Jeanne Gang, “Material World”, Lecture 1 of 3, 04.10.18

Jeanne Gang, “Material World”, Lecture 1 of 3, 04.10.18


– Good evening. I’m an Anne Walters Robertson, dean of the Division of the Humanities and it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 2018 Randy L. and Melvin
R. Berlin Family Lectures. This year we are delighted to host architect and urban visionary Jeanne Gang who will explore the
idea of mining the city across three Tuesdays. Before we proceed, I want to
thank Randy and Melvin Berlin who are in the audience here tonight on behalf of the Division
of the Humanities and the University. Their generosity and vision established the Berlin
Family Lectures in 2013 allowing us to showcase
the work of individuals who are making fundamental contributions to the arts, humanities and
humanistic social sciences. The lecturers are selected for their unique expertise and their capacity to comment on issues of contemporary importance for the general public as
well as for the academy. And I am thrilled to
announce that in 2019, the Berlin Family Lecture
will be Teju Cole, a renowned author, essayist, art historian and photographer. I hope you will join us next year for what will undoubtedly be a stimulating series of discussions. Now, the series part of lecture series is crucial to the founding ideals of the Berlin Family Lectures. Each year these distinguished lecturers join us on campus to offer several talks culminating in a book published by the University of Chicago Press. By delivering of series of
lectures over multiple evenings they have the opportunity to examine a plurality of topics or approach a single topic
from multiple angles. I encourage you all to return next week and the week thereafter so that you can experience all three of Jeanne Gang’s contributions to the Berlin Family Lectures for 2018. Here to introduce Miss
Gang is my colleague, Christine Mehring,
professor of Art History and department chair. Fittingly, Christine leads the
undergraduate concentration in architectural studies within the Department of Art History, and her scholarship covers
a wide range of topics in modern and contemporary art including the intersection
of art and design, as well as public art. Among numerous other publications, she is the author of Blinky
Palermo: Abstraction of an Era and the co-editor of a volume on Gerhard Richter’s Early Work. Many on campus are familiar
with Christine’s involvement in the Material Matters project which was responsible for the restoring of the sculpture Concrete
Traffic by Wolf Vostell, the concrete encased
Cadillac now on display in the 55th Street parking garage. Christine is currently working on an edited volume that details these conservation efforts and on Vostell’s use of
concrete as a sculptural medium. Please join me in welcoming
Christine Mehring. (audience applauding) – Good evening, everybody. It is a great honor to introduce to you the extraordinary American architect and designer, Jeanne Gang. In little over a decade, Jeanne has built an
international reputation for advancing and intertwining the social, environmental
and formal possibilities of architecture and design
in the 21st century, and as one of merely a handful of successful female architects in the entire history of architecture. She’s at the forefront of bringing more diverse perspectives
to her profession. Jeanne is the founding
principal of Studio Gang, an architecture and urban design practice based here in Chicago with additional offices on the Coast and major projects in progress across the Americas and Europe, including expansion of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the new US Embassy in Brasilia, and mixed used towers in
Toronto and Amsterdam. Jeanne has been honored with the MacArthur and with the Chevalier of
the French Legion of Honor, and last year she was elected a Fellow of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences and received a Fifth Star
Award from the city of Chicago and the Illinois Public Humanities Award. Her work has been exhibited widely including at MoMA, the
Chicago Architecture Biennial and opening next month, the American Pavilion at the
Venice Architecture Biennale co-commissioned by the
University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute in an exhibition entitled Dimensions of Citizenship
co-curated by Niall Atkinson, my colleague in the
Department of Art History. Venice and the world thus
bring me back here to Chicago for Jeanne’s international reputation is profoundly tied to the city and even, lucky us, to this university. For one, Chicago is the place where Jeanne chose to launch her career after graduating from some other world class university in Cambridge, Mass where too bad for us,
she has started teaching. Though I’m pleased to say she has nevertheless helped us in a recent workshop on designing urbanism to imagine a future
for urban architecture, research and teaching at
the University of Chicago. Jeanne’s leadership in
sustainable architecture and environmental design boast two major examples in the city, the Lincoln Park Zoo
boardwalk which you see here and Northerly Island which created ecological habitats from a picturesque but unsustainable urban pond, and from a man-made peninsula
wasteland respectively. Likewise, Jeanne’s pathbreaking commitment to a socially engaged design practice that strengthens beneficial relations between individuals and communities responds to local challenges. Say, Polis Station, an ongoing project exploring how American police stations can be re-imagined through
an inclusive design process to better serve their communities. Redesigning public space as an exercise of citizenship and empowerment is also at the core of
Studio Gang’s contribution to the Venice Biennale for which hundreds of
cobblestones are arriving in Italy from an overlooked but
important historic site in Memphis, Tennessee inspired by the recent removal there of two confederate statues. Last but not least, Jeanne’s formerly and innovative high rise facades should be seen in dialog with a history of international architecture in Chicago that makes this city the greatest museum of modern architecture in the world. The so-called Chicago Frame
which in the 19th century brought us the first
10-story in up buildings freed the facade as an expanse to be designed with
constraints and hierarchies. Studio Gang’s signature high rises down here in Hyde Park in dialog with our university’s world class mid-century modernism as you see here, have seized creative ways
not only to animate a plane but to occupy a facade, to carve out space on the boundary between inside and outside, private and public, individual and social. There’s much to be said
