Archive

Articles

Thresholds 06

Click to enlarge

I’ve been neglecting posting this since April, when it was published, after teasing about it for several months on twitter. But, since it took me ages to actually deliver it to the editors, I think it’s kinda fitting.

To make a long story short: Over a year ago (almost two, really), Eli Keller, architect, researcher, and PhD candidate at MIT, contacted that guy for their upcoming issue (#46) of Thresholds journal, which was to be titled ‘Scatter!’. Knowing how scatterbrained I am, he thought a conversation with me about comics, cartooning, and their relationship with architectural practice and theory. Also, they asked me to provide them with some illustrations, so I sent them a bunch of already-published work. They, however, thought producing new material would be more appropriate. I agreed. However, it seemed like a lot of work, so, after arguing I didn’t think I could find the time.

However (again) the idea of producing some figures that worked as a parallel discourse to that of the conversation -not always coincident- stroke me, and… I found it too irresistible. It was also a lot more work than they had asked for, but, hey, it gave me the chance to play with the stuff  (not in a dirty way) of Winsor McCay, François Schuiten, Katsuhiro Otomo, and friends such as Léopold Lambert and Jimenez Lai, so, what else could I do?

Below you can find some excerpts of the interview, along with the figures as published in the magazine. The whole article can be downloaded here   for a ridiculously low price. So, if you want to read the whole thing (you should), go get it. Now. Additionally, you can also read a 5-page preview here.

…………………………………………………

Since his breakthrough in 2005, architect and cartoonist Klaus has been reveling in the light side of architecture with his drawings, comic strips, and cartoons. Published worldwide, his work usually tackles on the less uplifting aspects of the profession, criticizing its shortcomings and the excesses of its star system, usually coated with an array of educated winks to the many corners of architecture theory and history, science fiction, comics or cinema. In this conversation, he and architecture and popular culture scholar Luis Miguel Lus Arana discuss his work in the context of today’s digital culture, where the interactions between architecture and its periphery -media, popular culture, graphic arts- seem to multiply. Comics, architectural criticism, image production, the creative power of sarcasm, the reemergence of craftsmanship and traditional techniques, as well as the new directions of the profession are some of the topics that sprang through it.

LML: Since you went online in 2009, you have produced a variety of works related to comics and cartoons: from comic strips on the life at the Harvard GSD to single panel cartoons on the current events of architecture, or illustrations. In your series for A10’s section ‘Interchange’, you produced poster-sized illustrations with caricatures of the architects interviewed by Indira Van’t Klooster; for Uncube, a series of vignettes that commentated on news blurbs printed side by side with them. Lately you have produced some 2-page stories for Arquine… How would you define yourself? Cartoonist? Architectural satirist?

K: Whatever works, actually. I guess that cartoonist comes closer to what I do, even if it is not a conscious choice, but rather a result of my inability to commit to long-term projects. My first career goal always was to become a comic book artist, but then architecture got in the way, so when I retook it 10 years later, cartoons were an easier way to keep my comic-related urges under control. (…)

01

Well, there is a long-standing relationship between cartoonists and architecture. Editorial cartoons were a great source of impressive architectural and urban imagery in the late XIX Century and in the early decades of the XX Century; I am thinking of the cartoons that Harry Grant Dart, Albert Levering, or Grant E. Hamilton drew for Judge, Puck, Life, and other magazines, or Winsor McCay’s editorial cartoons for Randolph Hearst. (…) The list would be endless: William Heath Robinson, Hans Georg Rauch… Ronald Searle’s Paris Sketchbook is a joy to look at, for instance.

K: Oh, I find no fault with the definition, and I’m flattered to be placed, even if in the ephemeral context of a conversation, within such an illustrious lineage. I just mean cartoons are less a conscious choice than a result of my inability to commit to long-term projects. I never thought of myself as a cartoonist, but I’ve gladly adopted all these ways I or my work have been defined: ‘political cartoons for architects’, ‘architectural satirist’. Still, I am somehow reluctant to qualify my vignettes as satire, which in my mind in a place certainly more elevated than where I dwell. (…)

02

So, now that we are amidst all this discussion about the post-critical, I wanted to ask you: Would you qualify what you do as criticism?

