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Rumor 02.01 A Conversation between HANI RASHID and Stan Allen
Stan Allen: Asymptote presents an extreme case of a trajectory that has come to characterize architects of our generation: a period of intensive experimentation, teaching, working in galleries and alternative venues, slowly moving toward a more comprehensive, buildingoriented practice. You and your partner Lise Anne Couture are now running a large office with projects all over the world, working for a range of clients and dealing with complex technical and logistical challenges. The conventional lines of what constitutes experimentation and what constitutes ‘professional’ practice are blurred, and it makes those on both sides of that divide nervous. The trick is to keep the spirit of experimentation alive, even as you are working in unfamiliar territory, and not to fall back on conventional solutions. How have you been able to navigate this transition, and what do you see as the effect on your way of working and your way of thinking? hani rashid: A dominant force in our discipline through the latter part of the 20th century was the notion that experimentation in architecture, although distinct from conventional notions of professional endeavor, was nevertheless a legitimate form of architectural practice. For us, as for many of our generation, drawings, writing, modeling, installations and environments were, in and of themselves, architectural ‘projects’ even though much of that production was not necessarily explicitly applicable to the typical practice of designing buildings. Lise Anne Couture and I founded our practice in that spirit. Asymptote was
conceived as an experimental practice focused on theory, multi-media installations, experimental drawings and photography; these were all speculations on architectural form, space and cities. We always understood our theoretical works as opportunities for research that would enable us to achieve a richer definition of what ‘practice’ could become. In all of the research we have done and continue to pursue, we have passionately kept an open mind and critical eye on the way in which aspects of the experimentation could be relevant in a more conventional realm of building practice. The trajectory of the work in our studio, though it has always been in response to pertinent issues of the time, has not been linear and predictable, and has eschewed definition based on simplistic notions of style. We have created many internal references and histories that we continue to draw upon such that the work we produce—whether in building form or as an experimental installation—is always part of a larger story. We don’t see an ongoing body of research and experimentation as being at odds with the undertaking of architectural commissions; rather, one propels the other. Today we work with a sense of liberation from dogma, style, fashion and other forms of expectation, and instead approach each new project as part of this legacy of experimentation set against political and cultural forces, program requirements, site constraints and the other ‘realities’ of professional practice and the business of building architecture. Sa: More than ever, speed, movement, connectivity and virtuality characterize our day-today reality; these have important themes for Asymptote from the beginning. This would seem to make the recently finished Yas Hotel, in Abu Dhabi a seminal project for your practice—not only a program that literally encompasses all of
those issues, but the way in which it works in today’s global economy, where capital and culture move freely around the world. Here it seems to me that the constructed reality of the project flows into the ‘atmospheric’ seamlessly, creating something new and difficult to describe. Can you talk a bit about the experience of the project now that it is finished and its double life as something at once real and virtual? HR: The Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi was certainly an interesting and well-timed commission for us for a number of reasons. In the experimental arena we had looked at many relevant themes, such flows and spatial deformation that could be enacted through the building of physical installations: the interactive touch surface architecture we built at the CCAC in San Francisco in the late 90s, or the mutated Auto-bodies installed with Creative Time in 2000, the Mscape experimental series developed in 2002 as well as at Documenta XI in Kassel in 2004. More recently our installation work at Venice Biennale in 2008 can also be considered an extension of much of this earlier research with the additional overlay of an interest in robotics, computer controlled surfaces and augmentation of form. One aspect consistent in many of these works was how each project looked into the ways in which speed, atmosphere, flux, and plastic seamlessness (meant figuratively and formally) could physically and conceptually make manifest what one might understand as the predominate forces at play within contemporary life and cities. In essence for 20 years we have studied and delved into the spatiality and contexts which we feel are prevalent, and which define a frame within which architectural work needs to be developed today. Our tectonic language is the result of an approach to architecture that is fueled by such interests and perhaps one could say fetishes. Asymptote’s built projects all embody these preoccupations and readings of contemporary culture and space. In the Yas Hotel in particular, the pursuit to create and realize a complex, differentiated yet fluid (continued on p.8)
(left) Asymptote: Yas Hotel, Abu Dhabi, 2010 (photo courtesy Asymptote); (right) Fall 2010 final review; (above) Barbara Hillier, model, Fall 2009 505 design studio (photos: Daniel Claro, 2010).
