”Great nations, write their autobiographies in three manuscripts – the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art”, said J. Ruskin (St. Mark’s rest; the history of Venice. (1877). The exhibition PETROCHEMICAL AMERICA: From Cancer Alley to Toxic Valley, currently at SPACE Gallery until October 7, is an exquisite example of how to touch on all the three manuscripts in one show, while leaving for us to decide whether the nation is getting greater or not. Curator Sophie Riedel walked me through the exhibition, showing how Louisiana’s natural geography has been radically repurposed into a vast network for extracting and storing. One wall at the exhibit relays the history of environmental injustice in...
Petrochemical America: From Cancer Alley to Toxic Valley
Environmentally Anxious Art at SPACE Gallery
By Bea Spolidoro, AIA Posted on October 2, 2017
Is Wellness Design the New Sustainable Design?
A Review of Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes our Lives
By F. Jeffrey Murray, FAIA Posted on August 18, 2017
Image courtesy Harper Collins Sarah Williams Goldhagen’s new book, written for the general public more so than the design community, is timely, important and worth a careful read by design professionals. Her fundamental claim is summarized in the preface: “What the new paradigm of embodied or situated cognition reveals is that the built environment and its design matters far, far more than anybody, even architects, ever thought that it did.” (p. xiv) Her book is timely because in the last couple years we’ve seen new checklists and scorecards for ‘wellness’ design (14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, The Well Building Standard, Fitwell — to name a few). Wellness design appears to be a trendy term for what has traditionally been called...
Architecture That Sparks Conversation
Action, Ideas, Architecture: Arthur Lubetz/Front Studio at the Heinz Architectural Center
By Bea Spolidoro, AIA Posted on May 1, 2017
The Heinz Architectural Center is currently displaying an exhibit covering five decades of work by Arthur Lubetz. Lubetz, fully active and with no intention to retire, is one of the principals at Front Studio, an award-winning firm based in Pittsburgh and New York City. It is rare to see the work of an active architect being celebrated in a museum, but if you visit the exhibit, you will immediately understand why. The architecture of Arthur Lubetz is always provocative, even when it’s only proposed, and sparks conversation. That conversation typically involves colorful, modern architecture, but in a more traditional context. Although Arthur Lubetz says “I learned a long time ago that red paint doesn’t cost any more than beige,” the...
Seeing the Impact of a Public Architecture
A Look at "Building Optimism" at the CMOA
By Brian Gaudio, Assoc. AIA Posted on November 4, 2016
As I walked into the Heinz Architecture Center I was greeted by large 4’ x 8’ sheets of finished plywood leaning against the wall. On them was printed in bright blue letters, “Building Optimism: Public Space in South America.” The exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art showcases “the powerful public role of architecture and urban design.” Many of the projects are located in informal portions of the city where residents use found materials and repurpose them in meaningful ways (hence the plywood title boards seen throughout the exhibit). The show features innovative public space and infrastructure projects in Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Colombia. El Equipo de Mazzanti’s awe-inspiring Biblioteca España, ELEMENTAL’s incremental housing project Villa Verde, and Urban...
The Story of Collapse
The Art of Seth Clark
By Bea Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA Posted on August 18, 2015
The first time I viewed Seth Clark’s work, the intern architect in me felt threatened. What loss and shame in all of these collapsing architectures! Clark’s collages, though, are too mesmerizing to be dismissed that easily, and I couldn’t resist that attractive pull of something that scared me. I decided to learn more and set up an interview with Clark, who has been named the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 2015 Emerging Artist of the Year. I started with a joke about the fact that, initially, he could be seen as a nemesis of architects, and believe it or not, that broke the ice. While also working as a graphic artist, his installations and collages focus on collapsing buildings and...
Looking Inside “The Wrong House”
The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock
By Raymond Bowman, Assoc. AIA Posted on April 29, 2015
Alfred Hitchcock was an indirect part of my architectural education at Carnegie Mellon University. The professor who taught one of my strangest studios had a list of recommended media that included Vertigo, along with an album by the Flaming Lips that required four CD players to listen to. I also remember (somewhat more fondly) seeing a few of Hitchcock’s other movies, including Rope and Strangers on a Train, when they were playing in the University Center for $1. But I may never have considered his movies as a kind of architecture until I heard about The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock by Steven Jacobs. Steven Jacobs begins with a simple and compelling idea: to watch Hitchcock’s movies in the service of painstakingly...
Sketch to Structure: For the People
Seeing How Buildings Take Shape at The HAC
By Bea Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA Posted on March 1, 2015
The process of architecture is not linear, with much back and forth happening before getting to the built product. Nevertheless, Curator Alyssum Skjeie was able to capture interesting architectural moments – and deliver them to the public – with the Heinz Architectural Center’s latest exhibit ‘Sketch to Structure,’ a collection of drawings, sketches, and architectural models that show how architects work. “The goal is to keep it broad and accessible,” Skjeie points out as we start the visit together… All the pieces displayed are from the HAC collection, some donated by architects, and others obtained over decades, with a couple of purchases made as recently as last year. Some historic drawings, already part of the museum’s Fine Arts department before...
Message of Hope, pt. 2
Maggie's Centres: A Blueprint for Cancer Care
By Raymond Bowman, Assoc. AIA Posted on November 18, 2014
In 1988, Maggie Keswick Jencks was diagnosed with breast cancer. For four years she battled, seemingly successfully, but in 1993 the cancer roared back. She was given two months to live. Crushed, she returned home, despondent. And that’s how she may have lived her last two hopeless months. But with her husband Charles Jencks, she assembled a “pile of hope” from popular news at the time. Every day details came out about some new treatment or another. People all over were cheating their own two month death sentences, through treatment, diet, exercise. Empowered by this information, she took charge of her treatment and sought advanced chemotherapy. She also connected with fellow cancer patients for support and community. She lived two full...
Message of Hope, pt. 1
A personal look at Maggie's Centres with Charles Jencks
By Vincent DeFazio, Assoc. AIA Posted on November 12, 2014
Charles Jencks stands at the podium, tall and lanky but defiantly confident. A well-packed Carnegie Music Hall applauds the world-renowned landscape architect and architectural theorist as he pipes out a few initial thoughts to calm the diverse crowd. After a brief description of a 16th century painting on the screen above his head depicting hope on the horizons, Jencks jumps straight into what has propelled him into the international spotlight; Maggie’s Centres. Before even giving an overall synopsis of what his famed centers are, Jencks makes sure to tell the audience what inspired them: hope. He explains that hope is an architect’s best tool when creating any built environment; buildings are trajectories into the future – a horizon and a...
Four Stories to be Seen
Architecture + Photography exhibit at the HAC
By Bea Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA Posted on April 23, 2014
Currently on display at the Heinz Architectural Center is Architecture + Photography, an eclectic exhibition of architecture-related photos, organized in four sections. You will not learn everything about the photography of architecture, nor will you find a complete timeline, to explain all that happened from Daguerre to Photoshop. What you will find is a mesmerizing collection of great images that will let you think about photography, and discover places and architecture that can be interesting for anyone – not only architects or photographers. This exhibition is about four different stories of how people take photographs of and about architecture, and why. The viewers are invited to interpret them according to their own personal experience. In the section “Photographing the World:...