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MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28

USD 25.00

SITE GR10K RICH AYBAR GLORIA KISCH ACNE STUDIOS 60,/-$15$',û NICK DEMARCO TEI CARPENTER LAURA WELKER TATIANA BILBAO AMINA BLACKSHER BEATRIZ COLOMINA CHRISTIAN WASSMANN GREEN RIVER PROJECT STUDIO ANNE HOLTROP VALENTINA CAMERANESI SGROI FREDI FISCHLI AND NIELS OLSEN DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ-FOERSTER CLÉMANDE BURGEVIN BLACHMAN

SUN

ENZO MARI FRANCIS KÉRÉ STUDIO MUMBAI SOFT BAROQUE WILLO PERRON NEREA CALVILLO SOPHIA AL-MARIA


SUN

WHERE THE SUN SHINES THERE IS ALSO SHADE


SUN

WHERE THE SUN SHINES THERE IS ALSO SHADE


PIN–UP 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

“I don’t use sunlight in the way that is spoken about in architecture, this idea about light and shadow. I use light as resonance, as energy.” — Bijoy Jain, page 164

SUN

Steven Meisel A Show of Hands, 2019

loewe.com


PIN–UP 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

“I don’t use sunlight in the way that is spoken about in architecture, this idea about light and shadow. I use light as resonance, as energy.” — Bijoy Jain, page 164

SUN

Steven Meisel A Show of Hands, 2019

loewe.com


PIN–UP 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

“In The Arab Apocalypse, Etel Adnan uses the solar war as a metaphor for colonial expansion and imperialism — the sun being the eye of the colonial power.” — Sophia Al-Maria, page 154

SUN

Balloon Bag, 2020

loewe.com


PIN–UP 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

“In The Arab Apocalypse, Etel Adnan uses the solar war as a metaphor for colonial expansion and imperialism — the sun being the eye of the colonial power.” — Sophia Al-Maria, page 154

SUN

Balloon Bag, 2020

loewe.com


PIN–UP 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

“Due to our dependency on hydrocarbons, we lost our reliance on the sun’s power. But now we will need it again, so let’s look directly at it!” — Soft Baroque, page 128

SUN

Spring Summer 2020

loewe.com


PIN–UP 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

“Due to our dependency on hydrocarbons, we lost our reliance on the sun’s power. But now we will need it again, so let’s look directly at it!” — Soft Baroque, page 128

SUN

Spring Summer 2020

loewe.com


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MILANO PARIS MILANO PARIS LOS ANGELES LOS ANGELES

LONDON LONDON MADRID MADRID

NEW YORK ATHENS BARCELONA BEIJING NEW YORK ATHENS BARCELONA BEIJING MANILA MEXICO CITY MIAMI MOSCOW MANILA MEXICO CITY MIAMI MOSCOW

BUDAPEST CHENGDU CHICAGO DUBAI BUDAPEST OSAKA CHENGDU CHICAGO DUBAI NANJING SEOUL SHANGHAI NANJING OSAKA SEOUL SHANGHAI

GENEVA HONG KONG ISTANBUL JAKARTA GENEVA HONG KONG ISTANBUL JAKARTA SINGAPORE TEHERAN TOKYO TORONTO SINGAPORE TEHERAN TOKYO TORONTO

#MolteniGroup #MolteniGroup


PARROT PARROT Portable Portable Light Light Battery Battery 10 – 100h 10 – 100h Touch Touch Control Control Smart Smart Charge Charge Height-Adjustable Height-Adjustable warmDIM warmDIM SALT & PEPPER SALT & PEPPER Portable Portable Light Light Battery Battery 10 – 100 h 10 – 100 h Touch Touch Control Control warmDIM warmDIM Splashproof Splashproof tobiasgrau.com tobiasgrau.com


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25 YEARS E15

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E15 MARKS ITS ANNIVERSARY AND CONTINUES ITS INCORPORATION OF DESIGNS BY PROTAGONISTS OF MODERNISM. CHAIR STUTTGART DESIGNED IN 1926 BY RICHARD HERRE, REISSUED BY E15.


25 YEARS E15

WWW.E15.COM

E15 MARKS ITS ANNIVERSARY AND CONTINUES ITS INCORPORATION OF DESIGNS BY PROTAGONISTS OF MODERNISM. CHAIR STUTTGART DESIGNED IN 1926 BY RICHARD HERRE, REISSUED BY E15.


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marsell.it

MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28

Spring Summer 2020 “Bathed in forgiving sunlight, eternal love is a kind of drowning” — Tiana Reid, page 188

24 30 34 225 226

Table of Contents Masthead Editor’s Letter Contacts PIN–UP Party Page

42 44 48

Inside the Bonaventure Hotel, a PoMo Brutalist building in Downtown Los Angeles designed in the 1970s by John C. Portman Jr. PIN–UP invited writer Fiona Alison Duncan to digest this “cathedral of commerce” in essay form, accompanied by a visual portfolio photographed by Torso. Find their ode to Postmodern bewilderment on page 212.

Sunflowers look better in the voluptuous, carved marble Celia Vase (2000) designed by Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi and available through Bloc Studios. For more sunny arrangements, and to find out what sunflowered means according to Urban Dictionary, go to page 112.

THE PIN–UP BOARD Book Club: Solar Empire by Drew Zeiba Green River Project by Sean Santiago Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi by Bruce Benderson

“Sun protection was insufficient for a glass box in a humid climate” — David Huber, page 178

49 52 54 56 58 61 62 64 66 69 70

24

Book Club: Bilbao Effect by Natalia Torija Nieto Laura Welker by Whitney Mallett Sarasota Art Museum by Whitney Mallett Gloria Kisch by Jesse Dorris Amina Blacksher by Ashley Varela Book Club: Neo Cairo by Andrew Ayers Rich Aybar by Emily Segal Shedding Light by Christian Wassmann Nick DeMarco by Nathan Taylor Pemberton Book Club: Fun Houses by Tiffany Lambert Tei Carpenter by Vere van Gool

photo: Francesco Merlini


marsell.it

MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28

Spring Summer 2020 “Bathed in forgiving sunlight, eternal love is a kind of drowning” — Tiana Reid, page 188

24 30 34 225 226

Table of Contents Masthead Editor’s Letter Contacts PIN–UP Party Page

42 44 48

Inside the Bonaventure Hotel, a PoMo Brutalist building in Downtown Los Angeles designed in the 1970s by John C. Portman Jr. PIN–UP invited writer Fiona Alison Duncan to digest this “cathedral of commerce” in essay form, accompanied by a visual portfolio photographed by Torso. Find their ode to Postmodern bewilderment on page 212.

Sunflowers look better in the voluptuous, carved marble Celia Vase (2000) designed by Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi and available through Bloc Studios. For more sunny arrangements, and to find out what sunflowered means according to Urban Dictionary, go to page 112.

THE PIN–UP BOARD Book Club: Solar Empire by Drew Zeiba Green River Project by Sean Santiago Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi by Bruce Benderson

“Sun protection was insufficient for a glass box in a humid climate” — David Huber, page 178

49 52 54 56 58 61 62 64 66 69 70

24

Book Club: Bilbao Effect by Natalia Torija Nieto Laura Welker by Whitney Mallett Sarasota Art Museum by Whitney Mallett Gloria Kisch by Jesse Dorris Amina Blacksher by Ashley Varela Book Club: Neo Cairo by Andrew Ayers Rich Aybar by Emily Segal Shedding Light by Christian Wassmann Nick DeMarco by Nathan Taylor Pemberton Book Club: Fun Houses by Tiffany Lambert Tei Carpenter by Vere van Gool

photo: Francesco Merlini


An archival image of an unclothed guest in front of a spiral staircase at Héliopolis in Cap d’Agde, designed by local architect François Lopez in 1975. Originally a family-friendly retreat for naturalists, the sun city transformed into a sexy spot for swingers in the 1990s. For a chronicle of this French nudist utopia, turn to page 181.

“The sun is a public masterpiece. My lamp, this little treasure, belongs only to me” 84

90 100 108

128 140 152 162

— Adrián Prieto, page 90 PANORAMA Retail Apocalypse: Smiljan Radić Studio Anne Holtrop James Wines/SITE Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster GR10K by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen Light Reading by Adrián Prieto Nerea Calvillo by Drew Zeiba Solar Diffusion by Whitney Mallett

FEATURES Soft Baroque Interview by Jeppe Ugelvig Portraits by Davit Giorgadze Francis Kéré Interview by Shumi Bose Photography by Paul Hutchinson Sophia Al-Maria Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist Portraits by Mathilde Agius Studio Mumbai / Bijoy Jain Interview by Felix Burrichter Portraits by Marlon Rueberg 28

178 181 183 185 188 190

Inspiring design for your outdoor life.

Spring Summer 2020 72 78 94 112

120 195 212

231

ESSAYS: SUNBOOK Hothouses by David Huber Nudism by Octave Perrault Tanning by Taylore Scarabelli Sunsets by Ian Volner Resorts by Tiana Reid Sunglasses by Common Accounts

PORTFOLIO Shadow Lounge Artwork by Matthew Raviotta Text by Mekala Rajagopal Style Diplomacy Photography by Annabel Elston Text by Dan Thawley Mondo Mari by Adam Charlap Hyman Sunflowers Art Direction by Cameranesi Pompili Photography by Pim Top Text by Micaela Durand La Provence by Clémande Burgevin Blachman Willo Perron Presents: The Sun Interview by Emily Segal Bonaventure Adventure Photography by Torso Text by Fiona Alison Duncan

ENDNOTE Beatriz Colomina by Drew Zeiba

The Open Sun 1050 from Ergoline is a highpowered sunbed for indoor tanning. The first UV bulbs were marketed as “health lamps” and while the sun’s role as healer fell off with the rise of antibiotics, the bronzed look stayed in vogue until the financial crash. Read a short history on page 183.

Hybrid, seating system. Design Antonio Citterio. www.bebitalia.com


An archival image of an unclothed guest in front of a spiral staircase at Héliopolis in Cap d’Agde, designed by local architect François Lopez in 1975. Originally a family-friendly retreat for naturalists, the sun city transformed into a sexy spot for swingers in the 1990s. For a chronicle of this French nudist utopia, turn to page 181.

“The sun is a public masterpiece. My lamp, this little treasure, belongs only to me” 84

90 100 108

128 140 152 162

— Adrián Prieto, page 90 PANORAMA Retail Apocalypse: Smiljan Radić Studio Anne Holtrop James Wines/SITE Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster GR10K by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen Light Reading by Adrián Prieto Nerea Calvillo by Drew Zeiba Solar Diffusion by Whitney Mallett

FEATURES Soft Baroque Interview by Jeppe Ugelvig Portraits by Davit Giorgadze Francis Kéré Interview by Shumi Bose Photography by Paul Hutchinson Sophia Al-Maria Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist Portraits by Mathilde Agius Studio Mumbai / Bijoy Jain Interview by Felix Burrichter Portraits by Marlon Rueberg 28

178 181 183 185 188 190

Inspiring design for your outdoor life.

Spring Summer 2020 72 78 94 112

120 195 212

231

ESSAYS: SUNBOOK Hothouses by David Huber Nudism by Octave Perrault Tanning by Taylore Scarabelli Sunsets by Ian Volner Resorts by Tiana Reid Sunglasses by Common Accounts

PORTFOLIO Shadow Lounge Artwork by Matthew Raviotta Text by Mekala Rajagopal Style Diplomacy Photography by Annabel Elston Text by Dan Thawley Mondo Mari by Adam Charlap Hyman Sunflowers Art Direction by Cameranesi Pompili Photography by Pim Top Text by Micaela Durand La Provence by Clémande Burgevin Blachman Willo Perron Presents: The Sun Interview by Emily Segal Bonaventure Adventure Photography by Torso Text by Fiona Alison Duncan

ENDNOTE Beatriz Colomina by Drew Zeiba

The Open Sun 1050 from Ergoline is a highpowered sunbed for indoor tanning. The first UV bulbs were marketed as “health lamps” and while the sun’s role as healer fell off with the rise of antibiotics, the bronzed look stayed in vogue until the financial crash. Read a short history on page 183.

Hybrid, seating system. Design Antonio Citterio. www.bebitalia.com


MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28

SUN

USD 25.00

ENZO MARI FRANCIS KÉRÉ STUDIO MUMBAI SOFT BAROQUE WILLO PERRON NEREA CALVILLO SOPHIA AL-MARIA

SITE GR10K RICH AYBAR GLORIA KISCH ACNE STUDIOS SMILJAN RADIĆ NICK DEMARCO TEI CARPENTER LAURA WELKER TATIANA BILBAO AMINA BLACKSHER BEATRIZ COLOMINA CHRISTIAN WASSMANN GREEN RIVER PROJECT STUDIO ANNE HOLTROP VALENTINA CAMERANESI SGROI FREDI FISCHLI AND NIELS OLSEN DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ-FOERSTER CLÉMANDE BURGEVIN BLACHMAN

00_PU28_Cover_041520_final.indd 3

17/04/20 11:21

MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28

USD 25.00

SUN

The Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles Photography by Torso

00_PU28_Cover_041520_final.indd 9

17/04/20 11:22

Let the sun shine in! Covers: (Top) Willo Perron’s great ball on fire, an interpretation of the sun on page 195. Photography by David Black. (Bottom) Poolside at the Bonaventure Hotel. A portfolio by Torso on page 212. Plus: surprise cover TBD! 30

Editor/Creative Director Felix Burrichter Design Director Erin Knutson Associate Publisher Michael Bullock Deputy Editor Whitney Mallett Senior Editor Andrew Ayers Associate Editor Drew Zeiba Editor at Large Pierre Alexandre de Looz Contributors Mathilde Agius, Bruce Benderson, Clémande Burgevin Blachman, David Black, Akiva Blander, Shumi Bose, Igor Bragado, Pedro Bucher, Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi, Adam Charlap Hyman, Solomon Chase, Serena Chen, Jesse Dorris, Fiona Alison Duncan, Micaela Durand, Adrian Escu, Fredi Fischli, Josep Fonti, Miles Gertler, Davit Giorgadze, Vere van Gool, David Huber, Paul Hutchinson, Tiffany Lambert, Charles Nègre, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Niels Olsen, Nathan Taylor Pemberton, Octave Perrault, Willo Perron, Philip Pilekjær, Enrico Pompili, Adrián Prieto, Matthew Raviotta, Tiana Reid, Marlon Rueberg, Sean Santiago, Taylore Scarabelli, Emily Segal, Horacio Silva, Sangwoo Suh, Dan Thawley, Pim Top, Natalia Torija Nieto, David Toro, Jeppe Ugelvig, Ashley Varela, Ian Volner, Christian Wassmann Design Assistant Immanuel Yang Design Intern Marina Menéndez-Pidal Editorial Interns Mekala Rajagopal, Nour Elfakharany Printing die Keure NV (Belgium) Contact info@pinupmagazine.org Subscriptions pinupmagazine.org Publishing and Special Projects Advisor Jorge García Advertising Associate Mandi García Advertising Sales Italy Cesanamedia, Milan Published by FEBU Publishing LLC ISSN 1933-9755

PIN–UP © 2020 The authors and the photographers Reproduction without permission prohibited.


MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28

SUN

USD 25.00

ENZO MARI FRANCIS KÉRÉ STUDIO MUMBAI SOFT BAROQUE WILLO PERRON NEREA CALVILLO SOPHIA AL-MARIA

SITE GR10K RICH AYBAR GLORIA KISCH ACNE STUDIOS SMILJAN RADIĆ NICK DEMARCO TEI CARPENTER LAURA WELKER TATIANA BILBAO AMINA BLACKSHER BEATRIZ COLOMINA CHRISTIAN WASSMANN GREEN RIVER PROJECT STUDIO ANNE HOLTROP VALENTINA CAMERANESI SGROI FREDI FISCHLI AND NIELS OLSEN DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ-FOERSTER CLÉMANDE BURGEVIN BLACHMAN

00_PU28_Cover_041520_final.indd 3

17/04/20 11:21

MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURAL ENTERTAINMENT ISSUE 28

USD 25.00

SUN

The Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles Photography by Torso

00_PU28_Cover_041520_final.indd 9

17/04/20 11:22

Let the sun shine in! Covers: (Top) Willo Perron’s great ball on fire, an interpretation of the sun on page 195. Photography by David Black. (Bottom) Poolside at the Bonaventure Hotel. A portfolio by Torso on page 212. Plus: surprise cover TBD! 30

Editor/Creative Director Felix Burrichter Design Director Erin Knutson Associate Publisher Michael Bullock Deputy Editor Whitney Mallett Senior Editor Andrew Ayers Associate Editor Drew Zeiba Editor at Large Pierre Alexandre de Looz Contributors Mathilde Agius, Bruce Benderson, Clémande Burgevin Blachman, David Black, Akiva Blander, Shumi Bose, Igor Bragado, Pedro Bucher, Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi, Adam Charlap Hyman, Solomon Chase, Serena Chen, Jesse Dorris, Fiona Alison Duncan, Micaela Durand, Adrian Escu, Fredi Fischli, Josep Fonti, Miles Gertler, Davit Giorgadze, Vere van Gool, David Huber, Paul Hutchinson, Tiffany Lambert, Charles Nègre, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Niels Olsen, Nathan Taylor Pemberton, Octave Perrault, Willo Perron, Philip Pilekjær, Enrico Pompili, Adrián Prieto, Matthew Raviotta, Tiana Reid, Marlon Rueberg, Sean Santiago, Taylore Scarabelli, Emily Segal, Horacio Silva, Sangwoo Suh, Dan Thawley, Pim Top, Natalia Torija Nieto, David Toro, Jeppe Ugelvig, Ashley Varela, Ian Volner, Christian Wassmann Design Assistant Immanuel Yang Design Intern Marina Menéndez-Pidal Editorial Interns Mekala Rajagopal, Nour Elfakharany Printing die Keure NV (Belgium) Contact info@pinupmagazine.org Subscriptions pinupmagazine.org Publishing and Special Projects Advisor Jorge García Advertising Associate Mandi García Advertising Sales Italy Cesanamedia, Milan Published by FEBU Publishing LLC ISSN 1933-9755

PIN–UP © 2020 The authors and the photographers Reproduction without permission prohibited.


PIN–UP 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

Preparing the Spring Summer issue is usually done in anticipation of the outdoors: temperatures rising. Nature. Fun in the sun. This issue was different. A pandemic dramatically upset all aspects of life, affecting millions, including friends, family, and colleagues, and erasing all prospects of a “normal” summer. As we, along with much of the rest of the world, sat sequestered in our respective homes-turned-makeshift-offices, the theme of this issue provided a guiding light: The Sun. Crises force us to think about what is elemental in life, and there are few things more elemental than the number one player in the solar system. For millennia humanity has worshipped the sun as a deity, recognizing its role as a source of life and energy. But it can also be a destructive force (Australia’s recent bushfires are but one example). Architecture’s relationship with the sun is shaped by this very paradox: how do you simultaneously embrace and avoid it? The industry’s techno-scientific answers, especially during the 20th century, haven’t always been helpful. Yet recent economic and aesthetic trends — from solar panels to Solarpunk — will most likely benefit from the global upheaval caused by the pandemic. As critic David Huber urges in his essay for this issue’s Sun Book: “We need different ways of living, different rituals and practices, different relationships to the sun.” Do we continue to fight the golden rays with AC and reduce them to extras in photovoltaic photo-ops? Or are we ready to consider more holistically the materials we use? The spaces we inhabit? The objects we surround ourselves with? And speaking of objects: never have we become more aware of our own four walls and the things within them than during the past weeks of being locked away in quarantine. Whether it’s for their daily usefulness as a home office, as an improvised gym, or for the way they perform in the background of a video call or on Instagram live. This issue tackles the symbolic and aesthetic power of the sun as well as its many consequences on culture and the built environment. We may be facing a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty, but if we use these events to not only take stock but also take action, something positive might come out of it after all: a brighter future.

FELIX BURRICHTER SUN 34


PIN–UP 28 SPRING SUMMER 2020

Preparing the Spring Summer issue is usually done in anticipation of the outdoors: temperatures rising. Nature. Fun in the sun. This issue was different. A pandemic dramatically upset all aspects of life, affecting millions, including friends, family, and colleagues, and erasing all prospects of a “normal” summer. As we, along with much of the rest of the world, sat sequestered in our respective homes-turned-makeshift-offices, the theme of this issue provided a guiding light: The Sun. Crises force us to think about what is elemental in life, and there are few things more elemental than the number one player in the solar system. For millennia humanity has worshipped the sun as a deity, recognizing its role as a source of life and energy. But it can also be a destructive force (Australia’s recent bushfires are but one example). Architecture’s relationship with the sun is shaped by this very paradox: how do you simultaneously embrace and avoid it? The industry’s techno-scientific answers, especially during the 20th century, haven’t always been helpful. Yet recent economic and aesthetic trends — from solar panels to Solarpunk — will most likely benefit from the global upheaval caused by the pandemic. As critic David Huber urges in his essay for this issue’s Sun Book: “We need different ways of living, different rituals and practices, different relationships to the sun.” Do we continue to fight the golden rays with AC and reduce them to extras in photovoltaic photo-ops? Or are we ready to consider more holistically the materials we use? The spaces we inhabit? The objects we surround ourselves with? And speaking of objects: never have we become more aware of our own four walls and the things within them than during the past weeks of being locked away in quarantine. Whether it’s for their daily usefulness as a home office, as an improvised gym, or for the way they perform in the background of a video call or on Instagram live. This issue tackles the symbolic and aesthetic power of the sun as well as its many consequences on culture and the built environment. We may be facing a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty, but if we use these events to not only take stock but also take action, something positive might come out of it after all: a brighter future.

FELIX BURRICHTER SUN 34


20 20


20 20


NEWTENDENCY.COM


NEWTENDENCY.COM


Designtex Designtex++Gunta GuntaStölzl Stölzl Double DoubleWeave Weave designtex.com designtex.com Adapted Adapted from from anan original original work work byby Gunta Gunta Stölzl, Stölzl, “Design “Design forfor a Double a Double Weave”, Weave”, 1925. 1925. Produced Produced under under license license from from the the Gunta Gunta Stölzl Stölzl estate. estate.


Designtex Designtex++Gunta GuntaStölzl Stölzl Double DoubleWeave Weave designtex.com designtex.com Adapted Adapted from from anan original original work work byby Gunta Gunta Stölzl, Stölzl, “Design “Design forfor a Double a Double Weave”, Weave”, 1925. 1925. Produced Produced under under license license from from the the Gunta Gunta Stölzl Stölzl estate. estate.


PIN–UP BOARD Thought you’d seen it all? Here comes a dazzling array of books, faces, and places to enlighten your mind and brighten your spirits. First published in 1972, The English Sunrise is an unorthodox picture book made by artists and featuring solar-inspired designs col­ lected from all over England.

42

Solar Empire I found it at a bookshop in Paris. Cream-colored, thin, square, maybe 8 by 8 inches. A hardback, more or less wordless. It was peculiar, even perplexing — 76 uncaptioned photographs of everything from stained glass to Tudorbethan homes to an ice-cream sundae topped with cherries and a crin-­ kled cookie. There was no title on its cover, in the proper sense at least, just a single small emblem, a spray of red and white and blue with half an orange disk at the center. At the bottom, in three green comparments, it read: THE ENGLISH SUNRISE. A leaded window, it turns out, by the glass artist Ray Bradley. First printed in 1972, The English Sunrise was a collab­ oration between British artists Brian Rice and Tony Evans. In the mid-1960s, Rice had been creating paintings featuring hard-edge geometries and con­ trasting colors and shapes. “I got around to dividing the canvas in various ways, including lines radiating from one corner,” he explained of Artists Brian his practice at the Rice and Tony Evans time. “As referwere fasci­ ences, I took some nated with the geometric snaps of doors, abstraction the sun gates, windows, etc., of found all over everyday which used this objects and motif.” Rice showed buildings.

cobblestones, arranged like rays shooting out from its focal point. Each round-edged photograph in The English Sunrise is placed in the center of the page, with lots of white space around it. Most of the spreads are pairings: an austhe photos to Evans, another tere wooden chair artist and a close friend (who next to a more passed away in 1992). Evans decorative one offered to take pictures of featuring floral anything he came across that upholstery and corresponded to Rice’s intera long wicker back radiating est in radial forms, while Rice out like a scratchy depiction began acquiring relevant of our nearest star; a book objects from markets and junk besides a book (Masterman shops. Ready and While the real Good Wives, deal might be his and hers, in short supply it seems); The English Sunrise, in the British a record readby Brian Evans Isles, Rice and ing “Eclipse” and Tony Rice (Mathews Evans soon in bubbly curMiller Dunbar, 1972). amassed a sive over substantial a cartoony collection of sun depictions (Missouri of the sun or Waltz as forms that performed approximated by The to it on doors, Biltmore windows, Players, candy wrapfrom pers, and Evans’s so on and so personal forth. They collection) presented the opposite idea of a tin a book for gramof selected objects and ophone needles; a logo, scenes to the newlyred and gold, reading formed Mathews Miller “AM,” on the scuffed door Dunbar art press, of a blue truck cab oppo-­ who agreed to publish site the stitched-leather interior it. All the objects of a 1930s Jaguar saloon photographed for The car. Some objects are more English Sunrise come abstract, such as a sign from England, save for reading “HAIRCUT SIR,” the one Welsh sunrise, first word rendered as a ring its foreign origin disof red waves tinguished by an around a rising asterisk in the book’s semicircle, fastidious index. That side-by-side outlier is the most morbid: with a venti­ the monumental grave lator grill, four of former Prime Minister stripes cutting David Lloyd George, the energetically oval centerpiece of which is into a metal made from smooth, ovoid disk, or the

many fences and doors and gates partitioned with painted or wooden rays shooting from quarter-circles in the corners. Other selections are much more literal, such as the logo for a Young Farmers Club featuring a sun rising over tilled fields, or a sign painted on the door of the Sunlight Laundry in London. Some personal favorites include a square handbag with a sunlike motif in brown leather and gold snakeskin, and a red sun printed all over a yellow biplane, paired with another mechanical marvel, a red-andyellow swing ride. (The proper name for this amusement-park entertainment is a “chairoplane roundabout,” according to the index. This one could be found at Herbert’s Funfair in Dorchester.) The English Sunrise was Mathews Miller Dunbar’s first book, and also its most successful. They repeated the form again several times with collections of images of Art Deco façades, U.S. railroad logos, pin-up girls on warplanes, and “exuberant personalized livery” on Afghan trucks, per an obituary of Anthony Mathews, one of the trio. The English Sunrise also found an American publisher, Flash Books, in 1973, and got another reprint by Chatto & Windus in 1986. Rice said that he also found an “illegal” French edition, Plein soleil. The imprint is no longer in business and the book is no longer in print. Like days,


PIN–UP BOARD Thought you’d seen it all? Here comes a dazzling array of books, faces, and places to enlighten your mind and brighten your spirits. First published in 1972, The English Sunrise is an unorthodox picture book made by artists and featuring solar-inspired designs col­ lected from all over England.

42

Solar Empire I found it at a bookshop in Paris. Cream-colored, thin, square, maybe 8 by 8 inches. A hardback, more or less wordless. It was peculiar, even perplexing — 76 uncaptioned photographs of everything from stained glass to Tudorbethan homes to an ice-cream sundae topped with cherries and a crin-­ kled cookie. There was no title on its cover, in the proper sense at least, just a single small emblem, a spray of red and white and blue with half an orange disk at the center. At the bottom, in three green comparments, it read: THE ENGLISH SUNRISE. A leaded window, it turns out, by the glass artist Ray Bradley. First printed in 1972, The English Sunrise was a collab­ oration between British artists Brian Rice and Tony Evans. In the mid-1960s, Rice had been creating paintings featuring hard-edge geometries and con­ trasting colors and shapes. “I got around to dividing the canvas in various ways, including lines radiating from one corner,” he explained of Artists Brian his practice at the Rice and Tony Evans time. “As referwere fasci­ ences, I took some nated with the geometric snaps of doors, abstraction the sun gates, windows, etc., of found all over everyday which used this objects and motif.” Rice showed buildings.

cobblestones, arranged like rays shooting out from its focal point. Each round-edged photograph in The English Sunrise is placed in the center of the page, with lots of white space around it. Most of the spreads are pairings: an austhe photos to Evans, another tere wooden chair artist and a close friend (who next to a more passed away in 1992). Evans decorative one offered to take pictures of featuring floral anything he came across that upholstery and corresponded to Rice’s intera long wicker back radiating est in radial forms, while Rice out like a scratchy depiction began acquiring relevant of our nearest star; a book objects from markets and junk besides a book (Masterman shops. Ready and While the real Good Wives, deal might be his and hers, in short supply it seems); The English Sunrise, in the British a record readby Brian Evans Isles, Rice and ing “Eclipse” and Tony Rice (Mathews Evans soon in bubbly curMiller Dunbar, 1972). amassed a sive over substantial a cartoony collection of sun depictions (Missouri of the sun or Waltz as forms that performed approximated by The to it on doors, Biltmore windows, Players, candy wrapfrom pers, and Evans’s so on and so personal forth. They collection) presented the opposite idea of a tin a book for gramof selected objects and ophone needles; a logo, scenes to the newlyred and gold, reading formed Mathews Miller “AM,” on the scuffed door Dunbar art press, of a blue truck cab oppo-­ who agreed to publish site the stitched-leather interior it. All the objects of a 1930s Jaguar saloon photographed for The car. Some objects are more English Sunrise come abstract, such as a sign from England, save for reading “HAIRCUT SIR,” the one Welsh sunrise, first word rendered as a ring its foreign origin disof red waves tinguished by an around a rising asterisk in the book’s semicircle, fastidious index. That side-by-side outlier is the most morbid: with a venti­ the monumental grave lator grill, four of former Prime Minister stripes cutting David Lloyd George, the energetically oval centerpiece of which is into a metal made from smooth, ovoid disk, or the

many fences and doors and gates partitioned with painted or wooden rays shooting from quarter-circles in the corners. Other selections are much more literal, such as the logo for a Young Farmers Club featuring a sun rising over tilled fields, or a sign painted on the door of the Sunlight Laundry in London. Some personal favorites include a square handbag with a sunlike motif in brown leather and gold snakeskin, and a red sun printed all over a yellow biplane, paired with another mechanical marvel, a red-andyellow swing ride. (The proper name for this amusement-park entertainment is a “chairoplane roundabout,” according to the index. This one could be found at Herbert’s Funfair in Dorchester.) The English Sunrise was Mathews Miller Dunbar’s first book, and also its most successful. They repeated the form again several times with collections of images of Art Deco façades, U.S. railroad logos, pin-up girls on warplanes, and “exuberant personalized livery” on Afghan trucks, per an obituary of Anthony Mathews, one of the trio. The English Sunrise also found an American publisher, Flash Books, in 1973, and got another reprint by Chatto & Windus in 1986. Rice said that he also found an “illegal” French edition, Plein soleil. The imprint is no longer in business and the book is no longer in print. Like days,


Wood Stock

their close signaled by the sun’s descent, all things must come to an end. On the back of the book is a fac-­ simile of a tiny metal bedstead label with a miniature sun. Its all-caps text: A SUNSET PRODUCT. — Drew Zeiba

Less of a design practice and more a cult of approach, New York-based Green River Project LLP is processdriven and exploratory. Founders Benjamin Bloomstein and Aaron Aujla have turned holistic world building into the design language du jour, the all-caps “about” description on their website reading more like a political screed or rallying cry: “EACH YEAR GREEN RIVER PROJECT LLC PRODUCES FOUR COLLEC­TIONS OF FURNI­ TURE AND SCULPTURAL OBJECTS CEN­TERED AROUND A UNIQUE NAR-­ RATIVE.” As in fashion, Green River presents seasonal collections. But the company, founded in 2017 and named for the tributary that runs through Bloomstein’s family home in upstate New York, is firmly rooted in art. Both founders, who met while working at Maccarone gallery in the early 2010s, were artists’ assis-­ tants for years — Bloomstein to Robert Gober and Aujla to Nate Lowman — and arrive at their best creative output through dialoguing. “I think we’re really critical of ourselves as individuals,” says Bloomstein. “And being in a collaboration sort of softens that blow and gives you the confidence and perspective you need to get stuff done.” Accordingly, the Green River aesthetic is broadly defined by idiosyn-­ cratic ways of being A table designed in the world, Green River Project, such as Martin the New York Kippenberger’s design studio by 80s Berlin loft or Enzo founded Benjamin Bloomstein Cucchi’s apartment and Aaron in Rome (where they Aujla. 44

both once spent a summer), spaces that are carefully customized and defined by the way they are approached and what it says about the person living there. The resulting practice doesn’t exist within a polarity as rigid as design and decoration, or even form and function. “We like to call it biographical design,” says Aujla. And sometimes their work becomes auto-biographical, such as 2018’s Collection 3, which was largely inspired by Satyajit Ray films, the décor of Indian public spaces, and the bamboo and jute craft one finds in Punjab region, where Aujla’s family is from; Collection 4, meanwhile, which included lots of metal and welding jack-­ ets, was inspired by Bloomstein’s grandfather, a naval architect at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It’s an unerring, deeply personal sensi­ bility that represents a radical departure from the ubiquitous, softhued “is it real or is it a rendering?” aes-­ thetic that dominated the mid-to-late 2010s. There is a requisite “machine unlearn-­ ing” team members have to go through to get to the Green River mentality, defined by problem solving — embracing mistakes and misfires as curves in the

road, encouraging a slower approach. “It’s funny, because the people who A stack of work for us over 50 wood mostly come from samples from around the really technical world in Green River Project’s backgrounds,” says Brooklyn Bloomstein. “They’ll studio.

www.baxter.it


Wood Stock

their close signaled by the sun’s descent, all things must come to an end. On the back of the book is a fac-­ simile of a tiny metal bedstead label with a miniature sun. Its all-caps text: A SUNSET PRODUCT. — Drew Zeiba

Less of a design practice and more a cult of approach, New York-based Green River Project LLP is processdriven and exploratory. Founders Benjamin Bloomstein and Aaron Aujla have turned holistic world building into the design language du jour, the all-caps “about” description on their website reading more like a political screed or rallying cry: “EACH YEAR GREEN RIVER PROJECT LLC PRODUCES FOUR COLLEC­TIONS OF FURNI­ TURE AND SCULPTURAL OBJECTS CEN­TERED AROUND A UNIQUE NAR-­ RATIVE.” As in fashion, Green River presents seasonal collections. But the company, founded in 2017 and named for the tributary that runs through Bloomstein’s family home in upstate New York, is firmly rooted in art. Both founders, who met while working at Maccarone gallery in the early 2010s, were artists’ assis-­ tants for years — Bloomstein to Robert Gober and Aujla to Nate Lowman — and arrive at their best creative output through dialoguing. “I think we’re really critical of ourselves as individuals,” says Bloomstein. “And being in a collaboration sort of softens that blow and gives you the confidence and perspective you need to get stuff done.” Accordingly, the Green River aesthetic is broadly defined by idiosyn-­ cratic ways of being A table designed in the world, Green River Project, such as Martin the New York Kippenberger’s design studio by 80s Berlin loft or Enzo founded Benjamin Bloomstein Cucchi’s apartment and Aaron in Rome (where they Aujla. 44

both once spent a summer), spaces that are carefully customized and defined by the way they are approached and what it says about the person living there. The resulting practice doesn’t exist within a polarity as rigid as design and decoration, or even form and function. “We like to call it biographical design,” says Aujla. And sometimes their work becomes auto-biographical, such as 2018’s Collection 3, which was largely inspired by Satyajit Ray films, the décor of Indian public spaces, and the bamboo and jute craft one finds in Punjab region, where Aujla’s family is from; Collection 4, meanwhile, which included lots of metal and welding jack-­ ets, was inspired by Bloomstein’s grandfather, a naval architect at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It’s an unerring, deeply personal sensi­ bility that represents a radical departure from the ubiquitous, softhued “is it real or is it a rendering?” aes-­ thetic that dominated the mid-to-late 2010s. There is a requisite “machine unlearn-­ ing” team members have to go through to get to the Green River mentality, defined by problem solving — embracing mistakes and misfires as curves in the

road, encouraging a slower approach. “It’s funny, because the people who A stack of work for us over 50 wood mostly come from samples from around the really technical world in Green River Project’s backgrounds,” says Brooklyn Bloomstein. “They’ll studio.

www.baxter.it


Green River Project founders Benjamin Bloomstein and Aaron Aujla photographed by Sean Santiago for PIN–UP. This chair is a prototype from the Spencertown collection, named after the town of Ellsworth Kelly’s estate.

be working on something and they’ll say, ‘Ben, I really fucked this up, come take a look — I think I have to redo it.’ And then you have this con­ versation like, ‘This is right. If you had done this the way you think you should have done it, it would be wrong.’” “People want to do good work, but they don’t know what that means for

46

us,” says Aujla. “Ben always says it’s the mistakes and how you work your way out of them that make the thing A birdhouse beautiful.” designed by Bloomstein Scratch­ in Green ing at that River Project’s studio. already prettily marred surface reveals that much of the precious­ ness with which their work might be viewed is contextual. Yes, a group showing of tiny cabinets of curiosities speaks to a very

particular clientele, but their output blends seamlessly (and often invisibly) into more commer-­ cial design vernaculars, as high-­profile projects with Studio Mellone, Giancarlo Ths railcar Valle, and loveseat from noted cham2018 was in part inspired pion Michael Bargo by Satyajit Ray films and the attest. décor of Indian public spaces. Green River has come into its own lately when handed the keys to what you might inelegantly call the whole kit and caboodle: 360-degree projects such as the new restaurant Dr. Clark or the first BODE store (fashion designer Emily Adams Bode is Aujla’s partner, and also a frequent

collaborator), both in New York’s Chinatown. The latter functions as the catalyst and catalogue for their fourth collection of 2019, the place where brushed aluminum and bamboo sconces, Africanmahogany scallop trim, and a rail-car sofa with custom BODE upholstery found their genesis. “With the BODE store, we almost didn’t want to give Green River Project’s the keys materials back,” speak plainly, such as in says this chair made of black Aujla, hyedua from who West Africa. admits the duo got so caught up in perfecting the tobaccotoned boutique that if Bode was gifted an arrangement of flowers that wasn’t single-­ varietal, as preferred, he could feel that “something was off.” (For the record, both founders A wenge wood are Aries, not chair with Virgos.) patinated brass edges Moving forward, the from 2019 (left) and scrap balance between wall-mountable interiors and furni­ metal shelves (right). All ture will remain photography by Sean fifty-fifty, the creative Santiago for PIN–UP. impulses flutter-­ ing back and forth between projects and products, driven mainly by an overarching love of craft and storytelling. “No one needs another chair,” admits Aujla, “it’s more like what can we do that feels special and endless and we could just keep doing every day, day in day out, like it’s never work.” — Sean Santiago


Green River Project founders Benjamin Bloomstein and Aaron Aujla photographed by Sean Santiago for PIN–UP. This chair is a prototype from the Spencertown collection, named after the town of Ellsworth Kelly’s estate.

be working on something and they’ll say, ‘Ben, I really fucked this up, come take a look — I think I have to redo it.’ And then you have this con­ versation like, ‘This is right. If you had done this the way you think you should have done it, it would be wrong.’” “People want to do good work, but they don’t know what that means for

46

us,” says Aujla. “Ben always says it’s the mistakes and how you work your way out of them that make the thing A birdhouse beautiful.” designed by Bloomstein Scratch­ in Green ing at that River Project’s studio. already prettily marred surface reveals that much of the precious­ ness with which their work might be viewed is contextual. Yes, a group showing of tiny cabinets of curiosities speaks to a very

particular clientele, but their output blends seamlessly (and often invisibly) into more commer-­ cial design vernaculars, as high-­profile projects with Studio Mellone, Giancarlo Ths railcar Valle, and loveseat from noted cham2018 was in part inspired pion Michael Bargo by Satyajit Ray films and the attest. décor of Indian public spaces. Green River has come into its own lately when handed the keys to what you might inelegantly call the whole kit and caboodle: 360-degree projects such as the new restaurant Dr. Clark or the first BODE store (fashion designer Emily Adams Bode is Aujla’s partner, and also a frequent

collaborator), both in New York’s Chinatown. The latter functions as the catalyst and catalogue for their fourth collection of 2019, the place where brushed aluminum and bamboo sconces, Africanmahogany scallop trim, and a rail-car sofa with custom BODE upholstery found their genesis. “With the BODE store, we almost didn’t want to give Green River Project’s the keys materials back,” speak plainly, such as in says this chair made of black Aujla, hyedua from who West Africa. admits the duo got so caught up in perfecting the tobaccotoned boutique that if Bode was gifted an arrangement of flowers that wasn’t single-­ varietal, as preferred, he could feel that “something was off.” (For the record, both founders A wenge wood are Aries, not chair with Virgos.) patinated brass edges Moving forward, the from 2019 (left) and scrap balance between wall-mountable interiors and furni­ metal shelves (right). All ture will remain photography by Sean fifty-fifty, the creative Santiago for PIN–UP. impulses flutter-­ ing back and forth between projects and products, driven mainly by an overarching love of craft and storytelling. “No one needs another chair,” admits Aujla, “it’s more like what can we do that feels special and endless and we could just keep doing every day, day in day out, like it’s never work.” — Sean Santiago


Glass Distinction

Cameranesi Sgroi has all her glass designs precisely blown and shaped by artisans Massimo and Federico Pagnin at a small family-owned studio in Paderno Dugnano, near Milan. Carefully following her drawings and notes, they blow thin glass vessels, afterwards pinch-­ ing the still-hot surfaces to draw out the spiny details. She herself draws inspiration from a diverse collection of media from the world of fashion, perfume-bottle design, and even film. One of her startling sources is the blood-red scene from David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers in which a deranged surgeon arrives at the operating table to set out grotesque and frightening gynecological instruments he has had handmade. Cameranesi Sgroi is a master of many ambiguities, bringing us lessons and joys from both the natural world and her own fantasies, transfigured into something rarefied yet threatening, playful yet exalted. Under her penetrating eyes, the so-called “inferior” decorative arts surpass their fine-art brethren with overlapping tropes, flowers that become poi-­ sonous sea creatures, and the uneasy reconciliation of opposites. — Bruce Benderson A collection of delicate vessels made from borosili­ cate glass created by Milanese designer Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi. Photo­ graphed by Charles Negre for PIN–UP.

Rather than looking for simple answers, artists revel in paradox. Forging links among the most disparate things, they craft drama by sharpening opposites into ironies and lacerating sur-­ faces to reveal depths. They create layers, meanings, metamorphoses, and bitter sardonic pleasures. All this explains why Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi, art director, set designer, and maker of objects, has reached for the heights of the enigmatic with the most ethereal material that still can be touched: glass. Not just any glass, but that paperthin transparent nothingness called borosilicate, used in chemistry labs for its acute capacity to resist chemical change and withstand thermal shock. The signora has named a borosilicate glass dining service Aether — a ten-piece setting of glittering wine glasses, candlesticks, carafes, and vases she designed for Silvia Fiorucci-Roman — in reference to the Greek primordial deity of the upper air that is fit only for the gods to breathe. However, these creations are more than the epitome of the ethereal. When you see the shark-fin blades running down the side of one wine glass that seem to threaten your hand, or when your eye follows something slithering inside a candlestick base that bears a strong resemblance to the highly poisonous tenta­ cle of an Irukandji jellyfish, the reference seems to be to the dark secrets of the watery depths, not the sky. On the other hand, could not that very same wine glass be just a harmless blossom, its meandering glass strand nothing more than a soft floral tendril?

Bilbao Effect The processes via which Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao has produced her remarkable oeuvre are examined in a new monograph, Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, copublished by Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art to accompany the third 48


Glass Distinction

Cameranesi Sgroi has all her glass designs precisely blown and shaped by artisans Massimo and Federico Pagnin at a small family-owned studio in Paderno Dugnano, near Milan. Carefully following her drawings and notes, they blow thin glass vessels, afterwards pinch-­ ing the still-hot surfaces to draw out the spiny details. She herself draws inspiration from a diverse collection of media from the world of fashion, perfume-bottle design, and even film. One of her startling sources is the blood-red scene from David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers in which a deranged surgeon arrives at the operating table to set out grotesque and frightening gynecological instruments he has had handmade. Cameranesi Sgroi is a master of many ambiguities, bringing us lessons and joys from both the natural world and her own fantasies, transfigured into something rarefied yet threatening, playful yet exalted. Under her penetrating eyes, the so-called “inferior” decorative arts surpass their fine-art brethren with overlapping tropes, flowers that become poi-­ sonous sea creatures, and the uneasy reconciliation of opposites. — Bruce Benderson A collection of delicate vessels made from borosili­ cate glass created by Milanese designer Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi. Photo­ graphed by Charles Negre for PIN–UP.

Rather than looking for simple answers, artists revel in paradox. Forging links among the most disparate things, they craft drama by sharpening opposites into ironies and lacerating sur-­ faces to reveal depths. They create layers, meanings, metamorphoses, and bitter sardonic pleasures. All this explains why Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi, art director, set designer, and maker of objects, has reached for the heights of the enigmatic with the most ethereal material that still can be touched: glass. Not just any glass, but that paperthin transparent nothingness called borosilicate, used in chemistry labs for its acute capacity to resist chemical change and withstand thermal shock. The signora has named a borosilicate glass dining service Aether — a ten-piece setting of glittering wine glasses, candlesticks, carafes, and vases she designed for Silvia Fiorucci-Roman — in reference to the Greek primordial deity of the upper air that is fit only for the gods to breathe. However, these creations are more than the epitome of the ethereal. When you see the shark-fin blades running down the side of one wine glass that seem to threaten your hand, or when your eye follows something slithering inside a candlestick base that bears a strong resemblance to the highly poisonous tenta­ cle of an Irukandji jellyfish, the reference seems to be to the dark secrets of the watery depths, not the sky. On the other hand, could not that very same wine glass be just a harmless blossom, its meandering glass strand nothing more than a soft floral tendril?

Bilbao Effect The processes via which Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao has produced her remarkable oeuvre are examined in a new monograph, Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, copublished by Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art to accompany the third 48


from a wealthy family comand the work undertaken to pound in Monterrey to complete the drawing,” notes low-cost housing units in Sample, “there is a sheer Chiapas, Coahuila, and physicality to it.” But, as Bilbao Hidalgo. Among the contri­ explains in an interview with buting voices her longtimeis former New friend, Swiss York Times architect Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, architecture Jacques edited by Mette Marie critic Nicolai Herzog, Kallehauge and Lærke Rydal Ouroussoff, drawing as Jørgensen (Lars Müller who deconPublishers/Louisiana Museum a universal structs Bilbao’s tool does not of Modern Art, 2019) work, focusing always transon her commitlate in Mexico: ment to social a large responsibility in battling one percentage of construction of the “most corrupt and workers there are illiterate disastrous public-housing and many “don’t know how initiatives in the country’s to read a plan history,” run by INFONAVIT, or a drawing of Mexico’s Institute for the any kind, so it’s National Workers’ very difficult to Housing Fund. explain to them Literature profes­ how to build a sor Rubén Gallo wall that is not delivers a nostalat an angle gic walk through of 90 degrees… Mexican archiI realized tectural history, [geometry] is a examining how perfect tool the country’s for communication and complex national expressing myself. It proved One of 15 pavilions identity has to be a tool that would let architect Tatiana Bilbao informed Bilbao’s me move into more complex designed for work, while Hilary situations.” the Culiacán Botanical Sample, of Among projects highlighted Garden, Mexico (2012). New York-based in the book — which does MOS Architects, analyzes not aim for comprehensiveBilbao’s drawing and collage ness, covering about half techniques, highlighting their the studio’s oeuvre — is the palpable human presence. Culiacán Botanical Garden, “If one were to imagine the founded in 1986 by engineer artist making the collages Carlos Murillo, to which Bilbao added 16 small structures in 2012, merging her architecture with the garden according to the scheme of a huanacaxtle tree and letting nature do the rest. Similarly, her design for the forthcoming Museo Arévalo in Spain aims to envelop new buildings for the Adrastus art collection in the surrounding materials and spirit, in the process revitalizing and incorporating the city, while an aquarium in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlán, due to open next year, allows nature to grow on the walls 50

and includes the landscape as if partially submerged underwater. Context also informed Bilbao’s response to a site adjoining a Tadao Ando building at the University of Monterrey, where she chose to bow to the “competing conditions” and “evolve a subtler design” so as to “avoid dual sculptural structures.” In addition to context, collab­ oration and shared credit characterize some of Bilbao’s most dynamic projects, such as the 2012 Gratitude Open Chapel on the Jalisco Mountains Pilgrim Route, for which she partnered with Derek Dellekamp, or her work with Dellekamp, Alejandro Hernández, and Rozana Montiel on a self-­managed community in the borough of Iztapalapa in Mexico City (which was shown at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale). But the central focus of her work for some time now has been the lack of adequate housing in Mexico, where a large percentage of the population faces the choice between informal ways of living or government housing, which is generally so cramped as to cause negative psychological effects on residents. Bilbao has set out to change the status quo, her research leading to the development of modules and prototypes for affordable materials and safe con­ struction models, offering people not only the oppor­ tunity to live better lives but also the tools to build their own houses and lay the foundations for a prosperous future. Bilbao’s principle that “everybody should have the opportunity to live surrounded by beauty” is abundantly illustrated in

Culiacán Botanical Garden photography Iwan Baan. All images courtesy Lars Müller.

in its exhibition series The Architect’s Studio. Combining simple diagrams with beautiful color coordi­ nation and formatting, the book demonstrates how Mexico City-based Bilbao, known for her commitment to social responsibility and sustainable design, has built her eponymous practice of 16 years around an exploration of endemic materials and conditions, constantly reexamining the ways our lives are transformed, for better or worse, by the built environment. Given the limitations of the printed page, the monograph does little justice to the show, which provides a glimpse into Bilbao’s studio with its presen­ tation of 1:1 scale models of screens and furniture, material samples, concept maquettes, freehand drawings, collages, etc. But where the 240-page volume succeeds very well is in gathering together fundamental commentary Tatiana Bilbao’s afford­ and highlighting the able housing design project collaborative nature for the Mexican of the studio’s pro-­ city of Acuña (2015). jects, which range

tacchini.it

Tacchini: Objects, Stories


from a wealthy family comand the work undertaken to pound in Monterrey to complete the drawing,” notes low-cost housing units in Sample, “there is a sheer Chiapas, Coahuila, and physicality to it.” But, as Bilbao Hidalgo. Among the contri­ explains in an interview with buting voices her longtimeis former New friend, Swiss York Times architect Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, architecture Jacques edited by Mette Marie critic Nicolai Herzog, Kallehauge and Lærke Rydal Ouroussoff, drawing as Jørgensen (Lars Müller who deconPublishers/Louisiana Museum a universal structs Bilbao’s tool does not of Modern Art, 2019) work, focusing always transon her commitlate in Mexico: ment to social a large responsibility in battling one percentage of construction of the “most corrupt and workers there are illiterate disastrous public-housing and many “don’t know how initiatives in the country’s to read a plan history,” run by INFONAVIT, or a drawing of Mexico’s Institute for the any kind, so it’s National Workers’ very difficult to Housing Fund. explain to them Literature profes­ how to build a sor Rubén Gallo wall that is not delivers a nostalat an angle gic walk through of 90 degrees… Mexican archiI realized tectural history, [geometry] is a examining how perfect tool the country’s for communication and complex national expressing myself. It proved One of 15 pavilions identity has to be a tool that would let architect Tatiana Bilbao informed Bilbao’s me move into more complex designed for work, while Hilary situations.” the Culiacán Botanical Sample, of Among projects highlighted Garden, Mexico (2012). New York-based in the book — which does MOS Architects, analyzes not aim for comprehensiveBilbao’s drawing and collage ness, covering about half techniques, highlighting their the studio’s oeuvre — is the palpable human presence. Culiacán Botanical Garden, “If one were to imagine the founded in 1986 by engineer artist making the collages Carlos Murillo, to which Bilbao added 16 small structures in 2012, merging her architecture with the garden according to the scheme of a huanacaxtle tree and letting nature do the rest. Similarly, her design for the forthcoming Museo Arévalo in Spain aims to envelop new buildings for the Adrastus art collection in the surrounding materials and spirit, in the process revitalizing and incorporating the city, while an aquarium in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlán, due to open next year, allows nature to grow on the walls 50

and includes the landscape as if partially submerged underwater. Context also informed Bilbao’s response to a site adjoining a Tadao Ando building at the University of Monterrey, where she chose to bow to the “competing conditions” and “evolve a subtler design” so as to “avoid dual sculptural structures.” In addition to context, collab­ oration and shared credit characterize some of Bilbao’s most dynamic projects, such as the 2012 Gratitude Open Chapel on the Jalisco Mountains Pilgrim Route, for which she partnered with Derek Dellekamp, or her work with Dellekamp, Alejandro Hernández, and Rozana Montiel on a self-­managed community in the borough of Iztapalapa in Mexico City (which was shown at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale). But the central focus of her work for some time now has been the lack of adequate housing in Mexico, where a large percentage of the population faces the choice between informal ways of living or government housing, which is generally so cramped as to cause negative psychological effects on residents. Bilbao has set out to change the status quo, her research leading to the development of modules and prototypes for affordable materials and safe con­ struction models, offering people not only the oppor­ tunity to live better lives but also the tools to build their own houses and lay the foundations for a prosperous future. Bilbao’s principle that “everybody should have the opportunity to live surrounded by beauty” is abundantly illustrated in

Culiacán Botanical Garden photography Iwan Baan. All images courtesy Lars Müller.

in its exhibition series The Architect’s Studio. Combining simple diagrams with beautiful color coordi­ nation and formatting, the book demonstrates how Mexico City-based Bilbao, known for her commitment to social responsibility and sustainable design, has built her eponymous practice of 16 years around an exploration of endemic materials and conditions, constantly reexamining the ways our lives are transformed, for better or worse, by the built environment. Given the limitations of the printed page, the monograph does little justice to the show, which provides a glimpse into Bilbao’s studio with its presen­ tation of 1:1 scale models of screens and furniture, material samples, concept maquettes, freehand drawings, collages, etc. But where the 240-page volume succeeds very well is in gathering together fundamental commentary Tatiana Bilbao’s afford­ and highlighting the able housing design project collaborative nature for the Mexican of the studio’s pro-­ city of Acuña (2015). jects, which range

tacchini.it

Tacchini: Objects, Stories


this new volume. From wealthy residences and leisure retreats to public parks and ingenious socialhousing strategies, Bilbao’s architecture co­exists with nature and prioritizes the user’s experience above all else. — Natalia Torija Nieto

Sole Sister

Artist and designer Laura Welker tests out new creations in her dollhouse in her Berlin studio. Photo­ graphed by Adrian Escu for PIN–UP.

52

“I think everyone should have a dollhouse. It’s a very nice way to spend your time,” says German artist and designer Laura Welker, whose own dollhouse in her Berlin studio functions as a showroom for her objets d’art, including penis candles, wax troll figures, and sculptural hands wrapped in tensor bandages. “It’s a fantastic way to design. If you put something in this little universe, you immediately see its potential,” explains Welker. “If you put a plate inside the dollhouse, for example, it can suddenly be used as a table. And it inspires you to think maybe this could be a nice design for a real table.” Outside of her dollhouse, Welker is best known for her high-heeled candleholders. “I think of shoes like wearable pieces of furniture,” she says. Footwear has long been a point of fascination for the artist who, a decade ago, studied fashion Welker origi­ made at the Royal nally her signature shoe candle Academy holders as a gift for her of Fine Arts mother, who in Antwerp had broken her hip. and, after graduating, launched a shoe brand with

designer Arielle de Pinto. But the shoe candle­holders started with a one-off gift Welker made for her mother when she broke her hip. “The candleholders brought her good luck,” the artist recalls. “Very soon after she was able to walk again.” There’s an element of magical thinking to Welker’s candle­holders. “I tell everyone I give these to — or who buys them — that they should write down a wish and tuck the note under the shoe. When the candle burns down, your wish will come true.” The transformative potential of these miniature high heels is related to how Welker sees footwear in her day-to-day. “Whenever I’m in a difficult situation, I always buy shoes,” she explains. “Wearing certain kinds of

shoes gives you superpowers. They change your walk and they can help you in some situ­ations.” In recent years, Welker has delved further into design, making candleholders as well as plates for Table Dance, her friends’ bar in Antwerp’s red-light district, which opened in 2018. The bar’s co-owner and chef Michelle Woods also introduced Welker to her current obsession with trolls, buying at auction a set of Heico collectibles — popular in West Germany in the 1970s. In addition to making sculptures and candles in their abject image, this past summer Welker collaborated with artist Kamilla Bischof on a video performance in which, dressed as lifesized trolls, they cooked dishes with hand-picked fruits, vegetables, and insects. A bizarre commentary on the future of food, the video was included in Der Hausfreund, an exhibition in Vienna last year centered around the late Swiss decorative artist Friedrich (aka Federico) von

Berzeviczy-Pallavicini (1909–89), putting his work in dialogue with contem-­ porary artists who share the same eccentric spirit. Originally Welker’s next show trained as a fashion will be a series of designer, Welker’s prac­ ten wax troll sculptice includes tures at the Vienna ceramics, video, and art space Bar drawings du Bois, and she’s (below). also experimenting with making them in glass. “My next project is troll lamps,” she declares. The material constraints around how Welker makes her work distinguish her respective art and design practices. “With art, I do it without thinking about what it’s for, and then a place to display the work can always be found. Design is a way to make a living.” — Whitney Mallett


this new volume. From wealthy residences and leisure retreats to public parks and ingenious socialhousing strategies, Bilbao’s architecture co­exists with nature and prioritizes the user’s experience above all else. — Natalia Torija Nieto

Sole Sister

Artist and designer Laura Welker tests out new creations in her dollhouse in her Berlin studio. Photo­ graphed by Adrian Escu for PIN–UP.

52

“I think everyone should have a dollhouse. It’s a very nice way to spend your time,” says German artist and designer Laura Welker, whose own dollhouse in her Berlin studio functions as a showroom for her objets d’art, including penis candles, wax troll figures, and sculptural hands wrapped in tensor bandages. “It’s a fantastic way to design. If you put something in this little universe, you immediately see its potential,” explains Welker. “If you put a plate inside the dollhouse, for example, it can suddenly be used as a table. And it inspires you to think maybe this could be a nice design for a real table.” Outside of her dollhouse, Welker is best known for her high-heeled candleholders. “I think of shoes like wearable pieces of furniture,” she says. Footwear has long been a point of fascination for the artist who, a decade ago, studied fashion Welker origi­ made at the Royal nally her signature shoe candle Academy holders as a gift for her of Fine Arts mother, who in Antwerp had broken her hip. and, after graduating, launched a shoe brand with

designer Arielle de Pinto. But the shoe candle­holders started with a one-off gift Welker made for her mother when she broke her hip. “The candleholders brought her good luck,” the artist recalls. “Very soon after she was able to walk again.” There’s an element of magical thinking to Welker’s candle­holders. “I tell everyone I give these to — or who buys them — that they should write down a wish and tuck the note under the shoe. When the candle burns down, your wish will come true.” The transformative potential of these miniature high heels is related to how Welker sees footwear in her day-to-day. “Whenever I’m in a difficult situation, I always buy shoes,” she explains. “Wearing certain kinds of

shoes gives you superpowers. They change your walk and they can help you in some situ­ations.” In recent years, Welker has delved further into design, making candleholders as well as plates for Table Dance, her friends’ bar in Antwerp’s red-light district, which opened in 2018. The bar’s co-owner and chef Michelle Woods also introduced Welker to her current obsession with trolls, buying at auction a set of Heico collectibles — popular in West Germany in the 1970s. In addition to making sculptures and candles in their abject image, this past summer Welker collaborated with artist Kamilla Bischof on a video performance in which, dressed as lifesized trolls, they cooked dishes with hand-picked fruits, vegetables, and insects. A bizarre commentary on the future of food, the video was included in Der Hausfreund, an exhibition in Vienna last year centered around the late Swiss decorative artist Friedrich (aka Federico) von

Berzeviczy-Pallavicini (1909–89), putting his work in dialogue with contem-­ porary artists who share the same eccentric spirit. Originally Welker’s next show trained as a fashion will be a series of designer, Welker’s prac­ ten wax troll sculptice includes tures at the Vienna ceramics, video, and art space Bar drawings du Bois, and she’s (below). also experimenting with making them in glass. “My next project is troll lamps,” she declares. The material constraints around how Welker makes her work distinguish her respective art and design practices. “With art, I do it without thinking about what it’s for, and then a place to display the work can always be found. Design is a way to make a living.” — Whitney Mallett


A new contemporary art museum in Sarasota, Florida marries a three-story redbrick collegiate-Gothic building with a low-slung Modernist one. Designed by Terence Riley — a principal of New York-based firm Keenen/ Riley and former director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami — the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College gives new life to this odd pair of buildings, which were originally a high school. In 1951, a young Paul Rudolph built an addition to house trade classes behind the M. Leo Elliott-designed brick-and-terracotta structure, which dates back to 1926. The fact that the Rudolph building looked to the future while the Elliott building looked to the past wasn’t the only challenge when making the museum. Riley also had to reorganize the site, making the courtyard between the buildings the centerpiece. “Before it was a dumping yard for garbage,” he deadpans. What used to be the Elliott building’s rear is now the museum’s main entrance, to which Riley has added exposed concrete shadow boxes that mirror the façade of the Rudolph building opposite, putting the two

structures in conversation and activating the courtyard space. The new museum, which opened in December, spotlights Sarasota’s mid-­century-­ Modern heritage largely influenced by Rudolph. In 1952, historian Henry Russell Hitchcock declared in The Architectural Review that “the most exciting new architecture in the world is being done in Sarasota.” Fresh out of Harvard,

54

Rudolph had moved to Florida in 1947 to partner with Ralph Twitchell, an architect nearly 30 years his senior, who’d set up shop in Sarasota before World War II and, inspired by Frank The new Lloyd Wright and museum’s main Le Corbusier, begun entrance is experimenting with through the courtyard, reinforced concrete where the original 1926 and glass. Twitchell structure meets Paul and Rudolph’s Rudolph’s work attracted other 1951 addition.

A vintage architects to the postcard area like Gene showing the Sarasota Leedy, Tim Seibert, 1926 high school building, now Jack West, Victor converted into the Sarasota Lundy, William Art Museum. Rupp, and Carl Abbott, giving rise to what became known as the Sarasota School, which flourished into the mid1960s. One of the surviving Modernist landmarks is the still-­operational Rudolphdesigned Sarasota High School (1958–60, on the same block as the Sarasota Art Museum), a study in white-concrete folded planes with an open-air breezeway connecting classrooms, and cantilevered brise-soleils. Architect Paul Rudolph Rudolph built an put Sarasota on the map, identical sculptural architecturally, with buildings canopy nearby such as at the then high the still-in-use Sarasota school of which High School a 10-foot section (sketch from the late 1950s). was removed when construction on the museum began to allow trucks to enter the site. This “caused a global shit storm amongst Rudolph preservationists,” according to Sarasota Art Museum executive director Anne-Marie Russell, who was able to

Photo by Ryan Gamma. Image courtesy Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College.

Old School


A new contemporary art museum in Sarasota, Florida marries a three-story redbrick collegiate-Gothic building with a low-slung Modernist one. Designed by Terence Riley — a principal of New York-based firm Keenen/ Riley and former director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami — the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College gives new life to this odd pair of buildings, which were originally a high school. In 1951, a young Paul Rudolph built an addition to house trade classes behind the M. Leo Elliott-designed brick-and-terracotta structure, which dates back to 1926. The fact that the Rudolph building looked to the future while the Elliott building looked to the past wasn’t the only challenge when making the museum. Riley also had to reorganize the site, making the courtyard between the buildings the centerpiece. “Before it was a dumping yard for garbage,” he deadpans. What used to be the Elliott building’s rear is now the museum’s main entrance, to which Riley has added exposed concrete shadow boxes that mirror the façade of the Rudolph building opposite, putting the two

structures in conversation and activating the courtyard space. The new museum, which opened in December, spotlights Sarasota’s mid-­century-­ Modern heritage largely influenced by Rudolph. In 1952, historian Henry Russell Hitchcock declared in The Architectural Review that “the most exciting new architecture in the world is being done in Sarasota.” Fresh out of Harvard,

54

Rudolph had moved to Florida in 1947 to partner with Ralph Twitchell, an architect nearly 30 years his senior, who’d set up shop in Sarasota before World War II and, inspired by Frank The new Lloyd Wright and museum’s main Le Corbusier, begun entrance is experimenting with through the courtyard, reinforced concrete where the original 1926 and glass. Twitchell structure meets Paul and Rudolph’s Rudolph’s work attracted other 1951 addition.

A vintage architects to the postcard area like Gene showing the Sarasota Leedy, Tim Seibert, 1926 high school building, now Jack West, Victor converted into the Sarasota Lundy, William Art Museum. Rupp, and Carl Abbott, giving rise to what became known as the Sarasota School, which flourished into the mid1960s. One of the surviving Modernist landmarks is the still-­operational Rudolphdesigned Sarasota High School (1958–60, on the same block as the Sarasota Art Museum), a study in white-concrete folded planes with an open-air breezeway connecting classrooms, and cantilevered brise-soleils. Architect Paul Rudolph Rudolph built an put Sarasota on the map, identical sculptural architecturally, with buildings canopy nearby such as at the then high the still-in-use Sarasota school of which High School a 10-foot section (sketch from the late 1950s). was removed when construction on the museum began to allow trucks to enter the site. This “caused a global shit storm amongst Rudolph preservationists,” according to Sarasota Art Museum executive director Anne-Marie Russell, who was able to

Photo by Ryan Gamma. Image courtesy Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College.

Old School


Rare Bird

save the rest of the canopy from being bulldozed. “This museum was headed for a train wreck before Anne-Marie and I came on board,” recalls Riley (who, in 2015, launched Parallel, with John Keenen and Joachim Pissarro, a con­ sul­tancy uniquely geared towards buildings for the dis­play of art). “There was initially a plan in place designed by an architect who specialized in assisted living facilities. One totally ridiculous part of his design was a double-­height artist’s studio where people visiting the museum could overlook the artist working, like in a zoo.” Russell, who oversaw the entire renovation since becoming director in 2015, has big plans now that the structure is finally open to the public. Conceived as a kunsthalle, with no permanent collection, the Sarasota Art Museum opened in December with a retrospec­tive of Brazilian-American artist Vik Muniz as well as Color. Theory. & (b/w), a group show running until July 2020. The latter features heavyweights like Sheila Hicks and Kara Walker as well as local artist Christian Sampson, whose installation Vita In Motu conscripts Sarasota’s main attraction: the sun. Its rays filter through colored gels projecting an ever-changing light painting on the gallery wall — “a reminder,” says Russell, “that we’re on a spinning globe.” — Whitney Mallett

In 1926, a man named Max Stern fled hyperinflation and unemployment in his native Germany, making his way to New York City with thousands of singing canaries rustling, flapping, and crooning in their cages. The birds became lures, nestled into a building on Cooper Square, getting customers into what soon became a pet-store empire. Almost 100 years later, a stainless-steel enclosure sits birdless in the old store, now the dieFirma gallery. Max’s Cage (1990) is a silent siren of its own, made by Stern’s daughter Gloria Kisch and on display as part of the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, ...for Gloria. Kisch, who Gloria Kisch’s stainless steel died at the age of Doughnut 72 in 2014, remains Chair (1991–94) is an example among the most of the playful nature present undersung artists in her many “functional of her generation, sculptures.” and the proof is in the work — her early, boisterous, geometric paintings, for example, or her vast steel bells, fashioned at the turn of the 21st century, stacked and hung like beaded necklaces, large enough to remain untolled by any imaginable wind yet somehow aural when seen.