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Masters Thesis Projects: Beauty SPring 2010 Liz Diller, Thesis Director Assisted by David Allin
Each semester, the thesis students are challenged to make an architectural response to a general thematic question. The theme is explored in workshops, stated as a written proposition and elaborated as a design proposal during the students’ final semester. Thesis topics are one word themes, agreed upon by the faculty, that serve as a hinge point between architecture and questions of politics, culture, technology or society. The thematic organization of the final semester’s independent design research creates a shared point of departure for students, faculty and visiting critics. We put the term Beauty on the table because it made us all uncomfortable. It’s at that point of discomfort where we stop every conversation. There’s no way to talk about it after we’ve taken away the functionalist discussion. Then we’re left with an aesthetic agenda which is very personal. It’s an interesting thing for this school, because we’re into making arguments, and the arguments go just so far and then one is accountable for the design. The design sometimes falls short, or it never gets there, or it’s still being argued. But we hardly ever get to the project. We continue to argue the merits of the
Invited Critics, Final Jury Julie Bargmann Aaron Betsky Preston Scott Cohen Ed Dimendberg Jeff Kipnis Sylvia Lavin Michael Meredith Jorge Otero-Pailos Felicity Scott
hypothesis until there is no time left. Not to say that the project leaves its theoretical starting point; it doesn’t have to exchange formalism for theory. There’s been a misconception that in a post-critical condition, you leave the argument and just do the project, and that somehow that’s good enough. It’s not! We’re trying to find a way out of a reductive position that leaves theory for design. —Liz Diller
Final M.Arch. Thesis Review, Spring 2010 (clockwise from top): Jessie Turnbull, Leo Henke, Garrett Ricciardi and Julian Rose, Luke Smith, Shawn Protz, and Jonathan Enns (photos: Daniel Claro, 2010).
As part of their thesis research in the spring semester of 2010, Master of Architecture students Julian Rose and Garrett Ricciardi interviewed a number of artists, architects, critics and art historians to gather ideas around the question of beauty, the spring thesis theme. A complete version of their interview with German Artist Thomas Hirschhorn will be published in PIDGIN 9 in October.
oral histories: interviews on beauty
Addition/Subtraction: Many of your works are constantly in flux and so fundamentally dynamic. Not only are some of them assembled through a kind of logic of aggregation, but often elements can be added to or subtracted from them even after they are “complete.” In contrast, architectural form is traditionally understood as static. The renaissance architect and theorist Leon Battista Alberti, for example, used the term concinnitas to describe the idea that buildings achieve beauty by taking a form to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken away. What motivates the dynamic nature of your work? Is your emphasis on change part of an effort to avoid making form, and what would you describe yourself as making, if not form? THOMAS HIRSHHORN: I cannot accept any architectonical formalist self-satisfaction. But I am not fighting against architects or architecture—I am an artist doing art. I want to define—throughout my work—a new term of art. As artist I need to ignore architecture and work with it—not for it and not against it— but with it in order to go beyond any easy and self-calming precipts. I think that today—in this complex, cruel, incomprehensible but also graceful, beautiful and hopeful world, to be static, to “keep the level”, to be in for security, for tradition, for identity leads to a certain death. I am for the change, the change of the world, I am for the movement, for intensity, for exaggeration, I am for headlessness, for insistence, for the offensive, for the dream, for the decision and I am for production. The production of a generous, energetic statement. I want to do a statement of form with each one of my works. A statement throughout its form is—obviously—the most important
problem for the artist. I see this as the most important, not the form as such, but the decision and the act to “give form”. The crucial point, to me, is to distinguish between “make form” and “give form”. Not making a form—but giving form. “Giving form” is a form which comes from me, from myself only, which can only come from me because I see the form that way, I understand it that way and because I am the only one to know that form. To give form— as opposed to making a form—means to be “one” with it. I must stand alone with this form. It means raising the form, asserting this form and defending it—against everything and against everyone. It means to ask the question of form for myself and try to answer—through giving form. I want to try to confront the great artistic challenge: How can I give a form which takes a position? How can I give a form that resists facts? I want to understand the question of form as the most important question for an artist. I understand the difference between “making form” and “giving form” as essential. “Giving form” means giving from me, giving
