Making Architecture Public

Architecture exhibitions are valuable means of bringing buildings, the processes of designing and making them, and other aspects of architecture to the public. With a myriad of institutions, venues, and ways of exhibiting, it's hard to determine the best way to make something as complex as architecture understandable to a wider public. With the Association of Architecture Organizations 2013 conference taking place in Boston (26-28 September) and the Yale School of Architecture symposium Exhibiting Architecture: A Paradox following in New Haven (3-5 October), it seems like an apt time to look at how institutions exhibit architecture and what directions they are heading. This short survey asks some international institutions a handful of questions to get a sense of the present and future of creating exhibitions and making architecture public.
 

 

Architekturforum Aedes
Berlin, Germany

Established 1980
Q&A with Hans-Jürgen Commerell, Co-Director (with Kristin Feireiss)

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

The Aedes Architecture Forum seeks to focus public attention on the culture of building, while embedding architectural and urban questions and spatial perception as significant matter of our collective culture into exhibitions and programs. Aedes uses architecture and the urban environment as parameters to present and discuss holistic visions, sustainable concepts, urban planning and landscape design. Acting as a social and cultural platform akin to a museum, Aedes also has a crucial role in serving public education and advanced knowledge expertise.

Aedes is set in an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral context to include content beyond architectural practice and its perspective.  In addition to up to 16 exhibitions per year, the dialogue with outside experts and an interested public is supported by simultaneous symposia, lecture series and discussions. To complement the exhibition space and extend interdisciplinary formats, the Aedes Network Campus (ANCB) has emerged from 30 years of expertise in architectural communication in an international context. The ANCB shares and compares cultural values, modes and diversity, exchanges knowledge, discusses technologies and innovation, and supports networking throughout the various formats.

Through a unifying and interdisciplinary platform, the ANCB programs strive to accomplish insights, positions and proposals that respond effectively and creatively to the urgent urban challenges of today and tomorrow – such as sustainability, migration, mobility and smart technologies – all within the discourse of design. Through interdisciplinary public debates, workshops, collaborative research projects and university design studios with its collaborating partners, the ANCB aims to enable a livable future in our urban environments and to bring together all partners in this common search for urban intelligence.
Architekturforum Aedes. The Poetics of Boxes: Mathias Klotz, Chile exhibition, 2013. 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

The Aedes Architecture Forum conducts wide-ranging research into possible projects and protagonists, always looking for new architectural visions, sustainable concepts, and innovative urban planning and landscape design, while constantly considering societal demands. The size and organizational structure allows flexibility in reacting to emerging societal, cultural or technological issues. This contrasts with larger structures, such as research institutions, universities or state museums, which are managed with a certain administrative complacency.

The comprehensive ANCB programs are based on recent challenges in our urban environment, critical questions discussed in politics, the current urban planning context, goals set by decision-makers, social and urban trends, and circumstances of natural and environmental impact. Comparing and setting an international context, the ANCB extracts subsequent topics from these programs to follow up and explore them in depth through further projects.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

Every exhibition is being designed in close cooperation with the relevant protagonists who react to internal and external spatial dimensions and elements. The exhibition venue consists of two spaces and therefore can be used for two exhibitions simultaneously. This allows for cross-fertilization between exhibitions and contexts. Additionally, the spaces of the ANCB can be used for accompanying symposia, debates and workshops.

The post-industrial setting in an old brewery with courtyards and public spaces allows the extension of spatial boundaries and the "flowing" of content into urban spaces.
Architekturforum Aedes. TU-MU exhibition, 2001. 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact?

Evaluating success is a complex issue. Architecture and urban culture is in itself difficult to compare or use similar parameters of evaluation as one would with other cultural activities or programs like theatre, music, and art. Fifty guests attending a lecture on sleep research in relation to the design of workspaces are a lot. The emphasis made on content is not reciprocal measurable by number of visitors. The number of visitors to an exhibition varies by content and local conditions. A show on SANAA or Olafur Eliasson can receive up to 15,000 visitors in a seven-week period; 3,500-7,000 visitors would be an average frequency. Success is also coverage in the feuilleton of the big national or international newspapers or when, for example, people still know about our 2001 exhibition TU-MU, in which we exposed the work of the first generation of independent architects in China: Wang Shu, Yung Ho Chang, Ai Weiwei, Liu Jiakun, Ma Qunigyun, and others.

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

Currently we have a local issue on show: The Teutoburger Platz Redevelopment Area 1994 – 2013 18 Years of Urban Renewal in Berlin – Pankow. This exhibition highlights the urban redevelopment process that took place around that neighborhood in Berlin from 1994 to 2013, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in the framework of the first citywide urban redevelopment program. The Berlin Senate identified 22 redevelopment areas containing predominantly prewar or historic buildings.

Also on display is The Poetics of Boxes: Mathias Klotz, Chile. With this exhibition Aedes presents the first monographic show in Europe of the work of Mathias Klotz from Santiago de Chile, currently one of Chile’s most successful architects. Klotz’s works are characterized by their structural clarity, and the distinct volumes and lines of his buildings correspond with perfect conceptual rigor to the landscape.

