Author Archives: Merve2012-13

conclusion draft..

Consumption thrives on speed and excess. In typical big box fashion, value is attached to a commodity not for its durability but to it’s short-lived lifespan. To quantity over quality, to infinite choice.

The consumer of the City exists as any consumer does; in a constant state of dissatisfaction. Either the City is purposefully designed to fall short of expectations, just enough that the consumer is driven from one to the other in search of fulfilment, or the city really does appease one’s every need but then the consumer simply cultivates new needs, new desires. There is an artificial sense of emergency that propels the consumer from one city to another – faked, only to enhance the City’s desirability.

Excess perpetuates this dissatisfaction. The consumption of one city after another becomes about the quest for the ultimate one, and never the find. No single city can be accepted as the ultimate one; this would signal a failure of the world of consumption and the fun would end.

Feeling obliged to buy in to the system, the figure of the architect becomes that of a salesperson. She can no longer have a strong conviction about any particular city that she authors, but in the project of creating multiple competing identities.
… still needs a lot of work. also, no idea what the ending sentence should be!!

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perpetual carnival

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city ‘reliefs’ to become actual plaster reliefs

Moulds are ready for plaster casting tomorrow…

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Smithson meets the City of Fulfillment

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European city replicas in China

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Amazon’s insane warehouses –

Amazon’s warehouses work on a system called ‘chaotic storage’ (also known as ‘random storage’) which is based on the principle that incoming goods to the warehouse are placed on whatever empty shelf space is found – no form of order or categorization exists. Each shelf space and product has a unique barcode and so the staff use a computer system to find each item.
This means that the worker’s work is reduced to walking around the warehouse based on a gps system to locate the products needed. Seemingly inefficient, this system is actually overall a huge time-saver as the computer calculates the optimal route between a worker and the desired item and the amount of training and responsibility required of workers is reduced to a minimum. Basically the work is taken out of the human’s hands. The average Amazon worker can walk up to 15 miles a day in the warehouse.

What’s great is that Amazon calls these warehouses – “Fulfillment Centres”

The City of Fulfillment?

Financial Times article on the warehouses –

Video of process –

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berlin was great for the soul but terrible for my foot

Jury Notes

I think in retrospect the crit went better than my interpretation of it on the day AND I think this was the first jury where the conversation was really where I wanted it to be – I blame my sensitivity on the high dose of antibiotics I’m on.
Also my foot has swollen back up again to its beautiful purplish state.

A summary on the feedback –

– Project is currently a bit paradoxical in that it is not clear whether or not what I’m proposing is already the current urban condition, or if I’m proposing an utopic alternative.
– Who are my (precedent) friends?
–  Project reads too much as about walled cities / enclosure and not enough BOX
(but yayy finally got rid of “grid grid grid”)

– Need to stop representing cities in plan and need to show perspectives (e.g. Gursky image)
– The box = themed environment. Boxes have very particular qualities – the genericness, the packaging etc. How does that translate? Exclusivity.
– Need more box examples, until form of box overwhelms content.

– Presentation notes : need more questions, less statements. Needs to be focused more around design, less around intellect. How do you come to any decisions as a designer?

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Eulogy for the Gold Shoes

This is the week of lost things. They were not with us for even a week.
Some not-yet posted work from the previews:

New argument storyboard images:

We go from the placelessness of the current American city as a symptom of the grid to the purchasing and imposition of the box.

Updated city plans:

City of Landscape:

City of Transit:

Vitrine City:

The immediate plan of action would be the draw the remaining two city plans, and rework them all up to the standard of the City of Landscape plan – combination of image and line.
What’s next??
Also, something I’ve noticed in all of my crits/previews is that the discussion is always about the argument about never the particulars on any drawing – how do I get the jury to comment on particular drawings?

