The American Academy of Arts & Letters was formed in 1904 on the model of the French Academy. It operates today as a 250 member honor society, and, since 1955, has had an active yearly architecture awards program.
The Academy has just announced its awards for 2014 with its top award The Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize (of $20,000) going to the Italian artist and architect Massimo Scolari for his contribution to architect as art. Scolari had a retrospective of his drawings and models last year at Cooper Union and a pair of his iconic sculptural wings are still visible on Coopers second floor balcony.
The Academy also announced that two Arts & Letters Awards of $7,500 each would go to New York firms Christoff:Finio and Selldorf Architects under the leadership of Annabelle Selldorf for creating work which shows “strong personal direction.”
Finally the Academy gave well deserved awards to Michael Blackwood and Cynthia Davidson for their “exploration of ideas in architecture.”
The upcoming 2014 Venice architecture biennale, Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014, will question the notion of national identity in architecture and investigate the degree to which national styles have been “sacrificed to modernity.” To the credit of the Venice curators, they asked national pavilions to investigate ways in which this “seemingly universal architectural language… in significant encounters between cultures… can find hidden ways of remaining ‘national?'” Clearly the internationalization—and some would say flattening—of culture is one of the more complicated forces in contemporary culture.
The architecture social calendar in New York includes a bewildering array of benefits, parties, fundraisers, and charity auctions. But the yearly event that brings out the most party loving architects is the Storefront for Art and Architecture‘s benefit and art auction. The Storefront always gets the most fabulous venues for its events and this year’s was beyond spectacular: the 1893 Bowery Savings Bank.
Lebbeus Woods was a powerful presence in New York City and in the world of architectural thinking and expression. It’s still unsettling to think he is no longer here to push and provoke the world of architecture towards a more thoughtful and challenging practice. Though his ethical voice (his projects and writing can still be explored at lebbeuswoods.wordpress.com) and the demanding worlds he created inside his drawings will no longer confront the major issues of the day we still have his drawings to remind us of his thinking and vision. The first major retrospective of Woods career will open at the Drawing Center in New York on April 16, 2014 and was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and is currently in view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (through March 2, 2014).
Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Through July 25, 2014
The architect Mario Botta is known for his postmodern or idiosyncratic country houses, churches, and institutional buildings in the Ticino region of Switzerland and Europe. He actually worked in the studio of Le Corbusier as a young man and his work is clearly indebted to Carlo Scarpa and, like many Italian architects of his generation, Louis Kahn. He has workedthroughout his career in a small regional outpost of Lugano and has stood against the mainstream of modern, commercial and avant-garde ideas and trends and produced buildings that can only be called “Bottan.”
With important, large planning projects—like the Domino Sugar redevelopment in Brooklyn—still awaiting approvals from the agency, and with heads of the Department of Design and Construction and Landmarks Preservation gone or on the way out, New York City desperately needs leadership from these city departments. But, when will New York’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio finally appoint a director of city planning?
The California College of the Arts (CCA) was founded in 1907 by Frederick Meyer, a German arts and crafts cabinetmaker and did not have an architecture program until the 1980s. However it has been making great strides in the past 10 years to become more of a presence on the international art and design stage. But like all schools it struggles with rising fees and costs to educate young people so it has come up with Blueprints, Blue Jeans & Bluegrass, a fundraiser that will take place in its fantastic San Francisco campus.
The party will honor Art Gensler the founder of the San Francisco firm that bares his name. All net proceeds from the gala will go to scholarships for talented and deserving students at CCA. The event takes place on March 26 and features a complete dinner, fancy cocktails and Bluegrass music. I want to fly out to San Francisco just to attend the Blueprints.
While architects are often accused of wanting to be artists (albeit ones with wealthy clients) artists are also sometimes guilty of wanting to be architects. There are, of course, artists whose work crosses into architectural themes like James Casebere and Ernesto Neto to name only two but there are artists who want to actually build. Think of Donald Judd in Marfa, Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, and now Damien Hirst.
Diller, Scofidio + Renfro announced today that their reorganization of the Museum of Modern Art will include the replacement of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s former American Folk Art Museum at 45 West 53rd street. Liz Diller said in her briefing that DS+R hoped to save the Folk Art building and repurpose it into a usable exhibit space or a connecting bridge between the new Jean Nouvel tower (which will have three floors of MoMA galleries) and the older parts of MoMA. However, “saving” the structure with its misaligned floors (to MOMA existing galleries) would mean compromising the integrity of the Williams Tsien structure.
One can imagine the logic of DS+R’s decision, but Williams and Tsien are, like any architects, sad to see the demise of their 2001 building that Herbert Muschamp said “transcend(s) cultural categories even as it helps define them.”
The recently concluded Lisbon Triennale announced that it has selected Kenneth Frampton to receive its Lifetime Achievement Award for 2013. The award has previously been given to Vittorio Gregotti (2007) and Álvaro Siza Vieira (2010). This third Lisbon exhibition, Close, Closer, was dynamically curated and presented by Beatrice Galilee and is in some ways unimaginable without the critical thinking and architectural activism of someone like Frampton. It is also exciting to see someone so critical to architecture culture who is not primarily a builder be given an international award. He is the author of Modern Architecture and the Critical Present (1980), Studies in Tectonic Culture (1995), American Masterworks (1995), Le Corbusier (2001), Labour, Work & Architecture (2005), and an updated fourth edition of Modern Architecture: A Critical History (2007).
The journal Clog wants to slow things down. It believes that digital media has reduced the “lifespan of any single design or topic” to a nano second and that the deluge of content required to feed online platforms means that “excellent projects receive the same fleeting attention as mediocre ones.” In order to counter these trends, Clog focuses on its print journal with themed issues like Brutalism, The National Mall, Rendering, and next spring, Prisons (submissions due December 31, 2013).
Architects are probably the only people who like to see a construction site. We love to see building cranes, steel workers, and scaffolding—if only because it means architects are working and paying the rent. But for most urban dwellers these work places are “unsitely” disruptions to daily life and noisy irritations.
Now Montreal’s Design Bureau, in collaboration with the city’s downtown Ville-Marie borough and the Saint-Étienne Cité du Design (France), are launching an effort to correct this situation and asking architects for help. They will host a colloquium called “Unsitely! Leveraging Design to Improve Urban Construction Sites” on October 8-9, 2014. They are asking architects to submit proposals on how design can improve individual and collective experience, and the overall communication strategy of major worksites, or at least to contribute to reducing their negative impact on daily life.
Architects (and others) should submit cases studies that address these issues by Tuesday, December 17, 2013. For additional information, contact colloquium executive producer, Laetitia Wolff.