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Feedback Man; Log. No.13/14 (2008)


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Return to Earth; Feedback Houses The Cornell Journal of Architecture, Issue 8: RE (2010)


1976:

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1972:

Architectural Design (AD) magazine publishes an issue on Autonomous Houses. At the bottom corner of the cover, a label warns readers: “Autonomous Property. KEEP OUT.” By this time, the theme appears logical, if not trite. Following the oil crisis and a decade of dense environmental debates, the terms self-sufficiency, selfreliance, life-support, and living autonomy are part of a

pervasive lexicon for alternative technologies, described by AD as an “architectural prevailing cult project” that has preoccupied the British avant-garde scene for a decade. (Cliff Harper, Autonomous Houses, Architectural Design, July 1972, Wiley-Blackwell/ UK.)

AD’s July issue invites architects to Design for Survival. The cover features a water flow that detours from one tap to another and suggests that household effluent streams recirculate endlessly. This water feedback showcases an unprecedented fascination with the ecological household as a self-sufficient, autonomous, and regenerative unit, capable of harnessing its waste and providing its own

energy. Backed up by lists of environmental statistics, the issue urges readers to consider that we no longer have a choice about the way we live and the space we live in. Rather, it is a question of survival. At this moment, the household is understood as a synecdoche for the earth as a whole. (Adrian George, Designing for Survival, Architectural Design, January 1976, Wiley-Blackwell/UK.)


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The Cornell Journal of Architecture

1967:

1960:

Progressive Architecture advertises its forthcoming issue in October, with a wounded Earth that calls for help from “architects and air breathers”: Needed— Life Support Systems for a Dying Planet. The issue suggests learning from the research of the space industry and presents a series of housing schemes as life support systems. Materials and devices used in spaceships are recommended for

direct transference to domestic contexts promising high levels of energy renewal. At this moment, the byproduct devices of the space program are promoted in the building industry as salvation mechanisms; they are to battle the blatant environmental crisis of a closed planet that has just been revealed to the eyes of the world as a single image. (Courtesy of Architect/Hanley Wood.)

nasa creates a promotional educational motion picture for television titled Living in Space: The Case for Regeneration. At this moment, outer space is the ultimate frontier in the context of the space race and the tension of the cold war. They key, however, to the colonization of this territory can no longer be found in the invention of rockets, but within the management and reinvention of human physiology. To transport man into outer space, he

would require an artificial environmental Earth bubble. Recycling, rebreathing, restoration, and other words indicating the regeneration of human output into viable input, are essential mechanisms that warranty the travel of the living organism into nonliving conditions. (Stills from “Living in Space: The Case for Regeneration,” motion picture no. 255-hq-131a, National Archives. Courtesy of nasa.)


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The Cornell Journal of Architecture

Feedback Man, Lydia Kallipoliti, Log 13/14, Fall 2008,115–118.

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Lydia Kallipoliti is an architect and a writer. She holds architecture degrees from AUTh in Greece, MIT and Princeton University. Currently, she is an assistant professor adjunct at the Cooper Union in New York. Kallipoliti is the editor of “EcoRedux: Design Remedies for a Dying Planet,” a special issue of Architectural Design (AD) magazine. Her design and theoretical work has been published and exhibited internationally.

Return to Earth Feedback Houses

Dear Lydia, In Log 13 /14 “Feedback Man,” you described the recirculatory systems in NASA’s 1960 Living Pod, and the effect of this and similar programs on architecture, stating that while the “Vitruvian Man and the Modular indicate a passage from the cosmos to modernist abstract space … Feedback Man speaks of an insular, closed, techno-world that requires more information than form and geometry to be envisioned.” These relationships address feedback systems in the space of outer space, yet some of the side effects of the space program led to studies of earth-bound feedback systems, which themselves affected the course of architecture. We invite you to elaborate on these earth-bound space programs and their architectural consequences. — Eds.

In the four preceding snapshots, we see how the concept of total circular resource regeneration migrates from one context to the other: from military research and the experiments of nasa’s space program, to the housing industry, to a countercultural practice for autonomous living in the city, and finally to the nostalgia of the homesteading movement and the perception of housing communities as self-reliant ecosystems. What remains constant, however, is the emergence of a new environmental consensus in the form of a synthetic naturalism, where the laws of nature and metabolism are displaced from the domain of the wilderness to the domain of cities and buildings. Previous concepts of nature’s immaculate preservation and conservation separate from the urban milieu gave rise to a novel naturalism of “artificial ecology,” where the functions of operations in nature were copied as precise analogies in man-made systems. Distinctly different from the first environmental era, which rallied for the fresh spirit of the wilderness and the preservation of unindustrialized lands, the rise of modern environmentalism in the 1960s and 1970s called for the replication of natural ecosystems anew in synthetic environments. The design of a house as a synthetic ecology suggested that a dwelling could reproduce a natural ecosystem; a system of mechanized interrelated parts as a model of a piece of nature. As John McHale argued that the “closed system” ecology of the space capsule was a micro-miniaturized version of our planetary vehicle,1 the house was meant to embody a microcosm of the earth as a whole. This shift was very much related to the ecologist’s appropriation of a scientific language and a set of tools used by cyberneticians in the postwar period.2 By diagramming the flow of energy in the natural world as input and output, circuits in a feedback loop, cyberneticians provided ecologists with new research techniques and a new biologically informed (but also computational) theory of inhabiting the world. At the same time, the space program played a fundamental role in this reformation of the building industry, effectively adopting, rationalizing, and simulating nature’s operations. The smart organization of material flows in spaceships was an issue of survival; life was dependent on the cycling of provisions. The potential for convergence of all waste into useful materials became eminently important as a means of sustaining life within the enclosed space of the spacecraft. In essence, the projection of humanity in outer space was less about the conquering of a new physical and technological frontier and more about the reflection of primordial habitation principles on Earth, as well as the conception of a new type of a recirculatory house, a cybernetic laboratory.


24

The Cornell Journal of Architecture

Feedback Man, Lydia Kallipoliti, Log 13/14, Fall 2008,115–118.

27

Lydia Kallipoliti is an architect and a writer. She holds architecture degrees from AUTh in Greece, MIT and Princeton University. Currently, she is an assistant professor adjunct at the Cooper Union in New York. Kallipoliti is the editor of “EcoRedux: Design Remedies for a Dying Planet,” a special issue of Architectural Design (AD) magazine. Her design and theoretical work has been published and exhibited internationally.

Return to Earth Feedback Houses

Dear Lydia, In Log 13 /14 “Feedback Man,” you described the recirculatory systems in NASA’s 1960 Living Pod, and the effect of this and similar programs on architecture, stating that while the “Vitruvian Man and the Modular indicate a passage from the cosmos to modernist abstract space … Feedback Man speaks of an insular, closed, techno-world that requires more information than form and geometry to be envisioned.” These relationships address feedback systems in the space of outer space, yet some of the side effects of the space program led to studies of earth-bound feedback systems, which themselves affected the course of architecture. We invite you to elaborate on these earth-bound space programs and their architectural consequences. — Eds.

In the four preceding snapshots, we see how the concept of total circular resource regeneration migrates from one context to the other: from military research and the experiments of nasa’s space program, to the housing industry, to a countercultural practice for autonomous living in the city, and finally to the nostalgia of the homesteading movement and the perception of housing communities as self-reliant ecosystems. What remains constant, however, is the emergence of a new environmental consensus in the form of a synthetic naturalism, where the laws of nature and metabolism are displaced from the domain of the wilderness to the domain of cities and buildings. Previous concepts of nature’s immaculate preservation and conservation separate from the urban milieu gave rise to a novel naturalism of “artificial ecology,” where the functions of operations in nature were copied as precise analogies in man-made systems. Distinctly different from the first environmental era, which rallied for the fresh spirit of the wilderness and the preservation of unindustrialized lands, the rise of modern environmentalism in the 1960s and 1970s called for the replication of natural ecosystems anew in synthetic environments. The design of a house as a synthetic ecology suggested that a dwelling could reproduce a natural ecosystem; a system of mechanized interrelated parts as a model of a piece of nature. As John McHale argued that the “closed system” ecology of the space capsule was a micro-miniaturized version of our planetary vehicle,1 the house was meant to embody a microcosm of the earth as a whole. This shift was very much related to the ecologist’s appropriation of a scientific language and a set of tools used by cyberneticians in the postwar period.2 By diagramming the flow of energy in the natural world as input and output, circuits in a feedback loop, cyberneticians provided ecologists with new research techniques and a new biologically informed (but also computational) theory of inhabiting the world. At the same time, the space program played a fundamental role in this reformation of the building industry, effectively adopting, rationalizing, and simulating nature’s operations. The smart organization of material flows in spaceships was an issue of survival; life was dependent on the cycling of provisions. The potential for convergence of all waste into useful materials became eminently important as a means of sustaining life within the enclosed space of the spacecraft. In essence, the projection of humanity in outer space was less about the conquering of a new physical and technological frontier and more about the reflection of primordial habitation principles on Earth, as well as the conception of a new type of a recirculatory house, a cybernetic laboratory.


28

The Cornell Journal of Architecture

Closed recirculatory systems illustrate, beyond just a cultural fascination with the space program, emerging architectural concerns related to habitation: first, a new integrated structure where the human physiology of ingestion and excretion becomes a combustion device, part of the system that is inhabited. Second, closed recirculatory systems, as organizational divisions of closed loop cycles, are recursive models that generate complex behaviors. Closed recirculatory systems demonstrate an ontological problem of creating an autonomous personal space or a protective environmental enclosure around the human. This spatial paradigm, similar to the bubble space of the astronaut’s suit, can be described as an “ego-sphere”3 that, according to the German philosopher Peter Sloterdjik, alludes to a novel territorial paradigm of the 20th century: modern individualism. Humans may claim their own space around the immediate proximity of their physical bodies and become their own planets.

“Down to Earth”: Grumman Integrated Household In the late 1960s, as the image of the whole earth and the effects of the space program impacted cultural imagination, it was suggested that spacecraft hardware could be directly employed in the building industry, yielding ecological benefits and rendering the house a “life-support system.” The house was promoted as a performative machine, capable of providing its own energy and food. This relocation of services resulted in an unprecedented systematization of the household, but more prominently this directive was delivered as nasa’s gift to the optimization of architectural design. As one can witness in the “EcoTech” section of AD, nasa’s integrated utility systems allegedly granted to the building sector the scientific credibility that it so unfavorably lacked: “nasa’s contribution to the solution of national problem of natural resources and pollution abatement as related to housing is included in a design of a 500 apartment complex to be built in Houston, Texas.”4 At the time, Grumman Corporation was a leading firm associated with space research, primarily specializing in bioastronautics, human performance, life-support systems and the habitability of future space stations. Grumman was highly invested in the development of technologies that would make the dream of the space station a reality. However, they were equally interested in “projecting” their inventions for outer space down to earth. This was evidenced by a string of advertisements between 1964 and 1967, in which the company announced that their “plans for outer space are down to earth.” Certain experiments in spacecraft life-support systems had not been successful in zero-gravity conditions, mainly due to difficulties of directing bacteria and microzoa flow for anaerobic digestion in waste consumption. However, there were not the same difficulties when used for terrestrial applications. The corporation consulted with several architectural firms in the late 1960s to design a modular housing unit, a waste disposal system, a sewage system (as in the astronaut’s lavatory), and an energy efficiency system for homes that incorporated solar cells for the civil consumer market. These applications, transferred from technologies used in life-support systems for spacecrafts, sold a considerable number of units in the United States under the label Grumman’s Integrated Household System. Moreover, Grumman’s way of connecting

different apparatuses into an integrated building circuit was promoted as an ecological remedy to environmental problems.5 In 1969, Grumman offered their research program on domestic space and life-support systems to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an organization charged with the development of improved housing system concepts for large-volume production and the construction of 1,400,000 new dwellings.6 Yet, offsetting nasa’s specific techniques to the building industry resulted in a new kind of fixation with biological substances and physiological flows in the design of the household. Using nasa’s conversion diagrams for spaceships as a starting point, every solid and liquid waste stream was segmented and decomposed to its utter constituents in a tenuous plan to produce drinkable water from collected droplets and oxygen from carbon dioxide. All human waste was to be chemically treated and dissolved into base data that could potentially be reconstructed in new combinations. This approach, labeled as “atomic recycling,” operated on the same premises of noiseless conversions that garbage housing projects did. However, atomic recycling carried this initial hypothesis further, through endless segmentations of matter, going down many scales, in the hope of refiguring substance at an atomic level or at the very least that all solid waste could be decomposed to a powderlike material state. Such “wish-fulfillments” are fundamental to recycling diagrams, if we may borrow Freud’s terminology. Even in nasa’s most pragmatic graphs for the operations of spaceships, desire plays a key role in the completion of the diagram, by filling in the blanks and legitimizing fuzzy conversions. To understand this claim, we may take as an example the General Dynamics Life Support System, an iconic graph for the regeneration of water and air in a space capsule, which carries out a three-step mission: to segment all human input and output in constituent component parts; to map relationships between parts and visually extrapolate a reciprocal organization; and finally, to redirect all human output back into human input. What the diagram fails to explain adequately is the nature of the material conversions that are necessary to chemically resynthesize materials from one state to another. One has to keep in mind that the proposed conversions do not merely involve phase changes, such as solid to liquid to gas, but also impossible responsibilities, such as turning feces into food, and this is precisely where wish fulfillment comes in. Operating under the assumption that a coherent, systemic, organization can be implemented to any material system, the two recycling diagrams contain several “black holes” — fuzzy conversions that could only be accomplished miraculously. In the iconic graph, these “black holes” are visualized as conversion “bubble-like” machines that contain stools and complicated interior mechanisms. They are extra devices added to the system, designed to mediate flows and assume the responsibility to transmute substances, using any technique possible, such as drying, rotating, dehumidifying, electrifying, filtering, oxidizing, and so on. Under the pseudonym Ruppert Spade, Martin Pawley, in his 1970 article, “Trick Recyclist,”7 wrote about the unelaborated nature of closed systems’ recycling and self-sufficiency. Pawley described the experiments of Mr. Edward Burton, who, between 1960 and 1966, had taken out several patents relating to a Biological Waste Treatments System, with a view to adapting his waste recycling system for use undersea or in space.8 To develop his inventions, Burton was in touch with the Grumann Corporation in the early 1960s, and translated the

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28

The Cornell Journal of Architecture

Closed recirculatory systems illustrate, beyond just a cultural fascination with the space program, emerging architectural concerns related to habitation: first, a new integrated structure where the human physiology of ingestion and excretion becomes a combustion device, part of the system that is inhabited. Second, closed recirculatory systems, as organizational divisions of closed loop cycles, are recursive models that generate complex behaviors. Closed recirculatory systems demonstrate an ontological problem of creating an autonomous personal space or a protective environmental enclosure around the human. This spatial paradigm, similar to the bubble space of the astronaut’s suit, can be described as an “ego-sphere”3 that, according to the German philosopher Peter Sloterdjik, alludes to a novel territorial paradigm of the 20th century: modern individualism. Humans may claim their own space around the immediate proximity of their physical bodies and become their own planets.

“Down to Earth”: Grumman Integrated Household In the late 1960s, as the image of the whole earth and the effects of the space program impacted cultural imagination, it was suggested that spacecraft hardware could be directly employed in the building industry, yielding ecological benefits and rendering the house a “life-support system.” The house was promoted as a performative machine, capable of providing its own energy and food. This relocation of services resulted in an unprecedented systematization of the household, but more prominently this directive was delivered as nasa’s gift to the optimization of architectural design. As one can witness in the “EcoTech” section of AD, nasa’s integrated utility systems allegedly granted to the building sector the scientific credibility that it so unfavorably lacked: “nasa’s contribution to the solution of national problem of natural resources and pollution abatement as related to housing is included in a design of a 500 apartment complex to be built in Houston, Texas.”4 At the time, Grumman Corporation was a leading firm associated with space research, primarily specializing in bioastronautics, human performance, life-support systems and the habitability of future space stations. Grumman was highly invested in the development of technologies that would make the dream of the space station a reality. However, they were equally interested in “projecting” their inventions for outer space down to earth. This was evidenced by a string of advertisements between 1964 and 1967, in which the company announced that their “plans for outer space are down to earth.” Certain experiments in spacecraft life-support systems had not been successful in zero-gravity conditions, mainly due to difficulties of directing bacteria and microzoa flow for anaerobic digestion in waste consumption. However, there were not the same difficulties when used for terrestrial applications. The corporation consulted with several architectural firms in the late 1960s to design a modular housing unit, a waste disposal system, a sewage system (as in the astronaut’s lavatory), and an energy efficiency system for homes that incorporated solar cells for the civil consumer market. These applications, transferred from technologies used in life-support systems for spacecrafts, sold a considerable number of units in the United States under the label Grumman’s Integrated Household System. Moreover, Grumman’s way of connecting

different apparatuses into an integrated building circuit was promoted as an ecological remedy to environmental problems.5 In 1969, Grumman offered their research program on domestic space and life-support systems to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an organization charged with the development of improved housing system concepts for large-volume production and the construction of 1,400,000 new dwellings.6 Yet, offsetting nasa’s specific techniques to the building industry resulted in a new kind of fixation with biological substances and physiological flows in the design of the household. Using nasa’s conversion diagrams for spaceships as a starting point, every solid and liquid waste stream was segmented and decomposed to its utter constituents in a tenuous plan to produce drinkable water from collected droplets and oxygen from carbon dioxide. All human waste was to be chemically treated and dissolved into base data that could potentially be reconstructed in new combinations. This approach, labeled as “atomic recycling,” operated on the same premises of noiseless conversions that garbage housing projects did. However, atomic recycling carried this initial hypothesis further, through endless segmentations of matter, going down many scales, in the hope of refiguring substance at an atomic level or at the very least that all solid waste could be decomposed to a powderlike material state. Such “wish-fulfillments” are fundamental to recycling diagrams, if we may borrow Freud’s terminology. Even in nasa’s most pragmatic graphs for the operations of spaceships, desire plays a key role in the completion of the diagram, by filling in the blanks and legitimizing fuzzy conversions. To understand this claim, we may take as an example the General Dynamics Life Support System, an iconic graph for the regeneration of water and air in a space capsule, which carries out a three-step mission: to segment all human input and output in constituent component parts; to map relationships between parts and visually extrapolate a reciprocal organization; and finally, to redirect all human output back into human input. What the diagram fails to explain adequately is the nature of the material conversions that are necessary to chemically resynthesize materials from one state to another. One has to keep in mind that the proposed conversions do not merely involve phase changes, such as solid to liquid to gas, but also impossible responsibilities, such as turning feces into food, and this is precisely where wish fulfillment comes in. Operating under the assumption that a coherent, systemic, organization can be implemented to any material system, the two recycling diagrams contain several “black holes” — fuzzy conversions that could only be accomplished miraculously. In the iconic graph, these “black holes” are visualized as conversion “bubble-like” machines that contain stools and complicated interior mechanisms. They are extra devices added to the system, designed to mediate flows and assume the responsibility to transmute substances, using any technique possible, such as drying, rotating, dehumidifying, electrifying, filtering, oxidizing, and so on. Under the pseudonym Ruppert Spade, Martin Pawley, in his 1970 article, “Trick Recyclist,”7 wrote about the unelaborated nature of closed systems’ recycling and self-sufficiency. Pawley described the experiments of Mr. Edward Burton, who, between 1960 and 1966, had taken out several patents relating to a Biological Waste Treatments System, with a view to adapting his waste recycling system for use undersea or in space.8 To develop his inventions, Burton was in touch with the Grumann Corporation in the early 1960s, and translated the

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30 Advertisement of Grumman Corporation in the International Science and Technology journal.

The Cornell Journal of Architecture

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The Cornell Journal of Architecture industry’s smart technologies into home-made reprocessing systems, managing the dubious accomplishment of adequately nourishing a duck, 15 goldfish, an apple tree sapling, an apricot tree plantlet, and a small rhododendron plant, singularly from household effluent.9 With a number of tricky conversions and crafty oxidizing and permeation devices, Burton’s system eventually became commercially available in the United States in the early 1970s, promising to grow tomatoes from household effluent. What we are less aware of is what happened in due course to Burton’s flora and fauna after running his Biological Waste Treatments System for extensive periods of time. Recycling systems, especially the aspiring noiseless ones, are absolutely closed systems that redirect all input into output; and as such they are more than likely to exhibit unpredictable behaviors, including the production of new substances that are not calculated to be dealt with by the internal organization of the system. Closed autopoietic systems derail from an original systematized scheme that is designed to run invariant perpetually. Instead, prolific new subsystems feed the original system with new input, constantly changing its internal organization. Pawley’s stark criticism on the feasibility of regenerative systems is in resonance with his own frustration on “garbage housing,”10 which conceptually fulfils a circular system on a planetary scale, feeding the industrial by-products back into the cycle of production as new building materials. It seems that the architect’s desire to close the circle is eminent. However, noiseless recycling is an impossible enterprise in time, or an “ecotopia”; and if portrayed as a realistic task, it undoubtedly needed to combine high-tech devices with some “wishful thinking.”

Eco House in Survival Scrapbook. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

From Shit to Food: Graham Caine’s Eco-House One of the earliest ecological houses, the Eco-House, was built in Eltham, South London in 1972, as a laboratory and living experiment by Graham Caine, a member of the anarchist group Street Farmers, originally formed by Peter Crump and Bruce Haggart. The Eco-House was a fully functional integrated system that converted human waste to methane for cooking, as well as maintained a hydroponic greenhouse with radishes, tomatoes, and even bananas. Caine, then a 26-year-old fourth-year student at the Architectural Association of London, designed and built the Eco-House as an “inhabitable housing laboratory” that would grow vegetables out of household effluents and fertilize the land with reprocessed organic waste. With a ₤2,000 fund from Alvin Boyarski, the chairman of the aa, and scavenged materials, Caine settled in the house in December 1972. After having lived in the house for two years with his family, Caine was asked to destroy it in 1975. By that time, the Eco-House had received wide attention from the British press and architectural magazines, as well as considerable attention in television. It was the main subject of a television show titled Clearings of a Concrete Jungle in bbc’s Open Programme for Television in June 1973. The broadcast was featured in the London Radio Times with the promotional line: “Spring is here and the time is ripe for planting in the streets.” Other titles in the British press included: “The House that Grows” and “A New Way of Living” in the London Garden News, “Living off the Sun in South London” in The Observer, and “A Revolutionary Structure” in Oz magazine.11

Throughout the process, Caine used himself and his family as guinea pigs in order to test the function of several components of the house. He experimented with his waste, his cooking habits, his use of water, monitoring closely every activity of daily practice until the day the house was demolished in 1974. Caine was undoubtedly the steward of the house; he alone knew how to feed the house with the right nutrients — how to chop wood, grow plants, irrigate the greenhouse, and supply the engines. The architect, therefore, was an indispensable biological part of the house, connected to it in a diagram where excretion becomes a vital constituent of the system’s sustenance. In many respects, the house was more grown than constructed. It needed attention from its caretaker, and without human presence its living biotechnical systems would degenerate and die. Describing his house as a life-support system, Caine satirically commented that the architect may now relate to his own shit.12

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The Cornell Journal of Architecture industry’s smart technologies into home-made reprocessing systems, managing the dubious accomplishment of adequately nourishing a duck, 15 goldfish, an apple tree sapling, an apricot tree plantlet, and a small rhododendron plant, singularly from household effluent.9 With a number of tricky conversions and crafty oxidizing and permeation devices, Burton’s system eventually became commercially available in the United States in the early 1970s, promising to grow tomatoes from household effluent. What we are less aware of is what happened in due course to Burton’s flora and fauna after running his Biological Waste Treatments System for extensive periods of time. Recycling systems, especially the aspiring noiseless ones, are absolutely closed systems that redirect all input into output; and as such they are more than likely to exhibit unpredictable behaviors, including the production of new substances that are not calculated to be dealt with by the internal organization of the system. Closed autopoietic systems derail from an original systematized scheme that is designed to run invariant perpetually. Instead, prolific new subsystems feed the original system with new input, constantly changing its internal organization. Pawley’s stark criticism on the feasibility of regenerative systems is in resonance with his own frustration on “garbage housing,”10 which conceptually fulfils a circular system on a planetary scale, feeding the industrial by-products back into the cycle of production as new building materials. It seems that the architect’s desire to close the circle is eminent. However, noiseless recycling is an impossible enterprise in time, or an “ecotopia”; and if portrayed as a realistic task, it undoubtedly needed to combine high-tech devices with some “wishful thinking.”

Eco House in Survival Scrapbook. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

From Shit to Food: Graham Caine’s Eco-House One of the earliest ecological houses, the Eco-House, was built in Eltham, South London in 1972, as a laboratory and living experiment by Graham Caine, a member of the anarchist group Street Farmers, originally formed by Peter Crump and Bruce Haggart. The Eco-House was a fully functional integrated system that converted human waste to methane for cooking, as well as maintained a hydroponic greenhouse with radishes, tomatoes, and even bananas. Caine, then a 26-year-old fourth-year student at the Architectural Association of London, designed and built the Eco-House as an “inhabitable housing laboratory” that would grow vegetables out of household effluents and fertilize the land with reprocessed organic waste. With a ₤2,000 fund from Alvin Boyarski, the chairman of the aa, and scavenged materials, Caine settled in the house in December 1972. After having lived in the house for two years with his family, Caine was asked to destroy it in 1975. By that time, the Eco-House had received wide attention from the British press and architectural magazines, as well as considerable attention in television. It was the main subject of a television show titled Clearings of a Concrete Jungle in bbc’s Open Programme for Television in June 1973. The broadcast was featured in the London Radio Times with the promotional line: “Spring is here and the time is ripe for planting in the streets.” Other titles in the British press included: “The House that Grows” and “A New Way of Living” in the London Garden News, “Living off the Sun in South London” in The Observer, and “A Revolutionary Structure” in Oz magazine.11

Throughout the process, Caine used himself and his family as guinea pigs in order to test the function of several components of the house. He experimented with his waste, his cooking habits, his use of water, monitoring closely every activity of daily practice until the day the house was demolished in 1974. Caine was undoubtedly the steward of the house; he alone knew how to feed the house with the right nutrients — how to chop wood, grow plants, irrigate the greenhouse, and supply the engines. The architect, therefore, was an indispensable biological part of the house, connected to it in a diagram where excretion becomes a vital constituent of the system’s sustenance. In many respects, the house was more grown than constructed. It needed attention from its caretaker, and without human presence its living biotechnical systems would degenerate and die. Describing his house as a life-support system, Caine satirically commented that the architect may now relate to his own shit.12

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The Cornell Journal of Architecture

In the unpublished addendum to the periodical Street Farmer 2, the Eco-House is referenced as a “spaceship” on earth. However, self-sufficiency was understood by Caine and the Street Farmers, as a political statement against consumerism and capitalism. The Eco-House embodied for its builders a grain of resistance against the state’s networks of centralized control. According to Caine, capitalism could be illustrated in a linear scheme, while the recycling of organic matter, the collection of rainwater and sunshine that in its turn produces food, gas, and heating, represents an alternative political reality of cyclical behaviors where material can be used and reused perpetually.13 In many ways, this detachment from the main urban supply networks depicts a collective repudiation for the urban condition, which is portrayed by both the counterculture and the space program as a catastrophic environment that restrains the imagination and the freedom of the individual. In this sense, the Eco-House becomes an island, uprooted from its urban context, like its own planet, but very much in exchange with physiological parameters: temperature, water, light, humidity, and so forth calculated in numeric data. We may perceive this detachment, outlined as an ecological and political imperative, as a fundamental reorientation of the house in relationship to its urban condition. Weaving Caine’s political assertions to the premises of nasa’s by-products for the building indsutry, it is striking to observe how the same cybernetic prescription of a system migrates from the military complex to a countercultural political theory. On the one hand, nasa’s scenario for self-sufficiency comprises a project of technological supremacy and regards mostly the invention of hardware in order to conquer a new frontier, now visible and detectable to our eyes; the colonial modality is evident in this aspiration to master the new land, or space, even if out of oxygen. On the other hand, the equipped interior of the Eco-House is portrayed as the fantasy of an “exterior” to the political reality. The interior, armed with digesters, becomes a strategy of political autonomy to withdraw from the tentacles of society and the state’s organizational infrastructure, away from the authoritative networks to which people must yield. The Grumman Integrated Household and the Eco-House, despite representing two very different political realities and existential problems, come to be expressed by the same strategy for self-reliance. Despite all odds, the ongoing experiment of the enclosed space was ceremoniously revived in the massive Biosphere 2 project in Arizona, which was completed and sealed in 1991. Not surprisingly, fresh air had to be injected and food introduced to ensure the health of the sealed subjects. But even beyond ecological tourist attractions, the spaceship lives on in the thousands of sick buildings of corporate America. Sealed, heavily air-conditioned buildings usually generate problematic airborne conditions, resulting from a building’s lack of exchange with its surrounding environment. In most sick buildings, there cannot be an identifiable cause for illness, as a causal effect of a specific deficiency. A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality and suffer from what is known as the sick building syndrome, a term describing situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects linked to the time spent in a building. Recycling waste, either organic or inorganic, was fundamental to the rising discourse of ecological design. The real question submitted with this study is how

35

biological and environmental processes invade the domestic realm and the practice of everyday life; how the division and distribution of organic, growing matter is vital for the sustenance of the house’s health. It is finally critical to observe that in the rise of postwar ecological design theories, recycling was more than a technical task; it was a psychosocial position for the migration of life via the phase change of material substances. From this viewpoint, matter does not come to an end, it is not wasted; instead it changes its state. Recycling, therefore, is not just about the formation of new materials, but also about the transference and migration of properties from one substance to another, and all of the intermediate stages of a productive cycle. In a recent nasa conference in Washington, DC, in October 2007, a common consensus surfaced in honor of the 50 years celebration of outer space research. Officers and researchers claimed that the space program’s greater accomplishments were not what they were intended to be; not the conquering of the new frontier, and the actual moon-landing; but the space program’s side effects: such were the photographs of the Earth. Likewise, this successful derailment, an incidental by-product shaped as a discipline undergoes a transformation, may suggest an alternative reading of architectural history, not by offering actual objects and a new paradigm, but by suggesting new tools and new modes of practice. The objects may be fictional, impossible, or in the best-case scenario, ephemeral, but architecture is mostly a project of the imagination. The objects can be ephemeral, but the tools and modalities of design creativity that they produce are not. Endnotes 1 John McHale, “Outer Space,” in Architectural Design, vol. 37 (February 1967): 67. See also John McHale, The Future of the Future (New York: George Brazilier, 1969). 2 See Peder Anker, “The Ecological Colonization of Space,” Environmental History 10, no. 2 (2005): 239–268. See also Peder Anker, “The Closed World of Ecological Architecture,” The Journal of Architecture 10, no. 5 (2005): 527–552. 3 The term egosphere was coined by Peter Sloterdijk in his article “Cell Block, Egospheres, Self-Container,” in Log 10 (Summer/Fall 2007). 4 “nasa integrated utility system,” in the “Eco-Tech” section of Architectural Design, vol. 43 (February 1973): 74. 5 See Anker, “The Closed World of Ecological Architecture,” 539. 6 See Ruppert Spade, “Trick Recyclist” in the “Cosmorama” section of Architectural Design, vol. 40 (March 1970): 111– 112. 7 Spade, “Trick Recyclist,” 112. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 See Martin Pawley, “Garbage Housing,” in Architectural Design, vol. 41, no. 2 (1971): 86–95; Martin Pawley, “Chile and the Cornell Programme,” in Architectural Design, vol. 43, no. 12 (1973): 777–784; Martin Pawley, “Garbage Housing,” in Architectural Design, vol. 43, no. 12 (1973): 647–776. See also Martin Pawley, Garbage Housing (London, UK: Architectural Press, 1975).

11 The Eco-House was published in the following publications: Glenn Barker, “A New Way of Living,” in Garden News, no. 780 (June 15, 1973); Grahame Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” in Oz (November 1972): 12–13. Supplemented by Mike Moore’s diagrams based on Grahame Caine’s originals; Gerald Leach (Science Correspondent), “Living off the Sun in South London,” in The Observer (August 27, 1972); Grahame Caine, “The Eco-House,” in Bruce Haggart, Peter Crump (eds.), Street Farmer, no. 1 & no. 2 (London, 1971–1972); Grahame Caine, “The Ecological House,” in Architectural Design (March 1972): 140 –141; Grahame Caine, “Street Farmhouse,” in Stefan Szcelkun (ed.), Survival Scrapbook, vol. 5: Energy (Bristol, UK: Unicorn Bookshop Press, 1975); Grahame Caine, “The Eco-House,” in Mother Earth News (March/ April 1973); Grahame Caine, Bruce Haggart, and Peter Crump, “Some Proposals on the Reservicing of an Urban Terraced House,” in John Prenis (ed.), Domeletter, no. 4 (Philadelphia, PA: Self-published, 1972). See the archives of the Architectural Association, London; Eve Williams, “The House that Grows” (based on an interview with Grahame Caine), in Garden News, no. 722 (London, May 5, 1972): 13; Glen Barker, “A New Way of Living,” in Garden News, no. 780 (London, June 15, 1973):3. 12 Grahame Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” in Oz (November 1972): 12–13. Supplemented by Mike Moore’s diagrams based on Grahame Caine’s originals. 13 Author’s personal interview with Graham Caine in Ronda, Spain (January 8th, 2008).


34

The Cornell Journal of Architecture

In the unpublished addendum to the periodical Street Farmer 2, the Eco-House is referenced as a “spaceship” on earth. However, self-sufficiency was understood by Caine and the Street Farmers, as a political statement against consumerism and capitalism. The Eco-House embodied for its builders a grain of resistance against the state’s networks of centralized control. According to Caine, capitalism could be illustrated in a linear scheme, while the recycling of organic matter, the collection of rainwater and sunshine that in its turn produces food, gas, and heating, represents an alternative political reality of cyclical behaviors where material can be used and reused perpetually.13 In many ways, this detachment from the main urban supply networks depicts a collective repudiation for the urban condition, which is portrayed by both the counterculture and the space program as a catastrophic environment that restrains the imagination and the freedom of the individual. In this sense, the Eco-House becomes an island, uprooted from its urban context, like its own planet, but very much in exchange with physiological parameters: temperature, water, light, humidity, and so forth calculated in numeric data. We may perceive this detachment, outlined as an ecological and political imperative, as a fundamental reorientation of the house in relationship to its urban condition. Weaving Caine’s political assertions to the premises of nasa’s by-products for the building indsutry, it is striking to observe how the same cybernetic prescription of a system migrates from the military complex to a countercultural political theory. On the one hand, nasa’s scenario for self-sufficiency comprises a project of technological supremacy and regards mostly the invention of hardware in order to conquer a new frontier, now visible and detectable to our eyes; the colonial modality is evident in this aspiration to master the new land, or space, even if out of oxygen. On the other hand, the equipped interior of the Eco-House is portrayed as the fantasy of an “exterior” to the political reality. The interior, armed with digesters, becomes a strategy of political autonomy to withdraw from the tentacles of society and the state’s organizational infrastructure, away from the authoritative networks to which people must yield. The Grumman Integrated Household and the Eco-House, despite representing two very different political realities and existential problems, come to be expressed by the same strategy for self-reliance. Despite all odds, the ongoing experiment of the enclosed space was ceremoniously revived in the massive Biosphere 2 project in Arizona, which was completed and sealed in 1991. Not surprisingly, fresh air had to be injected and food introduced to ensure the health of the sealed subjects. But even beyond ecological tourist attractions, the spaceship lives on in the thousands of sick buildings of corporate America. Sealed, heavily air-conditioned buildings usually generate problematic airborne conditions, resulting from a building’s lack of exchange with its surrounding environment. In most sick buildings, there cannot be an identifiable cause for illness, as a causal effect of a specific deficiency. A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality and suffer from what is known as the sick building syndrome, a term describing situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects linked to the time spent in a building. Recycling waste, either organic or inorganic, was fundamental to the rising discourse of ecological design. The real question submitted with this study is how

35

biological and environmental processes invade the domestic realm and the practice of everyday life; how the division and distribution of organic, growing matter is vital for the sustenance of the house’s health. It is finally critical to observe that in the rise of postwar ecological design theories, recycling was more than a technical task; it was a psychosocial position for the migration of life via the phase change of material substances. From this viewpoint, matter does not come to an end, it is not wasted; instead it changes its state. Recycling, therefore, is not just about the formation of new materials, but also about the transference and migration of properties from one substance to another, and all of the intermediate stages of a productive cycle. In a recent nasa conference in Washington, DC, in October 2007, a common consensus surfaced in honor of the 50 years celebration of outer space research. Officers and researchers claimed that the space program’s greater accomplishments were not what they were intended to be; not the conquering of the new frontier, and the actual moon-landing; but the space program’s side effects: such were the photographs of the Earth. Likewise, this successful derailment, an incidental by-product shaped as a discipline undergoes a transformation, may suggest an alternative reading of architectural history, not by offering actual objects and a new paradigm, but by suggesting new tools and new modes of practice. The objects may be fictional, impossible, or in the best-case scenario, ephemeral, but architecture is mostly a project of the imagination. The objects can be ephemeral, but the tools and modalities of design creativity that they produce are not. Endnotes 1 John McHale, “Outer Space,” in Architectural Design, vol. 37 (February 1967): 67. See also John McHale, The Future of the Future (New York: George Brazilier, 1969). 2 See Peder Anker, “The Ecological Colonization of Space,” Environmental History 10, no. 2 (2005): 239–268. See also Peder Anker, “The Closed World of Ecological Architecture,” The Journal of Architecture 10, no. 5 (2005): 527–552. 3 The term egosphere was coined by Peter Sloterdijk in his article “Cell Block, Egospheres, Self-Container,” in Log 10 (Summer/Fall 2007). 4 “nasa integrated utility system,” in the “Eco-Tech” section of Architectural Design, vol. 43 (February 1973): 74. 5 See Anker, “The Closed World of Ecological Architecture,” 539. 6 See Ruppert Spade, “Trick Recyclist” in the “Cosmorama” section of Architectural Design, vol. 40 (March 1970): 111– 112. 7 Spade, “Trick Recyclist,” 112. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 See Martin Pawley, “Garbage Housing,” in Architectural Design, vol. 41, no. 2 (1971): 86–95; Martin Pawley, “Chile and the Cornell Programme,” in Architectural Design, vol. 43, no. 12 (1973): 777–784; Martin Pawley, “Garbage Housing,” in Architectural Design, vol. 43, no. 12 (1973): 647–776. See also Martin Pawley, Garbage Housing (London, UK: Architectural Press, 1975).

11 The Eco-House was published in the following publications: Glenn Barker, “A New Way of Living,” in Garden News, no. 780 (June 15, 1973); Grahame Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” in Oz (November 1972): 12–13. Supplemented by Mike Moore’s diagrams based on Grahame Caine’s originals; Gerald Leach (Science Correspondent), “Living off the Sun in South London,” in The Observer (August 27, 1972); Grahame Caine, “The Eco-House,” in Bruce Haggart, Peter Crump (eds.), Street Farmer, no. 1 & no. 2 (London, 1971–1972); Grahame Caine, “The Ecological House,” in Architectural Design (March 1972): 140 –141; Grahame Caine, “Street Farmhouse,” in Stefan Szcelkun (ed.), Survival Scrapbook, vol. 5: Energy (Bristol, UK: Unicorn Bookshop Press, 1975); Grahame Caine, “The Eco-House,” in Mother Earth News (March/ April 1973); Grahame Caine, Bruce Haggart, and Peter Crump, “Some Proposals on the Reservicing of an Urban Terraced House,” in John Prenis (ed.), Domeletter, no. 4 (Philadelphia, PA: Self-published, 1972). See the archives of the Architectural Association, London; Eve Williams, “The House that Grows” (based on an interview with Grahame Caine), in Garden News, no. 722 (London, May 5, 1972): 13; Glen Barker, “A New Way of Living,” in Garden News, no. 780 (London, June 15, 1973):3. 12 Grahame Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” in Oz (November 1972): 12–13. Supplemented by Mike Moore’s diagrams based on Grahame Caine’s originals. 13 Author’s personal interview with Graham Caine in Ronda, Spain (January 8th, 2008).


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03

No More Schisms; (Introduction to the issue), Architectural Design magazine (AD), Profile No.208


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INTRODUCTION By Lydia Kallipoliti

NO MORE SCHISMS There is a long-fought battle in our discipline over the establishment of architectural territory; it has continuously circulated around the question as to whether an agent of change originates from within or from without. In the interior of architectural discourse, we may position all those who rally for logic: autonomy, formalism, tectonic language and syntax; while in the exterior there are those who rally for a cause: social reform, environmental improvement and political effect. On the one hand, the ‘insiders’ think of the ‘outsiders’ as a decoy to the stability of the discipline and its status quo. They struggle to disallow the expansion of disciplinary boundaries to distant peripheries and to invoke the ethos and the spirit of the architect as author. On the other hand, the outsiders value the insiders as blissful in their closed academic ‘womb’, and oblivious in not utilising architecture as an active tool for sociopolitical change. For decades, the architect has been double-faced, residing in the schism of this battle; running from the exterior to the interior, in and out, all along. Sustainability has clearly reached every discipline from the outside, specifically from the image of an ill-managed, finite earth when the icon rose to cultural prominence in the late 1960s.1 Several publications at the time portrayed our planet as a closed system endangered to die, projecting the effects of micro-actions to have an effect on the macro-dynamics of the planet.2 In the face of this impending catastrophe, each discipline mobilised its own tools, architecture included. Modern environmentalism in the 1960s displayed a sense of social activism fighting the prognosis of a doomsday, decidedly absent from the first environmental era that promoted the fresh spirit of wilderness and the preservation of unindustrialised lands. Burdened with Le Corbusier’s past metaphor of a ‘machine for living’, the rise of ecological awareness in the 1960s

Lydia Kallipoliti, EcoRedux drawing, 2008 The diagram seeks tentative connections with an ‘elastic’ understanding of ecology, addressing not only a new kind of naturalism and techno-scientific standards, but also systems theory: a recirculatory understanding of the world and its resources.

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In the history of ideas, discourses get recycled. Concepts emerge as allegedly new, though ideas undergo long journeys of migration from one epistemological field to another.

and 1970s announced the building as a ‘performative machine’ foreshadowing a new Modernist ethos, though devoid of a tectonic expression and a set of form-giving strategies. The schism was then present. What happens now though, in the environmental battlefield of a world that has suffered severe loss of resources? As a symptom of a new reality inundated with environmental catastrophes, sudden climatic changes, garbage-packed metropolises and para-economies of electronic waste, environmental consciousness re-emerges as an inevitable cultural armature for architects and designers. Though, at present, on a planet that has no more square inches of untouched environments, the new wave of ecological architecture cannot be solely directed to the ethics of the world’s salvation and the rhetoric of confinement. It rather upraises as a psycho-spatial or mental position, fuelling a reality of change, motion and action. After years of integrated GIS mapping systems and computational tools that analyse and redistribute environmental data, the notion of environment can no longer be considered as an abstract geographic context upon which an idealised figuration can be projected. Therefore, the role of the architect in this novel sociopolitical sense of environmental urgency can no longer inhabit the space of an alleged schism between social

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cause and sensational tectonic. Our current understanding of environment as a complex territory of ambient, physical and physiological interrelationships surfaces a new tectonic vision where project and context are operationally engrafted. Coined as ‘EcoRedux’, this position differs from utopia in that it does not explicitly seek to be right; it recognises pollution and waste as generative potential for design. In this sense, projects that may appear at first sight as science-fictional are not part of a foreign sphere, unassociated with the real, but an extrusion of our own realms and operations. As Donna Haraway stated in her cyborg manifesto, ‘the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion’.3 How Do Ideas Get Recycled? In the history of ideas, discourses get recycled. Concepts emerge as allegedly new, though ideas undergo long journeys of migration from one epistemological field to another. In our discipline, the permission to reproduce, translate or even ‘misuse’ information, to observe and transform existing material and ideological structures, endows architecture with its creative potential. EcoRedux allegorically brings back to life an issue of 1 in July 1972 entitled Designing for Survival. The cover, designed


left: Cover of 1’s July issue in 1972 entitled Designing for Survival, designed by Adrian George. Backed up by lists of environmental statistics, the issue urged readers to think that the way we live and the space in which we live are a question of survival rather than a choice. Historically, the role of 1 has been, overall, formative in the development and establishment of ecological ideas within the discipline of architecture. The title of the current issue EcoRedux: Design Remedies for an Ailing Planet, allegorically refers to the 1972 issue in an attempt to recall the spirit of the day, while confronting contemporary design culture.

below: Advertisement for the forthcoming October issue of Progressive Architecture magazine in 1971. Entitled Needed – life support systems for a dying planet, the trail of that issue featured a wounded earth that called for help from ‘architects and air breathers’. The issue suggested learning from the research of the space industry and presented a series of housing schemes as life-support systems. At that moment, the by-product devices of the space programme were promoted in the building industry as salvation mechanisms; they were to battle a blatant environmental crisis of a closed planet that had just been revealed to the eyes of the world as a single image.

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Nathan Petty and Sheena Garcia, Trilet Bathroom, New York, 2008 opposite top and left: The project is a creative documentation revisiting Graham Caine’s Ecological House of 1972, a polemical housing project for self-reliant living in the city. Trilet Bathroom is an urban public toilet where organic human waste is segmented in nutrients that are returned to the ground and processed in generators that produce methane. Unlike toilets that are connected to municipal water and sewage systems, this one is entirely waterless. The proliferation of this system could lead to the reduction of chemical fertilisers in agriculture and the overchlorination of water systems. It is an ecological infrastructure in the public realm that is conceived as a catalyst for future change.

by Adrian George, featured a water flow that detoured from one tap to another, suggesting that water streams loop as regenerative household systems. This zero-gravity water flow showcased for the first time a belief in the ecological building as a self-sufficient, autonomous unit capable of harnessing its waste and providing its own energy. Colin Moorcraft, who started a special ‘Recycling’ section in 1 in 1971 (renamed ‘Eco-Tech’ a year later), edited the feature article of this issue: a compilation of proceedings of a 1972 RIBA conference with a catalogue of proposals for environmental improvement, including power generation, pollution and industrial agriculture. In an introductory statement, readers were warned that ‘the environmental crisis is not something for architects to think about only in their spare time’.4 Rather, it was a question of survival. Buildings were then portrayed by 1 as performative cybernetic machines and as synecdoches of the earth as a whole. This seminal issue of 1 outlined a new environmental consensus that emerged in the postwar period: a form of ‘synthetic naturalism’, where the laws of nature and metabolism were displaced from the domain of wilderness to the domain of cities and buildings. Previous concepts of nature’s preservation and conservation as separated from the urban milieu gave rise to a novel naturalism of ‘artificial ecology’, where the functions of

Grahame Caine, Ecological House, or Street Farm House, Eltham, London, 1971–2 opposite bottom: Right: Caine’s drawings and diagrams for the Ecological House, published in 1 in March 1972. Top left: Section drawing published in the self-published magazine Street Farmer No 1, edited by Bruce Haggart and Peter Crump, in 1971. Bottom left: Diagram for the Ecological House as a regenerative machine, published in Oz magazine in November 1972. Built in Eltham in 1972, the house was a laboratory and a living experiment by Caine, a member of the anarchist group Street Farmers. It was not only a fully functioning integrated system that converted human waste to methane for cooking, but was also built by its architect, who used himself as a guinea pig throughout the construction process. In the drawings, Caine portrayed himself as a combustion device for generating electricity, connected to the house in a diagram where excretion becomes part of the system’s sustenance. For Caine and the Street Farmers (Bruce Haggart and Peter Crump), the self-sufficiency of the Ecological House represented a political statement against consumerism and capitalism; it was perceived as a grain of resistance against the state’s networks of centralised control. It was demolished in 1975.

operations of nature were copied as precise analogues, in manmade systems. This period witnessed numerous projects where the main idea was to create microcosms of the earth as a whole, shrank within the context of buildings. Equipped with digesters, hydroponic gardens, solar panels and other apparatuses, an ecological building at the time was a productive device that executed more functions than simply to shelter. Technologies were adjunctive systems resurfacing an existing architectural vocabulary; thus Reyner Banham’s assemblage of machines in his famous collage for the ‘environmental bubble’ illustrated by François Dallegret.5 The emergence of ecological awareness in the 1970s has been closely linked to the expansion of the oikos,6 meaning a novel perception of the built unit being interconnected to global currents and flows. Ecological buildings were in many cases surveyed as cybernetic machines and have been the object of intense transdisciplinary alternative technology debates, attributing to the building a living agency instrumentalised in terms of input and output. It is therefore worthwhile to observe that two major peripheral areas of the architectural discipline – computation and sustainability – that are considered almost in all cases as disjunctive or irrelevant fields, stem from the same epistemological aspirations in the study of systems, namely

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Alexandros Tsamis and Lydia Kallipoliti, Felt Vacuum Wall, please supply location and date below: The project is a creative documentation revisiting Robin Evans’ ‘Piezoelectrics’ thesis at the Architectural Association in 1969, utilising the piezoelectric effect to transform mechanical energy into electrical energy (see http://www.ecoredux.com/creativedoc_31_01.html). It is a cleaning device embedded in the structure of exterior envelope components. The scope of the project is to re-evaluate the function of large exterior surfaces in polluted cities and augment their environmental performance by collecting dust. Floating dust particles are collected onto the wall, purifying the air with the use of piezoelectric materials. By polluting itself, the surface then attains a positive, productive role for the global atmosphere.

ecology and cybernetics. Besides, computation languages and recycling are founded on similar operational agendas: closed iterative loops, where in the former case information outside of the productive cycle is defined as ‘noise’, whereas in the latter case information outside of the productive cycle is defined as ‘waste’ or ‘garbage’. What is in fact new today is that the ecological debate in architecture can neither be advanced as an ethical imperative recasting moral value in design thinking, nor as an inevitability guided by the politics of fear. Though mindful of the past, the objective of this issue is distant from idealising and romanticising the environmental agenda of the 1970s. Instead, EcoRedux looks elsewhere: it critically recognises a recirculatory understanding of the world and its resources and hints towards a new opportunistic ‘materiality’ that unavoidably becomes a requisite part of our discipline. Recycling is commonly referenced in regards to material systems. The argument here, however, is that recycling is an ideational and philosophical system of viewing the world of ideas, information and matter as flow rather than as the accumulation of discrete objects. More than a material system, recycling signals the migration of life through the conversion of one thing to another; feedback channels a new design vision. 20

opposite: In Felt Vacuum Wall, piezoelectric materials integrated in exterior envelopes generate electricity if subjected to a certain amount of stress. Air currents in tall buildings provide sufficient stress for the process to begin. Once activated, the mechanism of collecting dust from the air is similar to the role a magnet plays in the collection of iron filings. The wall channels and vacuums floating dust particles onto the felt surface.

