Drawing it out... Is drawing dead YSOA

 An inate problem with symposia is that they are exclusive. They happen at the institution that hosts them, in a time frame that is limited and often they deal with, or attempt to deal with, a particular issue at hand. Is Drawing Dead at the Yale University School of Architecture may have pushed the hyperbolic limit. 

That the answer is "no" at Yale is not a shock, nor should it be a shock that the theoreticians collected there should make a plea for considering the drawing in it's different formats. 

From the twitter feeds, student whispers, and the panelists, a question seems to have been missed - what are we drawing? Isn't that the more interesting question any way? Are we drawing machines, assemblages, collages? Is this artwork, or communication or documentation? 

Ten years ago we drew program (OMA) or fields (SANAA) or deconstructed objects (morphosis) or lines. The act of drawing is in itself problematic within the design profession. Drawings have a purpose beyond the artifact and beyond their role to communicate. While drawing may not be dead, the art of drawing, the art of understanding depth and weight and assembly, is not being taken up. The 3d model is in a way the drawing itself, but drawings may serve a different purpose. The time may have come again to reconsider how we draw. 


Have Water... Can Write

Just Because: Tricycle Calligraphy 水书法器 from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.


Media artist, Nick Hanna, has developed an updated version of Chinese water writing. While riding a utility tricycle he lays droplets of water across the street to create temporary graffiti whereever he goes. 

While the classical mode of this art form emphasizes calm tranquility, Hanna, through a digital and mechanical process, has created a subversive opportunityto efficiently and legally write messages on the street. Could I tweet to him and deliver a message to the people? 

I hope I could. 



30-story hotel erected in 15 days

fascinating prefabrication:  whole floors trucked to the site, complete with services and finishes, ready for the crane.  This building looks more like a product than a custom one-off.  Plug-in city finally arrives, only in China?

Skip Connecticut

With members living in Brooklyn and Rhode Island, we (selfishly) appreciate the idea of a direct rail connection between Providence and Brooklyn via Long Island, as Nick Caruso suggests in an article posted on the BSA site:

image courtesy Ryan Sullivan and Nick Caruso

We agree with a lot of his other points too.  Why thread high speed rail through a state like connecticut with has spurned regional rail development and transit-oriented growth?  Rhode and Long Island have demonstrated willingness to capitalize on the potential of rail--lets support these areas.

Back to the future... or why I'm thinking about tomorrow. 


Oriel Chambers by Peter Ellis 1864

 We, as architects, have been told that there are potential technologies that allow us to leverage our knowledge, design process, team, and intelligence. Two articles (1, 2) recently published at AN make a confounding pair to read. The articles make two problems readily apparent: Architecture practice doesn't have the time or resources to focus on leveraging the information they create and second, architecture is secondary to the business of building. 

In 1901 FLW read that "Today we have a Scientist or an Inventor in the place of a Shakespear or a Dante." While the technicians of digital design have been crowing about their machines for years, rarely do we see them utilized in an architecture practice. There are a growing number of consultants who are in the position to devote their time to elaborate the design information between the design and construction team. At the heart of the matter is a conundrum, many in the design profession have recognized that the profession of architecture resists taking on more risk (see article 2 mentioned above) firms like Shop are the rare example. 

In fact the architecture of yesterday used new technology to achieve it's effects far more regularly. Oriel Chambers is an excellent example of this concept. In a time when the architect was at the heart of the construction process (The Harvard Design Magazine had an incredible article on the office's of 19th C architects in all cases the estimating, engineering and construction team shared the same space) Ellis was able to utilize completely new fabrication, installation technology and materials to achieve a piece of architecture that pushed the discussion of building and design forward. It may not be the lightest curtain wall (Gropius) but it may be just the first in what has become a dominant technology in the industry of architecture. I find myself asking, has a generation missed the forest for the trees. The ethos of the arts and crafts movement was not just the creation of art (architecture included) but the the goal was to integrate the emerging technologies of the day into a new kind of practice.

If anything there must be an increased appetite for projects and risk. The comments from the second article are not only entertaining they are scary. Suffice it to say that architects, may be good at selling the dream of their design ability, they seem to do a less convincing job leveraging the value that they truly could bring to a project. If the profession spent less time navel gazing and more time creatively focusing their energies on understanding and implementing the technologies they use and build, architects have an opportunity to sit at the table. Isn't that where we want to be?

