As curator of the Dutch pavilion in Venice last year, Marina Otero had to confront the complexities of a biennial, the Venice one in particular. General theme, individual content, format, design, audiences, logistics, time-span, attention-span, it was all in the equation. Add to that the ambition to be relevant (more than an ad), and the puzzle is complete. How to survive the Biennale and still have fun?
As a sneak peak into our next issue Volume #54: On Biennials, we are glad to feature In Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation; this article is based on the eponymous book of the curators Ifat Finkelman, Deborah Pinto Fdeda, Oren Sagiv, and Tania Coen-Uzzielli, whose topic Status quo was the theme of the Israeli Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia.
While the 16th edition of the Architecture Biennale in Venice is coming to an end, Ole Bouman reflects on its success, addressing particularly the overwhelming beauty and charm of the city’s architecture.
Although the intrinsic immateriality of the digital realm is by nature opposed to the tangible society we live in, its architecture has been designed and shaped by humans and comes with direct consequences in user’s lives and behavioural patterns. For years, the digital space has been the topic of numerous papers and studies; to Yin Aiwen, it is now time to work on a new school of thought that would be the foundation of a wider societal reflexion on the Digital, through the discipline of ‘Cyber-urbanism’.
Nowadays, it seems to be everywhere – the urban environment that feels smooth, polished and perfect. All buildings seem either new or renovated, and are generally in an excellent condition. Its public spaces are well-designed, well-maintained, clean and safe, if you conform to the rules. All spaces seem to be scripted according to the dominant norms and the needs of capital, and are populated by a socially, culturally and aesthetically homogenous crowd. New technologies offer seamless, on-demand services for almost everything.
Souvenirs: New NewYork Icons, the second iteration of Storefront’s model show, commissions 59+ objects that redefine New York’s iconic imagery. Tuesday November 28, the show was the stage for lectures and debate. Next to contributors Joep van Lieshout, Marga Weimans and QSpace, Volume was invited to add some thoughts and participate in the conversation following presentations.
‘Space and Time’, a duet of dimensions that brings to mind David Bowie’s epic figure Major Tom. Singing and floating in space, lost in time. “Planet Earth is blue, and there is nothing I can do.” A victim of what? His own drug use? Technology?
Whatever explanation we prefer, we are gradually entering a new world of digital, or virtual reality, which is just as uncertain and fascinating. This technological revolution will also influence the architecture profession. Will it eventually render the profession completely obsolete?
People scatter heaps of data to the wind, knowingly and unknowingly, but only a few outside of tech institutions truly understand how data is being used and the simulations that it feeds. Mainly because ‘Computer Simulation’ is a tricky concept, perceived as one of two: either a practical engineering tool such as wind simulators and economic models; or as a copying tool, an agent of digital fakeness – special effects in movies, Google’s Earth and the blue-skyed images made to sell apartments before they are built.
If history is always written by the winners, then the exhortation to “make new history” means that there are battles to be fought and won for new histories to be written. The second edition of the Chicago Architectural Biennial, titled ‘Make New History’, borrowed its mantra-like title from Ed Ruscha and opened last week at the Chicago Cultural Center and venues across the city.
In a city where the roof of a building is the fifth facade for advertisement and billboards function as fences, streets and sidewalks are the places where space is negotiated by the citizens. In this speculative and subjective article, Yasmin Mardini argues that the arterial system of Cairo represents the public space where mutually exclusive localities are temporarily brought together.
From its inception at the dawn of the millennium (2001), Archiprix International has proved to be an adventure with enormous ambition. To collect, once every two years, the very best graduation projects from architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design schools around the world is no small feat. To comprehensively exhibit this material is also a challenge, and to create a meaningful and productive event around the award session—giving center stage to the selected graduates and their projects—is a task akin to walking a tightrope. And yet, this is what they are achieving.
As introduction to the Total Space insert in Volume 50, Dirk van den Heuvel links (Dutch) Structuralism to current day developments, more specifically in the digital realm. Total Space is an ongoing research project of the Jaap Bakema Study Centre*, that’ll produce program and public presentation at Het Nieuwe Instituut in the coming years.
In a certain sense, looking at the beyond is something that we cannot do today, other than from the vantage point of a beyond the ‘beyond’. Looking at the connections between progressive political movements and planning/building practices in modernity and their ways of departing into ever new ‘beyonds’, beyond the boundaries of historically given urban and social formations – today, we are certainly beyond these dynamics.
In collaboration with Volume, KU Leuven’s Faculty of Architecture, campus Sint-Lucas Ghent/Brussels, selected recent graduate projects and reflected on the underlying ambitions of the school. The result is ‘Doing It the Belgian Way’, one of the two inserts in Volume 50. The insert presents three perspectives: Embracing Complexity, Embedding in the Local, and Un/Re-Learning. The following text is the introduction to this third chapter.
Design is, by definition, inhuman. We humans design, yet we do not, cannot really, at least not yet, design humans. Yet the boundaries of contemporary design increasingly encroach upon the real. The design of fleshy bodies, genetics, entire species, landscapes, territories, and even planets are becoming no longer mere fantasies. But do we really know how to design, to think, to be creative, to be careful, to be responsible, to be innovative, to be progressive both at and between such scales?
