By Evan Lehner
Monday, 12 November 2018 marked the final installment of the SoA’s Fall 2018 Lecture Series. The lecture featured the 2018-19 Ann Kalla visiting professor Heather Bizon. Her lecture, entitled “Out of Nature: Everyday Mashups” asks individuals to think critically about their identities, sanctuary spaces, and backgrounds. Her various projects seek to search out methods of inspiring and evoking interaction between neighbors through architectural and social interventions.
The lecture began with the notion of the “hometown,” and what Bizon’s meant to its residents and to her growth as a student. The town, located outside of Philadelphia, is characterized by postwar manufacturing, cape cods, and ranch-style houses. Bizon began to question how the identity of the hometown is reflected through the people who live there, and how the place can activate the public. She began to use technology and hand drawings to visualize spaces, then manipulate them spatially to create anxious situations and test the disorder of architectural space. A prime example is when Bizon cut up several inflatable Santa figures and then re-stitched them together in a random sequence. The result, when putting such objects into context, promoted discourse between neighbors.
Bizon also examines how context can be lost in various mediums, such as photography. She highlights an example of a church in New Haven, Connecticut. The church served as a safe space during various tumultuous events that have taken place on the New Haven Green. Documentation of such moments of sanctuary, including photos of dinners, fail to document the experience of the events occurring outside. The photos struggle representationally, and as a result a viewer cannot deduce anything substantive from them.
Bizon also looks to tackle problems that are evident in our everyday lives. Entitling this part of her lecture “Make America Great Again,” Bizon asks what it means to “bring people together and equalize stereotypes.” She posits that games and activities not only bring people together, but also help to neutralize stereotypes. We should take xenophobic rhetoric about immigration and use it to our advantage, she argues, and suggests transforming existing foreclosed homes into courtyards.
The lecture overall dealt heavily with human to human interaction. Bizon challenges not only how to instigate human interaction, but how to make it productive and positive as well. According to Bizon, architecture and related professions have a duty to perform such tasks.
Evan Lehner is a third-year Bachelor of Architecture student in the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture.