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'From Obsolescence to Sustainability'

Exhibit on 'A Century of Architectural Change' runs through August 16 at the Wolk Gallery
Arata Isozaki, "Future City (The Incubation Process)," 1962
Arata Isozaki, "Future City (The Incubation Process)," 1962
Image: The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, N.Y.

Obsolescence as a model of impermanence in architecture emerged a century ago with advances in technology and society causing even recent buildings to be rapidly devalued and made expendable. As demolitions increased, expectations of building lifespans grew shorter and shorter. The US tax code mapped out increasingly brief building lives for depreciation purposes and planners applied the concept to whole neighborhoods and cities.

In response to this erosion of long-held beliefs in durability, many architects envisioned flexible, short-life, even expendable architecture that could accommodate rapid change and obsolescence. But there also emerged, in response to the ephemerality of obsolescence, other efforts to reinstitute permanence and slow change, from a vitalized historic preservation movement and concrete brutalist monumentality to adaptive reuse, architectural postmodernism and green design. Sustainability, in all these guises, has superseded obsolescence as a dominant paradigm for comprehending and managing change in the built environment.

"From Obsolescence to Sustainability: A Century of Architectural Change" traces the concept of obsolescence in the built environment through its evolution in architecture, economics and culture and the subsequent development of sustainability. It consists of an extended timeline with images, photographs and text, and seven thematic panels focused on Factory Sheds, Megastructures, Indeterminacy, Expendability, Brutalism, Preservation and Sustainability.

Works will be on display at the Wolk Gallery, Room 7-338, from May 7- August 16. The opening reception will be held on May 7 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. A gallery talk by curator Daniel Abramson,
 associate professor in Tufts University’s Department of Art and Art History, will take place on May 14 at 12:15 p.m.

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