Category:architecture

Look, I don't care if you ARE Domus and you have Paola Antonelli herself as a judge; it is no small thing to call your design competition Autoprogettazione 2.0:

Autoprogettazione 2.0 is an invitation to consider the potential of a diffused, localised manufacturing network combined with the self-build ethos proposed by Mari for the future of furniture design. It is an open-ended process that seeks to leverage the combined intelligence and talent of the design community and collaborative, open-source networks. Selected projects will be exhibited by Domus in an exhibition exploring the future of manufacturing hosted in Palazzo Clerici, one of Milan's most prestigious palazzi.

The submission deadline is 27 March 2012.

The categories are table, chair, lamp, and storage, and the designs will be judged in part by how awesomely they exploit the fancy CNC and 3-D printing setups in the FabLab.

Frankly, it sounds interesting and on the up and up, but all a bit out of my league. And anyway, I don't quite get how these new, cutting edge technologies are really the optimum solution for the space's adaptable, quick & dirty, utilitarian, functional program. Not to be a curmudgeon about it, but my gimmicky meter is redlining right now.

Call for ideas: Autoprogettazione 2.0 [domusweb.it via, uhm, I forget. remind me?]

4/14 UPDATE And we have some winners. Nice stuff. You quiero El Gringo. For all the fab FabLab capabilities, it looks like plywood is still the go-to material for knock-together utilitarian furniture. [via @cityofsound]

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image: ragoarts

A couple--wow, almost three--years ago, when I was deep in my IKEA colabo phase, I posted a roundup of explanations for why Verner Panton's melamine-on-MDF Vilbert chair didn't sell that well when Ikea launched it in 1993-4.

Now, on the occasion of Rago's upcoming auction of five Vilbert chairs, with an estimate of $3-4,000, another version of the chair's origins has come to my attention: that the Vilbert was a limited edition, a low-production collaboration with a high-profile designer, dreamed up by Ingvar Kamprad as a brand enhancer, like Karl Lagerfeld's H&M collection. In this scenario, selling only "about 3,000" Vilbert chairs worldwide was not a failure, but part of the plan.

panton_vilbert_quittenbaum.jpg

In any case, despite a lot of onesies selling--or not--for far less, I will guess that Rago hopes its set of five is worth twice the EUR 1600 Quittenbaum got for six Vilbert chairs in 2006. Perhaps someone with a chairless Guyton/Walker breakfast nook will prove them right.

UPDATE: the chairs sold for $2,875.

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Maybe it's because I was reading about Jean-Pierre Reynaud and Superstudio's Quaderna furniture last night, but for the first time, I suddenly noticed the incredible, grid-like mesh gabion fortification and construction system that defines the forward operating bases in Afghanistan: HESCO.

hesco_afghanistan.jpg

The HESCO Bastion Concertainer, obviously just called Hesco, is a galvanized steel mesh cage lined with non-woven polypropylene geotextile, which can be deployed with local fill ten time more quickly than sandbags, and with 90% less manpower.

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It's light enough to deploy by hand. It folds flat for easy transport. A shipping containerized system called RAID [Rapid In-Theatre Deployment] can be rolled out 1000 feet at a time from the back of a moving truck.

hesco_obs_tower.jpg

It protects against bullets, car bombs, and artillery fire, and it's structural, so you can build with it. It's water- and erosion-resistant, so you can do flood control with it. It's ubiquitous in Afghanistan to the point of invisibility.

hesco_gym_au_lowres.jpg

Which is where it starts getting really interesting. Here is a gym, constructed with Hesco pilings and a flattened out Hesco floor, built at a Hesco'd-out Australian forward gunnery base in Helmand last February.

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When Hesco meets the ingenuity that produces awesome, homebrewed field furniture knocked together from shipping pallets [above, below]

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You end up with an entire Hesco living room set, including sofas, a TV stand and side table,

hesco_lounge_au_lowres.jpg

and club chairs and even a garbage can--all apparently noteworthy enough for a visiting commander to photograph and explain in 2010.

hesco_chair_au_lowres.jpg

It's like the Amerafghan love child of Staff Sergeant Frank Gehry. Admit it, wouldn't you have paid more attention to the war if you'd known the troops were hacking such awesome design all this time? Please send more pics!

