Friday, March 27, 2015

Latin America in Construction

Latin America in Construction
[All photographs by John Hill – see more in my Flickr set on the exhibition.]

Earlier in the week I got a preview of the MoMA exhibition Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980, opening Sunday and running until July 19, 2015. The large-scale show, located on the museum's sixth floor (where Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes took place two years ago), is notable for being Barry Bergdoll's swan song at MoMA, although he organized the show with a number of people: Patricio del Real, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art; Jorge Francisco Liernur, Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Carlos Eduardo Comas, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil; as well as an advisory committee from across Latin America.

The show is also notable for being the first time MoMA has devoted a single exhibition to Latin American architecture since 1955, when it staged Latin American Architecture since 1945, "a landmark survey of modern architecture in Latin America." But where that show focused on contemporary architecture, this one is historical, looking back to 25 years of architectural production, from the year of that exhibition to the early days of Postmodernism and the Thatcher/Reagan years. In MoMA's words, Latin America saw in these years, "self-questioning, exploration, and complex political shifts [and] the emergence of the notion of Latin America as a landscape of development, one in which all aspects of cultural life were colored in one way or another by this new attitude to what emerged as the 'Third World.'" This embrace of politics, economics and planning, in addition to some amazing architecture, is evident in an elaborate model depicting the "Development Equation" that is hung on a wall outside the entrance to the exhibition:
Latin America in Construction
[At the entrance to the exhibition is the "Development Equation" (1960) by Carlos Gomez Gavazzo.]

Stepping inside the sliding glass doors, the museum goer is confronted by a partly darkened room with video screens and overlapping sounds, the exhibition's "prelude." A map of South and Central America is visible on the floor, moving from south to north. Bergdoll, in remarks to the press on Tuesday, referred to this map as "corrected," as it is not seen from the perspective of a visitor from the northern hemisphere. The relationship of the north to the south is an important one, since it establishes that, even with the help of his fellow curators, Bergdoll is looking from the outside in, making up for what he described as an education, three degrees and all, that was deficient in learning about Latin American architecture. It also defines limitations on the projects included in the exhibition, the main one being that buildings designed by European, North American and other outsider architects for the region are not included; the focus is on architects working locally and, in the very last part of the show, their ideas and work being exported to other continents.

The seven videos forming a curve in one corner of the room are one of the exhibition's many pieces I need to return to (the whole show is too much to take in during a short press preview). While only 8-1/2 minutes long, the brief visit on Tuesday did not allow enough time to absorb what these films filled with archival materials are trying to say about each city, country and the region as a whole. Suffice to say, Forsyte's editing produces overlaps at times, visually illustrating the overlap that often occurs between the various Latin American countries.

Latin America in Construction
[The first room of the exhibition includes seven screens with city portraits created by Joey Forsyte and consisting of archive materias on Buenos Aires, Montevideo, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Havana, and Mexico City.]

After the prelude, the exhibition moves into a section on "Campuses," focusing on planning projects, particularly university cities. Logically the next gallery is devoted to Brasilia, which is documented with original, browning plans by Lucio Costa, drawings by Oscar Niemeyer, models and photographs:
Latin America in Construction
[Construction photographs of Brasilia by Marcel Andre Felix Gautherot.]

Latin America in Construction
[Brasilia room, with the bulk of the exhibition lying beyond the opening.]

But the galleries on Campuses and Brasilia give just a taste of the exhibition, which opens into a large space with flowing galleries and walls left open on the top, like a metaphor of the words "in construction" in the exhibition's title. Here are a handful of general views of the exhibition, which is comprised mainly of two parts: "Latin American in Development: 1955-1980" and "A Quarter Century of Housing," the former interspersed among the gray walls and the latter covering the long yellow wall:
Latin America in Construction
Latin America in Construction
Latin America in Construction
Latin America in Construction
Latin America in Construction

The various projects highlighted in the exhibition are explained through photographs, drawings that "the curatorial team has culled [from] archives and architectural offices throughout the region," and models made especially for the show by students at the University of Miami and the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile. The last are particularly large, built as sectional models that are lifted upon bases to eye level, allowing glances directly into the interior spaces:
Latin America in Construction
[Model of Headquarters for the Banco de Londres y América del Sur, Buenos Aires (1966) by Clorinda Testa and SEPRA Arquitectos.]

