A10 059 01 02_blog

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[…] The Polish pavilion in Shanghai is probably the most famous and also most evocative project of WWAA. How would you describe it? How does it relate to your other work?

I came through several different phases with this project; first is was like with your first newborn, a strange feeling of being in some movie, with a complete stranger sucking life from you :) Afterwards, I was briefly in love, proud that it had grown into such big and strong being. Then, I was for a few years a little bit ashamed of it, before finally, not long ago, being able to embrace this project fully, as a not perfect but most important achievement. I think also that it might be our big luck, that this very first project was temporary and does not have to stand the test of time – in terms of functionality and durability, because the aesthetics where meant to work in this very moment.

Expo Pavilion was no doubt very defining for the profile of our practice; many investors where expecting copy-cats of this project. I hope we managed to find a cross of what was expected of us and what felt genuine and inspired at the moment. I would like to say that our approach to each project is completely different, but obviously that would be completely false and naive; we do follow some well recognized paths and use shortcuts.

What are you working on now mostly?

We’re quite busy with some projects we’re doing in Qatar, recently we won a small competition there. Part of our team is almost daily on site, as we’re finishing two buildings in Warsaw. We’re also working on several really interesting exhibitions and one temporary pavilion. What’s new, we’re also involved in some urban scale projects; we just finished competition entry for public square in Warsaw, where involved in workshops concerning another one, and are preparing master plan for a post industrial district.  These projects kind of demand different set of skills, which is good, cause keeps us on guard.

What do you think about the position and attitude of young practices at the moment?

When we where at the starting point, there where many practices having nice websites with many impressive projects – but only in renderings. It felt somehow phony/artificial, and now I’m really happy to see that many young architects start with small scale projects, having them realized, thus showing through their work some special skills, such as being socially sensitive or having nice touch with materials, details, or any other. Of course I’m not opposed to doing competitions or study projects, but just feel that in our job it is so important to have frequent reality checks.

Indira van ‘t Klooster: Freedom of Flexibility – An Interview with Natalia Paszkowska, from WWAA Architects. A10 MAgazine #59. Sept-Oct 2014

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WWAA stands for Warsaw Architects, but a lot of their work currently takes place in Qatar. The office itself is located in KOMIN 73 (‘Factory Chimney 73′), a revitalized post-industrial complex, where activities ranging from design, graphic art, photography and fashion, to web and parametric design, 3D mapping and animation also reside. In the summer, an outdoor terrace hosts informal events. For a glimpse of what WWAA are producing, take a look at their website.

NK16_Biennale non Banale_sm

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So, in order to continue adding my dubious contribution to Archdaily’s celebration of Mr K’s 70th birthday, here you have a cartoon originally published in Uncube Magazine #23, Mexico CityThis one was drawn by the time the Biennale opened, some months ago, but since it overlapped with some other Koolhaas-related cartoons (see Clog, for instance, or my previous post for Arquine), I decided to keep it for the Biennale’s closure. Now that time has arrived, and the fact that it now overlaps with Koolhaas’ b-day just makes it all more deliciously graphic. I’m not going to enter again the debate on how this Biennale, with its allegedly anti-star system approach, works too well as a self-celebrating vehicle: -“Let’s talk about architecture, not architects”. – “Where’s that motto from?” – “From Koolhaas’ Biennale.” By excluding everyone else, Koolhaas makes himself the only character in his own show, which unfolds to the viewer in all its full-fledged, pseudo-analytic banality. I would say “I already toldya so”, in my first contribution for Uncube, but I doubt there was anyone who thought otherwise when it was announced.

Ahhhh… rants… what would life be like without them?

AN 13 02 BLOG

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So, apparently -and because they directly told me so- the guys from ArchDaily are up for celebrating Rem Koolhaas’s 70th birthday, which seems to be today. They made an online request “to post video and/or visual tributes to Rem to your social media accounts using the hasthtag #Rem70″. I’m still trying to figure out how anyone would think anything I could do would honor him in any way; but, just to join the party, here you have the cartoon and text published in my “ArchiNOIR” section in Arquine #68: Fundamentales. In their pristine, Spanish translation. Alternatively, you can check another take -in English- on the same subject, in my contribution to CLOG: REM. More on that later.

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“La Bienal de 2014 tratará sobre arquitectura, no sobre arquitectos.” Koolhaas lo ha vuelto a hacer.” Apenas pronunciaba esta frase, todos los medios -las redes sociales, blogs, pero también las versiones online de los periódicos- se dedicaban a hablar, no sobre la Biennale, sino sobre Rem Koolhaas. Pocos días después -no hace falta más que entrar en google para comprobarlo-, “Fundamentals”, la decimocuarta edición de la  Biennale de Venecia, había pasado a ser “La Bienal de Koolhaas”. Bien jugado.

