Archive for April, 2010

wk15 reading response

April 21, 2010

Abstracting Craft: Malcolm McCullough

Malcolm McCullough says “Hands are the best source of tacit personal knowledge because of all of the extensions of the body, they are the most subtle, the most sensitive, the most probing, the most differentiated, and the most closely connected to the mind”.  Hands are our intellects extension into the physical world.  They allow us to carry out our intentions.  Not only are they explicitly able to interact with the physical world around us, providing innumerable feedback mechanisms, but can also make/use tools to amplify characteristics necessary for interaction with the physical world.  The notion of hands as being a source of knowledge and skill does not exclude the need for our other sense organs that also interact with the physical world.  We too have sight (eyes), sound (ears), taste (tongue), smell (nose) which all aid in our discernment for the world around us.  But it is touch (hands) that has largely gone unnoticed.

What I find more interesting that the medium of the hand itself, or even the tools that it makes to use, is the interaction between multiple mediums that can hardly be quantified.  The eye must see first, for the hand to know what to do.  Each of these biological mechanisms of interaction with our physical world provide a wealth of feedback, all of which is synthesized and made sense of by the mind.  It is within these interactions, and within the power of the mind, that I find real value.  This is what I think true skill is.  It is having a conscious, critical knowledge of how you are interacting with tools, with the physical world that surround, with another living thing, and using that knowledge to progress that interaction in new and unforeseen ways.  McCullough uses the example of the MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) controller in the field of music.  This tool hasn’t made other more traditional instruments obsolete.  Rather, it has provided a new way (an interface) for allowing many musicians to actually design the sounds they want.  It is another tool, not unlike the guitar, that “users” interact with to create, mix, change, reinterpret sound.  It can be critiqued in the sense that it is, out of the starting gate, limiting to some degree because there is a preconceived notion of what the midi controller can do.  That is like saying “over there is an autocad building” and “there is a rhino building”.  But, in fact, it is not the tools that are limiting, but the minds ability to use those tools.

wk15 notes

April 21, 2010

wk15-Mccullough-abstracting craft

wk14 reading response

April 20, 2010

Architectural Curvilinearity: Greg Lynn

Reacting to the popular deconstructivist approach, Greg Lynn worked to find other ways of combining complex programmes and disassociated elements of particular sites and contexts.  Instead of embodying social, cultural, and physical differences in formal conflicts, he sought to create “folded architecture” that began to both formally and programmatically, aesthetically and tectonically roll and layer discrete differences into a cohesive whole.  The resultant architecture became a continuous language that was much more complex and complete than merely formally juxtaposing incongruities.

“Pliancy allows architecture to become involved in complexity through flexibility.  It may be possible to neither repress the complex relations of differences with fixed points of resolution nor arrest them in contradictions, but sustain them through flexible, unpredicted, local connections”.

The above quote is how Lynn begins to synthesize some of the ideas he appropriates from Deleuze on the nature of smoothness and continuous variations/continuous development.  What I think is so interesting about this quote, though, in the unencumbered way which Lynn applies ideas of nature and living.  Diversity is not a new idea to the biological sciences.  It is a basic prerequisite to life.  Yet it has largely gone unnoticed in the architectural discipline, who has concerned itself primarily with critical form exploration.  Lynn approaches this notion of diversity from an entirely new vantage point.  He doesn’t want to point out differences for the sake of formal definition.  Rather, he wants to design for flexibility, adaptability, in a way that will provide opportunities for unpredicted connections and interactions.  He isn’t simply designing diversity into the form, but is trying to create an architecture that might accommodate or promote diversity, ultimately in a cohesive way.

He tests the ideas of folding, because, as he says, its process of overturning and layering will “mix smoothly multiple ingredients in such a way that their individual characteristics are maintained”.  Additionally, folding allows for the emergence of viscous mixtures.  That is to say “the nature of pliant forms is that they are sticky and flexible… As pliant forms are manipulated and deformed the things that stick to their surfaces become incorporated into their interior”.  What Lynn alludes to here is what some biologists might call adaptation.  Within an ecosystem, each part has an effect on every other part, therefore one small change in the system tends to have a ripple-effect and cause a large change in the whole.  It seems as if this is what Lynn is talking about in regards to pliant forms.  This pliant characteristic of architecture has the opportunity to be excellently adept because the architecture itself grows and changes with a changing environment/context.  It internalizes external forces.  It is never static.  Rather it has dynamic stability.  It is able to quickly make itself relevant again given ever-changing circumstances.

wk14 notes

April 20, 2010

wk14-Lynn et al-Folding in architecture

wk13 reading response

April 19, 2010

Universal Architecture: Buckminster Fuller

I would like to talk about Buckminster Fuller’s notion of Universal Architecture as humanity’s supreme survival gesture.  He makes two remarks that seem to speak to each other, but also delineates his thoughts on evolutionary biology and the future of life.

“The whole composition should never be dependent on the relative success of any one unit; and, or positively stated, all units should be independently (flexibly, angularly) aligned to the whole composition of structure, and therefore progressively replaceable by ever more adequate unit solutions, thus making for an evolutionary growth to an intellectually (selectively) refining totality… which later invokes revolutionary, and iconoclastic, replacements of ‘whole old composition’”.

“Life continuity via universal architecture [as an external mechanical aid, structure for survival].  The new universal architecture of a physical-intellectual-scientific external machine holds promise of accomplishing the life balance”.

It is obvious that Fuller is searching for an architecture or framework that might begin to ensure “life continuity”.  What I find so interesting is that he is choosing to do this through what he calls universal architecture.  This, to some degree, seems to go against principles we find in biology.  For instance, the principle of diversity, up to this point in history, has ensured evolution and survival.  Diversity allows for an efficient process of elimination, ensuring the most adept genes get passed to the next generation of species.  What Fuller seemingly suggests is going against the principle of diversity through what he has termed ‘universal architecture’.

I can fathom that what he really meant by universal architecture was not simply one physical solution meant to solve the complex myriad of issues we are faced with at any one time, but rather a universal way of addressing every problem we are faced with, through following principles of life, such as flexibility, adaptability, intelligence, etc.

These thoughts seem particularly suitable for slow evolution, and one might imagine the human race evolving quite nicely.  But looking at contemporary issues, such as nuclear warfare, climate change, solar degeneration, we should also consider how we might promote the continuity of life given catastrophic events that hold the potential to drastically change our environments over a short period of time.  I suppose Fuller alluded to this when he spoke of “external mechanical aid and structure for survival”, given the fact that humans may not be able to adapt internally at a pace fast enough to ensure our survival, therefore we rely on our intellect to promote life continuity.

wk13 notes

April 19, 2010

wk13-Bucky-architect as world planner

wk13-Bucky-universal architecture