Archtober in New York

Archtober (ärk’tōbər) is New York City’s Architecture and Design Month, the third annual month-long festival of architecture activities, programs and exhibitions taking place during the month of October.

Archtober presents special tours, lectures, films and exhibitions that focus on the importance of architecture and design in everyday life. The many participating organizations aim to raise awareness of the important role of design in our city and to build a lasting civic and international recognition of the richness of New York’s built environment.

For a schedule of the events: http://archtober.org/calendar

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Suffice to say, I have been very busy this month, and unable to take the time out for a “proper” post here. There were too many events, lectures, award ceremonies and fascinating talks, tours and exhibitions which I’ve been attending or have actively participated in.

A harried post, this shall be, alas, but just two blurbs before I bid ‘bye…

A post from the past – where I’d written about Julien Assange. Since “The Fifth Estate” – the film based on WikiLeaks was just released, I thought this would be appropriate: Truth & Dare (https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/wikileaks-fifth-estate/)

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As well, on an unrelated note, words of wisdom and comfort a very wise person spoke to me this morning, which I jotted down, because they were so articulately expressed: 

“The more pettiness and rumor-mongering a person indulges in towards those who are genuinely talented or accomplished, the greater a sign it is of that petty person’s own insignificance and insecurities.

“People who are worth their salt see through these smear attempts and never give two hoots about such haters and see them for what they are: sad, insecure, manipulative creatures who are trying to bring down a good person. They (those worth their salt)  have the ability and objectivity to decipher who the aggressor is and who the true victim is, no matter what disguise the aggressor wears.  Also, those who fail to see that, or fall for such bullshit or even fake flattery, are not worth the time or the worry. 

“Let those who use snarkiness, bullying, isolation tactics and rumor as their crutches, stew in their own insufferable insignificance or delusions of faux grandeur. Because nothing pisses off a hater more than seeing his/her target completely unaffected.”

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Art ‘n’ August – 3

The only attitude (the only politics–judicial, medical, pedagogical and so forth) I would absolutely condemn is one which, directly or indirectly, cuts off the possibility of an essentially interminable questioning, that is, an effective and thus transforming questioning.–  Jacques Derrida.

New York, 2013. Labor Day weekend. A section from a giant paper collage. “The Grid” – based upon the way there is a thrust to create some sort of orthogonal “order” on our organic, sinuous landscapes and geographic contours, without consideration of natural processes, landforms or the fractal geometry and elaborate intricacies with which ecology and ecosystems work. Instead, planners in North America superimpose “The Grid”  – a network of roads, by-laws, zoning ordinances with little understanding of far more environmentally-conscious alternatives which could instead take the matrix of Landscape Ecology into consideration. And all this is done to appease the almighty Automobile and creating an illusion of “order” while enormous amounts of environmental waste is produced.

The collage was 3-dimensional with layers of images and cut-outs which could be lifted to reveal the layers within. I’d made it as part of a university urban planning art project in Canada. The following picture is a segment of the total piece.

"The Grid." Collage. © 2000. Maddy (The Gipsy Geek) Click to enlarge.

“The Grid.” Collage. © 2000. Maddy (The Gipsy Geek) Click to enlarge.

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Art ‘n’ August – 1

Art ‘n’ August – 2

Rest in Take 5 Heaven

Goodbye to another legend, this time in Jazz. Rest in Take 5 (and much more) harmony. Dave Brubeck (December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012)

There is much about Brubeck out there of course, but two interesting trivia facts – he was initially training in veterinary science, and later when he left it to pursue music, one of his professors nearly expelled him because they discovered he couldn’t read notes in music. (Paul McCartney, too, btw never learned to read musical notations.) But then several of his professors  came forward to support, arguing that his ability with counterpoint and harmony more than compensated for his inability to read music. The college was still afraid that it would cause a scandal, and agreed to let Brubeck graduate only after he had promised never to teach piano.

