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For Immediate Release

Into the Open
On View at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons The New School for Design
66 Fifth Avenue at 13th Street, New York
March 4 - May 1, 2009
Gallery hours: M-F, 10 AM-8 PM; S-S, Noon-6 PM
Symposium: Friday, April 24, 5-9 pm

NEW YORK, January 29, 2009 - Parsons The New School for Design will present Into the Open: Positioning Practice, the official U.S. pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia, the 11th International Architecture Exhibition, from March 4 through May 1, 2009 at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. The exhibition focuses on the increasing interest in civic engagement in American architectural practice, and examines the means by which a new generation of architects is reclaiming a role in shaping community and the built environment.

Into the Open: Positioning Practice features 16 architectural groups who actively engage communities, responding to social and environmental issues, including shifting demographics, changing geo-political boundaries, uneven economic development, and the explosion of urban migration. These intellectually entrepreneurial actors are designing the conditions from which new architectures can emerge-becoming activists, developers, facilitators of inclusive urban policies, as well as innovative urban researchers. Reaching creatively across institutions, agencies, and jurisdictions, they are negotiating hidden resources in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

Among the projects on view in the exhibition is the work of Estudio Teddy Cruz of San Diego, whose spectacular fence installation explores the dynamics of urban conflict on either side of the U.S. and Mexico border, from San Diego's affluence to homelessness in Tijuana. The Edible Schoolyard is a project conceived by the noted chef and restaurateur Alice Waters in response to the lack of nutritious food served in many public schools. Young students plant and tend a garden and use its produce to prepare their lunches and snacks. Working in cooperation with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, exhibition organizers have developed a model, growing garden within the gallery featuring local and seasonal vegetables and flowers that reflect the cultural diversity of New York City, from artichokes, fava beans and lettuces to Hakurai turnips and Osaka purple mustard greens. Another featured project is Roll Out House by New York-based architect Deborah Gans, a humane housing solution for displaced populations that is manufactured of lightweight, flexible materials and provides both a physical and social infrastructure.

"We like to label this exhibition the first architectural endeavor of the Obama presidency. It is a call to arms for architects across the country to seek out new forms of practice and to recognize that traditional methods of architecture need to adapt to meet contemporary life," says William Menking, founder of The Architect's Newspaper, who organized the exhibition along with co-curators Aaron Levy, Executive Director of Slought Foundation, and Andrew Sturm, Director of Architecture for the PARC Foundation.

In addition to Deborah Gans, other New York-based activists and projects include The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), New York, which deconstructs the complex financial underpinnings of housing construction through an interactive model illustrates the diversity of housing subsidies in the United States. Laura Kurgan's Spatial Information Design Lab employs complex mapping and animation to illustrate the relationship between demographics and the penal system, analyzing the money spent on incarceration versus the investment in housing and neighborhood infrastructure in parts of New York City. In addition, Jonathan Kirschenfeld Associates' Floating Pool, nominated for a Cooper-Hewitt People's Design Award, adaptively reuses a decommissioned barge to bring summertime recreation to underserved populations of New York City.

Other featured projects include work by the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City, California, which explores the path of waste in Los Angeles; Smith and Others Architects, based in San Diego, who empower architects to be their own developers; the San Francisco-based design collaborative Rebar, whose Panhandle Bandshell is made of post-consumer waste; The Heidelberg Project and the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, both based in Detroit, whose work addresses issues of urban decay; Project Row Houses of Houston, which fends off urban development in the city's Third Ward; nomadic designer Kyong Park and his International Center for Urban Ecology, who examines "The New Silk Road;" and, in addition to Rural Studio, the design-build programs Studio 804 at the University of Kansas, and Design Corps, a nonprofit organization based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"We hope this preliminary selection of America's alternative architectural practices encourages a new spirit of inclusiveness and participation beyond our own imagination. To remain relevant, architecture must find ways to respond to the challenges and crises that define our times," said Aaron Levy.

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