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Architecture Manual SPRING 2011


xxxxxxxx Architecture Manual is produced by the students of Pratt Institute Graduate Architecture and Urban Design. Managing Editor Alpna Gupta

Senior Editor James Williams

Editorial Staff Thomas Holliday Annette Miller Hannibal Newsom Sarah Ruel-Bergeron Sierra Sharron

Faculty Advisor Erik Ghenoiu

Special Thanks to: Dean Tom Hanrahan Graduate Chair William Mac Donald Assistant Graduate Chair Philip Parker Assistants to the Dean Kurt Everhart & Pamela Gill Graduate Assistants Erin Murphy & Erika Schroeder Donors David D. Gregory, James Jaworski, Matthew G. Lasner, Sarah Le Clerc (tarp editor emeritus), John T. Mancini, Alec S Pomnichowski, Teresa Reinhardt, Matt Rymer, Elliott and Eileen Sharron, www.suckerPUNCHdaily.com, Owen Williams Supporters Jonathan Alexander, MK Bretsch, Linda Czopek, Joe Eisenberg, Cy Fels, Marilyn Fuss-Los Angeles California, Zachary Kenton, Leo Korein, Marinelle Luna, Andrea Lusso, Aldo Parise, Paris Associates, Peter Ragonetti (Pratt ’04), Teresa Reinhardt, Janice Sharron, Jesse Sharron, Tony Stone, Joshua Stylman, Billie Anne Williams, Prototype Zero The

School of Architecture for their continued support.

Cover Image: Bonfire Recycling Centre, 2005, Dougal Sheridan and Deirdre McMenamin (LID Architecture) with Building Initiative This research project investigated how the vernacular phenomenon of Belfast’s Urban Bonfires could be re-imagined in a less sectarian and environmentally threatening form. The incorporation of a recycling centre into a defined public space capable of hosting large public fires investigated the potential for Belfast to develop its own unique public space typology. The project was investigated through workshops with participants from environmental groups, the social sciences, community representatives, government Agencies, artistic and architectural backgrounds, and resulted in the development of a prototypical model for a bonfire-recycling center. For subscription requests or to contact the editors please email tarp@pratt.edu. The views expressed in this publication are held solely by the contributors. printed in Canada

Erik Ghenoiu Working the System 1


James Williams Introduction to the Articles 2


Andrew Herscher Unreal Estate in Detroit: 4 Unprofitable Speculations Ivan Rupnik A Peripheral Moment: Experiments in 8 Architecture Agency Josh Conrad and Lauren Hamer Interview with 11 Jorge Otero-Pailos Stephen Zacks Détournement or the Misguided Oppositional 14 Ideology of the Posturban College-Educated Elite François Roche An architecture “des humeurs” 17 Acconci Studio Cities of Air & Clouds & Water, Grains & Particles 24 & Pixels, Tubes & Tubers Carla Leitão Technologized 30 Kevin Logan Contested Urbanity 34 María Sieira ¡Qué Ilusión! Theorizing Times Square, Again. 37 Thomas Holliday Boutique Hotels as Outposts for Gentrification 39 Ivan Hernandez-Quintela Urban Prosthetics: City as Organism 41 Matthew Gordon Lasner Behind This Facade: The Generic Condo 45 as a Space of Autonomy Maria Aiolova Moving to Growing: Creating Productive 50 Green Space in Cities Manuel DeLanda The Pervasive Role of Geometry and Matter in 53 the Life of Cities Mary Ellen Carroll prototype 180 57 Eve Blau City as Open Work 59 64 Introduction to the Catalog Alpna Gupta 65 Citizen Urbanists Mimi Zeiger and Alpna Gupta 77 Borrowed Time Meredith TenHoor and Sarah Ruel-Bergeron 85 Urban Catalysts Erich Schoenenberger and Thomas Holliday 97 The Berlin Model Mathew Aitchison and Hannibal Newsom 112 Contributors

Working the System Erik M. Ghenoiu


hat do we mean by insidious urbanism? The term is meant to define a common ground we at tarp perceive in a wide range of recent architecture. It describes an attempt to apply design’s own means of analysis and intervention to seize a position of agency inside of the systems of power and perception that now generate urban space, both in terms of form and in the ways in which it is inhabited. This kind of urbanism does not propose fundamentally new models of urban control, as utopian urbanism has long done, even in its recent ecologically-minded manifestations. Neither then does it attempt to reform existing models to produce more humane or acceptable results, as has been a central premise of the field of urban design since the term was coined in the fifties. Rather, it accepts whatever systems attain—be they monolithic or on life support, bureaucratic or improvised—as a field foreign to architecture, but susceptible to design analysis when the thing being designed is not primarily the architectural object, but the experience of the ordinary urban environment itself. It is a category to help us understand the stakes of contemporary architecture’s engagement with the urban, not a style and not really a movement, though maybe in places it is starting to look like one. Insidious urbanism tends to operate at an architectural scale (and not the scale of urban planning), analyzing only the aspects of the urban situation in which it intends to intervene. It tends to work at any given time on a specific urban agenda, usually identified with a constituency or activity that is disbarred, discouraged, or devalued within the real or implied rules of the existing environment. Note, however, that this agenda is not necessarily allied with the interests of an actual client, and it often assembles its own client as a collaboration of private and state entities as a part of the project. Insidious urbanism is often deeply engaged with questions of established building types, though generally from a critical position that accepts these types as it changes them and puts them to work in unusual ways. It tends to be politically and socially activist and thus allied with other forms of activism, it is fast-moving and flexible in its proposed solutions, and it makes deliberate and sometimes even humorous appeals to the sensibilities of the viewer or inhabitant. Insidious urbanism opens up possibilities for kinds of occupation that were previously unavailable in the urban environment, but in so doing, it necessarily delimits other alternatives and usually works to subvert specified aspects of the prevailing urban paradigm. This paradigm might be of politics, society, culture, technology, history, space, or economy, or even occasionally a prevailing paradigm of design.


The articles and projects featured in this volume show that the idea of insidious urbanism may also be identified across a wide range of countered principles. It can be deeply embedded in the spatial, social, and cultural connotations of a specific site, but it can also be seen in projects that are deployable in multiple and sometimes very different locations. It can be found very clearly in many ephemeral works, but also in ones that are permanently grafted to the fabric of the city. These projects can act inside political systems like building codes or the rules controlling public space, economic systems of property development and funding, infrastructural systems like transportation or energy, or in situations that cross these boundaries. Beyond working inside such systems, they can also act on social perceptions to inform an understanding of what an otherwise unaltered place is or can be, making a public space address very different parts of the public, say, or telling the passerby that a once-abandoned building is now a hive of activity. This insidiousness can work by sleight of hand, packaging its intervention inside a more visible and easily-justified gesture (and thus foregrounding the role of the designer), or it can act gradually and from the bottom up to produce new urban realities that the existing order must then accommodate (and thus to a degree concealing that a designer has been at work). Since the aspect that qualifies a project as insidious is not dependent on the formal solution in itself, this kind of urbanism can be identified in works with a very contemporary stylistic character, works entrenched in vernacular form, and works mostly composed of found urban elements. This volume also begins to identify limitations and weaknesses to an insidious practice. Insidiousness is always operative first, and pays relatively little attention to the generation of form—an irresponsible and potentially dangerous attitude from the viewpoint of a number of other current architectural ideologies. Seen from the larger urban discourse, it can seem to be merely a luxury of decadent shrinking cities without strong implications for the developing world. Following on this, insidious urbanism might also seem complicit with neoliberal power structures and with the same kind of irresponsible progressive self-congratulation that has been identified as a major initiator of the first stages of the classic gentrification model. The current wave of urban projects that we have described as insidious is diverse, sophisticated, and flexible enough that one or another of its designers have addressed each of these criticisms. And like all design, it derives much of its measure of success not from its simple functional core, but from the extra formal element that exuberantly, unnecessarily, inevitably accompanies this solution.

Thumbnail History of Insidious Urbanism Since insidious urbanism is defined by common outlook and intention and not a lineage of influences, it has no clear history. However, it is possible to identify a few precedents for the ways that current insidious urbanism has situated itself in relation to the city. One set of examples among many possible versions would begin at the end of the nineteenth century: perhaps the first time that something resembling current insidious urbanism appears in the architectural discourse is in the work of evolutionary biologistcum-city planner Patrick Geddes. As early as 1884, Geddes began to experiment with the selective repair and reconditioning of old houses in Edinburgh as a means of slum control and neighborhood reform based in a close survey of the physical and demographic history and conditions of the city. He called this “conservative surgery” and continued to apply it for decades, notably in his planning work in India in the nineteen teens and early twenties. Something very similar to Geddes’ approach became popular in the flowering of German picturesque urban design that followed the writings of Camillo Sitte from 1889 to the early twenties, already visible in the work of early Sitteans like Karl Henrici who won the 1892 competition for the extension of Munich, and increasingly sophisticated in the urban design work of architects like Theodor Fischer, Fritz Schumacher, Hermann Jansen, and Hermann Muthesius in the first decades of the 20th century, and very quickly also in the work of their English colleagues like Raymond Unwin. On a more architectural level, the same designers also incorporated a critical and interventionary urbanism in their housing reform work, which was deeply invested in questions of operative typology, influencing public taste, and the politics of social class. For us now, probably the most famous work of this typological, politically-invested school of surgical urbanism is the Looshaus of 1911 in Vienna. The architecture critic and planner Werner Hegemann gave this movement its high water mark by organizing the giant Berlin city planning exhibition and competition of 1910. In the next few years, he also expanded its scope in terms of the insidious through his work on the Propaganda Committee for Greater Berlin by promoting design collaboration with social activism, manipulation of the media and popular imagery, and the use of satire as a tool against economic and political power. Following Hegemann into exile from the Nazis in the early thirties, we can reach an early American precedent for insidious and interventionary urbanism in his collaboration with Henry Wright on the town planning studio at Columbia University. Wright and his colleagues in the Regional Planning Association of America reproduced many of the tactics of the German scene’s activist (Benton MacKaye), surgical-interventionary (Lewis Mumford, a strong proponent of Geddes), typological-analytical 1




1 On conservative surgery, see Volker Welter, Biopolis: Patrick Geddes and the City of Life (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 2002) 107-124. 2 There is of course a rich literature on this subject. Perhaps the best single work available on all the aspects of this period in Germany is Julius Poseners’ magisterial Berlin auf dem Wege zu einer neuen Architektur: die Zeitalter Wilhelms II (Munich: Prestel, 1979). 3 On Hegemann, see Christiane Crasemann Collins, Werner Hegemann and the Search for Universal Urbanism (New York and London: W. W. Norton and Co., 2005). 4 Ibid., 68-81.

(Wright and Clarence Stein), and economically insidious (the developer Alexander Bing) modes. A project like Radburn, NJ, started in 1929, employed banal and familiar stylistic and landscape elements in a pattern that amounted to a radical social intervention in the American suburb. This early brand of insidious urbanism subsided in the forties and fifties with the rise of second-generation International Modernism, with only scattered instances like certain works of Aalto, William Wurster, or the early, more radical years of the Architectural Review’s Townscape movement still embodying something of the idea. The movement coming out of Sert’s Harvard Design School and the end of CIAM that coined the name “Urban Design” largely turned away from insidiousness and toward a more direct attempt to seize control over the systems of generating the built environment. During these decades, however, the groundwork was laid for a greater theoretical sophistication in insidious urbanism by the rise of critical theory, particularly at the beginning in the writing of Guy Debord and the members of the Situationist International. The ideas of the spectacle, recuperation, psychogeography, dérive, and especially détournement still resonate with many of the architects and writers featured in this volume. Insidiousness was back on the table in a vivid way in the sixties in the hands of designers like Charles Moore, Robert Venturi, and Aldo Rossi, though by the mid-seventies postmodern architecture turned back and began pursuing a more direct agency over the systems of urban control, visible in the form of the New Urbanism. However, around the same time, the collaboration between Oswald Mathias Ungers and his student Rem Koolhaas was producing a template for the renewed possibility of insidious agency. As developed at OMA, this became an appealing model through the 1990s: formal autonomy and (an antithetical) frenetic agency at once through an aggressive application of program, an obsession both with everyday life and simultaneously with the staggeringly alien modes of urban life fostered by the contemporary city, and an easy fluency between architectural permanence and ephemerality, construction, and image. However, Koolhaas’ relationship to the insidious remained abstract and lacked the kind of activism and getting-your-hands-dirty agenda that had characterized earlier related movements at least since Hegemann. Over the last ten years or so, in the face of an oversupply of trained architects and a concomitant reaching out by the field for an expanded professional role, many young designers and firms have realized that the tools and techniques of the design process can be fruitfully applied to real situations in ways that employ built form to change the effective rules of the urban scene. Some city administrations and even developers have also realized this. In this light, the methods, motivations, and tactics of prior insidious approaches have again become interesting to the practice. n 5


5 See Alex Krieger and William S. Saunders, eds., Urban Design (Minneapolis and London: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2009). 6 See Jasper Cepl, “Insidious Archipelago” in this volume.


Introduction to the Articles James Williams


t almost goes without saying that our world is constantly being shaped by tremendous dynamic forces – the global flow of capital, mass media, and industrial pollution, just to name a few. Along with these forces come master narratives and master plans that aim to control our social, political, and economic realities. At the same time, these ideologies are integrated into the milieu of everyday life in highly specific ways according to each locality. In this issue of tarp we are attuned to these complexities and vagaries, to urban conditions as they exist in their specificity. We ask: how can design take a more targeted, subversive, and seductive approach to architecture and urbanism, to better equip our projects technically, culturally, and morally for possible futures? The projects in the article section of this issue look at New York, Detroit, Houston, Mexico City, Croatia, and other locales real and imagined, revealing alternative methodologies and histories. We present these articles in order to show the necessity of broadening architectural practice in terms of research, fieldwork, and conceptual design, giving us the tools to question and alter the dominant laws, regulations, and modes of operation within the planning and design disciplines. A number of articles look at how to creatively survive in the urban landscapes in which we live and work. Stephen Zacks questions the ideology of opposition among the educated urban class, arguing that this demographic should be more honest about their economic role in gentrification, and how to produce cultural capital in strategic locations that can benefit entire communities. Matthew Gordon Lasner looks at the history of the condominium and reminds us that we have to consider the lived experience of these spaces, beyond analyses of politics, economics, and form. Examining Detroit, Andrew Herscher looks at unmarketable spaces that have effectively entered other value systems – spaces full of potential for other authors with a myriad of agendas. Kevin Logan looks at current trends in privately managed urban environments and their funding of smallscale cultural projects that take advantage of marginalized public space, questioning whether we should be so skeptical of corporate donors. Finally, Thomas Holliday analyzes developer-led gentrification anchored around the Ace Hotel in Manhattan, revealing how tools used for more explicit social agendas can also be used purely for the generation of revenue. Another group of articles looks at how to intervene in the urban landscape, with an aim towards reframing its context and rules. Eve Blau looks at how constant economic, political 3

and cultural change in Croatia has produced design practices that are highly aware and adapted to their surroundings. Ivan Rupnik also examines recent work in Croatia, asking us to look beyond the architectural object, to better understand design methodologies that give agency to architecture. From Mexico City Ivan Hernandez-Quintela talks about how to take direct action, seizing on opportunities that allow for the augmentation of public space both materially and experientially. Maria Aiolova discusses urban agriculture, asking us to open up to broader views of ecology. María Sieira looks at art projects displayed on electronic billboards in Times Square that subvert advertising space and produce ‘architectural effects’. Lastly, from Houston, Mary Ellen Carroll rotates an abandoned house by 180 degrees, changing the context of house to its surroundings and sparking a debate about neighborhoods long-neglected by policy-makers. A third group goes beyond the traditional confines of architecture and urbanism from the very outset, bringing in theories from other disciplines. In an interview with Jorge Otero-Pailos, Josh Conrad and Lauren Hamer discuss the issue of environmental sustainability and how a preservationist approach can open up our understanding of buildings as processes through time, challenging the idea of the architect as sole author. François Roche invites us to explore new morphological possibilities, taking the complexity of human desires as inputs, creating highly idiosyncratic and ambiguous spaces that break the boundaries of structure and habitable space. Vito Acconci leads us through his architectural imagination, allowing us to think about the feeling, experience, and affects of everything from clothing to landscapes. Carla Leitão looks at the history and potentials of repositioning architecture in terms of body and medium - instead of seeing media and technology as something created outside of an architectural framework. Finally, Manuel DeLanda reminds us that we should expand the way we analyze cities in terms of matter and geometry, to understand how these entities facilitate social interactions. These articles outline new methodologies and radical ways in which to design in and through the city, going beyond a purely aesthetic approach. In a time when rapid changes are occurring due to environmental degradation, economic and political flux, and technological innovation, architecture needs to engage with the contemporary city wholeheartedly. If we can conduct research, fieldwork, and conceptual design in highly specific, useful, and multi-disciplinary ways, then we have a fighting chance of maintaining relevance. n

Unreal Estate in Detroit: Unprofitable Speculations Andrew Herscher

The Incredible Shrinking City t’s now almost automatic to describe Detroit, like so many other cities in apparent decline, as a “shrinking city.” Automatic because the description seems so apt: Detroit has, of course, experienced drastic decreases in population, jobs, investment and tax base, as well as in a host of less easily measured but no less salient categories. And yet, built into the framing of such decreases as signs of shrinkage are a host of problematic assumptions about what a city is and should be. Embedded in the concept of shrinkage are registrations of change as loss, of difference as decline, of the unprecedented as the undesirable. Each of these registrations are based on normative notions of the city as site, of a site of growth, development and progress, as well as of the capitalist political economy—now, typically formulated on neoliberal co-ordinates—that drives each of the preceding. What the usual reading of shrinkage prompts, therefore, are therapeutic urbanisms, designed to fix, solve or improve a city in seeming decline. What the usual reading of shrinkage reciprocally pre-empts are the possibilities and potentials that seeming decline brings—the ways in which the shrinking city is an incredible city, saturated with urban opportunities that are precluded or even unthinkable in cities that function according to plan. Taking advantage of these opportunities requires an approach to the “shrinking city” not as a problem to solve so much as a situation to cope with and creatively survive. Relinquishing the desire to somehow solve the shrinking city may be challenging for architecture and urbanism; it would involve the realization that architecture and urbanism might have more to learn from the shrinking city than the shrinking city has to learn from architecture and urbanism. But, for many in Detroit, the desire for large-scale, planned solutions to the city’s problems has not been relinquished so much as it has been ignored as in utter contradiction to the city as both history and lived experience. For these participants in Detroit’s decline, urban crisis has yielded conditions favorable for invention and experiment as well as those requiring skills of survival and endurance. The physical site of this invention and experimentation is a particular product of the city in decline—“unreal estate,” or urban territory that has slipped through the literal economy, the economy of the market, and entered other structures of value, including but not limited to those of creative survival, exploration, play, desire, escape and imagination. The


values of unreal estate are unreal from the perspective of the market economy—they are liabilities, or unvalues that prevent property’s circulation through that market. But it is precisely as property is rendered valueless according to the dominant regime of value that it becomes available for other forms of thought, activity and occupation—in short, for other value regimes. Thus, the extraction of capital from Detroit has not only yielded a massive devaluation of real estate but also, concurrently, an explosive production of unreal estate, of “valueless” urban property serving as site of and instrument for the imagination and practice of alternative and often insidious urbanisms. Everyday Urbanism? No, Thank You! Speculations on Detroit’s unreal estate are being made by activists, anarchists, artists, community associations, explorers, gardeners, neighborhood groups, scavengers, slackers and many others—a heterogeneous array of individual and collective urban inhabitants whose political agencies are diverse but whose skills, techniques and knowledge are specific, directed and often profound. A commitment to unreal estate, then, most certainly involves a commitment to the production of urban culture by a wide and diverse range of a city’s inhabitants. In urban studies, this latter commitment has been claimed by a discourse that revolves around “everyday urbanism.”1 Unreal estate, however, defines a crucially different object of study than that defined by everyday urbanism. The framers of everyday urbanism pose it as an urbanism of the “mundane” and “generic” spaces that “ordinary” citydwellers produce in the course of their daily lives—spaces that “constitute an everyday reality of infinitely recurring commuting routes and trips to the supermarket, dry cleaner, or video store.”2 At the same time, everyday urbanism is also supposed to comprise a De Certeau-style catalogue of “tactics” apprehended by the weak and powerless, a kind of bottom-up urbanism that “should inevitably lead to social change.”3 But this layering of political agency onto the quotidian practices of everyday life produces contradictions: everyday urbanism is posed as at once mundane and tendentious, at once descriptive and normative, at once inherent to a system and an alternative to a system. How, 1 See Everyday Urbanism, eds. John Leighton Chase, Margaret Crawford and John Kaliski (New York: Monacelli Press, 2008). 2 Margaret Crawford, “Blurring the Boundaries: Public Space and Private Life,” in Everyday Urbanism, 24. 3 Margaret Crawford, “Introduction,” in Everyday Urbanism, 10.


exactly, does driving to the video store inevitably lead to social change? What sort of weakness and powerlessness mark those who rent videos? Why is it the customer at the video store, rather than that store’s employees, that is of interest to everyday urbanism? In its received form, everyday urbanism cannot but prompt such questions. The reality of everyday urbanism is that of public responses to professionally-designed urban environments; it is an urban version of reader-response criticism, a criticism focused on the experience of readers of texts as opposed to the intentions of writers. Everyday urbanism, that is, is an urbanism of reaction, whether conciliatory or contentious, to the professionalized urbanism that shapes urban space and life. As such, it cannot sustain the progressive political project the authors of the discourse want to endow it with. Indeed, the insistent elision in everyday urbanist discourse between “everyday life,” on the one hand, and “experience,” on the other, points to the interest in this discourse not so much in alternatives to hegemonic modes of urbanism (as the discourse imagines itself to be interested), but rather in the ways in which these modes are received by their audiences or users. What’s “alternative” in everyday urbanism is not political, a question of difference from a hegemonic structure, but rather authorial, a question of difference in creative agency. Unreal estate, as a waste product of capitalism, is by definition an alternative to that structure’s products. As such, the urbanism that unreal estate invites, provokes, sustains or endures diverges not only in its authorship from conventional urbanism, but also in its ideological orientations, cultural agencies and political possibilities. This is a counter-urbanism that involves agencies, activities, practices and values that diverge from their normative complements. This counter-urbanism emerges in situations of crisis; its practice is not an everyday matter except insofar as crisis passes for the everyday in the dominant social

FIG. 2 Visit Card, Detroit Unreal Estate Agency, 2009, by Andrew Herscher


FIG. 1 Urban Chandelier, Detroit Unreal Estate Agency, 2009, by Corine Smith

FIG.3 African Bead Museum, Detroit, 2010, by Andrew Herscher

gaze. The urbanism of unreal estate, then, is not everyday so much as oppositional, insurgent, survivalist, ecstatic, escapist or parodic—anything that poses the dominant order as contingent, partial, inadequate, laughable, violent or any other quality that this order excludes from its self-fashioning. Counter-urbanisms emerge and develop in parallel to both the professional urbanism of architects and planners and everyday responses to that urbanism; it is their perceived character as subordinate, redundant or trivial that allows for their very oppositionality. The movement of this counterurbanism is, then, double—at once an exit from and an opposition to a dominant urban regime. Unreal Estate Development In Detroit, counter-urbanism has yielded a vast array of unprofessional practices, unwarranted techniques, unwarranted collectives and unsolicited constructions. As well as sharing a commitment to the extraction of unvalues from capitalism’s spatial waste products, the preceding also involve a number of other common dimensions. Counter-urbanism tends to be improvised, taking form as unrehearsed and sometimes makeshift moves and actions, as opposed to being planned in advance as means to specified ends. Counter-urbanism tends to dissolve differences between work and play, as well as between art and other forms of cultural or symbolic production, from activism and political organization, through cooking, gardening and bike repair, to teaching and social work. Counter-urbanism tends to appropriate spaces that appear available to occupation or sub-occupation, or else to furtively occupy spaces that appear to be claimed or otherwise used. In either case, its products are often temporary or dispensable and its users and audiences are often limited to its authors or those in their direct company. And the authors of counter-urbanism tend to be self-organized, taking on responsibilities and functions typically displaced to institutions or political and economic systems in functional cities. Counter-urbanism is not, therefore, based on investments that will pay off in a better world-to-come, whether within or beyond the market economy; it rests, rather, on expenditures in the present weak-market moment, critically refusing to mortgage that moment for another, different future. If the development of unreal estate involves an exchange, then it is the exchange of a teleological system of progress, in which the present is, by definition, inferior, incomplete or inadequate, for an ongoing commitment to that present as a site of exploration and investigation. This is not a mere surrender to an environment suffused with social suffering, a bad present that calls out for improvement, whether that improvement be offered by the grass-roots labor of architects, artists and activists or by the top-down programs and policies of governments. On the contrary: it is the postulation of the present as a

temporary phase within a moralized continuum of progress that allows that present to be tolerated and accepted as such. The conditions of this temporary present are redeemable “problems” and “failures,” subject to improvement in and by a future yet to come, rather than inexorable situations whose values and potentials must be analyzed rather than assumed. To explore unreal estate, rather than undeveloped real estate, is to confront the complex (un)reality of property that has been extruded from the free-market economy; it is to see the margin of that economy as a site of invention and possibility as well as of disenfranchisement and need, a perspective that becomes more insidious the more one moves from the margins to the center of the free market. Feral Research and Insidious Urbanism In Detroit, the study of unreal estate has been undertaken by a number of collectives in a number of forms. If anything unifies these studies, it might be their status as products of feral research—research that is improvised, provisional and contingent on circumstances. Feral research promises no contributions and yields no predictable outcomes. The feral researcher is opportunistic and tactical. Established research protocols and inherited research models are irrelevant to her; she has to make it up as she goes. The feral researcher sometimes moves stealthily through the city, unannounced and incognito, and sometimes loiters, waiting or wondering. It is the fragile, precarious and often furtive nature of unreal estate that interpolates the feral researcher. This interpolation may hold true for any sort of insidious urbanism. To report directly and straightforwardly on an insidious urbanism would be to either deny or damage precisely what defines the insidious as such: its nature as hidden, threatening or strange. Bringing the insidious into open view can only reveal the hidden, domesticate the threatening and familiarize the strange. Insidious urbanism thus calls to be researched, documented and theorized insidiously—

FIG.4 Georgia Street, Detroit, 2010, by Andrew Herscher


FIG. 5 Zender Place, Detroit, 2009, by Nick Tobier

to intensifications, translations and transformations of insidiousness, rather than to its reformatting into just what the insidious defines itself against. n


A Peripheral Moment: Experiments in Architectural Agency1 Ivan Rupnik 1


he aughts were a difficult time for Croatia. Like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, this former Yugoslav country transitioned from socialism to capitalism nearly a decade after much of Eastern Europe, delayed by four years of war, and then postwar reconstruction and instability.2 This same decade proved to be an incredibly productive and innovative time for Croatian architects who managed to transform these difficulties into a stimulating situation. The recent global economic downturn, a highly flawed political system, as well as the arrival a host of new highly restrictive building regulations brought on by Croatia’s crawl towards the European Union as well as other factors have contributed to the end of this decade of experimentation. This investigation seeks to mine this period, examining practices that expand the role of the architect and create space for experimentation. These practices, rooted in an unstable peripheral context, nevertheless suggest the potential for greater agency for a discipline increasingly peripheral at the center. The parallel between political instability and creative innovation of this period is not a unique phenomenon in Croatian history. The frequency of such occurrences led Ljubo Karaman (1886-1971), a Croatian archeologist and art historian, to develop a theoretical framework to help explain artistic production under conditions of sustained instability.3 Karaman reacted to the prevailing formal modes of art-historical analysis during the late 19th and early 20th century by developing a contextually based methodology, one that examined the role of the artist as an active agent in a specific political context as well as that specific context’s position within an international network of other artistic contexts. This emphasis on actor and context as opposed to art object provided a framework for theorizing three distinct geo-political spaces of artistic production: that of center, 1 Selected from the introduction to A Peripheral Moment: Experiments in Architectural Agency, (Actar, 2011). 2 The Homeland War, Croatia’s conflict with the Yugoslav People’s Army and a host Croatian-Serb paramilitary formations lasted from 1991 until 1995. Croatian territory was not fully integrated until 1999, when United Nations Peacekeepers left the last occupied areas, allowing reconstruction to begin. 3 Karaman’s formal education in Vienna during the last decade of the 19th century ` the Catholic Priest and was complimented with an apprenticeship to Frane Bulic, archeologist responsible for the restoration of Diocletian’s Palace in Split. This complicated and layered artifact challenged many preconceived notions of early art history and archeology. By 1930 Karaman’s frustration with established methods and theories led to his first major publication, Iz Koljevke Hrvatske Proslosti [From the Cradle of Croatian History] (Matica Hrvatska:Zagreb, 1930). He would later summarize these theories in O Djelovanju Domace Sredine u Umjetnosti Hrvatskih Krajeva (Drustvo Historicara Umjetnosti: Zagreb, 1963).

province, and periphery. Karaman left the theorization of the center to the center, and instead focused his work on distinguishing between province and periphery. While artistic production in the province tends to be directly influenced by one distant center from where it receives information, art objects, and even ‘masters’, the periphery is influenced by multiple cultural and political centers, offering local artists access to these centers while at the same time offering them the ability to synthesize influences and produce unique and independent artistic approaches. Karaman referred to this effect as the freedom of the periphery. This freedom comes at a high cost however, as the influence of multiple political centers insures a permanent state of instability, a lack of strong foreign and local patrons, as well as a deficit of material resources. Karaman was well aware of these ‘negative factors’ caused by the ‘lack of strong political authority here [in Croatia] or from outside’ but insisted that it was precisely these factors that made the works interesting and sometimes progressive if not always artistically novel, ‘in the formal sense of that term’.4 Karaman’s own work focused on Romanesque and Renaissance architectural works in Croatia, however he insisted that his methodology could be useful for other contexts and other periods.5 Although he never explicitly theorized it, the peripheral condition is highly dynamic, as its appearance is tied to shifting geopolitical centers and their own changing inter-relationships. In addition any peripheral space, by its very definition, can be so distant from centers of power as to lack Karman’s associated creative vibrancy, suggesting important temporal and spatial dimensions to Karaman’s theory. The notion of a peripheral moment is an expansion of his theories, one that accounts for this dynamism, and proposes that the freedom of the periphery appears during a particularly significant realignment of geopolitical centers. In Croatia such realignments are a relatively frequent occurrence as a result of its geopolitical position. Notably, the radical restructuring of the map of Europe in the 1920s and again in the 1960s generated 4 Karaman, Iz Koljevke Hrvatske Proslosti, 1930 Pg. 57 5 His work, virtually unknown outside of Croatia has recently received attention in Latin America and in the emerging field of Geography of Art. For more on this see Thomas Da Costa Kaufmann, Toward a Geography of Art, (University Of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2004).


` Randic-Turato’s elementary school project for the medieval city of Krk

similarly creative moments of artistic and architectural experimentation influenced by political instability and lack of resources. It is important to note that these peripheral moments were both preceded and followed by periods best described as provincial. Croatia’s most recent peripheral moment, whose historical contours were formed somewhere between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the recent global economic recession, has led to a freedom of the periphery for architectural practice, engendering certain methodological and possible formal innovations. While the physical products of this period have become quite common on the glossy pages and web portals of architectural journals, the innovative practices that generated them have not had the same fate. The projects’ formal compatibility with established architectural centers may be the greatest hindrance towards exposing the truly innovative practices from which they have resulted. This uneven exposure of project and designer illustrates how today’s architectural form is distributed globally in seconds while its’ methodology is still locally rooted. Methodological evaluation and dissemination still requires the existence of

critical discourse, a luxury in the unstable peripheral context. In order to begin to uncover and disseminate the methodological innovations of this recent peripheral moment, it is necessary to translate Karaman’s notion of the freedom of the periphery into the terms of international contemporary discourse. The contemporary term that most closely relates is that of agency. The agency of the architect, the occupant, and even of architectural space replaced the other “a” word, autonomy, during the late nineties. If the advocates of architectural autonomy assumed the significance and authority of the architectural discipline as a fact to be defended against contemporary culture, the proponents of agency took a more pessimistic or pragmatic view, criticizing architectural practice for its lack of engagement with contemporary culture, particularly that of the contemporary metropolis. The loudest critic of architecture’s lack of agency surely is Rem Koolhaas. His earliest heroes were the anonymous architects of Manhattan who traded a degree of formal innovation for full engagement in the culture of congestion, a disciplinary transformation that required the parallel acceptance of the irrelevance of architecture as a cultural value a priori and the invention of new methods of design practice.6 Koolhaas’s disgust with the architectural discipline in the seventies expanded to a critique of urbanism by the early nineties, with the pragmatic architects of early capitalism being replaced by the resourceful citizens of the third world’s developing megalopolises. Koolhaas’s historical and vernacular case studies, as well as his own practice, influenced the theories and practice of a number of younger architects in the late nineties and early aughts. The clearest recent reformulation of this position may have been made by Michael Speaks in his text After Theory. Speaks best articulates his position in a phrase: “theory was interesting … but now we have work… we don’t just need a new ‘theory’, but instead we need a new intellectual framework that supports rather than inhibits innovation.” Speaks has found such innovation in small practices who utilize a method of “speculative testing and prototyping”, and a form of “thinking as doing” that creates what he calls “design intelligence”. By abandoning the dream of cultural relevance and disciplinary autonomy in favor of an engagement with contemporary culture and market forces, Speaks calls for a form of architectural agency which will in turn enable innovation. Unfortunately he does little to provide any specific example for such a practice. Koolhaas’s and Speaks’s disenchantment with the late architectural avant-garde of the seventies and eighties and their call for a more direct, critical engagement with contemporary culture and the city are partially foreshadowed in the writings of Manfredo Tafuri. By the early seventies Tafuri was troubled by the disengagement of architectural practice from contemporary society. His writings anticipated 6 Delirious New York (The Monacelli Press: New York, 1994).


