GSAPP - ADVANCED STUDIO - SPRING 2023
INSTRUCTOR: JUAN HERREROS
Mentor: Rocío Crosetto
THE INSTITUTIONS WE NEED II
DECOLONIZING MUSEUMS (OF NEW YORK)
S Y L L A B U S
THE INSTITUTIONS WE NEED: DECOLONIZING THE MUSEUMS OF NEW YORK IS THE SECOND EDITION OF THE RESEARCH PROJECT THAT SETS OUT TO REVIEW, RETHINK AND REDESIGN THE CONTEMPORARY MUSEUM IN RESPONSE TO CURRENT CONCERNS········THE VOICES THAT CLAIM THAT THE MUSEUM IS THE INSTITUTION RESPONSIBLE FOR RE-WRITING HISTORY, FOR DISCOVERING WHERE WE COME FROM AND WHAT WE WANT TO BE, ARE GENERATING A NOTABLE IDENTITY CRISIS AMONG THE BODIES IN CHARGE OF THESE CENTERS········SOME HAVE ATTEMPTED TO RESOLVE THE CRISIS THROUGH ELEPHANTINE EXTENSIONS WHICH HAVE MOVED THE INSTITUTION EVEN FURTHER AWAY FROM ITS LOCAL COMMUNITIES········OTHER, MORE RESPONSIBLE, HAVE FOCUSED ON UPDATING THEIR FACILITIES DEVOTED TO CITIZENS AND THE REVIEW OF SOME DISCRIMINATORY AND COLONIALIST CONTENTS HISTORICALLY ACCEPTED WITHOUT DISCUSSION········EDUCATION, RESEARCH, SPECULATION, ARCHIVES, PUBLISHING, ARTISTS’ RESIDENCES, NEW PERFORMING ART FORMTAS, AND OTHER PROGRAMS ARE ENRICHING THE LIFE OF THE CONTAINERS WHILE REDUCING THE PERCENTAGE OF SPACE DEVOTED TO TRADITIONAL EXHIBITIONS IN FAVOR OF DIVERSIFICATION OF PROGRAMS········OUR PROPOSAL CALLS FOR A CRUICAL ROLE FOR ARCHITECTURE IN THIS TRANSFORMATION OF EXISTING MUSEUMS THAT WOULD GO BEYOND PRODUCING SPECTACULAR IMAGES AIMED AT GLOBAL TOURIST IMPACT········TO THIS END, AS OPPOSED TO A READING OF THE MUSEUM AS A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY NOURISHED WITH FREEDOM THAT OPENS THE DOORS TO FANTASY AND SINGULARITY, WE PROPOSE A VISION MORE CENTERED ON THE ACCEPTANCE OF UNCERTAINTY THAN ON HOMOGENEITY OF CULTURE, IN THE USER THAN IN THE CONTENT, AS POSSIBILIST AS COMMITTED, AS PRAGMATIC AS FLEXIBLE, AS ATTENTIVE TO THE NEW SENSITIVITY AS TO THE HISTORY VIEW MORE CONCERNED WITH THE USER THAN WITH THE CONTAINER, AS ADVANCED AS IT IS COMMITTED, AS PRAGMATIC AS IT IS FLEXIBLE, AS ATTENTIVE TO NEW SENSITIVITIES AS TO HISTORY········IN SHORT: IF WE ARE CONVINCED OF THE NEED FOR OTHER INSTITUTION MODELS, WE ALSO NEED ANOTHER KIND OF ARCHITECTURE THAT WRITES A NEW PAGE ON THEIR RECONFIGURATION, ASKING THE PERTINENT QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DESIRABLE PROGRAMS, THE LOAD-BEARING CAPACITY OF THE EXISTING VENUES, AND THE CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES, TO INCORPORATE THE ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, AND POLITICAL CONCERNS TO RE-INSCRIBE THE EXISTING MUSEUMS IN THE EVERYDAY LIFE OF THE CITIZENS·········································································
In the last years, the assembly of UNESCO’s International Council of Museums (ICOM) spent enormous amount of time and energy to review the definition of “museum.” The vicissitudes of the discussion before reaching an agreement, are not as important as the fact that more than a definition what they seek to approve was an expression of desire regarding the museums we dream about. Indeed, the proposal contains a set of adjectives —participative, transparent, contributing to social justice and global wellbeing…— which, while commendable, contradict the idea of objective definition in which there is no room for desirable virtues but rather for ingredients inherent to the defined entity, in the same way that the entry “person” in the dictionary makes no allusion to the goodness or respect for others we expect from humans. We understand that the reason to this complexity is that the museums need a new narrative specially focused in the reconfiguration of their attributes, and we want to work on it from the field of architectural design.
