Panel Discussion: “Aesthetics and the Progressive: Architecture and the State of the Contemporary”
Hernan Diaz Alonso (SCI-Arc), Lydia Kallipoliti (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Jason Payne (University of California, Los Angeles), Rhett Russo (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and Albena Yaneva (University of Manchester) - Michael Speaks (Syracuse University), Discussion Moderator. From the J. Irwin Miller Symposium, “Aesthetic Activism” at Yale
This distinguished panel, moderated by Michael Speaks (Syracuse University), interprets the relevance of emerging philosophy on architectural theory and practice; discovers how architecture today is changing as a discipline; assesses the value of changes in the discipline of architecture and cross-disciplinarily; and explores how contemporary architecture is identified as contemporary through aesthetics.
Yale School of Architecture Public Lecture Series
Professor Diaz Alonso discusses architectural design through the application of digital resources. Founder and principal of Xefirotarch, a Los Angeles-based design practice, Diaz Alonso is considered one of the most influential voices of his generation. In September 2015 he will begin his appointment as Director of SCI-Arc.
Hernan Diaz Alonso
Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor
February 19, 2015
Hernan Diaz-Alonso, considered one of the most significant voices of his generation, is the principal and founder of Xefirotech, an award-winning firm in architecture, product design and digital motion in Los Angeles. This lecture will focus on past and current projects.
A symposium to mark the publication of Eric Goldemberg's book, Pulsation in Architecture, brought together the book's contributors with Columbia University GSAPP faculty in order to discuss the evolution of the digital design culture, originally spawned at Columbia's GSAPP program in the early 90s.
Panelists included Bernard Tschumi, Hernan Diaz Alonso, David Benjamin, Ali Rahim, David Ruy, Ferda Kolatan, Matias del Campo, and Mark Gage. Moderated by Galia Solomonoff and Eric Goldemberg.
This book release/symposium was organized into two main suites: the first half was focused on a kind of generational self-reflection, looking back at the school throughout the 1990s and into the present. The second half looked at formal continuities (and discontinuities) between today and the GSAPP of the 1990s.
Hernan Diaz Alonso affirms that his work evolves in the making, that it is formalist, and could be characterized as more cinematic than architectural. Where architecture was once made out of geometry, it’s now made out of images. He feels his work stresses virtuosity instead of cleverness. Diaz Alonso discusses two important influnces–Francis Bacon and Enric Miralles–in terms of their use of traditional materials to untraditional ends. He surveys early work that generated forms from a single surface, including the U2 tower for Dublin, which was his first project to be characterized as “grotesque,” a quality he has embraced. The P.S. 1 installation was a collection of cells, each mutated into a unique form. The installations for exhibits at the MAK in Vienna and SFMOMA were further opportunities to translate cinematic effects into physical form.
Diaz Alonso describes the Hammer Museum commission to design additions to Lautner’s Chemosphere as the first use of Platonic geometric forms in his work, providing a contrast in exotic and familiar geometries. He describes several product design projects for Alessi, including silverware, bottle-openers and paperweights. The use of flowers in the so-called “Mexican Funeral” installation in the MAK garage leads to a discussion of a museum for the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. Diaz Alsonso concludes with a discussion of his rediscovery of Argentinian culture, specifically gaucho outdoor cooking as explored by chef Francis Mallmann, leading to projects such as a library for Helsinki. He concludes with a clip from the Fight Club, hoping that the students will find that every moment of their life is a strange one.
Elena Manferdini opens the symposium and introduces guest critic Sanford Kwinter, and a panel consisting of Jeffrey Kipnis, Hernan Diaz Alonso, and Wes Jones. She outlines the role of thesis at SCI-Arc, stressing the responsibility of students to seriously investigate the architectural implications of their topics.
The panel discusses qualities exhibited by a good thesis, noting a balance between innovative ideas and effective communication. Wes Jones inquires about the difference between designers and architects. While conceding the importance of consulting with peers, the panel cautions against being over-influenced by others, and the sameness that results.
