another pamphlet 2012 #04 \ / | < | \ | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
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the inescapability of scale on the threshold of scalelessness a productive blasĂŠ mass camouflage big things stress test less is less the scaleless gap shells and scales city building out of context scaleless conversation
chair, office \ / | < | \ |, 2012
Aegean, Sea-Pillon, Hiroshi Sugimoto, 1990
THE INESCAPABILITY OF SCALE Architecture has three possible positions regarding scale. It either strives to master it (Palladio’s Villa Rotonda), it challenges or subverts it (Superstudio’s Monumento Continuo), or it denies it altogether (Libeskind’s Chamber Works). This last position, which seems to be favored in some academic circles, serves mainly one purpose: to remove architecture from any possible pollution caused by the real world and capitalism, and enshrine it to showcase all its internal coherence, perfection and bliss. Still, we find that within the reductionism of this ivory-tower approach, scale is hardly removed from the equation, since even without context the architectural elements stubbornly relate among themselves in terms of scale. In fact, if we look at the all-white renders produced in some of our schools, all that is left of architecture in them is a hyper-articulation of parts to whole, a sort of self-scaling. This pervasiveness of scale, even in those architectures that try to avoid it, may be caused by the way they are consumed through the sense of sight. Measuring things and distances visually is an automatic mechanism, necessary for survival, and one of the few things that we cannot stop doing consciously. As a consequence, one of the few ways to achieve scaleless architecture is to suppress vision. This has been attempted in some recent works, such as Phillipe Rahm’s Hormonorium, where an excess of white light in a white room is used to literally burn out the boundaries of space, or in Diller & Scofidio’s Blur Building, where artificial fog was used to achieve a similar white-out effect. Again, we find that even in the direct experience of these extreme cases scale is never completely removed. Perhaps then, the answer to this longing for scalelessness is to cancel consciousness and retreat to our dreams, where we can design and live free from objects and dimensions, as pure thought.
Vault House, Johnson Marklee, 2008
ON THE THRESHOLD OF SCALELESSNESS Q: A: Q: A:
Why didn’t you make it larger so that it would loom over the observer? I was not making a monument. Then why didn’t you make it smaller so that the observer could see over the top? I was not making an object.
Tony Smith’s replies to questions about his six-foot steel cube.1
More than eighty years ago, English scientist J.B.S. Haldane demonstrated that the existence of the sixtyfoot-tall giants in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress was impossible. By deriving that the linear crosssectional growth of their bones could not have withstood the parabolic increase of their mass, Haldane concluded that an optimum size exists for every type of animal, inferring that a change in size inevitably demands a change in form.2 Both Tony Smith and J.B.S. Haldane addressed the critical thresholds of scale and the diametric changes when such thresholds are transgressed. Transcendental models that are impervious to scale seem exhausted at a time when there are more failed examples than the few exceptions which succeeded in transcending scale. One only needs to be reminded of the over-sized projects spawned from promise that the form of a lighthouse is also a teapot. In order to address the scaleless in architecture today, one must embrace the critical threshold between scales rather than trying to evade it. In reference to his ‘twin phenomenon’, Aldo van Eyck claimed that ‘what has right-size is at the same time both large and small’3; suggesting that the coexistence between large and small is a complimentary condition and not a contradictory one. The scaleless does not reside in a static condition but occurs when the object oscillates at the threshold of critical scale - right before or right after it became too big or too small. 1 Quoted in Robert Morris, Notes on Sculpture 2, Published in Artforum, vol. 5, no. 2, October 1966 p. 20-23. 2 J.B.S. Haldane 1927, Possible Worlds, Published in The Faber Book of Science, edited by John Carey, Faber and Faber, London 1995. 3 Aldo van Eyck 1962-3, Right-Size, Published in Aldo van Eyck, Strichting Wonen, Amsterdam 1982 p. 43.