EcoMannerism or EcoCyphering? In the many adaptable, seasonal, self-reliant and evolutionary structures proposed today, the questions put on the table go far beyond the select ion of certain materials certified by the LEED programme (famously known as ‘Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design’) and labelled as ‘ecological’. Besides the value of a material as a finished catalogued object, taxonomised as ‘eco-friendly’, other parameters come to play a vital part in the sustainability debate, such as the lifecycle of a material, the process of its production, the minimal footprint that a building may have and the reuse of building components after a designated time. Besides a simple choice to select certain design schemes and materials, the ecological debate is about systems thinking and cycles of production. However, this valid account arrives through such a disparate assembly of design proposals revealing that the formal language of this disciplinary field is unarticulated. From boxes to blobs, trapezoids to geodesic domes, and towers to wormy buildings, we can rightfully ask: Does anything go? Are we back to eclecticism backed up by cyclic explanatory diagrams or what Ray Smith coined in 1977 as ‘Supermannerism’?7 Can sustainable design accept any form? In this issue, we may account that the environmental question can be pronounced more efficiently through code


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Indie architecture/Paul Andersen, Thermographic Theater, 2007 below: The lobby of the theatre complex is lined with a radiant heating lattice and machined foam panels. The density of the lattice is adjusted to create pockets of warm and cool air, within which are situated cafés, stores, ticketing and a variety of gardens.

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Marianthi Liapi and Kostis Oungrinis, EcoPOP, 2008 bottom: The project is inspired by Ettore Sottsass’ proposal for the 1972 MoMA exhibition ‘Italy: The New Domestic Landscape’ as well as by the social engagement of two current humanitarian initiatives, the ‘Miniature Earth Project’ and the ‘One Laptop per Child’. Within this framework, EcoPOP offers the design and technological knowhow to build low-cost, autonomous, flexible, utilitarian spatial elements that will significantly raise the everyday living and hygiene standards of all those deprived in the developing countries of the world.

Hayley Eber and Frank Gesualdi (EFGH), H2grOw, 2007 opposite: Entry for the Van Alen Institute Gateway competition. H2grOw draws on techniques of floater hydroponics, exploring the possibilities of using water as a resource for planting, transportation, energy harnessing, food production and recreation. Each mobile pod is a hydroponic ecosystem supported primarily on a pontoon ring structure, beneath which hangs a semipermeable membrane housing all essential nutrients.


and not through form. Rather than a matter of representation, it is about a ‘know-how’ to classify, handle, access, distribute and direct environmental information of complex ecosystems. Today, schisms between logic and cause are no longer viable models of production. The projects presented in this issue delve on feedback loops of provisions, and classify and exploit resources with the objective of vitally distilling a rising biotechnological imagery and a new social and planetary vision cross-breeding throughout different design disciplines. In this context, revisiting the term ‘ecological’, rather than ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’, is of essence and may potentially contribute to a reassessment of contemporary debates. It may be in this epistemological fusion that we can ask more of architecture. Stay tuned. 1 Notes 1. The famed earthrise series was taken by Apollo 10 in 1969, but the first view of the earth from the moon came from the Orbiter spacecraft in August 1966. See Denis Cosgrove, ‘Contested Global Visions: One World, Whole Earth, and the Apollo Space Photographs’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 84, February, 1994, pp 270–94. See also Stewart Brand, ‘The Earth from Space’, Rolling Stone Magazine, 15 May 2003, p 124, and Neil Maher, ‘Shooting the Moon’, Environmental History 9, July 2004, pp 526–31. 2. See the advertisement for the Progressive Architecture issue in October 1971, where the earth is portrayed wounded and covered with a bandage; the image is accompanied by the title ‘Needed – life support systems for a dying planet’. See also the cover of Newsweek magazine on 6 January 1970 featuring the earth as a ‘ravaged environment’; the back cover of the last

supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog in 1972, featuring a disembowelled earth, and the advertisements for a counterculture in Progressive Architecture, July 1970, visualising a skewed planet that ‘is coming down’. 3. Donna J Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, Routledge (New York), 1991, p 149. 4. Introductory statement to the issue by Colin Moorcraft. See 1, Vol XLII, July 1972. The same statement was the opening paragraph of the brochure of the RIBA’s conference that year, the theme of which was ‘Designing for Survival: Architects and the Environmental Crisis’. Moorcraft’s feature article for the issue appeared on pp 414–45. 5. The ‘environmental bubble’ appeared in Reyner Banham’s article ‘A Home is not a House’ illustrated by François Dallegret. The article was first published in Art in America in 1965. See Reyner Banham (Illustrations by François Dallegret), ‘A Home is not a House’, Art in America, Vol 53, April 1965, pp 70–9. The same article was republished by Clip-Kit in a reduced version and finally by 1 in the January issue of 1969, pp 45–9. The editors of 1 wrote in an introductory note to Banham’s article: ‘Although this article was published in Art in America and subsequently in a reduced version in Clip-Kit, its central theme has not yet penetrated the thought processes of architects either in England or the rest of the world. We are therefore, with kind permission, republishing it; convinced that it will stir the theorists of architecture.’ See 1, Vol 39, No 1, January 1969, p 45. 6. Etymologically the word ‘ecology’ roots from the Greek words ‘oikos’, meaning home, and the word ‘logia’, meaning reasoning, the study of something, or the branch of knowledge of a discipline. 7. See Ray C Smith, Supermannerism: New Attitudes in Post-Modern Architecture, Dutton (New York), 1977.

Text © 2010 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 14-15 © Lydia Kallipoliti; p 17(t) © Courtesy of John Wiley & Sons Ltd; p 17(b) © Courtesy of Penton Media; pp 18(t), 19 © Nathan Petty and Sheena Garcia; p 18(b) © Graham Caine; pp 20-1 © Alexandros Tsamis and Lydia Kallipoliti; p 22(tl) © Indie architecture/Paul Andersen; p 22(b) © Marianthi Liapi; p 23 © Hayley Eber/EFTH

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04

The Soft Cosmos of AD’s Cosmorama; Architectural Design magazine (AD), Profile No.208 (2010)


Lydia Kallipoliti

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Jane Fonda posing in a fur-lined spaceship in Robert Vadim’s film Barbarella (1968).

B Between 1968 and 1973, the innovative ‘‘Cosmorama’ section of 2 played an influential rrole in promoting alternative technologies and ecological experiments. Here, guesta editor Lydia Kallipoliti provides her own ‘soft e cosmos’: a genealogy of ecological material c experimentation and thinking in the 1960s e and 1970s, which puts particular stress on the a biological, elastic, moulded and pneumatic. b

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below: Cover of the ‘Soft Technology’ issue of Co-Evolution Quarterly edited by Stewart Brand and Jay Baldwin (1978).

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opposite: A page from the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1 in September 1973 featuring Charles Harker’s Tao Design Group in Austin, Texas. The Tao Earth House is described by the group as a soft habitation and was moulded into shape while the materials were still hardening.


1978: Stewart Brand, the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, publishes, along with Jay Baldwin, an issue of Co-Evolution Quarterly entitled ‘Soft-Tech’. In using the term ‘soft’, Brand was influenced by Amory Lovin’s landmark book Soft Energy Paths1 in 1977. Brand and Baldwin spent considerable time devising the new title as an all-inclusive umbrella for ecological values in design, an umbrella that not only speaks of the mechanical performance of systems, but also of an alternative soft perception of materiality and the design process. The issue includes Brand’s friends and collaborators who he retroactively coins as ‘soft-technologists’; this includes the experimental work of American drop-out communities such as Steve Baer and the Pacific High School, as well as the work of the New Alchemy Institute and Day Charoudi’s Suntek, with research on regenerative, autonomous systems and new material systems. Cloud gels, heat mirrors and thermocretes, in general materials that go through phase changes, are now called ‘soft’ because they physically change states in response to varying environmental conditions. Brand and Baldwin’s elastic definition of ecology not only incorporates a visual language that has already been at play since the 1960s, but also clearly integrates biological substance and evolutionary material systems in the design of buildings. In the ‘SoftTech’ issue, materials are growing organisms and the practice of designing is understood as the engineering of molecular substance, as in designing a living responsive tissue. On the back cover, Brand identifies ‘soft’ as signifying something that is alive, resilient, adaptive, maybe even lovable: responsive, pliable, mellow, flexible, yielding, sensitive, relaxed and giving.2 1971: Charles Harker, founder of the Tao Design Group in Austin, Texas, juxtaposes Le Corbusier’s ‘machine for living’ of the early 20th century with a new concept for habitation that he calls the ‘soft machine’. The Tao Design Group, an experimental group of architects, sculptors and artists associated

envision an environmentally friendly, soft future. The term ‘soft’ is therefore used both literally, through the use of plastic materials, and conceptually, projecting an elastic understanding of tectonic conventions. 1968: Reyner Banham publishes an article in the British magazine New Society entitled ‘The Triumph of Software’.6 In the article he compares the architectural environments of two movies, both released that year: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is described as ‘hardware’ – a rigid assemblage of parts, switches, knobs and gadgetry – and Robert Vadim’s Barbarella, which is described as ‘software’ – an ambience of curved, pliable, continuous, breathing and adaptable surfaces. For Banham, Barbarella’s fur-lined spaceship speaks of a new era where brittle hardware is beaten by pliable software. He mentions:

with the University of Texas at Austin, explore the application of new plastic materials in architecture and publish their moulded shelters as environmental paradigms for a ‘soft future’ in 13 and Domebook 2.4 As Harker suggests: We are in the midst of a sociopsychological, cybernetic, mass-media and space age revolution. The architect must respond to these influences and needs and must discover the path to a ‘soft machine’. We should create a softer, more fluid and exciting physical environment.5 In his manifesto, Harker outlines an alternative definition of form as the articulation of a set of interacting forces and of matter as patterns of energy that come to be solidified in time. He speaks of matter that can be remodelled in numerous ways morphogenetically rather than morphologically. For the Tao Design Group, it is key to dispose firm tectonic divisions, like structure, envelope and roof, in order to

Of all the materials friendly to man it is the friendliest, because it is kissing cousin to our own surface and grows in some of our friendliest places. But it also has, in the most objective and quantifiable terms, physical properties that would make it worth inventing it if it did not exist: flexible, shock absorbing, heat insulating, acoustically absorbent and selectively responsive to reflecting light.7 At the time, the terms ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ did not yet exist in the Oxford English Dictionary, but were directly borrowed from systems analysis, cybernetics and computer jargon. Banham used the two juxtaposing terms to review the history of building technology in his seminal book The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment8 in 1969, where he identified hardware as the collection of apparatuses that a building necessitates in order to sustain a primed environment, and software as the numeric outflows of the machinery – for instance, the degrees of temperature within a given space. What is significant to observe 37


‘Soft’ helps revive a better language, since all other terms are purely administrative and emphasize the quantitative, logistical and managerial aspects of technological accomplishments, rather than ‘versatility, mastery, imagination, competence, ingenuity, artistry and know-how’.

in his revised version of the terminology is Banham’s undisclosed alliance with software and the identification of software materials as environmentally responsive and responsible. According to Banham, materials like fur and moss can be artificially grown; that is, numerically controlled and designed as molecular substance according to changing environmental parameters. 1960: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York organises the ‘Visionary Architecture’ exhibition. In the exhibition statement, the curator of the show, Arthur Drexler, writes that the buildings included are a collection of unbuilt projects, either because they were technically unfeasible at the time they were designed, or because society could find neither the justification nor the money for their construction. Among Frederic Kiesler, Buckminster Fuller, Paolo Soleri, Kiyonori Kikutake and many others, William Katavolos presents his project Chemical Architecture which was later canonised as the ‘Organics Manifesto’ in Ulrich Conrad’s collection of 20th-century modern manifestos. Katavolos envisions the design of cities through the microscopic manipulation of materials and imagines a city that would grow softly, rather than be designed as an end product. His manifesto identifies the soft, biological, chemical potential of design as a democratic and sustainable outlet to deterministic design. He writes: A new architecture is possible through the matrix of chemistry. Man must stop making and manipulating, and instead allow architecture to happen … Accordingly, it will be possible to take minute quantities of powder and make them expand into predetermined shapes, such as spheres, tubes and toruses. Visualize the new city grow moulded on the sea, of great circles of oil substances producing patterns in which plastics pour to form a network 38

of strips and discs that expand into toruses and spheres, and further perforate for many purposes.9 In these four different episodes, we see the term ‘soft’ migrating from a discussion on the biotechnic nature of materials, to cybernetic jargon and conversations on computer software, to the emergence of an anti-machinist paradigm and finally to the understanding of soft technologies as the only viable alternative for sustainable practices. A discussion on terminology can prove intricate; however, ‘soft’ was a term consistently used by cyberneticians and ecologists, merging ecologically based technologies and living materials with systems thinking and an open-ended, evolutionary process of design. As Brand wrote: ‘Soft’ helps revive a better language, since all other terms are purely administrative and emphasize the quantitative, logistical and managerial aspects of technological accomplishments, rather than ‘versatility, mastery, imagination, competence, ingenuity, artistry and know-how’.10 The thread of the term ‘soft’ can also be reviewed in light of what Reyner Banham identified as a gradual repudiation of deterministic thinking in design. Banham’s article ‘A Clip-On Architecture’ in 196511 evaluated the notion of ‘unpredictability’ as imminent in the British tradition of architectural underground currents in the mid-1960s. However, prior to his espousing of Barbarella’s software materials – fur, moss and other soft surfaces – his analysis of indeterminacy was founded on an adjunctive and linear logic, based on Gerhard Kallman’s interpretation of endlessness as the combinatorial multiplicity of units.12 Contrary to a combinatorial logic of standardised units, the term ‘soft’ puts forward the variability, growth and evolutionary change of the prime

unit itself. In the four episodes described earlier, the term ‘soft’ implies a physical transformative process, derivative from the nature of chemical interactions. If we categorise these two distinct tactics to generate indeterminacy – hard versus soft – we identify two fundamentally different principles: the term ‘hard’ denotes an additive logic of juxtapositions and superimpositions, while ‘soft’ denotes a procedural, evolving logic of transfusion. Both are used here as analytical tools for the examination of experimental ecological material experiments in the 1960s and 1970s. Movements such as ‘adhocism’, ‘opportunism’, ‘garbage architecture’ and ‘anti-industrialisation’ are directly associated with hard material techniques, while structures referred to as ‘organic’, ‘soft’, ‘pneumatics’, ‘sculpting’ or ‘spraying’ are associated with soft material techniques. The examination of these experimental genealogies may enlighten current perceptions of sustainable design practices by depicting a shift, already at play from the 1960s, from object to method: from objects like photovoltaic cells, solar panels, recycling devices and so on, to method, a process-based understanding of materials and recirculation of world resources. Cosmorama’s Material Experiments and the Reinvention of Cataloguing (1965–74) By the late 1960s, the role of 1 was formative to the rise of a radical ecological awareness. In a very short time it turned from illustrating polished buildings as end products to publishing tentative habitation experiments and processes with a proactive stance that sought to redefine the household, on a small scale, and the earth at large as its synecdoche. 1 functioned as a platform for an experimental environmental mindset for underground, vanguard architects and groups, and situated itself directly opposite to standard mainstream practices. As Banham pointedly stated, student activists would piously declaim: ‘At least the pigs can’t stop you reading 1 at home’.13


below: Timeline of 1’s editorial board from 1945 to 1979. The timeline features Monica Pidgeon, 1’s lifetime editor from 1945 to 1975, and her overlap with significant technical editors including Theo Crosby, Kenneth Frampton, Robin Middleton and Peter Murray. Pidgeon left 1 in 1975, leaving Martin Spring and Haig Beck on the editorial board. Timeline designed by Lydia Kallipoliti.

bottom: At the time of the radical renovation of ‘Cosmorama’ (1965–73), other peripheral sections were introduced in 1, adopting the same cataloguing style, its visually compelling features and cross-disciplinary outlook. Specifically, ‘Sector’ was introduced in 1970 by Roy Landau to cover articles on cybernetics. ‘Recycling’, devoted to ecological issues, was added in 1971 and organised by Colin Moorcraft. These sections, which would normally be valued as marginal, became crucial to the operation of the magazine, which gradually gained strength from its periphery. In 1’s September issue of 1971, the main contents were almost equalled in size by the peripheral sections, directly reflecting the editorial significance of ‘Cosmorama’. Timeline designed by Lydia Kallipoliti.

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Arguably, 1’s swift transition was due largely to the operation of its growing innovative section, ‘Cosmorama’, introduced in 1965 to replace its previous preliminary section, ‘World News’. Orchestrated by technical editor Robin Middleton, the original substitution was not intended as a change of content; however, retitling forecast a tactical relocation – from an international publishing division that featured cathedrals and airport extensions as grand displays of civic achievement to a cosmorama, a peepshow of the world or, in other words, a series of selective perspectives that reconstructed the globe out of little pieces. ‘Cosmorama’ was in effect a copying device; its pages were modelled by selecting, copying and pasting together excerpts from other magazines. Thus, in 1969, when Peter Murray joined 1 as art editor, he saw in ‘Cosmorama’ the same type of polemical ‘clip-on’ tactics he had previously deployed in Clip Kit, his own student journal at the Architectural Association. Murray and Middleton, both creditworthy of ‘Cosmorama’, saved all their energy for it, picking up any sort of information on new lifestyles that they could find in the press. As Middleton attests: Cosmorama was the reason people were buying and reading the magazine. It was the main part of 1. Nobody was interested in pictures of new buildings. It is Cosmorama that kept the magazine going.’14 Murray also injected into ‘Cosmorama’ a further sensibility in materials that were not in use by the building industry. He firmly believed that architecture had much to learn from the technologies of other industries and, as a result, production processes involved in the making of cars, ships, spaceships, ventilation ducts, spacesuits and other types of ‘vessels’ appeared recurrently in the section’s pages. A series of proposals – ‘Snow Moulding’,15 ‘Soft Future’,16 ‘Vacuumatics’,17 ‘Foam House’,18 ‘Giant Flexible Tubes’,19 ‘Parachute House’,20 40

and so on — exemplified a novel material genealogy that became an underlying theme in ‘Cosmorama’. Such materials resisted standardisation or cataloguing; they avoided the framework of repeatable pieces of knowledge that could be selected and applied indifferently within a variety of predetermined building parts and conditions. Rather than absolute objects, as indexed in a catalogue, they were the offsprings of a local inventory, an inventory by which the material selection and the technique of its deployment fused semantically to produce the effect of unique and variable solutions. We may call such experiments ‘soft’, where the term does not exclusively refer to peculiar materials outside of the building industry. Rather, it is the inseparable merging of a material, such as snow, and its particular tactic of deployment, such as moulding, that positions it within an alternative lineage of building processes. For soft material experiments, moulding in many ways signalled an open construction process, one that allowed the shelter under formation to be affected by environmental parameters such as local winds, temperatures and other meteorological phenomena. For example, in the case of the Parachute House, air acted as an invisible mould onto which a polymer would set; the parachute took its shape under air pressure.21 In this sense, a more expanded definition of moulding was suggested, one in which the ‘mould’ would become an accumulator of physiological contingencies, like environmental elements, that played an active role in the construction process. This simple fact implied a new course of thinking, with moulding methods setting up a speedy and almost automatic mode of spatial production that could provide shelter in seconds. Therefore, parallel to participating in vanguard agendas of the time – that is, embodying chance by such procedures as dropping or dripping a shelter onto a site22 – the instantaneous production of habitats responded to real-world problems very much in line with the social imperatives of the housing crisis.

‘Cosmorama’ presented ideas for automatic construction as responses to the distressed state of affairs of housing and urbanisation in the UK, a collective social concern at the time. In the 1960s there was a common consensus among both avant-gardists and their conservative opponents that every individual be entitled to an equal right to housing.23 As the state and the planners proved lethargic in their responses, new hopes were raised through a bottom-up approach to materials and newly acquired technical skills in building science. Technology and science were put into effect as reflex mechanisms by which to address these problems, since the practice of urbanism seemed no longer to offer any alternative route out of the housing crisis beyond the practice of abstract formal arrangements. Essentially, these methods suggested an alternative model for urbanism that ‘presupposed a new form of description that could no longer be satisfied with formal explanations, but had to integrate the parameters of an environment that is constantly changing’.24 Although the improvisatory techniques of ‘materials off the catalogue’ only provided rudimentary shelters, they suggested a new method of approach, in contrast to prior geometric configurations, allowing for the integration of constantly changing environmental parameters within the design and construction process. This germinal connection between the macro-urban scale and the micro-material scale was fully registered in the pages of ‘Cosmorama’. In effect, what was gradually left out of the equation was ‘building’. Middleton confessed that this was an intentional oversight: ‘We did not like architecture,’ he said. The interdisciplinary outlook of ‘Cosmorama’ was the main part of the magazine.25 Peter Cook also recalled how, at the end of the 1960s, ‘it was fashionable to introduce a project as “anti-building”, or a conglomeration of environmental elements’.26 Sculpting chicken wire in order to spray it with foam, using biodegradable moulds that would disappear in the hardening process of the moulded substance, inserting beads


opposite: Creative documentation of Rudolph Doernach’s Provolution project redesigned by Saeed Arida and Lydia Kallipoliti. The animation by Saeed Arida can be viewed at http://www.ecoredux. com/video_provolution.html.

below: Timeline of ecological material experiments published in 1’s ‘Cosmorama’ between 1965 and 1974. The timeline positions each experiment in relation to time and material technique, ranging from ‘soft’ techniques to ‘hard’ techniques. Timeline designed by Lydia Kallipoliti.

bottom: In his Provolution project (published in 1’s ‘Cosmorama’ in February 1966), the German architect Rudolph Doernach proposed a biological underwater utopia that would grow and degrade in response to social demands. Doernach envisioned a series of soft membranes that would be inhabited in time by microzoa and sea life, eventually providing a hard shell that could be inhabited as a future island.

into pneumatic envelopes to act collectively as a mould once the air was evacuated, manipulating a material’s solidification process; these are just a few of the many examples that marked a new set of physical techniques that were receiving increasing attention in 1. Although stemming from scientific principles and discoveries, however, these techniques could only be judged as rudimentarily scientific. Using the domain of science as a background, they creatively deployed scientific discoveries to serve the most brilliantly absurd schemes, such as providing food and shelter to homeless people (a laudable purpose) by means of a parachute that falls from the sky and solidifies with the help of proper chemical catalysts as it reaches the ground.27 As humorous as this may sound, for the day it was serious play. Materials ceased to be singularly self-defined according to their embedded physical or mechanical attributes; instead, they were considered in effective relation to the phases they would undergo. In other words, the processes and intermediate states of conversion that were necessitated for the production of a material in its final ‘catalogued’ form were extracted and manipulated creatively. In this sense, time, as a fourth dimension, became integral to materiality through the dynamic use of the successive stages of formation. Going back in time, the effective linkage between materials and their potential for formation over time could be described as subversive to previous traditions, vivid in the heroic times of early 20th-century design practices. The seedbed of the Bauhaus tradition promoted the invention of materials with diverse properties that could perform innumerable tasks provoking wonder and scientific awe. As recorded in G, the German avant-garde architecture journal issued in 1924, this aspiration was largely predicated upon a belief in pioneering scientific-chemical discoveries: ‘Our technology must and will succeed to invent a building material which can be technically produced and industrially processed which is strong, weather resistant, 41


below: Selection of 1 covers from 1965 to 1973.

opposite left: David Sellers’ sketches and photographs for his ‘snow moulding’ experiments in the early 1970s. Sellers addressed the problem of producing low-cost housing in variable forms by using an abundantly available freeform material in Vermont: snow. Sellers used snow as a mould, onto which he sprayed low-temperature foam. Thus the shelters depended on the synergistic effect of two materials, one being considered as the mould and the other as the cast. Sellers’ experiments were featured in 1’s ‘Cosmorama’ in December 1973.

opposite right: In the Vacuumatics project, expanded polystyrene beads are inserted in a flexible membrane. Under certain conditions of pressure and temperature, the beads expand and bond. Air is then sucked out of the membrane turning it into a rigid surface. What is important to observe in this project is the material technique: a mass of weak materials – beads – inserted in a pneumatic envelope provide a strong surface through the evacuation of air. Small prototype domes were erected at the Department of Architecture of the Queen’s University in Belfast and published in 1’s ‘Cosmorama’ in April 1971.

soundproof and thermally insulating.’28 In the immediate postwar decades, this new scientificchemical sensibility had become so well ingrained within the common psyche that it developed into a significant factor in assessing the credibility of building materials. As is evident in the advertisements of the Architect’s Standard Catalogues (the company which owned 1), from 1950 to 1952, the guaranteed credibility of a product was paired in one way or another with the image of the laboratory and the labelling of a product as ‘chemical’. Throughout the following decade, the chemical awareness was sustained, but found itself increasingly involved with a secondary discourse evolving out of its roots: animated matter as a tool for social reform. ‘Cosmorama’s soft material experiments attested to an obsessive search for a spiritual extension of matter, with the conviction that materials were haunted by a microscopic agency beyond their physical limitations. In the delirious plastic visions of HausRucker-Co in Vienna, Rudolph Doernach in Germany, the Styrocube group (Hubner Beicher, Breitenbucher and Schneider)29 and others, the organic nature of material decomposition methodologies and other atomic substance transmutations aspired to counter social evolutions and dreamy desires. Introducing architecture as the feedback of an interdisciplinary micro–macro game, Doernach asked: ‘How can one grow fur for society? How can one grow a biocity?’30 In his Biotecture project, he proposed a biological underwater utopia that would grow and degrade in response to social demands. As he stated: ‘Contractible and reusable organic matter becomes the universal building material, invented and programmed by the environmental scientist, the comprehensive architect.’31 Doernach also paired his design ideas with equality diagrams on ‘socio-physical relativity’, characteristic of the chemical project’s involvement in socially driven causes and individual desires. 42


Overall, we witness in ‘Cosmorama’ the vision of a new architecture possible through the matrix of chemistry and a desire to enhance matter with superior properties, such that it could dynamically transform to solve urban problems. Put differently, the scientificchemical discourse was gradually paralleled by a spiritual-alchemic one. Soft Praxis We may now consider that ecology is a gallant religious and political position accepted by all political parties. But in reality what is it about? Is it about the LEED programme that certifies certain materials for building construction as ecological and others as harmful? The soft material genealogy of the 1960s and 1970s illustrates that besides an ethical choice to select certain design and materials, ecological design is about systems thinking, methodologies and cycles of production. In comparing the impromptu character of material experimentation in the 1960s to current sustainable practices, Peter Cook pointedly mentioned that: ‘The sniff of the sniff happens before the articulation of the sniff. After the resolution point, the really interesting conversation has stopped.’32 The role of 1’s ‘Cosmorama’ – as well as the role of other of the journal’s peripheral sections such as ‘Sector’ and ‘Recycling’ – was decisive in the rise of an experimental ecological discourse that channelled new perspectives to materials and construction processes. Conjured through the prism of underground publication strategies, ‘Cosmorama’ put forward a model of ‘direct action’, stimulating major design debates, the echoes of which are still vibrant in contemporary practice. Soft material experiments positioned the experimental mindset of the chemical laboratory at the forefront of design debates, critically undermining the imperial significance of formalism and authorship as the distillers of value in architectural design. Above all,

the emerging framework of thinking that favoured procedural design experiments motivated a faith that micro-material experiments would summon macro-global change. As an effect of this discourse, alternate means of production were recovered, disengaging design from the conventions and limitations of drawings that for the most part governed design practice throughout the century. Latent in the punctuated lineage of this experimental trajectory is the disciplinary necessity for ongoing, unceasing production – a production so brutally engaging that it might devour the heroic architect and remind the discipline of the fragility of conceptual rigour before one indulges in action. 1 Notes 1. Amory B Lovins, Soft Energy Paths: Toward a Durable Peace, Ballinger Publishing Co (Cambridge, MA), 1977. 2. Jay Baldwin and Stewart Brand (eds), Soft-Tech: A Co-Evolution Book, Waller Press (San Francisco, CA), 1978. 3. ‘Soft Future’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 43, October 1973, p 617. 4. Lloyd Kahn (ed), Domebook 2, Shelter Publications (Bolinas, CA), 1971. 5. Charles Harker, ‘Supramorphics, 2006’; see http:// web.mac.com/charker/TAO_Design_Group/. 6. Reyner Banham, ‘The Triumph of Software’, New Society, 31 October 1968, pp 629–30. 7. Ibid, p 629. 8. Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the WellTempered Environment, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1969. 9. William Katavolos, ‘Organics’ [1960], in Ulrich Conrads (ed), Programs and Manifestoes on the 20th Century Architecture, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1970, p 163. 10. Stewart Brand, ‘Introduction’, in Jay Baldwin and Stewart Brand, op cit, p 5. 11. Reyner Banham, ‘A Clip-On Architecture’, 1, Vol 35, November 1965, p 534. 12. See Gerhard Kallman, ‘Man Made America’, Architectural Review, December 1950. 13. Banham’s statement was published as an advertisement for 1. See 1, Vol 40, September 1970. 14. Robin Middleton, interviewed by Lydia Kallipoliti in New York on 6 August 2007. 15. David Sellers, ‘Snow Moulding’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 43, December 1973, p 751. 16. Charles Harker, ‘Soft Future’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 43, October 1973, p 617. 17. ‘Vacuumatics’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 41, April 1971, p 198.

18. ‘Foam House’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 40, November 1970, p 545. 19. ‘Giant Flexible Tubes’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 43, March 1972, p 135. 20. ‘Parachute House’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 43, January 1972, p 15. 21. Ibid, p 15. 22. Although the term ‘dripping’ is for the most part drawn together with the work of Jackson Pollock and artistic practices of a similar nature in the early 1950s, the term ‘dropping’ is related to an architectural paradigm launched by Drop City in 1965. Drop City was the first rural commune in America built entirely by geodesic dome frames, clad out of assorted found components or, in other words, garbage. For its founders, dropping had a double significance. The first meaning is literal, referring to the droppers’ sociopolitical discontent that urged them to abandon the cities and ‘drop out’. The second meaning, though, is spatial: something or someone being dropped from above, like a drip, a driblet or a splotch. The droppers envisioned their relocation in desert lands as a ‘drop’ from the sky that lands and creates a thinskinned membrane, an inhabitable environment that does nothing to disturb the ground and the milieu on which it was positioned. 23. Dennis Crompton (Archigram) in discussion with Beatriz Colomina and architecture PhD students at Princeton University, New Jersey, 10 November 2006. 24. Frederic Migayrou, ‘Extensions of the Oikos’, in Marie-Ange Brayer and Beatrice Simonot (eds), Archilab’s Earth Buildings: Radical Experiments in Earth Architecture, Thames & Hudson (London), 2003, p 20. 25. Robin Middleton interviewed by Lydia Kallipoliti in New York on 6 August 2007. 26. Peter Cook, ‘The Electric Decade: An Atmosphere at the AA School 1963–73’, in James Gowan (ed), A Continuing Experiment: Learning and Teaching at the Architectural Association, Architectural Press (London), 1975, p 142. 27. ‘Parachute House’, op cit, p 15. 28. G, No 3, Berlin, 1924. 29. ‘Plastic Houses’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 41, November 1971, p 662. 30. Rudolph Doernach, ‘Provolution’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 39, April 1969, p 182. 31. Rudolph Doernach, ‘Biotecture’, in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of 1, Vol 36, February 1966, pp 4–5. 32. Peter Cook (Archigram) in discussion with Beatriz Colomina and architecture PhD students at Princeton University, 16 November 2004. Text © 2010 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: p 34 © Pierluigi Praturion/Rex Features; pp 37, 41(b), 42-3 © Courtesy of John Wiley & Sons Ltd; pp 39, 41(t) © Lydia Kallipoliti; p 40 © Lydia Kallipoliti and Saeed Arida

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DROSS City Architectural Design magazine (AD), Profile No.208 (2010)


Lydia Kallipoliti

DROSS CITY Dross or techno-junk is threatening to take over and consume our cities, as exemplified by the Chinese city of Giuyu, a renowned recipient of electronic and toxic waste. Rather than reject dross as an unwanted and unsightly by-product of urban life, Lydia Kallipoliti invokes a change in approach that calls for the need to engage with techo-excrements, endorsing Slavoj Žižek’s appeal for ‘more artificiality and less nature’.

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Pixar’s animated cosmic science-fiction comedy WALL·E (2008).

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Matrix of selected obsolete objects, spaces and building parts (left) and of by-products generated through the use of the obsolete items as ‘mould’ (right). The matrix plays the role of a generating device for new material, new images and new concepts. Each obsolete object delivers a series of by-products that can be used in new assemblages.

The purposse of analysin ng the pro operrtiess of enea ath the e wo onder of dross substtance lies be phic materialls. Drosss is a prod ductt, orr metamorp ed a by-prod duct, off soc cial rea alityy. Itss better state bstance e are analyyse ed here e to o properties as sub um forr the e co omp preh hen nsion n serve as a mediu al phen nome enon n of inc cid denta ally of a cultura er that is au utom mattica ally displaced matte nglesss and se erve es no rendered meanin ever. purpose whatsoe

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The word ‘dross’ refers to matter that is foreign, worn out and impure; it is a phantom material condition that is unnoticeable to such an extent that it almost does not exist in our perception. Dross is worthless; it is an incidental, displaced material, and a side-effect of chemical reactions that serves no purpose. Nevertheless, when it appears, a necessity is created for its removal. In time and through the use and misuse of language, the word has signified waste, impurity or any incongruous accumulation of disparate elements, pieces and material fragments. However, the etymological origin of the word refers to a residual substance that emerges in transitional material stages, such as the process of melting a metal or the sedimentation of a liquid. Dross therefore signifies more than an entropic landscape; it depicts material derailment and the production of displaced matter. Dross reminds us that pure operations of making belong to the sphere of impossibility. The purpose of analysing the properties of dross substance lies beneath the wonder of metamorphic materials. Dross is a product, or better stated a by-product, of social reality. Its properties as substance are analysed here to serve as a medium for the comprehension of a cultural phenomenon of incidentally displaced matter that is automatically rendered meaningless and serves no purpose whatsoever. The cultural fabric for this condition revolves around the material ramifications of unprecedented technological evolutions in communications that have irreversibly shifted our production and consumption modes during the past two decades. The technological evolutions in computer software and hardware that have been producing novel tools have in parallel been producing immense quantities of ‘techno-junk’, tons of purposeless and indestructible matter that is almost impossible to dispose of. In the past decade, concerns related to waste streams have shifted in their orientation. Waste is no longer an issue that relates solely to quantity. It now also relates to the intricacy of the waste matter and its material composition. With the advent of highly advanced manufacturing methods and processes, many products that reach the end of their useful lives quickly and unexpectedly are highly complex in

form and material composition, containing high amounts of embodied energy. Electronic waste, known as ‘e-waste’, is the largest growing industry of waste on a global scale. Alongside the numbers, a personal computer contains over a thousand different substances, many of which are toxic, and creates serious pollution upon disposal. Its subsequent recycling becomes an excruciating and elusive task that requires numerous preparatory stages of shredding and segregating into constituent components and materials; this new type of intensive manual labour is reportedly exported to Asia and to prisons.1 Considering the sociopolitical conditions directly linked to this rising material reality, there seems to be a necessity to use defunct circuit boards as larger ready-made complexes or as components embedded in other materials for entirely new uses. Such a practice could be supported through the production of materials by recombinant methods and assemblies: materials within materials.2 Spanning scales from that of obsolete objects to that of obsolete buildings and cities, a mundane reality of big defunct objects – displaced building parts – is overwhelming the contemporary city. Techno-junk is an emerging city-born condition; defunct oil tanks, air-conditioning tubes, advertising billboards, containers and other apparatuses articulate a new urban language that violates the building envelope or attaches itself to it as an outgrowth. If one identifies in the city fabric a stratum of buildings that can be easily mapped due to their longevity, equivalently one could identify a stratum of mechanical appendages that cannot easily be mapped due to their ephemerality. The significantly different lifetime of the two strata is the cause for an erosion of the outer building shell that cannot adapt to the change taking place in or around it. The unmappable urban condition of this floating matter in the city is yet to be explored by contemporary architecture. The necessity of such a discourse is not only driven by the formulation of an ecological awareness, but also by the need to manipulate this kind of raw material and engage with ‘technoexcrements’ as an emerging city-born condition, derivative of the urban system’s internal erosion.

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Dross City is a phanto om city, one that we cann not see e. It grow ws ou ut of the metrropo olis an nd nor do we wissh to see condaryy invisible e layyer en nme eshed d in the exists as a sec awls on urban fabric. It is an unintentiionall city thatt spra nd surrou unding deve elopiing capittals and iss the cheap lan m massses off obssolette ma aterials. informally buillt up from

Islands and Mountains of Indestructible Waste: Four Snapshots Between Reality and Fiction 2004: Best Buy is one of the leading retailers for consumer electronics in the United States and Canada. In 2004, the main advertisement for the company featured a woman blissfully surfing across mountains of electronics, including piles of cameras, computers, TVs and other equipment.

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2009: In January, Time magazine (a partner of CNN) published an article on the Chinese city of Guiyu – the ‘electronic waste village’. Guiyu is a renowned recipient of electronic and toxic waste exported to Asia by Western metropolises, mostly from the US. The city is surrounded by informal mountains of electronic waste. China is not alone in facing this serious challenge; cities in India, Brazil, Mexico and other countries are on the way to being enveloped by similar ‘para-cities’ of toxic garbage.

2010: The Engineers without Borders at the University of Minnesota examine the possibilities of melting piles of plastic waste and remoulding it into new products with the use of solar cookers. Their ‘plastic soup’ research applies not only to the enormous, mainly plastic garbage island (the Great Pacific Patch)3 that recently formed, naturally, in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, but also to devastated areas like Haiti in regions covered entirely by plastic waste.

In the not-so distant future: In the 2008 Pixar animated movie WALL·E, a low-tech robot is burdened with the responsibility to clean up the planet that in the near future is entirely covered in waste. The lonely emotional robot, then surrounded by silence and piles of obsolete inorganic materials, gazes upon the stars at the top of the waste mountain and wishes for some form of life to surface from the heap.


opposite left: Informal mountains of electronic waste in Guiyu, China, known as the ‘electronic waste village’.

opposite right: Underwater photograph of the Great Pacific Patch, taken from the Gyre Research Voyages of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, California. This island of mainly plastic marine debris is a recent, natural formation in the northeastern Pacific Ocean which is estimated to be the size of the state of Texas.

Dross City is a phantom city, one that we cannot see nor do we wish to see. It grows out of the metropolis and exists as a secondary invisible layer enmeshed in the urban fabric. It is an unintentional city that sprawls on the cheap land surrounding developing capitals and is informally built up from masses of obsolete materials. However, Dross City is not fiction. It is the by-product of a city that grows without control and beyond our sight. It encroaches through the urban fabric to the blank lands surrounding cities; it invades the water and even the air we breathe. In the four episodes outlined in the timeline, we see the same blue pile of nondisposable waste migrating from an advertising strategy for the consumer market to a problematic social reality in developing countries and

below: Matrices of actual obsolete objects with their generated by-products – new artificial objects formed by using an obsolete component as a reproductive interface where new materials can be cast. By-product components retain partially the characteristics of the original object but still have different properties, thus creating assembly lines of materials with new local behaviours and properties.

our polluted oceans, and finally to the not-so-distant fantasy of a planet uninhabited by life and smothered with inorganic obsolete matter. The problem with the current discourse on ecology and sustainable design is the underlying regressive disposition to ‘return to nature’. The ethical imperative that the environment is severely damaged and needs to be salvaged has provided a unifying political platform that presents nature as a new form of religion. However, if we think twice, nature is a series of unimaginable catastrophes, as the celebrated Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues. According to Žižek, to begin dealing with the immense reality of obsolete matter that is calculated to conceal our world, we need more artificiality and less nature.4

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below: ‘Pocket wall’ made of obsolete circuit boards and elastomer circuit-board by-products: a double layer of flexible and rigid components that deform according to diversified local material properties of the new skin.

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Lydia Kallipoliti, Mesophase drawing series, 2004 bottom: Obsolete components made of thermoplastic polymers reach a mesophase in which they are neither liquids nor solids, when heat is applied to them. The Mesophase drawing series refers to a condition of material indeterminacy, where material is malleable and deformed slightly from its original status, while retaining some of its primary characteristics. Heating is a method that directly affects the chemical composition of plastic waste and could be described as a physical analogue of currently available digital tools.


Dross Cityy mayy give e risse to a desiign post-praxxis, wh hich emerg ges ass a ugh the desire forr creative drive throu mation n of existting g infform matio on, transform d phyysica al re eso ourc cess. concepts and

What does this mean? One might rightfully ask. As citizens and creative thinkers, we need to think beyond the production of the new. Obviously, this is a complex discourse that is entangled in vast political and socio-economical complexities in postindustrial commerce. However, for any cultural revolution to occur a shift in the state of mind is necessary. Dross City may give rise to a design post-praxis, which emerges as a creative drive through the desire for transformation of existing information, concepts and physical resources. A post-praxis resists utopia by acknowledging that meaning is not singularly implanted in the physicality of objects nor the intangible rigour of singular concepts. If we assume that nothing emerges ‘out of zero’, a post-praxis aims to retain and recycle the energy induced in creative systems and to exploit the accumulative effect of knowledge and materiality. As a famous cinematographic line suggests: ‘open your eyes’ to the Dross City next to you. Then ‘develop an eros with dross’, because only if you love can you care enough not to idealise the subject of your love and to see it in all its dimensions. It is then possible to transform dross into something germinal, like the plastic soup of the Engineers without Borders who provided not only a functional solution, but also created a new aesthetic and cultural dimension from a plastic mountain of trash. 1 Notes 1. According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, computer recycling is a new type of excruciating, hands-on labour that is either exported to Asia or to prison houses. See http://www.svtc.org/resource/pubs/pub_index.html. 2. Sheila Kennedy writes how secondary and tertiary methods of postindustrial production produce recombinant materials: materials within materials. For example, many sheet claddings are made of chopped up or reconstituted bits of other materials. See Sheila Kennedy and Christoph Grunenberg, KVA: Material Misuse, AA Publications (London), 2001, p 63. 3. The size of the Great Pacific Patch island of plastic waste is estimated to be the size of the state of Texas. 4. See Slavoj Žižek online on ‘Examined Life’ at http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=iGCfiv1xtoU. Text © 2010 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 102-3 © Buena Vista/Everettt/ Rex Features; pp 104, 107, 108 © Lydia Kallipoliti; p 106(l) © © Edward Burtynsky; p 106(r) © Courtesy of Algalita Marine Research Foundation

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>>

06

Ducks Versus Joules; Thresholds, No. 33, Issue: Formalism, MIT Press (2008)


Ducks Versus Joules: Electric Visions of Las Vegas in the Energy Crisis Lydia Kallipoliti Armed with his reputable and luscious enthusiasm for American glitz, Tom Wolfe in his 1964 essay “Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can’t Hear you! Too Noisy) Las Vegas!!!”1 cites his illuminating conversation with Major A. Riddle, the president of the Las Vegas Dunes Hotel. Riddle, in his attempt to verbalize the hype of spectacle he intended to launch in his hotel, explains heartily that all of it was possible because of “complicated machinery.” Programmable machinery would be the means of exciting all senses and eventually provoking an ecstatic experience: the hyper-spectacle. The beauty of the Dunes’ Casino de Paris is that it will be beyond art, beyond dance, beyond spectacle, even beyond the titillations of the winking crotch. The Casino de Paris will be a behemoth piece of American calculus, like Project Mercury. (Riddle): ‘This show alone will cost us two and a half million a year to operate and one and a half million to produce. The costumes alone will be fantastic. There’ll be more than five hundred costumes and-well, they’ll be fantastic.’ (Riddle continues): ‘And this machine – by the time we get through expanding the stage, this machine will cost us $250,000.’ (Wolfe): ‘Machine?’ (Riddle): ‘Yes. Sean Kenny is doing the staging. The whole set moves electronically, right in front of your eyes. He used to work with this fellow Lloyd Right.’

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(Wolfe): ‘Frank Lloyd Right?’ (Riddle): ‘Yes. Kenny did the staging for Blitz. Did you see it? Fantastic. Well, it’s all done electronically. They built this machine for us in Glasgow, Scotland, and it’s being shipped here right now. It moves all over the place and creates smoke and special effects. We’ll have everything. You can stage a bombardment with it. You’ll think the whole theater is blowing up.’ (Riddle continues): ‘You’ll have to program it. They had to use the same mechanism that’s in the Skybolt Missile to build it. It’s called a ‘Celson’ or something like that. That’s how complicated this thing is. They have to have the same thing as the Skybolt Missile.2 Riddle’s uneducated elucidations, which may now echo closer to reality, were bound to provoke astonishment if not laughter. Besides, in that day, programming a machine numerically to recreate a virtual environment was an elusive task3, rendered comprehensible solely via its wobbly connection with the operations of the space program. Still, Riddle in all his partial ignorance, managed to grasp and enunciate coherently something most scholars and vanguard architectural critics of the time neglected, that beneath the glittering city resides a phantom of colossal proportions - a network of electrical and mechanical infrastructure. The scintillating wonders of Las Vegas are thereby revealed as more than abstractly atmospheric; they are instead presented as the products of concrete calculations induced by machines programmed to


produce virtual environments that enhance and rebuild one’s perception of built space. To sustain the wonder, the city cannot be switched off; it is bound to devour and transfigure energy day and night, out in the middle of the Nevada desert.4 In agreement with Riddle, the narrator of the anecdote argues that the essence of Las Vegas’ achievement was the absolute wiring of its entire locale with electronic stimulation.5 However, such a reading of architectonic space, sharply articulated, was largely overlooked by architects, who were neither trained nor encouraged to look beyond structural readings of physical space. Conceptually, such an outlook would force a reconsideration of the discipline itself; a discipline, which remained incapable of considering numerical information - watts and joules for instance - as design components. Evaluating data was too concrete a reading of space, one that was not readily conceptualized and that would impede designers from expressing the accompanying verbal narratives that legitimize their products.

Wolfe’s literary debut, his collection of essays The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby, became one of the first works of cultural criticism to embrace, psychoanalyze and legitimize the bizarre landscapes of American pop abundance. His perverse cultural attraction to seemingly “unworthy” sites of exploration quickly infiltrated design thinking. In the reputedly crass American vernacular - fabulous hairdos, automobile parts, dazzling car paints and advertising billboards – Wolfe saw a compelling visual and formal language6 that could inform design practice. He then paired this formal perspective with an electronic one, by including signage, projections and moving images, claiming that in both billboards and buildings in Las Vegas, structure and electrical effect were inseparable; lighting and structure were combined into a singular architectural form.7 This fusion, coined “Electrographic Architecture”8 appeared in a homonymous article in Architectural Design magazine, which introduced Wolfe as an extraordinary

Fig. 1. Author’s comparative diagram between Robert Venturi & Denise Scott-Brown’s and Reyner Banham’s writings on Las Vegas.

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journalist who gave a “side-swipe to architects” with his apocalyptic architectural apparitions. Wolfe’s tripartite message to architects9 - endorse “pop” landscapes, consider electricity as a space making device and investigate urban space as an interior space of spectacles – was appropriated distinctly by two preeminent architectural theorists and thinkers, Robert Venturi with Denise Scott-Brown, and Reyner Banham. These authors wrote, researched and concurrently published articles on Las Vegas during the late 1960s and the early 1970s, always citing Wolfe as a source of inspiration. However, despite their shared passion for Wolfe and the academic proximity of their interests, they never acknowledged one another’s work. We may surmise some unavowed quarrel existed between the architects. Denise Scott-Brown’s testimony is telling: “I met Banham at the ICA in London in the mid 1950s. I could never understand this man.”10 Compounding the dispute between the two critics, we may argue that they divided Wolfe’s premise in half, each addressing a different aspect of his message: Venturi and Scott-Brown adopted “pop” forms, as typified in ducks, while Banham adopted Wolfe’s electrical vision, as expressed in joules. But to fully understand their respective positions and implications, let us first consider their work. [Fig 1] Banham’s first article on Las Vegas, “Towards a MillionVolt Light and Sound Culture,”11 was published in Architectural Review, almost a year earlier than Venturi and Scott-Brown’s inaugural publication, “A Significance for A&P Parking Lots” and their affiliated design studio at Yale University in the fall of 1968. His first encounter with Las Vegas glorified Wolfe’s discoveries and set the groundwork for the theorization of pop landscapes. It was two years later in his seminal book The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment12 that Banham elaborated his argument on Las Vegas as a prototypical found object of environmental ideas. Banham, like Venturi and Scott Brown, first defended Las Vegas on account of its villainization as a “visually polluted,” careless urban landscape. Yet for Banham, Las Vegas also represented an indispensable encyclopedic tool for the technologically uneducated architect13 who needed to expand the field of his expertise in order to comprehend and manipulate the technical innovations flooding his discipline. Banham was staunchly critical of the architect’s ceaseless desire

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to “architecturalize” the universe philosophically and endow with logos all design products.14 He was pointedly apathetic towards any structural or visual studies of the city that would ground its architectural value. Instead he passionately espoused Wolfe’s interpretation of Las Vegas as a “behemoth piece of calculus,” alluding to it as a catalyst for the advancement of the discipline itself. Accordingly, Las Vegas’ exemplary historic stature was related to neither its physical nor its visual presence, but to the annihilation of its structure in favor of what Banham named environmental power, which is the energy required – as calculated in watts and joules – to create space through sound, light, electricity and moving images. Architecture, as expressed in its conventional understanding of space, was annihilated not only because the signs and symbols of the strip were proportionally bigger in size but also because an immense amount of energy activated the strip and forced a new reading of space: space as information. The following excerpt condenses Banham’s view on the architecture of the environment: If Tom Wolfe’s comparison between Las Vegas and the palace of Versailles shocks architectural opinion, it is less because it was meant to startle, than that it would never have occurred to any architectural critic (including the present author, I must admit) that the two entities were comparable… The difference of means is this: at Versailles, the enclosure of space by massive structure is paramount, and the idiom thus created sets the cues for the manipulation of space by other means, such as planting and water; whereas at Las Vegas –the super-hotels of The Strip, the casino-belt of Freemont Street- is pure environmental power, manifested as colored light. Whether or not one agrees that the use made of that power is as symbolically apt as the use made of structure at Versailles, the fact remains that the effectiveness with which space is defined is overwhelming, the creation of virtual volumes without apparent structure is endemic, the variety and ingenuity of lighting techniques is encyclopedic.15 [Fig 2] Banham’s position dwelled on the generative potential of “calculus” rather than that of “pop,” exempting him from Kenneth Frampton’s classification of Venturi and Scott Brown as inheritors of the British picturesque tradition. In his article, “America 1960-1970. Notes on


Figure 1

Urban Images and Theory,” Frampton censured their essay “Learning from Pop,”16 where the authors suggest a far-reaching look into pop culture and its spin-off “formal vocabularies.”17 Venturi and Scott Brown claimed that their aim was far from “aestheticizing” the novel landscapes of pop profusion and closer to delving into the socio-cultural aspects underlying vernacular visual standards. Nonetheless, Frampton argued:

Fig. 2. Banham used this photograph of Las Vegas in explanation of his ideas on environmental power. In Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, p.269.

Fig. 3. Cover of Architectural Design magazine, 1973.