56

But it’s the A piece from Kisch’s cage and a few Gloria metal Flowers series from the other func-­ 2000s, made tional sculptures, from stainless steel. selected by gallery co-founder (and Kisch’s niece) Andrea Stern, that really speak to the future. Doughnut Chair (1991– 94) melds the wit of Gaetano Pesce with the materiality of John Chamberlain — there’s something Pop about its rolled-steel seat, and something abject about the way its back, a steel arc like a halfbitten pastry, brings to mind a bedpan. Sweeter is Remembering Sidney (1991), a bench with candy wrappers pressed into the steel seat and back: such an object might make one’s teeth ache with sentiment or back ache with poor ergonomics, but thanks to Kisch’s aesthetic and emotional rigor it escapes such sour fates. Kisch sidestepped a few destinies herself. Max’s pet empire would have allowed his daughter to make a place for herself in the upper middle class, had she wanted it. But did she? She attended the prestigious Sarah Lawrence College, but chose to study

The Remembering Sidney bench (1991) has impressions of Reese’s peanut butter cup candy wrappers.

with mythologist Joseph Campbell while there; and though she accomplished the assimilationist goal of husband and kids, she cajoled them to go west so that, in 1963, she could attend L.A.’s Otis College of Art and Design — basking in the Sliding down afterglow the Mountain of the (1989) resembles an American aerodynamic rocking chair Clay with feet Revolution, suggesting skis. and about to see the dawn of Light and Space. One can find traces of both movements in the work she made as she transitioned from painting to sculpture after moving to Venice Beach, with its tenuous separa-­ tion of land and sea. Pieces like Balanced She began bench (2005– making 06) often posed trouble sticks out for gallerists and critics as of sand, they blurred the boundaries and variable between art gateways and function. and luminous

tombs, and “transitional boxes” with eerie, wobbling struc-­ tures inside rigid frames, and “whisper boxes” that look like 3D Hiroshi Sugimoto photos of Donald Judd works but also don’t resolve in one’s gaze. They blur art and craft, object and aura, what something is and what it does.

For reasons political and practical, she showed mostly at womenrun spaces like L.A.’s Woman’s Building, though a gorgeous flyer for 1978’s famed Southern Exposure show floats her name among a who’s who of the boys’ club, including Bruce Nauman and Ed Ruscha. In 1981, she returned to New York and set up a studio next to her father’s old store, where she made big, tough work. “She was fearless, determined, a little needy, and tenacious,” Stern told me as we examined a bench Kisch made there, a smooth chunk of steel compressing a coiledup spring, all impossible potential. When the 80s art scene busted, Kisch traveled, experiencing a singsing in Papua New Guinea, before moving in the early 2000s to a former duck farm in Long Island. Her later work is less about the built environment and more about takes

Made from steel in 1990, Max’s Cage is an homage to Kisch’s father, who came to the U.S. in the 1920s with thousands of singing ca­ naries. Kisch kept her own birds at her 40-acre Long Island estate with its own metalworking and welding workshop.

on the environment itself: reeds and octopi and porcupines and huge flowers, all rendered in shining stainless steel. They are mystical, but never wishywashy, occupants who escaped the poles of nature and nurture to become themselves. They flew the coop, like her grandfather’s birds, but the cage is beautiful too. — Jesse Dorris

The undated Thrones (left) and the Balanced bench (above) seem less ergonomic endeavor and more a sculp­ tural study in form, a tension Gloria Kisch played with throughout her furniture-art.


Rare Bird

save the rest of the canopy from being bulldozed. “This museum was headed for a train wreck before Anne-Marie and I came on board,” recalls Riley (who, in 2015, launched Parallel, with John Keenen and Joachim Pissarro, a con­ sul­tancy uniquely geared towards buildings for the dis­play of art). “There was initially a plan in place designed by an architect who specialized in assisted living facilities. One totally ridiculous part of his design was a double-­height artist’s studio where people visiting the museum could overlook the artist working, like in a zoo.” Russell, who oversaw the entire renovation since becoming director in 2015, has big plans now that the structure is finally open to the public. Conceived as a kunsthalle, with no permanent collection, the Sarasota Art Museum opened in December with a retrospec­tive of Brazilian-American artist Vik Muniz as well as Color. Theory. & (b/w), a group show running until July 2020. The latter features heavyweights like Sheila Hicks and Kara Walker as well as local artist Christian Sampson, whose installation Vita In Motu conscripts Sarasota’s main attraction: the sun. Its rays filter through colored gels projecting an ever-changing light painting on the gallery wall — “a reminder,” says Russell, “that we’re on a spinning globe.” — Whitney Mallett

In 1926, a man named Max Stern fled hyperinflation and unemployment in his native Germany, making his way to New York City with thousands of singing canaries rustling, flapping, and crooning in their cages. The birds became lures, nestled into a building on Cooper Square, getting customers into what soon became a pet-store empire. Almost 100 years later, a stainless-steel enclosure sits birdless in the old store, now the dieFirma gallery. Max’s Cage (1990) is a silent siren of its own, made by Stern’s daughter Gloria Kisch and on display as part of the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, ...for Gloria. Kisch, who Gloria Kisch’s stainless steel died at the age of Doughnut 72 in 2014, remains Chair (1991–94) is an example among the most of the playful nature present undersung artists in her many “functional of her generation, sculptures.” and the proof is in the work — her early, boisterous, geometric paintings, for example, or her vast steel bells, fashioned at the turn of the 21st century, stacked and hung like beaded necklaces, large enough to remain untolled by any imaginable wind yet somehow aural when seen.

56

But it’s the A piece from Kisch’s cage and a few Gloria metal Flowers series from the other func-­ 2000s, made tional sculptures, from stainless steel. selected by gallery co-founder (and Kisch’s niece) Andrea Stern, that really speak to the future. Doughnut Chair (1991– 94) melds the wit of Gaetano Pesce with the materiality of John Chamberlain — there’s something Pop about its rolled-steel seat, and something abject about the way its back, a steel arc like a halfbitten pastry, brings to mind a bedpan. Sweeter is Remembering Sidney (1991), a bench with candy wrappers pressed into the steel seat and back: such an object might make one’s teeth ache with sentiment or back ache with poor ergonomics, but thanks to Kisch’s aesthetic and emotional rigor it escapes such sour fates. Kisch sidestepped a few destinies herself. Max’s pet empire would have allowed his daughter to make a place for herself in the upper middle class, had she wanted it. But did she? She attended the prestigious Sarah Lawrence College, but chose to study

The Remembering Sidney bench (1991) has impressions of Reese’s peanut butter cup candy wrappers.

with mythologist Joseph Campbell while there; and though she accomplished the assimilationist goal of husband and kids, she cajoled them to go west so that, in 1963, she could attend L.A.’s Otis College of Art and Design — basking in the Sliding down afterglow the Mountain of the (1989) resembles an American aerodynamic rocking chair Clay with feet Revolution, suggesting skis. and about to see the dawn of Light and Space. One can find traces of both movements in the work she made as she transitioned from painting to sculpture after moving to Venice Beach, with its tenuous separa-­ tion of land and sea. Pieces like Balanced She began bench (2005– making 06) often posed trouble sticks out for gallerists and critics as of sand, they blurred the boundaries and variable between art gateways and function. and luminous

tombs, and “transitional boxes” with eerie, wobbling struc-­ tures inside rigid frames, and “whisper boxes” that look like 3D Hiroshi Sugimoto photos of Donald Judd works but also don’t resolve in one’s gaze. They blur art and craft, object and aura, what something is and what it does.

For reasons political and practical, she showed mostly at womenrun spaces like L.A.’s Woman’s Building, though a gorgeous flyer for 1978’s famed Southern Exposure show floats her name among a who’s who of the boys’ club, including Bruce Nauman and Ed Ruscha. In 1981, she returned to New York and set up a studio next to her father’s old store, where she made big, tough work. “She was fearless, determined, a little needy, and tenacious,” Stern told me as we examined a bench Kisch made there, a smooth chunk of steel compressing a coiledup spring, all impossible potential. When the 80s art scene busted, Kisch traveled, experiencing a singsing in Papua New Guinea, before moving in the early 2000s to a former duck farm in Long Island. Her later work is less about the built environment and more about takes

Made from steel in 1990, Max’s Cage is an homage to Kisch’s father, who came to the U.S. in the 1920s with thousands of singing ca­ naries. Kisch kept her own birds at her 40-acre Long Island estate with its own metalworking and welding workshop.

on the environment itself: reeds and octopi and porcupines and huge flowers, all rendered in shining stainless steel. They are mystical, but never wishywashy, occupants who escaped the poles of nature and nurture to become themselves. They flew the coop, like her grandfather’s birds, but the cage is beautiful too. — Jesse Dorris

The undated Thrones (left) and the Balanced bench (above) seem less ergonomic endeavor and more a sculp­ tural study in form, a tension Gloria Kisch played with throughout her furniture-art.


Game Changer From designing a robotic arm for jump-­ ing rope and hosting a docuseries to researching the construction techniques of Brazilian favelas, Amina Blacksher’s practice is panoramic. The New York-based architect and principal of Atelier Amina grew up in Ithaca, New York, without a TV — instead she and her siblings sat in on lectures at Cornell University for fun. Blacksher went on to complete a masters at the Yale School of Architecture and today teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Plan­ ning, and Preservation. This winter Blacksher made her third trip to Brazil for an immersive residency studying approaches to building at the Morro da Babilônia favela in Rio de Janeiro. Motivated to expand on and challenge the inherent hierarchies of her for-­ mal training and professional experience, she will channel the knowledge gained on the trip into both a documentary short and a journal article. Blacksher talked to PIN–UP about the fundamentals of her practice. What does architecture mean to you? That’s the 64-milliondollar question for me right now. I’m currently studying innovative construc-­ tion techniques in the Morro da Babliônia favela 58

On the topic of movement, your Robot Double Dutch project is so nuanced. How did your cultural background find a voice in your work? I got the platform to contribute an entry to Princeton’s 2019 Black Imagination Matters conference through a good friend, assistant professor V. Mitch McEwen. I was like, “I have this idea of a double-­ Industrial Dutch robot. robotic arms outfitted with It’s kind of off the 3D-printed charts, is it possiclamps customble?” Double Dutch designed to hold jump ropes. is a very simple but precise jump-rope game. I had the fortune to read a book by ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt [The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop] on the embodied formulas that black girls bring to the game. Just like a musical instrument can be in tune or out of tune, there is an innate sense of right or wrong. There’s a required precision that doesn’t allow for error, but then it seems very simple. It’s just two synchronized ropes going in opposite directions — like what could be more self-explanatory? Then the question was how do I approach this game through robotics, which we tend to think of as the ultimate in precision. I was interested in bringing the body into the conversation. The body in the AfricanAmerican experience holds a lot of memory and infor­ mation. A lot of times the only thing that people had was

Architect and educator Amina Blacksher testing out her double-Dutch robot with V. Mitch McEwen at Princeton University.

in Rio, and it’s cracking open everything I thought architecture was. Even a month ago I might have defined it as drawings. Drawings are representa-­ tional of an intent, but they’re also documents that convey instructions. In the environment I’m in right now, there are homes being built all around, on the side of a mountain, that don’t use drawings as instructions. It’s another way of commu­ nicating design intent. Also, in the climate conditions I’m used to, architecture protects you from the envi­ ronment and creates an enclosure that is almost airtight. In this tropical environment, that is not necessarily the objective. Buildings can be com­pletely open to the air and the only protection needed is from rain. That to me means that architecture is horizon-­tal and vertical but it doesn’t need to be sealed at the seams. It’s really been breaking open my concept of the envelope and Blacksher the shell researches or skin of a the con­ struction building. techniques used in What has the Morro da your Babilônia favela in Rio experience de Janeiro, Brazil. teaching at Columbia brought you? It’s really a sacred role to be in, to

transfer information. It’s made me more aware of what is essential to pass on. I always start with the brilliance of the student. I’ve learned that it’s not some-­ thing that the teacher instills or instructs. The best I can do is lead by example and bring out the students’ vision and hone it. It’s really a great collaboration. My mom has been a teacher for over 25 years. She always told me I have to teach — that was good advice. You were a dancer before becoming an architect. Has dance informed your design practice? I did ballet for 15 years and modern and African dance later on. It gave me a foundation in seeing form as something that isn’t static. In architecture, we tend to think of form as a noun. I also like to think of form as a verb. I wonder why we rely so much on a Cartesian system and a language of expression where everything has to be straight and at 90-degree angles? I like to think of form as a snapshot in the continuum of motion. Architecture does ultimately want to be fixed, but it doesn’t have to come out as straight lines and right angles. It can be an extracted moment in a continuum of force and mass negotiation. Even when buildings are constructed, the logic is that they are still negotiating forces.

Amina Blacksher photographed in her Rio de Janeiro apart­ ment by Pablo Bucher for PIN–UP.


Game Changer From designing a robotic arm for jump-­ ing rope and hosting a docuseries to researching the construction techniques of Brazilian favelas, Amina Blacksher’s practice is panoramic. The New York-based architect and principal of Atelier Amina grew up in Ithaca, New York, without a TV — instead she and her siblings sat in on lectures at Cornell University for fun. Blacksher went on to complete a masters at the Yale School of Architecture and today teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Plan­ ning, and Preservation. This winter Blacksher made her third trip to Brazil for an immersive residency studying approaches to building at the Morro da Babilônia favela in Rio de Janeiro. Motivated to expand on and challenge the inherent hierarchies of her for-­ mal training and professional experience, she will channel the knowledge gained on the trip into both a documentary short and a journal article. Blacksher talked to PIN–UP about the fundamentals of her practice. What does architecture mean to you? That’s the 64-milliondollar question for me right now. I’m currently studying innovative construc-­ tion techniques in the Morro da Babliônia favela 58

On the topic of movement, your Robot Double Dutch project is so nuanced. How did your cultural background find a voice in your work? I got the platform to contribute an entry to Princeton’s 2019 Black Imagination Matters conference through a good friend, assistant professor V. Mitch McEwen. I was like, “I have this idea of a double-­ Industrial Dutch robot. robotic arms outfitted with It’s kind of off the 3D-printed charts, is it possiclamps customble?” Double Dutch designed to hold jump ropes. is a very simple but precise jump-rope game. I had the fortune to read a book by ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt [The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop] on the embodied formulas that black girls bring to the game. Just like a musical instrument can be in tune or out of tune, there is an innate sense of right or wrong. There’s a required precision that doesn’t allow for error, but then it seems very simple. It’s just two synchronized ropes going in opposite directions — like what could be more self-explanatory? Then the question was how do I approach this game through robotics, which we tend to think of as the ultimate in precision. I was interested in bringing the body into the conversation. The body in the AfricanAmerican experience holds a lot of memory and infor­ mation. A lot of times the only thing that people had was

Architect and educator Amina Blacksher testing out her double-Dutch robot with V. Mitch McEwen at Princeton University.

in Rio, and it’s cracking open everything I thought architecture was. Even a month ago I might have defined it as drawings. Drawings are representa-­ tional of an intent, but they’re also documents that convey instructions. In the environment I’m in right now, there are homes being built all around, on the side of a mountain, that don’t use drawings as instructions. It’s another way of commu­ nicating design intent. Also, in the climate conditions I’m used to, architecture protects you from the envi­ ronment and creates an enclosure that is almost airtight. In this tropical environment, that is not necessarily the objective. Buildings can be com­pletely open to the air and the only protection needed is from rain. That to me means that architecture is horizon-­tal and vertical but it doesn’t need to be sealed at the seams. It’s really been breaking open my concept of the envelope and Blacksher the shell researches or skin of a the con­ struction building. techniques used in What has the Morro da your Babilônia favela in Rio experience de Janeiro, Brazil. teaching at Columbia brought you? It’s really a sacred role to be in, to

transfer information. It’s made me more aware of what is essential to pass on. I always start with the brilliance of the student. I’ve learned that it’s not some-­ thing that the teacher instills or instructs. The best I can do is lead by example and bring out the students’ vision and hone it. It’s really a great collaboration. My mom has been a teacher for over 25 years. She always told me I have to teach — that was good advice. You were a dancer before becoming an architect. Has dance informed your design practice? I did ballet for 15 years and modern and African dance later on. It gave me a foundation in seeing form as something that isn’t static. In architecture, we tend to think of form as a noun. I also like to think of form as a verb. I wonder why we rely so much on a Cartesian system and a language of expression where everything has to be straight and at 90-degree angles? I like to think of form as a snapshot in the continuum of motion. Architecture does ultimately want to be fixed, but it doesn’t have to come out as straight lines and right angles. It can be an extracted moment in a continuum of force and mass negotiation. Even when buildings are constructed, the logic is that they are still negotiating forces.

Amina Blacksher photographed in her Rio de Janeiro apart­ ment by Pablo Bucher for PIN–UP.


Gordon Matta-Clark in Sag Harbor, New York, 1976–1977. PHCON2002:016:005:046, Canadian Centre for Architecture Collection, gift of Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. © Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark

For the latest iteration of our Out of the Box series, Yann Chateigné, Hila Peleg, and Kitty Scott explored the Gordon Matta-Clark collection at the CCA: boxes and binders of personal correspondence, sketchbooks, previously unseen video footage, private photographs, and project drafts were unpacked, piece by piece. Their respective readings of this material were presented in the exhibitions, Material Thinking, Rough Cuts and Outtakes, and Line of Flight, and are the topic of our new book CP138: Gordon MATTA-CLARK, co-published with Koenig Books.

60

cca.qc.ca

their body, when their homes, histories, and families were taken. So the body becomes an important vessel for information and knowledge. I was interested in seeing if I could use technology as a way to dance architecture. The double-­ Dutch robot touches on the basics of the verb rhythm. The first stage of the project was exploring what it might be like to dance in a rich multi-dimensional gravity-ruled environment as a starting off point for conveying design intent. Where will you take the project next? I’m thinking in the next few years we’ll be looking at more multi-dimensional design tools and technologies. There are many different ways of arriving at a built form. For example, there were many questions left unanswered with the coordination of the two arms. Could they be controlled by one brain, one computer that can understand its left and its right? I’ve been interested in proprioception, that sense we have of knowing where each part of our body is in space. When you clap your hands above your head, they know where to find each other without your having to look. It’s that sense of self-awareness in our body. There’s great potential in teaching proprioception to machines: robots are good with precision and humans are good with creativity and innovation. So how can these two be used together? My approach is not looking at what a robot can make — I’m looking at robots as friends. — Ashley Varela

Neo Cairo If someone says “Modernist city,” you immediately think Brasília or Chandigarh. If someone says “Cairo,”

The coffered chances are you’ll vaults in think Egyptian the ceremonial grand hall antiquities or, at of Cairo’s High Court a pinch, the (1924–34) allude to an medieval walled architecture town known of the past while also today as “Islamic showcasing a growing Cairo.” But, as Modernist historian Mohamed sensibility. Elshahed points out in the introduction to his book Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide, the Egyptian capital “is essen-­ tially a 20th-century city. Its expansion and develop-­ ment during the past century surpassed the pace and scope of its growth over the previous millennium.” As a child, Elshahed says, he was exposed to an immersively Modernist environment whose specificity only struck him later, when he studied in the U.S. But in American discussions of Middle Eastern architecture, he dis­ covered, this landscape of Modernism was completely absent. “As much as I have a lot of deep appreciation for the ancient world and for Islamic heritage in architecture. The world I came into, and who I am, are shaped by the 20th century. And this is really

why I felt it was 100-year deadline is an incenmy mission to tive to demolish. “It’s a death record and theorize sentence that’s been handed this era in terms down to Modernism in Egypt,” of its architectural declares Elshahed. “The result production.” is an onslaught that’s getting One of the results worse as the years go by of that recordtowards buildings that in other ing process is countries would be con-­ Cairo Since 1900, sidered part of a cherished a guide to the heritage.” city’s 20th- and Which begs the question, 21st-century “Why are these buildings not architecture that cherished?” That, Elshahed catalogues 226 says, is due to the political sites in the central spin put on Modernism as a areas of the city. Western import, the legacy Perhaps someof a failed attempt at secular thing of a personal modernity, and therefore quest for identity, not authentically of its place. the book was also “Modernism within Egypt written as a call has not been fully accepted to arms to save an because of that narrative,” architectural hericontinues Elshahed. “In the tage that is under 1970s and 80s there was threat. As Elshahed explains, this search for identity, and while heritage protection does that’s when a figure like exist in Egyptian law, it’s not Hassan Fathy became promialways enforced, and comes nent in international circles with some as an architect who perverse wasn’t simply side effects. ‘copying’ the West.” Any buildBut for Elshahed, ing over this politicized 100 years nationalist narrative old is is too simplistic. eligible for “If Egyptian heritage Modernism is illelisting but, gitimate because in a counit was purely the try where outcome of conta­ Modernism mination with is not Western ideas, apprecithen one can ated, also A model of Cairo Since 1900: the Nile Hilton and where argue An Architectural Guide, Hotel in Cairo having that (1958), an by Mohamed Elshahed of the your 1920 Western example unmistakable (The American University International apartment moderin Cairo Press, 2020) Style with block nity was which Hiltons hotels were designated itself built around the world. a historic only monument brings no financial rewards (leading instead to potentially expensive restoration costs), the


Gordon Matta-Clark in Sag Harbor, New York, 1976–1977. PHCON2002:016:005:046, Canadian Centre for Architecture Collection, gift of Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. © Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark

For the latest iteration of our Out of the Box series, Yann Chateigné, Hila Peleg, and Kitty Scott explored the Gordon Matta-Clark collection at the CCA: boxes and binders of personal correspondence, sketchbooks, previously unseen video footage, private photographs, and project drafts were unpacked, piece by piece. Their respective readings of this material were presented in the exhibitions, Material Thinking, Rough Cuts and Outtakes, and Line of Flight, and are the topic of our new book CP138: Gordon MATTA-CLARK, co-published with Koenig Books.

60

cca.qc.ca

their body, when their homes, histories, and families were taken. So the body becomes an important vessel for information and knowledge. I was interested in seeing if I could use technology as a way to dance architecture. The double-­ Dutch robot touches on the basics of the verb rhythm. The first stage of the project was exploring what it might be like to dance in a rich multi-dimensional gravity-ruled environment as a starting off point for conveying design intent. Where will you take the project next? I’m thinking in the next few years we’ll be looking at more multi-dimensional design tools and technologies. There are many different ways of arriving at a built form. For example, there were many questions left unanswered with the coordination of the two arms. Could they be controlled by one brain, one computer that can understand its left and its right? I’ve been interested in proprioception, that sense we have of knowing where each part of our body is in space. When you clap your hands above your head, they know where to find each other without your having to look. It’s that sense of self-awareness in our body. There’s great potential in teaching proprioception to machines: robots are good with precision and humans are good with creativity and innovation. So how can these two be used together? My approach is not looking at what a robot can make — I’m looking at robots as friends. — Ashley Varela

Neo Cairo If someone says “Modernist city,” you immediately think Brasília or Chandigarh. If someone says “Cairo,”

The coffered chances are you’ll vaults in think Egyptian the ceremonial grand hall antiquities or, at of Cairo’s High Court a pinch, the (1924–34) allude to an medieval walled architecture town known of the past while also today as “Islamic showcasing a growing Cairo.” But, as Modernist historian Mohamed sensibility. Elshahed points out in the introduction to his book Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide, the Egyptian capital “is essen-­ tially a 20th-century city. Its expansion and develop-­ ment during the past century surpassed the pace and scope of its growth over the previous millennium.” As a child, Elshahed says, he was exposed to an immersively Modernist environment whose specificity only struck him later, when he studied in the U.S. But in American discussions of Middle Eastern architecture, he dis­ covered, this landscape of Modernism was completely absent. “As much as I have a lot of deep appreciation for the ancient world and for Islamic heritage in architecture. The world I came into, and who I am, are shaped by the 20th century. And this is really

why I felt it was 100-year deadline is an incenmy mission to tive to demolish. “It’s a death record and theorize sentence that’s been handed this era in terms down to Modernism in Egypt,” of its architectural declares Elshahed. “The result production.” is an onslaught that’s getting One of the results worse as the years go by of that recordtowards buildings that in other ing process is countries would be con-­ Cairo Since 1900, sidered part of a cherished a guide to the heritage.” city’s 20th- and Which begs the question, 21st-century “Why are these buildings not architecture that cherished?” That, Elshahed catalogues 226 says, is due to the political sites in the central spin put on Modernism as a areas of the city. Western import, the legacy Perhaps someof a failed attempt at secular thing of a personal modernity, and therefore quest for identity, not authentically of its place. the book was also “Modernism within Egypt written as a call has not been fully accepted to arms to save an because of that narrative,” architectural hericontinues Elshahed. “In the tage that is under 1970s and 80s there was threat. As Elshahed explains, this search for identity, and while heritage protection does that’s when a figure like exist in Egyptian law, it’s not Hassan Fathy became promialways enforced, and comes nent in international circles with some as an architect who perverse wasn’t simply side effects. ‘copying’ the West.” Any buildBut for Elshahed, ing over this politicized 100 years nationalist narrative old is is too simplistic. eligible for “If Egyptian heritage Modernism is illelisting but, gitimate because in a counit was purely the try where outcome of conta­ Modernism mination with is not Western ideas, apprecithen one can ated, also A model of Cairo Since 1900: the Nile Hilton and where argue An Architectural Guide, Hotel in Cairo having that (1958), an by Mohamed Elshahed of the your 1920 Western example unmistakable (The American University International apartment moderin Cairo Press, 2020) Style with block nity was which Hiltons hotels were designated itself built around the world. a historic only monument brings no financial rewards (leading instead to potentially expensive restoration costs), the


Rich Aybar’s debut furniture collection is a beguiling range of large and medium-scale pieces wrought in amber-hued

Rich Aybar photographed in Paris by Josep Fonti for PIN–UP. He recently presented his debut design collection Amber Alert: The Nostalgia Series, which was inspired by the history of rubber.

62

rubber — lamps, footstools, side tables, a rocking chair, and yes, a water fountain surrounded by rubber tits.

Accompanied by a docu­ mentary short on the politics and history of rubber made in collaboration with Aybar’s

Object photography by Daniel Terna.

Rubber Baron

possible because the West ‘contaminated’ itself with the rest of the world — through colonization, extraction of resources and ideas, the documentation and recording of art from everywhere to India to Cambodia to Egypt, etc. Our planet has long been a highly interconnected place.” As an inventory of 20th-­ century Cairo (alas incomplete, Elshahed says, due to the paucity of interest and of archival material), the book covers everything from apartment buildings, law courts, mosques, and museums to print-works, private villas, workers’ housing, banking and insurance offices, churches, schools, and synagogues. It also includes demolished buildings as a wake-up call to what has already been lost. Elshahed’s favorite of all — still standing — is the villa that Cairene architect Sayed Karim (founder, in 1939, of Egypt’s first Arabic architecture review, Al Emara) built for himself in 1947–48, designing everything including the fur­ niture. And of course the book takes us to Heliopolis, the former desert suburb created ex nihilo from 1905 onwards by Boghos Nubar, son of the then prime minister Nubar Pasha, and Belgian industrialist Édouard Empain. Empain’s 1911 concrete “Hindu” palace, by Alexandre Marcel, gives a hint of the eclecticism to be found in 20th-century Cairo’s modern archi-­ tecture. If Elshahed chose the guide format, he says, it was to make the subject accessible to as many as possible in order to raise awareness of Cairo’s Modernist legacy, particularly among Cairenes. With the first print run already sold out within a few months, it’s a tactic that seems to be bearing fruit. — Andrew Ayers

fellow Hood by Air alum Leilah Weinraub, the debut Rich Aybar Workshop collection launched during Design Miami 2019 with an installation at a beauty salon in Little Haiti. Then, in February, Aybar brought the works to New York for the exhibition Rubberworks: The Nostalgia Series at Jack Chiles Gallery. We talked to the fashion operative turned furniture designer about this new approach to translucency and tactility. How did this project get started? When the project began, I was working in fashion. One season, I was asked by Hood By Air to go to Turkey to help develop a collection. I found myself in a factory setting, work­ ing out very concrete problems with tangible results, which was an exciting challenge for me. After that, I started tooling around with some pieces of foam while living in Berlin. Working with special effects fabricators, Aybar created over a dozen rubber pieces, from lamps and vases to rocking chairs and a breast-shaped fountain (not pictured).

For my apartment I needed a stool, a plinth to put plants on, something to put my stereo on, and I didn’t just want to buy things. So I started making them. I didn’t think that it would develop into anything bigger than that, but here we are. What happened next? I developed a thing for translucent rubber — it’s translucent but not hard like resin, it has a give to it. At furniture fairs I was seeing a lot of resin and glass. I was interested in the translucency, but not so much the tactile aspect of those materials. Translucency seems to strive towards accountability in design. Everything is visible. But with rubber, there’s also the sex-toy reference, Fleshlights® and other things that are less clean cut. For the fabrication I came across a lot of problems working with large amounts of rubber because everybody saw it only as an industrial material. The cinemaeffects industry was most amenable to working with it on a large scale because they’re in the business of mak-­ ing replicas out of rubber. How did you arrive at the forms in the collection? I was exploring the simplest of shapes — the circle and the square. I just wanted pieces that felt either circular or angular but were also inviting and comfort­ able — kind of juicy. I was also thinking a lot about jellies, edibles, Werther's Originals — all this candy. Over the summer, my grandfa-­ ther passed and I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and all of a sudden we were constantly on rocking

chairs, she and I. They have a very strong association with the passage of time and the elderly, and I wanted to find a way to integrate them into contemporary design because I feel like things that are nostalgic and a bit hokey are often dismissed as being too personal. I made these removable fiberglass backs and arm rests that you can add in or take out depending on what you need at that moment. So either it’s a rocking chair, or it’s just a slab that moves, or it’s a platform that bal-­ ances. It’s really up to you, the user. What about the water fountain? I went to the Château d’Anet, Diane de Poitiers’s castle in France. And there stands her tomb, on beautiful busts of sphinxes with huge, rock-hard boobs. They’re made out of marble — a woman’s head with what appear to be three breasts resting on a pair of lion paws. Those busts took me back to Paul Verhoeven’s triple-breasted woman from his film Total Recall, which was such an indelible image for me as a child, in terms of science fiction, human possibility, and the way you can be enhanced. I wanted to pay homage to this sculpture made more than 400 years before that movie, so I made this fountain with all these extra boobs. I’m very curious about the documentary short Leilah Weinraub made for the project. Researching how we procure rubber, and how the process has changed throughout history, I realized a lot of people don’t know that rubber, before the arrival of polyurethane, originally came from trees — that you had to tap a tree in order to get the sap. Only later was rubber made from petroleum derivatives.


Rich Aybar’s debut furniture collection is a beguiling range of large and medium-scale pieces wrought in amber-hued

Rich Aybar photographed in Paris by Josep Fonti for PIN–UP. He recently presented his debut design collection Amber Alert: The Nostalgia Series, which was inspired by the history of rubber.

62

rubber — lamps, footstools, side tables, a rocking chair, and yes, a water fountain surrounded by rubber tits.

Accompanied by a docu­ mentary short on the politics and history of rubber made in collaboration with Aybar’s

Object photography by Daniel Terna.

Rubber Baron

possible because the West ‘contaminated’ itself with the rest of the world — through colonization, extraction of resources and ideas, the documentation and recording of art from everywhere to India to Cambodia to Egypt, etc. Our planet has long been a highly interconnected place.” As an inventory of 20th-­ century Cairo (alas incomplete, Elshahed says, due to the paucity of interest and of archival material), the book covers everything from apartment buildings, law courts, mosques, and museums to print-works, private villas, workers’ housing, banking and insurance offices, churches, schools, and synagogues. It also includes demolished buildings as a wake-up call to what has already been lost. Elshahed’s favorite of all — still standing — is the villa that Cairene architect Sayed Karim (founder, in 1939, of Egypt’s first Arabic architecture review, Al Emara) built for himself in 1947–48, designing everything including the fur­ niture. And of course the book takes us to Heliopolis, the former desert suburb created ex nihilo from 1905 onwards by Boghos Nubar, son of the then prime minister Nubar Pasha, and Belgian industrialist Édouard Empain. Empain’s 1911 concrete “Hindu” palace, by Alexandre Marcel, gives a hint of the eclecticism to be found in 20th-century Cairo’s modern archi-­ tecture. If Elshahed chose the guide format, he says, it was to make the subject accessible to as many as possible in order to raise awareness of Cairo’s Modernist legacy, particularly among Cairenes. With the first print run already sold out within a few months, it’s a tactic that seems to be bearing fruit. — Andrew Ayers

fellow Hood by Air alum Leilah Weinraub, the debut Rich Aybar Workshop collection launched during Design Miami 2019 with an installation at a beauty salon in Little Haiti. Then, in February, Aybar brought the works to New York for the exhibition Rubberworks: The Nostalgia Series at Jack Chiles Gallery. We talked to the fashion operative turned furniture designer about this new approach to translucency and tactility. How did this project get started? When the project began, I was working in fashion. One season, I was asked by Hood By Air to go to Turkey to help develop a collection. I found myself in a factory setting, work­ ing out very concrete problems with tangible results, which was an exciting challenge for me. After that, I started tooling around with some pieces of foam while living in Berlin. Working with special effects fabricators, Aybar created over a dozen rubber pieces, from lamps and vases to rocking chairs and a breast-shaped fountain (not pictured).

For my apartment I needed a stool, a plinth to put plants on, something to put my stereo on, and I didn’t just want to buy things. So I started making them. I didn’t think that it would develop into anything bigger than that, but here we are. What happened next? I developed a thing for translucent rubber — it’s translucent but not hard like resin, it has a give to it. At furniture fairs I was seeing a lot of resin and glass. I was interested in the translucency, but not so much the tactile aspect of those materials. Translucency seems to strive towards accountability in design. Everything is visible. But with rubber, there’s also the sex-toy reference, Fleshlights® and other things that are less clean cut. For the fabrication I came across a lot of problems working with large amounts of rubber because everybody saw it only as an industrial material. The cinemaeffects industry was most amenable to working with it on a large scale because they’re in the business of mak-­ ing replicas out of rubber. How did you arrive at the forms in the collection? I was exploring the simplest of shapes — the circle and the square. I just wanted pieces that felt either circular or angular but were also inviting and comfort­ able — kind of juicy. I was also thinking a lot about jellies, edibles, Werther's Originals — all this candy. Over the summer, my grandfa-­ ther passed and I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and all of a sudden we were constantly on rocking

chairs, she and I. They have a very strong association with the passage of time and the elderly, and I wanted to find a way to integrate them into contemporary design because I feel like things that are nostalgic and a bit hokey are often dismissed as being too personal. I made these removable fiberglass backs and arm rests that you can add in or take out depending on what you need at that moment. So either it’s a rocking chair, or it’s just a slab that moves, or it’s a platform that bal-­ ances. It’s really up to you, the user. What about the water fountain? I went to the Château d’Anet, Diane de Poitiers’s castle in France. And there stands her tomb, on beautiful busts of sphinxes with huge, rock-hard boobs. They’re made out of marble — a woman’s head with what appear to be three breasts resting on a pair of lion paws. Those busts took me back to Paul Verhoeven’s triple-breasted woman from his film Total Recall, which was such an indelible image for me as a child, in terms of science fiction, human possibility, and the way you can be enhanced. I wanted to pay homage to this sculpture made more than 400 years before that movie, so I made this fountain with all these extra boobs. I’m very curious about the documentary short Leilah Weinraub made for the project. Researching how we procure rubber, and how the process has changed throughout history, I realized a lot of people don’t know that rubber, before the arrival of polyurethane, originally came from trees — that you had to tap a tree in order to get the sap. Only later was rubber made from petroleum derivatives.


Shedding Light

I started doing research on humanity’s history with rubber. Hernán Cortés came to Moctezuma’s court in Tenochtitlán and saw the Aztecs playing ulama — which is like a form of soccer, but you hit the ball with your hips. The Spanish conquistadors obviously gagged when they first encountered this material, which could bounce off the walls, but still remained dense and hard, so they brought the material back to Europe as a curiosity. It took another 150 years for the Europeans to find commercial applications for rubber, but after that it took off, becoming especially significant once we used it in the car tire. All of a sudden humans could move A rubber light far away, so fixture from Rich Aybar’s there was an impeAmber Alert tus to make roads collection. and fast cars. There are myriad medical applications for rubber too, such as hoses used in colonoscopies and IVs. It’s a material that has played a vital role in our development, and yet there’s a sort of mass ignorance surrounding it. So I decided to collaborate with Leilah Weinraub on a documentary about rubber that’s anecdotal and gossipy — an oral inversion of the known history of colonialism, rubber, and imperialism. Will you continue to work with rubber or do you already have your eyes set on another material? I’m planning to work a lot more with pourables and molds. I’ve been researching new ways of making con-­ crete and Jesmonite. I’m still interested in the idea of a material that conforms to a shape. — Emily Segal

Echoing Le Corbusier’s “five points of a new architec­ ture,” architect Christian Wassmann has put together, exclusively for PIN–UP, a five-point manifesto for the sun.

for life, an in-between piece, a comforting and stimu­ lating Passstück between human beings and their environments.

in our architecture — for the right place at the right time.

ONE Good architecture is aware of the sun, bad architecture is not. Every place on planet Earth is affected by the sun, and architects must consider it now and in the future, as did the masters of the past, for mankind to survive. The sun should shape our architecture: its path (or more accurately our orbit around it) should give form to our buildings anchored on a specific site. The sun is always part of the genius loci, as are the moon and other extraterrestrial bodies, but their impact is less felt and cannot be utilized as effectively as that of the powerful heart of our solar system.

FIVE THREE To continue living on Spaceship Earth joyfully and calmly without destroying our ecosystem, we need to use more renewable and recycled materials. Wood grown under the sun on sustainably tended soil and up-cycled post-­ consumer waste are a good start. Experiments and crossdisciplinary research will lead us to other ecologically balanced innovations. We must use materials for as long and as efficiently as possible, ideally cycling them forever.

It is the sun that gives life on planet Earth. A giant ball of nuclear fusion, it heats to around 15 million degrees Celsius at its core, sending light and warmth out towards us. Our natural habitat is in perfect distance to our central star; near enough to turn its energy into growth, and not too close to overheat and lose our water. Today’s photo­voltaic technology allows us to inhabit structures that harvest and produce more electric power than we could ever consume. We can heat and cool our spaces without burning fossil fuels and gases that clog up our atmosphere and our lungs. Architecture must give more than it takes, it must make the world a better place. The sun can help. Everything that is human-made should connect individuals to one another, to themselves, and to the cosmos.

People plan their waking life to the rhythm of the sun: architects must organize space in relation to its course, committing to solar forces and not falling for the opportunistic flexibility or undecided versatility that is commonly misunderstood as freedom. A house is not a machine for living in, but an observatory 64

Let the sun’s rays animate our static buildings! By exposing and covering surfaces to differentiate between light and dark, we can make them appear to move. With its broad spectrum, sunlight can dramatically alter the interior ambiance of a building as well as its outside appearance. Seasonal changes caused by the tilt of the Earth enrich our lives and should be reflected

— Christian Wassmann

All drawings by Christian Wassmann for PIN–UP.

TWO

Object photography by Daniel Terna.

FOUR


Shedding Light

I started doing research on humanity’s history with rubber. Hernán Cortés came to Moctezuma’s court in Tenochtitlán and saw the Aztecs playing ulama — which is like a form of soccer, but you hit the ball with your hips. The Spanish conquistadors obviously gagged when they first encountered this material, which could bounce off the walls, but still remained dense and hard, so they brought the material back to Europe as a curiosity. It took another 150 years for the Europeans to find commercial applications for rubber, but after that it took off, becoming especially significant once we used it in the car tire. All of a sudden humans could move A rubber light far away, so fixture from Rich Aybar’s there was an impeAmber Alert tus to make roads collection. and fast cars. There are myriad medical applications for rubber too, such as hoses used in colonoscopies and IVs. It’s a material that has played a vital role in our development, and yet there’s a sort of mass ignorance surrounding it. So I decided to collaborate with Leilah Weinraub on a documentary about rubber that’s anecdotal and gossipy — an oral inversion of the known history of colonialism, rubber, and imperialism. Will you continue to work with rubber or do you already have your eyes set on another material? I’m planning to work a lot more with pourables and molds. I’ve been researching new ways of making con-­ crete and Jesmonite. I’m still interested in the idea of a material that conforms to a shape. — Emily Segal

Echoing Le Corbusier’s “five points of a new architec­ ture,” architect Christian Wassmann has put together, exclusively for PIN–UP, a five-point manifesto for the sun.

for life, an in-between piece, a comforting and stimu­ lating Passstück between human beings and their environments.

in our architecture — for the right place at the right time.

ONE Good architecture is aware of the sun, bad architecture is not. Every place on planet Earth is affected by the sun, and architects must consider it now and in the future, as did the masters of the past, for mankind to survive. The sun should shape our architecture: its path (or more accurately our orbit around it) should give form to our buildings anchored on a specific site. The sun is always part of the genius loci, as are the moon and other extraterrestrial bodies, but their impact is less felt and cannot be utilized as effectively as that of the powerful heart of our solar system.

FIVE THREE To continue living on Spaceship Earth joyfully and calmly without destroying our ecosystem, we need to use more renewable and recycled materials. Wood grown under the sun on sustainably tended soil and up-cycled post-­ consumer waste are a good start. Experiments and crossdisciplinary research will lead us to other ecologically balanced innovations. We must use materials for as long and as efficiently as possible, ideally cycling them forever.

It is the sun that gives life on planet Earth. A giant ball of nuclear fusion, it heats to around 15 million degrees Celsius at its core, sending light and warmth out towards us. Our natural habitat is in perfect distance to our central star; near enough to turn its energy into growth, and not too close to overheat and lose our water. Today’s photo­voltaic technology allows us to inhabit structures that harvest and produce more electric power than we could ever consume. We can heat and cool our spaces without burning fossil fuels and gases that clog up our atmosphere and our lungs. Architecture must give more than it takes, it must make the world a better place. The sun can help. Everything that is human-made should connect individuals to one another, to themselves, and to the cosmos.

People plan their waking life to the rhythm of the sun: architects must organize space in relation to its course, committing to solar forces and not falling for the opportunistic flexibility or undecided versatility that is commonly misunderstood as freedom. A house is not a machine for living in, but an observatory 64

Let the sun’s rays animate our static buildings! By exposing and covering surfaces to differentiate between light and dark, we can make them appear to move. With its broad spectrum, sunlight can dramatically alter the interior ambiance of a building as well as its outside appearance. Seasonal changes caused by the tilt of the Earth enrich our lives and should be reflected

— Christian Wassmann

All drawings by Christian Wassmann for PIN–UP.

TWO

Object photography by Daniel Terna.

FOUR


destined for gallery exhibitions (Lonely Planet de-­ buted at Flagship A.S. in Stavanger, Norway) and others for store windows. Back in 2008, as a 21-year-old industrialdesign student at California College of the Arts, DeMarco presented his studiowinning XS chair at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York: a clear vinyl armchair that you stuff with your own trash. A fascination for detritus, both actual and popcultural, is a thread that runs throughout his practice. With roots in the net. art movement, DeMarco’s work — such as the collectorcommissioned Tims Couch (2013), a couch with Timberland boots for feet, Waterfall (2012), a digitally-­ printed

Garbage Collector Nick DeMarco’s pair of video shorts Lonely Planet (2019) features anthropomorphic garbage puppets on an abandoned shoreline discussing, in subtitles, their innermost anxieties and dreams. The series is set, as the name suggests, in a future Earth occupied solely by the tossed-off debris of mankind — after all humans, unlike plastics, are biodegradable. In part one, a broken milkcrate fused with bits of hand-carved wood explains to a footlong segment of brick and mortar with a bouffant of cardboard curls: “Time is different on the ocean. When the waves are really churning you completely lose yourself. You don’t have a single thought. All of your senses are completely overwhelmed, maxed out. It’s ego death, pure sensation. It’s sublime.” Working from a cozy industrial studio in the Bronx, DeMarco’s practice spans product and furniture design, filmmaking, set design, installation, and writing, with some works

Impressions from Nick DeMarco’s studio, where he makes work formed from the detri­ tus humanity leaves behind.

66

toilet-paper sculpture that featured in DIS’s 2014 Red Bull Arts show in New York (DISown — Not For Everyone), or the giant fidget spinner he designed for Cardi B’s 2017 MoMA PS1 performance — can sometimes feel like memes come to life. His most recent work, however — like a series of clocks made for a group show at Jack Hanley Gallery, repurposing a scrap of broken frisbee and a dispos­able coffee cup amongst other trash — suggests an evolution towards a more nuanced sensibility, still infused with critical irreverence and idiosyncratic surrealism. A guiding force in DeMarco’s artistic universe is the belief that the stuff which fills our homes, or that ends up on our streets, is the flora and fauna of the modern world. Not only will it enhance our time on Earth, it will also be the only proof of our existence. This is something we can take comfort in, if we choose to. “I like stuff in the world. I want the

world to be more pleasant. A more pleasant world makes the world more pleas(Below ant,” DeMarco and right) says, describing a Clocks made from sort of feedback found materials, loop: things that are produced by Nick good make things DeMarco that are more good for a recent exhibition ad infinitum. at Jack Hanley gallery. Put another way, DeMarco thinks that the more objects are made with care, the more a person is likely to put care into the things, or people, around them. Indeed his wobbly-looking wooden salad tongs, eyeballstyle door knobs, or “pinch clips” shaped like a hand (which can be found in the MoMA Design Store) strive to make the world more pleasant by injecting an exuberant sense of humor into the everyday. “It’s about mental real estate,” DeMarco explains. “If you’re a person who’s had a shitty day, and you have a nice interaction with the bowl you’re eating dinner from, that does actually make your life a little better.” — Nathan Taylor Pemberton

Nick DeMarco photographed in his Bronx studio by Sean Santiago for PIN–UP. The artistdesigner finds pleasure and oppor­ tunity in everyday castoffs.


destined for gallery exhibitions (Lonely Planet de-­ buted at Flagship A.S. in Stavanger, Norway) and others for store windows. Back in 2008, as a 21-year-old industrialdesign student at California College of the Arts, DeMarco presented his studiowinning XS chair at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York: a clear vinyl armchair that you stuff with your own trash. A fascination for detritus, both actual and popcultural, is a thread that runs throughout his practice. With roots in the net. art movement, DeMarco’s work — such as the collectorcommissioned Tims Couch (2013), a couch with Timberland boots for feet, Waterfall (2012), a digitally-­ printed

Garbage Collector Nick DeMarco’s pair of video shorts Lonely Planet (2019) features anthropomorphic garbage puppets on an abandoned shoreline discussing, in subtitles, their innermost anxieties and dreams. The series is set, as the name suggests, in a future Earth occupied solely by the tossed-off debris of mankind — after all humans, unlike plastics, are biodegradable. In part one, a broken milkcrate fused with bits of hand-carved wood explains to a footlong segment of brick and mortar with a bouffant of cardboard curls: “Time is different on the ocean. When the waves are really churning you completely lose yourself. You don’t have a single thought. All of your senses are completely overwhelmed, maxed out. It’s ego death, pure sensation. It’s sublime.” Working from a cozy industrial studio in the Bronx, DeMarco’s practice spans product and furniture design, filmmaking, set design, installation, and writing, with some works

Impressions from Nick DeMarco’s studio, where he makes work formed from the detri­ tus humanity leaves behind.

66

toilet-paper sculpture that featured in DIS’s 2014 Red Bull Arts show in New York (DISown — Not For Everyone), or the giant fidget spinner he designed for Cardi B’s 2017 MoMA PS1 performance — can sometimes feel like memes come to life. His most recent work, however — like a series of clocks made for a group show at Jack Hanley Gallery, repurposing a scrap of broken frisbee and a dispos­able coffee cup amongst other trash — suggests an evolution towards a more nuanced sensibility, still infused with critical irreverence and idiosyncratic surrealism. A guiding force in DeMarco’s artistic universe is the belief that the stuff which fills our homes, or that ends up on our streets, is the flora and fauna of the modern world. Not only will it enhance our time on Earth, it will also be the only proof of our existence. This is something we can take comfort in, if we choose to. “I like stuff in the world. I want the

world to be more pleasant. A more pleasant world makes the world more pleas(Below ant,” DeMarco and right) says, describing a Clocks made from sort of feedback found materials, loop: things that are produced by Nick good make things DeMarco that are more good for a recent exhibition ad infinitum. at Jack Hanley gallery. Put another way, DeMarco thinks that the more objects are made with care, the more a person is likely to put care into the things, or people, around them. Indeed his wobbly-looking wooden salad tongs, eyeballstyle door knobs, or “pinch clips” shaped like a hand (which can be found in the MoMA Design Store) strive to make the world more pleasant by injecting an exuberant sense of humor into the everyday. “It’s about mental real estate,” DeMarco explains. “If you’re a person who’s had a shitty day, and you have a nice interaction with the bowl you’re eating dinner from, that does actually make your life a little better.” — Nathan Taylor Pemberton

Nick DeMarco photographed in his Bronx studio by Sean Santiago for PIN–UP. The artistdesigner finds pleasure and oppor­ tunity in everyday castoffs.


We focused on the basics.

Herzog & de Meuron, Rudin House Leymen, France 1996–1997

Fun Houses

Disengagement from the Ground

“All successful A children’s literature strange UFO has a conspiratorial element,” wrote John Updike in 1976. In keeping with that sentiment, a new 160-Square-Metre illustrated book for Footprint children from Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, the principals of MOS Architects, has the kids in cahoots with their parents, searching for the perfect house that — spoiler alert — turns out to be unattainable. Through the hefty 128 pages of Houses 86 Rainwater Collection for Sale (a hardcover designed with the help of MOS’s longtime collaborator Studio Lin), Gerrit Rietveld’s 1924 a family of four journeys Schröder-Schräder House; from house to house in their “a playful broken pediment” gray sedan, stopping to characterizes Robert Venturi’s ponder famous residences 1964 Vanna Venturi House; from the architectural while Louis Kahn’s Korman canon and offering subtly House (1973) is dismissed satirical criticisms along as an “oversized inglenook.” the way. “Totalizing sticks Dense digital illustrations and planes” describes of figures, animals, and

Some were dramatic.

Adalberto Libera, Casa Malaparte Capri, Italy 1938

FAYE TOOGOOD: UNLEARNING

Large Fireplace

260-Square-Metre Floor Area

Cheap Roofing Archetypal Gable

FRIEDMAN BENDA

September 10 - October 10, 2020

1/4 KM

Entry from Below

87

Reinforced Concrete

landscaping accompany the sweeping romp, rendered in a poster-colored flattened perspective set against a strict anthracite background (even an issue of PIN–UP makes a cameo). What emerges is something of a manual assessing the external aesthetic features of each house, an introductory 101 to the history of architecture for little ones. But Houses for Sale decidedly

No Front Door

Houses for Sale, by Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample (Corraini Edizioni/ Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2019)

30-Odd Steps

Site Specific

Peeling Coats of Paint

Zero Guardrails 9.5 Metres Wide

A Modern Ruin

Monumental

Unfinished, isolated, and melancholic in a good way

24

25

68

30 Metres Long

MOS’s Houses for Sale is an introductory class for young and old into some of the most iconic residences of the past 100 or so years, from Adalberto Libera’s Casa Malaparte (1938, left) to Herzog & de Meuron’s Rudin House (1996–97, above).

avoids debating the definition of what defines a desir-­ able home: without even the slight­est consideration of the interior spaces, the book seems to assert that true meaning resides in the imagi-­ nation. — Tiffany Lambert

All images courtesy of MOS.

60 Metres Above the Sea

FRIEDMAN BENDA 515 WEST 26 ST NY NY 10001 212-239-8700 FRIEDMANBENDA.COM


We focused on the basics.

Herzog & de Meuron, Rudin House Leymen, France 1996–1997

Fun Houses

Disengagement from the Ground

“All successful A children’s literature strange UFO has a conspiratorial element,” wrote John Updike in 1976. In keeping with that sentiment, a new 160-Square-Metre illustrated book for Footprint children from Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, the principals of MOS Architects, has the kids in cahoots with their parents, searching for the perfect house that — spoiler alert — turns out to be unattainable. Through the hefty 128 pages of Houses 86 Rainwater Collection for Sale (a hardcover designed with the help of MOS’s longtime collaborator Studio Lin), Gerrit Rietveld’s 1924 a family of four journeys Schröder-Schräder House; from house to house in their “a playful broken pediment” gray sedan, stopping to characterizes Robert Venturi’s ponder famous residences 1964 Vanna Venturi House; from the architectural while Louis Kahn’s Korman canon and offering subtly House (1973) is dismissed satirical criticisms along as an “oversized inglenook.” the way. “Totalizing sticks Dense digital illustrations and planes” describes of figures, animals, and

Some were dramatic.

Adalberto Libera, Casa Malaparte Capri, Italy 1938

FAYE TOOGOOD: UNLEARNING

Large Fireplace

260-Square-Metre Floor Area

Cheap Roofing Archetypal Gable

FRIEDMAN BENDA

September 10 - October 10, 2020

1/4 KM

Entry from Below

87

Reinforced Concrete

landscaping accompany the sweeping romp, rendered in a poster-colored flattened perspective set against a strict anthracite background (even an issue of PIN–UP makes a cameo). What emerges is something of a manual assessing the external aesthetic features of each house, an introductory 101 to the history of architecture for little ones. But Houses for Sale decidedly

No Front Door

Houses for Sale, by Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample (Corraini Edizioni/ Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2019)

30-Odd Steps

Site Specific

Peeling Coats of Paint

Zero Guardrails 9.5 Metres Wide

A Modern Ruin

Monumental

Unfinished, isolated, and melancholic in a good way

24

25

68

30 Metres Long

MOS’s Houses for Sale is an introductory class for young and old into some of the most iconic residences of the past 100 or so years, from Adalberto Libera’s Casa Malaparte (1938, left) to Herzog & de Meuron’s Rudin House (1996–97, above).

avoids debating the definition of what defines a desir-­ able home: without even the slight­est consideration of the interior spaces, the book seems to assert that true meaning resides in the imagi-­ nation. — Tiffany Lambert

All images courtesy of MOS.

60 Metres Above the Sea

FRIEDMAN BENDA 515 WEST 26 ST NY NY 10001 212-239-8700 FRIEDMANBENDA.COM


Double Agent Tei Carpenter sitting behind her desk in her Brooklyn studio, Agency— Agency. Photographed by Sangwoo Suh for PIN–UP.

Exterior view of Agency— Agency’s design for the regional HQ of non-profit Big Brothers Big Sisters (2014–18) in Houston, Texas.

70

Meet Tei Carpenter, the founder of Agency—Agency, a Brooklyn-based architec-­ ture and design studio. Her practice ranges from exhibition design and inventive public-infrastructure projects (such as prototypes for public fire hydrants that double as drinking fountains) to buildings like the recently completed Greater Houston branch of non-profit Big Brothers Big Sisters. In conversation with curator Vere van Gool, the emerg-­ ing architect speculates on philosophy and design, and the future of archi-­ tecture as an industry and profession. You named your architecture office Agency—Agency. What role does agency play in your work? There’s a duality to the word agency — it can point to the practice of architecture as one with an ideological and aesthetic agenda while at the same time make space for the Technical types of drawings for New Public work we do and Hydrant, a collaboration want to do at multi­ between Tei Carpenter and ple scales and Chris Woebken with different people, that turns fire hydrants organizations, and into drinking fountains. cities. In the name Agency—Agency those meanings are doubled and connected with a line. In a sense I’m trying to set up a platform for how to approach projects now and in the future, and the repetition of the word is a stubborn reminder of that. Architecture is purely about a “man-made” world, and as such a major contributor

to many of the environ-­ mental problems we’re facing today. What are your thoughts on something like a Hippocratic Oath for architects? It’s tricky to correspond the body and the building because the Hippocratic Oath is so embedded in the medical world. The idea of healing or improvement by a doctor is fundamen-­ tally objective, but “healing” or “improvement” is much more subjective for architects. Who decides whether an architectural act is actually making a positive contribution and for whom that contribution is intended? It’s much more debatable. We perhaps see how architecture shapes futures most urgently when it comes to climate change. How do you see the design profession working to tackle the climate crisis? There’s a quote in Jason W. Moore’s book Capitalism in the Web of Life [Verso, 2015] along the lines of, “We can’t solve the problems of today with the tools that created those problems.” We need new tools and new approaches. It’s about making behavioral changes, not about the application of technologies. More and more, I think we should also go back and learn from more elemental and primal means and ways of working, studying the aesthetic and thermal properties of materi-­ als like rocks, earth, and even the potential of things like tidal and lunar-gravity power. Going back to the past to explore the future. Has this concept manifested in any of your recent projects? For the 2019 Oslo Architec­ ture Triennale, I collaborated with a great group on the Intentional Estates Agency, an interactive public installation and publication that’s

now at [New York City arts space] Printed Matter. The project guides its participants to models of experimental living outside of a limitlesscapital-growth paradigm. We assembled a catalogue of historical and contempo-­ rary intentional communities and social experiments from around the world, from the Hancock Shaker Village, founded in 1790 here in the U.S., to the phalanstery, as theorized by Charles Fourier in 19th-century France, to the Human Power Plant pro-­ ject that started up a couple of years ago in the Netherlands. For us, as a group of architects and artists, it was a way to better understand the motives and forms of these models of society and their value systems as a first step towards proposing alter-­ natives. You have a background in philosophy, which is a tool to reflect and unravel. Some might say that’s almost the opposite of architecture, which is focused on building very real things. What motivated this change from deconstruction to literal construction? I grew up around architec-­ ture [Carpenter’s mother is architect Toshiko Mori], so when I was younger I tried to avoid it. I worked in documentary film, with a small production company which made a film about Shirley Chisholm [the first black woman elected to congress]. I spent time in the art world, working with the artist Ann Hamilton on a book about her object-based work. But I eventually came back to architecture. To me, architecture offers a wide enough umbrella to merge a number of my interests in philosophy — especially logic — with art, story-telling, social engagement, and collab-­ oration. What are some of the biggest risks you’ve taken since launching your

office a few years ago? Some of the bigger risks include starting brand-new projects with unique agen-­ das, from inventing community and art programs for a mixeduse design project in Brooklyn to the groundwork for a rural housing project in the coastal northeast. Currently I’m developing a pilot program to design a new fire hydrant, in collab­ oration with Chris Woebken for BMW Mini’s A/D/O Water Futures project. This is starting from scratch on an entirely new vocab-­ ulary and infrastructural system. What would be your ideal vision for architects in the future? I hope that soon there might be another version of the WPA [Works Progress Administration, an ambitious employment and infra-­ structure program created by President Roosevelt in 1935], something akin to the Green New Deal, that creates jobs and also provides opportunities to design public spaces, public works, and infrastructure. I would like to experiment with designing for bigness and also work in incredible wild environments, like designing charismatic water infrastructures in remote snowy mountain ranges, or new energy landscapes in the desert. This interview is for PIN–UP’s Sun Issue. What are your thoughts on the sun? The first thing that comes to mind is Philip Glass’s opera Akhnaten, which I saw a few months ago. It was fully intoxi-­ cating. The scene when Aten the sun god ascends a stairway framed by a massive glowing sun orb is still burned in my mind. It was percep­ tually mystical, visceral, and I read that it was designed to feel like a weird fever dream. — Vere van Gool


Double Agent Tei Carpenter sitting behind her desk in her Brooklyn studio, Agency— Agency. Photographed by Sangwoo Suh for PIN–UP.

Exterior view of Agency— Agency’s design for the regional HQ of non-profit Big Brothers Big Sisters (2014–18) in Houston, Texas.

70

Meet Tei Carpenter, the founder of Agency—Agency, a Brooklyn-based architec-­ ture and design studio. Her practice ranges from exhibition design and inventive public-infrastructure projects (such as prototypes for public fire hydrants that double as drinking fountains) to buildings like the recently completed Greater Houston branch of non-profit Big Brothers Big Sisters. In conversation with curator Vere van Gool, the emerg-­ ing architect speculates on philosophy and design, and the future of archi-­ tecture as an industry and profession. You named your architecture office Agency—Agency. What role does agency play in your work? There’s a duality to the word agency — it can point to the practice of architecture as one with an ideological and aesthetic agenda while at the same time make space for the Technical types of drawings for New Public work we do and Hydrant, a collaboration want to do at multi­ between Tei Carpenter and ple scales and Chris Woebken with different people, that turns fire hydrants organizations, and into drinking fountains. cities. In the name Agency—Agency those meanings are doubled and connected with a line. In a sense I’m trying to set up a platform for how to approach projects now and in the future, and the repetition of the word is a stubborn reminder of that. Architecture is purely about a “man-made” world, and as such a major contributor

to many of the environ-­ mental problems we’re facing today. What are your thoughts on something like a Hippocratic Oath for architects? It’s tricky to correspond the body and the building because the Hippocratic Oath is so embedded in the medical world. The idea of healing or improvement by a doctor is fundamen-­ tally objective, but “healing” or “improvement” is much more subjective for architects. Who decides whether an architectural act is actually making a positive contribution and for whom that contribution is intended? It’s much more debatable. We perhaps see how architecture shapes futures most urgently when it comes to climate change. How do you see the design profession working to tackle the climate crisis? There’s a quote in Jason W. Moore’s book Capitalism in the Web of Life [Verso, 2015] along the lines of, “We can’t solve the problems of today with the tools that created those problems.” We need new tools and new approaches. It’s about making behavioral changes, not about the application of technologies. More and more, I think we should also go back and learn from more elemental and primal means and ways of working, studying the aesthetic and thermal properties of materi-­ als like rocks, earth, and even the potential of things like tidal and lunar-gravity power. Going back to the past to explore the future. Has this concept manifested in any of your recent projects? For the 2019 Oslo Architec­ ture Triennale, I collaborated with a great group on the Intentional Estates Agency, an interactive public installation and publication that’s

now at [New York City arts space] Printed Matter. The project guides its participants to models of experimental living outside of a limitlesscapital-growth paradigm. We assembled a catalogue of historical and contempo-­ rary intentional communities and social experiments from around the world, from the Hancock Shaker Village, founded in 1790 here in the U.S., to the phalanstery, as theorized by Charles Fourier in 19th-century France, to the Human Power Plant pro-­ ject that started up a couple of years ago in the Netherlands. For us, as a group of architects and artists, it was a way to better understand the motives and forms of these models of society and their value systems as a first step towards proposing alter-­ natives. You have a background in philosophy, which is a tool to reflect and unravel. Some might say that’s almost the opposite of architecture, which is focused on building very real things. What motivated this change from deconstruction to literal construction? I grew up around architec-­ ture [Carpenter’s mother is architect Toshiko Mori], so when I was younger I tried to avoid it. I worked in documentary film, with a small production company which made a film about Shirley Chisholm [the first black woman elected to congress]. I spent time in the art world, working with the artist Ann Hamilton on a book about her object-based work. But I eventually came back to architecture. To me, architecture offers a wide enough umbrella to merge a number of my interests in philosophy — especially logic — with art, story-telling, social engagement, and collab-­ oration. What are some of the biggest risks you’ve taken since launching your

office a few years ago? Some of the bigger risks include starting brand-new projects with unique agen-­ das, from inventing community and art programs for a mixeduse design project in Brooklyn to the groundwork for a rural housing project in the coastal northeast. Currently I’m developing a pilot program to design a new fire hydrant, in collab­ oration with Chris Woebken for BMW Mini’s A/D/O Water Futures project. This is starting from scratch on an entirely new vocab-­ ulary and infrastructural system. What would be your ideal vision for architects in the future? I hope that soon there might be another version of the WPA [Works Progress Administration, an ambitious employment and infra-­ structure program created by President Roosevelt in 1935], something akin to the Green New Deal, that creates jobs and also provides opportunities to design public spaces, public works, and infrastructure. I would like to experiment with designing for bigness and also work in incredible wild environments, like designing charismatic water infrastructures in remote snowy mountain ranges, or new energy landscapes in the desert. This interview is for PIN–UP’s Sun Issue. What are your thoughts on the sun? The first thing that comes to mind is Philip Glass’s opera Akhnaten, which I saw a few months ago. It was fully intoxi-­ cating. The scene when Aten the sun god ascends a stairway framed by a massive glowing sun orb is still burned in my mind. It was percep­ tually mystical, visceral, and I read that it was designed to feel like a weird fever dream. — Vere van Gool


SHADOW LOUNGE Italian brand BAXTER is best known for its tufted Chester Moon sofa (Paola Navone, 2009), a take on the classic Chesterfield that stands out in any room. With the Piaf sofa (pictured), launched in 2019, BAXTER has created modular seating that becomes the space itself. Simultaneously evoking the classic curves of Jean Royère’s 1940s Ours Polaire and the comfort of 1970s “sunken” living rooms, the Piaf comprises no less than eleven seating modules, with poufs and pillows to boot.

LIGNE ROSET’s 2020 re-edition of the classic Asmara takes low seating to new heights with this modular system. Designed by Bernard Govin in 1966, when he was just 26, the four curved blocks can be combined to create simple chaises for solo reclining or entire plush universes for group lounging. Asmara’s radical casualness was inspired by Govin’s student days in 1960s Paris, when he and his friends preferred sprawling on the floor to sitting “properly.”

With its gently curved yet rigid shell and high, thin, elongated legs, LIVING DIVANI’S Greene sofa (2019) recalls the cast-iron façades of Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, whose Greene Street was once home to the company’s New York outpost. Designed by Spanish designer David López Quincoces, a mentee of LIVING DIVANI creative director Piero Lissoni and close confidant of CEO Carola Bestetti, the Greene combines tubular steel and supple upholstery in a perfect balance of structural rigidity and soft comfort.

Artwork by Matthew Raviotta Introduction by Mekala Rajagopal 72

In the cool penumbra of dusk, nine sofas cast layers of shadow across one another; an intimate material mingling, their silent sensuous curves sweep each other up in a loving embrace as the sun slowly sets. Phantom-like forms caress one another, a group-hug of upholstery that draws you in to rest your limbs, basking in the fabric softness of the waning sunlight.


SHADOW LOUNGE Italian brand BAXTER is best known for its tufted Chester Moon sofa (Paola Navone, 2009), a take on the classic Chesterfield that stands out in any room. With the Piaf sofa (pictured), launched in 2019, BAXTER has created modular seating that becomes the space itself. Simultaneously evoking the classic curves of Jean Royère’s 1940s Ours Polaire and the comfort of 1970s “sunken” living rooms, the Piaf comprises no less than eleven seating modules, with poufs and pillows to boot.

LIGNE ROSET’s 2020 re-edition of the classic Asmara takes low seating to new heights with this modular system. Designed by Bernard Govin in 1966, when he was just 26, the four curved blocks can be combined to create simple chaises for solo reclining or entire plush universes for group lounging. Asmara’s radical casualness was inspired by Govin’s student days in 1960s Paris, when he and his friends preferred sprawling on the floor to sitting “properly.”

With its gently curved yet rigid shell and high, thin, elongated legs, LIVING DIVANI’S Greene sofa (2019) recalls the cast-iron façades of Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, whose Greene Street was once home to the company’s New York outpost. Designed by Spanish designer David López Quincoces, a mentee of LIVING DIVANI creative director Piero Lissoni and close confidant of CEO Carola Bestetti, the Greene combines tubular steel and supple upholstery in a perfect balance of structural rigidity and soft comfort.

Artwork by Matthew Raviotta Introduction by Mekala Rajagopal 72

In the cool penumbra of dusk, nine sofas cast layers of shadow across one another; an intimate material mingling, their silent sensuous curves sweep each other up in a loving embrace as the sun slowly sets. Phantom-like forms caress one another, a group-hug of upholstery that draws you in to rest your limbs, basking in the fabric softness of the waning sunlight.


Designers George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg were watching the waves when an idea washed ashore: Surf, a sofa with natural, undulating curves, designed for MOLTENI&C in 2019. Given Yabu Pushelberg’s knack for luxury hospitality, the modular Surf makes for a great addition to any hotel lobby, but is just as easily pictured in a wellappointed home. With its elegantly angled back, Surf won’t be pushed against the wall but sculpts the space of any room you care to place it in.

Italo-Danish design duo GamFratesi are the brains behind Silhouette, a sofa commissioned in 2018 by Danish brand HAY, who wanted a piece that felt domestic enough for a residential place but would work just as well in any office setting. Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi rose to the challenge with pilotis-style stilt legs — available in either metal or wood — and custom leather piping on the fabric upholstery. Silhouette lives up yet more to its name in the high-backed version, ideal for discreet conversations in a workplace setting.

