Bodys Isek Kingelez at MoMA

Bodys Isek Kingelez. Kimbembele Ihunga. 1994. Paper, cardboard, polystyrene, mixed media, 51 3/16 × 72 13/16 × 126" (130 × 185 × 320 cm). CAAC - The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva. © Bodys Isek Kingelez. Photo: Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC - The Pigozzi Collection

Image Credit: MoMA

A full retrospective of Zaire-born artist Bodys Isek Kingelez will be featured at the The Museum of Modern Art in New York through December 2018. He is best known for his Utopian models of buildings and cities, constructed from everyday objects, the themes of which envision less tumultuous environments than those he experienced in his hometown.

Following Zaire’s independence from Belgium, its cities saw rapid urban growth unsupported by infrastructure investments, which led Kingelez to question and reimagine a better urban life through his art. He addresses many societal issues through his works and ponders the potential of architecture and the built environment to heal and support its citizenry.

The exhibition, City Dreams, runs from May 26, 2018 until January 1, 2019 and is accompanied by a catalog complied by curator Sarah Suzuki.


Lighting: A Balance Between Safety and Human-Centric Design

Street lights are changing the cities we live in. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Smart cities are implementing more minimalist LED street lamps, meaning greater cost-efficiency and brighter lights. However, some planners question what a brighter city will mean for humans and the ecosystem. While the Smart City movement is arriving with an arsenal of LED lamps, Florida’s Sanibel Island shuts off lights to protect the environment.

The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge—located in the city of Sanibel—has been praised for its eco-friendly planning. Because nearly all of the island’s artificial light shuts off at sundown, the wildlife refuge fades into the darkness of the Gulf Coast each night, accentuating the starry skies, protecting turtles from bioluminescent sand, and making it easy for residents to hit their REM-cycle stride. Now, some planners are asking: instead of adding lights, should other cities be following Sanibel’s example?

Smart city technology is drastically changing the way cities are illuminated. LED street lamps are beacons of blue light, the same kind of light that comes from our computer screens and can affect the quality of our sleep. Light pollution can also cause harm to several species of birds, turtles, and insects, and researchers are pointing out the additional qualitative loss that comes with the loss of true darkness—an inability to experience the night sky. The Guardian reported that in 1994, an earthquake in Los Angeles led to a power outage and, subsequently, numerous phone calls to the Griffith Observatory regarding the “strange sky.” The callers were viewing the stars.

While some are pointing to the negative ecological effects of light pollution and calling for a more “natural” way of lighting streets, not everyone is on board with creating cityscapes that coordinate with our circadian rhythms. One study of residents in Spain found that white LED lights make residents feel safer at night, meaning removing the feeling of safety—whether connected to actual safety or not—could be politically contentious. Additionally, studies conducted on the correlation between safety and lighting have resulted in different conclusions in different cities. Removal of night-time lighting in cities such as Atlanta, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Fort Worth could be detrimental to the safety of residents, according to the study.

Planners could debate for years on how to best implement street lighting, but the technological curve is moving faster than they are. Before we know it, LED lights will be covering our streets in the name of “Smart Cities”; places like Los Angeles, New York, and Houston have already implemented blue-light LEDs. Planners and residents must deal with the consequences, and perhaps consider adding melatonin supplements to their grocery list.

Sources: The Washington PostCityLabThe GuardianPlanetizenInstitute for Local Self-RelianceSleep ResolutionsMetropolis Magazine


Documenting the Rise of Toronto

Image Credit: CityLab

Arthur Goss’s career began at age 11, working for the city government to support his family after his father died. It was the 1890s and Toronto, Ontario was beginning to expand and enter the period that saw government public works projects bringing urban areas out of the Industrial era and into more sanitary, livable conditions.

Around this same time, city officials began to understand the documenting prowess that photography yielded. Thus Goss, whose skill with a camera was awarded when he was as young as 15, came to be the first official photographer for the city in 1911. He recorded new roads, sewers, transit lines and bridges as Toronto swelled.

