S K Y L I N E | NYRA Goes to Coachella
And Cooper Union, too. Harvard does globalism, MOMA does Earth Day, the Funambulist does cartography, Reiser Umemoto presents the Tapei Music Center and we write it all down.
Issue 66. Happy Earth day! Did you know the typical iPhone consumes more energy than the typical refrigerator and is thrown out after 2.5 years? Consider a subscription to our print issue, for reading that does not require a charger in a format you can hold onto forever.
What a week to be a first-time editor at Skyline. I’m trapped between four walls on my final days of class at Columbia, but our correspondents fanned out to bring you dispatches from Harvard, Cooper Union, the MoMA, and California. From Earth Day to Coachella, this week’s events extend wide yet surprisingly close. Today’s globalism has a grip on every aspect of our lives, and we better take it seriously. Or just dance to it.
— Osvaldo Delbrey Ortiz
4/19: Counter-Mapping Colonialism
Leopold Lambert: Mapping the Colonial Continuum
ASTOR PLACE (ZOOM) — Expanding on the consequences of architecture, LEOPOLD LAMBERT—founding editor of the Paris-based magazine, THE FUNAMBULIST—examines the contemporary continuum of colonial rule. By problematizing French colonial histories, Lambert attempts to decenter the violence of spatial control through compelling cartographic representations. In a slight twist of the traditional architect’s drafting hand, he reveals, rather than renders.
Tuesday’s Zoom discussion centered largely around Palestine—just as tensions began to rise this past week between Israeli forces and Palestinians, coincidentally. Mapping is irresistible when such stark, albeit artificial, barriers separate bodies. Who gets a permit—the metaphorical “key”—to cross the wall?
Recurring images of military checkpoints erupt throughout, highlighting the architectural roots, rather than individual choices, of conflict in our contemporary moment. Here, Lambert asks: What are people experiencing on the ground? “Maps should not be omnipotent tools, though I am an omnipotent researcher.”
A map cannot convey the texture of a checkpoint’s corrugated metal, and maybe it shouldn’t. But these limitations, and the top-down nature of cartographic output, is Lambert’s critical-creative springboard.
— Emily Conklin
4/20: What really is today's globalism?
Harvard Design Magazine #50 Issue Preview and Conversation
CAMBRIDGE (ZOOM) — In accordance with the release of Harvard Design Magazine’s forthcoming 50th Issue entitled “Today's Global,” guest editors SARAH M. WHITING and RAHUL MEHROTRA, joined by three of the total 50 contributors, CHRISTOPHER C. M. LEE, NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF, and ANÉL DU PLESSIS gathered to have a discussion about global design discourse. As editorial director and host JULIE CIRELLI put it, the issue focuses on the topic as “it relates to a sense of place and placemaking, political identity, and the impact of globalization on design pedagogy.” Prompted by these three subtopics, Lee, Ouroussoff and du Plessis took turns sharing their respective perceptions of our current status and their hopes (and fears) for the future.
Adding nuance to an already ill-defined conversation, Lee started off by arguing that a design that has a deep relationship to place is “an architecture that can accommodate the cultural, social, economic and political life of a place.” To him, “a building may look contextually pliant, but if it’s exclusionary, it will have no value to its host.” He went on to talk about the importance of the city as an evolving entity that ought to be “accommodative,” especially to the growing need to reduce energy consumption due to climate change and the discontentment around deep-rooted Western elitism and neoliberalism.
Ouroussoff, admittedly pessimistically, expressed his fears around a lack of political engagement in architectural experimentations that “deal with the issues raised by the late period of globalization”—particularly those concerning displacement due to climate change. He suggested the formation of new alliances beyond the profession and the implementation of small interventions in order to combat this issue.
Du Plessis provided her perspective as a lawyer regarding even further restrictions facing designers, who she noted “are bound by institutional boundaries, legal controls and the often uninspiring vision of people in power.” As she dropped in and out of the call due to connection issues, Whiting appropriately remarked that “our assumption that we can always be connected” is indeed one of the challenges of global connectivity.
With all perspectives laid bare, a discussion ensued about what designers can realistically turn to for inspiration. “Our spheres of concern are expanding exponentially and we are articulating those concerns better and better, but our spheres of influence are diminishing exponentially,” Mehrotra reflected, summarizing the issue facing pedagogy now. On that note, Whiting, who believes she has “no choice” but to be optimistic, called for a “mature interdisciplinarity” moving forward.
— Nouran Abdelhamid
4/20: Why Fight Water?
Ambasz Earth Day Lecture with Kunlé Adeyemi
MIDTOWN (ZOOM) — “Land is becoming overrated and water is our new asset,” remarked architect KUNLE ADEYEMI at the inaugural Ambasz Annual Earth Day Lecture at the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART IN NEW YORK.
The lecture covered Adeyemi’s exploration of an amphibious architectural future co-existing with rising sea levels—building on EMILIO AMBASZ’s own philosophy of ecological collaboration, as noted by MARTINO STIERLI, curator of architecture and design at MoMA and CARSON CHAN, director at the Ambasz Institute.
