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Stephanie Murg

At Architecture & Design Film Festival, a Look at Building Communities

This month marked the Los Angeles debut of the Architecture & Design Film Festival. We dispatched writer Brigette Brown to take in a few of the 30 flicks on offer along with the program of talks and panels. The five-day festival kicked off with If You Build It, a documentary that follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller as they lead a group of high school students in rural North Carolina through a year-long design-build project, and wrapped up on a similar note, with a closing panel entitled “Hands-on, Ground-up: Community and Design/Build.”

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The Los Angeles Theater Center, an early-nineteenth century bank turned theater, was the setting for the inaugural L.A. edition of the Architecture & Design Film Festival. (All photos courtesy ADFF)

27_ADFF_LA_2014-(22)-Kyle-Bergman_Steve-Badanes“Hands-on, Ground-up,” the final program of the Architecture & Design Film Festival in Los Angeles, left the audience wondering how we, as community members, designers, architects, and structure aficionados, can collaborate and build more. How can we push ourselves back into building and problem solving away from the computer, getting our hands dirty?

Architecture critic Mimi Zeiger moderated a panel of seasoned minds in the architecture and design/build field: Steve Badanes (pictured at right with festival founder and co-director, Kyle Bergman) professor of architecture and director of the Neighborhood Design Build Studio at the University of Washington; Jenna Didier, founder of experimental design and exhibition space, Materials & Applications; and, Dave Sellers, founder of Sellers and Company Architects. Though each panelist approaches the topic of design/build differently in their practices—professor, architect, artist—they each showed how small steps within design culture can help guide American culture to a more hands-on way of living.

“Why is it important to talk about design/build right now?” Zeiger asked to kick off the discussion. This simple “why should we care?” question shaped the conversation that followed. “A day’s work usually involves staring at a screen, pushing around a bar of soap, and maybe answering a few emails and sending some texts,” said Badanes. “So, you don’t really get the satisfaction that you’ve accomplished anything. When you make things, it’s really visceral…you have the satisfaction that you’ve made something.” The panelists agreed that design/build is about getting back in touch with making things. Using a hammer, painting columns and, as Sellers said, “having the oldest lady you can find make [you] blueberry pies” to eat on site are what architecture and design should be about.
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Shigeru Ban Wins Pritzker Prize

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“Firmness, commodity, and delight.” These are the three words—cribbed from Vitruvius, who considered “firmitas, utilitas, venustas” to be the fundamental principles of architecture—that appear on the Louis Sullivan-inspired bronze medallion that is awarded to each laureate of the Pritzker architecture prize. This year the coveted hardware goes to Shigeru Ban, who’ll receive it along with $100,000 at a ceremony at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on June 13.

Ban is the seventh Japanese architect to receive the prize, which has previously been awarded to Toyo Ito, Kenzo Tange, Fumihiko Maki, Tadao Ando, and SANAA’s Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. “Receiving this prize is a great honor, and with it, I must be careful,’ said Ban upon learning that he had been selected as the 2014 laureate. “I must continue to listen to the people I work for, in my private residential commissions and in my disaster relief work. I see this prize as encouragement for me to keep doing what I am doing—not to change what I am doing, but to grow.“ Ban’s latest stateside project, a new building for the Aspen Art Museum, will be unveiled this summer.

Quote of Note | Neville Brody

neville_brody“In early 2002 I presented a lecture at the Design Indaba conference in South Africa, then newly free and celebrating liberation from eons-old social oppression and apartheid, extreme enforced inequality. The theme was ‘Can Design Feed People?’ The question wasn’t literal but was intended to pose the bigger question—what role can design and designers play today? Because we do not work in a vacuum. Design is not an innocent bystander. It is deeply integral to to the mechanisms of the social construct….We need to take more risks. As risks are no longer taken, minority interests become extinct and individual tastes are ignored. Just as governments limit the scope for intellectual and political debate, we don’t notice that the walls are moving inward and we no longer notice how shallow the cultural water. Vacuous top 10 lists fill our in-box and news feeds, cats, dinners, and prayers the rest. For mass communication, mediocrity is the goal, homogeny and vanilla the outcome.”

-Designer Neville Brody in an interview that appears in the March 24 “design issue” of Bloomberg Businessweek

Now Read This: Favelization

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Is the exotic Brazil that we see referenced and traded upon in contemporary film, fashion, and design real or imaginary? Or perhaps a little of both? These are among the questions addressed by author Adriana Kertzer in Favelization, a new ebook that is part of the DesignFile series launched last year by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Kertzer, a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Arts & Design, sets out to understand the ways in which specific producers of contemporary Brazilian culture capitalized on misappropriations of the favela (informal squatter settlements that grow along the hillsides and lowlands of many Brazilian cities) in order to brand luxury items as “Brazilian.”

