Monthly Archives: November 2011

Future Ruins by Michelle Lord (inspired by JGB)

While cleaning-up my digital archives yesterday I “ran into” a letter I wrote to James Graham Ballard two and half years ago, then (shamelessly) hoping to start an epistolary exchange with him. What I did not know when I sent this letter to him on April 14th 2009 was that he was going to die five days later! This letter probably never reached him… Although I am clearly embarrassed by some parts of this text, I wanted to share it here in an unedited version (my written English was even worse than now back then!):

                        Bombay on Tuesday 14th April 2009

Dear Mr Ballard,

I have some difficulties to find my words for you, facing the fact that yours already reached me long time ago, allowing me to discover imaginaries which helps me to comprehend the real’s complexity. Therefore, I would like to help me by quoting somebody you might know, Emil Cioran in his  Histoire et Utopie. In fact, Cioran has a way to consider the world in its whole ambiguity, that is why it seems expedient to quote him in order to penetrate into the topic I am interested in:

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This time of the year is always a good moment to look at the production of  schools of architecture in the United Kingdom as many projects are competing to win the yearly RIBA Silver Medal. I will therefore publish few projects which, in my opinion, reach a certain degree of uniqueness as well as an interesting approach in given narratives.

The first one comes from the Bartlett and has been created by Justin Randle. With his California Cooperative, Justin proposes an architectural vision of a fictitious immanent community of production. His almost exclusive use of physical models to represent such architecture is probably not innocent as those relate better to the self-construtivity of the cooperative’s built environment, as he imagines it to be. This example is interesting to study as we usually attribute some authoritarian characteristics inherently contained by architecture of normal spaces of production (assembly line factories, open-space offices etc.). We need therefore to invent rather than plan, an architecture that would liberate itself as much as possible from those characteristics, both in the way that it is been designed and built and in the way it operates.
The following text is Justin’s own introduction to this project:

This project uses a series of complex models to investigate the spatial implications of the cooperative principles of universal admission, democratic organisation, barter, full employment and shared ownership. The proposal is to form a cooperative from the recently unemplyed among the remanaents of the former Haynes generator station on the banks of the San Gabriel River, Los Angeles. Using their skills and the ideas outlined above the cooperative seeks to provide work, shelter and the necessities of life.

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The Criterion Collection‘s website recently release a beautiful series of stills extracted from four movies by Michelangelo Antonioni: Red Desert (1964), L’Eclisse (1962), Identification of a Woman (1982) and L’Avventura (1960). Those stolen cinematic moments reveals Antonioni’s construction of a very dexterous mix between material and atmospheric environments all along his films. Red Desert, as I had the occasion to write before, can probably be said to embody the paroxysm of such  dialogue. Nevertheless, his materialism finds its essence in the presence of the human female body who, by its posture contrasts and challenges this environment. One of the introductory scenes of Red Desert in which Monica Vitti’s elegant character walk through a toxic mud field in an industrial context is exemplary in this regard.

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# LIBERTY SQUARE /// About the notion of OccupyingNovember 24, 2011

Philosophy - By: Léopold Lambert

Occupy the Brooklyn Bridge on November 17th /// Photo by Leopold Lambert

There has been few debates since the beginning of the Occupy movement about its very name. This name started with an assumed martial connotation against Wall Street and some of us, who could not dissociate this notion from a colonial context, were fairly surprised that this name was extended to the other “islands” of the movement. We were considering it as problematic and were trying to orient the terminology towards the more inclusive notion of 99%. However, I am now convinced that we were missing a very important point that was probably obvious to the occupiers themselves. There has been an important emphasis on the importance of “bodies” since the very beginning of the movement -I remember a General Assembly at the end of September that was already addressing this notion- and an acknowledgment that, while some people brings skills and knowledge on the table, some other simply brings their bodies. Our body can only be at one place in the world in a given moment. This place is the place we have been choosing to…occupy and although it is an unavoidable choice, this choice constitutes a radical political attitude in the exclusivity of the space it stands in and the exclusion of the ensemble of others.

Occupying a public space therefore carry a violence that is partially similar to the one unfolded by the colonial occupation -in the West Bank for example. However while the latter violates the right of a nation to govern itself and constitute a collective project, the former is the full expression of a right agreed upon at the foundation of the nation. In a country that brought the idea of freedom to the rank of pure ideology, we must turn back to Foucault, for who, freedom can only exist through its practice.

It is true that 21th century social movements are not the same than 20th’s ones thanks to the tools of communication that they are using; however we should not fool ourselves, the importance of the bodies’ presence, the occupation has never been so strong.

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‘Highway damaged by the Northridge Earthquake, California, January 1994’ from Bruce Mau (2004). Massive Change. (London: Phaidon).

This week, this is Carl Douglas‘ turn to use the space on the Funambulist dedicated to friends and other guests for them to share their vision on a topic they chose. I won’t introduce him since he wrote a brief paragraph about his platforms and interests that you can read right after this paragraph. His essay Off the Grid. Left out and over begins with a novella that I am sure will be very evocative to most of its readers: Concrete Island by James Graham Ballard. This story of a man trapped on a piece of land surrounded by high speed highways is the perfect model of the heterotopic condition of an enclosure included within a world, thus developing an interesting paradox of inclusion and exclusion at the same time.

