AN EDUCATION OF DESIRE 2. Amy Butt ON CONCRETE UTOPIAS 10. Nathaniel Coleman CITIES AND BUILDINGS: EDUCATING UTOPIA
14. Nathaniel Coleman PROJECT BRIEF: SPECTRES OF UTOPIA AND MODE 18. James Anderson THE VAN NELLE FABRIEK MUSEUM 28. Sophie Baldwin THE LIBERATED HOUSING DE EENDRACHT 34. Alex Blanchard VAN NELLE TECHNÊ FABRIEK 48. Robert Douglas DISRUPTING THE ORDER OF THE VAN NELLE FACTORY
58. Jess Goodwin THE GROOTHANDELSGEBOUW: A SOCIALIST PERSPECTI 66. Adam Hill REMEMBERING ROTTERDAM 76. Adel Kamashki A SHELTER TO REFLECT 84. Nathaniel Coleman PROJECT BRIEF: RHYTHMANALYSIS OF CONCRETE
88. Alexandra Carausu A DIGITAL CEMETERY IN A TRANSHUMANIST FUTUR
96. David Boyd THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S QUIETUS: TOWARDS A COUNTER AR
104. Nathaniel Coleman MODERN ARCHITECTURE AND THE PECULIAR ADV
EDITORIAL: ON CONCRETE UTO Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance. (Galeano, 2013: 36) In our current political situation, the horizon of utopia appears to have slipped still further from our grasp, and the notion of linear social progress towards such a goal may appear as idealistic and inherently impossible as utopia itself. However, this desire to improve, to undertake works which envisage something better and to spatially manifest this desire, remains fundamental to all architectural projects. But, while it is inherent to architectural design, the discussion of utopia within architectural education is continually resisted, as decried by Nathaniel Coleman (2017). Utopia in architecture is haunted by the persistent associations with totalising architectural visions and the hubristic failure of grand social intentions, which casts its proponents as simultaneously egotistical and naive. Meanwhile, its radical potential is subsumed within an education system which predominantly resists questioning the role of architecture in capitalist spatial production; constrained by both the professional accreditation process and the maintenance of the protected status of architects, and by an earnest desire to provide students with transferable and commodifiable design skills. The work in this volume is the result of the decision to directly confront this spectre of utopia, in the architectural design studio led by Coleman at Newcastle University. It comprises work produced during and following the academic year 2016/17, by students in either the first or second year of the Master of Architecture programme. As can be seen in the texts and images produced by the students within this studio, this attempt to rehabilitate of the notion of utopia demonstrates its utility as a critical and vital space for architectural designers. Consideration of utopia offers us the opportunity to extend the prospective horizon of architectural design, to dwell in the possibilities it holds to communicate and contribute towards better ways of being. 2
As can be read in all the texts, there was an initial reluctance by the students to self-identify as utopian, founded on their predominantly negative preconceptions of utopia. In order to develop these projects, the students engaged in a careful process of personal reflection, addressing their own internalised preconceptions. A common supporting voice in this process is the work of Frederic Jameson (2005) and his delineation of the duality of utopian thought. His distinction between the ‘utopian programme’ and the ‘utopian impulse’, between the totalising proposal and the intention towards social improvement, provides a way to differentiate the architectural vision from the architectural desire. While the projects in this volume express a utopian desire for social improvement, they resist the establishment of totalising architectural visions, rather they reflect David Harvey’s conception of dialectical utopia (Harvey, 2000). As described by Coleman in the project brief for The Rhythmanalysis of Concrete Utopias contained in this volume, they produce “spatial closure to establish settings for open ended social processes”. In doing so they demonstrate an attentiveness to the overwhelming complexity and diversity of human desire and human suffering, and strive to avoid the associated arrogance of an individual who might claim to answer both. These projects go on to question how to design for the ‘spatial closure’ of dialectical utopias, and, in their common desire to develop an architecture which is neither dictatorial nor exclusionary, they reassert the potential for architecture to act as a framework for individual or communal self-fulfillment. In doing so they embrace the radical potential of utopian thought to question the role of the architect in the design process, and the role of architecture within capitalist spatial practice. They take on the challenge described by Ruth Levitas, that “the designation of utopia as a space for the education of desire underlines the point that the imagination of society otherwise involves imagining ourselves otherwise” (Levitas, 2005: 20). This need to ‘imagine ourselves otherwise’ is directly extrapolated by Alexandra Carausu in ‘A Digital Cemetery in a Transhumanist Future’. 3
EDITORIAL: ON CONCRETE UTOPIAS
Carusu posits that the impossibility of utopia in the traditional sense is due to the present human condition. Rather than propose a contingent or fragmentary utopia for the present, she considers the utopian possibility of a digital space for humans who have transcended our present corporeal state.
As well as re-imagining humanity, some of these projects reflect on the need to reimagine the role of the architect, considering Alexandra Carausu the skills and position held by architects and ‘A Digital Cemetery in a Transhum questioning how these might be used to encourage their imagined inhabitants to explore their own spatial creativity. This utopian desire fundamentally counters the idea of the built environment as a commodity product. Rather than a singular output, architectural design becomes a sustained dialogue, a process at the service of those who inhabit it. This is apparent in the work of Sophie Baldwin, in ‘The Liberated Housing De Eendracht’, where the role of the architect is radically reconsidered and placed at the service of the imagined occupants of the housing project. Baldwin has developed a design and construction methodology to facilitate individual self-expression, in direct challenge to the repetitious and deterministic existing building. This desire to facilitate self-expression is echoed in Jess Goodwin’s ‘The Groothandelsgebouw: A Socialist Perspective’. Goodwin’s proposal develops from a consideration of the scale of this vast building, and the void that it creates within the city, spatially, socially, and morally. It breaks down this block to a scale where the individual can intervene, establishing sites for non-productive inhabitation or play, and creates a space to confront the building’s implicit support of dominant capitalist spatial practices.
Jess Goodwin ‘The Groothandelsgebouw: A So 4
The Spectres of Utopia and Modernism brief addressed by the first year MArch students required them to situate their proposals within an existing building in Rotterdam. By comparison, The Rhythmanalysis of Concrete Utopias brief which was addressed by the second year MArch students, operated on the larger scale of the urban realm. Across both briefs, the engagement with an existing building or city offered no decisive break from the morass of history which has proceeded them, or from the previous visions for an improved society embedded within these environments.
Rather, by confronting and engaging with these historic fragments of utopian intent, these projects engage in the creation of a reflexive and accumulative utopianism.
Sophie Baldwin erated Housing De Eendracht’
The layers of original intent, compromised realisation, and subsequent reinterpretation are made visible. They demonstrate a process of incremental improvement, and appear to reflect Angelika Bammer’s desire “to replace the idea of ‘a utopia’ as something fixed, a form to be fleshed out, with the idea of ‘the utopian’ as an approach toward” (1991: 7). The impact of the ideology of an existing site is particularly appreciable in the projects which address the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam. Alex Blanchard excavates the layers of authorial and architectural intent which underpinned the design and construction, in ‘Van Nelle Technê Fabriek’. This project traces the alienating spatial layout of the factory and the implicit subservience of the worker to the means of production back to the functionalist school within the Bauhaus, and sets this against the lofty spiritual intentions of the building’s architect. Blanchard proposes a corrective, drawing on the alternative spiritualist school within the Bauhaus to develop a Theosophic monastery and synesthetic discothèque, 5
EDITORIAL: ON CONCRETE UTOPIAS
creating a site for spatial transcendence which elevates the individual rather than place him in the service of the machine. By comparison, the Van Nelle’s UNESCO world heritage listing is addressed in Robert Douglas’ project ‘Disrupting the Order of the Van Nelle Factory.’ Here, the preservationist intent of listing is reinterpreted as a stultifying limit on its social function, as the desire to protect the building as object destroys the building as inhabited place. In response, Douglas proposes a violation of the UNESCO protection, and the creation of a central ruin within the building which allows it to be enlivened and occupied. James Anderson’s project, ‘The Van Nelle Fabriek Museum’, also addresses the UNESCO listing. However, Anderson draws out the conceptual disjunction within the listing process between preservation of fabric without preservation of function, by proposing a heightened attentiveness to material conservation. The proposed fetishising of specific elements requires the destruction of elements outside the limits of the frame, subverting the desire to preserve and redressing the perception of listing processes as ideologically neutral.
This attention to authorial desire ensures that none of the existing sites are dismissed as being ideologically neutral. Rather, each project engages undertakes critical research into the intentions which underpinned their creation, utilising the archaeological mode of utopian thought as delineated by Levitas (2013). They examine these buildings as fragments of a model of the good society, from which they then draw out the ideology of their designers and clients. In exposing the ideological positions of these existing buildings each of these projects is prompted to define its own critical counter-position, allowing these new propositions to enter into a dialogue or a debate with these existing spaces.
Robert Douglas ‘Disrupting the Order of the Va
The projects which are sited in the Groothandelsgebouw shopping center, demonstrate this development of a critical counter position. Adam Hill’s project, ‘Remembering Rotterdam’ addresses the internal condition of the Groothandelsgebouw and the sense of disorientation and dislocation created. It theorises on the perpetual present established by the spaces of post-modernity, and posits that this might be challenged though the Alex Blanchard insertion of a documentary film archive, woven ‘Van Nelle Technê Fabriek’’ into and disrupting the existing building layout. In this way, the project establishes pockets of social and communal memory, enclaves which counteract the existing building’s disavowal of social complexity. Similarly, Adel Kamashki’s project ‘A Shelter to Reflect’ considers the Groothandelsgebouw as a fortress of capitalist consumption. But, rather than breaking down the imposing building façade, Adel Kamashki repurposes the building as a defensive space to shelter vulnerable communities, thus subverting the power structures implied by this dominant form.
an Nelle Factory’
It is notable that even in these projects, where the ideological position of the proposal is diametrically opposed to that which is currently manifest, there is no wholescale demolition of the existing structure. These projects use interventions and strategic demolitions as a form of architectural critique, to redress perceived ideological failures through the adjustment of the material fabric of the building.
In this way, these projects engage in an ongoing spatial dialogue, between and across theory and design work, developing their own ideological argument through the making of an architectural response. This process James Anderson of architectural design is directly addressed ‘The Van Nelle Fabriek Museum’ by David Boyd in ‘The Draughtsman’s 7
EDITORIAL: ON CONCRETE UTOPIAS
Quietus: Methodologies Towards a Counter Architecture’. By moving between VR and hand-drawing techniques, Boyd examines the impact of standardisation, in both processes of representation and material construction. Boyd uses this dialectic process of design development to explore the limits of CAD technologies as a system of mass-production that potentially restricts spatial vibrancy and reflect on the impact technological change has on the remaking of architectural thought. Adam Hill ‘Remembering Rotterdam’ The process of design development allows for each iteration to radically reshape the work which had preceded it and redirect the course of the project. In doing so, the projects extend the accumulated layers of meaning that were revealed in the ‘archaeological’ analysis of the existing sites. The cumulative nature of this approach is entirely in keeping with the critical utopianism of the studio, in that it fundamentally challenges the perception of architectural design as the production of a singular object. It resists the notion of architecture as commodity by establishing the process of critical reflection, through drawing and making, as the product of the studio. These projects are the result of a continual process of production and reflection, a movement between image and text, a layering of preceding iterations and interpretations.
The layout of this volume attends to this simultaneity by displaying images and texts alongside and between one another, and by gathering these projects together as part of a continuing conversation. This volume is also an invitation to engage in the development of the dialogues established by these projects, and subsequent issues will invite further critical readings. In this way, it is hoped that this volume will facilitate further reflection on these projects through Jameson’s definition of utopian thought David Boyd ‘The Draughtsman’s Quietus’ as an education of desire.
I believe that each of these projects demonstrates a very personal education of desire, establishing contingent and reflexive arguments for the potential of architectural design, and prompting individual designers to explore architecture’s utopian intent. But they are also an education in desire, in the necessity of acknowledging that the practice of architecture is never ideologically neutral. These projects expose the potential complicity of architecture to reinforce dominant systems of production when entrenched ideological positions are disregarded or overlooked. They act as a call to designers, to enter into a dialogue regarding the ideological position of design and to define the desire that drives architectural practice. In their application of this process these projects demonstrate that architectural works which strive for social improvement, that are inherently utopian, can also be insightful, rigorous and determined.
