Game of Spheres: Near Steven Holl’s holiday home is the guesthouse where the architect accommodates young artists in residency: a pavilion inspired by Peter Sloterdijk’s research into the metaphorical implications of spherical forms. Abitare, April, 2018.

About two hours’ drive along the bucolic state parkways north of New York City, architect Steven Holl hikes out on weekends from his summer house in Rhinebeck to a little shack on the edge of Round Lake to paint watercolors. These dream-like geometric explorations—his constant companion in the sketchbooks he carries with him at all times, along with volumes of poetry and philosophy—guide his colleagues back in Chelsea as they develop concepts into architectural models, and eventually built structures. This year alone, his office is opening an art school for the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, a library in Hunter’s Point Queens, a 94-unit apartment building in Helsinki, Finland, a Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts expansion in Washington DC, and a pavilion for the Necropolis of PaoSan in Taiwan.

The Ex of In House, however, was unusual. In 2014, Holl had been reading German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s Spheres trilogy, which investigates bubbles, spheres, and foam as metaphors for theories of selfhood, intimacy, and the public realm. At the time, Holl was designing a mountainside arrival hall for the PaoSan religious shrine north of Taipei. After drawing more than 30 different schemes, he focused on intersecting spheres as a universal symbol for the sacred space. 


Art, Architecture, and Capital Flows in the Ruins of New York, Lecture in Speculative City Seminar, David Eugin Moon, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Apr. 20, 2018. 


Soft Power in Moscow: An Expansive Park at the Foot of the Kremlin Helped Drive a Series of Revolutionary Improvements to the Russian Capital. Landscape Architecture Magazine, Apr. 2018. 

An open question is whether improving living conditions and beautifying public squares in Moscow will neutralize the opposition or prove the potency of civic action through direct engagement and cooperation with the government. Russian architects tend to deflect political questions, taking a pragmatic approach to accomplishing what they can within the existing system: Do what you will, but stay out of politics. The most telling response to questions about the ethics of working with the Putin regime was that the government could be much worse.

In March, Putin was expected to be elected to his fourth term as president with little to no opposition. Meanwhile, in the United States, the Trump-Russia probe continues to unwind interference in the 2016 presidential election. Russia continues to occupy parts of Georgia and Ukraine and jail opposition leaders, and covert Russian propaganda has extended a broad, right-wing authoritarian influence in the Soviet Union’s former satellite republics. “Unfortunately, it’s kind of boring in a way,” Renfro said of the politics of working in Russia. “Maybe that in itself is interesting, that within the tumult of what’s going on at the national or international level [in] geopolitics, a project like this could fly under the radar. It’s a testament to how much the world is still working normally, and cooperatively and experimentally together.”


"Social Impact Criticism: The use of influence for advocacy and production." ARPA Journal, Spring, 2018.

"Professional conflict of interest standards continue to provide a valuable ethical framework for journalism. However, rather than think of these standards as a dead end, perhaps we can think of them as having a degree of fluidity both in their application in mainstream criticism and in their relevance to efforts to extend journalistic practice beyond the written word. I consider my work under the guise of the Institute for Applied Reporting and Urbanism to be imperfect realizations of the idea that journalism has a potential role to play in producing advocacy. But as explorations testing the limits of discourse related to conflict of interest in design journalism, they can be useful in evaluating the potential for criticism to have a more pronounced social impact in the field and may even encourage others to push professional boundaries and experiment with new ideas."


"Repairing the World Through Performance: Michael Rakowitz’s Radio Silence." Radio Silence: A Postcast and Radio Series Conceived by Michael Rakowitz, 2018. 

"At a moment when the world feels broken and nothing holds the potential to heal it, the food and stories offer some small comfort, a hopeful gesture of slowing down, returning to a starting point, and creating a temporary community in a rapidly shifting landscape of migrations and too-quickly amplified messages."


An A’18 tour led by Stephen Zacks reveals New York’s new Bowery and the Lower East Side in our newly gilded age. Architect, Mar. 2018.

