Welcome to the conceptual laboratory of Diploma 9 – the world in which students invent, manufacture and design their identities alongside their architectures. Unit Staff: Natasha Sandmeier, Manolis Stavrakakis
If the office has become a factory, if the problems of the office are immaterial, if many of these problems rely on fixed perspectives, can we not literally and organisationally change this perspective altogether? This I call the great switch.
What if, for instance, the principal partner in the office had to switch work with the intern making models part of his time? And what if the intern took on the responsibility of running the office in the meantime? Everything would go with it: responsibility, skill, pay, spare time, connections, interactions with clients, consultants and other staff, and so on and so forth.
The architect thus becomes a sort of shapeshifter, and this shifting is taking place at the same site: the office table. It is anyone’s table, Everyman’s table, and on this table lies new experiences as well as ones already experienced. This is a table where we can be both hedgehogs and foxes all day long, indeed, it is the office which demands it from us.
This will be a narrated animation/film. 2 mins max. The camera will move from piece to piece, explaining/detailing them. I want to add the pods as well, but not sure how, why and where.
THE MAIN POINT: that if the office is to change, we have to be willing to change our roles – literally – in the office. That means that the office space becomes the VEHICLE of the architect’s many identities, the road that he travels.
The Great Switch:
between the partner and the intern
between the technical and the conceptual
between the model maker and the renderer
between the businessman and the unit tutor
between the team-player and the individualist
between the teacher and the student
between the secretary and the chef
between the men and the women
between the young and the old.
Not that I expect any of you to read it, but this is how I see the project ultimately coming together.
Quite a few things have changed. I’m working on a big drawing which is of the table where the architect works, and the stuff on the table will describe my conclusion of “spatial rewards” and the combination of the idealist self-image of the architect, with the demands for proper compensation and appreciation of his work.
In short: if the problems of the architectural office are immaterial (social) rather than material (spatial), then it makes little sense to respond to these problems by way of the material. Therefore, I am designing a system of compensation, rather than a literal office space.
The pods will still come in as the vehicles with which we travel between our desires, but ultimately, they’ve been pushed to the side, as have other discussions, such as the one in gender, in order to focus my resources.
Chipperfield: Pay is rubbish and if you have friends or a partner you will never see them until you quit, usually after a year, like everyone else does. Massive staff turnover. No fun in there.
Fosters: It’s a corporation, a sweat shop. Doesn’t matter whether they make flip flops in China, stamped t-shirts in Vietnam or buildings everywhere. It’s a business! Nevertheless, no one mentions what happens to those that left and got something out of it just because they have the Foster logo printed on the CV.
Zaha: Loves communication via Tannoy at the office. Just so everyone knows what mistake you’ve made in that drawing and when you were five minutes late.
Ole Scheeren: There is a complete lack of architectural interest and the projects are “designed” through an army of zombied out interns mindlessly google-ing images and stacking foam boxes.
OMA: When they offered the annual salary I seriously asked if this was meant to be for 1 month and got the hell out of there…
Nouvel: I haven’t been in the office for the last 3-4 years but I recall of the “dungeons”. At least 2 basements filled up with Chinese interns.
Now, the question I want to ask here is: if, already a hundred years ago, the Bata shoe factory in Zlín could offer a better working environment for its employees and organise them collectively, what is stopping us from using the same strategy in the office? In other words, could the training of an architect, a process that never ends, ultimately also become a reward of knowledge and experience, rather than a salary? Instead of building a bank account, the architect ought to build an identity.
The Greek poet Archilochus, older than Socrates, defined identity as a matter of hedgehogs and foxes: “The hedgehog knows one big thing; the fox knows many.”
In the large, hierarchical office, we are hedgehogs. We experience work as a one-point perspective, where we draw and model our way towards one goal, the vision of the master architect. To some this vision brings comfort, in always knowing what to do when you arrive on Monday morning, to always have your spot, your place in the chain.
In the small, flat office, we are foxes. Here we can no longer speak of any points in perspective, in fact, everyone has their own point. This vision of the architect’s occupation reflects our society as an agglomeration of individuals. We might find our freedom here, but we lose our collective potential.
Bringing all the spaces together, we see, that as a collective, we operate on the verge of collapse. The office is now a chamber outgrown by an Alice on digital, immaterial drugs, despite its many formal variations. The office is rapidly becoming a non-site, a non-location, as architecture itself is driven to the great grey mass of transitional space. This I define as “the road.”
If we take this last statement, the road is the journey, and apply it to architecture, we have the choice of viewing it as a development of character, like the Chinese martial arts master directing us towards the true road to success.
And if the problems of labour in the office are essentially non-spatial, then the solution cannot be simply a new type of wall or chair. The manifestation of fair treatment of labour does not lie in the space of production itself, but in the abstract nature of work, *which is then* rewarded or punished by architecture.
My two points of interest in the office are the insubstantial reward of our work, and the tendency to define our identity as architects as one of knowledge and dedication. In the new office, the two can mutually include each other, in fact, they must do so. Architects need to work, but they also want to work.
Time, learning, mindset, responsibilities. These are immaterial characters and cannot be addressed solely by material proposals. With a new space, there must be a new purpose.
My question is: if compensation is an issue, then can the solution be architecture? Can the office, instead of being a space of production, be a spatial reward?
Therefore, I give you the table. It is anyone’s table, Everyman’s table, but on this table lies the possibilities of new experiences, and the remnants of those already taken. To me, it is now clear that work is a choice of life, not life a choice of work. The organisation of the office thus reconciles the specialisation and marginalisation of “architecture” as profession with the role of “architect” as a passionate identity. Essentially, life becomes capital.
(WIP) Another day at the table of the omni-architect …
The architect who wants to build leaves the office in the middle of the week, takes the company lorry to an old fisherman’s hut by the sea. He builds because he wants to see someone, a child, maybe, grow up and marvel at his quirky chimney details. He will continue to build here until the building is completely over-saturated with spatial contraptions.
The architect who wants to study is given access to the RIBA basement library on Great Portland Street, whose purpose of research lies in his fascination with all things original. He wants to touch the manuscripts of Christopher Wren. In what way does it matter that it is not related to a project, if it is related to the project of building expertise?
The architect who wants to test his ideas goes to whatever wind tunnel, robot assembly line, disgusting urban squalor or nameless suburbia in order to erect a project that was not asked for by anyone but the architect himself. He builds not because he was asked to, but because he wanted to, and that is what we assist him in. He goes from “friends” with a project to “in relationship.”
Ultimately the new office responds to how the labour of architecture can be kept a lifestyle, a dedication, and not just an occupation. It is *still* a work, but it is also a calling, as we all know, since we love architecture. What would you want to do as a project, if you were to choose it only as a personal conviction, rather than as a crude reality? If your desires are the reward, if money shrinks to near-disappearance, and architecture remains, what would you do?
Think my challenge for the coming two weeks is to merge the use, purpose and life of the pods with contemporary social/functional phenomena, which posits them not only as responding to the issue of the present office, but also answers the question of why we *need* architecture at all. Is architecture, as it is today, on the verge of disappearing, and the attempts at design from our/my part is only a futile last hurrah for built form, before it is swept away by the generic and the muji?
problem: gender equality.
response: the work alone speaks.
result: an architecture for the table only, the street becomes our common territory, as it is there where we are associated with no particular status in general. Everyone is equal on the street, HOWEVER, the work on the table is not equal. The work speaks, not the person.
response: a time capsule.
result: a circular library, with an exchange shelf at waist height. the shelf starts empty, and is filled by people bringing books/media they appreciate and putting it on the exchange shelf. From there, it is added to the library by the one within the capsule, who reads it, stores it, or puts it back on the exchange shelf for someone else to take home. Experience is shared without a price, as an action rather than a commodity.
Had to scale it down in order for it to fit in the photos without taking up too much space (which makes sense since it couldn’t travel on the street if it wasn’t rather small). This is just a first test of mixing photo and render. (YES, it needs wheels)
Also finished the drawing and printed large (A1-square)
400 500 words summary:
A shoe factory does two things: it produces shoes, and it produces shoemakers. The architectural office does the same: it produces buildings, and it produces architects. Considering that both are made through collective effort, it is relevant to speak of their general working conditions as crucial in fabricating a better product, a better shoe, or a better building.
