The Museum of Modern Art in New York established the world’s first curatorial department for architecture in 1932. At the time, it was a bully pulpit of sorts for Philip Johnson, who would identify and later create his own work in the vein of the International Style. Fast-forward 80 years, when MoMA appoints Pedro Gadanho as the institution’s curator of contemporary architecture. Gadanho is the antithesis of Johnson: approachable, globally minded, and a practicing architect who has steadily built a volume of work on a mostly local scale in his native Portugal. One week after his move stateside, we sat down with Gadanho to chat about his interior architecture (including a recently finished house south of Lisbon) and what he hopes to address in his new role, such as the perception of public space, international accountability, and envelope-pushing exhibition design.
Take, for example, the collective Raumlaborberlin, who designed a public space in a very depressed area close to Turin, Italy, using recycled materials rather than imposing this posh, stylish design. I think this is probably the most interesting thing happening now in architecture. How will you translate that to what you are doing for MoMA?
The world is so networked that people have to be more aware of realities in their own backyard. I’ve even been critical of Portuguese architecture for doing this—it’s highly recognized internationally, but that leads architects there to not care as much about what is going on around the world. And because we are politically and economically tied to everyone else, these local issues are highly relevant. How does MoMA function as a platform for local design solutions writ large?I think the museum has, particularly with Barry, assumed this condition of a laboratory through which we can realize a kind of [built] work not possible in academia. It is also my mission to get these messages across to a larger section of the public—it’s really important, communicating to an audience that is not only architects. As a curator and an architect with experience in exhibition design, what recent exhibitions do you deem successful?