Monthly Archives: January 2011

It’s always a pleasure for me to publish projects from my old undergrad school, the Ecole Speciale d’Architecture in Paris. The following project, Hybrid Lifestyles has been designed by Costantinos Caropoulos-Alefantis, Dimitra Papageorgiou & Stephanos Roimpas in the 4th year studio tutored by Marie-Therese Harnoncourt and assisted by the talented Adrien Durmeyer.

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# CINEMA /// My Winnipeg by Guy MaddinJanuary 29, 2011

Cinema - By: Léopold Lambert

Following Daniel Fernandez Pascual’s recommendation on Deconcrete, I recently watched the movie My Winnipeg by Guy Maddin (2007) which fascinated me for its surrealist construction. Between a Chris Marker‘s pseudo-documentary and 2046‘s ambiguity between memory and fantasy, this film elaborates the portrait of the Canadian city of Winnipeg by its narrator’s dream and memories.

What makes this city so specific according to the narrator is the largest Freemason Temple in the world, a commercial signs graveyard, a taxi company which can only operates in the back alleys, a bridge that dreams of Egypt where it was originally built for, a three storeys swimming pools building, rooftops inhabited by homeless people and other fantastic buildings and spaces that compose the affect of the narrator for this city…

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The New York Times published today an article about the Qatar based international channel Al Jazeera. Once again (see the article I wrote last summer about the NYT lying in their report of the Gaza Flotilla attacked), this article is a perfect example of American Press’ service to the Imperialist ideology. The New York Times is considered in the United States as a “liberal media” but what it illustrates is the very poor imaginary of this liberal milieu which does not stand so far from the conservative camp as far as their vision of society and the world is involved.

Let’s examine the body of this article in order to demonstrate the deviousness  used by Mr. Robert Worth and Mr. David Kirkpatrick, author of this same article:

“In many ways, it is Al Jazeera’s moment — not only because of the role it has played, but also because the channel has helped to shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ever since its founding 15 years ago. That narrative has long been implicit in the channel’s heavy emphasis on Arab suffering and political crisis, its screaming-match talk shows, even its sensational news banners and swelling orchestral accompaniments.” NYTimes

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# POLITICS /// Instant PublishingJanuary 28, 2011

Literature - By: Léopold Lambert

There is a type of publishing which is going on in France (and probably elsewhere as well) that particularly triggers my enthusiasm; it is what I call Instant Publishing. A certain amount of intellectuals and authors refuse to write about current events as the lack of distance and information can led them to judgment mistakes. However, other intellectuals are excellent for reacting to think about “what is happening” and are thus able to provide a critical and knowledgeable opinion which contrast with the mainstream journalistic commentaries constraint by a narrow imaginary and driven by the ideology they are expressed from.

Those books are very short and cheap (around 4$) and are saddle stitched bind. I feel that it would be extremely interesting to find ways to reduce the price to a symbolical euro (or dollar) which would allow to distribute them to the biggest amount of people as possible and this way revolutionize the way of publishing.

My friends from Galaade in France associated with the beautiful authors Edouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau “instant published” two very important texts in this spirit:
QUAND LES MURS TOMBENT. (When the walls fall) written in 2007 in reaction to the creation by Sarkozy’s government of a Minister of Immigration and National Identity (see previous article)
MANIFESTE POUR LES PRODUITS DE HAUTE NECESSITE. (Manifesto for the high necessity products) written in 2009 during the massive strike in the French territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique and the stench of colonialism expressed by the French government.

I also recently discover the French publisher Indigene Editions which recently published the book INDIGNEZ VOUS ! (Be Shocked) by Stephane Hessel (the same author whose intervention about the boycott of Israeli Universities at the school Normale Superieure has been canceled under the pressure of the French Jewish Organizations accusing Hessel to be ‘obsessed‘ by Israel !). This book has been written in reaction of the current French government xenophobic policies that deserve, according to Hessel, to be fought upon just like he fought Nazism in French resistance during the Second World War.

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# POLITICS /// Cruel designJanuary 27, 2011

Architecture & Design - By: Léopold Lambert

If you live in Harlem, you may be familiar with this series of pieces of design on Lexington Avenue and 124th street in New York. Designed in smooth forms and placed over the exhaust grids of the subway station, those benches could have been a great idea to provide homeless people with a place to sleep on, the exhaust locally providing some heat which can be life saving in cold winters. Instead of that, the designer of those benches venally accepted what was probably a demand from the local authorities or the MTA subway company: a design solution to prevent homeless people to lay on them. Those pieces of design being composed by metallic slices, it was easy for the author to break their smoothness and create excrescences that thus create a sufficiently uncomfortable condition for nobody to be tempted to sleep on them.

Design whether it is “industrial” or “building”, acts on the bodies and can choose to comfort them, challenge them (to go beyond I propose the essay I wrote about Spinozist architectures) or to hurt them in a more or less assumed sadistic expression. Those benches are clearly being part of this third proposition and their author is just as much (if not more) responsible for their effect than the authority which commissioned it.

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# LITERATURE /// Spinoza by BorgesJanuary 26, 2011

Literature / Philosophy - By: Léopold Lambert

Spinoza by Jorge Luis Borges (traduction by Richard Howard, César Rennert)

The translucent hands of the Jew
Work in the penumbra, crystals
& the evening, dying, is dread & chill.
(Evenings to evenings are equal.)

