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?
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.
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 below images were completed with the intention to be used to contextualize migration patterns of early suburban developments in England and the United States. The exploded collages were created using information from Bourgeois Utopias by Robert Fisherman and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier by Joel Garreau. Unifortuanity these diagrams have been shelved in the Digital Mortuary of Studio Ambiguous with the hopes of being influential later in the thesis process.
I really do not have any answers to these questions that I am about to pose, but I think they are starting to take center stage as thesis research is ongoing. The relevance of the “Italian Radicals” in my thesis has really come up as way of thinking and commenting on architecture and society in different ways. Archizoom, Archigram, UFO Studio, and more all went about it in different ways. Archizoom has specifically been relevant because though my early research I was trying to understand how to describe the generic nature of cities and articulate some understanding of why. No-Stop City creates a world that modernism’s goal is the elimination of architecture. They use the tools and ideas of modernism to then critique it.
The following are two excerpts from No-Stop City by Andrea Branzi.
“The only place where The Factory Model and the Consumption Model are identified is the Supermarket. This is the real yardstick model of the future city and consequently of reality as a whole: homogeneous Utopian structure, private functionality, rational sublimation of Consumption. Maximum result for minimum effort”
“The city no longer represents the system, but becomes the system itself, programmed and isotropic, and within it the various functions are contained homogeneously, without contradictions.”
I think these two excerpts are pretty powerful and they open the door to a lot of discussion about cities now. Pier Vittorio Aureli hints at the first one many times in his writings about capitalism and architecture. In his writing, The Domino-Problem: Questioning the Architecture of Domestic Space he states the Le Corbusier’s domino house is the moment when industrialization overtook architecture (see other blog). I do think talking about the ideas of “maximum results for minimum effort” are being severely overlooked in the world today. That is a capitalist principle at its core, yet architecture design, architecture process, and every aspect of society has embraced it while seemingly attempting to question the impacts of capitalism within our society. I think by making these ties between Aureli and Archizoom it is clear that something within architecture discourse on its role within the city is no adding up. I think it is safe to ask questions like, how does that impact architecture’s role within the city today?
In the next excerpt I see two words, “homogeneous” and “contradiction”. Contradiction, to me, is one of the most important words in architecture. It seems like architecture and architects have no way to even articulate some way to address the contradictions within architecture and society. Those contradictions lead to major issues within the field because architecture claims one thing but does another. When it comes to homogeneous, I equate that to “generic”. Generic is not a new term, but I think it is an easy way to describe the majority of architecture within cities (whether that is good or bad is not the current question). Archizoom takes those ideas of a homogeneous city and proposes it on an endless scale. I think now (in a very general way because this is becoming longer than intended) I have established some terms and ways to describe processes, design, and the market within the city. So, what does this mean for the city now?
I am starting to wonder about a connection between the domestication of the work place and “hyper-programming” of the workplace within tech campuses and that ideology that goes along with startups with the city as a whole. The domestication of the work place is really meant to blur the lines between work and life. Life becomes work and work becomes life, convenience. That ideology is trickling into our urban space with Apple branding themselves as “town squares”. Public space becomes commerce space (private space) and commerce space becomes public space. When it comes to the ideology of Silicon Valley, they want to remove all contradiction and complexity with a yes or a no (0 or 1). An app is designed to solve a problem and its viability is contingent on it solving said problem. Apps view the world as complex, but believe that they can solve for it with convenience. Maximum result with minimum effort could be found in every product description from Silicon Valley. In that sense, architecture is attempting to interact directly with that world, but has realized its viability is only based on a response of yes or no. Does the building have 200 units, 1200 sf of leasable space, and a coffee shop? Is the generic nature of the city the outcome of architecture’s only option to cover for the shortcomings of architecture against a dynamic city full of contractions? To me right now it seems to be. I think there will be larger questions of place and identity asked within these topics but this seems to frame a new crisis. Archizoom targeted modern architecture for its critique and I think this critique targets the architecture of the last twenty years (maybe post Rem and OMA’s Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large). There is a claim of a set of ideals, values, and a future vision, but there has been no creation of a new way forward, just falling in line with “maximum result with minimum effort”.
