Writing mattered to the Swiss architect Le Corbusier. When he became a naturalized French citizen in 1930, Le Corbusier called himself neither a painter nor an architect, but an homme de lettres (a man of letters): he was an inveterate writer. His first book was a study of German decorative arts published when he was twenty-five; his last, sometimes described as a final testament, was completed only a month before his death. In between there are approximately fifty books (depending on how you define “book”), as well as letters, lectures, and handwritten journals as thick as books. Words were the stuff of architecture, not just how he participated in and influenced the debates of his time; they were essential to the task of making a new architecture.
If you like French decorative arts you should make your way this summer to the Louvre’s newly restored and reinstalled 18th century Decorative Arts Galleries. The collection is housed in 35 galleries spanning 23,000 square feet. Over 2,000 design pieces “in object-focused galleries and period-room settings” are on display.
Amarillo, Texas philanthropist Stanley Marsh—a major figure on creating two of the most iconic art works in America—considered himself an “artist and a prankster.” The patron of both Cadillac Ranch and Robert Smithson’s Amarillo Ramp (1973), the third in a trilogy a trilogy of spirals that also included Spiral Jetty (1970) and Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971), Marsh was an heir to his family’s oil-and-gas fortune.
For over 120 years, the Municipal Art Society has been an important organization in New York City’s efforts to promote a more livable environment and preserve the best of its past. It’s successful preservation campaigns and advocacy for better architecture—such as its advocacy to rebuild a better Penn Station—are well known. Now the organization has announced its annual MASterworks Awards, and of the nine buildings selected this year as honorees, many are in Brooklyn, confirming that borough’s continuing upgrading evolution.
The spectacular Venetian Arsenale at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale is devoted to the history of post-World War II architecture and urbanism. Italy, perhaps more than any country in the world, revels in its architecture and cityscape. It is still a place where architecture means more than simply building—it’s a knowledge for describing and thinking about the world. This, it turns out, is true even for its youngest designers who assembled in the arsenal on Sunday, June 8 for a discussion, “Towards a New Avant Garde.”
While most of the attendees at the recently opened Venice Biennale were thinking about the basic Elements of Architecture a younger generation of architects were concerned about something even more basic: how to earn a living. In a series of Arsenale round table talks called Stay Radical created by New York–based Superscript, young Italian architects talked about the difficulties of earning even the most basic living wage in their country devastated by recession and a historic system of wage depression. Meanwhile the New York group, The Architect’s Lobby took matters into their own hand and with megaphones held a protest just outside entrance to the Venetian Giardini (above).
The Florentine architecture group Superstudio enjoyed the penultimate moment on the world architecture stage at the 1972 MoMA exhibition, The New Domestic Landscape. However, by the end of that decade with worldwide radical politics on the wane and postmodernism on the rise, the Florentines found their radicale arguments and practice marginalized and they began to move away from architecture towards other sorts of design initiatives. But before the group left the international stage, they created one last potent architectural statement: La Moglie di Lot and displayed it at the 1978 Venice Biennale of Art.
The 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale is a bit like walking into a giant research project. If the exhibition The Elements of Architecture is not necessary thrilling to the spirit it is at least full of ideas on the basics of construction. It is possible to walk through a dozen times and come away with new information and concepts. Here is a quick look at several of the ideas in this intellectual project masquerading as an exhibition.
It’s day two at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and AN had a chance to run through Monditalia in the Venetian arsenal while workers and young architects were feverishly finishing their installations. Here is a selection of iPhone image of projects we saw on our whirlwind tour.
AN just had a quick Arsenale walkthrough of Radical Pedagogies: ACTION-REACTION-INTERACTION by creator and Princeton professor Beatriz Colomina. The Arsenale has been given over in this biennale to Monditalia, a single-theme exhibition with exhibits, events, and theatrical productions engaging Italian architecture with politics, economics, religion, technology, and industry. In this installation the other festivals of la Biennale di Venezia—film, dance, theatre, and music—will be mobilized through the architecture event to contribute to a comprehensive portrait of the host country.
AN is already in Venice preparing an edited list of the best of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. The biennale in years past was confined to the spectacular Arsenale and the pavilion-filled giardini (some of the pavilions were designed by Carlo Scarpa), but one of the big changes in the past two biennials is the number of off-site events, pavilions, and installations that now participate in the architecture fair.