Author Archives: Oliver Pershav

Into Curves

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My hand is itching. I would love to turn these into office drawings similar to the one from last week. There’s a time for everything, I guess … Now to research more into specific precedents, and how they work, that is, how light is transmitted.

Been thinking as well for the next chapter of the book: “Inhabiting the View”, which may go into precisely that part when the drawings cease to be abstract, and turn into real worlds / cities / buildings. It would be a chapter of manipulating the drawing, with shadow, with choice of detail, with line thicknesses, and so on.

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Table of contexts

TS-book-draft2

Sketchy so far, but it opens up a lot of possibilities. Some parts remind me of my TS3, which was about machines for drawing (and in which I built my very own 2x2x3m behemoth contraption in Sweden), but this time, I’m going more specific into machines for perspective. Example below:

draw-3

draw-4

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2011/09/3d-drawing-machine/

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An idea! Natasha! We need to work on this!

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While working on my first TS spreads, I had a flash of inspiration which can be the common theme and argument for my project! The word that came to me was that of sabotage.

– In the recon, in Zlín, Sebastian Shuto sabotaged the factory in which he was working, in order to take over it and change its rules. What I take from the recon are the moments where the spaces in the factory were altered, so to the point that there was no possibility for the original function to be maintained. I’m thinking of the marriage, the foot race, the clandestine bars, the cows in the Bata store, and so on. I did so to demonstrate that the factory is not a strict, given entity. It can be changed, from individual to collective and back again. The factory is never neutral.

– In the drawing I made last week, I set up the conditions for the factory which exists in the world as I perceive it. This image is sabotaged in order to give rise to a different office, one that is the distortion of the original, proceeding so far ahead that it can no longer be identified as the view of one master architect, one partner, one client, etc. etc.

– In the TS, I’m researching the methods of projection and perspective. Why? Because I can, in the drawing, in moving images, in the computer, break this perspective. I sabotage it. This opens up a whole new level of precedents, looking at things as different as Medieval icons (seen as “incorrect” by later generations) and the tapering of columns at the Acropolis (to convince the onlooker that they’re taller than what they “really” are).

It is only by sabotaging the architectural office that we can give rise to a new architecture.
To sabotage the office, we need to sabotage the representation of the office, the means by which the office makes architecture, and is understood as architecture itself, which is, the perspective image/drawing.

The bar question: what are you doing?
I am sabotaging the office.

(Now to sabotage my APP!)

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Perspective

Been reading up on the art and science on perspective in order to have it define (or maybe refine) my intentions with the project, with the questions addressed in the recon and the drawing in hindsight. Now is back to APP, and Sunday will be a HTS day!

“People do not organise or fight for something, but they organise to fight against something.”
–Gerald Silver (quoted from “The Seduction of Place”, by Joseph Rykwert)

What is the horizon line? It is the main equivalent and representation
of an infinite production, which does not curve, since the horizon itself
(in the drawing, not in reality) is infinite and can thus be magnified
to an infinite degree. It is the camera which sets the limit, like the eye did
in the days before physical reproduction. The office is the factory, and the collective
within the factory works towards a common goal from multiple views.
Thus, the perspective begins in the anti-horizon, and cannot end in the horizon
as this indicates that there can be only one result to the office; all forms converge
into one position, one output, one product. The infinity of the horizon is replaced
by its all-encompassing flatness and “line-ness.” What begins as a difference ends up
in monotony; we have to replace the horizon, we have to eradicate, and eventually draw
an office which is finite but indeterminate, which does not end in this line, but
at the same time, starts from the same conditions; we are all standing in the “now”, and
a movement does not begin in the call for the same solution, but in addressing
*the same question.*
When we agree on a problem, we are united, and the conflict
that arises is a conflict of solutions – but as long as the problem is clearly stated
we can use arguments (aimed for the mind or the heart) to decide
upon the best direction forward. The “issue” is magnified into a “rationale”;
as we’ve been forced to abandon the movements of the past, we now have to embrace
the movement of the present, which has, as its core, the sureness of the now – we speak
of a “point of departure” as much as a “rallying point”; the focus here is, needless to say
on “point.” How do we draw this? How do we model it? How can the issue
of representation ever begin to reach the same level of discussion that we see
in the difficulty in proceeding ahead despite not choosing to create a project
according to principles set out by a contemporary precedent? If we are forced
to only refer to the now as our movement (in that people come together to fight
against something, rather than for something), how do we interpret the now if we are
solely constricted by the past? This is a fallacy; the past does not exist – it has existed.
We do not employ the past in deciding on our reaction to the present, because
that reaction is the only thing we have. We are stuck in the present, because we *are*
the present. Here, again, we return to the “now” of the representation:
it resembles something, because it is, in itself, the capacity of the now to be distorted.
Wear a pair of shades for a week, and you will be blinded by the light once you
take them off. The architectural factory, therefore, is turned on its head;
it begins in the product (the now), and eventually establishes its output
in multiple readings of architecture, the difference of which keeps
the movement together, precisely because we agree on the departure point.
If the departure point is the office, the change in perspective thus changes
the office as well. The issue, here, is that the office must change.

To change the use of perspective, we have to change the medium through which
the perspective finds its application, which is the flat canvas. A vanishing point
reaches its logical conclusion because it is conditioned by the flatness to apply
to certain rules, which do not provide drawing with the liberation we seek
but rather forces it to adhere to certain rules in order to be deemed correct;
but the inappropriateness is the very saving grace of the drawing versus the render
because before the computer, it was a craft to pick a certain view and render it
on vellum with the appropriate distances; but one can argue that the breakdown
of the hand-drawn perspective began far earlier, with the invention of the camera
the artificial lens. Before the camera, the eye alone dictated the possibility
and appropriateness of perspective; what we saw was correct and already
so perfectly aligned to what we see, that the purpose of art became what we
would later term “photorealism”; it became “vision”; the drawing was forced
to show not what the eye could see for itself, but what it could’ve seen
*if* it was present in the specific situation rendered
by the neoclassicist’s brush movements. Now, we’re living
in the age where the photograph and the render seem to open up
such unending possibilities that radically alter our perception of the world
that we dismiss the limitations that follow with every mathematical program
(which *demands* logic). The substantially shortened time it takes
to achieve near-photorealism, where all lines converge exactly as they should
has killed the manipulative (hand-drawn) perspective; to substitute this loss
we invented Photoshop. If the sky is not dark enough, we filter it. If the image
doesn’t reveal enough, we merge it with another. We cut in happy people
and flocks of birds until we have something that *appears* to be real, but isn’t.
Reality is boring. Much like the Dolly Zoom or the green screen, the architectural project
is distinguished from the architectural product in that it doesn’t allow for reality
to simply be reality – in that sense, the architecture of the pen, of the sketch
or of the render, all have in common the fact that they are not true; such fakeness
is magnified by the potential of the illusion; it forces our means of representation
to account for our definition of the architect in the office. The office changes
as the perspective of the architect changes. The foreshortening of perspective is akin
to the approach of drawing things as they appear, not things as they are, and are
therefore calling into question the idea of the office-representation versus things
as they are perceived. The drawing that displays its inhabitants at a scale “not realistic”
is perhaps more realistic than The Last Supper, which is not concerned
with reality per se, but with an ideal representation of that reality.

The architectural factory breaks the parallelism of the factory, out of the need
to define, in the factory, what makes a parallel line; any two lines which *paper-wise*
are not parallel can converge into a parallelism of the illusion. It is when the third line
is drawn, when it establishes another vantage point, that the perspective evolves;
it ends up not in chaos, but in a system of making oblique objects be perceived as parallel
to each other. When we *think* that what we see is the truth, when we *trust*
the drawing to a sufficient degree, we will accept the near-ideal placement
of objects as true, or true-enough. It should surprise no-one that the reality
of the singular architect in the office is found in the illusion of the drawings he produces.
No wall-construction nor door-moulding is ever true, but they are used
as transpositions (translations) of that which will become true: the architectural product.
The project, on the other hand, is entirely fictional, but does not gain the ability
to convince us on this merit; on the contrary, having been exiled from the world
the project must find its way back again, by the means
of research, precision and sound assumptions. It has to come back
to the “now” which it has left in order to proclaim the future. The best of projects
are those which convince us that they could indeed be built next day, given that they
have already been accepted by us, the architects. There is an entire parallel world
in the project, an otherworld which acts as the more exalted version of thisworld
while still being subordinated to this. Just like a line on the paper “somewhat” follows
the establishment of a vantage point, what would happen if the vantage point
*began to move*? This runs contrary to the movement of our body, but not
the movement of our eye. Everytime the eye moves, a new vantage point
is established, and the lines converging into it are shifting location, not angle.
It does indeed run contrary to common sense: it is the eye that moves, not the world.
But, in truth, the thing that is moving is our view of the world, our mental picture
whose very acquaintance with our way of looking is perceived as perfectly normal.
Either the world moves, or the eye moves, we say, but what happens
when we experience both? Will the nature of the world be more readily described
as a floating point? If there are only three directions available
to the 3D-modelling program, does it set the limit of the number of points
to which an object can converge? Certainly not, the xyz-indicator is merely
a mathematical invention; it has nothing to do with perspective. The means
of representation can emerge as project-creating, in themselves.

