Lecture Introductions

SCI-Arc, November 2015 - ongoing
SCI-Arc Lecture: WAI Architecture
February 3, 2021
Welcome to The SCI-Arc Lecture Series, tonight we have Cruz Garcia and Nathalie Frankowski joining us. They founded their office WAI Architecture Think Tank in 2008, and teach at Virginia Tech and University of Illinois, following several Fellowships at Taliesin, University of Nebraska, and Carnegie Mellon.

Their work constitutes a project much more than an office or a practice by design. They cross genres and modes of communication in everything they do, but always, everything flows from position pieces. Manifestos. The W.A.I. in their name stands for “what about it”-- which might mean “why should I care” or “what do you care?” or “so what”—a way of communicating their critical approach to everything they do. They present as contentious, indignant maybe, although they shroud this within romanticism, otherworldly descriptions of landscapes and jungles, surrealist scenes, and pure, sometimes monumental, forms littered across oppositional backgrounds. Most importantly, they become their own entourage in the scenes, like travelling bards or speakers. The overall effect is one maybe closer to poetry or happenings than to architectural rhetoric, although sometimes it draws the mind back to the early writings of Rem Koolhaas and certainly Superstudio from the early 70s.

Their words against colonial and racist architectural culture are woven into their work, but they do not explain it. Their use of platonic forms almost exclusively, although they speak about the lo-res as a larger aesthetic category, is not explained by their social and political agenda, which is interesting...

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SCI-Arc Lecture: Leong Leong
November 18, 2020
Dominic and Christopher Leong have a building practice. They work through projects. They argue for contemporary softness, interiority, sanctuary, foam and analog materiality, all cycled through or applied to the seeming late modernism of primitive geometry, compositional, figured plans, and the hide and reveal of glass. This seems to be both a strategic maneuver in terms of sustaining a viable practice, but it is more importantly a kind of sneaky undermining of the principles of a thing in order to create its opposite. The modern project poses a subject that is—as in Le Corbusier’s modular—the at least rhetorically the source of its proportions and scales. But it is also in a way empty of subjects. It sought to be a general type for a generalized citizen which may not exist today, and probably never existed. Modern interiorities are essentially the insides of outsides, isomorphic, with a kind of equivalence and transparency.

The work of LEONG LEONG aims to inject a new sense of the interior inside of those architectural shells, somehow connecting to a revised public, and to its users in ways that Modernist uniformity doesn’t allow. The part I’m most interested in, and hope to hear more about tonight, is the way they scatter the reading of the building’s exterior through anomalies and weird profiles that seem to defy the very modern aesthetic they are operating within.

They built a great project up in center city- the LA LGBT Center. You are sure to see it tonight...

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SCI-Arc Lecture: Timothy Morton
October 9, 2019
One of the greatest things about Tim is that he opens doors in philosophy, doors we didn’t even know were there. Maybe all good philosophers do this, but in Tim’s case, his whole body of work seems to be about moving through these doorways instead of shoring up the castle. He brings ideas of communication and empathy to the table-- things that are sometimes difficult for philosophy to contend with—linking pleasure and kindness to deep ontological ideas about the universe. His goal is no less than to create solidarity between all things, human and non-human-- a task that sounds as much a social project as one of philosophy. But this is not your granddaddy’s social project…

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SCI-Arc Lecture: Barbara Imhof
February 2019
For the SCI-Arc Spring 2019 lecture series, Tom Wiscombe introduces Barbara Imhof of the Liquifier Systems Group, which works on habitats and building systems for outer space.

