Push-Button Architecture


Speaking of "let's start a prefabricated housing company now!", Adam Kalkin is back. He's still got his pervy edge, this time with his how-the-hell-did-he-fund-this (i know the answer to this question, otherwise i wouldn't ask it) prefabricated house company. Okay, I've made fun of his company. The Push-Button House is beautiful. Useless and marketed only to the super-rich collector of architecture, but beautiful.

Christmas Humor, New Orleans Style

Lakeside Mall XMAS Village 3.jpg

Tropolism means having a sense of humor. It means also a sense of civic pride. One of the reasons I'm so attached to NOLA is that its citizens often combine these two in a way which is effortless, and makes sense. Not unlike New Yorkers, although the character of our satire has a different flavor.

Above and after the jump: exclusive photographs from special architect correspondant Tatiana, of the annual and beloved Christmas toy train display at Lakeside Mall in Metairie. The talent of Frank Evans, an obsessive railroad-toy display designer, comes through with spraypainted X's on the houses, collapsed roofs, and a comment on the evacuated Broussard Pump Station #1. Read all about it in today's Times-Picayune, tipped off by our friend and diligent NOLA describer, Sturtle. You'll note that the people interviewed all had an appreciation of the depth of humor, the civic pride, and the craftsmanship that went into the display. The perfect architectural moment.

And, more pictures after the jump.

Olafur Eliasson and Peter Zumthor, In Conversation


I'm sure many of you knew about the dialogue between Peter Zumthor and Olafur Eliasson last Monday. And, given your hectic holiday party schedule, you knew about it and missed it anyway. Like us.

Fear not, Tropolism Special Correspondant Saharat Surattanont was there to capture the goods. His copious notes, after the jump. It promised to be a lively exchange, given Olafur's massive and gorgous reworking of Zumthor's Kunsthaus Bregenz in 2001. According to Sah, it was, except not in the synergetic way we all thought. Olafur apparently lumped Zumthor in to the category every other architect is in (including me, yo), that is, someone who mediates reality. And Olafur wants to undo that. Read on...

Show Me The Shimmer


Today is the opening day for Shimmer (not to be confused with Glitter), at the New Museum for Contemporary Art. The press release is titled "artist and architect experiments", which put it on our radar, as did their website, crediting something called a "ceiling fabrication". Which sounds suspiciously like something produced in the basement on Columbia University's CNC milling machine. It's either going to be a delight, or a retread of MoMA's awful Mutant Materials show. Only tomorrow's press event will tell!

Olafur Eliasson: Light in Japan


As you may know, I do work from time to time with Olafur Eliasson. I get all of the invitations to his openings, wherever they may be. They are so numerous, it is impossible to keep up. However, this one is of note: his first solo exhibition at a Japanese art museum. Olafur Eliasson: Your light shadow at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art opens with a reception on November 16,from 7-9. The show is a preview for a permanent installation at the museum, which is going to be installed in the spring. Since I cannot go, I hereby invite you all to crash the party for me. It's not the first time I've asked friends who were in Tokyo to simply waltz into an opening.

The Hara is at 4-7-25, Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo Tel: 03-3445-0651

Ground Zero Museum Workshop


While travelling toward a meeting last week, in a speeding cab, I glanced over to the building that houses Friends of The High Line. A new sign was up, for the Ground Zero Museum Workshop. It is a space devoted to a single photographer, Gary Marlon Suson, with unique access to Ground Zero: he was the Official Photographer at Ground Zero for the Uniformed Firefighters Association (FDNY). He became friendly with many of the people working down there, and his photographs reflect that.

With the master planning process at WTC 2.0 gone, perhaps it is time for us to create our own, makeshift memorials again, throughout the city.

Diagonal Crazy


While the topic of who did what to inspire whom, and in what context (lowbrow? academic? highball? boudoir?) rages on at our colleagues at Ye Olden Guttre, we patiently await your input on the matter. You see, we have spoken our mind, and now's the opportunity for you to speak yours. You. I read my referral logs, and I so totally know you're reading this. Time to vote!

Artist Does Density


The ever succinct Pruned has posted another ├ętude to density, around Naoya Hatakeyama's diptych for a residential re-use for Osaka Stadium. These are the things that keep us warm at night.

Inspiration 101

francisco sobrino_1.jpg

As a practicing architect, I have felt nothing but comlete bewilderment at Gutter's thread about libel. At Tropolism, we find this to be high-functioning complaining. Tropolism means cities are messy, and the ideas for buildings are as messy as they come. Bring it on! Most of my job is fine-tuning, and that includes the inspiration process. Sometimes projects are just fine-tuning someone else's idea, material, pattern, or whatnot. The point is that result is always new, because it has a new context.

As an illustration of how messy (gorgeously so) inspiration will be, a friend was shuffling through his 1965 MoMA catalog for "The Responsive Eye" on Sunday (as one does) and he thought this Francisco Sobrino sculpture from 1962 shares a lovely visual similarity to Lord Norman's Hearst Building. The similarity wasn't just visual...the see-through nature of the sculpture, as a result of the triangulated structure, hit upon exactly what I meant by "diagonal living": triangulated structures allow us to see through buildings, conceptually as well as visually. Thank you, inspiration.


New Art City


John Updike's hilarious review of Jed Perl's New Art City. My favorite quote:

The words "existential" and "empirical" remain hazy, as much as Perl loves and uses them. The verb "existentialize" doesn't exist in my dictionary, and I groped to attach meanings to such nuanced variations of the concept as "in their wackily existentialist way" and the report that some Buckminster Fuller domes were sent out "into the world in a pure, almost existentialized form." Almost existentialized - an unlucky near miss!