Adel Kamashki ‘A Shelter to Reflect’
Bammer, A. (1991) Partial Visions: Feminism and Utopianism in the 1970s. Abingdon: Routledge. Coleman, N. (2017) Modern Architecture and the Peculiar Adventure of Utopia. Betonart. vol 52, pp.12–19. Galeano, E. quoted in Lopez, M. A. (2013) Invisible Women. Bloomington: Palibrio. Harvey, D. (2000) Spaces of Hope. Berkley: University of California Press. Jameson, F. (2005) Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. New York: Verso. Levitas, R. (2013) Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
CITIES AND BUILDIN EDUCATING UTOPI Educating Desire: Pedagogy & Utopia Note: This paper was originally delivered as part of the Educating Desire panel at the 2015 Utopian Studies Society conference in Newcastle. In the long shadow of architectural and urban failures attributed to the supposed utopian project of modernism and its city that became inescapable during the great post World War II period of reconstruction, the immense intellectual effort subsequently expended on expelling ideas of social and political transformation from architecture theory and design, in education and professional practise alike, will come as no surprise. But bereft of social and political imaginaries of its vocation, architecture is Perhaps, but given emptied of nearly everything that makes it utopiaâ€™s bad reputation, significant. In this moment, utopia emerges the nearly insurmountable as the most propitious method for returning architectureâ€™s purpose to itself. challenge is: how might students of architecture (and cognatedisciplines) be persuaded to at least explore the generative prospects of utopia for enriching architectural imagination in the invention of suitable environments for human being in all of its complexity? For more than a decade, I have been exploring with my students how utopia can inform the elaboration of developing practises, as well as modes of reflection on existing ones, to begin charting avenues for exceeding the significant limitations placed upon architectural imagination by present conditions, including the spatial practises of global capitalism in the production of space in its own image, aligned with the totalising perspectives of the neoliberal project. The greatest obstacle in drawing students toward utopia is not so much problems of definition, significant as they may be, but overcoming utopia anxiety, which is pervasive. 10
NATHANIEL COLEMAN What follows is drawn from my most recent experiences in utopia education as developed in architecture design studio modules. Although I also chart a course through the devaluation and recuperation of utopia in seminars as well, I have recently discussed that in a contribution to the 2012 special issue of Utopian Studies on Education (Volume 23, Number 2, 2012 pp. 314-351), so will here focus on a MArch stage 5 design studio I ran during the semester just past. It is not without significance that almost all first and second degree architecture students we now teach and have been since around 2005 will have been born just before or after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), the disarray of the European Left that followed (highlighted by the dissolution of the Italian Communist Party, PCI, in 1991), and the rise of New Labour in the United Kingdom, highlighted by Tony Blair becoming Prime Minister in 1997 (and remaining so until 2007).The seeds of the apparent closure, or closing, of other possibilities these milestones chart begin much earlier with Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister in the UK (1979-1990) and the election of Ronald Reagan as US president (1981-1989). In a sense, the ensuing 36 years since Thatcher first became prime minister could be described as paralleling, the emergence of a consciousness in which there really is ‘no alternative’ to the Neoliberal project and global capitalism, in any sense: socially, politically, economically, or spatially. Of course the conviction that total closure of this sort is as natural as sunset follows sunrise is nonsense. So long as there is life there is hope, and with hope comes the seeds of subversion and transformation. But try convincing a 18 – 30 year old of that, especially if they have come of age during the so-called ‘years of austerity’ since the purported ‘banking crisis’ of 2008. For many of these students, it really can seem that there is but one route. Quite a different situation from the one in which Cold War babies such as myself grew up in. 11
CITIES AND BUILDINGS: EDUCATING UTOPIA
From an Anglo-American Western perspective, one of the great paradoxes of the inflated estimation of the Communist threat emanating from Soviet Russia and the People’s Republic of China, from the immediate Post World War II years until 1989, is that, however questionable or undesirable they may have been, it really did seem like there were alternatives; competing forms of consciousness that opened up spaces for yet more possible alternatives. With the above in mind, the utopia anxiety of architecture students, from the UK, Europe, and the US, but also from China, must be acknowledged as a real condition, with a discernable etiology and a grim prognosis. Although as risky as unwelcome in insecure times dominated by the mantra of skilling students for the world of work, In view of this, the biggest question is how a consciousness the real job of architecture education might be raised in such a way is facilitating the raising of student that this process is facilitated consciousness’s so that the possibility of rather than dictated? alternatives – beyond novel form making – can be imagined as real. While I cannot pretend to have a fully formed answer, one thing is for sure, system-building, or the assertion of an all-encompassing network of explanations, must be avoided, no matter how much pressure to do just the opposite is exerted from all directions on students, tutors and even entire schools. As the direct expression of power, of abstraction and of reductionism, the proposition of specific – supposedly ameliorating – results serve only to reproduce the already existing conditions of the status quo. While the refusal to chart any apparently foolproof course toward design success can be frustrating for architecture students, who understandably want to know how theories can be put to work, or can, at the very least, assist them in completing design tasks, it is precisely this reluctance to propose specific results that reintroduces utopian speculation as a method for inventing alternative to the problematic of architecture and the city. The best a tutor can do is sketch for students the basic principles, or suggestive outlines, of the sort of mental framework and atmosphere that could produce effective counter-projects, counter-proposals and counter-spaces. The specifics, however, are theirs to invent. 12
PROJECT BRIEF: SP UTOPIA AND MOD Edited brief for first year MArch architecture students Newcastle University, SAPL, academic year 2016 / 2017 This brief challenges students to embrace or exorcise the ghosts of modernism by investigating its indwelling traces in selected surviving examples of the heroic period of modern architecture from the 1920s and 1930s, and in projects from the apex of modernist architectureâ€™s period of greatest orthodoxy during the immediate post-World War II period from 1945-1960. As they develop their individual projects, students in this studio are challenged to consider whether or not the study building theyâ€™ve selected (see options below) harbours not only the ghosts of modernity and modernist architecture but are also hosts of the spectre of utopia that has struck fear into the hearts of architects (and others) since at least the1950s. In performing this enquiry, students are encouraged to confront their own utopia-anxiety as directly as they can. Spectre is an interesting word, perhaps conjuring up in the first instance the fictional global terrorist organisation Spectre (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) that features in James Bond novels and films; including providing the title of the most recent Bond film â€“ Spectre. However, spectre is more nuanced than the threat; menace; shadow; danger; or worry it most often suggests. The various meanings of spectre also include possibility and anticipation. Even if it is the menacing anticipation of some worrying danger that is largely associated with spectre, it could always go otherwise. Indeed, anticipation and possibility inevitably also harbour the opposite of what is feared, something like the possible-impossible that so intrigued French sociologist Henri Lefebvre. Thus, two of the key topics of for investigation in this project are the ghosts of modernism (friendly like Casper, or menacing like the ones in A Christmas Carol, who, by the way, foretell doom as much as they point toward the horizons of other possibilities), and the spectre of utopia, as simultaneously harbouring the potential for tragedy and the promise of better ways of being. 14
PECTRES OF DERNISM
NATHANIEL COLEMAN Rotterdam and Koolhaas Rotterdam is a particularly apt setting for hunting the ghosts of modernism and the spectres of utopia, not least because the near total destruction of the city centre by German bombers in 1940 was inevitably followed by its near complete reconstruction after the War. In this way, Rotterdam is an extremely modern city with paradoxically deep historic roots. Another reason why Rotterdam is a fitting setting for hunting the ghosts of modernism and the spectres of utopia is its association with Rem Koolhaas / OMA. Not least because Koolhaas was born in the city on 17 November 1944, so his earliest memories of the urban milieu will have been of a void; historical and architectural. It is not unreasonable to imagine that his experience of the near total devastation of the city and its near total rebuilding would have forged an association of both with liberation and peace, suggestive of the dispassionate opportunism that characterises his personality and work alike. One imagines Koolhaasâ€™ childhood memories of his voided hometown likely has much to do with the fantasies of tabula rasa urbanism that so excite him and characterise the work of his studio. His carnivorous approach to modernism (and to utopia as well), at the root of his cultivated opportunism, seems a fitting tribute to his city in ruins; emptied of almost any remnant of traditional urbanism. And yet, even more tangibly, Koolhaas arguably more profoundly embodies the return of the repressed desires of modernism and utopia, than almost any other contemporary architect, no matter how intensely he might deny utopia and caricature modernism, in an effort to banish both from his works and psyche alike.
PROJECT BRIEF: SPECTRES OF UTOPIA AND MODERNISM
Carlo Scarpa, Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, Italy. Photo: Nathaniel Coleman 16
NATHANIEL COLEMAN Tracking the Ghosts of Modernity & the Spectres of Utopia Amongst the most promising ways of tracking the ghosts of modernism and the spectres of utopia is to make very close readings of the details and material assemblies of relevant works of heroic modernist architecture and orthodox modernist architecture alike. Ultimately, the aim of this studio is to explore the possibility of resuscitating modernism, modernity and utopia alike. Not just any modernity and not just any utopia however. Indeed, it is the modernity of the ‘Great Gang’ identified by Aldo van Eyck (encouraged by his association with Carola Giedion-Welcker). Members of this gang represented not the spent modernity of technocratic excess − of the sort that casts a constant shadow over our every breathing moment today − but rather the modernity of near infinite possibilities and a belief in the real possibility of re-enchanting the world. Equally, the utopia under consideration here is not the caricatured catastrophic totalising and blueprint utopia of convention and its critics, including Karl Popper and Colin Rowe, for example, but is rather utopia as method, in particular engaged in cultivating desires for better ways of being. Students will select a building from a shortlist and the initial challenge is to develop an understanding of it through its details and material assemblies, against a developing critical-historical understanding of the theories and practises of modernism. Students in this studio should think of their individual interventions as ‘aliens’ inhabiting and suffusing the original. The host becomes one with the organism that invades it and ultimately subsumes it. A more strictly architectural expression of this can be found in the work of Carlo Scarpa, most explicitly in the Museo di Castelvecchio (Verona, Italy), in which Scarpa’s reinvention through intervention of the existing – already much transformed – building suffuses it by becoming one with it, consuming but also highlighting remnants of the many phases and stages of the ‘original’, so that simultaneous moments in the life of the building show through all at once.
THE VAN NELLE FABRIEK MUSEUM
JAMES ANDERSON My conception of the notion of utopia has expanded and developed through working on this project. Before beginning, I believed utopia to have a fixed and limiting definition; as categorically unachievable. Utopia, to me, was a comprehensive system under which every living person has an excellent quality of life, is happy and is satisfied with the world around them. This conception denies the possibility of change. Any new development of ideas or technologies would prove this perfection to be false, as conditions prior to them could not have constituted a utopia. Similarly, a society which denies or limits development and improvement could not be considered ideal. I therefore believed utopia to be intrinsically static, as unachievable as it is undesirable. Having completed this project, I no longer define utopia so rigidly. I have come to see utopia as a spectrum; at one end unobtainable perfect utopia, at the other, dystopia; the worst of all possible conditions. However, considerations of what utopia might be, does appear to have the capacity to bring about improvements for all, by moving society closer to some perfect but unrealisable ideal.
THE VAN NELLE FABRIEK MUSEUM
In choosing a site for my exploration of modernity and utopia, I chose the Van Nelle Fabriek in Rotterdam. I selected this building for the simple reason that I loved it. I had never before seen such a clear expression of the ideals of modernism and functionalism. After visiting the building, I became obsessed with this factory and what it stood for. The refinement and order to the Van Nell brought to mind the Plan Voisin (Le Corbusier, 1987). It reminded me of the modernist ‘utopian’ dream of Le Corbusier and his contemporaries, and I admired the notion that life could be improved for everyone through good urban design. Functionalist modernity, as developed in the Van Nelle Fabriek, is expressed in the form of the factory, its material technologies, and by the patterns of its original use. It utilises innovative construction methods, reflecting the intention that it be a factory for the future, able to accommodate future technological developments. The factory was designed to express its functions while being able to change as needed. Unfortunately, its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site has frozen its development in a particular – idealised – moment in time, confirming its now defunct functionality. Thus, the restrictions placed upon the factory by UNESCO has actually suppressed the very modernity for which it is celebrated. In particular, the new functions associated with conservation are now hidden, rather than expressed, counter to its original functionalist aims: new uses are carefully fitted into the existing space to ensure that no change, however potentially enlivening, is made. My intervention facilitates an exaggerated version of UNESCO’s strict control of the building’s heritage status, through creation of a ‘Van Nelle Fabriek Museum’. It is a visitor museum where the exhibits are the parts of the Van Nelle Fabriek that UNESCO deems worthy of World Heritage Status, making 20
JAMES ANDERSON a museum of itself, thereby doubly alienating it from its original purpose and psycho-social, spiritual, aims. The significance of the preserved elements is exaggerated by preserving them inside glass frames for future generations. Framing specific architectural elements in this way further emphasises the doubly alienating result of assigning the building World Heritage Status. By highlighting the irony of UNESCO’s preservation through exaggerated means, I have attempted to make explicit the building’s functional ethos and the lingering ghost of modernism it harbours. The utopian ideals of the co-owner of the Van Nelle Company, Kees van der Leeuw, are evident in the design. He improved the factory by providing washbasins for hygiene, with light and airy workspaces to improve morale ad productivity. While this intention was undermined by the intrinsic de-individualisation of the worker through production line methods of manufacture, these design features demonstrate that Leeuw was inspired to make worker’s lives in the factory better. The utopian ideals of this project are tied to the apparently laudable intention to improve working conditions. Leeuw’s desire for improvement was grounded in his theosophical beliefs. Indeed, some theosophical aspects were integrated into the design of the factory. Theosophical belief did not influence specific architectural elements as such, but it influenced the design as a whole; 21
THE VAN NELLE FABRIEK MUSEUM
the order and formality expressed in the functionalism is a reflection of the order within theosophical belief, while the theosophists moral obligation can be observed in the aspiration to improve working conditions though good design. Apart from the lingering diagram of the production process still visible, most evidence of the reforming impulses of architect and client have subsequently been compromised by the repurposing of the building to house fragmented incubator spaces, on an office work model, that is at odds with the original – productive and spiritual – purpose of the factory. These still visible fragments of consideration for worker’s welfare testify to the building’s lost ideals, most significantly as reflections of the architect and owner’s theosophical belief. These remnants are also a spectre of utopia haunting the building. In my project, I propose the partial destruction of parts of the Van Nelle Fabriek to facilitate the framing of elements of the building as a Museum of itself, while providing a functioning museum environment. Doing so is intended also to call attention to the contradiction between the theosophical utopian ideals designed into the Factory and the inevitable dehumanisation of a workforce disciplined to the production line process of manufacturing, visible in nearly every aspect of the building, for which it is best known.
To develop my approach, I studied a column in detail. These tall octagonal concrete prisms are fitted with grooves on four sides; formed in this way to permit flexibility, as elements could be clipped into them and removed. This reflects the architect and client’s intention to ‘future proof ’ the design, allowing for machinery to be removed and replaced when it became obsolete.
The large floor plates provided by the innovative fluted column tops also allowed for much larger machinery to be used if necessary. Architect of the factory, Leendert van der Vlugt, wanted the Van Nelle to meet his theosophical moral obligation by improving working conditions for factory workers, something he believed could be brought about through modernism and functionalism.
These columns embody the spectre of utopia in the Van Nelle, the disparity between their design intention and current state the ‘future proof’ design now supporting Wi-Fi routers at regular intervals. J. G. Wiebenga, a civil engineer who worked closely with Leendert, manifested this understanding of modernism and functionalism through the deployment of new technologies, such as the reinforced concrete mushroom columns that made it possible to construct the Van Nelle as envisioned. This factory design was not a selfless act, it was ultimately a machine for producing goods sold at a profit. Nevertheless, it did bring about working conditions comparably better than similar sized factories at the time. Even so, workers remained ‘cogs in the machine’ of production. 23
THE VAN NELLE FABRIEK MUSEUM
The design of the factory facilitated control over all aspects of the workers’ lives during working hours. Everything from the separation of male from female employees, to establishing means of unbroken observation, to ensure that labourers were working satisfactorily.
In developing my project, Rem Koolhaas’ redefinition of preservation, as developed in his essay Preservation is Overtaking Us (2014), has informed my understanding of the preservation apparently required by UNESCO’s World Heritage Status. Koolhaas’ proposal for the Riga National Museum of Art, for example, changes almost every aspect of an existing power station, yet can still be considered as preserving it. An extension, half the façade’s height wraps the building and changes its appearance, but this encasing ensures the physical structure remains intact. Koolhaas describes the project as “architecture posing as preservation” (2014), as the building’s preservation was, according to OMA, merely a by-product of
the architectural design. The cultural significance of the power station has, at least in part, been established by the decision to preserve. Through OMA’s work, I was directed to Mikhailovskii’s conception that the sensation of cultural experience is derived from the framing of architecture, as opposed to the architecture itself (Mikhailovskii, 2011, as cited in Otero-Pailos, 2014). Through these works, I have been able to appreciate that the act of framing as an act of preservation is never neutral. During this process of research, the contradictions between theosophical ideals of spiritual enlightenment and their depersonalising realisation in the production line significantly altered my personal valuing of the ideas which underpinned the building, and the ideal future it supposedly heralded. I was conflicted: a part of me admired the perfect preservation of the factory, yet I am dissatisfied with the restrictions placed on possible re-imaginings of it by UNESCO. This process appeared to disconnect the building from its modernist ideals through its attempts to preserve the modernist details. In my view, a carefully considered intervention that largely preserves the factory but is not invisible is required. In line with the building’s functionalist ethos the new use, be it office space or something else, should be expressed through the transformation of existing spaces adapted to suit new functions, according to the original utopian spirit of the building. In an effort to resolve my conflicting relationship to the Van Nelle as it is now, I opted for an approach which offers incremental improvement, rather than the radical perfection suggested by a utopian programme. The intervention proposed acknowledges the utopian and theosophical aspirations embodied in the construction and is respectful to the existing physical structure. Drawing on the notions of framing as a means to justify preservation, the proposal comprises framing of distinct elements within the factory, leaving the remaining space free to be usefully redeployed. The decisions regarding which aspects to frame were developed as an exaggeration of the restrictions placed on the building through the UNESCO World Heritage status, and the
THE VAN NELLE FABRIEK MUSEUM
ghosts of modernity which were the basis for this listing are made more apparent through the framing process. In this way, the process reflects Koolhaas’ concepts of preservation in architecture as a device for creating value, drawing out the modernist details which then justify their own preservation. I believe that this approach liberates the Van Nelle from UNESCO, while preserving its usefulness by allowing a new function to take shape within it, . Its new proposed function as a ‘museum’ is expressed through the framing systems deployed, the new spaces created throughout, and the shift in public perception that these create. In doing so, it is both physically preserved, and the embodied ideals of the Van Nelle as a functional space are preserved. All the elements outlined by UNESCO that qualify the Van Nelle Fabriek for World Heritage Status are brought into explicit relief by their framing in my proposal. These elements are reimagined as museum exhibits, each framed in its original location. These exhibits include a section of the modernist curtain wall, a column, a product bridge, and a selfclosing door, as well as a wash basin, which is an element representative of the theosophical intent to improve worker’s conditions. My intervention both does and doesn’t challenge the authorial intent of the original client and architect, depending how one interprets the repurposing of the Van Nelle as a museum of itself. It could be regarded as wholly respecting the authorial intent of the owner and architect, in the preservation and display of key elements of the original design, while simultaneously expressing its new use as a museum. Conversely, a museum entirely denies the original function of the Van Nelle Fabriek as a factory, not least by freezing the framed elements in time, disregarding their original function and rendering them redundant through their preservation and display, while working against the persisting structural necessity of some of these elements.
