FEATURED THIS WEEK : DEBORAH GANS
Months after the category 7 earthquake that leveled cities and towns and left more than a million homeless, Haiti is struggling to rebuild — and to rebuild not just settlements but also the nation's governance and economy. Architect Deborah Gans, who has studied how refugee camps can be transformed into agrarian villages, argues for a renewal based upon decentralized resettlement and a revived agro-forestry economy — which accords, as she notes, with the vision outlined in the national action plan for recovery. As she writes, "The future map of Haiti could appear a verdant landscape dotted with regional hubs connected by a web of transportation lines to restructured and enhanced port cities.
MABEL O. WILSON, PETER TOLKIN
Architects Mabel O. Wilson and Peter Tolkin traveled to Ghana to research the legacy of tropical modernism — the architecture constructed from the 1950s to the '70s, just as British colonial rule was ending and the independent nation was being established. They found a complex story. In contemporary Ghana the social ideals of mid-century have given way to an "ethos that promotes either signature forms or a mundane corporate aesthetic." And yet the earlier sensibility, "internationalism tempered by local conditions," is more meaningful than ever. As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Studio-X Global Initiative at Columbia, we are pleased to present Listening There.
In 1967 Peter Eisenman founded the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, which for almost two decades functioned as a forum for public and scholarly debate. In the early '70s Massimo Vignelli began a productive association with the Institute, designing its graphic identity, from periodicals to posters to stationery. As part of the Design Observer Group's week-long celebration of Massimo and Lella Vignelli's work, we are pleased to present a gallery of Institute graphic design, written and curated by Kim Förster, who is researching the history of the IAUS.
"America is littered with really large things — colossal chairs and chainsaws, gargantuan gas pumps and guitars, super-sized shoes and six packs, tremendous teapots and totem poles, all variety of enormous animals, insects, fruits and vegetables," writes architectural historian Keith Eggener. And, he notes, "Like claimants to the title of world's tallest building, enormous roadside attractions beg the question 'why?'" Eggener tackles the question, ranging from semiotics to economics to design history, and he finds strange objects born of local pride or personal whimsy or sheer tenacity.
Pratt Institute, School of Architecture
The work of the students here at Pratt shows a clear appreciation and understanding of the possibilities of architecture today, as the mission of the school is dedicated to design and a complete understanding of the making of cities and buildings. The spirit of advancing architectural ideas in terms of both form and technique is at the essence of the transformation of contemporary design.