In most cases, the exhibitions are tied into our general agenda and subsequent programme at the ANCB. In this particular case, Mathias Klotz is also leading a design studio with students from Universidad Diego Portales Chile at the ANCB in cooperation with the TU Braunschweig, undertaking examinations of case studies in Berlin. The exhibition regarding the Teutoburger Platz Redevelopment corresponds with Aedes interest in urban development strategies and local networks.

Coming in October is Rebuilding the Community – Architectural Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake by the work of the Archi Aid initiative; and coming in December is a solo exhibition on the work and approach of the Architect Francis Kéré.
Architekturforum Aedes. TU-MU exhibition, 2001. 

 

Architekturforum Zürich
Zürich, Switzerland

Established 1986

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?
 
Architecture, in the broadest sense, is the engagement of people with built space. Every closer definition can only be understood in the context of certain debates on content, task and meaning of architecture. The Architekturforum Zürich (AF-Z) has been encouraging these debates since late 1986. It is a space for — and makes room for — the free and spontaneous engagement with topics of contemporary architecture. It cross-links disciplines and is a platform for direct encounters, exchange and opinion formation.
Architekturforum Zürich. The gallery's design was done in collaboration with Miller & Maranta. Photo: Ruedi Walti 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

The definition of the content-related focus is made by the board of the AF-Z, which consists of architects, journalists and historians. The focus lies on projects that have a relation to Switzerland, or Zürich in particular. The decision of which projects are realized is made by the plenum.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

Our space sets natural limits to the exhibitions and events. We always move in our rooms. Curators can only realize exhibitions within these spatial limits. It is rare that we invite members to events outside of the AF-Z, which happens mostly in the context of the viewing of a building.
Architekturforum Zürich. Carte Blanche V: Miller & Maranta exhibition, 2008. Photo: Ruedi Walti 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact?
 
It is difficult to say which exhibition attracted the most attention. I would say that it was the Miller & Maranta exhibition after our move from Neumarkt to Brauerstrasse 16 and our reopening in the new premises.
 
What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?
 
The next exhibition will be Design+Design 13. Design+Design will be shown in our premises for the third time and thematizes Alfred Altherr, bridging the disciplines of architecture and design.
Architekturforum Zürich. Archigrafie: Writing in the Construction and with Public Space exhibition, 2009. Photo: Theodor Stalder 

 

Architekturgalerie München
Munich, Germany

Established 1989
Q&A with Nicola Borgmann, Curator and President

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

The building is solely an interim result of the architectural process. The images of architecture, communicated through the media, merely spotlight certain aspects without telling a story. A comprehensive perception of architecture should include the phenomena of its emergence, its context, the basic conditions as well as the reception that follows. In an architectural exhibition I present the icon against the background of the idea. Exhibitions on architecture within this broader sense bring the public discussion to a level that serves to acknowledge architecture as a valuable cultural asset and, in return, to impact building. Perhaps this does indeed show that architecture must not be fragmented into images, but its diverse and associative stories should be visually expressed. And it is great fun to exhibit architecture!
Architekturgalerie München. YES IS MORE, BIG, Bjarke Ingels Group, 2011. Photo: Markus Lanz 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

The program of the Architekturgalerie München oscillates between the local and the global, between stars and young talents, between architecture, urbanism and related topics such as set design, photography and sculpture. With all topics I like to illuminate — beyond aesthetic perception — fundamental and socially relevant political questions. Thus, architectural exhibitions not only resonate among the expert community but also receive great appreciation within a broader public consciousness.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

Actually, the space is not important at all, because it changes completely with each exhibition. What is relevant is the location of the Architekturgalerie München in the center of the Art district, neighboring the universities and the museums within this dense and vivid urban quarter called Schwabing. We often extend into the city with satellite events, with discussions at new buildings or conversions on site, by showing films in a parking garage, or providing a mobile playground for children. In cooperation with universities, the Architectural Association or other galleries, fashion labels and clubs, we enlarge our platform for both discourse and entertainment.
Architekturgalerie München. WHAT IF...? Architektur im Dialog, Henning Larsen Architects, 2012. Photo: Markus Lanz 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact? 

Naturally, the exhibitions with the international stars such as Herzog & de Meuron (1991), Norman Foster (1995), Peter Eisenman (1998) or BIG (2011) attract very large audiences and we have to use the university's nearby lecture hall for the introductory speech prior to the actual opening in the gallery space. Also, local heroes such as Auer+ Weber or Sauerbruch Hutton certainly attract numerous guests and friends. Popular topics like the current exhibition of photographs of Munich from the perspective of a drone are covered by all media and are therefore visited by a larger public. With our exhibitions and events on sensitive issues, like high-rise buildings in Munich, the Olympiapark Munich, joint building ventures or planning urban disaster recovery, the Architekturgalerie often supports future discussion and development.