The data-saturated environment we live in today was already there almost half a century ago; it’s just that the nature of data has changed. Data used to be much more spatial, more architectonic, and the means of locating oneself in, and navigating through, such a space could be revealed by architectural theory and critique. With data only penetrating deeper into our cognitive realm by the day, what is there for architecture to say?
Machines need to learn to be able to act on their own. It’s a debatable question whether we want, or need, machines to do so, but the trend toward automation, is undeniable. Autonomous machines are being trusted with increasing responsibility in maintaining and providing for contemporary society, and we are finally finding out what happens to the human after the machines take over.
The concept of the ‘tipping point’ is a properly Cartesian understanding of history. It not only presumes that there is such a thing as ‘before’ and ‘after’, but also that we will be able to recognize and identify its difference to a single moment in time. This used to work, when historical events were things like wars, and we could organize our collective energies to effect the course of history. But now that events take place at the speed of light and even at a quantum level, how can we know when we’re already past where?
“Can contemporary architectural research learn anything from the military principle of incitatory operations?” asked Eyal Weizman in Volume #16: Engineering Society. Today, almost a decade later, with military operations taking place in the five continents and radical groups increasingly gaining power, Weizman’s inquiry still feels relevant.
Eight years ago, Volume dedicated issue 16 to Social Engineering. It was like swearing in the church, a no go zone, radioactive stuff. Would the mild form of social engineering advocated by Ernsten and Janmaat in V16 be a way to go? To mediate between global and local, between neighborhood and country, between the self and the collective?
Gaming is an interesting field of experimentation in simulating the urban environment. It also has the potential to help in the design of buildings and cities. Among the promising aspects of gaming are the decentralized and local processes that are currently applied in the latest generation of multiuser games.
As the newly crowned Architect of Change, Barack Obama must convince and inspire a wide range of groups, factions and movements. His inauguration address attempted to reunite what the preceding administration left fragmented and to address each and every group in order to underline that Obama is the president for all Americans. Brendan McGetrick dissects the wordsmith’s architecture.
Connection is a popular motif in design: all types of infrastructure – bridges, pathways, transportation, service systems and applications – wish to tie into the urban fabric to make things productive. However, there is also an opposite tendency: the act of disconnection. Amelia Borg and Timothy Moore ponder how one can physically remove themselves from the communication of things.
In April 2010 Cloud Lab visited the Asada Synergistic Intelligence Project, a part of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency’s ERATO project. In an anonymous meeting room surrounded by cubicles we met with Hiroshi Ishiguro to talk about the future of robotics, space and communications.
The conflicting processes, which can both define or change borders and which classify who is ‘inside’ of Europe or who stays ‘outside’ of Europe can be labeled with the concepts of ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’. The ongoing demarcation of ‘us’ and ‘them’ characterize debates on multiple levels, such as negotiations on EU enlargement and on definitions of citizenship, immigration and participation in decision-making.
In light of recent political events and those to come in the United States and beyond, we’ve decided to dig into our archive and pull out some uncannily relevant articles. The first, originally published ten years ago in Volume #7: Power Logic (Architecture of Power, Part 3), is a reflection by Gwenda Blair on the rise of Donald Trump and cultures of salesmanship.
The Ganges River is India’s largest and most densely populated water basin. A lifeline to millions of people and carrying enormous celestial significance, the river is also severely polluted and suffers from dramatic droughts and floods. Vere van Gool spoke with Anthony Acciavatti to discuss the decade he spent navigating the Ganges and the new reading he was able to construct of this sacred river.
Volume #48: The Research Turn contains the exhibition catalogue for BLUE: The Architecture of UN Peacekeeping, the Dutch entry at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, by Malkit Shoshan. BLUE focuses on the most prominent footprint of the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations: the compound.
The political left has had a rough few decades; everything just seems to be going in the other direction. Instead of romanticizing what it would be like ‘only if’, we’d better get to work on figuring out how to turn the engine of progress around. Volume spoke with Adrian Lahoud about the stakes of architectural research within the academy today and how it might contribute to moving towards the horizons of the left.
Dredging is the mechanical process that keeps water, water. Yet due to natural fluid dynamics, silting is an ongoing process. So we have to continuously take subaquedous sediment from one place and move it to another, releasing a host of disruptive ecological processes along the way. The Open Workshop has developed a strategy for Toledo, Ohio to use dredged material for both extending the city’s civic space and cleaning up Lake Eerie.
The welfare state was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it? Yeah, those were the days, golden, even. But now, sad to say yet no point to lament times have changed; things are different. Planning used to be the way society would stay on track and moving forward. Today, for better or worse, we have the market. There are reasons why the market came to take the place of the state, but the real question is, now that we have it, how can we make the market work for us?
The central hub of the United Parcel Service (UPS) processes, on average, 1.6 million packages per day. That’s almost twenty per second. Such an intense flow forces operations to be internally consistent, but also demands an enormous amount of flexibility due to unpredictable externalities. What if a road is closed, or a machine breaks? Ghazal Jafari investigates the UPS’s contingency management system and looks at this logistical behemoth venturing into new territories.
Latin America is a place, but it’s also a project. Its history as a colonial project gave birth to a radical one of decolonization. With revoutionaries like Simón Bolívar and José de San Martin, the idea of Latin America as a collective whole emerged and has persisted up to this day. Godofredo Pereira looks at the failed proposal of a pipeline running between three countries to question whether such a mechanism can’t be used to realize such a project, that of Latin America itself.
