Guy Nordenson

  • Frei Otto, 2015. Photo courtesy the Pritzker Architecture Prize / The Hyatt Foundation.
    passages May 28, 2015

    Frei Otto (1925–2015)

    The DESIGN of the future in the grip of the human vortex. All the past that is vital, all the past that is capable of living into the future, is pregnant in the vortex, NOW.

    —Ezra Pound, “Vortex,” BLAST, 1914

    THE AWARD OF THE PRITZKER ARCHITECTURE PRIZE this year to Frei Otto was a welcome surprise, though his passing so soon after he learned the news felt a bit like a reproach. Time doesn’t wait for the Pritzker or the Nobel, it’s clear. Otto would have been ninety on May 31. The prize was awarded posthumously on May 15 in Miami. In 1996, Otto wrote that all architects could be divided into

  • Aerial view of destruction caused by tsunami, coast of Sumatra, January 2, 2005. Photo: Philip A. McDaniel/US Navy.



    I like men who have known the best and the worst, whose life has been anything but a smooth trip. Storms have battered them, they have lain, sometimes for months on end, becalmed. There is a residue even if they fail.

    —James Salter, Burning the Days: Recollection (1997)

    THE FAILURE OF THE LEVEES during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 highlighted a tragic inconsistency in the prevailing perceptions of risk. Ironically, improvements in urban infrastructure, which had actually lowered the risk associated with frequent but minor flooding, had increased the risk associated with less frequent

  • View of restored fifth floor, 101 Spring Street, New York, 2013. Photo: Josh White. Art: Donald Judd © Judd Foundation/VAGA, NYC; Dan Flavin © Stephen Flavin/ARS, New York; © Claes Oldenburg; © Lucas Samaras.

    the Judd Foundation’s 101 Spring Street


    FOR MANY YEARS, my only experiences of 101 Spring Street were the glimpses of Donald Judd’s desk and Carl Andre’s 1986 brick work Manifest Destiny that I saw through the ground-floor windows of the building. I was impressed by the constancy of these two objects. Judd’s building was an oasis of tenacious lucidity in the rapidly changing context of SoHo. My first opportunity to enter the building came in 2005, when the Judd Foundation asked me, as an engineer, to think through the technical challenges involved in opening the building to the public. Ironically, given that Judd left


    Eleven scholars, critics, writers, artists, and architects choose the year’s outstanding titles.


    Miriam Bratu Hansen completed Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno (University of California Press) shortly before she died last year after a long illness. A summa of her life’s work, this magisterial book is a gift—and a must—for anyone interested in critical theory’s engagement with film, media, and mass culture; there is no other study like it. The book’s ultimately discarded working title, “The Other Frankfurt School,” pointed to