Rank #1: #04 Alexandra Lange: Judging Architecture and How We Design for Kids
Alexandra Lange has been writing about architecture and design for over two decades. Her articles span a wide range of subjects, from building reviews and calls for preservation to furniture, fashion, and women in architecture. After writing for such media outlets as Metropolis, Dezeen, The New York Times, Places Journal, Architect Magazine and The New Yorker, she published the book Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities in 2012. Currently working as the architecture critic at Curbed, her latest book The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids comes out this month.
In this episode, Alexandra Lange talks to Mark Minkjan about architecture criticism and The Design of Childhood. In the first half of the conversation, they discuss her work as a critic, the problem with architect profiles, writing for the New Yorker and feminist criticism. After that, the second half is about how to design the objects, spaces and cities that help children become independent, sociable and creative.
Links to books, articles and topics addressed in the conversation:
1:08 Alexandra Lange – Writing About Architecture
1:24 Alexandra Lange – The Design of Childhood
14:50 The Woman Who Gave the Macintosh a Smile (The New Yorker)
15:45 Support Failed Architecture
16:50 Play Ground: How a Dutch landscape architect is reinventing the park (The New Yorker)
18:25 Daniel Zalewski – Intelligent Design: Can Rem Koolhaas kill the skyscraper? (The New Yorker)
22:00 West 8’s Madrid Rio
25:10 Alexandra Lange – Philip Johnson’s Not Glass Houses (The New York Times T Magazine)
26:15 Alexandra Lange – The End of the Architect Profile (Curbed)
27:41 Ian Parker – Thomas Heatherwick, Architecture’s Showman (The New Yorker)
29:06 Zadie Smith – Deana Lawson’s Kingdom of Restored Glory (The New Yorker)
33:18 Alexandra Lange – What Does a Presidential Building Look Like? (Curbed)
35:20 Alexandra Lange – These are the Best Scissors I Ever Owned (Curbed)
37:55 Martha Scotford – The Tenth Pioneer (Eye)
38:30 Martha Scotford – Cipe Penelis: A Life Of Design
43:45 Dolores Hayden – The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighbourhoods and Cities
54:00 Assemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground
This episode was directed by Mark Minkjan / the Failed Architecture team
Jun 21 2018
Rank #2: #05 London Undone: Gaika and Ash Sarkar Discuss the City’s Past, Present and Future
In this episode, we use the work of London-based rapper Gaika to explore the subject of London, talking to both Gaika and Ash Sarkar, a senior editor at Novara Media who has previously collaborated with Gaika, about the city’s near future and its recent past.
Gaika’s work covers a lot of themes, but his “Security” and “Spectacular Empire” projects are among the most incisive articulations of the mood that has pervaded London in the past decade. Produced in 2016 and 2017 respectively, these two projects cover a diverse array of themes: ranging from race, the built environment and the housing market, to technology, space, and security… all the while employing the time-honoured medium of speculative fiction to diagnose the present historical moment.
Casting a long shadow over this subject, as well as Gaika’s own work, the 2011 London Riots occupy a significant part of the initial discussion. Both Ash and Gaika speculate on the conditions which caused the riots and consider their implications for the future of the city, as well as society more generally.
From there, we move on to discuss London’s relative stability and the value of insurrectionary moments to a progressive urban politics, along the way making references to, among other things, defensible space, One Hyde Park, gnostic fantasies, that Redrow advert, and the ironic lightness of a possible communism that is not definable in any way.
References (in order of appearance):
“The Spectacular Empire – a future imagined by GAIKA,” Dazed Digital, 28 September 2017
The “Bifo” Ash is referring to is Franco “Bifo” Berardi, an Italian Marxist theorist who was heavily involved in the student uprisings of the 1970s, especially in Bologna, where he edited the magazine A/traverso and established Radio Alice, the first free pirate radio station in Italy.
I couldn’t find the quote about “the ironic lightness of actually existing communism” but his book Precarious Rhapsody has him reflecting on his experience in Bologna in the late 1970s (cf. p.26).
The David Graeber essay referred to is “Despair Fatigue”
The Tom Gann essay referred to is “A Path Through the Embers: A Militant Caring Infrastructure in South London”.
The section of Marx’s Grundrisse which Ash is referring to is Notebook VII – The Chapter on Capital.
