Newsletter | Nov/Dec 2016

Get to Know a Member in 5 Questions

by Sandra Vivanco

Sandra Vivanco is Professor of Architecture and Diversity Studies at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. A former Fulbright Fellow, she has written several articles on 20th-century Latin American architecture, focusing specifically on postwar Brazil and Mexico. Vivanco has contributed to Transculturation: Cities, Spaces and Architectures in Latin America (Editions Rodopi, 2005) and Baroque New Worlds: Representation, Transculturation, Counterconquest (Duke University Press, 2010).

In 1994 Vivanco founded A+D, Architecture+Design, a firm widely known for design excellence and her commitment to innovative community-based design. Published widely, the work of A+D continues to be recognized in the US and abroad. In 2013, A+D won the commission to be the Architect of Record for a major civic building in San Francisco: the new Mexican Museum at Yerba Buena Gardens. In 2010 Vivanco was also selected as one of Ten Architects to Watch by California Home & Design for her community-based arts and cultural center in the Mission district: Plaza Adelante.

1. What book has changed how you look at the world?

There are a few and for different reasons:
- Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2012) confirmed the ingrained racism in our society and made me spring to action.
- Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition (The University of Chicago Press, 1998) made me forever conscious of the difference between semblance and appearance.
- Alfredo Bryce Echenique's A World for Julius (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004) is a poignant critique of Lima's society in the 1950's and it completely transformed how I looked at the city where I grew up with its latent issues of class and racial division.

2. How has someone’s mentoring made a difference in your life or career?

I was Kenneth Frampton's RA as a graduate student at Columbia. He encouraged me to research and write about modern architecture in Latin America and emphasized how little had been published in English about it. He also impressed on me how crucial it was for me to be bilingual and bicultural and that my hybrid identity coupled with my multi-cultural life experiences provided me with a unique critical point of view.

3. What is your next big goal for yourself, personally or professionally?

To write a book about Gender and Modern Architecture in Latin America. I am interested in how the female gaze and women’s particular interest in craft, place, and experience transformed the architectural production of the twentieth century.

4. In a parallel life, what would be your line of work?

I would have loved to be a professional dancer and choreographer or perhaps a film maker. I'm extremely interested in the temporal as it relates to a work of art or to an architectural space.

5. What has changed since you started in your field?

The most obvious change is the role of the digital and how it might redefine authenticity. Even the fact that we routinely differentiate between analog and digital reality is very telling.

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