K: Let me skip the discussion about post-critical. Don’t take me wrong: I love neologisms as much as the next man —the next man being Reyner Banham or Homi Bhabha— but I’d rather avoid getting too cynical. My cartoons are critical in the sense that they mock, often very arbitrarily, pretty much anything architecture-related. However, there is no attempt to build a cohesive discourse. That’s the beauty of satire: You can take issue, make fun, criticize, ridicule, one aspect and its opposite. You don’t have to settle for a specific reading or set of values, which is less committed, but also less limiting. Taking everything apart unabashedly can also be very productive. (…)

 I would like to tackle on that ‘productiveness’ later. However, before we leave this ‘non-critical’ nature you claim on your work: I understand the ‘Klaus’ moniker was something you coined in order to differentiate your satirical (sorry) production from your scholarly work. However, at some point you also started writing under your ‘Klaus’ persona. You have a couple of articles out there, but I’m most interested in the ‘Arquinoir’ section you publish in Arquine, which consists almost invariably of a cartoon, or a short story, and a text, mirroring each other thematically and aligned with the issue’s topic. How does this differ from your academic output? Do you use a different voice?

K: Certainly. (…) There is an interview with Wes Jones where he points out how his comic strips allowed him to tackle on serious issues expressing very strong opinions without having to worry about the consequences, ‘because… you know, it’s just a comic book’. This is an exemption that applies to satire in general, not to comics per se—although the infantile aura attached to comic books helps. Also, this can be very productive, because the liberation from the obligation to construct a cohesive discourse, to provide answers to the questions you raise, can take you through paths you probably wouldn’t have even thought of if you were writing seriously. Relentless nitpicking involves a lot of analysis and argumentation. The same goes for humor, and fiction, of course. In my columns for Arquine, and in my scholarly production, I deal with the same topics: science fiction architecture, megastructures, and also Reyner Banham, whose articles for New Society are always a source for inspiration. But the tone is different, as is the chain of thoughts it unleashes.

03

So, if I understand correctly, these texts work as an extension of your cartoons, unleashing a sort of ‘automatic’ reasoning… (…) … My question is: do you think caricature, be it amicable or derisive, can play a similar role?

K: Yes. Caricature is a great trigger for creation. A few years ago, Jimenez [Lai] and I were chatting about how, when you copy something, if you’re able to do it poorly enough, it becomes something new. There are two key interrelated processes in caricature: exaggeration and deformation. Cartoons work in a reverse way: they tend to strip things down to their essentials. (…) Being comics a cool medium, the cartoon triggers a series of associative processes in the viewer, who fills in the blanks and perceives it according to his own preferences. (…)

Caricature plays a simultaneous game of familiarization and de-familiarization, keeping the subject recognizable while distorting it. It introduces new readings, makes associations and brings in intertextuality that only arises in the exaggeration. I think language is sometimes misleading: metaphorically ‘tearing something apart’ also involves constructing.Making fun is still ‘making’, after all. A satirical take on a topic introduces puns, doubletalk… it shows the benefits of reactive thinking at its best. Distorting, caricaturizing a design, can produce interesting results, design-wise. It is, in the end, a classic design strategy: choosing a certain direction and taking it to the limit. Only, this time, we start with something that’s already been designed, and take it in an extraneous way.

04.jpg

Earlier you mentioned the productive value of fiction. As we commented before, fiction has historically been a great producer of novel architectural imagery and concepts. In our short-term vision of History, Blade Runner is possibly the paradigmatic example, as a film that not only became an object of desire of postmodern writing, but has also influenced several generations of architects. However, this is also true of a ‘lesser’ medium such as comics. Academic literature usually brings up Archigram 4 (May 1964), and its appropriation of space comic book imagery from the 1950s and 1960s, but this image production has abounded all throughout the History of the medium, becoming more intense from the mid 1960s onwards, particularly in France. In fact, the comics of that period were particularly crucial in the development of the ‘architecturally conscious’ sci-fi in cinema from the 1970s onwards, and I would say they stayed way ahead in terms of architectural design. There are notable exceptions, of course, but filmic ‘world-building’ has always shown a tendency towards the generic, so you get a sort of standard ‘space age’, ‘post-apocalyptic’, ‘cyberpunk’, ‘post-industrial’ futurism, also in terms of architectural image. However, in comics you can find authentic ‘design exercises’ when it comes to creating the architectural backgrounds, particularly since the early 1980s.

