Tag Archives: recon

Mnemosyne Atlas – Recon, In the Making

Modeling the Olivetti Underwood Factory Column

Modeling the Olivetti Underwood Factory Column

Testing different spatial arrangements of my Atlas of Images using Captions

Testing different spatial arrangements of my Atlas of Images using Captions

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Props coming along

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Slowly constructing the props for the BOB_BYRD_CAGE!

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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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Recon Jury

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Magical Mystery Box

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Waiting to be cut open.

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1 (+4) Cuts later …

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My hands are looking like I’ve been fist-fighting a werewolf, but things have been done and I’m one step closer to a presentation of Friday. Some things good (the box welding went well) and some less good (had to partially break one of the Perspex elevations because the laser cutter didn’t want to cut all the way through – beginner mistake!). The churches cut are from Europe and from early 20th century US, to capture the twin syndrome/complex that Hejduk suffered from, being a European intellectual with an American laissez-faire attitude. But that’s another discussion.

Will work on the acetate prints tonight, and put the model together tomorrow. The art gallery house was painted this afternoon but needs another coating to really shine. All remaining time tomorrow will be spent on drawing … something …

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Tangerine Dreams

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96K_TA~1
Took a photo of my model today and found it amusingly similar to the album cover of a psychedelic minimal synth-band from Germany in the 70’s. Currently working on the third house (the church) which I will laser-cut tomorrow at 9 AM.

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Icarus

Flyer
Rewritten and added presentation script:

Every house is housed within another house.
That was the truth I learned from my recon
and originality, in this context, is in how you choose to inhabit your ghosts.
Before you is a monolith. It is an architectural quarantine; it belongs
to a contagious architect. He had a sickness called formalism
and his project was not built according to program or narrative
but to pure, geometric experiments. It is in quarantine because
we  want to do everything beyond just being formally interesting.
We want to take on poverty, nature, poetry, socialism and money
but over and over again I’m struck by the feeling
that if my building is not formally interesting
it is conceptually incorrect. Or in other words:
if, in the end, it’s not beautiful, something is wrong.
This monolith has been recaptured, severed from its origin
to be shown here, today, in this room, and to expose you all
to the infection of a forbiddingly formal architecture.
The exposure begins. Take off your glasses.

*cuts open quarantine layer
to reveal the next house within*

This is the Poetry Evening House, not so much a place to talk about the built
as a way to build with the talk. One singular question stirs the mood of this house:
what is the form of a word? That of a sentence? Can it be objectively measured?
All buildings are built by communication, not just through drawings.
They are the aha (silence is the haha). The sheer mass of text
copied into unending histories of grey bibles and red bibles
marks the case when a building takes shape. To say:
“here’s the entrance” and to show it, is just as dumb
as to say “here I took up the theme from Deleuze”
and then show an inclined surface. Words are material
on their own, they don’t need material hints or to be enacted
like a hokey sitcom, but the lorem ipsum hits back at us
at the point when we approach nonsense, that is simply
the best way to describe a nonsensical present.
If architecture is building outside of your head
and words build within it, can they be swapped?
But our journey has just begun, and the words
here spoken go on to form the next house.

*lifts off metal and polypropylene frame
to reveal the next house within*

Now, if I may call for a moment of respect.
We are entering the church of mourning the failure
of contemporary starchitects, worshipped or despised
as gods or devils, depending on where you are looking
standing on the ground. The failure lay in the moment they were paid to build.
When contractors gave them money and freedom, they no longer needed
to be interesting in terms of ideas, so they shifted to be interesting in form.
They became the saints of expressionism. But the religiosity of my architect
goes deeper than that: if he writes of Judas and the Cross, he is not an architect
he is a mystic who happens to make buildings, and such is the character
of secrets that dwell beyond the stained glass windows. You can see it
and yet you cannot, it is the murky idea before it has taken clear form
the architect between hesitation and revelation, doubt and belief.
My architect was such a man; thinking of religion when he ought
to be stuck with art, and thinking of art when he wasn’t sure
whether he missed religion or not. Does not every building
require of us a measure of trust, in things we don’t know?
Do we not judge brilliance from witnessing formal revelation?
The architecture becomes a vehicle for attitudes, for zeal.
If anything drives the starchitects, it is their faith.

