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Princeton University School of Architecture Spring 2017

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In January 2016, Mónica Ponce de León began her tenure as Dean of the School of Architecture. Ponce de León is a leading educator, National Design Award winner, and founder of MPdL Studio. Associate Dean Paul Lewis spoke to her about her vision for the future of the School.

Paul Lewis: The first question is the clichéd question you get as a dean: “what is your vision for the School?” And is it even fair to ask that question? Mónica Ponce de León: The Princeton School of Architecture has a very strong identity that has transcended any single dean. What I really love about Princeton is the intense relationship between history/ theory, technology, and design. In the curriculum of other schools these are considered to be different sub-disciplines. At Princeton, while design, technology, and history/theory are very powerful and well defined, historically they have been intertwined. Faculty and students work across them fluidly. In general, my goal for the School is to construct different platforms for architectural discourse that capitalize on this strength and explore them with a wider audience. PL: Along those lines, deans in the past have had to contend with the stereotype and false binary that the School privileges theory over practice and writing over design. Is there any truth to this? And how do you position your own presence here relative to that question? MPdL: I was not aware of this misconception until I came to the School. And quite honestly, it surprised me. In my opinion, Princeton integrates design and history/theory in ways no other institution has succeeded. Moreover, given our design faculty, it is hard for me to believe that design does not occupy a privileged position at the School. I cannot think of another school that has such an outstanding cohort of practicing architects committed to pedagogy — and in particular practicing architects that think theoretically, speculatively, and critically about the discipline — constantly revisiting the ways in which architecture is produced and how architecture impacts culture. PL: Historically, schools have used lectures and publications to tell a story about the school. In the current media-saturated environment, how do you see this working? MPdL: I am less interested in how the School is perceived and more in how the School may shape the larger framework of architecture culture. I think this is particularly important at a time when proliferation of information makes it difficult to ascertain knowledge. It is hard to sort through the avalanche of images; there are no standards as to how to measure what is truly important. The way we have pursued this, at least for now, is to loosely integrate our lectures, exhibitions, and publications around a topic and create a common ground for discussion — in and

p4/5—ARE WE HUMAN? THE DESIGN OF THE SPECIES: 2 Seconds, 2 Days, 2 Years, 200 Years, 200,000 Years p6—Collateral: Posters from the Archive 1961–2016 p7—Thicket p8—Signatures

outside the School. The first lecture series we organized revolved around the architectural imagination because of the Venice Biennale. Last semester we worked with the topic of authorship. The list of speakers and the topics come from suggestions from faculty and students, and now Tina Di Carlo also plays a huge role. To instigate a dialogue, every speaker has access to videos of the lectures of those who came before him or her, and they are encouraged to respond to each other. It is interesting how some speakers addressed the topic directly, others tangentially, and several completely ignored it. But because the series is so carefully curated, the topic looms large and the questions from the audience help bring them into focus. Adam Ainslie describes it as a semester-long conference on topics that cut across design, technology, and history/theory. Going forward, we are expanding the format through a bi-annual publication that includes more voices — essays have been spun from audience questions, dinner conversations, and faculty affinities. For example, Curt Gambetta’s question to Ellie Abrons after her lecture led us to ask him to write about authorship expanding on issues that have not been covered in the series. In parallel, I think of our exhibitions as material evidence for the discourse in the School. This was very evident in Sylvia Lavin’s work with students on Salvage last spring. In the context of authorship, Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger’s Thicket, for example, put forth complex questions through the serial logic of its assembly — the architectural object ad infinitum. Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom’s building façade takeover allowed them expand their thinking on Signatures. PL: Do you see the role of the lecture series shifting or having shifted in the last decade? MPdL: I think that a school’s lecture series is very important as a way of taking stock, thinking within the discipline and about the discipline. One of the things I have lamented over the years is the ephemeral quality of the lecture format. We all have monumental lectures that we remember. I will never forget when Liz Diller lectured at the GSD when I was a student; I was completely mesmerized, just as an example. But lectures are stand-alone. I believe that if instead we think of them as a way of digging deep into a topic from multiple points of view, the lectures can become a vehicle for analyzing this moment in time within the discipline. PL: I think the argument that the lecture is not an isolated event but is embedded in a larger discussion is fundamental to how it can have a more vibrant future. This is possible within the small size of the School. MPdL: The size of the School is a huge asset because it enables true discourse. The kind of conversations, for example, that students Kate Yeh Chiu and Andrew MacMillan structured around the Collateral exhibition were fantastic and only possible because we are small. Going forward we want to do more of these open to all roundtables. At one of our post-lecture dinners Michaela Friedberg made a great argument for having a final informal roundtable conversation where faculty and students can engage on the discourse of ideas catalyzed by the topic of the semester. Tina and I are hoping to start this this spring. PL: Relative to the role of computation and parametrics and their effects on making and production, how would you characterize the difference between students’

