The Fantastic “Ducks” of Today’s Architecture
by Guillermina Chiu

“Construction should be decorated. Decoration should never be purposely constructed” Proposition 5. The Grammar of Ornament, Owen Jones.

Albeit today’s architecture sturdily advocates for a necessity of ornament by carefully crafting affect and sensational justifications; new architectural proposals are neither transparent nor sincere, instead, they are fetching fantasies of functional themes. 

The fantastic has been described as the creative reaction to a bourgeois dull world, subjugated by capitalism and rationalism. A world deserted by poetry and faith; a world in which neither functional Modernism nor Post modern décor satisfies the aesthetics of today’s architecture.

In the urge to decorate everybody’s dwelling, pretentious fantastic shells have become a compensation for the poverty of the inside of a building. Architects had twisted what Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown called the “decorated shed” into what could be called the “decorated duck”. The idea of integrating the building within the inner-city-scape and giving it a clear connotation to public has been transgressed into the literal iconic building disguised in fancy architectural couture; a fashion statement that will become quickly obsolete.

Greg Lynn FORM, blob wall
Paradoxically, this new architectural proposal is neither making obvious the function of the building as the Modernism movement endeavored nor making Architecture more honest as the Postmodernists (i.e. Archigram) attempted.

We need to advocate the consciousness of today’s architecture discourse by raising the question: What is it in architecture that needs to be aesthetically performative?



An off-site project by Santiago Borja for the Neutra VDL Research House II with Maddalena Forcella, El Camino de los Altos Cooperative, and g727.

November 17 – December 22, 2010
Neutra VDL Research House II
2300 Silver Lake Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039

Opening Reception
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Los Angeles – g727 presents FORT DA // SAMPLER, a site-specific installation by Mexico City-based artist Santiago Borja. For this project, Borja sets up an architectural intervention to encourage new readings of the frequently elusive nature of “magical thinking” embedded into Modernism. Reinterpreting the modernist vision of Austrian-born and Los Angeles-based architect Richard Neutra, the artist transforms the influential designer’s family home, known as the VDL Research House II, into a temporary functional textile loom design by Santiago’s team of collaborators, comprised of expert weavers from Chiapas, Mexico. The project grows from the formal similarities in between modern abstract geometry and Mayan patterning that represents the cosmos.

The installation title comes from Borja’s study of Freud’s “Fort / Da” theory, based on a child’s game of throwing a wooden reel attached to a string over a ledge until it disappears and then retrieving it. Freud theorized this game of disappearance and return as a way to view how the child manages his anxiety about the absence of his mother. Borja takes this theory further by interpreting it as a way of creating space, envisioning the act of throwing the reel as a way to visually and physically connect with a distant place.

Vis-à-vis this construct is the process of textile making in Chiapas, Mexico, where a young apprentice establishes her own identity as a textile maker through the creation of her first textile piece, a Sampler. The process of weaving and embroidering the Sampler is the connector between past, present, and future textile processes, creating a continuous dialogue with the cosmic and natural world around them.
About the Artist
Santiago Borja has a Bachelor Degree in Architecture from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico and a Master on Theory and Practice of Contemporary Art and New Media from Université Paris 8.

Recent projects include Divan, Freud Museum, London, May 2010; In the Shadow of the Sun, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dècalage, Museo Experimental El Eco, Mexico City, 2009; and Halo, Pavilion Le Corbusier, Foundation Suisse, CIUP, Paris, 2008.

Collaborators and Sponsors
Maddalena Forcella
El Camino de los Altos Cooperative
Fundación/ Colección Jumex
SNCA-FONCA Conaculta
Sarah Lorenzen of Neutra VDL Research House II

Additional Programming
g727 Textile Tour and Roundtable Discussion
Date: To be announced on http://www.g727.org.

Downtown Los Angeles Textile Tour will be followed by a roundtable discussion at g727. For more information please to g727.adrian@gmail.com

g727 seeks to generate dialogues on artistic representations and interpretations of the urban landscape. The building blocks of a city comprise more than simply buildings, streets, and sidewalks. They equally encompass personal experience, collective memory and narratives. These are the less tangible, but no less integral elements that transform mere infrastructure into place. Through photography, painting, writing and video installations, artists open our eyes to these elements and heighten our awareness of what makes a place a place. g727 welcomes these artists to its space to help us all better understand the complex nature of cities and the urban condition.

Media Contact

Adrian Rivas, Director of g727
g727.adrian@gmail.com or (213) 627 9563

Interview with Bjarke Ingels

This interview was conducted at the Campus Inn Hotel in Ann Arbor, USA, on February 4th 2010 by Ville Riikonen

Earlier this year, I had the chance to sit down with Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, who runs BIG in Copenhagen. The company is in my opinion one of the most promising young architectural practices out there, so it was great to get to meet and talk with Ingels in person. I’m posting the interview here for all interested readers!

