PIN–UP 29 Fall Winter 2020/21

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PIN–UP 29 REVOLUTION

TABLE OF CONTENTS 30 MASTHEAD 34 EDITOR’S LETTER 189 CONTACTS THE PIN–UP BOARD 42 ACTIVIST GRAPHIC DESIGN TEXT BY JEROME HARRIS 46 RAPHAEL SPERRY INTERVIEW BY WHITNEY MALLETT ARTWORK BY CARNELL HUNNICUTT 48 ARCHITECTURE OF COUNTERREVOLUTION BOOK REVIEW BY ANDREW AYERS 50 JEROME BYRON INTERVIEW BY ISABEL PARKES PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHANE SMITH 53 GUY FAWKES MASK TEXT BY PHILIPPA SNOW 54 ISSEY MIYAKE PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAFIK GREISS 57 ARCHITECTURE ON COMMON GROUND BOOK REVIEW BY SEB CHOE 58 MAITE BORJABAD INTERVIEW BY SAMANTHA OZER PORTRAIT BY LAWRENCE AGYEI 60 OBJECT ORIENTED BOOK REVIEW BY TAYLORE SCARABELLI 62 AKEEM SMITH INTERVIEW BY FELIX BURRICHTER PORTRAIT BY CHRISTOPHER TOMAS SMITH 64 ACCESSIBILITY HOT SPOTS TEXT BY JESSE DORRIS PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL TERNA 66 EZ KRYPTOBUILD BY ALICE BUCKNELL 68 PIERO GANDINI INTERVIEW BY FELIX BURRICHTER PORTRAITS BY JOSEP FONTI PANORAMA 94 BIPOC STUDIOS CLASSIFIEDS EXT AND ARTWORK BY DONG-PING WONG 158 VERSAILLES TEXT BY CAMILLE OKHIO

FEATURES 114 XU TIANTIAN INTERVIEW BEATRICE GALILEE PORTRAITS BY WANG RUJIE


artwork: fontanesi

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124 LUCA CIPELLETTI INTERVIEW BY HANS ULRICH OBRIST PORTRAITS BY JOSEP FONTI 134 AMIN TAHA INTERVIEW BY ANDREW AYERS PORTRAITS BY HARRY MITCHELL

PIN–UP 29 REVOLUTION

ESSAYS 78 HONG KONG TEXT BY MING LIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY HARRY CHAN 82 5G AND SMART CITIES BY DREW ZEIBA 85 INDIGENOUS DESIGN AGENCY BY DAVID FORTIN 88 QUANTUM ARCHITECTURE TEXT BY MEGA ARTWORK BY DAN HOLLAND

SPECIAL: RECONSTRUCTIONS 96 ARCHITECTURE AND BLACKNESS IN AMERICA PORTRAITS BY DAVID HARTT TEXT BY DREW ZEIBA PORTFOLIO 70 PHILIPPE MALOUIN TEXT BY ALEXANDRA CUNNINGHAM CAMERON 144 SUB INTERVIEW BY JORDAN RICHMAN 162 KANDIS WILLIAMS INTERVIEW BY CHLOE WAYNE AND MAHFUZ SULTAN 170 POLIFORM PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAOLO ROVERSI 174 NANDA VIGO INTERVIEW BY HANS ULRICH OBRIST PORTRAIT BY BEA DE GIACOMO 180 TRUMP TOWERS PHOTOGRAPHY BY ADRIAN GAUT TEXT BY TED BARROW ENDNOTE 190 PAOLA ANTONELLI ON MATERIALS INTERVIEW BY DREW ZEIBA PORTRAIT BY SAHEER UMAR


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PIN–UP 29 REVOLUTION

EDITOR & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Felix Burrichter DESIGN DIRECTION Office Ben Ganz ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Michael Bullock DEPUTY EDITOR Whitney Mallett SENIOR EDITOR Andrew Ayers ASSOCIATE EDITOR Drew Zeiba BUSINESS MANAGER Kristin Hrycko EDITOR AT LARGE Pierre Alexandre de Looz CONTRIBUTORS Maarten Alexander, Ted Barrow, Thistle Brown, Alice Bucknell, Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, Harry Chan, Seb Choe, Bea De Giacomo, Jesse Dorris, Josep Fonti, David Fortin, Beatrice Galilee, Adrian Gaut, Rafik Greiss, Jerome Harris, David Hartt, Dan Holland, Carnell Hunnicutt, Gregory Ketant (mega), Ming Lin, Sofie Middernacht, Harry Mitchell, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Camille Okhio, Samantha Ozer, Isabel Parkes, Jordan Richman, Paolo Roversi, Wang Rujie, Taylore Scarabelli, Horacio Silva, Shane Smith, Philippa Snow, sub, Mahfuz Sultan, Daniel Terna, Christopher Tomás Smith, Saheer Umar, Chloe Wayne, Dong-Ping Wong DESIGN ASSISTANT Immanuel Yang EDITORIAL INTERNS Oluwatobiloba Ajayi, Karina Encarnación PRINTING Die Keure NV (Belgium) CONTACT info@pinupmagazine.org SUBSCRIPTIONS pinupmagazine.org PUBLISHING AND SPECIAL PROJECTS ADVISOR Jorge García ADVERTISING ASSOCIATE Mandi García ADVERTISING ITALY Cesanamedia, Milan PUBLISHED BY FEBU Publishing LLC ISSN 1933-9755 PIN–UP © 2020 Ŧ The authors and the photographers Reproduction without permission prohibited

COVER 1 Artwork and OBG PINUP typeface by Office Ben Ganz COVER 2 Photography by Niklas Bildstein Zaar and Deniz Celtek. Read the sub story on p. 144


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PIN–UP 29 ED. LETTER

Architecture and revolution make for uncomfortable bedfellows. When the former comes into play the latter is usually long over, and who ever has come out on top is busy establishing the new status quo. Real revolutionary acts imply destruction, renewal, and the upending of established norms. So what exactly is the role of architecture during a revolutionary age? The question couldn’t be more à propos in 2020, a year of upheaval when conventions, institutions, and systems of power — Minsk, Hong Kong, U.S. police departments — have not only been called into question but physically attacked and sometimes overthrown. In this issue we look at revolutions and revolutionaries both large and small within, without, and sometimes despite architecture. From revolutionary new ways of using materials and technologies to rethinking forms of property and business ownership, from troubling re-readings of history to on-the-street political upheaval, architecture is both the stage for and an actor in many of the changes we’re facing. Architecture as a profession is also being revolutionized. This year has been a pivotal moment for Black architects and spacemakers, especially in the U.S., where for centuries African-Americans’ contributions to the built environment have gone unrecognized (to say nothing of the Indigenous land being pilfered and built upon). In today’s breakneck digital media landscape it’s nothing short of a provocation for PIN–UP to discuss these issues in print. Yet few formats lend themselves better to reflection at this moment in time, safe from surveillance or endless trolling. On the eve of the fourth industrial revolution, some of the most subversive experiences will not be digitized. ­— FELIX BURRICHTER



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PIN–UP BOARD PU–BOARD


Graphic design has a unique ability to translate a vision of equity into a call to action, or at the very least, a provocation. From the proliferation of civil-rights-movement posters and brochures to billboards by the grassroots anonymous collective Guerrilla Girls, design has long been used as a tool for mobilization. In his practice as a graphic designer and educator, Jerome Harris has focused on investigating the richness of these and other neglected design histories — including curating the traveling exhibition As, Not For: Dethroning Our Absolutes, an in-­ complete survey of work by African-­ American graphic designers over the last century. Here Harris shares with PIN–UP some of his favorite examples of iconic activism.

TEXT BY JEROME HARRIS

EMMETT MCBAIN ADVERTISEMENT, WHAT COLOR IS BLACK? 1974 Taking a strong political stance in self-promotional marketing is as risky in 2020 as it ever was. In 1974, using a poem written by Barbara D. Mahone (who became the designer’s third wife), Emmett McBain designed this promotion for his advertising agency Burrell McBain Inc. Given the political climate in the 70s, this thoughtful gesture of racial uplift is impactful in its design and delivery. The advert expresses the multifaceted nature of the Black experience, one that is inherently personal and at times painful, whilst also existing in shared experiences of joy and love.


PU–BOARD

GRAN FURY ADVERTISEMENTS FOR ACT UP 1990 AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is a political group committed to shared action to end the AIDS epidemic. Born out of ACT UP, Gran Fury was an artists’ collective that contributed to the work of the group. Gran Fury’s ads increased the sense of urgency surrounding the AIDS crisis, stating frankly that direct action was necessary to mobilize a political response to the tragedy taking place.

BOYD MCDONALD STRAIGHT TO HELL: THE MANHATTAN REVIEW OF UNNATURAL ACTS , #47 1980 Boyd McDonald’s Straight To Hell: The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts was a zine that published true accounts of gay men’s sexual encounters in New York City. He started this series to counteract the unrealistic portrayal of fictional accounts of gay men in mainstream media.

ROBERT LEE PROMOTION FOR BASEMENT WORKSHOP’S CHINATOWN STREET FAIR 1973 Basement Workshop was an Asian-American activist group based in New York City. The group staged revolutions in the form of community organizing, where mutual aid, education, and encouragement were the tools used to empower a marginalized population. Basement Workshop’s Chinatown Street Fair is an example of this revolutionary tactic.

SUN RA POEM, “FREEDOM VERSUS BLACK FREEDOM” 1972 In Sun Ra’s book, The Immeasurable Equation, he sways between praising Black people and making observations about their lived experience. This poem from the book addresses the difference between freedom for all and freedom for Black people.


GUERRILLA GIRLS BILLBOARD CHALLENGING MASCULINE DOMINATION OF THE ART WORLD 1989 The Guerrilla Girls are infamous for shaking up the inherent patriarchy of the art world. This billboard criticizes the dearth of female artist representation and the pervasiveness of the male gaze in visual arts and its curation. With data, bold formal choices, and a sense of humor, the collective addresses the glaring gender inequity within art institutions.

B.E. JOHNSON ARTWORK FOR PUBLIC ENEMY’S ALBUM FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET (DEF JAM RECORDINGS/COLUMBIA) 1990 Public Enemy’s music was ahead of its time. They dedicated an entire album to speaking out against racial injustice and the media’s skewed portrayal of Black people. For the album’s artwork, they hired B.E. Johnson, a NASA illustrator, whose sci-fi take on this subject matter further emphasized that the Black imagination extended beyond the monolithic perception shared by many.

EMORY DOUGLAS ILLUSTRATIONS FOR THE BLACK PANTHER NEWSPAPER 1968

BUDDY ESQUIRE HANDBILL TRIBUTE TO MARTIN LUTHER KING 1980

Emory Douglas’s illustrations in The Black Panther newspaper established the aesthetic of revolution in the 60s and 70s. Douglas’s crisp lines were a graphic reminder that the fight for liberation was far from over. His illustrations were so effective that several other activist groups borrowed his style and applied their own messaging.

Buddy Esquire began as an aerosol artist, later transitioning into graphic design in the late 70s and 80s, as the need for event promotion increased. This handbill layers two poignant moments in American history: Martin Luther King’s life and the rise of hip-hop culture. The design addresses both America’s most-listened-to genre of music and one of the most iconic heroes in the country’s history.


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Abolition Mission Should the American Institute of Architects (AIA) explicitly con­ demn its members for building spaces designed to degrade, torture, or kill? San Francisco-based architect Raphael Sperry thinks so, and in 2013 spearheaded a campaign lobbying the AIA to update its code of ethics to prohibit designing supermax prisons and death-row execution facilities, among others. Together with his colleagues at Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), Sperry was successful in spurring a national conversation around ethics, design, and the prison industrial complex. In the wake of that conversation, the AIA opted not to update its code’s generic language on upholding human rights, but today, with new momentum around socialjustice issues, Sperry believes the organization might be more receptive. For PIN–UP, the architect and activist offered insights into what other changes the profession can make to help promote a healthier and more equitable society. WHITNEY MALLETT Do you feel we’re living in the midst of a revolutionary moment, and do you think architects and architectural institutions are more receptive right now to some of the structural changes that you’ve been working towards for a while? RAPHAEL SPERRY I think we’re definitely seeing a moment of opportunity to make major change. Is it a rev­ olutionary moment? We probably won’t know until later, but I think it has that possibility. We at ADPSR have been petitioning the AIA for around six years for what we thought of as a very simple human-rights measure, and we’ve been stonewalled, but that seems like it’s about to change. So that’s a good thing. I think for architecture, when it comes to issues of racism and social justice, there’s an aspect that’s inward-facing (the compo­ sition of the profession regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion within the ranks of production), which means changing the way firms manage themselves. And then there’s a part that’s outward-facing — what the buildings and spaces we design do for society. I’ve seen a lot of folks talking about the history of redlining [the systematic denial of services to residents of certain areas based on their race or ethnicity] as an example of how our profession has contributed to the racial problems we have today. And then the spark that lit the

tinderbox this spring was police violence and the whole movement around the murder of George Floyd. Police have been oppressing Black communities ever since there have been police in the United States, as far as I understand it, for the past 150 years or so. Police and prisons are part of the same system of violence. Prisons are extremely violent places. And despite, in some cases, the best intentions of their designers, we have failed to make them safe, and in a sense those that build prisons are somewhat responsible for the violence that goes on in them. In the past you could argue maybe people didn’t realize what they were committing themselves to. But for at least the past 20 years, it’s been pretty apparent how the American prison system works. WM You’ve been petitioning for profes­ sional organizations to prohibit or condemn the designing of spaces built with an intention to harm. Your writing also interrogates a whole spectrum of cases where design is in the service of oppressive social policy. Architects aren’t off the hook just because they’re not designing death chambers. RS When you look overseas, it’s often clearer. You say, “Here’s a government that’s using their police force to oppress their pop­ ulation because they have secret police, or they do raids without warrants, or they jail

people for ideological reasons.” If an Ameri­ can architect went to Saudia Arabia and designed a police station, it’d be like, “Why?” Few would dispute that it would further the oppression going on there. If you bring that way of thinking back home and realize that Black communities in the United States view the police in their neighborhoods as an op-­ pressive occupying force, one should ask the same question: “Why build something that’s going to further this oppression?” WM What about ethical responsibility more broadly, and other ways designers become complicit with the rich and powerful, furthering inequality through their work? RS Furthering inequality is not quite the same as furthering direct tools of oppression, but they’re all parts of a society that’s really unjust, and racism has worked its way into everything in America. People realize that now. And conventional architectural practice is part of it. Architects are basically gener­ ating new assets. That’s what we do. And almost all of the wealth being generated by them is accruing to white people. It’s not our fault, but that’s how it is, and we’re help-­ ing push the wealth gap wider and wider. The wealth inequality between Black families and white families is well-documented. So unless you’re doing anti-racist work to try to end this disparity, you just perpetuate it.


Images courtesy the artist and ADPSR.

PU–BOARD WM How can we work towards changing the inequality in the profession itself? RS If we want more young talented Black and brown people to become architects, we have to think about what is going to make them want to stay in the profession. Is it going to be designing shopping malls in white neighborhoods? Or working somewhere where they have a say in projects they believe in? Because if you have the skills of an architect, you can make more money working for Hollywood doing CGI. The kind of workplace revolution that I’m interested in is one about the democratic control of companies. Instead of external shareholders or a small group of private partners own-­ ing a company, the ultimate level of governance would be an assembly of its workers. Sometimes they call this a worker-owned cooperative, although it doesn’t strictly have to be that, it could be more a worker selfdirected enterprise. The key thing is that, in this kind of organization, each person gets one vote. I think under this model there would be more pay equity. If everyone had equal votes, there’d be more transparency around pay information. And I think we would see rapid improvement when it comes to the well-established pattern of women and people of color getting paid less. But I also think that this way of structuring a company would change the kinds of projects a firm takes on. Firms have to stay in business and so compromises might still be made. But right now, these decisions only get made by a small group, and it’s only their values that are reflected. If workers were empow­ ered with more control, they might take on more projects that they believe better serve their communities. It’s not a guarantee, but right now most workers don’t even have that choice.

Artwork by inmate and illustrator Carnell Hunicutt documents a segregation cell at Connecticut’s Northern Correctional Facility, a maximum-­security prison where the artist was incarcerated.

INTERVIEW BY WHITNEY MALLETT

Carnell Hunicutt’s prison drawings were featured in the 2014 exhibition Sentenced: Architecture of Human Rights, organized by Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility.


BOOK CLUB TEXT BY ANDREW AYERS

French Exit In response to the uprisings of the Algerian Revolution 1954–62, French colonial authorities reorganized the country’s infrastructure, for example the clearing of a bidonville in Clos-Salembier (top) and newly-erected transitory housing (bottom).

For decades during and afterwards, the French authorities referred to it euphemistically as les événements d’Algérie — the events in Algeria — when the French press had already long been using the term guerre d’Algérie — Algerian War —  to describe the armed struggle that began in 1954 with the founding of the Front de libération nationale (FLN) and culminated with Algerian independence in 1962. For the FLN and for Algerian governments since, the conflict was a revolution —  November 1 is officially celebrated as Revolution Day — just like the French and American Revolutions. It is in this context that Algiers-born architectural historian Samia Henni has titled her book Architecture of Counterrevolution: The French Army in Northern Algeria.


© Claude Cuny / SCA / ECPAD

PU–BOARD But whether you call it events, war, or revolution, the 1954–62 conflict was arguably not an exception in an otherwise peaceful history. As Henni told the French radio station France Culture in 2019, “For me, colonization has an intimate relationship with what you might call war... Colonization is linked to occupation, which is frequently very violent, a forced occupation of lands and peoples” — a view that finds evident confirmation in the estimated 800,000 Algerians (out of a total population of three million) killed by French forces in their bloody conquest of the territory between 1830 and 1872. But it is another form of violence that Henni seeks to explore in her book, namely the radical transformation of Algeria’s land and built environment in the final years of French rule, a process that accelerated as independence came closer and which even continued after 1962. The resulting landscape “is still there,” as Henni told France Culture, and for better or for worse has become “a real part of the everyday life of millions of Algerians.” The book opens with the infamous camps de regroupement , whose use only became known in mainland France in 1959 after the press revealed their existence, prompting a national scandal. Convinced the FLN was being supported and enabled by the remote populations of the Aurès Mountains, the French army set about clearing the area of its inhabitants, forcibly relocating them in camps, in the process displacing an estimated two million people. After a detour into the role of the notorious police prefect Maurice Papon in both Algeria and Paris, where he sought to surveil the sizeable Algerian immigrant pop­ ulation, the book moves on to the policies enacted under the last French President of Algeria, General de Gaulle. While it was a mili­tary putsch led by pro-Algérie française gen­ erals that returned de Gaulle to power, in 1958, he would be the architect of Algeria’s independence (prompting the disgruntled generals to found a deadly counter­-independence terrorist unit, the Organisation Armée secrète (OAS), in 1961), although his policies towards France’s last important colony were profoundly ambivalent. For in addition to continuing the military war, de Gaulle launched a series of ambitious assimilationist “counterrevolutionary” policies that aimed finally to treat all Algerians as equal Frenchmen, to house them decently, and to develop agriculture and industry in a territory that until then had been costing France vast amounts in subsidies. But, as Henni demonstrates, building a million new homes was also a way of controlling and policing the population, and, despite the stated aim of assimilation, the dwellings intended for the “Muslims,” as they were termed, fell far short of French metropolitan standards. Indeed their extremely mean dimen­ sions were expressly intended to break up the traditional family unit and thereby create “pacified” consumers along Western lines. The final chapters of Architecture of Counter­ revolution are devoted to the surreal saga of Rocher Noir, a fortified administrative citadel 30 miles outside Algiers that was thrown up in astonishing haste so as to remove the territory’s key fonctionnaires from deadly

paramilitary attacks by both the FLN and the increasingly active OAS. Architecture of Counterrevolution is not what you’d call a fun read: in addition to the relentlessly bleak subject matter comes Henni’s arid prose. While sometimes the au-­ thor’s theoretical groundings feel lacking, it’s helpful to review the many articles and interviews where she’s made her position more explicit. Still, in spite of its flaws, the book is an important and heartfelt study that underlines just how much there is still to be explored on the spatial aspects of colonialism.

The French army’s counter-insurgency measures included a policy called regroupement: military-controlled camps aimed to isolate the Algerian population from national liberation fighters. Shown here a camp in Taher El Achouet, July 1957.

ARCHITECTURE OF COUNTERREVOLUTION: THE FRENCH ARMY IN NORTHERN ALGERIA , BY SAMIA HENNI (GTA VERLAG, 2017)


Pacific Grind

Over the past six years, Los Angeles-based architect and designer Jerome Byron has carved out a niche for himself crafting furniture and spaces that combine a laidback approach to industrial minimalism and the Modernist canon with injections of color and playful nods to hip-hop and skate culture. Take his series of pastel-hued stools, their curved concrete a reference to skateboards and halfpipes. Or retail experiences like the Hype Williams-inspired flagship for street­ wear brand RIPNDIP, a sculptural space defined by custom neon lighting and tubular shelving. At the nearby “manicure bar” Color Camp, the concrete and steel is balanced by sunset-like gradients and luscious plants. Byron’s newfound Cali vibes are a stark contrast to his his almae matres Pratt and Harvard GSD and to his time in Berlin (he worked for architect Francis Kéré). Byron was born in New York and grew up in Ohio, but his hands-on, can-do approach to construction seems unapologetically L.A., a city where he has now garnered a list of high-profile clients. So what does a young architect and builder do when facing lockdown and a pandemic? Isabel Parkes called Byron in his newly built studio in Echo Park to find out.

ISABEL PARKES How have these past months been for you? JEROME BYRON It’s been busier than ever, and it all picked up that first week in March. I was actually already renovating part of my workspace when California imposed its lockdown, so then I just went into high gear — masks and gloves on, hardware store runs multiple times a day, and building. IP

Can you describe your workspace?

JB It’s about 12 by 12 feet within a 650square-foot studio. Renovating it involved raising and leveling the floor, dropping the ceiling, and furring out the walls, then building in desks, bookshelves, and closets. The walls are lined with cork, and I installed kind of throwback-vibe LED ceiling lights that look like the ceiling tiles from your average 90s office space, but recessed within a red, moody ceiling. I wanted to plug into a warm studio environment that contained all my references. IP

What are those?

JB Images of furniture or pieces that have turned up during my research along-­ side objects I’ve collected, like skateboards and books. It matters to me that I maintain a homey vibe for the space where I work every day. IP

You’ve skated for a long time.

JB Yeah, I grew up doing it and I still kinda push around from time to time. I prob­ ably skated most throughout college in New York and I think that experience, in com-­ bination with an intense architectural edu­ cation at Pratt, helped shape my ideas about form, movement, and materials. Skating all around New York and then staying up all night building models and drawing in 3D was definitely when I developed and maybe codified my spatial-thinking sensibility. I designed these glass-fiber-reinforced-concrete stools a few years ago, and when I look at them now, I see that they were very clearly inspired by the shape of skate decks, and the curves and materiality of skate parks, although that wasn’t my intention at the time. IP How did the pandemic affect your workflow? JB The answer to that felt very much up in the air at the start of this. Nobody even knew what the protocols were for going out­ side. There was a new urgency both to leaving your house and to protecting yourself. At the same time, I had to make decisions. Time was limited, available materials were changing, and of course, financially things were uncertain. I didn’t want to break the bank with the build-out of my studio, so it was about being as efficient as possible within a lot of un-­ knowns. Amidst this, work and random little projects were picking up.

Architect and designer Jerome Byron shows off his handmade glass-fiber-­ reinforced-concrete stools, infused with pastel pigment and available in three shapes: low stool, high stool, and broad bench.

IP As a spatial thinker, how have you found the transition to working remotely? JB It requires being plugged in all the time, to all lines of communication. I’ll get a text asking me to jump on a call quickly, and


PU–BOARD The walls in Jerome Byron’s Echo Park studio double as a pin-up board for inspirational images. The designer reno-­ vated his workspace during the COVID lockdown, transforming it with bookshelves, cork-lined walls, and classic square drop ceiling tiles.

TEXT BY ISABEL PARKES PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHANE SMITH two seconds later we’ll be Zooming and sharing a screen and making decisions. Before, you would maybe schedule a time on Friday to meet and review some drawings that you did the day before. Now, I’m drawing on screen as we’re videoing, and my collaborator is sharing the screen and marking up the drawing. IP

Everything’s accelerated.

JB There were a few weeks at the beginning of the lockdown when I was constantly on the phone checking in with people while also doing my work. And I remember think-­ ing, “Oh my god, I haven’t been this social in a long time.” And that’s sort of how it feels now. Everything’s collapsing in on everything, it’s all happening at the same time, all full steam. The idea of doing this amount of communicating and rapid decision-making would have never entered my mind pre-­ pandemic. But it became a necessity and it became normalized — and it is possible. We can be hybrids and hyper-efficient. IP As you’re saying this, I’m thinking about the various strata of culture in which we’re experiencing the hollowing out of the middle and units consolidating. I see it in relationship to what you were saying. Do you feel that? JB Totally. I was both feeling and witnessing that. I was recently doing a site visit at a client’s home, where I designed a groundup guest house, and the client is the founder of some successful startups, so I was picking his brain a bit, just asking how the time has been for him and his business. He said that the money is still there and investors are still writing checks, but now they only want to work with people they know can pull the thing off. We were talking about how devastating it is for a lot of new people who don’t have their legs yet or who need somebody to take a chance on them. Now everything has become very risk-averse. And that resonates with my personal experience, where I’m getting work only through word of mouth. All my new stuff is coming from other clients or former colleagues, who know I can pull the thing off. IP What do you think architecture can offer us in this moment of instability? JB I’ve been having multiple conversations about the different levels of investment in this field. I am working on a project with a

Jerome Byron basking in the California sun with his Pomeranian Taejo. The Pratt and Harvard GSD alum is part of a new wave of millennial neo-Modernists.

client who wants to buy an iconic mansion in West Adams, a once-thriving Black neighborhood in L.A. She basically wants to make an uninhabitable space habitable again. We had this long conversation with her about what it means to really invest in projects that generate meaning and that have long-lasting impact. We discussed bringing in her family of builders and craftsman from the East Coast, as well as other friends and neighbors, bringing in people who want to inject life into this place and neighborhood, into the community. It really contrasts with some of my other, more commercial work, which is also stimulating and fun, but at the end of the day I have to ask myself: “Who does it serve?” So even though I’m busy, I push myself to think a little bit longer and harder about this question. What are we all doing? Why are we all working so hard? At the end of the day, we’re stuck at home. We can’t spend time with our families. Friends who have lost their jobs are thinking similarly. You’ve spent your last five or ten years working your ass off for a company, and suddenly it’s over. You have to find that meaning again.



PU–BOARD In V for Vendetta , the 2005 adaptation of an 80s graphic novel, the titular “V” wears what has become one of the most recognizable, iconic visual signifiers of the last two decades: a bone-white vaudeville mask made to resemble an unheimlich, funhouse-mirror version of the face of Guy Fawkes, the 17thcentury Papal fanatic and would-be terrorist. The film is set in London c. 2020, under the rule of a total and unmerciful police state, with V as an anonymous and furious anti-­ fascist bent on systematically destroying his oppressors. He meets Evey, a doe-eyed TV reporter played with an occasionally baffling English accent by a young Natalie Portman, after rescuing her from a rape attempt by two policemen; he absconds with her to his underground lair, plays her some contraband pop music on his jukebox, serves her break-­ fast, and afterwards radicalizes her by play­ ing mind games, imprisoning her, shaving her perfectly-shaped head, and teaching her that people should not fear their governments. “Governments,” he assures her, “should be afraid of their people.” Women, it ought to be noted, should be at least a little afraid of men who kidnap them and subject them to such indignities. Still, Evey understands V’s point, even if she is not particularly thrilled with how he makes it: by the last scene, as a mammoth crowd of people wearing copies of his mask de-­ scends on the Houses of Parliament, she has accepted that he stands for “all of us.” More simplistic and less brutal than its source material, the movie version of V For Vendetta is about anonymous, lone-wolf malcontents banding together to dismantle a corrupt rightwing state. (It is also a film about a mysterious, kung-fu-literate man rescuing and then kidnapping a luminous Natalie Portman, which may help to explain its enduring popularity in certain corners of the web.) When it first premiered, Warner Brothers handed out replica copies of V’s mask, a genius marketing idea that quickly snowballed into a phenomenon as protest groups began to use it in exactly the way V and his disciples did — for personal protection, for intimidation, for guaranteed anonymity, and as a marker of subversive, anti-government beliefs. It was, for some time, the best-selling mask on earth, and Time Warner receives a cut of every sale. In Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s original graphic novel, V is interested in the theatricality of violence as well as what he perceives as its ability to liberate. The curious flamboyance of his chosen uniform, not so much historical re-enactment as hysterical Fawkes drag, is meant to underscore the drama of his very stylized, very public acts of personal and political vengeance. “Isn’t it strange how life turns into melodrama?”, he asks Evey, when she wonders why he looks the way he does. “[Theatricality] is everything. The perfect entrance. The grand illusion … I’m going to remind them about melodrama ... You see, Evey, all the world’s

a stage, and everything else is vaudeville.” The costume’s wig, a sleek black bob with blunt-edged bangs somehow more reminiscent of Cleopatra than a 17th-century soldier, is feminized in such a way that V — despite the mask’s goatee and moustache — does not appear to be strictly male or female. The mask’s cheekbones, squeezed high by its eerie smile, are rouged like dolls’ cheeks. It does not seem to suggest an everyman so much as an everyman-woman-other, making it an ideal symbol for a group with a fluid, un-­ knowable identity. It has some of the spooky majesty of the masks worn in Japanese Noh theater, but a broader, poppier public profile —  as recognizable a piece of branded design as a yellow smiley face. Lloyd, the artist who originally drew V’s mask, attended the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 in order to see his design making the leap into real life. “The Guy Fawkes mask has become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny — and I’m happy with people using it,” he told the BBC. “My feeling is the Anonymous group needed an all-purpose image to hide their identity and also sym­bolize that they stand for individualism.” Hacker-activists whose targets have included Scientology, The Westboro Baptist Church, and several

Mask Off

international governments, Anony­mous have created an interesting feedback loop with their use of V’s mask — the graphic novel, which depicts a heavily-surveilled society kept in check by an ongoing demonization of the other, has long been seen to be prescient, making the appropriation of its visual markers by a non-fictional group a case of art predicting real life and then going on to shape it. It is an appropriately murky, shifting kind of cultural significance for a design object that represents both individual and movement, antifascism and violence, history and a resistance to repeating its mistakes.

TEXT BY

While Guy Fawkes masks have a long tradition, today’s ubiquitous design object comes from the stylized face illustrator David Lloyd created for the 1980s graphic novel V for Vendetta.



Comfort Zone What is essential? How do we find comfort? These eternal questions have taken on a new urgency in 2020, as a pandemic confines millions to their homes. Essential work, essential design, essential things in life take precedence over the superfluous, the gratuitous, the unnecessary — a heightened essentialism that particularly applies to the way we dress. In this dramatically shifting world, the clothes of Issey Miyake seem uncannily prescient. As a young man, the Japanese-born designer developed his signature technology-driven textiles, updating traditional techniques to the demands of the times. It was a moment of material innovation but also philosophical evaluation, not unlike the one we find ourselves in now. There is a lasting beauty in this hard-won simplicity that resonates just as much today as it did in 1970, when Miyake Design Studio was first established. It’s the year 2020’s redefined desire for clarity and comfort that inspired photographer Rafik Greiss to conceive this portfolio entirely with Miyake-designed clothing. Shot in New York City at the peak of the pandemic, featuring garments from the Issey Miyake, Pleats Please, and Homme Plissé lines, these photographs reveal the artistry in the everyday. With his study of layers and folds, textures and volumes, Greiss reminds us that even in these strange times, we can find elegance in even the most mundane moments, as long as we maintain our sense of style.

PU–BOARD

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAFIK GREISS


All photograps by Rafik Greiss, featuring garments from the Issey Miyake, Pleats Please, and Homme PlissĂŠ lines, taken in downtown New York City, April 2020. Styled by Thistle Brown.


© Martin Eberle, Eberle & Eisfeld, Berlin. © Stefan Rettich

Berlin tenant group ExRotaprint converted a former factory into an affordable, collectivelyowned facility (pictured). They were able to acquire the 1959 raw concrete building on the

Speculation. Ground lease. Expropriation. Land tax. These words become key arrows in the lexical quiver of Architecture on Common Ground, a 392-page, image-spare volume edited by University of Luxembourg professor and architect Florian Hertweck. Subtitled Positions and Models on the Land Property Issue, the book explores ways to combat neoliberalism’s grim financialization of real estate, which the authors lament has become a game of “commercial exploitation roulette” accelerating tenants’ lack of access to affordable, dignified housing worldwide.

PU–BOARD separating land from building ownership through ground leases, or by levying taxes on private landowners. Common Ground’s secondary pro­ ject investigates the role that the architectural design of buildings might play in supporting these goals. It is easy to track Hertweck’s insistence throughout the book that architects are capable of encoding socially equitable use into the DNA of building forms. But Common Ground ’s tally of history suggests otherwise —  that despite the best efforts of socially-driven architects, their innovative designs are prone to swift appropriation by capitalist logics. The book indirectly demonstrates that clever archi­ tectural solutions alone will not save us. “Positions,” the book’s first sec-­ tion, features medium-length essays that range from the post-feudal origins of pri-­ vate property to tenant-led protests in 2019 Berlin which demanded the expropriation of land from monopolistic housing companies. Case studies on successful land-reform efforts offer shards of hope amidst a section that wearily rehearses the dark trajectory of the privatization of real estate, and waxes nostalgic for the heyday of European public housing in the 1920s. Because the populations in the book are overwhelmingly white, the section’s rosy vision of public housing also fails to acknowledge racist motives and policies (case in point: the U.S. expropriation of land under urban renewal robbed Black families of their homes and attendant intergenerational wealth, resulting in raciallysegregated public housing followed by preda-­ tory mortgage lending).

ends with “Urban Utopias” and “Urbanism and Architecture,” two easy-to-read sections that fly through a greatest-hits list of utopian proposals (the usual suspects — Ebenezer Howard, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright), summarizing how past architects have dreamed up anti-speculation, large-scale urban imaginaries. While Common Ground counters neoliberal real estate by offering up a number of maneuvers in statecraft and architectural design, the reader is left doubting the efficacy of technocratic solutions wielded by planners, politicians, and architects alone. Architect Christian Schöningh illustrates this well, pointing out that a number of existing German federal townplanning laws already offer alternatives to profit-driven development, but are left largely untapped due to political amnesia triggered by the “veritable brainwashing” of neoliberalism. Schöningh rightly points to housing as a political prob­lem, meaning that large-scale systemic change (that reaches deeper than exceptional hous­i ng cooperatives and community land trusts) must be driven by campaigns championed by the people. And here is where Common Ground performs best, by offering a narrowed list of options for what those popular demands should be.

BOOK CLUB TEXT BY SEB CHOE

House of Commons But, in a year where housing-justice advocates have called increasingly for the cancellation of rent and an end to evictions, where Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), New York’s Occupy City Hall, and other insurgent occupations have sprouted, and where demands for indigenous land acknowledgement and reparations for Black tenants are amplified, Common Ground is quietly revolutionary at best. In his introduction, Hertweck offers the disclaimer that the book is “not intended to be a polemic,” but to “develop various positions and options for action.” Neither of these points is totally true, as the book assails neoliberal housing logics essay after essay, and is decidedly Eurocen­ tric in its approach, both in regional scope and the identity of the book’s authors (all but one of the 35 contributors are white and European.) Despite this, Common Ground excels in its primary project of ramming home its main point: in order to provide affordable housing for all, we must abolish the current status quo where private landowners reap the majority of profits, as land and property values soar over time. Instead, a part of this accrued equity must fund social housing either by increasing municipal landownership,

“Models for the City,” the book’s next section, features a series of conversations with municipal European stakeholders (the most exciting chapter, surprisingly), putting the previous section’s philosophy to the test in the contemporary political realities of cities like Munich, Amsterdam, Basel, and London. Hertweck’s approach buys him a seat at the table with city officials, landowning non-profit foundations, and architects, so he can ask them: “What about expropriation? What about ground leases? Can architectural design make a difference?” In general, he is met with the response, “It’s more complicated than that.” This section provides a window into how these officials (who sympathize with Hertweck’s progressive housing goals) respond in real time to challenging brasstacks questions. Highlights include Stefan Rettich’s piece on Singapore, and Miguel Elosua and Françoise Ged’s essay on China —  the only non-European case-studies presented in the book. These two pieces elucidate how two Asian territories with immense state power have enacted land expropriation and massive public-housing construction, but also detail the corruption and authoritarianism that can come with such centralized power. The book

Construction started in 2005 on the Pinnacle@Duxton, a 50-story public-­ housing development in Singapore’s city center. When completed in 2009, it boasted two “sky gardens” atop its seven connected towers.


