Sign as Surface

Page 1

Artists Space Architecture & Design Project Series

Sign as Surface curated by Peter Zellner with essays by Christopher Hight and Ilka & Andreas Ruby afterword by Patrik Schumacher

0 0/01 A RTIST S S P A CE : A & D 20 0 3



A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3



Sign as Surface is an exhibition of built and speculative works by ten young international architects. The exhibition presents works concerned with the development of the architectural surface as a site for expressive figuration and sophisticated featurism or as a responsive intelligent interface driven by embedded, numeric codes. The show is framed around two competing tendencies – practices rooted in representation and metaphor and those founded on material systems and numeric organizations. The projects featured in the show investigate the architectural surface as a site for expression, from the space of the figurative and featured, to a space of coded interface. While much attention has been drawn to the fabrication techniques and digital production tools employed by the contemporary architectural avant-garde what is often left untouched in current considerations of architectural practice is the communicative significance of its spatial and visual language. Sign as Surface examines the architectural surface as a point P E T E R Z E LL E R : SIGN A S S URFA CE 0 4/05

of contact and transit between the urban and the architectural, interior and exterior, private and public, artificial and natural. Concurrently, the exhibition considers the architectural sign through issues such as inclusion versus exclusion, the popular versus the academic, and representation and decoration versus interpretation and abstraction.

Sign as Surface reveals a tension emerging between an approach grounded in representation, critique and metaphor versus one focused on material systems and organizations. The practices included in the exhibition focus on new conceptual models, practices and strategies associated with these problematics.

Evan Douglis presents AutoBraids/AutoBreeding, a display surface for the exhibition of three mid-century works by Jean Prouvé. Installed at the Arthur Ross Gallery, Columbia University, the deeply articulated surface is exhibited through computer animations, renderings and photographs that illustrate and trace the evolving growth of the piece through self-contained and linked routines that assign material and performative values to processes of mathematically derived abstraction.

Hoogvliet Heerlijkheid, a community hall and “Summer Village” on the outskirts of Hoogvliet, a suburb of Rotterdam designed by London’s FAT updates and accelerates the Venturian concern with the contradictions and possibilities of the modern world and popular culture. Challenging the elitist works of the avant-garde, FAT argue through their work for an architecture within the “…culture bunker, rather than the ivory tower.” Hoogvliet Heerlijkheid suggests a model for another New Urbanism that is neither aesthetically righteous nor challenged by popular taste. Jakob + MacFarlane’s Books by Artists / Librairie Florence Loewy is an exploration of surface modulation determined through computer numerically controlled fabrication. The project, a sinuous series of gridded tree-like bookcases and space dividers, creates an organic environment that is both “an object of desire and fabricator of its own architecture.” A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

The Victoria University of Technology Online Multimedia Center by Lyons is a flatskinned box printed with a feral digital topography. Totally camouflaged by its artificial skin, the project puts forward an alternate trajectory for a digitally driven architecture that is at once utterly sophisticated in terms of its visual impact yet admirably monotonous and repetitive in terms of its architectural assembly. Combining Nike swoosh athletics and contemporary lounge culture, NL stage the nearly unimaginable - the surrealist integration of a basketball court and a bar and hence the name BasketBar. The project, located on the Campus of Utrecht University in the near vicinity of Rem Koolhaas’ Educatorium, calls OMA’s mock-analytical bluff with a sort of comedic Modernism.

Neutelings Riedijk Architects submit an astonishing project for a Concert Hall in Bruges, Belgium that is both expressionistic and purposeful. Defined by the cross sections of its halls the project cantilevers over two highways. The total volume is wrapped by a filigreed lace work cast in roughhewn concrete panels. Recalling amongst other things the heraldic fleur-de-lis or an enormous lace pattern, the project seeks “…to achieve both an architectonic and an iconographic link with old Bruges.” Exhibiting their prototype glass wall for the first time, the transatlantic practice ocean_D proposes a variable, self-supporting glass surface defined by a numerically controlled series of tears, folds and stiffenings. The resultant glass partition dynamically responds to variable environmental conditions such as light through a range of visual and material effects.

Ali Rahim/Contemporary Architecture Practice tracks and explores a coherent yet diverse range of performance based criteria for two projects at varying scales – a weekend home for a fashion designer in London and customized furnishing project. Described in near scientific terms, the projects’ cogent formations belie their sensualist system of effects and ergonomic flows. Sauerbruch Hutton’s Experimental Factory Magdeburg (EFM) is a research institution on a university campus next to a busy four-lane road. Described by the architects as “a large colored blanket” draped over an undulating section, the building provides a lucid example of an architectural envelope that operates both metaphorically and performatively – wrapping both program and volume while advertising the building’s urban presence through its luminous banding. servo’s Lattice Archipelogics project was originally commissioned for the exhibition Latent Utopias: Experiments within Contemporary Architecture curated by Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher. The project induces real-time interactions between an object-field of formed modular pods and gallery visitors through both physical and virtual means.

P E T E R Z E LL E R : SIGN A S S URFA CE 0 6/07

The questions swirling around the complexities addressed by Sign as Surface circumscribe a new generation of architects defined by distinct but overlapping concerns and lineages – neo-mannerism and popular expressionism versus extreme formalism and technically determined abstraction. The emerging practices represented in Sign as Surface simultaneously signal a reframing of the architectural surface as a performative envelope and a re-investment in what Robert Venturi termed “explicit ‘denotative’ symbolism.” PZ, Curator

08 A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

BREAKSPOTTING SIGNS OF MODERNITY AND SURFACES OF BECOMING Christopher Hight Sign vs. Surface This exhibition stretches across an opposition mostly whispered along darkened corridors. Lurk in a review at Columbia, The Architectural Association or another center of cosmopolitan architectural education and you can overhear the chatter between these two positions. Let’s call the first position “signers”— critical practices based on issues of representation, semiotic iconography and symbolism, what they see as architectural content. Some still learn from Las Vegas and champion the everyday, others mourn Adorno. Their irony amps go to 11. The second are the silver “surfacers,” riding information superhighways on tricked out, curvaceous Vespas in iridescent Maya colors. They champion form as the message in a “projective” and “operative” project aligning Deleuze’s desire with Moore’s law. The signers and the surfacers stare at the other across crowded rooms with mutual incredulity. The signers deem the surfacers naïve pseuds, a fake and ludicrously titled neo-avant-garde playing the same formal games as their bow-tied Peter familias [sic]. The surfacers disregard the signers as caught in C H RIST O P H E R HIG H T: : BRE A K S P O T TIN G... 08/09

the Venturi-effect of post-histoire capitalism, a rearguard paddling in the wake of the Nike Swoosh™ that swept past critical theory through the first crack in the Berlin Wall. Within our no-brow imagination, Sign as Surface’s spectacularization of this passive aggressive strife is a Jerry Springer show for aesthetes. The theorists and critics play new-age psychologists, offering the sheen of theoretical propriety. We may uncover some shocking revelation: “I’m a closeted blobmeister”; “I worked for James Wines!” (Cue audience’s delight at unexpected complexity). Nevertheless, examining architecture via this juxtaposition can only reinforce the tacit premise: “In this corner the Signers, in the opposing corner the Surfacers. Get

ready to rumble!” Place your bets if you like, but this gathering of work and practices offers more than a curatorial opportunity to examine architectural projects as signs within the fleeting contemporary field. Sign as Surface’s polarization of today’s architecture allows an exploration of the topologies of concepts, actors and things wherein this opposition becomes possible.

Surfaces of Modernity The signers and surfacers are epiphenomena of how statements about the sign in architecture circulate between two poles of modern thought. On one hand, the architectural sign is referred to through categories of the natural, and on the other, to cultural practices. This is not surprising since linguistics itself is poised on what Bruno Latour has located as the paradox of modernity. The social sciences treat culture as at once transcendent and constructed, while we believe the natural world is available only through cultural representation, although it is treated as transcendental. The key task of modern thought is to keep these oppositions absolutely pure. Semiotics and linguistics arise, erecting an autonomous “empire of signs” to span the modern abyss between nature and culture.1 This dynamic features strongly in the role of signs and surfaces in modern art and architecture. Signs are aligned with cultural value, usually shifting popular taste, and viewed as ornamental. Surfaces, meanwhile, are the expression of raw “nature,” of things in and of themselves. Mies van der Rohe famously distrusted the traditional aesthetics of orna-

mentation, form and proportion, which he saw as compromised by cultural fashion. Aesthetics had lost any reference to construction and only simulated lost techniques (the Greek temple’s simulation of wood construction) and lost values (the 19th century’s simulation of the Greek temple). Only eternal, that is, natural, problems of construction and structure could provide legitimate architectural order. God, in other words truth and natural order, was revealed by exquisite construction details that expressed modern construction and usurped the representational role of traditional ornamentation. It did not matter whether an H-column was structural,as long as it emphasized a pure architectonic expression. This did not entail abstraction as the removal of content, but purified what architecture signified, revealing its essential expression or Zeitgeist. Adolf Loos’s famous parable of the shoemaker who embellished his wares with decorative patterns, spoke to a similar purification. Loos valued the plain surface of leather or stone above its adornment. At best, the ornamental and the decorative were understood as rhetorical flourishes that embellished the raw surface of architecture’s system of signs. At worst, Loss viewed decoration as a base degeneration of high architecture’s transcendental language of things-in-themselves. Another engagement of the popular and the ornamental was replayed in various theorizations of the avant-garde’s relationship to kitsch. In 1939, Clement Greenberg wondered how a single culture could at once produce a “poem by T.S. Eliot and a Tin Pan Alley Song.”2 He argued that in pre-industrial Europe, art was reserved for the elite’s signification of natural order (God, King, and Country). Conversely, in post-industrial Europe and America, universal literacy and technologies of mechanical reproducA & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3


Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, 62-65.


Clement Greenberg, Avant-Garde and Kitsch, Partisan Review, Vol. VI, No. 5 (New York, 1939); quoted from reprint in Art in Theory: 1900-1990, C. Harrison, P. Wood, eds., 530.


Clement Greenberg, Avant-Garde and Kitsch.


Greenberg’s choice of T.S. Eliot to represent the avant-garde as conservative is especially appropriate. Thierry DeDuve’s arguments in Kant after Duchamp are relevant here.


Robin Boyd, The Australian Ugliness (London: Penguin Books, 1960), c.f. 163-4.


I was introduced to Boyd’s ideas by Charles Rice as we peered at the Sydney bay bridge.

tion, like cinema, gave the bourgeoisie access to an unprecedented world of cultural signification. This transformation gave rise to both the avant-garde and kitsch. The avant-garde arose after traditional social structures of patronage and artistic production were displaced. It attempted to protect the transcendent values of the “artist,” “art,” and “culture” from complete attenuation in a decaying but ever expanding capitalist system of production. To do so, external cultural signification was “dissolved... completely into form,” so that art could express its transcendental essence.3 If painting was to represent the pure values of painting; then the canvas surface was to express painting itself, its brute reality: its flatness rather than as a representation onto another world. Even the most radical art transgressed cultural values in order to conserve the transcendent forms of art itself.4 Greenberg argued that kitsch occurred out of the same historical conditions. Kitsch, as an expression of mass signification, simulated past and fictional values of art and conflated aesthetic value (painting as the expression of truth, or in modernity, painting) for other meanings (painting as politics, painting as the unconscious, and representation as reality). While the formal innovations of the avant-garde were essentially conservative, kitsch in Greenberg’s formulation was radically nihilist, however traditional its forms may have appeared. This dynamic was replayed in the 1960s architectural discourse of the high and low culture. The Australian architect and theorist Robin Boyd derided “featurism” as the subjection of natural order to cultural ornamentation.5 He saw a bourgeois colonialism in the tendency to encrust every surface of the Australian built environment, be it a landscape, a house or a city, with signs of European culture. The C H RIST O P H E R HIG H T: : BRE A K S P O T TIN G... 10/11

Sydney Harbor bridge was a classic example, its steel engineering book-ended by ornate Victorian masonry towers.6 These ornaments literally contained the sublime power of the “pure” structure, imposing the representations of culture over the truth of engineering. Similarly, Boyd disparaged attempts to bracket Australian nature within the aesthetic boundaries of English gardens. Instead, he championed a bare architecture true to modernity and a landscape that expressed the essence of the antipodean wilderness. Only surfaces stripped of cultural signs, he implied, could express natural order and natural forces as the basis for a genuine Australian architecture as opposed to the simulation of a European model. Around the same time Robert Venturi (et. al.) unwittingly reversed Boyd’s argument in reassessing Las Vegas and the mid-century American landscape. Venturi’s “decorated shed” cohered to both Mies’ conception of architectonic purity and to a Greenbergian avant-garde. Venturi suggested that most classical architecture was like a decorated shed, as it applied ornamental signs of architecture to a raw construction surface. Classical architecture superimposed signs and matter, content (function) and form, signs and structures, representation and reality, upon a single plane, the façade because nature and cultural value were indistinguishable because they were the same; architectural order was not a representation but an instantiation of cosmic order. However, as Greenberg suggested for painting, this commensurability becomes impossible in Modern architecture. Architectural nature and cultural signification had become detached. “Duck” architecture, Venturi implied, confused these conditions.7 Moreover, it was clear by the 1960s that the pure Modern project would fail, not because its forms were too rarified but, as

Tafuri pointed out, because they could never be pure or total enough. In the midst of this crisis, Venturi’s innovation exchanged the autonomous architectural object and its detail-God for a specialized architectural surface — which functioned as pure denotative signification. For him, the values that obscured the truth of architecture in its culture did not belong to the petite-bourgeoisie, but to an elite, again European, aesthetic tradition. Unlike the classical decorated shed, Venturi’s billboard-and-box typology visually, formally, and structurally separated the architecture of the sign. This newly detached surface allowed for two things. First, it distinguished signs from structure and form in order to more clearly express the truth of late-Capitalism: the trans-valuation of all value into commodities detached from material and cultural substrates. Secondly, this surface, like that of the Nevada desert itself, offered a rich site for an unprejudiced expression of American capitalism and real-estate development as a new foundation of natural order: the nature of the market. Indeed, far from complexity and contradiction, Venturi cleanly inverted Boyd’s diagnosis and proposed a pure solution. If Mies’ purifications aimed to express a cultural and architectural essence, then Venturi shifted architecture’s signification from natural law to commodity culture as an inexorable force. Thus, Venturi’s work ultimately was not opposed to modernism but homeopathically furthered its strategies of purification with a bit of commercial superficiality.