Diaz Alonso discusses the relevance of student theses within contemporary architectural practice. The panel discusses the change in topics over the last decade. They discuss the dangers of monoculture and complacency.
The panelists talk about Sanford Kwinter’s lecture the previous night. They warn against the codification of architectural techniques.
The panelists talk about representational tools and their ability to either stagnate or advance the paradigms of architecture. The panelists contrast architectural skills with representational “magic tricks.”
Ben van Berkel discusses in depth the Arnheim rail station (1996-2015), from the initial research, through UN Studio's work with consultants, specialists and eight separate clients over twenty years to nudge a proposed train station into an "integral transfer location" that positively intensifies the experience of travelers. In response to questions from Hernan Diaz Alonso, Ben van Berkel discusss sustaining momentum. He stresses the need to be open to the possibilities of any style--minimal or maximal. He describes his office as being organized around recording, organizing and sharing ideas and discoveries. He agrees that architects today are stretched in many directions, but there's still the possibility enhancing the utility and cultural effects of a project.
Hernan Diaz Alonso discusses with Maxi Spina his installation Thickness, in the SCI-Arc Gallery (July 7-August 12, 2017). Spina describes the concept of thickness as a way of negotiating between worlds of representation and construction, the transition from 2D to 3D. Diaz Alonso’s description of the work’s strategy of “digital nostalgia,” using digital tools to evoke the effects of pre-digital techniques, prompts Spina to describe an interest in ruins, and the way they were represented (Auguste Choisy), that emerged during a stay in Rome. He stresses applying unfamiliar uses to a familiar product like laminate. They also discuss drawing, material technology, building assembly, building construction, scale and function. Diaz Alonso and Spina respond to audience comments regarding the installation’s scale, profile, pattern, and representational conventions.
Jeffrey Kipnis begins the eighth and final Fecundity of a Mossy Climate conversation by arguing that even though architecture has traditionally been focused on sobriety and rectitude, it can reflect other aspects of human experience. He discusses some projects by Hernan Diaz Alonso, stressing the use of animation as a design tool. Diaz Alonso and Kipnis discuss horror, ephemerality and impermanence as positive values, working within given problems, and digital versus filmic sensibilities. Diaz Alonso and Kipnis respond to comments from the audience, touching on temporality, nostaligia and working. They respond to Eric Owen Moss's question about buildings that are virtual and buildings that exist in reality.
Eric Owen Moss explains that the discussion was supposed to start with a discussion by Jeffrey Kipnis of the entries to the competition for the expansion of the Universität für angewandte Kunst/University of Applied Arts in Vienna. But as Kipnis is delayed, Hernan Diaz Alonso will begin questioning the participants. Noting that the competition was for an school of architecture, Diaz Alonso notes that there have been only a few schools, such as the Bauhaus and IIT, whose building expressed their design sensibility. He asks the participants if this is necessary, or is some degree of disassociation inevitable and OK.
Patrik Schumacher responds that the Angewandte under Wolf Prix's leadership had a uniquely clear direction, and the selection of Wolfgang Tschapeller's entry spoils a great opportunity to build a manifesto.
Wolf Prix clarifies that the Angewandte is a school of several disciplines, including architecture. He points out that during his tenure at the Angewandte his attempts to collaborate with the other local architecture programs were rebuffed. He stresses decisions like the competition result can destroy a carefully cultivated cultural atmosphere.
Moss adds that Prix attempted to replace authoritarianism with dialogue at the Angewandte, and the competition decision reads like an attempt to return to that earlier state. Kipnis discusses entries to the competition for the expansion of the Universität für angewandte Kunst/University of Applied Arts in Vienna, including those of Wolfgang Tschapeller, Asymptote, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Reiser + Umemoto, Next Enteprise, and Eric Owen Moss.