Ha! Little did they know, right?

Dave Brubeck

Dave went on to have not only one of the most successful careers as a jazz musician, but led a happy life with his wife, children and several grandchildren. Shy and introverted, he was also ‘bothered’ that Time magazine featured him on its cover before featuring composer, pianist and big-band leader the mighty black Jazz legend Duke Ellington.

Goodbye, Dave Brubeck…..Thank you for your genius and sharing your gift with the world.

Here’s Brubeck ‘taking the A train’…

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And Oscar Niemeyer, too….(15 December, 1907 – 5 December 2012)

And while I was writing this, I found that one of the luminaries of modern architecture  the great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer had  passed away just a few hours ago. He was 104….married to his first wife for 76 years till her death, and then marrying his long-time aide at the age of 99.  Another accomplished life,  filled with innovation, going against the grain and a full, dynamic spirit. He leaves behind five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and thirteen great-great grandchildren.

Oscar_Niemeyer

For a period in his life, Oscar was forced into exile in Europe and his office pillaged during the time of the  military dictatorship in Brazil due to his fiercely leftist views.

Here are some quotes and interesting facts about Oscar:

Niemeyer had always claimed to be a staunch atheist, basing his beliefs both on the “injustices of this world” and on cosmological principles: “it’s a fantastic Universe which humiliates us, and we can’t make any use of it. But we are amazed by the power of the human mind […]. In the end, that’s it – you are born, you die, that’s it!”. Such convictions never stopped him from designing religious buildings, which spanned from small catholic chapels, through orthodox churches and large mosques. He was also sensible to the religious experiences of the believers who use his buildings. In the Cathedral of Brasília, he intended the large glass openings “to connect the people to the sky, where their lord’s paradise is.”

and:

Niemeyer was most famous for his use of abstract forms and curves that specifically characterize most of his works; he didn’t stick to traditional straight lines, for unlike many modernists of his time he was not attracted to straight angles or lines but rather captivated by ”free-flowing, sensual curves… [like that] on the body of a beloved woman.”

I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.”

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Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro

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museum-oscar-niemeyer.

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oscar-niemeyer-ibirapuera-pk-sao-paulo

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Niemeyer

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Cicillo Matarazzo Pavilion in Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo, 1954

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Centro Cultural Oscar Niemeyer, Asturias, Spain

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For a great photo-gallery of Niemeyer’s work in the UK Guardian, click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2012/dec/06/oscar-niemeyer-life-architecture-pictures#/?picture=397995668&index=3

For some stunning black & white photographs of his work by Marcel Gautherot, click here:  http://tinyurl.com/ahkxkz8  

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Other posts on jazz and  architecture & sensuality:

Star Trek Jazz: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/star-trek-jazz/

Sex and the Starchitect: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/sex-and-the-starchitect/ 

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Goodbye to a genius: Remembering Lebbeus Woods

New York, November 30, 2012. Exactly one  month ago, on October 30th, during the arrival of hurricane Sandy upon Gotham City, one of the most imaginative and fiercely anti-authoritarian architects and theoreticians of our time, the inimitable Lebbeus Woods passed away. For those who have never personally met Woods or been acquainted with his work, you still may have inadvertently seen his concepts – whether it was in the sets of the movie Alien 3 or on the cover of science fiction-writer Arthur C. Clarke’s book, or his work plagiarized in the brilliant Terry Gillian film 12 Monkeys. But regardless of his contribution to futuristic imagination, what made Woods so unique was his “non-conformist anti-starchitecture” way of thinking and working, and “resisting the temptations of money and fame.” (source: http://hyperallergic.com/59590/remembering-radical-theoretical-architect-lebbeus-woods/)

Just a day before his death, I had the pleasure of running into and conversing with one of Labbeus’ oldest friends architect Steven Holl, who invited me to his talk at the Cooper Union to be moderated by another favourite writer/philosopher/professor of mine Sanford Kwinter. Little did Holl  know on that evening that his completely sold-out and house full lecture would turn out to be a touching tribute in memory of his friend.

