Voices of Design
SHOWCASE – January 2013
By Rebecca Falzano
For 25 years, architects and designers from around the world have been coming to Portland to present at the Architalx lecture series. In celebration of decades of design dialogue, a one-of-a-kind exhibition seeks to capture their ideas and inspiration.
The dominant feature of the exhibition (above) is a 17-foot-tall tower of windows made of wood and acrylic. The tower carries a complex choreography of projected images and words that alternately reveal themselves and disappear on two sides. A visitor’s touch will cause a rippling response of large-scale images on the tower. On either side of the tower will be two 10-foot-tall sound portals featuring thematic audio clips from the Architalx lecture series. Through the use of “holosonic” technology for projecting tight beams of sound, the sound will be heard only by those who have stepped into the portals.
The idea for Architalx, like many great ideas, was born over a kitchen table. In 1986 designer Lori Rohr had been to a few architectural lecture series in Boston and was scheming with friend and colleague Judy Schneider about starting something similar in Portland. The first lectures were presented in the Baxter Library Building, with a roster of speakers that included regional architects who were friends by less than two degrees of separation from members of the board. The series was a success but soon became a casualty of a poor economy after the 1989/1990 season. In 1992, with the foundation in place, AIA Maine president Carol Wilson, in collaboration with Greater Portland Landmarks, the Portland Museum of Art, and Maine State Landscape Architects (now the Maine Section of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects), assembled a group that included a representative from each organization, and the group organized a new lecture series. The revived Architalx eventually broadened its reach to include as speakers not only architects but also landscape architects, engineers, and interior designers, and lectures moved to the Portland Museum of Art. Twenty-five years later, Architalx comes full circle with an exhibition at the same museum. Voices of Design: 25 Years of Architalx opens in February and will celebrate the work, ideas, and inspiration of architects—in sound, text, and images.
An exhibition about architecture must, of course, be a feat of design in itself. Lynn Shaffer, co-chair of Voices of Design, says the project really took off when Ralph Appelbaum Associates volunteered to design it. “We had originally gone to them, specifically to native son Tim Ventimiglia, who is a director at Ralph Appelbaum Associates, asking for advice. They were so intrigued with our opportunity that they volunteered to help us design it,” she says. The exhibition unites images of inspiring works by visionary architects and designers with the contemporary art of time-based media to create an interactive experience that showcases the power of structure and design. The interactive design is the work of Raphael DiLuzio, associate professor of design science/fine art at the University of Southern Maine, and Matthias Oostrik, a visual interaction digital artist from Amsterdam.
According to Shaffer, since its beginnings the mission of Architalx has been to broaden awareness and understanding of architecture, landscape architecture, and design by sponsoring activities that foster evocative and creative dialogue within the design community and general public. “We hope that the exhibition extends our mission to the 30,000 people we expect to visit it over the course of its run. We seek to broaden their awareness of architecture and design, sending them out into the city with new eyes to appreciate their built environment.”
On these pages, MH+D presents a sneak peek.
PROJECT: The Garden That Climbs the Stairs, Bilbao Jardin, Bilbao, Spain, by Balmori Associates. Diana Balmori presented her work to Architalx in 2011.
Photographer: Iwan Baan
PROJECT: Bet Ha’am Synagogue, 2008, Portland, Maine, by Shim-Sutcliffe Architects. Brigitte Shim presented her Architalx lecture in 1998.
Photographer: James Dow
PROJECT: Boyd Education Centre, 1996–99, Shoalhaven River, Australia, by Glenn Murcutt with Reg Lark and Wendy Lewin. Glenn Murcutt is a British-born Australian architect and winner of the 2002 Pritzker Prize and 2009 AIA Gold Medal. He spoke to Architalx in 2000.
Photographer: Anthony Browell (image courtesy of the Architecture
PROJECT: Helsinki Central Library International Competition, Helsinki, Finland, by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. Merrill Elam spoke to Architalx in 1997.
Photographer: Shanghai Zhongkai Group
PROJECT: Bowdoin Art Museum, Brunswick, Maine, by Machado and
Silvetti Associates. Jorge Silvetti spoke to Architalx in 1988.
Photographer: Facundo de Zuviria
PROJECT: The Leaf Chapel, Kobuchizawa, Japan, by Klein Dytham Architecture. Mark Dytham presented his Architalx lecture in 2007. Dytham started Pecha Kucha in Japan and kicked off the Portland branch while visiting Portland.
Photographer: Katsuhisa Kida
PROJECT: Hill of Remembrance, Forest Cemetery, 1990, (architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz), Stockholm, Sweden. Anne Whiston Spirn presented her work to Architalx in 2002.
Photographer: Anne Whiston Spirn
Architects and designers featured in the exhibition include Glenn Murcutt, Rafael Moneo, Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Peter Bohlin, Jim Cutler, Michael Van Valkenburgh, Ada Karmi-Melamede, Samuel Mockbee, Brian MacKay-Lyons, Brigitte Shim, Merrill Elam, and Henry N. Cobb, among others.
One of the things that also is important in our work is that we believe that sometimes things are better understood when they are less explained.”
Architalx lecture, 2000
“I’d like to talk about architecture tonight, and yet I really believe that talking about architecture is one of the problems with architecture today. It’s really about making things, it’s about seeing, it’s about curiosity.”
Architalx lecture, April 1999
“Modern design is not glass and steel and right angles and black and white—you know the stereotype…Modern design is about a certain honesty and truth, in representing, as an object, the initial idea that the designer had, and representing the necessity that made the object come alive.”
Architalx lecture, April 2003
VOICES OF DESIGN: 25 YEARS OF ARCHITALX WILL RUN FROM FEBRUARY 2 TO MAY 19 AT THE PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART. THE 2013 ARCHITALX LECTURE SERIES WILL BE HELD THURSDAYS IN APRIL, ALSO AT THE PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT ARCHITALX.ORG OR PORTLANDMUSEUM.ORG.