My proposal isn’t utopian, in that it does not embody a movement towards an ideal state, but it
JAMES ANDERSON allows for its imagined visitors to consider the utopian ideals expressed through functionalism and theosophy, the same utopian ideals that constituted the architect’s (and client’s) authorial intent. Prior to this project, I was certain that utopia is categorically unachievable, which I still believe. However, I can now see the benefits of designing for utopia. Imagining a perfect society allows architects and others to conceive of the steps between society today and a utopian ideal in the future. Acting on these ideas can bring about positive change. As a result of this project, I will now practice architecture more optimistically, considering it in the light of utopia, in order to continue developing my understanding of a means for creating architecture that has the potential to improve people’s lives. Architecture, like all mediums of cultural expression is inherently limited, it can never bring about utopia, but it can make utopian ideas concrete. Le Corbusier.(1987) The City of To-Morrow and its Planning. Trans. by Etchells, F. New York: Dover Publications Inc. Mikhailovskii, E. V. (2011) The Methods of Restoration Architectural Monuments: Contemporary Theoretical Conceptions. Future Anterior 8, no. 1, pp. 84–95. Otero-Pailos, J. (2014) Supplement to OMA’s Preservation Manifesto. In: Carver, J. Ed. Preservation is Overtaking Us, New York: Columbia University Press. Koolhaas, R. &Otero-Pailos, J. (2014) OMA’s Preservation Manifesto (Reconstructed from Fragmentary Evidence by Jorge Otero-Pailos). In: Carver, J. Ed. Preservation is Overtaking Us, New York: Columbia University Press
THE LIBERATED HO DE EENDRACHT
SOPHIE BALDWIN My project looked at the ‘Housing De Eendracht’, built in 1934 and designed by Architect J. H. Van Den Broek. Eendracht was designed at a time when housing was in high demand following WW1 and it embodies some of the principles of the functionalist approach of ‘existensminimum’. But it harbours the ghost of modernity most clearly within its physical structure. The concrete frame, which is reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Dom-Ino House, allows for large open spaces free of load bearing walls and a facade free from structural load. The authorial intent which underpins the Dom-Ino approach, that architecture should act as a facilitating structure helped to inform my design thesis for a new ‘facilitating’ housing system where design control is transferred to the individual. While it was designed under the shadow of a legislative drive towards the reduction in scale of housing, down to a liberating minimum which served the basics of existence, De Eendract embodies Broek’s utopian intent to improve both the social and living conditions of its inhabitants. 29
THE LIBERATED HOUSING: DE EENDRACHT
As described by Schneider and Till, Broek collaborated with architects and researchers Heinrich Leppla and Mart Stam, on the layout of the apartments (Schneider & Till, 2007). These reflect Leppla and Stam’s semiscientific study of family and use cycles within a dwelling according to different times of day.This led to the additional provision of doors within the design and the incorporation of sliding walls to theoretically allow for flexibility of use and spatial change according to individual need. The aim to improve the living conditions for the inhabitants can also be read in the design of a U-Shape block with a central courtyard. This helps to open the building out onto the adjacent street and park, strengthening the possible connection between the inhabitants and the wider community. This challenged the typical perimeter block construction which surrounds Eendracht. Broek’s scheme also attempts to encourage social interaction and collaboration in dedicated space for communal facilities on the ground floor, a shared courtyard, nursery and a shop. The original design of Eendracht thus incorporated utopian ideals both within its physical arrangement, and within its programme. Although the original design attempts to facilitate flexible living with greater opportunity for changing the space and social dynamics, the building fails to realise this notion. The ‘hard’ approach towards flexible design seems to reinforce the design presence of the architect on the space, with preconfigured ways of living exerting a form of ‘control’ over the inhabitant. This opposes the apparent utopian ideal which drove Broek, to create a truly flexible space, which is reliant on individual choice, expression and freedom. 30
Rather, a single pattern of occupation is replicated in the repeated floor plan, essentially providing only one basic configuration of space. Similarly, while the U-shape and courtyard begins to suggest the intentions of enhancing social interaction between inhabitants, the possibility for interaction between each unit internally is minimal. My proposal looks to build on the utopian intentions of the initial design, to create flexible and adaptable living with improved provisions for social interaction, intensified within the creation of a new housing community that allows for greater personal freedom. I have developed, a design and construction methodology which relinquishes control of an architect and transfers this to the occupant, based on the objective of individual empowerment, choice and personalisation. In this conception, the role of the architect becomes that of a facilitator of space, while the different forms of housing and changing social conditions become the architectural expression. Currently, Broekâ€™s design of Eendracht only allows for a single mode of inhabitation, based on a family of four, without consideration of different user needs, such as couples, individuals, the elderly, and those in need of care. As John Habraken states, the demands of the market and planning systems divides society into income groups and consequently, builds differently for them (Habraken, 1972). 31
THE LIBERATED HOUSING: DE EENDRACHT
This results in artificial segregation. Flexible, and self-initiated housing, could have the potential to challenge this sentiment and contribute to the diversity and viability of urban life. When considering my own utopian desire for housing design, I identified diversity and viability as a critical part of any ideal housing scheme. In this way, the consideration of the utopian ideal has helped to inform my design thesis. Throughout the project, I was largely inspired by the liberating works of John Habraken, Yona Friedman and Constant Nieuwenhuys, who challenge the homogeneity of mass housing (Friedman, 1975). Habraken, in particular argues that when the inhabitants are excluded from the design, the result is uniformity and rigidity. He stated that without the influence of inhabitants, professionals create inhumane cities. I read Habraken’s theories alongside Friedman’s framework of Ville Spatiale, a project which reflects Friedman’s utopian vision of user empowerment, and this led to my conception of a facilitating structure which allows the individual to design and construct their own home (Friedman, n.d.). In this way, my design aims further develop the ideals of flexibility and hence spatial and social diversity of Eendracht.The result is a new, self-built community. 32
It removes the role of the architect from a position of control, and instead establishes a new role for a designer as a facilitator.
Schneider, T. & Till, J. (2007) Flexible Housing. London, Routledge. Habraken, J. (1972) Supports: An Alternative to Mass Housing. New York: Praeger. Friedman, Y. (1975) Toward a Scientific Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press. Friedman, Y. (n.d.) Ville Spatiale [Online]. Netherlands: Yona Friedman. Available at: http://www.yonafriedman.nl/?page_id=78 (accessed 16.08.17). 33
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ALEX BLANCHARD At the start of the project I was sceptical of the notion of utopia, which I realised was due to the frequent labelling of post war housing projects as utopian, spaces I associated with ideas of social stigma and hubristic failure. My attitude towards utopia changed through the design studio’s exploration of utopia as a means to both imagine and strive for the impossible based on a projection from what is possible. I chose to work with the Van Nelle factory, which was designed in 1914 and subsequently constructed in the 1920s, following the first world war, to a slightly modified design. I was drawn to work with the factory by its strong formal representation of the driving forces and intentions behind its construction – be they scientific management, mass production, workers’ welfare and to some extent the designer and owner’s attempts to manifest the principles of theosophy in a factory. In 1914 when the first concepts for the factory were tabled, industrial production appeared to offer a brighter future for working populations, with opportunities for greater liberty for labourers. 35
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This belief was disabused by the outbreak of the First World War and the demonstration of the destructive potential of industrialised warfare. However, despite the shockwaves of the war (in which the Netherlands remained neutral) general faith in industrial production as a means to a better future remained, and the constructed design of the Van Nelle factory differed little from the initial design concept. However, the design of the factory was altered to explicitly reflect the production process of each of the three commodities â€“ tobacco, coffee and tea, as they moved through the facility. The raw materials were transported initially to the upper levels of the factory, they then progressed down through the floor levels using gravity to assist their transportation, undergoing refinement processes on each floor level until they were finally packed at ground level. The physical form and scale of the Van Nelle was determined by the operations it housed, which, in turn, were, informed by economic principles and the principles of scientific management.
The building design was also informed by the utopian intent of its designers, manifest in a desire that the building reflect theosophical principles. This intention was established by the owner, Kees van der Leeuw (1890-1973), and the architect, Johannes Brinkman, (1902-1949) both of whom were prominent members of the Order of the Rising Sun branch of Theosophy. The factory, constructed from concrete, steel and glass, was situated in green fields and provided light, well ventilated work spaces. The new building offered a vast improvement over the working conditions of earlier dark, cramped factory premises which were constructed from masonry and situated in the centre of Rotterdam.
In this, Van der Leeuw was something of a philanthropist who sought to provide good working conditions for his employees, including sports facilities and gardens on site. The spectre of utopia, the weight of alternative possibilities as well as the vision realised, is also present in the Van Nelle, as it embodies a delicate position between competing philosophies of design that were prevalent across Europe in the 1910’s and 1920’s. This can be easily overlooked, as the philosophy of scientific management and rational design which partly drove the conception of the Van Nelle, and which the constructed building in turn further propelled, is the one which became dominant in the following years. The significance of this building’s philosophical approach becomes apparent when considering the contemporaneous work of the Bauhaus School and the varied philosophies of its founders. In The Dark Side of the Bauhaus, Joseph Rykwert (1982) illustrates the philosophical splits between the early Bauhaus teachers: the rationalist designs of Theo van Doesburg (and later Walter Gropius) on the one hand, and the spiritualism of Johannes Itten, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky on the other. Of these three Klee and Kandinsky were theosophists, while Johannes Itten was a Zoroastrian. 37
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Wassily Kandinsky was also synaesthete – meaning that for him, sense impressions relating to one sense or part of the body were produced by stimulation of another sense or part of the body. For example, Kandinsky could hear colours and see music, which also echoed theosophical teaching. Theosophists believe that “wisdom cannot be enclosed within words” (Leeds Theosophical Society, n.d.). For Theosophists, “Divine Wisdom is One, the paths towards it are many.” For believers “it is a Truth which must be discovered and experienced by each one for themselves …sometimes known as the Ageless Wisdom, [Theosophy] is the Light which shines through the many coloured lamps of religion. It is the thread of truth in scriptures, creeds, symbols, myths and rituals” (Theosophical Society in England, n.d.). I think that Johannes Brinkman, the original architect of the Van Nelle, intended his design for the factory to,
demonstrate how a better future could be achieved by embracing the machine, and how a rational design approach could be used in service of a spiritual aim. However, I think these theosophical intentions were lost in practice and rather than elevating the individual search for wisdom, the workers were ultimately reduced to a part of the overall production machine of the factory; revealing scientific management as much stronger utopian-thematic in the project. The architects, theorists, and artists who have most informed my analysis of the Van Nelle factory are Marcel Duchamp, Rem Koolhaas and John Hejduk. In developing my project, I became increasingly interested in French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s discussions with Francesco Proto (2003) as to whether a Duchamp-like figure has existed for architecture. This inspired me to explore the implications of this question and eventually led me to the work of Koolhaas and Hejduk. I initially analysed the Van Nelle factory through ‘Tell-the-Tale Detail’, following the work of Marco Frascari (1996) who argues that: 38
a detail should embody the whole, it should have narrative content and tell a story – about how architecture is, or about how the world is or should be. I first researched Marcel Duchamp’s work in relation to what I considered one of the key ‘Tell-the-Tale Detail’ of the Van Nelle factory: the corrupted grid. In 1929, as the Van Nelle factory was under construction, the impact of the Great Depression required a change of design.The dispatch building, which was initially projected to reach the same height as the main factory building, was downscaled because of the reduction in turnover. This necessitated the installation of transportation bridges from the third floor of one wing to the third and fifth floors of another, and from the second to the first floors of the production zones. The bridges were intended as a temporary measure to be removed once the economy improved and the dispatch building could be extended upwards to its originally planned full height. However, these plans did not come to fruition and the diagonal bridges remained; quickly becoming a signature architectural feature of the factory, used in marketing and branding material. In this way, the scientific management is evident in the degree to which the volumes of each manufacturing segment of the factory was shaped by production processes, worker efficiency, economic forces, and product demand. For example; tobacco production occupied the largest wing of the factory, followed by coffee and tea. The diagonal transport bridges create a rupture in the regular orthogonal grid structure of the factory and the other two buildings comprising the complex, and can be read as a subversion of rationalism the building was meant to embody, caused by the irrationalism of changing economic situations. 39
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This study became a catalyst for my project thesis, informed by my reading of utopia. Utopia as a method is defined by Lefebvre as a striving for something other, the projection of something possible to achieve that only appears impossible in the present moment. In my project, I argue that when this is considered in geometrical (or architectural) terms it can be translated to a shifting of the gaze beyond the image screen to the prospective horizon, as illustrated by Jacques Lacan’s Diagram of the Gaze (1973) which explores the duality of the embodied and abstracted notations of vision and perspective. Lacan’s diagram led me to Marcel Duchamp, who spent much of his art career exploring these rules of monocular and binocular perspective. As discussed by Haralambidou (2013) in her analysis of Duchamp’s work, monocular perspective can be characterised as an empirical reduction of human vision based on a rational scientific point of view, whilst binocular vision reflects the truth of the human condition and its potential for ambiguity, as celebrated during the Baroque period through studies in anamorphism. Architectural practice revolves around a perspective hinge, and the reduction of observed phenomena through a singular point of perspective, or through orthographic projection, all of which establish a significant point within the design process. For Pérez-Gómez and Pelletier (1997); But this apparent fixing of a conception of space in the rigid the creation of perspectival representation framework of perspective or acts as a moment of translation from projection, belies its potential imagination to drawing, from ambiguity for subversion at each stage. to apparent rationality.
In Mass Identity Architecture, Baudrillard (2006) wonders as to whether a Duchamp-like figure has ever existed for architecture. I posit that this question could be addressed using Baudrillard’s notion of hyperreal architecture, which provides a means for shifting the consideration of architecture beyond that of the rational represented object towards readings of its deeper context, engaging with Duchamp’s ambiguity of spiritual or metaphysical impact (Baudrillard & Nouvel, 2005). This notion led me to the second phase of my project, in which I engaged in a paranoid critical reading of the Van Nelle Factory. This method was established by Salvador Dali in the 1920’s and can be defined as conscious exploitation of the unconscious. Partly inspired by Dali, the architect Rem Koolhaas (1978) utilised the paranoid critical method as he developed a retroactive manifesto for Manhattan. Koolhaas describes it as “a delirium of interpretation. Each fact. event, force, observation is caught in one system of speculation and understood by the afflicted individual in such a way that it absolutely confirms and reinforces his thesis” (1978: 238). I was inspired by Jean Baudrillard to seek a Duchamp for architecture and to this end undertook a paranoid critical reading of the factory as a way of considering: the meaning behind the building and its historical context, seeking an allegorical At this stage of the response to the findings derived from a project John Hejduk’s work delirium of interpretation. (1993) was highly influential, as an architect who deconstructs historical meaning and reconstructs it layer by layer through repetition of symbolism and iconography to form an allegory. 41
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The reading I took of the Van Nelle factory informed an architectural scenario in which I draw on the split in philosophies present during the early days of the Bauhaus, and reengaged with
the repressed spiritual approach which had informed the design intent of the factory. In developing my project, I lift my gaze from the present day to establish a potential or hypothetical future for the Van Nelle, where the US president withdraws funding from the UN, eventually resulting in the dissolution of UNESCO. As vacant space becomes available in the center of Rotterdam, businesses move into newly constructed clones of Koolhaas / OMAâ€™s De Rotterdam comple
The Van Nelle is simultaneously abandoned and stripped of its UNESCO listing as a heritage asset, so is made available for purchase. At the same time, a new World Teacher has emerged and has taken lead of the Theosophical Society. They set out to
acquire the Van Nellefabriek to re-align it with the early theosophical ambitions of Kees van der Leeuw and Johannes Brinkman, to realise the intentions which were subverted by scientific management and capitalism. The neotheosophical society sets out to construct a monastery derived from the fabric of the Van Nelle, re-aligning the building with the notions of spirituality and the occult proclivities that were present in the early days of modernism through deconstruction and re-assemblage of the building. They release the ‘ghost’ of Duchamp, inserted into the fabric of the Van Nelle as a virus, to shift the rational modernist gaze back towards the ambiguous. The virus spreads from the initial rupture of the grid and transcends mediums to redefine grid, form, materiality and programme of the Van Nelle.