One of my personal favorites was the exhibition Perlen – Perls, where we asked architects to name their favorite building in Munich that wasn't already featured in architectural guides. The exhibition and catalogue revealed a surprising range of excellent everyday architecture, which is now in the minds of the local people. Also, it is always a great pleasure for me to work with students and give them a chance to show their designs outside the university and giving an impulse for new visions. 

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

From 26 September to 10 November we will show the exhibition Memory and Invention from Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos, a Madrid- and Berlin-based architectural office. Founded by Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano, they are among the most distinguished representatives of Spain’s contemporary architectural scene. One of the ongoing projects of Nieto Sobejano is the Stadtportal Munich East where five towers of different heights are grouped together to compose a new urban space. In November there will be book launches and lectures, including Healing Architecture. In December the great Swiss architect Luigi Snozzi will honor us with his visit, showing models and sketches, combined with an anthology of aphorisms from his teaching and lectures.
Architekturgalerie München. PASTICCIO MÜNCHEN, Hild und K, Caruso St. John Architects, 2013. Photo: Markus Lanz 

 

Architekturzentrum Wien
Vienna, Austria

Established 1993
Q&A with Katharina Ritter, Curator

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

The Architekturzentrum Wien (Az W) was founded 20 years ago to bring international architectural developments to Vienna and make Austrian positions known abroad. From the very beginning the four main areas of activity were formulated as presentation / discussion / publication / archiving. Architectural exhibitions are an important "window" to the public and give the opportunity to enter new fields of discussion, broadening geographical, theoretical or mental horizons. Through a wide range of topics we hope to reach a wide range of people – not only experts and architects. And through a manifold educational program accompanying the exhibitions the next generation already grows up with the right questions in mind. 
Architekturzentrum Wien. Courtyard. 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

By surveying the international and national tendencies in architecture and in society; by trying not to broadcast the past (or present) – which you will always be able to find in architectural magazines – but instead detecting the future and offering some new points of view; by commemorating the past and breaking through crusted ways of historiography in order to contextualize the present.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

There are several ways to read and answer this question. The Az W houses several spaces. Besides the shop, library and lecture room there are three spaces for exhibitions. The permanent exhibition a_show. Austrian Architecture in the 20th and 21st Centuries occupies a 350-square-meter space. For temporary exhibitions the Center has a main space of 330sm and a flexible small space of 120sm which is used for student projects, competitions, children workshops, smaller exhibitions, etc. Until now the main space was home for three temporary exhibitions per year, most of them curated and produced by the Az W. The very high space with its bare brickwork walls and timber floorboards adapts very well to all kinds of exhibition designs and surprisingly can handle an incredible amount of content – without leaving the impression of being crowded. The possibility to incorporate the main courtyard of the Museumsquartier – but also a very small courtyard to the back – has inspired the designers many times to "leave" the confines of the space and invite the strolling public to take a look inside.

But another way of breaking through the confines of the space is carried out by all the other activities of the house – mainly through the architectural tours, the workshops for all age-groups, and discussions and presentations that are taking place all year round.
Architekturzentrum Wien. Az W Gold: The Collection, 2013. 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact?

The most successful exhibition of the Az W – in terms of visitors, media response and international impact – was Soviet Modernism 1955 – 1991. Unknown Stories, which was shown in 2012 after three years of research and was accompanied by an extensive publication and an international architectural congress. The exhibition explored – for the first time comprehensively – the architecture of the non-Russian Soviet republics completed between the late 1950s and the end of the USSR in 1991. The research and exhibition project shifted the Russian-dominated perspective and focused attention on the architecture of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, The Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Interestingly enough this topic – with its architecture but also the ideological and social impact – raised the attention of a very broad public and the reactions were amazing.

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

From 2013 on the Az W is confronted with the need to handle severe budget problems and therefore has to reduce its programming dramatically. This also means that only one temporary exhibition per year can be financed. In 2014 this will be Think Global. Build Social! Architectures for a Better World, a co-production of the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt and the Architekturzentrum Wien, curated by Andres Lepik. The exhibition starts from the theory that architecture influences the society that creates it. However, over the past few decades the discipline has only marginally addressed the question of its social relevance. But now a small number of architects have taken it upon themselves to apply their services in a new way, planning and successfully implementing projects that are committed to helping those people who normally would not have access to specialist designers. The exhibition will showcase some 20 different positions and concepts that convey a new view of the role architecture plays in society.

The Az W originally started this "bottom-up" discussion back in 2003 with its international highly renowned exhibition project Just Build It! The Buildings of the Rural Studio, which led to an increasing number of architectural design-build programs implemented at universities all over the world nowadays.
Architekturzentrum Wien. Soviet Modernism 1955 – 1991: Unknown Stories, 2012. 

 

Canadian Centre for Architecture
Montreal, Canada

Established 1979 
Q&A with Mirko Zardini, Director

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

In recent years and in response to the problems posed by contemporary “crises” – from environmental to the social, from the energy to the economical – the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) has sought to contribute more actively to the debate and discourse on architecture and the built environment. This particular historical moment calls for a different idea and approach towards curating and, certainly, a different definition of the role of museums and research centers.

