Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
This article wants to offer a brief overview of my experience as an architectural photographer and of “The Mies Project” in particular, on which I have been working on for the past few years. My approach to photography, based on the latest digital technology but also on the Leica M-System, is briefly outlined. In the past, the question was how to obtain information. Nowadays, the proper structuring of information is what really matters. Architectural Portraits, a small selection of which from “The Mies Project” are here presented, are “intimate gazes,” prioritizing the relationship of the detail of a building with its surrounding, the interaction between construction details, lighting and weather conditions. In this sense, Mies’ works not only have sparked my interest in architectural photography, but have been also the perfect poetic partner for my research.
Space is relational. How many relationships can occupy a space? How do they work? These are both interesting questions that we would like to answer. We know that we interact with space and that its configuration affects us: we can be aggregative while experiencing it, rather than competitive. Space has considerable power in influencing our brain. Essentially, our actions are somehow manipulated by what we see and what we touch. How does our space (peripersonal space) interfere with another’s? The idea of interaction within space (or social space) and space of selfhood thus becomes an essential subject for architecture and cannot be simply parameterized in a geometric manner. Physical space must, therefore, allow solitary or cooperative movement without alienating the individual. We base our judgments on movement, culture, personal psychical characteristics, memory, and personal experience. Taking these elements as our base, we gave a new perspective for designers to draw from the semantic, which can be rhetorical and disconnected by the function.
The increasing production of robust, information-laden, parametric architectural and urban models has outpaced a critical evaluation of the ethics of contemporary modeling and visualization practices which, rather than reflecting reality, are transforming it. This essay exposes the logics of the expropriation of architectural and urban models in a decade-old RAND Corporation endeavor to envision a comprehensive digital counterinsurgency strategy. To encourage professional and cultural agents, as well as unwitting civilian agents, to populate databases with urban and environmental data, RAND proposed weaponizing open-source, big-data urban models and participatory platforms to create multicultural, user-friendly interfaces. Conceived to appear like an exercise in open-source digital democracy and participatory knowledge-sharing that would spark emotive responses such as pride and fear, RAND focused on the cognitive and affective side of digital participation and information sharing to wage a counterinsurgency in the minds of civilians and insurgents. When the models that architects build can be weaponized to ends other than realizing buildings and cities, when they become instruments for influencing behavior and facilitating warfare, there is an urgent need for an ethics of visualization.
This paper argues that the rise of architecture as a unique discipline and the conquest of the American continent are not just chronological coincidences but interdependent variables of the same process of modernization. Traditional scholarship in architecture has not entertained those parallel developments at all. The field of architectural history and theory still treats the spatial occupation of the Americas as a consequence of the Renaissance and European modernization, despite a few decades of scholarly literature in related disciplines questioning such assumptions. (Fanon 1961; Said 1978; Dussel 1980; Bhabha 1987; Escobar 1994). Such scholarship demonstrates that the encounter of 1492 and the territorial occupation that followed played a central role in the development of Western culture in general, allowing the extrapolation of the same logic to the architectural discipline in particular.
Much historiographical research has been produced on the post-war CIAMs, demonstrating the importance of the CIAM Grid, proposed as a “thinking tool” for representing the town planning projects at the CIAM 7 in Bergamo (1949). This essay proposes a new critical and epistemological examination of the CIAM Grid based on new archival documents and on a rereading of the exact words used by Le Corbusier, who proposed to consider the Grid as an “interlocutor.” Seventy years later, we propose to go beyond the failure of CIAM 7 and to elaborate a “new Grid,” with the name of “Second Life Grid,” as a critical tool for discussing exclusively projects related to the new paradigm of recycling and reusing buildings and urban spaces. Beginning with the question of the critical legacy of the CIAM Grid, our intention was to think of a Grid conceived no longer as an instrument of dogmatic and normative thought, but as an instrument of dialogical criticism which has been tested through an open call for projects and an international conference held in Bergamo in October, 2019.