From discrete objects to speculative and large-scale systemic proposals, Designs for Different Futures brings together some 80 projects by designers, archi­ tects, and artists, exploring ethics and potentialities, alongside new technologies and their social con­ structions. Co-produced by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition considers how we as humans are entangled and our systems for living are interconnected. Currently on view at the Walker, the show “is not necessarily about predicting the future,” explains one of its curators, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor of the Art Institute. “We want to allow audiences to understand through design their personal and collective relationships to current complex issues, as well as to notions of the future.” PIN–UP spoke with Borjabad about the sprawling show’s many future-­ forward provocations, from data and surveillance techniques to bio-design and reproductive technology.

The exhibition Designs for Different Futures brings together 80 projects including Raising Robotic Natives (2016). The project by Stephan Bogner, Philipp Schmitt, and Jonas Voigt explores the inter-­ actions between children and robots.

Opposite Page: Architect Maite Borjabad López-Pastor is the co-curator of Designs for Different Futures, along with Kathryn B. Hiesinger, Michelle Millar Fisher, Emmet Byrne, and Zoë Ryan. Borjabad is currently the Neville Bryan Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago.

INTERVIEW BY SAMANTHA OZER PORTRAIT BY LAWRENCE AGYEI

© Stephan Bogner, Philipp Schmitt, and Jonas Voigt

Future Forecast

Opposite Page: Projects like Phoenix Exoskeleton (2011–17), developed by suitX founder Doctor Homayoon Kazerooni, are part of the myriad applications of robotics with explored in Designs for Different Futures.


© suitX; Photo by Jino Lee. © Lia Diagnostics

PU–BOARD SAMANTHA OZER Are there any specific goals that you had in mind for the exhibition? MAITE BORJABAD Through researching historical writings on the future, what became clear is that future thinking is a human condition. The exhibition is framed around issues situated within our contemporaneity but also transhistorical questions, which, when considered in the context of current technologies, take on new meanings. Importantly, design transforms these questions and helps us to identify and evaluate different ways of looking at them and understand that the future is not a given and is not singular. SO Do designers have ethical responsibilities with regard to new technologies? MB Absolutely. Ethical responsibility and the need for new ethical frameworks are intimately linked to issues of accessibility to both knowledge and technology. For example, Mary Maggic’s video Housewives Making Drugs [2017], which is based on the format of a TV cooking show, sees transfemme stars Maria and Maria teaching viewers how to whip up their hormones as a way to hack biosurveillance that is implemented by governments and corporations to control hor-­ monal treatments. Displayed alongside the video is a speculative toolkit with instructions and materials, all low-tech and DIY, for hacking estrogen. Maggic questions the channels of access to hormone usage and knowledge in our current healthcare system, which can be prohibitive and discriminatory towards transgender communities. The work offers a possibility for viewers to have agency over their hormonal treatments without giving their biological information and data to the state. It not only subverts the logic of surveillance but also articulates a kind of DIY hacking lab, a radically different cultural and political approach to biotechnology and bio-design. We need to develop ethical frameworks that recognize that scientific discourse

is not always as objective as it claims, but carries cultural and social constructions that need to be dismantled.

us to unpack these complexities and understand our connectivity and agency within that. A project that might seem small but is in fact revolutionary is the Lia p r e g n a n c y t e s t by Bethany Edwards and Anna CouturierSimpson, which came onto the market in 2018. From a design and intellectual standpoint, the at-home pregnancy test hasn’t been redeveloped since it was created in the 1960s. We often think about innovation in materials on the scale of buildings, but if we think about these material innovations and experiments for something small enough that can be as flushable and biodegradable as Lia, that is revolutionary too. The material is strong enough to withstand urine and give a result, while still having the ability to bio­ degrade and not damage the environment as classic plastic tests often do. The gesture is accessible, intimate, and offers political agency and privacy. Even the deliberately discreet packaging contributes to facilitating the encounter with the product in the public sphere and preserving the user’s privacy. SO This project is also exciting as it exposes potential gender gaps in priorities

SO We also need to understand that design is not neutral. MB Exactly. There’s also the cultural positioning of design within society and the implications of these tools. The limit is not the design, but how to insert the design innovation within the system for cultural understanding and acceptance. Andrew Pelling, Orkan Telhan, and Grace Knight’s Ourochef is a good example of this. Like many, they argue that we need a meat-free future due to the resources that meat production uses. However, they challenge designers who suggest that lab-grown or “clean” meat is less environmentally destructive than traditional methods of raising animals, since it still requires large amounts of fetal bovine serum for production. Instead, they propose a speculative “postclean-meat” future in which meat cells can be grown from human cells. From a recycling perspective, this is a perfect loop, but culturally it would be considered cannibalism. They imagine a f u t u r e in which you could be in Alaska and ask for Spanish cells, or you could cook the meat of your grandfather’s cells. In this instance, it’s not the technology that prevents implementation but rather the cultural s t i g m a t i z a t i o n and historical prejudices. These are obviously for relevant ethical reasons, but they do raise important considerations about how humans are fed. SO The exhibition also stresses the im-­ portance of examining how humans are entan-­ gled with these systems. How can we design for planetary health and for non-humans? MB It’s fundamental to understand the scale of each of us individually. So while the issue of resource management or planetary health feels beyond the level of the individual, there are projects in the exhibition that allow

A biodegradable pregnancy test designed by Philadelphia-based start-up Lia Diagnostics is an example of how Designs for Different Futures considers design’s impact on planetary health.

for design innovation. Considering these sorts of opportunities for designers as well as the discipline more broadly, are you more optimistic or pessimistic about the future? MB I’m pessimistic when considering the number of people with power who are investing in crisis technologies and who are more prepared to consider the end of the world than imagine or create a different world. But when I look at all the people represented in this exhibition and everyone that has made this exhibition happen, I cannot be anything but optimistic. A final goal for us was to offer future literacy and provide different visions for the future, and ways of deciphering how to gain agency over that. The visions repre-­ sented in the show demonstrate that practically, intellectually, and systemically, t h e r e are many alternative ways of living, and that


Brand Supremacy During the peak of racial-justice protests in early June, the graffitied, boarded-up windows of the Supreme store in SoHo, New York’s “premier” shopping district, were breached. According to coverage in the New York Post, protesters entered the skater mecca at 190 Bowery (a converted Beaux-Arts bank building once owned by artist Jay Maisel) through the stockroom, gaining instant access to whatever was left of Supreme’s most recent, pre-lockdown drop. Like rappers doling out free swag at a concert, would-be hypebeasts tossed T-shirts into the crowd. In video footage, the frenetic vibe appeared similar to any other Supreme drop — only this time the clothes were free, and no one had to camp out in a police-patrolled line to get their hands on a box logo.

Branded Maglite (above) and diamond-cut Zippo (left) are some of the items in Yukio Takahashi’s 1,300-piece collection of Supreme design objects auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2019. Not included: the checkered bench (pictured), a 2017 collaboration between Supreme and the Finnish design company Artek.

BOOK CLUB TEXT BY TAYLORE SCARABELLI


All images from Object Oriented by Byron Hawes, published by powerHouse Books. Bench courtesy of Artek.

PU–BOARD Since 1994, Supreme has created consumer hype from street culture, adorning skate decks, five-panel hats, and hoodies with their now-ubiquitous Barbara Kruger-borrowed logo (I shop, therefore I am, 1990). But it’s not only streetwear that the brand is known for. Over the past 25 years Supreme has sold everything from stickers, tool kits, and money guns to key knives and even blow-up chairs. These subcultural accessories (or objets d’art, depending on your perspective) are consistently bought, resold, and collected, but it’s only recently that almost every piece of Supreme paraphernalia has been catalogued in a new book by skater-adjacent writer and editor Byron Hawes — Object Oriented: An Anthology of Supreme Accessories from 1994–2018. The book is entirely based on collector and professional Supreme reseller Yukio Takahashi’s 1,300-piece collection, which has since been auctioned at Sotheby’s. Takahashi is a dedicated Supreme fan, and sees value in both collecting and utilizing his objects of lust (he uses a Supreme-branded hammer and measuring tape for home improvements). Yet, despite Takahashi’s insight into the Supreme hype-machine, Hawes hardly references him. Instead he utilizes Takahashi’s collection to refute what he sees as a misconception of Supreme accessories as hoardable trinkets, referring to them as part of a pantheon of “design objects” that deserve recognition, like Philippe Starck’s Juicy Salif citrus squeez­er, or a chair by Marcel Breuer (though he fails to mention Supreme’s collaboration with Artek in 2017). In a AAVE-filled all-caps essay (Hawes is white), the author posits the the-­ ory that Supreme’s design output is actually “a highly curated alt-design museum” that celebrates everyday objects, like Kryptonite bike locks, or Maglites, as well as accessories that define the brand’s “outlaw spirit” — like coffin-shaped pocket ashtrays and baseball bats for sports or smashing windows. Yet this sincere interpretation of the company’s intentions seems to miss the point: Supreme’s “outlaw” accessories were not created to institutionalize ashtrays and skate decks in the design canon, but rather to poke fun at the near-religious commodification of everyday objects in late-capitalist culture. Of course, this is obvious when considering Supreme’s infamous 30-dollar branded brick (currently selling on StockX for approximately 200 dollars), but it also extends to the company’s origins as a snobby skate shop with a logo that riffs on another artist’s capitalist critique. More significant is the way in which U.K.-born Supreme founder James Jebbia was able to harness the energy of the downtown New York skate scene into what many perceive to be a global luxury label, with collaborations ranging from skate decks designed by Damien Hirst to fanny packs created by Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton. It may be ironic to slap a Supreme logo on breathalyzers and handcuffs and see them resold for thousands of dollars on StockX. But when a brand is built on hype from skaters who view Maglites as police batons, not camping gear, one wonders why these

items are being produced in the first place, and who exactly they benefit. Skaters may still rock Supreme, but the commodifica­ tion of disobedience exemplified by the brand’s hard-to-come-by accessories suggests that they’re created for another, more suburban market. In an era of extreme inequality, mass protests, and a global pandemic, many brands are quick to capitalize on doomsdayinspired goods, and Supreme-branded sleeping bags, flasks, and pocket knives set a precedent. Like the go-bags of downtown creatives on six-figure salaries, Supreme’s overpriced accessories provide a superficial feeling of comfort. A backpack full of reflective blankets and astronaut ice cream prepares one for future war or natural disaster in the same way a Supreme-branded rolling tray in a penthouse apartment signals cultural clout for bachelors who don’t smoke. Objects, like religious totems, can offer solace — even when they’re not for us, or we don’t know how to use them. In a viral video of the SoHo store looting, protesters are seen ripping graffiticovered particle boards off of the 19th-century bank-turned-skate shop with bare hands. Later, someone smashes a window with a small hammer. It’s hard to tell whether or not there was a box logo on it, but I doubt there was.

Supreme accessories perfect for smashing windows like baseball bats (right) and the $30 brick (bottom), which now has a $200 resale value, exemplify how the brand has commodified civil disobedience, harnessing skate culture’s outlaw spirit to create its cult of merchandise.

OBJECT ORIENTED: AN ANTHOLOGY OF SUPREME ACCESSORIES FROM 1994–2018, BY BYRON HAWES (POWERHOUSE BOOKS, 2020)


Artist Akeem Smith is a scion of the House of Ouch, the Jamaican fashion force founded by his godmother Paula Ouch, who designed fearless looks for dancehall parties. No Gyal Can Test, the exhibition Smith recently put together for Red Bull Arts New York, archived the island’s dancehall community as he knew it growing up, showcasing photos and videos from the Ouch crew’s heyday in the late 1980s to the early aughts. But while the looks, videos, and music were impressive, it was the architecture that really stole the show: Smith packed up and reassembled the spaces that hosted these parties and transformed them into walk-in sculptures, using paint-chipped walls, doors, and ornate cast-iron window grills, all of which he shipped directly from Jamaica to Red Bull’s cavernous Chelsea location (the show is now traveling to Detroit). Given the scope, it may come as a surprise that the ambitious multi-floor exhibition was technically Smith’s art-world debut. For most of his career the 29 year old has been in fashion: as well as quietly consulting for some of the most important players in the industry and discreetly styling big-name celebrities, he has started his own line of womenswear, Section 8. But if No Gyal Can Test is any indication, Smith’s low-key days are over.

Treasure Island

FELIX BURRICHTER When did you start working on this show?

AKEEM SMITH Twelve years ago, when I was 17. I already had this idea for a show, but I didn't want to be an artist yet, at least not in a conventional way. The idea of the show came first, before figuring out my practice. I knew I had a bunch of great family photos and I thought people could get a view on what dancehall culture was about. I wanted to spread my knowledge without seeming like a cultural snitch. These days, it’s sort of hard to measure what should remain sacred and what should be informative. I think, with Caribbean cultural in general and dancehall specifically, it’s an oral-history culture. This show is formalizing it a bit, but not in a way that is too academic. It’s through art. And it’s through first-person narratives —  the people within the culture aren’t usually the people speaking. FB When you had the original idea for the show, was it coming from a feeling that the culture you grew up with had been misrepresented? AS I think prevention is better than cure. In general dancehall is about the music, the sound, and all that. But I also really wanted to understand the visual loudness and why people of color are always considered loud, both sonically and visually. And I also wanted to put more focus on the women, because the women were the nucleus of the parties, at least when I was growing up — it was their looks that really got the party going. The music is always there, but I was more interested in the anthropological aspect of it. This show is really for people in 2130 to see some sort of ancestry and familiarity. Sometimes we behave in certain ways and we don’t know why. I hope this project, in the future, can help people find answers within themselves. It could be someone’s grandmother at the club in 1985, and they’ve never seen that before.


All project photography exept portrait by Dario Lasagni. Courtesy the Akeem Smith and Red Bull Arts.

PU–BOARD FB Did you ever go to any of these par­ ties yourself?

FB Who were you most nervous about seeing the show, other than yourself?

AS I was too young to go, but I did have a birthday party once at a club my grandmother used to co-own. It was called La Roose, in Portmore. Another spot was White Lane Ballfield, where they used to have a bunch of parties in the street. There was no rivalry between venues or between parties. The rivalry was more in the looks and the crews. The first parties just happened in people’s backyards, and later they would evolve into other places. But they were all outdoor spaces because the sound system had to “boom.” Each DJ would bring their own sound system. People wanted to smoke and bust shots in the air, which is another reason to do it outdoors. Something that I really wanted to capture with the sculptures I made for the show is this in-between state: you could never tell if a place was like halfway done or halfway finished.

AS The people I’ve worked with, the original people that used to take the photos, the original video guys that used to film these events. There’s been like a weird trust in me, honestly. I think everyone really trusts me.

INTERVIEW BY FELIX BURRICHTER PORTRAIT BY CHRISTOPHER TOMAS SMITH

FB What are some of the elements that you use for your sculptures? AS In Jamaica there are a lot of things that people do to their homes to represent climbing the economic ladder, so to speak. Making a grill for your gate, for your windows, or for your veranda, is one of those things. It’s called “grilling your home.” We drove around in the neighborhood [of Kingston] where I was raised, Waterhouse. I’m a party animal at heart, and so for me it was just weird to see all these old bar spots not being used anymore. I decided to buy them and break them down and use them for the show. We went to Portland where I have family, and whatever we saw — whether it was for sale, or if it was left on the side of the road — we broke it down and brought it over in a big container. None of the venues and none of the parties exist anymore. I think some people moved to America. Or they might’ve gone to jail. FB Can you tell me about your collaboration with the artist Jessi Reaves for No Gyal Can Test ? AS We worked together on the sculptures. In the show, the sculptures act as sort of reliquaries to dance-hall culture in the sense that there’s jewelry and outfits that were worn at the parties, and some of the jewelry was made by Brando — he used to date my grandmother and make the jewelry for everyone back then. There are some originals that he did back in the day, and then there are some remakes that he did for us. I’m not even like a recycle person, but there’s something about... I’ll give you an example. Frankie Delessio, so his mom makes a tomato sauce, a marinara sauce, they’re Italian or whatever. Apparently, her mother-in-law made the best sauce, right, in this one jar. Ms. Carol hasn’t washed that jar since her mother-in-law passed. She just puts new sauce in it. And since she hasn’t washed it, the essence or whatever, some particle of her mother-in-law’s sauce, is in there, you know? That’s sort of like how I make my sculptures, it starts from somewhere. It’ll start from a specific object that I find at these spaces, in these communities.

A vintage photograph from Akeem Smith’s exhibition No Gyal Can Test, the artist’s personal tribute to Jamaican dancehall culture through architecture, fashion, music, photographs, sculpture, and video.

Akeem Smith transformed the gallery at Red Bull Arts New York with sculptural installations repurposing architectural elements shipped from Jamaica. Pictured: Sugar Minott (2020); mixed media.

An archival video is framed by two outsized AV sculptures that evoke the booms used during outdoor dancehall parties in Jamaica. Memory (2020);


The politicization of the human body is physically manifested in our built environment. Issues of accessibility, gendered space, and healthcare, speak volumes about what bodies are valued in this country, and how this value is expressed through architecture. PIN–UP presents four case studies. ANTI-HOMELESS ARCHITECTURE The decision whether to spend time in public space this year is dizzyingly complex: the danger of being out in a crowd during an airborne pandemic versus the mental-health ramifications of extended isolation; the threat of contagion versus the equally mortal threat of allowing police violence to continue unprotested; the possible exposure of restaurant and bar workers to infection versus the industry’s possible mass extinction if nobody patronizes them. For those experiencing homelessness, these decisions are moot — public space is the only housing society offers them. This makes innovations in what’s known as “hostile architecture” especially dispiriting. Strips of metal teeth line low walls across cities, ensuring that the unhoused (or anyone else) cannot rest upon them. Public plazas boast bolts on windowsills, and rows of spikes adorn ledges (pictured). What seating exists is often at an awkward pitch, and benches are carved into measly chunks, barely wide enough to function. Unsatisfied with chasing the unhoused — who tend to be disproportionately Black, Latinx, transgender, and queer — the residents of L.A.’s Reynier Village, decided to become amateur hostile designers themselves: during a record-breaking heatwave and ongoing pandemic, they filled an underpass where several locals had lived with boulders, achieving an ugly combination of NIMBY and DIY.

HEALTHCARE-CLINIC GUIDELINES Forced-birth activists across the United States fight against reproductive autonomy with legal proceedings, intimidation, and even violence. Recently they’ve found a new tool in architecture. Targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) seeks to reclassify healthcare clinics like Planned Parenthood (their Bixby Health Center in Los Angeles pictured) as ambulatory surgical centers, a change of identity that mandates pricy, complex, and medically unnecessary alterations of anything from the width of the hallway (to accommodate gurneys which are vanishingly necessary for abortion services) to HVAC systems and colors for paint. The Supreme Court has struck down a pair of TRAP laws, for now, but the weaponization of building codes and shuttering of facilities nationwide warns us that, at the moment, the built environment is increasingly unhealthy.

TEXT BY JESSE DORRIS PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL TERNA


Hot Spots

PU–BOARD

GENDER-NEUTRAL BATHROOMS As the famous bathroom scene in Kenneth Anger’s 1947 Fireworks and Klymaxx’s 80s hit “Meeting in the Ladies Room” can attest, what goes on in the most private of public spaces can be both political and interpersonal (and fabulous). Bathrooms have been battlegrounds for gender, sexuality, and hygiene wars for millennia. In recent years, though, as transgender citizens and their allies work to dismantle roadblocks to their full participation in society, the very idea of what a bathroom should be has come into question. Should they, as the right would have it, be segregated spaces that at once reinforce the gender binary and “protect” cis women from “male” rapists? Or should they be structures that allow anyone, regardless of genitalia or expression, a place to fulfill the demands of bodily functions in relative peace? While we wait to see if courts and governments will affirm the basic dignity of people regardless of anatomy, architects and designers are working through how “male” (and “female”) urinals might commingle with stalls, or vanish entirely; whether sinks fare better in individual stalls or as troughs in zones removed from the action; and which graphic-design solutions will best direct the crowds. Fittingly, given the performative nature of gender itself, Performance Space New York solved the problem with a simple welcome sign (pictured), designed by artist Sarah Ortmeyer: “EVERYBODY.”

ACCESSIBILITY RAMPS It says something about the way America views its citizens with disabilities that it took a federal law — and several-hundred years —  to decide that, should one choose to construct a new building, most everyone in its community should actually be able to enter and access it. Thirty years on, the Americans with Disabilities Act has gone a distance to make the built environment a bit more accessible. All too often this has meant slapping a ramp onto some building’s back or side (not unlike the one pictured), though rightly-heralded projects like the elegant switchbacks of Weiss/Manfredi’s 2019 Robert W. Wilson Overlook in Brooklyn Botanic Garden offer proof, should one require any, that accessibility and aesthetics are not mutually exclusive. Real progress will come when we stop thinking about accessibility as an obstacle to architecture and see it instead as the reason architecture exists.


Three laser-cut fluorescent coins in the desert are part of the promotional material from Alice Bucknell’s speculative project E-Z Kryptobuild, a commentary on block-chain investment, tech-savior architecture, and apocalyptic narratives.

Krypto Keeper TEXT BY ALICE BUCKNELL AS TOLD TO DREW ZEIBA

London-based artist and writer Alice Bucknell has a technoporn vision of the future, a series of starchitectdesigned start-up utopias that include floating innova­tion incubators at sea and AI-powered parametric wonders in the Emirati desert. These alternate realities could be yours, if you’re willing to bet a whole lot in cryptocurrency — or so goes the narrative of E-Z Kryptobuild, Bucknell’s fictional fraudulent company, which sells escapist delusions to the highest bidder. For PIN–UP, Bucknell explained the real-life inspirations behind her speculative dystopian fantasy, which, through videos, sculptures, and installations, challenges the false promises of the architechnological revolution.

“In the past five to ten years there’s been increasing interest in the apocalypse, and we’ve tended to see it as this Hollywoodgrade, super-seductive, super-satisfying obliteration. But maybe the apocalypse is not this cinematic moment, it’s not an asteroid hitting the Earth. Instead it’s a steady rise in alt-right thinking and fascist regimes seizing power across the world, or one more fire than last year, one more hurricane than last year, or the global economy consistently being unstable. This growing feeling of fear and escapism has been compacted into one, and I’m really interested in how contemporary architects take that cultural mood and translate it into physical architecture or proposals for future buildings. E-Z Kryptobuild is a multimedia project. It’s predominantly video, but it’s also sculptural and environmental. The sculptures are these coins, which, if you follow the narrative, are basically the investment tool. The company’s proposition is that it’s an amazing design sweepstake that will get you to utopia, and that they’ve teamed up with the world’s leading architects to design these incredible architectural utopias. Some of them are in the sea — floating islands, like seasteads. Others are in the desert. A celebrity architect ostensibly designed each one, so the narrative goes, and if you buy a coin, your investment capital gets put into E-Z Kryptobuild ’s blockchain network. That’s not true. The entire thing is basically a Ponzi scheme for libertarians. I wanted to reference different ideas and trends that I had been witnessing. For instance Zaha Hadid Architects’ headquarters


PU–BOARD for the environmental and waste-­management company Bee’ah, which are being built just outside the city of Sharjah, in the emirate of the same name. It’s going to be the first AIpowered building in the Gulf. For the ZHA team, the project has this mythical status, because it’s the last building Zaha designed before she died in 2016. During my tour, everyone from ZHA and from EVOTEQ, Bee’ah’s tech branch, spoke about the building with this reverential feeling, their voices dropping to a whisper. They also talked about artificial intelligence and carbon-neutral buildings as being the future and the solution for all the problems that we find ourselves in right now. I’m really interested in the tech-savior complex in architecture, or the idea that one more green roof can stop climate change. My version imagines Zaha being resurrected and literally

sublimated into her building, as if she were the AI — her phantasmal presence the thing turning off all the lights, and regulating the temperature, and making your coffee before you arrive. Another proposal is Blue Pod. It’s partially based on a company established about ten years ago, which got seed funding but never came to fruition. The idea was for a giant cruise ship floating in international waters near Silicon Valley as a space for visafree innovation. You’d get to go into Silicon Valley once a day, but no more, to make pitches to different investors. I blended this narrative with the Apple campus, the supericonic circular Foster building, and also Bjarke Ingels’s Oceanix City, his concept for a cluster of artificial islands resistant to rising sea levels and extreme weather.

I was really interested in riffing on different trends or legacies in architectural history, such as New Urbanism or the garden-city movement here in the U.K. Or Para­ metri-­ cism, which is technology porn materialized. These architects think of themselves as revolutionary — they believe that every new tech campus that gets produced, every new Apple Campus, every new Googleplex is some­ thing no one’s ever done before. The reality is that these projects aren’t so far from the corporate glass boxes of the 60s and 70s. They might represent a new spin on them, but I really feel the idea of revolution in architecture is pretty delusional.”

Architecture models in EZ-Kryptobuild ’s 3D-animated videos illustrating the fictional company’s marketing suite suggest how fantasy and false promises collide in luxury real-estate advertising.

A utopia designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Sir Norman Foster is one of the baits offered by Alice Bucknell’s fictional speculative project E-Z Kryptobuild.

An inevitable Kardashian-Jenner cameo in the marketing material for E-Z Kryptobuild, a multimedia-artwork-cum-­ fictional-Ponzi-scheme, exposing an escapist real-estate scam targeting the über-wealthy.

Seasteads are floating autonomous settlements, a popular fantasy among libertarian billionaires. They are some of the starchitect-designed utopias that E-Z Kryptobuild promises its users.

Another important imaginary feature of E-Z Kryptobuild is Nütropix, a group of floating islands offering escape from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even the late Dame Zaha Hadid is resurrected as a deepfake for Alice Bucknell’s E-Z fantasy, haunting an AI-powered building she designed in the UAE.


FELIX BURRICHTER You started working in the family company in 1989. You left in 2019. How has the design industry changed during those 30 years?

Design Oracle

When, in April 2019, Piero Gandini abruptly walked away from his position as president of FLOS, the design world was aghast. He had become something of a ringleader in the tightknit Milan design scene, not least because he turned the design company inherited from his father from a successful medium-sized business into a 300-million-dollar design powerhouse. FLOS had long been a home for avant-garde talent (Italian bigshots like Mario Bellini, the Castiglioni brothers, and Tobia Scarpa come to mind), and Gandini Jr. continued to welcome innovation, giving some of today’s most sought-after designers their first commercial break —  Starck, Urquiola, Anastassiades, Grcic, and, more recently, Formafantasma, to name but a few. He also paved the way for what is now Design Holding, the joint venture that includes FLOS, B&B Italia, and Danish lighting manufacturer Louis Poulsen. When he stepped down, he also left behind an increasingly corporate design industry environment that he himself helped create. Relieved from the grind of running a multimillion-dollar company, Gandini struck an upbeat yet reflective tone when PIN–UP asked him to philosophize about the past, the present, and the possible future.

PIERO GANDINI My generation was a very privileged generation. We were fully free in a certain sense. We didn’t live through a war. We didn’t live through a big economic crisis, especially in Italy. The country was growing like crazy. It’s a beautiful country with a lot of culture, and most of the economic dynamics were driven by the family, and by family companies like FLOS. So it was a kind of world that was very open and at the same time it felt safe. And because it felt safe, it gave us the feeling that everything was possible, it gave us the ability to take risks. Today the world is much more complicated, much faster, but also much more open-minded. The new possibilities for creativity and interacting with people are enormous. I hope the Italian design world will take some chances to remain a game changer, and not rest too much on its market leadership laurels. I hope they won’t remain in this comfortable bed they’ve made for themselves, because that is very risky, in my opinion. It is not innovative. FB You’re talking about risk-taking versus complacency? PG What is risky? If we set off in a boat towards the horizon it’s risky, but we are probably looking for something new. If you’re lucky, you find a new land. If you always stay in your room, it doesn’t look risky, but it is because you don’t see what’s happening. While others discover new land you're still stuck in your room. When the Italian design boom began, in the 1950s, and for many years afterwards, the home was the social epicenter for everybody. After all the trauma and destruction of the war, to finally have a house, to have a sense of comfort, and to have safety and a family was central. And there was an industrial revolution, new technologies, so the way you were producing a chair, a lamp, or a sofa was revolutionary and inspiring social progress. It was redesigning the way people were living every day. Today, society centers on many other things: communication technology, technology that has a tremendous impact on how people live and interact. What’s happening with the home continues to be important, but it’s not what captures the imagination of people everyday. So now what do you do? Don’t tell me that your most important concern is your new sofa for the next Milan fair presented in a super slinky picture of a bourgeois apartment at a moment when — Covid tragedy apart — economic inequality and pollution are growing like never before. Because at that point, Enzo Mari will kick your ass and Achille Castiglioni will roll over in his grave. I knew all of those guys. Even the less radical ones, like Vico Magistretti, who was a very elegant designer. He would find today’s attitude in the design world pretty decadent. FB Do you think this neo-bourgeois aesthetic is related to a general sense of uncertainty in the world and a longing for a


PU–BOARD certain status that actually very few can afford anymore? People just want to feel safe, cushioned, pretty, and rich?

FB What is your advice to young designers working with companies that may not share these values?

PG Maybe. But we have to avoid being bourgeois. The phenomenon of 20th-century design in general and the Italian post-war era in particular was driven by the utopian idea of bringing nice things to everybody, not for just for a few, very select people. It was the absolute opposite of that. Of course big social problems always existed and design always has just produced home objects, but my personal feeling is that the sense of participation to the big dynamics in the world was much stronger before. It seems to me that the sense of participation is no longer the first priority; it comes way after the color selection for the sofa or the right picture for social media. I know that it’s safe. I know that is the way we make money. I know most expensive houses are in a certain sense bourgeois by definition. But we have to avoid doing that, because if we don’t become militant again we will be not ready for what’s coming. There needs to be another supercreative movement in design, especially in Italy.

PG Escape. Find the company that supports you. I know that life is tough. I know you have to pay your bills, and that making some concessions is part of life. But, as a designer, never sell your vision. Don’t do it. It doesn’t help. It’s like when you spoil a kid. It’s easier, but the kid will be weaker over time because he’s just a spoiled guy. So it’s tougher to educate the client. Of course, it’s much tougher to resist the money, but in the end you will be much stronger.

FB But how do you even foster new talent in an era of corporate conglomerates? PG Keep your eyes open. Keep your heart open. Studio Formafantasma, for example: I visited them years ago, they were incredibly young and talented. We agreed to wait some time, but then their first industrial project was with FLOS. I found Michael Anastassiades because I saw one of his self-made pieces pieces hanging in the back of a gallery in New York. If you want to do it all by scrolling on Instagram, forget about it. I don’t believe in that. I’m a very emphatic person. I’m crazy about details, so I always want to go where a designer lives. To me, the way they put their shoes on the floor tells you something about the designer. What kind of art they have, or don’t have, or the food they cook, or where they live. I don’t have a standard they have to meet, but I care if there is an identity, a strong identity. You can perceive much better if you are in their world. I strongly believe in values, but also in blood, in vibes, in personal vibes, sharing things. FB Is that why you were known to ask designers to sign exclusivity agreements? PG Yes. Because if you share such an adventure, such a radical attitude, you have to put everything you have on the table. I offered the possibility of trying, the possibility of making mistakes. My team and I were always there, ready to try, to invest, to see, to discuss. Then there could be a no at the end of the process, but it would never be a conservative attitude. Sometimes you spend years trying without a result. With Japser [Morrisson] we spent four years working together before the first light came out. The point is that in every company, in every human activity, but especially in design, if the creative energy isn’t pure and wild you’re no longer an avant-garde company. That’s the only reason we’re out there, to create something the other kind of animals cannot create.

FB So if you were in your 20s today, would you start a design company? PG

Yes.

FB

A lighting company?

PG Oh, even a furnishing one! But I prefer accessories because they’re more flexible, and you’re not obliged to create this vocabulary of interior styling — you can go straight to the product. That gives a much more radical potential than something like a shelf system or a sofa. And they’re better for e-commerce. I’m not saying that the Internet is the solution, because the Internet is a big mess and it also creates a lot of problems. But, back in the 1970s, or 80s, even if you had a fabulous product, the biggest problem you had was distribution. It’s still a big problem

INTERVIEW BY FELIX BURRICHTER PORTRAITS BY JOSEP FONTI

today, but now you can play lots of parallel games. The way you sell, the way you communicate with journalists, with clients … So if you’re 28 and you ask me if you should start a furniture company, I say, yes! The potential is there. But you have to have a radical vision and approach. You can’t be too smooth. I don’t believe in a smooth approach, I believe in smart approach. You can be very smart in the way you present a radical approach. Today there is too much smoothness. FB So what kind of company are you planning for the future? PG Good question. I want to find a way where my participation and contribution is less comfortable for me. I fought very hard to do what I did. And there were some things that were not given. But I always swam in my pool. There were times when the water was too cold, or too hot, or there were too many people in the pool, or the water level was down. But it was always my pool. Now is the time to find another pool, a different shape, different water. FB So you have the itch to come out of retirement? PG I always had two dreams in my life. One was to produce a movie, and the other was to have a nightclub. So let’s see. In Italian we say l’occasione fa l’uomo ladro — opportunity makes the thief.


PHILIPPE Industrial Office Sideboard, 2019 Nylon. Available through Salon 94, New York.

Mollo armchair, 2014 High-density foam, stretch velvet. Available through Established & Sons.


PORTFOLIO

The French Canadian designer’s quiet revolution introduces a seductive shift in contemporary aesthetics

Typecast chair, 2013 Powder coated aluminum. Originally designed in 2013, a four-legged version made of maple wood is available through Matter Made.

Offset coffee table, 2017 Oak wood. Available through SCP.

Dunes plates, 2013 Fine bone china, biscuit exterior, glazed interior. Available through 1882 Ltd.


Kuru bowl, 2019 Moss-green ceramic. Available through Iittala.

Lines rugs, 2020 Dip-dyed, hand-woven Himalayan wool. Available through CC Tapis.

Group armchair, 2018 Solid beech, birch plywood, feather, foam. Available through SCP.

Industrial Office Telephone, 2019 Nylon. Available through Salon 94, New York.


MALOUIN Ace stool, 2015 Birch wood. Originally designed for the Ace Hotel, London. Available through Philippe Malouin Studio.

Alexander Street lounge chair and footstool, 2019 Perforated leather, steel. Available through Man of Parts.

Yachiyo rug, 2013 Metal tapestry handmade with a Japanese chainmail technique galvanized steel wire rings. Available through

Industrial Office bench, 2019 Steel, textured polyurethane coating. Available through Salon 94, New York.

Turntables, 2017 Rotating nylon ball-bearing tables. Originally created for the exhibition Free Play at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, curated by Alexandra Cunningham Cameron. Available through Salon 94, New York.


Eclipse sconce light, 2015 Glass, aluminum, brass, LED. Available through Roll &
Hill.

Alvin mobile, 2010 Ashwood, rope. Available through Philippe Malouin Studio.

Core pavilion, 2017 Poured concrete. Originally created for the Superbenches project in Järfälla, Sweden, curated by Felix Burrichter and Andreas Angelidakis. Available through Salon 94, New York.