K: Yes, there is a boost of ‘architectural consciousness’ in comics at that point, where a younger generation, which had grown up reading ‘Métal Hurlant’, entered the medium professionally. There is a mixture in those years: you find the members of the older generation, such as Moebius, Jean-Claude Mézières, and their followers -Enki Bilal, Tanino Liberatore- who cultivated the sort of metaphysical or surrealistic sci-fi that inspired Blade Runner. Then, you had the younger ones, who started their careers in the already ‘intellectualized’ scenario created by Métal Hurlant, and brought their own interests to the foreground in their comics. Architecture, for instance, is one of the driving forces in the work of Andreas [Martens], Marc-Antoine Mathieu, or François Schuiten. They were, and still are, very inspiring.

05.jpg

Do you think there is a niche for architects to work in? Browsing the net, there seems to be an upsurge in architects’ interest in comics: Bjarke Ingels’ Yes is More invariably comes up in every discussion about this topic -and we could argue whether it is really an ‘archicomic’- but there are many other architects using comics as a means to present their designs, as well as those who produce comic books as an end in themselves. Competitions such as Fairy Tales are fostering the appearance of those, and it has become frequent to see students using comics in their designs. Do you think comics are living an âge d’or in architecture?

I want to say that yes, architecture is finally looking at comics as a medium that has things to offer, and more people are interested in them. However, I also wonder if it is not a matter of exposure. There have always been exchanges between the worlds of architecture and comic books, starting with Le Corbusier, whose passion for Rodolphe Töpffer, the Swiss Father of comics, has been widely discussed. Many comic book artists have had an architectural background: Guido Crepax, Milo Manara, and more recently Tsutomu Nihei, or Manuele Fior.

06.jpg

It is true that comics and architecture have typically portrayed a love-hate relationship- Love on the side of comics, and a mixture of love and hate on architecture’s side-. I’ve always felt this emanates from a certain intellectual ‘inferiority complex’ on the architects’ side: The architectural establishment, at least in those places here the discipline is highly professionalized (Southern Europe, et al), seems to be very reluctant to allowing any mixture with anything whose cultural pedigree is not reputed enough; as if it could somehow endanger architecture’ respectability. Do you feel this is changing?

K: Well, we architects are very fragile living beings. I’ve often said -and I can oversimplify because I am a cartoonist- that architectural practice tends to move within a triangle defined by art, engineering, and philosophy. So, whenever we are attacked, we retreat to another corner: When someone says ‘You just design sculptures’, we counter-attack: ‘No, no, I’m also a technician’. Or: ‘You are aprioristic; you just design shapes’… – No, no, I’ve read Heidegger’. But we do not belong to either field completely, so in a typical case of superiority complex that stems from an undergoing inferiority complex, we overreact and behave like these arrogant demigods society is so fed up with. (…)

07.jpg

…………………………………………………

Lus Arana, Koldo: “Dancing about Architecture; a conversation with architect and cartoonist Klaus”, Thresholds nº. 46: Scatter!, edited by  and MIT Press, April  2018; 278-298.

Advertisements

Jaque Disobedients A_10_red

Click to enlarge

“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 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

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.

Clog - Rem - It's not easy being Kool

Click to enlarge

“[…] For those who were already, let’s say, ‘architecturally active’ in the 90s, the second half of the decade featured an increasing presence of Koolhaas-isms in the architecture published  by architectural media. Be it young offices paging Bakema through the Educatorium (those ubliquitous ‘single surfaces’ Jeff Kipnis still chitchatted on in his lectures more than ten years later), forests of tilted pilotis, cheap rubber surfaces or else, OMA’s supposed ‘house style’ had permeated through a whole generation that made justice to the old Spanish writer’s adagio: “Blessed are our imitators, for theirs will be our flaws”. Because, notwithstanding their varying degrees of success, none of those byproducts of OMA’s discourse seemed able to grasp its spirit. And it still goes on… monkey see, monkey do.

