Monthly Archives: February 2009

Guess what I’m doing… #02


Surely, there is a strong link here with my previous post. This is the abstract of my presentation at the Tickle Your Catastrophe! conference, taking place in Ghent, Friday and Saturday, March 6th and 7th, 2009.

“Emergency vs. Emergency: Scenarios on the Creativity of Crisis.”

The presentation intends to develop previous ideas on how states and conditions of emergency allow for new creative emergent practices. In this instance, worst-case scenarios are suggested as a way to tackle on the creativity of crisis, especially in terms of current extreme urban growth in developing countries.

While deliberately confounding and playing on the ambiguity of the word emergency as the phenomena of emergence related to collective intelligence – as explored and popularised by Steve Johnson and others – and also as a synonym of a state of urgency, the paper will propose an out-of-the-box outlook on how the production of knowledge and culture is rapidly changing its geography.

As such, factors of environmental change –like global warm-up and desertification– and changing global social conditions –like the North/South divide and the expansion of slum cities– can come together with oppositions like that of informal vs. formal creativity to offer a prospective portrait of a post-colonial displacement of the centres of cultural and technological production onto quite unexpected sites.

It will also be defended that this not only encompasses a dislocation but also a change in forms by which knowledge is proposed, appropriated and exchanged in what is now sometimes called a new network culture.

Within this context, facing the possibility of crisis or catastrophe may simply signify that we must take on new possibilities of looking at and responding to critical problems. And engaging with sustainability –fashionable and annoying as this idea has become– may then simply mean readdressing the notion of resourcefulness in new and unexpected ways.

Vive la crise!…

The news on CCTV’s fire, the current reflections on how the party may be over for starchitects and everybody else, unrelated personal events, and even a new architectural magazine popping out in the newsstands, have all prompted me to slowly change my stand vis-à-vis the current crisis.

Not that I didn’t welcome the crisis earlier. I did. I always thought crises not only provide an unexpected hair of the dog sort of effect, but they also have a weird capacity to redistribute a commodity that is normally very unevenly allocated to different peoples and geographies: time. Now we all have more time. (Even if that doesn’t come to much more of anything.)

But besides the well-known effects, lately I find myself so energized by the dark dynamics of the current near-catastrophe, that I am even starting to worry about my balance. If you see me on the street carrying a strange, perverse smile, you’ll know what I mean.

This crisis suddenly appears to me as a filter that came again to life in an overused, badly run public swimming pool. For so long the pool accumulated fallen leaves, organic and inorganic dirt, plastic wrappings and pieces of broken toys, leftovers and old firecrackers, and even large blots of grease left floating around by well-tanned, lubricated bodies. Now, the pool is been cleansed of its innumerous impurities.

For the time being, the workings of this particular filter are somewhat bloody and fierce, like those of an old meat-mincing machine.

But we will soon get used to that.

In between the debris, the downfalls, the downsizings, and the eventual body removal, one may only moralistically hope that the pool waters will again recover their transparency.

Until the next party takes over.

Twittering away…

twitter    1. to utter a succession of small, tremulous sounds, as a bird.                   2. to talk lightly and rapidly, esp. of trivial matters; chatter.    3. to tremble         with excitement or the like; be in a flutter.

Having just been welcomed into the so-called blog jungle, friends are already challenging me to enter the wonderful and instantaneous world of Twitter.

As I defend in this blog, shrapnel may well substitute for the long-gone idea of the literary fragment as something that piercingly contends with the instant attraction of images. That’s also the idea behind the Beyond project. After all,       I do think writing has to somehow condensate to the point at which it becomes again able to compete for our increasingly limited attention spans.

As such, Twitter seems only like the next logical step.

But just as Facebook suddenly started thriving again on the delusive instant gratification of knowing what your 937 friends have thought 5 minutes or two hours ago, also Twitter verges strangely on carrying our attention span into new depths of reduction.

Indeed, socially interesting as these phenomena are proving to be in substituting for earlier forms of human bonding, text becomes here even less than a fragment or a piece of shrapnel. As Barthes would remind us: text becomes merely a caption. A caption for images, for events, for links, for our latest trivial flutters.

The times they are a changin’…

At the end of last year the titles boosted that “it was fun till the money ran out” – an insightful article by Nicolai Ouroussouf that recently came to my attention. Now, it seems like starchitects are indeed being caught in a spell of bad luck.

It is only too obvious in the major scheme of things that the CCTV hotel, by OMA, had to go down in a fire set by a Chinese new year firecracker. That’s what I would call a ill omen joke.

Guess what I’m doing… #01



The family home I’ve finished last year is currently doing its blogworld tour, but this only becomes interesting when the project starts to be featured in reflections that are a little bit more theoretical than just the usual pasting and posting of the latest design novelty.

Rather than than just being cool-hunted, I find it only naturally preferable that projects may arouse some curious discussion – or at least are reproduced within an attempt at framing what’s hitting us at any given moment, as the one proposed in this personal view by Collyn Ahart Chipperfield.

In this sense, I thought I should add to the discussion by offering my own presentation text for that design. After all, child-like references are indeed at the core of it. One may say that a childish world must be faced with friendly irony.


Ghosts in the Shell

Sometimes it happens. Gentrification preys on small row houses that suddenly turn from outcast to highly enviable. As a result of historical accidents in the evolution of either small or big cities, what was once marked as socially invisible can reveal itself alluring and eye-catching.

This is the story of one of these places.

With its view on the Oporto river and one of its many bridges, this little house was indeed an attractive target. At little more than 40sqm here was a stone shell that, stripped of its prior ghosts, could turn into a highly desirable commodity.

Amazing as its cityscape was, the architecture of the house was poor and incomprehensible, except if considered in pure economical terms. Its single floor seemed impossibly full with kitchen, dining and two rooms. Openings were scarce and ungenerous. A cellar space was no more than a half height forgotten hole.

In comes the architect, the wizard of Oz, to do his magic and create new ghosts to replace the old ones. Even if the crisis strides out there, enters the golden touch of property development hypermodernity.

The place’s liveable area is magically tripled under the very same roof: it expands upwards and downwards.

On top, a bachelor pad is born, a spaceship for sex and sleep complete with a diving view onto the green and a sentinel’s lookout onto the sky. Below, the ground is excavated to create temporary rooms from which the young sons can step up onto the private courtyard garden.

The entrance floor is totally demolished to reveal a hidden scenario and welcome a new way of life. Here, the architect does his thing and casts his spell: out goes Cinderella, in come the Transformers© and what looks like the paraphernalia of new manga heroes.

The new inner landscape thus accommodates functional parasites that stand in a stark contrast with the shell stripped bare.

Against the white, colourful geometric beings seem to emerge out of nothing: an entrance box pushes forward with an eye on things, a wormlike staircase perforates the house until it transforms into the skylight, a petrol green caterpillar flowers from kitchen fitting onto dining room sideboard.

These animals, let’s call them such, rest against the back entrance wall. As everything and everyone in the house’s middle floor they face three dissimilar apertures that have been cut down to the floor to let in the powerful view at uneven intervals.

Inwards and outwards, the house is now ruled by a new breed of genius loci.

Pedro Gadanho, Lisbon, October 2008