This week we are releasing a series of conversations, or "Mini-Sessions", with architects and designers in LA and Detroit, in partnership with the Los Angeles Design Festival. The festival will be taking place in Downtown LA from June 8 to 11th. Today we're sharing my conversation with Andrew Zago, LA-based architect and educator. We talk about growing up in Detroit, early inspirations, working on Thom Mayne’s iconic Sixth Street House, his so-called unusual early work in Jeff Kipnis, and his approach and thoughts on the current state of architectural education.
Source by Archinect
Lecture date: 1996-01-22
'The overarching point is the realisation that imagination - or, more specifically, creative imagination - is the architect's most valuable professional asset. On one hand that's a kind of nicety or something that one could say in general, but I also think that it also has a particular relevance. This notion of creative imagination is not only a demand but a need that one can find within society. Within an overt picture or perception of the world, there is always within that latently another radical structure of space which actually exposes reality as a constructed artifice. At the same time it affirms the priority of spirit and form. It is the architect's unique task to construct a way into that latent vision or latent intuition - through work - and actually produce something which has the potential to become a transformative experience for the public.'
Andrew Zago presents a selection of his work. Zago has collaborated with Jeffrey Kipnis and Bahram Shirdel at A K S Runo, and runs his own architectural practice in Los Angeles. He is a visiting faculty member of the University of Michigan.
NB: Cuts out.
Andrew Zago surveys the recent history of graduate thesis at SCI-Arc, discussing the recession, dissatisfaction with the state of the profession, and the energy and critical acumen of Jeffrey Kipnis, among other factors. He discusses quotations from Eliot, Kubler, and Rothko to define a way for students embarking on thesis to understand themselves and their relation to history and craft. Zago encourages the students to think of thesis not as their last project as students but their first as members of the discipline, and argues that what matters is maturity of thought and execution. He challenges students to “calibrate the real-ness” of their projects carefully, to maximize impact.
Andrew Zago briefly outlines the recent history of thesis at SCI-Arc in terms of relevance and plausibility, illustrating how a project's plausibility might be made visceral through the visual presentation strategy. Zago distinguishes working through tradition from taking refuge in tradition. On the theme of technique, he distinguishes architectural drawing from illustration, and technique and the technical. He ends with work by Foujimoto, Gehry and Nouvel that pose challenges in terms of how they might be presented.
Andrew Zago introduces Werner Oechslin.
Andrew Zago introduces Werner Oechslin.
Oechslin discusses the recent lecture by Peter Cook, observing that even when the architectural strategy seems to be spontaneous, there are deeper methods at work.
He proposes to discusses the impact of the rediscovery of Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture (De architectura) in terms of three categories of change: autonomy, institutions, and signs.
Oechslin discusses the idea of the primitive hut and the relationship between language and architecture. He maintains that architecture progresses from necessity, to usefulness to aesthetics.
He discusses mathematics as a communication device. Oechslin discusses the geometric foundations of typography and their relationship to architecture. He comments on the role of architectural drawing, using Vitruvius and Palladio as examples of looking at drawing scientifically.
Oechslin discusses Le Corbsier's engagement with classical architecture, linking the Modulor with the Vitruvian Man, and The Five Points of Architecture with longstanding connections between geometry and aesthetics. He argues that Le Corbusier's view of the plan, elevation and section as what drives the project, as continuations of a tradition that goes back to Vitruvius.
Oechslin continues his lecture, discussing the primitive hut and its role in the origins of architecture. He speaks about the establishment of language in human culture and the relationship to architecture. Oechslin claims that architecture progresses from necessity, to usefulness to aesthetics. He goes on to comment on a story recounted by Vitruvius about the Greek philosopher Aristippus in which the capacities of human beings are identified, including an understanding of geometry. He continues to discuss the drawings of Vitruvius and the role of abstract mathematics as a communication device.
Oechslin speaks about he geometric construction of typography and the relationship to the production or architecture. Each are figures which can be discussed as two, three or four dimensional. He goes on to discuss tools and the importance of the sophistication of those tools in producing architecture. Oechslin comments on the role of architectural drawing, using Vitruvius and Palladio as examples of looking at drawing scientifically. He explains the different phrases in both Greek and Roman for artistic versus architectural drawings and comments on Vitruvius' interest in connecting the term drawing with term idea.
Oechslin discusses Le Corbsier's engagement with classical architecture, mentioning connection between The Modulor and Vitruvian Man. He speaks about The Five Points and Le Corbusier's role in recognizing a connection between geometry and aesthetics. Oechslin explains Le Corbusier's adherence to the Vitruvian tradition of plan and elevation and section as the project drivers and goes on to discuss the definition of figure through Euclidean geometry. He suggest that objects can be presented by reducing their meaning to that of their geometry or figure.
Andrew Zago describes his current architectural interests, including issues of void, density, misrepresentation, and weak form. Zago notes his interest in negative space, as demonstrated by his entry into a competition for a history museum in Seoul, as well as other projects.
This video contains two separate works.
First is documentation of a lecture by Jay Fellow at SCI-Arc. Second is a documentary about the work of Dan Graham.
After an introduction by Andrew Zago, Jay Fellow recites a passage from Charles M. Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta (1888) to introduce his theme of post-Ptolemaic infinite space as a source of pleasure (Giordano Bruno) or terror (Blaise Pascal), and attempts by writers to create a new kind of integrated center for habitation.
Fellow discusses landscapes that are uncanny, which he defines as "recognizable but mysterious." Fellow discusses the 19th century fascination with haunted houses and alternative worlds such as the hollow earth, as part of the revival of interest in magic and alternative states of consciousness that paralleled the rise of technology.
