There is a double agent hiding in plain sight on our very own campus, and his name is Statler. Okay…I don’t mean for my statement to sound as pointed as it did. In fact, I think I see a little bit of myself in Statler Hall/Hotel — call him what you will. The duality of this pristine, tasteful building resonates with me especially as I near the junior year milestone of my undergraduate career. Lately, in every realm of my life, I feel a certain ambiguity.
If you walk around the Cornell campus at this time of the year, you might be surprised by what you find. The Cornell Council for the Arts 2016 Biennial has just started around campus and one of the most capturing installations is the urchin. It is an enormous white structure in the middle of the Arts Quad. You can’t really tell what it is until you start getting closer. That’s when you see the spikes.
“We do innovative things as a matter of course in the department, from bringing in new faculty with exciting and creative areas of expertise to hosting exceptional guest speakers and critics from around the globe to sending our students to engage with various locations around the country and the world,” he explained. “Special is the norm here.”
“My family came from the south, and the language that we spoke at home was hardly ever spoken by anybody else, so there was always this sort of awareness of being different and somewhat outside,” she said. “My house smelled different, we spoke differently, we ate differently.”
I guess I’m still feeling the grip of summer on my mind — I find myself taking spontaneous visits to exhibits, laying on the grass to bask in the sun and procrastinating until stupidly late times. And with the new school year reliably starting off in a daze, I (unsurprisingly) forgot to re-read the description of Homo Ludens: The Architecture of Play online before heading over. When I made my way to the Bibliowicz Family Gallery where the exhibit is located, I was surprised to find the brightly-lit space full of the classic children’s playthings: wooden building blocks, miniature buildings and Legos. Of course, it makes perfect sense — the title Homo Ludens, Latin for “playing man,” is indicative. Jenga, Legos, a wooden block set for a Prairie House and alphabet blocks are arranged in a colorful menagerie that invokes déjà vu of one of those classic childhoods filled with dollhouses and toy trains.
RAW EXPO can perhaps best be described as a gathering of creators and question-askers deconstructing barriers to collaboration. In the wide concrete dome of Milstein Hall, over 50 groups of and individual artists, publishers, engineers, developers, musicians, architects and people who came simply due to curiosity conversed and tested out products and processes. Simply put, a desire to create a fully interdisciplinary environment undergirds RAW EXPO. Now in its second year, RAW EXPO was hosted by and served as a kickoff for Medium Design Collective, a group of students that champions collaboration and design-oriented creation. Many members of ASSOCIATION, the group that organized RAW EXPO’s inauguration last year, remain in Medium.
There are some pieces that are instantly fun to look at — The Dollhouse by Heather Benning, though only viewed through photographs by us, is one of them. With its whimsical nature of retro and vintage furnishings and solid pastel paint jobs, the larger-than-life exhibition piece is what its name indicates: a dollhouse, though perhaps much bigger than the ones we used to have as children. Built from 2005 to 2007 from a narrowly shaped abandoned building on the plains of Manitoba, Canada, Benning’s house stood starkly alone for six years before being burned down by her. On one side, the building seems entirely normal — old, slightly derelict and covered in dark and worn shingles. But on the other side, a transparent wall replaces the entire side, giving a clean cut view into the home, which was refurnished and renovated with care to resemble a dollhouse.
The humble Temple of Zeus has relocated to the shiny new Klarman Hall, and although the soups may never again run out, my patience for people might. Repurposing the small, chateauesque appendage in the rear of Goldwin Smith Hall to house the Temple of Zeus (and direct people into the atrium of Klarman Hall) is a smart idea with visible problems.
The architecture is interesting, the renders deceiving and the humans’ spatial understanding humiliating. As one enters the central and grandiose entrance, it delivers people to the middle of a line with an unknown destination. Inside this clusterfuck of columns, tables and sheep actively debase human development. It’s like you’ve traveled to a forgotten time, where one can see and experience the ancient art of oral tradition.
Cornell University has a proud tradition of bringing in world-renowned architects to design its signature buildings. This is evident in the fact that Cornell’s campus contains noteworthy works from numerous Pritzker Prize winners. The Pritzker Prize, I should note, is an annually-awarded honor that the world architecture community bestows upon an individual who has made an important contribution to the field of architecture. To put it simply, the Pritzker is to architecture what the Nobel is to peace. It’s a big deal.