Posts Tagged ‘ architectural theory ’

Finding the future

This is the final version of the movie, with sound added by the extremely lovely and talented sound artist Chantal Janvier. The narrative is simple, what I am interrogating is a new position in architecture, one that would be described by meta-modernism, an dialog and oscillation between modernism and post-modernism, a tension between utopia and dystopia, between the past and the future. We cannot make the mistake of building a future that would completely destroy a past, the modernists did it, and the urban context is in a state of continuous deterioration, specially for countries that are in development now.

If we use Bucharest as a case study, we will observe how the communist regime practically butchered the capital under the pretext of modernization but with the only goal of imposing authority through monumental megalomaniac architecture. The tabula rasa approach was forced on the homogenous urban fabric of the city creating large voids which are impractical for any human activity, it was called the New Civic Center, and but there was nothing civic about it.dadada

This is the middle of nowhere in the core of the capital.


The voids served two roles: to serve as collective housing for the communist elite thus being a symbol of authoritarian power and to set the scene for the grotesquely large People`s Palace, which is the second largest building on earth after the Pentagon. The quality of architecture is questionable, but the impact on urban life in Bucharest is dramatic. The voids hinder any type of dynamism or identity or Balzacian drama (as Colin Rowe puts it) within the city, they create placelessness and fragmentation of the city, and the most dramatic thing about it is that it was carved right in the heart of Bucharest, splitting the city into 2 halves.22222

As Rem Koolhaas observes in his essay Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture on the case study of postwar Berlin, that as soon as a city is divided into 2 halves, there will always be a good half, and a bad half, thus splitting the population by their social status. Bucharest went through the same thing, while the New Civic Center was being constructed, entire communities were uprooted and relocated and Bucharest was split into the rich and enterprising north half and the poor and disenfranchised south half. Population is split more or less evenly but the the office, retail, cultural, religious and services facilities are roughly 80% in the North side of the New Civic Center. large_palatul-parlamentului_54

This massacre was done under the consent of  modernism with the sole goal of imposing the regimes authority on the people, with complete and utter disregard to history, culture and tradition, this cannot happen again, transforming the boulevard in a symbol of power and the public square into a space of intimidation. A multifaceted dialog must be employed when dealing with an urban context, in contrast with the ignorant, naive and tautological solution of the tabula rasa . The post-communist period of privatization in Bucharest did little to change the course of the butchery, with hardly any public projects, the new star in the scene is the office building which is as ignorant to the human condition as the People`s Palace is an insult to the people. PP_1romanianparliament1

There can be change, if we seek the future in the past, the enthusiasm of modernism is still lingering, and the reserved pragmatism of post-modernism keeps things in scale, while a return to neo-romanticism might carve the way forward, tension and dialog are the key factors, the way to get the best of both modernisms. The tension between two opposing poles like the past and the future, unity and multiplicity, temporal and atemporal, purity and corruption, order and chaos will infuse “the common place with significance, the ordinary with mystery, the familiar with the sense of the unfamiliar and the finite with the semblance of the infinite”-Novalis.


The first exhibition

It was a success, although the crowd was a bit underwhelming, I was extremely impressed about how everyone pulled through, I was very lucky in having dedicated and ambitious teammates so that we could deliver the center piece of the exhibition (in my humble opinion). Now let me divulge some secrets about Percy, we chose bones as a element for him because we wanted him to be a critique towards the sites we were given, New York and Liverpool, cities which both thrived on the slave trade, and were at a time two of the biggest slave trade centers of the world. The two sites are set in the docks so the correlation is even more obvious with the idea that Percy would illustrate how both cities were built on the bones of the slaves, and that fact was slowly overwritten, to the point of people not being aware of it anymore. A friend said he could name 10 streets in Liverpool named after slave traders/owners, but being embedded so deep in routine and normality, people eventually forget the atrocities committed in for the comfort of others. The architectural device we created through Percy will help develop buildings that will be strongly correlated with the past of the two sites and will make people aware of it. Some might say that what is history it is already written and nothing can be changed, but keeping a close eye on it will prevent it from repeating itself. There are a lot of mistakes that humanity made along it`s history, and most of them should never happen again. Architects should enforce this idea through the statements of their architecture, people can be made aware of the past through subtlety as well, not only history books, tangential learning could be a key element in making a whole demographic aware of a real problem that could be affecting them without even knowing. But I`ll leave that rant for some other time in the meanwhile enjoy the exhibition, there are photos of us setting it up, and of the final look of it.

