prss release #23 ,december 11 2008
the independent paper blog aggregator
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
materiality and light | landscape+urbanism a few arguments for humanistic fabrication | digital history hacks cartographies of architectural thought | htc experiments krob â€˜08: the changing landscape of architectural drawing | architecture and morality the relationship between mapping and data visualization | form follows behavior icons in the fire | the measures taken surfing-1 | htc experiments cutaways in information graphics | max gadney mapping: symbolism or realism | form follows behavior translation of architecture gibberish | tomorrow museum
illustration | v-annemarie
soft 9/11 http://johnnyryan.livejournal.com/60141.html
1. Materiality and Light There are a few different ways of approaching the use of materials in landscape installations. While there exists a finite amount of materials (albeit growing due to our ability to co-opt and produce more products), there is no limitations to the diversity of applications and combinations. While landscape architecture is getting more experimental, I tend to look to architecture for some of the more original uses to adapt to the site. Some architectural examples that recently caught my eye really start to provide some interesting ways to perforate the skin and play with light - both as it floods interior spaces as well as the interesting formal properties for the exterior facades. The renderings (via Tropolism) of the Thermal Baths of San Pelligrino by Dominique Perrault Architecture are a fitting example of this idea. Simply... stunning.
image via Tropolism Combining this concept with my love of rusted metal is the Performer's House by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects in Silkeborg, Denmark. From Arch Daily: "Externally, the new building is clad with boldly perforated rust-red steel panels. After dark the internal lights shine through the circular apertures incised into the faĂ§ade, turning the building into an animated beacon shining its light over the surrounding area. In this way the building appears to be perpetually in motion, becoming itself a â€˜performerâ€™."
images via Arch Daily And Inhabitat's coverage of a temporary eco-pavilion designed by Assadi + Pulido, for the XVI Chilean Architecture Biennial... with a juxtaposition of perforated base and a reusable woven aluminum facade treatment... check it out - it's pretty amazing.
image via Archidose And the NazarĂ Wall Intervention in Granada, Spain by Antonio JimĂŠnez Torrecillas perforated double wall.
image via Archidose My favorite is Anagram Architects' glowing facade at the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre.
images via Inhabitat A Daily Dose of Architecture recently had an great post of the idea of 'Porous Masonry Walls' - giving a range of example projects from Frank Lloyd Wright to Peter Zumthor. A few other notable projects include Kengo Kuma's Stone Museum - with brickwork that provide articulation from the exterior and thin patterned slits of light on the interior.
In the interim, here's a sneak preview of a couple of my favorites...
image via Archidose Archidose also featured the "Richard Desmond Children's Eye Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital in Islington, London, England by Penoyre & Prasad LLP, 2007." which has perforations - as well as tapping into the use of movement and wind on the facade.
Articulated Cloud - image via Ned Kahn
image via Archidose The above project takes a cues from Ned Kahn perhaps, whose kinetic sculptures definitely require a full post soon...
Wind Veil - image via Ned Kahn Landscape+Urbanism http://landscapeandurbanism.blogspot.com/2008/11/materiality-andlight.html by Jason King on November 23, 2008 image via Ned Kahn
2. A Few Arguments for Humanistic Fabrication By hooking a computer up to a machine that can add, remove, cut or fuse material, it is possible to turn a digital representation into a physical object. Most historians (at least ones reading this blog) are probably familiar with the idea of digitization; think of this as 'materialization', a reversal of the process. The humble printer is a kind of materializer for two-dimensional text and images. These other machines (often referred to as rapid prototyping or computer-aided manufacturing machines, or even 'replicators') allow their users to make manifest three-dimensional objects of plastic, wood, metal, or fancier composites. Over the past few years, the price of rapid fabrication has been dropping, well, rapidly. A lab that once cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars can now be had for less than $20,000. Enthusiasts predict that the age of desktop fabrication is nigh; in the next few years we will all have devices on our desks that can print out 3D objects. (Neil Gershenfeld's Fab is a good introduction to some of the possibilities.) Small groups of DIY makers and hardware hackers are busy in their garages and attics trying to create a printer that can print a copy of itself, a machine that can print out a flashlight, one that can print a torroidal coil of candy, or burn a message into your morning toast. The popular appeal of all this activity is clear in the pages of MAKE magazine, or in the Discovery Channel's new show, "Prototype This". There are a number of reasons why historians and other humanists should be getting involved in desktop fabrication right now. Here are a few. We can't predict the future. In the 1960s, for example, it wasn't clear to everyone that there would ever be much reason for individuals to have the undivided attention of a single computer (never mind the dozens that we each now monopolize without thinking about it.) In retrospect, the people who struggled to get individual access to computers, who bought them from mail-order catalogs and built them at home, who taught themselves how to program even when that meant reading thick manuals and punching cards... well, now we know how that turned out. Using a computer-controlled soldering iron to fuse grains of sugar into candy sculptures may seem a bit tangential to the serious business of academia, but it's really too soon to judge. Mind and hand. Just because the separation between thinking and making is longstanding and well-entrenched doesn't make it a good idea. At various times in the past, humanists have been deeply involved in making stuff: Archimedes, the Banu Musa brothers, da Vinci, Vaucanson, the Lunar Men, Bauhaus, W. Grey Walter, Gordon Mumma. The list could easily be multiplied into every time and place, but the main point is that getting your hands dirty might be worthwhile, even if you're not da Vinci. Historic experimentation. People who work with material culture, the history of technology or experimental archaeology know that you can learn a lot about the past by handling physical stuff. Until recently, that usually meant that you needed to have direct access to the stuff itself. Now it is possible to fabricate physical models or artifacts that share properties with possibly rare or priceless originals. Paleontologists and zooarchaeologists can learn from 3D printouts of bones and fossils. Historians of science can more readily replicate past experiments. And so on. Tangible / haptic history. More generally, it will become possible to materialize shapes, surfaces, textures and artifacts that resemble those of the past, and that can be touched, felt, handled, and manipulated. It is easy to imagine a new tangible or haptic history that follows and extends the sensory histories that are being written right now. Critical technical practice. In the late 1990s, Philip Agre argued for a mode of research that involved both "the craft work of design and ... the reflexive work of critique." The benefits of this approach are already apparent in the digital humanities, where historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, artists, literary and media scholars, and their colleagues are
