Frederick Biehle presented his paper on the Reinvention of Public Housing studio work in the Cities/Urban Tactics: Politics of Control Session at the Cross Americas- Probing Dis Global Networks Program
Frederick Biehle will be introducing and moderarting a panel at the symposium In Search of African-American Space to be presented at Pratt Institute's School of Architecture, Higgins Hall Auditorium.
The Symposium is being coordinated with the summer studio he is offering called Museum of Conscience: Locating the Underground Railroad.
Frederick Biehle’s400 level options studio from the Pratt UG Architecture program, called the Reinvention of Public Housing, has work included in an exhibition organized by Mattias Altwicker and Nicolas Bloom of NYIT entitled “Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies That Transformed a City.” Hunter College East Harlem Gallery at Silberman School of Social Work.
The exhibit is coordinated with the release of their book of the same name, and will be at Hunter College’s East Harlem Gallery, in the Silberman School of Social Work on East 119th Street and Third Avenue.
Frederick Biehle and viaARCHITECTURE were credited in the New York Times article “What I Love”. Julie Morgenstein, an organization guru and consultant, offered a testament for thinking (and buying) small, how her apartmenthad been renovated to “seem larger than it actually is”.viaARCHITECTURE’s approach- Porosity, Materiality, Interiority – fit perfectly in resolving the client’s needs.
viaARCHITECTURE has joined the team of designers, historians and curators assembling a series of events to coincide with the 200 year anniversary of the founding of Zoar, Ohio.
Frederick Biehle’s grandfather, August F. Biehle Jr., was one of the principal Cleveland School artists who returned periodically to paint the village.
Zoar was settled in 1817 by a group of 300 “separatists” that had emigrated from Bavaria in southwest Germany. As followers of the teachings of Jacob Boehme they believed that the Lutheran church was hopelessly corrupt, and that they should be permitted to worship God in their own way. This proved to be impossible in Germany.
After emigrating to the new world, their leader, Joseph Bimeler, purchased 5500 acres along the Tuscarawas River in central Ohio on behalf of the colony. They picked a site within it and named the town Zoar, from Genesis, the city where Lot had been permitted refuge during his flight from Sodom. Laying down an organizational grid, they put their European know-how to work constructing the first cabins.
As the colony struggled for economic survival in its first years it voted to create a cooperative system for the maintenance of the group. The Zoar society was organized in 1819 such that all property and income was to be held in common to be managed by the officers elected by the members. The socialist program would thrive by the end of the first generation and crest in the second, but by the end of the third, the lack of leadership and temptations of the world that surrounded it ultimately brought about its dissolution. In 1895 the properties were divided equally among its remaining members.
During its hay day work was held in the highest esteem. Women worked alongside the men performing the same tasks. Sundays were devoted to worship, except during the harvest. In 1827 they contracted with the state of Ohio to construct 7 miles of the new Ohio & Erie Canal that would cross their land adjacent to the Tuscarawas River. The canal gave the community access to markets for their agricultural products and manufactured goods, as far away as New York City and St. Louis. By 1834 it was a thriving community.
The most notable feature of the town was its community garden. At the center of the village the garden was laid out as the New Jerusalem revealed in the 21st chapter of Revelations. At its center was a towering Norway spruce tree representing Christ, the tree of life. From this center lead 12 paths representative of the 12 tribes of Israel. The society used the adjacent Tuscarawas River to site and power the various industries that allowed it to remain independent of the outside world. Iron, woolens, woodworking, flour and silk all had mills. There was a tannery, a brewery, a tin shop, a foundry, and within the town were a bakery, a shoe shop and a watch shop.
Open City: Existential Urbanity Symposium, the New Museum, Friday November 20, 2015
A two day symposium marking the official release of Open City: Existential Urbanity, an anthology of student work from the Architecture of the City studio, conducted by Professor Diane Lewis and the faculty at The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. Focusing on work from 2001 to 2014, the book features drawings, models and project descriptions that regard any contemporary intervention into the city as an integral work of architecture, art, and sustainable infrastructure.
