Archinect Sessions
Session 32: For in that death of malls, what dreams may come

Dead malls and ghost boxes haunt this week's episode, featuring special guest and longtime 'Nector, Nam Henderson. Whether you're mourning or reveling in the dwindling population of the American mall, their lifeless carcasses on the economic and urban landscape are starting to stink, and we have to deal with them somehow. With Nam as our spirit guide through the lost souls of dead malls, we discuss their future potentials within the suburban/urban environment, and grapple with their (perhaps bygone) social significance.

Nam also joins us for our discussion of very much alive-and-kicking news, including BIG taking over from Norman Foster as the designer for Two World Trade Center, and the ongoing student protests at Cooper Union. We also touch on the controversy surrounding CoContest, an Italian website for crowdsourcing design work, and its potentials for new models of architectural employment.

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-32.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 3:25pm PDT

Session 31: Hot Dogs Around the World, with James Biber

Inadvertently, this episode is all about food – where it comes from, where we eat it, and how it shapes national identity. Our discussion on food and design starts in Los Angeles, where Norm's Restaurant recently received "historic and cultural" landmark status, and a tamale-shaped building strives for the same (just one of LA's many proud programmatic architectures). Shifting east, we extol the multi-uses and virtues of Waffle House, and praise the Waffle House index. This dovetailed across the Atlantic into our interview with James Biber of Biber Architects about his design for the US Pavilion at the Milan EXPO, entitled "American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet". We ask him about balancing corporate and national identities in food, and what it's like having the US State Department as a client. 

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-31.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 2:49pm PDT

Session 30: Inside the Institute

The Sessions co-hosts met all together for the first time in the meatspace last week, making the pilgrimage to Atlanta, Georgia for the AIA National Convention. Immersed in the tens of thousands of attendees for three days, we met an impressive array of professionals across the architectural board, and dove deep into how the AIA sees itself and architecture today. This week's episode is entirely devoted to happenings at the Convention, including NCARB's resolution of the intern-titling debate, Bill Clinton's keynote speech, Donna's talk on nontraditional practice, the debut of the second video in AIA's Look Up campaign (featuring blind architect Chris Downey), and Ken's role as a delegate voting in the AIA's Business Session.

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-30.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 4:25pm PDT

Session 29: Problem-solving with Thomas Heatherwick

Prior to his artist talk at the Hammer Museum last week, nearing the culmination of his massively successful "Provocations" show, Thomas Heatherwick spoke with Paul and Amelia about his firm's personality and design approach. We discuss his interview on this week's single-focus episode, touching on his diverse project list, his "doubting Thomas" identity, and his attitudes towards "franchised" architecture.

If you're in Los Angeles, "Provocations" will be at the Hammer Museum through May 24. To hear more about the exhibition, listen to our conversation with curator Brooke Hodge, featured on "Three Funerals and a Curator".

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-29.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 3:28pm PDT

Session 28: Ned Cramer's Fantastic Fineprint on the Art of Publishing

When he was a kid, Ned Cramer, editor in chief of Architect, wanted to be the first architect-pope. After enrolling in architecture school and weighing his papal options, he decided to do neither, focusing instead on writing and publishing for the profession. He's now the brains behind media firm Hanley Wood's Architect Group, serving as group editorial director for ArchitectArchitectural LightingResidential Architect, EcoStructure, EcoHome, EcoBuilding Pulse and MetalMag.

We spoke with Cramer about his career path and the state of architecture media, and the role of Architect as the AIA's official publication. Cramer and the whole Sessions' crew will be at the AIA National Convention next week; keep an eye (and ear) out for us if you'll be there!

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-28.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 5:21pm PDT

Session 27: "The trauma of rebuilding"

Last Saturday, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Kathmandu, precipitating catastrophic destruction throughout Nepal and a death toll currently marked at more than 5,000. Reports have been very bleak, with citizens taking to living outside in public spaces, fearful of more damage from aftershocks. Aid and relief efforts are slowly beginning to appear, but basic necessities such as food, water and shelter are still desperately needed.

In the face of such large-scale damage to buildings and infrastructure, architects have a professional imperative to consider their role (from near or far) in reconstruction and relief efforts. At the same time, assistance must take the long-view – for survivors, the worst part of such disasters may not have the immediate event, but the trauma and tedium of the long return to normal.