The recent writings of Denise Scott-Brown and Robert Venturi extend the syncretic capacity of the English picturesque tradition… Their essentially picturesque prospect of Las Vegas relates however elliptically to the English ‘townscape’ position, first initiated in the Architectural Review in the late 40s as an integral part of that post-war Anglo-Saxon concern to ‘humanize’ the modern environment. This ‘humanization’ was a popular success and by the mid-50’s Townscape had been academicized into a Sittesque ‘method’ of urban design that was commonly accepted and practiced in the States.18 Despite Denise Scott Brown’s fervent response to Frampton’s accusation,19 which pushed her socially oriented agenda to the extreme, and independent of whether one agrees entirely with Frampton, there is a certain truth to his argument. Naturally all ideas, manifestos and positions originate from somewhere; neither the propriety of Venturi and Scott-Brown’s discourse, nor the value –or its absence thereof - of their architectural approach is

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Fig. 6. Cover of the last issue of On Site magazine guest edited by James Wines. On Site, No.5/6 (New York: Site. Inc, 1974).

under question here. What remains a fact however is that their ardent desire to analyze, explore and perhaps “humanize,” as Frampton puts it, the Las Vegas landscape, is the view of an outsider, an explorer who arrives in a site anew and attempts to comprehend it by naturalizing it. At the same time that Banham was demanding Las Vegas be requisite travel for the education of the British architect,20 the Architectural Association of London collaborated in 1973 with the Southern California School of Architecture to make a pilgrimage into the “western paradise of America”21 as a massive didactic endeavor. The journal of the students’ journey exclusively filled the “Cosmorama” section of Architectural Design’s September issue, specially dedicated to the vast land of the American West entitled “AD goes West.” [Fig. 3] This was a scandalous issue that included many naked female figures, labels inscribed “No boobs? Why not get nice big ones?” cars cruising in the desert, hospital receipts for body alterations, chocolate flavored water-beds and many other incomprehensible things, culturally shocking for the European injected into LA.22 The travelers’ reactions were variable, ranging from fascination and relish-

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ment to loathing, though the vast majority of the witnesses were experiencing a compulsive need to indulge in the land’s fantasy and its cultural paraphernalia. Despite all resistances endowed in their European backgrounds, the generic propensity was to “hop on” the ersatz - along the lines of Denise Scott-Brown’s recommendation to “Hop on Pop” - like explorers tangling with the customs of their newly acquired land. In the same spirit of territorial discovery, the polemicist of imagery – British architectural critic Martin Pawley – critiqued the books Archigram and Learning from Las Vegas simultaneously, as parallel adept explorations in ‘pop-imagery’ unworthy of serious discussion. In his uproarious review, Pawley satirically labeled the book Archigram as an arousing mission that could make breasts expand miraculously, while Learning from Las Vegas was a more solemn assignment of a woman that would have to lacquer her nipples.24 He then added that both projects are “wonderful” and so the reader best flip through their pages during the Mary Tyler Moore Show for their marvel to be fully absorbed. Approximately two decades after Learning from Las Vegas its authors attempted to rearticulate their motivations in the early 1970s. In their book Architecture as Signs and Systems, Venturi and Scott-Brown claim that their agenda in 1972 was grounded on an encrypted message: the triumph of surface-pixilated iconographies over scenographic iconographies and eventually of the electronic over the iconic,25 a triumph which now clearly resonates with the pervasive usage of digital media in design. In other words, the authors retrospectively claim that Learning from Las Vegas was an anticipation of current developments and a forecast of an emerging energy landscape. Yet beyond such revisionist claims, one has to conjecture: what was the authors’ position when the world was suffering the debut of a notorious energy crisis in 1973? Learning from Las Vegas coincided with a major historic juncture that has since forced a sober interdisciplinary scrutiny for renewable energy sources. A stream of “green” preachers appeared in the design scene out of these critical circumstances seeking an ethics of design for the sake of energy conservation. Distinct from these moralists came a second stream of thinkers who wholeheartedly took on the challenge of an emerging noncorporeal spatiality defined by energy, electricity, light,


Fig. 5. Robert Venturi & Denise Scott-Brown’s “New Monumentality Manifesto.”

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Fig. 4. Robert Venturi & Denise Scott-Brown’s “illumination diagram” visualizing the way in which neon travels along the Las Vegas.

temperature and water. At the time computing was not an established currency in design, however there was a shared disposition in the art world to give expression to a space of information, a space of flows: essentially, a dematerialized space, which could be calculated through numbers, rather than represented through geometry. It is curious then how aloof Venturi and Scott-Brown remained about taking any position on energy. This aloofness is especially surprising if one considers not only the theme under discussion - Las Vegas, a super power-plant devourer in the midst of the desert - but also their temperament for engaging in discussions tightly connected to energy. Parallel to Banham’s assault upon the standards of cultural institutions and conventional disciplinary boundaries, Venturi and Scott-Brown argued for the need to expand the architectural discourse in order to comprehend the new landscape of Las Vegas. They argued that architecture, in all its structural appurtenances, did not accommodate the “anti-spatial”26 milieu of the strip and the marvel of billboards’ communicative effects. The writers also do not fail to enthusiastically acknowledge that the strip, empowered by voltage, is dependent primarily on watts.27 [Fig. 4] In addition, they provocatively support “low spaces” in their “New Monumentality manifesto”28 as dictated by air conditioning [Fig. 5]. This case is a precise example of an architecture entirely determined by energy, meaning the sustenance of a particular temperature flowing through space. The power of voltage and mechanical servicing is partially conceded, but not taken further to discover the unique potential of a landscape like Las Vegas, which after all consumes extreme amounts of energy in the middle of “nowhere-land.” Venturi and Scott Brown talk about gas stations and their decorated sheds, but not about the excessive underground oil flow; they talk about

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the communicative effects of neon signs, but not about the energy consumed to sustain their wonder. They remain figurative and iconic in their analysis, attempting to represent the city’s sparkling marvel abstractly, instead of speaking the marvel’s own language, which is watts. Overall, they do not excavate into the subterranean network of services that makes this all possible and, extending this syllogism, the spaces that occur solely defined by energy. Taking Venturi and Scott-Brown’s analysis of Las Vegas from its inception, one has to acknowledge that in 1968 when they first conducted their design studio at Yale University and published “A Significance for A&P Parking Lots” in Architectural Forum, their concerns sprang from an entirely different perspective that had to do with the visual language of an unexplored and greatly misinterpreted American urban landscape. In the years to come though, the world of artists, environmentalists and architects from around the world were rigorously attending to energy as both an expressive means and a social concern. In this manner, Las Vegas was repositioned in spite of the Venturis’ formal narration, at the forefront of an ongoing debate resulting from the notorious energy crisis of 1973. Venturi and Scott Brown’s discourse almost naturally acquired an additional provocation unrelated to ducks. Nevertheless, independent of their controversial sympathy toward ducks, the writers eloquently resisted taking any stance on energy production and consumption, as if energy did not concern architecture. Seemingly aware of the implications of the energy crisis, Denise Scott Brown declared at the preface of the book’s revised 1977 edition: “Since Learning from Las Vegas was written, the lights of Las Vegas have gone out for a spell and Americans’ confidence in the automobile and other resources has been rocked in the first of possibly many crises. High-energy expenditure and urban wastefulness are not central to our arguments for symbolic architecture and receptivity to other peoples’ values; I tried to show why in an interview in On Site on Energy.”29 Considering this mysterious explanation in On Site’s Energy issue - dedicated to the generative design potential of topics related to energy [Fig. 6] - Denise Scott Brown


claimed that energy was isolated from design concerns and if we were to assume the opposite, we would face an unreal problem with no pragmatic solutions. The periodical’s editor, Alison Sky, conducting the interview, repeatedly pressed Scott Brown to take a position on Las Vegas in relation to the existing Energy Crisis. For Sky, this meant a stance either for it - affirming the potential of an emerging information landscape - or against it – rejecting energy waste and the depletion of natural resources.30 Scott Brown’s long-winded explanations were decisive; she responded to the issue as a courageous “avant-gardist” driven to problematize the ethical commandments of technicians-environmentalists. But even beyond that, she explicitly marked boundaries on how to read Learning from Las Vegas. There is a lucid contextual breakdown of what the book concerns and what it does not concern; of what it actually redefines and what it does not; of what the architect should open up to and what he/she should not. It seems that as time went by, the authors grew anxious about the relevance of their findings in regards to current events; their response was to stress firmly the rigor of their original, formal position, rather than go along with emerging social concerns, which, paradoxically, was their initial intention. The messages conveyed were quite didactic: Message one: Do not stray from the instructions on what you should be paying attention to while reading this book; otherwise you will be missing the point. Message two: Learning from Las Vegas is not open for any kind of discussion, just a very particular duck-related one. In many ways, Learning form Las Vegas was a significant, polemic contribution for 1968, a time when diners and wedding chapels were considered “dirty” items for discussion in the realm of pedagogy. Nonetheless, the possibilities it unfolded could reach far beyond ornithological formal analyses, if only the authors would have let these other concerns accompany their decorated sheds. With the passage of time, Venturi and Scott Brown appeared astonishingly resistant to repositioning their core arguments in relation to contemporaneous developments and also bewildered by the accidental entanglement of their discourse in the widespread energy-related debates throughout the 1970s. In the end, Learning form Las Vegas was not about the expansion of architecture

itself, but about the particular topics under its scrutiny. Many years later, Denise Scott Brown, in her 1995 article “Breaking Down the Barriers Between Theory and Practice,”31 proposed that the effective fusion of theory and practice comes naturally for the architect. Yet contradicting this she simultaneously wrote: “We architects absorb scholarly information and professionalize it to suit our own context of designing and doing.”32 Perhaps one can view this statement as adequate explanation for the authors’ silence throughout the late 1970s. As long as he/she can remember that ducks and decorated sheds, despite being a worthy decoy to provoke architectural conventions, did not adequately explain the wonder of Las Vegas’ cityscape. Next to the Venturi and Scott-Brown, the contributions of Wolfe and Banham unveiled a mesh of energy-related issues, whose potential was neither taken to heart, nor exploited by architectural pedagogy. In many ways, injecting Las Vegas into architectural discourse was like opening “Pandora’s box.” Perhaps energy, as a generator of design creativity, has stayed in the box up to this day and has not been addressed as an issue inextricably linked with design, but is still seen only as a restrictive agent. Banham somehow escaped out of the box, along with the rest of the energy experimenters, who dove into a universe of calculations and programmable environments, forecasting the digital design praxis.

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Notes 1

 om Wolfe’s essay “Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can’t Hear you! Too T Noisy) Las Vegas!!!” is part of the book The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby. See Tom Wolfe, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965). The book was a collection of essays, some of which first appeared in the New York Herald Tribune’s Sunday edition in 1964. It became a bestseller and established Wolfe as a leading figure in literary experiments of non-fiction that became known as ‘New Journalism’. In parallel to the project of his book, Wolfe was working as a reporter for the New York Herald-Tribune and was, in addition, one of the two staff writers (Jimmy Breslin was the other) of New York magazine, which began as the Herald-Tribune’s Sunday supplement. Wolfe’s homonymous essay to his book first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 1964. See http://www.tomwolfe.com. 2 Wolfe, “Las Vegas (What?),” 17-18. 3 Visualization has not been established as a function that computers could perform until the late 1970s. Although the first ENIAC computers - electronic numerical integrator and computer - were constructed in the 1940s, they only involved digital electronics and programmability. Visualizing computed tasks came significantly later. In his article “Computing Without Computers”, John Frazer recalls that in 1969 “the only screen graphics display device at Cambridge University was a circular cathode ray tube where the first lines fade before the last lines were drawn.” See John Frazer, Architectural Design, Vol.75, No.2 (Marh-April.2005): 34-43. 4 I am borrowing here Wolfe’s expression. See Wolfe, “Las Vegas (What?),” 7. 5 Ibid. 6 Wolfe wrote of the signs along Route 91 in Las Vegas: “But such signs! They tower. They revolve they oscillate, they soar in shapes before which the existing vocabulary of art history is helpless.” See Wolfe, “Las Vegas (What?),” 8. 7 Tom Wolfe, “Electrographic Architecture”, Architectural Design, Vol.39 (July 1969), 380. 8 Wolfe, “Electrographic Architecture”: 379-382. 9 “Tom Wolfe”, “Cosmorama”, Architectural Design, Vol.39 (July 1969), 346. 10 Denise Scott-Brown, in discussion with Beatriz Colomina and architecture PhD students at Princeton University, February 16th 2006, Princeton, NJ. 11 Reyner Banham, “Towards a million-volt light and sound culture,” Architectural Review, Vol.141 (May 1967): 331-335. 12 Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1969). 13 Although Banham has been censored as an uncritical technophile, in the introduction of The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, he fervently attempted to distinguish from the start, his own approach from Sigfried Giedion’s in Mechanization Takes Command (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948). In contradistinction to Giedion’s apotheosis of technical innovations, Banham’s intention was to redefine and expand the discipline of architecture, rather than provide a thorough historical study in building technology. On this point, he writes: “ Awed by the immense reputation of its author, the world of architecture received Mechanization Takes Command as an authoritative and conclusive statement, not as a tentative beginning on a field of study that opened almost infinite possibilities for further research. In the ensuing twenty-odd years since its publication, it has been neither glossed, criticized, annotated, extended nor demolished. ‘Geidion’, one is told ‘hasn’t left much to be said’. This present book represents a tiny fraction of what Giedion left unsaid.” See Banham, The Architecture of the WellTempered Environment, 15. 14 Banham even brings up Paul Valery’s comparison between Eupalinos, the architect and Tridon the shipwright, in order to support his view that it

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is in the nature of architects to seek solutions that can be philosophically grounded. Citing Banham: “For a demonstration of this difference one can profitably revive Paul Valery’s contrast between Eupalinos, the architect (from his Platonic dialogue of the same name) and Tridon the shipwright. The former was preoccupied with the right method of doing the allotted tasks, and deploying the accepted method, of his calling, and seemed to find a philosophical problem in every practical decision. Tridon, on the other hand, applied every technology that came conveniently to hand, whether or not it was part of the shipbuilding tradition, and treated the sayings of philosophers as further instruction on the direct solution of practical problems.” See Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, 266. 15 Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, 268-270. 16 Kenneth Frampton, “America 1960-1970. Notes on Urban Images and Theory, Casabella, Vol.35, No.359-360, (December 1971): 24-38. 17 Scott Brown, “Learning from Pop”, Casabella, Vol. 35, No. 359-360 (December 1971): 14-23. 18 Frampton, “America 1960-1970”, 25. 19 Scott Brown, “Reply to Frampton,” Casabella, Vol. 35, No. 359-360 (December 1971). 20 Banham, “Towards a million-volt light and sound culture,” 332. 21 See ‘Cosmorama’, Architectural Design, Vol.43, (September 1973), 552. 22 ‘Cosmorama’ section of Architectural Design, Vol.43, No.9 (September 1973), 552. 23 I am borrowing here Denise Scott Brown’s phrase, “Hop on Pop”. See Scott Brown, “Learning from Pop”, 14. 24 Martin Pawley, “Miraculous Expanding Tits versus Lacquered Nipples” in Architectural Design, Vol. 43, No.2 (February 1973), 80. 25 Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown, Architecture as Signs and Systems (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004): 8-9. 26 Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, 8. 27 Ibid, 19. 28 Ibid, 55. 29 Denise Scott Brown, “Preface to the Revised Edition,” in Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977). 30 Alison Sky, “Interview with Denise Scott-Brown”, On Site On Energy, No.5/6 (New York: Site. Inc, 1974): 100-108. 31 Denise Scott-Brown, “Breaking down the Barriers Between Theory and Practice,” Architecture, Vol.84, No.3 (March 1995): 43-47. 32 Scott-Brown, “Breaking down the Barriers Between Theory and Practice,” 43.


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From Shit to Food Graham Caine’s Eco-­House in South London, 1972–1975

Early in 1975, at a corner of Thames Polytechnic’s playing fields in South London, an ecological house was demolished. It not only looked like a spaceship but also functioned as one, even though it had been erected from materials scavenged from the streets and bore a striking resemblance to a giant outhouse. From the beginning of its construction the Eco-­House emerged as something uncanny, as “something that landed on the earth rather than growing out of it,” in the suburban context of Eltham.1 Neighbors used to walk around the house’s site disenchanted with its aesthetics, calling it an “eyesore.”2 They were quite pleased with its eventual demolition. In fact, they accelerated the process by helping to pull down the house. These neighborly commentaries notwithstanding, the historic significance of the Eco-­House lies in the fact that it was a built laboratory inhabited by its architect and manifested for its creators a statement for political and social reform. Inside the envelope, digesters, hydroponic gardens, solar panels, and other machines endowed the house with more functions than simply to shelter. One of the earliest ecological houses, the Eco-­ House was built in 1972 as a laboratory and living experiment by Grahame Caine, a member of the anarchist group Street Farmers, originally formed by Peter Crump and Bruce Haggart. The Eco-­House was a fully functional, integrated system that converted human waste to methane for cooking and maintained a hydroponic greenhouse with radishes, tomatoes, and even bananas. Its construction had been supported by a donation of two thousand pounds from Alvin

Boyarski, the chairman of the Architectural Association of London (AA). Caine, a twenty-­six-­ year-­old, fourth-­year student at the AA, designed and built the Eco-­House on borrowed land from Thames Polytechnic, as part of his AA diploma thesis (Figures 1, 2). He received a provisional two-­year permit from the Borough of Woolwich District Surveyor with the promise to build an “inhabitable housing laboratory” that would grow vegetables out of household effluents and fertilize the land with reprocessed organic waste. With the help of the Street Farmers, Caine was Figure 1. Grahame Caine in the 1960s. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

Figure 2. Caine in front of the Eco-House. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

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able start construction in September 1972, during his fifth year, and to install himself by Christmas. After having lived in the house for two years with his family, he was asked to destroy it in 1975. By that time the Eco-­House had already received wide attention from the British press, architectural magazines, as well as British tele­ vision. It was the main subject of a BBC Open Program for Television episode in June 1973 entitled “Clearings of a Concrete Jungle,” which featured the promotional line “Spring is here and the time is ripe for planting in the streets.”3 Other publications about the house included “The House That Grows” and “A New Way of Living” in the London Garden News, “Living off the Sun in South London” in The Observer, and “A Revolutionary Structure” in Oz magazine (Figure 3). 4 Despite the extensive press coverage and the massive logistical and administrative struggle to acquire permission to use land for an experimental facility, Caine failed his final examinations at the AA and never received his diploma as an architect. In his final presentation, he did Figure 3. The Eco-House in Oz (November 1972). Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

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not present to the committee any architectural drawings. He did present, however, endless arrays of scientific diagrams and tables monitoring in excruciating detail the performance of the Eco-­House’s interconnected machines, as well as sketches that envisioned an alternative political reality. Although Caine envisioned his scientific analyses as a crusade for the individual’s political liberation, the jury could never quite forgive the obliteration of an “architectural middle ground,” that is, his rejection of conventional forms of architectural representation. In 2008, when this author met Caine in Ronda, Spain, and asked him to recollect this story, he was comically apathetic to his deprivation of the architect’s certified title. This was normal at the time. They could give you funding for a project they believed in, but they could not risk giving a degree to someone like me, interested more in biology than in drawings. Honestly though, it did not matter to me. I was convinced at that point that architecture is immoral.5


Even though Caine failed his thesis exams, the AA hired him as an instructor the day after his presentation. The story of the Eco-­House in South London raises a significant disciplinary paradox. It was an experimental laboratory sponsored by the Environmental Council of London and a house that compelled the public’s imagination as well as the interest of the popular press; it raised hopes for an alternative sustainable occupation of the urban sphere. At the same time, it was rejected and notoriously criticized by the architectural community for its lack of canonical references to core disciplinary conventions: investigations of form, proportions, and spatial syntax. Alvin Boyarski and Martin Pawley recognized this critical moment of disciplinary outreach, thinking of the Eco-­House as a spatial tool for social reform propelled by scientific investigations, rather than as a project fostering technological supremacy. Therefore, they both supported Caine in his experiments and allowed him to further his research in the academic framework of the AA. Because of architects like Boyarski, Pawley, the Archigram group, and Cedric Price and cyberneticians like Gordon Pask and Roy Landau, the AA at the time comprised a complex cultural environment that espoused experimental work originating from scientific discoveries. This spirit nurtured, however, an ironic and humorous “antiproject” to modernist technological determinism. Price and the Archigram group argued for the transference of military technology to civilian use, as a social welfare mission in an era of the global worker, student protest, and cultural revolution. David Greene’s “LogPlug” project and his L.A.W.u.N. series (pro-­landscape and anti-­architecture projects) poignantly resembled the Street Farmers’ collages in their self-­published homonymous magazine. In Street Farmer, Haggart and Crump portrayed the city entirely covered by a carpet of nature with cows roaming on top of embedded microelectronic devices. Apart from the AA, Caine’s Eco-­House was part of a larger continuum of countercultural practices that rose to cultural prominence in the

early 1970s. At the time, algae digesters, water filtration systems, solar plate collectors, wind generators, composting toilets, and in general the technical “know-­how” of alternative technologies pervaded architectural debates, especially as related to communes in the United States South­ west and the squatting movement in England. Caine’s work was contiguous to Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, Steve Baer’s Zomeworks, John Todd’s New Alchemy Institute, Sim van der Ryn’s Farallones Institute, and Integral Urban House, as well as Colin Moorcarft’s “Recycling” section in Architectural Design. These figures represented an entire generation of environmentally concerned architects and thinkers that popularized autonomy from the grid of supplies as an ecological and libertarian way of living and acting. The 1970s witnessed dense environmental debates with the terms “self-­sufficiency,” “self-­reliance,” “life-­support,” and “living autonomy” surfacing as a consistent lexicon for alternative technologies, described by Architectural Design in 1976 as an “architectural prevailing cult project” that preoccupied the British avant-­ garde scene for several years.6 What is unique in Caine’s Eco-­House is simply that it was built. Caine was clearly a step ahead of Archigram’s pictorial iconography. The Eco-­House did not represent a cultural fascination with self-­reliance but was actually an integrated household system that functioned as closed-­loop ecology. Moreover, Caine started working on the logistics of the project in 1970 (while studying at the AA), evidently before Brenda and Robert Vale’s Autonomous House of 1975 and the Integral Urban House at Berkeley in the late 1970s. In this sense, the Eco-­House cannot be historically interpreted as a direct response to the 1973 oil crisis (as were many other projects of a similar nature). It preceded the oil crisis and emerged from an investigation on self-­ sufficient systems that occurred before the crisis popularized the energy problem. In addition to its alliance with the 1970s do-­it-­yourself, off-­the-­ grid countercultural movement, the Eco-­House conjures key disciplinary questions about the physiology of inhabitation, the nature of the design process, and the idea that large-­scale urban

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change may occur from an alternative awareness of the domestic interior. More specifically, the Eco-­House was built and inhabited by its architect, who used his body as a test bed for living experimentation; it was an integrated system where a man and his physiology of ingestion and excretion became a part of the system he inhabited. Caine called the house a “semi-­scientific” experiment, which for him was only partially designed but mostly calculated and grown. With the re­ cycling of organic substances, Caine imagined the segmentation of matter into infinitesimal units that could then be recombined into new assemblages. This line of thinking propelled a chemical imagery in architectural thought, beyond the implications of recycling byproducts as a response to the solid waste crisis. In addition, he conceived of the Eco-­House as a physical and spatial tool that not only contributed to the individual’s liberation but also simultaneously demonstrated an answer to this ontological problem: creating an autonomous personal space or a protective environmental enclosure around the human. Therefore beyond technical innovations in ecological design, the Eco-­House demonstrates an unrooted spatial paradigm, detached from the urban condition, which alludes to a novel territorial paradigm of the twentieth century that German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk named modern individualism.7 The Architect as Guinea Pig While living in the Eco-­House, Caine used himself and his family as guinea pigs in order to test the function of several components of the house.8 He experimented with his waste, his cooking habits, his use of water, monitoring closely every activity of daily practice until the day the house was demolished. Caine was undoubtedly the steward of the house; he alone knew how to feed the house with the right nutrients­—how to supply engines with the appropriate amounts of fuel, and how much to water the plants in the greenhouse. The architect, therefore, was an indispensable biological part of the house he built. He portrayed himself as a combustion engine for generating electricity, connected to the house in

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a diagram where excretion was a vital constituent of the system’s sustenance (Figure 4). In many respects, the house was grown more than constructed. It needed care from its caretaker; without human presence its living biotechnical systems would degenerate and die. This absolute requirement, for daily connection to the house to assure its wellness, meant that Caine rarely left the house. Robin Middleton, then technical editor of Architectural Design and a colleague of Caine at the AA, humorously spoke of a Gordian knot between Caine and the house. As Middleton recalls, Caine “never left, in order to assure that all systems were working. At some point, he had to leave for a while for some reason, someone got ill, and he had his favorite AA student to look after the house and make sure that all systems keep going.”9 According to Middleton, everyday housekeeping habits affected the health of the Eco-­House and vice versa. In other words, the house’s health was physiologically codependent with the dweller’s health as in an interlinked biological pattern. The fragile bond between occupant and shelter­— as enveloping environmental enclosure—demonstrates an intensive preoccupation with the physiology of inhabitation. Caine considered detailed instructions for daily housekeeping to be a remedy and a regulating mechanism for the health of the Eco-­House, as well as his own fitness. In many respects, housekeeping was a curative practice for Caine. Nevertheless, there were daily housekeeping routines that were unrelated to cleanliness and hygiene. Caine was intensely preoccupied with the physiological footprint of his inhabitation and developed an obsession with managing, retaining, and reorganizing his excrements. In his interview he mentions, “I did several small-­ scale experiments, defecating in buckets. It was awful; I don’t want go into details. I mixed feces with liquids in different solid-­to-­liquid ratios. If they were too liquid, they produced no gas.”10 Describing his house as a life-­support system and sarcastically alluding to the architect’s confounded identity, Caine argued that it allowed the architect to better relate to his own shit. Caine wrote:


Figure 4. Grahame Caine’s diagram for the Eco-House. Courtesy of Grahame Caine. This drawing was reprinted in Stefan Szcelkun’s Survival Scrapbook, vol. 5: Energy (Bristol, UK: Unicorn Bookshop Press, 1975).

Within the ecological house, which I believe to be a real alternative to official architecture, the individual is not only involved in its production, he is directly involved within the biological cycles that constitute so much of its life support systems. one 11 relates to one’s own shit.

As witnessed in several diagrams, drawings, and statements, the act of defecation was vital to the nutrition of the house. Caine was tied to his house with an umbilical cord. Feces as a material substance were incorporated in the power generation the house. Like plants and animals, humans were also a requisite part of the overall house system in a complete cycle

of organic matter, based on the interaction of plant and animal life.12 Moreover, he organized an extensive step-­by-­step procedure on how to hold on to feces, in order not to damage aquatic subecosystems, allowing natural decomposition for the reconstitution of food and energy.13 To accomplish successful conversion of energy cycles, Caine thoroughly studied the physiological cycles of humans, organisms, and machines. Numbers, statistics, numeric calculations, and the logistics of injection and excretion were vital components of his research. In order to construct a recirculatory household, Caine needed to thoroughly examine his internal biology.

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that the human body fascinates me. How much energy can it derive from one boiled egg? How long does it keep you, as an animal, going? It is really amazing.14

Figure 5. The EcoHouse’s toilet bowl, drawn by Grahame Caine. Courtesy of Grahame Caine. Figure 6. The EcoHouse’s toilet bowl, drawn by Grahame Caine. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

Numbers were very important. I did all the homework. I knew how many calories and how much energy was being used up by the human body. I broke down my daily activity into components, which was an important part of running the Eco-­ House. I monitored daily what I ate. I have to say

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Alongside caloric calculations for the conversion of “excrements to food,” Caine used himself and his wife in order to draw diagrams and take measures for the bathroom commode. The toilet bowl was manufactured by Caine himself after a series of studies on man’s digestive system and the interface between defecation and the human’s rear. Based on his experiments, he drew a close-­up of routine defecation, documenting the regular locations of liquid drops in a given area (Figures 5, 6, 7). Caine also drew sections and plans recording variable rear pressures, inspired by Alexander Kira’s diagrams in The Bathroom. 15 The book was put together by the Center for Housing and Environmental Studies at Cornell University, in collaboration with Cornell’s Aeronautical Laboratory, in order to optimize the activities of urination and defe­ cation for NASA’s manned space missions in zero-­gravity conditions. Caine was also influenced by the Gobar bio-­ gas movement building at the time in India and focused on the topic of assembling methane generators.16 One of the most prominent figures in this field, Ram Bux Singh, directed bio-­gas experiments for two decades at the Research Station at Ajitmal in Northern India. Bux Singh developed more than two hundred low-­cost digesters designed to convert plant and animal waste into composted fertilizer and methane for fuel.17 He invented a chemical method that not only accelerated the fermentation and decomposition in the composting process but also produced a valuable byproduct, combustible gas.18 During the early 1970s, the bibliography on the topic of methane generation (natural and nonpolluting power sources) boomed. The work of Ram Bux Singh, whose fame spread to Britain and the United States, was popularized through The Whole Earth Catalog, Mother Earth News, and Colin Moorcraft’s “Recycling” section in Architectural Design. Bux Singh claims to have received ten letters a day as a result of articles ap-


pearing in these periodicals, all asking for more information about his experiments.19 Overall, the initiative of reusing worthless by­ products of chemical reactions for something useful was fundamental for the rising discourse of ecological design in the postwar period. Like Witold Rybczynski’s experiments in recycling sulphur, an abundant worthless chemical element, into building blocks, Caine and Bux Singh furthered expectations for waste recovery by proposing to use human and animal excrement.20 This line of thinking constructed a connecting value system across nations, from the methane digesters in the farmlands of India to Britain and the United States, through periodicals on alternative lifestyles and structures. Caine’s absolute involvement with the Eco-­House’s organic lifecycle opened up the possibility of a new world, one that recycled materials perpetually and fed all leftover substances back into cycles of production.

brated for proper function, however Caine could not quite pinpoint what it was that eventually produced methane. Whatever the malfunctions, Caine was still captivated by the thought that the design of the system was overtaken by life (Figure 8).

Chemosynthesis When speaking of his digesters, Caine could not quite relinquish his fascination for the strategic management of organic matter. The process of recycling necessitated a series of organizational assessments similar to decisions taken throughout a design process, yet the end product was somehow unpredictable when compared to the architect’s plan. Each digester was carefully caliFigure 7. The EcoHouse’s toilet bowl, drawn by Grahame Caine. Courtesy of Grahame Caine. Figure 8. A cross-section of the Eco-House, published in Street Farmer 1. Courtesy of Grahame Caine and Peter Crump.

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Caine carefully employed the phase change of materials as a regulating mechanism to moderate temperature in different sections of the Eco-­ House. In particular, he fabricated a solar collector out of wax, like a satchel on a window, which melted when the window opened and returned to wax when the window closed. The wax’s change of state emitted more energy than conventional cooling mechanisms. Still, it was more than the performance of the material that mattered to Caine, as he was watching it grow in a molded state, inflating and deflating. He could well understand the utility of the wax’s cycle, but the effect of the material’s phase change, on a molecular scale, left him speechless to the extent that he described it as a “germinal form of art.” As he recalls, The wax was pink and I put red paint in it, just so that it looks wild. One day, the expansion and contraction of the material got out of control and it burst into the whole wall. Just like that, suddenly, there was all this wax all over the room. I would never call this type of material misbehavior a failure. I had an artwork on my wall.21

In the Eco-­House, several interior and the exterior envelope surfaces were made from materials that were temperature tuned at a molecular level. Caine’s archive included samples of thin membranes that underwent phase changes in response to varying environmental conditions. Like the wax window, Caine installed an invisible wall membrane that purified water, which was developed by the General Atomics in San Diego.22 The product’s advertisement in Science Digest featured a joyful woman behind a thin translucent partition, which would modify its material state from transparent to opaque according to inner microclimates. This variable “see-­through” quality in membranes was taken on by Day Charoudi, a colleague and friend of Stewart Brand and Steve Baer and principal of the Suntek Research Laboratory in Corte Madera, California. A close successor of the Eco-­ House, Charoudi’s house would operate like an “organism through the exclusive use of interactive materials that amended their microstruc-

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ture followed by ecological parameters.”23 In both Caine’s and Charoudi’s cases, aspirations were to explore the possibilities of design with biological substances and organic reactions that can partially be controlled on a molecular level. Caine’s series of digesters in the Eco-­House were deployed to produce methane and to power the house with self-­sufficient means. Parallel to that goal, however, Caine was enchanted with the methodic evolutionary character of the recycling process and the transformation of substances. Although the Eco-­House was built out of wood panels, steel beams, cellophane enclosures, and other components, the way the house operated as a system of cyclical interdependencies raised an alternative understanding of materiality. His experiments signaled a shift from mechanical devices to soft material structures. Like the wax used in the window, many substances in the recycling process existed temporally in a “smectic” material state, derivative from the Greek word rlejs, meaning “smeared,” as in the case of liquid crystals in a mesomorphic phase, where molecules align in series of layers, form alliances, and coalesce. In physics, for instance, a phase diagram shows the preferred physical states of matter at different temperatures and pressures; within each phase, the material is uniform with respect to its chemical composition and physical state. At typical temperatures and pressures, water is liquid, but it becomes solid ice if the temperature is lowered below 273 K and gaseous steam if the temperature is raised above 373 K. Such numeric thresholds, equivalent to the case of water, were carefully applied by Caine to achieve the functions of energy supply. In this sense, Caine’s series of digesters in the Eco-­House, aside from an assemblage of machines, suggest a theory of space and matter under constant reformation. Caine was far more invested in the procedure of assessing and channeling organic matter as a design process than with the conventional design of structure and envelope. Inside the house, substances were nurtured, grown, and developed until the moment of their “deliberate death,” to be transformed to energy and food for plants (Figure 9). One could argue that the Eco-­House,


with its assemblage of interconnected machines, was a type of life form. The architect’s design intentions were focused on the controlled growth of living tissue, step by step, until substances would reach a certain threshold of performance. Therefore, the design of the Eco-­House has little to do with the construction of an enclosure and more to do with the design of a parametric biological system, where thresholds, ranges, and domains of performance constitute the major design criteria. Previous to his work on the Eco-­House, Caine startled the British wing of the profession when

he entered a 1971 competition for a self-­growing bamboo shelter, announced as the “house that grows itself.”24 In his competition entry, Caine proposed to raise giant Japanese bamboo, which can grow to a height of twenty meters in three months, to be trained into shape for the framework of a home. The entire bamboo house was estimated to cost between four hundred and five hundred pounds. This particularly low budget was based on the idea that the house would grow itself, rather than being constructed, thus reducing the cost of labor. The architect proposed three main stages to grow the house: In the first Figure 9. The EcoHouse, as published in Garden News (May 5, 1972). Courtesy of Grahame Caine and Peter Crump.

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stage, bamboo would grow and the main drainage would be laid to a communal service area. In the second stage, the bamboo was aligned to a formwork and curved into a dome with a wooden frame covered by flexible PVC (polyvinyl chloride), until it finally took shape.25 In the third stage, when the bamboo had grown into place, the growing box would be removed and the bottom of the bamboo sealed and cast into small concrete pad foundations. Caine’s research for the bamboo house and his overall investment in engineering organic processes evolved into the prototype of the Eco-­ House. Excerpted from Howard Mattson’s article “Keeping Astronauts Alive,” Caine underlined and rewrote the word “chemosynthesis” in his research papers.26 The reference was to NASA’s conversion diagrams for space cabins, though Caine’s efforts focused on developing a molecular type of design process through moderating chemical compositions. In chemical engineering, chemosynthesis heralded a new biological approach, which was eclipsing algae. Living microorganisms­— hydrogen monads­—were used as hydrogen-­eating bacteria, assimilating carbon dioxide and urea as they grew; their cell stuff could (theoretically) serve as a protein-­rich diet without energy from sunlight. The whole reaction could take place in the dark. At the time, Mattson described “chemosynthesis” as a “black box” in the closed ecology of the spacecraft, since it did not provide oxygen directly. The water needed to be subsequently broken down in the electrolytic systems to hydrogen (recycled to the biosystem) and oxygen (two-­t hirds to the bacteria, one-­t hird to the astronaut).27 Overall, the approach labeled as “chemosynthesis” carried out the hypothesis that matter could be segmented, going down many scales, in the hope of refiguring substance at an atomic level or at least in the hope that all solid waste could be decomposed to a powder-­like state. NASA’s conversion machines treated all human waste chemically and aimed to dissolve matter into base data, such as the prime strings of proteins and eventually to atoms that could potentially be reconstructed in new combinations.

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Following this line of thinking, the interior space of the Eco-­House was an environment that was nurtured and was dependent on the subtle fluctuations of materials’ phase changes and the growth of living substances. For Caine, this fragile process was an evolutionary design practice with unexpected outcomes. Even though certain experiments failed to convert all input into usable output, it becomes evident from the architect’s confessions that recycling is not just about optimized material conversion but about the journey of transference and the migration of one thing to another. Domesticated Machines In the unpublished addendum to Street Farmer 2, a photograph of the Eco-­House with a tractor shown next to it are referred to as a “spaceship” on earth. Though ironic in its deliberation, Caine recurrently used NASA’s terminology to describe the Eco-­House as a fully regenerative “life support system.” His personal archive was replete with NASA papers for manned space missions, bioastronautics, and aviation medicine on the ecology of closed systems and reports on the feasibility of NASA’s living simulators, supported with mathematical equations for water reclamation from urine.28 The collection of these essays addressed a readership of chemical engineers and microbiologists, and therefore Caine went through exhaustive study in order to understand these papers in detail and implement their findings. The Eco-­House could not have existed without citations on methods and techniques like electrodialysis, closed-­cycle air evaporation, vacuum compression distillation, or measured substance reclamation from man’s waste products in weightless conditions.29 Caine also studied the American scientific bibliography on space heating, including George Lof’s General Report on the Use of Solar Energy.30 Most of these papers originated from United Nations reports on global energy consumption for heating, which accounted for 20 to 30 percent of total energy consumption.31 The confluence of papers from NASA and the United Nations was no accident. Caine laboriously worked toward as-


sembling a database with accurate information on global ecosystems in order to provide “a realistic alternative to the exploitational vision of the environment” in the form of a house that “steals” natural resources and reuses captured energy to power itself as a life-­support system.32 Caine was staunchly critical of the architect’s ceaseless desire to “architecturalize” the universe philosophically and endow all design products with logos; he was pointedly apathetic to figurative metaphors and ideational associations with spaceships. Rather, he espoused the Eco-­House as “a shed” that actually performed like a regenerative system. As he speaks of his research anthology, “the only agencies with the capacity to monitor global ecosystems, with access to statistics, to relate these findings and handle all the data are the state agencies: state propped universities, the military, NASA, etc. who aren’t going to give out good news anyway, at least without conditions.”33 Reprocessing all this technical information for a different cause, Caine domesticated all the circuits and machines in the Eco-­House with the objective to sustain life perpetually by fine-­t uning cyclical material interdependencies. The Eco-­House included solar collection panels that collected heat and filtered rainwater, a series of tanks and digesters that converted human and vegetable waste to methane gas for cooking and nutrients for soil cultivation, as well as a fish pond that acted on the fringe of the cycle as a heat sink, like an extra water storage tank and a source of protein.34 It was this performative utility that brought Caine’s activist ideas to fruition, to the extent of receiving financial endowments from public authorities like the London Environmental Council. The Eco-­House was literally a productive machine that performed more functions than simply to shelter; it collected organic and environmental dross­— sun, rainwater, organic waste, wind­— and returned gas, food, heat, hot water, clean water, and electricity. The engineering value of the processing machines­— primary digesters, algae digesters, algae tanks, solar flat plate collectors, rainwater collection tanks, soilless (hydroponic) vegetable beds, wind

generators­—made a strong rationalist case for Caine.35 Even though Caine was carefully implementing technical means to broadcast a socially activist agenda, eventually he acknowledged that it was the Eco-­House’s network of machines that provided him with funding and that popularized the project to a broad audience. He wrote: Even just the physical “goodies” of the Ecological House should make it desirable to a lot of people within the present value system. The thought of free gas, heating, and food with no sewerage and water rates is appealing, to say the least, so it would not only be dug by “eco-­freaks” who are already into it, but perhaps by a lot of straight people.36

In many respects, the Eco-­House was a “living machine,” which, along the lines of comparable experimental facilities such as John Todd’s Living Machines in the New Alchemy Institute, conduced to a critique of Le Corbusier’s metaphor for a “machine for living.” Caine, who consistently evaded any connections to the ideologies of the modern movement, was bemused when confronted with the reflection of ecology announcing a new type of modernist ethos.37 For Caine, it is clear that the pervasive recovery of ecological concerns in contemporary design debates is of different political and ideological orientation compared to those of the 1970s. In the past, ecology embodied an alternative to mainstream political action, while today it stands as a defense mechanism for the rescue from late capitalism. At the time that the Eco-­House was conceived, designed, and constructed, the assemblage of technological apparatuses was viewed as a liberating toolset for the individual. The connection between the Eco-­House­—a three-­dimensional collection of domesticated machines­— and Reyner Banham’s famous “environmental bubble” collage is evident.38 However, for Caine and the Street Farmers, self-­sufficiency was understood as a political statement against consumerism and capitalism. The productivity of the Eco-­House, in terms of its payoff in food and energy, embodied for its builders a grain of resistance against the

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state’s networks of centralized control. According to Caine, capitalism could be illustrated in a linear scheme, while the recycling of organic matter, the collection of rainwater and sunshine Figure 10. Unpublished addendum to Street Farmer 2 (1972–1973), featuring the Eco-House under construction. Courtesy of Peter Crump.

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that in its turn produces food, gas, and heating, represents an alternative political reality of cyclical behaviors where material can be used and reused perpetually.39


“From Here We Grow” The Eco-­House carried a large hand-­w ritten banner in its façade that read, “from here we grow.” The same logo appeared on BBC’s open program for television, as well as in several publications in the press (Figure 10). The phrase was inspired by Murray Bookchin’s Post-­Scarcity Anarchism and his definition of liberatory technology as a means of endowing “power to the people.”40 It also appeared on the cover of Anarchy in 1971 (Figure 11). Featuring the growth of new roots, the logo implied that with the intelligent use of technology, each person can create living environments and habitation islands in the city, detached from the centralized networks of energy distributed by the state’s authorities. Wrath against the government, policymaking for the distribution of resources, highlighting the inequality of living standards, and decrying

institutionalized education were vivid in numerable proactive manifesto drawings of the Street Farmers and statements idealistically calling for freedom. Caine drew tractors demolishing buildings, the statue of liberty wearing an oxygen mask, and a fist growing out of the land with the inscription “up against the hedge” (Figures 12, 13). His sketches were coupled by rarified reports: “Caine, to free people from what he fears may soon be a massive grid of centralized control.”41 In another statement he declared, “We seek independence from wasteful, dirty public power.”42 Although veiled behind facts and hard science, the Eco-­House cannot be separated from political ethics. It announced an ideology that the only way to be free is to detach oneself from the government. In this sense, it is deeply ironic that NASA’s regenerative life-­support systems opened the ground for an ecological fantasy in the promise

Figure 11. The Eco-House in Oz (November 1972). Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

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Figure 12. Unpublished Street Farmer conceptual drawing for the TV documentary “Clearings in a Concrete Jungle,” broadcast in 1973. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

Figure 13. Unpublished Street Farmer conceptual drawing for the TV documentary “Clearings in a Concrete Jungle,” broadcast in 1973. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

of freedom. In the context of Britain’s counter­ culture in the early 1970s, the “closed system” was imagined by Caine to be the only way out. Caine and the Street Farmers were locked in fury, and that fury necessitated a credible practice. 43 In many respects, the Eco-­House was anger articulated in the form of a house; it not only expressed a radical reaction against the alienating reality of inanimate gray blocks but was also built on hard science. Even though the Eco-­House has often been described as revolutionary, in refer-

ence to its technical concepts, Caine fervently insisted all along that his intention was to twist the hard data into a revolt against the existing social and political situation. 44 It is critical to observe that the revolt did not begin from the streets and the official demonstration squares but from the interior of the urban tissue, the very fabric within which one lives. 45 The Street Farmers imagined the core of the social and political revolution would start from the domestic interior of the house, with a design based on a new way of inhabiting the land. In this sense, the Eco-­House was an instrument of what Caine, Crump, and Haggart called “co-­operative liberation” by means of the indi­vidual’s manipulation of biological cycles. Caine’s underlying supposition was that by controlling our biology, we could eventually repossess control of the enveloping social and urban sphere. As Caine argued, By treating shelter as energy system to provide a basic life support system it is hoped to reduce the individual’s dependence upon a centralized power structure, and this increase the choice of the individual’s area of contribution within the context of a life killing culture. 46

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Upon the house’s completion, Caine monitored day after day and with great precision the biological performance of the house. He kept numerous tables with the altitude of the sun’s zenith on a monthly basis; spectral transmittance diagrams with glass, teflon, weatherable mylar, and polythene; diagrams of spectral energy percentage transmittance (based on the angle of solar incidence on different materials); measurements for the optimum pitch of glasshouse angles (for the maximum winter gain from the sun’s spectral energy); and diagrams of energy wavelength spectrums with various sun altitudes (Figures 14, 15, 16). Like his own body, the house was a laboratory table, which Caine called a “test-­bed.”47 Nevertheless, Caine poignantly characterized all his experiments as a kind of “semi-­science”: a calculated scientific methodology driven by political motivations to overturn the very structure of society. 48 As the Street Farmers wrote in their self-­published Domeletter, “We are not so much concerned with providing alternative means of servicing existing systems, as changing these systems, the very logic of which precipitated ecological disaster.”49 In fact Caine had little, if any, interest in the optimization of results and the servicing of the grid’s supplies. Technical studies were a valid enough pretense for convincing the authorities to borrow the land for experimentation. The Eco-­House was never intended as an ecological remedy for environmental catastrophes. It was neither a tool of ethical restoration in design thinking, nor a technical solution to environmental problems. Rather, the house was at once an ontological and scientific problem, combining in a single space numbers along with a vision for a new society. This becomes prescient in the following quotes:

Within the institutionalized political arena of the city, the Eco-­House is like an “island.” This literal and conceptual detachment from the main urban supply networks represented a collective Figure 14. Diagram monitoring the environmental efficiency of the Eco-House, Grahame Caine, 1972–1974. Courtesy of Grahame Caine. Figure 15. Diagram monitoring the environmental efficiency of the Eco-House, Grahame Caine, 1972–1974. Courtesy of Grahame Caine. Figure 16. Diagram monitoring the environmental efficiency of the Eco-House, Grahame Caine, 1972–1974. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

We don’t intend to become white-­coated full-­time laboratory workers, rather amateurs producing energy just as gardeners on allotments produce food . . . For the purpose of this report, we might describe ourselves as occasional liberatory technologists (if the term had meaning to anyone other than ourselves).50

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renunciation of the urban condition, which was portrayed as a catastrophic environment that restrained individual imagination and freedom. In the minds of the Street Farmers, the abundant resources of nature constituted a substitute network that the built environment could tap into, rather than into the veins of the man-­made manufactured network of energy distribution. Murray Bookchin’s phrase, “from here we grow,” was dear to the Street Farmers as it rendered a visual analog to a reconstituted political reality. Being self-­reliant, the Eco-­House was an island, uprooted from the urban context, like its own planet. We may perceive this detachment, outFigure 17. “Transmogrification,” the Street Farmers, 1972; published in Street Farmer. Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

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lined as an ecological and political imperative, as a fundamental reorientation of the house in relation to its urban condition. The Eco-­House suggested a new network of interrelationships with the natural elements, a network that would be superimposed on the existing grid of supplies and would challenge its authority, like a parasitic web. In many respects, this initiative idealizes nature as distinct from the man-­made world and reinforces a binary opposition between the “natu­ ral” and the “man-­made” that we may evalu­ate as regressively romanticized or even naïve. How­ ever, looking deeper into Caine’s profound elaborations on artificially altering natural resources,


as well as Haggart’s and Crump’s drawings, the authors advocated for a genetically modified state of nature’s integration into the built environment. In Street Farmer, Caine, Haggart, and Crump named this process of nature’s fusion into the inanimate built space “transmogrification.” Drawings, which also appeared in Caine’s publications on the Eco-­House, illustrated pixels of nature injected into buildings, altering their material state; buildings appeared in a “mesophase” condition between a natural and an artificial condition (Figure 17). The etymology of the word transmogrification, which dates back to Francois Rabelais, depicts a strange or grotesque transformation of the built environment, one where buildings are overhauled by natural forces almost in a vulgar manner. Likewise, the highly satiric drawings remained at the level of iconic figuration and visualized only a metaphor for what the term could actually imply. However, Caine’s experiments for the Eco-­ House pragmatically backed up these ideologies and forecast an ecological approach distant from the positivist sustainable agenda and techno-­ rational standards of contemporary practices. This house alluded to the reinvention of physiological and ontological interrelationships between the individual, the habitat, and the environmental sphere, thus extending the oikos from the body outward to the intricate waves of global flows (Figure 18). Conclusions Weaving Caine’s political assertions with the premises of NASA’s space probes, it is striking to observe how the same cybernetic prescription of a system migrates from governmental complexes to a countercultural political theory mediated through a different ideological lens. On the one hand, NASA’s scenario for self-­sufficiency combines a project of technological supremacy with the aspiration to conquer a new frontier and an underlying colonial modality. On the other hand, the equipped interior of the Eco-­House is fantasized as an “exterior” to the political reality. The Eco-­House is envisioned as a strategy for political autonomy, enabling withdrawal from the tentacles of society and the state’s organizational

infrastructure. NASA’s space probe and the Eco-­ House represent two very different political realities and existential problems, yet they came to be expressed by the same strategy of self-­reliance. Recycling waste, either organic or inorganic, was fundamental for the rising discourse of ecological design. As a result of viewing the earth as a closed system, the new ideal household system of the 1960s and 1970s would be immune to material and information loss. Leftovers and waste were negated in a compulsive convergence of all wasteful streams to useful ones. The re­cycling of materials promised a new world in which one

Figure 18. The EcoHouse, in Colin Moorcraft’s “Recycling” section in Architectural Design (July 1972). Courtesy of Grahame Caine.

