S K Y L I N E | New Mantras
Deserts are Not Empty, Kenneth Frampton, John Andrews, Community Infrastructure
Issue 91. We’re putting the finishing touches on our next issue, #32. Start a subscription today.
Entomologist, astronomer, and postal clerk George Hudson is popularly credited with being the first to formally propose daylight saving time, in 1895. Evidently, the British-born New Zealander was hoping for a couple extra hours of summer light to catch bugs after he got off work. The idea, though controversial at first, became pervasive within a single generation; seasonal time change was integrated across Britain by 1925. While it isn’t necessarily NYRA’s place to pontificate on the globalization of time, we can’t help but resent 4:30 PM sunsets. Knowing this arbitrary measure was compulsorily imposed in many parts of the world reminds us that all current paradigms are rooted in history—and thus, can be contested, perhaps even overturned.
In a week where the physically disorienting effects of daylight savings coincided with anxious anticipation around midterm elections, numbed by the suggestion that voting alone is sufficient to hold a crumbling democracy together, we’re craving something with more material heft. Dispatches from the architectural front called for adopting new paradigms, each one entailing a shift in material priorities. Samia Henni interrogated colonial tropes of the desert, while Paul Walker reconstructed an earlier environmentalism in the architecture of John Andrews. Meanwhile, grassroots organization Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society (GLITS) and Spanish architecture collective Lacol took on the tough work of actually “doing alternatives.” The question that’s left on the table: when do mantras shift from mindset to material change?
— Anny Li
11/3: On Architecture’s Limits
GREENWICH VILLAGE — “We simply seem to lack all capacity to talk about architecture qua architecture, because the entire space is taken up by justifiable anxiety about racial and social injustice, and the maldistribution of wealth, and climate change, et cetera, as though architecture qua architecture can do anything about any of that.” With these cheery remarks, KENNETH FRAMPTON concluded his lecture at the New School, which had been billed as a revisiting of his chief contribution to the history of architecture—critical regionalism. But for the most part, the nonagenarian’s talk meandered wildly, as the audience was treated to a best-of from the Framptian oeuvre; specifically, he appears steadfast in his preoccupation with Aalto, Utzon, and Siza, and committed to ritually elaborating his canonical text, Modern Architecture: A Critical History. Hints of a wider critique, however, only materialized at around the event’s end. “Architectural schools,” Frampton said, “are in a very difficult position at this moment and are trying to compensate for the disorder of the society within the house of architecture. It’s just not possible. You can’t overcome this disorder through something so limited as architecture.” Not exactly a retreat into properly disciplinary concerns, but also not quite a political rallying cry.
— Nicholas Raap
11/4: Not Empty
MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — SAMIA HENNI launched her edited volume Deserts Are Not Empty (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City) last Friday, sharing the stage with graphic designer LAURA COOMBS (also NYRA’s art director). The collection of essays, interviews, conversations, and poems scrutinizes colonial narratives that have enabled invasive projects of resource extraction and environmental destruction in arid lands. Henni, a professor of architecture at Cornell University, also cited the dearth of architectural histories of the desert and voiced her hope that the texts in this collection “might speak to everyone, not only to our discipline.” Coombs gave an overview of the publication’s main visual ideas, each beautifully and simply derived from an element of Henni’s editorial structure. Notably, the book’s fore-edge treatment reproduces the title in block letters and has the reader repeating Henni’s mantra over and over.
— Maddy Bruster
11/5: A Forever Home
RIDGEWOOD — Members of the Gays and Lesbians Living In a Transgender Society (GLITS) gathered at Nowadays for yet another People’s Beach Assembly. The series of panel talks aims to center the voices of queer and trans people who for generations have occupied the easternmost end of Jacob Riis Beach, which the city is eyeing for redevelopment. GLITS founder CEYENNE DOROSHOW implored the fifty or so attendees to “turn this beach into our forever home.” Over the course of four hours, participants ate, drank, and shared ideas in five breakout groups on topics including city politics, environment stewardship, and landmarking. At a pivotal moment, a representative from the Civic Engagement Commission on Participatory Budgeting asked the group to consider what they might do with $5 million of city funds. The event began with what a queer and trans–led process might look like at a particular site and ended with how this same community might exert influence citywide.