busy both creating and critiquing digital sources. Why not extend this practice to rapid fabrication, microelectronics, new materials, robotics or nanotechnology? Some of the barriers are easily overcome. When someone asks me why a historian would need an 8-axis CNC milling machine or an oscilloscope, I say, "Why not?" The limitations of our physical spaces can be more difficult to circumvent. Most of the teaching and research environments available to humanists at my university are designed to support solitary or small-group office work. These spaces are almost comically unsuitable for the kinds of things I try to do with my students: soldering, moldmaking and casting, building and lighting physical exhibits, programming in groups, creating displays or signage. Although I could afford to purchase a laser cutter, I can't vent the poisonous fumes from my workspace. Cutting wood with power tools will set off the fire alarm. I certainly couldn't set up a little foundry to explore the bootstrapping process that led from metal casting to machine tools. There isn't even anywhere to lock up student project prototypes so they won't be stolen or vandalized. When I have a chance to talk to planners or people purchasing furniture or whatever, I ask them to imagine spaces that are appropriate for an art class or a shop class: high ceiling, natural light, plenty of ventilation, cement flooring, workbenches on casters, locking cabinets, big blank walls that you can hang things on. No carpeting, no beige cubicles, no coffee tables with plants. Humanists won't be able to think of themselves as makers until we create spaces for them to make things in. Digital History Hacks http://digitalhistoryhacks.blogspot.com/2008/11/few-arguments-forhumanistic.html by William J. Turkel on November 21, 2008
3. Cartographies of Architectural Thought I want to thank all of the visitors that have made the first week of this site such a success. It’s hard to imagine that a website about the methodological minutiae of architectural history, theory and criticism could have more than 20 visitors in one week; but according to my “stats bar” we have reached about 290 in seven days. That is a modest accomplishment (in upcoming days I will add some new features: a “blogiography” that will list publications that are now referred to in name and date, and some links to other relevant material).
When I was assessing this first week and looking at the image of the “stats” bar, I am reminded of the way “architectural theorists,” in the name of cultivating architectural thought, gauged their reach. The earliest image I can recall that graphically measured the extent of an architectural theorist’s readership is Le Corbusier’s map of subscribers to L’Esprit Nouveau (shown below)
According to Colomina (1988), the map was used by the publishers of L’Esprit Nouveau (LC and Ozenfant) to both demonstrate the reach of the journal for potential advertisers, and to provide a snapshot of the reception of a particular type of architectural writing in the early 20th century.
After World War II, the geographical impact of architectural theory, suggested in Corbusier’s image was replaced by images that concentrated on the development of architectural theory within and relative to other architectural theory and thought. We see this in the image above by Charles Jencks (discussed by Martin, 2006 as a type of ecology) and below by Stan Allen (on the cover of Hays, 1998). The latter absorbs geographical location within the development of architectural theory itself. The social locations on the earth are now situated within theory – “Moscow,” “Berlin,” “Prague” — rather than theory being distributed through them.
feedback system—which, considering the intense circulation of roughly 30 key authors at that time, it may very well have been. Both the geography of readership and the geography of thought itself appears to have been supplanted in recent years by a concentration on bestseller lists or best of lists. We seem to care less who is reading what in specific precincts, or how ideas are mapped together. We just want to know what is being read. This seems particularly ironic. After all, aren’t we itching to know exactly what architectural books are being read in the new post-critical building boom cities? But let’s look at these non-geographical lists; when so many authors discuss the death of theory it is surprising to see architectural theory titles at the top of best-seller lists (as in the lists below (Princeton Architectural Press, at left, and a recent article in the Independent (UK), at right).
This is a good time to reassess the reach of architectural thought, particularly the representation of this reach. Rather than documenting the movement of journals, terms, and ideas through geographical and historical zones or quantifying the amount of sales or hits of books and posts – what if we transformed the cartographic map of architectural thought into a representational fantasy, but one that was nonetheless achievable? I believe every work of architectural history, theory and criticism has within it, sometimes on the surface, sometimes deep, the fantastical desired cartography of its readership. What this readership looks like is a cartography we carry in our heads as authors. Every writer or architect I meet tells me of that person, or those individuals who comprise a school of thought, that they wished viewed their work; and some architectural historians seem to have a fantastical audience built into the work (the White House; a specific revolutionary). Perhaps one simple pursuit of htc is to make this imagined, fantastical geography of readership into a map of a real existing one. HTC Experiments http://htcexperiments.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/project-12-cartographies-of-architectural-theory/ byDavid Gissen on September 24, 2008
4. KRob 08- The changing landscape of architectural drawing
Both these images suggest that architectural theory from the 1970s to the 1990s was a somewhat closed enterprise –either ecosystem or
In the last few years, I've tried to bring forth timely topics that currently affect the architectural profession. From writing about sustainability and urbanism, to technological and market trends changing the practice, it is apparent that there is a cornucopia of issues young designers can engage in. Certain issues have a particular appeal to young professionals because they offer a mission worth pursuing--making the world a better place by pushing more environmentally-friendly construction, or helping to making cities more healthy and enjoyable and improving society as a result. Other issues with a more technical emphasis, such as experimenting with computers and other technologies, appeal to those who want to expand the definition of what it is to be an architect the twenty-first century. There are countless organizations that address all these interests and that offer ways for like-minded professionals to share ideas with each other as well as to coordinate with communities from the local to federal levels. With all these choices and all of the activities that can take an architect's meager amount of extra time, it is all too easy