Prix expresses his exasperation with the bureaucratic mentality which obstructs new architecture in Vienna. Kipnis responds by stressing the importance of architectural discourse, about which bureaucrats have no control. Moss contrasts the deliberate obstructionism of Vienna with the indifference of Los Angeles.
Diaz Alonso asks if architecture as a cultural discipline is really so fragile. And if it is, what weapons can it develop. Prix sees the expanding power mediocrity. Kipnis counters with the example of the Soviet avant-garde, which is still relevant despite being short-lived and limited in built works. At his mention of the state of contemporary classical composers, Schumacher objects that his goal is to try to translate the internal discourse into something public. Moss adds that part of the task of extending the discourse is engaging new audiences. The panelists respond to a question about how schools might train architects to deal with obstructionism, and the necessity of building.
Eric Owen Moss moderates a symposium consisting of distinquished faculty members Jeffrey Kipnis, Michael Rotondi, and Hernan Diaz-Alonzo. They discuss representation, imagery, functionality, materials, and contemporary culture. Coy Howard, Elena Manferdini, and Chris Genik pose questions for the panelists. They reflect on the recent death of Raimund Abraham.
Eric Owen Moss introduces newly anointed Distinguished Faculty, Michael Rotondi, Jeffrey Kipnis, and Henan Diaz Alonzo. Moss presents a set of images, pointing the talk in the direction of representation and image control through architectural devices. The panelists agrees that lack of originality is a problem that plagues contemporary practice.
Michael Rotondi discusses the impact of terrorism on architecture and how, for example, embassies reflect contemporary values and fears. The panelists discuss representational techniques, symbolism, minimalism, “the box,” and affect and effect in art and architecture.
Michael Rotondi, Jeffrey Kipnis and Hernan Diaz Alonso discuss computer protocols, man and technology, and whether the software or the designer is more influential in contemporary design. They discuss materialism, production techniques, and cultural associations, and the role of the architect.
Michael Rotondi, Jeffrey Kipnis and Hernan Diaz Alonso discuss materialism, production techniques, and cultural associations, and the role of the architect.
The panelists discuss fashion and its historical relevance to architecture. They compare and contrast the two arts discussing their ephemerality, temporal situations, and materials. They also comment about scale and the interaction between an object and its environment.
Hernan Diaz Alonso introduces the event as a new format of review for each of the four post-grad programs. Rather than focus on individual works, the goal is to address the full complexity of the issues.
David Ruy describes the format, in which Design of Cities instructor Peter Trummer will present the problem and issues, and describe students’ projects. This will be followed by a panel discussion
Peter Trummer describes the 2016-7 Design of Cities program as an investigation into what cities might be in the age of the hyper-object. He argues that cities are already developing forms in response to non-human needs—not only finance, but robots, environmental and other phenomena.
Trummer characterizes their method as a departure from three historical approaches to the city. The Empiricism of Ildefons Cerdà orchestrated infrastructure, and approached functions and citizens as statistical phenomena. The Essentialism of Aldo Rossi (and Oswald Mathias Ungers) argued that cities had already created artifacts (typologies) that embodied the essence of a place, and which could be abstracted into new forms. The Surrealism of Rem Koolhaas also appropriated already existing artifacts, but with the goal of creating something unprecedented. Trummer describes their approach as Realism, in which cities were examined for already-existing new models of urbanism.
Based on this research, each of the five students created a design of a different proposition about the city:
• The Machinic City (Yen-Ting Lin)
• The Mountain City (Siva Sepehry Nejad)
• The Fake City (Yagmur Kaptan)
• The Desert City (Marco Tadros)
• The Biomorphic City (Adrianne Ott)
After Trummer’s presentation, the panel (Hernan Diaz Alonso, David Ruy, Peter Trummer, John Enright, Erik Ghenoiu, Eric Owen Moss, Matthew Soules, Marrikka Trotter) responds with a discussion of post-humanism vs post-humanist, goals, finance capital, and the role of design.