Manuel Goller, creative director of Berlin-based NEW TENDENCY, trained at the BauhausUniversität Weimar, and it shows in the studio’s penchant for pared-down functionality and glorified industrial finishes. This minimalist, neoModernist impulse is fully evident in the Standard sofa (2018), which combines chunky boxy upholstery with a razor-sharp aluminum structure. Imagine Josef Albers and Ludwig Hilberseimer collaborating on seating design, and you have NEW TENDENCY’s platonic ideal of a sofa.

Marcel Wanders’s Gentleman sofa (2019) for POLIFORM makes for an uncharacteristi­ cally restrained design from the usually kooky Dutchman. While the narrow legs are fully on trend, the sturdy high-backed form was inspired by the handsome sofas of classic private clubs. Three different Gentleman armchairs — Gentleman Single, Gentleman Relax, and Gentleman Reserved — and an ottoman are also available, each one channeling Wanders’s unique take on English club design through POLIFORM’s classic Italian elegance.

74


Designers George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg were watching the waves when an idea washed ashore: Surf, a sofa with natural, undulating curves, designed for MOLTENI&C in 2019. Given Yabu Pushelberg’s knack for luxury hospitality, the modular Surf makes for a great addition to any hotel lobby, but is just as easily pictured in a wellappointed home. With its elegantly angled back, Surf won’t be pushed against the wall but sculpts the space of any room you care to place it in.

Italo-Danish design duo GamFratesi are the brains behind Silhouette, a sofa commissioned in 2018 by Danish brand HAY, who wanted a piece that felt domestic enough for a residential place but would work just as well in any office setting. Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi rose to the challenge with pilotis-style stilt legs — available in either metal or wood — and custom leather piping on the fabric upholstery. Silhouette lives up yet more to its name in the high-backed version, ideal for discreet conversations in a workplace setting.

Manuel Goller, creative director of Berlin-based NEW TENDENCY, trained at the BauhausUniversität Weimar, and it shows in the studio’s penchant for pared-down functionality and glorified industrial finishes. This minimalist, neoModernist impulse is fully evident in the Standard sofa (2018), which combines chunky boxy upholstery with a razor-sharp aluminum structure. Imagine Josef Albers and Ludwig Hilberseimer collaborating on seating design, and you have NEW TENDENCY’s platonic ideal of a sofa.

Marcel Wanders’s Gentleman sofa (2019) for POLIFORM makes for an uncharacteristi­ cally restrained design from the usually kooky Dutchman. While the narrow legs are fully on trend, the sturdy high-backed form was inspired by the handsome sofas of classic private clubs. Three different Gentleman armchairs — Gentleman Single, Gentleman Relax, and Gentleman Reserved — and an ottoman are also available, each one channeling Wanders’s unique take on English club design through POLIFORM’s classic Italian elegance.

74


L.A.-based designer RYAN PRECIADO captures the feeling of childhood with his Nipomo curved sofa. “My grandma had this huge backyard with a big garden,” he recalls of his childhood in the couch’s namesake California town. “I was so small all the plants seemed huge!” This idea of nostalgic “bigness” is the basis of Preciado’s custom-made piece, which combines Jean Royère influences with echoes of Bertrand Lavier’s bold and bulbous Walt Disney Productions sculptures. It’s casual, laidback, and big, like a fabulous old Buick!

E15’s Kerman sofa takes its name from the birthplace of Farah Ebrahimi, co-founder and director of the company and wife of E15 designer Philipp Mainzer. A true modular at heart, the sculptural Kerman transforms from a simple one- or two-seater to a giant multiperson landscape couch with variable backs and armrests. Squint a little, and the plush, walnut velvet upholstered piece pictured here could easily be mistaken for the rolling sand hills of the Lut Desert, in Kerman Province, Iran.

HEM is another three-letter brand from Scandinavia that’s currently making a splash on the American market. HEM’s 2015 Koti sofa, created by Swedish design studio Form Us With Love, suspends generous, rounded forms atop sturdy wooden legs, inviting the user to embrace the domestic coziness of the globally-trending hygge lifestyle (koti is Finnish for “home”).

76


L.A.-based designer RYAN PRECIADO captures the feeling of childhood with his Nipomo curved sofa. “My grandma had this huge backyard with a big garden,” he recalls of his childhood in the couch’s namesake California town. “I was so small all the plants seemed huge!” This idea of nostalgic “bigness” is the basis of Preciado’s custom-made piece, which combines Jean Royère influences with echoes of Bertrand Lavier’s bold and bulbous Walt Disney Productions sculptures. It’s casual, laidback, and big, like a fabulous old Buick!

E15’s Kerman sofa takes its name from the birthplace of Farah Ebrahimi, co-founder and director of the company and wife of E15 designer Philipp Mainzer. A true modular at heart, the sculptural Kerman transforms from a simple one- or two-seater to a giant multiperson landscape couch with variable backs and armrests. Squint a little, and the plush, walnut velvet upholstered piece pictured here could easily be mistaken for the rolling sand hills of the Lut Desert, in Kerman Province, Iran.

HEM is another three-letter brand from Scandinavia that’s currently making a splash on the American market. HEM’s 2015 Koti sofa, created by Swedish design studio Form Us With Love, suspends generous, rounded forms atop sturdy wooden legs, inviting the user to embrace the domestic coziness of the globally-trending hygge lifestyle (koti is Finnish for “home”).

76


Style

ACNE STUDIOS’ CREATIVE DIRECTOR JONNY JOHANSSON OVERSAW THE REDESIGN OF FLORAGATAN 13, A FORMER CZECHOSLOVAKIAN EMBASSY IN STOCKHOLM. THE RED SOFA IS JOHANSSON’S REDESIGN OF A 1958 SWEDISH DESIGN CLASSIC BY CARL MALMSTEN. THE CURTAIN IS BY BRITISH ARTIST DANIEL SILVER.

Negotiating the Brutalist heritage of its new Stockholm headquarters, Acne Studios gave this former Czechoslovakian embassy an exacting modern makeover All images courtesy Acne Studios.

Diplomacy

Photography by Annabel Elston


Style

ACNE STUDIOS’ CREATIVE DIRECTOR JONNY JOHANSSON OVERSAW THE REDESIGN OF FLORAGATAN 13, A FORMER CZECHOSLOVAKIAN EMBASSY IN STOCKHOLM. THE RED SOFA IS JOHANSSON’S REDESIGN OF A 1958 SWEDISH DESIGN CLASSIC BY CARL MALMSTEN. THE CURTAIN IS BY BRITISH ARTIST DANIEL SILVER.

Negotiating the Brutalist heritage of its new Stockholm headquarters, Acne Studios gave this former Czechoslovakian embassy an exacting modern makeover All images courtesy Acne Studios.

Diplomacy

Photography by Annabel Elston


In the late 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, Czechoslovak architecture firm Atelier Beta Prague Project Institute — whose members included Jan Bočan, Jan Šrámek, and Karel Štěpánský — designed a beautiful pair of Brutalist embassies, one in London and the other in Stockholm. While the British build­ ing still houses Czech and Slovak diplomats, the Stockholm address — Floragatan 13 — has since lived many lives. Today, from afar, it appears that little has changed since the building’s completion in 1972, but this proud ambassador of Socialist Modern has just been repurposed as the creative and admin­ istrative hub of Acne Studios, Sweden’s most covetable fashion export.

Inside Floragatan 13, Acne Studios — led by creative director Jonny Johansson — and local firm Johannes Norlander Arkitektur have both restored and transformed the build­ ing in equal parts. “Politicians were working here until recently,” Johansson explained to PIN–UP. “Among them was [former Swedish Prime Minister] Carl Bildt, an important nego­ tiator during the Yugoslav Wars. Other parts of the building were occupied by various businesses, including a law firm, all of which had different furniture and aesthetics. I wanted to keep the space itself, strip it down and build it back up again in a more functional way for us.” For Norlander, this involved unifying the interior spaces. “We saw great potential in the key materials and the tectonics of the original building,” he says. “A lot of effort went into highlighting those qualities. This included sandblasting large portions of the concrete walls and ceilings that had been painted over 80

ACNE STUDIOS AND JOHANNES NORLANDER ARKITEKTUR CAREFULLY RESTORED ATELIER BETA PRAGUE PROJECT INSTITUTE’S COLORFUL ORIGINAL STAIRWAY DESIGN FROM 1972.

THE CANTEEN’S RED TILING AND THE CIRCULAR WOODEN TABLES BY PIERRE CHAPO CONTRAST WITH THE BUSH-HAMMERED CONCRETE WALLS. ALL LIGHTING FIXTURES FOR FLORAGATAN 13 ARE CUSTOM DESIGNS BY BENOIT LALLOZ.

Text by Dan Thawley THE ACNE STUDIOS DESIGN TEAM CREATED THE OUTDOOR WOODEN TABLE AND BENCHES MADE FROM PINEWOOD.

All images courtesy Acne Studios.

Located in an upscale residential and dip­ lomatic quarter of Östermalm — one of Stockholm’s 14 inhabited islands — Floragatan 13 stands back from the street, its corner entrance stair simultaneously sinking into and rising out of the sidewalk. Space is carved around the imposing concrete façades on all sides, accessing a rear rock garden populated with wooden benches for sunny afternoons. Tightly composed, the seven-story asym­ metrical elevations are ruled by grids, stacks of glazing on the entrance front having been slung between stairwells that are clad in precast panels of bush-hammered concrete. Brutalism has come to be associated with the postwar welfare state, and Floragatan 13 displays some of those democratic ideals in its full-length ground-floor windows, which expose not only lobbies and common areas but also the inner workings of offices and meeting rooms. A sculptural glass stairwell adorns the northern façade, while an imposing antenna crowns the building, its multiple triangulations of crisscrossing wires and supports featuring a space-age ring orbiting the central mast.

“Brutalism has come to be associated with the postwar welfare state, and Floragatan 13 displays those democratic ideals.”


In the late 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, Czechoslovak architecture firm Atelier Beta Prague Project Institute — whose members included Jan Bočan, Jan Šrámek, and Karel Štěpánský — designed a beautiful pair of Brutalist embassies, one in London and the other in Stockholm. While the British build­ ing still houses Czech and Slovak diplomats, the Stockholm address — Floragatan 13 — has since lived many lives. Today, from afar, it appears that little has changed since the building’s completion in 1972, but this proud ambassador of Socialist Modern has just been repurposed as the creative and admin­ istrative hub of Acne Studios, Sweden’s most covetable fashion export.

Inside Floragatan 13, Acne Studios — led by creative director Jonny Johansson — and local firm Johannes Norlander Arkitektur have both restored and transformed the build­ ing in equal parts. “Politicians were working here until recently,” Johansson explained to PIN–UP. “Among them was [former Swedish Prime Minister] Carl Bildt, an important nego­ tiator during the Yugoslav Wars. Other parts of the building were occupied by various businesses, including a law firm, all of which had different furniture and aesthetics. I wanted to keep the space itself, strip it down and build it back up again in a more functional way for us.” For Norlander, this involved unifying the interior spaces. “We saw great potential in the key materials and the tectonics of the original building,” he says. “A lot of effort went into highlighting those qualities. This included sandblasting large portions of the concrete walls and ceilings that had been painted over 80

ACNE STUDIOS AND JOHANNES NORLANDER ARKITEKTUR CAREFULLY RESTORED ATELIER BETA PRAGUE PROJECT INSTITUTE’S COLORFUL ORIGINAL STAIRWAY DESIGN FROM 1972.

THE CANTEEN’S RED TILING AND THE CIRCULAR WOODEN TABLES BY PIERRE CHAPO CONTRAST WITH THE BUSH-HAMMERED CONCRETE WALLS. ALL LIGHTING FIXTURES FOR FLORAGATAN 13 ARE CUSTOM DESIGNS BY BENOIT LALLOZ.

Text by Dan Thawley THE ACNE STUDIOS DESIGN TEAM CREATED THE OUTDOOR WOODEN TABLE AND BENCHES MADE FROM PINEWOOD.

All images courtesy Acne Studios.

Located in an upscale residential and dip­ lomatic quarter of Östermalm — one of Stockholm’s 14 inhabited islands — Floragatan 13 stands back from the street, its corner entrance stair simultaneously sinking into and rising out of the sidewalk. Space is carved around the imposing concrete façades on all sides, accessing a rear rock garden populated with wooden benches for sunny afternoons. Tightly composed, the seven-story asym­ metrical elevations are ruled by grids, stacks of glazing on the entrance front having been slung between stairwells that are clad in precast panels of bush-hammered concrete. Brutalism has come to be associated with the postwar welfare state, and Floragatan 13 displays some of those democratic ideals in its full-length ground-floor windows, which expose not only lobbies and common areas but also the inner workings of offices and meeting rooms. A sculptural glass stairwell adorns the northern façade, while an imposing antenna crowns the building, its multiple triangulations of crisscrossing wires and supports featuring a space-age ring orbiting the central mast.

“Brutalism has come to be associated with the postwar welfare state, and Floragatan 13 displays those democratic ideals.”


Floragatan 13, in particular a series of handblown ombré lanterns that resemble electric insulators and subtly echo the brand’s signa­ ture hue. “We were able to create the pink light by crafting a double lamp,” says Lalloz. “We combined two elements — an interior opales­ cent bell and then the dégradé pink lamp over the top. The dégradé effect is due to the varying thickness of the glass at different points.”

“‘I wanted a Viking grave made from Swedish stones, and a Viking table in the boardroom,’ says Jonny Johannson.”

To furnish the lobby and the sixth-floor board­ room, Johansson turned to London-based designer Max Lamb, who had created furni­ ture for the label in the past, notably at Acne’s global flagship store on New York’s Madison Avenue. For Stockholm, Lamb embarked on an extensive geological tour of the Swedish coun­ tryside, handpicking local basalt and granite boulders that he then polished into a series of throne-like chairs and humble stools. “I wanted a Viking grave made from Swedish stones, and a Viking table in the boardroom,” says Johansson. “I was first attracted to Max not only because of his aesthetic but also because of his methods, which felt so contemporary to me. Environmen­ tally, he is sane.”

THE WOODEN CHAIRS AND TABLE IN THE BOARDROOM, LOCATED IN THE AMBASSADOR’S FORMER APARTMENT, WERE DESIGNED BY MAX LAMB, WHO WAS INSPIRED BY THE SIMPLE AND STURDY SHAPES OF VIKING CRAFT.

MAX LAMB ALSO DESIGNED THESE COLORFUL RUNESTONE-LIKE SEATING ELEMENTS ESPECIALLY FOR THE LOBBY. THE LIGHTING FIXTURES IN ACNE STUDIOS’ SIGNATURE PINK HUE ARE CUSTOM DESIGNS BY BENOIT LALLOZ.

82

All images courtesy Acne Studios. Paid Advertising.

through the years, replacing broken brick­ work, and restoring the aluminum cladding. All later interiors, mostly added in the 1990s, were demolished to expose the building’s raw structure.” But that doesn’t mean the design teams weren’t shy of making their own mark. Take the cavernous basement canteen: once a wood-framed amphitheater, it has been totally transformed with red floor tiles, a whole wall of mirror, and repurposed-textile wall hangings by British artist Daniel Silver. While the structure was being renovated, Johansson began to commission furnishings for the space, inviting some of his closest col­ laborators to Stockholm to tour the soon-to-be brand HQ. To light the grand library and the rabbit warren of design ateliers, photo studios, showrooms, and offices, he called upon French specialist Benoit Lalloz, whose measured, white-but-not-too-bright system of brushedaluminum LED lights is a defining feature of the refit. Existing modules for Acne Studios stores are joined by entirely new experiments for

Johansson too has contributed furnishings, resurfacing his 2010 redesign of the Nya Berlin, a 1958 classic by Swedish designer Carl Malmsten. His warping of Malmsten’s twoseater sofa was among his early 3D-printing experiments, and he asked the original factory to remake his prototype. Although a self-­ confessed fan of Swedish furniture, Johansson has resisted filling the building with emblem­ atic Scandinavian design, the only touches of nostalgia being Czechoslovak: the globular poured-glass column lamp that once hung from the library ceiling (now in Johannson’s office), and original bentwood Thonet seating designed by Jan Bočan in 1970. “Thinking of my education here in Sweden led me to realize that our HQ could somehow reflect the vibe of a fashion school,” says Johansson, whose pride and joy is the fashion and pho­ tography library on the ground floor, built to rival that of London’s Central Saint Martins. “And that idea set the tone. Basically, I wanted to bring in my local church painter to paint the ceilings, not put a Kusama in the hallway just because we could afford it. I wanted to call people I had relationships with already and give them free rein here.” And that is, to a point, pre­ cisely what he has done — bringing the rigor back to a meticulous Modernist monument while injecting it with a dynamic sense of color, warmth, and collective creativity. Australian-born Dan Thawley is a creative director, curator, and writer based in Paris. He is the editor in chief of the biannual maga­ zine A Magazine By.


Floragatan 13, in particular a series of handblown ombré lanterns that resemble electric insulators and subtly echo the brand’s signa­ ture hue. “We were able to create the pink light by crafting a double lamp,” says Lalloz. “We combined two elements — an interior opales­ cent bell and then the dégradé pink lamp over the top. The dégradé effect is due to the varying thickness of the glass at different points.”

“‘I wanted a Viking grave made from Swedish stones, and a Viking table in the boardroom,’ says Jonny Johannson.”

To furnish the lobby and the sixth-floor board­ room, Johansson turned to London-based designer Max Lamb, who had created furni­ ture for the label in the past, notably at Acne’s global flagship store on New York’s Madison Avenue. For Stockholm, Lamb embarked on an extensive geological tour of the Swedish coun­ tryside, handpicking local basalt and granite boulders that he then polished into a series of throne-like chairs and humble stools. “I wanted a Viking grave made from Swedish stones, and a Viking table in the boardroom,” says Johansson. “I was first attracted to Max not only because of his aesthetic but also because of his methods, which felt so contemporary to me. Environmen­ tally, he is sane.”

THE WOODEN CHAIRS AND TABLE IN THE BOARDROOM, LOCATED IN THE AMBASSADOR’S FORMER APARTMENT, WERE DESIGNED BY MAX LAMB, WHO WAS INSPIRED BY THE SIMPLE AND STURDY SHAPES OF VIKING CRAFT.

MAX LAMB ALSO DESIGNED THESE COLORFUL RUNESTONE-LIKE SEATING ELEMENTS ESPECIALLY FOR THE LOBBY. THE LIGHTING FIXTURES IN ACNE STUDIOS’ SIGNATURE PINK HUE ARE CUSTOM DESIGNS BY BENOIT LALLOZ.

82

All images courtesy Acne Studios. Paid Advertising.

through the years, replacing broken brick­ work, and restoring the aluminum cladding. All later interiors, mostly added in the 1990s, were demolished to expose the building’s raw structure.” But that doesn’t mean the design teams weren’t shy of making their own mark. Take the cavernous basement canteen: once a wood-framed amphitheater, it has been totally transformed with red floor tiles, a whole wall of mirror, and repurposed-textile wall hangings by British artist Daniel Silver. While the structure was being renovated, Johansson began to commission furnishings for the space, inviting some of his closest col­ laborators to Stockholm to tour the soon-to-be brand HQ. To light the grand library and the rabbit warren of design ateliers, photo studios, showrooms, and offices, he called upon French specialist Benoit Lalloz, whose measured, white-but-not-too-bright system of brushedaluminum LED lights is a defining feature of the refit. Existing modules for Acne Studios stores are joined by entirely new experiments for

Johansson too has contributed furnishings, resurfacing his 2010 redesign of the Nya Berlin, a 1958 classic by Swedish designer Carl Malmsten. His warping of Malmsten’s twoseater sofa was among his early 3D-printing experiments, and he asked the original factory to remake his prototype. Although a self-­ confessed fan of Swedish furniture, Johansson has resisted filling the building with emblem­ atic Scandinavian design, the only touches of nostalgia being Czechoslovak: the globular poured-glass column lamp that once hung from the library ceiling (now in Johannson’s office), and original bentwood Thonet seating designed by Jan Bočan in 1970. “Thinking of my education here in Sweden led me to realize that our HQ could somehow reflect the vibe of a fashion school,” says Johansson, whose pride and joy is the fashion and pho­ tography library on the ground floor, built to rival that of London’s Central Saint Martins. “And that idea set the tone. Basically, I wanted to bring in my local church painter to paint the ceilings, not put a Kusama in the hallway just because we could afford it. I wanted to call people I had relationships with already and give them free rein here.” And that is, to a point, pre­ cisely what he has done — bringing the rigor back to a meticulous Modernist monument while injecting it with a dynamic sense of color, warmth, and collective creativity. Australian-born Dan Thawley is a creative director, curator, and writer based in Paris. He is the editor in chief of the biannual maga­ zine A Magazine By.


Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen explore the architecture of shopping as a radical field of late capitalist experimentation

RETAIL APOCALYPSE Designing retail spaces, especially fashion retail spaces, follows a different set of rules to other forms of architecture. They’re often ephemeral in nature, in cahoots with more consumerist streams of contemporary design, and do not always have clear goals or functions. According to Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen, directors of exhibitions at ETH Zürich’s Institute of the History and Theory of Architecture, these and other conditions make retail architecture an enduringly Postmodern endeavor and experience. From a historical perspective, the world of fashion retail also harbors paradoxes that reflect broader quandaries of how we’ve consumed culture through-­ out the past century, especially since the 1970s. For example why, in an age of online sales where the big-box store is dying out, does the flagship persist? To explore these questions, Fischli and Olsen are curating Retail Apocalypse, a forthcoming double exhi­ bition and conference at ETH Zürich and Harvard GSD that seeks to examine how architects, fashion designers, and creative directors converge, and to explore architects’ continued attraction to retail’s transient, ruinous temporality, which dictates that projects are often obsolescent before they’re even completed. To help them prepare, Fischli and Olsen gathered a group of architects, artists, designers, theorists, and general cultural observers with a relevant connection to retail. PIN–UP is publishing five of these conversations. In our contemporary late-capitalist condition, the curators ask, can architectural expression ever be innocent?


Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen explore the architecture of shopping as a radical field of late capitalist experimentation

RETAIL APOCALYPSE Designing retail spaces, especially fashion retail spaces, follows a different set of rules to other forms of architecture. They’re often ephemeral in nature, in cahoots with more consumerist streams of contemporary design, and do not always have clear goals or functions. According to Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen, directors of exhibitions at ETH Zürich’s Institute of the History and Theory of Architecture, these and other conditions make retail architecture an enduringly Postmodern endeavor and experience. From a historical perspective, the world of fashion retail also harbors paradoxes that reflect broader quandaries of how we’ve consumed culture through-­ out the past century, especially since the 1970s. For example why, in an age of online sales where the big-box store is dying out, does the flagship persist? To explore these questions, Fischli and Olsen are curating Retail Apocalypse, a forthcoming double exhi­ bition and conference at ETH Zürich and Harvard GSD that seeks to examine how architects, fashion designers, and creative directors converge, and to explore architects’ continued attraction to retail’s transient, ruinous temporality, which dictates that projects are often obsolescent before they’re even completed. To help them prepare, Fischli and Olsen gathered a group of architects, artists, designers, theorists, and general cultural observers with a relevant connection to retail. PIN–UP is publishing five of these conversations. In our contemporary late-capitalist condition, the curators ask, can architectural expression ever be innocent?


RETAIL APOCALYPSE

Installation by Smiljan Radić for Céline fashion show, Paris 2017. Photography courtesy Smiljan Radić

Smiljan Radić Chilean architect architect Smiljan Smiljan Radic’s Radić’s Radic’s eclectic eclectic portfolio portfolio is is distinguished distinguished Chilean by aa fascination fascination with with primordial primordial forms. forms. His His egg-like egg-like Serpentine Serpentine by Gallery Pavilion Pavilion helped helped propel propel him him to to international international repute repute in in 2014, 2014, Gallery and his his more more recent recent retail retail work work is is no no exception: exception: the the massive, massive, and temporary inflatable inflatable set set he he created created to to stage stage Céline’s Céline’s spring/summerSpring spring/summerSummer temporary 2018 show show (Phoebe (Phoebe Philo’s Philo’s last) last) suggested suggested aa womb-like womb-like envelope, envelope, 2018 while the the three three floors floors of of Alexander Alexander McQueen’s McQueen’s London London flagship flagship store store while that Radić Radić designed designed in in 2019 2019 feature feature rocky rocky boulders boulders and and sinuous sinuous that wood sculptures. sculptures. wood You recently recently inaugurated inaugurated the the Alexander Alexander McQueen McQueen flagship flagship store store You in London, London, aa total total environment environment that that includes includes numerous numerous natural natural in rocks, some some with with inlaid, inlaid, fake-fur fake-fur elements. elements. Could Could you you tell tell us us about about rocks, your approach? approach? your In these these types types of of projects, projects, it’s it’s hard hard to to define define elements elements as as “real” “real” or or In “fake.” At At the the Old Old Bond Bond Street Street Store, store, Store,everything everythingis isstaged, staged,and andit’s it’s “fake.” everything is staged, and it’s about inventing inventing aa vocabulary vocabulary that that can can stage stage aa scene scene or or environment environment about in any any part part of of the the world. world. Any Any given given piece piece — — aa stone, stone, aa mannequin, mannequin, in fitting room room — — begins begins to to support support this this when when itit becomes becomes ephemerally ephemerally aa fitting indispensable, like like when when the the supposedly supposedly decorative decorative becomes becomes strucstrucindispensable, tural. In In our our project, project, art, art, architecture, architecture, and and fashion fashion design design occupy occupy the the tural. same hybrid hybrid space, space, aa type type of of “domestic “domestic labyrinth” labyrinth” which, which, through through same the installation installation of of aa series series of of objects objects within within the the space, space, seems seems put put the together in in aa confusing confusing manner. manner. We We left left the the walls walls and and the the floor floor together space open open to to provide provide aa certain certain spatial spatial freedom, freedom, so so that that each each place place space could be be configured configured differently differently according according to to each each site. site. could Throughout Throughout history, history, retailretail spaces spaces havehave offered offered an opportunity opportunity an opportunity for Throughout history, retail spaces have offered an for architectural for architectural novelty novelty — there there — there areare so many so many many examples, examples, from from those those architectural novelty — are so examples, from those discussed in Frederick Frederick Kiesler’s 1930 book Contemporary ArtArt discussed in Kiesler’s 1930 book Contemporary Art discussed in Frederick Kiesler’s 1930 book Contemporary Applied Appliedto totothe the theStore Store Storeand and andits itsitsDisplay Display Displayto totoHerzog Herzog Herzog& &&de dede Meuron’s Meuron’s 2003 2003 Applied Meuron’s 2003 Prada store store Pradain instore Tokyo. in Tokyo. But what what Butabout about what today? about today?today? What are are What your are Prada Tokyo. But What your thoughts on the current current state of retail retail architecture? thoughts the state of architecture? youron thoughts on the current state of retail architecture? don’t really really have have aa global global opinion opinion on on the the subject. subject. II don’t don’t really really know know II don’t Iofdon’t many really examples know of and many I’m only only examples interested and in in I’mthis this only topic interested as aa case case in of many examples and I’m interested topic as in point, point, not ascase specialty. What can say is is that that retail spaces are in as aa specialty. say retail spaces this topicnot as a in point,What not asII acan specialty. What I can say is are that generally non-spaces with established established codes, regardlesscodes, of the the generally non-spaces with regardless of retail spaces are generally non-spacescodes, with established regardless architect. The The of the layout architect. and the the The way layout in which which and the products way inare are which displayed products architect. layout and way in products displayed are more displayed more or or less less arethe the more same, or less andthe thesame, only thing thing andthat that the uncomfortably only uncomfortably thing that are same, and the only uncomfortably changes from from one one changes year to to from theone nextyear are to thethe materials. next are the materials. changes year the next are the materials. You created created an an inflatable inflatable set set for for Phoebe Phoebe Philo’s Philo’s last last Céline Céline show, show, You an enormous enormous textile textile blob blob that that was was blown blown up up for for the the duration duration of of the the an runway show. show. Could Could you you tell tell us us about about this this project? project? runway 86

The show lasted eight minutes and was held inside some tennis The show show lasted eight minutes minutes and was held insidethat some tennis The lasted eight and held inside some courts on the outskirts of Paris — a was hostile interior wetennis needed courts ondisappear. the outskirts outskirts of Paris Paris — hostile interior that we needed needed courts on the of aa hostile interior that we to make Because of — this, temporarily and quickly inflat­ to make make disappear. Because of this, this, temporarily temporarily and quickly inflat­ to disappear. Because of and quickly inflat­ ing a space as if it were a performance piece from the 60s seemed ing aaaspace space as ifif itit were were performance piece from from the 60s seemed seemed ing as performance piece 60s like good strategy. Weaadecided on a simple giantthe parachutelike aa good goodAs strategy. We decided on aa simple simple giant parachutelike strategy. on giant parachutenylon bag. it filled We withdecided air and reached its full size, it allowed the nylon bag. bag.structure As itit filled filled with air and reached its full full size,which allowed the nylon As reached its size, itit allowed the building’s to with moldair to and it. The fabric we chose, looked like building’s a thickstructure structure silk, gave tothe mold whole to it. it.thing The fabric fabric a sensual, we chose, chose, textured which appearance. looked building’s to mold to The we which looked likethat thick silk, gave gavelight the whole whole thing sensual, textured appearance. like aa thick silk, the thing aa sensual, textured appearance. In slow-moving bag, 900 people enjoyed an elegant and friendly In that that slow-moving slow-moving show. light bag, bag, 900 900 people people enjoyed enjoyed an an elegant elegant and and In light friendly show. show. friendly You collect drawings, books, and posters by radical designers. You collect collect drawings, books, andyou, posters by radical radical designers. You drawings, books, posters by What are some projects that, and for are relevant todesigners. the history What are are some some projects projects that,architecture? for you, you, are are relevant relevant to to the the history history What that, for of retail of retail retail architecture? architecture? of I think that the ephemeral aspect of this type of architecture can I think think that the ephemeral ephemeral aspect of this this obsolete, type of of architecture architecture can Ibe that the aspect of type really useful. Retail spaces become with luck, can in be really really useful. Retail spaces become obsolete, with luck, minds. in be useful. spaces become luck, in eight to ten years,Retail and they mostly ceaseobsolete, to exist inwith people’s Architecture eight to to ten ten years, years, deemed andradical they mostly mostly in thecease cease 60s could to exist exist be in useful, in people’s people’s formally minds. eight and they to minds. speaking, Architecture butdeemed deemed those movements radical in in the the had 60s a political could be becontext useful,that formally cannot Architecture radical 60s could useful, formally speaking, but those those movements had aatopolitical political context that cannot speaking, but had be overlooked. Manymovements of them sought abolishcontext objectsthat andcannot be overlooked. overlooked.This Many of them them sought to to abolish abolish objects and be Many of sought objects and consumerism. would completely alienate our retail projects. consumerism. This This would would completely completely alienate alienate our our retail retail projects. projects. consumerism. Retail seems to be in a global crisis, but it persists as an important Retail seems to be be in in a a global global crisis, butthat persists as an is important Retail to crisis, but itit persists an important realmseems for architects. One could argue a retail as store a kind realm for architects. architects. One could could argue that retail store is aa kind kind for One argue ofrealm ruin from the beginning. Do you thinkthat thisaaisretail part store of its is attraction of ruin ruin from from the the beginning. beginning.for Doarchitects? you think think this this is is part part of of its its attraction attraction of Do you for architects? architects? for In my country every project has this condition of non-permanence In my my countryruin. everyFor project has this condition of non-permanence non-permanence In country every project this of or premature us, ithas is not a condition foreign concept — on the or premature premature ruin. Forpremise. us, itit is is not not a foreign foreign concept — — onEuropean the or ruin. For us, on the contrary, it’s the initial So a when we concept approach the market, contrary,we it’sare thestrangely initial premise. premise. obligated So when when to think weabout approach permanence the European European or, contrary, it’s the initial So we approach the in market, a similar we vein, are strangely strangely the largeobligated obligated quantitiesto toofthink think energy about deployed permanence to produce or, market, we are about permanence or, in aa similar similar vein, vein, the large quantities of energy energy deployed to produce in the large quantities of deployed produce something. I think the degrees of instability in our planetto should something. think the degrees of instability instability in our ouronplanet planet should something. II think degrees of in should make us rethink thethe initial architectural conditions a case-by-case basis. make us us Butrethink rethink I also the the think initial thatarchitectural architectural architectureconditions conditions will become onmore case-by-case rigid, make initial on aa case-by-case seeking basis. But But construction also think thinkthat thatwill architecture survive everything. will become become more more rigid, rigid, basis. II also that architecture will seeking construction construction that that will will survive survive everything. everything. seeking

PANORAMA do with the white stained travertine. We use a classic beige traverstoried fashion house commissioned him to design, feature textilemoldedfashion gypsumhouse casts,commissioned a visual element parallelsfeature creative storied himthat to design, textiletine for the floors and furniture in the stores. Normally the pores director gypsum John Galliano’s of garments. molded casts, alayering visual element that parallels creative in the stone are filled with an epoxy resin that’s color-matched with director John Galliano’s layering of garments. the stone. But we use a plain white epoxy that enhances by contrast the porosity of the stone. You just worked on a new architectural identity for Maison Margiela’s flagship stores. all fashion brands, Margiela is probably the You just worked onOf a new architectural identity for Maison Margiela’s biggest challenge to all rethink where its architectural flagship stores. Of fashion brands, Margiela is environment probably the is Margiela is a radical example of a fashion company that breaks concerned — their completely white phantom-likeenvironment interiors are is biggest challenge to rethink where its architectural with norms of beauty and seduction. What is your relation to the notion of beauty in architecture? soconcerned consistent— and iconic in fashion history. How did you approach their completely white phantom-like interiors are commission? so consistent and iconicthis in fashion history. How did you approach this commission? I prefer to work in a way where I don’t define the outcome of a work. When we were contacted in 2018 by Margiela through Dennis Instead I define a process of making that leaves the outcome Freedman, Johncontacted Galliano was already creative through director Dennis of the When we were in 2018 by Margiela unpredicted. When I visit a construction site, I see things that surprise house. Galliano defined the sevencreative codes ofdirector MaisonofMargiela, Freedman, Johnhad Galliano was already the me in their combination and expression. Some things can appear house. Galliano hadand defined the seven of Maison ugly or strange, since I haven’t seen anything like them before. based on its history Galliano’s own codes perspectives. TheMargiela, codes based its historyofand ownrefers perspectives. The codes Over time they grow on me and become very beautiful. Beauty is includeon “anonymity theGalliano’s lining,” which to the concept of taking a strange thing. include “anonymity of the refers to the concept of taking the lining and making it alining,” visiblewhich element of the design; or the the lining andwhich making it aname visiblegiven element ofprocess the design; or thea gar-­ “décortiqué,” is the to the of taking “décortiqué,” is the name given to that the process of taking a gar-­ ment down towhich a skeleton or cage — all remain are the core ment down towhich a skeleton cage — all that what remain theonce corewas. components enableoryou to recognize theare item components whichcodes enabletoyou to recognize what like the item We related these gestures of making, to cutonce or towas. cast,related which these we applied a like newtoarchitectural We codestotomaterials gesturesto ofdesign making, cut or to language forwe Margiela. John Galliano, weawere thus able cast, which applied Like to materials to design new architectural language for Margiela. John Galliano, we were ableon to free ourselves from aLike defined outcome of the work, thus to focus to free ourselves a defined the invent work, tothe focus on a specific way of from making. In thatoutcome way we of could archi­ a specific way of making. In again that way could invent theoutcome, archi­ tectural spaces from scratch withwe a completely new tectural spacestrue from again withhouse. a completely new outcome, while staying to scratch the codes of the while staying true to the codes of the house. Your gypsum walls are very close to your studio’s program — the Your gypsum close to yourAt studio’s program — the interest in thewalls castare as avery design method. the same time these interest seem in the very cast close as a design At the same time these elements to Johnmethod. Galliano’s haute couture, which is elements seem very closeoftogarments John Galliano’s couture, which is about numerous layers creatinghaute expressive volumes about numerous How layerswould of garments creating expressive and silhouettes. you describe this dialogue volumes between Galliano’s How visionwould of Margiela and your and silhouettes. you describe thisarchitecture? dialogue between Galliano’s vision of Margiela and your architecture? Among the new core elements are gypsum elements cast in textile formwork. the elements flexibility of the textile, elements the casting process Among theDue newtocore are gypsum cast in textile formwork. to theform flexibility of theAfter textile, the casting produces aDue different each time. removal of the process textile form-­ produces different formtextile each remains time. After removal of the textileofform-­ work, the aimprint of the visible on the surface the walls columns, with the pleatsonofthe thesurface textile and work, the and imprint of the together textile remains visible of volume the columns, gypsum that pushed walls the wallsofand together withthe theformwork pleats ofout. the The textile andand columnsofare inside out. We the lookformwork at the lining, the interior volume theturned gypsum that pushed out. The walls and of the wall. see the memory of the wasthe once there. columns areWe turned inside out. We looktextile at thethat lining, interior The in this way are typical architectural of thewalls wall.and Wecolumns see the made memory of the textile that was once there. elements. Theycolumns are the made primary definers. The architectural material color The walls and in space this way are typical of the gypsum a natural white,space a rooted realityThe in the historycolor of elements. Theyisare the primary definers. material Maison Margiela. of the gypsum is a natural white, a rooted reality in the history of Maison Margiela. Months after we’d shown John Galliano the models of gypsum BEST Product Company, Inc. big-box stores by SITE, United States 1975–84. casts, his mood boards forJohn the new artisanal collection Fall Months after we’d shown Galliano the models offor gypsum Photography © SITE Winterhis 2018 hadboards photosfor of the new castsartisanal next to photos of nomads casts, mood collection for Fall and he explained thatphotos the gypsum thinkof ofnomads nomads,and Winter 2018 had of thecasts castsmade next tohim photos who wear all layers clothes casts on topmade of each casts had he explained that theofgypsum himother. thinkThe of nomads, become for his work, he commissioned us to who wearanallinspiration layers of clothes on topand of each other. The casts had make thean runway showfor with firstand gypsum casts. become inspiration histhe work, he commissioned us to In 1972, New York City-based architecture and environmental arts make the runway show with the first gypsum casts. studio SITE was commissioned by BEST Products Company, Inc. Your work has an interesting approach towards the use of color, to design a series of nine big-box shopping centers across the U.S. or actually Most of approach your projects are completely mute, Your work non-color. has an interesting towards the use of color, These self-referential, concept-driven stores have gained legendadded layer of of color onprojects the façades. What are your orwithout actuallyan non-color. Most your are completely mute, ary status in retail design and typify a rather cheeky, ruin-obsessed without on an how added of color façades. What are your moment in architectural Postmodernism. SITE co-founder James thoughts thelayer non-color of on thethe gypsum comes together with Wines recounts how the unconventional project came to be, as well thoughts on how the non-color the gypsum comes together with Margiela’s idea ofofblank white space? Margiela’s idea of blank white space? as how it foreshadowed today’s retail apocalypse. I was always interested in the color of the material itself. For we interested started looking materials are naturally white, IMargiela, was always in theatcolor of thethat material itself. For You’ve described the BEST stores as “subject matter for art,” rather than conventional architecture. Could you tell us about this like gypsum. we use whiteatinmaterials a way to that alterare a material, we Margiela, we Or started looking naturallyaswhite, like gypsum. Or we use white in a way to alter a material, as we approach, as well how the company agreed to this experimental do with the white stained travertine. We use a classic beige traverstrategy of yours?

James Wines / SITE

Maison Margiela retail identity by Anne Holtrop with John Galliano, 2018. Photography © Studio Anne Holtrop

Studio Anne Holtrop In 2017, 2017, Dutch Dutch architect architect Anne Anne Holtrop Holtrop relocated relocated his his Amsterdam Amsterdam In office to to Bahrain, Bahrain, where where he he continues continues his his process-driven process-driven practice, practice, office spanning exhibitions exhibitions as as well well as as buildings, buildings, working working both both locally locally spanning and internationally. internationally. His His set set for for Maison Maison Margiela’s Margiela’s Fall Fall Winter Winter 2018 2018 and couture show show in in Paris, Paris, as as well well as as aa series series of of shop shop interiors interiors the the couture


RETAIL APOCALYPSE

Installation by Smiljan Radić for Céline fashion show, Paris 2017. Photography courtesy Smiljan Radić

Smiljan Radić Chilean architect architect Smiljan Smiljan Radic’s Radić’s Radic’s eclectic eclectic portfolio portfolio is is distinguished distinguished Chilean by aa fascination fascination with with primordial primordial forms. forms. His His egg-like egg-like Serpentine Serpentine by Gallery Pavilion Pavilion helped helped propel propel him him to to international international repute repute in in 2014, 2014, Gallery and his his more more recent recent retail retail work work is is no no exception: exception: the the massive, massive, and temporary inflatable inflatable set set he he created created to to stage stage Céline’s Céline’s spring/summerSpring spring/summerSummer temporary 2018 show show (Phoebe (Phoebe Philo’s Philo’s last) last) suggested suggested aa womb-like womb-like envelope, envelope, 2018 while the the three three floors floors of of Alexander Alexander McQueen’s McQueen’s London London flagship flagship store store while that Radić Radić designed designed in in 2019 2019 feature feature rocky rocky boulders boulders and and sinuous sinuous that wood sculptures. sculptures. wood You recently recently inaugurated inaugurated the the Alexander Alexander McQueen McQueen flagship flagship store store You in London, London, aa total total environment environment that that includes includes numerous numerous natural natural in rocks, some some with with inlaid, inlaid, fake-fur fake-fur elements. elements. Could Could you you tell tell us us about about rocks, your approach? approach? your In these these types types of of projects, projects, it’s it’s hard hard to to define define elements elements as as “real” “real” or or In “fake.” At At the the Old Old Bond Bond Street Street Store, store, Store,everything everythingis isstaged, staged,and andit’s it’s “fake.” everything is staged, and it’s about inventing inventing aa vocabulary vocabulary that that can can stage stage aa scene scene or or environment environment about in any any part part of of the the world. world. Any Any given given piece piece — — aa stone, stone, aa mannequin, mannequin, in fitting room room — — begins begins to to support support this this when when itit becomes becomes ephemerally ephemerally aa fitting indispensable, like like when when the the supposedly supposedly decorative decorative becomes becomes strucstrucindispensable, tural. In In our our project, project, art, art, architecture, architecture, and and fashion fashion design design occupy occupy the the tural. same hybrid hybrid space, space, aa type type of of “domestic “domestic labyrinth” labyrinth” which, which, through through same the installation installation of of aa series series of of objects objects within within the the space, space, seems seems put put the together in in aa confusing confusing manner. manner. We We left left the the walls walls and and the the floor floor together space open open to to provide provide aa certain certain spatial spatial freedom, freedom, so so that that each each place place space could be be configured configured differently differently according according to to each each site. site. could Throughout Throughout history, history, retailretail spaces spaces havehave offered offered an opportunity opportunity an opportunity for Throughout history, retail spaces have offered an for architectural for architectural novelty novelty — there there — there areare so many so many many examples, examples, from from those those architectural novelty — are so examples, from those discussed in Frederick Frederick Kiesler’s 1930 book Contemporary ArtArt discussed in Kiesler’s 1930 book Contemporary Art discussed in Frederick Kiesler’s 1930 book Contemporary Applied Appliedto totothe the theStore Store Storeand and andits itsitsDisplay Display Displayto totoHerzog Herzog Herzog& &&de dede Meuron’s Meuron’s 2003 2003 Applied Meuron’s 2003 Prada store store Pradain instore Tokyo. in Tokyo. But what what Butabout about what today? about today?today? What are are What your are Prada Tokyo. But What your thoughts on the current current state of retail retail architecture? thoughts the state of architecture? youron thoughts on the current state of retail architecture? don’t really really have have aa global global opinion opinion on on the the subject. subject. II don’t don’t really really know know II don’t Iofdon’t many really examples know of and many I’m only only examples interested and in in I’mthis this only topic interested as aa case case in of many examples and I’m interested topic as in point, point, not ascase specialty. What can say is is that that retail spaces are in as aa specialty. say retail spaces this topicnot as a in point,What not asII acan specialty. What I can say is are that generally non-spaces with established established codes, regardlesscodes, of the the generally non-spaces with regardless of retail spaces are generally non-spacescodes, with established regardless architect. The The of the layout architect. and the the The way layout in which which and the products way inare are which displayed products architect. layout and way in products displayed are more displayed more or or less less arethe the more same, or less andthe thesame, only thing thing andthat that the uncomfortably only uncomfortably thing that are same, and the only uncomfortably changes from from one one changes year to to from theone nextyear are to thethe materials. next are the materials. changes year the next are the materials. You created created an an inflatable inflatable set set for for Phoebe Phoebe Philo’s Philo’s last last Céline Céline show, show, You an enormous enormous textile textile blob blob that that was was blown blown up up for for the the duration duration of of the the an runway show. show. Could Could you you tell tell us us about about this this project? project? runway 86

The show lasted eight minutes and was held inside some tennis The show show lasted eight minutes minutes and was held insidethat some tennis The lasted eight and held inside some courts on the outskirts of Paris — a was hostile interior wetennis needed courts ondisappear. the outskirts outskirts of Paris Paris — hostile interior that we needed needed courts on the of aa hostile interior that we to make Because of — this, temporarily and quickly inflat­ to make make disappear. Because of this, this, temporarily temporarily and quickly inflat­ to disappear. Because of and quickly inflat­ ing a space as if it were a performance piece from the 60s seemed ing aaaspace space as ifif itit were were performance piece from from the 60s seemed seemed ing as performance piece 60s like good strategy. Weaadecided on a simple giantthe parachutelike aa good goodAs strategy. We decided on aa simple simple giant parachutelike strategy. on giant parachutenylon bag. it filled We withdecided air and reached its full size, it allowed the nylon bag. bag.structure As itit filled filled with air and reached its full full size,which allowed the nylon As reached its size, itit allowed the building’s to with moldair to and it. The fabric we chose, looked like building’s a thickstructure structure silk, gave tothe mold whole to it. it.thing The fabric fabric a sensual, we chose, chose, textured which appearance. looked building’s to mold to The we which looked likethat thick silk, gave gavelight the whole whole thing sensual, textured appearance. like aa thick silk, the thing aa sensual, textured appearance. In slow-moving bag, 900 people enjoyed an elegant and friendly In that that slow-moving slow-moving show. light bag, bag, 900 900 people people enjoyed enjoyed an an elegant elegant and and In light friendly show. show. friendly You collect drawings, books, and posters by radical designers. You collect collect drawings, books, andyou, posters by radical radical designers. You drawings, books, posters by What are some projects that, and for are relevant todesigners. the history What are are some some projects projects that,architecture? for you, you, are are relevant relevant to to the the history history What that, for of retail of retail retail architecture? architecture? of I think that the ephemeral aspect of this type of architecture can I think think that the ephemeral ephemeral aspect of this this obsolete, type of of architecture architecture can Ibe that the aspect of type really useful. Retail spaces become with luck, can in be really really useful. Retail spaces become obsolete, with luck, minds. in be useful. spaces become luck, in eight to ten years,Retail and they mostly ceaseobsolete, to exist inwith people’s Architecture eight to to ten ten years, years, deemed andradical they mostly mostly in thecease cease 60s could to exist exist be in useful, in people’s people’s formally minds. eight and they to minds. speaking, Architecture butdeemed deemed those movements radical in in the the had 60s a political could be becontext useful,that formally cannot Architecture radical 60s could useful, formally speaking, but those those movements had aatopolitical political context that cannot speaking, but had be overlooked. Manymovements of them sought abolishcontext objectsthat andcannot be overlooked. overlooked.This Many of them them sought to to abolish abolish objects and be Many of sought objects and consumerism. would completely alienate our retail projects. consumerism. This This would would completely completely alienate alienate our our retail retail projects. projects. consumerism. Retail seems to be in a global crisis, but it persists as an important Retail seems to be be in in a a global global crisis, butthat persists as an is important Retail to crisis, but itit persists an important realmseems for architects. One could argue a retail as store a kind realm for architects. architects. One could could argue that retail store is aa kind kind for One argue ofrealm ruin from the beginning. Do you thinkthat thisaaisretail part store of its is attraction of ruin ruin from from the the beginning. beginning.for Doarchitects? you think think this this is is part part of of its its attraction attraction of Do you for architects? architects? for In my country every project has this condition of non-permanence In my my countryruin. everyFor project has this condition of non-permanence non-permanence In country every project this of or premature us, ithas is not a condition foreign concept — on the or premature premature ruin. Forpremise. us, itit is is not not a foreign foreign concept — — onEuropean the or ruin. For us, on the contrary, it’s the initial So a when we concept approach the market, contrary,we it’sare thestrangely initial premise. premise. obligated So when when to think weabout approach permanence the European European or, contrary, it’s the initial So we approach the in market, a similar we vein, are strangely strangely the largeobligated obligated quantitiesto toofthink think energy about deployed permanence to produce or, market, we are about permanence or, in aa similar similar vein, vein, the large quantities of energy energy deployed to produce in the large quantities of deployed produce something. I think the degrees of instability in our planetto should something. think the degrees of instability instability in our ouronplanet planet should something. II think degrees of in should make us rethink thethe initial architectural conditions a case-by-case basis. make us us Butrethink rethink I also the the think initial thatarchitectural architectural architectureconditions conditions will become onmore case-by-case rigid, make initial on aa case-by-case seeking basis. But But construction also think thinkthat thatwill architecture survive everything. will become become more more rigid, rigid, basis. II also that architecture will seeking construction construction that that will will survive survive everything. everything. seeking

PANORAMA do with the white stained travertine. We use a classic beige traverstoried fashion house commissioned him to design, feature textilemoldedfashion gypsumhouse casts,commissioned a visual element parallelsfeature creative storied himthat to design, textiletine for the floors and furniture in the stores. Normally the pores director gypsum John Galliano’s of garments. molded casts, alayering visual element that parallels creative in the stone are filled with an epoxy resin that’s color-matched with director John Galliano’s layering of garments. the stone. But we use a plain white epoxy that enhances by contrast the porosity of the stone. You just worked on a new architectural identity for Maison Margiela’s flagship stores. all fashion brands, Margiela is probably the You just worked onOf a new architectural identity for Maison Margiela’s biggest challenge to all rethink where its architectural flagship stores. Of fashion brands, Margiela is environment probably the is Margiela is a radical example of a fashion company that breaks concerned — their completely white phantom-likeenvironment interiors are is biggest challenge to rethink where its architectural with norms of beauty and seduction. What is your relation to the notion of beauty in architecture? soconcerned consistent— and iconic in fashion history. How did you approach their completely white phantom-like interiors are commission? so consistent and iconicthis in fashion history. How did you approach this commission? I prefer to work in a way where I don’t define the outcome of a work. When we were contacted in 2018 by Margiela through Dennis Instead I define a process of making that leaves the outcome Freedman, Johncontacted Galliano was already creative through director Dennis of the When we were in 2018 by Margiela unpredicted. When I visit a construction site, I see things that surprise house. Galliano defined the sevencreative codes ofdirector MaisonofMargiela, Freedman, Johnhad Galliano was already the me in their combination and expression. Some things can appear house. Galliano hadand defined the seven of Maison ugly or strange, since I haven’t seen anything like them before. based on its history Galliano’s own codes perspectives. TheMargiela, codes based its historyofand ownrefers perspectives. The codes Over time they grow on me and become very beautiful. Beauty is includeon “anonymity theGalliano’s lining,” which to the concept of taking a strange thing. include “anonymity of the refers to the concept of taking the lining and making it alining,” visiblewhich element of the design; or the the lining andwhich making it aname visiblegiven element ofprocess the design; or thea gar-­ “décortiqué,” is the to the of taking “décortiqué,” is the name given to that the process of taking a gar-­ ment down towhich a skeleton or cage — all remain are the core ment down towhich a skeleton cage — all that what remain theonce corewas. components enableoryou to recognize theare item components whichcodes enabletoyou to recognize what like the item We related these gestures of making, to cutonce or towas. cast,related which these we applied a like newtoarchitectural We codestotomaterials gesturesto ofdesign making, cut or to language forwe Margiela. John Galliano, weawere thus able cast, which applied Like to materials to design new architectural language for Margiela. John Galliano, we were ableon to free ourselves from aLike defined outcome of the work, thus to focus to free ourselves a defined the invent work, tothe focus on a specific way of from making. In thatoutcome way we of could archi­ a specific way of making. In again that way could invent theoutcome, archi­ tectural spaces from scratch withwe a completely new tectural spacestrue from again withhouse. a completely new outcome, while staying to scratch the codes of the while staying true to the codes of the house. Your gypsum walls are very close to your studio’s program — the Your gypsum close to yourAt studio’s program — the interest in thewalls castare as avery design method. the same time these interest seem in the very cast close as a design At the same time these elements to Johnmethod. Galliano’s haute couture, which is elements seem very closeoftogarments John Galliano’s couture, which is about numerous layers creatinghaute expressive volumes about numerous How layerswould of garments creating expressive and silhouettes. you describe this dialogue volumes between Galliano’s How visionwould of Margiela and your and silhouettes. you describe thisarchitecture? dialogue between Galliano’s vision of Margiela and your architecture? Among the new core elements are gypsum elements cast in textile formwork. the elements flexibility of the textile, elements the casting process Among theDue newtocore are gypsum cast in textile formwork. to theform flexibility of theAfter textile, the casting produces aDue different each time. removal of the process textile form-­ produces different formtextile each remains time. After removal of the textileofform-­ work, the aimprint of the visible on the surface the walls columns, with the pleatsonofthe thesurface textile and work, the and imprint of the together textile remains visible of volume the columns, gypsum that pushed walls the wallsofand together withthe theformwork pleats ofout. the The textile andand columnsofare inside out. We the lookformwork at the lining, the interior volume theturned gypsum that pushed out. The walls and of the wall. see the memory of the wasthe once there. columns areWe turned inside out. We looktextile at thethat lining, interior The in this way are typical architectural of thewalls wall.and Wecolumns see the made memory of the textile that was once there. elements. Theycolumns are the made primary definers. The architectural material color The walls and in space this way are typical of the gypsum a natural white,space a rooted realityThe in the historycolor of elements. Theyisare the primary definers. material Maison Margiela. of the gypsum is a natural white, a rooted reality in the history of Maison Margiela. Months after we’d shown John Galliano the models of gypsum BEST Product Company, Inc. big-box stores by SITE, United States 1975–84. casts, his mood boards forJohn the new artisanal collection Fall Months after we’d shown Galliano the models offor gypsum Photography © SITE Winterhis 2018 hadboards photosfor of the new castsartisanal next to photos of nomads casts, mood collection for Fall and he explained thatphotos the gypsum thinkof ofnomads nomads,and Winter 2018 had of thecasts castsmade next tohim photos who wear all layers clothes casts on topmade of each casts had he explained that theofgypsum himother. thinkThe of nomads, become for his work, he commissioned us to who wearanallinspiration layers of clothes on topand of each other. The casts had make thean runway showfor with firstand gypsum casts. become inspiration histhe work, he commissioned us to In 1972, New York City-based architecture and environmental arts make the runway show with the first gypsum casts. studio SITE was commissioned by BEST Products Company, Inc. Your work has an interesting approach towards the use of color, to design a series of nine big-box shopping centers across the U.S. or actually Most of approach your projects are completely mute, Your work non-color. has an interesting towards the use of color, These self-referential, concept-driven stores have gained legendadded layer of of color onprojects the façades. What are your orwithout actuallyan non-color. Most your are completely mute, ary status in retail design and typify a rather cheeky, ruin-obsessed without on an how added of color façades. What are your moment in architectural Postmodernism. SITE co-founder James thoughts thelayer non-color of on thethe gypsum comes together with Wines recounts how the unconventional project came to be, as well thoughts on how the non-color the gypsum comes together with Margiela’s idea ofofblank white space? Margiela’s idea of blank white space? as how it foreshadowed today’s retail apocalypse. I was always interested in the color of the material itself. For we interested started looking materials are naturally white, IMargiela, was always in theatcolor of thethat material itself. For You’ve described the BEST stores as “subject matter for art,” rather than conventional architecture. Could you tell us about this like gypsum. we use whiteatinmaterials a way to that alterare a material, we Margiela, we Or started looking naturallyaswhite, like gypsum. Or we use white in a way to alter a material, as we approach, as well how the company agreed to this experimental do with the white stained travertine. We use a classic beige traverstrategy of yours?

James Wines / SITE

Maison Margiela retail identity by Anne Holtrop with John Galliano, 2018. Photography © Studio Anne Holtrop

Studio Anne Holtrop In 2017, 2017, Dutch Dutch architect architect Anne Anne Holtrop Holtrop relocated relocated his his Amsterdam Amsterdam In office to to Bahrain, Bahrain, where where he he continues continues his his process-driven process-driven practice, practice, office spanning exhibitions exhibitions as as well well as as buildings, buildings, working working both both locally locally spanning and internationally. internationally. His His set set for for Maison Maison Margiela’s Margiela’s Fall Fall Winter Winter 2018 2018 and couture show show in in Paris, Paris, as as well well as as aa series series of of shop shop interiors interiors the the couture


RETAIL APOCALYPSE

PANORAMA

It was a huge advantage that the clients, Sydney and Frances Lewis, were major art collectors and really understood art. It wasn’t a battle, although many couldn’t understand how they ever agreed to construct buildings that were basically critical overviews of this whole idea of the big-box shopping center. At that time, there were already big-box shopping malls, usually located along highways, which we treated as found objects or as existing situations just waiting for assault. People accepted the always-same signature of this architecture, its services and its work. Therefore, we found it interesting to invert this meaning, to play with it by including both the environment and the audience as a physical part of the space. We wanted to turn the stores into highway art, because we have always said that it gives us the biggest pleasure to place art where you least expect it. In the early 1970s, at the end of the Pop Art movement, I was part of extremely fruitful dialogues within environmental art in the USA. In my opinion, this was the first time that artists really dealt with architectural issues. My long residency in Italy was also very productive, as I was in exchange with the radical architects of the Milanese and Florentine design movement, who completely merged art and architecture. In New York, unlike in Italy, there were thousands of of building building façades façadesand andstreets streetsininpublic publicspace space with which about whichone onewould wouldnever never have have aa dialogue: dialogue: there there was was nothing nothing to think about, nothing to talk about. I considered it my mission to see what can be done to make the environment more partici-­ patory and to help people think differently. We like to call these participatory invitations trigger mechanisms or trigger items. Looking back on this project now, it seems as if you foresaw today’s retail apocalypse. What are your thoughts on the current state of brick-and-mortar retail? In a peculiar way, the many writers who criticized and ridiculed this type of building also anticipated the fact that computers were going to take over the retail trade and wipe it out almost completely. But the funny thing is that retail is coming back again as a physical experience: now they are building all kinds of shopping malls as an attempt to make the stores more interesting and appealing to get people in the door. In fact, there are now philosophers of retail who say that the retail space is a place where people experience the product. Getting people to experience and participate was also an essential part of what got SITE going originally. SITE’s practice achieves very powerful images without using complicated designs, materials, or construction methods. You’ve said that architecture today is “universally committed to sculptural excess,” but in most cases critical content is lacking. How would you define a form of architecture that has a critical concern for today’s context? The element of our extensive work that we are most concerned with is the relation of architecture to the natural environment. I am increasingly interested in how the visibility of architecture merges with the environment to such an extent that you can’t even see it. Or architecture becomes so much a part of its context that it seems as if it has always been there. I’ve always admired the economy of means, to do something in the simplest way. Building human habitat consumes more energy and resources than anything else. There is no other profession that damages the environment as radically as buildings. Ironically, this is happening again today because many architects prefer sculptural forms, but they cost more and are more anti-ecological. If it is a house, just make it a house. If you don’t make it a house, I think it’s an exaggerated design — it’s too much effort and doesn’t invite dialogue. What is relevant, then? It’s the environment. That’s what has always driven SITE because we’ve consistently tried to extract the meaning, content, or ideas from the existing situation. 88

You ended up collaborating on these stores for a decade, and your collaboration also spilled over into your own art. Your 2007 show Expodrome at the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris included collaborations with Nicolas, right? Yes. It was great to develop La Jetée and Solarium with Nicolas for Expodrome. We’d always wanted to do a film together. Perhaps the ability to move between distinct cultural spheres opens up opportunities for artists to make a living from whatever skills they might have developed through their art. As an artist, letting oneself be absorbed into other economies might paradoxically be a strategy to stay part of an art world that is less commercially viable.

Balenciaga Chelsea location by Poste 9, New York City 2009. Photography courtesy Grégoire Vieille and Poste 9

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has focused her career on interiors and installations, though she’s avoided being categorized as a designer or architect. In 2000, Gonzalez-Foerster joined forces with the architect and designer Martial Vieille and the lighting designer Benoit Lalloz to form the multidisciplinary studio Poste 9, which, over the decade 2002–12, redesigned nearly all the Balenciaga stores worldwide under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquière. Poste 9 reinterpreted each boutique with features reflecting local contexts and histories, drawing on Gonzalez-Foerster’s background in film and scenography. (Interview by Philip Pilekjær.)

Yes. It can be an interesting choice, but only if the company is ready to take some risks and experiment, and if the designer is brave enough to support a completely new way, which is not always the case. Your work on these stores took place under the banner of Poste 9, a collaboration between Martial Vieille, Benoit Lalloz, and yourself. How do you see the role of Poste 9 within your artistic practice? Poste 9 has been a brilliant collaborative and practical tool. Architecture and larger productions require different settings and frames. But Poste 9 is also a place on the beach in Ipanema — very important!

How did this project come about, and what was your motivation as an artist to take on the task of designing a line of retail stores?

At the time, lots of stores had a white-cube or gallery look. I thought we should go another way and develop landscapes and more immersive spaces. Did it feel like a job? It felt like a great experience, like developing videos and stage design for French singers Christophe and Alain Bashung, or like making short films that were shown in Cannes. It felt like going beyond galleries and museums, which is what I wanted at that time. All the stores are designed for their specific milieu, so there’s no uniform identity, which undermines the idea of trademarks that is usually at the core of creating fashion stores. Did you deliberately disregard these conventions? Absolutely. That was a choice from the beginning, as a fertile reaction, and the language was developed and complexities added in different steps over ten years and for about 120 spaces.

The format of a showroom seems to be important to your practice. It’s more than a platform to present and sell your collections — you also use showrooms to create exhibitions where you invite artists and architects to contribute works. These “exhibitions” are really different from common retail scenography. Showrooms should be a fundamental extension of the brand. I’ve spent 12 years in showrooms and failed to be moved by one. Don’t be mistaken, the relationships I’ve established with designers and agents are crucial, but the spaces themselves have only ever manifested as a cell to simply house collections and generate capital. Other brands seem to assign their focus to in-store installations, but ultimately you need to garner the support of the buyer, and if they connect with what you’re doing, they’ll continue to champion you. I felt like the onus was on me to disrupt the format and, fortunately, the violent undercurrent we built within GR10K made that possible. I still stand by the fact that every decision is based on a sudden and curt gut instinct and emotion. I can’t really conjure the feeling I get from releasing a smut CD-R with a Swiss artist I revere or collaborating with an ex-Raf Simons muse who just gets what you’re doing. It’s raw, undiluted energy, and engaging with these artistic producers is what keeps propelling this project forward. The second I lose I that, I’ll be out. Retail space aspires to luxury and thus a sense of comfort. As you say, there’s a violent undercurrent to GR10K: its aesthetics and visual language are very harsh, sometimes even militaristic. Is this intended as an attack on the notion of comfort?

It was a proposal by [graphic design studio] M/M (Paris), and, since I was very much into architecture at the time, it turned into a wonderful experiment. Alongside this, I liked Nicolas Ghesquière’s clothing very much, but also his method, ways, and inspirations. It was not so much about retail in my mind, more about learning and collaboration. He could have been a musician or a writer. How did you translate the skills from your art practice into this other field of work?

The main struggle is how to operate around “hyper management.” They’re sullied, programmed entities in the form of overstretched buying directors, sexually frustrated boutique co-owners, taciturn employees. It’s both mental and physical repression. Hijack what you can from the establishment and disappear. I promote modes of deprogramming: the industry is overladen and vapid, and only those with integrity and who opt to combat the current crux will succeed.

GR10K installation Variable Blackout Incursion at Tasoni, Zurich 2020. Photography courtesy gta exhibitions, ETH Zurich

GR10K With her Milan-based label GR10K, Italian designer Anna Grassi upcycles deadstock from Alfredo Grassi SPA, the technicalworkwear manufacturer founded by her grandfather in 1925. The resulting utilitarian garments are pervaded by a sense of late-­ capitalist placelessness and teen ennui. Grassi has experimented with retail design, putting together pop-up GR10K showrooms during the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Paris fashion weeks; in the con­ text of Retail Apocalypse, she has designed a window instal­lation titled Variable Blackout Incursion for the Tasoni boutique in Zürich, where she is flyering the glass with the covers of 1970s noise, punk, and esoteric magazines. In the text announcing your Fall Winter 2020 collection you include the following statement: “Retail spaces and hyper management need to adopt a method of deprogramming instead of programming.” Could you expand on this thought?

Luxury has become standardized; it’s become attainable to the masses. In the process, it gained a control value on how consumers interact and engage with fashion and retail — from price fixing to the desensitization to inflated RRPs [recommended retail prices] and the promotion of hype gear through rational technophilia. It’s all outmoded. I believe the aesthetics and narratives of GR10K provide a solution to the above. We are perpetually trying to rupture the cycle in ways that established brands can’t — offering accessible price points, promoting the annihilation of traditional marketing, and remaining arcane to encourage discovery.

Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen are directors of exhibitions at the Institute of the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). Together they’ve curated numerous international exhibitions on art and architecture including Readymades Belong to Everyone at the Swiss Institute in New York, Trix & Robert Haussmann at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin and the Nottingham Contemporary, and Inside Outside/Petra Blaisse — A Retrospective at Triennale Milano (all 2018). Upcoming projects include Retail Apocalypse at Harvard University GSD, a thematic exhibition in collaboration with Armature globale at Fondazione Prada’s Osservatorio, as well as an exhibition with Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin at the Luma Foundation in Zürich. All interviews were conducted by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen except Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: a version of that interview by Philip Pilekjær originally appeared in Provence Report Fall Winter 2018/19 (republication courtesy of Tobias Kaspar). Additional editing and writing by Akiva Blander.


