Jan, 12, 2012,
11:13 AM

A Covert Architects’ Collective

Reality Cues is an online collective of architects, “offering delicious and nutritional architecture in a fast food format.” They’re best known for their two projects Graffiti Lab, a blog displaying architectural landmarks graffitied with even more architectural landmarks (including landmark architects like Mies) and Archistophanes, the voice of Reality Cues—as told through his Twitter account and blog on Architizer. We caught up with the Reality Cues Librarian, who was able to answer our questions and forward more specific ones through the collective’s network of contributors.

1.       For starters, what’s the mentality behind Archistophanes and Graffiti Lab? What are these two projects setting out to accomplish (in addition to being hilarious)?  How do they relate to each other?

Each project and even Reality Cues is about making and addressing architecture in a new digital and interactive/social medium. Take Tumblr, for instance, whose currency is popular culture. Professionally crafted imagery and crude Photoshop alike find a home. Graffiti Lab set out to learn this language - not just to publish photos of buildings or architectural renderings, but to actually create architecture in the medium of popular culture and collage. Similarly, Archistophanes is a character invented to address the role of the architect as a social being. One that takes on the traditional rule-maker/critic personage, but also the internet junkie who reblogs and refreshes 24-hours a day.

2.       Can you give some background about the people that contribute to Archistophanes and Graffiti Lab—are many of them architects? How did they find each other?

The real nucleus is Reality Cues, which was born out of the desire for a creative outlet for a few architects who had other jobs, hence the pseudonyms. Rather quickly we have gained a number of members who feel that same urge to create within the digital world. We only communicate online, so typically someone will have an idea and send out an email, others will comment or join the project if they have time. This is how Archistophanes and Graffiti Lab were created: by a loose architectural think tank.

3.       @Archistophanes says that “The Age of the Architects is coming.” Sounds ominous. What’s that going to be like? Combined with all the talk about the New Architecture, this seems like it might be a commentary on the past age of the modernists. Is it?

Modernists were masters of promoting the glory of architecture. Since then we have become more critical of the capacity and role of the architect, but in some ways may have bound our hands in the process. Archistophanes attempts to maintain the long-standing tradition of the Architectural Manifesto, while not letting the pendulum swing too far back toward over-glorification. Twitter and Facebook are a thrilling platform for this kind of manifesto, where “At the store buying socks” is considered news. Architects need to navigate this changing social landscape, although it is unclear what our role may be.

4.       Regarding Graffiti Lab, what do you think graffiti can do? What does an image like this or this say about the building it’s Photoshopped onto?

Dr. Junk on ‘Less is More?’:
In the sense that this is Graffiti Lab, the question ‘what can [it] do?’ strikes at the core of this pursuit. The immediate, glib sentiment of one against the painstaking consideration of the other is a situation all too familiar to anyone of us who has gone through the rigors of our profession. The social media platform is a flat infinite plane; it’s interesting to see who’s paying attention. In that, the question is less ‘what does this say about the building,’ and more of a cultural concept asking ‘what is the New Architecture?’ GraffitiLab is one of many Johnny Appleseeds of this new landscape, sewing our own species of delicious hybrid varieties.
Smokey Joe on ‘Flaming Mies’: 
In the beginning, Graffiti Lab was quite literal: tagging our names on the work of our favorite architects. We’ve become more critical of what we make, but it’s still 50% Arch History 101 and 50% US Weekly. The real hope is to get architecture to a broader audience.  Whether or not combining MVDR and a classic flaming skull tattoo and putting it on the Getty Mausoleum is doing this, I can’t say, but I like to think that a few more kids will Google ‘Mies’ at the end of the day.

5.       And a question for both this graphic artist in particular and everybody: Do you really not want to be friends with Mies? How do you feel about him and his legacy?

Geraldine LaM.:
Ha! Well, this particular image is more of a personal response than a critical one. The feeling is that of wanting to actually be more than friends with Mies, in the Lady Gaga “Bad Romance” sense. While studying abroad I missed a late night connection in Barcelona and wandered around the city during the hours that I spent waiting for the subway to re-open. It began to rain and I found shelter under the roof of the Barcelona Pavillion. I ended up spending the night there and have since have felt a deep connection with the building and in some sense, with Mies as a public figure.


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Jan, 11, 2012,
2:32 PM

Furniture for the fabulous

Barcelona chairs are sleek, modern, and, to some, uncomfortable—all words commonly attributed to sexiness. But would you actually consider this classic Mies design sexy?

A posting on PRWeb, an online service that distributes press releases, would like you to. With the provocative headline, “Swanky Rooms’ Sales Figures Show Singletons are Buying Sexy Furniture on a Budget,” the proclamation relies on the fact that the UK retailer Swanky Rooms saw a 66% rise in sales of their Barcelona-style chair in the first six months of 2011 among “single professionals between 22 and 34.”

I don’t think I buy the story—but then again, it’s clear that the story is more interested in me buying the chairs. I’m in the demographic targeted by Swanky Rooms—apparently a “singleton,” although I try my hardest to fight off any Bridget Jones tendencies, primarily by lip-synching to Madonna instead of Celine Dion.

However, as a recent college grad, I can’t afford Swanky Room’s Barcelona chair knockoff, which costs around $500 (and I definitely can’t afford the $5,000 Knoll-produced original). If I was going to impress a fellow singleton by bringing him back to my “contemporary love nest,” I’d have to rely on my excellent DVD collection, to be watched on my laptop because I can’t afford a television either. 

All this to say… maybe PRWeb is on to something after all, because if I visited a gentleman’s apartment and he had a Barcelona chair, I’d be incredibly impressed by his financial solubility.

Whatever Swanky Room’s sales pitch is, it’s interesting that young people who aren’t me are indeed buying cheap—but not that cheap—versions of classic furniture. This kind of furniture is both an investment and a temporary fix (not unlike, say, Ikea, which offers $300 bookshelves that need to be secured to the wall for stability).

This blog entry was contributed by the Mies Society’s summer 2011 intern, Alison Howard, a University of Chicago alum who recently landed a job in advertising (and might now buy a television).

Photo: I can’t believe this is real by Style de Vie Los Angeles

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Jan, 9, 2012,
3:20 PM

Urban Squeeze: Thursday lecture

Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University, will speak Thursday at 6 p.m. in Crown Hall about inventive urban planning in 1960s Japan. The talk free and open to the public and accompanies the exhibition, Struggling Cities: From Japanese Urban Projects in the 1960s in Crown Hall.

A watershed of ambitious ideas was produced by architects in 1960s Japan to address issues of urbanization, especially in mid-century Tokyo. The exhibition explores work tied to the likes of Kenzo Tange’s “A Plan for Tokyo-1960”; the Metabolist schemes of Kiyonori Kikutake, Kisho Kurokawa, Masato Ohtaka, Fumihiko Maki, and Noboru Kawazoe; Arata Isozaki’s “Cities in the Air.”

The College of Architecture hosts this exhibition in Crown Hall, 3360 S. State Street in Chicago on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus.

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Dec, 19, 2011,
11:29 AM

Tugendhat House: Sneak Preview

Playwright June Finfer just sent us this documentary of hers. It makes a revealing case for restoring the Tugendhat House with commentary from family members and Mies’ grandson, Dirk Lohan.

Here are some of the film’s best quotes about the home:

"Space was defined but not blocked out," George Danforth, IIT alumnus (ARCH ‘40) and Mies’ colleague who died in 2007

"It’s one of the seminal projects of the 20th Century, particularly in Eastern Europe… It’s a museum worth preserving," Dirk Lohan, FAIA, Mies Society Board of Advisors and IIT Life Trustee

And, finally, our favorite quote, which epitomizes loyalty:

"I don’t like the idea of strange people tromping about in there. I still consider it part of my house too," Irene Kalkofen, the Tugendhat family’s governess and the last remaining person who lived in the house as an adult. She died in 2004.

The Brno, Czech Republic home will be a highlight of the Mies Society’s May 2012 European tour (book your spot now).

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