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could regenerate materials perpetually and feed all leftover substances back into cycles of production; it spoke of the world as a perceivable complete whole, very much in contrast to George Bataille’s notion of excess and base materialism. Such a view of the world is philosophically problematic not only because it suggests a natural cosmic order but also because it is technically unviable. The vast majority of regenerative systems and recirculatory houses failed to function autonomously. Recycling systems are extremely fragile closed systems that redirect all input into output; they are more than likely to exhibit un­ predictable behaviors, such as the production of new substances that are not predicted in the internal organization of the system. Robin Middleton claimed that the Eco-­House at some point derailed from its normative cycle and produced its own destruction, when Caine left the house because of an emergency. Normally, Middleton recalls, Caine would never leave the house in order to assure that all systems were working properly. In Middleton’s own words, “Caine had a family emergency and needed to leave England for a few weeks; he then trained his favorite AA student to take care of the house while he was gone. In the meantime, the student who stayed at the house got the flu, and the doctors gave him antibiotics. The antibiotics came through the system in his “crap,” and the crap was part of the whole re­ cycling system. The whole system was eventually destroyed. It was amazing!” Middleton said, “The antibiotics killed the house!”51 To conclude with this anecdote, and independent of the success or failure of the Eco-­House as a technical system, the real concern central to this study is how biological and environmental processes invade the domestic realm and the practice of everyday life, how the division and distribution of organic, growing matter is vital for the sustenance of the house’s health. It is finally critical to observe that in the rise of postwar ecological design theories, recycling was more than a technical task; it was a psychosocial position for the migration of life via the phase change of material substances. In this view, matter does not come to an end; it is not wasted. Instead, it changes state. Recycling, therefore, is not just

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about the formation of new materials but also about the transference and migration of properties from one substance to another and all the intermediate stages of a productive cycle.

au t hor bio gr a ph y Lydia Kallipoliti is a practicing architect, engineer, and theorist living in New York City. She holds architecture degrees from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is completing her doctorate at Princeton University. Currently, she is adjunct assistant professor at the Cooper Union and Columbia University. Kallipoliti is the editor of “EcoRedux: Design Remedies for a Dying Planet,” a special issue of Architectural Design. She is also the author of the EcoRedux, an online nonprofit educational resource for ecological experiments in the postwar period; it was honored at the Fourteenth International Webby Awards and won a silver medal in the W3 competition of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

no t e s 1. Bruce Haggart, “Clearings of a Concrete Jungle,” Street Farm Open programme for Television, in BBC2. Broadcast on June 18, 1973, on the BBC 2 Street Farmer Show and narrated by TV broadcaster Melvyn Bragg. 2. Lydia Kallipoliti in conversation with Grahame Caine in Ronda, Spain, January 8, 2008. In the interview, Grahame Caine mentioned: “I remember that the neighbors of the Eco-­House used to complain that the house was an eyesore. They were really upset and wanted it removed. Honestly, they accelerated the process of pulling the house down . . . After the demolition, the land returned to its normal state, producing nothing.” 3. The TV documentary was broadcast on June 18, 1973, on BBC 2, narrated by Melvyn Bragg. It was featured in the London Radio Times, June 16–22, 1973: 29. 4. Accounts of the Eco-­House were published in the following: Glenn Barker, “A New Way of Living,” Garden News, no. 780 (June 15, 1973): 2–3. Grahame Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” Oz, November 1972: 12–13, supplemented by Mike Moore’s diagrams based on Grahame Caine’s originals; Grahame Caine,


“The Eco-­House,” in Street Farmer, ed. Bruce Haggart, Peter Crump, nos. 1 and 2 (London, UK: 1971–1972): unpaginated; Grahame Caine, “The Ecological House,” Architectural Design 42, no. 3 (March 1972): 140–41; Grahame Caine, “Street Farmhouse,” in Survival Scrapbook, vol. 5: Energy, ed. Stefan Szcelkun, unpaginated (Bristol, UK: Unicorn Bookshop Press, 1975); Grahame Caine, “The Eco-­House,” Mother Earth News, March/ April 1973: http://www/motherearthnews.com/ Nature-­Community/1973-­03-­01/The-­Eco-­House.aspx; Grahame Caine, Bruce Haggart, and Peter Crump, “Some Proposals on the Reservicing of an Urban Terraced House,” Domeletter, No. 4, ed. John Prenis, 1–6 (Philadelphia, Penn: Self-­Published, 1972 and in the archives of the Architectural Association, London); Gerald Leach, “Living Off the Sun in South London,” The Observer, August 27, 1972: 1–2; Eve Williams, “The House That Grows” (based on an interview with Grahame Caine), Garden News no. 722 (May 5, 1972): 13. 5. Author’s interview with Caine, 2008. 6. See Martin Spring and Haig Beck, “Cooperative Autonomies,” Architectural Design 47 (January 1976). These notes were published on the contents pages of the magazine. 7. See Peter Sloterdijk, “Cell Block, Egospheres, Self-­Container,” Log 10 (Summer/Fall 2007): 89–108. 8. As Caine writes in Mother Earth News, “The architect becomes his own ideal guinea pig.” See “The Eco-­ House,” Mother Earth News (March/April 1973): n.p. 9. Author’s personal interview with Robin Middleton, New York, N.Y., August 1, 2007. 10. Author’s interview with Caine, 2008. 11. Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” 12. 12. Caine, “The Eco-­House.” 13. Caine, “The Eco-­House.” 14. Author’s interview with Caine, 2008. 15. See Alexander Kira, The Bathroom (Ithaca, N.Y.: Center for Housing and Environmental Studies, Cornell University, 1966). 16. “Gobar” is the Hindi word for “cow dung.” For a standard bibliography on methane generators, see Ram Bux Singh, Generating Methane from Organic Wastes; “How to Generate Electric Power from Garbage” Mother Earth News, no. 3 (1967): http://www .motherearthnews.com/Renewable-­E nergy/1970-­ 05-­01/How-­To-­Generate-­Power-­From-­Garbage.aspx; “Interview with Ram Bux Singh”; M. A. Indiani, C.  M. Acharye, “Biogas Plants: Their Installation,

Operation, Maintenance, and Use” (research paper issued by Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, 1963); A. Ortega, “The Ecol Operation,” research paper produced at the School of Architecture, McGill University, Montreal Canada, 1972; “Gobar Gas: Methane Experiments in India” Mother Earth News, no. 12 (1969): http://www.motherearthnews .com/Renewable-­Energy/1971-­11-­01/Gobar-­Gas.aspx. 17. “Interview with Ram Bux Singh” in Mother Earth News, no. 18 (1973). See http://www.motherearthnews .com/Nature-­Community/1972-­11-­01/The-­Plowboy-­ Interview-­Ram-­Bux-­Singh.aspx. 18. Ram Bux Singh, Generating Methane from Organic Wastes (Research paper, Gobar Gas Station in Ajitmal, Etawah, India, 1973), 2. 19. “Interview with Ram Bux Singh.” 20. Sulphur is an abundant tasteless, odorless, multivalent nonmetallic element, best known in yellow crystals. It occurs in many sulphide and sulphate minerals and even in native form. See Witold Rybczynski, “People in Glass Houses . . . Shouldn’t Throw Away the Bottles,” On Site no. 5/6 (1974): 84–85; Witold Rybczynski, “From Pollution to Housing,” Architectural Design 43, no. 12 (1973): 785–90. 21. Author’s interview with Caine, 2008. 22. See David X. Manners, “Invisible Wall That Purifies Water,” Science Digest, June 1971: 70–71. 23. See Day Charoudi, “Buildings as Organisms,” in Soft-­Tech: A Co-­Evolution Book, ed, Jay Baldwin and Stewart Brand, 40–45 (San Francisco: Waller Press, 1978). 24. See Williams, “The House That Grows,” 13. In the article, the journalist wrote: “A giant bamboo structure is covered with double plastic skin, hydroponic beds for growing fruits and vegetables, and a fishpond. Towards the back wall of soil or clay slurry is a staircase leading to the sleeping quarters and housed in the central retreat area too are the cooking and storage facilities and water filtration and storage plant. Also included are solar flatplate heat absorbers for heating the digester and domestic hot water supply. . . . By the initial organization of piped services, all organic refuse could then be centralized into a small anaerobic digester, providing a methane source adequate to run a composting stabilizer. The product of this should be adequate for hydroponic culture and thus, waste is turned into resources to reproduce and sustain life.”

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25. See Barker, “A New Way of Living,” 3. 26. Howard W. Mattson, “Keeping Astronauts Alive,” International Journal of Science and Technology 54 (June 1966): 28–37. 27. See Mattson, “Keeping Astronauts Alive,”36. 28. Two research papers in Caine’s personal archive (in Ronda, Spain), both thoroughly underlined, specifically focus on NASA’s Langley and Douglas living simulators. The theme of the first paper referred to the NASA Langley simulator. See Mattson, “Keeping Astronauts Alive,” 28–37. The second paper was a report on the performance of the Douglas simulator for the Advanced Biotechnology Department of Douglas Missile and Space Systems Division under Independent Research and Development Program Account No. 81645-­400. See Captain Willard R. Hawkins, USAF (MC), “The Feasibility of Recycling Human Urine for Utilization in a Closed Ecological System” presented on March 24, 1958, at the twenty-­ ninth annual meeting of the Aeromedical Association in Washington D.C. 29. Caine thoroughly studied Leonard Elikan’s Aerospace Life Support volume published in the Chemi­c al Engineering Progress Symposium Series by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. It included papers such as, “Space Vehicle Water Reclamation Systems,” “A Flight Prototype Water Electrolysis Unit,” “An Approach to Water Management for Long Duration Manned Space Flights,” and “Continuous Atmosphere Control Using a Closed Oxygen Control.” See Leonard Elikan, ed., Aerospace Life Support (New York: American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 1966). 30. George Lof was a consulting chemical engineer at Denver, Colorado, and a research associate at the University of Wisconsin and Resources for the Future, Inc. 31. See George O. G. Lof, John A. Duffie, and Clayton  O. Smith, World Distribution of Solar Radiation (Madison: Solar Energy Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, 1966). This study was study supported by Resources for the Future, Inc. and produced in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin Extension Division. 32. Caine, “Eco-­House,” n.p. 33. Caine, “Revolutionary Structure,” 12–13. 34. See Grahame Caine’s interim report to the Greater London Council in the summer of 1974, two years after the Eco-­House was constructed. The scope

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of this report was to determine the Eco-­House’s degree of success, in terms of its energy self-­sufficiency from London’s supply networks. In order to renew Caine’s license to experiment on the land, which had been loaned to him by the London Greater Council, he needed to comply with certain standards of water quality, energy generation and so on. Brochure in Grahame Caine’s personal archives, Ronda, Spain. 35. The primary digesters received all liquid and organic waste from the household, processed and separated different organic substances of human excreta, eventually channeling the decomposed substances to the algae digesters and the algae tanks. The algae digesters broke down algae in order to produce gas for cooking and an organic nutrient solution fed to vegetable beds in the greenhouse. The algae tanks received the displaced liquid effluents from the primary digesters. 36. Caine, “Revolutionary Structure,” 13. 37. Author interview with Caine, 2008. 38. The “environmental bubble” appeared in Reyner Banham’s “A Home Is Not a House” (illustrated by Francois Dallegret), first published in Art in America 53 (April 1965): 70–79. The same article was republished by Clip-­Kit and in AD 39, no. 1 (January 1969): 45–49. 39. Author interview with Caine, 2008. He mentioned: “For me, the reciprocal, cyclical process of recycling of the Eco-­House represents an alternative political system, a kind of liberal anarchy. The cyclical system certainly cares; it is a caring system. I don’t think it necessarily represents a political party but perhaps an alternative social consciousness.” 40. Murray Bookchin, Post-­Scarcity Anarchism (Berkeley, Calif.: Ramparts Press, 1971). 41. Barker, “A New Way of Living.” 42. Caine, “Eco-­House.” 43. Haggart, “Clearings of a Concrete Jungle.” 44. Caine, “Revolutionary Structure,” 12. 45. Caine, “Revolutionary Structure,” 13. 46. Caine, “The Ecological House,” 140. 47. Caine, Haggart, and Crump, “Some Proposals on the Reservicing of an Urban Terraced House,” 1–6. 48. Author interview with Caine, 2008. 49. Caine, Haggart, and Crump, “Some Proposals on the Reservicing of an Urban Terraced House,” 7. 50. Caine, Haggart, and Crump, “Some Proposals on the Reservicing of an Urban Terraced House,” 1–4. 51. Author interview with Middleton, 2007.


Lydia Kallipoliti: Eco-Redux 5

PRAXIS 13

ECO-REDUX: LYDIA KALLIPOLITI ENVIRONMENTAL ARCHITECTURE FROM “OBJECT” TO “SYSTEM” TO “CLOUD”

: Charles Harker, founder of the TAO Design Group in Austin, Texas, juxtaposes Le Corbusier’s “machine for living” with a new concept for habitation that he coins the “soft machine.” 1 The TAO Design Group—a group of architects, sculptors and artists— experiments with building without drawings, spraying urethane on a chicken wire armature based on sketches and written rules for enclosure. Every step is a fluctuating process of incremental adjustments that necessitates constant reinvention of the original plan. In his manifesto, Harker outlines an alternative definition

In our field, a number of critics have described concepts,

of matter as patterns of energy that solidify in time. He writes,

forms, and approaches retrieved from the recent past as a perva-

“We are in the midst of a Socio-Psychological, Cybernetic, Mass-

sive phenomenon of “media archeology.” 7 Is this type of regres-

media, Space Age revolution,”  and speaks of “softness” as an

sion, however, merely expressive of historical interest? Looking

expansion of environmental perception; both literally, through

to the postwar period may be more than a quest to identify his-

curvature and the use of plastic materials, and conceptually,

torical antecedents. It could be quite the opposite: that the pres-

envisioning an elastic understanding of tectonic conventions.

ent helps us understand this recent past and, of course, vice

2

versa. History only survives as a relevant discourse through : François Roche, principal of R&Sie(n) in Paris, France

revivalism of the oblivious past. Leftover histories—environmen-

exhibits a “hypnosis chamber” at the Modern Art Museum (MAM)

tal experiments with organic matter, synthetic growth, and other

in Paris.3 Designed with computational scripts—protocols that

alternative technologies that were once esteemed as marginal

allow for growth of the original “seed” design—and fabricated

and deviant—are now of core significance to architectural dis-

with a five-axis milling machine, the hypnosis chamber renders an

course. Displaced from the periphery to the center of delibera-

immersive space of disalientation from the social sphere in a

tions, these counter-histories may account for the multiplicity

state between sleep and wake. A complex intrauterine vascular

and diversity of current ecological anxieties in architecture.

space, the hypnosis chamber is intended to introduce uncer-

As such, déjà-vu might be used procreatively to rebuild future

tainty in the individual’s environmental cognition, as a means of

disciplinary courses. Reconstructing projects and ideas of the

creative speculation and experimentation which may open up the

past through a new organizational and classificatory lens might

possibility of transforming one’s environmental sphere.4

enable us to generate a critical discourse that migrates to different terrains of thought throughout time.

6_17Ecoredux_ac.indd 5

Are these two practices exploring the same issues with similar

The way we classify things bears a profound impact on disci-

designs or not ? Are we destined to remediate unsettled memo-

plinary structures; the means by which we organize information

ries of our recent past? Is regression a defensive reaction against

emerges from and profoundly affects our social, political, intel-

future disenchantment? Or have we already imagined in the past

lectual, and cultural constructs. The legacy of ecological ideas in

something beyond the present of that time?

architecture evidences this effect. Post-enlightenment, environ-

The kinship between present-day experimental design and that

mental debates focused on assiduous observation and documen-

of the 1960s-1970s is so striking that we can speak of uncanny

tation of objects and organisms, analytically classifying the living

resemblances, eerie images of projects already seen and experi-

stock of the world. In the postwar period, environment was

enced as déjà-vu. In psychoanalysis, déjà vu is a “disturbance of

addressed through diagrams of feedback cycles, and global

reality perception, which serves to reassure the patient against

resources were examined as interconnected systems that could

this insecurity, by divesting, through an estrangement affect, the

be redistributed. Today, while the environmental discourse is

recurrent circumstances of the impact of a new reality.” 5 Déjà vu

much more diverse than in the past, it shares an investment in

is an unconscious effort of the ego to bridge a gap between the

local data classification of living systems, similar to information

past and the present; it is a peculiar defensive reaction against

clouds of data constellations online.

the fear of the unknown,6 manifest by projecting the future not as

Beyond the pretext of healing the planet and the strategic relo-

an entirely new course of events but as mixture of past and pres-

cation of finite natural resources, the present ubiquity of ecologi-

ent stretched in time.

cal concerns illustrates a persistent taxonomical thinking in

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design. Expanded materials listings, technical standards, mecha-

described the relationships between organisms, introducing

nisms, natural and synthetic processes and methods assemble a

shape and scale as decisive parameters for his classification sys-

rising sensibility of design agency where authorship, as a pro-

tem. Nevertheless, both maps still follow a paradigm of under-

jected vision of a new reality, is replaced in favor of editorial

standing the world through component pieces and objects, and

observation and data reshuffling. The permeation of organiza-

classify the natural world as wilderness—an object of observa-

tional tools in our discipline is not innocent. It is not merely about

tion and conservation separate from the man-made.

facilitating and managing knowledge; it also transforms the nature of design, but with no return. Is it not critical that we give

SYSTEM

equal attention to reconsidering our classification systems and

The post-WWII period signaled the rise of a modern environmen-

how they are affecting architectural discourses?

tal era, distinctly different from earlier environmental positions of

The recent invasion of ecological anxieties in architecture has

wilderness preservation. In the 1960s and 1970s, ecologists

many faces: from the restitution of moral values in design think-

instrumentalized the prevalent social and political discourse of a

ing, in revival of an archaic humanist discourse; through the sub-

closed, ill-managed earth, arguing that their science provided the

stitution of “performance” for “function,” in restoration of a lost

most faithful account of planetary values. As awareness of world-

modernist and positivist ethos; to the post-structuralist denunci-

wide pollution levels mounted, environmentalism became a form

ation of environmental improvement and the critical recognition

of social activism calling for a redistribution of global resources.

of waste and pollution as generative potential for design. As a cir-

Buckminster Fuller, John McHale, and Ian McHarg played a semi-

cular, causal form of reasoning, ecology surfaces as an inevitable

nal role in formulating this discourse, explaining ecosystems with

salvation in architectural debates, in advocacy of unity and the

parallels between the earth and human processes.11 A physiologi-

common good. On a planet without a square inch of untouched

cal diagnosis of planetary resources was precisely the agenda of

environment, however, the new wave of ecological architecture

Fuller’s “World Design Science Decade,” 12 which took cognitive

cannot be explicitly directed to the ethics of the world’s salvation

analytical form in McHale’s The Ecological Context.13 Through

and the rhetoric of confinement. It rather projects a psycho-spa-

systemic management, the totality of the earth could—or

tial or mental position, fuelling a reality of change, action, and dis-

should— serve as a stage of action, envisioning a new empire and

ciplinary crossbreeding.

reasoning backward to a colonial and empirical modality.14 These mid-century environmentalists’ work represented a sig-

OBJECT

nificant shift in the field of ecology: from understanding the built

The term ecology is attributed to eminent German biologist, nat-

environment as distinct from nature, to understanding the built

uralist, and artist Ernst Haeckel, who identified embryonic inter-

environment as embodying natural ecosystems’ cyclical behav-

relationships between living organisms and their ambient

iors. This change was deeply rooted in ecologists’ appropriation

environment.8 In The General Morphology of Organisms (1866),9

of a specific scientific language and a set of classification tools

a reformation of Charles Darwin’s “Theory of Descent,” Haeckel

used by cyberneticians in the postwar period. Cyberneticians’

conceptually linked ontogeny with physiology and illustrated all

diagrams of the flow of energy in the natural world as input and

known life forms in a genealogical tree. Haeckel’s work was a rev-

output—circuits in a cybernetic ecosystem—provided ecologists

olution in visual mapping compared to the Hippodamian gridded

with new research techniques and a biologically informed, and yet

classification tables of his predecessor, Carolus Linnaeus

computational, theory of the world as a system of subsystems.

(Systema Naturae, 1735).10 Whereas Linnaeus established the

The work of this period forms the basis for the online archive

normative method of naming and numbering the world’s living

EcoRedux, which I assembled from various personal collections

wealth in boxes, Haeckel’s genealogical tree graphically

and archives during the past four years. The name refers to the

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Lydia Kallipoliti: Eco-Redux 7

PRAXIS 13

contemporary return of ecological awareness as a phenomenon

phenomena. Moreover, an experiment should be capable of repli-

of resurgence from the 1960s and 1970s, and assembles a data-

cation, under certain predefined canonical conditions, and in a

base of ecological material experiments as well as their ramifica-

particular number of steps/phases. On the other hand, the fuzzy,

tions on architectural design. In this sense, the intention is to

non-linear nature of design processes makes it unfeasible for a

document and track an unexplored genealogy of design experi-

design experiment to align to this universal clarity. One could

mentation conducted by underground architectural groups, as a

argue that design experiments seem “hypothesisless,” while the

prehistory of a rising biotechnological imagery and a new social

value of contingency—mediated by the interaction of materials

and planetary vision, throughout different design disciplines.

and their deployment tactics in varied circumstances—consti-

In curating the EcoRedux archive, I am seeking to offer a coun-

tutes a key feature of design experimentation.

ter-history to the canonic environmental discourse of this period

The model of “direct action” that the EcoRedux projects pro-

that was centered on the decryption of the planet as a whole eco-

posed, stimulated design debates, the echoes of which still rever-

system; the experiments in this archive eschew these notions.

berate in contemporary practice. This emerging framework of

Rather, all imaginable provisional structures and small-scale

critical thinking undermined the imperial significance of formal-

strategies—pneumatics

handmade

ism as the distiller of value, in favor of open-ended potential in

domes from discarded materials, electronic-lawn carpets, pills,

procedural design. As an effect of this discourse, alternate

garbage houses, capsules and self-sufficient systems, foam

means of production were recovered, disengaging design from

shelters—become part of new equation in reflection of the

the conventions and limitations of drawings, which have for the

intense socio-political concerns of the time and the collective

most part governed design practice throughout the century.

from

used

parachutes,

fantasizing about new technologies as remedial tools. The collec-

Foremost, several projects documented in the EcoRedux

tion of these experiments recounts ecological strategies as dis-

archive do not target environmental improvement as a planetary

crete fragments in defiance of a larger scheme for global

strategy. The archived experiments are partial, small-scale, ad

harmony, like a peep show of the world, or a selective perspective

hoc and opportunistic; unclassified under a larger plan. In this

that reconstructs the globe from pieces.

sense, the archive documents a counter-history of ecological

As a collection, the EcoRedux experiments suggest an alter-

anxiousness. The projects are not performative agents of amelio-

nate model for urbanism that presupposes a new form irreverent

ration; rather they are, in themselves, their own ecologies, pro-

to the master plan—a form that needs to integrate the parame-

ducing new worlds.

ters of continually variable micro-environments.15 Although these

6_17Ecoredux_ac.indd 7

improvisatory techniques only provide rudimentary shelter, they

CLOUD

suggest a new approach in contrast to prior geometric configura-

Today, the extensive recovery of ecological concerns broadcasts

tions, integrating constantly changing environmental parameters

mainstream values and stands as a defense mechanism for late

into the design and construction process. Furthermore, we wit-

capitalism. Yet, at the formative stages of the green movement in

ness a germinal connection between the macro-urban scale and

the 1960s and 1970s, ecological design debates were of a very

the micro-material scale, leaving the medium scale—building—

different political and ideological orientation. Ecology not only

out of the equation. Peter Cook recalls how, at the end of the

embodied an alternative route to mainstream political action, but

1960s, “It was fashionable to introduce a project as ‘anti-building,’

also an inspirational model for design creativity. It embodied an

or a conglomeration of environmental elements.” 16 By looking

evolutionary design process in several stages and lifecycles

back at this time, it is not proposed to dispense with the signifi-

through material experiments as analog computation tools.

cance of “building” as the main edifice of architectural practice

Looking back on this period offers an alternative elastic under-

and education, but instead to interrogate extremity of scale—the

standing of the term “ecology,” at a time when the term addressed

focus on the micro and macro—and to inquire into this “out of

not only a new kind of naturalism and techno-scientific stan-

focus” moment as a reflection of intense socio-political upheaval.

dards, but also systems theory: a recirculatory understanding of

These experimental schemes, beyond being historically infor-

the world and its resources. In this context, revisiting the term

mative, narrate stories, wonders, obsessions, blemishes, and

“ecological,” rather than “sustainable” and “green,” is of essence

personal values that haunted their authors. In many cases, the

and may potentially contribute to a reassessment of contempo-

projects were very crude in form, leaving their authors unsatis-

rary debates. It may be through this epistemological fusion that

fied or in anxious search of the materialized visions they could not

we can ask more of architecture.

somehow pin down. Many experiments utilized erratic material

EcoRedux strives to map a history of architectural imagination,

interactions and therefore defied established definitions of rep-

rather than a history of technological development. Through this

resentationwith little tectonic control over their formation. This

documentation, the hope is to question current mainstream per-

realm of impossibility, the moment when representation fails to

ceptions of sustainability and the LEED program (as a technical

describe the form of objects, is both magical and terrifying. As

classification tool that empowers capitalist production, creating

such, these architects were prisoners of their visions, openly will-

a new revenue source veiled by the ethics of environmentalism).

ing to fail.

The archive is also an educational open-source online resource

Compared to the scientific definition of experimentation, these

(www.ecoredux.com) with a dual function: as a tool to explore the

open-ended explorations were obscure in direction and purpose.

history of the period, but also as a pedagogical tool for design.

The scientific method requires an experiment to either verify or

Given the open source nature of the project, architects and

falsify a hypothesis, or research a causal relationship between

designers are able to actively participate in the expansion of the

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website by submitting their own interpretations of ecological

consciously informs the core, feeding history through its dross.

experiments that are documented in the database. The scope is

These stories, incidental side effects produced as a discipline

to foster the reuse and recycling of the information documented

undergoes transformation, may suggest an alternative reading of

in the historical archive in order to explore innovative ecological

architectural history: not by offering actual objects and a new par-

strategies in contemporary architectural practice. It is implicitly

adigm, but by suggesting new tools and new modes of practice.

argued here that the permission to reproduce, translate, or even

What is essential about the cloud is the absorption and collec-

“misuse” information to observe and transform existing material

tion of data that crystallizes in a region, rather than the overall

and ideological structures endows architecture with its creative

contextual interpretation of the data. Meaning is not essential for

potential.

the cloud; neither is the understanding of phenomena’s complex-

This open source system of gathering information online in

ity as a whole. Instead, the cloud evokes localized data collection

clusters, assembling ideas mixed in past and present time, might

and the fractional correlations between bits and pieces. In a

relate to our data-driven culture and the emergence of “cloud

world where complexity can no longer be decoded systemati-

computing.” The term “cloud computing” was coined in 1997 by

cally, the cloud is a byproduct of incidental data accretion; it

Ramnath Chellappa to describe information storage in networked

defies any precise definition of form and representation. It is

online clusters, as distinct from localized storage in physical data

impossible to map or draw the cloud, as there is no tectonic con-

centers. Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired magazine,

trol over its formation. In this sense, the emerging ecology of the

argues that information is now untethered from the archive, the

cloud is our contemporary obligation to translate. It feels like rain.

library, and even the organization of complex three dimensional classification systems, and instead it renders an order of “dimen-

SOFT VERSUS HARD; AN INDEX OF MATERIAL TECHNIQUES

sionally agnostic statistics.” 17 The cloud necessitates an entirely

The EcoRedux archive is organized in genealogies that synthe-

different way of understanding the world, “one that requires us to

size the experiments in groups, organized according to material

lose the tether of data as something that can be visualized in its

technique from soft to hard. Soft experiments are based on the

totality.” 18 Growing out of Google’s model of detecting correla-

transformation of substances and biological material evolution

tions through applied mathematics and not through context, the

and growth, while hard experiments are based on assemblies of

cloud ranks fractional connections above holistic perceptions of

reused materials and building components, transferred to differ-

phenomena. An embodiment and representation of change and

ent contexts.

self-organization, the temporal space of the cloud grows, crystal-

The term hard indicates a combinatorial multiplicity of stan-

lizes, and dissolves. What is essential about the cloud is the

dardized units, where variability emerges as an effect of repeti-

absorption and collection of data that crystallizes in a region,

tion in a larger system consisting of regular subsystems. Contrary

rather than the overall contextual interpretation of the data. In a

to this logic, the term soft conjures the variability, growth and

world where complexity can no longer be decoded systematically,

evolutionary change of the prime unit itself. “Softness” implies a

the cloud is a byproduct of incidental data accretion; it defies any

physical transformative process of chemical interactions; it sig-

precise definition of form and representation.

nals a fusion of form and material. This conceptualization of mat-

In many respects, the EcoRedux archive is like a cloud in its

ter

undergoing

evolutionary

transformations

renders

a

content and organization: seemingly unrelated characters, proj-

counterpart model of architectural practice to the combinatorial

ects, and environments—that have little in common phenome-

multiplicity and the propagation of complexity through recursive

nally—swarm together in blurry mass. Even though they never

unitary logic. If we categorize these two material techniques, the

worked together, the architects collected in EcoRedux are the

term hard denotes an additive logic of juxtapositions and super-

protagonists of a profound transformation seeking to amplify the

impositions, whereas the term soft denotes a procedural, evolv-

main disciplinary focus from object to environment, system, and

ing logic of transfusion.

situation. This archive is not a marginal history of non-architects

Needless to mention, there are significant overlaps between

that needs to be written because it is left untold; it is assembled

the documented genealogies and the respective case studies.

to uncover spatial and architectural concerns and ideas that have

The boundaries between categories are elastic, while similar or

surfaced now, though they originate from a historical moment

even contradictory techniques germinate in many experiments.

when the discipline underwent a fundamental reorientation in the

In any case, the hard and soft principles may be used as analyti-

deployment of normative tools of representation.

cal tools for the examination of material experimentation in the

The stories outlined in EcoRedux archive appear as side

1960s and 1970s. Movements such as “adhocism,” “opportunism,”

effects in the history of ideas, rather than being allied with the

“garbage architecture,” and “anti-industrialization” are directly

normative course of what we premeditate as of core historical

associated with hard material techniques, while structures

significance. The experiments register retroactive moments—

referred to as “organic,” “soft”, “pneumatics,” “sculpting” or “spray-

incomplete bubbles of events. They are manifestations of a

ing” are associated with soft material techniques. The examina-

moment between the “system” and the “cloud” that was never

tion of these experimental genealogies may enlighten current

cognitively addressed at the time it took place.

perceptions of sustainable design practices by depicting a shift

The stories of unexpected offspring at times germinate as

that was already at play in the 1960s from object to method: from

derailed paths from the central line of inquiry and more truly speak

objects, like photovoltaic cells, solar panels, recycling devices, et

of today’s ideological diffusion, despite the fact that they are not

al., to method—a process-based understanding of materials and

perceived as central. They constitute a marginal practice that sub-

recirculation of world resources.

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Lydia Kallipoliti: Eco-Redux 9

PRAXIS 13

SOFT 1.1 GROWTH AND LIVING SYSTEMS investigates the integration of organic matter and biological substances as evolutionary building blocks and systems. The term ‘construction’ is superseded by the term ‘growth,’ with built elements gradually taking shape in several stages of formation through chemical processes. The end product is partially controlled and partially emergent from erratic transformations of living systems.

1.1.1 CHEMICAL ARCHITECTURE BY WILLIAM K ATAVOLOS (1960) The Museum of Modern Art in New York organized an architectural exhibition entitled “Visionary Architecture,” showcasing a collection of unbuilt projects, either because they were technically infeasible at the time they were designed, or society could find neither the justification nor the money for their construction. Along with Frederic Kiesler, Buckminster Fuller, Paolo Soleri, Kiyonori Kikutake and many others, William Katavolos presented “Chemical Architecture,” later canonized as the “Organics Manifesto” in Ulrich Conrad’s collection of twentieth century modern manifestos. Katavolos envisioned the design of cities through the microscopic manipulation of materials and imagined a city that would grow softly, rather than be designed as an end product. His manifesto identified the soft, biological, chemical potential of design as a democratic and sustainable outlet to deterministic design “through the matrix of chemistry.” He wrote: “We are rapidly gaining the necessary knowledge of the molecular structure of chemicals, which will have a specific program of behavior built into them in a sub-microscopic stage. Accordingly, it will be possible to take minute quantities of powder and make them expand into predetermined shapes, such as spheres, tubes and toruses.” 20

1.1.2 PROVOLUTION BY RUDOLPH DOERNACH (1969) German architect Rudolph Doernach was one of the chief early pioneers of plastics architecture according to Arthur Quarmby in his 1974 book Plastics and Architecture. 21 Doernach was regularly hosted in the pages of AD’s “Cosmorama” between 1966 and 1969, publicizing a peculiar socio-spiritual material discourse that strategically positioned organic and plastic matter as the primary foundation upon which, and by which, a city could grow. In his project ‘Biotecture,’ “contractible and reusable organic matter would become the universal building material, invented and programmed by the environmental scientist that he called the comprehensive architect.” 22 Doernach envisioned animated matter as a tool for social reform and was obsessively searching for a spiritual ‘extension’ of matter, beyond its physical limitations.

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SOFT 1.2 RECYCLING investigates space as a physiological feedback mechanism that receives input from the environment and returns it to useful output. Input is understood in the form of sunlight, rainwater and air, or in the form of waste resulting from human occupation—excrements, grey water et al. Output is understood as energy generation that is fed back into the operation of the inhabitable system. Space functions as a cybernetic machine of cyclical causal processes converting byproducts into useful products.

1.2.1 BIOLOGICAL WASTE SYSTEM BY EDWARD BURTON (1966) Under the pseudonym Ruppert Spade, Martin Pawley wrote in 1970 the article “Trick Recyclist,” 23 describing the experiments of Mr. Edward Burton for a Biological Waste Treatment System (BWTS). Between 1960 and 1966, Burton assembled several patents for a waste recycling system, with a view to adapting it for use undersea or in space. To develop his inventions, Burton was in touch with the Grumann Corporation, a leading aeronautics and spacecraft firm that consulted NASA, in the early 1960s. BTWS offset smart technologies incoming from space shuttle engineering to home-made reprocessing systems. In his own domestic experiments, Burton, managed to nourish a duck, fifteen goldfish, an apple tree sapling, an apricot tree plantlet and a small rhododendron plant, explicitly from household effluent. With a number of conversions, oxidizing and permeation devices, Burton’s system became commercially available in the US in the early 1970s, promising to clear off effluents and grow tomatoes.

1.2.2 THE ECO-HOUSE BY GRAHAME CAINE (1972) The Eco-House or Street Farmhouse in Eltham, South London, was one of the earliest ecological houses, built in 1972 as a laboratory and a living experiment by Graham Caine, a member of the anarchist group Street Farmers. The Eco-House was not only a fully-functioning, integrated system that converted human waste to methane for cooking, but was also operated and inhabited by its architect, who used his family as guinea pigs. Caine knew how to feed the house with the right nutrients—how to chop wood, water the plants in the greenhouse, feed the engines, water the greenhouse and power the engines. He experimented with waste, cooking habits, and use of water, closely monitoring every activity of his daily routine until the day the house was demolished in 1974. Caine was an indispensable part of the house he built and portrayed himself as a combustion device for generating electricity, connected to the house in a diagram where excretion becomes part of the system’s sustenance. 24 Describing his house as a life-support system, Caine satirically argued that the architect, now being involved with the house’s biological cycles, may now relate to his own shit. 25

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Lydia Kallipoliti: Eco-Redux 11

PRAXIS 13

SOFT 1.3 FLEXIBLE MOLDS examines the form-finding possibilities of molding processes, through the use of flexible elements or environmental forces as formworks. Rather than a static mold—like a wooden frame, that produces an inverse of its form—the final product of flexible molding process is derivative from the interaction between the mold and the cast. The final object is not a selfdefined entity. Flexible moulding recounts an open formation process: one that allows the object under formation to be affected by environmental parameters, such as local winds, temperatures and other meteorological phenomena. In this sense, a more expanded definition of moulding is suggested, one in which the ‘mold’ becomes an accumulator of physiological contingencies that play an active role in the construction process.

1.3.2 SNOW MOLDING BY DAVID SELLERS (1973) David Sellers, an architecture graduate from Yale who moved to Vermont to experiment with low-cost housing, decided to use snow as a building material, abundantly available in his place of residence upstate. Sellers piled the snow to the required shape and covered it with hessian; then he sprayed the mound with low temperature foam to create a shell between two and eight inches thick, depending on the structural requirements. 28 Sellers used snow as a mold, onto which foam was sprayed, so that the occurring shelters resulted from the synergistic effect between two materials—one as the mold and the other as the cast.

1.3.1 VACCUMATICS BY JOHN GILBERT AND WILLIAM HANNA (1971) The ‘Vacuumatics’ project investigated an interactive molding process with polystyrene beads inserted in a flexible plastic membrane. Air was vacuumed out of the membrane and the beads, under certain conditions of pressure and temperature, bonded and provided a benchmark-mold for the membrane to set. ‘Vacuumatics’ exploited the mechanical material properties of expanded polystyrene beads that were capable of softening and fusing with the aid of the proper catalyzing agents, along the guidelines of an article published in AD earlier that year, entitled “The expanding world of polystyrene foam.” 26 The method of pumping air out of the flexible envelope provided overall stability to the structure, despite the fact that the beads, on their own, were small-scale and weak particles. The article featured small prototype domes which were erected at the Department of Architecture of the Queen’s University in Belfast, using the ‘vacuumatic’ principle, sucking air out of the mold in a reverse pumping process. 27

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SOFT 1.4 ACCRETION uses bottom-up techniques whereby matter is organized around a reinforcement matrix, which becomes a source of attraction. “Splat” is the engineering terminology used to describe the basic building block in thermal spray technology when a droplet impacts a surface. Multiple overlapping splats solidify to form layers and build outward to fill occurring interstices.19 This category examines the emerging tectonic principles of the “gun-shot” and the belief in orchestrating and proficiently distributing matter in a micro-scale. Techniques like spraying and the sedimentation process of celluloid foam plastics constitute examples of accretion.

1.4.2 FOAM HOUSE BY FELIX DRURY (1970) Architect Felix Drury designed a corporate guest house for the West Point Pepperell headquarters at Langdale, Alabama. The house was shot from a spray gun and according to Drury, it represented just an initial technology for the use of foamed plastics—specifically urethane foam—as a structural material for housing. The forms were inflated after being stapled to the formwork of concrete floor slabs. They were then sprayed from the outside with “cold weather” urethane foam of about 3 libres density. After the house was completed, Drury evaluated the result as “entirely unsatisfactory.” 31 It seems that the heat of the chemical interaction during foaming determined the layers of polypropylene fiber, leaving a partially loose interior surface. Even though Drury was highly frustrated with the result, he mentioned when interviewed that “this technology is only a crude start. It is not the magical material, but it can do things no other material can do, such as to freely work with curved surfaces. As drastic changes occur in man’s use and sense of time, scale and place, foam allows the architect to experiment with conditions which might accommodate these changes.” 32

1.4.1 TAO EARTH HOUSE BY CHARLES HARKER (1972) Charles Harker, founder of the Tao Design Group, juxtaposed Le Corbusier’s early 20th century machine for living with a new concept for habitation that he coined the “soft machine.” The Tao Design Group, an experimental group of architects, sculptors and artists associated with the University of Texas at Austin, explored the application of new plastic materials in architecture and published their molded shelters as environmental paradigms for a “soft future” in Architectural Design and Domebook 2. 29 In his manifesto for the “Soft Machine,” 30 Harker outlined an alternative definition of matter as patterns of energy that come to be solidified in time; he spoke of matter that can be remodeled in numerous ways and materials that could be composed morphogenetically rather than morphologically. For the Tao Design Group, it was key to dispose of tectonic divisions suc has structure, envelope and roof, in order to envision what they described as an environmentally-friendly, “soft future.” The term “soft” was therefore used both literally, though the use of plastic materials, and conceptually, projecting an elastic understanding of tectonic conventions.

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Lydia Kallipoliti: Eco-Redux 13

PRAXIS 13

SOFT 1.5 PHASE CHANGE AND MATERIAL CONVERSION investigates the micro-performance of materials as they undergo a series of phase changes. Critical thresholds of temperature, time, and other parameters define the fragile state of equilibrium in each phase. In physics for instance, a phase diagram shows the preferred physical states of matter at different temperatures and pressures; within each phase, the material is uniform with respect to its chemical composition and physical state. At typical temperatures and pressures, water is liquid, but it becomes solid ice if temperature is lowered below 273 K and gaseous steam if temperature is raised above 373 K. Each material “stage” is defined by a threshold of interrelated bonds and identifiable patterns.

1.5.1 PIEZOELECTRICS BY ROBIN EVANS (1969) “Piezoelectrics” was the thesis project of eminent architectural theorist Robin Evans completed while at the Architectural Association in London. The thesis was inspired by technological advancements in micro-realm materials and proposed macro-solutions for cities made of piezoelectric elements that are set in position and then made rigid through the passage of an electrical current. The properties of piezoelectric materials which can be electrically charged when subjected to a certain amount of stress, provided a platform for Robins to envision the future city. Evans thought of piezoelectric materials as an emerging type of naturally interactive system and outlined their potential use in the design of a series of interactive structures. 33

1.5.2 SPACE FORM MANIPUL ATION BY WOLD HIBERTZ AND JOSPEH MATHIS (1973) Wolf Hilbertz, a German architect, inventor, and marine scientist, founded the Responsive Environments Laboratory and the Symbiotic Processes Laboratory at the University of Texas, at Austin, where he taught in the early 1970s. Hilbertz’s research focused on the emergent possibilities of creating environments by manipulating matter on an atomic level. He envisioned a partiallycontrolled design process in response to environmental parameters, where matter could be directed to certain behaviors, constellations and shape formations, through the regulation of interference patterns. In his research project “Space Form Manipulation,” in collaboration with Joseph Mathis, the authors described their laboratory experiments on form generation by using computer controlled light configurations, interference patters and photo-polymerizable materials. They wrote, “what if our structures were frequently changing systems, in response to their environments and the user and become increasingly part of the social as well as economic process…Studies to devise more flexible working systems of structural erection and reclamation have centered on various compute controlled devices for extruding or spraying organic and inorganic construction materials.” 34 The research that Hilbertz and his students conducted in these laboratories, on automated form generations with pattern interference in a micro-scale, was fundamental to the development of nanotechnology, termed as an explicit field in the early 1980s.

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HARD 2.1 FOLDING AND KNOTTING investigates the use of weak materials, not normally used for structural purposes, which strengthen locally through the application of repetitive techniques. This category explored an economy of means through geometries and patterns that attribute new mechanical properties to material performance.

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2.1.1 FOLDED PL AT FORMS BY THE FARALLONES INSTITUTE (1971) “Folded Plate Forms” was an experiment in geodesic dome structures made from cardboard and used for play in a school environment. It was documented along with a series of other experiments for children in the Farallones Scrapbook, 35 self-published by the “Farallones Group,” founded by Sim Van der Ryn and Sanford Hirshen in the late 1960s. The experiment was laid out in the form of an instruction manual for making a dome, though various other typologies and volumes were produced as variables of scoring different patterns on a flat sheet. Scoring was examined as a technique to strengthen certain surface areas and produce a series of forms between a flat surface and a dome. This flat sheet methodology embodied quite literally the aspiration for diversity, which was essential for the group not only as a technical solution, but also as a cultural necessity. As Van der Ryn stated: “The institute views architecture not as a technical solution, but a way of effective change in social forms and states of consciousness…As children gain more control over space, the authoritarian control of the system is lost.” 36

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PRAXIS 13

Lydia Kallipoliti: Eco-Redux 15

HARD 2.2 ASSEMBLY AND MODULES investigates the replication and multiplicity of objects in assembly lines, stacks, arrays, modular pyramids and other volumetric settings. Found objects—like logs of wood or reprocessed objects like refolded packaging blocks— become standardized units, which are vastly reiterated in order to produce complexity via recursive logic. In this category, the overall effect germinates from serial repetition and the variability of connections between modules. .

2.2.1 FREE FORM BY JERRY THORMAN AND BOB DE BUCK (1973) Jerry Thorman and Bob de Buck and were jewelry makers from Trunchas, New Mexico, who built a 5000 square foot house near Albuquerque. The house was a maze of wandering spaces gathered around central shaft of five poured concrete columns that form a flue from the fireplace. 37 The designers found and used scrap lumber, leftover materials, and nails to create three dimensional assemblies, arrays and composite elements out of chopped wood logs. As the envelope was not sealed, many of the exterior layers are without connections or joints. This construction technique furthered the authors’ notion of the house as an incomplete but inhabitable project. They lived in the house while under perpetual construction, as pieces were added incrementally in various locations. The authors saw the house as a gigantic piece of jewelry in larger assemblies in which they happened to live.

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HARD 2.3 RECOVERY AND REUSE OF PARTS investigates techniques of salvaging obsolete objects and repurposing them towards the production of building elements in different scales. In this category, cans, bottles, defunct windows, car parts and other remnants of industrial production are used in new assembly lines, stacks and surface reinforcements. The motivation was to attribute a functional causality to waste and to feed back into global production the leftovers of industrialization.

2.3.1 SUGAR PUFFS PACK AGING BY DAVID HUNT (1970) The work of London architectural student David Hunt focused on waste product transformations both physically and conceptually. Physically, Hunt converted breakfast cereal packs from a box to a pyramidal unit, so that they could amass in larger pyramids and other three dimensional volumes, rather than enlarged boxes. Conceptually, Hunt redesigned his unit with a new logo and marketed it as the “Sugar Puffs minidome” with fake advertisements that referenced the original product marketing. With this uncanny resemblance and the blurring of boundaries between the actual product and the reused by-product, Hunt claimed that in order to successfully feed reused objects back into cycles of production, a new consumption culture of recycling would need to be invented. Hunt received the support of Martin Pawley, the innovator of garbage architecture, who wrote: “Hunt’s work was largely misunderstood, whereas in fact he pioneered the marketing of secondary use products using the graphic style of the primary use of original.” 38

2.3.1 DROP CIT Y BY THE DROP CIT Y COMMUNE (1966) “Drop City,” founded in 1965 in Trinidad Colorado, was not the first rural commune in America, 39 but it was the first built entirely from geodesic dome frames. The frames were clad with assorted garbage and various found components, primarily scrap car parts. Overall, “Drop City” was a unique constructed environment—or at least such were the testimonies of its visitors as well as its dwellers: “We thought of the whole of Drop City as a large environmental sculpture.” 40 Perhaps it was originally unintentional, but the early design decision to build hemispherical shelters enveloped by diverse found objects, set out a remarkably nuanced set of construction principles for the droppers. The droppers’ anti-urban retreat clearly manifested a critical renunciation of form and resource management of the contemporary city. Denying the triad urban predicament created the first set of hypotheses for the droppers.

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Lydia Kallipoliti: Eco-Redux 17

PRAXIS 13

NOTES 1–Charles Harker, “Supramorphics,”(2006). See http://web.mac.com/charker/ TAO_Design_Group/Tao_Design_Group.html (accessed September 25, 2011). 2–Ibid. 3–Hypnosis Chamber credits: François Roche, Stephanie Lavaux, and Jean Navarro, R&Sie(n), with Benoit Durandin; seats shell designer, Mathieu Lehanneur; hypnosis specialist, François Roustang. See http://www.new-territories.com/hypnosisroom.htm (accessed September 25, 2011). 4–Ibid. 5–C.P Oberndorf, “Erroneous Recognition (Fausse Reconnaissance),” Psychiatric Quarterly 25, no. 2 (1941): 316. 6–See Oberndorf, 316. See also R.W. Pickford. “Déjà Vu in Proust and Tolstoy,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis Review 35:188–201 (1948): 200. 7–Ethel Baraona Pohl, “A Design Report from Barcelona,” Domus Online (March 31, 2011): on the exhibition “EcoRedux 02: Design Manuals for a Dying Planet” curated and designed by Lydia Kallipoliti with Anna Pla Català at the Disseny Hub of Barcelona (D-Hub). See http://www.domusweb.it/en/design/ecoredux02-design-manuals-for-a-dying-planet/ (accessed June 11, 2011). 8–See Frederic Migayrou, “Extensions of the Oikos,” in Archilab’s Earth Buildings: Radical Experiments in Earth Architecture, ed. Marie-Ange Brayer & Beatrice Simonot (London: Thames & Hudson, 2003), 20. 9–Ernst Haeckel, Generelle Morphologie der Organismen: Allgemeine Grundzüge der Organischen Formen-Wissenschaft; mechanisch begründet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1866). 10–Caroli Linnæi, Systema Naturae, Sive, Regna tria naturæ systematice proposita per classes, ordines, genera, & species (Lugduni Batavorum: Apud Theodorum Haak, Ex typographia Joannis Wilhelmi de Groot, 1735). 11–This is clearly described by Ian McHarg when he writes, “This model contains the possibility for an inventory of all ecosystems to determine their relative creativity in the biosphere. The same conception can be applied to human processes.” See Ian L. McHarg, Design with Nature (New York: Natural History Press, 1969). 12–The “World Design Science Decade” was a research program that originated with Buckminster Fuller’s proposal to the International Union of Architects (I.U.A.) at their VIIth Congress in London, England, July, 1961. Fuller proposed that architectural schools around the world should be encouraged by the I.U.A. to invest the next ten years in a continuing problem of how to make the total world’s resources serve 100% of humanity, through competent design, despite a continuing decrease of metal resources per capita. In 1961, the total of the world’s resources served only 40% of humanity. See the Buckminster Fuller

26–“The expanding world of polystyrene foam” in the “Design” section of Architectural Design, Vol.40, No.5 (April 1971), p. 417. 27–“Vacuumatics” in the “Cosmorama” section of Architectural Design, Vol.41, No.5 (April 1971), p. 198. 28–“Snow Moulding” in the “Cosmorama” section of Architectural Design, Vol.43, No.12 (December 1973), p.751. 29–See “Soft Future” in the “Cosmorama” section of Architectural Design, Vol.43, No.10 (October, 1973), 617. See also the work of the Tao Design Group in Lloyd Kahn (Ed), Domebook 2, (Bolinas, CA: Shelter Publications, a non-profit educational corporation, 1971) and Lloyd Kahn (Ed), Shelter (including Domebook 3), (Bolinas, CA: Shelter Publications, a non-profit educational corporation, 1973). 30–See Charles Harker’s manifesto statement for the “soft machine,” written retrospectively in 2006, in the website of the Tao Design Group. See http:// web.mac.com/charker/TAO_Design_Group/Tao_Design_Group.html. Accessed on June 1, 2011. 31–Clinton A. Page, “Foam Home” in Progressive Architecture, Vol. LII, No.5 (May, 1971), pp.100–103. 32–Page, “Foam Home,” 103. 33–Robin Evans, “Piezoelectric Structures” in the “Cosmorama” section of Architectural Design, Vol.39, No.9 (September 1969), p.468. 34–Wolf Hilbertz, “Space Form Manipulation” in the “Cosmorama” section of Architectural Design, Vol. 43, No.11 (November 1973), pp.683–684. 35–Sim Van der Ryn and others, Farallones Scrapbook: Making Places, Changing Spaces in Schools, at Home and within Ourselves (Point Reyes Station, CA: Farallones Designs; distributed by Random House, 1971). 36–“Advertisements for a counter culture” in Progressive Architecture (July 1970) Vol. 51, pp. 71–93. 37–Lloyd Kahn, “Free Form” in Lloyd Kahn (Ed), Shelter (including Domebook 3), (Bolinas, CA: Shelter Publications, a non-profit educational corporation, 1973), p.145. 38–Martin Pawley, Garbage Housing (London: Architectural Press, 1975), p.105. 39–If one excludes the numerous 19th century utopian communities by Owen, Wright, Fourier, Brisbane, Ripley, Cabet and many others, there were many rural communities throughout the 20th century motivated to live exclusively off the land. A pioneering figure in the establishment of self-sufficient rural communes was Mildred Loomis, a former teacher and social worker that established Lane’s End Homestead in Western Ohio, along with her husband John Loomis. See Richard Fairfield, Communes USA. A Personal Tour (Baltimore, MA: Penguin Books, 1972), pp.25–26. 40–Bill Voyd, “Funk Architecture” in Paul Oliver (Ed), Shelter and Society (New York: F. A. Praeger, 1969).