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Whys is Utopia fundamentally relevant to understand today

So I`ve refined the ideas I got from the decline and fall of utopia from Collage City by Colin Rowe, The Arcades project by Walter Benjamin, and Of islands and trenches by Frederich Jameson in a more civilized way than my previous rant which was full of assumptions and lacked cohesion. I`ll continue my quest in reading, next stop will be meta-modernism, but I`ll be posting more visuals/work in the meanwhile.


In the text by Frederich Jameson it is referred to Levi Strauss` interpretation of the myth, which he considers a device for mediation. A circumstance that cannot be solved in the current sociopolitical context of the society is discussed or speculated upon through a myth. Which eventually leads to the myth of the Utopian context which is represented through a series of fiction texts that attempted to create a perfect Utopian world. What I found most interesting is that they all failed, even in fictional literature, the authors had to come to compromises or deux ex machina devices to solve the complications that would arise within the dense system of what utopia actually is. Some of the fundamental rules would be that money is no longer a thing and there is no such thing as crime, which sound ludicrous if we would apply them to our own society. And yet this dream/myth was pursued with great energies by the modernists, and failed to deliver it. But it’s not my belief it was a complete disaster or a complete travesty of their concept, but that some of it should be salvaged along with what was not flamboyant irony in post-modernism. The pursuit of this myth of utopia cannot be followed through blindly, as it was by the modernists because it produces the anomalies of places like Dubai, which in my opinion are similar growths to that of cancer within a body, places like Beijing where the air is un-breathable, and places like Kowloon city which although they might look like hell on earth it might actually be closer to an utopia than we might think at first glance. Dubai can perfectly replace the Arcades of Benjamin in an absolute exaggeration which he could not even imagine. It is the extreme place for flanerie, through its unreasonableness. The urban context presented by Dubai is so extremely artificial it can no longer identify itself with any culture, but that of the capitalist extreme consumer. When it came into being, there were no sanitation systems in place, people just threw their garbage outside their homes, until it stacked up in mountains. The only reason that happened was because of the stigma of even owning the garbage business. People were so convicted by their own arrogance that they preferred to live among mountains of salubrious waste rather than receive than to go as low as to clean after themselves. Eventually a French company took over, with only French personnel and equipment. In Dubai people become commodities, the privilege of living there is quantified by the idea that other people see you. Dubai in the grand arcade of the world would be the most expensive shop that instead of displaying merchandise, it displays naked people, naked of their culture and identity. The rest of the world observes them, and fails to see the devaluation of the human condition that Walter Benjamin saw almost 80 years ago. The phantasmagorical spectacle is absolute. But culture is so deformed there that the concept of utopia defeated itself, and instead of becoming a city of mind, it became a city of blissful ignorance, a capitalistic heaven for the blind.

I think the Walter Benjamin text completes the one of Collin Rowe, because in the end it seems that the first chapter of Collage city falls flat, with little conclusions while it Benjamin`s text appears to be a lot more relevant towards our day and age although it was written a whopping 40 years before. Benjamin could foresee the cult of the commodity which is reigning today along with the travesty of cultural values, maybe in effect to Adorno`s influence, but he did so without even witnessing the downfall of modernism during the second world war, where the leaders of totalitarian countries realized that it is not feasible to maintain a level of culture that would only serve high society, thus replacing authentic art with kitsch and serving it to the masses, as presented by Greenberg in Art and Culture. Best example is Mussolini. In 1972 John Berger talks in his show Ways of seeing about the false mystification and religiosity European art gained to compensate for what it lost when it became reproducible. The methods of reproduction worked in retrospective, turning art that was painted centuries ago into commodities that can be manipulated for any purposes. Because of that people have the misconception that they should feel in awe while standing in front of an work of art, because of its originality and its survival across the ages, which is partially true, but what the vast majority tends to forget that most European art should be viewed as a window towards the time it was painted.