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Who is my enemy?

office-factory002-edited-copy

“Organisations are more or less successful in sustaining and channelling commitment.”
The organisation of the architectural office determines the commitment of the individual architect to the tasks in the office. The newly-graduated architect identifies with the office, more so than the office identifies with this architect. We work at OMA, rather than OMA employing us. Even a drone at Foster’s is better than a project head of a Carbuncle Cup winner.

“… modernism has been replaced by a proliferation of styles, by novelty, and by competing ideologies. From a socio-economic point of view, this development is not surprising: competition among the units of a market economy – whether between clients or between architectural firms – in the long run will result in diversity as the aim is to capture a special niche – a symbolic monument for the client or a unique stamp for the firm.”
In order for there to be a movement, a rallying point, we must change the organisation of the architecture office, from the desire to produce the unique signature style, to what? A Gehry is loved or hated for being a Gehry, not for its role as a deconstructivist icon.

“The extraordinary specialisation achieved in twentieth-century work far exceeds the earlier conceptions of the division of labour. The worker has now become, as Braverman puts it, a ‘mechanism articulated by hinges, ball-and-socket joints, etc.'”
Specialisation comes from the desire to rationalise the production of buildings. The schools, on the other hand, produce the real difference in architectural discourse, because they encourage the students to define their own position and career. Perhaps what is needed is a hybrid between the office and the school?

At the same time: “The more individuals who share responsibility for a project, the more likely is the firm to receive few awards.”
We still give awards to individuals. The building needs a face. The product needs its stamp of approval.

“One architect I interviewed in a prestigious Park Avenue firm had started work with the firm over fifteen years before and for the past ten had done nothing but door moldings. ‘My options of moving elsewhere,’ he told me, ‘are limited.'”
The architecture schools create architect who know something about everything, but in the office, he is reduced to someone who knows everything about something. He becomes an engineer.

“Size has a strong dampening effect on the collective exercise of voice. /…/ Overall the sum of the negative influences of size on collective voice /…/ is much greater than the sum of its positive effects.”
Perhaps my enemy is not all the offices as such, but the large incorporated office which gets all the big commissions. How do you build an office for large projects while not reducing each employee to a part in the machinery?

“The wider the scope of the firm’s services and the less specialised individual architects, the greater will be the collective exercise of voice. Yet because of the contradictory effects of size, these two features are generally incompatible. /…/ Large offices exhibit the first feature, and small offices exhibit the second. Few firms have both features.”

“Power, as Emerson (1962) defines it, is rooted in other people’s dependence.”

– The more positions there are in which individuals who fill them have the power of direct client contact, the higher tend to be experts’ evaluations of project quality, the higher is the client repeat rate, and the higher is the proportion of projects with construction costs of at least $1 million.
– The more individuals who share responsibility for a project, the higher is the client repeat rate and the higher is the percentage of projects with construction costs of at least $1 million.
– The more likely that someone other than the principal is in charge of a project, the higher tend to be experts’ evaluations, the higher is the client repeat rate, and the higher is staff commitment.

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Variations on a mechanical pencil

pencils073-variations
For the seminar, drawing with the pen that draws the pencil.

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Continuation of the Office-Factory

office-in-progress

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Beginning of the office-factory

It’s kind of funny, because a lot of architecture offices I’ve googled tend to look like factory interiors as well, what with the exposed, raw concrete and installations, and the uniform lighting that gushes down from above. I wanted the interior of the contemporary office-factory to be kind of dystopian, but then I had a chat with Felix about the aestheticisation of the factory space, so maybe I will shoot myself in the foot with this drawing, convincing the onlooker that yes! the office-factory is beautiful! but, then again, quite horrible to work in. Anyway, all for now.

factory-office-1

+ Inspiration

softcity-pushwagner-01

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Differences

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Still trying to nail down some sort of consistency continuity, that can bring my project forward. I have many ideas which are not so good, and still lacking that crucial part: what is it I want to design? How can I design it?

EDIT: related poems.

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Revised Manifesto

Auroville_master_plan_1

Still a bit scatter-brained, but it’s getting there. Plan Voisin and Celebration are online, I have a book on loan called “Architects and Firms” which I will read for the rest of the evening, as well as sketching out some potential diagrams/explanations of the themes I’m working with. (Image: the collective city of Auroville)

In architecture today, there is no longer a collective ambition within the profession, a rallying point. Instead, we have the office. On one hand, the office is a factory for real architecture; on the other, it is a factory of architects, or rather, the fame of its partners-in-charge. We devote 5 years to architecture school, in cosy unit spaces where everything is fun, and then, we go on to spend the following 40 years in the office, if we are lucky enough to live until our retirement. Normal procedure in the office is to navigate towards one’s desk in the morning, always at the same time, toil in front of the CAD-drawing until lunch, grab a bland panini from the company kitchen, back to the desk, receiving orders from the grey-hairs, and work, work, work until the hour is so late not even the customary cup of coffee can keep us focused. Go home, rest, and the next day, it’s back to the factory again, with only one thing in mind: the project, the product.

This is what the majority of us will face at the point of graduation, although we (collectively-individually) are convinced that we, and only we, will be one of a small, leading group of architects who actually can choose what we want to do in the office. We rise to become factory heads. But factories have always been more than their products; they create collectives. In industry, the blue-collar worker is crafted to perfection, his productivity enhanced, even in his spare time. These days, the architectural field searches for any common denominator, claimed either in the profession (Chipperfield), or in the architecture itself (Koolhaas). How does an architect make himself a name in a society where everyone is pursuing exactly this: the making of a name?

This project argues for the end of the architectural office as we know it. By rejecting this stagnant model of exploitation, we see that the real question is how we make, not what we make. From being concerned with what kind of architecture it is that we produce (as styles, concepts, isms, whatever, I don’t care) we ought to be concerned with the space of production, which in architecture is the office. Here we are united in our pursuit of the project, but if architecture is rather to be a pursuit of ideas, we are required to rethink the space in which we think. Our best ideas do not appear to us in front of the flatscreen; we get them when mowing the lawn, jogging up the street, or taking a shower. We think as isolated minds, but we share our thoughts with the entire field. We “work individually”, but “live collectively.”

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The White Book So Far

Link to pdf

Tomorrow will be spent rewriting the thesis argument, researching and publishing precedents (to the FB page), and then Thursday … sketches for a future drawing/factory?

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Beginning of the White Book

principles

“The question of our time is not: individual or mass, but: individual and mass.”
“Acceptera”, 1931

Factories have always been more than their products; factories create collectives. In the factory, the blue-collar worker is crafted to perfection, his productivity enhanced, even in his spare time. The architects of the early 20th century, wanting to build for the masses, saw the factory as a model for future cities. Today, the architectural field searches for any common denominator, claimed either in the profession (Chipperfield), or in the architecture itself (Koolhaas). How does an architect make himself a name in a society where everyone is pursuing exactly this: the making of a name?

We have seen, through the architecture of the 20th century, that the erasure of the self only led to the rebellion of the selves who were contained within it. We have also seen, that the subsequent pursuit of individuality has led to another urgent problem: the oppression of the group; one can be said to be content as long as he has his house, his friends, his food on the table. It has also led to the case where the groups of society no longer has any real influence, in politics, social matters, and architecture. Individuals run our governments, as individuals are those who vote.

In architecture, there is no longer a collective ambition within the profession, a source, a rallying point. Instead, we have the office. The office is like a craftsman’s hut of old days. It is not a factory. The office is dated, unmodern. This project hypothesises the end of the architectural office and the beginning of the architectural factory.