The Infinite Library, Book 4, Haris Epaminonda
A PRODUCTIVE BLASÉ Scale relates, locates, sizes, and stabilizes. It offers a history and proposes a future. It authenticates. It confirms pedigree. It provides a common point of reference. It is the descriptive placard next to the work of art. It is useful, and it is complicating. It too often gets in the way. The work of Haris Epaminonda is scaleless. Not only do her films, photographs, sculptures, and books deliberately reject citation1, they also forcefully resist traditional strategies of spatial and temporal scaling. She has written, “I like to see images or objects merely as what they are: a sculpture, a color, a scene, a form, a surface.” Matter-of-factly presented, her found objects nonetheless don’t add up. They don’t fit. They don’t quite align. Out of place, out of time, and yet curiously adjacent, Epaminonda’s images and objects drift. Liberated from a specific context, from a particular narrative, they are free to accumulate, acquiesce, or abscond. Her work is slippery. Though more dry than wet, Gerhard Richter’s indifference to the obligation of style is similarly slippery, representing a related form of scalelessness. Hal Foster has written of Richter’s work that each new painting, or new series, “can appear somehow casual, almost interchangeable, even when they are highly wrought and quite individual,” evoking the “condition of the blasé.”2 For Simmel, this blunted (blasé) sensibility meant a loss of ones capacity to value differences; a world of low contrast. But in Richter and Epaminonda’s work, Simmel’s capitalist grey malaise is paradoxically harnessed as a productive aesthetic strategy. Without a context or narrative to provide scale, we must drift through the fog ourselves. When nothing in particular is worth getting excited about, everything acquires a slight glimmer.
“I simply never keep a record of the sources I am using. It is a decision and a liberating moment of freeing the object from its past.” – Haris Epaminonda 1
Foster, Hal. “Semblance According to Gerhard Richter”, in Gerhard Richter, October Files, p. 119. 2
Cestius, Mark Hlavacik
MASS CAMOUFLAGE In O-14, complexity doesn’t reside in the volume or mass of the building, which is a relatively simple cruciform extrusion, but in the patterning of the envelope. The pyramid of Cestius startled me when I visited Rome because I could not, especially in the smog, tell how tall the pyramid was. It is the result of the scalelessness of the monolithic form. We must find a way to achieve monumentality or iconic status; the simple grandeur of building big is no longer a sufficient modus operandi as it was in the time of Cheops. We wished to preserve the monolithic lack of scale while at the same time confronting the issue of fenestration, absent in the pyramid. Windows typically provide a building with a sense of scale, but we did not want to permit a clear reading of O-14’s monolithic stature because we sought to temper a new relationship between the building and its context. We wanted a new effect, a new zone in the skyline that did not follow the stratified pattern of its neighbors. The gradient of holes brought another level of disruption to such a highly symmetrical object as O-14, and is similar in pattern to that of a toad’s skin, an equally symmetrical being. It is a symphony of disruption, mottled with markings intended to blur, confuse and obfuscate. The overall form of the toad itself – sometimes taut, sometimes loose – further blends pattern and surface systems into a coordinated but inseparable whole. O-14 does not attempt to recapitulate the stratified elevations of the towers on the skyline surrounding it. Unlike a traditional skyline object, O-14 strangely merges ground and sky, acting as a connective field. It is a peculiar unnatural-natural object that can either be read as growing out of the ground or as a strange chunk of artificial moon dropped onto the horizon. This effect was unexpected, provoking some retroactive theorizing on our part. Technically, it is an after-effect of the gradient fields of the tower’s fenestration pattern. Nevertheless, the result is uncanny.
O, by the author
BIG THINGS I’d like to make big things. But they need to start small in order that they might get big. And so it begins with letterforms, which, appropriately enough, are good examples of integers; they create words that prompt paragraphs which spawn works that comprise canons. And if the success of a work depends on an engaging narrative (indeed, it likely should), then this is a near-perfect place to start: with an alphabet, the most common narrative-builder. And then it goes and grows from there. Unto themselves, the elements that comprise the work should be a bit dumb, blunt, candid; honest in the same way Modernism liked its materials (think of an ‘O’ rendered from a perfect circle). In aggregate, their candor should allow multiple points of access, ultimately getting at something humorous or friendly or generous from the artlessness of it all. With its details in collusion, the whole should literally be bigger, better, and more formally-engaging than the sum of its parts. And the things must be big — in gesture and in appearance — namely because they seek an audience. The audience has only just started to exist, though, and so the bigness should make them aware of something that they didn’t yet know they were looking for. Performative in this way, the scale seeks to create dialogue or discourse; the work, if it’s done, distributed and disseminated with thought, prompts exchange between me and an audience member — emotional, intellectual, fiscal, etc. — and it’s this exchange that grows my heart and my head and my wallet, and allows me to make more things. It should go without saying, then, that the new things ought to be bigger and better and more formally-engaging than the ones that begat them.