With engaging graphics and acronyms such as DESIMER (Demographic Economy Socio-political Infrastructure Morphology Environment Resources) Land and Water, Adeyemi explained his vision for “Water Cities,” a United Nations-supported project, “increasing the real estate of water in our urban fabric.” This manifesto was illustrated by his built projects, Makoko Floating School and Mansa Floating Hub, low-rise floating structures built by “nothing more complex than a drill machine” on a platform “to adapt to changing tidal conditions” for local communities in Nigeria.
In an open Q&A discussion moderated by curator BEATRICE GALILEE, Adeyemi touched upon his family, especially his architect father, a pioneer of Nigerian modernism, and the gap he finds between contemporary practice and the ambition of building better of the 70s. In response to a question about the practical application of Water cities, he replied “Why fight water when you can learn to live with it?”
— Ekam Singh
NYRA ON THE TOWN
Exhibitions, parties, and other IRL delights
4/6: Architects and a Piano Quintet
Lecture at the Great Hall
ASTOR PLACE — A piano quintet heralded the triumphal return of COOPER UNION graduates JESSE REISER and NANAKO UMEMOTO to the storied Great Hall on April 6th for the presentation of their newly completed building ensemble, the Taipei Music Center (TMC). The event was refreshingly unlike most “show and tell” lectures by architects in that Lyrical Urbanism: The Taipei Music Center was staged as a series of performances. A piano quintet welcomed everyone to the Great Hall with a short set arranged by contemporary Taiwanese composer JULIANA SHUO-AN CHEN, followed by soloist Dean NADER TEHRANI, who then introduced the headliners REISER AND UMEMOTO (RUR), who were later joined by a chorus of critics that included New York Times music critic JOSH BARONE, Luaka Bop founder YALE EVELEV, TMC Spokesperson SANDRA HSU, architecture professors JEFFREY KIPNIS and SYLVIA LAVIN, all under Tehrani's baton.
Tehrani opened by summarizing some of the complexities of the ten-years-in-the-making project while also commending the architects for “rejecting the formal tropes of informality” in their design for this project. This government-sponsored new mega-project, designed by RUR, covers over 23 acres and is one of the newest additions to Taipei's “cultural infrastructure.”
Reiser and Umemoto, when they took the stage, appreciated the depth and clarity of Tehrani's introduction, remarking, “Nader gave our lecture so we don't have to.” Nonetheless, the architects shared a sheaf of spare, mostly monochromatic images. While noting that some photos were “the ones that architects like,” they delighted in devoting an equal amount of time to showing pictures from the many advertising campaigns, fashion shows, and TikTok videos that have included their buildings as backdrops. The architects circled back to acknowledge the two urban design precedents that Tehrani focused on—Circus Agonalis, Piazza Navona—while also disclosing other design inspirations for this project, in particular, films by Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, and Akira Kurosawa, lessons of Aldo Rossi and John Hejduk, and always, for Reiser, model airplanes.
Among the audience were Peter Eisenman and Cynthia Davidson, seated in front of Hayley Eber, and right behind Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown. Debra Reiser, who is still practicing at age 90-something, held a position of honor in the front row. As an encore, visitors were invited to a reception celebrating the opening of the companion Taipei Music Center exhibit, where the architecture and music imaginings flowed freely. At the reception, Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley shared a cocktail table with a few others. Susanne Stephens, Josephine Minutillo, and Anne Rieselbach joined the small band of merry makers. The exhibit, which is open to the public until April 29th, includes drawings, models, photographs, and room-size fabric panels printed with images of the buildings. The panels create a theatrical setting for visitors to admire another type of representation of the buildings, or what is likely, to make their own TikTok videos. With architecture formalism as a primary topic of the evening, Wigley and Colomina “validated” one critic’s formal reading of the TMC project as a Wall House made much larger and turned on its side. Reiser concurred, only to relate his own “aha” moment of discovery of the form-based borrowings of another architect: Hejduk’s Wall House from Aalto’s Villa Mairea. For that night, Cooper Union honored the House that Hejduk built.
— Louise Harpman
NYRA ON THE (OTHER) TOWN
INDIO — The night before the opening, Romanian architect OANA STĂNESCU walked us through the enormous and silent grounds of COACHELLA after she had put the finishing touches on her installation, a trio of flowery dogs named “MUTTS.” Hers is one of a constellation of sculptures, pavilions, and art pieces that were finally built after the two-year hiatus of the Festival due to Covid. The pavilions are essential wayfinding devices for the 125,000 daily attendees, as well as meeting points and a relief from the brutal desert climate, but their most important role is as backgrounds for the deployment of social media portraiture in its many forms.
We too frantically crisscrossed the fields between concerts and repeatedly sought refuge in the pavilions as we tried to judge them kindly.