Signs as Surfaces How do contemporary architectural practices operate within, against, or outside this modern topography of signs? FAT, as a practice of “fashion* architecture*taste,” explicitly align themselves with Venturi and repeatedly rail against modernist abstraction in both their designs and texts. Their manifestos re-inscribe the dualism between content and form via a dialectic of high architecture and popular iconography — the abstract and expensive versus the content-rich and cheap. They pay homage to the supposed complexity of Venturi against rarification in exhibits like “Kill the Modernist Within.” The dilemma with this ironically iconic claim is how it strongly reinforces a purified and clichéd representation of modernism as form over content. A modernist staw-man is erected so FAT can play the opposite, arche-kitsche, role. Following the previous analysis, it is clear that FAT’s projects depend on the same modern topography of possibilities, of which the International Style was only one aspect. And although they position their work as inclusive of popular taste and against what they see as the pseudo-radicalism of the neo-avant-garde, FAT can only do so reinforcing the latter’s (and thereby their own) position within high architectural culture and thus reproduce the economies of the modernist architecture which they critique as negative figures. Nevertheless, if Venturi’s complexity can now be understood as furthering modernist modes of purification, something else becomes apparent in FAT’s project. Their architecture operates through the A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

fig. 1 FAT: Big Ben County Housing Project, 2000/03. Image courtesy FAT.


To clarify, this is my reading of the conditions of possibility for Venturi, not his explicit argument.

fig. 2 FAT: Still from FAT TOWN Flash animation, 2001. Image courtesy FAT.

production of images (conceptual rather than retinal), whether they are built, unbuilt or media-based. For example, in a recent project they have iconographically superimposed the Big Ben tower and the many connotations it carries over the content of mass housing. {fig.1 } This uncanny effect does not rely on a modern collage technique that partially decontextualizes fragmentary signs and reassembles them as another unified sign (like that of Venturi or Rowe), instead it depends on the super realistic fusing of one wholly intact sign into another. Like NL architects’ programmatic and per formative merging of a window with a basketball backboard, these projects depend upon simultaneously appearing obviously fake and totally convincing. Without seams, conceptual or technical, their heterotopias are conceived in a Photoshop-ed universe wherein order is no longer given by geometric types and iconographical grammars so much as the ability to endlessly merge and morph dialectics by transforming every pixel quanta of the image independently of its adjacencies. Venturi’s decorated shed has been displaced by numerical recombination and his detached surface has been replaced by differential values of hue, saturation, and software. The signification of Venturi’s detached architectural surface has become a closed but infinite three-dimensional raster matrix of the computer display, across which signs ceaselessly circulate-often literally, as in the case of FAT TOWN’s floating icons of buildings and cacti. {fig.2 } These pop elements float upon a faux-three dimensional grid according to a Flash-scripted choreography. The isometric view no longer reflects a modernly measurable space, but a purely ornamental economy of signs, of branding and logos traded autonomously, and more highly valued than the products and services they once signified. C H RIST O P H E R HIG H T: : BRE A K S P O T TIN G... 12/13

fig. 3 Sauerbruch Hutton: Research Facility, Magdeburg, 2002. Photograph ©Gerrit Engel. Courtesy Sauerbruch Hutton.

Converse to this seamless exchange, Sauerbruch Hutton uses polychromic banding as an ornamental deterritorialization of the architectural significations of structure and skin, program and its formal expression. {fig.3 } Against the leveling of capitalist culture, Mies sought to purify the heart of architecture via the construction of Nature, while Venturi sought to preserve it by making a clear demarcation between cultural representations (decoration) and things in themselves (sheds). These firms purposefully obfuscate distinction to achieve a negative theology of corruption. They want to mix and merge the pure domains of the moderns to actualize a heterotopia, literally a mixed surface that confuses dialectical signification of high/low, nature/culture without a synthesis. Again, the dilemma is that such heterotopias retain the pure categories as ghosts and absences and therefore ultimately remain within a modernist semiotic economy. Nevertheless, it becomes possible in this condition to construct a different account of modernity and its regimes of signs.

Breakspotters The shift detectable within the above work marks the limit of linguistic accounts of signs in architecture. There are many potential regimes of signs besides the semiotic that dominated the 20th century.8 Ernst Gombrich’s examination of ornamentation, A Sense of Order, offers the chance for a very preliminary investigation into one possibility for an account of the non-semiotic sign in contemporary architecture. Gombrich was interested in the ornamental not as a rhetorical supplement or a play of linguistic signs, but as a more abstract structuring of sensation and cognition. In Gombrich’s argument, ornament does not supplement raw nature with cultural representations; it provides the ordering through which nature becomes available as a representation to the subject. Central to his study were patterns that were simultaneously figure and ground and corresponding emergent “virtual” optical effects between the object and subject. The latter were central to his examination of a suite of Bridget Riley’s paintings {fig.4 } that consisted of closely spaced and modulated black and white stripes, producing the optical effect of a color field. Unlike the Greenbergian avant-garde’s conservation of art’s autonomy or kitsch’s nihilism, such strategies enfold the audience and the art object into a field of encounter between both. The pictorial space of signs is not replaced by the flat surface of paint as paint, but by a virtual space of effects dependent upon material conditions (biology of vision, ordering of paint) but in no way determined by them.

These are not “reality effects” since they make no claim to Natural legitimacy. Instead, Riley’s paintings continuously transform the operations of the ornamental within a modern condition; now rather than simply frame and orient, they redistribute subjects and objects in complex networks of exchange. Gombrich also provided a general model for such strategies in what he called a “little science fiction [about] an instrument we could call a breakspotter.” This consisted of a “sensor,” a “storage facility” to record the sensor’s reactions to environmental stimuli, and most importantly, a persistence of the stimulus, “like an after-image which fades only gradually” that would allow the device to compare changes in stimulation. “The greater the difference between the recent stimulation and the new one, the more our break-spotter would...react.” This tool is “programmed to search the environment for discontinuities of stimulation,” recording its findings and implicit learning patterns. Repetition of patterns, in turn, becomes “templates” for the organization of the sensing device, informing expectations.9 In the book Gombrich edited with neurophysiologist Colin Blakemore, Illusion in Nature and Art, the breakspotter is actualized as an experimental apparatus {fig.5 }. Similar devices were used by cyberneticists. A microelectrode is “painlessly” implanted into a cat’s visual-cognitive pathway (the brain or optic nerve). A screen displays dynamic and flickering visual stimuli (usually a moving and flashing shape or a virtual mouse); the electrode transmits the cat’s neural response to these stimuli (presumably the cat’s eyes are also “painlessly” fixed upon the screen), and these impulses are rendered by an oscilloscope as another set of moving, flashA & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

fig.4 Bridget Riley: CREST, 166x166cm, 1964. Collection of the British Council.


In the 1990s, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s account of the diagram offered architecture a crack in the semiotic empire of modern purity. Yet it has become clear that even within D+G’s terms, it is no use simply to adopt one of their alternative regimes as a postmodern escape. Deleuze’s problems were primarily philosophical, the production of concepts. Architecture, they later implied, concerns the framing of affects. Developing a non-semiotic account of the architectural sign requires a critique (not criticism, not critical theorization) of its conditions within modern architecture beyond the present scope.


Ernst Gombrich, A Sense of Order, 121.

ing patterns. This apparatus transposes electrical impulses of breakspotting from the mechanical onto the electro-chemical systems of the cat, onto the mechanical, then to opto-electronic signals, and by extension, back to the electro-chemical domain of the human researcher. It is only a small conceptual step to complete the cybernetic breakspotting loop, implanting a sensor in the brain of the scientists that would affect the patterns projected for the cat.

fig.5 Bridget Riley, CREST, 166x166cm, 1964. Collection of the British Council.

C H RIST O P H E R HIG H T: : BRE A K S P O T TIN G... 14/15

Gombrich’s breakspotter was not simply an experiment; it was an abstract machine in an analysis of effects that commingled subjects and objects, cultural signs and natural phenomena. The breakspotter utilizes signs and symbols not as discrete “messages,” contents, or things, but according to the definition of information provided by cyberneticist Gregory Bateson, information is the difference that makes a difference. Thus, for all of Gombrich’s psychologism, his breakspotter ultimately presents not a new naturalism but the possibility of understanding signs as pure difference, informatic electrochemical potentials pulsing across the networks of

the living. Most importantly, the breakspotter is not isolated to one pure domain of Nature or Culture, but distributed as a technological network that collects, modulates, transforms and transposes information, and then returns it. The breakspotter allows for a different understanding of the architects within this exhibit. They explicitly position theirs as projective material practices, and do so via a renewed engagement with the architectural surface as a carrier, not of meaning, but as the distributor function. Like critical practices, material practices often perform a conceptual minimalism whenever their manifestos purify the complexities of modernism into reductionist boxes, later critiqued as negative figures. As opposed to FAT’s allegiance to taste, scientific reference often leads the materialist discourse back to the opposing pole of underlying natural order. Their suspicion of representation and counter emphasis on the “material” and the “operative” tend to reassert a Miesian economy of purification and transcendentalism, even if they refer to complexity theory and Deleuzian metaphysics rather than relativity theory and Hegelian teleology. Yet, just as FAT cannot be simply explained as a continuation of Venturi’s project, the breakspotter suggests a rather different understanding of materialist practice. In that regard, Contemporary Architectural Practice occupies a lineage of recent design that displaces representation of function by form with “performative surfaces” that eschew modern typologies of signifying architectural elements. In a recent residential project, elements of the free-plan (which like the decorated shed keeps structural and cultural elements distinct) are deterritorialized, for example,

fig. 6 Ali Rahim / Contemporary Architecture Practice: Catalytic Furnishings [FlexiNurb™], 2002-2003. Rendering. Image courtesy CAP.

by replacing the window with serially oriented fields of small perforations in a surface; these produce optical and illuminative effects rather than serve as a device pictorially framing the view of a remote nature. Similarly, in the “couch” {fig.6 } exhibited in Sign as Surface the significations of furniture typology and the contours of posture are almost literally blurred into a series of lofted NURB topologies that invite repast but displace phenomenological comfort with a landscape of post-humanist becomings. Most significantly, such techniques extend into the landscape itself, creating a garden out of water run off. CAP’s architecture no longer rests on the tabula rasa of nature, nor responds to a cultural palimpsest of signs, but implies an ecological attitude in which a discrete architecture operates within larger heterogeneous networks of systems of quasi-subjects and quasi-objects.

A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

fig. 8 ocean_D: Glass Wall Prototype, 2003. ????????. Image courtesy ?????.

ics, but because they index the evolution of simple computer algorithms as forms of artificial life.10 These visual patterns are the landscapes for evolving ecosystems of information. While traditional ornament ultimately signifies an alignment between artifice and natural order, the ordering of cellular automata suggests a topologized network that synthesizes other potentials of being rather than representing existing dialectics.

fig. 7 ocean_D: Lisbon-Joseph House, London, 2002. Interior Perspective. Image courtesy ocean_D.

10. Which has its origins in Wittgenstein’s idea of meaning in language. Opposing traditional semantic theory according to which meaning would be fixed in advance and encoded in words (names), he argues for a performative understanding of how meaning is produced which culminates in his famous Aphorism No. 43: “The meaning of a word is its use in the language” [Die Bedeutung eines Wortes ist sein Gebrauch in der Sprache], see Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Basil Blackwell : Oxford 1953).