Koolhaas’s critique that architects confused their own perception of cultural relevance with any sort of general relevance in the broader public realm, noting: “…for the avant-gardes… the problem of checking the effects on the public has little importance.”7 He contrasted the disengaged stance of the late architectural avant-gardes with another position, that of experimentalism. Whereas the avant-gardes are “always affirmative, absolutist, totalitarian”, according to Tafuri experimentalists are “constantly taking apart, Thetogether, freedom of the periphery has allowed architects to experiment with the putting contradicting, and provoking languages and most predetermined of market-driven types – the big box retail store and syntaxes that are nevertheless accepted as such.” He continues the fast food franchise. njiric+njiric’s unfinished initial experiments with by explaining thatin anexperimental movements, like avantthese types resulted entire laboratory of edge urbanism in Croatia peripheral moment: has proposed a series of modified garde during ones,the“…can hide njiric+ behind revolutionary statements as in Croatia and Austria and Igor Franić recently completed a big box much types as they like, but their real task is not subversion but store and roof top housing project for a Mercator, a Slovenian retailer, on 8 While widening.” Zagreb’s western edge.Tafuri’s notion of experimentalism is full of the same linguistic terms that defined the formal games office complex (proposed) of late avant-gardes rooted in the languages of Classicism or Modernism, and he does not provide any specific examples of experimentalist architecture, his adoption of experimentalism as an alternative to the avant-garde is quite useful in understanding both the contemporary discourse of architectural agency as well as the architectural practices

TransiTional Typologies: packing The Box

‘big box’ shopping

home garden center 7 Manfredo Theories and History of Architecture. (Granada Publishing: New York, (proposed) * REd INdIcAtES PRE‘big box’Tafuri, shopping

TransiTional Typologies: packing The Box

1980). Pg. 51 8 Ibid. Pg. 52

BAumAXX hYPERmARKEt, njiric+njiric, P. 90–97


retail / public space

basketball cage (proposed)



The freedom of the periphery has allowed architects to experiment with the most predetermined of market-driven types – the big box retail store and the fast food franchise. njiric+njiric’s unfinished initial experiments with these types resulted in an entire laboratory of edge urbanism in Croatia cable car station during the peripheral moment: njiric+ has proposed a series of modified types in Croatia and Austria and Igor Franić recently completed a big box restaurant self service shopping store and roof top housing project for a Mercator, a Slovenian retailer, on Zagreb’s western edge.

mcdoNAld’S dRIvE IN, njiric+njiric, P. 98–99

mIcRoShoPPINg, njiric+

office space office complex (proposed)


‘big box’ shopping zAgREB cENtER (mERcAtoR), Igor franic - SzA zagreb, cRo, 2005–07, P. 71 gRAČANI cENtER, hpnj+, zagreb, cRo, 2003– ...

‘big box’ shopping

home garden center (proposed) BAumAXX hYPERmARKEt, njiric+njiric, P. 90–97


office tower

retail / public space basketball cage (proposed)




‘big box’ shopping


self service shopping

mcdoNAld’S dRIvE IN, njiric+njiric, P. 98–99

mIcRoShoPPINg, njiric+

Samobor- modified typologies The big box retail storeSPAR andREtAIl the PRototYPE, fast food njiric+ franchise 101

‘big box’ shopping



cable car station

The new building provides a backdrop to the Romanesque church

office space

engendered by the peripheral moment. shopping A more generally accepted definition‘bigofbox’experimentation 9 as a “precise means for achieving unpredictable results” zAgREB cENtER (mERcAtoR), Igor franic - is SzA zagreb, cRo, 2005–07, P. 71 relevant in understanding Koolhaas’s desire to “…combine actual indeterminacy with architectural specificity”10 as well gRAČANI cENtER, hpnj+, zagreb, cRo, 2003– ... as Speaks’s “new intellectual framework that supports… innovation”. Experimentation here is not an expressionistic * REd INdIcAtES PRE‘big box’ but shopping impulse is rather the formulation of systems for collecting dEtERmINEd REtAIl housing various types of feedback. If architecturalPRogRAm autonomy is the office tower disengagement of the discipline with contemporary culture in order to provide space for individual formal innovation, architectural agency is the desire to generate innovative housing forms through experimentation with elements of existing contemporary culture. ‘big box’ shopping Koolhaas’s and Speaks’s discursive call for a greater cable car station degree of architectural agency is uncannily mirrored within the peripheral moment. The cultural and political condition produced by the peripheral moment creates an SPAR REtAIl PRototYPE, njiric+ Samobor office space while inordinate amount of space for architectural agency simultaneously preventing any of101the supporting mechanisms needed for artistic or architectural in the form of ‘big autonomy, box’ shopping strong cultural institutions,zAgREB a strong State, or strong private cENtER (mERcAtoR), Igor franic - SzA zagreb, cRo, 2005–07, P. 71 patronage. The absence of these support mechanisms is precisely ‘negative conditions’ that Karaman indentified gRAČANI the cENtER, hpnj+, cRo, 2003– ... as thezagreb, factors leading to the “freedom of the periphery”. In the nineties the collapse of socialism and the physical housing War almost entirely eliminated destruction of the Homeland office tower the established role of the architect in Croatian society, creating a vacuum that could be filled by a new kind of practitioner. In this new context, architects could no longer count on an a priori cultural or social relevance; a position would have to be staked out on the ground, in practice, one ‘big box’ shopping project at a time. n 9 Experiment: a: test, trial, b: a tentative procedure or policy, c: an operation or procedure carried out under conditions to discover an unknown effect or SPAR controlled REtAIl PRototYPE, njiric+ Samobor law. Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary 10 El Croquis 53 (1992 - I): Rem Koolhaas-OMA 1987-1992, pg. 15. 101


Interview with Jorge Otero-Pailos Josh Conrad and Lauren Hamer

LH : You argue that architecture should be open to new kinds of creativity. Could you talk more about this and what it means to the architectural design process?

FIG 1. The Ethics of Dust: Alumix, Bolzano, 2008


orge Otero-Pailos is Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and founding editor of the journal Future Anterior. His book Architecture’s Historical Turn: Phenomenology and the Rise of the Postmodern is a remarkable intellectual history of the emergence of contemporary architectural theory. His unique practice has recast preservation into a creative and provocative field that intersects with contemporary art and architecture in unsuspected ways. His olfactory reconstruction of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, published as a scratch-and-sniff article in 2008, provides a hint of the experimental nature of his work in architectural preservation. Significant attention has been drawn to his 2009 installation The Ethics of Dust, presented at the Venice Biennale. Working within a discipline long concerned with the material life and death of buildings – the spectacle of construction, use and demolition – Otero-Pailos’s work warrants the attention of any designer concerned with architecture. In this interview, conducted at the University of Texas, Austin in 2010, we ask Otero-Pailos for his thoughts on contemporary building practice and, more specifically, the role preservation might play in negotiating new terms in a new era of “sustainable” building practice. He draws our attention both to the explicit technological determinism, as well as the more implicit notions of temporality undergirding contemporary discussions about sustainability. While the business of building technology has in many ways reduced the conceivable temporality of architecture, sustainability at its best encourages us to think beyond our own generation and thus comes closer philosophically to preservation, where we might rediscover richer possibilities for experimenting with architecture’s temporal qualities. 11

JOP : Architectural creativity has been mostly reduced to the production of visions of the future, and that is a very limiting conception of creativity. Artists since Duchamp have been questioning the association of creativity with making something new. But somehow the entire cultural order of architecture remains fixated on producing newness. It is a real challenge because everything about our field is tilted towards that end, from the way people are trained to design to how they are taught to write about architecture. Architectural history classes, for instance, teach you that the important architects are those that invented a new style. They show you a picture of the building when it was finished. But when is a building finished? Buildings exist for a very long time, and usually there are maybe 10, 20, 30 architects that work on it. Is their work unimaginative? [Architectural theorist] Kevin Lynch talked about how we should orchestrate the destruction of buildings to be as theatrical as their construction. He was searching for a form of architectural creativity capable of making that longer existence of buildings graspable to visitors who might only spend a few minutes looking at them. JC : Today there are many well-known architects adding onto existing buildings, like the recent Diller-Scofidio + Renfro addition to Pietro Belluschi’s 1969 Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, or other types of adaptive reuse projects. But the buildings in these cases are somehow new again. LH : They are not usually critically discussed as an act of preservation, but as the new Diller-Scofidio + Renfro building. JOP : Right, there is a difference between taking an old building in the name of contemporary architecture, which is a sort of appropriation that remakes the old into the new, and the idea of leaving an old building in the name of contemporary architecture. LH : Your work both engages and leaves buildings as they were. Like when you peeled off the layers of pollution from the walls of the Doge’s Palace, leaving it transformed but ostensibly the same. What is the status of the objects that

result from your preservation design process? They seem like by-products. They seem to elide easy classification within art or architecture, yet both disciplines have received them enthusiastically. Is that important to you? JOP : Disciplines are all about establishing what is deemed relevant knowledge. They emerged in order to answer specific questions. The discipline of architecture as we know it grew partly in response to the new logistical and aesthetic challenges posed by the industrialization of the

product? Buildings to me are not static self-contained assemblies of industrial products, but dynamic and openended accumulations of materials, events and temporalities, which are not always predictable. I am very interested in the unpredictability of architecture, which is something that requires layers of time. These layers are not simply by-products, but intrinsic to what makes architecture unpredictable. The discourse of architectural sustainability is overwhelmingly geared towards predictability, and above all to the predictability of

FIG 2. The Ethics of Dust: Alumix, Bolzano, 2008

building industry. The fact that my work fits uneasily within a number of them is perhaps an indication of the fact that it is raising questions that are new, and therefore not easy to answer with the inherited intellectual tools of any one discipline. We are also all working in a time when disciplines are in transition, being reorganized around new sets of questions like sustainability, and its not entirely clear what is relevant knowledge for answering these new questions. Universities are trying to grapple with this massive transformation mostly by creating institutes that draw on professors from many different departments. But funding sources somewhat distort what departments are represented or deemed important, with the result being that some fundamental questions are not asked. When I isolate the layers of dust encrusted on monuments, I am investigating the relationship between pollution and architecture, which is exactly what those concerned with sustainability claim to be doing. The difference is that sustainability, as it is currently framed, is seen mostly a question of improving new construction technology, whereas my work suggests that it is also about rethinking our relationship to the past, including the polluted buildings and landscapes we have inherited. You might be right in saying that my works are byproducts of architecture. But from the perspective of sustainability, where is the line between product and by-

the future of buildings. Part of what is at stake when we talk about sustainability is our understanding of architecture’s temporality. LH : It is strange that architectural sustainability has turned so much towards technology, which always has its eye on the future in terms of production, as opposed to looking at the preservation of existing buildings. It is hard to justify building a new building as something sustainable, no matter how zero-impact it is. JOP : Leo Marx worked hard to dispel the myth that technology drives history. Part of the difficulty for including preservation within sustainability is that it shifts the emphasis of the discussion from the development of new technologies to the realm of cultural politics. The sad reality is that research into the cultural politics of architectural sustainability is far more difficult to fund than the development of a new product that can be patented. Knowledge production is not free from the financial workings of the economy. The so-called return on investment from preservation-oriented sustainable architecture research projects cannot be measured with the same yardstick as technology-oriented projects, because the former tends to benefit the public at large, and the latter a private investor. It is an uphill battle, but that doesn’t mean it is not worth engaging in it. 12

JC : There is an argument in preservation that many buildings are already sustainable. Instead of the idea that we need to make sustainable buildings, perhaps we need to recognize how they have become this way through time. JOP : Many old buildings are indeed already sustainable, but I think the question is also whether they are already architecture. Architects are searching for sustainable architecture, which is something more than sustainable building. When does a building become architecture? Some people think that all the architecture is in the architect’s plans, and according to that view the building is either architecture at the outset or it isn’t. But in fact a building can become architecture many years after it was built. What it takes is someone recognizing in that building the answer to one of our contemporary architectural questions. That is for instance what happened when Le Corbusier saw architecture in the old whitewashed houses of the Mediterranean, or when Gordon Matta-Clark recognized architecture in the suburban tract houses of New Jersey. By the same token, buildings that are considered architecture at one point may cease to be so at another. This happened to many Art Deco buildings, for instance, which were only recently rediscovered as architecture. It is possible that the buildings that are now considered sustainable architecture might not be considered architecture at all in the near future. To get beneath all the hubris, I think we need to ask ourselves what are the lasting fundamental architectural questions that are being challenged by sustainability. One of them, I believe, is our understanding of the temporality of buildings. JC : That is an idea I identify with Kevin Lynch and [his 1972 book] What Time is This Place? JOP : What I find interesting about that work is that in order to deal with the question of temporality Lynch had to move away from the traditional academic book and develop a very interesting hybrid that is more of a visual work of art in which the photo essay really takes center stage. Sometimes words are not enough to spur our intellectual ability to recognize the relevant architectural questions raised by certain buildings. I think Lynch recognized that when he pursued this more aesthetic line of research. The openness to art as a form of research is a very particular MIT tradition, and I think I absorbed some of it when I was there. In addition to Lynch, MIT produced people like [electrical engineer Harold Eugene] Edgerton, who explored the nature of movement through photography, and had exhibitions at MOMA, but never considered himself an artist. I understand Edgerton’s ambivalence towards being called an artist, because the name artist used to mean that your work was unscientific. The situation is a little different now. Scientists recognize the importance of aesthetics and intuition more, and artistic practices are also more scientifically rigorous in terms of their research methodologies.


LH : I am really interested in your ideas about smoke as something that fulfills this function of revealing an author-less and unintentional architectural aesthetic that is difficult to represent. Could you talk more about this issue of intentionality and what that means for preservation and architecture? What are the risks we take in incorporating a chance thing like smoke as a building material, something that is never connected to the authorship of the architect. JOP : Smoke is a fascinating material precisely because it resists categorization as an architectural material. Yet, it has really changed the way we conceive of architecture. Principally, it has changed our conception of architecture’s temporality by shortening it dramatically. Smoke was responsible for acid rain, and by the middle of the 19th century architects began to realize that the monuments that had been around for millennia were starting to literally dissolve away and would not last very much longer. Smoke played an unacknowledged role in shaping the modernist understanding of buildings as being able to have a very short lifespan, as short as a single generation, and therefore being reducible to a contemporary zeitgeist. Clearly, there were other factors involved in this temporal shortening, such as financial notions of depreciation, and the consumerist cult of newness, but historians have yet to fully grasp the role of smoke in the emergence of modernism. I don’t think it is a coincidence that modern architecture emerged in the most polluted places in the world: Germany’s Ruhr Valley, England’s industrial towns, and the USA’s Rust Belt. It seems to me that insofar as modernity is unthinkable without the production of industrial quantities of pollution, modernism is bound up in the problem of smoke. Steel and glass construction may have made possible modernist ideas of architectural space, but smoke was at least partly responsible for opening up new notions of architectural time. Steel, glass and smoke were all industrially produced, with the difference being that smoke was unintentionally produced and its effects on architecture were also unintentional. By delaminating and isolating the layer of historic smoke deposited on buildings, a layer that both damages them and makes them modern, I’m attempting to recover and draw attention to some of the unintentional qualities that make up our contemporary understanding of architecture. This has, as you point out, implications for the long held assumption that architecture is the intentional product of human authors, and suggests a larger role for unintentional and even non-human agents in the production of architecture. n PHOTO CREDITS FIG. 1 Jorge Otero-Pailos, “The Ethics of Dust: Alumix, Bolzano, 2008,” detail of pollution. Collection of the Museion: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano, Italy. FIG. 2 Jorge Otero-Pailos, “The Ethics of Dust: Alumix, Bolzano, 2008,” detail of pollution. Collection of the Museion: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano, Italy

Détournement, or the Misguided Oppositional Ideology of the Postsuburban College-Educated Urban Elite Stephen Zacks


ccording to the theory of détournement—the overly glorified practice of aesthetic intervention through disturbances in normal patterns of life and calculated misreadings introduced by the French Marxist Guy Debord in the late 50’s as a part of his Situationist movement—and its many contemporary quasi-countercultural manifestations in the U.S., somewhere out there is a power elite, a governing ideology, a dominant moneyed class, an institutional establishment, a big pot of investment capital controlled by oligarchs and the tax-breaks accruing to them, and the city planners and agencies serving their interests. These external forces are imposing themselves on the city, the country, and the world in opposition to the public interest as defined by the quasi-oppositional urban cultural elite. The public whose interests are being defended by this elite, theoretically, are artists, young people, and underrepresented groups. It’s an open question what underrepresented groups think about aesthetic détournement. They often regard avant-garde cultural activities with a mixture of hostility and indifference. When these cultural products extend beyond the art-and-architecture-world bubble to neighborhoods on the fringes of postsuburban redevelopment, they’re often mistrusted as manifestations of the same oligarchical establishment that the oppositional elite is theoretically trying to counteract by their activities. They’re right, in part, and the oppositional elite tends to agree in a guilty, half-blind way. But this misguided reaction fails to acknowledge the positive role of capital reinvestment by the college-educated elite in bringing with it economic resources, mixed-income neighborhoods, increased commercial activity, attention from the media and city administrators, better schools and policing, and, ultimately, a better quality of life. In the past, Marxists used the term “false consciousness” to denote an inability to recognize the economic forces that determine the conditions through which opinions are formed and activities are produced. The term fell into disfavor decades ago because it empowered experts supposed to have special knowledge—members of Central Committee of the Communist Party in the Soviet context—to assign meaning and provide solutions for people’s lives rather than the people themselves. This did not supply the people with much satisfaction and required a lot of brutality on the part of experts.

In a consumer-democratic society, however, the customer is always right. In our politics, every two years, at a minimum, we want to make another oppositional gesture of defiance. In our patterns of consumption, we want to live in a constant state of revolt. We want to dress well and look cute, in contrast to the bland conformity out there, but still be able to decry the shopping mall the city has become. The dominant consumer-democrat of the city today, of course, is you and I, the urbanizing college-educated cultural elite.

Graffiti Art Opening at Ad Hoc Art, Bushwick, Brooklyn / Stephen Zacks

In our historical period, in which the urban idea has experienced resurgence in America following its postwar decline, the people who practice détournement, the collegeeducated urban cultural elite, are the primary instruments of the thing they are objecting to through their oppositional ideology. Their presence is at the root of what they oppose, and they are objectionable to themselves because of the accumulation and concentration of wealth and capital that is constantly produced around them. In every place collegeeducated cosmopolitans assemble and produce culture, they consume, and thereby inadvertently summon new economically productive activity. The byword of all of this commercial activity in the worldview of the urban elite is “gentrification,” a word that encompasses its regressive selfmisunderstanding in its most unambiguous form. According to the theory of gentrification, all of the 14

economic activity that happens as a result of the presence and cultural-production activities of the urban cultural elite in the city is external to the producers themselves and the cultural objects they produce. If anyone took the time to investigate, in the manner of the artist Hans Haacke, who now controls the preeminent cultural institutions of cities like New York, you would notice the ascension of a postsuburban elite—now many of the earliest postwar adherents already nearing their 60’s—which still professes this oppositional ideology. If the ideology-critique implicit in this selfmisunderstanding were applied, reflexively, to these producers and their activities, the practice of détournement might be best understood as a public expression of the urban elite’s consolidation of its political and economic control over space. As a socio-economic indicator, each instance of détournement represents a reinvestment of this class of college-educated urban elites into the re-cosmopolitanized city, which had previously been subject to relative neglect and disinvestment. Sociologically, détournement can be defined as the aesthetic principle of urban renewal through which the agents of capital accumulation are protected from consciousness of the commercial results of their activity. But are processes of capital accumulation—the increase in wealth and value of property—a good or a bad thing for a city or a society? We know that wherever these processes have happened to cities on a large enough scale as a result of postsuburban migration and movement of new immigrant groups, they have reenergized urban economies and enabled them to compete with suburbs in attracting investment and producing economic growth. The latest reports on metropolitan growth patterns in the United States suggest that in a few major urban agglomerations, processes of sprawl and suburbanization have nearly reversed themselves and the cities have begun to grow at nearly the same rate as surrounding areas. It may be that the self-misunderstanding

of the urban elite is a necessary evil, enabling it to engage in a kind of economically productive activity that, if it were fully aware of its positive consequences for urban economic growth, it would no longer willingly participate in and would feel compelled to resist. But what are the alternatives: to go back to the suburbs after college, or move deeper into the countryside? By contrast, it might also be helpful for the discourse of gentrification and the perceived need for resistance to it to be more widely understood as an ideological misinterpretation of economic processes in order for cultural activity to be more self-consciously focused in areas of severe neglect and social need. We know that the gradual re-infiltration of the college-educated classes into the city brings with it an economic shift. If this shift causes an undue concentration of capital in certain places, would it be possible to displace its negative effects? Through what practices can cultural producers more effectively share the benefits of re-urbanization with neglected places and actively engage communities on the edges of urban re-colonization? Can we turn these inadvertently useful economic activities into selfconscious tools of development in places we all agree are in desperate need of détournement: détournement of a willful state of neglect and abandonment; détournement of the loss of capital and revenue; détournement of détournement being applied in unproductive ways and unnecessary places? Countless efforts of this kind have been ongoing for many years, undertaken by well-recognized groups like the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), which has been producing small-scale community-based projects, educational workshops in public schools, pamphlets, and discussions since the late 1990s that teach underserved communities on the edges of postsuburban migration about the processes and tools of urban development, policy-making, and municipal governance. Less well-recognized communitybased organizations have been doing this kind of work on

Architecture Opening at Museum of Modern Art, NYC / Stephen Zacks

Mural at La Casa De Don Pedro, Newark, NJ / Stephen Zacks


Site of Chevrolet Factory Complex, Flint, Michigan / Lisa Zacks

Site of Chevrolet Factory Complex, Flint, Michigan / Lisa Zacks

a small scale since at least the 1970s all over the country, touching the lives of millions of children who lack adequate resources. Another well-publicized example is in Braddock, PA, where Harvard education and social-policy graduate John Fetterman has been applying the theory of creative capital accumulation to a nearly dead steel town on the edge of Pittsburgh, apparently with some moderate success. Urban interventions on the scale of the house and the city-block became a genuine cultural fad in Detroit during the latest recession, but they have been happening there with less publicity for decades without achieving the critical mass needed to attract large amounts of investment capital. Practices of aesthetic détournement, even if ideologically misconstrued, continue to have a minor economically productive effect there. A proposal I have been circulating called the Flint Ecological Urbanism Project attempts to take these tools and practices, developed in the context of the recosmopolitanizing culture of postwar New York and critical interventions in other politically contested cities around the world, such as Panama City, Panama, ex-Yugoslavia, and the border of South Korea, and introduce them on a large-scale to another neglected place. The proposal sketches out a two-plus-year series of phased programs in which innovative and effective practices in public art, research architecture, urban design, photography, design, landscape architecture and urban development—among them, possibly, instances of détournement—are applied to a historically significant industrial town an hour north of Detroit. The project’s successful implementation will depend on the integral participation of the mayor, the city government, real-estate developers, local and international artists and

designers, small community organizations, underserved communities, nonprofits, grant-makers, corporate sponsors, and investors, along with whatever interest it can stimulate in the press, among residents, and in outlying suburbs. The beginning of a renaissance of the downtown core has been buoyed by the University of Michigan-Flint and its efforts to build dormitories and draw young people into the city from the surrounding suburbs, along with the presence of Local 432, an all-ages teen music club. It’s possible that a project like this cannot succeed without the economically productive migration of the oppositional college-educated postsuburban cultural elite. Insidious is the state of neglect that places like this have endured for more than four decades. There’s something confounding about the continued refusal of participants in the revival of cities in the U.S. to value the economic processes engendered by their own activity and to celebrate the extent to which it has been essential to a new culture of the city. What harm would consciousness of their economic role do? Having become aware of the positive commercial affect of their presence on the city, would they move to Phoenix or Bakersfield, in a radical détournement of détournement, to return value to recently foreclosed single-family homes, and refuse to assimilate into the quasi-oppositional culture of the college-educated cosmopolitan elite? n


An architecture “des humeurs” Text / François Roche / Research by / R&Sie(n) / with François Jouve, Stephan Henrich


ne architecture des humeurs” is based on the potential which contemporary sciences offer to reread the human corporalities via their physiology and their chemical balance. This assumption of “Une architecture des humeurs” attempts to make palpable and prehensible, through technologies, the emotional transactions of the “body animal”, the body headless, the chemistry of the body, so that this one informs us of his adaptation, its sympathy, of its empathy, confronted to a situation, to an environment. Apparatuses for the architectural assemblages on transactional and structuring protocols:

each future owner. Until now the collection of information involved in the residential unit protocol has been exclusively based on visible and reductive data (surface area, number of rooms, access mode and party walls).

One aspect is comprised by computational, mathematical and machinist procedures designed to produce an urban structure following certain protocols of improbable and uncertain successive indeterminations, aggregations and layouts to rearticulate the link between the individual and the collective. The layout of the residential units and the structural trajectories are conceived and developed here as posterior to the morphologies that support social life and not as an a priori. These structures are calculated following simultaneously incremental and recursive structural optimization protocols whose principle result is the concurrently generated physicality and morphology of an architecture.

The groundwork for this architecture of “humeurs” is a rereading of the contradictions inherent in the expression of these desires, both those that traverse public space through the ability to express a choice by means of language, on the surface of things, and those that are underlying and perhaps more disturbing but just as valid. By means of the latter we can appraise the body as a desiring machine with its own chemistry – dopamine, hydrocortisone, melatonin, adrenaline and other molecules secreted by the body itself that are imperceptibly anterior to the consciousness these substances generate. Thus the making of architecture is inflected by another reality, another complexity, that of the acephalous body, the animal body.

The “algorithm” developed by François Jouve differs from “directly calculated” structural methods such as calculating a load-bearing structure of a building after it is designed. In contrast, the “algorithm” allows the architectural form to emerge from the trajectories of the transmission of forces simultaneously with the calculation that generates them. The “algorithm” is based on (among other things) two mathematical strategies, one taken from the derivative initiated by the research of Hadamard and the other from the protocol of the representation of complex shapes by Cartesian meshing through a level set. The mathematical process of empirical optimization makes it possible for the architectural design to react and adapt to previously established constraints instead of the opposite.

An architecture of “humeurs” means breaking into language’s mechanism of dissimulation in order to physically construct misunderstandings. A station for collecting these signals is offered. It makes it possible to perceive these chemical variations and capture the changes in emotional state so that they affect the geometries emitted and influence the construction protocol.

The other aspect is the collection of data regarding the chemical body, based on the neurobiological emissions of 17

Instead, this experiment will be the occasion to interrogate an obscure area that could be called “the emission of desires” by the capture of these physiological signals based on neurobiological secretions, and to implement a chemistry of the humors of future purchasers, taken as inputs generating a diversity of habitable morphologies and the relationships between them.

The research is organized on several levels: From the physiology of humors to misunderstandings The humors collection is organized on the basis of interviews that make visible the conflict and even schizophrenia of desires, between those secreted (biochemical and neurobiological) and those expressed through the interface of language (free will). Mathematical tools taken from set

theory (belonging, inclusion, intersection, difference, etc.) are used so that these “misunderstandings” produce a morphological potential (attraction, exclusion, touching, repulsion, indifference, etc.) as a negotiation of “distances” between the human beings who are to constitute these collective aggregates.

purchasers to have access to a morphological combinatorics with multiple permutations produced jointly by the expression of their avowed desires and their indiscrete biochemical secretions. The volume of an entity-unit is 12 x 12 x 12 meters. This is the basis on which our calculations and hypotheses have been made.

Misunderstandings -

From physio-morphological computation to the multitude -

This means taking conflicts into account as an operational mode, allowing architecture to become their transactional vector.

A multitude of aggregations of physio-morphological layouts is organized according to parameters of chronological positioning and variable distances between the entities (collective, tribal, human clusters or conversely singleton units). This includes public layouts and micro-places.

“I’d love to but at the same time / and maybe / not / and the contrary.”

Mathematical operators for structural optimization These misunderstandings are directly influenced by the pathologies of collective living: Claustro (phobia-philia) Agora (phobia-philia) Xeno (phobia-philia) Acro (phobia-philia) Nocto (phobia-philia) Socio (phobia-philia) Neo (phobia-philia) From the misunderstanding morphological computation -





As indicated above, these are mathematical processes whose purpose is to achieve an incremental and recursive optimization (ex-local, local and hyper-local) that simultaneously calculates and designs support structures for the physio-morphologies. Forms are fabricated only by successive iterations that link, by physically and structurally coagulating, the interstices between morphologies so that they support each other. The calculations satisfy precise inputs (constraints and characteristics of the materials used, initial conditions, dead load and transfer of forces, intensity and vectorization of these forces, etc.). The “algorithm(s)” -

These relational modes are simultaneously elaborated within the residential cell and on its periphery in relation to the neighbors. The multiplicity of possible physio-morphological layouts based on mathematical formulations offers a variety of habitable patterns in terms of the transfer of the self to the Other and to others. This is an informational area, a Temporary Autonomous Zone (T.A.Z.) allowing future

Basically this is the name of a physio-morophological residence unit. But more precisely it’s a name that characterizes a structural aesthetics thought as a geometry resulting posterior to the morphological fabrication of residential areas. The point is 18


to emancipate architecture from the conceptual logic that takes structuration as the starting point, and instead allow the emergence of a physical matrix that can react to the multiplicity of morphologies and the ambiguity of the desires of “future purchasers.” Thus this open-source mechanism can replace the determinist and predictable topology of collective habitats. From the “Algorithm(s)” to bio-knit physicality Development of a construction protocol that can deal with complex, non-standard geometries through a process of secretion, extrusion, and agglutination. This frees the construction procedure from the usual frameworks that are incompatible with a geometry constituted by a series of anomalies and singularities. Affective substances Toolings / Robotic process I remember… The development of a secretion and weaving machine that can generate a vertical structure by means of extrusion and sintering (full-size 3D printing) using a hybrid raw material (a bio-plastic-cement) that chemically agglomerates to physically constitute the computational trajectories. This structural calligraphy works like a machinist stereotomy comprised of successive geometrics according to a strategy based on a repetitive protocol. This machine is both additive and formative. It is called Viab02. Tooling / Bio-cement weaving (material expertise) Development of a viscous and adherent secretable material so as to produce this morphologically complex structure (a material and procedures similar to the contour-crafting developed with the Behrohk Khoshnevis Lab at USC for the “I’ve heard about” project). This is a bio-cement component, a mix of cement and bio-resin developed by the agricultural polymers industry that makes it possible to control the parameters of viscosity, liquidity, and polymerization and thus produce chemical and physical agglutination at the time of secretion. The mechanical expertise of this material is made visible (constraints of rupture induced by traction, compression, and shearing, etc.). This material emits low C02. Animist, vitalist, and machinist, the architecture of “humeurs” rearticulates the need to confront the unknown in a contradictory manner by means of computational and mathematical assessments. The architecture of “humeurs” is also a tool that will give rise to “Multitudes” and their palpitation and heterogeneity, the premises of a relational organizational protocol.