Lift stool, 2020 Hand thrown terracotta. Available through SCP.


MALOUIN Arca chandelier, 2017 Satin blackened brass, blown opal glass, LED. Available through Matter Made.

Connection ashtray, 2017 3D printed steel. Available through OTHR.

Chamfer collection, 2016 Blown glass. Originally available through Nude Glass.

Arca light, 2017 Satin blackened brass, blown opal glass, LED. Available through Matter Made.

DS-707 sofa, 2020

1 to 4 bowls, 2011 Pigmented concrete, waxed and polished. Available through Philippe Malouin Studio.


Press mirror, 2017 Flattened and polished steel tube. Available through Umbra Shift.

Pole light, 2018 Aluminum, steel, silicone, LED. Available through Roll &
Hill.

Core stool, 2018 Poured concrete. Available through Salon 94, New York.


MALOUIN In a recent exhibition at the historic Eliot Noyes House in New Canaan, Connecticut, Philippe Malouin’s 2019 nylon Telephone sat next to Eliot Noyes’s 1961 IBM Selectric typewriter. The setup was part of an intervention by art and design showcase Object & Thing, whose organizers filled the mid-century landmark building with works by the likes of Lynda Benglis, Sonia Gomes, and Pablo Limón. Both Noyes’s Selectric and Malouin’s Telephone adapt classic products — but where one was dynamic, the other is more contemplative. The speed and agility of Noyes’s typewriter revolutionized communication, making it a jewel in the designer’s progressive corporate branding program at IBM. Malouin’s Telephone , on the other hand, is a vibrant cube resembling an industrial blank of a 1960s pushbutton phone, a result of his collaboration with a nylon factory to pro­duce a series of kinetic furniture pieces. Telephone’s angular familiarity triggers and subverts the desperate nostalgia of our contemporary moment — an urge to return to a hoodwinked Western normalcy in which a push-button might be relevant in a universe of mobile communication. Many of Malouin’s objects are like this: once you’ve been seduced by their immediate surface appeal, you find that they open up to discourses of form, process, material, labor, and culture. Born in Laval, Québec, in 1980 Malouin, who founded his independent practice in London eleven years ago, identifies primarily as an industrial designer. But the confrontation between his Telephone and the Selectric puts the designer’s practice in sharp relief with 20th century titans like Noyes. Malouin began his design education in the early 2000s in the experimental realm, graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven during the reign of Li Edelkoort, the school’s Dutch chair who encouraged students to work like Rauschenberg in their studios, fostering an atmosphere of artistic independence from industry. But

rather than speculate autonomously like many of his peers, Malouin worked hard to leverage his talent and the privilege of his education into a consciously multi-disciplinary career that has seen him collaborate across industry, public commissions, and the collectible market. In projects that range in scale from sleek home objects to voluminous furniture to towering pavilions, he has massaged materials from porcelain to down and has alchemized pipes, dowels, and wire rings into durable complements for contemporary interiors, his goal being always to innovate while remaining sensitive to the user. Malouin’s dedication has yielded one of the most prolific hybrid practices of his generation. He demands rigor while maintaining an element of play — a turning tabletop, a minor lightbulb atop a massive chandelier, a butt crack in the seat of a fleshy leather sofa. Malouin is the type of designer whose work advances a brand, a factory, a gallery, a street, not because “capitalism rewards invention” — a rallying cry for Noyes’s generation — but through an essential humanism communicated by the force of his care and vision.

Puffer armchair and footstool, 2020 Solid beech, hessian, rubberized hair, needled wool, pure feather pads. Available through SCP.

TEXT BY ALEXANDRA CUNNINGHAM CAMERON


COUNTER INTELLIGENCE How Hong Kongers resisted China’s security crackdown through elusive urban interventions

TEXT BY MING LIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY HARRY CHAN

When protesters used hand-held laser pointers to confuse police offers and scramble facial recognition cameras, Hong Kong police responded by claiming that laser pointers were “offensive weapons” capable of burning through paper. To refute these claims, protesters staged a demonstration where hundreds of laser beams converged on a sheet of paper, which did not catch on fire.

In Hong Kong, humidity conjures a constant state of euphoric entropy. Across the city, the pastel façades of public-housing estates exhibit balding sheaths of tile (a material initially designed to withstand moisture), while lengthy concrete walls demarcating private property evidence repeated attempts to conceal incursions by the elements. Walking down any given street, a perpetual sweat drips from air conditioners, rooftops, and along alleyways, uniting the landscape with a subtle pulse. At the foot of skyscrapers housing the world’s most powerful investment banks, small gaps in the sidewalk make way for weeds. Despite its increasingly prosthetic skyline jutting ever further up and out into the harbor, one gets the feeling the city could be swallowed by nature whole. But Hong Kong has always been a space of con­ tradictions, simultaneities, and simulations. In the years preceding the 1997 handover, the cultural theorist Ackbar Abbas characterized the city with the melancholic term “déjà disparu” — already disappeared. By this he was referring to a form of cultural production in overdrive, of a society already anticipating and indeed propelled forward by its own death. Under British rule, Hong Kong citizens had been given little space to conceive of themselves as anything but the subjects of empire, a condition of subordination under which one might flourish by following the


ESSAY rules. Maritime history and lore allege that, prior to Western colonization, the subtropical island mostly played host to pirates, as a stomping ground where loot, including invaluable incense trees, was stockpiled and stored, giving the city its present nickname of “fragrant harbor.” Based on this, it is possible that a Hong Kong identity has long been best defined by transience, fugitivity, and elusiveness, perhaps taking more direction from the shifting currents of the sea than the fixed coordinates of land. In short, a singular identity or notion of sovereignty preceding foreign takeover perhaps never really existed. As the writer Dung Kai-cheung has supposed, the truth may indeed be that “Hong Kong was created by the British from scratch.” Thus, the “return” to the so-called “motherland,” a newly realized subjecthood, as Abbas noted, was followed by an almost immediate longing for a newfound identity too soon eclipsed. For their own benefit, the British had rigged Hong Kong with the financial instruments and industrial tools necessary for effective capital extraction, lending the city juridical and technological primacy over the vast mainland, whose citizens, at the time of handover, had only just been released from the harshest restrictions of communist rule. The resulting temporal dissonance, of a culture experiencing simultaneous revelation and loss, mediated through advanced tools of acceleration, registered narratively in films, art, and architecture, often with a Hong Kong identity witnessed only as brief flashes, nostalgic reflections, or ghostly apparitions. If Hong Kong’s identity is a ghost, then the events that have transpired since 1997 can be read as its extended eulogy. Under the flimsy “one country, two systems” mandate, the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China was supposed to give the island relative self-­ governance for a period of 50 years. But a series of encroachments by mainland-Chinese authorities has demonstrated only piecemeal regard to this agreement, revealing that this was probably always a bum deal to begin with — designed to buy time before the inevitable consumption of the periphery by the metropole. These encroachments include attempts to overhaul school curriculums to defer to a mainland-Chinese version of history, the imposition of border-patrol guards to be stationed within city limits (on account of a high-speed rail line from Hong Kong to China slicing through the land at the expense of displaced farmers and villagers), and the requirement that all political candidates be vetted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Death of education, death of free movement, death of democracy.

Despite its protracted death, the spirit of Hong Kong resurfaces exuberantly in the inhabiting of many bodies. Under its special status, the SAR has long been considered a bastion of human rights and civil liberties, exercising relative freedom of speech in contrast to the stringent censorship policies enforced on the mainland. In 2011, buoyed by the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S. and the Middle East’s Arab Spring, protests against economic

The blank sign is a tactic for protestors to protect themselves against China’s increasing crackdown on government dissent. While the proposed extradition bill which sparked mass protests in March 2019 was shelved, related legislation passed this past summer. The new national security law gives China the power to label pro-democracy slogans as sedition or terrorism.

inequality in the region erupted as a spectacular constellation of tents and mutual aid spread out in the hull of the HSBC’s Asian headquarters. Exceedingly limited public space gives protests a unique form, with unrest o f t e n proliferating within the confines of private property, or parasiting “semi-public” spaces, becoming diffuse in formation. Last year, in a further attempt by the CCP regime to tighten its hold over the SAR, a new extradition law (the previous one had been shelved) proposed subjecting Hong Kong citizens to the same penal code as mainland Chinese, threatening that, no matter where Hong Kongers might be, they could be extradited to the mainland for indeterminate breaches of statute. The subtext of this bill’s passing would be that Hong Kong citizens are no longer


any different than their mainland counterparts. Opposing the ever-more-invasive policies that seek to shape the social and political landscape, protestors have taken to elevated walkways, parks, streets, and shopping malls, altering them in various ways, with the words of Hong Konger and world-renowned martial artist Bruce Lee — “be like water” — sounding as a rallying cry, a death-defying mantra, and a practical set of tactics. Being like water calls for being formless and adaptable, discreet as well as life-giving. Protestors have used handheld laser pointers to scramble police facial-recognition technology and confuse officers. Last August, in an at­tempt to curb subversive activity, the force circulated a video warning that the use of laser pointers could damage policemen’s eyes and potentially cause fire. In response, hundreds gathered at the harbor in front of the Hong Kong Space Museum, casting small beams of light onto the building’s domed façade. During this protest-rave, a constellation of laser points converged onto a single sheet of blank paper held up by one protestor, which failed to catch light. The spectacle demonstrated the absurdity of police claims with respect to safety infringements while simultaneously creating a new pattern of resistance: an illuminated pointillist surface exhibiting the power of simultaneous

The protest movement in Hong Kong has found a guiding principle in the late actor and martial artist Bruce Lee’s famous quote: “Be like water.” The words are inspirational for protesters who are seeking to evade arrest by striving to keep their guerilla-style tactics spontaneous, flexible, and constantly adaptive, “formless, shapeless, like water.”

joining together and dispersion. Being like water calls for flexibility and adaptability, as a method for gathering momentum as well as a mode of navigation of, and refusal to conform to, government control and suppression. Departing from previous modes of protest that aim to stall, obstruct, or withhold, protest­ ing like water can instead be seen as harking back to Hong Kong’s legacy as a logistics and transportation hub —  a method that resorts to rerouting and occasionally to deliberate short-circuiting. Other dispersed tactics that have emerged include a special sign language developed to let fellow protestors know what the next action might be or where supplies are in demand. On the ground, the impromptu movement of plastic blockades, and of what looked like miniature Stonehenges fashioned out of bricks scattered across the streets, have been deployed in an attempt to derail law-enforcement vehicles. On the web, where government intervention is increasingly rampant —  mainland-perpetrated cyber-attacks effectively clog digital space, impeding users’ ability to send messages via platforms — airdropped messages have become a means of circumventing blocked communications. In July this year, in response to increasingly amorphous dissent, the Chinese government announced a sweeping new national security law whose provisions are so ambiguously worded that any civilian expression of discontent could potentially be interpreted as an act of terrorism. In light of this and the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, collective action across the city has once again, for the time being, dissipated, leaving in its place an obscure set of traces that include broken fences, the palimpsests of erased graffiti, and small clusters of blank post-it notes. Devoid of meaning to the uninitiated, this set of hieroglyphs remains significant for those who have been fighting and have out of necessity become literate in the redacted and censored. Some with the privilege to dream fantasize of escape to other citizenships, or even of setting up physically remote other-island enclaves. In doing so, they return to an originary fugitive, and speculative, mode of being a Hong Konger — adaptable, oriented beyond fixed definition, land, or borders — that a situation of dispossession and oppression demands.

Ming Lin is a writer, researcher, and archivist principally involved with experimental retail collective Display Distribute (Hong Kong, 2014–present). Her writing has appeared in LEAP, Spike, Frieze, ArtReview Asia, ArtAsiaPacific, Asia Art Archive, The New Inquiry, and others.


HONG KONG PANORAMA

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong created roadblocks to slow police vehicles, stacking bricks in configurations they dubbed “mini Stonehenges.� In some instances, protesters have plastered these bricks to the ground with wet concrete for maximum tire damage. These rapid reconfigurations to the urban landscape allow protestors to reclaim some political autonomy as China cracks down on civil liberties.

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GET SMART Will 5G-powered cities mean more intelligent design or just a data dump?

TEXT BY DREW ZEIBA


Welcome to the fourth industrial revolution. So say countless press releases, industry-­ conference titles, and headlines in publications like Wired and Forbes. If we buy into the hype, 5G, shorthand for the fifth gen­eration of network technology, will change how we live. It represents a leap in the rate at which data can be sent — up to 100 times faster than the 4G we’re familiar with, some claim — bolstering our ability to stay connected while increasing the number of devices a network can handle. Architects and urban designers are most excited about how this tech will enable smart buildings and smart cities with unprecedented wireless sensing and automation. Architecture’s 5G acolytes hope new high-speed networks will usher in a highly efficient data-driven utopia that empowers citizens with digital access and creates opportunities for AI-powered personalization. But we might also imagine that future smart cities could increase corporate and state surveillance while flattening the opportunities and idiosyncrasies of urban life in the name of optimization. The clunkily-named Internet of Things (IoT) has been on the forefront of futurists’ minds since its coinage in 1999, and arguably before. With IoT, every conceivable object has data-collection capabilities embedded into it and is part of a network. We see this to some extent already. It’s not just our phones and laptops, but our televisions, our LED light bulbs, our Amazon Echos, our Nest door cameras, our home climate-­control systems, and our fridges with screens that give you coupons for yogurt when you’re running low. Mass connectivity, however, is hard for 4G, the generation of network technology that was a massive enabler of our always-on smartphone lives. Current networks can only handle so many connections, and can only distribute information so fast. Similarly, their latency, or the lag in the amount of time it takes for information or instructions to travel between two devices, can still be too high for applications that demand near real-time responsiveness, like autonomous cars or robotic surgery. To make possible a largescale use of IoT — the enabl­ing technology behind smart cities — a new, faster network is needed. A lot of what 5G-powered IoT systems promise seems especially desirable since Covid. An elevator you can call with facial recognition or a coffee you can order with your voice saves you from t o u c h i n g

potentially contaminated surfaces. Moreover, with its high connection speeds, 5G makes remote working easier, and could enable the mass urban-to-rural migration for which the pandemic has stoked demand. So why are people around the world setting 5G towers on fire? In disinformation cesspools like Reddit forums, 5G conspiracy theories have been proliferating. Some are truly wild, invoking a cast of apocalyptic ancient angels, while many of the comparably more down-to-earth suspicions focus on the coronavirus, alleging that 5G’s electromagnetic radiation has weakened our immune systems or induced our skin cells to produce the virus. On social media, celebrities such as John Cusack and Woody Harrelson have popularized conspiracies and concerns around 5G’s health impacts — some more general and focused on the perceived dangers of electromagnetic radiation. Thanks to activists, municipalities in the U.K. have blocked 5G projects, French Green Party councilors have loudly voiced their concern, while saboteurs have been attacking towers from Roermond in the Netherlands to Portland, Oregon. While the novel coronavirus seems to have triggered a tipping point, anti-5G anger has been bubbling online for years as countries race to rollout the infrastructure that supports it, thinking it will give them a global advantage. Governments have been investing heavily in Asia, parts of Europe  —  such as the Netherlands with their 5Groningen project —, and in the United States with trial cities in Silicon Valley, New Mexico, and outside Orlando. Kuwait has contracted a private-public Korean consortium to help develop its own 4-billion-dollar smart city. Large firms including Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), UNStudio, Foster + Partners, and BIG are betting on smart technology with projects across the globe that range from single buildings to campuses, urban-scale districts, and entire cities built ex nihilo. While the mainstream adaptation of some of this tech, such as self-driving cars, is a bit further off, many such nextgen smart processes are already getting underway. In January, BIG and Toyota announced a partnership to build a “woven city” at the base of Mount Fuji to serve as a testbed for various robotic, autonomousvehicle, and smart-home technologies. ZHA’s 2014 Wangjing SOHO claims, as of last year, to be the world’s first commercial development to have fully integrated 5G, while ZHA’s recently announced Shanghai Campus for the China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group will use 5G-powered IoT systems to regulate temperature, light, and air quality by tracking occupancy and flow patterns, noise, and other metrics. Smart cities such as the 1,500-acre Songdo International Business District outside of Seoul already have automated pneumatic waste systems, ubiquitous control panels, traffic-tracking operations, automated water management, and digitally-­managed parking. Rather than a huge number of disparate agencies, actors, and individuals, the city can be operated

ESSAY

by a central system, or rather, become that centralized, self-sustaining system. Though the idea that 5G is somehow causing the spread of Covid is baseless, there is genuine reason for concern. A very real implication of 5G — as with each previous generation of network and mobile technology — is that it will massively expand surveillance and tracking capacities. While architecture firms say they’re only after anonymized data of mass patterns, our cities are already bristling with cameras, licenseplate readers, gunshot alert systems, stingray cell-phone trackers, and other surveillance devices. New York has aerial and aquatic drones and X-ray vans, while Detroit has attempted to popularize its Project Green Light program, a network of cameras that private businesses install to send live feeds to the police. Emergency response is frequently cited as one of the principal benefits of smart cities. The pandemic has ushered in further tracing by tracking. Already, contracttracing apps and devices have become commonplace in China and Singapore, and companies like Apple and Google, as well as the policing- and spy-tech com­ pany Palantir, majority-owned by billionaire and conservative donor Peter Thiel, have begun devising their own tracking solutions. Better networks would certainly make things easier: imagine infrared cameras taking temperatures, phone-based location monitoring, and facial recognition being used to map contacts. It would be helpful for slowing virus spread — and helpful for following much more, too. Speaking this August to Bloomberg CityLab on the proliferation of LED smart-bulb street lamps, which are often packed with technological extras that go far beyond simple lighting, Chad Marlow, advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, stated, “I think, rather than call them smart bulbs in smart cities, I’d call them surveillance bulbs in surveillance cities.” In China, where the tech is most advanced, 350,000+ 5G relays have helped enable the massive expansion of a surveillance- and AI-powered police state that The New York Times has described as a project of “automated racism.” The article explains that “facial recognition technology, which is integrated into China’s rapidly expanding networks of surveillance cameras, looks exclusively for Uighurs based on their appearance and keeps records of their comings and goings for search and review.” Those who have been targeted by facial-recognition systems or by AI-run predictive policing or recidivism programs in the States would not be surprised —  automated racism here just features better branding. It is virtually unimaginable that you’d be able to keep your location secret, given that you barely can already with our 4G smartphones, a vulnerability that has been exploited in the U.S. during recent months of protests. This same data stolen by governments is sold to advertisers: the city, like our screens, could become an advertising platform. Even if one of the main appeals of smart cities is cost


efficiency, stakeholders — in many places private developers and corporations — will be looking to make a return on their investments. Governments, especially in the West, will likely be looking to maintain a u s t e r i t y , relying on these private companies or on private-public partnerships to realize new smart urban designs and to expand their watching abilities, as we have historically seen. A Columbia University computer scientist, Steve Bellovin, suggested to The Wall Street Journal in 2019 that insur-­ ance companies could be interested in the smart sensing tech, offering the speculative example that geolocating a phone near a cigarette-smoke-detecting air-­quality monitor could raise an individual’s premiums. As one architectural technology company CEO told me, “It’s going to get very Minority Report.” When you talk about emerging tech, people inevitably begin discussing reality by way of sci-fi films. Maybe it’s more comfortable to understand our present through the past’s versions of the future. Thinking, “We’re not quite there, we couldn’t be there,” is reassuring. Plus, reality is a lot messier, a lot weirder, and a lot more banal all at once. There’s a memejoke that we live in a Matrix-style simulation. And in a sense we increasingly do. It’s not that our spinal columns are plugged into some massive robotic infrastructure, but rather that simulations and models determine countless aspects of our daily lives, and, recursively, our behaviors are tracked en masse to feed those models. When you scroll on Instagram, or make discoveries on its “explore” page, you aren’t just seeing the posts of your friends organized as the app sees fit, but an algorith­ mically ordained structuring of reality, one that you then participate in. According to architects buying into networked and AIenabled buildings, this algorithmic management means that occupants might have more control and personalization than ever before. For example, smart furniture, which recognizes you through your phone or face, might automatically adjust to your presence. Temperature preferences could be tracked and dynamically managed. Ironically, privacy screens might pop up on their own. This sounds individualized, though it may prove otherwise. It’s become clear that personalization, as the tech industry (in which we might include ZHA) sees it, is a myth. As we are now aware, social media pushes us into loops of sameness that give the sheen of difference —  usually to get more info on us to reinforce this very system. Could our buildings and cities wind up much the same? Rather than being “adaptable,” big data can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and while evidence-based architecture and urban design certainly has merit, an uncritical commitment to the power of modeling, simulation, and purportedly empirical thinking flattens difference into an imagined sameness that is then built for, and in turn coerces difference to mold to. This is increasingly the case even in the initial

design: Sidewalk Labs (owned by Alphabet, aka Google — fundamentally an ad company) has been working to generate buildings and urban developments using algorithms and machine learning. We live in a simulation — or at any rate the product of one. The “smart city” as a concept misunderstands the function of the city. As anthropologist Shannon Mattern puts it, the city is not a computer. “Our current paradigm, the city as computer, appeals because it frames the messiness of urban life as programmable and subject to rational order,” she writes in Places. Nor is the brain a computer, as many computer scientists and philosophers of cognition would have you believe. The “smart” in smart city or smartphone, which may some day seem as archaic and corny a prefix as “ c y b e r , ” belies the unintelligence of many of these projects, while also obscuring the intelligence that is not being valued: that of improvisational street life, of cities that grow and mesh and fall apart over centuries, of urban messiness. This is not to say that we don’t need more efficient, sustainable cities. Cities are going to grow and must do so effec­tively. Necessary degrowth in response to the climate crisis in some sectors does not exclude efficient growth and change in others. Cities are going to get denser and hotter. There will be more waste, more feet on the ground, vehicles in the street. More air conditioner units bringing down warming temperatures inside. Our lifestyle could even facilitate more pandemics. If there isn’t an effective, coherent, and adaptive way to manage this growing scale and complexity, achieving already fragile standards of livability could become untenable. But, as we have seen repeatedly — in the case of inadequate healthcare, climate change, or other social ills — technology is often the end in itself. Silicon Valley solutionism does very little to address underlying social, political, and economic conditions that give rise to fundamental issues. Sure, we need more efficient and less costly ways to deal with transit and waste. Better energy management is crucial and could make cities more livable in the face of climate change, but turning the world into a sensor is hardly going to stop the warming of the planet, to say nothing of all the power and resource extraction that will go into that added tech. Mattern deftly argues that part of the notion of the so-called smart city harkens back to the idea of the city as a repository of knowledge, an archive of sorts. But the smart city sees the city not only as a site of information storage and — critically — management, but also as a system, one that can be unified, smoothed, optimized. The problem of optimization always begs the question of optimization for whom and on whose terms. The Brainport Smart District in Helmond, the Netherlands, a partnership between the eponymous foundation, UNSense (UNStudio’s tech spinoff), and developers, contractors, and others is less focused on technologizing everything,

and instead asks how data might be put in the hands of individual citizens to empower their decision making. Ren Yee, Head of Innovation Strategy and Forecasting at UNStudio, cites the benefits of Amsterdam’s urban dashboard. “Citizens right now have much much more agency and voice. They have an understanding and can learn from the data. We are able to say how we want to live.” This type of agency, as he sees it, is newly possible thanks to expanding tech platforms and data collection. “It’s participatory co-design. It’s going to change the way we build the city.” Though one thing it seems that various smart city diehards haven’t considered is that maybe it can’t. More information isn’t more knowledge. So what is the revolution if we already live in a world of sensing and surveillance and systems optimization? One aspect of this “fourth industrial revolution” is massive automation, which has the potential to restructure the way we relate to labor and its products — whether local, outsourced, or robotic. But another, related, theme is a perpetual move to a William Gibson-esque singularity, a world in which the boundary between digital and IRL, biological and non will be not increasingly fuzzy, but increasingly irrelevant. To look beyond the smart city, all its fraught potential for changes both good and bad, we must ask: is this the revolution we need? As I write this, the Western United States are on fire. Globally, a pandemic rages. Climate refugees are traveling the world to escape unlivable heat and rising seas and extreme storms. In response to this and many other factors, fascism and authoritarianism are on the rise. The mining for the metals that make high-tech devices possible, such as the lithium that powers them, produces terrible labor conditions and decimates ecologies. Do we need to become more online? Or is that horribly indulgent? Or just last-ditch escapism or even delusion? It doesn’t have to, but not infrequently the smart city doubles down on the worst features of 21st-century urban life: mass commercialization; architectural and experiential flatness; the eradication of anonymity and privacy; a false sense that one more piece of tech will stave off climate collapse. If the first industrial revolution spawned the reactionary Arts and Crafts design movement, might the fourth birth its own as well? One that asks how much more earth and air we must cede to a cultish dedication to digitizing everything? Will some committed utopians handcraft an urban landscape with nothing but landlines? I’m not sure I’d want to live there.

Drew Zeiba is PIN–UP’s associate editor. He also contributes to Architect’s Newspaper, Art Forum, DIS, Metropolis, and New York Magazine.


Image courtesy Douglas Cardinal Architect

ESSAY

DECOLONIZING DESIGN After centuries of occupation, how can Indigenous architects finally take control?

TEXT BY DAVID FORTIN

Anishinaabe architect Douglas Cardinal’s diagram for Kehewin Village in Alberta, Canada, showing the indigenous use of the circle as a generator for planning.

There is an intriguing duality to the idea of agency, particularly as related to the design of the built environment. On one hand it emphasizes the degree to which an individual can make choices and act freely within an overriding structure. Yet it also can be used to describe an administra-­ tive entity tasked with making choices on another’s behalf, thereby minimizing their individual or collective agency. For many inspired by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action that were announced in 2015, there is optimism that contemporary Indigenous agency might eventually supplant the patriarchal relationships entrenched by the government Indian agencies that historically monitored and dictated all aspects of life, including the built environment, during the colonial project. Furthermore, the relatively recent global emergence of the “Indigenous” descriptor has had an empowering effect, facilitating an increasingly international discussion about the value of Indigenous knowledge in the design process. DE S I G NI NG “F OR ” IN D IGEN OU S CO M MU N IT IE S It is now well-documented that the attempted cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples by the Canadian government was mobilized through various means, and the residential school system — government-­ sponsored religious schools that were established to “assimilate” Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture — and the legacy of the resulting intergenerational trauma inflicted on their families and communities have become a national conversation. But within this discourse, it must also be emphasized that design played a pivotal role. The architects of residential schools did not necessarily act maliciously, but they were

undeniably acting as agents of the structural system being implemented. In this case, the actions and intents of the architects were what Nishat Awan, Tatjana Schneider, and Jeremy Till would describe — according to the thesis of their 2011 book Spatial Agency: Other Ways Of Doing Architecture — as, at their worst, processes whereby “individual action in the spatial field is … completely determined by the overarching societal structures.” But like Robert Jan van Pelt’s powerful research into the role of the architect in the design and drawing of the Nazi concentration camps, first through his book titled The Case for Auschwitz:

Evidence from the Irving Trial (2002) and subsequently in the exhibit called The Evidence Room with Donald McKay, Anne Bordeleau, and Sascha Hastings, it is necessary to similarly consider the role of the architect in this case. Magdalena Milosz’s research into the architecture of assimil­ ation in Canada, for example, exhibits a drawing of a generic residential school with an added notation in the upper corner that reads “Chapleau Bldg School.” Such a hauntingly placeless approach to design is antithetical to the spiritual and existential connectivity between all things that is central to Indigenous value systems. For


example, Cree scholar Wanda Dalla Costa describes “architecture as place” as the primary catalyst for Indigenous design, while Māori academic Hirini Matunga argues “the moniker ‘of this place’ is the central pivot around which Indigenous architecture rotates.” Blackfoot scholar and author Leroy Little Bear similarly writes, “The Earth cannot be separated from the actual being of Indians.” Thus, while the residential schools clearly offer the most extreme example of non-Indigenous approaches to architectural design, they nonetheless lead Milosz to conclude that such evidence will invite new questions “about the visible and invisible intentions of architecture  —  and what purpose the architect ‘serves.’” These examples, including the subsequent government housing for Indigenous peoples implemented across the country without any regard for their traditions or values, elucidate Robin Evans’s keen observations on the unassuming power of the architectural drawing. As he writes in Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays (1997): Drawing in architecture is not done after nature, but prior to construction; it is not so much produced by reflection on the reality outside the drawing, as productive of a reality that will end up outside the drawing. The logic of classical realism is stood on its head, and it is through this inversion that architectural drawing has obtained an enormous and largely unacknowledged power: by stealth. This kind of architectural power was inherited from a European-based process of design and production that had, for centuries, placed the architect’s livelihood (and societal stature) in the hands and directives of the patron, almost always a person or political entity of significant economic and political power. Similarly, the residential schools were integral to the production of a projected spatial reality only intended to benefit the colonizers in their pursuit of land, resources, and accumulation of wealth. For Indigenous peoples, the existing reality outside of those drawings, however, was vibrant and robust, one of balance and harmony between land, people, and culture. Thus, from the moment government-funded buildings, designed “for” the betterment of Indigenous peoples, were drawn, an attempt to sever them from their culture, their built environment, and their land was initiated. While this was ultimately a failed effort, evidenced by the resilience of Indigenous peoples around the globe, it did have serious impact for many individuals and communities in terms of their perceived spatial agency. An example of this is described by a Métis elder living in one of Alberta’s Métis Settlements: You get a home. You get a package. You get a dollar amount that you are going to spend on that home and the building codes dictate how that building is built and what kind of insulation, what kind of vapor barrier,

and the vents and everything. Yet while it could be assumed that such overtly patriarchal approaches to design with regard to Indigenous cultures have been transcended given such progress in the social-design realm celebrated by Spatial Agency, it is worthwhile to highlight a few recent examples that suggest otherwise. DESIGNING WITHOUT INDIGENOUS INPUT In 2015, the Arctic Design Group, a research institute at the University of Virginia, hosted the Arctic States Symposium, which brought together “an international consortium of leading designers and colleagues from allied disciplines to posit the role of design in the rapidly transforming region.” Yet, despite there being 400,000 Indigenous people currently living in the Arctic, with thousands of years of traditional knowledge among them, the website offers no recognition or evidence of their participation in, or influence on, the event. Similarly, in 2016, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), which Awan et al. include as a spatial agent due to its capacity to provide “free and democratic access to highly specialized knowledge,” chose housing in Indigenous communities in northern Québec as the central topic for a student design charrette. During the live-feed launch of the competition, titled Reassembling the North, a speaker described the following: “This design charrette seeks to legitimize the existing self-build solutions in the North and to draw attention to a demonstrated sustainable yet often-ignored design tradition.” The implication of the statement is that the involvement of non-Indigenous urban academics and students somehow “legitimizes” the way Innu communities are currently dealing with their severe infrastructural and material challenges, and interjects the student as a spatial agent to “design” in response to this context. Furthermore, students were encouraged to “step into the shoes of residents of northern communities, even seek them out and partner with them to foster self-expression and self-realization,” despite being given only three days to submit their final designs from their southern urban centers. When an audience member asked the guest Innu presenter, and competition collaborator, to offer more insights about this scenario, her response was revealing: I am someone who comes from the High North, someone who has grown up there … and thinking that you are going to be designing buildings that have to serve that place, that have to serve the people there, who live differently than here [Montréal] … So you aren’t there, you don’t know the communities, and I feel a bit concerned [laughs] by this. So I am here to try and tell you, but in a half hour I can’t tell you everything there is in the North.

While her “concern” about the design process is dismissed with laughter, the content is akin to a hackneyed sce­nario whereby Indigenous community members are often expected to package their worldview into some accessible format, usually through a foreign language, so that a design team can generate a diagram, or meaningful concept, to work from. In the case of the CCA charrette, the winning entry included an email dialogue between the design team and two non-Indigenous contacts who had some limited lived experience in similar northern communities, but with no direct contact with the community whatsoever. In another example, the Canadian chapter of Architecture without Borders also selected Indigenous housing for an open-call competition in 2017 with minimal opportunity for community engagement, though, similar to the CCA charrette, it involved Indigenous input in the design and jurying of the competition. The winning team in this case included students who had participated in the research conglomerate Habiter le Nord, a multi-year project involving sustained community engagement and positive relationship-building, which offered them a community-informed perspective. However, despite being aligned with Spatial Agency’s call for doing architecture in a different way, such competition formats, particularly for housing, inevitably preserve colonial approaches to design, whereby the “spatial intelligence” of professionals and young architectural students is perceived to bring value to the uniquely complex cultural context and systemic challenges of Indigenous housing, without any lived experience or opportunity for meaningful community engagement, and with little to no direct benefit to the community in the process. Competitions thus fail to understand the essential need for relationship-building with Indigenous communities through principles of reciprocal benefit, a central tenet to such forms of communitybased research. It is also worth noting that design inspired by, yet completely disconnected from, Indigenous cultures is not uncommon in professional practice. For example, a recent proposal by the Montréal-based Saucier + Perrotte for a 215-million-dollar urban development on the western edge of Edmonton includes a large circular building inspired by, as journalist Elise Stolte reports, “a Cree medicine wheel and the irrigation circles common in southern Alberta.” Meanwhile, the Toronto-based design firm Bortolotto recognizes the importance of “cultural context” in their work by highlighting a school design “inspired by the aboriginal medicine wheel, which emphasizes the view of the world in a circular fashion.” Their webpage further describes how the directional Indigenous colors informed the interior finishes. Yet, the highlighting of Indigenous values through design, “in honor” of 150 years of colonial occupation, is at odds with many Indigenous groups who chose to ignore the occasion altogether. A quick web search


leads to other Indigenous inspirations without any apparent community input or engagement, with examples ranging from a tipi-inspired treehouse in China to a contemporary version of a pit house in the United States. Milosz’s question, then, still resonates. In these cases, what purpose does the architect ultimately “serve”? Or perhaps we should ask, “Who do they ‘serve’?” In “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor” (2012), Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang argue that settler scholars working on or with Indigenous topics in an attempt to “decolonize,” for example, may “gain professional kudos or a boost in their reputation for being so sensitive or self-aware,” but are ultimately self-serving, aiming only to rid themselves of guilt without having to sacrifice anything whatsoever. Indigenous Hawaiian Poka Laenui similarly outlines five stages of colonization that include the following: denial and withdrawal, destruction / eradication, denigration / belittlement /insult, surface accommodation / tokenism, and, finally, transformation / exploitation. This final stage of colonization, however, is the most unsettling when considered in the design context discussed above. As Laenui describes in “Processes of Decolonization” (2000): The traditional culture that simply refuses to die or go away is now transformed into the culture of the dominating colonial society … Indigenous art that has survived may gain in popularity and form the basis for economic exploitation. Indigenous symbols in print may decorate modern dress. Indigenous musical instruments may be incorporated into modern music. Supporting Indigenous causes within the general colonial structure may become the popular political thing to do, exploiting the culture further. This exploitation may be committed by Indigenous as well as non-Indigenous people. Thus, if the “active involvement” of Indigenous communities throughout a design process is ultimately limited to sharing traditional knowledge that is then translated by non-Indigenous design teams, with varying levels of reciprocal benefit to the community but with clear gains for the designer(s) (i.e., financial gain, an enhanced cultural design portfolio), this can be effortlessly related to this final stage of colonization described by Laenui, rather than being seen as an early stage of decolonization, as it might first appear. It is in this tenuous zone between the two that contemporary Indigenous architecture seemingly negotiates. As Cree designer Jake Chakasim emphatically notes in a 2017 report by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, “Creating an architecture of reconciliation is not a business model.” In this way, if architecture “inspired by,” “for,” or even “with” Indigenous communities no longer serves the assimilating structures of a colonial genocide project, yet still preserves power relationships whereby Indigenous people do not have

control over all levels of design decisionmaking regarding the development affecting them, what progress has ultimately been made? TOWARD DESIGN SOVEREIGNTY To address this, it can be argued that advances in Indigenous architecture can only be measured by the level of control that Indigenous peoples maintain over the entire design and building process. For Australian Indigenous architect Kevin O’Brien, for instance, the only way to avoid “Aboriginal architecture” becoming anything more than a “commercial category for academic and professional exploitation” is “one where the architect of the project from the beginning to end is an Aboriginal person.” Māori academic Deidre Brown likewise notes that, in New Zealand, “the story of contemporary Māori architecture is largely one that involves a progressive and insidious erosion of Māori control of their built world.” Instead, she heralds a Māori-led architecture, similar to previous eras, when the Māori determined “the design, procurement, and use of their housing stock and community buildings.” To further posture this shift toward Indigenous design sovereignty, Brown makes a critical distinction between the pursuit of a bicultural society, which would include Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living within one nation, and nation-to-nation societies that recognize the importance of Indigenous sovereignty and rights. A question that emerges from this distinction is what impact this has on design discourse. Bicultural design would welcome Indigenous design principles into the mainstream architectural lexicon and vice versa, while a self-determined Indigenous conversation would ultimately evolve independently from its non-Indigenous counterpart. As Nisga’a architect and chair of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Indigenous Task Force Luugigyoo Patrick Stewart suggests, there are incompatibilities between the two approaches to design that must be recognized: What do you say to a non-Indigenous journalist that is apologetic for not including any building you have designed in her latest article because it does not have “that look” that the non-Indigenous magazine editors and publishers are looking for … leaving you thinking that you have to justify your own existence to her? Stewart’s personal reflections on the tensions between alternative metrics for “good design” are enlightening. They question if the assessment of Indigenousdesigned work too hastily adopts mainstream architectural metrics with expectations of “that look” without fully understanding the context for the work within commu­ nities and their specific requirements (including all aspects of design and cultural circumstances). Under the leadership of such experienced Indigenous architects, a self-­ determined Indigenous architectural discourse is clearly evolving. It significantly

DECOLONIZATION

propelled UNCEDED: Voices of the Land, the winning submission to represent Canada at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, a collective of Indigenous architects from across Turtle Island (an Indigenous term for North America) under the leadership of Douglas Cardinal and co-curated by the author and Gerald McMaster. Arguably as important as the exhibit, however, were the extensive online conversations among the group that took place during the months leading up to the exhibition, which questioned what Indigeneity, Colonization, Resilience, and Sovereignty meant to each participant and their communities. This was a unique moment for a collective of Indigenous architects to critically assess what design means to them and where it goes from here. For the inaugural International Indigenous Architecture and Design Forum in Ottawa, in 2017, the Indigenous voice was similarly prioritized. Meanwhile, Stewart and O’Brien worked with Māori architect and academic Rebecca Kiddle to publish an all-Indigenous book called Our Voices: Indigeneity and Architecture (2018) as a kind of counter-text to the more inclusive Handbook of Contemporary Indigenous Architecture (2018), with its combi­ nation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and practitioners. All of these initiatives suggest a shift toward Indigenous design sovereignty, with its own accompanying discourse, is clearly evolving around the globe.