Koolhaas retomaba así la estrategia de Josep Antoni Coderch cuando pronunció su falsa proclama de que “no son Genios lo que necesitamos ahora”. Con este sencillo gesto, Coderch, bastante seguro de su propia genialidad, se posicionaba así automáticamente en el imaginario de los que lo escuchaban como el último de esa raza, en una especie de premonición de aquella escena de “La Vida de Brian” en la que un desesperado Graham Chapman gritaba a la multitud “¡Yo no soy el mesías!”, sólo para escuchar a John Cleese replicar “¡[s]ólo el verdadero mesías niega su divinidad”!  -“No hablemos de arquitectos”, dice Koolhaas. -“¡Hablemos de él!”, responden los arquitectos al unísono.

Lo cierto es que Rem Koolhaas, mucho más que el más modesto (en escala, que no en personalidad) Coderch, lleva décadas trabajando sostenidamente su condición de mesías de la arquitectura, de Le Corbusier del nuevo milenio (hasta el punto de construir su propia Ville Savoye en las afueras de París a principios de los 90). Y vista la unánime fascinación por su figura, su éxito parece indiscutible. Por eso la declaración de intenciones de la nueva Bienal suena tan doblemente falaz: Si la renuncia a hablar de arquitectos per se le asegura ser la única estrella de su propio show, la decisión de focalizar la bienal en el análisis de “los elementos fundamentales de nuestros edificios: el suelo, la pared, el techo, la ventana, la fachada, el balcón, el pasillo, la chimenea, el aseo, la escalera, la escalera mecánica, el ascensor, la rampa…” no goza de demasiada credibilidad en boca de un arquitecto abiertamente interesado en otros aspectos de la arquitectura que no son los físicos ni los constructivos -con la evidente excepción del ascensor y la escalera mecánica. No es la primera vez que hace esto: hace ahora cinco años, Koolhaas volvía a Harvard, tras su notable ausencia en la época Altshuler, para dar una conferencia en el simposium “Ecological Urbanism”, organizado por Mohsen Mostafavi. Y lo hacía con una charla sobre sostenibilidad -recordemos que en aquella época se encontraba terminando la sede del CCTV en Beijing- digna del mejor copypaste de wikipedia, que dejó a los asistentes con la duda de si hablaba en serio o les tomaba el pelo. Tres años después, repetiría estrategia y lugar con una nueva conferencia, “Current Preoccupations”, centrada esta vez entre otras cosas en (ver para creer) el campo y la conservación del patrimonio.

Resulta difícil, en este contexto, no recordar aquella ocasión en la que, casi en un (¿premeditado?) desliz, Koolhaas admitía ante Katrina Heron que “[h]ay una enorme, deliberada y -creo- sana discrepancia entre lo que digo y lo que hago.”[i] Y en el caso del bueno de Remment, esta cita casi parece confundirse con aquella otra de Benavente: “Bienaventurados nuestros imitadores porque de ellos serán nuestros defectos.” Koolhaas juega ciertamente a la confusión, y si bien el “estilo OMA” lleva siendo imitado incansablemente por las generaciones jóvenes desde mediados de los 90, esta imitación superficial no hace sino contribuir a la construcción de la leyenda de Koolhaas, favorecido por la comparativa de la copia y el original. El juego de Koolhaas es decididamente difícil de  imitar, hasta el punto de instalar en nosotros la duda de si hay algo de cierto en lo que dice, o todo está cuidadosamente planificado.

En “Current Preoccupations”, en la que presentaba el por aquel entonces recientemente publicado Project Japan, Koolhaas, admirador confeso de los metabolistas, lamentaba la pérdida del ‘aura mediática’ que los arquitectos aún disfrutaban en los tiempos de Kikutake: Hoy en día, los arquitectos han incrementado su presencia pública, a cambio de una pérdida de credibilidad. Es difícil estar en desacuerdo con esto, si bien el argumento de Koolhaas -que ningún arquitecto había aparecido en la portada de TIME después de Phillip Johnson en 1979- resultaba un tanto insípido, un poco demasiado pro-establishment para OMA, y francamente en discordancia con el leit motif de la subsiguiente Biennale: arquitectura frente a arquitectos. Del mismo modo, resultaba divertido escuchar a Koolhaas quejarse de la caricaturización que viene aparejada a la ubicuidad mediática de los arquitectos, habida cuenta de su papel en la postmoderna recuperación de la sátira como herramienta para la (de)construcción del discurso arquitectónico. “Siempre se escribe sobre la arquitectura como una disciplina seria (…) debemos liberarla de esta presión constante de la seriedad… [c]reo que [aún] hay vida en la arquitectura…”, dice en su discurso para la Biennale.