For example, the ordering systems of Evan Douglis and ocean_D depend on the same ornamental formal logic of symmetry-breaking patterning and field-modulating that preoccupied Gombrich. Similarly, in A New Kind of Science, Stephan Wolfram treats the decorative patterns of ornamental art as direct forerunners of the patterns produced by cellular automata. While historical decorative patterns represented the postulates of Euclidean geometries and simple arithmetic, cellular automata produced highly complex and modulating patterns, not because they employ more complicated mathematC H RIST O P H E R HIG H T: : BRE A K S P O T TIN G... 16/17

This potential is evident in ocean_D’s woven lattice projects such as the Lisbon-Joseph House {fig.7 }, London 2002; complex spatial orders emerge from the interaction between issues of site, program and performance with a few simple rules that modulate a geometric order. Rather than Miesian purity of construction or Venturi’s inoculative strategies, ocean_D’s fields are constructed by structural components. They are more geometrically specific than a post or lintel but more fragmentary than a geometrical figure; inherently “incompletable,” adding one element to another, does not reassemble an organic whole, but produces a feedback loop transmitted along the lineaments themselves. Information of construction logics within an organizational logic create a continuously breaking pattern that is neither entropic nor conservative. {fig.8} As with Gombrich’s breakspotter, Evan Douglis’ pattern-based orders are not defined by repetition punctuated by breaks, but by continually modulating pulses of information. In this case information is not in the form of traces of light on a screen but transmitted via parametrically crenellated landscapes. It is not coincidental that the production of this architecture via computer-controlled fabrication recalls the way in which Moorish decorations

were made by means of plaster casting mechanisms. While Moorish fields are geometric and refer to cosmological orders of nature, Douglis and ocean_D offer topological gradients of informatic variation and recombination. Yet all depend on the overlaying, repetition, and intertwining of geometric fields. This is in contrast to classical and modern approaches to ornament as discrete details. In Douglis’ work, these are supplanted by an array of virtual cellular automata parametrically tied to a perfomative body or a set of objects in the case of the Prouvé exhibit, AutoBraids/AutoBreeding {fig.9 }, “sensing” them as informational input and outputting their response as conceptually infinite material traceries across a crenellated surface. ocean_D have employed similar techniques in recent work such as the Glass Wall project. These conceptual and formal automata replace the structural substrate that traditionally supported the ornamental plane of signs in the decorated shed, configuring the potentiality of the surface as a deformable charged field rather than static pattern. Thus, they share with the “signers” an ontology of order, image and space as a vast matrix of discrete quanta, be that virtual machines, pixels, or structural elements. Yet their respective poetics and techne are conversely inflected. While with FAT distinct signs are seamlessly elided by the ability to address the individual pixels of bit-mapped images as if each was an autonomous universe, for Douglis and ocean_D each pixel of architectural matter is linked to its neighbors, producing global patterns of universal order from local breaks of information. Out of a historical-theoretical coupling between Bridget Riley, cellular automata, and the Alhambra, their calligraphic vectors construct charged fields of effects that redistribute the subject. Like Wolfram’s

fig. 9 Evan Douglis: AutoBraids / AutoBreeding Project, 2003. Image courtesy Evan Douglis and Associates.

cellular automata that they redeploy as architectural instruments, the surfacers’ ultimately must enfold a different account of modernity itself, wherein details no longer attempt to signify a divine or natural order but where life-worlds play their drama across topological permutations of information.11 If so, servo’s projects can be understood as breakspotting species of artificial life, learning to crawl in a non-semiotic landscape of architectural signs. servo deploys patterns of order derived from mass-customization but also of the information packets that stream across the Infobahn. This suggests modular fabrication not of a repeated order, but, like ocean_D’s lattices, they produce fragments assembling into distributed redundantly rich networks. In a series of projects, such as Lattice Archipelogics {fig.10 }, the user’s movement or other activity is sensed by the network, which then alters its configuration or state, causing a shift in the user’s perception, and so on. Another project, nurbia, operates in the same way with different techniques as an urban infrastructure. Indeed, servo continually A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

11. Such an alternative account of modernity is far beyond the scope of this paper but I will address it in a forthcoming work, Measuring Vortices: Architectural Principles in the Age of Cybernetics.

urbanizes the encounter between subject and thing, representation and operation. Like David Bowie’s mutating personas, a pop reference servo redeploys as a mode of operation, this also applies to the matrix structure of the practice: four actors, in four contexts, hundreds of linkages, millions of permutations. Their projects develop according to lineages of speciation, with inputs and outputs which cycle back and inform another. servo has even gone so far as to draw their business model as a looping hetero-genetic machine {fig.11 }, a figuration of inputs and outputs across various actors, products, mediums and disseminations, translating one world into another unknown. fig.10 servo: Lattice Archipelogics, 2003. Image courtesy servo.

fig.11 servo: Diagram of product lines, 2003. Image courtesy servo.

C H RIST O P H E R HIG H T: : BRE A K S P O T TIN G... 18/19

servo’s general project lays neither in the purification of the object nor its significations, nor in a countertheology of corruption. Instead, their architecture exists across an informatic infrastructure networking subject, perceptions and effects. The work closes the breakspotter’s heterogeneous empirical loop, and in doing so shifts modern gears from Gombrich’s stimulus-response to events and becomings. The dilemma presented by Sign as Surface is not abstraction contra content, high vs. low, signers vs. surfacers, but that we have not worked through the issue of the sign abstractly enough. So long as the operations of architecture are understood as meaningful, its potential will remain within the dialectic of modern purification and its negative theologies of corruption. Even as the moderns endlessly pursued their conceptual purifications, they participated in vast material and discursive networks which have no regard for these conceptual distinctions. Our world is filled with phenomena, concepts, subjects and things, from ecological policy to cybernetic organisms, which cannot be molded into either/or constructions and extend across the convoluted field of modernity. Perhaps much to Venturi’s chagrin, the ducks have proved far too mighty and have given birth to informatic monsters more complex than his or Mies’ wildest puritanical dreams. CH

20 A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

FACING THE SURFACE Ilka & Andreas Ruby

In an architectural history written several decades from now, the 1990s could indeed be featured as the “surface years.” Arguably, no other concept has dominated the architectural production of this period more. The power of this paradigm is made apparent through its astounding capacity to embrace even the most antagonistically opposed stylistic camps such as Minimalism or topological architecture. Speculating upon the cultural motives for the epochal significance of the surface, one can not ignore its historical alignment with the rise of branding as an all-encompassing, late capitalist model of cultural action. One key effect of branding on architecture was the increased pressure on architects to brand themselves — so that the visual appearance of an architectural “product” could be traced to a creator. For many architects, the surface seemed to cater to this specific operation in a universal way. It gave rise to techniques that imbued architecture with “labelling information” regarding its originator or style and

allowed each architect to stand out in an aggressive flood of mass-marketed imagery. The ultimate example of this notion of authorship, via the architecturally staged surface, is Frank O. Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao {fig.1} . Herein, branding instigated an unprecedented convergence of previously separate identities1 – architect, client, and location. Stating the name of any part of this strategic alliance inevitably evokes the other identities as well. Gehry is synonymous with the Guggenheim, Bilbao or both (and vice versa- approaching the branding trinity from any angle) but the unifying signifier is clearly the shiny surface of Gehry’s titanium-clad, beautiful monster. It is a success story which for Gehry has certainly worked well, if not too well- as demonstrated by the growing demand from corporate and institutional clients who all want him to do the same thing again and again. Until this day, Gehry has not managed to free himself from these unexpected consequences 20/21

of the “Bilbao-Effect.” Every new project he chooses to undertake now seems to re-stage his opus magnum, without ever achieving that apex again, and he seems unable to loosen its ties to endeavour towards something different.


The process is reminiscent of an organisational model of economic globalisation called a “strategic alliance” in which different business organizations (for instance, airlines), grouped themselves in the course of the late 1990s to increase their critical mass without giving up their individual identities.

fig. 2 Herzog & de Meuron: Ricola Europe Factory and Storage Building, Mulhouse-Brunnstatt/France 1992/1993. Detail.

fig. 1 Frank O. Gehry and Associates: Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain, 1997.

Interestingly enough, this did not happen to Herzog & de Meuron, who can be seen to represent the other extreme in the exploitation of surface as a self-branding device during the 1990s.2 They opted for the “flat” surface, and multiplied it to counter Gehry’s super sensualism. They annihilated form by relegating it to that most generic volume, the Euclidian box. However, the exterior surface of their boxes never quite seemed to encompass space. Rather, it replaced it.3 After successfully emptying their architecture during the course of their classical minimalist phase4 of the late 1980s and early 1990s, in the mid-1990s they began to re-colonize the voided surface of their façades by tattooing them with photographic images. For their Ricola Europe Factory and Storage Building (Mulhouse-Brunnstatt/ France 1992/1993) {fig.2} , Herzog & de Meuron developed original surface iconography based on an early modernist photograph of a leaf by Karl Blossfeld. In the case of their Eberswalde Technical School Library (Eberswalde,

Germany, 1993/1996), they asked the German photographer Thomas Ruff to “picture” the exterior walls of the building.5 The result is a quadrupled and exteriorized Iconostasis which, like its antecedent in Greek-orthodox churches, induces the space behind it to virtually disappear. Stretching all over the building’s glass and concrete panels, the images make the material definition of the façade vanish, and are exposed as the prima materia of architecture.6 These images subsequently became the conceptual support structure for Herzog & de Meuron’s own developing brand identity - as the architects who built straight volumes enveloped in appropriated or commissioned images. Herzog & de Meuron’s approach was as remarkably dissimilar from an architect who builds curvy volumes wrapped in reflective titanium, as the difference between three stripes was from the swoosh on a sneaker.

A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3


However they share with Gehry the same semiotic logic. Like Gehry, prior to the construction of his seminal house, Herzog & de Meuron had not located a language that could be uniquely called their own. Until the late 1980s, their work was strongly influenced by Aalto and Scharoun. It existed in a general frame-work of regionallysensitive contextualism. See Jacques Herzog’s comments in: Jeffrey Kipnis, “A Conversation with Jacques Herzog”, in: El Croquis 60 + 84 [Herzog & de Meuron 1981-2000], p. 36. The flat surface of Neo-Minimimalism became a welcome means for inventing a new identity for themselves.


Some of their projects appear to exist on the outside only. There are no photographs of the interior of the Eberswalde Technical School Library, for example. In the event that you do get to visit the inside, the interior is strikingly disconnected from the exterior, as if it was executed by another architect.


The most obvious examples would be the Goetz Art Gallery (Munich, Germany, 1989/1992) and the Antipodes I Student Housing (Dijon, France, 1990-1992).

• 6.

The images are in fact not applied, but impressed onto to the surface of the concrete. The process is not so much one of printing, but rather an adaptation of the traditional graffito technique: “The photographs are transferred onto a special plastic film by means of a silk-screen process, using a cure-retardant instead of ink. The printed film is then placed into the formwork (...) and concrete poured over it. (...) When the panel is taken out of the formwork, and carefully washed with water and brushes, the concrete that has lain in contact with the retardant remains liquid and is rinsed away, leaving darker, rougher areas of exposed grey aggregate.” Gerhard Mack: Building with Images. In: Herzog & de Meuron Eberswalde Library. [Architecture Landscape Urbanism 3] AA Publications 2000. p. 22. In other words, the image of the wall is not an addition to, but a subtraction from the concrete.

Surface as Style Changer 5.

In the Greek-Orthodox church, the Iconostasis separates the choir area reserved for the monks and the general nave that only the lay brothers can access. The wall of the Iconstasis prevents the interior of the choir to be seen from the nave, and effectively segregates different audiences. But because it is covered with icons, it replaces the blocked view of real space with a pictorial representation of sacred space. After having worked with iconstasis earlier an their competition project for a Greek-Orthodox Church (Zürich, Switzerland, 1989), H & de M stick to the concept here too. Their iconostasis hides the space behind the wall (the library) as well- while rendering its programmatic content in an abstract way: Ruff chose press-clippings from German newspapers showing various aspects of German cultural history. By photographing these newspaper illustrations and reproducing them yet again onto the façade of the building, Ruff addresses the reproduced nature of knowledge to which the books in the library are a cultural testimony.

• Aside from their congenial selfbranding techniques, Gehry and Herzog & de Meuron can be seen as representatives of two diametrically opposed architectural camps. Yet, despite their apparent differences, the continuous surface-topologists and the flat surface-minimalists were aligned in so many ways that their antagonistic agendas eventually converged. The surface was of strategic importance for both camps — especially as a technique that validated their respective claims against Post-Modernism and Deconstructivism – movements which had dominated the 1980s but soon reached saturation as the decade came to a close. Both the topologists and the minimalists used surface in order to overcome the processes of formal fragmentation and semantic coding that had been promoted by the PoMo&Decon-protagonists in equal parts, but with obviously different means. Minimalism announced its critique of the formal excesses of 1980s architecture through a fierce negation of form, restraining its spatial


vocabulary to the most generic volumes. Topological architecture sought to smooth over the folded cacophonies of the dis-, dif- and de- era through the affirmation of varied experiments with topological geometries. What united these advocates of non-form and sur-form, however, was their focus on the aesthetically motivated treatment of surface and their relative disregard for program and organisation. Again, the Guggenheim Bilbao serves as a prime example. If Gehry’s spatial and material handling of the titanium façades is clearly spectacular, the plan displays an appalling banality which is completely at odds with the external complexity of the museum’s form. Similarly, on the minimalist side of the surface equation, one might think of Liechtenstein Art Museum by Morger & Degelo with Christian Kerez (Vaduz, Liechtenstein 1998-2000). Here the exterior walls consist of course-aggregate concrete which was sanded down until it revealed a polished sheen vaguely reminiscent of black latex. Perhaps because the architects focused


Quoted by Hans Frei, “Leave the Channels - follow the Roots”, Arch+ 129/130, December 1995, p. 103.


Peter Zumthor, “A Way of Looking at Things”, in: A+U, February 1998 [A+U Extra Edition Peter Zumthor], p. 24.