The Greek poet Archilochus, older than Socrates, defined identity as a matter of hedgehogs and foxes: “The hedgehog knows one big thing; the fox knows many.” Offices have a similar character, operating on many levels, some in opposition to each other. In some offices, employees are specialised. In others, they switch roles. Sometimes the office produces only one kind of design, in others it changes with every new commission.
Because of this two-fold problematic, I employ a two-fold concept: the road. A road is both a physical typology and an immaterial journey, not seldom both. The road is designed, and the road is travelled. I designed both the road through the office, and the office on the road. The first was transformational, the latter oppositional. I have pursued both, as the office-road, and the road-office.
The road to gender equality: the higher up in the office hierarchy, the less females in prominent roles. Women quit architecture in higher numbers than men. Women are paid less, regardless of working part time or full time. As a transformation, the office-road blurred boundaries, allowing one to work in one office while within another. As an opposition, the road-office provides bisymmetric tables, facing each other, sharing the same workspace, shifting space through communication.
The road to equal wages: systematic devaluation of the architect’s work, accelerated by the architects themselves, create harsher environments for new firms, and skewed opportunities for graduates. The office-road had no solution to this. The road-office, on the other hand, creates an opaque cell for production, in which output is not linked with position, status or age bias.
The road to more time: time to talk, time to think, time for silence, and time out of the office, as architecture cannot be designed by someone whose only task is to design. The office-road provides an escape route, a freedom, of sorts, of other cities, other discussions. The road-office designs time by employing the rhythm of moving through the space of the office, shifting at intervals.
The road to experience: everyone starts from zero at some point; how can we bring a zero to one? What do we want to learn, and what kind of future do we want to have? The office-road continues the removal of horizontal elements (walls) with their vertical equivalents (floors). It enabled by taking away. Conversely, the road-office adds. The road-office is built, and continues to be built, with the physical memorabilia of its employees – old, recent, and desirable. Everyone designs the workspace, and learns from it.
Hedgehogs at times, foxes at others, the office-road and the road-office responds to the same site and issues, resolving (dissolving?) them in their differences.
No longer generic vs. individual office. It was not specific enough. Now it speaks of hedgehogs and foxes (obviously), which is a homage to Greek philosophy as well as this important essay by Isaiah Berlin. Before I play the video, I will explain it very briefly to the critics.
No longer a question of “which wins?”, but replaced with “who are you?”; links back to previous paragraph, but I like the directness of a question on identity. Must not fear the literal.
The road is presented as having two meanings: the physical/architectural and the mental/architect-al. To “follow the road” is for me to do architecture, as well as asking myself what kind of architect I want to be, and, by extension, what kind of environment I want to work in.
To unity: the road converges, the discussion on the rallying point, etc.
In and out and through: actions by which we engage the office.
Experience: you have to move in order to learn. That movement must continue in the office. No road, no learning, no architects. (not very controversial)
Makes cities: without roads, there would be no city. There would just be one massive building, impenetrable. The office, seen as a mini-city (hopefully as multi-culti) needs the road in order to work. It is hardly a choice.
To consider: how to transition from the (failure of) the TS-road-office to the activist part and the design of the mobile office, the road-office, the office on the road.
The isolation chamber is a device for equal treatment in work. The space incarcerates the architect within it, the same architect that arrives before/after everyone else (the night shift?), and who is then only judged for the material that pops out of the attached plotter. The services in the office rotate. One day you are here, the other day you’re somewhere else.
Or, in plain words: you work here, but no-one knows that it is you working.
(Conceit at its most minimal?)
A space for meeting-as-confrontation, where the only light comes from the zone of conflict: the shared table, dividing space, but not completely; uniting space, but not completely.
I hate descriptive text, so here’s a poem instead:
The proposal: each one of us as an individual, each one of us a perspective
arranged side by side, sometimes collapsing into one another, forming
what we term “a collective.” This is a world interpreted, but the things
one interprets are milieus already existing, and therefore solidified
within the context of the generic-specific office, that is, the office
that becomes generic in the presence of many specifics:
rooms awash in light (naturally north-facing or artificial)
colour accent walls (of no use), rolling chairs, partitions of waist-height, and Macs
on rows, or less-than-fanciful imitations of Macs. Designing the office is not a matter
of hiring an interior decorator, it is one of incorporating, of consuming, the traits
that are general, the methods proven to work, and then to lexify them.
Went to Zaha today, was good. Many stressed DRL graduates, but I got some footage, and a senior designer gave me his business card, to arrange something at the office. Will have to think of how I can make the most of it.
This is the sliced and diced version of about 30 mins of footage. So much material … people like to talk, obviously. But it’s good, I’m not going to complain, you just have to sift out the best parts of it for the final presentation.
Some points that have come out of a lot of reading during the weekend.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of the statements?
How to deal with gender?
How to deal with wages?
How to deal with influence?
How to deal with talent?
How to deal with time?
How to deal with facilities?
How to deal with experience?
— We do not construct the architect without constructing the environment in which the architect operates.
— We can speak of “office architecture” as one both in terms of buildings and interiors, and in terms of hierarchy and organisation.
— There are three spaces of architectural production: the school, the office, and the construction site.
— Female architects earn on average 25 per cent less than men in similar roles.
— 13% of practising architects are women, in contrast to 38% of students and 22% of teaching staff.
— Part-time women architectural workers earn 62% of the salary of their part-time male equivalents.
— Childless women still experience slower rates of progress than men.
— There is a dangerous culture of assent when organizations are demographically homogeneous.
— “There are probably more smaller practices out there than the market can sustain. Fees go down and salaries go down as well.”
— “if you aren’t willing to die poor and have no friends you aren’t dedicated. There is no other profession with this mindset. Lawyers, if you could find free time during law school, people praised your time management. Same with doctors in med school. Architecture….you must not be dedicated.”
— Big corporate firms do not pay more than smaller ones.
— “While looking for a job post M.Arch, I was told by one firm that they could not afford me. They literally said, ‘someone else will take the job for less money.'”
— From the AIA Best Practice of the Year Prize: “… a philosophy which promotes design excellence through commitment and leadership, mentoring and guidance and public advocacy and professional involvement.”
— “It is crucial to place them (interns) in positions of responsibility with active team involvement as soon as possible.”
— Dysfunctional staff and low morale can be very destructive.
— Fresh perspectives derive from mavericks with wildly diverse backgrounds and no preconceptions who challenge the status quo, champion their own ideas, and illuminate the metaphorical darkness. (Robert I. Sutton, Professor of Management Science at Stanford)
— Team composition that might lead to the most efficient design process does not necessarily lead to the best design.
— Are competition and collaboration within the same firm culture mutually exclusive?
— Gropius: “to safeguard design coherence and impact, the right of making final decisions must be left exclusively to the one member who happens to be responsible for a specific job, even though his decision should run counter to the opinion of other members.”
— Darwin: “In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
Talent / Interns
— “It’s not that bad, the mower is electric so it doesn’t work very well so the grass won’t get on your clothes … just don’t run over the power cord. And it’s going to get hot today so I would get started so you won’t sweat. As much.” (First day of an internship: mowing grass outside the office)
— “The Internship Program is based on a tradition of mentorship. Interns have the opportunity to attend construction site visits, an in-office speaker series, and weekly design critiques where our entire office gathers to review and critique an ongoing design project.” Olson Kundig
— “The training period will require you to learn and be part of a contemporary architecture firm and develop skills that are unknown or new to you.” JDS architects
— “An assigned team member will mentor the Intern throughout the duration of the internship.” Coop Himmelblau
— As long as you maintain positive connections, you should be able to go back to a place if you liked it.
— “You need to suck up to your boss(es). If they don’t like you, they won’t be so willing to let you tag along to things or let you work on things you request.”
— You have to have drafting and design skills, but if you lack real world experience (construction and personal skills) you won’t make it far.
— The growth of a firm is related to the individual development of each employee.
— What do you look for in an employer?
1. Values good design
2. Values their employees
3. Keeps to date with the latest technology
— What job characteristics would keep you at a firm?
1. Project diversity
2. Quality design work
3. Opportunities for advancement
— A good architectural firm knows how long it takes to complete a project and what resources are required. Constant overtime hints at poor management and neglect by the employers.
— “Sleep is for the weak.”
— “If I had to rate what is the most important part of education, I’d say communication and an understanding of time. Graphic ability would obviously come in a close second, but [time is] a lot more critical than a lot of people understand.”