His career ended with his death in 1940, at which point he had produced 35,000 images for the city, each negative of which was labelled and filed away for future reference. Today, they are housed at the City of Toronto Archives.

Read the full article chronicling Goss’s prolific career at CityLab/Life.

Source: CityLab

Replacing Ads with Art

Image Credit: Pop-Up City

For each of the 52 weeks of 2017, Art in Ad Places partnered with a new artist to install their work in one of New York City’s many payphone booths. The campaign started as a retaliation to advertisements that suggest money is the key to the public’s eyes, and to the impetus for many ads, which is to make people feel as though they are lacking something.

In a twist on street art, phone booths across the city were transformed for a year into displays for artwork, offering a different type of media for visual consumption—one that sparks a positive psychological reaction. The goal is to give passersby a break from the marketing madness and to push back against the rampant advertising that bombards our urban environments.

The project was documented by photographer and Art in Ad Places team member, Luna Park, and is viewable on The Street Spot blog.

Source: Pop-Up City and Art in Ad Places

Is It Real or Rendered?

Image Credit: Sotheby’s via Places Journal

As discussions of representation in design schools recognize our current collective shift into the postdigital era, Susan Piedmont-Palladino writes a pertinent article in Places Journal investigating our ever-changing relationship to images and representations of reality.

A professor of architecture at Virginia Tech, Piedmont-Palladino begins with a quote from writer Susan Sontag that emphasizes the acute importance of our ability to discern images:

” ‘A fake painting (one whose attribution is false) falsifies the history of art. A fake photograph (one which was been retouched or tampered with, or whose caption is false) falsifies reality.‘ ”

Piedmont-Palladino goes on to note that design renderings often depict an overlap between real and imagined, but that there are implications for design when architects or others choose to ignore certain realities beyond the point of making beautiful drawings. Not addressing issues of universal access during the design process, for example, can lead to exclusion and failure to meet building codes.

Head over to Places Journal for the full article.

Source: Places Journal

Works of an Architect of the State

Not all architects enjoy the quiet, unfashionable life of a government employee, but Alfred Eichler, a state architect for California from 1925-1963, had a prolific career. His works encompass a broad range of programs necessitated by American westward expansion and the rise of Depression-era societal needs. He designed and conceptualized state-sponsored building projects, from prisons and state hospitals, to educational facilities and more during his tenure.

His many paintings, concept sketches and renderings are on record at the California State Archives, but can also be accessed through the Google Arts & Culture platform: a browsable selection of museum exhibitions, photography collections, masters paintings and other curated works from around the world.

Source: Google Arts & Culture

The Great Wall of China in the Fog

Image Credit: Andres Gallardo Albajar via Colossal

It seems that half the motivation for people to travel is to capture the exact photo of a place or a building that everyone else has taken. The most photographed gargoyle is one example, or that Leaning Tower of Pisa photo we can all readily picture in our minds. It’s no surprise, then, that when the Spanish photographer Andes Gallardo Albajar visited the Great Wall of China, he expected to capture one of the seven wonders of the world with a bunch of tourists milling about.

Instead, Albajar found the Great Wall overrun not with people but with fog. As a result, he was able to shoot stunning, people-free images of the Wall in a ghostly blanket. Incidentally, the fog also obscured much of the surrounding landscape, so the Wall is eerily portrayed devoid of its contextualizing topography.

You can find more images of the Great Wall of China and its environs in the VRC’s Online Image Collection here.