The monastery seeks to correct the divisions of labour, production, and consumption imposed by capitalism, with a return to Johannes Itten’s conviction that the whole personality must be involved in the work. The monastery will promote kinaesthetic learning to promote synaesthesia – a neo theosophical mode of transcendence. The continual process of re-construction will involve the mind, body, senses, memory, and unconscious urges and will catalyse transcendence for the monks and visitors, becoming a factory for craftsmanship (techné) ‘The Van Nelle Technê Fabriek’. The three existing wings of the building: formerly tobacco, coffee and tea production, will be repurposed to form a synaesthetic discothèque, arts space, and accommodation wing. Neo-theosophical monks in permanent residence will be joined by visiting artists and philosophers, and pilgrims who travel to attend club nights. The Synaesthetic Discothèque is proposed as a landscape that deconstructs the critical history of the Van Nellefabriek by curating alternative narratives using spatial, perspectival and sensory means. The workshop and studio facilities will be utilised by residential monks and artists to design, construct and maintain peephole exhibits that provide glimpses into selected perspectives and narratives of the building’s past, present, and future. The discothèque takes the form of a main dance hall space with threshold pods situated in the midst of the crowd at the main stage. Intoxicated pilgrims who find their way into the threshold pods are led along a route which transgresses the stage, stepping beyond the image screen, into a labyrinthine series of spaces which rise up through the floors. Each of these deconstructs and disrupts the material fabric of the Van Nelle as well as subverting and transgressing against its rational spatial organisation. 43
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The Synaesthetic DiscothĂ¨que is supported by the art production and accommodation wings. The art production wing provides a refectory at ground floor, workshop, studio spaces for private use and public classes, and a library to the upper floors. Sculpting and painting studios are differentiated by north east and south west positions in the plan. The accommodation wing provides a common room for ablutions at the ground floor, with a further two levels of individual rooms for both permanent and visiting monks and artists. A binocular chapel, the climax of the labyrinth series, is positioned atop the accommodation wing within a lightweight steel structure. Within this chapel those who have reached transcendence can witness the working of the binocular optics, whilst those who have yet to walk the path view only the projected image on a two-dimensional plane.
I believe that the utopian potential of the Van Nelle resides in its adaptable structure, which acts as a framework suitable for repurposing and deconstruction as a host for new uses.
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The intervention proposed by my project uses the building as a framework to be adapted according to reinterpreted material uses. This project explores how the clean rationalist architectural approach of orthodox modernism provides an ideal spatial configuration for industrial and economic systems which promote the division of labour and production. The Van Nelle factory, which could be seen as a temple to mechanised industry (and to capitalist and Taylorist production, and thus also, perhaps, to alienation – unintended or otherwise), went on to inspire architectural practice for a multitude of ‘rational’ building types through subsequent decades, even into the present.
My project brings this history into relief and imagines the realisation of its suppressed or alternative intent, in which labour is not divided, where the spiritual implications of architectural design are attended to as closely as the rational means of production, and people are empowered to self-build, to adapt, and to take ownership of space. My project stands as a challenge to the authorial intent of the original architect and client for the existing Van Nelle factory, achieved by seeking to reconcile the theosophical ambition of the architect and owner with the constructed building, which arguably failed to realise these ambitions. I was able to re-engage with these theosophical teachings through close reading of the history of modernism, which revealed how synaesthesia could be a mode of transcendence. My proposal consequently changed the use of the building from one grounded in the material production of goods, to one aimed at producing the conditions required for spiritual transcendence through the modern setting of a nightclub in which intensified sensory stimuli are deployed to promote synaesthesia.
The ‘Spectres of Modernity and Utopia’ design studio opened my eyes to the potential of theoretical projects as a medium through which we can imagine possible futures and alternative scenarios. As such, the studio follows the tradition established by Piranesi, where imaginary forms are made material through articulation as drawings. Ultimately, the studio has confirmed my desire to produce arts-based projects alongside commercial practice so that each may inform the other.
Baudrillard, J. (2006) Mass, Identity, Architecture: Architectural Writings of Jean Baudrillard. Ed. Proto, F. Chichester, England: Wiley-Academy. Baudrillard, J. & Nouvel, J. (2005) The Singular Objects of Architecture. Trans. by Bononno, R. United States: University of Minnesota Press. Frascari, M. (1996) The Tell the Tale Detail. In: Nesbitt, K. Ed. Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965 - 1995. New Haven: Princeton Architectural Press. Haralambidou, P. (2013) Marcel Duchamp and the Architecture of Desire (Design research in Architecture). Burlington, VT: Ashgate. Koolhaas, R. (1994) Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. New York: Monacelli Press. Lacan, J. (1978) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Trans. by Sheridan, A. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. Pérez Gómez, A. & Pelletier, L. (1997) Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Rykwert, J. (1982) The Necessity of Artifice: Ideas in Architecture. New York: Rizzoli. Leeds Theosophical Society (n.d.) About Theosophy [Online]. Leeds: Leeds Theosophical Society. Available at: http://www.ts-leeds.org.uk/content/abttheos. htm (accessed 03.08.17). Theosophical Society in England (n.d.) Welcome to the Theosophical Society in England [Online]. England: Theosophical Society in England. Available at: http:// theosophicalsociety.org.uk/ (accessed 03.08.17). Van den Bergh, W. (1993) Voiceless Reason, Silent Speech. In: Hejduk, J. Ed. Berlin Night. Rotterdam: Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi Uitgevers) 47
DISRUPTING THE O OF THE VAN NELLE
ORDER E FACTORY
ROBERT DOUGLAS My initial conceptual framing of the term utopia was that it represents an inherently idealist notion, aspirational to the point of absurdity, it describes an impossible society of perfect qualities. While I continue to believe that this conception of a perfect totalising and unchanging utopia cannot be achieved through this project I have come to appreciate that elements or fragments of an existing state or an existing process can be understood and described as utopian. When considering notions of utopia, I was drawn to work with the Van Nelle Factory, a former tea, coffee and tobacco factory in Rotterdam. This buildingâ€™s material embodiment of specific qualities of modernisation resonated with my critical understanding of modernism as an architectural movement, and provided an opportunity to closely examine both the material expression of this conception of modernism and its underlying utopian intent. My project undertakes a critique of modernist ideologies as demonstrated and enacted in the Van Nelle Factory, and examines whether the expression of these ideologies can be argued to have resulted in the failure of the building as a functional space. In my reading of the building I found that, 49
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rather than the clear expression of a single ideal apparent at first glance, it harbours the ghosts of several philosophical design approaches; cartesianism, scientific management, modernisation and theosophy. The project began with an investigation into the history of the Van Nelle, in particular identifying key individuals who influenced its initial design inception and subsequent management. Both the client, Kees Van der Leeuw and the architect Michael Brinkman were active theosophists, and claimed to be inspired by their theosophical beliefs to improve the lives of the workers in the factory through the creation of better physical working conditions. However, both the theory which determined their approach and the implementation of this ambition were flawed. Theosophy is intended to be a personal journey of spiritual enlightenment however, it also prescribes a single deterministic system which must be followed to achieve spiritual enlightenment. This imposition of a didactic system apparently contradicts the intended personal journey, which would seem better supported by a method developed through personal choice and individual direction. Similarly, the implementation of the client and architectâ€™s belief in theosophy was imposed upon the workers. They claimed that the building was designed to improve the life of the workers and they may well have been working towards that noble aim, however, beneath the veneer of theosophy, the building acts to support not the worker but the glorification of production. Kees Van der Leeuw had travelled to America to study scientific management and the building manifests his singular focus on notions of productivity. The workers were placed in Ford and Taylor inspired production line systems which treated them as no more than a part of the machine. These highly efficient systems reduced human complexities down to a single productive function, and stripped the workers of individual differences of opinions, needs or personalities. Van der Leeuwâ€™s implementation of these systems is central to all aspects of layout and design, and the result is a dehumanised building where production is supreme. 50
The building can thus be understood as diagram of production, this can be seen at the scale of the structure which follows a Cartesian grid, but is also apparent in the detail; the same glazing that claimed to liberate workers from proletarian despair is used in the walls of the toilet, so that the overseers could determine the amount of time workers spent there and observe what they were doing. Following this examination of the apparently utopian intent which underpinned this building, which was subsequently distorted in its totalitarian and dehumanised spatial expression, I looked at the contemporary legislation and systems of control which similarly prescribe and determine the potential for inhabitation of this building. In 2015, the building was granted world heritage status by UNESCO and subsequently UNESCO have effectively archived the building, suspending it in lifelessness. Despite its flaws, until 2015 the building had been an active space, responding to different patterns of occupation and change. A close reading of the Van Nellefabriek UNESCO Nomination File (Netherlands, 2013), reveals some critical flaws and apparent points of self-contradiction and hypocrisy.
The prescribed preservation approach has removed this ability to respond and develop, selecting a single moment in which to freeze the building, and erasing both its previous and its potential future iterations and incarnations.
Despite acknowledging that “in all aspects the Van Nelle Factory was in intended to be a factory of the future” and that it was “architecturally prepared for any changes or extensions” UNESCO has placed the preservation of the building in its current spatial configuration above the architectural intent and the building’s ability to change, both of which they claim to be celebrating and preserving. Their prescriptive tool for this preservation is however, fundamentally transforming the building, turning it into the strictly controlled ‘Van Nelle Design Factory’. 51
DISRUPTING THE ORDER OF THE VAN NELLE FACTORY
While there are new patterns of occupation and new groups of workers inside the building, they are hidden by UNESCO’s ‘box in a box’ solution. These commercial spaces allow the building to be economically viable without blemishing the external appearance or structural fabric, preserving the image of the building. The preservation document exercises tight control over these occupants, they are not allowed adapt their spaces, express themselves, or even choose their own furniture. As when the building was a factory, a singular, prescriptive philosophical approach has resulted in a building where occupants are overly controlled and subsequently dehumanised. This analysis led me towards a critique of the overlapping ideologies concurrently present and operating in the Van Nelle: -
Cartesianism and rational modernism, manifest in the functional expression of form
Theosophy, manifest in the small gestures towards better working conditions
Scientific management, manifest in the systems which prize efficiency over humanity
Taylorist production, manifest in the building as a diagram of production
An ideal of historical perfection, manifest in the preservation by UNESCO.
The resultant aim of the project was to disrupt these systems of order which determine and prescribe the modes of inhabitation of the Van Nelle, to liberate the building from these ideologies. It aspired to revive the building from its suspended state through the contravention of these controlling frameworks, demonstrably disregarded in a process of creative deconstruction.
I referred to Gordon Matta-Clark’s work regarding the creative potential of deconstruction to inform my approach (Matta-Clark, 2009). In particular, Matta-Clark’s belief that things die as they become formalised corresponded with my reading of the Van Nelle. His work releases new experiences of space through their destruction, through cutting and the creation of voids which act as new spaces and establish unanticipated connections. This encouraged me to spatially disrupt the order of the Van Nelle, to release it from its ideologies and allow for the creation of a new condition. In determining my methodological approach, I drew on Colin Rowe’s Collage City (Rowe, 1978) which similarly aims to liberate buildings from a
singular ideological framing. This led to the close consideration of Eisenmanâ€™s Wexner building, which is arguably an ideal expression of the Collage City method. Directly referencing both the Collage City method and its expression in Eisenmanâ€™s work, I overlaid and collided the plan of the Wexner building with the Van Nelle building in section to arbitrarily disrupt the functionalism of the building. As well as using forms from the Wexner plan to form stairs ways, lifts, service risers, light wells. This collision created new voids and masses in the building, fundamentally contradicting the linear rationale of the Cartesian grid. It establishes unexpected connections, primarily through a void through the middle of the building which projects out at either end. The intervention also alters the condition within the building for the occupant, it demonstrates a violent disobedience towards the systems of critical preservation which defined UNESCO control. In doing so it subverts the dominant ideologies of prescriptive behaviour and removes them from their position of power and control. In this way, it facilitates spaces of unexpected happening and possibility by re-establishing the agency of the inhabitant, permitting them to inhabit the space as they choose. Currently, the occupants are restricted to the centre of the floor plate to avoid being seen from the outside and marring the uninhabited perfection of the preserved building, the proposed central void 53
DISRUPTING THE ORDER OF THE VAN NELLE FACTORY
occupies this central space and encourages the occupants to recolonise the outer portion of the floor plate and goes onto extend this zone with a suspended steel structure. The void contains a stair which runs the length of the building, establishing a dark dramatic communal space in contrast to the existing building’s light, stratified floor plate. Light enters the void through cuts in the wall which follow forms from the collided Wexner plan, creating unexpected connections between the individual occupants’ space and the communal circulation. The ground floor is stripped of the façade and becomes an open flexible space which helps to bridge the current divide between people inside and outside of the building. While on the upper floors temporary and movable furniture can be locked into the existing T-junctions in the column octagonal columns, which will allow for the flexible reconfiguration of space determined by individual occupants. The alien structure aims to be deliberately disruptive in critique of the prescriptive ideologies and UNESCO’s archiving of the building, in making a ruin of the building it aspires to construct a new condition that enlivens the building and liberates it from the controlling spectre of dehumanised production. Studying the Van Nelle has revealed to me how much the experience of a building can be manipulated by its management, far beyond the control of the architect.
DISRUPTING THE ORDER OF THE VAN NELLE FACTORY
It has also raised questions for me about the value of archiving as a ubiquitous approach to heritage, without the critical examination of the philosophical and ideological implications of preservation. In physically preserving the Van Nelle, a significant modernist building is maintained as an abstract object, but the method by which it is conserved denies the use which created its value as a machine – “a machine is essentially the physical embodiment of a process which occurs in time. Once the machine stops moving it has no meaning” (Collins, 1965).
Collins, P. (1965) Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture: 1750-1950. London: Faber and Faber. Kingdom of the Netherlands. (2013) Van Nellefabriek Rotterdam Nomination File: Nomination by the Kingdom of the Netherlands for Inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Netherlands: Kingdom of the Netherlands. Rowe, C. (1978) Collage City. Cambridge: MIT Press. Matta-Clark, G. & Walker, S. (2009) Gordon Matta-Clark: Art, Architecture and the Attack on Modernism. London: I. B. Tauris. 57
THE GROOTHANDE A SOCIALIST PERSP
JESS GOODWIN Prior to the ‘Spectres of Utopia’ project, I had little experience engaging with the concept of utopia. This project has provided me with a greater understanding of the topic and greater appreciation for the explorative work people carry out, allowing me to appreciate the complex positive and negative connotations associated with utopian thought. Whether the utopian vision in question is the totalitarian vision of a single individual or a collective aspiration, it can be dismissed as an unachievable fantasy, useful only as a point of direction for human-led evolution. However, utopia can also be interpreted as a process of change, a concept that doesn’t necessarily have to reach totality, rather it is a progressive force that develops over time. In this way,
as one aspect is realised, another emerges; constantly acting as a prompt to develop society towards the utopian. My chosen building is the Groothandelsgebouw (the Groot), which translates as ‘The Grand Trade Building.’ It is located next to Rotterdam’s Central Station and was built in 19471953 by architect Hugh Maaskant. The building is symbolically important in Rotterdam, as it was a significant element in the reconstruction of the city after WWII. 59
Maaskant designed the building as a monument to the new conditions of the city, its scale and block massing reflecting the bold spirit of social and urban reconstruction, while also firmly establishing the presence and power of the building’s owner within this new Rotterdam. Although Maaskant’s intention to support Rotterdam’s regeneration is laudable, close study reveals that, this design prioritises the capitalist function of the building as a site for trade over its role as an integral part of a new city. This is apparent in the details of the art deco facade of the Groot. Maaskant uses different motifs, including geometric ornamentations such as chevrons, rectangles and arches, in order to break down the façade of the building and reference its surroundings in order to appear ‘sympathetic’. This post-modern referencing attempts to establish a relationship with the broader urban fabric, the façade acting as a mediator between the city and the functions it contains. However, from the street, the building appears as a solid mass of concrete and the façade serves only to disguise the commercial spaces inside. This building is popularly referred to as a monument, however, after analysing Sigfried Giedion’s Principles of Monumentality (Giedion, 1958), I believe this to be misnomer as the building to be doesn’t represent a unique moment in history or have a direct reference to death. I believe that this term has been applied as a way to comprehend the scale of the Groot, but this can be better understood through Rem Koolhaas’ ‘BIGNESS’ theorems in which he states “(Bigness is when) ... the facade can no longer reveal what happens inside” (Koolhaas, 1998: 501).