An assemblage…like a multiplicity that contains many heterogeneous ends and establishes links, relationships of different kinds. The only thing holding the assemblage together is co-functioning, or in other words symbiosis, “sympathy” in the original sense. What matters are not filiations but alliances and alloys, not inheritance and descent but contagion and epidemics…An assemblage comprises two segments, one of content and the other of expression. On the one hand it is a mechanical assemblage of bodies, of actions and passions, an intermingling of bodies reacting to one another, on the other hand it is a collective assemblage of enunciation, of acts and statements, of incorporeal transformations attributed to bodies. Then on a vertical axis, the assemblage has both territorial sides, or reterritorialized sides, which stabilize it, and cutting edges of deterritorialization, which carry it away.1 I remember… That the idea of a necessary mediation, a kind of social contract, was essentially based on a juridical conception of the world, as elaborated by Hobbes, Rousseau, and Hegel. For Spinoza, on the contrary, forces were inseparable from a spontaneity and a productivity that made their development possible without mediation, their composition. They were elements of socialization in and of themselves. Spinoza thought directly in terms of “the multitude” and not individuals, in a conception… of physical and dynamic composition in opposition to the juridical contract… Bodies were conceptualized as forces. As such, they were defined not only by their random encounters and collisions (state of crisis); they were defined by relationships between an 1 Gilles Deleuze, Claire Parnet, Dialogue, (Paris, Flammarion 1999) & Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Mille Plateaux, (Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1980).


and cooperation, had built Stateless… the balance could be disturbed in a thousand ways…. All that elaborate machinery had to be monitored, had to be understood. …It had one undeniable advantage over all the contrived mythology of nationhood. It was true.3 The island of Utopia, which in its middle part, where it was the broadest, extended for some two hundred miles, and then progressively shrank.4 I remember… Paul Maymont and his Ville verticale, 1959 Chaneac and his Cellules polyvalentes, 1960 Kurokawa and his Helix City, 1961 Arata Isosaki and his City in the Air, the metabolic city, 1962 Constant and New Babylon, 1963 Yona Friedman and his Spatial City, 1960, and later his Cosmic City, 1964 Guy Rottier and his Ville solaire, 1971 David George Emmerich and his Dôme stéréométrique, 1977 Cappadocio and its urban troglodyte dwellings Bangkok and its arborescent and aleatory development after the 1993 crisis Bernard Rudofsky and his Architecture without Architects, at the MoMA, 1965 Edgar Allen Poe and “The Domain of Arnheim,” 1847 Robert Silverberg and his Urban Monads, 1971 Stefan Wul in Noô1, 1977 Serge Brussolo and his Vue en coupe d’une ville malade, 1980 Dan Simmons and his Trans-door in Hyperion, 1990 I remember…

infinite number of parts making up each body, which already characterized that body as “a multitude.”2 I remember… What the people of Stateless had in common: not merely the island itself, but the first-hand knowledge that they stood on rock which the founders had crystallized out of the ocean – and which was, forever, dissolving again, only enduring through a process of constant repair. Beneficent nature had nothing to do with it; conscious human effort, 2 Gilles Deleuze, introduction à l’Anomalie Sauvage, Toni Negri (PUF, 1983).


That the Paris Commune represented the only realization of revolutionary urbanism, attacking, on the ground, the petrified signs of the dominant organization of life, recognizing social space in political terms, never believing that a monument can be innocent… The whole space was occupied by the enemy… The dawn of an authentic urban planning, created in the areas left empty by that occupation. That’s where what was called construction then and which we call by the same name today began.5 That the tools of the development of the contemporary city were essentially given over to determinist procedures, planned scenarios with predictable mechanisms. The city’s growth, entropy and densification were managed and generated by plans rigidly set in advance, geometrical and 3 Greg Egan, L’Énigme de l’Univers, (Robert Laffont, Paris, 1999). 4 Thomas More, L’Utopie, livre second, 1516. 5 Debord, Kotanyi, Vaneighen, La commune était une fête, by the Situationist International, librairie Arthème Fayard, 1962 leaflet.

holy. That these morphological transformations arose solely on the basis of closed scenarios that could not deviate from the pre-programmed representations on which they were based. I remember that the city’s cartography was thus linked to a mode of production stated in the “future anterior” tense. The future has been anticipated and locked up tight. That even at that time it was doubtful that these “under control” operating modes conditioning the production of urban structures were capable of taking into account the complexities of an emerging mass media society where the multitude of citizens was gradually taking the place of the centralized republican authorities. That the democracy deficit in the making of the city and the abuse of tools – dating from a period where the reason of a few presided over the destiny of the many – made it impossible to take on board mutations produced by the fragmentation of informational and productive mechanisms. That liberal space was constructed in terms of social control, and that the contemporary 20th-century city retained all the stigmata of that.6 That the reason for the crisis of European civilization and its imperial practices consists in the fact that European virtue – or really its aristocratic morality organized in the institutions of modern sovereignty – cannot manage to keep pace with the vital powers of mass democracy.7

That at the beginning of the past century, everything was going well, and then once again the walls became porous, the chairs flexible, the floor rubbery, and it was necessary to go forward. It was a vicious circle. The more the house progressed, the more one had to advance at one’s own pace, to find a new apartment.... to accept the speculations of the electronic brains about time, light, morals, food... From now on they were condemned to progress.11

That at the time, the great industrial and financial powers produced not only commodities, but also subjectivities – such as ecological consciousness, sustainable development and even fear, to sell, in fine, these very commodities.8

That the verticality was assured by the polarity from the basement to the attic. ...that one always went down the stairs to the basement, that one went up and down the stairs to the bedroom... but that one could only go up the steeper stairs to the attic... When I return to my dreams of these attics, I never go down again...12

I remember…

I remember…

That we could no longer live in a white rectangle, on a blank sheet of paper, but in regions, in passing, open and closed... That there were places that were completely different, counter-spaces, heterotopias, that only children know and master: the attic, the tepee, the parents’ big bed... places of drift, the unknown, fear and myth.9

That the search for a unit of a movement already under way had become a prerequisite.13

That modern lodging was a place to which undesirable guests practically never had access. That the “toxic people,” as they were called then, were supposed to keep out, and with them, if possible, bad news as well. That this lodging was nothing but an ignorance machine or an integral instrument of defence, where the basic right of non-respect toward the exterior world found its architectural pillar.10 6 Raphaël Hythlodaeus, 1516-2005. 7 Toni Negri, Empire (Havard University, 2000). 8 Ibid. 9 Michel Foucault, Utopie et hétérotopie, radio lectures, 1966. 10 Peter Sloterdijk, Spharëren (Suhrkamp, 1987).

That nostalgia had become a weapon.14 That only an ethico-political articulation – which was called ecosophy – was plausible. It was invented step by step between three ecological domains, the environment, social relationships, and human subjectivity.15 That the question of time and of determinism was no longer limited to the sciences alone, at the heart of Western thought since the beginning... subsequently no one confused science 11 Serge Brussolo, Vue en coupe d’une ville malade (Denoël, 1980). 12 Gaston Bachelard, La Maison, de la cave au grenier, Poétique de l’espace (PUF, 1957). 13 Gilles Deleuze, Leibniz, �me et damnation, le baroque, la mort en mouvement, lectures 1986-1987. 14 Douglas Coupland, Generation X (Saint Martin’s Press, 1991). 15 Felix Guattari, Les Trois écologies (Galilée, 1989).


a paradoxical and spontaneous increasing disorder, without ever reaching a state of equilibrium.21 That even at that time an artwork was not considered an artwork anymore if it was situated outside all relationships, outside of any context. That we presuppose precisely that the artwork had to situate itself within these relationships, but even before situating it in these terms, as a precondition we had to define these same relationships!22 That what we can no longer speak about, we have learned to n pass over in silence.23

with certitude any longer, or probability with ignorance...16 What had to be absorbed was, specifically, the production of locality, or in other words social machines that had to create and recreate identities and differences understood as local... as in a regime of heterogenization.17 From Rimbaud’s “Music of the Swarm.”18 That in the real world, which no longer exists, it was more important that a proposition be interesting than real.19 That the claim for a world of worlds immediately posed – on the plane of will as well as the plane of knowledge – the problem of the reality of the imagination and of freedom. A constitutive reality, no longer the gift of a divinity or the residue of its process of emanation.... That posed the problem of reality no longer as a totality but as a dynamic of the partial, not as absolute perfection but as relative privation, not as utopia but as a project.20 I remember… That in the end the whole system evolved over time toward 16 Ilya Prigogine, La Fin des certitudes (Odile Jacob, 1996). 17 Ibid note (4). 18 Kristin Ross, Rimbaud and the Paris Commune (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1998). 19 Ibid note (8). 20 Antonio Negri, L’Anomalie sauvage (PUF, 1982).


CREDITS An architecture “des humeurs” has been initiated and supported by “Le Laboratoire” and its director David Edwards in Paris, and released as an exhibition and research project on January 22, 2010. This research was conceptualized, scenarized, and designed out by R&Sie(n) with François Jouve, the mathematician in charge of working out dynamic structural strategies; with the architect and robotics designer Stephan Henrich, with Winston Hampel, Natanael Elfassy on the computational development, including some scripts of Marc Fornes; and Gaetan Robillard and Fréderic Mauclere on the physiological data collection station, following a nano-technologies scenario by R&Sie(n) - Berdaguer & Pejus.

21 Selon le deuxième principe de la thermodynamique, ou principe entropique. 22 Martin Heidegger, Chemins qui ne mènent nulle part (Holzwege, Vittorio Klostermann, 1949). 23 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractacus Logico-philosophicus, Point 7 (Routedge & Kegan Paul, 1922).


Cities Of Air & Clouds & Water, Grains & Particles & Pixels, Tubes & Tubers Acconci Studio

2-WAY SKIN-SUIT 2010 V.A., Francis Bitonti, Bradley Rothenberg, Pablo Kohan


t’s as if you’re breathing, & the breathing becomes visible; it’s turned into a house, & you’re wearing it. This clothing could have been a cloud, could have been atmosphere, but instead it’s broken down into pixels & particles; your second skin is a cluster of tubes, pipes, valves, straws, from head to fingers & toes: they draw nourishment in & waste out. These conduits poke & thrust (you spread out like a porcupine) when they’re at work: but, when they’re not, they lay down softly one on top of the other, like long luxurious hair…



WAVES OVER L.A., El Monte Station, Los Angeles 2010 V.A., Francis Bitonti, Adam Jakubowski, Pablo Kahan, Bradley Rothenberg

Shafts, stalks, reeds, stems; tubes, pipes, poles… Like patches of bamboo, clusters of bamboo, separated fields of bamboo...Except that they’re not bamboo: they’re steel tubes, mirrored steel tubes, they might have a tinge of color – blue, purple, blue dissolving into purple & purple dissolving into blue, they range from one-story high to four or five stories high…


They’re on springs, these tubes… Walk toward the station now: you’re walking through a cluster of tubes, a triangle of tubes that direct you toward the entrance – you walk between one tube & another, & another, you’re walking in & out of tubes…You brush past a tube as you walk between them: as a stalk moves, sways, high above you, it brushes against another stalk, which brushes against another, & another, & another…Here & there, a tube functions as a bicycle rack; here & there. A tube becomes the back of a seat, a long back, that rises high above you, behind you, the bottom of the tube is a seat, the seat is round, the seat rotates, you can face in any direction, you can sit opposite another person in another seat… You can’t help but look up as you walk toward the station: rising up from the roof is a bundle of tubes, closer together 25

than the others, entwined together, like a bird’s nest, braided together: the cut edges of the tubes, edges of two different colors, make a sign – the bus-system’s M… made from hundreds of tiny circles pushed together, shimmering, like pixels, like jewels… This sign, this bundle of tubes, slopes off the roof, stretches off the roof: you walk under this entanglement & walk through the entrance… You go down the escalator, or walk down the stairway. (We wish you could walk between tubes here, brush against tubes – we wish you could makes tubes move here…But we know you need more room than that to walk down a stairway. So let’s get it out of out minds…But maybe we can keep it in the backs of our minds: maybe we can find, as if by magic, a way to have you brush past tubes & move tubes without being confined by tubes… Downstairs the courtyards are filled with tubes: the tubes reach up, out of the courtyards. The tubes here are all the backs of seats: sit down & sway toward the person next to you, as he or she veers off to one side of you…Now rotate & bring someone else into the conversation…In the meantime the stalks above you, the tubes, are conversing on their own…It’s you who have activated them, & now the movement, the wave, has a life of its own…


TOGETHER IN-BETWEEN, Performing Art Center Plaza, Brooklyn College 2010 V.A., Francis Bitonti, Bradley Rothenberg, Pablo Kohan

Like a pocket of space between 2 buildings...fit into the pocket...fill the pocket...jiggle around what’s inside the pocket...(you slip inside as if into a sleeve...) Like a cloud overhead...like a pack of clouds, like a bundle of clouds...the clouds are thinned out, stretched out...a line of clouds, a stream of clouds, crosses another line of clouds, a stream of clouds in the opposite direction...each line of clouds rises & falls like a roller-coaster in the sky...

Someone else is doing as you do, on the other side of this little plaza...someone else is doing as you do, opposite you, facing you... When you get up, your seat lifts up - slowly, slowly - it folds up again - slowly, slowly - above you...it’s lost in the clouds... it’s part of the lanes of shimmers & glimmers up & down in the sky... Come out in the night...spot-lights or floods, from above, flicker down each funnel that ends in a seat...one glitter begets another, from funnel to funnel, from seat to seat...

The clouds are screens, mesh...see-through...see the screens catch the sun...glitter...sparkle...see the light skip over the screens, ride the screens like a wave... It’s as if each screen is tethered...a loop of rope connects the screen to the ground...but it’s not tethered: it’s as if it’s let loose, loosened up... As you pull on the rope, as you bring the rope down & around its pulley on the ground, the screen folds, unfolds. Zig-zags down...light tumbles down, zig-zags down, the zigzag...the end of the zig-zagging strip is a seat, like a bucket... the seat is a pocket, like the pocket of space you happen to be in now, between the 2 buildings...you sit in the pocket, fold yourself inside the pocket, roll up in the pocket, lie in the pocket... 26

they’ve made a field of verticals, dense verticals sometimes as close as 30cm apart. There’s a clearing through the density: a walkway that takes you to, here & there, hollows – havens – cut through the verticals: you sit inside these hollows – they’re not so much chairs you sit in, they’re more like clothing you wrap yourself into, wrap yourself inside of. Look up: you’re not finished yet… The vertical tubes on the roof are 2 stories high – more than that, 8 meters high. Mixed in with the transparent tubes are more structural tubes, steel tubes: this structure holds up a ramp – another ramp! Another curving ramp, that follows the edge of the roof, the spiral of your journey through this museum might never end…

MUSEUM OF NEEDLES & PINS, Stairway/Ramp/Roof, Lakeside Museum, Ichihara 2010 V.A., Francis Bitonti, Bradley Rothenberg, Pablo Kohan, Michael Holt, Loke Chan

Come into the museum: walk between nibs, prongs, projections, spikes, spines, plastic hairs, plastic fibers, plastic tubes… In the stairwells, around the ramps, these needles protrude horizontally: they poke out of one wall, pushing you closer to the other wall, & then they pass over your head (you duck a little) before they move down that opposite wall, forcing you now to move over again, this time closer to the first wall… (You’re walking in a corridor of light: the transparent PVC tubes refract & reflect the light inside their cylindrical walls…)


Not so fast, not so fast, you don’t have to move – first this way, then that way, left, right, left, right – you don’t have to move on if you don’t want to: stop for a while, settle in… Here & there, hollows are cut out of the density of those spokes & spikes that border your way; push them aside & sit down inside. (It’s almost as if you’re sitting in water; as sunlight strikes the horizontal transparent tubes, it could be bouncing on ripples & waves…) Sooner or later you get up out of the transparent – shimmering, simmering – bramble & nettle, & continue up the corridor: it’s the closeness, the tightness, of the corridor that, probably, makes you want to keep squeezing your way through… So you’re entering the roof now: the horizontal tubes of the corridors are rotating, they’re becoming vertical. By now 27

As you walk up this last ramp, this highest ramp, you push & squeeze & squirm your way between poles, posts, transparent spines. All along the edge of the museum roof, you push the posts apart & have one view after another, over the field, across the lake…Yes, architecture is tangible: it’s making your way through a tangle of weeds. But architecture is visual, too, especially when it’s a thicket: architecture is looking across the lake & into the trees, over the trees. Architecture is not only here but there: architecture is also desire – not for it but for what it can lead you to…


UNDERPLAZA, Plaza Italia, Santiago 2010 V.A., Francis Bitonti, Bradley Rothenberg, Pablo Kohan

The islands of Plaza Italia are hollowed out: a hollow might be 3 stories deep, 1 story deep, 2 stories deep – a hollow might be wide & deep, or wide but shallow, narrow & shallow or narrow but deep. The hollows are filled to the brim, packed with millions of brambles…But they’re not brambles, not sticks, not wood: they’re steel, tubes & pipes of shiny, glittering steel, brambles of tubes, tangles of tubes, tubes & tubers, packed yet ordered, small to large & large to tiny, miniscule, grains & fibers, particles & pixels, the air is thick here… The statues, the monuments, memorials, are upside-down here, underground: all that is visible from above, from outside, is the underside of each base of the statue… Nothing extends above-ground but the sloping beginnings of tunnels, shaped by brambles & grains & tubes, that burrow underground: you cross the street & go down through an entrance into a tunnel that spirals underground. (You don’t have to enter from above-ground, you don‘t have to dodge traffic to enter one of these underground islands: you might have already entered from below, from the subway-station below – to & from the subway station is a circulation-route of intersecting tunnels underground. But, sooner or later, one way or another, you burrow down or up these underground upside-down ant-hills for humans, though by this time you might be robo-humans, or huma-robots…)

like a hole, a doorway, but something you can slip off into, as if you’re slipping into a sleeve…You’ve slipped into something you might not even have noticed from the tunnel: it’s like the insides of a sphere, but misshapen & squashed so that it huddles around the people inside…It’s a place for 3 or 4 people, or maybe 4 or 5 (maybe a few more can squeeze in but no more than 10 or 12)…You sit on the tangles that form the edge of the hole, you’re grouped together…You stay here only as long as you’re active together, one of you leaves while another meanders in…When you’re ready, whatever it is that makes you ready, you take a deep breath, or maybe you shrug your shoulders, & come back up, onto & into the city…

Our project learns from Plaza Italia as it is now: a plaza divided into a multitude of islands… A bustling public space is potentially a politically active space, but it becomes that only when it’s subjected to a shared idea or a single leader; to become a political arena, the plaza (an old model of an open public space) gives up the possibilities of being a democratic space & becomes authoritarian…The plaza remains democratic only when it breaks up into clusters… So let’s divide Plaza Italia the way Plaza Italia is already divided: sub-divide it further, like fractals…The cluster houses 3, 5, 9, 12, no more than that: the cluster is small enough that each person within has the chance to speak for him/her-self without having to ask for that chance, without needing to be granted a privilege…

As you walk up or down a tunnel, inside any of the islands, here & there there’s an opening to the side: not an opening 28



V.A., Brad Rothenberg, Francis Bitonti, Loke Chan, Pablo Kohan, Michael Hasey, Gabriel Loinger-Beck

Like cylinders – but not cylinders, not solid surfaces, not walls – ghost-cylinders, wisps of cylinders, walls of water… . Not ‘entering’ but ‘slipping in,’ ‘slipping into,’ ‘slipping by,’ ‘slipping through’… . You slip in in order to go through in order to slip through in order to slip out in order to slip in again… . A maze of capsules…Amaze…You slip into one capsule in order to slip into another in order to slip into another… . Mirrored roofs, above & below: from inside, from below, water falls both down & up – from outside, from above, there’s nothing there but sky & surroundings… ‘Discs... roofs: 3’ high (for children) – 5’ (you have to bend a little) – 7’ – 9’ – 11’ – 13’ (they can use more height inbetween, there should be more range of heights – but maybe that’s only because it’s too easy to see the model only from above…) There shouldn’t be columns holding the roofs: the roofs should float (we don’t know how to do that yet – we need to find another way to support the roofs – we tried hanging from outside, from pylons, but all the emphasis moved outside)… The water falls into strips of grating below: the strips of grating rise & spin, swirl, into seats, or seats & tables (for 29

1 – 2 – 3 – 5)…You slip from one cluster of people into another…The clusters change person… . Our project should change shape when it meets the alreadyexistent benches: it should adapt, for the time being, to those benches – it should include one bench & exclude the other… Our roofs should change shape at the edge of the site, so that our columns could support (& maybe hide) a railing… . Lights & people, people & lights: when no one’s there, light fades in & out, dissolves, from one capsule to another… When each capsule is peopled, that capsule is lit (the motion, the activity, of people inside should make some other change of light…) . Shade-rollers of mesh: they’re installed during winter (or they’re always there, & are pulled down only in winter) – they’re sprayed on to become sheets, walls, of ice… . Our consultants: Craft (Nathanial Stanton), structural engineers – Trans-Solar (Thomas Auer), climate engineers – Paul Bartlett, robotics engineer. n

Technologized Carla Leitão

“Aesthetics are always only dependent variables of technological feasibility”. - Friedrich Kittler, Optical Media “Instead we see only symptoms, and employ only results crystallized into machines.” - Simone Weil, journal


echnology is associated with the ‘formal’ – that which is a namable apparatus and performs things reliably. Technology tends to be bound to a disciplinary body, which in turn gives it place, ethical reference and measurement. In addition, technology is usually associated with encapsulated procedures that promise repeatability and accuracy both within the process, as well as within the context of an application. The practice and discipline of architecture has its own history of relating to technology as a body. The design process, one of architecture’s most fundamental procedures, uses so-called technologies to roughly sketch its body as a cultural practice. There is no point currently in extensively describing the ways in which the history and theory of architecture have been intertwined with representation and construction or software technology innovation, even though it is an history that encompasses the entire timeline of civilization as we tell it. What is important, however, is the general tendency to situate technology as a body that exists elsewhere, outside of the process of discovery of the discipline itself - a formalized capsule of repeatability that assures partial results to be integrated in an overall body of architecture or urbanism. This condition has never been stronger or more apparent than is now evidenced by the emergence of new disciplines based around the crossing of technological innovations.1 Insidiousness/Formal/Informal in Architecture and Urbanism Form as an instance of actualization of the virtual [as formalized by Deleuze2] is but a temporary frame of an ongoing process. To be mesmerized by it implies an extraction from time, to grasp and hold it constitutes a delay of the emergence to which it belongs. We have used form with such voluntary delays, fascinated by what bursts through with the collection of pieces from mere flow. Choosing to cherish frames as rough models that persist through exhaustion

as per Gizmo-Banham

of their repetition, we repeat them until real meaning (connection) gives way to nostalgia – they are finally bound to the place in time from which we took them away. In Architecture and Urbanism, we use the term form/ formal as an attribute of all that has been pre-formed by some process: a formalization of elsewhen. In Architecture, this is the creation of space through its actualization with material (which gives it its temporality). In Urbanism, things are equally complicated but twice as expectant; the law which acts as the tool for planning is a frame pointing to a future connection - supposedly more open than Architecture form-wise, but in reality more enclosing and deterministic for its temporal antecedence and paradigmatic tools. The formal does imply a slow down, the laying down or preservation of principles that point toward some kind of 30

expected equilibrium through stasis. Urbanism could almost be deemed informal – at its best, it waits and changes. The informal is associated with not playing by the formal rules, while being very aware of them - that which dispenses recognition by material delay, to be fast in conquering the processes in time that the formal enables in space. The informal is that which does not have one identifiable actualization, but instead works with different formalizations - it borrows forms, accompanies time, gains it, fragments it, and gives it resolution. Informal Urbanism has been a mesmerizing theme for the discipline in the last 10 years, echoing trends from the 70’s and 80’s which looked again at vernacular forms for cultural and environmental integration with the ungraspable vector of time.3 The informal grows parallel with the law (a date, an event, a space) but does not participate in its implementation, instead driving other instantiations of its formality; this, in turn, creates a branching of its expectations. The informal does not acknowledge larger expectations of the rule/law and it does not see macro-scales of the formal, instead producing diagrams of the formal by cross-sectioning it, deriving it, co-evolving it. Ultimately, the informal is only recognized as such when it finds its own tail and self-consumes into a formal apparatus - a model to be repeated for its speed, a new body of delay.4a The informal appreciated by most recent inquiries – and publications - refers back to cultures of the hyper-local (space, time), revealing their territorializing capacity. Made apparent by mapping enquiries that are increasingly open to openness, that which works by hiding in the margin is dissected for its informational capacity – the way in which it maps other formal and informal systems.4b Architecture and Urban Design as thought processes are caught in the disciplinary problems of, on one hand, designing for “infrastructure,” and on the other designing for “contingency”. The supposed visibility and invisibility of formal and informal systems allows for different performative degrees vis-à-vis the agencies they seek to foster and also the symptoms they involuntarily create, both as visible markers of their actions.5 Technology and Media Technology is too often associated with “gadgets” – market-proof products, encapsulations of relationships that have been crystallized in near-absolute form, but no longer open to new connections. The actual meaning of technology is closer to a breakthrough and revelation of the unknown - a production of connections between processes and things we thought we already knew. Martin Heidegger in “The Question Concerning Technology” (1954) equaled this to a “truth” extraction, a revealing, an “enframing;” a new body constituted through the re-linking of older bodies in new ways, tightening the 31

rules of what is known. For Heidegger, technology existed not in its repeated use, but in its moment of its discovery. Media Theory has linked itself often to this way of conceptualizing technology. Born from the turbulent and fast bed of warfare, media theory has consistently been concerned with the studying of channels and tools that store and deliver information and/or data. Marshall McLuhan6 has defined media as the intersecting points or interfaces between technologies, on the one hand, and bodies on the other. Frederich Kittler’s7 concept of mediality sees media embedded with a technological logic able to change links between body and medium, which is, essentially, the procedure for data processing. He asserts that this is the mode by which “technical media” are models of the socalled humans, because they are designed to override the senses. One can see a very close link between the concept of media and that of technology - specifically, technology as medium. Marshall McLuhan was convinced of the way in which a medium changes society through the content it delivers as well as through the protocols it implies or generates – the mode in which it inflects the structure of space around the delivery of content. McLuhan was greatly influenced by the mature body of measurements provided by social sciences, especially through the eyes of political economy and Harold Innis who saw media as a shaper vis-à-vis cultures and civilizations. Jean Baudrillard8 saw media as effectors of ideology, agents capable of destroying the aura of the event. McLuhan’s media, however, acts as each other’s content - a medium’s content would always be another medium. Friedrich Kittler, following on this concordance and on Heidegger’s views on technology, has excluded any extensive realities by placing hardware innovation - reframing of links between matter and energy and how these reformat information exchange – at the core of technological innovation. Kittler sees the connection between technology and physiology not as a dialectic question but as a direct affair. He rejects the division between sciences and humanities. Media theory focuses on problems of content, storage and channel. Its co-opted development with mathematics created a new language with which to deal with information processing - its characterization and operations. Its legacy and continued inquiries pertain to the problematic of connections between entities (bodies) and mediums (connections themselves). In the last 60 years, due in part to a more inextricable linking of ‘information theory’9 and its capacity to unpack matter and energy, media has become the ultimate field of exploration through which technological shifts can be made.

Architecture as Media If Architecture was a technology (itself), would it actually work similarly to media – be a medium? No metaphor involved here – technology, media and architecture are not well-defined terms for this game of translating properties. With media acting as a logic that reframes the linkages between body and medium, would this imply a repositioning, or possibly a shift, in the discipline to see itself as the evolving knowledge and attitude of linking new bodies and mediums to each other, regardless of scale (as scale demands paradigmatic tools)? Thinking of Architecture as medium, or media, is not a new approach and several thinkers have invested heavily in it - mainly in the domain of where aesthetics and symbolic meaning intersect. There is a legacy of how architecture and urban design have had their own romance across history with the topic itself of technology integration and adoption of scenario design from a theory perspective. The last 40 years of critical thinking within architecture has seen several takes on the relationship between technology and the body of the discipline. In the 70’s, Reyner Banham’s interest in pairing Architectural thinking with well-informed processes (that included the latest and foreseen technological developments) created a new approach to tools and scenarios of what formalization could become. In his text “The Great Gizmo”10, he noted the intrinsic relationship between portable technologies – gadgets/gizmos culture, those “... small self-contained unit of high performance...” - and a cultural landscape in the US that places and/or perceives less power on the transformative capacities of architecture. Later, in the early 90’s, some of the first experiments and expectations created by Greg Lynn claimed yet another possible body of formal exploration derived by an insistence on representational models and their relationships with several technological apparatus of knowledge (science/ math based models of form) and technological apparatus of fabrication. Both of these schools created a distinguished legacy for the problem of what formalization can entail in the context of a discipline that is increasingly open to new tools; both their method and role can easily be seen as a mediator between the spaces of different fields. A 2005 contribution by renowned sci-fi author Bruce Sterling, pushed forth the foreseen condition of post-gizmo objects and their integrated history, as extremely mediatic apparatus – as protocols caught in between geocultural evolutions and their landscapes. In his book ‘Shaping Things’11, Sterling talks of a very near future where objects will talk to each other through their increasing ‘alertness’ to each other’s programs or features, implemented by a highly sensorial and communicative technological make-up such as RFIDs, GPS tracking and other modeling and sensing devices and tools. Sterling coins a new term for these objects

“Spimes”, embeds them with a unique place and features such as their programmability and user-based development and customization, and situates them chronologically right after our current gadget era – ‘gizmos’ – and right before the a very far off future of ‘Biots’ (also coined by Sterling, standing for the future merging of Wranglers and Spimes – ‘an entity which is both an object and a person’). In Sterling’s Spime visions, objects are self-aware, self-disassembling and reassembling to accompany market evolution time-cycles and production streams, co-opting and co-evolving recycling or reusability criteria. Furthermore, Sterling imagines a future of objects that do not even need to make it into the object form, but rather live reality through their influence as a digital model to quickly become transition phases of other prototypes that indeed become physical – a reflection on the blur between the real and the actual in the world of objects and ideas, and of the speed involved in a diversifying set of product based industrial models. Architecture and urbanism as synthesis12 based cultural practices have operated through mediums of delay, employing paradigms13 which can reassure causality within the relationships they enable. The argument here, though, is that both these legacies and their ongoing developments still consider technology as an outside body that their processes can co-opt; they should, rather, see themselves as builders of a technology from within their status as a cultural practice. What is suitable in the pursuit of translating properties is to think how architecture and urbanism play a double entendre game through which they have built their bodies out of each other’s tools. Urbanism relies on architecture to build its temporality and bind it to culture, while architecture builds itself around that which urbanism does not prescribe. Architecture is already insidious to urbanism and urbanism is already insidious to architecture. Thinking of Architecture and Urbanism as medium/ media in the context of the legacies that communication theory and complex systems theory have produced creates a shift in the way tectonic is understood as a technology (a logic of inquiry and operation combined, with open-ended bodies and mediums to connect). Information, and its subsets matter and energy, adds to architecture’s tectonic through the creation of both broader fields of inquiry as well as more intrinsically linked binds between architecture, urbanism, landscapes and environments. This creates disputes over the dimension of territory14 and perhaps architecture could here find formidable delays and exciting new explorative speeds to constitute its rarified body as a cultural practice. “Throw technology at it” could have a new meaning, effectively, as in “throwing architecture in”. n


Melanie Doherty recently told me that footnotes could be considered “insidious”. For the way in which they insert themselves into a text, using its rules to push it and themselves elsewhere.

5 Keller Easterling in “Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways and

Let the footnotes roll. ---------------------

In “Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Political Masquerades”,

1 Mainly in the sciences, new fields have been created as a consequence of cross-sections of technoscapes: Bioethics, Biomedical Engineering, Medical Informatics, Work Medicine, Pharmacogenomics, Ethnography, Biophysics, Cognitive science, etc. This is a consequence of finding new, tighter relationships between bodies of knowledge, but mainly closer ties established through technological frameworks for operative analysis - and of product development, certainly. 2 “A thousand plateaus”, Continuum, 1980 (English Translation), by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and “Deleuze and the Genesis of Form”, in Ian Buchanan (ed), A Deleuzian Century?: South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol 96, No 3, Summer 1997, Durham: Duke University Press, 1997 (also available online), by Manuel Delanda. 3 The essay “Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance” in 1983 by Kenneth Frampton strongly argued for a new focus on the local for the constitution of a cultural tectonics, as a mode of

Houses in America”, MIT Press, 2001 discourses on protocol space and its inference of organizational character, as well as the mode by which these can be subverted; therefore, it can be argued, creating an almost “informal” system to the expected protocol. MIT Press, 2007, Easterling evokes the insidiousness of supposedly market driven neutral global projects and their real segregated condition linkage to political platforms. Most recently K. Easterling refers to the word ‘disposition’ a propos her most current research project “ExtraStateCraft: Hidden Organizations, Spatial Contagions and Activism” which seems to further the inquiry on combinatory virtual and real apparatus of tools, protocols, organization, program and architecture and their various agencies within the context of global infrastructure. 6 Marshall McLuhan, “Understanding Media”. 7 Friedrich Kittler, “Optical Media”, “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter” 8 Jean Baudrillard, “Requiem for the Media” in “Toward a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign.” 9 Claude Shannon, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”, University

resistance against global aesthetic pulls.

of Illinois Press, 1949.