Ville Riikonen: What made you decide you wanted to become an architect?

Bjarke Ingels: I used to draw a lot, and coming to the age of 13 I had already won some drawing competitions, most of them in cartoon style. At that age I also had my second baptism, and after the event my grandfather gave a speech saying that he was convinced I would become a great architect. But my plan was to become a cartoonist, someone like Frank Miller. Later when it was time to choose a career – and in the absence of a comic-book academy – I enrolled in the architecture school of the Royal Danish Art Academy, thinking at the time that I would only take the first few years of art classes and then focus on my own ambitions. But in the process, I got caught up with architecture.

BIG’s book “Yes Is More” seems to be inspired by comic books. Is there a connection between your early ambitions and the style of the book?

In retrospect the book could seem like the revenge of a failed comic book artist, and although it feels right to finally do one, the truth is that we really wanted to find an intelligent way of telling stories in architecture. We wanted to counteract with the tendency that people usually don’t read the essays but instead go directly to the visual content. At that time our discourse was summed up in my lectures – so the idea was to take these lectures and convert them to a book. We tried all kinds of ways, starting by printing out lecture slides and putting post-its to them saying what I usually would say during each slide. For a long time we called it a “bookture”. The challenge was to somehow control the speed of reading, in a similar fashion to how during a lecture you can flip through many slides quickly or stay in one for a longer time. Finally we realized that what we were looking for was the format of the comic book, where the layout and scaling of content are used to control the flow of reading.

How did you like to study architecture?

I passed my first years of architecture studies as a series of really fast and intense “love affairs” with various architects. It was really all of them, from different eras and styles of architecture. I would discover a new architect, dive into their world just to realize that most discourses were based on a series of unquestioned fundamentals. And once you question them, the whole house of cards falls down. This process continued – when I started there actually were a lot of Finns in there, like Heikkinen and Komonen who were the hard stuff at that time. I also had a moment with Alvar Aalto, who I discovered though Alvaro Siza. Aalto actually marked the end of my architectural promiscuity: I was studying in Spain at the time, where I went from Aalto into this study of tectonic culture, Utzon and Miralles – I had Miralles as a teacher and while I had imagined a much more straightforward sensibility towards tectonics, all he was talking about was French philosophy, reading poetry and so on. And after two months of studio with him, nobody in the class had a clue about what was going on. At the time I once again fled into the library and started reading, this time the books of Rem Koolhaas, starting with conversations with students from Rice. For the first time I wasn’t faced with an architecture that is dealt as an autonomous form of art but rather that it is in direct dialog with all other aspects of society, economy, social and cultural issues, globalization and so on. It was about making architecture an instrument of the real world. I think that architects constantly refurbish the surface of the planet to better accommodate it to the way we live; we transform the immaterial structures of the world like culture, economics and politics into physical frameworks.

Let’s talk about your practice, BIG. Many of your projects originate from winning competitions – how do you see the architecture competition as a feature of our profession?

There is this Danish sailor who writes books and has some of his lady friends visit him, while living his lovely sailor life. He said once in an interview that “the man has the children that the women he meets want to give him”. It’s a bit like that in architecture: we get to build the buildings the people we meet want us to build. And often they are not the ones you think you’d get to build. It’s very unpredictable as there are so many deciding factors. You know, we just lost four competitions in a row during the last two months – and then even if you win a competition it’s not given that you get to actually build the building, like in the recent case of the national bank of Iceland. But anyways, the competition is an important way to get work. The dream is to find a courageous, collaborative and demanding client and then together develop the idea.

What about international practice in BIG?

We have been competing more and more internationally and have gotten good clients all over the world, like this highly visionary developer from Taipei who used to be a film producer. He was very impressed with the little films we make at the office, and said that we should make a few buildings first and then do a movie. But we haven’t really had that much of a focused strategy – we’ve been loving back the people who have loved us. Until 2-3 years ago we were mostly doing work in Copenhagen, and for a small group of clients – mainly this one client who we have worked with in the VM, the Mountain and the 8 house. In these projects we were injecting new qualities to the urban fabric of Denmark. The same applies to international contexts, it’s like you are given new material to work and play with. For instance, the three projects I just mentioned were reinterpretations of the Copenhagen perimeter block, the typology of the wall. The work we have done in Athens deals with the Greek architecture and Athens morphology, the Kazak national library deals with the notion of creating a landmark in the process of moving the national capital.

How you see yourself as a leader in BIG?

