Archive for October, 2012
Our project, The Mound of Vendôme was just featured as part of Abitare’s issue on re-enactment in architecture – shown above.* I make visual projects so rarely (about one per year), and therefore – as you can imagine – such things rarely get published in the “official” architectural press, so this is an exciting moment. The Abitare section on re-enactment also contains brief but interesting writings by Jorge Otero Pailos and Giovanna Borasi, who is the chief editor of the magazine, as well as a provocative project by Diener and Diener.
The installation version of the Mound (discussed in another post), which is part of the Temporary Structures exhibition at the San Francisco Art Institute (“SFAI”), was recently reviewed here, here and here. It is a very difficult project to photograph (something we are working on). So, if you’re in San Francisco, I hope you have a chance to see it at SFAI’s Walter and McBean Galleries.
Finally, I’m currently in the process of turning the project on the Mound into an hour-long lecture for several upcoming talks. This lecture will be part-history lecture (as if you’re in a survey course), part experimental history lecture, and part I-don’t-know-what. But I’m completely fascinated by the once-popular technique of presenting one, and only one, project as part of a formal lecture (Eisenman’s 1976 House X lectures were one of the more well-known of these single-project lectures, and the inspiration). I have no idea how to keep an audience’s attention for so long on one project; especially as this is so different from many of today’s lecture-series lectures: painfully monographic, idea-free hurricanes of images of twenty or more projects. We will see how this more alternative format goes.
*incidentally, re-enactment in architecture also happens to be the subject of an upcoming exhibition on the history of New York which completely passed me by.
I’m happy to announce that my next book has been approved for publication with the University of Minnesota Press. It’s far along and will be released in 2013. This book- provisionally titled Manhattan Atmosphere: Architectural Environments and the Urban Crisis – was a very long time in the making. It began as a dissertation proposal, transformed over the years, and sat in a drawer while I wrote another book. Below is a brief description (developed in a different context) that describes the book.
Manhattan Atmospheres is set within the “crisis” years of New York City – roughly mid-1960s to mid-1980s – and uses this period to reconsider the relationship of architecture to the socio-natural history of the city. This moment within New York’s history has long been a source of study to better understand the disintegration of the socio-natural systems that bound this city together. This city’s great park networks, sanitarian and reformist projects of light and air and water networks of the 19th century, the public works and networks of the mid-20th century all appear to become denigrated physically and financially. Images of flooded streets from burst water-mains, blackened air, collapsed highways, blighted public spaces, landscapes of burning buildings and sickened trees typify our understanding of the built and natural landscapes of Manhattan between the 1960s and 1980s. This era has become a source of interest as the harsh economic policies of this time and place are repeated in contemporary cities and the last of the gritty sites that emerged during this time become developed. During this period, the grandeur of the City’s socio-natural project appears to sputter, becoming a shadow, nonetheless continuing in sites of urban activism, occupations of desolate landscapes and an eventual preservationist attitude.
As visceral as this image of the city is, and as important as the responses to it were, the following book advances a different argument. The socio-natural project of New York City also continued during this time, but within the interior environments of the City’s monumental late-modern architecture. There, behind tinted and mirrored glass, the vaporous cooled and warmed atmosphere of post-war architecture became far more than a site of internalized human comfort. If earlier socio-natural structures and systems supported the City’s industrial economies and subjects, the environments generated within the City’s architecture during this time invoked a far different political economic future and a far more complex urban and somatic effect. These atmospheric environments entangled with efforts to reconfigure the socio-natural “environment” more generally within the city – a shift impacting the demographics of neighborhoods, reconstructions of urban verdure, conservation efforts for cultural artifacts in historic museums, and post-industrial forms of labor and subjectivity.
The environments developed within the buildings of restructuring New York City were some of the most politicized forms of nature found in the city; but we lack an urban history of these spaces – one that explains how this environment entangled with and reinforced the discursive and material structures that stitched together this city and its imagined future. These environments must be understood as both a transmogrification of urban nature and architecture in the city that furthered the goals of late-modern global urbanity. This book provides us with some necessary historical perspective to reconsider this environment’s ascendant role, its relation to the history of late-modern urban architecture, and how it intersects with our contemporary economic order.
I’ll send out additional updates as the book nears publication.