May 5, 2013
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“Our Design for the Parrish Art Museum is a reinterpretation of a very Herzog & De Meuron typology, the traditional house form. What we like about this typology is that it is open for many different functions, places, and cultures. Each time this simple, almost banal form has become something ver specific, precise, and also fresh.” — Jacques Herzog via Dezeen
[As usual, the cartoons can be found in all their original glory at uncube's website].
April 14, 2013
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Ok, let’s see if I can bring this back on trail. I really need to catch up with the blog.
This comes from Uncube Magazine # 07 : Off-places. The published version is slightly different. In the same issue, there’s an interview with Gottfried Böhm by Florian Heilmeyer which is really worth checking, if you’re a Brutalist fanatic such as myself. So go check it.
February 22, 2013
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So, yes. It’s actually been a week or so since it was officially announced in their website, but I hadn’t really had the time to sit down and announce it here (see? that’s what twitter’s for), so there it goes: Several weeks ago, Jessica Bridger, one of the editors of Berlin-based online magazine Uncube wrote me asking if I’d like to start an ongoing collaboration with them, and -being the internet whore I am-, I immediately said yes.
So starting with their issue #07, “Off-Places”, I will start publishing a monthly cartoon in my own section, “Klaus’s Kube”. Some of the cartoons will belong in a series, “Numerus Klausus”, commenting on the things that are happening now in the architectural scene, but they will probably be combined with other more otherworldly stuff. Let’s see.
Special thanks to Jessica Bridger and Florian Heilmeyer for their interest and support (full team here).
October 12, 2012
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Tomorrow, Saturday, October 13 2012, Jimenez Lai (of Bureau Spectacular fame) and I will be presenting the joint exhibition (no, not a show about smoking drugs) ARCHITECTURAL NARATIVES, as part of the second edition of MAS Context: Analog, a one-day event of presentations, exhibitions and an onsite bookstore in Chicago organized by MAS Studio in collaboration with NEW PROJECTS. Although the event is a one-day show, the exhibition itself will be available for seeing all week, and will feature large prints (yes, of course the Kunst-Haas series will be there), and some text on my side, and lots of Jimenez’s spectacular (no pun intended: it IS spectacular) work on the other.
MAS Context: Analog (first edition here) will gather a group of emerging and established practitioners within the field of design who will discuss their work based on proposed themes. The event will include presentations by artists, academics, architects, urban designers, graphic designers and industrial designers including Jimenez Lai, Sean Lally, David Brown, David Rueter, John Pobojewski, Sara C. Aye & George Aye, Andrew Clark, David Sieren & Sam Rosen, Ed Marszewski, Marc Fisher, Claire Warner & Sam Vinz, and Dieter Roelstraete. It will also feature an onsite bookstore by Half Letter Press, a publishing imprint and an experimental online store initiated by Temporary Services. The presentations will be followed by a closing party that will include a DJ set by Dieter Roelstraete.
The event is free and open to the general public, and it is an all-day event so feel free to stop by anytime or plan to stay all day, listen to the presentations, check the exhibition, buy publications, connect with other designers, make donations for the artists or play gymnastics in perfect replicant fashion. That’s up to you. Just come for a while.
The event will be housed by NEW PROJECTS, an urban design studio, research center, and exhibition space in Chicago directed by Marshall Brown and Stephanie Smith. You can find more information about NEW PROJECTS here. It is located at 3621 South State Street, close to the 35th-Bronzeville-IIT train stop (CTA Green Line), the Sox/35th train stop (CTA Red Line) and the 35th/’Lou’ Jones/Bronzeville train stop (Metra Rock Island District). The space is also accessible via the #29 (State) bus route. Use Google maps to find your route. We encourage the use of public transportation, bicycles, and walking. Street parking is limited in the area.
As usual, a big thank you to Iker Gil, editor of MAS Context and one of the most productive people I know, for taking the time to organize everything and pushing me to crawl out of my cave.
Check the schedule and more information of the event here.
September 17, 2012
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But today we collect Gags [and gigs, and schticks]
Gropius wrote a book on grain silos,
Le Corbusier one on aeroplanes,
and Charlotte Periand brought
a new object to the office every morning,
But today we collect ads.[i]
Today (today), Rem Koolhaas writes big fat books and reinvents OMA each ten years in a different exhibition, and Bjarke Ingels recounts the 8 House to us conjuring a virtual model in the air while speaking to the camera. Nic Clear evokes the spaces suggested by Ballard in videos created in the Bartlett workshops, and Factory Fifteen win the RIBA medal with a short film on androids of the Apartheid. Architecture and fiction, again.
