IN WE TRUST

Yale Art and Architecture Graduate Student Design Competition: LIPSTICK, REVISITED

Partner - Evan Sale

Proposal for a new monument for Beinecke Plaza that calls to light tensions often masked by the physical architecture of power

 

As architects, we can feel ill-equipped to take an operative role in this political moment, realizing that our expertise is just as often used to reinforce systems of power as to question them. We are sensitive, however, to physical manifestations of power, to the imagery used to convey legitimacy, and to the need for spaces that accommodate protest. Form may not be inherently political, but it is often applied toward political ends, and the architecture of a space may advance systems of power that are inconsistent with its ostensible functions. Questions of ownership over spaces of assembly are not abstract, and the right to occupy them cannot be taken for granted. 

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The physical architecture of power

The protests that began in Paris during May 1968 culminated locally when Yale students mobilized around campus against the Vietnam War and the Black Panther trials the following year. To commemorate these events, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library held a student competition for the design of a temporary installation to be constructed in Beinecke Plaza, open to all current students enrolled in Yale School of Architecture and Yale School of Art during the academic year of 2017-18. The competition and its title pay homage to the installation of Claes Oldenburg’s Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, which was instigated by a group of architecture students and installed on Beinecke Plaza as a speaker’s platform during anti-war protests in May 1969.   Fifty years after the student protests of 1968, institutions that take for granted our trust and compliance are ceding their ethical and moral authority.  Positions are revised to minimize financial and political exposure.  Any principle or public interest is negotiable at a price.

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This structure provides a nucleus for protest and provocation. We have a right to shape the society we inherit and an obligation to guard the foundational principles of our institutions.

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We hope for this project, like the original keepsake, to take on a life of its own and to become an emblem as much as an artifact, a focus for discourse as much as a spatial marker. 

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We hope that amidst such contests over space, the university prioritizes molding leaders who can take critical views of the institutions they value. Such a community is defined by MORE than just the spaces that house it.

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