The hands & space of hyacinth
Waning in the confines of the Ghetto
Almost do not exist for the man so quiet
Who is dreaming a clear labyrinth.

He’s not perturbed by fame, that reflection
Of dreams in the dream of another mirror,
Nor by the timorous love of maidens.

Free from metaphor & myth
He works a hard crystal: the Infinite
Map of That which totals His stars.

In this poem, Jorge Luis Borges refers to Spinoza by its profession, lenses polisher, and express that his philosophy also consists in polishing the diamond of the universe.

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Al Jazeera and The Guardian have revealed the contents of about 1700 diplomatic correspondence and meetings’ minutes between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government between 1999 and 2010.
The main revelations (so far) have been coming from negotiations organized in the second part of 2009 in which the Palestinian Authority proposed incredible concessions to the Israeli, especially in terms of territory as Palestinians would had conceded the quasi-totality of East Jerusalem (which is supposed to be the capital city of the Palestinian State) and the area on which the horrible settlement of Gilo has been built on near Bethlehem.

I don’t want to sum-up too much the content of those negotiations as Al-Jazeera does it perfectly, but rather their legitimacy. As I wrote in October, the very notion of negotiation does not make any sense. The Palestinian Authority does not own a single card in those negotiation as the Israeli and its army can enforce any territorial annexation they want. Each new Israeli settlement built in the West Bank influence the weight scale of a simulacrum of negotiations. The only thing that can save Palestinians from an ethnic-exile is justice. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and of East Jerusalem is fundamentally illegal in the frame of International Law and the International Community should unanimously condemn this colonial policy. Justice is not a matter of negotiation but a matter of application.

People who are to blame in this press revelation is not so much the Americans who are accomplices of Israel in its illegality (see Condoleeza Rice’s patronizing “dialogue” with the Palestinian emissaries), nor even the Israeli and Tzipi Livni who was the foreign affairs minister at this time and who declared “I am a lawyer… But I am against law – international law in particular. Law in general“, but really the Palestinian Authority which is ready years after years to renounce to always more territory, rights and dignity. Palestinian resistance does not consist in obtaining a good bargain from the Israelis but rather to continue to exist on this land even if it means that they have to confront to the extreme difficulty of life that is imposed to them. To exist, and also not to fall into fatalism which is easy for the first, second and third generations of Palestinians who did not know anything else than the Israeli occupation since 1967.

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Two years ago, Greenpeace UK launched an idea competition (see also the video after the break) to fortify the piece of land they acquired in order to prevent a third runway to be built on London Heathrow Airport. The idea was to build an architecture that would prevent the accomplishment of construction. Most teams designed some sort of bunkers (see here and here) or towers (see here), but the Medellin (Columbia) based architecture office Paisajes Emergentes proposed a very peculiar idea whose sense of spectacular is as important as its fragility. In fact, the aerial fortress (one could think of Miyazaki !) Weightless attempt to both block the sky routes and to materialize the environment on the ground with helium balloons. Those balloons are attached on the ground to each entity it represents, animals, houses, water tower etc. The result is a poetic architectural materialization of a political resistance. One could dream of more intervention of this kind…

I highly recommend the exploration of Paisajes Emergentes’ website which is full of beautiful and intelligent projects hybridizing architecture and landscape design.

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Just like for Martin Byrne, it is a pleasure for me to publish for the third time a project by 陈欣阳 (Chen Xinyang) at Pratt. After her Space Monastery/Prison and her Underground City, this new project is the result of her thesis about Useless Architecture. Its title, New Yorkers’ New Walk To Work beside providing a beautiful alliteration, announces clearly what the project is about: a narrow elevated walkway full of useless event devices and also full of detours.

The difficulty of the different observers to accept this project is linked to the inherent purpose of this project, providing a unnecessary layer to the city. It has been interesting to observe all along the semester the lack of understanding of the several jurys whose confusion is probably seen too rarely in current schools of architecture. Economical, social, sustainability and efficiency logic were mainly invoked as discrediting the project when actually this same project finds its strength from a total extraction of those logic.

The following text is how Xinyang describes her project:

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Parallaxis (name given as an homage to Slavoj Zizek’s book The Parallax View) is a second project from the post-professional Master Thesis Studio at Pratt Institute. After Martin Byrne’s project, this one has been created by Nikolaos Patsopoulos based on a research about capitalist architecture.

Nikolaos started his project by observing that the Seagram Building by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe has been the XXth century’s architectural paradigm by constituting a perfect receptacle for the Capitalist society. Parallaxis is thus a research of a new paradigm for a micro-society (inspired by the Mannahatta Project) that exercises an alternative to capitalism. The different buildings designed by Nikolaos addition to each others materialize the same volume than the Seagram Building. Those small towers spread all over the site host three different programs: Library, Discussion Room and Soil Depots. In the center of the site, stands a monolithic cube filled with sands from which a different space can be dig according to the decision of the community. Processes of creation of holey spaces are involved in order to create a “democratic architecture” whose length is limited as the cube can be filled with sand again and re-dig in another space.

Here is Nikolaos’ text related to his thesis:

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