4a Information, Communication and Systems theory – born in the warfare

10 “The Great Gizmo”, originally published in September 1965 in Industrial

of WWII – bring new definitions for entities and their content and format. The communicability across bodies and contexts co-opts mathematics language to define accuracies of delivery of one body of information across another. Complex systems theory further connects how information is linked to matter and energy, recreating the criteria by which technological advancement can be measured: if bodies are made of processes, then body

Design. In “Design by Choice”, Reyner Banham, Penny Sparke. Rizzoli, 1981. 11 Bruce Sterling, “Shaping Things”, 2005. MIT Press. 12 Michel Serres in “Conversations on Science, Culture and Time: Michel Serres with Bruno Latour (Studies in Literature and Science”, University of Michigan Press, 1995, has talked about synthesis and how it is related

and field/medium necessitate increasingly complex modes of connection.

with the epistemology of the word ‘contract’. Contract is that which binds

4b “…The industrial norm first appeared as a simple law of constancy that

that need to operate together, to perform as a machine, a wagon and its

had replaced the traditional contract. And when the norm took this form of a unique standard model, any legality other than that of repetition was a breach in the law of the series, to the point where ornamentation became something of a crime.” (…) But this type of contract is no longer viable today. (…) Modern Objects are eroded by time. The permanence of the law gives way to the fluctuation of the norm.” (...) The purpose of the norm is not to stabilize our movements; on the contrary, it is to amplify the fluctuations or aberrations in our behavior.” (...) This object no longer reproduces a model of imitation, but actualizes a model of simulation.” Bernard Cache, Earth Moves, MIT Press, 1995


different things together so that we can pull them as one, as in mechanisms parts. 13 A paradigm (paradigma, from the greek, and which in the modern language means “example”: example that becomes an illustration of the rule, possibly the embodiment of the rule) would be something quite the inverse of synthesis which could produce similar results: the section through a concept which can almost become the concept and in this way, pull (even if by erasure) all the different parts of the concept with it. 14 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon claim “Property is theft” in “What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the principle of Right and of Government”, 1840. CREDITS Research Assistant: Benjamin Rice

Contested Urbanity Kevin Logan

he urban realm has become/continues to become a T constructed semi-public stage commodified in pursuit of neoliberalist needs. The effects of globalisation have resulted in cities and city regions becoming the dominant cultural form, over and above the state. Therefore, cities need to compete with each other on the global stage for the same spoils: tourism, inward investment, kudos, desirability etc. Destination marketing has become the strategy of choice in order to define a city’s, or region’s, identity. Central to this, to date, has been the use of ‘iconic’ architecture as a commodified product to generate image and spectacle which are subsequently utilised for city branding/marketing strategies. “[A]rchitecture is subservient to the market and its terms. The market has supplanted ideology. Architecture has turned into a spectacle” and “no longer has significance as anything but a landmark.”1 Bilbao is the seminal city example with its iconic Guggenheim branded art and architecture, and Dubai exemplifying the city region, constructed as a destination theme park whose primary quality is consumption. With the emergence of this type of space the vibrancy, culture and nuances of the city, and thus character, are denied and drained out. In return, the public are presented with marketing/branding strategies conveying a singular desirable lifestyle; brochures containing glossy renderings convey the virtues of desirable urban existence within designer environments inhabited by Photoshop avatars.2 In reaction to this is the recent emergence of a more humanist discourse concerning itself with liveability. Liveability can be defined as the ability of an environment to impact positively on the general well-being of its citizens 1 http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,408748,00.html 2 Crimson Architectural Historians, Rotterdam. Story of an Open City (2009) 4e Internationale Architectuur Biënnale Rotterdam 2009

in socioeconomic and cultural terms. It is therefore primarily focused on the needs of citizens rather than attractiveness to tourists. It also expresses a want and desire for liveliness and authenticity, which can be seen as a reaction against both globalisation and abstract marketing strategies. The seminal liveable city examples cited include Barcelona, Copenhagen and Melbourne, all of which feature in the world’s 25 Most Liveable Cities according to Monocle Magazine.3 In line with this discourse, an emerging range of alternative strategies to make the city a better place to live can be observed. The premise of these is that good cities as a whole are not reliant on a singular iconic attraction and there is a growing body of evidence establishing that a high quality urban realm, and investment in it, contributes towards desirability, and thus liveability. This is something that has not gone unnoticed by private developers and city landlords, who understand the role of a positive setting upon enhancing the desirability and economic value of built developments. This has resulted in a neoliberalist desire for controlled streetscape: The market seeks to reduce risk, and controlling the urban realm is considered a valid mechanism to achieve this. Consequently, private developers play an increasing role in the production, and management, of the public realm with market-led development extending beyond the traditional remits of building. The result is the continued privatization of the urban realm in pursuit of neoliberalist needs, for which the rules of acceptable engagement are set by unaccountable private corporations with the sole remittance of maximising profit margins for their shareholders. The associated loss of civil liberties is treated as merely a minor issue to be overcome through marketing. More London is an entire urban quarter designed as “a 3 Monocle Magazine; issue 35, July/August, 2010.


vibrant new business community”4 within London. It comes complete with its own privatised and highly configured terrain, which is policed 24 hours a day by private security staff. More London bills itself as “an economic solution” where the environment and facilities are designed to “enhance retention and recruitment of staff”. Animation, and culture, is choreographed in line with corporate policy in the form of a calendar of free events, utilizing the development’s own amphitheatre. City Hall, London, the headquarters of the Greater London Authority and home to both the London Assembly and the Mayor of London is situated within this privatized, pleasant, environment in line with neoliberalist dogma. The entire terrain can be considered to be a themed semi-private space, commodified to maximize monetary value. In effect, the pursuit of globalisation through the rise of the city and region has created a situation where the state and its democratic processes have been subsumed and all ideology is fully aligned with the market. Society, and thus democracy, is superseded by branding in pursuit of global recognition and profit. On the surface, this situation appears to be deeply alarming and insidious in itself, raising important questions about the meaning of liberty in contemporary society and to what extent this can be collectively sacrificed in order to achieve pleasant, desirable and marketable environs. The assumption of these questions, however, is that were it not for this, the urban realm would otherwise be truly public and civil liberties respected. Analysis of contemporary Western European cities reveals that it is not that simple, that the public realm exists in varying degrees of public, and that there have always been rules for acceptable forms of engagement, which have been established in the guise of being conceived for the collective good. Many of these rules of acceptable engagement are clearly justifiable, for example, the enforcement of traffic legislation allows road users to efficiently and safely share the public realm. Other situations are less definitive and being public offers no security in their use. In 2010 the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, successfully won a high court ruling to evict a group of anti-war protesters who had established a ‘Democracy Village’ on Parliament Square, a principal public space situated alongside the Houses of Parliament, London. A statement released by a spokeswoman for the Mayor said: “The mayor respects the right to demonstrate - however, the scale and impact of the protest has caused damage to the square and has prevented its peaceful use by other Londoners… Parliament Square is a top tourist attraction visited by thousands of people and is broadcast around the world each day.”5 The statement implies that the protesters were removed as they were perceived to be negatively

impacting upon the image of London projected globally and the attractiveness to tourists of this iconic location in the city. As increasing numbers of larger, holistic, and selfserving projects come forward; private corporations are procuring, and managing, larger and larger swathes of the urban realm. Liverpool One is Europe’s largest retail-led private developments, covering 17 hectares and costing £1billion in 2008. The result is a retail/shopping district within the center of Liverpool, which presents itself as a series of 35 streets integrated into the historical morphology of the city. However, closer examination reveals that it is actually a highly configured shopping mall extensively configured as a piece of city; writer Anna Minton describes the phenomenon as ‘malls without walls’.6 The result is a network of sanitized private streets in pursuit of shopping nirvana, policed by private security enforcing their own rules and laws of engagement. In effect, Liverpool One is a thinly-guised piece of city but nevertheless a progressive evolution of and improvement on the entirely privatized and impermeable shopping mall typology. As the state has limited and indeed continually reduced resources, it is becoming ever more commonplace for the market to retain ownership of the public realm whereas traditionally it would have been transferred to public ownership. Should we be appalled and alarmed by this current trend or do we just accept it and calibrate our engagement with these new types of urban environments? London has evolved to become a breeding ground for lifestyle and trend generation, cultivating subcultures which are closely monitored by trend researchers. People accepting the contemporary nature of space, and working it, typify the city. Aldgate Cultural Gardens is an unrealized project by Maccreanor Lavington, JMP and David Cotterrell, which takes a residual and non-cultural piece of urban realm and proposes to transform it into a cultural forum for sociocultural engagement. Aldgate is a historical and contemporary nexus of many communities situated on the easterly city fringe and the proposal sought to temporarily transform Aldgate beyond its current configuration into a series of spaces that provide a framework for cultural engagement. The proposal is to liberate the residual urban space of the traffic gyratory through temporary inhabitation of these monofunctional spaces – cultural squatting. It utilizes temporary highway legislation to create a forum for cultural exchange within this crucial juncture, in both the city and in society, operating simultaneously locally and globally during the 2012 Olympics. The physical intervention into the traffic island was

4 http://www.morelondon.com/index.html 5 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10443779

6 Anna Minton (2006) What kind of world are we building? The privatisation of public space; RICS.


minimal, safeguarding the majority of the budget for artistic production. The surface of the traffic island was culturally defined by road paint and inhabited by adaptable tessellated furniture, which could be used individually as loungers or configured into a series of objects such as stages, collective seating, stalls etc. The gyratory becomes a democratic exposé for the global Olympic audience of London’s new and emerging artistic talent that may otherwise find it challenging to access, and engage with, such an audience. This is the public realm as a truly democratic environment based on coexistence and negotiation, propagating a seedbed for cultural generation and exchange. A recent, and growing, culture of ephemeral public space interventions has been coined Pop-Up architecture by the media: A younger generation are taking direct action and doing things for themselves, self-building projects without direction and taking ventures forward without clients. Of note among these is Cineroleum, the temporary transformation of a redundant petrol station into a cinema in Clerkenwell by a collective of creative individuals; artists, designers and architects. The enterprise was self-built using predominantly donated and salvaged materials and a commitment to the creative re-use of residual or marginal urban space. Its agenda was to “celebrat[e] the extravagance and ceremony of the picture palace.”7 Situationist in its make-up and ephemeral in its existence, it was conceived from a temporary planning consent and the gestation of the event lasted a mere 15 days. This project demonstrates the ability of a proactive group of individuals to positively exploit redundant, marginal privatised space for the spontaneous realization of culturally meaningful activity. The Pop-Up movement has attracted the attention of international corporations, aware of its power and appeal to their marketed demographic; consequently, they seek to forge links between the movement’s activities and their brands to aid their commodification through associated lifestyle branding with a subculture. Frank’s Bar charts the rapid evolution of the Pop-Up movement. It is similar to 7 http://www.cineroleum.co.uk/info/

Cineroleum in that it is a temporary, self-built project by a group of independent volunteers. Built over a 25-day period, it’s located on the 10th floor of a disused multi-storey car park in Peckham, South London and coincides with the annual exhibition of the Bold Tendencies Sculpture Project. This summer it is due to re-emerge for its third season and along the way has acquired corporate sponsorship from Campari. In Stratford, we see this taken a step further with developers commissioning their own Pop-Up architecture. Westfield Stratford City, currently under construction, adjoins London’s Olympic Park and its owners, Westfield, claim that, upon completion, it will be Europe’s largest urban shopping mall. Studio East Dining was a temporary Pop-Up restaurant situated, again, on the roof of a car park, overlooking the Olympic park, it was operational for three weeks and was used as the launch pad for Westfield’s Studio East initiative, designed to sustain and nurture young cultural talent in East London. Constructed from on-site surplus materials, shrink-wrapped scaffolding and rough sawn planks, the aim of the project was to create a dining room that exploited the unique views over the Olympic Park whilst celebrating local creativity. Rowan Moore, writing in the Observer, likens the project as an attempt to make “the place look less corporate.”8 It is easy to be cynical about the corporate piggy-backing of grassroots cultural initiatives as a ruthless means of brand reinforcement. However, should we be? The outcome of these collaborations is often desirable, providing initiatives with the means to carry out culturally meaningful activities and a positive engagement with residual urban spaces. Cities and developers are sponsoring or lending major redevelopment sites, currently in abeyance due to poor market conditions, for temporary cultural/social inhabitation. This lending of sites and sharing of resources is often mutually beneficial, and should be encouraged. The more pertinent question is will these collaborations stand any chance of survival in a future recovered market scenario? n 8 http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/dec/12/rowan-moore-architecturereview-2010


¡Qué Ilusión! Theorizing Times Square, Again. María Sieira



nsidious urbanism, like “weak architecture,” opts out of the heroic to find purchase in the tentative and the peripheral. The famed essay by Ignasi de Solà-Morales offered architects a way to operate once it was no longer possible to make “monumental works of the classical or modernist type,”1 so perhaps this idea can be retooled to contend with what is going on today. Certainly the conditions to which he was responding then have only intensified—capitalism is more thoroughly global, space/time more fragmented—and that which de Solà-Morales blamed for our predicament, the proliferation of images, has been taken on with such force by contemporary culture that it hardly registers as an issue. How then, do we theorize the monumental images of Times Square? At the time de Solà-Morales wrote his essay, in the late 1980’s, Times Square was full of lit (and occasionally luminescent) billboards in front of buildings, something like a decorated shed approach. It was a spectacle, to be sure, in the Debord vein, but the relationship of the billboard to the building could be understood as one of attachment, essentially the buildings and their masks. Today that mask has become embedded in the building itself. Video animation walls subsume any physical reality that might exist behind them night and day. And forget about ever taking it off, it’s more like a face than a mask, so integrated with building systems that removing it would leave muscle and bone exposed. Perhaps the most impressive of these is the NASDAQ video screen wall rounding the corner of 43rd Street and Broadway, 120’ x 90’ of full motion video and animation images using LED (light emitting diode) technology.2 This wall is composed of several video screens that are effectively united into one surface by the images that span across them. One set of divisions we do notice are the windows carved out of the video screen wall, but these further dematerialize the building rather than call attention to its physicality. There is no articulation to these openings, and next to the animated video they often read as flat rectangles, like missing puzzle pieces from the video image. Also, the very fact that the image expands over the building façade irrespective of its architectonic features further emphasizes that it has resolutely left the former confines of the billboard frame. In “Weak Architecture” de Solà-Morales points to the double sense of the word “illusion” (more evident in the Castilian “ilusión,” but also understood in English), as both the deception of perception and the feeling of expectation and desire. The lie that is the space of the moving video image on these buildings is also a landscape of consumer desires, and artists have taken note of this. Because, what better place to do targeted, subversive, seductive urbanism than Times Square? 1 Ignasi de SolÌ-Morales. “Weak Architecture.” Quaderns d’Arquitectura i Urbanisme 175 (October-December 1987). Also published in Hays, K. Michael, ed. Architecture Theory Since 1968 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998). 2 Barbour, David, and Liz French. “NASDAQ MarketSite: Times Square greets the digital age in a new themed/broadcast venue.” Entertainment Design 34.7 (2000): 32-3.

Pipilotti Rist installed “Open my Glade” in 2000, a video showing a woman flattening her face against the surface of the screen, as if trying to break through. That this work is where we would expect to find an animated billboard advertisement makes it a place of exception, but the artist is also particularly suited to this site because her provocative video installations often align the image with the physical space on which it is viewed, producing architectural effects. When the figure presses her face, the video surface momentarily materializes into a glass surface, a window on the illusory surface that itself conceals the physical building. This image-architecture alignment by Rist is also found in her 1994 piece “Selbstlos im Lavabad,” installed in MoMA PS1, Long Island City. In this piece what appears to be a crack in the floorboards is, upon closer inspection, a tiny screen through which a diminutive figure seeks to escape. Another artist to take advantage of the peculiar spatial conditions of Times Square is Marilyn Minter, who in 2009 installed her video “Chewing Color.” The large images of mouths, tongues, and lips pushing around various food substances, again against the surface of the screen, subvert the counterfeit sexual imagery with which we are constantly bombarded.3 And just last year, on the NASDAQ façade itself, the Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea installed “Black Sun,” a video of a wrecking ball swinging back and forth.4 Looking at the projection from the street the artist commented “¡ya estamos golpeando a NASDAQ!” (“finally, we got to hit NASDAQ!”). Arts organizations such as Creative Time and the Public Art Fund make it their mission to carve out a space for artists’ work in Times Square, and each piece is indeed a glitch, a place of exception in the context of the surrounding surfaces that have been surrendered to commercial advertisement. Of course, the problem with the glitch is that it is temporary; a setback, but one eventually overcome. You can find more information about the NASDAQ building face at the manufacturer’s website, www.smartvision. com, but don’t look for it in the “architectural” section of their gallery. Look instead in “digital signage,” under which the NASDAQ sign is its own category: spectacular. n

3 Lawn, Andrzej. “Marilyn Minter: Salon 94 / Creative Time at Times Square, New York.” Flash Art (International Edition) 42 (2009): 87. 4 Gordon, Amanda. “Heads Up.” ARTnews 109.3 (2010): 30.


Boutique Hotels as Outposts for Gentrification Thomas Holliday


ining the storefronts along Broadway between 23rd and 30th Streets are assorted wig shops, perfume discounters, and luggage liquidators. The neighborhood, if one can call a collection of storefronts a neighborhood, is loosely defined as the area flanked by 5th and 6th Avenues between 23rd and 30th Streets. Workday traffic ensnares the busy streets and sidewalks, which go silent after the evening rush hour. As housing is in short supply in the area, the consortium of discounters provides the neighborhood its character, one that is wholly unremarkable. One of the last unnamed districts in Manhattan, it exists as a realestate frontier awaiting a land rush from the direction of the internet and new media companies of Silicon Alley directly to the south.1 Public perception of that land rush is being spurred on by the developers behind the newly established Ace Hotel, an outpost of fashionable amenities in an area lacking any defining character, and has the press buzzing with excitement over the neighborhood’s potential development. In 2008, the New York based real estate company GFI Capital Resource Group partnered with the Seattle, Washington based Ace Hotel group to create the brand’s first New York City location. The chosen site, formerly the Breslin Hotel (built in 1904) just north of the iconic Flatiron Building, lacked any defining character when GFI Capital purchased the neglected property and partnered with Ace in 2008. 2 After successfully reinventing derelict hotel properties in Seattle and Portland, Oregon as zeitgeistsymbols for emerging urban “scenes,” the Ace Hotel group set out to create a similar niche in Manhattan.3 Given a blank canvas, the Ace was tasked with creating a property that would draw crowds to the area and provide them with the amenities that would keep them coming back. Known for its handsomely designed hotel rooms (many of which feature turntables and guitars for guests to use or admire), the Ace’s modern-bohemian aesthetic is specifically calibrated to attract the type of young, creative, consumers who were absent in the area. Extending far beyond its guestrooms, the hotel’s thoughtful aesthetic filters into acutely crafted spaces for eating, drinking and socializing to fulfill the needs of its guests. The New York branch of the Ace Hotel chain positions itself as a hybrid hotel-restaurant-barcafé-sandwich emporium-boutique clothing store, attuned 1 Michael Indergaard, Silicon Alley: The Rise and Fall of a New Media District (Routledge, New York, 2010). 2 Adam Sternbergh, “Soho. Nolita. Dumbo. NoMad?” New York Magazine, April 11, 2010. 3 Matt Gross, “The Man Behind the Ace Empire.” The New York Times, January 28, 2011.


to trendsetting crowds and the capital that follows them, signaling the future of a neighborhood in transition. At the same time that the Ace was being conceived and developed, GFI purchased the nearby Johnston Building on 28th and Broadway with the intention of opening a second hotel. Dubbed the “NoMad,” the additional hotel was part of their strategy to rebrand the neighborhood, complete with the creation of a catchy acronym that vaguely references local geography (“NoMad” refers to the area “North of Madison Square Park”). Their efforts to sell the area as a neighborhood comprised of “upscale residences, retail shops, creative agencies and renowned restaurants,” while ambitious, were initially unfounded, with the area lacking any substantive amenities.4 However, absent a strong historic cultural context, each new development was free to manufacture its own heritage. The designs of the Ace and NoMad hotels seek to capture the pseudo-historical zeitgeist for the area that GFI was looking to establish. The design firm Roman Williams, whose work draws on experiences in Hollywood production design, carried out much of the design of the Ace, seeking to recreate an atmosphere that draws on some “cultural collective memory” to provide a narrative for the hotel’s guests.5 Their spacious interiors combine several handsomely-designed nightlife options with boutique retailers, of-the-moment dining options and ample space to see and be seen in its oversized lobby and hallways. The carefully selected amenities are acutely attuned to their desired audience, an attractive crowd of highly mobile, young creative types. The photogenic spaces within the Ace create a canvas for visitors to project their lives onto. Impromptu cell phone photo shoots create an up to the minute visual record of the hotel and its guests, disseminating its relevance as a destination. Indeed, the collective design intent of the Ace hotel is centered on constructing a nostalgic representation of New York, and New York culture without the messy polemics of context. Located in an area devoid of fashionable destinations, the Ace operates as an outpost for the cultural tools of gentrification in an area devoid of them. In their decision to provide the financial backing for the Ace hotel, the GFI development group had similarly ambitious plans for the undeveloped zone surrounding what would become the Ace. To kick-start the process of neighborhood building, GFI employed a multi-faceted strategy that involved purchasing multiple properties, and launching a public relations campaign to remake the image of the neighborhood 4 Sternbergh . 5 “Roman and Williams: Firm Profile,” Roman and Williams, accessed April 3, 2011, www. romanandwilliams.com/firmprofile.html.

by rebranding it with its “NoMad” acronym, using geography to create a pseudo-historical backdrop as had been carried out in the rebranding of Dumbo, the Lower East Side, and many other neighborhoods throughout the history of New York.6 The lack of residential development in the area meant that the neighborhood was not defined by the character of its residents, but rather by those who would come to visit, namely hotel guests and revelers. The development of the Ace was to serve as a magnet to lure a young, attractive and mobile crowd into the area and enmesh the area’s character within the tastes of that demographic. By housing multiple destinations within the same envelope, the hotel acts as a kit of parts for spurring on future development. Featuring multiple, coordinated spaces to serve its clientele, the Ace offers several high-end amenities in an area devoid of them. Its nature as a hotel ensures a rotating cast of characters to enliven the area with fresh new faces, providing a safe touchstone for visitors exploring the area. Ultimately, the Ace Hotel’s ability to collect, distill, and disseminate a youthful, consumer culture and the buzz surrounding it allows it to function as an outpost for the establishment of a creative enclave in an otherwise desolate area of Midtown Manhattan. The Ace Hotel in New York has been a considerable financial and marketing success. The stream of articles written about the Ace has provided continual exposure in high-end fashion, design and lifestyle publications.7 Coverage of the Ace has largely focused on its ability to remake its surroundings, and the hotel’s ability to promote this agenda has fueled this narrative, much in the way that their architectural and amenity interventions have created the impression of a “real” neighborhood renaissance:

“New York hardly needs more ‘up-and-coming’ neighborhoods or ‘hip’ hotels. But Seattle-based Ace Hotel Group’s revitalization of the Breslin Hotel on 29th and Broadway, a forgotten district just north of Madison Square Park (now NOMAD) is about to be relevant again” -Monocle Magazine, November 2008 “Hotelier Alex Calderwood is unfazed by the prospect of opening a branch of his hipster Ace Hotel chain on a lessthan-fashionable corner of Manhattan: the intersection of West 29th Street and Broadway.” “’The design captures the industrial heritage of Manhattan, the grittiness,’ he says.” “Ultimately the Ace is betting that its downtown dream team can transcend an enclave. ‘To us, it’s like we can be pioneers right in the middle of Manhattan,’ says Friedman. ‘[But] I don’t want the area to become more chichi. God forbid it becomes like the Meatpacking District.” 
“With a novel concept and hipster cachet, hotelier Alex Calderwood brings Seattle cool to midtown Manhattan.” - W Magazine, December 2008 6 For further information, see Neil Smith, “New City, New Frontier: The Lower East Side as Wild, Wild West,” in Michael Sorkin, ed., Variations on a Theme Park (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992). 7 “Ace Hotel: New York: Press,” Ace Hotel, accessed April 3, 2011, http://www.acehotel. com/newyork/press.

“Everything I do is a party,” Robin Standefer says as she circulates through a raucous event that the denim brand Rag & Bone is hosting in the lobby of Ace Hotel. With its coffered ceiling, Greek key mosaic-tiled floor, schoolhouse pendant globes, and vintage commercial signage, the dimly lit lobby is grand and mysterious yet relaxed an idiosyncratic, a perfect backdrop for fashionistas.” – Interior Design Magazine, September 2009 While GFI’s attempt to rebrand the neighborhood under the NoMad imprint was largely unsuccessful (recent press clippings are reluctant to use the name) 8, the Ace Hotel’s success at drawing and maintaining a steady crowd is largely agreed upon. The model of incorporating small heavily designed, small-scale spaces into large-scale developments has been replicated in several new developments in the area. Recent articles in the New York Times have highlighted the area’s growth as a residential neighborhood. Its location near Midtown Manhattan, historically anathema for creative, young people, is now being praised not only for its proximity to other trendy neighborhoods, but for the emerging nightlife springing up on the blocks around the Ace. That a hotel, with its transitory clientele, is able to draw and sustain this character in an otherwise nondescript area just below Midtown demonstrates the evolving dynamics of gentrification9 in dense urban environments. Stripping away the notion that neighborhoods evolve out of their historic contexts, the Ace has accelerated the mechanisms of gentrification by providing an outpost which caterers to the desires of a fashionable consumer demographic. In doing so the hotel’s developers have created a gentrified space by deliberately condensing the traditional mechanisms of gentrification. n Deep gratitude goes to Dr. Doreen Jakob for her feedback and advice on this piece, and extended thanks to Erik Ghenoiu for his guidance in seeing it through.

8 Gross 9 There is a rich literature on gentrification in central urban districts. For further reading see: S. Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, N.J., 1989). S. Zukin, The Cultures of Cities (Blackwell, Cambridge, MA, 1995). S. Zukin, Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places (Oxford University Press, Oxford; New York, 2010). On the role of tourism in the shaping of contemporary urban form, see: S.S. Fainstein and D.R. Judd, editors, The Tourist City (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1999).


Urban Prosthetics: City as Organism Ivan Hernandez-Quintela


lthough any attempt to define “The City” would seem contradictory, as definitions attempt to capture the essence of things into a set of established concepts stated in a clear language and the city by nature is never stable, constantly adjusting, always in the making, and would therefore require a constant re-defining, I would like to, if not define it, view it as an organism – a set of organs, each with a specific function connected to other organs with their own specific functions, where they depend on an interconnectivity to one another. Some would say that to think of the city as an organism is limiting, for organs have pre-established functions and established connections with other organs, making the organism incapable of adapting quickly enough to exterior forces, and that a more accurate definition would be a complex web of systems, made of other systems, where each system can have its own logic of adaptation and connection, and can therefore react and adapt in much more complex and unexpected ways. But when I think of a system I cannot think of how to directly intervene in it, how to operate on it. Instead, when I think of organs I can think of prosthetics to attach to them, as if I were a surgeon making incisions into the body of the city. It is important to first differentiate between corrective prosthetics and extensive prosthetics. A corrective prosthetic is meant to restore, to reestablish the organ’s original function. Its purpose is to correct a malfunction of the organ. The organ requires the prosthetic to function as it should or used to, like a pair of seeing glasses which give its users 20/20 vision, the average sight of a human eye. On the other hand, an extensive prosthetic recognizes the organ’s function, but is not limited by it, it does not try to correct it but rather aims to improve it. It attempts to offer a new function to the organ, an extra function. The organ does not require the prosthetic but benefits from it. With it, it is capable of functioning beyond itself, like a microscope or a telescope that offer the human eye the capacity to perceive beyond what the human eye can distinguish alone. With this in mind, I have opted to invade the city with a series of projects I call “Urban Prosthetics” that attempt to become extensive rather than corrective, opening up new possibilities for the city to interact and provoke its inhabitants. The Urban Prosthetics project does not attempt to “heal” the city as if there were something specifically


wrong with it, or as if the city were ill, but instead tries to equip it with tools of engagement that will facilitate everyday inhabitants to interact and adjust public space to his or her particular spatial and temporal needs. As in the martial art of Aikido, where a small contender learns to use the force of his opponent to generate his own force, the Urban Prosthetics borrow their operational logic from existing informal structures in order to infiltrate themselves efficiently into the established mechanics of the city with the goal of embedding these even further. Within informal settlements, one can find certain conditions that encourage the continuation of informality: do-it-yourself methods of construction, open-ended structures that allow material to be attached or replaced, programmatic flexibility that allows one thing to be used in different ways. With this in mind, I inserted Urban Prosthetics into the city only to “abandon” them almost immediately to allow any inhabitant to alter and adjust them– to appropriate them. By working with the existing informal conditions, the Urban Prosthetic structures, as in aikido, turn informality not against itself, but towards itself, not to negate it and try to control it, but to spread its conditions, making informality contagious – towards an architecture that is open to alteration, adjustments and misuse. What I imagine is a city invaded by small informal structures that begin to alter its most immediate context by making the inhabitants in that location active participants of their surrounding context, a sort of urban acupuncture that operates at a local level but where similar invasions can

Aikido, Ivan Hernandez-Quintela

is, therefore, not a general condition, but rather punctual, inhabited. Public space is not an entity but a practice; and its inhabitants do not occupy it, they exercise it in the sense that both users and space get altered and improved with each occupation. Amongst the Urban Prosthetics Ludens has developed, I would like to focus on three specific projects in order to discuss some of my preferred themes and tactics when invading public space:

Acupuncture, Ivan Hernandez-Quintela

take place in numerous and different places in the city. This type of strategy gives power to the individual, to the sum of individuals, to the sum of small gestures, where each inhabitant becomes an active participant in the making of public space, making public space truly public. Public space tends to be designed as a well-defined, controlled area where someone is amongst strangers in the same time and place, but which hardly allows for much intimate interaction between strangers, much less offering a place where strangers can alter their atmosphere and in this way affect the way other strangers can experience it. The Urban Prosthetics project attempts to create mechanisms of engagement that provoke an active contact amongst users through participative tactics. The structures become merely scaffolding waiting for users to adjust, add and continually complete the structures. In this way, public space does not become a stable place – a space given to the city inhabitants - but rather offers a continual condition of participation – a space to be conquered, to be turned public as its public appropriates it. With this ambition, the Urban Prosthetics become a physical excuse to get people involved, engaged in the making of public space. As friction machines, the Urban Prosthetics generate not only its energy, but also its materiality through its encounter with its users. Friction, a condition frequently avoided in public space, is encouraged through these informal structures, creating alternative ways of interaction, participation and collaboration. The structures become not only frameworks for the material addition each user adds to it, but become a frame that exposes the act of participation. The project is therefore not interested in the end result, in how the structure ends up but in the process, in making the act of participation evident, in making noticeable that public space is not given, neither by the government nor by the designer, but is constructed over and over by its own occupants in the moment they occupy it and make it theirs for that one instant in that one precise location. Public space

Insinuated Furniture It is a fact that Mexico City does not have enough public furniture. However, that does not stop people from finding a place to rest. There is a certain creativity that takes place only under necessity, only under a state of urgency. That’s why, due to the lack of urban furniture, inhabitants of Mexico City have found the necessity to invent places to rest their bodies. Insinuated Furniture is a task, of going around the city with masking tape and drawing silhouettes of furniture, of chairs, benches, tables and beds over surfaces that people are using as furniture but which are not designed or constructed as such. The intent is not to offer a solution to the lack of urban furniture, but rather to make it evident, to call out people’s creativity when they are not provided with what they need. The project therefore suggests that designers are not only meant to produce, to add another object to the city, but to recognize the way existing objects are used and misused. Insinuated furniture is part of agents of Urban Prosthetics that make things noticeable, conditions and events that tend to go unnoticed. They are projects that help visualize the existing potential of the city.

