The studio’s second podcast: interview with Jimenez Lai
The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast about design, architecture and the everyday. Hosted by architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful shots and personal discussions.
A variety of topics are covered with honesty and humour: some episodes are interviews, while others are advice for other designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or informal explorations of daily life and design. The second workshop is also available on itunes, Spotify, and Youtube.
This week David and Marina are joined by Jimenez Lai, founder of Bureau Spectacular to discuss civic and infrastructural spaces in cities; the architecture of collages; what makes a living room, a living room?; his current project, “Citizens With No Places”; his book “Citizen of No Place”; live and study in Taliesin West; and suburban developments.
Highlights and timestamps
Study civic spaces in cities. (00:00)
Pershing Square, like many other civic infrastructures, is designed to serve as a platform for public debate as a forum for civic conversations, including in cases of unjust murders of fellow citizens. That’s what this space is designed for, but people don’t use it, [instead they] take it to a street, on a surface intended for vehicular infrastructure. This means that vehicular infrastructure doubles as vehicular and civic infrastructure during times of social upheaval. I think that’s so important as an aspect of understanding urban speeds downtown. (04:28)
Why urban issues matter. (19:40)
Collage Architecture (27:27)
I think it’s all a collage. If you take the definition of a collage and zoom in on a section of wall you suddenly realize there’s a vapor barrier and insulation, if it’s a brick wall there’s a veneer of bricks. Even a wall detail like, which looks like a mono-detail assembly, is actually a multi-material assembly. […] Perhaps even on an urban scale, it’s almost a game of exquisite corpses that is played out all the time between architects, where in an urban block, the first building, the second building, the third building that makes up that block can all be designed by different people and so the similarities of the block and the differences in the textures are very much like a collage project. (28:06)
Question the definition of the “room” and its activities. (37:00)
What is a lounge? Is it just a designation of space where we sit and eat or hang out? But if we sleep there, does that change the living room? Are we allowed to sleep in a kitchen? If you sleep in a kitchen, do people yell at you or make faces at you? I think cringe for sure, right? Why would anyone sleep in the kitchen. I think these social contracts that we form with the interior naming of spaces, if you step back, it seems kind of ridiculous that we’re doing that. If you take a step back, it could be on the one hand a liberating process of thinking about how we can conceive of things that are rather mundane and stuffy, but on the other hand, it no longer becomes a structural or organizational issue or programmatically, it becomes a behavioral conversation. As for why I think what we do is so interesting is because architecture touches on the physical manifestation of the humanities. (37:34)
Should more architects participate in the drafting of public policies? (43:36)
I sometimes feel like buildings are designed before any architect can be involved. The volumetry is pre-established, the setbacks are pre-established, sometimes the styles are pre-established, the number of windows, the fenestration or even the materiality are pre-established. I do not know. I wonder how we could be more active members in this process. (43:50)
Jimenez’s current project, “Citizens With No Places”. (54:33)
How Jimenez created the “Citizens of No Place” graphic novel. (01:01:55)
Live and study in Taliesin West. Suburban developments are unhealthy. (01:07:55)
When I heard of Broad Acre City, all I could think of was that Frank Lloyd Wright might be the originator of how we think about the suburbs. I know for Wright he thought of it as an agrarian solution to resources, but it eventually turned into something else. There was this kind of expansive attitude as if the United States as a country was unlimited in its geographic square footage, which it is not. And I would say that process eventually became a chapter of “Citizens of No Place.” I decided to propose that we pack up the Board Acre City model and shoot it into space. If it is confined in a spaceship, there will be no expansion. (01:12:23)