The most architectural: “SPECTRA,” designed by NEWSUBSTANCE, a spiraling six-story tower clad in a colored array of acrylic panels offering 360-degree views of the festival. The silent, frosty interior and the vertical form are striking counterpoints to its noisy, hot, and horizontal surroundings.
The most ephemeral: “BALLOON CHAIN,” which was first developed by ROBERT BOSE at Burning Man. On the first day, blue and yellow balloons were used in solidarity with Ukraine—although the atmosphere seemed to be less preoccupied with the war and more wrapped up in the euphoria of the post-pandemic recovery.
The most misunderstood: ESTUDIO NORMAL’s “COCOON,” a bulb-like sculpture made of clustered “butterfly chairs” raised on six steel columns. It is an attempt at reclaiming the butterfly chair’s Argentinian identity, but none of that mattered much to the visitors gazing up in amazement at the fractal lattice above.
The most chaotic: “PLAYGROUND” by ARCHITENSIONS, a stack of neon-colored arches, vaults, and trusses. While it proved remarkably successful with the Instagram audience, both Karol G and Anitta presented better odes to urbanity on their stages—with multi-tiered sets that celebrated the density and grit of favelas and cities.
The noisiest: “CIRCULAR DIMENSIONS” by CRISTOPHER CICHOCKI, a semicircular stack of PVC pipes that forms a protective bandshell at the base. Equipped with a L-ISA sound system beaming recordings that resonate through the pipes, it manages to replace the surrounding music with its own relentless white noise.
The most political: “GUARDIAN” by LOS DOS, a towering horned female figure protecting migrant crossings from the Mexican border to the Mediterranean. It was one of the few explicit statements in a festival largely devoid of political or social calls to action.
The most alive: Stănescu’s canine silhouettes, rendered in flowers and grasses buzzing with hummingbirds and moths feeding on the nectar—an ode to interdependence across species.
“It’s odd, there’s so little sex, and there’s so little politics,” Stănescu reflected on our way back to the trailers at the end of the festival.
— Rami Abou-Khalil
EYES ON SKYLINE
IN THE NEWS
…Norman Foster, plus an assembly of “great minds”, will work to rebuild the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv…
…the American Academy of Arts and Letters named SO-IL and Johnston Marklee as this year’s 2022 Architecture Award winners…
…Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower will be demolished in Tokyo…
…Louis Kahn’s Notebooks and Drawings gets a hardcover re-edition and features sketches personally selected by former Kahn student Richard Saul Wurman…
…In March, the Architecture Billings Index showed growing demand for design services…
…Failed Architecture decries the Dutch government’s planned relocation of Amsterdam’s Red Light District to the outskirts of the city…
…Finally, in honor of 4/20, the obligatory “high design” (ha ha) marijuana paraphernalia article does the rounds again…
– news contributed by Anna Gibertini
After hosting precisely 0 events so far in 2022, we have three in the next three weeks:
Join us tonight from 6pm–8pm at citygroup (104b Forsyth) for an opening showcasing the submissions from our call for designs for a 100% affordable 5WTC.
Join us next Wednesday, April 27, at Head Hi bookstore or by zoom, for a talk with photographer Michael Vahrenwald, historical preservation expert Christopher Neville, and our Deputy Editor Marianela D'Aprile, RSVP here.
Join us on Saturday, May 7 at 6pm for presentations and a discussion by the different entrants to our call for a 100% affordable 5WTC.
In the week ahead many events are about writing (literally and metaphorically) and by writers. We’re interested to see thoughtful lectures on topics that delve into ideas of writing, whether of writing territories, writing histories, writing books, and so on.
The Waldorf Astoria with Frank Mahan
6:30 PM | The National Arts Club
Staging with Chris Reed
9:30 PM | UCLA Architecture and Urban Design
Young & Ayata with Michael Young, Kutan Ayata
3:30 PM | UCLA Architecture and Urban Design
Beyond the Envelope: Cook Haffner Architecture Bureau with Sir Peter Cook
12:30 PM | New York Institute of Technology
Taking Care: Decolonizing the Built Environment with Paolo Cascone, Simone Sfriso, Alessandro Melis
6:00 PM | New York Institute of Technology
Current Work with Michael Maltzan, Karen Stein
7:00 PM |The Architectural League of New York, Cooper Union, The National Academy of Design
Palestine is not a Garden with Nida Sinnokrot
6:00 PM | MIT School of Architecture + Planning
Radical Black Space. "Current Works" with Cameron Rowland
6:00 PM | Spitzer School of Architecture
Autobiographic Urbanities vs. Scalar Archetypes: domus as city; as labyrinth; as cosmos with Aristotelis Dimitrakopoulos
1:00 PM | Yale School of Architecture
Lecture with James Chinlund
10:00 PM | UCLA Architecture and Urban Design
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
Have a take of global importance to share with NYRA? Write us a letter!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For their support, we would like to thank the Graham Foundation and our issue sponsors, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Thomas Phifer.
To support our contributors and receive the Review by post, subscribe here.