Latin America in Construction
[Model of Cultural Center San Martin (1964) in Buenos Aires by Mario Roberto Alvarez.]

Latin America in Construction
[Model of Faculdade de Arquitectura e Urbanismo, Universidade de São Paulo (1969) by João Batista Vilanova Artigas and Carlos Cascaldi.]

Latin America in Construction
[Model of Edificio Altolar, Caracas (1966) by Jimmy Alcock.]

Additionally, there is a side gallery "At Home with the Architect":
Latin America in Construction
[Peering into the gallery devoted to houses for architects; the large photograph is Henry Klumb's own house (1950) in Puerto Rico.]

The last two galleries are small ones, devoted to "Export":
Latin America in Construction
[Original model of Mexican Pavilion, Milan (1968) by Eduardo Terrazas.]

And "Utopia":
Latin America in Construction
[Project for the first city in Antarctica (1980-83) by Amancio Williams]

Outside the gallery, on the back of the wall where the "Development Equation" is mounted, are projected images from MoMA's #ArquiMoMA Instagram Project, which asked people to share "images of buildings featured in the exhibition, to show their current context and how people see and use them today." The slowly changing images, much like the web page linked above, are a fitting addendum to the exhibition, since they further maintain a focus on the local, given that most photographs are probably taken by residents of Latin America. The photos also illustrate – as do the models and other media inside the exhibition proper – just how fresh and formally innovative the architecture produced in the years 1955 to 1980 was in the region. It's impossible to consider the current wave of formally exciting and socially innovative architecture in Latin America without acknowledging the work produced in the 25 years covered here. It's a shame it took MoMA so long to do so, but visitors are better off for the work of Bergdoll and his collaborators on compiling this exhaustive show, one I could only scratch the surface of here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley

Tonight is the opening of the exhibition The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley, on display at the Center for Architecture until June 20, 2015. The show is organized by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), which has an excellent microsite devoted to an exhibition that has been shown at several institutions around the country, including the National Building Museum. For those in NYC, the opening takes place from 6pm to 8pm this evening.


[Dan Kiley at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO | Photo: Aaron Kiley, courtesy of TCLF]
The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley

Dan Kiley (1912-2004) worked with equally significant architects, including Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn, and I.M. Pei, to create internationally-acknowledged Modernist icons. His design legacy is substantial, influential, and, like the broad swath of our Modernist-designed landscape legacy, ephemeral. The exhibition honors Kiley and his legacy and calls attention to the need for informed and effective stewardship of his work - and by extension Modernist landscape design.

The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley prompts questions and discussions about responsible stewardship, which is central to TCLF’s mission. While some Kiley designs are dying quiet deaths, others are extremely well maintained or require only modest attention to achieve their brilliance once again. The exhibition features dozens of recent photographs by noted artists such as Marion Brenner, Todd Eberle, Millicent Harvey, and Alan Ward that document the current state of 27 of Kiley’s more than 1,000 designs, including New York projects like the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller University.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What's in a Shape?

A couple days ago the LA Times published Peter Zumthor's revised design for the ~$600 million LACMA expansion. The Swiss architect generated the initial 2013 design as a sort of homage to the adjacent tar pits, so a lot of folks ended up calling the undulating shape an oil spill or oil slick. Not anymore: Christopher Hawthorne, in the article linked above, writes that the "LACMA design now looks less like an exaggerated version of a tar pit and more like a Chinese-language character or other strong calligraphic gesture."


[Site plan of LACMA | Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner]

But does it? To take a stab at determining what this latest shape might resemble I focused on the building outline and simplified it, per the images below. I then took each of these images and ran them through Google Images search to find "visually similar images." That said, this is a not-too-serious exercise in "objectively" determining what the shape resembles, rather than to find the right one.



Here are a few highlights of the cartoons, comics, fonts, icons and other illustrations I found.