Life is rough in the concrete jungle; only the strongest survive. Yet when it comes to things like plants or animals, qualities of agility and dexterity trump physical size or brute force. Indeed, we like to think that the city is ours – that it belongs to us humans – but pests thrive in the city much better than us. The city can be alienating and make us feel like we are completely detached from nature, when in fact ‘nature’, the non-human, is all around us. Urban Fauna Lab reports on communities from throughout the globe who look for love in all the obvious places – so obvious we might not think to look.
Photographer Steven Wassenaar his work on Paris’ slums has been nominated for de Zilveren Camera 2015. Steven made contributions to Volume, among which his article ‘Coping with Slums and Slabs’ for Volume #16: Engineering Society, which focuses on France’s urban policy towards slum-living.
The introduction of digital technology into spatial contexts of refuge mobilizes a virtual geography of information, such as how many refugees are there, how many are HIV positive or pregnant, and where are they moving to. By inserting digital technology in the process of basic aid, human rights have been transposed to the digital sphere, yet incorporating advanced digital infrastructures in contexts where bricks and bread would be more than enough initiates a self-eliminating hoax, seeing as how, frankly, it is the exact same digital technology that keeps famines in place, targets relief-hospitals with drones and leaves migrants to drown. When we are all just one scan and click away to be saved, are we also too easily and often left to fate?
From seventeenth-century painter Claude Lorrain to the modern-day Home Owners Association (HOA), the Picturesque has come a long way. Today it appears that the ineffable charms of what Kenneth Clark described as “the most enchanting dream that has ever consoled man”, is enshrined in the rules and regulations that make up most residential developments across the United States.
‘Radical Interiority’ is a masterful piece of storytelling. It is smart, taut, engaging and propulsive. It symbolizes one of the most genuine values of Volume: to show the forces that shape our world and habitat with and without the conscience intervention of professional designers and planners; to reveal how things are made; and, to claim the utility of architectural intelligence as a mode of thought, as a splendid tool not only to operate in the world but also to explain a state of things.
The housing question is about the system, the (no) rule, and the law. Aspects of it, such as displacement, privatization, (in)equality, crisis are relevant to all of us. In response to how to deal with the question, Ada Colau mentions that we need to look at it across disciplines, nations, relations. She also gives good clues for architects, as well as for architectural education.
“Have you ever been in the Alps? To understand how a single house can stand for a nation, read Bart Lootsma’s article on the Tyrolean House. It looks vernacular, but in fact it is an invented tradition which dates back to 1900 – it simulates tradition, which works pretty well for tourism, and produces an interesting form of camouflage architecture.”
Refugee camps are, by definition, meant to be temporary. Yet in Palestine refugee camps have existed for well over half a century, and architecture plays an exceptionally symbolic role. Every stone set is a representation of permanence and undermines the refugee’s political existence as such. Within these constraints, DAAR members were asked to design a girl’s school in the Shu’fat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. The architectural result is a statement about life in exile and a vision beyond the tired dialectic of temporariness and permanence.
Back closer to the turn of the decade, OMA/AMO was invited to help found Strelka, a new pedagogical initiative in Moscow that sought to erase the distinction between academic and practical knowledge. The glove seemed to fit the hand perfectly, seeing as how AMO has expanded the limits of architectural practice and application of research into ever-new territories ever since it began. Now that it’s been taken off, we invited Reinier de Graaf to reflect about what it was like to actually put the glove on. What we got back was instead a high personal mediation on gloveness and the motives behind putting them on.
Radical Pedagogies is a project of collective intelligence. In that respect it is a scholarly and pedagogical experiment in its own right that questions traditional models of academic authorial production. It delves into the largely uncharted territory of extra-large collaborative projects that source expertise from a global network of scholars – a model with a large history in the academic fields of the sciences but rarely the humanities. Radical Pedagogies seeks to present a horizontal cut through architectural education throughout the second half of the twentieth century – a history of which, or multiple histories, has yet to be written.
The 2013 film The Competition follows an employee from Jean Nouvel office, a ‘head of projects’, navigating his level on the pyramidal scheme of organizing conventional contemporary architecture offices. (1) The image of this man, suffering the pressure of the genius-boss, trying to respond to deadlines with the effort of sufficiently trained and motivated young architects working behind him, neatly draws one of the professional glass ceilings that most accredited architects can expect in their working life.
2015 marks our 10th anniversary! Volume has invited people from its network to select a favorite article/contribution. This week we highlight a personal favorite of Lina Stergiou, architect, co-founder of 4Life Strategies, Associate Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China, and principal of LS/Architecture&Strategies.
For the tenth anniversary of Volume, Timothy Moore, director of architecture practice SIBLING and former managing editor at Volume, remembers an early issue of Volume dedicated to power where image came to the fore. (F*ck context.) Timothy dropped by the Archis office to deliver the article in person while in Amsterdam to research his PhD on ‘The Instruments of Transitional Architecture’.
Today we feature a personal favorite of Gianluca Croce, an avid Volume reader. Gianluca is currently finishing his Masters of Science in Architecture at the Facoltà di Architettura, Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy.
