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S K Y L I N E | School’s in Session
Cutting Work for Class
Issue 79. Remember, only subscribers to our print edition get gold stars. Start a subscription today.
We devote this issue of Skyline to The Architecture Lobby’s 2022 Architecture Beyond Capitalism (A-B-C) Summer School (for which I was one of the organizers), one of the few events that spiced up the month of July.
Where does the A-B-C School fall in the spectrum of para- and peri-academic initiatives? Others, such as Dark Matter University and Critical Aunty Studies, often work with or within established academic institutions, but there are many that remain independent, such as The Night School and the Art, Education, and Radical Resistance School. There even exist schools (such as the Logic School, the School for Poetic Computation, and the Activist Graduate School) that have adopted more traditional institutional structures in an effort to supplement formal education.
What does the proliferation of independent schools tell us about the present and future of formal education? Are people thirsty for knowledge like they are for data (not at all the same thing)? Or is our educational system simply inadequate?
The following dispatches expose the inadequacies and dysfunction of contemporary architectural education, but underlying them is an optimism and a desire to engage deeper with the learning environments that surround and shape us.
— Palmyra Geraki
7/17–7/23: Architecture Beyond Capitalism (A-B-C) Summer School
The 2022 iteration of the A-B-C School built on last year's sessions on capitalism, labor, and collectives by focusing on studio educational practices. During a weeklong series of workshops, academics and practitioners from around the world discussed topics important to them, their identities, and their communities, cutting to the core of the dysfunctions that permeate contemporary architecture cultures especially within academia. But there was optimism in the air—attempts to reenvision the self, stories about students exercising their collective power to change the status quo, and examples of syllabi and even curricula being rewritten to adapt to changing pedagogical and societal concerns. Ultimately, the 2022 A-B-C School was a call to action. At the closing plenary, organizers, facilitators, and participants were all asked to identify actionable items to take with them to their respective academic or professional lives come fall.
— A-B-C School Organizing Committee
The first workshop introduced participants to an experimental architecture curriculum developed over five years at the Auckland University of Technology. KATHY WAGHORN and AMANDA YATES, two of the educators spearheading the effort, spoke about implementing practices of mauri ora (holistic social, cultural, ecological wellbeing) and mahitahitanga (collaborative, co-creative and participatory processes) in the design studio. They also drew parallels to indigenous spatial practices around the world and highlighted the work of individual indigenous researchers. As a Lakota scholar, I found the existence of such a curriculum a promising step forward.
— Jessica Garcia Fritz
Facilitated by MANJU ADIKESAVAN, the second workshop explored the possibility of extending the use of online collaboration softwares past the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. No longer just tools for solving a problem, these platforms, argued Adikesavan, can overcome the territorial limitations of studio instruction and forge connections across institutions, countries, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
— Peggy Deamer
As one of this workshop’s facilitators, I hoped to stir up opinions about the centrality of studio (and design) in architecture education. Drawing on the critical work of Brazilian Marxist architect-theorist Sérgio Ferro and the joint Brazil/UK research project TF/TK, we also tried to present the full spectrum of activity involved in making architecture, of which design is only a part. A breakout session, in which participants formulated alternative studio arrangements, and a quick debate regarding design-build and its general lack of social critique among other issues concluded our time together.
— Lara Melotti
7/18: Collectivized Pedagogies
In “Collectivized Pedagogies,” QUILIAN RIANO moderated a session with several academics working with and within DARK MATTER UNIVERSITY. The group, which began by presenting its anti-racist curricula, offered inspiring examples of breaking through traditional education approaches that preserve student/teacher hierarchies and divorce learning from “real life.” In an especially provocative case study, community fellows in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn enrolled in Dark Matter University with the help of grants from the Van Alen Institute. Their engagement with the relatively young, independent institution (founded in the summer of 2020) produced hopeful strategies for community organizing.
Architecture educators, often lacking a background in education, teach the way they were taught, perpetuating pedagogies that can bore, frustrate, and even infuriate students. This A-B-C workshop took a step toward breaking this cycle of educational ineptitude. After a short introduction about the TILT framework (that’s “transparency in learning and teaching”), participants shared syllabi from their own courses and subjected them to analysis. From this emerged corrective measures that make clear to students what and how they will learn, why course materials matter, and what success in a course looks like.
— Thomas Fisher
Nearly a year since Woodbury University announced the closing of the School of Architecture’s San Diego campus, its people (faculty, staff, students, and friends) are actively working towards an independent future. With the shutdown, they recognized an opportunity to redirect existing resources into a prototype for a next-generation architecture education, one that prioritizes student access and empowerment via no or limited tuition, academic and professional on-ramping, and radical community engagement and participation. The effort, which goes by the name the Center for Collaborative Design, used the 2022 A-B-C School as a testing ground for a focused inquiry into institutional funding models. The workshop, facilitated by MEGAN GROTH and JOSE PARRAL, opened internal progress with identifying educational financial strategies to broader review. Part introduction to the conditions unique to and histories of place, part collective brainstorming and analysis of the information presented, the session was a glimpse into one of the more compelling and substantive initiatives in architecture education today.
