For the third installment of The City Initiative, which highlights architects, designers, planners, and artists creating provocative work in urban environments, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) features The Open Workshop, a Bay Area design research office founded by architect and urban designer Neeraj Bhatia that focuses on the relationship between territory, form, and equity.
New Investigations in Collective Form presents a group of design experiments by The Open Workshop that test how architecture can empower the diverse voices that make up the public sphere and the environments in which they exist. On view March 9 through July 15, 2018, the exhibition is organized by Martin Strickland, exhibitions associate, and Lucía Sanromán, YBCA’s director of visual arts.
More than fifty years ago, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki—who designed YBCA’s Gallery and Forum building—called for collective form as an organizing device to address the increasingly fragmented city and public sectors in his seminal text Investigations in Collective Form (1964). Inspired by Maki’s text, and working within the fluctuating and indeterminate conditions of the urban, public, and ecological contexts, New Investigations in Collective Form examines how collectivity can be formed today.
The exhibition features models, drawings, plants, and artifacts arranged into five themes—Soft Frameworks, Articulated Surfaces, the Living Archive, Re-Wiring States, and Commoning—that hang in the gallery in an interactive array. This interconnected three-dimensional field inserts visitors into the space of representation between form and the social, political, and environmental realms to reveal the different ways that architecture can create inclusive forums for collectivity that reflect who we are today.
About the artists
The Open Workshop is an architectural urbanism practice that focuses on the relationship between form and territory. Specifically, the firm is interested in the agency of form to impact political, economic, and ecological systems. Using a transcalar approach to design research, the office straddles a complex line between permanence and ephemerality, control and choice, legibility and illegibility, the individual and the collective, determinacy and indeterminacy, the figure and the field. The official name, The Open Workshop, is a reference to Umberto Eco’s 1962 treatise The Open Work. The office is dedicated to evolving Eco’s concept into architecture by expanding the subject to include the pluralistic public realm and transforming environmental context. In 2016, The Open Workshop was awarded the Architectural League Young Architects Prize as well as the Emerging Leaders Award from Design Intelligence.
Neeraj Bhatia is a licensed architect and urban designer from Toronto, and the founder of The Open Workshop. His work resides at the intersection of politics, infrastructure, and urbanism. He is an assistant professor at California College of the Arts, where he also co-directs the urbanism research lab The Urban Works Agency. Prior to CCA, Bhatia held teaching positions at Cornell University, Rice University, and the University of Toronto. Select distinctions include the Emerging Leaders Award from DesignIntelligence, Graham Foundation Grants, the Lawrence B. Anderson Award, Shell Center for Sustainability Grant, Odebrecht first prize Award for Sustainability, ACSA Faculty Design Award, and the Fulbright Fellowship. He is the co-editor of the books Bracket [Takes Action], The Petropolis of Tomorrow, Bracket [Goes Soft], and Arium: Weather + Architecture, and coauthor of Pamphlet Architecture 30: Coupling—Strategies for Infrastructural Opportunism. He has a master’s degree in architecture and urbanism from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and bachelor of architecture from the University of Waterloo.
Project leads: Neeraj Bhatia, Jared Clifton (project manager), Cesar Lopez (representation)