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Notes on a Preview

TS is done!
Reviewing comments from previews to know how to proceed, some quick notes:

–  The grid as a system of giving value and order to land was also based on the idea of commodification – land has always been a commodity and bought and sold. What is the difference that I am arguing for?
– Currently the argument against grid, pro-box is too much focused on form and not the reasons behind the forms. Want to know distinctions between the two based on forms of commodification. Value properties first, formal properties as a by-product.
– Look into : land speculation in America, especially California and Texas based on oil and gold rushes.
– Palmesino said I was essentially looking at the figure-ground argument, but rather than always drawing my ground as an inarticulated terrain, ground should be the already gridded American landscape that I am reappropriating. As soon as a grid has been laid down is it really possible to destroy it? Even if you remove the marking, the organization remains.
– What is the end of the narrative? What happens when the grid / box loses value? Is the grid in ruin / will the box become a ruin?
– Structure presentation so it does not sound like a student project but from a specific point of view – and not just about the experience of the narrative but a more critical stance.
– Commodification of form (what does that mean??)

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Misery loves company

Update on work done for tables to come soon, am currently crawling my way through both TS documents.. it’s reached the point where I am physically suffering because of this!!

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Its a girl!


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drawing away..

some screenshots, but NOT from rhino!

drawing the City of Transit:

Considering how long this one took me to draw seems like I am going to have to revise my to-do list for Tuesday..

also continuing work on argument storyboard: we arrive at the generic American city!

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all I ever wanted

was to photoshop tulip fields next to crop circles!

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Argument Storyboard – part 01

A couple of tutorials back we discussed the initial chapters of my white book, how they were too reference-heavy and how I should make them my own. I did the first chapter (“Building the City: The Grid”) today.. part 2 to come later at some point before previews. Along with captions the 7 images above go from the the initial use of the grid in cartography and how that enabled Columbus to discover America, to the Land Ordinance Act of 1785, to the translation of that Act into the subdivision of the landscape, to Manifest Destiny as the reason for city development in the 19th century.

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Labyrinth City, 1971, Leon Krier

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two alternative layouts

Two quick alternative compositions – a more exaggerated two-point perspective where we zoom into the image.. I am worried that with the horizontal composition structure becomes too much of the image, so I tried the vertical triptych which could be interesting, but it becomes more like a slice than an image emphasizing the vastness of the space..
also currently have no idea what I’m supposed to be drawing below and above.!

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drawing frustration

Been going crazy on rhino all day!
Trying to construct this image, using the Mies image above as a reference… but instead of an entirely interior image I want the drawing to show both above (exterior) and below (interior) worlds.. where the horizon line is equivalent to the glass plane and so we have a birds eye view of below and worms eye view of above.
Image is being devised as a triptych at the moment but don’t have a good reason for that yet other than needing a horizontal format for showing enough of the image with such a wide perspective. Ideally I would like the composition to show something different in each of the three sections..
The image is supposed to feel like a photo taken underwater where the line of the water cuts the image in two and you see above the water and below. Not feeling like that yet.. also supposed to show the detail of the glass but the scale doesn’t seem to allow for that.. (see little green figures = scale people)

any comments? composition/perspective opinions?

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Notes from joint tutorial with Inter 2

Tilda Swinton in a box (Tak’s reference…)

Some notes from today’s feedback:

– I seem to have two trains of thought about the box going in the argument at the moment – the resilience of the box as form AND the exclusivity of the box.. how do the two relate?
– Is the project about interiority or enclosure? How do you define box?
– More box less grid (again…)
– The first 4 cities should be there to serve as build up for vitrine-city which ultimately delivers the argument (need to explain each one efficiently with one drawing each & one caption).
– If this is a retake on Exodus, who are my voluntary prisoners? What is the selling point?