Sanford Kwinter: “Leap into the Void. A New Organon?” In: Cynthia C. Davidson (Ed.): Anyhow. MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London 1998. S. 22-27.

all their energies almost exclusively on the seductive aspects of the exterior, they did not seem to be pressured to fill the interior with anything more than a stereotypical version of the white cube. Another correspondence between these two rhetorically opposed camps was a shared refusal to directly employ architectural forms of representation. The minimalists strove for a “self-presentation of architecture”, as Marcel Meili put it,7 in order to escape the hopeless chaos of reality (or put differently: in order not to have to deal with it). Along the same lines, Peter Zumthor declared that “architecture is not a vehicle or a symbol for things that do not belong to its essence”, but that it rather “can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language”.8 Surprisingly Sanford Kwinter made similar points when he presented his j’accuse at the Anyhow Conference in Rotterdam in 1997- against the assembled A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

Any-Guard of Eisenman, Tschumi et al. Thoroughly denouncing that group’s inclination to apply theory to architecture from outside (using linguistic, philosophical or literary models), Kwinter dismissed the “ideology of process” as a “post-modern crypto-transcendentalism that does little more than impose arbitrary routines onto the logic of formation”.9 A universal device to get around the vicissitudes of representation was supposed to be the diagram- an image-form that did not quote or represent the world but rather could be utilized to organize information in order to propel and enable architecture’s evolution. The diagram was intended to be an abstract and self-referential architectural tool or machine. But eventually, the diagram developed its own pictorial qualities and became yet another architecture fetish during the late 1990s, by which point architecture appeared useless unless it could reveal its basis in diagramming. At the heyday of this diagram-mania, a post-diagramming architecture emerged. The Moebius House by

Van Berkel & Bos (Het Gooi, The Netherlands, 1993/98) is a good example of a post-diagramming operation. In Van Berkel & Bos’ various computer generated models of the project, the house appears as if its motivating diagram- the moebius strip- was literally crammed into the project after the fact. The operation of retrofitting projects to new diagrams became a kind of postproduction effort destined to smooth out the visible effects of the diagram’s implantation. The introduction of the “data-scape,” the evil twin of the Maya rendering, by Winy Maas of MVRDV and its subsequent cultivation by many other practitioners intensified the mimetic use of the diagram. Another project by van Berkel & Bos for the IFCCA competition in New York in 1999 (now re-configured as UN Studio), documented a 24-hour-diagram mapping the intensities of various programmed uses – housing, leisure, industrial, commercial and office. UN Studio imagineered these layers of program as a semi-transparent landscape made up of colorful rolling hills superimposed

onto one another. While this deep rendering of the programming information made the data aesthetically seductive, it considerably diminished its legibility. Giving form – and not any information – seemed to be the primary function of the datascape. Datascaping underscored a widely used practice within topological architecture which replaced the traditional subject of representation of culture or nature with the representation of information or statistics and reduced architecture to the mimicry of the diagram bringing it precariously close to sheer styling. Post-diagramming or datascaping revealed another emerging architectural condition during the 1990s – style as fetish. If the early minimalists used the box as a negation of form, late Minimalists came to use the outward appearance of this negation as a prescriptive formula. The box became a hyper-typology unquestioned by specific conditions such as program, site or audience. John Pawson’s paral-


lepided shaped bathtub remains the most telling proof of the dogma’s power. While the Swiss minimalists worshipped the box as the incarnation of architectural veracity and authenticity, others like Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA of Japan used it more coldly- strategically playing out the apparently irresistible charm of smooth reductivism to sanction the introduction of a contemporary International Style. In our estimation, style is largely what we are left with at either end of the spectrum of possibilities outlined above. The fact that smooth surfaces and flat surfaces could equally gain momentum as branding procedures suggests to us that however different the blob and box seem, in most respects they adhere to the same cultural logic, hence the need to create artificial differences. Real difference, however, may lay elsewhere— for example in a shift in the understanding of form away from appearance and towards perfor-

fig. 5 Toyo Ito with Arup / Cecil Balmond: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in Hyde Park, London, Great Britain, July-September 2002. Photograph © David Grandorge. Courtesy of the Serpentine Gallery.

fig. 4 Herzog & de Meuron: Prada Tokyo Shop and Offices, Tokyo, Japan, 2000/2003. Image © Herzog & de Meuron. Courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.

fig. 3 Herzog & de Meuron: National Stadium Bejing, Bejing, China, 2002/2008. Image © Herzog & de Meuron. Courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.


Surface as Structural Ornament mance. More specifically, and related to the argument of the exhibition Sign as Surface, the question becomes whether there is a specific surface performance that exceeds the realms of a representation- either of something else (depicted on a flat surface) or of itself (incorporated into a curved surface) or of a diagram (the datascape materialized as space). In other words, we wonder if there is a surface that does not merely exist but does something to engage an interaction with the conditions within which it is embedded.

001. The unfolding of the depicted ornament into a structural ornament is a crucial factor in the shift from the passive to active surface. The most pertinent promoter of this shift has been surprisingly enough, Herzog & de Meuron. Their recent projects reveal an increasing move away from a two-dimensional understanding of ornament. In recent projects ornament is no longer just applied to a surface, but it becomes that very surface by furnishing its structure. Both in their Prada Tokyo Shop and Offices (Tokyo, Japan, 2000/2003) and even more radically so in the National Stadium Beijing (Beijing, China, 2002/2008), ornament is materialized as structure just as structure is articulated as ornament. {fig.3&4} Importantly, this is not an either-or-condition. Herzog & de Meuron do not deny ornament its representational aspects - and we are allowed to read Prada as over-scaled fish-net stockings or Beijing as a giant ball of wool. Herzog & de Meuron simply enlarge the picture to bring other aspects into view as well— namely the A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

function of structure which paradoxically also turns into a function of ornamentation. One can also observe a growing desire to merge representation and function in the recent work of Toyo Ito. After the giant tubular steel “meshes” articulated as vertical structure in his Sendai Mediatheque (Sendai, Miyagi, Japan, 1997-2000), Ito explored the issue of structural ornament in two temporary pavilions. The pavilion erected for the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park (London, Great Britain, July-September 2002) consisted of an ornamented structural steel frame expressed as a triangulated surface. {fig.5 } The façade structure was developed from a two dimensional image using an iterative process of rotating squares through themselves. This surface was then divided and folded downwards to form a set of wall elevations, while the central portion ended up being the roof. The same planar developmental logic was at work in Ito’s other pavilion built in Brugge to

fig. 7 Sauerbruch and Hutton: GSW Headquarter Building, Berlin, 1991-1999. Detail of Façade. Photograph © Annette Kisling Fotografien, Berlin.

fig. 6 Toyo Ito: Pavilion, Brugge, Belgium, February-November 2002


The Performative Animation of the Surface celebrate the city’s nomination as European cultural capital 2002 (Brugge, Belgium, February-November 2002). Here the ambition was to build the façade entirely out of a singular honey-comb panel system applied all over as structure. But because the aluminium structure proved too thin to support itself, Ito had to add a series of elliptical aluminium stiffening plates to prevent the structure from bending in under its own weight. Surprisingly, these structurally dictated elements did not work against the original surface, but instead ornamentally enhanced the fabric of the piece, highlighting the fine grain of the honey-comb against a series of large-scale ellipses. {fig.6 } Ornament and structure, it seems, had become one – or rather they had entered different aggregate states of the same substance.

002. Another level of surface performance can be located in the performative animation of a building’s skin. This is clearly something other than the tautological concept of “media-architecture”— since any architecture is a medium. We would argue that billboard-ing buildings with LED-screens still treat architecture as a dumb container which can only be upgraded via some kind of electronic gadgetry. Instead, the animation of the skin we suggest would imply a notion of a screen which is part and parcel of the architectural corpus. Using its integral hardware, architecture would animate itself in ways that affect its very behavior. A practice which explores this field of research is the Anglo-German- team Sauerbruch Hutton. In a number of projects they have experimented with brise-soleil systems made of perforated metal panels that cover entire building façades. These panels can be rotated around their vertical axis to take on a multitude of positions, ranging from complete closure (flush with the façade) to maximum


aperture (perpendicular to the façade). Painted in strikingly bright colors, the brise-soleil perpetually update the appearance of the building. In the case of the GSW Headquarter Building (Berlin, 1991-1999) {fig.7 }, the panels are located inside the envelope of the building (between the two layers of the convection façade). Consequently their rotating movement only alters our impression of the building’s color and depth. In their Pharmacological Research Building for Boehringer Ingelheim (Biberach a. d. Rist, Germany, 2002) {fig.8 }, however, the panels are suspended outside of the actual building envelope, affecting its texture and definition as well as its appearance. When completely closed off by the panel system the building no longer even resembles architecture and is “de-typologised” into a specific object (as in the work of Donald Judd). When the panels are opened all the way, the building gets a thick skin, like a bird ruffling its feathers - an image that is not purely visual, but is visceral. Most importantly, image production

the softly cut cavities of their interiors. In the empty condition, the shelving units lend a sensation of incompleteness. Once the object is in use, however, the backs of the books start to perform as another surface, activated every now and then by a book being taken out or put back on the shelf. The more the shelf is filled with books, the more the grid disappears from view as the visible edges of the shelving boards become subsumed by the clustering of the books’ spines.

This leads us to a notion of representation generated by use.10 To explore this option further, it is valuable to review the work of Jakob + MacFarlane. Their Bookstore Florence Loewy “Books by Artist” (Paris, France, 2001) {fig.9 } provides a compelling example of a fluctuating surface enacted by action rather than permanently materialised as a visual interface. Their topological shelving volumes look as though they have been skinned to the bones of their gridded skeleton. Deprived of a proper outer surface, they confront us with A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

fig.9 Jakob + MacFarlane: Bookstore Florence Loewy “Books by Artist”, Paris, France, 2001. Image Courtesy Jakob + MacFarlane.

fig.10 Jakob + MacFarlane: Restaurant Georges at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, France, 2000. Photograph Courtesy Jakob + MacFarlane.

of the building present in the work of Sauerbruch Hutton is not fuelled from the outside-in (through some kind of scripted presentation, as is the case with most “media-façades”). Instead it is simply triggered as the side-effect of the building functions, namely the dynamic operation of its sun-shading devices. The changing color patterns advertise that dynamism to the urban setting and give the building its corporate (performative) identity.

10. Which has its origins in Wittgenstein’s idea of meaning in language. Opposing traditional semantic theory according to which meaning would be fixed in advance and encoded in words (names), he argues for a performative understanding of how meaning is produced which culminates in his famous Aphorism No. 43: “The meaning of a word is its use in the language” [Die Bedeutung eines Wortes ist sein Gebrauch in der Sprache], see Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Basil Blackwell : Oxford1953). 11. Obviously Jakob + MacFarlane were not aiming to make their project a showcase of topological geometry at any cost- in so far as they represent the cool contrary of, say, Lars Spuybroek who made researchers sit on a daringly curved floorscape in the V2_Lab (Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 1998). Since the workstations in this project were perfectly horizontal (in order to carry computers), the users’ chairs had to negotiate the competing inclinations of the floor and table. After a prototype developed by Spuybroek could not be implemented, the lab users built wooden platforms over the sloping terrain in order not roll away from their desks.

fig.11 Lyons: Sunshine Hospital, Sunshine, Victoria, Australia, 2000. Ward building and hydrotherapy building (foreground) juxtaposed. Photograph © Trevor Mein. Image courtesy Lyons.


Surfacing the Context 003. Prior to the completion of the book store, Jakob + MacFarlane constructed their most well-known project to date, the Restaurant Georges at the Pompidou Centre (Paris, France, 2000). Here they had already worked with topological volumes as core programmatic and spatial elements. {fig.10 } However, the performative function of the “bubbles” (the architects consistently abstain from referring to them as “blobs”) is entirely different. For the architects the bubbles served as a way to question the meaning of the restaurant in the highly coded context of the Pompidou Centre. Through their atmospheric ambiguity the bubbles extend the value system of art into the space of the restaurant, causing sudden flashs of re-programming to shatter the imagination of the viewer. Unconsciously guided by the Duchamp Effect, which accords anything the status of art once it is placed in a museum, a restaurant-goer who has just seen sculptures by Brancusi or Hans Arp in the adjacent galleries might likely perceive the bubbles

as sculptures as well. Indeed, how can one be sure that this crowd of people dining is not a staged event, a collective “Eat-performance” à la Daniel Spoerri? In any case, the surrealistic scripting of the bubbles (both highly determined and ambiguous) prevents the orthodox fulfilment of the topological agenda carried out over a continuous floor-wall-ceiling-surface. The floor is straight in order to allow the principal functions of the restaurant— serving, seating and dining — to unfold as usual.11 The performance of the surface is thus less defined in absolute geometrical terms, but enacted on a narrative level. The surface is telling a story, and as such it can make its context speak. The very capacity of the surface to trigger a communication between a building and its environs is a central focus of the Australian practice Lyons Architecture— who tend to privilege surface inscription over extreme interior articulation. Their Sunshine Hospital (Sunshine, Victoria, Australia 2001) {fig.11 }


plays with the scalelessness of the suburban context at the Western edge of metropolitan Melbourne. The peculiar properties of the suburban territory -the incoherence of its fabric and the loose positioning of its built structures within vast open space - interrogate architecture’s sovereignty over territory. The project consists of two separate buildings of different sizes and programs— a bigger ward building and a smaller hydrotherapy building. Both buildings have façades of colored bricks layed in a figurative manner which seems to picture the effect of the setting sun (a pictorial allusion to the euphemistic name of the hospital’s location which actually represents one of the socially less bright neighbourhoods of greater Melbourne). In other words, one of the building’s possible phenomenological states is permanently inscribed on its skin. This representational act is carried out further on the hydrotherapy building. Seeing them on the site, the scale difference is hardly perceivable at first. Replicating the ward building in a

12. These perceptual distortions are possible not least because of proportional manipulations on the façade of the hydrotherapy building. On the outside, it features three rows of windows. Seen from the inside, the windows are revealed as small punched openings since the interior space consists of of one level only (housing the hydrotherapy pool). 13. See Albert Roskam, Dazzle Painting: Art as Camouflage Camouflage as Art. Daidalos 51, 1994. pp. 110-115. What differentiates the dazzle painting from a conventional camouflage is the fact that it does not operate through an assimilation of figure to background. Instead it creates a blurring effect inside the figure itself which is why it could be called an intensive camouflage.