[Image source]


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[Image source]

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Today's archidose #824: Latin American Architecture

This morning I attended the press preview of the Latin America in Construction exhibition opening March 29 at the Museum of Modern Art. I'll have photos and comments on the MoMA show later in the week, but the visit inspired me to search out some photos of Latin American architecture in the archidose Flickr pool, though not necessarily ones in the show. By chance, Jonathan Reid added a bunch of photos from South America to the pool recently, and some of those are shown below.

Ibirapuera Auditorium in São Paulo, Brazil, by Oscar Neimeyer:
The Ibirapuera Auditorium
The Ibirapuera Auditorium

Some Brasilia buildings, all designed by Oscar Neimeyer:

Brazilian National Congress:
The Brazillian National Congress

The Palace of Justice:
The Palacio da Justica

Brazilian National Library:
Brazilian National Library

Pantheon of Liberty and Democracy Tancredo Neves:
The Pantheon of Fatherland and Freedom

Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro by Affonso Eduardo Reidy:
Museum of Modern Art

Municipalidad de Vitacura in Santiago, Chile, by Iglesis Prat:
The Municipalidad de Vitacura

Cao Museum at El Brujo Archaeological Complex in Peru (architect not known):
El Brujo Archaeological Complex
El Brujo Archaeological Complex

To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool
To contribute your Instagram images for consideration, just:
:: Tag your photos #archidose

Monday, March 23, 2015

Funding Two Summer Pavilions

For the first time in its short history, FIGMENT selected two projects for the City of Dreams Pavilion Competition: Billion Oyster Pavilion by BanG Studio of New York City and Organic Growth by Izaskun Chinchilla Architects of Madrid and London. In addition to securing approvals for construction, each pavilion needs fundraising. Enter Kickstarter and two campaigns, one for the Billion Oyster Pavilion and one for the Organic Growth Pavilion. Details are in the videos below and on their respective Kickstarter pages.

Billion Oyster Pavilion:


Organic Growth:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Book Review: The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings

The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings by Marc Kushner
Simon & Schuster/TED Books, 2015
Hardcover, 164 pages



The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings is based on a March 2014 TED Talk, "Why the buildings of the future will be shaped by ... you," given by HWKN partner and Architizer co-founder Marc Kushner. In both the 18-minute talk and the roughly 150-page book Kushner argues, "we’re entering a new age in architecture – one where we expect our buildings to deliver far more than just shelter," as he puts it in a TED Ideas blog post. He does this in the talk by giving a quick tour of the last 30 years of architecture, while in the book he focuses on the immediate past through a selection and presentation of 100 projects – most of them built but some of them unbuilt proposals. Key to both the talk and the book is Kushner's optimism and media, social media, not surprising given his position at Architizer, a website that gives any architect the potential to upload projects and share them with the site's millions of visitors.

Focusing squarely on the book, Kushner presents the 100 buildings in bite-sized chunks, typically one or two per spread, with one photo, a description and a question in red type. Culled from Architizer A+ Award entries, the buildings are numbered and grouped under themes like "Shape-Shifters" and "Social Catalysts." But in the rapid-fire presentation and focus on innovative contemporary architecture the ordering and grouping of the projects doesn't really matter; they could be in any order and achieve the same goal, which is to interest a general audience in the work architects are doing, be it a small pavilion, an opera house, a park, a house or even a McDonald's.


[Spread from The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings with HWKN's Wendy installation at MoMA PS1]

Kushner's populist approach jibes with his comments elsewhere (such as a panel discussion I observed at the Center for Architecture) that evince a frustration with architects talking to each other rather than to a broader public. Architizer, his TED Talk, and its book offshoot attempt to involve more people in conversations about architecture and to respond to how they "consume architecture." But is the book successful in doing so? What is it telling readers about architecture?

I'd argue that in its cursory glances at some significant and not-so-significant buildings, the book prioritizes superficial gazes at visually striking buildings rather than an embrace of their poetics as containers of our lives, even if Kushner's words here and elsewhere point to the latter. It also equates architecture with the consumption of images over the social interaction of bodies in space. He isn't the first to do so, but the inexpensive and image-rich book aimed at a general audience continues such an approach, for better or worse.