The Bowery: Architect & Continuum Panel
Panel Speakers: Ezegbebe Eribo, Milan & Legos (Opening Reading), Daniel Meridor, Nader Tehrani, Karen Wong, Francois De Menil, Erika Hinrichs, XuanLuo, Devon Moar, Derek Lange, Stephanie Yeung, Tyler Putnam
It is appropriate to begin the chapter of the book, by addressing the neighborhood of the Copper Union, which is ‘The Bowery’. A neighborhood, as noted in the chapter, that was a place where many of our artistic innovators/provocateurs lived had an impact on contemporary culture. A group of artists searching for how to capture the questions of our world and reflect it back to their audience, which defined a particular view of the world. Then take that map and overlay it onto an area with such a rich and illicit history as the Bowery… I imagine a tension between what is “real”, “known” or accepted challenged by the search for an alternative visionary architecture. I would like to reference “the Bowery” as described by Luc Sante’s book Low Life- A place where once mansions housed the wealthy barons of a thriving industrial world, to a place overrun by inhabitants providing service for those interested in vice and entertainment, where others visit but do not live- to then an overcrowded den of illegals capturing the attention of a city with its crime and disorder. All of this making the Bowery a place with its own mythology, a place all about a moment in time, disconnected from the city as a whole. But perhaps, the projects referenced here in the Book present a potential for new texts that can record the memories of place in our current city and its future.
As students of architecture, we often begin with what we know. For me, coming to Cooper in the mid-80’s, I brought with me a personal history of an imbedded “high art” education: classical ballet, fine art and music. Once here, the foundation exploded my thinking with new visions, new curiosities, new challenges… a flood of thoughts that you may not know what to do with...
For me early in my education, experiences from multiple disciplinary works impacted my visual vocabulary for architecture and space. Two such works come to mind which still ground me today- a dance piece by Twyla Tharp entitled “Fait Accompli” with music by David Van Teighem, 1984, and the chamber/opera “10,000 Airplanes on the Roof” set by David Hwang, music by Philip Glass, 1988.
Memory 1 - “Fait Accompli” was inspired by the boxing trainer Teddy Atlas. The piece focused on the strength and endurance of the body with its intensity of movement and degree of difficulty in its positions. This paired with the music of David Van Tieghem which collaged together the sounds of the city and various beats projected into a wall of sound. A moment in part 2 is one I recall- a line of male dancers start from the rear wall and begin to move forward moving in strong slow-motion toward the audience, each moving in a theme and variation of choreography between each other slightly aware of its repetition. A second line of bodies emerges from the rear starting to move forward, and so on until the stage is full with a grid of powerful bodies, a force moving slowly toward the proscenium. The moving body in slow motion, each becoming a skyscraper as their scale became monumental and with the repetition of movements the shape of void space emerged, between the “body-scrapers”. Being acutely aware of the space in-between. The dancers turn and retreat.
I get spatial flash-backs of this experience from some of the projects- the forms within a grid and frame of space in the Theater/Opera, the disassembled/ assembled architectural parts in the ‘Forum of the Spoken Word”, the figuration of spatial volumes in relationship to the grid in the City Hall Gates, and the discovery of spatial volumes carved between the think pages of space in the Library for New York Authors.
Memory 2 - “10,000 Airplanes on the Roof”, marked a moment when early technological advances came to the theater. The whole stage, floor to ceiling became a tilted plane to receive a full projected “holographic” image. During the performance actors moved across the plane which held the projected image seamlessly without reading the infrastructure by which the actors moved. The projected images were of different scales- views of the city- at one moment the actors are monumental walking over the elevated datum of a skyline and the next moment inverted where the scale is microscopic. The spatial experience is flat and abstracted.
I see the base tower of the Brooklyn Bridge impact itself onto the streets and building of the Bowery creating new scales of space, the displacement of elements like found archeological artifacts participate in a new spatial field in the Public Theater Library, and a Mural becomes space in plan & section carving into a cities tenement block in the Keith Haring Museum
As a maker and thinker I would state that my own pedagogy is the search for representing the space which captures the absent body. I see a shared desire in the works presented in this chapter through the challenge of drawing the variable scale between the city, space and body.
My offering to this symposium comes from an experiential place rather than a philosophical one, in which I reflect and share the inquiry on “how we see” or to “ways of thinking” in our architectural discourse.
As for The Bowery currently, the place seems like a return to the wealthy real-estate barons cited by Luc Sante in Low Life… perhaps we can keep the overlay of the architectural question of space and with it the grit of our imaginations will flourish, to provide provocations for future architects which will keep us all on our toes.