— Andrea Dietz
In this workshop, hosts FEDERICO GARCIA LAMMERS and former students DAKOTA MATHEWS SCHMIDT and SHYLO HILBERT expounded on a seemingly benign but crucial structuring tool: the syllabus. Syllabi set the tone and expectations for a course, yet they are often recycled from previous courses, burdened with boilerplate language, and constrained by accreditation-related requirements. But they can be much more. Inspired by last year's events at the South Dakota State Architecture program, when students banded together to demand more from the university, the workshop participants envisioned an academic environment where instructors can, for example, prepare courses of study that take into account factors such as mental health.
— Charles Weak
In this workshop, my fellow participants and I were invited to loosen up and explore new ways of expressing our creativity. Free-drawing sessions, accompanied by music and interspersed with moments of open discussion, left us feeling renewed. The discussions were not entirely formless, but followed prompts provided by facilitator GUSTAVO GARCIA VACA. Quotes and images helped us sew together concepts like freedom, space, and community. Whether it’s possible to create more permanent conditions for such liberatory exploration remains an open question.
At the start of this workshop, the organizers — KLAUS PLATZGUMMER, LENNART WOLFF, and others — asked how many of us paid over $1000 for architectural software (two) and how many pirated their software (everyone else). The point was not that pirating is a widespread practice, but rather that it is a symptom of a systemic problem. Referring to the book The Architectural Machine, Platzgummer et al. argued that software, contra developer rhetoric, leads to the fragmentation of the builder/architect community. Instead, they advocated the communitarian and innovation advantages of open platforms such as Blender, which offers free software and encourages its community of users to speak a common software-based architectural language.
Architects often debate the impact technology has on design processes and outcomes. Similarly, tools and technologies used in design curricula can liberate or constrain student potential. In this workshop I invited participants to “hack” studio assignment prompts using “source code” borrowed from the conceptual, ethical frameworks developed by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein in their work on data feminism. This live exercise was a rehearsal for a proposed provisional theoretical framework that would allow students, educators, and practitioners to collaboratively co-evolve digital pedagogical resources.
— Will Martin
7/21: The Night School: Community After Collapse (in person)
In the first of two in-person workshops, an unlikely group of architecture students and retirees met in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), Aotearoa (New Zealand), for an evening of problem-solving. TESSA FORDE, of THE NIGHT SCHOOL, a local architectural platform that hosted the workshop, asked participants to describe communities that, through personal connection or otherwise, they felt to be in peril. The inquiry navigated several scales, with one student speaking to the plight of the “Community of Pacific Island Nations” in an age of rising seas and another participant considering the fate of a local Surf Life-Saving Club, sure to be lost to coastal erosion. The responses also took the form of solidarity: one concern that came to the fore was the need to provide housing for groups of hurricane-relief workers in Haiti. The group worked to propose remedies to these social and environmental ailments, but more than anything, the event highlighted the particular inadequacies of architectural training in dealing with the real world.
— Leonard Hobbins
IPEK TÜRELI of McGill University, moderated a panel of five studio educators with different approaches to community engagement. SAMANTHA MARTIN, who teaches at University College Dublin, presented a studio she led in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya, where students learned from women builders who produce “basket-like” woven huts that mark territory in shifting and sensitive ways. SARA STEVENS described how in response to student demands in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests the British Columbia University’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture developed a studio policy for soliciting community feedback. ROBERT MULL introduced the Global Free Unit he initiated at the University of Brighton to support architecture students to structure and deliver projects in difficult contexts of deprivation, displacement, and political uncertainty. ANNA GOODMAN talked of applying Critical Race Theory and trauma-informed design perspectives to campus planning at Portland State University (PSU) as a way to integrate the needs of marginalized communities. SERGIO PALLERONI, director of the Center for Public Interest Design, also at PSU, touched on a partnership with indigenous groups to study the Willamette Valley Oak Savanna ecoregion. Following presentations, Türeli shared a sample consent form from McGill for university researchers and students to use with people they engage as part of their studies, and workshop participants deliberated the ethical procedures of it all.
Pushing against formalist approaches to site analysis in the studio, this workshop advocated politicizing that process. After delivering short presentations on regimes of ownership, organizers CAN BILSEL, MANUEL SHVARTZBERG CARRIÓ, REBECCA CHOI, JULIANA MAXIM, and SELINA MARTINEZ fired off a series of prompts to engage participants. When considering a site, who gets left out of the picture? How does a studio integrate contestations of property and use? Can a thoroughgoing study of a place help to forge solidarity among the people who live there? The answers to these questions are varied, but they converge on a common point: designers need to update their analytical toolkit. As suggested by Martinez, who is a member of the Arizona State University Indigenous Design Collaborative, storytelling and intuitive ways of knowing have a part to play.