As written in the New York Art & Architecture blogazine Hypperallergic:

Last month, as New York City was overwhelmed by Hurricane Sandy, one of the world’s foremost architects passed away in the darkened and chaotic city that was almost overcome by nature. It was a cosmic confluence — environmental mayhem coincided with the last breath of a great creative individual who was always dreaming for more, and embracing an out-of-control world.

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch discussing Martin Lodman work at Columbia’s GSAPP Final review of Kumpusch-Studio. (photo by Siting Zhang)

Defiantly non-conformist, anti-starchitecture architect Lebbeus Woods died on Tuesday, October 30. He was 72. Through a lifetime of work, the vast majority of which only exists on paper, Woods challenged the architectural establishment, railing against boring buildings and resisting the temptations of money and fame that turned architects like Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas into celebrities.

“With the triumph of liberal democracy and laissez-faire capitalism, the conversation came to an end. Everyone wanted to build, which left less room for certain kinds of architecture,” Woods told Nicolai Ourrossof of the New York Times when describing the political situation driving an anodyne architecture fully in the service of wealthy patrons.

Woods studied at the University of Illinois and Purdue University. He worked in the office of designer and architect Eero Saarinen from 1964 to 1968, and there, according to his colleague, collaborator, and friend Christoph a. Kumpusch, he learned to “explore limits.”

“Saarinen’s work was something in motion for Lebbeus — not structurally but virtually. It determined boundaries rather than defined limits,” Kumpusch explained.

But soon after his time with Saarinen, Woods turned toward entirely theoretical, experimental architecture that often created more impact in its virtual state than real buildings in real cities ever could. Some compare his work to science fiction, because it resisted being fixed in the now and was always traveling past boundaries to what possibly could be. He was first and foremost an iconoclast. “I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms,” he wrote in his iconic pamphlet War and Architecture.

The world of Woods was complex and forward thinking. He was a seer of spaces, who imagined the seemingly impossible. “Lebbeus saw the world — its energies, whether spatial, political, or social — as an undiscovered reality …  imagined, or, in fact, real — something unfinished — not provided, discovered through architecture; one that doesn’t answer but questions; one that doesn’t find solutions but challenges,” Kumpusch said.

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph Kumpusch, “The Light Pavilion,” is an intervention in a Steven Holl building constructed in Chengdu, China. Architect renderings (on the left) demonstrate the intended result, while on the right a photo is a recent photo of the pavilion. (photo by Manta Weihermann, rendering Daniel Kereler)

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph Kumpusch, “The Light Pavilion,” is an intervention in a Steven Holl building constructed in Chengdu, China. Architect renderings (on the left) demonstrate the intended result, while on the right a photo is a recent photo of the pavilion. (photo by Manta Weihermann, rendering Daniel Kereler)

For more  –  a must-read – this thoughtful piece:    http://hyperallergic.com/59590/remembering-radical-theoretical-architect-lebbeus-woods/

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Excerpt from the New York Times article on October 31, 2012:

Lebbeus Woods, an architect whose works were rarely built but who influenced colleagues and students with defiantly imaginative drawings and installations that questioned convention and commercialism, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 72.

His death was confirmed by a longtime colleague, the architect Steven Holl. Details were not immediately available.

In an era when many architecture stars earned healthy commissions designing high-rise condominiums or corporate headquarters, Mr. Woods conceived of a radically different environment, one intended for a world in conflict.

He conceived a post-earthquake San Francisco that emphasized its seismic vulnerability. He flew to Sarajevo in the 1990s and proposed a postwar city in which destruction and resurgence coexisted. He imagined a future for Lower Manhattan in which dams would hold back the Hudson and East Rivers to create a vast gorge around the island, exposing its rock foundation.

