Perhaps the overriding myth is that of the architect as a hero. Serving the same powers that it strives to critique, architecture is condemned to a perpetual conflict of interest. Together, architects, clients, politicians, and consultants make up an embroiled world in which it is forever unclear who calls the shots.- Reinier de Graaf
When it becomes job search time for an architect, in order to get an overview of firms and potential internships, the search starts where most searches these days start, Google. That search may lead to some other websites that specialize in job or internship postings, but something interesting continues to happen when using the keyword ‘architect’. Intermixed with a few listings that meet the generally expected criteria are companies like IBM, Google, and others specializing within the technology sector. Facebook lists ‘Optical Systems Architect’ and ‘Solutions Architect’ on their careers page, Google has an opening for a ‘Cloud Architect’, and Apple is searching for an ‘Imaging and Vision Architect’ along with 600 listed jobs that appear with the keyword ‘architect’. Although the amount of tech jobs, the search for that elusive job goes on, unknowingly witnessing a phenomenon that seems to raise profound questions about architecture and the architect in today’s world and in the future.
Whose systems are dependent on who? Does space in the city have value if it does not have Wi-Fi or other means to activate social media services, regardless of built architecture? Which architects really influence and shape our environments?
Conceptual series exploring the historical evolution of how users engage advertising within the public domain.
The following is an excerpt from the conclusion of my thesis, Digital is Physical: The Future of User Agency and Design Within the Public Domain. Explore more in the "Thesis and Writings" section.
The issue is not private companies participating in the public domain. Disneyland is Disneyland. A shopping mall is a shopping mall. A billboard is a billboard. An Apple store is not a Town Square. A future public domain built on false rhetoric and subversive technology must be critically questioned from the standpoint of architecture urbanism and most importantly by all users of the city. Ultimately, it is crucial that users maintain the agency of choice and freedom within the public domain.
When users experience of the city is controlled, filtered, influenced, or manipulated the chance encounters and serendipity of the public domain are gone. Users are not only isolated, but unable to no longer be exposed to different opinions and diversity. In some ways, that deepens social divides, isolation, and polarization of communities.
Not everything these companies do is bad. There are many examples of these platforms and devices connecting and enabling communities world-wide to have a voice on a global scale. Political engagement that happens in digital space is now playing out in physical space. The same happens with casual social interaction with added connectivity and accessibility for those with the software. For all the good, these technologies clearly come with consequences that must be critically considered before they are given free reign within the public domain.
I firmly stand with the idea that we must as citizens and designers fight to retain agency and control within these spaces within the city. This relationship will continue to change, but as technology redefines the ‘rules of engagement’ within the public domain the fundamental aspects of the public domain cannot be forgotten. A public domain that trades serendipity, freedom, and user agency for control, ubiquity, and isolation that is defined by technology companies must not be the future of the city. There will be ways the digital and physical realms can coexist, but designers, users, and policymakers must critically ask what the function of the public domain is in the future vision of cities.
Martijn De. Waal, The City as Interface: How Digital Media Are Changing the City (Rotterdam: NAI Uitgevers/Publishers Stichting, 2014)
We manage more than one “me”. Our digital persona is carefully curated and exaggerated, while behind closed doors there is chaos. The spectrum of human emotion is dense. Happiness, sadness, and anger only begin to scratch the surface, there is no longer a need to manage them, just fabricate them. Thoughts are constrained to 140 characters, connections are made through hashtags, and memories are not memories without the right filter. Everyone else, they are just pretending too.
Fake it, Photoshop it, google it, hashtag it…chaos chaos chaos….but the screen does not speak. Silent in your hands, but only for a second….like it, favorite it, comment on it….chaos chaos chaos. Fear of missing out? No. Fear of not posting it. Fear of being judged. Fear of our physical persona not living up digital….chaos chaos chaos. Battery is low, it is red, and now it is dead, chaos? Not anymore. Quiet and lonely. Scream, but who will hear you? Who will like it? Who will comment?
The only life worth living is a life online. Narrating your own story carefully behind the safety of your screen. Reality is the only realm for sad now. Avoid it at all cost. We are conceding to the digital world and declaring our independence from reality. No longer chaos, just life, a life finally in our control.
Inspired by the The Re’Search by Ryan Trecartin
Photoshop collages exploring ways to read the wealth gap and themes of inclusiveness within cites through architecture.
It has been a while since we have posted primarily due to the crushing demands of thesis as well as the infamous job search. Below is a blurb I wrote for thesis that may or may not be incorporated in the final package but was an interesting rabbit hole to dive into. The image system is a way of qualifying the way images have been marketed toward us is complex and has continuously evolved. This evolution was exponentially increased by the internet and consumer platforms such as Amazon.