Source: Colossal

Photographer Joel Meyerowitz Publishes Retrospective

Image Credit: Joel Meyerowitz via Dazed

In April 2018, Joel Meyerowitz’s photographic works spanning nearly 50 years were published in a retrospective book titled Where I Find Myself. At 80 years of age, Meyerowitz still feels rooted to the artistic values with which he began his career. He is most noted for capturing spontaneous moments on the streets—frames of the scene of life that unfold around us, easily lost in a split second of time—thereby imbuing them with significance they would not otherwise have had. Now, finding himself shooting still lifes, he rationalizes that there is an energy in the way objects relate to one another and express their own lived histories, much in the same way humans do. He wonders where he will find himself in the next ten years.

Source: Dazed

Louvre Hopes to Find Rightful Owners of Paintings

Image Credit:

In an effort to find the rightful owners of hundreds of works of art, the Louvre is displaying paintings stolen by Nazis during the occupation of France in the 1940s. Currently, 31 paintings are hanging in two rooms of the museum, on permanent display until their heirs are found. This is just a small portion of the 296 works held by the Louvre, and an even smaller percentage of the paintings left to be returned. An estimated 100,000 were looted in total, with 60,000 given back immediately after the war. Other museums, including the Musee d’Orsay and the Chateau de Versailles, have custody of some of the remaining works.

It’s a long process, however, to turn over the paintings, and in 2012, the French government established a working group to handle it. Those stepping forward to claim their families’ possessions must provide proof in the form of receipts, photographs or testimonies and verification can take years. The government maintains a database for this National Museum Recuperation effort, known as the Rose Valland List, named after a French curator who risked her life to keep notes on the stolen artwork.

Source: The Telegraph and Dazed

Sensory Profusion

Image Credit: Sound Scene, 2017–18; Sanne Gelissen (Dutch, born 1988), Sanne Geeft Vorm (Eindhoven, Netherlands, founded 2016); Glass fiber laminate, wood, metal; © Design Academy Eindhoven Photographs. Photo by Femke Rijerman; Courtesy of Sanne Gelissen / COPYRIGHT: Courtesy of Sanne Gelissen

Typically at museums, we ambulate among walls of flat paintings, dissuaded from approaching, altogether unable to interact with the works of art we are encountering—except through purely seeing them. In an antithesis to this, “The Senses: Design Beyond Vision” exhibition invites one to experience art through one’s four other perceptive senses. Dozens of touchable, sniffable, audible pieces categorized into 11 themes provide unique explorations of our technologies, communication channels and rituals. The collection highlights how sensory design can enrich our lives as humans and augment our journey through this world. Many exhibits engage multiple senses so as to make them accessible to people with a range of abilities.

“The Senses: Design Beyond Vision” is open at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City from April 13, 2018 to October 28, 2018. An accompanying 224-page exhibition catalog is available, and includes essays from the curators as well as other leaders in the field of multi-sensory design.

Source: Archinect and Cooper Hewitt

Subverting Perceptions

"Strength in honor" - 2016

Image Credit: Aida Muluneh

Ethiopian-born, but globally-raised, photographer and artist Aida Muluneh employs bold colors in her visual works to undermine viewers’ inclination to categorize. After graduating from Howard University in Washington D.C. and working as a photojournalist, Muluneh began asking whether the medium of photography was truly neutral. Pushing back against stereotypical representations of Africans and African Americans, the artist creates stunning images of face-painted models set against colorful backdrops.

Her work is part of the “Being: New Photography 2018” exhibition, on display through August 19, 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Source: Washington Post

Short Story Vending

Image Credit: Olivier Alexandre/Short Edition via NYTimes

In an era of byte-sized information rapidly and widely dispersed at the touch of a screen comes a vending machine for short stories. French publisher Short Edition offers The Short Story Dispenser, a kiosk that spits out stories on paper that resembles a store receipt. There is no cost for this literary service, all you do is choose the length of time you’d like to spend reading. Stories are sourced from an online collection hosted by Short Edition, which holds competitions to amass the content for their catalog. Libraries and schools are some obvious locations where these dispensers have been seen popping up in the United States, but the potential is there for them to be any place where one finds themselves waiting and might otherwise reach for their smartphone.

Source: NYTimes