Eric Kahn was an essential ingredient of SCI-Arc for several decades. Within the Media Archive, he can be glimpsed in 1991, discussing his work with Russell Thomsen and Ron Golan at Central Office of Architecture. And then with Thomsen again in 2010, where they discuss their work as Idea Office. Kahn also served as introducer for other speakers, ranging from Karl Chu (1994), Roger Riewe (2001), Michele Saee (1992), Richard Warner (1997), to sociologist David Smith (1998).
Since 1979, the “Nobel Prize of architecture” has been awarded to architects who were familiar guests at SCI-Arc before they were generally known. Shigeru Ban, the 2014 laureate, began in architecture as a student at SCI-Arc 1977 to 1980.
Here is a selection from the SCI-Arc Media Archive featuring Pritzker laureates, in the order of their award, with the year of their talk:
- 1981: James Stirling in 1976
- 1985: Hans Hollein in 1987
- 1989: Frank O. Gehry in 1976
- 1994: Christian de Portzamparc in 1998
- 1995: Tadao Ando in 1986
- 1996: Rafael Moneo in 1998
- 2000: Rem Koolhaas in 1983
- 2004: Zaha Hadid in 1985
- 2005: Thom Mayne in 1997
- 2007: Richard Rogers in 1977
- 2009: Peter Zumthor in 1988
- 2010: Kazuyo Sejima in 1999
- 2013: Toyo Ito in 1990
- 2014: Shiregu Ban in 2005
SCI-Arc’s Robot House opened for business in 2011, as part of Emerging Systems and Technologies/Media (ESTM) program, but automated production (and destruction) has been part of the conversation for decades, as these clips indicate.
The original dates of the lectures are as follows:
- Carolyn Dry, 1983
- Marc Pauline, 10/26/1988
- Peter Cook, 11/5/1997
- Natalie Jeremijenko, 9/22/2003
- Volkan Alkanoglu, 10/2/2009
- Material Beyond Materials Panel 4 Manufacturing Construction, 3/26/11
- Brandon Kruysman and Jonathan Proto, 4/13/2012
“When I draw, the drawing is not a step toward the built but an autonomous reality that I try to anticipate.” (Raimund Abraham, Bomb magazine, Fall 2001)
In these clips we see a range of approaches to architectural drawing, plus a range of interpretative strategies. Peter Cook is caught in 1982 walking a group through an exhibit of his and Ron Herron’s drawings. That same year, Bernard Tschumi discusses his Manhattan Transcripts project and Raimund Abraham talks about the role of drawing in his process. Robin Evans in 1985 steps back for a long view of the relationship between geometry and architecture. The lectures by Claude Parent (1998) and José Oubrerie (2011) actively incorporated drawing as performance. Marcelyn Gow brings the discussion up to date with a study of the function of line in projects by SCI-Arc Graduate Thesis students.
[Photograph ©1980 Ave Pildas]
The following videos compliment A Confederacy of Heretics, an exhibition that examines the pivotal role played by the temporary gallery held in the home of architect Thom Mayne for several weeks in 1979. Los Angeles’ first gallery exclusively dedicated to architecture, the Architecture Gallery staged ten weekly exhibitions by both young and established Los Angeles practitioners.
Each of the original Architecture Gallery exhibitions included a monitor connected to a reel-to-reel deck. Displayed on the monitor was a black-and-white video of a lecture by the featured architect, presented a few days earlier. Presented here are the original lectures by Coy Howard (October 3, 1979), Eugene Kupper (October 10), Frederick Fisher (October 24), Frank Dimster (October 31), Frank O. Gehry (November 7), Peter de Bretteville (November 14), Craig Hodgetts & Robert Mangurian (November 21), Thom Mayne & Michael Rotondi (November 28), Eric Owen Moss (December 5).
Coy Howard’s December 12 summing-up has yet to be located. The clip featuring Roland Coate Jr. is undated, and may be of a lecture prior to his October 17, 1979 presentation. Another video featuring Coate from 1976 is presented here, as well as Mud House, a documentary by Jesse Alexander and Leslie Schatz about a Coate house built in 1974.