— Giving more time doesn’t necessarily mean that output will be a better design.
— When you notice you’re missing deadlines consistently, you may want to ask yourself if you planned well enough to accomplish this task by the deadline?
— If after all your effort, you are not satisfied with the end result and you keep thinking that a little more time and you could have done a much better job, you need to rethink your time management strategy.
— “The busy man is never wise and the wise man is never busy.” Lin Yutang, Chinese philosopher
Googled endlessly (well, over an hour …) for an image of stacked empty noodle boxes to signify the hit-and-run lifestyle of the hectic office lunch (if the body is noble, we sure aren’t taking care of it in a reverent manner), but alas, had to go with KFC instead … do architects eat at KFC? Only in L.A.?
The road can be seen as occupying a parallel reality
to that of the factory, in the sense not that it *is* a factory
anymore than it is an office or a piece of infrastructure
but that there is an inherent dichotomy in considering a project
as the refusal to and allure of resolving the combination of two incarnations
which supposedly always have to be separated from each other:
the material/immaterial, the physical/cultural, the utilitarian/beautiful.
In defiance of viewing these as irreconcilable binary values (either/or)
but in support of its remaining in separation up until there is
a combining agent (artist-scientist-architect) present at the draughtman’s loom
the road exists in two realms that slowly merge with the action of development
of an idea, and the representation (residue) of that action in the form
of drawings as well as writings, of buildings as well as concepts.
One can’t reject the former without, in principle, rejecting the latter.
It is therefore fitting that the road, as a linguistic entity, can represent
and have been representing, two different trajectories: the physical road
and the spiritual road. The former is inescapable, in industrialised as well as
developing countries, in all-pervasive, technocratic as well as tribal cultures:
civilisations grow out of roads, along roads, and fade into obscurity and ruin
when no roads lead to it, which is exemplified most poignantly in the image
of a pre-standardised road, that of the frayed path in the wilderness
of grass stomped down by feet carrying the (literal or abstract) prey
of hunting (meat or money): here a rule has been established
a rule of uncertainty, it is true, but still a rule: as long as there is
some sort of resource extracted, in separation of its place of utilisation
the road will mediate between the extremes of remoteness in the form
of the establishment of habit. The road is therefore
a consequence of need, and not solely a luxury of design.
As a spiritual pathway, the road has the curious
and more specific purpose of channelling aspirations of improvement
of “getting there”, “finding oneself”, “knowing the world.” In some cases
the road is both, as was the case of Kerouac, and in other cases, the connection
between actual action and mental development is implicit, as was the case
of the Tao Te Ching, in which the Tao was specifically
The Way, The Path, The Road, as much as
The One, The Whole, The Unnameable.
In considering the road from these two positions, I see myself
as reconciling the project of the office by including the road
both as metaphor and physicality, both as an attitude and a physical reality.
The road has something of a cult built around it. It is ground, in more senses than one
that is, ground for architecture, but it is also a figure in the ground of landscape
which, to wit, is the figure of our imagination. To speak of a “temple” is to think
of a dwelling, a form of positive space, while the implied “search” of the road thinks
of itself as negative space, undefined, and therefore full of potential (and danger).
On it I want to construct a “digital valise”, “a starter kit for those professionally disillusioned.” There’ll be posters, videos, flyers, memes, etc. which can be downloaded, printed and exhibited by the graduates in the offices. I want to connect it to Facebook, Twitter etc. to get maximum coverage. Maybe a gallery as well to let others upload their interventions, and spread the word.
I don’t know if the Part III thingy is still going on, but I would like to use it as a already-existing network to spread the use (and abuse) of the site.
In a way, I’m coding the opposite to Anouk’s: here content is everything, and the format just happens to be the most convenient.
It’s kind of fun. I coded my first website in 1999, so it’s a bit of a flashback. Oh, how simple HTML was back then …
First of all, apologies for the blog avoidance, my eyes haven’t been operating as they should (been diagnosed with chronic blepharitis, blurring my vision at times). BUT. I am working on something new. It is a film that will do to the winter term what the previous film did for its autumn equivalent. Shooting for another 2 minutes, so, planning the presentation, it will be: 1 min intro to the topic -> 2 min recon recon film -> 2 min drawing and talking -> 2 min TS recon film (the one I’m working on) -> 5 min all the rest (the activism etc., which I haven’t started yet).
Two drawings of the stylistic direction I want to take part of rallying office in, to contrast with the sheer I-don’t-give-a-crap-ness aesthetics of the road. Not that people here care about style (at least they shouldn’t), but I don’t think an architectural movement should manicure its eccentricities in order to reach consensus, which is really just another word for “the least upsetting and/or alienating form.” One should be suspicious towards movements which, for some reason, reject the full vocabulary of architecture, and therefore the full range of architects.
Oscar Niemeyer: “We hated Bauhaus. It was a bad time in architecture. They just didn’t have any talent. All they had were rules. Even for knives and forks they created rules. Picasso would never have accepted rules. The house is like a machine? No! The mechanical is ugly. The rule is the worst thing. You just want to break it.”
I’m considering turning part of my work into film. Animating stuff like I did in 3rd year. Won’t be the whole presentation, just part of it. Will think of what goes in it and how. Meanwhile, I’m torn between these two as soundtrack:
Chipperfield: Pay is rubbish and if you have friends or a partner you will never see them until you quit, usually after a year, like everyone else does. Massive staff turnover. No fun in there.
Fosters: Unbelievably pyramidal artificial caste system full of contemptuous, presumptuous and arrogant not-half-useful individuals who shade the enormous potential and talent concentrated in this place with their stupidity and daily struggle to conceal their own worthlessness.
Zaha: Loves communication via Tannoy at the office. Just so everyone knows what mistake you’ve made in that drawing and when you were five minutes late.
Ole Scheeren: There is a complete lack of architectural interest and the projects are “designed” through an army of zombied out interns mindlessly google-ing images and stacking foam boxes.
OMA: When they offered the annual salary I seriously asked if this was meant to be for 1 month and got the hell out of there…
Nouvel: I havent been in the office for the last 3-4 years but I recall of the “dungeons”. At least 2 basements filled up with Chinese interns.
To be a young architect is strange. If you want to work for an office that actually does some interesting shit, most of the time you have to be prepared to be treated like shit, as well. We take pride in being the posterboys of invention and reinvention, but when it comes to our own spaces of work, nothing has changed, and nothing changes. The architectural office is seen at best as an organisational issue, and at worst as a stamp on your CV. But the office is a physical construct, a typology and a program as much as anything else, and therefore an issue of design.
The on-grid office is a intrusion into the workspace of the existing, large, famous, generic, stagnant architecture firm. It is done from the point of view of the newly graduated architecture student, facing the problem of balancing his own ambitions and personality with the style of the firm and the demands of the bosses above him. The goal is to establish a second office within the first. It will intervene in it, transform it, tweak it and peel it – in short: fuck it up, and be fucked up by it.
R is for the Road, “On the Road”, the road that smashes through the office, the road that we depart from, that we continue on, and the road that is nothing but a lifestyle.
C is for conformity, disgusting acceptance, heroic pessimism, and a fatter paycheck.
E is for escape, youthful resistance and the idealism needed to change the world.
S is for schizo, the conflict and the doubt between the two that we all carry within us.
I is for infrastructure, the kit of the city, the generator of cities, the smalltown hope of growth and prosperity, and the first cause of breakdown of society and its communication in the case of disruption, neglect or destruction.
R is for rallying point, the rehabilitation of collective ambition, cross-professional exchange and drunken meetings in the light of the full moon.
Y is for you.
U is for us.
P is for product and project, the two antagonisms that battle between the office and architectural culture. One is a building, the other is an idea. How do we choose?
L is for Lefebvre: “Choice is absurd and monstrous; it results in mutilation and one-sidedness. To choose, to want art as service and not as beauty – that is, if beauty and art still mean anything – is to prefer the part to the whole. It is like defining love as reproduction.”
D is for door mouldings, what one architect at a prestigious Park Avenue firm had worked with for the past ten years. ‘My options of moving elsewhere,’ he said, ‘are limited.’”
N is for niche, as competition among the units of a market economy – whether between clients or between architectural firms – in the long run will result in diversity and fragmentation, as the aim is to capture a symbolic monument for the client or a unique stamp for the firm.