Maybe the modernists failed to deliver the utopia because they never took it further, it remained based on Hegels organization of the world which is based on the Platonic conception of 2 worlds. Hegels states that there is a natural material universe and a historical spiritual one, both guided by Providence, which means a divine, therefore rational creation is still in progress. But providence should not be mistaken with God in this context, because I believe it was referring to humanity. And under this paradigm, the modernist architect took place of Providence in order to create the natural material universe( the utopia ), but in a selfish vision. Maybe If more modern philosophy would had been employed such as Nietzsche`s perspectivism, the modernists could have conserved much more of the traditional culture they were destroying in their race for utopia, while also delivering a better result, and by that I don`t mean utopia, but an at least more ameliorated version of the cultural hazard of today. Did the idea of Utopia ever change after the 20s? It actually never changed since the platonic version of it, the modernists added some depth to it and used it as a façade to butcher the traditional city, there is no difference in what Haussmann did to Paris in order to secure the city against civil wall by making barricading impossible, to what Corbusier did with Plain Voisin. Utopia did change in literature but it was a completely fictitious pursuit of perfection, but Xenokis did attack Frank Lloyd Wright and LeCorbusier altogether when he says: “The problems of urban concentration are not going to be solved by the vigorous pencil slashes of decentralization on the map, nor by advocating the dispersal of the living complexity of Paris into smaller centers which will simply reduplicate its inconvenience, but rather” adds Frederich Jameson, “by energetic attention to the general problem of communication, of exchange and information in urban agglomeration.”

The exchanged of information became instant but that only led to mass propaganda, led to a sedated society completely under capitalist control. The phantasmagorical spectacle that is a central point of the arcades project became the central point of modern life. One must be highly cynical and well versed in the arts to be able to defend himself from the unstoppable torrent of kitsch and propaganda that is attacking us from every angle, Tv, internet, magazines, smartphones etc.

Truths become more absolute than ever, the pseudo-demystification of existence is achieved at the cost of the loss of perspective, people start relying less and less on their own wits and more on what is dictated by the media. If our fathers asked themselves why do they need to read and understand whole libraries under the argument that the information is there anyway in case they needed it, our generation asks itself if there is anything to learn about when Google has the answer to anything, and if it`s not there it probably does not exist.

There are no absolute truths, even time is relative with that idea, unless we believe in them absolutely.

Thesis idea: Utopia-is this what the myth of modernism looks like(Ted talk by Mikko Hypponen: How the NSA betrayed the world’s trust)

I was currently studying a text by Frederic Jameson called “Of islands and trenches: Naturalization and product of utopian discourse”, for my History and Theory course. This is a text which analyses other texts which speculate on utopia, it references a huge amount of literature, most of it fiction along with philosophy and theory. The more I read of it the more I started questioning its relevance, in this day and age. I didn`t understand why is it important to analyze speculations on Utopias seen through the spectrum of Sci-fi writers or similar fantastic set-up. So I`ve done some digging, I`ve spoken with my tutor who has read some stuff here and there, by which I mean an amount that I cannot currently even try to have the arrogance to admit that I would be able to comprehend, and also I`ve found this interesting video that just popped up. So I started thinking upon the information I had and ended up considering that it is fundamentally relevant to discuss the concept of Utopia.

In the text it is referred to Levi Strauss` interpretation of the myth, which he considers a device for mediation. A circumstance that cannot be solved in the current sociopolitical context of the society is discussed or speculated upon through a myth. Which leads to eventually the myth of the Utopian context which is represented through a series of fiction texts that attempted to create a perfect Utopian world. What I found most interesting is that they all failed, even in fictional literature, the authors had to come to compromises or deux ex machina devices to solve the complications that would arise within the dense system of what utopia actually is. Some of the fundamental rules would be that money is no longer a thing and there is no such thing as crime, which sound ludicrous if we would apply them to our own society. And yet this dream/myth was pursued with great energies by the modernists, and failed to deliver it. But it’s not my belief it was a complete disaster or a complete travesty of their concept, but that some of it should be salvaged along with what was not flamboyant irony in post-modernism. The pursuit of this myth of utopia cannot be pursued blindly, as it was by the modernists because it produces the anomalies of places like Dubai, which in my opinion are similar growths to that of cancer within a body, places like Beijing where the air is un-breathable, and places like Kowloon city which although they might look like hell on earth it might actually be closer to an utopia than we might think at first glance.

And I started asking myself, why did they not deliver? Why did the great minds of the modernists fail in their crusade for the gates of Utopia. I believe it`s because their hands were tied. They could not act fast enough, or react accordingly with the world which grew so fast it overwhelmed them. The ever-growing capitalist machine did not care for the utopia, it wanted things to happen fast, and used the overrated axiom of Less is More just to validate their impending needs. The modernists were not blind to this and realized that their influence is shockingly limited, and what could not be achieved in the real world was attempted to be achieved on paper. And I think this was a complete fetishism on their part because they didn`t had the power to act. Eventually some of the so-called utopias were build and failed exceptionally fast. I think what was fundamentally wrong in LeCorbusier`s approach to it for instance was the all but complete use of tabula rasa. The massacre of Marseille for instance he would wipe completely a part of Paris, he would decide what is relevant to keep as an artifact of the former civilization and to rebuild everything in his own vision of what Utopia should be.