attitudes towards these issues now versus when you first became Dean at Michigan? MPdL: What we see in architecture parallels what we have seen in society. Because of increased access, technology has been demystified. Most of my freshmen at Michigan had used Grasshopper in high school. My ten-year-old son uses 3-D printers in his school. Public libraries have maker spaces. With technology all around us, the era of computation being the subject of architecture is long gone. PL: The Embodied Computation Lab does open up certain possibilities. How do you see that fitting in with the curriculum and the future of the School? MPdL: You know, of course, that the Embodied Computation Lab is a big gift for me. At the GSD and at Michigan, creating cutting-edge digital fabrication/ robotic labs that were open to all students was one of my main contributions, and that was at a time when most faculty thought there was no future for robotics in architecture. PL: The location of the lab has a fascinating history where it was seen as an escape from the main campus and thus a space for innovation and independence. So I am very curious about how it will influence things and what opportunities it makes available. As you described, it is a gift that is still to be fully fleshed out. MPdL: I am equally excited by the changes you are spearheading in the studio integrating different tools for design and making, low tech and high tech, 3-D printers and sinks with traps, all fluidly accessible. PL: One of the fascinating things you did at Michigan was the development of the Liberty Annex as a different model of collaboration, teaching, exhibition, and research. Do you see any similar transformations here or are the schools so different in their nature and their position within geography that such parallels are impossible? MPdL: The Liberty Annex was a way of appropriating the incubator model for architecture. This was in 2009, when incubators had just begun to make it into popular conscience, and it was my way of catalyzing the work of young faculty in the context of Ann Arbor. It helped create a certain architectural intensity where there was none. I do not anticipate that doing something similar here at Princeton would work simply because the faculty has well-established practices and modes of working and researching. But there are new models of intensity that I am interested in for Princeton. For example, in conversations with PhD students, it became obvious that we need to institutionalize a visiting scholar program to challenge their thinking every term. For the M.Arch I Thesis, one of the things I have been talking to Liz about is bringing designers and scholars from various disciplines to conduct one or two-day long workshops with students. Again, so it is not just students working with their advisor but actually seeing their work in the context of a visitor working on a related topic that challenges their imagination. I also want to capitalize on the fact that the M.Arch II Thesis is one year long, and this year it will culminate in a three-week exhibition in New York. So I am hoping that this sort of outside of the box thinking will generate an analog to the Liberty Annex. While the Liberty Annex was more faculty oriented, at Princeton it would be more student oriented.

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Interview

Mónica Ponce de León and Paul Lewis in Conversation

p1—Mónica Ponce de León and Paul Lewis in Conversation p2—Fall Lecture Series Examined Idea of Authorship p3—Thesis Prep Workshop p3—Princeton-Mellon Forum on Coastal Resilience


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Fall Lecture Series Examined Idea of Authorship 9/19: The End of Authority Peter Eisenman, FAIA (Founder and Principal, Eisenman Architects; Charles Gwathmey Professor in Practice, Yale University School of Architecture) The End of Authority addressed authorship through a focus on questions of meaning, symbolism, and iconography in the 20th century. Arguing against them as forms of power and authority, it invoked techniques of estrangement and ineloquence as forms of resistance and activism. Such ideas reside on an “activism of intellectual estrangement, to produce another form of authority, where architecture is not culturally, economically, or politically determined, but where rather authority can be relocated to the architectural object.”

of a just compensation of the various inputs to a project, is becoming central in the digital age. Beyond ownership, this transformation leads to a different understanding of architectural authorship.