Given this premise, we have decided to question and re-examine the assumptions on which architects operate today and to rethink the roles and responsibilities of the design disciplines and the boundaries of their fields of study. The CCA engages curatorial practice as a way of producing and commenting on ideas on architecture and introducing new forms of dialogue between architects, landscape designers, and urban designers and planners.
Canadian Centre for Architecture. View of south elevation showing Alcan Scholars' Wing (1989, Peter Rose architecte) and Shaughnessy House (1874, W.T. Thomas, architecte) Photo: Canadian Centre for Architecture Collection, Montréal. © CCA, Montréal 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

The transformation of exhibitions into means of exploration of specific themes and emerging problems – and the consequent abandonment of solely monographic shows – has been one of the CCA’s many responses to frame and study contemporary issues. Through this thematic take, we have been able to address ideas and projects from within the specific contexts under which they were or are being produced.

Through the careful selection of topics and themes, we argue that an exhibition, or a series of exhibitions, can initiate and contribute to contemporary discussions around subjects that we think are urgent and crucial. Ideas on perception, landscape, ecology, energy, lifestyle, activism, migrations, future, progress, health, have all found their way into the CCA’s exhibitions and have created a relevant constellation of thematic explorations. Exhibitions also allow us to investigate a "grey zone" at the crossroads of contemporary culture, contemporary society and contemporary architecture, and to critically expose its contradictions.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

Within this new understanding of the role of exhibitions on architecture, the design becomes an integral part of the curatorial strategy. The display contributes to the understanding of the objects and the narrative in the galleries. Likewise, during the curatorial process, it contributes to better elaborate and define the scope of a precise point of view. The design, in fact, determines the overall character and atmosphere of the exhibition and has great impact on the visitor’s readings and impressions. For every exhibition, the CCA engages in a dialogue with an architect, a graphic designer and many related experts (light designers, for example), who contribute to convey a curatorial direction to the exhibition's content and design and define the right character of the display space.
Canadian Centre for Architecture. Actions: What You Can Do With the City, installation view, 2008. Photo: Canadian Centre for Architecture Collection, Montréal. © CCA, Montréal 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact? 

The thematic exhibitions - produced since the end of 2007 - have been very successful in defining the voice of the CCA within contemporary debates. The exhibition with the largest impact has probably been Actions: What You Can Do with the City, presented at the CCA (Montreal, end of 2008) and the Graham Foundation (Chicago, end of 2009). Actions was a forerunner of debates and shows elsewhere reflecting on small-scale, bottom-up interventions that instigate positive change in the urban realm; it was also accompanied by a microsite that brought nearly 100,000 visitors into the conversation. Actions is going to be presented at the São Paulo architecture biennial parallel to a new open call launched on the microsite for initiatives on how to improve the city through individual action.

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

We are currently exhibiting the first phase of a three-year project on the development and use of digital tools for design conceptualization and production entitled Archaeology of the Digital. The project will result in two more exhibitions – in spring 2014 and spring 2015, featuring a total of 25 projects produced between the late 1980s and 2000 – and a series of seminars, public programs and publications. The goal of Archaeology of the Digital is to foster research on the evolution of design thinking and production in recent years, but also on how to collect, preserve and catalogue digital material and how to display it and make it available to the public and to researchers.

Alongside the development of this archaeology, we continue to investigate the role of planning in the definition of the built environment, this time focusing our attention on how the canonical vision of the modern city was superseded in Chandigarh and Casablanca by a combination of local particularities and international economic and political forces.
Canadian Centre for Architecture. Archaeology of the Digital, installation view, 2013. Photo: Canadian Centre for Architecture Collection, Montréal. © CCA, Montréal 

 

Chicago Architecture Foundation
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Established 1966
Q&A with Ingrid Haftel, Associate Curator

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

Each exhibition and public program we produce springs from the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (CAF) mission: to inspire people to discover why design matters. This mission implies a question: why does design matter? To help our visitors find answers to that question, we create projects that focus on the context and impact of design at an urban scale. Take Me to the River, currently on view in our Lecture Hall space, knits together a selection of new and planned projects along the Chicago River into a commentary on what we value – or don’t value – about Chicago’s “second waterfront.”

In 2011, CAF collaborated with Stanley Tigerman on his Design on the Edge project, a book and exhibition that solicited from some of Chicago’s most creative designers bold ideas for Chicago ‘L’ stations. The concepts that emerged from Studio Gang, UrbanLab, John Ronan Architects, and others were visions for much more than an isolated transit station – they communicated the power of design to connect and enliven Chicago communities. These are just two examples of how we try to present our visitors with opportunities to discover the impacts of design on everyday life and the city we love.
Chicago Architecture Foundation. Take Me To the River exhibition. 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

One theme that unifies much of our exhibition work is innovation. In many ways, the power of this term has diminished from overuse – everything is sold as “innovative” today. Yet daring advancement is evident throughout Chicago’s history: turning swampland into a thriving metropolis, building ever-taller buildings, reversing the flow of the city’s central river – innovation is Chicago’s foundation. Whether it’s a skyscraper that doubles as an air-scrubber, or a vision for the city’s planned bus rapid transit corridors, we present forward-thinking design schemes with the hope that our visitors will be inspired to imagine the city of the future. Focusing on innovation also helps CAF foreground design as a process -- not simply a final built product, but a cycle of ideas, experiments, and decisions. 