It is no longer all about you.

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Facebook Page

Set up this page, which will be the format of my research:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Solumnaut/1509779172636733

I would like for it to become much like the paper recon, but, for the moment, I’m going to dedicate myself to the content of this page, which will be everything I need to tie together the project. One thing that caught my attention during last week’s tutorial was my tendency to skip over the content (in all senses of the word), and pursue what can be called a multiplicity of opinions. Hopefully the Facebook format will provide me with a way to link it all together. I feel a bit like an editor who is writing a Wikipedia article on himself …

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Corb’s Collective

plan-voisin-4

I’ve been struggling the entire weekend to try to be more objective in my writing. It’s a hard challenge for me to write of facts rather than opinions, to conclude the logic behind a project rather than its emotional impact. But, at the same time, it’s a very rewarding process, because I can challenge myself to become better. I have already mastered the one-off individual Tom-Wolfian-rant method, but, since my project is about the collective, it makes sense that I should try to become collective (of combined knowledge) in my writing as well. I think, what I’m approaching here is a kind of trans-subjective rigour. Here is a short text, for the White Book, relating to the Plan Voisin, which I take as one of my precedents:

The perspective is cut precisely at the level of the top floor. Was there no need
to see the roof, flat as it is, uninteresting, a piece that made sense as a roof-garden
when it was associated with a villa? Was it a technical shortcut, a successful attempt
at projecting another type of perspective, between the isometric and the horizon?
It cannot be a coincidence that there *isn’t any horizon at all* in the perspective
only the slight curvature of low-and-straight buildings at the outskirts of the Plan.

Glued-together matchboxes, indeed
but matchboxes made from the most delicate, industrially-produced glass.
Lines tracing nothing but ground, no buildings, no buildings of the days gone by.

The Eiffel Tower is but an obelisk in the distance, a strict stroke by the ballpoint pen
no longer a symbol of Paris as it is today, but of the Paris that has gone, in order
for these matchboxes to take its place.

It is no coincidence that the plan consists of multiple buildings, rather than
one, irreverent megastructure. The bridges span a river without a mirror image
and the skyscrapers cast no shadows – it would not be appropriate for the Radiant City
to cast any shadows, other than those hid by the buildings themselves, as they rest
on the old-but-new ground, with the camera of the visionary taking the picture
with the sun burning his neck. Nôtre-Dame, this historical locus, is haphazardly found
in the midst of a sketchily rendered Île de la Cité.

The grid follows the buildings upwards, climbs along their walls
like a perfectly geometric, Platonic and ideal ivy, but disappear
in its own suggestion; the lines go either horizontally or vertically
rarely together; but the image is there, haunting in its speed.
This could’ve been drawn in a day, but, as architectural history
would have it emerge, it was enough to occupy
a lifetime of construction.

Paris, if this is still Paris, has two faces: one, the white, and the other, the black.
Blinded by the complexity of the medieval city, the plan is horizontally empty;
Railway lines strike through the plan without disrupting it; this is a railway station
in itself, built to serve thousands of men in their daily journey
from home to work, and back again.

The emptiness is to be experienced vertically; the human body is vertical
and if this is a home for humans, it ought to be vertical as well.
The Louvre remains, but, it is strangely fitting, with the jardins
and the lines of sight extending over an entire city.

The majority of the population is to be kept within the glass crosses; these extend
without foundation or top, they are extrusions, simple three-dimensional moves
different from the skyscrapers of the Chicago School. There could have been one
of the crosses, but there are eighteen; on the ground, more polite lamellar houses
form a transition between Paris and the Plan. Roads ensure the rapid transport
of white-collar clerks, who go to work in the bourgeois city that surrounds it
but which, in a more ideal future (the future that happened) would be
the same towers that they live in.

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The Inverted Factory

hk-plan

So far I’ve been considering the function of the factory as a creator of a collective identity and lifestyle, in essence, the architecture creates the people. The architecture comes first. This is what happened at Bata. Considering this, in our age of what Elia Zenghelis termed “an agglomeration of individuals”, I propose that the only way forward for the factory versus the collective is to invert their dependency. The factory of the near future needs to be the product of the collective, rather than the opposite. I have looked mostly at the 2014 Hong Kong demonstrations, which prove once again that the collective cannot be ruled out of politics, in fact, the collective *is* the politics, not the voting individual. My inverted factory considers the architecture that emerges as a result of collective activity, the fabrication of architecture from supra-individual collaboration. I hope this makes sense, because I find it a very exciting topic. Of course, many projects have dealt with the formal expression of collective activity, but I think that to look at it from the viewpoint of the factory, can make it both very fecund, idealistic and unique.

What is interesting is not solely how the collective requires a space
which it subsequently inhabits, but also what kind of space it is
that the collective creates. The Bata shoe factory, along with
such contemporary examples as Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds
was one man’s establishment of a factory in which the collective
finds its place – it, again, inhabits it. It is a top-down approach; the architecture
is decided, and then the collective makes use of it. By flipping this around
we look at situations in which the collective already exists, it rallies around
a concept, a task, an idea, a dream, a protest, a show, all of pure decadence
or of sacred idealism – and in this situation, architecture arrives to the collective
*after* the collective has been established. Architecture is the result
of collective activity, rather than forcing the collective to pursue a proper activity.
The acts of the collective can be facilitated by architecture (watching a football game
at a stadium), countered to architecture (going to a anthem rave, effectively destroying
all serenity in the neighbourhood, later to be paired
with the Criminal Justice Act), or in the reclamation
of architecture (protesting against a moral – not necessary legal – injustice).
In all instances, we see that collective action counters the petrification of architecture
into accepted cultural expressions (the skate park). In what instances have people set up
a factory, that produces something of their benefit? How do we combine the pursuit
of a factory with the argument of the collective, which says, that whatever product
the factory creates is redundant; it is the social cohesion that the factory produces
that is the true factor of architectural belonging that the individual can find
in contemporary society. The bottom-up approach of activism, of civil discontent
makes our project a civil-isation. We are not constructing factories; we are constructing
the architectural relationship to the factory. The factory has, up until now, been devised
as an architecture which generates a collective; what I propose
is a collective which generates an architecture.

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Paper Poke

DSC_0632-poke

Poke? Poke. Poke! (Poke-ball.)

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My hands are multiplying

holding-hands-2

This hand is for the part in my presentation where I first reveal (through a paper Facebook update) that I’ve been engaged to my partner, and later when we finally get married. I’m not so sure yet how it can be used interactively in the presentation in the same manner as the like hand, but I enjoy drawing these. Tomorrow I will bring together the presentation, and perhaps draw a poke hand. I thought it could be quite useful when I create a new paper event, to poke the jury into attention.

Also, presentation text as it stands. I’m trying to find a balance between pursuing a thread through the project which the posts argue for, without referring too much to Sebastian Shuto and the things he does. At the same time, I feel that I don’t want to settle the thesis for the project too definitely. I want there to be a bit of idea sprawl. Am I falling into the Brussels sprouts trap again?

Pres-final

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Please be my friend

Yesterday I finished the “like”-hand which I will use in the presentation as a prop (lots of them), allowing the jury (audience) to paper-confirm their appreciations of the project (if there are any). I sort of wish for a intermediary state between working with 100%-detail-0%-time-efficiency, and the opposite. But anyway, after the like-hand, I considered other functions of the Facebook page for their paper-version, and settled on a “friends”-making handshake symbol, which allows the jury to befriend me and each other across the posts I have. Also it can function as an icon for privacy, that is, who I choose to share these posts with, in order to introduce them to my posse of aberrant workers.

handshake-1-copy

thumbs-up-1-copy

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Thesis Elaboration

So. (To paraphrase Cat) I’m trying to be as specific as I can with my project, editing and rewriting as many times as it is necessary. The text below is roughly 2000 words, but we can agree on what is the most interesting parts, and cut down on those which aren’t. In general, what I’m pursuing in my project is the citizen’s, worker’s, and architect’s positioning along the spectrum of individual versus collective. Bear in mind, this is not a presentation text, and it is not in finalised order, but the skeleton of that future presentation, so we know what themes I’m working with, why, and what they mean. I liked the idea of presenting the images of paper Facebook as a fold-out, so that’s why most of the images are grouped. I figured it is good to tie the plans/sections/etc. to the photoshopped portraits and selfies.