Panel Speakers: MersihaVeledar, Michael Webb , Merrill Elam, Jonathan Kirschenfeld, Frederick Biehle, Andrew Ferentinos, Dasha Khapalova, Giandomenico Pellizzi
Frederick Biehle discussed:
At the beginning of book five in his Ten Books of Architecture, Vitruvius relates a little story:
The Socratic philosopher Aristippus, being shipwrecked and cast ashore on an unknown coast, despaired, until he observed geometrical figures drawn upon the sand, whereupon he cried out to his companions, “let us be of good cheer, for I see the traces of man”.
For Vitruvius, a composition of lines, because they have been drawn specifically in a relationship to each other, is capable of suggesting not just the presence of another person, the maker of the marks, but an entire culture, a civilization and its accomplishments. For a student, the kit of parts introduces these same geometric possibilities, from which he or she must learn to reinvent the accomplishments of history, as an evolving ritual of self-knowledge.
Erika Hinrichs, Chair of Undergraduate Architecture at Pratt Institute, accompanied the travel studio headed by Guilermo Banchini to Argentina. While there she was invited to lecture at theNational University of Rosario, School of Architecture, Planning and Design. She spoke about PEDAGOGY AND PRATT INSTITUTE.
A weekend retreat at the Shelter Island house we renovated for Stephen and Kim Biehle. The house has three parts- an original kit-house cottage from the 1940s, a big room addition from the 1960s, and now our tower and bedroom wing finished last year. Oh yes, and a swimming pool.
THE ARCHITECTS NEWSPAPER“A Big Interesting Mess”
Jayne Merkel on the Pratt/IPA Housing Symposium An inventory of What’s Possible
Presentation at the Plan Awards.
The studio work for the Re-invention of Public Housing was shortlisted in the category ‘Future Housing’ at the Plan Awards for 2015. Frederick Biehle presented the work to a panel of Italian and European architects as a part of the Perspective Europe 2015 event at the Milano Congressi. The project was also included in a larger exhibition of all shortlisted projects.
While in Milan, FB visited the newly celebrated Prada Foundation by OMA. He had this to say about it-
The walk to the new Prada foundation in Milan from the metro is a bit cinematic. It’s true that the neighborhood and the distance combine to introduce a glimmer of doubt as to whether one is in fact going in the right direction. So the pronouncement of the true way by a series of highway scale billboards, each calling out a section of the foundation grounds, is helpful. They also set up a certain episodic sensibility to the approach. The distinctive images become sequential focal points along an otherwise anonymous roadway. By the time of arrival I am conscious of the fact that the foundation campus is a collection of buildings, each different and developed internally as a uniquely inspired stand-alone statement, but still part of a group.
In passing through the entrance gate my first reaction is that the foundation’s focus was on its architectural space, perhaps because no particular piece of the architecture informed me of where to move next and the use of cladding was equally devoid of any sense of hierarchy. I remembered a comment from Koolhaus in a recent article about the Prada-
For a couple of years now, I have been... well, I don’t know what the best word is, but it is somewhere between bored and irritated, by the current course of architecture forcing people to be extravagant even if they don’t want or need that. I think there is a fatigue with “originality” now and an interest in the modesty of an artist. In this case, this was important for me as it allowed us to find a new relationship with architecture. It was more interesting than saying “Prada”1
My next thought went immediately to Carlo Scarpa. Perhaps due to the larger generic similarities between this and his Castelvecchio Museum – the setting a preexisting walled compound, the indoor-outdoor sequence of visitation, and the impact of material and detail in determining the spatial character and meaning of the place. Not so much the suspended confrontation between new and old that was being talked about, I began to see the project as an outright challenge to Scarpa’s humanism, confronting his serious cognizance of the viewer/inhabitant with a new more contemporary disinterested disregard.
Entering at the north east corner, one needs to be directed to the gold building, called the “haunted house”, so as to purchase an entry ticket. This allows the outdoor space within the wall of the foundation to operate as a privately owned public space. As I approach I realize that the gold building certainly declares its importance within the site, not because of its being a five story 19th century structure, one of the complexes tallest, but because it has been gold leafed in its entirety. Wow, gold leaf, there is a material you don’t see being used in contemporary architecture. Interestingly Scarpa was not afraid of gold either. He used it in his glass works, and he used it in his architecture as well, with gold leafed mosaic tile. He had seen it throughout the shimmering Basilica of S. Marco in Venice, he knew its power to hold and reflect light. But this is different. Not unlike some of the other materials we have seen upon entry, the cast aluminum panels for instance, the material is being used as if it is something banal, a literal coat of paint. It is a precious and costly material but it has been applied uniformly to every surface of the building, including window frames, window muntins, and even the drain pipe. Shirley Eaton, the actress was similarly coated in gold paint for the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. The intention, in the movie, was to asphyxiate her, to kill her off provocatively. It worked in the movie. Is the gold leaf here likewise intended as a suffocating provocation? Of course it works, particularly when its outrageousness is contrasted with the neutral grey Prada outfits and stoic slightly disinterested expressions of the security staff.