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

CAF exhibits projects on the ground floor of the historic Santa Fe (now Motorola) Building. Our main exhibition spaces are the CAF Lecture Hall and the building’s atrium, a busy place that doubles as the main lobby. The building itself is a source of inspiration for our work. Pre-eminent design firms--including Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, VOA Associates, and Goettsch Partners—have offices here. Daniel Burnham—whose firm designed the Santa Fe Building—wrote the Plan of Chicago (1909) in the building’s penthouse, where he had a commanding of the urban lakefront he would come to shape. I think it’s fair to say that this special sense of place helps contextualize our individual exhibitions. It stitches what we do into the grander narrative thread of Chicago’s design legacy.

What our exhibition space is not is a white cube. Building traffic, space constraints, and the needs of neighboring offices require us to be creative in our presentations. Since 2009, the atrium has also been home to the Chicago Model, the largest scale replica of downtown Chicago in the world. Our exhibitions are designed around the model, which has become a symbol of how our work seeks to contextualize individual design projects in the broader context of city design and urban life.
Chicago Architecture Foundation. Chicago Model City. 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact?

CAF’s most successful exhibition was – and continues to be – the Chicago Model. Our scale replica is the only accurate three-dimensional model of the city in existence. The Chicago Model is a work-in-progress: each year, CAF (in collaboration with project sponsors DSM Desotech and Columbian Model and Exhibit Works) updates the model to reflect renovations, demolitions, and new construction.

When it opened in 2009, the Chicago Model was intended to be a temporary exhibition. Its popularity convinced us to keep it on view, where it continues to be a magnet for tourists and Chicagoans alike. At the time of its making, some stakeholders questioned the value of creating a physical model in the context of increasing digitization. Why not just create a digital version of the model? While we continue to pursue opportunities for using new, engaging digital tools in our exhibitions, the value of having a physical model in our space is very apparent. People gather around our model and share stories together – it’s a social learning experience that can’t be replicated online.

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

Great Cities, Great Lakes, Great Basin—guest curated by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill– focuses on how new attitudes and planning approaches could ensure a bright future for the people of America and Canada, who are united by the largest single source of earth’s rarest resource: fresh water. Opening in October 2013, this exhibition reflects CAF’s commitment to being a leading forum for the most innovative, forward-thinking visions for contemporary urban design.

Chicago: City of Big Data, opening in March 2014, will explore how data shapes the design and experience of Chicago. Visitors will trace the impact of data and data-driven technologies in their own lives and out into Chicago’s streets and neighborhoods. Through content created in collaboration with urban data experts, civic hackers, and leading designers, visitors will discover and interact with the nervous system of digital information that flows through the surrounding city. City of Big Data will also unveil a new interpretation of CAF’s signature Chicago Model experience. The scale city model will be brought to life with vibrant, dynamic data streams, creating a platform for visualizing, interpreting, and understanding the key urban issues facing Chicago.
Chicago Architecture Foundation. Chicago Model City. 

 

Danish Architecture Centre
Copenhagen, Denmark

Established 1985
Q&A with Nanna Bjerre Hjortenberg, Head of Presentation & Debate

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

Architecture is a central part of everyone’s life; it is unavoidable regardless of who you are and where you live. The Danish Architecture Centre (DAC) aims at broadening the awareness of architecture, planning and the built environment between both a non-professional and a professional audience in order to keep architecture and its role in society on the agenda and spur debates and informed discussions on the quality of the built environment. 
Danish Architecture Centre. Co-Evolution exhibition, 2006. Photo: Thomas Larsen 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

We try to always be one step ahead and present highly relevant and current debates and themes to our audience. We also aim at presenting new and not so commonly explored sides of architecture – focusing on the process and the collaborations, the particular surroundings/challenges or looking at what effect architecture and the build environment has on society. We always keep in mind what motivates and activates our audiences – whether it is a professional or a non-professional audience – and try to develop projects that are perceived as relevant and inspiring.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

Our exhibition space is situated in an old warehouse with tilted walls and wooden beams. We always work with the exhibition space – trying to challenge it, and ourselves, in creating new spatial experiences and dissemination situations. 
Danish Architecture Centre. Show Me Your Model exhibition. Photo: Hanne Hvattum 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact?

One of the projects we are still very proud of is the Venice Biennale exhibition project Co-Evolution (2006), which brought together young talented Danish architectural firms with four major Chinese universities in developing concepts for sustainable urban cities in China. The project won the Gold Lion in Venice and was part of moving the sustainability debate in Denmark to a new level.

The exhibition Yes Is More by BIG (2008) was also a huge success, creating a new mix of cartoons and architecture while at the same time presenting their amazing projects. At the moment we are showing Zaha Hadid Architects, an exhibition we developed together with ZHA; our audience loves it. 

