In honor of Women’s History Month, SCI-Arc has created a collection of videos featuring recent lectures from its Media Archive and recent features from SCI-Arc Channel to highlight and amplify the creative and critical work of women within the architecture, design, and art communities.
Born in El Salvador, Los Angeles-based artist Beatriz Cortez crafts sculptures—often large, metal, and architectural—that evoke Latinx and Indigenous pasts and presents. Her practice explores simultaneity, life in different temporalities and different versions of modernity, particularly in relation to memory and loss in the aftermath of war and the experience of migration, and in relation to imagining possible futures. Widely exhibited, Cortez’s has had solo exhibitions at the Craft Contemporary Museum and Clockshop in Los Angeles, and has been included in group shows at the Hammer Museum, the Whitney, and Ballroom Marfa, among others. In 2019 she received the inaugural Frieze LIFEWTR Sculpture Prize and in September 2020, she installed her monumental piece Glacial Erratic in New York City’s Rockefeller Center as part of Frieze Sculpture 2020. In addition to her art practice, she is a cultural and literary critic and professor of Central American Studies at California State University, Northridge. Cortez is the author of Aesthetics of Cynicism: Central American Post War Fiction and the author of numerous essays on postwar Central American literature and culture.
Artist Shirin Neshat discusses “Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again” her career spanning exhibition at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. Neshat describes how the narratives and characters in her work, based on autobiographical references, are brought to life in combination with the poetic language that is used to shape and express those narratives.
Mabel O. Wilson discusses a career of studying “to see my own history in the built world” from a student design project to MOMA’s “Reconstructions : architecture and Blackness in America”.
After an introduction by Elena Manferdini that stressed the variety of her activities – installation, research, performance, building - Frida Escobedo comments that she began in architecture as “a career that would give a structure of thought rather than a definition of a profession”.
She proposes petrified wood as an image of her interests: materials that carry the marks of history, like writing. This interest informs Split subject (2012-20), a project that began as a thesis project at the GSD, but has evolved numerous iterations over many years.
The project began with her fascination with a modernist tower in the Colonia Juárez section of Mexico City, in which the glass façade seemed to provide a registration of the history of the building’s habitation.
Jennifer Bonner [Director, MALL / Associate Professor, Harvard GSD] discusses the role of the extrusion in architecture; the insertion of social space into the office typology; stacking; multiples and collections in her recent projects including “Best Sandwiches” and “Domestic Hats”.
After being introduced by Hernán Díaz Alonso, Elsie Owusu discusses in depth a project for “A gallery for returning treasures” (GRT) in Kumasi Ghana. She describes the global movement for the restitution of cultural property and the significance of African artifacts lost through colonialism and theft, focusing on the material heritage of the Astante Empire. She describes how this project is linked to a Kumasi City Hall Complex, currently in development.
At 27:50. Owuso shares “Akrafokonmu / Soul Washer’s Badge”, an audio work incorporating sounds, music and text, inspired by the heroism of Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa (1840-1921) in the War of the Golden Stool, the Ashanti uprising against the British Empire in 1900.
At 32:30, Hernán Díaz Alonso and Owuso discuss the behavior of objects in terms of political relationships. Owuso stresses the magic contained in “that silent communication between architects, the public realm, and artifacts”.
An inside view into the work of Victoria Sambunaris. Based in NYC, each year, Victoria Sambunaris structures her life around a photographic journey traversing the American landscape. Equipped with a 5x7 inch field camera, film, a video camera and research material, she crosses the country alone tenting on top of her car for several months per year. Her large-scale photographs document the continuing transformation of the American landscape with specific attention given to expanding political, technological and industrial interventions.
V. Mitch McEwen [Co-founder A(n) Office/Assistant Professor, Princeton University School of Architecture] reflects on her path into architecture, urban design and academia. McEwen discusses current projects including the Black Box research group at Princeton University’s Embodied Computation Lab, work with a range of cultural institutions and a project for “The Architectural Imagination” at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016.
At SCI-Arc’s September 13, 2020 graduation ceremony, commencement speaker Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the graduating students, “to ask yourself what are the values and the models that you are developing as you organize your own work, when many of the models and the values in computing, in entertainment, in education, in politics, in healthcare are indeed failing us—they are just insufficient to meet the needs of the majority of people in our society.”
Elena Manferdini [Principal, Atelier Manferdini / SCI-Arc Graduate Programs Chair] takes an excursion through her latest book “Elena Manferdini: Portraits and Landscapes”. The book collects the work created by Atelier Manferdini during the last six years of design activity. The projects are subdivided in two large families of explorations, Landscapes and Portraits. The titles of the two volumes allude to two distinct picture plane orientations: horizontal and vertical. These two orientations not only represent an act of vision by the author, they also orient the audience. This book is a collection of work that creatively reinvents our way of looking and being in the world. “Elena Manferdini: Portraits and Landscapes” was published by Beijing University of Technology.
Dolmens are prehistoric stone assemblies. At the end of the 19th century, Eugène Trutat, Director of the Museum of Natural History of Toulouse, took photographs of these megalithic structures in the French landscape. Inspired by the Dolmen de Vaour in Tarn, this exhibition imagines extending the elusive quality of rude forms into the modern-day Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU).
Izaskun Chinchilla [Principal, Izaskun Chinchilla Architects] reflects on the role of ecology in radically transforming architectural practice and the potential of changing mobility patterns in relation to ‘caring activities’ in cities. Chinchilla’s projects address gender issues and work with design-hacking everyday, industrial objects to create a broader architectural engagement.
Production Designer Patti Podesta discusses the significance of details in film and how they contribute to a “reality” as it is portrayed on screen. For Patti, the use of color is never a benign act. Patti recalls that she has often avoided utilizing yellow in her design, but for the series “Hannibal” she introduced it as a means of isolating an object to immediately draw the viewers’ attention. Patti’s attention to realism in the film “Recount” meant that every document and piece of paper in the film was pulled from actual historic sources. This greatly influenced how actors behaved and interacted within the scenes.
In part two of our discussion with production designer Patti Podesta, Patti questions how Baudrillard’s description of artificial vs real influences the way in which falseness portrays on screen. In the Gregg Araki film “Nowhere,” Patti dealt with flat graphic motifs that compressed the physical set space. She further illuminates how references in the real world find their way into fantasy and the screen world. The House on the Rock is an architectural reference that Patti used to expose discrete qualities of discontinuity. When approaching the design for American God’s she invoked this notion as symbols of Americana and the supernatural played against and with each other in a visual symphony.