The City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture is currently seeking artists to collaborate with the Waterfront Seattle design team to design and develop artwork along the soon-to-be rebuilt stretch of public spaces along Elliot Bay.
For information and to apply, visit the City’s website.
From 99% Invisible, this podcast (after the first two minutes and before the last five minutes of fundraising and ads) focuses on unbuilt urban plans from San Francisco and Manhattan’s history. The topic of unbuilt (utopian) projects has been gaining interest lately, in publications like this one and public exhibits like this one. There are some great nuggets in the discussion–particularly, this tumblr site is a cool, yet so simple, idea.
If you enjoy the podcast format and topics of design/urbanism, here’s another episode from 99% Invisible on how developers are using poetry in Santiago, Chile.
Apple’s proposed new HQ in Cupertino, CA: taken completely out of context
“I really don’t think architecture is about social or political activity any more than I think politics is about architecture.” –Michael Graves at a symposium in 1981 (as quoted in Peter Rowe’s Design Thinking, 1987)
Thankfully, Graves’ perspective is less prevalent than it was 30 years ago–but the legacy of autonomous formalism remains in the DNA of the discipline. A strain of architectural discourse has only recently (re)focused its attention on the issue of social and political agency in architectural practice. Some yearn for a revamped critical project, others seek a revised form of utopianism. Questions surrounding agency in architecture are certainly not new, but I believe they offer the greatest hope for protecting the profession from its ever-present potential of slipping into the realm of mere fashion and pure formalism.
Centered on this topic, a productive conversation has been taking place over the past few weeks. What started at a live panel discussion (as in, people talking face-to-face) has now moved to the blogosphere. Here is a video and synopsis of the initial event at the Storefront in New York City (apologies for the poor quality). Ross Wolfe then wrote this review. Quilian Riano, one of the panel speakers replied with this post. And finally, Wolfe responded back on his own blog. The content of their back-and-forth is thought-provoking, even if it lacks in much specificity (yet). Personally, I think the most productive direction is in defining what is meant by ‘political’ (not to mention ‘critical’, ‘agency’, and ‘utopian’) to better clarify how architecture is or is not political. But the very conversation itself (with its mixture of interpersonal activity, criticism, response, commentary, etc.) presents the kernel of a nice model for more productive dialogue–something the discipline could certainly use more of.
Going ‘Native’: Urban Iconography and the Uses (and Abuses) of the Indigenous and Settler Past
Wednesday, December 4th: 7-9pm at Olympic Sculpture Park, Paccar Pavilion
Coll Thrush, historian and author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place(University of Washington Press), will give a free waterfront-related lecture on Wednesday, December 4 at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Thrush will be introduced by Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribal Council. The lecture, entitled “Going ‘Native’: Urban Iconography and the Uses (and Abuses) of the Indigenous and Settler Past,” is presented by the Office of Arts & Culture in recognition of the large-scale project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with 26 acres of new public space, streets, parks, buildings and artworks, and is the first in a series of waterfront-related lectures.
Every North American city is built on Indigenous land, but few advertise this history like Seattle. This talk will discuss the ways in which cities have used their history of Native-settler relations and “Indian” images like totem poles to make sense of (and sell) themselves. Drawing on stories from Seattle, Vancouver, and London, including issues raised by the use of First Nations icons in the Vancouver Olympics of 2010, Thrush will challenge attendees to think about how we might move forward in ethical, factual ways that address the ongoing presence of both Indigenous people and colonialism on the land that we all call home.
In addition to Native Seattle, Thrush is also the co-editor of Phantom Pasts, Indigenous Presence: Native American Ghosts and Hauntings in North American History and Culture (University of Nebraska Press). He is currently a visiting fellow at the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London and an Eccles Fellow in North American Studies at the British Library, working on Indigenous London, a history of that city through the experiences of indigenous persons from the British Empire’s territories. He is an associate professor of history at the University of British Columbia.
More info and registration here.