ONE:TWELVE | ISSUE 16
ISSUE EDITORS Malena Grigoli, Managing Editor Tristan Kercher, Editor/Graphics Chair Eleanor Lewis, Editor/Graphics Chair Eric Schultz, Editor Henry De Leon, Treasurer
CONTRIBUTORS Issue 16 Benjamin Arias Lila Asher Zach Cohen Henry De Leon Tristan Kercher Eleanor Lewis Galen Pardee Marianne Redillas Eric Schultz 10th Anniversary Reflections James Amicone Benjamin Arias Rachelle Brown (Gere) Erin Gleason Katie Lau Thomas Mahoney Marly McNeal Theo Morrow
CONTENTS ORGANIZE Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More Eric Schultz People Power in Planning Lila Asher The Great Lakes Architecture Expedition Galen Pardee The Loss of Harmony Benjamin Arias Organizing for the Future Without Carrying Empathy Marianne Redillas Matter of Perspective Eleanor Lewis A Review of the Autumn 2020 Baumer Conversations Tristan Kercher Learning and Listening Henry De Leon French Curve Frustration Zach Cohen
10-12 13-15 16-21 22-23 24-25 26-30 31-32 33-35 36-38
Rachelle Brown (Gere)
Notes from the First Meeting 7
One:Twelve’s Issue 16 seeks to discuss organization in myriad terms: the act of designing and building as inherently organizational; the organization of various ideologies, both internally and in relation to one another; organized action addressing inequities within institutions; the interpersonal organization of workflows and sensibilities necessary for design collaborations; the organization of a city, with its many elements becoming a composition larger than the sum of its parts.
AIN’T GONNA WORK ON MAGGIE’S FARM NO MORE Eric Schultz
Architectural design is an elastic commodity. If you don’t know what that means, your architectural education has failed you. Elasticity is a measure of one variable’s response to the fluctuation of another. With respect to the costs of architectural services, such variables include the price and availability of construction labor and materials, financial performance of prospective clients, zoning decisions, the proximity of livestock to an open flame, etc. One would expect that sensitivity to such perturbations might warrant a basic understanding of the economic framework in which they operate, yet nowhere in the architecture curriculum at either the graduate or undergraduate level is a course in economics required. Why might that be? Is it the off chance that a young person may recognize and challenge their own position and value within the industry, or worse, perhaps they discuss such topics with their peers? Okay, the real reason probably isn’t so sinister, but never assume that an institution, company, supervisor, or even a professor whose performance is evaluated on your level of productivity has your best interest in mind. Organizations like the AIA and NCARB do not exist to serve the interests of architects, they exist to protect and promote the interests of architectural practice, ultimately with questionable results. Did you know that architects are prohibited from collectively discussing the structure of fees by the Sherman Anti-trust Act?1 Without the ability to assess, or perhaps more importantly reassess our value in an increasingly dynamic market, the architectural profession 1 Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, “A Better Value,” Architect Magfaces a significant challenge from top to bottom. azine, January 1, 2014, https:// www.architectmagazine.com/ For example, in comparison to the amount practice/a-better-value_o. 10
of construction dollars spent since the Great Recession,2 architectural fees have still not recovered to their previous levels.3 Yet net revenues of American firms mostly recovered by 2015.2 So what gives? Labor, with fewer people doing more work. Between 2016-2026, the U.S. Department of Labor projected a 4% increase in the number of architects.2 Not bad, right? Wrong. Overall national employment was estimated to grow by 7.4%, while professions such as civil engineering and construction management were projected at 10.6% and 11.4% respectively.2 Obviously these numbers were calculated before the outbreak of COVID-19. Architectural employment tends to lag behind construction cycles, meaning that as we continue to experience the economic fallout nearly a year into the pandemic, it’s not a great time to be vying for your first job. Not to mention that new architecture graduates outnumber the projected growth of positions 2:1.2
Final economics lesson: supply is inversely related to demand and subsequently value as well as cost. Your labor is a commodity, and you should understand and acknowledge its value, both in the field and to yourself. Unfortunately, these are often incongruent within the operations of capitalism to which architecture is subservient. This is not a call for architecture 2 Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, “How Many Architects Does Our Economy to reject capitalism, but rather a call Need?” Architect Magazine, January 5, 2018, https://www.architectmagazine. for those in a capitalist society to reject com/aia-architect/aiafeature/how-manyarchitects-does-our-economy-need_o. architecture. Our value as designers and 11
critical thinkers is not fully recognized by architectural practice, and certainly not by the construction industry, although it can be elsewhere. As much of our lives have transitioned into digital environments over the past year, burgeoning fields like design research and user experience could provide alternative paths for both architects and architecture students. Roles in data visualization, marketing and communications, event planning, museum curation, and even food service place a higher valuation on your creativity than most building owners, and in turn many architecture firms. If your labor is considered a commodity, at least situate yourself in a market that equates a creative process and product with value. Of course, value extends beyond financials. Success and fulfillment also include appreciation, recognition, and a sense of self-worth. If after a decade’s 3 Phil Bernstein, FAIA, “Why the Field of Architecture Needs a worth of education and professional experience New Business Model,” Architectural Record, June 1, 2018, https://www.aryou still find yourself looking for these, it might chitecturalrecord.com/articles/13462why-the-field-of-architecture-needsbe time for a change. a-new-business-model.
PEOPLE POWER IN PLANNING Lila Asher
Planners tend to struggle with community engagement. We call meetings and no one comes, send out surveys and receive only half-hearted responses. The more progressive of us seek to put community members in control of development projects, to give them a real say in what happens in their neighborhood. In a few cases, these efforts succeed and residents start to take the lead in determining the vision for their community. However, we often end up with only a few engaged participants, or interest fizzles out halfway through the project. Despite this lackluster participation, the project usually continues through to completion. As planners, we have the power to carry the project forward, in our division or in our firm, with or without popular support. Engagement is a tactic we use to make our work better and more accountable, but it is not strictly necessary, and that is precisely why we fail. In community organizing, nothing gets done without popular support. A strike without the participation of all the workers is doomed. A social movement can hardly call itself a movement if it cannot bring throngs of people to the streets. The ladder of engagement within organizing theory focuses on how individuals can be brought from passive support to leadership roles for “base-building” and to strengthen organizational capacity. In organizing, people are everything: we win elections by getting the most votes and we win campaigns by getting enough support to pressure decision-makers into action. No matter how eloquent or worthy a cause may be, without a strong backing, it will go nowhere. Community organizers do not always succeed in getting people involved, but they certainly try harder than most planners. Leading up to the 2020 election, my fellow campaign staffers and I made hundreds of thousands of phone calls. We tried to get voters onside and help them make a plan to vote, but we also called likely volunteers to convince them to call voters. Any enthusiastic voter could potentially become a volunteer, and any seasoned volunteer could start leading trainings. In this way, we built a strong coalition of people by election day. Granted, a good number of people hung up on us, annoyed to be hearing yet again about the election or unquestionably opposed to our candidate. But for every few angry responses, there was someone persuadable, or someone who had questions about the voting process during the pandemic. Those conversations not only gained us votes but made us keenly aware of the issues troubling voters. 13
We undertook that level of engagement work because people are ultimately the source of power for any campaign. Making calls and knocking on doors is necessary work to achieve the desired outcome. Many planners, on the other hand, are already enmeshed in the power structures that will likely lead our plans to implementation. The development firm or government office that employs us has cleared a path for the new park or apartment complex already, making community engagement frequently little more than a formality. If we truly want to make residents’ perspectives on an issue matter, they need to hold the power to determine what happens in their community.
