chapter "Mathematics," one of six chapters in the book's second part, which makes up most of the book and involves "six motives that drive the action of building." (The others are "Mimetica," "Money," "Majority," "Making" and "Military.") He discusses mathematics through a narrative with two characters (Geek and Fanny), who look at the stars, visit Stonehenge, and end up working (Geek, at least) at CERN in Switzerland. There are landscapes, buildings, and machines, tied together through numbers and angles — well, almost tied together. Shepheard's exploration reveals how mathematics can't quite serve as a universal model of the reality inside and around us.

What Is Architecture? is a book to be read cover to cover, such is the way Shepheard builds up his argument throughout the book. But Buildings is a book that can be read in this manner or delved into here and there. I took the latter route, finding topics and buildings portraits (one per chapter) that were of interest and then jumping around the book in roughly descending order of interest. The compact stories work well for this approach, eschewing any grand linear narrative in favor of illustrative vignettes to ponder after reading. Nevertheless, the book's Epilogue offers some concluding thoughts, some mildly optimistic ways of moving forward.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Of Architecture and Pelicans

Somehow, in the course of reading email, checking Twitter and doing other things on the computer when I got to work this morning, I got off on the tangent of looking at covers of architecture books — specifically those produced by Pelican in the 1950s and 60s.

The small paperbacks, of which I have a two or three, are visually appealing. In turn, the designs of the covers have been compiled on websites and make up many a Pinterest and Flickr board. But most of the attention focuses fittingly on the graphic design rather than the content of the books. Accordingly, Pelican architecture books were scattered here and there.

That's when I decided to find some (though far from all) of the Pelican architecture and urbanism titles, put them together in a grid, and see how they relate to each other. Doing that, I present this grid of 18 books without comment, only to say that some of the covers (namely Georgian London and London: The Unique City) had to be cropped to fit the grid.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Building Tall in Manhattan, eVolo Style

While four honorable mentions in the eVolo 2018 Skyscraper Competition are focused on Manhattan, only one comes close to approaching a traditional skyscraper. The others, like the first place winner in 2016 that proposed a horizontal skyscraper around Central Park, take a more liberal approach to designing "skyscrapers."

Additive Effect: 3D-printed Skyscrapers:

These skyscrapers littering Manhattan would be built by everybody's favorite 21st-century technology: 3D printing. At such a scale, the towers would take time to "print," so they take on a striated appearance. Yet instead of housing apartments or offices, the skyscrapers would serve as factories for creating cartridges for 3D printing from waste, part of which would be used for the factories' skins. In other words, the towers express what they do — and apparently illustrate a future where just about everything is printed and therefore requires such factories.

Manhattan Ridge: Affordable Housing for Commuters:

Affordable housing is one of those big issues that hasn't found an architectural solution (if one exists). But that doesn't stop people from trying. Asserting that "People who work in Manhattan deserve a home in Manhattan," the designers propose linear buildings propped on giant columns that form "ridges" along the island's north-south avenues (Fifth Avenue is illustrated). Considerations of access and egress and other practicalities aren't even worth addressing in such a proposal, but I'm floored at how the design fills in those valuable slots of sunlight that the city's zoning code protects. Setting aside this and other criticisms, the proposal makes me think: If affordable housing requires such an extreme approach, the problem is even bigger than I thought.

Community as a Cloud:

Although some visions of Manhattan have proposed sky bridges (Hugh Ferriss and the RPA's Urban Design plan in the 1960s come to mind), this project appears to do it as a critique of the city. The designers write: "Those heavy and high volumes with vertical lines as well as programs for commerce represents de-humanity," and: "On the other hand, a village’s horizontal and natural form seems have more connections to human beings." So, if Manhattan is dehumanizing, cap its tall buildings with some village-like forms and — voila — life is affirmed!

Revealing the Boundaries:

This last project is the most practical, and I'm guessing it comes from Columbia GSAPP students. It adds a U-shaped structure to the north edge of Columbia's Morningside campus, a "gigantic movement [that] transforms each of the differently functioning buildings into an aggregated entity, and at the same time gives the campus block a new uniformity." Although that "uniformity" is questionable aesthetically, I'll give the designers credit that they limited their proposal to the buildings north of the McKim, Mead & White buildings that were realized as part of their masterplan; aside from Rafael Moneo's Northwest Corner Building, there are a lot of stinkers along the north edge of campus.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book Briefs #35: Better Late Than Never

"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with two- or three-sentence first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than can find their way into reviews on this blog. This installment features books I received years ago but never got around to posting about — until now.



African Modernism: The Architecture of Independence. Ghana, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia edited by Manuel Herz | Park Books | 2015 | Amazon
Although the size of a coffee table book and graced by full-page Iwan Baan photographs, African Modernism is a deep, scholarly work, not just something to flip through. Focused on the five subtitled African countries that gained their independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s (5 of 32 countries on the continent that did so), the book examines how architecture played a role in expressing their independence and modernity. Each country is given an introduction, a timeline, a photo spread by Baan, documentation of important buildings in photos (most by Baan) and words, and an in-depth academic essay. Though many buildings show signs of wear (not surprising, given the time between their realization and today), the architectural quality is astounding. That the buildings in the book are largely unknown points to a deficit in architectural education and publishing — and the need for more books like this one and Adjaye Africa Architecture.