Es por ello que cuesta no ver todo esto como una inmensa orquestación. Coincidiendo con la inminente inauguración de la exposición OMA/Progress en el Barbican Centre de Londres, Dezeen mostraba dos vídeos en los que el propio Rem-the-Man, ofrecía, visiblemente -o aparentemente- incómodo, un improvisado tour por los espacios de la misma, aún sin terminar. Con ello, ofrecía también al espectador el placer de disfrutar de la domesticidad ‘backstage’ que estos vídeos exhalaban, mirando fugazmente a la cámara mientras caminaba apresuradamente por salas aún  medio vacías ofreciendo descripciones entretenidamente parciales y torpes de los proyectos allí exhibidos. Pero incluso este deambular nervioso, que puede en último término contribuir a la empatía del espectador con el difícil personaje, no hace sino contribuir al halo de misterio que lo rodea, mostrando a un Koolhaas que no acertamos a decir si resulta frágil o despectivo en su desapasionada, incómoda prisa por acabar cuanto antes; la misma estrategia, en el fondo, que sus cuidadosamente descuidadas conferencias,  una suerte de material ‘en bruto’ que parece expresamente diseñada para evocar el aura de autenticidad de la descarnada, entre espartana y decadente aproximación al diseño de OMA[ii]. Por supuesto, es difícil distinguir lo que es real de lo que es una mera actuación, pero Koolhaas ganó en el momento en que consiguió instalar la duda permanente en su público, generando para sí mismo una imagen de gran manipulador que no hace sino cultivar su dimensión legendaria.

¿Caricaturas? ¿Críticas aceradas?…

En el fondo, trabajamos para él.

[i] “There is an enormous, deliberate, and – I think – healthy discrepancy between what I write and what I do.” Heron, Katrina: ‘From Bauhaus to Koolhaas’ en Wired nº 4.07, Julio de 1996.

[ii] Ver Rose Etherington: “Rem Koolhaas on OMA/Progress”, en Dezeen, 7 de Octubre de 2011.

Fundamentalmente, Yo: REMdamentals: La Biennale de Koolhaas y la construcción continua del propio mito. Arquine #68: Fundamentals, June 2014.

NK17 inks 04_blog

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Limited and traditional definitions of architecture and its means have lost their validity. Today the environment as a whole is the goal of our activities—and all the media of its determination: TV or artificial climate, transportation or clothing, telecommunication or shelter. The extension of the human sphere and the means of its determination go far beyond a built statement. Today everything becomes architecture. “Architecture” is just one of many means, is just one possibility. […] Architecture is a medium of communication.

[…] For thousands of years, artificial transformation and determination of man’s world, as well as sheltering from weather and climate, was accomplished by means of building. The building was the essential manifestation and expression of man. Building was understood as the creation of a three-dimensional image of the necessary as spatial definition, protective shell, mechanism and instrument, psychic means and symbol. The development of science and technology, as well as changing society and its needs and demands, has confronted us with entirely different realities. Other and new media of environmental determination emerge. […] Obviously it no longer occurs to anyone to wall-in sewage canals or erect astronomical instruments of stone (Jaipur). New communications media like telephone, radio. TV, etc. are of far more import. Today a museum or a school can be replaced by a TV set. Architects must cease to think only in terms of buildings.

[…] Thus a building might be simulated only. An early example of the extension of buildings through media of communication is the telephone booth —a building of minimal size extended into global dimensions. Environments of this kind more directly related to the human body and even more concentrated in form are, for example, the helmets of jet pilots who, through telecommunication, expand their senses and bring vast areas into direct relation with themselves. Toward a synthesis and to an extreme formulation of a contemporary architecture leads the development of space capsules and space suits. Here is a “house”—far more perfect than any building—with a complete control of bodily functions, provision of food and disposal of waste, coupled with a maximum mobility. […] A true architecture of our time will have to redefine itself and expand its means. Many areas outside traditional building will enter the realm of architecture, as architecture and “architects” will have to enter new fields.

All are architects. Everything is architecture.

Hans Hollein: “Alles Ist Architektur”. Bau 1/2, 1968

[Full text and original article at Socks’ blog]

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The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #24: Hans Hollein, edited by Sophie Lovell, Floriaon Heilmeyer, Elvia Wilk et al, which deals entirely with Hollein’s work with some help of Madalena Boavida, Susie S. Lee, Wilfried Kuehn, Marlies Wirth, Oliver Elser, Rob Wilsonet al. Highly recommended reading.

