Tropolism Exhibitions: New Blood In the Water


Left to right: Throw a rock, hit an architect. Does anyone smell fire? The A+D's new home.

I’ve had the pleasure of surviving several parties associated with the recent AIA Convention here in Los Angeles last week, but none were so fascinating as the one held on Friday, June 9th in honor of the New Blood: Next Gen exhibition at the A+D (or Architecture + Design for those not in the know) Museum. I’d had a similar, far more intoxicated viewing of the show a week prior when it unveiled itself to L.A. The redux could not have been better.

For one thing the drinks at the bar were weak to the point of water (to keep those visiting architects from points afar under control no doubt), and to top that off, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was opening its David Hockney: Portraits show across the street. Perhaps it would have been fitting to have visited LACMA first and absorbed those famous works of celebs and lovers gone by. However, this was impossible. Due to lack of operating budget, or fear of being overrun by all of those rabid visiting architects, the museum closed early, ejecting everyone across Wilshire Blvd. and into the brightly illuminated A+D Museum.

Where they probably wished the drinks were stronger.

To read the rest of the review, click Continue Reading...

So for those who haven’t picked up on the sarcasm quite yet, I’ll layer some more on for good measure. The show was fabulous. It showcased the absolute supreme of L.A.’s young architectural foie gras and everyone in attendance left the premises to change their unmentionables. There will never be another show quite like it in all time. The museum's new locale--a droll, mid-eighties, Wilshire Blvd. office tower, or at least the “Mini-Me” satellite version--was arguably more interesting in a critical way than much of the work on exhibit.

Had Enough?

I didn’t hate it that much, in fact I thought several of the particiapting firms' work are worth a mention. My main criticism of the show (besides the fact that several firms paid to exhibit), was that the work lacks any sort of consistency or punch worthy of Los Angeles’ rich architectural heritage. There are certainly many participants who come close, but in these times of the “Frank and Tom Show” one wonders if there is a “next” next. One recalls the 100 Years of Architecture exhibition a few years back at the Geffen Contemporary in Downtown L.A. That show had both designers and the public curious about architecture. It made one want to run home and start making stuff. What comes to mind about the show is the work featured from the Santa Monica School period of LA’s architectural history and its unified attempts to be avant-garde. Why bother foisting a show upon the general public if you’re not going to make them a little bit afraid of architects and their buildings?

Enter the Dwell Factor. A few years ago Dwell Magazine took the country by storm, pushing aside trade rags such as Architecture and Metropolis. What made Dwell so palatable to the general public is that they were able to pander to the average client’s main worry: “Am I going to have a place to put my stuff and is the container going to look nice?” What has resulted is an architecture that is rich in materiality, and comfort, but silent in its critique of the way we inhabit space. It assumes that we have pre-programmed our personal space to accept whatever is in vogue at the time (for Dwell this would be Modernism reborn).

I am sure most of you can figure where I am going by this point, but I will elaborate. The big problem with the show is that so many of the pieces lack a voice or critical message. They are, at best, a vain attempt at architectural hypnotism; a project to get more projects. What is needed here is something to inspire, something to force the hand that the “Dwell client” has dealt the profession. I would have simply loved to have seen something ugly.


Left to right: I have no idea what this is. Archi-groupies at E.G.'s poster booth. Hostcell's entry.

To close, the notes I made from the exhibition are vague at best, so I’ll be brief. The show was exhibited by having each exhibitor create a 2’-0” X 8’-0” display whose armature was a set of rolling scaffolding of the same proportion. The participants all chose different methods of exhibiting the work and some went to great lengths to drain as much electrical power from the building as possible with their array of LCD screens and elaborate displays. Some however, stand out in their low-tech cleverness.

Techentin Buckingham takes the award for strangest, banal box at the museum. Painted grey and dotted with brass peep-holes (which were very “in” this year at the show- GRAFT had scuba masks), their display was about as ambiguous as one can get, and was a refreshing break from the visual carnival going on around it. What was inside no one could be sure, but I think I saw a white foam blob attacking another white blob. It was a wonderful piece and hopefully will make an appearance somewhere else.

Escher GuneWardena took prize for being the most minimal. All that could be found was a stack of posters of the firms work and a tray of rubber bands atop the scaffolding. E.G. took it upon themselves to create a very clever solution to the Museums rigid exhibition armatures- create interest by creating space. Even the work displayed on the posters was shown in the construction phases. It was a very savvy and restrained contribution that no doubt earned them some new fans.

Hostcell and Patterns are both worth a mention as I highly respect both principals and their offices work. Marcello Spina, the principal of Patterns has inserted himself into the LA scene nicely, and continues to create interesting forms that utilize topological surface solutions in a controlled and elegant fashion. Similarly Axel Schmitzberger of Hostcell managed to put together an inspiring exhibition that shed the 2x8 monolithic shell for a sleekly milled array of plexi-glass forms that cradled business cards and an LCD of the firms recent work.

It will be interesting to see how the A+D continues to serve the LA Architectural community in the immediate future. It certainly has a monolithic task. To draw together so many voices and still create a singular message is a challenge for even the most seasoned curator or institution. However, what is even more frightening is the possibility that the “New Blood” show is not a litmus test of the currently jaundiced Los Angeles architectural scene, but of evidence of a decline in the influence of the larger global design community as a whole. If this is the case, then meet me at the nearest bar, because I’m going to need another drink.

The A+D Museum: 5900 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036. The Show will continue to run through August 1st, 2006.

Contributed by John Southern.


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