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Art Talks: Architecture and the Art Museum | Anthony Alofsin, Francesco Dal Co, Arezoo Moseni, Troy Conrad Therrien, Billie Tsien, Tod Williams | Architectural Explorations in Books Series Event

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What is the place of the museum in the modern city? What role does architecture play? How can these buildings be effectively interpreted?

Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan broke with all existing conventions, setting a new standard for the postwar art museum and, together with the Museum of Modern Art, firmly establishing the city of New York as the cultural capital of the 20th century. A decade later, the significance of this new architectural genre was not lost on Georges Pompidou when he commissioned the cultural center that would eventually carry his name—and launch the successful careers of its architects, Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers—hoping that it would position Paris as New York’s cultural rival. 

Guggenheim Museum, perspective drawings, 1944.
Guggenheim Museum. Perspective drawings, 1944.

Beginning with the examples of the Guggenheim and the Centre Pompidou, this panel  discussion considers the role of the museum in the postwar city, and how its position has evolved in the years since, as museum projects have grown in scale, number, and prominence. Some have argued that a phenomenon of “museum mania” has emerged, with every city feeling the need to build a museum designed by a star architect in order to effectively compete. Join Francesco Dal Co, Anthony Alofsin,  Troy Conrad Therrien, Billie Tsien and Tod Williams as they discuss the complex and changing relationship between architecture and the art museum and consider how historians can best research, write about, and understand these contemporary monuments. The discussion is moderated by Arezoo Moseni.

In The Guggenheim: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Iconoclastic Masterpiece, architectural historian and critic Francesco Dal Co relates the gripping story of this iconic museum and documents the 17 tumultuous years that Wright invested in the project. As Dal Co reveals, the Guggenheim ultimately came to be recognized as the most important building of Wright’s late career, setting a new standard for the postwar art museum.

Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Gianfranco Franchini, Ove Arup & Partners, competition design for Plateau Beaubourg, 1971. Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genoa.
Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Gianfranco Franchini, Ove Arup & Partners,
competition design for Plateau Beaubourg, 1971. Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genoa.

With Centre Pompidou: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and the Making of a Modern Monument, Dal Co reconstructs the building’s history and situates the Pompidou project in the midst of the turbulent student protests of 1968. After tracing the building’s political context and intellectual roots, Dal Co details the design elements and engineering techniques that made it possible for the Centre Pompidou to appear modern while simultaneously channeling architectural memory and seamlessly connecting to the surrounding city.

Copies of Centre Pompidou (2016) and The Guggenheim (2017), the first two books in Yale University Press’s Great Architects / Great Buildings series, are available for purchase and signing at the end of the event.

Façade on rue du Renard. © Michel Denancé.
Façade on rue du Renard. © Michel Denancé.

Francesco Dal Co, Hon FRIBA, is professor of history of architecture at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV) and editor of the architecture magazine Casabella, a position he has held since 1996. He previously held faculty positions at Yale University and the Università della Svizzera Italiana, and served as the director of the Venice Biennale from 1988-1991. His many publications include Modern Architecture (with Manfredo Tafuri) and Figures of Architecture and Thought. He has also served as the editor of Electa’s 16-volume series on the history of Italian architecture. Dal Co has curated exhibitions and written on a broad range of subjects including Carlo Scarpa, Giovanbattista Piranesi, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He has recently worked with Yale University Press to launch Great Architects / Great Buildings, a new series providing authoritative perspectives on iconic modern buildings, and has authored the inaugural volumes on the Centre Pompidou (2016) and the Guggenheim Museum (2017).

Anthony Alofsin, FAIA, is an architect and art historian. While attending Harvard College, he studied at Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center for Visual Arts under Eduardo Chillida, the Basque constructivist. After working as a sculptor, he returned to Cambridge to take his Master of Architecture degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He received his Ph.D. in Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University. He is the author or editor of fifteen books covering a broad range of subjects from the history of design education to Central European Architecture to production housing in the suburbs. His review essays appear in the Times Literary Supplement among other publications.  Alofsin is known internationally as an expert of Frank Lloyd Wright and is the author of the forthcoming, Wright in New York. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a three-time Fellow of the MacDowell Colony, and formerly Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow at the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts. Alofsin teaches at the University of Texas, Austin, where he is the Roland Gommel Roessner Centennial Professor of Architecture and founder of the Ph.D. program in Architecture.

The Modern Gallery. Model, 1945.
The Modern Gallery. Model, 1945.

Arezoo Moseni is an artist. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at major venues in the U.S. and abroad such as FIAC 2014, Rome Art Week 2016 and it is held in numerous public and private collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Bibliotheque nationale de France, and Musee de La Photographie. She is the recipient of several fellowships and grants including the Carnegie Corporation of New York | New York Times award, Kentler International Work on Site grant, Yaddo Fellowship and Artists Space Independent Project grant. She received a BFA at Utah State University, a MA and MFA at the University of New Mexico, and a MLIS at Pratt Institute. She curates exhibitions and events at The New York Public Library where she has initiated several exhibition and program series featuring the work of emerging and renowned artists, architects, authors, critics, designers, poets and others.

Troy Conrad Therrien is the Curator of Architecture and Digital Initiatives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum. Initially trained as a computer engineer, and later in architecture design, history, and theory, Therrien has held positions as an architect, creative technologist, innovation consultant, and scholar. His current research focuses on the relationship between architecture, communication technology, and political economy through a curatorial practice that blends traditional exhibitions with experimental forms of programming and research. He regularly lectures, writes, and sits on juries across a diverse spectrum of venues and fields. Therrien is also currently an adjunct professor of architecture at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where he cofounded the Architecture Online Lab and was the founding director of the Energy Issue. He received an MA in architecture history and theory from the Architectural Association in London, and an MArch from Columbia University, where he received the American Institute of Architects Medal. He also holds a BASc in computer engineering from the University of British Columbia.

Tod Williams was born in Detroit, MI and received his undergraduate, MFA, and Architecture degrees from Princeton University. Billie Tsien was born in Ithaca, NY and received her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Yale University and Master of Architecture degree from UCLA. They began working together in 1977 and founded their architectural practice in 1986. Over the past three decades, Tod and Billie have received more than two dozen awards from the American Institute of Architects as well as numerous national and international citations. Most recently, they received the 2013 National Medal of the Arts from President Obama, 2013 Firm of the Year Award from the American Institute of Architects, and 2014 International Fellowship from the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 2016, their studio was selected to design the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Outside the studio, Tod and Billie are devoted participants in the cultural community and have long-standing associations with many arts organizations. Tod currently serves as a Senior Trustee of the Cranbrook Educational Community; Billie is the current President of the Architecture League of New York. Both are Fellows of the American Academy in Rome, and have been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, National Academy, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In parallel with their practice, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien maintain an active academic career and lecture worldwide. At various times, they have taught at the Cooper Union, Harvard University, Cornell University, University of Texas, City College of New York, and Yale University. As both educators and practitioners, they are deeply committed to making a better world through architecture.

Guggenheim Museum. Exhibition spaces on the ramp.
Guggenheim Museum. Exhibition spaces on the ramp.

In its ninth year Architectural Explorations in Books, initiated and organized by Arezoo Moseni, is a series of engaging programs delving into the critical role that architecture publications play in the understanding of contemporary urban developments and structures. The events feature book presentations and discussions by acclaimed architects, critics, curators, designers, photographers and writers.

The event is free and advanced registration is recommended. 

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