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

On October 11 we are opening the exhibition Possible Greenland – originally created as the Danish contribution to the 13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice - and showing how architecture can play a role in the future development of Greenland. For the exhibition, teams of architects, engineers, planners and ethnologists from Denmark and Greenland have created a series of scenarios which can contribute to a wider debate in the Greenlandic society.

In the beginning of 2014 we will be showing an exhibition focusing on sustainability and the role architecture plays in solving the climate challenge. We are presenting the exhibition developed by Rotor for the Oslo Triennale of Architecture, which we have collaborated with on different occasions. We will involve the Danish public in discussing the issues and hopefully inspire everyone to change one’s own habits.
Danish Architecture Centre. Zaha Hadid Architects exhibition, 2013. Photo: Hanne Hvattum 

 

LIGA, Space for Architecture
Mexico City, Mexico
Established 2011

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

Exhibition spaces for contemporary architecture are almost non-existent in Latin America. So we really started LIGA to fill a void, to have a platform that would bring the work of young architects into discussion, an active space that could open up the debate around architecture in Latin America bringing peers from all over the region in contact with each other. There is a lot of building going on but very little reflection on the quality of the architecture — even for architecture with a capital "A," the architecture of certain authorship so to speak. This uneven balance between lots of construction and no discussion made LIGA a necessary platform to create a local architectural culture.

Far too often exhibitions on Latin American architecture have been organized from the outside (by museums or universities from Europe or the U.S.), and we think it is necessary to create our own reading of what's going on here — to start to create our own archives and to produce our own critical essays. For many of the young firms exposed at LIGA, it is the first time a thorough reflection on their work is asked for and the first time a critical essay on their work is written. This is important because it brings their studio a moment outside of the urgent needs at the agendas of clients or promoters, and asks them: What is it that you really want to establish with your firm? As an author how do you relate to other tendencies in the world?
LIGA, Space for Architecture. Photo: Ramiro Chaves 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

Each exhibition is a curatorial process, and the selection of the invited architect is the result of an extensive research in the region. We investigate a lot through our own visits to Latin American countries; through our colleagues and through former invited architects we established a network of architects that present us the most interesting offices from all over the area. However, the final decision is made very intuitively; it cannot be any other way. We really need to feel affinity with an architect's work to invite them to our space, since the relation we establish with them is very personal. It is very important for us to create a productive critical dialogue with the invited architect. The definition of the final exhibition will be the outcome of a long process in which the working methods, inspirations and design methods of an architect are questioned, reviewed and analyzed, in order to be able to crystalize their work into one single site-specific installation.  We also encourage the architects to experiment with new formats, materials and spatial layouts.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

Since our exhibition space is very small and awkwardly shaped (the space is an irregular triangle of only 16 square meters, intersected by three round columns) it will never be able to house a "classical" architecture exhibition made up of models, photography, and drawings; there is simply no space or walls to expose these items. The physical conditions of the space forced us to rethink the formats of architecture exhibitions. This smallness, which in the beginning seemed uncomfortable, became really an important feature of the exhibitions. It is interesting to see how in architecture the idea of "scale" will always play such a key role in the development of projects. The size of the venue sets the limits, while on the other hand the possibilities of experimentation are endless.

Along its perimeter, LIGA has furthermore two large horizontal windows (one of which faces one of the busiest streets in Mexico City) and a large surface of (removable) glass doors that connect with the entrance of the office building, so the connection between what happens inside the space, and what’s going on in the street or in the lobby just beside, becomes also an important issue. 

We also have a cycle of events called LIGA INTERLUDES. Under this name we basically place everything that does not fit into our regular exhibition program to open up our boundaries to all dimensions of cultural production. For the Interludes LIGA invites personalities of different disciplines in which work architectonic methodologies or interests feature a center role, to active the space with lectures, screenings, installations and dialogues.
LIGA, Space for Architecture. NO MORE NO LESS: Pezo von Ellrichshausen, 2011. Photo: Ramiro Chaves 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact? 

We never consider "attendance" or "wider impact" relevant in measuring the success or failure of an exhibition. An exhibition succeeds if a certain poetry or magic is established, when some of the more intimate thoughts of an architect are being conveyed directly to a specific spectator. In this sense, it is very closely related to an art installation. It requires a certain sensibility, a physical presence, and a special kind of encounter with the piece that will move you. What worked extremely well for me were the exhibitions of Pezo von Ellrichshausen, with its clever play with scale and expectations; the beauty and fragility of the project Isostasy by Carla Juacaba; and the massive wooden piece crammed into the exhibition space by Eduardo Castillo.

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

At this moment we are showing our 10th exhibition, a fantastic piece by the Mexican architect Luis Aldrete. It is a very simple garden hidden inside the gallery, He uses plain formwork, earth, vegetation and mirrors, to submerge a small garden into the mass of earth — an architecture that is anchored deeply in an undeniable telluric condition, intimately related to a material universe. The access to this hidden oasis generates expectations, displacements and tensions that immerse us in a contemplative micro-universe. There, the infinite repetition produced by the mirrors creates an illusory space that reveals the spatial possibilities and sensibilities implicit in the daily world around us.

