Monthly Archives: October 2009

Manifesto as Hyperactive Ego Trip

Léopold Lambert, from the excellent boiteaoutils, kindly invited me to contribute to his one month of architectural manifestos and this was the best little darned thing I could come up with…

It is exactly 200 words – as asked. Should I say more?

early-radar

A personal manifesto must start with a personal statement. ………………………… Mine is this: I’ve become addicted to hypertext. And this is the magnifying lens through which I look at architecture’s augmented reality. With architecture being a cultural toolkit for permanently re-dressing the builtscape that.. surround us, today’s architecture can only go beyond itself.

Architecture is like the man whose head expanded. Architecture is not only dependent, nor otherwise oriented. As it asks for its own expanded field, architecture rejects the idea of its own autonomy. I claimed for the interdisciplinary before it became mainstream; I advocated diversity when it wasn’t yet such a daily fix; I’ve investigated architecture as urban practice, ……… as open-source, and as performance… With ideology gone I reflected upon resistance and the ultimate incarnation of Marxism. But after all that jazz how can one devise a non-retroactive manifesto?

Architecture will no longer be about form making. Fuck parametrics. Architecture is and will be about conceptual groundbreaking. And architecture intelligence will no longer be provided by a declining star-system, but rather by emergent networks of alternative practices, community projects and architecture NGOs. For many, only now the language of architecture starts to be a benign virus from outer space.

Postmodern planning

Postmodernism’s predicaments were to bloom beyond the imagination of their most daring thinkers.

Today, the worlds of architecture and urbanism are ruled by the logic of everything goes and they move forward according to the whims of creative practitioners in search of the yet undiscovered original flavour or form.             And there’s basically nothing wrong with this.

Via Miguel Santos on FaceBook

One may say that randomness is as good a leitmotif as any other to plan our urban future. After all, both historically and biologically that has been the main factor through which most cities have grown. As more than one story will tell you in the next issue of Beyond, Feng Shui is still highly regarded as a design tool…

As such, the Re-Imagining Chinatown experiment by urbanist(-cum-artist?) James Rojas is as good as any other to come up with city form – or it is even better since it bears the extra advantages of being a “participatory” process     and of giving everybody its share of the action.

fifthfloor

Image via Common People (just because), via Fifth Floor Gallery.

If the exhibition was well-promoted and had good mass-appeal, and if plan would get addressed beyond the mere wish to cause a deemed critical reflection, nobody would be able to complain after the fact since (1) they got their bit in and enjoyed it, and (2) if they didn’t, they did have the chance to participate in the design.

It is democracy as usual – and democracy as it increasingly affects judgements of taste in the architectural field.

Emergence & Informality

I had said it before, but I felt I needed to stress this notion conveniently: as IABR’s Open City makes clear, emergence and informality are definitely around (and around) – certainly making me want to push forward once again on the Emergent Megalopolis film series…

And so the consequences of thousands of architects in the West fleeing from the “crisis” in the West towards an increasingly challenging Third World are also starting to make its appearance in the field of architecture…

IABR

From the look of things, the architectural star-system is soon going to be substituted for NGOs and humanitarian organizations as the most interesting providers of food for thought in the field of architectural intelligence.

Young architects are systematically dumped and trashed at your doorstep? Yes! But, fortunately, they are also finally realizing that they can stop complaining and just export themselves to places where the need for architectural skills is much more crucial than back home.

As we repeatedly hear that in 2050 75% of the world’s population will be living in cities –with most of these being totally deprived of minimum conditions for living– it is certainly good for the whole of the human race that this shift is happening and architects are not only looking for just being the new cool ass.

The Open City exhibition was quite effectively driven to embrace both of these emergent realities: that of the old-new urban realities and that of the shift of the profession towards an architecture destined to deal with radical needs and a profound scarcity of resources.

Like someone was saying, if economical stagnation is here to stay, maybe this is only a testing ground for our own future urban reality – as Bruce Sterling magnificently describes it in White Fungus, his contribution to Beyond #01.