“It’s about the relationship of the relatively small human scratchings on the surface of the earth compared to the earth itself,” Mr. Woods said of his Manhattan drawing in an interview several years ago with the architectural Web site Building Blog. “I think that comes across in the drawing. It’s not geologically correct, I’m sure, but the idea is there.” 

Jacket painting by Lebbeus Woods for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel, Berkley Books Book Club Edition, 1983

Jacket painting by Lebbeus Woods for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel, Berkley Books Book Club Edition, 1983

Mr. Woods’s work was often described as fantasy and compared to science-fiction imagery. But he made clear that while he may not have expected his designs to be built, he wished they would be — and believed they could be.

“I’m not interested in living in a fantasy world,” Mr. Woods told The New York Times in 2008. “All my work is still meant to evoke real architectural spaces. But what interests me is what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits. Maybe I can show what could happen if we lived by a different set of rules.”

He spread his message from many platforms. He was a professor at Cooper Union, spoke at symposiums around the world and built sprawling temporary installations in Austria, Italy, Southern California and elsewhere. He also wrote a well-read blog.

Earlier this year, in a post explaining why he chose to become an architect, he said winning commissions was not a major motivation.

“The arts have not been merely ornamental, but central to people’s struggle to ‘find themselves’ in a world without clarity, or certainty, or meaning,” he wrote.

Mr. Woods often criticized what he saw as a complacent and distracted status quo in his field. But his colleagues said his commitment to creating an alternative showed that he had hope.

……”Outside-the-box” thinking has become a cliché used in advertising, corporate strategy and politics, Mr. Moss said (Eric Owen Moss, an architect and his longtime friend), but Mr. Woods took it to another level. “There’s another box, and he’s outside it,” he said, “He’s outside all the boxes.”

For the complete article go here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/arts/lebbeus-woods-unconventional-architect-dies-at-72.html

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And finally, for an excellent interview with Woods, please go to the following links from one of my favourite blogs.

http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/lebbeus-woods-1940-2012.html

and

http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/without-walls-interview-with-lebbeus.html

An excerpt:

“….In any case, it isn’t just the quality of Lebbeus’s work—the incredible drawings, the elaborate models—or even the engaged intensity of his political writings, on architecture as politics pursued by other means or architecture as war, that will guarantee him a lasting, multi-disciplinary influence for generations to come. There is something much more interesting and fundamental to his work that has always attracted me, and it verges on mythology. It verges on theology, in fact.

Here, if I can be permitted a long aside, it all comes down to ground conditions—to the interruption, even the complete disappearance, of the ground plane, of firm terrestrial reference, of terra firma, of the Earth, of the very planet we think we stand on. Whether presented under the guise of the earthquake or of warfare or even of General Relativity, Lebbeus’s work was constantly erasing the very surfaces we stood on—or, perhaps more accurately, he was always revealing that those dependable footholds we thought we had were never there to begin with. That we inhabit mobile terrain, a universe free of fixed points, devoid of gravity or centrality or even the ability to be trusted.

It is a world that can only be a World—that can only, and however temporarily, be internally coherent and hospitable—insofar as we construct something in it, something physical, linguistic, poetic, symbolic, resonant. Architectural.

[Image: “Einstein Tomb” by Lebbeus Woods].

Architecture, for Lebbeus, was a kind of counter-balance, a—I’m going to use the word—religious accounting for this lack of center elsewhere, this lack of world. It was a kind of factoring of the zero, to throw out a meaningless phrase: it was the realization that there is nothing on offer for us here, the realization that the instant we trust something it will be shaken loose in great convulsions of seismicity, that cities will fall—to war or to hurricanes—that subways will flood, that entire continents will be unmoored, split in two, terribly and irreversibly, as something maddeningly and wildly, in every possible sense outside of human knowledge, something older and immeasurable, violently shudders and wakes up, leaps again into the foreground and throws us from its back in order to walk on impatiently and destructively without us.

