A + D Exhibition
We were asked to produce a temporary architectural statement in a specific, limited volume of space in conjunction with the New Blood Exhibition at the A+D Museum with some 50 other architects. We were interested in what we could contribute to the mass of excellent work being shown which wasn't simply re-presenting what we had done before. In our entry, we tried to ask questions about how architects produce their work: what are our motivations? What is the proper venue to experience our work? Using standard door peep-holes, we offered views into various landscapes within our allotted space.
The design for M&A's 10th Anniversary Cake-Off competition started with a cube. The cube was then packed with detachable cake spheres of different sizes and flavors including Japanese mochi and chocolate. A hardened kiwi frosting eliminates the need for utensils. Forget the cake knife; just grab a sphere and enjoy!
The Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design proposed an open ideas competition in 2003 to envision the future of the enclosed mall. Warren Techentin organized and managed the competition while serving on the board of the LA Forum and ultimately edited the Dead Malls Pamphlet 01 which summarized the results. The nationwide demise of the mall had then been widely documented. Members of the LA Forum felt too few compelling proposals had been generated by anyone outside the retail establishment. The goal of the competition was aimed at countering the prevailing trend towards dereliction, abandonment, and destitution. The competition invited a variety of possible approaches to rethinking the urbanistic and architectural context of regional malls and their relationships to surrounding communities. In addition it sought to generate a number of prototypical schemes which explored a variety of strategies such as adaptive re-use, renovation, reprogramming, "de-malling", new additions, re-storing, selective erasures, re-branding and re-packaging with the desire to nurse the existing, ailing life forms back to health. The process was meant to serve as a method of exploring similar aims with potential applicability to many different contexts and address a generic problem using a multiplicity of specific methodologies. The winners of the competition were exhibited in a number of locations nationwide including SPF:a, Los Angeles; Shopping Center World Convention, Las Vegas; The Dixie Square Mall, Chicago (in collaboration with the Center for Land Use Interpretation); and the Municipal Art Society, New York.
Click here for the full text.
See a discussion of the competition and interviews with jurors, entrants, and Warren Techentin at The New York Times.
ForumPortfolio2 revisited Reyner Banham's view of Los Angeles thirty-five years after his seminal book on the topic was published. Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971) was at the time, as it is today, considered not only one of the canonical surveys of the city of Los Angeles, but an extremely important and new way of viewing and analyzing city planning. Upending traditional urban surveys, Banham considered Los Angeles as a total landscape: an architectural object in itself. Architectural historian Anthony Vidler writes "...rather than surveying major monuments and historical buildings one by one, [Banham] took on the whole fabric and structure of [the] urban region. In this attempt, Banham worked to develop an entirely new radical view of urban architecture, one that has had a major impact on the discipline of architecture history." Banham not only examined the "high" architectural monuments of the city routine to such urban surveys, but simultaneously and at length considered the proliferating everyday architecture of the city, such as fast food restaurants traditionally bracketed off because of their ephemeral, temporary qualities. In fact, it was the throw-away quality of much of the landscape of Los Angeles that fascinated Banham most and what he felt underpinned the city at large: its plug-in quality – the ability to erase and replace architecture over and over as the time and need required. Vidler continues, "[Banham] provided a road map for the study of urban architecture not just in its geographical, social, and historical context – this was already common practice among social historians of architecture in the late 60's – but as an active and ever-changing palimpsest of the new global metropolis. Not incidentally, he also entirely redefined the architecture that scholars were used to studying, now embracing all forms of human structure from the freeway to the hot dog stand, and a plurality of forms of expression not simply confined to the aesthetic codes of high architecture." Banham wrote at length about the city’s infrastructure. For him, the freeways, aqueducts, and other systems Los Angeles deployed to colonize the land ultimately allowed the emergence of the bright, colorful, and casual architecture Banham rejoices in (as an architecture representative of an authentic response to the California landscape), the objects of modern mass production (cars, surfboards, movies), and the loss of historic precedent as an agent for progress.