We have a curated collaboration at BIG. The work is idea-driven, and because of this the main part of the work is to find the key issues, define the problems, formulate the big questions – once you have defined a clear agenda or mission it’s then quite easy to carry out the architecture. A major part of what we do is to make things tangible so that everyone can contribute to the process. Over the 10 years of BIG’s existence we’ve gradually grown the structure of the office, we just recently we appointed a CEO, a businesswoman with a MBA background. We have a director of business development who is taking care of prequalifications and international relations, and then a group of partners that are more like project managers, they have teams around them to work with the projects. I’m more like a creative director, I have relationships with the teams, and it is my responsibility to guide the process of the teams. I think I’m doing exactly what I need to do but also what I want to do: finding ways to collaborate. It’s an art to get people to do what you want and to do yourself what others want, to build a symbiotic relationship with your colleagues. I don’t believe that an office should be a bunch of executive morons who wait for a creative genius to come in and give the right answer, but to have a lot of creative people who overflow the design meetings with ideas, leading to a process of selection.

Let’s talk about humor in architecture. What agency do you think humor and playfulness have with the creative process of architecture?

I think that there is definitely a relationship between humor and intelligence. And I believe that there is a connection between humor and innovation. For instance, what makes you laugh in a joke is the punchline, which is often somehow surprising but at the same time it also makes a lot of sense. It was not what you were expecting hear but it does make sense, and the contradiction makes you laugh. Often a brilliant idea is a bit funny at the same time to begin with, but when you think about it more carefully you realize that it makes perfect sense. For us, cracking jokes is an essential part of any brainstorming session.

How do you see CAD as a tool in your practice?

Every new tool will create possibilities that you can use in a smart or less smart way. Tools create possibilities that deserve to get explored. In the last couple of years we have been a lot into grasshopper, which is a very intuitive vehicle for parametric design. I see it not as to get the computer to spew out very complicated stuff, but to find exactly the parameters that respond to the effects you are looking for. In the Danish expo pavilion we eliminated the need for air conditioning through having the whole façade be perforated and thus naturally ventilated. Since the façade is also essentially a structural steel beam, it has places where there is so much tension in the steel that we could not perforate it at all, while elsewhere we could make either smaller or larger holes. We also didn’t want any direct light to come in through the openings. Using grasshopper, these parameters would then turn into the image of the façade. Such tools are great in turning complex issues into something very rational. It brings me back to the definition of complexity – a lot of parametric design is used to create complicated stuff, but the complexity that interests us is defined in computer science as the capacity to transmit the maximum amount information with minimum amount of data. So if you have a 10000-character and a 100-character piece of code producing the same results, it’s the short one that is the more complex one. So it’s a higher form of simplicity that we are looking for, the minimum effort to create maximum effect.

How would you compare the US and the European architectural education?

So I studied at the Art Academy at Copenhagen and at the Polytechnical University of Catalonia – I much prefer the Barcelona school. It was a technical university, which didn’t make it less creative but much more structured and demanding. I was disappointed with the Art Academy because we essentially just had a key to the facilities, a copy card and a library card. There was hardly any education, there was no real input nor demand. This is why I felt stimulated by Barcelona, and then when I came back to Copenhagen I was able to truly enjoy the complete freedom now that I knew what I wanted. I have afterwards taught at the Art Academy, Rice, Columbia and Harvard. I’m going back to Harvard to teach a joint studio with the graduate school of design and the business school. What I have sensed in these American schools is a much higher working morale and much higher commitment, and also a much more multi-ethnic faculty, which also sets the bar higher.

How do you see the students as members of the BIG community?

Out of the 80 people we have around 20 are students. The students play a significant role, especially in the early stages of design – I’d say the students often make the most fun work, which is really about testing new ideas and proposals. They are the main designing hand in the model making, it’s the younger generation who usually knows how to make digital models, use grasshopper and so on, and quite often the rapid prototyping comes from the younger team members. The excess of design proposals for the discussion of the team is significant, and the students are by definition the core of this process. Therefore we couldn’t do what we do without the students.