everything from myself, giving only from me. How can I give away something so close to me, so personal, so intimate without going into the private? Something, so individual, that it can have the power to be universal? The key— and this is the difference with “making”—is the “giving”. Giving form does not implicate a target, a use, a demand, a result or a contract. Giving form means giving what only I own, what only I know, what only I—myself—see like this, and what only I, myself, can take responsability for. “Giving form” means to fight the dictatorship of information, documents, facts, journalism. “Giving form” means to stand up, to say “yes” to the absoluteness of art. It is a movement beyond justification, discussion and explication. “Giving form”—is the engagement to never step back. “Giving form” and not “making form” is the only way I can reach a kind of equality. In my work I always ask myself: Does this form really comes from me? And can this form create a truth beyond cultural, political, esthetical habits?
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Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Diller Scofidio + renfro
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Andraos + Wood: Shades of Green
Workshopping is the theme of the 2010 American pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Co-curated by SoA graduate Jonathan Solomon, the exhibition explores the role of the trans-disciplinary collaborations in architecture, spotlighting seven architecture projects with a focus on research and social engagement. “Workshopping assembles a group of architects who are actively redefining the role of the discipline, initiating collaborative projects which stake out exciting new territory. This includes experiments with new materials and structures to produce spaces for public enjoyment, research into how cities and regions can ensure social and environmental sustainability, and examples of how public-private partnerships can generate vibrant communities,” said Solomon. Making thematic Venice’s fragile connection to the water, the Princeton School of Architecture’s team will show projects that map the liquid topographies of New York and New Orleans in a pair of large-scale installations, fabricated at the School by a team of faculty and students.
Workshopping: An American Model of Architectural Practice August 29 through November 21, 2010 The U.S. Pavilion for La Biennale di Venezia
Fall 2010 lecture series
Throughout history, green has evoked utopian visions of a world in perfect harmony. Over time, these visions have moved in and out of focus; today green is once again at the heart of our terrestrial conscience, infiltrating all spheres and disciplines. And yet, green’s generative potential has been limited by its establishment as a bounded category, allowing one audience to reject what is not green on grounds of ethics or performance while enabling another to dismiss what is as too limiting or exclusionary. This resulting false binary has reduced the (green) discourse—now either too easily embraced or too easily dismissed—and omitted the infinite shades of green and its potential to inspire endless creative invention (that exists and has existed.) Re-appropriating green and looking at it as a complex, multi-faceted strategy moving across, time, scale, typology, aesthetics, and resource reveals its generative complexity as well as its discursive, performative and formal richness. By including the green movement’s early authors from the 1970s alongside some of today’s preeminent voices, the notion of green is reinscribed in its long history, fragmenting into innumerable trajectories, the collection of which will represent its strategic proliferation and potential.
09.29.2010 Ecological Architect-Artists of the 1970s Gianni Pettena James Wines The 1970s green movement represented a coalescing of tropes from art, architecture, and the radical movements of the 1960s. This conversation would include three discrete perspectives unified by a common era, and would give each a moment to describe how that decade shaped their work and how interests started then have evolved into a contemporary practice
10.20.2010 Eating the City Carolyn Steel Eric Sanderson As agriculture and industry are (re)introduced, both in theory and practice, into cities, urban consumers are shifting their habits radically. Food—where it comes from and how it is engaged— is paramount to understand as both a sustainable lens and harbinger of change. 11.10.2010 The Nature of Mass, Density and Scale Minsuk Cho David Gissen Given the enormity of issues surrounding climate change, the private residence can longer be hailed as the epitome of green experimentation. At the same time, an entire new category of nature—“subnature” is being explored as an alternate to form. This discussion looks in depth at how nature can pervade from the scale of a moss-covered wall to a forest-filled city, the possibilities of efficiency in mass and density, and the role of green in providing surrealistic respite from form and geometry.