Role of the Image System
We live in a consumer based culture that uses the image system as its main tool of marketing. As described by Sut Jhally the image system is the tool that marketing uses to reflect our desires and dreams. The image system was not always the dominant mediator and creator of culture. In agrarian based societies other institutions such as family, community, ethnicity, and religion presided over the guiding hand influencing society. The transition from agriculture to industrial created a void within the institutions that previously guided society aspirations. A void that was quickly filled by the marketing of products and information. Information about products seeped into public discourse. More specifically, public discourse soon' became dominated by the "discourse through and about objects.”
The process of educating society on the image system was a gradual process that took place over two decades. The crucial turning point for the creation of our image saturated society took place in the 1920’s. In that decade the advertising industry was faced with a curious problem-the need to sell increasing quantities of "nonessential" goods in a competitive marketplace using the potentialities offered by printing and color photography. Whereas the initial period of national advertising (from approximately the 1880s to the 1920s) had focused largely in a celebratory manner on the products themselves and had used text for "reason why" advertising (even if making the most outrageous claims), the 1920s saw the progressive integration of people (via visual representation) into the messages. Interestingly, in this stage we do not see representations of "real" people in advertisements, but rather we see representations of people who "stand for" reigning social values such as family structure, status differentiation, and hierarchical authority. From the 1920s to the 1940s there was a gradual education of the consumer taking place as advertisements educated the consumer on the role of the image and how it should be interpreted. During this time period the advertisements transitioned from a combination of images explained by text to advertisements where the written became less explaining the visual and more of a cryptic form appearing as a visual puzzle or slogan.
In contemporary society the images system has become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. The messages promoting the object orientated culture have infiltrated all spaces of our existence. The public realm, social media, magazines, and the internet are all for sale to promote the image. One cannot simply exist in today’s society without being endlessly bombarded with advertisements. Advertisement role in guiding society has also gained complexity with the introduction of the internet and the almost instant stream of data flow. Fundamentally advertisement is a discourse through and about objects that tells us how things are connected to our lives and how we can become happy. In our culture the image system provides a particular vision for the world, created by marketing, a particular mode of self-validation that is connected to one’s possessions rather than to what one is.
Image System of Thumbnails
The image in contemporary society is perpetuated by the internet, social media sites and, consumer-based companies. This is the new form of advertisements and just like the images transition into advertising in the 1920’s one has been slowly trained to understand how to interpret it. It is not a stretch when comparing advertising budgets that physical marketing has become dwarfed by the virtual image that is projects through the screens of our devices. To keep up with the speed of our society it is vital to process the most amount of information possible. This leads to the degradation of the images that we consume as they become smaller, more precise and load at the speed of our scrolling thumbs. Our current generation has grown up with this new form of consumerism that can process one’s desires at the speed of light. Suggesting images that one may be interested based off the objects they have selected while taking place in a mindless derive of scrolling. The image system of thumbnails is the new market place existing in a virtual world allowing for one to scroll endlessly through images that are “recommended for you” to satisfy our dreams and desires yet in our actual reality we only have the pleasure of the images to sustain us in our actual experience with objects.
At the 8:50 mark in this interview with Madelon Vriesendorp, she answers a question about 'Bad Taste'. Her explanation of embracing of bad taste within her work is a great context when understanding some of the early work of OMA. It is something that we are interested in exploring further this summer and beyond in new work. In order to set the stage for that, the following is the Manifesto for Bad Taste.
The manifesto for bad taste
Good taste is accepted as the ideal object, representation, or moment in time. Is good taste the ideal? Who decides the ideal? Status quo is the ideal. Fame is the ideal. Security the ideal. Comfort is the ideal. Routine is the ideal. Wealth is the ideal. A fence is the ideal. The ideal is binary. The ideal becomes standardization. Expression and provocation. The anti-ideal. When seeking the ideal, anything less than conformity fails you.
The embracing of bad taste is the embracing of a world of possibilities and accepting beyond personal belief. In an ideal world, nothing is ideal.
Architecture is meaningless. An empty void of orthographic projection. Without image, architecture is meaningless. Without architecture, image is still powerful. Image transcends medium. It is photograph, painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, writing, and craft. Image transcends scale. It is objects, people, communities, towns, cities, countries, and worlds. Image transcends reality. It is rational, surreal, speculative, narrative, dystopian, and utopian. Image transcends language. It is political, social, provocative, satire, experiential, cultural, and worth more than a thousand words. Image goes places that architecture cannot. Architecture’s rejection of image does not condemn the image. It proves the power of image. While social movement, cultural engagement, and political provocation moves forward, architecture will be left meaningless, four walls and roof.