about the sustainability of these facades too but let me conclude by saying that this is where, at least
for this art historian, Jeanne’s work gets most exciting. Where new if subtle formal
and material choices manifest an advance social
and environmental causes. In that sense, Jeanne’s at
the forefront of architecture as a notoriously promiscuous and inherently
interdisciplinary discipline of the kind that we are always eager to hear more from here at
the University of Chicago. So please join me in
welcoming Jeanne Gang. (audience applauding) – Hello everyone. Hi. Wow, it’s so nice to be here. Thank you for coming. I’m gonna be talking about
some newer material today and I’m excited to try it out
on you first and foremost. So several years ago when I
was traveling for a project I came across a ruin. It was a masonry wall made of craggy, irregular, dark gray stones and large white rectangular
blocks of petrified coral. The large chunks were punctuated by tiny shards of bright red brick made from a distant clay. Intrigued by this odd
combination of materials that seemed incongruous in so many ways, I discovered that the walls were somewhat commonplace on the island I was visiting. Somewhere along the line I was told that the glue that adhered
the materials together large and small was
described as sweet mortar, and that if you were to lick the walls it would taste like syrup or molasses. And this, once I got
over the image of myself going up to lick the walls I thought, well, whoever heard
of such a thing, sweet walls. Needless to say, my
curiosity was fully ignited. Piecing together several
sources of geology, history and agriculture, my team and I discovered
the back story of the walls. The composition is part of the history of the Island of Saint John which is today part of
the US Virgin Islands. Though the walls may
look beautiful at first and they might taste sweet, their history we found
out is quite bitter. The geological stone in the
walls is quite innocent enough having been harvested from one of the five geologies of the island. All the rock on Saint
John was formed from this tumultuous volcanic eruptions that happened way below
the level of the water. The coral, presence of the
coral blocks in the wall was a little bit jarring to my eyes, sensitized as the art to the
struggles of living coral which are living animals
subject to so many human-induced threats. To make these blocks, the way they did it is
they took large pieces that were hacked out of the soft living reef off the coast, and then cut them down
into dimensional blocks and dried them and they became the corner stones of the walls. So, if only the Danes had known that this was a living animal and not just a simple underwater plant, they probably wouldn’t have done it. Most of these coral are also the main protection for the
islands against hurricanes but also habitat for
millions of organisms. I think it’s something
like 25% of all ocean life uses the reef as their home. And I don’t really like
seeing dead animals incorporated into architecture either so that was bothersome. But none of this insensitivity or let’s just say, ignorance comes, compares to finding out
about the shards of brick that were present in the walls. The brick shards render
the most hunting glimpses of the island’s past. The brick made in Denmark was likely used as ballasts on slave ships. Because human cargo
weighed less than ships were designed to carry, they needed extra weight on board. So, once the slaves arrived on Saint John the ballast was unloaded and used in the plantation
architecture of the island. The sweet mortar, this is an illustration that there aren’t many
illustrations of the time but this one shows a lot of things going on in the island like slaves, the crop of sugar cane that was planted and
harvested also by slave labor, and also the walls themselves which were remnants of
cisterns, sugar mills and homes that were also built by slaves. So, all of the materials or I guess the question is, are all materials tainted with history or can they be redeemed in some way? The people that live in
the West Indies today are the descendants of those Africans who built the architecture and who hold the connection to the land and the buildings and the monuments. So really they are the
ones that should decide if the ruin should be preserved or not. I’ve always been sensitive
to materials in architecture. Seeing the choice of them and the deployment of
them on equal footing with the building’s function,
its form, its technologies. Therefore, the issue of
where materials come from, the resources they
consume, where they end up and the way that they make people feel are all central to my
thoughts about architecture, and the city and the condition, pretty much the condition
of living on this planet. This first talk, it’s
a series of three talks and the title of the
series is Mining the City. But this first talk is really
about the Material World and its possibilities and limits of reusing physical resources rather than starting
from complete scratch. So, instead of focusing on extracting materials from these
pristine environments, it’s interesting to me to see how, to see what kind of ideas
mining the city can produce. Examining materials and
structures we have on hand including what’s considered waste material might show us a new way forward, and that our existing cities are full of value, memory and potential. How can we use architecture considered through the lens of material to re-envision a response
to climate change and to simultaneously have a response to the waste in a world
that’s so overflowing with pollution right now? Before digging into the build environment maybe we can just review how all these material ended
up accumulating in our space. This picture going back to the, this is from the 1960s. If we look back to this
kind of post-war economy that was focused on growth, it becomes clear that there be a limit to how many items people could possibly fit into their houses and keep buying to fill up their houses. And you see this image which was an ad for a built-in storage from the 1960s. So, that built-in storage is a fact that it started to expand in order to accommodate more and more things that were being bought. There was at the time a massive increase in disposable consumer goods as another way to expand the economy. The consumer society rose right alongside with the innovations in
materials like plastics. The cups that you see there. The concept of planned
obsolescence for products and regulations that require disposable containers for
supposedly hygienic purposes. Americans adopted the throw-away society and the unintended consequences of it were quick to appear. Suddenly all the streets were overflowing with trash especially