Archives of Re-Incidence #03

I think it’s about time to say something more about the notion of Performance ArchitectureAlas, this is the title of another of those curatorial projects that I was keeping on hold and that I’ve now decided to deliver “open-source”…

Perhaps this is another of those pedagogical stories about free-lance curating. The idea, originated during a discussion in Basel, was initially proposed to the then recently appointed direktorin of an Hamburg Triennale that I guess has itself disappeared.

The project was discussed with the CCA‘s Mirko Zardini, but there the recession put a halt to it. Then it got entangled into the internal politics of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale and also there it was denied its coming into being…

Lately, it was also proposed for the Asturias’ Laboral, which seemed like quite an adequate venue for it, but after a warm welcome by Rosina Gómez-Baeza, silence from the institution became quite “deafening” (as we say in Portuguese politics).

As I believe there is a proper time for projects to make their impact, particularly in a world regulated by ever tighter trends & fads, I think it’s time for the idea to be exposed. Moreover, the term is coming up already in very diverse contexts, possibly making it dejá vu by the time anyone will accomplish a show on it… (Although, at some point, I am sure someone  will make an exhibition about it.)

The fact is, anyway, that one of the people who was present at the Basel discussion made it for herself and has managed to already create an event on the subject. And I’m glad she did. This was the Performing Architecture event last week at Madrid’s Matadero, as curated by Ariadna Cantis.

PerformingArchHowever, as you may read here at more length, this wasn’t exactly my idea of the notion of Performance Architecture

Matadero’s event certainly addresses some of the protagonists I am looking at. But more than the performing arts, theatrical approach to enacting an architectural discourse within the city, I’m interested in the relationships between architecture and Performance Art.

Over the last two decades minimalism and pop art have influenced architecture with a delay of about 30 years. Now, it is the moment for the performance practices of the Seventies to make their comeback into the realm of architecture and urban intervention.

In its relation to art, architecture was quite in sync with the avant-gardes during the first decades of the XXth century, only to gain an increasing delay in regards to art’s progressive role after the Sixties. During the Sixties, even if marginally, there were still groups that were perfectly synchronized with the Pop movement, namely in the UK and ItalyGordon Matta-Clarke, on the other hand, signals in the Seventies a definitive departure of the rebelling artist from architecture’s increasingly specialized and technicist realm.

When the Post-Modern movement explodes, architecture is certainly on the forefront… but as the leader of what Hal Foster called the movement’s reactionary side. Postmodernist architecture was regressive – and so were the immediate reactions to it. Decon is not much more than a return to Constructivism in philosopher’s garments, and even Rem Koolhaas is just cleverly –and retroactively– looking at the avant-gardes, from Melnikov right onto Superstudio.

Minimalism in architecture eventually carried out the same sort of retroactive move, and does it by looking back at the very last movement before the most progressive strain of Postmodern art appears in Rauschenberg and others.

wodiczko

Now, what I’m trying to get at here is the fact that, while Performance Architecture is also unconsciously looking back to art history, it does so onto an artistic movement that had a highly conscious political role. And this creates a difference.

While Minimalism in architecture was quickly devoid of its critical, perceptive overtones, the practice of Performance Architecture is actually retaining the social, political and “body” discourse that characterized the art movement.   Which is highly positive, and only possible because its protagonists are not yet totally immersed in the commercial drive of today’s architecture.

This phenomenon creates the other distinctive aspect of what I’m addressing here – specially when other notions of performance in architecture are coming up in recent discourse, albeit addressing the “performativity” of architecture while directing it to economical and disciplinary efficiency.

While I also refer to “performativity” in the text I am now releasing online, I do it to precisely keep that notion at bay. And that is one reason why what I’m saying here is quintessentially different from what is coming up in David Leatherbarrow’s “Architecture Oriented otherwise.”

The inaugurating book of the obviously welcomed “Writing Matters” collection –from that other Ivy League publisher a.k.a Princeton Architectural Press– delivers the concept of analyzing architecture as a performative device rather than objectual production.