O is for the one-point perspective, the linear process and supreme decision of the grey-hairs which is no longer tenable.
B is for the black hole, screwing up the perspective, distorting it for the sake of hacking the established process of designing architecture.
Z is for zero-gravity, the absence of all norms of hierarchy.
Still trying to figure out the cores. I’m thinking of them being horizontally prestressed to distort less from the movement on the road, if that is even possible. It’s boring to go for the most dumb solution – making them THICKER – in any case. Maybe I needed a bit of brain-freeze today in order to be fresh tomorrow.
EDIT: Haha, just saw Anny’s post. Collective brain-freeze! Very encouraging for the project!
Axo of road through building as it stands. Added the sloping interior roof, walls separating the road from the office, and connected the road flush to the existing floor levels. By doing so, I am able to use many slender columns rather than a few thick ones, since the lateral forces and movements of the road are absorbed by the existing slabs.
I am now operating with two offices in the building: the hanging, internal office which opens up the existing floors, and the road itself (which I want to convert into a mobile office) which is closed to the building but open to the city. My argument is that the office cannot just be open and jolly and collaborative, because sometimes things simply don’t work, and for that reason you have to retreat to other worlds, other careers and inspirations. These two new offices will be connected outside of the building – you have to leave the existing office in order to transfer to somewhere else, even if it is just to you personal sphere.
View through the office from the actual road surface. Atm the road has no connections to the floor space of the office, and no connection with the road continuing in the exterior – will work on that. At least the lighting conditions are fairly accurate.
Working on spreads on the spatial relationship between the road/my office and the generic office I’m cutting through. The light office is kind of Fumihiko Maki-style and in that version, the road itself is suspended from the ceiling of the existing building, with the aid of two new structural cores. The heavy office is not my favourite, but needed to be done in order to situate the conversation.
I like the light office not only because it enables both interaction, transformation and communication, as well as negating the view we have of elevated roads as typically heavy and concrete-y. Since the structure will most likely be placed on steel pillars rather than concrete ones, it is more interesting I think to consider the new office-road as light in all aspects, and there isn’t really need for lots of compression forces on the suspended office-floor.
Thought I want to develop: it is not the fact that there is a road crashing through an office that matters, it is what the road DOES to the office that’s important.
n.b. it will not be this light inside the motorway-office, since it is – as we know – lodged inside an existing office block. Also there are columns required to hold up the roof, entrance ways to get into the thing, and the question of whether you can actually have these glass openings in the ceiling, that is, if the road above can be used with partial glass/acrylic sections.
Spreads to follow.
EDIT: What happened to time? At least David (in Farringdon) was happy, and gave me good suggestions, both thesis-wise and structure-wise.
EDIT: Embarrassing … got stuck in maths about concrete load-bearing capacity and advanced scaling of building elements, when I, after two hours, came to the conclusion that all I needed to do was to cut the dimensions in half … so, no third spread today, but at least, I will be able to start working on the interior of the road/office tomorrow. Finally.
“The Queen’s House, Greenwich, was built by Jones for Anne of Denmark, wife of James I, in the grounds of Greenwich Palace. Jones placed two blocks either side of the road and joined them at first-floor level by means of a bridge. This H-shaped plan, perhaps modeled on the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano, was later filled in by John Webb’s addition of two further bridges on the side elevations.”
Turns out Webb was a assistant to Inigo Jones, so, in a way, his only way to overcome the suffocating ghost of his master was to slam two marble colonnades to the side of the building. Starchitect resistance anno 17th century.
EDIT 2: Added some environmental stuff. Need to consider the noise and vibration from the road, as well, in a future spread.
Plus an excerpt of thesis elaboration done in the morning (before my brain had woken up).
Formal complexity does not equal intellectual complexity
and intellectual complexity does not need formal complexity.
Where I see ideas, she sees conversations. This poses a question:
What is the easiest thought one can think of? The easiest form?
The situation of the newly graduated student finding his way
into the architectural office is complicated by the structure of the office
and how it is set up to facilitate one kind of architecture
(the architecture of that particular office), which becomes a trademark
a quality guarantee, a stamp of approval, that is, approved by the figurehead(s)
of the office, which most often require just one person (Winy Maas, Koolhaas
Sejima, Rogers, etc.); if one is looking for a spokesperson, that person is chosen
depending on the context: negotiation with the client = the project head;
negotiation with a structural engineer = the detail designer;
presentation to the press = obviously the founder (if he is still alive);
introduction to the interns = the newly graduated enfant terrible
still with a foot in academia (an identity he is not yet willing to forsake
as he has not yet created himself a professional identity, by contrast).
The graduate is faced with the dilemma of leading a movement
which has no followers other than himself, must also investigate
to what extent the ideas one has concocted can be attractive to others.
A movement is born out of many hands, and it is many hands that builds
our buildings, that builds architecture (if not what *sells* architecture).
In bad times, the student has no choice; he goes to wherever work is.
If talented, he may have a slightly better chance of at least finding someone
who he has given a glance of passing admiration, a hero for the moment.
Rare are careers built on unclouded worship; one grows slowly tired of chocolate
if one has to eat it for every meal. The point is: if we do not have a choice
such as, as architects, not having the choice of not doing architecture
if the outer demands – in truth: the office we have constructed
drawn with a fascination for disgust – do their best to kill off any idealism
still operative in the diplomaed, honoured, and subsequently expatriated exstudent
then what is his response? Resistance? Abandonment? Heroic disillusionment?
No. He builds the road. He smashes through the walls of the office, sets up his own spine
for architectural production, infects the space with every lewd reference he can think of
squeezes in as many truckloads of intellectual cross-referencing as is possible
(as *should be possible*) in this particular location. He disrupts, but he also creates.
Here, infrastructure is not only understood as the pre-architectural installation
of systematised access, but as architecture itself, in its most prized gestalt:
that of being an initiator, accelerator and facilitator of change
a change which the young ones find necessary as part
of their sole being young – without an identity, but damn well set
on finding one, and, failing that, which most of us do, inventing one.
Looks too much like a box rather than an office, but will change. Basically it can’t get any less complex than this in order for the research into perspective etc. to not get thrown out of the window, unless we can think of it to enter the project in a more crisp way soon.
Principles before the Road:
1) The road creates ultimate homogeneity
through ultimate heterogeneity.
2) The road is a melting pot rather than a salad bowl.
3) If you mix all colours at once, what you get – fantastically – is brown.
4) “Chaos is the basic prerequisite of today’s city”, “I would like the houses
I design to stand forever on this earth.”, “I intend to devote myself to attempting
to inscribe eternity within spaces.” –Kazuo Shinohara
5) The monolithic presence of one kind of architecture stems from the existence
of only one kind of man, one kind of humanity. The question:
6) *How can ultimate homogeneity be extracted from ultimate heteregeneity?*
7) By shrinking. By washing. By lawmaking. By the state.
8) How can the road create ultimate homongeneity from the places
it traverses, which are today designated as ultimately heterogenic?
9) In design, we arrive at the same conclusions by employing the same methods.
In analytic science, we seem to arrive at aboslutely different conclusions.
10) By systematising, organising, ordering, collecting, cataloguing.
11) By being autistic.
12) The whole creates harmony for that child;
that which wasn’t in order could not be understood, and
indeed, that which is chaotic is *intriguing*, but not real.
13) Once all airport terminals were the same. You could fly from N.Y. to Paris
to Shanghai to Tokyo, and never feel as if you’ve left your very own Robin Hood Gardens.
14) Homogeneity: (noun) uniformity – agreement, analogy, congruity
correlation, identity, oneness, sameness, similitude.
15) Heterogeneity: (noun) variety – array, assortment, change, collection, combo
conglomeration, departure, discrepancy, disparateness, divergency, diverseness
diversification, diversity, fluctuation, incongruity, intermixture, medley.
16) Homogeneity: “composition from like parts, elements, or characteristics.”
17) Heterogeneity: “composition from dissimilar parts; disparateness.”
18) By controlling the colours of the parasols erected on the city square.
19) By controlling the design of the anxious smalltown pavement signs.
20) In a way, it’s still 4th year all over again …
21) Paint all the houses white. Serve all the chickens for the same price.
22) Homogeneity does not work on the market, for that market requires significance
that is, an identity favourable to the buyer. Homogeneity is therefore anti-capitalist.