Institute at http://www.bfi.org/ 13–John McHale, The Ecological Context (New York: George Braziller, 1970). 14–Denis Cosgrove argues that the representations of the whole earth have established a repertoire of sacred, secular, colonial, and empirical meanings. See Denis Cosgrove, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 84, no. 2, (June 1994): 270–294. 15–Excerpt from Migayrou, “Extensions of the Oikos,” 20. 16–Peter Cook, “The Electric Decade: An Atmosphere at the AA School 1963– 73,” in A Continuing Experiment: Learning and Teaching at the Architectural Association, ed. James Gowan (London: Architectural Press, 1975), 142. 17–Ibid. 18–Ibid. 19–Joseph R. Davis, Handbook of Thermal Spray Technology (Materials Park, OH: ASM International, 2004), p.47. Thank you to Deborah Ferrer for this reference. 20–William Katavolos, “Organics” (1960) in Ulrich Conrads (Ed.), Programs and Manifestoes on the 20th Century Architecture (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1970) p. 163. 21–Arthur Quarmby, Plastics and Architecture (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974), p.170. 22–Rudolph Doernach, “Biotecture” in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of Architectural Design, Vol.36, No.2 (February 1966), pp.4–5. 23–Ruppert Spade, “Trick Recyclist” in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of Architectural Design, Vol.40. No.3 (March 1970), pp. 111–112. 24–Grahame Caine, “Street Farmhouse” in Stefan Szcelkun (ed), Survival Scrapbook, Vol. 5: Energy (Bristol, UK: Unicorn Bookshop Press, 1975). 25–Grahame Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure” in Oz, (November 1972): pp.12– 13. Supplemented by Mike Moore’s diagrams based on Grahame Caine’s originals.

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Multimedia

Architecture is almost always presented in the media as clean, immaculately pristine, and devoid even of the users that might contaminate the perfected images. Even the angle of the images crop whatever didn’t work out and we are led to believe that the building is exactly what the architect and the client wanted. The films being reviewed here go behind that image by looking at the hidden rituals of cleaning and maintenance. In the first case, Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoîne’s series of films on contemporary iconic buildings, the cleaners become the prime users, the stars operating as architectural critics. A whole new narrative appears, offering new insights into the architecture that are distinctly different from those of the architects. In the second case, a 1973 television documentary by the Street Farmers (a group of architects coming out of the AA in London) on the Eco-House, the architect is the prime user who becomes a maintenance worker who is finally intellectually and biologically inseparable from the house being maintained. In the first case, all waste is systematically removed from view and in the second case all waste is incorporated into the very structure of the house. The classic sanitized stills of architectural representation give way to complex narratives.

beatriz colomina Multimedia Review Editor, JSAH

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 70, no. 2 (June 2011), 240–246. ISSN 0037-9808, electronic ISSN 2150-5926. © 2011 by the Society of Architectural Historians. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions website, http://www.ucpressjournals.com/ reprintInfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/jsah.2011.70.2.240. 

Clearings in a Concrete Jungle Television documentary by the Street Farmers (Peter Crump, Bruce Haggart and Grahame Caine), first aired 18 June 1973 on BBC 2 (BFI archives, British Film Institute, London)

Most revolutions start from the streets. The one, however, called for by the British anarchist, activist architectural group Street Farmers in their 1973 documentary Clearings in a Concrete Jungle, did not begin in the streets nor in public demonstration, but from the inner city: the interior of the urban fabric.1 To battle what the documentary diagnosed as the “highly structured detritus of metropolitan imagination,” the social and political revolution should start from the house and the way of inhabiting the land. The TV program envisioned a change of the city as a whole, achieved through tactical changes in small pieces—islands of habitation taken “off the grid” of energy supply. The main theme of the documentary was one of the earliest ecological houses, the Eco-House, or Street Farmhouse, built in 1972 as a laboratory and living experiment by Grahame Caine, a member of the Street Farmers, which was originally formed by Peter Crump and Bruce Haggart. The Eco-House was a fully functional, integrated system that converted human waste to methane for cooking, as well as included a hydroponic greenhouse that produced radishes, tomatoes, and even bananas. Caine, then a twenty-sixyear-old fourth-year student at the Architectural Association of London, designed and built the house on land borrowed from Thames Polytechnic in Eltham, South London, as part of his diploma thesis at the AA. He received a provisional two-year permit from the borough of Woolwich district surveyor with the

promise to build an “inhabitable housing laboratory” that would grow vegetables out of household effluents and fertilize the land with reprocessed organic waste. With the help of the Street Farmers, Caine was able to start construction in September 1972, during his fifth year, and to inhabit the house by Christmas. After having lived in the house for two years with his family, he was asked to demolish it in 1975. The neighbors were quite pleased with the destruction of the house. In the documentary we see them walking around the house’s site, disenchanted by its vision. For them, the Eco-House not only looked like a spaceship, it also functioned as one. In fact, they never referred to it as a house, referring to it an as “eyesore.” Built with a £2,000 donation from the chairman of the Architectural Association of London, Alvin Boyarski, and constructed from materials scavenged from the streets, in the suburban context of Eltham, the house bore a striking resemblance to a giant outhouse. As Haggart explains, when interviewed by TV anchor Melvyn Bragg, the Eco-House seemed uncanny from the beginning: “something that landed on the earth rather than growing out of it.” For the Street Farmers, the Eco-House was a built manifesto that announced a radical urban reconstruction that would proceed by ripple effect from the reinvented domestic sphere to all the city’s fabric. With the promotional line in the London Radio Times in June 1973, “spring is here and the time is ripe for planting in the streets,” Clearings in a Concrete Jungle presented the process of building a house as a reactionary social practice that spoke of a new urban vision. As the Street Farmers explain to Bragg in the documentary, “we manifested ourselves in the house; we were locked in fury and that fury necessitated a

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credible practice.” In many respects, the Eco-House articulated their anger in the form of the constructed reality of a house. It not only expressed a drastic reaction against the alienating authoritarian reality of inanimate gray blocks, it was also built on hard science. Caine used NASA’s terminology to describe the Eco-House as a fully regenerative “life support system.” His personal archive is replete with NASA papers for manned space missions, bioastronautics, and aviation medicine on the ecology of closed systems, and reports on the feasibility of NASA’s living simulators, supported with formulae for water reclamation from urine.2 These essays addressed a readership of chemical engineers and microbiologists; Caine had to undertake exhaustive study to understand them and implement their findings. The Eco-House could not have existed without techniques such as electrodialysis, closed-cycle air evaporation, and vacuum compression distillation—in other words, substance reclamation from human waste products in weightless conditions. However, in the Eco-House, the ideological and political orientation of these technical systems was reversed. By manipulating biological cycles, the Eco-House was understood as an instrument of “co-operative liberation.”3 The underlying supposition was that by controlling biology and becoming independent from the forces of the state, we might repossess control of our social sphere and our interactions with the urban environment. As Caine explains in the documentary, the exploitation of physiological data and the quantitative measurement of the environmental context provided new, emancipating, and realistic tools to resist the centralized control of the state. The EcoHouse was an island within the institutionalized political arena of the city. This detachment from supply networks expressed a renunciation of the urban condition, which was portrayed as a catastrophic environment that restrained the imagination and the freedom of the individual. The abundant natural resources offered a substitute network to which the built environment could be attached, severing itself from the man-made manufactured network of energy distribution

veins. In the documentary, the Street Farmers are shown pinning a label that proclaims “from here we grow” on the façade of the house. This phrase, excerpted from Murray Bookchin’s 1971 book Postscarcity Anarchism, was announced as the Eco-House’s trademark.4 The house was the visual analog of a reconstructed political reality. By the time the Eco-House was demolished it had received wide attention from the British press and architectural magazines, as well as considerable attention in the mass media. Besides being the main subject of the television documentary, it was extensively published in newspapers and magazines. Titles included “The House that Grows” and “A New Way of Living” in the London Garden News, “Living off the Sun in South London” in The Observer, and “A Revolutionary Structure” in Oz magazine. 5 Although there was embracing coverage of his work by the press, and despite succeeding in the logistical and administrative struggle to acquire permission to use public land as an experimental facility, Caine failed his final examinations at the AA and never received his diploma as an architect. In his final presentation to the committee, he did not present any architectural drawings. Instead he discussed arrays of scientific diagrams and tables that detailed the performance of the Eco-House’s interconnected mechanical systems, as well as sketches of an alternative political reality. Caine perceived his scientific work as a crusade for the individual political liberation, but the RIBA jury could not forgive his neglect of an “architectural middle ground” and conventional representation formats. In 2008, when Caine was asked to recall this episode, he was comically apathetic about his failure to earn the certified title of an architect. “This was normal at the time. They could give you funding for a project they believed in, but they could not risk giving a degree to someone like me, interested more in biology than in drawings. Honestly though, it did not matter to me. I was convinced at that point that architecture is immoral.” 6 Even though Caine failed his AA thesis exams, he was hired by the AA as an instructor the day after his presentation.

The story of the Eco-House in South London, as outlined in Clearings in a Concrete Jungle, raises a significant disciplinary paradox. It was an experimental laboratory sponsored by the Environmental Council of London and a house that compelled public imagination in the media, raising hopes for an alternative, sustainable occupation of the urban sphere. At the same time, it was rejected and notoriously criticized by the architectural community for its lack of reference to core disciplinary conventions: form, proportions, and spatial syntax. Yet, Alvin Boyarski and Martin Pawley at the AA recognized this critical moment of disciplinary outreach, thinking of the Eco-House as a tool for social reform propelled by scientific investigations; they supported Caine in his unorthodox habitation experiments and allowed him to further his research in the academic framework of the school. But the real research space was the house itself. Snapshots of Caine’s life in the Eco-House appear in Clearings in a Concrete Jungle (Figure 1). In several frames, we see him experimenting with his waste, cooking, using water, and monitoring closely every activity of daily practice until the day the house was demolished in 1975. As Caine explains to TV anchor Bragg, he used himself and his family as guinea pigs in order to test the functioning of several components in the house. Caine was undoubtedly the steward of the building; he alone knew how to feed it with the right nutrients—how to chop wood, grow plants, supply the engines, and water the greenhouse. The architect was an indispensable, biological part of the house, and he portrayed himself as a combustion engine for generating electricity, connected to the house in a diagram where excretion becomes a vital constituent of the system’s sustenance. In many respects, the house was more grown than constructed. It needed care from its caretaker and without human presence its living biotechnical systems would degenerate and die. Caine rarely left the house. Everyday housekeeping habits affected the health of the Eco-House and vice versa, as if in an interlinked biological pattern. The fragile bond between occupant and shelter—as enveloping environmental m u lt i m e d i a  

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Figure 1  Stills from Clearings in a Concrete Jungle. From top left to bottom right: TV anchor Melvyn Bragg; Eltham in South London, where the Eco-House was built; the Eco-House; Street Farmers building the Eco-House; Bruce Haggart and Grahame Caine; the hydroponic garden; Street Farmers’ children at play; Eco-House toilet; Grahame Caine tending the hydroponic garden

enclosure—denoted an intensive preoccupation with the physiology of inhabitation. Detailed instructions for daily housekeeping were considered by Caine as a remedy and a regulating mechanism for the health of the Eco-House, as well as his own fitness. In many respects, housekeeping was a curing practice for Caine. Nevertheless, daily housekeeping regulations were unrelated to cleanliness and hygiene. Caine was intensely preoccupied with the physiological footprint of his inhabitation and developed an obsession with managing, retaining, and reorganizing his excrement. In the documentary, he shows to the audience the bathroom commode, which he manufactured after measuring himself and his partner. Inspired by the diagrams in Alexander Kira’s 1966 book The Bathroom, 242    j s a h

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Caine did a series of studies on the human digestive system and the interface between defecation and anatomy. 7 Based on his experiments, he drew a close-up of routine defecation, documenting the location of liquid drops. Caine reported, “I did several small-scale experiments, defecating in buckets. It was awful; I don’t want go into details. I mixed feces with liquids in different solid to liquid ratios. If they were too liquid, they produced no gas.”8 Describing the Eco-House as a lifesupport system and sarcastically alluding to the architect’s confounded identity, Caine argued that now the architect could better relate to his own shit.9 Aside from its humor, his statement makes it clear that mastering the process of defecation was vital to the systemic independence of the

house. Caine was tied to his house as by an umbilical cord. The output of his body was used in the power generation for the house. Like plants and other animals, man becomes a requisite part of the overall cycle of organic matter.10 To create a successful energy cycle, Caine thoroughly studied the physiological cycles of humans, other organisms, and machines. At one point in the documentary, he is shown designing the house on a drawing table; however, immediately afterward he tells Bragg that numbers, statistics, numeric calculations, and the logistics of ingestion and excretion are the key components of his research. Architectural drawings were of some value, but what mattered most for building the EcoHouse was the thorough examination of the architect’s internal biology.

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Figure 2  Street Farmers, conceptual drawing for Clearings in a Concrete Jungle (personal archive of Grahame Caine)

Figure 1  Jørn Utzon (at left) with model of the Sydney Opera House (from Jørn Utzon: El Límite de lo Posible)

A comparison of the Street Farmers’ political assertions, as outlined in Clearings in a Concrete Jungle, and the premises of NASA’s space probes shows that the same cybernetic prescriptions of a system have migrated from the military complex to a countercultural political theory. On the one hand, NASA’s scenario for self-sufficiency is based on technological supremacy and the aspiration to conquer a new frontier with an underlying colonial modality. On the other hand, the equipped interior of the Eco-House is envisioned as a platform for political autonomy, enabling withdrawal from society and the state’s organizational infrastructure. NASA’s space probe and the Eco-House represent two very different political realities and existential problems, based on the same strategy for self-reliance (Figure 2). Clearings in a Concrete Jungle presents independence from the grid of supplies as fundamental for ecological design. The earth is viewed as a closed system, and the ideal household system would also be closed—and thereby immune from material loss—by recycling its waste and providing its own energy. Recycling promised to regenerate materials perpetually and feed all leftover substances back into cycles of production, creating a new world that was a complete whole. This view of the world is philosophically problematic, in its claims about a natural cosmic order, and also technically unviable. The vast majority of regenerative

systems and recirculatory houses, the EcoHouse included, have failed to function autonomously. Recycling systems are extremely fragile and likely to exhibit unpredictable behavior, such as the production of substances that cannot be dealt with by the system. In the aftermath of the TV documentary, Robin Middleton, then technical editor of Architectural Design magazine and a colleague of Caine’s at the AA, reported that the Eco-House had derailed from its normative cycle and destroyed itself. He recalled, “Caine had a family emergency and needed to leave England for a few weeks. He trained his favorite AA student to take care of the house while he was gone. In the meantime, the student who stayed at the house got the flu and the doctors gave him antibiotics. The antibiotics came through the system in his ‘crap’ and the crap was part of the whole recycling system. The whole system was eventually destroyed. It was amazing!” Middleton said, “The antibiotics killed the house!”11 Independent of the success or failure of the Eco-House as a technical system, the real question is the relationship between biological and environmental processes on the one hand and the domestic realm and the practice of everyday life on the other. In postwar ecological design theories, recycling became more than a technical task; it was a psychosocial position. Organic matter does not cease to exist; waste is not wasted; instead it changes state. Recycling is not just

about the creation of new materials from old, but also about the migration of properties from one substance to another through all the stages of a productive cycle.

lydia kallipoliti

The Cooper Union

Notes 1. Grahame Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” Oz, Nov. 1972, 12–13. 2. Caine thoroughly studied NASA’s Langley and Douglas living simulators. Howard W. Mattson, “Keeping Astronauts Alive,” International Journal of Science and Technology 54 (June 1966), 28–37. T. J. Hooper, “Biochemical Fuel Cell Development Test,” report on the performance of the Douglas simulator for the Advanced Biotechnology Department of Douglas Missile and Space Systems Division, under Independent Research and Development Program Account No. 81645-400 (Caine personal archive, Ronda, Spain); Willard R. Hawkins, “The Feasibility of Recycling Human Urine for Utilization in a Closed Ecological System,” paper presented to Aero Medical Association, Washington, D.C., 24 March 1958. See also Norman J. Bowman and Edward H. Dingman, “An Environmental Conditioning System for a Manned Satellite,” Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 17 (1959–60), 372–80. 3. Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” 13. 4. Murray Bookchin, Post-scarcity Anarchism (Berkeley: Ramparts Press, 1971). 5. Glenn Barker, “A New Way of Living,” Garden News 780 (15 June 973), 3. Grahame Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” 12–13. Grahame Caine, “The Ecological House,” Architectural Design, Vol.42 (March 1972), 140–41. Gerald Leach, “Living off the Sun in South London, The Observer, 27 Aug. 1972, 1–2. Eve Williams, “The House that Grows,” Garden News 722 (5 May 1972), 13. m u lt i m e d i a  

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6. Grahame Caine, interview by Lydia Kallipoliti, Ronda, Spain, 8 Jan. 2008. 7. Alexander Kira, The Bathroom (Ithaca, N.Y.: Center for Housing and Environmental Studies, Cornell University, 1966). Created by the Center for Housing and Environmental Studies at Cornell University, in collaboration with Cornell’s Aeronautical Laboratory, in order to optimize urination and defecation for manned space missions. 8. Grahame Caine, interview by Lydia Kallipoliti, Ronda, Spain, 8 Jan. 2008. 9. Caine, “A Revolutionary Structure,” 12. 10. Grahame Caine, “The Eco-House,” Mother Earth News 1 (March–April 1973), http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/1973–03–01/ The-Eco-House.aspx (accessed 26 Feb. 2011). 11. Robin Middleton, interview by Lydia Kallipoliti, New York, 1 Aug. 2007.

Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoîne, directors Koolhaas HouseLife BêkaFilms, Paris, 2008, HDV and DVD, 58 min., with book, 200 pp. BêkaFilms, www.koolhaashouselife.com €65, http://www.koolhaashouselife.com/ html/buy.html

Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoîne, directors Gehry’s Vertigo BêkaFilms, Paris, 2008, HDV and DVD, 60 min., release forthcoming, trailer http://www.livingarchitectures.com/html/trailers.html

In their documentary film series Living Architectures, Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoîne capture the intimacy of daily life within five icons of contemporary architecture.1 Each project was designed by a “star” architect and past winner of the Pritzker Prize, which is given to celebrate the “art of architecture” and “its impact on human behavior.”2 The filmmakers are intrigued by the latter, and rather than feature the buildings themselves, they treat the architecture as a background for the action taking place within and around it. Erasing the split between art and life, commingling the formal and the social, these documentaries chronicle the events within a house, an office, a church, a refectory, and a museum. Those events include the mundane tasks of upkeep and cleaning in Koolhaas HouseLife (2008), worship in Xmas Meier, celebrating the harvest with a party in Pomerol (2010), touring the office in Inside 244    j s a h

JSAH7002_06.indd 244

Piano (2010), and window washing in Gehry’s Vertigo (2010). By foregrounding the action, the documentaries portray the architecture through the events. Their ambition is not to demonstrate academic expertise or to present a matter-of-fact account with the interjections by authority figures or scholars—none of whom appear here—but to convey an everyday view of these exceptional buildings. To do this, the filmmakers use informal filming techniques such as handheld cameras standing in close to human subjects, who offer refreshingly unscripted and spontaneous conversations while obscuring the architecture. This presentation of contemporary architecture with all of its imperfections marks a significant shift in the ideology of representation from a collection of fixed, beautiful, and flawless photographs of buildings without life to the buildings’ messy and actual reality. These films reintroduce the figure in a way that deepens a view into the discipline of architecture by engaging a recent anxiety—the problem of post-occupancy.3 Two themes critical to post-occupancy (the life that begins when a building is finished) are cleaning and maintenance, and these two, distinct activities are the subjects of Koolhaas HouseLife (1998), set at Maison à Bordeaux, and of Gehry’s Vertigo (1997), filmed at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. These films underscore the social, cultural, and economic differences between cleanliness and maintenance, two separate practices that require different protocols. Cleaning and maintenance often are seen as interchangeable or the same, and are even described as such. Deepening this confusion, the term preservation is often added, although it is physically an entirely different act, as is evidenced in Koolhaas HouseLife.4 Preservation has been regarded as an autonomous practice reserved for specialists, an act that some of the most experimental architects like Rem Koolhaas and OMA/ AMO champion such projects. Cleaning is domestic and therefore more private, involving chores that can be accomplished by one individual—like dusting, polishing and vacuuming, whereas maintenance is more formally organized, requiring skilled workers often in teams (e.g., window washers) and is done in

public. Philosophically, they are different as well in that cleaning is an engagement with discrete parts while maintenance is dedicated to safeguarding the holistic architectural work. The distinction is important because cleanliness is a fundamental quality that we associate with modern and contemporary life and yet, today, as attention is shifting toward sustainability, maintenance has become increasingly pertinent to strategies of endurance and longevity, which inevitably involve labor. These two films explore the intersection of cleanliness and architecture in a critique of the modern project. An earlier artist working in this vein is Mierle Laderman-Ukeles, who proclaimed with her Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969! (1969) “The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom. The culture confers lousy status on maintenance jobs = minimum wages, housewives = no pay.”5 The significance of the manifesto was followed by a series of staged art projects in Hartford Wash (1973) part of the Maintenance Art Performance Series (1973–74) held at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut, where domestic cleaning by the subject— the housewife—transgressed from the house to the museum in a public act of cleaning. The Dutch artist Job Koelewijn’s art school thesis project, Cleaning the Rietveld Pavilion (1992), a series of photographs, is another such performance piece in which his aunts dress up in traditional Dutch outfits, complete with aprons, and clean the glass box building of the Rietveld Academy, “recleansing the idea of cleanness.”6 The project that resonates most profoundly with the contemporary discourse of cleanliness and modern architecture is Jeff Wall’s Morning Cleaning (1999) for which Wall photographed a janitor cleaning the Barcelona Pavilion over a series of mornings. For those of us in the discipline, to see architecture not only messy, but also being cleaned, is foreign and uncomfortable. Confronting the mess is something that architects purposefully avoid. However, these fixed images testify to the amount of time and physical effort necessary to achieve cleanliness and to renew the image of the architecture.

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1.  Symptoms of dry rot in wood. Photographs by the author.


Lydia Kallipoliti

Dry Rot The Chemical Origins of British Preservation

Future Anterior Volume VII, Number 1 Summer 2010

The term “dry rot” appeared in English jargon at the end of the eighteenth century as a pathology for timber’s distemper. It was said that timber was behaving irrationally, decaying prematurely in confined situations for no apparent reason. Symptoms were sinister and swift, transforming wood into brittle crumbles, like dry powder. First, the wood swelled, then, after some time, it changed its color, emitting gases of a moldy, musty smell; finally, the mass would dry and crack in all directions. Conjuring the biblical epilogue “from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust,” dry rot pulverized timber and returned it to the earth.1 This timber death, which reified longstanding religious dicta, stirred widespread national concern in Britain. If a building was infected by dry rot, it needed be split open and its pieces laid out for assessment, eventually to be amputated, plastered, and reassembled. The diagnosis of growth symptoms in vegetal matter were thus directly displaced onto the larger scale of buildings and construction. It is precisely in the context of this embryonic destruction of buildings that a natural history of dry rot can be written; a history reflecting how biological and environmental processes can invade the social sphere and ultimately the stability of the polis. The campaign against dry rot was suggestive of a new moral discipline that protected timber against disease, transferring an ideological framework of Protestant theology and ethics to the microrealm of materials. Looking at early attempts to protect buildings from dry rot offers an alternative history of historic preservation, unrelated to the proper origins of British preservation as instituted by John Ruskin in art criticism and William Morris in the arts and crafts movement. Rather than a stylistic and aesthetic understanding of architectural preservation, the history of dry rot provides the origins of a chemical understanding of architectural conservation traced through the interaction of builders and horticulturalists; it unfolds a narrative of animated vegetal substances as they migrate from forests to the building industry. Dry rot — as understood by today’s science — is a chemical decomposition or putrefaction of the hard vegetable fibers of wood, triggered and accelerated by fungi, which form in the presence of moisture (Figure 1). The synergistic function of these parameters that cause this inner decay caused serious 1


confusion and deep concern in nineteenth-­century Britain. In his Encyclopædia of Architecture Joseph Gwilt remarked how “it is no easy matter to cure the dry rot once it has taken root.”2 At the time, the British shared an eminent mania for the vegetal world; most writers referred to the Horticultural Society with respect and described it as of universal interest,3 while essays that examined vegetal diseases did not fail to pay tribute to the structural marvel of trees, both in their micro-­and macroscopic structure. “The study of the vegetable world is full of interest and tends not simply to make better architects but better men,” The Builder magazine announced in 1845.4 Given that wood embodied a universal symbol of beauty in the civilized landscape, dry rot was tackled by a diverse and cross-­disciplinary group of researchers, including interior surveyors, engineers, curates, architects, railroad constructors, navy ­officers, and philosophers. Each researcher interpreted the phenomenon through the prism of their own scientific language, a fact that displays how conservation science has its roots in a wide cross-­disciplinary discourse. Contemporaneous British disciplines in the preservation of trees germinated from the practice of covering sick trees that were decaying internally with a thick plaster used by builders. This widespread curing technique was associated with the foundation of the Royal Horticultural Society of London.5 The Horticultural Society originated from the experiments of William Forsyth (1737–1804)6 gardener to King George III at Kensington and St. James, who avowed that the special plaster he composed could “restore trees which were so diseased and hollow that nothing remained but the outer bark, and render as sound as they had been before being injured.”7 Forsyth coated trees with a mixture of cow dung, lime, wood ashes, sand, soapsuds, and urine, beaten into the consistency of plaster, used by builders (Figure 2). His experiments became widely known in Britain, as they were of an all-­purpose interest, beyond the aims of gardening.8 Concerns for rotting timber were growing, particularly in respect to structural components like beams and girders. The civil engineer Ralph Dodd, who along with John Lingard and Thomas Wade was one of the foremost experts on dry rot, pointed out: If wood is highly impregnated with the Dry rot, it is impossible to stop it, nothing but the cutting away of the parts, or amputating them, will do; like the cutting off a mortified part of the body to save the rest: for we may as well strive to smother fire with gunpowder, or stop spreading flames by a wall or a pitch, as to stop it when this destructive dry rot effectually takes place.9

2


2.  Left: The Conservatory in the gardens of the Horticultural Society of London. Right: cover of the Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London, as published in The Official Handbook to the Gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society (London: Published for the Royal Horticultural Society by Lacon & Ollier, 168 New Bond Street, 1864).

Any innuendo that a building could be infected with dry rot commenced an inspection by authorities. Surveyors from all over the country were sent to scrutinize why “this monster, the Dry Rot, should so soon appear.”10 Perhaps in the case of living trees, Forsyth could claim complete restitution with the aid of his plaster; but in the case of processed timber (building parts disconnected from their natural roots), wood could not so easily be restored. The only way to eliminate dry rot was to dismantle buildings and pull them apart in pieces for examination. Then the inspectors would scrape from the timber logs the Merulius lacrymans fungus, then reckoned as the prime cause of dry rot. The need to immediately purge every surface hinting at contagion was compulsory in building preservation. To all parties, dry rot was considered a severely distressing phenomenon, forecasting death for buildings (Figure 3). A Vegetal Construction History: Stage One In search of answers for both cause and cure, a number of treatises on dry rot were written and experiments conducted in the first half of the ninteenth century. There were conflicting opinions regarding the nature of the disease, its cause, and the most effective preventive measures to salvage affected timber. The confusion was deepened by the fact that there was no single direct cause-­and-­effect relationship to explain how dry rot emerged; indeed, there was no particular manner of mistreating timber that would directly result in its decay. The central misunderstanding of the debate revolved around whether the disease was an internal problem of moist wood or an attack to wood by an external agent, namely fungi. Was dry rot an infectious disease whereby fungi assaulted timber, wrapping it and growing around it as a second vegetative layer?11 Or was it an atomic mutation of timber itself, whose material properties were changing as it was putrefying internally?12 Authors reached conclusions so diverse that one can only speak of a conflicting dry rot theory that cannot clearly account for the

3


3.  Close-­up view of dry-­rotted wood. Photograph by author.

immense loss of timber. John Lingard’s estimation in A Philosophic and Practical Inquiry into the Nature and Constitution of Timber. Including an Investigation into the Causes of DRY ROT was certainly warranted: One of the most complicated questions that has ever arrested the attention of scientific men; namely the origin of fungi, and the cause of premature decay, called Dry Rot in Timber . . . The subject remains still hidden in darkness and nothing but conjectures put forth one century after the other.13 Considering the title of Lingard’s dry rot treatise — both a philosophical and a practical inquiry — it becomes evident that the transmutation of wood was far from a purely technical concern: it was also an ontological enigma. The discourse grows even more enticing if we consider the direct link between anomalous growth symptoms of the vegetal world and building production. If the health of a tree guaranteed the health of a building, and timber was the predominant material of the building industry, a building became itself a kind of vegetal structure, dependent on the irregularities of trees’ frail well-­being. Therefore, the immediate transformation of felled trees into buildings was judged as risky and unwise, since wood could misbehave and endow buildings with the unstable character of unruly growing

4


plants. All dry rot authors arrived at similar conclusions regarding the proper preparation of timber after it has been felled; they warned their readers that time was needed to inanimate the material before it became part of an inert building. As a preventive measure, timber was to be dried in a stable, well-­ ventilated climate instead of hurriedly being transformed into beams and columns right from the woodlands. It is important to clarify that the dry rot literature produced in the early nineteenth century, as well as later patents for timber preservation, was for the most part a British phenomenon. Although one would correctly assume that timber is equally prone to decay in many northern regions with moist climates, such as in the Netherlands or Canada, the paranoia over dry rot was deeply rooted in British culture as a blend of obsessions with climate, the polluted atmosphere, and the entrapment of air and smells in congested public spaces. London was a metropolis notorious for its natural wetness and its mists and fogs.14 Because of an increasingly polluted atmosphere, the local climate worsened dramatically and created an unsettling daily smog. London’s Fumifugium15 also gave rise to grotesque artistic and literary imagination, as air and water were imagined to be inhabited by monstrous microscopic creatures,born out of the foul environmental chaos (Figure 4).16 But most ­importantly, the climate was held responsible for numerous quandaries in the built environment, like excessively damp walls. Joseph Gregson, an interior surveyor who composed a treatise on dry rot according to his observations in different building sites, pointedly concluded that the top cause of dry rot was the British climate: It is considered that the climate of this country has materi­ ally altered within the last fifty years, by the cutting of canals &c. and that we can calculate only one third of the time to be moderately dry, the atmosphere in the remaining two thirds of the year being greatly charged with moisture . . . We may ask not how many houses are subject to noxious exhalations but how many houses are free from their effects.17 Suppositions about whether air was a source of dry rot or a preventive tool were largely inconclusive, sustaining the sense of confusion. While certain writers conjectured atmospheric air to carry moisture and provoke fermentation,18 others considered it to be a great preserver of timber. Ralph Dodd (1756–1822) carried this latter argument to an extreme, pledging his existence that air kills fungus by turning it into powder.19 In the vast majority of papers on dry rot, ventilation was cited

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4.  “A block in the Street” in London, mid-­nineteenth century. From Gustave Doré’s 1872 London: A Pilgrimage.

as a prerequisite for timber’s preservation,20 though it was not just any kind of air that was sought. What was desired was the freshness of circulating air, the opposite of ghastly urban fumes and air trapped in caverns, hulls, and confining crevices. By the mid-­nineteenth century, this dichotomy was manifested in reports claiming that smoggy air jeopardized the health of several building materials other than timber, including stone. For example, the commissioners appointed to inquire the qualities of the stone to be used in the new House of Parliament argued: 6


The state of the atmosphere in populous and smoky towns produces a greater amount of decomposition in buildings so situated, all other conditions being equal, than in those placed in the open country, where many aeriform products which arise from such towns, and are injurious to buildings, are not to be found.21 Gregson innovated the reorganization of the plan in domestic and communal building spaces according to air circulation, indicating layouts for interior spaces as anti-­dry rot techniques. If moisture and more specifically damp walls produced dry rot, not only would air circulation have to be calibrated, but it would have to be the product of cautious yet conscious design. The troublesome climate of the polluted inner city was ­aggravated by the congestion of urban environments, which was viewed as a generic root of all types of illness: human, animal, vegetal, and material. Too many people breathing simultaneously in confined, crowded assemblies allegedly ­created uneven temperatures and caused distemper, contagious fevers, asthmas, complaints of the lungs, faintings, violent colds, consumption, and in many cases instantaneous death.22 The disquiet about the quality of air spoke not only of the moist, foggy climate of London as it was despoiled by industry but also of how urban space was occupied and eventually designed. In this sense, human illnesses were projected directly onto plants and the vegetable economy of trees. Thomas Wade considered the mixing of timbers of all sorts and all ages as the principle parameter in the putrefaction of wood.23 Soaked timber, stacked timber, and timber that had remained in an environment of fluctuating temperature were judged unfit for building production.24 Looking further backward, claims on the absolute homo­ gen­eity of building materials were profoundly ingrained in the conventions of British building, originating with Alberti’s De Re Ædificatoria, which was translated into English in the eighteenth century. Joseph Gwilt, in the dry rot section of his ­architecture encyclopedia, mentions how, according to Alberti’s recommendation, all timber in the same building should come from the same forest and comments that, although such a ­notion is “a little too fanciful for these days . . . we are inclined to receive it with the highest veneration.”25 Air circulation was central to the initial dry rot treatises, like the essay of architect and designer John Buonarotti Papworth (1775–1847) in 180326 and Joseph Gregson’s report on the properties of air microform.27 Although both essays stress ventilation, they advise that covering wooden surfaces entirely with tar, oil, and other paint mixtures28 is equally requisite for the preservation of timber. For instance, the engineer and 7


inventor Joseph Bramah (1749–1814) patented a composition that combined mineral earth, called Parkers or Roman cement, with linseed oil in a mixture of paint to cover timber surfaces and other woodwork exposed to air.29 In one of his letters to an unknown recipient, Bramah pledged his Parkers cement to form such an excellent paint or pigment that it would cure rotten wooden planks and avert the recurrence of dry rot ­infections.30 This protective technique of coating timber with a thick second skin that wraps around every corner of a log may be interpreted as almost contradictory to techniques proposing that logs should be properly aired. However, in many cases, we find at the same time — even in the same essay — suggestions to pierce logs with small holes so that every timber surface in a building is aerated and suggestions to cover them wholly with paint that fills in the holes. This confusion and uncertainty about the attributes of air defines the first stage of dry rot literature.31 Of course, coating timber was a common preservative technique in Europe, originating from the experiments of Johann Rudolf Glauber (1604–1670), a German chemist who developed a system in the late seventeenth century “by which timbers were charred, coated with tar and then soaked in an acid resulting from the destructuve distillation of wood.”32 Still, the fascination with thickening the coating skin as a dense, impassable material body emerged in the early nineteenth century and was synchronous to Forsyth’s experiments in the restoration of hollow-­ill fruit trees. The underlying supposition in applying thick cementitious coatings to timber was that the barrier would not only conceal and block the decay of wood but would also restore and cure its insides, as in the case of fruit trees. Varnishers and woodsmen followed the guidelines of the horticulturalists and imagined their paints as crusts that wrapped wood and shielded it from vicious natural conditions. Characteristically, James Crease (1749–1820), a woodworker and acclaimed inventor of cheap paint, wrote of his paint mix in his 1808 Hints for the Preservation of Wood-­Work Exposed to the Weather: “When dry and hard, timber will become almost an impenetrable crust, or casing of already decayed wood whose durability may still be increased.”33 Forsyth’s plaster and Bramah’s mixture demonstrate an inclination to the search for dense paint materials produced by blending diverse, seemingly unrelated ingredients, like in the magician’s pot. In both cases, the mixing of organic (urine) and inorganic (plaster) constituents was biological in nature, yielding a performance that depended on the fermentation of materials, a method widely used in textile dyes since the Middle Ages.34 Yet unlike such dyes, which rendered a fabric 8


colorful by chemically manipulating its material composition, paint was a surface treatment. Paint was displaced from the ­inner structure of a material to its outbound envelope and, in this sense, it ­assumed more than an aesthetic function; it acquired a cleansing and a curative role. This new, multifunctional type of paint was in high demand in the early nineteenth century, and numerous societies and organizations offered rewards to individuals who could invent durable, economic, and hygienic paints for the preservation of woodwork exposed to weather. Crease’s invention of an inexpensive paint responded directly to such a demand, as it was developed for a fund by “the Bath and West of England Society offered to any person who might invent a cheap and durable paint.”35 Lingard Junior’s invulnerable paint essay was a prolonged advertisement for the building corporation Bedford Colorworks. A Vegetal Construction History: Stage Two The intense interest in paint was not sustained for long, however. The second phase of dry rot literature studied the phenomenon as an infectious condition internal to wood. The trio that best represents this stage includes the engineer Ralph Dodd, a transitional figure who spans both the first and second phases of dry rot discourse; the curate John Lingard of Pentonville (1771–1851); and Mr. Thomas Wade (1805–1875). Despite their diverse backgrounds, the three authors arrived at similar conclusions about the enigmatic nature of timber disease; their essays were compiled into a compendium, which represents the only comprehensive volume on dry rot.36 Dodd, Lingard, and Wade examined the distortion of wood in terms of its chemical composition. They used Newton’s physical laws and their potential relevance to chemical phenomena; in addition, their work was deeply informed by the late eighteenth-­century experiments of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier in their attempts to comprehend in depth the microstructure of wood — with its interconnecting vessels, crisscross channels — and to discover how these were connected to the growth of the trunk’s rings.37 In this sense, Dodd, Lingard, and Wade may be evaluated as precursors of modern building conservators, since they transformed their interest in chemistry into a disciplinary field that would inform building conservation practices. Initially, all three held that dry rot pulverized wood from the inside out, in a putrefactive process of wood-­to-­vegetable material conversion radiating outward from the core of a tree trunk. Their assumption was that dry rot was due to the defective circulation of fluids in wood, which ultimately resulted in the loss of all its material elasticity. Certain substances were 9


dissipated — all hydrogen to gas and all oxygen to carbonic acid gas — and in the end only earth remained, as a brown dry powder. Putrefactive fermentation, as an extreme deprivation of fluids, was directly taken from Lavoisier’s hypothesis in his fourteenth section in the 1790 Traité Elémentaire de Chimie.38 This dehydration process was thought to irreversibly change the performance of wood. Infected timber, fixed in structural members of a building, drastically decreased in weight and behaved like cork; such wood was eventually rendered unable to carry not only dead and live loads but also its own weight. With the fibrous qualities destroyed, wood split and cracked against its grain.39 Dodd offered an alluring metaphor on how materials weaken if they become inflexible, comparing wood’s vascular system with the entrails of an animal, if these were to be filled with fluids.40 Lingard proposed a further, more specific insight on the decomposition of wood, an idea linked to Newton’s second law of attraction and repulsion. He suggested that the aeration process in dry rot was nothing more than the loss of cohesion between wood particles that end up floating and wandering as independent units; sooner or later they wind up in a flaccid, nonadhesive, material state that had previously been called a “moody” of timber’s distemper.41 Accordingly, any remedy for timber’s preservation had to recover the laws of corpuscular attraction between timber particles.42 Another point common among all three writers was the seeking of connections between the chemical properties of materials and the manner in which they were shaped as geometries into buildings. Geometry, meaning the shapes of logs and the way they were processed from trunks to beams, affected the chemical behavior of timber constituents on a microscale. In other words, the authors drew a direct link between material performance and material geometry, associating substance to figure. Log geometry could either facilitate the propagation of dry rot or hasten its extermination. Lingard proposed that the potential for dry rot depended on the manner in which a tree was dissected. He proposed that the core needed to be decentralized, dissected, and divided into parts, in order to segment acid action in smaller portions that could then be battled individually. If the pith was split open in four parts (or more divisions, if cut like a pie), the acid would no longer be trapped in a ring but converted to edge conditions that could then be treated with remedial preservative surfaces. For Lingard, who viewed the pith as a source of malicious substances, trunks should always be split open in four or more parts in order to decentralize the acid pith to attenuated edge conditions. Wade viewed the tree trunk slightly differently, envisioning it as a complex three-­dimensional system of 10


interconnecting vessels and nested tubes. Still, he posited that the way timber is shaped determines the chances of dry rot; for him, the reciprocity and connectivity of pipes and tubes were perfect transference media to distribute the disease.43 In view of that, Wade endeavored to produce logs that interrupted the crucial network points of the vascular system. Finally, Dodd was of the view that this method of dressing timber was an impossible enterprise for buildings but a feasible one for ships, since they were of the same frame.44 Although the similarities of Dodd’s, Lingard’s, and Wade’s essays are debatable, their theories were drafted on the basis of independent practical field experiments that each author had performed in the English countryside at their own cost and effort. They all built edifices on which to experiment and let fungi attack them in order to draw their conclusions strictly in accordance to the well-­recorded documentation of natural principles. Practical experimentation in nature was the only methodology to mole into the nature of dry rot, since the unexpected behavior of wood and its animated distemper could only be analyzed systematically with trial-­and-­error observations; then one could propose statistical probabilities about the phenomenally moody temper of timber.45 A Vegetal Construction History: Stage Three John Howard Kyan (1774–1850) was another man who devoted his life to the study of dry rot; he was celebrated as the inventor of the eponymous “kyanizing” process (Figure 5). The preservation of vegetable substances was brought to Kyan’s ­attention in his father’s copper mines, and, after his own house at No. 29 Howland Street, London, became severely infected by dry rot in 1809, he became obsessed with finding a cure.46 Kyan eventually found that albumenous matter was the primary cause of the decomposition of vegetable matter and that bichloride of mercury — or corrosive sublimate — rendered it sound.47 He first applied it to timber in 1825, impregnating an oak of wood with his corrosive sublimate and inserting it into a “fungus pit” at Woolwich yard.48 When the timber was recovered from the pit six years after and was clearly not subject to decay, Kyan patented his discovery in 1832.49 In 1836, Kyan sold the patent rights to the Anti-­Dry Rot Company, an act of parliament having been passed that authorized the raising of share capital of £250,000.50 Eventually, kyanizing was hugely successful and received widespread recognition from both the building industry and chemical societies. Kyanized timber was used in the construction of a number of large buildings and palings in London and elsewhere; the established architect Sir Robert Smirke (1781–1867) was so optimistic about the process that he advertised its assured efficiency for the Anti-­Dry Rot 11


Company: “This preparation of Mr. Kyan’s resists all rot; I CANNOT ROT IT,”51 added Smirke. “Kyanizing” also drew the interest of the distinguished chemist Michael Faraday (1791–1867), who after experimenting himself with kyanized specimens of the Woolwich fungus pit, was skeptical yet supportive of the plan.52 Faraday was attracted by Kyan’s process and examined it closely because of its enigmatic nature. He felt that he could not apply chemistry to prove the utility of the process; still kyanizing oddly preserved wood more than any other treatment at the time.53 Faraday’s interest is further demonstrated by the fact that he chose kyanizing as the subject of his inaugural lecture at the Royal Institution on February 22, 1833, on his appointment as Fullerian professor of chemistry.54 Independent of emerging counterarguments, Kyan’s method was a miraculous innovation of the 1830s. Kyanizing captured the broader cultural imagination beyond chemist and builders, becoming the opening verse of a song that appeared in Bentley’s Miscellany for January 1837: Have you heard, have you heard, Anti-­Dry Rot’s the word? Wood will never wear out, thanks to Kyan to Kyan! He dips in a tank any rafter or plank, And makes it immortal as Dian, as Dian!55 Needless to say, as is the fate of any reputable accomplishment, Kyan’s process was criticized for making wood so brittle on account of corrosive action that not even iron fastenings could be inserted in kyanized logs. In 1835, the Admiralty appointed a committee to inquire the efficacy of Kyan’s method and Sir William Burnett’s (1779–1861) method of preserving timber by chloride of zinc, with the application of creosote, proved a rigorous competitor. Burnett, a naval physician, also patented his discovery, equivalent to kyanizing, and it became known as “burnettizing.”56 Burnett’s and Kyan’s methods of immersing and impregnating timber with copper sulphates, mercuric chloride, and zinc chlorides comprises the third stage of dry rot literature, which marked the end of the pre-­chemical conservation discourse of the three previous decades. It is important to distinguish the evolution in the stages of dry rot discourse. Where in the first stage, the primary idea was to reinvent paint as an impenetrable crust around timber, a defense system from exterior enemies, the goal of the third stage was to bleed substances into every channel of timber’s microstructure and, in effect, permanently change its chemical compounds. Kyan advertised how his composition produced a new material body within timber that was no longer prone to decay: “Corrosive sublimate neutralizes this primary element of fermentation, 12


5.  Left: “Report to the Admiralty on Mr. Kyan’s patent by the Committee appointed by the Lords Commisioners” (London, 1837). Middle and right: “Anti Dry-­Rot Company”: Kyan’s patent Advertisement (London, 1836). In the National Archives of Kew Gardens, Richmond, United Kingdom.

forming a new chemical compound, which is solid, insoluble, inert, and does not attract moisture.”57 This transition was only made possible by the work of Dodd, Wade, and Lingard, who turned their attention inward to the chemical nature and constitution of timber. In the mid-­ 1810s, these authors were well aware of the effectiveness of impregnating timber with preservatives. Lingard argued the timbers of the Alhambra Palace in Spain were so durable that they killed insects that approached them, and that this defensive power was due to the fact that they were impregnated with a protective composition.58 The Political Ramifications of Conservation Dry rot could invade any timber structure. Indeed, it infected England’s best buildings, assaulting the foundations of the country’s civilization. Rather than a technical predicament, dry rot was above all a social plague; it materialized the fear of an incisive catastrophe threatening to curb progress and destabilize the city of London. Dry rot blocked any building activity when it appeared; it was said that buildings were producing their own destruction, but most importantly the damage was of a structural rather than aesthetic nature. Dry rot did not degenerate façades, like the decay of claddings did, but instead ate away at beams and columns to create an internal and invisible squalor. Dry rot undermined and eviscerated a building’s inner support system, bringing about its collapse and ultimate destruction. Building collapses were a symbolic death, given that buildings signified the transference of a mnemonic and economic legacy from generation to generation and, in a wider sweep, the advancement of civilization itself. Lingard explained these affairs in the introduction to his treatise, where he analyzed symbolic death in utmost detail, in contrast to the actual 13


collapse and the safety of buildings, which he did not once mention. Lingard’s testimony made it clear that, like trees, buildings were thought to establish civic continuity. The preser­ vationist ethic, which Lingard espoused, meant that edifices constituted an extension of the physical world and therefore needed to be safeguarded as natural resources. This may come as no surprise considering that Lingard, a curate who wrote on the persecution of Christians59 and the legislation of Corn Laws,60 projected in many of his texts his religious perspective of honoring the divine creations of nature upon the discipline of preserving forests, plantations, and, by extension, of preserving building heritage as a continuation of nature. Given the cultural belief that trees, plantations, and buildings provided physical links in time, Lingard fervently supported the idea that they should be cautiously reserved as a valuable resource, a view that he did not hold alone.61 However, at the same time that dry rot was viewed as a pernicious danger to buildings and civic life at large, the breeding of fungi on wood was a natural phenomenon that was a source of delight to many authors. The effect of fungi on wood, exemplified the heteroclite and temporal nature of materials, their nature as changing bodies or “timber in fusion,” as Lingard coined it. Fungi turned attention to an exhaustive study of the structure and operation of tree structures, their hosts. After close examinations of how the disease proliferates by occupying every fracture of wood, a complex spatial reading of wood’s microstructure was distilled. So, aside from scientific clarifications, many authors considered the partial nonhomogeneous decomposition of wood and the patterns that were formed as an artistic contribution to the world. Lingard judged rotted wood as sublimely beautiful and condemned the “apathy of science” that failed to appreciate the true nature of dry rot.62 On the one hand, the campaign against dry rot endorsed a moral discipline against diseased buildings; on the other hand, however, that very disease helped many thinkers to articulate a variety of strategies for generating a material narrative of emancipation rather than confinement. Dry rot is an inner change of the chemical properties of wood (Figure 6). As an attack of natural organisms to buildings, dry rot always begins in the microscale of the material’s interior and does not alter the external appearance of a wood log. In this sense, dry rot theories allow us to see the catastrophic ­destruction of cities by nature and therefore allow us to question current “apolitical” views of conservation science. Invisible at first sight, dry rot is classified by contemporary preservationists as the cancer of buildings.63 One has to look closely and begin a tactical interrogation of the material for any

14


6.  SEM (scanning electron micro­scope) images of the fungus Merulius lacrymans attacking timber. Photographs courtesy Dr. Christian Jensen.

hidden surface swells. In order to detect dry rot, it is common practice in current building preservation to scan buildings through infrared applications and thermal analyses. Infrared cameras are used as building-­technology diagnostic tools to track “unwanted life” — microorganisms and moisture — by distinguishing thermal anomalies. However, when applied to buildings, thermal analysis renders an alternative visual reading to traditional formal and stylistic analysis. Rather than seeing a building as a constellation of specific structural or ornamental functions, thermal analysis instead shows a field of biological substance concentrations that defy the contours and geometrical boundaries of building parts. In this sense, the dry rot discourse in nineteenth-­century England exposes the origins of an alternative lineage of historic preservation, a lineage whose foundations are not to be found in the morphological assessment of building components but in the chemical assessment of buildings as whole entities — that is, as the material distribution of substances and the manner in which organic life inhabits physical structures. Considering that the classification of typological building elements — sills, lintels, columns, pedestals, cornices — has dominated the field of historic preservation, the dry rot discourse delivers an insurgent perspective of building, one in which the boundaries between the man-­made and the physical worlds are blurred as integral parts of the same ecosystem.

15


Author Biography Lydia Kallipoliti is an architect, engineer, and theorist and is currently an adjunct assistant professor at the Cooper Union in New York City. She holds a degree in architecture and engineering from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, a SMArchS in design and building technology from MIT, and is completing her PhD at Princeton University, where her dissertation, “Mission Galactic Household” focuses on recycling material experiments and experimental houses of the 1960s. Kallipoliti is the editor of the November 2010 issue of Architectural Design titled “EcoRedux: Design Remedies for an Ailing Planet”; she is also the curator of an exhibition of the same name that has been exhibited worldwide, a digital version of which appears at www.ecoredux.com. Her design work has received awards in a number of architectural competitions and has been exhibited internationally.