- Alex Moore
Branzi, Andrea. 2006. No Stop City- Archizoom. Orleans: HXY.
Vittorio Aureli, Pier. Winter 2014. "The Domino Problem: Questioning the Architecture of Domestic Space." Anyone 153-168.
This was a project to attempt rewrite Delirious New York in the spirit of the present time.
The fatal weakness of manifestos is their inherent lack of evidence. It is time to look back on what has been done to the build environment. It is time to be retroactive. There is too much evidence, too much documentation, too much photography, too many attempts to grasp the city, for the result to be nothing. The city no longer has meaning. It no longer stands for something. The city is not a fantasy, but a backdrop. It disappears the moment you walk out your door. This makes the architect very uncomfortable, but what is worse no one knows the difference, even that same uncomfortable architect. He is left beating his head against the same wall, but all is well come payday, time to start over.
Cities are in search of a theory, but cannot find it. This delirium no longer feels good. Th ecstasy has worn off. All that is left is pain. Pain that must be killed. Isolation that must be accepted. The city has been lost.
The structure of this manifesto is that of the grid. Order placed on the page to organize the individual block. If you understand blocks as individual pieces within a whole, you now see them differently. Their proximity and juxtaposition of them reinforce their separate meanings. The beauty of the block is that escape from nothing is right in front of you.
L AND O
In 1969, UCLA students transmit the text “l” and “o” from one computer to another. This moment changes the city forever. The invention of the internet has the greatest impact on the city. Not because of all the technological advancements that would follow. Not because it leads to the iPhone. It set the stage for humans to experience something without physically being there. Place no longer matters.
Place is identity. The internet ushered in a new form of globalization. Ideas were shared quickly, repeated even faster, and before we knew it everything looked the same. Mass production no longer was the way to create products to buy, it created our environments where we live.
Rapid globalization changed the circumstances faster than ever. The issue is there is not an architecture that can compete with the dynamic nature of the of the globalized world we live in now. Architecture is lost.
Le Corbusier was resisted. The Radiant City never happened, or did it? The “living machine” knows no scale. The best part about a machine is it needs no consciousness to run. It has one job and it executes perfectly every time. The highway is a part of the machine. The reach of the highway is infinite. It knows no bound, and it does not have any because the single-family home goes forever.
MASS PRODUCTION OF SPACE
It is easy to point at the typical suburb and say that is the moment of mass production of space. While true in some sense, it now happens everywhere. Le Corbusier said the car is the ultimate machine of transportation and the highway has since lived up to his expectation. Speed fueled his desires. Where there was highway there needed to be nothing else. The speed of the car would alter perception and no one would notice. Where the car did not exist, his architecture did. Space now happens everywhere; unconsciously because the machine is now the market and our connectedness to the world. Le Corbusier had to travel from city to city to share his ideas. The entertainment district and stadium can now travel on Google and reproduce itself rapidly in our cities. Architects attempt to play the game, but it is just mass production. Le Corbusier hid his emptiness with the speed of the car, and now the phone keeps everyone’s head down when walking. Perception altered. Mission accomplished.
We all strive to predict our day. We plan days, months, years in advance to make sure we know. Routine is comfort. Routine is security. Routine is no longer a desire, it is unconscious. If you do not have it what is the point. Do not just plan your next day make sure to plan your marriage (to buy a house), and your baby (to buy another house). Do not forget these steps. Finally, architecture can be redeployed in the world. A world that is predictable and understood. A world architects can protect their buildings from. The real suckers are the weathermen.