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Different Strokes: Lichtenstein Sculptures Bound for Parrish Art Museum

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It was during a break in a college art history course discussion of Saussurean signifiers that we got to chatting up the dashing head teaching fellow, then in lukewarm pursuit of his Ph.D. After some good-natured banter about the arbitrariness of the sign, we ventured into more rational territory: “So, what are you writing your thesis about?” The color swiftly drained from his face and he stared at the ground before mumbling words that were only later discernible as “the sculptures of Roy Lichtenstein.” Everything turned out for the best, and the TF in question is now an associate professor at a leading research university, but to this day we can’t pass one of the Pop artist’s fiberglass houses or aluminum brushstrokes without feeling slightly queasy.

If anything can undo that association it’s the Parrish Art Museum. Next week the museum’s stunning new(ish) Herzog & de Meuron-designed home in Water Mill, New York will get its first long-term, outdoor installation in Lichtenstein’s Tokyo Brushtroke I & II (1994), part of a series of sculptures constructed mainly in the 1990s. The soaring, two-piece sculpture, made of painted and fabricated aluminum, tops out at 33 feet, taller than the museum itself: a monolevel extruded barn-as-studio made both rugged and stealth by cloudy concrete walls and a white corrugated metal roof. A temporary loan from collectors Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, Tokyo Brushtroke I & II will sit (in a cement brace) near Montauk Highway, acting as a colorful signpost of sorts for the Parrish.

Last Chance to Enter Core77 Design Awards

Core77 is back with the fourth edition of its dazzlingly ambitious Design Awards program, with progressive categories (speculative, DIY, food design), professional and student entry fields, globally distributed juries, in-depth video testimonials, and live-webcast jury announcements. Among the international design luminaries tapped as jury captains are Marian Bantjes, Livework CEO Tennyson Pinheiro, and UnBeige editor emeritus Alissa Walker.

So what’s in it for you, provided that you submit your entry by the March 20 April 6 deadline? Fame and fortune, or at least the former: honorees will be published in the 2014 awards gallery, across the Core77 online network, and in the awards publication. Then there’s that swell trophy (pictured), created by Rich Brilliant Willing with an eye to the team-based nature of design. “In our discussions with Core77, we came to realize that an inherent pitfall of the iconic trophy is that it is shared by a group, yet not literally divisible among that group,” said the designers, who seized on the image and symbol of a mold. “Our solution for the Core77 Design Awards trophy has a functional value: winning teams can create ingots from the trophy, and provide these cast facsimiles to their collaborators, clients, and staff.”

Quote of Note | Jonathan Ive

jonathan_ive sm“We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care—just like the people who make them. But what we’ve shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made. We make and sell a very, very large number of (hopefully) beautiful, well-made things. our success is a victory for purity, integrity—for giving a damn.”

-Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design, in an interview with John Arlidge for Time
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Olafur Eliasson Visits MIT

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If Cambridge seems a little brighter today, it’s because Olafur Eliasson is in town. The artist will be at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) through Friday to accept the 2014 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts. In addition to collecting a check for $100,000, taking part in public programs, and attending a gala (hosted by the likes of diplomats from Denmark, Iceland and Germany; Agnes Gund; and Anne Hawley, director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), Eliasson is taking part in a residency that focuses on his art and social business enterprise Little Sun, a portable, solar powered lamp that he calls “a work of art that works in life.” He’ll be on campus to discuss sustainable development, community engagement, design, product engineering, and social entrepreneurship in developing economies, and, in a lecture today at 5:00 p.m., “Holding hands with the sun.”
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Quote of Note | George Lois

george_lois“I know everybody means well, but I resent being called the ‘Original Mad Man.’ The 1960s was a heroic age in the history of art and communication—the audacious movers and shakers of those times bear no resemblance to the cast of characters in Mad Men. This maddening show is nothing more than a soap opera, set in a glamorous office where stylish fools hump their appreciative, coiffed secretaries, suck up martinis, and smoke themselves to death as they produce dumb, lifeless advertising—oblivious to the inspiring Civil Rights movement, the burgeoning Women’s Lib movement, the evil Vietnam War, and other seismic changes during the turbulent, roller-coaster 1960s that altered America forever. So, fuck you Mad Men—you phony, ‘Grey Flannel Suit,’ male-chauvinist, no talent, wasp, white-shirted, racist, anti-semitic, Republican SOBs! Besides, when I was in my 30s I was better looking than Don Draper.”

-George Lois (pictured above in 1964) in an interview with Muse magazine

SVA Adds One-Year MA in Design Research, Writing, and Criticism

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It was the great design scholar Ferris Bueller who once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” New York’s School of Visual Arts is heeding the need for speed and the importance of looking around with a one-year MA in design research, writing, and criticism. The new graduate program, which launches this fall, is an evolution of D-Crit (the two-year MA program in design criticism that has been sharpening design minds since 2008) streamlined into two semesters and eight months of studying images, objects, and environments, and learning ways to construct multi-format narratives that bring them to life from a faculty that includes Steven Heller, MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, and Murray Moss. “The program’s curriculum charts the cutting edge of design practice and is responsive to exciting developments in the media landscape,” says Alice Twemlow, the program’s founding chair. Learn more at next Sunday’s open house and info session.

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