From this point of view, it is even more surprising that in this definition no allusion is made to the fact that in most cases a museum is a physical container. It is evident that more than a building, a museum is first and foremost an institution, and that it is the institution that must be guided by the principles enunciated in its statements. But it is equally evident that these commitments will not be achieved unless the corresponding architectural types are revised, something which UNESCO’s board of experts seems to have overlooked. Our position is that the new museum, the one under the ICOM’s definition, needs a new architecture, and that without that, it will be impossible to talk about a new generation of cultural institutions. As an example, if in order to accede to the public programs wrongly called “complementary” of so many museums, a door other than the main one must be used, or are housed in basements and clearly secondary dependencies, normally reached by means of implausible circuits, this means that nobody has trusted architecture to achieve what the ICOM experts have failed to conclude.
We are entirely with Dorothea von Hantelmann when she states that the museum is the ritual space par excellence of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first- century societies. Ritual space here means a place in which social realities are represented and space of freedom for the political criticism that all communities need and that for centuries took the form of the theatre as the people’s epicenter for complaints against the stablished powers. However, we want to ask ourselves if the architecture of museum buildings responds to this responsibility.In review, for some decades the museum has been criticized for giving a letter of nature to the official hegemonic history -imbued with diverse form of colonialism- that hides and cancels the minor episodes or those that are difficult to fit into a harmonized description of historical reality. The systematic consequence of this criticism has been the vindication of the museum as the institution in which to understand where we come from and what we want to be as a society. Consequently, the Museum is the privileged agent when it comes to rewriting history, shifting the focus of the stories to the traditionally fragile and secondary roles that have not had the space they deserve. The museum is also the place in which to discover otherness and to understand that we share a common sphere, replacing the traditional idea of “accepting the other” with that of “cohabiting in equality with others.” These demands redefine the museum as an institution needed by all, from the local communities furthest from them to global travelers whose financial capacity and elitist training make them a privileged group that cannot be underrated, but neither must they be allowed to be the preponderant public.In the midst of this struggle to constitute the ritual space of cohabitation between the local and the global, museum architecture has not evolved parallel to the statements of institutions. To be critical, we might say that museum design contests (take the Helsinki Guggenheim as an example) have responded to the demands of powerful tourist lures immersed in a global concourse of media impacts which have little to do with our discipline’s unavoidable social and political commitments. Nonetheless, there are cases that indicate the path toward other more diverse and participative models. Having reached this point, it is important to highlight a number of projects that have put forward the concept of a different type of museum, and even the fact that the most useful proposals have come from outside the museum world. Needless to say, Cedric Price was right when he said that his Fun Palace was a museum in which the visitor played the leading role, and Lina Bo Bardi made a great contribution when she invented, in the SESC Pompeia, a non-passive way to activate the discovery of art and its multiple formats among the working classes, granting herself the liberty to mix cultural programs with hedonistic body worship or family leisure. It must also be acknowledged that the Centre Pompidou proposes a typological invention by proposing the isotropic space of an industrially-inspired nature to house an art whose future formats were unpredictable, and that the Palais de Tokio is an intervention on an existing structure that does not want to close any circle. Lastly, the transformation of the public space into museums is a door open by cases as the Crenshaw Boulevard, which proposes an open-air museum which is in fact a tribute to the Black culture of Los Angeles superimposed on a historic urban thoroughfare.All these cases are informed by an anti-elitist intention that must be embraced by today’s institutions, whatever their nature may be. Such democratization of culture is leading many museums to reflect deeply on their deficiencies in order to adapt to coming times. Generally speaking, intentions are geared toward consolidating formulations such as “museums seek to be public places” or “the museum forms part of citizens’ lives not merely as a place to see exhibitions” and they focus on increasing the space given over to citizens’ programs without neglecting the traditional program of the museum as an art archive and exhibition center. Even so, the conclusion is that the exhibition rooms of museums of the future will occupy only 40% of the space devoted to visitors, because the rest will be concerned with education, research, speculation, archives, publishing, collecting, artists’ residences, events, new theater forms and so many other uses minimalized today under the “back of house” label.Such refurbishments are being conceived as “typological corrections” of existing buildings or as extensions onto adjacent sites; although needless to say, the most interesting ones are those based on re-definition of objectives rather than obsession with unstoppable growth. What is clear is that the correction of these museums is a laboratory of experimentation which allows us to ask ourselves:“How social is our architecture?”“How can architecture transform the theoretical discourse that institutions have embraced when they declare themselves to be transparent, inclusive, anti-colonialist, anti-machist, anti-racist and eco-friendly into a physical reality?”