23) Homogenous Tokyo – a critique and a call for action.
24) Technical solutions (conventions, know-how) bring sameness to architecture.
25) Same shed, different signs: capitalism. Different shed, same sign: architecture.
26) When you’re a Batovci, you are proud to be a Batovci.
Working on a storyboard of the spreads I want to do for the coming weeks.
The most valuable advice that I take with me from the interim is: 1) The road is not an end. It is a means to an end, and 2) The road comes dangerously close to repeating the architecture of the one-point office. To address number (1), I’m trying to consider the road not only as infrastructure, but as the platform for creation of a city (the road is the factory of architecture). To address number (2), I’m considering my project no longer as just one road, but many. Therefore, the spread that you see here deals with a smaller kind of road, and the project concludes with the concentration of all roads into one vast infrastructure.
My tutorial with Nacho was very helpful and inspiring – I think it takes a TS tutor to see all the technical absurdities in my project. An example: if the road passes through a marble quarry (Anouk’s project) the road should be built out of marble; If it passes through a forest, it should be built out of wood, and so forth.
His main concern with the project was the question of how it begins. He told me that it would be good to specify all the inputs and parameters of the road, before embarking on its construction. Hence this first slice of the Road Chapter, which tries to define *who* is using the road, *what* is transported on it, and *where* it starts (physically). To transport all the material necessary for the city to be built under the road, I would perhaps need to have a 100 lanes, and the road needs to be ten miles wide. Back to the planetary scale, again.
“It’s totally bonkers, you know that?” he said. I think that’s a good thing.
I’ve decided that the road is built by the newly graduated architects themselves. Obviously, in my world, since it is for their sake I’m proposing the rallying point. Perhaps in times when nothing gets constructed, it is not the “users” who should construct these kind of things, but the architects themselves. Every worker an entrepreneur, as Bata said.
Restructured my TS book according to the material I have, and the material I want to do (hence the drafts). Now that I have the motorway, I want to explore the motorway as my FACTORY.
It does these things:
— It constructs the city, which is a city of architectural offices.
— It addresses the question of perspective (light) and gravity (mass) as rallying points.
— It builds the escape from the master architect’s office by distorting it.
— The motorway is “built gravity”, “built perspective.”
— The city that is built underneath it is shaped by the design of the motorway.
— The final motorway will overlay all its formal instances into one massive fuck-you-city flyover.
Personal motivation quip (homage to Richard Neutra): SURVIVAL THROUGH DESIGN
… trying to see which one is the fastest: render by hand, or model in computer. The factory is obviously currently lacking the vertical dimension, but that will come. Hopefully I’ll be able to integrate parts of the model with the motorway/roof by Tues.
So many ideas in my head right now … essentially, I’m working with the white space between the office. This space is currently thought of as a plinth on which the office sits, and which engages that office by providing it with its *infrastructure* (this is why I had two elevated expressways last night, again a case of being too literal, but hey, if something comes out of it, it’s all good, no?) I must confess, though: I’m not so sure that I was so sure about knowing what it is I was doing. Perhaps infrastructure is the wrong concept. It can be just any kind of “structure” – understood broadly – that supports the gravity office above, hah, literally supports it.
This render is of the “white roof” that will cover the plinth and everything in between. I have a vision of the structure being completely white, nondescript and non-structural when seen from the outside, like the body concealing the chassis of a car or a computer. My thoughts then drifted off to the idea of a space frame, and how it can be employed. We often think of the space frame as the most structurally economical of architectural gestures, but I’m considering it from the opposite point of view: an excessive structure, always prepared for more than it was specified to do.
Anyway, I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Tomorrow’s tutorial will be a simultaneous confusion/ambiguity of options, and decision making. WHAT is the white space? Is it light? Is it HEAVY? Is it both?
Really liked the idea of the white space being the other half of my factory, so, we have the hand-drawn Oliver-office first which does all kinds of haywire gravity stuff, while the white is the factory which makes everything work, which explains why one part is next to the other, what kind of relationship they have, etc. etc. It excites me to think of this factory as almost invisible – which doesn’t make it nonexistent, only that it hides. Superlight!
Also very excited about the book! I want it to be t-h-i-c-k and sumptuous and crazy and sublime and … I can’t explain it in words, so here’s music instead:
But when I present it, I imagine this music in the background:
I’ve been pondering on the format of my project, how to present it, how to combine the material, and so on, and to make it into a statement regarding my view on how to make a successful project. After considering drawing, video, and (briefly) model, I decided that I want to present all my work primarily in a book. This is because I feel that all important historical (near or far) movements have begun not only with a written account, but also by the physicality of a book. If I want to condense all my efforts this year into one artefact, I want it to be such a book.
Hence, there will be no specific TS book or white book – there will only be one book, one rallying point, one physical testament.
There is another risk here, which has to do with how you present such a thing. I remember a workshop with C.J. Lim we had in Sweden in 2008, where we cut and pasted the story of Romeo & Juliet into a massive tome of 1200 pages. The critics said the project was great, but perhaps not great as a presentation. It was one of those things you had to sit down with, sip on a cup of tea, and turn off the TV for a calm evening in the comfy chair. Perhaps my book will do the same.
I also recall a comment on the OMA book machine at the AA some time ago, where Justin McGuirk called OMA’s books “the residue of a process.” In the same way, my presentation at the tables etc. could be the residue of the book.
At this point the book is split in sections called superlight, Light, Heavy, and SUPERHEAVY. Of course, they hark back to the concepts of gravity and energy, which are still driving the project. Perhaps instead of categorising content according to scale, we do it to weight, mass, gravitational force. Indeed, this fits nicely with my idea of the individual versus the mass.
So far, I’ve put in all the stuff from the recon in these sections. Will add all the rest tonight.
“By 1765, Piranesi stated an argument against rigid rules in architecture. The Campo Marzio plan is seen as a precursor to these later critiques against rules, and hence the product of a free run of imagination.”
“As the culmination of Piranesi’s study of the Marble Plan and antiquarian work in Antichita Romane, for an overall plan of Rome, Campo Marzio plan can be termed as *the* palimpsest of Piranesi’s interpretive memory.”
The assembly line through the office, not sure about whether everything is where it most logically should be, but I have to work on my presentation text now. This drawing will be printed as a series of 8 A3-drawings, laid out horizontally. To answer the question in my title: now I have a line, later I can cut it up.
– Slowly flowing liquid office
– Linear flowing liquid office
– Presentation amphitheatre
– Explosive linear pipeline office
– Various elevators
– Funicular tables
– Central panopticon office (for the elite)
– The slowly disappearing trashed drawings hole
– Sketch models converging into a master presentation model
– Oblique wall
– Stairs for recreation (trampolining into better architecture)
– The office hole digging into the centre of the Earth
– Crashed office skyscraper
– Slingshot intercommunication building
– Daredevil barrel drawing transmission device
– Magnetic hovering superconductive office
– Crashed office zeppelin
– Parachuted office furniture
– Office furniture ski jumping testing ground
– Testing ground of floors
– Crashed balloon (from my 3rd year project)
– Trashed models silo
– Models thrown down a slope (to give Gehry-shapes)
– Hovering helicopter office cubicles
– Retrofitted escape slide from the master office
– Artificial mountain
– Ladder office (literal office hierarchy)
– Launch pad for interstellar office modules
– Office pyramids (the most heavy building I could think of)
– Escape slope with artificial snow (James Bond-style)
– Square office with round tables (radical!)
– Ladder factory facility
Have fun finding them all.
It ought to be said that I don’t imagine this plan as the definitive plan of the factory. It is an in-process plan – an attempt to mimic and illustrate a process of production – and hence the plan is a plan of possibilities. My final project could be any of these dumb gravity-induced ideas.
Perhaps a good description of what you would see …
Will update later today with thoughts.
EDIT: Beginning of the presentation text. I don’t want to speak of thoughts that are not on the table, so I’m preparing the best nuggets from the recon together with the drawings and the TS for tomorrow’s tutorial. Note to self: don’t be afraid to go literal.
Architecture today is torn apart by a calamity of voices, each implicitly or explicitly demanding their own definition of a good building to become common rule. Architecture has become driven by individual interests and agendas, rather than common problems. The professional architect drives these in one primary context: that of the architectural office. If we consider the production of buildings to have taken over from the production of ideas, then the office can be described as a factory, and the architects as the new blue-collar class.