In their Online Training Center for the Victoria University of Technology (St. Albans, Victoria, Australia, 2001) {fig.12 }, Lyons pursues similar effects using a different technique. Here the building is skinned with a repetitive computer-generated pattern whose impact is highly paradoxical. The building virtually shoots out of its context, with its intense orange and yellow colored surfaces aggressively challenging the mellow tones of the sparse bush vegetation. But even though one can see the building from far away, it seems difficult to precisely locate it in space. The pattern on its surface has a strangely de-spatialising effect, A & D / A RTIST S S P A CE 20 0 3

fig.13 The French cruiser ”Gloire“ with a 1936 Dazzle Painted design. From Dazzle Painting- Kunst als Camouflage, Camouflage als Kunst. Albert Roskam / Stichting kunstprojecten 1987 Uitgeverij Van Spijk.

fig.12 Lyons: Victoria University of Technology Online Training Center, St. Albans, Victoria, AU, 2001. Photograph © John Gollings. Image courtesy Lyons.

smaller scale, the smaller hydrotherapy building appears to be standing further away than it actually is when seen from the ward building.12 The lateral view, however, reverses the impression of this scale distortion: the hydrotherapy building, now standing in the foreground, appears equal in size to the bigger ward building in the background.

despite a profound plasticity. It seems to play a constant cat-and-mouse-game with visual perception, unwilling to be pinned down. One is reminded of the dazzle paintings {fig.13 } invented during the First World War to protect ships against predatory submarines. Painting the ships with perceptually confusing patterns (based on the techniques of false perspective, figure-ground-conflicts and scale inversions), made it difficult for the submarine’s torpedo crews to determine either the contours or the direction the ship was heading.13 Along the same lines, Lyons’ building swims in its context like a lone dazzle painted ship at sea-both omnipresent yet continuously out of reach.

fig.16 NL Architects, Basketbar, Skylight Detail. Photograph © Hans Van Leeuen. Courtesy NL Architects.

fig.15 NL Architects: Basketbar, Delft University, the Netherlands, 2003. Photograph © Luuk Kramer. Courtesy NL Architects.

fig.14 NL Architects: WOS 8, Leidsche Reijn, the Netherlands, 1998.


Surface programming 004. Both the Georges Restaurant by Jakob+MacFarlane and the projects by Lyons appropriate the surface predominantly as a visual device. They develop the surface either as a zone to receive active perception or as a backdrop that inconspicuously informs the atmosphere of a space. The last aspect of the surface that we want to discuss could not be more different, for here the surface is understood as a haptic plane along which action can take place. The programming of that surface with events replaces any concern for pictorial representation and in this case the actual architectural program of the building may or may not play a role in this game. For example, in the heat distribution relay station WOS 8 {fig.14 } by NL Architects (Leidsche Reijn, the Netherlands, 1998), its program is not expressed at all, but is intentionally suppressed to allow the building to become a playground for adolescents in a future city extension of Utrecht— which is for the moment rather short of alternative forms of urban entertainment. The thick polyure-

thane skin of the building is punctured with artificial climbing holds, boasts a basketball hoop and, on the warmer south façade, houses artificial nests for house martins and bats. In their recently completed Basket Bar (Utrecht, the Netherlands, 2003) {fig.15 }, this programdriven definition of the surface is even more explicit. The restaurant is half-sunken into the ground and the roof is endowed with a basketball court. To take advantage of this unlikely coupling, a circular piece of the basketball playing surface / restaurant roof is made of glass {fig.16 }. Thus daylight can enter the central section of the restaurant while broadcasting a sense of the action taking place on the roof to the restaurant-goers below. The glazed roof section incorporates the very extremes of surface function discussed here: for the basketball court it acts as a physical support for athletic action while for the restaurant it serves as a representation of that action. The unifying capacity of this detail is emblematic of a broadened concept of surface which we hope will


be cultivated by a contemporary architecture ambitious enough to embrace very different understandings of the surface— which in the past have all too easily been single-mindedly exploited and have led to too many predictable rhetorical oppositions. I&AR





A RTIST S S P A CE : A & D 20 0 3



ARCHITECT: Evan Douglis + Associates

PROJECT TITLE: Auto Braids / Auto Breeding, Project 2003.


Installation Team, Columbia University exhibition : Mark Parsons, Richard Sarrach, Andy Bollinger, Bryon Russell, Richard Gzrey, Chas Peppers, Brian Hopkins, Chyanne Husar, Lisa Sundbeck, Terrance Jones, Peter Arhangelsky, Tamaki Uchikawa, Ben Dotson, Ilich Mujica, Zachary Joslov and Chei-wei Wang.

3D Visualization: Lonn Combs.

CNC Milling: Digital Design Modeling, Inc.

Metal Fabrication: CVID

Design Team: Kari Anderson, Seiichi Saito, Martin Merlioranski, Richard Sarrach, Chei-wei Wang, John Ching Teh Liu, Yota Adilenidou, Luis Pardon and Eric Wong.

Project Manager: Kari Anderson.

CREDITS: Concept & Principal: Evan Douglis.



SPECIAL THANKS: Many thanks to Bernard Tschumi, Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University for his continued support of the architecture galleries as well as his visionary guidance in architectural education at the GSAPP for the last fifteen years. Also special thanks to Robert Rubin my co-curator for his extraordinary generosity, patience and rarified support throughout a rather complex and challenging process.

CLIENT: GSAPP, Exhibitions, Columbia University. Jean Prouve: Three Nomadic Structures. Curated by Evan Douglis and Robert Rubin.

34/35 ED AutoBraids / AutoBreeding is born out of unit-to-unit operations that generate sets of morphologically related ‘siblings’. These siblings contain similar math and behavioral traits born out as surface effects that are adjusted to specific contextual requirements.

Designed for the exhibition Jean Prouvé- Three Nomadic Structures, the Auto Braids / Auto Breeding membrane was installed in the Arthur Ross Gallery at Columbia University. The installation responds to the gallery- continuously running through the room as a series of interlocking modular elements.

Auto Braids / Auto Breeding proposes biological mimesis as an alternative logic in the development of a new species of architectural membranes. Inspired by Jean Prouvé’s commitment to the most advanced technology of his time and the legendary contributions he made to the development of modular systems, the exhibition design set out to reinterpret these conceptual directives from a new and contemporary perspective. Celebrating the current opportunities afforded by high-end 3-D modeling software and five-axis rapid prototyping milling, a series of interlocking modular elements were produced for assembly as an exhibition ”display-scape“. Intended to function as a curatorial game board, this new membrane and its matrix of landing sites serves to offer a range of recombinatory flexibility ideal for any collection continuously undergoing change.

Auto Braids / Auto Breeding as assembled as an exhibition “display-scape.” By providing one continuous surface, all the disparate elements in the collection are unified- reinforcing the curators’ contention that Jean Prouvé’s research regarding ‘modularity’ extended across projects, programs and various scales of construction.

36/37 ED The series of interlocking modular elements were produced to offer a range of re-combinatory arrangements allowing for both vertical and horizontal expression.

The exhibition establishes a dialectical tension between Prouvé’s mid-century artifacts and Douglis’ mathematically derived topological expressions.

In addition, significant emphasis was placed on the development of topological surface effects capable of altering the experience of the spectator. In search of the underlying math inherent to produce an ‘indeterminate’ oscillating wave pattern, a single computational unit was selected as the primary building block necessary to promote the illusion of infinite growth. Conceived as a self-organizing system, the increasing aggregation and re-sequencing options afforded within this deceptively simple iterative process produces an extreme range of surface variation ideal for an architectural membrane situated in a new era of serial reproduction. A full circle is finally achieved with the arrival of Prouvé’s artifacts, paying tribute to the timelessness of his work and the relevance of his ideas for a new generation.

The computational logics of Douglis’ digitally constructed surfaces approach realization through five-axis rapid prototyping milling.

Designed for the Columbia University exhibition: Three Nomadic Structures, curated by Evan Douglis and Robert Rubin the application of research attributed to AutoBraids / AutoBreeding arrives as a case-study membrane within the public realm. The complex surfaces availed by high-end modeling software (left) are effortlessly translated by CNC milling machines (right); offering a repertoire of spatial complexity that has been largely unobtainable by previous industrial means (far right).

ARCHITECT: FAT (Fashion*Architecture*Taste)

PROJECT TITLE: Hoogvliet Heerlijkheid, Project, Rotterdam, 2002-3.

CREDITS: Charles Holland, Sean Griffiths and Sam Jacob.




Hoogvliet Heerlijkheid is a project located around a post war new town, an ‘indestructible green suburb’ built as a semi-socialist garden city.

CLIENT: WIMBY Internationale Bouwtentoonstelling Rotterdam - Hoogvliet



The mostly invented landscape which makes up Hoogvliet Heerlijkheid combines infrastructure with pleasure: surface water drainage becomes a boating lake surrounding a Pet Cemetery island. The landscape refers to both the idyllic community of the village green and the tough planning pragmatism of the Wild West town grid.

40/41 FAT Hoogvliet Sign; Californian pop imagery re-styled as Dutch dirty-realism.

FAT is designing a community hall and “Summer Village” on the outskirts of Hoogvliet, a suburb of Rotterdam. The hall will provide a resource for the local community. Land surrounding the hall will contain a number of facilities for the use of the local population. It is envisioned that some of these facilities will attract visitors from other parts of Rotterdam and beyond. A large “Hollywood” style sign makes the site visible from the nearby motorway. The facilities will include a garden center, an “art zoo”, a pet cemetery, allotments, a children’s zoo and a playground. FAT is involved in the master planning of the site as well as the design of the various elements.

Left and Above The project brings together a collection of ancillary structures, such as this Hall, that collectively make up a community resource.

General plan showing the garden center, an “art zoo,” pet cemetery, allotments, children’s zoo and a playground.

Left and Above Part business-park, part front-garden, Hoogvliet Heerlijkheid deals in the popular and the vernacularsuggesting a Pop-Vernacular that draws on the contemporary language of the new town that surrounds the suburb.

42/43 FAT Hoogvliet Heerlijkheid is a project about contradictions that live happily ever after. Its context is both particular to Hoogvliet and commonplace to most large cities. Like most post war new towns, but here more than most, it is a place full of things at odds with each other. Hoogvliet Heerlijkheid is green and leafy, but surrounded by heavy industry and infrastructure: Petrochemical industry, Europort and a Highway. It is an ‘indestructible green suburb’ built as a semisocialist garden city. Optimistically, it has all the beauty of the countryside with the conveniences of modern living. Pessimistically, it has all the loneliness of rural life coupled with urban ugliness. Axonometric study of variously composed Pop-Vernacular elements.

Photography: N. Borel

CREDITS: Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane. PROJECT TITLE: Books by Artists, Paris, France 2001. ARCHITECT: Jakob + MacFarlane

Librairie Florence Loewy, Books by Artists



CLIENT: Librairie Florence Loewy, Paris, France.

Seen from rue de Thorigny, the bookshop can be understood as an energetic architectural insertion that incompletely fills in the antique shop space.

The plan of the bookshop reveals the how imagined user movement patterns were mapped on a virtual, gridded volume as a sequence of excavations. The fluid shelving units were conceived of as the remnants of the imagined excavation operation.

44/45 J+M The morphologically related shelving units serve to both store information and guide visitors through the store’s collection of art related books.

The project was initially conceived of as a large rectangular matrix made of wood that completely filled out the volume of a small shop space. This gave us the opportunity to take the volume and introduce into it a programmed user movement pattern extrapolated from simulations of fictive shoppers. We wanted to take the trace of these moving bodies in space and make that the generator of its own space.This gridded matrix was thus excavated in order to create all the needed zones for walking, reading, buying and book storage. Three resultant stacks or trees remain.

Computer generated studies depict how the varying shelving volumes are unified to create a non-standard ‘modularity’ that bridges various elements and scales of construction: joint; sheet and volume. Cutting patterns (right outlines) for the vertical and horizontal units assemble to create the shelving volumes.

The simple unit of this matrix is 36x36x36 cm, defined by the average size of one book, but this unit can been added to or subtracted from in order to accommodate bigger sized books.



The sinuous series of tree-trunk like bookcases and space dividers can be viewed as both containers and contained volumes- suggesting an undermining of the traditional relationship between exterior and interior, skin and body.

Here the book is at the same time an object of desire and fabricator of its own architecture.

John Gollings



Carey Lyon, Gillian Moody and Natalie

Victoria University Online Multimedia Centre



Chris Georgiou, Andrew Lilyman, Corbett

Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 2001. Lyon, Cameron Lyon,

Neil Appleton, Jeff Cosier,

Victoria University Online Multimedia






Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Victoria University of Technology.



The extraordinary and visually disorienting treatment of the skin is underwritten by a more discrete chain of linear bands composed of trapezoidal hoods These hoods have been “removed” from building’s skin and “stretched” around its windows in order to mediate between its internal programs and the surrounding environment.

Sequential studies for the evolving skin treatment combine quotidian two dimensional patterns and intricate, yet repetitive fluid, three dimensional surface models.

This two level building accommodates 700 computers and a range of flexible teaching spaces for the Business Studies and Arts Design and Multimedia Departments of the Victoria University’s St Albans campus. The project critically examines the contemporary orthodoxies relating to computer environments as dark, interiorized black boxes disconnected from the outside world.

50/51 LY O N S Surrounded yet another sort of an artificial landscape, a bed of rocks, the VUT building is camouflaged by its non-natural skin.

The building’s exterior surface engages both with local landscape context of dry grasslands and the program of the information art center building. It presents an idea of a three dimensional digital terrain rendered on a flat panel façade – a virtual reality depth wholly of the computer, an artificial material in all senses. The square north facing floor plan takes advantage of passive solar design principles. A diagonal slash across the plan marks the main circulation spine and creates a naturally lit open computer access precinct.

The plan reveals that the building interior is, by obligation, mostly a highly efficient black box designed to accommodate its primary use as an online training center.

Printed with its inimitable feral digital membrane, the Victoria University of Technology Online Multimedia Center is flat-skinned box that advances an alternate trajectory for a digitally driven architecture that is at once visually complex and formally coherent

The hybridization of a conventional panel construction system with new digital technologies frees the project from the constructional necessities of choice and provides an opportunity to create a new and desirable skin for the building. The digital graphic imprinted onto the façade panels creates an identity for the building which is expressive of the work of the multi-media environment within. Rather than attempting to represent digital space, new computer technologies and programs have been used to make a repeating digital tile with a technique and process which is completely of the computer. When tiled, the golden stripes and deep furrows of the digital pattern form a continuous skin which wraps the box. Up close, the artificial surface is overlaid with images of other more conventional façade materials such as perforated metal.

