Archive for February, 2010

wk7 assignment

February 24, 2010

Places of thought.

wk7 reading response

February 24, 2010

Situationist City: Simon Sadler

Though attempting to remove itself from academia, the situationists longed for a time when they could pursue open-ended experiments.  A response to a dishonest rationalism, it purported that genuine social progress did not subsume the individual but maximized his or her freedom and potential.  This flew directly in the face of rationalism which fostered social progress through the notion of collective interests taking priority over individual interests.  Through the reading, it becomes hard to identify the nuances that made different situationism from rationalism.  Even though situationism seemed as though it desired a very informal, “natural” emergence of places and events (anti-design), it very much tried to formalize these notions of spontaneity, itself becoming a bit contradictory.  This can be seen in Constant’s “New Babylon”.

Additionally, situationists begin to talk about the notion of “the spectacle”, which is the collapse of reality into streams of images, products, and activities sanctioned by business and bureaucracy.  Here, they say, one can discover the authentic life of the city teeming underneath.  But in the same breath, they insisted that the spectacle was merely a manufactured wonderment, a hype that concealed the real processes of exploitation; the alienating one-way battery of goods from capitalists to consumers.  How then, can this environment be authentic?  Again, it seems as though they contradict themselves.

Sociologists of the time noted the complex structure of the city, divided yet interdependent.  But they also pointed out that rationalism, with its Cartesian precision, reduced the intricacies of the city to fallaciously simplistic levels.  Instead of the sterile environments of the rationalists, the situationists pointed to architects who were humanizing the heart of the city through labyrinthine clarity, such as Aldo van Eyck.  This, they said, allows for freedom of choice and for people to discover how they should use the spaces and places.  Situationists wanted to defend the freedom of ordinary people to make their own choices, to expect artists and designers to behave as consultants and providers rather than dictatorial tastemakers, and to enjoy a material world of change and spontaneity.

Timing is everything.  Interestingly enough, the situationists looked to cybernetics theorists, which had formulated their thoughts around the same time (maybe slightly earlier) to try to begin to discover how new ideas coming out of information theory, such as feedback, can act as ways of narrowing the gap between producers and consumers of culture and artifacts.  Walter Benjamin writes that artistic apparatus “is better the more consumers it is able to turn into producers, that is, readers or spectators into collaborators”.  When will inhabitants begin to define their own environments, and how will this follow or break from the rules set in place by power structures?

If “drifting” signified a state in which humans’ actions were still authentic, and their ability to make choices still existed, then our capitalistic society of today with its inherited power structures must have turned us to a “following” state, with no freedom of choice and no will to question.  This is ironic, because, bar the fact that this is a much more complex situation than I am making it out to be, we originally had the choice (over simply being followers and consumers).

wk7 notes

February 24, 2010



wk6 assignment

February 17, 2010

local-global connection (east-central Indiana)

wk6 reading response

February 17, 2010

Enduring Innocence: Keller Easterling

The cynical, nihilistic arguments put forth by Easterling were quite convoluted.  If she intended on talking about power structures through the means of capital wealth and warfare, hes notions of this were not clear.  Additionally, I think the reader was bound to lose track of what Easterling proposed was the role of architecture (spatial capital) in all of this, unless she was talking about the architecture of power structures.  Our physical environs emerge out of current context (context that cannot be simplified into “this caused that”), often times in ways that are ironically supportive of those who are already in power.  If this was part of her argument, it what not clear.  Additionally, it seemed she contradicted herself several times.  She says pirating is a response to the powerless environments in which it exists, yet alludes to the fact that large corporations (who are inherently powerful) are the real pirates of the world.

What seems to propagate throughout this reading was the fact that we’ve created and submitted to “falsified” environments (call it spatial products, spatial capital) which really responds to a context that is eclipsed by the notion of monetary gains, and is the creation of very narrow worldviews.  Additionally, she proposes that organizations, corporations, and the wealthy use distortion, trickery, etc in order to protect their power.  Simply put, Easterling is talking about power structures in a global market.  This sort of top-down approach is contrary to life in general.  Life happens in the details and intricacies of chance interactions and moments in time.  Such choreographed spaces and activities cannot possibly produce an environment beneficial to its occupants.  Further, there is no omniscient being who can predict all possible outcomes.  There is no singularity in our complex world.  Everything is constantly in flux, evolving, changing in relation to a context that is never static.  What comes to mind is Lorenz’s butterfly.