This interview is also posted in Ville's  online journal 

Beyond Objects


by Chao-Wei Su

I was introduced to Professor Craig L. Wilkins during a short, but satisfying trip to Detroit during my first graduate semester at TCAUP, University of Michigan. Craig’s insightful talk on the issues surrounding his role and beliefs helped gauge a general understanding of predicaments we face as young professionals. I am grateful for Craig taking a little moment of his time to talk in detail about architecture.
--Chao-Wei Su

Chao-Wei: Tell us a little about yourself; who you are and where you came from.
Craig: I did my undergrad in the University of Detroit. I then went to Washington D.C., worked for about five years and went back to get my graduate degree at Columbia University. I left there, worked for a couple of years, started teaching and found out that I had some skill at teaching. I decided that if I wanted to teach, I might as well do it the right way, so then I went back and earned my Doctorate Degree from University of Minnesota. I’m originally from Chicago. I left to go to college when I was sixteen, sometimes going back to visit family. However, my mailing address has not been in Chicago since 1978. In between then and now I have visited 116 cities in the world, 14 I’ve lived in.
Chao-Wei: What spiked your interest in architecture and urban planning?
Craig: That’s interesting because they both pursuits didn’t flourish at the same time. I came to it in a back-ended way. I went to a public high school in Chicago, but it was a magnet school. Back then, these schools were called ‘college prep’. There were only two in Chicago, one of them located on the South and the other on the North side. Even now, Chicago is still one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. The one on the South was primarily for students of color, the one on the North side was not. However, the curriculum was the same and for the first two years you had to take drafting. It was just required, not sure how that would get you into college, but it was simply required. The third year was an optional year. It was called architectural drawing. I was very good at drawing, specifically free-hand drawing. I also won an award in school. When I decided to attend college, I chose a college that had an architectural and baseball program. I ended up attending Arizona State University.
Chao-Wei: For the better weather? (laughs)
Craig: No, I was there for the baseball team. Architecture was something I was going to do in-between playing baseball. But it turned out I wasn’t as good at baseball as I thought I was and stopped playing on the field. Two years later, I directly went on to pursue architecture in one way, shape, and form ever since.
Urban planning came later after I finished my graduate degree at Columbia University. I lived in New York for a while and was asked to teach an urban planning course at Pratt Institute. It was a last minute thing. Shortly after, I was co-teaching with someone else right after finishing the urban development program at Columbia. Since then, I’ve been more interested in integrating urban spaces along with buildings, while prior to that, I was interested only in buildings. There was no grand scheme; both interests slowly melded into each other. Now, I can’t think and see the environment in any other way.
Chao-Wei: They’re married to each other.
Craig: They’re fused together. I can’t separate the two of them. (laughs)
Chao-Wei: What’s the connection between you and present Detroit?
Craig: The connection? In what sense, I’m not sure.
Chao-Wei: What I mean is: how did you find that particular place—how did you get there and become involved with Detroit?
Craig: After my first year here (University of Michigan) as a Visiting Professor. The former Dean Douglas Kelbaugh told me that the school was planning to open a design center in Detroit. Because I’ve worked for design centers before, he wondered if I could offer any insights in the conceptualization of the new design center. Eventually, we came to realize that it was a good fit for me and Taubman College. He then asked me to take on the position of Director of the Design Center. I replied, “Absolutely.” When I graduated from the University of Detroit in 1985…
Chao-Wei: One year after I was born…
Craig: (laughs) I feel so young now, thank you very much. I never expected to be back in the area (Detroit)—so many places to go, so many things to do. It just never crossed my mind to be back here again. It was a surprise for me to be back in Detroit. You never know where life will take you. (long pause)
Chao-Wei: In the present context of discourse, we’ve seen architects from different aspects of the industry obsess over how cities can be revitalized and reformed, almost as if architecture has an ailment and it can be cured. What is your particular opinion of this?
Craig: Well, I don’t think architecture has an ailment. I think the architecture profession is ‘ill’ and is in the process of self-diagnosing itself when it should really be asking for help. And in my sense, there are many things (we can do as) professional architects, professional in the truest sense of the word—I would recommend people look up that term for what it means. It doesn’t mean you are paid for what you do. A profession is a special type of practice. The more we understand that, the more we understand that the practice of architecture is not a right, but a privilege, the better off we are as practitioners. That aside, I think the profession could use (sigh)…there is a lot of things we could do with our talent that we allow ourselves to do. Either that is because of a certain amount of willful ignorance on our part, a refusal to situate ourselves in the world, or our desires to be an artist above all else whiles the rest of (society) is beneath the attainment of the perfect object. I don’t want to hazard a guess which one it is. It probably is a combination of all three and some others. But the result is, we don’t allow ourselves to do as much as we can possibly do with our skills, and that is unfortunate. One of the problems with that is we perpetuate the impression that architects are elitist and only work for a particular kind of client and who are only interested in a particular kind of thing, when in truth we have the ability to work with anyone, anywhere at any time. It’s unfortunate that we don’t do so.
Chao-Wei: That was a little different from what I was expecting.
Craig: From me? Okay. (chuckles)
Chao-Wei: Well, in comparison with anyone else in the profession. It’s not something that I’ve been hearing in today’s age when technology has become the dominant means in parts of the profession. (pause)
Chao-Wei: You’ve probably heard the phrase constantly in the profession that architecture is a service and an applied art. Based on your experiences, how would you define architecture?
Craig: How would I define architecture?
Chao-Wei: It’s a broad question.