in cities like New York that were designed before
this explosion of materials. And so, at that time the Keep America Beautiful
Movement had begun. There was a famous ad for this movement. It’s very popular anti-pollution campaign but it really wasn’t a grassroots movement initiated by citizens of the city. It was actually initiated
by the container industry, the prime proponents of
the throw-away society. The intention here I think was to really to put the focus on individual behavior like us throwing things away and littering and shifting attention
away from the policies that were being discussed
in the container industries. In 1970, the first Earth Day. It was only when the citizen’s group started to form these neighborhood municipal recycling programs to deal with all these extra
stuff that was in their lives. Originally neighbors ran
recycling programs themselves with the goal for the city to
take over those operations. In 1970, as I said, the first Earth Day and by 1976, recycling
programs were launched at a national level. And that was the time when the slogan that we still use today which
is reduce, reuse, recycle came into being right
around then, so around 1976. And I think that’s actually
a great word to use to focus on material and architecture because it has a lot of, it’s very potent when it comes to conceptualizing architecture. It’s kind of pragmatic
and it’s like overused I guess in a certain way but it can be a good place to start. So the three words represent these tactics to address mounting
accumulation and pollution on our ever urbanizing planet. The three R’s as they’re
known are simple commands. They’re kind of like a call to action. You can see that this slogan was written on the German
Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. It was kind of appropriated by them even though it’s an
English, American saying. The slogan tells us to change our habits and think about our personal deeds and how they impact the earth. The slogan like even though
it’s overused it’s memorable and it becomes more relevant everyday as we have more and more things. I think of ocean plastics
and things like that. But no matter its origin, its longevity is either a
sign of its enduring power or the complete opposite and testimony to its
ineffectiveness to elicit change. So, even with new inspiring slogans like we have now the circular economy, the cradle-to-cradle and upcycling as three words that
are in vogue right now, there’s still a need for definitions I think around reduce, reuse, recycle and what they can truly
mean for our environment and for our architecture, and how can we scale them up. There’s really a lack of
precision around these words even in the scholarly text. They tend to be used interchangeably. So I wanna use the built
environment as a frame that can maybe help us to categorize and sharpen our thinking about this issue in terms of architecture. Each of the three terms
deserves a working definition. So, let’s start with the
last one first, recycle. This one in contemporary culture I think it holds the
most frivolous position. It’s a term that often
stands in for other terms even though they have their
own particular meanings. When you think of it in
terms of architecture, it has a kind of implied
scale to it or a size. For example, it can be on the scale of large scale parts and assemblies such as columns and windows, things that are already made. Or it can be about recycled materials for buildings such as blocks and bricks. As far as lifespan of material goes, recycle is kind of the last resort after you use some kind of
pristine purpose made material that’s already been used
in one construction, and it can find a second life by being recycled into another. Looking back a little bit a story about when I first started thinking about this topic. I had come back to Chicago
to start my practice and I was trying to I think, kind of like synthesize my earlier diverse architecture experiences including going to undergrad
and having 1960s era professors that talked about solar energy. And then in graduate school and then in my European and American working for architects later on, it was a time of this
Grand Projet in Paris. It was a digital revolution
in architecture technology. Chicago though was an early adopter of sustainability practices and there was this newly formed Department of Environment,
maybe some of you remember, offered by, it was kind of run by
Henry Henderson first and then Bill Abolt in the city. And they were offering this
international design competition to create the center on this
Chicago’s far south side called in Calumet. My office and we were about
15 people at the time, we decided to enter. And one of the first things we noticed was this interwoven patchwork of wild and wetland natural areas. Remnant and abandoned
factories in the region and a legacy of the steel industry. And as our research ramped up we also learned that Calumet was this important resting place
on the migratory bird path called the Mississippi Flyaway. And so, one of the interns
in our office actually was a former biology major and she had come across an early study that talked about the
problems of bird strikes and bird mortality due to collisions with invisible glass and reflective glass in the environment. With this discovery we kind of had the perfect ingredients for the project. It would be a building that
would be built like a nest, built out of what was available and abundant and nearby, using recycled factory steel and other nearby waste products. For the columns we
thought we could specify steel that was rejected
from other job sites and somewhat just available, and somehow figure out a way to accommodate these different
sizes and different shapes like wide flange or tubes
in a design process. And this is very difficult
given the design process that we go by to build buildings. There was also newly available online data at the time that was
like allowing technology to help us locate lots of steel that we could use in this project. This is called a Steel Spider. It’s a website that shows you, hey, there’s seven 14 by 48 by 18 wide flange beams available. And so, I think there’s
something very interesting in the idea of to marry this like used material with new tools that will help you match them up. Kind of like Match.com
for buildings I guess. Anyway, we worked with an
ornithologist on this project, Daniel Klem, to understand the issues surrounding bird strike problems. And then we designed this porch that would protect birds
from impact with glass that they cannot see. We also surveyed and in this image you can also see the