How might we democratize planning? Considering this question leads to some troubling observations. Planning is most often a function of government, and in theory, we live in a democracy. By definition, then, planning should already be accountable to the people, but we can see that this has not been the case historically. Highways and urban renewal projects bulldozed Black and innercity communities. Development projects have proceeded over public protest numerous times. City plans have been structured 1 Beard, V. A. (2012). Citizen around the cishet, financially stable white man, Planners: From Self-Help to Political Transformation. In R. Crane leaving feminine, Indigenous, queer, Black, and & R. Weber (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning (pp. impoverished perspectives out. The government 705–721). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordis fundamentally broken, and while fixing it is an hb/9780195374995.013.0034 14
admirable goal, how is planning to function in the meantime? Part of the answer lies in community planning projects that operate without direct government involvement. City and Regional Planning professor at Cornell Victoria Beard distinguishes citizen planners from government planners and describes how they work to fill in gaps left by government programs and to directly oppose harmful policies.1 Within this broader definition of planning exist numerous projects that are directly accountable to their constituents. For example, urban community gardens work to combat food deserts and provide people with fresh produce in areas that are underserved by grocery stores and isolated by government-planned transit systems. Oscar Perry Abello, in his article, “Reclaiming Power” for YES! Magazine, describes how New York City residents protested zoning changes that would likely price them out of their neighborhoods and won court battles to get their own zoning preferences implemented instead.2 These efforts show the power of community organizing in planning contexts. How can formally trained planners stand with these community-led projects instead of against them? Our education tends to funnel us into government and private-sector jobs that keep us separate from community work. Approaching an organization to provide “help” from the position of a professional planner can be viewed with suspicion. However, planners should not let our positionality stop us from being on the side of justice. Within community organizations, there is continual tension and debate about the role of leaders. Hierarchies and heroes are largely passé, and yet organizations still need some form of structure to accommodate different levels of involvement and skillsets. There is no universal perfect answer: it is always a matter of negotiation that necessitates respect and listening and almost inevitably gets messy at some point. In this contested space, planners can find room to offer our skills and do good work. Planners can cooperate with movements, not as external experts or instigators but as equal participants with technical skills to contribute. Separating planning from its complicity in government abuses will not be easy or complete. There is systemic work to be done, but as individual planners, we can each make the choice to work like community organizers. Choosing to be accountable to a community rather than to your institution can be dangerous; it will most certainly lead to difficult conversations and potentially even the loss of a position. However, by practicing radical accountability – soliciting high engagement levels, treating community leaders as equals, and never pushing forward on a project that the community does not support – we can begin to relinquish our unfair control over development. In organizing, the necessity of popular support is a 2 Abello, O. P. (2020, July 7). Reclaiming Neighborhood reality. In planning, we can commit to it as a mindset. Power. Yes! Magazine, 12. 15
THE GREAT LAKES ARCHITECTURE EXPEDITION Galen Pardee On December 8th, 2008, the States and Territories of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Montreal, and Quebec, signed into law the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact [The Great Lakes Compact], prohibiting water removal outside the Lakes’ drainage basins and creating a sealed eco-political zone within the United States and Canada.1 On April 25th 2018, Wisconsin approved Foxconn’s request to withdraw 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water per day for a private LCD panel factory outside Racine: Foxconn claimed its factory’s water consumption a “public use” to skirt full Compact review. This feat of
semantics exposed the Compact’s lack of actionable public water definitions, and created a leak in the Compact’s closed loop.2 Finally, on February 26th, 2019, the citizens of Toledo, Ohio approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, granting the city legal guardianship of the Lake and its’ watershed. Unchecked agricultural runoff in 2014 had rendered Lake Erie’s water undrinkable for half a million people for days at a time: algal blooms would return regardless in July 2019.3 These events precipitated the founding of the Great Lakes Architectural Expedition; a (fictional) public architecture office with all five Great Lakes and the citizens of their collective watersheds as its clients.
The Expedition explores how the practice of architecture shifted away from singular, private clients and discrete buildings, towards managing complex systems of infrastructure, maintenance, and advocacy on behalf of collective, public entities. Rather than beginning with the assumption that more buildings are solutions, the Expedition begins from the assumption that architectural practice in the early 21st century was ill-suited to the scale and urgency of the collective action problems facing the world, and needed a complete overhaul in order to ensure productive outcomes. As such, the Expedition’s projects are rarely “architecture”; instead, architectural expertise and labor is turned to infrastructure, public education, and public advocacy.
The Client Key to understanding the Expedition’s role is first understanding the entity commissioning work - the Great Lakes themselves. Drawing on examples of ecological self-representation existing in the Netherlands,4 each
Great Lake’s interests are represented via an elected body, which can advise on private proposals, or request discrete projects on it’s own. Beyond housing the computers, model shop, and desks of a typical architecture office, the Expedition’s headquarters also include classrooms for the public and students enrolled in architecture programs throughout Ohio’s colleges and universities. Teaching, both for required courses on the Lake Erie watershed and professional practice, 1 “Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resource Compact,” 110th Congress, accessed September 29, 2020, https://www.congress. gov/110/plaws/publ342/PLAW2 Corrinne Hess, “Approval for Foxconn Great Lakes Water Diversion Upheld,” Wisconsin Public Radio, June 11, 2019, https:// www.wpr.org/approval-foxconn-great-lakes-water-diversion-upheld 17
and for the public at large, is a critical aspect of the Expedition’s mission, allowing citizens to conduct their own research and eroding the barriers between architects and the public they serve. Small offices for research fellows and designers-in-residence are nestled between conference rooms where Lake Erie representatives and stakeholders can meet with designers and developers. The client-assembly for Lake Erie is housed at the center of a vibrant enfilade of design, research, and public activity; a Parliament for a Material World.
inland from Lake Erie and away from sources of drinking water for Toledo, Sandusky, and Cleveland. When growing, the algae acts as a carbon
The Project The Maumee Basin Phosphorus Coop is an example of a project initiated at Lake Erie’s request; tackling the collective action problem behind the harmful algal blooms endemic to Lake Erie’s western shores. The Coop is a network of filters, drawing on existing industrial-scale algal turf scrubber technology to create vertical towers of algae-covered screens, feeding on the suspended particulates in agricultural runoff: in essence, moving the algae 18
sink, using photosynthesis to sequester carbon dioxide, which can be bought via a credit system as an incentive for the Maumee Basin’s farmers to buy in. The Expedition’s continuing role in the Coop is one of monitoring and compliance, using the office’s staff of researchers. A large-scale model of the current pollution levels serves as a register of the phosphorus loading conditions in the watershed, and a new form of architectural model-making deliberately aimed toward public education and consciousness.