Amplifying the sophisticated with the dumb (but beautiful!)

Here is a brief, non-comprehensive, recent history of acoustic amplification (in images).  

We all understand intuitively that sound is physical, and that amplification and form are closely linked.  However, this relationship is often ill-considered or ignored in design that privileges optic effect.  Below are examples of projective sound geometries--some are highly visual, others must be experienced to be fully understood.  A future post will look at absroptive sound geometries.

No batteries included:

This 1970 installation by Michael Asher featured an entire gallery transformed into sound amplfying horn (courtesy: http://auralarchitectures.blogspot.com/).  The gallery door was removed for this exhibition, meaning that the space was available to the public around the clock.  Presumably, sound from the exterior could be amplified through this "double horn", and vice versa. 

a good resource to learn more about sound art:  

After a hiatus, a return.

To say we have taken a hiatus from posting is a gross understatement. Let us just say this; we are back. After new jobs, new projects, new investigations and lots of work we are having going to rededicate our effort to keep things current. 

In that vein, here are our top 5 time wasters while we've been away:

  1. The Internet - Can't pull our eyes off La Blogotheque
  2. Art - Must. Keep. Current. 
  3. Cooking - The art of staying alive
  4. Work - ugh I mean really we haven't made it yet, but we're trying.
  5. Reading - Princeton Architectural Press is effing amazing


Los Angeles, I'm yours - A review of No More Play

This review was published in the Fall 2011 Constructs:  a bi-annual news magazine highlighting activities and events at the Yale School of Architecture. A very big thank you to Nina Rapport for supporting the effort. 

I was wasted/ I was a hippie/ I was a burnout/ I was a dropout/ you know I was out of my head/ I was a surfer/ I had a skateboard/ I was so heavy man/ I lived on the strand

-Wasted, Circle Jerks

Courtesy ArchDaily

No More Play, besides being beautifully designed by Julie Cho, is, at its most basic level, a series of conversations on the idea that Los Angeles is in a moment of dramatic change. The argument is delivered through a palimpsest of images and discussions. Michael Maltzan's questions are thoughtfully composed and metered, elucidating a view of the city as an open framework for exploration; a city that has reached psychological if not physical limits. The discussions describe communities, public gatherings, and new neighborhoods they reveal a city that is becoming denser rather than diffuse. Catherine Opie documents the radical outcomes of gentrification in Korea town, Matthew Coolidge develops a dialogue considering the delicate use of resources and Edward Soja opens the recent political landscape of the city. Throughout Iwan Baan delivers a visual essay of the changing landscape, its faces, its colors and its complexity. All of these short dialogues highlight how Los Angeles has experimented in urbanization, outsourced resources and generated global links.

Courtesy Design Observer

Catherine Opie's is the most personal of the discussions. She describes living in a city of subcultures and subdivisions, saying at the end of the discussion "I'm afraid of fragmentation of the public space, that public space will no longer be able to hold a public” (p.55). Her photographs expose tears in the fabric of the city. Opie describes empty freeways as spaces that are for “the individual” and the collective (P.51). With Untitled #41 she depicts the empty interchange of the 105 and the 405. Opie’s description of the pyramids or monuments reminds us that these ruins of inhabitation are devoid of the public. Her newest work depicts formal gatherings in informal public spaces, and it is the juxtaposition of a political voice in the open fabric of Los Angeles that at first glance seems optimistic of activism, but upon reflection leaves one with her discussion of forces beyond the neighborhood, pulling communities apart or pushing them into new conflicting territories.

In the section Land Use Matt Coolidge conveys his first impression of Los Angeles by saying after the ’92 Riots, “Whoa, I didn’t know American cities were capable of this anymore” (P.94).  He then goes on to describe the direct redistribution of wealth between the classes; the poor simply taking the things they couldn’t afford. The “economic correction” (P.94), in many defines Coolidge's foil for seeing the city itself. Los Angeles becomes a political economy of redistribution and conflicted wealth; immigrants manufacture cheap toy empires, Signal Hill still creates private wealth and resource management refers to the city's claim to Colorado’s water.  Coolidge provides a unique and complex reworking of the Los Angeles region that redefines it in terms of a global and national reach.