Craig: There are as many definitions for architecture as there are many people who practice. It’s the same (subjectivity) for hip-hop, for jazz, and for artists. I don’t know if my definition works for anybody other than me. Having said that, I will tell you that the practice of architecture is a privilege—something that emanates from culture and society we live in. And it should be responsible towards preserving that privilege or group. I also believe that architecture is both a noun and a verb. I don’t believe that if you don’t produce an object, you haven’t produced architecture. I think that’s a real problem for most folks. Because we are an object-oriented culture, we feel the need to produce an object every time we intervene in the world. Sometimes the best thing to do is to produce nothing at all. We have a hard time defining architecture as a process and not an object, one that is respectful of people and place. I’ll just leave it at that.
Chao-Wei: Some architects value service, while others value the rationale behind form, function, and even the question of cultural identity. What do you value most in the field of architecture?
Craig: I’m not sure how to answer that. It’s not just one thing. What keeps me engaged is not so much the pursuit of the beautiful object. I love beautiful things and hope that everything that I produce can be described in such a manner. But that’s not why I produce. I don’t produce solely because I want something beautiful. I believe that architecture has the ability to change lives. I don’t know how many professions when every day you have the opportunity to do that. And I mean you can meet someone on the street and be influential in people’s lives, and obviously you can change the lives of your family and things of that nature. I’m not talking about that. Those are things you do regardless of what profession you are in. I’m not giving favoritism for this career choice. Not everyone can be an architect, not everyone can be a lawyer, and not everyone can be a doctor. Some people do other things for a variety of reasons. But I don’t know a bus driver changes people’s lives (in a deeper sense), unless they get someone late for an interview. It has the ability to make the world a better place, and there are not a whole lot of professions that can say that. It would be difficult for me to be involved in something where that is not an option. What sustains me is knowing that the work that I do has the possibility to live beyond me, to be useful to someone other than me, and the possibility of elevating or at the very least, enhancing the lives of others. It makes it a worthwhile endeavor for me and it may not work for others or (support the reason) why they are in the profession. That is fine. There are as many reasons to be in architecture as anything else. But for me, those are the things that I important, and those are the things I try to teach. I don’t require students to buy into that perspective, but I do require them to respect it.
Chao-Wei: Respect is something that needs to be earned.
Craig: That’s true. (chuckle)
Chao-Wei: Do you believe that our status as architects has risen or declined in the last decade?
Craig: I believe it has declined. I believe that it has been declining since the ‘60s. Well, let me be more specific. I need to make a distinction. I believe the profession of architecture in general—status, has remained (short pause)…I want to be clear about this. Architects have always been held in high status. And I’m not really sure if that has changed all that much from the public’s perception. But I think it has changed not for the better…the relevance of the architect has diminished greatly. People (the general public) don’t see architects as relevant to their daily lives. What’s even more damaging is that the allied professions, e.g. contractors and interior designers. They have to a certain degree of…
Chao-Wei: More ‘ammo’?
Craig: (laughs) Well yeah, why not. They’ve become more emboldened. There are a select few of star architects who command a high amount of respect, attention, authority, and status across the board. But I think in general if you pulled architects out of the mix—honest, hard-working, design-oriented architects, you’d recognize that they have been marginalized. Not just in the public realm, but also in the process of creating the building itself. Construction managers, contractors, are sometimes much more ‘sophisticated’ about what they want, what they do, and much more information is available to them than to rely on the architect’s (diminished) expertise. We need to recognize the game has changed and begin to gather in expertise in areas that we, perhaps haven’t before.
Chao-Wei: What type of message would you give to encourage or motivate young professionals?
Craig: I think that if I need to encourage or motivate students in architecture then they shouldn’t be in architecture. I think one should be self-motivated and that motivation shouldn’t be coming from any other place other than oneself. A student should be here (architecture school) because he or she wants to be here and more importantly, the student should believe that this is the place for change. In this case, I would talk some students down…
Chao-Wei: Ouch (laughs).
Craig: …and not try to build them up. Here’s the thing, there are no architecture solutions per se because there are no architecture problems per se. Architecture is mostly tied to something else. There’s only so much you can do to with architecture. You can do a lot, but you can’t do everything. My advice would be to recognize the fact that there is only so much you can do with the practice. Definitely push the boundaries, but a building can only do so much. If one is comfortable with that, you might have a productive career in architecture. If you’re somewhat uncomfortable with that, I think you’ll have a long and great career. If you refuse that inevitability, I think you would be frustrated for the rest of your life.
Chao-Wei: Last question…
Craig: Oh, you lie.
Chao-Wei: (laugh) On a high note, who’s your favorite music artist? That’s more of a pun.
Craig: I can’t think of a favorite at the moment. But I will say this though. I find certain artists I can listen to no matter what mood I’m in and where I’m at, and I’m ok with that. Now there are some I would like to hear from others if I’m in either in a dance mood or mellow mood, but these I can listen to and be very happy. One is Gorges Arigon (spelling?), a Brazilian singer. Another is Thievery Corporation, they are absolutely stunning. Another is Miles Davis. I can listen to him on any day of the week and I’ll be a very happy man. I’m going to name a group that you have no conception of…
Chao-Wei: Before my years…
Craig: Definitely before your years. They were a marginalized group, but they were hot, Con Funk Shun—out of the Bay Area, out of San Francisco and Oakland. They are an underrated group from the late ‘70s and ‘80s. If you ask me tomorrow I might give you some others. My musical taste is very broad and eclectic.
Chao-Wei: Thank you Craig for your time. It’s been a great experience hearing from you. (shakes hands)

