PennDesign Launches New Interdisciplinary Journal

LA+ Logo

Landscape architects often point to the interdisciplinary potential of their work, yet too often talk exclusively to other designers. Now comes a new publication from PennDesign that explicitly takes on the interdisciplinary challenge: LA+, as it will be known, will curate each issue through the multiple lenses of varied disciplines plus landscape architecture, all taking on a common topic.

The inaugural issue, to be published this coming Spring, LA+ WILD, explores the resurgent role of the concept of “wildness”—as wildness moves from a passive romantic ideal to an active process of design, involving “rewilding,” large-scale habitat restoration and species conservation, scientific experiments, the construction of novel ecosystems, and wildness’ effect on aesthetics and the human psyche. The issue includes pieces by ecologists, biologists, artists, bioengineers, landscape architects, climatologists, environmental historians, and philosophers, among others. Having seen the list of contributors, we’re very excited for the WILD issue, published and distributed by ORO Editions.

The bi-annual publication has already queued up a number of subsequent issue topics: LA+ PLEASURE, LA+ TYRANNY, and LA+ IDENTITY. Each one will be seeking submissions from a broad range of disciplines to complement the landscape architecture angle, stimulating cross-pollination and inspiration for designers. As Editor-in-Chief Tatum Hands explains, “We wanted to produce something completely different to the usual landscape design journal—which generally just features designers talking to other designers—and truly embrace the rhetoric that landscape architecture is an interdisciplinary field.”

As Richard Weller, the chair of Landscape Architecture at PennDesign describes it, LA+ was conceived to fill a certain void in landscape architectural publishing. “Whilst we have trade magazines on the one hand and refereed academic journals on the other there isn’t much in between and it’s in that space that the contemporary, thinking professional largely exists. Our sense is that there is a large readership who want information that is neither at the level of superficial promotion nor overly academic. So, LA+ seeks to be a bridge between the academy and practice and, most importantly, to link landscape architecture to other disciplines.”

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Exhibit: Lebbeus Woods at The Drawing Center

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Lebbeus Woods, Architect.
April 17, 2014 – June 15, 2004
THE DRAWING CENTER 35 Wooster Street, New York, NY

Lebbeus Woods, Architect, on exhibit at The Drawing Center, traces the career of Lebbeus Woods, a visionary architect whose responses to the sites of trauma have given us haunting designs — intricate, beautiful, full of memory, and ultimately optimistic. The show includes a number of Woods’ projects spanning 40 years of work, from the dynamic tensioned and cantilevered pods of bombed-out Sarajevo, to the “Freespaces” of Berlin during the time of the Wall, to the “ecological utopia” of his Demilitarized Zone in Korea, and to the San Francisco Earthquake houses. Impossibly intricate styrene study models, meticulously annotated sketchbooks, and fragments of writing accompany the powerful drawings in a space that is small yet filled with palpable humanism and love of craft.

While at first glance many of the projects appear futuristic or dystopian, his writing reveals an optimism, compassion, and resilience in the aftermath of trauma. By going to the deep, dark places of war and destruction, Woods tried to understand how to build on and with, these layers of trauma.

The show reveals the work of an architect and urbanist who cared deeply about the memory embedded in the physical apparatus of the city. His work projects a desire to grapple with and make sense of the past, rather than erasing the wounds of war. The work insists that the destruction of war-torn landscapes might create the preconditions of a new, and better, city and society.

Though he did not leave many built projects, Lebbeus Woods’ work and words have left a lasting influence on the many designers for whom he was a teacher, a mentor, a critic and an inspiration. This exhibit at the Drawing Center reminds us of the power of a few well-placed lines on paper.

Draw. Drawing is the tool of the architect on the move, on the run, the architect who is first of all a citizen of the stricken city and the new, dynamic stability. Pen, pencil, and paper are cheap, accessible. They can be used anywhere, and, if necessary, concealed. Drawings, too, can be easily hidden, or can be exhibited, published, filmed, digitized, and therefore widely disseminated, when the architect is ready to place them in the public domain. Until that time, the architect is freed by drawing’s inherent intimacy to explore the unfamiliar and the forbidden, to break the old rules and invent new ones. Drawings can be made anywhere there is light enough to see. They are instruments of spontaneous experimentation, fluidity of thought, mobility of invention. Unlike models, drawings can describe an immense range of scales with subtlety. And, most of all, drawings are fast. This is important because the architect’s work should not, by virtue of too-arduous labor, become an end in itself. All effort in projection aims at realization in building, and thus in living. This aim cannot be compromised by the fact that not all of the architect’s projections will, can, or should be built.”

Lebbeus Woods, Radical Reconstruction 1997

 

Lebbeus Woods, Architect closes this weekend at the Drawing Center.
Please go and see it if you can.
 

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Book Review: The Petropolis of Tomorrow

Petropolis of TomorowThe Petropolis of Tomorrow, edited by Neeraj Bhatia and Mary Casper

Off the coast of Brazil, dozens of floating oil rigs mark the first wave of an enormous boom in offshore oil extraction, with 45,000 workers already deployed offshore and more on the way. 70,000 helicopter trips every month ferry workers to and from the mainland. In the coming years, in order to service the drilling operations, the oil industry is expecting to build up to 50 new deep-water platforms, floating far beyond helicopter range. With this expansion, Brazil’s latent offshore oil industry is poised to shake up the region’s laws, economies and geopolitics, and to once again radically reshape the urban form of South America’s biggest nation and its capital city.

The Petropolis of Tomorrow focuses on the technologies, logics, logistics, and architectural possibilities of the floating mechanical islands that will serve this emerging oil boom. Edited by Neeraj Bhatia and Mary Casper, this ambitious book brings together critical essays by a number of architects and theorists, along with architectural projects, which are the products of design studios that Bhatia, now an Assistant Professor at California College of the Arts (CCA), ran at both Rice University and Cornell. Petropolis takes us on a historical and speculative exploration of oil frontiers, outposts, company towns, port cities, and artificial islands — as well as the lines of infrastructure, logistics, and capital that tie them together.

Bhatia is no stranger to infrastructure: as co-director of the research collective InfraNet Lab, founder of The Open Workshop, and co-editor of Bracket [goes soft], his work has revolved around the larger speculative agenda of territory and infrastructure as it relates to architecture.

Can networks and logistics of extraction engender city making? And what does design offer to such places (and presumably the people who live and work there)?

Petropolis explores three main ideas — first, how the idea of floating cities opens up a way to think about architecture that moves beyond objects and towards networks; second, how the geography and use of vast territories take shape around the infrastructures of extraction and production; and third, how the logistics and technical realities of extraction and transmission imprint themselves on cities and landscapes, shaping land use and subsequent urban development.  While the concepts may be heavy, the book explores them through a lush combination of photography, rich narrative, design provocations and critical theory and history — striving at once to introduce the reader to these striking landscapes, and to treat the critical topics with depth.

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