concept of these columns was they would actually go down and become the piles for
the foundation as well. We also surveyed a lot of other materials and waste products nearby to incorporate such as slag
and wood from pickle barrels, and we found lots of
things that could be used both passive and advanced
environmental systems. Here’s some of the materials. That’s the test of the slag
integrated into the concrete. We’re using a lot of systems
both passive and advanced to aim at the highest
sustainability rating possible. We won this competition
and it was in 2004. Because it was an example of recycling in a way that could call attention to the physical environment around it such as the former industry, the watery habitat and maybe even refer to the lands beyond like
Michigan and Minnesota where the iron ore came from. When we would experience this building you would intuitively know that it was part of the place and it would speak to this important history of Calumet’s past while helping to ensure the future role as a thriving habitat. To do this, to use recycling in this way and make it visible would be a connection to the building and the place. And this project it was never built, okay, even though we won but it had such an impact beyond the border of Chicago. It was written about and published wildly all over the world in fact. And so, I think it had a major influence. So I wanna now talk about
a few other projects that use recycling, some contemporary ones by other architects that
I think are interesting. This one is a project
by S & PS Architects, they’re young architects in India and they’ve used salvaged
windows and doors, so kind of this middle scale. And what I like is it has a feeling of this kind of informal
quality of the settlements, of settlements in India even though it probably cost much more, but it has this kind of quality that connects it to its place and how it deploys these materials. It’s actually called the Collage House. Inside it does have a kind
of collage-like quality with operable windows and doors that become natural ventilation. And materials that are probably
pretty hard to find nowadays even though they came
from demolished buildings. And then I like that they’re set off with a modern interior. This building is really interesting too. It’s a museum, it’s called
the Ningbo Historic Museum by Wang Shu who is a Pritzker
Prize winner in 2012. And he’s done this
building like 30 villages. The material that came out of 30 villages demolished in China and he used it in the walls. And then in a kind of very beautiful way. No doubt the people from the 30 villages connect to the new building but I don’t know how they feel. I mean, similar to the
Virgin Islands example, this could be equally sad or demoralizing as much as it is poetic. But from an outsider’s perspective it is quite amazing and beautiful. I wonder if the feelings, the way people relate to these materials was taken into account. This project, there’s
industrial remnants used. This is a project from an
architect I met recently maybe like last fall who has been working in
Nambia in South Africa, and her name’s Nina Maritz. But she’s been integrating
these waste into structures like these oil drums. That’s what the tiles are there. Curved metal nested to make roof tiles and the project’s called
Twyfelfontein Visitors Center. And then you can see that there’s a kind of playful use of this in making it like in an uninhibited way working with local craftspeople also to make the parts of the building. The other thing that
this architect does is actually accumulate materials. It’s almost like a hoarding mentality in order to make recycling possible. In our practice we have done
some scaling down a little bit, even further, we’ve done some recycling. This was a headquarters for
the NRDC here in Chicago. And what we used here was a
domestic architecture waste. These are moldings that go
around doors and windows and in houses that were, we purchased from the
Chicago Building Exchange, and they do the salvaging and then they were
stripped and reassembled. But you can see they were used in the detail on the right, we maintained the little
nail holes in them to give a clue about the
origin of the material. At Writers Theater within Chicago for the interior you can
see these acoustic walls made of brick. That brick actually came from the building that was formerly on the site that was demolished and really worked with acoustic engineers to mock up and to test how the walls could become this acoustic wall that would make the space more intimate. But there’s just a nice
connection to the former building even though we changed the color of the brick by staining it, we used that material and
kept it out of landfill to create the space, and it kind of gives a nice
connection to the past. So, the scale of all
these recycled materials I’ve been talking about go from, well, you can go from an entire building but all these materials are
bigger than let’s say, dust. And the reason I’m
excluding dust right now is at least for the purpose of
this conversation is that it’s not that I’m not interested in dust. I mean, dust is, basically
it becomes recycled content and it has a profound
environmental benefit because it can lower the carbon footprint and the embodied energy, and there’s like a new thing
called secondary raw materials so there’s quite some
movement around this idea. But I think when material
is pulverized so much like let’s say pulverized
slag in concrete, it’s not perceptible
anymore in the building. So, I don’t wanna put it in
the same category as recycle because right now we’re talking about yielding at some kind of
visual or time connection that it doesn’t have. I think the importance
of recycled objects, they are performing in a new location and it’s their ability to tell a story. So if you see the materials
such as wood moldings at NRDC or the drums in the
Twyfelfontein Visitors Center, you have a connection to this, it’s a kind of lost
utility of those materials and so, they become categorized as waste. So, I think there’s a really interesting orientation with respect
to time in architecture when particles of
recycling become so small like recycled content or dust, they lose their connection. There’s a book by William Viney, it’s called Waste: A Philosophy of Things. And he calls this a kind of a waste-time that’s unique to items
that are no longer useful and just quoting from the book. Waste-time seems to be able to communicate across the threshold of time since waste is always waste of something, it is only meaningful if it has a past or a time distinct from
its present condition. To discern waste is to both
