La carretera que conduce a Palm Springs es una salida polvorienta y complicada de la autopista transcontinental 10. Un ejército de gigantescas turbinas eólicas a ambos lados de la State Route 111 en California domina el paisaje desértico, con sus hélices cosechando diligentemente energía para la red eléctrica. La grava y la arena hacen remolinos sobre el asfalto de la carretera que rodea la base desmoronada del monte San Jacinto. Ésta es la puerta de entrada (nada prometedora) al valle Coachella y su afamado centro turístico, y, como la señalización de la carretera anuncia, a “otras ciudades del desierto” con nombres que evocan al místico y árido Oeste: Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, Bombay Beach.
It was a summer of outrage and pain. The weeks after the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin and the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many other Black men and women, was a moment in the United States when veil that hung over the racism and white supremacy was ripped open and all the grief and anger tumbled out into the streets in mass protest. A history of oppression and a present heavy with generational burdens of inequity was laid bare. For Black and Indigenous, Latinx and Asian Americans, this is lived experience. For many white Americans, it was mirror held up to a country that is a democracy only to some.
The New Curator: Exhibiting Architecture and Design examines the challenges inherent in exhibiting design ideas. Traditionally, exhibitions of architecture and design have predominantly focused on displaying finished outcomes or communicating a work through representation.
In this ground-breaking new book, Fleur Watson unveils the emergence of the ‘new curator’. Instead of exhibiting finished works or artefacts, the rise of ‘performative curation’ provides a space where experimental methods for encountering design ideas are being tested. Here, the role of the curator is not that of ‘custodian’ or ‘expert’ but with the intent to create a shared space of encounter with audiences.
Billed as ‘the first NFT house in the world’, the Mars House is a tenuous entry into the architectural cannon. The project by Toronto-based digital artist Krista Kim is one of an increasing number of ‘non-fungible token’ works of art made to be bought, sold and collected online and authenticated via blockchain technology.
A home that will never be lived in, Kim’s NFT offering is a moody visualization rendered by Mateo Sanz Pedemonte using the video game software Unreal Engine. It depicts a structure sitting in an otherworldly landscape of supposedly Martian red mountains. We are given the barest hints at possible enclosure: a rectangle of digital glass impossibly transparent with no depth or reflection. The ghost façade bears the fingerprints of all vitreous abodes that came before – Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Pierre Koenig, etcetera. A thin, abstracted roof evokes Ed Ruscha’s Burning Gas Station (1965-66). The swimming pool is Hockney blue. The water ripples to a soundtrack composed by Smashing Pumpkins’ Jeff Schroeder.
Mise-en-Scène is an immersive exploration of the social lives of urban landscapes—the actors and actions that compose the daily theater of urban life. Conceived as a unique collaboration between an urbanist, Chris Reed, and a photographer, Mike Belleme, the book combines photo essays, original maps and drawings, newly commissioned essays, excerpts from historical writings, and interviews with residents. The result is a rigorous and artful examination of the social, cultural, environmental, and economic challenges of life in American cities today. Read More …
Las Vegas plays so much better on the page than in person. In concept, Vegas is an escape, a desert playground, but reality can never match the fantasy. Prose lubricates, distances actuality, and forms a glow around dubious experience in the same way that three miniatures of Southern Comfort loosen up a seatmate on the 45-minute flight from Burbank to McCarran International Airport. Writings arch towards hyperbole in an attempt to capture decades of spectacle that rise on the Strip, neon-trimmed, already pulsing with lurid symbology: spires, pyramids, Venetian canals.
A text, even Learning from Las Vegas with its embrace of populist architecture through modalities of analytical abstraction, shields a reader from the perfume of weed, vomit and tropical air freshener in the back of an Uber. The actual experience of Vegas is an exercise in searching fervently for some kind of authenticity, some kind of fun, only to be frustrated, haunted and impoverished by the tawdry glee of nickel slots and an all-you-can-eat buffet.
What is the border? Line. Crossing. Wound. During the last four years—six if we count the run-up to the 2016 election—Donald Trump framed the US-Mexico border as a referendum on nationhood, with rhetoric so toxic and policies so brutal that other discourses, other lived experiences, were eclipsed by the shadow of the promised wall. And then on January 20, President Biden halted all work on Trump’s fortified fence while the new administration reviews construction contracts.
With that pause, which is neither truly benign nor pious, a temporary lightness allows us to see what has been wrought: new photos of partially built sections of the barrier in southern Arizona (commissioned by Insider magazine) show natural landscapes blasted and scarred. Yet it is in this lull that other outcomes seem, if not possible, then worth summoning. Two Sides of the Border: Reimagining the Region, recently published by Yale School of Architecture and Lars Müller Publishers, asks us to envision an alternative to the hardened US-Mexico boundary and its attendant violences, human and ecological.
To see the American landscape through the lens of Victoria Sambunaris’ 5×7-inch field camera is to see beauty and majesty—the stuff of patriotic hymns—held in contrapposto with the destructive acts that fuel the nation’s so-called progress: extraction, expansion, exclusion. Mining pits. Railroad tracks. Border fences. Her photographs ask a viewer to meditate on the impact of development on vast parts of the country that largely go unseen. And, in making them visible she shows us what is at stake and what has already been lost.
Sambunaris has an intimate relationship with these panoramas. Every year since 1999, the year she graduated from Yale with an MFA, she’s embarked on a months-long journey to document transformation across the country. Currently, she’s driving through California and Nevada, seeking out sites critical to water resources in the West—places, that in these drought-prone states are long victim to what she describes as “hucksterism and speculation.”
On 8 January, just days after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, architecture critic Blair Kamin announced on Twitter that after nearly three decades he would step down from his role at the Chicago Tribune. Some, whose minds were previously reeling from the events in Washington, suddenly had a new fixation: who would replace him?
Kamin refrained from playing favourites, preferring to honour his Pulitzer-winning predecessor Paul Gapp, who served as the paper’s architecture critic for 18 years. In that vacuum, speculation erupted in tweets and on backchannels. Names were floated then caught in what seemed like a vortex but was really just an eddy compared to national events.
On a weekday in early December, the United States surpassed 3,000 daily deaths from COVID-19 the same week that vaccines began distribution in the United Kingdom. In the afternoon, I masked up to go to the pharmacy, stood on a patch of gummy duct tape demarcating a nominal six feet between me and the next customer on the linoleum floor, and picked up my prescription through a hole in a scuffed acrylic barrier. The new normal, as they say. Banal aesthetics just one step up from ad hoc.
Nearly a year into the pandemic, most of us have become armchair epidemiologists who can weigh the risks of dentist visits and outdoor brunches. Months ago, in the late spring and summer when it was thought that the worst might be behind us, many architects and designers took it upon themselves to produce tool kits and manuals analyzing scientific research and medical guidelines, and visualizing that material in the design of safety protocols for workplaces, schools, streets, housing, and museums. London architecture firm IF_DO even went so far as to create PDF manuals for safer food banks, youth clubs, community centers, and libraries—typologies that have received far less attention than nursing homes and restaurants.