Canadian architect David Fortin is Associate Director of the Maamwizing Indigenous Research Institute, Director of the McEwen School of Architecture, and an Associate Professor at Laurentian University. He is also a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario and the RAIC Indigenous Task Force that seeks “ways to foster and promote Indigenous design in Canada,” and was a co-curator of UNCEDED: Voices of the Land, a team of Indigenous architects under the leadership of Douglas Cardinal, who represented Canada at the 2018 Venice Biennale. This text is an edited excerpt from Design and Agency: Critical Perspec­tives on Identities, Histories, and Practices (John Potvin and Marie-Ève Marchand (eds.), Bloomsbury, 2020).


Q A

TEXT AND CONCEPT BY GREGORY KETANT ARTWORK BY DAN HOLLAND


ESSAY

QUANTUM ARCHITECTURE A manifesto for the future of Black design On this planet, B L A C K people are survived by our architecture. — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — ————————

Within the context of material mythology, our architecture is an artifact of B L A C K consciousness materialized in space-time. So then, in this 21st century, while combating a surge in ANTI – BLACKNESS1, what is to be made of the current state of a post-classical B L A C K architecture? — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — ————————

Allow me to be clear.

If B L A C K people are to be successful in our fugitivity from an architecture that is foreign to us, we must liberate ourselves from the very mechanisms that define it. In that way, and only in that way, can we begin to re-­conceptualize our relationship to architecture and to space itself. ———————————————————————————

“… we cannot be satisfied with the recognition and acknowledgment generated by the very system that denies a) that anything was ever broken and b) that we deserved to be the broken part; so we refuse to ask for recognition and instead we want to take apart, dismantle, tear down the structure that,

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — ————————

right now, limits our ability to find each other, to see beyond it,

I am not speaking nominally for or of architecture from Black architects 2, rather I’m speaking of an architectural framework that is not imprisoned by traditions that are not our own, I’m speaking of an expression of architecture and design that reflects B L A C K genius in all of its potentiality. This is the context through which a B L A C K architecture can truly be explored. Amidst the gauntlet of socioeconomic impediments, can B L A C K people escape architecture and dare venture outside of it? Can we reclaim the ultimate aim of all art, the building, without the building? Is any of this possible? Architecture has been defined as both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings or other structures. But if we begin to examine the assumptions this definition is contingent on, we’ll find that the building itself is subjective. And, following that logic, the means and materials of constructing the building are undefined. The subjective nature of the building is the variable within architecture’s mathematics that presents an opportunity to reconstruct architecture in our own image.

and to access the places that we know lie outside its walls.” — FRED MOTEN, 2013 ———————————————————————————

B L A C K architects must be ICONOCLASTS. We must abscond from the sacred images and mythologies of architectural history, a history that never cared for or acknowledged us. The iconophilic nature of architecture proper that demands a romanticization of the works of white men must be abdicated. The very geometry we rely on to construct shapes, forms, and volumes must be completely reconstructed. We must venture into the unknown, the hidden, the dark matter of creative ingenuity to bring forth anew. ——————————————————————————— Q U A N T U M | A R CHI TECTURE

If we hold that B L A C K architecture cannot be limited to the material definition and constraints of the building proper, then we must catalyze a quantization 3 of architecture: a process of transition from a classical understanding of physical phenomena to a newer understanding.


“B L A C K ARCHITECTS MUST BE ICONOCLASTS. WE MUST ABSCOND FROM THE SACRED IMAGES AND MYTHOLOGIES OF ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY, A HISTORY THAT NEVER CARED FOR OR ACKNOWLEDGED US.”


QUANTUM


Quantum mechanics is the architectural evolution that advances an entirely new concept, practice, and vision of a Postmodern, post-classical B L A C K architecture. This evolution in our approach to architecture, our hardware, can engender a new structure for a new software (i.e.: culture, art, technology, science, and mathematics) through a new theory: ————— — — — — —— — — — — — — — — — — — ————— Q U A N T U M | A R C H IT E C T U R E . ————— — — — — —— — — — — — — — — — — — —————

q u a n t u m | architecture incorporates metaphysical, cultural, linguistic, and even mimetic modalities that are unique and native to B L A C K people and thus B L A C K architects. This is fundamental to understanding and employing this new architectural theory. The references, history, and inspiration for B L A C K architects to create exist within this intuitive open-source language. Quite simply those who know and will access a new world of possibilities to transcend architecture proper. q u a n t u m | architecture as both theory and practice achieves (3) evolutions through a triune method: ————— — — — — —— — — — — — — — — — — — ————— I. IN PU T S: ZERO POINT ENERGY II. H ID D E N : EVOLUTIONARY MATERIALS III. OU T P U T: THE QUANTIZATION OF THE BUILDING / q BUILDING ———— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — ———— I. IN PU T: ZERO POINT ENERGY

The inputs in this connectionist model represent the objective processes of architecture, e.g. research, planning, designing, and schematics. However, in addition to these classical processes, q u a n t u m | architecture introduces a new input: Zero Point Energy. The most fundamental aspect of q u a n t u m | architecture, Zero Point Energy is the lowest possible energy that a quantum-mechanical system may have. Zero Point Energy in q u a n t u m | architecture represents the inertia, the pre-design phase, the dark matter, the void before the active design process begins. At the point at which the initial impetus to create and or manifest the building becomes crystallized in the architect’s mind, the architect enters a quantum space. The next step is to harness this inertia using the technique of

sigilmancy, which can be understood as the intentional use of inscribed or painted symbols imbued with “magical” power. The architect shall create a sigil that represents their respective inertia. The sigil should be influenced by everything in the architect’s surroundings representative of the moment in time and space the inertia was manifested: the time of day, cars driving by, the song playing in the background, etc. Simply put, whatever is happening at the moment of conception is of relevance to this process. The Zero Point Energy’s sigil now becomes a resource for the architect to generate creative information. ——————————————————————————— II. H ID D E N : EVOLUTIONARY MATERIALS

The second pillar in the triune of q u a n t u m | architecture deals with the materiality of the building. In a quantum design context, the architect is privileged to a vast, rich library of building materials limited only to the architect’s imagination. With the Zero Point Energy sigil or logo, development of a design concept, and potentially a schematic, the architect can then explore sof materials® to build four-dimensionally utilizing: ——————————————————————————— D R E A MS S OU N D DANCE N U ME R OLOGY A S TR ON OMY A S TR OLOGY ME D ITATION ME TA P H Y S IC S LA N GU A GE TA R OT ———————————————————————————

Utilizing these 4D materials induces a state of synesthesia empowering the architect to realize more dimensional possibilities of what the building can and should be. The concept of sof materials® transforms what would be a material structure/building to a hyper structure/building. The architect is now sculpting their vision of the building in 4D — a living, vibrating structure evolving in real time. ——————————————————————————— III. OU TP U T: TH E QU A N TIZATION OF TH E B U ILDI NG : q BUI LDI NG

The architecture industrial complex is structurally designed to benefit those who have privileged access to education, who have wealth to subsidize entry-level sala-


ries, and who have social resources needed to navigate the bureaucracy of permits, licenses, etc. q u a n t u m | architecture removes the state of its administrative authority and transfers that power back to the architect to realize the building. In q u a n t u m | architecture, the building becomes the q building: a pliable, elastic structure that is neither wholly physical nor immaterial — it is both simultaneously. The q building becomes a living structure that is not realized by permits, concrete, or glass, but is realized through a pre-cognitive/cognitive network of Zero Point Energy and Evolutionary Materials that quantumly entangles the architect and the building in a non-linear, non-material but intimate relationship. If this sounds fantastical, that is exactly the point. Consider the words of comic book writer Alan Moore on the relationship between fiction and reality: “I started to come to the conclusion that the fiction has an immaterial reality. That is exactly equivalent to material reality. It is no less or more real, simply different. For example, we have a three-dimensional solid material chair, such as the one that I’m sitting in. This is real in material terms, then we have the idea of a chair. The idea of a chair is perhaps more important than any single individual chair, and yet the idea of a chair exists nowhere in the physical universe, it cannot be measured in a laboratory.” — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — ———————

Possible q building structures are but not limited to: — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — ——————— I N F OR M AT ION S T R U C T U R E S D IGITAL S T R U C T U R E S C OM PON EN T ST R U C T U R ES V IRT U A L ST R U C T U R ES L A N GU AGE S T R U C T U R E S E PH EME R A L ST R U C T U R ES O RGAN IZ AT ION AL S T R U C T U R E S

QUANTUM

These examples show the range of possibilities at the disposal of the architect. The q building isn’t simply a structure, it is a piece of architectural mythology. To the B L A C K architect or designer, I am not demanding that you leave your education, whether self-taught or institutional, or forget your knowledge of geometry, CAD, Adobe CS, or abandon your appreciation for parts of the contemporary canon. A radical reclamation does not equate to a radical abandonment. However, I am imploring you to synthesize all that is hidden within B L A C K creative ingenuity, the unexplainable parts, this is where our power lies to design beyond limitation. ———————————————————————————

May the axiom let’s build take on new meaning in the 21st century. ——————————————————————————— Gregory Ketant (aka m e g a) is a multidisciplinary designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Operating outside of traditional architectural parameters, his design philosophy takes hold where the functions of culture, metaphysics, and quantum theory coincide. Key influences in his multivalent practice have included Christopher Nolan’s world-building, A.A. Rashid's language games, alongside Sade’s immaculate melodic constructions. Ketant has exhibited furniture at Salone del Mobile, Jack Chiles Gallery, and in 2016, he co-curated the Storefront for Art & Architecture group exhibition Work in Progress, a critical reimagining of New York City in response to rapid over-development. He was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and from 2017 to 2019, he lived and worked in Dubai, curating and designing exhibitions as the Director of Arts & Culture of the Dubai Design District. In a previous life, Ketant studied law.

——————————————————————————— 1.) “… anti-Blackness … is more than just ‘racism against Black people.’ … It’s a theoretical framework that illuminates society’s inability to recognize our humanity  — the disdain, disregard, and disgust for our existence.”  — Kihana Miraya Ross, “Call It What It Is: Anti-Blackness”, op-ed in The New York Times, June 4, 2020. 2.) Two percent of all U.S. architects are Black. 3.) In physics, quantization is the process of transition from a classical understanding of physical phenomena to a newer understanding known as quantum mechanics.

IN F R A S T R U C T U R E S

(It is a procedure for constructing a quantum field theory starting from a classical

—— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — ———————

mechanics from classical mechanics. Also related is field quantization, as in the

Contem pora ry exa mple s o f struc t u re s t h a t would b e co n sid e red q b u ild ing a re : — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — ——————— B L AC K M AF IA FA M ILY L U XOR W U TAN G C L AN C A SH MON EY R E C OR D S S AD E T HE N AT ION S OF GOD S A N D E ARTH S ( TH E F IV E PE R C EN T N AT IO N ) —— — — — — —— — — — — — — — — — — — ————————

field theory.) This is a generalization of the procedure for building quantum “quantization of the electromagnetic field,” referring to photons as field “quanta” (for instance as in light quanta).


ARTWORK BY



A PIN–UP SPECIAL IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THOM BROWNE

ON THE OCCASION OF RECONSTRUCTIONS: ARCHITECTURE AND BLACKNESS IN AMERICA, ON VIEW AT THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART FROM FEBRUARY 20 –  MAY 31, 2021


RECONSTRUCTIONS

ARCHITECTURE AND BLACKNESS IN AMERICA

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID HARTT INTERVIEWS BY DREW ZEIBA


MANIFESTING STATEMENT A NATION CONSTITUTED IN CONFLICT WITH ITS OWN IDEALS WOULD NEED TO BE RECONSTRUCTED BEFORE IT COULD BE FULLY CONSTRUCTED. IT WOULD NEED TO GO TO WAR WITH ITSELF AND WIN, THEN RECONSTRUCT ITSELF DIFFERENTLY. THIS IS NOT REBUILDING BUT RECONSTRUCTING TO THE CORE OF GOVERNANCE, CITIZENSHIP, HISTORY, INFRASTRUCTURE, AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF LAND. PARADOXICALLY, THE PEOPLE WHO DID THE CONSTRUCTING AND MUST NOW DO THE RECONSTRUCTING ARE LIKELY TO BE THE SAME: LABORERS IN ONE INSTANCE AND AUTHORS IN ANOTHER — DESIGNERS OF THIS NATION AND OF THEMSELVES. THE BLACK RECONSTRUCTION COLLECTIVE COMMITS ITSELF TO CONTINUING THIS WORK OF RECONSTRUCTION IN BLACK AMERICA AND THESE UNITED STATES. WE TAKE UP THE QUESTION OF WHAT ARCHITECTURE CAN BE — NOT A TOOL FOR IMPERIALISM AND SUBJUGATION, NOT A MEANS FOR AGGRANDIZING THE SELF, BUT A VEHICLE FOR LIBERATION AND JOY.


THE DISCIPLINE OF ARCHITECTURE HAS CONSISTENTLY AND DELIBERATELY AVOIDED PARTICIPATION IN THIS ENDEAVOR, OPERATING IN COMPLICITY WITH REPRESSIVE ASPECTS OF THE CURRENT SYSTEM. THAT ENDS NOW. WE COMMIT OURSELVES TO ANNIHILATING THE WILLFUL BLINDERS THAT HAVE ENABLED ARCHITECTURE TO CONTINUE TO PROFESS ITS EUROCENTRISM AS A VIRTUE AND CLAIM APOLITICAL ENDS. WE REJECT THE BOUNDARIES ESTABLISHED BY NATION STATES, CHALLENGE THE SPATIAL MANIFESTATIONS OF ANTI-BLACK RACISM, AND ENCOURAGE CREATIVE AGENCY AND LIBERATORY PRACTICES. THIS COLLECTIVE PORTAL UNITES ACTIVISTS, SCHOLARS, ARCHITECTS, ARTISTS, AND ORGANIZERS ACROSS TIME AND SPACE. WITH THIS COMMITMENT TO BLACK FREEDOM AND FUTURITY, WE DEDICATE OURSELVES TO DOING THE WORK OF DESIGNING ANOTHER WORLD THAT IS POSSIBLE, HERE, WHERE WE ARE, WITH AND FOR US. — T HE BLACK RECONSTRUCTION COLLECTIVE


Carpenter Center — that was when I first heard of Le Corbusier. After college I worked in finance for a few years in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It was enough of an experience to confirm that my activist bent as an undergrad was neither unfounded nor naïve. Indeed, what I saw of advanced capital accumulation at the turn of the millennium was even more de­ structive, violent, and patriarchal than I had expected. I applied to archi­ tecture grad programs not really expecting to be accepted, but want­ ing to find a path as far from finance as possible. In some ways I was led to architecture because, at the time, it seemed irrelevant. I wanted to do something irrelevant. Unfortunately, I eventually figured out that the “irrelevance” of architecture is highly calculated and part of how it maintains its relationship to the status quo and capital. Now I am concerned with attacking and dis­ mantling that “irrelevance.”

consistently cuts through high/low classifications. When I teamed up with WORKac as a finalist for the Women’s Building project in New York City, the primary focus of my design contribution was an old swimming pool and new urinals. For me it’s been important to take a vacant house in Detroit as seriously as the Venice Biennale. PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical or contem­ porary reference? VMM Imagine if the Enlightenment had lasted only eight or ten years. Imagine if Descartes had been assassinated after he published La Géométrie and never got to write Méditations métaphysiques. Would the French Revolution have even happened 150 years later? Would the U.S. have even pretended to

“I am concerned with attacking and dismantling the ‘irrelevance’ of architecture.” — V. MITCH MCEWEN

PU How has your practice evolved?

V. MITCH MCEWEN V. Mitch McEwen is Assistant Professor at Princeton University School of Architecture, director of the university’s architecture and technology research group Black Box, and co-founder of the New York design practice Atelier Office. Working at the intersections and boundaries of computation, urban planning, and experimental practice, McEwen uses architecture and technology to ask what it means to make life in the city today. PIN–UP What led you to architecture? V. MITCH MCEWEN I grew up in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s and 1990s in the center of the district, near the Potomac River. When I walked to the National Mall or the major metro stations — especially before the city finally added a line to serve the Black neighborhoods and Howard University, which didn’t happen until I was in junior high school —, I would walk past Marcel

Breuer’s building for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It makes the scale of the federal government tangible, as do the na­ tional museums on the Mall. This is a massive and ridiculously wealthy country. It wasn’t until I left D.C. that I missed this in-your-face civic architecture. Much of this country presents itself as fake little villages and towns, even parts of Queens or San Francisco or Detroit. Anyway, I also grew up loving math and drawing — even drawing on the com­ puter with an early software called Logo in the 1980s. In college I vacil­ lated between majoring in French literature and in social studies and economics. I graduated from Harvard with the degree in social studies and economics, but all my electives were in literary theory, cultural studies, or visual arts. I vaguely thought of architecture as a field that could treat space as a kind of currency, escaping the terms of economic de­ velopment and wealth distribution. I took two painting classes in the

VMM When I think about it, my practice has blossomed in times of economic crisis. The 2008–09 subprime mort­ gage fiasco was the context in which I launched the initial form of my practice, an experimental space in Brooklyn called SUPERFRONT. I curated other architects and artists and collaborated with chore­ ographers and performance artists and did an experimental loft-size version of a lot of the kinds of col­ laborations I am doing now when I partner with museums or through the lab I run at Princeton. In this current time of economic contraction and pandemic, my design partner Amina Blacksher and I have merged studios to form Atelier Office. We are a New York design firm, focused on working with clients who are new to architecture or actively expand­ ing beyond their comfort zones. In the decade prior, my former studio designed a number of aggressively scrappy projects, including a vacant house in Detroit that became House Opera and a film gallery in Brooklyn. I lived in Detroit for four years and did a number of light-touch urban design projects there, including the Jefferson Chalmers masterplan on the East Side of Detroit. My work

be a democracy? To me this is the scale of questions opened up by Reconstruction. It was a moment for crafting a Black citizenship in this country and starting to untangle all the structures that conflicted with the potential of Black citizenship. Land was transferred. Black people voted and elected Black senators in the south. There would be no Mitch McConnell if Reconstruction hadn’t been halted by assassina­ tion and domestic terrorism. How cities developed and how the public apportioned political power would be radically different. We are still living in a version of this country where the inheritors of the ideology and wealth of plantation slavers are afforded subsidized political power. I understand the title of the exhi­ bi­ tion as an invitation to produce radically speculative work that en­ -­ gages these questions architec­ turally. The stifling of Reconstruction did not only harm and limit Black people. By limiting the potential of Black radical thought — not the thought itself, but the potential of the thought to be realized or to do certain disciplinary work, or to be circulated — the century-plus delay of Reconstruction has robbed this country of so much of its potential, has delayed architectural invention, and has pitted this nation against its cities.


PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location? VMM My project for MoMA is sited in New Orleans — not New Orleans as we know it, but another version of that city imagined by New Orleans artist Kristina Kay Robinson. Robinson’s version of the city, called Republica, asks what New Orleans history would have been if the 1811 German Coast uprising against enslavers had been successful. Staging the project there allows me to speculate on archi­ tecture for a free Black America. This opens up questions of mate-­ rials and industry, form and compu­ tation, maintenance and labor. The driving question has been: “What architecture would Black people have already invented if we had been truly free for the last 210 years?”

Engineer, architect, and researcher Felecia Davis explores the soft side of hardware. Synthesizing compu­ tational practice, digital fabrication, and textile design, Davis creates responsive wearables, objects, and environments from fabric. Recent projects include hospital curtains that react to touch and textile walls that morph according to sensor data corresponding with occupants’ emotions. In addition to running FELECIADAVISTUDIO, Davis is Associate Professor at Penn State College of Arts and Architecture as well as director of the college’s computational-textiles research group SOFTLAB. PIN–UP How did you come to your current approach to design and your under­ standing of technology?

Felecia Davis Making textiles — like learning to knit, weave, or sew — was something I was drawn into as a kid with my mother, sister, and aunts. As I understood more about what I thought design computing was, the more I saw how much of what I had learned textile making was part of a computational culture and was in fact computa­ tional design. This included the segmentation, counting, addition, or subtraction of stitches, colors, and shapes to make patterns, recombin­ ing shapes; substitution; repetition; and all the tasks your brain does when making a textile design or for that matter, making anything at any scale. Textile design was one of the first design fields to be technologically transformed from hand craft to machine production because of this specific culture of seeing the world — the over and under positions for weaving become an on-or-off system of logic that connects directly with the 0s and 1s

computational textiles has caused me to examine the intersection between real materials such as fibers and the information that goes into or is programmed in the construction of a computational material. That duality is of great interest. Often when people talk about computation, particularly in architectural design, they mean graphic work on computers — or in fact anything having to do with computers, which is one way to think about computation. I believe there are many ways to think about and work with computation in archi­ tecture and design which do not include computers but rely heavily on computing. I like to think about computation as a larger project of understanding the world that we shape and design, which is also a world that shapes us. There are many computing cultures: some do not call themselves that, but they are part of computing culture if one chooses to see it.

“There is a kind of technological redlining repeated in the cyber world.” — FELECIA DAVIS of computers. This is just a small part of textile culture that was developed for new technologies. There are many other aspects from textile culture that are available for us to think about development in computation, such as touch, for example, or emotion. Understanding the contributions of computational cultures outside of scientific cul­tures of computing will present other ways of problem framing and prob­lem solving for designers and for people who make things. PU What does this look like in your practice today?

FELECIA DAVIS

FD I look at how technology embedded in textiles — such as sensors, microcon-­ trollers, or transformed natural properties of fibers — can communicate information to people. The things that get made in my practice have a wide range of scales, from very small and wearable to the size of a wall or building. I look at the implications these textile technologies have for architecture and design in general at all scales. These technologies have changed some core issues for design and architecture, such as what is meant by threshold, inside, or opacity, for example. Understanding more about computational design and

PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical or contem­ porary reference? FD I believe our curators are seeking to challenge the sociopolitical struc­ tures in place that have resulted in the exclusion of so many Black artists and architects from the gal­ leries and collections at MoMA. Their call to us is a reconstruction of curatorial practices at MoMA. The call of our curators is rebuilding the museum. In my work in design computing, I think that computing culture needs to look outward from its scientific base to other places and other people and understand the multitude of ways of thinking about computation and computa­ tional cultures. Reconstruction means an opportunity to pause and think about technologies that knit us together. There is a double-edged blade to the technologies that engage us: on the one hand they can bring us together, help fight for issues that matter, make work efficient, enter­ tain us, and a hundred other things; on the other, social media that have allowed us to connect, in spite of quarantining through COVID–19, can also be used to police, to divide, and to segregate. Many of these


technologies emerged from defensedevelopment programs. Additionally, there are serious questions about privacy, for example, that, globally and in the United States, we must begin to answer and create policies for. When one looks at these technol­ ogies in the Black community, there are some critical issues that are also born from historical formations. Algorithms made to help us with daily tasks or other things often do not work on Black faces. On the other hand, maybe Blacks are hyper-­ visible in a system of monitoring cameras placed around an increas­ ingly smart city. Do we need to be able to disappear from a smart city? Can we? There is still a problem with access to technology in many Black neighborhoods, a kind of technological redlining repeated in the cyber world. These problems are, in spite of the newness of tech­nol­ ogy, historical, writ again through technology. As a country and globally,

we have to rebuild how we treat people, how we treat the Earth, and how we treat creatures that share the Earth with us. PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location? FD My project is about the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the playwright August Wilson lived and wrote his ten plays about. My project for Reconstructions is about co-construction and mutual aid. In it I use technology as a connector and communicator through textile networks. Another aspect of the MoMA exhibition is the Black Reconstruction Collective [BRC], which is about Black mutual aid. It was formed by the ten artists and architects who were brought

together by the curators and MoMA’s Reconstruction advisory committee. As we were all brought together by these amazing individuals, the BRC welcomes those who have guided and supported us and looks forward to having new members join. The purpose of the BRC is to provide support for design about the African diaspora. It is often tough to explain to a grants jury or judging panel that a project about Blacks is important, so we thought we would form an organization that would focus specifically on that. This is often a stumbling block for many Black artists, architects, and scholars of Black design work who are often not a part of networks of people with access to money and commissioning power. Not only is the BRC about funding, it is also about providing intellectual conver­ sation about design and the work of its members so that there are people to discuss, debate, and cul­ tivate design work in and about the Black diaspora.

Olalekan Jeyifous is a Brooklynbased Nigerian-American visual artist and designer. Trained as an architect, Jeyifous often works in public spaces, realizing outdoor sculptures, plastering buildings with banners, and devising murals. He also creates widely exhibited artwork, including mappings and models of the past, present, and even

that I wanted to be an architect. Because it was rooted in a kind of sunny childhood wonder, I had no pretensions about what pursuing this field might entail or where it would lead, and as a result it’s been a constant and revelatory journey of discovery. PU How has your practice evolved? OJ I never pursued the traditional archi­­­tectural trajectory. I liked the imme­ diacy of being able to articulate my ideas very quickly and saw an opportunity to structure a visual-arts practice around my architectural edu­ cation and design process. My early work was rooted in the traditional conventions of architectural repre­ sen­tation: plans, elevations, sec­tions, and models. But, over time, I was able to expand the parameters of my practice to include whatever media felt appropriate for the narra­ tives I was exploring. I started really looking at producing speculative imagery, experimental animation, and, more recently, large-scale public art, which I feel reconciles my archi­ tectural background with my artistic practice in productive and enlighten­ ing ways. PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical or contem­ porary reference?

“Reconstruction is everything Black people have done to navigate, survive, and thrive.” — OLALEKAN JEYIFOUS possible futures — a recent project is an Afro-, agro-, and eco-futurist speculative vision for Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. PIN–UP What led you to architecture?

OLALEKAN JEYIFOUS

Olalekan Jeyifous Before architecture was a medium for any sort of sociopolitical, cultural, or environmental inquiry, it was Saturday visits to the public library to pore over coffee-table books on anything from Danish furniture design and Japanese architecture to contemporary West African art. My mother would make observa­ tions about the various images we were looking at, point things out, and prod me with questions. I was around six or seven at the time, and that’s when I started loudly declar­ing

OJ As a title, Reconstructions, in an architectural sense, takes on a much grander and perhaps even presumptuous tone as it concerns using design to reform/transform a system that runs quite effectively as it was intended. As an ever-evolving point of reference, I consider reconstruction to be everything Black people in this country have done to navigate, survive, and thrive within a nation designed at every turn to obstruct that process, a process which often confronts notions of space, access, and belonging. PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location?



OJ My project is located in New York City and more specifically Brooklyn, where I have resided for 20 years. It imagines an alternative retrofuture in which the world discovers the dangerous effects of fossil fuels in the late 70s. As a result, the U.S. federal government estab­ lishes a system of “mobility credits” wherein each person is afforded a finite amount of movement at the city, state, and national levels. In support of the free market, the law also provides that the credits would be transferable and salable, and so a system of personal-mobility allowance that was created to reduce pollution is quickly corrupted by the American principles of capitalism resulting in new inequalities mapped along racial and ethnic lines. This system is then examined through Brooklyn and New York City where it is most acute, and where a social geography quickly emerges in which certain communities have sold away almost all their rights to leave their immediate environs. I imagine what these communities look like and how they survive and adapt through a series of “architectural” improvisa­ tions. As always my work takes an inverse approach to the prevailing public perception of architecture as a problem-solving endeavor.

impression of architecture as both science and art, a discipline that com­ bined many of my interests, including writing. PU How has your practice evolved? JYD My independent practice began while I was in graduate school. Then six years later, in 1996, I received two back-to-back Whitney Museum fellowships in studio art and critical studies in their Independent Study Program. While there, I began to establish a creative practice that combined my interests and that served as a template for address­ ing issues of race, gender, and other forms of subordination as critical concerns in architecture. In the late 1990s, I developed a model for my independent practice that applies methodologies from other disciplines to address blind spots in architecture surrounding domination, diversity, and control of the built environment. In addition to independent design, research, and writing, since 1995 my practice with Sunil Bald has been involved with a combination of work at different scales in the public realm on everything from architecture installations, graphics, and exhibition design to interior design, housing, and institutional buildings. Our practice is non-linear

J. YOLANDE DANIELS J. Yolande Daniels is a founding prin­ cipal of the bi-coastal studioSUMO and an Assistant Professor at USC School of Architecture in Los Angeles. Bridging practice with archi­tec­ture’s more intangible aspects, Daniels works across sites, scales, and media, always with a firm researchdriven foundation. PIN–UP What led you to architecture? J. Yolande Daniels I didn’t grow up in an environment with architects and I came to archi­ tecture in a roundabout way. My initial interest was in art — I grew up making things, drawing, and paint­ ing. I assumed I would be an artist or a writer. In college, I explored an array of subjects as my parents were losing patience with me. Eventually, after random encoun­ ters with a young architect on a job site where I was assisting my father who was a paint contractor, and a visit to the architecture school at Howard University with my family while moving my sister in, I began to consider architecture. I had the

and, with my move to Los Angeles, it is currently bi-coastal. PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical or contem­ porary reference? JYD Reconstruction first refers to the period after the emancipation of African Americans who had been “enslaved in perpetuity.” To the hopes and beliefs of many upon emancipation, this also represented the promise of citizenship and the ability to build homesteads and communities and establish selfgovernance. Reconstruction refers to the thousands of African-American governmental officers elected and appointed nationwide and the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 — which was repealed in 1883 as state rule, Black Codes, segre-­ gation laws, and the violent repres­ sion of African-Americans through rape and lynching were enforced. Reconstruction also refers to the aftermath of the Civil War and the

“I address blind spots in architecture surrounding domination, diversity, and control.” — J. YOLANDE DANIELS

reconstruction of the power held over Southern states through the redistribution of wealth from the South to the North, and the bargain made between them to enforce the supremacy of the white population. I get stuck on the “in perpetuity” aspect of slavery: what arrogance and effort is required to suppress a people to such a degree that the effects continue to shape lives in 2020?

explores the elision of the represen­ tational tropes of “Blackness” on the lives and spaces of AfricanAmericans. The research is realized as extended footnotes in the form of a dictionary that catalogues and defines relevant concepts, a cityspecific glossary that is structured around stories of Black settlement in Los Angeles.

PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location?

Sekou Cooke is a Jamaican-born, Syracuse-based architect, curator, and educator. The founder of sekou cooke STUDIO and Assistant Professor at Syracuse University School of Architecture, Cooke is perhaps best known for his research and exhibitions on the emerging field of Hip-Hop Architecture, which excavate the architectural impact of hip-hop and its culture while proposing design practices that embody expressions and knowledges from beyond the ivory tower.