Greenwich Emotion Map, Christian Nold
STRESS TEST Scale is what links the body to form. It is what connects the body to the city. Modernity rewrote the relationship between the body, form, and the city through scale and vice versa: scalessness, which removed the body as the central subject of its focus. The body became unhinged from space, from the world. The city read through this lens thus produced new kinds of forms, collective bodies or, in some cases, spaces without bodies, that were most visible at the intersection with architecture, health, and maintenance. Today, the contemporary city is in a continuous competition with different versions of itself, the healthy versus sick city. In particular disease and illness are increasingly scaleless and unpredictable, the city itself has become the body and we are the pathogens. Disease is almost always without a definitive scale, while health is always scaled to the individual body. (One contemporary example of Modernity’s scalelessness is the new social replacing the urban.) The subsequent consequences on the physical world affect everything from infrastructures to architecture, and manifests in many different forms of stress. One action of this new category of socialization is further physical isolation from other individuals, adding to already existing contemporary stresses upon form from structural, material, to infrastructural. Paradigmatically, the urban has been a limitless place for socialization, for cultural friction, but is now in need of innovative types of scaled fixes or architectural transplants. Urban housing is a critical example of the commingling of internal and external stresses. To create stress-free housing necessitates a refinement to how the architect-landscaper-sanitary-psychologistengineer-urbanist-builder1 acts upon form, moving away from a laissez-faire generalist stance to adopting a specialist expertise that emerges out of the politics of contemporary health, and that the body is once again a subject of the public world. The public “social” world is our collective body. Form related to public housing, in particular, is in need of re-establishing minimum environments through a dependence on agents for public health, whereby the scaleless becomes episodically scaled to be stress free, even if only temporarily.
Alison Smithson, “The Violent Consumer- Waiting for the goodies”.
Rubber, Rocks, Glass, 2011
LESS IS LESS Architecture can’t be scaleless. As soon as you experience architecture, it has a scale: a relationship to your body. Sever this connection and all that’s left is an image, or an atmosphere. And yet there is a long history of architects manipulating scale to disrupt experience. Postmodern explorations of architectural symbolism often relied on out-of-scale gestures (think of Robert Venturi’s oversize windows in his Guild House or Phillip Johnson’s enormous “Chippendale” pediment on his AT&T building) to lend their buildings a cartoonish quality that would register more as a sign of architecture than as architecture itself. In the end, these exercises were more graphic than semiotic, prefiguring the image-focused sensibility that dominates architecture today in the form of a universal taste for “iconic” architecture. Everywhere we look— magazines, blogs, web searches—we see architecture designed for sales pitches and computer screens, scaleless in the sense that it disregards context and is completely divorced from considerations of actual experience. It is no coincidence that these projects are conceived, produced, and consumed in scaleless digital environments. (After the crash, most of them will remain there permanently.) When most architects today do talk about experience, it’s in terms of atmosphere. But atmosphere is the apotheosis of the scaleless; it overwhelms rather than engages, trading agency for affect. “Less” is a risky suffix. We work with the formless, but our notion of a formless architecture is not an architecture with no form. It is an unresolvable, impossible simultaneity of formal and formless elements within the same architecture. To achieve an equally productive scaleless, we would oppose the frictionless ether of media or the computer with a simultaneity of scales, myriad but specific. This would be the scalelessness of the grain of sand and the pile, of wholes made up of wholes, not parts. Such a scaleless, like our formless, would refuse to resolve contradictions, rather than simply eliminate them.