HESCO Bastions [hesco.com]
Field Furniture, from the Iraq & Afhanistan theaters [pallet images via militaryphotos.net]
12 February 2010 | Commander Joint Task Force visits Aussie gunners in Helmand Province Afghanistan [defence.gov.au]

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I just pulled out some Future Systems books last night, and I'd forgotten how hard I'd fallen for them. And though I knew they were The Future at the time, it's still pretty awesome/eerie how much our 2006 ended up looking like their 1993. It seems like Jan Kaplicky and Amanda Levete's tenacious, visionary modernist pursuits, their interest in prefab and industrial manufacturing in architecture and energy efficiency, became dominant themes, even as FS's own practice split apart with the end of its principals' relationship.

The other thing that seems prescient, for better or worse, is Kaplicky's voracious image consumption. Those little source/idea books Future Systems put out, filled with hundreds of photos and drawings culled from the seductive, Western "image cascade" that washed over Kaplicky after he left Communist Czechoslovakia, feel exactly like the world's favoritest tumblr.

[Of course, they also feel like a conditioned response to the multiscreen info overload of capitalist love the Eameses made for exhibition in Moscow in the Cold War, and Kaplicky's own "vast collection" echos the 310,000+ piece image archive Ray Eames donated to the Library of Congress.]

But that's the good part. Future Systems also anticipated the thing that most annoys the hell out of me about Tumblr and FFFound and the entire world now, the carefree casualness with credit and sourcing.

By that I obviously don't mean I have hangups with attribution, or--double obviously--copyright infringement. [The title page of one catalogue has this refreshing disclaimer, "All reasonable efforts have been made to trace the copyright holders of the photographs. The Publishers and Future Systems apologise to anyone who has not been reached."] It's just that when I see an image that interests me, I want to know more. I want context. Origin. History. Tangents. I want to learn things that don't necessarily only involve how something looks.

future_sys_modular_shed.jpg

So anyway, does anyone recognize this kind of awesome prefab construction system Kaplicky included in his Influences: A Visual Essay [on the top of page 28 of Marcus Field's 1999 Future Systems monograph, btw]? If I had to guess, I'd say it's some random Prouvé follower, but that doesn't narrow it down.

UPDATE And we have a winner, Doug from Materiality Office has identified Fritz Haller as the designer of this steel frame building system, probably from a house in Solothurn, Germany. Many thanks!

You know what I never got around to doing in 2010? Finishing the catalogue of all the designs created for the Alcoa Forecast ad campaign in the late 1950s.

That was the postwar, civilian/consumer-oriented, Glorious Aluminum Future PR campaign that gave birth to the Eames Solar Do-Nothing Toy. Which is by far its greatest claim to fame.

But still, there were other products, prototypes, designs, toys, sculptures, concepts. Like the ones I ran across in April 2010: Eliot Noyes's design for a carport-like, aluminum & Perspex shelter; satelloon-esque, spherical prototypes for a portable oven by Greta Magnusson Grossman and the Music Sphere, a hi-fi by Lester Beall; and modular prismatic side tables by Isamu Noguchi. Then I found a couple of boring ones, and got distracted.

girard_alcoa_forecast_shelves.jpg

But I just stumbled across this tearsheet on eBay, which is probably from the July 27, 1957 issue of the New Yorker, and which shows a shelving system Alexander Girard designed for the Alcoa Forecast campaign. The photo, shot in Santa Fe, at Girard's house, was taken by Charles Eames. Which, according to the timeline of John Neuhart, the Eames employee who actually created it, is about when the Solar Do-Nothing Machine was realized.

girard_shelves_alcoa.jpg

So Girard. Hmm. Overall, of course, awesome. But the shelves themselves? I gotta say, I'm not feeling it. The various panels in milk or smoked glass are fine, but the tubular metal seems off, and the feet are a mess.

The image itself seems to be more successful, or interesting, the way it collapses background and foreground into the shelves, which is funny, since they're ostensibly meant to divide the space they inhabit, not flatten it. That Four Seasons-looking chain curtain thing on the right is especially odd/cool. And that Mary Heilmann painting top-center is freaking awesome.

December 22, 2011

WWPD?