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updated reliefs and argument

I updated the relief models (1:10,000) after Friday’s discussion.. wanted to have some plans drawn as well for tomorrow’s joint tutorial but haven’t had the time, so will be presenting each city from the model! Not sure how successful this will be (models = very schematic at the moment! but making these iterations have meant they are becoming much more clear in my mind.. just have to draw them now!!) so have been working on my argument as well to make sure the story behind each city is clear – need a consistent language to speak about the different cities always through the idea of insertion/inversion of elements.
(Apologies for awful photos, will be photographed properly soon)

City of Perpetual Carnival

The City of Perpetual Carnival is the city that becomes consumed for the singular event that it produces, independent of its architecture. The city exists in a constant state of exception and continuous celebration – when the carnival is on the typical office floor plan that normally consumes the city’s ground is disrupted by the insertion of the event. The city is stripped of its character and architecture is used only to define routes and enclosures – the city becomes a series of ‘rooms’ so that different festivities can be housed simultaneously.
The City of Perpetual Carnival is the removal of architecture and insertion of the event.

Quick-Stop City

Quick-Stop City is generated by the context of the airport – born out of a moment of inertia by the temporary meeting of people constantly on the move. The very qualities of genericness becomes the city’s uniqueness – the contextless airport collects its own context.
The city is generated by the insertion of hotels into the residual space generated by the airport.

City of Lipservice

The new City of Lipservice is the consumption of the city as artefacts – concieved through the walling in of the found city. The city becomes like a museum or an archeological site – deemed relevant purely because it was declared so. It is an entirely self-referential entity that pays lip service to itself and becomes a theme park of any generic American city.
The Roman forum is inserted in the centre, the archetype of public space in a realm of cities with no public space.

The City of Landscape

The City of Countryside is nature taken to its extreme limit, where ultimate artificiality becomes the end goal. It reflects the alienation from landscape that the average city-dweller suffers from. If we are lucky enough to live in a city with some green space, our experience is only of landscape that is highly manicured, much more there to serve the purpose of being green space rather than being utilised as such.

City of All You Might Need and Ever Dream Of / Vitrine City (?)

(Model to be recut tomorrow morning)

The City of All You Might Need and Ever Dream Of is is the consumption of the life produced in the city, created through the inversion of the shop window into a horizontal plane.

In this city, the distinction between object and container are eliminated – framed only by the perimeter wall, indifferent to what happens inside and outside.

There is no place within the subterranean city where one can appreciate the layout of the city – only from above. The city has complete indifference to any ‘exterior’ urban expression and becomes a horizontal urban field of enclosed domestic spaces:

Only when looking down from the floor above, indulging in an almost voyeuristic relationship with the city-dwellers, does one realise the dual nature of this city.

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City reliefs


Assembly took longer than planned, but done!

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recipe for 5 instant cities!

– 4 A1s
– a friend to help book the laser-cutter

Laser-cutting files for city reliefs  – to be cut, assembled and (hopefully) photographed tomorrow.
Also hoping for some progress on the plans for friday..

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Updating White Book..

Updated Table of Contents:

Wanted to focus on white book & text for a bit because I feel like I need to sharpen my argument in order to progress with city plans/form. The sequencing of the white book helps me write my text, hence the reworking of the table of contents.

… new version of text & hopefully progress with cities coming soon.

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WIP axo trial

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WIP Plans

(very) WIP diagrammatic plans of each of the cities (missing City of Transit)

The City of All You Might Need and Ever Dream Of exists on two floors, where the relationship between the two levels is one that goes between exhibitionism and voyeurism.

The new City of Lipservice is born on the site of the old city. The historian of the 21st century simply needs an entry ticket, no longer a library.

The City of Perpetual Carnival is one of continuous celebrations and ethereal dances – the city becomes consumed for its singular event. Formally, it is reduced to a route and a succession of public open spaces – the only inhabited areas is the grid that form these spaces.

The City of the Countryside is nature taken to its extreme, where ultimate artificiality becomes the end goal.

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happy valentines

So, I am modelling the City of the Countryside (desperately need another name) and also trying to work out the list of drawings to produce for each of the cities.

I think for each city I will be showing:

– 1:2500 plan / combination of line drawing + photoshop (A0 square, 840mm x 840 mm)
– axo / line drawing
– 1:20000 aerial view of city in context / photoshop (420mm x 420mm)
– zooms (1:1000, 1:100, 1:10??)

for tomorrow I will hopefully have the axo DONE, aerial view DONE, photoshop of plan STARTED for city 01.

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two quick images

Here are two quick images from today (once again images are my escape from drawing plans) to finally visualise the wall of the city.

Just like Black Friday sales, queues form outside the walls of people desperate to get into the city.
The interior of the city – inaccessible until entry – becomes a desired object from afar as all you can see is a glimpse of shining gold.

Next, moving on to drawing schematic plans of five different box-cities…  after yesterday’s tutorial we decided that each box-city should specialize in and commodify one particular urban aspect. Decided on the names & themes last night (working titles..):

01. The City of Lipservice
Commodity = preservation of old city
City as museum/archeological finds/historical centre – a preserved ancient city, or walling in an area that would normally be what is visited in any city as the ‘historical’ part (i.e. the forum in Rome or the Acropolis in Athens). Name taken from Koolhaas’s ‘Generic Cities’ : “there is always a quarter called Lipservice, where a minimum of the past is preserved… it celebrates the past as only the recently conceived can”)

02. The City of Perpetual Carnival
Commodity = an event
It’s carnival here all year long.

03. The City of the Countryside
Commodity = landscape

04. The City of Transit
Commodity = airport
Airport becomes an entire city (it can be argued they already are as they contain almost everything the city does) and airports generate a very specific culture, population, urbanity

05. The City of All You Might Ever Need and Dream of
Commodity = urban life itself
The city I have been describing up till now and will go on to design further.. the city as department store.

Natasha – comments please!

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Charles’s reference & narrative format for project

I’m currently skim-reading through Sheila Heti’s “How Should a Person Be?” which was Charles’s reference during our tutorial with him. It’s a work of meta-fiction where the story is semi-autobiographical, the author’s story of how she actually writes the book. It’s written as part prose, part compilation of emails, transcriptions of conversations etc.

Thinking that maybe the main form of my project narrative should be similar – as I am arguing that what constitutes the modern city is the putting-on-display of private lives, maybe the city should be explained similarly through a collection of facebook updates, tweets, instagram photos and advertisements?

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graphic identity for the White Book

I made these chapter cover pages for the white book draft at the jury.

Trying to come up with a graphic identity for the book based on big-box imagery. These are all going to have to change as I keep changing the table of contents.

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updated Table of Contents (ongoing…)

The Phenomenal Resilience of the Box
Table of Contents


1. Consuming the Land: Manifest Destiny and the Grid
2. Consuming the City: Liquid Destiny and the Box
a. Historical Forms of Enclosure (fortified cities, ghettos, gated communities)
b. Enclosure & Exclusvity Today
c. Buying vs. Buying Into
3. The Consumption of Place (precedents)
4. The Consumption of Identity
a. James Wines & BEST Showrooms
b. An Ironic Fate for the Quintessential Anti-Monument (recon)


1. City density samples
2. Project: basement floor of city


1. Precedent: Archizoom’s No-Stop City
(inversion of dystopia into positive reality)
2. Project: ground floor of city

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What 1 mile x 1 mile means..

Some density samples from other cities to understand what can be contained in 1×1 mile (all images are same scale as box-city)

LOW / sprawling American cities:



MEDIUM / historic European city centres:



HIGH / developing cities:


Mexico City:

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some thursday night Zizek

Slavoj Zizek’s “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” talk about consumption (only 10 minutes and quite entertaining!)


A little philosophy-heavy reference maybe, but my argument is being informed by Zizek’s, and especially from the following two quotes:

“You don’t just buy something, you buy into something. You buy your redemption from being only a consumer.”
“Let’s not try and hide the evil, let’s make the evil apparent.”

This is the split between the two cities that I am designing – both consume, but one is unaware of the way it is consuming itself whilst the other one is all about making this consumption apparent.

What I kept wording as “buying a lifestyle” before can now be changed to buying into (as opposed to buying). We buy into the city.

One city (passive consumption) continues its life as the utopian city and all “evil” forms of consumption are removed from it – i.e. the sweatshop, the McDonalds and the Walmart. These “evil” consumptions are moved to the city above, where people are aware they are in a permanent state of consumption as they wonder around on a massive horizontal shop-window feeing off the city below as well as the sweatshops, McDonalds and Walmarts that exist in their world. They actively consume.

What is removed from the ground floor interestingly all exist in big box form – these now empty big boxes are left to ruin in the city of passive consumption. What is presented as the ‘dystopian’ city, or the city of active consumption, is in reality the honest one.

This will all become more clear when I finish drawing the plans!

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trying to figure out a different way of drawing the city layout so it reads less like a dichotomy between grid or box, although not at all sure if this is the way to go..
hopefully a more coherent post to come later.

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“it is our own fault – we didn’t think of anything better to do…”

the ‘shopping is overrated’ comment reminded me of this line from the man who has already written everything there is to write about shopping.

let’s hear it from Rem:

“The only activity is shopping. But why not consider shopping as temporary, provisional? It awaits better times. It is our own fault – we didn’t think of anything better to do. The same spaces inundated with other programs – libraries, baths, universities – would be terrific; we would be awed by their grandeur.”

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The Phenomenal Resilience of the Box

I may steal Maria’s phrase and make it the project title. At least until I find a better one..

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January jury notes & thoughts

Notes from jury:

– Project is too wide in its ambition at the moment, doing too many things. Grid/box as city-forming device, and shopping-city are two different things and the danger is that the shopping narrative may overtake everything else. Shopping should be instrumentalized in the project and not become either protagonist or conclusion. Also the link between the formal argument and shopping is not there yet.

– Shopping is overrated. (I agree).

– I really liked the way Maria summarized the aspect of duality in the project: that there are two cities; one thinks it is living a normal life whilst the second one revels in its own artificiality, almost mocking the first city whilst consuming it at the same time. The second city percieves the first one as a product. Perhaps the first city is not even aware of the second one’s existence?

– Project reads more as about the grid at the moment, rather than the box. If it is to be all about the box this should be more apparent in the design and the drawings (drawings are too conventional at the moment – if about the box I should be drawing only that and never the grid). What is the relationship between the two, does one enhance the other’s role?

– Need a better argument about the size of the box’s definition (1 mile x 1 mile), which currently is arbitrary.

– What is the geographical and political context? Although I am arguing that they are not relevant, will giving it a specific context challenge the project more? (not convinced).

– Is the city ultimately a massive Big Brother? The Truman Show? Like Celebration? If I am designing a dystopia, it needs to be grounded more in reality, to highlight the dystopian aspect of it. If an architectural dystopia, what are my real precedents? What are my city precedents, and mall precedents? Shin suggested that having a critical analysis of a precedent city in terms of its organization can help me design a more extreme scenario. In terms of a dystopian narrative, does context become even more important?

– What is the urgency of the project? Why is it important today to discuss alienation in the city?

– Maria said not to lose the subtlety of the recon, the ultimate incapacity of anyone or anything to break the box. Box cannot be anything other than itself and does not tolerate ruination. Is the ultimate argument of the project that you can not break the box, that it endlessly reconstructs itself?

– What is in ruin?

– Ricardo’s suggestion of some sort of material orientation device for this dystopia. How do you orient yourself in the space, how does the architecture become connected to what it offers, what is available? What can be the vehicle for this orientation (a catalogue?)?

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plate update – looking through/down the screen

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updated argument

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


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.


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.


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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some updates before jury

box as it stands alone in landscape

isometric view of ground floor.

I think for Tuesday the important thing is for me to be able to communicate the ideas I have up till now the most clearly to the jury – meaning to be extend my intro argument into a presentation text that keeps addressing this new form of inhabitation I am suggesting, and a redrawing of the plan of the box city so that it becomes more specific.

Terrified of drawing this plan, I have gone back to producing more images!

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statement – edited draft

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


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. “A sense of mission to redeem the Old World by high example.”

MANIFEST DESTINY found form in the GRID.

The GRID, through its abstraction, presents an ambivalent relationship between perception and reality. On the one hand it is an ordering of reality, on the other hand it is the mode of withdrawal from reality. [Krauss gives the example of the window where the GRID becomes a screen – a window is experienced simultaneously as transparent and opaque. If the window is a matrix that allows for transparency, the grid is what helps us focus on this matrix.]

Whilst Europe retroactively measured its existing cities to provide a basis for the definition of the official meter, America had already anticipated the mile as its base for the trace of a colossal urban grid. MANIFEST DESTINY embraced an all pervasive, all encompassing, infinite GRID. Imbued with a mission of progress and unlimited faith, the GRID’s role was elevated from a marking of measurement to the formal basis of new settlements.


Zygmunt Bauman argues that “unlike the culture of the nation-building era, [our culture] has no ‘people’ to ‘cultivate’. It has instead the clients to seduce.” We are no longer interested in proceeding West with our mission, there is no MANIFEST DESTINY. “Today’s culture consists of offerings, not norms… culture lives by seduction, not normative regulation; PR, not policing; creating new needs/desires/wants, not coercion.” Bauman calls this new state LIQUID MODERNITY.

If, accepting Bauman’s thesis, nations have become marketplaces and the citizen is the ultimate consumer, the highest marketable value of a city would be its exclusivity.

LIQUID MODERNITY yearns for an ENCLOSURE, and finds form in the BOX as opposed to the GRID.

The BOX forever reversed 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 breaks the glue.


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 – exemplified in Koolhaas’s documentation of the Berlin Wall. Not all enclosures are necessarily visible – some exist only in the “eye of the beholder”.

Hegel famously said,

“History will forget any race that fails to erect a border fence around a territory which it claims as its own.”

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no-stop city > stop city > ?

An attempt to visually position the argument of enclosing IN the grid in opposition to the infinite expansion of Archizoom’s No-Stop City and the walling OUT of DOGMA’s Stop City.

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looking in & looking out

The gridded surface of the glass wall becomes a screen by which one looks out from or into the box – views in and out are confused with reflections of the exterior or interior.

Looking in:

Looking out:

Zygmunt Bauman classifies both gated communities and ghettos as ‘camps’ (fortified, isolated, self-sufficient communities) – the only difference between the two spaces being whether one is trying to protect the inside from the outside, or the outside from the inside. “In both cases the principle is founded on the distribution of the possibilities of entry and exit.”

In the consumer society, camps function “as the horizons that attract or repel the consumer-citizens/denizens who do not know if they will go ‘up’ (gated community) or ‘down’ (detention centre). And there is nothing that automatically leads most subjects of liquid modernity from one extreme to the other. Rather, most people are suspended or plotted somewhere in the continuum between the extremes… This suspension, and the insecurities and uncertainties that follow, is part and parcel of the functioning of the camp…”

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aaaand another one!

sorry – never seems to make it into illustrator on time!!

A remix of the previous drawings, drawing on the ‘Powers of Ten’ video by the Eames. We have a matrix of boxes at different scales, from the map-scale (1:5000) to the urban scale (1:2000) to the scale of the individual box (1:500)… trying to incorporate them all in one drawing.

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WIP – didn’t want to post another rhino screenshot but…

Drawing the box-city in four different contexts to highlight four possible relationships (titles are very unimaginative at the moment):
01. Box VS. City
02. Box in the Suburbs
03. City of Box-Cities
04. Box in an island of asphalt (parking)

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Suburban landscape references

Some great aerial photos of suburban settlements:

WIP image of plan coming soon..

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box plan WIP / drawing some toll booths…

slow process, but enjoying it quite a bit..

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redrawing the big box containing the city WIP

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more on Perec

In addition to ‘A Void’ which is written without the use of the letter e, Perec has also written a shorter piece where the letter e is the only vowel used in the entire text.