This superficial presentation of architecture is reinforced by the questions in red that preface each project, acting like convenient, businessese-like shorthands that highlight each building's "takeaway." In a number of cases I wanted to answer many of the rhetorical questions with a "no, but..." finished by the sentence in red that follows the description: "#10: Can we live on the moon?" No, but, "architectural ingenuity isn't earthbound."

Yet these critiques of the book's format and content are coming from an architect/writer about architecture, making the words ring a little hollow. After all, would a book for a general audience that takes a more nuanced approach to discussing the poetic qualities of architecture, say, or one exploring fewer buildings in more depth, make architecture less accessible and become another instance of "architects talking to architects"? That's a strong possibility, since the ideal means of explaining architecture to non-architects has yet to be found, but not for a lack of trying. While I have issues with how Kushner presents his selection of 100 buildings, I can't fault him for trying to break through that wall that separates architects from the people who interact and "consume" the buildings they design.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Today's archidose #823

Here are some photos of Stage II of 19. Dzielnica (2015) in Warsaw, Poland, by Jems Architekci, photographed by Sebastian Deptula.

19 Dzielnica

19 Dzielnica

19 Dzielnica

19 Dzielnica

19 Dzielnica

19 Dzielnica

To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool
To contribute your Instagram images for consideration, just:
:: Tag your photos #archidose

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Review: Lessons from Modernism

Lessons from Modernism: Environmental Design Strategies in Architecture, 1925-1970 edited by Kevin Bone with Steven Hillyer and Sunnie Joh
Monacelli Press, 2014
Hardcover, 224 pages



A common view of modernist architecture sees it as anything but environmental, based on the notion that International Style modernism sought a universal style that ignored climate. Lots of single-pane glazing, hermetically sealed buildings and a lack of solar shading created the need for a good deal of mechanical heating and/or cooling and, decades later, retrofits with insulated glazing and other fixes, if not just outright demolition. This view, though, prioritizes a particular strand of modernism at the expense of much of the modern architecture that consciously addressed place and climate while maintaining modern stylings.


[Exhibition Installation View | Photographs courtesy of The Cooper Union]

Lessons from Modernism, born from a 2013 exhibition of the same name at The Cooper Union, collects 25 projects designed in the years 1925 to 1970, from Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret's New Dwellings for Bordeaux (gracing the cover) to Constantinos Decavallas's Vacation House on Aegina. These projects all exhibit considerations of climate, even as their formal responses and geographic locales are diverse; a map at the beginning of the book illustrates the geographic dispersal of the projects overlaid with the different climatic zones across the globe. The thorough documentation of each project is aided by the work the Cooper students produced for the exhibition, which consists of models, drawings and diagrams. Spearheading the exhibition and book is Kevin Bone, architect and director of the Institute for Sustainable Design at The Cooper Union.


[Housing at Sunila Pulp Mill - Alvar Aalto, 1936]

In addition to the 25 projects, the book features a timeline with many more projects with a similar approach, and four academic essays that analyze the results of the research and exhibition. But it's the 25 projects that are the meat of the book and the most rewarding aspect of it. So the projects, built or unbuilt, can be compared to each other, a consistent format is used, most evident in the pages highlighting the "primary solar paths and corresponding sections." These drawings show orientation and prevailing winds, but they are all about the sun, how it moves across the sky, how much enters the buildings spaces and how it is controlled. Given that drawings illustrating natural ventilation, for example, are included only sporadically, there's a clear emphasis on environmental design equaling solar design.


[Exhibition Installation View]

The well honed focus on solar design is evident in Daniel A. Barber's essay at the end of the book, "Lessons from Lessons from Modernism," where he states that the book/exhibition "can be seen as a re-presentation of the second half of Victor and Aladar Olgyay's Solar Control and Shading Devices published in 1957." I'm not familiar with that book, which sounds like a design manual, but Bone's book can be seen as trying to rewrite history by elevating the environmentally conscious designs of modernism. I'll admit that I wasn't familiar with a number of the projects or architects in the book. Along these lines, there is definitely value in broadening ones exposure to historical precedents where solar design merges with beauty and thoughtful considerations of scale and site.


[Cocoon House: Paul Rudolph with Ralph Twitchell, 1951]