Forum

11/07: The Kassler Lecture, W.I.P #183 Thom Mayne, FAIA (Morphosis Architects) “Architecture is a way of seeing, thinking and questioning our world and our place in it. It requires a natural inquisitiveness, an openness in our observations, and a will to act in affirmation. It affects us directly and profoundly — it has the potential to impact behavior and the quality of everyday life.” —Thom Mayne Framing his lecture against this backdrop, Thom traced the development of some of the major themes and interests that have defined Morphosis over forty years of practice, from their emergence in early Morphosis projects and explorations, to their realization in the diverse scales and project types that make up the firm’s current work. In each project, an examination of the built form revealed how the design process begins with and is shaped by the specific questions we choose to acknowledge in our own investigation.

10/6: Author After Author Ellie Abrons (Principal, EADO; Assistant Professor of Architecture, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan) Ellie Abrons presented related forms of authorship in her work and collaborations. The first focused on material manipulation that re-authors qualities to produce new images and perceptions of materiality. The second adopted a postdigital sensibility that suggests new forms of creativity and authorship. This work removed distinctions between the original and the copy, often blurring between digital and physical realms and breaking down the difference between the “real” thing and its representation.

11/17: Writing and Reading Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger (Founders, Barkow Leibinger) This lecture featured the work of Barkow Leibinger as framed by their recent monograph “Spielraum” with an introduction by Hal Foster. Foster writes: “In the end Barkow Leibinger are bricoleurs as much as they are engineers. There is always an element of inspired performance in bricolage. And as the greatest philosophers in German aesthetics tell us, such play (Spiel) is also essential to art; it opens a realm for an imaginative response to any question. In the end, this is what Barkow Leibinger offer us all: Spielraum, room for play, space for invention.”

10/13: The Architecture of Creative Miscegenation Marshall Brown (Principal, Marshall Brown Projects; Associate Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture) Marshall Brown used appropriation and collage to actively embrace the possibilities of influence in architecture. The inherited material of history and culture were carefully dismantled, realigned, and reassembled to create new forms and spaces. Unlike earlier experiments that emphasized disjunction, this work created alignments between disparate architectural conditions — not to impose order and identity, but rather to assert architecture as the formation of new alignments and new legibilities.

IP

12/01: Signatures Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom (Pita: Partner, Pita & Bloom; Design Faculty and Graduate Thesis Coordinator, SCI-Arc; Bloom: Partner, Pita & Bloom; Design Faculty, SCI-Arc) The question of authorship in architecture has always been a loaded one. As a fairly new practice, and one that considers the uniqueness of each project they take on, the theme of “authorship” gave Pita & Bloom the opportunity to evaluate their work as a whole and dissect identifiable qualities or similar approaches they took on each project. In doing so, the projects of Pita & Bloom to date can be defined by the repetition of rehearsed gestures, contours, and geometries —  a kind of collection of profiles and curves that produce unexpected forms.

10/27: The Ownership Revolution. Digital Culture and the Transformation of Architectural Practice and Ideals Antoine Picon (G. Ware Travelstead Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology, Harvard Graduate School of Design) What has the digital done to architecture? Antoine Picon explored its impact on the organization of the architectural profession. Central to the argument was the shift from traditional questions of authorship to the difficult issue of ownership. Ownership, and related to it the question

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Princeton University School of Architecture Spring 2017

Thesis Prep Workshop To prepare for the idea of thesis requires that we ask deep-cutting questions about how we practice, how we teach, and what ideas and projects are really worth pursuing. This year, Liz Diller and Jaffer Kolb framed the issue through a simple binary: what does it mean to pursue projects that engage with the urgency of contemporary socio-cultural problems versus those that look deep into the discipline in order to engage architecture internally? While the answer is likely somewhere in the middle, to prepare students for their upcoming theses, Diller and Kolb hosted workshops that treated these approaches discretely, hoping to use dialogue and examples in order to navigate how they might productively intersect. The first workshop was a debate between Greg Lynn and Reinhold Martin, with a focus on pedagogy and the politics of institutions. The pairing highlighted different approaches to studio and the role of the university, foregrounding whether thesis should represent the end of a student’s education or the beginning of a career. Lynn — who directed UCLA’s Suprastudio, which teams up students with corporate partners like Boeing, Toyota, and Disney — explained how students might benefit from external collaboration, while Martin argued for students to engage deeper theoretical and political problems