We’re asking Volume readers and friends to pick their favorite article. Ethel Baraona Pohl, co-founder of dpr-barcelona, has chosen an interview with Kevin Kelly that was published in Volume #24 Counterculture.
Brendan Cormier, Lead Curator of 20th and 21st Century Design for the Shekou Partnership at Victoria and Albert Museum and former managing editor at Volume, has picked a head-to-head between Rem Koolhaas and Larry Beasley that was published in Volume #23 Al Manakh Gulf Continued.
Everything comes from somewhere. It’s a fact so self-evident it hardly feels worth saying. But beyond this obvious truth, provenance is a powerful industry. As a capitalist tactic, it addresses the problem of anonymous mass-production through the added-value of meaning. And it is everywhere. As such, our daily routines have fundamentally changed. No longer a simple succession of actions, they are now a complex sequence of meaningful objects, objects that reveal stories reflecting our moral and personal character. In the shower we lather with locally produced handcrafted soap. Our coffee packaging reassures us that the Ethiopian crop worker – his name is Abraham – earns a living wage. The mug we drink from, as told by the sales clerk, is a Scandinavian classic. We slice into a tomato, knowing that at the farmer’s market we shook the farmer’s hand. These things make us feel good; they reaffirm our egos, assuage our guilt, and remind us that we are interested and interesting individuals. It is 8:30 in the morning.
The Modern subject is usually defined by its epistemological capacity. Enlightened at heart, it is composed of a body and a mind evolving in an homogeneous space and time; it is mostly conscious, aware of the world to the extent of his/her knowledge. This model for subjectivity continues to produce the city both formally and as an abstraction. If this model has been under criticism since it emerged, today, the lived experience of space is being transformed more directly than before through the devices, software and networks that affect the sensing capacity of the subject. As it is possible to access quantities of information at a distance, through deserts and walls, it is also possible to be governed in the same manner. This aspect of the contemporary urban experience has notably exposed the inadequacy of the dialectical separation between spheres that have produced the modern subject and its habitat: the modern city. How to think the city when the domestic is public, the personal is political, and reproduction is production? How is the city transformed by the digital quantification of space which indexes both the living and nonliving and allows it to be managed in almost real-time? These are only partial formulations of the actual challenges brought by the heterogeneous dynamics at work today with the evolution of labor, technologies and subjectivity. A contemporary analysis of the city needs to account for the destabilization of the dichotomies that still constitute the subject at large, whether they are body or mind, human or nonhuman, and material or immaterial. In this regard, there is something actually fascinating in the fact that objects or cities are now wished with a particular personality trait, and be called smart.
Portugal faced a dramatic housing shortage in the early 1970’s that contributed to the energies of 1974’s revolution. One of the first acts of the new government was to institute new housing policies and institutions, Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local (SAAL, Service for Local Mobile Support), that focused on promoting the right to the city through collective processes of design, construction and management. Manifesting itself differently throughout the country, SAAL was irreparably altered just a few years later due to political conflict. Since then, the fates of these architectures and their built agendas have lay uncertain. What will be the legacy of this failed proletarian utopia?
If there is a moment to test a community’s resilience, it is after disaster has struck. Such situations often show a community pulling together in a shared feeling that ‘things’ have to be done, but also ambition to be involved and participate on an individual level. Christchurch, New Zealand was no exception when the city was ruined by a series of earthquakes. Yet, it may have come as a surprise for most to see how many people felt engaged and how many (temporary) projects were being proposed and executed. Maybe less surprising was the tendency among existing structures and powers to just carry on. The self-building city was welcomed at first, or maybe just tolerated by the powers that be, provided it wasn’t in the way of business as usual. So, how fundamental a change did we actually see?
Once upon a time ‘left’ equaled ‘collective’ and ‘right’ ‘individual’. Those were the days. Today, it looks like ‘left’ adopted a rightwing agenda in its plea for individual freedom and the right to choose. In the Netherlands, social-democrat politician Adri Duivesteijn advocated a different approach in the nation’s housing program: instead of continuing with top-down provision of the housing product by commercial developers and housing associations alike, stimulate and propagate individual house building. It seemed like swearing in church when this became political in the late 90s, but upon a closer look the policy stems from a consistent analysis of the individual’s place in society. Volume sat with former alderman, currently MP, Adri Duivesteijn to learn about the difference between the right to decide and the position to do so.
Alongside luxury developments and public displays of wealth, over half of Cairo’s urban population, a megacity of over 17 million, live in unplanned and self-built communities. Massive population shifts and a lack of governmental oversight fostered a culture of collaborative urbanism, incremental architecture and entrepreneurialism. Due to the explosive growth created in the power vacuum after the 2011 revolution, the government has formally recognized this informality and services have started being provided. How will these highly nuanced building practices be brought under the remit of planning policy and urban governance? Will they change in the process to produce new forms of urbanism, or will they be accepted and become the new official standard?
Volume’s upcoming issue addresses how people’s initiative creates the city, focusing on housing. Temporariness is one of the conditions that favors small-scale and bottom-up initiative. Martynas Mankus discusses some realities.
I was a student when doubt had already made itself felt. In the mid-1970s I walked into the Social Academy at Westblaak, Rotterdam – an 18-year old, embarking on my studies. You might say the social academy was one, if not the ideological center of the welfare state. Not only intended to shape the critical contours of everything that ‘social’ could achieve. It also provided the support staff of social workers, community workers and socio-cultural workers for an intricate infrastructure of temporary refuges/shelters, crisis-, community- and youth centers, and the like.