Yes, I know I should be praising Norman Foster for his Dymaxion Car, which, of course.

But instead, I will be grateful for the deftness of Lord Foster's humblebraggadocio in the essay he wrote for his wife's show/book in Madrid on Jean Prouvé.

[Best line hands down: "He reviewed the drawings in silence. then said, simply: 'You don't need me - it's perfect as it is.'"]

In discussing his firm's work at the Free University of Berlin, which included the extensive renovation of the Rostlaube, or "Rustbucket," the affectionate name given to Prouvé's innovative-but-decaying CorTen-clad library:

Our approach from the start was not to ask 'How can we match what Prouvé did?', but to try to imagine how he would have responded, given the same challenge. So instead we asked: 'How can we do what Prouvé would do now?'

We could have used Corten steel in much thicker sections, which technically would have been correct. But if Prouvé had known that the material needed to be sized differently, and that was his starting point, then the result would have been very different too. Most likely he would have looked at the alternatives and chosen a material that could be detailed finely and would stand the test of time; and so that's what we did. We replaced the corroded panels and framing with new elements made from bronze, which as it weathers and acquires a patina is gradually taking on the colour tones of the original.

Which is what happened, eventually, I'm sure. But when it was done, the library looked as awesomely, hilariously shiny as a new Pfennig.

rostlaube_prouve_foster_busse.jpg

Do they still have Pfennig? I guess they will soon enough.

Foster on Prouvé [blueprintmagazine.co.uk, image via busse]
Unrelated, unmentioned, and most probably not WPWD: Foster & Partners' cuh-razy Library of Philology at Free University Berlin [fosterandpartners]

beasley_mollino_minini.jpg

Let me tell you, spare, door-sized black & white prints in screen-like triptychs are not what I think of when I hear "Carlo Mollino" and "photography." [Google search possibly nsfw]

But Becky Beasley's show "The Outside," at Francesca Minini in Milan, is just that, an austere yet decorative-looking exploration of Mollino's treatment of photography and public/private space. In a good, specific, abstract way, it looks positively Quaytman-esque.

Becky Beasley's "The Outside" runs through Jan. 14, 2012 [art-agenda.com]

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I'm really bummed to have missed The Gifting of Bill Walton's Studio on December 4th, the extraordinary culmination of the ICA Philadelphia's memorial recreation/exhibit of the late local master's crowded workplace.

As ICA blogger/curator Rachel Pastan tells it, the event went of exactly as planned, with people trading memories and stories of Walton, and then choosing a memento from the studio--tools, brushes, scraps, materials, anything but finished sculptures--to take with them.

I guess it's alright, because I've kind of been doing the same thing already, since 1996.

I found Bill Walton's humble, powerful, minimalist, materialist sculptures when I was attending business school in Philadelphia. When Larry Becker Gallery had his second Walton show during my final semester, I splurged and bought a small piece--small even by Walton's standards, though bigger than the gold or copper headless nail works he'd embed flush in the wall.

bill_walton_sweetow.jpg

It's a strip of lead an inch or so wide, carefully folded back and forth on itself into a little stack, almost like a cube. Pinched between one of the folds is a single 10"-inch blade of dried grass. In concept, it's similar to the aluminum block & newspaper work Walton showed at Patricia Sweetow Gallery in 2005 [above]. [BTW, I love that he didn't date his works. They exist among themselves, not in a timeline or progression.]

Becker explained that it was common to the streets of Philadelphia, and should I ever need to replace the grass, I could go out and find it. The species of grass is included on the label on the little custom-built archival cardboard case--it's put away right now, so I can't look it up--and Walton helpfully included a couple of spares behind a taped sheet of glassine.

Becker had shown the little sculpture on a small, white wall bracket about the size of a CD-case. For a while, I alarmed Becker by telling him how I had placed the sculpture on a cinnabar lacquered netsuke stand I'd found in the basement of my globetrotting landlady's townhouse.

I was very interested at the time in the way Western modernism and minimalism resonated with Asian and Zen precursors--I was a groupie for John Cage's Rolywholyover, which was at the Philadelphia Museum in 1995. And then later, when MoMA was choosing the architect for its expansion, I was translating criticism about Yoshio Taniguchi and his architect father Yoshiro Taniguchi, who had worked with Corbusier, designed the awesome mid-century modern Hotel Okura in Tokyo, and who founded Meiji-mura, an architecture preservation park which contains Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel.

