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Tuesday
Dec182012

LALVANI SCULPTURE PERMANENTLY INSTALLED IN MIDTOWN MANHATTAN

L to R: Haresh Lalvani's SEED54 sculpture at Avenue of the Americas and West 54th Street in Manhattan, and Lalvani in front of one of his works.A new permanent sculpture is attracting attention on the bustling streets of Midtown Manhattan, just in time for the holiday tourist season. The sculpture, titled SEED54, was created by Pratt Architecture Professor Haresh Lalvani and recently installed at 1330 Avenue of the Americas at West 54th Street. The piece, his first realized commission of outdoor sculpture, is the most recent example of Lalvani's groundbreaking work and original artistic process derived directly from a quest inspired by nature's designs, its generative principles, and formal codes.

Lalvani's SEED54—an eight-foot tall sculpture of laser-cut stainless steelis part of his "HyperSurface" series that attracted widespread media attention last year as part of a solo exhibition presented by Moss Gallery, New York, at Design Miami 2011. SEED54 deploys mathematics and extends currently available sheet-metal technologies in an innovative manner to achieve a lightweight sculpture that appears to float above a bed of bushes in a planter on the street-level plaza in front of a New York highrise owned by RXR.

Lalvani describes SEED54 as "an exploration in negotiating the shifting boundary between what is conceptually possible and that which is physically realizable. The work aims to demonstrate the fundamental nature of how we, and nature, originate and build." 

Lalvani's work is unique for two reasons: his intimate involvement in the production process and his long-term interest in the origin of form. Lalvani's research has birthed new methods of metal fabrication in an unprecedented collaboration with renowned art-metal fabricator Milgo Bufkin over the last 15 years. His interest in production has lead to innovative ways of making 3-dimensional structures, which have implications that transcend art and can be applied to design, architecture, and engineering. His interest in form and affinity towards math and science has fueled many discoveries and inventions in morphology (the study of form), all dealing with new ways to shape space, and leading to his innovative work in mass-customization and digital design-fabrication.  

RXR, in combination with the architects Moed de Armas and Shannon, awarded Lalvani the commission. The final design of the sculpture was approved in June, and the fabrication process began in August. It took the team at renowned art-metal fabricator Milgo-Bufkin four months to test, fabricate, and assemble the laser-cut pieces into their present shape.

"We have always viewed art as an amenity for our tenants, enriching their workday experience," said Scott Rechler, CEO and Chairman, RXR Realty. "Haresh Lalvani's SEED54 enlivens the plaza at 1330 Avenue of the Americas, providing a dynamic, creative statement to the cityscape. We are very happy that we could collaborate with him and provide a canvas for his work," he added.

On having his sculpture installed in Midtown Manhattan, Lalvani said: "I am deeply honored that this work has been realized at a prominent city location where organic movements of people, traffic, the clouds above, and the bushes below, are juxtaposed against inert concrete plazas and still rectangles of city skyscrapers. SEED54 embraces these oppositions in a piece that longs to move, yet does so only visually and perceptually. I expect, in future, it will do so physically, in sync with its environment, like all organisms do."

Lalvani's AlgoRhythms Columns, in titanium, are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and two examples from this series are on view as part of the Institute's 125 Icons: A Celebration of Works by Pratt Alumni and Faculty, 1887-2012 at Pratt Manhattan Gallery.

Lalvani, who graduated from Pratt's School of Architecture with a M.S. degree in 1972, is working on several other high-profile projects including a wall sculpture for Pratt's Sculpture Park. The sculpture, which will be his largest piece to date, is expected to be installed in Spring 2013.

Text: Amy Aronoff
Photos: Courtesy of
Lalvani Studio and ©www.RandyDuchaine.com

Tuesday
Dec112012

PRITZKER PRIZE WINNER SPEAKS ON CAMPUS

In 2011, Eduardo Souto De Moura won the Pritzker Architecture Prize—arguably architecture’s most prestigious award. Although he is celebrated by many architects for his Braga Stadium completed in 2003 in Braga, Portugal, others were taken by surprise as they had never heard of the Portuguese architect. Souto De Moura spoke at Higgins Hall last month through translator Tania Branquinho, Pratt Visiting Assistant Professor in the graduate architecture and urban design program.

Tom Hanrahan, dean of the School of Architecture, introduced his work as “a deeply personal take on modern architecture and its possibilities.” This personal take on modernism suggests an inaccessibility, but in reality the architect’s simple, pure forms are so artfully assembled that they are instantly knowable and utterly universal. His material precision creates a sense of immateriality, while his understanding of site and place allows his buildings to meld with the landscape.

At his Maia House completed in Maia, Portugal in 2007, marble is used as ornament in the home’s main areas, but also at the service entrance and even the utilitarian umbrella holder is in marble. The design is deceptively simple, but on close examination one sees a complex intersection of joints elegantly dissolve, while interior wooden flooring extends outside bringing inside in, while mirrors reflect the garden beyond, creating a false depth.

From project to project—private house, tall office building, to convent conversion—there is the same elegant relationship between solid and void. In his talk Souto De Moura playfully—and repeatedly—mentioned his interest in architecture’s negative space—openings, or windows. He complained of not having the budget to use glass curtain walls at La Pallaresa Towers completed in 2011 outside Barcelona. Nonetheless, the grill-like windows he designed became the building’s design. He poked fun at his obsession with windows, noting that Mies van der Rohe, another fan of great, glazed expanses, would often need to use a flashlight to locate books on his shelves because he routinely closed the blinds.