*lifts off stained glass model
to reveal the next house within*

Tell me, what is more characteristic of our time than to house
an art museum within a church? The gradual shift from art in the service of religion
as it was in the counter-reformation, to religion in the service of art found itself
at its peak during the youth of my architect, in the hippie free-love 1960’s.
The painter, whether painting with tones, colour or clothes, was the priest
of a new church of belief in humanity, in the good-natured character
of Lennon in his “Imagine.” But here again we find simple answers
insultingly simple even, coupled with the pursuit of inevitable form.
The painter is forced, like the architect, to speak without a voice.
No words, no sentences, just spaces meant to fill you with awe.
My architect was clear in his inspirations: it was the de Stijlists
the Mondrians and the van Doesburgs. An action as simple
as tilting the canvas 45 degrees, made us chuckle with delight
when we attempted to draw it in axonometric view.
The art museum is a square mini-Guggenheim
but the exhibition on is curated by two persons
my architect and myself. I have selected paintings
that correlate not with the references of my architect
but with the project he developed out of them
so that the exhibition taking place protrudes
both into the past and into the present.
And now, finally, prepare yourself
for the ultimate horror in formalism …

*opens the final wall hiding the Diamond*

… John Hejduk’s Diamond House, built on the premise
of imitating a flipped canvas from the early Modern painters.
The Diamond house is called the diamond because it is to be viewed
from a point of view that reveals it as a prism. In Hejduk’s own words:
as the Cubists in their paintings tipped objects forward towards
the picture plan, the isometric projections of the diamond
accomplished a similar point of view for architectural drawings.
The isometric projections of the diamond are Cubist projections
in architecture, therefore completing the formal relationship
between Cubist projection in painting and Cubist projection
in architecture. And what more, in my own words, it’s beautiful!
This beauty is the worst of troubles to the contemporary architect
because he cannot deny the importance of it, however much
he wants to pursue building. People judge it according to beauty
if it looks like a big pair of trousers, or a testicle crashing through
a enlarged circular opening, metaphorically speaking
we still want our back lot to be beautiful, and isn’t it formal
how much we must resist the troubled relationship to form
long enough to be taken seriously. An architect who builds
only with matter is as complete as a painter who paints
only with paint. He has no intention other than to explore
the characteristics of the form and paint itself. Is this naughty?
Are we afraid to be caught pants-down admiring a building
for its sweet texture to the concrete, its mastering of light
it’s perfect relationship to the site? All the clichés
of the dezeen project’s description … the Diamond
has no site, no concrete, no light. It is just form
an idea of form, an end in form
the last house within a house
containing only me.

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Wobbly Dreams

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The cracks disappeared, and in exchange I got something that resembles
a (fairly poor-made) jelly cake. Sanding to take place on Monday
with Tris’ (fairly irritated) assistance.

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Cracked Dreams

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This time of the year is definitely not the time you want trouble.
Will try to fix it tomorrow morning by pouring another layer on top.
(I’m apparently a hedgehog.)

Actually, no time is a good time for trouble.

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Ready for Resin

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The Diamond is about to become a Diamond.

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The Manuscript to a Boxed Performance

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[Oliver (me)]
Every house is housed within another house.
Originality is in how you choose to inhabit your ghosts.
Before you is a monolith. It is an architectural quarantine
it belongs to a contagious architect, to ideas not worth spreading
ideas dangerous to discourse of the built, as it was in the 60’s
as it is today. My architect was infected by these ideas
at a very unfortunate time; and even more unfortunate:
he tried to express them in form, he tried to make others
believe in them, and he could only do so through the unbuilt.
He was an architect who refused to cooperate, his originality
lay in acknowledging the seemingly self-sufficient’s inability
to sustain itself. Architecture was isolated, and yet it was not.
The paper is not an innocent space, as it bears witness, like space
to a building, to all the previous drawings that has been drawn.
This monolith has been recaptured, severed from its origin
to be shown here, today, in this room, and to expose you all
to the infection of a forbiddingly formal-narrative architecture.
The exposure begins. Take off your glasses.

*cuts open quarantine layer
to reveal the next house within*

This is the Poetry Evening House, not so much a place to talk about the built
as a way to build with the talk. One singular question stirs the mood of this house:
what is the form of a word? That of a sentence? Can it be objectively measured?
All buildings are built by communication, not just through drawings.
They are the aha (silence is the haha). The sheer mass of text
copied into unending histories of grey bibles and red bibles
marks the case when a building takes shape. To say:
“here’s the entrance” and to show it, is just as dumb
as to say “here I took up the theme from Deleuze”
and then show an inclined surface. Words are material
on their own, they don’t need material hints or to be enacted
like a hokey sitcom, but the lorem ipsum hits back at us
at the point when we approach nonsense, that is simply
the best way to describe a nonsensical present.
If architecture is building outside of your head
and words build within it, can they be swapped?
But our journey has just begun, and the words
here spoken go on to form the next house.