Image above by the University of Michigan A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

"City is not a fork!"


quote by EOM

by Sepa Sama

It is 7:00 pm sharp, Sci-arc gallery, once again another installation, another hard talk, once again tiered faces in demanding profession, on my left some fashion experts are seating, and they ask me; who is this guy? I reply; he is Eric Own Moss, the director EOM: Is this a big piece of fashion or small piece of architecture?
Somehow the question is so direct, as If there is no chance for multidisciplinary work.
Elena Manferdini explains the elaborate methods to build this piece or pieces, she points at something that fascinated me, she explains how the Die-cut was a very ancient method and how the laser-cut was a contemporary technology, and in order for her to achieve this piece in budget, she needed to use both techniques; as the Die-cut resembles the stamp, once they arrange the cutting edges, they could repeat the same cuts, but in the case of laser cut there is a longer machinery preparations and more costs…
I immediately think to myself; what set of skills should I have to be able to invent as an architect? And what is really an invention in architecture? When I think about the Mosques I have encountered with, the invention is never in the piece, the piece is always the simplest element as bricks, the invention is always in the tectonics or assembly or the hidden logics that the definition of the piece will no longer come close to its existence, as the whole dominates the space.
EOM: OK you are talking about techniques, but what I see is that; this thing is hanging of some wires…
Moss insists on the fact that; this is decoration due to the feature that, this is hanging from wires and the shape of the gallery as the box and the hanging wires that hold the pieces decide the whole, everything is just an additive decorative piece.
Manferdini: you always have hierarchy of structural elements, you can not immediately reach the goal with one set of materials, plus the budget was very limited and I needed to use plastic, I could have used steel and the wires were not needed, and this is the new aesthetics!
I think that the genius of the work is limited to the piece alone, which there are 4 types of them, but what Moss is not buying is the easy tectonics of it, that is simply hanging from bunch of wires, that decide the overall shape, I think to myself in the case of Muqarnas, the overall shape is the exact difference of the box and the dome, and for the Muqarnas to be Muqarnas, there is no negotiation of the boundaries, all the complexity happens within the defined area, and different systems merge together without the observer being able to distinguish the logics discretely.
Me being her student and having designed a stadium, there is an issue of promise in her work, a promise of architecture, but the thing is not secured as architecture as Moss insists, this is what I did in her studio around 2 years ago:
With this work I always imagined; if this was going to be built, we will be in a Ducati condition, meaning that we had series of serious trusses and the more fluid skin frozen in a plastic state will hang from the structure;
After a rigid conversation Moss somehow concludes that; this is a big piece of fashion, the argument goes around the same topic and they both seem to resist each other, unfortunately the fashion experts left without showing any interest in the discussion.
Sepa: Can we compare this to Muqarnas? In a simple analogy, in a Mosque; we have a box and a dome and the transition in between; that gives birth to a sophisticated geometry as Muqarnas, and in this piece we have complexity and somehow geometric complexity finds its scale and place in architecture?
Elena Manferdini, rejects to answer, I had asked her before personally that would she find any connection to Islamic architecture in her work? And she had told me NONE, which I accept, but this question was meant to be in her favor, somehow I feel the Parthenon as an architectural geopolitical barrier again….
Moss starts to answer, he seems to be in the favor of the question, but I am not sure if he answered my question,
He talked about Islam and the form of the Mosque that was constant, and he seemed to make a very strong connection between the form and the culture and how it was missing in the installation and then he talked about how fashion and architecture can not be allies, because of the permanent characteristics of architecture…
Somehow the freedom of discourse of architecture from the culture was the topic that Moss made me think; as if in our profession, the limitation of culture is temporally released and we have created the architecture of its own culture, its own aesthetics, its own audience, its own publication, its own budget!
Sepa: What is the Eisenman-Lynn Transition? If the transition has happened! In another words; how the knowledge and skills of architect has changed?
Moss pauses, and then he laughs, he remembers me from the last lecture, I feel that my question has some content to it, it is really my question; as what is going to be my knowledge, as my friends posses sophisticated CNC skills and I don’t….