In November we will open our first double exhibition: LIGA 11 and LIGA 12 will take place in Lisbon and Mexico City at the same time, since LIGA was invited to be part of the Lisbon Architecture Triennial. On this occasion LIGA invited the architecture firm MMX, to make a representation of LIGA space in Lisbon, while at the same time, the Portuguese studio RCJV will make an exhibition in LIGA Mexico.

In April 2014, LIGA will work in close partnership with the Architecture Foundation in London for an exhibition that will take place at their Exhibition Gallery. For this, we invited the architect Emilio Marin from Chile to develop a site-specific installation to showcase his work. 
LIGA, Space for Architecture. OPAQUE SOUND: Eduardo Castillo, 2013. Photo: Ramiro Chaves 

 

MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Los Angeles, California, USA
Established 1994
Q&A with Kimberli Meyer, Director

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?
 
Designed and built by R.M. Schindler in 1921-22 as a live/work space for two families, the Schindler House has been called the first modern house, and has influenced and inspired countless architects worldwide. It redefined notions of public and private and indoor and outdoor space; broke new ground in the design and construction of the modern dwelling; and became a site of forward-thinking aesthetic, cultural, and political activity throughout the 1920s-50s. It is the MAK Center’s mission to continue the conversation initiated by Schindler by creating and supporting programming that explores the dynamic intersections of art, architecture, and culture.
MAK Center. Schindler House courtyard. Photo: Joshua White 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

The MAK Center seeks out and supports innovative projects and ideas, acting as a think tank for current issues in Los Angeles and abroad.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

Everything is in negotiation or cooperation with the house and grounds. The challenge of exhibiting art works inside of a work of art are myriad. We also expand beyond our historic walls to engage the city as site for artistic interventions. How Many Billboards? Art In Stead was a large-scale urban exhibition that debuted twenty-one new works by leading contemporary artists, presented simultaneously on billboards throughout Los Angeles from February through May 2010. Future projects are in the works.
MAK Center. Everything Loose Will Land. Photo: Joshua White 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact?
 
One of our most successful exhibitions was our recent Everything Loose Will Land, which explored the cross-pollination that took place between architects and artists in Los Angeles in the 1970s, a time when the autonomy of art forms yielded to convergences, collaborations, borrowings and more.

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

In an early letter, Pauline Schindler wrote, "One of my dreams, Mother, is to have, some day, a little joy of a bungalow, on the edge of the woods and mountains near a crowded city, which shall be open just as some people's hearts are open, to friends of all classes and types…” A Little Joy of a Bungalow is then an exhibition of site-responsive works by Molly Corey, Andrea Lenardin-Madden, and Escher GuneWardena Architecture, where each project examines the experience and historic social environment of the Schindler House in consideration of Pauline Schindler’s legacy.
 
Artist Molly Corey’s installation of audio, textiles, and a newly constructed Kings Road sofa revisits the roots of Pauline’s political engagement, while architects Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena present an original chamber opera on Sunday, October 13th based on Pauline and Rudolph’s decades-long relationship. Architect and former MAK Center Resident Andrea Lenardin-Madden presents an installation that mirrors and then amplifies the elegant lighting effects of the slim windows between the concrete panels of the Pauline Schindler studio.
 
The project is part of the ongoing series Schindler Lab. Every year the MAK Center welcomes many visitors to the House, and they often ask detailed questions about Schindler’s thought process in designing and constructing the building. Prompted by their curiosity, the MAK Center has developed Schindler Lab as a way for architects and artists to offer alternate views and didactic discussion of Schindler's design logic and methods. With Schindler Lab, the MAK Center encourages physical realizations in the space that both respect this achievement of historic preservation, and open the House to new perspectives not yet put into play over the site’s 90-year history. That spirit continues for this exhibition.

MAK Center. Everything Loose Will Land. Photo: Joshua White 

 

NOTE
Lisbon, Portugal

Established 2010
Q&A with Bárbara Silva, Director

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

NOTE is an independent, privately funded institution led by two architects. Our  purpose is to promote the appreciation, reflection and debate in architecture through exhibitions and talks. We seek to approach the architect in society and encourage the construction of  critical thinking in architecture.

In this moment, architecture is submerged in an identity crisis, so it is indispensable to have a space totally dedicated to architecture in Lisbon (like in any city), a space where architects can speak about their work, intentions, preoccupations and results, but also a space where the public can perceive how architecture informs our understanding of space, myth and history.
NOTE. Exterior. Photo courtesy of NOTE 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

We truly believe that the architectural profession is vital in spelling out the new challenges that emerged around the turn of the last century. For that reason is important to exhibit architecture and talk about architecture, accepting a new phase in the relationship between architecture and society but never forgetting that the main objective of architecture is to build. This fact is very important for us. That’s why we always exhibit architects dedicated to the confrontation of theory and academic practice, of design and building activity.