Endnotes My deep gratitude to Edward Eigen, Jorge Otero-­Pailos, and Elias Anastassiadis. 1 See Thomas Wade, Treatise on the Dry Rot in Timber (London: Cadell and W. Davies in the Strand, 1815), 3; British Library, rare books section. 2 Joseph Gwilt, An Encyclopædia of Architecture: Historical, Theoretical, & Practical (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1881), 509. 3 See John Lingard, A Philosophic and Practical Inquiry into the Nature and Constitution of Timber. Including an Investigation into the Causes of DRY ROT and a Proposal for Effectually Preserving Timber against Premature Decay (London: J. Hatchard & Son, Piccadilly, 1827), 2. 4 “Timber Trees and the Vegetable World Generally” in The Builder 3 (September 13, 1845): 435. 5 The Horticultural Society was established by Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820), president of the Royal Society and royal adviser to the Gardens at Kew, for the purpose of forming an official society to experiment on trees. In a letter forwarded to him by botanist John Wedgwood (1766–1844), Banks found the idea of tree experimentation of widespread educational interest. Banks replied to Wedgwood: “I know of no trade that conceals so many valuable branches of knowledge as that of a gardener, and few valuable subjects where the public will be more benefited by the disclosures which such a society will immediately occasion.” The Society’s ­inaugural meeting was held in March 1804 in the house of bookseller Mr. Hatchard in London. See Harold R. Fletcher, The Story of the Royal Horticultural Society: 1804– 1968 ­(London: Oxford University Press for the Royal Horticultural Society, 1969), 19–22. 6 William Forsyth was sixty-­seven years of age at the inaugural meeting for the Royal Horticultural Society. Working in Kensington Gardens for King George III, Forsyth had to turn his attention to the cultivation of fruit and vegetables for the royal household. His task was not easy, because many of the fruit trees were in poor health, canker being rife in the apples and gumming in the stone fruits. It was necessary to head back many of the trees and to remove numerous large branches; great wounds were formed, and, to encourage the formation of callus over these as well as to help hide them, Forsyth came up with his famous plaster. Forsyth advertised his plaster far and wide and wrote of it in his small book entitled Observations on the Diseases, Defects, and Injuries in All kinds of Fruit and Forest Trees (1791) and reprinted at the end of his Treatise on the Culture and Management of Fruit Trees (1802). The memory of Forsyth is kept in the genus of spring-­flowering shrubs named in his honor, the Forsythia. 7 Fletcher, Story of the Royal Horticultural Society, 27. 8 At the time when England was at war with Napoleon and wagering much on the quality of its ships; the provision of sound oak for shipbuilding was essential. In 1789 Forsyth gulled a Parliamentary Commission, which inspected his experiments, into reporting to the Treasury that “Mr. Forsyth’s Composition is a discovery which may be highly beneficial to individuals and the public.” See Fletcher, Story of the Royal Horticultural Society, 27. 9 Ralph Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber, with Specifications for Its Prevention on Board of Ships of War and Merchant Vessels, Public Buildings, Mansions and Private Dwellings, &c.: With the Best System for Ventilation for Ships and Bodies of Timber in Close and Confined Places (London: Hatchard & Son, Piccadilly; Taylor, Holborn; Hamilton, Paternoster-­Row; Richardson and Asperne, Cornhill, 1815), 19; British Library, rare books section. Thomas Wade makes the same argument in his Treatise on the Dry Rot in Timber (16). 10 Lingard, Philosophic and Practical Inquiry, 2. 11 Joseph Gwilt claimed in 1881 that dry rot occurred as an attack to wood by Polyporus and Merulius lacrymans fungi, which drastically accelerated the decomposition

16


of wood. See Joseph Gwilt, An Encyclopædia of Architecture: Historical, Theoretical, & Practical (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1881), 509. In 1815 Ralph Dodd asserted through research that dry rot is a “perfect fungus by various species. Sending its fibrous roots into the timber and acting on it like a number of hydraulic pumps, or leeches on the human frame, drawing out the blood or vital stream of life.” See Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber, 13–14. Also, Dodd in his description of the St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, a building severely infected by dry rot, analyzed the disease as a second vegetation layer wrapping the building. Dodd wrote: “A second vegetation arising from its decayed parent; in short this great building produced almost every species of the rot to be met with: for I never saw any place worse affected with it . . . for the whole of the extensive girders and the plate pieces, in the walls were entirely destroyed with many of the joists and bridge pieces.” See Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber, 15. 12 Baron Liebig analyzed the phenomenon of dry rot as a case of internal putridity that mutated the microstructure of wood in different stages. See Gwilt, An Encyclopædia of Architecture, 508. John Lingard suggested that dry rot is the putrefaction of the vegetable fibers of wood and that the formation of fungi is a separate phenomenon related to timber’s own decomposition process. Lingard mentioned that “every species of decomposition or decay in timber is a species of ­putridity, whether it be called Dry Rot, or Common Rot, either in a house or ship.” See Lingard, Philosophic and Practical Inquiry, 6–7. 13 Lingard, Philosophic and Practical Inquiry, 50. 14 See Joseph Gregson, An Essay on Those Defects of Buildings Dependant on the Nature and Properties of Air Microform: Containing a Report on the Cause of the Dry Rot in the Royal Navy, and the Means of Prevention, as Now Adopted in His Majesty’s Dock Yards, published by permission of the Lords of the Admiralty and of the Navy Board (London: Printed for James Ridgway and sold by J. Taylor, 1816), 12. 15 See John Evelyn, Fumifugium, Or, the Inconveniencies of the Air and Smoke of London Dissipated: Together with Some Remedies Humbly Proposed, by John Evelyn (Esquire) to His Sacred Majesty and to the Parliament now assembled (London: Printed by W. Godbid for Gabriel Bedel and Thomas Collins, 1661). 16 This speculation is related both to representations of the time in the composition of air and water as well as a number of texts on the complexity of microorganisms that inhabit air and water. Wade in his treatise on dry rot suggests that air is a threat to timber. See Wade, Treatise on the Dry Rot in Timber, 56. 17 Gregson, An Essay on Those Defects of Buildings, 11–13. 18 See Wade, Treatise on the Dry Rot in Timber, 56. 19 Dodd claims: “Treating any new frame of timber, the inner and outer planking, and with the new system of internal ventilation by atmospheric air, I could pledge my existence that the dry rot would not make that destructive progress it has lately unfortunately done in many vessels.” See Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber, 37–40. 20 For example, Dodd suggested perforating all wooden planks and components for the admission of atmospheric air on their bodies and leaving small gaps between them. All floorings and ceilings should be pierced by small holes for ventilation. See Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber, 56. 21 Houses of Parliament, copy of the Report of the Commissioners appointed to visit the Quarries and to inquire into the Qualities of the Stone to be used in Building the New House of Parliament (London: Ordered by the House of Commons, to be Printed, August 27, 1839), 5. 22 Gregson, An Essay on Those Defects of Buildings, x. 23 Wade Treatise on the Dry Rot in Timber, 33. 24 John Lingard suggested that temperature inequality was a major cause of dry rot. In fact, Lingard claimed that it is the change of material states that causes dry rot. This assertion relates to Newton’s laws of inertia, which Lingard references in a dictum in his cover. Newton is additionally cited by all dry rot writers, including Thomas Wade and Ralph Dodd, as an inspiration for understanding the natural world. All three authors curiously attempted to extrapolate a universal law of inertia. See Lingard, Philosophic and Practical Inquiry. 45–55. 25 See Gwilt, An Encyclopædia of Architecture, 509. 26 John Buonarotti Papworth, An Essay on the Cause of the Dry Rot in Buildings; With Some Observations on the Cure of the Dry Rot, by the Admission of Air into the Parts of Buildings Affected with That Disease (London: n.p., 1803). 27 Joseph Gregson, An Essay on Those Defects of Buildings, 13. 28 “The substances, which have generally been used for the preservation of wood-­ work exposed to the weather are chiefly pitch, tar, linseed oil and some kinds of animal oil and of which different compositions have been made.” See James Crease, Hints for the Preservation of Wood-­Work Exposed to the Weather. Applicable

17


to All Kinds of Fences, Gates, Bridges, Ships &c. (London: Letter to Dr. Parry of Bath, 1808), 8; British Library, rare books section. 29 Joseph Bramah, Letter of Joseph Bramah of Pimplico, —Engineer— for an Invention of Applying the Mineral Earth Called Parkers Cement or Roman Cement to Timber of All Description So as to Prevent and Cure the Rot, Commonly Called the Dry Rot (Pimplico, Middlesex, England: n.p., 1814). 30 Ibid. 31 By the term “stage” that I am suggesting to examine the natural history of dry rot, I am not referring to distinct time periods; that is, stages are not to be understood simply chronologically. In fact, the first stage and the second stage overlapped, as John H. Lingard Junior wrote his essay on the invulnerable paint subsequent to Dodd’s and Wade’s treatises, which were composed only a year after Bramah’s letter. Therefore, the term “stage” refers to a way of understanding the dry rot phenomenon shared by a number of authors. 32 Cecil D. Elliott, Techniques and Architecture: The Development of Materials and Systems for Buildings (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992), 17. 33 Crease, Hints for the Preservation of Wood-­Work, 7. 34 André E. Guillerme, The Age of Water: The Urban Environment in the North of France, A.D. 300–1800 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1988), 150–51. 35 Crease, Hints for the Preservation of Wood-­Work, 3. 36 Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber; Lingard, Philosophic and Practical Inquiry; Wade, Treatise on the Dry Rot in Timber. 37 Both Lingard and Wade widely cited Antoine Laurent Lavoisier’s Traité Elémentaire de Chimie (Edinburgh: W. Creech, 1790). 38 Ibid., see section XIV on the putrefactive fermentation, 141–42. 39 Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber, 14. 40 See Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber, 19. 41 The first anonymous treatise on dry rot was composed in 1795 and entitled Some Observations on the Distemper in Timber Called the Dry Rot (London: printed for J. Johnson, 1795). 42 See Lingard, A Philosophic and Practical Inquiry into the Nature and Constitution of Timber. Including an Investigation into the Causes of DRY ROT, 13. 43 Wade, Treatise on the Dry Rot in Timber, 12. 44 Dodd, Practical Observations on the Dry Rot in Timber, x–xi. 45 See Pierre Simon de Laplace’s Analytical Theory of Probability, which was published in 1812. It was the first major treatise blending calculus with probability theory. 46 “Prevention of Dry Rot in Timber,” report to the Admiralty on Mr. Kyan’s patent by the Committee appointed by the Lords Commisioners (London, 1837), 13. Box: Rail 1124, The National Archives, Kew. 47 Albumen is the substance that exists nearly pure in the white of an egg and forms a constituent of animal solids and fluids, and of the tuberous or fleshy roots, and seeds of plants. See the Oxford English Dictionary. 48 “Prevention of Dry Rot in Timber,” 14. 49 Nos. 6253 and 6309. The patent extended the application of the invention to the preservation of such materials as paper, canvas, cloth, and cordage, in additional to wood. A further patent was granted in 1836 (No. 7001). See the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 50 See ibid. 51 ANTI DRY-­ROT Company, constituted and empowered by Act of Parliament. Kyan’s patent advertisement (London, 1836), box: Rail 1124, The National Archives Kew. 52 Faraday was sent to Woolwich in February 1833, along with Mr. Lockhart and Mr. Farell, an architect from Dublin, as part of a committee to investigate the efficacy of Kyan’s patent. See “Prevention of Dry Rot in Timber,” 15. 53 Ibid, 32. 54 See the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 55 Ibid. 56 Elliott, Techniques and Architecture, 17. 57 “ANTI DRY-­ROT Company,” Kyan’s patent Advertisement (London, 1836). 58 Lingard, Philosophic and Practical Inquiry, 34. 59 John Lingard, A Multum in Parvo Edition of Martyrs, Beginning with the Innocents, the Apostles and the early Christians, by the Jews and Pagans; and Also the Persecutions of the Protestants by the Papists (London: Printed for the Author by William Clowes and Sons, 1839); British Library, rare books section.

18


John Lingard, On the Propriety and Justice of the Corn Laws as Now Regulated (London: Printed for the Author by William Clowes and Sons, 1840); British Library, rare books section. 61 Lingard argues on the preservation of trees and forestry in general: “The immense quantity of timber with which nature had covered the earth made it necessary ­actually to clear it away; therefore man became profligate in its use and negligent in its preservation.” See Lingard, Philosophic and Practical Inquiry, 50. 62 Ibid. 63 Janice Carey and Colin Grant, “The Treatment of Dry Rot in Historic Buildings,” in The Building Conservation Directory (Tisbury, Wiltshire, England: Cathedral Communications, 1999). 60

19


HUMAN ECOLOGIES

14

15

Lydia Kallipoliti and Michael Young

THE ENVIROBUBBLE: CLEAN AIR PODS REDUX page of their self-

environmental policies and consequently to a set of

published homonymous

physical rules and artifacts in the building industry.

magazine, prognosticating

1970, Lower Sproul Plaza at the University of California, Berkeley The underground architecture collective, Antfarm, staged the performance “Breathing — That’s Your Bag,” inviting visitors to enter an enclosed pneumatic bubble, in order to breathe safely sealed off from the air pollution outside. The bubble, called the “Clean Air Pod” (CAP), would

Above: “Clean Air Pod” (CAP) by Antfarm. Installation at the University of California at Berkeley in 1970. Below: Vettor Pisani’s Stampo Virile, published in Casabella, (January 1971).

Enclosed spaces were tested in the massive Biosphere 2

that fresh air would soon

project in Arizona, which was completed and sealed in

constitute a new

1991; after a period of time, fresh air had to be pumped

prominent type of real

and food introduced into the sphere to ensure the health

estate to purchase. The

of the sealed subjects. But beyond the Biosphere 2, the

kinship between

enclosed space of the Biosphere’s “envirobubble” lives

governmental goals and

within thousands of sick buildings of corporate America.

countercultural group was

Sealed, heavily air-conditioned buildings usually generate

a paradoxical convergence

problematic air-quality conditions, resulting from a

from antithetical social

building’s lack of exchange with its surrounding

streams that led to entirely

environment. In most sick buildings, there cannot be an

different sets of actions;

identifiable cause for illness, as a causal effect of a specific

yet the concerns stemmed

deficiency. A 1984 World Health Organization Committee

from a common point of

report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and

departure that marked the

remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of

dawn of the age of ecology

excessive complaints related to indoor air quality and

as a gallant political and

suffer from what is known as the “sick building

religious position.

syndrome”, a term used to describe situations in which

With the impact of the whole-earth view and the

Left: Experiments for the CO2 Air Pod of “The Envirobubble” installation conducted at the Technical University of Crete in Greece, 2010. Kostis Oungrinis and Marianthi Liapi with Georgios Andresakis, Yiannis Apostolopoulos, Tzeny Gorantonaki, Eirini Kalogeropoulou, Michalis Kantarzis, Despina Linaraki, Ioannis Liofagos, Dimitris Mairopoulos, Evangelos Alexandros Maistralis, Anna Neratzouli, Iasonas Paterakis, Eleni Roupa, Aggeliki Terezaki, Alma Tralo, Vassilis Tsesmetzis, Dimitris Vaimakis, Anna-Maria Moschouti-Vermer, Georgia Voradaki. Diagram for the Moisture Air Pod of “The Envirobubble” installation by Lydia Kallipoliti and Michael Young. Center Right: Opening Day for the installation which took place in the framework of the exhibition EcoRedux 02: Design Manuals for a Dying Planet. Below Right: Kostis Oungrinis, Lydia Kallipoliti and Anna Pla Catalá presenting “The Envirobbuble” installation at the Design Hub in Barcelona (March, 2011).

building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building.

rise of environmental awareness in the postwar period, sustainable design

2011, Design Hub (D-Hub) Barcelona, Spain:

practices have promoted

Inspired by Antfarm’s project for the theatrical

buildings as regenerative

purification of air in urban environments, five architecture

Moisture Pod: The moisture pod harvests water vapor

respiration and plant respiration support each other.

and closed ecological systems, capable of harnessing

professors from the Cooper Union in New York, the

(humidity) from the air and collects it in pneumatic tanks

This continuous cycle links the breathing mechanisms of

the people sheltered in the envelope. With an idiosyncratic

waste and providing their own energy. Antfarm’s Clean

Technical University of Crete (TUC) and the IE school of

for further alternative use. Matrices of interconnecting

two species. The CO2 Pod is a moving, breathing lung that

sense of humor, Antfarm — Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez,

screen out noxious atmospheric contaminants and shield

Air Pod, as a protective uterine-like environment, has

Madrid led a collaborative design and fabrication

tubes “farm” water vapor, via temperature change

regulates the respiration percentage of carbon dioxide

Doug Michels and Curtis Schreier — wore gas masks,

been reiteratively translated as a conserved milieu blocked

workshop (Crete, Greece August 2010) with the intention

accommodated in the matrix, and distribute droplets of

through the expansion and contraction of plant life

protective gear and white laboratory suits to survive

from the effluence of the exterior world. Forty years later,

to revisit the issues raised in the 1960s, still eminent today.

water in plastic pods. The tubes are located according to

surface area. A series of pneumatically controlled pods,

outdoor air pollution; they urged passing visitors to sign

however, we may consider the viability of closed ecological

More than a dozen students from TUC worked laboriously

the process of vapor distillation. In the lower part of the

embedded in the plants, modulate the inflation and

death consent forms if choosing not to come into the

systems and the process of translating planetary ideals to

on inventing architectural prototypes for air chambers as

pod, moisture reaches two vessels and is then re-circulated

deflation of plant surface area in response to different

Clean Air Pod. The Oakland Tribune reported Antfarm’s

purifying machines. During the workshop, we revisited

for other programs. The moisture pod is envisioned as a

times within a day. CO2 is exhaled into the pod and

recital as if it were to happen in the future; per Antfarm’s

Reyner Banham’s celebrated “well–tempered

prototype for a building system that dehumidifies the air,

absorbed by the respiring “plant lung.” In return, the air

request, the event was published as a forecast for

environment” in HVAC building systems and examined a

improving indoor air quality, while at the same time

pod exhales back, emitting oxygen to the room.

April 22, 1972.

diverse body of building technology techniques translated

collects water to be recycled for irrigating plants or for

as design and spatial tools for the development of air

secondary household water systems.

* Air quality in urban environments was a primary press headline in the environmental campaign of the 1960s and

toxic gases produced from daily activities. VOCs, is a

purifying strategies in enclosed spaces. The research was consolidated in “The Envirobubble”

Gas Pod: Indoors, we daily inhale colorless and odorless

Dust Pod: Dust is an assemblage of particulate matter

group of volatile organic compounds, carbon based

1970s. Toxic air, smog and the fear of asphyxiation in cities

installation fabricated at the Design Hub of Barcelona in

ubiquitous in the air and a leading pollutant in indoor air

chemicals that evaporate as off-gases from certain solids

fueled a collective sociopolitical battle against pollution

March 2011. “The Envirobubble” raises issues on air

quality. At the domestic scale, it contains small amounts of

and liquids at room temperature. They pervade our

for all parties that composed the political scenery at the

quality still prominent today, though questioning at the

human and animal hairs and shed skin particles, plant

indoor air with concentrations that can be two to ten

time. On one hand, Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration

same time if the air we breathe indoors is more hazardous

pollen, textile and paper fibers, soil minerals from outdoor

times greater in comparison to outdoor air. VOCs have

was markedly active on the issue, having signed several

than the air we breathe outdoors. We seek to expand

soil, and other matter found in the local environment. The

potentially damaging health effects, like eye, nose and

“clean air acts” with the scope of protecting the environ-

awareness from outdoor to indoor air quality and alert

Dust Pod is an electrical dust collector, which ionizes dust

throat irritation, respiratory tract irritation, headaches,

ment. On the other hand, countercultural activist groups

visitors to the breathable air in heavily sealed air

particles and collects them on a net of strings that in time

nausea, allergic skin reactions, fatigue, dizziness, visual

shared similar concerns, as witnessed in numerous

conditioned buildings, with high degrees of condensation.

grow into a surface. Ionization is conducted via copper

disorders, and memory impairment, among other

wire to which high voltage is applied. The Dust Pod is

symptoms. There are numerous kinds of volatile organic

purifying machines. Each cluster of air pods performs and

envisioned as a prototype for a building system that

compounds produced and used in manufacturing

(published in Casabella, January 1971) featured a woman

visualizes a purification process focusing on different

purifies the air from particulate matter, while at the same

products. The Gas Pod is a serial filtering system which

unable to breathe without a respirator. With the title,

types of pollutants: A. Dust (particulate inorganic matter)

time collects dust to create insulating felt surfaces for

procedurally cleans air from the first pod onward, until

translated as the “imprint of man,” Pisani reflected on

B. Moisture (humidity levels) C. Gas (toxic off-gas

other uses.

clean air is emitted to the room. The gas pod is

John McHale’s vision of bodily prosthetic devices as an

emissions D. CO2 (plant respiration). By opening up a

imminent prerequisite of human survival and raised a

perspective on the development of indoor air quality as an

CO2 Pod: The CO2 Pod uses plant life as a purification

filters air and prevents the intrusion of biological life

severe critique of large scale infrastructure and social

architectural design problem, rather than an engineering

system for the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, and

indoors, while at the same time creates a series of

reality. In the same year, the anarchist British architectural

problem, the aim is to initiate a vital reassessment of

more specifically through respiration, plants absorb CO2,

overlapping layers with various degrees of transparency

group “Street Farmer” released a manifesto on the first

environmental control in design terminology.

exhaled by humans, and return oxygen. Human

and opacity for the exterior envelope.

proactive performances and riots with respiratory devices. Parallel to Antfarm, Vettor Pisani’s Stampo Virile

“The Envirobubble” presents four types of air pods as

envisioned as a prototype for a building system that

CREDITS Kostis Oungrinis and Marianthi Liapi (Technical University of Crete, Greece) Anna Pla Catalá (IE School of Architecture, University of Madrid, Spain) Lydia Kallipoliti and Michael Young (The Cooper Union, New York, USA) Student Project Team (Technical University of Crete, Greece): Georgios Andresakis, Yiannis Apostolopoulos, Tzeny Gorantonaki, Eirini Kalogeropoulou, Michalis Kantarzis, Despina Linaraki, Ioannis Liofagos, Dimitris Mairopoulos, Evangelos Alexandros Maistralis, Anna Neratzouli, Iasonas Paterakis, Eleni Roupa, Aggeliki Terezaki, Alma Tralo, Vassilis Tsesmetzis, Dimitris Vaimakis, Anna-Maria Moschouti-Vermer, Georgia Voradaki.


HUMAN ECOLOGIES

14

15

Lydia Kallipoliti and Michael Young

THE ENVIROBUBBLE: CLEAN AIR PODS REDUX page of their self-

environmental policies and consequently to a set of

published homonymous

physical rules and artifacts in the building industry.

magazine, prognosticating

1970, Lower Sproul Plaza at the University of California, Berkeley The underground architecture collective, Antfarm, staged the performance “Breathing — That’s Your Bag,” inviting visitors to enter an enclosed pneumatic bubble, in order to breathe safely sealed off from the air pollution outside. The bubble, called the “Clean Air Pod” (CAP), would

Above: “Clean Air Pod” (CAP) by Antfarm. Installation at the University of California at Berkeley in 1970. Below: Vettor Pisani’s Stampo Virile, published in Casabella, (January 1971).

Enclosed spaces were tested in the massive Biosphere 2

that fresh air would soon

project in Arizona, which was completed and sealed in

constitute a new

1991; after a period of time, fresh air had to be pumped

prominent type of real

and food introduced into the sphere to ensure the health

estate to purchase. The

of the sealed subjects. But beyond the Biosphere 2, the

kinship between

enclosed space of the Biosphere’s “envirobubble” lives

governmental goals and

within thousands of sick buildings of corporate America.

countercultural group was

Sealed, heavily air-conditioned buildings usually generate

a paradoxical convergence

problematic air-quality conditions, resulting from a

from antithetical social

building’s lack of exchange with its surrounding

streams that led to entirely

environment. In most sick buildings, there cannot be an

different sets of actions;

identifiable cause for illness, as a causal effect of a specific

yet the concerns stemmed

deficiency. A 1984 World Health Organization Committee

from a common point of

report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and

departure that marked the

remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of

dawn of the age of ecology

excessive complaints related to indoor air quality and

as a gallant political and

suffer from what is known as the “sick building

religious position.

syndrome”, a term used to describe situations in which

With the impact of the whole-earth view and the

Left: Experiments for the CO2 Air Pod of “The Envirobubble” installation conducted at the Technical University of Crete in Greece, 2010. Kostis Oungrinis and Marianthi Liapi with Georgios Andresakis, Yiannis Apostolopoulos, Tzeny Gorantonaki, Eirini Kalogeropoulou, Michalis Kantarzis, Despina Linaraki, Ioannis Liofagos, Dimitris Mairopoulos, Evangelos Alexandros Maistralis, Anna Neratzouli, Iasonas Paterakis, Eleni Roupa, Aggeliki Terezaki, Alma Tralo, Vassilis Tsesmetzis, Dimitris Vaimakis, Anna-Maria Moschouti-Vermer, Georgia Voradaki. Diagram for the Moisture Air Pod of “The Envirobubble” installation by Lydia Kallipoliti and Michael Young. Center Right: Opening Day for the installation which took place in the framework of the exhibition EcoRedux 02: Design Manuals for a Dying Planet. Below Right: Kostis Oungrinis, Lydia Kallipoliti and Anna Pla Catalá presenting “The Envirobbuble” installation at the Design Hub in Barcelona (March, 2011).

building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building.

rise of environmental awareness in the postwar period, sustainable design

2011, Design Hub (D-Hub) Barcelona, Spain:

practices have promoted

Inspired by Antfarm’s project for the theatrical

buildings as regenerative

purification of air in urban environments, five architecture

Moisture Pod: The moisture pod harvests water vapor

respiration and plant respiration support each other.

and closed ecological systems, capable of harnessing

professors from the Cooper Union in New York, the

(humidity) from the air and collects it in pneumatic tanks

This continuous cycle links the breathing mechanisms of

the people sheltered in the envelope. With an idiosyncratic

waste and providing their own energy. Antfarm’s Clean

Technical University of Crete (TUC) and the IE school of

for further alternative use. Matrices of interconnecting

two species. The CO2 Pod is a moving, breathing lung that

sense of humor, Antfarm — Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez,

screen out noxious atmospheric contaminants and shield

Air Pod, as a protective uterine-like environment, has

Madrid led a collaborative design and fabrication

tubes “farm” water vapor, via temperature change

regulates the respiration percentage of carbon dioxide

Doug Michels and Curtis Schreier — wore gas masks,

been reiteratively translated as a conserved milieu blocked

workshop (Crete, Greece August 2010) with the intention

accommodated in the matrix, and distribute droplets of

through the expansion and contraction of plant life

protective gear and white laboratory suits to survive

from the effluence of the exterior world. Forty years later,

to revisit the issues raised in the 1960s, still eminent today.

water in plastic pods. The tubes are located according to

surface area. A series of pneumatically controlled pods,

outdoor air pollution; they urged passing visitors to sign

however, we may consider the viability of closed ecological

More than a dozen students from TUC worked laboriously

the process of vapor distillation. In the lower part of the

embedded in the plants, modulate the inflation and

death consent forms if choosing not to come into the

systems and the process of translating planetary ideals to

on inventing architectural prototypes for air chambers as

pod, moisture reaches two vessels and is then re-circulated

deflation of plant surface area in response to different

Clean Air Pod. The Oakland Tribune reported Antfarm’s

purifying machines. During the workshop, we revisited

for other programs. The moisture pod is envisioned as a

times within a day. CO2 is exhaled into the pod and

recital as if it were to happen in the future; per Antfarm’s

Reyner Banham’s celebrated “well–tempered

prototype for a building system that dehumidifies the air,

absorbed by the respiring “plant lung.” In return, the air

request, the event was published as a forecast for

environment” in HVAC building systems and examined a

improving indoor air quality, while at the same time

pod exhales back, emitting oxygen to the room.

April 22, 1972.

diverse body of building technology techniques translated

collects water to be recycled for irrigating plants or for

as design and spatial tools for the development of air

secondary household water systems.

* Air quality in urban environments was a primary press headline in the environmental campaign of the 1960s and

toxic gases produced from daily activities. VOCs, is a

purifying strategies in enclosed spaces. The research was consolidated in “The Envirobubble”

Gas Pod: Indoors, we daily inhale colorless and odorless

Dust Pod: Dust is an assemblage of particulate matter

group of volatile organic compounds, carbon based

1970s. Toxic air, smog and the fear of asphyxiation in cities

installation fabricated at the Design Hub of Barcelona in

ubiquitous in the air and a leading pollutant in indoor air

chemicals that evaporate as off-gases from certain solids

fueled a collective sociopolitical battle against pollution

March 2011. “The Envirobubble” raises issues on air

quality. At the domestic scale, it contains small amounts of

and liquids at room temperature. They pervade our

for all parties that composed the political scenery at the

quality still prominent today, though questioning at the

human and animal hairs and shed skin particles, plant

indoor air with concentrations that can be two to ten

time. On one hand, Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration

same time if the air we breathe indoors is more hazardous

pollen, textile and paper fibers, soil minerals from outdoor

times greater in comparison to outdoor air. VOCs have

was markedly active on the issue, having signed several

than the air we breathe outdoors. We seek to expand

soil, and other matter found in the local environment. The

potentially damaging health effects, like eye, nose and

“clean air acts” with the scope of protecting the environ-

awareness from outdoor to indoor air quality and alert

Dust Pod is an electrical dust collector, which ionizes dust

throat irritation, respiratory tract irritation, headaches,

ment. On the other hand, countercultural activist groups

visitors to the breathable air in heavily sealed air

particles and collects them on a net of strings that in time

nausea, allergic skin reactions, fatigue, dizziness, visual

shared similar concerns, as witnessed in numerous

conditioned buildings, with high degrees of condensation.

grow into a surface. Ionization is conducted via copper

disorders, and memory impairment, among other

wire to which high voltage is applied. The Dust Pod is

symptoms. There are numerous kinds of volatile organic

purifying machines. Each cluster of air pods performs and

envisioned as a prototype for a building system that

compounds produced and used in manufacturing

(published in Casabella, January 1971) featured a woman

visualizes a purification process focusing on different

purifies the air from particulate matter, while at the same

products. The Gas Pod is a serial filtering system which

unable to breathe without a respirator. With the title,

types of pollutants: A. Dust (particulate inorganic matter)

time collects dust to create insulating felt surfaces for

procedurally cleans air from the first pod onward, until

translated as the “imprint of man,” Pisani reflected on

B. Moisture (humidity levels) C. Gas (toxic off-gas

other uses.

clean air is emitted to the room. The gas pod is

John McHale’s vision of bodily prosthetic devices as an

emissions D. CO2 (plant respiration). By opening up a

imminent prerequisite of human survival and raised a

perspective on the development of indoor air quality as an

CO2 Pod: The CO2 Pod uses plant life as a purification

filters air and prevents the intrusion of biological life

severe critique of large scale infrastructure and social

architectural design problem, rather than an engineering

system for the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, and

indoors, while at the same time creates a series of

reality. In the same year, the anarchist British architectural

problem, the aim is to initiate a vital reassessment of

more specifically through respiration, plants absorb CO2,

overlapping layers with various degrees of transparency

group “Street Farmer” released a manifesto on the first

environmental control in design terminology.

exhaled by humans, and return oxygen. Human

and opacity for the exterior envelope.

proactive performances and riots with respiratory devices. Parallel to Antfarm, Vettor Pisani’s Stampo Virile

“The Envirobubble” presents four types of air pods as

envisioned as a prototype for a building system that

CREDITS Kostis Oungrinis and Marianthi Liapi (Technical University of Crete, Greece) Anna Pla Catalá (IE School of Architecture, University of Madrid, Spain) Lydia Kallipoliti and Michael Young (The Cooper Union, New York, USA) Student Project Team (Technical University of Crete, Greece): Georgios Andresakis, Yiannis Apostolopoulos, Tzeny Gorantonaki, Eirini Kalogeropoulou, Michalis Kantarzis, Despina Linaraki, Ioannis Liofagos, Dimitris Mairopoulos, Evangelos Alexandros Maistralis, Anna Neratzouli, Iasonas Paterakis, Eleni Roupa, Aggeliki Terezaki, Alma Tralo, Vassilis Tsesmetzis, Dimitris Vaimakis, Anna-Maria Moschouti-Vermer, Georgia Voradaki.


This stage represents the leap from mental to bodily. Although it is the decisive stage that reifies conversion hysteria to actual material formations in the body, it is bracketed and marked with an [x, ]because it does not necessarily occur in the course of displacement of repressed genital excitations. It might be passed over, leaving an ongoing innervation in the body.

[]

DIAGRAM 01: HYSTERICAL MATERIALIZATION

X

Fracture in the normal sexual development >> Repression of genital impulses

irruption of the genitals >> dispersed displacement of the gential to potentially erotogenetic zones

repressed idea transformed into >>

innervational energy formed into (formation) >>

localized somatic symptoms

innervational energy [

INDIFFERENT BODY PARTS

ARE GENITALIZED

]

free-floating & complex-escaping excitation remainders >> seeking satisfaction from external objects

Ongoing process as a single symptom may express several meanings not necessarily each time presented in bodily form


DIAGRAM 02: FROM SHIT TO MONEY The ontogenetic path of development of the interest in money

INTROJECTA Shiny Filthy

DEJECTA

Pleasure in the smell of degenerated products of cast-off epidermis & mould materials eg. Asphalt, tar, rubber putty > shit INFANTILE STONE AGE

Watering the sand /enjoying stickiness > mud Prohibition dictated by the senses

SHIT

Pedagogic prohibition dictated by the understanding of cleanliness

S

S

MUD

REJECTION OF SYMBOL 1

Deodorized dejecta

REDUCTION OF SMELL

SAND

REJECTION OF SYMBOL 2

Formation of a capitalistic interest dictating collecting as a measuring of value

The return of the repressed

Deodorized + Dehydrated

S

Dejecta

SOFT

HARD

S

STONE

REJECTION OF SYMBOL 3

REDUCTION OF WETNESS

Deodorized + Dehydrated + Hard

COINS

REJECTION OF SYMBOL 4 Dejecta

REDUCTION OF EARTH REDUCTION OF SOFTNESS

FORMATION Soft material reinforcing the tendency to fabricate objects

Reduction of smell related to the acquiring of the upright posture

COLLECTION Fabrication is replace by the collection of ready-made objects

Deodorized + Dehydrated + Hard + Unearthed

S

Dejecta


ELECTRONIC URBANISM (1952-1977); Lydia Kallipoliti


03 Takes Zenetos’ aeriform colonizations and the atrophy of man - -

Contents 01_ Planetary nervousness and the desperation of vertical sprawl 02_ The asphyxia of Athens’ “laguna” 03_ Aeriform colonizations: the decentralized future tele-city 04_ “Round visions falling on earth”: the detached oblivious future city 05_ “Futuribles”: from “bit dwelling” to “bit earth” 06_ Atomic Recycling 06_ The atrophy of “Man - -” and Brainpower spacemaking


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

01 _

Planetary nervousness and the desperation of vertical sprawl

In John McHale’s mind around 1967, if one were to imagine life in the year 2000, he would in all likelihood see men living with the aid of respiratory devices unless something would radically change in the management of global resources. Just like the advertisements of the American counterculture rightly proclaimed in 1970, we are all trammeling upon an earth that is “coming down,”1 suffocating. In fact, flipping through the pages of architectural magazines published during that period, it would be probable to come across quite frightful, extrapolated representations of the future earth: bean-shaped, de-spherified, jaggedly contoured, internally disemboweled and, most of all, covered entirely by cement. [__FIG: 01] Such nervous planetary apparitions, stemming from the perceived insufficiency of actual space as counted in square meters, as well as the far-reaching infiltration of pollution, were eventually exacerbated when NASA released images of the whole earth to the public eye2. The agony has been substantially fostered prior to the actual visual handout event, but eventually reached its apogee in the famous earthrise series taken by Apollo 10 in 1969. Suddenly, mankind could witness its setting from the outside as a collective mirror image, an event which fundamentally destabilized previous perceptions of space on many levels and which brought to the fore the necessity for a discourse of multivalent currents which should be managed, harnessed and utilized.

Undoubtedly, the effect of the view was so empowering as to inspire a new

environmental awareness, but at the same time it also nurtured a mammoth anxiety about the future yet to come. First, void space was finally finite; it was captured in the clogged space of a sphere and being gradually sold out. Then, the immensity of the population increase in

1

“Advertisements for a counter culture” in Progressive architecture, Vol. 51, (July 1970): 71-93. “‘The more famous earthrise series was taken by Apollo 10 (18 May 1969) but the first view of the Earth from the Moon came from the Orbiter spacecraft: “At 16:35 GMT on August 1966, the versatile manmade lunar Orbiter spacecraft responded to a series of commands sent to it from Earth, across a quarter-million miles of space, and made this over-the-shoulder view of its home planet from advantage point 730 miles above the far side of the Moon. At that moment the sun was setting along an arc extending from England to Antarctica. Above that line, the world with the east coast of the United States at the top, was still bathed in afternoon sunlight. Below, the major portion of the African continent and the Indian Ocean were shrouded in the darkness of evening. By this reversal of viewpoint, we here on Earth have been provided a sobering glimpse of the spectacle of our own planet… We have achieved the ability to contemplate ourselves from afar and thus, in a measure accomplish the wish expressed by Robert Burns: ‘To see ourselves as other see us.”” (Exploring Space with a Camera, Washington DC: NASA, 1968, pp.84-85). In Hadas Steiner, “Off the Map” in Jonathan Hughes & Simon Sadler (Eds) Non-Plan: Essays on Freedom Participation and Change in Modern Architecture & Urbanism (UK: Architectural Press, 2000), 128. 2

03_ page 1


Figure

01

Up__Takes Ch. Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece (Special Edition, 1969). Middle__ “Advertisements for a counter culture� in Progressive architecture (July 1970) Vol. 51, pp. 71-93. Down__ Back cover of the last supplement to the Whole Earth Catalogue (1972).


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

combination with the widespread media attention on pollution3 attributed unprecedented socioeconomic value to free unpolluted land. Preceding this apocalyptic vision at the turn of the decade, NASA was mysteriously constipated to keep in the closet any earth simulacra. The strange concealment brought on a variety of reactions, from campaigns for the release of the images on the part of counterculture organizations,4 to assumptions of a national conspiracy. The concealment sustained the general atmosphere of confusion and fear regarding the future of the planet. 1969 was ultimately the time when assumptions about our planet’s frailty exploded in a delirium of nervous responses, centering on the concomitant earnest rise of a new environmental awareness and a new skittish geopolitical futurology of the global capital, which hoped to forestall doomsday. Along with the Apollo 9 and 10 photograph series,’ this very same year saw the rise of numerous seminal publications that demonstrated the nuance of the global superorganism5; indicative are McHale’s Future of the Future and Ian McHarg’s Design with Nature, both of which attempt to explain global ecosystems and make overt parallels between the earth and human processes.6 As for NASA’s hide and seek game of imagery, Michael Shamberg’s comment hits right on target: “It is ironic that NASA, probably the greatest government agency produced by America, has killed patriotism. National boundaries are simply not a motivating image when we have pictures of the whole earth.”7 Collapsing scales, to return from the globe to McHale’s mind, the myriad geopolitical statistics and data that populate his writings8 depict an overall attitude of responsibility and optimism towards planetary uneasiness. In contrast to Pisani’s more radical Stampo Virile prognosis in 3

Among many publications that featured the gravity of the environmental crisis, Newsweek proclaimed in its 1970 cover story the “Dawn for the Age of Ecology” and urged the salvation of “The Ravaged Environment.” The collective sensibility towards environmental issues was such that according to the spring 1970 polls, Americans were more concerned about the environment than any other domestic issue. See Terry H. Anderson, The Sixties (New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 1999), 177. But even prior to the turn of the decade, McHale ardently advocated in the special AD 2000+ issue in 1967 that one should analytically and cautiously plan the allocation of global resources for the next 1000 years: “Air pollution is not a local problem –the air is not restrained in municipal or national boundaries, nor are the waters of the planet. In terms of any such planning, even the year 2000 is very short range. As a generation on the ‘hinge of history’ we must accept the challenge of imaginative extrapolation of human requirements beyond 100 or even 1000 years.” See John McHale, “The Future of the Future” in Architectural Design (February, 1967), 65-66. 4 Stewart Brand, the founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue, was a member of a San Francisco based counterculture organization that campaigned against NASA for the release of the globe icon. Eventually, after the release, different perspectives of the icon became the emblem of the Whole Earth Catalogue. 5 This term is excerpted from McHarg’s introductory core question: “Is it accurate and useful to consider the earth as a single superorganism, the oceans and the atmosphere as the organic?” See Ian McHarg, Design with Nature (New York: Natural History Press, 1969). 6 In McHarg’s own words: “This model contains the possibility for an inventory of all ecosystems to determine their relative creativity in the biosphere. The same conception can be applied to human processes”. See Ian McHarg, Design with Nature (New York: Natural History Press, 1969). 7 Michael Shamberg and Raindance Corporation, Guerilla Television (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1971): 1. 8 Characteristically, McHale remarks: “In terms of balance, only one tenth of the caloric intake of the world household consists of animal products. World food consumption is largely vegetarian with 90% of the caloric intake and 60% of animals coming from plants. This underlines the importance of each of the respiration/excretion/ decomposition stages in the natural economy, with microbial activity as a key element in the recycling of materials.” See John McHale, “The Future of the Future” in Architectural Design (February, 1967), 65-66.

03_ page 2


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

Casabella9, which features a desolate woman unable to breath without a respiratory device, McHale’s cover in AD’s special 2000+ issue of 1967 displays the abstract headshot of a spaceman whose mask vaguely reflects a bean-shaped earth vista. [__FIG: 02] This emblematic mirroring of the globe on the similarly shaped polished surface of the mask is characteristic of McHale’s electropositive perspective about both the technological gadgetry and the logistical operative systems used by NASA’s space program. McHale was convinced that only through such advanced systems could we begin to deal with the daunting environmental complexity of our planet. Towards this substantial undertaking -the harnessing of the universal reservoir and the concluding production of newly informed principles for habitation-, the vast interdisciplinary field of cybernetics10 seemed to offer a viable solution. Actually, cybernetics was more of a necessity than a choice for futurist world planners such as McHale. Besides, what were at the time the architect’s alternative tools to deal with the “magnitude of a complex planetary society?”11 Very broadly stated, cybernetics granted to the architect -global planner- versatile apparatuses to effectively segment and systematize nebulous data in the benefit of design. At the same time, besides the practicality of handy information operators, cybernetics’ alleged convergence of living systems and machines and provided a cultural safety net, promoting a perspective with cast-iron credibility in alliance with the heroic ecological zeitgeist of the time. McHale characteristically remarks:

“Cybernetics is actually the transference of the control principles of the human nervous system into electromechanical devices…

Cybernetics makes possible the swift expansion of our global production, distribution and logistical support services so that we can satisfy the urgent material needs of large numbers of human beings still on the edge of survival… At the point where man’s affairs reach the scale of potential disruption of the global ecosystem, he invents precisely those conceptual and physical technologies that may enable him to deal with the magnitude of a complex planetary society ”12 These totalizing worrisome conditions begat various utopian solutions in design. To make a wide-ranging generalization, the euphoria of the utopian megastructure project cannot be separated from its foundation in epic global anxieties. Besides in many cases, its recall of a 9

V.Pisani, “Stampo Virile” (1970) in Casabella, No.356 (January 1971). This field of study was developed in the interdisciplinary context of the Macys conferences that took place between 1948 and 1953 and brought together professionals from a remarkable number of different disciplines, such as electrical engineering, mathematics, molecular biology, the social sciences, psychology, neurophysiology and computer science. The term 'cybernetics' was coined by Norbert Wiener to denote the study of "teleological mechanisms" and was popularized through his book Cybernetics, or control and communication in the animal and machine, (1948). 11 John McHale, The Future of the Future (New York: George Brazilier, 1969), 96. 12 McHale, The Future of the Future, 96. 10

03_ page 3


Figure

Y

Left__John McHale’s cover for the special issue of Architectural Design magazine 2000+ (February 1967). Right__ V.Pisani, “Stampo Virile” (1970) in Casabella, No.356 (January 1971).

02


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

congenial blissful atmosphere could not be far from a masquerade of too many ulterior uncertainties imminent in the horizon. Lingering between an attitude of enthusiasm and gloom, and taking into account the trajectory of the megastructure project, one may position Electronic Urbanism and the City of the Future; a “gargantuan” project by the Greek architect and cybernetician13 Takes Zenetos14 (1926-1977) that was officially completed between 1952 and 1962, but in reality was carried on and altered until the year of his deliberate death in 1977. [__FIG: 04] Independently of its duration, the project is described as gargantuan in the sense that it delivered a highly composite total vision for a future city that would be detached from the ground. The project proposed design solutions spanning from the distinct formation of satellite cities, in particular air zones above the oceans, to specially insulated uniforms with interactive pneumatics and earplugs that its inhabitants would wear in order to “educate”15 their space. Initial schemes for Electronic Urbanism, as early as in the late 1950s, revolved around a core question that featured an edgy globe centrally eviscerated by concrete transportation systems and other built developments: “Faut-it eviter cela?” [see__FIG: 01] In other words, can we possibly avoid the inevitable cascading series of dooming developments and extrapolate a future vision for our cities? New cities are doomed, Zenetos claimed, because their planning is based on existing systems of tertiary production.16 As readers, we are repeatedly warned that if we continue with the same rhythms the careless, all-expanding congestion of our cities, not only will we rapidly use up all the space left on our planet, but we will eventually have to fabricate our own oxygen.

“If this geometric rhythm for development will be continued in the future, earth will transform in a massive built territory where even small gardens will not be an option if not due to the radical increase in the value of land, due to the destruction of the ecological equilibrium of the planet. Oxygen will need to be industrially produced for human beings and the residues of such operations will be deposited as a burden on the endless cycle of pollution.”17

13

Zenetos was a member of the American Cybernetic Association (Association International de Cybernetique). He was an avid reader of Norbert Wiener’s writings and Science magazine that he more than often cited in his Electronic Urbanism references. Additionally, his direct references to the space program and cybernetics are countless, including the latest developments of automation, ecological systems and transmission devices affecting urban growth. He attended many cybernetic conferences in Europe, such as the First International Congress of Cybernetics in London, 1969. 14 Takes Zenetos is one of the major representatives of modern architecture in postwar Greece. He was a gifted architect, whose legacy includes more than a fifty buildings and numerous experimental research proposals. Zenetos was the president of the Architectural Organization of the Technical Chamber of Greece (1964-1967). He was also the recipient of the first prize in the international architectural competition for the Olympic city of Lebanon in collaboration with the team Migeon (1952), as well as an honorable mention in the international design competition “InterDesign 2000” for furniture of multiple uses. 15 The Greek term Zenetos uses is ‘morfosis’, which means education. However, etymologically ‘morfosis does not merely imply education, but also the molding of form derivative from the Greek word ‘morfi’ (form). 16 Takes Ch. Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece (Special Edition, 1969), 23. 17 th Takes Ch. Zenetos, “City and House of the Future” in Economy Postman, No.924: Athens: (Thursday, January 6 1972), 11.

03_ page 4


Figure

Right__ Takes Ch. Zenetos [1926- 1977]. Left up__ Zenetos half-nude wearing earphones, working in is office in Athens, 1961. Left down__ Earphones; Zenetos’ favorite space-making device

03


Figure

04

ELECTRONIC PLANNING AND THE CITY OF THE FUTURE (1952-1977) 1952-1962 >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Electronic Urbanism,” Zygos, No.11, (Athens: September 1961)_ preliminary phase: prototype of anti-center formations. >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Electronic Planning,” Exhibited in the Exhibition of the Organization for Modern Housing, Zappeion, Athens, 1962.

1961

>> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Electronic Urbanism,” Echo of the Modern House, (Athens: September 1962).

1962

>> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Electronic Urbanism,” in Architecture, No.42, (Athens: 1963). >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Electronic Urbanism,” in Archigram, No.4, (London: 1964?).

1963

>> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Electronic Urbanism,” in Technical Chronicles, No.2, (Athens,1966).

1964

>> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Telecommunications and Contemporary Means of Organization. The New Systemic Approach to the City,

1966

replacing old regulations. Flexible Planning,” in the Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress in Athens, 1966, p.244-262. >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Problems of Construction in Greece; The City of the Future” in Architecture in Greece,

1967

Annual Review, No.1 (Athens: 1967): 88-93. >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Electronic Planning” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.3 (Athens: 1969): 114-125.

1969

>> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Furniture for Living and Working in the Year 2000” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.3 (Athens: 1969). >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “City Planning and Electronics; appendix” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.4 (Athens: 1970): 59-60. th

>> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Presentation in the first Building Exhibition, Zappeion, Athens (November 14 1971).

1970 1971

>> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “City and House of the Future”, Press conference on the first Building Exhibition in Athens, organized by the Center for Building Exhibitions, (Athens, November 6th 1971). >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Electronic Planning,” Special presentation for the “Environmental Laboratory” WEDAG, a Greek-American Institution (Athens: December 14th 1971). >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “City and House of the Future” in Economy Postman, No.924: Athens: (Thursday, January 6th 1972), p.10-16. >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Myths of Low-Density Living” in Architectural Design (April, 1973): 247-128. >> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973): 112-120.

TAKES CH. ZENETOS (1926-1977)

>> Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974): 122-136.

Timeline of publications on Takes Zenetos’ Electronic Urbanism & the City of the Future

1972 1973 1974


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

To evade such appalling developments, Zenetos’ building of the atmosphere would offer a happier world on the basis of an all-expansive and reconfigurable cable space-frame. [__FIG: 05] As a resolution to the problem of land ownership, vertical sprawl seemed to devise a democratic route out of the impasse. Zenetos’ future vertical city would abolish the problem of land ownership.18

“The future generation of the city will be consisted of an agent of minimum material, maximum flexibility and minimum intervention in the natural landscape…. The problems, which will emerge from the population increase will be faced in two ways: A) Via the colonization of the atmosphere leaving the earth ground in its natural state B) Via the application of highly advanced communication devices which will process and transmit information.”19

Overall, the connections between Electronic Urbanism and the space program are clear; especially McHale's attempt to define a field of scientific futurology and the management of world resources, along the premises of McHale and Fuller’s World Design Science Decade. At the same time, Zenetos’ project is directly linked with the lineage of the suspended megastructure project: Yona Friedman’s contemporaneous and neighboring20 utopian project for a Parallel City21 above Paris, as well as Archigram’s Plug-In City and Constant’s New Babylon. Besides, with the exception of Friedman’s parallel Paris, all these projects were published as a genealogic group in Archigram 4, under the label “within the big structure, almost anything can happen.”22 [__FIG: 06] However, despite such apparent associations, Electronic Urbanism derails from the utopic project in many ways. If one recalls Archigram’s invocation of ‘fun’ as a crucial endowment of their structures, McHale’s demographical statistics on the politics of excretion or Friedman’s systematic housing solutions that would efficiently allocate world resources, Zenetos’ city ties up its inhabitants to floating chairs, where the body is immobilized in a state of inertia and the city exists in a state of oblivion to anything other than itself. Electronic Urbanism and the Future City renders a much more convoluted and distressing vision in its dramatic search

18

Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Problems of Construction in Greece; The City of the Future” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.1 (Athens: 1967), 92. 19 Zenetos, “City and House of the Future” in Economy Postman, No.924, 10. 20 The term ‘neighboring’ is used here to depict that the two projects were being developed one parallel to the other both in terms of time and geography. Zenetos lived in Paris in the early 50s, where he studied and worked. Specifically, Zenetos enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux Arts, in January 1946, in the design workshop of Othello Zavaroni. In parallel to his studies, he has worked as an architect in Paris from 1945 to 1952. He received his D.P.L.G in 1954 and returned to Greece in 1955, where he organized a practice for architectural and urban projects. 21 The term ‘parallel city,’ which has been repeatedly used by Yona Friedman, was also used by Zenetos in an identical manner. Particularly, his monograph publication that summarized Electronic Urbanism research was entitled Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures. There are overt connections between the two projects, emphasized by the fact that Zenetos has lived and worked in Paris parallel to Friedman. However, nowhere does Zenetos cite Yona Friedman or insinuate connections to his work. 22 Archigram, Archigram 4 (London, 1964).