Ahh the American Dream. Nothing else like it. 3,000 square feet, a four-stall garage, and a nice big green lawn (do not worry the lawn service takes care of it). Isolation is routine’s best friend. It follows it where ever it goes. Isolation needs stability. Wake up enclosed in your house. Walk into your garage and enclose yourself into your car (its cold outside so do not open the garage door until you are in the car). Drive to work. Drive your car into the parking under your office. You got lucky the elevator is right by your spot. Ride that up to your cubicle and do it all over again on your way home. The city loves isolation because all it has to do is work. Bring people in for work and send them out for bed. The ultimate machine.
The moment of control has come. The machine is working at its highest efficiency. It actually gets to pick and choose who it works better for and who it does not. The market, the politics, and the planner all have a place at the table again. Their weapon of choice, in their desire for control, the masterplan. The architects will just sit outside and twiddle their thumbs.
The Myth of Revitalization: Re-isolation
Urban revitalization is every city council member’s dream. No longer do they have to annex, it is now happening within their limits. It is an opportunity to add new value. Time for the masterplan and design standards. Would not want this to happen without our finger on the trigger. Mix-use sounds good. The brick is the ultimate tool of history. It reinforces the past just by the way it looks.
The gated community in the suburb has an entry point. It is its time to shine. A big sign and a name that evokes the sereneness of nature always works. They flaunt their intentions with the gate. The district, on the other hand, hides them. Their problem is they cannot resist the temptation of drawing their line of demarcation and they name themselves. NoDo, SoDo, or whatever the name. A new district was just made (probably where one once stood last week). At that moment, the gig is up. These districts are happening in the city and the notion of revitalization means that there was something that was not as nice as it could be. The moment that they showed their hand, they made clear that they only want the good parts. The brick storefronts (perfect for coffee shops) and the old factories (the lofts will be amazing) are all they are after. Revitalization does not want or care about the social and economic baggage of the surroundings. Everyone has missed the boat with gentrification. It is not that it happens where the less privileged live, it happens near them. Those districts have always had economic life and able to support themselves, but revitalization redraws the line of isolation (as if the highway that broke the neighborhood in the 50’s was not enough). The district revitalization is not meant to kick people out, it just ties the noose. The market will take care of the rest.
Ask the internet, millennials are all about minimalism and living for the experience. They are racing to the city. They are inhabiting these new hip districts. Tech jobs lead their charge. You can tweet for your job now. Things do not matter to these people. They are a generation unlike any before...wait, but are they? Think our grandparents that said that about our parents and they turned out just fine (like them with a car and oceans of square feet). Millennials, let’s talk when your 40. Your race back to isolation will be just in time. We only build for 20 years now and the next dose of revitalization will come around soon. Ahhh routine.
Island in the Sun
Back to where we started, MANHATTAN, the ultimate instability. The resistance. The island and blocks that locked it in place and set the stage for the Culture of Congestion and Manhattanism that protects it from the emptiness of the American city today. It still stands as the Rosetta Stone, but in a world where the stone was forgotten. Social life still thrives, not because isolation and routine have not attempted to control it, but because of the culture of congestion. Land has only gotten more scare and population is always on the rise. Rem saw congestions potential, but knew its only chance of success was to become hyper-congested on levels unknown at the time. Manhattan has resisted and its battle cry is the honking horn. Take ridesharing for example (Uber or Lyft). In all cities, it only reinforces the highway. Now you can use someone else’s car to get from place to place. Its goal is anti-congestion. Less cars on the street. Manhattan, on the other hand, engulfs Uber. The efficiency does not exist because hyper-congestion exists.
Manhattan stands alone. The irony is the same people who created the invisible city, idolized Manhattan (the Rosetta stone) in school. The island, its geography, was the only resistance.
The block may hold the key. These singular moments among the whole. A few hundred feet separate the person from the next adventure. Le Corbusier needed a blank island for his tabula rasa. The real tabula rasa lies within the street. The beauty of this is there are many blocks within our cities that lie blank. Resist like Manhattan, there might still be time.
Koolhaas, Rem. 1994. Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. New York: The Monacelli Press.