uphold the use that has passed and announce the suspension of utility. It’s quite interesting, there’s a whole section in the academy on waste study these days and I think that there’s a strong connection to architecture. As we saw on the Virgin Island fragments materials can carry
history and associations be they cultural or geological and they can give both a
sense of time as I described, and they can make us feel something like curiosity or discomfort. They might offers us a sense
of continuity with the past or a clear break from it. So, recycled materials or assemblies that show up in buildings can be part of a design language not for nostalgic purposes but it can be used as
potent or enigmatic ways that are clearly visible. If recycling in architecture
can be discerned it suddenly has the
ability to convey ideas. It’s difficult to talk about recycling without mentioning Rome where I was spending a
little time in the fall. And the issue of spolia or spoils, spolia comes up a lot. When I was there recently, I went back to look at
this Arch of Constantine dates from 315 AD and it has recycled relief
carvings on its surface. But just as a pure idea this arch it’s a kind of a typology that is recycled and it’s very powerful. You see it copied in Paris and other places around the world but just mainly focusing on the materials. The power of it I was thinking more about the different parts and pieces on them. Some of them are coming
from earlier monuments and regardless of their different origins they make the arch kind of hang together with this as an object with aura. And so, I’m not a historian and it always surprises me how much contempt there is for this arch when you read about it given the power it has as an object. It’s as if the arch is the
epitome of non-creativity, so it’s notorious for reworking the heads of figures and reliefs to change the identities of them. We’re told that this kind of recycling is evidence of a loss of
classic skills in carving and that the recarving was
considered the spoiling history. But there are newer considerations thanks to work by scholars
like Dale Kinney and others that have helped shed a
different light on the arch. And that is that it was
not a thrown together conglomeration of other monuments. Rather, it was a result of working with what turns out to be a
very carefully regulated and officially sanctioned recycling market within the city of Rome at that time. And so, the fragments that
are present in the arch are recycled elements from buildings that were either being
torn down or falling down, and then they were brought up to date to reflect these contemporary
persons and subjects. So, I think it’s pretty creative myself. Another one just quickly was
this Santa Maria di Cosmedin. It’s a church from like 1118, that’s the year it was built or finished. And many other Christian churches in Rome used columns from previous monuments. So, in books about spolia the activity is always portrayed as being either clumsily stumbled upon materials or worse, like thievery. It seems like everyone looks down on this type of recycling. Even like in contemporary literature like I opened an
Architectural Review magazine from December 2017, so like really recent. And there was a quote in there that said, “Until the renaissance, most
of the inhabitants of Rome “were oblivious to its
tottering tableaux of ruins, “blithely appropriating stones from them “in new constructions.” I think and surely, I mean
this is more of a practical view of an architect that spolia has a range of
purposes for being used. For example, like if you
are building a defense wall you might use anything
that’s lying around fast to get the defense up. But there’s a spectrum of ways that it’s been mined out
of the past buildings, it’s not all just plundered loot. There is, I can vouch for this, there’s a high degree
of technical difficulty with reusing materials. You got to measure them,
select them, repurpose them. You can see in this image that these columns are all different and they’re not even the same size. And so, the architect has to decide, should I line them up at the top or line them up at the bottom? Know what they’re capable
of carrying structurally and you can see here that the choice was made to
line them up at the top and then if you look at the bases, you can see how those different bases were accommodated to make up
the dimensional difference. So, there’s clearly creative force behind making this work
and making this nave. And then some other places we even saw that in Rome that there’s
very special pieces that were from pagan times that are used in very prominent places. So I think there’s probably a whole interesting take on
spolia that could be made. Moving on to the idea of reuse. To me, it’s the largest
scale of most obvious, the most debated of all
the three R’s in fact because of the word use in there. Reuse connects strongly to the program of a building or function. So reuse implies the idea that the entire building
is gonna be repurposed from a former use to a new one. In a way this concept is so
prevalent throughout history that it seems almost too,
like normal to talk about it, yet there are still super
unresolved conflicts with reuse that tend to linger. First there’s this friction
between historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Historic preservation recommends finding an appropriate use that’s in
keeping with the original, preserving it as close as possible the actual elements of
the earlier structure. The second one, adaptive reuse suggest like that continued
use is the best way to preserve culture and that so you can alter it really to any degree necessary in order to accommodate a new function. So, this debate you can go back and trace the original debate to these conflicting attitudes
when conservation practice was being written about and theorized. You have John Ruskin on the left. He’s known for his critique on art and architecture and taste and advocates for
preservation of like as is, and he loves ruins. He draws all kinds of ruins. He is very anti-restoration at
the time they used that word. In Seven Lamps he proclaims that the buildings he appreciated the most were for their age, the age value more than any of the materials or other qualities that they have. On the other end of the spectrum you have Viollet-le-Duc,
Eugene Viollet-le-Duc whose motivations to
preserve heritage in France were through saving these
important monuments, many of them that were gonna fall down or had been neglected. He uses this really interesting philosophy where he’s trying to imagine that he’s the original architect and what he would have
