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S K Y L I N E | Big Ideas
With Lindsey Wikstrom, Alejandro Aravena, Erica Robles-Anderson, Manuela Moscoso, and more
Issue 113. Come to our party tomorrow.
This week’s SKYLINE is full of big ideas—the Anthropocene, climate change, interdisciplinarity, emergence—but we see them playing out across different scales of thought and action, and with varying degrees of urgency and specificity.
Lindsey Wikstrom interrogates the future of mass timber by acknowledging its pitfalls. Alejandro Aravena thinks globally but designs locally. Academics and practitioners agree that relationships can bridge across disciplines and even into the other-than-human realm. And outside City Hall, activists campaign for dark skies legislation to reduce avian deaths during migration season. Meanwhile, students at Florida A&M tame artificial intelligence, while Cooper Union thesis students envision post-industrial futures by drawing inspiration from ancient beliefs and superstitions.
— Palmyra Geraki
5/5: Designing the Forest and Other Mass Timber Futures
GREENWICH VILLAGE — Two years ago, LINDSEY WIKSTROM shared her research on wood-based building material supply chains with CARSON CHAN, inaugural director of the Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and Natural Environment at MoMA. What Wikstrom asked of timber, Chan wanted to ask about other climate-relevant material conditions. And so Material Worlds was born: a discussion series on the relationship between design and ecology that attempts to expand the discourse about building materials through a critical assessment of their commodified supply chain to arrive at “equitable and resilient sourcing” strategies and “a vocabulary of ecological architecture.” The series came full circle last Friday evening when Chan and Wikstrom discussed the latter’s newly published book Designing the Forest and other Mass Timber Futures. During the conversation, Wikstrom addressed the collateral conditions that might make one skeptical of such futures—deforestation, monocultures, fire protections, cost, codes, shipping logistics, labor, profit—honing in on architecture as process rather than object, the success of which can only be assessed through the material, ecological, and relational trails it leaves behind. The book is ultimately hopeful in its orientation, Wikstrom added. Not only does it “describe where the industry is going,” it also “invite[s] you to participate” in its future.
— Valérie Lechêne
5/10: Recent Work by Elemental
SANTIAGO DE CHILE — When Chilean architect and Pritzker Prize winner ALEJANDRO ARAVENA delivered a talk on recent works by his “do tank” Elemental at the Universidad Católica’s architecture campus earlier this week, he did so in a classroom setting where students were encouraged to interrupt at any point. And interrupt, they did. While presenting the not-yet-realized Art Mill Museum in Doha, Qatar, which repurposes waterfront grain silos into exhibition spaces, Aravena paused to field a student query about the project’s orientation. (If the complex has no back and every side is the front, won’t visitors become disoriented? Answer: Landmarks encourage visitors to do their own way finding.) Earlier, he was surprised by a bluntly stated question about form. (How do you give projects that punch? Answer: Some, like the boxy Bank of International Settlements’ Basel, Switzerland, headquarters, offer “more of an anti-punch” as a way of responding to neighboring buildings or existing site conditions.) The projects Aravena presented were conceived with the global context in mind, but executed with sensitivity to the particularities of place. He was cut short, however, before he had a chance to turn to the second half of his talk titled “the housing emergency,” the event derailed by the spirited open participatory format.
— Nate Carlos Norris
5/10: Crowds, Bodies, Figures
CHELSEA — Opening night for Future Fair, an annual event highlighting emerging artists, saw every corridor packed with two-way traffic and the line to claim-your-free-drink ticket wrapping around the block. Painting was the prevalent medium in this year’s edition of the fair. Bodies were a dominant trope, entangled and surreal in their composition, but alongside these crowded canvases were also tableaus of abstract figural voids. The layout of the space was labyrinthine with hardly any right angles. Crowds spilled into seemingly endless combinations of new booths and partitioned rooms. As visitors weaved through the space, they found themselves caught in a herd-like mass of other bodies only to emerge suddenly in an intimate corner booth or quiet enclave, facing a single work.
