Volume #14: Unsolicited Architecture
In order to actively grapple with the challenges of our age, architects have to transform themselves from extremely competent executors of assignments into entrepreneurs and producers. This issue of Volume discusses essential tools to reclaim professional autonomy. In the first part, Volume sits ‘Around the table’ with forward-thinking practitioners who see a different role and responsibility for architects. The central part presents the portfolio of the Office for Unsolicited Architecture founded by Ole Bouman and students of MIT. The third part marks the unsolicited world according to young architects and artists from around the globe.
Volume#14: Unsolicited Architecture
ISBN 978 90 77966 14 3
Price: € 19,50
Release: December 2007
Editor-in-chief: Arjen Oosterman
Contributing editors: Ole Bouman, Rem Koolhaas, Mark Wigley
Feature editor: Jeffrey Inaba
Editorial Consultants: Carlos Betancourth, Thomas Daniell, Markus Miessen, Kai Vöckler
Design: Irma Boom and Sonja Haller
Publisher: Stichting Archis
Volume #14 includes contributions by Ole Bouman, Matthijs Bouw, Elizabeth Demaray, F.A.S.T., Bryan Finoki, Alicia Framis, Andrea Giacomelli, Harmen de Hoop, Katrin Korfmann, L.E.FT., Ersela Kripa, Katherina Matoukis, Hugo Priemus, Wang Qingsong, Rebar, Sašo Sedlacek, Michael Shamiyeh, Dik Smits, Studio Beirut includes Steve Eid, Pascale Hares, Bernard Mallat, Nabil Menhem, Joe Mounzer Rani Rajji and Michael Stanton, Kirsten Algera, Felix Janssens, Daniël van der Velden, Kai Vöckler, Hans Wilschut, ZUS
Office for Unsolicited Architecture is conceived by the MIT Unsolicited Architecture Studio under the direction of Ole Bouman. Thanks to Yung Ho Chang, Alexander d’Hooghe, Ute Meta Bauer, Eric Howeler, Christine Boyer, Adèle Santos.Student editors of the portfolio are Andrea Brennen, John Snavely and Ryan Murphy. Student researchers from MIT are also Michelle Petersen, Gabriel Chan, Damian Chan, Shirley Shen, Dan Smithwick, Lena Vassilev, Dickson Wong, Andrey Dimitrov, and Edmund Ming-Yip Kwong. HKU (Utrecht, The Netherlands) student researchers areTim van de Weerd, Sarah Yu and Nataly Engel.
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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.
One of the more recent phenomena in a city’s public space is the ‘wrap’. Passing through the city, all of a sudden a familiar face is hidden from view, covered by a mesh of steel tubes and fine-grained nets. This all has to do with scaffoldings’ safety regulations, erected for a building façade’s maintenance. The nets hung around the temporary structure hide the building from view, making one wonder what it’ll look like when the job is done.
One of architecture’s histories is that of the art of display: architecture displaying power, political ambition, economic success, social agendas, or less mundane notions like dreams, convictions and belief. These days architecture has also become subjected to display: the display of architecture — in museums and collections, and in auctions for example. That adds but also distracts meaning; not every aspect of architecture can be displayed as easy. And what does a culture of display (be seen or perish) add to this condition?
There’s only two days left to visit the ARCHIZINES exhibition at its final destination, Moscow.