My project tackled the societal issues of the Groot and its BIGNESS by deconstructing the building, dis-assembling its component elements to explore the relationships BIGNESS conceals and exposing the scale the void that BIGNESS creates. To do so, I established my own set of framing approaches:
1. The building presents itself as a single solid entity, this acts as a barrier to its appropriation and inhabitation by wider society. Proposition: The mass should be fragmented to expose its internal BIGNESS and allow this to be co-opted or re-configured. 2. A building of this scale precludes both opportunities for unexpected exploration and intimate knowledge of every room/space/element within it. Instead people travel by routine, leaving vast swathes of the building barren of use. Proposition: People should be encouraged to journey through the building and experience the BIGNESS. 3. Maaskant intended for the building to become a “dynamic beehive full of human activity” (Provoost, 2013: 117) but this activity is hidden behind the ornamental facade. Proposition: To appreciate and facilitate diversity of activity the interior and exterior should weave together as one continuous fabric, exploring and exposing the functional program on both aspects of the facade. 4. Koolhaas conceives of BIGNESS as an amoral domain so large it is rendered socially inert (Koolhaas, 1998). The Groot has become an accepted and unquestioned part of the landscape of the city. Proposition: To acknowledge the scale of impact that the Groot has requires that it not be a passive part of the city. Rather than being the back drop for the urban fabric, it should actively host social activity. 5. Koolhaas has stated that “Bigness is no longer part of the urban tissue ‘fuck context” (Koolhaas: 1998: 502). Proposition: An appreciation of the scale of BIGNESS requires an acknowledgement of its size in relation to the city, requires a relationship to its context.
THE GROOTHANDELSGEBOUW: A SOCIALIST PERSPECTIVE
As a counter proposal to redress the role of the Groot as a fortress of capitalism I turned to Constant Nieuwenhuys’ and the work of the Situationists. Constant uses an integration of structure to inspire and evoke ‘play’, creating spaces that enable some of the qualities of Maaskant’s intentions for the Groot. Constant’s seminal work, New Babylon, embodies his theories on urban planning and social interaction. By analysing and providing for man at play, ‘homo ludens’. Constant developed a series of models, sketches and paintings of the New Babylon project which supported his utopian intent to create an architecture of selffulfilment and self-satisfaction. This is realised through the design of long term structures to support short term components; at the scale of the object, the building and the city. In addition to exploring Constant’s work, which gives space to the playful imagination, I was also influenced by Aldo van Eyck’s Amsterdam playgrounds. These similarly shift responsibility for determining function or use to the inhabitant. Van Eyck believes that architectural functionalism kills creativity, and overlooks a fundamental human desire to play. His intention was to create an architecture that facilitated human activity and promoted social interaction. Thus, the playground equipment was consciously designed by Van Eyck in a very minimalist way to stimulate the imagination of the user, leaving it open to interpretation and allowing us to personally appropriate the space through use. Van Eyck’s orphanage demonstrates this playfulness in its geometric composition and use of modular forms, exploring scale and repetition to allow for appropriation. 62
I read this alongside the work of Herman Herzberger and his theories on ‘in-between’ spaces which meet our deeper human needs of dwelling and social activities, and this emphasised the importance of collaborative or shared space as well as space which can be appropriated by an individual. My proposed functional programme for the Groot, which would replace the current capitalist function, was informed by my reading of Lefebvre’s Production of Space, which says “social space contains a great diversity of objects, both natural and social, including the networks and pathways which facilitate the exchange of material things and information” (Lefebvre, 1991: 77). Lefebvre talks about the ‘Metayage System’ (Lefebvre, 1991: 78), in which cultivated land for a proprietor also gives the cultivator a proportion of the produce. This led to the proposition that this building could be utilised by a cooperative workforce, in which people would have a vested interest in the production/building life, enabling the ‘bottom up’ design approach espoused by Constant and Van Eyck. Van Eyck’s selfdetermining systems of use, Hertzberger’s social principles and Constant’s aspirations for self-fulfilment through creation and play all provided me with points of reference for my design approach.
THE GROOTHANDELSGEBOUW: A SOCIALIST PERSPECTIVE
I broke the Groot down into modules, retaining the existing structure, where needed to establish smaller spaces which could be appropriated by different users. I added a new spiral staircase to each module to allow for user flexibility, to support the ‘beehive’ of different activities by allowing new floor plates to be inserted at different heights.
Rather than being socially inert, my design allows the conventional floor plates to be entirely broken down to create large scale collaborative spaces personally adapted by a user to allow for the reconfiguration of the space as needed.To realise my desire to encourage journeys and spatial exploration, I restructured the rest of the building as an urban landscape, where smaller timber modules house social spaces for the workers. These new routes weave between the modules, blurring the edges of the building and establishing a new inhabited façade which provides glimpses into the activity with the building, strengthening its relationship to the urban fabric beyond.
This project has strengthened my theoretical understanding of capitalist and socialist systems and allowed me to develop my own thesis based from my knowledge gained from research. I believe that my proposal has addressed and exposed some of the issues posed by the existing building; by extracting the capitalist functions of the building, fragmenting its mass and deconstructing its formal boundary, the building has been reconfigured to facilitate more socially cooperative and individually playful uses, removing the void the Groothandelsgebouw once created.
Giedion, S. (1958) Architecture, You and Me: The Diary of a Development. Cambridge, Mass., USA: Harvard University Press. Koolhaas, R., Mau, B. & O.M.A (1998) S, M, L, XL (Small, Medium, Large, ExtraLarge). New York: Monacelli Press. Lefebvre, H. (1991) The Production of Space. Oxford, UK & Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell. Provoost, M. (2013) Hugh Maaskant Architect of Progress. Rotterdam: Nai010.
ADAM HILL My attitude toward the notion of utopia prior to starting this project was a predominantly negative one. Having already completed a design project in Rotterdam, I believed utopian aspiration through the mechanism of architecture to be responsible for the widespread historical amnesia that swept across reconstructed European cities following the devastation of the Second World War. Having now completed a second project in Rotterdam, which involved extensive research into architectural utopian aspiration, I can see how the concept of utopia in architecture has been manipulated and misrepresented over the course of the last century culminating in its near disappearance within architectural discourse. This project has taught me that utopia, often considered to be a goal or an objective does not have to be finite, but instead can be used as a method to achieve a more considered architectural outcome. My project addresses the Groothandelsgebouw, designed by Hugh Maaskant and completed in 1953. It was the first large scale building to be completed as part of Rotterdamâ€™s post-war reconstruction and as such is widely interpreted as a monument to Rotterdamâ€™s resurrection and a symbol of Dutch resilience following the war. 67
I was drawn to the Groothandelsgebouw by the interrelationship between its scale, symbolic meaning and historical context; the way the building uncritically reflects the social and economic aspirations and ideology of Rotterdam at that time. The buildingâ€™s programme and internal layout directly responds to Rotterdamâ€™s rapidly expanding economy, the increase in wholesale consumption, and the rise of the automotive industry. These large scale spatial demands were met by Maaskant in a design that played with the stacking of elements, creating an imposing mass which also fulfilled his own architectural ambitions to create a clear form and a grand gesture towards the city. He embraced monumentality as a means to showcase the contemporaneity of his work, physically reflecting the expansion that characterised post-war Rotterdam. He employed dramatic scale to reflect the rise of modern metropolitan city, culminating in the building as a triumphant image of progress, democracy, and capitalism following the devastation of the war. The Groothandelsgebouw is a reflection of the transition of Dutch society at the time, from sober reconstruction towards consumerist exuberance, and from broad social ideals to individualist mass consumption. It is often assumed that Maaskant was a modernist as he embraced rationalist and functionalist strategies driven by technological development. The ghost of modernism is most apparent in Groothandelsgebouw in its concrete frame, which adheres to a strict grid that permeates throughout the building, allowing for the provision of large, open plan spaces at all levels. Furthermore, the entire building is oriented around an extensive road network on multiple levels, which at times punctures through 68
the internal courtyard façades, showcasing the technological development apparent in the rise of the use of the automobile in post-war Rotterdam. However, Maaskant did not share the preoccupation with the aesthetic expression of functionalism common to strict International Style adherents. He believed that in the mid -twentieth century the general public were too well accustomed to technological advancement to be impressed by the expression of technology. The expression of this belief is evident in his use of oversized concrete columns on the exterior façade of the building, emphasising the tectonic rather than functional qualities of the structure. Whilst the Groothandelsgebouw manifests some of the aesthetic architectural principles of heroic Modernism, Maaskant’s building fails to reflect the social ideology of early modernism. As a consequence, Maaskant could be labelled a ‘consensual’ architect as opposed to a ‘critical’ one - a distinction delineated by Sarah Williams Goldhagen (2000). Maaskant embraced the neoliberal economic landscape and political democracy of the time, fuelled by a belief that architecture aligned to the existing socio-economic and political system could help achieve social betterment and positive personal transformation after the war. Unlike ‘Reformers’ and ‘Negative Critics’ (Goldhagen, 2000), who opposed the social status quo and pursued more radical utopian architectural ideals, Maaskant both supported and worked within the constraints of the state without making any attempt to reform it. Maaskant’s ideological alignment with the neo-liberal project is perhaps most evident in the functional conception of this building as a wholesale trade centre. 69
The rapidly developing consumer based society in post-war Rotterdam is reflected and supported by a space designed purposefully for the practice of consumption, which condenses previously distributed retailers into a single controllable volume. My project looks to reestablish the utopian ideals of Masked by the popular narrative of the early modernists within the convenience, urban regeneration projects Groothandelsgebouw. To do such as the Groothandelsgebouw are this I drew on Marco Frascari’s typical of neo-capitalist spatial practices, conception of the ‘Tell the Tale which undermine complex communities Detail’ to analyse a specific and distributed social spaces. detail of the building which manifests Maaskant’s digression from modernist (Frascari, 1996). On the exterior of the building Maaskant uses concrete in an arguably early stylistic postmodern way, partly structural but also partly ornamental, employing concrete decorative details inspired by the art deco movement. This is exemplified in the large external concrete columns, where the structural fabric is clad in an additional decorative layer of concrete above ground floor level. It could be argued that the application of ornament to the otherwise formal external façade of the building exposes the conflict between Maaskant’s modernist aspirations and his aesthetic desire to associate this building with an idea of classical heritage and prestige. However, the repetition and reproduction of these details serves only to reinforce this building’s function as a space for the mass consumption of mass production. This preoccupation with the postmodern ‘surface image’ is reinforced by the fact that ornament is solely applied to the visible street frontage and not to the buildings internal courtyards.
Considering this, the deconstruction of the column detail could be considered a metaphor for the wider aims of this project. If we were to remove the concrete cladding from the column to reveal what lies beneath, we would metaphorically be revealing Maaskant’s repressed utopian / modernist architectural intent for the Groothandelsgebouw.
I drew on Fredric Jameson’s essay Postmodernism and Consumer Society (Jameson, 1985) and the work of Lefebvre and Baudrillard to critique Maaskant’s role as a ‘consensual architect’. Jameson’s critique of postmodernism identifies the development of a ‘perpetual present’ within modern cities, buildings fuelled by the uncritical alignment of postmodern architects with the neoliberal project. For Jameson this notion, which he describes as an architecturally provoked cultural and historical disorientation, is spatially manifest in buildings such as the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. Through the revival and rapid turnover of past style, symbol and motif as seen in the Bonaventure, he argues that modernism’s preoccupation with the authentic has given way to a fascination with pastiche and the surface image, creating a heightened sense of space and materiality at the expense of temporal consciousness whilst also fuelling a cultural and historical disorientation amongst users. The Bonaventure shares the Groothandelsgebouw’s pre-occupation with pastiche and the surface image at the expense of any considered reference to the reality of the human body and the social or spatial complexity that it requires. Both buildings serve the logic of mass consumption by stylistically referencing several architectural styles, whilst programmatically combining many functions and cultures into a single space. Consequently, both buildings can be critiqued as formalistic containers of universal signals, symbols and products. For Baudrillard, a similar condition that he identifies as ‘hyperspace’ is apparent in the Pompidou Centre (Baudrillard, 1982). Hyperspace is described as a place without a memory, a space within which a critical As forms of controlled socialisation and mass develops that is no longer simulation these containers of function and culture destroy any sense of criticality, tied to specific exchanges, but temporal consciousness or historical to a kind of total universe of understanding amongst their occupants. signals. 71
ADAM HILL Despite their often-overwhelming criticality, Jameson, Lefebvre, and Baudrillard’s work can be used to inform a response to counteract the ‘hyperspace’ or ‘perpetual present’ apparent within the Groothandelsgebouw. Jameson’s critique of the Bonaventure Hotel details ways in which the building could be spatially and stylistically altered to reduce spatial and psychological disorientation. While Baudrillard’s critique of the Pompidou Centre exposes the negative social implications of cultural centres and suggests alternative programmatic ideas for the Groothandelsgebouw. Finally, drawing on Lefebvre serves to, identify the manifestations of capitalist spatial practices in this building and identify how capitalist reductionism could be challenged through a design which considers social and spatial complexity. In his work on rhythmanalysis Lefebvre also provides a method to disrupt capitalist spatial practices through the disruption of the perpetual linear rhythms that it dictates upon us (Lefebvre, 1996). Following these readings, I conducted extensive research into the work of Aldo van Eyck, whose work as part of the structuralist movement could be considered as countering the hyperspatial and reductionist characteristics that plague the existing building. I also began to consider how the building could be altered programmatically to address notions of the ‘perpetual present’. I made the decision to convert a portion of the Groothandelsgebouw into a film archive, inspired in part by the beautiful cinema that currently sits derelict on top of the existing building. I was aware that this programme could be read a form of cultural nostalgia, as in Jameson’s critique of film (Jameson, 1985). 73
However, Rotterdam’s film archive is predominantly documentary film, and as such resists this culturally passive form of nostalgia. It presents relatively complete, chronological visual document of the development of a city that has made huge architectural efforts to erase chunks of its own memory, actively engaging with a lost spatial history. My project confronts the ‘perpetual present’ of the Groothandelsgebouw, It manifests a visual relationship between and its role in this overwritten space and time which has been overwritten history by providing a site where by the post-war reconstruction according the archive Is publicly accessible to capitalist spatial practices. within the city centre. Architecturally my intervention aims to create an insertion within the Groothandelsgebouw that disrupts the reductionist and hyperspatial characteristics of the building. I drew on Lefebvre’s writings on the Mediterranean (Lefebvre, 1996), which directed me to analyse the Mediterranean city of Split in Croatia.This was read alongside Aldo van Eyck’s theories on ‘Twinphenoma’,‘the Inbetween Realm’ and ‘Interiorisation’, which were clearly identifiable in Split’s historic centre (Lammers, 2012). Drawing on the plan of Split, I overlaid specific areas onto the Groothandelsgebouw in order to deconstruct its monumental form and establish pockets of alternative spatial practice. With van Eyck’s teachings in mind, I distributed the archive module throughout the building to create a ‘labyrinthine clarity’ carving complex space into the formal rigidity of the existing building. Sectionally, the design for the existing Groothandelsgebouw is extremely formal with repeated floor plates accessible only via enclosed stair and lift cores. My intervention challenges this linear rhythm by establishing split levels within the existing structure. The zone between the existing levels and these split levels contains new stairs within an atrium space. This marks the transition between new and old, an interstitial zone between spatial orders. This reflects an adoption of van Eyck’s theory of ‘twinphenomena’ and the ‘inbetween realm’. The large, open atrium space, is countered by small and intimate spaces within the existing structure, and an ‘in between realm’ is formed by an overhanging balcony above which signifies the transition between these two ‘twin phenomena’. 74
This transition and change also occurs at a material level, with the new structure finished in timber, the existing structure finished in polished concrete and the circulation between the two formed out of steel grating. Throughout the new proposal, I have used exposed blockwork as the predominant internal finish, much like in the work of Herman Hertzberger. This poverty of material re-aligns the Groothandelsgebouw with principles of the heroic period of modernism and undermines any association it may have with ‘high culture’, countering the notion drawn from Jameson that postmodernism achieves an increased sense of materiality at the expense of temporality. This project has opened my mind to architecture as a theoretical pursuit - an architecture that uses relevant critical theory as a foundation for a critique and a basis for design. The primary impact of studying the work of architects who were part A counter to the reductionism that plagues of the Structuralist movement, so much contemporary architecture today, and who are often considered to create duration and anticipation in utopian in their aspirations, architecture, and strive to create spaces has been a desire to embrace of resilience. complexity in design.