Video in Southern California in 1979, was not a novelty: it was a featured player in a diverse array of contexts—entertainment, educational, artistic, activist and technological—and almost inevitably part of The Architecture Gallery.
A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979, is on view at the SCI-Arc Gallery + SCI-Arc Library Gallery: March 29 – July 7, 2013.
Opening reception: Friday, March 29, 7pm
Exhibition discussion: Friday, April 5, 7pm
A Confederacy of Heretics Symposium: Friday, June 14, 3-9pm & Saturday, June 15, 10am-4pm
Exhibition curated by: Todd Gannon, Ewan Branda and Andrew Zago
Exhibition design: Zago Architecture
A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979 is part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., an initiative celebrating Southern California’s lasting impact on modern architecture through exhibitions and programs organized by seventeen area cultural institutions from April through July 2013.
Major support for A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979 is provided by the Getty Foundation.
Additional support is provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Vinyl Institute and the Pasadena Art Alliance. The publication is underwritten in part by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund. Archival images provided by the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
SCI-Arc exhibitions and public programs are made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs.
Lebbeus Woods died October 30 in New York. The obituary in the Guardian features tributes from many colleagues and admirers, including Nigel Coates:
“He reminded us that to believe in the existence of architecture you need to feel it. Elaborate drawings of found spaces full of whirring sticks and lines of energy were genuine attempts to materialise the experience of space. Who else could do this? Nobody!”
The following lectures by Woods were recorded at SCI-Arc on October 20, 2003 and September 16, 1991.
A Google search of ”California mid-century modernism” yields more than five million hits. Post-WWII California modernism is so ubiquitous and popular, many may not realize this was not always the case.
In 1962, the year Esther McCoy’s monograph Modern California Houses celebrated the Case Study program, Craig Ellwood’s 1955 Case Study House #17 in Beverly Hills was radically renovated from, in John Chase’s words “a temple of modernism … to a temple to the Hollywood Regency style.”
For Reyner Banham, in 1971, post-war modernism in L.A. was “the style that nearly …,” a lost dream, that was glamorous but no longer relevant.
MOCA’s spectacular 1989 exhibit Blueprint for Modern Living, reframed post-war modernism for a new generation. Two years later, the Manchester City Art Galleries presented a comprehensive New Look: design in the fifties. The reach of both exhibits was extended by their authoritative and encyclopedic catalogs.
By the mid-Nineties, “mid-century” was in vogue. Online retailer Design Within Reach began making, in its own words, “authentic modern design accessible” in 1999. The next year Dwell magazine started—an unpropitious moment to start a print magazine—but has thrived with its message of being “at home in the modern world.”
Among the resources on mid-century design in SMA, are lectures by Case Study architects Thornton Abell, Charles & Ray Eames, Craig Ellwood, Whitney Smith, Raphael Soriano.
Also included are essential California modernists Harwell Hamilton Harris, John Lautner, and Ray Kappe, and an edited sequence of interviews from 1976 with John Lautner, Craig Ellwood, Ray Kappe, Daniel Dworsky, Leroy Miller, and Frank Gehry.
Reyner Banham and Esther McCoy, historians of modernism in Los Angeles, are also represented. McCoy’s video captures her tribute to another mid-century L.A. icon, Konrad Wachsmann.
[Image: The cover of the orginal Reinhold Publishing edition of Esther McCoy's Modern California Houses]
There’s a lot of talk archived in SMA, but it would be wrong to assume that’s all there is. Since its start, SCI-Arc has provided a stage for music and dance. Not talk about music and dance, but actual performances.
Most performances occurred for their own sake, as demonstrated by the clips of Rubén Ortiz Torre, and Matmos, and documented by Adhe Lahti’s posters for special concerts.
Other performances were inflected by the context of SCI-Arc, and prompted engagement with architecture. Choreographers Bella Lewitzky and Mehmet Sander presented demonstration performances. Dione Neutra and Konrad Wachsmann presented music related to specific architects. And Steve Roden employed the ambient sounds of SCI-Arc as compositional material.
[Image: Beaux-Arts Ball performers, mid-1970s, at SCI-Arc's original facility.]