EOM: Greg and Peter are both my friends, At least Greg invented something! I know that Peter can seat in a bar in Berlin with a pencil and he does not need anything else….
That seemed interesting to me, I like to see an architect as a person that thinks, rather than a person that invents like a Ducati builder, because I tend to understand the huge promise of architecture as product or architecture as Ducati, and the freedom of forms and tectonics and performance and many other promises, but conceptually we are limiting ourselves to set of techniques and what happened to the simple architecture and simple methods and strong concepts? like in case of the Berlin Memorial, There is no need for the sophisticated technology to address the monument, I am not against techniques or invention or new methods, but I think what I understand is the inherent strength of architecture is outside of the techniques and it can conceptualize itself through set of techniques, but the bigger idea must be there, other wise we become Ducati architects, which I am not interested in.
On the other hand side these Ducati like industries are so called vertical industries and they have a very different mode of liabilities and divisions of responsibilities that make the invention easier for them in a more totalitarian way, and the invention is limited to the brand itself.
I don’t know what Lynn has invented and Moss does not make any specifications, a modular piece? But one thing was clear; that Eisenman could be traced with his definite specific unique ahuhhh decisions and Lynn seemed to argue to consume series of machine logics and computer logics and design skill logics, which brings me to the discussion of Hume and Architectural geopolitical generational wars.
Few weeks earlier a Dynasty had invited Manuel Delanda to lecture at Sci-arc, it was very similar to last year’s, but according to my memory; he discussed some new character, which was Hume and he discussed him in a very long time, and he talked about the skill, he talked about how the knowledge is unique only to the person that knows how, he brought the example of someone who knows how to ride a bicycle, that knowledge is unique to him, as Moss was directly looking at Delanda, the Dynasty was directly looking at Moss and that was the time I felt, I don’t belong here and I left, I hope my assumption was incorrect but I smelled generational wars. To be or not to be: …
But later, that event kept me thinking and somehow, I realized or I made assumptions based on; to be or not to be, the cycle of generations, to be does not necessarily means continuation, If you continue some entity older than you or in a different geopolitical region with more history, that means, you are always inferior, to be a new or to stand up, you must invent, or discontinue, to discontinue, you need to construct a barrier, a geopolitical barrier, or the HumeSkilloKnowledgeotechnological barrier, but you make it if the result is not a promise or how long the promise can be continued?
Manferdini: the methodologies of different disciplines have become the same and therefore; designers can have a wide range of works.
EOM: …city is not a fork!
We all laughed, he is the master surgeon that dissected the independency of skill and knowledge, as Manferdini was going for inherent knowledge of the technique in her work which can not be incorrect, but there is a generational tension and difference.
EOM: I appreciate all the work, and thank you all for coming.
Now is my turn to make an object, I will pick a plain coin, on one side, I carve; to be or not to be is not my dilemma by Rumi and I carve it with a Zen like degree of attentiveness,
On the other side I laser-cut; to be or not to be: that is the question by Shakespeare with a machine like degree of precision,
I project the coin toward the lost clouds, and its rotations define the third routine, similar to the Muqarnas that no longer remembers the box or the dome.

Hamlet by Shakespeare, p.146
Rumi, whispers of the beloved translated by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin, p.48
Tracing Eisenman, edited by Cynthia Davidson, p.290
David Hume, A treatise of human nature, edited by David Fate Norton and Mary Norton
Ducati image, www.ducati.com
The rest is based on the student’s notes, questions and thoughts during the series of
Sci-arc installations, reviews and lectures in the spring of 2008. www.sciarc.edu

“Punch- hole building”, the new vertical courtyard?

by Guillermina Chiu

In an endeavor to challenge the building typology that is simply analyzed in floor plan within the discourse of architecture, this essay attempts to show how the “courtyard typology” has gradually morphed into a vertical scenario, keeping the underlying principle that different forms can belong to the same type, but be constructed dissimilar, reinforcing conventional architectural features in denser urban scales.
Throughout the discourse of architecture the word typology has had different connotation and meaning according to location, density and quality.
Antoine-Chrysostome Quatremère de Quincy, professor of archaeology at the Bibliothèque Nationale (1818) gives a precise definition of “type” in his historical Dictionnaire d'Architecture: “The idea of an element which should itself serve as a model”.

