Ian Volner

  • Jean Welz, Maison Zilveli, 1933. All photos: DoppelHouse Press.
    architecture September 21, 2022

    Lost Property

    THE LOST ARCHITECTURE OF JEAN WELZ. BY PETER WYETH. DoppelHouse, 2022. 346 pages. 

    WHEN IT COMES TO THE UR-HISTORY of modernist architecture, we all pretty much know the first few lines by heart. In the beginning there was nothing; the Earth was void, and without Corb; then Sullivan said “Let there be Wright,” and Loos and behold, Behrens begat Gropius begat Mies—or something like that. Even other, sublimated ancestries (the “zones of silence,” as critic Reyner Banham once called them) long omitted from the grands récits of modernism have, by now, largely become part of the general conversation.

  • Rendering of the Michael Maltzan-designed Sixth Street Viaduct. Image: City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering, Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc. / HNTB Corporation.
    architecture September 03, 2021

    Back to the Future

    WHEN DAVID HOCKNEY first arrived in Santa Monica, in 1964, he decided to ride his bicycle across Los Angeles as far as Pershing Square, which he had heard was a prime cruising spot. Only too late did he realize that the journey was eighteen miles. The painter resolved to buy a car the next day.

    Christopher Hawthorne told this story a couple of Fridays ago, delivering it with a wan smile. “There’s a whole genre of non-LA artists and writers coming here and trying to bike the city,” he said. “Newcomers just don’t understand the scale.” The former architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times—now

  •  Svetlana Kana Radević, Monument to Fallen Fighters of Lješanska Nahija, 1980, Barutana, Podgorica, Montenegro. Photo: Luka Boskovic.
    architecture June 25, 2021

    Building Blocs

    THE CROWD AT THE SMOLNY INSTITUTE had only just stopped applauding, the minority delegates having reluctantly ceded the floor, when the leader of the revolutionary congress grasped the sides of the podium and spoke the first words of a new era. “We shall now proceed to construct the socialist order,” Vladimir Lenin said: In Russian, the verb he used was stroit (строить), literally “to build”; in time, versions of the phrase would become a rhetorical rallying cry throughout the Soviet Union and its allied states, adorning the overpass of a dam on the Volga River, for example, and the side of an


    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

  • “Post-Otto Wagner: From  the Postal Savings Bank  to Post-Modernism”

    Otto Wagner (1841–1918) was the most significant designer of the early modern movement to be most effectively suppressed by his heirs, owing largely to the eccentric pomp of his architectural vision. In his native Vienna, where his splendid, seemingly armor-clad buildings dot the cityscape, the MAK is attempting to reconnect the master with his legacy: Its exhibition will feature more than eight hundred objects, including photographs, models, furniture, and architectural plans, that demonstrate how Wagner’s oeuvre evolved along three parallel tracks—technical,

  • View of “Vertical City,” 2017, Chicago Cultural Center. Photo: Steve Hall.

    the Chicago Architecture Biennial

    IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LOCAL Fox affiliate’s morning show, Good Day Chicago, right between the segment introducing the “Furry Friend of the Week” and the forecast with Bill the weatherman, viewers throughout Northern Illinois were recently treated to a brief story on the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Over some B-roll of the lakeshore skyline, the host declared that the second installment of the omnibus design festival, open now at the city’s Cultural Center, was called “Make New History.” For just the briefest instant, the presenter appeared to puzzle at the name, as if he were punctuating

  • National Guard troops in Watts after the declaration of martial law, Los Angeles, August 1965. Photo: Lawrence Schiller/Polaris Communications/Getty Images.

    the NEA

    IN SEPTEMBER 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation that would establish the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest arts funder in the United States. In March of this year, President Trump proposed its elimination. While any immediate action has been forestalled, the threat to thousands of community organizations, museums, artists, and projects that benefit from NEA grants still looms. In light of this, Artforum asked five distinguished artists and critics to reflect on the NEA’s vital impact.


    IN THE MONTHS immediately following the Watts riots in Los Angeles in

  • Arias Serna Saravia, Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, 2011, Panama City. Rendering.


    “WHOEVER SAID LESS IS MORE never had more. And they’ve certainly never stayed at the Trump® International Hotel & Tower Panama. . . .”

    You can’t make this stuff up. Or can you? As it happens, I have stayed at the Trump® Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower in Panama City, and I can personally attest that whatever one may think of Mies van der Rohe’s celebrated formula, “more” is definitely not the Trump® Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower—regardless of what the ad copy says. It’s a fat, unlovable building that should probably be paying monthly royalties to the Burj Al Arab, the svelter

  • Gabinete de Arquitectura, Breaking the Siege, 2016, brick, mortar. Installation view, Central Pavilion, Venice. Photo: Francesco Galli.

    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

  • Ultramoderne, Chicago Horizon, 2015. Photo: Tom Harris/Hedrich Blessing.

    the Chicago Architecture Biennial

    ON THE BANKS of Lake Michigan some weeks ago, a scrum of international journalists huddled inside an open-air pavilion designed by the Providence, Rhode Island–based architecture office Ultramoderne. Constructed for the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB), and winner of the biennial’s competition for an off-site kiosk, Chicago Horizon consisted of a roof made from the largest commercially transportable unit of timber—a cross-laminated slab fully fifty-six feet square—hoisted atop slender, angled pilotis to produce a kind of lumberjack’s homage to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona