updated argument

The box is the latest link in a chain of reiterations of the city.

MANIFEST DESTINY & THE GRID

If America was Europe’s testing ground for a new form of city built on tabula rasa on which to test urban potentials, the solution to the experiment was the birth of Manifest Destiny; the belief widely held by Americans in the 19th century that the United States was destined to expand across the continent.

Manifest Destiny found form in the grid. The grid presents an ambivalent relationship between perception and reality.

The yet unexplored colossal American landscape was subdivided into a symbolic all pervasive, all encompassing, infinite grid. This grid’s role was then elevated to become the formal basis of new settlements.

LIQUID MODERNITY & THE BOX

We are no longer interested in moving West with our mission. We live in an era with ‘no people to cultivate’, but ‘clients to seduce.’ Nations have become marketplaces and the citizen is the ultimate customer. The ultimate defining characteristic of our age is the redefinition of the public sphere, where everything that is private is now put on public display and publicly watched.

We now search for examples, not leaders. There is no more Manifest Destiny.

Living within a grid satisfies the two seemingly contradictory aspects of human nature – we want what everybody else has (the grid unifies), and at the same time we strive to be different (the grid separates). But most importantly, we only want to share our world with others who we deem similar to us. We want to avoid at all costs those who we can’t relate to.

The highest marketable value of today’s city becomes its exclusivity. We yearn for enclosure, and the new city finds form in the box.

The box forever reverses the relationship between the container and the contained: now what is contained is engineered to fit the container, rather than the other way around.

The box is the ultimate embodiment of the grid as container; it is the enclosed grid.

If the grid neutralises and unifies, the box creates differentiation and bias. If the grid acts as the glue that binds disparate objects, the box, at a critical point, breaks this glue.

The box is opportunistic. It isolates itself from everything in a landscape of asphalt and exists as an alternative reality. The box is universal, immune to variation and lacks all specificity. The box exists as pure practicality – it has no identity to maintain or ideal to live up to. If it gets old or boring, it can just renew itself.

ENCLOSURE

Tracing a limit, or defining an enclosure, refers back to the primordial form of establishing a settlement. Cities have been historically defined as an enclosed space demarcating the limits of inclusion (cities are built on the assumption that the members of the group have something in common with each other) and exclusion (that this thing held in common distinguishes them from the members of any other possible group).

With any enclosure, the psychological and symbolic effects have to be infinitely more powerful than the physical appearance. Not all enclosures are necessarily visible; some exist only in the eye of the beholder.

This project is an exploration of the various forms of enclosure that we seek.

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