What you see in front of you is the architectural office as seen through the eyes of the starchitect. Next to it is the same office without a source, without a goal, caught in perpetual free-fall. One sucks you in and tells you what to do, the other traps you in endless freedom. What is lacking in both images is a rallying point. There is no contemporary movement. Offices look for a signature style, which will give them a competitive advantage in the market for new commissions. Schools fuel internal competition between the units, each one attracting groups of students who share the teacher’s view. Students themselves look for that elusive Monday when they will have invented themselves, their identity, their future career.
Ultimately this project proposes a rallying point in two, fundamental phenomena: mass and light. If we consider these from a physical point of view, they can be redefined, as gravity and perspective. The factory I propose is one in which these are treated as two sides of the same phenomenon, of action and perception, of the draughtsman and the office, of the individual and the collective. What the factory produces is not just a product, it is a community, a field, an institution.
Took a break from the TS-ing in order to start a new drawing, this time the antithesis to the one-point master-architect endless-arrays-of-tables organisation. I decided to not be afraid to apply my gravity research quite literally to the discussion on the office as rallying context. Hence, this drawing is of an office caught in the perpetual free-fall, which satellites find themselves in. I’m imagining this to be a no-point perspective, where everything is just floating around in zero gravity (which is essentially, according to general relativity, the same as free-fall in a vacuum).
What you’re seeing so far is the models (square, of course) on the tables being arranged as one wishes in the absence of gravity, as well as a couple of t-squares thrown in for good measure. Will begin to draw the floating tables and computers tonight.
Everyone wants to be a starchitect these days. The only problem is that the star will implode, when subject to too much of its own egocentric gravity field.
Will update with more pages as the day progresses. This one is an elaboration on the two-body problem we talked about last time (how a planet, or a satellite, orbits around another, larger body) and shows how the International Space Station is caught in something called “constant free-fall”, that is, balancing between gravity and velocity, centripetal and centrifugal forces.
EDIT: Newton’s Cannonball, or, how we actually place satellites in orbit around Earth. Depending on the initial velocity (in this case perpendicular to the Earth) of the object, this object will take on different trajectories around, or beyond, the centre of gravity, that is, our planet.
EDIT-2: The ideas behind operative space travel, using and abusing the gravitational fields of the celestial bodies in order to land and detach smoothly.
Turned out that I drew a warped version, because I didn’t pay attention to the right margin of the paper. Fitting, indeed! These are the first 70 pages of the TS book, optimistically halfway through. I’m dedicating the rest of the pages to the project … the project that doesn’t exist, yet …
At this point the TS is a merge between light/energy, and mass/gravity, together forming a fundamental rallying point around a physical investigation, a physical problem. I’ve called the two chapters “Light Point”, and “Mass Point” (possibly “Heavy Point”, a few puns cannot go wrong), the perspective (light) explorations thus tying into the gravitational (mass) theories. There’s so much stuff on these subject, so many paradoxes and interesting thought-experiments, that it is almost like I have too much material, rather than too little. Fitting, indeed!
“‘—And He Built a Crooked House—'” is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein first published in Astounding Science Fiction in February 1941. The story is about a mathematically inclined architect named Quintus Teal who has what he thinks is a brilliant idea to save on real estate costs by building a house shaped like the unfolded net of a tesseract.
Quintus Teal, “Graduate Architect”, while drinking with his friend Homer Bailey, bemoans the conservatism of American architecture. He wants architects to be inspired by topology and the Picard–Vessiot theory. The conversation turns to four-dimensional objects and he shows Bailey three-dimensional models made of toothpicks and clay, representing projections of a four-dimensional tesseract, the equivalent of a cube. Bailey is baffled, but when Teal constructs an “unfolded tesseract”, a three-dimensional object, Bailey suggests building a house to that pattern. Teal, ever hungry for a commission, plies Bailey with more liquor until the contract is signed, as the story has it, “halfway down the second bottle”.
The house is quickly constructed, in its peculiar “inverted double cross” shape (having eight cubical rooms, arranged as a stack of four cubes with a further four cubes surrounding the second cube up on the stack) [see link]. However, the night before Teal is to show Bailey and his wife around the house, an earthquake occurs. The three of them arrive the next morning to find what appears to be just a single cubical room. Believing the top seven rooms to have been stolen during the night, they go inside to look for clues.
What they find is quite unbelievable: Not only are the upper floors completely intact, but the stairs seem to form a closed loop, in that the stairs from the top room lead back into the bottom room and not to the roof. What is more, there appears to be no way to get back out, because all the doors and even the windows lead directly into other rooms. At one point, they look down a hallway and are shocked to see their own backs. Teal eventually realizes that the earthquake caused the house to fold into an actual tesseract.
Teal tries to play up the benefits of the situation, but in attempting to move from one room to another by way of a French window, he falls outside and lands in shrubbery. Ever the optimist, he notes as he re-enters the house that they do have a way of leaving the structure after all. It seems to have something to do with their state of mind while passing through a window.
Exploring further, they find that the windows of the original top room do not connect where they mathematically “should”. One gives a dizzying view from above a skyscraper, another an upside-down view of a seascape. A third window looks out on nothing, that is, a place of no-space, with no color, not even black. The fourth window looks out on an unearthly desert scene. Opening the window they find the air on the other side breathable. Just then another earthquake hits, and so they exit in a panic, through the open window. They find themselves in a desert with unearthly, twisted, treelike vegetation around them, with no sign of the house or the window they just jumped through. They are only slightly relieved when they discover, from a passing truck driver, that they are in Joshua Tree National Monument, and not stranded on another planet.
Returning to the house, they find it has vanished. “It must be that on that last shock it simply fell through into another section of space”, Teal remarks. “I can see now that I should have anchored it at the foundations.”
PS. Isn’t the name Quintus Teal strangely reminiscent of Quinlan Terry?
Tutorial with Javier was good. He thought it was great I didn’t make perspective the driving force, sine qua non, behind the project, but rather a component (tool) within it. We talked of physics, of light, the bending of light, and the fundamental conditions of architecture – of course, gravity! Will ponder for tomorrow how all of this can actually turn into a project, so it doesn’t just become a tome of research. But he told me that there was no need to hurry; basically, the TS will require (condition?) the project, rather than the other way around.
EDIT: Revised final paragraph of the Project/TS statement
The problem we seek as our departure point exists simultaneously as a scientific and architectural problem: gravity. Le Corbusier, super-father of Modern architecture, once said that “the history of European architecture is the history of the struggle with the window.” He also wrote the well-known line of “architecture is the learned game /…/ of forms assembled in the light.” Mass and energy, gravity and light, these are our rallying points. In our world, from our perspective, light is bent by gravity. Our perspective is distorted by the very presence of an object with mass. Gravity is a question of perception, but not only that: we do not yet know what gravity is transmitted by, only that it has to be by a force similar to that of light. In the same way, we do not know yet what a factory of gravity will look like, only that we are now standing on the point of making it possible. This project aims to build the force of gravity itself, and, by extension, to unite architects around that very force, whose true nature still remains elusive to all of us.
Revised table of contents and TS/Project-statement.
I’m personally having a lot of fun. (Perhaps too much.)
PS. I have an idea of how to include the perspective research into the gravity-TS: perspective tracks light-beams, gravity bends light-beams, hence the curvilinear perspective (which you might remember) is a thorough manifestation of the world as perceived through a gravitational lens.
A rewritten version of my thesis, similar to what Cat is doing. Cliffhanger at the end, of course, as I still don’t know how to bring the office, the hands, and the perspective into it, but I’m more satisfied with the connection to the main argument, that of the rallying point, than I was before. To be continued and elaborated …
In architecture today, there is no longer a collective ambition, a rallying point. We are not living in a society of collaboration, but one of an agglomeration of individuals. Since the Functionalist machine broke down in the mid-70s, already abandoned by the avant-garde a decade earlier, every architect envisioned his own future, while the present city only became blander and blander. Architectural factories disguised as offices took over the design of all things substantial. This can not hold. To achieve substance, one has to be more than a one-man-army. Architects need to collaborate, which is only to say that architecture has always been a collaborative practice. This is no longer done in the manner it was done in the past: by prescribing similar results – white or black walls, big or small windows, perpendicular or oblique lines, or whatever fits your manifesto. It has to be done in a post-individual manner: that of prescribing similar beginnings. The only rallying point possible today is precisely that, a point of departure.