If you like to read, have a go, and let me know in the comments what you think.

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1-1 copy

In the world of architecture, the pursuit of a movement has been replaced by a pursuit for an identity. We speak of Zaha-architecture rather than deconstructivism. For a man living in the presence of a 1930’s factory, it was the opposite. The architect was meant to be suppressed and serve the collective, as the issues of a people, of a city, and of a nation, were more important than the impulses of the individual. Still, there were moments when you would be able to claim your ground. Every year, starting in 1936, there was the Zlín salon, which established the annual art exhibition. Everyone was an artist, but not everyone could exhibit. As the head of the salon, Sebastian Shuto decided that the art produced in the city that year was not satisfactory, and so staged an exhibition only for himself, launching a retrospective before there was something to retrospect. The vestibule in the community house, a space for everyone, we say, is really just a space for no-one. By exhibiting there, at least one man can dwell there.

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The Zlín cinema, from 1927, was the largest one in Europe at its time. A temple in which we become one with the screen, watching the actors as one would watch a friend, forgetting in the darkness that we’re sharing the space with 2000 other workers and their families. The architecture, in essence a big shed, matters in the form of “making space” for the collective, a collective which we still cannot see, and are not supposed to see, and in a way, only are aware of before and after the show which was the whole point why we came to the cinema, in the first place. And these people on the screen are not even real – they’re representations of the real, so, in essence, we’re all alone in the act of watching a film. The rows of the seats are arranged so that everyone can get a view of the screen, as well as providing a rudimentary comfort that lasts for the length of the matinée. There are no separate chairs for company veterans, nor one for Tomas Bata himself, although there are rumours that he has a projector in his very own villa. From the film, as an actor, Tomas is watching us as we watch him.

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In Liberec, a Czech city close to Germany, we find the architect Vladimir Karfik’s seminal Bata shoe store. But something is wrong; the store no longer sells shoes. It has changed. The corner site, once too small to host an entire store and therefore extended vertically, has ceased to be a servant of the masses and now becomes a factory for the exclusive production of haute couture. The cows living in this proto-skyscraper are nurtured to provide the best leather, which is then transported to Zlín in order to become shoes for the privileged. Only the best craftsmen are allowed to make these shoes. The problem here is: how do we organise a factory in which everyone has to be equal to the other, while the skills of the workers inevitably vary, and as people are different from each other, so their tasks have to be. If the organisation of people changes, ought not the architecture to do the same, and on all levels, even beyond those arranged for our immediate inhabitation? Perhaps it is not only the homes in which we live that provides an image to the masses, but also the spaces dedicated to providing these masses with an endless array of consumer products.

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If every revolution begins with a visit to the nearest brasserie, is conformity upheld
by an army of teapots, crumpets and average shortbread marathons? The city in which we live is designed to maximise pleasure and control in equal measures, much because we’re controlled by the provision of pleasure. In the city, this role is taken by the café. The cafés are not just perfect spaces for gastronomic satisfaction, they are places of surveillance; the answer to whom is being supervised is always the same: it is the coffee drinker. But the supervisor himself changes. The social and political rules of a company is embedded in the architecture of the café; it can be shady or bright, well-known or obscure, centrally located or in the periphery, populated by workers or artists. The cafés in town, approved by the factory, has replaced the bread of Rome with the Moravian sponge cake. We see it in the factory brochures, dispensed by the print shop in order to promote the latest offers in leisure cuisine. This is how far public life goes in the city, an outdoor serving area. Luckily, a cup of coffee is not always the same cup of coffee; it is the way it was brewed, and for whom, that matters. Architecture is no different.

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There was definitely no alcohol at the company. Not at work of course, but nor was there any outside the factory, on Saturdays or Sundays. The penalty for drinking was to get the sack straightaway. Defiantly, Sebastian Shuto and his friends form a coterie for the pursuit of alcoholic beverages in Zlín. What we discover is a community within a community, which claims its own architecture, in opposition to the official architecture of the well-behaved population. In a secret storage hangar, the group meets and discusses the location of next week’s underground bar, an architecture that is not allowed to exist by the authorities, but which nonetheless exists because a number of people in opposition to these authorities allow it to. They want it to exist. They make space for it. And in this collective, the individual makes himself known, by allowing his own home to be a part of the scheme.

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When Tomas Bata died, a memorial of him was built on the hills outside the city. This was one strange anomaly in the system that he had devised, for how can a company dedicated to the collective, allow for the deification of one person, even if it is the company director? There is only one sound choice to make: to convert the memorial into an event for the public, and with this we really mean *for*, that is, not for Tomas. Sebastian Shuto answered to this by allocating his wedding ceremony to the memorial, an event that is both public (to all the visitors) and personal (to the two persons being wed). But moreover, it allows the structure and the city to survive, because no matter how fundamental a trade is to the population today, there is no guarantee that it will not be forgotten tomorrow.

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One day, this strange postcard was put in Sebastian’s mailbox. It came with no written sender, and he immediately recognised it for a prank, since the factory in one of the photos were in – as strange as it seemed – utter decay. Another kind of community has emerged, one in which the factory is still is the centrepoint of their attention, but not as it used to be, and operative industry. The rules are now lax, the inhabitants of the company houses can fill their backyards with whatever junk they need in order to prove to themselves that they’re different from the man next door. The factory itself, is now off-limits, even to the former factory worker. You once again has to be a part of a community, only a different community, to have access to it.

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Tomas Bata once famously quipped: “work collectively, live individually!” but, in the end, the activities of one’s spare time were as meticulously staged as those on a workday. There were, for instance, athletic grounds where compulsory sporting events took place. Exercise was the motto of the factory, exercise for better health, a fuller life, and better performance at work. Spaces of indoor exercise were, however, not as frequent as one would expect, and hence the ground floor space of the community building was often set aside for makeshift competitions. The annual foot-race was staged by the workers themselves and, much like the wedding, offered a spectacle to which the individual could attach himself, by identifying himself with the competitor. For the runner, all that matters is his personal performance. His goal is to win, for himself, for his supporters, for the purpose of the competition itself.

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Sebastian Shuto met his future wife in the print studio located near the factory, but for a long time, they kept their relationship in the shadows, since a formal marriage would effectively put an end to his partner Annie’s employment at the factory. Married women were to be kept in the house, and care for their family and the property. Not even the house was exempted from the rigour of Bata’s life-perfecting machine. The house is not just a container of domestic privacy, as it is today, but an extension of public life and the common image of the city. Most of the time, the rules one had to observe in the house were arbitrary: are you saving? have you cleaned? what are you buying? But when it came to architecture, they were more precise: one was not allowed to change the appearance of the house, which was the property of the company, and one was not allowed to fence off the property. Unity was achieved through standardisation.

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Having made a home in Zlín, Sebastian ventures out to explore the city and its surroundings. As a citizen, a belonging he cannot give up, a community he is forced to serve and be served by, in short: as a holder of a passport, he has access to the areas of the city which have been termed public space. Public buildings, such as the memorial, and the public right of way, such as in nature, are both facets of this rule. Upon finding “his” special places in the city, he suppresses the suspicion that these places also belong to others. The sharing of such common places brings architecture to a conclusion: that it is not the building itself which settles the importance of that building, but the collective verdict of its users, including the architects, themselves. And yet, here, in these photos, we are individuals. We are alone with the camera, we are in the self-portrait age.

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We are, indeed, the Batovci, the people of Bata, and we take pride in doing the same thing everyday, going to the same factory halls, travelling in the same cars, obeying the same rules, until the common space that we share has become so ingrained with our identity, that we have become servants to our mutual experience of space. I am here because “here” is me. As we travel to the other parts of the world, we bring with us ourselves along with the shoes. Against the common trend of building a legacy through the linearity of one’s personal life, the Facebook timeline, the architects of hundred years ago attempted to build a zeitgeist expression tilted towards the collective, the end of tailoring and the beginning of the machine-made. But the architect has always been both. He is a social animal, manifested in his professional title; he is an architect among other architects. He is also a reclusive ghost, his proposals always judged in the shadow of his own personality.