52/53 LY O N S The fig.s of the windows are expressed like cuts in the surface to minimize the amount of glare and light entering the computing spaces. The sunshades are made by peeling the faรงade away from these cuts so that the building appears solid when viewed from one direction and perforated and cut when viewed the other way.

Pieter Bannenberg, Walter Van Dijk, Kamiel Klaasse and

Basketbar- Bar and Basketball Court, University of Utrecht, Holland. 2002-3.

NL, NL Architekten

FotoKramer / Hans Van Leeuwen.


Touzimsky and Richard Woditsch.

Jennifer Petersen, Misa Shibukawa, Rolf

Huesig, Nataly Lavi, Friso Leeflang,

Caro Baumann, Sybren Hoek, Kirsten

Mark Linnemann .




Basketbar- Bar and Basketball Court



The BasketBar serves marks the informal center of the campus under the Van Unnik Building, a 260’ high logo for the University as a whole.

Universiteit Utrecht Huisvestin, Holland.


54/55 NL The campus of the University of Utrecht is growing into something that might be called a city. The urban plan by Rem Koolhaas / OMA consists of a compact clustering of University related buildings leaving the intrinsic qualities of the existing landscape intact or even reinforcing them. Ever since student housing became possible in the area nightlife became an issue as well: a local bar was needed. The BasketBar Café serves as the informal center of the campus; a relaxed meeting place for professors, researchers and students. It is positioned right under the Van Unnik Building, a 260’ high logo for the University as a whole. This massive building is constructed with a Jack block system: a bizarre construction technique that builds the top floor on the ground, then jacks it up and constructs the nex t floor. The last act involves lifting up all 21 stories to construct the first floor: a bizarre gravity-defying operation that could send Baron Von Münchhausen back to college. Above The Café can be read as an extension of the existing bookstore on the ground floor of the Van Unnik Building. The complex looks flattened by the big block. Left The Café is entered via an orange sculptured forecourt that is in part a disabled access ramp, and in a skateboard park.

The BasketBar and OMA’s Educatorium (1996) bookend Van Unnik Building.

56/57 NL

Speculative view of the BasketBar from the Educatorium’s interior.

The Uithof Café is a 15 x 15 meter extension of the existing bookstore. The remarkable horizontality of that construction is extended with the oversized roof of the new cafe. The complex looks flattened by the big block. Since the floor height of the shop is not appropriate for a grand café the floor of the bar is 1.5 m below the entry level. The entry perfectly coincides with the height of the counter: you enter on top of the bar. This lowered position allows a new perspective on the public square: an urban conversation pit. Finally, the large and relatively low roof of the café provides the ultimate location for a basketball court: hence the name BasketBar.

Left and Below The round skylight above the bar illuminates the CafĂŠ and makes a spectacular connection between lounge culture and athleticism.

The floor level of the bar is 1.5 m below the entry level. The entry level perfectly coincides with the height of the counter: you enter on top of the bar- like a catwalk.

Left and Above The big soft, orange sculptured forecourt sets off the BasketBar’s orthogonal plan.


PROJECT TITLE: Concert Hall, Bruges, Belgium. Invited competition, 2nd prize: 1998.

Photography: Rob ‘t Hart and Neutelings Riedijk Architecten.

Joost Mulders, Ute Schneider, Tania Ally, Bas Suijkerbuijk, Arjan Mulder, Dimitri Meessen, Marc De Bruijn, Lennaart Sirag and Wessel Vreugdenhil.

CREDITS: Willem Jan Neutelings and Michiel Riedijk.

Concert Hall


CLIENT: VZW Concertgebouw Brugge, Belgium.



ARCHITECT: Neutelings Riedijk Architecten

The great hall hangs in the large foyer like a large, red egg attached to the sides of the barrel-shaped hall by a complex network of bars.


The exterior is constructed of pigmented sand-colored concrete panels bearing an abstract openwork decorative pattern.

The site for this project, a new concert hall in Bruges, is twosided: one side stands in the medieval city, the other on the underground urban motorway leading to the outskirts. The concert hall therefore offers two façades, one facing t’Zand, like a piece of sculpture in the square, and another facing the tunnel, like a gate standing before the city. The base of the building stands in the empty area between the existing car park and the tunnel, making the building totally independent of the existing underground structures. Above the base stands the fly tower, with the halls jutting out on two sides. The large hall hangs off to one side, curving up over the tunnel. The small hall hangs on the other side, sloping up into the park like an entry porch and platform providing a spectacular panorama of the old city.

60/61 NRA The Concert Hall building juts out on two sides- over a highway tunnel and a park-providing a panorama of the old city.

Left and Above The Concert Hall can be read as series of modulated interior volumes enclosed in a unifying skin.

The Concert Hall can be read as the first major public building in Bruges comparable in size to the Belfort, Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Church and Sint-Salvator Cathedral.

The Concert Hall is vertically organized so that the building faces in all directions.

Studies of the continuous vestibule and hall configurations.

Sketch study of the Concert Hall viewed from the park with the Central Champagne Balcony overlooking the t’Zand.

The vertical organization of the building circumvents the classic problem of how to treat the front and the back of a theater building: the building faces all directions. All sides of the building are not only used by the public but also by the staff and the artists – so there is no longer any specific front or back. The closed sections of the exterior are to be constructed of pigmented sand-colored concrete panels bearing an abstract openwork decorative pattern. Behind them lies an amber-colored metal coffer plate providing proper protection against wind and water. The distance between the two elements

and the color contrast create a powerful sense of depth. The openwork stone bas-relief set against a metal background softens the rather solid general shape of the building with its subtle interplay of light and shade. The building as a whole looks like an enlarged view of a piece of lace work, a contemporary version of the filigree work produced by stonemasons for medieval cathedrals. In this sense the frontage seeks to achieve both an architectonic and an iconographic link with old Bruges.

62/63 NRA The building as a whole seeks to achieve both an architectonic and an iconographic link with old Bruges.


PROJECT TITLE: Glass Wall Prototype, 2003ongoing.

Glass Wall Prototype



3D Printing: Z Corporation

Engineering Consultant: b-consultants: Tom Barker and Niki Holmes.

CREDITS: Kevin Cespedes, Robert Elfer, Jasmina Jugovic, Masoud Mahboobullah, Chris Mulvey, Wade Stevens and Tom Verebes.




66/67 ocean_D Evolutionary, sequential studies of the glass wall reveal its stages of increasing surface turbulence, connectivity, shearing, permeability, peeling and ridge formation.

Two striated, folding layers of glass converge to form a dexterous confluence of structural and visual dynamics.

This research and development project aims to construct a full size prototype of a free-standing glass boundary, using innovative vacuum-formed glass technology. From the lineated surface techniques developed for several other ocean_D projects, the corrugated surface emerges via the negotiation of laminar trajectories. The fold lines flow across the sheets of glass, embedding an increased structural performance in contradistinction to typically flat vertical planes of material. The folded geometries can be installed to respond to dynamic contextual and user information, guiding differential structural flows across and down to a supporting ground. The degree of fold, the orientation of trajectory and the position and size of hole are all scripted to control the relation to input

information. The two strata of glass are connected at three localized zones, as they lean against each other to achieve stasis. Fields of openings peel away along the fold lines, piercing the glass skin. The glass will be treated to respond dynamically to environmental lighting conditions, with diachroic films and surface treatments, experimenting with a range of visual, material and experiential effects. Constant ambient variations and transitions of colour, reflectivity, translucency and opacity in the glass, occur in relation to the motion of the body and the position, angle of orientation and distance of the viewer.

Left A scaled 3d print of the prototype glass wall suggests the range of visual and material effects intended for the full scale wall.

Below Defined by a numerically controlled series of tears, folds and stiffenings, the glass wall will respond to environmental conditions such as light and motion.

PROJECT TITLE: Variations, a weekend home for a fashion designer in London, UK, 2001-2002.

Acrylic Photopolymer Model: 3D Systems.

Renderings: Christopher Hoxie.

Assistants: Hale Everets.

Project Team: Julian Palacio.

CREDITS: Design Director: Ali Rahim and Hina Jamelle.



CLIENT: Name withheld at the request of the client.

Variations and Catalytic Furnishings [FlexiNurb ]



ARCHITECT: Ali Rahim / Contemporary Architecture Practice

The diverging split at the point where ramp and stair meet demonstrates how the house’s programmatic mechanisms create varying speeds of circulation through the project- directly aligned with a gradient of surface performances.


Above A Finite Element Analysis of the house’s surfaces was developed to determine the density and thickness of structure and skin- allowing for more curvilinear surfaces to align with denser structures and less complex surfaces to align with less dense structures.

Right The project’s intertwined circulation systems create a feedback loop between the building and its environment and between events and the form of building and landscape.

70/71 Ecologically, the effects are controlled to develop through time. For example, regulating the direction, amount, drainage and flow of water within the system at any given time produces localized affects. Water is collected or released according to differing levels of saturation. A pool for swimming in summer becomes a retention pond in winter. These channels combine to form an emergent organization of water flow that produces programmatic, material and ecological effects that in turn influence behavioral patterns through the landscape.

Spatially, the feedback mechanism informed three speeds of circulation through the project, slow, medium and fast, which aligns with a gradient of performative surfaces- most to the least performative. The main circulation route through the house provides for multiple event intensities to occur, while the short cuts of secondary and tertiary scales provide for connections collapsing two simultaneous events. This continuous differentiation of porosity determines various performative affects at different times during the project.

This house is provided with a variety of lighting patterns- qualitative affects that are transcribed from quantitative information.


Variations, a weekend home for a fashion designer in London, UK [2001-2002] explores different event based temporal cycles for the client’s lifestyle that incorporates frequent entertaining including preview shows of the designer’s upcoming seasonal collections. The project performs at three scales; the ecological, spatial and material.

Materially, the structure of the house has two parts: concrete and aluminum semi-monocoque shell construction. The aluminum structure and sheathing rests on the concrete and is bolted in place with expansion joints. The concrete is sheathed with fiberglass on the exterior, and linoleum on the interior, while the aluminum structure is in variation from 1’ to 5’ in width responding to a finite element analysis and surface curvature analysis. The structure is layered with fiberglass and finished with a semi gloss gel-coat. These are manufactured, broken down into sections and assembled at the

site. After the semi-monocoque shell is reassembled, a final layer of fiberglass is laid to cover the seams, buffed, and painted.

72/73 The variably formed furnishing stimulates unforeseen relationships that might emerge out of differentiated lifestyles. Some life styles may use the surface for sitting, while others may use the same surface for laying, working or sunbathing- hence providing an affective range of scenarios for the user


Performativity is mapped as part of the design process. Variable ergonomic postures are cross affiliated and blended according to individual preferences that are then linked to the manufacturing of mass-customized furnishing variations.

ARCHITECT: Sauerbruch Hutton

PROJECT TITLE: Experimental Factory Magdeburg (EFM)

Photography: Gerrit Engel.

Project Team: Marcus Hsu, Philip Engelbrecht, Barbara Suter, Mehmet Dogu and Bettina Pinks

CREDITS: Project Architects: Matthias Sauerbruch, Louisa hutton and Andrew Kiel.

Experimental Factory Magdeburg (EFM)



The EFM is described “a large colored blanket” that has been draped over a variable and undulating section.

CLIENT: Zentrum fur Produkt-,Verfahrensund Prozessinnovations GmbH, Magdeburg.

74/75 0



Figure ground study of the EFM. The architects were initially commissioned by the client to study the exact siting of the new factory. Together with two existing institutes (the Magdeburg Fraunhofer and the Max Planck Institutes), the EFM forms the South Eastern edge of the Otto-von-Guericke University campus.

The Experimental Factory Magdeburg (EFM) is a research institution for the development of production processes and methods. Together with one existing and one future institute, the building forms the southeastern edge of the university’s campus against a busy four-lane road. The EFM itself consists of several parts: a five-storey structure with rooms for office and laboratory use, a single-storey hall (7 - 10 m high) for large-scale experiments, and a testing-space for electromagnetic fields. A double-storey foyer links the various parts of the building. Its orientation allows access from both directions, so that a public route will be able to connect the three research institutes like beads on a string.


Set next to a busy four-lane road, the EFM is an architecturally developed envelope that operates both metaphorically and performativelyefficiently wrapping both program and volume while advertising the building’s urban presence through its luminous banding.

The section of the building takes account of the orientations towards the street and the campus, its extruded form responds to its position in-between the existing and the future institute. Accordingly, the north and south façades are treated as cut edges made of translucent glass. In the east-west direction the façades and roofs are continuous, producing the effect of a large colored blanket draped over the undulating section. Combined in this way into one compact form, the building has a good thermal performance and is well protected against noise from the road. On a symbolic level this “blanket” visibly combines the heterogeneous elements of the program into one body, while its bold coloring ensures a special identity within the campus.

The building takes the form of a spatially flexible triple-span structure.

The section of the building describes the EFM’s three related volumes: a five-storey structure to the east (below right) with rooms for offices and laboratories, a single-storey hall (middle) for large-scale experiments and a singlestorey west wing (left) for electromagnetic field testing.

76/77 SH

The project’s intertwined circulation systems create a feedback loop between the building and its environment and between events and the form of building and landscape.

The project’s intertwined circulation systems create a feedback loop between the building and its environment and between events and the form of building and landscape.


PROJECT TITLE: Lattice Archipelogics

Lattice Archipelogics



Installation Team, Artists Space: Craig Intinarelli and David Benjamin.

In Collaboration with: Smart Studio, Interactive Institute, Stockholm. Ingvar Sjšberg, Tobi Schneidler, Fredrik Petersson, Olof Bendt, Magnus Jonsson and Pablo Miranda.

