Ideas, References, and Provocations from Brooklyn, New York



Mar '12 - Apr '15

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    Let's Get RISKY, live blogging University of Michigan's RISK Conference

    David de Céspedes
    Mar 30, '12 4:32 PM EST

    Introduction by Anya Sirota to topic of "Objective Uncertainty"

    This panel will consider transformative design procedures

    Introduction of Giuseppe Lignano & Ada Tolia [Co-Founders of LOT-EK], 

    [Lignano & Tolia]

    Objects & Operations

    Stack & Shift

    We believe in design that is unregional and cheap

    What does it mean for buildings to be efficient and effective?

    We focus on man-made objects not made for architectural use

    Lift & Incline

    We don't look for a false cleanlieness, nor do we promise a future technology to solve all of archietcture's problems

    We look for the dirt, the objects, artifacts, that call for architecture to exist

    Operations transform objects


    [Carroll House]

    Stack of 21 containers, cut diagonally, creating a monolithic presence on the street

    Allocation of outdoor space at every level

    Tilt & Lean

    What do we do with all this stuff? First, we love it

    We try to understand objects not as autonomous, but as part of a global economy/ecology


    [ref Taipei Competition Entry]

    more than 1000 shipping containers used to create a diagonal, leaning form

    Roof  is a plant observation deck

    Containers serve as planted steps

    LED display transmits media art visible from sculpture plaza

    Radical counter-programming of everyday objects [water tank as skate park]

    [ref. Open School in Korea]

    8 shipping containers shifted, and cut at 45 degree angle, lifted 3 meters above landscape

    Marking of territory as place of urban gathering

    Activation of ground level for events

    Tests the shear, bending, and other limitations of contianers


    Sometimes the better you understand a typical construction, the less you question

    How do you radicalize the form, and normalize the function, normalize the function, radicalize the form?

    What is the latent opportunity with the contianer

    [ref Turkey

    2,000 vertical shipping containers


    Bond & Cut

    Certain objects of human history have reached certain perfection, we search for a new equilibrium, exploiting existing economies of scale

    Utilize power, criticize limits

    [Whitney New York Studio]

    commissioned by Whitney Museum

    Cut by a shear diagonal allows for visual connection to studio and gallery, designded to fit within existing Marcel Breuer museum


    John Ronan

    Few decades ago, diagram of profession would look like this [triangle connecting owner, architect, contractor]

    Architects gradually stepped away from risks, obligations, while other bodies filled in the gaps

    Owner is now surrounded by advisors, followed by general contractor, with architect at the very outside [showing image of the solar system]

    This treacherous band of asteroids here, those are lawyers [laughs]

    What does this mean in real terms?

    Project for Poetry Foundation in Chicago

    How do we combine garden and building?

    Wall between garden and street, I didn't know what it was, but knew what qualities it needed to have

    This didn't fly with contractors, clients

    Chicago culture dominated by conservative views, with little apetite for risk

    "It could be ugly, it could be expensive, it could be a failure." - Contractor

    While I value your opinion, I value my opinion even more." [Ronan] 

    Tectonic emerged of layering of surfaces, weaving in and out to create a spatial sequence that comprises the building

    Garden is horizontal plane, followed by a wrapper, perforated when it gets to the garden

    The color black connotes authority and seriousness [material color that wraps the building]

    Tools [models, mock-ups, drawings] only take you so far

    Full, 36-foot mock-up of facade surface & structure gae clients a fuller understanding of end-product

    Different layers of material start to compound through reflecting on each other, allowing for garden to act as an outdoor room

    The architect, once at the center of power, is now just a service-provider

    We need to rethink the discipline from the inside, because the profession of architecture is slowly being changed by the outside

    The biggest risk would be to risk nothing at all



    Merrill Elam

    My partner, Mack Scogin, wrote a letter to B Tagliabue, made a video called "White Napkin"

    [abstract video reflecting on Scogin's visit to Tagliabue's home]

    What is at risk in architecture?

