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Ugo la Pietra, ‘La Casa Telematica’, 1983 © Archivio Ugo La Pietra, Milano

This essay was first published by Assemble Papers. Home Futures: Living in Yesterday’s Tomorrow was exhibited at the Design Museum, London, from 7 November 2018 to 24 March 2019.

In 1964, Dionne Warwick sang plaintively that in her lover’s absence, “a house is not a home”. Eight months later, British critic Reyner Banham suggested in Art in America that “a home is not a house”. The profusion of mechanical services had reduced domestic architecture to a technological support system. The lyric was tweaked again in 1967, when Arthur Lee and Love recorded the paranoid Sunset Strip psychedelia of ‘A House is Not a Motel’. …


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© Alex Lama

This article was originally published in October 2018, in the ‘Housing’ themed issue of Assemble Papers, and draws on research conducted in the context of Harvard GSD’s Richard Rogers Fellowship program. The print version was launched as part of the programming for the fifth MPavilion in Melbourne, Australia.

This year’s British summer was one of the hottest on record. In the depths of the London tube network, pressed up against grim-faced fellow passengers, peak-hour commutes brought to mind a subterranean sweat ritual. Crisscrossing the city in airless silence, the distraction of in-carriage ads became a fascination. The vast majority of underground ads were spruiking new apps or digital services — as expected, in Europe’s startup capital. Among the compound names and superfluous suffixes, however, one theme dominated: housing. …


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Paradise Garage, New York, 1978 © Bill Bernstein/David Hill Gallery, London

This essay was first published by Assemble Papers. Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 —Today was exhibited at the Vitra Design Museum from 17 March to 9 September, 2018.

In late March, the Grollo Group announced it had acquired 54–60 King St, the two-storey Melbourne property housing Inflation nightclub, in an off-market deal. Reportedly, the Grollo family saw the site as the elusive final piece of its ‘Rialto precinct’ puzzle — transforming the notorious late-night strip at the western end of the CBD into the sanitized hub of a rebranded ‘midtown’. How things change. When Inflation first opened its doors, in 1979, it was at the vanguard of a heady new era in Melbourne’s nightlife. …


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This article was originally published in November 2017, in the third issue of the limited-run print series, Migrant Journal. The magazine explores the circulation of people, goods, information, and fauna and flora around the world, as well as the transformative impact migration in all its forms has on space and society.

Inching slowly down Solomon Tshuku Avenue in the late afternoon sun, the bustle of commercial activity encroaches from either side. Mavuyi’s Hair Salon, Thobeka’s Restaurant, One Touch Cell Phone Repairs, and Sound Match TV & DVD are just a handful of the small enterprises populating this low-rise strip in Khayelitsha, a sprawling township on the outskirts of Cape Town. Beyond the vibrant hand-painted signage adorning each establishment, however, something else catches the eye. A winding one-hour drive from the Port of Cape Town, on a narrow, dusty road flanked by densely packed corrugated tin shacks and identikit government housing, these businesses all operate out of converted shipping containers. …


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The Kalkbreite Cooperative’s communal rooftop vegetable garden, 2017 © Ciro Miguel

This article was originally published in October 2017, in the ‘Metropolis’ themed issue of Assemble Papers. The print version was launched as part of the programming for the fourth MPavilion in Melbourne, Australia.

“You have to think big at the beginning — that’s the problem for most people”. I’m sitting with Thomas Sacchi on a warm Friday evening in the bar of the Houdini Cinema, Zürich. Propped next to a large window on the mezzanine level, we have an elevated vantage point as the Badenerstrasse strip stirs below. “When we first approached local authorities”, he continued, “our proposal was to build a new piece of city — to bring together work, living, and culture”. …


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This essay was originally published in February 2015, in the ‘lust’ themed issue of the cross-disciplinary journal of architecture and urbanism, trans. It was later featured on Archinect.

Bloomingdales amid the last-minute Christmas rush. A man and woman reach for the same pair of black cashmere gloves. Perfect strangers, the chance encounter between John Cusack and Kate Beckinsdale in a department store accessories aisle is Serendipity’s ‘meet-cute’ opening.

Harking back to Hollywood’s screwball golden age, the meet-cute is a sub-trope of the classic ‘boy meets girl’ scenario. That is, a contrived plot device to bring two characters together and speed them towards a feel-good romantic climax. With the Twin Towers digitally erased before its post-9/11 release, Serendipity endures more as a sickly sweet millennial curiosity than holiday classic. But in its blatant attempt to reverse engineer the romantic comedy canon, the film buys into a ‘what if’ fantasy of true love where fate has the power to transcend the unsentimental randomness of everyday life. …

About

Alexis Kalagas

Housing + cities + technology. Harvard GSD Richard Rogers Fellow. Formerly Urban-Think Tank, ETH Zürich and Australian Government. alexiskalagas.com

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