DECOLONIZING THE MUSEUMNS OF NEW YORK
In our quest for a set of accessible cases that allow us to plan an exercise both speculative and realistic, we shall stay in Manhattan, where an enviable collection of museums exists. After the first series of explorations on the Metropolitan Museum (the most visited in the United States); the Salomon Guggenheim by Frank Lloyd Wright; the (Latin) Museo del Barrio; and the private Frick Collection, we would like this spring 2023 to work in a new group of four testing benches: The Museum of Modern Art MoMA, the MET Cloisters, The American Museum of Natural History (the second more visited in the city); and the Brooklyn Museum.
The work will be conducted in four groups, one for each museum, of three students or in a division in four of the students of the class.
Each proposal will put forward the “typological correction” of one of these museums (without repeating them) to update their contents and dissolve their current museographical program in a complex of mixed programs in which all imaginable forms of creative expression find their place.
THE ROLE OF ARCHITECTURE
What is the role of architecture in an issue that requires a significant transformation, both intellectual and physical? Where are the limits of scale, amount of architecture and technification of the museum’s rituals? What are the pertinent typologies, construction systems and preservation protocols?
We have already seen enough astonishing high-impact constructions that add nothing to the need to write a new page on museum’s architecture. We want to see ourselves as committed architects far removed from any form of fascination for singularity that does not reflect on the human needs to which we are obliged to respond. We also want to offer ourselves as experts capable of analyzing and making unexpected diagnoses about the cultural structures of the moment. Lastly, we believe in architecture’s ability to favor, through design, indeterminacy, and the ability to negotiate contingencies that the future may bring.
Our answer to these statements imagines a new generation of institutions conceived as an extension of urban space of recurrent use, inserted into the life of the city. Such projects will have to take into account the diversity of expressions and formats of contemporary art; the impact of global warming to guide the construction of a second-chance for the existing buildings; and the new ingredients of urban culture, from gender policies to the most advanced forms of socialization, from the positive incorporation of new technologies to concerns for labor conditions, from environmental concerns to the construction of artificial landscapes.
Furthermore, we want to look at what exists as valuable support from which to develop programs of recycling in the literal sense of the word. Concepts associated with prepositions (before, below, with, between, without, on…) will develop into architectural operations of occupation, superimposition, infiltration, delimitation and so on.
The projects to be produced in the studio will be enriched by a strong critical position and realistic constructability. Intellectual speculation and technical content of the work will be the two sides of the same coin. Engagement with the present topics and contradictions, elaboration of the narratives, choice and/or design of instruments and methods of representation -graphic materials, models, audio-visual resources- are design operations in themselves. In this context, especial emphasis will be laid on the communicative capacity of the portfolios as documents through which to convey the suitability of the project to third parties.
AGENDA FOR THE FIRDT PART OF THE SEMESTER
MON. JAN. 23RD. PRESENTATION AND CLASS ON THE EVOLUTION OF MUSEUMS AND THEIR CURRENT CHALLENGES.
THU. JAN. 26TH. GRAPHIC ANALYSIS OF THE INSTITUTIONS. Graphic analysis of the ideological and architectural configuration of each museum.
MON. JAN. 30TH. DIAGRAMMATIC REPRESENTATION OF THE DIAGNOSIS. Amount of architecture required to achieve a model complex.
THU. FEB. 2ND
MON FEB 6TH COLLECTIVE PIN UP AND DISCUSSION
THU. FEB 9H TO FEB 16TH. STRATEGY AND KIND OF ARCHITECTURE. Three days of class to develop a strategy on the correction of the current building that must include at least a part of the reconditioning of the existing one and some type of extension on the public space around the current venues.
MON. FEB. 20ST. MID-TERM REVIEW. The mid-term review will be reached with a set of images of and proposals for the reading of the current conditions and a proposition for the transformation of the museum which will not set out to be an incipient architectural project but rather an architectural view of its future presented to the museum board in the form of a performance.
Th studio trip will be to Spain. The base of the one or two days journeys will be Madrid from where we’ll reach Bilbao, León, Valencia, Santiago de Compostela… visiting the back of house of many museums designed by Alvaro Siza, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Mansilla&Tuñón meeting the directors of different departments and maintenance staff, and other historical and contemporary architecture masterpieces significant by virtue of their risk and innovation.