Insinuated Furniture, Ivan Hernandez-Quintela


The Segregator, Ivan Hernandez-Quintela

The Segregator With increasing frequency public space has become delimited, marked out and even privatized into small private islands where only a certain public can access them. In Mexico City we are seeing security gates sprouting everywhere as a way to control all those who enter and exit. However, these security gates are placed in locations which have been negotiated by the neighbors, and which consequently tend to be placed in arbitrary locations that suddenly transform a street into a private place. In order to enter a specific neighborhood, one has to go through a security process, where an “officer” asks: What is your business here? Who are you visiting? The Segregator was created as a perverse machine, an instrument to turn the enemy’s weapon against itself. In this case, the enemy is the establishment of arbitrary limits through a power device. The Segregator functions in a similar way as other security gates, differentiating itself through one distinct feature, the needle is not lifted with a crank, but rather one has to sit in the seat in order to generate a counterweight. The seat is slightly higher than the average seat and due to the trajectory one goes through in order to stay on it, the operator finds himself in a series of ridiculous backward positions. Like Charlie Chaplin in The Dictator, there is a critical sense of humor working in The Segregator. Through a corporal comedy, the position of authority is put into question; it is put to ridicule. The Segregator is part of other Urban Prosthetics that turn the enemies’ weapon, its strategies to privatize public space, against them. They are projects that help fight against power through their own tactics. They debilitate established power by playing with the same power. Participative Library But all is not negative in public space. There are conditions that make public space an arena for interaction. The Participative Library is a structure meant to stimulate participation. It is a simple temporary library, with a 43

bookshelf, an access stair, which is also a sitting place, and a mesh that defines the space. In terms of the books, the people that visit the library are encouraged to donate their unwanted books. In addition, they are asked to write a wish on a post-it and attach it to the mesh in order to create a second skin for the structure. What is expected is that the mesh begins to be covered with colorful papers containing people’s wishes, and in that way the mesh becomes a framework for participation. People passing by the structure will notice the small papers attached, letting them know that

Participative Library, Ivan Hernandez-Quintela

other people have attached their wishes to the structure. A sort of recognition, a sense of awareness that other people have had the same experience makes the experience intimate, part of something collective. The Participative Library is part of other Urban Prosthetics that work as scaffoldings, unfinished structures that become continuously constructed by their users. They are projects that depend on their users, so that as people begin to use them, they go through a process of transformation. The structures become a support system for the participation and achieve their materiality through the adjustments, the additions, and manipulations of the users. With these examples in mind, the Urban Prosthetics project confronts public space, not as a resolved, organized and stable area, but as an arena of friction, of conflict, of constant negotiation and re-negotiation. Therefore, the design of public space is not approached as a search for solutions but as a potential for someplace else, another kind of place that refuses to be fully understood, controlled, and designed. The designer, now, highlights the issues problems understood in the sense of unknown possibilities rather than solutions. The design of public space embraces this problematic, and therefore puts itself willingly into conflict. Public space refuses to be standardized, placing itself in crisis with itself, questioning its own definition, its own limits, becoming open, undefined, full of unknown potential. Public space is, therefore, discovered, reinvented, and reconfigured each time one takes possession of it. Its only constant condition is to remain constantly open, constantly changing, constantly becoming. Forcing us to not be distant observers of it but to actively participate in its becoming, where we consequently find ourselves in a state of becoming as well. n

Participative Library, Ivan Hernandez


Behind This Facade: The Generic Condo as a Space of Autonomy Matthew Gordon Lasner


s the world urbanizes, the individually owned apartment—what in the U.S. we typically call condominium and cooperative—is rapidly becoming a predominant global dwelling type. Wherever real-estate markets are liberal (or liberalizing) and the middle class desires more control over its domestic environment than offered by tenancy and the opportunity to build equity and to profit through ownership of real property, we find for-sale apartments. The proliferation of this form of multi-family housing is especially striking in China, Southeast Asia, the Subcontinent, and Persian Gulf, where whole settlements— sometimes entire metropolitan regions—are rising that are comprised largely of co-owned high-rises and mid-rise “villa” complexes (Fig. 1). The U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, too, have embraced this phenomenon. Despite the enduring appeal of the detached house and suburban sprawl, every real-estate cycle since the 1920s has brought an ever larger wave of for-sale apartments. Today, cities from Las Vegas to Kuala Lumpur to London are awash in condos.1 Making sense of this sort of housing is difficult. There is much to applaud. As urbanists, we insist that ordinary people need to make new, better housing choices, especially in autocentric North America. We aspire to a new urbanism and speak openly about wanting to retrofit Atlanta and Houston and Washington, DC to make them “walkable”— that is, more like Manhattan or Paris. The condo plays a critical role in this transformation, by making higher housing densities palatable to people who prefer to own their housing (although density offers no assurance of walkability [Fig. 2]).2 The owned apartment also has limitations. It is, after all, an apartment. And with several important exceptions like large city centers such as New York, most people regard this typology as inferior. Historically, this bias resulted from association of apartments with the poor, provincial squeamishness, and the fact that life in apartments—as in 1 For the best overview of condo living globally see Sarah Blandy et. al. eds., Multi-owned Housing: Law, Power and Practice (Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2010). On Australia see also Caroline Butler-Bowdon and Charles Pickett, Homes in the Sky: Apartment Living in Australia (Carlton, Australia: Miegunyah, 2007); on the U.S. Matthew Gordon Lasner, High Life: Condo Living in the Suburban Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, forthcoming). 2 Christopher B. Leinberger, The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream, paperback ed. (Washington: Island Press, 2009); Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbia (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009); Lasner, High Life.


the even more maligned residential hotel—relieved us of many of the burdens of housekeeping and homeownership whose performance signify good citizenship.3 By virtue of its ownership, the condo overcomes some of these cultural obstacles. In her classic study anthropologist (and one-time planner) Constance Perin explains that U.S. society confers full status only on people who take large, long-term mortgages on detached houses. In this schema, however, the condo represents an exception: a low-status physical typology transformed by virtue of its high cost and and popularity among retirees (people who owned houses when younger). Even so, the condo cannot compete with the house’s fee-simple ownership, physical isolation, and ease of entry and parking.4 More crucially, for many critics the condo still remains too public, too generic, too transient, and too capitalistic to be seen as anything but a real-estate scam (Fig. 3). The feminist geographer Leslie Kern, in her recent study exploring developers’ claims in Toronto that condos liberate single women, dispenses with the whole idea. To the contrary, she 3 Elizabeth Collins Cromley, Alone Together: A History of New York’s Early Apartments (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Paul Groth, Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994); A. K. Sandoval-Strausz, “Home for a World of Strangers: Hospitality and the Origins of Multiple Dwellings in Urban America,” Journal of Urban History 33, no. 6 (Sept. 2007). 4 Constance Perin, Everything in its Place: Social Order and Land Use in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977) 57; Robert Bruegmann, Sprawl: A Compact History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

FIG. 1 Urban Fiction, image 3

FIG. 2 High-rise condos and parking deck

FIG. 3 The Great Condominium Ripoff

suggests that this promise is little more than a marketing gimmick. (Only by way of conclusion does she reveal that she dislikes multifamily homeownership, and sold her own apartment for a house after just three years.) Social scientists and planners who study private governance and community associations also characterize the condo as an ill-conceived arrangement that cannot help but disappoint residents, erode democracy, and clog the courts with litigation. The self-governance required in a co-op or condo, they argue, is simply beyond the ability of ordinary people. Opprobrium is especially apparent when we talk about places we already believe people ought not live, like the Sunbelt fantasylands of Phoenix, Florida, and Dubai, or where much of the demand is from absentee investors, as in the new “ghost” cities in China.5 Condo malaise weaves a long thread through popular culture, from anti-yuppie rhetoric of the 1980s, which has proved remarkably enduring (Fig. 4), to punk records like Mojo Nixon’s 1980s anti-commercial anthem “Burn Down the Malls,” to John MacDonald’s disaster novel (and TV movie) Condominium, in which unscrupulous developers, shoddy construction, and a serious hurricane result in an unhappy ending for the owners in a Florida high-rise. (On the flip side, hip-hop and HGTV treat the condo as an object of desire, although they are hardly in dialogue with critics). Beijing artist Xing Danwen takes a more nuanced position. In her Urban Fiction series of large-format color photographs, shot in the mid-2000s, she depicts architectural models used by developers to sell condo complexes to China’s new middle class (see Fig. 1 and 5). The vast scale of these developments is overwhelming. Buildings, which Xing has shot at close range, are distinguished only by roof-top 5 Leslie Kern, Sex and the Revitalized City: Gender, Condominium Development, and Urban Citizenship (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010); Evan McKenzie, “Emerging Regulatory Trends, Power and Competing Interests in US Common Interest Housing Developments,” in Multi-owned Housing; David Barboza, “Chinese City Has Many Buildings, but Few People,” New York Times 20 Oct. 2010: A1.

FIG. 4 Anti-yuppie graffiti on condo construction-site banner

placards (Fig. 6). Miniature streets, shops, and apartments are empty. Yet we see signs of life: into these eery, crowdless worlds Xing inserts doll-sized images of herself doing ordinary things. One figure calls for help after a fenderbender (Fig. 7), another exercises on a rooftop garden (Fig. 8), yet another gazes out an apartment window. These lone women suggest liberation, and the rich colors convey high sales-center energy. Ultimately, however, these worlds promise an order we know that the developer cannot deliver; we are relieved to be voyeurs rather than buyers. While many question the sincerity of the condo, conservatives argue that the owned apartment is a naive exercise in utopianism. As part of his expanding culture war, Fox News Channel host Glenn Back has repeatedly attacked Co-op City, characterizing it as an example of “failed socialism.” One source for his critique is that it was, in fact, developed on a limited-profit basis by a consortium of housing reformers and trade unions—and remains an affordable complex in which owners cannot profit through re-sales. The larger part of Beck’s critique, however—and the actual failure, for him—is the design by progressive architect Herman Jessor: Co-op City’s mass-scale and repetitive highrise physical form (Fig. 9).6 Whether left or right, what most of us miss when we think about co-ops and condos—and here I arrive at the main point of this essay—is that the social meanings and conditions of housing are shaped independently of physical form. We tend to see in the generic apartment evidence of what Henri Lefebvre frames as an abstract conception of the city that denies difference. The condo is not just a building or group that may or may not agree with our politics, but it is also a social container. Beijing high-rises may appear slick and hard, and Co-op City may look bleak and infinite, to paraphrase critic William H. Whyte, but 6 Mike Jaccarino, “Glenn Beck Blasts Bronx, Compares Co-op City to Failed Socialist State,” New York Daily News, nydailynews.com, 26 Jan., 2011.


FIG. 5 Urban Fiction, image 19

FIG. 6 Urban Fiction, image 26

FIG. 7 Urban Fiction, image 3 detail


FIG. 8 Urban Fiction, image 19 detail

these surface qualities have little to do with the experience of living there. My argument is far from original. This issue of tarp has been conceived of, in part, out of the idea that complexity and reception matter, and that agency is plural, and often obscured, or unexpected. In the realm of housing, sociologists like Herbert Gans, designers like Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, and photojournalists like Bill Owens have told us for decades that mass-built suburbia harbors a great degree of individuality and choice (Fig. 10). But the idea bears repeating since we are forever fetishizing physical form at the expense of more complex, difficult-todetect questions about race, class, gender, age, and family structure.7 To illustrate my point—and since we are already meant to have learned from places like like Levittown—I offer, briefly, two examples drawn from my research on the history of co-op and condo living in metropolitan New York. Inwood Terrace was the first of four co-ops developed in the steep, rocky hills of far Northern Manhattan in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the socially engaged architects George D. Brown, Jr., and Bernard W. Guenther (Fig. 11). Unlike the surrounding low-rise buildings which read as an organic part of the neighborhood, Inwood Terrace looms. Its bulky form, NYCHA-red brick, and small windows eschew historicist signifiers of domesticity as well as the optimism of Miesian and California Modernism. The later buildings that form the Inwood co-op group, further up the hill, better betray their middle-class residential purpose by virtue of their larger windows and projecting balconies (Fig. 12). Inwood 7 Henri Lefebvre, “Right to the City,” in Writings on Cities, trans. and ed., Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1996), 77-81; Margaret Crawford, “Introduction” Everyday Urbanism, expanded ed., eds. John Leighton Chase et. al. (New York: Monacelli, 2008); Whyte quoted in Roger Schafer, letter to the editor, “New York’s Housing Cooperatives,” New York Times 3 July 1968: 24; Herbert J. Gans, The Levittowners: Ways of Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community (New York: Pantheon, 1967); Denise Scott Brown, “Learning From Pop,” Casabella 359-60 (Dec. 1971); BIll Owens, Suburbia (San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books, 1973).

FIG. 9 Co-op City, Bronx, NY, 1968-73

Terrace mainly projects institutional anonymity, and little distinguishes it from nearby public housing. The apartments, however, were large, functional, and inexpensive: threebedroom units cost just $2,560 down ($24,000 in 2009 dollars), with $113.50 ($1,060) a month in maintenance, including financing and utilities.8 In spite of its generic design, Inwood Terrace nurtured a rich and varied social world. Attracted to the building, according to one observer, by ads that “promised to fulfill their dreams of....an ideal suburbia planted within the city,” the middle-class families who bought made this dream a reality. At Halloween, fathers patrolled the building and neighborhood. Mothers organized weekly dance classes, bridge and canasta nights, and holiday parties. All the families with children pooled their resources to buy playground equipment for their children; others funded a rooftop TV antenna. Perhaps more importantly, the mixture of apartment sizes, and an intense liberalism on the part of the owners, ensured there were families of various ages and sizes as well as several Black families, at a time when very little housing in New York was integrated. By any measure, Inwood Terrace proved a success.9 Meanwhile, many homeowners, in fact, personalized their homes—but at the interior, out of public view. In a rental building units must be returned to the landlord in original condition. In for-sale housing one enjoys the right to remodel. This impulse to customize was evident in co-ops across the U.S. as early as the 1920s; it remains an important aspect of condo living today. At Bell Park Gardens, a Queens complex of expedient design by architect William M. Dowling, completed in 1950 (Fig. 13), people bought because 8 Display advertisement, New York Times 19 Jan. 1958: R2. 9 Schick Grossman and Susan K. Kinoy, Learning to Live in a Middle Income Cooperative, The Play Schools Association Cooperative Housing Report, 1961 no. 2 (New York: Play Schools Association, 1961); Clara Fox, Volunteer Leadership in Cooperative Housing (New York: Play Schools Association, 1960).

FIG. 10 Plate from Suburbia

FIG. 11 Inwood Terrace, New York, NY, 1958


they hoped “their children will find more pleasant playmates coming from more controlled homes and families,” and because they believed ownership would afford them greater security of tenure and control over their surroundings. In practice, this meant making the spaces their own through physical changes.10 “Crucial to their suburban existence and sense of selfworth was the interior design,” recalled one former resident 10 New York State, Division of Housing, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Housing to the Governor and the Legislature (1949), 6.

who was raised there in the fifties. This was not least, she continued, because for most of the homeowners, Bell Park “was the first chance they had to control their surroundings; they were no longer guests in their parents already furnished homes or transients in rented rooms.” Most buyers were, indeed, first-time homeowners, and moved there from rentals. Because exteriors were so relentlessly uniform, “the interior assumed great importance.”11 As another child of Bell Park recalled, “Mom spent her days pulling apart the home and we all fantasized about putting it back together. Stripped cabinets waited for paint and instant meals waited to be popped into the oven.”12 The owned apartment may represent a last stage in the commoditization of metropolitan real estate: housing for what the Situationists described in the 1950s as the society of the spectacle, in which the logic of the market pervades all corners of life. It may also, as at Co-op City—which was financed with government aid—represent a welfarestate foray into middle-class housing. But, extrapolating from Michel de Certeau, we can also see in these spaces an arena for everyday life in which we are just as likely to evade conformity as succumb to it: space not just created by the market (or the state) to serve profit motive or abstract political ends, but space that ordinary people use to resist impersonal forces. In The Practice of Everyday Life, de Certeau investigates “the ways in which users—commonly assumed to be passive and guided by established rules— operate.” Communal activities and redecoration suggest the sorts of strategies and tactics of appropriation and resistance that he imagines. The condo, in this light, represents not just an empty promise but a quiet defiance of modern culture whose ways of using demand more attention.13 n PHOTO CREDITS

FIG. 12 Inwood Tower, New York, NY, 1961

Fig. 1 Fig. 2 Fig. 3 Fig. 4 Fig. 5 Fig. 6 Fig. 7 Fig. 8 Fig. 9 Fig. 10 Fig. 11 Fig. 12 Fig. 13

FIG. 13 Bell Park Gardens, Bayside, NY 1928-50


Xing Danwen, Urban Fiction, image 3, 2005 (Xing Danwen/danwen.com) High-rise condos and parking deck, Atlanta, Ga., photographed 2011 (author’s photo) Stephen L. Williams, The Great Condominium Ripoff, Brookline, MA: Research Publications, 1974 Anti-yuppie graffiti on condo construction-site banner, New York, NY, 2006 (author’s photo) Xing Danwen, Urban Fiction, image 19, 2006 (Xing Danwen/danwen.com) Xing Danwen, Urban Fiction, image 26, 2006 (Xing Danwen/danwen.com) Xing Danwen, Urban Fiction, image 3, detail, 2005 (Xing Danwen/danwen.com) Xing Danwen, Urban Fiction, image 19, detail, 2006 (Xing Danwen/danwen.com) Herman Jessor (architect) and United Housing Foundation (developer), Co-op City, Bronx, NY, 1968-73 (Foundation for Cooperative Housing, Cooperative Housing in the U.S.A., Washington, D.C., ca. 1973) Bill Owens, plate from Suburbia, new & improved ed., page 9, New York: Fotofolio, 1999 (Bill Owens/billowens.com) Brown & Guenther, Inwood Terrace, New York, NY, 1958, photographed 2010 (author’s photo) Brown & Guenther, Inwood Tower, New York, NY, 1961, photographed 2010 (author’s photo) William M. Dowling (architect) and United Veterans Mutual Housing (developer), Bell Park Gardens, Bayside, NY 1948-50, photographed 2009 (author’s photo)

11 Andrea A. Krest, “The Postwar Garden Apartment: Housing for the Middle-Class in Bell Park Gardens, Queens,” MS in Historic Preservation thesis, Columbia University, 1984: iv, 58-59, 62. 12 Barbara A. Smith, Still Giving Kisses: A Guide to Helping and Enjoying the Alzheimer’s Victim You Love (Raleigh: Lulu, 2008), 38. 13 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984) xi, xiii; Ben Highmore, “Introduction: Questioning Everyday Life,” in The Everyday Life Reader, ed. Ben Highmore (London: Routledge, 2002), 5, 12-13.

Mowing to Growing: Creating Productive Green Space in Cities Maria Aiolova


he front lawn has long been the iconic American space. Research shows that North Americans devote 40,000 square miles to lawns; more than we use for wheat, corn, and tobacco combined. Americans spend $750 million dollars a year on grass seed alone. Additionally, only 2% of America’s food is locally grown, and 12% of every dollar’s worth of food consumed at home comes from transportation costs. In July 2005, Los Angeles-based architect Fritz Haeg launched the campaign known as “Edible Estates”. Haeg says he was drawn to the lawn because it cuts across social, political and economic boundaries. “The lawn really struck me as one of the few places that we all share,” he says. “It represents what we’re all supposedly working so hard for — the American dream.” The concept of tilling one’s front yard is not a new one. In 1942, as the U.S. emerged from the Great Depression and mobilized for World War II, Agriculture Secretary Claude R. Wickard encouraged Americans to plant “Victory Gardens” to boost civic morale and relieve the war’s pressure on food supplies — an idea first introduced during The Great War and picked up by Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain. The slogan became “Have Your Garden, and Eat It Too.” Soon gardens began popping up everywhere, and not just American lawns — plots sprouted up at the Chicago County Jail, a downtown parking lot in New Orleans, and a zoo in Portland, Oregon. In 1943, Americans planted 20.5 million Victory Gardens, and the harvest accounted for nearly onethird of all the vegetables consumed in the country that year. Twenty-five million U.S. households planted vegetable and fruit gardens in 2008, according to the National Gardener’s Association. First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of

Agriculture Tom Vilsack have planted organic vegetable gardens this year. Roof gardens are sprouting nationwide. Community gardens have waiting lists. Seed houses and canning suppliers are oversold. The time for urban farming is NOW. Is it really? As America emerges from the Great Recession, is urban agriculture going to stay? Once the economy recovers, are we going to continue to grow our own tomatoes or are we are going to go back to the one shipped to us from Florida, Mexico or even China? Can designers provide answers to these questions? One Prize is a design and science award to advance the burgeoning environmental movement by encouraging designers to imagine new solutions and give them a platform for their ideas. For its inaugural year, One Prize took as its theme “Mowing to Growing: Creating Productive Green Space in Cities”. This award was launched in the context of larger issues concerning the environment, global food production and the imperative to generate a sense of community in our urban and suburban neighborhoods. Mowing to Growing was not meant to transform each lawn into a garden, but to open up the possibilities of self-sustenance, organic growth and perpetual change. In particular, it sought specific technical, urbanistic, and architectural strategies not simply for the food production required to feed the cities and suburbs, but the possibilities of diet, agriculture, and retrofitted facilities that could achieve that level within the constraints of the local climate. Mowing to Growing desired to see how future-proof spaces and systems can explore the larger framework of urban agriculture and its effects on the architecture and urban design. An open call was put to the international design community asking them the following questions: • How can we break the American love affair with the suburban lawn? • Can green houses be incorporated in skyscrapers? • What are the urban design strategies for food production in cities? • Can food grow on rooftops, parking lots, building facades? • What is required to remove foreclosure signs on lawns and convert them to gardens? 50

The results were overwhelming. Entries ranged from vertical farms, neighborhood farms, farming on vacant lots and buildings, abandoned infrastructure, front lawns, strip malls, roof tops, river barges and inside trailers. The competition drew 202 teams and 850 team members from more than 20 countries on five continents. It became a big challenge to narrow them down to thirty semifinalists. From there, the jury had a really difficult job to select the finalists.  In the end, they decided on two winners that represented two general groups of entries: Design Proposals and Community Proposals. The Design Award went to AGENCY Architecture LLC. Their project proposes a global system of levees, serving also as a new brand of urban farms at the city’s edge, preserving local ecologies while protecting cities from emerging dangers. By appropriating and expanding “super levee” construction technology, planning principles and grading strategies, the city is reconnected with the waterfront, and its natural heritage. Each stage of the levee supports the next. Clippings, compost, and surplus crops from farming levels are used as nutrients and food for a series of fish farms, marshes, and restorative dune ecologies. Waste from marine life and nutrients from algal habitats are then used to fertilize farm levels, making the levee a complete ecology. The project expands necessary infrastructural and

Major coastal cities around the world are built primarily at or below current sea level, and new communities are arising everyday in areas prone to an increasing array of sea-borne disasters. The time to act is now.


environmental improvements to propose a more productive urban and personal life. The Community Award went to the Thread Collective and TheGreenest.Net. Their proposal for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) Farms engages the population of aging New Yorkers and utilizes inaccessible lawns in order to “create and cultivate farm plots and social spaces within public housing complexes.” NORC Farms will use urban agriculture to transform grass into a socially, ecologically, and economically productive space; activate older New Yorkers; and transform public housing open spaces into local agriculture - where the tower in the park becomes the tower in the farm. A naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) is a unique housing model that allows older adults to live in the community rather than an institutional setting. New York City has over 1.3 million people over the age of 60 - and this population is expected to grow by 50% in the next 25 years. Over 1/3 of the retirement community in NYC lives in public housing projects almost exclusively surrounded by grass enclosed by fences: this inaccessible inert space reinforces the social segregation that both the elderly and public housing residents experience. NORC Farms transforms the swaths of poorly maintained grass, creating active social spaces, new connections to the exterior, and access to fresh healthy food.

Kids farming in the city - preliminary concept rendering

One of the jury’s favorite finalists were Michael Arad of Handel Architects with Rachel Kangas and Abbe Futterman. Their project, Kids Farming in the City was a simple gesture with profound effects. Located at a public school in Manhattan’s East Village/Lower East Side, the project is retrofitting a green farm-able roof on an existing city public school building. The intention is to allow teachers at the school to weave growing and cultivating plants into the curricula of different classes and areas of inquiry, ranging from science to art. They asked the question: If we were going to grow plants on the roof, why not grow plants we could eat? A program called ‘Days of Taste’ introduced school children to neighborhood chefs and taught them about food, nutrition and health through hands-on learning about ingredients and preparation leading to communal feasting at the chefs’ restaurants. A permit was granted by the state’s Department of Agriculture for the harvest of the container garden to be offered as lunch fare in the cafeteria. Some of these proposals might have been utopian, but they were not revolutionary, and they were not advocating for something new, they were advocating for a return to things that are old and familiar in many ways. As Michael Arad of Handel Architects put it, they are calling for a return to our roots; it is about rediscovering practices that have historically been an essential part of our lives. If thrift helped motivate city farmers seventy years ago, we have many compelling reasons to bring small scale urban farming back into our lives. At the same time, what is new

and hopefully revolutionary, is the fact that the results of the One Prize Award are redefining the design profession. Parallel to the calls from Architecture from Humanity and Public Architecture, the call from One Prize establishes the emergence of a new breed of designers/activists. Whether it is to combat global warming, childhood obesity, or to build better ties in their communities, these designers have the ability to shift the profession back to center stage of making the world a better, safer and healthier place. More information can be found at www.oneprize.org. n


The Pervasive Role of Geometry and Matter in the Life of Cities Manuel DeLanda


here is nothing more pervasive in the dynamics of cities than geometry. All the geometries known to mathematicians may be classified into two broad classes: metric and non-metric. Metric geometries, such as the familiar Euclidean geometry, are those in which concepts like length, area or volume are fundamental. Non-metric geometries form a more heterogeneous class, they include projective, differential, and topological geometries, but in all of them lengths, areas, and volumes are not basic concepts. The distinction between the two classes is sometimes drawn in terms of the types of transformations that leave geometric properties unchanged: while under transformations like translation, rotation, and mirror-imaging all lengths, areas, and volumes remain invariant, under topological transformations like stretching or folding they do not. Hence their lack of relevance in this non-metric branch of geometry. On the other hand, properties like connectivity do remain unchanged under folding and stretching: if two points on a topological object could be joined by a path prior to these transformations they can still be so joined afterwards, provided no cutting or gluing has been performed. Connectivity is, for this reason, a fundamental non-metric property. Both metric and non-metric properties are important when describing the physical spaces inhabited by humanity. We are normally interested in knowing the distance one must walk to get to a particular point, for example. The average length or distance of routine journeys, particularly when such journeys were on foot, was an important factor in the relative location of towns with respect to each other. Prior to the advent of steam, landlocked towns in Europe formed systems called “central place hierarchies�. In these systems there was a relatively large regional capital, a few mediumsized towns, and many small ones. The latter offered their countrysides a single service: their weekly marketplaces. The medium size towns added to this marketing service some administrative ones, such as a county jail, a service they offered to the smallest towns. Finally, the regional capital multiplied the number of administrative services and added religious and educational ones. The important geometric point here is that the distances at which these towns were located from one another display a certain regularity: it was the distance the inhabitants of the smallest towns 53

were willing to walk to get a given service. But non-metric properties were also important for central place hierarchies. The roads that connected these towns had a hierarchical pattern: the smallest towns were connected to the mediumsizes ones, and through these to the regional capital, but there were no direct roads from the smallest to the largest urban centers. The connectivity of the towns, not less than their size and degree of service differentiation, determined their relations to one another. Metric and non-metric geometrical properties are also important at smaller scales than cities, and for similar reasons. If we consider again the situation prior to the advent of affordable mechanical transportation, the area occupied by individual neighborhoods defined in many cases the space in which all the routine journeys of its inhabitants, the journey to work or the journey to shop, took place. The working class neighborhoods of English industrial cities, for example, were composed of row housing arranged around one or several factories. Since the journey to work was on foot, decisions as to where to live were determined by proximity to the factory. This meant that the life in these neighborhoods was very parochial, served by local shops and pubs, until later in the nineteenth century when access to the trolley (and other forms of mechanical transportation) provided a way to break from this narrow geographical frame of life.1 Thus, a metric property, the area occupied by a neighborhood, was one of its defining characteristics. But connectivity was also important, particularly that provided by the streets joining together the different stations (the marketplace, the pub, the church) where the trajectories of the routine journeys of neighbors periodically intersected. Both cities and neighborhoods may be considered locales divided into different regions, regions housing different sets of activities, and the connectivity between the regions is a crucial defining property of the locales.2 A similar point applies to individual buildings, residential and nonresidential. The different regions of a house, that is, its public and private rooms and areas, must be interconnected through hallways, staircases, and doors, a connectivity that, in turn, affects the very nature of the activities carried out in 1 James E. Vance Jr. The Continuing City. Urban Morphology in Western Civilization. (The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1990). Page 316. 2 Anthony Giddens. The Constitution of Society. (University of California Press, Berkeley 1986). Pages 118-119.

those regions. The historian Fernand Braudel, for example, argues that in the eighteenth century the connectivity and the degree of specialization of the regions of residential buildings changed dramatically. “In a Parisian town house of the seventeenth century”, he writes, “on the first floor, which was the noble storey, reserved for the owners of the house, all the rooms – antechambers, salons, galleries and bedrooms – opened off each other and were sometimes hard to tell apart. Everyone, including servants on domestic errands, had to go through all of them to reach the stairs.”3 A hundred years later, the bedroom had become a fully specialized and detached region, becoming capable of affording privacy to its occupants for the first time in centuries. These few remarks show that geometry does have a bearing on the problem of the social use of space. But what about matter? While the temporal structure of cities, neighborhoods, and buildings is defined by the rhythms of the routine activities taking place in their regions, their spatial structure is clearly material: buildings are loadbearing structures that must successfully fight gravity; neighborhoods and cities, in addition to allowing for a constant flow of people, must also facilitate the circulation of matter and energy flows in the form of food, fuel, and building materials. But beyond this, are there material concepts that, like the concept of connectivity, can provide us with insights into social properties? In thermodynamics, for example, there is a distinction between extensive and intensive properties. Extensive properties include length, area, and volume, but also non-geometric attributes like the amount of energy contained in a given body, or the number of components in a given material structure. Intensive properties, on the other hand, include temperature, pressure, speed, and density. The main difference between the two is their spatial behavior. Extensive properties are divisible in space: a one meter long ruler may be broken into two halves, each half a meter long; a structure with a hundred components may be broken in two parts, each with half the number of components, and so forth. Intensive properties cannot be so divided: while a gallon of water at fifty degrees centigrade may be divided into two half-gallon parts, each one of the two halves will not be at twenty five degrees of temperature, but at the original temperature. Divisibility is clearly fundamental for social locales since their regions are nothing but subdivisions of these locales in which routine activities have become specialized. The number of people inhabiting any one of these regions is one of their extensive properties. But more important than sheer numbers is the relation of these numbers to the area occupied by the region, that is, the density of people in the region. This is an intensive property that is more useful to characterize the difference between locales, between cities

and their surrounding countrysides, for example, than their extensive properties. Cities are, on average, always larger or more extensive, than rural villages, and tend to have a larger number of inhabitants. But there are exceptions, that is, we can find some rural villages that cover a wider area or house more people than some small towns. On the other hand, even the least extensive urban settlement packs a larger number of people in the same amount of space than any rural village. This means that physical density is a more useful attribute to distinguish rural and urban locales than either a metric property (area) or an extensive one (number of inhabitants). Moreover, physical density, despite being a purely material property, has definite effects on social activity: the more densely packed the inhabitants of a locale are, the more likely it is that they will routinely interact with one another, at least for the case of simple, informal interactions. Another intensive property that affects social practices is speed, the speed of transportation, for example. I mentioned above that, prior to the emergence of steamdriven vehicles, distances between landlocked towns in the same geographical region were determined by the slowness of terrestrial transportation. The ships used by maritime cities, on the other hand, possessed a much greater velocity. This meant that many of these cities (Venice, Genoa, Lisbon, Antwerp, Amsterdam, London) could be in closer contact with one another than with the landlocked cities in their own backyards: money, people, news, commodities, even contagious diseases, tended to travel faster from one port to the next than among cities linked by land routes. Also, the connectivity among these ports was different than among the cities in a central place hierarchy: every port was, at least potentially, linked to any other port, regardless of size or status. Moreover, these maritime metropolises were linked to similar centers outside of Europe, the urban centers with which they carried out their long distance trade. This had the consequence that, unlike landlocked towns that tended to have an inward looking regional culture, maritime cities were gateways to the outside, gateways through which alien ideas, products, and practices entered Europe. For this reason, their local culture tended to be more cosmopolitan and the composition of their population more heterogeneous since they housed a much greater proportion of alien merchants than other cities.4 Speed may also have other social effects, at least if we are willing to stretch the meaning of the term a little bit to include all rates of change. Speed is, of course, only one of these rates (rate of change of position relative to time) but all rates are, in a sense, rapidities and slownesses, that is, intensities. A very important example are the relations between birth and death rates, relations that can affect social entities of many different sizes: the relation between the rate

3 Fernand Braudel. The Structures of Everyday Life. (University of California Press, Berkeley 1992.) Page 267.

4 Paul M. Hohenberg and Lynn Hollen Lees. The Making of Urban Europe 1000-1950. (Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, 1985). Page 281.


at which new cities are born and that at which they collapse and disappear determines the rate of urbanization of a given region; the rate at which residential and nonresidential neighborhoods change, that is, the rate at which one land use replaces another, affects the destiny of different parts of cities; and the fertility and mortality rates of people affects the fates of neighborhoods, of cities, and of entire nation states. All these are intensive effects. So far I have given examples of how geometry and matter, or more exactly, of how topological and intensive properties (in addition to metric and extensive ones) affect social processes in a physical way. But are there examples of these properties belonging to social entities as such? A good source of illustrations of purely social intensities and connectivities is the branch of sociology that studies social networks. In mathematical models of interpersonal networks, that is, of the patterns of links that structure human communities, it is the properties of these connecting linkages that matter, not so much the attributes (ethnic group, race, gender) of the people linked. Not that those attributes are insignificant, they clearly are not, but many properties of a network stay more or less unchanged if we permute the attributes of its members. The properties that do not remain invariant after such a permutation, however important, are not for that very reason properties of the network itself. The properties of the links, on the other hand, are crucial to the theory: the strength of the links (measured, for example, by frequency of interaction), their reciprocity, and their presence or absence, with absences marking the borders of cliques within a network. And, of course, beside the properties of individual links this branch of mathematical sociology must deal with the properties of entire sets of links, that is, with the overall topology of a network. Unlike the connectivity between regions of a locale discussed above, the connectivity of people in interpersonal networks exemplifies a purely social topological property. I mentioned above that physical density has the social effect of increasing the chance of informal interaction. But more complex interactions, those leading to the formation of long lasting relations, require another form of density. This other form, the density of a network, is a perfect example of a purely social intensive property. Network density measures the degree to which the indirect links of members of a community are connected to each other. If the friends of my friends (that is, my indirect links) know the friends of your friends, who in turn know the friends of her friends and so forth, the density of the interpersonal network structuring of our neighborhood is said to be high.5 A high density network has very definite social properties: if everybody knows everybody else, news about any transgression of a local norm (a broken promise, an unpaid debt or bet, an unreciprocated favor) travel fast by word of mouth. This 5 John Scott. Social Network Analysis. (Sage Publications, London, 2000). Pages 70-73.


means that a dense interpersonal network can store the local reputations of its members, and through the use of ostracism and other informal means of punishment, it can act as an enforcement mechanism for local norms. Another example of purely social intensities and connectivities comes from the study of conversations and other social encounters. The sociologist Ervin Goffman has investigated these ephemeral yet crucial social entities and has revealed both their topological and intensive properties. Let’s start with the case of verbal exchanges unaided by communication technology, that is, exchanges that demand the co-presence of human bodies. These conversations have a well defined connectivity: once the participants have ratified each other as valid interlocutors and the verbal exchange begins, they become disconnected from the other people surrounding them, that is, they exclude nearby persons from intruding into their conversation. It follows that the participants themselves must be connected: they must be in proximity to each other, facing one another and they must invest certain resources, such as attention and involvement, to constantly maintain the connection. In addition to words, claims to a public persona are also exchanged in conversations, with facial gestures, bodily postures, choice of topic, display of poise and tact, and in many other ways. To the extent that claims to a publicly acceptable self circulate in conversations, any damage done to these public images is a potential threat to the integrity of the situation, since an embarrassing revelation or a humiliating remark will inevitably draw attention away from the main topic being discussed to the norms which the participants mutually enforce. Goffman sees embarrassing events as literally intensive properties of the encounter, events that, if not repaired by letting the embarrassed party save face, can threaten its ritual equilibrium. As he writes, a humiliating event places all participants in “a state of ritual disequilibrium or disgrace, and an attempt must be made to reestablish a satisfactory ritual state for them. ... The imagery of equilibrium is apt here because the length and intensity of the corrective effort is nicely adapted to the persistence and intensity of the threat.�6 Indeed, Goffman speaks of critical points in the intensity of humiliation after which regaining composure becomes impossible, embarrassment is communicated to all participants, and the conversation collapses. Critical thresholds, like the threshold of temperature at which water changes from liquid to solid or gas, are characteristic of intensive properties. These are only two examples of social connectivities and intensities. There are many others. But these two already raise the question of the degree to which the topological is independent of the metric, and the intensive from the extensive. Tightly-knit communities owe their high 6 Ervin Goffman. Interaction Ritual. Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. (Pantheon Books, New York, 1967). Page 19.

degree of network density to the fact that they inhabit the same neighborhood or small town, that is, that they live in proximity to each other, or that their daily paths occur in the same area; conversations in person always take place in a specific place, a street corner, a table at a restaurant, inside a pub, places that could be given spatial coordinates. In other words, a full description of both examples must include metric notions. And similarly for extensive ones: people can only be friends with a limited number of other people, since maintaining relations takes energy and time; and conversations are also constrained in the number of people that can participate, before they mutate into another form of social encounter, a town meeting or a conference. There is no problem in including metric and extensive properties here since these are also part of the problematic of geometry and matter. On the other hand, communication technologies can create the conditions under which the metric and the extensive loose some of their importance, while the topological and intensive remain. Telephone conversations, for example, take away the physical component of copresence and thus some of the metric aspects of the encounter, but retain the connectivity. Indeed, the possibility of conversations at a distance is limited by the connectivity of land telephone lines, a limitation greatly diminished, though not totally surmounted, by cell phones. In other words, machine topologies must compensate for the lack of metric proximity. Distance also tends to decrease intensity, but it never eliminates it: a telephone conversation, and even more, one taking place in a chat room, decreases the sources of nonlinguistic expressivity, like facial gestures and bodily posture, forcing participants to compensate for this intensive loss in some other way (tone of voice or special expressive written characters). And similarly for interpersonal networks. Long-distance communications allow network members to be more geographically dispersed while remaining connected, that is, they get rid of the metric aspect but not the topological. The intensive aspect, in turn, is weakened, since dispersion lowers network density, but it is not eliminated: networks of friends scattered throughout a big city keeping in contact via telephone or e-mail do not have the same enforcement powers as those characterizing tightlyknit communities, but they retain some capacity to store reputations. This intensive weakening was understood by the organizers of the early virtual communities that emerged in the internet (such as the Well), and special meetings or parties were regularly scheduled to compensatefor it.7 In conclusion, we may say that geometry and matter impinge of social questions first of all by their effect on the regionalized locales that form the context of much social interaction, particularly when not mediated by technology.

Transportation and communication technologies themselves are also affected by geometrical and material conditions. But geometry and matter may affect social relations in a more indirect way by the fact that social entities, of which networks and conversations are only two examples among many, also possess intensive and topological properties, even when they have become dematerialized. Geometry and matter, it would seem, are part and parcel of the social in all its manifestations. n

7 Howard Rheingold. The Virtual Community Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. (Harper Perennial, New York 1994).


prototype 180 Mary Ellen Carroll

November 11, 2011. The 180 degree structural rotation by Cherry Structural Movers.

To make a conceptual work of art whose process will make architecture perform in this age of the political, and to treat policy as a ready made. The catalytic moment will be the revolution of a structure and its surrounding property 180 degrees. Following the rotation, everything about the building and its surroundings as a system will be reconsidered and if necessary, redesigned and manufactured as a work of art. -Mary Ellen Carroll, Los Angeles, November 27, 1999

January 11, 2011. The reconnection of the structure to the foundation.



rototype 180, Mary Ellen Carroll’s ongoing urban alteration, entails a radical form of renovation through the physical rotation and reoccupation of a single family house in the aging, first ring subdivision of Sharpstown in Houston, Texas. In conception and planning for 10 years, the project is temporally, physically, and structurally organized around its catalytic rotational transformation. While the rotation and relocation of the house on its lot interrupt the relation of the house to its context and to existing street typologies they also signal the altered life of the house as a space devoted to debates and other public events that will address the issue of aging neighborhoods and their potential futures. prototype 180 strategically intersects conceptual art projects, social activism, urban legislation and economic processes. Its 180° reorientation registers simultaneously against a history of critical house alterations and in relation to Houston’s unregulated land use policies and its absence of zoning. The project is situated within its Houston subdivision precisely to contend with Sharpstown’s postwar master planning and its relation to urban policy. As such, crucial moments in the project’s evolution are those that involve financing, permitting practices, deed restrictions and their manipulation, for which the rotation is the most visible sign. The public is able to witness the ongoing transformation and process of the open model/ laboratory at the physical local site as well as via a global online n broadcast.1

1 www.prototype180.com 2 The property was unihabited for 13 years and at this point was not for sale.

May 27, 2003. 6513 Sharpview Drive, Houston, Texas. View of the north faรงade.2

View of the south faรงade.


City as Open Work Eve Blau

selected from the introduction to Eve Blau and Ivan Rupnik, Project Zagreb: Transition as Condition, Strategy, Practice


he enormous dislocations of the postcommunist transition are visibly registered in the physical fabric of Central European cities. Everywhere there is evidence of wild “illegal” building, abandoned industrial buildings converted into provisional dwellings, living space turned to commercial uses, new skyscrapers and office towers rising among small suburban houses in semi-urban areas with little or no infrastructure. In recent years a literature of “transitology” has emerged that sensationalizes these phenomena, describing them as “urban mutants,” “infections,” and “parasitic developments,” while celebrating them as the improvised formations of a “fluid,” “anarchic,” “hybridized,” new “culture of urban action.” It seems clear that the transitional urban landscapes of postcommunist cities radically challenge traditional urban concepts—particularly of public and private space, property, and use—as well as current planning practices. But for all the transgressive excitement of these spontaneous and aberrant (in the European context) urban formations, they actually offer little substantial insight into the complex and multilayered dynamics of urban change or, for that matter, the implications of transition for urban and architectural practices. Precisely because these formations are ephemeral—like the condition of postcommunism itself—they have little potential for self-reproduction. This investigation contends that if we are to comprehend not only the current modalities but also the future potential of the postsocialist transition for urbanism and architecture in Europe, we need to look beyond the chaos and entropy, and to examine these postcommunist cities with both a longer historical lens and a sharper critical focus. We need to engage the geographical, historical, and cultural specificity of the cities themselves, and to look closely at their material fabric. Most of all, we need to pay close attention to the conditions of practice, the desires, aspirations, and constraints that generated these cities over time. In other words, we need to look backward in order to project forward. As the Viennese philosopher and political economist Otto Neurath admonished at an earlier moment of transition in 1911, “Those who stay exclusively with the present will very soon only be able to understand the past.” Scientific 1

Selected from Project Zagreb: Transition as Condition, Strategy, Practice, (Barcelona and New York, 2007). 1 See Boris Buden, “Ein Transitionsmärchen,” springer|in 2/00: Inland Europa.


research, Neurath maintained, should provide information not only about social and other orders that already exist in the world but also about orders that may not yet exist. That is the objective of the research presented here: our aspiration is to produce knowledge about cities that has the potential to inform contemporary urban architectural practices and to open them to new forms of innovation and change—in postcommunist Central Europe, as well as in cities across the globe that are likewise undergoing large-scale adjustments to expanding urban networks and new forms of polity. 2

Generative Dynamics of Transition The first thing the historical lens brings into focus is the fact that transition in Central Europe is neither new nor particular to postcommunism. Central European cities have, in fact, been in transition more or less continuously since the beginning of the modern period. Of course change is a condition of modernity, and most cities have experienced significant change and unsettlement at different times and scales. But in certain parts of Central Europe, transition (which we understand as a state of instability with uncertain outcome, not as the passage from one stable condition to another) has been the norm for much of the twentieth century. Particularly in the cities that began the century in the crumbling edifice of the Habsburg Empire and ended it in the wreckage of state socialism, the transformations (economic, technological, social) associated with modernization were refracted and protracted by enormous political and cultural dislocations into prolonged and recurrent periods of crisis and displacement. What is the significance for architecture and urbanism of this long experience of transition? As the German historian of Eastern Europe Karl Schlögel proposed in 1996, it “is something which cannot be fully expressed in terms of schillings or marks, something which is simply invaluable: the ability of cities to cope with the transitional situation, to master crises. The cities of the Central region have been workshops of successful transition.” In other words, it is not so much their current experience of transition as their long history of adapting to and creatively engaging instability, that enabled them to endure as cities with vital urban and architectural cultures. It is that history and experience 3

2 Otto Neurath, “Nationalökonomie und Wertlehre,” Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft, Sozialpolitik und Verwaltung, 20 (1911): 52. 3 See note 1.

that makes the cities of Central Europe key subjects for understanding the urban spatial dynamics and potentials of transition today. At the same time, it is impossible to generalize in any meaningful way about the dynamics of transition in Central Europe before, during, or after state socialism. Just as we are discovering that the Iron Curtain dividing east and west was far more permeable to architectural and urban ideas throughout the Cold War than was previously acknowledged, so we are now becoming aware that urban architectural formations in the cities of communist Central Europe were as different from one another as were their political, economic, and administrative structures, their institutions and cultures, and of course their “presocialist” histories. Those differences mark their postsocialist societies as well, and are clearly also determining factors in the trajectories that their “transitions” from socialism will follow. Therefore, if we want to comprehend both the socialist legacy and the postsocialist potential of transition in terms of the city and architecture, we need to ground our research in the specificity of place and time. We need to develop new methodologies for understanding change and difference, methodologies that make it possible to chart continuities and discontinuities, to map relationships between the local and translocal, and especially to understand how urban architectural practices evolve in relation to the evolution of the city itself. These are the tasks we set ourselves in Project Zagreb. 4

City as Project (...) In particular, Zagreb offers important insights into two conditions of the contemporary city that are relevant to architecture today. The first, to frame it in the most general terms, is the transnational geography generated by the European Union. The new cross-border networks in Europe raise a number of questions about the role of cities. How do cities operate within these contexts and networks? What transformations are taking place within the core structures of cities? The second condition concerns the rapid rate and intensity of change and growth in cities across the globe— particularly in the developing world, but also in the First and Second worlds—that are seriously challenging normative planning methods. How can cities plan under conditions of constant and uncontainable growth? How is it possible for architecture and urban planning to operate effectively and to innovate under such conditions of instability? With respect to both conditions, Zagreb has almost 150 years of continuous experience. Operating within transterritorial city networks and transnational geopolitical structures, the city was enmeshed in a complex, constantly mutating, multilayered web of administrative, economic, and political structures and relationships. As a result, administrators and other key players—including architects and planners—developed modalities of operation on behalf 4 See, Gregory Andrusz, Michael Harloe, and Ivan Szelenyi, eds., Cities After Socialism: Urban and Regional Change and Conflict in Post-Socialist Societies (Oxford and Cambridge, Mass., 1996).

of the city that were strategic, agile, and flexible. They learned how to channel the connectivity of the transterritorial networks of which Zagreb was a part into the city itself in ways that enabled it to grow and to innovate. How did this connectivity and instability play out on the ground? Principally, through architects and planners who developed strategies of architecture and urbanism for creatively engaging the transitional, conditional, unstable, mutable, and open-ended—strategies for absorbing, accommodating, anticipating, and instrumentalizing the state of irresolution. Project Zagreb examines how these strategies, once they are stabilized in built form, become available to practice and capable of generating new strategies and practices that open the city and architecture to change and innovation. Transition, in other words, has clear implications for architecture and urban design. It is a condition that foregrounds practice and enables architecture to play an active, performative role in the formation of the city. It also allows us to understand the city as a project with distinct and often precise formal aspirations. But in the unstable environment of twentieth-century Zagreb, the processes of generating the city transform fixed form into open form, and the city itself into an open work—a work that is dynamic and mutable, but also purposeful and coherent. Methods Our objective in Project Zagreb is to understand the dynamics of practice, not to produce a history of Zagreb. Consequently, the methods we employ in excavating the generative dynamic of transition were generated by the need to develop techniques for representing and analyzing conditions that are multiple and unstable, and contingent on a broad range of equally unstable factors. Often we found that historical documentation was missing or unreliable. It became clear to us that traditional methods of historical research were inadequate to the task. We began therefore with the built fabric and an intensive engagement with the existing city, including on-site photography and video recording; discussions with architects, planners, historians, and city officials. We augmented this work with extensive multidisciplinary and multimedia archival research; using historical maps, plans, drawings, photographs, film footage, legal documents, journals, the popular press, and a range of other archival documents, to understand the evolution of the city. By focusing on multidimensional variables (spatial, programmatic, technical, administrative, property-based ownership, legal), as well as the historical particularities of culture, politics, and economics, we examined and analyzed transition, as condition, strategy, and practice, through a range of graphic techniques: assembly, mapping, diagramming, layering, animation, projection, analytical modeling, stop-frame photography, and other techniques that make it possible to visualize synchronous and nonsynchronous transformations occurring at different rates in different sectors. 60

One of the most useful analytic tools we developed emerged out of our goal to understand the dynamics of change and innovation in terms of urban and architectural practice. The method we devised was to simultaneously read the city backward and forward chronologically; to start with the present and peel back the accumulated spatiotemporal layers of the built fabric to discover moments of alteration, addition, erasure, misalignment and realignment, etc. A very different narrative from the standard historical reading emerges from such a process. In the reverse reading, action precedes intention. In urban architectural terms, the built intervention or object is encountered before the preexisting condition of the site, and (in effect) without prior knowledge of its author’s intentions. In other words, the chronologically backward reading of the urban fabric constructs a narrative that foregrounds action—what the intervention or object actually does—rather than what it was intended or designed to do. It thereby reproduces the lived experience of encounter with the built object. This method of reading the city defamiliarizes it, and casts the built fabric in an active role as protagonist in its own making. The reverse reading produces a kind of knowledge that is spatial and fundamentally architectural—a form of knowledge that is not contained in written documents, and, most important of all, that highlights departures from the norm and therefore also moments of deviation and innovation. When read across historical time—that is, chronologically forward as well as backward—the interactive (dialectical) process by which the city is generated over time and through authored urban and architectural projects, becomes clearly legible. This method of reading and analysis brings into sharp focus the role of practice, and of urban architectural knowledge, in the process of generating the city. The Freedom of the Periphery The edge or glacis condition of Zagreb—on the periphery of territorial powers and dominant cultures—has been theorized within the region in terms of the “freedom of the periphery.” Ljubo Karaman, the twentieth-century historian of Croatian and Dalmatian art, developed the concept of the “peripheral milieu” as a particular kind of (cultural) edge condition that is radically different in terms of its relation to the center from the provincial milieu. Unlike provincial regions, peripheral milieus have no strong gravitational pull to any one center, but are drawn to many centers. This is a condition that offers considerable “freedom of creation” that allows artists “to draw from two or more sources and to make creative synthesis in auspicious moments.” The peripheral milieu is one in which multidirectional vectors offer access to many centers, and in which an “intensification of culture” occurs—an intensification and differentiation that fosters experimentation and innovation and generates originality. The periphery in this way has the capacity to 5


5 Ljubo Karaman, O djelovanju domace sredine u umjetnosti hrvatshih krajeva (On the Effect of the Native Environment in the Art of the Croatian Lands) (Zagreb, 1963), 89. 6 Ibid.


become its own center. Transition from Condition to Strategy Generated by modernity, Zagreb was shaped by political transition. Between 1850 and 1991, the city weathered eighteen major political shifts, each accompanied by intense periods of economic instability and almost continuous political realignment and administrative reorganization. How, under such conditions, was it possible for architecture and urban planning—disciplines that are predicated on stability, continuity, and durability, that require substantial capital investment and the ability to take the long view—to operate effectively? How was it possible for the city to modernize, industrialize, and grow more than one-hundredfold during that time? Did the permanently transitional environment of modern Zagreb generate new techniques for city making? The answers to these questions, we propose, are embedded in the fabric of the city itself. Close examination of that fabric and its spatial logic, with all its multi-authored and multilayered complexity, reveals the processes by which the condition of transition in Zagreb generated urban architectural strategies for dealing with the continuously unresolved. Those strategies, once implemented, achieve a temporary stability in the production of form that has a logic capable of reproduction, that is open to further innovation, and available to practice. But first we must define our terms. Strategy We define strategy as a highly organized plan of action devised in response to conditions that are unstable or otherwise uncertain, which is both constrained and directed toward the achievement of specific objectives. It is also predicated on contestation, intelligent opposition, and conflict. Strategy must plot a course of action that anticipates a range of possible countermoves. Uncertainty is the fundamental condition of strategy, just as agility is its mode of operation. Carl von Clausewitz, the nineteenth-century Prussian theorist of war, made an important distinction between strategy and tactics. Tactics, in military operations, is an activity concerned with individual acts; it deals with the form of individual engagements. Strategy, by contrast, is concerned with the use and significance of the totality of engagements to achieve the larger objectives of the conflict. Tactics are opportunistic; they exploit opportunities. Strategy is generative; it creates opportunities. Whether or not it is successful in achieving a desired outcome, strategy—by imagining, planning, and rationally projecting actions and their consequences onto existing conditions—transforms those conditions into possibilities. It is this projective, creative aspect of strategy that interests us here. In Clausewitz’s words, strategy “must give an aim to the whole military action that corresponds to the goal of the war. Strategy, then, determines the plans for the individual campaigns, and orders the engagements within them. Because most of these things are based on assumptions that do not always materialize and on a number

of other, more specific details that cannot be determined in advance, it follows that strategy must be developed at the battle site itself.” In other words, strategy is endlessly malleable, adaptable, and agile. It is also at its most effective when it is formulated on the battlefield, in conditions that Clausewitz describes as “friction.” We suggest that it is appropriate to adopt the terms of warfare when considering the conditions of Zagreb’s twentieth-century modernization. Planning in Zagreb was intensely contested at the highest levels and occurred in conditions that can be accurately described as embattled. Regulation plans drawn up at each stage of Zagreb’s modern development—during the Habsburg Empire, Royal Yugoslavia, and Socialist Yugoslavia—were proposed with the understanding (even expectation) that they would be opposed by the authorities in Vienna, Budapest, or Belgrade. The plans therefore had to be strategic in anticipating and attempting to evade rational opposition. With limited power in relation to those centers, Zagreb had to strategize carefully to achieve its objectives. (...)

objectives. The larger conception of the plan informs each of the smaller authored moves, and the smaller moves impact and modify the larger direction of the plan. As Project Zagreb documents, the challenge of Zagreb’s permanently transitional state was engaged by successive generations of architects in Zagreb who developed strategies both for building on specific sites and for generating the larger urban conditions that would support and proliferate that construction. Working individually and collectively, with private clients, and the city planning office, they developed strategies for generating the modern city by means of carefully conceived and clearly authored architectural projects. Those projects were not merely tactical; they did not merely exploit opportunities. Instead, comprised of several moves that are contingent and constrained, they created opportunities in circumstances where none had existed. By spontaneously staging the conditions for further actions and strategies, these projects opened the city to innovation and expanded the possibilities for architecture to shape the urban landscape.

From Strategy to Practice As we delaminated the historical layers of Zagreb’s built fabric, and read them against the regulation plans periodically drawn up by the planning office to direct the city’s urban growth, it became clear that the unstable environment of Zagreb made conventional methods of planning and realizing projects impossible for much of the twentieth century. The situation called for more agile and assertive techniques of intervention. It required strategies that did not merely delineate the future development of the urban terrain, but that actually generated the city itself. In short, the situation required strategies that were architectural as well as urban. It required urban architectural projects that engaged the city at the level of the plan and thereby became instrumental, durational, and urban. In this sense, the making of twentieth-century Zagreb was as much an architectural project, as it was an urban project. The architects who built modern Zagreb consistently designed buildings that functioned urbanistically, and transformed the organization and use of space far beyond the immediate context of the buildings themselves. Consistently staging the conditions for future moves, each individual intervention prepared the ground for further interventions. This is a practice based on a concept of the city as an ongoing, open-ended project—an open work—in the dialectical sense in which Umberto Eco describes works that combine openness with internal coherence, that are inclusive and in some sense uncontainable, but also composed and integral within themselves. In terms of the city, the open work is a multi-authored project in which each individual intervention is part of a much larger highly strategic and carefully staged plan of action with, often precise, formal

Practice What are the processes by which architectural strategies evolve into practices? Strategy, as a mode of operation, does not directly translate into praxis. Strategy can be thought but not reified. However, when strategy generates physical form and space—a type of knowledge particular to architecture—that knowledge becomes materially and historically specific. The forms and spaces therefore become open to interpretation, proliferation, and development, and the strategies that generated them become available for application to conditions and contexts that may have little to do with the original context in which the strategy was developed. Through extrapolation, (the process by which knowledge produced in a particular context is applied to other contexts) therefore, architectural strategies can be said to generate architectural practices. It is clear that we are not dealing here with “everyday practices” and tactics of resistance, as theorized by Michel de Certeau. Instead we are concerned with the generation of authored form and the production, proliferation, and instrumentation of a form of knowledge particular to architecture. We understand practice here in terms of the sociospatial dialectic described by Henri Lefebvre as the “social production of space.” Space, in Lefebvre’s formulation, is neither an object (substance) nor a subject (consciousness), but rather “a social reality—that is to say, a set of relations and forms.” Space is historically produced and both shapes and is itself shaped by social practice. Spatial structures such as architecture therefore do not merely reflect (or reify) social or political practices. Instead, by shaping the spaces in which social life takes place, they condition those practices. The urban (a condition rather

7 Carl von Clausewitz, On War, edited and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, 1984 [1976]), 177–178. 8 Ibid., 119. 9 Umberto Eco, The Open Work, trans. A. Cancogni (Cambridge, MA, 1989), 20.

10 Michel deCerteau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1984). 11 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford, 1991), 116.







than a thing), according to Lefebvre, is a spatial formation in which “the logic of form” is associated with “the dialectic of content”—a condition in which form and content shape and transform each other. The urban, Lefebvre contends, is therefore “a concrete abstraction, associated with practice.” By practice, Lefebvre means spatial practice. How does this idea relate to architecture? First, it suggests that architecture is a spatial practice that involves both the generation of authored form and the reception, extrapolation, and interpolation of the operative spatial and formal logic of the intervention into other contexts, both diachronic and synchronic. For example, in the 1930s, Drago Ibler inserted modernist apartment houses in Zagreb’s late-nineteenth century Lower Town city blocks in ways that opened the private space of the block to the street, made the interior of the block accessible to circulation and commerce, and spawned a broad range of modernizing strategies for transforming the closed geometry of the city block into a porous open field. In this way, strategies for interpolating modern buildings into the old city fabric generated new practices of organizing and using space in the city. Secondly, this conception of the urban helps us to understand urban architectural practice itself as not only a matter of intervening in the city, but of reading the city in a certain way—as a project –in terms of authored interventions and the production and proliferation of architectural knowledge in a specific place over time. (...) 12

City as Open Work Transition made it necessary to repeatedly start anew in Zagreb. Each change of government signaled a new beginning in urban policy as well. Often this involved rejection (or at the very least, revision) of previous plans and projects. As a result, architects and planners in Zagreb learned not only to anticipate and adjust to frequent changes but also to instrumentalize change to their own advantage. They developed strategies that engaged the condition of irresolution in which they were forced to operate and shaped it into an open approach to design and to generating the city. We suggest that this approach involves a conception of the city as an open work in Umberto Eco’s sense, as “not just as a conglomeration of random components ready to emerge from the chaos in which they previously stood and permitted to assume any form whatsoever,” but rather as adhering to the internal logic of an integral work. (Significantly, Eco visited Zagreb and closely followed the experiments of artists and architects in the 1960s.) The idea of the city as an open work therefore does not imply either an acceptance of chaos or a celebration of the ad hoc, nor for that matter does it uncritically offer the city up to market forces. Instead it conceives the city as a project that is dynamic and openended, but “will always be perceived as a work.” We also propose that the concept of the city as project and open work implies the existence of formal aspiration as 13

12 Henri Lefebvre, The Urban Revolution, trans. Robert Bononno (Minneapolis and London, 2003), 118-119. 13 Ibid.


well as agency and authorship. The case studies presented in this volume show that Zagreb’s twentieth century evolution was directed by a succession of key actors, many of them architects, who took it upon themselves to advance the urban project of Zagreb. This conception of the city itself as a project is based on the recognition that in order to generate the urban, it is necessary to establish a dialogic relationship between planning and design. The dialogic relationship does not seek equilibrium but instead strives to keep the process of generating the city open to change and the opportunities that irresolution provides. (...) The tool introduced in 2003 to enable urban development in Zagreb is a continuously evolving set of urban rules. These rules conceptualize the urban territory of Zagreb in terms of the formal logic of the existing urban fabric in different parts of the city. They are based on a close reading of that fabric and the logic of its morphology and organization. As form-based rules rather than zoning laws, they allow for development in ways that preserve and proliferate the established order, scale, density, and morphology of the existing fabric. In times of transition, urban rules guard against the vagaries of private property development. What such rules cannot provide, however, is the kind of urban architectural knowledge that is based on practice, the ongoing processes by which the fabric has been generated, and the multiplicity of logics that underlie the forms themselves. In conditions of “unplanned” urban growth where the built fabric does not conform to a well-defined “urban logic”, or the intentionality of a plan is absent, the rules can only replicate or valorize existing formal conditions. On the basis of the research presented here we suggest that it is not enough to read the city in terms of the spatial logic of its urban morphology. It has to be read in terms of authored intervention and continuously evolving practices as well. In conditions that preclude traditional methods of planning, practice is both datum and substrate of the accumulated skills, knowledge, and innovations of the generations of architects, planners, investors, city officials and others who over time developed modalities of operating on behalf of the city. (...) Moving back and forth between reading, mapping, and diagramming, the process of investigation parallels that by which the city itself was generated; it is now informing the process by which Zagreb is being planned today. That dialogic process and Project Zagreb itself are presented here in terms of mutually informing historical and design practices—the city as an open work––at once purposeful and coherent, and openended, mutable, and dynamic. Embedded in this notion of practice is perhaps the most important lesson of Project Zagreb—that the most stable and enduring condition of practice may paradoxically be one that anticipates transition and takes advantage of its potentials. n 14

14 City of Zagreb Master Plan 2003: Summary (Zagreb: City Department for City Development Planning and Environment Protection), 17.

C A T A L O G Introduction Here we present insidious urbanism not as a new paradigm or manifesto, but as a reflection and collection of projects that are currently and have been produced by architects, urban planners, and artists. The following pages display initiations of collaboration and social engagement, and an inventive interpretation of regulations. These designs subversively provide a public space that activates, empowers and cultivates the civic milieu. Rather than seeking to highlight the negative connotations of the word insidious, we are choosing instead to explore the possibilities and potentials of provoking an insidious act. Animating the urban landscape, Steve Rasmussen-Cancian and the West Oakland Greening Project’s, Outdoor Living Rooms discourages developers from occupying and buying out lower-income neighborhoods. Collaborative efforts with the community allow residents to redefine public space with small interventions of sidewalk furniture. Cooperating with the developer, Interboro Partners’ LentSpace beautifies a vacant lot by turning it into a temporary public space. In doing this, they are designing a recyclable public place for occupants of the community and for the developer to make use of their land before construction. Both of these projects offer an alternative method to urban design which focuses on the immediate needs of the residents of a neighborhood and instills a sense of community. These relationships between a diverse group of residents and agencies are also explored in Recetas Urbanas’ Trucks, Containers, and Collectives project where they collaborate with various collectives providing containers to be used for alternative education, temporary residences, and event spaces. The repurposed containers feed off of the existing infrastructure of the city and allow civic involvement to flourish. Rael San Fratello’s Border Wall project acts as a parasite to the national security system of the United States-Mexican Border. By attaching architectural elements to the wall dividing two nation states, this project uses an ambiguous space to generate social connectivity. These

political gestures establish a platform for dialogue within the urban environment. Both the Hutong Bubble by MAD Architects and the Oderberger Strasse 56 project designed by BARarchitekten Berlin are permanent structures that propagate throughout the city and adapt to the needs of residents. Reactivating neglected neighborhoods MAD Architects utilizes design as a force to prevent the destruction of historical Beijing. The Oderberger Strasse 56 design is an adaptable building with a facade reminiscent of the DDR-era. In response to the building boom of the 1990’s in Berlin, BARarchitekten rejects high design exteriors and instead focuses on developing an interior which acts as a catalyst unifying the street culture with residents, artists with shoppers. Employing adapt-and-reuse strategies these projects seep into the built environment and instigate a social and economic change. Insidious urbanism intervenes between the ephemeral and the concrete. It can be a project designed in collaboration with developers or a temporary installation intended to keep existing neighborhoods intact. It can also be a project or collection of projects that sidestep institutional forms of development and make room for grassroots efforts to surface. At a time when the economy is slowly recovering from a recession and our negative impact on the environment deepens, an inherently political, social or economic intervention is a timely and poised mechanism for transformation. Maybe at this moment we should look to those projects that cultivate civic activities to find ways to embed an insidiousness within the city - an intervention, an add-on, an ephemeral design. This Catalog grew out of our need to highlight those projects that often go unnoticed yet make a considerable impact in the urban realm.