to forget an essential component that should inform what architects do over any other building-related profession: visceral beauty. Certainly beauty is always on our minds when we work, but rarely do we think about it on its own, detached from function, technical logic, budgets or what the client has specifically requested. Remove an object from the context that helped make it, and what meaning or significance is left? Does the object express intangible qualities that are unique to the individual that created it? These are important questions we should always consider, even if they are too abstract for people who would rather make a 'real' difference. That is why I have been fortunate to be involved during the last few years in the longest running architectural drawing competition-the KRob. The Ken Roberts Memorial Delineation Competition poses precisely these questions and stimulates a rich discussion on why a drawing moves us, and the infinite number of thoughtful and beautiful ways we communicate ideas graphically. Many of us who have gone through schools are indeed mindful of this, but it always was seen as supporting larger architectural idea, not as a thing of value in and of itself. The irony is made clear when the invited jurors every year try to remind themselves what the basis of the judging will be, as it is quite different from the typical architecture competition in which winners are judged by how well they respond to a given program and not to the beauty of the drawings (though it helps). The 320 entries submitted this year really brought into focus more clearly than ever how the definition of the architectural drawing has expanded and changed. The winners of the hand-drawn categories recall the original and most intuitive method of delineation, while those of the digital-hybrid media categories demonstrate how the computer has allowed drawings to transcend the two-dimensional plane and incorporate multiple layers of information and detail. Although technique was vital in judging entries, what put some over others was in what it had to say (... or what it was trying have us guess what it way trying to say). Although it may not surprise those who did go to architecture school, the submissions from students was overall a bit stronger than the professionals. Given the amount of time and the encouragement by their teachers to experiment and explore, their work often outshined the professionals who are pressed for time and pressured by commercial obligations to please clients.
This was the first year that KRob accepted international entries. Jungsoo Kim of South Korea won the ignaugural International prize with his series of renderings depicting an enormous fissure breaking open the ground plane to reveal an oversized man-made canyon. Some of the perspectives inside the fissure remind me of the parting of the red sea in the film "The Ten Commandments" only with more haze and and softer light. If you look at the top left corner of the drawing there is a temple complex at the end of the fissure's axis, indicating the space's function as a part of a spiritual procession. The earth is rendered powerfully here, and reminds us of our inevitable becoming a part of it upon our deaths. Glowing lights beaming out of from the surface add a magical quality to the drawing's overall expression.
In the hand-drawing category, the jurors were impressed by the winning professional entry by Scott Tulay which interprets the phenomena of light, shade and structure. The blue, black and grey charcoal palette helped emphasize the contrast light and mass, while the composition of intersecting beams and framing elements abstracted the reality of the interior of a barn or warehouse into a rich yet haunting spatial pattern. Tulay's drawing does recall in my mind the Cubist paintings of the early twentieth century, which attempted to reveal a more abstract and universal reality.
This was quite different from the winner of the hand-drawing student category. Matthew Sander's axonometric drawing of a mechanical tower along with an illustration of a shed in successive phases of construction (and a dog house!) won over the jury partly due to its mystery. The drawing selectively cuts sections of various elements, revealing the inner workings of the tower, the depth of the ground below and repeats one building over and over to give the drawing a sense of time in space. The smeared graphite sprinkled over the page (likely the result of dirty parallel bar wheels) is evidence of Mr. Sander's patient yet positively 'fussy' attempt put seemingly disparate elements into a whole. What the relationship was between the sheds and the tower (and that dog!) spurred lengthy debate , and made the drawing and example of how the story or its ambiguous meanings gave it special meaning beyond its common technique.
The strength in which a drawing tells a story also characterizes the winner of the digital-hybrid prize in the professional category. While the technical mastery of the drawing is evident, Aleksander Novak-Zemplinski's depiction of Los Angeles in a distant and greener future demonstrates the power a drawing has in transporting us into another believable reality. There is a multiplicity of scales, a high level of detail and a dramatic use of color and atmosphere. The futuristic blimps, the hive-like vegetated hillsides of densely packed dwellings and the buzzing human activity at the landing strips are just a few of many different elements that encourages the viewer to immerse themselves in another reality. Influences from science-fiction movies are obvious, and it turns out that the drawing is part of a visulization for a film project. It reminds us that one of the major objectives of an architectural rendering is not necessarily to depict a future building as realistically as possible in its given context, but rather to offer a glimpse of a more inspiring reality once the building is fully realized.
And yet, the winner of the best digital-hybrid drawing in the student category departs from visualisations of alternate realities to something altogether more abstract. Brandon Shigeta's winning entry is a handsome concept diagram that describes the transformation of an existing pattern of urban blocks. A greyscale aerial view of a portion of a city is overlayed with colors and graphic elements to communicate the idea of a park space that serves as buffer between two areas of the city. The drawing's composition of fading pixels, arrows and chaotic curvilinear lines gives it an aspect of motion and highlights the notion that the design cities are guided by many unseen though evident forces. They culminate at the green space, which in turn explodes outward in a perpendicular direction. Very little traditional drawing or figurative illustration is present. Instead, Mr. Shigeta likely used software that allows unlimited modulation of layers and vector-based linework. Such modern techniques that are becoming ever more commonplace, and the drawing represented to the juror's a striking example of the changing definition of the art of the architectural delineation. Concepts can be communicated with new tools that allow for an ever expanded range of meanings. Initially, Mr. Shigeta's entry was noticed for its elegant composition. But it was upon closer inspection that the jurors uncovered and were impressed by the drawing's complexity of information. With the manyfold effects of this drawing revealing itself with each glance, and from the breadth of discussion it stimulated among the jurors, Mr. Shigeta's urban diagram was awarded the KRob's Best of Show.
