WITHIN

January 18th, 2013 — 7:32pm
bedroom angora
Casa Luis Barragán, designed by Luis Barragán, 1947 (source)
East Hampton Residence, designed by Rafael de Cárdenas/Architecture at Large (source)

 

Casa Luis Barragán occupies a nondescript facade along a dead-end street in the neighborhood of Tacubaya in Mexico City, easy to miss among the other walled compounds that typify the city’s residences. Throughout the house, each main space is accessed from a small vestibular space, concealed by a door or a change in orientation, creating a procedural dissociation from the outside world. The entry sequence creates an experiential compression that releases the occupant into the larger rooms feeling as though the journey seemed longer than it actually was. This passage is reinforced with the transition from darkness into light, an appropriately Catholic ritual. Once fully inside, the house provides spaces for study and contemplation, with outdoor glimpses helping to envelope the interior. The garden, though accessible, is overgrown and obscurant, serving to fill west-facing windows with green, sealing the view. The rooftop walls are extended in height to force the view up, with the sky acting as a conceptual ceiling to the space. Barragán’s house is a zone of pure privacy, immaculately fashioned to provide him with… more

 

Following a period that emphasized the affect of architectural exteriors, Rafael de Cárdenas is turning inward to create spatial identities.

 

By unifying the arts through merging interior design, product design and architecture, he assembles spaces that speak like people—at times quietly and sometimes loudly, giving rise to varied expression. They break from the limits of the discipline, exploring a different side of functionalism, one that seeks efficient communication, through belonging—introducing a new element to an existing stylistic stream.

 

These interiors—while not architectural in the structural sense—manipulate finishes, furnishings, hardware and so on to build spaces with unconventional atmospheres, based on familiar motifs, which loosely allude to an array of narratives. For example, in an East Hampton domestic interior of de Cárdenas’ design, the retro details paired with a softness reminiscent of angora, creates a space Ed Wood might fit right into.

 

Jack Murphy

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

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AUTHENTIC

November 12th, 2012 — 11:08pm
pill die
Architecture Pill, Hans Hollein, 1967 (source)
Die Antwoord (source)

 

Architecture’s legacy of replication and simulation calls into question the entire concept of authenticity. In fact, one could argue architecture is not visual at all, but instead it is the assembly of physical elements to produce a specific effect that is intelligible to the mind. The act of interpreting architecture dissolves form into symbol and experience. It is odor, it is texture, it is reverb. Conventional modes of architectural representation are inadequate if we collectively acknowledge architecture’s inherent complexity.

 

So if the visualizations architects produce are incapable of accurately describing architecture, how do we as practicing architects reconcile this contradiction? Moreover, what if architects no longer relied upon conventional modes of visual representation as proof of its existence? This debate demands revival. After all, Learning From Las Vegas is approaching its 35th birthday, and parametricism remains a stylized visualization tool used by academics and architects unconcerned with everyday constraints. In other words, while an authentic architecture is a moving target, this should not discourage us from including it in our everyday discourse.

 

In the 1960’s Hans Hollein used Bau Magazine as a platform to promote the idea that ‘Everything is Architecture’, a paper-revolt with a relevance echoed by… more

 

Distance can offer a clear perspective on a subject, but it can also be obfuscating.

 

When I watch Die Antwoord videos, while seduced by the highly produced worlds that they create, I am continually met with a sense that I am missing some crucial content, owing to our respective contexts. This leaves me to wonder how I would respond to their work if I was able to meaningfully navigate the details of their cultural references.

 

This South African group’s recently released single ‘Fatty Boom Boom’ is being cast as controversial, Lady Gaga references aside, for including blackface in its video. This is a concept with American roots, that the duo—who are always in character, further complicating any interpretation of their work—claim they are unfamiliar with.

 

As representations circulate around distinct and distant territories, they may remain fixed, or they may acquire varied meanings despite sharing a common provenance. Some may engage an archetype following a transformation, when its origin is perhaps less apparent and seemingly detached, while others may make references unknowingly. Given the complexity embedded within any reference, they are ultimately unstable and call into question what is authentic.

 

Corbin Keech

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

1 comment » | Guest Contributors, Uncategorized

VAGUE

October 2nd, 2012 — 9:38pm
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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GIRLS

July 2nd, 2012 — 3:27pm
group
bench
The Group, 1966 (source)
Girls, 2012 (source)

 

Girls suffers the burden of an overwhelming critical response—a series of writings that project significant intellectual and artistic questions onto its half-hour form. Essays and reviews betray the false collision of a humorous portrait of several young women with a much larger aim: that of generational definition, or representation.