done to the building to repair the flaws and to make changes. And so, you can see that
the image on the right it’s pretty creative and this was work was hated by Ruskin but it presents a whole
different kind of attitude. There was an exhibit at one
of the biennales in 2010 that was by OMA and Rem Koolhaas who talked about
Cronocaos which was a name that doesn’t exist for anything but it was about the struggle between preservation and
restoration that is ongoing. And he accuses the
preservation movement of striving to preserve larger
and larger territories while simultaneously abandoning the preservation of
post-wars architecture, and especially social architecture
like housing projects. So he sees this hypocrisy
reflected in the present day. He said, “Preservation and
modernity are not opposites. “Preservation was invented “as part of a groundswell
of modern innovation “between the French Revolution “and the Industrial Revolution in England. “In a maelstrom of change
it’s crucial to decide “what will stay the same.” So, in reality I think the preservation and restoration attitudes have evolved since
Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc and there’s new understandings
about these things in addition to new parameters
like sustainability and new conflicts that have come up. There’s very pragmatic reasons for trying to reuse older structures. You see on the left the
Stony Island Savings Bank which was converted to the
art space of Theaster Gates. I think that building was maybe 1929. And on the right is our building, Studio Gang’s building, the
Polish National Alliance which was 1934, which is now converted to an
architects and makers space. So the two structures show
that historic buildings can add heritage to a neighborhood without being tied so literally to the originals in every way. I think in both cases of the
conversions of the structures were pretty extreme on the inside even though the outside are preserved. But because they are both banks I like to think that it just looks at like how valuable art and architecture are to be in banks. I wanna just tell a little bit
about the Prentice Hospital that some buildings that
the public loves to hate, don’t make it to the finish
line for preservation. One of these, it deserved
more consideration I think for adaptive reuse in my opinion and it was the Prentice Women’s Hospital designed by Bertrand Goldberg and it was really interesting from a structural point of view. One day I pointed out to a visiting critic from the New York Times,
Michael Kimmelman, that the building was gonna be demolished and he asked me, “What would you do “to try to save its life?” And then he said if I
would think about that and propose something he would publish it and then maybe that would
give it another chance as a landmark. This interesting thing
about the building is it does not have a central elevator core. It has a column there but
the middle is quite open. So, we came up with what
I call the stack solution which was based on, there’s an app, programming app that’s
about stacking these things. And the idea that really
the formal language of this building already suggested what should go that something
else should go on top it. You can see the podium, we kept the same. The part that’s the lobed building, the four petals we kept the same and then we kind of
skewered it with a core that was structurally sound. We even worked with an
engineer, Magnusson Klemencic, to figure this out. And then put all of the program that they wanted in this building above it and so interesting that the basic strategy was already there in the initial building. And so, by adding this core we were able to give them everything that they would possible desired. It was primarily like a thought exercise but it was done out of
genuine care for the building and the idea that preservation and reuse could offer something unique here. And it wasn’t historic
preservationist that said no, it was really the client that wasn’t really our
client anyway but. (chuckles) And then never again probably. (audience laughs) But I think there was like just a lack of understanding about how exciting this could really be. We’re not the first ones to think of it, well, there’s this… Okay, this building shows
there’s a contradiction between what Northwestern wanted which was a brand new building and then this kind of age
value that I mentioned before. At Prentice we could basically get both, the new bling and the old
so I thought it was cool. But there are some other
examples out there right now, this is Herzog de Meuron’s
Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg which is built on top
of a storage building and it’s a totally new use, a totally different architecture
and interesting contrast. And then on the right is
Zaha Hadid Architects, the Antwerp Port House, which really takes a different approach to the original for sure. We’re currently working
on this project which is this is the coolest contrast I think. It’s a former coal-fired
power plant, okay, and we are turning it
into, believe it or not, a health, wellness and recreation
center for Beloit College. I love the contrasting use
with that and it is amazing but the sustainability approach. There’s an interesting thing here, we ran up against this conflict between the historic building and
the sustainability approach, in basic, in a very direct way. In order to save energy on this building which has no insulation in it we would suggest the best way to do it is put the insulation on the outside and re-clad the entire building. So here you can see our first
version which was insulated, adjusted to the use and clad in a COR-TEN steel around the building. But to achieve the
historic building credits which are the instruments, the financial instruments that you need, we were asked to put the
insulation on the inside, keep some of the old leaky windows and not have the roof terrace visible from any of the vantage
points of the building. So, I mean because we want
this building to happen we actually took that on and I also say that up in
the corner on the left, this redesign is kind
of where we were going and the way this ended up
going was more like addition, not on top but on the side. It’s still a beautiful project but it does point to this kind of very difficult problems
between sustainability and historic preservation. It still looks pretty nice though. This is the addition of the big open space which will be placed for lacrosse and other sports inside there. Another really cool project
by Thomas Heatherwick that just recently opened
as using subtraction on one of these industrial buildings. It turned into, from a
grain silo to an art museum and you can see how the