Is this approach a correct one or a fair one? Doesn`t this sound like how corporate-towns pop up in the middle of the desert in the proximity of oil. Is this not a complete disregard of cultural identity, of regional tradition and an insult to the French people? (Or maybe not, the French never knew what they wanted.) The problems of the traditional city are obvious, Collin Rowe explains that quite eloquently in Collage city, but what are we willing to sacrifice for utopia? Our identities? Our character? Our pride? And as the link above states, our privacy? Utopia means a complete lack of the organic, of actually what makes us human, living as a lobotomized zombie, although that`s what any corporate would want for most of us, it doesn`t really sound fun, now does it? And I feel that`s exactly what this type of international style artificial architecture is doing. The loss of cultural identity instills a sense of complacent`ness (there I go inventing words now) by default. Everything is the same and you could be from anywhere, although it creates a comfort zone, it limits your identity. Other newly formed states like America try to deliver its patriotism through a propaganda agenda with the gist of it in 3 words : the American dream, which has led eventually to be used for naive chauvinistic dialogues with foreigners.

But I`m not here to discuss American problems, and why isn`t Kafka ever brought up in these kind of discussions, his dense monstrous machinations work in all intents and purposes as utopian dystopias, funny right? why do I say that, and I am referring now to the castle mostly, because the system works perfectly, and although they seem to have internal conflicts, that is all just a facade because they only seem as conflicts in K.`s eyes, for everyone else it is just how things normally happen, should happen and will ever happen. Everything in that machine seemed to work to perfection until you add the human element to it, the protagonist, who cannot comprehend the space he is thrown within, and no matter how many layers he unfolds and how much more information he discovers, he cannot seem to integrate himself within the system, or to actually understand it. He cannot be part of it, he is fundamentally different and cannot comprehend the utopia. So how could we try to even speculate that we might be capable to comprehend it in real life, we can`t it is absurd. Is Marxism the key for utopia? Is an implosion of classes in the proletarian masses an answer? No it is an impossibility as well. (I`ll address that in the second draft of this essay, who knows when) I`ve recently read a funny little book I came across : Animal Farm, by George Orwell, which is basically the recent history of all post-communist countries. It is uncanny how accurate it is. Extreme communism is a failure as a doctrine, it must never be employed on anyone in my opinion. But a socialist approach might solve some of the social-economical crisis of the extreme lob-sided distribution of money to the populous.

Economy is catering for the elitist few, culture and art for the masses have all but been reduced to kitsch and pseudo-intellectualism, this is a process that began with the totalitarian regimes, which actually didn`t have much against post modern art (except for Hitler, but that didn`t stop Goebbels to have his little charades) argues Clement Greenberg, they found it to innocent to use in propaganda, but eventually realized that it is not feasible to sustain a culture that is understood by the privileged few, and decided to completely redirect culture towards the masses. The best example of it is Mussolini`s regime, who at first were promoting a futuristic mentality, showing that fascism is an progressive regime, and it is in tune with modernism, but when realizing that the masses could not understand or identify with the new current, he killed it with the extremely megalomaniac gesture of his monumentalist architectural program.

A lot of this is speculation on my part, but this is a thing that caught my interest, and I decided to write a thesis on it, (Because I can!), there is a lot of reading to do, I want to attack the Heideggerian position of Architecture, I want to clarify my own position as an individual in relation with the meta-modernist approach. I want to discuss what can be salvaged, and what is usable of modernism and post`modernism. This is a radical approach to architecture, that I am studying now, and might be the next step in all arts. This is an extremely vast subject to debate, I left a lot of ideas out, and all of them are incomplete at the moment, I don`t have a scope on this work yet but I`ll set it to maybe 100 000 words. But it will have to be done over the course of a year or two, who knows…Any comments at all, and especially criticism is highly appreciated. Any suggestions on reading material is welcomed as well, but the list is outrageously as it is 🙂 Thanks for reading.

New sky-scrapper concept for New York?

I have taken my speculation further into investigating the vertical rhythmic properties of the device I`m using (Percy). Enjoy!