    The only risk is the failure to take on disciplinary risk

    [feferences Aesop's Fable, Tortoise and the Hare

    Tortoise take conceptual risk, using his reputation as a wise, old animal, understanding the hare's inclinations, understanding deeply the nature of the hare, brought his own strengths to the table

    The Hare is quick, agile, prolific, distracted, self-assured, self-absorbed, eager to be out in front

    In our world, we have many distractions

    What's good about this is that it challenges the discipline, but its categorical, and not so sustaining

    The discipline is not so categorical

    [shows hare in tortoise shell, audience laughs]

    [shows Scottish Parliament by EMBT]

    Foundation walls look as though they've been left there from a previous time

    Like this project, we must take risks

    Our observation is that the discipline is sustained by our question of origins, and questioning of the "original"


    Ole Bouman

    [sidenote: I'm ridiculously excited about this part]

    In my view, risk in the inhibition of free will

    This view is very topical in architecture

    If there's a profession that relies on free will, it is architecture

    On one hand, you have the concept of risk, on the other hand you have the fact

    We love concept, hate facts

    [slide: From Risk to Brisk]

    We try to hide, minimize facts

    There are two totally different types of architecture, one with the small a, one with big A, which celebrates risk

    [shows slide, ascension from Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Self-Esteem, Self-Actualization]

    [shows William Livingston House]

    We celebrate risk by elevating buildings

    Let me introduce myself by speaking of the NAI building

    Design is indeed monumental, it is a kind of temple, it is a national archive storing the best of architecture of the country

    On the facade, there is the acronym "NAI"

    What most poeple thought, was that the building was an institute

    Institute: difficult, knowledge

    [ref architecture exhibition in 2007]

    Visitors have to cross a bridge, from the city to the "institute"

    Later, we created a new kind of bridge, open, more inviting 

    We continued to violate the building, changing the integrity of the original, creating a public square, entering not only through a bridge, but as an extension of the city

    We view the institute as a starting point for civic life

    This is the risk I took as the leader of my team

    We are violating the original design, but we also violated the views of the founders [for a positive outcome]

    What is at stake for the discipline itself?

    Problem of social cohesion, or lack thereof, is growing concern

    There is a crisis of value creation [or degradation]

    We need an Architecture of Consequence, an architecture that really makes a difference, neither on the right or wrong side of history

    What can architects do? Are they fit for this job?

    Is taking the risk of being a celbrity worth it? [shows Norman Fosters work, Liebeskind]

    Another way to become successful is through multiplication [of designs]

    There are alternative practices, which are naturally very risky

    [slide entitled "Unsolicited"]

    What is unsolicited architecture?

    The combination of programs, thinking on a geological scale, providing designs that perhaps prevent flooding of habited islands

    Design of the 'Supranational,' 'Re-Use' of buildings, 'Farming Together,' 'Creative Resilience,' an architecture that provides ability for 'Sharing Knowledge,' creation of a 'Vernacular by Collaboration,' 'Co-Making' cities and buildings [ref Elemental's Iquique Housing], 

    Architecture takes chances by providing 'Rescue' [shows slide of Arc for Humanity work]

    Enormous empty buildings, factories, churches, villas, prisons, vacancies all around

    We need this creativity to fill these vacancies

    [shows Halftime Chrysler commercial] [giggles from audience]

    [Listening to the super-dramatic voice of Clint Eastwood]

    [sidenote: I am not sure where this is going, but there better be a punchline]

    Coming from Amsterdam, it is almost too hard for me to believe that this has happened. I ask you to go with me tomorrow to Detroit, for an Urban Investors Event

    Taubman College/NAi Flash event to assess the substance of optimism by exploring traces of new life, Saturday March 31, 11am in your parking lot, renting minivans, and we collectively decide where to go.

    [sidenote: okay, that makes a bit more sense]


    Reflections by Anya Sirota

    Speakers offer tangibile examples that vulnerability can be an opportunity

    To question what architecture can do for society, faced with the magnitude of this task, that the practice, divorced from its preoccupations with glitz, can only turn humbly to real world problems

    Architecture is in the service of something else than the market economy

    Architecture is now lured to a more social practice

    What is the public relevance of the architectural object? If the worry days are past us, what is ahead? What is our domain?

    Design today, is in a great place, ready to pounce

    Architecture can tap into the contemporary collective desire to reinvent, injecting design process with a self-conscious awareness

    There is plenty of material to co-opt, where 'function' is never static

    Working with surplus has liberating effect [referencing LOT-EK's work]

    In the work of Scogin/Elam, the singularity of individual experience, trumps the complicit diagram of the perfected architectural diagram

    Scogin and Elam BUILD, without overt pedanticism

    [speaking on work of John Ronan]]

    Imperfection is an asset, not a liability

    With growing instability, the profession is at risk from being effected by risk aversion

    [referencing Ole Bouman]

    What if we drop the categorization of building as object, taking on new responsibility?


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About this Blog

Now that I'm post-graduate-school, and [for the time being] post-architectural-practice, I'm using this blog as an outlet to generate meaningful conversation on the limitations as well as latent opportunities in architectural practice. Co-Founder @anewyorkagency

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