On this episode, Rajan Karmachaya, a Nepalese architect in Kathmandu, spoke with us about what it's like in Kathmandu now, and what architects can (or shouldn't) do to help. Rajan has been active in the ongoing forum discussion about what architects can do after the earthquake; please contribute to the thread or reach out to us to continue the conversation.

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-27.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 2:56pm PDT

Session 26: "Modernism - Peru's Common Denominator"

This week on the podcast, Paul shares an interview he did in Lima with Sebastián Bravo, a local architect and maker of award-winning pisco. Studying and practicing architecture in a city with a very fresh history of terrorism and ongoing political corruption is no easy feat, and the rapidly urbanized/urbanizing city makes practicing all the more challenging, but Bravo is up to the challenge.

We also briefly discuss a recent workshop Paul attended with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, which took a close look at why enrollment rates at architecture schools are falling, and the stereotypical misunderstandings of what skills high schoolers need to study architecture. In the news, we consider what it means for George Lucas to be building affordable housing in Marin County, whether metal really can move by itself, and briefly look to the deluge of Whitney Museum reviews.

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-26.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 12:35pm PDT

Session 25: "Clarity and Contradiction"

Thanks to Patrik Schumacher, this week's episode is mostly about criticism. We respond to a polemic/rant left by Schumacher on his Facebook page, "In Defense of Stars and Icons", and consider not simply his argument, but its presentation – how publishing these ideas on a personal Facebook page ultimately says more about celebrity and criticism than Schumacher's exorbitant word count can. In the end, we applaud Schumacher – not for his argument necessarily, but for the act of posting such. Now, more than ever in the saturated critical sphere of new media, the medium is the message.

We also finish up the interview Amelia did with Pritzker Prize winner Kevin Roche, and hear his thoughts on sprawl and the undeniable human instinct to gather. Roche is a quiet heavyweight in architecture, amassing an incredible extent of work across multiple eras of architectural history, all without paying any heed to "starchitecture", in any form. If you haven't heard part one of the interview, get caught up in Episode #24.

And special thanks to our podcast sponsor, BQE, and architect Ralph Fey for his thoughts on their service!

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-25.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 2:49pm PDT

Session 24: "American Disruption, at Home and Abroad"

Whatever becomes of Facebook’s corporate future – and therefore the consequential Internet – will play out in the world of Frank Gehry. The architect’s new HQ for Facebook in Menlo Park, MPK20, opened earlier this week with plentiful Instagrammed fanfare, and Facebook recently submitted plans to build two more Gehry buildings in the area. As we discuss on this week’s podcast, MPK20 is refreshingly old-school FOG, designed to embrace Facebook's “work in progress” feel that Gehry’s rougher materiality embraces. It’s Facebook’s and FOG’s world; we’re just living in it.

This episode, we also discuss the arrival of Airbnb in Cuba – whether this style of tourism could encourage architectural preservation, and what the company’s disruptive cachet means when there’s no status quo to disrupt. We’re also featuring part 1 of an interview I did with Kevin Roche, the Pritzker Prize winning architect who got his start over sixty years ago, working with Mies van der Rohe and Eero Saarinen. The 92-year old Roche, now at Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates outside of New Haven, Connecticut, shares his thoughts on the media’s role in architecture, the ideal client, and 21st century workplaces.

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-24.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 2:25pm PDT

Session 23: "The Erection, the Inkblot, and the RFRA Riff-Raff"

It’s been a strange week, especially in Indiana. On this episode, before getting to the RFRA-ff, we hit on a neat architectural inversion: LA-heavyweight Morphosis designs a "middle-finger" luxury tower in the quaint mountain town of Vals, Switzerland, while the subtly grand Swiss museum-master Peter Zumthor pushes a calligraphic inkblot for LACMA on LA's Miracle Mile. Vals is already home to Zumthor's Therme Spa. It’s like Trading Spaces, but with starchitects!

On the latter-half of our show, Amelia, Donna and Ken talk with Brian Newman, Archinect Sessions’ legal correspondent, about Indiana’s controversial revisions to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – with our own Donna Sink on the ground in Indianapolis, we dig into how this national and local issue would affect architects and the profession.

Paul is away this week, on vacation in the outer reaches of Peru, blissfully out of Skype's reach. He'll be back as soon as he re-enters the connected world.

Direct download: Archinect-Sessions-23.mp3
Category:architecture -- posted at: 12:55pm PDT