Isabelle Kirkham-Lewitt

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Research is everywhere. Architects incite action, design materials and archive cities. They capitalize upon the excess energy of practice to launch unsolicited experiments into the world, or sidestep clients by joining forces with government think tanks. Discussions from classrooms have found currency at town halls, and findings from construction sites have migrated into basement laboratories. Yet for all of its vitality, research eludes definition. The term describes everything and nothing, leaving its assumptions–the drive towards innovation, certainty, and influence, for example–unexamined. ARPA Journal is a forum for debates on what is applied research in architecture. We scrutinize techniques of inquiry to ...
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PublisherArpa Journal2014
Architects experiment upon the world. Researchers extend outside the laboratory by co-opting existing structures of influence and crafting new techniques of engagement. Even the effects of proving grounds–from Coney Island to emergency drills–leak beyond their boundaries without any official sanction. Impacts are often unpredictable, but no less powerful. The practice of human subject research has yielded the benefits of the polio vaccine and the horrors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, reminding us that, as a former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency once remarked, “When we fail, we fail big.” ‘Test Subjects’ focuses on the contended nature of application ...
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PublisherARPA Journal2015
Performance is enhanced, targeted, tested, specified, reviewed and applauded. In each case, the design of performance is the orchestration of results. Architects might guarantee water resistance, for example, and calibrate this objective against cost, labor or the desire for exposure. Performance frames decision-making by metrics of efficiency, optimization and sacrifice (or yes, satisficing). In this familiar logic of technocratic governance, criteria are also codified in legal terms and challenged by architects who exceed lax building codes or undermine excessive ones. Beyond the technological, as argued in Perform or Else: from Discipline to Performance, engineered performance generates productive friction with that of corporate ...
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PublisherARPA Journal2016
“Instruments of Service” is a class of legally protected work products defined in the American Institute of Architects’ “A201-2007 General Conditions” as “representations, in any medium of expression now known or later developed, of the tangible and intangible creative work performed by the Architect.” In practice, instruments are any drawing, model, calculation or specification created for a client, copyrighted by the architect as a design “recommendation” and trafficked between intellectual, digital and real property. As research, everyday and experimental instruments are assemblages of tools and materials, allography and autography that move from Skype to ‘the street’ through theaters of peer ...
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PublisherARPA Journal2018
“Conflicts of interest” are said to compromise the impartiality of research, but what would it mean to be disinterested? Ethical codes warn us that researchers’ objectivity can be corrupted by a clashing set of interests—those of funding agencies, clients and publics, as well as researchers’ self-interest in professional advancement or personal gain. If the resolution of such conflicts might typically call for avoidance, recusal or disclosure, what would such strategies mean for the design disciplines and research on the built environment? What varied interests, expressed in the form of money or other manifestations of influence, do designers contend with? Who ...
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The Avery Review is an online journal dedicated to thinking about books, buildings, and other architectural media. We see the genres of the review and the critical essay as vital but still underutilized ways of exploring the ideas and problems that animate the field of architecture, and we hope to push these genres beyond their most familiar forms, whether journalistic or academic. Our aim is to explore the broader implications of a given object of discourse (whether text, film, exhibition, building, project, or urban environment), to expand the terrain of what we imagine architectural discourse to be, and to broaden ...
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PublisherThe Avery Review2017
Rebecca Choi revisits the legacy of the Black Panthers in All Power to the People; Wade Cotton and Isabelle Kirkham-Lewitt probe people-producing machines; Robin Hartanto Honggare traces the policing of political assembly in Singapore; and Nicole Lambrou questions what is sustained at Hudson Yards.
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PublisherThe Avery Review2017
Jordan Geiger tracks technologies of incarceration; Joy Knoblauch speculates on the possibility of designing discomfort; and the Architecture Lobby responds to the AIA with an essay from Peggy Deamer, Keefer Dunn, and Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió.
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PublisherThe Avery Review2017
Karen Abrams attempts to dislodge “placemaking” from architectural vocabularies; Galen Pardee reports on Myanmar’s new capital; and Camila Reyes Alé weighs the possibility of a dissident practice in architecture.
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PublisherThe Avery Review2017
Shelby Doyle and Leslie Forehand argue for the “spinster” as a figure of feminist digital craft; Adam Longenbach surveys the “sixth façade” and the architecture of the aerial view; Shota Vashakmadze contemplates the sod house on the prairie; and Joseph M. Watson asks the question of who Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Usonia” was designed for.
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PublisherThe Avery Review2017
Kevin Block takes a Harvard-designed online course on architectural theory; Brendan Cormier watches Frank Gehry’s MasterClass; and Yuki Higashino moves through episodes of Martin Beck’s Program.
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PublisherThe Avery Review2017
Joe Day constructs a discursive map of Hal Foster’s Bad New Days; Swarnabh Ghosh reevaluates planetary urbanization and rurality; Jacob R. Moore disputes CLOG’s latest issue on guns; and N. Claire Napawan, Ellen Burke, and Sahoko Yui argue for an ecofeminist approach to sustainability.

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