Tomorrow, Thursday September 29, the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) community and the general public are invited to join the namesake cofounders of Brussels-based practice OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen (OFFICE KGDVS). Harvard GSD dean Sarah M. Whiting, and others in conversation at American Architecture (Model), a temporary installation conceived as the inaugural Kenzō Tange Chair Pavilion. The launch of the OFFICE KGDVS–designed pavilion follows the 2019–2020 appointment of Geers and Van Severen as Kenzō Tange Design Critics at Harvard GSD.
Realized at the front portico of Harvard GSD’s Gund Hall on Quincy and Cambridge Streets, American Architecture (Model), will remain installed for one year. During this time, its creators envision American Architecture (Model) as serving as a backdrop for spirited discussions outside of a traditional classroom setting (and the watering holes of Harvard Square) and, most vitally, off of digital platforms and in the immediate public realm. As Geers and Severen explain, the installation “foregrounds the mythical cornerstone of American constitutional democracy—freedom of expression.”
Because American Architecture (Model) is, above all, a communal space for discourse and debate a la soapbox-anchored town squares of yore, the design of the pavilion itself is simple: a horizon of LED bars bounds the outdoor space while an “accumulation of technological tropes,” namely a solar panel and a technical box, are presented next to an image of the United States flag.
Elaborate Geers and Severen:
“At a time when the United States is experiencing a convulsive paradigm shift pushing the country toward necessary social change on so many fundamental issues—racial justice, gender equity, class privilege, climate change, and the right to health care, to name a few—the prevailing online discourse around these subjects has only incited deeper ideological divides and a cacophony of fierce opinion that is often fueled by misinformation. The instantaneous and limited format of expression on social platforms, their lack of accountability, and the minimal mechanisms for their regulation often lead to abuse of free speech. The revival of a real public space—as opposed to a virtual one—challenges how these urgent issues are addressed. It is our hope that this project will help to foster the kind of productive dialogue and exchange that this divided country so urgently needs right now.”
As mentioned, Geers, Severen, and Whiting will be among those featured in conversation at the September 29 event held at this first iteration of the Kenzō Tange Pavilion. Joining them are Cory Henry, Design Critic in Architecture and principal of Los Angeles–based Atelier Cory Henry; Grace La, Professor of Architecture and principal of LA DILLMAN Architects; Johnston Marklee principal and founding partner Mark Lee, who serves as Professor in Practice of Architecture and Chair of the Department of Architecture; and Jelena Pančevac, a Paris-based architect and author originally from Belgrade who has collaborated with Geers and Severn on past projects.
The conservation begins outside of Gund Hall at 6:30 p.m; further details can be found here. American Architecture (Model) was supported by the endowed fund established for the Kenzō Tange Visiting Chair in Architecture and Urban Design at the GSD.