JYD In August 2019, I moved to Los Angeles, so the Reconstructions exhibition gave me the opportunity to further a body of research and explore a new city in depth. In previ­ ous research on the Black city and in seminars at Columbia University, I’d already begun to examine L.A. In comparison to the segregated northern and southern cities that I examined, turn-of-the-millennium Los Angeles seemed like an outlier —  current demographic maps indicate that it is one of the most diverse and most segregated American cities. The history of Los Angeles is one of multi-hued migrants. It is also a history of land grabs and the decimation of native populations. Taking the form of a 3D atlas, black city: the los angeles edition explores and documents Black settle­ment in Los Angeles from its founding, examining spatial sub-­ ordination through patterns of dis-­ investment and the development of majority-Black cities in the late 20th century, and re-investment and the re-emergence of majorityminority cities and states in the 21st century. Research into Black settlement in Los Angeles yields historic eventscapes of customs, policies, and laws, as well as narratives of Black community-building efforts at every stage of development, from the founding of the Pueblo de los Ángeles by the Spanish, in 1781, through California’s statehood in the United States of America in 1850 to the present day. The project builds upon a body of work — principally the urban analysis, black city — that

PIN–UP What led you to architecture? Sekou Cooke I’m one of those rare creatures who, for some reason, decided that I wanted to be an architect when I was five years old. It had something to do with me drawing a lot and taking all my toys apart to see how they were put together. I do remember my grandmother talking about these people who draw buildings for a living and thinking that sounded like fun. My older sister, however, was really the one who paved the way for me. Though she didn’t decide to study architecture until her last year of high school, her path from City College in New York to Cornell helped show me what was possible. I’ve told the story many times about how she literally filled out my application for me, photographed the work for my portfolio, and talked to Dr. Ray Dalton, then director of the Office of Minority Educational Affairs, about my application to make sure I got into Cornell. Once I got there, I realized I really had no idea what architecture was, but these people were my people. Studying architecture challenged me in a way nothing else had up to that point, so I knew I was in the right place.


products that can be considered Hip-Hop Architecture. I’ve also been working on a project for The Good Life Foundation in Syracuse to turn an abandoned ware­ house building into the Syracuse Hip-Hop Headquarters. There are other hip-hop-based projects in the works as well that have yet to be made public. PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical or contem­ porary reference? SC I think the work of Reconstructions is a 150-year ongoing project. We’re still, as a nation, not quite sure what to do to repair the damage begun over 400 years ago. Each attempt

the collective. PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location? SC I’ve decided to focus on Syracuse, mostly because I don’t think we have to look far past our own back­ yards to find challenges to tackle. This was a city I had to make an argument for since it wasn’t on the original list. But once I explained its history of marginalizing and continually displacing and replac-­ ing its Black residents, and its imminent repetition of those same patterns with the planned demolition of Interstate 81 and redevelopment of its public-housing projects, it was hard for the curators to say

“Attempts at reconstructing the relationship between America and its Black citizens have been ceremonial and ultimately toothless.” — SEKOU COOKE

SEKOU COOKE I’m still trying to figure out what architecture is. PU How has your practice evolved? SC My practice today looks almost nothing like it did 20 years ago, or ten years ago, or even five years ago, with the exception that I’ve always focused on getting my work built. This, to me, has always been the distinguishing factor between academics and practitioners. Now that I’m more deeply involved with academia, I’m still just as committed to getting work built, but I’m now also committed to having a clear theoretical basis for the work that I do. That, of course, means that there needs to be several years of investment into a topic before its

ideas can be properly tested in the real world. Fortunately, I’ve had more and more opportunity to test some of these theories in my practice. The main subject I’ve been researching over the last six years has been Hip-Hop Architecture, an architec­ tural movement aimed at transmuting hip-hop culture into built form. I have been finding its origins, identifying its practitioners, and speculating on how it might transform the disci­ pline of architecture. This work has led to a much more robust profile as a curator and theorist in academic circles. It has also, more recently, begun to shift the work that has been coming into my professional practice. The Close to the Edge exhibitions in New York [Center for Architecture, 2018] and St. Paul, Minnesota [SpringBOX, 2019] were not just curatorial but also design exercises

at reconstructing the relationship between America and its Black citi­ zens has been mostly ceremonial and ultimately toothless. Much like the various treaties signed between our government and the Indigenous nations that were here long before them, every single promise has been violated. But, for some reason, we continue to hope. This is why we con­ tinue to protest and strategize and struggle and compromise — because we believe change can and will come. This is why I believe we formed the Black Reconstruction Collective: to take advantage of the opportu-­ nity afforded by the MoMA to spot-­ light and to continue the unfinished work of reconstruction, particularly in the archi­ tecture and design fields. In addition to the general mystery sur­­rounding architecture —  what architects do, what our value is to society — there is an almost complete lack of understanding or awareness of just how few Black architects there are. We are struggling to find relevance in a field that itself is struggling to find relevance. The Black Reconstruction Collective can become a powerful vehicle for elevating and amplifying the work of Black architects and designers, bringing them into a longawaited spotlight. In this way, the work I’ve done on Hip-Hop Architec­ ture shares a common mission with

no. My research into the demolition of the old 15th Ward in the 1960s [then a predominantly Black neigh­ borhood], the 1940s Pioneer Homes housing project in Syracuse’s South­ side, and the current Blueprint 15 project to tear down Pioneer and other Syracuse housing projects revealed a multi-textured, multilayered built history within a very concentrated area of the city. My project takes those layers, samples them, remixes them, and lays them back on top of an imagined projec­ tion for the area’s future. It turns a development — projected to be a typically banal internally-focused housing project — into an externallyfocused image of public space for the Black community. We Outchea, as I’ve titled it, leverages contemporary narratives of mostly criminalized activity of Black people in public spaces to create a visual dialogue with the new housing proposal.

Architect, artist, and researcher Mario Gooden’s practice ranges from phy­ sical buildings to solo and collaborative multimedia per­ formances. Founder and principal of Huff + Gooden Architects, as well as Associate Professor and CoDirector at the Global Africa Lab at Columbia GSAPP, Gooden


the thresholds between architec­ ture and the built environment and writing, research, and performance. In particular, the consideration of performance and multimedia in my work opens up a mode of archi­ tectural representation that is much more specific with regards to sub­ jectivity and identity in architecture. My collaborations with the choreog­ rapher Jonathan González and the performance collective Dark Adaptive [artist Torkwase Dyson, movement artist Zachary Fabri, and artist and designer Andres L. Hernandez] have been intended to further explore lib-­ eratory spatial practices within archi­

tion. Design creativity and spacemaking have been key at each moment of this continuous recon­ struction. From the period of chattel slavery, Blacks have creatively appro­ priated various aspects of the built environment and landscape to invent new uses, programs, and forms of visibility. Out of necessity and due to the fugitive conditions of Black life, these modalities have always been and remain agile, transformable, and fluid — suggestive of the ways in which Black people have moved through space, negotiated the barri­ ers of social, political, and economic landscapes, and reformulated spatial

“I was always interested in the liberatory potential of space, subjectivity, and identity.” — MARIO GOODEN

tecture. For Black people, libera­tion has always been a spatial practice. PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical reference?

MARIO GOODEN exam­ ines and the interstices gender, sexuality, nology as they play built environment.

complicates of race, and tech­ out in the

interested in the space-making, eventspace, and performative conditions of occupying Modernist space than the image qualities or form-as-object conditions of these buildings.

PIN–UP What led you to architecture?

PU How has your practice evolved?

Mario Gooden From a very young age I was always interested in the liberatory potential of space, subjectivity, and identity. I first became enthralled with archi­ tecture around age ten or eleven, and in particular with Le Corbusier’s Œuvre Complète and the Five Architects book. Although the archi­ tecture and the spaces were not designed for me — just the opposite, they were spaces of exclusion —  I nonetheless projected myself in those spaces and felt I had a right to occupy that space. I was much more

MG My practice is interdisciplinary and my studio approaches architecture as a mode of culture and knowledge production very much in alliance with artistic, literary, and perfor­ mative modes of production. The practice has evolved to become multi-disciplinary in terms of think­ ing of architecture within these other disciplines and not separate or apart from them. I see my work as a cul-­ tural practice engaging the intersec­ tionality of architecture, race, gender, sexuality, and technology by crossing

MG W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America revised the historiogra­ phy of the Reconstruction era and illuminated Black agency not only towards our own liberation but also towards reconstructing the ideals of American democracy. Since eman­ cipation, Black people in America have continuously pushed the U.S. towards that becoming. First, America was built by the free labor of enslaved Africans who are just as much founding fathers and mothers of America as the signatories of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Then, Reconstruction showed the possibil­ ities of what America could become. But it would take the civil rights movements to further unmoor the conscience of the nation and to pierce its soul while at the same time Black culture and Black cul­ tural production were becoming the soul of the nation. There is a clip in Arthur Jafa’s Love is the Message, The Message is Death of the actress and activist Amandla Stenberg asking, “What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?” And I believe that we see now that Black people and Black culture-makers and thinkers are at the forefront of a coali­ tion of people of color, women, and the LGBT community working for justice and bringing about a social and cultural revolu-­

conditions through these very migra­ tions and displacements, improvising new ways of being. Furthermore, out of these conditions emerged painting, sculpture, dance, and music unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. Yet, in some ways, the formal conditions of architecture have been the most resistant to respond to the Black imaginary and agility. PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location? MG My project explores the choreogra­ phy of Black spatial praxes and modalities in Nashville, Tennessee, including the formation of the first Black-owned independent streetcar line in 1905 and some of the first civil rights sit-ins, marches, and protests of the 1960s, which foreshadowed the Black Lives Matter protests, marches, and die-ins from 2015 to the present. Entitled, The Refusal of Space, the project is a “protest machine” and multimedia mobile archi­ tecture incorporating sound, video, and projected photography to recall and enact the spatial action of protests, marches, and sit-ins in downtown Nashville. The three significant sites of the civil rights movement have recently become part of Historic Nashville’s Civil Rights Tour. Enacting feminist theo-­ rist Tina Campt’s concept of “prac­ ticing refusal,” the project uses juxtaposition and collage to resist conventional forms of architectural representation as a counter to the historic exclusion of the Black body



GERMANE BARNES and manifestations of Blackness in architecture. Miami-based architect, urban planner, and professor Germane Barnes uses speculation and historical research to examine the reciprocal relationship between architecture and Black domestic and city life. Through his practice, Studio Barnes, he has created popup porches and stoops that consider different sites of gathering and the thresholds between the home and the public, developed urban agricultural environments, and designed residential and private projects. PIN–UP What led you to architecture? Germane Barnes To be honest, becoming an architect was really an act of defiance. My mother wanted me to be a lawyer and then a politician. I worked on political campaigns in high school, took government and politics classes at my prep school, and served on their peer jury. But I always knew I would be an architect. As a Chicago native, I was born in a culturally

PU How has your practice evolved? GB Chicago, as a notoriously segregated city, has had a large hand in my practice as I am always searching for the identity and history of Black spaces. Professional and academic stints in Cape Town, Los Angeles, and Miami have only reinforced that search. In the past, I could not narrow the focus of my practice as I was trying to find and celebrate every aspect of the Black experience in the built environment. It is subject matter that is woefully absent from the field and discourse, so I tried to do it all. It was not until I began drawing from my own experiences that I understood my unique perspective in this field, specifically the Black experience at a domestic level. I am a Black man from an economically privileged family who attended the best schools in the country, but the irony is that I grew up in a neighborhood that many would deem dangerous, disenfranchised, and vulnerable. I clearly understood the difference between poverty and

“To be honest, becoming an architect was really an act of defiance.” — GERMANE BARNES rich city with ample examples of influential architecture. Living in close proximity to Oak Park, Illinois certainly helped. Driving by the beautiful homes and manicured lawns definitely left an impression. My mother worked in the Sears Tower (I will never call it by any other name) when I was a child. I often played in the Holmes Elementary School fields across the street from Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio before I knew of the building’s significance. I built a model of the Guggenheim Museum in the seventh grade. If there were a person with a clear track to architecture, it was me, even though I never met an actual architect (who happened to be Black) until I was 17. I resided on the West Side of Chicago in an area called K-Town. However, I attended elementary school on the far North Side of the city in Albany Park via yellow school bus. I witnessed how the city and urban fabric varied based on neighborhoods at a very early age. It has certainly helped shape the way I work today.

affluence because I lived it. I grew up in a five-bedroom home with both my parents; however, when visiting relatives, I learned how to heat bath water on the stove because there’s no hot water. It was normal to have pants tucked in socks, because it would deter pests from entering your clothes while you slept. My porch research, which started my personal trajectory of spatializing Blackness, was born of many summer nights occupying this critical space with family. It is where I had my first lemonade stand, and where I was arrested for “mistaken identity.” My practice’s sole goal is to use architecture as a griot because there are so many beautiful stories that deserve to be celebrated and championed. PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical or contem­ porary reference? GB

Historically we are taught that Reconstruction was the period after the abolition of slavery. Well, that is bullshit — it was simply rebranded. It is 2020 and I am still feeling the reverberations of slavery. My maternal family hails from Arkansas and the paternal side from Mississippi. The stories my grandparents would tell me about their youth sound exactly like slavery. I am the legacy of the Great Migration, which happened because of failed “reconstruction.” So naturally, I have a skeptical view of its historical significance. Especially when I have only been fed a white-supremacist history to the point of gluttony. However, when placed in the context of the show, I thought it was a very clever way to frame the work of the selected exhibitors. It gives us the opportunity to address so many of the ills of this country from the Black perspective. MoMA has one of the oldest architecture departments in the entire country, yet has never had an entirely Black architecture exhibition. How is that for reconstruction? In a way we’re taking back the institution and reconstructing it with our own vision. I love that I get the opportunity to reframe the perception of Blackness in this country that was built off our backs, and to reconstruct the opinions of many bigoted individuals. PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location? GB My project is titled A Spectrum of Blackness and it looks at Miami — as the exhibition’s youngest participant, it made sense to pick a young city. The goal is to highlight the various sediments of Blackness, utilizing the kitchen and porch as the spaces to excavate these complexities. Many individuals foolishly perceive Blackness as a monolith — I was one of them, even though I’m Black! When I first moved to Miami, I was repeatedly asked, “Where are you from?” I would always reply, “Chicago.” They would always follow with, “But from where?!?” I would get more specific and say “The West Side of Chicago.” And I would repeatedly be met with angst and annoyance, not realizing I was really being asked what country my family is from, since in Miami one can be Black but identify as Haitian, Jamaican, Cuban, Dominican, Bahamian, etc. This spectrum encompasses so many legacies that are shared and singular. I’m trying to highlight the variations of language,

dance, and spatial occupation. It’s more anthropological in nature than specifically architectural. But that’s what makes my practice unique, since I use architecture as the vehicle to tell these important stories. Hopefully, when you leave my portion of the exhibition you’ll have a better understanding of Miami as a Black city, and the significance of the kitchen, porch, and water to these communities. The other part of my project is joining forces with nine fierce architects to create a collaborative and fill the gaps that architecture doesn’t appear to prioritize. It is a clear act of reconstruction on its own and a real personal step towards crafting our own architectural narrative. My hope is that when the show is de-installed, this will continue to move things forward for Black architects and create more opportunities for us to express ourselves. Not just as Black architects — because that assumes we can only design things related to the Black experience — but so that we can fully realize all the intellectual and radical ideas we’ve had to suppress as a result of white supremacy and racism.

When it comes to public space, Walter Hood is one of today’s preeminent thinkers and makers. A professor at the University of California, Berkeley and recipient of a MacArthur Foun­ dation “genius grant,” he has run the Oakland, California-based Hood Design Studio since 1992, producing distinctive landscapes that reimagine how we relate to urban environments and developing masterplans that pay attention to history, ecology, art, and everyday use. PIN–UP What led you to architecture and urban design? Walter Hood I’ve always liked making things. I always liked building. When I was in high school, I remember seeing people in a classroom with cloaks on, like white lab coats, standing over a desk. And there was no one in that room that looked like me. I was really, really inclined to go in. I asked the teacher what these people were doing. He said it was called drafting. And I was hooked after that. I really liked this notion that you had to dress up, that you had to prepare. It was during the first few years of integration. A lot of the white kids were being bussed into the city. And again, there were no Black kids in this class, and architecture was completely unknown to me as a profession. And


once I walked through that door, it turned out the teacher was Black and he took me under his wing. I actually ended up going to the HBCU [historically Black college or university] that he graduated from. Walking through that door was the thing that changed my life.

nonprofits with the Panthers’ TenPoint Program, which might allow them to see a different future? These programs deal with education, with housing, incarceration, police brutality, militarism. All of these really powerful political actions, which 50 years ago enabled groups of young Black women and men to think of their future. And then if I zoom in on the history of redlining, which has plagued the area, and I look across the red line, which is a boundary, I now see 30-story housing towers going on. Can I empower these non­ profits to build their own 30-story towers? I’m proposing high-rise towers for each of the ten nonprofits and illuminating how they might think of the future in a completely different way. For each of the towers, there’s a narrative, almost like a novella. In order for me to be able dream anew, I had to create a fiction that would allow me to be more speculative.

PU How has your practice evolved? WH I think going back to that kind of origin provides some insight for my practice today. I walked through this doorway into a world that didn’t look like me, that I was totally unfamiliar with. And it seems that really is part of my prac-­ tice, in that we’re constantly trying to step through these doors and get people to see the world in a different way. I went on to get degrees in land­ scape architecture, urban design, and art. My practice is multi-dimensional; it’s much more complete insofar as there are no disciplinary boundaries for me. That goes back to this metaphor of stepping through these doors, step­ ping through these thresholds to allow me to participate and actually get people to sort of see the world.

PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical or contem­ porary reference?

PU It’s interesting that you’re using the metaphor of doors when so often your built projects, by their very nature, don’t have any. WH The difference between buildings and landscapes is that with landscapes, you don’t see those thresholds or boundaries, though they do exist and people are impacted by them. I think in the public realm this is what makes it harder to design for difference, because it’s easy to design for same­ ness. But when you’re designing for differences, it’s a little bit more subtle. Space doesn’t always have an excla­ mation mark after it. You can be a little bit more gradual in how you take people from A to B and how you get people to actually begin to see things differently. I think land­ scape as a medium is really complex in that it’s organic and it’s alive. To me, that’s the power, because I can make things look one way today and totally different in 20 years. PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location? WH It’s situated here in Oakland, California, and is located on a 1-mile stretch of roadway that pretty much runs north– south for 50 to 60 miles connecting different cities together along the

WALTER HOOD bay. My office has been here the last 20 years, so it’s a site I’ve experi­ enced over time. The project is called Black Tower Black Power, a play on words, but also a kind of exhumation of a cultural history. Black Tower Black Power exhumes the Black Panthers and the Ten-Point Program they developed in Oakland. Watching this landscape transform over the last 20 years, I noticed a couple things. One is that it’s never gotten better — actually, it has deteriorated. But I’ve also watched different

nonprofits — particularly non­profits that engage in low-income housing, a lot of social-reform work, some of them through religion — settle on this strip of roadway, and in their more altruistic sort of goals, they’ve set out to make the place better. But still it doesn’t get better, so I’ve asked myself why. And the irony is that these nonprofits are there to do positive things, but they have this inability to think of a different future, because the future they know is tied to the past, which is poverty. My thesis is very simple: what if I armed these

“We have to think about ourselves as becoming something other than what we are.” — WALTER HOOD

WH To me, it suggests future possibilities. I’ve always found troubling the notion of “reconstruct” as a do-over. The thing with Africans and then AfricanAmericans and now Blacks in this country is that the starting-over point was never inclusive. It was always an additive thing. And I think one of the things I’m really intrigued by in the show is how I can dwell on and think of the future of Black people in this country. I was drawn to these social services and the inability of our politicians and designers to think about a future for groups of people. I look around the world every day and I think there is this kind of blockage and I don’t think we have the means to actually even dream that way. It’s so tied up in the construction of this country that has always been singular. I do think we have to be very prophetic on the one hand, but also we have to be very imaginative to actually get people to buy into this reconstruction. I don’t think it can look the same, smell the same, taste the same. I think we have to somehow reinvigorate the imagi­nation of this country to think about ourselves as becoming some­ thing other than what we are.

With a background in architecture, Chicago-based Amanda Williams uses art to expose and complicate entan­ gled architectural, urban, political, and economic realities. Working across media — from photography and cut


AMANDA WILLIAMS paper to sculpture, installation, and even, in her 2014–16 Color(ed) Theory, painting entire vacant homes —  Williams challenges racialized and gendered notions of citizenship and safety while begging formal questions of color, space, and movement. PIN–UP What led you to architecture? Amanda Williams What brought me to architecture was segregation — the inequities and pro­ active government policies that denied the distribution of resources for land and home ownership and mainte­ nance and care for spaces, which I traversed while growing up in Chicago. This led to the wellintended but naïve assumption that “architecture” was my path to beauty and equity for these urban land­ scapes. In fact, what I’m passionate about is space both physical and conceptual — primarily spaces that look like the one I grew up in, no matter the city. PU What does that look like in your practice today? AW There is pressure in the discipline of architecture to lead with a narrative about “fixing.” Analysis, assessment, site plans from a 10,000-foot bird’seye view, funneling “solutions” into form. But why is a project brief so often framed as a problem? What if it was seen through a lens of possi­ bility? Which is not to say through myopic blinders that pretend the slate is blank, but something else, a new model. I have no idea what that is, but that’s the question I’m excited about. My artistic trajectory essentially allows me to iteratively practice in public. There’s a power to ruminating on ongoing themes but framed via different media, scales, and contexts. It’s the throughline that ties “thrival” to Shirley Chisholm [the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress, to whom Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous are creating a 40-foot monument in Brooklyn] to MoMA to Color(ed) Theory to abstract painting. This approach allows me to create or

par­ticipate in different projects that can be used to complicate how we map urban/architectural/legal pasts and presents. A creative practice that uses any medium necessary doesn’t take up questions of art or architecture or policy or painting or, or, or… Those boundaries and categories are for someone else. It’s made me tired to parse how much of me is Black or woman or Chicagoan or, or, or... I used to do it out of politeness. I don’t anymore. The same holds true for the work I do. I am compelled by slip­ pages and dualities in our use of and understanding of the language of space — free space, outer space, inner space, physical space. Freedom to, not freedom from. I’m not sure I’ve ever really seen that play out for Black people at a large sustainable urban or even rural scale, but that’s the desire. And I’m asking how I can contribute to all those people using their talent and creativity to get there. Artists, enter­tain­ ers, writers, policymakers, musi­cians, intellectuals, my cousin. Anybody. PU How do notions of citizenship and public space figure in your practice? AW Questions of citizenship and civic space naturally arise as themes in my work because that’s where we see the dissonance and, of late, the friction when it comes to autonomy over one’s right to occupy whatever space or ideology one chooses. Even if you don’t understand the violence inherent in the Constitution, you can visibly comprehend these racial, political, and legal inequities playing themselves out in cities across the U.S. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s voicing of the term “intersectionality” is no longer abstract. The connection between the threads of this wicked problem — race, class, gender, health, zip code, etc. — are impossible to miss. PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location? AW Reconstructions of course allows us to revisit the Reconstruction era in

“The connection between the threads of this wicked problem are impossible to miss.” — AMANDA WILLIAMS


American history as perhaps such a moment to answer or at least ask the questions I’ve laid out. So, beginn­ ing with more cursory questions of just “space,” my project thinks about all the tools and fragments Black people might use to navigate their way to free space, which maybe is some extreme physical condition — the open sea, outer space, or Kinloch, Missouri’s first all-Black incorporated town. My pro­ ject imagines how all of these sites are intertwined, and provides frag­ ments of things I am using to make a new kind of map for hopefully a new kind of world. With that world I can talk about buildings. For now I’ve written prosaic directions to (free) Black space and, and, and...

Architect Emanuel Admassu is a founding partner with Jen Wood of the practice AD—WO, which works between Melbourne, Australia and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from a base

i

n

EMANUEL ADMASSU

Providence, Rhode Island. Think­ ing through global African diasporic conditions, Admassu’s researchdriven practice blurs boundaries between art and architecture while proposing new ways of living informed by the specificities of local sociopolitical contexts. PIN–UP What led you to architecture? Emanuel Admassu I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be an architect. I grew up in Addis Ababa, a city that has experienced radical transformations over the past 30 years. My father was an electronics technician, so I grew up surrounded by electronics that he was fixing. It was fascinating to witness his ability to get lost in the work. He was an extremely disciplined man who would spend days operating on a single device. My mother, on the other hand, has a

great aesthetic sensibility. Once a year she would make us take all the furniture out and reorganize everything. Sometimes the living room furniture would end up in the dining room, artworks would be repositioned, etc. So I grew up in a house where rooms were always being reconfigured and electronics were being disassembled. That might have something to do with it. I’m also the youngest of three children and my siblings are much older. They both moved to the U.S. when I was six or seven years old, so I spent a lot of time alone, drawing — mostly drawing potential houses for different relatives and family members. PU How has your practice evolved? EA My practice, AD—WO, is a partner­ ship with Jen Wood who is from Melbourne, Australia. We met at Columbia GSAPP. Like most young practices, we started with small competitions we were doing outside of our day jobs. Eventually we moved from Brooklyn to Providence, Rhode Island, and started doing a lot more research and design projects in East Africa — mostly focusing on Addis

EA I believe Reconstructions requires two simultaneous practices: aggres­ sive reinterpretations of history and radical imaginations of the future. The first is based on the need to estab­ lish a new value system because the dominant structures and systems for seeing and measuring are based on a settler-colonial logic that was invented to devalue Black life and Black spaces. This is why we need new ways of conceptualizing cities, archives, and disciplines associated with the built environment. For exam­ ple, what is fascinating about W.E.B. Du Bois’s book Black Reconstruction is the fact that it is a radical renarrativization of the documents he was able to access — a response to his lack of access as a Black man to traditional archives. This tradition continues with contemporary Black intellectuals who are in some ways redefining or expanding the archive by engaging with an expansive array of images and documents. It is also a rejection of the arguments, mean­ ings, and myths of exceptionalism that were attached to objects in the archive. We need to develop new ways to model and draw undervalued spatial practices by Black folks in the city. In other words, we need to invent ways of seeing ourselves and our spaces differently from the way we have been trained to do

“We need to develop new ways to model and draw undervalued spatial practices.” — EMANUEL ADMASSU Ababa and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Over the past few years we have been working on single-family and multifamily residential projects in Addis Ababa in collaboration with local architects. Hopefully one of those will start construction this year. Our primary research project has been the examination of urban marketplaces in Ethiopia and Tanzania. This research produced a lot of knowledge that we couldn’t translate into buildings, leading to a more direct engagement with the art world: creating tapestries, stop-motion animations, drawings, and installations for exhibitions. We have accepted the fact that our practice is positioned between art and architecture. PU What does “reconstructions” mean to you? Both as the title of the show and as a historical or contem­ porary reference?

so. Because, without establishing that, it would be impossible to have a vision of Black futurity that is genuinely dedicated to freedom and liberation. The second is the practice of imagining a different world. I would say this is an aboli­ tionist practice, following the Black radical tradition, that involves dis­ mantling the systems that continue to destroy our lives and make the planet uninhabitable. This requires an unapologetic vision of a future that is not built on Black social death, a future that is not built on recursive dispossession. It requires instead a future that starts with reparations, then continues to build Black neighborhoods and commu­ nities that have been systematically devastated by state-sanctioned vio­ lence enacted through policing, banking, urban-planning practices, and the prison-industrial complex. This work has to be done


DAVID HARTT

simulta­ neously with sustained and honest accountings of the history ism, racial slavery, and of colonial­ imperialism that have shaped our contemporary enclosure of racial capitalism.

civic architecture. Montréal-born artist David Hartt lives and works in Philadelphia where he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. His work explores how historic ideas and ideals persist or transform over time. He is represented by Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, David Nolan Gallery, New York, and Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin.

PU Can you describe the project you are creating in response to the MoMA Reconstructions brief? Where is it and why did you choose that location? EA Our piece for Reconstructions aspires to be in the first category I described above. It attempts a radical rereading of everyday practices, following recent scholarship by Saidiya Hartman, Tina Campt, Christina Sharpe, Mabel O. Wilson, and others. It explores the myriad ways in which Black people have been imagining liberation within spaces of containment. We are exam­ ining Atlanta, Georgia, the city I moved to from Addis Ababa as a teenager. It was also the epicenter of the civil rights movement and it continues to be a major hub for Black cultural production in music, television, and film. We’re asking how we can invent ways to represent these everyday practices by people who are living in Atlanta, who are finding ways to occupy the highways, the streets, the parking lots, strip malls, and so on. We are interested in relatively banal and mundane activities that are required to survive as a Black person in this country. It is also an investigation of the danger that lurks behind these seemingly ordi­ nary spaces in the city. The piece is called Immeasurability. Therefore, it is also grappling with this legacy of architecture as a discipline that makes the world measurable, trans­ forming land and people into property. It is a meditation on multiple scales of immeasurability that are practiced by Black people in Atlanta, and how these sensibilities are tied to the movement of Black people across the Atlantic. There are two main pieces in our installation: a horizon­ tal disc operating at the scale of the city and a vertical disc operat­ ing at the scale of the planet. The hori­zontal disc grapples with issues of displacement and disposses­ sion while the vertical disc is try­ing to understand how a massive planetary scar — the Mid-Atlantic Ridge — functions as a metaphor for the extractive relationships between Africa and the Americas, linking the Door of No Return to the port of Savannah, Georgia, where Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin.

SEAN ANDERSON

MABEL O. WILSON

The trajectory of what would become the exhibition Reconstructions: Archi­ tecture and Blackness in America is for me considerable. Having grown up in South Carolina, with remnants of horrific practices present but over­ looked in the state, the images of nearby plantations and incipient slav­ ery reconceived as tourist desire, and the displacement of long-standing Black communities for development, I have never forgotten these spatial histories. Arriving at the MoMA several years ago, I actively sought to reconcile such narratives with the absence of African-American and African diasporic architects and designers in the permanent collec­ tion and exhibition histories. After all, the design of the built environ­ ment in the U.S. was predicated on the legalized division of people via infrastructure, coercive mapping, and lethal industries. Thinking alongside these exceptional architects, artists, and designers, as well as with the unmatched contributions of our advisory committee, I am incredibly fortunate to join Mabel O. Wilson and Arièle Dionne-Krosnick — along with many others — in asking when a renewed engagement with Black reconstruction across all scales in our society might commence.

I always carry with me Audre Lorde’s prescient observation that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In other words, can we work within historically anti-Black institutions utilizing ideas like architecture (a European art of build­ ing) and from the modern subject position of the architect (typically white and male) to challenge the whiteness of the discipline and profession, one that has repeatedly failed to construct spaces in which Black people thrive or been inclusive of architects who can imagine Black spaces? As a curator working in collaboration with Sean Anderson and Arièle Dionne-Krosnick, we designed a curatorial process differ­ent from other exhibitions in MoMA’s Issues in Con-­ tem­porary Architecture series. Because architecture and, more specifically, MoMA’s archives, held so few models for unbuilding anti-Black racism in America’s cities and towns, we engaged an extraordinary advisory panel of architects, scholars, writers, and activists for council. I believe that once the exhibition opens to the public, the work by the architects, designers, and artists in Reconstructions will affirm and/or challenge Lorde’s difficult declaration.

Sean Anderson is Associate Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art. He also manages the Young Architects Program and the Issues in Contemporary Architecture series. He has practiced as an architect and taught in Afghanistan, Australia, India, Italy, Morocco, Sri Lanka, and the UAE.

Mabel O. Wilson is a Professor of Architecture, a co-director of Global Africa Lab, and the Associate Director at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. Her transdisciplinary prac-­ tice spans scholarship, curatorial pro-­ jects, artworks, and design projects. She is currently writing Building Race and Nation, a book about how slavery influenced early American

David Hartt photographed this portfolio exclusively for PIN–UP on the occasion of the exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, in which he also participates. The exhibition is curated by Sean Anderson and Mabel O. Wilson and is on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from February 20 until May 31, 2021. The Black Reconstruction Collective consists of Emanuel Admassu, Germane Barnes, Sekou Cooke, J. Yolande Daniels, Felecia Davis, Mario Gooden, Walter Hood, Olalekan Jeyifous, V. Mitch McEwen, and Amanda Williams.

A PIN–UP SPECIAL IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THOM BROWNE


FE AT UR ES FEATURES


XU TIA

“Architectural acupuncture” is how Xu Tiantian describes her work: more specifically, the phrase she has coined refers to a series of targeted interventions in the Chinese countryside through which she has helped to rejuvenate and sometimes jumpstart rural economies. Ongoing for six years now, her mission has concentrated on Songyang, a bucolic county 250 miles southeast of Shanghai that counts over 400 villages and is dominated by rolling green mountains and the Songyin River. There she has built and developed a series of thoughtful projects that promote the region’s idiosyncratic cultural heritage, such as a brown-sugar factory in the village of Xing (2016) that theatrically displays the artisanal process for visitors, or a memorial hall in Wang (2017), which tells the story of a legendary 14th-century scholar, Wang Jing, a native of the village. Through these interventions, Xu and her team have not only helped slow down the rural exodus but have even attracted city dwellers, both as tourists and new residents. Xu herself was born in Fujian Province, coming of age during the 80s and 90s, a time of great change in Chinese society. She first studied architecture at Tsinghua University in Beijing before going on to complete a master’s degree in urban design at Harvard GSD, afterwards working for three years in Boston and then briefly for OMA in Rotterdam. In 2004 — at the peak of China’s rush to urbanize — Xu returned home to start her own firm, DnA (Design and Architecture). Since then she has been at the forefront of a new approach to developing the nation’s vast countryside, which, unlike the blanket solution applied at breakneck speed during China’s more recent urban growth, sees her carefully selecting the pressure points, employing local materials and construction pro­ cesses, with an attentiveness to collectivity and communal space — a rural revolution achieved through architectural acupuncture. Curator Beatrice Galilee discussed with Xu her connective practice and finding ways the past can be valued in the future. INTERVIEW BY BEATRICE GALILEE PORTRAITS BY WANG RUJIE


ANTIAN FEATURES


BEATRICE GALILEE The first time I encountered your work was as part of Ordos 100, Ai Weiwei’s 2008 project with Herzog & de Meuron in the Mongolian desert, which envisioned 100 villas by 100 international architects. When I visited, in 2009, your building was the only one that had actually been built. XU TIANTIAN I think maybe one of the few buildings. It’s pretty much still the same now. [Laughs.] BG Can you describe some of your first projects? And how do these experiences feed into your practice today? XT Our first project was a pavilion for the Jinhua Architecture Park, a collaboration with the artist Wang Xingwei [another Ai Weiwei initiative, the park was begun in 2002 and completed in 2012. Xu and Wang’s structure houses the park’s bathrooms]. After, we were commissioned by the Songzhuang Art Museum. Songzhuang is an artists’ village outside of Beijing. This was during a phase when the Chinese art and auction markets were booming, and it was also the beginning of development for the Songzhuang art colony. Later on, there were more and more art facilities, galleries, and artist studios built in that area. The Songzhuang Art Museum was pretty much the first public facility built there — we completed it in 2006. And that’s how we were introduced to the developer who was in charge of Ordos. The new district in Ordos was planned to be an arts and cultural complex, and later a real-estate development. They wanted to build an arts district to introduce all the artists in Beijing to Ordos and to bring cultural events to the area. That was how we received the commission in the beginning. When we started to visit the area, it was really very raw. In the beginning, there was this very ambitious and also very positive vision for the future of Ordos. Ordos was definitely undergoing an economic boom at that time. BG There was a very public celebration of Chinese culture at that time. The Olympics had just happened and the Chinese art market was also booming. At that point, was it considered subversive to be working with artists? XT At that moment, there was a very positive, generally optimistic feeling in arts and culture circles. There were many art facilities being built, not only in Beijing but also in other cities, in Chengdu, and even in Ordos. Real-estate developers were also using arts and cultural facilities to attract a community and an audience and then also buyers

in the long run. The idea was to lead regeneration through culture. BG The Bilbao effect! XT Yes. BG What did your family think about your becoming an architect? XT Their work was not related to architecture, so they didn’t really understand much about it. But, when I think back, I believe my interest in architecture has something to do with how I grew up in Fujian. My family’s house was a really large compound — there were over 100 people living there. It was a big family and also a very traditional arrangement with layers of courtyards and corridors. Whenever I go back now, I think how very beautiful the space is. I think it had some influence on how I understood architecture back then. BG It was just one very large family that lived there? XT A very large family. It was the siblings of my great-grandfather with the last name X-U. We do the last name first. So it was the Xu family living there with hundreds of offspring. Many of the people are not living there anymore, they’ve moved to other areas or overseas. We do go back from time to time. This is a very typical concept of the family in China, which I also discovered in Songyang — in rural areas a village is sometimes only one family with hundreds of people. BG Was your family’s home in a rural area? XT No. It became an urban district decades ago, so it wasn’t a rural village like in the mountains or the flatlands. Now it’s become an urban center, and there are many developments around it. BG You grew up right around the time when Deng Xiaoping began to establish his vision for opening China up to the world. How did that feel during your childhood? XT It definitely had a huge impact on my generation. When I was growing up, it was the beginning of the opening up, and it was also just after the onechild policy was implemented. I think everybody in my generation was witnessing developments in many areas, not just in rural areas but in cities as well. Starting in early 90s, there was so much construction going on and new buildings. The environment I grew up in, and also in other cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, was a transformation


Photography by Ziling Wang (top) and Dan Han (bottom). Courtesy of DnA.

XU

The Bamboo Pavilion (2015) was designed as an open-air public space to function as both a resting place for Damushan tea plantation workers and as a viewing platform for tourists. Made from local bamboo and designed with terraced roofs mirroring the landscape’s undulations, the pavilion is part of the ongoing work Xu Tiantian and her office DnA do to revitalize villages in Songyang County.

