Does this park on the Red Square reshape Russia’s public space?

Does this park on the Red Square reshape Russia’s public space? AC Architectural Creation, Oct. 23, 2018.

My article "Soft Power in Moscow" was translated by Yayun Dong of the landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates, then used as a reference text for a new article, reedited, reframed, and published in the Chinese online magazine AC Architectural Creation under the title "Does this park on the Red Square reshape Russia’s public space?" It covers Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Zaryadye Park and other Moscow urban design projects reflecting a view of Russia's government as a system that despite its faults is able to be influenced by public opinion and professional design work.

Changes on the Fly / Real Estate Show Book

"Introduction: Real Estate Show," in Changes on the Fly, ed. Matthias Mayer, Catalog to the exhibition series, Spor Klübü, Berlin, 2017.

How do Berlin artists deal with the changes in their city, the changing living and work habits? Many are losing their studios because real estate owners are targeting higher rents and more lucrative contracts with new paying tenants. Enough new affordable studios are simply not available. Artworks done in the last few years is generally disposed of quickly, because space – even storage space – is not affordable. The nomadism of artists reaches its limits, because even in the outer districts of Berlin alternative real estate has already been taken. How does this external pressure manifest itself in the work of the artists? The exhibition series “Changes on the fly” started with an example from New York City in the early 1980’s. In New York’s speculator-eldorado Lower East Side, artists occupied a storefront at the beginning of the 80’s to stage an exhibition on the topic of real estate speculation titled “The Real Estate Show”. This was cleared shortly afterwards by the police. Documentation of that exhibition organized in cooperation with Becky Howland - provided an introduction to the series, followed by the group exhibition “The Real Estate Show Extended/Berlin” which refers to Berlin and a further four individual exhibitions with Berlin-based artists at the project space Spor Klübü.


“One of the questions we have looking forward is, now that we’ve put so many people and so much new development at the waterfront, what are we going to look back on in 30 years and say we did right or should have done differently?” said Robert Freudenberg, vice president of energy and environment at the Regional Plan Association. “Building to high resilience standards is no longer a luxury: It’s a necessity.”


Art, Architecture, and Capital Flows. University of Birmingham, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, May 30. 2018. 

Based on seven years of research and more than 100 interviews with founders of institutions in Lower Manhattan from the 1960s through the 80s, this lecture re-examines the formation of artists' communities and generative aesthetic practices in New York City and their relation to capital formation and real estate development.

Questioning the assumptions perpetuated by the formative example of SoHo in the 1970s, it brings into relief the planning and policy contexts and economic drivers that underpinned the transformation of New York City from the post-war era to today. Throughout this period, an argument emerged about the potential to think of culture as a form of embedded capital; the lecture looks at the limits of contemporary experiments in applying socially engaged design to intentionally reallocate resources in the absence of supportive state and local policies. 


Robot Citizens: Architecture & Social Responsibility Now, Dimensions of Citizenship. US Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale, 2018. 

US Pavilion courtyard

Vast technological infrastructures increasingly dominate contemporary life, calling into question traditional assumptions about public space, citizenship, and identity as coherent organizing ideas for a redemptive humanism. As our built-up environment becomes increasingly mediated and controlled by algorithms and the world’s ecology is permanently marked by economic production, must ideas like citizenship, cities, and social responsibility be replaced by a posthuman logic, and what would its implications be for collective action and the shared spaces we inhabit? A panel introduced by SCI-Arc Director Hernan Diaz Alonso and featuring Laura Kurgan of Center for Spatial Research, Charles Renfro of Diller Scofido + Renfro, architectural historian Marrikka Trotter of SCI-Arc, and Liam Young of Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today discusses the ethical questions facing the future of architecture and urbanism, moderated by architecture critic and curator Stephen Zacks.

Robot Citizens is a partner program is organized by SCI-Arc.


Designing a Russian Public: The new Zaryadye Park, a brainchild of the nonprofit Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, represents a growing wave of public-private initiatives transforming Moscow’s current cityscape and urban planning goals. Art in America, May, 2018.


Warehouse Modernism: Brooklyn’s East River waterfront is defining itself in unexpected ways. The Architect's Newspaper, Apr. 30, 2018. 

Taking shape along Greenpoint’s once-industrial waterfront district is a series of surprisingly contextual modern condo developments using red brick and exposed black steel to tactfully insert tens of thousands of new residents along this sleepy East River shoreline. The largest of them, a 30-story tower that is part of Handel Architects’ Greenpoint Landing, includes 5,500 units sprawled over 22 acres at the mouth of Newtown Creek, with 1,400 apartments renting for as little as $393 to $1,065. Initial renderings presented for public review surfaced as bland massing diagrams, but the subdued details of Handel’s build-out hold promise for communities becoming accustomed to glossy, glassy, boxy towers in districts where rezoning permits greater height and bulk. 

In contrast to Long Island City’s gleaming, generic masses and Williamsburg’s spotty, uneven edges, Greenpoint’s waterfront retains enough of its traditional shipping warehouses to sustain the contours of a characteristically industrial neighborhood along West and Commercial Streets, even if most of the industry is gone. Despite a major waterfront rezoning passed by the city council in 2005, until a few years ago, most of West Street continued to host storage for building material and scaffolding, a lumber manufacturer, and a crane and equipment rental company. After large portions of Greenpoint Terminal Market were lost to a ten-alarm fire in 2006, Pearl Realty Management adapted the remains into a studio-and-workspace rental complex, an extension of its Dumbo-based green desk co-working enterprise. Slowly, smaller firms like Daniel Goldner Architects, Karl Fischer Architect, STUDIOSC, and S9 Architecture populated the upland side of West and Commercial with renovated warehouses and upscale condos echoing the material palette of the existing low-rises.


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.”