— JGF and Juliana Maxim
This workshop, facilitated by TONY VAN RAAT and DANIELA SILVA, sought to address the embedded exploitation and precarity of architectural workers and the detrimental effects of status, power, and performance in both academic and professional settings. We came up with possible strategies of resistance and alternative democratic structures. One such example was the suggestion to isolate critics from one another at reviews; another to permit students to lead critiques of each other’s work.
— Alex Oetzel
In the second workshop hosted by THE NIGHT SCHOOL, open-minded strangers sat in accidental darkness when the automated lights switched off just after 6pm. The low lighting only enhanced the intimate feeling of the proceedings. Against the backdrop of groovy music, we used construction paper, skewers, gold foil, markers, and other craft materials to explore interdisciplinary methods of architectural making. We discussed ways of liberating design studios and pedagogies from capitalist constraints. We also danced.
— Maxine Goon
This workshop identified capitalist-informed practices in architectural education, especially in the context of embedded power structures, ideologies of value, and cultures of production. These tangled focal points were investigated in three segments, each guided by facilitators REBECCA CARRAI, RENZO DAGNINO, and MONICA TUŞINEAN, resulting in a collaboratively developed virtual board documenting the simultaneous threads of a deliberately non-hierarchical conversation that took place simultaneously across various media (Zoom video/audio, live chat, Miro).
7/22: Community After Collapse
In this workshop, facilitator SADIA MOUNATA prompted participants to map relationships between vulnerable communities on the verge of collapse. Individually, each of us probed, questioned, tested, and diagrammed reasons for systemic collapse and the environments left behind. Collectively, we covered a broad terrain of topics, including unhoused populations, architecture labor in schools and practice, corruption at the highest levels of government, stolen indigenous land, and disruptions of ecological systems, exposing at each turn the systemic interconnectedness of a collapse and the culpability of capitalism. The discussion revealed the potential for positive transformations amid the chaos: a collapse, it was argued, could dissolve political boundaries, rewild land, empower the oppressed, and lead to unforeseen change.
— Ellen Garrett
In facilitating this workshop, I hoped to lend a critical eye to design methods labeled “participatory,” “social,” or just “woke.” I guided attendees through a series of exercises meant to unpack how entrenched protocols of design inquiry can come to embody oppressive ideologies, capitalist foremost among them. In lieu of typical methods of data gathering, I spoke about the ability of the design studio to nurture students not as autonomous creators, but creative citizens armed with the powers of storytelling and listening. This self-reflective method acknowledges our bodily presence as an act of design in and of itself, using it as the basis by which we resist colonial perspectives.
— Tommy Yang
7/23: Together We Dream
In the final workshop, host ALEX OETZEL encouraged participants to construct idealized versions of themselves ten years into the future. After sharing and comparing these future selves, the group pivoted to a discussion about alternative modes of design practice, as seen in the work of Tiny WPA, Black Women Build Baltimore, Public Works, and Jack Self, among others. At the same time, many expressed concern about the wasted potential of young designers working for boutique firms and developers instead of the public sector. How we might go about changing their minds is a challenge for another time.
— Ronak Gandhi
EYES ON SKYLINE
In Skyline 78, readers were interested in Justin Davidson’s take on ethical pollution in architecture.
IN THE NEWS
As for architecture during capitalism, members of the architecture community are weighing in on whether Saudi Arabia’s 106-mile-long, 1,640-foot-tall, 656-foot-wide linear desert city is the hopeful vision it’s being presented as (to say nothing of its feasibility).
Meanwhile, under neoliberalism, sleeping in public can be an act of resistance.
And in what is seen as a victory for grassroots organizing, early-career architectural worker Muyiwa Oki will be RIBA’s first Black president.
What else is going on?
Fashion icon and Zaha Hadid favorite Issey Miyake dies at 84…
Closer to NYRA HQ, in the Hudson Valley, Storm King Art Center, which had been flooded with visitors during the pandemic, is undergoing a $45 million capital project.
These are the dog days of summer (really, they ended just yesterday) and event listings are thin, but we can take a look ahead to what September has in store for us!
Conversation with Andy Golubitsky & Berardo Matalucci (part of the Housing Lab Conversation Series)
12:00 PM | Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (online event)
Amanda Williams: WE OUTSIDE
06:15 PM | Cornell Architecture Art Planning
In Conversation with Sumayya Vally
06:15 PM | Cornell Architecture Art Planning
Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss: Pedros +/=& Juanas
06:15 PM | Cornell Architecture, Art, Planning
Fall 2022 Sciame Lecture Series: Gabriel Díaz Montemayor | Finding and Operationalizing Common Ground in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region
07:00 PM | CCNY Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture
Stony Creek Quarry and the Granite that Built New York with Darrell Petit
02:00 PM | Untapped New York
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.
NYRA 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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For their support, we would like to thank the Graham Foundation and our issue sponsors, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Thomas Phifer.
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