Baudrillard, J. (1982) The Beaubourg Effect: Implosion and Deterrence. Trans. by J., Krauss, R. & Michelson, A. October, 20, pp.3-13. Frascari, M. (1996) The Tell the Tale Detail. In: Nesbitt, K. Ed. Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965 - 1995. New Haven: Princeton Architectural Press. Jameson, F. (1985) Postmodernism and Consumer Society. London: Pluto Press. Lammers, H. H. (2012) Potentially...: Unravelling and Reconnecting Aldo van Eyck in Search of an Approach for Tomorrow. Eindhoven: Technische Universiteit. Lefebvre, H., (1996) Writings on Cities. Trans. by Kofman, E. & Lebas, E. Oxford: Blackwell. Goldhagen, S.W. (2000) Introduction. In: Goldhagen, S.W. and Legault, R. Eds. Anxious Modernisms: Experimentation in Postwar Architectural Culture. Montréal: MIT Press & Canadian Centre for Architecture. 75
A SHELTER TO REF
ADEL KAMASHKI At the start of this project, I had no preconceived notions of utopia; I was like a blank canvas and I hoped to develop my understanding of the concept as the project went on.Through the readings assigned this blank canvas began to gain its first few strokes of paint and I came to understand utopia as two things. Firstly, that it is the ‘possible impossible’, which for me provides a means to cultivate social aspirations, that the things we believe are beyond any hope of achievement might in reality be achievable. Secondly, and most importantly, for me, utopia is the desire to make the world a better place.This second understanding began to inform my own utopian direction, founded on a belief that the world could become a better place through unity, acceptance, and love; ideals rendered achievable by environments where diverse socio-economic and racial groups can co-exist. The building I chose to work with was the De Bijenkorf department store in Rotterdam, designed by Hungarian born architect Marcel Breuer, 1902-1981. De Bijenkorf translates to ‘The Beehive’ in Dutch. What drew me to this building was its closed-off façade.When walking around Rotterdam I found this indecipherable – and seemingly impenetrable – façade intriguing, 77
A SHELTER TO REFLECT
I wasn’t really sure what the building contained. Upon entering De Bijenkorf, I soon found myself lost in it, wandering through it’s many levels until I emerged on another side of Rotterdam. This unexpected disorientation and displacement made me want to understand the building better; this desire for comprehension is the reason I chose to work with De Bijenkorf. De Bijenkorf harbours the ghost of early postmodernist architecture, evident in the building’s façade which utilises travertine cladding panels in the form of a hexagon, a beehive pattern that literally represents the name of the department store housed within. This beehive motif extends beyond the façade and is visible in details throughout. An overt symbolism that is a typical feature of postmodern architecture. However, all levels of De Bijenkorf appear uniform in area, established by the grid of columns that create the building’s open-plan organisation. If the façade, and representational features throughout, seem proto-postmodern, the structural frame and other tectonic features are typical of modernist architecture. These spectres of modernity and postmodernity are heavily masked, deployed with capitalist intent to maximise the area available for the display of consumable goods. Through careful analysis of De Bijenkorf, I came to understand the utopian intent expressed in the closed-off façade of the building, intended to protect the interior (including shoppers, staff, and goods within) in response to the mass destruction that occurred in Rotterdam and throughout Europe during WWII; intensified by the looming threat of nuclear annihilation when the building opened in 1956. There are two utopias here: one in which freedom is consumption; the other a safe island paradise in a still recovering city. 78
But the double utopian intent of the façade is ultimately resolved into capitalist spatial practices that dominate the building in the service of a consumerist utopia. As presently organised, the building intentionally disorientates consumers by making them wander through a maze-like arrangement of luxury goods. The escalators act like human conveyor belts meant to intensify profit. By identifying and thus isolating De Bijenkorf ’s internal spatial practices such as the maze-like arrangements and escalator, I was able to untangle the two utopias established by the building, making it possible to appreciate the façade’s potential as a protective aspect in a much more positive way. In developing this project, I studied several precedent details, in particular a courtyard house located in the city of Muharraq in Bahrain that was built in the early 1900’s, restored in 2007. 79
A SHELTER TO REFLECT
The courtyard has a sensory quality I wanted to emulate in my interventions; and I aimed to create a building simultaneously protective and healing for its users. This sensory quality came from the courtyard’s connection to elements of nature, such as the planted trees which provided dappled light and the courtyard’s opening to the sky. By preserving De Bijenkorf ’s façade, I intended to retain it’s protective aspects while also clearing the interior of it’s consumer based fuctions. The courtyard spaces I introduced in the building aimed to create a contrast between the defensive aspect outside, using the façade to create internal open spaces that are intimate and cradling. Trees were introduced to provide dappled light to augment the open yet protective qualities of the courtyards, further enriched by the sounds and smells of the trees. This project has made me aware of some of the constraints of architectural design processes, and I addressed this by adding further constraints, imposing my own set of guidelines. This was most apparent in dealing with the building’s existing structural grid, where I added additional modules to support my own design programme. It also surfaced in my study of proportions for courtyard spaces, which I resolved through the production of a series of drawings and models. Beyond understanding constraints and how to work with them, this project has helped me to develop
my desire to design architecture that is experiential, responding to my desire to create something that is meaningful to its users and to me. Furthermore, this project gave me the opportunity to bring elements of my culture and heritage into the designed intervention; something I’ve been longing to do since I commenced my studies in architecture. 80
Breuer had intended for the solidity of De Bijenkorf to give visitors and staff a sense of security that would extend to Rotterdammers more generally, confirming, at least symbolically, that the city was safe. I believe that Breuer was well-intentioned, but that this was undermined by his lack of awareness or concern that his building, though protective, harmed its users by entrapping them within it. Beyond that, De Bijenkorf ’s function as a luxury department store means that it is an exclusive destination; its goods are pitched to a specific socio-economic class that inevitably excludes others. This lack of collectivity contradicts my understanding of utopia, which is why I determined that De Bijenkorf had to be cleared of its capitalist spatial practices to be given a more humane – a clarified utopian – purpose. My analysis of De Bijenkorf was aided by Richard Sennett’s The Uses of Disorder (2008) which considers how people isolate themselves into communities of other people whom they judge to be like themselves. This highlighted the lack of social integration facilitated by De Bijenkorf. Furthermore, Nathaniel Coleman’s Lefebvre for Architects (2015), Utopias and Architecture (2005), and Building Dystopia (2007) informed my understanding of the influence capitalism on architecture. These readings fed into my personal critique of isolated communities without any sense of diversity created by capitalist spatial practices, particularly in suburbia. In turn, this influenced my desire to counteract these spatial practices as manifest in De Bijenkorf. I sought to transform it into a building that would include different socioeconomic and racial groups, whilst also being as free as possible of the capitalist grasp. In response, I developed a program for a refugee 81
housing complex with communal areas at lower levels. With the intention of uniting different racial and religious refugee groups with each other, but also with the citizens of Rotterdam, creating a scheme that emphasising social integration. My intervention hopes to bring the physical and symbolic role of the façade as refuge, into relief. I have attempted to achieve this by untangling possibilities for individual and group security from the protection of luxury goods and their consumption within a strongbox determined by capitalist spatial practices. In short, my intervention retains the building’s protective purpose but redirects it to serve a vulnerable group. As a record and result of this transformation, I strategically broke down the building’s hard edges in places to introduce more sunlight into the building and to create dappled light in areas, to produce an overall more pleasant and inviting series of internal spaces. In this way, my intervention challenges Breuer’s intent. By opening parts of the building to the sky and breaking down the façade, the bunker-like feel of De Bijenkorf is corrected to create a series of more potentially therapeutic spaces for refugees to inhabit; challenging the original architect’s desire to close the building off from the external world, in reaction to the traumatic events of WWII. As an alternative, my project liberates the building and its inhabitants from perpetual darkness and containment. By preserving the façade, whilst purging it of its capitalist dedication to consumption, I have clarified its utopian purpose as a mechanism for keeping its users safe. 82
My proposal cultivates a utopian desire, influenced by Ruth Levitas’ Utopia as Method (2013) to incorporate the placement of the imaginary reconstruction of society in one’s work. This developed my desire to reconstruct Dutch society as integrated and diverse. As such, my project unites diverse groups in a single building. There is so much war and hatred in the world today; people feel unsafe everywhere. In response I want this proposal to provide a setting for bringing people together, rather than dividing them further. Despite the defensive quality of the façade, this intervention has sought to build upon De Bijenkorf’s other possibilities; opening it up from the inside, much like opening one’s heart to others, made easier in a safe and secure setting. Coleman, N. (2007). Building Dystopia. In: Morus: Utopia e Renascimento, v. 4, pp.181-192. Coleman, N. (2015). Lefebvre for Architects. Oxon & New York: Routledge, p.49. Coleman, N. (2005). Utopias and Architecture. Abingdon: Routledge. Levitas, R. (2013). Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.65-220. Sennett, R. (2008). The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, pp.3-85. 83
PROJECT BRIEF: RH OF CONCRETE UTO Edited brief for second year MArch architecture students Newcastle University, SAPL, academic year 2016 / 2017 Design as Research? Never!!! Really? The emphasis in this project is research, but that should not be taken as suggesting that an arguably realisable building or urban setting will not be a key outcome of the thesis work produced this year. Often enough, when research and design are paired, the two are conceptualised and conducted as if they were discrete endeavours, as if theory could ever be separated from practice, or use from form. While design is conceivable as a kind of research, this is not always the case. Discerning under what conditions design might convincingly constitute research is more topical than one might imagine, especially in the current academic climate. Research suggests a premise, or a hunch, that is subsequently tested systematically. The organising principle of research (after philosopher of science Karl Popper) is â€˜falsificationâ€™: a statement or proposition may be said to be tenable only at that point which it has survived multiple attempts to disprove its veracity or viability. Accordingly, each student in this thesis studio will need to develop a range of research methodologies for testing their hunches in relation to design (practise) and theory (research) alike. In point of fact, doing so in a convincing way is one of the key desirable outcomes of this studio. The End of the City? Students in this studio will be challenged to develop proposals for concrete utopias in the city. If the 20th century and 21st century can be understood as a long period of unmaking of cities, even despite their apparent resurgence, or dominance in terms of population concentrations, the aim of this studio is the production of projects for the re-urbanisation of city centres, in particular those that might even be considered as successful examples of regeneration but that in achieving this have so sanitised the city that it is no longer city-like. 84
NATHANIEL COLEMAN Although the unmaking of cities could be construed as a product of capitalist spatial practises alone (or even of State practises), it is important to recollect that at the very foundations of modernist architecture and urbanism there lies a profound distaste for the chaotic, overwhelmed, unmanageable, and polluted nineteenth century cities inherited by the twentieth century. The response? Cure cities by killing them. Add to this the explosion of suburban dormitory communities, especially during the second half of the twentieth century and the unmaking of cities becomes less mysterious. While there are many factors that contribute to the unmaking of cities, significant among them is the century long shift in consciousness according to which the vast majority of individuals, especially in richer countries, will have grown up in suburban or exurban settings, mirroring the generally negative diagnosis of urban life by early avant-gardes, even if they spend some time in cities during or after their education before transitioning to anti-urban adulthood. It is for this reason, amongst others, that cities are now so frequently thought of in terms of branding or as zones of consumption and entertainment. Admittedly, although the themes outlined here are not ones architects generally take up these days, there is much to be learned from other disciplines, including geography, sociology, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and philosophy amongst others (all of which could be corrected by an insider’s knowledge of the discipline of architecture). At this juncture it is important to emphasise that while statistics show that more of the world’s population now lives in cities than ever before, and that this is a trend that looks set to continue, the designation ‘city’ is a legal term that has very little to do with the character of a place, including its relative urban-ness.
PROJECT BRIEF: RHYTHMANALYSIS OF CONCRETE UTOPIAS
Alexandra Carausu ‘A Digital Cemetery in a Transhumanist Future’
David Boyd ‘The Draughtsman’s Quietus’
NATHANIEL COLEMAN Concrete (as Opposed to Abstract) Utopias, in the Plural The projects produced in this studio will all examine the possibilities presented by using Utopia as Method in the design process. Introducing utopia and steadfastly calling it as such presupposes a level of commitment to a radical project (in the sense of the etymology of ‘radical’, which is radicis, or ‘root’, in the sense of returning to origins as a means to achieving deep-seated transformation. The concept (utopia as radical) is built upon reformist ideas of making change from the roots up. In this sense, work that is conformist, conciliatory, or complicit, is rejected as having any possibility of actually being radical, reformist, or utopian. For example, the formalism of the late Zaha Hadid’s work is at best decorative; while it decorates capital. Equally, the work of Rem Koolhaas/OMA, at least in this context, could not be seen as radical, reformist, or utopian, largely because it reproduces the spatial practices of neoliberalism with great fidelity, albeit in wildly pumped up forms. In this sense as well, such work, again, at least in the context of this brief, could not be described as ‘critical’, in as much as it proposes no change up from the roots. The idea of the ‘counter project’, or ‘counter proposal’ is about as close as contemporary architecture and urbanism come to utopia as method. However, shying away from the commitment that use of the word utopia entails, when describing the aims of one’s own work, deprives that work of the social and political engagement that defines the critical practises of utopia as method. Dialectical Utopias At this juncture it is important to emphatically reiterate that the previous statements above in no way limit the formal or expressive possibilities of projects. Indeed, building upon Lefebvre’s notion that to change life, one must first change space, and David Harvey’s conception of dialectical utopia, which requires spatial closure to establish settings for open ended social processes, it is the value of indisputably radical formal visions as the correlate of social and political ones that underpins this brief. With the above in mind, each project in this studio is required to engage in a critical discourse with an existing project, or quarter of a city, at an urban scale. By way of such critical encounters, the aim of the projects must include the crafting of superior proposals that redress the limitations, failings, inadequacies, on social, political, and spatial levels that have been discerned by way of the revelations arrived at through the insights made possible by the methodologies of critical utopia. 87
A DIGITAL CEMETE TRANSHUMANIST F
ERY IN A FUTURE
ALEXANDRA CARAUSU The brief for this thesis project asked us to use utopia as a tool for design to create an intervention for a city, to develop a proposal for a concrete utopia. The topic of utopia prompted me to engage in a combination of extensive research and intense personal reflection. I undertook a reflexive process which allowed me to examine utopian thought and theory against my own experiences. In this way, I drew on personal memory as a critical tool to discern and develop a personally satisfying utopian programme. In response, my project is set in a transhumanist future, where the limitations of our current embodied state have been surpassed by the application of technology. It proposes a digital cemetery in a dense urban landscape, replacing a space of accelerated consumption with one dedicated to contemplation and spiritual reflection. Memory is thus a defining driver for the project and the proposed building is a storage place for both individual and collective memory. Throughout the project, the themes of memory and consciousness act both as the subject of the utopian programme, and as an integral part of the methodology to develop the proposal. 89
A DIGITAL CEMETERY IN A TRANSHUMANIST FUTURE Personal memory is used as a tool to uncover or recall utopian elements, and this personal experience of place was used identify the site for the project. The site was chosen based on the recollection of a personal impression, of a gentrified and sanitised place. The selected site is in Elephant and Castle, London, and the proposal addressed both the memory of the existing urban landscape and the masterplan proposal of Allies and Morrison.This masterplan appears to have been developed out of a desire to create a capitalist utopia of consumerism, where the individual person is de-humanised and turned into fuel for the shopping centres. As such, it offers an ideal site to propose an intervention which acts as a critique of capitalist spatial practices. The architectural language of the masterplan, while functional and considered, does not reflect the place of Elephant and Castle. It could exist anywhere in the world, blending seamlessly with the generic style of high street frontages. The masterplan also fails to address local anxieties about the speed and scale of traffic on the Elephant and Castle roundabout. In this way, it fails to respond to local memory and sense of place, either in its creation of a utopian vision or in its redressing of existing anxieties. This thesis proposal argues against standardisation of cities as a product of global capitalism. It stands as a counterproposal against the ubiquitous shiny high street faรงades and blocky high-end apartment buildings. In response to this bland vision of development I explored an extrapolated scifi future, to interrogate an alternative to this urban fabric. 90
Following intense research into the subject of utopia, I concluded that the inherent impossibility of utopia as a good place is predicated not only on the notional â€˜placeâ€™ being proposed but on the current state of humanity. I decided to approach the problematic of utopia from an alternative perspective. I decided to reflect on the architectural possibilities of utopia as a realisable state for people who have evolved or transcended existence as it is currently understood. This imagined future is developed using the tools of Futurology, grounding the project in a plausible scenario of future development. I establish a narrative for human development which sees a transhumanist evolution of the current human condition, creating a possible society where over-consumption has become a thing of the past, allowing me to posit a utopian scenario for the future. As described by Bostrom (2005) transhumanism is a loosely defined movement that has developed over the past two decades.
