COLUMNS

  • France’s Oriental Dream: The Louvre Abu Dhabi

    WITH THE INAUGURATION of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in early November 2017, France fulfilled a wish it had harbored for a long time. This ancient dream, which emerged under the Sun King Louis XIV at the end of the seventeenth century, was nothing less than to assume the mantle of Imperial Rome, claiming its cultural and territorial heritage. The dream ebbed and flowed for three centuries, but its crucible and the moment that shaped its colonial, epistemological, and symbolic dimensions was the Napoleonic occupation of Egypt in 1798. This ambitious adventure ended less than three years later

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  • Forensic Architecture

    FOR DECADES NOW, the bleeding edge of architecture has treated building itself as a foil, even an adversary—the mirror image of a self-styled critical practice. As the paper architecture of the 1960s and ’70s developed into a wide range of institutionalized alternative practices, from curatorial projects to multimedia installations, timeworn disciplinary concerns of matter and materiality seemed condemned to retrograde status, the stuff of unreflective designer-minions serving the interests of powerful clients. But this attitude takes a paradoxical twist in the work of Forensic Architecture,

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  • Frank Lloyd Wright

    ALMOST A CENTURY AGO, the world was already trying to have the last word on Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1940, New York’s Museum of Modern Art grandly proclaimed that its upcoming exhibition of the American master’s work would be “the first attempt to show the entire range of his astonishing architectural career.” In retrospect, this presumption of totality seems reasonable enough. Wright was already seventy-three, and the museum had assembled more than five decades of his designs, including several recently constructed masterpieces—the iconic Fallingwater house from 1937 among them—that

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  • London Calling

    THERE ARE TWO JUBILANT MOMENTS in “Mies van der Rohe + James Stirling: Circling the Square” at the Royal Incorporation of British Architects’ (RIBA) Architecture Gallery in London, but they are easy to miss, even in a show as small as this one. Both pertain to Mies’s plans in the 1960s to erect a nineteen-story office high-rise on a central site in the City of London, and both are represented by ephemera that suggest the slow rise and precipitous fall of the ill-fated project.

    The first piece is a quick sketch of an inverted pyramid of champagne glasses, made by the architect’s grandson Dirk

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  • Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley’s ReActor

    THE RITUALS OF DOMESTICITY have long been a focus for cutting-edge practices in both art and architecture. Examples abound: Architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio slyly subverted the politics of gender and labor underpinning household chores in their Bad Press: Housework Series, 1993–98, which included a set of men’s dress shirts pressed into bizarre shapes according to “Instructions for a Dissident Ironing”; artists Arakawa and Madeline Gins literally recalibrated the topography of the domestic landscape in their 2008 Bioscleave House (Lifespan Extending Villa), which sought nothing

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  • “Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter”

    LIKE A LOT of inexpensive flat-packed furniture—shipped halfway around the world and arriving with “some assembly required”—the lightweight, pitch-roofed structure at the center of the Museum of Modern Art in New York’s “Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter” is missing a few parts. But this is not by accident. In a gesture of accommodation within an exhibition otherwise intent on revealing the inhospitality of contemporary migrant and refugee environments, two of the thirty-six polyolefin-foam panels enclosing the structure’s tubular-steel frame have been removed, inviting

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  • the staircase in contemporary architecture

    THE PRIMORDIAL SPACES of modernism were spaces of labor. It was in the industrialized efficiency of the factory floor that many of the fundamental attributes of modern architecture—the grid, the open plan, the revealed structure—were developed. And as modern labor became more corporate over the course of the twentieth century, modern architecture did, too: The cubicles of the typical modern office adhered to the same rigorous organizational logic as factory workbenches, with desks appearing one after the other, arranged in single file for solitary work. Yet today the nature of working

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  • Chicago Hope

    The recently appointed 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial artistic directors, Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee—in contrast to their predecessors, Graham Foundation director Sarah Herda and international biennial curator Joseph Grima—are not professional curators, but practicing architects. In 1998, they cofounded the Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee, whose current projects include the Menil Drawing Institute, a renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Green Line Arts Center, a project with the University of Chicago and Theaster Gates. Here, they discuss their interest in

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  • Tailor Made

    IT HAS BECOME COMMONPLACE for architects to describe their work as “tailored” to the sites on which they are built, but in the case of Christ & Gantenbein’s new addition to the Kunstmuseum Basel, this is literally true: The geometry of the structure has been ingeniously derived from the different angles of the ancient city’s streets. At the north-east corner of the site, Saint Alban-Graben turns toward the Wettstein bridge. The museum’s entrance runs parallel to this gesture, creating a small plaza defined by the front facade. This concave space reads like an open book, with its left page facing

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  • the Venice Architecture Biennale

    CONTEMPORARY ART at its worst is rarely so naive as contemporary architecture at its best. Because it operates so closely to the machinery of power, the design profession has been known to occasionally confuse design with power itself—to believe that architecture is politics—an idea that dates back at least to 1923, when Le Corbusier famously posited a choice between “architecture ou révolution,” as if they were commensurate political pursuits. Alack, they aren’t.

    This tendency has reached a new pitch with the latest Venice Biennale of Architecture. Crusading curator (and winner of this

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  • Behind the Music

    IN OUR EVER MORE INTERCONNECTED CULTURE, architecture’s predilection for interdisciplinarity has become a popular topic both inside and outside of the field, whether among those seeking to expand architecture’s reach or to co-opt its methodologies. Most of these conversations focus on a relatively narrow range of interaction with the visual arts, despite the fact that, historically, music has often been architecture’s closest partner. For centuries, while painters and sculptors were preoccupied with various techniques of mimesis, architects and musicians focused on more abstract compositional

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  • Operation Build

    THE TWIN IMPERATIVES steering the flurry of recent museum transformations resemble a yoga technique: expand and relax. It has been a boom time for some while now, but growth tells only part of the story and increasingly, a smaller one. In their drive for more space and higher attendance figures, large art museums in America are being refashioned to strike a casual demeanor and achieve an integrated relationship to their urban surroundings. These are renovations of institutional philosophies as much as buildings.

    The Whitney, relieved of its weighty uptown building—which the Met is leasing while

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