-Alpna Gupta


Citizen Urbanists Curated by: Mimi Zeiger and Alpna Gupta



Our contemporary built environment is a construct of laws, regulations, and tacit social agreements. Fines may be levied and standards enforced and policed to ensure safety and relative peace, but what we call public space is more a tenuous compliance than may be comfortable. Consider that brief smile you give when passing a neighbor on the sidewalk or the street sign that informs which days to park on which side of the street. Our contemporary built environment is a construct of laws, regulations, and tacit social agreements. Fines may be levied and standards enforced and policed to ensure safety and relative peace, but what we call public space is more a tenuous compliance than may be comfortable. This collective understanding supports daily life, but it also offers an active platform for a counter discourse. By taking a look at some current urban interventions, this chapter seeks to highlight those projects that insidiously bring about a social change. With a deliberate force these projects not only expose systemic inequalities, but also propose solutions that are outside the economies of high design and architecture. These projects slip into the system unnoticed by rulemakers, but greatly impact those in need. For example, Archeworks’ Mobile Food Collective (MFC) provides information on food and nutrition to under-serviced neighborhoods in Chicago. A fleet of mobile structures, the MFC consists of a mobile unit equipped with a large table and several bike-operated modular trailers. The project is a collaborative platform that educates community residents about healthy food. Through the Mobile Food Collective, Archeworks is utilizing sidewalks and streets as a place of social empowerment and agency. On a larger scale, Recetas Urbanas organizes and collaborates with multiple grassroots organizations to distribute repurposed shipping containers for use as homes, residential, and employment services centers. The project, Trucks, Containers, and Collectives, sidesteps the red tape of traditional government-run urban planning in Spain. By making an attempt to temporarily fill holes in the zoning and land use regulations these projects are inserted into the public arena in an attempt to equalize disparities across neighborhoods and provide residents with social and political power.

In Los Angeles and Oakland, Steve Rasmussen-Cancian and the West Oakland Greening Project use the sidewalk as a venue for community collaboration and action of residents in low-income neighborhoods. The Living Rooms project reclaims public sidewalks and median strips as places to relax and hang out, leisure activities often policed out of inner city urban areas. This occupation promotes community development while also deterring gentrification. Residents build, transport, and install these outdoor living rooms. In these largely African American and Latino neighborhoods, gentrification looms large and the Living Rooms project provides residents with the opportunity to enjoy public space and the tools to push back against larger developers. By turning their focus to homes instead of the street, both the Powerhouse project by Design 99 and the project Campito by artist collective M12, expose the living conditions of specific communities. Located in Detroit, The Powerhouse project encourages residents to take control of their neighborhoods by turning abandoned homes into sculptures that double as supply sources of off-grid energy. M12’s mobile living unit and contemporary appropriation of the Western American sheep wagon, Campito, calls attention to the existing living and working conditions of immigrant sheepherders in rural Colorado, an invisible population in need of a voice. By bringing these projects together, this chapter highlights the power of small-scale design. A few interventions—some sidewalk seating or a mobile resource center—can create riffs in the status quo, and reveal an environment truly designed for participatory urban culture.


Citizen Urbanists


2007 to present

Recetas Urbanas Trucks, Containers, and Collectives Various Cities, Spain



The Trucks, Containers, and Collectives project is part of an exceptional opportunity to recover and re-use housing containers which were given up by the Municipal Society of urban rehabilitation of Zaragoza. These homes, constructed as an agglomeration of three prefabricated modules, served as provisional housing for a Gypsy community, which had been relocated to low-cost housing subsidized by the state. On May 4th, 2007, the last container left for its final destination, Seville. It took two months for the prefabricated modules to arrive at their separate destinations, some were temporarily placed in storage, while others were set up indefinitely. The associations that will compose the Architectures Collective’s network took on the responsibility of the transport, installation, and management of licenses and permits and while the legalization, technical justification, installation procedure as well as the architect’s civic responsibility of safety were done in conjunction with Recetas Urbanas.

mechanisms of sites and constructions, as well as different ways of functioning collectively, in associations and as cooperatives. Within the problems and doubts in terms of management, political positions, financing, etc, that have been arising during the last year, Recetas Urbanas has compiled questions resulting in a variety of different answers which gave a wide set of protocols for the following collective work. These have served as examples and incentives for groups of citizens that want to participate collectively in cultural and social management of their cities.

Although the project of reusing containers has involved thirteen collectives that use autoconstruction as their weapons of participation, the wider net that was cast through this intense work has produced many collaborations, which demonstrated the importance of self management The projects were experiments in different of processes as they complement or propose social collective situations, which finally showed us and political work that differs from the power different managerial, financial, and occupational which attempts to control any civic activity.



Citizen Urbanists




Mobile Food Collective Chicago

In response to growing public interest and awareness of the social, economic, and health benefits associated with local food production, Archeworks developed a mobile architecture to engage communities across Chicago in a new food culture through collaborative exchange and education. The project grew out of the designers’ shared passion for food. It began with the recognition of the universal quality of food as a social value beyond mere sustenance: everyone eats, and each culture has its own history around food. Food brings people together.

Archeworks is a multi-disciplinary nonprofit design organization that advances design in the public interest and inspires collaborative action to shape more ecologically sustainable cities. Our public forums and partnership-based post-graduate education programs propose a range of environmentally resourceful and socially responsible design solutions for urban communities. Our major objective is for the design professions to have greater influence on community development, environmental health, and urban policy.





























photo by Mason Pritchett


The MFC is many things: an education/exchange platform for planting, growing, and cooking; a platform for the demonstration and distribution of seeds, soil, compost, and produce; a space activator within a community event; or the centerpiece of a harvest dinner. The Mobile Food Collective is a campaign to develop and strengthen a system of cultural infrastructure that incorporates the themes of heritage, ownership, exchange, and connection, inspiring people to play a more active role in the food cycle.

































photo by Mason Pritchett

Citizen Urbanists



Campito Denver




Campito explores inventive designs for a mobile dwelling unit based on the experiences and activities of the contemporary sheepherder. A series of conceptual designs play with the dualistic qualities of the sheep wagon— freedom and standardization, art and science, structure and spontaneity, and the vast nature of perpetual unresolved conflicts of cultural heritage and human treatment. Each design includes the addition of a solar energy platform, a composting toilet and heated shower, global communications system, fire escape, and a portable garden for fresh vegetables. Campito focuses on investigative strategies for mobile architecture, landscape, collaboration, and social responsibility pertaining to the Western American sheep wagon or “campito�. The goal for this project was to thoroughly study the past and current design principles

employed by sheep wagons, research the conditions in and around the structure, and ultimately redesign a number of prototypes for what a sheep wagon could become in the twenty-first century. The project as a whole looks to stimulate community dialogue about the campito and larger subjects inherently tied to its present day reality; heritage of the American West, contemporary agriculture and food production, globalization, immigration, workers rights, and federal policies and practices. The project fuses contemporary, historical, and geographical knowledge with the intention of putting it to use on the future Western American landscape.


Citizen Urbanists


2009 to present

Steve RasmussenCancian and West Oakland Greening Project Outdoor Living Rooms Oakland and Los Angeles

Outdoor Living Rooms converts sidewalks and small unused and misused slivers of street side land into community gathering places and urban oases. Created in months, not years, for an amount between $2,000 and $10,000, Outdoor Living Rooms makes it possible for neighborhoods to create their own spaces and learn to be community planners and designers. Successful living room projects have led communities to take on bigger and broader improvement efforts.

“eyes on the living room” and long term involvement in maintenance.

Neighbors participate in every stage of creating a living room—from picking the site to creating the plan to building the furniture. This creates a deep sense of ownership that leads to constant

Shared Spaces has worked with community organizations in Oakland and across Los Angeles to create over thirty living rooms.

Outdoor Living Rooms are more than a place to sit. They bring eyes and multiple generations out on the street, increasing safety, slowing traffic, and creating a welcoming neighborhood.




Citizen Urbanists


Design 99 Power House Detroit

2009 to present

Working collaboratively for the past four years Design 99 uses the neighborhood where they live as a studio space for their art and design practice. Specifically one house dubbed the Power House has become a test lab of sorts for ideas and methods, loand hi-tech building systems, and a point of conversation for the entire community.

After Bought for $1,900, the Power House is an example of the devalued real estate market in the city of Detroit. By installing off-the-grid technologies and re-engineering the roof of this modest 1923 wood-frame structure, Design 99 hopes to instill value beyond the market ups and downs of realtors, speculators, and trend chasing developers. The sustainable systems at work in the Power House also work as a longterm investment in economic sustainability. It is slowly becoming the artist residency facility it was always planned to be, but the project has evolved into something other than a single solitary structure. Most neighbors want to know the ins, outs, and costs of the solar and wind system while also asking how much is charged to paint houses and reconstruct roofs. Design 99 gladly shares information and ideas with community members and they reciprocate with their own as well as critical feedback, be it solicited or not. Our neighbors act as both critics and allies and are integral to each undertaking. Before

A number of the projects and ideas tested on the Power House have been modified and installed

at various other locations throughout the neighborhood, specifically the color, pattern, and light experiments fondly dubbed ‘Sculpture Security Systems.’ These initiatives take inspiration from defensive animal behavior and razzle dazzle battleship camouflage, as well as nearby building paint schemes, and playfully address the very real neighborhood issue of vacant structures and vandalism. Why simply board up houses when you can create 3D sculpture that both intimidates and inspires? Power House is an instigator, initiating conversations at the local level with neighbors and friends while engaging in art world dialogue and what seems to be a neverending stream of media attention. The house has become a larger project, much larger than the two of us, and so in 2009, Power House Productions was established as a non-profit organization whose mission is to investigate and develop strategies for community stabilization and sustainable neighborhood growth through art and culture.


By installing off-the-grid technologies and re-engineering the roof of this modest 1923 wood-frame structure, we hope to instill value beyond the market ups and downs of realtors, speculators, and trend chasing developers.


Borrowed Time Curated by: Meredith TenHoor and Sarah Ruel-Bergeron


One of the most recognizable forms of contemporary insidiousness is the relentless extraction of profit from various forms of human agency that seem to be outside of capitalism. Creativity is especially subject to this kind of commodification in New York City, where financial capital is often warehoused in the culture industry in times of recession.1 The speculative mechanisms of real estate have crashed painfully into creative communities in New York City. We all know histories of neighborhoods transformed after artists unwittingly make them safe for financial speculation: from SoHo’s change from a manufacturing district to a paradise of artist’s lofts and independent activities in the 1970s, to a shopping mall for luxury items in the 90s, or even Clinton Hill’s upscaling in the naughts. With these histories in mind, theorists such as Richard Florida have seized on the figure of the creative professional (whether artist, architect, or software designer) as the representative of gentrification par excellence, and real estate agents and condominium developers have made and marketed buildings for this sociological type during boom years.2 Scholarship on artists’ role in gentrification, particularly that by Sharon Zukin and Neil Smith, paints a slightly different picture, by showing that cultural producers in “creative cities” often are rewarded for taking advantage of forced disinvestment and lax regulation of real estate markets, conditions which are ideal for the re-territorialization of 1 Many thinkers have theorized different roles for artists during this recession. The questionnaire and discussion about “Recessional Aesthetics” in the latest issues of October is particularly illuminating on the relationship between recessions and cultural spaces in New York, especially the response by Jakob Schillinger, who has adapted the theories of David Harvey to explain how cultural capital provides shelter for finance capital when it cannot be invested elsewhere. See “Recessional Aesthetics: An Exchange” October 135, Winter 2011: 93–116. See also David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 2 Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Harper, 2005.

Image Courtesy of Michael Falco/ The New York Times

Image Courtesy of Susan Hunt land and property.3 This scholarship understands that cultural producers are only part of a larger economy of insidious speculation, and makes clear that such a climate places them in positions of permanent precariousness: they are only able to operate in aporias in the real estate market, but everywhere they go, they help to create the conditions that lead to their own displacement. We thus have two stories about the possible agency of the cultural producer in the city: one, Florida’s, which privileges their activities while reducing them to the profit that they might generate for municipalities and business, and another, that of Zukin and Smith, which cautions that their political agency is not nearly as strong as it seems. It must be possible to move beyond these dichotomies, and indeed, a number of artists, architects and performers have recently attempted to do so. During the present recession, unused real estate has again appeared in desirable districts, and curators and business improvement districts have offered cultural producers temporary use of these spaces as a hedge to keep property values high. Projects such as No Longer Empty, the X Initiative and Exhibition have all taken advantage of this offer. Using artists to assist with landbanking can have its advantages, making activities possible that might not have otherwise occurred in central districts such as Manhattan, but artists’ lending of cultural value to real estate can be fraught with 3 See Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier. New York: Routledge, 1996 and Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.

compromises, especially for cultural producers unaware of the role they play in the city’s real estate economy. Architects working to design cultural spaces often turn a blind eye to these histories of urban change. But two architectural practices, Interboro Partners and common room, have constructed temporary cultural spaces which intervene intelligently in the machinations of real estate in New York.4 Interboro Partners’ LentSpace project, curated by Adam Kleinman, seeks to make the process of landbanking palpable to the public, and to question the value of it even while using it to provide a service to the community. common room’s exhibition space, common room II and the free education initiative they co-initiated in New York, The Public School (for Architecture), interrogate the ethics of “open source”, clientless design, given freely by its originators. While the temporary cultural spaces created by these architects in New York operate in spaces left behind by other activities, they do not ignore the charged contexts in which they operate. Through the new roles that they envision for architects, the ways that they share the resources of open space, and their practice of rethinking the spatial definitions of community, they have managed to cope creatively with the insidiousness of cultural gentrification in New York. Meredith TenHoor has collaborated with both common room and Interboro Partners, and this text is written with the benefit of those experiences. While the interpretations of their work are our own, we are very grateful to Dan D’Oca, Lars Fischer, Adam Kleinman and Todd Rouhe for sharing their ideas and images with tarp.

Borrowed Time



Interboro Partners LentSpace New York

Tobias Armborst, Dan D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore

Image Courtesy of Dean

Created on land licensed by Trinity Real Estate, organized by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, curated by Adam Kleinman LentSpace is a 37,000 square foot sculpture park constructed on a trapezoidal parcel of land licensed by Trinity Real Estate, the real estate holding company of Trinity Church. One of the largest landowners in Manhattan, Trinity has been trying to create luxury commercial properties in the neighborhood of Hudson Square, formerly the home of much of New York’s printing industry. On the site that became LentSpace, Trinity planned to demolish existing buildings in order to redevelop the site more profitably. Knowing that they would have to wait a year or more for permission to rebuild, they decided that it would be advantageous to use the soon-to-be empty lot to generate good will towards their company and its development strategies. An early hope was to turn the lot into a temporary park or a tree farm. But Trinity realized that it would not be possible to do so on a temporary basis: once a park becomes part of a neighborhood, it can be culturally quite challenging, if not impossible, to turn it back into a private building. Enter Maggie Boepple, then president of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), a group that has a long history of offering temporary studio spaces to artists

Image Courtesy of Michael Falco/ The New York Times

and programming cultural events in un-leased downtown buildings. LMCC partnered with Trinity to come up with a plan for making the lot provisionally public: it could become a “sculpture garden.” Such a program would technically be a cultural space, and would avoid the pitfalls of being called a park, yet it would offer many of the same public benefits. As Trinity cleared the lot, covered it with gravel, and erected a chain link fence around it, LMCC curator Adam Kleinman commissioned work from a group of young sculptors, designers, and performance artists whose work would reflect critically on the program of the sculpture garden. Why was it there? What could it become? (As part of this program, Kleinman invited common

room to distribute one of their publications there.) Kleinman also felt there was a need for architecture at LentSpace. He argued that simply putting sculptures onto a gravelly empty lot was likely to anger residents, and asked for a budget to hire landscape architects to improve it. After securing a budget of $250,000 (which eventually grew almost fourfold), he hired Interboro Partners to design the site. Interboro has a long history of working on projects which explore the potentials of landbanking, as well as the dynamics of exclusion in much contemporary architecture and planning. In the Dead Malls competition (2002), they proposed a series of interventions that could be made to adaptively


reuse unprofitable suburban shopping centers abandoned by their anchor tenants. For the Rotterdam Biennale (2009), they created a lexicon of simple design interventions that could either open spaces to the public or serve to further privatize them. And in their winning proposal for PS1’s Young Architect’s Program (2011), “Holding Pattern”, they proposed that any design intervention that they spent PS1’s construction budget on be something that was both needed by and capable of being returned to the surrounding community. At LentSpace, Interboro tried to add more tangible community benefits to the project, enhancing the prior program of “culture” and greenscaping. They did a site analysis of traffic and circulation patterns, produced chronotypes of pedestrian activity, and analyzed the area’s demographics. They conducted precedent studies of temporary cultural spaces, and catalogued their successes and failures. And they brought in teams of experts, including horticulturalists and consultants from the Parks Department, to further define an agenda for the space. While they wanted to support the program of the sculpture park, they also hoped to create opportunities for other types of use. To serve the office and retail workers, small-scale vendors, tourists, and local residents who primarily used the area, they tried to make the space more indeterminate and welcoming to spontaneous, unforeseen uses. At the same time, practicing a form of Brechtian architecture, they wanted their design to highlight how temporary LentSpace was, so that anyone using it might be led to question how it became that way, and what role they were playing in holding, creating or destroying value in the space. By doing so, they hypothesized that the park’s

visitors might comment just as critically on the idea of the sculpture park as the artists commissioned to make installations there. Several key design elements help to realize these goals: Fence: Trinity required that the site’s perimeter be secured, so that it could be closed at night. Interboro installed a chain link fence, evoking the aesthetic of the construction site. The fence served as a reminder that the space was in transition, and that access to it is regulated and controlled, and became a screen and a temporary support structure for a number of performances and events. Planters: After consultation with a team of horticulturalists, Interboro designed tree planters capable of being moved easily by forklifts, so that LentSpace could be used as a kind of neighborhood nursery: once the park closed, trees grown on site would be distributed throughout the surrounding district. Pathways: Observing the site, Interboro realized that street vendors would often come down Varick street laden with suitcases, so they designed pathways through LentSpace which would make it easier for these vendors, and others they observed in the neighborhood, to traverse it. Designing smart pathways might also make people who might not linger in LentSpace nonetheless miss it when it was gone or closed. At LentSpace, Interboro conducted an experiment to see what kind of constituency the sculpture park’s users might generate: would anyone become attached enough to the site to launch a campaign to save it? Could a temporary space be used to galvanize a public against the privatization of open space, perhaps generating a movement to stop it?

Borrowed Time


2006 to present

common room

common room 2 The Public School (for Architecture) Lars Fischer, Maria Ibañez, Todd Rouhe, with Geoff Han


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common room has invented an architectural approach to activating and curating unused spaces. This work began in their own offices: their design practice is on the forth floor of a building that also houses a day care center, an Emigrant savings bank, and a senior center, placed on an oasis of grass and parking lot in the otherwise densely developed Lower East Side of Manhattan. The strangely suburban excess of space they enjoy led the practice to try to find ways to open some of it to productive uses, and in 2006, they started to use the building’s lobby for exhibitions and events, calling the space “common room 2”. In the tight real estate market of the boom years, the city sorely lacked conversation and exhibition spaces for young practices, and common room 2 served as an important gathering place for a group of architects and thinkers interested in exploring the social dimensions of design. Initially, shows at common room 2 were actively curated by the practice’s partners as a kind of extracurricular activity, which amounted to an exquisitely generous gift to the city’s architecture world. Exhibitions featured the work of designers such as Berlin’s institut für angewandte urbanistik (IFAU), Ava Bromberg and Brett Bloom, Lize Mogel, Dexter Sinister and even Interboro Partners. Chairs, digital projectors, paper banners, and other inexpensive and easily moved and reconfigured materials were used to mount the exhibitions and events, and common room had newsprint pamphlets printed for most.

But after several years, it became clear that the space had both an established architecture and an established audience. Fischer, Rouhe and Ibañez were approached by artists and architects who wanted to activate the space themselves, which would expand the group of participants who used it more widely. Having acquired a set of techniques for making the lobby into a thinktank/clubhouse/exhibition space, common room generated an architecture for curation through the establishment of material and programmatic conditions and constraints. Shows by Rey Akdogan and Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani’s students at the New School called attention to commom room 2’s architecture and context. In 2008, common room was selected as one of six practices featured in the New Practices New York competition at the American Institute of Architecture’s Center for Architecture (CFA), and they were given space in the CFA’s galleries to use to exhibit their work. Through a carefully conceived series of programming gestures similar to those used in the common room 2 project, the group tried to make that space usable to a group of people outside of the orbit of the AIA. They invited experts on context, publication, institutions to speak at the space, designed conversation-generating furniture, and printed a newsprint publication, the common circular, using the exhibition as a “point of distribution” for architectural ideas not typically found or generated in that particular place.

After winning the New York Prize Fellowship at the Van Alen Institute in 2009, common room furthered this project of opening spaces for the dissemination of architectural ideas. In collaboration with Sean Dockray of Telic Arts Exchange in Los Angeles, they brought the Public School, a program for a series of free classes convened and taught by anyone initiated by Telic, to the Van Alen Institute. Calling this incarnation of the project The Public School (for Architecture), they focused the curriculum on an expanded definition of architecture and urbanism. common room offered what they call “stewardship” to the project by providing it with an infrastructure for its operation: they invited people to participate as teachers and students, and customized Telic’s web platform for organizing classes with a new graphic identity. Classes could be held in borrowed spaces -anywhere that was conducive to discussion. This could be at Brownies café at Columbia University, in common room’s lobby, or in the Teacher’s Lounge, a studio space reappropriated by common room, at the Van Allen Institute. But given the public-ness and variety of these spaces, common room felt that it was necessary to provide some spatial and graphic continuity to the experience of the Public School, and so they invented a portable and flexible “architecture” for the school out of furniture and signage. - A neon sign helped to demarcate the school wherever it was installed. Special “open source” furniture provided storage and seating, plans for which were made available to the public, and used in other projects. Classes were held in subjects such as propaganda, infographics, and even simple Rhino tricks, some taught by uncompensated professors from local universities, others taught by architects, enthusiasts, and activists. The labor of transporting and storing the furniture and sign

between classes became an important part of the project, and kept common room involved in each one. It was not immediately clear to common room that a project which relied entirely on desire and generosity would survive in a city with as much time and financial pressure as New York. But the Public School thrived in New York, and began to depend less and less on the stewardship of common room to continue. Groups of teachers and students used the web platform to meet more or less independently, and when the Van Alen run of the project ended, the Public School became largely independent; supervised by a committee, only one of whose members, Todd Rouhe, was from common room. At this point, the committee elected to drop the “for architecture” from the school’s official title as a way of symbolizing its openness to any type of educational activity. In its incarnation as a self-organizing school independent of common room, the Public School was able to temporarily enjoy a fixed location. In 2010, along with the magazine Triple Canopy and the film series Light Industry, it moved to the ground floor of 177 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a public-private organization that promotes development and retailing and coordinates business improvement districts in the area, arranged for the three groups to temporarily occupy a commercial unit in the building while its owners tried to rent it out. Architects Gabriel Fries-Briggs and Rachel Himmelfarb designed a space which could accommodate all three groups. The Public School’s existence in this borrowed space took on a different valence than it did when housed in Brownie’s café or at common room 2; the politics of 177 Livingston were more complicated. Although the shopping streets surrounding 177


Livingston have some of the highest retail ground rents in the city and are culturally significant and commercially successful destinations for hip hop music and fashion, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership felt that the area needed improvements in order to attract further hotels, luxury condominiums and retailers to the area. Having “artists” use the area would make property in the district seem more desirable to the retail location consultants who searched for homes for future chain stores. Whether they wanted to be or not, The Public School, Triple Canopy, and Light Industry became entangled in this process as they occupied 177 Livingston. The Public School took on this conundrum directly by making gentrification and the operation of small cultural spaces the subject of some of its classes. Yet there was also little connection between their students and the shoppers who frequented the surrounding streets. The appropriation of space by the proximate public that occurred in common room 2’s lobby wasn’t possible in the context of 177 Livingston; it would have required “stewardship” and planning, an activity provided at one time by common room, but one not necessarily part of the self-organizing operation of the later incarnation of the Public School. Releasing its lobby, the common circulars, and the Public School to semipublic control, common room’s practice of the architecture of programming and curating is a means of coping with the constant reterritorialization of cultural space in New York. How much architecture is necessary to generate and sustain a community? To what extent can the spaces that have permitted common room’s interventions be transformed by their occupation by such counter-communities? 1 See “Interview with Joseph Chan” in Rosten Woo and Meredith TenHoor, Street Value: Shopping, Planning and Politics at Fulton Street. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.




resource identified


resource developed

corporate benefit

corporate interest challenged

resources identified

resource shared with community

community coalesces resource developed

community acceptance

community acceptance

to keep resource

community integrates and appropriates model

resource shared with community

Diagram by Sarah Ruel Bergeron

CONCLUSIONS Both Interboro’s and common room’s projects use architectural design to generate forms of community. Though they differ in how they consider communities and resources to operate, their thoughtful research about how unused urban resources might become integrated into communities is an essential part of their practice. Interboro understands that architects can be resource diverters: they draw out assets from the cultural institutions that commission their work, and give them over to physically proximate communities who may not necessarily consume what the commissioners produce. This is simultaneously a critical gesture, one that performs an (often invited, as was the case at LentSpace) institutional critique of the cultural commissioners’ role in their communities, and a functional gesture, one that repairs the gulf between commissioners and communities by building

unexpected ties between physically proximate community partners. In contrast, common room understands that architects can be resource generators: the projects featured here require finding time, spaces, and energy outside of traditional structures of commissioning and payment. In this realm of work, architects only have to design for their own concept of a community, rather than rethinking and redirecting that of a commissioning agent, but their work requires invented, uncompensated time. Like Interboro, common room establishes ties to communities through potlatch, but they make it possible for communities to then take over this process themselves, and re-appropriate resources made valuable and usable by the architects. Both practices are deeply committed to deprivatizing resources, spaces, and knowledge,

yet, fascinatingly, neither group chooses to do so in a directly democratic manner: instead, design or designers mediate redistribution, deciding which publics to privilege. For Interboro, this is not problematic because it generates the possibility of creating a contest over these resources to generate conflict which can in turn lead to political engagement. For common room, the closeness of the communities generated by their projects is something to both be enjoyed and eventually overcome, as they become appropriable by larger and more distant publics.



Urban Catalysts Curated by: Erich Schoenenberger and Thomas Holliday


An emerging trend in the early 21st century has been to reinvent our cities’ aging infrastructures through the creation of smart grids, low impact transportation options, and smart systems to monitor and secure urban environments. Much of the attention to transform our cities has focused on creating new systems and/ or retrofitting existing infrastructural systems whereby creating opportunities for designers to intervene with the existing urban fabric through tactical design interventions. By using infrastructure as an Urban Catalyst, that satisfies the functional needs of the city, designers are able to reprogram urban conditions, insidiously changing the rules of the network. Presented here are five examples, spanning urban environments around the globe, of tactical design interventions that tackle contemporary infrastructural problems, creating catalysts for urban reinvention. Engaging current issues ranging from power generation (Emergent, Los Angeles) to transportation (SU11, New York), allocation of public space (MAD, Beijing, Macro-Sea, New York) to public security (Rael San Fratello Architects, Oakland), each project embodies the ability of design to intervene in the overlooked margins of the city in order to create vibrant urban environments and enticing alternatives to contemporary issues. Through incisive, innovative, and often subversive design proposals that are positioned at the intersection of infrastructure and architecture, designers and architects can stimulate and direct the future transformation of our cities.


Reconditioning our cities’ infrastructure is one of the principal challenges of the 21st century. Neglected for years, ever-denser city centers demand a rethinking of and reinvestment in the multitude of complex infrastructure networks which link and connect disparate urban elements.


Urban Catalysts




Hutong Bubble 32 Beijing

China’s rapid development has altered the city’s landscape on a massive scale, continually eroding the delicate urban tissue of old Beijing. Such dramatic changes have forced an aging architecture to rely on chaotic, spontaneous renovations to survive the everchanging neighborhood. In addition, poor standards of hygiene have turned unique living space and potential thriving communities into a serious urban problem. Hutongs are gradually becoming the local inhabitants’ dumpster, the haven for the wealthy, the theme park for tourists. The self-perpetuating degradation of the city’s urban tissue requires a change in the living conditions of local residents. Progress does not necessarily call for large-scale construction--it can occur as interventions at a small scale. The hutong bubbles, inserted into the urban fabric, function like magnets, attracting new people, activities, and resources to reactivate entire neighborhoods. They exist in symbiosis with the old housing. Fueled by the energy they helped to renew, the bubbles multiply and morph to provide for the community’s various needs, thereby allowing local residents to continue living in these old neighborhoods. In time, these interventions will become part of


Beijing’s long history, newly formed membranes within the city’s urban tissue. Unexpectedly, a manifestation of this idealistic vision has sprung up in one of Beijing’s hutongs, just three years after the exhibition. Hutong Bubble 32 provides a toilet and a staircase that extends onto a roof terrace for a newly renovated courtyard house. Its shiny exterior renders it an alien creature, and yet at the same time, reflects the surrounding wood, brick, and greenery. The past and the future can thus coexist in a finite, yet dream-like world.



Urban Catalysts



Macro-Sea Dumpster Pools New York

Following our 2009 debut of the Macro Sea dumpster pools, we’ve been working on creating mobile swimming pools that can be set up anywhere. We ended up with a dumpster pool that you can literally unload off of a truck, fill with water, plug in and go swimming. Our goal was to use these mobile swimming pools, made from objects typically utilized to store and haul junk, in unexpected settings.

Photo by Katie Sokoler


As chance would have it, we were honored with an invitation from the New York City Mayor’s Office and the Department of Transportation to participate in NYC’s Third Annual 2010 Summer Streets event. Iconic Grand Central Station and the Park Avenue Viaduct was to be the backdrop of our first public mobile dumpster pool project. On August 7, 2010, hundreds of New Yorkers swam in our dumpster pools and lounged at our lo-fi country club at the first Summer Streets weekend. It was a tremendous thrill and a lot of fun to park our pools in the heart of New York City.

Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan for her amazing vision, persistence, and commitment to altering New York City’s urban landscape for the better. Emil Lissauer and Christie Huus of the Mayor’s Office were instrumental in helping us bring the pools to Manhattan. We are also really appreciative of the amazing team at Cooper Tank, especially Adrienne Cooper, Chris Landshof, and David Hillcoat, who supported our project in its fledging stages.

Special thanks and appreciation go out to Dani Simons, Director of Strategic Communication of the DOT. Without Dani, this project would never have happened as a part of Summer Streets. Macro Sea would also like to thank DOT

Now that we’ve made code-compliant, street-legal dumpster pools, Macro Sea is working to create cost-effective ways to bring pop-up pools to municipalities nationwide.

The photos follow the pools’ journey from fabrication to a test lot in Brooklyn to Park Avenue for Summer Streets.


Photo by Antonia Wagner

Photo by Antonia Wagner 90

Urban Catalysts




Flower Street BioReactor Los Angeles



The point of departure for this project was to engage the nascent cultural paradigm shift from thinking about energy as something which comes magically from distant sources to something which can be generated locally in a variety of ways. The goal was not, however, to simply express material processes or feats of engineering, but rather to create a sense of delight and exotic beauty around energy technologies through excess. The project, a commissioned piece of public art in Los Angeles, is an aquarium-like photobioreactor inserted into the facade of a renovated building, containing green algae colonies that produce biofuel through photosynthesis. The aquarium is made of thick transparent polycarbonate, molded to create intricate relief with haptic effects for passersby. This relief tracks along with and supports an internal lighting armature which is based on

the „Bio-feedback Algae Controller“ invented by the biofuel company OriginOil. This new type of bioreactor uses tuned LED lights which vary in color and intensity to support algae growth at different stages of development, maximizing output. According to OriginOil, “this is a true bio-feedback system… the algae lets the LED controller know what it needs as it needs it, creating a self-adjusting growth system.” This system is powered by a sinuous solar array that winds up into the branches of an adjacent tree. At night, the piece generates a simultaneously urban and jungle affect: glittery reflections on plastic combine with an eerie élan vital of glowing organic material.


