Announcing Issue #30
On the difference between utopian and magical thinking
To talk about utopia today is to invite scorn, doubt, or, most likely, pity. Spurned as the stuff of juvenilia, utopia seems to have no place in serious discourse. Even architecture, a discipline that once happily abided utopian dreaming, now anathematizes it.
The field of architecture is suffused with magical thinking. Missives from the AIA and other professional organizations arrive in seemingly endless streams, rhetorically committing their members to the causes of climate change and socioeconomic justice. Individuals make pledges, as if pledges could hold back the overlapping devastations of sea-level rise and runaway greenhouse gases. Green-rating systems proliferate yet float free from any legislative enforcement mechanisms. Firms champion sustainability, but their survival depends on the sustaining not of terrestrial life, but of their profits.
Issue #30 pokes holes in this magical thinking—the same kind that asserts that school design can end mass shootings (“Schoolhouse Shock”), that an overidentification with one’s career always pays off (“No Love Lost”), or that economic deadlock can be overcome via chimerical currencies (“Extended Universe”). At the same time, the issue invokes the utopian specter, whether through yesterday’s visionary movements (“Back to the Bauhaus”) or as a horizon against which to measure tangible progress (“Radical Realism”). The artworks throughout celebrate the joys of rupture (CLAUDE PARENT’s Laser Oblique) and flight (ZOE ZENGHELIS’s Happiness), while the cover (DESIGN EARTH’s Liberty) finds iridescence in weathering. Lastly, the layout design by PROPS SUPPLY takes the theme in a different direction—many, in fact—to illustrate the obliquities and dead ends the utopian pursuit entails. With #31, NYRA will make a leap into our own utopian unknown. Here’s hoping we avoid any trap doors. ⬤
Issue #30 is a limited-edition Risograph print designed by PROPS Supply. Read on below for some excerpts.
JOY KNOBLAUCH REFLECTS ON UVALDE
Seeing everything through the lens of defense is the product of fear of change and the desire to control financial risk in support of a landscape where form follows real estate speculation.
ANGIE DOOR CRIPS SPACES
Crip and cripped spaces operate between contradictions. Cripping space appropriates design moves, modifying and building from the desires and needs of disabled bodies.
SARAH JAFFE TAKES THE LOVE OUT OF LABOR
That job in an art museum, at a prestigious magazine, at a tech company might be the envy of your friends, but at the end of the day you’re still exhausted and underpaid.
ALANA POCKROS LIMNS THE BAUHAUS
While the Bauhaus was forced to occasionally take its politics inward for self-protection, it never abandoned its dedication to social progress, community, environmental sustainability, and most of all, indiscriminate access to functional and beautiful living spaces.
Also in the issue…
KEVIN ROGAN GOES META
[Patrik] Schumacher casts Liberland in the mold of other libertarian projects, like seasteading colonies and Peter Thiel’s Praxis Society, that envision utopian communities of visionary entrepreneurs who observe a world on fire from a safe distance.
JONAH COE-SCHARFF GETS REAL
As a “dream,” the Reset projects look barely different from low-rise American neighborhoods today. But it’s not for a lack of optimism or failure of nerve. If anything, Reset’s cautious interventions suggest a reinvigorated faith in the possibility of change.
VIOLA AGO MUSES ON SERIALITY
Innately digital, [Galo] Canizares’s anti-stylistic, algorithmically produced, and serially defined GIFs are at once experimental and final, both works in progress and completed.
PHILLIP DENNY IS HAPPY FOR ZOE ZENGHELIS
One highlight, Cassata, after Parc de la Villette (1983), recasts OMA’s famous competition entry as a Sicilian sponge cake decorated with frosting piped on in pastel-colored stripes and topped with a light dusting of Constructivist sprinkles. The Parc looks good enough to eat.
HARRIS CHOWDHARY DIGS INTO RUIN PORN
The exhibition has decided to quiet the complexities of post-coloniality across four nations with vastly different histories in favor of an exhibition that’s easy to swallow. Further, as a new global history of architecture is written, MoMA decides who its heroes are and reminds us that most of them adored Le Corbusier.
IAN VOLNER ADMIRES CLAUDE PARENT
All of the drawings, really, look like surprisingly plausible architecture, the slopes and slides and geometric piles ready to leap from the shadowy cross-hatching of the graphite and into a high-rent apartment tower near you.
Issue #30 packs it in. In addition to fantastic texts, it features several limited-edition Risograph pieces from DESIGN EARTH, CLAUDE PARENT, ZOE ZENGHELIS, and GALO CANIZARES. To support the work and receive #30 by post, subscribe here.
NYRA is a team effort. Our Deputy Editor is Marianela D’Aprile, our Editors at Large are Carolyn Bailey, Phillip Denny and Alex Klimoski, and our Publisher is Nicolas Kemper.
To pitch us an article or ask us a question, write to us at: email@example.com.
For their support, we would like to thank first of all our subscribers, as well as the Graham Foundation and our issue sponsors, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, Thomas Phifer, and Stickbulb.
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