A DIGITAL CEMETERY IN A TRANSHUMANIST FUTURE
It promotes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and evaluating the opportunities opened up by the advancement of technology for enhancing the human condition and the human organism. Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in progress, a beginning that we can learn to remould in desirable ways, and questions the perception that humanity is the endpoint of evolution. Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman; transformed into beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have. One transhumanist prediction is that technology will develop to allow the transferring of consciousness into digital form. In this future scenario, once an individual reaches the point of death they will have the option of transferring themselves into a digital realm where all the limitations of the human body are surpassed. The digital post-humans would live collectively in a digital utopia which would offer them unlimited freedoms that are otherwise impossible in a physical state. Variants of this notion have been explored in many popular works, including Ellis and Robertsonâ€™s graphic novel Transmetropilitan (1997) and the TV show Black Mirror (2016). In response to this scenario, I have designed a place both for people to reach this post-human state, transferring consciousness into a digital form, creating a utopian end time within the digital realm. In this If traditional utopia is considered a perfect end-time, static and unchanging, then the possible future, the presence of fundamental barrier to its establishment a tangible life after death would is the inevitability of death. radically readjust society for the living, with memory and human experience becoming more important than the need to fill short lives with material possessions. 92
The proposed project includes a space that houses this digital world with servers for each individual consciousness, alongside static recorded memories. This collection of both the living consciousness and the recorded memory would comprise the digital cemetery. It is a space where death is viewed in an optimistic light, as a transitional state. It is primarily a place for the dead, although its role as a monument and mausoleum means that it also functions as a site for remembrance for visitors. As such the architectural style draws on these themes of monumentality and timelessness. The proposal uses classical forms and proportions as an alternative to modernist architecture, drawing on classical tropes to establish a cultural association with notions of timelessness and historical memory. It reflects on three central themes; a futurism expressed through High-Tec architecture, the physical body expressed in the use of proportion and scale, and a return to nature. It is located within a new masterplan for the area that deals with the local initial anxieties of this specific place. All buildings which had functional roles relating to over consumption or standardisation are envisaged as having been removed or left in ruins. The existing busy roundabout is sunk underground to leave space for a pedestrian area and urban forests.Various sketch ideas of buildings are scattered through the site that relate to the three architectural themes of the project. The building proposal is grounded within the setting of this masterplan creating a cohesive urban realm. The focal point of the digital cemetery is the consciousness tower. It is organised on seven levels that reflect the seven parameters that I think define this new digital world; the cycles of the hours and the seasons, the passage of time in the growth of vegetation, the passing of historical eras and the development of technologies, and the variables of temperature and landscape setting. The experience of the individual consciousness within the server is determined by its physical relation to these seven parameters. 93
A DIGITAL CEMETERY IN A TRANSHUMANIST FUTURE
These parameters are connected in a mechanised system which maintains them in a state of perpetual motion, and by their movement the condition of the interior worlds of the servers shifts and changes. In this way, the inhabitants are provided with a dynamic experience, endlessly varied and without the threat of pain or death. This rotation also establishes a visual expression of this variety for visitors who are thus made aware that the digital heaven is not a static world, but one that is always changing. Overall, the project aims to create an alternative to the current capitalist and sanitised proposal for this site, proposing a space which attends to individual and collective memory. It does this by, considering the limits of utopia as established by the human condition, and how a building might respond to, and reflect, the transcendence of these limitations.
Bostrom, N. (2005). Transhumanist Values. Journal of Philosophical Research, vol. 30, pp.3-14. Ellis, W. & Robertson, D. (1997 - 2002). Transmetropolitan. New York: Vertigo. Brooker, C. (2016). San Junipero. Black Mirror. Directed by Harris, O. Season 3, Episode 4. 94
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ANâ€™S QUIETUS: NTER ARCHITECTUR
DAVID BOYD My relationship with the concept of utopia has been defined by reluctance and anxiety, stemming from the cultural stigma attached to the term, which conjures up ideas of socially and spatially naive housing developments built on inhuman scales. This resulted in a reluctance to refer to utopia when describing my own work, possibly in an attempt to sidestep any grandiose claims of fantastical social change brought about by my architectural proposals. Whilst this anxiety towards the term still exists,
this project has allowed me to view utopian thinking as a method to scrutinise the political, social and economic ramifications of my own architectural production. My project was driven by the desire to create a spatially vibrant and active urban condition for the site selected in Bristol, drawing on the dynamic social and spatial rhythms found within Western medieval cities. To achieve this, I developed iterative design methods based on multiple modes of representation inspired by the neo avant-garde of the 1970â€™s, which allowed me to explore the tension between didactic, or systemic architecture, and a counter-architecture of complexity. 97
THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S QUIETUS In current architectural practice, standardisation defines the majority of building production, and the specification of systems has become the main form of design expression. The architect’s role is no longer one of authorship, be it individual or shared, but one of efficient, automated production, often on an urban scale; a condition Henri Lefebvre refers to as “the dominant mode of production” (Lefebvre, 1997, p143). This development model produces urban environments which more effectively communicate ideas of commerce and hegemony than notions relating to the civic and social. Spatially, these areas alienate the public, creating a disconnection between citizen and city, perpetuating what Richard Sennett (2003) identifies as the ever-increasing withdrawal of any social or public interaction. Examples of such developments can be found littered across the country, creating a national network and legacy of inner city ‘non-places’ as defined by Marc Augé (1995). The first output that I produced was an attempt to spatialise these ideas within a virtual reality installation. This installation comprised: 1. The user as architect 2. The desk, as the site of architectural desire 3. The surrounding tiled environment – within the VR realm – as the abstract representation of the repeating system that is the dominant mode of architectural production. Within the installation the environment becomes a dynamic, reactive element, responding to individual desire. But, it also makes the barrier between the drawing/desk and the VR realm tangible, making manifest the tension between representation and reality, and the desire to traverse the virtual space. The spatial relationship this creates can be read as a diagram of the infrastructural constraints imposed on architectural production, whilst also beginning to harness these limitations as something generative. 98
The next stage of the project was to select a site which demonstrated such themes and from personal experience I chose Canons Marsh in Bristol. Situated within a post-industrial urban quarter, the area has seen large amounts of development over the past 20 years, mostly consisting of medium rise residential blocks, chain shops, and two multi-storey car parks providing 884 parking spaces. The streets and public areas are wide, unoccupied boulevards that are flanked by nondescript, large footprint buildings. Due to such conditions, as a pedestrian, Canons Marsh is an area that is uninspiring, banal, and under populated, resulting in a city centre district that feels overtly anti-urban. In Rhythmanalysis, Lefebvre (1997) discusses the notion that interactions between people, places, and the energy used at such times, directly creates the rhythms that define vital urban spaces. In response to this, I began to consider the concepts of cyclical and linear time in relation to Canonâ€™s Marsh. Currently, the site only expresses the conditions of contemporary construction with very little acknowledgement, or presence, of the layering of histories that define those urban areas popularly considered to be successful, most notably found in medieval quarters. This reading led me to focus on the idea of compressing time upon the site, allowing each historical layer to influence and re-configure the urban fabric, creating spaces of difference and enclosure. The first step in this process was to study medieval quarters that express spatial layering. Focusing on the older quarters of Edinburgh, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Bristol, I began to develop an understanding of what medieval cities share, and what differentiates them. From this point, I then began to overlay the medieval district of Bristol onto the plan of Canons Marsh, allowing for creative destruction and interference where there was a collision between positive spaces. 99
THE DRAUGHTSMANâ€™S QUIETUS
The result of this was a partial new plan for the area and I repeated this palimpsest process, across both the medieval overlay and the existing site plan. These overlays were then merged to create a plan with a complex series of pockets and spatial networks on site. To do this, I used digital imaging software which allowed me to fragment these plans, invert them, and then merge them. The intention of this process was to create a level of complexity in the plan which would manifest itself in a series of labyrinthine street layouts, reminiscent to that of the medieval city. It was at this point of the project that I started to question my own methods of production, coming to the conclusion that I was working with a reliance upon the same standardised digital media that I was claiming to be sceptical of. To counter this, I turned to Duchampâ€™s artwork 3 Standard Stoppages as discussed by Janis Mink (2000), and 100
Kazimir Malevich’s ‘vostok’ proportional system, as detailed by John Milner (1996). I decided to establish a physical and radical distance from the organising forces of standardisation by challenging the underlying Cartesian regularity and module of the metric system. I created my own unit of measurement, the CS (Compression Segment), which was arrived at by compressing the metric and imperial systems together. Using this new measurement system, and inspired by the drawings of Italian neo-rationalist architect Franco Purini (1998), I began to hand draw the site, allowing personal experience and depth of detail to inform the drawing, creating a compression of design sketches and decisions into one single image. This drawing was then extruded into three dimensions with the positive space informed by the texturing system found within the hand drawing. I went on to disrupt the volumes sectionally, as a means for creating more vertical variety. I compressed and layered the only three historic site plans available for the site that I had previously collected, which were then superimposed onto the volumes, carving out alleyways, roof terraces, and large cuts in the newly proposed mass. The resulting street scene that this process created was banal, uniform and architecturally hegemonic. It was at this point that I once again became acutely, and somewhat regretfully, aware of the limitations of my own formal methodologies. Due to the project’s disappointing lack of any engaging street level vibrancy, I decided it was necessary to delete myself from the design process, surrendering control of the project. 101
I chose to return to virtual reality, deploying it as a tool that allowed users to design the site on a 1:1 bodily scale. I wrote a VR computer program which allowed each subject to select individual building elements. The user was able to freely move and manipulate each separate element, within a range of control inputs; rotate, move horizontally, move vertically and delete. With these tools in place, six test subjects were introduced into the VR environment with no instructions offered, other than to design moments of the building as they wished. Each output was then merged with the last, compressing the traces of individual inhabitation on top of one another, creating formal ruptures which shifted the tectonics of the building fabric. Once the subjectsâ€™ interventions were complete, I re-entered the design process in an attempt to facilitate their architectural desires, a decision motivated by the opinion that, Ultimately, as I now begin to reflect on the project, architectural authorship, when paired I consider it to have operated with collaborative means, leads to a at two scales. Firstly, as a civic richer output when compared to a purely gesture in the modern city, collective endeavour. proposing a counter-method for how contemporary urban areas are produced and imagined. Secondly, as an initial experiment to test the relationship between virtual reality and its power for generating collaborative and counter architecture. This aspect is something that I find exciting and inspiring as an avenue for future research, into the representational and design potential of virtual reality technology. The projectâ€™s use of various mediums of architectural production, ranging from hand drawing to fully realised virtual reality environments, can be seen as an attempt to 102
break away from architectures’ ever-increasing reliance on standardised forms of design. Whether this intention or output can be described as utopian is something I feel is not for me to claim, however, the project has granted me the ability to see the importance of utopian thinking as an extremely generative starting point towards a method for a counter architecture. Augé, M. (1995) Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso. Duchamp, M. (1913) 3 stoppages étalon (3 Standard Stoppages). London: Tate Modern Lefebvre, H. (1992) The Production of Space. In: Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory. Ed. Leach, N. Abingdon: Routledge. Lefebvre, H. (1997) Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. London: Continuum. Mink, J. (2000) Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968: Art as Anti-Art. Cologne, Germany: Taschen. Milner. J. (1996) Kasimir Malevich and the Art of Geometry. London:Yale University Press. Purini, F. (1998) Cretti 04. Sennett. R. (2003) The Fall of Public Man. London: Penguin Books.