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Figure

05

Zenetos’ sketch-drawing for a wire web to expand over the planet. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece (Special Edition, 1969).


Figure

Zenetos’ City of the Future, Constant’s New Babylon and Peter Cook’s Plug-in City in I

06

Archigram 4 (London, 1964).


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of a “home” that was nowhere to be found in the psychological turmoil of postwar reconstruction in Greece. “Man desires, and has a right to acquire, a ‘home’ in a quiet environment close to nature and at proximity to his place for work and the various public services.”23 In such naïve statements, spoken in the shadow of NASA’s high-tech accomplishments, one may glimpse a deep-seated sadness reflecting the architect’s disappointment about the tortuous mechanisms of reconstruction in Greece, which became pedantic in Zenetos’ own suicide. During Zenetos’ work on the project during the next twenty plus years, the Future City attained additional features other than its being spatially detached hovering above Athens and other global regions. It also became mentally detached, leaving the formation of space to the mind that would inform and remold space through its neural systems. In Zenetos’ late writings on the ultimate future, the mind would control and direct the development of habitation. In any case, what would happen in Zenetos’ City of the Future? One can fairly assume: The mind would become the new computer, a control processor for space making. The city would become a closed system, with an unpredictable itinerary on the basis of brainpower.

23

Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973), 113.

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02 _ The Asphyxia of Athens’ Laguna In the 8th Documentary Festival of Thessaloniki in March 2006, the Greek film producer Yorgos Papakonstantinou presented a documentary on Takes Zenetos’ built work. The title was The Round Building that Fell on Earth, leaving open to question that the Saint Dimitrios High School, which is abbreviated as “the round” in Athens’ jargon, is conceived as such a foreign built body within the urban context that it is considered to have fallen to its location from the sky. The documentary begins with a shot of a structure free falling from space, transitions to a snapshot of Europe, and then cuts to Athens’s basin where the building is situated. This vertical cross sectioning of scales is crucial, not only because it signifies the alien nature of the building itself, but also because it depicts quite distinctively the alien nature of the city in relationship to its adjoining topography. In the snapshot, it becomes evident that Athens is a laguna: a basin surrounded by mountains, or in other words a natural trap. During the time of postwar reconstruction, the ground’s geographic and topographic limitations substantiated an asphyxiating geopolitical reality in the basin.24 Athens was practically unable to expand horizontally, or if there were some meandering ways they would have to be sought as fistulas through the hills. Yet, in spite of this confining landscape, around fifty percent of the Greek population moved to Athens after World War II, in a desperate attempt to seek work following warfare’s devastation of peripheral lands.25 Population growth in Athens was also exacerbated by the “influx of refugees… as a result of the –often violent- political upheavals and military conflicts that had taken place in areas where there were Greek communities, from Russia to Asia Minor.”26 Because of this mass immigration coupled with limited space, Athens faced an enormous housing problem in the immediate postwar era that the state could not cope with. “As a result, illegal building assumed gigantic proportions, perpetuating the existence, often in empty and unsuitable locations in the urban fabric such as the beds of seasonal rivers or steep slopes of the makeshift camps opened to receive the refugees.”27 [__FIG: 07] To complete this dreary

24

The term ‘asphyxia,’ as related to the urban center of Athens, was used continually by Zenetos in his oral presentation in the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress that took place in Athens, 1966. 25 Aristidis G.Romanos, “Unauthorized Settlements and the Housing Problem in Athens” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.4 (Athens: 1970): 25-30. 26 th Dimitris Philippides, “Town Planning in Greece” in Savas Kontaratos & Wilfried Wang (Eds.), Greece; 20 Century Architecture, (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Arvhitektur-Museum, 1999), 67. 27 Philippides, “Town Planning in Greece,” 68.

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Figure

07

Map & Photograph of illegal settlements’ growth in Athens’ basin. In Aristidis G. Romanos, “Unauthorized Settlements and the Housing Problem in Athens” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.4 (Athens: 1970): 25-30. I


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picture, on top of the problematic geography and the extreme overpopulation issue, the basin would unsurprisingly also fence in the pollution from the adjacent growing industries, resulting in a daily grayish smog that was so unbearable as to be considered a national emergency. By the early 80s, Athens was one of the most polluted cities in the world. Since then, the state has been delinquent in providing any workable solutions to the housing quandaries, which have been aggravated by the simultaneous growth of illegal settlements built at the fringes of the city.28 The capital’s urban congestion, in combination with the extreme inefficiency of legislative mechanisms, has perpetuated a general feeling of desolation, frustration, and agony. Orestis Doumanis, the editor and publisher of Architecture in Greece as well as the lone loyal but zealous supporter of Zenetos’ charismatic design work,29 concisely summarizes the affect of this congestion on Greek architectural thought: “This aberrant environment, which reflects the lawlessness and ignorance of the ruling class and the depravity of an authority that destroys the past but lacks any vision for the future…. Architecture could be no exception to this rule… The dismal reality can account for the pessimism that has spread like a slow contagion among the militant architects of the 50s”30

Eventually, the responsibility for the capital’s reform scheme was appointed to architects and planners who little by little attempted to analyze the severe habitation problems that began after the war. However, it was not before 1966 that such attempts took clear form, at the Fifth Panhellenic Architectural Conference, held in Athens in January 16-23. [__FIG: 08] The conference, titled “The Problems of Athens and Surrounding Areas,” marked a real turning point for urban planning in Greece, as it brought together the Prime Minister, governmental agents, as well as more than five hundred architects, planners, sociologists, archeologists, economists, civil engineers and other professionals from all over Europe,31 all holding the same conclusion: Athens’s basin was in a state of severe crisis and needed to be dealt with immediately in a systematic and interdisciplinary manner. “At the conference there was for the first time a “talk of ‘remodeling’, applied to the refugee district of Kessariani by the Grigoris Diamantopoulos team. 28

See Savas Kontaratos, “Modernism and Traditionalism: From Post-War Reconstruction to the Infiltration of Post-modernism in th Greece” in Savas Kontaratos & Wilfried Wang (Eds.), Greece; 20 Century Architecture, (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches ArvhitekturMuseum, 1999), 41. 29 Doumanis, a prevailing publishing figure in the architectural circles of Greece, has published all of Zenetos’ work in his magazine Architecture in Greece, which was started by Doumanis in 1967 with his own funds. The magazine practically waited for Zenetos to finish a project, which would immediately be published in the forthcoming issue. Furthermore, Doumanis published an all-inclusive special pamphlet on Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures in French, English and Greek, as well as Zenetos’ monograph the year after his death in 1978. 30 Orestis Doumanis, “Tribute to Takes Ch. Zenetos” in Takes Ch. Zenetos, Takes Ch. Zenetos; 1926-1977 (Athens: Architecture in Greece Press, 1978), 3. 31 Introduction to the Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress (Athens, 1966), 1.

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Figure

Poster of the Fifth Panhellenic Architectural Conference, held in Zappeion, Athens in January 16-23.

08


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

Doxiades once more advocated the unrestricted development of cities, while Takes Zenetos talked of the city of the future, suspended above the Athens of present day.”32 An alleged controversy between Zenetos and Doxiades33 surfaced during the conference. The controversy involved a disagreement over axes’ directionality: Zenetos’ proposed sprawl propagated along the y-axis, while Doxiades’ along the x-axis. In other words, there was a conflict of vertical versus horizontal development. [__FIG: 09] Naturally, for an underprivileged marginal country not far from its prevailingly rural past, the suggestion for vertical development appealed as a dreamy impossible scheme, as airy as its nude inhabitants. “Needless to say, these proposals were never implemented.”34 Although Zenetos’ daring presentation caused a sensation,35 it was Doxiades who was publicly thanked by the panel for his extensive, substantiated, insightful and serious research.36 Zenetos’ presentation also exhibited many facts, statistics as well as analytical comparative comments and developments in other countries, while it in parallel held a remarkably sovereign professional language in regards to his venturesome predilections. Still though, the use of a reiterative psychotic terminology such as his continuous mentioning of Athens’ “asphyxia”, made apparent that tremendous agony veiled his work. It sprang from general global predicaments to the even more disturbing local ones of the basin. Characteristically, Zenetos pointed out:

“We need to tend towards an alleviation of the earth ground, which should be converted to forests that are so essential to the survival of cities. The physical limitations and impediment of Athens geographical cavity cannot determine the limits of the city surface. The criteria for development cannot be either accidental or opportunistic… The contingent and symptomatic expansion of the urban cityscape this day can be potentially regulated; also the acceptance of the population increase as mandatory phenomenon is a resultant of inadequate organization. The point is not to accept population increase as a fact in a specific region and consequently develop systems for dealing with this problem, but instead to reverse the cause that incite it.”37

32

Philippides, “Town Planing in Greece,” 65. This is an unconfirmed supposition on the basis of oral information by several Greek architects. Doxiades and Zenetos participated in many common events and conferences in Athens and elsewhere and were very much aware of each other’s work, since they shared foundational common hypotheses for their projects. However, nowhere in their written works did they reference each other. Furthermore, Zenetos’ work has never been published in Ekistics despite the relevance of his research to the topic themes. 34 Philippides, “Town Planing in Greece,” 65. 35 Ibid. 36 Konstantinos Doxiades, “Conclusions and Final Remarks on the Basin” in the Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress (Athens, 1966), 163. 37 Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Telecommunications and Contemporary Means of Organization. The New Systemic Approach to the City, replacing old regulations. Flexible Planning,” in the Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress in Athens, 1966, 257. 33

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Figure

09

Zenetos’ sketch (1962) excerpted from his unorganized archive. In the sketch he contrasts horizontal development, as in the “city today”to vertical development as in the “City of tomorrow.” He in parallel comments on the vernacular vertical expansion of certain Greek villages, such as Karpenisi.


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

“Zenetos’ work cannot be separated from Greek postwar culture.”38 Agony functioned as key parameter in Zenetos’ work twisting demonically the earnest promises of the utopic project. Soon after his sober presentation in the 1966 conference, Electronic Urbanism’s tone converted to a lighthearted habitable enterprise, as the case in his 1971 vital publication in Economy Postman that popularized his ideas to the general Greek audience. [__FIG: 10] In such later publications, somewhere interwoven in the nexus of immobilized people in Zenetos’ ‘posture chairs,’ and electromagnetic fields that regulated space and the general promise of an immaterial ultimate future, both the city and man came to a demise. One must keep in mind that this fall was always obscured by a fabricated subterfuge of leisure and entertainment. “Build the atmosphere for a happier world”, Zenetos would claim. “Richard Scoffier has made two interesting observations of Greek architecture in the post war period39: holiday architecture and not collective housing programs, played the primary role, and there was a persistent development of a relationship between culture and landscape which was bound up with an epicurian ideal of enjoyment.”40 To understand this reflexive negligence to the immense housing predicaments, we must consider the political developments of the dictatorship in Greece after 1967. The military junta exacerbated the already existing feeling of asphyxia that fostered the development of utopian visions. Zenetos was not alone in his design for a “future city.” In fact, there were three major “future city” projects during the late 1960s in Greece, including Doxiades’ “Ecumenopolis,” and Ioannis Xenakis’ “Polytopa.” The three future cities were distinct in regards to their space syntax: Zenetos suggested vertical sprawl, Doxiades horizontal sprawl, while Xenakis punctual vertical interventions. Yet, in all three cases, the architects used cybernetics as a heuristic methodology to occupy the globe. I would argue in this case that the field of cybernetics offered prolific ground for alternative models of spatial organization that would counter the centralized strategies of the junta government, a model of networked flexibility, dispersed tactics and diversity that signaled an escape from oppressive authorities.

38

Manolis Marmaras, “Takes Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977); Remarks on his Work” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.21 (Athens: 1987), 20. 39 Richard Scoffier, “Approaches to a New Spatiality. Modern Architecture in Post-War Greece down to the Dictatorship” in Tefchos 10, (Athens, 1992-1993): 62-72. 40 Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, “Belated Neighbor of Familiar Stranger? Positioning the Models for the Reception of Greek Architecture” in th Savas Kontaratos & Wilfried Wang (Eds.), Greece; 20 Century Architecture, (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Arvhitektur-Museum, 1999), 104.

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Figure

Cover of the Greek Sunday newspaper inset Economy Postman featuring Takes Ch. Zenetos’ “City and House of the Future” __ Athens: (Thursday, January 6th 1972).

10


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03 _

Aeriform Colonizations: the decentralized future tele-city

In the mid 50s, Zenetos returned to Athens from Paris, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and was employed until 1955, in order to work on a research regulatory governmental plan that would de-clog Athens’ urban center. All his early plans strived to decentralize activities from the basin’s core beyond the adjacent hills, with the final scope to unfold them all over the country. Alongside these early-networked diffused plans, reminiscent of Internet links, his parallel draft and somewhat indecipherable diagrams riveted the redistribution of the nucleus tertiary sector to a multipart interconnected system. What would guarantee this triumph of decentralization was automation.41 Soon, processing units that would radiate energy and assure the links between all units began to appear in the corner edges of Zenetos’ maps. In many cases, they were visualized in the scale of entire city regions and in the form of microchips. [__FIG: 11] At the time, the wonders of automation42 infiltrated design thinking, especially as related to levering the chaotic and seemingly amorphous expansion of cities. The early 60s witnessed several research programs on the transference of control principles in electromechanical systems to urban growth, as well as the implications of newly invented hardware technologies to the evolution of urban structure and daily life. Jay W. Forrester, an electronics engineer who headed M.I.T’s Lincoln Laboratory on air defense systems, extended his theories in 1964 on the growth and decay of cities (Urban Dynamics), while Richard Meier published in 1962 A Communications Theory of Urban Growth 43, as a joint Cambridge-driven urban study research project between Harvard and M.I.T. Such studies, grounded on Shannon’s communication theory44, pledged that information transmitters would advance a new course of metropolitan developments, minimizing distances and radically influencing the planning of urban tertiary nuclei. Meier even ideated future traffic would cluster around immaterial airflow electromagnetic 41

As Richard Meier notes in 1962: “The transfer of paperwork to the electronic instrumentation is called automation, and since 1955 when office automation was a curiosity discussed by the avant-garde, it has grown into a billion-dollar business that is still long in promises and a little shaky on performance but nevertheless expanding it capabilities at an extremely rapid rate.” In Richard L. Meier, A Communications Theory of Urban Growth, (Cambridge, Mass: Published for the Joint Center for Urban Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University by M.I.T. Press, 1962), 139. 42 Again according to Meier, “The primitive forebears of specialized automata have appeared on the scene. Eventually they may be expected to take over most of the routine operations of urban society. Already the automate have begun to communicate with each other over telephone lines, through closed-circuit television channels, and by means of microwave relays. Some of them will transmit information thousands of times more rapidly than humans, others will receive and store at equally fantastic rates, and some use heuristic programming that closely resembles ordinary human thought processes, but because of the low rates of error, can solve extraordinary problems in logic.” In Meier, A Communications Theory of Urban Growth, 139. 43 Zenetos cited Meier in direct quotations in several Electronic Urbanism publications. 44 Claude Shannon, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication", Bell System Technical Journal, No. 27 (July & October, 1948).

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Figure

11

Upper series__ Athens decentralization schemes by Takes Zenetos Down__ Decentralization of activities out of Athens’ basin & emergence of electronic centers for processing information In Takes Ch. Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece (Special Edition, 1969).


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channels instead of highways. Logically, all conjectures of a similar nature orbited around the foremost concern of how the urban corporeal body would be physically affected by electronic devices and hardware developments. Meier summarizes it coherently:

“Planners are interested in understanding how the physical form of a city will be changed by the adaptations to the stresses of working close to human information-handling capacity. They are aware of the revolutionary effects that were wrought by the rail-roads and later by road vehicles, and wonder what impact forthcoming developments will have.”45

Shortly after these germinal assumptions on transformation of civil structures, Science magazine features in capital letters: “WHY CANNOT PEOPLE LIVE WHEREVER THEY WISH AND CONGREGATE ELECTRONICALLY?”46 This seemed to be a central question revolving around Zenetos’ mind, on the premises of which the project of Electronic Urbanism was founded. The constant cruise between living and working areas made no sense to Zenetos47, both in terms of the voyagers that would waste tremendous amounts of energy on a daily basis back and forth, as well as the cruise’s alarming effects on the urban texture that would in the long run become disemboweled by an overload of unnecessary transportation arteries.48 Transportation appealed a forked plight; first on the level of wasteful energy consumption and secondly on the uneconomical construction of transit arteries that also occupied prodigally vital chunks of urban space. [__FIG: 12] Besides, in such critical times of global predicaments, all energy human time, movement, energy, water, and materials of construction needed to be conserved,49 according to the rationale of emerging ecological systems that guaranteed proficient provision of energy on a global level and at length the sustenance of life. Electronic Urbanism pivoted on a simple conjecture: “In most cases of everyday routine, there is an issue of transmitting actions not humans themselves.”50 If only message transmissions would be delegated to automatic equipment,51 not only would the organization of urban form be

45

Meier, A Communications Theory of Urban Growth, 139. “Old Cities, New Cities, No Cities”, editorial in Science, No.18 (February 1972). Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973), 112. 48 Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics.” 49 Meier, A Communications Theory of Urban Growth, 138. 50 Zenetos, “Telecommunications and Contemporary Means of Organization. The New Systemic Approach to the City, replacing old regulations. Flexible Planning,” Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress in Athens, 252. 51 See Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece: 112. See also M Meier, A Communications Theory of Urban Growth: 138, who characteristically notes: 46 47

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Figure

12

Analytic diagrams of the city and potential organizations that will provide resolutions. In the upper diagrams, A signifies the tertiary sector and B its enveloping residential area. The fistulas depict the internal rupture of the system. The middle right diagrams illustrate the same organizational ruptures in a different physical structure of a linear city. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece (Special Edition, 1969).


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relieved by the removal of redundant infrastructure, but also people would accordingly reinvent their lifestyle and recover precious leisure time.52 The City of the Future prophesied to unearth and re-synthesize the practices of everyday life,53 all through the use of electronic communication systems. [__FIG: 13] It would not only render daily sojourns and consequently roads needless, but also give rise to new daily habits, beginning from the processing of information that Zenetos listed as ‘tele-work’ and prospectively expanding to new modes of thought processing –‘tele-thinking’. [__FIG: 14] He stated:

“The vicious circle can only stop if we go to the root of the problem, i.e., to the need for man’s transportation to the very place of tertiary activities, which, for the most part, consist of the transmission and processing of information. Modern technology offers the means to do away with traditional methods involving the human factor, in this rapidly expanding main sector of the ‘Processing Services’. The completion of automation and the application of cybernetics to these services will permit their ‘tele-management’, eliminating the need to travel daily to and form the working place or to central consumer services. Non-material media in managing business and production operations, such as light or sound, are cheaper and faster and can replace the present vast and expensive installations, offering at the same time the advantage of total flexibility.”54

Zenetos’ City of the Future does not merely borrow cybernetics’ systemic operations metaphorically as methodological principles for the design process, but also delineates alternative organization strategies for urban development; affecting directly, meaning physically, the shape of the city. No roads, but an all-expansive, flexible, wire spider web55 in tension assumes responsibility of both suspending decentralized social clusters and channelizing messages from one cluster to the other. In this sense, the wire web is both structurally56 and electronically functional, establishing a direct transference of communication theory57 and message transmissions to the actual development of urban prototypes. Even the selection of wire “The hugely increased volume of messages being transmitted requires that the simple tasks of sending and receiving be entrusted to automatic equipment and also that they key decisions, those which involve the possibility of disaster if a miscalculation were made, should be checked with a computer.” 52 Zenetos, “Telecommunications and Contemporary Means of Organization. The New Systemic Approach to the City, replacing old regulations. Flexible Planning,” Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress, 252. 53 Paraphrasing Michel de Certeau in his homonymous book. See Michel de Certeau, The practice of Everyday Life (Translated by Steven Rendall), (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984): 29-43. 54 Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures, 23. 55 The terms wire spider web is Zenetos’ own term slightly paraphrased. He writes: “The proposed wired space-frame system, consisted out of cables in tension like the web of a spider, provides a solution for vertical development freeing earth space. It could contain vertical garden cities in combination with dense networks of advanced media of telecommunication and teleactivities.” See Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Economy Postman, 10. 56 The beneficial structural capacity of the proposed wire system are outlined by Zenetos as follows: “The advantages of a cable system are the reduction of material and stresses to the absolute minimum, as well as the accession of great flexibility. Besides the cable system, allows for great spans and heights, in other words the construction of a three-dimensional suspended garden city above the oceans in satellite formations.” See Zenetos, “Problems of Construction in Greece; The City of the Future,” Architecture in Greece, 92. 57 The mathematical theory of the engineering aspects of communication was developed chiefly by Claude Shannon at the Bell Telephone Laboratories.

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Zenetos’ diagram descriptions

Figure

13

Functions in full freedom

Sections in motion (fluidity-globality of parts)

Unlimited operational possibilities.

Fluidity and the importance of immaterial poles. The center is materialized at the moment and the place of the action.

Diagram of the basic organization scheme poles: interrelations and overlapping functions. The city is maintained and becomes again an urban social unit

Diagrams for the reorganization of the city in regards to the introduction of new communication devices. Zenetos advocates that they will drastically restructure the shape of the city. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece (Special Edition, 1969).


Figure

14

1. (Before a vowel properly tel-, but more often in the full form), repr. Gr. -, combining form of afar, far off; used in numerous (chiefly recent) scientific and technical terms, mostly denoting or connected with special appliances or methods for operating over long distances; also in several terms connected with psychical research, denoting actions or impressions produced at a distance from the exciting cause, independently of the normal means of communication. (The second element is properly and usually from Greek, exceptionally from Latin or English.) The earlier and more important of these words will be found in their alphabetical places; others follow here. telacoustic a., Psychics [ACOUSTIC], pertaining to or involving the perception of a sound beyond or apart from the possibility of ordinary hearing (cf. teloptic below). teleanemograph, ‘an anemograph that records at a distance by means of electricity’ (Cent. Dict. 1891). telebanking, a method of effecting banking transactions at a distance by electronic means. telebarograph, ‘a barograph that records at a distance by means of electricity’ (Cent. Dict. 1891). telebarometer, ‘a barometer that registers its indications at a distance by means of electric apparatus’ (ibid.). tele-camera, (a) a telephotographic camera; (b) a television camera. telecentric a., Optics, applied to a lens system of which the aperture or stop is at the principal focus; also absol. as n., a telecentric lens. telechirograph [Gr. hand], a form of TELAUTOGRAPH [cf. definition of TELAUTOGRAPH]. telecobalt, radioactive cobalt used as a radiation source in teletherapy; usu. attrib. telecommand, the remote control of machines or the like by electronic means; freq. attrib. telecommute v. intr., to work from home (esp. at a traditionally office job), communicating with one's place of employment, colleagues, etc., by telephone line or data link; hence telecommuter; telecommuting vbl. n. and ppl. a. teleconnection Geol. [tr. Sw. fjärrkonnektion (G. De Geer 1916, in Geol. Fören. Förhandl. XXXVIII. 18)], the correlation over long distances of varves or other deposits that can be used for dating purposes; also transf. telecontrol = telecommand above; freq. attrib. teleconverter Photogr., a camera lens designed to be fitted in front of a standard lens to increase its effective focal length. telecryptograph, a form of printing telegraph adopted for secret or private communication. telectrograph, telectroscope: see telelectro-. telecurietherapy Med. [CURIE] = teletherapy below. telediphone [Ediphone, name of a recording machine], a machine for recording speech from a telephone line or radio for subsequent transcription or broadcasting; hence telediphoned a. teleflash U.S., (equipment for transmitting) telegraphic news of racing results, odds, etc. telegenesis, the technique of artificial insemination. telegnomy, telegnosis Psychics, psychic perception of events happening at a distant place; clairvoyance; hence telegnostic a. telehydrobarometer [Gr. water: see BAROMETER], an instrument for recording electrically at a distance the pressure of a head of water or other liquid. teleiconograph [Gr. image: see -GRAPH], an apparatus consisting of a telescope combined with a camera lucida, by which images of distant objects may be cast upon paper and traced. telekin [mod., f. Gr. - to move], a device for the electric control of machinery from a distance. telekinesis, Psychics [mod.L., f. Gr. motion], movement of or in a body alleged to occur at a distance from, and without material connexion with, the motive cause or agent; hence telekinetic a., belonging to telekinesis.: also transf. and fig.; telekineticist, one who practises or has the power of telekinesis. telelectric a., producing mechanical motions or effects at a distance by electrical means. telelectrograph, shortened telectrograph: cf. ELECTROGRAPH, an apparatus for producing at the receiving end a copy of a photograph or print at the transmitting end, by means of electric telegraphy. telelectroscope, shortened telectroscope [cf. prec. and -SCOPE], an apparatus for reproducing at a distance a visual image, as that in a camera obscura, by means of electric telegraphy. tele-lens Photogr., a telephoto lens. telemanometer, a manometer which registers at a distance by means of electricity. telemechanics, the art of transmitting power to a distance, esp. by electromagnetic waves as in wireless telegraphy; so telemechanism. telemessage, a form of telegram introduced in October 1981 to replace the inland telegram, and abolished one year later. telemetacarpal a., Comp. Anat., having vestiges only of the distal portion of the first and fifth metarcarpals, as in one group of the Cervidæ. telemeteorograph, a meteorograph which records electrically at a distance; a combination of telethermograph, telebarograph, and teleanemograph; hence telemeteorographic a.,

Etylomological definitions of the prefix -tele-. Oxford Dictionary Online.


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

as the building material for the city’s structural armature is possibly extracted from telephone lines, while it parallel visually reifies signal transmissions along the lines of Shannon’s research at Bell Telephone Laboratories. [__FIG: 15__16] In the City of the Future, people become direct analogues of transmitters and their activities become the signals (messages) to be passed through noiseless wire systems, in what Zenetos entitles 'tele-energies', 'tele-activities' and 'tele-thinking'. Despite the fact that he is nowhere concerned with the channel capacity of the wire web, he alludes to the effectiveness in the coding process of messages and their reconstruction (inverse transmission) that would ultimately influence daily life and the formation of micro and macro environments. [__FIG: 17] Indeed his views on the administration of daily activities in the City of the Future is so specific that it is surprising he does not designate a time schedule for food, sex and education, along with all other details. Take note that parallel to the following verbal plan, there are sets of instruments grouped in tables, explicitly designed for the purposes of each one of the activities, even special sex uniforms. “People, couples, children, elderly, transitional ages and social groups will have the option of continuous and constant social reformations due to the possibility of a parallel and ongoing reconstruction of their micro and macro environment. It should be emphasized that the term reconstruction does not refer to mobility, which will become commonplace in the future, but to the introduction of advanced tele-activity networks. Everyday life will be consisted of the following five parameters: 1) Creative activity – tele-work conducted at home- essentially education (morfosis) or ‘play’ 2) Exercise locally or in the natural environment of the earth ground 3) Sexual life –rest and momentary sleep 4) Consuming products and redistributing waste; The ritual (telefunction) of eating is integrated in one of the above function 5) Social contacts and activities.”58

58

Takes Ch. Zenetos, “City and House of the Future” in Economy Postman, 11.

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Figure

15

Left & Middle__ Sketches of the wire web system. In Zenetos’ Archive, Athens. Right__ model of a prototypical floor slab. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece (Special Edition, 1969).


Figure

16

Sketches of the wire web system. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece (Special Edition, 1969).


Figure

Information Source

Transmitter

17

Receiver

Destination

CHANNEL

X

Y

SIGNAL

RECEIVED SIGNAL

MESSAGE

MESSAGE

V

NOISE SOURCE

Basic diagram for the mathematical theory of communication. C signifies the maximum capacity of the channel. Drawn on the basis of Shannon’s diagram. In C.E. Shannon, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication", Bell System Technical Journal, No. 27 (July & October, 1948).


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

04 _ Round Visions falling on earth; the detached oblivious future city Yona Friedman’s and Takes Zenetos’ future cities are both parallel systems to an existing urban reality; detached from the ground and superimposed on existing cities. In Friedman’s Parallel City over Paris, the two levels are rendered ardently in correlation one to the other, in all drawing formats; plan, section and perspective. More to the point, in the case of his perspectival representations, Friedman produced countless photomontages to depict comparative relationships and the effect of his future vision over Paris’ small corners, highways and monuments. As he noticeably comments: “To illustrate the aesthetic appearance of the constructions proposed, the figures above show photomontages of various spatial constructions that might be erected in various quarters of the city.”59 [__FIG: 18] If one weighs these images against Zenetos,’ he would find just about nothing in common except for their verbalized intent to disengage from the land. Zenetos’ City of the Future on no account comes to contact with the existing urban condition. Athens appears in only one early drawing that Zenetos completed after his initial schemes to decentralize the urban hub in the framework of governmental regulatory plans. But even at this premature stage, one cannot observe any single hint of a map. What is visible is the basin’s jittery topography, allied with a massive information processor. [__FIG: 19] Leaving nature intact, thanks to the achievements of cybernation, becomes later on an obsessive mark of Electronic Urbanism, to such a degree that it embodies almost the single habitation format of the earth’s surface for the future. Trees are always piercing the inhabitable floors of the City of the Future, impacting drastically the arrangement of dwelling spaces. They are also additionally implanted on the slabs’ ample thickness that integrates artificial soil units for the growth of plantation parallel to the earth’s forthcoming wilderness. [__FIG: 20__ 21] As Zenetos summarizes,

“Three elements are incorporated in the system: minimum intervention on the ground, flexibility in the microstructure and nature… The receiving structure consists of a cable system, offering infinite possibilities for formal variations and density fluctuations. At ground level, the restoration of the natural environment is completed. The living conditions resulting from the application of cybernetics (cybernation) impose a

59

Yona Friedman, “Paris Spatial: A suggestion; 1960” in Martin van Schaik and Otaker Mácel (Eds.), Exit Utopia : Architectural Provocations, 1956-1976, (Munich ; London : Prestel, 2005), 27.

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Figure

18

Yona Friedman’s photomontages for a parallel city above Paris. “Paris Spatial: A Suggestion”, (1960) In Martin van Schaik and Otaker Marcel (Eds.), Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations, 1956-1976, (Munich, London: Prestel, 2005).


Figure

19

Zenetos’ plan for Athens of the Future. In the upper inscription, he writes: “nature will be emancipated and recover its primordial form. A flexible spider tissue will contain the city. Tertiary sector will be removed from the city and will be relocated anywhere. Tele-work will be conducted from the place of residence. From the same location we will be in contact with the earth and the universe. For production, education and leisure. In Martin van Schaik and Otaker Marcel (Eds.), Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations, 1956-1976, (Munich, London: Prestel, 2005).


Figure

20

Plan drawing of the City of the Future by Takes Zenetos. Trees infiltrating the slab system. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics� in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974): 122-136.


Figure

21

1

2

3

4

Zenetos’ footnotes: 1_ The basic space-structure principle. The axes of the molecular structure formation could be either specific levels or simple networks suspended on the vertical ‘reception carrier’ 2_ Living in a “close to everywhere-right in the woodsdense- urban structure” 3_ Grid structure supporting a root system and piping for the distribution by spraying of nutrient liquids 4_ Vegetation extending over two levels. Sketches, drawing and model of artificial soil units implanted within the slab system of the City of the Future. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974).


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

Asides from the neo-naturalized territories, there is a second citation to the lower ground levels, which is geometric; it is related to the abstract shape of the globe, the sphere. Consequently, all structures are illustrated slightly curved in an effort to accommodate the figure of the sphere and adapt to its round geometry. Countless arrays of drawings from the scale of a construction detail to the scale of a satellite urban cluster evidently depict this unique for the time roundness of Zenetos’ floating future city. Many systems are moreover three-dimensionally curved in different axis; both in plan and in section partially duplicating spherical features in distant earth layers. [__FIG: 22_23_24_25] Taken as a whole, the City of the Future turns out to be a round indeterminate spherified field. It is oblivious to its underlying layers, in view of the fact that the city does not come to contact with any reality other than itself and the internal to the system relationships between its parts. In this sense, the City of the Future becomes a closed system or an autopoietic self-referential machine, according to assertions of the second cybernetics order. This may seem like a shaky claim, especially given the fact that Maturana and Varela’s autopoietic theory was being developed parallel to Zenetos’ Electronic Urbanism, as well as its first publication came no earlier than 1972.61 Still Zenetos’ city is firstly neither purposive/teleological, nor in feedback with other living systems. Its oblivious character to the prosaic underlying urbanity, as well as its fortification with innumerable recycling and food-productive apparatuses that would assure survival within the internal boundaries of the City of the Future, align it to the hypotheses of homeostatic machines. Indeed as Maturana and Varela write, the alignment is striking:

“It follows that an autopoietic machine continuously generates and specifies its own organization through its operation as a system of production of its own components, and does this in an endless turnover of components under the conditions of continuous perturbations and compensation of perturbations.”62

Independently of its formal aberration to other vanguard utopic projects, spherification becomes a critical characteristic of Electronic Urbanism. First of all, a curved line signifies topological flexibility in space that straight one fails to spot, due to its frequent definition by Cartesian finite coordinates. We now know that a straight line can be as topological as a curved one according to

61

Humberto R. Maturana and Fransisco J.Varela, Autopoiesis: The Organization of the Living (Chile: Editorial Universitaria S.A., 1972). 62 Humberto R. Maturana and Fransisco J.Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition; The Realization of the Living (Dordrecht, Holland: D.Reidel Publishing Company, 1980), 79.

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Figure

22

In the Greek inscription Zenetos mentions: “The principle of respecting the natural landscape should be valid in any case, independently of demographic and economic pressures.” Sketches and drawings that illustrate the enveloping of the earth by the City of the Future. From Takes Ch. Zenetos’ archive (Athens).


Figure

23

A= cities-satellites B= continents satellitles (articulated spherical surfaces)

Zenetos’ sketches for the formation of satellite cities as successive parallel earth surfaces hovering above oceans and soil. From Takes Ch. Zenetos’ archive (Athens).


Figure

24

Zenetos’ sketches for the spherification of the wire spider web system in three dimensions (left), section (middle) and plan (right). From Takes Ch. Zenetos’ archive (Athens).


Figure

1

4

25

2

5

3

6

7

1_ Schematic diagram of the layout of the suspended city and its habitation units; based on the structural design solution in a prestressed chess board layout 2_ Partial plan of a typical sector in the suspended city 3_ Detail of the structure in plan. The proposed plan of its first application is 100m. Apart from the pedestrian ways along the suspended levels, there are transversal connections at the level of the horizontalprestressed cable net where various communal facilities are suspended. 4_ Detail of the suspended structure. The lower half of the building plan shows the middle level, which corresponds to the level of the horizontal tensile system 5_ Detail of suspended floor elements. In a prestressed cable system, identical floor elements would require a far more complicated receiving structure. It was therefore thought to standardize only the span (10m). 6_ Demountable units made of conventional prefabricated elements presently available (storage units, doors and windows, toilet capsules) 7_ Details. The entire structural system consists of joints permitting free movement in all directions. The torsion movements at the node column are counterbalanced by a device permitting the suspension of cables and ll other suspension of the cables from the center of its cross section. Pylons, cables and ll other suspension elements will be of synthetic materials, thus possessing all the advantages of their steel prototypes with none of their disadvantages. Zenetos’ various detailed drawings on the suspended city. Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics� in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973): 112-120.


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

the mathematical equations that define it. For instance the length of a topological line is a range, rather than a measurable distance, namely a domain, and this is disassociated from any given geometry. However, curved space is moreover visually representative of this integral algebraic flexibility in a system and Zenetos strives for a city that is both flexible and portrayed as such. [__FIG: 26_27] His titles, texts, sketches and drawings all lead to a common denominator: what becomes important in the City of the Future is the network of intragroup relationships between components; all are reciprocal, flexible, re-arrangeable, variable. This systemic disposition of Electronic Urbanism is summarized in significant conciseness by Graeme Sheather in his 1972 Ekistiks article on the topology of general systems theory:

“The most general interpretation of the word system is: ‘a system is a set of units with relationships among them.’ The word ‘set’ implies that the unit has common properties. The state of each unit is constrained by, conditioned by, or dependent upon the state of other units. They may be specified by families of differential equations. The units may be termed variables that have a functional correspondence between them and are subject to growth, change and movement…. Open systems referred to here, have permeable boundaries and permit matter, energy and information to cross them… They contain a decider, the essential critical subsystem, which controls the entire system causing its subsystems and components to coact.”63

Continuing with Sheather’s analysis against Electronic Urbanism, the author argues that topological connections between parts of a system cannot be sufficiently surmised in a twodimensional network of points that depicts mono-dimensional connections. Instead, it is in crosslink and more precisely in cross-scalar connections that a theory of General Living Systems can embark, in the articulation of multi-dimensional complexity that would in next to no time become decisive for the second cybernetics order. In short, in the second cybernetics order, what appears to be meaningless noise in one scale of analysis could be vital information for another scale. In the following passage, one may detect some of these undercurrent themes:

“The planning process attempts to rationalize ‘human experience’ with the result that man is becoming increasingly aware that the structure and process of this universe is implicitly one of a hierarchic sequence of decision patterns, resulting in a design/decision at each level of the hierarchy. The axiom of General Living Systems Theory, perceives the universe in terms of hierarchies of systems in which each is both a unit in a larger system and is itself composed of a pattern of smaller units. The system, however, must be a ‘living’ one if it is to depict the dynamic transformations of the Universe over time…In order to explore the pattern of the total system it is the articulation, that is the relative density or grouping of these elements, which must be defined through cross level 63

Graeme Sheather, “Topology of General Systems Theory” in Ekistics, Vol.26, No.153 (August 1968), 174.

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Figure

26

Zenetos’ footnote: Comparative diagram of a probable development of the structure of the urban unit (100x100m) in the conventional urban pattern and scale. During the transitional phase (B) three new elements are incorporated in the system: minimum intervention in the gorund, flexibility in the microstructure and nature. During the third phase (C) the roads are incorporated in the structures and flexibility extends ot the macrostyructure. Coexistence with nature counterbalances the effects of intense mechanization. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973): 112-120.


Figure

27

(1)

(X2, Y2,Z2)

(0.5)

(XÍ, YÍ,ZÍ)

Z (X1, Y1,Z1)

X

(0)

Reparameterize line domain [0,1]

>> Domain is not length, but range >> Domain gives us an alternative way to locate points on a line >>Domain is an internal way of understanding the curve >>If we locate a point on the domain of a curve, even if we change or move the curve our point will still be there The term domain is most commonly used to describe the set of values for which a function (map, transformation, etc.) is defined. For example, a function that is defined for real values has domain , and is sometimes said to be "a function over the reals." The set of values to which is sent by the function is then called the range.

Up_ Zenetos’ diagrams. The left -tensile system used to stabilize the urban space grid- is both a plan and elevation drawing. The right one indicates how the system is anchored either to a nearby mountain or to the ground. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973): 112-120. Down_ diagrams depicting the topology of a line and the notion of domain, as in a relative coordinate system.


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

transformations. Out of these cumulative pattern overlays there emerges what seems to be generalized principles apparently governing all associative and disassociative transformings and the resultant regenerative hierarchy of constellar configurations. These hierarchies of constellar configurations may be envisaged as a series of concentric circles, each an n-dimensional closed orientable manifold.”64

Systems theory, autopoietic machines, connectionism and other cybernetic theories, all developed concurrently and there is no clear citation that links Zenetos to either Sheather, von Bertalanffy65 or Maturana and Varela. Yet, it becomes manifest that Electronic Urbanism grows in time parallel to the growth of cybernetic theories as they gradually reallocate from teleological conjectures in rockets’ itineraries to approach the obscure density of the universe and living systems. The evolutionary latitudes of the two discourses are remarkable: observe both Zenetos’ terminology -satellite city formations articulated in parallel spherical surfaces to the earth in concentric configurations- as well as his steady inclination to inflate the City of the Future to an interplanetary organism that can capture the immensity of the cosmos and to eventually dissolve it in electromagnetic information fields. In many ways, it can be argued that Electronic Urbanism visualizes systems theory. It becomes its mirror image, representing the nonfigurative operations of systemic thinking. This is quite lucid if one were to put side-by-side Sheather’s abstract diagrams on systems’ decomposition and Zenetos’ floor slab system, where nested patterns emerge in the thickness of the structure, along with trees that puncture them and locally disintegrate them, articulating in their vicinity an archipelago of dwellings. [__FIG: 28] En route for the provision of design imagery for abstract concepts, Zenetos himself searched for devices that would serve as representational analogues of the amorphous urban complexity he was so passionately after. Eventually, instead of numeric processes and rule-based systems, he used concrete physical objects, namely electronic circuit boards and microchips as patterns on top of which he would overlay his designs and copy from. The labyrinthic intricacy of such tangible artifacts embodied a design intelligence that enabled different kind of calculations with shapes, instead of numeric calculations. Tzirtzilakis argues66 that these typed metallic objects have been used as graphic generators for artistic practices by the early 70s in Greece, as for instance in the case of Bia Davou’s typo-circuits. [__FIG: 29] 64

Ibid, 174-177. Ludwig von Bertalanffy was a biologist and is considered as the forefather of systems theory that attempted to expand cybernetics to social systems. He founded the Society for General Systems Research in 1954, the year that many General Systems handbooks began to appear. He was joined in the research institute by many cyberneticians such as the mathematician A. Rapoport, the biologist W. Ross Ashby, the biophysicist N. Rashevsky and the economist K. Boulding. In 1968 he published his foundational work on systems theory. See Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (New York: George Brazilier, 1968). 66 Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, “Meso-Architecture. Remarks on the hyper-mediocre dissolution of Architecture” in Architects, No.52 (Athens: Published by Hellenic Architects Association, July-August 2005), 59. 65

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Figure

28

Left_ Sheather’s diagram on systems’decomposition showing the maximum dimension of systems’ tree. In Graeme Sheather, “Topology of General Systems Theory” in Ekistics, Vol.26, No.153 (August 1968): pp.173-178. Right_ Zenetos’ dwelling arrangements and the floor slab system. In Takes Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973).


Figure

29

Up_ Zenetos names the right diagram “operational urban unit of unlimited size” while the lefte :a unit of limited size.” In Takes Zenetos, “City Planning and Electronics; appendix” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.4 (Athens: 1970). Down_ Bia Davou, Typocircuit (1972). In Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, “Meso-Architecture. Remarks in the hyper-mediocre dissolution of Architecture” in Architects, No.52 (Athens: Published by Hellenic Architects Association, July-August 2005.


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

05 _

Futuribles; From “Bit Dwelling” to “Bit earth”

McHale and Zenetos never met each other or cited each other, but the primal conjectures of their work are so bizarrely close-fitting that one can rightfully stargaze a hypothetical meeting between them discussing strategies of apportioning world resources for the sake of the year 2000. Apart from their potential either converging or incongruous assumptions, what would be an indisputable fact is their common fanatical confidence in the validity of projecting the future. In fact for them futurists, this imaginary conversation would be not only a scientifically valid task, but also a responsible attitude for the common good; it would help to conquer and redirect the complex evolutionary itineraries of world phenomena. If otherwise left to chance, 2000 would spring up into the ultimate sociopolitical and religious doomsday that it ought to be. As McHale writes, [__FIG: 30] “We are fundamentally concerned here with a series of predictions about the next hundred or thousand years, but rather with the ‘futures- orientation’ itself as an intellectual and social attitude. We are concerned with ways of looking forward and with some of the implications of present scientific and technological developments on our styles of living… Today we do not view the future quite in the same way, as a great evolutionary onrush, largely independent of man’s intervention and tinged with various premonitions of doom whether or not he chooses to intervene.” 67

Futurology and cybernetics go intimately hand-by-hand, if it is not to say that the former has been an indispensable component of all early cybernetic practices. Before his book68 that largely professionalized the newly emerging field of cybernetics and even before the first Macys conference,69 Wiener was working at M.I.T, along with the engineer Julian H. Bigelow, on the development of automatic range finders for antiaircraft guns; they were principally researching projective airplane trajectories based on information extracted from past trajectories.70 It was in their precipitate endeavors to comprehend purposive or target-driven behaviors –meaning 67

John McHale, “The Future of the Future” in Architectural Design (February, 1967): 65-66. Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and Machine, (Cambridge, Mass: Technology Press, 1948). 69 This was an early seminar that took place at the Institute for Advance Study at Princeton in 1942. It brought together mathematicians, physiologists and mechanical and electrical engineers. In light of its success, a series of ten seminars was arranged by the Josiah Macy Foundation (Principia Cybernetica 2000). 70 “Intelligent Machines” in Online Principia Cybernetica 2000. 68

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Figure

McHale’s illustration for The Future of the Future. In John McHale, “The Future of the Future” in Architectural Design 2000+ (February, 1967).

30


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predictions on the outlook performance of a system interpolated on precedent data- that the entire discipline was launched in the early 40s. Forecasts, as a credible and useful scientific approach, delayed to relegate design disciplines for approximately two decades, while the methodological turnover was largely due to the popularization of the space program and the all-purpose atmosphere of planetary anxieties, as discussed previously. At any rate, it supplied designers with visionary overviews on world evils that by and large they lacked and with methods that were both powerful and reliable. To begin with the first argument of forecasting as a powerful design tool, the British cybernetician Gordon Pask contrasted pure architecture to cybernetic architecture, essentially presenting the former as a passive system, which is descriptive, and prescriptive and the latter as a dynamic system, which can affect the course of events. According to Pask, this was a major contribution to the field of design, since it could then be endowed with the authority to affect environmental evolutions; in other words to recast and reorient the future.71 Pask summarizes his views in the following quote:

“Pure architecture was descriptive (a taxonomy of buildings and methods) and prescriptive (as in the preparation of plans) but it did little to predict or explain. In contrast, the cybernetic theory has an appreciable predictive power. For example, urban growth can be modeled as self-organizing system (a formal statement of evolutionary ideas for architecture) and in these terms it is possible to predict the extent to which the growth of a city will be chaotic or ordered by differentiation. Even if the necessary data for prediction is unavailable, we can at least pose and test rational hypothesis.”72

To continue with the second argument, of forecasting as reliable design tool, McHale considered it irresponsible for any designer to dismiss futurology. Futurology signaled a reliable path: assuring to tackle world problems, by diagnostically understanding all their components and rearranging them in novel productive directions.

“We have viewed the unforeseen consequences of not ‘predicting’ –famine and disease are preventable catastrophes… Dealing with human futures re-introduces the capacity of human beings to determine their future. This is a central point. Given this present scientific and technological knowledge, man has an enormously enhanced capacity to choose his future –both collectively and individually. The outcome of the ‘futures’ chosen will depend on the degree to which we predict them. If we conceive a specific course of action desirable, we will tend to orient ourselves towards it.”73

71 72 73

McHale, “The Future of the Future,” Architectural Design, 65-66. Gordon Pask, “The Architectural Relevance of Cybernetics” in Architectural Design, Vol.39 (September 1969), 496. McHale, “The Future of the Future,” Architectural Design, 65.

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In essence, futurology transferred the methodologies of teleological systems and purposive behavior to social systems. For the redistribution of the course of future events, such methodologies necessitated the diligent compartmentalization of data in bits, in order for their consequent reconstruction towards a target future to take place. It is for this reason that futurology was ardently described by all its advocates as an emerging field of scientific epistemology, exclusively dissimilar to obscure spiritual assumptions and guesses. Contrary to most common postulations on forecasting as an undisciplined clairvoyant practice, world planner futurists aspired to delineate accurate extrapolations based on effective data management. Observe Jencks and Silver’s atmospheric diagram on the calculation of future air quality: all sources of pollution are firstly presented and accordingly coded individually in their constituent components, with the ultimate scope of an inverse reconstruction process that can prevent pollution as a whole. [__FIG: 31] On the new disciple of ‘futurible’ issues, Jencks and Silver markedly point out: “In spite of many examples of plausible prediction, people continue to talk as if the future were completely unknowable or unlimited… Since certain consequences follow necessarily from the combination of things already known, it should be possible in a very crude way to project forward evolutionary trends and then decide to annihilate those ugly species before they select us. This general process of projecting forward possible futures is sometime known as the disciple of ‘futuribles’. As a methodology it tries to make reasonable guesses about the way certain trends might develop and then it accentuates the possibility of human choice from among these. This it seeks to defatalize the course of events by systemically breaking them into controllable parts. This disassociation is a general goal of science (‘divide’ and ‘conquer’) as well as a general trend of technology (specialization, fragmentation). Man’s mastery over nature results from his cutting an unmanageable whole into manageable subsets.”74

In accordance to the demands of utter compartmentalization and the provision of manageable subsets, Zenetos provided dozens exhaustive tables of components and pieces that would compile habitation environments. [__FIG: 32] The term environment here, which replaces the term ‘house’ or ‘dwelling,’ is key to prod into Zenetos’ perception of the habitat; as it depicts a collection of stuff –physical artifacts- and conditions –non-physical states- that the inhabitants would congregate locally and in various ways in order to form their desired macro and micro environments.75 Observably, for Zenetos a house was not a unit in the material form of a sheltered object, like a prefabricated cell for instance. This becomes clear in Zenetos’ apologetic texts, while he tried to explain that the shells in his models for the City of the Future were in fact 74 75

Charles Jencks & Nathan Silver, Adhocism. The Case for Improvisation (New York: Doubleday & Company Inc, 1972), 51. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics,” Architecture in Greece, 113.

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Figure

31

Jencks & Silver’s footnote: Flow Chart of positive and negative cnsequences following increased energy consumption. Here the various problems of air pollution are dissected apart. (Prepared by the Environmental Systems Group, Institute of Ecology, University of California, Davis). In Charles Jencks & Nathan Silver, Adhocism. The Case for Improvisation (New York: Doubleday & Company Inc, 1972).


Figure

32

Tables (tele-order cards) of various elements used in the composition of the dwelling environment. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics� in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974).


