Monthly Archives: March 2011

Magnus Larsson‘s Thesis project at the Architectural Association is not so new anymore and probably many of you have seen it a while ago on BLDG BLOG or on Wired. However I don’t remember having seen the TED video on any of those sites and I therefore wanted to publish it here.

With this project, Magnus Larsson attempts to respond to the issue of desertification of Africa and the extension of the Sahara desert by introducing a bacteria on its border that dry the sand into stone. Controlled well enough, this bacteria allow to create a troglodyte city that prevent the desert from spreading any further. One can probably regret the “geometry” of this new sand/stone architecture that gives to phenomenological ambitions what it would have been probably more interesting to dedicate to pragmatism; nevertheless, this project remains very interesting and Larsson’s presentation very clear and concise:

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For its thirtieth birthday, the Princeton Architectural Press is re-editing some of its past book including the beautiful OneFiveFour by Lebbeus Woods which was first published in 1989.
This book is actually a collection of eleven projects drawn by L.Woods from 1984 to 1989. However, I feel that it is more interesting to consider the ensemble of drawings and models as one single project which constitutes his vision of a city somehow lost in time, driven by an ambiguous technology that recalls the steampunk of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (The Difference Engine).

The following text is an amazing excerpt from Woods’ introduction about his project Underground Berlin (see previous article) that creates a metaphorical and romanticized city out of the situation of Berlin in the 80’s:

What is happening in this city is much more than political unification. What is happening is acclimation of people to new conditions of life. Beneath the surface, within the planetary mass of the earth, a new climate of forces exists geomechanical forces that issue from deep within the earth -gravitational electromagnetic, and seismic forces that come to shape the forms and relationships comprising life in the underground city itself.
From the subtly vibrating planetary mass of earth come seismic forces that move the inverted towers and bridges in equally subtle vibrations. The inhabitants of the city feel them, perhaps in a way we would call subliminal because the structures they build are of metal sheets -steel and aluminum and bronze and copper. These living and working places vibrate and resonate in the great civic spaces of the city. Like musical instruments, they vibrate and shift in diverse frequencies, in resonance with the earth and also with one another.
A way of living is in this way formed. The builders of the city have sought political independence by going beneath the earth, under the Wall, subverting the designs of occupying political rivals, and have found something unexpected: a new world, a world of seismic wind and electromagnetic flux, a world of constant and not unpleasant temperatures, but also of continuous change. Their structures, built to connect inversely with the world above, are instruments of this change, measuring both the life of the inanimate planet and the corresponding changes of those living within.

Lebbeus Woods. OneFiveFour. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1989.

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I just took advantage of a short trip to Boston to accomplish an architectural pilgrimage that led me to visit the Government Service Center, built in 1971 according to a design by the great Paul Rudolph.
This building’s concrete brutalism made it elected “ugliest Boston’s building” which won’t disappoint anybody as architects seem to be always more interested in beautiful ugliness than in ugly beauty. The Government Service Center is a piece of city in itself similarly to the amazing Barbican in London. It proposes piazzas and courtyards above a car park protected by the “body” of the building which allows accesses in a more or less porous way. An accentuation on its labyrinthine scheme could have even led it to acquire the spatial complexity of a third brilliant piece of brutalist architecture, the housing complexes of Ivry sur Seine (Paris) and Givors (Lyon) by Jean Renaudie (see previous articles 1 & 2)…

To go further, see the very rich data bank about Rudolph on the Library of the US Congress’ website


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Michael Vlasopoulos, Greek Architect at Harvard recently published on Abitare a very interesting (sci)-fictitious Manifesto for Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower designed by Kisho Kurokawa and built in 1972. His narrator speaks at the first person and develops an ambiguous praise of his life conditions since he moved in one of the tower’s capsule.

I copy the text here, but it could be read directly on Abitare associated with beautiful decontextualized photos of the cells (by M.Vlasopoulos himself maybe ?) and a ton of hyperlinks:

DAY ZERO I never forget the day I bought my capsule. The money could buy me a Toyota car but, instead of a breeze on the face, in a seat of a sports-car, I decided to claim a stagnant volume of air as my own. I left behind my movable furniture, along with my family’s history ingrained in them. Everything had to fit inside two suitcases; this is the maximum volume of stuff my capsule can handle. Unencumbered by the weight of old lifestyles, I engage in a new one. SLEEP The ascetic kernel of my new home gives me the perfect excuse to live my city as lavishly as I always wanted -with clear conscience. I can now flow freely in the generic space of consumption of the urban outside, having already reserved a point of return. As long as the city sustains my eccentricities, my desires, my food habits and my plastic impulses, my house constitutes a purgatory for my sleep. Sleep has become a secular version of confession, an act of neurological purification of memory in a mass consumption culture. Oblong, because it is designed for the horizontal of the lying body, the capsule is endowed with a white plastic rigidity. During the unconscious faze of sleep, the bed is the only tool we keep wrapped around or attached to our dormant bodies. It can always be seen as a cave, a suit or a cryogenic shelter for the sleeping body. It is the only stasis a nomad can afford. Inside the capsule I become whole again, another complete cyborg; it’s the same kind of disciplined comfort that I find in my suit and tie. Outside, I’m another nude animal.

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Five years after the beginning of the construction, the new beautiful public space in Seville, Metropol Parasol designed by Jurgen Mayer is almost finished and will be celebrated this Sunday.
It’s interesting to observe that, although this rib-design is now seen everywhere from students projects to competitions via industrial design, this building is, as far as I know, the first one to reach this scale with this technique that consists in simulating a smooth volumes with perpendicular two dimensional extrusions.

