Category:architecture

June 27, 2014

Uncle Sam's Club

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The Department of Homeland Security released this photograph of Secretary Jeh Johnson and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and their respective entourages visiting the Males 16-17 aisle in the Nogales Placement Center, where several hundred ? thousand? unaccompanied minors are being detained, after being arrested while crossing into the US.

I'm going to be Gurskying up images of these juvenile prison warehouse stores as I find them. I just cannot even right now.

Readout of Secretary Johnson's Visit to Arizona [dhs.gov/news]

June 17, 2014

On Roman Balls

garbatella_balls_of_rome.JPG

I was looking up something else entirely when I came across this post at the travel blog, Rome the Second Time, an architecture professor explaining how giant balls are a "very fascist" architectural element, which were popular starting in the 1920s.

The photo above is of a fascist-era housing complex in Garbatella, for example, and there are several more great examples.

http://greg.org/archive/struth_pantheon.jpg

Which, on the one hand, good to know, because seven years ago, when I first mapped out the world for places that could accommodate showing a 100-foot-diameter satelloon as an art object, the Pantheon in Rome was one of only a handful of possibilities. In concept, in fact, it seems like it'd be the perfect choice. [Eventually the Grand Palais in Paris joined the list, too.] But if spheres read to Romans as fascistic artifacts, you'd need to take that into account.

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The perfection the fascists loved also made Gerhard Richter very skeptical of spheres. He complained that with spheres it's "impossible to get any closer to perfection," and so you stop. Except when you don't; 16 years after he said this Richter created his own shiny steel sphere editions.

The Balls of Rome [romethesecondtime]

previously:
If I Were A Sculptor, But Then Again...
Les Sateloons du Grand Palais
Shiny Balls by Gerhard Richter

njtpk_signs_far.jpg

Can I just say how much I like the new aesthetic of the New Jersey Turnpike expansion project? I honestly cannot imagine that many people going to or from the Pennsylvania Turnpike; at least in my 10 years of DC-NYC shuttling, I've never seen that kind of volume, but aesthetically, I'm generally for it.

It's not the only place that has it, and maybe it's just the standard now in overpass and on- and off-ramp construction, but instead of bulky concrete pillars, the ramps are held up by huge, road-spanning I-beams. They all have a beautiful, oxidizing protective finish, too, like the best Richard Serras.

njtpk_signs_med.jpg

Even cooler, though, are the new electronic signs, which are constructed of square, Cor-Ten pipe, and they have meshed-in spaces for maintenance. Not just catwalks, or ledges, but actual spaces. What we perceive as a flat thing--a sign--turns out to be a space. Like the window halllways at Grand Central or Philadelphia 30th Street Stations. The Turnpike signs are New Jersey's newest architectural icons, suspended across that state's iconic landscape: a 12-lane highway.

And someone designs this stuff. Probably someone at PKF Mark III, the firm which the Turnpike Authority awarded three contracts in 2011, totaling over $44 million, for the "Installation of Variable Message Signs at New and Existing Locations on the Turnpike."

njtpk_signs_cu.jpg

Oh wait, nope. Here it is, from the NJ Turnpike Interchange 6 to 9 Widening Program website: "Advanced Fabrication of Overhead Span Sign Structures for Variable Message Signs and Variable Speed Limit Signs," awarded to RCC Fabricators, Inc., on August 13, 2009.

njtpk_rcc_fabricators.jpg

The project was one of the highlights in the 2011 newsletter for the Railroad Construction Company, Inc. family of companies [pdf, img above]. RCC Fabrication made 61 VSM sign structures, 41 for the Turnpike and 20 for the Garden State Parkway. The structures span up to 95 feet, and were built entirely off-site. I can't tell from the acknowledgements who is actually responsible for this form, but it works.

The architect/sculptor Tony Smith famously described the revelatory experience of driving down the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike in 1951 [pdf]. Me, I would like to move in before it opens. And before it gets too hot.

Previously: Michael Ashkin, "For Months He Lived Between The Billboards", 1993
Related infrastructure as domestic architecture: That Minnesota Skyway for sale again/still
Mies Gas Station

Has anyone ever bought artist wallpaper from Maharam Digital Products? Or have you ever seen it installed? 1 I'm kind of fascinated to know when, where, and who. Because is it seems to exist in this unusual space between pattern, image and object, between art and decoration. It has that visual punch, but compared to an artwork artwork, it's pretty cheap. [I think it starts at around $5-10,000 per installation.] Also, it's consumable, a one-time deal. You can't take it with you, and perhaps more importantly, you can't really resell it.

guyton_walker_maharam.jpg

So it really is for love. But it's also a little weird, like a counterfeit somehow. It feels strange that it's so customizable, a servicey product. Some artists' wallpaper feels close to their "actual" work. Some really tried to get into the essence of wallpaper as a tradition and a medium. I'm undecided which is the better approach.

