The 77-year-old Montreal architect and artist Mel Charney died on September 17th in his home. Trained at McGill University and Yale as an architect, he was better known as a sculptor, architectural thinker, and academic. Charney represented Canada at the Venice Biennale twice—once for art in 1986 and once for architecture in 2000, created large-scale installations in Montreal including A Chicago Construction (1982) and Skyscraper, Waterfall, Brooks—A Construction at Place Émilie-Gamelin. Finally, he famously designed a block-long montage of photographs of buildings along Montreal’s Sherbrooke Street that had been destroyed to make way for development, which in turn was also destroyed by the city. The next print edition of AN will feature a full obituary and appreciation of Charney by David Grahame Shane.
“Venice Architecture Biennale ‘cannot get any worse’ says Wolf D. Prix,” read the headline on Dezeen’s August 30 wire post. In a press release titled “The Banal,” Prix declared that that architects participating in the biennale are “playing” while the profession is “sinking into powerlessness and irrelevance” at the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, and investors.
The broadside caused a stir in Venice during he opening and in the blogosphere but now it appears that Prix was never in Venice for the biennale in the first place and thus had not seen the exhibition he denounced. His office claims that Prix has been misunderstood and “the critique addressed the theme of the exhibition, not the show or its execution,” according to a spokesperson for the firm.
The Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale has in recent years been a bit of a snore. The space has been filled most recently in 2010 with unconvincing drawings of older Russian cities and earlier (2008) with models of Ordos McMansions. But this year the pavilion’s interior was spectacularly reconfigured with walls of glass QR codes in its central space forming a digital dome, but the display’s heavy-handedness brought to mind earlier periods of Russian single mindedness and even totalitarianism.
It seems those in charge of this year’s Venice effort finally realized what kind of pavilion makes an impact in the giardini on harried biennale visitors and journalists and went for the full design monty. But the tensions in contemporary Russian society were also highlighted on Thursday during the Golden Lion awards presentation ceremony when a few hundred feet away a crew of cocktail-dressed and balaclava-wearing young Russian women “occupied” the exterior of the pavilion to make the case for the Pussy Riot band back in Russia recently jailed for hooliganism.
A rumor quickly spread that actual members of the band who had escaped Russie were present at the protest. Were these actually Pussy Rioters or sympathizers? No one was sure but it sure beat listening to the Biennale directors and bureaucrats drone on about Common Ground as the press rushed over from the dreadful press conference.
The Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) was founded in the early 1990′s and has been one of the world’s leading centers for promoting architecture and urban planning and improving public space. It is partially responsible for the high quality of contemporary Dutch design and planning. The institute was lead by the American curator and museum director Aaron Betsky until 2007 when Ole Bouman replaced him as the director.
OHNYopenstudios in Red Hook
Saturday, July 28, 12:00-5:00 p.m.
Reception to follow at Botanico Cafe, 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Tickets $30 / $20 for students and seniors.
Purchase tickets here.
As part of the Open House New York openstudios series, artists’ studios in Red Hook, Brooklyn will throw open their doors this weekend. Just last week OHNY announced that Dustin Yellin has agreed to open his studio-which must be one of the most beautiful in the city (above). In addition, metalworkers, furniture designers, and glassblowers will be thrown into the mix, making the event a good fabrication tour as well.
The self guided event kicks off Saturday at noon followed by a wine reception with the artisans and tour goers around 5:00 p.m. at Botanico Cafe at 220 Conover Street. The cafe is adjacent to the organic chocolate and Liquor distillery Cacao Prieto also a beautiful Red Hook space. This promises to be one of the most interesting Saturday studio tours in the Open House series and we look forward to seeing you in Brooklyn.
Walter Pichler, the far sighted visionary architect, died last week at his home in Burgenland, Austria at the wage of 76. Though he does not seem to have an English Wikipedia page devoted to his work, Pichler was unquestionably one of the most influential artist/architects working in post-war Europe. Like Austrians Hans Hollien, Raimund Abraham, the groups Haus Rucker and Coop Himmelb(l)au, he created a powerful and evocative utopian world out of a hybrid of sculpture and drawing but always with an architectural idea at the core of the work.
In the cafe of the wonderfully elegant Palazzo Cà Giustinian on Venice‘s Grand Canal I had a chance to catch up with former AN associate editor Jaffer Kolb. Kolb has gone on to bigger and better projects and is currently the man on the ground in Venice for David Chipperfield as they prepare for the 13th Biennale of Architecture.
If your interested in how many people viewed Christian Marclay’s The Clock exhibition at the Centre Pompidou (6,996 for its three day run) in 2011 then The Art Newspaper‘s yearly round up of the top exhibitions makes great reading. This year the list breaks out Architecture and Design exhibitions and New York’s MoMA is the clear winner.
Lauretta Vinciarelli was a quiet but powerful presence on the New York architecture scene since the 1980s when she began producing “imaginary architectural settings” of buildings and landscapes. I considered it a great honor to be invited to her Soho loft to look and talk about her latest work 10 years before her death in 2011. It’s too easy as an architectural journalist covering the daily rough and tumble of urban architecture to get jaundiced about the profession, but Vinciarelli’s extraordinarily beautiful and quiet drawings and paintings remind me why we still believe in the power and hope of great architecture.
John Johansen’s iconic Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City may be demolished in the next year. Built with a $1.7 million grant from the Ford Foundation, the so called “Brutalist” building was closed in 2010 due to flooding and a local Oklahoma City group has been trying to purchase it for a downtown children’s museum.
Syracuse University’s School of Architecture will need a new dean before summer. New York City’s International Center of Photography (ICP) has announced that Mark Robbins the current dean of the school will become its next Executive Director. Robbins worked tirelessly to utilize Syracuse’s intellectual and design resources to bring life and new ideas to the dying college city and will be hard for the school to replace. But perhaps his skill at jump starting building projects will be useful in helping ICP find a new Manhattan gallery space befitting their mission and world class collection. Robbins will move out of his dramatic Syracuse bank townhouse and back to his hometown by July 1.