David Huber

  • architecture November 20, 2018

    Sketch Pad

    FANTASY COLLIDED GENTLY WITH REALITY in Houston’s leafy Montrose neighborhood earlier this month. The Menil Collection is a place I have studied closely from afar but never seen in the flesh, and I was arriving with a head full of fragments: the famous centerpiece by Renzo Piano, with its cheap pine floorboards and proprietary ceiling louvers; the rows of prewar bungalows painted a uniform gray; the blocks of evergreens; the porches; the porticos; the filtered daylight. The museum of my mind wasn’t too far off, though, in part because some recent developments make the actual place more like I

  • interviews October 31, 2017

    Jimmy Robert

    The work of Guadeloupe-born, Bucharest-based artist Jimmy Robert spans photography, film, video, sculpture, and performance, but collage is its mainstay. For his latest piece, titled Imitation of Lives, 2017, and staged at Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, Robert mines the architect’s infamous life and historical influence to create an exquisite montage interspersed with divergent references and foreign objects, including music, mirrors, bits of poetry, and a marble trompe-l’oeil painting by Lucy McKenzie, among other things. The work is co-curated by Cole Akers and Charles

  • 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,

  • diary September 25, 2017

    History Again

    THE WEEK BEFORE LAST, fifty miles east of Downtown Chicago, on the bank of the Fox River in Kendall County, where Trump beat Clinton by a hair, a young woman in a neon-green getup and white volleyball kneepads stood on the deck of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and made a small request: “Welcome. Please take off your shoes or put shoe covers on.”

    We’d stepped, a gaggle of globalists, into a rehearsal for Modern Living, a new performance by artists Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly commissioned for “Make New History,” the Second Chicago Architecture Biennial, directed by Sharon Johnston and Mark

  • diary June 06, 2017

    Foster Home

    LIKE MANY MARRIED MEN, Norman Foster takes enormous pride in his garage. His is brand new, an immaculate structure made of German glass and polished Japanese mirror, built behind a petite 1902 palace in Madrid that has been refurbished to house the Norman Foster Foundation, an archive and research center inaugurated on June 1, the illustrious British architect’s eighty-second birthday. The day before, itching to show the place off, Foster had some friends over.

    “Jony!” said Norman, greeting Jonathan Ive, the T-shirt wearing chief creative officer of Apple. The two tanned designers brought it in

  • interviews January 31, 2017

    Luisa Lambri

    For nearly twenty years, the artist Luisa Lambri has lingered in the twentieth century’s most hallowed interiors, using the doors, corners, and mood-altering apertures of modernist buildings by Aalto, Bo Bardi, Corbusier, and others as prompts for photographs that convey phenomenological experience rather than reliable documentation. On the occasion of “Breuer Revisited: New Photographs by Luisa Lambri and Bas Princen,” the artist reflects on her encounter with the work of Marcel Breuer and her tentative, arms-length relationship to architecture. The show runs February 1 through May 21, 2017,

  • “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

  • architecture June 13, 2016

    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

  • diary June 03, 2016

    Just Do It

    FROM NOW THROUGH THE FALL, visitors to Venice will likely catch a glimpse of archaeologist Maria Reiche perched high atop an aluminum ladder, peering downward at the Peruvian desert. The photograph, taken by writer Bruce Chatwin circa 1975, has been rolled out across the entire graphic identity of the fifteenth International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, titled “Reporting from the Front” and directed by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. For Aravena, who expounds an up-by-your-bootstraps worldview, the image is a talisman: He admires Reiche’s resourcefulness, the modesty of

  • diary October 09, 2015

    Oil and Water

    IMPRESSIVE EXHIBITIONS, like abhorrent oil spills, can really stick: The impact is permanent. Still, I wasn’t the only one surprised to see the budding Chicago Architecture Biennial get in bed with Big Oil the first time around. Perhaps there was some kind of misunderstanding.

    “What the heck is an architecture biennale?” asked the president of BP America, John Mingé, at last Thursday’s press conference for “The State of the Art of Architecture,” on view at the Chicago Cultural Center and other sympathetic institutions through January 3. He was recalling his reaction when organizers approached

  • diary June 02, 2015

    Hidden in Plain Sight

    HERE’S ONE WAY to break through all that noise and get the attention of a mostly under-thirty-five-year-old audience, a demographic fawned over by marketers and worshiped like a cult by brands, a niche all of us millennials were born into against our will and can’t, even if we wanted to, escape: Woo it with impressive deck, then tell it to its face it’s screwed.

