Gigi Scaria

Gigi Scaria

Gigi Scaria

The politics of architecture materializing into buildings can be murky. This foggy terrain spans moods and motives, but any project lucky enough to find itself in this tricky territory is there because someone wanted it built badly enough to push it there. I was reminded of then when I saw images of Gigi Scaria’s work on designboom and looked at a bit more of his work.

According to the brief blurb under the top image, “Scaria’s work explores the impact of the recent growth boom in the cities of his home country” India. More broadly, I think you could say his work is about how the built environment affects social structures. The top image looks like a delightful pop-up book at first, but after looking at more of his work, it looks slightly more cramped and disorganized to me… just rendered pristinely and without people. The lower image is probably one of my favorites. It’s humorous to see a habitable Trojan Horse, but it’s also an overt statement that buildings are used as political tools.

If buildings are machines for living in, I hope I don’t live in a bulldozer.

Alex

Alex Dent

April 4, 2011 / By

¡Disco Silencio!

Tonight, Barbara Bestor’s installation ¡Disco Silencio! opens at SCI-Arc with a reception to celebrate this amazing mashup of war ship camouflage and disco. You should go. Personally, I’m a big fan of Bestor: she’s a great designer, wrote an excellent book about Silver Lake called Bohemian Modern, designed the interior of the uber-popular Intelligence Coffee, and the hot pink exterior of her office sometimes spells things in lights. Her installation for the SCI-Arc gallery is a refreshing departure from some of the more precious or insular installations; she’s providing a space for the students to get away from school without leaving it. Politely called a “respite from the institutional production of architecture” the installation is really an insertion of a completely different kind of programming into the school: a Discotheque.

The plywood geometry of the installation is covered with graphic patterns that obscure the physical bounds of the programmatic intervention: a visual trick inspired by war ships. But the surface is also dotted with mirrors since it is, after all, a disco. According to the SCI-Arc website, “the design of the structure is an overscaled, unfolded demi-dodecahedron model that contains a strong graphic interface.” In an email, Barbara was kind enough to send us the lower drawing of that strong graphic interface. The drawing is titled “hamburger” and when asked about the title she responded “Well that is- when it is folded up… The whole deal is sort of building of a model of an unfolded dodecahedron (hamburger box) that is overscaled… And mirrored.”

Alex

 

Alex Dent

April 1, 2011 / By

Amanda Levete wins V&A Extension

Amanda Levete's V&A Extension

Amanda Levete's V&A Extension

It was overshadowed by the Pritzker announcement, but the Victoria & Albert Museum announced Monday that Amanda Levete has won the competition to create a new courtyard and gallery space for the museum along Exhibition Road in London. Levete formerly was a partner with Jan Kaplický in Future Systems, and her firm, AL_A, was one of seven shortlisted for the award after 110 firms expressed interest in the commission. “Ever since I became an architect I’ve dreamed of working on a project like this that has huge and cultural and public significance” Levete said, “and the V&A has a particular meaning for me in any case because it’s the home of art and architecture so it doesn’t really get much better than that.”

14 years ago, Daniel Libeskind was probably thinking happy thoughts about V&A after his extension for the museum (on the same site) was announced. Over the course of seven years, politics strangled Daniel Libeskind’s then-winning design. Levete said in an interview it was a “great building in the wrong place.” Not too surprisingly, her firm’s now-winning proposal shares almost nothing in common with the “downward spiral.” For starters, the AL_A scheme is mostly underground. But more importantly, Levete’s proposal will be built.

Alex

Watch the video.

Alex Dent

March 30, 2011 / By

And the Pritzker goes to Eduardo Souto de Moura

Eduardo Souto de Moura

Eduardo Souto de Moura

Yesterday, Thomas J. Pritzker announced the 2011 recipient of the Pritzker Prize: Eduardo Souto de Moura, a Portuguese architect who worked for and with the only other Pritzker laureate from Portugal, Alvaro Siza. I’ve been reading the announcements of his selection and below is an excerpt from the official press release, along with a few thoughts.

“During the past three decades, Eduardo Souto de Moura has produced a body of work that is of our time but also carries echoes of architectural traditions. [...] His buildings have a unique ability to convey seemingly conflicting characteristics — power and modesty, bravado and subtlety, bold public authority and a sense of intimacy —at the same time.”

Souto de Moura deserves praise, but what surprises me about this specific praise is its lack of specificity. You could cut-and-paste many other names in place of his and the quote would still be true: it’s like the jury was writing a letter of recommendation for Souto de Moura and recycling verbiage from the letter they wrote from Peter Zumthor, Sverre Fehn, Paulo Mendes de Rocha, or Alvaro Siza. Instead of a glossy press release, I’d rather see a transcript of the meeting where the jury sparred over who to select for the prize. Who made the strongest argument for Souto de Moura and who argued that the prize should go to someone else? Someone like Steven Holl, who is now officially (by the powers invested in me since you’re reading this), officially going to have to change his name to Steven Lucci.

This is where I have to mention that Souta de Moura is not particularly well-known outside of architecture circles. I have to mention it because almost everywhere else (LA Times, NY Times, World Architecture News, etc) has mentioned it. But he is known and well-respected among architects for good reason. A few places have read into Souto de Moura’s selection as a deliberate shift away from so-called “starchitects.” This is iffy, not only because, as Christopher Hawthorne points out in the great LA Times article, the jury for the prize can be unstable, but also because it precipitates two pretty pessimistic assumptions: (1) That the jury is more interested in sending a message to the profession than it is interested in examining evidence from the profession; (2) That something is wrong with architects who gain recognition for their work. It’s as if Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron and Frank Gehry (all Pritzker winners) have spent careers making meaningful contributions to architecture but we still reserve a special mistrust because of their successes. I tend to doubt that the jury is trying to prod professionals away from the center and toward the middle.

By his selection for the prize, Souto de Moura is now receiving more recognition than he ever has. That might not make him a celebrity, but it’s likely that (and I hope) he will enjoy a future with important and relevant commissions. Whether these commissions gain importance by their scale, the institutions they house, or his involvement with them will determine how we describe Souto de Moura as he joins a universe of architecture luminaries. No, he’s not a starchitect, but thanks to the jury he’s shining a little brighter.

Alex

Editor’s Note: TFIB reader David Renó pointed out this great video walk through of the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego in Cascais, Portugal. It’s nice to get a sense of the space through video.

 

Alex Dent

March 29, 2011 / By

The Illusionist: Felice Varini

Felice Varini

Felice Varini

Felice Varini

Felice Varini

I had been under the assumption for a long time that the work of Felice Varini was a recent phenomena. And, after further research, the Swiss artist has been around and doing his thing for over thirty years now.

The artist is known for his site specific geometric paintings, which he has done on building exteriors, inside of rooms, hallways, staircases–basically, any architectural surface. His works with projections and stencils to create these illusions, which require a very specific point of view in order to “see” the art. Otherwise, the piece is fragmented and seems to be weird, even ugly, shapes thrown around a localized area.

Like site specific artists Christo, Andy Goldsworthy, and James Turrell before him and current street/graffiti art alike, Varini’s work melts buildings and spaces into each other through art. In his work, he uses shapes outside of the local architectural vocabulary to bind all these structures together. He has his hands in a lot of pockets, borrowing a bit from the old and a bit from the new, creating these cross-referencing pieces.

His work is incredibly surreal and terribly fun, very reminiscent of those Magic Eye illusions of the nineties–but without the required squinting and eye crossing. I would love to be able to see one in person, as I am most definitely sure that they are quite the mindfuck.

Photos from unurth

KYLE FITZPATRICK

March 28, 2011 / By

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