Rafael Moneo considers typology as the inherent, structural and formal order that allows architectural objects to be grouped together, distinguished and repeated. Similar to him, Leon Krier thinks of it as a precise analytical tool for architecture and urban form, which also provides a rational basis for design. On the other hand Aldo Rossi sees it as a repetitive technique of production (closer
to Boulee and Ledoux ideas on the value of the place).

Abbe Laugier believed that the natural basis of design was to be found in the primitive hut; while Le Corbusier believed that the model of architectural design should be founded in the production process itself.

For Giulio Carlo Argan’s, typology is a historically-derived “formal” consensus, found by “comparing and superimposing”. It is an architectural “average” that should be distinguished from an archetype (an ideal form from which one is not allowed to deviate) A type has made possible the rehabilitation of historical meaning in a way flexible enough to allow for those meanings to change when circumstances dictated.

Typology is not just a classifying or statistical process, historical, social and economical factors generate or eradicate them over time, but in the end, the discourse always returns to the problem of form. Today the idea of the third typology raises the question of a city as an operation type, based as well on reason and classification as the guiding principles.

A courtyard is a type of building; like I mentioned a type only analyzed in floor plan. It is an enclosed space that is open to the sky. The earliest courtyards were built in 3000 B.C. in Iran and China. Historically, they have been used for cooking, sleeping, trading, working, playing, gardening, and even keeping animals. Different formal and spatial qualities make them the ideal image of the suburban landscape: A courtyard is a freestanding construction with a permanent landscaped park that offers opportunity for social interaction.

The problem of the courtyard has been dealt by many architects. Perhaps the most famous approach is Peter Eisenman’s figure-ground argument. The relationship of the ground is divided in external and internal. For Eisenman, Bramante lacked of figure ground relationship. For instance, If we take a Nolli map of Rome, Eisenman would address the problem by arguing that the public open space (white) is to be considered as the presence, and the private in black is to be considered as the absence or the partial figure, because it is in the “not present present” (the partial figure or the absence) that affective conditions are created. Perhaps Jaffrey Kipnis would address the same problem as the absence being the site and the presence as being the ground; but ultimately the courtyard diagram is one that has both political and cultural context.

If we take the problem of the courtyard, and analyze it as if it was a section instead of a floor plan; we could argue that the diagram has what Kipnis would call a “new authenticity”, for the diagram to work; it needs a degree of literalness and idiocy. The literalness is given by the obvious analogy between architecture and iconography; the idiocy is given by translating the floor plan diagram into a sectional one.

The “punch- hole building” vertical courtyard possesses the ideal image of the urban landscape; the perfect public isolated landscaped view. A vertical courtyard configuration that offers the opportunity of social hierarchy without mixed interaction. Perhaps population density is the most important factor for the “new vertical courtyards” to be born. Whether or not a symbolic context exists before the creation of this type? Is not to be discussed...

Architecture "is" vs Architecture "becomes"

by Guillermina Chiu
These are my ideas , a response to a set of cultural , social and economical circumstances driving architecture in the construction of my mind.
Architecture is part of society , a nexus of human activity driven by personal politics ; often times, a social experiment which leads the subjects to a set of deliberate choices, choices we as architects make , how far are we willing to make people go ?
I’m interested in what architecture can “become”, not in what architecture “is”; although it seems that architecture “becomes” because “it is”, the “is of architecture” refers to permanent, timeless and unchangeable concepts, opposed to “becoming”. I find the idea of Architecture very different from the experience of Architecture, and I wonder what lies behind the paradox of all t he thinkers in Architecture and their work (i.e. Nouvel, Rotondi, Eisenman, Lyyn).

If Architecture is a morphing creature indeed, it can only “be” if it “becomes” it can only survive if it changes. Eric Owen Moss says in “Who says what Architecture is?” that for Sciarc, there is no surprise; it has no permanent friends or enemies in poetry, time or space.
In “To have or to be” (pp.21) Eric Fromm states the philosophical concepts of “being”. For the “scholastic realists” makes sense only in the idealistic conception that a thought is the ultimate truth , therefore and idea is more real than an experience. Can Architecture jeopardize experience ?

I would like Architecture to “become” a subject in which no one but Architecture would be the spectacle, a place in which space is the subject to be discussed, it could be anywhere: desert, sea, wasteland, wilderness, city, suburbia, virtual land…in the realm of imagination. “A drawing limits as much as it opens possibilities” (Edward Robbins)
from “Fame and the Changing role of a drawing” by Jon Goodbun and Katherin Jaschke (pp 51).