The current state of the post-industrial cities of the world is a profound lack of traditional factories. It is symptomatic that Andy Warhol already in the 60s called his studio “The Factory”; production was no longer just a matter of consumer products, but of identities as well. The image of the factory, however, is far too important to let go of, hence we are moving into what has popularly been termed a “knowledge factory.” Such a vague term puts a wager on the future of the city; in order to chart its possible future, we need to be precise (but not dogmatic) with what we mean by identity and knowledge, which both are and are not interchangeable.
The identity factory of the future operates by expanding the number of possible identities. It is truly creative. In this sense, the factory has transformed from a hall of reproduction to a laboratory of neologisms. Such an expansion is only possible by expanding the knowledge we have of the world. This pursuit of knowledge becomes our rallying point. The problem we seek as our departure point exists as a scientific problem. It is objective. It is communicable. It is clear. There is, to be sure, not just one problem of this kind, there are many, but we will choose, for the purpose of this project, to consider just one, that of the simplest and yet most evasive dilemmas, the very foundation for architecture as we know it today: gravity.
It is mind-boggling to ponder over the fact that we still don’t know *why* a building stands on the ground, and doesn’t fall outwards into interstellar space. We know *how* gravity works, but not *why.* This is our problem. Can we, through architecture, explore a ostensibly non-architectural problem, one of physics, and make that our departure point? Can architects become scientists, not just its posers? Can we build a factory that explores, that begins, rather than one that produces, that ends? And can we, finally, throw out all artistic nonsense, the phenomenology, the pop-left political jargon, the obsession with form, its scripting and prescription, and the conceptual socio-critical positioning that we seem to be required of in every step on the way to graduation in architecture school? Can such a deceptively simple fact – the standing of a building on the ground – both liberate, unite and focus a profession that seems madly preoccupied with its own next step? It is an ambition as good as any.
I’ve taken a step backwards in the past days in order to take two steps forward.
I’m unhappy with the pursuit of perspective for the sake of itself, hence, I felt like I needed a social/political dimension to question the validity of a certain perspective in a certain situation. However, I proceeded forward by challenging that validity in-itself, the way we, in current architectural debate, favour projects with a social/political agenda. This is present both at the AA, and in architectural culture at large. Even in the boring Swedish magazines, there is constant talk of architecture’s social dimension, ability and responsibility. This veers dangerously close to becoming a fad.
However, I feel that the question of the collective and the movement is central to my project. It was what drove the recon and it is what I want to drive me until the end of the year. I do not want to sink back into formalism, however heroic.
When I wrote my last essay for Mark Cousins, I took a risk: I stated clearly in the beginning that this was not an architectural essay – it was an essay on philosophy, with its departure point in architecture. I do not know how it was received. I don’t care. To me, this is what matters, the possibility of architecture far beyond the profession itself.
I want to take a similar risk during the last two terms of my tenure at the AA. Upon re-examining the past autumn’s blog posts, I’ve honed in on a thesis, most certainly not the final, but one which can let me hit the ground running when I return to London on the 11th.
When I left high school a decade ago, my ambition was to either become an architect, or a theoretical physicist. We know which path I took. Now the latter is returning. While I don’t really consider a career change, I am of the firm belief that we can make our careers whatever we find crucial to ourselves.
So, anyway: my statement from last year concerning the collective remains: a collective movement today must take into consideration the plurality and individualism of the past decades. It has to be more than the movements of the past. What was their fault? Simple. To prescribe ends before beginnings. An architectural movement was one in which the stylistic elements (i.e. form) remained comparable: white walls, big windows, whatever. This is not possible any longer. A new architectural rallying point has to centre on *issues*, not on *solutions.*
What are the issues facing the architectural field today? They are many, unsurveyable even. However, they, for some reason, tend to gravitate towards the socio-political issues facing the profession. It is not my ambition to become political. In fact, I believe I can carve out a position by rejecting politics, the most easy way of claiming such a position. I do not want to talk of post-Fordism, neoliberalism, or social housing. I am not saying that these do not have validity within the field, by all means, if they excite you, pursue them. But it is not my field.
Equally, as I’ve said, I do not intend to reduce architecture to formalism. I am not a parametric animal. I do not speak of a typological grammar, a diagrammatic excursion, or the dogmatism of the square. In a way, the most successful projects (in my opinion, at least) from the past few years at the AA (the one context no-one of us can escape) have been combinations of these two, in short: social awareness through organisation of form. But, I’m not interested in doing a good AA project. I’m interested in doing a project that embodies ideas that have always been and will always be relevant in my own pursuit. While it may border on egotism to claim such an allegiance, it is the one I prefer.
How do we, then, build a collective? What are our choices? If the rallying point – as a problem – is not a question of politics, nor of aesthetics (or art), what remains? This is what has occupied me.
It is physical.
I am not saying that it is the phenomenological origin or end of architecture that ought to be explored, nor that the act of building itself needs to be reclaimed from an often indifferent construction industry. With “physical” I am speaking of physics.
The future European factory already exists. It is being built, everywhere where there is social stability. It is the experimental research facility. Here we produce knowledge rather than products. If China is the material factory of the world, then Europe is its intellectual equivalent. Whole villages have been moved for the purpose of the subatomic accelerator. This is architecture. It is not yet culture, other than in sci-fi flicks.
Fundamental physical problems are the forgotten challenges of this society, which is decidedly not only European, but truly global, supra-national. It is a challenge for architecture. Just like we let the engineers build the LHC, and let the architects design its canteen, we are being left behind one of the greatest pursuits of knowledge currently in motion today.
To paraphrase Tak & Ana: can architecture contribute to this?
Can there be a project which does not have architecture as its central pursuit, but instead centres on a physical question that is then explored *through* architecture, evidently making buildings (its representation techniques as well as its spaces of production) the machines which makes knowledge? Or, in more specific terms: can an architectural project produce physical discourse? I do not know. I am still in the process of choosing a fitting problem. But physics has the merit of being incredibly clear of its problems. It is a society within a society, which is driven by all forms of shared knowledge.
I might be accused of being a technocrat rather than an architect, but it is a risk I’m willing to take. I also realise that I’m walking dangerously close to repeating my workflow of last year (splintering the production of artefacts and positions so much, that they cease to be related). That’s also a risk. I cannot tell what I will end up with, only where I begin.
(Hopefully I’ll be clearer and less verbose soon.)
I’ve spent the past few days after Christmas mayhem reading old treatises on architecture (I know, I’m a nerd). Since the puny library in my hometown neither had Vitruvius (!) nor Alberti (!!), I had to settle with I Quattro Libri etc. Did some precedent-illustratoring yesterday, nothing worth posting to the blog; today, I wrote myself a direction for the project (drawing to follow tomorrow), which I will summarise in these theses:
– The office is the factory. The perspective is the machine. The collective is the product.
– My factory produces itself; it is a factory for views, viewpoints, and vanishing points.
– Each office (that is: factory) pushes its perspectival technique to the breaking point.
– The rallying point is the escape from architecture into architectural culture.
That’s about as clear as I can get at this point.
Below, the texts that led up to these points.
(Are you tired of the word “point” yet?)
The office of the infinite horizon. Sitting in the midst of his architectural Panopticon
in which his servants produce drawings that are constantly scrutinised for their accuracy
days before clash control, before the Navisworks (Avexnetwork?) routine goes awry
the master is the senpai we are continuously poised to overtake, despite good manners
adequate respect, and a modest self-critique (which may or may not include the critique
of your peers). This office contains most of all the pollution of perfection, in that it
serves perfectly the intentions of the master, who, in a fit of conceptual realisation
converts the office into a prison (was it really any different before?) and shifts the cells
of the interns and seniors to confuse their own roles; a truly flat hierarchy
in that everyone is subject to the same horror story; sleeping under the drawing board
dining in silence, with a speaker in every corner instructing employee #114
to speed up the review process and transmit to employee #032 the plans
for the next Vitra showroom. This is dictatorship! you say. But the new prison
is exemplified by it being our own choice to be here, our own search
for enough attention and expertise to be trusted with greater matters
(such as a legendary villa, or a university extension, or a pavilion, a fountain
just about anything sufficiently small to pave the way for the ridiculously large).
