New Book Highlights Diverse Contributions to O'Donnell's Party Wall

Book cover

This Is Not A Wall consists of personal accounts and critical texts from a wide range of contributors. photo / provided

July 7, 2017

A new book titled This Is Not A Wall: Collected Short Stories on CODA's Party Wall at MoMA PS1, edited by Caroline O'Donnell and Steven Chodoriwsky, is a collection of essays and reflections on the 2013 winner of MoMA PS1's Young Architects Program, designed by CODA, O'Donnell's design firm.

O'Donnell, who is the Edgar A. Tafel Associate Professor of architecture and director of the M.Arch. program, is the author of Niche Tactics and editor-in-chief of the Cornell Journal of Architecture. Chodoriwsky is an artist, designer, and writer, and the 2016–17 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow and visiting assistant professor in architecture at the University at Buffalo. In 2013, he cotaught the architecture option design studio titled Winter Urbanism, with Atelier Bow-Wow, as a visiting professor in architecture at AAP.

This Is Not A Wall recounts Party Wall's nine-month lifespan, from its initial nomination and design-build process, to its dismantling in September 2013. According to the press release, "the book is equal parts an analytical handbook of the competition and design process, an account of its evolving construction, and a poignant description of its lived experience."

In contrast to most scholarly monographs on architecture, This Is Not A Wall intertwines personal accounts from a range of perspectives with critical texts in order to consider a work of architecture as "a performative endeavor built upon a full chorus of disparate voices."

"Nothing that we do is made by one person or even one team," O'Donnell says, "it is made by many, many designers, engineers, fabricators, erectors, administrators, academics, curators, friends, writers, students, janitors, locals, and so on."

Essays by world-renowned architects, curators, and critics appear alongside texts from ordinary people, as much in reaction to "starchitect" culture as a nod to the efforts of the many collaborators who contribute to any significant work.

"The idea was to produce a book of many voices, a push-back against the world's obsession with the singular architectural author," O'Donnell says. "Party Wall was made by the grit and enthusiasm of many disparate contributors, and we wanted to express that in the concept of the book. Each contributor was asked to tell their story about one event, with the idea that, strung together, these short stories would tell the larger story of the project."

Among the varied contributors to This Is Not A Wall are AAP faculty and alumni, including associate professor and department chair Andrea Simitch; Associate Professor John Zissovici; Susie Rodriguez (B.Arch. '81); and Peter Eisenman (B.Arch. '55).

MoMA PS1's Young Architects Program is an annual competition that receives significant media attention. Stories about winning designs have appeared in The New York Times, ArchDaily, Architectural Digest, and ArtForum, as well as international journals, online magazines, and social media. Associate professor of architecture Jenny Sabin was the 2017 winner for her installation titled Lumen, extending the lineage of Cornell's Department of Architecture at the forefront of design innovation.

By Patti Witten

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