500-foot wide, and 5-foot high asphalt spillway; increasing Lake Erie’s catchment area at the Ohio River’s expense. After the Expedition’s founding, addressing the problems caused by this megastructure was deemed a primary concern. Under the Expedition’s supervision, an extensive topographical study model of the spillway was produced, identifying existing structures at risk for damage, and indicating the need for a fullresurfacing of all impervious surfaces on the Lake Erie side of the structure with pervious material. The spillway itself was repurposed as a county-scale
The Public Lake Erie does not always ask for new structures: in the case of The Last Impervious Surface in Portage County Ohio, the Expedition was tasked with remediating a large-scale water transporting infrastructure, which had split Portage County between its Lake Erie and Ohio River watersheds. In an effort to attract business and investment, Portage County altered its topography with a 30-mile long,
3 Daniel McGraw, “Ohio City Votes to Give Lake Erie Personhood Status Over Algae Blooms,” The Guardian, February 28, 2019, https://www. theguardian.com/us-news/2019/ feb/28/toledo-lake-erie-personhood-status-bill-of-rights-algaebloom#:~:text=But%20this%20 week%2C%20more%20than,human%20being%20or%20corporation%20would 4 “About Us,” Dutch Water Authorities, accessed February 18, 2021, https://dutchwaterauthorities.com/ about-us/ 19
public zone for recreation, camping, running, biking, and community gardens, ensuring a collective future for a misguided megastructure. Portage County shows the power of continued engagement and advocacy beyond the time scale of a single intervention, as well as the power of providing models and process for the public (in this case Portage County’s residents) to understand and modify their surroundings as needed. Flood hazard maps produced with Expedition expertise provide an avenue for future developments to proceed and an indication of existing structures to fortify, as well as blueprints for a useful, public second life for the Portage County’s last impervious surface.
The Expedition Exhibitions at the Knowlton School of Architecture and the Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative examine The Great Lakes Architectural Expedition’s archive, putting works from the Expedition’s formative years in the Lake Erie watershed on display. The transition from “conventional” practice to the collective is not only organizational, but aesthetic as well; many of the objects in the galleries challenge architectural graphic conventions of scale, color, medium, and content to make their points. In these exhibitions, distortions and intentional bias signify a displacement of the architect—away from the detached neutrality of construction details and specifications—towards editorializing, commentary, and insightful advocacy. The models, drawings, and films on display describe an alternative model of collective, public design and advocacy; reclaiming architecture’s political past and engaging designers with maintaining a sustainable, resilient future for the Great Lakes.
With thanks to Anthony Selvaggio, Melissa Folzenlogen, Noël Michel, Patrick Sardo, Kate Lubbers, Sofia Kuspan, and Chad Boston.
THE LOSS OF HARMONY Benjamin Arias
At all scales of a building there is an inherent order which gives the project an intangible harmony. The organization of architectural form is situated at a foundational level in the design process. Since the advent of Mannerism, architecture has undertaken the task of disassembling order. This is seen in 1988, through Phillip Johnson’s MOMA exhibition on deconstructivism, where architects attempted to further test the boundaries of order. The projects of some contemporary architects such as Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne display a lack of recognizable order present at the building scale. The projects are holding a civil war; with different parts of the buildings competing for attention and use. The surrender of this control in contemporary design can translate to an unharmonious building. This type of surrender may lend a shock factor from the street view; however, it is the interior experience that should hold dominant importance rather than the aesthetic appeal of the exterior. It is imperative that architects do not succumb to the satanic tendency to allow chaos into the design process; forgetting the harmony present in the natural construction of habitation can have disastrous effects on the built environment.
Architectural masters such as Claude Nicolas Ledoux, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright emit this informed control. Ledoux used symmetry and hierarchy to design spaces that feel as if they were designed by the gods themselves; too perfect and ordered to be designed by a fallible human subject. Sullivan and his disciple, Wright, used the natural principles and order of the environment around them to inform their design decisions. Drawing on the inherent control and recursive hierarchy in plants, these architects were able to design buildings that feel as if they belong on the site where they sit. The use of natural patterns and systems of organization make the buildings seem as if they are growing from the ground itself. Symmetry has long been used by humans to design their dwellings. The structural efficiency of a symmetrical system made it the most natural way for early humans to design. The equal parts of a project also allow for a more comfortable circulation and understanding of the programs present in the plan of the building. The design of most important structures in history have had an inherent symmetry or consistency. The pyramids of the Egyptians, temples and 22
theaters of the Greeks, the churches of the Renaissance, and even the civic architecture of Louis Kahn and Eliel Saarinen at mid-century all maintain a level of control and order to administer a divine presence. The symmetry or order is a datum or neutral control point. Sullivan describes this datum as the germ of the plant . The plant grows from the center outwards, following a controlled and consistent pattern. According to Sullivan, the architecture should grow from the ground in a similar way. The deconstructionists and contemporary architects, however, are attempting to shift the datum. These projects appear to grow from several competing datums as opposed to one. The competition between parts translates to hierarchical uncertainty and confusion. The order and symmetry are lost and replaced by abstraction and chaos. Manfredo Tafuri proposes that the foundation of architecture is in its shock factor . A project must have a certain surprising ability to capture the audience's attention. Contemporary projects have exhausted their shock value. Notably, Tafuri is very careful to add, these shocking projects must remain controlled; order must reign, but amidst a degree of confusion. The degree of shock in many contemporary projects has simply been taken too far. Architecture must retreat to a sense of order if it is to recapture its soul. The Parthenon in Athens alike many
Greek temples holds a controlled axial symmetry. This conformity, similar to the Catholic churches all over Europe, produces a harmony or sense of perfection. Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute draws on the uniformity of the ancients to enlist this harmony in his design. The project, with the aid of symmetry, becomes a “perfect” temple for its occupants. Using the symmetry and organization of historical precedent, new forms can still be created which follow an inherent and natural uniformity and regularity. Moving away from the tendency to introduce chaos and disorder allows architects the opportunity to focus on the more important detail and material aspects of the built environment. The focus on uniformity and symmetry in architectural detail enhances the effects of this harmonious condition. Considering natural material choices can build onto the innate order of the project. Using materials which can be found on or near the site allows the buildings to appear as if it has grown from the earth itself, like Sullivan’s germ sprouting from the ground, without the inherent imperfection of the human element of design. The natural organization and order of architecture in all aspects of the design process, translates to a harmony of the building that can be seen, felt, and experienced on all scales.
O R G A N I Z I N G F O R T H E F U T U R E W I T H O U T C A R R Y I N G E M PA T H Y Marianne Redillas
The organization of a neighborhood starts beyond the physical structure. In exploring the urban community undergoing revitalization and an immersed arts scene, the organization of neighborhoods starts in the hands of those who hold the power to reshape it. A highway cuts the neighborhood in half, high-end development shifts demographics, and those who used to live here are pushed farther from the growing beauti cation. To what extent can the natives trust the uncertain future that the city has implemented in this neighborhood?
Photo: S. Hartford Ave., 2021. 25
MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE:
A R e a d i n g o f H öwe l e r + Yo o n ’ s M e m o r i a l t o E n s l a ve d L a b o re r s Eleanor Lewis Ours is a moment of great social reckoning. The Black Lives Matter movement is forcing Americans to confront the chaotic underbelly of our sociopolitical relations, and architecture, as one medium through which we memorialize those relations, is involved whether we like it or not. The number of Confederate memorials removed since George Floyd’s death—38— surpasses that of any previous year, including 2017, when a score of memorials fell following the Charlottesville car attack. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, however, 725 of these hotly contested monuments still remain in public space.1 Finding a solution to their fate is a delicate matter, but one thing is clear: architects cannot simply stand back and stand by. The discipline then finds itself with a unique opportunity to give solid form to untold histories, and a responsibility to add new perspectives to a complicated monumental landscape. It must go beyond mere destruction into a more nuanced program of reconstruction—one that heals more than it harms. But how can an immobile structure actively promote social change? Buildings have always provided gathering spaces for social organizations, but the question is in how the arrangement of matter and space can itself help to reorganize our social realm. Höweler + Yoon’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers on the University of Virginia campus constitutes one of the most eloquent attempts to answer this question. Because of its unique position within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the designers were essentially obligated to propose an earthwork. But the greater challenge was in balancing the architectural significance of Thomas Jefferson’s design with the 26
1 “Whose Heritage? Dataset Updates as of August 11, 2020.” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 11, 2020. https://www. splcenter.org/presscenter/ splc-whose-heritage-dataset-updates-august-11-2020.
dark history of the slave-ownership that made it possible. Fluently shifting between the languages of its architectural predecessors, the memorial weaves together Modern, Postmodern, and contemporary strategies in its telling of such a brutal history, yet in putting these devices in service to the narrative of African American history, it stands more as a critique of a culture of silence, oppression, and injustice than a critique of any one architectural position. In directing its energies outward, the memorial seems to reject a culture of inwardly focused criticism that has long characterized the discipline, practicing instead a concrete form of social critique that aims to mend rather than menace. Ostensibly uninterested in Postmodern linguistic intricacy, the memorial’s circular shape displays an inheritance of Modernism’s formal restraint. It clearly follows the lineage of memorial design pioneered by Maya Lin nearly 40 years ago with her Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but it also suggests a theoretical alignment with Kenneth Frampton. In his critique of Deconstructivism, Frampton advocated compositional clarity and order over indulgent formal tendencies that he viewed as “elitist and detached.”2 Robert Somol and Sarah Whiting shared this preference for programmatic simplicity, and by the late nineties had turned the critical dial a few notches toward minimalism.3 In view of this legacy, the memorial logically follows a chronology of increasing distrust in form for form’s sake, accepting Frampton’s mandate that form ought to be subservient to the higher objectives of space and community. The modest circular arrangement derives not purely from a disciplinary dialectic, however, but from a careful consideration of program and site. Because it must convey an overlooked and agonizing history, the memorial’s program calls for legibility, clarity, and tactility. Its nested rings, tangential to the beaten path, provide a clear route into the narrative 27
2 Frampton, Kenneth. “Place, Production and Scenography: International Theory and Practice since 1962.” Essay. In Modern Architecture: A Critical History, 313. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1980. 3 Somol, Robert, and Sarah Whiting. “Notes around the Doppler Effect and Other Moods of Modernism.” Perspecta 33 (2002): 72–77. https://doi. org/10.2307/1567298.
loophole of slave labor exploited by Jefferson. The open central gathering space, inner bench, and slanted walls, calculated with dimensions of the human body in mind,4 encourage interaction between visitor and architecture, creating an active space rather than a passive object. Through this physical interaction, the memorial gradually reveals its sophistication. While the circular design might call to mind modern abstraction, its clear relationship with Jefferson’s rotunda up the hill ties it to the specific history of the site. Their identical diameter and materiality suggest a parallel between the two, reclaiming literal and symbolic territory to honor the thousands of enslaved laborers who lived and died on Jefferson’s land. And despite its undeniable solidity, the memorial does not lie inert in the imagination; its subtly offset and incomplete rings suggest myriad interpretations, refuting the ideal of pure legibility. It is precisely the simplicity of its form that allows the memorial to represent the rotunda, the broken shackles of slavery, the unfinished story of racial oppression, the “ring shout” dance performed by slaves, the Ring of Freedom, and more, all simultaneously. This malleable signification reveals a deeper influence of Postmodern theory than is superficially evident. Jacques Derrida’s description of “architecture maintenant” as an irreducible, signature, yet reiterable and performative construction could apply equally to the UVA memorial as it does to Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette. And his meditation on the origin of meaning helps elucidate how the project can be at once fixed and flexible, solid and supple: “Meaning is not inexhaustible in the sense that there are infinite possible interpretations; rather meanings are maintained in the arrest of unmeaning.”5 The Memorial to the Enslaved Laborers does not dictate a single truth so much as it prevents an excess of 28
ignorance. By taking advantage of this linguistic leeway, the memorial is able to accommodate numerous interpretations. The project’s symbolism may be even more legible in its surface treatment. Höweler + Yoon made use of the double-sided form to portray the history in two distinct ways: on the interior, engraved names and “memory marks” convey the sheer, outrageous number of people enslaved on the property, while the exterior provides a visual reminder of their individuality through the eyes of Isabella Gibbons, an emancipated slave who became an acclaimed educator.6 The memory marks form a visual field of data that gradually rises to the looming height of eight feet, deploying a similar strategy to that of Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. They create a sensation “more visceral than intellectual, more atmospheric than aesthetic,” as endorsed by Jeff Kipnis in “The Cunning of Cosmetics.”7 But the marks are not a cosmetic addition so much as a physical scarring, meant to embody the torture endured by the nameless victims they represent. If, as Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich state, “materialism in its ontology cannot be detached from the body,” and “material bodies can only be appreciated through sensations,”8 then the 4,000 gouges in the granite wall produce a relational sensation in the visitor that helps convey the reality of past injustices, however partially. Here, “the sense of sight behaves just like the sense of touch,” as the hard granite morphs into wounded skin, and the memorial becomes akin to a living thing. The decision to carve Gibbon’s eyes into the exterior surface satisfied the public desire for a more direct representation of the enslaved, but it also performs several other functions. It reinforces the memorial’s incarnate presence, emphasizes individuality in contrast to the sea of anonymous slashes, and symbolically watches over the campus and its future. Eto Otitigbe’s carving technique and 29
4 Höweler, Eric. “Signal to Noise.” Baumer Lecture Series. Lecture presented at the Spring 2019 Baumer Lecture Series #1, February 1, 2019. 5 Derrida, Jacques. “Point De Folie - Maintenant L'architecture.” Introduction. In La Case Vide: La Villette 1985. London: Architectural Association, 1986. 6 “Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.” President's Commission on Slavery and the University, November 21, 2019. https://slavery.virginia.edu/ memorial-for-enslaved-laborers/. 7 Sykes, A. Krista, and Jeffrey Kipnis. “The Cunning of Cosmetics: A Personal Reflection on the Architecture of Herzog and De Meuron.” Essay. In Constructing a New Agenda: Architectural Theory 1993-2009, 429–34. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. 8 Spina, Marcelo and Huljich, Georgina. “Matters of Sensation: Materiality in the Sublime.” Essay. 2008.