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Towards the end, we discover another postcard sent to us in the mailbox. This time it is from one of our good friends living in the US, and emigrant seeking what he couldn’t find at home: an individual lifestyle, where everyone is unique, and where such uniqueness is celebrated, defended by law. I look at the location of his home, and wonder: what is actually the difference between this country of so many promises, and the factory of the future that is employing me? If Zlín is the America of central Europe, is this the future we all want? More and more I’m coming to the realisation, that conformity is everywhere, and that opposition is restricted to those who have the wits and the conscience to govern others. I wanted to be Diogenes, and in the process forgot of whom I really was.

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Before you say “details!” …

… I want to reassure you that I can do both the analogue Facebook in content and the details of the frames this week. Furthermore, they are not solely meant to be irrelevant detailing, but is a continuation of the architectural spaces of the photoshopped pieces, that is, top one is the cow/trees section, bottom left one is the art exhibition, bottom right one is the cinema, and so on. Like Cat said, it’s going to be a long week, but who said sleep is necessary? I fight my battle with pineapple juice, Cornish pastries and peanut butter.

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EDIT: instead of posting all my writings here, I link to my blog:
http://solumnaut.tumblr.com/

Most of the last two days are related to the project.

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Retrofit

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Karfik’s shoe store in Liberec has fallen victim to the Depression. To put the building into use when it can no longer serve solely to sell shoes, the architect has converted the building into a greenhouse for tropical species of fruit, which have long been desired in the company grocery store in Zlín. The Functionalist initiative to put big windows and a centrally heated core benefits these trees perfectly.

Furthermore, we raise cows in our building as well, to provide us with high-quality, locally-produced leather for a new range of luxury shoes. (With thanks to factory worker Miruna for the interpretation!)

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Content!

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Today I received a strange postcard in my mailbox. According to the stamp, it was posted sometime around the year 2001, but naturally, that cannot be the case. I am suspecting someone is playing a prank on me, seeing as I see the factory in one of the photos in – as strange as it seems – utter decay. I will keep the card for now, and be wary of future developments …

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Back to paper

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Also I’m the only one without a hat.

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The Zlín Light Entertainment Potpourri Band

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I seem to have more hats in my wardrobe than I remembered!
(Great resource blog.)

EDIT: Will rework the previous ones tomorrow.

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Weird …

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Felt the need to write myself through the argument of the project so far, but it is mostly for my own use. I have emphasised the key parts in bold text, as these are the themes I want to discuss at tomorrow’s tutorial. OK, back to Photoshop … (bonus for those who can find me in the pics, obviously I’ll have to think of a way of “tagging” photos in my analogue Facebook).

“In 1935, he [Le Corbusier] is said to have disparagingly remarked that the residents
of Zlin were forbidden to use their gardens as gardens.” These gardens were meant
for the ideal life, for the perfect worker living in spiritual harmony with nature
in the sense that it allowed him to breathe, but not to get dirty in. Dirt was prohibited.
In fact, all the known activities of days before were not to be partaken in, in this shrine
to modern man. But what, precisely, was the ideal life in Zlín? Was it the life
of Tomas Bata, educating his workers in behaviours that had driven him
to construct this city in the first place, the determination and unwillingness to adjust
to the world, a conviction that would ultimately lead to his death. The factory worker
is here because he wants to be here; he is governed on his moral behaviour because
the factory itself is not just a factory for shoes, but a factory for the “new man”
the “industrial man”, the man with no memory, who does not crave such a memory
but works in order to create new memories. In this sense, a factory is more
than the products it makes and the facilitates in which it operates. In Tomas’ words:
people think, machines toil. In the end, the factory aspires to control our lives, and
does so by voluntary incarceration, in the sense that we want the job and the house
and the price we pay is fundamentally in conflict with our immediate interests
and desires. There is always a choice, but there is rarely a choice that is unanimously
the best. If I do not want to subscribe to the thesis of the new man, am I responsible
for finding another kind of work that suits me better? Much like the flood
of cheap labour from the countryside is exploited for profit in the factory
of the Pearl Delta, the industrialisation of central Europe swapped muscles
for electricity, and in the process created a new type of collective, that centred
around the technocratic. The father figure of Bata serves as a archetype of comparison
to every factory worker, which is echoed in Tomas’ desire to turn every employee
into an entrepreneur. The factory, much like the AA, becomes like a family;
there is no separation between work and leisure, in fact, the company orchestrates
your leisure time as meticulously as your working hours. Above all rests
the assumption that one can build a city for the men who are using it;
to be a mayor in Zlín was no different to Tomas Bata from being a father
to his children, as everyone he raised was meant to carry his burden.

“When I arrived in Zlin, at that boarding school, it was a bit like military service in a way.
They kept an eye on us, in the room we had that, leader, mayor or whatever they called
them then, who kept an eye on us, there was lights-out at night, and there was a roll-call
before lights-out and so on.” If you want the cake, you have to wear the hat. The city
that is built around a factory will be so associated with that factory that it cannot
leave it behind, to develop independently. The factory moves ahead, the city follows.
What goes out at the end of the line is just as similar to that which goes into it
at the beginning: human desire. But here we must consider, for a while
what the factory *does*, in terms of identity. It produces an object, a fashion must
to which the buyer relates by whatever motivation he brings to the fore in his acquisition
of the object: functionality, price, trendiness, and so on. It also produces a community
the ties to the factory, the ties between the workers, participating in whatever activity
(as part of a paid scheme or that which one does at one’s day off) that brings
them together, based on the treatment of the worker as a human being.
This is at the core of the Bata factory: it treats machines as machines and subordinated
to men, but by also treating men as men, one is bringing to the fore the question
of *what kind* of man it is that we are fabricating.
It is hardly surprising, either
that a woman’s role in such a prospect, is not to partake in the creation
of a “new woman”, one who is independent, earns his own living, and spends
as much time with a potential husband as she likes to, as what benefits her, but
to remain tied to the man, who is responsible for the financing of the family
while the woman is responsible for its execution. If women want work
they are dismissed as “men in disguise”; the opposite occurs when a man
wants to spend time with his children, or take responsibility of house-keeping tasks:
he becomes a “woman in disguise.” The identity created by the factory is also an upholder
of gender stereotypes, or, as they were in the beginning of the 20th century: conventions;
women are to find their husband at the factory-funded cinema, and men are supposed
to keep in good health and pursue overtime for the factory in order to give his wife
a better funded marriage. One can see the influence from Fordism hovering over Zlín
as a promise: all men, as long as they work. All women, as long as they don’t marry.

“The most extreme method of controlling telephone usage was a gramophone recorder
installed in the telephone exchange that could deliver evidence of telephone misuse.”
The use of modern technology as a means of surveillance is a topic which still needs
to be addressed. The great panes of glass offering no shadows for the aberrant worker
to hide in, and the cameras installed in the tube, “for our own safety”, are both examples
of a general trend, to which all labour was to be tied. The factory can, by virtue of being
the employer to which the worker has few directions of freedom, demand of the workers
to behave in a way that satisfies the rules of the board of directors, rules that were
attached to the personality of Tomas himself, his inspirations and his lessons learned
so that the image of the “good life” that Zlín promises, is echoed in much the same way
that the factory is an *inverse gated community*; instead of buying into
a neighbourhood where we can spend our leisure time without fear, the workers are paid
to live in the neighbourhood in order to spend a working time in fear, ultimately a fear
of being watched as part of the factory, just as the gated community watches those
who are not part of it. Output in Zlín was not much different from any other type
of surveillance: production is achieved through means of inspection, at work, of course
but also at home, men in grey overcoats asking questions, observing the wife’s caretaking
of the children, breathing in the air for cigarette smoke. Surely there must have been
as in all ideal communities without Smirnoff, a clandestine operation and the smuggling
of forbidden goods,
hacking the radio programs in order to play another song, not unlike
how Elvis was introduced in Vietnam. Who wouldn’t want to have a slice of a life
that burns like a joint in a Brick Lane social housing shack? The discipline was
only ostensible; in the private villa, the walls were filled to the brim with decadence.
Surely there had to be spaces within it that served, as the world-radio did to the Commies
the inquisitive young man in his pursuit of another world, a better world? The cure
of modernity has its origin in a biopolitical perspective on the city, and ultimately
on the factory and its associated personnel: the factory is a living organism
in the crude version of the word, in that, we are told, every organ serves a function
and every process has an origin. But what the factory later did was, in fact, to leave
such comparisons behind and become a sign of itself; we began to speak of schools
as factories, and of homes as machines. The factory was efficiency
well-spent seconds, and that was Tomas Bata’s mantra.