"When CBGB became a John Varvatos shop, New Yorkers mourned the end of the Bowery. Notorious as the city’s skid row in the 19th century and countercultural zone through the 20th, the Bowery’s rapid gentrification has left a strange mix of old and new. Among the new constructions, the Bowery boasts buildings by well-known architecture firms and up-and-comers. The effect is a series of connected neighborhoods that might be pricier than ever, but remain as varied as before. Interested? Sign up for this tour at"


A Loving Portrait of Fame, Fraud, and Disco at Studio 54: Studio 54 tells the story of an infamous disco club brought down by excess, but redeemed by its embrace of diversity, sexual liberation, and a sense of community.
Hyperallergic, Feb. 7, 2018

"Directed by Matt Tyrnauer, a Vanity Fair correspondent who previously directed a film on the Italian fashion designer Valentino, Studio 54 finds a compelling and sympathetic witness in co-founder Schrager, who later became a boutique hotelier. Schrager’s memories of his friendship with Rubell, and the lost community they nourished, lends the film unexpected heart. After all, this is the club that supposedly invented the velvet rope to turn away the unshaven masses and the nylon-wearing “bridge-and-tunnel” crowd."


A Yayoi Kusama Documentary Tracks a Life in Polka Dots: Kusama – Infinity spotlights both the artist’s radically successful career and how art can be a method of healing.

Hyperallergic, Feb. 2, 2018.

"The film portrays the young Kusama, a daughter of wealthy seed merchants, growing up in rural Nagano Prefecture, with panning images of her from family photos in the country fields — one of her earliest visual references. As a child, Kusama discovered painting as a refuge from her parents — her mother, she has said, continuously scolded her and ripped up her drawings, and her father was a womanizer. The activity of making art also provided her relief from the dot-infused hallucinations she suffered from at an early age. Turning down arranged marriages, Kusama utterly lacked a sense of self-doubt as she pursued a career in painting. In her youth, she penned a letter to Georgia O’Keeffe, who invited Kusama to her ranch in New Mexico and encouraged her to move to New York. Cue the swelling orchestra."


A Tower Like a Toy: The new luxury residential tower block designed by Herzog & de Meuron in New York’s Tribeca district, which has something vaguely reminiscent of a children’s game about it, skilfully satisfies the complex system of rules governing the city’s property market. 

Abitare, December 2017.

"From a distance, Herzog & de Meuron’s 820-foot skyscraper pronounces orthogonal shapes onto the skyline, articulating the edges of ten penthouses and 135 condos. In New York it’s known colloquially as the Jenga tower for its stacked blocks of glass teetering on top of one another. From the 52nd floor of 56 Leonard Street, commanding views of New York City accumulate in every direction: its rivers and bridges and avenues construct larger-than-life panoramas inside floor-to-ceiling windows, and low-lying buildings miniaturize into insignificant toys."


The Collective Imagination: Throughout Europe, youthful architecture and design collectives are taking a DIY approach to today's living and working challenges—not least, the refugee crisis. 

Art in AmericaDecember 2017.

"In the backyard garden of a family in Montreuil, a liberal suburb east of Paris, two asylum seekers from Sudan are living in a temporary relief shelter, a micro-house designed by the architecture collective Quatorze. Custom-built off-site by volunteers using burnt-wood cladding and Japanese carpentry techniques, the structure was brought to its current location on a trailer bed and connected to a composting septic system and an underground heating unit that generates surplus electricity for the hosts’ house. Called IMBY—In My Backyard, the dwelling was installed in the garden last summer by members of Quatorze. Next year, the family in Montreuil will decide whether to host a new couple, buy the house for their own use, or have it moved to another site.

A similar experiment is happening in Berlin, at an educational and social gathering place called Die G√§rtnerei (Nursery), conceived by the architecture collective Raumlabor and located on the property of a stonemason’s house set back from Hermannstrasse in Neuk√∂lln. Since the height of the refugee crisis, arts educators going by the name Schlesische27 have hosted planting, landscaping, and German classes there in an effort to build community with immigrants. Like many of the unexpected spaces created by architecture collectives in Germany and France, the Nursery exudes the optimism of a place that exists only through the efforts of the people who use it. Raumlabor, Quatorze, and other associations combine ad hoc public art with social research and architectural fabrication to create structures that alter relationships between groups of people. For the architects as much as for the communities they set out to serve, collaborative work is a means of self-determination: in a slow-growing economy with a depressed labor market, architecture collectives create their own possibilities instead of waiting for someone to hire them. Whether whimsical or utilitarian, their projects invest public space with a dynamic potential for small-scale change."