— Sus Labowitz
11/7: Uncommon Sense
CAMBRIDGE, MA — The most illuminating moment in historian PAUL WALKER’s lecture on the Australian architect John Andrews at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design came during an aside on the latter’s farmhouse in New South Wales. It’s a simple pavilion with an odd, hi-tech accoutrement—a steel-frame tower—that irrupts out of a modest gable roof. Walker, who has edited a new monograph on Andrews, called everyone’s attention to the tower, which “appears to be waiting for some technological invention, perhaps some wind turbine, to give justification for its design.” He also noted how Andrews, an architect deeply concerned with the performance of his buildings, was reluctant to elaborate on their designs, insisting they were just “common sense.” The question remains, Walker remarked, as to whether “science was subordinated to science’s look”—a question as relevant for today’s environmentalism as to that of a half-century ago. The talk coincided with the opening of an exhibition Walker co-curated with architect KEVIN LIU, and fittingly staged in Andrews’s Gund Hall. Featuring newly commissioned photographs by NORITAKA MINAMI, the show leaves it to visitors to draw conclusions about the work for themselves.
— Kyle Winston
11/8: Building Community Infrastructure
ZOOM — “We do alternatives,” said ELISEU ARRUFAT GRAU, one of thirteen current members of the non-profit Barcelona-based cooperative Lacol. But both he and fellow member CRISTINA GAMBOA MASDEVALL were careful to note that their alternatives are not the only ones on offer. Their cooperative housing project La Borda is just one (albeit award-winning) solution to the almost universal affordable housing crisis; it’s also particularly suited to Barcelona, where a rich history of cooperatives and a sympathetic mayor have created an ideal set of conditions for similar projects to flourish in recent years. Arrufat suggested that La Borda’s principles of self-development, community interaction, collective ownership, sustainability, comfort, and affordability can resonate with communities worldwide. But even as Lacol strives to identify replicable strategies for building community infrastructure, Gamboa cautioned that each project is ultimately one of a kind because the people involved are different. These kinds of projects are also very effort- and time-intensive for the architects, who need to take an active role beyond design in educating and empowering their clients. For Lacol, that labor is dignified with adequate compensation — “We are not cheap!” exclaimed Arrufat — as their clients recognize the value their architects bring to the table.
— Palmyra Geraki
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EYES ON SKYLINE
Last week, readers were most interested in accusations of abuses of power in the Architect of the Capitol’s office…
IN THE NEWS
NYC’s congestion pricing study finds that cops take the cake for clogging up Manhattan commutes…
A cladding fire engulfs a thirty-five-story condo in Dubai…
Once coveted co-op apartments on Park Avenue sit on the market for years…
Pessimism reigns amongst architects as COP27 kicks off…
Social housing champion Peter Barber is recognized with a 2022 Soane Medal…
People’s Gardens: Walking Tour with the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space
2:30 PM EST | Storefront for Art and Architecture
Beside Glitter: Queer Aesthetics & Materiality Panel Discussion with A.L. Hu
5:00 PM EST | Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture
A Contextual Modernity: An Afro-Minimalist approach to Architecture with Tosin Oshinowo
6:00 PM EST | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute School of Architecture
Pratt Futures Meets the Architecture Lobby with Peggy Deamer, Elisa Iturbe, Corey Arena
7:00 PM EST | Pratt Institute School of Architecture, The Architecture Lobby
New Practices New York with Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb of New Affiliates
6:30 PM EST | AIA New York | Center for Architecture
The Industrial Ephemeral: The Labor of Constructing Urban India with Namita Vijay Dharia
5:00 PM PST | University of California Berkeley College of Environmental Design
Saving the World? Reflections on UNESCO’s Mid Century Mission in Conflict with Lynn Meskell
4:00 PM EST | Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Edible; or, The Architecture of Metabolism Conference with Lydia Kallipoliti, Andrés Jaque, Areti Markopoulou, Sanjana Lahiri, Mitchell Joachim, Andreas Theodoridis, Lola Ben-Alon, Sharon Yavo-Ayalon, Hayley Eber, Sonia Ralston
5:00 PM EST | Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture
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