S K Y L I N E | What is home, anyway?
The domestic, the public, the fabric.
Issue 84. Issue 84. As Edward Sharpe would put it, “Home! I’m going home! Home is when I’m alone with… the brand new redesigned issue of NYRA.”
A niche pet peeve I inherited from my mother: referring to a house as a home, as in, “2 bedroom home for sale on charming tree-lined street.” Not only is the thing for sale distinctly a house, a thing with four walls and a roof and a leaky kitchen sink, but it is also emphatically not that complex, amorphous, sometimes wonderful, sometimes miserable, always complicated thing that we call home. What is home, anyway? It’s a place, a feeling, sometimes a person, a period of time, an intersecting set of constructs. In this week’s dispatches, home appears in many of its guises. Home is, to Tatiana Bilbao, talking at Cooper Union on Tuesday, the domestic, the particular and resolutely unique space where people “can create their own space for their own existence.” Home is, to Adam Paul Susaneck, talking at the National Arts Club on Wednesday, the thing that was ripped away from families who happened to live in the path of a proposed highway. Storefront’s anniversary exhibit, which opened last Saturday, explores its origin, a sort of home, and how it created a sense of communion, definitely home. The public realm can be home, a truth that is, painfully, often most visible when it’s designed to not feel like home, as the benchless Moynihan Train Hall shows. Home is the place you leave, the place you go back to, and a place you create for yourself. Can four walls and a roof and a leaky kitchen sink possibly be all of these things? Or maybe it’s this: you can design a house, but you can’t design home.
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9/9: In Conversation with Sumayya Vally
ITHACA, NY (via ZOOM) — “Most of the work that we do is temporal,” said SUMAYYA VALLY, principal of architectural and research Johannesburg-based Counterspace who broke onto the international stage last year as the designer of the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion (a famously temporal commission). Addressing architecture students at Cornell, Vally argued temporal work allowed her to break through some of the “slowness and the systemic closeness” endemic of practice. But there is little temporary about her muse: the city, especially her multicultural home, Johannasburg, “I remember walking the streets of Joburg as a child, and really being in love with it from a very young age.”
— Ronak Gandhi
9/15: James Wines: Re-Thinking it All
WASHINGTON SQUARE — “Since I am here, it proves that the AIA does not make any snap judgments” quipped JAMES WINES, the well-known founder of SITE, giving, at age 90, what most believe is his first career lecture at the Center for Architecture last Thursday night. Befitting someone who has stood historically apart from the professional mainstream, this “retrospective” was a self-critical look back, scrapping much of the canonizing nostalgia typical of the format in favor of interrogating, “what, if anything, did [SITE] do right?”
Introduced by VLADIMIR BELOGOLOVSKY, the nonagenarian Wines spoke for just over an hour, highlighting moments when, to follow Duchamp, he “clean[ed] off his desk,” changing his methods to further his creative output and critically respond to the demands of the present. One desk clearing was his transition away from Henry Moore-esque formalist sculpture—“plop art, I call it”—toward projects inextricable from their physical place and of fluid disciplinary status. Wines’ commitment to creative change was clear, as was his humorous and populist bent brought up by interlocutor BARRY BERGDOLL. “I came more from conceptual art, and the thing lived and died on its own merits. Before you theorized it, it had to be done first” said Wines, an approach which he and Bergdoll contrasted with the disciplinary and erudite references in the work of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi.
When asked what advice Wines’ had for younger professionals to meet the demands of our present and uncertain future, he wisely remarked that though “a head on collision with reality is not a good choice, we need to adapt to it… The younger generation have a lot to do. I think that’s the only advantage of crisis, is it really helps the younger people to be ambitious, imaginative, and in a sense, save the world.” In so confidently sweeping off the desk time after time, Wines’ commitment to change—a rare position in our profession of monumental authors and canonized history—is certainly one thing he got right.
9/17: Public Space In A Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture
NOLITA — Storefront for Art and Architecture’s 40th anniversary show, Public Space In A Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture, opened Saturday. Paraphernalia from four decades of events line the space: a spotlit image of Storefront's Holl and Acconci windows in 1993; "newsprints" by Diller + Scofido and Michael Sorkin; Beatriz Colomina’s typewritten edit of the 1994 exhibit Queer Space, humbled with notes like “could you fax this to Eve?”; a drawing by Nam June Paik.
Reflecting on putting the show together from their archive, Storefront curatorial fellow JESSICA KWOK said it was “amazing to see the work that shaped our institution, and how pivotal [Storefront] was to the downtown scene.” Pictures of a space within that space feels like a particularly New York narcissus, asserting how the small institution’s flow of happenings have been consistently tender and provocative. Though one section uses the word retrospective, the show resists its tidy temporal marker or any sort of culmination. Recurring Storefront topics include urban development, gentrification, and displacement and prove that the space's founding thesis still lives in the show's title juxtaposition, 'Public Space In A Private Time.' The ongoing fluidity between exhibitions and events caused Kwok to say that Storefront represents “what I love about architecture - it’s a social practice.”
9/20: Domestic Imaginaries: Platforms for Social Change with Tatiana Bilbao, Elisa Iturbe
COOPER UNION — TATIANA BILBAO posed a range of important questions during her talk at The Cooper Union hosted by ELISA ITURBE, from “When will we design spaces for rituals?” to “Who decided that a house has to have a kitchen?” But perhaps the best point was made during the Q&A while questioning building materials in relation to thermal mass: “It is 32 degrees on average in Mexico. I don’t know how many in Fahrenheit, I’m sorry, the world is in metric system.” It sent the audience into a fit of laughter but also perfectly summarized the talk, which was largely about decentering domesticity — rejecting imposed globalizing and universal notions of comfort, family and labor. Bilbao ended on a positive note, summarizing her hope and vision for architects: ‘If we all assume we are part of the problem then maybe we can start building a solution?’