“Buildings are just heaps of bricks … it is the people who breathe life into them.”
If we want to understand the nature of the factory in Zlín (which manifests itself
like an exaggerated version of every other factory that came before and after it)
we have to understand that a factory cannot be viewed for its architectural merits alone
that is, of accolades to the robustness of the concrete, the flexible open plan (now dying)
and the building’s longevity. A building is a frame for an activity, a culture, an individual
a hierarchy, a society, an ethical code of conduct, and so forth. In order to become
successful architects, we have to embrace what Tomas Bata did, that the building itself
might not be of much value, until it is inhabited, be that by an army of rudimentary skilled
factory workers, or in the elevator of the director himself, who acts in the manner
that the building suggests for him. In other words: what we desire becomes what we
want to be, and what we want to be becomes what we desire. It is not unlike
the revelation of the factory worker himself, in that he realises that in order to work
he must be in a *position* to work.
The factory provides him with the spatial framework
the machines and the coworkers, who together form for him the environment in which
work can, should and will be carried out. If one worker is slacking off, he is dismissed
from his post, in order to preserve the building’s character as a condition for work itself.
One cannot expect to form an idea of a certain phenomenon solely by means of being
in the right environment for such ideas to flourish, but, at the same time, it is impossible
to reject the influence of this environment in the process of forming such ideas;
the architecture impregnates the culture. For the many workers who came to Zlín
the factory itself and its architecture operated as an objet trouvé. The building
was operated, it was inhabited, and you became a part of it by behaving
according to the rules. You were taught to behave, much like architects of today
are taught to misbehave. The relationship between a worker and a factory is that
of the worker knowing that he is within a building that creates, but he does not know
what the building will ultimately create out of him. The factory of identity is built
on voluntary action; I accept this life despite not knowing whether it is the life that I
treated as a blank page, would be most suitable to live.

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Something inside of me dies whenever I take a selfie

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Anouk came with the good suggestion that I should dress more like a worker and less like a factory head. Not that I have much blue-collar clothes at home, but we’ll see.

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Reading

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I’m spending my day reading the book “A Utopia of Modernity: Zlín”, which I extract notes from and will turn into a storyboard by tomorrow, in which my alter-ego responds to the situation of the Batas he finds himself within, turning the story of the early Bata-Zlín into a sequence of causes and responses (he is required to have his garden responsibly pruned, but he prefers a jungle, hence he plants a citrus tree of rebellion in a mystery box in his garden to which only he has the keys – stupid, I know, but you get the point).

Yesterday I spent continuing my drawing for the analogue Facebook. I still have this itch within me that tells me “you’re not doing architecture!”, and hence, I add little houses and Bata factories into the Facebook profile. But, on the other hand, a drawn version of Facebook needs in some way to differ from the digital one – it has to be able to be what the digital isn’t, as we discussed – and therefore it might not be as stupid as it sounds (just a bit anxious).

Three poems/musings from Saturday:

The stage needs to be set; we need to know the terms which apply to one’s statement;
you cannot let the audience guess at what you’re aiming for – for absurdity to operate
within a project, that absurdity has to be stated as clearly as possible, and, in the end
it is what you apply to the project in the form of a design move that decides whether
the impression of the critic is one of satisfaction, or of being left without a clue of what
to say, seeing as what you do is a mere assumption constructed upon the knowledge
that is embedded within a project, not explicitly stated. Such knowledge takes the form
of explaining our point of departure, which, in itself, has to proceed according to the fact
at hand; the research doesn’t drive the project, but the moves of the factory, its guts
are the extraction not of a mere “good project”, but of a project which explores
by its own means, a topic that perhaps will only much later reveal the reasons
behind these moves. It goes back to the question of context; we do not invent truth
out of nothing, but rather, truth expands out of its prerequisites, the solum on which
it thrives and from which it obtains its energy and potential. If we declare for ourselves
that our task is to ignore geographical context, even to maim it by means of cutting away
its affiliations with a physical place – because if architecture has gone through anything
it is its loss of physicality – it was actually so, all along. Architecture has always differed
from mere building; in the past, it was the “art” of building, and the building embedded
within it the qualities of art that we were only able to explain by means of golden means
of perfect proportions, of symmetry and proper material salvaging; the result was physical
(make no mistake) but it was not architecture, until we enter the discussion of morality
encapsulated within the built form; the building is a container for architecture, but
it is also transferable as a form of commodity and knowledge. When the architect
of present times concludes that architecture is “a form of knowledge”, he is not breaking
any concept brought forward by Alberti, Palladio, Ruskin, Corb, Venturi, or Koolhaas.
The pursuit of context and that of concept are equal in their struggle to emancipate
the thought from the mortar, and the idea from reality. These two have to be treated
on the same grounds; the theory itself, the knowledge, is severed from its image
and, indeed, the image of present day has become distorted into a fiction in itself.

The advantage of having an alter-ego lies in our ability to modify that alter-ego beyond
what is already set genetically (hereditary) in our personality. I can with confidence claim
that I am gay in my alter-ego, while my “real self” becomes blurred by such a distinction;
am I still heterosexual if I act as a homosexual man as part of my fabricated identity?
Can I be said to be masquerading so to the point that I will be more identified with roles
that I am playing than with the private psyche to which none has access except myself?
For a man to always have a desire to be authentic, how weird would it not be to conclude
that I am more the way that I behave than what I am when I am alone with only thoughts
for company, the state of being in which it becomes apparent that what we’re doing
at such a place as an architecture school is to fabricate worlds of architecture in which
we ourselves must enter, perhaps no longer as the aforementioned authentic beings
but as flexible collages of experiences that we pick from any other man that suits us.
The alter-ego allows us to question not only the degree of truth in an architect, but also
the increasingly blurred boundaries between the theatrical and the honest. It will be
a matter of deciding, among others, which age we want to live in, what kind of wife
we want to kiss, what buildings we want to be photographed in the shadow of, as well
as asking oneself what kind of life one would ideally want to live together with a world
which does its best to smother all eccentricity by the means of considering the minority
of all minorities, which is the self, the individual, the atom of society, to be redundant.
If the battle that one fights with the world takes the form of being an internal battle
how can this be given physical form? In what ways do I become truly physical in society?
By this extension, it becomes clear that we are departing farther and farther away
from architecture in its physical form, and entering the role of psychology, in which
the architecture is a mere prop to our life in general; we cannot say that he is
an architect, but we know for sure that he is a factory worker, and such a departure
is much like taking the risk of committing to a profession so to the degree that we
include in this profession all that relates to other professions. The greatest fear
of the architect-in-the-making is to be considered too architectural for society
to accept him as an independent (separate) part of reality. The internal battle
that we’re fighting as students is no different from that fought by the proletariat.

How to do an analogue Facebook; mount the timeline on a toilet roll, and unwind
the narrative as you go along. Take a heap of paper and throw at the jury, and declare:
I share this with you! All along, we project the reality of the exploitation of Facebook
on a screen or a projection on the wall, declaring for us what it is that we need in order
to come across as a meme or as a trending topic. For a man who has never had Facebook
one can see, with Persian letter-eyes, what the potential for these tools are for the past.
Want to like a post? Press your thumb against an ink pad and then add your fingerprint
to the post by means of *physically liking* what you see, and then we can slowly see
how certain posts become more interesting than others by means of the smeared ink
that we see below its content. Want to embed a video clip? Make a flipbook, one where
you see the motion being used as primitively as the first galloping horse-clip to settle
a bet between two friends. Or pull the leg – literally – of a dancer by means of a handle
also (of course) made out of paper. Beyond Photoshop, we have, as always, the selfie
where we smile awkwardly next to the shoe which we have just fabricated, and if I
want to have a house in this model garden city, can I only do so by faking that I have
a wife and happy children? In short: what are the terms that are set up by Tomas Bata
and instead of thinking why I should challenge them, I challenge them because of
my personality, my opinions, my inherent characteristics, the things that make up
my identity. Now I sit on the patio of my neighbour’s front lot, discussing with him
our strategies for earning the same amount of money with less effort, more laziness.
The theme here is to exploit; what are the things that would stay the same, and what
are the things that need to be changed? Everything, you say, but what actually happens
is that as things change, they are merely translated, and we realise the very absurdity
of a situation when it defies time and content, in order to reach the anachronistic
which is also the most temporal there is: to not stray from the course of making
a paper Facebook, by telegraphing a chat message, while confirming this absurdity
of making a thing of the past which could not have existed in this form in the past.