that they might not have the opportunity to do once they leave school. Each emphasized the tricky relationship between research and application, between Lynn’s industrial partnerships and Martin’s work with MoMA and Columbia University’s Buell Center, particularly in reaching certain audiences and policymakers, and engaging the real through different scales of operation. The second workshop illustrated these approaches with two recent graduates presenting their thesis projects. Kai Franz, who hacked a school’s obsolete plotter to create a sculpture printer, used his semester to work on issues of representation and fabrication in the context of digital resolution. He used the work started at Princeton to build a practice and as an assistant professor at RISD. Francois Leininger used his thesis to study presidential libraries both as a typology and symbol of political power, traveling around the country with a Butler Fellowship to visit the thirteen already built, in order to propose an approach for the Obama Presidential Library. He used institutional resources to investigate a topical political issue where architecture could actively engage, and eventually published several international articles on the research. As evident in the walls of this building, the project of thesis is both consequential and hardly straightforward. These and other internal workshops focused on issues of “what matters,” “what is thesis worthy,” and other questions to help build and reveal perspectives on the kind of work students might engage, and in particular, on the role the School and teaching should play as a launching ground for these inquiries.

Princeton-Mellon Forum on Coastal Resilience The Princeton-Mellon Initiative’s Research Forum on the Urban Environment launched the Fall 2016 semester with a session on Coastal Resilience: Past and Present Perspectives with Princeton School of Architecture Professor Guy Nordenson and University of Virginia Assistant Professor of History Andrew Kahrl. Mellon Fellow Elsa Devienne served as moderator. The panelists discussed past and present efforts to preserve the shoreline, how design and political culture can help us understand the challenges facing beach communities, and how architecture and the humanities provide ways to develop more resilient coastal cities. Nordenson is part of a research group studying “Structures of Coastal Resilience” in collaboration with the US Army Corps of Engineers and teams from three universities. Kahrl is the author of The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South (Harvard,

2012). Devienne is completing a book titled Beaches in the City: A Social and Environmental History of Los Angeles’s Shoreline. The Princeton-Mellon Initiative recently completed its sixth semester at the School of Architecture. Established in Spring 2014 thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the initiative sponsors team-taught courses, studio travel, events, and a fellowship program aimed at bringing together scholars and students who study cities and the built environment. At the core of the initiative is the Princeton-Mellon Forum, a series of interdisciplinary conversations on emerging research.

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Faculty

ARE WE HUMAN? THE DESIGN OF THE SPECIES: 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years


Princeton University School of Architecture Spring 2017

The 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial was co-curated by Beatriz Colomina, Professor at the School of Architecture and Co-Director of the Media and Modernity Program at Princeton University, and Mark Wigley, Professor and Dean Emeritus at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. The main exhibition took place between October 22 and November 20, 2016 and was attended by more than 120,000 visitors. Titled ARE WE HUMAN? THE DESIGN OF THE SPECIES: 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years, the biennial explored the intimate relationship between the concepts of “design” and “human.” The exhibition presented more than 70 projects from five continents and several islands by designers, architects, artists, historians, archaeologists, and scientists in five main venues: Galata Greek Primary School, Studio-X Istanbul and Depo in Karaköy, Alt Art Space in Bomonti, and Istanbul Archaeological Museums in Sultanahmet. SUPERHUMANITY, a major collaborative project with E-Flux, commissioned more than 50 writers to address the biennial theme and an international open call yielded 150 videos that were presented in the exhibition.