Urban Catalysts



Rael San Fratello Border Wall United States-Mexico Border

By some measures, the U.S. Secure Fence Act of 2006 funded the single largest and most expensive building project in the United States of the 21st Century. It finances over 700 miles of fortification dividing the U.S. from Mexico that can cost up to $16 million dollars per mile. In many locations it is fabricated of steel, wire mesh, concrete, even re-purposed Vietnam-era Air Force landing strips. Elsewhere, it makes use of high-tech surveillance systems—aerostat blimps, subterranean probes and heat sensors. In all cases, the concept of “national security” governs and militates construction and design of the wall, and the success of the wall has been measured in the numbers of intercepted illegal crossings. Border Wall as Architecture suggests that the wall, at such prices, should and could be thought of not only as security, but also as productive infrastructure--as the very backbone of a borderland economy. Indeed, coupling the wall with viable infrastructure—and this proposal focuses on water, renewable energy, and urban social infrastructure—is a pathway to security and safety in border communities and the nations beyond them. Border Wall as Architecture is a proposition for a wide array of retrofits and new schemes for the U.S./ Mexico border wall that builds on existing conditions and seeks to ameliorate current problems created by the physical divider.




Urban Catalysts




E-Vine Metropolitan Areas

Nissan’s call for a “New Era of Mobility” requires a fundamental rethinking of our cities in order to incorporate the radical changes generate by our journey towards a Zero Emission future. As clean technologies and sustainable resource strategies mature and develop, two major sets of questions for architects emerge: First, what are the changes needed to retrofit existing cities with the new technology? How can they be implemented and how will these changes impact urban infrastructure. Second, what is an adequate image for such a paradigmatic shift and how can design best capture and express the pioneering efforts put forward to achieve the goal of Zero Emission transportation? While the first question pivots around issues of planning, the second one targets our emotional response to this novel endeavor. The success of a “New Era of Mobility” will largely be defined by our ability to undo the damages done, both to our environment as well



as to our cities, by gasoline powered cars and the burdensome infrastructure they require. It is clear that any new vehicular system dealing with a congested cityscape must find ways to integrate rather than impose, find niches and opportunities in existing conditions rather than rely on independent structures. Yet, it is equally important that a strong attitude is developed towards a Zero Emission future, one that reaches out, engages, stimulates, and inspires users and bystanders alike. In this spirit we present ZeroPower as both a small-scale intervention with innovative design, program, and performance qualities, as well as a largescale urban network, which over time can transform our cities into better places.



The Berlin Model Curated by: Mathew Aitchison and Hannibal Newsom with Erik Ghenoiu


Berlin: the city of fragments, an “archipelago” of halfrealized projects developed from half-digested utopias. The hot-bed of experimentation and innovation in the first third of the twentieth century, in the 1950s it again became the testing ground for post-war reconstruction. The boom following reunification in the early 1990s, which led to the infamous maxim: “Berlin: a collection of the world’s best architects’ worst buildings” proved something that many inside and outside the city had known since the radical developments of the 1970s: high architecture and urbanism actually appear to have very little impact on the life of a city and what actually makes Berlin such an urban phenomenon today.

world scrambling to explain what makes a city vibrant, successful, and creative (read: targets for economic investment and lifestyle tourism), Berlin seems to offer up so many answers. But why do so few of them seem to rest with traditional forms of building and planning? This is not to say that architecture and urbanism are unimportant per se, but that what makes Berlin interesting as a city today is not the examples of architecture or urban design we usually think of.

With urban authorities, consultants, practitioners and academics from all over the

In 2009 we took a group of students from Belfast to examine Berlin, its architecture and

Goethe Institut New York, IFAU and Jesko Fezer

Piece by piece, the canon was disassembled: Schinkel left our students cold when compared with Berlin’s temporary bars; Muthesius was trumped by a squat; Olympia Stadium by a floating hostel; Potsdamer Platz by terrain vague and stencil art; and Taut was ditched in favor of a damp factory hall playing noise to obscure performance art. The student’s interests showed a strong tendency towards those temporary, low-tech and the as-found adaptive re-use projects that have become so prolific in Berlin, and that seem to lie at the other end of the intervention spectrum from those well-known and ill-fated mega-projects of the 1990s. Whether true or not, the left over urban areas of Berlin exude an “anything goes” feel, most clearly documented in the Urban Pioneers book, published by the city council in 2007. There is plenty to be critical of in this situation, not least its role as Trojan horse for the interests of real estate and gentrification, but in such a context it is little wonder that Berlin’s inhabitants are skeptical of design. Berlin is famously bankrupt as a result of the real estate and banking scams of the 1990s, which has emptied the city’s coffers and put an end to the megalomaniacal development policies of the decade. However, reducing Berlin’s reluctance for high-design to an economic explanation belies a deeper and more complex skepticism. In many ways the lesson Berlin teaches us is one about the ability of architectural and urban design to deal flexibly with emergent social,

economic, and cultural practice. In this battle the smart cultural money is on abandoned swimming pools not opera houses; people prefer ad hoc beach bars to glitzy sky bars; and why pay for a retail fit-out when the public are perfectly happy with the feel of a former butcher’s shop? In such a climate it would seem that investment in “serious” architecture is a waste if results can be better with less. There are also other factors that better describe Berlin’s ascendency to the urban phenomenon it is today. These include processes like the festivalisation of the urban realm (most famously the Love parade or World Cup public viewing), along with the city’s image marketeering over the last decade (eg. the “poor but sexy” campaign). Both factors have conspired to give an impression of the Berlin as a party city with an attractive lifestyle, offering a multitude of cultural options. The other lesson Berlin offers is that its successes are not easy to emulate and cannot be reduced to facile formulations such as the impact of a “creative class”. They are the result of several highly unpredictable historical and social events combined with several other more predictable factors. At an urban and architectural level the city’s growth and development is underwritten by a more or less successful national economy that has bankrolled the city in times of need; in terms of fabric and infrastructure the city is well-built, well-funded, and well-planned on the most part. These are aspects of Berlin that few cities world-wide can boast; perhaps the mayors of ailing cities looking to make the jump to “world city” status (Cleveland, Brisbane, or Valencia?) should be more mindful of these factors before trying to implement the “Berlin Model”.


urban life, with the aim of developing a housing project. The ten-day visit was matched with a series of guest lectures and workshops by a wide range of Berlin connoisseurs and devotees (many of whom are represented in the following section). Berlin was chosen not only for its rich history in the development of housing types, but as a perfect counterpoint to Belfast, a city famous for its contested and problematic urban realm. Superficially, Belfast appeared to share many historical commonalities with Berlin: political turmoil, physical division, and conflict; but none of its fun, civility, and vibrancy. The idea that architecture and urban planning appears to have limited effectiveness or appeal in Berlin is a shocking realization and a hard sell for a lecturer of architecture and urban design. The line up of local guests and the formal (and informal) tours of the city only seemed to reinforce the underlying corruptness of the traditional approaches to designing Berlin’s built environment.

-Mathew Aitchison ______________ The presentations that follow display a variety of aspects of this problem, ranging from issues concerning Berlin directly to those inspired by, or, outside the city; from historical studies to built works. What all have in common is that particular Berlin-flavor.


The Berlin Model



BARarchitekten Berlin Oderberger Strasse 56 Berlin, Germany

BARarchitekten Berlin. Base for Architecture and Research. Oderberger Strasse 56 is conceived as a container that can accommodate diversity of use and adapt to changing needs over time. The project was developed by the architects and a small group of owner-occupiers as a ‘Baugruppe’ partnership; this has become a popular strategy in Berlin in recent years, although usually for purely residential buildings. The basic diagram of commercial space on the ground floor, studios on first and second floors, and apartments above, is overlaid by a network of internal relationships between the users. There is a mixture of owner-occupiers and renters, young and old, and most of the apartments can be split into two separate units: which can be used as a sublet, office, or accommodation for a carer. This flexibility is achieved by a complex stepped section with varying ceiling heights. The wide pavement in front of the house, used by the café and the miniature 5m2 gallery, becomes the place of interface between the users of the building and the public. The great Berlin architect Ludwig Leo once said: “I’m not a hairdresser!” Following Leo’s


cue, the street facade is conceived as a form of camouflage, attempting to blend with the grey plaster of the DDR-era facades, which are becoming a scarcity themselves. As a multi-use container, it actually has rather more in common with the traditional ‘Berliner Mietshaus’ building type than the colorful new apartment buildings appearing all over former East Berlin. The design is much less about being noticeable from the street than it is about setting up an open and diverse internal structure: a complexity within that is a reflection of that of the city outside.

“I’m not


a hairdresser!� 100

The Berlin Model


2004 to present

ifau und Jesko Fezer Institut für angewandte Urbanistik New York, New York Since 2004 the Berlin based architectural cooperative “ifau und Jesko Fezer” have realized various projects in Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin, Utrecht, Graz, New York, and London. Underpinning these projects is a twelve-point design approach.


1. Non-Solution. Do not try to solve social problems using architectural means. Tighten them. 2. Accessibility. Be generous to public space. 3. Informalism. Do not design things you don’t have to. 4. Caring proportions. A spatial dimension is a social relation. 5. Sub-optimum. To undergo functional demands may open unexpected possibilities. 6. Robustness. Tough spaces are better able to stand social interactions. 7. Conflict-Design. Produce obstacles to interrupt normative routines. 8. Spaces of Negotiation. Create situations for conflicts to be negotiated by the users. 9. Appropriation Detailing. Facilitating adaptations and modifications is a practical design task. 10. Surplus & Deficit. More space is better than less space and sometimes it’s the other way round. The brief is always wrong. 11. Standard. The common and the ordinary allow for inclusivity. 12. Minimum. Minimize design activities to enable programmatic interventions.


The Berlin Model



Kevin Logan

easyJet Urbanism ©®*

* easyJet is a UK based European low-cost airline serving 118 European destinations and carrying 48 million passengers in 2010. In 2007 the average easyJet ticket price was between 40 - 42. easyJet.Urbanism is neither copyrighted nor a registered trademark, perhaps it should be?



City councils and urban authorities who don’t have the resources or inclination to make their cities in the image of some urban paradise a Venice or Paris - and who can’t rejuvenate their ailing quarters with a new creative class - a Glasgow or Barcelona - easyJet.Urbanism offers an easier and more accessible third path. easyJet.Urbanism is founded on the ancient though often forgotten truth: if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain. Remaking cities as replicas of an agreeable urban culture is an expensive and time-consuming task and carries no guarantee of success. easyJet. Urbanism edits Europe’s rich, and intricate, tapestry of cultures into a continuous urban environment ripe for consumption. Flying to a city in another culture, nation, language, or tradition, is almost always successful - despite rumours to the contrary! Urbanism and urbanity are large-scale long-term enterprises, they are expensive, rigid and don’t react well to change.

easyJet.Urbanism, in contrast, can react quicker than the time it takes to book a cheap flight, and offers more options to more people than any one place with a static image ever could. easyJet.Urbanism has allowed Europe to become a consumable collage of iconic moments, sampled and represented for speed, allowing it to be portrayed through postcards. Guidebooks are its implicit political mantra, offering sampled programs of activities for a 24 hour hit or a list of the 10 must do/see things. What do the inhabitants think about such urban egalitarianism? Somebody should ask them when they get back from Dubrovnik, Palermo, Edinburgh, Pristina, Stockholm, Ankara...

easyJet URBANISM ©®*

A “green archipelago”, a confederation of ideal cities floating in a sea of green; that was the destiny Oswald Mathias Ungers envisaged for West Berlin in 1977.


Ungers and Koolhaas thus offer reconciliation between form and program, beauty and ugliness (or at least formlessness), high culture and cheap thrills, between the lasting and the passing. Or, one might also say: between the European and American city. To borrow a phrase from Frank Lloyd Wright, both “could live together each the happier for the other”. It is a concept so all-encompassing that it took two authors with quite different outlooks to jointly produce it in a moment of congeniality. As marvelous an idea though it may be – and constituting a prime example of insidious urbanism, if ever there

Jasper Cepl

The Insidious Archipelago

The proposal keeps stirring the imagination of architects and planners to this day. Rem Koolhaas, Ungers’ right hand in developing the idea, once dubbed it “the absolute model of the European metropolis,” an idea he would later draw upon. The concept springs from a time when the shrinking of cities could be witnessed worldwide and in the absence of the usual rules of urbanism an ‘insidious urbanism’ was called for. When New York was experimenting with the transformation of urban lots into farmland (fig. 1), Berlin was a city with a dwindling population, still severely damaged by the war where large areas had not been rebuilt and the city kept alive by support from the West. Ungers knew Berlin well. He had taught there, but had fled the city at the heyday of student protests in the late sixties. He was now preparing for his return from Cornell in the hope of getting back into practice after years of teaching, and hoped to play a part in the major building exhibition in Berlin, later known as the ‘Internationale Bauausstellung’, or IBA. Ungers’ rival Josef Paul Kleihues pled for a “critical reconstruction” of the city (he eventually prevailed), Ungers and Koolhaas (who had come to the US to study with Ungers, but had became a peer instead) suggested the urban tissue torn apart by the war ought not to be mended. On the contrary: they proposed taking away even more of what was now no longer needed, while completing areas that seem worthy of the effort, effectively idealizing their respective morphologies. The green areas in between would provide ample opportunity to integrate all the splendors of modern civilization: including, among other things, motorways, trailer parks, drive-in cinemas, and amusement parks “in Walt Disney style”.


The Berlin Model 2011

was one – it also represents a fatal diagnosis for the city, an illness slowly but surely transforming the urban tissue, petrifying the urban islands; no movement, no change. We would be left with beautiful corpse, but a corpse nonetheless.

figure 1: (right) »1000 ›Farms‹ Planned on Lots in New York«, article by Murray Schumach in The New York Times, April 26, 1977. figure 2: (above) An illustration of the concept drawn by Ungers’ student Peter Riemann, 1977, Cologne, Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft Dr Jasper Cepl teaches architectural theory at the Technische Universität Berlin. He is the author of Oswald Mathias Ungers. Eine intellektuelle Biographie published in 2007.


The Berlin Model



LiD Architecture Dougal Sheridan & Deirdre Mcmenamin Dublin

... terrain vague, spaces of indeterminacy, urban wildscapes… the spatial characteristics of these areas can be as diverse as the terminology that attempts to define them. In previous studies of Berlin we have defined them as “any area, space, or building where the city’s normal forces of control have not shaped how we perceive, use, and occupy them.” They become places in which particular activities, events, initiatives, and subcultures are able to take hold and develop, and the social and cultural dimensions of these spaces contribute significantly to the public realm. We have researched the properties and processes at play in these locations to question how they may inform not only how we intervene in these spaces but also how we operate within the normal mechanisms of practice and approach the making of places generally. By extrapolating these properties and processes we realised how much our praxis both intuitively and self-consciously has been informed by the formative experiences of Berlin. Portable Art Space: Urban Camping In the Portable Art Space project we explored a strategy of minimal intervention into varied urban/ landscape locations to engage with social contexts in a non-imposing, un-institutionalized manner required within the challenging political landscape of Northern Ireland. It was designed to provide the minimum temporary infrastructure required to accommodate an artist (or other agent) with a built-in capacity to adapt to its surroundings.



Dublin Docklands: Post-Boom Wasteland

Sheridan, D. (2007) “Berlins Indeterminate Territories: the Space of Subculture in the City” Field Journal 1, 1: 97-119. Online. Available HTTP: http//:www. fieldjournal.org/index.php?page=2007-volume-1. See also, Sheridan D. (2011) ‘Dis-Ordering Public Space: Urban Wildscape Processes in Practice’ in A. Jorgensen, R. Keenan (eds.) Urban Wildscapes London: Routledge

This project is the competition-winning proposal for a temporary-use response to the urban conditions created by the recent economic crisis that resulted in un-lettable empty buildings and incomplete construction sites in the new docklands area of Dublin. A design strategy to activate important public space central to this area was required. In comparison to Berlin where these spaces were historically the product of a vacuum of jurisdiction, ownership, and control, in Dublin unfinished commercial wastelands have resulted from a financial vacuum. The proposal is for a public space which is highly flexible, adaptable, and robust in nature to enable a diverse program of arts, culture and leisure events to occur, ranging from outdoor concerts, performances, and cinema, to markets and art exhibitions. The proposal is intended to relate to the activity and energy of the adjacent working port and celebrate its temporary nature by utilizing the shipping container, symbol of (stalled) global trade and exchange.







The Berlin Model


2003 to present

Quentin Stevens

Behind the Wall, The Beach Berlin

2. Beach 61, with 23 volleyball fields covering one hectare

1. Bundespressestrand, with view of Reichstag and parliamentary quarter (left) and central railway station (right)

3. two different beaches inside the fleamarket on the Mauerpark


1. Around the new central railway station, which is virtually encircled by sand; 2. Along the station’s southern approach corridor, planned by Speer for Hitler’s Germania; 3. Near the Wall’s main commemorative reconstruction and interpretive centre on Bernauerstrasse and inside the popular Mauerpark (Wall-park) fleamarket; and 4. Along the eastern section of the Spree River where it formed the “inner-German border’, many behind the protected decorated remnant of the Wall, the ‘East Side Gallery”. Berlin’s current planning foregrounds enhanced commemoration and development of the Wall corridor. The first and last of these beach clusters are in tension with major urban development projects seeking to attract businesses and residents (white backgrounds). Small-scale entrepreneurship fills a gap while long-range master-planning waits for investors.

Since 2003, twenty-five temporary beaches have occupied unused sites on and around the former Berlin Wall ‘death strip’. Their locations (yellow) form four clusters interspersed between the Wall’s numerous commemorative sites (red).

4. Kiki Blofeld, with new developments opposite; Strandgut in summer; and in winter


The Berlin Model


2003 to present

RaumlaborBerlin Dolmusch X-press City MattressDie Stadtmatratze Berlin

The Dolmusch X-press is a temporary local transport system in Kreuzberg using private cars, motorcycles, solar-powered boats and horse-drawn carriages to take the citizens of Kreuzberg through their neighbourhood and to the theatre. The X-press was in operation for two weeks in May 2006 and cost the grand sum of 1 per ride. The interchange stations were designed by artists and architects, while the theatre itself was converted into a model of Kreuzberg using old furniture and waste. Kreuzberg has undergone a series of transformations in recent years: cold war in the 1950s, the edge of a divided city in the 1960s, in the 1970s and 80s it was a hotbed of subculture, protest, and squatting. In the 1990s Kreuzberg lost some of these features to other parts of the city, or to other cities altogether. Now Kreuzberg is a ‘nice’ place to live, green and alternative with waterways, cafes, clubs and bars, a bit of everything (even a McDonalds franchise). A raumlaborberlin and Peanutz Architects project in collaboration with the HAU.



Stadtmatratze was developed for “Tuned City”, a 5-day conference on the interaction between sound and public space. Throughout the conference it offered a provisional space on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, where specialists, experts, audience and passers-by could meet, rest and dive into the conference’s discourse. The city mattress is an installation in public space. It is a triangular pneumatic structure, measuring 15 metres on each side. As a catalytic object it is a platform for various actions and activities. Stadtmatratze was developed for “Tuned City”, a 5-day conference on the interaction between sound and public space. Throughout the conference it offered a provisional space on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, where specialists, experts, audience and passers-by could meet, rest and dive into the conference’s discourse. The over-scaled soft surface questions our behavioral codes in public space, especially the physical actions of the bodies within the space. During “Tuned City” the conference was transmitted through speakers via wireless headphones to each individual listener. A tension is created between the individual and the temporary collective. The Stadtmatratze is an experimental condenser for acting in public. Commissioned by Tuned City.



Contributors Acconci Studio’s design & architecture comes from another direction, from V.A.’s backgrounds of writing (words to look at rather than through) & art (activity & performance). The Studio was formed in 1988: it’s become a mix of poetry & geometry, computer-scripting & sentence-structure, narrative & biology, chemistry & social-sciences. The Studio uses computers to give form to thinking; they use forms to find ideas. They make not nodes but circulation-routes, they deal with time more than space – they make places fluid, changeable, portable, they anticipate cities on the move. They’re working now, near Eindhoven, on a meditation park in an archeological site; in Luzerne, on a portable retractable roof; in Gwangju, on toilets up in the trees. Maria Aiolova, LEED AP, MAUD Harvard, Dipl.-Ing. TU Vienna is an architect and urban designer in New York City. She is a Co-Founder of Terreform ONE and Planetary ONE. Maria received her MAUD from Harvard University, Dipl.-Ing. from the Technical University of Vienna, Austria and Sofia, Bulgaria. She directs the TerreFarm summer school for urban agriculture and the One Prize Award organized by Terreform ONE. Maria is currently faculty at Pratt Institute, Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design and Parsons the New School for Design. She won the Zumtobel Group Award for Sustainability and Humanity and the Build Boston Award. Maria has a number of winning competitions including first place in the CHARLES/MGH Station, Boston and the Izmir Post District International Competition, Turkey. Formerly, she served as Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of ETEX Corporation, a bio-tech company in Cambridge, MA. Maria is an inventor of 18 technology patents. She has taught at University of Toronto, Wentworth Institute of Technology and Boston Architectural Center and has been a visiting lecturer and critic at Harvard GSD, Columbia University, CUNY, Washington University and Rhode Island School of Design. Mathew Aitchison is a research fellow and manger of the ATCH research centre at the University of Queensland’s School of Architecture. He is editor of Visual Planning and the Picturesque (Getty 2010), the first publication of Nikolaus Pevsner’s treatise on urban design and architecture, and is currently working towards publishing a comprehensive monograph focusing on the Townscape movement. He has worked as an architect and teacher in Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A, and has recently been engaged with the establishment of an international center for architecture and urban design in Berlin. Eve Blau is Director of the Master in Architecture Degree Programs and Adjunct Professor of Architectural History at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She has written extensively on modern architecture and urbanism. Her books include Project Zagreb: Transition as Condition, Strategy, Practice (2007), The Architecture of Red Vienna, 1919-1934 (1999), Shaping the Great City: Modern Architecture in Central Europe, 1890-1937 (1999), Architecture and Cubism (1997), Architecture and Its Image (1989). Editor of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians from 1997-2000, Blau was Curator of Exhibitions and Publications at the Canadian Centre for Architecture from 1984-1990, and Adjunct Curator from 1991-2001. She has received a number of awards for her publications, including the Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award, the Austrian Cultural Institute Book Prize, the Spiro Kostof Book Award, the Philip Johnson Award, and the AIA Citation for Excellence in International Architectural Book Publishing, and has been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, and the Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna. Mary Ellen Carroll’s prolific career as a conceptual artist spans more than twenty years and the results are a multifarious, provocative and often wry outpouring in architecture, writing, performance, photography, filmmaking, printmaking, and sculpture. Carroll is the recipient of numerous grants and honors, including, most recently, a 2010 a Graham Foundation Fellowship for prototype 180 and innovation territory and the AIA’s Artist of the Year Award. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pollack/Krasner Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. Josh Conrad is a graduate student pursuing a dual degree in Architecture and Historic Preservation at the University of Texas School of Architecture. Manuel DeLanda is the author of five philosophy books, “War in the Age of Intelligent Machines” (1991), “A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History” (1997), “Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy” (2002), “A New Philosophy of Society” (2006), and “The Emergence of Synthetic Reason” (Forthcoming). He teaches two seminars at University of Pennsylvania, Department of Architecture: “Philosophy of History: Theories of Self-Organization and Urban Dynamics”, and “Philosophy” of Science: Thinking about Structures and Materials”. He also teaches at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and holds the Gilles Deleuze chair at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. Alpna Gupta is in her final year of the Master’s of Architecture program at Pratt Institute and holds a BFA in Fine Art from the Columbus College of Art and Design. She has exhibited her art work in many juried exhibitions. During the summer of 2010 she interned at Terreform ONE where she assisted in the design and fabrication of Urbaneering Brooklyn 2110, City of the Future. Lauren Hamer holds a BA from the University of Toronto Architectural History and Theory and an MA in the History of Art from the University of Texas at Austin. Andrew Herscher teaches architecture at the University of Michigan; he also co-founded the Detroit Unreal Estate Agency, a staging ground for research on urban cultures of crisis and transition. His book, The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit: Counter-Urbanism in the Transitional City is forthcoming. Thomas Holliday is a third year Master’s of Architecture student at Pratt Institute. Prior to pursuing an architectural degree, he received a B.A. in sociology from U.C. Berkeley, and worked in international finance. He hopes to apply his background in sociology, economics and architecture to contemporary urban issues. Erik M. Ghenoiu (Ph.D Harvard) has served as visiting professor of architectural history and theory at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York since 2007. He has also taught at Parsons, Harvard, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has been a fellow of the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the Center for Metropolitan Studies, and the University of Queensland. Presently he is preparing a book on evolutionary concepts of tradition in Pre-WWI German modernism. Ivan Hernandez-Quintela graduated from the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, Austin. In 2002, he established ludens as a practice that focuses on the spatial potential of play. Ludens approaches architecture as inhabitable toys that allow users to actively participate in the construction of space. He currently resides and intervenes into the urban fabric of Mexico City. Matthew Gordon Lasner is an assistant professor of history at Georgia State University, in Atlanta, where he teaches a variety of courses in the history and theory of the built environment. He earned his PhD at Harvard’s GSD and holds a master’s in urban planning from the London School of Economics. In the fall


of 2011 he will join the department of Urban Affairs & Planning at Hunter College. His book, High Life: Condo Living in the Suburban Century, will be published by Yale University Press in 2012. Carla Leitão is an architect and writer that lives and works in New York, USA and Lisbon, Portugal. She is the co-founder, with Ed Keller, of AUM Studio in NY and Umasideia in Lisbon. She has taught architecture studios in several schools in the New York area, most recently in Pratt Institute and RPI. Practice and academic endeavors focus on convergences of Architecture/Design, Urban Phenomena, Ubiquitous Cultures, Digital Communication and the role of design in cultural and technological innovation. Publications include “4 Lines” (Akademie Schloss Solitude) and “City Fragments” (CBA), Projects include built and ongoing residential and institutional projects. Exhibitions and installations include “Suture” (SCI Arc and Tellic Gallery, LA), “True Romance” (Sttuttgart, Germany) and Young Blood in Lisbon, Portugal. Kevin Logan—Associate, MaccreanorLavington—is an architect and urban designer with extensive experience of large-scale masterplans and urban regeneration within a European context. Kevin has a particular interest in the dynamics of contemporary urban conditions, which underpins a methodological approach to practice. Kevin lectures and publishes regularly with current research activities focused on the re-culturalisation of residual transport infrastructure. He maintains an active involvement in contemporary discourse through a continued commitment to teaching. Hannibal Newsom is a M.Arch Candidate at Pratt Institute. He received a B.S. in Architectural Studies from the University of Illinois in 2005 where he studied at the Ecole d’Architecture de Versailles, and afterward spent a semester at the Ecole d’Architecture de Paris- Belleville before beginning his architectural career in Chicago in 2006. Now, after contributing to a variety of built and un-built projects he has turned to Pratt to pursue his Masters. He now lives in Brooklyn, where he can be found in the studio. R&Sie(n) held(s) several professorships with François Roche, in London at Bartlett School, in Vienna at TU, in Barcelona at ESARQ, in Paris at ESA, in Philadelphia at UPenn, in Vienna at Angewandte, and is teaching now in advanced studio at Columbia, NY and USC, Los Angeles... with speeches at MIT, Harvard, AA School, UCLA, Sci-Arc... Their projects have been exhibited at the Columbia University (New-York, 1999-2000), UCLA (Los Angeles, 1999-2000), ICA (London, 2001), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, 2004), Pompidou Center (Paris, 2004), MAM / Musee d’Art Moderne (Paris, 2005, 2006), MIT’s Media Lab (Cambridge 2006), Tate Modern (London 2006), Orléans/ArchiLab International Architectural Conference (1999, 2001, 2003), and Barbican (London 2009), Louisiana (Denmark 2009), Le Laboratoire (Paris 2010)...R&Sie(n) were among the architects selected by France for the 1990, 1996, 2000 and 2002 (refused) Venice Architectural Biennale, and were also featured in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and next 2010 in international selection. Sarah Ruel-Bergeron is a second year graduate student at Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture. Originally from Quebec, she has spent her life outside of her native country, having lived abroad in Lesotho, Guatemala, and the United States. She is particularly interested in low income housing in developing countries and has spent time working in Haiti, Mexico and Guatemala on these topics during and since she completed her undergraduate education at James Madison University. She intends to continue exploring these issues after graduation through doctoral research in Architecture. Ivan Rupnik is an architect and urban designer based in Boston and Zagreb, Croatia and an Assistant Professor of Architectural Design at Northeastern University’s School of Architecture. His own research is focused on the way that architects design design. He coauthored Project Zagreb: Transition as Condition, Strategy, Practice, a book that explores the types of architectural design practices that emerge in context of prolonged instability. His own Doctoral work at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design is currently researching the notion of experimentation as distinct from avant-garde architectural practice in postwar theory and practice. He is currently working on a 100 hectare university campus in collaboration with the Spatial Planning Office of the University of Zagreb and an urban park and infrastructural node in collaboration with HPNJ+ Architects, also in Zagreb. Erich Schoenenberger, R.A. AIA was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland. He received his Bachelor of Environmental Design at Tech.School of Nova Scotia in 1993 in Halifax, Canada and his Masters in Architecture from Columbia University in 1995. He worked for Kol/Mac Studio in New York, where he was a Senior Designer from 1995 until 1997. In this period he was the Project Architect for the O/K Apartment, which has been published widely, receiving awards and being exhibited at MoMA as part of the Un-Private House Show. Currently he is also a Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute. María Sieira is an architect in Brooklyn, New York, and the History and Theory Coordinator in the Graduate Architecture and Urban Design program at Pratt, where she also coordinates the housing and the context studios. She also teaches and lectures in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in the Compostela Architecture Institute. She has worked for Peter Eisenman Architects, in New York, on the Cidade da Cultura project, also in Santiago de Compostela, and for DPK&A in Philadelphia, on the major extension of the B/C Philadelphia Airport terminals. She studied both architecture and theater as an undergraduate at Yale. Meredith TenHoor is doctoral candidate in Architecture at Princeton University and teaches architectural and urban theory in the Graduate Architecture and Urban Design Program at Pratt Institute. Her research focuses on the architecture and urbanism of consumption. She is currently writing a history of food, architecture and biopolitics in postwar Paris. Other recent projects include Street Value (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010), a book about planning and politics on Fulton Street Mall in Brooklyn, a series of performances imagining everyday life in New Towns of the 1970s, a history of architect-designed farms (published in Above the Pavement the Farm, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010), and a Downtown Brooklyn-themed dinner and lecture series, exhibition and library at the Metropolitan Exchange. James Williams is a third year M.Arch at Pratt Institute. He received a B.A. from Vassar College with a focus in religion, sociology, and set design. He hopes to integrate his interest in urbanism and sociology with current architectural discourse and practice. Stephen Zacks is a reporter, theorist and cultural producer based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He has reported on art, architecture and urbanism around the world for the New York Times, Village Voice, Architectural Record, Metropolis, Blueprint, Print, and Monocle. He is currently researching a book about the rebirth of the urban idea in New York City after the 1970s fiscal crisis, reporting for various magazines, producing public projects, and writing commentary at Heroes & Charlatans. Mimi Zeiger founded loud paper, an architecture zine and now blog, in 1997. A Brooklyn-based freelancer, she writes on art, architecture, and design for a variety of publications including The New York Times, Dwell, and Architect, where she is a contributing editor. Zeiger is author of Tiny Houses and her latest book, Micro Green: Tiny Houses in Nature was released in March.


tarp: Architecture Manual

Acconci Studio Maria Aiolova Mathew Aitchison Eve Blau Mary Ellen Carroll Josh Conrad Manuel DeLanda Erik Ghenoiu Alpna Gupta Lauren Hamer Ivan Hernandez-Quintela Andrew Herscher Thomas Holliday Matthew Gordon Lasner Carla Leitão Kevin Logan Hannibal Newsom Jorge Otero-Pailos François Roche Sarah Ruel-Bergeron Ivan Rupnik Erich Schoenenberger María Sieira Meredith TenHoor James Williams Stephen Zacks Mimi Zeiger

Insidious Urbanism


Spring 2011

School of Architecture 61 St. James Place Brooklyn, NY 11238

Profile for Tarp: Architecture Manual

Tarp, Architecture Manual - Insidious Urbanism, Spring 2011  

This issue seeks to explore how designers can intervene in the cities of the 21st century in unconventional and often subversive ways. The l...

Tarp, Architecture Manual - Insidious Urbanism, Spring 2011  

This issue seeks to explore how designers can intervene in the cities of the 21st century in unconventional and often subversive ways. The l...

Profile for tarp