Floating Gardens, Studio Noach + Anne Holtrop, 2010
THE SCALELESS GAP One of Modernismâ€™s principle concerns was the integration of the human scale with new mechanized and industrialized forms. The scaleless denies this, favoring scalar contradiction. Going beyond the pop-art method of being out-of-scale the scaleless describes something fundamentally incomprehensible, unrelateable, and nonhuman. While no thing can truly be scaleless, the attempt and subsequent failure to understand an object by comparison to another known quantity leaves a relational gap between the object and the viewer. At stake in this gap are the attitudes and associations that are created in its place. Weâ€™re familiar with two associations produced by the scaleless. First, the scaleless found in nature (e.g. clouds, the cosmos, mountain landscapes, the ocean) that produces a sensation of the sublime. Here the relational gap is filled by a totalizing sense of wonder, fear, panic, or amazement often followed by an acute awareness of human scale measured against such immensities. While seemingly unending these scaleless landscapes are simultaneously inclusionary and non-human. They highlight our role, albeit insignificant, within some much larger system of nature. The second association comes from manmade scaleless objects - whether symbolic like the pyramids or abstract geometries like the sculptures of Tony Smith. More confrontational- manmade scaleless objects live in museum galleries and on city blocks. They vibrate between being understood at the scale of their constituent parts and the legibility of icon, shape, and form. These objects measure human scale against the logics, organization, government, society, or corporation that create them. Embedded in this measure is both the possibility of inclusion and oppression. Here the scaleless gap is filled by the knowledge that the object is manmade and has an implicit meaning or subversive intention. We are in need of a third kind of scaleless - a scaleless that blends these two modes into a manmade supernatural sublime. These objects are at once landscape and manmade - iconic yet meaningless. They are Manneristic in the sense that they are neither artificial nor natural. This dislocation of meaning allows the relational gap to remain empty as a space of infinite potential. Similar to looking at the horizon of the ocean, instead of associations and attitudes there is only the thing, infinite and present, devoid of meaning and of scale.
Still from Le Corbusier’s footage at Arcachon (1930), in “Le Corbusier: the Art of Architecture”. Weil am Rhen: Vitra Design Museum, c2007, p. 287.
SHELLS AND SCALES A short film, taken by Le Corbusier in the basin of Arcachon from 1930, opens in movement — the camera tracks unsteadily over a landscape from an unknown distance. Five “v” shaped marks cut across the screen in sequence, followed by bodies of liquid and a cluster of oblong forms. At first, the footage appears to have been taken from a plane — perhaps over some rock-strewn desert or along an archipelago. The camera is moving just fast enough to stay slightly out of focus and too slowly to reveal its source of motion. A network of roads seems to appear in the crisscrossing lines below as the surface becomes more dense and varied. Suddenly the camera jogs to the left and begins to careen towards another group of forms, spinning dangerously close to the ground. Before recognizing the familiar outline of mollusks and even the texture of wet sand, one understands the scale of the film simply through the speed of displacement. The rapid motion of Le Corbusier’s arm, drawing the camera down to the level of the sea, dispels the imagined aerial view and reveals that the architect is staggering along a beach. In the context of this discussion about an “emerging scalelessness” within architectural practice, Le Corbusier’s home video could be thought of as an earlier point of reference. The film is not scaleless in the sense that it resists measure through the absence of positive features-- its scale is tied up in the speed of the image. The imagined aerial view breaks apart into a collection of miniature perspectives, which are themselves in the guise of much larger things. Lacking the sea, we find the waves in the texture of the bark; we imagine its borders in the outline of the tidal pool.