Sohei Nishino

Interesting reinterpretation of the urban context. It grasps the chaotic growth of the metropolis in an uncanny, organic way, showing a side of the modern city that was never dealt with. The modernists promised us the ideal of the gestalt, but felt too short and crumbled under the heavy boot of capitalism, while their doctrine of form follows function became nothing more than an excuse to build boxes. And then came the glass boxes, stacked on top of the other, the gargantuan machines that maintain their interior metal bowels at the expense of the breathable air outside. It almost like there is no answer: this is the city center, there is nothing we can do about it, better build up, better build out of glass because it`s light weight, who knows how much temperature management would cost, but then again who cares, who cares about the traffic density`s impact or about how breathable the outside air is, because everyone spends all their time inside the glass box where the air is clean, arrive there through a means of mechanized transport, and besides outside is dangerous anyway. Interesting enough we happen to live in the 21st century, the age of information, things don`t have to be in the same place in order to happen. There are oceans of information on our finger tips, in less than a minute we can be anywhere on the globe. So the question is why is everything so centralized, maybe this is the normal evolutionary status of human activity. Just like nature tends to dissipate, to exhaust its energy in order to achieve equilibrium, we tend to conglomerate in our attraction towards being where its at, where stuff happens, to concentrate, gather,vibrate just like ants over a dead rat. How can anyone build a glass box with no windows and claim it was raised in the spirit of the gestalt, it seems to be very compelling to agree at first glance: it`s a glass box, its cohesive, its consistent and no part of it is better than the whole. But that is a very fetishistic, perverse and almost juvenile way to look at it, because the object does not exist in a pocked dimension that can be observed through a tiny keyhole that exists under the architects desk so you can properly bend over in front of the creator of such a magnificent masterpiece. Whats the glass box`s relationship with the surrounding buildings ? Whats its relationship with the people outside or inside for that matter? Is it critical about its surroundings? Is it a technological breakthrough in something else than stacking glass on top of steel? Is it complex and original work of art that is critical of itself? Does it have an poetic subtext only visible to the trained eye? Is it a satirical interpretation of the human condition???maybe?? NO! Then where is the architecture, where is the frozen music, where is the abstract or the erotic? Because I don`t see it, all I see is glass boxes that shatter fundamental concepts on how life should be lived.


These maps of famous cities by Sohei Nishino encapsulate the bustle of the metropolis in the modern world. Skewed and twisted, the irregularity and flexibility of city life is conveyed through the warped pieces of the cityscape.

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Nishino’s collage represent his experience of the cities he painstakingly combed through; photographing as many places as possible, from all angles he could chance upon. The work is not about creating a precise geographic recreation of a cityscape, but instead an emotive scale is applied to the imperfect mix of monuments and landmarks, to re-create the image of the city through his own lens and his own hands.

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Welcome, my friend, to the machine

What is in store for the future of Percy? Speculation, a lot of it. The next stages are to explore and exploit Percy’s formal and spatial qualities and distil them through various processes such as suprematist compositions, metamodernist photography, mapping, juxtaposing and reinterpretation etc.


So in many respects we created a machine, a factory to produce architectural form from the formal qualities of Percy, which will always relate back to the conceptual principles on which Percy was established as an entity, thus preventing us of falling in the trap of creating suprematist architecture from a mish-mash of randomized shapes which can be altered to suit the site.

Percy has become the device for a process that creates a vast and (probably infinite) amount of work that can be translated as architectural formal interpretation. These exercises are made in absence of any type or building brief, so in many respects it turns the usual creative process which everyone is used to on its head with the concept of function following form. But in fact that is not entirely true, although it is quite a perverse technique which many architects would consider too abstract or too radical to accept, Percy is providing us with a pseudo-infinite amount of possibilities that could be reinterpreted and re-iterated many more times to suit the function or the site conditions, without falling in the abysmal state of producing shape with no meaning, concept or intellectual background and ambition.

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The next step is setting up an art gallery in about 2 weeks which will present the study of the object of Percy. Some of our colleagues considered we were picking up where Warhol left with this factory type cult of the object artistic approach, which is true to some extent, but what we are creating at the moment is a process, a means to a means of designing architecture. So in many respects we are not celebrating the object, but the process or the transformation and the interpretation.

These are some renders done in high quality textures that I have created, next step is to tryout some more unconventional textures and see what results we get.

ggg topaaa bot  percy large

The compositions below are made by one of my teammates, really interesting pieces, though one fell off :).


peeeeercypussssShadow plans

And lastly some speculations made by me based on details from Percy, it is a rhythm and spatiality study based on altering different iterations of the same vector.

xXXx Print Print Print Print

These are the first techniques and the first drafts we produced, we are hoping to enlarge our spectrum of operations greatly in the following week by employing more complex processes and algorithms.

P.S. Percy will star in a movie, the trailer is not out yet : )