By Ben Halpern
MArch, Harvard Graduate School of Design
If we assume the design of space to be within the scope of the architect, then place might refer to those contextual factors outside of our control -- everything from site, climate and ecology to politics, economics and sociology.
The idea of place is not only broad but it is also constantly in flux. In short, the realm of architecture operates within Changing Places.
This project leverages the design of space by grappling with the changes of place.
(From Constructing Panorama, Ben Halpern)
This project interprets the idea of panorama, a cultural construct that has evolved beyond its historical artifact. This project concerns subjectivity in the ways we see the world.
This project engages the agency of architecture within New York’s super-charged real estate market.
Within the context of Re: Frame, criticality is a tool used to hone and direct the subjectivities afforded by design.
Just as an architect sees a building as a construction of material, space and craft, a developer might see the same building in terms of risk and reward, as the realization of a detailed pro forma.
(Marketing renderings for the future tower, Constructing Panorama, Ben Halpern)
I find opportunity in affecting the way different stakeholders see the same project. A critical lens can affect the way we see the world.
When confronted with issues that induce equal parts enticement and distress (as the global high rise luxury real estate industry has for me in this project) we as architects have two options – turn our backs to the entire practice, or accept it as a superlative reality of late capitalism and design critically within it.
The challenge is how to recover a sense of criticality when all resistance seems to be futile.
Yet critique without action is not enough. The tools of design are used to inject an agenda within an industry that has marginalized the architect to a brand name service provider. By using a critical lens, the project enables the agency of architecture.
The changing place of architectural practice
The place we operate in as architects is always changing. By acknowledge that which we cannot control, and by leveraging that which we can, architects can convert uncontrollable constraints into potentials.
Further, we must be projective, not passive to the changing place of architectural practice. We belong to a knowledge-based discipline, and in order to contribute we must be proactive with our abilities and agendas. We must pull ahead of the changing place.
Benjamin Halpern is a designer whose work explores the breadth of the discipline of architecture as it relates to the embodied occupant. He holds the Master in Architecture with distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (2017), where he was awarded the AIA Henry Adams Medal, Clifford Wong Prize in Housing Design, Julia Amory Appleton Traveling Fellowship in Architecture, and Gregory S. Baldwin Fellowship. He also holds degrees in engineering and art from Stanford University (2011). Halpern has worked with a variety of leading firms across the country, and is currently a designer with Skylab Architects in Portland, Oregon.