For ForumPortfolio2, Warren Techentin and The Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design revisited Banham's text to explore what had changed in the intervening years since its publication? Did the four ecologies still hold? How have they been transformed? Are there new ecologies? Is Los Angeles still a city that can be understood geographically or will new modes of representation and classification have to be developed to continue to be able to "read" the shifting terrain? When undertaking the project of producing a portfolio that looked at Los Angeles through the prism of Banham's ecologies (Autopia, Surfurbia, the Foothills, and the Plains of Id: each coined to lend clarity to an "undefined" or "post-urban" city) the LA Forum were interested in understanding how a generation of artists might describe the city one generation later through the same, or new, filters.
The artists participating in this portfolio are Jessica Bronson, Catherine Opie, Alex Slade, and James Welling. Each artist was asked to consider the Los Angeles of Banham for their work in this portfolio. Despite evident references to Banham's four ecologies, these works also depict a Los Angeles in conflict with Banham's thinking. They present a Los Angeles uncomfortable with its sprawl and pervasive automobility; still wholly reliant on machinery, infrastructure, and equipment as a way to mediate (if not tame) the landscape. Moreover, the works vacillate between a strange optimism about the future of Los Angeles and a tarnished view of the landscape of which Banham was such a champion.
A limited number of portfolios for the photographs were designed by Michael Maltzan.
One portfolio is still available for purchase. Please contact Warren Techentin if you are interested.
Granada Hills Cooperative
The clients had a large parcel at the intersection of the 5 Freeway, the 14 Freeway, the 210 Freeway, the Santa Fe Railroad, and the California Aqueduct. Additionally, it was sandwiched between a massive landfill, a water treatment facility, a growing office park to the north, and high density suburban subdivisions. Despite the presence of this converging mass of infrastructure and density, the City of Los Angeles zoned the property as Agricultural - perhaps the last remaining property classified as such in the city. The clients pushed for more units than allowed – ultimately determining 10 units would be dedicated to a mixture of orchards, farming, and agriculture activities. Because of its proximity to the 5 Freeway (a perceived "entry" to Los Angeles from the north) the clients imagined the site being used as a demonstration property for cooperative living and farming arrangements. The goal of the architecture was to simultaneously create a building that offered identity to this site while partially blocking out the sound of the freeway to the units and open spaces just beyond.
Our proposal seeks to contextualize, join, and frame the surrounding Toolonlahti district and in
particular, the Makasiini Park. Several strategies have been deployed simultaneously to allow the
building to respond specifically to its context while at the same time fulfilling its role as an autonomous
object and an articulated, culturally significant building which is in perpetual dialogue with the
Parliament building across the park, the Music Center, and the Kiasma. Beyond choreographing the
physical proximities of the district, the building also seeks to become a sort of social network which
similarly looks to forge digital connectivity between people and institutions. Our goal for the new
Helsinki Library is to transform the modern library into an active, participatory space which itself
becomes a “central square” for information exchange and dialog between people via numerous media.
The building is bisected by an “Aerial sidewalk” that passes through the building from the street to the
park. This feature of the building is meant radically encourage participation and social interaction
between people, digital media, and the various programs of the library while simultaneously fulfilling
the requirements for the varied hours of operation. Analogous to the Centre George Pompidou in Paris,
the Tube is not merely a public circulation device, but allows one to experience and view many of the
programs which happen alongside of it while passing through. Like the Kunsthal in Rotterdam and the
Carpenter’s Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Tube seeks to bring public space off of street level
and into the building. A sample trajectory might include a journey from Alvar Aallon Katu, by riding up
the escalator. Along the way, you are given privileged views of the interior of the Children’s Library, the
Living Lab, and the Cinema before arriving at the Digital Starfish ‐ Central meeting area floating above
and within the Lounge of the Library. The Digital Starfish would be a highly mediated space and would –
as it sounds‐ integrate liquid crystal displays into the interior surface of the walls, floor, and ceiling in a
form of digitally pixilated community bulletin board– and accessible to posts from local Wifi servers. It is
hoped that one might witness the life of the city from this space at the same time you bump into friends
and acquaintances. From the Digital Starfish, escalators are available up to the Multipurpose Space,
down to the Meeting and Lounge Area, up to the public roofscape, or out to the Makasiini Park.
