S K Y L I N E | Strike!
It's (still) on at the New School
Issue 94. We think NYRA’s new issue will make for a great stocking stuffer. Gift a subscription today.
Now on its twenty-third day, the adjunct strike at the New School is the longest in US history. And it’s still going strong.
But challenges have been mounted. Over the weekend, an email sent out by the New School’s talent engagement coordinator calling for the hiring of temporary “Progress Reviewers” (read: scabs) made the rounds. The only required qualifications were a Master’s degree, some teaching experience, basic technological proficiency, and the “ability to respond well in a high stress environment.” A backlash by both faculty and students ensued. Not long after, the university administration tweeted that the email had been an unsanctioned communiqué; its official response, published on the New School’s website, left the door open to “a range of potential options to ensure our students’ academic futures are secure.”
Meanwhile, the administration announced that it would withhold wages and contributions to health insurance for any faculty members who refuse to cross the picket line. In a blog post, part time faculty union president ZOE CAREY called the threat “an extraordinarily hostile move” even after “weeks of aggressive union-busting tactics and manipulative messaging.”
Full-time faculty have thrown their support behind their striking part time counterparts, as have students, who are now occupying the university center. Full-time Professor MCKENZIE WARK, whose former partner is a part time faculty and whose child is enrolled at the school, has written an eloquent piece voicing her profound disappointment in what she calls a “spectacular display of failed leadership” and a “betrayal of both esprit de corps and of the New School and of its collegiate body.” According to Wark, the administration is now requiring full-time faculty to sign “a sort of ‘loyalty oath’—seemingly unaware that the New School was founded a hundred years ago by scholars who refused to sign a loyalty oath at Columbia University.”
Yesterday, the administration appeared to cede to many of the union’s demands. However, according to LEE-SEAN HUANG, part-time assistant professor at the Parsons School of Design and member of the PTF bargaining committee, this “new last best final” offer arrived just minutes before the university went public with it; the move seemed to Huang like a “media trap.” The union is currently reviewing the offer and they are scheduled to meet with the administration this morning.
Even if an agreement is reached in the next few days, the broader conversation around labor and the academy that the strike inspired won’t be going away anytime soon. During the pandemic, part-time professors at the New School ROBERT SEMBER and JENNIFER KABAT convened “Seminar 2: Protocols for Community and Equitable Networks” to “explore the protocols for education outside the neoliberal university.” In this week’s Skyline, full-time professor SHANNON MATTERN, who already teaches a graduate workshop titled “Redesigning the Academy,” gave a lecture at the New School Part Time Faculty Union’s Strike School that exposed the neoliberal vision of the university through a close reading of its design and branding decisions.
— Palmyra Geraki
12/5: Redesigning the New School
ZOOM — Despite the dozens tuning into the New School Part Time Faculty Union’s Strike School on Monday, there was an air of uncertainty about proceeding as planned. The university, which has been fending off a fair contract with the union since early November, had just announced its intentions to start withholding pay. Against this backdrop, anthropology professor SHANNON MATTERN began her explication of the university’s design ethos and the neoliberal vision it embodies. Reviewing various technologies employed by the New School, from their accordion-style web design (which discourages open access) to their infamous Pentagram-designed typeface (which algorithmically emphasizes flexibility and modularity—qualities the adjunct staff say have been excessively required of them since the pandemic)—Mattern left open the question of which was better: the power of small, course-correcting interventions or a more holistic “raze and rebuild” strategy. For a striking faculty of thousands now facing down the prospect of unemployment, the latter option felt like a breath of fresh air. As one adjunct put it: “The university believes it will be fine without faculty, so maybe faculty [should] ask ourselves if we can be fine without the university.”
— Nolan Kelly
12/6: The Politics of Embodiment
GREENWICH VILLAGE — At Tuesday’s installment of the Center for Architecture’s New Practices lecture series, BRYONY ROBERTS spoke about her involvement with the WIP (Work in Progress | Women in Practice) Collective, which is organized around designing inclusive public spaces. Her colorful and programmatically varied installations often introduce domestic elements like soft textiles and an informal sensibility to the “hard, pale spaces of modernism” that characterize our cities, critic ALEXANDRA LANGE noted. The 2021 Outside the Lines installation at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta was a particular highlight. Attentive to the experiences of neurodivergent, disabled, and mentally ill people, the project incorporated wayfinding strategies and citrus-tinged moiré to create variable conditions for privacy and sociality. Modest in scale, the folly was ambitious, offering a fleeting (and highly photogenic) glimpse of an alternative approach to public space in the city.
— Tim Cox
NYRA ON THE TOWN
CITY COLLEGE — The commemorations began on the mezzanine of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture. They continued downstairs in the four-square atrium, later spilling out into corridors, where guests queued up for incongruous helpings of cheese and sushi rolls against the shimmying accompaniment of light jazz. Around the corner from the victuals, spectators to a Powerpoint presentation pressed against the wall to let people pass by. Amiably lo-fi and awkwardly situated, the projection paid witness to “Spitzer Shining Stars” Marshall Berman and Michael Sorkin, the honorees of the evening. Their likenesses—Berman’s a prodigious cross between Marx and a shaggy dog, Sorkin’s wryer, stubbly, and scraggy by comparison—stood out from the celestial sky.