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Analogising the Digital

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From conceptualising my position in relation to the factory yesterday, I spent the morning today thinking through the media techniques I want to employ in the recon. Like I wrote in my previous blog post – “what can the *mindset* of 1986 accomplish with the *equipment* of 1905?” – I am considering the threshold between contemporary media and that which was available in the formative period of the Bata factory.

My approach will be: analogising the digital.
With this I mean taking the media of present times, and execute it with the means that were available to Tomas and Jan Bata. I chose this approach in order to furthermore situate architectural representation into the discussion of time and absurdity. I want the discussion not only to be taken in the direction of “the medium is the message”, but also: “what would the media of today look like in the media of yesterday, and – perhaps – vice versa.

There are many examples I can think of which employs this approach, and I will test one for tomorrow, which I will begin right now, as I post this blog entry. Still, the discussion of media, which is central to many recons (in the form of maps, trials, detective stories, conversations, games etc.) must be linked to the discussion of the aberrant worker, which is the central theme I established previously. I think a challenge for me is how to remain precise and conceptually economical while employing a hierarchy of many ideas which makes the recon legible.

Another sidenote/idea I have, which may enter the project at a later stage and which reconnects to my way of working from last year is: if I want to employ many concepts in one project, how about I state them clearly early in the year, and then go on to work on them *simultaneously* during the year, so that the schizoid nature of the project begins to cross-fertilise over the different trajectories. Just a thought.

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Re-jecting Utopia

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The factory in Zlín was a socialist utopia built by a capitalist patron. The city was transformed into a kind of social experiment, in which the workers were offered decent wages, modern accommodation, and up-to-date working environments – as long as they didn’t organise themselves in unions. Everything was perfect, it seemed, and, indeed, Zlín grew, in 30 years, to ten times the population it had when Tomas Bata founded his first factory. This was “the America of Central Europe”, where all was possible.

The recon poses the question of the aberrant, renegade, independent factory worker, who challenges this utopia built by Tomas Bata. Zlín was a city for the collective, while the city of present times is one for the individual. What would a factory worker who wanted to assert his uniqueness – architecturally – be able to do within Tomas Bata’s creation?

This worker is me.
I insert myself into the timeline of the Bata factory.
I will act as if I was born twice: in 1905, the year when Tomas Bata first learned of Henry Ford’s factories in Detroit, through one of his travels abroad (and incidentally also the farthest year you can set as your birth date on Facebook); and in 1986, at the height of the postmodern age, to two architects in southern Sweden.

The reasons for this are two-fold: first, to pursue an absurdity of time and history, indeed, to break it, and to reassemble it by striking atemporal, cultural connections in the context of the factory and the worker. Second, to argue for individuality, and how it could be possible in a collective society (which we still face in non-Western parts of the world; China, the Middle-East etc.) such as the Bata factory. I criticise the project of Zlín from the inside, in that all my architectural responses must be related to the factory and the city; I can only respond, much as we, as architects today, respond to briefs, clients, contexts, politics, health and safety etc.

Examples of interventions:
1) A counter-elevator to the moving executive office of Jan Bata, which makes sure that it is always on a different floor in relation to Jan, securing an opportunity of perpetual laziness.
2) A home-cinema located next to the grand cinema (the largest in Europe at that time), where I can show my own films in opposition to the selection made by Tomas for the workers on days-off.
3) (Obviously) a house in-between the detached tract housing scheme on the outskirts of the city, where I can resist the collective nuclear-family cliché with the man working at the factory and the woman raising the children at home.
4) A personal department store built within the present store, where I can shop all the delicacies and specialities of Sweden, on my way home from the factory.
(More to be considered and discussed, perhaps treating these as part of a series.)

Media:
To keep in line with the absurdity, I’m presenting all my documents in contemporary forms of representation. As an example, I have updated my Facebook profiles with images from the Batas, books that were in vogue at the time, and status updates that question the working conditions in the factory. The idea is to use media which could not have existed, as they do today, in the heydays of the Bata shoe factory.

Obviously I was not born in 1905, but what would my options be, if I could enter the factory in the beginning of the 20th century? What can the *mindset* of 1986 accomplish with the *equipment* of 1905? I think this is the direction I want to take the recon in, to embrace its fictional nature in order to stage a narrative of the absurd, but wholly contemporary relevant. I also want to insert myself into this narrative, to question my own relationship to the precedent by physically engaging with it.

Any thoughts would be splendid!

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Bata Facts and Elaborations

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Writing my way into understanding the project, trying to gain a direction by picking out a central question, which I then try to answer through the texts, much like Heidegger tried to answer the question of “what is being?” in his “Being and Time.” (Good read, would recommend it.)

“Frantisek Lydie Gahura was a student at Le Corbusier’s atelier in Paris.”
Everywhere we go, Corb’s influence seems to be perennial in the status of architecture
(its Modern exponent) in the emerging world of an international esprit noveau, and
we must conclude that Corb himself, the books he wrote and the buildings he built
laid the foundation for a tradition in which the genius is defined by his own words.
Hence, when Corb operates with the assumption that architecture is a play of volumes
awash in light, he is saying that the methods he employs are instrumental in the making
of an architecture which the architects themselves are critics of. When Gahura launched
the lessons of Corb in the project of Zlín, we have to remember that Thomas Bata
was also inspired by the Garden City project of Ebenezer Howard, so, in a sense, the town
of Zlín was already a hybrid, as much as every architect has to be a hybrid of his sources;
there is no cardinal instruction to the making of a city, because a city tends to make itself
but wherever architects are involved, we can be certain that something is being created.
You don’t have to design buildings just because you’re an architect, but you can’t
design buildings if you’re not an architect. As the nexus of the Modern Movement
in architecture, which had been taking place in philosophy for centuries already
Corb succeeded not only to invent himself and his own species of architecture, but also
to ensure his legacy by the inspiration of various young (and not so young) architects
across mainly Europe, and later on all the other continents of the world. Gahura’s task
(to build a Corbusian city married with the Garden City ideal) is linked to the methods
we deploy in order to produce architecture itself: the plan might be the generator, but
in this case, the master-plan is the pre-generative effort of an architect concerned more
with the layout of the city than the decorations on the facade. In that sense, Gahura was
not only an architect of the new age, he was one of the few who had the opportunity
to see his project being built (if not entirely), setting an example for future cities
centred around this kind of means of production. Part architect, part planner
Gahura’s situation was akin to that of Albert Kahn in Detroit, whose work
Thomas Bata had already experienced during a visit to the Rouge complex.

“By a twist of fate both Le Corbusier and Jan Bata died only a few days apart in 1965.”
One was the “cheap shoe king”, the other was the “poured concrete king”, one in Brazil
where he was relegated after Thomas Jr. regained control over the empire in a court fight;
the other at the seaside of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, in France. Their similarities are clear
seeing as both were instrumental in shaping the environment of the Modern age, but
whereas Bata made an international conglomerate on prosaic manufacturing, Corb sought
to establish a material legacy by means of rallying his followers around his manifestos.
Zlín was just one example of principles that were marketed as universal, and indeed
the movement which Corb spearheaded was labelled as truly transnational. Jan Bata
was, however, a fundamental requirement for the architect to build these principles.
Without big business, there couldn’t be any big architecture. Bata expanded the factory
to other parts of the world, setting another precedent for the international conglomerate
that seems to be almost a prerequisite of any large company these days. Even Facebook
needed an international office, and of course it couldn’t be located in Menlo Park
so they turned to Dublin instead. When Jan escaped Zlín in the beginning of the war
he was determined to remain in charge of his company, and hence he launched an array
of different factories all across the world – the famous “Batavilles.” If more is truly more
then there is no question that Jan adhered to this imperative, seeing as his enterprise
expanded to become a major international powerhouse in the context of shoe making.