Shortly after I took over the editorship of Building Design in 1983, I met Cedric Price at an industry event, probably at the Building Centre on Store Street, opposite his office in Alfred Place. He suggested we might have breakfast at his office. It was the beginning of a long run of breakfasts, conversations, initiatives, magazine columns, and occasional excursions at home and abroad. It provided me with the architectural education that, as a history graduate, I had never had. Cedric actually thought that this was a good thing.
As the Research Director of CURE, Jesse Keenan leads many of the center’s projects, drawing on his diverse professional and academic background in law, sustainable development, and housing policy to shape a bold intellectual project for CURE’s research. Keenan talked with Volume’s Jeffrey Inaba and Benedict Clouette about the need for an ethical foundation in the practice of real estate development, and the role of disciplinary knowledge in informing the decisions of professionals.
Following Word War Two, London embarked on a highly prolific rebuilding campaign. But it wasn’t simply putting the pieces back together. The ambition of the welfare state combined with new ideas in architecture to produce radical new designs, altering the British landscape. The organization behind this was the London County Council, and in particular the Architects’ Department. Ruth Lang discusses the machinery of the bureaucratic system that enabled one of England’s most innovative periods in design.
Hong Kong and Macau aren’t independent nations, yet they appear at the Biennale regardless. As recent appendages to China, they are undergoing an often-uncomfortable transition to a new political reality. Thomas Daniell explains how both pavilions give different responses to the unification question. Hong Kong emphasizes its inclusion in a larger regional network, the Pearl River Delta, while Macau places focus on its cultural distinctiveness.
With Rem Koolhaas ‘couch surfing’ has acquired a new meaning. Anyone lucky enough to actually get an interview with Koolhaas will most likely end up on his couch. The back seat of his BMW that is. Some private conversation time, wherever the journey takes you, accompanied by the deep hum of the V12 sports engine. Volume became member of this back seat club to discuss some intentions behind Fundamentals and perspectives on architecture it produced.
After thirty-six years of internal armed conflict, Guatemala presently faces an enormous inequity in housing and land ownership. Posconflicto Laboratory emerged as a long-term research platform to uncover how tactical architecture might address this imbalance. DPR Barcelona sat down with Posconflicto Laboratory to discuss the challenges of working in such highly politicized terrain, and the agency of architecture in addressing core issues of inequity and housing rights.
On July 31th 2006, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assumed command over the southern region of Afghanistan (RC-S). It signalled the beginning of a four-year mission by the Dutch armed forces, designated as lead-nation for Uruzgan; a province roughly one-third the size of the Netherlands. After taking over the US base Ripley, renaming it Kamp Holland, the Dutch forces commenced with the daunting objectives set by the international community and Dutch government in particular to deliver reconstruction and development in this remote Afghan region. What did Task Force Uruzgan (TF-U) and the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) encounter during their mission?
The Netherlands has two new prizes, the Geert Bekaert Prize for Architecture Criticism and the Simon Mari Pruys Prize for Design Criticism. They’re promoting ‘a vibrant design culture’ by stimulating writing and reflection and awarding the prize to one critique, not to a critic. Initiated by Archined and Design Platform Rotterdam they were awarded for the first time in Amsterdam on March 20th 2014. For architecture the award went to Plain Weirdness: The Architecture of Neutelings Riedijk, a text in El Croquis by the former Director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, now Director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Aaron Betsky. The Simon Mari Pruys Prize went to Sander Manse for his essay on the use of models in designing design.
What is essential about the work of Neutelings Riedijk is its plain weirdness. The two aspects of this definition are essential. The use of form and materials that are familiar, simple, and sometimes even primitive grounds the strangeness, the baroque involutions, and the haunting quality that gives the work its power. These architects know how to mine the vernacular to find within it the material that both grounds us and connects us to something bigger, stranger, and older than we are. Their buildings use this basis to teeter between abstraction and reference, creating a blur that allows us to intuit forms, images and spaces that the designers only imply. Finally, Neutelings Riedijk’s buildings become stages on which we can act out the roles to which we would like to become accustomed, sometimes as masques in which both the structures and we are actors, and sometimes directly, when the buildings’ interiors become, more often than not, stages.
Shenzhen is currently upgrading its industry; this results in empty factory buildings and huge demographic changes within the migrant population. It also implies a transition from a blue-collar to a white-collar society. Shenzhen’s economic success is based on cheap labor. Nonetheless, blue-collar migrants are considered to be both problematic and vulnerable. But do we really understand and appreciate the economic and social value of the current generation of migrants in Shenzhen? ‘Da Lang Fever’ is a story about the potential of a self-organizing migrant society in the neighborhood Da Lang. It showcases the empowering nature of bottom-up activities for migrant workers.
According to official statistics China’s urbanization rate was 52.57 percent in 2012, but according to China’s Hukou system this number nowadays is still below 35 percent! The discrepancy is caused by at least 250,000,000 peasants without urban Hukou status living in urban areas, the so-called floating population. Without urban Hukou they cannot equally benefit from urban amenities such as education, employment, medical care, retirement programs, affordable housing, and other basic public services. In fact these urban-based peasants are excluded from living a complete urban lifestyle. Although China sees it as its primary task “to civilize the whole nation by turning its agricultural population into orderly citizens”, urbanization seems mainly used as an engine to stimulate economic growth. An essential tool to guide urbanization is the process of converting rural Hukous into urban Hukous. However, this process is complex, and receives loads of critique, nationally and internationally. There seems to be no easy solution, especially since economic forces are overruling the people’s quality of life.