RETAIL APOCALYPSE

PANORAMA

It was a huge advantage that the clients, Sydney and Frances Lewis, were major art collectors and really understood art. It wasn’t a battle, although many couldn’t understand how they ever agreed to construct buildings that were basically critical overviews of this whole idea of the big-box shopping center. At that time, there were already big-box shopping malls, usually located along highways, which we treated as found objects or as existing situations just waiting for assault. People accepted the always-same signature of this architecture, its services and its work. Therefore, we found it interesting to invert this meaning, to play with it by including both the environment and the audience as a physical part of the space. We wanted to turn the stores into highway art, because we have always said that it gives us the biggest pleasure to place art where you least expect it. In the early 1970s, at the end of the Pop Art movement, I was part of extremely fruitful dialogues within environmental art in the USA. In my opinion, this was the first time that artists really dealt with architectural issues. My long residency in Italy was also very productive, as I was in exchange with the radical architects of the Milanese and Florentine design movement, who completely merged art and architecture. In New York, unlike in Italy, there were thousands of of building building façades façadesand andstreets streetsininpublic publicspace space with which about whichone onewould wouldnever never have have aa dialogue: dialogue: there there was was nothing nothing to think about, nothing to talk about. I considered it my mission to see what can be done to make the environment more partici-­ patory and to help people think differently. We like to call these participatory invitations trigger mechanisms or trigger items. Looking back on this project now, it seems as if you foresaw today’s retail apocalypse. What are your thoughts on the current state of brick-and-mortar retail? In a peculiar way, the many writers who criticized and ridiculed this type of building also anticipated the fact that computers were going to take over the retail trade and wipe it out almost completely. But the funny thing is that retail is coming back again as a physical experience: now they are building all kinds of shopping malls as an attempt to make the stores more interesting and appealing to get people in the door. In fact, there are now philosophers of retail who say that the retail space is a place where people experience the product. Getting people to experience and participate was also an essential part of what got SITE going originally. SITE’s practice achieves very powerful images without using complicated designs, materials, or construction methods. You’ve said that architecture today is “universally committed to sculptural excess,” but in most cases critical content is lacking. How would you define a form of architecture that has a critical concern for today’s context? The element of our extensive work that we are most concerned with is the relation of architecture to the natural environment. I am increasingly interested in how the visibility of architecture merges with the environment to such an extent that you can’t even see it. Or architecture becomes so much a part of its context that it seems as if it has always been there. I’ve always admired the economy of means, to do something in the simplest way. Building human habitat consumes more energy and resources than anything else. There is no other profession that damages the environment as radically as buildings. Ironically, this is happening again today because many architects prefer sculptural forms, but they cost more and are more anti-ecological. If it is a house, just make it a house. If you don’t make it a house, I think it’s an exaggerated design — it’s too much effort and doesn’t invite dialogue. What is relevant, then? It’s the environment. That’s what has always driven SITE because we’ve consistently tried to extract the meaning, content, or ideas from the existing situation. 88

You ended up collaborating on these stores for a decade, and your collaboration also spilled over into your own art. Your 2007 show Expodrome at the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris included collaborations with Nicolas, right? Yes. It was great to develop La Jetée and Solarium with Nicolas for Expodrome. We’d always wanted to do a film together. Perhaps the ability to move between distinct cultural spheres opens up opportunities for artists to make a living from whatever skills they might have developed through their art. As an artist, letting oneself be absorbed into other economies might paradoxically be a strategy to stay part of an art world that is less commercially viable.

Balenciaga Chelsea location by Poste 9, New York City 2009. Photography courtesy Grégoire Vieille and Poste 9

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has focused her career on interiors and installations, though she’s avoided being categorized as a designer or architect. In 2000, Gonzalez-Foerster joined forces with the architect and designer Martial Vieille and the lighting designer Benoit Lalloz to form the multidisciplinary studio Poste 9, which, over the decade 2002–12, redesigned nearly all the Balenciaga stores worldwide under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquière. Poste 9 reinterpreted each boutique with features reflecting local contexts and histories, drawing on Gonzalez-Foerster’s background in film and scenography. (Interview by Philip Pilekjær.)

Yes. It can be an interesting choice, but only if the company is ready to take some risks and experiment, and if the designer is brave enough to support a completely new way, which is not always the case. Your work on these stores took place under the banner of Poste 9, a collaboration between Martial Vieille, Benoit Lalloz, and yourself. How do you see the role of Poste 9 within your artistic practice? Poste 9 has been a brilliant collaborative and practical tool. Architecture and larger productions require different settings and frames. But Poste 9 is also a place on the beach in Ipanema — very important!

How did this project come about, and what was your motivation as an artist to take on the task of designing a line of retail stores?

At the time, lots of stores had a white-cube or gallery look. I thought we should go another way and develop landscapes and more immersive spaces. Did it feel like a job? It felt like a great experience, like developing videos and stage design for French singers Christophe and Alain Bashung, or like making short films that were shown in Cannes. It felt like going beyond galleries and museums, which is what I wanted at that time. All the stores are designed for their specific milieu, so there’s no uniform identity, which undermines the idea of trademarks that is usually at the core of creating fashion stores. Did you deliberately disregard these conventions? Absolutely. That was a choice from the beginning, as a fertile reaction, and the language was developed and complexities added in different steps over ten years and for about 120 spaces.

The format of a showroom seems to be important to your practice. It’s more than a platform to present and sell your collections — you also use showrooms to create exhibitions where you invite artists and architects to contribute works. These “exhibitions” are really different from common retail scenography. Showrooms should be a fundamental extension of the brand. I’ve spent 12 years in showrooms and failed to be moved by one. Don’t be mistaken, the relationships I’ve established with designers and agents are crucial, but the spaces themselves have only ever manifested as a cell to simply house collections and generate capital. Other brands seem to assign their focus to in-store installations, but ultimately you need to garner the support of the buyer, and if they connect with what you’re doing, they’ll continue to champion you. I felt like the onus was on me to disrupt the format and, fortunately, the violent undercurrent we built within GR10K made that possible. I still stand by the fact that every decision is based on a sudden and curt gut instinct and emotion. I can’t really conjure the feeling I get from releasing a smut CD-R with a Swiss artist I revere or collaborating with an ex-Raf Simons muse who just gets what you’re doing. It’s raw, undiluted energy, and engaging with these artistic producers is what keeps propelling this project forward. The second I lose I that, I’ll be out. Retail space aspires to luxury and thus a sense of comfort. As you say, there’s a violent undercurrent to GR10K: its aesthetics and visual language are very harsh, sometimes even militaristic. Is this intended as an attack on the notion of comfort?

It was a proposal by [graphic design studio] M/M (Paris), and, since I was very much into architecture at the time, it turned into a wonderful experiment. Alongside this, I liked Nicolas Ghesquière’s clothing very much, but also his method, ways, and inspirations. It was not so much about retail in my mind, more about learning and collaboration. He could have been a musician or a writer. How did you translate the skills from your art practice into this other field of work?

The main struggle is how to operate around “hyper management.” They’re sullied, programmed entities in the form of overstretched buying directors, sexually frustrated boutique co-owners, taciturn employees. It’s both mental and physical repression. Hijack what you can from the establishment and disappear. I promote modes of deprogramming: the industry is overladen and vapid, and only those with integrity and who opt to combat the current crux will succeed.

GR10K installation Variable Blackout Incursion at Tasoni, Zurich 2020. Photography courtesy gta exhibitions, ETH Zurich

GR10K With her Milan-based label GR10K, Italian designer Anna Grassi upcycles deadstock from Alfredo Grassi SPA, the technicalworkwear manufacturer founded by her grandfather in 1925. The resulting utilitarian garments are pervaded by a sense of late-­ capitalist placelessness and teen ennui. Grassi has experimented with retail design, putting together pop-up GR10K showrooms during the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Paris fashion weeks; in the con­ text of Retail Apocalypse, she has designed a window instal­lation titled Variable Blackout Incursion for the Tasoni boutique in Zürich, where she is flyering the glass with the covers of 1970s noise, punk, and esoteric magazines. In the text announcing your Fall Winter 2020 collection you include the following statement: “Retail spaces and hyper management need to adopt a method of deprogramming instead of programming.” Could you expand on this thought?

Luxury has become standardized; it’s become attainable to the masses. In the process, it gained a control value on how consumers interact and engage with fashion and retail — from price fixing to the desensitization to inflated RRPs [recommended retail prices] and the promotion of hype gear through rational technophilia. It’s all outmoded. I believe the aesthetics and narratives of GR10K provide a solution to the above. We are perpetually trying to rupture the cycle in ways that established brands can’t — offering accessible price points, promoting the annihilation of traditional marketing, and remaining arcane to encourage discovery.

Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen are directors of exhibitions at the Institute of the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). Together they’ve curated numerous international exhibitions on art and architecture including Readymades Belong to Everyone at the Swiss Institute in New York, Trix & Robert Haussmann at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin and the Nottingham Contemporary, and Inside Outside/Petra Blaisse — A Retrospective at Triennale Milano (all 2018). Upcoming projects include Retail Apocalypse at Harvard University GSD, a thematic exhibition in collaboration with Armature globale at Fondazione Prada’s Osservatorio, as well as an exhibition with Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin at the Luma Foundation in Zürich. All interviews were conducted by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen except Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: a version of that interview by Philip Pilekjær originally appeared in Provence Report Fall Winter 2018/19 (republication courtesy of Tobias Kaspar). Additional editing and writing by Akiva Blander.


PANORAMA

LIGHT READING How the silky lampshades of early 20th-century Vienna soften Modernism’s functionalist aesthetic

Illustration by Hugo Gorge from Innen-Dekoration 1925. © Heidelberg University Archives

Wall lamp at Villa La Roche (1923–25) designed by Le Corbusier. Photography c. 1975

By Adrián Prieto 90

Despite what some historians would have you believe, the 20th-century Modern movement was not a uniform style of all-white walls, utilitarianism, and exposed light bulbs. Between 1900 and 1939, the period when Modernism crystallized, a ubiquitous oddity stands out: simple decorative lamps incorporating shades of lustrous silk. Some perceived these lamps — predominant in but not exclusive to Vienna — as old-fashioned and in opposition to Modernism’s avant-garde ideals. But they broke tradition in their own way through their use of plain white silk — no patterns or decoration — which imbued them with sensuality, the fabric gently diffusing the intense light of the bulb so that, instead of harsh illumination and shadows, they gave out a soft, homogeneous glow that went beyond the merely functional to create a mood. As is apparent from German-language publica­tions of the time (for example Innen-Dekoration or Das Interieur, both founded in 1900), the extensive use of silk lamps in Viennese interiors was not uniform, nor did it respond to a clear manifesto or predefined style. Schematically, two main approaches can be identified. On the one hand the fashionable and exquisite style of the Wiener Werkstätte — a cooperative, in operation from 1903 to 1932, that was founded by the designer and painter Koloman Moser, the architect Josef Hoffmann, and the industrialist and arts patron Fritz Wärndorfer — which strove to achieve a Gesamtkunstwerk of everyday objects in the home and produced some of the most stunning silk lamps of the time. The Werkstätte proposed numerous models in their extensive catalogue of household objects, which were also available in their shops, and Hoffmann himself used Werkstätte lamps in many of his interiors, such as the writing room at the Sanatorium Purkersdorf just outside Vienna (1904–05) or the salons of his most ambitious work, the Palais Stoclet in Brussels (1905–11). Then there was the approach adopted, around 1910, by a group of architects of which Josef Frank

(who was also a member of the Wiener Werkstätte), Oskar Strnad, and Hugo Gorge were the most prominent members, and which took to heart some of the ideas put forward by Adolf Loos. Openly opposed to the creative universe of Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte, which he regularly attacked in print, Loos proposed instead a subjective attitude of renewal that defended the autonomy of the inhabitant against the tyranny imposed by styles and ornament, as set forth in his famous 1910 lecture Ornament und Verbrechen (Ornament and Crime). For this group, the silk lamp wasn’t just a stylistic anachronism or a mere fad, but part of a more human-centered approach to Modern design that rejected functionalist ideals in favor of what would come to be called Wiener Wohnkultur (Viennese culture of living). Frank, for example, eschewed the use of tubular-steel furniture, which to him merely represented a modern version of an overly prescriptive bourgeois style. The use of silk lamps and other artisti-­ cally valuable textiles preserved the old ideal of home as a site of enlightenment and refuge, connecting with the pre-industrial world, but without, however, the slightest desire for historicism. Through his writings, designs, and interiors, Frank proposed a methodology based on the essential conditions of living, giving priority to the physical and emotional well-being of the inhabitant. His stance towards modernity could be defined as a domes-­ tic resistance to the radical renewal proposed by those who sought to invent a new Modern style. Similarly, Strnad and Gorge explored the symbolic dimension of these design objects, connecting them to the uncertain and not immediately perceptible emotional world. While this affect-driven perspective helps us understand the particularities of a distinct Viennese sensibility founded on a longstanding sense of tactile pleasure (something that a material like silk amply provides), it also invites us to reconsider these lamps as exemplary of a reaction to a functionalist strand of Modernism that was not, despite the claims made for it by its advocates, inevitable or self-evident. At the dawn of the 20th century, a new attitude towards interior lighting emerged. Whereas, in the 19th century, both electric and oil lamps had been regarded as an integral decorative and expressive part of any interior, lighting was becoming ever more standardized: reduced to mere technical considerations, it came to occupy a paradoxical position between the austerity of social-housing projects and the luxurious salons of the haute bourgeoisie, and as such was a vessel for the inherent contradictions of the period. Most Modern architecture was designed for sunlight — to be lived in (and photographed) by day. But what of the night? Some Modernist masters, such as

Table lamp by Hugo Gorge at the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris. © MAK

Wiener Werkstätte showcase organized by Otto Prutscher in 1920. © MAK


PANORAMA

LIGHT READING How the silky lampshades of early 20th-century Vienna soften Modernism’s functionalist aesthetic

Illustration by Hugo Gorge from Innen-Dekoration 1925. © Heidelberg University Archives

Wall lamp at Villa La Roche (1923–25) designed by Le Corbusier. Photography c. 1975

By Adrián Prieto 90

Despite what some historians would have you believe, the 20th-century Modern movement was not a uniform style of all-white walls, utilitarianism, and exposed light bulbs. Between 1900 and 1939, the period when Modernism crystallized, a ubiquitous oddity stands out: simple decorative lamps incorporating shades of lustrous silk. Some perceived these lamps — predominant in but not exclusive to Vienna — as old-fashioned and in opposition to Modernism’s avant-garde ideals. But they broke tradition in their own way through their use of plain white silk — no patterns or decoration — which imbued them with sensuality, the fabric gently diffusing the intense light of the bulb so that, instead of harsh illumination and shadows, they gave out a soft, homogeneous glow that went beyond the merely functional to create a mood. As is apparent from German-language publica­tions of the time (for example Innen-Dekoration or Das Interieur, both founded in 1900), the extensive use of silk lamps in Viennese interiors was not uniform, nor did it respond to a clear manifesto or predefined style. Schematically, two main approaches can be identified. On the one hand the fashionable and exquisite style of the Wiener Werkstätte — a cooperative, in operation from 1903 to 1932, that was founded by the designer and painter Koloman Moser, the architect Josef Hoffmann, and the industrialist and arts patron Fritz Wärndorfer — which strove to achieve a Gesamtkunstwerk of everyday objects in the home and produced some of the most stunning silk lamps of the time. The Werkstätte proposed numerous models in their extensive catalogue of household objects, which were also available in their shops, and Hoffmann himself used Werkstätte lamps in many of his interiors, such as the writing room at the Sanatorium Purkersdorf just outside Vienna (1904–05) or the salons of his most ambitious work, the Palais Stoclet in Brussels (1905–11). Then there was the approach adopted, around 1910, by a group of architects of which Josef Frank

(who was also a member of the Wiener Werkstätte), Oskar Strnad, and Hugo Gorge were the most prominent members, and which took to heart some of the ideas put forward by Adolf Loos. Openly opposed to the creative universe of Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte, which he regularly attacked in print, Loos proposed instead a subjective attitude of renewal that defended the autonomy of the inhabitant against the tyranny imposed by styles and ornament, as set forth in his famous 1910 lecture Ornament und Verbrechen (Ornament and Crime). For this group, the silk lamp wasn’t just a stylistic anachronism or a mere fad, but part of a more human-centered approach to Modern design that rejected functionalist ideals in favor of what would come to be called Wiener Wohnkultur (Viennese culture of living). Frank, for example, eschewed the use of tubular-steel furniture, which to him merely represented a modern version of an overly prescriptive bourgeois style. The use of silk lamps and other artisti-­ cally valuable textiles preserved the old ideal of home as a site of enlightenment and refuge, connecting with the pre-industrial world, but without, however, the slightest desire for historicism. Through his writings, designs, and interiors, Frank proposed a methodology based on the essential conditions of living, giving priority to the physical and emotional well-being of the inhabitant. His stance towards modernity could be defined as a domes-­ tic resistance to the radical renewal proposed by those who sought to invent a new Modern style. Similarly, Strnad and Gorge explored the symbolic dimension of these design objects, connecting them to the uncertain and not immediately perceptible emotional world. While this affect-driven perspective helps us understand the particularities of a distinct Viennese sensibility founded on a longstanding sense of tactile pleasure (something that a material like silk amply provides), it also invites us to reconsider these lamps as exemplary of a reaction to a functionalist strand of Modernism that was not, despite the claims made for it by its advocates, inevitable or self-evident. At the dawn of the 20th century, a new attitude towards interior lighting emerged. Whereas, in the 19th century, both electric and oil lamps had been regarded as an integral decorative and expressive part of any interior, lighting was becoming ever more standardized: reduced to mere technical considerations, it came to occupy a paradoxical position between the austerity of social-housing projects and the luxurious salons of the haute bourgeoisie, and as such was a vessel for the inherent contradictions of the period. Most Modern architecture was designed for sunlight — to be lived in (and photographed) by day. But what of the night? Some Modernist masters, such as

Table lamp by Hugo Gorge at the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris. © MAK

Wiener Werkstätte showcase organized by Otto Prutscher in 1920. © MAK


LIGHT READING Le Corbusier, tended towards a minimalist approach: his 1925 Villa La Roche in Paris, for example, had very little fixed lighting when first completed. While stumbling through the dark house at night cannot have been an amusing experience for its owner Raoul La Roche, he nonetheless seems to have been remarkably indul­ gent towards the inflexibility of Le Corbusier’s machine à habiter ideal, which presumably, compelled by the rationalist approach, reserved the night for sleeping and little else. But only a decade earlier, in 1912, the same Le Corbusier — then still known as Charles-Édouard Jeanneret — had used silk lamps, wallpaper, and all sorts of textiles for the interior of his first solo building, the Maison Blanche, also known as the Villa Jeanneret-Perret, the house he designed for his parents in his hometown of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The evolution in Le Corbusier’s choice of lighting suggests a move towards the radical and the avant-garde, reinforcing the illusion of a historical rupture with which the Modern movement is assimilated. In contrast, the use of silk lamps in the Viennese context offers an alternative narrative, contradicting an ideology in which comfort and Gemütlichkeit seemed no longer to have any place. In 1907, the artists of the Wiener Werkstätte designed the Cabaret Fledermaus in the heart of Vienna, one of the cooperative’s most famous projects. The cabaret closed in 1913, but among the records that remain of it is a detailed sketch by Le Corbusier, which he drew from memory: in it, and in surviving photographs, we can identify rectangular silver wall and table lamps covered with a fine and almost translucent silk. Just a year later, Loos used a very similar design for the wall lamps at the American Bar in Vienna, and they would become a common sight in many of the city’s apartments and villas. Silk’s lightness and sophisticated appearance belie the simplicity of the objects themselves — generally just a brass foot with a rod of some sort to carry the bulb. But there is something uniquely beautiful in the tension between the cold metal, the warm light, and the fragile fabric. These silk lamps are just one example of the specific way in which the Wiener Werkstätte determined the taste and direction of early Modernism in Austria and beyond, even if its influence on interwar Europe is often overshadowed in historical accounts by the more imposing vision of the Bauhaus and its ilk. What should modern lamps look like? That was the rhetorical question Strnad asked in his famous 1914 lecture, Vom Licht, vom Besteck und Geschirr, von den Stoffen und den Teppichen, also auch vom Ornament (On Light, on Cutlery and Crockery, on Fabrics and Carpets, so also on Ornament). While Strnad failed to offer an answer,

92

many later representative figures of the Modern movement tried. Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, et al. all made attempts to inte-­ grate simple lighting systems into their interiors with varying degrees of success, to a man favoring a decidedly industrial aesthetic. In this context, we can read silk lamps as a subtle rebuke to the fetishization of the Modern lamp as a standardized object, a pushback against the puritanical homogenization of interiors — and by extension their inhabitants — that such an approach implied. While Strnad never specified what a modern lamp should be, his lecture does clarify what it shouldn’t: “Then such atrocities arise, which our industry considers the latest creations in the field of ‘modern,’” he declaimed, railing against the indus-­ trial aesthetic in lighting design. Nor did he fully endorse silk lamps, describing their use as “a feminine gesture.” Though Strnad didn’t employ silk lamps as often as Frank or Gorge, all three shared a similar understanding of textiles as an essential part of a more human, intimate approach to designing interiors of cosmopolitan comfort. Frank, in his 1934 article “Rooms and Furnishings” (originally published as “Rum och inredning” in the Swedish Handicraft Association’s magazine Form), explained his interior design choices — which included, of course, lamps — in terms of their enigmatic quality: Everything that can arouse our interest (and that should be every object in our home, otherwise they do not serve to express a personal relationship and remain dead) must in some way be a mystery to us, must conceal something secretive, that we cannot get to the bottom of. Every work of art is puzzle. This can only apply to a useful object because of its shape, the technique used to make it, its construction, ornamentation, or origin, as it is the product of a process of thought that is for us unfamiliar and unfathomable. That is why we have a particular fondness for strange objects. Gorge went furthest in exploring the metaphysical qualities of silk lamps, studying their symbolic implications and enigmatic effects. Sometimes they are subtly incorporated into the composition of the room, at others they forcefully stand out, flaunting their graceful and decorative attitude. In many cases, their small proportions reinforce their other­ worldly appearance, such as Gorge’s 1924 nightstand lamp that mimics the form and mobility of handheld candelabra and oil lamps, gesturing towards a more inclusive, human­ istic Modernism that doesn’t sacrifice warmth or comfort — a celebration of the objet-sentiment (sentiment object) that Le Corbusier would come to deride (and to which he preferred the objet-outil (tool object)). As historian

PANORAMA Christopher Long put it, when analyzing Frank’s ideas, “A reading lamp for a home not only illuminates, but through its design, material, and construction also brings joy and solace,” unlike the industrial workplace lamp, which was merely required to provide sufficient light for the task at hand. In its day, the silk-lamp typology raised more questions than it provided answers, yet through its con­ tradiction it continues to elucidate specific conditions of Modern architecture and design history. Transcending mere technical function, the Viennese silk lamp, through its enigmatic and expressive grace, challenges the dominant narrative of austerity that historians generally ascribe to the period. The fact that fabric lampshades are ubiquitous today reminds us of the timeless properties of flexible textiles. With its uniquely playful character and lustrous texture, silk successfully served to materialize the formal and expressive fantasies of the Wiener Werkstätte, while at the same time helping Frank, Gorge, and Strnad formulate a distinctly moderate reaction to the needs of their time and assert their rejection of the industrial aesthetic. It can also be read as demonstrative of their desire to ensure that fragile connection with one’s own home that Henri Focillon so deftly encapsulated in his poetic text Éloge des lampes (In Praise of Lamps, first published posthumously in 1945): “Le soleil est un chef-d’œuvre public. Ma lampe, ce trésor, n’appartient qu’a moi” (“The sun is a public masterpiece. My lamp, this little treasure, belongs only to me”). It is in the solitude of the night that these creations unveil their true magic, demonstrating silk’s ability to render harsh electric light naturalistic, as well its power to conjure up the mysterious and the unknown.

Adrián Prieto is an architectural historian, writer, and creator based in Vienna. He is currently working on a PhD exploring the cross-cultural relationships within Modern architecture and design.

Brass and silk lamp designed by Josef Frank, manufactured by the Wiener Werkstätte 1919. © MAK/Georg Mayer

Silk lamp on chest of drawers based on a design by Hugo Gorge, 1921. © MAK


LIGHT READING Le Corbusier, tended towards a minimalist approach: his 1925 Villa La Roche in Paris, for example, had very little fixed lighting when first completed. While stumbling through the dark house at night cannot have been an amusing experience for its owner Raoul La Roche, he nonetheless seems to have been remarkably indul­ gent towards the inflexibility of Le Corbusier’s machine à habiter ideal, which presumably, compelled by the rationalist approach, reserved the night for sleeping and little else. But only a decade earlier, in 1912, the same Le Corbusier — then still known as Charles-Édouard Jeanneret — had used silk lamps, wallpaper, and all sorts of textiles for the interior of his first solo building, the Maison Blanche, also known as the Villa Jeanneret-Perret, the house he designed for his parents in his hometown of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The evolution in Le Corbusier’s choice of lighting suggests a move towards the radical and the avant-garde, reinforcing the illusion of a historical rupture with which the Modern movement is assimilated. In contrast, the use of silk lamps in the Viennese context offers an alternative narrative, contradicting an ideology in which comfort and Gemütlichkeit seemed no longer to have any place. In 1907, the artists of the Wiener Werkstätte designed the Cabaret Fledermaus in the heart of Vienna, one of the cooperative’s most famous projects. The cabaret closed in 1913, but among the records that remain of it is a detailed sketch by Le Corbusier, which he drew from memory: in it, and in surviving photographs, we can identify rectangular silver wall and table lamps covered with a fine and almost translucent silk. Just a year later, Loos used a very similar design for the wall lamps at the American Bar in Vienna, and they would become a common sight in many of the city’s apartments and villas. Silk’s lightness and sophisticated appearance belie the simplicity of the objects themselves — generally just a brass foot with a rod of some sort to carry the bulb. But there is something uniquely beautiful in the tension between the cold metal, the warm light, and the fragile fabric. These silk lamps are just one example of the specific way in which the Wiener Werkstätte determined the taste and direction of early Modernism in Austria and beyond, even if its influence on interwar Europe is often overshadowed in historical accounts by the more imposing vision of the Bauhaus and its ilk. What should modern lamps look like? That was the rhetorical question Strnad asked in his famous 1914 lecture, Vom Licht, vom Besteck und Geschirr, von den Stoffen und den Teppichen, also auch vom Ornament (On Light, on Cutlery and Crockery, on Fabrics and Carpets, so also on Ornament). While Strnad failed to offer an answer,

92

many later representative figures of the Modern movement tried. Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, et al. all made attempts to inte-­ grate simple lighting systems into their interiors with varying degrees of success, to a man favoring a decidedly industrial aesthetic. In this context, we can read silk lamps as a subtle rebuke to the fetishization of the Modern lamp as a standardized object, a pushback against the puritanical homogenization of interiors — and by extension their inhabitants — that such an approach implied. While Strnad never specified what a modern lamp should be, his lecture does clarify what it shouldn’t: “Then such atrocities arise, which our industry considers the latest creations in the field of ‘modern,’” he declaimed, railing against the indus-­ trial aesthetic in lighting design. Nor did he fully endorse silk lamps, describing their use as “a feminine gesture.” Though Strnad didn’t employ silk lamps as often as Frank or Gorge, all three shared a similar understanding of textiles as an essential part of a more human, intimate approach to designing interiors of cosmopolitan comfort. Frank, in his 1934 article “Rooms and Furnishings” (originally published as “Rum och inredning” in the Swedish Handicraft Association’s magazine Form), explained his interior design choices — which included, of course, lamps — in terms of their enigmatic quality: Everything that can arouse our interest (and that should be every object in our home, otherwise they do not serve to express a personal relationship and remain dead) must in some way be a mystery to us, must conceal something secretive, that we cannot get to the bottom of. Every work of art is puzzle. This can only apply to a useful object because of its shape, the technique used to make it, its construction, ornamentation, or origin, as it is the product of a process of thought that is for us unfamiliar and unfathomable. That is why we have a particular fondness for strange objects. Gorge went furthest in exploring the metaphysical qualities of silk lamps, studying their symbolic implications and enigmatic effects. Sometimes they are subtly incorporated into the composition of the room, at others they forcefully stand out, flaunting their graceful and decorative attitude. In many cases, their small proportions reinforce their other­ worldly appearance, such as Gorge’s 1924 nightstand lamp that mimics the form and mobility of handheld candelabra and oil lamps, gesturing towards a more inclusive, human­ istic Modernism that doesn’t sacrifice warmth or comfort — a celebration of the objet-sentiment (sentiment object) that Le Corbusier would come to deride (and to which he preferred the objet-outil (tool object)). As historian

PANORAMA Christopher Long put it, when analyzing Frank’s ideas, “A reading lamp for a home not only illuminates, but through its design, material, and construction also brings joy and solace,” unlike the industrial workplace lamp, which was merely required to provide sufficient light for the task at hand. In its day, the silk-lamp typology raised more questions than it provided answers, yet through its con­ tradiction it continues to elucidate specific conditions of Modern architecture and design history. Transcending mere technical function, the Viennese silk lamp, through its enigmatic and expressive grace, challenges the dominant narrative of austerity that historians generally ascribe to the period. The fact that fabric lampshades are ubiquitous today reminds us of the timeless properties of flexible textiles. With its uniquely playful character and lustrous texture, silk successfully served to materialize the formal and expressive fantasies of the Wiener Werkstätte, while at the same time helping Frank, Gorge, and Strnad formulate a distinctly moderate reaction to the needs of their time and assert their rejection of the industrial aesthetic. It can also be read as demonstrative of their desire to ensure that fragile connection with one’s own home that Henri Focillon so deftly encapsulated in his poetic text Éloge des lampes (In Praise of Lamps, first published posthumously in 1945): “Le soleil est un chef-d’œuvre public. Ma lampe, ce trésor, n’appartient qu’a moi” (“The sun is a public masterpiece. My lamp, this little treasure, belongs only to me”). It is in the solitude of the night that these creations unveil their true magic, demonstrating silk’s ability to render harsh electric light naturalistic, as well its power to conjure up the mysterious and the unknown.

Adrián Prieto is an architectural historian, writer, and creator based in Vienna. He is currently working on a PhD exploring the cross-cultural relationships within Modern architecture and design.

Brass and silk lamp designed by Josef Frank, manufactured by the Wiener Werkstätte 1919. © MAK/Georg Mayer

Silk lamp on chest of drawers based on a design by Hugo Gorge, 1921. © MAK


PORTFOLIO

MONDO MARI

BY ADAM CHARLAP HYMAN

He may not be a household name, but mention Enzo Mari to any respectable living designer and their eyes are cer­ tain to light up in reverence. Born in 1932 in Novara, in the north of Italy, the artist and industrial designer spent a life­ time crafting seemingly perfect imperfect objects, from chairs and tables to vases, trays, and children’s toys. He also imbued his oeuvre with a rare sense of both play and — as a life-long committed communist — political urgency and social responsibility. A wide selection of his work has been chosen by Hans Ulrich Obrist for a forthcoming Enzo Mari retrospective at Milan’s Triennale. PIN–UP asked one of the maestro’s greatest admirers, New York-based designer Adam Charlap Hyman, to select a few of his favorites from among Mari’s myriad designs. Giglio letter opener for Danese, 1985. “This is a very powerful object, elegant and danger­ ous. Formally it suggests a cut and curling strip of paper — one is not sure where the blade ends and the handle begins.”

Ambo nesting coffee tables for Zanotta, 1987. “I find these tables very poetic. The legs present the glass as if they were mirages or floating puddles of water. The juncture between the metal legs and the glass is disturbingly — magically — brutal.”

Bambù vases for Danese, 1968–69. “These vases are cast from industrial pipes, though they also look like Classical columns. It is a strange inversion of the idea of containment, since a pipe is meant to transfer water. When filled, they become columns of water — a liquid structure.”

Madera ice bucket for Danese, 1973. “The most elemental shapes come together to make this pure object: exactly all that it needs to be, with no taper, no excess, just geometry.”

Balencia calendar for Danese, 1959. “To set this calendar, one moves the month and day bands into place and then adjusts the counterweight to maintain a horizontal balance. That this object requires the user to be patient and focused on the simple act of setting the date and balancing all the elements each and every morning is a powerful demonstration of the material world’s agency over time, routine, and daily life.”

Putrella tray for Danese, 1958. “This object has an almost mystical gravitas. It is a section of I-beam that has been bent. The warpage destroys the beam’s integrity; Mari then removed the heart of the dysfunction, the core of the bend, rendering it useful only for containing spare change or fruit. He takes the ultimate symbol of the progress of our civilization — the I-beam — and destroys it, cuts it apart, and, perversely, recasts it as frivolity.” 94


PORTFOLIO

MONDO MARI

BY ADAM CHARLAP HYMAN

He may not be a household name, but mention Enzo Mari to any respectable living designer and their eyes are cer­ tain to light up in reverence. Born in 1932 in Novara, in the north of Italy, the artist and industrial designer spent a life­ time crafting seemingly perfect imperfect objects, from chairs and tables to vases, trays, and children’s toys. He also imbued his oeuvre with a rare sense of both play and — as a life-long committed communist — political urgency and social responsibility. A wide selection of his work has been chosen by Hans Ulrich Obrist for a forthcoming Enzo Mari retrospective at Milan’s Triennale. PIN–UP asked one of the maestro’s greatest admirers, New York-based designer Adam Charlap Hyman, to select a few of his favorites from among Mari’s myriad designs. Giglio letter opener for Danese, 1985. “This is a very powerful object, elegant and danger­ ous. Formally it suggests a cut and curling strip of paper — one is not sure where the blade ends and the handle begins.”

Ambo nesting coffee tables for Zanotta, 1987. “I find these tables very poetic. The legs present the glass as if they were mirages or floating puddles of water. The juncture between the metal legs and the glass is disturbingly — magically — brutal.”

Bambù vases for Danese, 1968–69. “These vases are cast from industrial pipes, though they also look like Classical columns. It is a strange inversion of the idea of containment, since a pipe is meant to transfer water. When filled, they become columns of water — a liquid structure.”

Madera ice bucket for Danese, 1973. “The most elemental shapes come together to make this pure object: exactly all that it needs to be, with no taper, no excess, just geometry.”

Balencia calendar for Danese, 1959. “To set this calendar, one moves the month and day bands into place and then adjusts the counterweight to maintain a horizontal balance. That this object requires the user to be patient and focused on the simple act of setting the date and balancing all the elements each and every morning is a powerful demonstration of the material world’s agency over time, routine, and daily life.”

Putrella tray for Danese, 1958. “This object has an almost mystical gravitas. It is a section of I-beam that has been bent. The warpage destroys the beam’s integrity; Mari then removed the heart of the dysfunction, the core of the bend, rendering it useful only for containing spare change or fruit. He takes the ultimate symbol of the progress of our civilization — the I-beam — and destroys it, cuts it apart, and, perversely, recasts it as frivolity.” 94


PORTFOLIO

Frate and Cugino tables for Driade, 1973. “The Frate and Cugino tables have an extraordinary delicacy. I love the combination of materials: rough but at the same time refined, strong and fragile. The way the glass top is perched on the thin canted legs makes me think of a winged insect.”

Glifo shelving for Gavina, 1966. “A modular shelving system that plays with the idea of folding and joinery in structure, turning plastic into origami. There is an architectural quality to the pieces when assembled which form a customiz­ able cityscape for display and storage.”

Timor calendar for Danese, 1967. “Another calendar design by Mari that shows the thoroughness of his study into the recording of time’s passage and the way one situates oneself in it. I appreciate the grandness of the gesture required to flip the day’s card into place, at once cele­bratory and mundane.”

Broken vase for KPM, 1994. “This series of breathtaking porcelain vases finds func­tion in a scar, pulling beauty from violence and creation from destruction.”

96

Malta pencil holder (not shown) and Montecristo paper stand for Danese, 1960. “With this set, the desktop becomes the site of a Classical ruin. The abstract forms made from marble and travertine con­ jure ancient sites and building materials. Scale is mutable and form speaks to a function that is much larger than the reality.”

16 Animali puzzle for Danese, 1957–60. “This is an exquisite toy, challenging and beautifully made. It invites you to consider the relationship between light and shadow, form and silhouette. It is wonderful that the constituent parts of the puzzle can have meaning as play things separate from the whole.”

Camicia vase for Danese, 1961. “I love the way this vase offers a surprise — the cutout reveals the stem of the flower, magnified by the water and glass like a nature specimen. By isolating the stem — framing it — one can consider its oftneglected beauty and appreciate the disembodied bloom as an abstraction of a flower.”

MONDO MARI

Serie della Natura (La Pantera) print for Danese, 1965. “La Pantera is one of a series of four color silkscreen prints, the Serie della Natura. The animal images are devoid of superfluous detail — they are distilled and essential. With them, Mari was looking at the way we make images into symbols and how symbols become imprinted on the mind.”


PORTFOLIO

Frate and Cugino tables for Driade, 1973. “The Frate and Cugino tables have an extraordinary delicacy. I love the combination of materials: rough but at the same time refined, strong and fragile. The way the glass top is perched on the thin canted legs makes me think of a winged insect.”

Glifo shelving for Gavina, 1966. “A modular shelving system that plays with the idea of folding and joinery in structure, turning plastic into origami. There is an architectural quality to the pieces when assembled which form a customiz­ able cityscape for display and storage.”

Timor calendar for Danese, 1967. “Another calendar design by Mari that shows the thoroughness of his study into the recording of time’s passage and the way one situates oneself in it. I appreciate the grandness of the gesture required to flip the day’s card into place, at once cele­bratory and mundane.”

Broken vase for KPM, 1994. “This series of breathtaking porcelain vases finds func­tion in a scar, pulling beauty from violence and creation from destruction.”

96

Malta pencil holder (not shown) and Montecristo paper stand for Danese, 1960. “With this set, the desktop becomes the site of a Classical ruin. The abstract forms made from marble and travertine con­ jure ancient sites and building materials. Scale is mutable and form speaks to a function that is much larger than the reality.”

16 Animali puzzle for Danese, 1957–60. “This is an exquisite toy, challenging and beautifully made. It invites you to consider the relationship between light and shadow, form and silhouette. It is wonderful that the constituent parts of the puzzle can have meaning as play things separate from the whole.”

Camicia vase for Danese, 1961. “I love the way this vase offers a surprise — the cutout reveals the stem of the flower, magnified by the water and glass like a nature specimen. By isolating the stem — framing it — one can consider its oftneglected beauty and appreciate the disembodied bloom as an abstraction of a flower.”

MONDO MARI

Serie della Natura (La Pantera) print for Danese, 1965. “La Pantera is one of a series of four color silkscreen prints, the Serie della Natura. The animal images are devoid of superfluous detail — they are distilled and essential. With them, Mari was looking at the way we make images into symbols and how symbols become imprinted on the mind.”


MONDO MARI

PORTFOLIO

Autoprogettazione series, 1974. “I’m obsessed with Mari’s suite of autoprogettazione, or ‘self-design,’ furniture. The designs were published and dis­tributed so that anyone could build them following the instructions. The collection speaks to the extra­ va­ gance of structure. It also has an almost metaphysical quality, as though each piece might be a support for a painted backdrop in a theater or an elaborate construc­ tion in a Giorgio de Chirico painting.”

La Mama casserole for Le Creuset, 1972. “I love this design because it shows Mari’s extraordinary ability to rethink even the most essential of objects — the Le Creuset casserole — by adjusting the handles so that they become easier to grip with a cloth or an oven mitt. This humble intervention demonstrates his thoughtfulness and respect for the moments in between the actions we normally think of.”

Pago Pago vase for Danese, 1969. “This object is shock­ ingly complex for the simplicity of its function. It is a vase turned either up or down with a wider or narrower neck given one’s flower arrangement. A perfectly Mari gesture of twisting the most essential and even symbolic of forms — the urn — to reveal something hidden, seemingly impossi­ bly, both within and without.”

98

Box chair for Driade, 1971. “The structure of the Box chair speaks to the process of its being fabricated in separate parts and then assembled from a flatpack. There is something quintessentially Mari about the way the chair has a rigorous geometry and a playful materiality. In his world, one material can resemble another: the plastic looks almost like a fabric slip­ cover stretched over a metal frame.”

Sumatra correspondence tray for Danese, 1976. “The tray’s stackability transforms the desk into a landscape of supplies and papers. Mari was playing with the tension between a material and its formal implications — the plastic becomes impossibly sharp and heavy-looking.”

Hammer and Sickle, 1976. “This piece shows Mari’s dark and brilliant sense of humor. A series of 44 marble sculptures, shown separately on pedestals at the 1976 Venice Biennale, appear to be abstract Jean Arp-like formal studies. But when combined they form a hammer and sickle. Collectors were unaware that their individual ‘abstract’ sculptures were each part of the symbol of Communism. More than just a joke on well-heeled collectors, this piece shows Mari looking at the slippage of meaning when symbols move through different contexts.”

Sei Simboli Sinsemantici for Danese, 1972. “This is a series of monochromatic silkscreen prints of six symbols each in their own shade of black ink. The aim of the series was to make an accessible artwork, somewhere between a sign and an abstraction, that challenged the notion of original thought and collective understanding.”


MONDO MARI

PORTFOLIO

Autoprogettazione series, 1974. “I’m obsessed with Mari’s suite of autoprogettazione, or ‘self-design,’ furniture. The designs were published and dis­tributed so that anyone could build them following the instructions. The collection speaks to the extra­ va­ gance of structure. It also has an almost metaphysical quality, as though each piece might be a support for a painted backdrop in a theater or an elaborate construc­ tion in a Giorgio de Chirico painting.”

La Mama casserole for Le Creuset, 1972. “I love this design because it shows Mari’s extraordinary ability to rethink even the most essential of objects — the Le Creuset casserole — by adjusting the handles so that they become easier to grip with a cloth or an oven mitt. This humble intervention demonstrates his thoughtfulness and respect for the moments in between the actions we normally think of.”

Pago Pago vase for Danese, 1969. “This object is shock­ ingly complex for the simplicity of its function. It is a vase turned either up or down with a wider or narrower neck given one’s flower arrangement. A perfectly Mari gesture of twisting the most essential and even symbolic of forms — the urn — to reveal something hidden, seemingly impossi­ bly, both within and without.”

98

Box chair for Driade, 1971. “The structure of the Box chair speaks to the process of its being fabricated in separate parts and then assembled from a flatpack. There is something quintessentially Mari about the way the chair has a rigorous geometry and a playful materiality. In his world, one material can resemble another: the plastic looks almost like a fabric slip­ cover stretched over a metal frame.”

Sumatra correspondence tray for Danese, 1976. “The tray’s stackability transforms the desk into a landscape of supplies and papers. Mari was playing with the tension between a material and its formal implications — the plastic becomes impossibly sharp and heavy-looking.”

Hammer and Sickle, 1976. “This piece shows Mari’s dark and brilliant sense of humor. A series of 44 marble sculptures, shown separately on pedestals at the 1976 Venice Biennale, appear to be abstract Jean Arp-like formal studies. But when combined they form a hammer and sickle. Collectors were unaware that their individual ‘abstract’ sculptures were each part of the symbol of Communism. More than just a joke on well-heeled collectors, this piece shows Mari looking at the slippage of meaning when symbols move through different contexts.”

Sei Simboli Sinsemantici for Danese, 1972. “This is a series of monochromatic silkscreen prints of six symbols each in their own shade of black ink. The aim of the series was to make an accessible artwork, somewhere between a sign and an abstraction, that challenged the notion of original thought and collective understanding.”


AIR FORCE An interview with Nerea Calvillo whose architecture deals with pollen, particles, and pollution By DREW ZEIBA

Spanish architect and researcher Nerea Calvillo believes architecture must look beyond humans and go much further than the simple creation of boundaries between inside and out. Whether working with her Madrid-based design and research agency C+ or with her students at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick, U.K., Calvillo focuses on systems at scales outside our normal conceptual frames — most notably the allencompassing hugeness of the atmosphere and the minis­ cule molecules that pollute it. 100

PANORAMA Drew Zeiba: Many of your architectural projects deal with unnoticed aspects of the environment, especially the atmosphere. How did you get interested in air? Nerea Calvillo: I got into air by accident. I was interested in the invisible processes that happen in cities, but they were mostly human processes. And I was also interested in the capacities of computing and bringing many different layers of information together. When I was participating in a visualization workshop at Medialab-Prado, in Madrid, one of the few datasets that was easily available was on air quality. I thought this was really interesting because in all my studies and work in architecture and urbanism no one had ever spoken about the air other than in the context of technical systems — to get rid of it, basically. But the air is a supercomplex ecosystem that we as a society know very little about, and as architects almost zero. DZ: How has studying air affected the way you think about architecture? NC: It has made me ask, “If we haven’t talked about this, how many other things aren’t we talking about?” We only speak of around one percent of the possibilities of spatial qualities, materi-­ als, and ways of engaging within architecture. Now, when I teach, I strongly encourage students not to work with concrete, steel, and glass because they’re very polluting materials — and they’re boring. I challenge them to think more creatively about materials and to reconsider which might actually be useful and whether we can explore new materialities and build with them. I want them to use things that are not “meant” for architecture. In my own work, I don’t think about the boundaries of what we understand architecture to be. This can be an issue — for example, editors will say, “We don’t know where to place your work. It’s not architecture, it’s not ephemeral architecture, it’s not interior design. So we can’t publish it.” The discipline still has all these categories that I find really absurd and useless. DZ: How do these different categorizations in architecture play out in the field? NC: The traditional approach to architecture limits us. There’s an urgency to engage with environmental

issues, which has been ongoing for 20 or 30 years, maybe since the 1970s, but in architecture it has mostly been channeled into techno-scientific solutions. Basically, people doing sustainable architecture would research how to put more solar panels in a roof where you don’t see them. Sustainable archi­ tecture was how to make more beautiful technical solutions and implement them in existing projects. Now we hear about these large-scale geoengineer-­ ing projects, which are completely based on one parameter, like cleaning the air in a certain area, for example. And then they build these huge concrete towers that clean negligible amounts of air. They’re completely nuts. No one thinks about how much you pollute by building those infrastructures. I think the social confidence that we’ve given to engineers and to these technoscientific projects is at the core of the problem. Technology can do great stuff, but we need to ask what the implications of using it are. How much pollution does its implementation cause? Looking at the different legacies of “sustainability” in architecture is also how I got interested in pollution and toxicity and the difference between the two. Even if it’s polluted, the air is not always toxic. Those boundaries are difficult to establish.

entities. We have to understand toxicity as a relationship or an interaction between two bodies, human or otherwise. That doesn’t mean that everything is relative and therefore we don’t do anything. But we need to reformulate the discussion, which currently tends to define vulnerable bodies and conclude that it’s the respon­sibility of those bodies to manage their own health — for example, that people with respi­ratory problems shouldn’t go out in the street, should stay home and not play outdoor sports in certain air qualities. Instead of trying to solve the prob-­ lem, it puts responsibility on people to manage their own bodies, and also requires them to know how their bodies work in relation to air pollution. I think that’s very problematic, because we’re not addressing the problem itself. So instead of telling people, “Stay home,” we need to mobilize in order to try to solve the problem. It’s not that these people need to stay at home, it’s that these factories need to shut down for three days, for example.

“Concrete, steel, and glass, they’re very polluting materials — and they’re boring.ˮ

DZ: What are the differences between toxicity and pollution? NC: Pollution and toxicity are often used as synonyms, but they’re not. [Anthropologist and cultural theorist] Mary Douglas defined pollution as “matter out of place.” So, when a river is polluted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s toxic, but that there’s a lot of something that wasn’t previously there. It could be plants, for instance, that might harm some fish but be innocuous to others. There’s always the possibility of harm because it’s an excess of something that wasn’t there before. Harm is a possible consequence of pollution, but it’s not the condition that defines it. Toxicity necessarily implies harm. DZ: Why does this difference matter? NC: For me the question is always, “Toxic for whom and for what?” Toxicologists and feminist theorists have argued and demonstrated that toxicity is not necessarily a condition of a material. It’s an inter­ relation. The material is not toxic in itself, but it might produce harm in how it interacts with certain

DZ: With air pollution there are often political and economic issues at play. But what does air pollution mean for architects?

NC: Environmental condi-­ tions and the “more-than-­human” [a term issuing from a growing body of research that rejects human-­ centrism] have been constantly left out of architectural discussions. But when you look at the world, they are completely embedded within it. We just weren’t paying attention. We need to engage with the environment, engage with the more-than-human as part of our living spaces, and make them part of our realizations. Architecture has always been so concerned with constructing “enve­ lopes,” as we call them, and with what happens inside them. But architects rarely consider the inter­ action between the inside and the outside as the space in which we work — we focus on protecting the inside but don’t feel responsible for what happens outside. But actually we’re acutely responsible for what happens outside, and we cannot make that distinction between inside or outside anymore. It’s about more than just not polluting. We need to recon­cep­tualize architecture as a mediation between many different types of airs and environments. Drew Zeiba is the New York-based associate editor of PIN–UP and a contributor to publications including Artforum, The Architect’s Newspaper, Sight Unseen, Office, and Vulture, among others. This summer, his essay on the erotics of advertising will be published in Andy Warhol: Early Drawings of Love, Sex and Desire (Taschen).


AIR FORCE An interview with Nerea Calvillo whose architecture deals with pollen, particles, and pollution By DREW ZEIBA

Spanish architect and researcher Nerea Calvillo believes architecture must look beyond humans and go much further than the simple creation of boundaries between inside and out. Whether working with her Madrid-based design and research agency C+ or with her students at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick, U.K., Calvillo focuses on systems at scales outside our normal conceptual frames — most notably the allencompassing hugeness of the atmosphere and the minis­ cule molecules that pollute it. 100

PANORAMA Drew Zeiba: Many of your architectural projects deal with unnoticed aspects of the environment, especially the atmosphere. How did you get interested in air? Nerea Calvillo: I got into air by accident. I was interested in the invisible processes that happen in cities, but they were mostly human processes. And I was also interested in the capacities of computing and bringing many different layers of information together. When I was participating in a visualization workshop at Medialab-Prado, in Madrid, one of the few datasets that was easily available was on air quality. I thought this was really interesting because in all my studies and work in architecture and urbanism no one had ever spoken about the air other than in the context of technical systems — to get rid of it, basically. But the air is a supercomplex ecosystem that we as a society know very little about, and as architects almost zero. DZ: How has studying air affected the way you think about architecture? NC: It has made me ask, “If we haven’t talked about this, how many other things aren’t we talking about?” We only speak of around one percent of the possibilities of spatial qualities, materi-­ als, and ways of engaging within architecture. Now, when I teach, I strongly encourage students not to work with concrete, steel, and glass because they’re very polluting materials — and they’re boring. I challenge them to think more creatively about materials and to reconsider which might actually be useful and whether we can explore new materialities and build with them. I want them to use things that are not “meant” for architecture. In my own work, I don’t think about the boundaries of what we understand architecture to be. This can be an issue — for example, editors will say, “We don’t know where to place your work. It’s not architecture, it’s not ephemeral architecture, it’s not interior design. So we can’t publish it.” The discipline still has all these categories that I find really absurd and useless. DZ: How do these different categorizations in architecture play out in the field? NC: The traditional approach to architecture limits us. There’s an urgency to engage with environmental

issues, which has been ongoing for 20 or 30 years, maybe since the 1970s, but in architecture it has mostly been channeled into techno-scientific solutions. Basically, people doing sustainable architecture would research how to put more solar panels in a roof where you don’t see them. Sustainable archi­ tecture was how to make more beautiful technical solutions and implement them in existing projects. Now we hear about these large-scale geoengineer-­ ing projects, which are completely based on one parameter, like cleaning the air in a certain area, for example. And then they build these huge concrete towers that clean negligible amounts of air. They’re completely nuts. No one thinks about how much you pollute by building those infrastructures. I think the social confidence that we’ve given to engineers and to these technoscientific projects is at the core of the problem. Technology can do great stuff, but we need to ask what the implications of using it are. How much pollution does its implementation cause? Looking at the different legacies of “sustainability” in architecture is also how I got interested in pollution and toxicity and the difference between the two. Even if it’s polluted, the air is not always toxic. Those boundaries are difficult to establish.

entities. We have to understand toxicity as a relationship or an interaction between two bodies, human or otherwise. That doesn’t mean that everything is relative and therefore we don’t do anything. But we need to reformulate the discussion, which currently tends to define vulnerable bodies and conclude that it’s the respon­sibility of those bodies to manage their own health — for example, that people with respi­ratory problems shouldn’t go out in the street, should stay home and not play outdoor sports in certain air qualities. Instead of trying to solve the prob-­ lem, it puts responsibility on people to manage their own bodies, and also requires them to know how their bodies work in relation to air pollution. I think that’s very problematic, because we’re not addressing the problem itself. So instead of telling people, “Stay home,” we need to mobilize in order to try to solve the problem. It’s not that these people need to stay at home, it’s that these factories need to shut down for three days, for example.

“Concrete, steel, and glass, they’re very polluting materials — and they’re boring.ˮ

DZ: What are the differences between toxicity and pollution? NC: Pollution and toxicity are often used as synonyms, but they’re not. [Anthropologist and cultural theorist] Mary Douglas defined pollution as “matter out of place.” So, when a river is polluted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s toxic, but that there’s a lot of something that wasn’t previously there. It could be plants, for instance, that might harm some fish but be innocuous to others. There’s always the possibility of harm because it’s an excess of something that wasn’t there before. Harm is a possible consequence of pollution, but it’s not the condition that defines it. Toxicity necessarily implies harm. DZ: Why does this difference matter? NC: For me the question is always, “Toxic for whom and for what?” Toxicologists and feminist theorists have argued and demonstrated that toxicity is not necessarily a condition of a material. It’s an inter­ relation. The material is not toxic in itself, but it might produce harm in how it interacts with certain

DZ: With air pollution there are often political and economic issues at play. But what does air pollution mean for architects?

NC: Environmental condi-­ tions and the “more-than-­human” [a term issuing from a growing body of research that rejects human-­ centrism] have been constantly left out of architectural discussions. But when you look at the world, they are completely embedded within it. We just weren’t paying attention. We need to engage with the environment, engage with the more-than-human as part of our living spaces, and make them part of our realizations. Architecture has always been so concerned with constructing “enve­ lopes,” as we call them, and with what happens inside them. But architects rarely consider the inter­ action between the inside and the outside as the space in which we work — we focus on protecting the inside but don’t feel responsible for what happens outside. But actually we’re acutely responsible for what happens outside, and we cannot make that distinction between inside or outside anymore. It’s about more than just not polluting. We need to recon­cep­tualize architecture as a mediation between many different types of airs and environments. Drew Zeiba is the New York-based associate editor of PIN–UP and a contributor to publications including Artforum, The Architect’s Newspaper, Sight Unseen, Office, and Vulture, among others. This summer, his essay on the erotics of advertising will be published in Andy Warhol: Early Drawings of Love, Sex and Desire (Taschen).


PANORAMA

SOLAR DIFFUSION The New Image of Solar Energy, from Tariffs and Tesla to Akon and Big Brother

Crescent Dunes, a 110-megawatt circular solar plant outside Las Vegas. © Jamey Stillings

Elon Musk unveiling Tesla’s Solar Roof at Universal Studios in 2016.

By Whitney Mallett 102

In 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his company’s Solar Roof on the former Desperate Housewives set, promising his photovoltaic-­shingle system would revolutionize the sustainable-­ energy industry. It was 37 years after Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House roof (removed a couple years later by Reagan). But while President Carter’s largely symbolic gesture was intended to kick a crippling dependence on foreign oil, Musk instead spoke to 21st-century anxieties, namely the existential threat posed by climate change. The painstakingly suburban aesthetics of Tesla’s tiles suggested, for once, that an actionable response to the planetary crisis could look and feel like the status quo and not some radical departure from first-world comforts. Except that the model homes of Wisteria Lane were outfitted in dummy roofs, because the product wasn’t ready yet; plagued by delays, disorganization, and low consumer demand, it never became the breakthrough technology once prophesied. Investor John Engle argues that for years Musk has “sustained a kind of Kabuki theater in which the Solar Roof ramp is always imminent, but never here.” The social diffusion of solar power has come in the age of post-truth politics and celebrity spec­ tacle. While America’s climate-change-denier-in-chief has dismissed renewables as “an expensive way of making tree huggers feel good about themselves,” Musk, the nation’s most outlandish CEO, continues to bolster his post-carbon empire, even if Tesla’s acquisition of the solar-energy corporation SolarCity has resulted in mountains of debt and profit shortfalls. The Tesla group has failed to deliver

on 5,000 solar-related jobs at a new taxpayerfunded factory in Buffalo, New York, Walmart is suing Tesla for solar panels on store roofs that allegedly caught fire, and California homeowner Kevin Pereau claims he put down 2,000 dollars for a solar roof more than two years ago and never heard from the company again — only getting his deposit back after tweeting at Musk every day. Tariffs on foreign-made solar products are intended to benefit American manufacturers like Tesla. Though Trump’s taken more heat for it, the penalties actually date back to the Obama administration. (Obama only targeted China while Trump’s tariffs apply to all Asian manufacturers, affecting Malaysia and South Korea who dominated solarpanel imports to the U.S. in 2017.) In June 2019, as Trump’s trade war with China was making headlines, the White House introduced a loophole that actually makes the import of two-sided panels tariff-free. How Chinese manufacturers will take advantage of these broader-than-lobbied-for exemptions remains to be seen, but there’s speculation that, with a little maneuvering, they could soon flood the U.S. market with their products, out-competing States-based solar-panel manufacturers like Tesla. While Musk’s solar business has failed to flourish even during this protectionist period (potentially now in its twilight), Obama-era tariffs have made the fortune of another celebrity entrepreneur, the Senegalese-American recording artist turned Afrofuturist mogul Akon. A decade ago, motivated to bring electricity to his grandmother’s rural village, Akon explored the possibility of extending the energy grid, which in Senegal relies predominantly on heavy fuel oil. While Akon allegedly secured investment from the oil industry to expand the grid, then-Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade warned of potential geopolitical conflicts that could be triggered. Akon then looked into solar as a less-threatening alternative, discovering that, thanks to Obama’s tariffs, there was a surplus of Chinesemade panels intended for the U.S. market. He secured a billion-dollar credit line through a Chinese conglomerate and, in 2014, founded the for-profit Akon Lighting Africa. “Being an entertainer, being popular

Akon with a rendering of Akon City, the futuristic eco-city he’s developing in Senegal.

A photovoltaic solar panel installed on a thatched roof in rural West Africa.

The logo for Akon’s soon-to-be-launched cryptocurrency superimposed over a still from Black Panther.


PANORAMA

SOLAR DIFFUSION The New Image of Solar Energy, from Tariffs and Tesla to Akon and Big Brother

Crescent Dunes, a 110-megawatt circular solar plant outside Las Vegas. © Jamey Stillings

Elon Musk unveiling Tesla’s Solar Roof at Universal Studios in 2016.

By Whitney Mallett 102

In 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his company’s Solar Roof on the former Desperate Housewives set, promising his photovoltaic-­shingle system would revolutionize the sustainable-­ energy industry. It was 37 years after Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House roof (removed a couple years later by Reagan). But while President Carter’s largely symbolic gesture was intended to kick a crippling dependence on foreign oil, Musk instead spoke to 21st-century anxieties, namely the existential threat posed by climate change. The painstakingly suburban aesthetics of Tesla’s tiles suggested, for once, that an actionable response to the planetary crisis could look and feel like the status quo and not some radical departure from first-world comforts. Except that the model homes of Wisteria Lane were outfitted in dummy roofs, because the product wasn’t ready yet; plagued by delays, disorganization, and low consumer demand, it never became the breakthrough technology once prophesied. Investor John Engle argues that for years Musk has “sustained a kind of Kabuki theater in which the Solar Roof ramp is always imminent, but never here.” The social diffusion of solar power has come in the age of post-truth politics and celebrity spec­ tacle. While America’s climate-change-denier-in-chief has dismissed renewables as “an expensive way of making tree huggers feel good about themselves,” Musk, the nation’s most outlandish CEO, continues to bolster his post-carbon empire, even if Tesla’s acquisition of the solar-energy corporation SolarCity has resulted in mountains of debt and profit shortfalls. The Tesla group has failed to deliver

on 5,000 solar-related jobs at a new taxpayerfunded factory in Buffalo, New York, Walmart is suing Tesla for solar panels on store roofs that allegedly caught fire, and California homeowner Kevin Pereau claims he put down 2,000 dollars for a solar roof more than two years ago and never heard from the company again — only getting his deposit back after tweeting at Musk every day. Tariffs on foreign-made solar products are intended to benefit American manufacturers like Tesla. Though Trump’s taken more heat for it, the penalties actually date back to the Obama administration. (Obama only targeted China while Trump’s tariffs apply to all Asian manufacturers, affecting Malaysia and South Korea who dominated solarpanel imports to the U.S. in 2017.) In June 2019, as Trump’s trade war with China was making headlines, the White House introduced a loophole that actually makes the import of two-sided panels tariff-free. How Chinese manufacturers will take advantage of these broader-than-lobbied-for exemptions remains to be seen, but there’s speculation that, with a little maneuvering, they could soon flood the U.S. market with their products, out-competing States-based solar-panel manufacturers like Tesla. While Musk’s solar business has failed to flourish even during this protectionist period (potentially now in its twilight), Obama-era tariffs have made the fortune of another celebrity entrepreneur, the Senegalese-American recording artist turned Afrofuturist mogul Akon. A decade ago, motivated to bring electricity to his grandmother’s rural village, Akon explored the possibility of extending the energy grid, which in Senegal relies predominantly on heavy fuel oil. While Akon allegedly secured investment from the oil industry to expand the grid, then-Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade warned of potential geopolitical conflicts that could be triggered. Akon then looked into solar as a less-threatening alternative, discovering that, thanks to Obama’s tariffs, there was a surplus of Chinesemade panels intended for the U.S. market. He secured a billion-dollar credit line through a Chinese conglomerate and, in 2014, founded the for-profit Akon Lighting Africa. “Being an entertainer, being popular

Akon with a rendering of Akon City, the futuristic eco-city he’s developing in Senegal.

A photovoltaic solar panel installed on a thatched roof in rural West Africa.

The logo for Akon’s soon-to-be-launched cryptocurrency superimposed over a still from Black Panther.


SOLAR DIFFUSION worldwide,” Akon told CNBC, “does give you an advantage to meet some very powerful people.” Starting with a pilot project in rural Senegal, Akon Lighting Africa has brought solar electricity to a million households across 16 countries, including Benin, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Sierra Leone. Riding the success of this energy project, Akon is currently in the process of expanding his forwardlooking empire, all the while still making new music — he released his fifth studio album Akonda in 2019. He’s announced (but not yet launched) a cryptocurrency called “Akoin,” and finalized an agreement with the Senegalese government for Akon City, a solar-powered eco-tourism destina-­ tion outside Dakar where all-transactional activity will be conducted in Akoin. The late-Hadid-esque buildings shown in renderings of Akon City are credited to Dubai-based architect Hussein Bakri of BAD Consulting, with Sana'a-based engineering firm Yemeni Group listed as another project partner. Akon has teased that it will be “a real life Wakanda.” Akon is emerging as a foil to Musk, an alternative celebrity entrepreneur positioning himself as a mascot of utopian tomorrow. There’s a symmetry to their contrasts — one was born in America but is today based in Africa, the other was born in Africa but is now based in America; one is entirely selfmade, the other had a headstart through inherited wealth; one built his name through music then leveraged his celebrity to enter the world of business, the other leveraged his status as an entrepreneur known for sci-fi propositions to enter the world of pop culture, releasing his first song this year (yes, Musk even performs the vocals on the EDM track “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe”). For both men, solar power is a vital part of their futurist business portfolios. That’s to some extent just economics — renewables are one of the world’s fastest-growing industries — but solar also has imaginary potential, inspiring an idealistic but imaginable tomorrow. Case in point: while there’s no windpunk movement, solarpunk has emerged in response to the climate crisis as an actionable-alternatives genre whose utopian visuals span WOHA-esque green-terraced towers and Art Nouveau-style stained-glass solar panels.

104

Musk’s sci-fi imperialism and Akon’s Afrofuturism are both informed by the ideology of “green growth” — the illusion that our capi-­ talist economies can continue to expand without limits as long as we “techno-fix” our way out of the current crisis by swapping dirty fossil fuels for renewable energy and environmentally-friendly technologies. It’s an ideology that’s informed master-­ planned “eco-city” projects like Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, led by Foster + Partners, and Sejong City in South Korea, funded in large part by tech giant Samsung. It’s paradoxical to think that the solution to waste, pollution, and diminishing resources is yet more building. Ditto that Musk could be considered some sort of environmental savior when, in 2018 alone, he flew 160,000 miles in his private jet, producing carbon emissions 263 times greater than those of the average inhabitant of planet Earth. Still, celebrity-led green growth is lauded by the current socioeconomic order because it’s not as threatening to the status quo as more radical propositions like degrowth. A headline about a pop star’s new eco-city in West Africa is going to get more clicks than one about a littleknown socialist academic saying we need to use fewer resources. Weirdly, there’s a shared origin point for both futuristic eco-experiments and contemporary celebrity culture: Biosphere 2. Developments like Masdar City are often compared to this 3-acre closed-environment lab that was built in the 1990s in the Arizona desert town of Oracle. The Biosphere project sealed eight people inside a complex of glass pyramids and geodesic domes to test the livability of a closed ecological system. (Steve Bannon, bizarrely, was an executive.) The hope was for Biosphere to make space colonization possible, but group dynamics between the feuding participants and the resulting press coverage of their isolated life under the bubble became a new formula for entertainment. Biosphere-inspired Big Brother, whose original season aired in the Netherlands in 1999, then launched an entirely new small-screen genre, reality TV, which in turn spawned a new type of celebrity. Trump leveraged his notoriety from

PANORAMA The Apprentice to run for president. Kylie Jenner turned her fame from Keeping Up with the Kardashians into a direct-to-consumer cosmetics business, becoming the youngest ever billionaire. In our attention-economy era, a flattening of celebrity has occurred that blurs the boundaries between business, politics, and entertainment. This is the landscape in which Musk and Akon enact the new archetype of the entrepreneur, respectively fame-generating and fame-fueled. Is celebrity a renewable resource? Romanian mathematician and economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen argues that all natural resources are irreversibly degraded when put to use in economic activity. While fossil fuels can be characterized as a stock — a limited cache — and solar as a flow — limited only by the rate it emanates — renewable enthusiasts frequently disregard the energy it takes to produce and maintain the renewable sources themselves, not to mention the inherent obsolescence and waste. There’s a billion-dollar 1,500-acre solar plant outside Las Vegas that sits empty, its technology outdated before it went online. By the end of 2016, we’d already produced 250,000 metric tons of solar-panel waste with 78 million predicted by 2050. Storing solar energy in batteries depends on rare earth metals like lithium, the mining of which has dire consequences like toxic lakes — one in Mongolia has been dubbed “the worst place in the world.” These tragedies shouldn’t be reasons to give up on striving for a lighter or neutral carbon footprint, but are confirmation that we can’t just swap one form of power for another. Thinking solar technologies will save us while ignoring the need to downscale production and consumption is simply flying too close to the sun.

Crescent Dunes was already outdated when it opened in 2015. © Jamey Stillings

The Solarpunk movement envisions a green future with an Art Nouveau flair. © Munashichi

Biosphere 2 in Arizona remains the Earth’s largest man-made closed ecological system.

Whitney Mallett is a New York City-based writer, curator, and filmmaker. She is PIN–UP’s deputy editor.


SOLAR DIFFUSION worldwide,” Akon told CNBC, “does give you an advantage to meet some very powerful people.” Starting with a pilot project in rural Senegal, Akon Lighting Africa has brought solar electricity to a million households across 16 countries, including Benin, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Sierra Leone. Riding the success of this energy project, Akon is currently in the process of expanding his forwardlooking empire, all the while still making new music — he released his fifth studio album Akonda in 2019. He’s announced (but not yet launched) a cryptocurrency called “Akoin,” and finalized an agreement with the Senegalese government for Akon City, a solar-powered eco-tourism destina-­ tion outside Dakar where all-transactional activity will be conducted in Akoin. The late-Hadid-esque buildings shown in renderings of Akon City are credited to Dubai-based architect Hussein Bakri of BAD Consulting, with Sana'a-based engineering firm Yemeni Group listed as another project partner. Akon has teased that it will be “a real life Wakanda.” Akon is emerging as a foil to Musk, an alternative celebrity entrepreneur positioning himself as a mascot of utopian tomorrow. There’s a symmetry to their contrasts — one was born in America but is today based in Africa, the other was born in Africa but is now based in America; one is entirely selfmade, the other had a headstart through inherited wealth; one built his name through music then leveraged his celebrity to enter the world of business, the other leveraged his status as an entrepreneur known for sci-fi propositions to enter the world of pop culture, releasing his first song this year (yes, Musk even performs the vocals on the EDM track “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe”). For both men, solar power is a vital part of their futurist business portfolios. That’s to some extent just economics — renewables are one of the world’s fastest-growing industries — but solar also has imaginary potential, inspiring an idealistic but imaginable tomorrow. Case in point: while there’s no windpunk movement, solarpunk has emerged in response to the climate crisis as an actionable-alternatives genre whose utopian visuals span WOHA-esque green-terraced towers and Art Nouveau-style stained-glass solar panels.