The Tower of Babel, Athanasius Kircher, 1679
CITY BUILDING Babel, Metropolis, Blade Runner, The 5th Element… The future should be vertical. Size is an ongoing architect’s wet dream. In an architect’s world the term vertical city is cliché. We (architects, film makers, cartoonists, writers…) all once had that phantasm of creating a vertical urbanism. Rare are the great architects who haven’t contributed to this obsession. Not so long ago we were asked to do a piece of city in Shenzhen, China. It had to be 2.5 million square meters. It had to be big! There’s a strange way about working on big things for the sake of them being big. It’s not the scale in itself that’s interesting, rather the possibilities it unleashes. But the scale confuses the stake: Is it about making the biggest building ever or understanding that at such a scale it is no longer about designing a building but really an entire city? We did quite a few wasted attempts until we realized that the task wasn’t about fitting the surfaces on the site but rather to achieve a socially and logistically functioning vertical city. From that point on everything became more obvious. At least our mistakes were striking. We had to realize that to make a vertical city is not to make a tower! A city offers a complex set of social and spatial interactions while a tower offers one condition: an elevator to connect a series of repetitive floors. The elevator is the link to everything and therefore your only chance to meet anyone. For that reason we don’t live in towers. We just occupy them for as little as we can… then we rush out to wider horizons. There’s a saying that it’s not so much the length that matters, rather the width… that works in architecture too: In order to reach those horizons we decided to cover the entire site with our building/city. The impossibility of making a 350 m deep building made us work on excavations that quickly allowed us to realize neighborhoods containing all components that compose a city. We suddenly felt the glimpse of achieving that architect’s dream of a three-dimensional city. We came to think that to realize it was the only requirement the project demanded.
Camp Good Times, model, Frank Gehry and Claes Oldenburg, 1984
OUT OF CONTEXT Perhaps it is our insatiable search for new architectural forms that demands we consider the possibilities of reincarnation. In 1962, Aldo van Eyck wrote, “a house must be like a small city if it’s to be a real house, a city like a large house if it’s to be a real city”.1 Van Eyck’s interest in the underlying logics of both a city and a building wasn’t that they were mutually exclusive, but instead that they are interchangeable, and, further, that the form-finding process itself is a scaleless endeavor. This brings to mind a series of collaborations Frank Gehry undertook with Claes Oldenburg in 1968. Each shared a curiosity for taking common objects and finding ways to decontextualize them, challenging their meaning and function through unconventional size and location. Oldenburg enlarged stereotypical objects to the scale of architecture. Gehry explored the recurring architectural concerns between the functional demands of shelter and the formal obsessions of composition. Yet for Gehry, Oldenburg’s work was at times too stubborn to introduce moments of architecture. He encouraged Oldenburg to look further, towards objects that were relatable, but that also satisfied Gehry’s interests by offering some of the essential elements of inhabitation, such as roofs, doors, and windows. A three-way electric plug, for example, lent itself to these traditional markers simply by the nature of its apertures. At the right scale, an outlet could be a window or door. But ultimately, the triumph of this “opportunistic” approach also became a point of impasse — ideas flowed in only one direction instead of being interchangeable. Form finding was reduced to a game of novel appropriation relying heavily on the recognition of the reference object. If scale is a reminder of our relationship to a work of architecture, the scaleless exists in the discovery of that work. Reincarnation establishes faith in this search, in the process, developing alternative forms of engagement. Although Gehry and Oldenburg’s collaboration may have been somewhat deterministic - preferring not to start from scratch, but rather with objects lodged in the cultural consciousness - their interest was not about exact fits. Their collaboration thrived in-between scales, at the limits of each medium, cultivating a tension between what is familiar and what is foreign. Aldo van Eyck adopted this quote from Leon Battista Alberti’s, “house is like a small city and the city is like a big house” 1
>< scaleless conversation
11 - Observed in ‘Mass Camouflage’, the kind of scalelessness of O-14 seems complicated (in the right way). In terms of form, it is neither subtractive or additive, instead relying on the diagrammatic qualities of a model (both digital and physical) and in the end, assuring the building and the model register some appearance of each other. The monolithic nature is also reinforced by its material choice (cast concrete). While there is little evidence of tectonics in O-14, its materiality is in service of the whole. The approach referred to in ‘Less is Less’ works at the opposite end of the spectrum, starting with a material (and physical models) and working out toward a form (whose limit may be undetermined), described here as “wholes made up of wholes”. I wonder if these two strategies somehow share a common interest in search of alternative forms of engagement?