    That was the route special-interest-money foe and free-culture friend Lawrence Lessig took last Thursday during his keynote at the New Museum’s three-day Ideas City festival, a biannual conference and street fair devoted this time around

  • BEYOND BELIEF: THE ARCHITECTURE OF LACATON & VASSAL

    ANNE LACATON AND JEAN-PHILIPPE VASSAL may be architects, but their real métier is doubt. Unstinting skeptics, low-key mavericks, the Paris-based duo—born in 1955 in Saint-Pardoux, France, and in 1954 in Casablanca, Morocco, respectively—have relentlessly questioned the orthodoxies of architecture, disrupting force-fed assumptions about the economies and practices that drive the design, construction, and inhabitation of space. Lacaton and Vassal often make insides that are like outsides, airy structures that host everything from homes and schools to museums and offices in open-ended

  • picks February 25, 2015

    Wesley Willis

    For two decades until his death in 2003, keyboard rock star Wesley Willis unremittingly rendered Chicago’s dour Dan Ryan Expressway and curtain-walled skyline with ballpoint pen and felt-tip-marker lines so ecstatic, so fluorescent as to demand that established habits in representing late-twentieth-century American cities make way.

    The twenty-six drawings in this show, nearly all from the 1980s, graze the surface of an oeuvre that by the artist’s own tally numbers forty thousand works. (Fact-checkers take heed: Willis, no record keeper, peddled the drawings on the street and at concerts.) A series

  • diary January 31, 2015

    New To You

    SOMETIMES YOU WANT your neue a little—nay, a lot—more new. New Theater is a storefront playhouse on a blah Kreuzberg block opened in 2013 by the budding American artists Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff. Like most everyone else who writes, directs, and acts in productions there, they are degreed in art but uncredentialed, dramatically speaking. Theater’s new to them—hence the name, they half joke. And hence the excitement this fledgling, disorderly endeavor has been able to sustain among the devoted community of artists and art-world affiliates that fills the unreserved bench seating for

  • architecture December 01, 2014

    Square Roots

    LISTS. It is hard to imagine architecture not getting its regular fix. The announcement of competition longlists, shortlists, and final lists pace the field’s collective conversation in a way that individual building projects or even group exhibitions usually do not. And if the playing field is not always leveled—too often, high-profile invited competitions read like Who’s Who lists—the site and the project size are at least common enough to make quick correlations and easily measure-up the contestants.

    So this past June when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced that the two-stage design

  • picks October 11, 2014

    “Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966–1971”

    Spend a day in silence. Descend a hill blindfolded. Build a village out of driftwood. Such were the sense-expanding (if common-sense confounding) activities that the dauntless young dancers and designers who attended Anna and Lawrence Halprin’s late-1960s cross-disciplinary workshops in the San Francisco Bay area could expect—if one could ever really have known what to expect from a curriculum “scored” for maximum kinesthetic effect by the pioneering choreographer and her landscape architect husband. The Halprins were standouts in their respective fields, and this exhibition highlights the vital

  • diary August 29, 2014

    Far Sited

    SEND A FISTFUL of youngish art-world denizens off to fete an exhibition on a Greek isle in August and the term “opening” no longer seems appropriate. But what to call it, this sunny brew of beach beds and sweet wine, artists and curators and writers? Junket, retreat, vacation—bliss?

    Lest I seduce you, disloyally, with tales of boat trips and tanned biennial directors, first a quick clarification of the context. Although it’s now the site, thanks to Art Space Pythagorion, of a laudable annual exhibition series—Harun Farocki in 2012, Slavs and Tatars in 2013, Nevin Aladağ in 2014—Samos is not how

  • diary June 11, 2014

    Elevator Pitch

    “PLEASE, I’M NOT THE EXHIBITION. This is the exhibition,” implored Rem Koolhaas, the indomitable director of this year’s architecture edition of the Venice Biennale, to a phalanx of journalists halfway through the pre-preview walkthrough of the central pavilion. The members of the press were perhaps a bit too enthusiastic in their pursuits, but who else except a larger-than-life personality could have amassed such an eccentric display of architectural “fundamentals” (as his show was titled)? Like a twenty-first-century William Randolph Hearst and Benjaminian rag picker, Koolhaas lugged his