The result did not necessarily mean that the jurors decided to embrace the new. Each of the three jurors could choose a personal citation of a work that they felt strongly about. Two of the jurors selected works especially for their deference to traditional delineation. Dawn Carlson's watercolor of a Gothic church harkens back to the refined compositional drawings of the Beaux-Arts curriculum that were prevalent in all architecture schools before the onset of Modernism. The flat, non-perspectival picture of a city by J. Arthur Liu emulates the Oriental artistic tradition of depicting cities from above, which functioned as a sort of map of the area, and were featured in books, murals, and tapestries. For its incorporation
of a technology unrelated to architectural drawing, Richie Gelles' entry showing a series of X-Ray slides describing his concept for a hospital won the admiration of the jury.
Overall, the winners of this year's competition were a diverse group. The jury was often split on many of the selected finalists, and often the debates about why they chose one over another were passionate. The value of these debates can not be overstated, and it is the desire of the organizers of the competition to create a more accessible forum for all to participate in the dialogue regarding the changes affecting architectural drawing. The success of the Ken Roberts Competition is critical to the continuation of this dialogue, and it invites all students and professionals to contribute.
Architecture and Morality http://architectureandmorality.blogspot.com/2008/11/krob-08-changinglandscape-of.html by Corbusier on November 16, 2008
5. The relationship between mapping and data visualization
The relationship between mapping and data visualization is somewhat ambiguous and generally ill-defined. In most cases, the two concepts are inextricably linked, and the terms mapping and visualizing are often used interchangeably. Yet, after some reflection it seems apparent that the two concepts are indeed distinct, that there are differences, and defining both in relation to each-other seems somehow imperative to understanding the territory. The first incentive may be to think of mapping as a particular form of data visualization—tied to geography, and as such mapping data points in spatial proximity to one-another. Yet, when we speak of mapping, it is quickly apparent that geography is not the only possible organizing principle, and as such the use of the word ‘mapping’ suggests a larger concept. In the introduction of Else/Where: Mapping, Janet Abrams and Peter Hall write that there are three types of space that can be conceivably mapped, from information space (finding patterns in large quantities of data), to physical space (orienting the body to the physical environment), to social space (representing relationships between people). Broadly speaking, therefore, mapping can be considered a process that determines how objects, or entities, are related to each-other by representing them on a (conceptual) field. Lev Manovich considers visualization a subset of mapping. For Manovich, mapping is the translation from one form of representation to another. In The Anti-Sublime Ideal in Data Art, he uses the term data visualization for the mapping of abstract data that does not inherently have a visual representation. “By representing all data using the same numerical code, computers make it easy to map one representation into another: grayscale image into 3D surface, a sound wave into an image (think of visualizers in music players such as iTunes), and so on. Visualization then can be thought of as a particular subset of mapping in which a data set is mapped into an image.” (Manovich, The Anti-Sublime Ideal in Data Art). He describes data visualization as the “mapping of data into the visual domain.” In other words, if mapping typically translates physical entities into an image, data visualization translates (or maps) abstract data into an image. James Corner presents another definition of mapping in The Agency of Mapping. Quoting Deleuze and Guattari, Corner suggests that one must separate a map from a tracing. A tracing is simply a reflection of a real situation or process, and as such does not present a point of view. A map, on the other hand, has agency: it is the product of a creative activity that suggests new narratives and conceptual constructs by which to better understand the topic under consideration. “Mappings have agency because of the double-sided characteristic of all maps. First, their surfaces are directly analogous to actual ground conditions; as horizontal planes, they record the surface of the earth as direct impressions. [...] By contrast, the other side of this analogous characteristic is the inevitable abstractness of maps, the result of selection, omission, isolation, distance and codification.” (Corner, The Agency of Mapping). This idea is reiterated in episode 110 of This American Life, Mapping, which states that maps focus on a single topic at a time—ignoring all other information that is not relevant. This is precisely the omission or selection that Corner is referring to, that gives mapping its agency. The next question, however, becomes whether tracings—in the way that they are defined by Corner and Deleuze—can in fact exist, as they are necessarily the product of human agency of some kind. But this is perhaps the critical distinction: mapping involves a particular agenda, a political motive, whereas tracings are created without a particular motive in mind. It is a subtle yet powerful distinction. This quote from J. B. Harley seems relevant: “‘Far from holding up a simple mirror of nature that is true of false, maps redescribe the world—like any other document—in terms of relations of power and of cultural practices, preferences, and priorities’” (Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, Else/Where: Mapping). Conclusively, to follow Corner’s argumentation, it seems that the distinction between mapping and data visualization may hinge on the
understanding of mapping as a process with agency. Visualization, on the other hand, is a neutral term, expressing neither agency nor its antonym, structure. And while its purpose is defined as generating insight and drawing conclusions, it does not imply a particular political motive. As such, visualization could be considered the superordinate concept, contradicting Manovich’s idea of it being a subset of mapping. While ultimately it might be considered a question of semantics, regarding mapping as a process with agency offers a more nuanced approach to understanding the relationship between the two concepts. Form Follows Behavior http://www.formfollowsbehavior.com/2007/11/10/the-relationship-between-mapping-and-data-visualization/ by Christian Marc Schmidt on November 10, 2008
6. Icons in the Fire
Perhaps the most impressive of neoliberalism's many sleights of hand has been, since the mid-1990s – from John Major's avowed intent to create a 'classless society' to New Labour's dedication to fight 'social exclusion' - the creation of a neoliberalism with a human face. The misinterpretation of this among liberals has long been that this proves the existence of some kind of 'progressive consensus', some kind of continuation of social democracy, albeit in a more realistic, less 'utopian' manner. In the built environment, the thesis of a social democratic continuum that connects, say, the Labour of Clement Attlee to the New Labour of John Prescott has appeared to be supported by the resurgence, after an eclectic postmodernist interregnum, of Modernist architecture, and an apparent focus on the city rather than the suburbs.