The transformation of Melbourne has been dramatic. In the space of thirty years its dull city core metamorphosed into a lively center through a unique set of circumstances, including strong urban planning policies and the liberalization of liquor laws. Timothy Moore speaks with architect and urban designer Craig Allchin about the city’s recent history and how the confluence of law, planning, and activism provided a matrix with which to model urbanism.
Belgrade became famous in architectural circles in the 1990s for its ‘wildness’; its seemingly spontaneous and unruled spatial practices that at first glance appeared to be a product of a complete ignorance of existing laws. A longer gaze uncovers that the legal-illegal dichotomy in Belgrade was not so simple, and that, behind an exuberant form, the processes that made Belgrade seem wild, have much more to do with the re-regulation of laws, than with their disappearance.
Christian Kerez’s work is best known for the conceptual inventiveness he brings to ageold problems of form and tectonics. What is less known is the architect’s equally refreshing approach to mechanical systems. Here, Kerez talks about the Leutschenbach School in Zurich, and his ideas to integrate the air and other building services into this densely packed design.
One might argue that the development of mechanical technology has changed the way architects talk about the relationship between the environment and form. The story here is not that mechanical technology enabled healthier workplaces, greater productivity or more efficient use of resources; rather, it has given architects the chance to create new forms and typologies in relation to new narratives about the workplace as an environment.
‘Ivory towers’ and ‘paper architecture’ are common put-downs used to question the agency of critical and speculative thought. After the theoretical hangover of a Deleuze et al architectural education, many young critical thinkers turned to practice as a means to put their thoughts into action. We sat down with Markus Miessen, who has spent the past several years researching critical and spatial practice, to see what this means for the field of criticism.
The internet gets blamed for a lot of things, our current crisis of criticism being just one of its victims. The explosion of free content, the rise of unpaid bloggers, a diffuse democracy of likes and retweets, has surely weakened the authority of traditional critics. But in this new landscape Mimi Zeiger sees a host of new possibilities for architectural debate. Explaining her notion of ‘collective criticism’, she shows how platforms like Twitter can help build momentum on critical issues that often fall through the cracks of the pressroom floor.
Italy has long been a powerhouse of architectural criticism and publications, with an intimate relationship to production. Never criticism for its own sake, the architectural publishing complex of Italy has a tradition of stance-taking, actively shaping the direction of the profession. But the glory days of Casabella and other noteworthy publications has faded, leaving a void to be filled. Luca Molinari paints a portrait of the country’s new critical landscape.
An edited version of this essay appears in Volume #35: Everything Under Control. The printed version contained some errors, and so we’re happy to published the original version here, as intended by the author. You can read more about the issue here. You can purchase the issue here. On May 23rd 2013, Timothy Morton will be the keynote […]
The Dutch Rathenau Instituut started in 1986 as a technology assessment center to advise Dutch Parliament. It has since developed into a broader think tank studying the organization and development of science systems, while regularly publishing and stimulating debate about the social impact of new technologies. Volume talks to the Institute’s Rinie van Est and Virgil Rerimassie to hear about the main trends in synthetic biology and related disciplines. They paint a picture of the world where biology and technology have converged, and where our fundamental way of working through scientific problems has shifted.
For more than eight years artist Koert van Mensvoort has been working on a project to redefine our concept of nature. Through his platform Next Nature he has published books, held talks, ran workshops, maintained an active blog, and even developed a hoax, all in effort to communicate that there is no absolute nature, but that technology and nature are deeply intertwined; a biosynthetic nature so to speak. Can the development of a Gillette razor be considered in Darwinian terms of evolution? Is the fake nature of an indoor ski slope any less legitimate than the Alps? By fundamentally shifting the way we conceive nature, he believes we will be better able to cope with the oncoming climatic and environmental challenges ahead.
Somewhere between a vat of expensive face cream and a baby Neanderthal lies a probable future for synthetic biology. While synbio start-ups – large and small – struggle with the reality of scaling up microscopic cellular factories into profitable business models, stories of DIY anti-cancer research, Neanderthal cloning, limitless ‘green’ kerosene, and tumor-killing bacteria are told as outcomes of a likely future where humans have full control over biology.
There once was a time when designing new cities was one of the most ambitious and urgent tasks for any urban designer and planner. The second half of the twentieth century saw a plethora of new models, ideas, and designs specifically geared towards the design of the ultimate ‘City of the Future’. The construction of entirely new integrated urban systems and the writing of technocratic and ideological books on how to build new cities culminated in the building of hundreds of New Towns in Western Europe, the US, and the new nation states of post-colonial Africa and Asia.
Dirk van den Heuvel sits in his home office contemplating the problem of stuff; more specifically, the rupture between the modern (architectural) urge to create a coherent interior space, and the modern (consumer) urge to accumulate and consume. From Andreas Angelidakis’ images of houses collapsing under the weight of piled up ‘things’, to the Smithsons’ efforts to reign in consumption through a form of ‘exquisite flower arrangement’, Dirk stares at has own unruly stacking of books, printers, and office supplies, adjusts his curtains, and begins his writing.