But, which is this discourse? Certainly, Koolhaas’ scant prose is, within its own scarcity, rich in suggestive, elusive terms: Manhattanization, Junkspace, Bigness -and you really know you have made it when Hal Foster writes a review of something like the Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping [ii]. However, as in Foucault’s Other Spaces/Hetrotopias, these are texts and terms that one seems to be able to make less sense of with each subsequent reading. All in all, it seems just a private a game, carefully designed to keep his audience intrigued while feeding his own legend by building an aura of impenetrability, to the point that one’s tempted to believe that every move is carefully staged: His carefully careless lectures, his unsophisticated, even clumsy descriptions of his own buildings, or his nervous, uncomfortable responses in interviews, all contribute to enlarge the halo of mystery that surrounds him. And, as I deduce from his always packed , rock-star-like conferences, it definitely works.

Five years ago, I published the first ‘Hope’ cartoon, with Mr. K posing as Shepard Fairey’s Obama. Five years later, I still wonder how many people did not get it was a joke.”

[i] See Heron, Katrina: ‘From Bauhaus to Koolhaas’ in Wired issue 4.07, July 1996.

[ii] See Foster, Hal: ‘Bigness’, in London Review of Books Vol. 23, no. 23, 29 November 2001.

Klaus: It’s not easy being Kool – 2001 ways to misinterpret Koolhaas… and help him have it his way (excerpt) in VV.AA: Clog: REM, June 2014.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

So, in a sort of smart, happy and -also- inevitable move, the guys at Clog magazine sort of celebrated their 3rd anniversary (really, 11 issues already??) with their issue CLOG: REM, just in time for the Biennale. They also thought –as, apparently, everyone else– it was sort of inevitable to ask me to contribute. Of course, they were particularly entitled to, since they made sure to have me in Clog from the very beginning. Just  click on the “clog” tag in this very site and you’ll get the idea. Also, they decided to open the issue with my contribution, which was very nice on their part. Thanks, guys! Oh, and a tip of the hat to Benjamin Greaves (@MrGreavesSaysfor providing me with the title.

P.S.: For those among you who may have noticed, I’ve made a point of celebrating the 5 anniversary of “On Starchitecture” by using vriations of the “Hope” cartoon on all my contributions published around the time of the Biennale’s opening (all of them revolving about REMdamentals, of course). So far, you can check “Fundamentally… Myself” (in Spanish) in Mexican Magazine Arquine #68, and Keep your eyes open for Uncube #24: Mexico City.

It's not easy being Kool

Clog - REM - Cover - back cover

CLOG: REM, with contributions by Michael Abrahamson, Stan Allen, Joseph Altshuler, Serafina Amoroso, Haik Avanian, Cecil Balmond, Dorin Baul, Aaron Betsky, Petra Blaisse, Jim Bogle, Ole Bouman, Mat Bower, Eric de Broche des Combes, Brian Bruegge, Galo Canizares, Stephen Cassell, Archie Lee Coates IV, Rene Daalder, Ozge Diler, Ryan Drummond, Keefer Dunn, A. A. Dutto, Erez Ella, Valeria Federighi, Kim Förster, Jeffrey Franklin, Joseph Godlewski, Adam Himes, Matthias Hollwich, Julia van den Hout, Frances Hsu, Bernard Hulsman, Hans Ibelings, Klaus, Charlie Koolhaas, Tomas Koolhaas, Andrew Kovacs, Jimenez Lai, Stephanie Lee, Thomas Lozada, Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs, Brandon Martinez, Isaac Mathew, Kyle May, Philipp Oswalt, Roberto Otero, Steven K. Peterson, Wim Pijbes, Jacob Reidel, Michael Rock, Joanna Rodriguez-Noyola, Fernando Romero, Alejandro Sanchez, Mika Savela, Jonathan A. Scelsa, Kyle Schumann, Brian Slocum, Galia Solomonoff, Frederieke Taylor, Will Thomson, Madelon Vriesendrop, Luke Yosuke Willis, Human Wu, Albena Yaneva, Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Zoe Zenghelis

