Form has always tended to operate as a mechanism of control in architecture. Whether through the ancient orders, Renaissance systems of proportion, or 19th century theories of tectonics, form has provided architecture’s symbolic value, its organization, and literally given shape to its materials and structures. This tendency is stronger than ever today, despite the illusion of freedom provided by digital technologies of design and manufacture and the new geometric possibilities they offer. No matter how sophisticated the modeling software or automated the assembly, a project’s form still exists as an underlying framework, static and rational, entirely circumscribing the processes of design and construction. Today – largely due to a near ubiquitous faith in digital technology and complex geometry – architecture lacks intelligent or innovative approaches to form.
The formless was articulated as a philosophical construct by Georges Bataille, a man with a famous antipathy for architecture. But Bataille’s hostility was due more to his myopic view of architecture than any fundamental incompatibility between his ideas and architectural practice. Bataille could only see architecture as form – it was always a metaphor or a symbol: a stand-in for the body, the state, or an institution. But in his Critical Dictionary, the same document that included his notoriously hostile “definition” of architecture, Bataille praised the formless qualities of space. And his notion of the formless was deeply physical, grounded in a discourse of base materiality. Ironically, then, there may be no better place for Bataille’s ideas to take root than architecture, provided it is no longer conflated with form.
Bob Sheil (Director of Technology and Computing at Bartlett)
In the post digital age, how we design has become of equal importance as to what we design. Never before have there been so many, or so varied, techniques and methods at our disposal each with the capacity to leap frontiers previously only imagined. Designing has become a liquid discipline pouring into domains for centuries the prime possession of others such as mathematicians, neurologists, geneticists, artists and manufacturers. Post digital designers more often design by manipulation than by singularity, and what is designed has become more curious, intuitive, speculative and experimental. Each of these new techniques vies for dominance amongst the cut throat trenches of advanced tooling. They battle to outdo one another, predict the unpredictable, promise the unattainable, materialize the immaterial, solve all our problems, and so dazzle the beholder that all previous paths to architectural wonderment pale into the archives.
Our new tools are more malleable than before, so much so, that no sooner do they graduate from beta mode than a brighter, fitter or shinier sibling has emerged. As recently as twenty years ago, when I began my architectural education, the methodology of designing buildings had largely remained unchanged in 500 years. Drawings were prepared by hand and evolved from the tentative to the fully costed. Things got built, sometimes in strict accordance to what was drawn, but not always, as records later captured. A few well known but rare individuals such as Pierre Charreau managed it all without such dogmatic trappings, designing his magnificent ‘piece de resistance’ (1927-1931) in collaboration with Bernard Bijvoet and the craftsman Louis Dalbet, largely through conversation and modelling. Before them Gaudi, and later through Prouvé, Price, Eames, and others, pioneering efforts to rethink the verbal properties of design moved us forward but the tools to manage it remained largely the same. Continue reading
(sorry no English translation this time…)
« Imaginez les relevés spatiaux futurs, ceux qu’établiront les générations à venir pour tenter de comprendre où se concentrait l’habitat de leurs ancêtres, comment ils dessinaient les plans de leurs cités, pourquoi ils choisissaient ce delta, ce plateau ou cette baie pour se regrouper, bâtir des villes et les nommer… »
Les visiteurs défilent. Certains ne font qu’approcher des hauts rideaux qui séparent le pavillon du parc, d’autres pénétrent dans l’obscurité, y trouvent une place et s’y installent.
« … et lorsque les climats auront changé, à partir de quoi redessineront-elles les paysages dans lesquels nous vivions, la végétation qui peuplait nos villes et les environnait ?
Quand nos intérieurs auront disparu, qu’il restera très peu d’informations sur notre quotidien et moins encore sur nos vies intimes, certains tenteront d’écrire l’histoire des mutations de nos grandes métropoles et celle des existences qui s’y logeaient. Alors, à partir de restes d’édifices et de fragments d’étoffes, les mêmes réactiveront peut-être aussi imaginaires et visions de mondes disparus… »
Le promoteur achève sa présentation et se tourne vers l’écran. Un commentaire off enchaîne, sur la projection de plans et de vues en trois dimensions.
« Entre le conservatoire, la bibliothèque et le cabinet de curiosité, le projet vise à réunir non pas l’histoire de notre époque, mais les rêveries qu’elle provoque : journaux d’exil, utopies réalisées, rosebuds et possibilités paysagères… »
To write about a future vision of Architecture asks for a systematic concept on how we can blend competing interests and possibilities, be they of technological, economical or social nature, into a building practice. I don´t have this systematic idea that is applicable for all cases at hand. I mostly work on “Wicked Problems” as Donald Schoen would call them. These are problems that mutate while you work on them. Maybe I am the wrong one to ask to write a manifest.