Princeton faculty involved in the biennial included Beatriz Colomina, Lucia Allais, Eyal Weizman, Spyros Papapetros, Axel Kilian, Andrés Jacque, Liz Diller, Michael Meredith, Sebastian Seung, Paulo Tavares, and others. Student involvement centered on two history and theory seminars on design led by Professor Colomina in the School of Architecture. During the summer of 2016, a student team from the School of Architecture and the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton also assembled with a team from Columbia University to develop six major curatorial interventions in the exhibition: The Unstable Body, Are We Normal?, Enclosed by Mirrors, Homo cellular, Design in 2 Seconds, and Design has Gone Viral. Princeton students involved in these projects included Ivan-Nicholas Cisneros, Diana Cristóbal, Nazli Ercan, Jessica H. Ngan, Mercedes Peralta, Bart-Jan Polman, and Weiwei Zhang. Princeton School of Architecture alumni who contributed collaborative and independent research projects were Urtzi Grau on the construction of the Indo-Pacific region, Lydia Kallipoliti on the history of the engineered man, Alfredo Thiermann on the limits of human design in Antarctica, and Igor Bragado and Miles Gertler on the urbanism of cosmetic surgery in Seoul. Recent Princeton-Mellon fellow Pedro Ignacio Alonso presented a project on the archeology of the American and Soviet space programs in South America.

The exhibition architecture of the biennial was designed by Andrés Jaque, Visiting Professor at the Princeton School of Architecture, and the Office for Political Innovation. Evangelos Kotsioris, PhD candidate at the School of Architecture, was the Assistant Curator of the biennial and co-author of an installation on the Voyager Interstellar Mission. Finally, Iván López Munuera, PhD student at the School of Architecture, directed the online dimensions of the biennial and organized “Chromanoids,” an interview-driven podcast event with the participants of the exhibition. page 05


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Collateral: Posters from the Archive 1961–2016, September 19–October 28, 2016 the pedagogical and discursive content of symposia, exhibitions, and other programming. As part of Collateral’s extended programming, two gallery talks were held during the evening of October 17, 2016. The first conversation considered the foundational decades of the School in concert with the introduction of graphic concerns to the production of the School of Architecture’s curricular and program-related print materials. It featured current and former faculty members who

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have taught architecture or graphic design: Diana Agrest, Aaron Marcus, and Tony Vidler. The second conversation focused on contemporary graphic culture and its relation to architectural design and production, featuring professors Stan Allen and Michael Meredith as well as Visual Studies Department Professor David Reinfurt. Kate Yeh Chiu and Andrew MacMillan curated Collateral: Posters from the Archive 1961–2016 under the direction of Tina di Carlo and moderated the evening of conversation.

Exhibit

The exhibition Collateral looked at the School of Architecture’s print material from the School’s formative years to the present day, to reveal an intellectual history of the School as well as a collaborative culture between graphic designers and architects, historians, and theorists. Posters, originally produced as ephemeral objects in support of a main event, were highlighted as primary artifacts, displaying a history of note­worthy graphic production that evolved parallel to


Princeton University School of Architecture Spring 2017

Thicket Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger, founders of the Berlin-based architectural office Barkow Leibinger, opened Thicket at the Princeton University School of Architecture on November 7, 2016. Thicket inaugurated the School’s new exhibition series and was curated by Tina di Carlo. PhD student Carson Chan recently interviewed Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger about the exhibition. Carson Chan: Your recent installation at Princeton, Thicket, comes from your continued research in industrial manufacturing. Referencing Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt’s film of the same name, and creating zones of visual and physical permeability as in a reeded marshland, for me, the installation also connects with one of your first projects, the Biosphere in Potsdam from 2001. What is Barkow Leibinger’s position on nature as a trope or as “material”? Barkow Leibinger: There are two kinds of projects we normally produce. One that is self-referential and one that is generated. The Biosphere that you mentioned was built for the German Garden Show and was situated within an artificial landscape of berms that the Soviets had built at a military site. Our interest in this de-militarized site was to use (repeat) these forms to generate the spaces of a large infrastructure-like greenhouse. Operating at the scale of “land-art” the berms offered a way of spatializing an enclosure as well as an experiential way of transgressing the spaces over oblique and sloped surfaces. This artificial