Postmodernist architecture is, in a superficial sense, very much on the defensive, and has been for most of the last decade. Although it persists as the dominant aesthetic for speculative house-building outside the large cities, it is a style by now almost wholly absent from the architectural magazines and the metropolitan centres. This decline could be dated to the late 1990s, when two huge postmodernist buildings in London – the Mi6 Building designed by Terry Farrell, and Michael Hopkins' Porticullis house in Westminster – were so aggressively statist and weightily bureaucratic in form, that the signifiers given out, always important in postmodernism's sign-fixated discourse, were deeply unattractive. On the contrary, the paradigmatic buildings in London since the late 1990s have been those of Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, once vaguely avantgarde technocrats notable for their seemingly modernist lack of deliberate architectural-historical references and jokes, with an accompanying rhetoric of transparency and sustainability. This is leads to something we could call 'pseudomodernism', which would be defined as postmodernism's incorporation of a Modernist formal language. Pseudomodernism can be, on the one hand, the cramped speculative blocks marketed as 'luxury flats' or 'stunning developments' with an attenuated, vaguely Scandinavian aesthetic, and on the other, the architectural spectacles generated by 'signature' designers, most of whom were once branded 'deconstructivists' – Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and a legion of lesser lights such as Make architects, who manage to combine formal spectacle and moralistic sobriety. Here we will concentrate mainly on the more aggressively 'iconic' examples of this phenomenon. Many former postmodernists are now Pseudomodernists. The most notable is Sir Terry Farrell, designer of a multitude of quintessentially Thatcherite buildings in the 1980s, from Charing Cross station to Mi6. His most Pseudomodernist work is the new Home Office building, which appropriately was a PFI scheme. With its combination of Weimar republic curves and De Stijl patterns with eager-to-please colour – which here is provided, as per the Blairite fetish for the 'creative industries' by the artist Liam Gillick - it provides a calm, ostentatiously friendly face for perhaps the most illiberal administration in British history. Nonetheless, the Home Office is merely an example of this idiom in its more domestically scaled version. Unlike most of its contemporaries, it does not aspire to that most essential of 21st century architectural aspirations: the icon. The icon is now the dominant paradigm in architecture to such an extent that at least three different buildings erected in the last few years – one in Hull by Terry Farrell, one in London at Canary Wharf, and another in Glasgow – have opted for the name 'the Icon Building', although they range in use from nondescript blocks of flats to an aquarium.
Here we see an entire skyline of competing 'icons'. The skyscrapers announced under Ken Livingstone's tenure as mayor of London – named, in a manner Charles Jencks would appreciate, after Gherkins, cheesegraters, walkie-talkies, Helter-Skelters, a shard - make none of the eclectic gestures and mashings together of different historical styles that characterised postmodernist architecture - and stone has mostly been replaced by glass. Yet one thing that survives from Postmodernism is the conception of the building as a sign, and here as an easily understandable, instantly grasped sign, as opposed to the formal rigours and typological complexities of Modernism. While it's possible that the original Gherkin received its nickname spontaneously, there's little doubt that the other towers, all announced around the same time, had a ready-made little monicker designed to immediately endear them to the general public, in order to present them as something other than the aesthetic tuning of stacked trading floors. Accordingly, by being instantly recognisable for their kinship with a household object, they would aim to become both logo and icon. Perhaps eventually they might become what Jencks describes as 'failed icons', more Millennium Dome than Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim, although always trying for the status of the latter, whose success in bringing well-heeled tourism to the Basque port has made it into a boosterist cliché, where the 'Bilbao effect' transforms a mundane city into a cultural capital, replacing unionised factory work or unemployment with insecure service industry jobs.
The other major change from the suburbanism of the Thatcher and Reagan version of neoliberalism is a new focus on the cities, something which is usually encapsulated by the under-investigated word 'regeneration' – indeed, any form of building in an urban area is usually accompanied by this term. The vaguely religious air is appropriate, as this often accompanies a fundamentally theological conception of architecture, where by standing in proximity to an outstanding architectural work, the spirit is uplifted, and the non-orthogonal geometry and hyperbolic paraboloids manage to, for instance, simulate the experience of war. One appropriate English example would be Salford Quays, where the docks of Greater Manchester were transformed into a combination of a cultural centre and a development of luxury apartments, combining both elements of pseudomodernism. Two of the architects who most exemplify these
ideas are represented there. There is Daniel Libeskind, whose tendency towards memorialising piety is so pronounced that he was described by Michael Sorkin as a 'virtual, self-igniting yahrzeit candle'. His Imperial War Museum North, with its sloping ceilings and its form which apparently represents a world divided, is supposed to formally incarnate the experience of war. Meanwhile, nearby is a bridge by Santiago Calatrava, who is the infrastructural embodiment of pseudomodernism, his structures seemingly always placed in areas that are busy being transformed from proletarian spaces of work or habitation to 'regenerated' areas of bourgeois colonisation. These transformations of space are, it should be remembered, fundamentally different in their social consequences from the superficially similar 'comprehensive redevelopment' of the postwar period. Once, a slum clearance scheme would involve the slum-dweller being rehoused by the state in something which was, more often than not, superior in terms of space, security of tenure, and hygiene, irrespective of the decades of criticism these schemes have been subjected to. Now that this sort of naïve paternalism is absent, the slums are cleared so that the middle classes can settle in them, something usually excused with a rhetoric of 'social mixing', dismantling what had become 'ghettoes'. The many schemes in London and elsewhere, where 60s council blocks have been replaced with PFI blocks with their wood cladding and ostentatious irregularity, are to urban planning what pseudomodernism is to architecture. That is, the Modernism of the icon, of the city academies where each fundamentally alike yet bespoke design embodies a vacuous aspirationalism, a Modernism without the politics, without the utopianism, or without any conception of the polis - a Modernism that conceals rather than reveals its functions, Modernism as a shell. This return of Modernist good taste in the New Labour version of Neoliberalism has turned architectural Postmodernism, rather surprisingly, into a vanishing mediator. The keystones, references, in-jokes and alleged 'fun' of 80s-90s corporate architecture now evoke Neoliberalism's most naked phase, the period when it didn't dress itself up in social concern. In the passage from Norman Tebbit to Caroline Flint, the aesthetic of social Darwinism has become cooler, more tasteful, less ostentatiously crass and reactionary, matching the rhetoric.