malcord-collana-interferenze-per-blog-fbc-011

Last, but not least on the list (too much, huh?) of interesting stuff I was somehow involved in busy 2013 was being featured in “Goodbye Topolinia” [Malcor D’Edizioni, 2013], a book on comics and architecture written by Laura Cassará and Sebastiano D’Urso. As Laura defines it, “the book is an essay, written side by side, on the mutual interferences between architecture and comics. It is not an encyclopedic compilation, in the sense that we had no intention to analyze all the episodes of the intersections between both disciplines. We were primarily interested in tracing the conceptual threads that make it possible to outline analogies between both artforms throughout their History. Obviously, the theoretical discourse was seasoned with countless examples, both of architectural and comic-book work, typically -but not only- in those cases where both categories converge in a narrative pertaining to one discipline or to the other.” [Excerpted and -freely- translated from a conversation between Andrea Alberghini and Laura Cassará in “Welcome ‘Goodbye Topolinia'”. Comics Metropolis, October 8 2013]

The book, which can be purchased online in different sites, for those not living in Italy, is certainly rich in examples, including most of the authors featured in our own MAS Context: Narrative, such as Chris Ware, Wes JonesTom Kaczynski, Jimenez Lai, Marc-Antoine Mathieu, François Schuiten, or Joost Swarte. On top of it, as the icing on the cake, the book opens with an introduction by Benoît Peeters, the other half in Schuiten and Peeters’ nearly mythical “Les Cités Obscures”. I suspect my inclusion in the book stems mainly from my presence at the 2013 Comicon in Naples, which makes me doubly indebted for the invitation. As usual, a big thank you to Laura, and Sebastiano for their interest [and an eventual follow-up this year. We’ll keep informing]. Below, you can check some pages from the book, and a short excerpt of the Klaus-related parts provided by Ms. Cassará herself.  For more information, provided you can read Italian, I would check the review of the book at Fumettologica.

And next week, back to cartoons.

Goodbye Topolinia 01

Goodbye Topolinia 02

“Comics relate to architecture also by means of irony and satire: so does Klaus, an architect who also draws comics. He treats serious issues posed by contemporary architectue with a light-hearted mood, and his drawings, while resembling cutting edge architectural projects, really call into question contemporary architectural statements. And so the competition for the Twin Towers reconstruction, after 9/11 attacks, is the chance to make fun of the entries submitted by archistars for the international invite-only contest. His analysis goes further, in search for similarities between archistars’ projects and cartoonists’ drawings, with quite a remarkable finding: in his own blog, he compares the House of Music in Porto, designed by Rem Koolhaas in 1995-2001, to the Metabunker megastructure, as conceived by Gimenez and Jodorowsky in 1992. The remarkable resemblance doesn’t mean Koolhaas project is not authentic; instead, it’s a proof that, using their imagination and creativity, comics creators are often forerunners of future architectural forms.”

Goodbye Topolinia 05 Goodbye Topolinia 06 Goodbye Topolinia 03 Goodbye Topolinia 04

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 00 1Click to enlarge

So… finally! After more than a year in the works, the 20th issue of MAS Context, a special issue under the motto “Narrative”, is out. Talks about this issue started on October 2012, amidst the MAS Context: Analog event in Chicago that also featured the “Architectural Narratives” exhibition, originally intended to be called “Building Stories”, after Chris Ware’s eponymous magna opus –that is, until we found that Mr. Ware was opening an exhibition himself in the same city, on the same dates, and under the same title! In any case, the exhibition, which featured some works by Jimenez Lai and yours truly was accompanied by a text, also entitled “Architectural Narratives”, which dealt with the varying relationships that architecture and graphic narratives have maintained throughout the years. Happy with our previous collaborations in Ownership and Communication, Iker Gil, chief editor of MAS Context, suggested the possibility of expanding it into a whole issue of the magazine, and, after some hesitation (a whole two minutes), the ball was set rolling.

