Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Comments from a post below... don't want them to get layered over.... 

"I really appreciate your work and find it one of the most provocative and inspiring. As i was reading your book and trying to get inside your 'world' more, i was curious about something : 'Do your machines work? or are they theoretical, urban insertions only talking about it? . 

Your words and drawings look fantastic and extraordinary to me anyway, the question is just my curiosity.




Thank you for your comments and kind words.
I’ll answer this stream of thought, to keep it in the flavor of the blog.

The short answer- yes and no.

Or to quote Bill Clinton, “It depends on what your definition of the word ‘is’ is”…

The longer version- it really depends on which specific project you are referring to, and as well [to reference the Clinton quote], what your definition of “work” happens to be.
Of course, this long version is incredibly stripped down in hopes that some will actually spend the time to read it. And yes, I am butchering the proper quotation usage. I prefer to use quotes in a conversation, not a manuscript. You can quote me on that.


I’ll address the second part first [addressing the first part first would be too logical and clear…].
Architecturally, I think working can reference program, function, performance, and behavior. Certain machines/projects work on a functional level, meaning they perform the mechanical task that each component was engineered to do. They work. They work like my lawnmower or coffee maker work.. they perform a specific chore. Certain other projects have working parts, which are mixed in with components or rather assemblies that do not work in the sense that they are supportive suggestions, built around or upon a working component.

Other projects work in the sense that they perform their designated architectural program. A bathroom works as a receptacle/refresh location… a gathering space works as a collective device… a ramp works as a vertical/horizontal translation system. They work. Additionally in this sense, drawings work as graphic suggestions of otherness, representation, suggestiveness, and deception. They work as well.  

I think performance is actually a better term that could be used to describe a hybridized layer of the “working” with the “only talking about it”. One might perform a drawing [I certainly do], and the drawing may perform other tasks of communication. The “buildings” [I use the term loosely, as I will get into trouble with my own intended use of that concept] perform both a mechanical and architectural function, but additionally the function of ”talking about” larger architectural issues. They work as agents of change, discourse, and action. Of course, the term “architectural issues” in its own right open that wormcan in ways that I will not discuss here. But you get the picture. I like your term “theoretical urban insertions”. To open up the old debate, unless a “building” is constructed… they are ALL “theoretical… no?

But make no mistake, regardless of functionality, all the work is intended to talk about architecture. We once lectured at the Tulane School of Architecture, many moons ago, when Reed Kroloff was Dean . The local AIA was invited to the event [or were they perhaps even a co sponsor]. I remember an AIA person asking, at the end of the lecture, something along the lines [drawing] of “You reference your work… the work… what exactly are you referring to when you say ‘the work’?”. To be honest, part of me still does not understand the scope of that question…. Looking at it literally as a collective body of … stuff… or the collected work of an author… things produced.

But your question recalls a similarity of focus and understanding of the devices we use to communicate ideas… both words in that case… or my work in this case… drawings here… buildings there… models in-between?

I suppose there is also the condition of the collective body, probably more specific the drawings, of task inversion… of that the projects are working us a readers, occupants, observers, interact-ers, and users. In that sense, we become the field of operation. We become part of the machine… we work together to achieve an output of some type that is greater than either the work or the observer before the level of interaction. I won’t go into the history or philosophy of art and it’s relation to the user [mainly because that is not my expertise], but hopefully you can see where this might go.


So, the first part- specific projects. I suppose the easy thing to do would be to graph this out and tell you which projects fall into which categories, but that’s no fun at all. And, I feel that, on some levels, it doesn’t really matter, not trying to be obtuse. Perhaps there is a filter of convention that might be placed over the entire collection [in the book anyway], which helps the reader to discern which projects are “mechanically functional” versus which projects “implant a discourse about machines, architecture, and performance”. I am purposefully avoiding any historical architectural references here… you can fill in the blanks as needed. Let’s just say, that for the projects in the book, convention might be the container of mechanical functionality… and as one moves from convention of forms- recognizable architectural artifacts [stairs, ramps, elevators, guide rails, articulators, screens, festoons, handrails, etc.]- one might move away from the mechanical crispness  to which you refer in your question.

I hope that helps. The question is a good one… and make me pause to give thought to the level of effectiveness of communication that we achieved in the book, and more importantly to the level and type of communication that I hope to achieve in a second book p[should anyone be interested]. Yes, I am working potential publishers/sponsors to help generate more of this madness.

All right, that’s enough of this... time to go back to work.

1 comment:

Arcsick Ocean said...

In a late reply to your comment and re-post ( for reasons of delay and not avoidance):

I am a fan of your methods and discussions on architecture, and as your book shows you seek to resolve these matters of performance of/in architecture.

However, following your satisfying answer, i think the point of the discussion becomes the notion of this performance, retaining a cultural dimension. Architecture as performance feeds on the historical point where performance art in the 70's awaken the context and the matter of action. This 'movement' became a social expression, due to its intended ignorance to the creation of an aesthetic object.
Regarding architecture as a more critical and maybe more political field, its performative scope must fill in a critical role and even self-judging work.
And due to architecture's collaboration or mixture with the arts, there is often a tendency to combine an artistic mondus operandi with a sense of social intervention.

To an important part of your work, technology comes to match, formally and functionally, seeming to me that you are questioning where architecture of tomorrow might be. To quote Peter Kahn : ‘In terms of the future well-being of our species, does it matter that we are replacing actual nature with technological nature?’.
And that is to me what pushes this kind of architecture to the limits of a 'rhetorical criticism' [ In short, seeking to understand how 'symbols' act on people.]
To an extend that we might understand architecture relationships as a whole, a language that describes situations, circumstances and not only facts, then this criticism plays the same role that hypertext used against narrative. The first one, clearly of technological nature, produces and shifts rather than becoming status itself, it is not 'serial thought', as Umberto Eco would mention, 'aiming at the production of history and not rediscovery.' Since it's structural rather than serial, it can be a method of researching and creating data about processes.

To give this text a meaning, there might be two cases of performance related to architecture: performance of architecture and performance in architecture.
When architecture acts and becomes 'body' in the context, then it is probably able to relate closely to a machine and a process itself,to function and consume, without receiving from the outer environments. Though with performance in architecture, the element (of architecture, either built or theorized ) is the system that interacts and depends on another form of bodily experience; it cannot exist itself.
So can architecture develop as a medium of political and social aspects or can it evolve by itself in a new kind of 'nature' (materiality, performance, e.g. technological nature) ?