As the founder of SITE (Sculpture in the Environment), an architecture firm most widely-known for its seminal series of buildings for the BEST discount-store chain in the 1970s, James Wines (b. 1932, Oak Park, Illinois), originally an artist, introduced his unique approach of practicing architecture as a form of cultural criticism. It struck a chord by delighting the public and infuriating many architects and critics for corrupting architecture with his witty ideas. His buildings were among the first to engage nature head-on, both for pure delight and to raise environmental issues.
Being a part of the generation of such conceptual and environmental artists like Gordon Matta-Clark, Robert Smithson, and Michael Heizer who started their careers in the 1960s New York, Wines is fundamentally opposed to the idea of purely aesthetical statements in art and, by extension, in architecture. Instead, he forces us to see differently what has long become too familiar. He carefully inserts his art in places where we least expect it. This conceptual architect wants us to be alert by creating his provocative buildings and public spaces to invite our spontaneous involvement, curiosity, and questioning of the everyday surroundings.
Recorded on November 17, 2015, at the architect’s studio in Manhattan.