Going back to Scarpa, I imagine him surgically locating his delaminations and revealings within the Castelvecchio complex. Even though there must have been a certain disregard for the work of the renovation architect who had imported a new fictional gothic style to the original barracks, Scarpa effectively learned from him by recrafting and framing his overlay. Koolhaus paints over the original. He covers it up. He makes it stand out with an act normally intended to make something go away. (I am slightly abhorred by this, but likewise think that I am supposed to be, or at least impressed- and in fact I am. I just wish it actually meant something other than how to locate the front door.)
We should think of it as an intentional introduction of color to denote importance. I am reminded again of Carlo Scarpa, this time the Abatellis Museum in Palermo, one of his earliest museum works, in which he lays out his already quite mature episodic intervention with an ever more diversified and recurrent palette of invented and reconsidered materials. In particular I remember how he too used color as a way to call attention, to arrest the unsuspecting focus of the viewer that might very well pass by the museums most recognized masterpiece, the 15th-century Bust of a Gentlewoman (attr. Eleanor of Aragon), a small work of great subtlety and quality. Scarpa frames the work by back paneling it with his signature stucco lustro veneziana, but in a totally incongruous color, green. The stucco panels are framed in a minimal bronze angle, and suspended along the existing walls, clearly an application over and in front of something prior and older. The panels define a corner as well, allowing it to be understood in relationship to more than one perspective. So in the immediate sense it is located in relationship to a nearly incongruous color with serves as a larger scale frame, to monumentalize a small work, and allow it to be viewed three dimensionally still, on all sides, and in specific relationship to natural light, which falls from the adjacent window. This is an immediate circumstance that is constantly changing. Due to position, time of day, season, temperature. It offers an intensely humanist exchange, between object and viewer. And it also situates itself within an even larger episodic sequence, nearly centered on the arched opening of the prior gallery.
The subtlety of such an orchestrated maneuver is quite impressive. But it was also in the way that his specific choices, between location, position, color, orientation, and scale came together so as to communicate a specific meaning. Here there was a certain quiet celebration, even a memorializing taking place- of the artist? Of the figure? Of the viewer’s ability to discover this? The place took on a nearly spiritual aura.
Another of my favorite museums is the Glyptotech in Munich. The Leo von Klenz’ masterpiece took 40 years to finally renovate following World War II, opening eventually in 1980. The duration and slowness of the project allowed architectural tastes and priorities to change, from the rational to the personal and the museum that emerged from the long process benefitted enormously. In the application (or non-application) of materials like the thinly whitewashed exposed brick interiors to the strategy for display as an agitated contrasting arrangement of sculptural works that works contrapuntally with the clear progression of geometrically symmetrical rooms around a central courtyard. One of my favorite rooms is the space for the roman busts. Quite a number of museums contain a plethora of this common roman artifact and it often shows in the manner of their display. Not so here. The seeming disorder of the display is a scarpaesque strategy of episodic management that overlaps its sequences together with a kind of fully random rollypollywholover invented by John Cage for his exhibition.
Koolhaus contributes to this by again referencing something eminently more banal. The space of storage itself. The Corsini Gallery in Rome is an example where the wall space is effectively inadequate for the number of works that either need or want to be displayed. Salon style is what this method of hanging has been called. But here, in the South Gallery it has been exaggerated, the negative space between works is intentionally not exploited and the actual relationship between works made to be equally limited. It is nothing more than a useful place to keep these works together. Roping the room off to prevent a closer inspection simply emphasizes the point. It’s not for people really.
It might then seem that the characteristics of the foundation are really very much the same the clothing label- industrial, intentionally awkward, not really for the body. In the end maybe Koolhaus wasn’t being fully truthful, because for anyone listening it says nothing but “Prada”.