Tasting the Void, Group8
I've been lucky enough the past few weeks to have several articles hit the page and screen, so I thought I'd round them up in a single post. The subjects vary widely: GIS and Geodesign, Learning from Las Vegas, and some critical thinking about the nature of speculative architecture, both at the Guggenheim and at the MoMA, but what ties these piece together is that they all hit that sweet spot where I really enjoyed writing them, had to work my chops the process, and I was pleased with final results.
Meet the Geodesigner, Architect
GIS technology, long relied on by planners, is making inroads into architecture. What happens when data-rich map layers meet 3D building designs?
So, what happens when architects, and not just planners, embrace the potential of GIS and geodesign? Things get data-rich and complicated very fast. “It used to be that we were operating in the walled garden of architecture, but now we are moving from a place where it was hard to find information to where we are flooded with place-based data,” says Nicholas de Monchaux, an architect, urbanist, and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, comparing the old analog maps and tables with Google Earth. “That change will have a sweeping effect on the design profession.”Letter from New Haven: Pop Rules, Architect
Weighing the legacy of the Yale Las Vegas studio.
"Well, ‘what happens in Vegas … ’?” began a Yale University professor, Emmanuel Petit, about halfway through the first day of the “Architecture After Las Vegas” symposium held at the New Haven institution in January. It was just a matter of time before someone invoked Sin City’s marketing slogan—such low-hanging fruit at a highbrow conference.Contemplating the Void, Icon
Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic design – the tantalizing volume bounded by spiraling ramps – begs to be filled, but with what? Trees? Trampolines? Chocolate?...Two Feet High and Rising: On Optimism, Speculation and Oysters, Places Journal/Design Observer
But, as Contemplating the Void canvasses all these practitioners, what does it really ask? Is it a speculative free-for-all (speculations being in vogue at the moment) or something else? Under former director Thomas Krens, the museum spent the past two decades in expansion mode, creating fame for the Guggenheim brand across the globe. His departure two years ago coincided with economic contractions everywhere; this modest exhibition reasserts the New York Guggenheim as the main event.
[nb. My original version had ""umbilicus mundi," the navel of the world, instead of "main event"—a turn of phrase that meant to capture the big G's narcissism, which, IMHO, gets lost with the celebratory replacement.]
Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, the latest exhibition to open in the architecture and design gallery of the Museum of Modern Art, begins with a grim premise: that global climate change is making sea levels rise and powerful storm surges more frequent. Watch out, we’re gonna get wet. If we don't take action, we're in for catastrophe, with floods wiping out parts of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and northern New Jersey. To underscore the creek we are up, the exhibition designers have grafted water lines — two, four, six, eight, ten feet — on the dark gray gallery walls. Glub, glub....
Rising Currents comes at a time when scenario planning and disaster speculation have become part of the architecture and urbanism zeitgeist — an intellectualized way of coping with an onrush of crises. In previous decades, construction downturns were marked by a rise in paper architecture, in unrealized visions. Now, we trade in speculation. Neither science fiction, exactly, nor an architecture of the everyday, a speculative practice carefully chooses which realities to contend with, betting on which futures might come to fruition. The approach isn’t ironic; it’s truly sincere. Yet, as contemporary books, blogs, studios and gallery shows reveal, the desire to do good is complicated by methodologies charged up on risk, as if the energetic discussion of failing cities, displaced populations and wasted landscapes were a kind of extreme design sport — a chance for architecture to free climb to the very limits of the discipline.