— Emily Conklin
MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — “Modernity is about frontiers,” exclaimed curator MANUELA MOSCOSO during Undisciplined, a symposium organized by the graduating class of GSAPP’s Masters in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices and moderated by students MAX GOLDNER and JASON AHUJA. As one would expect of a symposium dedicated to interdisciplinarity, questions of academic territoriality flowed into conversations about colonial borders, genetics, architectural pedagogy, intellectual “contamination,” even university business practices. The panelists represented a wide range of interests and included professors and practitioners of architecture, film, media studies, literature, photography, even diaspora and genocidal studies. Terms such as entanglements, home discipline, anti-theory, and new history proliferated. Yet, all of these categorizations, as reiterated throughout the two-panel event, are “silos,” “watchtowers,” and “gatekeepers.” The first panel was summed up by the question, “What’s the problem with academia?” The answer to which is basically everything. Media studies professor ERICA ROBLES-ANDERSON noted that interdisciplinarity operates at the fringes of the disciplines, while landscape architecture professor THENA TAK argued that the edge of academia is a space, not a line. While the panelists agreed that interdisciplinarity is a form of disobedience—“to be interdisciplinary is to be difficult,” declared film and German studies professor NORA ALTER—they also acknowledged that dialogue, friendship, and camaraderie are integral to generating interdisciplinary scholarship. As was poignantly summarized by Tak, interdisciplinarity is fostered in “gardens of relationships” that transcend human and academic limits to incorporate the entire society of human and non-human inhabitants.
— Zachary Torres
5/11: Birds in flight, dim the lights!
CITY HALL — A few dozen birders, ornithologists, environmentalists, and elected officials rallied midday on the west side of City Hall Park in support of a piece of legislation that could help put an end to the thousands of bird deaths and injurious collisions that occur annually in New York. Bill 1039, better known as the Lights Out legislation, would mandate privately owned commercial and industrial buildings to turn off interior and exterior lights at night during fall and spring migrations. (City-owned or -controlled buildings are already under such mandates.) On a particularly bad day during fall migration, CATHERINE QUAYLE of the Wild Bird Fund noted at the rally, over a hundred injured birds—they had collided with glass building façades—were brought to the facility in bags, boxes, and even jacket pockets. A representative from Council Member FRANCISCO MOYA’s office emphasized that the wasteful practice of leaving lights on costs billions of dollars in addition to millions of avian fatalities. “Turn the lights off, it's not that complicated," said Council Member ERIK BOTTCHER; as he merged with the rallying crowd, he led the chant, “Birds in flight, dim the lights! Pass Lights Out!” Around the corner on the north side of the park, buses honked and red placards bobbed in solidarity with a rally to fund CUNY, an institution facing a different kind of lights out.
— Rachel Bondra
VIEWS FROM REVIEWS
THE COOPER UNION—Abandoned factories in Red Hook. Empty gas stations along Route 66. Copper mines in Arizona. Should these industrial relics be torn down, and the land repatriated? Perhaps in a museum of the Anthropocene, which would look like… what, exactly? These were some of the exciting questions posed by fifth-year Cooper Union students over the course of their thesis presentations last week. (Another tantalizing prompt: Can astrology and superstition offer inspiration for a more ecological architecture?) The projects addressed the pressing issues of our time with rigor while maintaining the distinct stamp of a classic Cooper Union thesis: stunning hand drawings, carefully constructed models, and playful material exploration backed by strong conceptual arguments; a refreshing break from the digital representation hegemonic in most schools today.
— Dan Roche
TALLAHASSEE — Last week, I sat in on a final crit—the culmination of a semester’s worth of external mentoring—during which a group of Florida A&M third-year students presented their designs for a mixed-use development with tech-savvy amenities such as parking spaces for AV/EV vehicles and a drone landing pad. The premise of the studio challenged students to meaningfully implement AI into the beginning and end of their design processes. Midjourney was used to generate concept images, while Veras AI was deployed to “re-imagine” the students’ final designs by creating renderings of the building envelope. Interestingly, most students stayed away from “in the style of” prompts and worked through more abstract concepts. The final projects avoided the genre’s tropes (think of the mildly desaturated, blurry renderings popularized by these AI programs) and instead offered smartly designed buildings informed by programming needs and real-life site conditions, with an enviable attention to detail.