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SCI-Arc Lecture: Alisa Andrasek
September 2018
Some architects believe that architecture is constituted by a lot of stuff accumulating in various ways. While I don’t think he was the origin of this thread, I would argue that Jesse Reiser was an instrumental figure in making us think differently about little things and their relation to big things. In his article, the New Fineness, in Assemblage 41 in 2001, he laid out his argument clearest, although he was talking about it long before. He wanted to break down the mass of buildings into finer and finer parts to allow them to be able to register small differences while maintaining overall coherence. Coming off of the heavy cocktail of Pomo and Decon, this offered a way forward through a heterogeneous Deleuzing materialism that was able to contend with things like form, structure, and tectonics all at once.  Please note that he did this before there was appropriate computation to support the vision...
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SCI-Arc Lecture: Ferda Kolatan
March 2018
My first reaction was that I was looking at something difficult. It is a chunk of a world that is neither our contemporary world nor a specific historical world. But it is also not a fantasy world and has zero cartoon features. It has all the genealogical markers and detail required to constitute a possible or parallel real. It’s eerie because it has legible moments but ultimately ambiguous origins. Maybe something Egyptian, or maybe something built of ancient materials but with tools from the future. This is not a load-bearing structure as it first appears… it has bulkheads like a submarine!; and what is that black lacy technology embedded in there? Do humans inhabit this thing or are they only required to maintain it? Was it made by these guys?
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SCI-Arc Lecture: Lisa Iwamoto
October 2017
Tools Tools Tools. They are presented to us, or we make them, or we break them. We love our tools as architects, there is no architecture without a tool of some kind. You can make the case that there can be no civilization without tools either. Some tools are front-end and help us produce representations of things that may or may not be built; we often consider these to be closer to the discipline, because the Discipline, the way many understand it since Eisenman anyway, is about ideas and their representations. Digital and analog tools often exist at the scale of the human hand or the eye or the head. A pen, a mouse, a VR wand. Sometimes these representations stand alone and cannot be understood as instruction for building, sometimes they are in fact instructions and have weird markings on them that denote things far larger than the representation-object might at first signal. As we know, Architects don’t build buildings, they create the vision and societal mind-space for them. Right?
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SCI-Arc Cinema Series Kickoff/ The Shining with Jan Harlan
October 2017
The Cinema Series is an important part of the transformation we are engaged in at SCI-Arc, towards the Liberal Arts and critical thinking as well as design excellence, as ever. We are especially interested in what I call the allied disciplines, those which are loosely related to the visual and intellectual culture of architecture. Implied here is an interest in the disruptive effects the study of things non-architectural can have on architectural disciplinary thinking.

We’ve thrown Philosophy on the table recently with our own Graham Harman, Tim Morton, and of course Slavoj Zizek, Art through our new courses, Sianne Ngai who came last year for a Masterclass on aesthetic territories, and Michael Fried who will be coming in Spring. And we are now teaching science in terms of the history of ideas, materials, and technologies, beings, planets, and war. Film is one of the most important influences on architecture, and I’d say especially at SCI-Arc, where we have a long-standing connection to animation, fiction, and special effects, as is evident in the interest in our new Postgraduate Program, Fiction and Entertainment.
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Duel + Duet : Jake Matatyaou + Amalia Ulman
April 2017
Social media is something that has slid under our skin but rarely been theorized or subverted, strangely. The “selfie” as a point of art discourse seemed crude or cheap just a few years ago. Social media seemed like a sideshow to high culture and a pure instrument of low culture, but not something worthy of discourse.

Meanwhile, it has overtaken culture and become one of the most powerful mechanisms for constructing the self that humanity has ever seen.

The identities that are built there are in some ways built like the ones we inhabit in the everyday real, but in more important ways, totally of a different kind. They are not simple reflections of our physical selves, even the social media identities that are the most earnest like Philosopher bloggers, or Architect bloggers…
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Duel/ Duet: Slavoy Zizek vs. Graham Harman
March 2017
Tonight’s event is an example of how we can begin to disrupt architectural education as we know it. It is part of our school-wide initiative to engage the Liberal Arts and critically engage other disciplines and the world in the widest way possible. We are bringing back the oral tradition, rooted in a belief that rhetoric isn’t just salesmanship of ideas, but that an idea can never truly get traction until it is spoken out loud and in public. We choose sustained and contentious debate about the relevant issues of our time over ideas conceived of and communicated in 144 characters.
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SCI-Arc Masterclass Lecture: Timothy Morton
March 2016
Tim brought up the “architectural scale” the other day. It is the size of a human foot, so goes the lore, usually the foot of royalty although I have to say the Queen must have very big feet, especially considering that the “foot” was invented when the mean height of an English person was 5’-1”. The architects scale is a form of violence because it is used to force everything in the world to relate to the human scale. Only things that are human-scale and of our self-limited social space become present to us, other things are out or our range. Maybe Tim invented the “hyperobject” to kill the architects scale! The hyperobject is never fully visible to humans, but we are always inside them. Try to measure that!
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Special B.Arch. Thesis Lecture: Neil Denari
November 2015
Neil designs everything as if it were real, whether it is literally built or not. He has a speculative Project, but his Project always ends in architecture, not in conjecture or art. He deals with all dimensions of architecture and all levels of detail to the point where you think you can keep zooming in infinitely and discover ever more about each building. There is always an architect present no matter how far you go in, but at the same time the author doesn’t give you instructions on how to read the work. It is the object itself that draws you in. This hyper-specificity in Neil’s projects is not only an obsession, but crucial to his Position.
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