MODERN ARCHITE PECULIAR ADVENT
Materialising the neoliberal global project. Der Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands (1997-2013). OMA/Rem Koolhaas, Architect. Photo by Nathaniel Coleman (2015) 104
ECTURE AND THE TURE OF UTOPIA
NATHANIEL COLEMAN I. Architectural Values: Utopia
Although presented within the context of a meditation on architectural worthiness, philosopher John Haldane’s observation that conflicts over merit usually assume “that disagreement over values within a community is proof of the subjective character of the rival attitudes” broadly describes most instances of divergent belief positions within discourse, even if “rarely noticed is that a necessary condition of there being such disputes is that all parties to them share a common presupposed belief in the objectivity of value (Haldane 1990: 205).” The under-explored tension highlighted by Haldane between presumed subjectivity and shared belief in the objectivity of those same apparently objective conflicting positions hints at a provocative paradox made up of the tension between the presumed objectivity of, the actually quite subjective opinion that utopia must always signify impossibility and absolutism, and entail barbarity in attempts to bring it into existence. In what follows, I reflect on this paradox in relation to the peculiar adventure of utopia within discourses of modern architecture. 105
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For contemporary architecture culture, utopia generally denotes failure; inasmuch as common discourse within the discipline nearly always already presumes utopia must necessarily signify its apparent opposite, dystopia. Or, at the very least, utopia commonly signifies the profound impracticality of realisation, to say nothing of the insurmountable impossibility of fulfilment. On the other hand, the field of Utopian Studies takes a distinctly different view: utopia is multiple, rather than singular, or in French philosopher Paul Ricoeur’s terms, it has both pathological and a constitutive dimensions (Ricoeur 1986; Coleman 2005: 56-62). When constitutive, utopia correlates with Ernst Bloch’s conception of concrete Uutopia rather than the totalising propensities of abstract ones (Bloch 1986). Closer to architecture, or at least the production of space, is Lefebvre’s – in places – positive use of: In this regard, it is worth noting that Sir Thomas Utopia as opening up otherwise hidden More’s coinage of the term possibilities, revealing the possible“Utopia” in 1516 already impossible as an equally constitutive and suggests a dual nature: utopia concrete concept (Coleman 2015). contains both eutopia (good place) and outopia (no place) (1992). As a good no place, utopia must remain forever just out of reach. Any apparent realisation of utopia once and for all will inevitably be little more than a deception. It is this very elusiveness that seems to confirm the uselessness or the certain heartbreak of utopia. But utopia’s elusiveness also reveals its enduring capacity for opening up horizons of possibility beyond the limits of the given. As practical professionals engaged in the realisation of relatively stable concrete manifestations of concepts, it is no wonder that architects, would quickly become frustrated by the near comic certainty that the closer utopian achievement seems, the more certain it is that it will forever remain just out of reach. The prevailing negative characterisation of utopia enters architecture from two apparently diametrically opposed directions: on the one hand Frederick Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) and on the other Karl Popper’s, The Poverty of Historicism (1957 [1944/1945]). The influence of both ends of the left-right spectrum of negative critiques of utopia has been so complete that from Jane Jacobs, to Colin Rowe, Manfredo Tafuri and Kenneth Frampton, amongst many other architectural historians, theorists, and critics, utopia has either been rejected outright or used as shorthand for the failures of modern architecture, including its debunked social project. 106
So pervasive is utopia anxiety that K Michael Hays recent book, Architecture’s Desire: Reading the Late Avant-Garde (2009), dares not speak its name, despite utopia being one of the key topics of architectural thought. Moreover, many Utopian Studies scholars accept the definition of utopia as the education of desire.The title of Hays’ book even recalls Jameson’s, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (2005), not surprising considering Jameson’s dual influence within both utopian studies and architecture theory. Perhaps utopia must remain estranged from architecture, so long as it remains to be reconciled with desire. At that point, transactions with the possible-impossible could make cities of modern architecture less alienating by reclaiming a social purpose for the discipline. II. Dystopia Considering the degree to which the neoliberal project has gone global with all manner of dubious promises, it can sometimes seem as so utopia has already been achieved, though current developments in world events suggest something entirely darker. Nevertheless, a range of probing questions constantly arise: “Do we live in utopia?”; “Is degenerate utopia just another way of saying dystopia?”; “Is dystopia simply utopia inverted?”. Or, do each of these terms: utopia, dystopia and degenerate utopia, actually signify something distinct that could help us to begin imagining (better) alternatives to present conditions? In answering the questions rehearsed above, we might do well to begin with the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). But begin must remain the operative word. According to the OED, dystopia is, “An imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible,” the opposite of utopia. Thus, a “dystopian [is] one who advocates or describes a dystopia” but it also pertains “to a dystopia”, whereas “dystopianism [indicates] dystopian quality or characteristics” (OED).The overview of dystopia given in the OED confirms its variety of potential meanings. Most interesting, perhaps, is that it is a relatively young word, the first recorded appearance of which in English is dated as 1868: “It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable” (Mill, quoted in OED). 107
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The English political economist, John Stewart Mill’s coinage of dystopia (quoted above) actually sheds light on how utopia and dystopia differ but also how they can quickly be construed as interchangeable.The so-called “utopians” Mill refers to hardly matter; rather, what is important is the distinction he makes between utopias as aiming at something “good” while dystopias aim at something “bad”. However, the problem he neatly summarises in his definitions is the belief that infeasibility joins utopias and dystopias. But as English aesthete and social theorist John Ruskin observed, perfection belongs only to nature and the gods, out of reach of human achievement, other than when aspirations are so limited as to be fully realisable (Coleman 2005: 130-132). The estrangement of architecture from utopia becomes apparent if the degree to which architecture has been subsumed within the building industry, and thus by the logic of capitalist production and spatial practices, is considered. For architecture to become an adjunct of the neoliberal global project, decoupling it from utopia would necessarily have been a matter of urgency. I think it is a fair observation to assert that Rem Koolhaas, Principal of OMA, and Patrik Schumacher, Principal of Zaha Hadid Architects are simultaneously influential and extreme examples of this condition. If early twentieth century modernist architecture had even a hint of utopian socialist project to it, the shift of this architecture from avant-garde to mainstream required adopting different narratives: utopia was replaced with capitalist speculation. III. Either/Or Setting aside the tendency of relativism (or extreme subjectivity) in social and political thought to enervate leaps toward the Possible-Impossible (of Henri Lefebvre’s utopia in the positive), utopia and dystopia really cannot be interchangeable, as their aims are diametrically opposed. David Harvey goes so far as to argue that the postmodern unwillingness to decide represents a non-productive “both/and” cul-de-sac (Harvey 2000). Even if the sense that dystopia is the opposite of utopia persists, as suggested above, common usage tends to muddy the affair; moving from dystopia as “inverted utopia” to a kind of Interchangeability between them: “A strand of utopianism or dystopianism”, as one writer put it (see OED). Conjoining “utopia” and “dystopia” establishes a ‘both/and’ condition that, as Harvey suggests, promises both confusion and failure, while encouraging 108
the perception that utopia is always already dystopia, no matter how attractive its promise might be. More productive would be to maintain the “either/or” divide Harvey argues for in Spaces of Hope (2000). Only by making a deliberate decision between alternatives, that is, only by cutting off one option, can life be promised to the other. In fact, the very meaning of “to decide” carries within it a sense of necessary certainty. Coming from the Latin decidere, to cut off, “by giving the victory to one side or the other” of a choice or conflict, decide can have no truck with the neutralising relativism of “both/and”. In point of fact, ethical behaviour requires that the paralysing ambivalence of extreme relativism and subjectivity be overcome so that something like provisional certainty can arise, such as utopian imagination requires. More to the point, utopia is a starkly modern concept that presents a problem for postmodern doubt. On the one hand, utopia asserts that there are always superior alternatives. On the other, beyond postmodernism’s seductiveness, its project is ultimately one of capitulation. Architecture’s transactions with If postmodern doubt seems to postmodernism go beyond a corrective confirm that no option is really to modernist excess to a necessarily antibetter than any other, then how utopian abnegation of progressive social things are must be either good and political ambition. enough, or the only possibility. IV. Utopia Coined in 1516 by Sir (Saint) Thomas More, utopia is a much older word than dystopia. Because More’s utopia depicts an imaginary island enjoying a putatively perfect social, legal, and political system, utopia has primarily come to be associated with all such representations of apparently cognate visions; literary, architectural and political (amongst others). However, as noted above, utopia contains two senses that when taken together establishes something of a paradox: referring to the Greek ou (no) and eu (good) plus topos (place), utopia connotes both a good and a no place. By being a good no place, utopia seems to inscribe within itself the most common criticism of it: impossibility. Worse still, the dual nature of utopia appears to confirm that no real, or actual, place can ever be (or even approximate) such an ideal state. Even more troubling, because the ideal state depicted in utopia requires a fair degree of coercion, as all social organisations do, utopia has come to be associated with totalitarianism. So pervasive is the totalitarian taint of utopia that it threatens to deprive imagination of a concept for considering apparently impossible possibilities. 109
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The association of modernist architecture planning with utopia, and of utopia with totalitarianism, has made it very difficult for architects to push beyond the reductionism of such an equation. In the absence of a crucial habit for thinking about how to achieve the possibleimpossible, the culturally dominant conviction that “there is no alternative” has taken on the character of a natural law, leading writers such as Slavoj Žižek and Fredric Jameson to observe, in effect, that “it is now easier for us to imagine the end of the world than an alternative to capitalism” (Jameson 2003; Žižek 2005). V. Degenerate Utopia At the juncture where the end of utopia, the end of the world, and the apparent eternity of capitalism meet seems a good place to turn my attention toward “degenerate utopia” and the city, which, after all, in our time pretty much amounts to the same thing. Louis Marin’s proposition is that: “A degenerate utopia is ideology changed into the form of a myth” (Marin, 1984: 238). One such myth is the putative totality of capitalism, another could be modernity or modernism, and a third might be the contemporary city as the necessary concretisation of capitalist realism. However, our city – the ones that most of us inhabit – could be construed as utopias by neoliberals, as constituting the best of all possible worlds (for consumption and suppression of dissent); confirming the totality of capitalism. Likewise, anti-utopians might also see in the modern city a realisation of utopia, but only if what they really intend by utopia is dystopia: the worst of all possible worlds. 110
The contemporary city as the necessary concretisation of capitalist realism. Central Business District, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Nathaniel Coleman (2007) 111
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In any event, the contemporary city stands primarily as confirmation “of the impotence of corporate capital to generate a socially cohesive environment” (Rykwert 2002: 227).’ As such, it is arguably no utopia in the positive, concrete, and constitutive sense introduced above. In contradistinction, constitutive utopias persist as open projects, mounting challenges to what is, with alternatives that are only apparently impossible within the limited perspectives of the present. VI. Utopian Prospect Yet, if a utopian prospect for the city, which means for each of us as citizens as well, actually does exist, its traces await detection in the already existing city – historical and modern alike, even in the depths of apparent dystopia (the neoliberal capitalist-realist city, for example). Where to look is the most pressing question.The answer is both obvious and obscure, utopia’s trace resides in the everyday life of the city, especially in those mundane activities of ordinary citizens that have somehow remained relatively free of the dual cancers of advertising and consumption. By enervating citizenship, the capitalist realist neoliberal city deprives individuals and communities of whatever lingering agency they may have. By threatening to transform each of us into consumers first, the spectacular city risks depriving inhabitants of the rights of citizenship. Here again, the necessary estrangement of Lest we allow the stultifying effects of the society of the spectacle to prevail, architecture from utopia comes resistance must begin with the self and into sharper focus: if architects’ through the imagining of alternatives main job is to smooth the together, including in the projection of wheels of consumption by alternative spaces for different ways of decorating capital, in order to being. reshape the city as spectacle, there really can be no place for utopia’s insurgency. Conclusion: Educating Desire According to sociologist and utopian studies scholar Ruth Levitas, “The primary function of utopia, especially in [its] more holistic form, is [. . .] the education of desire” (Levitas 2005: 11). As I see it, this suggests that the estrangement of architecture from utopia is, at least partly, a problem of the social production of consciousness. Any survival of utopia, including in relation to architecture, must then be understood as an anomaly; a kind of negative attribute that suggests socialisation has somehow failed. In terms that could be used to describe some rare examples of architecture, and perhaps what ought to be the aim of schools of architecture, Levitas continues: 112
“Utopia creates a space in which the reader is addressed not just cognitively, but experientially, and enjoined to consider and feel what it would be like not just to live differently, but to want differently – so that the takenfor-granted nature of the present is disrupted. This is what sociologists call defamiliarising the familiar” (Levitas 2005: 11). For reasons too numerous to outline in any detail here, when architects attempt to disrupt the nature of the present, they generally do so in a selfconsciously dystopian manner; more often than not achieving disorientation rather than reorientation; while all too frustrating desire, rather than educating it. In the guise of some ideal of autonomy — as though architecture really could free itself from the chains of capitalist-realism by way of a-politically, economically, and socially ignorant pseudo-avant-garde opportunism — many of the most visible architects engage in a “kind of socially symbolic production whose primary task is the construction of concepts and subject positions rather than the construction of things” (Hays 2010: 1).
Arguably, paper architecture, and, even more so, constructed so-called neo-avant-garde architecture, ultimately succeed only in securing the existing order, rather than shattering it. Supposedly sovereign architecture is largely incapable of offering up suggestions for either the framework or content of better conditions. Not surprisingly, this mode of practice originally emerged as a selfconsciously anti-utopia response to the apparent failures of the supposedly utopian project of high modern architecture (see, for example, Colin Rowe’s 1975 introduction to Five Architects. See also Coleman 2012). Left only with uneducated (or socially constructed) desire, architects inflate their purpose to obscure their marginality, culturally but within the processes of the building industry as well. Or, as Rykwert so aptly stated it in 1973, architects “write as if they were ‘important’ people. Their style is usually hermetic and shrouds the questionable mysteries of their trade. They like to appear as demiurge master-builders; creators of the whole artificial world” (Rykwert, 1973).Thus, although, as Levitas put it, “The designation of utopia as a space for the education of desire underlines the point that the As it turns out, architects have imagination of society otherwise largely abandoned the idea “that involves imagining ourselves the imagination of society otherwise otherwise” (Levitas 2005: 20). involves imagining ourselves otherwise”. 113
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Ever since architects’ confidence in the conviction that to “To change life, [. . .] we must first change space” (Lefebvre: 190) was decisively shaken in response to the significant failures of post-war modernist architecture and urbanism, architecture has been systematically emptied of its social and political content, and with it utopia. Although wrongly diagnosed as utopian, the shortcomings of the city of modern architecture are typically attributed to utopia. But what if the totalising tendencies of modernist Bound as so many modernist architecture architecture and urbanism at manifestos were to the habits of its most extreme were at best instrumental reason, positivism, and pathologically or abstractly scientific management, there can be little utopian? And at worst, little surprise that the possible-impossible of more than abstract exercises in concrete or constitutive utopianism was bad social science? abandoned for the apparent comforts of formalism. This article was originally published as: Coleman, N. (2017) Modern Architecture and the Peculiar Adventure of Utopia. Betonart. vol 52, pp.12–19. Our thanks to Betonart for permitting its inclusion here.
Bloch, E. (1959) The Principle of Hope, Volume 3. Translated by Plaice, N., Plaice, S. & Knight, P. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (1986). Coleman, N. (2015) Lefebvre for Architects. Thinkers for Architects, vol. 11, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Coleman, N. (2012) Utopia and Modern Architecture? Architectural Research Quarterly. Volume 16, Issue 04 (December 2012), pp. 339 - 348. Coleman, N. (2005) Utopias and Architecture. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Engels, F. (1970) Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880). In: Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume 3. Moscow: Progress Publishers, pp. 95-151. Available online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ (accessed 17 January 2017). Haldane, J. (1990) Architecture, Philosophy and the Public World. British Journal of Aesthetics. Vol. 30, No. 3 (July 1990), pp. 203-217. 114
Harvey, D. (2000) Spaces of Hope. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Hays, K. M. (2009) Architecture’s Desire: Reading the Late Avant-Garde. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Jameson, F. (2005) Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London: Verso. Jameson, F. (2003) Future City. New Left Review. 21, May-June. Available online at: https://newleftreview.org/II/21/fredric-jameson-future-city (accessed 16 January 2017) Lefebvre, H. (1991) The Production of Space. Translated by Nicholson-Smith, D. Oxford: Blackwell [1974/1984]. Levitas, R. (2005) The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society, or Why Sociologists and Others Should Take Utopia More Seriously. Inaugural Lecture: University of Bristol (24 October 2005). Available online at: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/ sites/spais/migrated/documents/inaugural.pdf Marin, L. (1984) Utopic Degeneration: Disneyland. In: Utopics: Spatial Play, Translated by: Vollrath, R. New Jersey: Humanities Press. pp. 239-257. More, T. (1992) Utopia. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Critical Edition, 2nd Revised edition. . Popper, K. (1957) The Poverty of Historicism. London: Routledge. [1944/1945] Ricoeur, P. (1986) Lectures on Ideology and Utopia. New York: Columbia University Press Rowe, C. (1975) Introduction. Five Architects. New York: Oxford University Press  Rykwert, J. (2002) Seduction of Place : The History and Future of Cities. New York: Vintage Books Rykwert, J. (1973) Adolf Loos: The New Vision. Studio International, Volume 186, Number 957. Žižek, S. (2005) Zizek! Documentary Film. Directed by Taylor, A. Hidden Driver Productions 115
This publication was produced as part of the Imaginaries of the Future A Leverhulme International Network It was presented as part of the Utopia, Now! symposium at Chelsea College of Arts, 29-31st August 2017
WITH THANKS To all contributors To David Bell for publication support. To the staff and students of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University. To the project members, international partners and advisory board of the Imaginaries of the Future Network.
Edited by: Amy Butt and Nathaniel Coleman Cover illustration: David Boyd Graphic design: Amy Butt Dr Nathaniel Coleman is Reader in History & Theory of Architecture at Newcastle University. His most recent book is Lefebvre for Architects (Routledge, 2015). Amy Butt is an architect, co-founder of the architecture collective Involve, and Architectural Design Studio Tutor at Newcastle University. ISBN 978-1-9998353-0-9 This publication was supported by a International Research Network grant from the Leverhulme Trust.
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This publication was produced as part of the Imaginaries of the Future A Leverhulme International Network. It was presented as part of the U...
Published on Aug 29, 2017
This publication was produced as part of the Imaginaries of the Future A Leverhulme International Network. It was presented as part of the U...