The rejection of “boredom” fueled the midcentury reaction against modernism, but little is known about the complicated presence of this mood in the architectural discourse. Far from being a mere rhetorical tool, the quip “Less is a bore” is part of Robert Venturi’s larger interest in boredom and was influenced by his reading of a book referenced repeatedly in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966): August Heckscher’s The Public Happiness (1962). A liberal writer and political activist, Heckscher situated boredom at the core of modern humanity’s alienation. While the concern with boredom was explicitly addressed in the humanities, I suggest that it was taking shape in midcentury architectural polemics under the influence of writings from other disciplines, as well as the emerging artistic practices that were deliberately embracing the “aesthetics of boredom.” Specifically, I will examine Venturi’s reading of Heckscher through two of his (unbuilt) civic projects that directly engage the issue of boredom: Three Buildings for a Town in Ohio (1965) and the entry for the Copley Square Competition (1966).
Sorbolo is a beautiful town located halfway between the ancient ducal city of Parma and the Po River, within a countryside that developed from marshes, rows of poplars, embankments, vineyards. In 2016, after an initial planning process, the municipality of Sorbolo submitted to the MIUR (Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università, e della Ricerca) a plan for the development of a school campus. The facility was meant to be open to the local territory and community, parents, and citizens wishing to have a stake in the decision-making processes that apply to the education and training of young people.
The first step was the construction of a new building complex destined to a 24 hour school system, accomodating approximately 450 students, ten to fourteen years old, supported by a cross-disciplinary approach: “a school for everyone, motivational, open, innovative.” The firm UFFICIO PROGETTI Architetti Associati Bertani & Vezzali, with the Sorbolo project, was the second winner of the MIUR international contest for the creation of 52 innovative schools over the entire Italian territory.
Irrigation remains the primary means of sustaining urbanization and stabilizing agricultural productivity in arid America. In the contest for the West, water is both wealth and power. Today’s struggle to overturn water scarcity is traceable through a long history of legislation overseeing land regulation, property speculation, societal development, and cultural attitudes, real and perceived, inscribed within the America’s aridlands. In reality, there is no magic wand - no miraculous technology - that alone will fulfill the needs of all who have been promised abundance in the aridlands. This paper proposes that revisiting John Wesley Powell’s 1893 proposal for aridland development in the context of today’s ecological conditions catalyzes an alternative response to today’s predictions of changing climates, and can provide the basis of an approach to the aridlands which builds from the enmeshed relationship between social and environmental systems.
Research-based design has been foundational for landscape architecture. Analytical layering in geographically-based mappings has become a universally applied, formulaic approach. For waste landscapes, this has generated similar redevelopment strategies for drastically differing waste landscape conditions. This site typology, however, requires more nuanced approaches. As a design-research framework, “landscape lifecycles” aims to tackle waste landscapes with integrative strategies and techniques that reactivate waste as a legible and dynamic contributor to local and regional contexts; a method for integrating multiple diverse programs rooted in economic, environmental, and social performance to form hybrid assemblages in the transformation of perceived material and spatial waste. This article highlights design-research and generative representational methods developed through projects and coursework that embrace speculation as a means of engaging with waste conditions at multiple scales — from the material to the region. These methods range from speculative geographic, process, and abstract mapping to scenario testing to time-based, projective design that document, explore, and test an argumentative hypothesis and the multi-scalar design implications of research on the imaginative potentials of waste transformation.
This paper examines rubble management as an important but often neglected component of disaster response and a powerful example of the frequent disconnect between national plans and local action. It focuses on five marginalized municipalities in Oaxaca, Mexico: Ciudad Ixtepec, Asuncion Ixtaltepec, El Espinal, Juchitan de Zaragoza, and Santa Maria Xadani. These constitute the region most affected by the Mexican earthquakes of September 2017, with roughly 58% of inhabitants suffering either partial or total loss of their houses. The paper builds on the results of fifty-one interviews, a cross-sectional survey with 384 residents, and a mapping analysis to reveal the challenges of post-disaster planning across scales. The results show that local perspectives were given little consideration in nationally-led rubble management plans, and that these documents were likely shaped by concerns over what constituted institutional legitimacy, rather than attention to local context. The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings through the lens of institutional isomorphism and offers recommendations for more effective post-disaster rubble management, particularly centered on increasing the involvement and capacity of residents, municipal governments, and other key institutions.