I am not Marinetti. But I know what I strive for.
I will try to explain why I am doing what I am doing through an example.
A couple of years ago I was visiting the site of the Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona with a group of students. I separated myself from the rest to experience the building alone. The site was under full production with stonemasons working and groups of tourists running through the aisles. I was going down to the basement, passing screens that showed some CATIA models and explained some geometric methods on how a specific part of the Passion-facade was developed. I descended into the model workshop and looked at the collection of analog and digital models that were at display, with the hanging model of the Colònia Güell church as the center piece.
I was looking at an architectural practice that worked with tradition and experiment, it seemed like a continuous romantic attempt to gather the best what a civilization could provide at that specific point in time, augmenting knowledge through practice. The idea of a building site that is still there when I will be gone someday was appealing since it negotiated the author through time, the Individual faded while the Whole became sharper in its contours. This experience had something uplifting humane that blended technology, spirituality, knowledge, geometry and death into a building.
At what stage this blend was taken place I was unable to tell; it seemed as if the disciplines were melting at a certain point of execution into another state that then “made” the building.
All this was not the factual reality, but my experience was.
I want to be part of a culture that does these things.
LINKING BEYOND ARCHITECTURE – AN HYPERACTIVE MANIFESTO
Eduardo McIntosh (picture Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi)
THE ARCHITECTURE OF DECEIT
Setting the scene
The Law of (-1)
There is sometimes a minuscule flame burning inside people who do Architecture. The feeling in the back of their brain that something is terribly wrong with the world. A “splinter in their minds”. For many this feeling of wrong-ness, dissatisfaction and helplessness can never be explained, for its nature is concealed by The Law of (-1).
We need to understand that life is WAR, that we all are driven by the will to power, and that the lofty ideals of the “magnanimous human spirit”: equality, justice, freedom, etc are in practical terms absent from us, for we are not human spirits, we are flesh and bone. Quoting from Nietzsche’s Beyond good and Evil: “Even the body within which individuals treat each other as equals … will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant—not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power.”
Emmanuel Dupont & Colin Priest
(picture The rise of Neptune Colin Priest/Greg Andrews -Nuit sans Opéra)
The Event MANIFESTO
In a world accented by youth and speed, edges rather than content are the physical reality.
Within those, human relationships make and un-make. Collaborating is the issue. Knowing and arguing your position is another.
Hard and soft matters as well as nothingness may hook, plant and position a place but the challenge of contemporary architecture is to get up close and personal to people not conceptually or physically but in a way to sustain opportunity across generations.
Why care about form that will suit no-body? Slow down, be selective. Forget the single function if everything else is multi-platform. Reconsider a sensitive adventure beyond efficient manufacture and towards an agile assembly evolution.
What if we cared more about time? Working the instant, the long term, the short term and the structure that makes any event magical (or any other basic terms that enhance everyday life).
Let us construct moments to remember and everything in-between.
Vito Acconci (for Iconeye)
A tale of two or more architectures
(An architecture of fairy tales)
It is the best of architectural times, it is the worst of architectural times. It’s the age of lightness, of fluid architecture; it’s the age of architecture that’s only constructed into forms of fluidity and lightness that themselves remain solid and heavy. It’s the epoch of architecture that emerges and grows as a living creature; it’s the epoch of architecture that only looks as if it emerges and grows, that only looks like a living creature. It’s the era of sensual architecture; it’s the era of an architecture of visual affects. It’s the season of virtual architecture, science-fiction architecture; it’s the season of architecture that, when built, comes tumbling back down to earth. It’s the spring of code-writing and computational architecture; it’s the winter of generic architecture generated by and justified by numbers. We architects and designers practice operations now that will make architects ultimately unnecessary, we anticipate architecture that designs itself; in the meantime, we’re narrowed down to the chosen few starchitects. We architects and designers harness multiple complexities; all the while we refine complication into elegance, we revive aesthetics, we do something that smells like art, we resort to taste and sophistication, we tag onto an ‘upper class.’ We architects and designers make places for people; but the more parameters we use to design, the less our design-process can be read in the places we build – if people can’t ‘get’ the buildings we make, then those buildings are meant to appear as a force of nature, and we expect from people only belief.