Guyton/Walker's Orange_Lemon_Chex looks like it came straight out of an installation. But then if you just had wallpaper, wouldn't you wonder where the rest of the stuff is?

mccollum_maharam.jpg

Allan McCollum's The Shapes Project uses each of his 31 billion or whatever shapes only once, so each wallpaper installation will be technically unique.

minter_maharam.jpg

Goldkicker is one of two Marilyn Minter wallpapers, and I think it'd really, really hold a room. Part of me wonders how hard it'd be to have art in a room with artist wallpaper, though.

tomaselli_maharam.jpg

Which is ironic. The degree with which an artist's artwork can be replaced by a wallpaper version of it has some critical implications. Also, it might cut into his market. Or maybe the price points are just so different, it's not an issue. Fred Tomaselli probably hopes so.

welling_maharam.jpg

James Welling's Glass House May, 2008, meanwhile, is similar enough to one of my favorite photomurals, the rare, surviving photomural that started it all [or at least my interest in photomurals]: a 1966 triptych of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion.

Maybe artist wallpaper is closer to architecture than to art.

Maharam Digital Products [maharam.com]

1 [I realize I have seen at least one installation before: L&M Arts had Paul Noble's wallpaper in its offices a while back. But maybe it wasn't this one; it seemed more city than ruin.]

turkey_portable_wall_n_65624_1.jpg
image: AA

Turkey is trying to control the flow of refugees from Syria and the unregulated trade and traffic across the open border by constructing a "portable" wall near Kusakli, a border village under the jurisdiction of the nearby town of Reyhanlı, in the Hatay province. No biggie, though, this wall's just 1200m. Really more of an installation.

The AA photo above shows workers installing the prefab concrete segments with a crane. They look like jacked up Jersey Barriers.

184138_dha_hatay_portable_wall.jpg

As this DHA photo shows, they are jacked up Jersey Barriers, 30cm thick, and 3m square. Each weighs 9 tons. From their popular use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the US military's technical term for a jacked up Jersey Barrier may be a Texas Barrier [3.7m] or an Alaska Barrier [6m], or a Bremer Wall, after Paul Bremer, who did so much to create the demand for them during the early days of the occupation.

All these US-style barriers, though, are thinner, rectangular, more 2001 monolith-shaped. Their design heritage traces back to the model for an instant wall along the US-Mexico border that congressman/earthworks artist Steve King (R-IA) exhibited in 2006. And to the decidedly non-temporary, non-portable wall Israel built in the occupied West Bank.

Turkey apparently does not want to use Israeli-style oblong walls, so they go with the square. A little heavier, but fewer lifts. They're apparently installing the wall at around 75 segments/day.

kusakli_turkey_pentagon_gmap.jpg

I looked Kusakli up on Google Maps, and the awesome, gridded Benday dots of the olive orchards in the surrounding landscape are suddenly the second most interesting feature. Because there is this unusual Pentagon overlay around the town. What even is that? There's no way it's the wall. Or the demarcation for a wall, since the wall's only 1/8th built. Right? That'd turn Kusakli into West Berlin without limiting the flow of Syrians anywhere except in this tiny village. So it's something else.

Turkey builds portable wall on border with Syria [hurrietdailynews, image: AA via @aljavieera]
Turkey builds portable wall on Syrian border [todayszaman, image: DHA]

Previously: Study For A Fence And A Wall (2006)
Related: Afghanprogettazione: HESCO X DIY Troop Furniture

The Getty Museum is now included in the Google Art Project. Which is now a part of the Google Cultural Institute. I hadn't noticed how this context has changed, and how the Art Project has been subsumed and presented. The navigation options are, "Collections | Artists | Artworks | User Galleries." And institutions are collections.

getty_google_art_mirror_03.jpg

Anyway, Museum View. I know that Google Street View-based art fascination is old and busted, but Museum View for me is still the new hotness. Maps are for navigating, going somewhere, doing something. But Museums are for displaying and depicting and interpreting; they hold and show objects and generate discussions and critical context. And Google Museum View is doing that on a trans-institutional scale, and so it feels important to have some awareness of this process. Trans-Institutional Critique.