For some further reading on a man who made the world a more interesting place, check Dezeen’s April 2014 obituary, or some words on him by Charles Holland  ( ), who echoes Hollein in more aspects than his name. I know: there’s a ‘Numerus Klausus’ issue missing. It’ll come later.

Praxis 14 - True Stories Table of Contents

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Praxis 14, “True Stories”, guest edited by Ana Miljacki, with Amanda Reeser Lawrence and Ashley Schafer, considers the ways in which architects tell stories. Films, fictions, sitcoms, comics, and fairytales are among the types of architectural narratives featured in the issue. These acts of architectural storytelling are considered for their capacity as both critical and projective disciplinary tools. With Barry Bergdoll, Reinhold Martin, Jimenez Lai, MOS, Julia and John McMorrough, Keith Krumwiede, Carlos Teixeira, Keith Mitnick, Christina Goberna and Urtzi Grau, Klaus Roons [sic], Kazys Varnelis and Robert Sumrell, and Wes Jones.

This one was so long in the works that I ultimately forgot to post it. the triple AAA, Ana, Amanda, and Ashley, contacted me looong ago, and asked if I could do an illustration for -then- forthcoming issue #14 of PRAXIS: Journal of Writing + BuildingPraxis is one of those academic publishing efforts I have fond memories of, and the issue was so packed with old friends of this blog (Jimenez, Kazys Varnelis, MOS, Wes Jones…) that I couldn’t say no. Then, Amanda, Ana and Ashley became even more busy when they became appointed part of the curatorial team of the US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale. I guess I’ll have to wait some time for issue 15. In the magazine, everyone was given a speech balloon (not bubble!) with their contribution title, authors name and page number written in it. Unfortunately, my copy is in a box somewhere, so you’ll have to get yourself one.

Jaque Disobedients A_10_red

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“Andrés Jaque (*1971, Madrid) is not a typical architect. His radical stance breaking the traditional boundaries of architecture makes of him is one of the most relevant figures in the contemporary European architecture scene. Talking with Andrés is always inspiring and his words are a gust of fresh air to any preconceived statement about what contemporary architecture means nowadays. His firm Andrés Jaque Architects founded in 2000 and its spin-off Office for Political Innovation started three years later are a continuous stimulating source of inspiration for a whole new generation of young and not that young architects all around Europe that claim a change in the discipline. From his very first projects he showed an interest in working with conventional domestic realities that had been omitted by the architects and the political and corporative realm.

Gonzalo Herrero Delicado – Your work has always been charged with a very critical political load. What is the relevancy of politics into architecture?

Andrés Jaque - Architecture makes possible to coexist different agents in the city that won’t be able to live together without its presence. From this point of view, the architecture is always a political action itself and its challenges are simultaneously discussed in the urban and domestic arenas. The conventional descriptions of a city are out of phase and are now more and more complex. Nowadays also the politics are not as easy to be defined and are described by spatial structures simultaneously connecting different countries. The politic sphere is not just defined by a single government or society but by many imperceptible spatial structures and networks. […]

GHD – Another main focus of the core of your work is the connection between architecture and the society as it happened with the acclaimed performance IKEA Disobedients but at the same time this project was also widely criticised because it didn’t provide an architectural solution, what do you think about it?

AJ - After we made the first performance of IKEA Disobedients in Madrid, Candela, one of the characters featured in the project, was menaced to be evicted and because she was part of this project, there was many spontaneous protests in the streets of Madrid to support her. Also thanks to the massive media impact created around the project after being acquired by the MoMA, she was not finally evicted from her house. There you have the solution. In fact this is probably the most architectural project we have ever done in the office. […]”

Gonzalo Herrero Delicado: The Daily Politics of Architecture – An Interview with Andrés Jaque. A10 MAgazine #58. July-August 2014 

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For a quick look at the IKEA disobedients project/performance/exhibition, check this video at MoMA’s site. For an overview of Jaque’s work, check the Office for Political innovation webpage. Gonzalo Herrero’s multiple activities can also be checked in his own site.

NK15 Underwater Zoom

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The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #22: Water, edited by Sophie Lovell, Florian Heilmeyer, Elvia Wilk et al, which focuses on Water as a design material, and gathers everything from Matthias Schuler to the Hoover Dam or rei Otto. Federico Fellini, Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ and Archigram’s Warren Chalk may not seem to go hand in hand to everyone, but in my mind, it makes perfect sense. Maybe that speaks tons of the way it works. More on that later. Maybe not.

This cartoon was drawn on May 2014, which marks the 50th anniversary of the original publication of ‘Amazing Archigram 4: Zoom Issue’, where ‘Underwater Zoom’ was a whole section. Happy Birthday! An exhibition may be in the works.

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