October 31, 2012

Mies, Life Magazine, 1956 (source)
FDR Four Freedoms Park, Louis Kahn (source)


Implicit in Buckminster Fuller’s query of ‘How much does your building weigh?’ is an appreciation of lightness in architecture. Enabled by the capabilities of modern materials—notably the alternately invisible or mirrored qualities of glass—and haunted by the minimalist spectre of Mies van der Rohe, a certain strain of buildings innovates by eliminating their presence almost entirely. This demonstrates a collective interest in ephemerality, with architecture operating as a platform for experience through the creation of temporary structures, pavilions, installations, exhibits, environments, and conditions. Such atmospheric constructions are matched by a diffusion of inquiry into a growing number of adjacent (and admirable) topics and specializations, distributing awareness across a wide range of networked issues. Firmitas—one of the triadic Vitruvian values, normally translated as ‘firmness’—indicates an ancient praise of sturdiness, mass, and permanence. Conversely, it seems that a goal of contemporary architecture is to disappear.


The FDR Four Freedoms Park in New York City, designed by the late Louis Kahn, opened to the public this month. The project is Kahn’s first posthumously completed work. Kahn, in fact, was carrying the finished plans with him when he was found dead in the men’s restroom in midtown’s Pennsylvania Station in 1974, en route home to Philadelphia from India. After his passing, the project advanced only to be abandoned due to issues of civic funding. Had the architect lived longer he might have revised his ideas, perhaps questioning the singular spaces of garden and room (or, given the financial conditions, forced to face the nasty realities of value engineering). Instead, the scheme was built with mostly private funding as designed, with the addition of a bronze bust of FDR at the tip of the park, splitting the entrance to the culminating room on the water. The resultant presence is tempered with anachronism as the memorial was designed for New York in the 1970s, vastly different than today’s sanitized metropolis. The effort could be read as a test to see if… more


Jack Murphy



Andrew Fulcher


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October 2, 2012
kawara offset
First Today series painting, On Kawara, 1966 (source) Fall Winter 2012, Comme des Garçons (source)


Since Jan. 4, 1966, On Kawara has created paintings of various sizes, colors and fonts, showcasing the date of their creation. These paintings are refreshingly devoid of content, serving as, if anything, a ritual reaffirmation of the progression of time or a fixation on modern sans serif typefaces. They account for nothing except themselves.


The date paintings emerged at an important point where artistic practice became philosophical enactment, with artists concentrating on essential qualities or singular thoughts. Kawara’s pieces echo a statement from an early John Baldessari text painting, started the same year as the first dated canvas: ‘Everything has been purged from this painting but art, no ideas have entered this work’. To me, this is the inspiring core of conceptual art—that, set off from its typical context and focused by a discerning eye, anything can become art… more


‘I do not feel happy when a collection is understood too well. For me, White Drama was too easily understood, the concept too clear. I feel better about Fall 2012, because it wasn’t too clear, and some people assumed things it had nothing to do with, like the Internet age.’

—Rei Kawakubo on Comme des Garçons



Continuing the postmodern ethos that meaning is subjective, Rei Kawakubo offers a fitting approach for today’s designer. Given the recent past’s requirement that every formal maneuver be justified to illicit deep reading, perhaps nowadays architects can successfully produce work that fulfills certain parameters of use, while playing freely and privately with aesthetic references? Architects embracing the undefined could provide opportunities to liberate the discipline’s creative agenda.


Jack Murphy



Erandi de Silva


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