Something ancient and out of view will rapidly come back into focus and destroy all the cameras we use to film it. This is the premise of Lebbeus’s earthquake, Lebbeus’s terrestrial event outside measured comprehensibility, Lebbeus’s state of war.

[Image: “Einstein Tomb” by Lebbeus Woods].

Because what I like about Lebbeus’s work is its nearly insane honesty, its straight-ahead declaration that nothing—genuinely and absolutely nothing—is here to welcome us or accept us or say yes to us. That there is no solid or lasting ground to build anything on, let alone anything out there other than ourselves expecting us to build it.” –  Geoff Manaugh  of http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/ 

For more, click on the Bldgblog links on Woods listed above. http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/lebbeus-woods-1940-2012.html

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labbeus woods 1

Lebbeus Woods, “Havana, Radically Reconstructed” (1994) (Image via bldgblog.com)

 Lebbeus Woods, Havana, 1994

Lebbeus Woods, Havana, 1994

Woods’s “Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber,” which was copied without credit in the film “12 Monkeys”

Woods’s “Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber,” which was copied without credit in the film “12 Monkeys”

Lebbeus Woods, System Wien, 2005

Woods Zien

Lebbeus Woods, System Wien, 2005

Lebbeus Woods, Lower Manhattan, 1999

Lebbeus Woods, Lower Manhattan, 1999

 War and Architecture by Lebbeus Woods

War and Architecture by Lebbeus Woods

To view more of his work and learn more about him, in addition to the excellent articles in the above links, you may go to his site for a visual, emotional and intellectual treat: http://lebbeuswoods.net/

To close, another excerpt from the Hyperallergic article:

“He often said, ‘I never sit down to draw for the sake of drawing. I only draw when I want to say something.’ His drawings are not drawings, they are projects,” Kumpusch said.

Lebbeus’s shunning of the spotlight and dedication to the ideas of architecture beyond than its current pragmatism makes one wonder if Woods lacked the ego typical of high-profile architects who build for legacy. “I don’t think Lebbeus was concerned with ‘legacy,’” Kumpusch said. “He was concerned with ‘future.’ This is his legacy. I deeply miss him.”

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LWoods

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1473876751_8d5e7e0cce_zLebbeus Woods. Future structures of the Korean demilitarized zone (1988) juxtaposed with two views of the architectonic tip of some vast flooded machine-building, from Icebergs (1991)

Lebbeus Woods, “Berlin Free-Zone 3-2” (1990)

Lebbeus Woods, “Berlin Free-Zone 3-2” (1990)

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“Architecture and war are not incompatible. Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms. I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no “sacred and primordial site.” I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful fears. I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments, and forms that appear with infinite strength, then “melt into air.” I am an architect, a constructor of worlds, a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody, a silhouette against the darkening sky. I cannot know your name. Nor you can know mine. Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.” – Lebbeus Woods (1940 – 2012)

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Junipers in June – 2

JUNIPERS IN JUNE – 2

Mad scars o’ Madagascar

For Junipers in June – 1 click  here.

This blog has mostly been my escape from work, but since last month, I’ve decided to place certain stories from times related to travels due to it. Through my years both as an architect and landscape architect & planner in the last decade, I have been lucky to work in over 80 projects spread across over a dozen countries in five continents. I thank my lucky stars for the exposure it provided me to so many different countries and cultures, landscapes and urban realities, the textures of myriad earths, the scents of many-splendoured forests and the colours and chaos and calm of lands distant and warm, as well as close-by and pristine. There are so many stories, too many tales, so many tears and smiles…..life, despite its ups and downs, has been full, for various reasons and in myriad ways.

As I mentioned earlier, June is my birthday month, so I get to write more as an indulgence. No-holds bar ricocheting pen-prose for pleasure. So – yet another.