See more pictures on archdaily.

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Francois Roche was recently invited to give an exhibition and a lecture at Sci-Arc about R&Sie(n)‘s work, starting on April 6th. However he just canceled both of them and made public the reasons in an open letter which text is the following:

I have no other way than to cancel the Sci-Arc exhibition in the Gallery (scheduled in May 25) and the lecture (scheduled the April 6-2011)
The gap of point of view, and the lack of interest for politics and attitude, reducing the architecture process to a unique design agenda cannot fit with our scenario of production and scenario of speeches.
Our works and attitudes are toxic, animal, dangerous, regressive, politic and computational.
Architecture is mainly an affair of resistance and self-defense, against hypocrisies and “in”voluntary servitude, to quote La Boetie. It cannot be reduced to a design goal, exclusively dedicated and trapped by tooling. I disagree on the way the knowledge is framed by and for predictable professional, without any potential to corrupt and desalienate through educational procedures the “coming out” of neoplagiarism and neocopism, which remind me the Beaux Art symptom and syndrome. I ‘m French and know perfectly the stickiness of this sliperring addiction.
I just want to precise that this voluntary abandon, cannot be understood as a “tantrum or capriccio” against the Sci-arc students pool, but it is at the level of Sci-Arc staff arrogances and ignorances, which seems to shrink architecture purpose to a simple affair of design agenda.

My best
F Roche /
PS Speaking and writing are done, here, in my Frenchglish dialect / I let you the opportunity to translate it in the Shakespeare  “mayonnaise”.

Beside the pleasure I can have that my favorite architect is tackling one of my less favorite, Eric Owen Moss (see the article I wrote a bit more than one year ago about his abject aesthetization of the US/Mexico border), I think that it is rare enough to observe an ideological debate within the education system to look a little bit closer to the problem.

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Every (rare) times I am in front of one of Hieronymus Bosch‘s paintings (in Belgium, at the New York MET or at the Barnes’ Foundation in Philadelphia), I can spend an hour trying to discern the multitude of details that compose his fantastic narratives.
In this spirit, I would like to propose here a non exhaustive series of details extracted from Bosch’s two most famous tryptichs: The Temptation of Saint Anthony and The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The paintings in high definition are “manually” explorable after each series (it might take a bit of time to load though):


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picture: Four Birds Mixed media on paper (Catheryn Austen)

The following essay comes from the website Fractal Ontology created by Joseph Weissman and Taylor Adkins which attempt to develop a multi-disciplinary discourse based on philosophy, psychoanalysis and science. This text, Warning, Hive Meltdown Imminent compares the work of Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze and Reza Negarestani (even before Cyclonopedia was published)around the notions of Noise, Pestilence and Darkness:

Openness only comes in the imperceptible recesses of infection: A faceless love. (Reza Negarestani)

Michel Serres never fails to remind us of something simple and indispensable. It is that all relationships are founded upon noise. In the beginning, there is noise, not silence. Even the simplest words arrive much later; and, at any rate, our words are still noise. The din and clamor of the many is sometimes frightful; and Serres’ work can be singularly terrifying. But Serres’ reminder is highly rational, even a joyful reconsecration of science.

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I invite every French speaker to listen to the recent interview of French architect Patrick Bouchain by Philippe Simay on Metropolitiques.
Bouchain is not so internationally famous but he is one of the most interesting architect I know. He worked for two decades in the shadow of other artists such as Daniel Buren, Claes Oldenburg or Bartabas (a famous horse trainer in France),  worked with film directors and even the Minister of Culture, Jack Lang during Francois Mitterand’s second mandate as President. He has been designing and building architecture for more than twenty years now, without being registered to the Architects Order and claims for a status of architect/developer (which is forbidden in France).
His main thesis is to involve as many people in the process of building architecture. One could associate this ideal with the 60’s experiments of people choosing on a little model where the walls of their apartment would stand, but Bouchain’s creative process is much more interesting than that. With him, architects, clients, workers and citizens are all involved in the building process (His office’s name is Construire which is the French verb for Building). Two very simple applications of such a will is the visit of construction sites by primary schools and the set up of a restaurant on site for both workers and neighbors to exchange.
In the third video (see below), Bouchain questions in a quasi-philosophical (he is also a very good friend of the Philosopher Michel Onfray) way the Civil Code about how is defined property. Using a deep knowledge of the Law in order to create a more democratic architecture makes me instantly recall Santiago Cirugeda in Seville (see previous article).
I feel sorry that neither this interview nor the book Construire Autrement (Building Differently) has been translated in English as many readers would probably appreciate a lot Bouchain’s propositions for a more immanental and hedonist architecture.

Article by Michel Onfray in Construire Autrement that I translated in October 2008.

Articles about EXYZT, Bouchain’s young proteges that I’ve been publishing regularly on this blog: 01, 02 and 03

Article in English on Spatial Agency

Videos of the interview after the break.

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For those of you who would like to help the Japanese evacuees from the disaster they just experienced and who would like to donate for a project more specific than the Red Cross or the Unicef, you can visit Shigeru Ban‘s office’s website who organizes partitions kits to set up in the big gyms and other rooms where hundreds of people have to share a shelter after they loose their homes.

Here is the link towards this project’s page.

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