104

Musk’s sci-fi imperialism and Akon’s Afrofuturism are both informed by the ideology of “green growth” — the illusion that our capi-­ talist economies can continue to expand without limits as long as we “techno-fix” our way out of the current crisis by swapping dirty fossil fuels for renewable energy and environmentally-friendly technologies. It’s an ideology that’s informed master-­ planned “eco-city” projects like Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, led by Foster + Partners, and Sejong City in South Korea, funded in large part by tech giant Samsung. It’s paradoxical to think that the solution to waste, pollution, and diminishing resources is yet more building. Ditto that Musk could be considered some sort of environmental savior when, in 2018 alone, he flew 160,000 miles in his private jet, producing carbon emissions 263 times greater than those of the average inhabitant of planet Earth. Still, celebrity-led green growth is lauded by the current socioeconomic order because it’s not as threatening to the status quo as more radical propositions like degrowth. A headline about a pop star’s new eco-city in West Africa is going to get more clicks than one about a littleknown socialist academic saying we need to use fewer resources. Weirdly, there’s a shared origin point for both futuristic eco-experiments and contemporary celebrity culture: Biosphere 2. Developments like Masdar City are often compared to this 3-acre closed-environment lab that was built in the 1990s in the Arizona desert town of Oracle. The Biosphere project sealed eight people inside a complex of glass pyramids and geodesic domes to test the livability of a closed ecological system. (Steve Bannon, bizarrely, was an executive.) The hope was for Biosphere to make space colonization possible, but group dynamics between the feuding participants and the resulting press coverage of their isolated life under the bubble became a new formula for entertainment. Biosphere-inspired Big Brother, whose original season aired in the Netherlands in 1999, then launched an entirely new small-screen genre, reality TV, which in turn spawned a new type of celebrity. Trump leveraged his notoriety from

PANORAMA The Apprentice to run for president. Kylie Jenner turned her fame from Keeping Up with the Kardashians into a direct-to-consumer cosmetics business, becoming the youngest ever billionaire. In our attention-economy era, a flattening of celebrity has occurred that blurs the boundaries between business, politics, and entertainment. This is the landscape in which Musk and Akon enact the new archetype of the entrepreneur, respectively fame-generating and fame-fueled. Is celebrity a renewable resource? Romanian mathematician and economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen argues that all natural resources are irreversibly degraded when put to use in economic activity. While fossil fuels can be characterized as a stock — a limited cache — and solar as a flow — limited only by the rate it emanates — renewable enthusiasts frequently disregard the energy it takes to produce and maintain the renewable sources themselves, not to mention the inherent obsolescence and waste. There’s a billion-dollar 1,500-acre solar plant outside Las Vegas that sits empty, its technology outdated before it went online. By the end of 2016, we’d already produced 250,000 metric tons of solar-panel waste with 78 million predicted by 2050. Storing solar energy in batteries depends on rare earth metals like lithium, the mining of which has dire consequences like toxic lakes — one in Mongolia has been dubbed “the worst place in the world.” These tragedies shouldn’t be reasons to give up on striving for a lighter or neutral carbon footprint, but are confirmation that we can’t just swap one form of power for another. Thinking solar technologies will save us while ignoring the need to downscale production and consumption is simply flying too close to the sun.

Crescent Dunes was already outdated when it opened in 2015. © Jamey Stillings

The Solarpunk movement envisions a green future with an Art Nouveau flair. © Munashichi

Biosphere 2 in Arizona remains the Earth’s largest man-made closed ecological system.

Whitney Mallett is a New York City-based writer, curator, and filmmaker. She is PIN–UP’s deputy editor.


Sun Art Direction by Cameranesi Pompili Photography by Pim Top

THESE MOUTH-BLOWN OPALINO GLASS VASES FROM 1932 WERE MADE USING THE 15TH-CENTURY OPALINE TECHNIQUE. THEY WERE DESIGNED BY PAOLO VENINI, THE FOUNDER OF FAMOUS MURANO GLASS COMPANY VENINI & C. THEY ARE AVAILABLE THROUGH YOOX. THEY ARE SHOWN AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

F lowers


Sun Art Direction by Cameranesi Pompili Photography by Pim Top

THESE MOUTH-BLOWN OPALINO GLASS VASES FROM 1932 WERE MADE USING THE 15TH-CENTURY OPALINE TECHNIQUE. THEY WERE DESIGNED BY PAOLO VENINI, THE FOUNDER OF FAMOUS MURANO GLASS COMPANY VENINI & C. THEY ARE AVAILABLE THROUGH YOOX. THEY ARE SHOWN AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

F lowers


THIS PINK CERAMIC VASE WAS DESIGNED IN 1950 BY GIOVANNI GARIBOLDI FOR RICHARD GINORI. IT IS AVAILABLE THROUGH INCOLLECT. IT IS SHOWN HERE AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

THE LABISSE VASE (2019) BY VALENTINA CAMERANESI SGROI IS HANDMADE BY ARTISANS IN ITALY’S VENETO REGION USING GLAZED CERAMIC. IT IS AVAILABLE THROUGH ADORNO. SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

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THIS PINK CERAMIC VASE WAS DESIGNED IN 1950 BY GIOVANNI GARIBOLDI FOR RICHARD GINORI. IT IS AVAILABLE THROUGH INCOLLECT. IT IS SHOWN HERE AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

THE LABISSE VASE (2019) BY VALENTINA CAMERANESI SGROI IS HANDMADE BY ARTISANS IN ITALY’S VENETO REGION USING GLAZED CERAMIC. IT IS AVAILABLE THROUGH ADORNO. SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

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THE JUICE VASE WAS DESIGNED IN 2019 BY KRISTINE FIVE MELVÆR FOR HAY. THE STRIPED GLASS VASE IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN YELLOW. SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

THE PÉRIMÈTRE VASE (2019) BY HERMÈS IS A HIGH VASE MADE FROM DELICATE LIMOGES PORCELAIN. IT SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

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THE JUICE VASE WAS DESIGNED IN 2019 BY KRISTINE FIVE MELVÆR FOR HAY. THE STRIPED GLASS VASE IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN YELLOW. SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

THE PÉRIMÈTRE VASE (2019) BY HERMÈS IS A HIGH VASE MADE FROM DELICATE LIMOGES PORCELAIN. IT SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

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VASUM (2017) IS A HANDMADE PORCELAIN VASE DESIGNED BY MARIA GABRIELLA ZECCA FOR TACCHINI. IT IS SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

THE YELLOW AND GREEN VASE FRINGES FROM JONATHAN ANDERSON’S SPRING SUMMER 2020 HOME COLLECTION FOR LOEWE CONSISTS OF A SIMPLE GLASS VASE COVERED BY A DECORATIVE CALF LEATHER FRINGE. IT IS SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

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VASUM (2017) IS A HANDMADE PORCELAIN VASE DESIGNED BY MARIA GABRIELLA ZECCA FOR TACCHINI. IT IS SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

THE YELLOW AND GREEN VASE FRINGES FROM JONATHAN ANDERSON’S SPRING SUMMER 2020 HOME COLLECTION FOR LOEWE CONSISTS OF A SIMPLE GLASS VASE COVERED BY A DECORATIVE CALF LEATHER FRINGE. IT IS SHOWN HERE WITH VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

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FORMAFANTASMA’S CLAY MADE-TOORDER VASE WITH TORN EDGES (2018) IS A DESIGN FOR BITOSSI CERAMICHE. IT IS SHOWN HERE AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF MODO, A PANAMA WEAVE IN PURE VIRGIN WOOL BY DEDAR.

NICHOLAI WIIG HANSEN DESIGNED THE STRØM VASE (2019) FOR THE DANISH COMPANY RAAWII. IT IS HANDMADE IN PORTUGAL USING EARTHENWARE. THE VASE IS AVAILABLE THROUGH YOOX. SHOWN HERE WITH MODO, A PANAMA WEAVE IN PURE VIRGIN WOOL BY DEDAR.

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FORMAFANTASMA’S CLAY MADE-TOORDER VASE WITH TORN EDGES (2018) IS A DESIGN FOR BITOSSI CERAMICHE. IT IS SHOWN HERE AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF MODO, A PANAMA WEAVE IN PURE VIRGIN WOOL BY DEDAR.

NICHOLAI WIIG HANSEN DESIGNED THE STRØM VASE (2019) FOR THE DANISH COMPANY RAAWII. IT IS HANDMADE IN PORTUGAL USING EARTHENWARE. THE VASE IS AVAILABLE THROUGH YOOX. SHOWN HERE WITH MODO, A PANAMA WEAVE IN PURE VIRGIN WOOL BY DEDAR.

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PHILIPPE MALOUIN’S KURU VASE (2019) FOR IITTALA IS MADE FROM MOUTH-BLOWN FROSTED MOSS GREEN GLASS. THE BACKDROP IS VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

Sunflowers are fine. On a good day I might even describe them as serene. Not that exciting though. Not like poppies which release poison from their stems. Not like hemlock which kills you. I probably should’ve Googled what cool thing sunflowers do, but didn’t. Instead I asked friends. One person called them “emojiable,” then asked if that was a word. I asked someone else if they conjured anything in her at all, she said that in a field of them, 6 feet tall, she would not be indifferent. Someone else, who’s actually named after a flower, told me her friend once asked Agnès Varda about the meaning of sunflowers in her films. Agnès said, “Sunflowers are just sunflowers.” People buy flowers as if it might save them, like from the natural chaos of things, as if it’s an inevitability. A friend, when getting flowers would go, “Great, now I will have to watch these things die.” And then she died. Her name was Jade. Like sunflowers, a jade stone represents vague happy things. There was nothing vague or happy about Jade, which I liked. Unlike sunflowers, she exposed herself to darkness. I think of her and think of flowers that have wilted. How she saw beauty in trees with no leaves. On Urban Dictionary a sunflower is “A beautiful young girl who is also a bitch at times.” Also a fist opening up in a vagina. He sunflowered her. I remember sun­ flowers in The Wizard of Oz. They lined the path towards the yellow-brick road. At the end you were meant to reach happiness. I listened to an outtake of Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” once. In it she suddenly bursts into tears and does not stop crying. She must have found it depressing, knowing that the search is not about finding, but losing. How far and how much and how lonely. And I imagine the flowers said something, or one of them did. Text by Micaela Durand

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Though I know, they can’t. Still, there are times when I almost get the feeling they might.


PHILIPPE MALOUIN’S KURU VASE (2019) FOR IITTALA IS MADE FROM MOUTH-BLOWN FROSTED MOSS GREEN GLASS. THE BACKDROP IS VIDAR 3 BY RAF SIMONS AND FANNY ARONSEN FOR KVADRAT.

Sunflowers are fine. On a good day I might even describe them as serene. Not that exciting though. Not like poppies which release poison from their stems. Not like hemlock which kills you. I probably should’ve Googled what cool thing sunflowers do, but didn’t. Instead I asked friends. One person called them “emojiable,” then asked if that was a word. I asked someone else if they conjured anything in her at all, she said that in a field of them, 6 feet tall, she would not be indifferent. Someone else, who’s actually named after a flower, told me her friend once asked Agnès Varda about the meaning of sunflowers in her films. Agnès said, “Sunflowers are just sunflowers.” People buy flowers as if it might save them, like from the natural chaos of things, as if it’s an inevitability. A friend, when getting flowers would go, “Great, now I will have to watch these things die.” And then she died. Her name was Jade. Like sunflowers, a jade stone represents vague happy things. There was nothing vague or happy about Jade, which I liked. Unlike sunflowers, she exposed herself to darkness. I think of her and think of flowers that have wilted. How she saw beauty in trees with no leaves. On Urban Dictionary a sunflower is “A beautiful young girl who is also a bitch at times.” Also a fist opening up in a vagina. He sunflowered her. I remember sun­ flowers in The Wizard of Oz. They lined the path towards the yellow-brick road. At the end you were meant to reach happiness. I listened to an outtake of Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” once. In it she suddenly bursts into tears and does not stop crying. She must have found it depressing, knowing that the search is not about finding, but losing. How far and how much and how lonely. And I imagine the flowers said something, or one of them did. Text by Micaela Durand

116

Though I know, they can’t. Still, there are times when I almost get the feeling they might.


THINK BIG

WE VOTE FOR TOMORROW


THINK BIG

WE VOTE FOR TOMORROW


Piece from the VERRERIE DE BIOT.

FERNAND LÉGER mural at LA COLOMBE D’OR, Saint-Paul de Vence.

Provence style table setting with mimosas.

Pieces from the VERRERIE DE BIOT.

PABLO PICASSO in his atelier in Vallauris.

LA PROVENCE

L’OEIL T22C coffee table by PIERRE CHAPO (c. 1965).

by

Red vase by SUZANNE RAMIÉ (1956).

FAT LAVA VASE by MARIUS GIUGE (c. 1960).

Clémande Burgevin Blachman was raised between Paris and Ibiza, but her place in the sun will forever be Provence. For PIN–UP, the art director and Raf Simons collaborator relives her childhood vacations with some of her favorite recollections of Le Sud.

120

SIMONE SIGNORET and YVES MONTAND at LA COLOMBE D’OR, Saint-Paul de Vence.

Three pitchers in the FAT LAVA style (c. 1960).

An image of a woman in a classic SOULEIADO print (c. 1961).


Piece from the VERRERIE DE BIOT.

FERNAND LÉGER mural at LA COLOMBE D’OR, Saint-Paul de Vence.

Provence style table setting with mimosas.

Pieces from the VERRERIE DE BIOT.

PABLO PICASSO in his atelier in Vallauris.

LA PROVENCE

L’OEIL T22C coffee table by PIERRE CHAPO (c. 1965).

by

Red vase by SUZANNE RAMIÉ (1956).

FAT LAVA VASE by MARIUS GIUGE (c. 1960).

Clémande Burgevin Blachman was raised between Paris and Ibiza, but her place in the sun will forever be Provence. For PIN–UP, the art director and Raf Simons collaborator relives her childhood vacations with some of her favorite recollections of Le Sud.

120

SIMONE SIGNORET and YVES MONTAND at LA COLOMBE D’OR, Saint-Paul de Vence.

Three pitchers in the FAT LAVA style (c. 1960).

An image of a woman in a classic SOULEIADO print (c. 1961).


Dining table by GEORGES JOUVE for ANDRÉ LEFÈVRE (c. 1960).

TROPÉZIENNES SANDALS from RONDINI, Saint-Tropez.

Photograph of the ATELIER MADOURA, Vallauris (c. 1952).

Original jute bag from ATELIER MADOURA, Vallauris.

Interior view of a house in the DOMAINE DU GAOU BÉNAT, Bormes-les-Mimosas.

BERLINGOT candy.

FAT LAVA LAMP by MARIUS GIUGE (c. 1960).

Concrete roofline at DOMAINE DU GAOU BÉNAT, designed in the early 1960s by architects ANDRÉ LEFÈVRE and JEAN AUBERT.

BRIGITTE BARDOT and EDDIE BARCLAY playing pétanque in Saint-Tropez.

122

HENRI MATISSE in the CHAPELLE DU ROSAIRE DE VENCE (1947–51), which he designed.

All photography of Gaou Bénat by Olivier Amsellem.

Single OURAGAN by STÉPHANIE DE MONACO (1986). RONDINI boutique, Saint-Tropez.

View of the DOMAINE DU GAOU BÉNAT, Bormes-les-Mimosas.


Dining table by GEORGES JOUVE for ANDRÉ LEFÈVRE (c. 1960).

TROPÉZIENNES SANDALS from RONDINI, Saint-Tropez.

Photograph of the ATELIER MADOURA, Vallauris (c. 1952).

Original jute bag from ATELIER MADOURA, Vallauris.

Interior view of a house in the DOMAINE DU GAOU BÉNAT, Bormes-les-Mimosas.

BERLINGOT candy.

FAT LAVA LAMP by MARIUS GIUGE (c. 1960).

Concrete roofline at DOMAINE DU GAOU BÉNAT, designed in the early 1960s by architects ANDRÉ LEFÈVRE and JEAN AUBERT.

BRIGITTE BARDOT and EDDIE BARCLAY playing pétanque in Saint-Tropez.

122

HENRI MATISSE in the CHAPELLE DU ROSAIRE DE VENCE (1947–51), which he designed.

All photography of Gaou Bénat by Olivier Amsellem.

Single OURAGAN by STÉPHANIE DE MONACO (1986). RONDINI boutique, Saint-Tropez.

View of the DOMAINE DU GAOU BÉNAT, Bormes-les-Mimosas.


VISAGE AUX MAINS earthenware clay round dish by PABLO PICASSO (1956).

GALERIE MADOURA in Vallauris (1965). On display vases by SUZANNE RAMIÉ.

Blue vase by SUZANNE RAMIÉ (c. 1960).

All photography of Gaou Bénat by Olivier Amsellem.

PABLO PICASSO and the sculptor JULES AGARD together in the studio at ATELIER MADOURA (1953).

Clubhouse of the DOMAINE DU GAOU BÉNAT, Bormes-les-Mimosas.

124

Golden mimosa tree.

FAUX BOIS pottery from the ATELIER GRANDJEAN JOURDAN in Vallauris (c. 1953).

Selection of PICASSO ceramics.


VISAGE AUX MAINS earthenware clay round dish by PABLO PICASSO (1956).

GALERIE MADOURA in Vallauris (1965). On display vases by SUZANNE RAMIÉ.

Blue vase by SUZANNE RAMIÉ (c. 1960).

All photography of Gaou Bénat by Olivier Amsellem.

PABLO PICASSO and the sculptor JULES AGARD together in the studio at ATELIER MADOURA (1953).

Clubhouse of the DOMAINE DU GAOU BÉNAT, Bormes-les-Mimosas.

124

Golden mimosa tree.

FAUX BOIS pottery from the ATELIER GRANDJEAN JOURDAN in Vallauris (c. 1953).

Selection of PICASSO ceramics.


SOFT BAROQUE

SOPHIA AL-MARIA

Feat  ures FRANCIS KÉRÉ

STUDIO MUMBAI BIJOY JAIN


SOFT BAROQUE

SOPHIA AL-MARIA

Feat  ures FRANCIS KÉRÉ

STUDIO MUMBAI BIJOY JAIN


Feature

Soft Baroque Interview Jeppe Ugelvig Portraits Davit Giorgadze

From a dancing crib to a steamy mirror, this London-based design duo have perfected an absurdist realism that playfully questions the status quo. Now they’re ready to make a full-time splash.

128


Feature

Soft Baroque Interview Jeppe Ugelvig Portraits Davit Giorgadze

From a dancing crib to a steamy mirror, this London-based design duo have perfected an absurdist realism that playfully questions the status quo. Now they’re ready to make a full-time splash.

128


130

(Left to right) Dancing Chair (2019) is a dynamic work of furniture referencing Joseph Hoffman-type Viennese Modernism, with a motor generating movements suggesting an anthropomorphic chair struggling to get your attention. The first work in the ongoing Dancing Furniture series was a crib commissioned by PIN–UP’s Felix Burrichter for the exhibition Blow Up (2019) at Friedman Benda, New York. Puffy Brick (2018) is a series of works created by injecting concrete into balloons and arranging them in a mold to produce a set of perfectly-fitting concrete bricks. The counter (pictured) was a special commission for Danish design brand HEM's temporary London location.

The polished stainless steel Spring Bench (2017) is a slick grown-up version of ride-on playground equipment, inspired by a YouTube video of a grown man at the park bobbing up and down on a spring rider toy for kids. It was commissioned by PIN–UP’s Felix Burrichter and curators Andreas Angelidakis and Mia Lundström as one of ten benches installed in a park in the Stockholm suburb of Järfälla for a public exhibition titled SUPERBENCHES. Photography by Henrik Blomqvist. Soft Baroque’s first design object, Lenticularis (2014) is an oval mirror that emits a scented water particle cloud, partially obscuring the user’s reflection while perfuming the air. The concept was initially inspired by the collective human desire to replicate natural phenomena for pleasure or relaxation. The piece replicates a natural climatic occurrence which almost disables the mirror’s traditional function, and in doing so produces a new sensory experience.

FEATURE

(Left to right) Soft Baroque’s Soft Metal Hanger (2019) is a coat hanger made from anodized aluminum and stainless steel ball, which can be freestanding or fixed on a wall. It featured in the exhibition World of Ulteriors (2019) at Etage Projects, Copenhagen, which played with blurring the boundaries of object and image. To create Purged Plastic Bookshelf (2018), Soft Baroque sourced from a recycling facility plastic in the midst of transformation, intrigued by the grotesque quality of the changing colors and polymers.

SOFT BAROQUE

London-based design duo Soft Baroque are known for their fantastic functional objects which often dial up the absurdity of what’s already prominent in the consumer market-­ place as a way of grappling with design’s most basic notions of value. Since they started Soft Baroque in 2013, Saša Štucin and Nicholas Gardner have found their niche playing with ideas of objecthood and perception, surface and deception. Their roving experimental approach is defined by a constant blurring of boundaries between conventional household items and conceptual art, between 2D digital images and 3D sensory material, their refer-­ ences spanning Home Depot gadgets and mid-century-Modern masters to IKEA furniture and digital stock photography. Slovenian-born Štucin and Australian-born Gardener, who met while they were students at London’s Royal College of Art, have shown their unconventional oeuvre at institutions like the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Swiss Institute, galleries like Copenhagen’s Etage Projets and New York’s Friedman Benda and Patrick Parrish, as well as at design fairs all over the globe. They have also taken on many direct commissions from private clients, including fashion house Balenciaga and Danish design company HEM. In collaboration with PIN–UP they are currently teaming up with the Venice-based leather designers Marsèll to create a project for the next Salone del Mobile. Writer and curator Jeppe Ugelvig met up with the real-life couple at their London studio to discuss their expanding practice. Jeppe Ugelvig: The name Soft Baroque is so evocative, but I realize I’ve never heard the story behind how you came up with it. Nicholas Gardner: We were walking around an art fair, casually making fun of and riffing on artworks. There was this one quite tradi­ tional painting by the Slovenian artists’ collective Irwin — I can’t remember exactly what it depicted — that had these soft puffy corners, almost like padding for a frame. It set up a subtle and very pleasing clash between tradition and this unexpected softness. The idea of “soft baroque” started there, first as a joke, but then it began to resonate in our heads, relating to our vision of where the design and art worlds are headed, the taste spectrums active today, how design is positioned ideologically in the world, and where we feel we need to situate ourselves within it. So, for us, the name was a kind of formalization. We got the URL that night. We didn’t immediately


130

(Left to right) Dancing Chair (2019) is a dynamic work of furniture referencing Joseph Hoffman-type Viennese Modernism, with a motor generating movements suggesting an anthropomorphic chair struggling to get your attention. The first work in the ongoing Dancing Furniture series was a crib commissioned by PIN–UP’s Felix Burrichter for the exhibition Blow Up (2019) at Friedman Benda, New York. Puffy Brick (2018) is a series of works created by injecting concrete into balloons and arranging them in a mold to produce a set of perfectly-fitting concrete bricks. The counter (pictured) was a special commission for Danish design brand HEM's temporary London location.

The polished stainless steel Spring Bench (2017) is a slick grown-up version of ride-on playground equipment, inspired by a YouTube video of a grown man at the park bobbing up and down on a spring rider toy for kids. It was commissioned by PIN–UP’s Felix Burrichter and curators Andreas Angelidakis and Mia Lundström as one of ten benches installed in a park in the Stockholm suburb of Järfälla for a public exhibition titled SUPERBENCHES. Photography by Henrik Blomqvist. Soft Baroque’s first design object, Lenticularis (2014) is an oval mirror that emits a scented water particle cloud, partially obscuring the user’s reflection while perfuming the air. The concept was initially inspired by the collective human desire to replicate natural phenomena for pleasure or relaxation. The piece replicates a natural climatic occurrence which almost disables the mirror’s traditional function, and in doing so produces a new sensory experience.

FEATURE

(Left to right) Soft Baroque’s Soft Metal Hanger (2019) is a coat hanger made from anodized aluminum and stainless steel ball, which can be freestanding or fixed on a wall. It featured in the exhibition World of Ulteriors (2019) at Etage Projects, Copenhagen, which played with blurring the boundaries of object and image. To create Purged Plastic Bookshelf (2018), Soft Baroque sourced from a recycling facility plastic in the midst of transformation, intrigued by the grotesque quality of the changing colors and polymers.

SOFT BAROQUE

London-based design duo Soft Baroque are known for their fantastic functional objects which often dial up the absurdity of what’s already prominent in the consumer market-­ place as a way of grappling with design’s most basic notions of value. Since they started Soft Baroque in 2013, Saša Štucin and Nicholas Gardner have found their niche playing with ideas of objecthood and perception, surface and deception. Their roving experimental approach is defined by a constant blurring of boundaries between conventional household items and conceptual art, between 2D digital images and 3D sensory material, their refer-­ ences spanning Home Depot gadgets and mid-century-Modern masters to IKEA furniture and digital stock photography. Slovenian-born Štucin and Australian-born Gardener, who met while they were students at London’s Royal College of Art, have shown their unconventional oeuvre at institutions like the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Swiss Institute, galleries like Copenhagen’s Etage Projets and New York’s Friedman Benda and Patrick Parrish, as well as at design fairs all over the globe. They have also taken on many direct commissions from private clients, including fashion house Balenciaga and Danish design company HEM. In collaboration with PIN–UP they are currently teaming up with the Venice-based leather designers Marsèll to create a project for the next Salone del Mobile. Writer and curator Jeppe Ugelvig met up with the real-life couple at their London studio to discuss their expanding practice. Jeppe Ugelvig: The name Soft Baroque is so evocative, but I realize I’ve never heard the story behind how you came up with it. Nicholas Gardner: We were walking around an art fair, casually making fun of and riffing on artworks. There was this one quite tradi­ tional painting by the Slovenian artists’ collective Irwin — I can’t remember exactly what it depicted — that had these soft puffy corners, almost like padding for a frame. It set up a subtle and very pleasing clash between tradition and this unexpected softness. The idea of “soft baroque” started there, first as a joke, but then it began to resonate in our heads, relating to our vision of where the design and art worlds are headed, the taste spectrums active today, how design is positioned ideologically in the world, and where we feel we need to situate ourselves within it. So, for us, the name was a kind of formalization. We got the URL that night. We didn’t immediately


SOFT BAROQUE

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FEATURE


SOFT BAROQUE

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FEATURE


FEATURE

(Left to right) The Hard Round Shelf (2019) made from Zebrano wood is part of a series manifesting in the material world a line shape derived from Photoshop’s “hard round” brush tool, underscoring a contrast between the clumsy expediency of digital image production and the patience and care inherent to 20th-century craft movements. Soft Baroque’s Corporate Marble Umbrella Stand (2019) is from a series inspired by corporate foyers, the cracked and folded marble slabs suggesting the forceful use of this material known for symbolizing luxury.

(Left to right) The Pearl Screw Shelf Bookcase (2017) draws attention to the expectation that, even in the most economical furniture construction, screws are expected to be filled, plugged, hidden, or covered. Freshwater pearl screw caps are an overcompensation commenting on collective notions of value. Right New Surface Strategies Chair (2015) is constructed from southern yellow pine planks flocked chroma blue, enabling the chair to absorb different material identities in digital postproduction through blue screen technology.

SOFT BAROQUE

134

talk about Soft Baroque as a collaboration between the two of us, but once we started working together we branded the pieces under that name. JU: How does the name encapsulate your posi­ tion in design? Or does it comment upon those around you? There’s a real tension inherent there. Saša Štucin: It’s the tension and slight contradic­ tion that we were first attracted to. We like the Baroque because there are so many misconceptions about it — as pure orna­ ment or kitschy. It spoke so fundamentally about its time, and integrated all aspects of aesthetics into this total environment. I was always very fascinated by that. It’s a very modern idea.

JU: Your work is specific because you emphasize the outcome of your practice being a product, some kind of functional item that has a use value and isn’t merely a speculative object. What was the first product you made? NG: It was Lenticularis [2014], an oval mirror that emits a scented particle cloud through two holes in its face. Water vapor produced by an atomizer obscures your reflection in the mirror and perfumes your body and home with scent. It was our own hybrid of a mirror and a MUJI atomizer. We like the tension between these two elements, obscuring the reflection while introducing a new function. With a lot of our objects, we try to form a strange equation.

“We like the idea that our objects can change the way you behave, think, or interact with others.” NG: The Baroque aesthetic is very theatrical and Catholic, almost grotesque, with the depic­ tion of the almighty in this very extreme way. We like the idea of this total dedi­ca­ tion, a sort of capitulation to an idea or to a set of passions. It was a movement that incorporated architecture and every aspect of decoration as a total and almost divine intervention in art and design. So it’s this idea of a soft version of that — whether soft being software or soft like things being really padded, comfort­ able, and extremely luxurious. Comfort is like an extreme functional paradigm now — it’s almost like a religious expe­ rience to have the most comfortable chair or sofa. JU: Soft Baroque is a creative union between your respective backgrounds in objectmaking [Nicholas] and image-making [Saša]. How did the collaboration first come about? SS: We met in school. I was studying visual communication and Nicholas was study-­ ing furniture design. And, well, Nicholas helped me build this one piece because I had no idea how to actually make it. We quickly discovered we had so much in common in terms of our material fantasies and obsessions.

JU: So has this focus on objecthood — and the physical experience of objects — set the tone for your practice? SS: We’ve definitely established some topics that repeat in our work. For myself, the reason I drifted away from imagemaking and into object-making was that I got really interested in the human experience and how we inhabit this planet. I thought image-making was not the right tool to explore that. Our objects are these quite dynamic things. We often play with the idea of them almost having their own life, you know? Like our Dancing series of furniture [2019], for example. The second thing we’re really interested in is transplanting natural phenomena — fire, clouds, water, wind, all of that — to design. What happens when you read something natural through a very different object typology within your domestic environment? JU: With your work, there’s this interrogation of domestic space, and especially the expe­ rience of interiors, of living and being at home. Of course, design has always done that, but I find there’s an emphasis on lifestyle in your work. Then I find myself asking, “What lifestyle is it? Is it fantas­ tical? Is it futuristic?”


FEATURE

(Left to right) The Hard Round Shelf (2019) made from Zebrano wood is part of a series manifesting in the material world a line shape derived from Photoshop’s “hard round” brush tool, underscoring a contrast between the clumsy expediency of digital image production and the patience and care inherent to 20th-century craft movements. Soft Baroque’s Corporate Marble Umbrella Stand (2019) is from a series inspired by corporate foyers, the cracked and folded marble slabs suggesting the forceful use of this material known for symbolizing luxury.

(Left to right) The Pearl Screw Shelf Bookcase (2017) draws attention to the expectation that, even in the most economical furniture construction, screws are expected to be filled, plugged, hidden, or covered. Freshwater pearl screw caps are an overcompensation commenting on collective notions of value. Right New Surface Strategies Chair (2015) is constructed from southern yellow pine planks flocked chroma blue, enabling the chair to absorb different material identities in digital postproduction through blue screen technology.

SOFT BAROQUE

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talk about Soft Baroque as a collaboration between the two of us, but once we started working together we branded the pieces under that name. JU: How does the name encapsulate your posi­ tion in design? Or does it comment upon those around you? There’s a real tension inherent there. Saša Štucin: It’s the tension and slight contradic­ tion that we were first attracted to. We like the Baroque because there are so many misconceptions about it — as pure orna­ ment or kitschy. It spoke so fundamentally about its time, and integrated all aspects of aesthetics into this total environment. I was always very fascinated by that. It’s a very modern idea.

JU: Your work is specific because you emphasize the outcome of your practice being a product, some kind of functional item that has a use value and isn’t merely a speculative object. What was the first product you made? NG: It was Lenticularis [2014], an oval mirror that emits a scented particle cloud through two holes in its face. Water vapor produced by an atomizer obscures your reflection in the mirror and perfumes your body and home with scent. It was our own hybrid of a mirror and a MUJI atomizer. We like the tension between these two elements, obscuring the reflection while introducing a new function. With a lot of our objects, we try to form a strange equation.

“We like the idea that our objects can change the way you behave, think, or interact with others.” NG: The Baroque aesthetic is very theatrical and Catholic, almost grotesque, with the depic­ tion of the almighty in this very extreme way. We like the idea of this total dedi­ca­ tion, a sort of capitulation to an idea or to a set of passions. It was a movement that incorporated architecture and every aspect of decoration as a total and almost divine intervention in art and design. So it’s this idea of a soft version of that — whether soft being software or soft like things being really padded, comfort­ able, and extremely luxurious. Comfort is like an extreme functional paradigm now — it’s almost like a religious expe­ rience to have the most comfortable chair or sofa. JU: Soft Baroque is a creative union between your respective backgrounds in objectmaking [Nicholas] and image-making [Saša]. How did the collaboration first come about? SS: We met in school. I was studying visual communication and Nicholas was study-­ ing furniture design. And, well, Nicholas helped me build this one piece because I had no idea how to actually make it. We quickly discovered we had so much in common in terms of our material fantasies and obsessions.

JU: So has this focus on objecthood — and the physical experience of objects — set the tone for your practice? SS: We’ve definitely established some topics that repeat in our work. For myself, the reason I drifted away from imagemaking and into object-making was that I got really interested in the human experience and how we inhabit this planet. I thought image-making was not the right tool to explore that. Our objects are these quite dynamic things. We often play with the idea of them almost having their own life, you know? Like our Dancing series of furniture [2019], for example. The second thing we’re really interested in is transplanting natural phenomena — fire, clouds, water, wind, all of that — to design. What happens when you read something natural through a very different object typology within your domestic environment? JU: With your work, there’s this interrogation of domestic space, and especially the expe­ rience of interiors, of living and being at home. Of course, design has always done that, but I find there’s an emphasis on lifestyle in your work. Then I find myself asking, “What lifestyle is it? Is it fantas­ tical? Is it futuristic?”


SOFT BAROQUE NG: We all have a certain set of functions in our lives, afforded through objects. When those are changed or interrupted, it makes you question the validity and necessity of other common functions. We like the idea that the objects can change the way you behave, the way you think, or the way you interact with others. JU: So how do your objects compare to conven­ tional design objects? NG: Well I guess our ambition is for them to exist within the commercial product world, but sort of slumped, changing, and subver­ sive. When a famous designer produces an everyday object, like a faucet or a table or a chair, they mainly just change the aes­ thetic either to fit into or shape the market. We’re trying to do the same, but our motives are slightly more disloyal to that system. The Soft Baroque lifestyle is an alternative lifestyle, but it’s also one that’s feeding off what’s already out there. Our Dancing furniture references common fur­ niture, rather than creating its own crazy language completely removed from design history. The Dancing crib, for example, references Josef Hoffmann-type Viennese Modernism, while the Dancing armchair references early 2000s IKEA, which itself is derived from mid-century typologies. So what we’re trying to do is pump up these references and turn the volume down on others in order to create some­ thing that can participate in our world, without it being an artwork — it’s still a func­ tional item. JU: A functional item with an added element of fantasy — or playfulness, perhaps, a sense of humor that gestures to the horizon of contemporary design. SS: If you look at the most modern shit on the market, it’s completely gadgety and a joke. I often refer to our work as future prac­ tical. It talks of the future, but not a distant, unknown, techy, sci-fi one. Instead one that’s referential and familiar. JU: You’re taking design’s rather tired claim of “innovation” to its furthest extent, actually, by innovating new lifestyles. SS: There are millions of perfectly fine mirrors out there and we don’t see the value in us producing another fine mirror. Instead we add an extra element, which you can call humorous or futuristic, or poetic, or what­ ever. We sometimes see objects on the Internet, or in Home Depot, and think “Oh, that could be a Soft Baroque object” — so context matters too. 136

NG: Take our Dancing crib: there are already all these extremely dynamic cribs, these simulated rocking machines out there on the commercial market. Even the Dancing shelves are out there — we sort of ripped off their mechanism. But by taking one of those dynamic moving objects that claim a function or a pseudo-function, and then replacing its material or placing an aesthetic onto it — like Josef Hoffmanntype Viennese Modernism — we create something that’s kind of circular and ques­ tions existing objects. JU: Another big element in your practice is the interrogation of images and image culture, surface and veneers, and how the digital impacts material culture and object-making. SS: Maybe this was an obvious starting point considering our respective backgrounds — mine more image-based, and Nicholas’s more object-based — and finding a shared interest in the flatness of an image, how thin it is. But then also how it can be manip­ ulated to create illusions. High-resolution renders are becoming such an important part of our lives today, both on the screen but also in public space. NG: Particularly in a big city like London — often 50 percent of a given street viewpoint comprises some sort of printed image. There’s a commercial language devel­ oping that’s driven by stock images and the representations of an ideal based on higher-resolution marketing. We’re think­ing about the image as a physical thing in space. If you view an image from an angle, it looks different than viewing it straight on. Or if the poster is slightly crumpled in the light box, it produces a distorted image. We’re interested in these moments of tension between high-res representations of a reality and the actual physical infrastructure of the world. Like when somebody’s tried to wrap their image around an electrical box, and they’ve cut out a section to accommodate the function of the box. We’re trying to rec­ reate this tension in some of our pieces: getting images and crumpling them up, or changing the shape of them. We made some furniture where we printed on the upholstery, and then the upholstery was bent and wrapped around the piece. JU: Last year you had an exhibition at Etage Projects called World of Ulteriors, which used back­ drops in this way. NG: Yes, we worked with a friend of ours, the

FEATURE architect Nicholas Ashby, to make back­ drops to present the work on. They were large PVC banners printed with archi­ tectural renders of interiors, similar to advertising renders on the hoardings of half-built developments, which are usually grotesquely and abundantly furnished. Nicholas’s are unfurnished spaces that reference 2000s Australian harbor-­ side condo developments and Italian palazzos. The banners were hung at an angle, half draped across the floor, or bunched up, which produced a 3D physi-­ cal distortion in space of a 2D digital image, contrasting their flatness with the 3D objects placed on or in front of them. When images of the installation circulated online, it was hard to tell the relationship between the 2D banners and the 3D objects — it looked photoshopped or confusing. We like to play with that confusion. We’re

high-performance materials in combination with luxury tropes is at once an example of digitally assisted free-market feedback loops gone awry and of genuine expressions of our natural desires. JU: Does the digital pose a threat to object design? NG: The Instagram version of the digital is a threat I think. People are becoming lazier and putting less effort into making projects that are well-rounded. Rather they make it just for the image, ticking the boxes in terms of what will be liked on Instagram. JU: I like that you think about the circulation of images in that way, and a part of the confu­ sion and joy in encountering your objects in the flesh is that they feel almost like digital-­ born objects. Your ongoing Puffy Bricks project, which you began in 2018, looks like something that could be found on Tumblr, a speculative image of an object that didn’t exist. And yet it’s real.

“Stylistically we’re a little bit disenchanted with what’s filtering through domestic design culture right now: we find tasteful Postmodernism nauseating.” talking about how design and architec-­ ture are consumed now — the image is as much a product as the real space. Our furniture is unashamed about inhabiting that digital product. SS: The digital representations of ideal and desir­ able spaces have driven us to strange tastes. Large-format prints of juicy dropletspangled tomatoes confront you walking past a supermarket. Construction sites are covered in tarps printed with a graphic version of the building that’s being restored. Printed wood grain on laminates for flooring or furniture has become more and more hyperreal and verging on the psy­ chedelic. It’s a strange mix of deception and decoration. In World of Ulteriors, we were creating a series of objects that both participate in and subvert these phenomena. The fetishization of

SS: I think this feeling relates to surface and deception — the methods of production of surface, or production of material, as a means of selling or deceiving. In a weird way, there is a dominance of surface that has taken over a lot of plastic items — for example regular furniture items printed with wood grain or stone. We like that topic and we try to think about it as much as possible because it’s so prominent in the consumer market. Even Apple does it. We don’t necessarily mind it, we just think that if you’re going to print wood grain, then why can’t you also print something else? Why can’t you explore this in a more experimental fashion? JU: Experimentation seems to be the driving force of Soft Baroque. As a result, you don’t have a house style like most contemporary design practices. The intervention, the


SOFT BAROQUE NG: We all have a certain set of functions in our lives, afforded through objects. When those are changed or interrupted, it makes you question the validity and necessity of other common functions. We like the idea that the objects can change the way you behave, the way you think, or the way you interact with others. JU: So how do your objects compare to conven­ tional design objects? NG: Well I guess our ambition is for them to exist within the commercial product world, but sort of slumped, changing, and subver­ sive. When a famous designer produces an everyday object, like a faucet or a table or a chair, they mainly just change the aes­ thetic either to fit into or shape the market. We’re trying to do the same, but our motives are slightly more disloyal to that system. The Soft Baroque lifestyle is an alternative lifestyle, but it’s also one that’s feeding off what’s already out there. Our Dancing furniture references common fur­ niture, rather than creating its own crazy language completely removed from design history. The Dancing crib, for example, references Josef Hoffmann-type Viennese Modernism, while the Dancing armchair references early 2000s IKEA, which itself is derived from mid-century typologies. So what we’re trying to do is pump up these references and turn the volume down on others in order to create some­ thing that can participate in our world, without it being an artwork — it’s still a func­ tional item. JU: A functional item with an added element of fantasy — or playfulness, perhaps, a sense of humor that gestures to the horizon of contemporary design. SS: If you look at the most modern shit on the market, it’s completely gadgety and a joke. I often refer to our work as future prac­ tical. It talks of the future, but not a distant, unknown, techy, sci-fi one. Instead one that’s referential and familiar. JU: You’re taking design’s rather tired claim of “innovation” to its furthest extent, actually, by innovating new lifestyles. SS: There are millions of perfectly fine mirrors out there and we don’t see the value in us producing another fine mirror. Instead we add an extra element, which you can call humorous or futuristic, or poetic, or what­ ever. We sometimes see objects on the Internet, or in Home Depot, and think “Oh, that could be a Soft Baroque object” — so context matters too. 136

NG: Take our Dancing crib: there are already all these extremely dynamic cribs, these simulated rocking machines out there on the commercial market. Even the Dancing shelves are out there — we sort of ripped off their mechanism. But by taking one of those dynamic moving objects that claim a function or a pseudo-function, and then replacing its material or placing an aesthetic onto it — like Josef Hoffmanntype Viennese Modernism — we create something that’s kind of circular and ques­ tions existing objects. JU: Another big element in your practice is the interrogation of images and image culture, surface and veneers, and how the digital impacts material culture and object-making. SS: Maybe this was an obvious starting point considering our respective backgrounds — mine more image-based, and Nicholas’s more object-based — and finding a shared interest in the flatness of an image, how thin it is. But then also how it can be manip­ ulated to create illusions. High-resolution renders are becoming such an important part of our lives today, both on the screen but also in public space. NG: Particularly in a big city like London — often 50 percent of a given street viewpoint comprises some sort of printed image. There’s a commercial language devel­ oping that’s driven by stock images and the representations of an ideal based on higher-resolution marketing. We’re think­ing about the image as a physical thing in space. If you view an image from an angle, it looks different than viewing it straight on. Or if the poster is slightly crumpled in the light box, it produces a distorted image. We’re interested in these moments of tension between high-res representations of a reality and the actual physical infrastructure of the world. Like when somebody’s tried to wrap their image around an electrical box, and they’ve cut out a section to accommodate the function of the box. We’re trying to rec­ reate this tension in some of our pieces: getting images and crumpling them up, or changing the shape of them. We made some furniture where we printed on the upholstery, and then the upholstery was bent and wrapped around the piece. JU: Last year you had an exhibition at Etage Projects called World of Ulteriors, which used back­ drops in this way. NG: Yes, we worked with a friend of ours, the

FEATURE architect Nicholas Ashby, to make back­ drops to present the work on. They were large PVC banners printed with archi­ tectural renders of interiors, similar to advertising renders on the hoardings of half-built developments, which are usually grotesquely and abundantly furnished. Nicholas’s are unfurnished spaces that reference 2000s Australian harbor-­ side condo developments and Italian palazzos. The banners were hung at an angle, half draped across the floor, or bunched up, which produced a 3D physi-­ cal distortion in space of a 2D digital image, contrasting their flatness with the 3D objects placed on or in front of them. When images of the installation circulated online, it was hard to tell the relationship between the 2D banners and the 3D objects — it looked photoshopped or confusing. We like to play with that confusion. We’re

high-performance materials in combination with luxury tropes is at once an example of digitally assisted free-market feedback loops gone awry and of genuine expressions of our natural desires. JU: Does the digital pose a threat to object design? NG: The Instagram version of the digital is a threat I think. People are becoming lazier and putting less effort into making projects that are well-rounded. Rather they make it just for the image, ticking the boxes in terms of what will be liked on Instagram. JU: I like that you think about the circulation of images in that way, and a part of the confu­ sion and joy in encountering your objects in the flesh is that they feel almost like digital-­ born objects. Your ongoing Puffy Bricks project, which you began in 2018, looks like something that could be found on Tumblr, a speculative image of an object that didn’t exist. And yet it’s real.

“Stylistically we’re a little bit disenchanted with what’s filtering through domestic design culture right now: we find tasteful Postmodernism nauseating.” talking about how design and architec-­ ture are consumed now — the image is as much a product as the real space. Our furniture is unashamed about inhabiting that digital product. SS: The digital representations of ideal and desir­ able spaces have driven us to strange tastes. Large-format prints of juicy dropletspangled tomatoes confront you walking past a supermarket. Construction sites are covered in tarps printed with a graphic version of the building that’s being restored. Printed wood grain on laminates for flooring or furniture has become more and more hyperreal and verging on the psy­ chedelic. It’s a strange mix of deception and decoration. In World of Ulteriors, we were creating a series of objects that both participate in and subvert these phenomena. The fetishization of

SS: I think this feeling relates to surface and deception — the methods of production of surface, or production of material, as a means of selling or deceiving. In a weird way, there is a dominance of surface that has taken over a lot of plastic items — for example regular furniture items printed with wood grain or stone. We like that topic and we try to think about it as much as possible because it’s so prominent in the consumer market. Even Apple does it. We don’t necessarily mind it, we just think that if you’re going to print wood grain, then why can’t you also print something else? Why can’t you explore this in a more experimental fashion? JU: Experimentation seems to be the driving force of Soft Baroque. As a result, you don’t have a house style like most contemporary design practices. The intervention, the


Postmodernism nauseating, even though we’ve been proponents of it at times. We are trying to move into in-depth projects where we work collaboratively with other artists and curators, work which manifests itself in experimental spaces sometimes separated from the commercial. JU: One of these more in-depth projects is going to be an installation you’re planning with PIN–UP and Marsèll in Milan in 2021. Can you already talk about the concept behind it?

“We’re interested in these moments of tension between high-res representations of a reality and actual physical infrastructure.” then go from there. We are more inter-­ ested in setting up an ideology and being responsive within that. But to be honest we don’t know what we’re doing exactly. I have pangs of commercial urgency, thinking we should do proper collections and catalogues, but that feeling never lasts and we return to the project-by-project model. Soft Baroque wasn’t set up as a business model, it was set up as a con­ versation between the two of us. It was a weekend project for the first four years, and we have only been running Soft Baroque full time for just over a year. We’re always a bit restless. Things seem to work best when we’re moving fast. JU: How has your practice evolved over the years to become more spatial? SS: When thinking about how or where to place our objects we are naturally drawn to total spaces, usually distorted versions of domestic interiors. However, our starting point is generally the objects — the rationality for the space comes as a con­ sequence. What is the reason for this object’s existence? What does the mate-­ rial we are using say? Then that story starts forming as a room. I guess this is the reverse of how a conventional interior designer would work. Stylistically we’re a little bit disenchanted with what’s filtering through domestic design culture right now: we find tasteful 138

NG: It’s still very early but right now we’re focusing on three aspects of the sun: growth, worship, and destruction. I guess we took a more cynical approach to growth, with artificial sunlight referencing grow-op farms [indoor marijuana plantations] for which we’re designing our own versions of con­ sumer furniture illuminated from the inside. It’s very technical and scientific, maybe suggesting how we’ve lost touch with nature. Worship is about a religious experience and about making a space for relaxation — we’re making these brass relics and presenting objects that reference Quaker and Shaker traditions. And for destruction we’ve designed sun benches that look like they’re melting. They’re loungers, but they can also be stacked on top of one another to make a superstructure. SS: Growth talks about life, energy, and tech­ nology. Worship references the sometimes-antithetical forces of craft, industry, style, and religion. And lastly, with destruction, we’re thinking about the sun as a beloved enemy. It will be our personal response, interwoven with ideas about design and consumer cul-­ ture. But, more broadly, we’re commenting on how, due to our dependency on hydro­ carbons, we’ve lost our reliance on the sun’s power. But now we will need it again, so let’s look directly at it!

Nicholas Gardner (top left) and Saša Štucin (bottom right) photographed by Davit Giorgadze. Shaker-style chair (top right) made from Tufnol®, a pioneering laminated plastic that has the vague appearance of wood. The work inspires a re-evaluation of how early 20th-century plastics are being looked at with the reverence traditionally paid to natural materials.

question, is the red thread. This is maybe both a blessing and a curse, from a com­ mercial viewpoint at least. NG: A lot of the time I think we have an urgency to do something new. I remember, in the first few years, interior designers were really curious about our practice but con­ cerned about not knowing how to sell us to clients, because our result is so dif­ ferent every time. Most people specialize in one material, process, or typology, and

FEATURE

An armchair (bottom left) from the Carved Aluminum series (2019) uses aluminum box sections resembling 2x4 timber except for cutaways revealing they’re hollow — a technical replica of rustic primitive construction.

SOFT BAROQUE


Postmodernism nauseating, even though we’ve been proponents of it at times. We are trying to move into in-depth projects where we work collaboratively with other artists and curators, work which manifests itself in experimental spaces sometimes separated from the commercial. JU: One of these more in-depth projects is going to be an installation you’re planning with PIN–UP and Marsèll in Milan in 2021. Can you already talk about the concept behind it?

“We’re interested in these moments of tension between high-res representations of a reality and actual physical infrastructure.” then go from there. We are more inter-­ ested in setting up an ideology and being responsive within that. But to be honest we don’t know what we’re doing exactly. I have pangs of commercial urgency, thinking we should do proper collections and catalogues, but that feeling never lasts and we return to the project-by-project model. Soft Baroque wasn’t set up as a business model, it was set up as a con­ versation between the two of us. It was a weekend project for the first four years, and we have only been running Soft Baroque full time for just over a year. We’re always a bit restless. Things seem to work best when we’re moving fast. JU: How has your practice evolved over the years to become more spatial? SS: When thinking about how or where to place our objects we are naturally drawn to total spaces, usually distorted versions of domestic interiors. However, our starting point is generally the objects — the rationality for the space comes as a con­ sequence. What is the reason for this object’s existence? What does the mate-­ rial we are using say? Then that story starts forming as a room. I guess this is the reverse of how a conventional interior designer would work. Stylistically we’re a little bit disenchanted with what’s filtering through domestic design culture right now: we find tasteful 138

NG: It’s still very early but right now we’re focusing on three aspects of the sun: growth, worship, and destruction. I guess we took a more cynical approach to growth, with artificial sunlight referencing grow-op farms [indoor marijuana plantations] for which we’re designing our own versions of con­ sumer furniture illuminated from the inside. It’s very technical and scientific, maybe suggesting how we’ve lost touch with nature. Worship is about a religious experience and about making a space for relaxation — we’re making these brass relics and presenting objects that reference Quaker and Shaker traditions. And for destruction we’ve designed sun benches that look like they’re melting. They’re loungers, but they can also be stacked on top of one another to make a superstructure. SS: Growth talks about life, energy, and tech­ nology. Worship references the sometimes-antithetical forces of craft, industry, style, and religion. And lastly, with destruction, we’re thinking about the sun as a beloved enemy. It will be our personal response, interwoven with ideas about design and consumer cul-­ ture. But, more broadly, we’re commenting on how, due to our dependency on hydro­ carbons, we’ve lost our reliance on the sun’s power. But now we will need it again, so let’s look directly at it!

Nicholas Gardner (top left) and Saša Štucin (bottom right) photographed by Davit Giorgadze. Shaker-style chair (top right) made from Tufnol®, a pioneering laminated plastic that has the vague appearance of wood. The work inspires a re-evaluation of how early 20th-century plastics are being looked at with the reverence traditionally paid to natural materials.

question, is the red thread. This is maybe both a blessing and a curse, from a com­ mercial viewpoint at least. NG: A lot of the time I think we have an urgency to do something new. I remember, in the first few years, interior designers were really curious about our practice but con­ cerned about not knowing how to sell us to clients, because our result is so dif­ ferent every time. Most people specialize in one material, process, or typology, and

FEATURE

An armchair (bottom left) from the Carved Aluminum series (2019) uses aluminum box sections resembling 2x4 timber except for cutaways revealing they’re hollow — a technical replica of rustic primitive construction.

SOFT BAROQUE


Francis KĂŠrĂŠ Interview Shumi Bose Photography Paul Hutchinson From humble carpenter to worldrenowned architect, the Burkina Faso-born builder has had an exceptional rise. With two African parliament projects afoot, as well as his first major project in Germany, the Berlin-based luminary is as down-to-earth as ever. Feature 140


Francis KĂŠrĂŠ Interview Shumi Bose Photography Paul Hutchinson From humble carpenter to worldrenowned architect, the Burkina Faso-born builder has had an exceptional rise. With two African parliament projects afoot, as well as his first major project in Germany, the Berlin-based luminary is as down-to-earth as ever. Feature 140


A model of Benin’s new National Assembly in the capital Porto-Novo, designed by Francis Kéré. For this project, still in the design stage, the principal reference is the Palaver tree and the African tradition of leaders meeting beneath it to debate and discuss the destiny of their community. The architect often finds inspiration in trees and cultural traditions associated with them. The model is sitting on a pedestal made from tree branches similar to the construction of Kéré’s 2019 pavilion, Xylem, at the Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, Montana.

(Left to right) Study models in Francis Kéré’s Berlin studio: (upper shelf, left) Xylem, a visitor pavilion at the Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, Montana, completed in 2019; (upper shelf, right) the Thomas Sankara Memorial in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, currently in the design stage; (bottom shelf, left) the Burkina Faso National Assembly in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, currently in the design stage; (bottom shelf, right) seating elements for a wedding pavilion in Bangalore, India, currently under construction. Study models for Sarbalé Ke (2019), a cluster of colorful pavilions Kéré designed for Coachella music festival.

142

The shelves at Francis Kéré’s Berlin studio are full of study models and material samples: (top right) a massing model of the Kamwokya Playground and Community Center in Kampala, Uganda, currently under construction; (bottom right) a wooden tool used in Burkina Faso to manually flatten earth.

FEATURE

(Left to right) A model of the Technical University of Munich Tower, Francis Kéré’s first major project in Germany, currently in the design stage. Kéré has many projects in Africa and spends much of his time there, but for the past 30 years, his primary residence has been in Germany. He first emigrated from his native Burkina Faso to study in Berlin right before the fall of the Wall. At his longtime studio in Berlin-Kreuzberg, study models and material samples pack the shelves.

FRANCIS KÉRÉ

While still a student at Berlin’s Technical University in the early 2000s, Diébédo Francis Kéré designed the first ever primary school in Gando, his home village in Burkina Faso, a land­ locked nation in West Africa. Built with the help of villagers utilizing local materials, the school became a symbol of community pride and also won Kéré the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004, the same year he completed his archi­ tecture degree. Applying his contextual approach wherever he goes, Kéré prioritizes efficiency, simplicity, and the value of the building to those who will use and experience it. Today, looking back on two decades of work, Kéré almost seems surprised at the position he’s reached — a worldrenowned architect who has built extensively in Africa and Europe, who was awarded the 2009 Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, and who designed the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion. He is also currently working on two different national parliament buildings in West Africa as well as his first major project in Germany: a campus tower at Munich’s Technical University, where he also teaches. Trained as a carpenter, Kéré first came to Berlin wanting to learn something about building that he could take back to his commu­ nity to help improve the way they lived. Thirty years later, the humble 55-year-old has achieved all that and more. PIN–UP paid him a visit in his Berlin-Kreuzberg studio. Shumi Bose: You just returned from Porto-Novo in Benin. Francis Kéré: Yes, we’re working on the new parliament there. The project started in 2018, through a competition. Shortly before Christmas last year, we got a call to propose an updated design. We only had four weeks to do it. It was intense! But that’s our job. In the last couple of years, I’ve been preparing the studio to have the capacity to react quickly. SB: What is your vision for the Benin parliament? FK: We want the building to represent the traditions of Africa. The way debate was conducted in the past was to sit under a big tree, where everyone can see the gathering and contribute to the discus­ sion. At the same time, sitting under a tree is a traditional meeting place for the elders — the wisest gather to discuss the destiny of a community, of a tribe, of a people. So we want to build a big palaver tree — we physically wrote that into our sketches. For me, it is about the tree as a symbol, a tree with the shadow that embraces you. The site is next to a very ancient city, which helped support my


A model of Benin’s new National Assembly in the capital Porto-Novo, designed by Francis Kéré. For this project, still in the design stage, the principal reference is the Palaver tree and the African tradition of leaders meeting beneath it to debate and discuss the destiny of their community. The architect often finds inspiration in trees and cultural traditions associated with them. The model is sitting on a pedestal made from tree branches similar to the construction of Kéré’s 2019 pavilion, Xylem, at the Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, Montana.

(Left to right) Study models in Francis Kéré’s Berlin studio: (upper shelf, left) Xylem, a visitor pavilion at the Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, Montana, completed in 2019; (upper shelf, right) the Thomas Sankara Memorial in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, currently in the design stage; (bottom shelf, left) the Burkina Faso National Assembly in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, currently in the design stage; (bottom shelf, right) seating elements for a wedding pavilion in Bangalore, India, currently under construction. Study models for Sarbalé Ke (2019), a cluster of colorful pavilions Kéré designed for Coachella music festival.

142

The shelves at Francis Kéré’s Berlin studio are full of study models and material samples: (top right) a massing model of the Kamwokya Playground and Community Center in Kampala, Uganda, currently under construction; (bottom right) a wooden tool used in Burkina Faso to manually flatten earth.

FEATURE

(Left to right) A model of the Technical University of Munich Tower, Francis Kéré’s first major project in Germany, currently in the design stage. Kéré has many projects in Africa and spends much of his time there, but for the past 30 years, his primary residence has been in Germany. He first emigrated from his native Burkina Faso to study in Berlin right before the fall of the Wall. At his longtime studio in Berlin-Kreuzberg, study models and material samples pack the shelves.

FRANCIS KÉRÉ

While still a student at Berlin’s Technical University in the early 2000s, Diébédo Francis Kéré designed the first ever primary school in Gando, his home village in Burkina Faso, a land­ locked nation in West Africa. Built with the help of villagers utilizing local materials, the school became a symbol of community pride and also won Kéré the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004, the same year he completed his archi­ tecture degree. Applying his contextual approach wherever he goes, Kéré prioritizes efficiency, simplicity, and the value of the building to those who will use and experience it. Today, looking back on two decades of work, Kéré almost seems surprised at the position he’s reached — a worldrenowned architect who has built extensively in Africa and Europe, who was awarded the 2009 Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, and who designed the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion. He is also currently working on two different national parliament buildings in West Africa as well as his first major project in Germany: a campus tower at Munich’s Technical University, where he also teaches. Trained as a carpenter, Kéré first came to Berlin wanting to learn something about building that he could take back to his commu­ nity to help improve the way they lived. Thirty years later, the humble 55-year-old has achieved all that and more. PIN–UP paid him a visit in his Berlin-Kreuzberg studio. Shumi Bose: You just returned from Porto-Novo in Benin. Francis Kéré: Yes, we’re working on the new parliament there. The project started in 2018, through a competition. Shortly before Christmas last year, we got a call to propose an updated design. We only had four weeks to do it. It was intense! But that’s our job. In the last couple of years, I’ve been preparing the studio to have the capacity to react quickly. SB: What is your vision for the Benin parliament? FK: We want the building to represent the traditions of Africa. The way debate was conducted in the past was to sit under a big tree, where everyone can see the gathering and contribute to the discus­ sion. At the same time, sitting under a tree is a traditional meeting place for the elders — the wisest gather to discuss the destiny of a community, of a tribe, of a people. So we want to build a big palaver tree — we physically wrote that into our sketches. For me, it is about the tree as a symbol, a tree with the shadow that embraces you. The site is next to a very ancient city, which helped support my


FRANCIS KÉRÉ idea of learning from the past to develop for the future. SB: Let’s talk about a more speculative vision — your pyramid in Ouagadougou. FK: Ah yes, the parliament house for Burkina Faso. In 2014 there was a sort of revolu­ tion. The president at that time wanted to change the constitution and make him­ self president for life; a mob overran the parliament house and burned it down. I was busy doing my own thing, then one day I was contacted by a self-­organized committee — members included intellec­ tuals, musicians, artists, a few politicians, and also simply activists — that called to say, “We want to rebuild the parlia­ ment house and we want you to propose a design that is transparent, accessible, visionary, and sustainable.” They wanted it to feel open to the public, welcoming. So I used this idea of a pyramid. I wanted to design the project so that the people can access it at any time, and even get up on the roof. It was partly inspired by the renovation of the Reichstag in Berlin [Foster + Partners, 1999], where you can access the roof. It’s symbolic, saying that the building is open, the public can watch their representatives in action — you can see if they’re doing their work, and they know who they are serving. Another key ele­ ment is to raise people’s perspectives, literally, since Ouagadougou is flat and very low, mostly one-story buildings. I want to offer a sense of pride for the people — it’s important for them to see the capital differently, to be able to appre­ ciate it. I want the building to become the most public, and permanently public, space in Burkina Faso. There is no public space really like that. SB: Can you tell me about the garden inside the parliament? FK: The idea is that every region [in Burkina Faso] would come and create a piece of landscape, based on agricultural produce. The garden wouldn’t just be contemplative, but also educational. To teach other regions how they grow, so it will make them one nation and unite all the different regions. Here you see the metaphor of the tree again. In this case, the tree was embedded in the parliament, as an informal meeting point. These metaphors will help us to recall our own origins, rather than repli­ cating a national assembly from France, which is often the case. My hope was 144

that the next time there’s a revolution in the country — and I’m sure it will come soon, because we have very high youth unemployment — they won’t want to burn it down. If it can become a truly public space. SB: Do you think it will be realized? FK: When I travel to Burkina, I sometimes see the prime minister or our foreign minister on the plane. There are always all these questions, “Mr. Kéré, Mr. Kéré, what about our parliament house?” I say, “It’s not me making the decisions, it’s you.” [Laughs.] There are some issues with the proposed plot of land. They sug­ gested that we could change the site to somewhere outside the city. It makes no sense so I refused. But the project is still underway, and even earlier this year they were trying to organize a meeting with the new president. But sometimes projects don’t need to be real­ ized, you know? The inspiration is food for creativity. We need visionary ideas. And if they’re coming from our people, the changes that happen are unbelievable. For myself, it’s amazing to see the reac­ tions to this project. SB: How many of your projects are speculative like that? FK: We don’t usually do competitions if we aren’t invited. And we usually don’t do projects that are completely speculative. But when they called me for the parliament house in Ouagadougou, there was no way I could say no. If I had, they might have thought I was too detached, that I don’t care. But I thought that if I suggested that the people climb on the top of the parliament, they would say, “No, no, no, no. We don’t want that.” Some people involved with the project warned me: “No leader will accept a project like this, not just in Burkina, but in all of Africa.” Then I had to present it to the parliament and the pres-­ ident and, to my surprise, he only said, “Mr. Kéré, we have to talk. You have to reduce the size.” I was really shocked. SB: What strikes me about what you just told me is how often we doubt ourselves, even as a nation or a people. You didn’t think your design would be accepted. Particularly in former colonial countries, there’s often a nagging doubt as to whether anything autonomous can be truly successful. I think you’re right to provide something vision­ ­ary. You have to inspire people for anything to happen at all.

FEATURE FK: Yes, yes, yes. Inspiration is for innovation and for design. It acts the same way as food. Food is for creativity. SB: What do you think about the growing rela­ tionship between China and Africa? In Europe, some commentators seem skep­ tical, concerned there is a weakening of African ownership over the develop-­ ing infrastructure.

don’t dig deeper. They just say it might be bad to work with China, instead of asking why the situation is like this. I’m striving to do things myself. I just came back from visiting the Royal Baths at Meroë, in Sudan. This site in the middle of Africa is more than 2,000 years old. [Kéré Architecture is building a protective shelter for the ruins.] When you see

“Sometimes projects don’t need to be realized, you know. The inspiration is food for creativity. We need visionary ideas.” FK: From my experience, Africans see the West as a great example. They try to do everything like the West. But if you look at the West’s relationship with Africa over the centuries, you would have to admit the continent is still missing a lot of infra­ structure that it needs. Then you have to start asking yourself some questions. You start to believe what some people are saying: that the West has no interest in seeing Africa develop. The second thing is, of course, paternalism. The West thinks that the best path for Africa is to do things carefully. It’s like a dad or mom with their kids. You should allow the kids to grow up, to make mistakes, to learn from them. You cannot be control­ ling. Another issue is that the population in Africa is growing incredibly fast. People need technicians and govern­ ments to support them in building infrastructure. Most of the time there is no available expertise. Professionals from the West are very expensive, and then there are cases where partners from the West don’t respond to the request, but rather try to change the project. This situation is pushing African leaders to deal more and more with China. Chinese partners come, often with the money, expertise, and professionals. So I mean, that is just a fact. It’s a pity, but this is the reality. SB: Why do you say it’s a pity? FK: It’s a pity that in making that criticism of China’s relationship with Africa, people

that you can imagine what is possible in this continent. We have to allow for a free African imagination. There is a big need for infrastructure, and one of the strongest partners for that now is China. SB: What buildings inspired you as a young man? Which ones were your “food?” FK: When I started studying, I had no knowledge about the history of architecture. I wanted to gain knowledge, to be able to develop things in my own village. I just wanted to build. Of course, when I started to study, I discovered the real world of architecture. When you study in Berlin, you will face the great Mies van der Rohe. I really like the art of rationalism he applied — so efficient, so simple, very clear to under­ stand. Later on, I traveled to India and discovered Louis Khan’s Indian Institute of Management [Ahmedabad, 1974], for which he used local brick. For me, it was really an eyeopener. SB: What was it about that building? FK: Kahn’s adaptation to the place, the use of brick, the simplicity — but then the com­ plexity, at the same time. So Khan and Mies for sure, they were really key for my own work. And later on I was looking at architects who were doing very simple things, very small buildings. That’s how I came to know the work of Glenn Murcutt. The simplicity of his buildings impressed me so much, because it was different from all the others. I wanted to do something simple, something rational, very useful for my people. I also recently visited Taliesin


FRANCIS KÉRÉ idea of learning from the past to develop for the future. SB: Let’s talk about a more speculative vision — your pyramid in Ouagadougou. FK: Ah yes, the parliament house for Burkina Faso. In 2014 there was a sort of revolu­ tion. The president at that time wanted to change the constitution and make him­ self president for life; a mob overran the parliament house and burned it down. I was busy doing my own thing, then one day I was contacted by a self-­organized committee — members included intellec­ tuals, musicians, artists, a few politicians, and also simply activists — that called to say, “We want to rebuild the parlia­ ment house and we want you to propose a design that is transparent, accessible, visionary, and sustainable.” They wanted it to feel open to the public, welcoming. So I used this idea of a pyramid. I wanted to design the project so that the people can access it at any time, and even get up on the roof. It was partly inspired by the renovation of the Reichstag in Berlin [Foster + Partners, 1999], where you can access the roof. It’s symbolic, saying that the building is open, the public can watch their representatives in action — you can see if they’re doing their work, and they know who they are serving. Another key ele­ ment is to raise people’s perspectives, literally, since Ouagadougou is flat and very low, mostly one-story buildings. I want to offer a sense of pride for the people — it’s important for them to see the capital differently, to be able to appre­ ciate it. I want the building to become the most public, and permanently public, space in Burkina Faso. There is no public space really like that. SB: Can you tell me about the garden inside the parliament? FK: The idea is that every region [in Burkina Faso] would come and create a piece of landscape, based on agricultural produce. The garden wouldn’t just be contemplative, but also educational. To teach other regions how they grow, so it will make them one nation and unite all the different regions. Here you see the metaphor of the tree again. In this case, the tree was embedded in the parliament, as an informal meeting point. These metaphors will help us to recall our own origins, rather than repli­ cating a national assembly from France, which is often the case. My hope was 144

that the next time there’s a revolution in the country — and I’m sure it will come soon, because we have very high youth unemployment — they won’t want to burn it down. If it can become a truly public space. SB: Do you think it will be realized? FK: When I travel to Burkina, I sometimes see the prime minister or our foreign minister on the plane. There are always all these questions, “Mr. Kéré, Mr. Kéré, what about our parliament house?” I say, “It’s not me making the decisions, it’s you.” [Laughs.] There are some issues with the proposed plot of land. They sug­ gested that we could change the site to somewhere outside the city. It makes no sense so I refused. But the project is still underway, and even earlier this year they were trying to organize a meeting with the new president. But sometimes projects don’t need to be real­ ized, you know? The inspiration is food for creativity. We need visionary ideas. And if they’re coming from our people, the changes that happen are unbelievable. For myself, it’s amazing to see the reac­ tions to this project. SB: How many of your projects are speculative like that? FK: We don’t usually do competitions if we aren’t invited. And we usually don’t do projects that are completely speculative. But when they called me for the parliament house in Ouagadougou, there was no way I could say no. If I had, they might have thought I was too detached, that I don’t care. But I thought that if I suggested that the people climb on the top of the parliament, they would say, “No, no, no, no. We don’t want that.” Some people involved with the project warned me: “No leader will accept a project like this, not just in Burkina, but in all of Africa.” Then I had to present it to the parliament and the pres-­ ident and, to my surprise, he only said, “Mr. Kéré, we have to talk. You have to reduce the size.” I was really shocked. SB: What strikes me about what you just told me is how often we doubt ourselves, even as a nation or a people. You didn’t think your design would be accepted. Particularly in former colonial countries, there’s often a nagging doubt as to whether anything autonomous can be truly successful. I think you’re right to provide something vision­ ­ary. You have to inspire people for anything to happen at all.