the curved nature of the surface create an image that oscillates between signal and noise, appearing only from certain vantage points—corresponding to the concealed history of Jefferson’s slave ownership— and its vertical striations reference traditional African masks as an embedded symbol of the deeper history of slavery. This multilayered graphic device adds explicit allusion to the memorial’s geometric abstraction, demonstrating a comfort with both sides of the dialectic. As with many contemporary equivalents, Höweler + Yoon’s memorial straddles the line between abstraction and representation, statement and suggestion. It rejects the overt depiction of heroic figures, which could easily become inaccurate or overly graphic. Yet its realistic depiction of Gibbon’s eyes, physical scarring of the surface, and engraved timeline of events prevent it from becoming too abstract to comprehend. Like the image carved on its back, the memorial emerges from the noise of the campus to confront us with the history and humanity of the enslaved, while still maintaining enough flexibility for visitors to formulate their own understanding of its meaning. This apparent ambiguity in theoretical allegiance is, ultimately, a logical position for a contemporary memorial of African American history. Deliberately choosing not to stake claim to any one ideology, nor deny the value of any other, it exists not as a shout in the disciplinary contests between abstraction and representation, aesthetics and politics, or form and surface, but as a quiet call to social reckoning. The Memorial to Enslaved Laborers is an honest critique of a culture that profited from the suffering of others, andbut it is a rare critique that inspires hope for a more egalitarian future. Rather than “canceling” Jefferson and his contributions to education or to architecture, Höweler + Yoon added a vital perspective to the dialogue, permanently. 30
A REVIEW OF THE AUTUMN 2020 BAUMER CONVERSATIONS Tristan Kercher
In its digital reconfiguration as a series of discussions between speakers, students, and faculty, the Autumn 2020 Baumer Conversations facilitated a uniquely dynamic and direct exchange of the culturally pertinent ideas presented. The onset of the pandemic, which helped fuel renewed outrage over ongoing racial and socioeconomic inequities, forced not only a reconsideration of alternative modes of communication, but a reckoning with issues of inclusivity and fair representation within architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. The 2020 Autumn Baumer Conversations brought together a series of speakers working to address those issues through their respective disciplines. Through showcasing the data visualizations of W.E.B. Du Bois, Silas Munro’s opening lecture set in motion a series organized largely around the reevaluation of historically marginalized figures and movements whose suppression inhibits our understanding of a holistic design curriculum. It served as a case study into how design has the power to both “alter our consciousness” and forefront cultural inequalities in a graphically
unique and succinct way. Successive lectures broadened the scope of this initial conversation to the effect of COVID-19 on the housing market, a push towards urban sustainability, and a commitment to honoring cultural narratives, all while remaining within orbit of the series’ underlying theme. LeFevre Fellow Galen Pardee’s work in particular demonstrated a similar interest in illuminating the underlying mechanisms which actively shape our built and cultural environments. His drawings trace the movement of natural resources in an uncharacteristically tangible and architectural way, highlighting the political and economic impact of culturally embedded production chains. The drawings employ the architectural techniques of volumetric projection and spatial mapping to extract and represent this data, questioning architecture’s agency to “enact change within these environments.” Continuing the dialogue around illuminating underrepresented perspectives, Sarah Zewdes’ lecture emphasized the power of community engagement to inform landscape design. Through prioritizing 31 31
the intentions of community members, Zewdes’ work proposes a method of designing for inevitable changes to the built landscape in a way that is considerate of the existing population and their cultural memories. The absence of a physical incentive to attend the 2020 Autumn Baumer Conversations resulted in a decline of live attendance, despite livestreaming’s promise of increased accessibility. The series’ interactive digital format compensated for its lack of physical presence and presents the possibility of a more digitally integrated arrangement of future lecture series. Conversations throughout the fall series attempted to broaden our scope of understanding the role of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning in addressing pressing social issues. Though clearly unique in content, conversations shed light on the pressing need to broaden who and what we consider as part of the design process, an overarching theme of the series that was well suited to its inclusive digital format.
LEARNING AND LISTENING Henry De Leon
The past year has called for a considerable amount of reflection and interrogation. The effects of the pandemic have brought conversations on race, wealth, and equity to the forefront. Architects are contributing solutions which address all three. Countless articles have been written about post-pandemic design and culture, discussing the need for more sustainable and equitable spaces. Many architectural institutions have participated in these conversations, hosting virtual panels on how they are making positive, internal changes. However, we must ask: how are we collaborating with people outside of the architectural field to promote sustainability and equity? Has our response successfully addressed questions of wealth and equality in the built environment? Architecture has a history of addressing cultural and political moments through collaboration with other professions – by working alongside or inserting themselves independently – to explore new mediums, crafts, and ways of thinking. Professionals display this through the pursuit of certifications such as LEED, Energy Star, and NGBS. Universities contribute by co-opting public dialogues centered around topics such as the wage gap and representation. Architects are constantly analyzing and addressing the current landscape. This mentality is embodied at an undergraduate level as well, exemplified by the many architecture students at the Knowlton School who earn a minor while completing their bachelor’s degree. Two of the most popular minors in the last few years being City and Regional Planning and Business. Undergraduates are building a strong external knowledge base through coursework and involvement with student organizations such as NOMAS, Servitecture, Women of Knowlton, and AIAS. Students at Knowlton have a vast bank of skills and personal experiences to draw from. However, architecture often misjudges its capability to solve problems by focusing only on the solutions of what the built environment can achieve. Architects are prone to overlooking communities’ ongoing conversations which aim to address socioeconomic problems. The Toronto Affordable Housing Challenge, which acted as the focal point of the 2021 Gui Competition, is an example of this. The competition describes the current conditions in Toronto: jobs are being created and homes are being constructed, but they are not accessible. Potential tenants either do not have the means to live there due to its distance from their employer, or they simply do not make enough money to afford rent. This raises a question of whether one can design accessibility to the housing market. I would say absolutely, but only to a certain extent. As designers, we 33
can form the built environment into enjoyable spaces that offer inspiration and inclusion. Mobility can be designed with careful consideration of circulation for people with disabilities. Inclusion can be designed by giving all occupants of a space equal access to amenities and communal features. Access can be designed through the thoughtful consideration of footprint and materials which would affect listing prices. Creating interactive spaces can give occupants a sense of individuality while also feeling cared for. However, this may only solve a portion of the problem. As the competition prompt discusses, out of the 100,000 houses built in the last year, only 2% were deemed accessible.1 Architecture is not going to provide people with a living wage. Conscious design and consideration for building costs will not prevent landlords from barring people from renting or owning homes. I believe it is time to recognize, as a profession, what we are incapable of addressing through design, and instead turn to collective organizing, addressing the larger conversations taking place around race, labor, wages, and equity. 1
FRENCH CURVE FRUSTRATION Zach Cohen