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 00 2As the editor’s note points out (and I’m not going to put it in between quotation marks because I wrote it myself), Architecture and narrative, as Victor Hugo nostalgically pointed out, have walked hand in hand through history, crossing paths without really risking the extinction that the archdeacon of Notre-Dame gloomily predicted. Moreover, today, in a moment where the conjunction of the crisis and the entrance into a new stage in the communication era impulse the discipline into new, multiple directions, the narrative aspects of architecture come to the front, and comics are not alien to this. The last few years have seen an increasing enthusiasm within architecture on the possibilities of graphic narrative, both from a historical point of view, with a blossoming of either academic or informal studies on the exchanges between both disciplines, and from architectural practitioners. Even in a moment of digital explosion such as the one we are living, comics and graphic narrative are the new ‘cool’ in architectural schools (sorry), making it into architectural design courses, and showing up as a new fashion in architectural representation/communication. There we have, most notoriously, starchitecture’s enfant terrible Bjarke Ingels and his excessive (but still pretty well crafted) Yes Is More, which we discussed some time ago, but also Herzog&De Meuron’s MetroBasel, Wes Jones’ Beyond Dubai, Jean Nouvel’s Louisiana Manifesto, Neutelings&Robdeen’ European Patent Office at Leidschendam, Olivier Kugler & Fletcher Priest’s Freethinking, and a long etcetera. Even more interesting are those instances where the comic book form is used as a parallel research environment, prominently presented in the work of Jimenez Lai in Bureau Spectacular, but also by Studio CEBRA’s toons, or Leopold Lambert’s Lost in the Line.

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 00 3Thus, MAS Context: Narrative(s) was set to offer just a glimpse of the phenomenon with no aim to exhaust the topic—even if some of the authors of the essays have built some rather encyclopedic works on it themselves- but wanting to offer a taste of the different faces that this interaction between architecture and graphic narrative presents. Within its overall theme, NARRATIVE tries to explore this issue from both sides of the of the line that separates these two disciplines, and is roughly divided into three big sections: the first one deals with the presence of graphic narrative in disciplinary architecture, both past and present, and includes the works of some architects who have used graphic narrative in their work, in one way or another. The other side would be covered, in the second section, by those comic book artists who have also crossed the border between disciplines, making forays into the built world. Finally, the third one, an addendum entitled in our drafts “Beyond the (Comic) page”, moves conceptually towards both sides of the spectrum, briefly covering the tangents with (implied) written narratives and emerging animation practices in architecture.

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 22Factory Fifteen

We have been so lucky as to being able to feature an impressive team of contributors, which includes legendary names both from the comic book and the architectural field, who have contributed with their works and their words: Originally entitled Narrative(s) or Narratives (although finally simplified for the sake of clarity) the issue features a combination of essays and, primarily, interviews, where these creators explain their works in their own words, therefore providing the readers with different narratives on the issue of (graphic) narrative. Thus, illustrating the role of comic book artists as architectural performers, we are proud to include interviews with comic legends François Schuiten, acclaimed author of the series Les Cités Obscures (along with co-writer Benoît Peeters), Joost Swarte, Dutch creator of the ligne claire (also in a literal sense), Marc-Antoine Mathieu, author the of mesmerizing series Julius Corentin Acquefacques, and two architects who crossed to the other side and stayed there: Italian architect-turned-comic book artist Manuele Fior, and Tom Kaczynski, artist and chief editor of independent publishing house Uncivilized Books.