Souto De Moura has a dry, sometimes mannerist wit that can be seen in his work. At the crematorium in Belgium currently under construction, a lake is placed adjacent to the facility for ease of distribution of ashes, while a faux chimney—a real one is not needed—serves as an unreal monument, much like a Viking monument.

As a participant in a design competition for a ring of office towers to be built in Shenzhen, China, Souto De Moura designed one with a hexagon-shaped base and another with a round base. “I looked at ancient Buddhist temples in China for inspiration,” he explained. “They have the classic form where the base is wider than the length, but in reality monks often pray upside-down,” he said, explaining that this suggested that the classic columnar model, based on the human form, should be inverted. “So I also inverted the towers, making a wide top and narrow base. They get better views and more light this way.”

Text: Bay Brown
Photos: Courtesy of Luis Ferreira Alves

Tuesday
Dec112012

PHOTOGRAPHERS ON DOCUMENTING THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

Exhibition on View at Lambent Foundation in Lower Manhattan


For more than 30 years the New Orleans-based photographic team of Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick have been documenting the African-American experience. As part of the Pratt Photography Lectures they presented their work before a rapt audience in Higgins Hall Auditorium on December 5.
 
Much of their work depicts the social struggles, hardships, and injustice borne by African Americans in the South. The couple’s powerful images capture subjects such as field workers, prisoners, musicians, river baptisms, Mardi Gras Indians, the heroes of Hurricane Katrina, and laborers along the River Road. “It's a passion we have to expose and to show,” explained McCormick, “even though some of these images are hard to take.”
 
"Working as a team, the couple chronicles the unique traditions and deep-rooted attributes of Louisiana culture that increasingly represent a vanishing way of life," explained Stephen Hilger, chair of the Photography department. “Their images bear witness to both the celebrations and struggles of everyday events, with particular attention to the profound sense of place felt by Louisianans."


“Our work belongs to those folks,” added Calhoun. “We document all year; we go out every day because a lot of those people are stuck on back roads. We wanted to capture churches along the River Road, too, because so much history is buried in them.”
 
A significant portion of their photographic archive was damaged by the devastating floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nonetheless, they continued to surge forward with their work. “Keith found a fridge in the street,” recalled McCormick, “and we froze the pictures.” With a grant from the Ford Foundation they set about to restore their moldy, waterlogged transparencies, finding unexpected beauty in colors that had shifted. They embraced their loss, salvaged what they could, and marveled at the results.
 
Their work has been featured in Aperture and in the landmark book Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers—1840 to the Present (W.W. Norton & Company, 2000), authored by the person who introduced their lecture, Pratt alumna Deborah Willis (M.F.A. ’80, D.F.A. Hon. ’07), chair and professor of photography and imaging at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. The lecture was followed by a response from Eva Díaz, an assistant professor in the History of Art and Design department at Pratt.
 
The evening was made possible with the support of the Lambent Foundation, where Calhoun and McCormick’s exhibition, Right to Return, River Road, NOLA Now!, curated by Shannon Brunette in partnership with L9 Center for the Arts in New Orleans, is on view through January 2013. The Lambent Foundation is located at 55 Exchange Place, Suite 406, in Lower Manhattan. Viewing of the exhibition is by appointment only. Email exhibitions@lambentfoundation.org to schedule a visit. Photo ID is required for building entry.

The event was recorded and may be viewed from January 4, 2013 on by visiting http://pelicanbomb.com.

Text: Adrienne Gyongy
Images: Courtesy of the artists and L9 Center for the Arts

Tuesday
Dec112012

EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AT PRATT

Last year, a Diversity Committee was created and charged by President Thomas F. Schutte with looking at increasing the number of faculty, staff, and students from underrepresented populations; fostering an environment that welcomes them; and encouraging all members of the community to respect various viewpoints, as well as educating our community on the value of diversity to the Institute as an organization. The committee consists of five subcommittees: campus climate, hiring and retention, admissions, curriculum, and educational outreach and training. 

"Pratt is following many other organizations in moving beyond the notion of equal opportunity as a legal requirement to embracing diversity as a value in itself and an asset for the organization,” said Director of Human Resources Tom Greene, who is currently serving as chair of the Diversity Committee.  “We want to be more diverse and inclusive, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it strengthens the Institute and benefits everyone. In a higher education environment, it is necessary for preparation of students for the real world.”

At a Town Hall meeting convened by the Diversity Committee in late November to discuss concerns about the recent report on the committee’s findings, concerns were raised about having more opportunities for the Pratt community to interact with the adjacent Clinton Hill community, the need for a student multicultural clubs, and the need for a dedicated staff member committed to promoting diversity on campus. These are all things the Institute will consider, some of which can be accomplished relatively quickly and others, such as the creation of a diversity officer position, are more long-term and require significant funding.

The committee will continue to host monthly meetings on campus and the Institute's Office of Institutional Research is in the process of conducting an anonymous survey of faculty and staff to gather information on experiences and impressions on diversity and inclusion at Pratt that will help the committee as they address these issues.

Text: Bay Brown

Tuesday
Dec112012

PRATT RANKS #6 IN POLL OF THE WORLD’S BEST DESIGN SCHOOLS

This fall, Business Insider polled over 600 design professionals to identify the world's best design schools. Pratt is ranked #6 out of the world's best 25 design schools. 

"The supremely effective education on offer at Pratt is about a re-imagining of everything we touch and shape—in a functional yet boundary-demolishing way shared perhaps only by RISD," one respondent wrote. "Pratt is not just a school; it alters not just what its students can do in the world." 

To see the full article and to see how other schools ranked, check out the posting here.

Photo: Bob Handelman