However, it can be seen that the Pseudomodern takes many of its fundamental ideas, if not its stylistic tropes, from Postmodernism, and at this point we will take a historical detour. Postmodernist architecture was most intelligently formulated by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott-Brown and Steven Izenour in 1972's Learning from Las Vegas. This focused, via a critique of a caricatured corporate Modernism, on the alleged inability of Modernist architecture to adequately communicate with its users. In response, they privileged first of all, signage – the advertising signs of roadside architecture – and secondly, formal references to earlier, most often classical, styles of architecture as a means of providing an architecture outside of the 'dumb box', as they described it. Charles Jencks' Language of Postmodern Architecture, meanwhile, turned to full-blown neoclassicism, with an accompanying narrative of Modernist hubris, where the dynamiting of one of the US' rare forays into social housing in St Louis became the precise date for the 'death' of Modernism. One element of Venturi et al's argument, was, regardless of their protestations, a Modernist one – a call for an architectural montage of neon signs and jarring formal clashes. Their praise for the chaos of signage that made up Vegas is, in essence, not vastly different to the rhetoric of the Russian Constructivists, whose work was motivated by a 'component fixation' where designs were always presented with affixed billboards, posters, slogans, transmitters and tramlines, as if to plug them into the city's dynamism. Much of the architecture and signage they describe was itself in a kind of Pulp Modernist idiom. Specifically, a 1950s style usually called 'Googie' to distinguish it from the apparently more rigorous Modernism of the International Style. Googie was usually used to draw attention to burger bars, car washes, coffee shops - the name comes from one such, designed by John Lautner. It was an architecture that adapted itself to suburban sprawl and the sheer speed of the freeway, by providing dynamic forms which seemed to mimic speed in their formal distortions, and attracting the attention of the prospective customer travelling at 80 miles an hour via stretched, angular forms and lurid colours. Alan Hess, in his book on the subject, places the style in direct opposition to the 'high-art Modernism' of Mies van der Rohe and his disciples, the classicist glass skyscraper school that became the spatial lingua franca of even the most conformist parts of American capital. What's interesting here is that in the American context, where Modernism was not as associated with Social Democracy as it was in Europe, the debate was purely aesthetic. While the opponents of 'Googie' accused it of being crass and commercial, Mies' Seagram Building was given tinted windows the colour of their client's brand of Whisky. While its outrageous geometrical illusions and structural expressionism were being criticised as mere dressing-up, Mies' towers 'expressed' their structure by entirely decorative I-beams.
So in essence, the debate between classical and pulp Modernism in the US was one of taste. On the one hand there was the luxury aesthetic of the wing of the bourgeoisie that aspired to finer things: New York's successful attempt in the 1950s to wrest from Paris the accolade of world fine art capital, with some CIA assistance. In order for this to occur it had to set itself against a more straightforward capitalist hucksterism. In fact, with their deliberate defiance of the rules of gravity and geometry, their brashness and lack of formal precedent, googie buildings were more true to the original Modernist impulse – futurists or constructivists would have recognised themselves in commercial designers such as Armet & Davis, in the architecture of McDonalds, Denny's and Big Boy, more than in Mies van der Rohe, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Seagram or Lever. It's also a reminder that the idea of Modernism as 'paternalist' imposition on the benighted proletariat, upon which Postmodernism based much of its self-justification, makes sense only if we begin with an extremely limited definition of Modernism. Principally, one that was restricted to the International Style, itself a pernicious legacy of Philip Johnson & HenryRussell Hitchcock's dual depoliticisation and classicisation of modernist architecture for American consumption. The Modernism that made it to New York was missing both the crass Weimar commercialism of Erich Mendelsohn and the socialist fervour of those Weimar architects who proclaimed their work an anti-architecture, such as the second Bauhaus director Hannes Meyer. It was not, of course, commercial Modernism which was critiqued by Postmodernists, but it can be seen in retrospect as the mediator between postmodernist theory and pseudomodernist practice. The work of Frank Gehry was, from the early 1980s, an adaptation of Googie's Pulp Modernism for the purposes of architecture-as-art. The style of which he was one of the leading lights, and which was termed 'deconstructivism' by the mid-1980s, retained many of the formal strategies of the roadside architecture of the 1950s. These architects – Daniel Libeskind among them – were notable both for ignoring the postmodernist imperative to genuflect before neoclassicism or baroque, and for a vocabulary of the non-orthogonal, the exaggerated and the audaciously engineered, that owed more to LA diners than it did to the Bauhaus. This style has been applied in the last decade almost entirely for the purposes of museums, galleries, or self-contained theme park-like environments such as Gehry's Experience Music Project in Seattle, or Nigel Coates' National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield. Chin-Tao Wu's Privatising Culture lists a few of those that were erected in Britain around the turn of the Millennium: 'You can experience...a simulated journey into space at the National Space Science Centre in Leicester, find out about Geological evolution a the Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, have fun and learn about science at '@ Bristol' in Bristol, or get hands-on experience of the steel industry at the 'Making it! Discovery Centre' in Mansfield'. In terms of their combined Disneyfication and intensification of the city's museum culture, these are deeply postmodernist buildings, regardless of their form.