Back to the idea that power and money go hand in hand, Easterling exemplifies this fact by attempting to uncloak a well organized system of the dumbing down of the American consumer.  No longer are we a customer with a need that can have a real conversation with a shop owner.  Rather, we are merely consumers who can be coerced through marketing tactics into unjustified or unsolicited consumption.  This is merely a single explanation and example of world trends.

Now to spatial products: Easterling says that (and I am obviously paraphrasing) we build to suit out needs.  For those logistics parks (shipping ports) and Free Trade Zones, this means building with an architecture of efficiency responsive to a narrow context- a context that does not embody the cultural environment of place or social environment of people, but of the economic environment of wealth accumulation.  For me, this is emergent architecture with a small “a”.  It is very interesting to try to begin to decipher these “natural” systems and processes that have developed and evolved over the years out of particular contexts in support of a select few.  But it becomes worthwhile to note that, in my opinion, this is not architecture with a big “A”- a formalized architecture that is responsive and responsible to a more holistic context; an architecture that is un-self-interested; an architecture that is thoughtful.

My stream-of-consciousness and disconnected thoughts embodied in this entry probably relates well to the reading that it is responding to.

wk6 notes

February 17, 2010

wk6- enduring innocence_ keller easterling

class notes 2.10.2010

wk5 assignment

February 9, 2010

Reconnecting Democracy

This is an analysis of 4th Street in Louisville, Kentucky.  An interesting divide occurs at Broadway, where to the north, there is a surplus of up-scale commercial development; to the south, development lacks pace and low property prices attract only a certain segment of population.  What’s more is that further south, you find a residential district (“Old Louisville”) which houses both upper-class as well as lower-class families.  Discovering solutions to reconnect these disparate districts is the direction of my thesis.

wk5 reading response

February 7, 2010

A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History: Manuel De Landa
Emergence: Steven Johnson

In Emergence, the notion put forth by Steven Johnson in the last page of the first chapter was an incredibly powerful thought: discussing the effects of the game SimCity as a work of culture, not science, aimed to entertain, he says “And with that popular success has come a subtle, but significant, trickle-down effect: we are starting to think using the conceptual tools of the bottom-up systems.”  Further, he refers to the mechanistic thinking of the past and how, because of a subtle awareness of it surrounding every aspect of living, it had become imbedded in our society.  He proposes the same could be true for systems thinking/emergence now and in the future.

I can’t help but wonder, because we are humans and we cannot escape the fact that we literally came from nature, how have we become so removed from our emergent past?  I would imagine that if we were to look back over history we could recognize how, despite our lack of consciousness of it, systems principles penetrated through our society.  It has probably been our fairly recently past where mechanistic thinking and our desire to control has taken precedence in our actions within the world.  But even then, I can’t imagine that systems principles went away.  I wonder if even though our conscious actions in the world didn’t reflect a bottom-up approach, whether human’s patterns of habitation and living did.  It is from this point that I seek to know how architecture, the framework for our living, can be improved upon.

Computer scientists have been thorough in showing us how computers are able to learn and evolve based off of emergent thinking and Darwinian Theory.  This process includes a set of “genotypes” and “phenotypes”, generative rule-sets that are able to combine and recombine in an infinite number of ways in order to produce the best solutions possible for its current context.  The feedback loop then “grades” the performance of any one combinatory system, and allows or disallows its progression.  If we accept that, unlike the computer scientists who were removed from the systems they were studying, we are innately part of our own systems, how do we think about architecture in a new way that allows us to consciously use systems principles to the benefit of humanity and nature?  What are the genotypes and phenotypes that we use in architecture?  How does architecture learn?  Jane Jacobs’ social theory on complexity in street life begins to get at this, but there isn’t a strong connection to how architecture can appropriate these principles to the benefit of society.  Living architecture is a new concept that literally looks at growing architecture from organic material.  Additionally, much research is currently being done in the area of responsive architecture (architecture that responds to its environment).  Historically, architecture as a practice has maintained a focus on process, and inherently synthesizes complexity and uses feedback loops as part of its understanding and making.  This, too, is systemic in nature.  All of these ways begin to define how architecture as a field is using complexity principles to inform it.  What other explorations are taking place in the field of architecture in this regard?

wk5 notes

February 3, 2010

wk5- Emergence_Steven Johnson

wk5-Nonlinear History notes

class notes 2.3.2010

wk4 assignment

February 3, 2010

mapping relationships, diagramming interdependencies