FEATURE FK: Yes, yes, yes. Inspiration is for innovation and for design. It acts the same way as food. Food is for creativity. SB: What do you think about the growing rela­ tionship between China and Africa? In Europe, some commentators seem skep­ tical, concerned there is a weakening of African ownership over the develop-­ ing infrastructure.

don’t dig deeper. They just say it might be bad to work with China, instead of asking why the situation is like this. I’m striving to do things myself. I just came back from visiting the Royal Baths at Meroë, in Sudan. This site in the middle of Africa is more than 2,000 years old. [Kéré Architecture is building a protective shelter for the ruins.] When you see

“Sometimes projects don’t need to be realized, you know. The inspiration is food for creativity. We need visionary ideas.” FK: From my experience, Africans see the West as a great example. They try to do everything like the West. But if you look at the West’s relationship with Africa over the centuries, you would have to admit the continent is still missing a lot of infra­ structure that it needs. Then you have to start asking yourself some questions. You start to believe what some people are saying: that the West has no interest in seeing Africa develop. The second thing is, of course, paternalism. The West thinks that the best path for Africa is to do things carefully. It’s like a dad or mom with their kids. You should allow the kids to grow up, to make mistakes, to learn from them. You cannot be control­ ling. Another issue is that the population in Africa is growing incredibly fast. People need technicians and govern­ ments to support them in building infrastructure. Most of the time there is no available expertise. Professionals from the West are very expensive, and then there are cases where partners from the West don’t respond to the request, but rather try to change the project. This situation is pushing African leaders to deal more and more with China. Chinese partners come, often with the money, expertise, and professionals. So I mean, that is just a fact. It’s a pity, but this is the reality. SB: Why do you say it’s a pity? FK: It’s a pity that in making that criticism of China’s relationship with Africa, people

that you can imagine what is possible in this continent. We have to allow for a free African imagination. There is a big need for infrastructure, and one of the strongest partners for that now is China. SB: What buildings inspired you as a young man? Which ones were your “food?” FK: When I started studying, I had no knowledge about the history of architecture. I wanted to gain knowledge, to be able to develop things in my own village. I just wanted to build. Of course, when I started to study, I discovered the real world of architecture. When you study in Berlin, you will face the great Mies van der Rohe. I really like the art of rationalism he applied — so efficient, so simple, very clear to under­ stand. Later on, I traveled to India and discovered Louis Khan’s Indian Institute of Management [Ahmedabad, 1974], for which he used local brick. For me, it was really an eyeopener. SB: What was it about that building? FK: Kahn’s adaptation to the place, the use of brick, the simplicity — but then the com­ plexity, at the same time. So Khan and Mies for sure, they were really key for my own work. And later on I was looking at architects who were doing very simple things, very small buildings. That’s how I came to know the work of Glenn Murcutt. The simplicity of his buildings impressed me so much, because it was different from all the others. I wanted to do something simple, something rational, very useful for my people. I also recently visited Taliesin


FRANCIS KÉRÉ

146

FEATURE


FRANCIS KÉRÉ

146

FEATURE


FRANCIS KÉRÉ West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s place. As a student, I couldn’t reach Frank Lloyd Wright through his drawings. If you look at the plan, it’s a lot of lines, very compli­ cated to my eyes. But then I went to see his site at Taliesin, seeing how he used local rocks to create all of this. I thought, “Wow. Why didn’t I visit this place before I started to build? I would have been much more confident about my own work.” Because there are a lot of parallels between our work, the way we study the local rock, trying to use it, using different materials to see how they work. SB: When you were a student, did you imagine to be in the position you’re in today?

seen me in Meroë, in village clothes, you would have been surprised. I was so happy cutting woods with the workers, because I was trained as a carpenter. At the beginning, they were really surprised too. Suddenly they started to see me differently, because we are all makers. That’s also why it was good for me to be in Germany. It was technology and the knowledge to make things that I thought I could find here. SB: When did you come to Berlin? FK: Oh, I came to Berlin just before the wall fell. I was a simple carpenter. I went to night school for five years to finish my high-school degree, then started

“I am surprised with what happened and who I am today in the professional world of architecture. I didn’t even want to graduate.” FK: I am really surprised with what happened and who I am today in the professional world of architecture. It was never my intention. I didn’t even want to graduate. My professor, Peter Herrle, had to con­ vince me to complete my degree. I was focused on simplicity, and saw that I could go out and build by myself. And indeed that is how I started to build, without engineers. Of course, I had the support of a lot of professors. But in the end, I had to go and do it. SB: There is a sense of pragmatism in your office: modeling, making, the rational handling of materials. I think you said, “It doesn’t matter what the problem is, you show me the problem and I will fix it.” FK: Yes, exactly. That is my way. Just fixing and finding solutions. This is what I try to do — to serve. SB: That is quite different from, as you just said, the position that you’re in now — a famous, celebrated architect from Africa. Do people expect you to take on a more political role as a repre­ sentative of “African architecture?” FK: I do the work. If this work is seen as a rep­resentation of the continent, then I’m happy, but it’s not me. If you had 148

my architectural studies in 1995. My mis­ sion was to go back to school, study architecture very quick, and then return to Burkina. That was my main concern. SB: So that’s 30 years ago now. How did you start your office? FK: The office started in my kitchen. I was almost living in the kitchen to draw and doodle. My partner at that time would complain. Like every architect, probably, I would come home in the evening and go to the kitchen, sitting and working, trying to draw. And then came the time when I bought my own computer. I was getting friends to come over to fix it, even late at night. In 2005, I moved the office out of the kitchen, to save the peace of the family. [Laughs.] I started to work, sometimes alone, or with an intern. My students, or friends of mine who graduated at the same time, would come and go. Some tried to stay longer, but there were no resources to pay them. I was still dealing with the Gando Primary School project in Africa. They would come to support it, but when it was time to go and earn money, they had to leave. They had to find their way in life. Then, in 2006, I started to have “real” jobs. The Dano Secondary School

FEATURE [Burkina Faso, completed 2007] was the very first project that we got. In 2008, the Aga Khan commissioned me to build a national park [the National Park of Mali, Bamako, completed in 2010 and commis­ sioned by the Aga Khan Development Network and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture]. In 2009, in parallel, I started the Opera Village in Burkina Faso [an ongoing project

“sustainable.” For me, it’s just what I do and have always done. I try to use the material in the most efficient way, I try to see what is available on site, to discuss and look together with the client for the best material for the project. Then of course we think about designing in a way that doesn’t consume a lot of energy, for heating and cooling.

developed in collaboration with the late German artist and director Christoph Schlingensief]. Slowly, things started to grow, and I was able to keep some people for more than one year. But then I’d train people — because the way we work is very different from what they teach in architec­ ture school — but sadly not be able to pay enough, so they’d eventually leave again. Now we are about 12 to 16 architects and two paid interns at any one time. And we seem to be growing. SB: What do you mean when you say that what people train for in school is not what you do? FK: The kind of work we do, in the kind of environ­ ments where we work, needs a very special architecture. We use very different techniques, sometimes very old tech­ niques, that have to be adapted because of special conditions, materiality, site specificity, climate, and so on. In design school, you don’t normally learn to adapt all of this so constantly, and then also to deal with people at the same time. Not everyone is able to do that. SB: Perhaps the most difficult thing for the archi­ tects working with you is dealing with another culture. FK: It’s very difficult. We’re not trained as psychol­ ogists, and schools don’t tell you how to deal with people. But it’s the basis of my work to push people to participate in a project, to convince a community to work, to carry stone and rocks to make founda­ tions, to make bricks, to make a school. SB: Is sustainability a strong concern in your office? FK: I think that in architecture today, everyone wants to demonstrate that their work is

SB: If “sustainability” is not a label you’d con­ sciously wear, are there any others that people have attributed to you and which have made you think, “Wait a minute! That’s not quite what I was trying to do?” FK: Yeah, it happens all the time. There is a danger that people want to put you in a corner. They’ll say, “Oh, it’s the mud architect.” If I use mud, it is through working with mud specialists. If you check my buildings, you’ll see I don’t only build with mud, I’m an architect who looks every time at a given project, finds what is most avail­ able on site in that country, and responds in the most efficient way to the client’s brief. And similarly, if someone comes so far to study architecture in Germany, and loves Mies, loves Kahn, admires Frank Lloyd Wright, is impressed by the intellec­ tual capacity of Le Corbusier, and many, many more, you cannot just reduce him or her to an ethnic architect. SB: Let’s talk about your first major project in Germany, the tower at the Technical University in Munich. I don’t think it’s a design people would expect from you. FK: Yeah, true. First, the height — people wouldn’t expect that from me. But I’m sure the building will be a catalyst, a new way to connect the different insti­ tutions and departments within the university. It’s a very demanding project. How can I be honest to myself at this scale and in this place? The purpose is to create a sort of gathering place and landmark for stu­dents, for alumni, for new arrivals, but also for the different depart­ ments of the university. There is a need for identifi­cation and orientation. The

“The basis of my work is to push people to participate in a project, to convince a community to work.”


FRANCIS KÉRÉ West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s place. As a student, I couldn’t reach Frank Lloyd Wright through his drawings. If you look at the plan, it’s a lot of lines, very compli­ cated to my eyes. But then I went to see his site at Taliesin, seeing how he used local rocks to create all of this. I thought, “Wow. Why didn’t I visit this place before I started to build? I would have been much more confident about my own work.” Because there are a lot of parallels between our work, the way we study the local rock, trying to use it, using different materials to see how they work. SB: When you were a student, did you imagine to be in the position you’re in today?

seen me in Meroë, in village clothes, you would have been surprised. I was so happy cutting woods with the workers, because I was trained as a carpenter. At the beginning, they were really surprised too. Suddenly they started to see me differently, because we are all makers. That’s also why it was good for me to be in Germany. It was technology and the knowledge to make things that I thought I could find here. SB: When did you come to Berlin? FK: Oh, I came to Berlin just before the wall fell. I was a simple carpenter. I went to night school for five years to finish my high-school degree, then started

“I am surprised with what happened and who I am today in the professional world of architecture. I didn’t even want to graduate.” FK: I am really surprised with what happened and who I am today in the professional world of architecture. It was never my intention. I didn’t even want to graduate. My professor, Peter Herrle, had to con­ vince me to complete my degree. I was focused on simplicity, and saw that I could go out and build by myself. And indeed that is how I started to build, without engineers. Of course, I had the support of a lot of professors. But in the end, I had to go and do it. SB: There is a sense of pragmatism in your office: modeling, making, the rational handling of materials. I think you said, “It doesn’t matter what the problem is, you show me the problem and I will fix it.” FK: Yes, exactly. That is my way. Just fixing and finding solutions. This is what I try to do — to serve. SB: That is quite different from, as you just said, the position that you’re in now — a famous, celebrated architect from Africa. Do people expect you to take on a more political role as a repre­ sentative of “African architecture?” FK: I do the work. If this work is seen as a rep­resentation of the continent, then I’m happy, but it’s not me. If you had 148

my architectural studies in 1995. My mis­ sion was to go back to school, study architecture very quick, and then return to Burkina. That was my main concern. SB: So that’s 30 years ago now. How did you start your office? FK: The office started in my kitchen. I was almost living in the kitchen to draw and doodle. My partner at that time would complain. Like every architect, probably, I would come home in the evening and go to the kitchen, sitting and working, trying to draw. And then came the time when I bought my own computer. I was getting friends to come over to fix it, even late at night. In 2005, I moved the office out of the kitchen, to save the peace of the family. [Laughs.] I started to work, sometimes alone, or with an intern. My students, or friends of mine who graduated at the same time, would come and go. Some tried to stay longer, but there were no resources to pay them. I was still dealing with the Gando Primary School project in Africa. They would come to support it, but when it was time to go and earn money, they had to leave. They had to find their way in life. Then, in 2006, I started to have “real” jobs. The Dano Secondary School

FEATURE [Burkina Faso, completed 2007] was the very first project that we got. In 2008, the Aga Khan commissioned me to build a national park [the National Park of Mali, Bamako, completed in 2010 and commis­ sioned by the Aga Khan Development Network and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture]. In 2009, in parallel, I started the Opera Village in Burkina Faso [an ongoing project

“sustainable.” For me, it’s just what I do and have always done. I try to use the material in the most efficient way, I try to see what is available on site, to discuss and look together with the client for the best material for the project. Then of course we think about designing in a way that doesn’t consume a lot of energy, for heating and cooling.

developed in collaboration with the late German artist and director Christoph Schlingensief]. Slowly, things started to grow, and I was able to keep some people for more than one year. But then I’d train people — because the way we work is very different from what they teach in architec­ ture school — but sadly not be able to pay enough, so they’d eventually leave again. Now we are about 12 to 16 architects and two paid interns at any one time. And we seem to be growing. SB: What do you mean when you say that what people train for in school is not what you do? FK: The kind of work we do, in the kind of environ­ ments where we work, needs a very special architecture. We use very different techniques, sometimes very old tech­ niques, that have to be adapted because of special conditions, materiality, site specificity, climate, and so on. In design school, you don’t normally learn to adapt all of this so constantly, and then also to deal with people at the same time. Not everyone is able to do that. SB: Perhaps the most difficult thing for the archi­ tects working with you is dealing with another culture. FK: It’s very difficult. We’re not trained as psychol­ ogists, and schools don’t tell you how to deal with people. But it’s the basis of my work to push people to participate in a project, to convince a community to work, to carry stone and rocks to make founda­ tions, to make bricks, to make a school. SB: Is sustainability a strong concern in your office? FK: I think that in architecture today, everyone wants to demonstrate that their work is

SB: If “sustainability” is not a label you’d con­ sciously wear, are there any others that people have attributed to you and which have made you think, “Wait a minute! That’s not quite what I was trying to do?” FK: Yeah, it happens all the time. There is a danger that people want to put you in a corner. They’ll say, “Oh, it’s the mud architect.” If I use mud, it is through working with mud specialists. If you check my buildings, you’ll see I don’t only build with mud, I’m an architect who looks every time at a given project, finds what is most avail­ able on site in that country, and responds in the most efficient way to the client’s brief. And similarly, if someone comes so far to study architecture in Germany, and loves Mies, loves Kahn, admires Frank Lloyd Wright, is impressed by the intellec­ tual capacity of Le Corbusier, and many, many more, you cannot just reduce him or her to an ethnic architect. SB: Let’s talk about your first major project in Germany, the tower at the Technical University in Munich. I don’t think it’s a design people would expect from you. FK: Yeah, true. First, the height — people wouldn’t expect that from me. But I’m sure the building will be a catalyst, a new way to connect the different insti­ tutions and departments within the university. It’s a very demanding project. How can I be honest to myself at this scale and in this place? The purpose is to create a sort of gathering place and landmark for stu­dents, for alumni, for new arrivals, but also for the different depart­ ments of the university. There is a need for identifi­cation and orientation. The

“The basis of my work is to push people to participate in a project, to convince a community to work.”


150

Whether he’s on site or in his studio in Berlin-Kreuzberg, Francis Kéré favors a hands-on approach with materials and models. As a young man Kéré chose to study in Germany because he had come to associate it with technology and innovation. As a carpenter in Burkina Faso, he’d noticed all the best tools he worked with were made in Germany.

FEATURE

Renders pinned up on the wall at Francis Kéré’s Berlin studio show several projects all currently in the design stage: (top) the TUM Tower, commissioned by the Technical University Munich where Kéré is also a professor; (left) the National Assembly of Benin in the West African nation’s capital Porto-Novo; (center) a new national assembly in Ouagadougou the capital of Kéré’s native Burkina Faso, to replace the parliament house destroyed during the 2014 revolution; and (bottom right corner) the Thomas Sankara Memorial also in Ouagadougou.

FRANCIS KÉRÉ

schools have been growing in an organic way, so when you arrive, there’s no central place within the campus. I looked into Bavarian traditions, and I found out about the Maibaum, the maypole that’s set up every spring in a central place in the village. Everyone comes to cele­ brate around it. Friends in London told me that they recognized a sim­ilar tradition. I wanted to design a sort of symbolical Maibaum that will rotate and attract, like it has gravitational force. SB: The galleries are placed radially around the building so that the views reach out in all directions across the campus. FK: Exactly. So everyone feels part of it, every­ ­one feels connected to each other. And I wanted a participatory way of working, like what I’m trying in Gando. I would like to open the door to other departments in the university, and if someone has an idea, for example about an intelligent façade that can react to the climate, then it is welcome. SB: We talked a little bit about some of the Modern masters who were inspirational for you. Are there any contemporary practitioners you admire? FK: Yes! Today there are a lot of practices all around the world. But what I want to say is that any architect today, who is able to complete a project, especially in the West, where over-regulation rules, where developers are controlling the business of construction, then chapeau! Hats off, really. Great admiration,because it’s not easy at all. SB: What makes you proudest, thinking back on your two decades of practice? FK: That I was able to convince my own people, in Gando, to trust me and enter the adven­ ture of coming together to build a school. I am so proud of my people that they allowed me this — they gave me a chance to do research, to work, to build. I learned a lot building with them, and it paved my career, leading me where I am today. So I am most proud of the women and men who believed in me for hours, days, weeks, who kept quarrying stone and working hard to provide the construction site with materials. They did this for someone very young, coming from the community but who went abroad and apparently learned something. They said, “We don’t understand what it is, but we want to support him.” They said, “We will see what comes.”


150

Whether he’s on site or in his studio in Berlin-Kreuzberg, Francis Kéré favors a hands-on approach with materials and models. As a young man Kéré chose to study in Germany because he had come to associate it with technology and innovation. As a carpenter in Burkina Faso, he’d noticed all the best tools he worked with were made in Germany.

FEATURE

Renders pinned up on the wall at Francis Kéré’s Berlin studio show several projects all currently in the design stage: (top) the TUM Tower, commissioned by the Technical University Munich where Kéré is also a professor; (left) the National Assembly of Benin in the West African nation’s capital Porto-Novo; (center) a new national assembly in Ouagadougou the capital of Kéré’s native Burkina Faso, to replace the parliament house destroyed during the 2014 revolution; and (bottom right corner) the Thomas Sankara Memorial also in Ouagadougou.

FRANCIS KÉRÉ

schools have been growing in an organic way, so when you arrive, there’s no central place within the campus. I looked into Bavarian traditions, and I found out about the Maibaum, the maypole that’s set up every spring in a central place in the village. Everyone comes to cele­ brate around it. Friends in London told me that they recognized a sim­ilar tradition. I wanted to design a sort of symbolical Maibaum that will rotate and attract, like it has gravitational force. SB: The galleries are placed radially around the building so that the views reach out in all directions across the campus. FK: Exactly. So everyone feels part of it, every­ ­one feels connected to each other. And I wanted a participatory way of working, like what I’m trying in Gando. I would like to open the door to other departments in the university, and if someone has an idea, for example about an intelligent façade that can react to the climate, then it is welcome. SB: We talked a little bit about some of the Modern masters who were inspirational for you. Are there any contemporary practitioners you admire? FK: Yes! Today there are a lot of practices all around the world. But what I want to say is that any architect today, who is able to complete a project, especially in the West, where over-regulation rules, where developers are controlling the business of construction, then chapeau! Hats off, really. Great admiration,because it’s not easy at all. SB: What makes you proudest, thinking back on your two decades of practice? FK: That I was able to convince my own people, in Gando, to trust me and enter the adven­ ture of coming together to build a school. I am so proud of my people that they allowed me this — they gave me a chance to do research, to work, to build. I learned a lot building with them, and it paved my career, leading me where I am today. So I am most proud of the women and men who believed in me for hours, days, weeks, who kept quarrying stone and working hard to provide the construction site with materials. They did this for someone very young, coming from the community but who went abroad and apparently learned something. They said, “We don’t understand what it is, but we want to support him.” They said, “We will see what comes.”


Sophia Al-Maria Interview Hans Ulrich Obrist Portraits Mathilde Agius Known for Gulf Futurism as much as historical fiction, this self-described time-traveler is a bonafide polymath. With a starchitect-centered screenplay and her first ever public sculpture in the works, the QatariAmerican artist is building her own multifaceted universe. Feature 152


Sophia Al-Maria Interview Hans Ulrich Obrist Portraits Mathilde Agius Known for Gulf Futurism as much as historical fiction, this self-described time-traveler is a bonafide polymath. With a starchitect-centered screenplay and her first ever public sculpture in the works, the QatariAmerican artist is building her own multifaceted universe. Feature 152


SOPHIA AL-MARIA It was Sophia Al-Maria who, in the early 2010s, coined the term “Gulf Futurism” to describe a sensi­ bility in the realms of art, architecture, and pop culture that was emerging in the post-oil Persian Gulf in tandem with the region’s urban and eco­ nomic development. As an artist, filmmaker, and writer, Al-Maria has developed a wide-ranging body of work inspired by both her Qatari-Bedouin roots and her upbringing in suburban Seattle — The Girl Who Fell to Earth (2012) was a 288-page coming-of-age memoir, while Black Friday, her 2016 Whitney Museum solo show, focused on the Gulf’s embrace of the shopping mall. She is cur­ rently working on a feature-film screenplay about a fictional British “starchitect” who is planning a monumental urban development in the Gulf, and her first public artwork, a circular platform, is also currently in the works for London’s Serpentine Galleries. Both projects find inspiration in the sun, which also features in Al-Maria’s Beast Type Song (2019), a film whose action is set in the midst of solar wars. They’re a metaphor for impe­ rialism borrowed from Etel Adnan’s 1980 poem The Arab Apocalypse where the sun stands for the eye of colonial power. Longtime confidant and supporter Hans Ulrich Obrist spoke with Al-Maria as they journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean, from the U.S. to the U.K., a conversation that went from sunset to sunrise, spanning the ride from the airport terminal bus to a plane to a taxi cab hurtling through the streets of London. Hans Ulrich Obrist: What can you tell me about your new film? Sophia Al Maria: It’s my first feature film, which I suppose is my favorite format. I’m still debating the title. What do you prefer? The Marina or The Radiant City? HUO: The Radiant City. SAM: I think I’m stuck on The Marina. But it’s a good title, right? HUO: Yes. It has an urgency to it. You started working on this film a while ago. How has it evolved? SAM: The life of a script begins with a pitch docu­ ment usually, or some kind of outline. I started working on that three years ago. And now I’ve just written the first draft so it’s deepened considerably. It’s about an architecture project, not unlike some of the mega starchitect projects that you’ve been adjacent to and I’ve worked in and around, for example the museums in Qatar. So the Marina is a huge Brasíliastyle project that a chimera Gulf country is building to forge a way towards “sustain­ able growth” in the region. There’s this British family of architects who win the 154

tender to build it. The mother/master-planner is a Zaha Hadid-type character with twin sons charged with overseeing this fantasy, and thus begins a spiral into The Marina. HUO: Is there a master plan? SAM: Yeah, there’s lots of master planning. I mean really, the whole project is centered around unpacking Britain’s relationship with the Gulf countries. The parceling out and drawing maps and borders from on high. It also deals with the trickle-down trauma of Gulf countries’ relationship with the labor forces they rely on. It’s investigating all that through the format of a slick thriller. HUO: You said earlier that the feature film is your favorite format. That’s really fascinating. SAM: I’m not sure it’s my favorite as an audience member, but it’s my favorite as a writer. I just think it’s much more fluid, and the pos­ sibilities of experimenting with narrative are much more exciting. Television has to have certain muscles to function, plot engines and all that. Things like advertis-­ ing breaks come into play or how long it takes for someone to fall asleep on Netflix. It’s an interesting moment. I feel like more and more all I want to watch is plot­ less ambience. Like nature documentaries or screensavers. HUO: You’re very interested in sci-fi. Could this film be classified that way? SAM: I think of it as a solarized noir. In the film it’s always hyper bright, and the horror lies in the fact that there is nowhere to be in the dark. It’s just blinding brightness, and that’s terrifying to me. Glinting glass, over­ powering sun, the whir of AC and industry are all recurrent motifs. HUO: I was just reading an article about how all of a sudden in Los Angeles, which has always been the city of the sun, there’s a horror associated with that — there’s no more escape from the sun. SAM: Yeah, it’s the unblinking eye. I love how Etel Adnan writes about the sun in The Arab Apocalypse. I think that the horror of Los Angeles is similar to the terror of the Gulf, in that it should not exist. As a metropolitan city I mean. Riyadh has two days of water should anything happen. And L.A. is similarly precarious. Actually, Chinatown is definitely a reference for The Marina with the water-rights subplot. HUO: Can you tell me more about the fictitious architecture in The Marina? SAM: Do you know this funny thing that happens in the Gulf? Oftentimes they don’t temper the glass correctly on those big skyscrapers,

FEATURE so if the air conditioning is very cold inside and it’s very hot outside, the glass explodes. You’ll see all this beautiful glitter all over the ground and missing teeth in buildings’ façades. So there’s a moment in the film where one of the main characters is standing at the window on the 70th floor and all of a sudden the façade explodes. He’s looking at his own reflection, and then boom!, the whole thing cracks and explodes in front of him, leaving no membrane between him and the environment outside, which is impossibly and dangerously hot. It’s like a homicidal sun. It kills really quickly. HUO: You’ve written an amazing book, The Girl Who Fell to Earth, and you’re writing films and TV series. How did you first come to writing?

I was coming back from a trip. So he obvi­ ously assumed I worked there, because nobody would go to the gallery that early. He said he always wanted to talk to some-­ one who works in the Serpentine to thank us, because, two years ago at the park, his daughter suddenly came across our summer pavilion. She had an epiphany and now wants to become an architect. I said that was amazing, and asked if he had ever been to our gallery. He said no, he had never been to a museum in his life. I asked why. And there was a long silence in the car. It was like a minute or so, but it felt endless. He said, “Because it’s not for people like us, you know?” And so I think that with public art you can reach people who might never come to a museum.

SAM: There was a period in the late 1990s when my father was in exile. I would help my mother write letters to Amnesty International about our family’s situation. HUO: Was your father’s exile involuntary? SAM: Yes. It was not by any actual action, more by proximity. A lot of people from Al-Ghufran, which is one of the clans inside our larger tribe of Al-Murrah, were exiled. Some people still don’t have their passports, but mainly it’s resolved. But that was when I remember adults being like, “Oh wow, you can write!” But I’m less and less interested in writing narratively, and more and more interested in the way that poetry functions. A poem is like non-didactic philosophy. You feel a poem, and through that understand things which are difficult to comprehend. HUO: So you’re writing poetry? SAM: Yes, I am. I think my poetry is quite cheesy, but I enjoy it. HUO: Your project for the Serpentine also has to do with the sun. And what is interesting is that you’re venturing into public sculpture. We are so focused on exhibitions, but there’s this whole world of public sculpture where we can reach people who never come to an exhibi­ tion. The necessity of that became clear to me the other day. A taxi driver dropped me in Kensington Gardens at 7:00 a.m., when

SAM: I am very struck by that story. It also reminds me of when I did a show at the Whitney Museum in 2016. I invited my mother, and I really wanted her to come. I was going to bring her to New York and she says, “Oh honey, I don’t enjoy muse-­ ums,” or, “Museums aren’t my thing.” I think it’s very daunting for a lot of people to enter that space. It’s intimidating for a variety of reasons. This is my first public-art project, and it’s also the first physical stage I’m building for a performer. I’ve thought a lot about the collaborations I’ve been doing with Victoria Sin and, to an extent, the works with Bai Ling. These collaborations have been very much about stepping back and relinquishing control over what is done with the space, for the stage. HUO: Can you talk about your work with Bai Ling? SAM: I think there were four films in total. There was Mirror Cookie [2018], which was almost a shrine to Bai Ling. Basically it was a link to self-help practice. And then there was another thing called Major Motions [2018], which was an identity for a production company that doesn’t exist, in which Bai’s holding up a torch of self love, which is a Hitachi Magic Wand. HUO: Why did you decide to collaborate with Bai Ling?

“I think of my film as a solarized noir. The horror lies in the fact that there is nowhere to be in the dark.”


SOPHIA AL-MARIA It was Sophia Al-Maria who, in the early 2010s, coined the term “Gulf Futurism” to describe a sensi­ bility in the realms of art, architecture, and pop culture that was emerging in the post-oil Persian Gulf in tandem with the region’s urban and eco­ nomic development. As an artist, filmmaker, and writer, Al-Maria has developed a wide-ranging body of work inspired by both her Qatari-Bedouin roots and her upbringing in suburban Seattle — The Girl Who Fell to Earth (2012) was a 288-page coming-of-age memoir, while Black Friday, her 2016 Whitney Museum solo show, focused on the Gulf’s embrace of the shopping mall. She is cur­ rently working on a feature-film screenplay about a fictional British “starchitect” who is planning a monumental urban development in the Gulf, and her first public artwork, a circular platform, is also currently in the works for London’s Serpentine Galleries. Both projects find inspiration in the sun, which also features in Al-Maria’s Beast Type Song (2019), a film whose action is set in the midst of solar wars. They’re a metaphor for impe­ rialism borrowed from Etel Adnan’s 1980 poem The Arab Apocalypse where the sun stands for the eye of colonial power. Longtime confidant and supporter Hans Ulrich Obrist spoke with Al-Maria as they journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean, from the U.S. to the U.K., a conversation that went from sunset to sunrise, spanning the ride from the airport terminal bus to a plane to a taxi cab hurtling through the streets of London. Hans Ulrich Obrist: What can you tell me about your new film? Sophia Al Maria: It’s my first feature film, which I suppose is my favorite format. I’m still debating the title. What do you prefer? The Marina or The Radiant City? HUO: The Radiant City. SAM: I think I’m stuck on The Marina. But it’s a good title, right? HUO: Yes. It has an urgency to it. You started working on this film a while ago. How has it evolved? SAM: The life of a script begins with a pitch docu­ ment usually, or some kind of outline. I started working on that three years ago. And now I’ve just written the first draft so it’s deepened considerably. It’s about an architecture project, not unlike some of the mega starchitect projects that you’ve been adjacent to and I’ve worked in and around, for example the museums in Qatar. So the Marina is a huge Brasíliastyle project that a chimera Gulf country is building to forge a way towards “sustain­ able growth” in the region. There’s this British family of architects who win the 154

tender to build it. The mother/master-planner is a Zaha Hadid-type character with twin sons charged with overseeing this fantasy, and thus begins a spiral into The Marina. HUO: Is there a master plan? SAM: Yeah, there’s lots of master planning. I mean really, the whole project is centered around unpacking Britain’s relationship with the Gulf countries. The parceling out and drawing maps and borders from on high. It also deals with the trickle-down trauma of Gulf countries’ relationship with the labor forces they rely on. It’s investigating all that through the format of a slick thriller. HUO: You said earlier that the feature film is your favorite format. That’s really fascinating. SAM: I’m not sure it’s my favorite as an audience member, but it’s my favorite as a writer. I just think it’s much more fluid, and the pos­ sibilities of experimenting with narrative are much more exciting. Television has to have certain muscles to function, plot engines and all that. Things like advertis-­ ing breaks come into play or how long it takes for someone to fall asleep on Netflix. It’s an interesting moment. I feel like more and more all I want to watch is plot­ less ambience. Like nature documentaries or screensavers. HUO: You’re very interested in sci-fi. Could this film be classified that way? SAM: I think of it as a solarized noir. In the film it’s always hyper bright, and the horror lies in the fact that there is nowhere to be in the dark. It’s just blinding brightness, and that’s terrifying to me. Glinting glass, over­ powering sun, the whir of AC and industry are all recurrent motifs. HUO: I was just reading an article about how all of a sudden in Los Angeles, which has always been the city of the sun, there’s a horror associated with that — there’s no more escape from the sun. SAM: Yeah, it’s the unblinking eye. I love how Etel Adnan writes about the sun in The Arab Apocalypse. I think that the horror of Los Angeles is similar to the terror of the Gulf, in that it should not exist. As a metropolitan city I mean. Riyadh has two days of water should anything happen. And L.A. is similarly precarious. Actually, Chinatown is definitely a reference for The Marina with the water-rights subplot. HUO: Can you tell me more about the fictitious architecture in The Marina? SAM: Do you know this funny thing that happens in the Gulf? Oftentimes they don’t temper the glass correctly on those big skyscrapers,

FEATURE so if the air conditioning is very cold inside and it’s very hot outside, the glass explodes. You’ll see all this beautiful glitter all over the ground and missing teeth in buildings’ façades. So there’s a moment in the film where one of the main characters is standing at the window on the 70th floor and all of a sudden the façade explodes. He’s looking at his own reflection, and then boom!, the whole thing cracks and explodes in front of him, leaving no membrane between him and the environment outside, which is impossibly and dangerously hot. It’s like a homicidal sun. It kills really quickly. HUO: You’ve written an amazing book, The Girl Who Fell to Earth, and you’re writing films and TV series. How did you first come to writing?

I was coming back from a trip. So he obvi­ ously assumed I worked there, because nobody would go to the gallery that early. He said he always wanted to talk to some-­ one who works in the Serpentine to thank us, because, two years ago at the park, his daughter suddenly came across our summer pavilion. She had an epiphany and now wants to become an architect. I said that was amazing, and asked if he had ever been to our gallery. He said no, he had never been to a museum in his life. I asked why. And there was a long silence in the car. It was like a minute or so, but it felt endless. He said, “Because it’s not for people like us, you know?” And so I think that with public art you can reach people who might never come to a museum.

SAM: There was a period in the late 1990s when my father was in exile. I would help my mother write letters to Amnesty International about our family’s situation. HUO: Was your father’s exile involuntary? SAM: Yes. It was not by any actual action, more by proximity. A lot of people from Al-Ghufran, which is one of the clans inside our larger tribe of Al-Murrah, were exiled. Some people still don’t have their passports, but mainly it’s resolved. But that was when I remember adults being like, “Oh wow, you can write!” But I’m less and less interested in writing narratively, and more and more interested in the way that poetry functions. A poem is like non-didactic philosophy. You feel a poem, and through that understand things which are difficult to comprehend. HUO: So you’re writing poetry? SAM: Yes, I am. I think my poetry is quite cheesy, but I enjoy it. HUO: Your project for the Serpentine also has to do with the sun. And what is interesting is that you’re venturing into public sculpture. We are so focused on exhibitions, but there’s this whole world of public sculpture where we can reach people who never come to an exhibi­ tion. The necessity of that became clear to me the other day. A taxi driver dropped me in Kensington Gardens at 7:00 a.m., when

SAM: I am very struck by that story. It also reminds me of when I did a show at the Whitney Museum in 2016. I invited my mother, and I really wanted her to come. I was going to bring her to New York and she says, “Oh honey, I don’t enjoy muse-­ ums,” or, “Museums aren’t my thing.” I think it’s very daunting for a lot of people to enter that space. It’s intimidating for a variety of reasons. This is my first public-art project, and it’s also the first physical stage I’m building for a performer. I’ve thought a lot about the collaborations I’ve been doing with Victoria Sin and, to an extent, the works with Bai Ling. These collaborations have been very much about stepping back and relinquishing control over what is done with the space, for the stage. HUO: Can you talk about your work with Bai Ling? SAM: I think there were four films in total. There was Mirror Cookie [2018], which was almost a shrine to Bai Ling. Basically it was a link to self-help practice. And then there was another thing called Major Motions [2018], which was an identity for a production company that doesn’t exist, in which Bai’s holding up a torch of self love, which is a Hitachi Magic Wand. HUO: Why did you decide to collaborate with Bai Ling?

“I think of my film as a solarized noir. The horror lies in the fact that there is nowhere to be in the dark.”


SOPHIA AL-MARIA

156

FEATURE


SOPHIA AL-MARIA

156

FEATURE


SOPHIA AL-MARIA SAM: I’ve been fascinated with her since the early 2000s, when she started a blog. She would write these things called cookies, which were meant to be like fortunes from a fortune cookie. But they were often weirdly philosophical, poetic, and pro­ found. I think she’s an incredible, strange, and wise person. HUO: And then more recently you’ve been working with Victoria Sin. How did that collabora­ tion begin? SAM: The collaboration with Victoria has been really transformative for me. I’ve been a fan of their work and they invited me to a Dhalgren reading group, where we were attempting to read Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren book [an 800-page 1974 science-fiction novel], which is a monumental task that remains unfinished. Victoria and I share a mutual love of science fiction and of Sailor Moon, as well as a commitment to imagining. HUO: Who are the favorite sci-fi writers you share?

Wordlessly. So that’s why there’ll be an inaugural performance by boychild. One of the things that is so very special to me about boychild’s work is the way in which it pushes away from taught ways of com­ municating, like language. And I really feel a spooky understanding when I wit­ ness one of her performances. It feels like a mighty gesture to be able to com­ municate that way. And I would like to encourage the public to do so. To break that boundary. To be a body, not just a spout of words. Myself included. HUO: So by having boychild do that inaugural ritual, it’s an invitation to everyone? SAM: Exactly. boychild is the sower. The event will be a seeding. HUO: There’s also a pattern which will be on the stage? SAM: Yeah, a pattern similar to a sundial. And also like a dandelion. You know, when dandelions seed, it’s also called a clock.

SAM: We really connected over Octavia Butler. That happens a lot these days. We spoke about her Xenogenesis Trilogy [Lilith’s Brood, 1987–89] and alien sex, as well as hyper-empathy syndrome in Parable of the Sower [1993]. I could spend so much time with Octavia’s work because I feel that in one chapter there are so many ideas. Even though it’s very simply written, there’s more in one chapter of one of her books than in all of the “traditional” white-dude-bro canon. HUO: So performance is a big part of your work, and now that’s led you to the Serpentine stage. The beauty of this project is that the stage is going to pop up and then dis­ appear — it’s visible, then invisible. SAM: I think we’ve had an interesting set of prob­ lems to play with in the park because we can’t do many things. So I’ve been thinking a lot about playgrounds and what is and isn’t “safe,” and what is and isn’t acces­ sible. The idea is to create a space for wordless communication. It’s a sort of foil to Speakers’ Corner, which is right nearby. So this piece is for saying the unsayable.

The stage is in many ways like a clock, a sundial, or a dandelion made of metal. A lovely chromed asterisk. The asterisk has become a real theme in my work for everything that is inexpressible. HUO: Is the asterisk a new thing? SAM: Asterisks have been present in my work as a screenwriter for a long time, because that’s what happens when there are revi­ sions on a screenplay. But asterisks have become really important for me because they’re incredibly dense, symbolically. They’re very, very old, and they have many different meanings, or I suppose origins, from Babylonia and Sumer. And the thing that they’ve come to represent for me is almost everything that cannot be expressed. Similar to an expletive, when you black out the “u” and the “c” in f**k. HUO: Is silence an asterisk? SAM: Yes. I often draw pictures of this face with an asterisk over her mouth, as if it’s been sewn shut. HUO: And so the asterisks migrated from the screenplay into the visual artwork. Your practice is almost super string-theory

FEATURE

“When your power is recognized, some people will want to destroy it or take it away from you.”

158

A working drawing of Sophia Al-Maria’s first public artwork Tarraxos (2020), a forthcoming project with Serpentine Galleries, designed for Kensington Gardens in Central London. Al-Maria has conceived of the sculpture, which will have koshi chimes attuned to the air, as a platform for park goers to engage in deep listening and meditation. This illustration shows the sculpture from a birds-eye-view, its spiral pattern inspired by sundials, dandelions, and asterisks. Concept drawing by Rhi Jean.


SOPHIA AL-MARIA SAM: I’ve been fascinated with her since the early 2000s, when she started a blog. She would write these things called cookies, which were meant to be like fortunes from a fortune cookie. But they were often weirdly philosophical, poetic, and pro­ found. I think she’s an incredible, strange, and wise person. HUO: And then more recently you’ve been working with Victoria Sin. How did that collabora­ tion begin? SAM: The collaboration with Victoria has been really transformative for me. I’ve been a fan of their work and they invited me to a Dhalgren reading group, where we were attempting to read Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren book [an 800-page 1974 science-fiction novel], which is a monumental task that remains unfinished. Victoria and I share a mutual love of science fiction and of Sailor Moon, as well as a commitment to imagining. HUO: Who are the favorite sci-fi writers you share?

Wordlessly. So that’s why there’ll be an inaugural performance by boychild. One of the things that is so very special to me about boychild’s work is the way in which it pushes away from taught ways of com­ municating, like language. And I really feel a spooky understanding when I wit­ ness one of her performances. It feels like a mighty gesture to be able to com­ municate that way. And I would like to encourage the public to do so. To break that boundary. To be a body, not just a spout of words. Myself included. HUO: So by having boychild do that inaugural ritual, it’s an invitation to everyone? SAM: Exactly. boychild is the sower. The event will be a seeding. HUO: There’s also a pattern which will be on the stage? SAM: Yeah, a pattern similar to a sundial. And also like a dandelion. You know, when dandelions seed, it’s also called a clock.

SAM: We really connected over Octavia Butler. That happens a lot these days. We spoke about her Xenogenesis Trilogy [Lilith’s Brood, 1987–89] and alien sex, as well as hyper-empathy syndrome in Parable of the Sower [1993]. I could spend so much time with Octavia’s work because I feel that in one chapter there are so many ideas. Even though it’s very simply written, there’s more in one chapter of one of her books than in all of the “traditional” white-dude-bro canon. HUO: So performance is a big part of your work, and now that’s led you to the Serpentine stage. The beauty of this project is that the stage is going to pop up and then dis­ appear — it’s visible, then invisible. SAM: I think we’ve had an interesting set of prob­ lems to play with in the park because we can’t do many things. So I’ve been thinking a lot about playgrounds and what is and isn’t “safe,” and what is and isn’t acces­ sible. The idea is to create a space for wordless communication. It’s a sort of foil to Speakers’ Corner, which is right nearby. So this piece is for saying the unsayable.

The stage is in many ways like a clock, a sundial, or a dandelion made of metal. A lovely chromed asterisk. The asterisk has become a real theme in my work for everything that is inexpressible. HUO: Is the asterisk a new thing? SAM: Asterisks have been present in my work as a screenwriter for a long time, because that’s what happens when there are revi­ sions on a screenplay. But asterisks have become really important for me because they’re incredibly dense, symbolically. They’re very, very old, and they have many different meanings, or I suppose origins, from Babylonia and Sumer. And the thing that they’ve come to represent for me is almost everything that cannot be expressed. Similar to an expletive, when you black out the “u” and the “c” in f**k. HUO: Is silence an asterisk? SAM: Yes. I often draw pictures of this face with an asterisk over her mouth, as if it’s been sewn shut. HUO: And so the asterisks migrated from the screenplay into the visual artwork. Your practice is almost super string-theory

FEATURE

“When your power is recognized, some people will want to destroy it or take it away from you.”

158

A working drawing of Sophia Al-Maria’s first public artwork Tarraxos (2020), a forthcoming project with Serpentine Galleries, designed for Kensington Gardens in Central London. Al-Maria has conceived of the sculpture, which will have koshi chimes attuned to the air, as a platform for park goers to engage in deep listening and meditation. This illustration shows the sculpture from a birds-eye-view, its spiral pattern inspired by sundials, dandelions, and asterisks. Concept drawing by Rhi Jean.


SOPHIA AL-MARIA

FEATURE quantum physics. Because you have all these parallel realities in your work — installation, video, film, poetry, sculpture, photography, novels, TV series. It’s a sort of Renaissance practice that includes all dis­ ciplines and art forms. And you seem to disappear for three or four months when you’re working on one. Is time an important aspect to working on screenplays? SAM: Yes. One of the reasons I think I have to dis­ appear is because I’m time traveling. I write mostly historical fiction, which requires a lot of research. I like to go quite deep into the time period. I’m really fascinated by the French Revolution, for example. I was working on this TV show about Madame Tussaud, which never was made. She was stationed next to the guillotine, and tasked with making death masks of all the aristo­ crats who were killed. They had multiple copies of the heads that could be paraded around different areas of the city, so that everyone would know: this person is dead, that person is dead. But I dove deep into it for a good five months.

SAM: There are a few moments in my film Type Beast Song [2019] where there’s a reference to a solar war happening somewhere up in the sky. Elizabeth Peace, Yumna Marwan, and boychild all play veterans of this war. The film draws on the idea of a solar war from The Arab Apocalypse. In it, Adnan uses the solar war as a metaphor for colonial expan­ sion and imperialism — the sun being the eye of the colonial power. I reread this poem every time I start something new. HUO: We are both obsessed with and always nur­ tured by Etel Adnan. SAM: Yes. With such simplicity and grace, Etel makes me feel all these things, from rage to relief, and I am amazed by her. I’m also amazed at all of the people that worked with me on that film Beast Type Song. I had the help and generosity of many collabora­ tors who are also filmmakers and artists who brought such power to the piece by their presence. Farida Khelfa reads from an essay about the Battle of Algiers. Wu Tsang reads a sonnet by Shakespeare. There are voice notes from my mother and

HUO: David Lynch told me that sometimes, when you work in television or in the movie industry, there can be a situation where you no longer identify with what you’re working on. SAM: Exactly. The more money there is, the less power you have. Actually, in the book you gave to me to read on the plane, there was a quote by the author bell hooks. It was about how when your power is recognized, some people will want to destroy it or take it away from you. That was essentially what happened to me with the last project, and it was a very upsetting situation. HUO: Do you have any utopian projects or dreams? SAM: In my lifetime I hope that utopian com­ munities are possible and that there’s an aftermath of this particular reality that we’re living in. I think a lot about having some dogs, some goats, some honey-­ bees, and some trees I can tend. HUO: Has the sun played a role previously in your work?

also from Elizabeth Peace’s mother. There are so many other things that didn’t make it in. Laura Cugusi reading Pasolini’s A Desperate Vitality for example. So it was like a big collaborative bag that we just threw everything into. I’m very happy with it. It opened new territory for me, and yet I feel utterly unterritorial about it. HUO: I’ve watched it 25 times. It’s very exciting. And you mention your mother, which brings me to the very last question I wanted to ask you. What’s the first word you spoke as a child? SAM: Picture. HUO: Extraordinary! How did that happen? SAM: My mother said that when I was very small, like a baby baby, she used to point at different things around the house and say what they were. So one day, I looked up at this Palestinian solidarity poster on the wall and said, “Picture!” I suppose it’s only appropriate that I work in pictures now.

“The asterisk has become a real theme in my work for everything that is inexpressible.”

160


SOPHIA AL-MARIA

FEATURE quantum physics. Because you have all these parallel realities in your work — installation, video, film, poetry, sculpture, photography, novels, TV series. It’s a sort of Renaissance practice that includes all dis­ ciplines and art forms. And you seem to disappear for three or four months when you’re working on one. Is time an important aspect to working on screenplays? SAM: Yes. One of the reasons I think I have to dis­ appear is because I’m time traveling. I write mostly historical fiction, which requires a lot of research. I like to go quite deep into the time period. I’m really fascinated by the French Revolution, for example. I was working on this TV show about Madame Tussaud, which never was made. She was stationed next to the guillotine, and tasked with making death masks of all the aristo­ crats who were killed. They had multiple copies of the heads that could be paraded around different areas of the city, so that everyone would know: this person is dead, that person is dead. But I dove deep into it for a good five months.

SAM: There are a few moments in my film Type Beast Song [2019] where there’s a reference to a solar war happening somewhere up in the sky. Elizabeth Peace, Yumna Marwan, and boychild all play veterans of this war. The film draws on the idea of a solar war from The Arab Apocalypse. In it, Adnan uses the solar war as a metaphor for colonial expan­ sion and imperialism — the sun being the eye of the colonial power. I reread this poem every time I start something new. HUO: We are both obsessed with and always nur­ tured by Etel Adnan. SAM: Yes. With such simplicity and grace, Etel makes me feel all these things, from rage to relief, and I am amazed by her. I’m also amazed at all of the people that worked with me on that film Beast Type Song. I had the help and generosity of many collabora­ tors who are also filmmakers and artists who brought such power to the piece by their presence. Farida Khelfa reads from an essay about the Battle of Algiers. Wu Tsang reads a sonnet by Shakespeare. There are voice notes from my mother and

HUO: David Lynch told me that sometimes, when you work in television or in the movie industry, there can be a situation where you no longer identify with what you’re working on. SAM: Exactly. The more money there is, the less power you have. Actually, in the book you gave to me to read on the plane, there was a quote by the author bell hooks. It was about how when your power is recognized, some people will want to destroy it or take it away from you. That was essentially what happened to me with the last project, and it was a very upsetting situation. HUO: Do you have any utopian projects or dreams? SAM: In my lifetime I hope that utopian com­ munities are possible and that there’s an aftermath of this particular reality that we’re living in. I think a lot about having some dogs, some goats, some honey-­ bees, and some trees I can tend. HUO: Has the sun played a role previously in your work?

also from Elizabeth Peace’s mother. There are so many other things that didn’t make it in. Laura Cugusi reading Pasolini’s A Desperate Vitality for example. So it was like a big collaborative bag that we just threw everything into. I’m very happy with it. It opened new territory for me, and yet I feel utterly unterritorial about it. HUO: I’ve watched it 25 times. It’s very exciting. And you mention your mother, which brings me to the very last question I wanted to ask you. What’s the first word you spoke as a child? SAM: Picture. HUO: Extraordinary! How did that happen? SAM: My mother said that when I was very small, like a baby baby, she used to point at different things around the house and say what they were. So one day, I looked up at this Palestinian solidarity poster on the wall and said, “Picture!” I suppose it’s only appropriate that I work in pictures now.

“The asterisk has become a real theme in my work for everything that is inexpressible.”

160


Studio Mumbai Bijoy Jain Having defined a signature language blending traditional and modern sensibilities, the Indian architect, designer, and founder of Studio Mumbai embraces a new freeflowing phase, forever inspired by the romance of air, water, and light. Interview Felix Burrichter Portraits Marlon Rueberg 162

Feature


Studio Mumbai Bijoy Jain Having defined a signature language blending traditional and modern sensibilities, the Indian architect, designer, and founder of Studio Mumbai embraces a new freeflowing phase, forever inspired by the romance of air, water, and light. Interview Felix Burrichter Portraits Marlon Rueberg 162

Feature


164

A wooden stairway detail of Saat Rasta (2011–16) designed by Bijoy Jain, a mixed-use development in Byculla, Mumbai. Located in a former industrial warehouse partially destroyed in a fire, the complex includes Jain’s studio as well as several residential units. Jain’s interest in porosity as well as his sensitivity to light and shadow are both palpable. The lightness inherent to Bijoy Jain’s larger practice is exemplified by the delicacy and expressive­ ness of the designer’s furniture, especially the woven pieces. Like all of Jain’s design collaborations with Maniera, Lounge Chair III (2019), made from rope and either teak or rosewood, articulates a modern and refined reinterpretation of traditional Indian craftsmanship.

All photography by Jeroen Verrecht. Courtesy of Maniera, Brussels.

(Left to right) Courtyard view of Bijoy Jain’s studio, a sprawling former tobacco warehouse in the Southern Mumbai neighborhood of Byculla, part of a mixed-use development Jain designed where he also lives. For the past several years, Jain has been working with Maniera Gallery, Brussels producing limited-edition furniture collections. Embassy Cabinet (2016), a study of marble, wood, beeswax, and coconut oil, is one of their earliest collaborations.

FEATURE

(Left to Right) Furniture works by Bijoy Jain at his studio in Byculla — on the left, a sandstone chair, Gandhara Study I; at the back on the right, a bamboo and woven rope seat, Bamboo Study I (both 2019). Part of Mumbai’s cityscape is reflected in the studio windows hovering over a haphazard collection of found objects and castings that Jain regularly rearranges in the studio, changing their display for inspiration.

STUDIO MUMBAI

Indian architect Bijoy Jain founded his Mumbaibased practice in the mid-1990s, after a decade of studying and working abroad. But his epony­ mous firm didn’t come into its own until 2005, after it was renamed Studio Mumbai and transi­ tioned to more of an architectural workshop model, complete with in-house artisans and even a stonemason. In 2010 Studio Mumbai came to the rest of the world’s attention thanks to an installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Entitled Work-Place, it showcased the firm’s working method of learning through making. An out-­ lier in an exhibition environment dominated by bio-futurist reveries and the placeless wispiness of what then passed for the architectural avantgarde, Work-Place put the emphasis squarely on hands-on process and local craft. Ten years and several world crises since, Studio Mumbai’s approach seems more à propos than ever, with its deep understanding of materials and the elements — their limitations and their inherent possibilities — in both the architecture and the objects that the firm crafts. Emblematic of that approach are Studio Mumbai’s wood-and-vegetal-­ fiber chairs, which look impossibly slender and delicate but can in fact bear impressive loads. For this interview, 55-year-old Jain, who was born and raised in Mumbai, took PIN–UP on a tour of his sprawling home-cum-workshop, a former tobacco warehouse in the city’s Byculla neighbor­ hood. When he’s not teaching or traveling for overseas projects, it’s here that he spends most of his time, effortlessly fusing his work and private life into one fluid state of mindfulness. Felix Burrichter: I remember your installation at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, which was located between displays by François Roche and Junya Ishigami. It couldn’t have been more different. Not that it felt out of place, but it somehow felt of a different place, perhaps a future place. If you had to compare your practice from a decade ago to now, what is the biggest difference? Bijoy Jain: The core of the practice remains the same. Back then it was very architecture-­ centric and project-centric, now it’s more fluid, exploring thoughts, ideas and mate­ rials with no specific intention. In fact, Junya Ishigami came to my studio recently, and he was fascinated and curious to see explorations of works with no specific project or purpose in mind. For me, what I am doing right now allows me to be more centered. Architecture can have a way of drawing you in, and then things can start closing in on you. Architecture has


164

A wooden stairway detail of Saat Rasta (2011–16) designed by Bijoy Jain, a mixed-use development in Byculla, Mumbai. Located in a former industrial warehouse partially destroyed in a fire, the complex includes Jain’s studio as well as several residential units. Jain’s interest in porosity as well as his sensitivity to light and shadow are both palpable. The lightness inherent to Bijoy Jain’s larger practice is exemplified by the delicacy and expressive­ ness of the designer’s furniture, especially the woven pieces. Like all of Jain’s design collaborations with Maniera, Lounge Chair III (2019), made from rope and either teak or rosewood, articulates a modern and refined reinterpretation of traditional Indian craftsmanship.

All photography by Jeroen Verrecht. Courtesy of Maniera, Brussels.

(Left to right) Courtyard view of Bijoy Jain’s studio, a sprawling former tobacco warehouse in the Southern Mumbai neighborhood of Byculla, part of a mixed-use development Jain designed where he also lives. For the past several years, Jain has been working with Maniera Gallery, Brussels producing limited-edition furniture collections. Embassy Cabinet (2016), a study of marble, wood, beeswax, and coconut oil, is one of their earliest collaborations.

FEATURE

(Left to Right) Furniture works by Bijoy Jain at his studio in Byculla — on the left, a sandstone chair, Gandhara Study I; at the back on the right, a bamboo and woven rope seat, Bamboo Study I (both 2019). Part of Mumbai’s cityscape is reflected in the studio windows hovering over a haphazard collection of found objects and castings that Jain regularly rearranges in the studio, changing their display for inspiration.

STUDIO MUMBAI

Indian architect Bijoy Jain founded his Mumbaibased practice in the mid-1990s, after a decade of studying and working abroad. But his epony­ mous firm didn’t come into its own until 2005, after it was renamed Studio Mumbai and transi­ tioned to more of an architectural workshop model, complete with in-house artisans and even a stonemason. In 2010 Studio Mumbai came to the rest of the world’s attention thanks to an installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Entitled Work-Place, it showcased the firm’s working method of learning through making. An out-­ lier in an exhibition environment dominated by bio-futurist reveries and the placeless wispiness of what then passed for the architectural avantgarde, Work-Place put the emphasis squarely on hands-on process and local craft. Ten years and several world crises since, Studio Mumbai’s approach seems more à propos than ever, with its deep understanding of materials and the elements — their limitations and their inherent possibilities — in both the architecture and the objects that the firm crafts. Emblematic of that approach are Studio Mumbai’s wood-and-vegetal-­ fiber chairs, which look impossibly slender and delicate but can in fact bear impressive loads. For this interview, 55-year-old Jain, who was born and raised in Mumbai, took PIN–UP on a tour of his sprawling home-cum-workshop, a former tobacco warehouse in the city’s Byculla neighbor­ hood. When he’s not teaching or traveling for overseas projects, it’s here that he spends most of his time, effortlessly fusing his work and private life into one fluid state of mindfulness. Felix Burrichter: I remember your installation at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, which was located between displays by François Roche and Junya Ishigami. It couldn’t have been more different. Not that it felt out of place, but it somehow felt of a different place, perhaps a future place. If you had to compare your practice from a decade ago to now, what is the biggest difference? Bijoy Jain: The core of the practice remains the same. Back then it was very architecture-­ centric and project-centric, now it’s more fluid, exploring thoughts, ideas and mate­ rials with no specific intention. In fact, Junya Ishigami came to my studio recently, and he was fascinated and curious to see explorations of works with no specific project or purpose in mind. For me, what I am doing right now allows me to be more centered. Architecture can have a way of drawing you in, and then things can start closing in on you. Architecture has


STUDIO MUMBAI

166

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STUDIO MUMBAI

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STUDIO MUMBAI

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ex-students are my assistants now. It’s good, as this is what takes me back and forth. FB: Do you mind if we jump back really far? I’m curious to know why, at age 20, you decided to leave Mumbai to go to St. Louis, Missouri, of all places. BJ: My family passed away: first my brother, then my father and my mother. As a teenager I was a professional swimmer. I had just returned from swimming across the English Channel, in 1983, and three months later my brother killed himself, and shortly after my father died of a heart attack, and then my mother the same. All this happened in a span of two and a half years. I had started architecture school in Mumbai, and I loved it. But after their deaths,

“Architecture has its own set of conditions, limits, and boundaries. It can become quite tight, or at least it became quite tight for me.”

All photography by Jeroen Verrecht. Courtesy of Maniera, Brussels.

(Left to right) Bijoy Jain’s furniture is constructed from materials possessing an elemental quality. The Onomichi Console (2019) combines teak and plywood with Japanese washi paper paneling. A lush canopy of trees frames the walkway between the street and Jain’s studio, a free-flowing space amenable to his unique practice which effortlessly fluctuates between idea-centric and more project-centric work.

(Left to right) Studio Mumbai’s resident cat takes a reflective pause in one of the studio’s two courtyards. Sunlight filters down through this rectangular oculus and into the interior spaces, connecting ground and sky as well as the natural and built environments. Bamboo Study II (2019) in situ in the studio kitchen, a chair made from bamboo and rope.

its own set of conditions, limits, and boundaries. It can become quite tight, or at least it became quite tight for me. This studio practice allows me to step outside, it allows a space to think and discover. Things are more loose, if I might say. When asked, “Are you busy?” I say, “No, I am occupied.” FB: Does it ever get hectic in your studio? BJ: Not so much. I don’t like that way of working anymore. There are just a few people working here right now, a group of architects, artists, and makers. The work oscillates between material studies, architecture, furniture, objects, and things. FB: Are you making new pieces for Maniera, the Brussels-based design gallery you work with?

BJ: Not specifically. I’m in a continual process of making things. Oftentimes at home, sitting there, I’m like, “Okay, maybe I’ll try something out.” It comes from that impulse. We’ve been working on a project in the south of India, and a lot of the furniture is all in stone. There is a work­ shop that does incredible things with granite — I think it’s the only workshop of its kind in the whole of India. This is the sort of thing that can then develop into a Maniera project. It’s a really good collaboration with [Maniera owners] Amaryllis [Jacobs] and Kwinten [Lavigne]. They visit the studio here in Mumbai, and we travel together oftentimes, just to look at things. Our projects develop from a conversation. FB: These days you work quite a lot in Milan too. BJ: I have a small studio in Milan as I teach in Mendrisio, which is about 40 minutes away. I’m also building a house in Südtirol, in the northern part of Italy, and have two projects in France. The studio in Milan is very recent. Some of my

everything was completely different. The window I was looking through had changed. I had to get away. And that’s what prompted me to go to the U.S. I was sent to the U.S. at the age of 14 to train for swimming, so it was a return when I came to St. Louis... FB: But why to St. Louis? BJ: For very practical reasons. I had finished two years of architecture school in Mumbai, and Washington University in St. Louis gave me credits for the time. I wanted to be closer to the coast because I like water, but I happened to end up smack in the middle of America. FB: What were your first impressions? BJ: The second day we went to Laumeier Sculpture Park in suburban St. Louis, and there I discovered Michael Heizer, Donald Judd, and Richard Serra. That changed everything. It was interesting because in India we have large-scale works like that, but they are anonymous. There are amazing Buddhist caves and a lot of things in the same spirit


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ex-students are my assistants now. It’s good, as this is what takes me back and forth. FB: Do you mind if we jump back really far? I’m curious to know why, at age 20, you decided to leave Mumbai to go to St. Louis, Missouri, of all places. BJ: My family passed away: first my brother, then my father and my mother. As a teenager I was a professional swimmer. I had just returned from swimming across the English Channel, in 1983, and three months later my brother killed himself, and shortly after my father died of a heart attack, and then my mother the same. All this happened in a span of two and a half years. I had started architecture school in Mumbai, and I loved it. But after their deaths,

“Architecture has its own set of conditions, limits, and boundaries. It can become quite tight, or at least it became quite tight for me.”

All photography by Jeroen Verrecht. Courtesy of Maniera, Brussels.

(Left to right) Bijoy Jain’s furniture is constructed from materials possessing an elemental quality. The Onomichi Console (2019) combines teak and plywood with Japanese washi paper paneling. A lush canopy of trees frames the walkway between the street and Jain’s studio, a free-flowing space amenable to his unique practice which effortlessly fluctuates between idea-centric and more project-centric work.

(Left to right) Studio Mumbai’s resident cat takes a reflective pause in one of the studio’s two courtyards. Sunlight filters down through this rectangular oculus and into the interior spaces, connecting ground and sky as well as the natural and built environments. Bamboo Study II (2019) in situ in the studio kitchen, a chair made from bamboo and rope.

its own set of conditions, limits, and boundaries. It can become quite tight, or at least it became quite tight for me. This studio practice allows me to step outside, it allows a space to think and discover. Things are more loose, if I might say. When asked, “Are you busy?” I say, “No, I am occupied.” FB: Does it ever get hectic in your studio? BJ: Not so much. I don’t like that way of working anymore. There are just a few people working here right now, a group of architects, artists, and makers. The work oscillates between material studies, architecture, furniture, objects, and things. FB: Are you making new pieces for Maniera, the Brussels-based design gallery you work with?

BJ: Not specifically. I’m in a continual process of making things. Oftentimes at home, sitting there, I’m like, “Okay, maybe I’ll try something out.” It comes from that impulse. We’ve been working on a project in the south of India, and a lot of the furniture is all in stone. There is a work­ shop that does incredible things with granite — I think it’s the only workshop of its kind in the whole of India. This is the sort of thing that can then develop into a Maniera project. It’s a really good collaboration with [Maniera owners] Amaryllis [Jacobs] and Kwinten [Lavigne]. They visit the studio here in Mumbai, and we travel together oftentimes, just to look at things. Our projects develop from a conversation. FB: These days you work quite a lot in Milan too. BJ: I have a small studio in Milan as I teach in Mendrisio, which is about 40 minutes away. I’m also building a house in Südtirol, in the northern part of Italy, and have two projects in France. The studio in Milan is very recent. Some of my

everything was completely different. The window I was looking through had changed. I had to get away. And that’s what prompted me to go to the U.S. I was sent to the U.S. at the age of 14 to train for swimming, so it was a return when I came to St. Louis... FB: But why to St. Louis? BJ: For very practical reasons. I had finished two years of architecture school in Mumbai, and Washington University in St. Louis gave me credits for the time. I wanted to be closer to the coast because I like water, but I happened to end up smack in the middle of America. FB: What were your first impressions? BJ: The second day we went to Laumeier Sculpture Park in suburban St. Louis, and there I discovered Michael Heizer, Donald Judd, and Richard Serra. That changed everything. It was interesting because in India we have large-scale works like that, but they are anonymous. There are amazing Buddhist caves and a lot of things in the same spirit


STUDIO MUMBAI going back centuries. For me, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative [a 1969 Land Art intervention near Overton, Nevada] is an absolutely fabulous work. Discovering it opened something for me. FB: After St. Louis you went to California. BJ: That was much later, in 1989, 1990. Things weren’t great in the U.S. at that time, there was a big recession, and I was very lucky to get work as a model maker at Richard Meier’s L.A. model shop through a professor of mine. I was there for four years. FB: You must have been working mostly on the Getty at that time, I assume?

BJ: I went to London first, and then returned back home. There were a few reasons. I was very much into yoga at the time, so I decided that if I wanted to practice yoga, I should return to its origin. I also met my wife at the time, that was another reason. And the third was just being home — one doesn’t have to think, you work instead from how you feel. It’s more intuitive and natural. Coming back after a long period of time away, I was making peace with home again. FB: Does it ever bother you that, when most architects think of India, they think of Le Corbusier and Chandigarh?