Special Thanks: CARAN, IASPIS, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, SSARK medialab, White arkitekter.

Plastic Cells Fabrication: CARAN, Stockholm.

Design Team: Daniel Norell, Clare Olsen and Jonas Runberger.

CREDITS: servo: David Erdman, Marcelyn Gow, Ulrika Karlsson and Chris Perry.


CLIENT: Steirischer Herbst in Graz, Austria Zaha Hadid and Patrick Schumacher.


The project induces real-time interactions between an objectfield of identically formed, internally lit modular pods and the gallery’s visitors through both physical and virtual means.

80/81 Integrating both physical and virtual infrastructures, Lattice Archipelogics functions less as a site for passive consumption and more as a dynamic spatial instrument of active production. Utilizing the museum hallway as a corridor of circulatory exchange, it absorbs, processes, and ultimately performs the social and political interactions of visitors within the gallery itself. A network of intelligent technologies embedded into its material surfaces, Lattice Archipelogics effectively listens to the movement patterns of its users. These movement patterns are then interpolated by a software

The assembled field of pods is as much a material system as it is a virtual architecture of informational pulses and corporal effects.


Lattice Archipelogics is a responsive installation commissioned by the Steirischer Herbst in Graz, Austria for the exhibition Latent Utopias: Experiments within Contemporary Architecture curated by Zaha Hadid and Patrick Schumacher. Lattice Archipelogics integrates a variety of new technologies and material systems in the development of an architectural installation for the museum gallery. The primary intentions of this installation rest not so much in the static display of a material object, but in the generation of new material through forms of real-time interaction between the object and its users.

For the installation servo collaborated with CARAN, a manufacturing company in Sweden fabricated the individual pods using automated production processes.

program that translates the information into a series of lighting formations, eventually distributing these formations throughout the lattice structure. The end result is as much the existing material system itself as it is the virtual inflection and transformation of that system by its users. These interests have their origin beyond just the immediacy of architecture and embrace as well a number of socio-technological transformations specific to a more general contemporary condition. It is the kind of agency through which the predominance of existing material power structures come into question by the increasingly rapid presence of new virtual ones. By way of the interactivity mentioned above, users find within the installation’s infrastructures potential sites for the deployment and materialization of their individual and collective desires.




After word - Reviewing the Sign as Surface Symposium.

Patrik Schumacher

DIVERGENCE OR CONFLUENCE? On September 9, 2003 the AIA/NY Chapter Technology Committee hosted a special two-and-a-half hour symposium entitled, Sign as Surface: Meaning Beyond the New Digital Aesthetic at the Cooper Union in the Albert Nerken Engineering Building, Wollman Auditorium.

Sign as Surface shows the second generation of two distinct tendencies which became manifest in the mid-nineties as serious contenders for the position of leadership in the avant-garde segment of the architectural profession/discipline. The opposition between these two trends – one concentrated in the United States and the other one in Holland – is a well-established fact within architectural discourse.

The event was co-moderated by curator Peter Zellner and Paul Seletsky, Chair of the AIA/NY Chapter Technology Committee and featured presentations by Evan Douglis, Christopher Hight, Kamiel Klaasse, Wade Stevens, Tom Verebes, Chris Perry and Ali Rahim.

While the original protagonists – i.e. Peter Eisenman, Greg Lynn etc. on the one hand and OMA, MVRDV etc. on the other hand – are realizing their concepts on a grand scale, it is interesting to look at the emerging talents Evan Douglis, Ocean_D, servo and Contemporary Architecture Practice and NL Architects, FAT, Neutelings Riedijk, Lyons etc. that push the respective tendencies further along their diverging trajectories.

Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects and Co-Director of the Architectural Association Design Research Laboratory responded to the architects’ presentations. His rejoinder to the symposium and the exhibition is presented here.

Peter Zellner’s programmatic statement for the exhibition characterizes the opposition of the two “competing tendencies” as the opposition between “practices rooted in representation and metaphor and those founded on material systems and organizations.” This characterization reveals that Zellner’s vantage point is in fact aligned with the United States based tendency: the cited opposition reflects the original self-demarcation of the US position. AFTERWORD 84/85

While I myself tend to align my own design efforts on the same side I equally refuse to locate the discourse of signification within an alien territory. The divergence between concerns of signification and concerns with material formation can not be construed as an ideological choice about the future of architecture. The semiotic dimension of architecture can not be dismissed by fiat– neither can it usurp the field of relevant research and practice. Therefore I subscribe to Zellner’s attempt to turn this confrontation into a dialog. The exhibition motto Sign as Surface (instead of Sign vs. Surface) indicates this intention which was further pursued at the attendant conference hosted at the Cooper Union. However, the presentations initially reinforced a strong sense of divergence. Kamiel Klaasse (NL Architects) presented a series of built projects that were striking by means of their surreal programmatic juxtapositions and by their ironic treatment of familiar architectural motifs: A window doubles as basket ball target, a sky-light doubles as centre-circle of the basket ball court, a handicap ramp doubles as skate-board-bowl, a column doubles as water-dispenser etc. Klaasse’s laconic style of presentation matched the dry humor of the built work itself. Theoretical accounts were avoided – the built effects were supposed to speak for themselves.


The presentations of Evan Douglis, Tom Verebes (Ocean_D), Chris Perry (servo), and Ali Rahim (Contemporary Architecture Practice) – the U.S. practices – were discussing abstract installations exploring the new formal and material possibilities afforded by the latest generation of digital design tools and proto-typing technology. The presentations focused on the theoretical descriptions (iteration, modulation, self-organization etc.) as well as technical description (splines, nurb-surfaces, CNC-milling) of the artifacts – avoiding any reference to the potential social deployment and meaning of these proto-architectural experiments. The stark contrast between the super-concreteness of the Dutch versus the super-abstractness of North Americans appeared to imply an utter incommensurability of the underlying discourses, both in terms of language and agenda. There seemed to be no point of contact around which a communication could be initiated. No cross-references were made. The purpose of the exhibition/conference seemed doomed. What point of contact could be construed between a window and a nurb surface? Well, Sign as Surface shows how a nurb-surface can articulate a tectonic concept that might develop into a structural skin with structurally integrated apertures and that might produce

intriguing window-equivalents. The profundity of such a possibility escapes us as long as the discursive domains of abstract technique and concrete effect remain segregated. One of the problems that created the sense that the presented communications were incommensurable is the fact that the Dutch practices address the general public while U.S. architects address the discipline. However, in the end both tendencies need to develop an internal as well as an external discourse. Another barrier resides in the fact that the U.S. work presented here has not yet reached the stage of implementation. However, there are built examples that can serve to substantiate the intentions of the U.S. tendency: Greg Lynn’s Korean Church, Nox’s Waterpavilion, or Kol/Mac’s Manhattan apartment. If one compares these spaces with those constructed by NL one might identify certain convergences. The two ways of working are comparable and directly compete with respect to quite similar intentions and effects: hybridization, subversion of typologies, mutation of use-values, decoding of familiar meanings, making the strange etc. Both collage (Dutch) as well as morphing (U.S.) produce comparable psycho-social effects. Both tendencies equally resist pragmatic functionalism and a priori performance criteria. Both tendencies follow ‘lines of flight’ and

forge unexpected assemblages in the search of uncharted effects and (perhaps) latent utopias. (1) In this perspective the two tendencies can observe each other’s experiments, compare results, and transmute each other’s discoveries. The Dutch programmatic alchemy might inspire chimerical articulations in America and vice versa. This possibility would follow in the footsteps of Bernard Tschumi’s realization that cross-programming might be effectively spatialized by means of superposition – a radical “compositional” technique pioneered by Peter Eisenman. One of the next major formal innovations was perhaps Zaha Hadid’s radical dynamization and curvilinear distortion of the complex spatial arrangements previously achieved. The next step was Lynn’s/Kipnis’ shift from fragmentation towards the smooth inter-articulations afforded by folding and morphing. That an aggressively formalist agenda was pushed at the same time can be appreciated as a heuristics of research, i.e. the exclusive concentration on difficult formal problems that could not be mastered without initially unburdening itself from the concern with social meaning. However, this exigency of an incipient research PATRIK SCUMACHER: DIVERGENCE OR CONFLUENCE? 8 6/87

program did not deserve to be glorified into an ideological paradigm shift: the abandonment of the semiotic paradigm in favor of a formal/ organizational paradigm. The precise character of this supposed new paradigm was shifting as the design problematic started to expand beyond pure questions of form to successively include structure, material and fabrication processes. Further, as a certain strand of the folding movement (FOA, UN-Studio) assimilated MVRDV’s datascape approach, a parametric rather than typological sense of program and use-pattern was augmenting the discourse. This successive augmentation of the discourse is following a typical path of maturation. Zellner’s definition of a tendency “founded on material systems and organization” tries to summarize this self-augmenting bundle of concerns which is maturing together with a definite formal/tectonic repertoire. The time might be ripe to speak again of the growth of a new tradition. I have no doubt about the importance and profundity of this new tradition. However, I would like to argue that the persistence of the polemic demarcation against any concern with signification – which made sense initially as a response to the trivialization/exhaustion of the postmodern and Deconstructivist contributions, is becoming a barrier for the full maturation of this new language of architecture.


It is a fallacy to counter-pose organization and signification as incompatible paradigms for architecture. Instead it should be recognized that both are inescapable dimensions of the practice. In as much as architecture is inhabited by (culturally formed) subjects, the organizational effects of architecture rely to a large extent upon effective signification. The social inhabitation of complex institutional spaces can not be achieved purely by means of the physical channeling of human bodies. The effectiveness of the spatial order relies upon the active orientation of the subjects on the basis of a “reading” of the spatial territory. Current forms of differentiated office landscapes (2) may serve as example: The traditional physical demarcation of territory by means of solid walls is replaced by the subtle coding of zones and the articulation of (hopefully) legible thresholds. This means that the importance of the semiotic dimension of architecture increases rather than decreases – albeit the process of semiosis is much more dynamic and complex than the post-modern pioneers of semiotically conscious architecture presumed. Literal citation and the accumulation of ready-made icons are to be replaced by subtle de-codings, overcodings, iterant and mutant re-codings, multiple simultaneous allusions etc. Also, an abstracting destruction of stale iconic values is required to clear the ground for semiotic re- and self-organization. This work does not move from representation to material performance, but from simple signification to hyper-signification, and

might be thus theorized. In seems timely to reactivate and connect to certain strands of the Deconstructivist discourse in order to theorize the semiotic potential of the current US avant-garde work. There is no chance that this work should remain mute. The recent research emphasis on infrastructural projects chosen to underline the ethos of material organization - has obscured the necessity for a sophisticated semiotics of folding. Such projects are indeed dominated by mechanisms of physical channeling – and I think they are all the less interesting for that matter. In fact I would argue that the difference between architecture and engineering is rooted in the degree to which functionality can be reduced to matters of material organization. Architecture organizes social life via the articulation/perception, and the conception/comprehension of spatial order. This means that representation and organization can not be pitched against each other as a superficial reading of the exhibition might suggest. Signification vs organization has to transmute into signification as organization: Sign as Surface. Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid Architects, AADRL

Notes: 1. Latent Utopias was the title of an exhibition curated by Patrik Schumacher & Zaha Hadid for the art festival Steirischer Herbst in Graz 2002-03. The attendant catalog: LATENT UTOPIAS - Experiments within Contemporary Architecture, Ed. Zaha Hadid & Patrik Schumacher, Springer Verlag, Wien/New York 2002 2. On this topic the author has written: Robotic Fields: Spatializing the dynamics of Corporate Organization in: Designing for a Digital World, edited by Neil Leach, 2002; Business – Research – Architecture, In: Daidalos 69/ 70, December 1998/January1999; Productive Patterns, in: architect’s bulletin, Operativity, Volume 135 - 136, June 1997, Slovenia and in: architect’s bulletin, Volume 137 - 138, November 1997, Slovenia. For more info go to


Evan Douglis

Sign as Surface


Evan Douglis is the principal of Evan Douglis + Associates, an architecture and multidisciplinary design firm. Established in 1990, the firm’s unique research into self-generative systems, membrane technologies, contemporary fabrication techniques and multi-media installations as applied to diverse projects has elicited international acclaim. Working concurrently as an educator, Douglis is the Chair of the Undergraduate School of Architecture at Pratt Institute, as well as the Director of the Architecture Galleries at Columbia University. He has been an Associate Assistant Professor at Columbia University, Cooper Union and Pratt Institute for the last decade. In 1999, the Architectural League of New York recognized him as an “Emerging Voice” in architecture. He also received a NYFA Fellowship in Architecture and Environmental Structures in 2002. Columbia University Books will publish Auto Braids / Auto Breeding in the fall of 2003, based on a selection of his teaching studios. In collaboration with Monacelli Press, Columbia University Books will also co-sponsor Architectures of Display: The Columbia Work of Evan Douglis, highlighting ten years of his exhibition installations as Director of the galleries.

FAT FAT, FASHION*ARCHITECTURE*TASTE, is a company that makes architecture and art (and all kinds of things in between). FAT is interested in making work that explores the experiences, contradictions and possibilities of the modern world. FAT charts a course that engages creatively with the choppy waters of commerce - finding tactics and solutions that are simultaneously conceptually interesting, culturally relevant, and aesthetically engaging. Most importantly FAT works in the culture bunker, rather than the ivory tower. FAT is Sean Griffiths, Charles Holland and Sam Jakob.