Dushan Leisure Center (2018) is located at the foot of Dushan Mountain, among Songyang County’s most iconic landmarks. The county commissioned Beijing-based Xu Tiantian and DnA to design the center to promote tourism in the region, but the complex also serves the local community with a visitor center, tearoom, exhibition space, and water sports facilities.


from a more traditional scale into a very modern high-rise, high-density situation. BG And the enormous building boom that followed in cities like Shenzhen, Wuhan, and Chengdu was also a huge moment for architecture. Suddenly, architecture was a force behind China in a way, of China’s presentation to the world. XT I think at that moment it was more about construction, not architecture. BG That’s a good distinction. How did that influence your own thinking about architecture? You were just starting school at the time. XT Yes, I was in college in the early 90s, at Tsinghua University. It was a more engineering-oriented education — architecture and design weren’t the priority at that moment. It was very good training to understand the technical side of architecture. But when I started at Harvard GSD, it was a very big transition for me. It was almost like jumping into another field. My program was architecture in urban design. I was in new territory. It was just totally mind-opening to learn about architects and architecture. Rem Koolhaas was already a big name at the time, but during my entire college education in China we didn’t have any resources or information about Rem, about his architecture, or his research. BG Were people at Harvard already talking about what was happening in China? XT No. I don’t think China was a subject being discussed. It wasn’t until a few years later. But when I was at the GSD, there were already a lot of things starting to happen in China. Yung Ho Chang went back to China in the 90s. His was the first generation of modern or contemporary Chinese architects, along with Ai Weiwei and all these people — I don’t know if you would call them first generation, but they were definitely the very beginning phase. BG How did your work developing rural communities in Songyang begin? XT It was really a coincidence. When we started, no one was really interested in doing something in a rural context. But we received a commission for a hotel project on a tea plantation, which is still currently under construction after six years. It was really the first time that I’d been to the truly rural side of China, these villages on a mountain in Songyang. It was really an impressive trip for all of us who went. So our first engagement in Songyang was this hotel, it was about the county

wanting to promote rural tourism. Songyang County is an agricultural county and they planned to use this character as its main selling point to attract tourism and economic development. Once we started working on the hotel project, we were constantly asked by local villages to be consultants for their village’s development. At the same time there was also the concept of nostalgia as part of this idea of national rejuvenation. Xi Jinping came up with the idea of developing cultural self-confidence and also to promote rural areas in order to achieve a balance between the urban and rural. BG Was there already broadband and high-speed rail in those areas, or did that come later? XT Yes, and there were roads connecting every village. I think it had already been achieved for a decade, especially in Zhejiang Province, which is wealthier than other areas. [E-commerce giant] Alibaba is based in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, so the government had long been promoting tech infrastructure in the province. Later it became the policy in the whole country. BG I know that you’ve done a lot of economic work in the region trying to generate ways for people to sell their local crafts and artisanal products. At the tofu factory in Lishui [2018], for example, you helped to make sure the tofu met existing standards for export or to be sold online. Could you talk a little bit about these processes and how you’ve intervened not just on an architectural level but also on an economic and community level? XT With the Songyang project, our work wasn’t about very specific architectural design. It was more about architecture as a medium to integrate different disciplines or aspects. The ultimate goal is to revitalize the village or the rural area. Yes, infrastructure is a very important foundation for the whole process because on top of that we’re able to use digital tools like an e-commerce platform so that villagers can sell their products online, and also attract tourism through WeChat or Internet promotion. In this area, even in the village, a lot of people have smartphones. Villagers connect with people in cities, and tourists also broadcast whatever they’ve seen here in the village online. So technology is really integrated into all the facilities. BG You’ve also worked with minority communi-­ ties such as the Hakka, for whom you designed a museum. XT Right. It’s the Hakka Indenture Museum in Shicang [2017]. In this area, each village has its own


XU

“The acupuncture strategy is about proposing sustainable minimal intervention but also for these developments to trigger their own initiatives�


specific history or story to tell. In Shicang Village, there’s a local legend about how the village got its name, which means stone storage. To commemorate this story, we made a structure that has these massive stone walls that trace out a sort of wild-lattice plan. In Wang Village, we made a memorial hall dedicated to the scholar Wang Jing, one of the historical figures in the area. In other villages, it’s a local product that’s highlighted. Each intervention starts with the village’s own unique story or content and, at the end, each project’s goal is to achieve not only cultural but also economic and social balance or integration. For example, the goal for the Hakka village with this cultural Indenture Museum is for it to act as a strategy to attract investments to the homestay business next door and to integrate the museum into cultural activities and tourism. The brown-sugar factory, for example, is for production, but at the same time it’s also a space to introduce village heritage and cultural events. It’s always taking each village’s own history or historical context, but reaching out to multiple aspects in a sense.

Aerial view of the Songyang County Chinese Herbal Garden designed by Xiu Tiantian and DnA to cultivate the region’s local traditions of herbal medicines and therapies. The project developed in response to a local market becoming vacated due to fire regulations. The garden’s design adapts the market’s cement floor by carving into it plant beds in the shape of Chinese characters corresponding to the names of the herbs.

BG Because of the pandemic, there is something strange happening in U.S. cities — we’re no longer using them in the same way. People work from home, and some people are moving to the country to work from there. Do you think this could be part of a larger shift towards the rural? XT This is already happening in the Songyang area. BG Really? XT In the past four years, there have been over 6,000 people moving from cities to Songyang County and its villages. In Pingtian, the first village we started working with, the total number of inhabitants has increased by over 100 now. Young people are moving back to start their own businesses related to agricultural products and rural crafts, and even rural tourism. Not only are villagers mov­ ing back, there are also city residents who aren’t from the area relocating to Songyang. BG Are those city people taking up weekend homes or actually moving there permanently? XT Some of them still keep a home in the city. But they not only take a second home in the countryside, they also start a new business and create jobs. They become this bridge connecting the city and the village. Compared to cities, rural areas still preserve most of China’s culture and heritage. The cities are more modern, but more or less the same as many other international cities. Right now in Songyang, all the local villagers are


Photography by Ziling Wang. Courtesy of DnA.

XU

The Water Conservancy Center sits on the banks of the Songyin River, a vital water source for Songyang County, where many of DnA’s project are located. The building was originally planned as a straightforward water management center. However, in 2016, the project was reconceived as a “hydrological park,” with outdoor amphitheaters, roof gardens, an exhibition hall, and a multimedia space.

Like many of DnA’s recent projects, the Water Conservancy Center (2019) is designed to generate rural self-confidence, a practice DnA’s founder Xu Tiantian calls “architectural acupuncture.” Stimulating the flow between urban to rural like acupuncture stimulates circulation points in the human body, this development strategy is epitomized by this project which doubles as a local community center.


really into the idea of rural revitalization. There’s a lot of confidence and optimism. Our projects are deliberately small-scale, both architecturally and in terms of investment. The idea is to attract more for the next step, for further investments or further initiatives from the local community. BG How do you feel about the future of these places? XT At the beginning, we didn’t plan to collaborate with Songyang over such a long period — it’s already been six years now. But today we hope it will be for an even longer term. In the first year, we probably took on over ten projects pro bono. These were very small-scale, just a bit here, a bit there. The bamboo theater, the teahouse, the Pingtian religious center, and so on. Now I look back on that time and think it was really important to build up an understanding of this area and build up trust with these local communities. If we had only worked on one project there, maybe we wouldn’t have invested so much into learning about the local history and all these traditions in different villages. I think this understanding becomes the foundation for our collaboration with and connection to the area. This emotional connection pushed us to think further about how we can engage — and also about how architecture can engage. A circular window in Damushan Valley Teahouse over­looks Xujing pool, a body of water originally created in 1968 for irrigation purposes of the tea plantation. Following the success of Bamboo Pavilion, Xu Tiantian and DnA designed this teahouse in 2015 on the plantation’s west side, paying homage both to the immensity of nature and to the the cultural heritage of the Songyang region.

The Hakka Indenture Museum (2017) is one of DnA’s rural projects that functions as a tourist attraction while promoting local crafts traditions and the area’s unique character. Located in the village of Shicang, which translates to “stone storage,” the museum’s stone walls are designed with vernacular construction techniques. The main attraction is a water curtain, where through an opening in the roof, sunlight shines forming a rainbow.

BG What you call architectural acupuncture! XT Yes. To us, the acupuncture strategy is about proposing sustainable minimal intervention, but also creating the conditions for these long-term developments to trigger their own initiatives. That’s how this area with mostly rural villages can achieve long-term sustainable development with just the support of their own community, not always needing the support of the government or large industrial investments. BG And it’s worked. It seems that the area is really thriving with everything that you’re doing there. XT The area is doing better and better. Even during this critical time, Songyang has recovered very quickly and is almost back to its routine. All the construction sites are back to normal. Tourism is coming back as well. The county has really built up confidence in its local communities.


Photography by Ziling Wang. Courtesy of DnA.

XU

“The emotional connection with the village pushed us to think further about how we can engage —  and also about how architecture can engage”


LUCA CIP Luca Cipelletti is somewhat of an exhibitionist: since founding his studio AR.CH.IT in 2000, the Milanese architect has designed literally hundreds of temporary art and design exhibitions, as well as many permanent exhibition spaces. This year alone he’s been busy with several major museum projects, including Rimini’s new PART — Palazzi dell’Arte, the master plan for Milan’s science and technology museum, and the design of Florence’s new Fondazione Bitossi. In 2019, Cipelletti, who often directly collaborates with artists, was also asked to take on the artistic direction for the restoration of the Palazzo dell’Arte, Giovanni Muzio’s 1930s building for the Triennale Milano, which specializes in one of Italy’s biggest exports: design. Preserving Italian architecture is a driving force for Cipelletti, but rather than simply recreating and enshrining the past, the 47-year-old has a propensity for teasing out unexpected connections between exhibi­ tion content and the historic buildings housing it, chipping away at conventional curatorial notions to allow for multiple perspectives, layers, views, and readings. Delight is always his goal, and he’s not afraid to throw in the odd touch of theatricality to achieve it. At the height of Europe’s coronavirus lockdown, writer and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, who shares Cipelletti’s impassioned investment in exhibition making, spoke with the architect by video chat from their respective homes in London and Milan. INTERVIEW BY HANS ULRICH OBRIST PORTRAITS BY JOSEP FONTI


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HANS ULRICH OBRIST Luca, it’s such a pleasure talk to you. We have many friends in common, like [architect and Triennale president] Stefano Boeri and the Triennale team, who all talk about you every day. You and I first met when you opened the Museo della Merda, or Shit Museum, which is very Piero Manzoni, but also very relevant to our current age and the need for sustainable architecture. Tell me a little bit about the epiphany which led you to the Museo della Merda.

Luca Cipelletti converted a former industrial building near Florence into a space for the Archivio Museo Bitossi. These shelves, originally built to dry Bitossi’s famous ceramics, Cipelletti redesigned to display the manufacturer’s 7,000-piece collection. The ceramic bird in the foreground of the image is the iconic Bitossi bird figurine, designed by Aldo Londi in 1953.

Merdacotta® tableware made from clay and cow dung, one of the Shit Museum’s “primordial products.” Founded in 2015 by agricultural entrepreneur Gianantonio Locatelli in collaboration with Cipelletti and two other associates, the museum’s aim is to generate ways to use poop as a viable material for design and architecture.

LUCA CIPELLETTI Well, a few years ago I visited this incredible farm at Castelbosco near Piacenza which is owned by Gianantonio Locatelli, a farmer who produces milk for Grana Padano cheese. Locatelli, who’s also an art collector, has been pioneering the transformation of cow dung into biogas that can be used to produce electricity. I found this unprecedented intersection of nature, technology, agriculture, and science really quite amazing. Locatelli asked me to come up with an idea, and together we decided to create a museum about shit and art, but also about the importance of shit in general. Why a museum? Because a museum is a place where you can learn something. Shit is endless: you can transform it into electricity, you can use it for heating, you can mix dry shit with clay to produce bricks, vases, and tableware. We’re now working on making new construction materials with it. Shit is a resource for coming generations — it’s the new gold! HUO And what brought you to architecture or architecture to you? LC You could say that since day one I’ve been building. As a child I used to put all the Lego together with different toys to build a city. Then, when I studied architecture, I met Marco Albini, Franco Albini’s son, in whose studio I spent a few years. It was there that I learned about the culture of muse­ ums, layering history and art, and began focusing on museums as public architecture. So Albini was definitely my second entry point. Then I immediately opened a studio by myself, which was very, very, hard at the beginning. I did tons of temporary exhibitions, more than 100. I learned to understand the language of an artist or designer. HUO As you know, exhibitions are also the medium I work with. Richard Hamilton told me that Marcel Duchamp once said that we mostly remember exhibitions which invent a new display feature. Exhibitions are, of course, a laboratory for architec­ ture in a similar way to pavilions, because there’s more freedom to improvise and experiment than with permanent buildings. At the same time, exhibitions


Photography by Clara Vannucci (Bitossi) and Henrik Blomqvist (Merdacotta). Photography by Henrik Blomqvist. Courtesy of ARCH.IT

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Ticket office and lobby at PART, Rimini, designed by Luca Cipelletti. Formally named Palazzi dell’Arte, the project integrates the preserved historic site with a collection of contem­porary art. The furniture is from Cipelletti’s XYZ collection of tables and benches designed for Giustini Stagetti. The wall drawings were done by the artist David Tremlett, who gained inspiration from the Malatestiano Temple, an unfinished 15th century Rimini church conceived by Leon Battista Alberti.


are part of a non-sustainable industry where resources are wasted, so it’s also important to talk about sustainability issues. Can you say a little bit about the medium of the exhibition and give maybe two or three examples of favorite exhibitions that you’ve worked on?

Alberto Savinio’s painting Apollinaire (1927) as seen through a cutout window in an exhibition partition, the irregular shape echoing the geometry of the artist’s paintings. Luca Cipelletti conceived of the design for the Savinio’s 2011 retrospective at Milan’s Palazzo Reale, allowing for multiple perspectives of single works, creating a unique and dramatic experience for the exhibition goer.

A farm and cheese making facility offered the perfect site for an unconventional institution like Cipelletti’s Shit Museum. In addition to offering exhibition space in the main building, the facility provided a canvas for artists like David Tremlett. A frequent collaborator of Cipelletti’s, Tremlett created vibrant paintings on the sides of the farm’s production facilities.

LC I actually love to recycle materials from previous exhibitions. I remember I designed a show about Alberto Savinio, a wonderful painter, writer, and musician, who was Giorgio de Chirico’s brother. This was in 2011 at Milan’s Palazzo Reale, and, as is very often the case, there was no budget. So I re-used panels from the previous exhibition. When you work in old buildings of this kind, you want visitors to be able to appreciate the architecture of the different rooms in which the works are shown, but sometimes you don’t have the square feet of wall space you need to hang all the paintings and other exhibits. This was the case with the Savinio show, so I took these old panels and made cutouts in them, creating the perception of windows and doorways. Through these “windows” you could see Savinio’s paintings, which themselves often have windows in them. Whenever I’m designing in spaces like this, I try to keep the architecture and the volumes alive, adding another layer with the exhibition. I never want to “cancel” the existing architecture. Of course it’s easier to build a new white box, but, like you said, this is a waste of energy and materials. Having all these layers makes an exhibition unique: my intention is to avoid over-designing and instead find a relationship between the architecture and the work being shown. It’s also less expensive that way! I did something similar for the Triennale in 2004, when I designed two shows related to fascism, which were obviously very controversial. There was an exhibition about the artist Mario Sironi on one side of the museum, which showed his panels for architecture sculptures, and the other show was of photographs by Donata Pizzi, who’d gone to former Italian colonies in Africa and Greece to photograph Italian architecture there. The Sironi show was very difficult because there were so many small-scale paintings and drawings, and then gigantic drawings for the buildings, scale 1:1. To connect all these different parts of the show, I made sure not to close one room off from another and to always give a glimpse of what came next. For example, I made a vertical cut in one of the entrance’s walls to give a long perspective on a sculpture that was at the end of the corridor — in a way, anticipating an important part of the show. With both Savinio and Sironi, it was about deduction, making a void, and forcing a perspective to help viewers understand the show. A hole or a void creates a clear


Photography courtesy of studio ar.ch.it (Savinio) and Henrik Blomqvist (Museo della Merda). All photography by Henrik Blomqvist.

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The Cavallerizze is an addition to Milan’s Museum of Science and Technology. The original site of the museum is a 16th-century monastery that was transformed into military barracks in the 19th century. After WWII it was renovated for the museum’s re-opening in 1953, except the stables, which remained in disrepair until Cipelletti’s 2016 careful restoration.

One of Cipelletti’s most recent projects is the Palazzi dell’Arte, a new contemporary art museum in Rimini. Luca Cipelletti redeveloped and combined two medieval palazzos, reinventing them into exhibition spaces. In the main hall, Cipelletti introduced a diagonal triangular wall, a structure which on the flipside, displays a 14th-century fresco by Giovanni da Rimini.


point of view, and makes it easy for our eyes and minds to focus. HUO Sometimes an architect’s first building commission comes through family. Was that the case for you? LC Not at all. My family is very conservative. They would have never let me anywhere near their houses. The first real work on a building I did was completed in 2015, at Milan’s science museum, the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci. We converted the Cavallerizze, the old 19th-century stable block which had been badly damaged by World War II bombing, into a new wing for the museum. For the first time, I was able to apply what I had learned doing hundreds of shows to a whole building, keeping the original walls of the structure while working on an impressive eighty-meter perspective. HUO That’s fascinating, because in a lot of your projects you create perspective changes, and you were already testing this out in your first mu­ seum. Can you tell us a little bit about this key aspect of your work? I’m very interested in this idea of changing perspectives and the multiplicity of viewpoints. LC I always focus on the fact that a human being is walking into a space — it can be a house, a shop, anything, but when it’s a museum experience, it’s often boring if you don’t consider that there’s a need for direction in a theatrical way. If you direct perception in a way that changes constantly, even if the rhythm is very clear, this helps avoid boring the visitor, and it opens up a new way of perceiving objects. Take my project in Rimini, which just opened. The mayor, Andrea Gnassi, is trying to develop the city center instead of the beach. The project is a joint venture between the Municipality of Rimini and San Patrignano, the biggest rehab center in Italy, which is 7 kilometers outside Rimini. The mayor wanted contemporary art in the city center, but he didn’t have a collection. The San Patrignano Foundation already started a new collection based on an endowment in order to guarantee the future of the rehab center. The donors gave different artworks, and the municipality provided these two stunning buildings in one of the city’s main squares, the 13th-century Palazzo dell’Arengo and the 14th-century Palazzo del Podestà. So we’re talking 65 contemporary artworks in a medieval complex — oh my god, fantastic! But my first problem was that there weren’t any walls to hang the artworks on —  I had to create new display walls. And the other problem was that they also asked me to display Giovanni da Rimini’s Last Judgment, a huge

early-14th-century fresco from the church of Sant’Agostino, 16 meters by 8! It wasn’t easy connecting the fresco with the contemporary works in the collection. In the biggest room in the Arengo, the only one large enough for the fresco, it was particularly difficult because I wanted to keep the perception of the entire volume with its five-light windows and Palladian beams. That’s why I decided to add a diagonally placed wall to carry the fresco and other artworks, so that when you enter you don’t immediately feel the presence of this gigantic wall, since it’s only perceived as a blade in front of your nose, allowing you to take in the entire room first. Then, as you start moving around, you slowly see the artworks one by one, distanced from each other and related to the architecture, and it’s only at the end that you turn round and find yourself in front of Giovanni da Rimini’s masterpiece, displayed on the other side of the blade. The idea is that, as you move around, the objects change according to your viewpoint. This is key: all the frames initially look 2D, but then they become 3D before going back to 2D. There’s an ephemeral quality, things disappear in a way. As you move around the space, you see a lot of connections. For me these ideas on perception and perspective are reminiscent of the post-war Italian school, people like BBPR, Franco Albini, Carlo Scarpa. They used to position a sculpture so that it was looking in the direction of another sculpture, gently showing a path without overloading the space with the design. HUO You’re also working on the Fondazione Vittoriano Bitossi outside Florence. How do you invent a ceramic museum? LC Well, first of all, Bitossi has a big collection. Ceramic making in that part of Italy goes back to the Renaissance sculptor Luca della Robbia, and even if Bitossi’s collection only dates back to the early 20th century, it’s still very extensive. My starting point was that I didn’t want it to be boring. The default is always, “Here’s the story of the founder, he was born, he created his first whatever, bla bla bla.” That narrative arc is more suitable for digital nowadays. I think that the idea of transforming an entire archive into a permanent show is more powerful. So I really insisted on putting the collection in the original place where they used to produce ceramics, leaving all the old tiles and architectural layers. I even used the cabin of a very old elevator for display. I redesigned the shelves they used for drying ceramics and put them in an incredibly long line: when you enter, all the 7,000 pieces are displayed together in chronological order,


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so you can really immerse yourself. On the other side, there are industrial windows for which I made frames out of Plexiglass: backlit by the windows, the frames show a selection of drawings for ceramics designs by Ettore Sottsass, Aldo Londi, Nathalie du Pasquier, and many others. You can walk around and stop anywhere you want. You need that freedom because it’s so interesting to really see the quantity. I think the link between my recent and current projects — Bitossi, the Triennale, Rimini, the science museum — is that they’re all about preserving the buildings and adding contemporary, fluid, adaptive layers. HUO Let’s talk more about the science museum, because your work there is ongoing. I’ve been reading Achille Mbembe’s new book, Brutalisme, and he talks about the anti-museum, the idea that we should give the museum back to the city and make the walls more porous. Also, naturalhistory and science museums in particular often aim at a synthesis: Édouard Glissant said we need to deconstruct the synthesis because a synthesis is standardizing. We need to create an archipelago, a network of interrelations between various perspectives, and that feels in line with what you’re saying about wanting to generate multiple perspectives in a museum, rather than a synthesis from one perspective. LC

Yes. The science museum was the first time I had the opportunity to work on a more urban scale. It’s a very complicated urban site, because the main part of the museum is a 16th-century monastery, to which many other buildings were added at different times: the Cavallerize in 1855, the Railway Pavilion in the 1930s, yet others in the 60s … All these different buildings made me ask myself, “Why are we still thinking of getting into a museum through just one door?” I felt it should be more like a park instead, where there are different entrances to different areas and pavilions. The most difficult thing for me was connecting all the various buildings, redrawing the paths. I had to think of how to reorganize the space so that you could step into an archipelago, and not through a single door. Every building has its own identity. There are certain details that connect them, but I didn’t want to redesign everything based on my idea of style. I like to let people experience the difference between the buildings. And then there was some empty space which became an opportunity to design greenhouses — a way to add greenery to the area but also to provide displays about agriculture and sustainability. Taken as a whole, the site is far more than a museum, it’s like a quarter in the city of Milan.

HUO As you know, this is PIN–UP’s REVOLUTION issue, a theme that takes us nicely to the Triennale, since, when he took over, Stefano Boeri told me that his leadership will be a revolution — one that uses the past dynamically to invent the future. LC Revolution can happen through preservation! And preservation doesn’t mean just restoring an old building back to its original state. For me the idea is to reinvent the original building but in a new, meaningful way. If there’s architecture and it’s fantastic, then let’s play with it. Giovanni Muzio’s original axial plan for the Triennale created the perfect building to dramatically display anything you wanted — the entire building rotates around the main axis, generating two voids, one of which, the impluvium, is now covered but which we will open again. It’s this void created by two volumes that makes the space poignantly theatrical. Museums tend to be developed as empty, closed-off white boxes, the idea being that they’re easier and less distracting. But over the past ten years I’ve met many artists who prefer spaces with character, a personality, an identity. I think there’s a new way of doing things. The challenge is to create museums that produce more interactions. It’s about not giving too many directions, about taking things away, leaving more air in the space, more entrances, more freedom, offering multiple perspectives, not forcing paths. We shouldn’t be afraid of having natural light in museums. The revolution I hope to see is about having more layers in a space, with room for new temporary layers too. Of course, every museum is completely different. The science museum is about entering a big garden. With the Triennale, it’s leaving a lot of freedom for different perspectives, to let you decide where to go, where to start. HUO And now I have a surprise: Stefano Boeri is on the phone here. Stefano, we are recording our conversation for PIN–UP magazine, I wanted you to ask Luca a question. STEFANO BOERI Ciao Luca! The Triennale is an amazing building, but it has a kind of hidden soul, un’anima nascosta. And I believe that only a sophisticated designer like you can decipher this mystery. So my question is simple: Luca, have you already deciphered the Triennale mystery? LC I believe the anima nascosta of the Triennale is the void. And this is what was completely lost in the last decades. We have to get the void back! SB Bravissimo! I totally agree.


Photography courtesy of Archivio fotografico/Triennale Milano

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A period photo of the impluvium at famous Palazzo dell’Arte in Milan, which houses the Triennale Milano museum. Designed in the early 1930s by Giovanni Muzio, the building is now under the architectural auspices of Luca Cipelletti who plans to restore much of the building’s original character. The impluvium, for example, is currently covered, but Cipelletti plans to open up the entire hall. The fountain sculpture is by Leone Lodi, based on a design by the artist Mario Sironi.

“Revolution can happen through preservation! And preservation doesn’t mean just restoring an old building back to its original state”


AMIN TA Award-winning British architect Amin Taha was born in 1974 in East Berlin. His parents had moved from Iraq and Sudan to study in what was then the capital of the German Democratic Republic. Stuck there after regime changes in their respective countries, they finally escaped the Soviet bloc in 1982 when the family settled in the U.K., where Taha would go on to study architecture at Edinburgh University. In 2003 he founded his own eponymous firm which he later reorganized as an employee-ownership trust and renamed Groupwork (he is currently its chair). Taha has also earned himself a reputation as “London’s most controversial architect,” (Financial Times) thanks to 15 Clerkenwell Close, a building in central London that contains both Groupwork’s office and Taha’s own apartment. On completion three years ago, it hit the headlines when it was issued with a demolition order by Islington Council for non-conformity with the submitted plans. It turned out aesthetics were the real reason behind the authorities’ doggedness, certain councilors violently objecting to the presence of a loadbearing and sometimes roughhewn limestone exoskeleton façade in a historic conservation area. Groupwork eventually won at appeal, but the whole affair left a sour taste reminiscent of Prince Charles’s infamous 1984 “carbuncle” speech — when the heir to the throne publicly attacked plans for the extension of London’s National Gallery — and the sterile “beauty” debate that has bedeviled British architecture ever since. PIN–UP met with Taha at Clerkenwell Close, the scene of the alleged crime. INTERVIEW BY ANDREW AYERS PORTRAITS BY HARRY MITCHELL


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ANDREW AYERS This is PIN–UP’s REVOLUTION issue. And I believe your background might be described as revolutionary. AMIN TAHA My parents left post-colonial Iraq and Sudan saying, “We’re going to join the ideal!” They were 16. Both sets of grandparents were like, “What the hell are you doing?!” My mother was a communist, her brother was a nationalist, the same with my father’s family — the sibling rivalry expressed itself politically. In Iraq, a government and a royal family had been set up by the departing British, but in 1958 there was a revolution, the socialists took over, and after that the Eastern bloc came in and said, “Send your kids to be educated here! We’ll send them back and they’ll run the country and we’ll all be socialists together!” And so off my mother went to East Germany to study medicine, where she met my father. Then, in 1963, there was a counterrevolution in Iraq, which her brother took part in as a member of the nationalist party. “We’re shooting all the communists to avoid another revolution,” he told her. “Don’t come back!” AA And your father? AT He came from Sudan, where the situation was similar. So they were marooned in East Berlin and could never return until things changed. And they never really did change. They ended up visiting the U.K. because they had relatives here, who suggested, “They need doctors in Britain, why don’t you come?” Which they did, when I was eight. AA You definitely seem to be channeling your parents’ spirit of idealism in the way you’ve set up your firm, Groupwork, as an employee-­ownership trust. Can you explain how that works? AT Under U.K. law, an employee-ownership trust means that anybody who stays at Groupwork for 18 months automatically becomes an equal partner. The trust has to have a chairperson, and because I set it up some time ago and I’m the eldest, I was elected chairman. I haven’t yet done what any good dictator should, and made myself chairman for life, so one day I might get so old, belligerent, and just not with-it that I’ll be voted off. [Laughs.] AA What made you want to set up the firm this way? AT When you have an eponymous firm with a named leader, it becomes a sort of co-dependency. I’ve worked for some of those offices [Zaha Hadid and

WilkinsonEyre among them]. That leader becomes slightly autocratic, with a dynamic building up where they’re the figureheads, and you end up wanting them to be the figurehead and to tell you what to do and guide the group. But they can’t do it all, they don’t want to do it all, and sometimes they get frustrated because the skewed dynamic means that not enough people are voicing their opinions. And the very successful practices are all about debate — ideas are proposed and debated, and if you’re any good as a figurehead you can see and use good ideas, and not, through some other motivation, overrule them. However, what tends to happen is that people spend years in these practices and never get any recognition and ultimately don’t financially benefit: they’re not locked in in such a way that their motivations for guiding the practice are long-term — for their own benefit, the projects’ benefit, and the practice’s benefit. So that’s why I felt the equality of a trust was the best solution. AA You’re also attempting to change, or perhaps even revolutionize, the way buildings are constructed through a return to essentials and a focus on tectonics. How did this approach evolve? AT When I lecture to students, I sort of jokingly answer that it came from being lazy. I describe it with two slides, using Clerkenwell Close as an example. With the first slide I show what is pretty much the standard way today of putting up a stone-fronted building. First a steel or concrete frame, which has to be fireproofed and waterproofed, insulated against the weather, and have a vapor barrier on the other side of that insulation. You then have to pierce all that with steel clamps that go through to the frame, they then have to have another clamp that’s bonded to the stone veneer, and then all that has to be weatherproofed, etc. There are multiple levels of detail there, and multiple separate procurements, subcontractors, and trades. It’s all very well, you can draw it, but what tends to happen is that, oh, the client changes their mind, or something occurs where you have to move a window or a door. Every time you do that, you have to redesign and redraw everything I’ve just described. And if you don’t, and leave it to a subcontractor to sort out, you’ll inevitably end up with problems you’ll have to answer for, sometimes legally. So what if you do the lazy thing and say, “Instead of all those different trades, instead of all those different layers of drawing, why not get two or three materials to do the whole lot?” AA I presume there are also sound environmental reasons for this?


Photograhpy by Timothy Soar. Courtesy of Groupwork.

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“My mother was a communist, her brother was a nationalist, the same with my father’s family —  the sibling rivalry expressed itself politically” Amin Taha designed 15 Clerkenwell Close in London to house his personal home and the office for Groupwork, the architecture practice he established in 2003. Upon its completion in 2017, the building caused controversy and the local council ordered demo­lition. While the dispute was eventually resolved, the episode spotlighted Taha’s unique and cost-effective design: the building’s rough-hewn masonry is not merely decorative but a load-bearing exoskeleton.


AT Yes, one of the reasons we used a stone exoskeleton in Clerkenwell was for sustainability, since it has ten percent of the carbon footprint of a steel or concrete frame. But it’s also cheaper and quicker to build in stone. There’s an ethical dimension to this approach: you’re using fewer resources, your carbon footprint is lower, but you’re also saving your client money — up to 25 percent if you’re using stone in an area where the material is readily available. We’re currently working on a country house in Oxfordshire where we’re experimenting with both stone and timber to see if it’s possible to be carbon negative. Will we actually need any cement or concrete at all, or can the whole thing be done in stone, including below-ground areas? AA Does it look feasible? AT It was done in the past, so I don’t see why it can’t be done now. I recently co-curated an exhibition at London’s Building Centre called The New Stone Age. One of the places we looked at was post-war Marseille, where obviously you have Le Corbusier Greenery starts to take hold on the raw limestone façade of building his famous Cité radieuse [1949–52] in Groupwork’s 15 Clerkenwell Close. The building’s masonry what was considered the material of modernity, references an 11th-century limestone abbey which previously reinforced concrete, but also at exactly the same stood on the site. Its raw finish, however, embodies a more time you have Fernand Pouillon rebuilding the modern industrial aesthetic, with markings and striations show-­ Vieux Port [1947–56] in loadbearing, regionallying traces of the process of extraction from the bedrock. quarried stone. Our argument is that Pouillon might have been right for mass housing, because basically he and his stonemasons said, “We can cut blocks of stone of a certain size out of the 15 Clerkenwell Close in London’s historic Islington neigh-­ quarry, they’re easy to transport and handle for borhood houses several office spaces and eight apartments. buildings of a certain height, they can be assemThe load-bearing stone façade is subtly visible while the bled without all the formwork, aggregate, and large glass panels allow light to flood the interior cladding. Stone was chosen as the building’s superstructure water you use for concrete, which means the because it’s less expensive and more environmentally building can go up quicker and for less.” And friendly than conventional steel and concrete. they kept on winning tenders that way. Whereas doing things in reinforced concrete was a new and more expensive technology, though at a time when energy consumption and carbon emissions weren’t key issues, but being modern, and emblematic of the modern, most definitely were. To somebody of our parents’ generation or older, building in stone would have seemed retrograde. “That’s the old world — why on earth would you want to build the old way?” AA There seems to be something of a stone renaissance occurring in Europe. AT Yes, there’s a return to stone for all sorts of reasons — sustainability but also, as I just said, for cost. Canary Wharf helped develop a brief for a research project, which we undertook with Jackson Coles cost consultants, Eight Associates sustainability consultants, Webb Yates structural and civil engineers, and Polycor, a North American


Photography by Harry Mitchell (top) and Timothy Soar (bottom). Courtesy of the photographer and Groupwork respectively.

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stone supplier. For a hypothetical 30-story office building, we compared loadbearing stone for the frame, floors, and core against conventional steel-and-concrete frames, and also against a hybrid of a stone frame with CLT floors and core. It turns out, in the U.K. at least, it’s cheaper to build in all stone, and cheaper still in the stone/ timber hybrid. What’s more, while all-stone has a fraction of the carbon footprint, the stone/timber hybrid is carbon negative — you could demolish all steel-framed structures and replace them with stone/timber and still actually be absorbing atmospheric carbon! You’d have a win-win of growing the economy, new employment, and worldwide reduction of carbon levels that would go far beyond the current meager ambitions. AA It’s one thing to design something tectonically in loadbearing stone or timber, it’s quite another to get the building industry to construct it that way. AT When we design something tectonically, we’re forever being undermined by the industry. One builder, because he knows us quite well, literally said, “Amin, my guys will make ten times the amount per person on site doing it in concrete and then cladding it instead of giving it to a stone or CLT subcontractor.” Generally construction companies refuse to do it any way other than theirs. AA How do you overcome that? AT Firstly, you design something that can be built within budget and is so irreducible that, if anyone tries to reduce it any more, it’ll fall down. But we couldn’t work out how to avoid falling at the procurement hurdle, until eventually it dawned on us: one, you legally write it into your planning approval, and two, you talk to all the contractors beforehand — the subcontractors, not the main contractor, the stonemasons, brickies, timber suppliers, and metalworkers, who all come under the umbrella of the main contractor — and get them to quote in advance and hold those quotes for six to twelve months. Then you collate all that and say to the main contractor, “Right, we’ve spoken to the horse’s mouth, it’s totally feasible, so unless you’ve got good reason to do otherwise, here it is. Do it like this and collect your 20 percent.” It’s the only way architects can become empowered again — otherwise you’re just a façade designer. AA Talking of façades, one of the reasons 15 Clerkenwell Close was attacked was because it doesn’t conform to the usual neo-Georgian default mode of the Clerkenwell Green Conservation Area. But your building is infinitely more authentic than

any of the cynical pastiche jobs that have sailed through Islington’s planning process in the past. AT If people are to have a voice on aesthetic matters, which is what the democratic planning process is about, then ideally you should educate them at the same time. Whenever we do a consultation for exactly that purpose, to try to persuade people, to draw them into the argument, it’s always very interesting. More often than not it’s split 50/50, and you can’t point at somebody beforehand and say, “I bet you that person will like it and that person won’t.” We’ve had very young people in super-trendy clothes saying, “Well why can’t it look like the old building next door?” And then you say to them, “Well is the building next door old? It was actually built 20 years ago but made to look older, and if you examine it closely, you’ll see it’s a really bad impersonation of older architecture.” They reply, “Oh I didn’t know that, but what does it matter? It looks old and that’s okay.” And you then say, “Well, if I asked you to dress in a tweed jacket to look like your granddad, but then I got you some cheap-looking plastic printed-Harris-tweed jacket and said, ‘Well it sort of looks the same,’ what would you think?” And suddenly you see their eyes open: “Oooh! I get it!” When you lay it out as a question of philosophy rather than visual looky-likey, most people really appreciate it, and suddenly they’ll be saying, “Yeah, why the hell are our streets full of pretend nonsense?! Why have councilors allowed this for the past 30 years? It’s an insult to our intelligence!” And you think, “Oh thank god, at last!” AA What are your feelings about the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, set up by Theresa May’s government in 2018 and soon nicknamed the Beauty Commission? It was co-chaired by the late Roger Scruton, a highly controversial rightwing philosopher who was basically an anti-­ Modernist advocate of historicizing Georgian as a suitable style for Britain’s towns and cities. AT The whole thing is absurd, because the Conservative government was using it as a way of persuading people: “If we do this, more housing will be built.” They sold the idea that not only would the Beauty Commission get more housing built, but that it would be beautiful too. Well it’s just total nonsense. Lack of beauty is not stopping more housing from being built. Instead there are two things going on. One is the NIMBYs — Not In My Backyard — who don’t want any development no matter what it looks like. We’ve done projects in the countryside, and I’ve sat there on the planning committee until ten o’clock in the evening watching 15 different developments being presented,


Photography by Timothy Soar. Courtesy of Groupwork.

some of them for 20 houses, some of them for 200 houses, some of them for just one house. And none of them are refused because they’re unattractive — they all get refused because there’s a bunch of people shouting, “It’s going to ruin my view!” or “I won’t be able to get out of my drive because of all the cars coming through.” Ultimately it’s because people simply don’t want it, whatever it looks like.