— Franci Virgili
COME HANG OUT WITH US
We are having a party. Tomorrow. In Williamsburg. You should come! nyra.nyc/rsvp.
THEN COME NAIL A HAMMER
We have been leading a workshop at the School of Visual Arts all year. On Tuesday, at 5:30pm, our students are going to present their work. Rsvp here.
THEN COME TO GOVERNOR’S ISLAND
On Saturday May 20, we are a partner with the Institute for Public Architecture for a symposium focusing on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Yesterday one of the participants, Adam Susaneck, defined the stakes. RSVP here.
IN THE NEWS
On Tuesday workers at Snohetta petitioned to the National Labor Board to unionize. Snohetta already has unionized workers in its office in Norway, so unlike SHoP, maybe this story has a happy ending. (Curbed)
Gone for Gondolas
Architecture correspondents and curators the world over are packing their bags to make it to Italy in time for the opening of the Venice Biennale this week. Its curator, Lesley Lokko, has a profile up. (New York Times)
In Land Grabs
Steve Cohen wants to build a casino on part of a 50 acre parking lot (The City). The East New York Community Land Trust would like to build industry and affordable housing on vacant land owned by the NYPD (City Limits). Bets on which idea is backed by a vigorous lobbying effort?
The Ontario Science Centre by Raymond Moriyamas is under threat. (Architect’s Newspaper)
In Problematic Resurrections
The reincarnated Berlin Stadtschloss may no longer be the seat of an empire, but it is apparently still filled with imperial loot. (New York Review of Books)
The High Line dropped its new foot bridge into place, forming the final link in a pedestrian footpath now extending all the way from the Whitney Museum to Moynihan Station. (New York Times)
The week ahead…
Vital Alignments: Towards Reparative Caribbean Ecologies with Saudi Garcia, Kris Manjapra, Erna Brodber, Veronica Agard, Tao Leigh Goffe, Catherine John, Michael Gomez, Ryan Mann-Hamilton, Sienna Merope-Synge, Amelia Moore, Boumba Nixon, Kevon Rhiney
10:00 AM EDT | The New School
Mujeres Atrevidas (Bold Women) Film Screening
5:30 PM EDT | Pratt Institute School of Architecture
New York Review of Architecture Issue 34/35 Launch Party
5:00 PM EDT | New York Review of Architecture & Arcana
Lecture with Nader Tehrani
6:30 PM PDT | University of California Los Angeles Architecture and Urban Design
How to Nail a Hammer: The D-Crit Class of 2023 Graduate Thesis Symposium & Book Launch with Eric Schwartau, Nicolas Kemper, Molly Heintz, Alex de Looz, Ian Reagan, Auston Gonzalez, Esty Bagos, Jessie Sun, Lucas Albrecht, Tiffany Jow, & Evelyn Maynard
5:30 PM EDT | School of the Visual Arts Department of Design Research, Writing and Criticism
Advocacy and Agency in Architecture: Organizational Models with Melissa Marsh & Carmen Wyckoff
6:00 PM EDT | AIA New York | Center for Architecture
The Great American Transit Disaster: A Century of Austerity, Auto-Centric Planning, and White Flight with Nicholas Dagen Bloom
6:00 PM EDT | The Skyscraper Museum
Parsons School of Constructed Environments End of Year Exhibition Opening
6:00 PM EDT | Parsons School of Design
Abundant Cities: Building Common Ground with Adair Mosley
6:00 PM CDT | Walker Art Center & Minneapolis Foundation
Design Talk with Iwan Baan
6:30 PM EDT | 1014 | Space for Ideas
Looking Beyond Landmarks: Celebrating That Which is Difficult to Preserve
9:00 PM EDT | Historic Districts Council
BQE 2053 Towards a Decarbonized Sustainable Multi-Modal Transportation Network with Marc Norman, Adam Paul Susaneck, Alexander Levine, Nilka Martell, Claudia Herasme, & Yonah Freemark
9:30 AM EDT | Institute for Public Architecture
Our listings are constantly being updated. Check the events page regularly for up-to-date listings and submit events through this link.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Write us a letter! We’d love to hear your thoughts.
New York Review of Architecture is a team effort. Our editor is Samuel Medina. 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.
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