The Architecture of Paul Rudolph by Timothy M. Rohan | Yale University Press | 2014 | Amazon
A lot has happened in the four years since this book's publication: Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago was demolished, Paul Rudolph's own Orange County Government Center was maligned through a partial demolition and insensitive addition, and the famed Robin Hood Gardens was demolished. A new exhibition, in fact, hones in on the demolition of Brutalist structures, something that books like Rohan's haven't been able to reverse. This isn't to say that saving Rudolph's buildings and others like it was Rohan's goal, but as Alexandra Lange points out in her 2014 review of The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, "it's a timely publication." That times seems to have slid by rapidly, but given that 2018 is the centennial of Rudolph's birth, we might just see a renewed appreciation in his work. If so, Rohan's thorough, well-researched book will surely play a part.

The Broad: An Art Museum Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro edited by Joanne Heyler with Ed Schad and Chelsea Beck | The Broad/Prestel | 2015 | Amazon
Like African Modernism, this book devoted to DS+R's Broad museum in Los Angeles relies upon the photography of Iwan Baan for much of its appeal. In fact, the book's Introduction starts on page 63, coming after 62 pages of Baan's photos — many of them full-bleed and double-page. Following those pieces is a roundtable discussion on the building with Eli Broad, Liz Diller, Paul Goldberger, and book editor Joanne Heyler. After that are essays by Aaron Betsky and Joe Day, more Baan photos, drawings, and construction photos (not by Baan) that show what went into make such a photogenic building — or, in Betsky's words, "a veiled icon."



Brodsky & Utkin by Alexander Brodsky, Ilya Utkin | Princeton Architectural Press | 2015 | Amazon
I'm not certain when I first learned about Russian Architects Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin. Maybe it was in a 2005 blog post at Pruned. For sure it was well after the title that Princeton Architectural Press put out on the duo in the early 1990s, as well as the 2003 first edition they put out and then printed again (with new Preface) in 2015. The duo's intricate etchings are more art than architecture (they're represented by Feldman Gallery, after all), though many were submissions for architectural competitions hosted by Shinkenchiku and others in the 1980s. At 9x12 inches, the book isn't small, but with so many layers of information in their images it could easily be twice as large.

Le Corbusier, Homme de Lettres by M. Christine Boyer | Princeton Architectural Press | 2010 | Amazon
When I received this book way back in 2010, I had every intention of reading the whole thing — all 702 pages (780 pages with notes and index). Well, life got in the way and I only got through two of the book's twelve chapters before putting it down and, unfortunately, not returning to it again. I recall those hundred or so pages being — though not an easy read — certainly an enjoyable one. Boyer managed to mine Le Corbusier's original documents and discuss them in a way that pulls the reader along. A strong interest in Le Corbusier and his writings (the book focuses on 1907-1947) helps greatly; though there are plenty of architects out there meeting that criteria.

Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns by Victor Dover, John Massengale | Wiley | 2013 | Amazon
If this book came out in 2006 rather than at the end of 2013, I just might have used it as a reference while in graduate school for urban design. Much of my work on our class project located in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, looked at the town's streets: all varying degrees of depressing. While it's hard to imagine the many examples peppering the book by Dover and Massengale being directly applicable to a frontier oil town in the Amazon jungle, it's hard to deny their assertion that "making good streets comes naturally to people." The focus in their book is clearly on improving towns, suburbs, and cities in the United States, though the examples are culled from other countries as well. Although the authors focus on design in a primarily neo-traditional manner (much of it culled from Dover's practice), it's hard to argue with their general approach to give more parts of streets back to pedestrians and turn them into healthier places to be.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A305 Complete

The Canadian Centre for Architecture has just wrapped up posting the series A305, aka "History of Architecture and Design 1890-1939," on its YouTube channel. The 24 programs created by the Open University originally aired on BBC2 between 1975 and 1982. The CCA uploaded them as part of its exhibition, The University Is Now on Air: Broadcasting Modern Architecture, which was on display until the beginning of April.



Head to my A305 post from January to watch all 24 episodes.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

#TBT to NWA

Last summer I visited Crystal Bridges of American Art in Bentonville, in Northwest Arkansas, but I didn't get around to processing my photographs until this month. An unexpected gem from the visit was the welcome pavilion for Frank Lloyd Wright's Bachman-Wilson House, designed by students at the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design. Below are my photos and a video by the University of Arkansas.



Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Are You the Next Eva?

