Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Latest Koolhaas: Antidotes to Extravagance

OMA/G-Star Rawptionm from The Guardian
A good one-line architecture joke, followed up by an even better follow-up: OMA Partner Reinier de Graaf, on the firm's new headquarters for the Dutch jean and denim-wear manufacturer G-Star Raw in Amsterdam, quoted by Oliver Wainwright in The Guardian:

"Our initial idea was to clad the frame in bits of Somali shipwrecks, as the equivalent of stone-washed jeans. But we were told that the stone-washed look was going out of fashion."

De Graaf explains that the work, together with recent projects such as the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and the mega-multi-use towers in Rotterdam, form part of a major shift in the firm towards more generic designs, "an antidote to the formal extravagance of the 90s.”

Wainwright continues:
"[Graaf]  recounts the legend of a memo, sent by Koolhaas to the entire office from a far-flung hotel, which set the new agenda: 'Use 90 degrees only. Good luck, Rem.' " 

Oliver Wainwright
Rem Koolhaas's G-Star Raw HQ is like 'two brands having unprotected sex
The Guardian
March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Iwan Baan, "52 Weeks 52 Cities"

My interview and profile of the Dutch architectural photographer Iwan Baan, Retratos okupa de la arquitectura, appeared this past Saturday, March 21st, in Babelia, the weekly cultural supplement of El País.

In the article, we talk about his current show, 52 Weeks, 52 Cities at the Marta Herford Museum in Germany, where he brings together a year's worth of images from every corner of the world, both documentary photography of vernacular enclaves and architectural photography.

What interests me about his work is his way seeing architecture as it is seen and used by its users, and in its larger context. Instead of sterile, beautfully composed sculptures, buildings become a support and setting for everyday living. As I say at the end of the article, he portrays how we okupy them (a word taken from the squatter movement in Spain), just like we okupy natural and urban environs.
"Su obra nos muestra un nuevo mundo, algo extraño y a veces tremendo, con tanta miseria tan extendida. Pero a pesar de los desafíos que retrata, su visión es más bien optimista. 'Es alucinante ver la capacidad que tenemos para inventarnos la vida, a veces bajo condiciones inimaginables," observa. "Aunque existe una línea de trazo muy fino por la que no se debe idealizar la vida de los habitantes de una ciudad como Lagos. Con esas condiciones, en cualquier caso, la gente construye lugares muy particulares, y están muy orgullosas de ellos. Ver eso me parece fascinante. Su vida allí se convierte en una toma de postura ante los desafíos a los que se enfrentan. Han encontrado una fórmula que funciona, ha creado un lugar donde se puede vivir.' "
© Iwan Baan
Photo top:
House K
Sou Fujimoto, Architect
Osaka, Japan

Second photo:
Floating School
Kunli Adeymi, Architect
Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria

Iwan Baan
52 Weeks, 52 Cities
Exhibition and catalog
MARTa Herford Museum
Herford, Germany
Dec 8, 2913 - Mar 30, 2014

Iwan Baan

Monday, March 17, 2014

Philip Roth on Popular Culture

"The power in any society is with those who get to impose the fantasy. It is no longer, as it was for centuries throughout Europe, the church that imposes its fantasy on the populace, nor is it the totalitarian superstate.... Now the fantasy that prevails is the all-consuming, voraciously consumed popular culture, seemingly spawned by, of all things, freedom. The young especially live according to beliefs that are thought up for them by the society’s most unthinking people and by the businesses least impeded by innocent ends."
Philip Roth

Not sure I entirely agree, unless we can consider The Stones as high art with all the consequences. But it does open a debate.

Daniel Sandstrom
"My Life as a Writer"

Interview with Philip Roth
The New York Times
Sunday Book Review

March 2, 2014

Philip Roth in 2012
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Bald Beauty of Nefertiti

In the latest issue of his mimi-magazine Circo, Emilio Tuñón remembers Alejandro de la Sota, quoting in turn José Antonio Coderch on "The Bald Beauty of Nefertiti."
 "Coderch referred to "bald beauty" as the beauty that is the result of extracting each and every hair on the head of the queen, pointing out that this extraction was undergone 'in pain'. For architecture that would share the beauty of Nefertiti, formal renunciation implies the rejection of the unnecessary, even though the unnecessary is not necessarily without interest."

"In a certain sense, when Coderch talks about pain in relation to beauty, he appears to be talking about the renunciation of many things that he was sincerely interested in, in favor of the search for a beauty that was essentially out of reach."

"And it is precisely for this reason that bald beauty represented, for many Spanish architects of the second half of the 20th century, a melancholy renunciation of what might have been but wasn't to be, accompanied by a painful rejection of anything that wasn't really essential. A rejection, with an aroma of radical, aristocratic imposture, accompanied by a certain poetic air of feigned pain."
Emilio Tuñón
"I would prefer not to"
Circo 194. 2014

Head of a Meritaton Princess
Amarna Period
Egyptian Museum, Cairo 

Translation: DC