Additionally, the surface is perforated with small glazed opening offering variable transparencies to the
spaces beyond. As you descend down to the Park, you are offered glimpses of the Library exhibition
room, the reading porch, and the Library collections.
Informal LA: The Space of Politics
LA Forum: Loose Talk
Interview text with M. Maltzan forthcoming.
London Olympics Kiosk
The Trafalgar Square Information Pavilion simultaneously embodies the athletic vigor of the Olympics, introduces the design traditions of the host country, incorporates the use of recyclable materials and leverages the participatory potential of new media in the experience of sporting events. Drawing on sources of British design as varied as lamps, bird cages, green houses, athletic equipment and other traditional forms from British furniture design, this proposal is a “mash-up” – like the popular music style – of gestures, spaces, and programs into a form that invites visitors to wander in and around the booth and offers a varied set of experiences and spectacles depending on your position in the square. A giant Urban Sofa was incorporated at the base as an essential feature to the required programs, counterbalancing media and retail by nurturing a communal physical experience amongst visitors.
> The structure is comprised of a series of steel rods bent with a computer controlled manufacturing process. Steel imparts the small structure with strength, economy, and an ease of recycling. The surface is finished with a metallic, "Olympic white" paint.
> The repetitive steel rods form a series of silhouettes which morph through a series of British dignitaries encouraging a cinematic effect and movement around the structure. Dignitaries will be selected via an online "am I hot or not" style format. Silhouettes shown in the image are a couple of the probable winners: Queen Elizabeth II and Daley Thompson.
> The rain cover is made of an epoxy impregnated cardboard that will last through the summer.
> A large, circular desk combines all requirements for Information Services (25m), Café (75m), and Souvenirs (50m). On a second, raised level accessed via a bridge from the top of the steps.
> A 14m x 4.5m digital screen partially wraps around the upper structure allowing people to assemble from the steps of the National Gallery around to Nelson's column.
> The continuous screen will allow for multiple video formats to be achieved as well as interactivity with hand-held devices.
> The wire mesh canopy flares southward to provide shade to summer visitors who use the Urban Sofa.
> Smaller screens can be manipulated by hand held digital media and allows selection from all media feeds broadcasting.
> The Urban Sofa is approximately 100m of additional programming at the level of the square for people to take in the event of the Olympics. It is an essential feature in nurturing a communal experience amongst visitors.
Los Feliz Residence 2
The early 20th century Russian Architect Konstantin Melnikov, in one of his most iconic buildings, arrayed a number of hexagonal windows around the surface of a circular house which became both the organizational strategy for the exterior wall (escaping the need to "compose" the façade) as well as a "liberative" new way to organize light in the interior by aspiring to create even lighting to the rooms inside without the need for large, expensive openings. The clients for this project on a steep hillside slope in Los Feliz, CA were fascinated by the Melnikov design which had been recently renovated and re-published in the New York Times. In contrast to the heavy – albeit economical – brick system used in Moscow, how could a much lighter metal hexagonal frame be used as an organizational system for the skin (and overall structure) of the house without becoming cylindrical or geodesic (impractical for the client and the site)? The skin is sometimes dematerialized to focus views and light, and at other times it pushes inwards or outwards to accommodate aspects of the domestic program or the existing trees in close proximity on the site.
MOCA: A New Sculpturalism
WTARCH was included in the exhibition "A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California" at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Curator Christopher Mount presents the first extensive examination of the built forms that characterize late twentieth century architecture by looking through the lens of the emerging architecture in Southern California after 1990. The work curated exemplified the aesthetic and conceptual milestones of this period as well as the geographic, political, and socio–economic underpinnings of its development. The exhibition displayed the model built for the Los Feliz Residence
See an interview with Warren on MOCAtv Interviews: Pt.3
Exhibition Catalogue edited by Christopher Mount: More info at Rizzoli New York Books.
Photo Credit: Monica Nouwens
The Narkomfin Housing project, built between 1928-32 in Moscow, is one of the best examples of avant-garde post-revolutionary Soviet housing ever built. Designed by Moisei Ginzburg, it was one of the first collectivized living endeavors in Europe, attempting to engage the emerging industrial process of prefabrication through standardized building elements. This single-bar, 6-story building was designed to house around 200 people in a condensed living arrangement, interspersing floors of aggregated, idealized units with floors of shared social amenities – dining rooms, room for rest, a kindergarten, day care, laundry, a gymnasium, and a library. Narkomfin stands as a prototype, a symbol, an icon, and a representation of the new society that was to be forged for socialist life. The building was to be a "social condenser": the maker of the socialist citizen.
Because Ginzburg specified construction methods never before attempted in Russia, a number of mistakes and oversights – like inadequate waterproofing and sloping floors – continue to plague the building. Weathering has left Narkomfin in a state of dilapidation, and as of September 2010, the city moved to evict the remaining residents for demolition. These 1996 and 2009 photo surveys show the level of disrepair and dereliction. Renovation seems highly unlikely considering the large discrepancy between an estimated investment and the value of the adjacent real estate, along with the almost insurmountable amount of bureaucratic red tape involved in renovating a historic building.
Architectural Record, Moscow's Narkomfin Building: Soviet Blueprint for Collective Living
Warren Techentin was invited to participate in Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, a book Kazys Varnelis was editing which compiled articles by a number of commentators who each were asked to re-look at Los Angeles through the lens of Reynar Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of the Four Ecologies. Varnelis asked the participants to examine the city through its proliferation of infrastructures as the best way to understand Los Angeles or perhaps any city.
Varnelis states on his website varnelis.net that “Modern architecture was obsessed with infrastructure. It served as the basis upon which modernism could realize its plans. The greatest American example of a modern city served by infrastructure, Los Angeles is an ideal case study. Today however, Los Angeles is in perpetual crisis. Infrastructure has ceased to support architecture's plans for the city. Instead, it subordinates architecture to its own purposes. The city we uncovered is a series of networked ecologies, complex interlinked hybrid systems composed of natural, artificial, and social elements, capable of feedback not only within themselves but between each other.”
Treehuggers looks at the network of trees in Los Angeles as not merely an element of beautification - as they have been typically used - but as a strategically deployed infrastructure enlisted by boosters, cinema, media, government agencies, and real estate developers to transform the dusty grasslands and scrub-brush of the Los Angeles basin into an exotic, luxurious landscape to insure its on-going growth and legitimization. Moreover, the article looks at how trees themselves have developed networks and communities of their own – deeply enmeshed in arguments being made for the emergence of sustainable cities, enshrined in codes seeking to preserve neighborhoods from losing their character, and sacrificed in ritual fits of vigilante violence whether to rectify perceived property rights or express one’s rage with the city.
Click here for an excerpt of Treehuggers.
See a review of the book at The Los Angeles Times.
Additional discussions of the essay can be found at these blogs: mammoth, dpr-Barcelona blog, and thoughts on everything...
USC: Brazil Studio
BRAZIL STUDIO was a graduate architecture studio taught by Warren at the University of Southern California in 2014. The studio allowed students the opportunity to experience the culture of Brazil - a country with a profoundly influential architectural legacy - on a 10-day field trip. During the studio, the students were given a site at the north eastern edge of Sao Paulo.
A series of projects were developed collectively to propose a loose grid upon which both pin-pointed, highly specific architectures can emerge alongside more generic development. The unique Brazilian architectural traditions were embraced as a set of strategies. The Plan highlights a number of broad urban gestures and plenty of open space for this new neighborhood to flourish.
USC: Faculty Exhibition
When we were given the opportunity to present our work, we decided to study a current project we are working on in further detail: a new multi-family housing project near downtown Los Angeles which, because of timing and other things going on, our office had had little opportunity to study in model form until now. The opportunity came at the perfect time...
