From glass-and-steel, virginal white planes, and open expanses, to corrugated sheets, plastic umbrellas, converted containers, and living spaces shoehorned into attics and backyards: How far modern architecture has come. And how far its temple, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), has traveled. The institution that gave us the (in)famous International Style exhibition in 1932 has now wrapped up its triad of save-the-world-with-architecture exhibitions with Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities (through May 10), a compendium of approaches and images as international as MoMA’s first architecture exhibition.
There certainly is a new doctrine to be proclaimed: Architecture and urbanism are not about form and style, they are about what designers can do to make our world better. It would seem like a complete reversal for a museum whose very building and admission pricing represent elitism, although we should remember that MoMA has always seen itself as supporting social causes, from housing the Guernica for four decades to hosting exhibitions such as Bernard Rudofsky’s 1964 Architecture without Architects.
For an exhibition that focuses on some of our world’s most severe problems, Uneven Growth is oddly optimistic and even exuberant. As its Curator, Pedro Gadanho, says in the introduction to the show’s catalog, “…each collaborator was asked to turn the potential for catastrophe on its head and explore how the state of urban emergency suggested here is to fuel new modes of design creativity.” The exhibition, in other words, wants to make the case that we can do something about the physical aspects of social injustice, income disparity, and environmental degradation. By focusing on how and where people live, work, and play, diving into the problems, collaborating with those living in those difficult urban conditions, and using their knowledge of how they can build, architects can make very real improvements in people’s lives.
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