COLUMNS

  • Free Forms

    IN 1935, W. E. B. Du Bois published Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880. Coming in at just under eight hundred pages, Du Bois’s “essay” served to carefully delineate the role of African Americans in the social, political, and economic restructuring of the United States following the devastation of the Civil War. In many ways, the artists, architects, and designers included in “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America,” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, have

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  • Grand Facades

    “DARLING, AT A CERTAIN POINT ONE MUST STOP BITCHING and get to work,” Detlef Weitz told me when we met at a sun-showered Humboldt Forum shortly before Christmas. He had a point. My bad-mouthing the reconstructed Baroque Royal Palace had stopped being interesting. For years, every mention of the project has sparked animated discussions of the sort where each statement lights a fire under the next, resulting in extraordinary conflagrations of fury. In that way, the Humboldt Forum is a bit like Donald Trump or Brexit: I don’t know a single person who thought it was a good idea. Yet here it is, 766

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  • Better, Faster, Stronger, Kinder

    THIS PAST MAY, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was briefly in the public eye for being the first major American museum to reopen after the initial wave of coronavirus-related lockdowns. Come November, the debut of the final component of a $450 million expansion project—the Nancy and Rich Kinder building, which boasts 164,000 square feet of exhibition space dedicated to international modern and contemporary art—coincided with the onset of what promises to be the pandemic’s deadliest season yet. Despite the grim winter forecast, museum leadership, armed with the blessing of Governor Abbott’s

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  • MISSED CONNECTIONS

    THE COLD WAR is not remembered as a love story. More frequently recounted as a cautionary tale of mutual distrust, antagonism, and the looming specter of global nuclear annihilation, the era has been memorialized in literature, art, and cinema—think Dr. Strangelove or From Russia with Love—through caricatures that capitalize on fears of evil Russian ambitions to undermine American sovereignty. 

    “Building a new New World: Amerikanizm in Russian Architecture,” at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, plumbs architectural history to suggest an alternative reading of the bilateral

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  • ON THE MARGINS

    IN JULY 1825, eight months before his death, the French architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu donated several hundred of his meticulous pen-and-wash drawings to the Bibliothèque Royale in Paris (now the Bibliothèque Nationale de France). Representing more than four decades of work, and spanning the fall of the Bourbon monarchy, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic era, and the Restoration, Lequeu’s corpus reveals a maximalist artistic vision unlike any other. Made in near-total isolation in a cramped Parisian bachelor pad furnished with little more than a table and chair, a mattress, and a lone coffeepot,

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  • Another Story

    ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS YOU SEE when entering the Chicago Architecture Biennial, from either entrance, is a gray land acknowledgement sign with crisp white type: “Chicago is part of the traditional homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi nations. Many other tribes—such as the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Sac, and Fox—also called this area home. . .” Such recognitions have become more visible in recent years, but this text, prepared by the American Indian Center of Chicago, functions differently within its context than on, say, the bottom of an institutional website or

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  • KINGDOM COME

    NO ONE EXPECTED the internal dispute among the Arabian Gulf states to last this long. Since June 2017, four of the states—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt—have severed economic and diplomatic relations with Qatar. The dispute doesn’t just exist on a government level but weighs on the minds of residents: Those living on both sides of the divide privately lament the crisis while publicly—i.e., on social media—refraining from liking posts by or openly communicating with friends from estranged countries. It has also affected the operations of the art world, both in terms

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  • Living With Water

    CRISP, LOW-LYING, AND QUIETLY BEAUTIFUL, the Art Deco boulevards of Miami Beach constitute what the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) calls an “Open Air Museum of 20th Century Architecture,” driving tourism and the city’s economy. The modernist curves and stacked ziggurats—designed to catch the breeze in each hotel room—suit a landscape built at the mercy of water. The white-and-pink, peach-and-aqua exteriors balance out the deep blue of the Florida sky. Walking down Collins Avenue with its oceanfront hotels, or the side streets with their three-story Moderne apartment buildings, the

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  • FREE SPIRIT

    SECURITY WAS TIGHTER than usual on the opening day of the press preview for the Sixteenth Venice Architecture Biennale this past May, the reason being—or so it was whispered—a planned visit to the Giardini by the Israeli ambassador to Italy, there to attend the opening of his national pavilion that afternoon. The topic of the Israeli exhibition (under the curatorship of Tania Coen-Uzzielli, Deborah Pinto Fdeda, Ifat Finkelman, and Oren Sagiv) was the division of holy sites in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank and the awesome warping effects on urban space that result; especially

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  • LIGHT HOUSES

    RENZO PIANO HAS DESIGNED more art museums than any other living architect. His compelling architectural language is recognizably his own but also elastic enough to adapt to all kinds of institutions, from the Centre Pompidou in Paris to the Art Institute of Chicago to his studio’s current projects in major cities on three continents. Here, as part of Artforum’s ongoing conversation series about museum architecture, senior editor Julian Rose speaks with Piano about the complexities of balancing art, light, and space. 

    JULIAN ROSE: You are by far the most prolific museum designer in the world today.

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  • CITY PLANAR

    “THIS WILL KILL THAT!” So proclaims Archdeacon Claude Frollo, the villain of Victor Hugo’s Gothic romance The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Standing before the titular cathedral, he brandishes a cutting-edge device: a book. Though the novel takes place not long after the invention of the printing press, Frollo presciently understands that this revolutionary new technology will obviate architecture’s role in acculturating and indoctrinating the masses. But by the time Hugo published the novel in 1831, his compatriots Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre had already produced the world’s first photographs,

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  • TECTONIC ARTS

    NO LIVING ARCHITECT has done more to change the face of the field than Frank Gehry. Many of his works—the Guggenheim Bilbao among them—are world-famous attractions, while his pioneering engagement with digital modeling software has permanently altered the way buildings are designed and constructed around the globe. Here, as part of Artforum’s ongoing conversation series about museum architecture, senior editor Julian Rose speaks with Gehry about art, architecture, technology, and the complex interplay among them.

    JULIAN ROSE: Not many architects can say they have a cultural phenomenon

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