 

Following the 1963 release of Mary McCarthy’s The Group, a novel presenting the lives of eight Vassar girls who just graduated from college, Norman Mailer published a rather cruel review. He wrote, in the New York Review of Books, ‘She [McCarthy] has eight well-to-do young ladies moving through the thirties on the very outer fringe of events, and none of them has an inner passion large enough to take over the book and make it run away’.

 

If McCarthy’s sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignantly presented Vassar graduates resemble Dunham’s girls in their varied struggles and reflections—and share with them a vivid New York as setting for these tribulations—so Mailer’s criticisms evoke contemporary responses to our HBO program:

 

Her characters…will not look to participate in the center of the history which is being made, and they will be the victim of no outsize passion…She will take these women, nearly all finally dull, because they have neither the interest to break out of the cage of their character, nor even the necessity—the cage is not that cruel, the girls are merely premature suburbanites—and she will obey the logic of the intricately educated and dull, she will follow them through their furniture and their recipes…

 

But while Mailer assumes, perhaps falsely, that in writing, Mary McCarthy must fundamentally engage with the tradition of her form—the history of the novel and its pitfalls and ambitions… more

 

Tours of television and film shooting locations abound in New York City, introducing visitors to previously unknown places, locally celebrated spots and world-famous landmarks. Films like Manhattan, Taxi Driver, and The Godfather along with television shows such as Law and Order, Sex and the City and The Sopranos are a few, of the many, well-loved productions that have inspired this real-world format for indulging fans.
 
A likely candidate for this treatment in the near future is HBO’s Girls, a show which alternately reflects and constructs the reality of twenty-somethings in the city. The Guardian’s effort to map the show’s urban backdrops along with confirmation of the program’s eligibility as a theme for a tour, from a local operator, to the New York Times, is promising evidence that an organized excursion may soon be realized.

 

Tripping in and out of Manhattan into the surrounding boroughs, with its recession-era motifs, Girls’ locations typically avoid glossy upscale settings in favor of average or run-down spots. The validation of these sites—particularly the latter variety—is often dependent on their occupation by young adults. Is it possible that inclusion on a pilgrimage route might promise longevity to these modest venues in the form of enduring physical existence, financial success or memory? As a result of Girls‘ popularity, can the cupcake shop Babycakes look forward experiencing a similar sort of preservation and recognition as Katz’s Delicatessen? Will Tom and Jerry’s, the bar where the character Jessa has a pre-abortion drink, be guaranteed years of business serving busloads of fans? And what will become of those sites that are excluded from the tour?
 

For those locations that do make the cut, they will become nodes in a circuit—a series of spaces which create another layer in a set of unique routes, locating the stages of fictional narratives set in New York City.

 

Rachel Engler

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

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SHOPPING

June 21st, 2012 — 6:45pm
prada
lanvin
Fall/Winter Prada Lookbook, AMO, 2011 (source)
Lanvin Display at Dover Street Market, London (source)

 

Rem Koolhaas and OMA*AMO, with typical cynicism and criticality, challenge the precedents of retail architecture, most famously in their longstanding collaboration with Prada. This effort revises how luxury itself may be perceived.
 
The rebranding strategy posits that since the contemporary condition is one of smooth efficiency, luxury is, among other qualities, rough and wasteful. Koolhaas and his team abandoned the majority of Prada store locations to generic fates and concentrated on three ‘epicenter’ stores in major American markets, addressing every part of the brand experience from architecture to IT operations. OMA*AMO’s studies are carried out with amazing crudeness: models bend and tilt, diagrams are blocky, and the most innovative material usage—a porous cast foam—was inspired by a common dish sponge. This sloppy bricolage is wildly juxtaposed with the sensibilities of… more

 

Richard Wagner’s concept of Gesamtkunstwerk echoes in the indefinite space between art and consumerism. Encouraging cohesive lifestyles, its spirit can be found lingering at even a geographic scale.
 
In the case of Dover Street Market, a luxury shopping emporium shaped by the art world’s influence, Rei Kawakubo’s avant hand touches all: from the designs for clothing and retail spaces (spatial configurations, finishes, fittings, scents and so on) to the selection of store locations. As urban influences permeate Comme des Garçons’ oeuvre by admitting hoodies, high-tops and other signs of the city onto the catwalk, or the chaos of a bazaar inside of DSM, Kawakubo proves that she can also exert her influence back onto the urban landscape. Her presence in a neighborhood attracts others with overlapping values, at times transforming relatively anonymous parts of the city into fresh foci. These shifts in urban programming centralize what lies on the edge.

 

Jack Murphy

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

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LATE

May 26th, 2012 — 7:01am
weiss
sassoon
Visible World, Fischli and Weiss, 2002 (source)
Five-Point Cut, Vidal Sassoon, 1964 (source)

 

‘…you can’t be in every beautiful place at the same time.’