How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

The space is a storefront with two floors, a space that belongs to the Municipality of Lisbon, located in the center of Lisbon in a beautiful but highly degraded area that is now starting to be revitalized. On the first floor we make the exhibits and on the second floor the conferences. It is an open space with direct contact to the street, which is very good because we have a very diverse audience. 
NOTE. Interior. Photo courtesy of NOTE 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact?

The most successful exhibition was the itinerant exhibition 8th Ibero-American Architecture and Urbanism Biennial (VIII BIAU). This important exhibition represented the selection of exemplary works of architecture, public spaces, publications and research, rewarded at the VIII BIAU held in Cadiz in September 2012. It was an exhibition that invited us to travel through the architecture of the nine rewarded countries: Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Chile.

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

The next exhibition we are planning is the launch of the magazine El Croquis on the Portuguese architect Carrilho da Graça at the end of November, and Dialogue Architecture on the Spanish architect Juan Herreros in January 2014.
NOTE. Interior. Photo courtesy of NOTE 

 

Pinkcomma
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Established 2007
Q&A with curators Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo, Mark Pasnik

Why do you exhibit architecture? What do you hope to accomplish through your architectural exhibitions and other programs?

Pinkcomma began in 2007 as an extension of our design practice, over,under, in order to support a rising community of like-minded emerging architects, landscape architects, and designers who had chosen to stay in Boston after design school. We were aware of a void in the city between the critical exhibitions at universities—which were rarely focused on Boston—and the marketing-oriented displays produced by the professional organizations that were meant to engage the local community. The city needed a space for critical assessment of its own design field and an independent place where the various academic and professional communities could get together on neutral ground.
Pinkcomma. Heroic exhibition at Pinkcomma. 
How do you determine what is relevant for exhibitions and other programs?

As a trio of curators, we gather and review ideas together and argue through what is important and what makes sense for our mission. That mission has changed over time, especially in the last two years, where we have curated shows for both pinkcomma and the Boston Society of Architects. The relationship with the BSA has allowed us to prepare exhibitions on a larger scale and reach a wider, non-professional audience. Because of this, we’ve made pinkcomma even more focused on disciplinary interests. The last several shows, for instance, have formed a thematic series on the inventive use of representation techniques. By being more mainstream at the BSA, we could be more leftfield at pinkcomma.


How does your space impact how you display architecture? Are you “breaking through” the confines of your space in any way? If so, how? And why?

Pinkcomma’s footprint is quite small, so we’ve always been willing to step outside its confines, whether that be an installation like Parti Wall in 2008 or using dissemination techniques like our many newspapers and most recently the Design Biennial Boston book, Archive. We have always looked for subtle ways to cross that threshold. Our 2009 exhibition HEROIC was formed via tear-away sheets with images and texts on Boston’s concrete buildings. The goal was to maximize the effect of our installation budget, while distributing content from the gallery outward—hoping that people would accidentally leave sheets in coffee shops, bars, and on subways for others to discover.

In the case of Let’s Talk About Bikes at the BSA last summer, we developed a social media project that encouraged Boston’s cyclists to input answers to the question “why do you ride.” Their responses generated unique heraldic shields representing their cycling characteristics, which were printed as an updating display log in the gallery itself. While it is crucial to us that we use the gallery’s spatial presence for many purposes (chief among them, making a fun social venue for people to gather and talk about ideas in proximity to objects and images), the strategies of curation should also break those spatial boundaries to leverage the effects elsewhere. 
Pinkcomma. Let's Talk About Bikes exhibition at BSA Space. 
What has been your most successful exhibition(s), in terms of attendance but also in terms of their wider impact? 

Let’s Talk About Bikes had the largest attendance and broadest outreach. Nearly 1,500 people attend the two main events (on whom, we speculate, appeared a larger number of tattoos than during the entire hundred-plus year history of the BSA). The social media project included 750 entries on display in the gallery.

By contrast, the HEROIC and In Form exhibits have had narrower but more pointed and lasting impacts, establishing the rich legacy of design in and around the Boston area and framing the city as a seminal case study of important disciplinary movements. Our exhibitions and ongoing research have raised the level of discourse surrounding Boston’s concrete buildings and its designed interventions, effects that have led to transformative projects and preservation efforts like the landmarking of the Christian Science Church Center. Our series on publishing (A Few Zines, Publishing Practices, and Newsstand) uncovered a new enthusiasm for the use of print in an age of rapid digital dissemination—finding joy in collecting, reading, and discussing the printed word in architecture.

What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned? And how do they relate to the above questions and concerns, if at all?

We currently are showing the second installment of our architectural drawing series, which features Freedomland by Keith Krumwiede, an acerbic bite into the landscape of domestic mansions and private development. In November, we will feature drawings by LCLA Office, the creators of the most recent Pamphlet Architecture. In the spring, the final drawing exhibition will display works by Joakim Dahlqvist—whose sublime hand drawings and renderings test the limits of what drawing types mean in the culture of architecture. After that? We’re thinking of moving off the page into a series about three-dimensional objects, but we are still working it out! 
Pinkcomma. Projections exhibition at Pinkcomma. 

 

Email interviews conducted by John Hill