Ed Soja describes what many Angeleno’s could not imagine, the political organization of transit riders to change the public transit system. In relaying the story of the Bus Riders Union, Soja reworks a city that has been known for its ability to provide private transportation into one that has a radical and active public ridership. Conversely, Soja describes Community Benefit Agreements as a strategically optimistic form of private enhancement of the public realm. In a reversal of the Public / Private Reagonite agenda, Soja describes a kind of Private / Public community centered deal, allowing organized communities to sidestep the often complex political system for direct benefit. 

No More Play describes Los Angeles as a laboratory and Maltzan and Varner go to great lengths for a call and response that reinforces their assumptions. The city today is palpably vibrant. The Downtown is bustling with crowds on Thursday’s Art Walk. Boyle Heights is home to young design studios, artists, taquerias and an entrenched Latino population. With the rail expansion TOD’s have created Wilshire Blvd. like densities from Long Beach to Pasadena and out to Burbank. Reflecting on the books call for Los Angeles to be a laboratory for the future I come full circle to The Circle Jerks lyrics. For me they present the clearest description of the city of my birth: It’s been labeled many labels, but each one is wasted as soon as it’s uttered. Los Angeles is a moving target, take aim and see it a new for yourself.

Book Review: Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton

From the Editors: We're happy to have our friend Neil Nisbet, a graphic designer, currently living in New York working with Grimshaw Architects. Review Thinking with Type. His past projects include branding for cultural organizations, festivals and music events as well as lots of flyers for clubs and bars in his hometown of Manchester, UK. His work has been shown at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and in the exhibition 'The Flyer as Art' in Shoreditch, London. He plays drums for fun.

Ellen Lupton - Princeton Architectural Press

Originally published in 2004 the forty-eight pages of new content in this popular introduction to typography are devoted to the notoriously fast-paced and mutable subject of web standards and to contemporary case studies and examples. These new pages augment existing content drawn from the canon of graphic design structured around the themes of letter, text and grid.

Substantial essays at the top of each section offer historical context and critical theory with quotes by Barthes, Derrida and McLuchan before settling into an engaging mix of case studies and pull outs. The focus on post structuralism and many work examples from nineties icons like Emigre, Ed Fella and Bruce Mau threaten to date sections of content to the first edition.

But it is by tackling multi media design and theory that Lupton has assured the book's continued usefulness and relevance. There is a brilliant passage contrasting consumption of print and web - the 'contemplative' intake of information in books versus the 'productive' impatience of the digital 'user'. An illuminating contemporary case study identifies and contextualizes Chris Dixon's brilliantly eclectic choice of fonts from various points in history in his art direction for New York magazine.

As a piece of editorial design in itself the book is pedestrian in appearance closer in intention and execution to a populist text book than to analogous titles marketed purely to graphic designers. This approach no doubt ensures the widest possible audience and certainly the neutral setting allow the work examples to assert themselves more fully. For a more dynamic example of Lupton and husband J Abbot Miller's editorial design their book on The Bauhaus is recommended as is the latters work at a design practise you may have heard of.  

The book successfully blends a general introduction to contemporary typography with an accessible introduction to critical theory and deserves its continued success as a standard title on the subject.


Scratching The Surface

Dow Corning has produced a vision of the future that is tactile, albeit cold to the touch.  What we find remarkable is that Dow's version of the future seems to be the outcome of a historical narrative from science fiction; and a vision that has been around for almost forty years.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is our first memory of an intelligent surface. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that, as the whole earth catalog is describing a cybernetic revolution, plastics become part of they everyday and archigram is drawing a haptic architecture of technology, Kubric links the physical touch of a human to the absolute limit of digital technology, the screen. Eventually even that touch will become unnessary as in Minority Report below, were Tom Cruise navigates what may be thin film or thin air with a range of physical movements.

However, the application of moving images to the exterior is still a projected and imperfect science. It is more artware than hardware. Take Vimeo's October festival in New York:

Gehry's IAC building is both digital canvas and performative skin literally extruding and beding from the building's contorted surface. This is an architecture and design method of technology. While it might feel like hacking the skin of a building, we think it's just an elaborate pimping of that surface. We're hoping for a hacked building soon. One where the skin itself isn't just a representation of information or imagery but is the display itself.