And comics. A decade before, Koolhaas (and son) rediscovered one more time (for architecture) the underground appeal of drawn stories, and Neutelings appropriated the graphic patterns of a certain Swarte (or perhaps Eddy Vermeulen’s) due to their inherent conceptual transparency. Today, Jimenez Lai published a graphic novel under the Princeton Architectural Press seal, and Yes is More or Metro Bassel signify the drift of architecture -a discipline traditionally burdened by its obsession with distancing itself from anything that could question its intellectual pedigree- towards the uncertain terrains of ars poverae and cool, of marketing and circus-like mediatic massage.
(… but -I am told- Le Corbusier also did storyboards for buildings in the 1920s, and before that he had already adopted the graphic conventionalisms of American cartoons. And even earlier, he flirted with the idea of writing a doctoral dissertation on the comic strips of Rodolphe Töpffer, the Swiss father of the bande dessinée…)
Jeanneret was a fertile and feverish communicator, too; like Loos, an active polemist; like Mies, a skilled coiner of catchphrases and mottos. The journey is, some they say, in how you tell it, and if architecture has nowadays a passionate affair with communication, this is nothing new, anyways. Today (the day before yesterday, at the latest), Rem Koolhaas poses impeccably dressed as the cover image of Vogue, while he plays confusion with his audience, displaying a discourse in permanent -and studied- contradiction. But long before that, Corbusier (that early Koolhaas impersonator) already understood that his main role was that of the publicist who could as well photograph himself painting nude in Saint Tropez, or rebuild his own history over and over again in the consecutive editions of his Oeuvre Complete. Architecture, and starchitecture, is in how you tel it, yes, and its legend gets built through grand discourses, but also in small talk, gossip and small miseries, through a mouth-to-ear that current informational ubiquity has augmented exponentially. Today, information is bigger, and bigger are the chances for media presence; but a more ephemeral one. That’s why the flux has to keep coming; the flux of images, publications and conferences, of debates, but also of opinions and minutiae, of Facebook walls and tittle-tattle.
Because today, we collect gags.
[i] Alison&Peter Smithson: “But Today We Collect Ads”. Ark magazine No. 18, November 1956.
“But today we collect gags”, originally published in the e-book “The Importance of the Ways Stories are Being Told” (dpr-Barcelona, June-July 2012) after the debate of the same name, and cracked during a train trip to Barcelona. Anyone who has read the similarly-themed “Tell Me More!” or “Modern Talking” will notice the recurrences and overlaps. [Also, the above image doesn't have much to do with the text itself, just with the title, but...]
”The Importance of the Way Stories are Being Told”. Following the debate “Communication and Bottom-UP. The importance of the way stories are being told.” dpr-barcelona seek to expand the debates and conversations avoiding them to get lost after a few days of the event. This digital-pamphlet [kindle + ePub] is meant as a tool to keep exploring the thought and ideas of thinkers and doers; articulated by simple detonating questions posed through emails, tweets and conversations intending to comunicate effectively the very essence of the debate: “the importance of telling stories”.
This “fast generated” publication includes contributions by attending guest to the debate [that you can see here in the post], the so-called “Line 0” [Ana María León, Pedro Hernández and Clara Nubiola] and with the aim to expand the conversation beyond the dome of Eme3′s piazza, we also have invited a few friends who are involved in similar activities to share their thoughts about this topic with us. They are Iker Gil, Mario Ballesteros, Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau [Fake Industries], Mimi Zeiger, and Nick Axel.
This digital pamphlet is also a starting point for a open and written debate were everyone can also sum opinions: Those interested in responding will be able to add more contents using Booki (http://www.booki.cc/list-books/), which is an open platform that allows to write collaborative books and even generating a very personal version.
The book has been published bilingual, with some articles in Spanish and other ones in English, as each author was free to choose the language that makes easier to communicate his/her ideas. You are free to add a complete chapter, to add contents to the published ones and to add images… Did someone say participate? You can download the eBook version for kindle, ipad and tablets by paying with a tweet.