But that's several other stories. When my grass broke and my supply ran out, I began making a point to harvest a blade or two every time I went back to Philadelphia.

I kind of drifted away from a close following of Walton's work after I left town, but Walton's sculpture ends up occupying an outsize mental space for me, and it continues to link me to the city where Walton made it--and where I found it during my 2-year sojourn.

The transfiguration of Bill Walton's studio [icaphila.org]

The new issue of Public Art Dialogue is out--as you know, right?--and it includes an article by Drake University art historian Maura Lyons that looks at how Disney, photography, and Ken Burns altered the Gettysburg National Military Park.

In the 1990s, the National Parks Service decided to reconfigure Gettysburg toward a "historically authentic" representation of the landscape as it appeared during the pivotal three-day battle in 1863, emphasizing the sites of action. After visiting the battlefield last year, I wrote [and wrote] about the problematic inconsistencies and selectivity of the strategy, which seemed to me like a retrofitted justification for an anti-modernist campaign to remove Richard Neutra's Cyclorama building. Which it may still be, but not only that.

The NPS, Lyons argues, was trying to shore up the memorial's relevance--and revenue--by responding to other presentations of Civil War history:

The landscape historian Brian Black has argued that the new direction for preservation at Gettysburg was partially motivated by the fact that, during the 1990s, the Walt Disney Company was planning to develop a historically themed park named Disney's America in northern Virginia...NPS identified Disney as a possible economic threat an moved to solidify Gettysburg's historical landscape as an authentic and authoritative one. In these efforts they could take advantage of a feature that Disney did not possess: the national park's location on a notable battlefield.
Part of what helped kill Disney's America, of course, was its proximity to another major Civil War site, the Memorial in Manassas to the Battles of Bull Run.

gardner_rebel_sharpshooter.jpg
Alexander Gardner, The home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg 1863

As for photography, Lyons cites Gettysburg Then & Now, William Frassanito's decades-long research project to identify and reshoot the sites of vintage, battle-era photographs. And a study by Jim Weeks, who found that

the desires of visitors, who want to see visions of the battlefield familiar to them from historical photographs, particularly from their deployment in Ken Burns' documentary series The Civil War...helped prompt the restorations of the last 20 years... Weeks observes that "While in earlier phases Gettysburg controlled its image, by the latest phase images controlled Gettysburg."
Lyons, Maura, "Memorialization and Marginalization: Vernacular Sites and the American Civil War," PAD Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, pp163-191 [tandfonline.com]
Previously: Some pointers, or what to do with Neutra's Gettysburg Cyclorama Center?

Thumbnail image for neuhart_solar_do-nothing.jpg

A few months ago, I was asked to write something about Ray and Charles Eames by the folks at Humanities Magazine, published by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The NEH had provided some funding to Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey's documentary, Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter, so a straight-up review wouldn't really work. But I was encouraged by the documentary's title, and its exploration of Ray's role in the duo's collaborative process, and so I decided to float the idea that there's a lot to learn by considering the Eameses as artists:

Throughout their own careers, whether making architecture, furniture, toys, annual reports, or films, the Eameses presented themselves as designers. And despite their forays into education, computing, and international diplomacy, that's how they are typically seen. But calling the Eameses designers while trying to account for their polymathic legacy can be problematic, particularly if we're picturing the designer as a lone, heroic genius: Charles Eames as the Howard Roark of American consumer capitalism. It invites many esoteric and academic questions about process, context, gender, and collaboration, which are interesting but hard to resolve. When considered from an artistic perspective, however, many of these complications evaporate. Accepting Ray and Charles Eames as artists and their studio work as art gets us away from the arbitrage over who did what and how. Plus, it enriches and deepens the contemporary understanding of their role in the culture of their time.
That's John Neuhart up there, by the way; he built the Eameses' greatest object besides their house, and one of the greatest unsung, unrecognized artworks of the modernist era, the Solar Do-Nothing Machine.

Modern Love, Humanities Magazine, Nov/Dec. 2011 [neh.gov]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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about this archive

Category: architecture

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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
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HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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