Architectural Ficciones III – Manhattan Christmas 2235

I – Blue Skies in Bad Weather

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking.. you talking to me? Well, I’m the only one here…”

Schism/interrupt, “What the fuck are you doing?” “Phishing…” “Funny. We have a situation.” “I understand.” “Do you? ‘Cause I don’t think you do.”

Ya, some hacker thought it would be funny to switch the annual ‘Holiday Cheer’ ambiance of Macy’s Square to ‘Arizona Summer.’ Now, a bunch of Black Friday freaks are bitching at the precinct for a beheading. I understand, just don’t care much.

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Architectural Ficciones II – Moscow

I – Xerox/Fax

You close your eyes in New York, and open them in Moscow. The waiting chamber is a pastiche of contemporary kitsch, with grace-notes of pretention. You wash and dress in a small boudoir with ample mirrors, maybe touch your face, run your hands through your hair, piss. After half an hour, a small light turns from red to green. The door opens – at it a smiling customs agent.

The agent seems more a lingering formality than anything else – the residue of antiquated bureaucratic procedures, an ambassador of empty ritual. Like all agents, mine is defined by a certain circularity. Round-faced, round-bellied, even his speech evinces an Ouroborian aura, not entirely out of place considering everything has already been downloaded in the transfer protocols. Redundant, but not entirely unnecessary.

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Architectural Ficciones I – Beijing

I – The Warehouse

Geming Tang sits smoking Double Happiness, wearing only an open Zhongshan jacket, silk boxers, tea shades and a pair of 1957 low-cut oxford All Stars. All priceless, all real connoisseur’s collectables. He opens a vintage 1989 bottle of Coca Cola, pours it into a Gong-Fu teapot and parcels it out to his guests, following ceremonial protocols.

“You can’t beat the real thing,” he says, smiling.

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Mixing Politics with (dis)Pleasure: Patrick Geddes, Architecture, Evolution and the New Right

The American right’s current infatuation with the writings of Ayn Rand raises, once again, the Medusa’s head of Malthusian “social Darwinism.”  Rand’s writings themselves are an odd conflation of Emersonian self-determination and social-Darwinist “principles” (if they can be considered such), that negate the inherent populism of American transcendentalism, and tellingly avoid the shaky sociological appropriation of Darwinian evolution evinced in Malthus’s work.  The latter not only bears traces of a nascent eugenic philosophy of inherent racial and class-based superiority (similar to the Nazi interpretation of eugenics), but also pervert’s both Darwin’s findings and the traditional interpretation of free-market capitalism, as expressed in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.  To compound her intellectual intransigence, Rand also provided one of the more malignant models of the architect-as-misunderstood genius that the world has yet endured; a prototype unfortunately appropriated by many architects whose works and ideas neither reflect nor embody either good architecture or genius – more often than not resulting in an almost comedic transposition of self-important mediocrity.

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Morphogenetic Metaphors in Architecture – The Quixotic Contributions of Conrad Waddington

For historians and theorists interested in the intersection of biology and architecture, the work of the British developmental embryologist Conrad Waddington is the physical equivalent of a black hole; important, yet allusive – better known through its affects, than from direct observation.  His name appears, here and there, now and then, mentioned, for example in Mark Wigley’s now iconic Network Fever, without much of an explanation as to why it appears at all.  It’s inclusion retains an aura of mystery, mired in a sort of off-handed acknowledgement of his implied importance to mid-century architectural discourse; but rarely explored in any depth.

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Learning from Las Vegas & the Demise of Utopian Architecture

There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning….

            And that, I think, was the handle – that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil.  Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that.  Our energy would prevail.  There was no point in fighting – on our side or theirs.  We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave….

            So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971

This has been a technical studio.  We re evolving new tools:  analytical tools for understanding new space and form, and graphic tools for representing them.  Don’t bug us for lack of social concern; we are trying to train ourselves to offer socially relevant skills.

- Student Notes, “Commercial Values and Commercial Methods,” Learning from Las Vegas, 1972

[Las Vegas] is already beginning to fade, as energy becomes more expensive and the architecture less inventive.  It won’t blow away in the night, but you begin to wish it might, because it will never make noble ruins, and it will never discover how to fade away gracefully.

- Reynar Banham, Scenes in America Deserta, 1982

The first time I visited Las Vegas was on business.  It also happened to be my birthday.  Coworkers, family and friends made much of this seemingly fortuitous coincidence; slyly congratulating me on the cosmic conspiracy that sent a young New York twenty-something to a city famous for sun and sin on business on his birthday.  “Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”  In truth, not only was this my first time visiting Las Vegas, but it was also the first time that I would travel west of Cleveland; the first time that I would experience, even if only in derivative form, the great deserts of the American Southwest.

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Architectural Cyborgs – Nanotechnology and the Potential for Living Architecture

The real destiny of the machine [is] to merge itself with natural organisms.

-       Jack Burnham, Beyond Modern Sculpture, 1968

Prelude:

In 1928, R. Buckminster Fuller presented the design for his Dymaxion House to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in St. Louis.  Fuller’s proposal revealed a fully industrialized, aluminum and polymer-based housing unit, highly efficient in its utilization of natural resources and easily deployable in almost any environment.  In response to Fuller’s presentation, the president of the AIA published an article titled “Against all Standardization,” in which he passionately attacked the effects of standardization on architecture, and emphatically rejected the very kinds of systems that Fuller had proposed[1].

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