Fortunately, Google still sometimes documents itself documenting.

So many projects, so many browser tabs, open for so many months, I've gotta clear some of these things out:

warhol_worlds_fair_overpainted.jpg

I've wanted to remake the lost/overpainted panels from Andy Warhol's Thirteen Most-Wanted Men mural for the NY World's Fair since the Destroyed Richter Paintings days, but now with the comprehensive-sounding show at the Queens Museum opening, I've probably got a week to do it. And process it. And put it behind me. Ah well. The show does sound good, though.

folk_art_tables_vf.jpg

Not sure why it didn't occur to me sooner, but the news this week that MoMA's started the dismantling of the Folk Art Museum gave me a flash of inspiration: The Williams+Tsien Folk Table Collection. Turn each bronze alloy panel into a unique memento/tabletop. Maybe there's enough material inside to use for legs, &c., too. I see a couple dozen dining tables, as many coffee/side tables, and a handful of console/sofa tables. They'd be a stunning addition to the finest home, and quite the conversation piece.

williams_tsien_chester_higgins_nyt.jpg

Actually, the inspiration came from Chester Higgins Jr's photo of Billie & Tod holding architectural fragments. The domestication of architecture.

Primary_struc_photomurals_20140411nyt_conrad.jpg

Also from the Times: Fred Conrad's great photo showing the use of photomurals to evoke/approximate historical spatial experience at the Jewish Museum's "Other Primary Structures" show. It's interesting that they're angled and mounted on wall-sized panels, not stuck to the moulding-encumbered wall. Makes them a bit more exhibition design and a bit less exhibition, I suppose.

Richter tweeted this the other day, and it's been nagging at me ever since:

the exhibition of reproductions of paintings, that is, not just paintings based on photographs. Also, of course, the show is at the world's most intensely named museum, the Topography of Terror.
I've reached out to the Topographers, hoping to find out more about how paintings function in an exhibit like this, and how the decision was made to include them as reproductions. But so far I have received absolutely no response. But I did get some screencaps from a YouTube video of the opening, which I can't find right now:

richter_topography_terror_1.jpg

richter_topography_terror_2.jpg

Hmm, actually the panels look like reproductions of pages of books, not of paintings. Simultaneously more and less interesting.

sf1978.565.jpg

While rummaging around the Met's collection database, looking for Arthur Vincent Tack info, I Google Imaged up this hard edge painting. Which apparently hadn't been documented in the color photo era, but I couldn't find it on the Met's site.

As I was posting this I realized the filename is the accession number, 1978.565, Larry Zox. 1978's obviously too old for Hard Edge; the painting's from 1966, an at once unusual and logical size of 50x100 inches. Untitled (from the Double Gemini Series).

Turns out the Guggenheim has a very similar painting, Alto Velto, from 1969. Color really matters in these jpgs.

Larry-Zox-Alto-Velto-1969-580x388.jpg

Martin Bromirski posted images from a 2008 Larry Zox show at Stephen Haller.

March 10, 2014

Rem Casafresca

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The Venice Architecture Biennale, which opens in June, held a press conference today with curator Rem Koolhaas and Paolo Baratta. The event was streamed live online. As @kieranlong pointed out on Twitter:

Intrigued, I quickly tuned in to the event, already in progress. The average age of the large crowd of press/reporters looked to be well over 60yo, and their questions were often longer than Koolhaas's answers, which were simultaneously translated by a rotating cast of female voices. It really was a mess.

The first words I heard set the tone:

So I decided to livetweet it.

With a couple of brief exceptions the text comes only from Koolhaas. I don't type very fast, and I can't figure out the keyboard shortcuts for accents, but otherwise I think this transcript captures the experience of watching quite well:

Yesterday at MoMA, I took extra time this time in David Platzker's 4'33" exhibit so I could dig into the Fluxus material a bit more. George Maciunas' extraordinary chart of the entire history of art as seen through the other end of the Fluxus telescope was especially awesome. [The site for last year's Fluxus exhibit has a huge image of Maciunas' chart for close-up study.]

maciunas_house_bklnmodelworks.jpg
Fluxhouse™ model via Brooklyn Model Works

Trying to find a copy for myself, I headed to the Stendhal Gallery, the post-Fluxus home of the Maciunas/Fluxus legacy, as managed by Henry Stendhal. And that's where I found out you can now buy a license for a Fluxhouse™.