I still have the French curve that came in the “drawing kit” I received during my first year of architecture school, and I’ve still never used it, at least not in any successful manner. For those that don’t know what a French curve is— and I imagine that many students in our current “post-digital” age do not—a French curve is a template for drawing curves, not just any curves, but specific segments of the Euler spiral: a shape that has been regarded by generations of mathematicians as an epitome of geometric elegance.1 And yet, when this supremely elegant line is sliced up and packaged into a singular geometric instrument—the French curve—the result is an awkward and mysterious form that doesn’t readily suggest its utility to those not well-versed in infinitesimal calculus, for example, most architects. So, as an aspiring architect, without a mathematics background, I often found myself wondering: what exactly was I meant to use my French curve for? All of the other tools in my drawing kit quickly demonstrated their usefulness, for example: my scale produced dimensional accuracy, my erasing shield facilitated surgical deletion, and my lead sharpener enabled my lines to be consistent and crisp. Then, I’d have to draw a curve. Not a circular arc—I could use my compass for that—but a soft curve, like those found in the plan of Corbusier’s Ronchamp. Instead of attempting to draw the curve freehand (and almost certainly incurring the wrath of my studio instructor), I’d try to locate the segment of my French curve that could approximate such noncircular curvilinearity. But that’s all my French curve could do: approximation. The inevitable roughness of my French curve usage would invariably disrupt the otherwise pristine arrangement of my drawing, and I would be frustrated, again. My French curve couldn’t possibly be meant to create this kind of disruption. Around the same time that I was trying to decipher my French curve’s utility, I was also beginning to learn how to use computer-aided design (CAD) software, which only compounded my French curve frustration. In CAD, curves can be produced with only a few clicks of the mouse, their endpoints can snap perfectly into place with lines that are already drawn, and they can be endlessly shaped through “control point” manipulation. Why 1 Levien, Raph. The Euler spiral: couldn’t I just draw everything in the computer?! a mathematical history. Berkeley, CA: University of California BerkeOf course I would later learn that mathematical ley, 2008. http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2008/ equations similar to those that inform the EECS-2008-111.html 36
French curve’s design are integral to CAD, only instead of being packaged into a clumsy plastic template, they are packaged into the slick black box of a digital interface. Therefore, in either case, the reality is that we, architects, often use mathematical logic to approximate, or perhaps organize, our architectural thinking. I’d argue that such appropriation is not as harmless as it may initially seem: in borrowing mathematical logic, we also inherit its aesthetic values. Such values are exemplified by the logician and philosopher Bertrand Russell when he writes “mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature...”2 Russell’s allusion to a “weaker” human nature suggests a kind of mathematical machoism, as if all other non-mathematical forms of beauty are for wimps. I’d thus argue that architecture’s appropriation of mathematical forms of beauty is wrapped up with its pursuit of exclusivity. We can also infer from the first part of Russel’s declaration that since the French curve is a tool born of mathematics, it is a tool that possesses cold, hard truth. But maybe architecture isn’t meant to be so brutally honest? 2 Russell, Bertrand. “The Study of MathMaybe it’s not meant to aim for or produce the “right ematics.” in Mysticism and Logic: and view”? Maybe the French curve shows us the friction that Other Essays, 58-73 . New York: Longman, arises when we try to force such mathematical desires into Greens, and Co, 1919. 37
architectural practices? On the other hand, it’s possible that, given the innate generality of our own discipline, we have no choice but to borrow tools from adjacent fields, such as mathematics; in other words, perhaps the best we can do is try to approximate our architectural thinking with a bunch of French curve-like things. Such things can provide us with frameworks in which to articulate the architectural forms latent in our imaginations. In this view, the friction generated by our technical appropriation is a productive force, and we should let it shape our approaches to design. There is another possible resolution to French curve frustration: what if instead of designing and then using the tools at-hand to represent our designs (i.e., post-rationalization), or designing within the constraints of such tools (just rationalization), we design with these tools? For instance, what if we began a design process with the French curve? We could pick one of its many segments to draw, and then another, and another, and so on. Each curve we add could either intersect with or remain apart from those that were previously drawn. With enough linework and density, shapes would eventually, albeit slowly, start to emerge. We would then never have to worry about one line not fitting with another or snapping into place: nothing would ever fit, yet everything would be born of the same instrumental logic. One might argue that such a method of generating architectural forms would be haphazard. I’d argue that such a seemingly chaotic design approach is no less arbitrary then choosing one CAD software over another. Sometimes we don’t even get a choice, we just have to use whatever we find in our inherited toolkits. The question is not what tools we use to represent our design thinking, but rather how and when we approach them and, further, the extent to which we are aware of the biases, aesthetic or otherwise, that they come with. If we strive to cultivate such a critical awareness, the French curve, and all of its digital descendants, might not frustrate us anymore.
REFLECTIONS ON TEN Y 40
YEARS OF ONE:TWELVE 41
BENJAMIN ARIAS M. Arch 2021
One:Twelve Journal offers a unique opportunity for students of the Ohio State University to contribute to architectural discourse while still attending school. This theoretical discourse has an intimidating barrier of entry, and the average student may not feel that their ideas are as valuable as the architectural critiques they read in class. One:Twelve Journal acts as a safe space where the students of Knowlton can share their thoughts on architecture without feeling judgement. Whether the writer is an undergraduate student first being exposed to architectural history with Jackie Gargus, or a third-year graduate student working through their thesis with Curtis Roth, all ideas are equally valued when writing for the student journal. Each issue of the journal centers around a specific theme, chosen by the journal’s leadership team. The theme provides structure, while allowing ample room for interpretation. Issue 16’s theme is organization, which offers the student multiple translations. They can write about how a building is organized, how architects organize firms, or even how architecture students organize against instances of injustice. In the average college seminar, the professor desires a particular understanding of the prompt and failure to address it in their understood way often translates to a poor grade. Through One:Twelve, however, any reading of the prompt is met with intrigue; a unique understanding is encouraged. A furthered conversation is the goal of the experience. There is a unique community built around One:Twelve; the contributors are all rooting for each other to write amazing essays because it makes the publication stronger as a whole. The publication is successful because of the collaboration. The experience of working through a new idea brought forward by a member is an opportunity to participate in discourse with other students. There is always a specified syllabus when discussing theories in seminar with Todd Gannon or Jeffrey Kipnis, but within One:Twelve meetings the ideas are always new and exciting. Over the course of the last year many new ideas have begun to form in the architectural community. It is the job of student publications such as One:Twelve to give students the outlet to respond to these ideas in our own way, without influence of the generations who have come before us. Every issue of One:Twelve is an opportunity for students of the Ohio State University to come together and publish our ideas, allowing them to reverberate beyond Knowlton’s walls.
MARLY MCNEAL B.S. Arch 2020
How do you talk about architecture when you don’t know anything about it? That was the question I struggled with most as I started my Knowlton journey. I had no prior experience in design, and I felt strange sharing my ideas in studio when I didn’t have the knowledge to back them up. Thankfully, these feelings changed throughout my time at Knowlton. Professors helped me build confidence in myself, classmates encouraged my ideas, and One:Twelve gave me a space to find my voice as a designer. I joined One:Twelve because I enjoyed writing, but it is much more than an academic journal. It is a space that fosters conversation amongst anyone who wants to think and learn, no matter their level of expertise. During my first year in the organization, everyone else was at least a year higher than me. Several were graduate students. I didn’t know anyone or anything, but was fully welcomed anyway. At many meetings, I just sat and listened. I soaked in the dialogue and learned from all the great minds. I wrote down precedents they discussed and looked up the ones that interested me. Soon, I began
to ask questions. These questions turned into writing topics to explore. Before I knew it, I finished the first draft of my article. Those involved in One:Twelve helped me with the research. They critiqued my work and expanded my architectural vocabulary. Most importantly, they helped me feel comfortable exploring and explaining my own interests. This allowed me to grow as a student and as a person. The community of the organization is special because it makes sure everyone has a voice. All ideas have value, and I am thankful to One:Twelve for helping me believe in mine.