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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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Re-Con material

Here are the six final plates I presented at the re-con:

The spreads of the book:

I am writing up my thoughts on the jury & hopefully an idea on where to take the project next – will post this in a bit.

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ruins & family guy.. if anyone wants to take a break


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happy halloween & plates 1,2,4,5,6

Plates 1,2,5 and 6 are completed (at least for tomorrow), 4 is in progress and 3 has been started.



04 – working on this one at the moment but at the moment it’s still looking less like a speculative drawing and more like a clumsy moodboard…

05 – finding this one difficult to get right – here is the image I think I’ll go with, and two of its (several) iterations


also working on set of introductory materials/booklet and argument…

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one more reference

thanks to Antoine’s reference of the two Belgian architects who gave a lecture at the AA last year on the big box (amongst other things) (

I came across the book The Liberal Monument by one of them (Alexander d’Hooge), which is a condensed version of his PHD from the Berlage on urban sprawl. The book is much better than the lecture.

I am still making my way through it slowly but it essentially outlines d’Hooge’s argument for how to design to counteract urban sprawl, and the relevance of the Big Box. One of the chapters in the book is a re-con by d’Hooge himself where he stages a conversation (that never happened) between Ernst Cassirer, Sigfried Giedion, Louis Kahn and Josep Luis Sert. Might be a useful big-box reference in the future (but not really ruin-related).

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An ironic fate for the quintessential anti-monument

In between all the time spent on photoshop I found this amazing article online:

It’s about Wines’ showrooms and specifically the Indeterminate Facade. There are some interesting quotes about ruins as well in the article.

“For a ruin to have resonance as a monument, to evoke a sense of tragic drama, it must bear traces of the lofty ambitions and cultural glory of the society that built it. Hamon points out that in the Encyclopédie of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, “the term ruin can only be used to designate ‘palaces, sumptuous tombs, or public monuments.’” SITE, however, created anticipated ruins which presented the most banal aspect of everyday life as though it were already viewed nostalgically as part of a glorious Golden Age. The most generic of utilitarian commercial buildings was granted the same historical and symbolic significance as the ruins of an ancient palace, staging an unlikely encounter between poetic melancholy and the expediencies of strip architecture. SITE’s ruins also addressed the issue of location; if, as Charles Moore suggested, the monument “is an object whose function is to mark a place, either at that place’s boundary or at its heart,” the location of the Best showrooms on the non-place of the strip inverted that aspect of the monumental ruin as well. As the term “urban sprawl” describes, the strip is a zone with neither center nor boundaries, always in a state of flux. Despite this fluid quality, the strip and its surrounding suburbs seem either reliably peaceful or numbingly boring; either way they appear strikingly uneventful. Within this placid environment, SITE’s buildings appeared to testify to some cataclysmic event, evoking a sudden historical awareness of before and after to subvert the soothing, timeless order of the suburban lifestyle.”

In particular the notion that a ruin must bear traces of the lofty ambitions and cultural glory of the society that built it and that the ruin is an object whose function is to mark a place, either at that place’s boundary or at its heart (boundary of the city // “heart” of suburbia?) is really relevant to the Houston showroom.

I may have also possibly found a title for the project - An Ironic Fate for the Quintessential Anti-Monument (quoting Wines himself)

Wines reported that three years after its construction, the Indeterminate Facade attracted “more controversy, more critical analysis, and more visitors than ever.” It was even placed on a registry of monuments to visit in the States, a development Wines called “an ironic fate for the quintessential anti-monument.”

what do we think?

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Indeterminate Facade on the National Register of Historic Places

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photoshop is my best friend

finally some progress!

I had been feeling so frustrated about the aerial view because no matter what I tried and how true I stayed to the actual aerial layout of the I felt that the image always looked like an arbitrary collage. However, now that I’ve started reading Lars Lerup’s One Million Acres and No Zoning I can now shift the blame onto Houston itself. Lerup writes how unlike other American cities like New York or Chicago, Houston’s expansion never followed an escapist kind of logic, nor has it ever adhered to any traditional city model, not even at its inception. Houston is a kind of a collage anyway!

still very much work in progress but at least finally we have a base..