 

—David Weiss (1946-2012)

 

 

Between 1987 and 2001 Peter Fischli and the late David Weiss took some 3,000 photographs, images that came to form their Visible World project. The photographs, arranged on long light tables that stretched across the exhibition space at New York’s Matthew Marks Gallery, collected instances of the world’s diversity… more

 

Claiming inspiration from the Bauhaus, the late Vidal Sassoon interpreted Modern architecture’s functionalist ambitions leading him to diminish the styling of hair, which in the 1960s was overtly ornamental and labored. He showcased instead the nature of the material he was working with and his craft of cutting. This efficient, minimal approach was emphasized through the infinite layering of geometric primitives: circles, squares and triangles. Sassoon built his legacy by giving hair a graphic identity. The strictness of his shapes while definitive, remain simple, giving way to a vague immediacy.

 

Rachel Engler

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

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PUBLISH

April 14th, 2012 — 6:23pm
hoodies
vitruvius
Image From Tumblr (source unknown)
Image from Vitruvius’ De Architectura, Illustrated by Jean Goujon, 1547 (source)

 

In his book You Are Not A Gadget one of Jaron Lanier’s criticisms of current digital culture, specifically the thing we call Web 2.0, is the paradox that a tool that is marketed as something to enable human creativity and individuality has actually done the opposite. The set of checklists and ‘Likes’ that form our online personalities demean the intricacies of the human mind. As we enthusiastically embrace these limitations so we limit ourselves. We willingly surrender to the perceived wisdom of the cloud based crowd at the expense of individual human insight. The question is as much a moral one as it is a practical technological one. Figuring out what we should do is as important as what we can do. To publish something takes a degree of arrogance that only an individual should have. An arrogant group quickly becomes oppressive. In the first chapter Lanier has a few simple suggestions of things to think about before publishing online. My three favourites are:

 

– Don’t post anonymously unless you really are in danger.
– Post a video once in a while that took a hundred times more times to create than it takes to view.
– Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that needed to come out.

 

In other words: think before you speak.

 

This is even more pertinent when posting online where very quickly, context is stripped away by selective copying, pasting, reblogging, retweeting, and a little more subtly by RSS feeds which… more

 

During OMA’s ‘Show and Tell’ talk, which took place this past October at London’s Barbican Centre, Rem Koolhaas proclaimed that AMO’s newest publication Project Japan belongs to architecture, much in the same way that OMA’s spaces do. This comment is not surprising, coming from a man who has been reformatting architectural content since the beginning of his career, building on a framework laid out by many architects before him.

 

Judging by his ‘believe it or not’ delivery, Koolhaas appeared to assume that his comments would be interpreted as controversial. Speaking to a roomful of what can safely be assumed to be predominantly architects, why should such a comment be shocking?

 

Alongside buildings, models, drawings and images, words—printed and otherwise—are important tools for architectural communication. As they all transmit content, weighing the importance of one format over the other is difficult, if not impossible.

 

Any resistance to the suggestion that architectural production can happen across formats may stem from an identity crisis on the part of a profession who are unable to see themselves for who they are. Conventionally framed as purveyors of buildings, there is an entire realm of architecture that does not occupy itself directly with the production of habitable structures. While the general public can be forgiven for not having an awareness of this, architects—who have perhaps been confused by the requirements set by professional licensing institutions—cannot.

 

Sohrab Golsorkhi

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

1 comment » | Editorial, Guest Contributors

COLD

February 8th, 2012 — 12:15am
arctic chrome
Arctic Fauna (source)
Barcelona Pavilion, Mies van der Rohe, 1929 (source)

 

It is only once animal life is snuffed out that bodies, bereft of movement, are expected to cool to the temperature of the surrounding air. While in life physiological processes and garments provide basic warmth, they do not suffice in the harshest of climates, where self imprisonment and blasting furnaces are some of the only means of comfortable persistence. The ills of cold climates are many. Infertile icy soils and short growing seasons force the importation of food from distant lands. Twenty-four hours of light or dark wreaks havoc on the experience of time, while the resulting lack and excess of ultraviolet light unhinges the body’s supply of vitamin D. More horrifically, prolonged exposure to the cold inflicts permanent damage to nerves and cells: blistering, the amputation of fingers and toes, and eventually, death.

 

Despite these sensible reasons to avoid the cold, there remain a few nations that ardently lay claim to vast arctic territories. Large swaths of Canada… more

 

‘Cold’ describes not only temperature but temperament. Distanced from the more ambiguous ‘cool’, it is a state that engages an extreme posture.

