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Newsmaker: Tina di Carlo, Founder of ASAP

December 5, 2011

Interview by Asad Syrkett

Tina di Carlo, Founder of ASAP
Photo courtesy Tina di Carlo
Tina di Carlo, Founder of ASAP

Tina di Carlo is on a mission for architecture: Having served as a curator in the architecture and design department at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) from 2000 to 2007, and as a contributing editor at LOG: Observations on Contemporary Architecture and the City, di Carlo is now launching an organization called Archive of Spatial Aesthetics and Praxis. The group’s acronym, ASAP, a riff on the phrase “as soon as possible,” was chosen to underscore the urgency di Carlo feels should be given to elevating and promoting architecture as a form of art, alongside painting, sculpture, and other traditional media. Along with her colleague, curator Danielle Rago, a graduate of London’s Architectural Association and former RECORD intern, di Carlo has begun collecting photographs, texts, and digital media–among other things– that explore the many uses of architecture in all its contexts and forms. The public can view a catalogue of the archive online, though the collection includes physical objects, such as books, drawings, and design objects. This period of accumulation and curation began in 2010 and will be displayed for public viewing in New York City in 2012. In 2019, Di Carlo hopes another institution will absorb the archive into its permanent collection.

This week, RECORD caught up with the London-based curator and writer, who has an M.Arch from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, to learn more about ASAP.

ASAP Launch and Benefit
The Standard Hotel
848 Washington Street
New York City, USA
Monday, December 12, 2011
6:30pm – 9:30pm
Cost: $100 (individual); $175 (dual)

Event Details »
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Asad Syrkett: How and when did you get the idea to found ASAP?

Tina di Carlo: I’ve actually had the idea for quite a long time, but it’s really developed over the last two to three years. ASAP collects works that take on the spatial environment, in order to speak about architecture or the effects of the built environment via works or media outside the discipline. In other words, it doesn’t differentiate necessarily between architecture, art, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, or illustrated books.

The ASAP archive isn’t collecting architecture in its traditional media–plan, section, model, and elevation. Today, architects work across media and across practices. To get an accurate view of what the discipline is doing and how it’s doing it, you have to cast the net a bit wider. In a way, this fusion of art and architecture, or these sorts of hybrid or bastard objects, have become defining features of contemporary culture. Part of ASAP’s imperative is also about raising the value and understanding of architecture by the larger public by collecting it as part of a broader cultural, aesthetic, and political discourse.

AS: So, what’s in your collection now?

TDC: The archive represents different positions within the discipline, so the three people we chose to highlight our position are Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, architect and performance artist Alex Schweder La, and designer Jerszy Seymour.

Right now, we have the digital, photographic, video, performance, and written work of about 25 to 30 people in the archive, including others such as Didier Faustino, Karen Mirza, and Brad Butler, Philippe Rahm, Sissel Tolaas, Caitlin Berrigan.

AS: How did Bjarke Ingels, Alex Schweder La, and Jerszy Seymour get involved with ASAP?

TDC: Quite simply, we asked them [laughs]. And they were all really willing and gung-ho and extremely enthusiastic. The support for the project within the discipline has been tremendous.

AS: Where are you housing the collection? Will it be on exhibit?

TDC: The plan is to open a small exhibition space in New York in 2012, and the storage at that point will be off-site. We’ll bring things and people in as needed. We’re hoping to do a series of small exhibitions and salons in various locales. One will be in our New York office, but we’ll also partner with other organizations next year. Ultimately, we hope to find a space where everything will be in one place.

AS: How are you funded? Do you receive governmental arts grants?

TDC: Well, it sort of began backwards. Danielle and I began to collect and accumulate things before opening a space. We wanted to garner support within the discipline in order to encourage funding. That funding can come from anywhere, from private donors to governmental grants. We have a sort of diversified funding structure [laughs]. And we’re continuing to develop it while forming the collection, which is proving advantageous.

AS: How does your experience as a former curator of architecture and design at MoMA inform your process?

TDC: MoMA has been a real model of how to begin to do something like this. Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at MoMA, is doing an absolutely fabulous job of pulling things into the political realm through advocacy. ASAP was designed to fill another niche. We want to continue to expose people to different ways, forms, methods, and practices of architecture.

AS: What kinds of media are you using to communicate your program to the public?

TDC: Obviously, we’re looking at anything possible: social media, interviews, hosting events. The New York City ASAP launch party at the Standard Hotel is a way to get the message out; it’s a stake in the ground.

Visit ASAP¹s website for more information about the project

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