CONSTRUCTING WITH WATER: Palisade Bay and the Mississippi Delta Guy Nordenson Catherine Seavitt Architecture Research Office LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio Anthony Fontenot The need for new approaches to protect coastal communities in the United States from flooding, storm surge damage, and land loss is becoming more critical as sea levels rise due to climate change. Experience shows that traditional hard infrastructural storm barrier solutions such as sea walls and levees must be reconsidered, especially as recent storms show increased reach and intensity. Two regional examples, the Upper Harbor of New York—New Jersey and the Mississippi Delta, have been examined to make the case for an adaptive soft infrastructure, which integrates engineering, ecological, urban, and landscape design approaches in order to restore and improve nature while protecting and enhancing culture. MODEL DESCRIPTIONS Palisade Bay: New York / New Jersey Harbor The continuous surface of the harbor of New York and New Jersey, merging the land’s topography and the water’s bathymetry, is revealed by the extraction and suspension of the waters of the bay. The medium of the water, so often perceived as a plane, is here revealed as a volume. The additional vertical rise and horizontal spread of water that would occur as a result of a rapid ice melt scenario of sea level rise is indicated with dark green. This is topped by the additional depth and spread of a Category 2 hurricane storm surge, revealing the extent of the resultant flooding.
Mississippi Delta The extremely shallow depth of water over the broad horizontal expanse of the Mississippi Delta creates a porous tapestry of water and land. This shallow land topography, with deep carvings produced by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, rises rapidly to the east. The water tracery, extracted from the land, is revealed in the blue plan suspended above the continuous ground model. The possibility of made land, produced by sediment carried by the five proposed diversions of the Mississippi to the coast, is indicated in yellow. Suspended below are vertical rods representing the sounding depths of the linear waterways and the volumetric water of the inland lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.
11.17.2010 BIG Mountains Bjarke Ingels A discussion about BIG’s “take no prisoners” approach to architecture, urbanism and sustainability around the world. Is sustainability becoming a global prerequisite or simply one condition among others that appears and disappears?
11.30.2010 Greenfrastructure Sarah Dunn Julie Bargmann True change cannot always be a tabula rasa. Revitalizing and greening existing cities is one of the most important issues architects and urbanists will face in the future. Beyond adaptive reuse or preservation, a renewed focus on infrastructure—from its refurbishment to its celebration or re-purposing—may provide the blueprint for future urban living.
12.01.2010 Ecological NationS Stefano Boeri Gerald Frug Winy Maas If the relevant question of a few years ago—at least according to Gayatri Spivak and Judith Butler—was “Who Sings the Nation State” then now, we might ask: Who Greens the Nation State? This lecture series demonstrates a decades-long commitment to research and design tangentially related to, if not wholly focused on sustainability. But good-intentions only go so far. Who is to enforce these practices and how?