03 - Caught between the monument and the object, the city and the building, the aerial landscape and the small patch of sand, the scaleless clearly equivocates. But where is the line between a frustrating contradiction and a productive oscillation? If, as many here suggest, this line resides between forms that are “out of scale” and forms that occupy multiple “right” scales at once, what specifically is the value of this endless oscillation? How do we ensure that this scalar contingency is not merely a crutch to avoid having to choose a single scale?
08 - Maybe it’s not so much that we avoiding choosing a single scale as a crutch but that the single scale is an inadequate tool in our world today. From the scaled
side - meticulously scaled humanist forms and details certainly reinforce a locavore appetite for architecture that is understandable and familiar. Completely scaleless objects by contrast are otherworldly and lack any human scale in a way that is distancing and evades engagement. The oscillation between scales is about creating the possibility of engagement between the viewer and the object by being both familiar and strange approaching the uncanny.
03 - Yes, at its best, this oscillation between multiple scales, this uncanny overlap of familiar and strange, is an appeal for participation. Familiar enough to be legible, but strange enough to keep you looking, the scaleless demands the active engagement of the viewer. It’s an open ended question, one familiar enough to elicit a response, but foreign enough that the answer remains tantalizingly out of reach, hanging on the tip of your tongue.
07 - First off - the scaleless is neither a new problem or a new trend but only a new way of labeling existing contradictions it has always been part of architecture. ...resolution is never necessary. Object/Context Scaleless: It seems like the great divide amongst contributors is whether the scaleless is something that is abstract – manufactured through architectural systems (even out of thin air…) or whether it is a contradiction produced from colliding found elements (objects, materials, and cities). Though I sympathize with the potential autonomy of the first condition, I am partial to the ‘found’ complexity of the second. Perhaps the ‘good’ scaleless is the inevitable contradiction in a building’s ability to resolve the complexity of an invented internal (architectural) scale and external
(contextual) scale. The fact is - a good building can never have a single scale if it wants to straddle autonomy and context. Choosing a single scale isn’t about an unwillingness to make choices – doing so would actually be very problematic – limiting or tending towards an enforcement of clear hierarchies. Multiple scales or scalessness produces oscillations that are more often than not productive, subversive, or just simply important. The current trend in ‘bad’ scalelessness is one that favors naive autonomy. It is architectural scalelessness just for fun (i.e. Wendy). And although Venturi, or Gehry, or even Eisenman might have incorporated notions of playful scalelessness – I don’t think it was ever just for kicks. On the other end, it seems like there is another variety that is much more productive - Wang Shu’s Ningbo Museum might be one of the strongest contemporary examples of a building that navigates both an intriguing internal (architectural) scalelessness and a new kind if contextual scalelessness. ... and a major part of this success is in taking on a new material(matter) scale.... (cont.) Material Scaleless: The ‘unfamiliar’ is the quickest road to scalelessness, ironically it is the most familiar scalessness in architecture typically object or shape driven - and growing old fast. On the other side of things - where matter-science meets materialscience is perhaps the most intriguing area of possibility for the scaleless today. This is partially based on the overthrow of computational norms. There is very little credibility to the whims of computational architecture that had long promised solutions in process driven (biological, etc.) scalelessness. It is the false-hope of this kind of scalelessness - biological scales or simulated processes blown-up to architectural scales - that only entertain a rudimentary idea of ‘scaling-up’. We are currently working with a number of material physicists who have confirmed, for example, that a supercomputer running full capacity can calculate little more than a teaspoon of sand if their
model is to incorporate all the available data (randomness, friction, etc..). So there is a known and critical gap here, and the only way to work through it is with actual materials. Materials of one scale performing in an alternate architectural scale is a good place to start. Not novel and by no means unfamiliar, but matter used in a different way - where something loose or unfixed becomes a detail - where an unexpected change in matterstate becomes a type of scalelessness. Form (or scalelessness through form) is no longer a relevant critical project - add material and we might be on to something...
