PLAN 84: Article
In The Local Galleries

A Selection of Spring Exhibits and Events

Suspended City: L’Aquila after the Earthquake of 2009 – Photographs by Michele Nastasi. February 7 - April 18, SA+P’s Wolk Gallery. On April 6, 2009, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the medieval city of L’Aquila in central Italy, destroying or damaging eighty percent of the historic center of the city. The center was cleared of debris and stabilized but rebuilding was stalled by a deep public divide over how the city should be reconstructed and ultimately used. Nearly four years after the earthquake, L’Aquila remains caught in a planning impasse.

Milan photographer Michele Nastasi began working in L’Aquila soon after the earthquake. His photographs record a cityscape of prosthesis: splints, casts and stays shoring-up and stabilizing centuries-old structures. These surgical interventions in the fabric of the city have been technologically successful even if the patient itself – L’Aquila – still shows no sign of life.

The exhibit was accompanied by a roundtable discussion among six L’Aquila experts from Italy and a ‘Talk Back’ session featuring representatives from the city’s reconstruction team in discussion with MIT experts on geology, architecture and dispute resolution, exploring the obligations of scientists, city planners and policy makers to predict and plan for the impact of natural disasters on local communities.

Wheels + Legs. December 21 – May 31, Media Lab Lobby, E-14. From lightweight, shared, electric vehicles that fold, to artificial limbs that not only emulate—but improve upon—biological gaits, the Media Lab is transforming mobility for the 21st century.

This exhibit features the work of two Media Lab research groups – Changing Places (Kent Larson, director) and Biomechatronics (Hugh Herr, director). Changing Places researchers are creating more livable and sustainable cities with projects like the CityCar, GreenWheel, RoboScooter and PEV (Persuasive Electric Vehicle). The Biomechatronics group focuses on smart prostheses, orthotics and exoskeletons, blurring the boundaries between what is human and what is not.

This work results from a shared commitment to disruptive technologies created at the interface of traditional disciplines. The only limitations are physical law and the boundaries of collective imagination.

Much of this work is based on the vision of Professor William J. Mitchell (1944-2010), who pioneered a new vision for smart, sustainable cities, and who advanced that vision through the Media Lab’s Smart Cities research group.

FAIR USE: An Architectural Timeline. February 22 - March 8, Keller Gallery, Room 7-408. FAIR USE presented a timeline of historical instances, characters, trajectories, theories?and court cases that together begin to describe the realm of appropriation?in architecture. Compiled during a fall research workshop conducted by?Ana Milja?ki and Sarah Hirschman ¬– Appropriation: The Work of Architecture in the Age of Copyright – the material was organized in three broad categories: technologies of reproduction, theories of appropriation and legal issues pertaining to ownership of architectural ideas.

The exhibit was accompanied by a two-day symposium bringing together scholars and practitioners to focus on one of the most anxious disciplinary topics: influence. The aim of the symposium was to place issues of individual and collective authorship, of precedent, originality and reproduction under a magnifying glass.

The first day featured keynote speaker Mario Carpo, visiting professor of architectural history at Yale, discussing?’self-organization, indeterminacy and the crisis of modern authorship in contemporary digital design theory’. On the second day, a panel of participants was invited each to work with a synonym for appropriation to illuminate the specific strategies, historical and disciplinary circumstances in which it is enmeshed. The terms examined: Affinity, Allusion, Cliché, Collection, Doppelgänger, Replica, Revision, (Color)Sample, Side Effects, Signature, Thing Rights and Vapor.

Design Biennial Boston. February 21 – May 15, BSA Space, Boston Society of Architects. The third installment of Design Biennial Boston includes the work of all nineteen participants from 2008, 2010 and 2012 assembled as an interactive archive displayed and cross- referenced on the walls and in two large wooden containers. This year’s four winning teams, including SA+P faculty Brandon Clifford and Ana Miljacki, also constructed site-specific installations for the show.

Helix by Brandon Clifford and his partner at Matter Design, Wes McGee, is a half-scale spiral stair. While its reduced size resolves a number of practical concerns – weight, liability, access – the piece celebrates its impracticality; it is both column and stair yet hangs from the ceiling, its uncertainty and changed scale injecting a playful quality into the surrounding space.

Project_Rorschach by Ana Mijacki and her partner Lee Moreau, with Sarah Hirschman (MArch’11), is an invocation of the contentious Rorschach test; common images of architecture, assembled from digital archives that designers often draw upon, are layered into ten revised Rorschach cards, inviting viewers to see images of architectural tropes anew.

Previous Biennial winners from SA+P, included in the exhibit archive, were Meejin Yoon (2008) and William O’Brien Jr. (2010). Pinkcomma Gallery, including SA+P’s Michael Kubo, PhD candidate in architecture, was guest curator for the show.

Joël Tettamanti: Compass Points. February 15 – August 31, MIT Museum. A collection of 74 photographs and four videos documenting structures, villages and cities that people create and inhabit, and the landforms and climates that shape their culture.

The show includes landscapes or cityscapes from Greenland, Iceland, Israel, South Korea, China, Luxembourg, Niger, Vietnam, Greece, Togo, and French Polynesia. Although his photographs are often unpeopled, the focus of Tettamanti’s work is the human presence in the landscape and the people who are uplifted and sometimes defeated by the land they inhabit.

Born in Cameroon in 1977, Tettamanti was raised in Lesotho and Switzerland, worked in Paris, and now lives in Switzerland again. He has worked from Asia to the Arctic Circle on assignment for magazines and commercial clients such as Wallpaper, Victorinox, Clariant and Gigon Guyer Architects. His work has been the subject of three monographs and numerous exhibitions in Europe. This is his first major solo exhibition in the United States.

Feeling Contexts. March 14 – April 10, Keller Gallery, Room 7-408. An exhibition of work by C+S Architects of Treviso, Italy; partner Maria Alessandra Segantini was a visiting professor at SA+P in the spring of 2012, leading a design option studio titled ‘Writing Venice’.

C+S works internationally in urban, landscape, architectural and interior design for both the private and public sectors, approaching each project as a translation of the contexts to which it belongs – historical, socio-political, economical, physical and climatic. They define their research as TranslationArchitecture™.

For this exhibit, the Keller Gallery served as a new context for their work. As if lifted from their studio in Italy and planted directly within MIT, a working table of models and drawings from the firm’s recent built works occupied the central space of the gallery.

Working on the integration of concepts such as scale, form, community spirit and detailed design, C+S has developed an extensive catalogue of architectural and urban strategies that aim to erase architecture as an object in favor of melting it into the landscape, analyzing the program and the site from cultural, social, physical and climatic points of view.