Gianni Pettena Forgiving Architecture, 1999 Installation at ReMap 2 in Athens
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(continued from p.1) surface was paramount for us. The desire on our part to place in the ‘desert-scape’ of Abu Dhabi a structure that is informed by, and in turn celebrates, local forms and culture along with technology, speed, atmosphere, flux, form, effects and ambiguity, is what drove Asymptote’s approach and vision for the Yas Hotel. Sa: Your early teaching methods at Columbia involved collaborative experiments, often leading to full-scale constructions. That ruffled some feathers at the time, but in retrospect could be seen to be operating quite close to a series of disciplinary questions: program, event, detail and construction. Your fall 2009 studio looked at the 20th century villa—at once the locus of experimentation but also touching on fundamental architectural issues—site, domesticity, the inside and the outside. How do you see this tension between disciplinarily and experimentation playing out today, and what is planned for the fall studio? HR: Much like the strange distinction that can prevail between experimentation and practice discussed earlier, I also question the assumption that design pedagogy should be based on building design exercises that approximate ‘real world practice’ and therefore that experimental or ‘theoretical’ studios are simply wrong and misplaced in architecture schools. I was adamantly opposed to that sentiment at Columbia in the years you are referring to and remain passionate about that position today. What has shifted since that time, and has therefore impacted my thinking and teaching, is the coming of age of the digital. My early research and teaching did indeed focus on what I thought of as the ‘underbelly’ of practice, where the main concerns were with the diverse forces that drive our discipline. To achieve that I encouraged and
made implicit in my pedagogy the use of video, kinetic installations, experimental soundscapes, physical interactivity, digital augmentation and virtualization. I also experienced and enjoyed the transition from the so called ‘analog’ experimentation to ‘digital’ research. This shift undoubtedly altered my view of teaching architecture. I realized that as the enabling tools of computing seemingly put more and more possibilities in the hands of specialists, there seemed to be less and less real development in architectural work. I have in some ways decided to go back to first principles in my teaching and with my students. The students who worked with me in my first semester at Princeton tackled the problem of the “super tall” with the opportunities afforded by complex mathematical models, scripting, optical effects etc. In doing so they looked at tall buildings not from a stylistic point of view but rather from the position of technological shift and how these could be theorized and conceived with the digitally induced mandate not to create ‘tall buildings’ as such but interfaces at play with atmospherics and situations ( cities and cultures). Most recently my Princeton students looked at the archetypal “villa” and after a study of the ‘iconoclastic’ mainstays of the discipline, developed of their own designs, again understanding that computing, spatial effects, cultural flux and mathematical models as providing opportunity for conceiving and generating new and provocative ‘villa’ architecture. For this current semester I plan to complete the trilogy of project types that re-examines ‘standards’ within the architectural discipline with an investigation of the third key tenant that has driven much thinking in our field since the advent of modernity:
the master-plan. The students will research and explore the making of master-plans, approaching the subject in the same spirit as the previous two studios, i.e. utilizing conceptual parameters and drivers while taking into account the socio-political and environmental drivers, to form new types of architecture and urban space contingent on our present day spatial and technological circumstance.
Jorge Pardo visiting artist Fall 2010
For David Adjaye’s fall advanced design studio, The School of Architecture continues the tradition of inviting—with the support of the Lewis Center for the Arts—a visiting artist to co-teach with Adjaye. This fall, Adjaye will be working with Los Angeles based artist Jorge Pardo. The Cuban-born artist works between architecture and sculpture, blurring the boundaries between function and decoration, art and architecture, and surface and structure. These inter-disciplinary dialogues have proven to be a vital part of the design studio culture. Past visiting artists have included Matthew Ritchie and Teresita Fernandez. Jorge Pardo will deliver a public lecture at the School on Oct 6.
Princeton University School of Architecture Princeton, NJ 08544 ---------------------------------------------
ISSUE 02.01 FALL 2010 ---------------------------------------------
RUMOR is the Princeton School of Architecture newsletter. RUMOR appears three times a year with news and reviews of the many activities at the School of Architecture: studios, classes and reviews; lectures events, conferences and faculty updates. RUMOR is by definition fragmentary and incomplete: a quick snapshot of the life of the School, telegraphic and immediate. More to follow…
02.01 p.08 Rumor 02.01 JORGE PARDO Untitled (Drawing Room), 2010 HydroTech Laminate, Birch plywood, Moretti, milled MDF, wool carpet, acrylic chandelier with polycarbonate, framed inkjet photographs 9’ 10” x 17’ 8 1/2” x 20’ 6 7/8”
Newspaper which captures the school's current interests and activities. ©2010 Princeton University School of Architecture