August 15, 2012
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(…) Digging into the dirty laundry of the architectural star-system is, in any case, neither a recent phenomenon nor a curiosity exclusively circumscribed to today’s divas. The mouth-to-ear airing of our architectural heroes’ private sins has been an inevitable aside of their rise as idols. Small talk on the lower passions of the masters of the past has accompanied the writing of the big lines of the History of Modern Architecture, and along with our worshiping of their oeuvre comes the delight to learn about their quaintest interiorities: Mies van der Rohe´s infamous (non) affairs with Ms. Farnsworth, Alvar Aalto´s alcoholism -a recurring topic for Finnish cartoonists3, or Le Corbusier´s pathological Messianic obsessions are personal details that have transcended the boundaries of scientific biographies to become precious pieces of information we love adding to our common knowledge of them. We need both heroes and villains: The formers to inspire us, the latter to offer us some moral relief at the sight of a worse human being than ourselves. But even more, we’d rather having our heroes be our villains too. Some will argue that these minor flaws humanize our icons, making them flesh and blood human beings we can better relate to, and certainly this “fleshing out” helps build our interest on them. But this humanization is also an excuse that sugarcoats a very straight forward preservation mechanism, devised to protect our self-esteem at that point where admiration meets sheer envy. There’s nothing we love more than a rags to riches story -except for a riches to rags story, that is.
A most interesting reversion of this turns up, however, when these minutiae actually become an integral part of the mythos, to the point of being vital contributors to its very construction. Again, the careful devise of its own legend was an inherent feature of architecture’s entrance into modernity, often created as a fiction before it really happened. (…) The fascinating point here is how this emergence of gossiping contributes to the creation of the starchitect; how in the case of contemporary icons such as Rem Koolhaas it´s the unofficial flux of information surrounding the figure which ultimately elevates him into a legendary status.
Of course, in the case of Koolhaas the shaping of this aura is also engineered through conventional means; Koolhaas is a sharp thinker and an eloquent writer and spokesman who has shaken the architectural scene of the last decades with acute reflections of deliberate and controlled ambiguity. But even more than through his words, the Koolhaas mediatic persona has been constructed through a parallel dissemination of details about his behind-the-scenes: stories that tell us of a man who lives in airplanes, sending by mail corrections for a document he was given in a meeting a few hours before, of a Renaissance man who swims every time he lands, or wins a competition with a single, cunning speech5. All this mouth-to-ear stories, propagated through the netsphere, contribute to endow his figure with an halo of epic mystery that propells him into an almost superhuman category. Koolhaas is the über-example of the starchitect, where the personality comes first and the work second. And that’s the bottom line: Koolhaas can produce starchitecture because he is, first and foremost, a star. Le Corbusier´s delightully maudit portrait, painting nude in Saint Tropez has been replaced by a cover of L’Uomo Vogue.
But public notoriety is as easy to gather in the age of software as difficult to retain. The internet era is also the age of the twitterization of knowledge, a time where information both reigns and deflates, where news are as ubiquitous as thoroughly made-to-forget, immediately replaced by new installments. The same could be said about some of the architecture produced by this idiosyncrasy, made to glow for a moment and quickly disappear; architecture of futile monumentality and inevitable ephemerality designed within a discipline obsessed with creating the building of the century… of the week. In this new paradigm, the (st)architect has to become a public figure, an entertainer, a performer, or even, if needed, a celebrity of the Kardashian kind. The World Wide Web and the rapid production allowed by digital tools have multiplied the presence of architecture in everyday life, and have worked together to create a new type of architect sustained above all by his communication skills. The internet, blog culture, Twitter, have leveled the capability of everyone to achieve their share of Warholian fame, but in turn, their allotted fifteen minutes have been drastically reduced to -maybe- fifteen seconds. The attention of the audience, brought up in a solid diet of continuous novelty, is volatile, and the architecture of today has to keep nourishing its audience at a steady pace, or risk disappearing from the picture right away.
And it is in this context where gossip, criticism and satire, emerge as tools for the maintenance of public presence. The internet has also revived the long-loved tradition of the fast gag, the sketchy commentary, and the cartoon, which offer the necessary escape route for the asfixiating ubiquity and self-indulgence of architectural discourse. As any endogamic discipline, architecture has a record of taking itself too seriously, and of alternating victimism and self-deprecation with tremendous arrogance and a myopic lack of perspective (ironic as it is) on the relevance of its own obsessions. The reemergence of satire appears as a natural counterbalance for this, offering us a way to mock our loved-hated idols that’s apparently naive, inoffensive (but with the potential to become really offensive), and sublimate our frustration through ironic laughter, instead of bitter full-frontal (yes) criticism, while at the same time, reinforcing the (com)position of the starchitectural who’s who. As Oscar Wilde, via some of our infamous celebrities, would point out, the ultimate goal is to be talked about so as to be (there), even if just to be thrashed, and architects, with their fragile yet unrestrained egos, become the ideal victim/beneficiary of this revival. Today, gossip refashions itself as a form of viral advertising. The motto is “keep them talking”. (…)
Tell me more! – Gossiping, cartooning, and the nourishing of the Starchitectural status quo
Conditions magazine #10: Gossip, July 2012
The above are some excerpts from a (not really much longer) article published in the last issue of Conditions magazine, which I received last month, in the middle of the busiest July I can remember. Conditions is an independent Scandinavian magazine on Architecture and Urbanism edited by Joana da Rocha Sá Lima, Tor Inge Hjemdal, and Anders Melsom whose next issue, “Possible Greenland”, will be part of the official catalogue of this year’s Danish/Greenlandic contribution to the Venice Biennale. Conditions #10 is dedicated to gossip, and features contributions by Robert Somol, Eduard Sancho, Christian Hjelle, Irene Hwang, Ed Ogosta, Espen Vatn, Freddy Massad&Alicia Guerrero Yeste, Roberto Naboni, Iben Falconer and yours truly. The essay above was written around the same time as Modern Talking, the article published in Mas Context #14: Communication that tackled on some overlapping issues, which explains the recurrent use of some examples and ramblings; either that or I’m entering a wino-in-a-bar dynamics where I just keep repeating the same the same stuff over and over. Please, be forgiving.
If you want to read the full article, click in the images below, or -much better- order a copy here. You can also read the text of Eduard Sancho’s And if most of the job offers are fake? here. Special thanks to Gislunn Halfdanardottir.
Once upon a time, people compared with their neighbors. Your neighbor was your point of reference and thus the most desirable object of gossip and eavesdropping. Not so anymore. In the world of global networking, you are driven by ambition to compare yourself with the most clever or world-renowned exponents of your trade. Even a critique, satire or parody of the star-system of architecture is an affirmation of its hegemony. Who doesn’t want to be the object of architecture gossip? After all, it’s giving the “stars” more attention, no matter how critical the original intention was. For addicts of gossip, all news is good news, the worst thing is silence, and even a well mediated “scandal” can actually promote your career.
The current issue of CONDITIONS investigates the function of gossip in architecture. Gossip has always been around in architecture as one of the oldest ways of sharing, maneuvering and convincing. But how does it manifest itself today within the instant culture of internet and social media? What is the role of gossip in contemporary networking? Has the logic of gossip and instant gratification also penetrated what we used to call architectural critique?
On Tuesday, July 24, I will be opening a small exhibition at the Architecture Foundation in London. The exhibit will be housed as an installation within an exhibition in the context of Jimenez Lai’s super-furnitured Three Little Worlds, currently at display at the AF. Klaus Toons, which will feature a few cartoons blown up to poster size, will be on display till August 18 (but there’s a trick to that). I’m really thrilled by the fact that for the launching event, I’ll have Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today’s Liam Young on my side joining for a conversational presentation, which will hopefully help me overcome my natural inarticulateness and add a note of quality to the event. A big thank you to the people at the AF (with a special acknowledgement to Justin Jaeckle) for their interest, and to Jimenez, for getting it started. I hope he already recovered from sleeping on my couch.
The pic on top should be a cartoon that waits somewhere on my computer to be finished. More on that later. (And of course, for our Italian readers…)
May 28, 2012
Just in time to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Mathias Rust’s famous vacation to Moscow, Russian Magazine Project International features this month an old cartoon from this blog. Actually -unlike Mr. Rust- I came in as a guest. Last month, Sergei Sitar, from Project Russia, contacted me in order to publish one of the Latour&Sloterdijk cartoons done on occasion of the “Networks and Spheres” lecture at Harvard GSD on 2009.
Project Russia is the head of an editorial project launched in 1966 by The A-Fond Foundation with the aim to support the development of architecture and design in Post-soviet Russia. Based in Moscow and published both in English and Russian, it has spawned several other publications. Among those, Project International (Проект International), launched in 2001 and published in Russian, was conceived as a window for Russian architects onto the international scenery, and along with international practices includes a section publishing translations of Western architectural theory centerpieces and adjacent philosophical/cultural/social studies texts – Heidegger, Foucault, Baudrillard, Virilio, Lefebvre, Harvey, Mitchell, Jameson. This last issue includes a translation of the double lecture by Bruno Latour and Peter Sloterdijk, “Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Reinterpret Globalization” that was originally published in the Harvard Design Magazine, Spring/Summer 2009, issue 30 (pdf here). And -hence- the drawing.
It will never cease to amaze me how Internet, especially since the irruption of blog culture, is changing the face and mechanics not just of communication, but, more interestingly, of creation itself. Rather than globalization, it is de-localization, in its various meanings, which is altering, feeding, fostering and even plainly making possible the development of practices that before the WWW would have been suffocated before birth. The advent of the internet and its increasing user-friendliness supports, with its expanded exposure, creation of any kind, finding a way to find an audience for niche interests that would otherwise be condemned to remain unarticulated in their geeks’ minds or sitting in a drawer in their way towards the recycle bin. Internet self-publishing makes it normal to produce for an audience that’s half a world away, de-localizing production/creation to an extent that it may be easier for you to publish in another continent than in your home town. It’s funny that the perfect expression of this glocality (apologies) in the context of this blog finds its place by means of a cartoon on Bruno Latour (pity they didn’t choose Latour in Urbicande, instead).
Anyway, for those among you who can read Russian -and for me while I wait for the paper copies to arrive- there you have a scan of the cartoon as published, so that you can tell me about the translation. Only thing I miss is that they didn’t translate the balloons themselves. It would have been intriguing to see the cartoons speaking in Cyrillic lettering. Although that’s something that will be solved in a different forthcoming publication.
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As some of you who have been around here for a while will remember, some time ago (years, actually) my beloved Peter Reyner Banham made his entry into this blog by means of a cartoon that sprang from a suggestion by Kazys Varnelis, who was doing his annual re-reading of Banham’s ‘The Great Gizmo’ along with Alison and Peter Smithson’s ‘But today We Collect Ads’. That cartoon led to another (A home is not a Mouse), and then it became a series entitled “The Bubble Adventures of P. Reyner Banham”. But only in my mind. I sat down, took some notes, drew and colored the next cartoon in the series… and then my volatile attention flew somewhere else and I completely forgot it.
Finally, it has been put to much better use as part of MAS Studio’s last issue of MAS Context: OWNERSHIP, where editor Iker Gil and his team were so kind as to feature it on the cover. All the contents of MAS Context: OWNERSHIP can be read online on their just-revamped website here, including an essay by Denise Scott Brown. Make sure to check it if looking for a compelling read.
Cover of Mas Context: Ownership (I actually lifted the image from a post by our friends from Spanish Magazine METALOCUS, who voiced the news in their blog)
MAS Context, a quarterly journal created by MAS Studio, addresses issues that affect the urban context. Each issue delivers a comprehensive view of a single topic through the active participation of people from different fields and different perspectives who, together, instigate the debate. MAS Context is a not for profit organization based in Chicago, Illinois. The concept of ownership, the exclusive rights and control over a property of any kind, has existed for centuries and in all cultures. Whether state, collective or personal, ownership is probably one of the most determining factors not only in defining our built environment but in the way we have shaped our society. But what if the way we live has changed? Can we redefine ownership to adapt it to the needs of the society? Can that redefinition provide new opportunities for our built environment? This issue will be dedicated to examining ownership in our current culture, ancient traditions, legal system and physical environment.
MAS Context: OWNERSHIP fatures contributions by Martin Adolfsson, William F. Baker, Kate Bingaman Burt, Eleanor Chapman, Santiago Cirugeda, Killian Doherty, Kirby Ferguson, Pedro Hernández, Jeanne Gang, Iker Gil, Network Architecture Lab, Quilian Riano, Denise Scott Brown, Richard F. Tomlinson II, XAM, and KLAUS.