working title museum

unthinking an architecture

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1998.08.02 12:55
Re: Nightline Nurb
Actually, I was at a crab cookout last night and one of my friends (a non-architect) said she saw some architects on TV saying how tremendously unfortunate it is that not only is America now so ugly, but, even worse, the average American doesn't even know that it is all ugly out there. References were made to strip malls and the like.
Just off the cuff, I would say that the packaged "beauty" of someplace like Seaside, FL is an unfortunate panacea.
I think my next design will be a gated community of messy vitality--a place where, for example, all the gas stations double as palaces, most of the houses are under huge modern canopies (a la Corbu's Weber Pavilion/today's American gas stations), and the whole population of the place is ugly and ordinary.
Thank God the twentieth century is now over!

Re: city making and city breaking
It has not escaped my attention that Operation Desert Fox has spurred some discussion here within the design-list that very much resembles the notion of humanity presently working metabolically, i.e., equal doses of creation and destruction. With regard to what I last said here concerning the possible notion of an assimilating architecture, my further elaboration of there presently also being an imaginative operation with a metabolic nature now seems very timely. I thus wish to interject one example of metabolic architecture/urbanism.
Berlin: foremost metabolic city of the 20th century
No doubt the city of Berlin, Germany has undergone unequaled metamorphosis throughout the course of the 20th century.
Berlin reached one of this planet's highest levels of urban density within the first quarter of this century.
In the 1930s, Berlin became capital of the National Socialist's Third Reich, an unprecedented create/destroy political machine, extreme even in its assimilation, the Holocaust purge.
1945, the Battle of Berlin leaves the city all but totally destroyed.
During the Cold War, Berlin increasingly becomes a very real duality, a duality much like metabolism itself.
1989, the Berlin Wall opens, falls, and within a few years the city is again united.
Y2K, Berlin begins the 21st century as a completely new German capital.
The pattern of creation and destruction completely pervades the last 100 years of Berlin's history, but then again it is also the capital of one of the 20th century's foremost metabolic nations.
Berlin and Germany are not alone in their metabolism, however. One only has to look at Japan and its two A-bomb cities, the two Koreas, the once two Vietnams, and there is always Israel and Old Jerusalem.
No one has yet suggested the likelihood of two Iraq's and/or two Baghdads, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if that place somehow became very metabolic as well.

1999.02.16 16:46
Re: ir|rational architecture
...which demonstrates that the mind and its imaginations operate precisely like the physiological operations within the body's organs. In concise terms, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the workings of the mind reflect the physiological workings of body, and thus humanity merely has to literally look (in)to itself to figure out how it thinks, imagines, creates, etc. "Reason" itself is applied imagination.
As to creativity, "reason" is just another human creation, specifically, an extremely fertile (as in the physiological operation of fertility) creation. "Reason" itself is a design, as well as a design process; it is not the (central) design nor the (central) design process.

1999.05.13 09:02
Eisenman concludes (in 1984):
Therefore, to propose the end of the beginning and the end of the end is to propose an end of beginnings and ends of value- to propose another "timeless" space of invention. It is a "timeless" space in the present without a determining relation to an ideal future or an ideal past. Architecture in the present is seen as a process of inventing an artificial past and a futureless present. It remembers a no-longer future." [end]
B concludes (in 1999):
I think this means that there might be a thing or issue called- architectural "literacy" -about which the reading of buildings consists of a knowledge system of material culture. That is why, architectural and culturally, I think it is significant to focus on the mundane buildings- in order to read the built environment. Places like fast-food restaurants, gas stations, powerplants, ports, industrial ruins, in opposition to what is considered "great Architecture" and great Architects.
Steve replies:
I think it is important to note the 15 year differential between the two about texts-opinions. Despite its erudition, Eisenman's text is very much also an attack on post-modern architectural design as well as propaganda for his own "brand" of design (at that time). It is somewhat ironic that B receives an inspiration, a way of looking at today's built environment, from Eisenman's 1984 text that may indeed be exactly opposite to what Eisenman proposed 15 years ago. To more fully understand Eisenman's text it is necessary to know Tafuri's texts as compiled in The Sphere and the Labyrinth, particularly the notion of (classical) language being dead. Unfortunately, Tafuri's big example of dead classical language is/was Piranesi's Campo Marzio, and it is there that Tafuri is entirely wrong, which by extension undermines Eisenman's argument as well.
B, you are and have been looking to understand a design language that is almost entirely ignored by the design profession, and that is (I think) the greatest value of your work. At this point, be careful not to confuse your own issues with other texts that may or may not apply. Your own originally is probably your greatest asset.
The above was more of a specific reply, and for a more general reply to Eisenman's end-beginning-end text see xxx.htm--there you will find a "design of a house 1983" accompanied by some real schizophrenic text written by my brother (which is coincidentally a perfect (non)reply to Eisenman), plus a small detail of my former living room. The living room photo is merely incidental, but the plan and the text are there precisely to be "read" with regard to classic(al) "literacy" (or the end-beginning-end thereof).
M wrote:
In the opening pages of Civilisation & Its Discontents, Freud makes some interesting remarks about the nature of memory and psychic structure in a metaphorical passage about the architectural history of Rome. Malcolm Bowie once memorably suggested that this could provide the basis for thinking Freud as town planner!
another general Steve reply:
See xxx.htm and follow the "eros and death" link to encounter another "metaphorical passage about the architectural history of Rome" courtesy Piranesi (who knew exactly what "classic" architectural literacy was all about, not to mention his knowledge of the dead language of Latin).