Recently the Storefront for Art and Architecture's Executive Director and Chief Curator Eva Franch i Gilabert was appointed Director of the Architectural Association in London. Her new position means the Storefront needs a new director — its fifth director following Franch, Joseph Grima, Sarah Herda, and co-founders Kyong Park and Shirin Neshat.

Franch took her position at Storefront in 2010 and in the ensuing eight years she oversaw a staggering number of exhibitions, publications, and other projects, including the OfficeUS, the US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Her last undertaking at Storefront will be the New York Architecture Book Fair, set to take place in June.



The job posting from storefrontnews.org:
Storefront for Art and Architecture is seeking a Director who is an ambitious visionary, a curatorial risk-taker, and a dynamic leader, and who will continue and expand Storefront’s position as an innovative and fearless platform for debate and exploration of ideas at the intersection of contemporary art, architecture and design.

The Director is expected to expend their full professional time and efforts to advance the interests of Storefront and ensure its proper management. The duties of the Director include creating and overseeing an expansive program of exhibitions, talks, performances, events, publications and related activities; managing Storefront’s programs and operations; identifying opportunities for extending Storefront’s mission through the development of new initiatives; fundraising for programs and operations (in concert with the Board); hiring and managing Storefront’s staff; attending all meetings of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee; and working together to advance the objectives of the Institution.

The successful candidate will have relevant curatorial or related experience; an international perspective and network in the realms of art, architecture and design; excellent interpersonal, team participation, staff and project management skills; eagerness to collaborate; strong presentation and communication skills; experience in innovative communication and media praxis; ability to develop focused programming; aptitude to cultivate local and international constituencies; a talent for organization and considerable personal drive; an acute understanding of and commitment to fundraising for the gallery’s programs and operations; the desire and ability to closely collaborate with Storefront for Art and Architecture’s Board of Directors.

Benefits and Salary
The successful candidate’s salary will be determined in conjunction with the search committee and will reflect the candidate’s background and experience. A comprehensive benefits package will also be provided.

Applying for the Position
To apply for this position, please email a curriculum vitae and a one-page letter of interest as a single PDF to: search@storefrontnews.org

Application Deadline: May 4, 2018

Monday, April 09, 2018

Book Review: The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion

The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion by Interboro Partners (Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore)
Actar, 2017
Hardcover, 460 pages



Back in 2011, Interboro Partners won MoMA PS1's Young Architects Program, installing "Holding Pattern" in the courtyard of the Long Island City, Queens, institution that summer. Although seven years old, the installation comes to mind when reviewing their new book, The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion, for a few reasons: It was the first I'd heard of Brooklyn's Interoboro; "Holding Pattern" was accompanied by a mural designed by Lesser Gonzalez to visually explain the installation's concept, a diagram very similar to the one he made for the book's cover and accompanying foldout poster; and although the installation's most striking feature was the "soaring hyperboloid" of fabric over the courtyard, its most lasting impact came from the furnishings and other elements (kiddie pools, ping pong tables, lounges, etc.) below the fabric canopy, pieces that were determined and designed following input from MoMA PS1 neighbors and then donated to them after the installation was taken down. The motive behind the last — that objects from a temporary architecture installation are given a second life with people who could probably care less about architecture, much less the kind commissioned by MoMA — is clearly aligned with Interboro's new book.



The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion is an encyclopedia-like collection of "weapons" that either exclude or invite people from doing things — or just being — in public spaces. Although not explicitly categorized as one or the other, most of the weapons — from "Armrest" and "Bouncer" to "Saggy Pants Ban" and "Ultrasonic Noise" — clearly fall into the exclusionary camp (some, it could be argued, encompass both exclusion and inclusion). Authored primarily by Interboro's Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca and Georgeen Theodore (with Riley Gold), the book has more than fifty contributors penning some of the main entries in yellow (per the spread above) and the "Bonus Materials" that are highlighted in pink. More information is literally layered over the yellow and pink columns in the form of bubbles that have references to weapons elsewhere in "the Arsenal."


[Foldout poster by Lesser Gonzalez]

With an A to Z format, dozens of entries, and layers of textual and visual information, it's easy to see The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion as a reference, something to be consulted now and again when wanting to know a little more about "Covenents, Conditions, and Restrictions" or "Lavender-Lining." But the entries are too short (though all are accompanied by bibliographic references) and polemical to be definitive resources. So to better make the book something to be read — and read as an argument — Interboro provides six "tours" through the Arsenal. One, for instance, tackles racial segregation, while another is focused on increasing accessibility (a very inclusive tour). These tours are called out subtly with numbers next to the author (note numbers 3 and 6 in the spread above), but readers can also follow the overlaid bubbles in a choose-your-own-adventure manner, thereby jumping from "Armrest" to "Sprinkler" to "Curb Cut" and so on. Whatever tactic readers take, they should come away with an appreciation for the importance of (public) space, a realization that it is often shaped by one group of people at the expense of another, and that, as prevalent as exclusionary practices may be, Interboro and many others today are pushing against them with ammunition for creating a more inclusive society.