B.S. Arch 2019
RACHELLE BROWN (GERE) M. Arch 2020
Why Do We Critique, Study and Dismiss, Anyways? Why do we even analyze architecture and design projects in the first place? We start off becoming aware of a new project and looking at the shiny new toy of our world. We then engage our education and training and begin looking at it in a more critical way. We either love it – beginning to learn from it and from its creator, considering how they built the work of art to look so effortless – or we begin to ask if this is before its time, taking much more time to study and understand the project. We study architecture to learn how other people in the past have solved their design problems. We dismiss designs for being too close to what the publications expect you to produce, designs that are too much flash and not enough innovation. It’s also frowned upon to push the aesthetic image of the design without having enough content when you look past those images. My time working with One:Twelve at Knowlton was fun, yet necessary. If we, as the next generation of architects, designers, innovators and artists, simply learn the content we are given in school and don't question why we are studying it – especially why we aren’t studying entire cultures or areas of the globe that do, in fact, have unique architecture – how far can we evolve as an industry? We risk burning out the range of possibilities to what we can design. Every design problem would have a solution, with two alternate options, and that catalog of choices is what architecture would distill down to. When we come together early in our careers to pose questions, independently study, and produce writings for publications such as One:Twelve, we choose to learn and acknowledge the past without requiring that what we were given is the only acceptable form architecture can take. I’m glad I was part of a group of students pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, a group that worked to transform our school to allow for history as well as innovation. We cannot have one without the other. We cannot have either the historical or the innovation without critique. If no one talks about it, it is dead. This is why a field that is mostly visual requires communication through the written word for its survival. As an alumnus, I am excited to see what Knowlton does moving forward and how we will continue to evolve, helping to bring new ideas to our field and beyond, beginning to influence all those who interact with the built world. 45
THOMAS MAHONEY M. Arch 2020
In So Many Words... To write is a challenge. To write about buildings is difficult, even more. To write architecturally, in a manner that spans across discipline, medium, and interest, is perhaps the most arduous of the three. This is the task ahead, specifically for aspiring Architects and designers dedicated to crafting a world to come. Nevertheless, we find ourselves at a point of tumult, highlighted by dissolution and divisiveness. As a result of a media-induced comatose, centered around arguments of cultural-this and political-that, we are often left unable to make heads nor tails of what to believe, with which group to align, and whether or not previously-trusted sources are able to maintain credibility. Therefore, the task appears present and critical. From a personal perspective, as I stumble through this uncertainty, it has become apparent that the opinion or solution worth having is not that which is limited to 240 characters or a 24 hour lifespan, born out of haste and anger, but rather a meticulous, thoughtful composition that carries beyond the unimaginative framework so readily available at the touch of a finger. But like I said, this is hard. The act of writing, for me, has steadily evolved as a way to vent, to grieve, to make sense of, to voice my opinion, and most importantly, to discover. In the contemporary context of mass consumption and hyper-productivity and growth, writing is the opposite: slow, methodical, and at many times, frustrating. And for those reasons, the opportunity to express oneself through specific dictation as a form of emotional outlet or a way in which to cohere an opinion, is rarely present in the construction of public life. This is not to say it should not be done or the attempt should not be made, however. But how and where can this be accomplished, you may ask? Simply put, anywhere and everywhere. In a time of digital-everything, the ability to articulate long-form, written thoughts and opinions equally challenges the author and the recipient. Although the antithesis to the current trajectory of popular culture, writing possesses the unique ability to force an unassuming passerby to stop. Read. Interpret. And respond. Whether the chosen medium for such work is a physical publication, a website, an application, what have you, the antagonistic outcome is one that leaves little room for productive criticism, meaningful 46
discourse, and a place where difficult, uncomfortable conversations can begin. But let us not confuse the challenging avenue for the easy and instant, known for diminishing institutions, media outlets, and Instagram feeds. The latter’s proclivity for immediacy and popularity, in turn, creates space for reverberative echo chambers, strident obnoxiousness, antiquated rationals, and the same ten people, preaching the same ten points, that have been reiterated one hundred times over. Ultimately, in so many words, the challenge for every young designer is to just write. Observe the world around you, question that which culture, media, and your professors have taught you not to question, and most importantly, be not afraid of proving yourself wrong and subsequently changing one’s own opinions. I have written many articles, some good, many bad. But my work for and with journals such as OneTwelve, among other student publications, allowed me to generate new ideas, test my own theories, and receive criticism that would have gone unsaid if relegated to a tweet or spoken as a passing thought. Prior to my involvement with these journals, I was unaware that I was far less interested in formally articulating the next great library or cutting-edge house, but rather cared much more deeply about the intersectionality between Architecture and politics or the societal and cultural impact that Architects impose on the built environment that they inhabit. But then again, I would have never discovered this if I did not just write.
JAMES AMICONE B.S. Arch 2015, M. Arch 2018 Brief Reflections on Issue 13 Three years ago One:Twelve and its staff ushered out Issue 13, simply titled Politics and Architecture. It wasn’t particularly unique in that architects in the academic discipline have, for some time, prioritized attempts to define the sometimes forced relationship of architecture and politics. What made it especially unsurprising is the fact that most student-driven, architectural journals felt quite obligated to put out at least one issue dedicated to the topic during the heightened attention to political upheaval during the Trump presidency. This particular issue of politics and architecture rightfully acknowledged the difficulty of providing any real succinct narrative to the topic. Rather than define the relationship between architecture and politics from a collective stance, it attempted to showcase condensed readings of various positions shared across the school: embassy projects, graphic interpretations of Ohio congressional districts, and developing thesis statements from graduate students exit reviews and Baumer Seminar essays. An instigating force that year was the Baumer seminar that borrowed from the spirit of Caroline Levine’s work entitled Forms, a book that challenges the literary concept of forms and politics in such a clever and digestible way that its attitude could find very real interest in a school that has dedicated so much airtime to form in architecture. It’s really no secret that architecture reports politically in words better than it reacts politically in form. It is after all, the slowest of art forms. (If you don’t mind me being so broad, I find the categorization of architecture as art fairly unattractive. But it works for this analogy.) Art has always had the ability to respond with appropriate haste to political agendas. Architecture, on the other hand, is bound by them. We’re most often left with attention to the quicker-moving project rather than the built form when discussing the topic as architecture responds to it. This is a shame, seeing as how the built form and the correlating boundaries that make up or impose order are the most politically oppressing elements in our urban and rural spaces. Borrowing from Levine, “...there is no politics without form.” (Levine, 3) She is speaking on a broader scale in her book, but for us, form represents a whole hell of a lot concerning the discipline we take part in. This is also why the destruction of buildings and the physical environment is often a direct result of 48
political unrest. And in some cases, the reappropriation of buildings, boundaries, or the elements that make up the political city; see Portland, Oregon 2020, and/ or further back “Sous les paves, la plage!” 1968. Levine, again speaking to a literary point of reference, doesn’t make this connection with architecture overtly, but if we can borrow from the sentiment, she anchors the political argument in her work on the idea that “smashing or evading [political] forms” is not necessarily “the most effective means to advance the cause of social justice.” (Levine, XII) Levine writes, “The best close readers are always attentive to many different forms at different scales operating at once. I began to track the ways that political forms try to contain and control us, while often in fact overlapping and colliding with other forms, and sometimes getting in one another’s way.” (Levine, XI) There was some deal of conversation in our Baumer seminar at the time, as you can imagine from these readings, as to whether architecture can try to do similar things, perhaps not in the same way as art or literature, but managing within the complex organization that architecture becomes building. In the spirit of this disruption and formal collision that Levine describes, she writes to “... persuade those who are interested in politics to become formalists…” (Levine, 23) in that “formalism offers a promising way forward.” (Levine, XIII) We’ve reached a time where architecture can probably amend its previously defining assumptions to what formalist architecture means and find a new way forward. A New Architectural Formalist must believe to this extent that disruptions are possible and now plausible while the very capitalist foundations of which it is built upon is in need of more than just repairing the cracks. That is to say, the very foundation of building architecture may find new means and methods to achieve their realizations, and in turn, new ways to overlap and disrupt the oppressive tendencies that the built environment imposes. This seems to me the opportunity that Issue 13 presented. Enlightened by Levine’s work, the phrasing and attitudes mentioned previously found some very promising common ground in the journal that year. Where limited time and space to consider these things never gave way to an explicit challenge from the journal in the realm of architecture, a door was left open. And in the spirit of colliding and overlapping forms, why wouldn’t the Knowlton school be fertile ground for this reintroduction to take place? Because to remind ourselves again, the school has developed out of decades of formalist thinking and a rich architectural history curriculum. To forget that altogether in efforts to embrace a digital or image driven Levine, Caroline. Forms: Whole, Rhythm, project alone would be disappointing to say Hierarchy, Network. Princeton: Princeton the least. University Press, 2017.