Re: the more real Piranesi-effect
Piranesi did not 'reconstruct' the Campo Marzio, rather Piranesi 'reenacted' the Campo Marzio. of the 40 odd engraved plates that make up the illustrative portion of the CM publication, no. 2 is the 'Scenographia', literally the empty stage set waiting for the reenACTment to be played upon it.
Piranesi's main theme within the reenactment is 'inversion', specifically ancient Rome's inversion from pagan capital to Christian capital. the last engraved plate of the CM holds three perspectives, one of which illustrates two theaters, double theaters each an inversion of the other--the history of ancient Rome at a glance.

1999.07.13 22:52
the pleasure of (being lost in translation) architecture
My favorite: The configuration enters another one is connected with the both.

1999.09.11 10:18
architecture in cyberspace?
I never said that I was so sure that architects are qualified to design within cyberspace. The fact remains, however, that some architects are already designing websites, and it thus appears that the qualification simply (for now at least) comes with the doing. My point was that the successful "architectural" websites (i.e., websites that create and fulfill a function(s) in a way far superior to any physical building) are thus far not architect designed. If anything, my initial comment was meant to provoke architects into taking the implications of, for example, amazon and ebay, more seriously.
One of cyberspace's more wonderful attributes is that it affords "architectural" experimentation without the usual physical consequences. If an architect (like yourself) is not sure whether his or her skills transfer into cyberspace, there really isn't that much which prevents him or her from finding out. Personally, I prefer to make judgments based on knowledge and experience rather than from ignorance, meaning, I'll never say that something can't be done just because I don't know how to do it or haven't done it myself.
Temko: "CyberSPACE is a funny term."
I agree. I don't really like the term myself, however, it is now a term that has a generally accepted definition. At this point, I'd rather see the definition of cyberspace (architecturally) fine tuned instead of further confusing the issue by trying to "design" a new term or terms.
I find cyberspace sometimes analogous to physical space, but fundamentally as a "place" altogether different than physical space. The two can easily be compared, but they are distinct and separate." and "I like cyberspace because of its otherness. The more I participate in cyberspace, the more I realize that I now inhabit two realms, the real world and the world of cyberspace. Moreover, I plainly see that the cyberspace world will never be the same as or replace the real world, nor do I wish cyberspace to be "physical" in the real world sense." and "Cyberspace as a place completely other is its greatest attribute. Those that view or want to make cyberspace and the real world the same are really only defeating the "real" nature of cyberspace.
Could it be that we as humans just can't easily deal with a parallel(?), other reality in addition to the reality we already have?
I suspect architects are capable of contributing a nimiety of special sensitivities and experiences to cyberspace, and certainly not just one special sensitivity or just one expertise. At the very least, cyberspace is where any and all architects can contribute their own individuality and/or unique creativity. You would think that architects more than anyone would recognize the (utopian?) joy of a "place" where one can design whatever one wants in whichever way one wants. Or have we successfully trained ourselves into believing that freedom of design is a bad thing?

Re: reenactment
As it happens, I purchased and started reading Baudrillard's Simulation and Simulacra just over a week before I went to Brussels (i.e., mid-November). I was prompted to do this when (in early November) I started reading Neil Leach's The Anaesthetics of Architecture, where, in the introduction Leach writes a good bit about Baudrillard's sim-sim ideas. I right away saw the SIMilarities to what I'm formulating re: reenactment, and thus sought out Baudrillard's book.
I've only read like the first three essays of Simulacra and Simulation, and that's now over a month ago. Of the three essays, only the first relates reasonably to reenactment; the other two essays reminded me of Barthes' Mythologies.
The excerpt you supplied from the online source is very useful, particularly the passage:
So it is with simulation, insofar as it is opposed to representation. The latter starts from the principle that the sign and the real are equivalent (even if this equivalence is utopian, it is a fundamental axiom). Conversely, simulation starts from the utopia of this principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as reversion and death sentence of every reference. Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the edifice of representation a itself a simulacrum. This would be the successive phases of the image:
* it is the reflection of a basic reality.
* it masks and perverts a basic reality.
* it masks the absence of a basic reality.
* it bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.

I'd say that the notion of reenactment is indeed missing form the above set of 'simulation', 'representation', 'sign', and 'simulacra', that is, even though what Baudrillard says here is succinct and 'correct', it might just be nonetheless incomplete because reenactment is a continuation, an ongoing affirmation of specific past 'realities'. There is more than a mere thin distinction between 'reflection' and 'ongoing affirmation' or 'continuation'. The core issue for reenactment may be the distinction between ENACTMENT and a subsequent(ly necessary by definition) REENACTMENT. Is it correct to say that, for example, Beethoven's actual composing of a symphony is the enactment of the symphony, and hence every performance of the symphony (even the first performance and regardless of the interpretive differences of the rest) is a reenactment? As I said here about a month ago, reenactment involves a play with degrees of separation, specifically degrees of separation from the original enactment (and what Baudrillard does above is essentially map out degrees of separation in the mostly negative extreme).
So far, for me at least, the notion of reenactment (especially with regard to architecture and design and the built environment in general), helps raise significant questions, the answers to which may define what reenactment is or what reenactment is not.

Is Disney's Magic Kingdom really a reenactment of the Garden of Eden (including the unavoidable temptation of capitalism) with some very carefully designed degrees of separation? Is Las Vegas really a reenactment of all that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil had/has to offer? And yes, is New Urbanism really a reenactment of the WHITE (Aryan/American) DREAM?



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