Aaron Betsky

  • Steven Holl’s Bloch Building

    THE HIGHEST ART in architecture today is the building of homes for art. Museums are currently where we see design with clarity, making us conscious of where we are. Here not only is the act of building usually sufficiently liberated from economic constraints, but both aesthetics and community lie at the core of its purpose. This is the dream of architecture: to be more than a technical enterprise and to become a cultural endeavor central to society. Luckily, then, we are experiencing a boom in the construction of new museums and museum additions around the world; it would not be too much of an


    SOME FOUR YEARS AGO I was standing on the terrace of the Art and Architecture Building at Yale University when I witnessed a remarkable exchange between Patrik Schumacher, architect Zaha Hadid’s principal collaborator, and Charles Jencks, the architect and writer who pioneered architectural postmodernism. No doubt referencing the latter’s pivotal role during the 1970s in championing the new architectural language of ornamentation and references to historical styles, Schumacher pointed at his computer-designed Nike watch, saying: “This is the future.” Then, looking up, he pointed at Jencks and

  • Atelier Bow-Wow

    “TO CHANGE the Japanese government, you could begin by altering the seating arrangement in parliament,” says Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, one of the partners, with Momoyo Kaijima, behind the Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow. Linking grand ambition to small-scale gesture marks the ideology of these architects who, like many of their colleagues, move through the realms of art and politics with as much relish as when they build houses. For them, architecture is about rearranging the ordinary so that moments of epiphany, strangeness, and beauty can slip into a home or museum like an uninvited but welcome guest.

  • New Orleans’s heavily damaged Ninth Ward, January 22, 2006. Photo: AP/Eric Gay.


    LAST FALL, when Artforum invited several prominent thinkers to contribute essays on subjects they considered of unique importance to our cultural moment, architect and historian Denise Scott Brown seized on a matter still fresh in the collective conscious: the rebuilding of New Orleans. “Even by the criteria of realism,” she observed of the staggering task, “we will have to be visionary.” As weeks and then months passed and still no vision for New Orleans’s future emerged—locally or in Washington, DC—we were prompted by Brown’s assertion to wonder what an art magazine might do to stimulate the

  • Morphosis, Diamond Ranch High School, 1999, Pomona, California. Photo: Tim Hursley.

    Aaron Betsky

    WHAT IS TO BE DONE? Faced with the overwhelming devastation of New Orleans, architects, urban planners, and civil engineers around the world have for months now been asking themselves that obvious question—and others implied by this confrontation between man-made form and nature. Can the art of building solve problems created not by nature alone but by the very ways in which we have historically tried to conquer its potent forces? And on a more practical level, can architecture provide structures that are more logical, just, and useful than those now seemingly ordained by the economic and

  • Herzog & de Meuron

    FOR ALL THE ATTENTION being paid to the boom in museum construction and the intense competition among blockbuster exhibitions, the emergence of a new way of organizing the permanent collections at the heart of major institutions has received little press. While the Centre Pompidou, Paris, claims that their current “Big Bang” reinstallation of their collection is the first thematic grouping of its kind, encyclopedic museums around the world have recently been experimenting with innovative presentations of their vast holdings. In London, the Tate Modern’s attempt to use themes rather than chronology


    “EAVESDROPPING ON ONLINE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT digital and Net art, I always have a panic-attack feeling that the air has been sucked out of the room. Let's face it, a lot of this stuff is deeply sucky.” Strong words from self-styled tech maven Mark Dery, but the provocation mirrors a common enough skepticism when it comes to the marriage of art and digital technologies. As Saul Anton, Artforum's new website editor and the moderator of this roundtable, pointedly observes, such reserve is “inversely proportional to the exuberant embrace of all things digital in our culture at large.”

    Still, the ongoing