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 09

François Schuiten

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 10

Joost Swarte

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 15

Marc-Antoine Mathieu

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 18

Manuele Fior

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 20

Tom Kaczynski

On the other side of the spectrum, the magazine features an interview with Sir Peter Cook, who graciously answered our questions in his London office, on the making of ‘Amazing Archigram 4’ (the Zoom issue), as well as three stories by Wes Jones&Partners, Jimenez Lai, and Léopold Lambert (aka The Funambulist). And, in its last part, the issue closes with a conversation with Jonathan Gales, who sheds some light on the work of London-based office Factory Fifteen. Many thanks to all of them for their kindly collaboration, and also to the conductors of the interviews: Clara Olóriz, from the AA, who also made all arrangements to meet Mr. Cook, Léopold Lambert, who provided his knowledge of Borges, Kafka, and the French language, in the interview with Mr. Mathieu, Andrea Alberghini, author of Sequenze Urbane, La Metropoli nell Fumetto, who contributed his mastering of Italian and of Manuele Fior’s work, and both members of Barcelona-based publishing House DPR, Ethel Baraona Pohl, and Cesar Reyes Nájera, who took some time off their extremely busy schedule to interview the equally busy members of Factory Fifteen. A very special thanks must go to cultural anthropologist Mélanie van der Hoorn, author of the monumental “Bricks and Balloons – Architecture in Comic Strip Form”, who shared with us her extensive research in the form of not just one, but three articles. Last, but not least, we have to thank Chris Ware for putting the icing on the cake by sending us a drawing from his seminal Building Stories for the cover of the issue, masterfully designed by Renata Graw, from Plural -thus replacing my own rather banal design, which you can enjoy (irony, yes) below.

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 01Peter Cook

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 05Jimenez Lai

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 03Léopold Lambert

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 06

Jones and Partners

MAS_Context_Issue20_v 07Author Unknown

Also below you can check the table of contents of the issue, which are fully accessible via MAS Context’s Page, or downloadable in .pdf. Also, MAS Context will be printing a limited edition of the magazine, so if you want a hard copy of it, you’d better be fast in contacting them.

1. Introduction: Architectural Narratives. Issue statement by Iker Gil,editor in chief of MAS Context.

2. Building Stories: Drawings by Chris Ware. Text by Klaus.

3. Comics and Architecture, Comics in Architecture. Essay by Koldo Lus Arana.

4. Buildings and Their Representations Collapsing Upon One Another. Architecture in comic strip form. Essay by Mélanie van der Hoorn.

5. Amazing Archigram! Clara Olóriz and Koldo Lus Arana interview architect Sir Peter Cook.

6. Lost in the Line. Graphic Novel by Léopold Lambert.

7. Out of Water. Graphic Novel by Jimenez Lai.

8. Kartun: The View! Graphic Novel by Jones, Partners: Architecture, Mark Simmons, and The Southern California Institute of Architecture.

9. Cartooning Architecture and Other Issues. Iker Gil interviews graphic artist Klaus.

10. Starchitecture Redux. Cartoons by Klaus.

11. Sensing the Comic’s DNA: Excerpts of a conversation with François Schuiten. Mélanie van der Hoorn in conversation with François Schuiten.

12. Swarte’s Mystery Theater. Koldo Lus Arana in conversation with Joost Swarte.

13. Labyrinths and Metaphysical Constructions: An Interview with Marc-Antonie Mathieu. Léopold Lambert interviews graphic novelist Marc-Antoine Mathieu.

14. Images Come First. Andrea Alberghini interviews Manuele Fior.

15. Beta Testing Architecture: Yearning for Space with Tom Kaczynski. Koldo Lus Arana interviews Tom Kaczynski.

16. Archiporn or Storylines? Creative Architectural commercials as challenges to the communication and marketing of architecture. Essay by Mélanie van der Hoorn.

17. Beyond Built Architecture. Ethel Baraona Pohl and César Reyes from dpr-barcelona interview Jonathan Gales, founding member of Factory Fifteen.

MAS Context: Narrative, Winter 2013, with contributions by Andrea Alberghini, Ethel Baraona Pohl, Sir Peter Cook, Manuele Fior, Factory Fifteen, Iker Gil, Jones, Partners: Architecture, Tom Kaczynski, Jimenez Lai, Klaus, Léopold Lambert, Luis Miguel (Koldo) Lus Arana, Marc-Antoine Mathieu, Clara Olóriz Sanjuán, Cesar Reyes Nájera, François Schuiten, Joost Swarte, Mélanie van der Hoorn, and Chris Ware.

Edited by Iker Gil (Chief editor). Guest editors: Luis Miguel (Koldo) Lus Arana, Klaus.

Cover 02 sm 01

Click to enlarge

“A decade now, one of Manhattan’s most distinctive icons, that which Baudrillard offered as the perfect architectural embodiment of the simulacrum of the model, disappeared from the island’s skyline.

