One of the enduring polarities in architecture is the tension between a focus on form and a focus on function. Here architect Mason White illuminates a range of contemporary practices that move beyond the old binary approaches to emphasize the productive potential of built surfaces — as White explains, "the capacity for a designed surface to generate a usable component — agriculture, renewable energy systems, water harvesting systems, et al." What is more, White argues, these new surfaces are producing not only usable things but also "a new public realm, and with that a new public, characterized not by whether it is urban, suburban or rural, but by whether it participates in the cultivation of its necessities, of its energy and food."
MAX PAGE AND PAUL JOHANSEN
"From the Northwest Ordinance (which laid out the square-mile grid that structured settlement west of the Mississippi) to the McMillan Plan (which created the National Mall), from Greek revival houses to Victorian homes, from City Beautiful parkways to mental institutions and prisons, American architecture has pursued national ideals through the organization of space for public and private life." Here historian Max Page and photographer Paul Johansen document two impressive instances of this pursuit: Eastern State Penitentiary and Charles Street Jail. These monuments to prison reform have found new uses — as a tourist attraction and a luxury hotel — but as Page notes, we continue, even in lean times, to invest in prisons, and "they threaten to be among the major public landmarks of our age."
We've long known that the atmosphere — the air that surrounds us — can be turned into a weapon, poisoned with chemical gases or contaminated with radioactive dust, and that major cities and large landscapes can become the collateral damage of industrialization. Javier Arbona explores more constructive efforts: contemporary projects, by architects and theorists, that conceptualize air as a design or building material, and that render it visible to reveal its diffuse, dynamic and sometimes polluted contents. As Arbona notes, such efforts not only open up new disciplinary prospects; they could also "take air into the realm of political contestation."
PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2005
From hot tubs to bodegas: a Houston subdivision built for the '60s singles lifestyle has found new energy as a multi-ethnic neighborhood.
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.