“The materials that are central to my work are water, air, and light. This is the basis for making everything, this is what the human body requires. The sun and the moon are at the core of this idea.” BJ: Yes. It was great because Richard Meier’s model shop was quite different than his main office. You didn’t have to wear a tie and jacket, you could go in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. It was a very creative space, and a great group of people. L.A. at that time was a different place. In Venice Beach you would still hear gunshots during the day. We just made model after model. Those models were projects unto themselves. They were really impressive. Some of them filled up a whole room, and they just got bigger and bigger. It had a great influence on the way I work. In some ways the shop was indepen-­ dent of the main studio. We did our own thing, it was more tactile. For me, that was the part that I really enjoyed. I remember sniffing so much of that superglue. [Laughs]. FB: Is that when you knew you had to go back to India? 170

BJ: No, it doesn’t bother me at all. I can under­ stand the outside perspective. The propaganda of Modern architecture has been Chandigarh, simply put. FB: But would you say that the propaganda of Modern architecture is something you actively work against? BJ: I would not say I work against it. I’m not sure if this answers your question, but when I came back to India in the 90s, there were things that I rediscovered. Landscapes with a distinctly Indian sensibility that had nothing to do with Modern architecture as we know it. It was a big shift in ways of thinking for me. I saw Chandigarh for the first time in 1972, I was very young at the time, so I had no prejudice. I remember seeing other kinds of architecture in hamlets, towns, and villages. I was drawn to all of it. The first time I designed a house after graduating from school, I was drawing it up for six months. The house

FEATURE was in Alibag, in a rural area outside Mumbai, across the bay. When it was time to start construction, I showed my draw­ ings to the local builders and they looked at me like I was crazy. These guys are amazing builders — they have incredible technique and sensibility. It turned out my drawings were useless. I didn’t know how to build, I am still learning to do this. So we put the drawings aside — I tossed away six months’ worth of work and asked them what would be the first ges­ ture they would make. Together with the builders we ended up taking the path that was the gentlest and the easiest way to inhabit the land. These guys knew how to build, they knew how deep to go into the ground, what the material should be, how it should be placed, and so on and so forth. For me it was a big learning curve to become familiar with another way of building. FB: You mentioned that you’ve developed a “more loose” way of designing and working. I wonder how that applies when you go to highly codified and restrictive building environments, like, say, Switzerland? BJ: I have built in Japan, for example, which is highly restrictive. We also have restric­ tive environments here in India. I think that what’s restrictive here might be open in Switzerland or in Japan. And what might be restrictive there could be open here. My interest lies in looking for an opening in whatever restrictive frame­ work there may be. You could say gravity is restrictive, but it’s not. It is an egali­ tarian force. We can look at it as some­ thing that is pushing you down, but you can also look at it as something that can be used as a rocket trajectory. FB: How do you transmit these ideas to your students? BJ: Freedom actually means finding a gap or an in-between space in a restricted environment. This is really the search. My students have complete freedom to decide on the project, where they want to locate it, how they want to build it, and how they would like to express it. They can dance, they can weave, they can sing, and so forth. They are free in the expression of their work. Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean you can do whatever you want — it comes with responsibility. Leonard Cohen puts it beautifully: “There is a

crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” FB: How do you react to your work being filed under the label of “critical region­ alism,” for example? BJ: This kind of labeling is always going to be present. For me it’s not important — that’s for them, not for me. Even this idea of me working with craftsmen and handwork as part of a larger con-­ cept of so-called “sustainability” — I’m just using what’s available to me in the most accessible, most economical, and most agile condition. For me it is about the idea of care. What do I care about? What do you care about? And maybe that is what we are discovering right now — what the value is to oneself. Wellbeing for me is of value. Whatever facilitates wellbeing is what one pursues. I think we are beginning to reconcile with that sense of being again. FB: Do you think you could have developed your practice in the same way if you had stayed in California? BJ: That’s an interesting question, but not one I can answer. Though I can say that having done what I have here in India — and part of the reason I am working outside of the country now — is to discover it’s actually the same everywhere. FB: How so? BJ: I have discovered that all these places are linked at certain points in time — you experience a building in stone in China, a building in stone in Switzerland, a building in stone in the Himalayas, a building in stone in Japan. They are the same. Materials come into being when we make contact with them. When you shape the earth, there is an exchange of language in materials. If you take Giacometti or Brâncuși, there is a lan­ guage in the way that they handled things. There is something innate in how materials prompt you to interact with them. It’s common in all cultures. The geography is different, but in the end, it is human contact. FB: We’ve been talking a lot about structures and buildings, but I would like to talk to you about your relationship with objects. You collect objects, but you also make them. Do you make a distinction between the objects you create and the spaces you design? BJ: For me, scale is about proportion. And size is about dimension. In the end, you are just


STUDIO MUMBAI going back centuries. For me, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative [a 1969 Land Art intervention near Overton, Nevada] is an absolutely fabulous work. Discovering it opened something for me. FB: After St. Louis you went to California. BJ: That was much later, in 1989, 1990. Things weren’t great in the U.S. at that time, there was a big recession, and I was very lucky to get work as a model maker at Richard Meier’s L.A. model shop through a professor of mine. I was there for four years. FB: You must have been working mostly on the Getty at that time, I assume?

BJ: I went to London first, and then returned back home. There were a few reasons. I was very much into yoga at the time, so I decided that if I wanted to practice yoga, I should return to its origin. I also met my wife at the time, that was another reason. And the third was just being home — one doesn’t have to think, you work instead from how you feel. It’s more intuitive and natural. Coming back after a long period of time away, I was making peace with home again. FB: Does it ever bother you that, when most architects think of India, they think of Le Corbusier and Chandigarh?

“The materials that are central to my work are water, air, and light. This is the basis for making everything, this is what the human body requires. The sun and the moon are at the core of this idea.” BJ: Yes. It was great because Richard Meier’s model shop was quite different than his main office. You didn’t have to wear a tie and jacket, you could go in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. It was a very creative space, and a great group of people. L.A. at that time was a different place. In Venice Beach you would still hear gunshots during the day. We just made model after model. Those models were projects unto themselves. They were really impressive. Some of them filled up a whole room, and they just got bigger and bigger. It had a great influence on the way I work. In some ways the shop was indepen-­ dent of the main studio. We did our own thing, it was more tactile. For me, that was the part that I really enjoyed. I remember sniffing so much of that superglue. [Laughs]. FB: Is that when you knew you had to go back to India? 170

BJ: No, it doesn’t bother me at all. I can under­ stand the outside perspective. The propaganda of Modern architecture has been Chandigarh, simply put. FB: But would you say that the propaganda of Modern architecture is something you actively work against? BJ: I would not say I work against it. I’m not sure if this answers your question, but when I came back to India in the 90s, there were things that I rediscovered. Landscapes with a distinctly Indian sensibility that had nothing to do with Modern architecture as we know it. It was a big shift in ways of thinking for me. I saw Chandigarh for the first time in 1972, I was very young at the time, so I had no prejudice. I remember seeing other kinds of architecture in hamlets, towns, and villages. I was drawn to all of it. The first time I designed a house after graduating from school, I was drawing it up for six months. The house

FEATURE was in Alibag, in a rural area outside Mumbai, across the bay. When it was time to start construction, I showed my draw­ ings to the local builders and they looked at me like I was crazy. These guys are amazing builders — they have incredible technique and sensibility. It turned out my drawings were useless. I didn’t know how to build, I am still learning to do this. So we put the drawings aside — I tossed away six months’ worth of work and asked them what would be the first ges­ ture they would make. Together with the builders we ended up taking the path that was the gentlest and the easiest way to inhabit the land. These guys knew how to build, they knew how deep to go into the ground, what the material should be, how it should be placed, and so on and so forth. For me it was a big learning curve to become familiar with another way of building. FB: You mentioned that you’ve developed a “more loose” way of designing and working. I wonder how that applies when you go to highly codified and restrictive building environments, like, say, Switzerland? BJ: I have built in Japan, for example, which is highly restrictive. We also have restric­ tive environments here in India. I think that what’s restrictive here might be open in Switzerland or in Japan. And what might be restrictive there could be open here. My interest lies in looking for an opening in whatever restrictive frame­ work there may be. You could say gravity is restrictive, but it’s not. It is an egali­ tarian force. We can look at it as some­ thing that is pushing you down, but you can also look at it as something that can be used as a rocket trajectory. FB: How do you transmit these ideas to your students? BJ: Freedom actually means finding a gap or an in-between space in a restricted environment. This is really the search. My students have complete freedom to decide on the project, where they want to locate it, how they want to build it, and how they would like to express it. They can dance, they can weave, they can sing, and so forth. They are free in the expression of their work. Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean you can do whatever you want — it comes with responsibility. Leonard Cohen puts it beautifully: “There is a

crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” FB: How do you react to your work being filed under the label of “critical region­ alism,” for example? BJ: This kind of labeling is always going to be present. For me it’s not important — that’s for them, not for me. Even this idea of me working with craftsmen and handwork as part of a larger con-­ cept of so-called “sustainability” — I’m just using what’s available to me in the most accessible, most economical, and most agile condition. For me it is about the idea of care. What do I care about? What do you care about? And maybe that is what we are discovering right now — what the value is to oneself. Wellbeing for me is of value. Whatever facilitates wellbeing is what one pursues. I think we are beginning to reconcile with that sense of being again. FB: Do you think you could have developed your practice in the same way if you had stayed in California? BJ: That’s an interesting question, but not one I can answer. Though I can say that having done what I have here in India — and part of the reason I am working outside of the country now — is to discover it’s actually the same everywhere. FB: How so? BJ: I have discovered that all these places are linked at certain points in time — you experience a building in stone in China, a building in stone in Switzerland, a building in stone in the Himalayas, a building in stone in Japan. They are the same. Materials come into being when we make contact with them. When you shape the earth, there is an exchange of language in materials. If you take Giacometti or Brâncuși, there is a lan­ guage in the way that they handled things. There is something innate in how materials prompt you to interact with them. It’s common in all cultures. The geography is different, but in the end, it is human contact. FB: We’ve been talking a lot about structures and buildings, but I would like to talk to you about your relationship with objects. You collect objects, but you also make them. Do you make a distinction between the objects you create and the spaces you design? BJ: For me, scale is about proportion. And size is about dimension. In the end, you are just


The Palmyra House (2005–07) in Alibag, a beach town near India’s bustling capital Mumbai, is emblematic of Studio Mumbai’s approach to architecture as it fully integrates into the landscape. Tucked away in a coconut grove facing the Arabian Sea, the weekend house consists of two two-story timber structures whose façades are predominantly covered in louvers made from the trunks of the local Palmyra palm. The building was a collaboration between Bijoy Jain and local craftsmen. Photography by Hélène Binet. Courtesy of Studio Mumbai.

STUDIO MUMBAI

172

FEATURE


The Palmyra House (2005–07) in Alibag, a beach town near India’s bustling capital Mumbai, is emblematic of Studio Mumbai’s approach to architecture as it fully integrates into the landscape. Tucked away in a coconut grove facing the Arabian Sea, the weekend house consists of two two-story timber structures whose façades are predominantly covered in louvers made from the trunks of the local Palmyra palm. The building was a collaboration between Bijoy Jain and local craftsmen. Photography by Hélène Binet. Courtesy of Studio Mumbai.

STUDIO MUMBAI

172

FEATURE


STUDIO MUMBAI working with space. I tell my students that the practice of architecture is about making space, not buildings. For me, there is no distinction between an object and a building, it is all space. FB: But does, for example, a Studio Mumbai chair create the same space wherever it is in the world — whether here in your workshop, or in a collector’s home in Mexico City, New York, or Milan? What is the relationship between space and object?

My work, at root, is about water — the presence or absence of water, or the search for water. FB: Is this the former professional swim-­ mer speaking? BJ: [Laughs.] No, this has nothing to do with being a swimmer. Water is the one thing that has sustained us as a palimp­ sest of civilizations. If you go back through civilization, you will find that the absence or presence of water was at the core of what established

“I’m interested in looking for an opening in whatever restrictive framework there may be. You could say gravity is restrictive, but it’s not.” BJ: I think for me the success of a project is when it is able to lose context, when it becomes universal, non-contextual, and is able to exist everywhere. And not just exist, but resonate. FB: Simultaneously of a place but universal? BJ: Absolutely. When we say “site-specific,” it refers to the immediate context — and yes, I work with my immediate context. But it’s also important to be free of context, and to oppose being too much of a context. So, for example, a piece of furniture for Maniera can be made here, or elsewhere. When I make it here, we use what I find here in the studio. When we make it in the Milan studio, we’re using Milan as a city to explore — to find and develop things. Right now we have two parallel pro-­ jects going on, in Mumbai and in Milan. The Milan one is exploring glass, for a show at [Venice gallery] Alma Zevi, and here in Mumbai we’re working with bamboo. At a certain point they may intersect. For our winery project in the south of France [a 2018 competi­ tion win to redesign the Château de Beaucastel], the project draws from the Côtes du Rhône region — it takes the land, air, and water, the idea of terroir in the process of building as in the way of making wine. It is about water. 174

inhabitation of space. All of my pro-­ jects include a vessel of water, something that can, in anticipation, contain or collect water. FB: This applies to absolutely all your projects? BJ: Yes. FB: This issue of PIN–UP is dedicated to another elemental force, the sun. What role does the sun play in your work? BJ: For me, the three materials that are impor-­ tant and central to my work are water, air, and light. This is the basis for making everything, this is what the human body requires. The sun and the moon are at the core of this idea. For me it is about how close we can make things that we inhabit to mimic the human self. I am referring to being as in a sentient being, not in a metaphorical, philosoph­ ical, or spiritual way. I want to use light and shadow as resonance, as energy. For me, what is fundamental in the pursuit of architecture is for it to have the capacity to breathe. FB: Would you describe yourself as nostalgic? BJ: No. FB: Are you romantic? BJ: Yes. FB: How so? BJ: [Long pause.] It is the relationship between the sun, the moon, and us. There is a romance in this relationship.

FEATURE


STUDIO MUMBAI working with space. I tell my students that the practice of architecture is about making space, not buildings. For me, there is no distinction between an object and a building, it is all space. FB: But does, for example, a Studio Mumbai chair create the same space wherever it is in the world — whether here in your workshop, or in a collector’s home in Mexico City, New York, or Milan? What is the relationship between space and object?

My work, at root, is about water — the presence or absence of water, or the search for water. FB: Is this the former professional swim-­ mer speaking? BJ: [Laughs.] No, this has nothing to do with being a swimmer. Water is the one thing that has sustained us as a palimp­ sest of civilizations. If you go back through civilization, you will find that the absence or presence of water was at the core of what established

“I’m interested in looking for an opening in whatever restrictive framework there may be. You could say gravity is restrictive, but it’s not.” BJ: I think for me the success of a project is when it is able to lose context, when it becomes universal, non-contextual, and is able to exist everywhere. And not just exist, but resonate. FB: Simultaneously of a place but universal? BJ: Absolutely. When we say “site-specific,” it refers to the immediate context — and yes, I work with my immediate context. But it’s also important to be free of context, and to oppose being too much of a context. So, for example, a piece of furniture for Maniera can be made here, or elsewhere. When I make it here, we use what I find here in the studio. When we make it in the Milan studio, we’re using Milan as a city to explore — to find and develop things. Right now we have two parallel pro-­ jects going on, in Mumbai and in Milan. The Milan one is exploring glass, for a show at [Venice gallery] Alma Zevi, and here in Mumbai we’re working with bamboo. At a certain point they may intersect. For our winery project in the south of France [a 2018 competi­ tion win to redesign the Château de Beaucastel], the project draws from the Côtes du Rhône region — it takes the land, air, and water, the idea of terroir in the process of building as in the way of making wine. It is about water. 174

inhabitation of space. All of my pro-­ jects include a vessel of water, something that can, in anticipation, contain or collect water. FB: This applies to absolutely all your projects? BJ: Yes. FB: This issue of PIN–UP is dedicated to another elemental force, the sun. What role does the sun play in your work? BJ: For me, the three materials that are impor-­ tant and central to my work are water, air, and light. This is the basis for making everything, this is what the human body requires. The sun and the moon are at the core of this idea. For me it is about how close we can make things that we inhabit to mimic the human self. I am referring to being as in a sentient being, not in a metaphorical, philosoph­ ical, or spiritual way. I want to use light and shadow as resonance, as energy. For me, what is fundamental in the pursuit of architecture is for it to have the capacity to breathe. FB: Would you describe yourself as nostalgic? BJ: No. FB: Are you romantic? BJ: Yes. FB: How so? BJ: [Long pause.] It is the relationship between the sun, the moon, and us. There is a romance in this relationship.

FEATURE


Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute (1954–65) in La Jolla, California. Photography by Balthazar Korab.

SUN

BOOK


Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute (1954–65) in La Jolla, California. Photography by Balthazar Korab.

SUN

BOOK


Hothouses

Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1945–51) in Plano, Illinois. Photography by Carol M. Highsmith.

By David Huber

178

In 2018, in a special report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change described what a temperature increase of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-­industrial levels might look like: a greater probability of droughts; more of Earth’s landmass affected by flooding and runoff; heavier rainfall from tropical cyclones; an increase in vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Frozen permafrost soils will thaw, causing irreversible loss of stored carbon. Instabilities in ice sheets could lead to rising sea levels. Entire ecosystems will shift. And wildfires will break out — a lot more of them. There is no single “1.5 degrees Celsius warmer world,” the report cautions. Some parts of the planet have already experienced temperature rises greater than 1.5 degrees above pre-­ industrial levels. Climate change is what is called a threat multiplier: barring a political revolution overnight, its impacts will be uneven, exacerbating inequality and poverty. Densely-built cities are their own kind of multiplier, creating heat islands that boost indoor temperatures, which in turn prompt air-conditioning use. In the most extreme cases, modern buildings not only perpetuate ecological devastation but simulate a hellish future — sometimes absurdly so.

Residents of The Beacon, a 595-unit condominium in San Francisco, have alleged, in court and on Yelp, that construction and design defects caused such severe overheating that apartments were rendered uninhabitable at times. Like many mid- and high-rise apartment buildings that have sprouted up in American cities this century, The Beacon (architects HKS Inc. and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 2005) makes liberal use of glass. “We had a FULL DAY of sun in our unit anytime it was sunny. There were four windows total that created minimal air circulation (we had to purchase a portable AC unit). I also had to tie sneakers to the windows to prop them open,” writes Karen A. in a 2015 Yelp review of the condo that reads like Jacques Tati’s Playtime for the Anthropocene. “It could have been 65 degrees Fahrenheit out and it was still shorts-and-tanktop weather in our unit. Expect sun-facing units to be at LEAST 10–15 degrees higher and then minus the possibility of airflow. You will be told you can do things to your unit to cool it down. Special UV shades or film on your windows, etc. I can tell you that the tenants/ community email each other frequently asking if anyone’s investments into these alternatives have worked.”

Architecture and the onslaught of heat fatigue


Hothouses

Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1945–51) in Plano, Illinois. Photography by Carol M. Highsmith.

By David Huber

178

In 2018, in a special report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change described what a temperature increase of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-­industrial levels might look like: a greater probability of droughts; more of Earth’s landmass affected by flooding and runoff; heavier rainfall from tropical cyclones; an increase in vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Frozen permafrost soils will thaw, causing irreversible loss of stored carbon. Instabilities in ice sheets could lead to rising sea levels. Entire ecosystems will shift. And wildfires will break out — a lot more of them. There is no single “1.5 degrees Celsius warmer world,” the report cautions. Some parts of the planet have already experienced temperature rises greater than 1.5 degrees above pre-­ industrial levels. Climate change is what is called a threat multiplier: barring a political revolution overnight, its impacts will be uneven, exacerbating inequality and poverty. Densely-built cities are their own kind of multiplier, creating heat islands that boost indoor temperatures, which in turn prompt air-conditioning use. In the most extreme cases, modern buildings not only perpetuate ecological devastation but simulate a hellish future — sometimes absurdly so.

Residents of The Beacon, a 595-unit condominium in San Francisco, have alleged, in court and on Yelp, that construction and design defects caused such severe overheating that apartments were rendered uninhabitable at times. Like many mid- and high-rise apartment buildings that have sprouted up in American cities this century, The Beacon (architects HKS Inc. and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 2005) makes liberal use of glass. “We had a FULL DAY of sun in our unit anytime it was sunny. There were four windows total that created minimal air circulation (we had to purchase a portable AC unit). I also had to tie sneakers to the windows to prop them open,” writes Karen A. in a 2015 Yelp review of the condo that reads like Jacques Tati’s Playtime for the Anthropocene. “It could have been 65 degrees Fahrenheit out and it was still shorts-and-tanktop weather in our unit. Expect sun-facing units to be at LEAST 10–15 degrees higher and then minus the possibility of airflow. You will be told you can do things to your unit to cool it down. Special UV shades or film on your windows, etc. I can tell you that the tenants/ community email each other frequently asking if anyone’s investments into these alternatives have worked.”

Architecture and the onslaught of heat fatigue


Nudism The Beacon’s architects argued that these conditions stemmed from value engineering by the developer, not the design. But, as history shows, a generous budget and even critical recognition is not a guarantee of thermal comfort. When Edith Farnsworth sued her architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for cost overruns on her 1951 namesake house, financial loss wasn’t the only thing she was having to endure. Sun protection consisted of silk curtains and the canopies of surrounding sugar maples, both of which were insufficient for a glass box in a humid Illinois climate. Electric fans installed in the floor augmented natural cross ventilation, assuming the east entry door and west hopper windows were both open, and the wind was blowing in the right direction. In a book on the house, critic and Mies biographer Franz Schulze offered in defense that Midwesterners “were long accustomed to enduring summer heat in their homes.” Besides, he added, airconditioning was not yet common in domestic settings in the early 50s. AC, or the lack of it, wasn’t always an alibi. In his forthcoming book, Modern Architecture and Climate: Design Before Air Conditioning, Daniel Barber describes the history of attempts to control the way the sun affects buildings by architectural rather than mechanical means. Many architects saw their work as a strategy of climatic adaptability, bringing specific thermal conditions into being through design of the façade (louvers, screens, and other shading devices), the siting and orientation of the building, the volume of enclosed spaces, and other strategies. “Developments of Modernism,” Barber writes, “were a means to induce a way of living (l’esprit nouveau, in Le Corbusier’s phrase) in which the building was the essential medium through which to construct adaptable conditions of comfort according to regional and seasonal vagaries.”

180

Although Barber concedes that “at many junctures this premise of adaptability was overwhelmed by an insistence on normative conditions, especially in the context of architecture’s relationship to economic development and the global spread of capital,” after the widespread adoption of HVAC in the 1960s, architects generally saw little need to understand the principles of climate-design methods or even analysis. In industrialized economies such as the United States, interiors were increasingly cut off from the environmental conditions that surrounded them. From sealed and conditioned rooms we distanced ourselves, too, from nonmodern — or insufficiently rational or scientific — forms of knowledge. “Cultural engagement with the question of how design mediates social and climatic conditions was largely relegated to a kind of nostalgia for so-called primitive cultures that were seen to live in harmony with their environmental surround.” Today we can no longer speak with such condescension about the past if we intend to have a future. Dominant models of sustainability, which seek to achieve carbon reduction through technical fixes, have proven insufficient: despite significant innovations in energy efficiency — from better insulation and double glazing to smart thermostats — fossil-fuel consumption has continued to rise globally. We need different ways of living, different rituals and practices, different relationships to the sun. We need different design approaches that go even beyond the structured unsustainability that theorist Tony Fry describes as “defuturing.” Edith Farnsworth, in her brush with high Modernism at the dawn of HVAC, sensed a similar imprudence. “Something should be said and done about such architecture as this,” she told House Beautiful in 1953, “or there will be no future for architecture.” To this we must now add: innumerable forms of life, and even the planet.

By Octave Perrault Héliopolis means city of the sun in Greek. There are two in France, both on the Mediterranean coast: one on the Île du Levant, near Hyères, the other at Cap d’Agde, an hour’s drive west of Montpellier. Both were founded by brothers, and both are iconic destinations for naturists. The first French Héliopolis was built in Levant in 1931, created by Gaston and André Durville, Parisian doctors who supported alternative medicine, founded the Society of Naturism, and edited its influential periodical, Naturisme. Sons of a famous occultist and magnetizer, the Durville brothers defended a way of life close to nature based in physical activity and exposing the body to the sun, water, and air. Their first endeavor, Physiopolis (city of nature), located on an island in the Seine near Paris, was essentially a weekend and vacation campsite founded in 1928. No doubt seeking better weather for an extended season, as well as a more isolated location, the brothers shifted their attention to the “Physiopolis of the South,” as Héliopolis was first billed, where their growing base of urban followers could practice their still controversial naked health routines at greater length and liberty. Héliopolis’s early days were a great success: a bakery, post office, bar, and (vegetarian) restaurant were built for the first summer, which allowed residents to settle and also to welcome visitors. Most of the building plots (unlike Physiopolis, the settlement was to have real houses) sold

out in the first year. The “greatest international naturist center in the world,” as the Durville brothers dubbed it, was one of the most tangible European manifestations of the body-conscious heliotropism that underlay much Modernist social-utopian thinking at the time. Somewhere between a commune, a sanatorium, and a Robinsonade, Héliopolis found its echo in the early days of Californian Modernism, where Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra built beach houses, health houses, and gyms for the naturopathic naturist Dr. Philip Lovell, who was a regular patron of John and Vera Richter’s vegan raw-food restaurant, the Eutropheon. Although France’s first city of the sun spawned no architecture of note, it lent its name to part of another nudist colony that did: the village naturiste at Cap d’Agde, which has been the largest in the world for the last several decades. At Cap d’Agde, Héliopolis is the name of the village’s most monumental building: designed by local architect François Lopez in 1975, it takes the form of a four-story, 3,000 foot-diameter, horseshoe-shaped residential block which opens onto the beach, its façade angled so that each apartment receives maximum sun exposure. At the center of this Modernist panopticon-colosseum for nude living are a bar (Le Bangkok), a restaurant (La Moule d’un Soir), and a nightclub (Le Glamour Beach), as well as a private pink-tiled pool club (Le Jardin d’Eden), which today all cater to swingers.

Sea, sex, and sun in the name of utopia


Nudism The Beacon’s architects argued that these conditions stemmed from value engineering by the developer, not the design. But, as history shows, a generous budget and even critical recognition is not a guarantee of thermal comfort. When Edith Farnsworth sued her architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for cost overruns on her 1951 namesake house, financial loss wasn’t the only thing she was having to endure. Sun protection consisted of silk curtains and the canopies of surrounding sugar maples, both of which were insufficient for a glass box in a humid Illinois climate. Electric fans installed in the floor augmented natural cross ventilation, assuming the east entry door and west hopper windows were both open, and the wind was blowing in the right direction. In a book on the house, critic and Mies biographer Franz Schulze offered in defense that Midwesterners “were long accustomed to enduring summer heat in their homes.” Besides, he added, airconditioning was not yet common in domestic settings in the early 50s. AC, or the lack of it, wasn’t always an alibi. In his forthcoming book, Modern Architecture and Climate: Design Before Air Conditioning, Daniel Barber describes the history of attempts to control the way the sun affects buildings by architectural rather than mechanical means. Many architects saw their work as a strategy of climatic adaptability, bringing specific thermal conditions into being through design of the façade (louvers, screens, and other shading devices), the siting and orientation of the building, the volume of enclosed spaces, and other strategies. “Developments of Modernism,” Barber writes, “were a means to induce a way of living (l’esprit nouveau, in Le Corbusier’s phrase) in which the building was the essential medium through which to construct adaptable conditions of comfort according to regional and seasonal vagaries.”

180

Although Barber concedes that “at many junctures this premise of adaptability was overwhelmed by an insistence on normative conditions, especially in the context of architecture’s relationship to economic development and the global spread of capital,” after the widespread adoption of HVAC in the 1960s, architects generally saw little need to understand the principles of climate-design methods or even analysis. In industrialized economies such as the United States, interiors were increasingly cut off from the environmental conditions that surrounded them. From sealed and conditioned rooms we distanced ourselves, too, from nonmodern — or insufficiently rational or scientific — forms of knowledge. “Cultural engagement with the question of how design mediates social and climatic conditions was largely relegated to a kind of nostalgia for so-called primitive cultures that were seen to live in harmony with their environmental surround.” Today we can no longer speak with such condescension about the past if we intend to have a future. Dominant models of sustainability, which seek to achieve carbon reduction through technical fixes, have proven insufficient: despite significant innovations in energy efficiency — from better insulation and double glazing to smart thermostats — fossil-fuel consumption has continued to rise globally. We need different ways of living, different rituals and practices, different relationships to the sun. We need different design approaches that go even beyond the structured unsustainability that theorist Tony Fry describes as “defuturing.” Edith Farnsworth, in her brush with high Modernism at the dawn of HVAC, sensed a similar imprudence. “Something should be said and done about such architecture as this,” she told House Beautiful in 1953, “or there will be no future for architecture.” To this we must now add: innumerable forms of life, and even the planet.

By Octave Perrault Héliopolis means city of the sun in Greek. There are two in France, both on the Mediterranean coast: one on the Île du Levant, near Hyères, the other at Cap d’Agde, an hour’s drive west of Montpellier. Both were founded by brothers, and both are iconic destinations for naturists. The first French Héliopolis was built in Levant in 1931, created by Gaston and André Durville, Parisian doctors who supported alternative medicine, founded the Society of Naturism, and edited its influential periodical, Naturisme. Sons of a famous occultist and magnetizer, the Durville brothers defended a way of life close to nature based in physical activity and exposing the body to the sun, water, and air. Their first endeavor, Physiopolis (city of nature), located on an island in the Seine near Paris, was essentially a weekend and vacation campsite founded in 1928. No doubt seeking better weather for an extended season, as well as a more isolated location, the brothers shifted their attention to the “Physiopolis of the South,” as Héliopolis was first billed, where their growing base of urban followers could practice their still controversial naked health routines at greater length and liberty. Héliopolis’s early days were a great success: a bakery, post office, bar, and (vegetarian) restaurant were built for the first summer, which allowed residents to settle and also to welcome visitors. Most of the building plots (unlike Physiopolis, the settlement was to have real houses) sold

out in the first year. The “greatest international naturist center in the world,” as the Durville brothers dubbed it, was one of the most tangible European manifestations of the body-conscious heliotropism that underlay much Modernist social-utopian thinking at the time. Somewhere between a commune, a sanatorium, and a Robinsonade, Héliopolis found its echo in the early days of Californian Modernism, where Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra built beach houses, health houses, and gyms for the naturopathic naturist Dr. Philip Lovell, who was a regular patron of John and Vera Richter’s vegan raw-food restaurant, the Eutropheon. Although France’s first city of the sun spawned no architecture of note, it lent its name to part of another nudist colony that did: the village naturiste at Cap d’Agde, which has been the largest in the world for the last several decades. At Cap d’Agde, Héliopolis is the name of the village’s most monumental building: designed by local architect François Lopez in 1975, it takes the form of a four-story, 3,000 foot-diameter, horseshoe-shaped residential block which opens onto the beach, its façade angled so that each apartment receives maximum sun exposure. At the center of this Modernist panopticon-colosseum for nude living are a bar (Le Bangkok), a restaurant (La Moule d’un Soir), and a nightclub (Le Glamour Beach), as well as a private pink-tiled pool club (Le Jardin d’Eden), which today all cater to swingers.

Sea, sex, and sun in the name of utopia


By Taylore Scarabelli The world is on fire and I’m going to the tanning salon.

The 1970s and 80s were the golden age of Cap d’Agde’s naturist colony. It was championed by the local authorities because of its profitability and dominated by a rather chaste family naturism. But, by the early 90s, sex had become the resort’s main raison d’être: the clubs now welcome swingers, shops sell kinky gear among the groceries, and the beach is home to an internationally famous summer-long orgy that reaches its apogee in the dunes of the Baie des Cochons (Pigs’ Bay), with endless open-air group sex and bukkake. Several pages are devoted to Cap d’Agde’s late-modern condition in Michel Houellebecq’s 1998 novel Atomised, which describes the architecture, the clubs, the sex, and the fortuitous geography of the site as “an idyllic phalanstery out of Fourier.”

All archival photography sourced by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou.

gates, a harbor, and dunes. Between 40,000 and 50,000 naturists gather there each summer, half of them in Modernist architecture (Héliopolis alone can accommodate 5,000), half of them in camping bungalows.

Although business is still pretty good at Cap d’Agde’s village naturiste, things at Héliopolis are said to be different today. Naturists are aging, and so is the architecture. Gendered swinging is not so aspirational and porn sexuality is not so utopian, especially in the context of a rise in incidents involving non-naturist male opportunists. Furthermore, many now prefer newer resorts in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, or Eastern Europe. Cap d’Agde’s village naturiste may end up simply being absorbed into the rest of the resort — unless a critical mass of sex-­positive porn-friendly queer youth takes over the site, though they may be better off building their own Héliopolis somewhere else.

182

I walked past Future Tan Midtown on my first visit. The salon is positioned on the second floor of a commercial building far from the startup retail stores in Nolita. It’s easy to miss and, with its faded signs in bold font, it reads more like a relic of the past than a journey to the future. Inside, the salon smells of sour tanning lotion and burnt skin. Faux Grecian columns, off-white stucco, and chipping paint mirror the business’s outdated posters featuring buff, bronzed men and Dirrty-era Christina Aguilera lookalikes. The company claims to be “NYC’s premier tanning salon,” but the space, like the surrounding neighborhood, seems part of a crumbling empire. Top right: Aerial view of Héliopolis at Cap d’Agde. Top and bottom left: Cap d’Agde rentals marketed to swingers.

state-led vacation urbanism. Cap d’Agde is one of seven mass-tourism beach resorts planned by General de Gaulle’s government in the 1960s on the coast of Languedoc-Roussillon, between the Rhône delta (Camargue) and the Spanish border. Known as the “Mission Racine,” after its director, Pierre Racine, it remains one of the largest postwar infrastructure projects undertaken in France, with facilities for half-amillion holiday-goers hav­ing been constructed between 1963 and 1983 in inhospitable mosquitoinfested marshes (15 percent of the overall budget was allocated to eradicating mosquitos). It was in this context that brothers Paul and René Oltra transformed the naturist campsite they had founded in 1956 into a giant beach resort. They employed Lopez — who was working alongside Jean Le Couteur, Cap d’Agde’s architect in chief — to help them build the largest naturist colony in the world, centered around three massive concrete buildings located away from the textiles (naturist jargon for people who wear clothes) behind

Tanning

Like most relics of the 1980s, tanning salons no longer represent the futuristic excess they once promised. Today, bad perms and shiny pleather coats look cheap, as do podshaped tanning beds and the orange glow they leave on overcooked skin. But I’m not one to shy away from tacky aesthetics, so I sign the contract that warns me about the cancer-­causing properties of UV rays, grab a pair of strapless goggles, and make my way to the back of the salon. The first artificial UV rays were created by physician Niels Ryberg Finsen in the 1890s to treat cutaneous tuberculosis. By the 1920s people were installing UV “health lamps” in living rooms, children’s playrooms, and offices under the guise that sunbathing could prevent disease, improve moods, and even boost productivity in the workplace. The sun’s rays — and the UV lights that mimicked them — felt good, and while the sun’s role as a healer fell off with the

rise of antibiotics in the 1950s, the idea that a bronzed glow looks healthy stuck. Outdoor tanning in the U.S. was popularized with the bikini in the 50s and 60s, but it wasn’t until 1978 that the first indoor tanning salon in America opened in the back of an old house in Searcy, Arkansas. Tantrific Sun was a ramshackle collection of fluorescent UV bulbs fashioned into standup 3-foot square booths fit with reflective surfaces to maximize their artificial rays. Franchises quickly spread across the country, each incorporating tropical-inspired thatched-roof huts, rattan furniture, and synthetic palm trees to match. The décor, a nod to the newly popular beach vacation, promised a transformational experience. Not just of the body, but of the mind. In a new kind of colonization of the Southern Hemisphere and the almighty star that heats it. Humans have always looked for ways to circumvent nature and, with the advent of indoor tanning, it appeared that its most powerful force could be replicated without consequence. But, by the 1980s, it was becoming clear that increased exposure to UV rays, fake or real, could be damaging to the human body. There was a hole in the ozone layer, and the U.S. National Research Council had just declared that the Earth was beginning to warm. Yet indoor tanning was more popular than ever before. In gyms across America, tanning became a fashionable post-workout activ­ ity, particularly among bikini models and bodybuilders who believed that deepening their skin tone to an offensive shade made their muscles more defined. It was the era of big hair, big money, and big optimism. When the economy was good, it was easy to forget about the environment. The bronze age peaked in

The fluctuating fashions of indoor bronzing


By Taylore Scarabelli The world is on fire and I’m going to the tanning salon.

The 1970s and 80s were the golden age of Cap d’Agde’s naturist colony. It was championed by the local authorities because of its profitability and dominated by a rather chaste family naturism. But, by the early 90s, sex had become the resort’s main raison d’être: the clubs now welcome swingers, shops sell kinky gear among the groceries, and the beach is home to an internationally famous summer-long orgy that reaches its apogee in the dunes of the Baie des Cochons (Pigs’ Bay), with endless open-air group sex and bukkake. Several pages are devoted to Cap d’Agde’s late-modern condition in Michel Houellebecq’s 1998 novel Atomised, which describes the architecture, the clubs, the sex, and the fortuitous geography of the site as “an idyllic phalanstery out of Fourier.”

All archival photography sourced by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou.

gates, a harbor, and dunes. Between 40,000 and 50,000 naturists gather there each summer, half of them in Modernist architecture (Héliopolis alone can accommodate 5,000), half of them in camping bungalows.

Although business is still pretty good at Cap d’Agde’s village naturiste, things at Héliopolis are said to be different today. Naturists are aging, and so is the architecture. Gendered swinging is not so aspirational and porn sexuality is not so utopian, especially in the context of a rise in incidents involving non-naturist male opportunists. Furthermore, many now prefer newer resorts in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, or Eastern Europe. Cap d’Agde’s village naturiste may end up simply being absorbed into the rest of the resort — unless a critical mass of sex-­positive porn-friendly queer youth takes over the site, though they may be better off building their own Héliopolis somewhere else.

182

I walked past Future Tan Midtown on my first visit. The salon is positioned on the second floor of a commercial building far from the startup retail stores in Nolita. It’s easy to miss and, with its faded signs in bold font, it reads more like a relic of the past than a journey to the future. Inside, the salon smells of sour tanning lotion and burnt skin. Faux Grecian columns, off-white stucco, and chipping paint mirror the business’s outdated posters featuring buff, bronzed men and Dirrty-era Christina Aguilera lookalikes. The company claims to be “NYC’s premier tanning salon,” but the space, like the surrounding neighborhood, seems part of a crumbling empire. Top right: Aerial view of Héliopolis at Cap d’Agde. Top and bottom left: Cap d’Agde rentals marketed to swingers.

state-led vacation urbanism. Cap d’Agde is one of seven mass-tourism beach resorts planned by General de Gaulle’s government in the 1960s on the coast of Languedoc-Roussillon, between the Rhône delta (Camargue) and the Spanish border. Known as the “Mission Racine,” after its director, Pierre Racine, it remains one of the largest postwar infrastructure projects undertaken in France, with facilities for half-amillion holiday-goers hav­ing been constructed between 1963 and 1983 in inhospitable mosquitoinfested marshes (15 percent of the overall budget was allocated to eradicating mosquitos). It was in this context that brothers Paul and René Oltra transformed the naturist campsite they had founded in 1956 into a giant beach resort. They employed Lopez — who was working alongside Jean Le Couteur, Cap d’Agde’s architect in chief — to help them build the largest naturist colony in the world, centered around three massive concrete buildings located away from the textiles (naturist jargon for people who wear clothes) behind

Tanning

Like most relics of the 1980s, tanning salons no longer represent the futuristic excess they once promised. Today, bad perms and shiny pleather coats look cheap, as do podshaped tanning beds and the orange glow they leave on overcooked skin. But I’m not one to shy away from tacky aesthetics, so I sign the contract that warns me about the cancer-­causing properties of UV rays, grab a pair of strapless goggles, and make my way to the back of the salon. The first artificial UV rays were created by physician Niels Ryberg Finsen in the 1890s to treat cutaneous tuberculosis. By the 1920s people were installing UV “health lamps” in living rooms, children’s playrooms, and offices under the guise that sunbathing could prevent disease, improve moods, and even boost productivity in the workplace. The sun’s rays — and the UV lights that mimicked them — felt good, and while the sun’s role as a healer fell off with the

rise of antibiotics in the 1950s, the idea that a bronzed glow looks healthy stuck. Outdoor tanning in the U.S. was popularized with the bikini in the 50s and 60s, but it wasn’t until 1978 that the first indoor tanning salon in America opened in the back of an old house in Searcy, Arkansas. Tantrific Sun was a ramshackle collection of fluorescent UV bulbs fashioned into standup 3-foot square booths fit with reflective surfaces to maximize their artificial rays. Franchises quickly spread across the country, each incorporating tropical-inspired thatched-roof huts, rattan furniture, and synthetic palm trees to match. The décor, a nod to the newly popular beach vacation, promised a transformational experience. Not just of the body, but of the mind. In a new kind of colonization of the Southern Hemisphere and the almighty star that heats it. Humans have always looked for ways to circumvent nature and, with the advent of indoor tanning, it appeared that its most powerful force could be replicated without consequence. But, by the 1980s, it was becoming clear that increased exposure to UV rays, fake or real, could be damaging to the human body. There was a hole in the ozone layer, and the U.S. National Research Council had just declared that the Earth was beginning to warm. Yet indoor tanning was more popular than ever before. In gyms across America, tanning became a fashionable post-workout activ­ ity, particularly among bikini models and bodybuilders who believed that deepening their skin tone to an offensive shade made their muscles more defined. It was the era of big hair, big money, and big optimism. When the economy was good, it was easy to forget about the environment. The bronze age peaked in

The fluctuating fashions of indoor bronzing


Sunsets

This all changed after the financial crash, when the media could no longer pretend to be enamored by the expense and narcissism implied by a faux glow. In 2008, indoor tanning made national headlines when it was revealed that Sarah Palin, who had just recently changed her mind about global warming, had her own tanning bed installed in the Alaska Governor’s Mansion. This was ironic, not solely for the fact that she was following in the footsteps of hornier mansion dwellers south of her jurisdiction, but also because the man she was running with in the presidential campaign, John McCain, had suffered through skin cancer twice already. By the time the Jersey Shore characters popularized Gym, Tanning, Laundry (GTL) in 2009, indoor tanning was reserved for boardwalk rats and boisterous billionaires who didn’t mind being ridiculed for their Oompa Loompainspired glow. Excess in the age of financial collapse was gauche, and using real electricity to mimic the harmful rays of the sun while the Earth warmed seemed foolish.

184

Today it’s hard to find a tanning salon that has UV booths. Instead we have places like Brazil Bronze and Gotham Glow that deliver spray tans so dark and true that influencers can achieve semi-­permanent blackface in a matter of minutes. So, instead of encasing ourselves in the vitamin-D enriched booths of the past, we float in sensory deprivation tanks and freeze in cryogenic pods. There are light beds to alter your mood and metabolism, only they use LEDs and don’t require entombment. All of these things promise a new kind of healthy glow — but, like the tanning pods before them, they are little more than space-age cosplay, a moment spent in a Martian-like pod pre­ tending that we might escape the future we’ve created for ourselves on Earth. Back at Future Tan Midtown, I undress and slither into a vintage-looking Ergoline machine. The room barely fits the behemoth booth I’m about to submit to, and I begin to feel anxious thinking about the long contract full of spooky clauses I signed moments earlier. But, as the lights flicker on, a manly robotic voice begins to soothe me. I follow his instructions and start smashing buttons in search of the “aqua mist” feature. Something liquid dribbles out of somewhere, but it doesn’t feel like mist, and behind the cheap black goggles I’m having trouble seeing anything. “Relax,” I think as I close my eyes. “For the next 8 minutes, you are warm.”

By Ian Volner

The meditation pavilion of Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brion (1968–78) stands in the southernmost corner of its L-shaped site, in a cemetery outside the Italian town of San Vito d’Altivole. Set in a lily pond, the pavilion is topped by a wooden canopy with a green metallic skirting, cleft in two about midway across the pavilion’s broad northern side. These two halves are linked by a curious brass fixture: a pair of demi-loops under a flat bridge, no more than a few inches wide. A little like a handle, but not quite, the fixture seems at first just one of those enchant­ ing details that the Venice-based Scarpa was known to lavish upon his buildings. Top: Woman reclining on a tanning bed. Bottom: The Body Tan Salon & Spa in Riverside, California.

the early aughts, when “tanorexia” became a common ailment amongst tangerine-­ toned celebrities like Tara Reid and Lindsay Lohan. Famous people, like Hugh Hefner, even had their own beds, or what he called “blonde cloning machines,” at home. Monogram was big, vajazzling was a thing, and white celebrities had yet to be called out for appropriating darker skin tones.

When I visited the tomb for the first time last summer, I stood in the pavilion for a long while. It was a damp day in July, around 5:00 p.m., with a storm front lowering over the fields. The brass device in the pavilion comes up to about chest level. Yet, as I stood there, it seemed a natural focal point. I stooped to look through it — and in an instant the sun broke through the clouds, and the device framed a perfect view of the sunlight as it slanted crosswise through the cemetery, striking the lilies and the rain-slicked mosaic in the pond, and above all the huge concrete arc at the center of the complex. The bridge-like structure, which shelters the graves of the Brion family (founders of the electronics company Brionvega), lit up as though its edges concealed tubes of outrageous

gold-red neon. The mysterious device, in that particular moment, was a viewfinder; the sun, gunpowder. “The detail is the adoration of Nature,” wrote Louis Kahn in 1974 — a line from a poem dedicated to his old friend Carlo Scarpa. Later that year, Kahn died suddenly; Scarpa followed him four years later, also suddenly. Neither man is now available to field questions as to what their intentions might have been in certain aspects of their work. All architects are mindful of light, but there is a specific strain of buildings designed in deliberate relation to the sun and its yearly passage. The most celebrated is perhaps Stonehenge, its massive stones exactly framing the rising and setting sun on the summer and winter solstices. Other such calendar monuments, as old or older, can be found everywhere from Scotland to the Middle East. Similar phenomena appear in modern times — albeit typically by accident, as in the case of New York’s semi-­ annual “Manhattanhenge,” when the sun sets exactly along the line of the island’s lateral streets. So is it possible Scarpa really intended the Brion pavilion’s brass fixture as opera glasses for a seasonal solar light show? Probably not… or at least not in the way it seemed to me. In any case, why was I so convinced that what I saw

The art of geomancy in two Modernist landmarks


Sunsets

This all changed after the financial crash, when the media could no longer pretend to be enamored by the expense and narcissism implied by a faux glow. In 2008, indoor tanning made national headlines when it was revealed that Sarah Palin, who had just recently changed her mind about global warming, had her own tanning bed installed in the Alaska Governor’s Mansion. This was ironic, not solely for the fact that she was following in the footsteps of hornier mansion dwellers south of her jurisdiction, but also because the man she was running with in the presidential campaign, John McCain, had suffered through skin cancer twice already. By the time the Jersey Shore characters popularized Gym, Tanning, Laundry (GTL) in 2009, indoor tanning was reserved for boardwalk rats and boisterous billionaires who didn’t mind being ridiculed for their Oompa Loompainspired glow. Excess in the age of financial collapse was gauche, and using real electricity to mimic the harmful rays of the sun while the Earth warmed seemed foolish.

184

Today it’s hard to find a tanning salon that has UV booths. Instead we have places like Brazil Bronze and Gotham Glow that deliver spray tans so dark and true that influencers can achieve semi-­permanent blackface in a matter of minutes. So, instead of encasing ourselves in the vitamin-D enriched booths of the past, we float in sensory deprivation tanks and freeze in cryogenic pods. There are light beds to alter your mood and metabolism, only they use LEDs and don’t require entombment. All of these things promise a new kind of healthy glow — but, like the tanning pods before them, they are little more than space-age cosplay, a moment spent in a Martian-like pod pre­ tending that we might escape the future we’ve created for ourselves on Earth. Back at Future Tan Midtown, I undress and slither into a vintage-looking Ergoline machine. The room barely fits the behemoth booth I’m about to submit to, and I begin to feel anxious thinking about the long contract full of spooky clauses I signed moments earlier. But, as the lights flicker on, a manly robotic voice begins to soothe me. I follow his instructions and start smashing buttons in search of the “aqua mist” feature. Something liquid dribbles out of somewhere, but it doesn’t feel like mist, and behind the cheap black goggles I’m having trouble seeing anything. “Relax,” I think as I close my eyes. “For the next 8 minutes, you are warm.”

By Ian Volner

The meditation pavilion of Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brion (1968–78) stands in the southernmost corner of its L-shaped site, in a cemetery outside the Italian town of San Vito d’Altivole. Set in a lily pond, the pavilion is topped by a wooden canopy with a green metallic skirting, cleft in two about midway across the pavilion’s broad northern side. These two halves are linked by a curious brass fixture: a pair of demi-loops under a flat bridge, no more than a few inches wide. A little like a handle, but not quite, the fixture seems at first just one of those enchant­ ing details that the Venice-based Scarpa was known to lavish upon his buildings. Top: Woman reclining on a tanning bed. Bottom: The Body Tan Salon & Spa in Riverside, California.

the early aughts, when “tanorexia” became a common ailment amongst tangerine-­ toned celebrities like Tara Reid and Lindsay Lohan. Famous people, like Hugh Hefner, even had their own beds, or what he called “blonde cloning machines,” at home. Monogram was big, vajazzling was a thing, and white celebrities had yet to be called out for appropriating darker skin tones.

When I visited the tomb for the first time last summer, I stood in the pavilion for a long while. It was a damp day in July, around 5:00 p.m., with a storm front lowering over the fields. The brass device in the pavilion comes up to about chest level. Yet, as I stood there, it seemed a natural focal point. I stooped to look through it — and in an instant the sun broke through the clouds, and the device framed a perfect view of the sunlight as it slanted crosswise through the cemetery, striking the lilies and the rain-slicked mosaic in the pond, and above all the huge concrete arc at the center of the complex. The bridge-like structure, which shelters the graves of the Brion family (founders of the electronics company Brionvega), lit up as though its edges concealed tubes of outrageous

gold-red neon. The mysterious device, in that particular moment, was a viewfinder; the sun, gunpowder. “The detail is the adoration of Nature,” wrote Louis Kahn in 1974 — a line from a poem dedicated to his old friend Carlo Scarpa. Later that year, Kahn died suddenly; Scarpa followed him four years later, also suddenly. Neither man is now available to field questions as to what their intentions might have been in certain aspects of their work. All architects are mindful of light, but there is a specific strain of buildings designed in deliberate relation to the sun and its yearly passage. The most celebrated is perhaps Stonehenge, its massive stones exactly framing the rising and setting sun on the summer and winter solstices. Other such calendar monuments, as old or older, can be found everywhere from Scotland to the Middle East. Similar phenomena appear in modern times — albeit typically by accident, as in the case of New York’s semi-­ annual “Manhattanhenge,” when the sun sets exactly along the line of the island’s lateral streets. So is it possible Scarpa really intended the Brion pavilion’s brass fixture as opera glasses for a seasonal solar light show? Probably not… or at least not in the way it seemed to me. In any case, why was I so convinced that what I saw

The art of geomancy in two Modernist landmarks


Top: Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brian. Photography by Jacopo Famularo. Bottom: Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute. Photography by Elizabeth Daniels.

186

must have been, in some way, deliberate? There is a scene in one of the Indiana Jones films in which the title character arrives as planned at the steps of some ancient temple at the exact moment when the sun strikes the designated spot on an archaic stone relief, revealing the secret entrance to a lost tomb. At Stonehenge, in 1985, a pitched battle took place between police and hordes of neo-pagans who descended on the complex at the summer solstice; access to the site has since been strictly controlled. There is something irresistibly appealing about the idea of an architecture of the sun, and of being there to see it activated, as if some kind of magic might unfold. There is some suggestion that Scarpa did take the sun’s path into account when he designed aspects of the tomb. The complex’s most important structure is not the pavilion, but the archway underneath which the Brions themselves are buried, located exactly where the two arms of the L meet. The burial spot, rectangular in plan, might be expected to be orientated rectilinearly to the L, or at least (as is the case with the nearby chapel) along the cardinal compass points; instead, the tomb and only the tomb is rotated, lying along an axis approximately 10 degrees short of true northwest. Judging from the available maps — and from the Internet’s most popular solar-path software — the tomb is actually pointed towards nearly the exact spot where the sun goes down on the longest day of the year, which falls between June 20 and 22. Had I been there a scant two weeks earlier, at around 9:00 p.m., I might have looked north through

the pavilion fixture to see the funerary monument glowing in even greater splendor. Notwithstanding the purported accuracy of “suncalc.org,” it might be difficult to prove all this: visiting hours at the Tomba Brion seemingly vary on the whims of local authorities, and it may well be closed at 9:00 p.m. on a summer night. Still, the possibility makes one wonder: what other modern monuments are hiding comparable, equinox-­related secrets? Immediately I thought of Scarpa’s old friend Kahn, and his Salk Institute in La Jolla, California (1959–65). Enjoying an unobstructed view to the Pacific Ocean, the complex, with its two rows of serrated concrete towers, is etched down the middle by a water feature (suggested to Kahn by Luis Barragán), tracing a perfect line due west to the horizon. Surely, whatever day the sun descends exactly along the western azimuth, it must make for a pretty stirring scene. As with Manhattanhenge, “Salkhenge” (to coin a phrase) occurs twice annually. The first date, approximately September 22, coincides with the fall equinox. The second date, on or about March 17, lines up with the spring equilux, when night and day are of equal length. But that second date rang another, uncanny, bell with me: March 17, 1974, was the exact day Louis Kahn died. An eerie — one might say cosmic — coincidence, and another architectural sunset worth seeing.


Top: Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brian. Photography by Jacopo Famularo. Bottom: Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute. Photography by Elizabeth Daniels.

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must have been, in some way, deliberate? There is a scene in one of the Indiana Jones films in which the title character arrives as planned at the steps of some ancient temple at the exact moment when the sun strikes the designated spot on an archaic stone relief, revealing the secret entrance to a lost tomb. At Stonehenge, in 1985, a pitched battle took place between police and hordes of neo-pagans who descended on the complex at the summer solstice; access to the site has since been strictly controlled. There is something irresistibly appealing about the idea of an architecture of the sun, and of being there to see it activated, as if some kind of magic might unfold. There is some suggestion that Scarpa did take the sun’s path into account when he designed aspects of the tomb. The complex’s most important structure is not the pavilion, but the archway underneath which the Brions themselves are buried, located exactly where the two arms of the L meet. The burial spot, rectangular in plan, might be expected to be orientated rectilinearly to the L, or at least (as is the case with the nearby chapel) along the cardinal compass points; instead, the tomb and only the tomb is rotated, lying along an axis approximately 10 degrees short of true northwest. Judging from the available maps — and from the Internet’s most popular solar-path software — the tomb is actually pointed towards nearly the exact spot where the sun goes down on the longest day of the year, which falls between June 20 and 22. Had I been there a scant two weeks earlier, at around 9:00 p.m., I might have looked north through

the pavilion fixture to see the funerary monument glowing in even greater splendor. Notwithstanding the purported accuracy of “suncalc.org,” it might be difficult to prove all this: visiting hours at the Tomba Brion seemingly vary on the whims of local authorities, and it may well be closed at 9:00 p.m. on a summer night. Still, the possibility makes one wonder: what other modern monuments are hiding comparable, equinox-­related secrets? Immediately I thought of Scarpa’s old friend Kahn, and his Salk Institute in La Jolla, California (1959–65). Enjoying an unobstructed view to the Pacific Ocean, the complex, with its two rows of serrated concrete towers, is etched down the middle by a water feature (suggested to Kahn by Luis Barragán), tracing a perfect line due west to the horizon. Surely, whatever day the sun descends exactly along the western azimuth, it must make for a pretty stirring scene. As with Manhattanhenge, “Salkhenge” (to coin a phrase) occurs twice annually. The first date, approximately September 22, coincides with the fall equinox. The second date, on or about March 17, lines up with the spring equilux, when night and day are of equal length. But that second date rang another, uncanny, bell with me: March 17, 1974, was the exact day Louis Kahn died. An eerie — one might say cosmic — coincidence, and another architectural sunset worth seeing.


Resorts By Tiana Reid

188

Over-the-water bungalows advertised as marrying modern luxury to palapa-style architecture at Sandals South Coast, Jamaica.

A place in the sun for the rituals of recreation and romance

Just off the southwest coast of Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea, there is a Sandals Resorts property of over-the-­water bungalows that form the shape of a heart. To the jet set, all-inclusive resorts are understood as middle-class traps, offering vacations for the uncultured who travel 1,000 miles for the fries and piña coladas they could just as easily get at their local Applebee’s. At over 1,000 dollars per person per night, the Sandals South Coast “Tahitistyle” bungalows perched over the ocean are for a slightly different crowd, those who want some sense of privacy, morality, and individuality, but with the safety of a namebrand resort. This big heart, however, is only visible from the sky. Or, of course, the lush 360-degree clickable online tour that gets its patrons there in the first place. On the ground, you get the luxury-blueness of the water, Appleton rum in the bar, and mass-produced resort furniture. Nowhere do you get to see the well-advertised architectural heart. The effect, I imagine, is subconscious. The shape of the heart is suspended in your mind. Sitting in one of your private bungalows, staring out to sea, you find yourself in love again with your partner. You find yourself thinking, “This is love island.” With these bird’s-eye designs, the heart as an ideograph is reduced to an essence: a private seaside colony in an anonymous paradise. To see a heart is unsophisticated when instead you can live it. When two hearts come together, overwhelmed by blue, love does not need to announce itself. Love is within you. Love is atmospheric. Love is floating all around. Love is transfiguration. That this is a crooked lie doesn’t matter. Resorts sell rooms by saying that the dream of love is better than the burden of reality. To stay in heart-shaped architecture viewable only by photography and the drones that provide the images is to live in a fantasy only advertising can provide. Of course, part of architecture’s grace is that it can provide an experience of the whole, even while experiencing only a part. Frank Lloyd Wright’s ziggurat of a Guggenheim spiral, say, looks and feels different from various vantage points, from across Fifth Avenue or from inside on one of the upper ramps. (And yet here I am, writing about a place I’ve never been inside, a view I’ve only seen from way up high. I am, in my own way,

perched like those bungalows, floating above the ocean’s wildlife, away from human vitality.) Last summer, while visiting my family in Jamaica, I stayed for a few days near the Sandals in Whitehouse, not far from where I lived as a baby. One night, my brother, his girlfriend, and I drove up to Elaine’s Chateau, a small-time inn with a view. It was there that my brother pointed out the heart-shaped pier jettisoning out from the shore, which was built in 2017. (A similar development, but this time a whole honeymoon island shaped like a heart, was planned around the same time in Dubai, part of a resort called the Heart of Europe that is currently under construction.) Standing on Elaine’s balcony, nestled among greenery at the border of Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth parishes, I didn’t see a heart but an eyesore. “Oh my god,” I said, rolling my eyes at this topography of romance. But my mirthful brother, who has lived within 15 minutes of the resort all his life, was a little more forgiving. He could derive pleasure from being deceived. Had I fallen into the trap, I thought, thinking I was bougier than the heart-­chitecture before me? Or was he just in love while I, an uncoupled feminist, understood that romantic love is a lie meant to oppress me? At Sandals, it seems that every little detail — the peacock towel art, the see-through glass floor panel, billowing translucent curtains — is positioned to point back to that grand symbol of modern love: the heart. These obsessive details are meant to make you forget that rejuv­ enation is anticlimactic and that an island getaway will not save your marriage. After all, from vibrating heartshaped beds in Las Vegas to a 7-foot glass bath shaped like a champagne glass in the Pocono Mountains, resort design has long drawn on romance to get white bodies into their pleather casino chairs, beige-colored buffet lines, and beachside chaise longues. It is amusing how the myriad of heart emojis — the platonic double pink minis, the solid red, the funereal black posted after a celebrity’s death — carry with them some integrity, but even in the land of couples tourism, the heart-shaped built environment is considered cheesy, kitschy, and dated. Online, love feels cute, granular and so, yes, a little bit real, but from the sky, bathed in forgiving sunlight, eternal love is a kind of drowning.


Resorts By Tiana Reid

188

Over-the-water bungalows advertised as marrying modern luxury to palapa-style architecture at Sandals South Coast, Jamaica.

A place in the sun for the rituals of recreation and romance

Just off the southwest coast of Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea, there is a Sandals Resorts property of over-the-­water bungalows that form the shape of a heart. To the jet set, all-inclusive resorts are understood as middle-class traps, offering vacations for the uncultured who travel 1,000 miles for the fries and piña coladas they could just as easily get at their local Applebee’s. At over 1,000 dollars per person per night, the Sandals South Coast “Tahitistyle” bungalows perched over the ocean are for a slightly different crowd, those who want some sense of privacy, morality, and individuality, but with the safety of a namebrand resort. This big heart, however, is only visible from the sky. Or, of course, the lush 360-degree clickable online tour that gets its patrons there in the first place. On the ground, you get the luxury-blueness of the water, Appleton rum in the bar, and mass-produced resort furniture. Nowhere do you get to see the well-advertised architectural heart. The effect, I imagine, is subconscious. The shape of the heart is suspended in your mind. Sitting in one of your private bungalows, staring out to sea, you find yourself in love again with your partner. You find yourself thinking, “This is love island.” With these bird’s-eye designs, the heart as an ideograph is reduced to an essence: a private seaside colony in an anonymous paradise. To see a heart is unsophisticated when instead you can live it. When two hearts come together, overwhelmed by blue, love does not need to announce itself. Love is within you. Love is atmospheric. Love is floating all around. Love is transfiguration. That this is a crooked lie doesn’t matter. Resorts sell rooms by saying that the dream of love is better than the burden of reality. To stay in heart-shaped architecture viewable only by photography and the drones that provide the images is to live in a fantasy only advertising can provide. Of course, part of architecture’s grace is that it can provide an experience of the whole, even while experiencing only a part. Frank Lloyd Wright’s ziggurat of a Guggenheim spiral, say, looks and feels different from various vantage points, from across Fifth Avenue or from inside on one of the upper ramps. (And yet here I am, writing about a place I’ve never been inside, a view I’ve only seen from way up high. I am, in my own way,

perched like those bungalows, floating above the ocean’s wildlife, away from human vitality.) Last summer, while visiting my family in Jamaica, I stayed for a few days near the Sandals in Whitehouse, not far from where I lived as a baby. One night, my brother, his girlfriend, and I drove up to Elaine’s Chateau, a small-time inn with a view. It was there that my brother pointed out the heart-shaped pier jettisoning out from the shore, which was built in 2017. (A similar development, but this time a whole honeymoon island shaped like a heart, was planned around the same time in Dubai, part of a resort called the Heart of Europe that is currently under construction.) Standing on Elaine’s balcony, nestled among greenery at the border of Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth parishes, I didn’t see a heart but an eyesore. “Oh my god,” I said, rolling my eyes at this topography of romance. But my mirthful brother, who has lived within 15 minutes of the resort all his life, was a little more forgiving. He could derive pleasure from being deceived. Had I fallen into the trap, I thought, thinking I was bougier than the heart-­chitecture before me? Or was he just in love while I, an uncoupled feminist, understood that romantic love is a lie meant to oppress me? At Sandals, it seems that every little detail — the peacock towel art, the see-through glass floor panel, billowing translucent curtains — is positioned to point back to that grand symbol of modern love: the heart. These obsessive details are meant to make you forget that rejuv­ enation is anticlimactic and that an island getaway will not save your marriage. After all, from vibrating heartshaped beds in Las Vegas to a 7-foot glass bath shaped like a champagne glass in the Pocono Mountains, resort design has long drawn on romance to get white bodies into their pleather casino chairs, beige-colored buffet lines, and beachside chaise longues. It is amusing how the myriad of heart emojis — the platonic double pink minis, the solid red, the funereal black posted after a celebrity’s death — carry with them some integrity, but even in the land of couples tourism, the heart-shaped built environment is considered cheesy, kitschy, and dated. Online, love feels cute, granular and so, yes, a little bit real, but from the sky, bathed in forgiving sunlight, eternal love is a kind of drowning.


Sunglasses By Igor Bragado and Miles Gertler /  Common Accounts

As the concerns of the decade grow to the planetary scale, this season we’ve designed a collection of that most cosmic of prosthetics: sunglasses. Shades have always performed a double duty, the simultaneous management of solar and sartorial concerns requiring a high-performance piece of wearable technology. As 2030 approaches, the environment in which they’re worn continues to morph, demanding new layers of utility from even the most fetching frames.

INVERT IMAGE

Prosthetics for the future: a proposal 190

Future sunglass prototypes by Common Accounts: POLARIZED EMO-SPOOF X (top) and VENETIAN SCREENS (bottom).

The ecological and the enigmatic, the technical and the trendy, the cosmetic and the cosmic seem now to be more entangled than ever. Battery level is the new tan; biome is brand; and CPU? We love to see it. It’s no surprise, then, that the sunglasses we’ve designed for the 2030s unreservedly take on this new terrain. Never before has UV looked so QT. In designing for a decade still to come, we’ve had to operate on a speculative brief for our would-be shoppers. How will their needs and appetites transform between now and 2030? We’ve consulted today’s oracular intelligence — bots, trend forecasters, and mercenary futurists — to get a clear picture of our prospective consumer. And what have we found? Existential uncertainty produces a new aesthetic: anxiety takes command. Placebo and the acerbic become mood-board mainstays. Utility is cute, but make it fashion. So, without further ado, we present our VISIONARY EYEWEAR COLLECTION. It’s largely due to the priority of eyesight in the human sensorium that glasses in the 2030s are so enmeshed with performance. To counteract the precarity of the planet in the new decade, many are opting to clip on an arsenal of tools for expansive new forms of function. Such is the draw of a technological sugar pill. You never know when your metabolism’s going to dip, when the magnetic field might flip, or when you’ll need to re-print your lenses to a new prescription. Anything could happen! For concerns of this category, we propose the CMD+SHIFT+P shades. In a world where material abundance is increasingly in question, reuse and reform the same stock of synthetic peptides and super-salts with sunglasses that double as a portable, poly-material 3D printer. We know, we know — 3D printing, so 2018! Same, but different. In 2030 you can download an .obj and print what you need on the go. Anyone have a multi-vitamin?

A magnetizing crystal? A contact lens for my astigmatism? There’s a file for that. Add to cart.

In 2030 you’ll receive so many texts, ads, emails, and ether; send out such a volume of geotags, likes, emo-pings, and webdings; and process so constant a deluge of info-blips, clickbait, and keychain checks that anyone with an iPhone 32X will need an IRL battery source as a contingency for the sudden draw on power you’re liable to encounter at any given moment. We designed a pair of OCULAR SOLAR CELLS to yield the giga-wattage you need to power through Spring Summer for those days when you hit zero percent early. Sport these and produce energy through the translucent thin-film baked into their lenses. You may not want to deal with the spam-iverse of 2030, but you’d still rather not run out of juice. With the prospect of 24-hour media oversharing, facial recognition, and social-credit reports, emotional geo-spoofing will emerge as a vital tactic to evade unwanted suspicion, detection, and categorization. If feelings are fact, feel good knowing that we have crafted a pair of sunglasses designed to never give away your real emotions: the POLARIZED EMO-SPOOF X. In 2030, infrared and LED light arrays firing off a symphony of erratic signals can confuse surveillance systems and even the brain’s fusiform-­gyrus functions to mystify the world around you. And thank goodness for that. Emotions are an improvisation in the best of cases. Best not to get caught off guard! While many new sunglasses flaunt a gizmo, others prefer to de-quip. Our IV MODEL comes loaded with an endorphinpacked solution to simulate the brain’s reward-triggered serotonin glands. Take a minute to relax on your next business trip through the lower stratosphere. Clip these on and release the drip to amplify your amino streams and recharge before the shuttle lands. The fluid pouches settle over your eyes, providing a soothing blur filter between you and your environment. Analogue technologies and retrograde aesthetics come back into play in a big way for those exhausted by today’s vanguard tech. Keep an eye out for our new line featuring ocular blinds, curtains, shutters, and awnings that block out blue, red, UV, and, well, all light. These 20th-century tactics, incorporated into our series of VENETIAN SCREENS, should help you cool down as the planet heats up.


Sunglasses By Igor Bragado and Miles Gertler /  Common Accounts

As the concerns of the decade grow to the planetary scale, this season we’ve designed a collection of that most cosmic of prosthetics: sunglasses. Shades have always performed a double duty, the simultaneous management of solar and sartorial concerns requiring a high-performance piece of wearable technology. As 2030 approaches, the environment in which they’re worn continues to morph, demanding new layers of utility from even the most fetching frames.

INVERT IMAGE

Prosthetics for the future: a proposal 190

Future sunglass prototypes by Common Accounts: POLARIZED EMO-SPOOF X (top) and VENETIAN SCREENS (bottom).