The Fluxhouse™ [always with the ™] was George Maciunas' concept for affordable, adaptable, lightweight, prefabricated housing to change the world The 1,900sf single-family house is raised on concrete piers, with structural flooring and cabinetry around the perimeter, a central kitchen/bath core, and with adaptable, non-loadbearing panels defining the spaces around a glassed-in courtyard garden. Originally, it was supposed to be made out of a cheap, environmentally friendly material like plastic.

When Stendhal's George Maciunas Foundation showed a model of the Fluxhouse™ last year [above, built by Brooklyn Model Works], the story was a bit more complex. From The Architects' Newspaper [via Fluxus Fndn]:

The Prefab Building System first appeared in plans that Maciunas and a sometime colleague, the pugnacious philosopher/musician/all-purpose gadfly Henry Flynt, devised in 1965 for a housing system in the Soviet Union, hoping to improve on the heavy concrete residences that Soviet builders had favored since 1960. Maciunas designed, and may have helped draft, Flynt's pamphlet, which urged a return to the revolutionary aesthetics of the 1920s and an adoption of certain technologies that could democratize cultural power, including electric guitars, Buckminster Fuller domes, and Citroen 2CV cars. The Prefab System was part of this document. The Stendhal Gallery's public presentation nearly erases this origin (thought a press-kit essay by Julia Robinson does mention it), perhaps to jettison what today appears as off-putting ideological baggage. It's easy to accuse Flynt and Maciunas of naivete in attaching egalitarian hopes to the post Stallinist Soviet regime, but abstracting the design idea from any utopian context seems naïve in a different way.
Henry Flynt's involvement, whatever it may have been, doesn't come up in the Fluxhouse™ pitch.

But when the Foundation still writes that "George Maciunas is best known as the 'Father of Soho' for colonizing and gentrifying this neighborhood from a post-industrial dystopia into a mecca for the arts," it's safe to say that building a Fluxhouse™ still involves a certain utopian naivete.

Which may or may not be described in the FluxCty™ Assessment Report, the product of a five-year effort to finally take the Fluxhouse™ beyond the concept sketch stage, and to turn it into a commercially viable prefab building system. And now, the next logical step in a universal housing solution: selling up to five licenses to build your own Fluxhouse™ Limited Edition [pdf]. With a 2012 estimate of construction costs at $7.50/sf,, or $14,250, the limited edition license may end being the most expensive part.

there are a lot of Fluxhouse-related links in the sidebar here [georgemaciunas.com]
Previously, and definitely related: Modernism's embrace of systems, including George Nelson's strikingly similar modular house system from 1958
Jan Kaplicky was a fan of Fritz Haller's steel framing system
Kocher & Frey's Aluminaire House, which, obv
From sketch to Vuitton marketing scheme: realizing Perriand's beach house
Muji Houses

January 21, 2014

The Maze Collection

tony_smith_maze_la_install_1.jpg

Tony Smith conceived of The Maze in 1967 for a very early show of installation art at Finch College's townhouse gallery on the Upper East Side. The four units, two 10x7' and two 5x7, were originally made from plywood, painted black. Grace Gleuck said the light was low, and that "a walk among these gloomy, primeval presences evokes the feeling of an endless forest."

When I wrote about the little cardboard model of Maze in Aspen 5+6, in 2012, I did not know whether it had been shown since. That was because I just wasn't looking hard enough. It turns out that another plywood incarnation of The Maze was shown at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1988. And last Fall, Matthew Marks installed a black steel version of Maze [no The] in his Los Angeles gallery. I'm bummed I didn't get to visit it in person, but the photos look stunning [top].

smith_ubu_mazeGrid2.gif

The plan of the piece seems to show that the dimensions, including the inner and outer passages, and even the units themselves, were all 30 inches wide, and derived in some degree by the Finch space itself. Not sure about Paula's incarnation, but that site-specific aspect didn't make it into the 2013 version, which looks suitably monumental, but also clearly sculptural. And not a hint of primeval gloom.

In his statement for Aspen, curated by Brian O'Doherty, Smith actually gave permission to anyone to "reproduce the work in its original dimensions (in metal or wood)." And so I will. As The Maze Collection of functional household built-ins. It just seems like a lot of space to lose to sculpture. It's more Zittel than Zittel, and less Jade Jagger than Jade Jagger.

tony_smith_maze_kit_desk.jpg

I see The Maze Collection as having a really sick, velvety, matte black surface. No gloss, no lacquer. As long as you make that the panels close properly, and give you that clean, solid, not-at-all-hinged-or-doored look, I think it'll work.

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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.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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Category: architecture

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It Narratives, incl.
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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Prince YES RASTA:
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