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Setting up the context for the re-con: It’s 2040, and an already impoverished southern suburb of Houston receives another wave of destruction as it becomes the site to one of the largest riots the city has ever witnessed. In the aftermath of the protests, we have a look at how drastically this area has changed in the past 25 years.

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Naples-Rome train times & fares

Trains run from Naples to Rome every day between 09.00 and 19.40 either once or twice an hour (depending on the time.. mostly once an hour but there are two services an hour in the evenings).

Journey time – 1hr 10min

Fares – depending on the service, range from 19euros to 29 euros. Some websites that I’ve looked at already show some tickets as “sold out” so I guess once we have our plane tickets sorted we should also book trains.

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Warhol on BEST!

We should map out how all of the precedents somehow link to one another!

This is a Warhol painting of Frances and Sydney Lewis, founders/owners of BEST Products – it is from a series of paintings by Warhol called “Best Friends” (the Lewis’ spent much of their fortune from BEST Products on collecting art – they must have been good clients for Warhol)

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“Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, has looked carefully at trends in American demographics, construction, house prices, and consumer preferences. In 2006, using recent consumer research, housing supply data, and population growth rates, he modeled future demand for various types of housing. The results were bracing: Nelson forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (houses built on a sixth of an acre or more) by 2025—that’s roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today.”

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In an attempt to connect the threads together, via scale or via time…

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for maddie: documentary about another failed housing project in the States

Cabrini-Green in Chicago:

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drawing the connections…

The links between all the different people/places/institutions in the Cuban National Art Schools

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James Wines/SITE on everyone else..

On Duchamp:

“Duchamp chose commonplace objects as the raw material for his art because they did not have to be invented and, therefore, could be accepted by the viewer as devoid of artistic intent… Duchamp used objects to create noncompositions. His work was never meant to be admired within a traditional aesthetic context. Rather, his objects function as semaphores of information that change the spectator’s attitude toward the role of art in its environment, usually a gallery or a museum. Putting Duchamp’s uncrafted interventions in exhibition spaces that traditionally were the setting for viewing “crafted art” forced the audience to re-evaluate their thinking on every level. His work was a provocative discourse on the nature of meaning, one that simultaneously challenged questions and answers. As Duchamp himself described this research: “I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”

Although other arts in this century were powerfully influenced by Duchamp’s message, architecture has been left virtually unaffected by the notion of art as principally a dialogue in the mind. Buildings are seen by their designers as exclusively physical intrusions in the landscape that are to be appreciated only for their formal content, their compositional and functional quality, and their evidence of rational thought processes. Until architects are able to see the product of their efforts as a collection and transmission of contextual information, an embodiment of discourse, and a distillation of psychological insight, the gulf between the profession and the public will remain.”

On Gordon Matta-Clark:

“Matta-Clark’s art seized upon the paradoxical relationship between the American dream of progress and the wilful destruction that accompanies it. Buildings are demolished for only one reason: to prepare for a more profitable replacement. Since a number of Matta-Clark’s manipulated buildings were destined to be removed, his projects became a kind of preservation by demolition.”

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Playing catch-up

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Louis Kahn on Ruins

“When a building is built, there is an impatience to bring it into being. Not a blade of grass can grow near this activity. Look at the building after it is built. Each part that was built with so much anxiety and joy and willingness to proceed tries to say when you’re using the building, “Let me tell you about how I was made.” Nobody is listening because the building is now satisfying need. The desire in its making is not evident. As time passes, when it is a ruin, the spirit of its making comes back. It welcomes the foliage that entwines and conceals. Everyone who passes can hear the story it wants to tell about its making. It is no longer in servitude; the spirit is back.”

– Louis Kahn, “Conversations with Architects”

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