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AA What’s the second reason? AT The fact that it’s the private not the public sector. Ninety-nine percent of housing is built by the private sector, and the private sector is not going to cut its own throat by over-supplying, which means that no one’s going to build the quantity of housing people actually need. Think about it: we know that developers hold onto land and deliberately don’t build on it to force the value

Groupwork’s playful yet pared down approach to materials is evident in the balconies with wicker woven through the steel lattice truss that jut out from the brick façade of Barretts Grove (2014–16), a six-story apartment building. The oversized balconies hang from alternating windows offering residents outdoor space with a measure of privacy while their wicker texture softens the seriality of the double-stacked brickwork.

Barretts Grove stands tall between a Victorian townhouse and Edwardian primary school, its red bricks and gabled roof echoing the North London neighborhood’s familiar forms. But unlike the façades of its neighbors, the brickwork which envelopes the entire structure of Barretts Grove isn’t sealed, making explicit that it serves as a rain screen, not a load-bearing superstructure.


up. And you can’t blame them, it’s in their DNA —  maximum profit is their raison d’être. Ever since the late 70s, when an ideological decision was taken to stop building council housing and leave it all to the private sector, the U.K. has become structurally stuck with this system because of the banking sector. The banks lend the money for private development — which is pretty much all housing —, so if you suddenly oversupply, not only do homeowners see the value of their properties drop, but the bank that’s lent them the money sees their loan book reduced in value. All that’s happening is that certain politicians are holding Roger Scruton up and saying, “This is the man who’s going to solve the housing crisis, because he’s going to show us how to build beautiful houses, and therefore we’ll build more because they won’t be refused at planning.” It’s just a load of nonsense. And then architects getting exercised about whether it’s Georgian or Modern is a total waste of time because these things are not decided on whether it’s Georgian or Modern, they’re decided by NIMBYs and they’re decided by the private sector. And neither of those have anything to do with beauty! Groupwork conceived of the design for 168 Upper Street in response to a 2012 competition organized by furniture retailer Aria, whose showroom is on the building’s ground floor. In addition to the retail space the structure boasts five apartments, two of which feature double-height ceilings and dramatic cast-in-place fireplaces.

An earthy red terracotta concrete mix dominates the façade of 168 Upper Street in London (2012–17). The building was designed as a distorted replica of two previous buildings that stood in its place. Groupwork’s idea was not to mimic the past, but to allude to memory.

AA If you were in charge, what would you advocate? AT Precisely the opposite to current government policy. Much of the country’s land is owned by local authorities, to which we pay taxes. It is, in effect, free — it belongs to all of us. If you established a community land trust, there would be zero landpurchase cost, allowing for lower rents and leases to repay the borrowing costs for construction, with the excess being used for maintenance and future growth. Those wanting to buy in could, and when selling keep any profit made between the purchase and sale dates. On the whole, we know self-maintaining co-ops are far better at providing affordable housing and social cohesion than central or local government. Lending to such co-ops could be from retail banking, pension funds, private equity, or bonds, including future residents. Returns would be in single figures but consistent. It would inevitably have wider benefits and, given those same investors currently place their expectations in the private sector with its cycles of risk, they’re likely to be better off in the long term too. Having given you a long answer on equitable housing provision, I have to confess that almost all our work is currently private-­sector apartments, arts spaces, office blocks — even private houses that are worth more than office blocks! It’s ironic really, given I bang on about it so much…

I


TAHA

Photography by Timothy Soar. Courtesy of Groupwork.

“Design something so irreducible that if anyone tries to reduce it any more, it’ll fall down. It’s the only way architects can become empowered again — otherwise you’re just a façade designer”


sub, the Berlin-based architecture studio, assembled hazy still lives made of studio ephemera and architectural maquettes. The portfolio recalls a subdued slumber spilling over into symbols and desires held close by sub founders Niklas Bildstein Zaar and Andrea Faraguna. Traditional structures and temporalities erode as residue from past projects is cathartically repurposed as 3D objects rendered within these tableaus created specially for PIN–UP.

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PORTFOLIO

Photography by Sofie Middernacht & Maarten Alexander Synthetic imagery and creative direction by sub Art direction by Jordan Richman

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“The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish” — Terrence McKenna

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sub, Untitled, Architectural Model Balenciaga Flagship Store, Tokyo Aoyama.

Photography by Sofie Middernacht & Maarten Alexander

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sub, Untitled, Photography by Sofie Middernacht & Maarten Alexander

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sub, Architectural Model Balenciaga SUMMER 20 Show Scenography Photogrammetry

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sub, Photography by Sofie Middernacht & Maarten Alexander

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sub, Untitled, Photogrammetry

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sub, Untitled, Photogrammetry

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sub, Untitled, Photography by Sofie Middernacht & Maarten Alexander

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sub, Untitled, Glorifier for Balenciaga

Photography by Sofie Middernacht & Maarten Alexander

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sub, Architectural Model Balenciaga WINTER 20 Show Scenography

Photography by Sofie Middernacht & Maarten Alexander

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SUB

Niklas Bildstein Zaar

Creative Director

Andrea Faraguna

Architecture Director

Sophia Kuhn

Studio Director

Matt Smith

Strategic Operations

Chris Blohm

Technology Director

Alcuin Stevenson

Cyber Operations

David Tasman

Senior Architect

Mary Lynch-Loyd

Architect

Assaf Kimmel

Architect,

Iva Baljkas Pick

Architect

Ana Filipovic Mecke

Architect

Gösta Andreas Lönn Grill Design Research Manager Robert Wimmeroth

Material Research

Deniz Celtek

3D Artist

Hannah Stewart

3D Artist

Paul Haase

3D Artist

Marc Elsner

Designer

Florencia Russildi

Office Manager

Valter Törsleff

Intern

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Berlin-based creative director Niklas Bildstein Zaar and architect Andrea Faraguna are are behind the Balenciaga Architecture Program, known for creating the all-encompassing Balenciaga fashion show scénographies that leave both the fashion world and online clout-beasts spiraling. Their architecture studio, which they’ve named sub, was founded in 2017 and operates as both a design office and research institute, one of its self-appointed missions being to understand the metaverse and its manifestation in both the real and the digital world. sub is subverting the meaning of Brutalism, replacing dusty mid-century concrete blocks with a design methodology that brutally forces the audience to face their various complicities. This deeply psychological approach is felt in their collaborations with Balenciaga, the artist Anne Imhof on sets for her perfor­mances, as well as with the designer Shayne Oliver on the resurrected Hood By Air’s Anonymous Club  — The Glass Ceiling, pre­ sented at Luma Westbau in Zürich in September. Despite these high-­ profile projects, Bildstein Zaar and Faraguna prefer to remain in the shadows and let their work speak for itself. Jordan Richman sought them out in the digital darkness to discuss the substance of sub.

NB Right now, we’re trying to understand the idea of the metaverse and how that’s supposed to manifest itself — the wave of augmented reality and how it’s integrated into built projects. Because when you talk about the built world, you also need to have an idea of how the virtual world works. There’s an evolution in the metaverse mindset taking place in tech, but it’s happening primarily outside of architecture. It’s interesting to think about environments designed to facilitate what a more digital world will hold. I might regret saying this, but urbanism and platform design, for better or worse, are really not that different. JR

Can you talk about your collaboration?

AF We started the studio together about four years ago. We are quite opposite as people — how we think and how we operate can be vastly different, but we’ve found a good symbiosis and counterbalance. We see things differently, but working together we get excited at the same time. I oversee the architectural component, while Nik comes in to give more of a sense of context. We really try to make sure that most of the projects have a philosophical anchor point — or sociological or anthropological. These

JR How does that translate into watching the Balenciaga shows on YouTube? Are the experiences you create in the physical world also made for a virtual experience? NBZ A lot of today’s world is experienced secondhand. It’s been a conversation in the art world for a long time: artists who are making sculptures for the installation photo on the gallery website, where the work really lives on through that static image. There’s an awareness that most audiences will experience the work in this way. Now, however, a multiplicity of other formats is emerging, expanding the viewing potential and transmittal through a variety of devices. If you talk about physical design gestures that have global reach, more often than not they’re experienced digitally. And therefore, of course, they need to become more spatial. For the Balenciaga shows, we certainly know that most people will experience them digitally. It’s what determines how we set the cameras, how we edit the footage, and so on. But the interesting thing, of course, is how to break that paradigm. There’s going to be an enormous revolution within five years in terms of how we perceive space, and that is really going to happen through what is

“I might regret saying this, but urbanism and platform design, for better or worse, are not that different” JORDAN RICHMAN Why did you name the studio sub?

are the kind of territories of thought that we apply to the practice at large.

NIKLAS BILDSTEIN ZAAR We liked the idea of the multiple kind of inter­ pretations possible of “sub”: substrate or suburban, substance or sub. There’s an ambiguity to what it refers to. It’s semi-architectural, semi-­ sociological, semi-anthropological, and I like that kind of open-endedness.

JR I have a John Giorno piece in my home, and the text is “Space Forgets You.” I thought about that while preparing for our conversation because some of sub’s most interesting physical work, with Anne Imhof on performances, or the Balenciaga shows with their creative director Demna Gvasalia, are fleeting experiences. What is it like to work in such an ephemeral way?

JR

And what does sub do?

ANDREA FARAGUNA We work collaboratively. The intention is to bring together a mix of individuals from all over the place, with different backgrounds and obsessions. There are team members coming from architecture and engineering, but others from gaming or some kind of worlding. The studio is a community of all these different individuals. NBZ The ultimate design exercise is the design of the studio itself. How can you, on a local level, try to create a micro-community that you would like to see deployed on a much larger scale? Things get really existential very quickly. We always wanted to be in between a research institute and a design studio. We have a virtualworld department and a real-world department, so sub is looking at the digital and the physical and seeing how you can ultimately merge them in the most intriguing way. JR What is the virtual-world department focusing on?

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AF We can’t speak for Anne or Demna, but what is interesting for me is the notion of what is performative within an environment and how that can be enhanced. How do you allow an en­ vironment to be open-ended and also a trigger for preconceived behaviors? We’re working on a big Anne Imhof Carte Blanche exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, which will open in February 2021. We’ve worked closely with her to create the architecture of this large-format show. In our work, we try to take advantage of the ephemeral aspect, the constrictions of the space, the brevity of the duration. Usually we intervene in a built structure, trying to rethink the existing condition in order to reveal the spatial tensions of the surrounding environment. NBZ For me it’s not really about the performan­ ces themselves, but more about the performativity of the audience. Once you recognize that they also function as actors, you can create conditions where you really allow them to face themselves. To observe something and being in relation to something are two very different vantage points.

called the metaverse — this idea of IRL experience and augmented reality and all of that sort of merging into one. It’s just a question of time, and I think this is an area that is quite interesting to position yourself in as an architecture studio, being really fluid in understanding what is virtual space and real space and playing with and extending your senses. If you do that, a new type of culture and a new type of social behavior become apparent. Speculating on what that will be is what interests us. There’s a saying, “Man is the measure of all things.” It is a problematic statement, but it does propose a thought: does behavior shape space or does space shape behavior? JR You’ve talked about plot making. What is your interest in it, and does it apply to your design methodology? NBZ In speculative design, you’re building these kind of traps, where you guide people’s perception. We all sit on a sort of communal set of references, which I think is quite interesting to work with. Most of these referential narrative arcs that we’re familiar with — whether from cinema, literature, or anything like that — are reoccurring, and they’ve been sort of perpetually re-representing themselves in so many different contexts. Playing with those individually- and collectively-known signifiers is an interesting place to be because there’s a potential dialogue taking place with the audience, and with myself as the maker of the space. Then, you have to plot. Basically you plan the design experience from before the person has even entered the space,


SUB and also even after they’ve left it. You’re trying to understand the context of the space, and what is in the surrounding area and within these kinds of transitory thresholds that you can modify to create a much longer experience. With sub, we strive to create a transformative experience. Most transformative experiences are interpersonal and they appear in life without any kind of planning — it can be something joyous, something traumatic, something really passionate, or whatever it might be. You can’t really control those kinds of life experiences. But within the orchestration of space, you can operate with signifiers and semiotic objects that you deconstruct, reconfigure, and retranscribe. There’s the opportunity to have people walk away from the experience with something lasting, because it’s personal. AF I would explain the idea of trapping as a way of framing a narration, suggesting perspective views which are ultimately not unitary. What we do is to manipulate a space, guiding an observer through it by organizing perceptive boundaries, alluding to familiar associations and similarities, offering tools for contemplation and reasoning, to which most of the time we don’t give enough space or importance. I’m fascinated by the idea of simultaneity: a condition in which aesthetical and logical connections and sociopolitical references — which contradict each other — are cohabiting. I would describe this design approach not as a commentary on the contemporary context but more as a process of digesting it. We aspire to the making of a space that is transformative and transitional, of the crossing and the metamorphic, that keeps together aversion and attraction, euphoria and lament. In the times we live in, these things are happening at the same time. JR Niklas, you grew up in Sweden. It seems to me that many Swedish artists and creators are very much into different subcultures. Would you say that about yourself as well? NBZ I view my upbringing as a little bit bleak, a little common. But there are also weird things that happen that far north. I’m not sure if you know about Nordic larping? It’s live-action role play, from the time before digital avatars. Nordic larping is really quite advanced because the pretext for the simulated scenario can be really extreme. I recently spoke to the Finnish artist Jenna Sutela about this, and she told me about an incident where people pretended to be terminally ill, and they were just acting that out, which really takes larping to another level. It’s more than the kind of medieval fantasy storyline we usually associate with larping. There is something very Nordic about this, because in our seemingly benign environment people have to apply a heightened layer of narrative. Maybe it’s a consequence of being largely atheist. You create these stories and narratives just to make things a little bit more intriguing. And it really resonates with me. In our very cold, introverted, pragmatist Swedish climate, this is our way of constructing something greater than what we are. JR You also have a keen interest in archetypes. Where does this come from?

NBZ My father was a soldier, which is a trade with a uniform, and likewise my mother was an air stewardess. I think this idea of going to work and putting on a uniform and becoming that kind of servant is something that has informed my thinking a lot. I have an enormous collection of military uniforms. I also own a surprisingly large collection of air-stewardess uniforms, which is partly inherited from my mother, but also partly collected on my own. So the idea of a uniform and becoming other through the way you dress and choose to present yourself using arche­types has always been something really defining for me. It naturally made a lot of sense working with identity archetypes as a design methodology for Balenciaga, because it’s a shared mindset with Demna.

that type of behavior is rewarded — it is so much more profitable to be deceptive or act as a defector. That said, I think deep down inside I’m a little bit sinister and I’m trying to overcome that. There was a long period of my life when I had this obsession with calling out people’s complicity and hypocrisy, and I felt that was a kind of design intention and a calling. I used to have this vision sometimes, when I’d walk down the street and see a man, a woman, a child, a postman, or whatever, and I’d think they’re all kind of criminals. We’re all part of this big crime. [Laughs.] I think that’s a little bit of a post-adolescent mindset, rooted in frustration. I’m being a little bit more hopeful now, and I also realize that what you create mirrors the future to come. I think it’s really important to harness that.

JR When I first approached you about doing an interview, you weren’t sure whether you wanted to come “out of the shadows,” as you put it. Why is that?

Jordan Richman is an art director and writer based between Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin who focuses on collaborations with contemporary artists in fashion, media, and tech. Previously for PIN–UP he was creative director on the cover story “Bonaventure Adventure,” photographed by Torso and written by Fiona Duncan (see PIN–UP 28).

NBZ When you work as collaboratively as we do, the shadows are a good place to be. In this highly-saturated media world, everybody is always craving for some kind of spotlight. But at the end of the day, it’s the work that matters. I’m very much into the CCRU [Cybernetic Culture Research Unit], which was a collective in the U.K. during the 1990s that worked with a lot of speculative computer science. They had some complicated characters among them, but as a whole they kind of promoted the idea that the CCRU did not exist, had never existed, and will never exist. I always liked the notion that the most powerful and awe-inspiring things are the ones you know as little as possible about. It’s a kind of black-box mentality: what is inside the box is either your dreams or your nightmares. JR I recently downloaded the astrology app Co-Star. On my chart, under Mars and Gemini, it said: “You put a lot of energy into darkness, taboos, rebirths, sex, and transformation.” I thought this also explains my attraction to your work. What’s your sign?

INTERVIEW BY JORDAN RICHMAN

Andrea Faraguna and Niklas Bildstein Zaar photographed by Nadine Fraczkowski for PIN–UP.

NBZ I am a Capricorn, Leo rising, and a Pisces moon, I think. That would make me an obsessive drama queen who’s really insecure. [Laughs.] I downloaded Co-Star too, and at first I was really into all the daily notifications. And after a while I thought, “This is not what I need right now.” But there is obviously something very interesting to the notion of the “profound” today. Astrology, arguably, is some type of contemporary theology. In this post-truth kind of world, if so many people subscribe to something, it’s true to some degree. I think we’re in a ripe position to really examine what our value system is today. JR And how would you describe your value system? NBZ I think we’re ridding ourselves of previously accepted forms of an idealist mindset. Some people talk a lot about this war against sensemaking. In this world we live in right now, you can misguide someone without telling a lie, and I think that’s a very interesting and critical proposition. I think that in the system we live in,

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CASTLE CURSE Few buildings better invoke revolutionary spirit than the

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PANORAMA Once the peak of decorative opulence, Versailles stood empty and tattered in August 1792 after the royal family had vacated the premises. Three years before, the most splendid palace in Europe had been the site of the March on Versailles, widely considered the beginning of the French Revolution. Enraged by the high cost and scarcity of bread, the “fishwives” of Paris, joined by various revolution­ aries, besieged the château on October 5, 1789. “Let them eat cake,” Marie Antoinette is said to have suggested in response. It didn’t end well for her and her husband, Louis XVI, their heads dropping into the guillotine’s basket in 1793. Ever since its owners’ brutal demise, Versailles has been enshrined in history as the architectural symbol for decorative decadence, political hubris, and the ill-fated ends to which they can lead. The palace took on pop-culture significance in the years of Bush-era excess, Sofia Coppola’s 2006 Marie Antoinette (dubbed “a royal flop,” but still beloved by many) hitting theaters not long after Jackie Siegel started construction of her Versailles-inspired dream house, whose post-crash unraveling was captured in the 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles. But an association with the grandeur of the palace seems long to have been more curse than blessing —  think of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, whose punitive measures, many believe, paved the way for World War II. The Versailles that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette occupied for most of their reign (1774– 92) was no frigid royal residence but a living, breathing organism, part of a grand campaign to consolidate and reinforce the French monarchy’s power. When Louis XIV ascended to the throne in 1654, there was no blueprint for a hereditary leader creating such a complex and gigantic political apparatus in built form. As much metaphor as tool, the palace, especially its celebrated Hall of Mirrors, reflected back both the unsavory aspects of absolute monarchy and its splendor. Prohibitively expensive to manufacture and transport, the


mirrors served as a pointed exhibition of the French crown’s wealth and power, as well as their craftsmen’s technical knowhow in the production of pier glasses. Like the larger palace, the hall was meant to convey the message that the French monarchy was untouchable — though of course it wasn’t. While Robespierre and the Jacobins plotted, the royal couple lived their lavish lifestyle on full display, an 18th-century Kimye hurtling towards implosion. Like most obsessions, Versailles took hold of Louis XIV in childhood. His first encounter with the château came in 1641, when he had been sent there to escape a smallpox outbreak in SaintGermain, the castle where he was born. At the time of his first stay, Versailles was still a modest hunting lodge favored by his father, Louis XIII. Though it was situated on swampy land, the surrounding forests were prime stag-hunting ground, a traditionally royal pastime. Two decades after his initial visit, in 1661, Louis XIV ordered the first major alterations to Versailles, when he commissioned the garden designer André Le Nôtre to begin transforming the grounds. But it wasn’t until the 1670s that Louis XIV decided to make Versailles not only his principal residence but also the seat of gov­ ernment, which entailed relocating the entire court there. In his childhood a faction of the aristocracy had risen up against the crown, a risk the king was trying to avoid by keeping his nobles in gilded idleness, preventing them from establishing regional power elsewhere. In 1668, the king charged his premier architecte , Louis Le Vau, with expanding the château, which he did by enveloping the existing building on three sides. In contrast to Louis XIII’s very French brick-and-slate construction, the Envelope, as it became known, was primarily of stone, executed in a flat-roofed style inspired by the Italian Baroque. It was due to Le Vau’s successor Jules Hardouin-Mansart that Versailles really became the palace that tourists still flock to today. He designed the castle’s centerpiece the Hall of Mirrors (1678–84) and erected the giant north and south wings (1679–89), which contained apartments for the newly relocated nobles. Louis XIV officially moved in on May 6, 1682, sharing the château with the tens of thousands of workmen still toiling away. (Working conditions were monstrously harsh with a death toll so high that the Swiss Guard was called in to replenish the workforce.) Louis XIV envisioned Versailles as a centralized seat from which he could wield absolute power. He was a dictator in essence, and, as we have seen throughout history, a dictator’s primary desire is to hold power, and their second for that power to be reflected back at them in every facet of their life. The décor and architecture of the palace mirrored the king’s vision of himself. Versailles was meant to inspire shock, wonder, and awe, all but blinding the visitor. It was as much a showhouse as the Playboy Mansion or Michael Jackson’s Neverland — publicly revealing the priorities and desires of its owner. The palace was open to everyone, and because of that acces­ sibility, it served as a showroom for French decorative arts. Louis was an enthusiastic patron of art and design, inspired by and inspiring the period’s creative fervor. Painters, tapestry weavers, sculptors, cabinetmakers, silversmiths, metalworkers, and embroiderers were hired to embellish his residences. The king’s savvy first minister, Jean-­ Baptiste Colbert, strategized to make this interest


VERSAILLES

in luxury design economically sustainable, setting out to make France a major continental exporter and trendsetter. Colbert reorganized the royal furniture workshops and founded the Gobelins tapestry manufactory, and Saint-Gobain mirrors and Sèvres porcelain were also launched under Louis XIV’s watch. Versailles was successful in promoting French opulence and refinement, a reputation that perseveres to this day. Primarily, though, Versailles existed to aggrandize the crown and mythicize the man who wore it. Louis XIV was a brilliant enough figure to do the palace justice, both in his carriage — he was an exceptionally skilled dancer and strikingly handsome — and his military instincts. But his descendants were not so blessed. Louis XV was a powerful ruler, reigning for 59 years (1715–74), but came to be known at court as something of a lecher, ending his life with a maîtresse-en-titre with louche manners and of murky origins. Louis XVI, the last in line to occupy the palace, was even less impressive. His appearance was ungainly in his youth, and morbidly obese in middle age. His marriage to Marie Antoinette, the Austrian princess who became Queen of France when only a teenager, went unconsummated for seven years. Under Louis XIV’s reign a punishing court etiquette was established. Worse than a paparazzi-swarmed it-girl, there wasn’t a minute of the day that the monarch was left alone. During the

nightly coucher, he was readied for bed by a team of nobles, with the highest ranking members given the honor of undressing the king, an intimate moment turned formal. He gave private audiences on the toilet and his valet would sleep at the foot of his bed any night he was unattended by a woman. Courtiers were forbidden even from knocking on the king’s door, having to instead scratch the entrance to his apartments with the nail of their left pinky. During dinner the king and queen were constantly observed, with the highest-ranking nobility offered stools to sit, and those with lesser titles standing near the outer edges of the room. This constant public performance suited the Sun King, but life in the palace, for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, only amplified their faults: his fumbling manner and her penchant for extravagant spending. Today Marie Antoinette is mythologized as a camp icon of sorts, thanks to her towering bouffant wigs, jewelry that cost more than a Parisian mansion, and her rumored “cake” response to the housewives’ demands for bread. But the palace’s stifling opulence may have proven too overbearing even for her. Her last addition to Versailles was a kitschy “Norman” hamlet built between 1783 and 1786. Within the Trianon’s gardens, architect Richard Mique erected twelve buildings including a mill, a dairy, and a pigeon loft, their lattice windows and stucco designed to imitate worn, cracked brickwork, and half-timbering. The “cottagecore” retreat was a place for the queen to entertain intimates and escape stilted court etiquette. Her Potemkin village was in keeping with the period’s popular ideal of a return to nature, inspired by the writings of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the leading figures in the French Enlightenment. However, the queen’s attempt to reach for a humbler existence was met with distaste, as the cost to erect and maintain her hameau was exorbitant, further enraging the starving population. It is undoubtedly one of the great ironies of history that Rousseau’s philosophical beliefs inspired both a queen’s fauxhumble retreat as well as the revolutionaries who overturned the monarchy.

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KANDIS The L.A.-based artist gives history a hard read by radically recasting the past

Kandis Williams, Landscape and RFD (2018); Vinyl adhesive collage on plexiglass; 21 x 21 inches.


PORTFOLIO

Kandis Williams, Velvet Square (2013); Collage, print on paper; 56.3 x 56.3 inches.


Kandis Williams, Pedestal (2013); Collage print on paper.


WILLIAMS

“I’m not going to feel like parts of the world don’t belong to me. I also don’t think we have to strip the building from the ceiling down to develop, say, a theory on the uneven distribution of labor in this country”

Kandis Williams, Acheron Death Mask II (2018); Vinyl adhesive on mirror; 48 x 48 inches.


Kandis Williams, Child M/other 1 (2013); Acrylic paint and collage on canvas; 11.69 x 8.27 inches.


WILLIAMS

Kandis Williams, Shallow pool of Bacchanal Freedom (2018); Vinyl print on plexi; 32 x 48 inches.

Kandis Williams, Styxx (2018): paper, collage, plexiglass and hardware 7 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches.


Artist Kandis Williams is a reader — a deep reader. She is a depth charge dropped into the dark unconscious of texts, images, films, and the sundry corners of social media. She detonates in places where Blackness — our art, music, skin, hair, bones, asses — become raw material for the projective fantasies that are at the center of what we blithely refer to as the history of Western thought. And for over 15 years she has told all of us, in collages and texts, performances and publications, and through her imprint Cassandra Press, that something malevolent has been quietly rehearsing its entrance from the wings and now has taken center stage. “What would the world look like if Black women were believed?” Kandis asked us midway through our series of conversations while the country around us conflagrated. She asked how it was possible that Black women — whose labor is “the belly of the world,” who have borne witness to it all from the inside out — have never been believed? It remains one of the great, unresolved crimes that the very women who provide the affective fuel that feeds art and literature, slang and gesture, meme and tweet, plump and implant, white backshot and squat rack, song and dance, the very women who have weathered the brutalities of the American experience as poets, prophets, philosophers, historians, and witnesses — that they have never been believed. In a year when Kandis will feature in the Los Angeles biennial, Made in L.A. 2020: a version at the Hammer Museum, and has a retrospective opening at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University titled Kandis Williams: A Field, we sat down and took a long view of her practice, back through all the years where she had been (been) doing the work, long before this quote-unquote moment. CHLOE WAYNE / MAHFUZ SULTAN Let’s start with where you’re from, Baltimore. KANDIS WILLIAMS My memories of high school are walking around the city and the rural suburb of Randallstown —  the “red light” district downtown on Baltimore Street, the open fields and then suddenly urban streets around the Baltimore Museum of Art — at night all surrounded by these incandescent lights. When the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001, they lit all the downtown buildings purple in the city that year. It gave it this weird purple Gotham look. There is a wooded bend right before you turn onto my grandma’s street that felt as big as a whole forest… Playing in creeks behind big Section 8 apartment complexes in the county and then driving back through the orange-lit highways to go home to the city. CW/MS Was that Bruce Nauman neon Violins Violence Silence up on the façade of the Baltimore Museum of Art at that time? Did the building have any significance for you? KW Yeah it was. The BMA is one of those weird bubbles where it’s actually in a Black neighborhood that abuts a poor white neighborhood except for three streets that cul-de-sac around the back of the museum, where there’s Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum. I think buildings in general had significance for me growing up. Interiors

and domestic spaces without doors, half-­finished cement steps, those worn-out stoops that are very Baltimore — limestone, and floral weldings. A lot of decay. I feel like I end up in cities that have that quality. Berlin certainly does. New Orleans, Mexico City, St. Louis, now working raggedy-ass Los Angeles. CW/MS How did you end up at Cooper Union? KW There are two art high schools in Baltimore, one in the city and one in the county. We could go to county schools, so I went to that one, Carver. A couple kids from Carver would get into Cooper every year — there would be this sort of intra-school competition to see who would be the best art kid who’d get to go. I remember when I got in. A friend of mine came over to open the letter with me, and we cried. Nobody really went to college in my family, me and a few cousins really started that wave in our family. There was still never a sense for how I would pay for college, so I always had a thought that if there’s a free art school that’s the best, I would go there. It was literally the only option. CW/MS When did you start engaging with architecture? KW Definitely at Cooper. I actually still have my textbook, Programs and Manifestoes on 20thCentury Architecture. I was really into Bruno Taut, and Adolf Loos’s Ornament and Crime. I got way too into Le Corbusier’s biography and all of his scandals. Living in New York, the Situationists and dérive, then Rem Koolhaas’s means of collaging urban space into book form, were all really impactful. CW/MS Were you making art at the time or mainly just reading? KW My time at Cooper was fucked up because I wasn’t making anything clearly. I think learning about conceptual art really paralyzed me. I did art as a kid in the hood, so my practice was completely different. There’s a sort of artisanship in Black space — you’re congratulated for being able to draw, for being able to paint, but it’s no one’s whole career. Art-making is like a thing everyone does on some level maybe, especially in Baltimore, a tangle of kitsch and poverty. There was no stiff conceptual apparatus to what I was learning in high-school art classes. So getting to Cooper and learning about this completely different world of conceptual art and white people who couldn’t paint water lilies was really difficult in ways I still struggle to understand. I stopped making stuff basically. The last three paintings I made at Cooper were these collage portraits of white Western guilt set onto architectural schematics. Cain, Oedipus, and Lady Macbeth collaged onto African figures and images of African genocides and production stills from English theater renditions. The self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi set atop the architectural plan of the Pentagon. Other than that, I was just doing acid and thinking about stuff. I had a wall in my studio that was always full of patterns. Locating patterns from around the world, where they came from and how they migrated into other patterns — different textures, weavings, pottery. I think that came out of Loos and being

obsessed with Ornament and Crime and coloniality. Cooper was also a nest for making bad sculpture, fuck-sculpture sculpture — I’ve dabbled in that to this day. I was reading a ton, just reading insane amounts. I was in the art school, but dabbled and crossfaded in architecture courses for a year before a big breakdown. It was a Cooper rite of passage to design a hut, a prison, or a church — Brunelleschi’s architect-is-everyman type shit — which struck me as really megalomaniacal. I got this book [Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture] and I was like, “Fuck everybody!”, and I just took this book and highlighted all the exclamation points from every manifesto, and that’s what I turned in as I moved through those courses. Shout out to Rod Knox for being the best architecture teacher to observe in motion. CW/MS When I think about your work, I think of your engagement with popular culture on the one hand and then literature, philosophy, and scholarly writing on the other. These parallel tracks of reading and research converge at certain quilting points, and you generate a body of work from those. When was the first time you felt you were starting to produce work, like “work work,” based on what you were reading? KW I still don’t feel like I’m making “work work.” It was actually the inverse for me. I was in the art world from the beginning, being at Cooper. But even then, I was never convinced of the art world as a thing to do. I started directing artsbased nonprofits, teaching art classes for kids, and giving the homies teaching jobs right after school. It felt redemptive in a way. What is nice lately is feeling the traction of things repeating in my own mind. Feeling a strong foundation for a lot of my ideas to take different forms — a play, a book, a website, a piece of writing. It’s feeling more and more like I’m producing from that well. The more that becomes a well, the more I feel like I’ve made stuff and that I’ve always been making stuff in this way. CW/MS It’s almost as if you’re a logic and you can operate on anything. It’s interesting to see your influence on artists working now, and to see you take on the role of an elder of sorts. KW I don’t have a sense of my position in that way. Trying to protect my practice has been a big part of things. But I struggle with recognition because the work is all form developed in concert with other people. I can be self-­deprecating. Sometimes I’m like, “Oh, it’s just something in the Geist,” or that “it’s just the moment we’re in.” Other times, I sit and think about it, and I’m like, “But wait, I really did specifically do something here.” [Laughs.] I would be interested to know what you think. What is my work? CW/MS I think there is something fundamentally linguistic at play in your work, and you use things like binary transposition in very precise ways. And if a viewer gets what you’re transposing, there’s this detonation. KW It’s like the bomb doesn’t detonate a lot right? That was the struggle. Like looking at patterns on LSD — for a long time I considered


WILLIAMS my only practice to be liquidating photographic content, reducing a picture to the blur, how [Josef] Albers talks about light and color, how to demolish the architectonics of a photo. I was looking at a lot of [Dziga] Vertov. The early works were these wall-sized tableaux, collages. They were attempts to deal with different sorts of trauma by connecting the elements of photographs and making architecture out of those experi­ ences, ways to schematize feeling as a sort of traumatic response. CW/MS Your interest in collage, Dziga Vertov, and montage all feels related to the Cassandra Press readers you produce. When did you start to feel like the readers would have value for your art practice? KW I made my first reader in high school. A midnight group of us would meet up and make flyers. Or we’d put together a bunch of shit that we weren’t learning at school, alternative his­ tories. I was making a lot of punk flyers, and I would bind them or turn them into flip books. My little sister got really into music at some point — I had a banjo and a drum set, and she decided she wanted to play the keyboard. So I got her a keyboard and made her a book of Black women pianists, like Emahoy TseguéMaryam Guèbrou, and included a bunch of sheet music so she could start to learn. That was my first reader. And from there, I would just do shit like that. But it wasn’t art-based. I would do it as a part of the communities I was in. Print stuff out, scan it, put it together — clip-bound or with three-ring binders. When I moved to Berlin, I started doing dramaturgy, making readers for other people. I’d apply for grants. I received a grant to do dance documentation, so I started making readers on dance and doing dance-film screenings, talking to dancers a lot. That’s how I was able to maintain access to a lot of archives throughout Europe while I was living there. So I kept doing that for a while as it was funded and a fresh curiosity, while also continuing to make collages and works on paper. I still have two very large suitcases full of Xeroxes that I’ve carried around for almost 15 years. CW/MS When I started getting into making books, there was something about how quickly one can finish something using a Xerox machine. That’s always been immensely satisfying for me. The distance between the idea and the finished version of the thing being so incredibly close. KW It’s insane! You just fold a page, hand it to someone, and they read it! CW/MS They are also graphic artifacts. Reading the titles and names of the writers side by side. The relationship between the cover image and the content. They are sort of works on paper, pulled down off a wall, and then sequenced and distributed. KW One-hundred percent. The sequencing becomes a sort of concrete poetry. CW/MS With everything that’s transpired in 2020, it feels like a broader audience has recently found Cassandra Press as an educational tool to navigate the “moment.” Your readers

are often sold out. Everyone is finally listening to Cassandra, so to speak. How do you feel about that? KW It’s so funny isn’t it? What charged the myth of Cassandra for me was a link I saw between her as a disregarded prophetess and the role that radical Black femme scholarship has played for so long as hyper-signalled and yet perpetually unheard and disregarded. It’s this state of embodied marginality. Black women are at the center of so many systems of labor. We’re denied hermeneutic and epistemic validation, but then tapped for so much entertainment, sexuality, affective registering, and orientation. And so the figure of Cassandra has always resonated with me. Cassandra Press is a site for my historical fantasies. What would abolition look like if Anna Murray Douglass was where she should be? What would concert music sound like if Nina Simone were positioned where she should be? What would the world look like if Black women were believed? CW/MS I love the use of a Greek mythological figure as a reference. As someone who travels so deep into the history of literature and philosophy, how do you make peace with the white supremacy and misogynoir of the Western tradition, the so-called canon? So many of my friends over the years have refused to engage. They say, “That isn’t our history, that shit’s not for me.” KW You know the thing I reject and resent bitterly with every fucking bone inside is anyone that says that Black people shouldn’t or can’t read everything. Anything I read is a part of my tradition and my purview. Right now, for example, I’m thinking a lot about the Bolshevik Revolution, the political history of Russia, and what it meant for a peasant class to confront oligarchy again and again. That’s all a part of our history as human beings, and simply because it didn’t directly happen to Black folks doesn’t mean that it doesn’t tell us a tremendous amount about what we’ve faced here in America as a peasant class confronting an oligarchy of our own. CW/MS I’m thinking of all the white professors and classmates I had growing up who imagined themselves as the culmination point of some privileged line of filiation back through Thomas Mann or James Joyce all the way to Plato or Homer. Patently absurd, comedic even. The idea of a continuous European civilization is a scholarly fiction developed by philologists in the 18th and 19th centuries, bound up in the colonialism and racial science of emergent European nation-states. KW Yeah, they try to claim all of it. Even figures who aren’t white, whether Charles Mingus or David Hammons or Mao Zedong. They get all of it. And it’s like, “You might have to do a little bit more research.” Look at [Michel] Foucault’s and [Jean] Genet’s relationships to the Black Panthers. I’m not going to feel like parts of the world don’t belong to me. I also don’t think we have to strip the building from the ceiling down to develop, say, a theory on the uneven distribution of labor in this country. CW/MS What are you excited about that you’re

working on right now? KW Watching horror movies again — I am developing a class called Blackness, Dissonance, Terror. It’s an extension or third attempt after the two sections of a class called Whiteness, Dissonance and Horror that I taught this summer. One of the things I’m examining is the long history of black villains in the history of literature, art, and film — from Uncle Tom’s Cabin down to Candyman and now Lovecraft Country. I’ve been thinking about Black anti-heroes like Jack Johnson and Frederick Douglass and nonblack heroes of Black authenticity from Bill Clinton to Scarface and Donnie Brasco to desexualized “elegant” Black heroes in pan-racial non-Black or white casts in Blade and Jordan Peele’s Get Out. The pantheon of cameos of witch doctors, voodoo priestesses all grapple with that Baldwin question: why was it necessary to have a nigger in the first place? Even like … Morpheus from The Matrix trilogy. CW/MS Right! He is the one chosen to find “the one,” Neo. It does have a very Uncle Tom’s Cabin vibe to it. KW Yeah it’s literally Uncle Tom had to be materialized and give his entire narrative life in sacrifice, bonding solely with a white chick before white people shed mainstream white tears over slavery, and it started a war. And that same trope has played itself out again and again — look at this year…

Chloe Wayne and Mahfuz Sultan are the co-founders of Clocks, a research and design office based in Los Angeles.