He praises William Gaddis as the most important living writer.
The second part of the video (starting at the 1:05:00 mark) is a documentary about Dan Graham and other artists. Graham discusses his pavilion projects while in the Kröller-Müller Museum.
The appropriated objects of an exhibit by the Belgian architect/artist René Heyvaert are examined (with commentary in Dutch).
There is a brief glimpse at an exhibit of paintings and drawings by Narcisse Tordoir.
The video ends with footage that might be from Graham's 1984 video Rock My Religion, concluding with two clips from science fiction films that deal with dehumanization: Creation of the Humanoids (Wesley Barry, 1962) and Last Man on Earth (Ubaldo Ragona, 1964).
Jeffrey Kipnis begins the first of a series of conversations titled The Fecundity of a Mossy Climate with Andrew Zago. Kipnis presents an outline of Zago's work, including the Cipher installation for the SCI-Arc Gallery, the Elevation studies, the Boing! chair, and the Rialto housing development project, proposing stages of being influenced and influencing others. Kipnis and Andrew Zago discuss pedagogy, drawing, technology, Boolean operations, and influences in general. Kipnis remarks that Zago's characterizations of his own work demonstrate, "why your work has nothing to do with all the work that looks like it."
Kristy Balliet and Casey Rehm conclude the Summer 2017 mini-series on key architectural elements with a discussion of the sketch. Baillet begins with an exploration of the qualities of a sketch, noting that its multiple meanings are related to its associations with speed, spontaneity, and incompleteness. She proposes categories and discusses examples, beginning with sketch as discovery, illustrated by Baldassare Peruzzi and Leon Battista Alberti; and sketch as gesture (Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal). In the category sketch for observation, Baillet demonstrates how early sketches by Hans Hollein informed works realized decades later. She continues with discussions of sketching as idea/ideology (Yona Friedman), as instruction (Erwin Wurm), as line (Greg Lynn, Lucy McRae and Bart Hess, Thomas Gromas, Ramiro Diaz-Granados, Andrew Zago), sketching for translation (the @thingsihavedrawn project on Istagram). Baillet concludes with her collaboration with Casey Rehm to explore sketching in virtual space, where gestural drawings generate renderings and physical models.
Casey Rehm begins his half of the presentation on the role of sketching with examples of sketching as a way of understanding (Leonardo da Vinci), communicating intent (Henri Labrouste). He discusses how current ideas about neuroplasticity are confirming Johannes Itten’s Bauhaus exercises to train the body and mind together (drawing with both hands simultaneously, drawing a circle in air as precisely as possible). He discusses a wide range of sketching practices in the work of Lebbeus Woods, Dwayne Oyler, Álvaro Siza, and Steven Holl. Rehm cautions that published sketches should be treated with skepticism. With Frank O. Gehry, he shifts graphic sketching to the use of sketch models, tracing them in the design process of Eric Owen Moss, and Michael Maltzan. Another kind of sketch model appears in the versioning design process of MVRDV and Greg Lynn, and Casey Reas. Rehm concludes with a demonstration of sketching by non-humans, specifically a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) employing aerial photographs that learns how to generate convincingly realistic “aerial” views of imaginary cities.
After Elena Manferdini explains the history and format of the symposium, six students present their thesis proposals: Taryn Bone, Scotty Zane Carroll, Mustafa Kustur, Hannah Pavlovich, Julian Ma, and Yu Li. To begin the panel discussion, Manferdini reviews some of the key ideas that have shaped thesis at SCI-Arc over the last eight years. Marcelyn Gow, Hernan Diaz Alonso, and Andrew Zago debate what is needed now to keep thesis at SCI-Arc relevant, the crucial transition from thesis research to design, and plausibility. They discuss contexts, including the organization of thesis at the ETH, the work of the Futurists as presented at the Guggenheim. They also discuss authenticity, tools and nostalgia. Diaz Alonso stresses the unique ability of SCI-Arc students to discover new coherences. Zago defends the usefulness of engaging with abject or outré ideas. Gow distinguishes sobriety—as represented by greyscale work—from seriousness.
After introducing the panelists, Dora Epstein Jones proposes some themes--figures, legibility, systematization, aesthetics--and asks, "Cute, or not cute?" Peter Trummer objects that, "I'm not interested in what I think anymore." Andrew Zago suggests that the concept of cute might have too many overlapping facets to be useful. Jimenez Lai points out that citations and quotations are how everyone--especially academics--communicates, so labeling them postmodernism is a red herring. Anna Neimark suggests that vernaculars like stock details can aid getting conversations going. To the question,"Does the detail have a scale anymore?" Florencia Pita describes the proliferation of details in the absence of a big picture as a rich ground of research. Trummer proposes that the real issue is the insufficiency of the subject, which leads to a discussion of buildings with and without authors, and the play of the presumed author in thesis pedagogy. Epstein Jones expresses concern over creeping Gestaltism. Florencia Pita cites Wölfflin's discussion of Rembrandt's outline-less figures as precursors of abstraction. Epstein Jones concludes with some rapid-fire questions: "Outlines, or not?" "Hard corners or soft corners?" and "What's your volume dial set at?"
Hsingming Fung introduces Ramiro Diaz-Granados, his SCI-Arc Gallery installation Go Figure, and Marcelyn Gow and Andrew Zago. Gow and Diaz-Granados discuss Go Figure in terms of the contradiction between the cartoon figure and the visceral figure. Diaz-Granados and Zago discuss its use of geometric projection, and disruption of the primary figure.