Jul 21, 201311:00 AMPoint of View

The METROPOLIS Blog

Forecast for L.A.

Forecast for L.A.

Installation view “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2013

Courtesy Brian Forrest

Like most architecture and design junkies in L.A, I was keen to check out MOCA’s latest exhibition at the Geffen Contemporary. “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California,” has been fraught with controversy  that splashed across the pages of local papers and blogs for the month’s curiosity.

Even before entering the museum, I noticed that the exhibition logo on the museum guide mirrors the tension and murmurs I had been hearing for weeks. The original exhibition title, “A New Sculpturalism,” appears to have been marked out with a marker, while the phrase, “Contemporary Architecture from Southern California” remains stamped on top of the original exhibition title. If graphics can have form, then this revised logo appears as a building mass that integrates tension and design. As far as exhibition logo goes, this one appears to be right on the money.

Installation view “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2013

Courtesy Brian Forrest

Installation view “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2013

Courtesy  Brian Forrest

How many architects does it take to demonstrate that Los Angeles is a powerhouse for contemporary design? Here, 38 is the magic number, though half as many would have worked and probably would have lent themselves to a much clearer and more eloquent show.

Los Angeles is honored and proud of its two Pritzker Prize recipients, Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne, who have changed the face of experimental architecture around the world. Their radical forms serve as inspiration to practitioners everywhere. While architects’ design activities have shifted with the digital environment, which itself changed forever the practice of architecture, the exhibition begins by examining the work of design mavericks Gehry, Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, Franklin D. Israel and their influence on the generations that followed the post- modern era from the 1990s to today.

Frank Gehry and Partners, 2013, “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2013 

Courtesy Brian Forrest

In this exhibition you will find evidence that the culture unique to Los Angeles, where making strides in the use of technology is standard, is an innate obsession with materials; the drive to create new form and polish aesthetics is what feeds architects’ creative spirit and is ultimately a beacon for them to live and work in.

Sometimes you can have an experience that shifts your beliefs, especially for those of us who work in a museum and see a work of art over and over again, over a period of time. In 1996 when Elizabeth Smith organized an artist project designed by Franklin D. Israel for MOCA, my perception of how you interact with architecture in a museum setting was forever changed.

Looking back now Israel’s installation, with its origami-like dissection of the museum’s galleries, I see that show as a precursor to the innovation in form we see today, with the use of technology in design, on view in the pavilions at “A New Sculpturalism.” This time, when I entered the museum galleries that shift happened again. Three pavilions designed by cutting edge young architects Elena Manferdini (Atelier Manferdini), Georgina Huljich and Marcelo Spina (P-a-t-t-e-r-n-s), and Tom Wiscombe (Tom Wiscombe Design) greet visitors and demonstrate the effects of technology on form. As a result of the museum’s lost direction for a few weeks, perhaps, missing is Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues (Ball-Nogues Studio) from the pavilion; their dynamic and intensive work is a cross between drawing and form in real space.

Atelier Elena Manferdini, “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2013

Courtesy Brian Forrest

Textile Room, P-a-t-t-e-r-n-s (Georgina Huljich and Marcelo Spina), 2013 “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2013 

Courtesy Brian Forrest

Many of the architects included in this exhibition teach at SCI-Arc, UCLA, A.UD or USC. The Los Angeles architecture community is a tight knit one, always looking to be ahead of the game. They participate in the culture of each others’ institutions by sitting in on studio reviews, attending local school lectures, and participating on panel discussions organized by design minded non-profits around the southland is probably similar to other cities with schools and museums in their own neighborhoods. But these architects’ connection to academia fosters their strong drive to rethink accepted methodologies of form, question what it means to make architecture, experiment with materials, and examine the issues raised by each project. Teaching architects tend to be involved in research that allows them to integrate their findings in practice, and work with a sense of freedom to expand the boundaries of architecture through testing new ideas and materials. If these things interest you, then you won’t want to miss “A New Sculpturalism,” which closes on September 16.

Surface –To-Volume, Tom Wiscombe Design, 2013 “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2013

Courtesy Brian Forrest

 

Caroline Blackburn is the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design director of special projects. Between 1988 and 2002, she worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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