 

When architecture turns cold, it may become hermetic and defensive—at times exhibiting cruelty.

 

In cold weather, architectural skins often thicken and any openings are sealed, creating a limited environment, both controlled and isolated. When architecture takes on a cold disposition, as perhaps in the case of the Barcelona Pavilion with its chromed-steel cruciform columns, that reflectively tease, it allures, until the moment greasy fingerprints disrupt its surface—an indication of high-maintenance—serving to remind admirers to remain at a distance.

 

With its intense character, cold architecture—whatever its persuasion—remains difficult to access.

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

1 comment » | Editorial

COMMUNITY

August 29th, 2011 — 11:29am
pygmalion fencing
Pygmalion and Galatea, Jean-Leon Gerome, 1890 (source)
Piccadilly Community Center, Christoph Büchel, 2011 (source)

 

The Piccadilly Community Center does not represent an instance of documentation. Its uncanny juxtaposition of both impoverishment and overabundance is both anachronistic and revealing of the center’s studied construction. The inverse of the canon of social documentary photography, those images that record and sometimes romanticize the poverty, the community center creates a dense and specific world, rather than record one already existing. It is a kind of social realism built, not captured.

 

And though it takes as its subject interaction between people, and studies those spaces that facilitate and house these interactions, neither does the Piccadilly Community Center, as constructed in Hauser & Wirth’s Piccadilly gallery space, represent an instance of relational aesthetics. Rather than represent a continuation of that phenomenon defined by Bourriaud as ‘a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space’, the center perpetuates, instead, a more traditional dream of mimesis and its power.

 

When Pygmalion created Galatea in the likeness of a woman, he hoped the divine gift of a human soul might enliven her sculpted flesh. The Piccadilly Community Center, an artificially constructed vision of a local community center built in a gallery space in posh central London, is, in its mimetic foundation, an expression of renewed faith in recreating reality and the power of these recreations. The Piccadilly project suggests that by building something that looks like a community center, the spirit of such a place, of community, might somehow descend into its shell, rendering it less a mockery of the lower classes than a functioning supplement to their social lives.

 

As a type of reproduced space, the artist Christoph Büchel’s Piccadilly Community Center has a dialectical agenda which is self-consciously positioned between reality and artifice. In the creation of this public space, the hosts’ (Hauser & Wirth) upscale gallery fittings are removed and replaced with scavenged furnishings and accessories that simulate a detailed but thrifty recreation facility, indicating a place that has been there for some time and is permanent rather than temporary.

 

This project relies on misrepresentation to define itself. While the space’s identity may originate in ‘Art’, it shies away from this label. An obvious gesture indicating an attempted divorce from the discipline’s conventions is the omission of Büchel’s name from any promotional material, implying that the community space has come into being as any other: a product of anonymous authors, possibly bureaucrats.

 

The uncanniness of the space results from its proclivity for mimicry but also from its programmatic tension: art fans intently gaze at carefully placed Post-it notes and disheveled file folders, as if they were trying to understand a Dutch still-life, while elderly locals bake Algerian bread. Some users of the space are there to observe, while those under surveillance may not know that they are being watched. Thus, there is a gradient of awareness amongst users as to what is really taking place in the space.

 

Büchel has essentially constructed a stage for ordinary people to go about their daily activities and upon which an audience can wander. Here the roles of audience and actor are fluid and can be exchanged at any given moment. This juxtaposition of program produces… more

 

Rachel Engler

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

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INFLUENCE

August 5th, 2011 — 6:45am
monster cy
Untitled, 2006 (Image by Author)
Cy Twombly at Home, Rome, 1966 (source)

 

Architectural educators often rely on the precedent to make distinctions between good and bad architecture. Works by esteemed practitioners such as Herzog and de Meuron, or Sejima and Nishizawa are dissected and documented in an effort to determine what makes them successful as buildings and as works of art. While important lessons may be learned, the danger of such idolatry for the nascent designer is in its capacity to influence. Architecture schools, which should be places of free exploration and experimentation instead become factories for the production of architectural pastiches, or collages, inspired by a few great men. Once naive and unpredictable thinkers, admirable qualities in youth… more

 

Cy Twombly drew deep inspiration from classical mythology and allegory. Recalling an artist with similar antique interests, he said ‘I would’ve liked to have been Poussin, if I’d had a choice, in another time’.

 

Twombly produced gestural works which bore scrawls resembling names such as ‘Virgil’. Roland Barthes claimed that though Twombly produced images that resembled words, they were stripped of their meaning – mere traces.

 

His home, a palazzo on the Via di Monserrato in Rome, like his works, evocatively represents articles originating in the distant past, in a present context.

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

2 comments » | Editorial

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