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not dwellings, but rather dwelling components. The fact they appeared as housing units dissipated throughout the floors of the big structure, was only a representational disability of the physical model. [__FIG: 33]

“The characteristic elements of the house are not the spheres (soap bubbles) as they are depicted in certain drawings. These are merely representative envelopes or ‘organs’ that service secondary activities of everyday life, ‘permanent’ or retractable (of temporary use in the day-night lifecycle) and could potentially assume any kind of form – i.e pneumatic balloons, polyhedra etc. depending on the market supply (however they should in all cases be of minimum weight and raw material), or they may be entirely absent if the users prefer to live in a space, which can be acoustically and visually insulated with ‘silence vibratory speakers’ and special screens (see description for immaterial architecture).”76

Conspicuously parallel to Banham’s “A Home is not a House,”77 Zenetos claimed his dwelling as a set of appliances for various functions.78 Numerically indexed, each appliance was explicitly assigned for a purpose: personal hygiene, sleep-isolation, tele-education, individual learning, memory training, local food decomposition, communication tele-contacts, body carrying, bodily exercise, occasional sex, oxygen enrichment, temperature restoration, drying, dust sucking, sunray diffusion, gardening, soil enrichment al. Out of the so many choices, the tables indicated that a desired lifestyle is a composite structure defined by an equation, that in its turn is defined by reciprocal relations between actual artifacts –such as electronic communication screens,atmospheric conditions -such as degree and direction of desired daily sunlight- and personal typologies –such as the age, daily habits and personality of inhabitants. On the whole, Zenetos advocated that a lifestyle is a mathematical artifact, one that can be calculated and controlled in almost frightening precision. Therefore, dwelling construction revolved around questions such as: What would be the optimal noon temperature for the living space of a couple between 25-35, in relationship to their cooking and/or sex habits or nude walking frequency, as well as their teleeducation activities, in correlation the degree of desired sunlight invasion? To respond to such sophisticated relativities, the design of the tables reached a point of advanced space programmability, that Banham -nude in his ethereal bubble and surrounded by all kinds of mechanical services- inspired only visually. One can therefore witness in the extravagance of Zenetos’ tables, a kind of variability that in no case accounts to the simple reconfiguration of spatial components that only allow a finite number of possible options. Zenetos’ decomposition 76

Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Economy Postman, 10. Reyner Banham (Illustrations by Francois Dallegret), “A Home is not a House”, Art in America, April 1965, Vol.53: 70-79. 78 Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Economy Postman: 10. See also Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics,” Architecture in Greece, 113. 77

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Figure

33

Zenetos model for dwelling arrangements in the City of the Future. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics� in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974).


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process goes further than disassembling physical housing parts; habitation habits – existing ones and prospect ones- are divided into the smallest possible controllable actions, consequently to material apparatuses, and finally, through a process of inverse reconstruction, back to desired living states. This methodological procedure corresponds to that of coding in bits,79 binary digits in other words, that one can retrace in teleological mechanisms and communication theory. The offspring ‘bit’ dwellings, denote on the whole that the very notion of habitation is presented with maximum elasticity to an infinite, rather than a predetermined, number of potential solutions. Zenetos himself referred to this alleged expansion in his own terminology, evoking the “education of space.”80 Take note here that in Greek the word education –morfosis-, which Zenetos reiteratively uses, denotes the process of molding a form, which successively adverts a course of form finding through the manipulation of chemical bonds in a micro scale, equivalent to bits. [__FIG: 34]

In contrast to the open collective character in the form finding process of the dwellings, each dwelling was planned to function in the end as a coherent closed system in regards to its energy and waste management. In other words, a dwelling needed to constitute a self-sufficient, autonomous and most prominently a regenerative unity that would harness its waste and provide its own energy. For this purpose, each single house was thoroughly equipped with special recirculatory garbage units and local food decomposition laboratories. Furnishings of this kind draw a direct link to the space program and the functions of exploratory crafts, such as recirculatory power systems and breathing units, which are blocked systems designed to converge all waste streams to useful ones. In fact, the recycling gadgetry that Zenetos implemented in all housing areas were directly excerpted from NASA’s space program, as in the case of the circular rotational machine, numbered as item C/224. [__FIG: 35] This food wastedrying element was designed in this format by NASA’s Convair Division Of General Dynamics for the Langley spacecraft simulator, in order to impart a velocity to the waste materials and minimize odors. C/224 was only one of the many devices that Zenetos used in his experimental shelters. Other systems, derivative from the space program, included closed circuitries for the

79

A ‘bit’ is a unit of information, firstly suggested by John W. Tukey as a condensation of “binary digit.” When numbers are expressed in the binary system, there are only two digits, namely 0 and 1. Zero and one may be taken symbolically to represent any two choices, so that the ‘binary digit’, or ‘bit’ is natural to associate with the two-choice situation, which has unit information. See Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1971), 9. 80 Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Economy Postman: 10. See also Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics,” Architecture in Greece, 113.

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Figure

34

Zenetos’ plans for variable dwelling arrangements. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974).


Figure

35

Up_ Zenetos’ section illustrating the food composition and decomposition laboratory attached to a dwelling. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974). Down_ Table (tele-cart) containing item G/224- for the composition & decomposition of food. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Presentation in the first Building Exhibition, Zappeion, Athens (November 14th 1971).


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redistribution of sewage81 extracted from the Apollo spaceships (1968), as well as electronic devices extracted from research programs conducted at the University of Minnesota in 1967. By the early 70s, series of articles on recycling systems were spread out all over architectural magazines. Architectural Design in particular devoted a comprehensive section -Recycling in 1971, retitled to EcoTech in 1972- to the noiseless handling of provisions in closed systems, which purportedly guaranteed the sustenance of life. The term ‘noise’ adverts yet again information loss, which is translated as material loss in the framework of recycling diagrams and precipitates the familiar for the time supposition that all wasteful streams need be converged to useful ones. Therefore, it was sensible for house to assume the operative functions of a spaceship, where the smart organization of material flows was an issue of survival. [__FIG: 36] No doubt that this relocation of values and services -recirculatory power systems and breathing units transferred to building units- resulted in an unprecedented systematization of the household, but more prominently this directive was delivered as NASA’s gift or original contribution (in the best case scenario) to the optimization of architectural design. As one can witness in the EcoTech section of AD, NASA’s integrated utility systems, finally granted to the building sector the scientific credibility that it so unfavorably was short of. “NASA’s contribution to the solution of national problem of natural resources and pollution abatement as related to housing is included in a design of 500 apartment complex to be built in Houston, Texas.”82 Beyond though the secure unitary connection of house=spaceship, which ties similar in scale entities, the underlying position was that both embody a microcosm of the earth and by extension of nature. This cross-link connection essentially duplicates the ecosystem in its totality to smaller self-sufficient identical units. Systems theory’s babushka pattern reenters here the conversation, since the earth contains smaller earth bodies within itself, rudimentary earth in miniatures as McHale calls it83 in his description of a spaceship:

“A developed space vehicle, with its protective shields and energy collectors and converters, its internal ‘closed system’ ecology for the cycling of air, water and wastes, its sensors and communicating devices, is a micro-miniaturized version of our planetary vehicle.”84

81

See Research for closed system that process and redistribute sewage (A. Spielhaus, University of Minnesota), USA, 1967. Also see, closed recirculatory circuit of purification and redistribution of sewage in the Apollo Spaceships program, USA, 1968. 82 “NASA integrated utility system” in the ‘Eco-Tech’ section of Architectural Design, Vol.43, February 1973, 74. 83 John McHale, “Outer Space” in Architectural Design, Vol. 37 (February, 1967), 67. 84 Ibid.

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Gemini capsule

Figure

36

Spheres for cryogenic fuels

Living compartment

Airlock

Camera Laboratory

McHale’s illustration depicting the interior recirculatory system if a spaceship: Man orbiting laboratory designed in 1965. In John McHale, “Outer Space” in Architectural Design 2000+ (February, 1967).


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To conclude with earth issues, one should take into account that this cross-scalar association also explains quite adequately the traversing between closed and open systems in the perception of the habitat, both in the case of Zenetos and elsewhere. William Murdoch, whom Zenetos mentions in the conception of his dwelling units, positions plainly that the earth is at the same time a closed and an open system. It is an open system in terms of energy, since it absorbs energy from outer space and consequently dissipates it, maintaining a flawless equilibrium, and closed in terms of material flows, as they pass from one state to the other.85 According to the open principle, metabolic processes of growth and exchange were straightforwardly assimilated in the household, as a receptive vessel of materials flows –rainwater, airstreams etc. According to the closed principle, incoming and outcoming household materials were analyzed in their full lifecycles and closed circuits that could perpetually feed themselves. [__FIG: 37]

85

William W. Murdoch, “Ecological Systems” in William W. Murdoch (Ed.), Environment; resources, pollution & society, (Stamford, Conn.: Sinauer Associates, 1971), 2.

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Figure

House

Space ship

Unitary connection spaceship = house

Cross-scale connection spaceship =earth= house >> transference of natural laws to man-made systems i.e house >> externalizing the operations of the body

Diagrams illustrating connections and concepts for the equation

Extension of the house duplication of the earth in different scales

house=spaceship=earth.

37


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06 _ Atomic Recycling “Myths of Low-Density Living”86 is one of Zenetos’ few articles that positioned Electronic Urbanism to the face of an international audience in the pages of AD. At the time of this late publication, 1973, the author considers his City of the Future and the Garbage Housing City as given urban facts, set against the expectations of the actual-conventional city, in a comparative graph completed by Zenetos’ interdisciplinary research team –GIUTAS (Group for development of immaterial urban processes, technology and adaptable structures)- during the WEDAG summer session in Athens, 1972. [__FIG: 38] Unsurprisingly, GIUTAS estimated that the destiny of the conventional city would lead to gigantic disasters, where the interweaving combination of soil pollution and metropolitan expenditures would mount calamities in a geometric rhythm against the benefit of mankind. What is less surprising is that GIUTAS, and Zenetos by extension, also sentences the Garbage Housing City, despite all its declared worthy causes to address conscientiously the housing problem by feeding back to the building industry waste package items as new building materials. In fact, the Garbage Housing City was conceived of as unswervingly confrontational to a vast and urgent social problem, namely the solid waste crisis, which called for resolutions in a national level concurrently both in the US and in Europe. Already by 1966 the US National Academy of Science declared:

“As the earth becomes more crowded, there is no longer an ‘away’. One person’s trash basket is another person’s living space… our whole economy is based on taking natural resources, converting them into things that are consumer products, selling them to consumers and then forgetting about them. But there are no consumers –only users. The user employs the product, sometimes changes it in form, but does not consume it –he just discards it. Discard creates residues that pollute at an increasing cost to the consumer and his community.”87

The demands of the US National Academy of Science were directly translated in building terminology shortly after the widespread publication of similar words of warning in the media. On the spin of the decade, garbage architects were relentlessly motivated by the commonsense axiom that “one man’s pollution can be another man’s housing”88 and the valiant aspiration of 86

Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Myths of Low-Density Living” in Architectural Design, (April, 1973): 247-248. Waste Management and Control, US National Academy of Science – National Academy of Science – National Research Council publication 1400 (1966). 88 Witold Rybczynski, “From Pollution to Housing” in Architectural Design, Vol. 43, (December 1973), 786. 87

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Figure

38

Comparative graph of probable developments designed by GIUTAS during the WEDAG summer session in Athens, 1972. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Myths of Low-Density Living� in Architectural Design (April, 1973).


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eliminating all solid waste. Naturally, this was an impossible enterprise that led garbage architects to hectic solid waste classifications with the scope of redirecting all garbage to useful streams as in new building materials. Their initial very sane cause very quickly developed into a compulsive mania for the depletion of all waste that was more than frequently drowned in demographic statistics and numeric analyses. In short, garbage housing, especially as expressed by it British pioneer Martin Pawley, centered fanatically on attributing a functional causality to waste, that other aspects, such as the exploitation of the nature of the found material, were largely forgotten. Materials, cans for instance, were reused simplistically in unitary assembly lines, stacks, or in the best-case scenario as reinforcement in surfaces, retaining to a great degree traditional forms of habitation. Garbage architects did whatever was necessary in order to complete the material cycle of feedback loops, without though offering new habitation possibilities. This was eventually a non-marketable housing strategy and ended up in a firm rejection from the side of the building industry to the absorption of cans and all sorts of other stuff back into its organism. [__FIG: 39_40_41] To return to GIUTAS, although their graph is environed by tram cemeteries and building demolishment illustrations, which lecture to the pinnacle of the solid waste social problem, the Garbage Housing City is still judged as a culturally inadequate solution, which will inevitably be deemed obsolete in the coming years. Zenetos openly disagreed with what he called the ‘garbage-housing syndrome’. He advocated that re-functionalizing waste couldn’t be a solitary cause; otherwise recycling would become ‘downcycling’ and redeem undesirable constructs, which in the end would be no solution to any problem. Some of Zenetos’ enigmatic furniture speaks to such concerns of an esthetic nature and portray his effort to design items of demand, although made out of garbage. His furniture, manufactured out of reused larger ready-made components, addressed the formal and textural attributes of reused items, as a strategy for upcycling. In his stools, light fixtures and seats out of car parts, defunct objects were retained as units, but attained different semantic and formal relationships, each item in combination to its adjacent one. [__FIG: 42] Still, the City of the Future is exempt from this figurative equipment and contrarily crammed with recycling laboratories that decompose matter to proteins, carbons and ideally to atoms. In light of this inclination to the utter segmentation of matter, garbage housing’s unitary directive as to the reuse of waste items, brought to the forefront a shockingly simple question for Zenetos: Who and for what reason would want to live in a garbage house? Maybe a martyr who would be a zealous believer of left-wing social reform.

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Figure

Architectural Design covers on the theme of Garbage Housing. Both organized by Martin Pawley. Left_ AD cover (February 1971). Right_ AD cover (December 1973).

39


Figure

40

Left_ Structures that reuse sulphur as a profligate waste stream, Canada (1972). In Rybczynski Witold, “From Pollution to Housing” in Architectural Design, Vol. 43, No. 12 (1973). Right_ Prototypes that reuse waste package items, cans etc. From Pawley’s design studion in Cornell University (1972). In Pawley Martin, “Chile and the Cornell Programme” in Architectural Design, Vol 43, No. 12 (1973).


Figure

Zenetos’ illustration of a tram cemetery and a building demolition. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Myths of Low-Density Living” in Architectural Design (April, 1973).

41


Figure

Zenetos’ furniture out of reused items. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, Takes Ch. Zenetos, 1926-1977 (Athens: Architecture in Greece Press, 1978.

42


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

But is this a sufficient planetary strategy in the face of a difficult future to come? Zenetos wonders:

“Shelter systems for very low income groups (a large percentage of AD’s contents) should not be considered as a suitable standard for the housing industry to aim at. There must be provision for a higher quality of life than the shelter + food + ’emergency’ syndrome, which will conserve the production/consumption balance process. The garbage housing period will soon reach its end, peacefully –whether the post-developed nations take the initiative –or not.”89

At any rate, the dimensions of the solid waste social problem were alarming. They accordingly established the currency of the 60s’ ideal system, which would be immune to information loss. Its offspring waste depletion mania essentially negated leftovers or the very notion of waste itself, in an unceasing convergence of all wasteful streams to useful ones. Beginning from the problem-solving obsession of recycling man-made subsystems, recycling became even more elaborated in NASA’s conversion diagrams for spaceships, where every single solid and liquid waste stream was vigilantly segmented and decomposed to its utter constituents in a tenuous plan to produce drinkable water from meandering collected droplets and oxygen from carbon dioxide. Towards the ideal noiseless system, NASA’s conversion machines treated all human waste chemically and aimed to dissolve matter into base data, such as the prime strings of proteins and eventually to atoms that could potentially be reconstructed in new combinations. Basically, this approach, labeled as “atomic recycling,” operated upon the same premises of noiseless conversions that garbage housing projects also did. However, atomic recycling carried this initial hypothesis further, through endless segmentations of matter, going down many scales, in the hope of refiguring substance in an atomic level. In brief, the aim was that matter become dissolute to basic information agents. McHale, along with Jencks and Silver, recap succinctly the sketchy task of atomic recycling:

“The ideal system would be a completely regenerative, self-sustaining one in which water and oxygen would be recovered from metabolic wastes –air conditioning, temperature regulation, food synthesis, preparation and disposal, sanitation and hygiene requirements etc. would be linked in one integral system.”90 “The space program first brought into practical prominence the fact that most materials can now be converted through atomic recycling or natural cycles. … Basically the process consists of providing subsystems to regenerate the products of the human metabolic cycle: converting waste materials such as skin, hair, fingernail clippings and 89 90

Zenetos, “Myths of Low-Density Living,” Architectural Design, 247. McHale, “Outer Space,” Architectural Design: 70.

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the more obvious human ‘outputs’ into food, water and oxygen or the basic human ‘inputs’. This conversion can presently be made rather efficiently with air and water, although food development –growing it chemo-synthetically off solid and liquid wastesis still in a primitive state.”91

In light of this emerging dictate, the City of the Future, in afterward revisions, becomes crammed with electronic planning laboratories for the decomposition and de-synthesis of consumer products:

“If food and drinks would be segregated in their agents (which are essentially tissue and water) and their basic constituents, (such as proteins, carbons along with the extensions of their substance such as their odor), it will be possible to distribute them as liquids or powders through pipes, just like we do today with water, electricity, gas, telephone etc.”92

Perfectly aligned with such chemically celluloid hypotheses, Zenetos’ later statements on Electronic Urbanism conclude that after all “architecture is molecular substance.”93 This statement directly links his City of the Future with William Katavolos’ delirious plastic visions that endorse organic reconfigurations and Rudoplh Doernach’s biological underwater utopia that grows and degrades upon social demands. What is important to retain here is not only the organic nature of decomposition methodologies, but also the concomitant aspiration for atomic substance transmutations to counter tête-à-tête social evolutions and dreamy desires. Doernach’s queer equality diagrams on “socio-physical relativity” are characteristic of the chemical project’s endowment in socially driven causes and individual desires. [__FIG: 43] To take this argument further, wish-fulfillments are fundamental to recycling diagrams, if we may borrow Freud’s terms. Even in NASA’s outmost pragmatic graphs excerpted from the serviceable operations of spaceships, desire plays a key role in the completion of the diagram, by filling in the blanks and legitimizing murky conversions. To understand this claim, one may take as an example the General Dynamics life support system, an iconic graph for the regeneration of water and air in a space capsule, which was first published at the International Science and Technology journal in 1966 and consequently used as an illustration by McHale and Jencks. In most cases, an analytic conversion table that featured the same information in a non-figurative manner accompanied the graph. [__FIG: 44] Both diagrams, either through symbols or abstract 91

Charles Jencks & Nathan Silver, Adhocism. The Case for Improvisation (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972), 68-69. 92 See: Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973), 112120. Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974), 122-136. th Takes Ch. Zenetos, “City and House of the Future” in Economy Postman, No.924: Athens: (Thursday, January 6 1972), 12. 93 Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Economy Postman, 12.

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Figure

William Katavolos

43

Rudoplh Doernach

.

Left_ Organic City by William Katavolos. In William Katavolos, “Organics Manifesto,” Ulrich Conrads (Ed.), Programs and Manifestoes on the 20th Century Architecture (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1970). Right_ Biotecture & Socio-Physical Revolution by Rudolph Doernach. In Rudolph Doernach, “Biotecture,” 'Cosmorama' section of Architectural Design, Vol.36, (February 1966).


Figure

44

General Dynamics Life Support System that illustrates the conversion of all human output into input in a spacecraft. In John McHale, “Outer Space� in Architectural Design 2000+ (February, 1967).


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

representations, position man in their nucleus and carry out a tripartite mission: a) to segment all human input –namely food, oxygen and water- and output – stools, shed skin, fingernail clippings, hair- in constituent component parts b) to map relationships between parts and visually extrapolate a reciprocal organization c) to redirect all human output back into human input. What the diagrams mutually accomplish is the manner in which critical subsystems variables are translated into mathematical values,94 aiming to present a perfectly balanced system, where all parts can be examined and controlled upon the basis of its internal organization. Contrarily, what the diagrams fail to adequately spot is the nature of material conversions that are necessitated to chemically re-synthesize materials from one state to another. One has to keep in mind that the proposed conversions do not merely involve phase changes, such as solid to liquid to gas, but also impossible responsibilities, such as turning urine into water and this is precisely where wish fulfillment comes along into the conversation. Operating under the assumption that a coherent systemic organization can be implemented to any material system, the two recycling diagrams are replete with black holes or in other words foggy conversions that could only miraculously be accomplished. Funny enough, in the iconic graph, these holes are emblematically visualized in strange conversion bubble-like machines that contain stools and complicated interior mechanisms. They are extra devices added to the system, designed to mediate flows and assume the delirious responsibility to transmute substances, using any technique possible; drying, rotating, dehumidifying, electrifying, filtering, oxidizing et al. Notice here an oxymoron schema: NASA, the prevalent distinguished agency of America, still references primeval conversion operations, as we may observe in the description of the NASA-Langley spacecraft simulator:

“In the NASA-Langley space-craft simulator by the Convair Division Of General Dynamics, urine and wash water are air evaporated in the two flat boilers shown in the center of the photograph. The ‘square’ boxes are heat exchangers, storage tanks are above and below. Waste management functions include several areas of development to provide for the collection and processing of faeces and the collection and transport of urine under zero-g conditions. Both collection functions employ a ducted air stream to impart a velocity to the waste materials and to minimize cabin odors. The configuration selected for faecal collection resembles a stool with provisions for the collection of the faeces in a semi-permeable bag. The collection air stream is directed around the buttocks and ‘down’ through the collection bag and on through filtration for return to cabin atmosphere. Because of the extremely poor economy of attempting to reclaim any of the faecal products in a mission of the nature being undertaken, the faeces are vacuumed and heat dried, in keeping with the philosophy of ‘removal of contaminates at their source,’ then stored as one of the system’s expendables. The urine collector is made up of a relief tube feeding into a liquid gas separator. The separator pumps the liquid through to water 94

Sheather, “Topology of General Systems Theory,” Ekistics, 173-178.

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management. Design for zero-g requires protection against contamination of the cabin environment plus considerable emphasis onto practical and manageable methods of collecting and transporting used water back to reprocessing.”95 [__FIG: 45]

Parallel to the passionately fantasizing achievements of NASA’s converters, many soviet space missions were of a similar pensive nature, pivoting around primeval concepts, though executed by intelligent machines. For instance in 1967, the USSR conducted extensive advanced research on a permanent physical pipe connection between a satellite and the earth, in order to transport goods through piping systems and colonize outer space. Of course this is not to degrade the scientific validity of the space-race research, but instead to argue that noiseless recycling is an impossible enterprise and if portrayed as a realistic one it undoubtedly need combine high-tech devices with some wishful thinking in a hallucinating mélange. Ruppert Spade in his 1970 AD article the “Trick Recyclist”96 characteristically refers to the sketchy disposition of recycling ventures, in describing the experiments of Mr. Edward Burton, who between 1960 and 1966 had taken out several patents relating to a Biological Waste Treatments System (BWTS), with a view to adapting his waste recycling system for use undersea or in space.97 To develop his inventions, Burton was in touch with the Grumann Aircraft Engineering Corporation, in the early 60s, and offset the industry’s smart technologies to home-made reprocessing systems, managing the hilarious accomplishment to nourish amply a duck, fifteen goldfish, an apple tree sapling, an apricot tree plantlet and a small rhododendron plant, singularly from household effluent.98 With a number of tricky conversions and crafty oxidizing and permeation devices, Burton’s system eventually became commercially available in the US in the early 70s, promising to clear off effluents and return it to utile input. What we are less aware of is what happened in due course to Burton’s flora and fauna after running his Biological Waste Treatments System for extensive periods of time. This inquiry derives from the fact that recycling systems, especially the aspiring noiseless ones, are absolutely closed systems that redirect all input into output; and as such they are more than likely to exhibit unpredictable behaviors, such as the production of new substances that are not calculated to be dealt with by the internal organization of the system. Closed autopoietic systems derail from an original systematized scheme that runs invariant perpetually. Instead, they are prolific of new subsystems that feed the original system with new input constantly changing its internal 95

McHale, “Outer Space,” Architectural Design, 70. Ruppert Spade, “Trick Recyclist” in the ‘Cosmorama’ section of Architectural Design, Vol.40 (March 1970), 111-112. 97 Spade, “Trick Recyclist, 112. 98 Ibid. 96

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Figure

45

NASA-Langley space-craft simulator by the Convair Division Of General Dynamics, designed to convert human output into input in a spacecraft. In John McHale, “Outer Space” in Architectural Design 2000+ (February, 1967).


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organization. This standard feature of closed systems has been only once in a blue moon considered as an issue, both in the case of recirculatory power systems in spaceships as well as their relocations in household services. In any case, regarding the unexpected self-organizing nature of recycling systems, the chemo-synthetic designers –Zenetos, Doernach and Katavolosgive them an interesting twist by reintroducing wishful thinking into the conversation as a social requisite for the inclusive pulverization and reorganization of matter.

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electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

07 _ Man-- Atrophy and Brainpower Spacemaking It is finally significant to observe that in regards to the occupation of Zenetos’ city, in the City of the Future no man is walking erect. Although Zenetos’ satellite cities aim to colonize the gravitational atmosphere, the mode of occupation illustrates exclusively zero-gravity conditions. [__FIG: 46] Scanning drawings, men are depicted as strange figures, either floating in outlandish postures or being tied up to special body-like fixtures; all in bubble spaces, extensions from the floors and ceiling slabs. This premature state of the body, which is represented as hairless, enveloped by a slender membrane and incapable of carrying itself in space, is no accident; but instead a highly conscientious decision to design a new regressive corporeality the City of the Future. In fact, Zenetos goes as far as to excerpt and cite a detail from Jeronimus Bosch’s “Pleasure Garden,” depicting sensual body postures in intra-uterine conditions, and hanging people from Coney Island’s “Parachute Jump,” entitling their unfastened hovering as a new dimension for daily social life.99 [__FIG: 47] Such mushy, accumbent and passive bodies portray a new soma, which is designed as stripped off both plethoric physical functions –such as too much movement- as well as physical objectlike extensions -such as clothing and other prosthetic accessories. To accomplish this bizarre inert and nude corporeality, Zenetos designed and manufactured in a 1/1 prototype, a special piece of furniture -“posture chair”-, which granted him an honorable mention in the InterDesign 2000 international design competition, in October 1967. His one-sentence description for the project went as follows: “A mobile spinal agent of the body for every use, equipped with a remote control for tele-activities and a control center for optical-acoustic contacts, which will aid in the execution of tele-activities.”100 [__FIG: 49_49] Posture chair was destined to accommodate, as a duplicate body receptor, all human activities: sleep, repose, education, work, leisure, passive exercise and sexual intercourse.101 As Zenetos describes, there was a dual set of operations for posture chair. First, it would provide additional levels of comfort for the body by adjusting to the slight movement of its members and limbs. The chair’s stirring mattress would also contain massage vibrators, in order to provide console not only to the body’s armature, namely its skeleton, but also to the various muscles and nerves in an 99

Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics,” Architecture in Greece, (1974), 128. Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Economy Postman, 12. Ibid.

100 101

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Figure

46

Zenetos’ section for the City of the Future. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974).


Figure

47

Left_ Hanging people from Coney Island's “Parachute Jump”_ Right Up_ Jeronimus Bosch's “Pleasure Garden” Right down_ Zenetos’ section for the City of the Future. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974).


Figure

48

Zenetos’ 1/1 prototype for “posture chair” In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Furniture for Living and Working in the Year 2000” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.3 (Athens: 1969).


Figure

49

Zenetos’ drawing and model positioning the “posture chair” in suspended bubble spaces with controllable transparency. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974).


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

effort to un-numb the body and “decrease the disadvantages of daily routine life of the men involved in tertiary production.”102 [__FIG: 50] Secondly, posture chair was equipped by a group of eletromechanical devices for the control of temperature, sound and digital projections, all managed by a keyboard. Through this control processing system, the user would generate on the spot temporal immaterial microenvironments in the form of desired microclimates, soundscapes and electronic digital displays. [__FIG: 51] Zenetos himself was a firm believer of sound speakers as a form-making device and even circulated in his office half-nude with earphones.103 But what is important to excerpt from his somewhat baffling daily habits is that posture chair was more than a mechanical second-body. It expanded the repositioning of the skeleton to the repositioning of bodily matter and finally to immaterial senses, in a procedural dissolution of matter to information. Like his Athens decentralization schemes, posture chair was designated to decentralize and distribute the body’s surrounding environment to aggregate localized and variable microenvironments. As Zenetos writes for the nature of the chair’s second body, it would be ”enhanced and completed by all the technological developments that will extend man’s activities in the year 2000, such as tele-contacts, tele-work and tele-control.”104 On the one hand, posture chair was very much in alliance to McHale’s fixation on constructing a prosthetic enhanced somaticity, Man+, as he called it. The numerous arthropod-like joints, planned to correspond with the body’s own junctures, bring to mind McHale’s vision of the body being partially duplicated and enhanced in its performance. Accordingly, an astronaut plugged to an exoskeletal harness system embodied Man+; he was featured on the cover of the January 1968 issue of Design Quarterly105, almost wallowed by a farrago of electric diodes -constructed by Cornell’s Aeronautical Laboratory-, in which motor impulses from nerves and muscles were picked up and fed to artificial muscles. [__FIG: 52] In fact the mingle-mangle of machinery almost depleted the original human body, which faded grimly in the dark background. On the other hand, although posture chair was equally operating along the lines of the body’s extensive capabilities, it was heading to a different direction. Zenetos was distinctively apathetic to the technological euphoria of prosthetic bodily devices and has in many occasions expressed his open opposition to the fabrication of robots. “Conventional robots, along with the intelligent machines of A.C. Clarke,” Zenetos writes in his closing statement for Electronic Urbanism, “will

102

Ibid. Conversation of the author with Yorgos Tzirtzilakis. 104 Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Economy Postman, 12. 105 This special issue was edited by McHale and entitled “Toward the Future,” Design Quarterly, No.72 (Walker Art Center: January 1968). 103

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Figure

50

Zenetos’ 1/1 drawings for “posture chair” illustrating the various limbs and joints built into the chair. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Furniture for Living and Working in the Year 2000” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.3 (Athens: 1969).


Figure

51

Zenetos’ 1/1 drawings illustrating the electromechanical equipment attached to “posture chair” for digital projections and immaterial environements In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Furniture for Living and Working in the Year 2000” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.3 (Athens: 1969).


Figure

Cover of the January 1972 issue of Design Quarterly edited by John McHale and entitled “Toward the Future.” Design Quarterly, No.72 (Walker Art Center: January 1968).

52


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

be completely useless, because technological developments in the immaterial fields will proceed at a much faster pace and will be more effective than what we usually expect them to be.”106 It so becomes clear that if McHale’s Man+ targets the extension of the actual physical body, Zenetos’ man targets the extension of the mind and the senses. Posture chair as a matter of fact is designed to permanently fasten and fix the body onto its jiggling platform and eventually immobilize it, even leading it to atrophy.107 What matters in the end for Zenetos is the power of the brain to actively inform the environment and ultimately replace they keyboard. In this sense, brainpower becomes the new computing device and by extension a space-making apparatus. Therefore, the immaterial future of the City of the Future is marked by the idiosyncrasy of future generations that will allow the application of immaterial systems to create environments.108 As Zenetos remarks, “the desirable environmental conditions will be materialized through the control of clear-cut allocation of different wave areas, magnetic fields and the concomitant possibilities of related fields of knowledge.”109 [__FIG: 53]

106

Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics,” Architecture in Greece, (1974), 125. The Oxford Online Dictionary defines atrophy as “a wasting away of the body, or any part of it, through imperfect nourishment.” 108 Zenetos, “City and House of the Future,” Economy Postman, (1972), 10. 109 Ibid. 107

03_ page 35


Figure

53

Zenetos’ footnote: Immaterial architecture in the distant future. Elastic precast carriers, K: receivers/transmitters of waves creating a variety of environmental conditions, M: controlled fields, O: holographic image, A: recycling unit. In Takes Ch. Zenetos, “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974).


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

Via posture chair, Electronic Urbanism concludes with the construction of a new theoretical machine: Man—‘s ABC triplelogue

Man—is

Atrophic: his body parts become unnecessary and indifferent to a degree that they are

allowed to go to waste; they do not move and are not nourished.

Man—is nothing but a

Brain: the idea of man’s extension with material means is firstly

introverted to the internal microscopic center of the mind and ultimately dematerialized; there is no circuitry to the new control processing system only immaterial celestial data transmissions directly broadcast by the brain. In Zenetos own words, “in the ultimate future, desirable conditions will be manifested instantaneously through the tele-transmission of thought - as for instance when we decide to make a movement. It will naturally also be feasible to create hallucinogenic spatial conditions without having to use actual drugs.”110

Man—is a

Computor: his brain becomes a massive information processor and transmitter able

to propel with the aid of hypersensitive receiver of electro-mental waves111 instructions for the perpetual “education of space”.

“In the ultimate future, man will ascend to a station where he will be able to create his desirable environments;”112 all matter dissolved to information.

110 111 112

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.

03_ page 36


electronic urbanism (1952-1977)

Bibliography “Advertisements for a counter culture” in Progressive architecture (July 1970) Vol. 51, pp. 71-93. Archigram, Archigram 4 (London, 1964). Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Translated by Steven Rendall), (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984): 29-43. Doxiades, Konstantinos, “Conclusions and Final Remarks on Athens’ Basin” in the Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress (Athens, 1966): 161- 163. Fuller, Buckminster, “The Year 2000” in Architectural Design (February 1967), p.62-63. Jencks, Charles & Nathan Silver, Adhocism. The Case for Improvisation (New York: Doubleday & Company Inc, 1972): 50-55 & 65-70. Katavolos, William, “Organics” in Ulrich Conrads (Ed.), Programs and Manifestoes on the 20th Century Architecture (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1970): 163-165. Keller, Evelyn Fox, “Body of a New Machine,” in Refiguring Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995): 79-118. Kontaratos, Savas, “Modernism and Traditionalism: From Post-War Reconstruction to the Infiltration of Post-modernism in Greece” in Savas Kontaratos & Wilfried Wang (Eds.), Greece; 20th Century Architecture, (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Arvhitektur-Museum, 1999): 41-52. Maturana, Humberto R., and Fransisco J.Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition; The Realization of the Living (Dordrecht, Holland: D.Reidel Publishing Company, 1980). McHale, John, “The Future of the Future” in Architectural Design (February, 1967). McHale, John, “Outer Space” in Architectural Design (February, 1967). McHale, John, “Man+” in Architectural Design (February, 1967). McHale, John, “The New Symbiosis” in Architectural Design (February, 1967). McHale, John, The Future of the Future (New York: George Brazilier, 1969). McHarg, Ian, Design with Nature (New York: Natural History Press, 1969). Meier, Richard L., A Communications Theory of Urban Growth, (Cambridge, Mass: Published for the Joint Center for Urban Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University by M.I.T. Press, 1962): 132-150. Murdoch, William W., “Ecological Systems” in William W. Murdoch (Ed.), Environment; resources, pollution & society, (Stamford, Conn.: Sinauer Associates, 1971): 1-27. Introduction to the Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress (Athens, 1966): 1-7.

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Marmaras, Manolis, “Takes Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977); Remarks on his Work” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.21 (Athens: 1987), pp.20-22. “Old Cities, New Cities, No Cities”, editorial in Science, No.18 (February 1972). Papakonstantinou, Yorgos, “Takis Zenetos (Portraits of Greek Architects): The Round Building that Fell on Earth” (Athens, Greece, 2005). Presented at the 8th Documentary Festival of Thessaloniki, March 10-19, 2006. Pask, Gordon., “The Architectural Relevance of Cybernetics” in Architectural Design, Vol.39 (September, 1969). Philippides, Dimitris, “Town Planing in Greece” in Savas Kontaratos & Wilfried Wang (Eds.), Greece; 20th Century Architecture, (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Arvhitektur-Museum, 1999): 65-74. Romanos, Aristidis G., “Illegal Settlement in Athens” in Paul Oliver (Ed.) Shelter and Society (New York: F. A. Praeger, 1969): 137-155. Romanos, Aristidis, “Unauthorized Settlements and the Housing Problem in Athens” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.4 (Athens: 1970): 25-30. Rose, J., (Ed.), Progress of cybernetics; Proceedings of the First International Congress of Cybernetics, (London, 1969). van Schaik, Martin and Otaker Mácel (Eds.), Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations, 1956-1976, (Munich, London: Prestel, 2005). Scoffier, Richard, “Approaches to a New Spatiality. Modern Architecture in Post-War Greece down to the Dictatorship” in Tefchos 10, (Athens, 1992-1993): 62-72. Selfridge, Oliver, & Ulric Neisser, “Pattern Recognition by Machine,” in Edward A. Feigenbaum & Julian Feldman (Eds) Computers and Thought (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963): 237-250. Shamberg, Michael and Raindance Corporation, Guerilla Television (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1971). Shannon, C.E., "A Mathematical Theory of Communication", Bell System Technical Journal, No. 27 (July & October, 1948): 379–423 & 623–656. Sheather, Graeme, “Topology of General Systems Theory” in Ekistics, Vol.26, No.153 (August 1968): pp.173-178. Steiner, Hadas, “Off the Map” in Jonathan Hughes & Simon Sadler (Eds) Non-Plan: Essays on Freedom Participation and Change in Modern Architecture & Urbanism (UK: Architectural Press, 2000): 126137. Tournikiotis, Panayotis, “The Rationale of the Modern and Locus; A View of Greek Architecture from the Seventies to the Nineties” in Savas Kontaratos & Wilfried Wang (Eds.), Greece; 20th Century Architecture, (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Architektur-Museum, 1999): 53-64. Tzirtzilakis, Yorgos, “Belated Neighbor of Familiar Stranger? Positioning the Models for the Reception of Greek Architecture” in Savas Kontaratos & Wilfried Wang (Eds.), Greece; 20th Century Architecture, (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Arvhitektur-Museum, 1999): 101-108.

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Tzirtzilakis, Yorgos, “Meso-Architecture. Remarks in the hyper-mediocre dissolution of Architecture” in Architects, No.52 (Athens: Published by Hellenic Architects Association, July-August 2005): 56-62. Tzirtzilakis, Yorgos, “Towards a Point Marked X” in Tefxos, Vol.1 (Athens, 1989): 20-31. Tzirtzilakis, Yorgos, “Takes Ch. Zenetos. School in the Saint Dimitrios Area in Athens; The impatient pursuit” in Tefxos, Vol.3 (Athens, 1990): 8-22. Tzirtzilakis, Yorgos, “1973-1975: Remarks on the psychosis of the Greek Landscape” in www.paradigmata.gr. Tzirtzilakis, Yorgos (Architect), in conversation with the author, August 29th 2006, Athens. US National Academy of Science, Waste Management and Control, National Academy of Science. National Research Council publication 1400 (1966). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Electronic Planning,” Exhibited in the Exhibition of the Organization for Modern Housing, Zappeion, Athens, 1962. Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Electronic Urbanism,” Zygos, No.11, (Athens: September 1961)_ preliminary phase: prototype of anti-center formations. Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Electronic Urbanism,” Echo of the Modern House, (Athens: September 1962). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Electronic Urbanism,” in Architecture, No.42, (Athens: 1963). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Electronic Urbanism,” in Archigram, No.4, (London: 1964?). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Electronic Urbanism,” in Technical Chronicles, No.2, (Athens,1966). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Telecommunications and Contemporary Means of Organization. The New Systemic Approach to the City, replacing old regulations. Flexible Planning,” in the Proceedings of the Fifth PanHellenic Architectural Congress (Athens, 1966) p.244-262. Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Problems of Construction in Greece; The City of the Future” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.1 (Athens: 1967): 88-93. Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Electronic Planning” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.3 (Athens: 1969): 114-125. Zenetos, Takes Ch.,“Furniture for Living and Working in the Year 2000” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.3 (Athens: 1969): 294-295. Zenetos, Takes Ch., Urbanisme Electronique & Parallel Structures (Athens: Architecture in Greece Special Edition, 1969). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “City Planning and Electronics; appendix” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.4 (Athens: 1970): 59-60. Zenetos, Takes Ch., “City and House of the Future” in Economy Postman, No.924: (Athens: January 1972), p.10-16.

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Zenetos, Takes Ch., “City and House of the Future,” Presentation in the first Building Exhibition, Zappeion, Athens (November 14th 1971). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Myths of Low-Density Living” in Architectural Design Vol. ? (April, 1973): 247248. Zenetos, Takes Ch., “City and House of the Future”, Press conference on the first Building Exhibition in Athens, organized by the Center for Building Exhibitions, (Athens, November 6th 1971). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Electronic Planning,” Special presentation for the “Environmental Laboratory” WEDAG, a Greek-American Institution (Athens: December 14th 1971). Zenetos, Takes Ch., “Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.7 (Athens: 1973): 112-120. Zenetos, Takes Ch.,“Town Planning and Electronics” in Architecture in Greece, Annual Review, No.8 (Athens: 1974): 122-136. Zenetos, Takes Ch., Takes Ch. Zenetos, 1926-1977 (Athens: Architecture in Greece Press, 1978). Archives ELIA, Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive, Newspapers Section, (Athens, Greece). Olympion, Documentary & Film Festival Archive, (Thessaloniki, Greece). TEE, Technical Chamber of Greece, Conferences Archive (Athens, Greece). AUTh, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Rare Books Library section (Thessaloniki, Greece). Takes Zenetos’ archive (Athens, Greece).

03_ page 40


INFRASTRUCTURE

OPEN SOURCE

48

49

Elisabetta Terragni

Lydia Kallipoliti

TUNNEL RETROFIT

ECO-REDUX MANIFESTO 4. NO MORE SCHISMS

1. MORE RECYCLING

If it happened only once, it might be a coincidence, but

While traffic no longer cuts

if it happens again, you begin to wonder. The excitement

off a part of town on the

of walking for the first time through an abandoned tunnel

western embankment of the

(be it a civil or military infrastructure) speeds up your

Adige River, the large left-over

thinking: you realize that you cannot undo such a violent

areas, now subtracted from

intervention into earth and rock, nor build in accord with

vehicular use, call for re-

Clockwise from bottom left: Trento, exit north, night and day, Team: Elisabetta Terragni, Jeffrey Schnapp; Panorma Bay, mouth of the Tunnel. Team: Elisabetta Terragni, Jeffrey Schnapp, Daniele Ledda; Panorma Bay, visitors view inside the Tunnel. Team: Elisabetta Terragni, Jeffrey Schnapp, Daniele Ledda; Panorma Bay, entrance to the Tunnel. Team: Elisabetta Terragni, Jeffrey Schnapp, Daniele Ledda;

This is the title of my introduction to the

world’s salvation and

EcoRedux AD issue and refers to an

the rhetoric of

inherent schism within the identity of the

confinement. It rather

architectural discipline. The architect’s

upraises as a psycho-

schism is inspired by Bruno Latour’s

spatial or mental

double-headed man in his seminal book

position, fuelling a

Science in Action, where a mind is divided

reality of change,

between reason and scientific positivism

motion and action.

on the one side and an insecure scientific

Does recycling refer only to materials and

while it is being formed. Bringing this

6. NO MORE TECHNORATIONALISM

physical matter? EcoRedux suggests that

schism to architectural territory, we may

One objective of the

in addition to the recycling of materials,

identify in the interior of architectural

EcoRedux project is to

we recycle histories of the immediate past.

discourse, a position that rallies for logic

question mainstream

In the history of ideas, discourses get

specific to the core of the discipline:

current perceptions of

*The EcoRedux manifesto was

recycled. Concepts emerge as allegedly

autonomy, formalism, tectonic language

sustainability and the LEED program, as a

presented in the book launch

new, though ideas undergo long journeys

and syntax. In the exterior, we may identify

technical classification tool that empowers

“EcoRedux: Design Remedies for

of migration from one epistemological

a position that rallies for a cause

capitalist production, creating a new

an Ailing Planet,” a special issue of

field to another. Therefore, recycling is an

connected with the outside world: social

revenue source veiled by the ethics of

Architectural Design (AD)

ideational and philosophical system of

reform, environmental improvement and

environmentalism. In contrast to holistic

magazine (2010). The event was

viewing the world of ideas, information

political effect. For decades, the architect

future predictions to save the world,

organized at the Storefront for Art

and matter as flow rather than as the

has been double-faced, residing in the

EcoRedux may point to an unorthodox

and Architecture in New York on

accumulation of discrete objects. More

schism of this battle. Now, however, the

field of ad hoc ecology, for specific needs,

February 25, 2011. Other

than a material system, recycling signals

role of the architect in a new sociopolitical

places and purposes. This position differs

participants invited to present

the migration of life through the

period of environmental urgency and

from utopia in that it does not explicitly

EcoRedux manifestos included

conversion of one thing to another.

advanced computational tools can no

seek to be right; it recognizes pollution

Chris Perry, Jimenez Lai, Mark

longer inhabit the space of an alleged

and waste as generative potential for

Wigley, Michael Young, Michelle

schism between social cause and

design. In this sense, projects that may

Addington, Mitchell Joachim

The Greek word parthenogenesis means in

sensational tectonic. Our current

appear at first sight as science-fictional are

(Terreform ONE), Peder Anker, Rafi

English asexual stem cell production in

understanding of environment as a

not part of a foreign sphere, unassociated

Segal and Eva Franch i Gilabert.

plants. But in Greek it means virgin birth.

complex territory of ambient, physical and

with the real, but an extrusion of our own

physiological interrelationships surfaces a

realms and operations.

2. NO MORE PARTHENOGENESIS

curiosity on the other side; that is science

it. The challenge lies in inventing another purpose,

integration into the landscape

The word originates from the myth of

another future for a now useless condition. Your will is

and the town. The dilemma is all too familiar: what had

Athena being born out of the head of Zeus

new tectonic vision where project and

suspended by the overwhelming size and self-contained

originally been severed in the name of efficiency and

and implies a state of mental excess, where

context are operationally fused.

nature of tunnels. You’re disinclined to add to or otherwise

expediency, now calls for restoration to a meaningful state.

the mind momentarily generates pure

change the structure.

A state that never existed before and therefore needs to be

ideas, unprecedented and unmixed with

invented.

anything existing in the physical world.

At a time when everything seeks exposure and vies for attention, our tunnel projects in Italy and Albania are

The tunnels at Trento mark a first major passage

the ethics of the

EcoRedux is accompanied by an online non-profit educational

7. MORE OPPORTUNISM

resource for ecological

In Jean Pierre Jeunet’s 2009 film

experiments in the 1960s and

“MicMacs,” the movie characters

1970s and their potential creative

In the 1960s, modern environmentalism

appropriate discarded objects, social

reuse in contemporary design

EcoRedux is conceptually founded on the

displayed a sense of social activism

discards like themselves, and imbue new

culture. The research for this

5. NO MORE BENIGN ENVIRONMENTALISM

huge, introspective, and invisible. They do not appear on

through a mountain massif well before travelers reach the

opposite of this notion; it embodies a

fighting the forecasted of an

life to the space they reclaimed. They make

website is a byproduct of my PhD

Google maps and satellite images, yet they are deeply

Brenner Pass, one of the main alpine transit routes in

praxis of re-writting, which emerges as a

environmental catastrophe. This line of

small strange inventions and weapons

thesis at Princeton and started

connected to place, people, and memory. The language of

Europe. In the opposite direction downriver, the highway

germinal creative drive, through the desire

social active thinking foreshadowed a new

plus an underground vaulted structure out

from the idea of opening up

their transformation has to be learned on site and the

leads to the Mediterranean basin, the favorite destination

for transformation of existing information,

Modernist ethos,

character of their new destination invented on the spot.

of holiday makers from the north.

concepts and physical resources. If we

though devoid of a

directly on the

architectural historian are in most

assume that nothing emerges ‘out of zero’,

tectonic expression

objects

cases secretively locked and

In Italy, our project consists of a major realized segment

What we are proposing at Trento is a kind of transport

of junk. They work

archival boxes, which for the

and an ongoing research component. Two disused

via landscape interludes: northward, the disused highway

EcoRedux aims to retain and recycle the

and a set of form-

themselves, with

guarded in a drawer. EcoRedux is a

highway tunnels in Trento have been transformed into an

breaks up and rises to an alpine garden; to the south, by

energy induced in creative systems and

giving strategies.

no drawings and

public online archive and an

exhibition and event site that remains in use, but two

contrast, a gently sloping parterre blends into the

exploit the accumulative effect of

What happens now

representations,

open-source database, with a

landscape gardens are yet to be realized. They address

southern sky. In a word, these two areas north and south of

knowledge and materiality.

though, in the

and create an

double function: first to explore the

both ends of the tunnels and mediate between a dramatic

the tunnels stand in anticipation of landscapes travelers

Panormes) was known to exist but nobody ever saw it,

environmental

afterlife out of the

history of the period in assembling

geographic/geological site and the old town of Trento,

have not yet reached. As bookends of the travel route, they

except military personnel and the prisoners that built it.

battlefield

byproducts of

a genealogical archive and second

as well as between infrastructure and a post-industrial

buttress the local divide in a narrow stretch of the valley,

In other fields, this developmental model

of a world that has

social structures.

to reuse the archive as a generative

landscape.

while linking up with the nearby townscapes and

emargination. It is a real paradox that this disturbing

of conceptual and cultural recycling has

suffered severe loss of

Micmas display a

device for design. Given, the open

dramatizing the passage through the narrows.

structure lies in a pristine part of the cost that has escaped

yielded extraordinary results. Open-Source

resources? As a symptom of a new reality

practice of material opportunism that

source nature of the project,

devastation by another contemporary madness,

software and the provision of freely

inundated with environmental

becomes a requisite part of our discipline.

architects and designers are able to

unregulated new construction.

accessible operating systems, like Linux,

catastrophes, sudden climatic changes,

Besides the value of a material as a

actively participate in the

“The dreams of every citizen, without exception, will be interpreted, classified and filed in the archive,” that is the

The military site is a symbol of madness and subsequent

3. MORE OPEN SOURCE

metaphor invented by Ismail Kadare, the Albanian writer,

We are proposing to make this highly guarded site

exemplify the potential of accumulated

garbage-packed metropolises and para-

finished catalogued object, taxonomised

expansion of the website by

to describe the secret workings of his country’s regime. As

accessible as a museum of the Cold War, providing for

and manipulated knowledge. Linux was

economies of electronic waste,

as ‘eco-friendly’, other parameters play a

submitting for upload their own

a pawn in the power-play of the Cold War, the Albanian

exhibitions along an elevated passage through the tunnel

developed from the process of addition

environmental consciousness re-emerges

vital part in the sustainability debate, such

interpretations of ecological

dictator Hoxha had the country strewn with hundreds of

and a ride back onboard a glass-bottomed ferry from

and manipulation of source code, by

as an inevitable cultural armature for

as the lifecycle of a material, the process of

experiments that are documented

thousands of pillboxes and an entire peninsula undercut

which visitors will glimpse the faces of those who built the

millions of users dispersed around the

architects and designers. Though, at

its production, and the reuse of building

in the archive. EcoRedux is an

by a tunnel. Here, torpedoes and submarines were stored

tunnel. In this way individual lives reemerge, as if in a

world. A famous quote that Linus Torvalds

present, on a planet that has no more

components after a designated time.

expanding, growing resource: a

in an eerie cavern some 2000 ft in length. Like the Tabir

dream, and the archive of recollections is tapped as the

circulated while writing Linux kernel is

square inches of untouched

Besides a simple choice to select certain

wikipedia for designers to expand

Saraj, Kadare’s palace of dreams that everyone knew but

aquifer of a culture. Seeking access to the nation’s archives

that “Good programmers know what to

environments, the new wave of ecological

design schemes and materials, the

their knowledge and trigger new

nobody approached, the military structure of Porto

and bringing daylight into the secret lair will give a voice to

write. Great ones know what to rewrite and

architecture cannot be solely directed to

ecological debate is about systems

ecological projects. Visit EcoRedux

Palermo or, in sailor’s parlance, Panorma Bay (Gjiri i

the fears and anxious memories of an entire country.

reuse.”

thinking and cycles of production.

online at www.ecoredux.com


Publications_Lydia Kallipoliti