Berman, a professor of political science who died from a heart attack in 2013, and Sorkin, a professor of architecture and urban design who was among Covid’s earliest notable victims, were City College fixtures. They were also friends, sharing a belief in justice in all its forms, Marxism in certain of its forms, the city, the necessity and elucidating power of criticism, good repartee. “The relationship between him and Michael,” remarked City College VINCENT BOUDREAU on the night, “it sounds like it really should be a screenplay or a Broadway show.”
As writers, they were endlessly quotable, with a biting but supple prose that struts and strives, weaves and soars, yet is still always tethered to the ground. Theirs was an infectious erudition with a basis in books amassed over lifetimes. The occasion at Spitzer marked the donation of the two men’s personal libraries by their widows, SHELLIE SCLAN-BERMAN and JOAN COPJEC. Whereas the Berman collection has been bestowed to the school library, Sorkin’s has been deposited in a reading room designed by architect and faculty member ELISABETTA TERRAGNI.
Guests eventually found their way to the room, in an inauspicious hallway past a set of bathrooms. The orange carpeting, recalling the paprika hue Paul Rudolph deployed at the Yale Art and Architecture building, gets picked up by the legs of the accommodatingly long study table. The folded-steel shelves are elegantly done, particularly the freestanding unit that runs down the center of the variable single-to-double-height space. A word glossary embossed on the ceiling references a curious taxonomy, with concepts ranging from “City-Society” and “City-Space” to “Ethics” and “Animal Behavior.” A quick spine-check reveals a preoccupation with utopia, garden cities (same thing?), European histories, East Asian contemporaries, Plato’s Republic, the Right to the City, Mumford. “The library is more contained and decorous than it had been at 180 Varick,” a close friend of Sorkin’s, anthropologist and City College professor VYJAYANTHI RAO, told me. She was alluding to the overstuffed stacks at Sorkin’s old downtown office, where I, too, got to know him.
Sclan-Berman and Copjec closed out the evening with remarks of their own. Copjec, a prominent Lacanian theorist, described Sorkin as “not simply a ‘word man’ but also a ‘syntax man’” and cited letters he exchanged with the uncompromising LA critic Esther McCoy; to her younger peer McCoy wrote, “Your writing is written from you—no one else could have written it. It skips from A to H to get down to the things that are important.” Why that clipped alphabetical range, Copjec recalled wondering, before being hit by the epiphanic realization: it meant ah.
Sclan-Berman, the writer’s literary executor, spoke about her own discoveries, made while combing through the bibliographic piles at home. In a bottom drawer, she found an unfinished novel (“kinda trashy”) Berman penned in the mid-1960s, involving romantic love and the Weather Underground. She also relayed the details of their first meeting (“Like everyone, I loved All That Is Solid Melts into Air, but I’m the one who married him”) and teased the forthcoming reissue of an out-of-print 1974 text called “Sympathy for the Devil.” In retrospect, it’s ironic that Berman was working on an essay about the Genesis story when he died.
It had been nearly three hours and, wary of the hour-plus train ride home, I slinked out of the auditorium. Spitzer’s Shining Stars were still playing on an intergalactic loop in the hallway. “To be a human is not to have a beginning and an end but to be exposed to infinity,” Copjec had said moments before, not at all incongruously.
— Samuel Medina
EYES ON SKYLINE
In Skyline 93, readers were most interested in a letter that has been circulating in support of Samia Henni, a professor at Cornell whose office was burglarized for what appears to be political reasons.
IN THE NEWS
The Calatrava-designed St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center has officially opened. This coming Monday, the Urban Design Forum is hosting a tour of the building, with a focus on the lighting scheme.
The LACMA-spearheaded five-year multimillion-dollar restoration of Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in Los Angeles is finally complete.
And it’s (AIA) Awards season!
Sharon Egretta Sutton, the first African-American woman in the United States to be promoted to full professor of architecture at the University of Michigan in 1984, was awarded the 2023 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education.
Carol Ross Barney, founder of Chicago-based Ross Barney Architects, received the 2023 AIA Gold Medal.
Robert Easter, chair of the architecture department at Hampton University and former National Organization of Minority Architects president, received the 2023 AIA Whitney M. Young Jr. Award.
Jeff Potter, former AIA president, won the 2023 Edward C. Kemper Award, which acknowledges contributions to the profession through service to the AIA.
Finally, Mithun, a West Coast firm with offices in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, won the 2023 AIA Firm Award.
6:00 PM EST | WORKac
2:15 PM CET | University of Copenhagen
12:30 PM EST | Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Urban Studies and Planning
4:00 PM EST | Urban Design Forum
6:00 PM EST | Center for Architecture
Systems, Roots, Bits: A Conversation About Contemporary Urban Design Challenges, Questions, and Opportunities with Ross Exo Adams, Lydia Kallipoliti, Adam Lubinsky, Peter Robinson, Snoweria Zhang, Jesse LeCavalier
6:30 PM EST | Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
1:00 PM EST | Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture & Urbanism, The Prince's Foundation
12:00 PM EST | Institute of Classical Architecture & Art
7:00 PM EST | The Cooper Union
Designing for Post-Incarceration with Frank Greene, Jeff Mellow, Topeka K. Sam, Hernandez Stroud, Insha Rahman, Rebecca Brown, Zellnor Myrie, Jerrod Delaine, Nadine Maleh, Stanley Richards, Cynthia Stuart
8:30 AM EST | Center for Architecture
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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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