If you didn’t want to be an architect, you could’ve chosen so at so many previous points
that the responsibility is yours, and yours alone. The only reason you’re here is because
you want yourself to be here. The figurative rape that one goes through, in which
the victim is told to “enjoy the process”, as it will be much easier next time, is part
of the agreement. Like a Lazy Susan, the building rotates around itself
all around the centre (which is occupied at all times, night and day), a machine
that cannot be turned off, and a man who cannot stop to sleep, at least not until
the competition proposal is FedExed. Light finds its way into this building by way
of electric armatures; some have resorted to suicide, but even this is prevented.
All is controlled. There is no way out, as you tell yourself that the Luddite revolution
was a joke, a caricature and a satire, and all that remains is work. It is a sinister beast
thriving on ambition, spitting out hundreds of crushed dreams, and one successful upstart
who the master can claim “to have taught him all he knows.” But the products
of this office is not architecture; it is architectural culture. The drawings are
of the building itself, thus completing the loop of attention diverted
from the very space it is concerned with. Perhaps it is another kind of machine
than that which Corb envisioned, perhaps we find in it a dark, noisy, dirty machine
which operates much like the Cube, whose success hinges on if the draughtsman
is able to draw it. That is the test. The product is the Technical Studies.
The office of the inhabitable picture plane. As preposterous as a sphere in Flatland
we can only understand each other’s points-of-view by observing how they go in and out
of vision, that is, they transform, while the origin of their manifestation might be
in a curled-up presence, a five-dimensional folly. You draw yourself in the drawing
and you draw yourself drawing the drawing of yourself in the office
furthermore exploring the thickness of the plane by providing a zoom of details
in every instance of the drawing experience, where the plane moves somewhere
between the camera and the objects themselves; this is the beginning of the distortion
into another kind of master, the one who does not merely observe, but contemplates
his position of observation as integral to the understanding of the space
we’re about to create. Each office produces itself, and each office
produces something different, something to determine
what kind of space it is that we’re constructing by simply being employed to create?
What are the implications on the structure of the city by the proliferation
of the architecture office? Are we simply too small to matter? Or is our responsibility
simply a (badly kept) trade secret, in that the first thing we design is the office itself?
Can the architectural graduate make his career by the office he builds for himself
like Ando’s concrete chameleon, and Fantastic Norway’s caravan? The picture plane
is drawn just in order to be destroyed, like shredding art, endless sections of the office
we cannot understand, a mystery box (for it is just a box) that we photograph
from all directions, in order to make an array of images which, each on their own
give rise to the office we’re trying to describe. Perhaps it suffices to say
that the function of Eliasson’s studio is to enforce the “no cameras”, “no selfies”
and, especially, “no selfie sticks”-policy that invites every new graduate to consider
the form of architecture to be its place of production, making architects
by their very association with the space they’ve chosen to depict (we didn’t see
a “no drawings”-plaque, did we?) to exist as part of the office. The space defines us.
I am a child of this house, this city, this non-dimensional point which gains
all significance when determined as part of the three-dimensional world
which has a two-dimensional lie attached to it, or, perhaps not a lie, but a world
which we perceive as beyond our grasp – if we touch it, we break it. The picture plane
is broken, not only because it was made of glass – a necessity to bring it into existence
as the perspectival engagement only becomes clear when being viewed
through something perfectly perspexy. What are we drawing?
The positioning of positions within a field which gains significance
through never assuming just one position.
The office of the one-point eternal extension. Our choice is merely a choice
of how many paces we can proceed ahead without disturbing the parallel inclusion
of a space which is defined by its own placement in the picture plane.
It is mere convention that has put us into discovering this projection in spaces
where the horizontal aspect is reduced to a linear voyage, taking place
only in the direction of the main sight line. But it is such a beautiful convention …
so we proceed to design the linear office, where one drawing is made and then
shifted over to the right, as we receive the drawings from the left (with twice the space
for the ambidextrous). Each one of the draughtsmen construct the view they have
in both directions, from where they begin, and at the end of the process, the results
are plastered on the walls for the client to exclaim: “But you have done nothing here!”
And it is true. All we’ve accomplished is the proof of drawing skills, a tech-demo
a showreel, if you will, for the office without commissions, which then flogs them off
to whatever fancy gallery is found next to the hostel. And yet, the one-point perspective
is perplexing, as it has no field-of-view, no focus, nothing which it cannot portray, for
by merit of being mathematically correct, it can predict the “true world”
aeons from perceptive flaws and subjectivist truisms. The drawing can become as long
as the world it portrays, and, indeed, by way of its knack for the endlessly parallel
nothing stops the draughtsman from drawing the facade of the building
he is caught within. By doing so, he escapes the drudgery of the perfect procedure
by extending the process of drawing as much as the drawing itself requires;
through drawing not only what we see, but also all of which we do not see
we can infect every perspective with our own personal opinion – but, you may object
isn’t this altogether what the architect is doing? Isn’t everything which we set forth to do
a manner of sharing what we see, our understanding of a scene taken from our position?
Is the establishment of overlap not enough to deduce whether a picture viewed
from a distance has any form of depth? Do we *need* the perspective?
This is to miss the point. Because we’ve discovered the one-point perspective
we are compelled to fuse it with its impossibility, to test it towards what it cannot do
or, rather, what it does to the degree that it is not longer believable, but so thrilling
that it *doesn’t really matter.* The one-point office is, as are all the others, a factory
of itself. It brings the absurdity of creating a projection of the world, to which our eyes
are attached, to the absurdity of production itself. In the end, what we challenge
is not only a manner of addressing architectural drawings, but that of the architectural eye
the gaze of the master, or, at least, his apprentices in-the-making. We are recognised.
We ask ourselves: can we ever see more? The answer? Fortunately, there’s always more.
It begins at the end of the drawing, and continues for as long as we draw.
The two-point split office on the edges of sight. The progression from one-point
to two-point is not solely the detachment from the parallelism that governed
the construction of the tunnel, but altogether a change from the focus of an eye
to the focus of the object. Suddenly, architecture begins to create itself.
It does not need you, and it will be here for as long as the drawing itself remains
not the eye that measures it. It follows that an office applying the two-point perspective
to its concept of surveillance must necessarily change its manner of production to that
of the detached: from sight, from subject, from visitor, to the absolute in itself
“absolute” both in the sense of being able to sustain itself regardless of exterior fashions
and being objectively “there” beyond the doubt of the self (if there’s anything
we should doubt, it is ourselves). The mystery of the two-point perspective is not
that (or how, or why) its lines-of-height remain parallel, but that this is where sight
meets its zenith. We disregard what we see in favour of concurring that what we see
meets its destruction at a point we cannot describe, because we cannot see it.
“Yet”, we should say, because it is in the construction of the two-point perspective
that we undress, or (as drawing is seldom an erotic encounter) unmask the depths
that are implicit in the drawing. It is peculiar that the only way of showing true depth
in real architecture is to resort to fiction, for what else is drawing, if not the betrayal
of reality in order to achieve hyper-reality, the office we want to have
rather than the office we have … one could say, that the two-point perspective
is the most ideal of them all, in that it is the first departure from the correct, the true
and the suitable, in favour of disappearance, not that of architecture, but that
of the architect. The edges are more important than the centre.
Is this altogether another manner of favouring format ahead of content?
Not quite. The drawing always requires multiplication, a reluctance
towards surmising opinions, seeing as with every new vanishing point
another set of parallel lines can emerge. How do we prove this?
By requiring of the two-point perspective to be drawn? Precisely so.
On these merits, this kind of image is the first departure
from the existing – which is spherical, in any case, to be elaborated
on further points (pun excused) – and the first venture into the hypothetical.
It remains plausible, in fact, even more so, seeing as everything that can be pictured
can even be brought into existence. This is the merit of “architecture.”
The two-point perspective is subsequently the transition from projection
to production. It compels itself to produce itself. Every worker in this factory
extends to the edge of what the other is able to portray. Their heads are fixed
but their positions are not. Eventually, this will be an office that covers
all of the world, incessantly obsessed with that small deviation
from the ruler which makes their finiteness possible.
Currently working on the Olimpico. These pages are for the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, and Michelangelo’s Campidoglio in Rome, the first using perspective as a means of surveillance (the office as we know it), the other to project an illusion into the distance, both of which can be considered exploiting the one-point-perspective.