One of the most educative and adventurous projects I worked on (albeit the one in Kabul, Afghanistan takes the cake) was building a school for children in the African island of Madagascar, in 2002, in its capital city of Antananarivo, funded by the Aga Khan Development Network. Madagascar has a very unique one-of-a-kind flora and fauna system. An excerpt of its unique disposition in the natural world (from wiki):

The prehistoric breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in complete isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot in which over 80% of its plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth. These are dispersed across a variety of ecoregions, broadly divided into eastern and south-central rain forest, western dry forests, southern desert and spiny forest. The island’s diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are severely threatened by human settlement and traditional slash-and-burn practices (tavy) which have denuded Madagascar of 95% of its original forest cover. Under the administration of former President Marc Ravalomanana, the government of Madagascar partnered with the international community to implement large-scale conservation measures tied to ecotourism as part of the national development strategy. However, under Rajoelina’s caretaker government there has been a dramatic increase in illegal logging of precious woods and the poaching and sale of threatened species such as lemurs in Madagascar’s many national parks, several of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Below a few images from the conceptual design stage of the school….

For projects like these, I like to take inspiration from the land itself, its colors, smells, history, stories, unique constraints and opportunities, the dreams of the local people, their reality. And the contours, the climate and the specificities of the site itself. While I worked on both the architecture and landscape architecture, the following images are from the latter. The panels on the colors and patterns were made from images of the island’s unique endemic and often endangered species. The intention behind finding connections between shapes and patterns placed in the entry courts was to make the school into a literal ‘learning ground’ for the island’s future generation so they could appreciate the ecologic heritage they had inherited and stop the present slash-and-burn techniques of destruction. Each courtyard and school subset had its own theme – inspired by the island’s flora and fauna and its local handicrafts, woodwork and art, as well as the sentiments expressed in local folk poems. The connections seen in the various natural and man-made motifs of the island were incorporated into the design.

Click to enlarge, to read the text, and soak in the colors of this unique endangered island.   .

Colors and Patterns of Madagascar

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Landscape plan for the school, plant species selected and the reasons behind the selections. (Click to enlarge and read.)

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Sketches depicting the internal larger courtyards of the school (click to enlarge) In tropical / equatorial climates courtyards act not only as thermal insulators but as convenient linkages of connected safe open spaces between buildings.

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Entry court concept for the Nursery School (click to enlarge)

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Entry court concept for the Primary School (click to enlarge)

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Entry court concept for the Secondary School (click to enlarge)

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Principal court concept between the Administrative block, recreational facilities and the High School (click to enlarge)

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Time . Lapses . Limits

TIME . LAPSES . LIMITS 

A beautiful film made by Ville de Quebec film maker Dominic Boudreault showing a time-lapse montage of the cityscapes of Montreal, New York, Toronto, Chicago and Quebec City contrasted at the end with the stars of the night skies outside the city limits. It took him a year to make this. Please full screen it.…and enjoy its beauty of architecture and urbanscapes, ships and starry nights. Set to Hans Zimmer’s score Time from the unforgettable movie of dreams, architecture, travel and love Inception.

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I am very happy that the film features a project I worked on which won quite a few awards and has become a favorite postcard pic and a city landmark – the installation, urban design and lighting of the historic Fontaine de Tourny that was placed on the entry grounds of the Parliament building of Quebec City. It was a gift from Bordeaux, France, for Quebec’s 400th anniversary, and I’d worked on the conceptual and construction planning as well as lighting design of it with the firm I was with at the time. A few conceptual sketches and the final product below. Of course, I have not included the construction drawings, which are prosaic, technical ones but which hold the chassis of a project.

Due to budget restrictions, the original seating and artistic fence proposals made were not implemented and currently a very basic structure surrounds the fountain.

The sculptor who’d made it – only 3 copies of the fountain exist in the world : Mathurine Moreau

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Sidetracked Alert : Since Conan Doyle’s b’day is round the corner – an ode to Holmes from last year https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/elementary-dr-doyle/

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