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As I write this, the fate of contemporary art is being decided in a Paris courtroom, or so claims Domus. What’s really at stake is not art itself but its authorship (funny how the two are inextricably intertwined in today’s conceptual art). In a recent lawsuit, French sculptor Daniel Druet says he is the author of a number of works attributed to famed Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, for which Druet did the wax casting. It seems that Cattelan never gave Druet specific instructions, nor did he spell out the scope of work in a contract. (Compensation was given, however.) The ambiguity at play—was Cattelan Druet’s employer or collaborator?—can be seen in all forms of creative labor, including within architecture.
The career trajectory of an architect proceeds from manual labor (the proverbial CAD monkey) to the conceptual and managerial kinds (the napkin sketch hand-off). Yet what sustains many a young architect through the first phase of their careers is the promise that behind even the most menial task and at every stage of a project is an opportunity to meaningfully impact the design. This is often true, but project credits (to say nothing of compensation) rarely reflect these contributions. And though an attitude shift is underway (many architecture practices now list all team members on the relevant project pages of their websites), the perceived separation between design and execution persists. Prompted by Druet v. Cattelan, we might ask whether there is ever a clear border between design and implementation, especially in the time-intensive, detail-oriented, intensely collaborative, and high-stakes realms of architecture and construction. And if not, who gets to be the author?
— Palmyra Geraki
4/30: Burning Down the House
Editor’s Note: A version of the following write-up was published in last week’s Skyline. It was later brought to our attention that the text misrepresented the substance of the lecture under review. We have amended the dispatch below to better reflect the questions and claims posed therein.
ILLINOIS (ZOOM)—“Capitalism just is environmental crisis,” said DOUGLAS SPENCER in a lecture he gave for the Loudreaders series, an alternative pedagogical platform run by WAI Architecture. The title of his presentation, “Burning Down the House: On Design and Renaturalization in the Capitalocene,” referenced the classic Talking Heads song, which, in the words of band frontman David Byrne, is a metaphor “for destroying something safe that entrapped you.” Defining that “something” was the focus of Spencer’s presentation. Aligning himself with the British philosopher Ray Brassier, Spencer refuted post-humanist and new materialist arguments that human exceptionalism is inherently exclusionary or that (re)naturalization is the only way out of ecological breakdown. Even though such views are often taken to be politically progressive, Spencer argued that they actually reinforce capitalism’s long-standing project to disappear all traces of its massive infrastructure and the extractive labor needed to sustain it. For Spencer, projects such as the Apple Campus by Foster + Partners and Oceanix by Bjarke Ingels Group allege an almost unmediated relationship between the human and the natural; in this way, they merely update the 19th-century representational device of the picturesque, which already attempted to naturalize infrastructure and the free, and unfree, labor behind it. Meaningful change, Spencer claimed, is not the domain of design alone. “For design to play any meaningful part in challenging this state of affairs and its consequences,” he concluded, “this would mean shifting from its long-standing naturalization of the social to working with and for the socialization of nature. It would mean burning down its own house.”
— Ekam Singh
5/6: Bringing LA to NY
Lauren Halsey at the Kordansky Gallery
NEW YORK (IRL)—LAUREN HALSEY’s solo show at the David Kordansky Gallery opened on May 6 to broad acclaim, including a cover article in the Arts section of the New York Times. Halsey, who is from South Central Los Angeles, works with visual markers of everyday Black life, e.g. food, hair, businesses, social exchanges, religion Incorporated into sculptural collages, they recast the architecture of her familial neighborhood in a different light. Halsey’s collages document this iconography at a time of potential loss due to gentrification and its homogenizing trends; in this way, they have something in common with projects such as Black Archives and the Instagram account @hoodmidcenturymodern. But Halsey’s art moves beyond documentation by melding the quotidian imagery of a Black neighborhood with references to Ancient Egypt and Afrofuturism. Moreover, she recently opened the Summaeverythang community center there as a space to “develop Black and Brown empowerment: personal, political, economic, and sociocultural.”
While impressive in its breadth and ambition, the show is not as immersive or architectural as her previous one at the Hammer Museum, where the walls and floors were covered with gypsum engraved with hieroglyphs of Black life, or at MOCA, where Halsey transformed the white-walled gallery into a cave-like space with enclaves that nestled sculptures. By contrast, the white walls of the Kordansky Gallery are very present. The standalone sculptures and wall panels are a sampling of Halsey’s previous work and effectively act as a teaser to her long-anticipated installation on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (postponed to next spring).
Lauren Halsey at the Kordansky Gallery runs until June 11.
— Alma Hutter
5/16: In Pursuit of Ambiguity
Bryan Young: "Figure - Cast - Frame"
LOS ANGELES (IRL/ZOOM)—In a lecture at the University of California Los Angeles, BRYAN YOUNG presented the work of Young Projects as an entrée to the firm’s new monograph, Figure – Cast – Frame. “Every time I say ‘ambiguity,’ I might not be entirely clear and that’s okay,” said Young in the only off-the-cuff comment of the night. He characterized the arc of the firm’s work as the pursuit of ambiguity—oscillation between part and whole, solid and void, what is and what isn’t. At Glitch House, patterned CMU blocks flatten the building’s form, blurring foreground and background. At Six Square House, discrete volumes are joined by a continuous roofline, creating a smooth flow from room to room. Young’s presentation bounced around from forays into plaster molding techniques to a discussion of the spatial qualities of the Donkey Kong arcade game. Attendees were often left pondering the connections between Young’s disparate interests and his oeuvre to date. Still, it made for an enjoyable ride.
— Charles Weak
EYES ON SKYLINE
In Skyline 69, readers were taken by this (darn cool) image.
IN THE NEWS
Construction starts redoubled last month, indicating the industry’s willingness to shrug off the potential for recession…
…The Architectural Association named Doctor Ingrid Schroder as its new director…
…Harvard GSD selected four finalists for the 2022 Wheelwright Prize…
…Arup won the National Building Museum’s Honor Award…
…James Florio won the Julius Shulman Institute’s Excellence in Photography Award, the highest honor for architectural photographers…
…Sneaker heads won another Reebok x Eames Office collab…
— News contributed by Anna Gibertini
The week(s) ahead…
Borderlands, Islands, Taxonomies with Savia Palate, Mark Hackett, Alex Seo, Lukas Pauer, Wenjie Su, David Chandler, Robert Proctor
10:00 AM | The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain
Open Restaurants Innovation: 3 Teams Share Findings with Nick Flutter, Nikita Notowidigdo, Andre Soluri, Victoria Benatar, Michelle Cianfaglione
1:00 PM | AIA New York, Alfresco NYC, Design Advocates, Design Corps
Michael Young and Kutan Ayata: Young & Ayata
3:30 PM | University of California Los Angeles
Social (In)Justice and Spatial Practice: Decentralization with Lillian Cho, Stephanie A. Johnson-Cunningham, Kemi Ilesanmi, Koray Duman, Peter Zuspan
6:00 PM | AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee
Current Work: DnA_Design and Architecture with Xu Tiantian, Calvin Tsao
7:00 PM | The Architectural League of New York, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union
Our listings are constantly being updated. Check the events page regularly for up-to-date listings and submit events through this link.
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