As part of the design, our project featured an 101’ wide, perforated aluminum screen along the street elevation of 1313 Sunset Blvd. The screen is a complex part of the project and is composed of an assemblage of many pieces which will be fabricated offsite and then integrated. We needed to move past digital modeling to understand the screen’s physicality and to see what conflicts might arise. To do it right, the screen needed to be studied via physical model in some way to understand what we would be dealing with onsite - 45’ above the ground. We needed to understand how the screen was going to be integrated into the framing of the building, to demonstrate how we could phase its installation through discussions with the fabricators and the contractors, how the large framed balcony openings were to be placed within its gently curved surface, and what the graphic perforation patterns would look like from both inside and out. To deal with all these issues, we decided the model needed to be large - one which would approximate as many of the experiences we were looking to simulate.
We do large models from time to time in the office. They exist in a world between abstraction and reality. Like other architectural models, the large model is an abstraction of something that is yet to come - it helps visualize a project in greater detail and in relative scale - in ways that digital models often cannot. Models are an essential component of project understanding. For many years I taught in the 3rd year studios here at USC which - for as long as I can remember - is punctuated by the construction of a large model for a project already in progress. It is a way to dive in deep - to comprehensively look at a project simultaneously from both an aesthetic and logistical point of view - to understand it as a system of unified intents.
But the large model also opens up small realities - beyond abstraction and again, in ways that digital interfaces cannot yet manifest, the large model challenges and confronts the scale of the observer because of its own unusual scale - making it feel like a construction itself - shedding its referential role to something else. The model takes on an autonomy of its own. This is an effect that can be likened to the scene in the 1927 silent film Napoleon where Napoleon himself looks down upon a war map only to surrealistically imagine himself superseding its scale (and perhaps his own diminutive scale) - his eyes - and equations from his mind absorb the scale of it all as if a God. Large models resist this god-like effect of perception - transcending the toy-like scale of small architectural models and their infantilization and projecting a type of reality.
Certain projects have benefitted enormously from the production of large models. Perhaps most famously, Michelangelo - charged with completing St. Peters after several failed attempts by previous architects - immediately proceeded to build several very large models for his proposal upon receiving the commission as part of a strategy to demonstrate and ensure his plan would not only work, but survive long after his death. Frank Gehry too - as we all saw in LACMA’s recent exhibition - extensively uses large models as part of his practice. They are not meant to be merely seen, but fundamentally experienced. So much so that it seems to me that once the model has been built, he typically prefers to display tight, perspectival photographs of the model over the use of constructed renderings. He leverages his models as part of the public presentation of a project - their large size often crowding the room, demanding attention, refusing to be dismissed.
We learned a lot about the project as we built this. Frankly, spaces had been overlooked and somehow lost in the endless rotation of our Rhino model or the abstraction of the orthographic drawings. The construction of this model gave us an opportunity to look more closely at its geometries, the shading effects, and to understand how it would feel. We got a better sense for all of the systems involved in the project too. We experimented with various perforation patterns and we looked at how the pieces would be layered and who would contractually be involved with what part of the screen. It has been a great working tool for us and we appreciate the opportunity given to us to explore it.
USC: Maldives Studio
MALE: SHIFTING SANDS was an architecture studio taught by Warren at the University of Southern California in 2013. This studio conducted research that looks past the Republic of the Maldives as a collection of pristine island resorts, and sought to uncover the country's strengths and weaknesses in search of a solution to the country's impending inundation.
The studio addresses foremost the Maldives' predicament of losing their home to rising level of the Indian Ocean. The predicted rate estimates 50 to 100 years before the highest point of the islands, standing at only 1.5 meters above mean high tide, becomes completely submerged. The Maldives, as a developing country, also must deal with their failing infrastructure and lack of adequate housing.
The slides here are selected from the research compilation as well as student work and projects. Projects were conducted individually, and students specified chosen elements deemed most crucial on both a global and local scale, in addition to a required housing aspect. The strengths of the Maldives, such as fishing and tourism, were used as starting points in generating architecture to accompany schemes that might be used to revive the country.