At one time, we architects had a critic who was a master at architectural writing. He balanced description with illuminating generalization. Unfortunately, he unexpectedly died. And now we're still where we were. We need a master of language, like Updike, who can navigate the dangerous shoals of Writing About Architecture. Me, I'm going to do some more drawings.

Party High, Sweet Chariot


Friday, a friend invited me to go to Creative Time's latest event, an opening for a show inspired by the High Line, after we supped, and I said yes. It was only an 80% yes, these things often turn out to be hideous: a hundred people occupancy but the event-throwers invite 10,000 to see it, creating a fight at the door. Still, the promise to see the one Matta-Clark film I haven't seen yet was exciting enough to get me walking in the rain.

Read about the show by clicking for more...

Artist Designs Furnishings: Architects Pack It Up And Go Home


"Architects are formalists. Deal." David Smiley told me that when I was a wee student in the thicket of the early 90s argument about being-a-formalist-or-not. We make things. It's a useless distinction to think otherwise. He was also conveying that what is of concern to us is how those forms are deployed in the service of an idea, and, more importantly, how deep that idea could get. I don't mean Deleuze-deep, I mean mad wicked deep.


Like Roy McMackin deep. His current show at Matthew Marks is all about furniture. The forms change when the ideas behind them change. Sometimes a subtle shift in idea leads to radically different other times the forms shift slightly. It's a powerful lesson in keeping the idea first. The deep idea.

Fake Estates


The Times helpfully points us in the direction of shows related to Gordon Matta-Clark's work Fake Estates. The reporting on the leftover tax bills is particularly amusing, along with some insights into what we might learn of the artist's work today.

Tropolism has barely touched on one of its primary sources of inspiration. Gordon Matta-Clark's life and work were the very model of a youthful aspiration not based on selling stuff (also known as the art business), while not unduly divorced from making things. The parallel to architecture is obvious to us, abetted by Matta-Clark's projects cutting buildings. He worked on buildings precisely because architecture is the access to the unconsious, because they are both form and background environment. His work embodies a chaotic balance between love of urbanism and skepticism about design culture. His work is not about complaining. His writing makes no sense, gorgeously so.

Don't be so surprise that I haven't mentioned him. The fact that he pissed Peter Eisenman off when he shot out the windows at a show with the New York Five should have been a dead giveaway.

Artist As Customer Service


Greg, the artwork you're looking for is called "Food", 1971, corner of Prince and Wooster, Soho. Run by Gordon Matta-Clark, Carol Gooden, and someone whose name I cannot remember (Tropolism's fact checker left my copy of the book about Food at home).

There is an interesting memoir here. However, more to Greg's interest, this piece touches on the impact Food had on the emergence of what became artist-Soho (pre-retail-Soho), as well as the fact that Food was an implicit critique of the displacement of manufacturing by the artists' lofts.

Of course, those days are long over in Manhattan. That's a fact, not a complaint. Tropolism embraces urban change, so you won't see us shedding tears for the long-lost oldene timey days when living in a leaky Soho loft was considered the Golden Age.

Robert Smithson's Floating Island


Back from the dead: Robert Smithson's project "Floating Island To Travel Around Manhattan" is set to begin, er, floating around Manhattan September 17th through the 25th.

We choose to set aside issues of authorship (so 70s) and history (80s) and craft (90s) by creating from scratch a project by a long-dead artist who developped projects while they were being made (or bulldozed, same diff). We just bow to the interest posed by the object itself. Architects are fundamenatally formalists, after all. If it exists, it exists. Om. A floating island around Manhattan is cool. It is a lovely reminder that Manhattan is a machine itself, with a few trees thrown in for good measure.

What I want to know: can we catch a ride?

The project is co-sponsored by the Whitney (whose superb RS show rocked my world, and notified me of this project), whose great website has absolutely nothing about the project, and Minetta Brook, whose lovely flash website has lots of information about the whole affair.

An Ambitious Project


David Shrigley, which is like Robert Smithson, but with a lot less thinking. Smithson is my favorite artist, but there's something more free about Shrigley. Calmer, less directed, easier to access, easier to contemplate for long periods.

(Thanks to Boozhy)

Rocking The Indoors


Deitch Projects has two shows which are bringing the city inside. Swoon and Barry McGee both have large installations in the two SoHo locations.

What makes projects like this of interest to architects, particularly architects like myself who work with artists, and who design the spaces artists will work in, is how they bring the street indoors.

The Swoon work is fresh and gorgeous, but I want to see her rip open the walls, not take the white box as an outer limit. I want to see her rummaging occur now, not as something wallpapered or brought into the space. This is a ridiculous observation, though. Her work is concerned with flattening the motion of the street, not about re-creating it. She does not want to be Matta-Clark. And in the name of our life and safety (which is why I have a license, because I think about these things), we are probably better off for it.

Barry McGee's work has always played with elements of abstraction and absurd comic-book illos. The work in this show is exploring that language even further, without giving too much ground to the gallery/museum setting.

Both installations take advantage of the gallery to freeze our street impressions, allowing us to observe and enjoy moments of movement, color, attraction, and madness.

NYT: Urban Outsider Artists Evoke Society's Margins

Architects on Art Action


Architects on Art? Is that allowed on school property?

We here at Whatever Our Site Is To Be Named are always looking for artistic actions that are neither Art nor Architecture. Which is why we found this postcard a bit alarming. And misleading: the verso of the card announces that CIMA is having their annual auction, and an artist is lecturing. So it's "Architects buy Art", or "Artist on Architecture".

The event and postcard are tidily reproduced at CIMA's website.