Tag Archives: to walk the talk?

Edict from a Japanese hotel lobby

A rewritten version of my thesis, similar to what Cat is doing. Cliffhanger at the end, of course, as I still don’t know how to bring the office, the hands, and the perspective into it, but I’m more satisfied with the connection to the main argument, that of the rallying point, than I was before. To be continued and elaborated …

In architecture today, there is no longer a collective ambition, a rallying point. We are not living in a society of collaboration, but one of an agglomeration of individuals. Since the Functionalist machine broke down in the mid-70s, already abandoned by the avant-garde a decade earlier, every architect envisioned his own future, while the present city only became blander and blander. Architectural factories disguised as offices took over the design of all things substantial. This can not hold. To achieve substance, one has to be more than a one-man-army. Architects need to collaborate, which is only to say that architecture has always been a collaborative practice. This is no longer done in the manner it was done in the past: by prescribing similar results – white or black walls, big or small windows, perpendicular or oblique lines, or whatever fits your manifesto. It has to be done in a post-individual manner: that of prescribing similar beginnings. The only rallying point possible today is precisely that, a point of departure.

The current state of the post-industrial cities of the world is a profound lack of traditional factories. It is symptomatic that Andy Warhol already in the 60s called his studio “The Factory”; production was no longer just a matter of consumer products, but of identities as well. The image of the factory, however, is far too important to let go of, hence we are moving into what has popularly been termed a “knowledge factory.” Such a vague term puts a wager on the future of the city; in order to chart its possible future, we need to be precise (but not dogmatic) with what we mean by identity and knowledge, which both are and are not interchangeable.

The identity factory of the future operates by expanding the number of possible identities. It is truly creative. In this sense, the factory has transformed from a hall of reproduction to a laboratory of neologisms. Such an expansion is only possible by expanding the knowledge we have of the world. This pursuit of knowledge becomes our rallying point. The problem we seek as our departure point exists as a scientific problem. It is objective. It is communicable. It is clear. There is, to be sure, not just one problem of this kind, there are many, but we will choose, for the purpose of this project, to consider just one, that of the simplest and yet most evasive dilemmas, the very foundation for architecture as we know it today: gravity.

It is mind-boggling to ponder over the fact that we still don’t know *why* a building stands on the ground, and doesn’t fall outwards into interstellar space. We know *how* gravity works, but not *why.* This is our problem. Can we, through architecture, explore a ostensibly non-architectural problem, one of physics, and make that our departure point? Can architects become scientists, not just its posers? Can we build a factory that explores, that begins, rather than one that produces, that ends? And can we, finally, throw out all artistic nonsense, the phenomenology, the pop-left political jargon, the obsession with form, its scripting and prescription, and the conceptual socio-critical positioning that we seem to be required of in every step on the way to graduation in architecture school? Can such a deceptively simple fact – the standing of a building on the ground – both liberate, unite and focus a profession that seems madly preoccupied with its own next step? It is an ambition as good as any.

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