11 - With regard to ‘matter’, you are suggesting material as form (in opposition to shape as form), and matter, as the most irreducible unit (not a ‘part’ but a ‘whole’ in and of itself). There is clear potential for this method to liberate one from the weight of classical part/whole constructions, but it somehow seems to also suggest a single direction, in this case starting from the material and building out towards some assemblance of a whole. My question is whether there are limits to this technique and should they be established (the smallest instance of some materials may be too small for us to relate to). Then I wonder, does it need a counter direction (a kind of contextual feedback), as in Eyck’s ‘twin phenomena’ described in “On The Threshold of Scalelessness”. In order to recognize the oscillations, doesn’t one need to define the range?
07 - I would say that we probably start from a different notion of ‘form’ than the one you suggest. It seems the history of architecture has largely given preference to Platonic over Aristotelian notions of form - and we have become much more interested in the later where the contradiction between raw matter and
form is one in the same - that one is always struggling to become the other. As a result, I would say that we are most interested in things that don’t even make it to ‘form’ proper - that we are interested in state-change not stable states of matter – where wholes are a tricky business. With this approach, the unidirectional concern that was brought up in the last comment is a very interesting point. ‘Contextual feedback’ for us comes from the mixing of architectural systems, we never see the granular (small whole building a large whole) as an end in itself, but just a component for designing elements of spaces and structures that would need to interact with additional systems. If architecture is good at one thing - it’s probably at putting two things together. A scalelessness that can hold up to the test as systems come together seems like a tall but interesting order.
11 - Your interest in state-change seems to uproot traditional notions of stability and its role in architecture, not just in a structural sense but in an optical sense as well (through hierarchy and ordering). I am curious about how stability relates to your suggestion of ‘loose’ details or possibly ‘open’ connections. This seems more likely to fit with temporary structures that are predisposed to reconfiguration. But it appears to me you are not strictly speaking along those terms, but rather about how these mechanisms could be deployed at a building scale (and equally as ‘permanent’?). Do you see this applicable to larger structures that would as a result offer some new form of equilibrium? Or is ‘equilibrium’ antithetical to the scaleless (or in your case, the formless)?
02 - I think there are generally two states of scalelessness in the comprehension and conception of buildings.
The first state is intrinsically dynamic, where the building constantly oscillates between various scales. To be successful one must define a precise delineation of the range of oscillation, and must not try to address every scale. For example, one could define the range as not smaller than a teapot or larger than a lighthouse. Infinite variations of scalelessness can occur, as long as one stays within the specified range. Once outside of this range, the building becomes incoherent. Frank Gehry does this very well, but the architect who performed this state of scalelessness best was Aldo Rossi. The second state is of scalelessness is static, where there is only one scale to the building but it is the right scale. The margin of failure in this approach is very high and the path towards the solution requires the mastery of all scales, although only one is offered in the end. Upon achieving this perfect scale, the building attains an aura of scalelessness by recognizing and gathering the multiple scales inherent in the surroundings and utilizing them to its advantage. This is a very delicate balance; the building must remain still but not dead, aloof but not autistic. Louis Kahn was very good at this, but the architect who was best at this state of scalessness is I.M. Pei.
I’ve composed this response to the Scaleless conversation in a type size that Google Mail calls ‘Small’.
I’ve written this one in a type size that G-mail has titled, simply, ‘Normal’.
This response is set using the ‘Large’ option.
This one is ‘Huge”. I’m enamored by the mutability of scale via medium-specific integers and the ensuing subjectivity that is inherent in A) the description(s) of that execution [ by the ‘maker(s)’ ], and B) the perception(s) of that execution [ by the ‘subject(s)’ ].
I’d like to be moved by humble gestures that somehow connote God-sized notions, and I’d also quite like to allow grand gestures to prove impotent and act as nothing more than a reference to their own existence.
09 - Not to broach an entirely new topic of conversation, but I wonder why no one has discussed scale as a convention of architectural practice (as opposed to the experience of scale after the fact). Scales take on particular features — the clarity of detail in a ¼ scale section, the expanse of site in a 1:500 plan, the deceptive quality of a 1:2 model — that determine the outcome of a design. Even the inversion between scale and the represented object seems to produce specific effects — larger scales are used for smaller objects and smaller scales for larger objects. As a result, architects are always scaling away from their buildings, even as the drawings increase in definition. One could compare this double movement to the artificial construction of vertigo in film. The camera travels backwards on a dolly, while simultaneously zooming in at the same rate. Thebackground appears to expand too quickly in relation to the constant foreground, confusing the depth of field. Could the dizzying “oscillation” of the scaleless not reside here as well, in the very production of architecture?
