Sylvia Lavin : The duck and the document (April 14, 2017)



Hernan Diaz Alonso introduces Sylvia Lavin, whose lecture accompanys the opening of the SCI-Arc Gallery exhibition “The Duck and the Document: True Stories of Postmodern Procedures (April 14-May 28, 2017).

Sylvia Lavin begins by describing how two celebrated pre-modern architectural exhibitions – Alexandre Lenoir’s Musée national des Monuments Français (1795) and John Soane’s house museum (1792-1837) – informed postmodern theory and practice. In turn, Lavin proposes “Duck and the document” as a new approach to postmodernism, contextualizing fragments with archival documents. She argues that the exhibition demonstrates how semiotics, research, and print technologies “shifted the site of architectural production from the building site to the communications environment” outside of “traditional architectural skills” and “within ubiquitous systems through which architecture had to navigate like everybody else.”

She discusses this process in detail in case studies of
•The BEST products catalog showroom, Oxford Valley, PA (Venturi, Rauch & Scott-Brown, 1977)
•Sea Ranch, Sonoma County, CA (Lawrence Halprin, Charles Moore, Joseph Esherick, William Turnbull, Jr., Donlyn Lyndon, Richard Whitaker, et al., 1963-5)
•House I (Barenholtz Pavilion), Princeton, NJ (Peter Eisenman, 1967-8)

Lavin concludes by characterizing the exhibition as an archive of friction “between architects seeking control over the design, and the use of design to control the personhood of others” in which “fragments salvaged from here and there testify to the loss and deflation of architectural autonomy and authority” but also tracks “ingenuity as it finds crazy new places in which to live.”

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