Issue 21: of the Avery Review

Because here’s the thing—architecture is always complicit, Trump or no Trump. It always has been. Architecture coordinates colossal expenditures (of material, of energy); it scripts forms of labor (in its construction, in its operation, and in the programs it houses); it is both a repository and generator of capital. Architecture participates, centrally, in defining modes of life, whether for the privileged or the dispossessed—designing and building the boundaries between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” sometimes subtly. Recognizing these complicities need not inspire either nihilism (“Well, what can I do about it?”) or defensiveness (“What am I supposed to do about it?”), but should rather be understood, quite simply, as the terrain we navigate. Naming these complicities and the injustices they perpetuate is a first step toward addressing them.

In which Manuel Shvartzberg CarrióTeddy Cruz and Fonna Forman, Anna Lui and Ananya Roy argue why “understanding Trump requires understanding Schumacher” and further, the importance of “understanding of the hegemonic articulations of infrastructure“, or how “managerialism is hegemonic because modern infrastructures operationalize, pre-empt, co-opt, channel, and distribute—that is, they manage power—by design“. Plus, praise for Keller Easterling’s ‘Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space’.  A call for “Unwalling Citizenship” and a reading of the catalog/book of the exhibition ‘After Belonging‘. Also, reflections on #NotMyAIA, “ontologies of professional expertise“, normalization, the “infrastructure of assent“, “logics of white supremacy and patriarchy…“, the “politics of divestment“.


Jacob Lawrence, The Migration of the Negro, panel no. 15, 1940–41. © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York.

Interview(s) with Quentin Tarantino

In light of the recently released film Django Unchained Charles McGrath sat down for a conversation with Mr. Tarantino published last Sunday in NYT as Quentin’s World.

I have been a longtime fan of Mr. Tarantino’s work but never really read up on his background or his oeuvre, other than the occasional review.

It was probably for that reason more than any other that a couple of facts/passages from the piece really stood out.

First, that Mr. Tarantino was a middle-school dropout who educated himself on films by working at a video store. He explains “In a weird way my working at the video store, a minimum-wage job with a bunch of other people working a minimum wage job, all of us around the same age, hanging out together — that’s kind of what you get when you go to college, along with the education“.

Then there was this nugget regarding his screen-writing process and the importance of music.

I’ve got a huge record collection, and I have a record room off of my bedroom. It looks just like a used-record store, with record posters and bins of records broken down into genres. That’s a big part of my think tank. When I’m getting ready to write a new movie, or thinking of the story and starting to zero in on it, I’ll go in the record room and start trying to find music for the movie — other soundtracks, songs, whatever. When I do find a couple of pieces, that’s two or three steps closer to actually being a movie. Now who knows if those three songs will end up being in the finished movie? But it gets me a little further along.

Finally in a discussion about the re-occurrence throughout his films of a singular theme, of performance, of the “idea of acting or performing” he notes “Probably the one recurring line in all my movies is when at some point somebody says to somebody else, ‘We gotta stay in character’.” This running theme is also I think at least one of the reasons why his films always feel like there is a breaking of the fourth-wall, a knowingness and sense of referentiality, whether to a certain genre or film history at large.

On a related note over at The Root (a daily online magazine that provides thought-provoking commentary on today’s news from a variety of black perspectives) Henry Louis Gates Jr. editor-in-chief, published a three part interview with Quentin Tarantino; PT 1, PT 2, PT 3 in which he labels the film “a postmodern, slave-narrative Western“. In the first part, Mr. Tarantino explains how Django Unchained was a reaction to or deconstruction of The Birth of a Nation. In the second, Mr. Tarantino responds to those who criticize his heavy use of the n-word, in Django Unchained and his other films. In the third, Tarantino explains Django’s character arc and why his film isn’t your typical “white savior” story.

Koolhaas on why OMA enters competitions

Unlike most architects of his stature, Koolhaas participates in many competitions. The process allows for creative freedom, since a client isn’t hovering, but it’s also risky. The firm invests an enormous amount of time and money in projects that will never get built. To Koolhaas, this seems to be an acceptable trade-off. “I’ve absolutely never thought about money or economic issues,” Koolhaas said. “But as an architect I think this is a strength. It allows me to be irresponsible and to invest in my work.

Via Nicolai Ouroussoff essay on Rem Koolhaas for Smithsonian Magazine. Earlier in the piece Ouroussoff contends that “Koolhaas works like a conceptual artist—able to draw on a seemingly endless reservoir of ideas” a fact directly linked to OMA’s engagement with competition as praxis. Chiefly by providing a “bank” of ideas as it were.

(This new model)

Namchabawa Visitor Center Tibet 2007-08 Photo by: Chen Su

Recently WAI Architecture Think Tank sat down with standardarchitecture’s founding partner Zhang Ke to converse about the origins of standardarchitecture, the way Zhang is trying to develop a new model of practice and architectural office-organization and how to challenge “the standard” in contemporary China.

Also, there occurred a big change in terms of beliefs. Before I went to New York—I think a lot of architects have a similar transition period—we believed that design and architecture was the driving force, but after having lived there for three years you start to realize that we are not the driving force, we only facilitate the financial power. Then it makes you either really desperate or it makes you think critically about the alternatives of life for a young architect…I think for young architects it’s probably good to have this, because you see something that’s not what you want. Then, I was thinking how we can practice in a slightly different way, which means that we work in a collaborative way and at the same time the management of the office does not function like a sweatshop like a lot of other practices that make a lot of people come in to work without getting paid.”

More at Archinect here

The design process and praxis of Rei Kawakubo

Cath Hory recently wrote about the news that the Council of Fashion Designers of America will honor Rei Kawakubo with a lifetime achievement award. In the essay she related that she had recently asked Ms. Kawakubo to provide one or two specifics about her design methods.

Rei Kawakubo had replied, by e-mail:

“My design process never starts or finishes. I am always hoping to find something through the mere act of living my daily life. I do not work from a desk, and do not have an exact starting point for any collection. There is never a mood board, I do not go through fabric swatches, I do not sketch, there is no eureka moment, there is no end to the search for something new. As I live my normal life, I hope to find something that click starts a thought, and then something totally unrelated would arise, and then maybe a third unconnected element would come from nowhere. Often in each collection, there are three or so seeds of things that come together accidentally to form what appears to everyone else as a final product, but for me it is never ending. There is never a moment when I think, ‘this is working, this is clear.’ If for one second I think something is finished, the next thing would be impossible to do.

“Often the elements are completely disassociated in time and dimension. One might be an emotion, the next thing a pattern image, the third thing an object or a picture I have seen somewhere. I can never remember when and from where the elements come together in my head. I trust synergy and change. For fall 2012, I was thinking about no design being design, about very ordinary fabric (wool felt) being strong. Somehow, the two-dimension level of thinking became apparent.

“I do not feel happy when a collection is understood too well. For me, White Drama was too easily understood, the concept too clear. I feel better about fall 2012, because it wasn’t too clear, and some people assumed things it had nothing to do with, like the Internet age.

“The struggle to find something new gets more and more difficult with time and experience, so this time, for fall 2012, my feeling was to try to make a collection by doing very little.”

More here via NYT