building has been carved away to make a dynamic space in the middle. Italians have been dealing
with reuse for so long with many of their structures. They invented a lot of ways to distinguish between the old and the new. So another approach to adaptive reuse is to make it clear
what’s old and what’s new. This goes back to theories
by a guy called Camillo Boito in the 19th century who
outlined the approach. But it’s not surprising to see this. This is one of the most exciting buildings I think as an adaptive reuse, I saw it as a student and I’ve gone back to it several times. This master of reuse old
and new is Carlo Scarpa who is an Italian
architect that was working. He did this design for Castelvecchio which is kind of the standard
I guess you would say. So, what I’m gonna show
you is in the knuckle there where it’s dark black, that is one of the most complex spaces that I’ve ever seen. It is a place that holds the sculpture called the Cangrande II, this is. And so, there’s so much
interesting design thought that went into how to
display the sculpture, how to highlight it from
the old and the new, and how to move people around it from every vantage point that it’s so utterly
contemporary or modern in its sensibility. Here you can see it from, you can see the sculpture is kind of right in the middle of the slide, and this bridge going across using steel. And other times you come right up against the sculpture. It’s always clear what is new. You can look at the
stair in the background, it’s a steel stair that’s
hanging down between a crack suspended and it’s just
a fantastic project if you ever get a chance to go to Verona. Finally, reduce is the
last one of the three R’s and I think it gets the least attention. It’s obvious that reduce would have the biggest impact on waste and reducing the amount of stuff we have. And before we were looking at that kitchen with all the kitchen cabinets
in it to store things, today we have buildings, entire
buildings to store things. It doesn’t seem like we’re
going in the right direction. Just as architecture, this makes space on our planet so, some architects are concerned
with doing these projects. I guess, when you think of reduce it might seem antithetical
to the creative spirit in making, it’s almost like
it cancels out the idea. Reduce could be
interpreted as don’t build. That would be very bad
for me for sure. (laughs) But I think it’s really
reduce that holds the most, probably the most
potential to begin impact so I wanna try to think
about it in different ways. I mean, the first thing you think of is Mies van der Rohe, right? I mean, he’s the one that
said, “Less is more.” But really, with his work and I guess you could call it minimalism, it’s not really about reducing really. I mean, it is about making
things more simple-looking but we all know that making
things simple is not easy and it takes a lot of materials. So, this is a beautiful project by SANAA. It’s called The Louvre Lens Museum and it is extraordinary but it also, in order to do this aesthetic strategy to simplify the elements, you have to have, make
giant pieces of glass and you have to have whole new machines that are able to do the brushed aluminum. I think I mean, it is an
incredible thing to do but I don’t think it
has to do with reduce. So, minimalism really is really only achievable for the wealthy. (audience laughing) And then with Buckminster Fuller also, he changed the saying less is more to doing more with less and I thought that was and
it’s an engineer’s goal but for the purpose of this discussion it’s a good way to think about it. So, the closest thing
you can think of I guess, there’s a couple parts. One is there’s this tiny house movement, I don’t know if you’ve heard about it but there are so many people
trying to do the tiny house. I want more architects, more
design architects to try it. A lot of people are doing it themselves and it’s very interesting phenomena to just live in under 500 square feet. It’s probably why you get
those storage buildings. Actually I just thought of that. (audience laughs)
Okay. Then there’s micro-apartments
which are really, this is nARCHITECTS which are, they built the first one in Brooklyn which are very small apartments, very nice but a response to a
crushing need for housing pretty much in most major cities. And this is really, they’re
happening everywhere. We’re doing one as well in Denver. And so, there’s a lot of innovation around how to make a small
apartment really accommodating. Then there is the co-living movement which is represented here, it’s actually a tall building
by PLP Architects in London. And this is really, has to do with the idea that millennials
don’t wanna buy homes anymore and they think of living
more as a service. So there’s new businesses popping up like one called The Collective and if you know WeWork,
there’s now gonna be WeLive. And the founder of The
Collective once said, I think he said, “We will
all be homeless someday.” And I think that’s the goal, it’s like we can move into
these different environments and share parts of the building, and therefore, you’re
reducing the footprint, reducing the amount
for every single person but also getting the social
environment at the same time. Finally, I just saw a project that we did which was along these lines which was a project for Cicero, Illinois, the suburb of Chicago and it was shown at the
Museum of Modern Art. And this project really was taking a look at what we could do given
the foreclosure crisis. This was in 2010 and we decided to look
at a suburban environment and see how, to wondering if the foreclosure crisis could provide some opportunity to rethink the way that we live and work. And there, we discovered in Cicero that it’s a city of new arrivals,
of immigrants really and in the early days it was coming from these three
countries in Europe and now really coming from three county, three place states in Mexico. But the same idea only the difference is now there are no big factories. This factory once had
40,000 workers working there and that just doesn’t exist anymore. So people are doing different things. There were a lot of homes foreclosed upon and not just because people borrowed too much money, it was really because
they lost their jobs. And so, this is the kind of plagued area with both no jobs, some
environmental pollution and really a lot of foreclosures. We looked at the main
building stock that was there which were these small bungalows which were for this typical
family in the 20th century. And what was happening was more people were moving into those. So they were already
cohabitating in the bungalow and retrofitting them to meet their needs. It’s like this extended