Aldo Rossi and the Spirit of Architecture
By Diane Y. F. Ghirardo
London: Yale University Press
254 mm x 203 mm
135 color + 5 b/w illustrations
US$65 / £50.00 GBP (hardback)
Women [Re]Build: Stories, Polemics, Futures
By Franca Trubiano, Ramona Adlakha, and Ramune Bartuskaite (eds.)
Novato CA, USA: Applied Research and Design / Oro Editions, 2019, 2018
241 mm x 165 mm
US$ 29.95 (paperback)
While the practice of architecture has traditionally been a male-dominated field in India, gender discourse in architecture has been slowly shifting the gender balance towards an increased participation of women in architectural practice and academics, as both leaders and team members. This paper explores the nuances of feminist spatial practices locating itself in the state of Kerala, India, that has historically unique gender politics. The paper draws on an ethnographically informed study of twelve women architects, using “Master Bedrooms” as a discursive tool to capture their engagement in professional practice. The study revealed that the critical feminist spatial practice is not watertight nor a conscious way of practice. It does not even require conformity to any one idea of feminism. These women practitioners deploy multiple modes of engaging with and challenging the dominant norms of professional practice. These range from conscious acts of individual subversion to organizational structuring, from overt challenges to quiet resistance. This paper offers to problematise contemporary discourse on critical feminist spatial practices in the context of India and thereby, contribute to critical spatial pedagogies.
Characterized by continuity, inventiveness, and a fervent exploration of the relationship between architecture and the environment at large, the work of Lisbeth Sachs was included in the 1979 issue of the Aktuelles Bauen magazine on women and architecture. This contribution proposes an in-depth review of Sachs’ underexplored work, suggesting a better understanding of her role as a practicing woman architect at a time when this task was not a matter of course. It places an emphasis on the dialogue Sachs established with her contemporaries, on the dense network of experiences that shaped her design approach, and on the ways it intersected with the late twentieth-century discourse on the relationship between architecture, ecology, and nature. It is not coincidental that the work of Frei Otto would have a long-lasting influence on Sachs’ design experimentation, informing her theoretical and applied design projects. Her design exploration, too, was influenced by the technological advances, the societal changes and the shifts in the cultural agency of architecture, proposing each time a solution that addressed, rather than excluded, its surrounding context, cultural, physical, or environmental.
In Portugal, the participation of female architects in the development of the profession – in the broad sense of the word: project, research, education, criticism, and policy – is far from having been identified, problematized, and disseminated. The research project W@ARCH.PT (Women Architects in Portugal: Building Visibility, 1942-1986) strives to give visibility to female architects – revealing “who?”, “when?”, and “how?” – and contribute to expanding the history of Portuguese architecture, as well as developing feminist studies and ideas within the discipline. The strategies chosen to carry out this ongoing research intersect with feminist theories and epistemologies, outside and inside architecture. The issues raised require a critical understanding of the processes that sustain the silencing of female architects’ voices, imposing limitations on how we understand the profession in its many facets. The feminist historical reflection that we propose is based on the idea that combining the production of knowledge and professional practices is crucial to change gender biases and women’s oppression in both fields.
Candice Stevens has pointed out that the lack of progress on gender equality may be at the heart of the failure to advance on sustainable development. Several researchers such as Sandra Manley and Ann de Graft‐Johnson, and Rosa Sheng and Annelise Pitts have studied why women leave architecture, but no study focused on the women’s leadership in architecture education yet. This qualitative study aimed to discover insight into the leadership development journey of women focusing on sustainable architecture education. The sample was selected among 1,705 faculties of forty-one collegiate architecture programs. After email invitations, five successful women executives in sustainable architecture areas participated in the interviews. After coding analysis, three conclusions illuminated. Firstly, strong mothers influence daughters to become leaders. Secondly, the inner motivation of “working super hard” is the foundational factor that all the women leader participants claimed to sustain their leadership advancement. Thirdly, participants unveiled that there was an on-going-pattern while finishing the tasks and establishing reputations, especially in early career development. The awareness of the pattern helped to reduce the panic of the new tasks.