nature, as found, is a generational “material” to conceptualize this project. The berms create an artificial valley that is enclosed by a simple flat roof. Thicket was conceived of and developed through fabrication techniques with a focus on tessellated bundling and repetition. Its relationship to nature is one of resemblance hence the name. The Smithson/ Holt film Swamp was discovered during this process and was fascinating because it duplicated almost exactly the labyrinth condition and visual effect (varying densities) that our Thicket was creating. As a source “material” nature continuously offers either models to begin with or re-enters a conversation through resemblance and mimicry. This is something we are aware of and is something that enters and informs the work. CC: Thicket also brings out your interest in ornamentation. Many of your visual effects are derived from structural reasoning — the gate house in Ditzingen being case in point. BL: Projects like the Gatehouse or the Trumpf Kantine use repetitive cellular geometries, which are ornamental (pattern making) but are in fact structural systems. Cellular modulation is variable and mass customized and in relationship to structural loading and displacement. Thicket certainly does this also. There is a structural logic to the tessellated bundles which is both serial and repetitive (one thing after the other) but also capricious; you can put them wherever you want. Because the system is so fine grained, ephemeral, and layered it begins to work almost atmospherically. That is, as you walk around the installation or through it density changes and visually produces a moiré like visual field. Vertical structure is de-materialized to its minimum: 2mm stainless steel wire rods. page 07

CC: Installations have been a consistent part of your practice. From your recent Serpentine Pavilion (2016), Hyperbolic Loom that we made in Marrakech in 2012, to the field of machined metal tubes and form-changing wall you presented at the Venice Biennale, what would you say is the relationship between these projects and your buildings? You’ve said that temporary installations have allowed you to test out ideas that find themselves in buildings later on. Does this influence happen the other way as well? Do building ideas find themselves in your installations? BL: Yes it’s true that installation work is situated exactly between open-ended experimental research, a kind of playing or spielraum, and building projects. An installation is a reaction to the circumstances and questions put in place by a curator (exhibitions), economies of materials and budgets, response to the brief, context etc., yet are focused and unburdened by the constraints of building projects (permanence, program, utility, etc.). So in this way the installation work is an evolving archive of possibilities that tend to have a stronger offering for building projects rather than the other way around. An example of the opposite path would be our Summer House for the Serpentine Galleries where the looping structure is a re-scaling and more idiosyncratic version of a huge cellular roof we designed for a “Museum to the Future” for Mercedes Benz. On the other hand, that roof itself was informed by experimental work: the weaving of plywood into a “loop pavilion.” This is only to say different work areas are parallel but intertwined offering currency to each other. We see these as an evolving and pro­a ctive archive.


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Signatures

Princeton University School of Architecture Princeton, NJ 08544 Rumor 17.01 — Spring 2017

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Photos: Ryan Born, Oluwabunmi Fayiga, Claire Flack, Axel Kilian, Petros Pattakos, and Laurie Zazenski

On December 1, 2016, Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom, founders of the Los Angeles-based architectural design collaborative Pita & Bloom, opened Signatures at the Princeton University School of Architecture. Signatures is a decorative appliqué to ARO’s glass link between the two original School of Architecture buildings by Fisher, Nes, Campbell and Partners. On the exterior, curvilinear outlines generate three-dimensional forms that are column-like but not of a particular style. A collage of textures sit in for an interior condition, where concrete pipes, an Olivetti typewriter, a violet, and a Max Ernst etching are set behind columns. On the interior, residual curves are expressed as mullions that align to the vertical rhythm of the existing glass façade. Two- and three-dimensional forms play between front and back, night and day, coalescing architectural imprints and challenging the visual stability of the image.

Pita & Bloom was formed in 2010 by Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom. Pita & Bloom utilize vivid color and reconfigured ornamentation with unexpected forms to challenge traditional material conventions. The work of Pita & Bloom includes competition proposals for worldclass buildings such as the Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki, Finland, a housing ideas project in Maribor, Slovenia, and an urban park scheme in San Francisco, California. In January of 2014, Pita & Bloom were called “two female visionaries” in Architecture Magazine’s Next Progressives and were one of five finalists of the prestigious MoMA PS1 YAP competition. Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom teach design studios at the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

Profile for Princeton University School of Architecture

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