The influence of Googie in contemporary urbanism is a largely unspoken one, but it is, I would argue, key to understanding exactly why the 'signature' wing of Pseudomodernist architecture takes the form it does. It seemingly paradoxically aligns itself very closely with the heritage zones of the old capitals. Across the road from St Paul's Cathedral is a tourist information pavilion by Make architects, formed by Ken Shuttleworth, job architect on Norman Foster's 'Gherkin'. In its improbable geometry, its jagged zig-zag showing zero interest in function or taste, it could easily be imagined serving donuts in 1950s Anaheim. There is a huge amount of architecture like this, serving most often as a key component of urban regeneration strategies. Buildings for living in are more often in an attenuated, mild, asymmetrically patterned form of Scandinavian Modernism, while buildings for culture are allowed to make somewhat wilder gestures. This process can be seen in various buildings for the creative industries in Britain, with their logo-like names: Urbis in Manchester, The Public in West Bromwich, Magna in Rotherham and so forth. Its most extensive expression is not, however, in the UK, with its remaining vestiges of representative democracy, but in the oligarchies of Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi, for instance, has set aside a district solely for 'iconic' cultural buildings by Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel (who has designed a branch of the Louvre). Barry Lord, the 'cultural consultant' for this cultural zone, claimed in the AJ that 'cultural tourists are older, wealthier, more educated, and they spend more. From an economic point of view, this makes sense'. No doubt this applies equally well in theory to West Bromwich or Salford. Much of this architecture has in common with Googie the reduction of the building to a logo, to an instantly memorable image - one which is appreciated in movement, as from a passing car, while quickly walking through an art gallery or museum on the way to the gift shop, or indeed while shopping, as in Future Systems and Rem Koolhaas' work for Selfridges and Prada, respectively. Although it may accompany exhibitions of art or simulations of war, it is not an architecture of contemplation but of distraction and speed. Yet it also continues the moralistic rhetoric of postwar Modernism, without any of the actual social uses – local authority housing, comprehensive schools, general hospitals – to which it was put. The new Modernism, like the new social democratic parties, is one emptied of all intent to actually improve the living conditions of the majority. Instead, the social use of the Pseudomodernist building, forever groping for the Bilbao effect, appears - in a rather Victorian manner - to be the uplifting of the spirit via interactive exhibits and installations.
Nobody ever suggested that roadside diners had hyperbolic paraboloid roofs in order to make us better people or induce them to 'aspire', let alone to simulate the experience of war or the holocaust. Nonetheless, the formal links between Googie and today's apparently radical architecture does suggest a truth at its heart - its forbears are in the aesthetics of consumption, advertising, in forms designed to be seen at great speed, not in serene contemplation. It should not surprise us that a style of consumption would return under neoliberalism, but the formal affinities of pseudomodernism with this aesthetic offers an explanation for what often seems an arbitrary play of forms. By drawing on the futurism of the McCarthy era, the architecture of the neoliberal consensus establishes a link between two eras of quietism, conformism and technological acceleration. It also enables us to reinterpret what purports to be an aesthetic of edification as one of consumption. In the computer-aided creation of futuristic form, today's architects are producing enormous logos, and this is only appropriate. The architecture once described as 'deconstructivist' owes less to Derrida than it does to McDonalds. The Measures Taken http://themeasurestaken.blogspot.com/2008/11/icons-in-fire.html by Owen Hatherly on November 10, 2008
7. Surfing - 1 A few days ago I looked at new posts on some of the most popular architecture blogs, and I left wondering why the overall mood of these blogs is so consistent when the particular content of them is not? Why does it seem that posts on subjects as different as military landscapes, tunnels, or moving buildings come through the same pair of eyes, the same mind? The people that write on these subjects are terrific writers, but why the flattening of the overall methodology? I don’t think we can definitively state that one of these writers influenced the other; although some of them might see it that way. I think there is something more interesting happening.
I considered how these sites are viewed and how their authors often assemble their particular imagery. I focused on the term “surfing” as uncovering the structure that ties their aesthetic and methods together.
In focusing on this term, I am inspired by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s observation that “surfing” is one of the operative metaphors for late-modern experience. He wrote this well before “surfing the web” became a common phrase in the late-1990s. Deleuze’s point was that the surfer was immersed in a situation without beginnings or ends – a situation in which one was surrounded by terrain. For Deleuze the surfer was a method to absorb the world. But we can also add that the surfer represents a type of intellectual production process in which the disparities of data become assembled into a whole. The surfer moves between disparate situations in place.
We might argue that surfing is more than just navigating the continuum. Surfing is also about navigating a landscape in such a way that the particular tensions that make that landscape less than whole disappear (as in the surfing diagram above by Reiser+Umemoto). Surfing lulls us into thinking that technology, nature and human subjectivity form some type of well-articulated entirety enacted through the desires and prowess of the surfer him or herself. Surfing makes us abandon methodological self-reflection for the thrill of the continuum. And this I think is the danger of the surf aesthetic, because the spaces navigated by Banham and the architectural bloggers are spaces that are less than whole. They are filled with tensions that cannot appear when surfed. There are only a handful of architecture blogs that drop this surfer image; it is time that we encouraged some more. In upcoming posts I’ll revisit some themes below and redirect them to the issues above. HTC Experiments http://htcexperiments.wordpress.com/2008/11/21/surfing-1/ by David Gissen on November 21, 2008
8. Cutaways in Information Graphics I have been wanting to talk about cutaways for a while and there is so much to them that this will just be getting some thoughts in order - one of many posts on general Information Graphics issues. I was walking to work this morning and I walked past a Fire Station, where one of the engines was out the front with all it's side panels up.
Of course “surfing” architectural thinkers predate contemporary architecture blogs. If we look at the work of Reyner Banham in relation to contemporary architecture blogs we see aesthetic similarities; and this is no accident. With Banham we see the beginnings of the HTC surfer. In his television show “Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles” (images above), Banham transformed an automobile into a method through which the architecture of a city might be experienced. Banham “surfed” or more accurately “cruised” the city as a historian/theorist. And if you look at the images filmed through the windshield of Banham’s car they are similar to those that appear in our screens as we read contemporary architectural bloggers. And this includes the images of enormous technological landscapes, the use of interviews, roundtables (in his car), and the constant appearance of Banham.