The dedication of the United States’ first government social housing project took place on a chilly winter day in December 1935. It was a monumental occasion for the city of New York as well as the entire nation. New Yorkers packed the streets around the electrical radio hookup to hear the first lady, Mrs. Roosevelt, read her husband’s remarks about the housing project followed by her own praises to all the people that made the project a possibility. Among other speakers were Governor Lehman, Mayor LaGuardia and Housing and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.1 The “First Houses” was the first New York Housing Authority project and an experimental exploration into social housing policy and architectural design.
The innovative architectural planning method called for the demolition of every third tenement house on the block along E 3rd Street and Avenue A. This allowed for air and light to reach into the inner spaces of the block. The addition of a park space in the center of the block added greenery and public spaces for the residents and their children. This was in response to the tightly packed tenement houses that plagued the lower east side of New York. In addition, a nursery on the ground floor offered subsidized child care and employing local residences.
“First Houses” would then repair the remaining groupings of tenement houses with windows on all four sides as well as in-unit bathrooms, which was an unheard-of luxury for lower income families in New York city. The poor conditions of the tenement house caused the remaining groupings of buildings to be deemed unsafe. This caused the buildings along 3rd Street to be torn down and rebuilt into five new buildings. Frederick L. Ackerman, the lead architect, proposed the reuse of brick and other building material to offset the cost of the new construction.2 This decision was a product of the time as building materials were scarce during the Great Depression; never the less, the cradle to cradle practice allowed the project to continue and become a success. The reuse of materials did not offset the whole cost of the project as it was completed behind schedule and over budget. The cost of the project caused the NYCHA to put tighter restrictions on future social housing projects and underwent other governmental oversights. The successes of “First Houses” far overshadow any faults as the project has been continually sighted as one of the best practices for social housing, community building, and slum regeneration. 3
“First Houses” received over four thousand applicants for the 122 apartments. The chosen families were selected based off need, location within the city, and family size. Of the 122 chosen applicants, all lived and worked in the East Side and six of the families were previous residents of the site.
Open Space & Building Separation
During the 1930’s tenement houses composed the majority of or lower Manhattan blocks. Tenement houses were single family homes divided into tightly packed apartments. Most of the apartments did not have access to adequate plumbing, electrical lighting, and windows. The lack of building and code oversite made tenement houses extremely dangerous and prone to fires. Despite this fact in the early 1900’s two-thirds of New York City’s population lived in these poor tenement conditions.4 “First Houses” response of removing every third tenement allowed for daylight and air circulation into the center of the block. This allowed for windows to be placed on all four sides of the building thus changing the way units were laid out when compared to the tenement style of living. The dimension of the buildings along 3rd Street closely matched the earlier tenement buildings. However, the deconstruction of the block and the more spacious unit layout reduced the density of the block. It is impossible to determine how many families were displaced by the “First Houses” because of the lack of documentation and regulation of the previous tenement houses. The balance between living standards, unit density, and displacement was almost perfectly achieved at “First House,” which is something that cannot be said for future housing developments.
Ground Floor Retail
One of the most overlooked aspects of the slum renovation projects was access. The public housing projects created had serious issues with accessibility to stores and other commercial programs. Out of the eighty-two projects developed and managed by the New York Housing Authority only nine of them had stores or commercial spaces built in.5 As poor as the tenement house conditions were they normally had ground floor retail or other social programming. Federal legislation banned stores in new developments, and destruction of existing tenement houses meant the loss of the ground floor retail.6 Being the first public housing project created by the NYCHA, rules that applied to later development had not been created allowing more flexibility and experimentation of programming, facilities, and architectural design. This meant “First Houses” were not a typical housing development. It was small scale in comparison to many of the other projects taken on later by the NYCHA. These larger developments formed areas of concentrated poverty and limited access to amenities, which created social housing deserts. “First Houses” did not destroy the urban fabric of the East End. Instead it conformed to the grid and provided ample access to amenities such as corner stores, health clinics, nurseries, and political meeting spaces.
Fig. 2. Lamport, Joe. “Back of First Houses.” Digital image. Hard Times in the Projects. August 20, 2007. Accessed July 5, 2017. http://www.gothamgazette.com/housing/3636-hard-times-in-the-projects.
Fig. 3 Smith, Lindsey . “First Houses.” Digital image. Happy 80th Birthday to America’s ‘First Experiment’ in Public Housing. January 2, 2015. Accessed May 5, 2017. http://bedfordandbowery.com/2015/01/happy-80th-birthday-to-americas-first-experiment-in-public-housing/.