Women have always been strongly involved in creating environment and living spaces, even without initially being designers as the university became accessible to them very late. However, they were always strong involved in creating a healthy environment, and contributing to welfare state, where health and social equipment was a gender response to a modern life. Anyway, the history of architecture remains dominated by Masters and the female presence is almost invisible, even though women’s studies have made a large contribution to investigate lives, stories, and professional works. The paper highlights the contribution of women as builders of social and physical spaces from late nineteenth and focuses on Italian movements of second and third generation feminists. Nowadays feminists are pointing out invisibility of women as a structural violence, are claiming commons and creating new uses for urban space.
Framed within the question of how gender influences the production of urban space, this study reveals how Jiyūgaoka, a high-end suburban area in Tokyo, has developed by targeting a particular gender role: women as caretakers and consumers. Car-safe and bike-friendly, Jiyūgaoka pedestrian areas have more greenery, pavement, and urban furniture in comparison with the average Tokyo street. Jiyūgaoka spatial practices encourage the meeting of people in the public realm, creating relationships between behaviors and their supporting physical environment. By aiming at women, other non-normative bodies were rendered into the city, enhancing public life and creating an accessible milieu. Jiyūgaoka genderfication process, by which the overlaying of commercial and gender mechanisms has impacted urban phenomena, is shown through a chronological investigation of gender-charged contents and its mapping in the urban fabric. This study demonstrates how urban transformation in Jiyūgaoka has encompassed changes in the lives of women in Japanese society. Representative examples from each period illustrate the physical translation of this development, from a home cooking school to a promenade with hundreds of benches.
Conventions of authorship and attribution historically excluded or erased women’s contributions to the built environment. As frequent co-authors and collaborators, women’s stories often do not fit into conventional historical narratives about how architecture is created. In response, this essay proposes a technology called “attribution frameworks”: a digital method for creating a transparent record of architectural labor. The authors argue that the integration of digital tools into architectural design offers a new space for more equally attributing, documenting, and counting labor and contributions to the discipline. This space allows for a more rich and inclusive narrative of contributions to architectural production for the future.
Until recently, discussions of the relation of sexual orientation with the built environment have mostly focused on gay men at the expense of lesbian women and trans people. This study thus presents a review of discourses in architecture and design as well as interviews with lesbian designers to understand how and why queer women have been almost invisible. The privileged position of men allows expression of their sexual orientation with less risk than women who are already facing discrimination. Furthermore, structural inequities have forced women architects to focus on issues of equality and inclusion for all women, with the side effect of often silencing how other forces such as sexual orientation or race combine to create more complex power relations. Invisibility is a problem, however, as it limits the ability to respond adequately to diverse social needs and to sustain more inclusive design disciplines. Bringing to the foreground the intersection of identities with experience of space can encourage younger generations of architects by offering role models and diversifying the range of life experiences informing the design of spaces.
and Its Discontents
By Hilde Heynen
Studies in Modern Architecture, 2019
234 mm x 156 mm
US$ 100.00 (hardback),
US$ 31.46 (paperback)
Theoretikerinnen des Städtebaus.
Texte und Projekte für die Stadt,
By Katia Frey and Eliana Perotti (eds.)
Berlin: Reimer, 2015
240 mm x 170 mm
42 b/w illustrations
€ 49 (paperback)
Frauen blicken auf die Stadt.
Architektinnen, Planerinnen, Reformerinnen. Theoretikerinnen des Städtebaus II,
By Katia Frey and Eliana Perotti (eds.)
Berlin: Reimer, 2019
240 mm x 170 mm
45 b/w illustrations
€ 49 (paperback)