The ecological and the enigmatic, the technical and the trendy, the cosmetic and the cosmic seem now to be more entangled than ever. Battery level is the new tan; biome is brand; and CPU? We love to see it. It’s no surprise, then, that the sunglasses we’ve designed for the 2030s unreservedly take on this new terrain. Never before has UV looked so QT. In designing for a decade still to come, we’ve had to operate on a speculative brief for our would-be shoppers. How will their needs and appetites transform between now and 2030? We’ve consulted today’s oracular intelligence — bots, trend forecasters, and mercenary futurists — to get a clear picture of our prospective consumer. And what have we found? Existential uncertainty produces a new aesthetic: anxiety takes command. Placebo and the acerbic become mood-board mainstays. Utility is cute, but make it fashion. So, without further ado, we present our VISIONARY EYEWEAR COLLECTION. It’s largely due to the priority of eyesight in the human sensorium that glasses in the 2030s are so enmeshed with performance. To counteract the precarity of the planet in the new decade, many are opting to clip on an arsenal of tools for expansive new forms of function. Such is the draw of a technological sugar pill. You never know when your metabolism’s going to dip, when the magnetic field might flip, or when you’ll need to re-print your lenses to a new prescription. Anything could happen! For concerns of this category, we propose the CMD+SHIFT+P shades. In a world where material abundance is increasingly in question, reuse and reform the same stock of synthetic peptides and super-salts with sunglasses that double as a portable, poly-material 3D printer. We know, we know — 3D printing, so 2018! Same, but different. In 2030 you can download an .obj and print what you need on the go. Anyone have a multi-vitamin?

A magnetizing crystal? A contact lens for my astigmatism? There’s a file for that. Add to cart.

In 2030 you’ll receive so many texts, ads, emails, and ether; send out such a volume of geotags, likes, emo-pings, and webdings; and process so constant a deluge of info-blips, clickbait, and keychain checks that anyone with an iPhone 32X will need an IRL battery source as a contingency for the sudden draw on power you’re liable to encounter at any given moment. We designed a pair of OCULAR SOLAR CELLS to yield the giga-wattage you need to power through Spring Summer for those days when you hit zero percent early. Sport these and produce energy through the translucent thin-film baked into their lenses. You may not want to deal with the spam-iverse of 2030, but you’d still rather not run out of juice. With the prospect of 24-hour media oversharing, facial recognition, and social-credit reports, emotional geo-spoofing will emerge as a vital tactic to evade unwanted suspicion, detection, and categorization. If feelings are fact, feel good knowing that we have crafted a pair of sunglasses designed to never give away your real emotions: the POLARIZED EMO-SPOOF X. In 2030, infrared and LED light arrays firing off a symphony of erratic signals can confuse surveillance systems and even the brain’s fusiform-­gyrus functions to mystify the world around you. And thank goodness for that. Emotions are an improvisation in the best of cases. Best not to get caught off guard! While many new sunglasses flaunt a gizmo, others prefer to de-quip. Our IV MODEL comes loaded with an endorphinpacked solution to simulate the brain’s reward-triggered serotonin glands. Take a minute to relax on your next business trip through the lower stratosphere. Clip these on and release the drip to amplify your amino streams and recharge before the shuttle lands. The fluid pouches settle over your eyes, providing a soothing blur filter between you and your environment. Analogue technologies and retrograde aesthetics come back into play in a big way for those exhausted by today’s vanguard tech. Keep an eye out for our new line featuring ocular blinds, curtains, shutters, and awnings that block out blue, red, UV, and, well, all light. These 20th-century tactics, incorporated into our series of VENETIAN SCREENS, should help you cool down as the planet heats up.


David Huber is a critic and the founder of the educational media organization Thinkbelt, for which he produces the podcast Interstitial about space and the consequences of our designs. Octave Perrault is an architect based in Paris. Curators Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou invited Perrault to visit the Cap-d’Agde offseason in Decembre 2017 as part of their residency at the LUMA Foundation in Arles. Soon after, they started working together on Cruising Pavilion, an exhibition series about gay sex, architecture, and cruising cultures.

WILLO PERRON presents

Taylore Scarabelli is a writer and creative strategist based in New York City. She’s contributed to Artforum, Vestoj, and Vulture, amongst others. Ian Volner is a Bronx-based writer and frequent PIN–UP contributor whose work has also been published in Harper’s, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic. He is the author, most recently, of The Great Great Wall (Abrams Press, 2019) and Philip Johnson: A Visual Biography (Phaidon Press, 2020). Tiana Reid is a writer and editor living in Manhattan. Her work has been published in Art in America, Bookforum, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, T Magazine, Vice, Vulture, and elsewhere. Common Accounts is a design practice founded by Igor Bragado and Miles Gertler which operates between Madrid, Toronto, and Seoul. They’ve exhibited work at the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Seoul International Biennale on Architecture and Urbanism, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Korea, and Academia de España in Rome.

192

THE SUN


David Huber is a critic and the founder of the educational media organization Thinkbelt, for which he produces the podcast Interstitial about space and the consequences of our designs. Octave Perrault is an architect based in Paris. Curators Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou invited Perrault to visit the Cap-d’Agde offseason in Decembre 2017 as part of their residency at the LUMA Foundation in Arles. Soon after, they started working together on Cruising Pavilion, an exhibition series about gay sex, architecture, and cruising cultures.

WILLO PERRON presents

Taylore Scarabelli is a writer and creative strategist based in New York City. She’s contributed to Artforum, Vestoj, and Vulture, amongst others. Ian Volner is a Bronx-based writer and frequent PIN–UP contributor whose work has also been published in Harper’s, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic. He is the author, most recently, of The Great Great Wall (Abrams Press, 2019) and Philip Johnson: A Visual Biography (Phaidon Press, 2020). Tiana Reid is a writer and editor living in Manhattan. Her work has been published in Art in America, Bookforum, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, T Magazine, Vice, Vulture, and elsewhere. Common Accounts is a design practice founded by Igor Bragado and Miles Gertler which operates between Madrid, Toronto, and Seoul. They’ve exhibited work at the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Seoul International Biennale on Architecture and Urbanism, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Korea, and Academia de España in Rome.

192

THE SUN


Direct eye contact at your own risk! The biggest diva of them all, the sun is the undisputed star of the solar system. An agent of both renewal and destruction, she is by turns revered and feared. Who better then to capture the visual essence of this most distant of lumina­ ries than Willo Perron, the Montreal-born creative director and scenic designer responsible for some of the most dazzling mise-enscènes by the likes of Drake, Rihanna, or Travis Scott. With the assistance of the pyromagicians from Strictly FX, Perron set a ball ablaze in Las Vegas as an effigy to the brightest star of all, while photographer-director David Black caught the whole thing on film. Hot.

Photography by David Black Concept and Design by Willo Perron 194


Direct eye contact at your own risk! The biggest diva of them all, the sun is the undisputed star of the solar system. An agent of both renewal and destruction, she is by turns revered and feared. Who better then to capture the visual essence of this most distant of lumina­ ries than Willo Perron, the Montreal-born creative director and scenic designer responsible for some of the most dazzling mise-enscènes by the likes of Drake, Rihanna, or Travis Scott. With the assistance of the pyromagicians from Strictly FX, Perron set a ball ablaze in Las Vegas as an effigy to the brightest star of all, while photographer-director David Black caught the whole thing on film. Hot.

Photography by David Black Concept and Design by Willo Perron 194


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SGPS INC. STUDIOS LAS VEGAS, NEVADA MARCH 6, 2020

PRODUCTION BY DANI EDGREN FABRICATION BY SGPS INC. PYROTECHNICS BY STRICTLY FX TALENT: DANIELA DE LA FE

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SGPS INC. STUDIOS LAS VEGAS, NEVADA MARCH 6, 2020

PRODUCTION BY DANI EDGREN FABRICATION BY SGPS INC. PYROTECHNICS BY STRICTLY FX TALENT: DANIELA DE LA FE

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Pop-polymath Willo Perron, the mastermind behind the PIN–UP sun, has an incredible knack for distilling the visual DNA of a concept to its absolute formal essence, creating memorable experiences that stick with you for years. Yet while his interdisciplinary work is often seen, it is rarely narrated or decoded. He’s best known for the tour design and stage sets for the likes of Drake, Kanye West, Rihanna, and Travis Scott, as well as experiential design such as the 2019 Pornhub Awards. But his studio in L.A., Willo Perron & Associates, does much more than that — including furniture, graphic design, art direction, and the kitchen sink, literally, as part of their interior design practice. PIN–UP sat down with Perron in his office in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood to discuss artistic heritage, mainstream aesthetics, Modernist root systems, and the challenges of running his kind of manifold studio. By EMILY SEGAL Emily Segal: I often like to start here: what were you like as a kid? Willo Perron: I don’t think much different than this. I probably spent more time drawing than thinking. Really ambitious and living somewhere in between a dream state and real life — which is pretty much still my life now. And I think that if you want to preserve the gift, then your life goal is to sort of climb back, to go back to a childlike creativity.

WP: Yeah. I’m a really ambitious character, so I did everything. I ran club nights and had a record store at a record label, all small-scale. Made clothes, designed for two clothing companies, promoted concerts, but all at the same time. I opened a few retail stores. Up until this current studio, the idea of opening or starting something was always the thing that interested me. And then when I had to deal with operating things, or getting them consistent, I was just like, “How?” And then I would open another thing to quell that feeling of stagnancy. Eventually people saw the work I was doing design-­ ing clothing, and I got asked to come out to L.A. in 1998. ES: Have you been here ever since? WP: No. I hated it at first. I had such high disdain for the West Coast. I grew up in cities and in the grip of mid-to-late-1990s New York. And rap was on fire, with Wu-Tang and all that. And then I went to California, and everyone was skateboarding and snowboarding. I was used to Montreal: really sexy, has finesse and is very European, its atmosphere is completely beautiful. Living in L.A. just made me really miserable. I lasted maybe two years and eventually I went to New York. I went to clubs every night and hit the food and restaurant scene, I worked for a record label, I was doing everything — shooting the campaigns, getting musicians. You have to understand the time and place: at the time there was no real confluence of rap and skateboarding, it was just starting to move a little bit. And I brought in a lot of different people, and kind of changed the dynamic. It still felt forced on the West Coast, whereas New York was the legitimate version. ES: I think people take it so much for granted now that there is a total inter­ disciplinary mash-up of everything in culture — but it actually has a historical beginning.

ES: What was your relationship to art? WP: My whole family is artistic, but not in an academic way. Christmas in my house is a series of people getting on the piano. You had to have an artistic pursuit, whether it was going to be professional or not. And then in our grade school, every second class was an art curriculum. In retrospect, I thought it was normal. I was in my mom’s house a couple years ago, and the TV was on and there was this news feature about a performingarts school, and I was like, “Man this is fucking incredible, I wish I’d gone somewhere like that,” and then they pull to the outside and I was like, “Oh, that’s my school!” We were really poor growing up, and it was a public school in Montreal — half the people there just landed into it. It wasn’t a bunch of privileged kids with parents who have connections to the school, it was just a public school on a busy street. But it was an incredible place. I realized much later how privileged we were in the fact that our parents always encouraged us: “Draw, paint, play, go to these places, go to museums! You don’t get the video games, but you get a box of pencils!”

WP: One-hundred percent — I remember when I met Kanye I felt such a sense of relief. Because I was that kid who would go from a weird underground techno club to a hip-hop show and then I’d go to a fashion store looking at Gaultier, saving up my money to buy this new jacket. It was very much a solo venture to be deeply into rap music, hardcore electronic music, art, and fashion all at once. The hardcore guys didn’t give a shit about art, hip-hop guys didn’t give a shit about fashion and art. The gay clubs and the music punks were more fashionable, but they didn’t give a shit about skateboarding. And so I did it all, and by the time I met Kanye he was deeply curious about all of it. I didn’t think about it this way then, but we talk about it now. My perspective is that you always have to maintain quality control — you have to learn figurative painting before you can get into abstraction. I like the guys that know how to do it properly. I like watching them — and then just fucking the whole thing up and changing time signatures. That’s super-­ interesting to me because I know that you can do it in multiple ways, sort of like Picasso. I think you’ve got to go through those processes to do great things. Even shitty has got to be intentional.

ES: Did you stick around in Montreal?

ES: But then there’s also just shitty-shitty. Especially now when

204

we’re in the age of instant Instagram scams, and brands that might just be something dropped from China with a single image. But they look superficially so similar to something already established. WP: Yes, and it can feel like everything becomes a slightly derivative, diluted version of another thing. If you don’t know the source material, if you haven’t deeply studied the source material, you’re putting another piece of glass in front of your glasses, which is making the thing more and more distorted. And I think that you can tell the difference from somebody who deeply cares about the source material — deeply wants to understand why they did it that way, what they were looking at, and go into it. And what the time was, contextualizing the time. Not to sound old man-ish about this, but I think it’s the problem with people not doing their research, and just seeing the Instagram photo and going, “Oh, that’s cool.” ES: I was teaching graphic design at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam for two years while I was living in Berlin. What I found there is that the critical surgery of the Modernist design project has dismantled everything to a state where there are no basics that anyone is working from. It has sort of disintegrated.

stream? Because that’s obviously something you work with. WP: Generally, I hate everything. I think everybody is just trying to be nice. Basically we’re all being bred to be politicians. You’re not just putting out shit to piss people off. It’s funny because I know nothing about mainstream culture, if you will. I have no idea. Zero. Nothing. I barely listen to music. I selectively listen to records. ES: How do projects work at your studio? What’s the process? WP: I think discovery is probably the biggest part. If we’re working with a brand or a musician or something, it’s about letting the person or the brand or the information tell a story. I think it’s similar to watching life, because all of the information is out there now, on social. One of the things I do is to say, “Send me something. Literally something you read in a newspaper. I just want to get the temperature, I’m not trying to get an aesthetic mood board, leave that to us.” It has to be sort of an emotional thing. Then it’s about how you translate that into a visual work. And we get really invested, emotionally invested. We do a large range of things. But I think with artists’ work it has to be true.

“Most people are trying to understand how to make something without a root system.”

WP: We’re very much in the second coming of Postmodernism, or something. “Fuck everybody that came before us, and fuck every-­ body that’s going to come after us, we don’t need to study your bullshit.” Which is great because it dislodges — it’s the Drano® of academia, which is just the circle jerk of one professor having learned from this other professor having learned from another one. And there is greatness in it because it does jar the system, but also there’s a kind of soullessness. And you’ve seen it in music, there’s soullessness to everything because most people are trying to understand how to make something without a root system.

ES: We’re also in the situation where the disruptiveness of 20th-century avant-garde movements is now the dominant ideology of a technology-driven society. I’m definitely not the first to point out that it’s not radical or necessarily progressive to just want to disrupt everything. WP: It’s even cliché. It is the same irreverence that has happened before, it’s not a new form. I think being unpopular now is really shit. It’s scary — you literally see if you’re considered a loser by the numbers. Whereas before it was like, “I’m misunderstood,” or “Let me figure out if I’m misunderstood,” or, “I haven’t found my community.” Now you have a graph of how much of a loser you are. But losers make all the best shit. The marginalized, the unpopular, always made the most interesting stuff. You had to be marginalized to create that work. I wasn’t very accepted as a kid, so my whole world came from being alone. It was more about spending a lot of time with myself. ES: How do you think this is affecting the aesthetics of the main

ES: A mood, not a mood board. WP: Something real, versus “I think that would be cool.” You’d be surprised how many people ask for that! Most of music and fashion has now just become trend. There isn’t a sense that it comes from a genuine curiosity or an obsession, or going from one domain to another. You just might as well be a mannequin. ES: How has your practice changed over the years?

WP: Well, it used to just be me just drinking a lot of whiskey and fighting with a laptop. And then it was me and a couple of others, with a laptop. And it never really clicked how much influence it actually had, and how far-reaching it was, until probably very recently. A few years ago I remember telling myself, “Oh! I should really formulate this into a bit more of a practice and studio, and not just me in a small space somewhere with doodles.” People never really understood what I did. And there wasn’t such a thing as “creative director.” Now everyone’s a creative director. ES: How did you approach the SUN project for PIN–UP? What did you end up making? WP: After PIN–UP asked me to come up with a concept for the sun, I started in an overly intellectual place. I was reading tons of poetry about the sun, and Carl Sagan books, and talking to my smartest friends. But then I realized that I work on iconography and shows. And the sun is a big ball of fire, exploding. Why shouldn’t I simply create a show version of that? Emily Segal is a Los Angeles-based artist, writer, and trend forecaster. Together with Martti Kalliala she founded the alternative design and strategy consultancy Nemesis. She was also a co-founder of the collective K-HOLE.


Pop-polymath Willo Perron, the mastermind behind the PIN–UP sun, has an incredible knack for distilling the visual DNA of a concept to its absolute formal essence, creating memorable experiences that stick with you for years. Yet while his interdisciplinary work is often seen, it is rarely narrated or decoded. He’s best known for the tour design and stage sets for the likes of Drake, Kanye West, Rihanna, and Travis Scott, as well as experiential design such as the 2019 Pornhub Awards. But his studio in L.A., Willo Perron & Associates, does much more than that — including furniture, graphic design, art direction, and the kitchen sink, literally, as part of their interior design practice. PIN–UP sat down with Perron in his office in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood to discuss artistic heritage, mainstream aesthetics, Modernist root systems, and the challenges of running his kind of manifold studio. By EMILY SEGAL Emily Segal: I often like to start here: what were you like as a kid? Willo Perron: I don’t think much different than this. I probably spent more time drawing than thinking. Really ambitious and living somewhere in between a dream state and real life — which is pretty much still my life now. And I think that if you want to preserve the gift, then your life goal is to sort of climb back, to go back to a childlike creativity.

WP: Yeah. I’m a really ambitious character, so I did everything. I ran club nights and had a record store at a record label, all small-scale. Made clothes, designed for two clothing companies, promoted concerts, but all at the same time. I opened a few retail stores. Up until this current studio, the idea of opening or starting something was always the thing that interested me. And then when I had to deal with operating things, or getting them consistent, I was just like, “How?” And then I would open another thing to quell that feeling of stagnancy. Eventually people saw the work I was doing design-­ ing clothing, and I got asked to come out to L.A. in 1998. ES: Have you been here ever since? WP: No. I hated it at first. I had such high disdain for the West Coast. I grew up in cities and in the grip of mid-to-late-1990s New York. And rap was on fire, with Wu-Tang and all that. And then I went to California, and everyone was skateboarding and snowboarding. I was used to Montreal: really sexy, has finesse and is very European, its atmosphere is completely beautiful. Living in L.A. just made me really miserable. I lasted maybe two years and eventually I went to New York. I went to clubs every night and hit the food and restaurant scene, I worked for a record label, I was doing everything — shooting the campaigns, getting musicians. You have to understand the time and place: at the time there was no real confluence of rap and skateboarding, it was just starting to move a little bit. And I brought in a lot of different people, and kind of changed the dynamic. It still felt forced on the West Coast, whereas New York was the legitimate version. ES: I think people take it so much for granted now that there is a total inter­ disciplinary mash-up of everything in culture — but it actually has a historical beginning.

ES: What was your relationship to art? WP: My whole family is artistic, but not in an academic way. Christmas in my house is a series of people getting on the piano. You had to have an artistic pursuit, whether it was going to be professional or not. And then in our grade school, every second class was an art curriculum. In retrospect, I thought it was normal. I was in my mom’s house a couple years ago, and the TV was on and there was this news feature about a performingarts school, and I was like, “Man this is fucking incredible, I wish I’d gone somewhere like that,” and then they pull to the outside and I was like, “Oh, that’s my school!” We were really poor growing up, and it was a public school in Montreal — half the people there just landed into it. It wasn’t a bunch of privileged kids with parents who have connections to the school, it was just a public school on a busy street. But it was an incredible place. I realized much later how privileged we were in the fact that our parents always encouraged us: “Draw, paint, play, go to these places, go to museums! You don’t get the video games, but you get a box of pencils!”

WP: One-hundred percent — I remember when I met Kanye I felt such a sense of relief. Because I was that kid who would go from a weird underground techno club to a hip-hop show and then I’d go to a fashion store looking at Gaultier, saving up my money to buy this new jacket. It was very much a solo venture to be deeply into rap music, hardcore electronic music, art, and fashion all at once. The hardcore guys didn’t give a shit about art, hip-hop guys didn’t give a shit about fashion and art. The gay clubs and the music punks were more fashionable, but they didn’t give a shit about skateboarding. And so I did it all, and by the time I met Kanye he was deeply curious about all of it. I didn’t think about it this way then, but we talk about it now. My perspective is that you always have to maintain quality control — you have to learn figurative painting before you can get into abstraction. I like the guys that know how to do it properly. I like watching them — and then just fucking the whole thing up and changing time signatures. That’s super-­ interesting to me because I know that you can do it in multiple ways, sort of like Picasso. I think you’ve got to go through those processes to do great things. Even shitty has got to be intentional.

ES: Did you stick around in Montreal?

ES: But then there’s also just shitty-shitty. Especially now when

204

we’re in the age of instant Instagram scams, and brands that might just be something dropped from China with a single image. But they look superficially so similar to something already established. WP: Yes, and it can feel like everything becomes a slightly derivative, diluted version of another thing. If you don’t know the source material, if you haven’t deeply studied the source material, you’re putting another piece of glass in front of your glasses, which is making the thing more and more distorted. And I think that you can tell the difference from somebody who deeply cares about the source material — deeply wants to understand why they did it that way, what they were looking at, and go into it. And what the time was, contextualizing the time. Not to sound old man-ish about this, but I think it’s the problem with people not doing their research, and just seeing the Instagram photo and going, “Oh, that’s cool.” ES: I was teaching graphic design at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam for two years while I was living in Berlin. What I found there is that the critical surgery of the Modernist design project has dismantled everything to a state where there are no basics that anyone is working from. It has sort of disintegrated.

stream? Because that’s obviously something you work with. WP: Generally, I hate everything. I think everybody is just trying to be nice. Basically we’re all being bred to be politicians. You’re not just putting out shit to piss people off. It’s funny because I know nothing about mainstream culture, if you will. I have no idea. Zero. Nothing. I barely listen to music. I selectively listen to records. ES: How do projects work at your studio? What’s the process? WP: I think discovery is probably the biggest part. If we’re working with a brand or a musician or something, it’s about letting the person or the brand or the information tell a story. I think it’s similar to watching life, because all of the information is out there now, on social. One of the things I do is to say, “Send me something. Literally something you read in a newspaper. I just want to get the temperature, I’m not trying to get an aesthetic mood board, leave that to us.” It has to be sort of an emotional thing. Then it’s about how you translate that into a visual work. And we get really invested, emotionally invested. We do a large range of things. But I think with artists’ work it has to be true.

“Most people are trying to understand how to make something without a root system.”

WP: We’re very much in the second coming of Postmodernism, or something. “Fuck everybody that came before us, and fuck every-­ body that’s going to come after us, we don’t need to study your bullshit.” Which is great because it dislodges — it’s the Drano® of academia, which is just the circle jerk of one professor having learned from this other professor having learned from another one. And there is greatness in it because it does jar the system, but also there’s a kind of soullessness. And you’ve seen it in music, there’s soullessness to everything because most people are trying to understand how to make something without a root system.

ES: We’re also in the situation where the disruptiveness of 20th-century avant-garde movements is now the dominant ideology of a technology-driven society. I’m definitely not the first to point out that it’s not radical or necessarily progressive to just want to disrupt everything. WP: It’s even cliché. It is the same irreverence that has happened before, it’s not a new form. I think being unpopular now is really shit. It’s scary — you literally see if you’re considered a loser by the numbers. Whereas before it was like, “I’m misunderstood,” or “Let me figure out if I’m misunderstood,” or, “I haven’t found my community.” Now you have a graph of how much of a loser you are. But losers make all the best shit. The marginalized, the unpopular, always made the most interesting stuff. You had to be marginalized to create that work. I wasn’t very accepted as a kid, so my whole world came from being alone. It was more about spending a lot of time with myself. ES: How do you think this is affecting the aesthetics of the main

ES: A mood, not a mood board. WP: Something real, versus “I think that would be cool.” You’d be surprised how many people ask for that! Most of music and fashion has now just become trend. There isn’t a sense that it comes from a genuine curiosity or an obsession, or going from one domain to another. You just might as well be a mannequin. ES: How has your practice changed over the years?

WP: Well, it used to just be me just drinking a lot of whiskey and fighting with a laptop. And then it was me and a couple of others, with a laptop. And it never really clicked how much influence it actually had, and how far-reaching it was, until probably very recently. A few years ago I remember telling myself, “Oh! I should really formulate this into a bit more of a practice and studio, and not just me in a small space somewhere with doodles.” People never really understood what I did. And there wasn’t such a thing as “creative director.” Now everyone’s a creative director. ES: How did you approach the SUN project for PIN–UP? What did you end up making? WP: After PIN–UP asked me to come up with a concept for the sun, I started in an overly intellectual place. I was reading tons of poetry about the sun, and Carl Sagan books, and talking to my smartest friends. But then I realized that I work on iconography and shows. And the sun is a big ball of fire, exploding. Why shouldn’t I simply create a show version of that? Emily Segal is a Los Angeles-based artist, writer, and trend forecaster. Together with Martti Kalliala she founded the alternative design and strategy consultancy Nemesis. She was also a co-founder of the collective K-HOLE.


Bonaventure A mirrored hotel complex in Downtown L.A. reflects Postmodern bewilderment along with the glittering SoCal sun

Photography by Torso

Adventure


Bonaventure A mirrored hotel complex in Downtown L.A. reflects Postmodern bewilderment along with the glittering SoCal sun

Photography by Torso

Adventure


Up close, Downtown Los Angeles is a 20th-­ century movie set meets an Instagram backdrop: vacantly photogenic. Gentrification is on. It’s been tried before, wildness followed. Called by another name: failure. It’s what some people who love L.A. love about L.A.: things bloom readily, vividly here, but like flowers of the Angelonia genus, rarely more than once. (A trick of the light maybe. SoCal’s sun lends a sheen of aliveness, no matter how dead­ ened the roots below.) Now, flimsy condos are flying up. When not investor-empty, these apartments are leased by millennials who like living in a replica of their suburban childhood bedroom with an open-concept kitchen and film-noir view. Meanwhile, civic activists are worried about the local homeless, who live at what’s now an edge, but could be a new center, according to real-estate developers. Amidst all this currency, there is a monument of stability, a building that looks like four AA batteries united around a C and plugged into a terminal of concrete. Hugged by swirls of highway ramps, in the northwest corner of DTLA, it promises to withstand every generation’s apocalypse.

Text by Fiona Alison Duncan

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel was built — Brutalist, futuristic, humane — in 1974–76 by John C. Portman Jr., an architect and realestate developer, whose vertically-integrated business enabled him to erect visions. On the night of Portman’s death, December 29, 2017, I went to the Bonaventure’s top-floor revolv­ ing restaurant-bar, as ignorant of his passing as I was of his life. I was there because I was emotional. And there is something secure about the Bonaventure. The building is a theme park: not only does the top floor revolve, there’s a track made for running indoors, and glass elevators that rocket through the roof and up the outside, 33-stories high. I ordered a glass of wine and someone recognized me from Instagram. Also alone, he was there in honor of Portman. I invited him to sit, and he told me all about the man responsible for our setting. “John C. Portman Jr. got to live an American Dream,” this stranger began... Born in South Carolina on December 4, 1924, on the cusp of the Greatest and Silent Generations (also called, by economists, “the Lucky Few”), Portman didn’t start out with wealth, but made it through market savvy and ingenuity, plus the good fortune of a life that coincided with economic opportunities for educated white men like him. After serving in the navy and studying architecture, he founded a collec­ tion of businesses — an architectural and structural-engineering office; a real-estatedevelopment firm; property-management 208

“Labyrinthine is a word often used to describe Portman’s structures. The Bonaventure has no one central entrance, but many, high and low.”


Up close, Downtown Los Angeles is a 20th-­ century movie set meets an Instagram backdrop: vacantly photogenic. Gentrification is on. It’s been tried before, wildness followed. Called by another name: failure. It’s what some people who love L.A. love about L.A.: things bloom readily, vividly here, but like flowers of the Angelonia genus, rarely more than once. (A trick of the light maybe. SoCal’s sun lends a sheen of aliveness, no matter how dead­ ened the roots below.) Now, flimsy condos are flying up. When not investor-empty, these apartments are leased by millennials who like living in a replica of their suburban childhood bedroom with an open-concept kitchen and film-noir view. Meanwhile, civic activists are worried about the local homeless, who live at what’s now an edge, but could be a new center, according to real-estate developers. Amidst all this currency, there is a monument of stability, a building that looks like four AA batteries united around a C and plugged into a terminal of concrete. Hugged by swirls of highway ramps, in the northwest corner of DTLA, it promises to withstand every generation’s apocalypse.

Text by Fiona Alison Duncan

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel was built — Brutalist, futuristic, humane — in 1974–76 by John C. Portman Jr., an architect and realestate developer, whose vertically-integrated business enabled him to erect visions. On the night of Portman’s death, December 29, 2017, I went to the Bonaventure’s top-floor revolv­ ing restaurant-bar, as ignorant of his passing as I was of his life. I was there because I was emotional. And there is something secure about the Bonaventure. The building is a theme park: not only does the top floor revolve, there’s a track made for running indoors, and glass elevators that rocket through the roof and up the outside, 33-stories high. I ordered a glass of wine and someone recognized me from Instagram. Also alone, he was there in honor of Portman. I invited him to sit, and he told me all about the man responsible for our setting. “John C. Portman Jr. got to live an American Dream,” this stranger began... Born in South Carolina on December 4, 1924, on the cusp of the Greatest and Silent Generations (also called, by economists, “the Lucky Few”), Portman didn’t start out with wealth, but made it through market savvy and ingenuity, plus the good fortune of a life that coincided with economic opportunities for educated white men like him. After serving in the navy and studying architecture, he founded a collec­ tion of businesses — an architectural and structural-engineering office; a real-estatedevelopment firm; property-management 208

“Labyrinthine is a word often used to describe Portman’s structures. The Bonaventure has no one central entrance, but many, high and low.”


210


210


“A monument of stability, a building that looks like four AA batteries united around a C and plugged into a terminal of concrete.�

212


“A monument of stability, a building that looks like four AA batteries united around a C and plugged into a terminal of concrete.�

212


companies; and one that bulk purchased his taste in furniture — that together allowed him to construct dozens of iconic buildings across America and Asia. While other wouldbe starchitects clashed with the business side of their business and vice versa, Portman did it all. “An integrated design-development process,” is how Jonathan Barnett, co-author of The Architect as Developer (1977), described it. Without patronage from a city, king, or dic­ tator, Portman’s ambitious buildings had to succeed in the marketplace, and so they were mostly market places: hotels and malls, con­ vention and trade centers, office buildings, apartment complexes. The Bonaventure was built in the first half and at the height of Portman’s career. It features many of his signatures, like a “city within a city” atrium and exposed elevators, all of which he had theories about. “At the cafes in the hotels I have designed,” Portman told Barnett, “there are places where you can watch the movement of the elevator cabs, which become a huge kinetic sculpture… People are fascinated by kinetics.” Portman thought a lot about, “people as creatures of nature,” and how to satisfy our instincts. “I decided that if I learned to weave elements of sensory appeal into the design I would be reaching those innate responses that govern how a human being reacts to the environment.” This meant water and light and plants, places to rest and walk, balconies, open staircases, various vantage points, curvilinear and angular shapes, small and grand scales, all arranged to interact with one another. At the Bonaventure, sunlight refracts through prisms on beveled glass door edges, casting rainbows into the lobby, as it pours down through sky­ lights, reflecting off artificial ponds and through bamboo gardens to create rippling and shafted light patterns on the walls. Sparrows live in the atrium. I hear their chirps every visit. Labyrinthine is a word often used to de-­ scribe Portman’s structures, especially the Bonaventure. In his 1989 book Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson famously described the decentering, highly fragmented experience of trying to enter (there is no one central entrance, but many, high and low) and navigate the Bonaventure. The tone of his analysis, and of those who preceded or came after him (Jean Baudrillard in his 1986 book America, Ed Soja on the BBC in 1991, many dudes on blogs), is critical bemusement driven by one-upmanship, as if these men were trying to reassert their dominance after feeling dislocated, small, and bewildered by this building. Baudrillard called 214

it, “nothing but an immense toy,” while for Jameson, this “latest mutation in space,” which he dubbed “Postmodern hyperspace,” had finally succeeded in transcending the capacities of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate sur­ roundings perceptually, and cognitively to map its position in a mappable external world. It may now be suggested that this alarming disjunction point between the body and its built environment — which is to the initial bewilderment of the older modernism as the velocities of spacecraft to those of the automobile — can itself stand as the symbol and analogon of that even sharper dilemma which is the inca­ pacity of our minds, at least at present, to map the great global multinational and decentered communicational network in which we find ourselves caught as indi­ vidual subjects. While it’s true it contains shell-like spiraling staircases, rotunda mezzanines, wave-shaped ponds, pod balconies, and other curvy “organic” forms, the Bonaventure is also highly ordered and repetitive in its structure — Albert Speer power-phallic straight in many ways — and so easy to navigate, if you’re paying attention, or accustomed to adapting between more “masculine” and “feminine” modalities (is that the Postmodern condition?). In many ways, the Bonaventure is a microcosm of L.A., with multiple interlocking “neighbor­ hoods” — its four round towers, containing hotel rooms, are flanked by a grid of meeting and ball rooms, and how could I not yet have mentioned that there’s an indoor mall, an outdoor pool, and gardens with skywalks that cross surrounding streets? Like L.A., what the far-flung parts of the Bonaventure share is an atmosphere. Sky god meets earth mother. Discipline meets... Bewilderment is a state of nature, most acutely felt by those who are excluded — whether by their own soul’s refusal, another’s might, or not knowing the rules — from playing manmade power games. Jameson was irked to be left out. But for poet Fanny Howe, “Bewilderment is an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability. It cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once.” Sun, sky, trees, a dentist’s office, the Lakeview Bistro, Starbucks, birds, a travel agency, FedEx, an immigration office, and (the follow­ ing all unfrequented) a suit shop, spa, bodega, hair salon, and pizza parlor; a piano, “Caution


companies; and one that bulk purchased his taste in furniture — that together allowed him to construct dozens of iconic buildings across America and Asia. While other wouldbe starchitects clashed with the business side of their business and vice versa, Portman did it all. “An integrated design-development process,” is how Jonathan Barnett, co-author of The Architect as Developer (1977), described it. Without patronage from a city, king, or dic­ tator, Portman’s ambitious buildings had to succeed in the marketplace, and so they were mostly market places: hotels and malls, con­ vention and trade centers, office buildings, apartment complexes. The Bonaventure was built in the first half and at the height of Portman’s career. It features many of his signatures, like a “city within a city” atrium and exposed elevators, all of which he had theories about. “At the cafes in the hotels I have designed,” Portman told Barnett, “there are places where you can watch the movement of the elevator cabs, which become a huge kinetic sculpture… People are fascinated by kinetics.” Portman thought a lot about, “people as creatures of nature,” and how to satisfy our instincts. “I decided that if I learned to weave elements of sensory appeal into the design I would be reaching those innate responses that govern how a human being reacts to the environment.” This meant water and light and plants, places to rest and walk, balconies, open staircases, various vantage points, curvilinear and angular shapes, small and grand scales, all arranged to interact with one another. At the Bonaventure, sunlight refracts through prisms on beveled glass door edges, casting rainbows into the lobby, as it pours down through sky­ lights, reflecting off artificial ponds and through bamboo gardens to create rippling and shafted light patterns on the walls. Sparrows live in the atrium. I hear their chirps every visit. Labyrinthine is a word often used to de-­ scribe Portman’s structures, especially the Bonaventure. In his 1989 book Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson famously described the decentering, highly fragmented experience of trying to enter (there is no one central entrance, but many, high and low) and navigate the Bonaventure. The tone of his analysis, and of those who preceded or came after him (Jean Baudrillard in his 1986 book America, Ed Soja on the BBC in 1991, many dudes on blogs), is critical bemusement driven by one-upmanship, as if these men were trying to reassert their dominance after feeling dislocated, small, and bewildered by this building. Baudrillard called 214

it, “nothing but an immense toy,” while for Jameson, this “latest mutation in space,” which he dubbed “Postmodern hyperspace,” had finally succeeded in transcending the capacities of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate sur­ roundings perceptually, and cognitively to map its position in a mappable external world. It may now be suggested that this alarming disjunction point between the body and its built environment — which is to the initial bewilderment of the older modernism as the velocities of spacecraft to those of the automobile — can itself stand as the symbol and analogon of that even sharper dilemma which is the inca­ pacity of our minds, at least at present, to map the great global multinational and decentered communicational network in which we find ourselves caught as indi­ vidual subjects. While it’s true it contains shell-like spiraling staircases, rotunda mezzanines, wave-shaped ponds, pod balconies, and other curvy “organic” forms, the Bonaventure is also highly ordered and repetitive in its structure — Albert Speer power-phallic straight in many ways — and so easy to navigate, if you’re paying attention, or accustomed to adapting between more “masculine” and “feminine” modalities (is that the Postmodern condition?). In many ways, the Bonaventure is a microcosm of L.A., with multiple interlocking “neighbor­ hoods” — its four round towers, containing hotel rooms, are flanked by a grid of meeting and ball rooms, and how could I not yet have mentioned that there’s an indoor mall, an outdoor pool, and gardens with skywalks that cross surrounding streets? Like L.A., what the far-flung parts of the Bonaventure share is an atmosphere. Sky god meets earth mother. Discipline meets... Bewilderment is a state of nature, most acutely felt by those who are excluded — whether by their own soul’s refusal, another’s might, or not knowing the rules — from playing manmade power games. Jameson was irked to be left out. But for poet Fanny Howe, “Bewilderment is an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability. It cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once.” Sun, sky, trees, a dentist’s office, the Lakeview Bistro, Starbucks, birds, a travel agency, FedEx, an immigration office, and (the follow­ ing all unfrequented) a suit shop, spa, bodega, hair salon, and pizza parlor; a piano, “Caution


Slippery” signs from leaking ponds, beige car­ peting; porn award shows, a Vans conference, tech summits; architecture nerds, JetBlue flight attendants on layover, kids breaking into the pool (it’s easy), teenagers riding the elevators on first dates; memories of all the movies and music videos made here (True Lies, Usher’s “U Don't Have to Call”); and vacancy, a world’s-end-and-we’re-stilldoing-business guilty hush; fate, chance, will to power, and failure. This is what occupies the Bonaventure now. Businessmen, and my freak friends, who, full of ideas, are drawn to empty sites. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young called Portman’s buildings “cathedrals to commerce.” The most godly thing about the Bonaventure is its failure to live up to the dreams of its maker. When it first opened, the hotel was lush with flower boxes, hanging vines, high-end brand shops like Céline, and visitors. From 1980–89, a sitcom was set in the revolving restaurant, It’s a Living, also known as Making a Living, which followed a cast of waitresses who dated and fended off their business masc clientele. “What I wanted to do as an architect was to create buildings and environments that really are for people,” Portman once said. “Not a particular class of people but all people.” This democratic ideal, which could be a quote from sweethearts Willi Smith or Keith Haring (the 1980s!), sounds so naïve in a nation with class divides that feel insurmountable. In 2020, the Bonaventure caters almost exclusively to men of Portman’s class. Only corporate accounting could stomach a 60-dollar tab for French fries and a (bad) Cobb salad. But who knows. Labyrinths remind us of life’s unex­ pected turns and that time brings us back to the same places (buildings, feelings) again and again. The Bonaventure may be due for a fashionable comeback now that Hedi Slimane has dropped the accent from Celine.

“Some people love that in L.A. things bloom readily, vividly, but like flowers of the Angelonia genus, rarely more than once.” 216


Slippery” signs from leaking ponds, beige car­ peting; porn award shows, a Vans conference, tech summits; architecture nerds, JetBlue flight attendants on layover, kids breaking into the pool (it’s easy), teenagers riding the elevators on first dates; memories of all the movies and music videos made here (True Lies, Usher’s “U Don't Have to Call”); and vacancy, a world’s-end-and-we’re-stilldoing-business guilty hush; fate, chance, will to power, and failure. This is what occupies the Bonaventure now. Businessmen, and my freak friends, who, full of ideas, are drawn to empty sites. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young called Portman’s buildings “cathedrals to commerce.” The most godly thing about the Bonaventure is its failure to live up to the dreams of its maker. When it first opened, the hotel was lush with flower boxes, hanging vines, high-end brand shops like Céline, and visitors. From 1980–89, a sitcom was set in the revolving restaurant, It’s a Living, also known as Making a Living, which followed a cast of waitresses who dated and fended off their business masc clientele. “What I wanted to do as an architect was to create buildings and environments that really are for people,” Portman once said. “Not a particular class of people but all people.” This democratic ideal, which could be a quote from sweethearts Willi Smith or Keith Haring (the 1980s!), sounds so naïve in a nation with class divides that feel insurmountable. In 2020, the Bonaventure caters almost exclusively to men of Portman’s class. Only corporate accounting could stomach a 60-dollar tab for French fries and a (bad) Cobb salad. But who knows. Labyrinths remind us of life’s unex­ pected turns and that time brings us back to the same places (buildings, feelings) again and again. The Bonaventure may be due for a fashionable comeback now that Hedi Slimane has dropped the accent from Celine.

“Some people love that in L.A. things bloom readily, vividly, but like flowers of the Angelonia genus, rarely more than once.” 216


218


218


“It’s easy to navigate, if you’re accustomed to adapting between more ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ modalities (is that the Postmodern condition?).” 220


“It’s easy to navigate, if you’re accustomed to adapting between more ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ modalities (is that the Postmodern condition?).” 220


“Bonaventure Adventure” is presented by Atrium, a site-specific series, curated by Anna Frost with creative direction by Jordan Richman. Atrium is a curatorial project by Anna Frost and Jordan Richman inside the Bonaventure Hotel. In collaboration with PIN–UP, Atrium invited writer Fiona Alison Duncan to stay at the hotel and write the text presented alongside the visual portfolio photographed by Torso. Previous Atrium curatorial proj­ ects include Nonfood by Sean Raspet and Lucy Chinen, and DIS with Ada O’Higgins and Semiotext(e). Fiona Alison Duncan is a Canadian-American author and organizer. Her first novel Exquisite Mariposa was published in 2019 with Soft Skull Press.

The End. 222


“Bonaventure Adventure” is presented by Atrium, a site-specific series, curated by Anna Frost with creative direction by Jordan Richman. Atrium is a curatorial project by Anna Frost and Jordan Richman inside the Bonaventure Hotel. In collaboration with PIN–UP, Atrium invited writer Fiona Alison Duncan to stay at the hotel and write the text presented alongside the visual portfolio photographed by Torso. Previous Atrium curatorial proj­ ects include Nonfood by Sean Raspet and Lucy Chinen, and DIS with Ada O’Higgins and Semiotext(e). Fiona Alison Duncan is a Canadian-American author and organizer. Her first novel Exquisite Mariposa was published in 2019 with Soft Skull Press.

The End. 222


Is it a sunrise or is it a sunset?

Contacts ARCHITECTS/DESIGNERS

SPRING SUMMER 2020

Tatiana Bilbao Estudio

Ligne Roset

Hermès

@tabilbaoestudio

@ligneroset

@hermes

Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi

Living Divani

Issey Miyake

Agency—Agency agency-agency.us Atelier Amina @aminablacksher C+ Arquitectas / Nerea Calvillo @cmasarquitectas Charlap Hyman & Herrero @ch_herrero Christian Wassmann @christianwassmann Common Accounts

@valentinacameranesi Willo Perron & Associates @willoperron DESIGN Adorno @adorno.design Baxter @baxtermadeinitaly Bitossi Ceramiche

@greenriverprojectllc Kéré Architecture @kerearchitecture Laura Welker @la_walker_ MOS @mmmosarchitects

@loewe Marsèll

Maharam

@marsell.official

@maharamstudio

Raf Simons

Minotti

@rafsimons

@minotti_spa

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Molteni&C

@slowandsteadywinstherace

@moltenidada

Telfar @telfarglobal

@newtendency WANT Less Essentials @wantlesessentiels

Poliform Cassina

Green River Project LLC

LOEWE

@luminaire

@bebitalia

@enzo.mari

@formafantasma

Luminaire

New Tendency B&B Italia

Formafantasma

@isseymiyakeusa

@bitossi_ceramiche

@commonaccounts Enzo Mari

@livingdivani

@poliform_official

OTHER

@cassinaoffical Danese @danese.milano Dedar @dedarmilano Designtex @designtex_inc Driade

raawii

Atrium

@raawii.dk

@atrium_bonaventure

Ryan Preciado

CCA

@ryan_preciado

@canadiancentreforarchitecture

Santa & Cole

Design Miami

@santacole

@designmiami

Tacchini

@driade_it

@tacchini_italia_forniture

e15

dieFirma @diefirma.nyc

Tobias Grau

Jack Chiles Gallery

@e15furniture

@tobiasgrau_official

@jackchiles

Friedman Benda

Venini

Jim’s Web

@friedman_benda

@venini_official

jimwalrod.net

HAY

Yoox

MAK Center

@haydesign

@yoox

@makcenter

Hem

FASHION

Mina’s

Nick DeMarco @objet_demarco Poste 9 @Poste_9 Rich Aybar Workshop @r.a.workshop SITE / James Wines @sitejameswines Smiljan Radić @smiljanradic Soft Baroque @soft_baroque Studio Anne Holtrop

Iittala @iittala Incollect @incollect KPM

@minas.nyc

Acne Studios

Nemesis

@acnestudios

@nemesis.global

Balenciaga

Sarasota Art Museum

@balenciaga

@sarasotaartmuseum

Barragán

@kpmberlin

@barragan

Kvadrat

Sophia Al-Maria projectnativeinformant.com

GmbH

The Standard

@kvadrat

@gmbh_official

@thestandard

Studio Mumbai / Bijoy Jain

Le Creuset

GR10K

Torso

@bijoystudiomumbai

@lecreuset

@gr10k

@torso.solutions

@studioanneholtrop

at MoMA PS1 minas.nyc 718 440 4616

@hem

225


Is it a sunrise or is it a sunset?

Contacts ARCHITECTS/DESIGNERS

SPRING SUMMER 2020

Tatiana Bilbao Estudio

Ligne Roset

Hermès

@tabilbaoestudio

@ligneroset

@hermes

Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi

Living Divani

Issey Miyake

Agency—Agency agency-agency.us Atelier Amina @aminablacksher C+ Arquitectas / Nerea Calvillo @cmasarquitectas Charlap Hyman & Herrero @ch_herrero Christian Wassmann @christianwassmann Common Accounts

@valentinacameranesi Willo Perron & Associates @willoperron DESIGN Adorno @adorno.design Baxter @baxtermadeinitaly Bitossi Ceramiche

@greenriverprojectllc Kéré Architecture @kerearchitecture Laura Welker @la_walker_ MOS @mmmosarchitects

@loewe Marsèll

Maharam

@marsell.official

@maharamstudio

Raf Simons

Minotti

@rafsimons

@minotti_spa

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Molteni&C

@slowandsteadywinstherace

@moltenidada

Telfar @telfarglobal

@newtendency WANT Less Essentials @wantlesessentiels

Poliform Cassina

Green River Project LLC

LOEWE

@luminaire

@bebitalia

@enzo.mari

@formafantasma

Luminaire

New Tendency B&B Italia

Formafantasma

@isseymiyakeusa

@bitossi_ceramiche

@commonaccounts Enzo Mari

@livingdivani

@poliform_official

OTHER

@cassinaoffical Danese @danese.milano Dedar @dedarmilano Designtex @designtex_inc Driade

raawii

Atrium

@raawii.dk

@atrium_bonaventure

Ryan Preciado

CCA

@ryan_preciado

@canadiancentreforarchitecture

Santa & Cole

Design Miami

@santacole

@designmiami

Tacchini

@driade_it

@tacchini_italia_forniture

e15

dieFirma @diefirma.nyc

Tobias Grau

Jack Chiles Gallery

@e15furniture

@tobiasgrau_official

@jackchiles

Friedman Benda

Venini

Jim’s Web

@friedman_benda

@venini_official

jimwalrod.net

HAY

Yoox

MAK Center

@haydesign

@yoox

@makcenter

Hem

FASHION

Mina’s

Nick DeMarco @objet_demarco Poste 9 @Poste_9 Rich Aybar Workshop @r.a.workshop SITE / James Wines @sitejameswines Smiljan Radić @smiljanradic Soft Baroque @soft_baroque Studio Anne Holtrop

Iittala @iittala Incollect @incollect KPM

@minas.nyc

Acne Studios

Nemesis

@acnestudios

@nemesis.global

Balenciaga

Sarasota Art Museum

@balenciaga

@sarasotaartmuseum

Barragán

@kpmberlin

@barragan

Kvadrat

Sophia Al-Maria projectnativeinformant.com

GmbH

The Standard

@kvadrat

@gmbh_official

@thestandard

Studio Mumbai / Bijoy Jain

Le Creuset

GR10K

Torso

@bijoystudiomumbai

@lecreuset

@gr10k

@torso.solutions

@studioanneholtrop

at MoMA PS1 minas.nyc 718 440 4616

@hem

225


Fantasy Fountain

Cologne Rangers

226

PARTY PAGE

Milan Design Week is for showing off, but IMM is where the deals are made. At least that’s the general wisdom surrounding the design industry’s annual pilgrimage to Cologne. This year, PIN–UP joined forces with lighting-design company Tobias Grau to give fairgoers a break from all that wheeling and dealing, beginning with a private concert by virtuoso harpist Julia Dietrich, who played in head-to-toe Courrèges against a backdrop of Tobias Grau’s signature mobile Parrot lights. A few heels were later kicked up thanks to the legendary Justus Köhncke spinning a set of his early aughts electronica.

Photography “Fantasy” by Christopher Tomás; photography “Tobias Grau” by Adrian Escu.

To ring in the new decade (and close out the 2010s) PIN–UP and the Swiss Institute organized a New York Fantasy Holiday fête, with over 300 guests dancing to music by DJ A Village Raid and musician and performer Lafawndah who put their mixing skills to the test under a giant disco ball (courtesy of underground club Spectrum). The pièce de résistance, however, was a custom fantasy cocktail fountain by art-world mixologist Arley Marks, dripping with fruit and lush plant life, a steady stream of spiced vodka punch cascading into Jonathan Mosca-designed two-tone martini glasses.


Fantasy Fountain

Cologne Rangers

226

PARTY PAGE

Milan Design Week is for showing off, but IMM is where the deals are made. At least that’s the general wisdom surrounding the design industry’s annual pilgrimage to Cologne. This year, PIN–UP joined forces with lighting-design company Tobias Grau to give fairgoers a break from all that wheeling and dealing, beginning with a private concert by virtuoso harpist Julia Dietrich, who played in head-to-toe Courrèges against a backdrop of Tobias Grau’s signature mobile Parrot lights. A few heels were later kicked up thanks to the legendary Justus Köhncke spinning a set of his early aughts electronica.

Photography “Fantasy” by Christopher Tomás; photography “Tobias Grau” by Adrian Escu.

To ring in the new decade (and close out the 2010s) PIN–UP and the Swiss Institute organized a New York Fantasy Holiday fête, with over 300 guests dancing to music by DJ A Village Raid and musician and performer Lafawndah who put their mixing skills to the test under a giant disco ball (courtesy of underground club Spectrum). The pièce de résistance, however, was a custom fantasy cocktail fountain by art-world mixologist Arley Marks, dripping with fruit and lush plant life, a steady stream of spiced vodka punch cascading into Jonathan Mosca-designed two-tone martini glasses.


Soft Power Architect Rudolph Schindler (1887–1953) was an indisputable pioneer of Californian Modernism. But few people know the role his wife Pauline played in his development, nor the story of their contentious relationship as they lived, separately, in the West Hollywood house they built together in 1922. PIN–UP was the media partner for Soft Schindler, an exhibition at the Schindler House curated by Mimi Zeiger, who used the couple’s life as a point of departure, bringing together works by artists and designers, including Anna Puigjaner, Bryony Roberts, and Leong Leong, among others. For the 16-page exhibition catalogue (conceived by Erin Knutson), PIN–UP invited artist Ian Markell to capture the works, displayed with the same informal reverence the Schindlers paid to the conventions of modern living. PIN–UP also hosted a launch talk during the 2020 edition of Frieze L.A., inviting Markell and writer Leslie Dick to reflect on their ongoing infatuations with the Schindler House. As Dick writes in her catalogue essay: “You cannot forget the body that moves within it.”

PIN–UP presents Soft

Artwork by Ian Markell; additional photography by Sage Roebuck; Design by Erin Knutson.

Schindler Curated by Mimi Zeiger Documented by Ian Markell

229


Soft Power Architect Rudolph Schindler (1887–1953) was an indisputable pioneer of Californian Modernism. But few people know the role his wife Pauline played in his development, nor the story of their contentious relationship as they lived, separately, in the West Hollywood house they built together in 1922. PIN–UP was the media partner for Soft Schindler, an exhibition at the Schindler House curated by Mimi Zeiger, who used the couple’s life as a point of departure, bringing together works by artists and designers, including Anna Puigjaner, Bryony Roberts, and Leong Leong, among others. For the 16-page exhibition catalogue (conceived by Erin Knutson), PIN–UP invited artist Ian Markell to capture the works, displayed with the same informal reverence the Schindlers paid to the conventions of modern living. PIN–UP also hosted a launch talk during the 2020 edition of Frieze L.A., inviting Markell and writer Leslie Dick to reflect on their ongoing infatuations with the Schindler House. As Dick writes in her catalogue essay: “You cannot forget the body that moves within it.”

PIN–UP presents Soft

Artwork by Ian Markell; additional photography by Sage Roebuck; Design by Erin Knutson.

Schindler Curated by Mimi Zeiger Documented by Ian Markell

229


ENDNOTE Beatriz Colomina was feeling under the weather when PIN–UP met her at her SoHo loft, which was ironic given that illness is exactly what we were there to discuss. Colomina, Howard Crosby Butler Professor of the History of Architecture at Princeton University, has made a career of shaking up the often stuffy world of architec­ tural academia, challenging its establishment with her analy­ ses of everything from sleeping and sex to war and toilets (see PIN–UP 23). Her most recent book, X-Ray Architecture (Lars Müller, 2019), contends that the interrelated phe­ nomena of the tuberculosis pandemic and the discovery of the X-ray were the progenitors

BEATRIZ COLOMINA

On Architecture, Illness, and the Sun architects and Theo Effenberger’s in the Werkbund critics talked house housing exhibition in a lot about Wrocław, Poland (formerly Breslau, Germany), 1929. tuberculo­ © The Museum of sis. In fact, Architecture in Wrocław it was their real obsession. But, strangely enough, histo­ rians have ignored it, despite the fact that this obssesion is everywhere, so obvious when you look and listen. It could be that this is what actu­ ally made a whole generation convinced that it was a good idea to move away from all those wall coverings, carpets, and draperies of the 19th-century interior in favor of clean lines and clean architecture. Illness is what modernized architecture, not just new materials and technologies. Why? Because one in seven people were

of European Modernism and its exports. With a minimum of six feet distance between us, Colomina recounted the glossed-over history of glassy architecture as a cure-all. Sun terrace at Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium, 1933. © Alvar Aalto Museum

Drew Zeiba: In X-Ray Architecture, you explain that you started researching the relationship between illness and Modern architecture in the 1980s. What sparked your interest in TB and its impact on Modernism?

dying from TB globally, but in a big metropolis, like Paris, it was more like one in three. Architects had a very good reason to want to clean up, not just aesthetically. That’s the central thesis of the book — Modern architecture has more to do with the campaign for health than with anything else. In fact, many of the ideas that Modern architects were proposing didn’t come from architectural theory, they came from doctors, nurses, and hos­ pital architecture, particularly tuberculosis sanatoriums. At the turn of the century, in places like Davos, cutting-edge young doctors, young archi­ tects, and young engineers were col­ George Keck, Crystal House, 1933–34. laborating. © Chicago History Museum, This was the Hedrich-Blessing Collection

INTERVIEW BY DREW ZEIBA

Beatriz Colomina: I’m always attracted to the things people don’t talk about. Illness is such a question. Maybe people are afraid to talk about it. But in the early 20th century 231


ENDNOTE Beatriz Colomina was feeling under the weather when PIN–UP met her at her SoHo loft, which was ironic given that illness is exactly what we were there to discuss. Colomina, Howard Crosby Butler Professor of the History of Architecture at Princeton University, has made a career of shaking up the often stuffy world of architec­ tural academia, challenging its establishment with her analy­ ses of everything from sleeping and sex to war and toilets (see PIN–UP 23). Her most recent book, X-Ray Architecture (Lars Müller, 2019), contends that the interrelated phe­ nomena of the tuberculosis pandemic and the discovery of the X-ray were the progenitors

BEATRIZ COLOMINA

On Architecture, Illness, and the Sun architects and Theo Effenberger’s in the Werkbund critics talked house housing exhibition in a lot about Wrocław, Poland (formerly Breslau, Germany), 1929. tuberculo­ © The Museum of sis. In fact, Architecture in Wrocław it was their real obsession. But, strangely enough, histo­ rians have ignored it, despite the fact that this obssesion is everywhere, so obvious when you look and listen. It could be that this is what actu­ ally made a whole generation convinced that it was a good idea to move away from all those wall coverings, carpets, and draperies of the 19th-century interior in favor of clean lines and clean architecture. Illness is what modernized architecture, not just new materials and technologies. Why? Because one in seven people were

of European Modernism and its exports. With a minimum of six feet distance between us, Colomina recounted the glossed-over history of glassy architecture as a cure-all. Sun terrace at Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium, 1933. © Alvar Aalto Museum

Drew Zeiba: In X-Ray Architecture, you explain that you started researching the relationship between illness and Modern architecture in the 1980s. What sparked your interest in TB and its impact on Modernism?

dying from TB globally, but in a big metropolis, like Paris, it was more like one in three. Architects had a very good reason to want to clean up, not just aesthetically. That’s the central thesis of the book — Modern architecture has more to do with the campaign for health than with anything else. In fact, many of the ideas that Modern architects were proposing didn’t come from architectural theory, they came from doctors, nurses, and hos­ pital architecture, particularly tuberculosis sanatoriums. At the turn of the century, in places like Davos, cutting-edge young doctors, young archi­ tects, and young engineers were col­ George Keck, Crystal House, 1933–34. laborating. © Chicago History Museum, This was the Hedrich-Blessing Collection

INTERVIEW BY DREW ZEIBA

Beatriz Colomina: I’m always attracted to the things people don’t talk about. Illness is such a question. Maybe people are afraid to talk about it. But in the early 20th century 231


SUN BEATRIZ COLOMINA ON ARCHITECTURE, ILLNESS, AND THE SUN

reinforced-concrete building in Switzerland was a tuberculosis sanatorium. The sanatorium was the laboratory of Modern architecture. Take the sun terraces for the cure, which enabled the 19th-century German Lebensreform idea of going outside into the healthgiving sun to be brought right into the building. This is the interpenetration of inside and outside that became the trademark of Modern architecture, along with white walls, expansive glass, clean lines, absence of ornament, etc., which were all medical protocols long before Modern architecture came along. DZ: It’s not only the tuberculosis pandemic, but also the discovery of its diagnostic tool, the X-ray, that you argue shaped Modern architecture.

BC: I was fascinated that at the very same time the X-ray allowed you to see inside the body, archi-

Aino Aalto resting in the lounge chair she designed for the Paimio Sanatorium. The photo was taken in the 1930s by her husband Alvar Aalto. © Alvar Aalto Museum

tects wanted you to see inside their buildings, revealing the interior and even “bone structure.” Mies van der Rohe talked about skin-and-bones architecture and was fascinated by X-rays, even publishing them. The whole Mies aesthetic is an X-ray aesthetic. This desire for X-ray visibility had an enormous impact on architecture.

232

DZ: Early sanatoriums had terraces and were very focused on sun and open-air treatments — heliotherapy. How did these designs, originally intended for managing a deadly bacterial infection, become common in everyday architecture?

and by the 1950s all these sanatoriums started to close. And the very same architects who used to say, “My building is perfect for tuberculosis” pivoted to saying, “It’s perfect for your mental health.” Neutra is a very interesting case, because he himself had suffered from tuberculosis and spent a year in a sanatorium, and his brother died of it.

BC: For most of the 19th century, hospitals were places the absolutely destitute went.

this started to change precise ly with all this modernization. At the turn of the century, wealthy people started to go to sanatoriums like the Purkersdorf in Vienna to treat their nerves, because everyone was so nervous around the metropolis. They became spaces of desire, where all kinds of diseases could be addressed within the atmosphere of a spa. My book traces how this space of desire was democratized and even became the model for everyday life.

DZ: You also focus on Dr. Philip Lovell, who was a celebrity health guru in Los Angeles in

the 1920s and 30s, and who helped establish sanatoriuminspired European Modernism in California. It feels like we’re still living through this “health” experiment with the rise of LSD microdosing, intermittent fasting, and Goop. BC: Yes. Gwyneth Paltrow is the Dr. Lovell of today!

ENDNOTE

Dr. Lovell was not a doctor at all. He never studied medicine, he was what they call a quack. I mean, he did a twoweek chiropractic course, went to California, and became famous immediately, arguing that all health problems were related to diet. He advocated exercise, sleeping in the open air and bathing naked in the sun, and before you knew it all these wealthy people were going to see Dr. Lovell, including the editor of the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Lovell began writing a column in the L.A. Times, and became super famous. He enlisted Rudolph Schindler to do a house at Newport Beach and then Richard Neutra to do the so-called Health House in L.A. These houses were designed to prevent tuberculosis and foster an energetic lifestyle, and featured terraces outside each room for outdoors sleeping. It’s important to remember that it took forever to discover an effective treatment for tuberculosis, which is why for such a long time it was an illness that was treated with architec- A 1927 postcard the Zonnestraal ture. Then, depicting Sanatorium in Hilversum in 1943, they in the Netherlands. A 1930s diagram of heliotherapy by Alvar Aalto. © Alvar Aalto Museum

DZ: Were there any other Modernist architects whose work was tied to their own medical history?

BC: Yes, many of them. Alvar Aalto, for example, was sick at the time of the commission for the Paimio Sanatorium in 1929, and he claimed that this helped him to understand the problem. He said that architecture is always conceived for the healthy person standing upright and that we should always design for the person in the weakest position. This was revelatory for me. Today, with our increasing awareness of the question of disability, ramps and other devices are added as an afterthought, but often the buildings don’t work for everybody. But what Aalto was saying is the road not taken in architecture: that if we always design for those in the weakest position,

DZ: Is COVID-19 the tuberculosis of the 21st century? And if so, what effects will it have on architecture?

BC: It’s more like the cholera epidemics of the 19th century that ravaged cities all over the world in wave after wave and led to enormous changes in urban infrastructure and design. The question for us is how the coronavirus will change architecture and the city. What I tried to show in the book is that architects were hugely involved in the design of health, actively collaborating with doctors and scientists. We have to wake up and do it again!

WHERE THE SUN SHINES THERE IS ALSO SHADE


SUN BEATRIZ COLOMINA ON ARCHITECTURE, ILLNESS, AND THE SUN

reinforced-concrete building in Switzerland was a tuberculosis sanatorium. The sanatorium was the laboratory of Modern architecture. Take the sun terraces for the cure, which enabled the 19th-century German Lebensreform idea of going outside into the healthgiving sun to be brought right into the building. This is the interpenetration of inside and outside that became the trademark of Modern architecture, along with white walls, expansive glass, clean lines, absence of ornament, etc., which were all medical protocols long before Modern architecture came along. DZ: It’s not only the tuberculosis pandemic, but also the discovery of its diagnostic tool, the X-ray, that you argue shaped Modern architecture.

BC: I was fascinated that at the very same time the X-ray allowed you to see inside the body, archi-

Aino Aalto resting in the lounge chair she designed for the Paimio Sanatorium. The photo was taken in the 1930s by her husband Alvar Aalto. © Alvar Aalto Museum

tects wanted you to see inside their buildings, revealing the interior and even “bone structure.” Mies van der Rohe talked about skin-and-bones architecture and was fascinated by X-rays, even publishing them. The whole Mies aesthetic is an X-ray aesthetic. This desire for X-ray visibility had an enormous impact on architecture.

232

DZ: Early sanatoriums had terraces and were very focused on sun and open-air treatments — heliotherapy. How did these designs, originally intended for managing a deadly bacterial infection, become common in everyday architecture?

and by the 1950s all these sanatoriums started to close. And the very same architects who used to say, “My building is perfect for tuberculosis” pivoted to saying, “It’s perfect for your mental health.” Neutra is a very interesting case, because he himself had suffered from tuberculosis and spent a year in a sanatorium, and his brother died of it.

BC: For most of the 19th century, hospitals were places the absolutely destitute went.

this started to change precise ly with all this modernization. At the turn of the century, wealthy people started to go to sanatoriums like the Purkersdorf in Vienna to treat their nerves, because everyone was so nervous around the metropolis. They became spaces of desire, where all kinds of diseases could be addressed within the atmosphere of a spa. My book traces how this space of desire was democratized and even became the model for everyday life.

DZ: You also focus on Dr. Philip Lovell, who was a celebrity health guru in Los Angeles in

the 1920s and 30s, and who helped establish sanatoriuminspired European Modernism in California. It feels like we’re still living through this “health” experiment with the rise of LSD microdosing, intermittent fasting, and Goop. BC: Yes. Gwyneth Paltrow is the Dr. Lovell of today!

ENDNOTE

Dr. Lovell was not a doctor at all. He never studied medicine, he was what they call a quack. I mean, he did a twoweek chiropractic course, went to California, and became famous immediately, arguing that all health problems were related to diet. He advocated exercise, sleeping in the open air and bathing naked in the sun, and before you knew it all these wealthy people were going to see Dr. Lovell, including the editor of the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Lovell began writing a column in the L.A. Times, and became super famous. He enlisted Rudolph Schindler to do a house at Newport Beach and then Richard Neutra to do the so-called Health House in L.A. These houses were designed to prevent tuberculosis and foster an energetic lifestyle, and featured terraces outside each room for outdoors sleeping. It’s important to remember that it took forever to discover an effective treatment for tuberculosis, which is why for such a long time it was an illness that was treated with architec- A 1927 postcard the Zonnestraal ture. Then, depicting Sanatorium in Hilversum in 1943, they in the Netherlands.

A 1930s diagram of heliotherapy by Alvar Aalto. © Alvar Aalto Museum

DZ: Were there any other Modernist architects whose work was tied to their own medical history?

BC: Yes, many of them. Alvar Aalto, for example, was sick at the time of the commission for the Paimio Sanatorium in 1929, and he claimed that this helped him to understand the problem. He said that architecture is always conceived for the healthy person standing upright and that we should always design for the person in the weakest position. This was revelatory for me. Today, with our increasing awareness of the question of disability, ramps and other devices are added as an afterthought, but often the buildings don’t work for everybody. But what Aalto was saying is the road not taken in architecture: that if we always design for those in the weakest position,

DZ: Is COVID-19 the tuberculosis of the 21st century? And if so, what effects will it have on architecture?

BC: It’s more like the cholera epidemics of the 19th century that ravaged cities all over the world in wave after wave and led to enormous changes in urban infrastructure and design. The question for us is how the coronavirus will change architecture and the city. What I tried to show in the book is that architects were hugely involved in the design of health, actively collaborating with doctors and scientists. We have to wake up and do it again!

WHERE THE SUN SHINES THERE IS ALSO SHADE


Profile for PIN–UP Magazine

PIN–UP 28 Spring Summer 2020  

This SUN Issue features Enzo Mari, Studio Mumbai, Sophia Al-Maria, Soft Baroque, Willo Perron, Francis Kéré, Acne Studios, Sunflowers, The B...

PIN–UP 28 Spring Summer 2020  

This SUN Issue features Enzo Mari, Studio Mumbai, Sophia Al-Maria, Soft Baroque, Willo Perron, Francis Kéré, Acne Studios, Sunflowers, The B...

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