Receiving us in her office in a former school building one afternoon at the end of July, Petra Blaisse proposes to first show us around. Most of the Inside Outside team is on holiday or working on site, but we catch a glimpse of some of her collaborators and the work atmosphere of the office. The office is distributed over two sides of the corridor, with an Inside side (renowned for their large-scale curtains) and an Outside side (dealing with gardens, parks, and urban planning). We meet her to discuss her assignment to ‘do’ the Rietveld pavilion in Venice on the occasion of the 13th Architecture Biennale, but also to discuss her experiences as interior designer and how that relates to her outdoor work.
The financial world was once dominated by gossip, speculation, research and strategically-timed trades – by people, for people. With the introduction of computers and high-speed fiber optic cables however, the human grasp on trading is becoming evermore tenuous. Algorithms and bots are the new players on the stock market, engaging in high-frequency trading at nearly the speed of light, turning microscopic gains across a vast field into major profits. Matthew Tiessen explains how a new logic and geography is emerging from this unfathomably fast and complex practice.
Flanders has long been cast as a nebular city of hyper individualized sprawl – everyone with a house and a view to the landscape – the result of a welfare state ambition that flourished after the Second World War. Joachim Declerck wants to rethink the spatial logic of this situation, recalling the historical strengths of the original city-states, this time translated to new transnational realities. With his practice, Architecture Workroom, he’s brought two new projects to the International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam and the Venice Biennale, which discuss these issues. Volume sat down with him to discuss scales of intervention, re-situating production, and the metropolitan fabric.
New Order is a catalogue of future visions for a post-carbon world. Like all future visions, they are by turns tentative, speculative, exaggerated, and subjective. But this is not to say they are mere fantasy. As in the context of today’s contemporary ideology, living patterns, and political priorities, the six visions presented here should be viewed as prototypes for a future we need to create, or will be forced to confront.
It is typical for human beings to mould nature, justifying their actions by their aesthetic and economic aspirations. But nature cannot endure everything.
In Halso’s photographs, control over nature has acquired a concrete form. The elements of nature have been rethought and have, for logistical purposes, been packed into modules that are easier to handle. The whole of nature is stored in a gigantic warehouse complex and the most common types of nature from soil and flora to fauna can be easily assembled into working ecosystems. What is happening? Has nature been evacuated to await better times, or has it been simplified into merchandise and absurd tableaux? When Halso is looking into the future she doesn’t like what she sees.
Labelling a martyr is, in a way, an expression of collective guilt. Martyrs are a simultaneous reminder of the hopes and ideals that an individual stood for, and also the oppressive nature of humankind to smother those ideals. Memorializing martyrs then is a way of atoning for this collective guilt and to give renewed hope that the dreams of the fallen can somehow be realized. A popular way of memorializing martyr is to name streets after them – creating a potentially difficult juxtaposition. To what extent can a street, subject to all the pressures of the city, live up to the lofty ideals of an individual? And what does it say of us when a memorialized street itself becomes a symbol of broken dreams? Guy Tillim and Susan Berger have both created photo series that examine this deep irony.
Garth Lenz is a photographer who uses his images to communicate larger environmental issues and broadcast clear messages for change. His work on the Athabasca oil sands, in the photo series ‘The True Cost of Oil’, aims at documenting the scale and scope of environmental transformation occurring due to oil extraction. As the title suggests, lenz asks the viewers to ask themselves what cost are they willing to bear, for their oil consumption.
When the credit crisis struck, the general response was one of sheer amazement. Fascinating to see billions and trillions of dollars evaporate at such speed. Despite experts´ warnings that things would never be the same, expectation in general was that normality would be restored soon. In our spectacle society we are used to the excitement of sudden change. We respond to these events like we’re watching a magician.
George Elvin interviewed by Julianne Gola and Cameron Robertson.
Advocating the dynamism of nanotechnology and architecture, George Elvin contends that with the embrace of nanotechnologies, the field of architecture will no longer be based on static objects; rather, it will react or mutate according to environmental variables. The author of Integrated Practice in Architecture: Mastering Design-Build, Fast-Track, and Building Information Modeling (Wiley, 2007), Elvin speaks with Volume about the ethical and social implications of a spatial reality dictated by sensorial information.
Julianne Gola: Can you briefly describe nanotechnology and what you see as its consequences for architecture?
George Elvin: Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at the molecular scale. The field is introducing a new breed of materials that are designed from the bottom up. Material engineers can start by asking, ‘what kind of material do we want? What do we want it to do?’ And then they are actually able to fabricate those new materials. So, for example, people can ask, ‘wouldn’t it be great to have a material that was many times stronger than steel but lighter and transparent?’ An architect could make a building supported by something that looks like glass with nano-composite plastics, for example. Eventually, in the long run, you could have materials that would seem to disappear.
Cameron Robertson: How pervasive are nanotechnologies in architecture today?
GE: There are already over 200 building products that incorporate nano-particles or nanotechnology. The two largest solar cell producers in the world print their cells using nanotechnology. There is a long list of nanotechnologies with considerable green or ‘de-polluting’ potential. For example, the precast panels in the façade of Richard Meier’s church in Rome are coated in nano-materials that, through photocatalysis, break down large amounts of atmospheric pollutants into benign elements on contact.