The rapid development of innovative technological approaches in the realms of biology, microbiology, bio-technology, medicine and surgery are becoming of immense significance to architecture, demanding our attention due to their inevitable cultural, aesthetic and technical implications. Marcos Cruz investigates with students of Unit 20 at the Bartlett School of Architecture the impact of these emerging and progressive biological advances upon architectural and design practice. The unit has been looking at the current groundswell of experiments and creations that utilise digital design as a method to explore and manipulate actual biological material. A notion of design is emerging in which interdisciplinary work methodologies, traded between physicians, biologists and engineers, as well as artists and designers are increasingly occurring, giving rise to hybrid technologies, new materiality and hitherto unimaginable potentially living forms. The results of these conditions, defined as neoplasmatic, are partly designed object and partly living material. The line between the natural and the artificial is progressively blurred. More than derived from scaled-up analogies between biological conditions (cellular structures) and larger scale constructs (architecture), as commonly expressed in much contemporary bio-architectural work, Neoplasmatic Design implies ‘semi-living’ entities that require completely new definitions.
Work featured by Marcos Cruz and Unit 20 students Samuel White, Jens Ritter, Hannes Mayer, Yousef Al-Mehdari and Steve Pike.
My vision of a near future metropolis is tied to my experience of growing up skateboarding the streets of New York. To a skateboarder, urban objects lose their immediate practical functions and are forced to behave as objects of pleasure, transforming a simple street into a funzone. In this way, a skateboarder’s vision of the metropolis sees the dreams of the 60′s era collectives such as Archigram and the Situationists come true. This logic led me to explore forms found from the street on paper, joining the lineage of fantastical, hypothetical and quasi-utopian architectural situations. With time, street objects were expanded to include all aspects of design that a normal inhabitant of a metropolis is confronted with on a daily basis, recycled and juggled in a non-sensical, humorous way.
Teddy Cruz (for Iconeye)
In the context of a post 9-11 political equator that divides the world and the city between enclaves of mega wealth and sectors of poverty, urbanities of labour and surveillance, the formal and informal, our institutions of architecture have lost their socio-political relevance. Instead, the architecture avant-garde has become fully complicit with an international, neo-liberal project of privatisation and homogenisation, by camouflaging gentrification with a massive hyper aesthetic and formalist project.
New experimental practices of intervention in the collective territory will emerge only from zones of conflict. The radicalisation of the local in order to generate new readings of the global is transforming the neighborhood – not the city – into the urban laboratory of the 21st century.
The micro heterotopias emerging within small communities across the world, provoked by social emergency, are producing non-conforming spatial and economic contingencies that will incrementally pixelate the large with the small. These economic and political informalities generate a different idea of density and land use, a counter form of urban and economic development that thrives on social organisation, collaboration and exchange.
Contemporary art and architecture’s task is not only to reveal ignored socio-political territorial histories and inequalities within this polarised world, but also to generate new forms of sociability and activism.
Geoff Manaugh (for Iconeye)
If architects, critics, historians, bloggers, professors, journalists, construction magnates, city planners, etc really want to talk about architecture, in a way that has any meaning at all for anyone who actually lives in this world (and who doesn’t teach at Columbia), then they need to talk about architecture in its every variation: whether a structure is real or not, built or not, famous or not, or even standing on the surface of the earth.
Everything is relevant to architecture – from plate tectonics and urban warfare to astronomy and the melting point of steel. There is architecture lining the streets of New York and Paris, sure – but there is architecture in the novels of Franz Kafka and WG Sebald and in The Odyssey. There is architecture on stage at the Old Vic each night, and in the paintings of de Chirico, and in the secret prisons of military superpowers. There is architecture in our dreams, poems, TV shows, ads and videogames – as well as in the toy sets of children. The suburbs are architecture; bonded warehouses are architecture; slums are architecture; NASA’s lunar base plans are architecture – as are the space stations in orbit about us.
Stop limiting the conversation.
Architecture is being invented just like one invents a car or a plane. It has no boundaries and can be exported like any other creation. Sites never compelled a predetermined architecture.
Architecture has no public interest but private, except for some public buildings or monuments.
It is the synthesis of all arts including every discipline and in that regard it should be free and should only obey to technical constraints, security, hygiene and land planning.
But Human beings have a different judgment. Deep frozen in the past and crazy about tradition, they added such useless constraints that any evolution seems to be impossible. Housing is yet the basis cell of any society is currently the only field where progress, especially in France, is almost impossible, in the global indifference of users and most of architects.