*lifts off metal and polypropylene frame
to reveal the next house within*

Now, if I may call for a moment of respect.
We are entering the church of mourning the failure
of contemporary religious space, down to treating starchitects
as gods or devils, depending on where you are looking, standing
on the ground. If I write of Judas and the Cross, I am not an architect
I am a mystic who happens to make buildings, and such is the character
of secrets that dwell beyond the stained glass windows. You can see it
and yet you cannot, it is the murky idea before it has taken clear form
the architect between hesitation and revelation, doubt and belief.
My architect was such a man; thinking of religion when he ought
to be stuck with art, and thinking of art when he wasn’t sure
whether he missed religion or not. Does not every building
require of us a measure of trust, in things we don’t know?
Do we not judge brilliance from witnessing spatial revelation?
The architecture becomes a vehicle for attitudes, for zeal.
If anything drove the Modernists, it was their faith.

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No More 3D Heroes

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Right now I’m considering different materials and techniques for the houses. One house can be handmade in wood, another laser-cut, a third 3D-printed and a fourth cut from cardboard. If I continue with the current increase of scale (roughly one third bigger with each new house) I’m going to end up with a huge model, perhaps too huge to be manageable. Oh well, you have to be ambitious!

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Unfolding Box / Genealogy

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Explanation: Each house-level provides a clue to John Hejduk’s oeuvre and his Diamond House. It will be presented backwards, that is, I begin with Level 5 and as my presentation goes on, I reveal each house, each clue, until I finally reach the Diamond House. The presentation will be in form of a large wooden model, which I will begin to craft tomorrow. Because of the limited space each building can contain, I will be working on the façade as my primary way of expressing the character of the building. The houses will fold open like a book, revealing the inner house as well as the section of the opened house.

Level 0: The Diamond House. The last point in the succession, the child of the buildings that envelope it, born into their heart with the hope of one day giving birth to my project. Like I situate myself in the middle of the Diamond House, the house finds itself in the middle of previous houses. Like later architects, it takes what it needs to make its own identity.

Level 1: The House that is an Art Museum. Overlooked by the looming pictures of the van Doesburgs and the Mondrians, the Diamond House sits opaque on a plinth; it is the only artefact on display, all the others have been stolen. (Modern architecture is of no value, anymore.) The floor is clean; at least the janitor comes everyday to wipe away his own footprints, muddy from the St. Jude storm.

Level 2: The House that is a Church. Statues of angels adorn the path towards the catafalque, by which side the Art Museum has placed itself. To be buried here are the remains of a man who committed suicide by burning himself on a public square in Czechoslovakia, to protest against the invasion of his home country. This event affected the Art Museum deeply; its colours have changed because of it, from bright red and yellow to solemn blue and brown.

Level 3: The House that is a Poetry Slam Evening Festival. The church is put in the middle of the audience, it watches the architects on the stage as they battle it out by presenting their “poetic spaces” to the general public. The words make the space. Four students stand on stages surrounding the audience, reciting their poems. From the gibberish that ensues, one of the students’ voices rise above the others, and shouts out the story of an automated fast-food grill in New York, a clue, like others, to the building within.

Level 4: The House that is a School of Architecture. Endless arrays of laptop screens, with the poetry slam-house stuck in the middle in generic form-explorations of what a computer can do. A jury is on display in the far away corner of the house, the final Dip 9 jury, the one that decides whether you pass the year or not. It is a place of ideas, a good portion of fantasy and crude mistakes we make that are overlooked for the sake of an enthusiastic youth.

Level 5: The House that is a Quarantine. The school of architecture is accused of being infected with the sickness of formalism, hence it must be kept away from the wider built environment. Architecture is not architecture without an idea, an intention, a reading. The Quarantine is located on a field of Highway 42 between Austin and Dallas. In a no-man’s land, a space of transit and movement, it becomes a goal.

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Entrance to Metropolis

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Stuck far too long in rendering experiments.
Maya refuses to snapshot my motion path.
Time is running away.

Floating borders; what is a strong demarcation between houses?
What does it mean to traverse one edge condition into the next?

The Labyrinth hides The Diamond. It is shy (like me).
There is not one door, but many. There is no right perspective, except the plan.
The larger I become, the more rooms I find that challenge me to be inhabited.