KATIE LAU B.S. Arch 2016
My last contribution to One:Twelve was in the beginning of my senior year for Issue 011: Notes on Vernacular. Inspired by the architecture depicted in early 20thcentury advertisements for California oranges and an anecdote about beating new stucco walls with chains and manure to give them a rustic charm, I wrote “Recreating Vernacular as Status Symbol in SoCal.” The article examined Californian vernacular—Mission-style civic buildings, adobe mansions, pueblo-like shopping centers, and the Modern California bungalow—as reappropriations of Mexican and Spanish Colonial architectures. Inherently commodified, this reimagined vernacular sold ideas of paradise, luxury, and exoticism that grew Southern California’s cities, particularly Los Angeles, into major metropolises seemingly overnight. These architectures represent the realities of California’s physical landscape and cultural history through a romanticized filter that ultimately acts as an instrument for Manifest Destiny and the continued colonization of California. My education at Knowlton gave me a thorough understanding of a canonical architectural history, and while every architectural school in the world needs to continue to challenge and diversify these narratives, my close encounter with canon also gave me some tools to question its source and status. Throughout my time as an architecture student, publications like One:Twelve and, in my graduate program, Paprika!, have pushed me to take those skills beyond my coursework. In the end, architects have to position their beliefs about design outside of the classroom, and extracurricular writing is a good place to start. When I wrote “Recreating Vernacular,” I was starting to explore how to bring my own critical eye to history. My published piece relies heavily on disjointed quotes from other sources; it’s extremely timid in describing the abuses exacted through California’s colonization; it doesn’t identify the reasons why architecture is such an effective vehicle for appropriation, and ends in a series of questions that I didn’t feel qualified to answer. By my senior year, I knew I should be critical of pretty much everything around me, but I was pointing fingers at particular designers, movements, and styles, instead of questioning larger systems. Above all, I hadn’t figured out how difficult it is to extricate oneself from the same systems that sold Californian vernacular to White Americans. In “Recreating Vernacular,” I asked: How stringently should we hold against Californian vernacular its roots in cultural appropriation? Do fantasy, status, and image cheapen a vernacular? 5050
When I bring up fantasy, status, and image, I’m really dancing around commodification. I’m asking myself if the commodification of a vernacular...“cheapens” it. As I’m lamenting the consequences of a bought-andsold image of California’s architecture, I myself am applying capitalist value systems like authenticity to how I conceive of California’s built environment. Moving on, I also asked: Do these qualities [of California vernacular], which result from hijacking an existing vernacular make the new vernacular less authentic? Or is this hijacking a norm in cultural evolution, which only becomes so apparent within the recent architectural history of Californian romanticism? Hijacking and appropriation are the norms of cultural evolution, but they become insidious when there is a power imbalance in that transaction. Architecture becomes such a dangerously effective vehicle for violent forms of appropriation because 1. Nothing in architecture or building is original—people cannot help but be influenced by what’s around them and what came before them. All architecture is appropriation, and that, in itself, is okay. 2. Here’s the insidious part: architecture pretty much always serves power and capital. Architecture’s appropriations use cultural commodities to funnel even more power and capital to those that already have it. We practice architectural design because we believe it brings something meaningful to a space: beauty, accessibility, sociability, usefulness, etc. Within a capitalist system, meaning is equated with value. So here’s a new question: can architectural design ever not generate value (and by extension, capital)? Designers that have figured out how to work even partially outside of these hegemonies of power and capital have my deepest admiration and give me hope in a discipline that can feel, at times, impotent. While my person and practice are still fully ensnared in a capitalist architectural regime, the first step in working outside of an oppressive system is acknowledging the system. Student journalism operates within the structures of academia, but it’s also a platform to talk about changes that students want to see in academia and in the discipline. As a young designer, whose ideas and skills are changing all the time, it can be uncomfortable to revisit old work. But reflection as an individual practice to establish personal beliefs, and as a communal practice to establish shared values are both necessary processes. Learning sometimes requires relearning. Even though my ideas were new and tentative when I was a student contributor for One:Twelve (and will still always be a work in progress), I’m glad I had a reason to commit them to text and show them to a small corner of the world. Student publications are a valuable space to ask questions and to hold yourself and your community accountable to answer them.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 11
THEO MORROW B.S. Arch 2018
ANTHROTECTURE Revisited Originally published in One:Twelve’s Issue 12, Anthrotecture satirizes humancentered thinking through Sci-Fi architecture. After discovering an earth-like planet, humans in the story instinctively propose the construction of monuments to mark their accomplishment. This vast network of architecture exists only to mirror humankind and is left to ruin over time. While admittedly more playful than critical, this piece pokes fun at the otherwise grim reality of human-centered design. In seeing ourselves as the highest life form, we’ve created an industrialized world which is at odds with our planet. Ancient knowledge and indigenous technology provided models to symbiotically cohabitate with nature, but their erasure has made us disconnected from the environment on a cultural, infrastructural, and spiritual level. Despite the environmental degradation caused by our forefathers, we continue to build our monuments: rejecting the transience of natural systems in favor of non-disposable materials and shortsighted infrastructure. Perhaps the cruelest irony of our anthropocentrism is the fact that it centers only some humans and leaves others to manufacture the comfort of developed nations. I’m thankful that One:Twelve gave me the opportunity to create this piece in 2017. As a side project, Anthrotecture pushed me to further my personal philosophy as an artist and designer. The world needs better design and it’s on us to create a more harmonious architecture: to source building materials locally and ethically, to match technological innovation with ancient wisdom, to challenge our individualistic instinct and see ourselves instead as part of a larger system. The problem of anthropocentrism is not simply a systemic issue of sustainability, but one of individual spirit. Afterall, not even LEED Platinum can heal a soul divorced from nature.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 12
NOTES FROM THE FIRST MEETING OF WHAT WAS THEN KNOWN AS “PRODUCTION”
ONE:TWELVE | Issue 16 Organization | Spring 2021 One:Twelve is produced by a small group of Undergraduate and Graduate students at the Knowlton School at The Ohio State University and is typically published annually.
For inquiries, please contact us at www.onetwelvejournal.net 275 West Woodruff Avenue Columbus, OH 43210