Back in April, Susan Piedmont-Palladino published “the Uncanny Valley“, about architecture, digital drawing and photo-realistic rendering. She first argues.
“Architecture demands an intersection; but not a total eclipse. When reality eclipses the imagination, the result is banality; when the imagination eclipses reality, then we have abandoned architecture for the untethered spheres of science fiction, or gaming, or art. It’s at this point that images become ends in themselves rather than representations of a plausible new reality.”
She then identifies two specific tells of uncanniness in this context; 1) deployment of perspective and 2) a performative inclusion of (happy) people in a drawing.
Later, Barbara Penner explored how the issues of gender, disability, and user-centeredness have been relegated to the far margins of architectural history. Yet, we read.
“Home economics comprised not only corporate consultants like Frederick but also university-based researchers such as the ones pursuing disability studies, who had a different audience and approach…Cornell’s College of Home Economics had a dedicated department of housing and design in which an all-female staff of seven instructors taught subjects ranging from furniture refurbishment to farmhouse planning. Over many decades, they developed a distinct mode of design education and practice characterized by cooperation, skills sharing, and a highly customized body-centered approach.”
Then in May, Vittoria Di Palmaand and Alexander Robinson reviewed the epic struggle for control, which characterizes the history, between Los Angeles and its river. With a hopeful look towards recent and ongoing attempts at an arts-led, DIY, revitalization.
“Indeed, the remarkable activity generated by the Los Angeles River — which as yet remains largely a concrete channel bisected by a thin course of water — testifies to the profound power of the city’s desire for ecological redemption and urban rebirth, and to ways in which civic or even poetic acts have found purchase within a byzantine network of managerial interests. Nonetheless there remains the distinct possibility that moneyed interests will distort the original ideals. Even as Los Angeles seems to pulsate with the river’s irrepressible spirit, the river’s future is clouded by a fog of unresolved social, technical, and environmental factors.”
Finally, Dr. Nitin K. Ahuja raises some concerns regarding trends “toward more formally ambitious hospice design” which utilize “evidence-based design” and “best practices” or on the flip-side, domesticated, home-hospice like spaces.
In the end although, he does believe in the merits of palliative care, he favors an “unbraiding of its clinical, economic, and aesthetic justifications. As far as aesthetics go, I’m with Nuland — I’ve seen enough vulnerability at the end of life to know that a bit of grisliness is inescapable.“
In October of last year, Brian Holmes dug into “a condition of relational awareness” aka “Anthropocene public space“. Concluding with this challenge
“For artists and activists seeking to transform the conclusions of climate science into the convictions of embodied experience, the golden spike is each local place and singular moment in time when a group of people is able to come to grips with their own implication in earth-system processes. Because abstract knowledge is always intertwined with embodied experience, such places and moments in time are never purely local or singular. To take form and consistency as a widely sharable practice of perception/expression, Anthropocene public space must seek the correlation of situated knowledges and experiences. ”
Then in November, Nicholas Korody penned Mere Decorating. As he explains
“While the work of the architect ends with construction, the inhabitant-cum-decorator must continuously maintain the home, adjusting it to suit new tastes. Decorating is the under-recognized labor that constitutes the interior as such through the placement and upkeep of objects and things, such as bibelots, carpets, and houseplants, within pre-existing built space.”
He goes on to review the history of 19th century pteridomania, and the contemporary Millennial interest in houseplants (aka phytomania or “fern-fever“).
Finally later that same month, Peggy Dreamer offered some criticism of “Typical American Institute of Architects (AIA) ‘design-bid-build’ contracts“, National AIA and “relational contract theory” as it might apply to ideas of class, labor and architectural praxis.
In 2015 Hattie Hartman memorialized “Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till’s straw bale house and associated office at 9-10 Stock Orchard Street in Islington, London“.
The surfeit of its architectural moves borders on the overwhelming, but mostly this is a house to engage with and live with. Windows and vents can be easily adjusted with the seasons. Views are carefully framed on a highly constricted site. Light falls mostly in the right places, though sometimes there’s too much of it. As Till observes: ‘What we knew then about green design was primitive compared with what we know now.’
Back in October, Places Journal published Belmont Freeman’s case against the architecture of higher education, which all too often abdicates “leadership in promoting artistic innovation as they pander to plutocratic donors.” Choosing instead a nostalgic “idealized version of the Ivy League“.
The next month, Joe Day explains, the history of contemporary architecture in Jakarta, in the utopian terms of the Pancasilas, the founding principles of modern Indonesia.
Which includes the below, as it’s last footnote;
It should be noted that this “Architectures of the Pancasilas” approach underserves more than few gifted Jakarta architects. Between the AMI and the post-’98 generations — that is, between those now circling 60 and those still under 40 — I would point to Anthony Liu and Ferry Ridwan, partners in the prolific Studio TonTon (designers of the widely published Kosenda Hotel), to Ahmad Djuhara (the outspoken president of the Indonesian Institute of Architects) and his partner Wendy Djuhara, and to Stanley Wangsadihardja and Susi Gunawan, both educators as well as designers. It is in this group that Jakarta’s specific rapport with Japanese contemporary architecture is most profound.
Dean Milton Curry at the University of Southern California
‘Design thinking’ is, for me, the instrumentalization of methods of design for profit. “Architectural thinking” is understanding that the role of the designer, within the context of architecture, always incorporates the public good no matter if you are you doing a private or public building. The notion of public good is embedded within the DNA of architecture period. That has to be and has to remain in the DNA of architecture and architecture schools.That’s what I call “architectural thinking”.
Over at e-flux, Douglas Spencer reflects on the exhibition California: Designing Freedom at the Design Museum, London, 2017.
California’s “tools of personal liberation” further the depoliticizing ends of neoliberalism, both in the conditions of temporality they impose, and in their tendency to atomize the social into an aggregate of hyper-connected individuals constituted, as such, by their investments in capital and its technological apparatus. Depoliticization, rather than some unfortunate and unforeseen outcome of an originally radical counterculture, is inherent to it.