Unlike Hejduk’s Diamond, there is no stacking.
There is just the flow of one floor plan, with one glass roof.
In need of a context; thinking of the Serpentine pavilion.
What is there that is temporary about the Diamond?

Soundtrack: Detroit Techno Classical

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Building Stories

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To build has to be to build for one like us, we reveal ourselves
in the process of design, our prejudice, our leanings, as much
as we try to think of what would be appropriate, through discussion.
Only that which is living is worthy to be contained, it was said, but what then
of the dam, the elevator service room, the electrical powerplant, the pyramid?
To contain only the living is to devalue that which is needed to support the living
perhaps it is even wrong to think of it as “support”, as it should be valued
for its own being, for its consequences as well as its unfamiliar manifestation.
No-one lives in the roof, but the roof is home to our lights, to our chimneys
and no-one lives in the technical basement, where pumps and servers
buzz on through night and day. Is this not the house? Is this not form?

The site that was only one site reveals a building which longs to be situated
in another place than the white space of the paper. It wants New York
so it claims the Empire State Building, a replica of its art deco interiors.
It wants Tokyo, so it steals the pachinko halls and the bubble massage rooms
and paint them like a cloak over its naked body. It wants London, so it takes
the pubs, the tube and the overstated football arenas. Whatever is a piece
of architecture that we want instead of purity, will be set in a place
that is unlike everything this building has seen before. It is placed
in the Nevada desert, on the Atlantic ocean, on the Persian steppes.
Eventually, it will grow into the entire planet, a point when there is
no more context, only emptiness.

The overarching narrative of the Diamond house is its craving
for difference and similarity; it takes on the same vices and virtues
that we see in ourselves, when we wake up early to a cloudy sky
or when we frown at postmodernism on show in the gallery.
The house wants dirt, it doesn’t know the joy of diving into mud.
The house wants colour, it is tired of its own monochromatics.
The house wants curves, it has seen itself in the concave mirror.
The house wants volume, it has grown scared of its own flatness.
The house wants company, it has lost its friends in the white space.
The house wants partners, it is a swinger in love with a chair.

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House for a House

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Image: Staircase for a staircase.

What if the one inhabiting the reconnected Diamond is not a person
but a building? What are the dreams of a building? How does it live?
Does a building mourn the death of its inhabitants, does it become
part of a corpse? The multidimensional unfolding of the Diamond.
What does a house need? If it has stairs, it needs to walk those stairs.
If it has windows, it needs to look out through those windows.
I am the Diamond, and I walk these paths, they’re everything I am
and more. My views are an exaggeration of what I was, my body
is a surplus of information. The identity of the house is the identity
of the architect, but the house has a life of its own, it is taken
by the viewer, by the debaters, by all who wants a piece
of genius. It lives its life on paper, and multiplies itself.
It is visionary. It is clear, but it is lonely.

In order to find its own identity, the house has to situate itself;
like us, it is a mirror of its surroundings; I am not the author
but I am the student. I was carried here by eyes that saw good
in my work. Hejduk hated his house, he longed for times
when he could bring his frustration of the three-dimensional
into his wannabe painting attempts.

The Diamond House cries, for it was never recognized, it never had a visitor.
The Diamond House laughs, because it saw how it could be enveloped
by another house, that saw its potential, where it could be a “he”
rather than an “it.” Above all things, the Diamond House is still a house.
I saw myself not as a visitor to a building, but as a patron of its needs
of its fears and failures as well as its delights and successes.
I was his loyal friend, and he responded by giving me the task
of reimagining himself.

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Is the narrative the context?

Yesterday during HTS (Architectural Straightjackets), Ryan mentioned something that made me think about narratives.
He spoke about Rosalind Krauss and the exhibition “Formless” at the Pompidou and how she was “taking out the narrative to break down the spaces” – or at least that’s what I wrote down.
He accompanied the story with an image of “Sky Cathedral” (1982) by Louise Nevelson where the artist took apart various objects and rearranged them. The project fails (or i think it does) in the sense that we can still recognise some of the objects and so the story is somehow still there.
However, the idea of removing the narrative stuck with me because that was the first thing i wanted to do to Dr. No. I wanted to take the story of the film and tell a different one: the story of the space.
I don’t know if this story should be a “story”, or a “description”, or “directions” (like in a map) of the space. Maybe it will be a “caption” to my drawing.

Also, there are the stories that built the space: the weird fish tank projection, the stolen painting … these don’t belong to the movie’s story but to the space story. No?