9/21: Segregation by Design with Adam Paul Susaneck
GRAMERCY (via Zoom) — “Dense, walkable, mixed-use urbanism is illegal in many American cities.” While a phrase like this is now considered humorous among internet-savvy architects when paired with an outlandishly car-centric cityscape, it more importantly sheds light on the dark history of how American infrastructure made urban centers congested and segregated. In a lecture at the National Arts Club, ADAM PAUL SUSANECK discussed “Segregation by Design,” and his research into the physical changes brought to American cities in the mid-20th century. Urban planners prioritized highway construction and later urban renewal policies, which displaced thousands of mostly poor Black and brown residents and effectively further ingrained racial segregation into the DNA of the American city. While this bleak reality continues today with construction projects like Houston’s highway expansion, Susaneck takes an imaginative approach that notes the prospects of cities like Utrecht, Seoul, and Rochester in breaking down these discriminatory policies of planners past. Responding to a cynical take during the Q&A—“In New York it’s difficult to imagine removing [highways]”—he simply asked, “Is it?”
9/21: If Walls Could Speak with Moshe Safdie, Sam Lubell
COOPER UNION — “I don’t think you can be an architect without being an optimist. You’ll have a nervous breakdown,” said MOSHE SAFDIE, addressing the great hall at Cooper Union Wednesday night, as he discussed his new memoir, If Walls Could Speak, with the Executive Editor of Metropolis, Sam Lubell. Safdie, with culturally iconic buildings from Wichita to Jerusalem to Singapore under his belt and several billion dollars worth of new projects under his supervision, is perhaps the very definition of a globe trotting starchitect. But as Lubell took him on a tour of his life, his demeanor was easy and approachable. Perhaps he got all the arrogance out of his system as a twenty something. Even he is flabbergasted to recall he considered walking away from Habitat because the Canadian parliament was going to give him, a twenty-something year old fresh out of school, only $17 million instead of the $42 million he had requested: “I’ve seen the tapes of myself at the time, and think… how the hell did he do it?” Or perhaps Safdie was tempered by his time in the wilderness, when a veritable forest of Habitat projects to be, spread across the world, were all canceled. One of the only major projects that stayed in play, Mamilla Center in Jerusalem, then took 42 years to complete: “It helps to start young for urban projects.” Speaking of which, his biggest line of the night, in front of an audience of primarily architecture students, may have been his digs into architecture education: “I go into discussions… and I don’t know what is said! Every day there is a new ‘ism - how about clear talk? ….If you are designing inside jokes for other people who know what they are doing, you are not designing for very many people.” The audience burst into applause.
NYRA ON THE TOWN
9/16: NYRA Issue #31 Launch Party
FORT GREENE — “I think today I was told we had something like 142 RSVPs and that always surprises me” said my colleague, MARIANELA D’APRILE, as she stood up on a chest to address the surprisingly large crowd that came out to a beer garden in Brooklyn to grab an advance copy of our new issue, which NICHOLAS RAAP and I had just seen for the first time as it came off the loading dock at the printer at 4pm that day. Maybe not quite the Met Gala (yet), but it was a boisterous night. That said, my favorite part may have been a whole courtyard full of party-goers simply sitting and reading the new issue.
— Nicolas Kemper
We fundamentally reworked our print issue. Read all about it here.
So far it seems to be going well. After we announced the issue, we had a record number of new subscribers, from… Queens, Elmhurst, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Holliston, Amherst, West Orange, Ljubljana, Rotterdam, and even... Brooklyn! Join them, here.
EYES ON SKYLINE
IN THE NEWS
This week, we start off with news of female leaders of architectural institutions:
… J. Meejin Yoon, dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell, wins the World Cultural Council’s 2022 Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts …
… UT Austin School of Architecture dean Michelle Addington announced she will step down at the end of this academic year …
… Rosalie Genevro will also step down from her position at the helm of the Architectural League in June …
… Peggy Deamer observes a trend among female deans of architecture schools …
The New York development scene continues to stupefy…
… a developer in New York bought an office building…as an NFT (?) …
… meanwhile a triplex in a supertall was listed for a cool $250 million …
Comment from around the world …
… and to the north, a Toronto mayoral candidate talks about his vision for an equitable city …
… New York Magazine asks whether the smart city Quayside could have ever been ethical (a question with a very obvious answer) …
And in station improvement news…
… Governor Hochul announces the firms that will redesign Penn Station …
… Boston’s South Station gets federally-funded improvements–and a giant tower …
… let’s hope those improvements include benches …
In the week ahead…
McCall Design Group: A Quotidian Practice with Michael John McCall
1:00 PM | University of Texas Austin School of Architecture
Cocktails & Conversation with Winka Dubbeldam, Michael Kimmelman
6:30 PM | Center for Architecture
LIPS with Anna Lora-Wainwright
1:15 PM | Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Wu Tsang with Wu Tsang
9/27 Tue, 7:00 PM
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
HOW HIGH WE GO IN THE DARK with Sequoia Nagamatsu, Nada Ayad
5:00 PM | Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture
AIAS Lecture Series + Mark Foster Gage with Mark Foster Gage
6:00 PM | AIAS Pratt
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Have a take of global importance to share with NYRA? Write us a letter!
NYRA is a team effort. Our Editor is Samuel Medina, our Deputy Editor is Marianela D’Aprile, and our Editors-at-Large are Carolyn Bailey, Phillip Denny, and Alex Klimoski. 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.
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