GAIKA – Crown & Key
“Alistair Darling: We were two hours from the cashpoints running dry” The Independent, 18 March 2011
This episode was directed by Charlie Clemoes / the Failed Architecture team
Jul 12 2018
Rank #3: #06 Architects in Calais: On Border Systems and Self-built Cities
The area around Calais, a town in northern France, has for many years been a major transit point for refugees on their way to the United Kingdom. During the recent peak in the number of refugees, the French and British authorities increasingly fortified this border landscape, forcing those on the move to build increasingly permanent shelters for themselves. As this self-built city, also sometimes referred to as ‘the jungle’, continued to grow the response of the authorities became increasingly violent. Now, the self-built city has been demolished and its inhabitants displaced.
The media hype following these events prompted a large number of aid workers, activists, volunteers, but also architects to make their way to Calais. For this episode, we talk to a few of them to find out what in particular triggered them to go, what they encountered and what they did. How should architects relate to these large, self-built areas? Is it possible to make a positive contribution in such a complex environment? Should ‘architecture’ be the focus of these violent border systems? And is there a need to document or archive such self-built cities?
– Grainne Hassett is a Dublin-based architect, who initiated various construction projects in Calais as well as worked on an extensive documentation project.
– Léopold Lambert is based in Paris, where he is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Funambulist, a magazine that continues to critically reflect on complex spatial-political situations such as Calais.
– Merve Bedir is an architect, now based in Hong Kong, and has over the last few years been involved in different locations on the ‘migrant trail’ between Syria and Calais.
References (in order of appearance):
40:15 IKEA refugee tent
48:18 Sam Jacob’s replica refugee shelter, exhibited at the V&A and Venice Architecture Biennale
52:30 Gran Horizonte, Urban Think Tank’s prize-winning exhibition on Torre David at the Venice Architecture Biennale
This episode was directed by René Boer / the Failed Architecture team
Sep 23 2018
Rank #4: #03 Modernism Distorted: Selling Utopia From Kleiburg to Keeling House
Stereotypes regarding Modernist architecture, and in particular the negative discourse on Amsterdam’s Bijlmer estate, have been quite crucial in shaping Failed Architecture’s way of thinking in its early years. Can we really blame the architecture for what went wrong? How can an entire neighbourhood, where thousands of people continue to live their lives on a daily basis, be simply dismissed as a grand failure? In recent years, however, there has been a slow but steady reappreciation of Modernist architecture taking place, but rather for its aesthetics than its social ideals.
While architecture from that era is still being demolished at a large scale, this renewed interest is Modernist architecture has also allowed investors to renovate entire blocks of it, and sell the individual apartments for lucrative prices. One of the last remaining Bijlmer flats, Kleiburg, went through a similar process, which was later even given the Mies van der Rohe Award and other major architecture prizes. For this episode, we revisit Kleiburg with Fenna Haakma Wagenaar, an architect who grew up in the flat, and discuss the simultaneous disregard and reappreciation of Modernist housing estates with critical expert Owen Hatherley.
– Fenna Haakma Wagenaar is an architect and currently design lead at the Municipality of Amsterdam. She grew up in Kleiburg.
– Owen Hatherley is an architectural historian and author of such books as Militant Modernism, A New Kind of Bleak and The Ministry of Nostalgia.
– SBMG (Sawtu Boys Money Gang) consists of rappers Chivv and Henkie T; their music video Oeh Na Na features in the episode and was largely shot in and around Kleiburg (full video below).
This episode is directed by René Boer / the Failed Architecture team..
Jun 07 2018
Rank #5: #11 Architects Unionise!
We tend to think of architects as professionals rather than workers. Architects design, create, delegate, follow a special calling, but they’re not often seen as “working for a living”, and they’re certainly not much like the workers who actually construct or extract the resources for the buildings they design. And yet, architectural work in the twenty first century has become ever more precarious. As with other white collar workers, architects are becoming increasingly accustomed to short-term contracts, overtime without pay and other traditional hallmarks of exploited labour.
In light of this new reality, for this episode we’ll be talking to architectural workers from the UK, the USA, and Brazil, about the role a labour union could play in the contemporary architectural profession. We’ll discuss the difficulties, limits and challenges of organizing architectural workers and speculate as to why architects have, until recently, been relatively absent from the history of the labour movement. We’ll also consider how unionisation could give ordinary architectural workers greater control over the buildings and spaces they design as well as over the wider spatial production sector.
- Keefer Dunn is an architect based in Chicago and a national organiser for the Architecture Lobby
- Fernanda Simon Cardoso is an architect based in São Paulo and a former Director for the FNA (Federação Nacional dos Arquitetos e Urbanistas)
- Sam and Alex are architectural workers based in the UK and organisers for Workers Inquiry: Architecture
This episode was directed by Charlie Clemoes/Jake Soule/The Failed Architecture Team
Oct 01 2019