version of a family, maybe it’s relatives coming
from your home state. Maybe it’s single unrelated adults living together to share
space and save money. So it’s kind of a totally
different phenomena. So we said, what if we could
take these different uses and instead of being confined
in the bungalow envelop, reshuffle them and reassemble them to better match these
contemporary families and living spaces. So, our model we came up with is what if we had a building that
you could grow and expand. You could have as minimal amount
of bedrooms that you needed and you could share other places like the kitchens and
dining with other people, and in utilizing this
abandoned factory network. So, kind of reusing these
buildings, reinventing them and we showed a way, we took one example of a factory and tried to show how the
units could be in there. So these units, you
would own your own unit but not the land that it would sit on so you still have this invested equity. There was a whole complete
concept of how to do this from an economic standpoint. And it would just kind of, it would be this higher density growing out of the
infrastructure of the factory. And so, instead of being divided into a neighborhood that has
residential here, factories there and recreation there, you would get this
completely combined fabric which you see at the
upper part of the slide of the reinvented
factories, live, work space. An economy that would
accommodate materials and uses and tied into the
existing network of alleys which is where a lot of the
cool stuff was happening there. So, just to wrap up this
first Material World talk, I think we could point
to a couple of challenges to summarize the arguments that I was starting to make today. One is that recycling is not like a totally perfect
solution to everything. There’s always gonna be the question about this harvesting of the materials, where do they come from? What happens to the site where
the materials are taken from? And today there’s also this question of toxicity of the materials
and are they safe? It’s a lengthy process. And then there’s barriers to this from both the society and
there’s economic barriers. For example, it takes more work to prepare these materials
for recycling, so labor. In our current system
because we pay tax on labor and not on resource use, it penalizes or it disadvantages this idea of using more work to prepare
the materials for recycling. So I think in order for recycling and recycling itself to take hold, we’d have to overcome
those barriers with policy. And we also need policy
though to turn around this, I would say it’s a twisted logic that makes reduce, reuse, recycle
only an individual choice. Like why do I always feel guilty about whether I’m recycling and it’s not just an individual choice. There needs to be policy that incentivizes each of these three terms. Like a simple example was
in Ireland and we were, we had to pay there for every bag and the weight of the
trash that we threw away. The result of that, product and food producers
responded to this by making less packaging and making
their items more desirable. And so, people bought items, they literally bought items that had less packaging and less waste. So, it’s just an example
of how a policy can help. And the second thing I
think is a challenge is the challenge of preservation
which we were talking about. Where is it going? When does it start to prevent this in creative interpretation, you know? And how is an architect
supposed to deal with sustainability demands that are at odds with preservation ideas? What is worth saving? Who gets to decide what’s worth saving? So, those are all things
that are kind of thorny. And today just we talked
about recycle, recycling, how it plays with this idea of waste-time. So these are the kind of, the
opportunities that it has, how it gives meaningful
connections to the world that entirely new things don’t have. Recycling offers a way to
start with what’s there, to embed an aspect of time
into our constructions and to add to the relevance. And so, it’s kind of like
reintegrating the past into the future in a wide variety ways that are both interesting and creative. So, in that sense, mining the city is a new of thinking about our resources. When does the material hold this meaning? When does it stop holding
this meaning from the past? How can we harness technology like the ones I told you about
Steel Spider and Match.com? How can we harness these things to help us with better recycling? We also talk about reuse,
new uses in old structures to help preserve them probably more so than
any other adaptation. Like if you think of the
Pantheon for example, look how long that’s been in use and they say that really, the conversion of the Pantheon from a pagan temple to a Christian temple is actually what saved it. Buildings with additions like
Zaha Hadid’s building we saw on top of the cold storage
building with Herzog de Meuron, these are bringing a new life to an out of date structure that might otherwise be torn down, but they also add this
kind of newness value. And finally, we talked about reduce, like strategies of sharing,
making buildings smaller and mixing their uses. Today, we begin, I think this talk is a first for me trying to expand this
intellectual framework for creativity in the material world. That works that we reviewed
should no longer be banished into this segregated
category in architecture which is what they do today. Like there’s only a separate category for all buildings that are reused. They should be central to the field. So with that, next week
I’m gonna talk about a larger scale mining the city. Landscapes, infrastructures, occupations. We’re gonna look at vacant
buildings, vacant cities and shift our conceptions
of what these places can be and the opportunities they have. It might seem weird to you
for me like an architect, you showed a lot of my new
buildings for the introduction, to think about old buildings and materials and forlorn landscapes in
this time that we’re in, which is really defined by virtual things. There’s an exuberance
for newness right now and a dizzying unprecedented
speed of production. But maybe the idea of
recapturing, reinterpreting and reengaging with what’s already here can stimulate a different
kind of creativity. Maybe it could spur a deeper
understanding of the past and set up more enduring relationships for the future at the same time. And maybe the ideas will spill out of these materials and spaces if we can just adjust
our perception of them or simply adjust our concept of what we consider to be waste. Thank you very much. (audience applauding)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *