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Curating Architecture

October 23, 2010

The Rising Currents Exhibit at the MoMA

With the completion of Crisis City review number one, the group is facing a turning point, contemplating the next leap forward.  While we are finding more and more connections amongst our individual trajectories, we are seeking a solidifying idea about the current state of architecture, which links us together.  After visiting the MoMA as a part of a class with Barry Bergdoll, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, I was struck by how relevant the concept of “curation” is to Crisis City.  Due to architecture’s current pluralist state, Crisis City’s format captures the zeitgeist and promotes it is a way to test a multitude of ideas.  Pluralism is not a style, nor is it a design movement.  In architecture, it merely suggests a rejection of modernism and an alternative to post-modernism.  There is no longer one solution, one “style”, or one process by which architecture addresses the world’s problems.

The recent issue of Log (#20) features articles on “Curating Architecture”.  Bergdoll’s article entitled “In the Wake of Rising Currents: The Activist Exhibition” describes his recent Rising Currents exhibit as a way in which “the design professions recapture a place at the table of the most important national debates about everything from land use to infrastructure”.  Rising Currents is an exhibit at the MoMA, which addresses the alarming rise in sea-level due to global climate change.  Previous interventions put in place ‘hard’ fortress-like infrastructure that fails as a sustaining long-term model.  Therefore, the prompt promotes adaptive ‘soft’ infrastructures.  MoMA chose 5 young -yet seasoned- architecture firms to contribute design solutions to 5 coastal zones of New York City and New Jersey.  Not only does Rising Currents display contemporary issues and solutions, but becomes an incubator for promising architects to practice during a tough financial climate through an architect-in-residence program.  Bergdoll terms this show as a “reactive mode of exhibition” and a type of manual for intervening.  Although he is referring to the institution’s role, the motive behind the Rising Currents exhibit is completely relevant to architecture’s role in society and Crisis City’s ability to design a process which links our separate interests into one comprehensive design guide.

Rising Currents architects with Barry Bergdoll

The notion of curating our projects seems like an extremely valuable concept.  This is an appropriate way to view our collaborative venture.  We don’t expect our projects to be built, unless it is a small-scale prototype, however, a careful curation of our projects can become a reactive mode, which prompts a larger more meaningful conversation within academia and beyond into the greater public realm.  Our projects display examples and possibilities for the future of design.

Furthermore, Bergdoll points out the increasing relevance of the “process”.  Process prompts discussions just as much as the final outcome.  Rising Currents puts process on display similar to another MoMA architectural exhibit, “Small Scale Big Change”.  Curator Andres Lepik chose architects and projects which “not only design projects but design processes to get things done”.  These projects, as well as the Crisis City theses, are “global in implication yet local in application and design”.  In the same vein, Crisis City has considered a culmination project that takes lessons learned from our global discoveries and applies them locally.  Perhaps, lessons learned from these activist exhibitions will provide a precedent for extracting or creating moments of linkage as well as a common process.

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