2018-19 Banham Fellow sets out to design new worlds and challenge old boundaries

theLab-lab's installation for the Architectural League of New York's Prize for Young Architects Parsons The New School, New York, 2017

Mustafa Faruki and theLab-lab's installation for the Architectural League of New York's Prize for Young Architects (Parsons The New School, New York, 2017). Image courtesy of Mustafa Faruki

Published October 19, 2018

Architect, artist and educator Mustafa Faruki is the latest in a line of Peter Reyner Banham Fellows at UB’s School of Architecture and Planning. He is the founding principal of the Lab-lab, a design practice dedicated to exploring unconventional provocations and outputs available to architectural drawing and design.

Portrait of Mustafa Faruki

Mustafa Faruki is the 2018-19 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow at UB

The practice focuses on architectures that are instigated by clients such as humor, desire, memory, irony, alienation, humor, vulgarity, and loss. As the 2018-19 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow, Faruki hopes to activate the School of Architecture and Planning and the City of Buffalo as a laboratory for and site of experimentation with representational tools in architecture.

Faruki’s ARC 493 & 593 course at UB,  “My Own Private Buffalo” combines intensive study of precedents in architectural representation with a design workshop that tests hypotheses for new strategies. The seminar will focus on sites in Buffalo as opportunities for design intervention, speculation and play, providing students with opportunities to test new modes of representation that build upon their own style as individual designers. Students in the course include both undergraduates and graduate students in architecture, environmental design, art and media.

Faruki on Banham's inspirational influence:

The course is really inspired by Reyner Banham's legacy of research fueled by intense curiosity. Banham's work was fundamentally about asking questions and looking deeper—regardless of where the answers might lead. His investigating eye cast Buffalo as a living material archive with potentially limitless stories to tell. Banham's relentless—and sometimes humorous—spirit of curiosity, along with his tenacity in standing behind his often surprising arguments, formulate the spirit of 'My Own Private Buffalo'.

schematics detailing a sentimental photo delivery system

Pneumatic Sentimental Photo Delivery Tubes from Faruki's project, Celebatorium. Image courtesy of Faruki.

Projects by Faruki’s design practice, the Lab-lab, include Celebatorium, a mixed-use design proposal which includes systems capable of harvesting the latent energy in desire and grief. Through tools such as a pneumatic tube system that delivers sentimental photos, or a tear droplet-collection unit, the project investigates the industrialization of human emotion. This theme of emotion carries across many of the practice’s projects, which delve into the core drivers behind human architectural design. The firm was a 2017 recipient of the League Prize for Young Architects and Designers by the Architectural League of New York.

Alongside his teaching in the School of Architecture and Planning, Faruki is hoping to use his time in Buffalo to move forward with research involving an ongoing proposal for an Intake Facility. The Facility – designed for an Anonymous Client in transit between Heaven and Earth – is located on Governors Island in New York Harbor. However, Faruki is eyeing specific locations in Buffalo that could serve as an outpost for the main Facility site.

“Buffalo is a borderland: its history as a point of crossing stretches back to the city's position as a waystation on the Underground Railroad, and includes the narratives of the Great Migration in the early 20th Century, and “white flight” decades later. More recently, the city's identification as a destination point for refugee resettlement has added to Buffalo's borderland status. I'm looking forward to thinking about how this status might inform the development of Intake Facility, a project whose design is directed at intense and unstoppable migration.”

Faruki has worked for and alongside a number of New York Area City design firms and institutions, including Marvel Architects, Joeb Moore and Partners, Supermass Studio, WASA Studio, and the Brooklyn Museum. Before coming to Buffalo, he was a Lecturer in the Asian American Studies Program at CUNY Hunter College, where his teaching centered on narratives of struggle and resilience found in the visual culture of Asians in America.

He holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in architecture from Columbia University and a graduate degree in History of Art from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

The School of Architecture and Planning’s Peter Reyner Banham Fellowship supports the research of emerging practitioners in honor of the legacy of Peter Reyner Banham, who taught at UB from 1976-80 and produced a foundational body of scholarship on material/visual culture as a reflection of contemporary social life. Banham was famous for his hands-on approach to historical research and engagement both in and out of the classroom, a tradition Faruki is set to continue—his unique perspective anchored on an interest in history and its potential for experimentation and new ideas.