“In 1935, Jan Bata invited Le Corbusier to Zlín as a member of the jury of Bata’s
International Housing Competition and for consultations over the factory city plans.”
Architects have always been keen on entering competitions, not just for the prospect
of launching a career, building a manifesto, or cementing personal glory, but mostly
for the sheer *love* of architecture. It remains a fact that the architectural competition
precedes the architectural revolution of Modernism – it is institutionalised free labour.
Where else are you asked to work for nothing with such little prospects of success?
In fact, nowadays we even need to pay in order to receive the competition brief!
Not even Corb could escape the lure of the international competition, but he was
wise enough to later only take on competitions in the guise of a jury member
where he would be allowed, due to his intellectual gravitas, to pick the entry
which he saw as closest to his own ideals of the perfect city, effectively creating
and nurturing “Corbusianism” across the world. Zlín is no exception. The bricks
and the glass were the embodied philosophy of Thomas Bata, in the sense that he
as a convert and subsequent disciple of the functionalist agenda, could pursue
the factory as a kind of machine in itself, employing modern building materials
made for a modest span of operational time, effectively predating the flexible nature
of Mies’s work later during the century. Can we extend the analogy to also include
the machinesque nature of the worker, of the employee? Much like the slogan
of the Expo in Chicago of ’33 (“Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms”)
the factory worker is seen as a being who acts in a rational association to the world.
The head of the factory, Jan Bata himself, built what was necessary, after consulting
the workers (and, indeed, under consultancy of Corb). If the workers needed
places to live, he built houses. If they needed entertainment, he built a cinema.

“Tomáš Baťa founded a shoe factory in Zlín in 1894 when the population
was approximately 3,000 inhabitants. Baťa designed the town as he saw fit
until his death in 1932, at which time the population of Zlín was approximately 35,000.”
The town grew out of its origins s a rural utopia (in the literal sense of the word), into
a capitalist fantasy-come-true, a utopia in the cultural sense of the word. It shows
the importance of a city to centre around some kind of activity, be that economical
military, social or recreational. Zlín had the shoe factory much as the Côte d’Azur
has its beaches and charming medieval hilly towns. The rapid growth that took place
during a limited period of 38 years, indicates that factories act not only as catalysts
but generally as origins; certainly, the city of Zlín must have had its advantages
but the factory did not discover a potential that was already there to be exploited
by the right man with the right idea. The factory was all that was needed, and
what it accomplished in Zlín could’ve been repeated at hypothetically any location
in the Bohemian region; in this sense, we could argue that the phenomenal growth
of people in the city where the factory set up its bases, could be repeated, even today
although that would be, in the West, most likely in the guise of a cult factory, that is
a factory that produces events, activities and experiences rather than commodities.
If so, then if we want this growth to be repeated, we must first look towards concerns
of economical nature, because this is the heart of the factory, the intent to produce
something that can be sold for a profit, in essence turning the factory into a machine
for creating capital, jobs, social welfare, increase of population, and an improved
standard of living. It is not until a city has been created that it can begin
to reinvent itself for other purposes, to benefit from the factory, but also
to establish its own identity in the wake of its massive commercial success.

“Tomas’ son Thomas became manager of the buying department
of the English Bata Company, but was unable to return again
until after the war when the Baťa company was nationalized.”
Such nationalisation is embedded within the communist machine, nurturing the idea
that the workers should be in possession of the means of production which they serve
effectively becoming cooperative consumers and producers, in which social systems
will benefit not from continuous improvement or growth as the only means by which
the working man can earn a better life, but from improving his non-material conscience
seeing as nationalisation, at that time, was a matter of moral obligation, not, like today
a matter of bailing out unsuccessful banks, saved by the tax payers and then let free
at the point when they have recovered, like spoilt children travelling across the globe
only to commit the same mistakes once again. The communist manifesto was not
a practically viable solution to the plights of the working class, as we discover that its foe
the capital system, is perhaps not the best of solutions, along with democracy, but that it
in itself, has proved its determination to feed the hand which brings it gifts. The world
of Bata Shoes does, however, indicate a will-to-wellbeing of the working class that is
nigh absent from contemporary discussion – the faith in the capitalist machine, much like
the same faith in its communist counterpart, does not yield any specific, desirable results
other than the moral satisfaction of being allied with the movement that was on the flank
of the winners. The problem with nationalisation does not lie in the action itself, as it is
but in the fact that the nationalised company is forced to compete internationally
with businesses that do not have to fulfil some sort of common wish of equality
and defensible working conditions of the blue-collar class; we have become so used
to buying that which costs us the least, the magnum idiom of money, that we are not
willing to demand proper quality of life for the workers. It is one of the greatest ironies
that the people who are supporting the artisans and craftsmen who demands dignity
in their price list, are those who have made their money extorting those who simply
take any job that gives them enough to put a bowl of rice on their family’s dinner table
that is, these extorters are the capitalist swine that the communist sought to eradicate
(only to be replaced by the political swine, the secretary of the party).

“The Batamen (as Baťa’s foreign workers were called) worked across the globe.
The city became the centre for management of an international manufacturing chain
ranging from Malaysia where rubber was bought; through India where, in the city
of Batanagar, a shoe factory was constructed; to Argentina from where leather hides
were imported. One ‘Zlín Satellite’, a subsidiary shoe factory, was located in England.”
It is a fact that all large companies of the 20th century were emancipated from location
provoked by the internationalist revolution in the technocratic community, of which
architects were certainly a part, if not the most important moral factor, the economical
of which belonged to the factories. The future of supplies built itself with the architects
on the sidelines, as mere bystanders, an audience to a world which had left them behind.
The first revolutions are always material, and later turn moral by means of perceiving
these revolutions in the light of their hypothetical results; the hedonist and the ascetic
are not so different after all, in the sense that they respond to a condition which is
already in the position to change the world, in fact, it could be said that the world
*has already changed*, and that these two being are approaches to the material
they come *after* the revolution, and drive themselves to either embrace it, or
to reject it, in the light of whatever reasons that self can find in relation to the revolution.
Here we must return to the issue of internationalism, for it is clear, again, that the people
inhabiting this world can only respond to the specific acts within such a company as Bata
in abstract connotations such as internationalism, creating itself out of a phenomenon
which had not been described, and which, in all honesty, couldn’t be described, due to
the nature of the new, seeing as it invents itself in the process of demand and supply.
If Bata could foster a large number of employees in fraternity and loyalty to the factory
then one could expand this method of ruling the working hand by staging a great feast
for these employees, in the presence of modern media, social networks, and
the glamorous award ceremony, where the best worker of the year is presented
with a gilded shoe, to put in the window of his functionalist hut, next to the factory
which feeds him, buys his clothes, and lets him travel the world to see more factories.

“Baťa pursued the goal of constructing the Garden City proposed by Ebenezer Howard.”
Applied to the creation of an industrial model town, the garden city manifested itself
in the reluctance to acknowledge the metropolis, which is such a clear fascination
to architects of today, demanding more action, more congestion, that is to say:
simply more people in one spot. Zlín, like the garden city, was never meant to grow
any bigger than the ideal size of a couple of thousand family units, housed on the hills
of Moravia, and dependent on principles that are universal, the issue of the land that we
stand on and use for our cities. There is no possibility to avoid the countryside, after all
seeing as cities, in themselves, cover only a minuscule amount of land in the world, but
by consequence of the human tendency to congregate in societies, are the surroundings
we are most familiar with, we have come to reject the outback of serene landscapes
covered in the non-discriminatory presence of foliage and animalia. The main idea
of the garden city is not to deny the city its metropolitan character, but to break it
with instances of greenery, creating rather a nation than a city, a proper utopia
as envisioned by Thomas More. One has to understand that Britain is not just London
and that London is not the true face of Britain, seeing as countries in the world in general
almost always have a larger number of inhabitants spread out over the land which is not
part of the largest city. Tokyo might be the greatest, but Japan is greater. Much the same
the factory in Zlín could be said to be the heart of its city, but it could never be its body.
The garden city aimed to build a model for urbanism, not for urbs major. The issue
of such urbanism is not isolated to the investigation of cities, however much they are
the epicentre of the cultural, economical and political elite. The factory workers in Zlín
first of all considered themselves as creatures of a social kinship; much the same
it is impossible to say that it was the factory which was the only building of interest
in the city, but rather that it is those spaces which we do not consider that interesting
the cabins, the roads, the trees, and the sky. These are the things that form the body
of the city, not the factory. The factory is, again, the heart, its workers are the blood.

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FB Timeline

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Working on some dry diagrams of FB’s history, which is still quite interesting once you break it into categories. Will add more of it during the day, as well as researching more in-depth what each new event meant for the company.

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