The Funambulist Papers 16 /// Off the Grid: Left out and over

By Carl Douglas

I’m a lecturer in Spatial Design at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand. I’m motivated by the concept of assemblages (via Deleuze and De Landa) and Latour’s actor-networks; which I think are very commensurable ideas. I also have a lot of sympathy for the Object-Oriented-Ontologies group. This essay is an edited version of a longer paper forthcoming in the journal Access. It’s part of the groundwork for my upcoming practice-based PhD, which is going to be concerned with the development of South Auckland’s Mangere Inlet.
I blog at Diffusive Architectures , Twitter occasionally as @agfa8x, have links at Delicious  and I’m on Google+.

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In 2008, the Japanese artist collective Chim Pom managed to invade some specific landmarks of Tokyo, like Shibuya or the Parliament building, with a swarm of wild crows ingeniously driven by a taxidermic bird and a megaphone using crows’ screams. This project is appealing (see the video below) for the introduction of wildness in our tamed domestic environment. In order to do so, they used animals that we are used to see around but that never really reach to carry this strange anxiety that this scene provides. I thus interpret this operation as a manifesto for strangeness as a political weapon, the one that makes a well known environment slightly different from normally and this way, triggers the awareness and imagination.

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I have been recently commissioned to write a short article for the first issue of Studio Magazine entitled [from] CRISIS [to] and I was happy to write the text that follows this introduction. This issue exists in its digital version, but also very soon as a hard copy in Milan where RRC Studio, the editors are practicing architecture. They came up with an interesting mix of mediums between essays, reportages, fictions, photos, architectural projects etc. with a very good graphic design. I therefore recommend to explore this issue either via issuu or by downloading the pdf version.

Tower Of Joy, Ulan Bator, April 1992
By Léopold Lambert

 A few months after my friend and mentor Theodore Antonopoulos had passed away, his wife suggested that I organize his archives that had grown to consume the entire building of their home in New York. This “assignment” came to overwhelm me, as I was discovering a multitude of previously unknown books and references that seemed to have influenced Theo’s work considerably. I decided, then, that I would dedicate all of my efforts to exploring what made his films and novels so powerful.

At the end of my fifth day spent in the chaos of his archives, I realized that, so far, I had only succeeded in making the hundreds of documents, books and films of the house more disorganized. As I stood dumbfounded by this observation, my eyes encountered some text written on a VHS that was partly submerged in a pile of films covering most of the room’s floor. The caption was reading “Tower Of Joy, Ulan Bator, April 1992”. The fact that Theo shot a movie in Mongolia did not come as much of a surprise as I often reflected that he may have visited every country in the world; nevertheless, this title, “Tower of Joy,” piqued my interest enough that I stole it away to watch later.

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Cardross Seminary_Living Quarters_TenThirtyNine
Cardross Seminary, Living Quarters – by TenThirtyNine

This week’s guest writer is Claire Jamieson whose student project Eternally Yours had been published on this blog (on boiteaoutils actually) a few years ago. She is now a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Arts in London and is absorbed in the relationship that literature establishes with architecture and vice versa. In the following essay, The Possible Worlds of Architecture, she gives us a useful preview to this question by firstly establishing the bases of such research (architecture & narratives) and then by focusing on this same relationship within the novella Sanctuary by Brian Dillon (2011). I have to confess that I am not at all familiar with this author but it probably comes as fresh air for some of my readers who might feel claustrophobic by my repetitive personal references! In any case, this essay today  is expedient as the first event of Archipelagos next week will be around literature and can thus constitute as good entrance door for such discussion.

The Funambulist Papers 15 /// The Possible Worlds of Architecture

by Claire Jamieson

“A hand rests for a moment on a parapet above the central courtyard, traces the curve of a thin metal banister that spirals deep inside the main block, and holds back the branches covering the entrance to an outlying building. Heavy boots kick aside plaster and glass to test floorboards in the half dark, and the place starts to reveal itself to a new and fearless gaze.”[1]

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Privately Owned Public Space‘s policy

As I have been writing few weeks ago, one very interesting aspect of Occupy Wall Street consists in the re-appropriation of public space as what it is supposed to be by definition: public. The constitution of an agora accessible by all because territorialized in an open space is the certitude of the democratic essence of this movement. That is for this reason that I am calling my working group to gather in the public space rather than in a classroom at the New School as I have been also writing about recently. My feeling is that, not only a classroom makes us think differently and withdraw the urgency of the project we are trying to create, the Nomadic University, but the reunion of such a working group in a private space prevents any uninformed person to take part to such meeting.

I am therefore in charge of finding us one or several parts of public space in  New York City in which we could meet, talk, work and be protected from the cold weather and thought that some of my readers would be the perfect people to ask about such a piece of information. If you have an idea of an adequate place, please send me an email at contactDOTfunambulistATgmailDOTcom.
Thank you very much in advance.

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