Sky Cathedral, Louise Nevelson (1982)

Sky Cathedral, Louise Nevelson (1982)

 

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The architect is the context

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Hejduk: I didn’t know how to transform an idea into three dimensions.
I would cut away at that block and it never worked. It always looked
static and upright. That’s how it was. It just didn’t work.

A Brunelleschian memory, the late days at Cooper Union
with brief pauses to fill our stomachs with charcoal and laughter.
When the poem is written, it becomes a space, that can be realized
with speech. The Swedish Renaissance Horn & Hardart.
Lined up architects making their drawings out of chicken
bought from the walls, and in the ceiling, there hang flags
without nationality, flags without symbolism, empty flags.
We touch upon the truth of paper, in that it is flat
at any point we watch it from; the architecture
we make is deceiving us, a trick performed well.
Projection is not vision; it is an eye of the ideal.

Perhaps it is not the history of architecture
that is revealed in Figure 7, but the history
of the architect. It is a diagram of Hejduk’s life
beginning in the shady origin of birth, proceeding
through a differentiation and a sudden realization
(the flatness), after which the world closes in again
towards the certainty of death, but before that:
we have the meanderings of the Polyphilian tutor
and the seemingly random dispersals of icons.

Hejduk is not an enigma; he has exposed himself
but against the clarity of the diagram is the seduction
of the perspective, the one he never accomplished
so he settled for the intermediate stage:
the point when we, the others, realize
that we’ve been fooled, and it brings
smiles to everyone’s faces.

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Drawing the space of the film

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First attempt to sketch what I am reading in the space of the film.
Now: Do I draw what I can see through the camera lens? As it was “built” to achieve the view? The angles are not 90degrees, things overlap, and rooms that should be underground are actually floating above ground.
I won’t forget the props and composition.

Looking for the type of camera/lens.
Update of a to scale and more accurate drawing later.

C

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thoughts on the recon jury – comments please!

Assessing the jury based on my three different forms of output (plates, book, presentation text) I would say the plates and the book were successful in presenting my argument overall but the text was not, and paired with a confusing text the other two failed a bit in that regard. I think I only managed to communicate my thesis during the discussion rather than the presentation and because of this most of the discussion veered towards a different direction.

Regarding the presentation/text – the whole time whilst trying to write the text I was lost about how to switch between fact and fiction within the same piece of writing, and I drafted the text so many times that some versions referred only to the plates and the latest one, I realize in retrospect, referred mostly/only to the book (the research narrative and not the fiction). Within the book I did include images of each of the 6 plates to mark each ‘chapter’ in the book so that they would understand that each conclusion I was drawing from the research was being expressed in one of the plates. I don’t think this came across though and it made the presentation confusing.

The jury made a point about the irony and humour of Wines’ projects and how my presentation was quite serious in contrast to that. Barbara spoke about the artifice and a general theme in the discussion was the idea of technique and artifice, and the technology used to make the illusions into reality. Charles mentioned a reference (The Crying of Lot 49) about other artificial ruins that are misread. Also in the discussion were mentioned the ideas of ‘maximalism’ and restoration (and the contradictions present in that idea).

I am still not sure what particular interest I want to take forward for my project, but I don’t think it is that of the artifice and the illusion. I also feel that getting too focused on a technical aspect would be missing the point of Wines’ general critique, and the same for focusing too much on the humorous aspects of the designs. I think at the time that they were commissioned the shock-value of the buildings was much higher and the irony in itself was something to comment on, but nowadays we are so jaded by shocking imagery that I feel that it is no longer really relevant – although perhaps this critique could be a way to challenge the project?
I think overall I am still fascinated by the themes of the box, the ruin and the suburbs, and I also think that to move forward I should work with another form of media (not only images) so that I am thinking about the project in different terms in order to move it forward.

Meanwhile this book that I had ordered a while ago finally arrived in the post yesterday – it’s the catalogue of an exhibition the MOMA had in 1979 inviting 6 architects to each design a new showroom for BEST.. all (very!) different from Wines. Hopefully I might find something in here that could be helpful!

For tomorrow I am going to work on a re-con of my re-con (hah..) where I edit my text to refer more to the plates, and make it clear somehow in the book what is research (reality), what is manifesto (intermediary between reality and fiction), and what is provocation (fiction). Will also try to think of a new form of output..

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ReCon Storyboard

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Re-Con Jury

With our critics Kenneth Fraser, Charles Arsene-Henry, Javier Castanon, Barbara Campbell-Lange, Inigo Minns, Brett Steele, Matthew Butcher, Mark E Breeze, Mark Campbell, Mark Cousins, and Francesca Hughes.

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