Produced as a catalogue to accompany the currently shuttered exhibition Countryside, The Future at New York’s Guggenheim museum, the small paperback has a silver foil cover designed by Irma Boom that glints appealingly as it catches the light. The words “Countryside in your pocket! $24.95” advertise an accessible price point.
As a female writer who writes about female architects, I’m often asked to make lists of female writers and female architects. These requests mostly come from men. Well-meaning men, who want to do right by their differently gendered colleagues.
Although these asks raise the hackles on my back a little, I dutifully reply. However irritated, I’ve internalised my gendered role to be helpful. I want to promote my sisters-in-arms. I want to manifest an equitable field with my recommendations. And I fear that if I don’t answer another panel, lecture series, or exhibition will launch into the world with pitiful representation.
Construction is abundant across Los Angeles right now, and amid the backhoes and the cranes we are seeing signs of fresh takes on expressive architecture: glass domes, geometric facades, soaring arches. Charges of elitism swirl around big-time architecture, but many of the new designs opening this season promise to advance cultural and social life in L.A., whether with a riverside park that filters rainwater or a campus crafted to uplift the lives of LGBTQ homeless youth.
It would be cliché if it wasn’t true. On a day hazy with smoke from the Woolsey fire, Pritzker Prize-winning Dutch architect and theorist Rem Koolhaas is grumbling about L.A. traffic. Specifically, the two hours it took to get across town on a Friday.
Sitting in the cushy lobby of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Koolhaas is a cautionary futurist. He once called multimodal Los Angeles a prototype habitat for the future of all cities because of its flexibility, networks and mobility.
The gesture was more graceful than the act. With one generous flick of the wrist I sent the paperback sailing across the room. The book, The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, is a small volume tri-authored by an intellectual supergroup: novelist and artist Douglas Coupland, international curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, and cultural critic Shumon Basar. In wry deference to its subject, the cover is inked in an oil slick chromo metallic. As Earthquakes arced from the couch to the closet door, which it hit with a thud before dropping to the floor, light reflected off its glistening surface, giving the appearance of a salmon spawning upstream.
(For the record, S,M,L,XL also boasts a silver cover, but I can’t imagine throwing the six-pound tome very far. Earthquakes, by contrast, is lightweight at 7.8 ounces).
When it landed, facedown, pages splayed and pressed against the floor, the half-light of the living room lamps seemed to illuminate a mysterious object. An alien ship crash-landed on oak boards. And so it sat there for a few days. Until my irritation with leaving a book on the floor trumped my irritation with the book itself and I picked it up. Read More …
The day before the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale opened to the public, Wolf D. Prix, COOP HIMMELB(L)AU’s resident avant-gardist issued a statement to the press. Rebuking the curators for banality in the face of crisis, Prix’s missive evokes a colourful vision of architects packed into a sinking gondola, a metaphor for the discipline’s “powerlessness and irrelevance.” And his prickling has a target. “Politicians and project managers, investors and bureaucrats have been deciding on our built environment for a long time now,” he writes. “Not the architects.” Meanwhile, deep in the Biennale, Public Works: Architecture by Civil Servants, OMA’s contribution to Common Ground, counters the Austrian’s lament.
Public Works celebrates the bureaucrat. Read More …