The Museum Is Not Enough

 


Who says Instagram isn’t a marketing machine? On one of my many endless scrolls, the book The Museum Is Not Enough popped up on my feed from the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). The title was so intriguing. If the museum is not enough, then what would make it sufficient? This completely played into my ongoing quest into how we can modernize this aging institution in the digital era. Needless to say, I contacted the CCA and had the book delivered to my doorstep, asap.

In recent years, the museum as an institution has been going through an identity crisis. Questions surrounding its programming offer, as well as the audience it is servicing have been at the helm of discussion. Are they here to engage, educate and create experiences? Are they here to serve artists, academics and the greater community? The answer is yes to all. Yet, the only real institution that has been able to do this consistently is the shopping mall, which is also in need of reinvention in the age of the digital economy.

So where does this leave an architecture museum and its future when historically its content can only be represented through models, sketches, drawings, and photography, since showcasing its real subject matter is quite difficult? The Museum Is Not Enough beings to tackle this question by looking inward and outward.

The book is a collection of reflections on architecture, contemporary social concerns, institutions, and the public. Founded by Phyllis Lambert, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is an international research institution and museum premised on the belief that architecture is a public concern. Building on years of thematic investigations the book puts forward the CCA’s own positions on the matter through nine volumes:

No. 1 Hello, this is me
No. 2 I look for grey areas
No. 3 I see content in display
No. 4 And I keep revisiting archives
No. 5 This is me, online
No. 6  Education worries me
No. 7 And I’m wary of the present
No. 8 So I need a plan
No. 9 Or I could reinvent myself 

The structure of the book consists of a mix of interviews, essays, and imagery from the CCA archive. But the most unique aspect of the book is the narrative voice of the CCA written in the first person singular. This personification of the institution could suggest a subtle role reversal from a place that houses items, to a person that presents and contemplates them. “What I am for is questioning what is going on around me – and uncaring alternatives,” is one of the many questions presented by this pensive centre.

In an interview with curator, writer, and educator, Maria Lind, an art institution is about mediation and access. For Lind, mediation is about putting art as the central subject. She explains that “mediation is an activity that facilitates contact between artworks and people, and those people are people working in the institution in question, the artist, and the visitors – groups or individuals, young or old, initiated or not yet initiated.”  When questioned about knowledge and the institution’s responsibility in this role, Lind approaches it in a more neutral expression that it’s more about access than education. “Access doesn’t prescribe that somebody should learn something, but it provides. I think that the institution should provide the possibility of access, and with living human beings.” This new agency for a museum as a facilitator is an interesting concept and is further supported by Bernd Scherer, director of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Scherer sees the institution more than facilitating the object and people but inviting people into the overall process. “If the role of cultural institutions is not only to criticize, but also to provide a forum on how to address these power asymmetries, we have to ask ourselves, How can we create spaces that are no longer still just the object of these processes, but where other people can develop agency in these processes?” 

Well, if you must know, twelve curators, editors, and writers bet on 36 exhibitions from the last five years that help identify how architecture can be relevant in this future context. Themes of rethinking of boundaries, viewer centered relationships, creation, oppositional, non-didactic, non-hierarchical, renegotiating relationships, unheard voices, inclusivity, and precision all help to map out and aid in the transformation of contemporary architecture. 

Yet, after all this contemplation, discussion, interviews, and investigations, the CCA says it best in its own words, “I’m not sure I’m ready to be something else yet, but I’m trying to think that way.” Fear is a common human trait that even can be felt by the top institutions in the world. Like the famous Michael Korda states: “If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will believe in you?”

St. Isaac’s Cathedral

If you ever visit St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the most dominant building piercing the city’s skyline is the gold dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, it is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint.

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V&A Dundee by Kengo Kuma

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When I was thinking of traveling to Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow were at the top of my list. But when I heard of the opening of a new V&A museum in Dundee, designed by Kengo Kuma really solidified my decision to go there.

It’s quite a distance from Edinburgh, a couple of hours at least. On your way to Dundee you can see rolling hills and the occasional herd of sheep passing you by. The most majestic part of the journey is traveling across the river and seeing this jagged little site at the edge of the water.

Continue reading “V&A Dundee by Kengo Kuma”

Riverside Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects

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Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland. I took a day and traveled to Glasgow where you can find some of the biggest hitters in architecture all within a kilometer of each other. The Clyde Auditorium (Armadillo) and SSE Hyrdo both designed by Foster and Partners, are right next to one of the best looking museums in all of Europe – The Museum of Transport / The Riverside Museum design by the one and only Zaha Hadid. Continue reading “Riverside Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects”

Why go to architecture school?

Does the school of architecture need an overhaul? Monocle radio recently put the question to the heads of two leading architecture schools: London’s Architectural Association and the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Eva Franchi i Gilbert and Amale Andraos sat down for an intimate conversation about the importance of architecture and where they see it heading in the future.

Continue reading “Why go to architecture school?”

Alice in Wonderland – Swiss Pavilion – Venice Architecture Biennale 2018

The Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 opened to the public this past weekend and continues until 25 November 2018.

This year’s biennale is directed by the co-founders of Irish practice Grafton Architects, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. The pair selected the title Freespace as the overarching theme for the event. Continue reading “Alice in Wonderland – Swiss Pavilion – Venice Architecture Biennale 2018”

Chicago Architecture Biennial announces Co-Curators

The Chicago Architecture Biennial has announced that curator and educator Sepake Angiama, and architect and urbanist Paulo Tavares will be joining the curatorial team of the 2019 Biennial. This is a great move as in the past two editions there have only been artistic directors leading the helm of the showcase. The co-curators will be working with the Yesomi Umolu, who was selected as the Artistic Director last March. Continue reading “Chicago Architecture Biennial announces Co-Curators”

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

This Easter I’m going to be celebrating it by the pool of a 5-star resort. The Fontainebleau is one of the most historically and architecturally significant hotels in Miami Beach, Florida. Opened in 1954 and designed by Morris Lapidus, it was arguably the most luxurious hotel in Miami Beach, and is thought to be the most significant building of Lapidus’s career. In 2007, the Fontainebleau Hotel was ranked ninety-third in the American Institute of Architects list of “America’s Favorite Architecture”. On April 18, 2012, the AIA’s Florida Chapter ranked the Fontainebleau first on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places.

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Lincoln Memorial

This monument feels like it was built by gods. It’s massive size of 190 feet long and 119 feet wide and reaching a height of almost 100 feet makes anyone who walks into the space feel so minuscule. Towering over the Reflecting Pool, anchoring the western end of the National Mall this has been the site for many memorable events such as Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech. Continue reading “Lincoln Memorial”

V&A to salvage wreckage for Venice Architecture Biennale

A fragment of the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate salvaged from the demolition site by London’s V&A museum is to be transported to Italy and displayed at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.

The V&A acquired a three-storey section of the estate last year in addition to the fragment it will take to Venice when demolition work on the brutalist social housing estate began. Continue reading “V&A to salvage wreckage for Venice Architecture Biennale”