Jakob+MacFarlane Jakob+MacFarlane (Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane) is based in Paris. Recent works explores digital technology as both a conceptual framework and means of fabrication. Their main projects to date include the T House, La Garenne Colombes, France (1994, 1998), the restaurant Georges


at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2000) and the reconstruction of the Theatre of Pont-Audemer, France (1999-2000). They have participated on the International Competition for the Musée Branly in Paris. Currently they are working on a project for the Communication Center for Renault, several invited competitions (ECB Frankfurt, Competition 100 Houses RIVP in Paris and a Center for New Music and Interactive Art for the Gaité Lyrique theater in Paris). They recently finished a Bookshop- Books by Artists, Paris (2001). In 2002 their works were presented in the American and French pavillons at the Biennale of Architecture in Venice.

has taught at the Academies of Architecture in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Maastricht and the University of Delft. Michiel Riedijk has lectured at international architectural institutions and participated in several symposiums. Neutelings Riedijk Architects’ most important completed buildings include the Minnaert Building at the University of Utrecht (1997), the building for Veenman Printers (1997 Ede), the Harlingen Support Building (1998 Harlingen), a Post Office in Scherpenheuvel (1997) and fire stations in Breda and Maastricht (both 1999).

NL Architects LYONS Lyons is a Melbourne-based architectural and urban design practice, committed to the craft of architecture and urban design as an intellectual construct within a local and global culture. Lyons proposes an architecture which is confident and self-conscious of its cultural origins, embodying the complexities of invention, ideas and identity. Lyons has completed large scale commissions for key government, public and private sector clients. Its recent work includes corporate headquarters, university, education and training centers, health and research facilities and major government buildings. Much of Lyons’ work has been undertaken on the dispersed peripheries of the contemporary Australian city, presenting architects and urbanists with a new tableau - the generic city with local peculiarities. Lyons has received numerous architectural awards including the 2002 Victorian Architectural Medal. The firm’s work has been published extensively in national and international books and journals. In June 2000 Lyons were selected to represent Australia at the 2000 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Neutelings Riedijk Architects Willem Jan Neutelings (born in Bergen op Zoom, 1959) graduated from the Delft University of Technology in 1986. During his studies he also worked for OMA from 1981 to 1986. After his graduation he established his own architectural practice in Amsterdam and in Rotterdam, where Michiel Riedijk joined him in a partnership in 1997. Michiel Riedijk (born in Geldrop, 1964) graduated from the Delft University of Technology in 1989. Since 1990 he

NL is an Amsterdam based office. The four principals, Pieter Bannenberg, Walter Van Dijk, Kamiel Klaasse, Mark Linnemann officially opened practice in January 1997 but already shared workspace since the early 1990s. All were educated at Delft University of Technology while living in Amsterdam. NL’s “commuting” office started while car pooling between these cities. In a sense the principals like to think of themselves as autodidacts- the recurrent fascination with mobility and the tarmac perhaps could be traced back to be ‘educated’ on the highway. Often projects focus on ordinary aspects of everyday life, including the unappreciated or the negative that are enhanced or twisted in order to bring to the fore the unexpected potential of the things that surround us. NL Architects employs an international staff of six to ten people.

ocean_D ocean D is a multi-disciplinary design practice based in London, UK and New York and Boston in the States. ocean_D integrates two nodes of the OCEAN network, OCEAN US and OCEAN UK. Formed in 1995, ocean_D has gained international credibility for our project-based design research. ocean_D defers from a singular category of product, but rather takes on a wide range of design projects through the interface of 3 synergetic fields of design practice: architecture, interface design and object design - from furniture to product design. The partners of ocean_D – Tom Verebes, London; Robert Elfer, AIA, Boston; Kevin Cespedes, Boston; and M. Wade H. Stevens, AIA, NYC- have diverse backgrounds and experiences that complement each other to form a strong design and administration team. With a balanced mix of experience in

BIO GR A P HIC A L N O T E S 90/91

the academic, corporate, and design worlds, this team is well suited to manage a next generation design firm which strives to position itself at the cusp of cutting edge design, where research and development propel commercially initiated applications.

Ali Rahim / Contemporary Architecture Practice Contemporary Architecture Practice (est. 1997) is based in New York City and is Co-Directed by Ali Rahim and Hina Jamelle. CAP’s research explores digital media’s influence on contemporary culture and its ramifications on design- from conception to material production. Current design research includes a range of residential, commercial and industrial design projects. Their design awards include a winning competition entry for Ephemeral Structures for the 2004 Olympic Games, a Shopping Mall, Steel Museum and a one-acre Naval Memorial. Their work has been exhibited most recently at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. Ali Rahim is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pen nsylvania, Department of Architecture. His publications include Contemporary Techniques in Architecture, 2002 and Contemporary Processes in Architecture, 2000. Currently he is working on a monograph of his work, Manual for Digital Media and Architecture Design Academy Editions, London, forthcoming 2004, and a special issue for Architectural Design Contemporary Cultural Production in Architecture.

Projects in various stages of realisation currently include the 40,000 sq m Federal Office for the Ministry of the Environment in Dessau (completion in 2004), the Police and Fire Station for the Government District in Berlin (6,800 sq m, completion 2003), a City Hall near Berlin (6,200 sq m, completion 2003) as well as a Laboratory in southern Germany (5,000 sq m, completed 2002).

servo servo is a research and design collaborative established in 1999 by David Erdman, Marcelyn Gow, Ulrika Karlsson, and Chris Perry. servo focuses on the interface of digital design, fabrication, and information technologies. Based in Los Angeles, New York, Stockholm, and Zurich, servo operates as a distributed network practice and has exhibited, lectured, and taught across a broad spectrum of both the US and the EU. Currently servo is working on two private residences, an exhibition design for the Santa Monica Museum of Art, a proposal for a new lecture hall entry at UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and an interactive architectural installation for the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Recent exhibitions featuring servo’s work include Archilab 2003: The FRAC Centre Collection 19932003, New Hotels for Global Nomads at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and Latent Utopias: Experiments Within Contemporary Architecture curated by Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher in Graz, Austria.

Christopher Hight Sauerbruch Hutton Matthias Sauerbruch and Louisa Hutton founded their architectural practice inLondonin the late eighties and their second office was opened inBerlinin 1993. Through various urban competitions and feasibility studies, Sauerbruch Hutton have extensively researched the development of the post-industrial city with a particular interest for sustainable building. With several urban-scale projects completed inBerlin, the practice has started to redefine the current ìmainstreamî notion of ecologically aware building. The concern for the economical use of resources — both natural and urban — is juxtaposed and extended into the idiosyncratic treatment of spaces on all scales.


Christopher Hight is an architect, theorist and educator. He is an assistant professor at the Rice University School of Architecture, where he is organizing a four year project based research program on the Ambient Metropolis. He is editor of the Architecture At Rice publications, for which he is working on a book concerning the urbanism of Zaha Hadid’s architecture. He previously taught design and theory at the Architectural Association’s Design Research Laboratory and has worked at the Renzo Piano Building workshop, Paris. He holds a BA, and a BArch in architectural design as well as an MA with distinction in Architectural History and theory from the Architectural Association. He has recently completed a PhD from the London Consortium, entitled Measuring Vortices on the relationship between cybernetics, mathematics, and corporeal systems of order in post-World War Two architecture. He

has served as a critic and lectured at numerous schools, published in Europe, America and Asia and has been a Fulbright scholar. He is founder of MESOLITH, a consultancy and provocateur for theory, technology and design.

Contemporary Architecture in Graz 2002-03. He has been writing for AA Files, Daidalos, Arch+, Hunch and contributed to various books such as Designing for a Digital World, based upon the conference E-Futures held at the RIBA in London 2001. He holds a Diploma in Architecture from Stuttgart University and a Doctor of Philosophy from the Institute of Cultural Science at Klagenfurt University.

Ilka and Andreas Ruby Andreas Ruby studied History of Art at University of Cologne/Germany before undertaking post-graduate studies on the Theory and History of Architecture at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture Paris with Paul Virilio and at Columbia University New York with Bernard Tschumi. He is currently Visiting Professor for Architectural Theory at University of Kassel, Germany. Ilka Ruby studied Architecture at RWTH Aachen/Germany and has worked as an architect in numerous practices including BKK-3 Architects, Vienna; Kada & Wittfeld Architekten, Aachen and Königs Architekten, Cologne. textbild is the name of their practice based in Cologne, Germany, which they set up in 2001. Predominantly committed to contemporary architecture and design, they write essays, design books, curate exhibitions, consult institutions and organize symposia for a wide array of institutional and cultural clients. Their publications include books on Lacaton Vassal (Gustavo Gili, 2002), François Roche (Birkhäuser, 2003) as well as a recent thematic monograph on Minimal Architecture (Prestel, 2003). Currently they are preparing a guest-edited issue on Suburbia for Architectural Design (Wiley-Academy, forthcoming 2004), as well as a new book on the Performance of the Image in contemporary architecture (Prestel, forthcoming 2004).

Peter Zellner Peter Zellner is an architect, writer and curator. He is the author of Hybrid Space- New Forms in Digital Architecture. His architectural projects have been exhibited and published internationally- most recently as a part of Experimental Architectures 1950-2000, an exhibition of the FRAC Centre permanent collection in Orléans, France. Zellner is a Studio Faculty member at SCI-Arc, the Southern California Institute of Architecture. He has lectured in Australia, Japan, Europe and the United States. His essays have appeared in journals such as Daidalos, Archis and Archistorm and in various publications such as Digital/Real, an exhibition catalogue for the Deutches Architektur Museum in Frankfurt. He holds a Bachelor in Architecture from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia and Master in Architecture from Harvard University. Along with Jeffrey Inaba, he is the co-founder of ValDes, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching suburban conditions.

For more info go to

Patrik Schumacher Patrik Schumacher is an architect, writer and curator. He is director and partner at Zaha Hadid Architects and teaches at the AADRL - Design Research Lab of the Architectural Association School of Architecture - in London. He has taught at the TU-Berlin, Columbia University, Harvard University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Recently he curated Latent Utopias - Experiments within





tation in architectural design. The exhibition, symposium and publication are a direct result of the curator’s commitment; from our very first discussions, Peter Zellner has held true to his vision of the project and made its fulfillment easy, thanks to his energy, efficiency and ability to inspire a diverse range of collaborators.

Barbara Hunt


Artists Space is honored to present the work of ten international architecture practices in Sign as Surface, curated by Peter Zellner, architect, writer and faculty member at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Under the Architecture and Design Project Series, Artists Space has programmed experimental projects by established and emerging architects for over 25 years, initiating a dialogue between architecture and art that has become an integral part of our programming. Each year, Artists Space presents four exhibitions, of which at least one is curated by a notable architect, critic, or designer who selects their peers in consideration of issues critical to the field. In Sign as Surface, architect Peter Zellner investigates a topic that has been discussed in the field for some time, but has not yet been given a full or formal public investigation. He brings together ten practices whose differing approaches challenge accepted notions of representation, content and surface ornamen-

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Artists Space, as well as the curator, I wish to thank all those who have made this project possible: the exhibiting architects, who made images and models available despite complicated time constraints and conflicting schedules; Dr. Christopher Hight, Ilka and Andreas Ruby, Patrik Schumacher for their insightful catalogue contributions; Marco Moretti and Katherine Hill of FDTdesign for their design efforts, sponsorship and patience; Antoine Vigne, Director of Visual Arts at the French Embassy and Étant Donnés, the French American Fund for Contemporary Art for their early support of the project; Robert Kloos, Director for Visual Arts and Architecture at the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York for enabling the participation of two Dutch practices; and Paul Seletsky, Chair of the AIA/NY Technology Committee for underwriting and organizing the symposium. Additional thanks must go to our sponsors: ABC Imaging, especially Charity Craig, for supporting the exhibition and symposium; John Lam and Bestype Imaging for exhibition sponsorship; and Z-Corporation for sponsoring ocean_D’s model. The Architecture and Design Project Series would not be possible without annual funds from the Stephen A. and Diana L. Goldberg Foundation, Horace

W. Goldsmith Foundation, Jerome Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. In closing I wish to thank the staff and board of Artists Space: Craig Konyk, architect and board member for his invaluable wisdom, advice and support; Adjunct Curator Lauri Firstenberg, Development Officer Stefanie Tjaden, Gallery Manager Jennifer Chapek and Associate Curator Letha Wilson – whose tremendous commitment, energy and initiative make our programs possible. Additional thanks are due to artist Charles Goldman for his expertise and advice, to architect Lei Li for his help with the installation of the show, to Scott Marquardt for providing accommodations for international travelers, and Mehmet Ayanoglu for his cheerful dedication during installation. -Barbara Hunt, Executive Director



Design by FDTdesign (NYC) creative director Marco Moretti Project Manager Katherine Hill Assistent Designers Santosh Rasha Font guy This publication is set in Univers, Utopia and inSite03 by FDTdesign waterless printing and binding by Eurografica, Italy Š2003 by Artists Space All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilized any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without perfission in writing from the publisher. ISBN 0-9663626-3-2



Artists Space Architecture & Design Project Series

ISBN 0-9663626-3-2 printed in Italy

Sign as Surface curated by Peter Zellner with essays by Christopher Hight and Ilka & Andreas Ruby afterword by Patrik Schumacher

Artists Space Architecture & Design Project Series

Sign as Surface is an exhibition of built and speculative works by ten young international architects. The exhibition is framed around two competing tendencies – practices rooted in representation and metaphor and those founded on material systems and numeric organizations. The projects featured investigate the architectural surface as a site for expression, from the space of the figurative and featured, to a space of coded interface.

Evan Douglis | US FAT | UK Jakob + MacFarlane | FR Lyons | AU NL | NL Neutelings Riedijk Architects | NL ocean_D | UK/US Ali Rahim / Contemporary Architecture Practice | US Sauerbruch Hutton | DE servo | US/CH/SE

Peter Zellner


Sign as Surface curated by Peter Zellner with essays by Christopher Hight and Ilka & Andreas Ruby afterword by Patrik Schumacher

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.