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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
For the third semester in a row, my good friend Martin Byrne designed a remarkable project (see his Space station and his local NYC slaughterhouse) at Pratt. This time, this project is the achievement of one year of research work on a thesis which was investigating the feral potential of architecture.
The project that applies the conclusions of this research starts from the observation of IBM recent advertising for “a smarter planet”, full of sensors and interactivity. One understands easily how IBM can be economically interested to propose such a vision of the world and also how the various institutions can see in this program a new way to control a bit more society. Martin’s building is thus a garage and a server tower in Mid-Town Manhattan (in front of the Apple store from all places !), that dialogues with each other. Both have been designed for IBM and the server tower remains a pristine universe but the over-magnetic charge of the sensors in the garage building made the latter go back to a feral state, in which unexpected forms of life starts to develop. Humans are then invited to negotiate with their own fear to enter this building that developed its own form of uncontrol.
But I am paraphrasing so, here is Martin’s text to introduce his project within his thesis book:
Reading the French Press who ignored Tunisia’s dictatorial regime for years and pretend to care now that the Tunisians went down in the street to overthrow this same regime, watching the American Press which discharge its daily racism and ignorance, reading various papers around the world which continues to affirm that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a symmetrical war, I am wondering which Press can we trust. Not only all those important Press groups around the World are submitted to the Market logic imposed by their powerful shareholders, but the problem is also related that one only sees the World in the way he expect to see it. That is how an narrow vision of it developed without really ever finding an alternative.
I personally give a lot of credit to the web-tv news Democracy Now and the French internet platform Rue 89 but I would really appreciate that people who would know integer and interesting journalistic mediums write their names in the comments’ section.
An article written by Slavoj Zizek will be published next week in the London Review of Books. In it, the Slovenian philosopher explains why he thinks that the debate around Wikileaks is not turning around the right questions. In this short essay, he elaborates about truth, tact and the unquestioned issues of Representative Democracy. Once again, he helps us to think beyond the surface of things or more simply, to see this same surface as it really is. In the same spirit than Michel Foucault or Edouard Glissant, he is one of those philosophers who know how to think “fast” and be extremely pertinent on current events as they inscribe those same events in a coherently structured vision of society.
Good Manners in the Age of WikiLeaks. Slavoj Zizek
In one of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks Putin and Medvedev are compared to Batman and Robin. It’s a useful analogy: isn’t Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’s organiser, a real-life counterpart to the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? In the film, the district attorney, Harvey Dent, an obsessive vigilante who is corrupted and himself commits murders, is killed by Batman. Batman and his friend police commissioner Gordon realise that the city’s morale would suffer if Dent’s murders were made public, so plot to preserve his image by holding Batman responsible for the killings. The film’s take-home message is that lying is necessary to sustain public morale: only a lie can redeem us. No wonder the only figure of truth in the film is the Joker, its supreme villain. He makes it clear that his attacks on Gotham City will stop when Batman takes off his mask and reveals his true identity; to prevent this disclosure and protect Batman, Dent tells the press that he is Batman – another lie. In order to entrap the Joker, Gordon fakes his own death – yet another lie.
The Thai multi-disciplinary design studio Supermachine Studio (founded by Pitupong Chaowakul in 2009) has designed and built the temporary installations for the Big Mountain Music Festival in Thailand. The architectural vocabulary used expresses its ephemerality in a similar way of what the French collective EXYZT is used to produce or, to stay in Asia, Kolkata’s Pandals during Durja Puja.
Thank you Camille
You is a beautiful installation created by Swiss artist Urs Fischer for the Gavin Brown’s enterprise in 2007. The contrast between the white exhibition walls and the hole dig by the artist manages to maintain an interesting dialog between dirt and pristine.
This last 29th of November, I posted a short article about Chinese Artist Ai Wei Wei being under House arrest for having publicly declared that he will destroy himself his art studio and celebrate this act. In fact, his studio, after having been encouraged to settle in Jiading (Shanghai) by the Chinese Authorities was sentenced to destruction for a discrepancy with the building permit. One would actually suspect those same authorities, not to appreciate Ai Wei Wei’s political opinions and therefore to punish him in the limits of the relative immunity the artist owns thanks to his international recognition. “They cannot let anything happen if they don’t understand it” he explains about this celebration of the self-destruction in a interview for the BBC visible here.
Thanks Martial. (via designboom)
Within the frame of my post-professional thesis, Weaponized Architecture, Bryan Finoki was kind enough to answer my questions.
Bryan is the editor of Subtopia, one of the most important and crucial research platform about militarized spaces and their biopolitical implications.
Bryan Finoki’s work is an excavation of the politics of space that underwrite the nature of the contemporary city. In response to a pervasive culture of fear, secrecy and constitutional sabotage, he confronts what he calls the “sub-architectural” dimensions of militarism and incarceration to further expose corruption’s refuge and the contesting forces that together shape the built environment. Using architecture and geography as a prism through which to interrogate the design and political production of space, his writing is a definition of military urbanism that expands our understanding of the everyday violence of the global city’s creeping securitization. If Empire is a hidden landscape then Bryan’s documentation not only helps to reveal it, but also shows an immense counter-landscape that is emerging in its fissures and shadow.
As I wrote in a recent article, I might write several articles in a near future about the brilliant book The Power of Inclusive Exclusion (see previous article) about the structure of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The following text is an excerpt of the chapter wrote by Eyal Weizman, entitled Thanato-tactics that attempt to deconstruct the logic of the targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders by the Israeli Army. Not only those assassinations can be interpreted as an intrusion into Palestinian politics by uprooting politicians and leaders that Israel disapprove, but Weizman illustrates how this policy is being accepted and encouraged as a “lesser evil”. The following excerpt is thus an exploration of what this notion of lesser evil is hiding, and via Hannah Arendt, attempts to generalizes the effects of this same notion.
This question is definitely an important one for architects. Indeed, and without using the same moralistic terminology of “evil”, architects are often confronted to this dilemma when offered to achieve a project hosting a program that directly confronts their ethics: It could be this obnoxious competition organized by the New York Times for “a [US/Mexico] fence with more beauty“; but it could also be a prison or even an office building or a showroom. One would maybe blame me for associating those architect’s considerations when Weizman and Arendt are evoking society under nazism; however, the logic of the “lesser evil” is fundamentally based on the minimization of one’s role in the mechanisms of oppression, and that being said, one should not underestimate the role that architects’ play in the economico-biopolitical society we live in.
Here is Eyal Weizman’s text:
Architect’s Brother is a very beautiful series of photographs by artists Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison. The architect, here, seems to be God and his brother seems to have been in charge of setting up the World at its creation.
You can see the rest of the series on their website by clicking this link.
The Radio Program Les Nouveaux Chemins de la Connaissance that I regularly mention on this blog just released five hours of broadcast about every texts published by Spinoza but the Ethics (as the Ethics usually covers up the others with its genius). Of course all those other texts, whether they have been written before or after the Ethics are eventually all premonitory or retrospectively referring to it:
Links towards the broadcasts
- 01/03/11: Theological-Political Treatise
- 01/04/11: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect
- 01/05/11: Letters
- 01/06/11: Political Treatise
- 01/07/11: Short Treatise
For those of you who are not familiar with Spinoza’s terminology and ideas I can refer you to the short essay, Architectures of Joy, that I recently wrote about Parent/Virilio and Arakawa/Gins’ architecture as being a Spinozist one.