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American Spolia

Thu, Apr 19, 2018    6:30pm

We tend to treat the past as a footnote to the present. Yet it is becoming clear that the past (both distant and recent) must be a resource for today – not only as a reference, but as a quarry of parts, materials, technologies, ideas and experiences, especially in the realm of constructed environment. As a consumer society, we pride ourselves in the recent “invention” of recycling, yet the ancients too had practiced reuse – spolia. It was a way, simultaneously destructive, protective and laterally productive, to regurgitate existing infrastructures, landscapes, buildings, and create new environments, programs, culture opportunistically sampled from various material and ephemeral parts of the past. Can there be a new, contemporary application of spolia? Can spolia propel our relationship with our past beyond preservation debates, and mere reprogramming of existing building shells? Can contemporary culture be made from samples of the past, re-assembled in new, unique fashion? Can we better understand our near future from the lens of the distance past?

Aleksandr Mergold, AIA, LEED AP B’Arch, Cornell M’Arch, Princeton

Aleksandr Mergold is an assistant professor of architecture at Cornell University and a partner at Austin+Mergold LLC (A+M), an architecture, landscape, and design practice. Aleksandr’s agenda in practice and inquiry focuses on a “design-and-adapt” modus operandi – the contemporary interpretation of spolia, the repurposing all that is mundane, common, available and disposable in today’s construction — infrastructure, technology, and resources.

Aleksandr’s work has been published in a variety of media, including Architectural Record, Thresholds, Domus, Mnemeio & Perivallon, 306090, BLDGBLOG, Specialle-Z, The Architect’s Newspaper, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Residential Architect Magazine, and the Cornell Journal of Architecture.

Aleksandr Mergold is a Registered Architect in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, member of the American Institute of Architects, American Institute of Graphic Arts, and is a LEED Accredited Professional. He is a winner (with Jason Austin) of 2010 New York Architecture League Prize for Architects and Designers, the 2012 Philadelphia AIA Emergent Architect Prize, 2014 Folly Competition at Socrates Sculpture Park, and a recipient of the 2015 NYSCA and 2016 CCA grants. In 2017 Aleksandr received Urban Edge Prize from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A+M’s Oculi project, a reimagining of old agrarian structures, is scheduled to open on Governors Island on early June of this year.