I could see all the stuff inside and I went round the other side and a confused fireman said I could take a picture.
It's a real life diagram of where everything is kept. There are no lines, or 3D or clever pencilling - this is what it is. In many graphics there is alot of stuff that we seem to put in the way pf explainations when a simple photo will do.
I'm not going to go to the effort of labeling it all but you could see where this could have gone.
And it is also important to not have it floating in white space, but subtley edited, still in context, yet highlighted. Anyway. When I got to work I had a look at a soon to be published book of Eagle Comic Cutaways that we had been sent. By putting all their eggs in the Cutaway basket, they miss out on the purposes and invention of the tech that they celebrate. The one above does feature a little of extra info - but there is little doubt what the main event is. A cutaway is a basic graphic - the state of things made clear, like a graph with one variable of data, rather than seeking to draw comparison, reasoning, correlation or causation. The danger is that they celebrate the basic rendering rather than information imparting. They are doubtlessly beautiful but I wonder to what end. Weirdly enough, here is a fire engine (there wasnt one in the book) by the most famous artist of eagle cutaways Leslie Ashwell Wood. (for sale if you want)
They hold a lot of charm in their nostalgic qualities, possibly the visual equivalent of childhood smells, yet - (sorry to ruin the magic here John - I know you're a fan) - they slightly miss the point when it comes to explaining things.
He also did some very interesting WWII illustrations - here on the UK national Archives site. You can zoom in and see the paint/ gouache/ white-out. V.cool.
They are fantastic. So maybe I have been a bit hard on them. I'll leave the final word to a pal, Jack Schulze, who bought me in to talk graphics with his students at the Central a few years ago. I showed them this NYT graphic for the Gulf War II - they apparently bought up a load of technical illustrators in the US for this period.(NYT fans should check Shan Carter's site too) It is an Apache Gunship and in the paper you can see every nut and bolt.
Jack said "What am I going to do? Build one?" I like that comment - on the one hand it shows the futility of showing that amount of detail to the average reader - yet it belies the reasons that people (especially tech minded ones) like cutaways - because they are not reading about where an engine is on a rocket ship - they are dreaming about building one.
alive and well: realism has been an ongoing pursuit in mapping as long as symbolism, and symbolism is equally seeing a new resurgence due to technological developments. Another analogy might entail viewing mapping as either a science or an art—science, as the pursuit of knowledge, or art, as the pursuit of expression or the interpretation of experience. The “scientific” approach would more readily appear to relate to realism, while the “artistic” approach would appear to call for symbolism. Yet here, too, the boundaries are blurred: symbolism is often a better communication method than realism, and hence may more successfully further an understanding of the subject matter, while realism is often used as an expressive medium. So, what remains is the existence of these two vectors, between both of which mapping is situated. The following work offers a critique. Richard Galpin creates abstraction from photorealism, by removing elements of photographs to reveal patterns inherent within the source image. Beginning with realism, his approach of subtraction creates a tracing from a photographic image, a kind of structural map to the original image, rooted in an inherently personal symbolism with visceral and universal communication value.
Richard Galpin, CLUSTER XX (PLANOPOLIS), 2007
Max Gadney http://www.maxgadney.com/2008/10/cutaways-in-information-graphics. html by Max Gadney on October 9, 2008
9. Mapping—symbolism or realism? Mapping seems to float between two poles—symbolism and realism, or abstraction and dimensionality—as the attempt is made to either (with increasing accuracy) simulate a landscape or environment, or interpret it as a sign or composite of signs. At first glance, the former could be considered the predominant direction—technology leading the way in the gradual displacement of the latter. However, not only are both vectors
Richard Galpin, CLUSTER XXX (ANGELOSOPOLIS), 2007
Landscape architect Hajime Ishikawa (related article on PingMag) maps the urban environment of Tokyo. His studies are reflections of both serendipity and symbolism. His GPS drawings within the city, while not an entirely new idea, reflect a Situationist curiousity about the mundane and familiar city environment. He says, mapping is “a kind of language — you understand where you are in this sort of diagram. Though no map can picture the real space and the real experience, you still understand where you are…” Ishikawa’s tracing of his route from his home to his office has personal significance and a kind of individual symbolism, while the animal drawing evokes questions of familiarity with and a offers a change of perspective of the the Tokyo streetscape.
Richard Galpin, CLUSTER XXI (DENDROPOLIS), 2007
Form Follows Behavior http://www.formfollowsbehavior.com/2008/11/11/ mapping%25e2%2580%2594symbolism-or-realism/ by Christian Marc Schmidt on November 11, 2008
10. Translation of Architecture Gibberish This is an aside titled '“Translation of Architecture gibberish”' dated 11/22/08 From the comments on this post on Zaha Hadid’s Latest: “Translation of Architecture gibberish: 1.“We wanted to create an environment where the bar completely dominates the space…” WE WANTED TO MAKE A HUMONGOUS PRICEY FLASHY OBJECT. 2.”Using a dynamic vertical gesture of fluidity, we were able generate an exciting dichotomy with the Cartesian arrangement of the Georgian space…” SO WE STUCK A ROUND BAR IN A RECTANGULAR ROOM 3.”As with our architecture, where have created inhabited structure, members and guests occupy the bar at Home House instead of simply standing in front of it…”UNLIKE THE GODDAMN DRUNKS AT YOUR LOCAL BAR, THESE PEOPLE DO MINGLE. 4.”They become part of the experience.” PRETENTIOUS PEOPLE AT PRETENTIOUS BAR. PERFECT MATCH. Tomorrow Museum http://www.tomorrowmuseum.com/2008/11/22/translation-of-architecture-gibberish/ by Joanne on November 22, 2008