[Editor's Note: The Venice Architecture Biennale is still on through November 23 and it's still proving to be controversial. Professor Peter Lang shares his thoughts on Rem Koolhaas' event here.]
A Tale about the Magician Koolhaas who plays Prospero, lives on an island in the Venetian Laguna, and brings a Tempest to the Venice Biennale.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
—William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll. 203–206
(Aldous Huxley quoted this line from the Tempest for the title of his dystopian novel Brave New World published in 1931)
In choosing to take a different perspective on the 14th edition of the Architecture Biennale in Venice directed by Rem Koolhaas, I decided to skip the standard blow-by-blow critique, and instead confront what I believe is the greatest enigma behind this controversial event. Up till now, the majority of critics taking a look at this year’s exhibition find fault with Koolhaas’ method, not so much with his madness. But the key to the exhibition is not in its studied aloofness, but in its insubordination—Koolhaas is determined to shake up the Biennale institution by any means possible.
The recent 2014 Tribeca Film Festival screened a remarkable number of films on displacement. People were displaced from their homes—often forced but sometimes voluntary—for financial reasons, discrimination, landlord harassment (or irritation), and natural disasters. In the film Below Dreams, which takes place in New Orleans, a character says “Everybody needs a room.” Here are a few seekers.
Total Reset: Institute for Public Architecture Symposium Tackles Affordable Housing in New York City
The history of affordable housing in the United States has always centered on efforts—research, architectural prototypes, and creative financing—undertaken in New York City. From early philanthropic models like the late 19th century Cobble Hill Tower Homes, the 1911 Vanderbilt-sponsored Cherokee Model Apartments, and the 1930s Amalgamated Dwellings on the Lower East Side, virtually all early advancement in housing reform in this country began in New York City.
At this year’s SXSW Festival, engineering took center stage in the documentary DamNation (directors Travis Rummel & Ben Knight), which won the Documentary Spotlight Audience Award. It begins with America’s rash of dam-building under FDR when these mammoth structures were considered man-made wonders. Hoover and Grand Coulee are the large-scale examples, but there were about 80,000 smaller dams built across the country.
Richard Rogers Theater
226 West 46th Street, New York
Scheduled to play through October 12, 2014
THINK OF EACH PLAZA, PIER, AND PUBLIC PARK—
HOW MANY SIT THERE EMPTY, LONELY, DARK—
The Broadway musical If/Then starts in Madison Square Park with its unmistakable folding seats, tables, and umbrellas, a signature of Janette Sadik-Khan’s overhauling of public spaces during the Bloomberg administration. In this musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (the team behind Next to Normal) city planner Elizabeth (Idina Menzel) returns to New York from Arizona where she’s just gotten out of a failed marriage—and urban sprawl.
With the plethora of contemporary art on view in New York during Armory Arts week, it has been instructive to note the contribution by architects to the design of these temporary exhibition spaces, and the use of interesting architectural spaces. The fairs are often held in structures originally used for other purposes — piers, parking facilities, drill halls — so the task has been to not only carve out space for display, but to move viewers (and buyers) with flexibility and ease and to provide an enticing environment. Fair organizers have turned to young architects for these interior layouts, or have chosen compelling venues.
The Oculus book talk on the new book, How to Study Public Life, at the Center for Architecture with Jan Gehl and his co-author Birgitte Svarre was like seeing the documentary The Human Scale come to life—only with a sense of humor.
Gehl’s urban theories have gained a lot of traction, not least in New York City. Jeanette Sadik-Khan went to Gehl’s native Copenhagen two weeks into her job as commissioner of NYC’s Department of Transportation (along with fellow commissioner of City Planning, Amanda Burden) and experienced the city’s pedestrian-over-cars public plazas, rode bicycles on protected bike lanes, and absorbed the lessons of the city that is repeatedly named the most livable in the world.
Fernand Léger is famous for his colorful paintings, many of which feature machine-like forms. He was also at the center of Paris’ avant-garde in the 1920s, not only in painting, but also in graphics, set and costume design, film-making, and architecture.
That is the thesis of Anna Vallye, curator of this fall’s major exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, inspired by the museum’s Léger masterpiece, the monumental 1919 painting, “The City.”
[Editor's Note: The following review was authored by Gideon Fink Shapiro and Phillip M. Crosby.]
A generation’s worth of experimentation with generative digital design techniques has seemingly created a “new normal” for architecture. But what exactly are the parameters of this “normal” condition? On November 14th and 15th Winka Dubbeldam, principal of Archi-Tectonics and the new Chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, called together some of contemporary architecture’s most prominent proponents of generative digital design techniques for a symposium, The New Normal, examining how these techniques have transformed the field over the past twenty years. According to Ms. Dubbeldam and her colleagues in Penn’s post-professional program who organized the symposium, digital tools have “fundamentally altered the way in which we conceptualize, design, and fabricate architecture.” Participants were asked not only to reflect upon the recent past, but also to speculate on future possibilities.