JG: In other words, nano-materials are responsive. Can you elaborate on their dynamic properties?
GE: We think of architects as makers of static objects – sculptural things that you create and then walk away from. When you start designing with the nano-materials that we will have available in, say, ten or twenty years, architects will be initiators of a dynamic process. You’ve even got things that show the changing state of what we typically consider static materials. In fact, to so they incorporate organic substances – literally living materials. There are bio-hybrid products such as protein-based biosensors that luminesce when stressed. Already, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco uses sensors to detect movement as an early warning system for earthquakes. You could have concrete beams in a building that glow when stressed.
JG: So nanotechnology offers functionality that exceeds what the public currently expects of architecture. What do you believe are ways to represent this?
GE: We’ve got to make 4D modeling – 3D plus time – really pervasive, because, frankly, nanotech demands it. We’re talking about a technology that allows whole interior and exterior environments to be programmable and continuously variable. We will have to express buildings as networks of intercommunicating intelligent materials, objects and systems. To talk about adequately representing that kind of thing with static media is just crazy.
CR: In addition to the representation of this emerging technology, there are questions of public reception and acceptance. How do you think it will change our daily experience of the built environment as its deployed?
GE: With the properties of carbon nano-tubes, for example, you could make a chair supported by legs almost the diameter of a needle. But would people really be comfortable sitting in it? In the same way, on the architectural scale, it will be possible to do away with the distinction between structure and skin, a standby not only of construction, but also perception. Would people be perceptually comfortable in that space? There is going to be a lag between material developments and people’s comfort level. The same thing happened when steel columns first came out. In Maison Domino, for example, people weren’t entirely comfortable standing under a concrete slab supported by just a few steel columns. It should also be acknowledged that consumers are apprehensive about nanotechnology. So while companies are very happy to use nanotechnology to improve the performance of their product, they don’t necessarily want the ‘nano’ name on them, because of concerns that if something went wrong, it would backfire in terms of public comfort with the idea of nanotechnology.
CR: You’ve focused much of your career on broadcasting the potentials of nanotechnology for sustainable design. Do you see nanotechnology as being inherently sustainable?
GE: Well, many believe that the responsible use of technology can get us out of the mess we got ourselves into through the irresponsible use of technology. Right now, because nano is a new and very powerful technology, we don’t know its impact on human health or the environment. There are concerns about bioaccumulation. For example, Samsung makes a washing machine that injects silver nano-particles into your wash. Even though it is a minuscule amount, silver is a heavy metal. So there is reason to be concerned about its accumulation over time in the body and the environment. Of course buildings would be a primary source of nano-particle pollution, as they wash off buildings into the larger environment. So we have to consider the large-scale effects.
JG: How might nanotechnology affect the urban scale and what is its capacity to change or manipulate the nature of public space?
GE: One thing this brings up, particularly in the case of sensor technology, is privacy. As we get further along in our ability to control matter and materials, objects become more malleable and responsive. As people want more intelligent and interactive environments, this implies a give and take of information. With what they call ‘push technology’ in Japan, for example, your cell phone will ring as you’re walking past the Gap, telling you that the jeans you bought last week are now on sale. Or consider the University of Illinois Computer Science building: when a faculty member swipes his card to enter into the building, the lights and heat in his office kick on. Nanotechnology would amplify that kind of intelligence, and you would get a much more personalized environment. We’re talking about buildings and urban environments that are much more dynamic and changing. On the one hand, it has the potential to put people more in touch with their environment. But if all of these sensors are communicating with each other, the environment, and users, then an important question is: who controls this information? Who has access to it?
This article is published as online part of ‘Volume #24: Counterculture’.
Is C2C really the concept to successfully balance ecology and economy? Although it promises to do away with the problem of scarcity, one likely consequence is a severe restriction of the use of raw materials, as well as of the knowledge necessary to make C2C work. For these reasons an open source approach to ecology is urgently needed.
Steef Buijs’ training as an urban planner was back in the sixties, so world food problems were not part of his original ‘mindset’ as a planning professional. During his work however he encountered these problems increasingly often and achieved growing insight into how these relate to urban development all over the world. What follows is an account of these experiences, resulting in his present view on how ongoing urbanization might help solve the food crisis.
Every socio-political movement needs a history, even if you have to invent one. Panayiota Pyla drafts some possible (pre)histories of sustainability and compares them with current developments. She warns for simple historical legitimizations and proposes to constantly interrogate and contest emerging strategies.
From the moment sometime at the end of the seventies or the beginning of the eighties that progressive appeared to be conservative and vice versa for designers there appeared to be little more to do than base one’s work on individual taste. Tackling modernism as the dominant paradigm was old news, although some architects continued to indicate their infatuation with it. The rest is history.
How do architects retake ground, how do they develop a new method? Shamiyeh addresses these questions in detail, explaining a practice of searching for emergent opportunities by relating science theory to business and management structures. He argues that creative decision making and problem solving are fields in which architectural knowledge is more needed than ever before.
The Office for Unsolicited Architecture proposes an alternative: a new form of practice that pro-actively seeks out new territories for intervention, addresses pressing social needs and takes advantage of emerging opportunities for architecture.