But while Leatherbarrow’s proposition is interesting and reflects important shifts in the way we should regard architecture, it also shows the typical flaw of current American theory.

While the notions put forward there are supposedly progressive, they also contains in themselves the trigger for their own “happy consumption” within a market model and an architectural regime that remains unquestioned…

NY NY

Talking about small cities and big cities, I can’t resist telling you about my flashtrip to the Big Apple, as I was going my way to Boston…

I spent one night and one morning in New York. I nested right down at a good friend’s place in Brooklyn, where a barbecue was being held to signal a brief Indian Summer. Carlos Roque is actually an artist whose work I quite enjoy: it has that definite urbanite feeling that you get only from American cities…

CarlosRoque

Carlos Roque, Ryder, 2008, Acrylic and markers on canvas, 110 x 154 cm

Last time I was in New York, the dust was still settling around Ground Zero, making it a rather ghostly town with shopwindows covered in white. There was a strange depressive feeling around. Projects were being stopped everywhere.

This time, it felt like Spring. And it should. Walking along the newly opened High Line certainly gives you a new perspective of the city. In fact, a woman nearing 60, a typical New Yorker, couldn’t stop herself from addressing me on the wooden deck just to share with someone how wonderful this place felt to her.

NYHighLine

The traffic disappears, city noise from the nearby Meatpack district fades away (at least on a Sunday morning…) and walking through those powerfull monoliths at second-floor level can turn into a reminiscence of I Am Legend… As usual, one could say, reality mimicks fiction…

The other obligatory visit this time was Kazuo Seijima’s New Museum, which artist friends were discussing over dinner as a most disappointing and non-happening museum, specially after all the expectations that had been built up around it.

NYNewMuseum1

With the museum closed during the morning I could only appreciate its urban setting and its alien appearance in the typical New York street scene… And there it certainly worked for me as a cool, abstract version of yet again our current obsession for stacking.

Other than Hugh Maaskaant, New York was ultimately the inspiration for Rem Koolhaas’s take on program stacking, back when he wrote Delirious New York. Now, it is curious, if not ironic, that this concept should go all the way around the world of architecture, only to come back to its original hometown as a formal strategy for a single piece of program.

NYfigurines

Across some streets, some little characters are still trying to figure out what this may really mean.

On Traveling

Two of the best outcomes of flying away from home for a short-period are the possibility to hunt for the information being transmitted through the air of cities, and then, of course, to update on those crucial personal networks of people who are creating stuff that somehow relates to your interests.

While Beyond presentations in Harvard GSD and at the Architectural Association, in London, originated very positive and challenging echoes, the Rotterdam Architecture Biennale and its Open City proposal provided fertile ground to both of the aforementioned activities.

Firstly, let’s say that the openings and parties provided abundant opportunities to get acquainted to interesting newcomers, but also to build on friendships that are actually nurtured across years of events and happenings. And this, let me tell you, is an essential aspect to any self-regarding Biennale. Secondly, there were new contents to be scrutinized – which is not always true of this kind of organizations, even in the case of the bigger and more established events.

With its stress on community and cooperation driven projects, the Rotterdam Architecture Biennale was a perfect counterpart to the eager commercial drive and dislocated self-amazement that the London Design Week still emanates… In fact, in superficially sniffing l’essence of the two events, one cannot but wonder which one is indeed talking about our effective future…

The relevant fact is perhaps that the Rotterdam event managed to be a multicultural event in a small but multicultural city, while the LDW was only the “reflection on a golden eye” of a creative world relatively happy with itself and its own small dealings – that is, a monocultural event in a multicultural megalopolis.

BrickLane

And this is why, in London, I definitely preferred the amazing liveliness of Brick Lane on a sunny Sunday morning or an independent event like Publish and Be Damned – an alternative self-publishing magazine fair pointed to me by Elias Redstone from the Architectural Foundation…