08 - In ‘Stress Test’ the the scaleless described isn’t a formal object based scaleless but a “new social” perhaps digital or networked scaleless that has emerged. Finding the scaleless in less easily measured quantities like stress, mood, and mental health moves the scaleless from a purely formal discussion towards a socio-cultural one. The resulting physical stresses on urbanity from this “new social” requires some different approaches. The author’s argument for architecture transplants seems like an
interesting way to create this oscillating scale - reusing architectural elements out of their original meaning and use to discover new ways of engagement with them and each other. Is this effort in service of rescaling the real to respond to the scaleless environment of the â€œnew socialâ€?? Is this somehow a way of reducing cultural anxiety?
01 - I am interested in the notion of the new social as enunciated by some of the contributors and its capacity to act as an alibi for the scalelessness of some recent architectural projects. The previously impossible exchange and dissemination of information between people without a common background (many times without a common language) has considerably expanded our exposure to things and ideas but it has also resulted in a fragmentary and sometimes debased appreciation of them. This conversation is actually a good example: an anonymous electronic exchange between strangers in which a lot is lost in translation. In this context, it makes sense to think that the scaleless object, by severing the links to context and renouncing to explain itself is adopting a defensive position towards an uncertain and mutating spectator, much like an armadillo. On the other hand, the idea that the scaleless resides in the ambiguity between scales and the vibration that it produces seems like a productive strategy to confront architecture and offers the possibility to build upon a theme that is recurring in our discipline. Nevertheless, the greater promise of the scaleless probably resides in a more radical interpretation, in the capacity of total scalessness to create a vacuum where the new can be born. In the absolute overload of information where we live, the scaleless offers silence, the necessary erasure of the old to make room for what is to come; it is a cocoon.
JESUS VASSALLO is an architect and writer in Madrid, Spain.
GIANCARLO VALLE is an architect in New York City and co-conspirator of another pamphlet.
SAM STEWART-HALEVY is an architect in New York City.
HILARY SAMPLE is a founding partner of the New York based architecture firm MOS and an Associate Professor at Columbia University GSAPP.
GARRETT RICCIARDI and JULIAN ROSE are co-founders of Formlessfinder, winner of the 2012 AIA NY New Practices award and 2011 finalist for the MoMA/PS1 YAP.
JESSE REISER is an architect, professor, and founder of Reiser + Umemoto in New York City.
RYAN NEIHEISER is an architect in New York City and co-conspirator of another pamphlet.
MARK LEE is the principal of Johnston Marklee & Associates in Los Angeles.
ISAIAH KING is an architect in New York City and co-conspirator of another pamphlet.
JULIEN DE SMEDT is the founder of JDS Architects, located in Copenhagen, Brussels, Shanghai, and New York City.
BENJAMIN CRITTON is an American-born, New York- & London-based designer, typographer, art director, publisher, writer, editor and curator.
SCALELESS! pamphlet contributors:
Above all, another pamphlet is a conversation, a loose exchange of forms and ideas, a shared excitement. It is a way to play, a frame through which to look, an open dialogue with our friends, our histories, and our surroundings.
For the fleeting life of this pamphlet, distinct voices are provisionally brought together into a contingent collective. But while the contributors and the ideas they contribute are vital, particular authorship is obscured. The collective dialogue is given primacy over the individual position.
The next conversation will be about SYMMETRY!
If you are interested in contributing to the next conversation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
If scale is familiar, the scaleless is unfamiliar. The fourth issue of another pamphlet will consider the scaleless “ the scaleless repres...
Published on Oct 4, 2012
If scale is familiar, the scaleless is unfamiliar. The fourth issue of another pamphlet will consider the scaleless “ the scaleless repres...