INTERVIEW BY CHLOE WAYNE AND MAHFUZ SULTAN ARTWORK BY KANDIS WILLIAMS


TIME

LIGH

Poliform collaborates with one of Italy’s foremost image-makers to create a different kind of design portrait Photography by Paolo Roversi A portfolio by Poliform 172


HT SPACE PORTFOLIO

In the 40 years since he started out as a young photographer in 1980s Milan, Paolo Roversi has filled the collective imagination with deeply moving images, saturated with color, bathed in magical light, and imbued with strong emo­ tions. His subjects are mostly women, shot for the pages of the world’s most prestigious fashion magazines — particularly Vogue Italia — as well as for the most prestigious fashion houses, among them Armani, Hermès, and Guerlain. While many of his subjects are professional models and even megastars —  Naomi Campbell, Kirsten Owen, Rihanna, Guinevere van Seenus, Tilda Swinton, Natalia Vodianova — Roversi’s magic can elevate even the most commercial shoot to intimate, soul-searching portraiture. It is this impas­ sioned sensibility, emotional curiosity, and

OBJECT X 2019


“For me, every photograph is a portrait — if I take a picture of a cup, it’s a portrait of a cup; if I take a picture of a teapot, it’s a portrait of a teapot. It’s always a portrait, and it’s always a relation between me and my subject” — Paolo Roversi 174


POLIFORM

almost primal instinct for lighting that design institution Poliform sought out when look­ing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company’s founding in 1970. Uniquely sophisticated, like Roversi’s oeuvre, Poliform’s pieces, again like the photographer’s work, also comprise less immediately obvious, deeper layers. Thanks to their manufacture by traditional artisans from the Brianza region in northern Italy, Poliform designs are infused with a warmth, soul, and passion for detail that comparable multi-milliondollar international companies often lack. It is therefore only fitting that Poliform should ask Roversi to capture this unique spirit, documenting the company’s many design solutions, which include seating, shelving, storage, and kitchens by some of the design world’s leading names: Carlo Colombo, Rodolfo Dordoni, Jean-Marie Massaud, Paola Navone, or Marcel Wanders. Though this is the first time Roversi has faced the challenge of capturing so many inanimate objects all at once — chairs, shelves, sofas, and even the headboard of a bed —, the resulting images bring the pieces beautifully to life, not unlike his portraits of beautiful women. The collab­ oration between one of Italy’s most revered photographers and one of its most presti­ gious design brands has now been published as a book by Rizzoli. Simply titled Poliform: Time, Light, Space, the 96-page volume is printed proof that good design always deserves an uncompromising eye.


NANDA VIG (1936 – 202

Portrait of Nanda Vigo by Bea De Giacomo photographed in 2017 in the artist’s studio in Milan. Courtesy Bea De Giacomo.

176


GO 20)

PORTFOLIO

A tribute to the radical Italian artist and designer often light-years ahead of her time

INTERVIEW BY HANS ULRICH OBRIST Nanda Vigo, Golden Gate (1969–70); originally produced by Arredoluce. Photography by Ugo Mulas.

Italian artist, designer, and architect Nanda Vigo rose to prominence in the 1960s with an interdisciplinary practice defined by idiosyncratic reimaginations of light, materiality, and space. After setting up her own atelier in Milan in 1959, she played a pivotal role in the avant-garde art move­ ment Zero, and collaborated with figures such as Lucio Fontana, Gio Ponti, Enrico Castellani, and her late partner Piero Manzoni. Her projects, which included the all-white Zero House (1959–62), the tileand fur-filled Lo Scarabeo sotto la Foglia house (1965–68, with Ponti), and her many glass-and-aluminum Cronotopi light pieces, all transcend the categories of art, design, and architecture. Vigo remained active until her death at 83, her work pos­ sessed by an ineffable originality shaped by limitless curiosity. At the time of her passing in May 2020, she was working with Serpentine curator Hans Ulrich Obrist on what would turn out to be a posthumous project — a space for children designed for the Enzo Mari exhibition, which is being shown at Milan’s Triennale this fall. Two years earlier, in January 2018, Obrist recorded an interview with Vigo in her Milan studio. Their conversation, published here for the first time, finds her looking back on her decades-long career and on a legacy that, despite Vigo’s enormous influence on radical Italian design, still remains underrated.

Nanda Vigo, private residence in Verona, Italy (1988–89).

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HANS ULRICH OBRIST How did you start out in art and architecture? Was there an epiphany?

Nanda Vigo, Arch/arcology (2018) at the MAXXI Museum, Rome. Photography by Sebastiano Luciano. Courtesy Alcantara and Foundation MAXXI.

NV When I started out, I worked at Fontana’s atelier for a few years doing small jobs, an advantageous situation for me, because he was the only artist who interested me at the time. In his manifesto of Spatialism, he declared the possibilities of transmitting light into space in such terms that I identified with his thinking. He was the one who told me about Zero, these young people in Germany. It was an absolutely impor­ tant movement, many artists took part, with very diverse types of expression. The possibility of exhibiting as an experimental group was highly attractive. Plus, the young artists from Düsseldorf, Otto Piene and the others, were working with light and different materials, so there was a common feeling.

HUO You specifically went to meet Frank Lloyd Wright and see his Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania, right? NV All of us artists and architects were fascinated by Fallingwater. But once I got to Taliesin West [Wright’s Arizona base where he ran his educational fellowship], I saw how Wright hadn’t really done anything special at all. The idea to build on the waterfall was the client’s, not his. All Wright’s furniture looked like leftovers from the Vienna Secession, but painted white. After this disappointment, and seeing Wright’s nasty temper, I fled Taliesin. He used to smack students with a ruler if they made mistakes. He was always angry. I told myself I’d never learn anything there, so I went to San Francisco and interned in a few offices.

Nanda Vigo, Casa Museo Remo Brindisi in Lido di Spina, Italy (1967). Photography by Gabriele Tocchio.

HUO You were in San Francisco in 1958 and 1959. In his book 1959: The Year Everything Changed [2009], Fred Kaplan says that, contrary to what we think, the revolutionary years were not only the 1960s but also the 1950s, with the Beat generation and political, sexual, and artistic liberation. Like Ettore Sottsass, your interests were multidisciplinary, and included literature. Tell us about the climate in San Francisco in 1959.

NV Terribly so! Unfortunately, I was absolutely in love with Manzoni, so I accepted it all. Of course we fought a lot, and the quarrels were only for one reason. He’d say, “This is not the Curie family. I am the artist and you stay home.” No one can believe it. I was already wearing miniskirts, and he made me let the hems out. I was not allowed to speak. Fontana had warned me — he was extremely generous, not only in helping young artists and buying their paintings, but also in offering his knowledge, which was greatly to my advantage.

NV Yes, pieces by Enrico Castellani and Fontana. HUO

The Zero House is rather minimalist.

NV Yes. Like I said, back then everyone wanted wooden furniture from Sweden, which I abhorred. Also, there was the “furniture effect,” meaning a buffet had to look like a buffet, and a cabinet had to be a cupboard. What I did was integrate the furniture inside the walls of the house. There was also a play of light.

HUO Is there a catalogue raisonné of your work? What do you consider the first project of your career?

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HUO Then the artist Piero Manzoni, who you were engaged to, forbade you all contact with Zero. Was he jealous?

HUO So you designed the Zero House in 1959 and you integrated it with artwork?

NV All of us adored John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, the poets of the Beat generation, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac. Jazz music was everywhere. The atmosphere was fantastic.

NV I don’t have a catalogue raisonné, but I’m working on a chronology of my work with Tommaso Trini, to be published by Edizioni Prearo. As for my first project, I think I went to the U.S. too soon, because the concept of art did not yet exist in architecture. Art was something

HUO The name reflects your interest in the Zero group of artists. How did your contact with Zero begin?

Nanda Vigo, Diaframma (1968): Aluminium, glass, neon, tubes.

HUO In the same year, 1959 when everything was happening, you designed a sort of skyscraper in Rozzano, the Milanese suburb where Domus is located.

All images courtesy Nanda Vigo Archive, Milan, unless otherwise noted. Special thank you to Alberto Podio.

NANDA VIGO When I was a girl, my family evacuated from Milan to Como during World War II. Walking through Como with my parents one day, we came across Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio. I was fascinated by Terragni’s use of glass bricks. They fractionalize the artificial and natural light to such an extent that the architectural volumes are transformed. I wanted to become an archi­ tect. I am convinced I was an architect in a former life. But I found architecture alone to be insufficient. I went to a fine-arts academy, because in my mind one type of study furthered the other. Then I went to the Lausanne Polytechnic in Switzerland, a fun and advanced school that had students work with their hands directly, laying bricks with mortar. I didn’t study at the Milan Polytechnic, because my plan was to go to America, and the Milan school wouldn’t give me credits that were valid in the U.S., while the Swiss school did. I was interested in American culture, especially music and literature — a bit less in the artistic scene.

architects hung on the wall as a decoration. Design offices had such an assembly line of work that no one could interrupt the flow to make models and trial pieces. So I had to get back to Italy, where I knew different specialized artisans with whom it was possible to try things out. As soon as I got back, I received a job for an apartment interior. Luckily, this was a young husband-and-wife couple called Pellegrini who gave me carte blanche. This was my first white interior, which I later called Casa Zero. I stripped the entire house. Those were the days when everyone wanted wooden Swedish-style furniture.

The Pho


VIGO NV I was working for a small studio — two engineers and an architect. The town of Rozzano asked for a municipal cemetery. My initial idea was related to the problem of rising land prices. So I drew twin towers with burial recesses on vertically stacked levels. The press dubbed it the “cemetower.” Only the lower parts were built.

HUO

What year was this?

NV

Before 1970.

HUO

Did you take photos on these trips?

NV

Yes, but not many.

HUO More Mies van der Rohe than Frank Lloyd Wright, don’t you think?

HUO

Not systematically like Sottsass?

NV Yes indeed, my mistake — I should have gone to Mies! HUO

So Mies was inspiring?

NV Certainly. He was on the same line as Terragni. HUO How did you become interested in African and Eastern cultures? NV Africa was part of my explorations, all of which were entirely personal. I was interested in human races, their migration across the planet and how groups formed that led to the origins of culture, writing, and languages. I was interested in the vibrations of different peoples. The history of Egypt was at the top of my list, so I went there many times to look around and try to understand the culture. This brought me to seek out all the circumstances under which pyramids were built, so I went to Mexico and India, studied religions and the different branches of Hinduism. I spent much time with Tibetan lamas. HUO

Much like Alighiero Boetti.

NV

Much earlier than Boetti.

NV No, exactly the opposite. If you’re there to take photographs, that’s all you end up doing. Instead, I wished to understand the culture, insert myself into the local system, and so I did. HUO Did you translate your travels into writing or work? NV No. I knew I could never transmit them, because no one was interested. Only recently have critics become curious about the backstage perusals of artists, but it used to be that you couldn’t even talk about them. HUO Aren’t there any traces of these travels? Did you make work inspired by the experiences? NV I made many tapestries in Kashmir. They can be used as rugs, too, thanks to the needle technique. I stayed there to follow the production, because if you just leave the drawings there, they invent everything themselves. Some are abstract, others are figurative. Some were for Flou, the bed manufacturer. They wanted tapestry panels for behind the beds. HUO Is any of your other work inspired by these trips?

NV No, but I did continue designing rugs, because my Tibetan friends succeeded in founding a rug company in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. These were knotted by Tibetans who had escaped from China. I made beautiful rugs with them. HUO The interesting thing about you is the freedom and fluidity with which you move between art, architecture, and design. It’s an interesting theme for the new generation of artists. You are not imprisoned in architecture. How did you do it? How did the time-space idea for your Cronotopi originate? NV It started with the light I saw flowing through Terragni’s glass bricks. It never left me. I thought a transmission of things for the future could come about through the use of light, so I attempted to develop this when I designed Casa Zero, and continued after that. I called these elements Cronotopi, from cronos-topos, timespace. What I wish to obtain by refracting light is that the viewer is induced, almost forced, to think of the light. It’s such an important element in our lives. HUO I saw your beautiful show at Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York [October 2015– January 2016]. There were Cronotopi there. And there was a second group of objects from the 1970s, called Triggers of the Space — mirror sculptures with triangular and pyramidal shapes. What does the name mean? NV I used the verb trigger in my 1964 manifesto to mean what I just mentioned, namely to activate the spectator by means of light. The object creates a luminous space that makes people think about light.

e salon in Casa Blu (1967–72), Milan. otography by Marco Caselli.

179


HUO In 1969, Sottsass wrote in Domus about your “interplanetary” quality. This aspect is interesting to young artists. What about your intergalactic dimension? Have you designed things for other planets? For Mars?

I worked at length with Lucio Fontana and, luckily, he did not influence me.

NV No. I am working on an Alcantarasponsored exhibition about Paolo Soleri at the Maxxi in Rome, titled Arch/arcology [shown in February 2018], which is a play on the words Arcosanti and architectural archaeology. If you look at his spatial projects, they indicate that cities have become archaeology. I have had this thought since I was a girl, when I used to read Flash Gordon comic books in the 1940s.

NV When Fontana was asked to design a setting, he wrote a few lines of description and made a couple of sketches. Then he needed to develop them. I often did that for him. When the request came for these installations, he said, "You go. You do it." One I made for him, and the other we made together.

HUO Tell us about the Utopie display for the Triennale di Milano in 1964.

HUO What was your view of the histori-­ cal avant-gardes of the 20th century? Russian Constructivism, say — El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko?

HUO Was Flash Gordon the inspiration for your intergalactic work? NV No. The comic strips were always about a planet where all the buildings were suspended in an anti-gravitational void. The idea stayed with me, the desire to go beyond. I organized another exhibition for Alcantara at the Palazzo Reale in Milan [Fantasy Access Code, 2017] and succeeded in constructing a model of my favorite spaceship, the Enterprise from Star Trek. I’ve always been interested in science fiction, starting with the old Japanese films. In the late 1950s, they were the only ones making science-fiction movies.

Exhibition view of Nanda Vigo — Light Project (2019) at the Palazzo Reale, Milan. Photography by Marco Poma.

HUO

HUO

Nanda Vigo in 1958, posing as a “pin-up” for Nikky Pascuttini.

HUO

How did Piero Manzoni die?

NV He drank himself to death. His liver went kaput. But the foundation people invented a heart attack, which is not true. They didn’t want to say he was a drinker. Then there was more trouble for me when I stated the amount of work he had made. They made a catalogue of 800 pieces, but where they came from no one knows. He worked for just three years. He did not assiduously paint and make objects. He was mostly out with his artist friends for a glass of wine and good conversation. He was not someone to spend day and night toiling in his studio. HUO What would be your advice to a young artist or architect?

Who were your influences in art?

180

Have you ever published your writings?

NV No. When I write, I write the truth, for instance what happened with Piero Manzoni. But then I was asked to rewrite what I had said about how he died, how many pieces he had made — the Manzoni Foundation prevented me from telling the truth.

NV No, Ponti did not inspire me. My thinking was similar though. People called me crazy, so I needed someone who thought like I did — that person was Gio Ponti. Once we began talking and discussing things, I said to myself, “If Ponti is here, I am not alone,” so I forged ahead.

NV No one influenced me in anything. Not at all. All my things are mine alone. Naturally, I liked Enrico Castellani's work, Günther Uecker and Heinz Mack, but no one influenced me.

Would you like to build a city?

NV No. My job is giving indications about what will come, what to think about the future. I am uninterested in materially building a city.

HUO Would you say Ponti was an inspiration in your approach to design?

HUO

HUO Do you have any unbuilt projects? Dreams? NV I am never able to build everything I have in mind, because it would cost too much. I would like to go larger in scale, like the pro-­ ject I made for the University of Milan.

HUO What about your collaboration with Gio Ponti on the house Lo Scarabeo sotto la Foglia [The Beetle Under the Leaf, Malo, 1965–68]. NV Ponti published the design of the house in Domus, offering the project free to anyone who wanted to build it. Only one person came forward, someone I knew because he had begun collecting art [Giobatta Meneguzzo]. He lived outside Vicenza in the town of Malo. He knew I was a friend of Ponti’s, so he asked me to help out. The design was for a small vacation house, furnished with tiny bunk beds. There was no way to use the interior, but this gentleman wanted to live there with his wife and two children. There was very little space, so the interior needed to be redesigned. He asked Ponti if it was okay that I made the interior. I was so happy, I arrived one day at Ponti’s office with a stack of drawings. I wasn’t sure whether to make it in his style or start from scratch. Ponti put his hand on my drawings and said, “I don’t want to see anything. Show me when you’re finished.” So the house is by Ponti and the interior is mine.

NV Naturally the Russian constructivists were a love we all had, inevitably. Likewise, we had a great love of the German artists working in Berlin.

Nanda Vigo, Due Piu chair (1971); produced for the More coffee shop, Milan. Photography by Aldo Ballo.

NV For someone working in art and architecture, I’d say, “Study all you can! Study what happened in the past.” If you don’t check item by item what happened before, what the evolutions were, you cannot go forward. Everyone is at an absurd standstill now.


“No one influenced me in anything. Not at all. All my things are mine alone”

VIGO

Nanda Vigo, H&S Table (2019); produced for the exhibition Hard & Soft at Luca Preti gallery, Milan.

The two-level atrium in Casa Museo Remo Brindisi (1967–71), Lido di Spina, Province of Ferrara. Photography by Gabriele Tocchio.

181


GET The swan song to an aesthetic of Trumped-up trickle down mediocrity


PORTFOLIO

OUT PHOTOGRAPHY ADRIAN GAUT TEXT BY TED BARROW


“The world is an evil place, Charlie. Some of us make money off of that. Others get destroyed.” This from the lipless maw of an elderly jeweler in a dingy office on 47th street towards the end of Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007). Although pivotal scenes of this movie are set in the Trump World Tower on First Avenue, those that don’t occur in the drug dealer’s apartment in this nameless tower are usually phone-driven: messages get left, payphones get wiped, cell phones get snapped in half back when snapping a cellphone in half was both possible and somewhat inconsequential. The good old days.

Trump Tower was one the first skyscrapers to use reinforced concrete shear walls for its skeleton.

Trump Tower (1979–83) is a mixed-use skyscraper on Fifth Avenue in New York City designed by Der Scutt

Punctuating that movie of grimy interiors and abject foldout beds in nameless tenements is the smoky-glass monolithic slab of the Trump World Tower (Costas Kondylis,1999–2001), where Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character escapes. I remember thinking, “Oh, of course that’s the sort of thing that would happen in that tacky, evil building.” Kondylis’s insta-tower rankled Turtle Bay residents when it went up because it blocked views of the United Nations headquarters across the street. No joke that the building’s most desirable apartments were sold to Russian buyers — it sneers darkly at the U.N. below it. Formally, Trump World Tower meshes two buildings nearby: the U.N. Secretariat (Wallace K. Harrison, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, et al., 1945–52), with its controlled cascade of casement windows sandwiched between stone slabs, and the Seagram building (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1954–58) a few blocks away on Park. Trump’s tower takes the murky tone of Mies’s bold manifesto and strips it of structural rigor: gone are the vertical mullions of polished-bronze I-beams — they would only collect the grime of the FDR Drive. Instead, the tower is half the width, twice the height, and anticipates post-9/11 anomie. Compared to the canonical mid-century Modernist predecessors nearby, Trump World Tower is like the cynical Cliff’s Notes : not about a corporate brand (Seagram’s), nor the honesty of bureaucracy (Lewis Mumford’s take on the U.N.), but asserting your own privacy at others’ expense. Bullet points:

• Fuck you • Sue me Jumping back to the 80s, the original Trump Tower on 56th and Fifth (Der Scutt, 1979–83) was premonitory of things to come in a number of ways: an antagonistic relationship to the neighborhood (through destroying the beloved Bonwit Teller department store, which stood on the site, and scrapping its Art Deco sculptures, among other things), a duplicitous public profile in which the number of floors is determined by “alternate facts,” and, as the first skyscraper to use reinforced-concrete shear walls for its skeleton, both a cozy relationship to organized crime and a shift toward the “pour concrete on it” stage of late capitalism, as defined by David Harvey. Glass towers don’t normally read as Brutalist, but Scutt’s Trump Tower is as brutal as they come. These days, it is hard not to read that faceted canted corner rising above the low-rent-mall glass-box pedestal as anything but an inverted obelisk delineated in Atari digital dreams — Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk for mass culture, or the Washington Monument Trumpified.


GET OUT The city allowed the 20-story Trump Tower to exceed zoning regulations in exchange for a public garden area.


Trump International Hotel and Tower, formerly the Gulf & Western Building was


GET OUT

The Trump Organization converted the office tower into a hotel and condominium, with renovations by Philip Johnson and Costas Kondylis (1995–97).

“Trump World Tower is like the cynical Cliff’s Notes: not about a corporate brand (Seagram’s), nor the honesty of bureaucracy (U.N.), but asserting your own privacy at others’ expense.”

If the Trump World Tower is an evil echo of the emptiness of International Style Modernist memories, the Dominick (Handel Architects/ Rockwell Group, 2006–08, formerly the Trump SoHo) is vertiginous litigation embodied. It is tall, people died in its construction, and it attracts lawsuits like flies to shit. At Spring and Varick, one can only guess that it changed its name not because it isn’t really in SoHo at all, but because it Domin-ates Var-ick (sure there’s Dominick Street in its shadow, but…). This change of name, if not of heart, happened after the 2016 election. It’s a bad look to get caught looking bad. Surrounded by steel-framed, classicizing brick-and-mortar printing houses, the vestiges of SoHo’s cast-iron factories, and the Federalist remainder row-houses of the Lower West Side, the Dominick is minidick energy writ large in the sky. Shuffling on a raised plinth that echoes the earlier height of imaginary row houses and now constitutes the hotel-condo lobby-boutique, the slightly faceted tower is clad in glass that doesn’t so much reflect the sun and sky as absorb it: if you aren’t paying attention, you might miss it. But it is there, and here’s the thing: none of these buildings are that bad. They’re not wonderful — Trump’s favorite architectural adjective — but they’re not necessarily abhorrent. The relationship between bad buildings and bad politics has never been pellucid. Trump’s simply seem like rote exercises in a safe bland Modernist pastiche, shimmering expressionism that doesn’t say much, easy enough to ignore. In all three, the sleek skin of planar glass deflects our curiosity about what happens inside. Before 2016, you could just ignore bad taste, and wish it away. The good old days. Back then, when bad men did bad things and we expected bad things to happen to them (not us) — 1995–97 to be precise —  Kondylis and New York’s then-reigning (and fascist-friendly) architecture tsar, Philip Johnson, collaborated on the gut rebrand of the 1968 former Gulf and Western building into the Trump International Hotel, located at (sort of) 1 Central Park West (Trump changed the address). Office buildings converted to transient residences —  a combination of hotel room/condo units that vitiates any sense of community on the street — are nothing new in New York. 1 Central Park West is like an SRO for offshore capital and vice. Also eerily familiar is the shimmering homage to the 1964 World’s Fair at its base, reviled by most. No matter: Trump liked the globe, so Trump got the globe. Remember those rattan balls that used to decorate every tacky staged interior? The globe is like that, but chromed, threatening to tumble into the basket of Columbus Circle. But unlike his other buildings, which menace their neighborhoods, the Trump International Hotel seems right at home on Columbus Circle. That, perhaps, is only due to its tawdry and insensitive surroundings: the colonizer atop the column in the middle of the toilet bowl, for one, and the tribute to fake news, the USS Maine Monument, on the southwest corner of Central Park. Seen with these gaudy Beaux-Arts

For marketing, Donald Trump changed the address of Trump International Hotel and Tower from 7 Columbus Circle to 1 Central Park West.


sculptures, 1 Central Park West seems right in spirit, if not in style. Historically, that rare corner site had been occupied by the Majestic Theater, a spectacular but underwhelming entrée to Broadway above 59th, the west side of which became increasingly seedy. It’s only right that an office building would be built there in the 60s, and a hotel there later. In those three roles — theater, office, hotel/ condo — you have a century of New York’s appeal to the rest of the world in one site. The exclusively exorbitant, brassy insouciance of the current tower says something undeniable — and impossible to ignore — about what it means to live in New York today. And what does it mean to live in New York today, among and below Trump’s towers, buffered by outerboro golf courses? It means living with the ever-present reminder that we are indicted. To say that we let this happen is not quite right — we would be foolish to think we had that much power. It has always been there, and we ignored it. Rather, to live in the world today is to take part in its destruction, something we all do. Scapegoating the man doesn’t reverse the legacy, and Trump’s towers will be synonymous with this time long after the residue imprint of his glitzy name fades from the marquees of his buildings, below which oligarchs and oli-gawkers will stream, gazing at the shimmer of globes that never spun. What has New York City taught us about revolution? It only occurs in real estate.

Ted Barrow is an art historian and writer who lives somewhere between New York City and Berkeley. While not finishing his dissertation on Gilded Age images of the tropics, he critiques skateboarding on Instagram.

Trump Plaza (1982–84) is a 36-story cooperative apartment and retail building designed by Philip Birnbaum.

Apartment owners, under the name of Trump Plaza Owners Inc., sued Trump in 1990, claiming the building contained


Photo by Lyndsy Welgos

Topical Cream is a 501c3 nonprofit arts org supporting the work of women and GNC individuals in contemporary art. Artist Jamian Juliano-Villani in her studio in Brooklyn, New York. TOPICALCREAM.INFO


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MATERIAL WORLD

Curatorial visionary Paola Antonelli’s five top ingredients that will change the future of design

There’s a revolution happening in the world of materials says Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design. In addition to advocating for an expanded sense of technology’s role in design, courting controversy by showing video games in MoMA’s hallowed halls, and exploring the relationship between design and human violence, the Italian-born author, editor, and trained architect has used her MoMA tenure, which began in 1995, to explore her fasci­ nation for new materials. Her very first show at the museum, Mutant Materials in Contemporary Design (1995), set the tone, and she has pursued the theme in more recent exhibitions such as 2019’s Broken Nature at the XXII Triennale di Milano or Neri Oxman: Material Ecology at MoMA earlier this year. Antonelli shared with PIN–UP five materials that are sure to upend the next decade of design.

INTERVIEW BY DREW ZEIBA PORTRAIT BY SAHEER UMAR


ENDNOTE

MYCELIUM

RECLAIMED WOOD

“In the past few years, mycelium

“I’m fascinated by reclaimed wood.

has become one of the heroes of

The only issue I have with it is that

the material revolution because

it has an aesthetic that is still, in my

it is the most natural ‘glue’ avail-

mind, very embryonic, limited simply

able, perfect for binding other

to looking like reused wood. I hope

materials together to form sol-

there will be much more aesthetic

ids. Ecovative, a company in up-

sophistication in the future, be-

state New York, was the first to

cause it’s an incredibly interesting material. It’s funny, because the

try to develop an alternative to the

first exhibition I ever did at MoMA,

ubiquitous polystyrene packag-

Mutant Materials in Contemporary

ing which is so toxic to the envi-

Design, was about showing objects

ronment, and they did so using corn stalk digested by mycelium.

that were either made using new

Heirloom Mexican corn husks, the raw material from which Fernando Laposse makes surfacing veneer as part of his project Totomoxtle (2016 – 20).

David Benjamin, an architect, took that technology and used it to

materials or using traditional materials in a new way. And that is

grow bricks for Hy-Fi [the Young

really happening to wood over and

Architects Program installation] at MoMA PS1 in 2014. His mushroombrick tower was a way to show how mycelium products can be an absolutely viable form of temporary architecture — after the show was over, the tower went into the acompost. One of the biggest problems with recycling construction materials is that they are very hard to separate — for instance mortar from bricks — so the fewer materials we use the easier it is to take them apart and reuse them. We won’t stop using concrete, glass, or steel; instead it’s about expanding our library so that we can use more appropriate materials. If you look at packaging, for instance, it is a no-brainer that we have to get rid of polystyrene.” Mycelium blocks developed as a collaboration between Caracara Collective and Biohm, pictured here on exhibit at the UK Construction Week in October 2017.

over again — a material that is older

CORN HUSKS

than humankind, it’s always being reborn. For instance, right now, they

“Totomoxtle is a project by Fernando

are making skyscrapers out of wood,

Laposse. It’s a veneer material made

and in Mutant Materials there was

from the husks of heirloom corn

a chair made from wood veneer ap-

created in collaboration with the

plied directly to foam, so it looked

Mixtec community of Tonahuixtla

monastically hard but actually

in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

was soft. Wood doesn’t have nine

Totomoxtle is about recuperating

but 900 lives! It’s a material that

not only material culture but also

is at the same time abundant and

endangered plant species. It is a

scarce. We have depleted forests

great example of going the extra

all over the world, but then if you

mile to restore wisdom as well as

turn your back on bamboo, it will

ways of planting, growing, and making that are local, transferring all that into a material of great beauty. The range of corn in Mexico

have already invaded. That’s the kind of responsiveness in nature we really need to learn from.”

is just unbelievable, but so many different varieties disappeared or became endangered during the colonial era. Fernando worked not only with the farmers in Tonahuixtla but also with the women who were doing so much of the work to process the corn. Together they came up with a process, a material, and also a way of using that material which was really very much of that place. Some case studies, new materials, or new processes can be scaled up industrially and go all over the world, while others, like Totomoxtle, remain more local, with a smaller set of applications, but they become exemplary because of the beautiful story they tell. So no matter what, they have reverberations and influence. Totomoxtle is one such very strong example, not only scientifically and from a design standpoint, but also politically.”

Reclaimed wood is central to New York-based design studio Green River Project LLC’s practice — Reclaimed Pine Coffee Table, 2020.


ENDNOTE

BIOPLASTIC

Ore Streams (2017–2019) is an investigation into the recycling of electronic waste by Formafantasma, commissioned by NGV Australia and Triennale Milano.

“Aguahoja [2014–20] is a project by

in the past decade, are very abun-

Neri Oxman to produce bioplastics

dant. Atelier Luma, at the Luma

from materials such as cellulose,

Foundation in Arles, has embarked

chitin, chitosan, and pectin. Chitin

on an Algae Platform project which

is everywhere — in the shells of

has seen them going to different

crabs, all sorts of exoskeletons —

parts of the world to teach people

and pectin is in things like apples,

to use the algae that are proliferat-

you find it everywhere too, it’s

ing there and to transform them into

used to densify jams. These are

bioplastic that can be 3D printed.

completely natural materials which

Since it can be printed to take on

Oxman deploys in a smart way

the form of the traditional vessels in

by using robotics and 3D printing.

that particular place, it is almost like

In Aguahoja, the materials are

giving back to the material culture

arranged in different compositions,

after the cleanliness of the environ-

so you change the ratio of water to

ment has been taken away.”

pectin or water to chitin and also 3D print them in a different way with a different kind of trellis, so the structure becomes more or less rigid, more or less durable. It’s a way to create these new materials that have a biodegradability over time, and are also very diverse. Algae are another one of the big heroes of sustainable, biodegradable, natural materials, and, since they’re also a byproduct of the excessive pollution that we’ve caused

E-WASTE “Waste is a pain. How do we get rid of it? Do we put it in a landfill? Do we biodegrade it? Do we reuse it? Instead, there are designers who use waste as a new material. Formafantasma’s recent Ore Streams

Neri Oxman’s Aguahoja (2014–20) is a collection of biopolymer composites, 3D-printed from natural artifacts like bones, tree branches, and insect exoskeletons.

project [2017–19] was about taking electronic waste and recycling it for objects that look as gorgeous as if they were made with virgin material. Don’t be fooled by these beautiful cubicles, chairs, and tables, because in truth they’re almost like Trojan horses for us to really understand the dark and dirty underbelly of the whole system of e-waste — labor exploitation, poisoning, and pollution. Making these beautiful pieces of furniture is a way for Formafantasma to explore the world of e-recycling to help people understand that it is not only about reusing those materials, but also about deploying them in a different way.”

READ TIFFANY LAMBERT’S EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH PAOLA ANTONELLI AT PINUPMAGAZINE.ORG

AR PO MO 199

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EE MORE REVOLUTIONARY RAPHICS SELECTED BY ROME HARRIS ON PAGE 42