There are other über-New Yorker architectural icons, of course. Earlier and more widely broadcasted for the better part of the XX century, the Empire State and Chrysler buildings are expressive of a former New York defined by constant competition where each new building sought to top the preceding “…each of them the original moment of a system constantly transcending itself in a perpetual crisis and self-challenge.” In Baudrillard’s discourse, the two towers of the World Trade Center put an (architectural) end to this scenario of vertical competition and mutual building suspicion: The effigy of the capitalist system(Baudrillard again) passed from the pyramid to the perforated card, and the twin WTC towers, perfect parallelepipeds looking like the mute, anonymous, indifferent to competition columns in a statistical graph, gave architectural shape to a system that was no longer competitive, but compatible, a new scenario where competition was substituted by correlation.

The twin towers represented, the end of competition, but also, within Baudrillard’s history of simulacra, the end of all meaning, for they were a pure (architectural) sign, already born replicated. Its meaning destroyed by the duplication itself, the denaturalized Janus of New York’s old World Trade Center ended competition, but did not offer an iterative, serial alternative. If the doubled tower captured and aroused, as Baudrillard put it, the closure of the system in a vertigo of duplication, it also exuded a balance that did no open the door for a longer seriation. It was a series closed on the number two, just as if architecture, in the image of the system, proceeded only from an unchangeable genetic code, a definitive model. Much as it implied the very idea of the series, the World Trade Center was not (mean to be) part of  one, in the same way that it was not an original and its copy. And it was this dichotomy between singularity (one single design) and duality (two towers), and between repetition and the negation of indefinite serialization which helped build the strong iconicity of the pair. (…) Baudrillard also pointed out the iconic power of the parallelepipedic asceticism of the towers. The simple, subtly postmodern ornamentation of the prisms’ skin just contributed the minimum amount of materiality via decoration so as to keep the icon on this side of the line between the real and the ideal.

The undeletable presence of the towers in the collective eye-mind of the society, standing in a liminal space reserved to few image/icons, can be grasped in the shadow of a literal rebuilding, improbable as it was, which still glided over the early discussions on the plans for the reconstruction of ground zero. Certainly, the re-erection of the towers in the wake of their thirtieth anniversary would have taken the issue of duplication to a whole new level, introducing a new number two in the equation. Adding to the preservation of the icon -for the inevitable price of erasing memory-, the cathartic Phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes would have definitely settle the towers in a timeless plane, outside the historical timeline delineated by the products of the skyscraper race, which constructed a traceable history of the development of New York. Unleashing an endless flux of meta-readings, the (re)duplicated -doubly duplicated- WTC would become, in a tongue-twisting mishmash of pairing Baudrillardian tropes, a replica of a simulacrum, a literal copy done to stand for the original in its own location once this has disappeared, which would suggest the unleashing of a Sisyphean process of reconstruction that would endlessly rejuvenate the towers through consecutive fancies destruens. A rather effective alternative to literal reconstruction, Richard Nash Gould’s Tribute in Light/ Towers of Light offered a comparably meaning-full replication that would have been much more effective if (boldly)placed within the void footprints of the towers, which would have turned the lightbeams as much a follow-up as a replacement. Standing like a Gilmourian -or Wateresque- fleeting glimpse, the volumes of light would have appeared as an ideal(ized) recreation of the absence of the towers through their ethereal presence, which inverted the very presence of the original towers in the city: invisible by daylight, material at night, but now suitably devoid of substance.

None of this subtlety made it, however, into the proposals that sought to fill both the physical and functional, as well as iconic void left by the towers, whose double shadow was cast, tilted, twisted, glorified and glossified, and of course, suitably banalized in most of them (…) Standing completely out of the sensibilities where these architectural delicatessen were bred, only the unpopular, unsexy proposal by Eisenman’s Dream Team (Meier, Eisenman, Gwathmey-Siegel, minus Graves and Hejduk, plus a particularly fitting Steven Holl) seemed to want to play on the grounds of the original World Trade Center, tackling on the same issues that had shaped Baudrillard’s reading, as well as the traits that provided it (them) with its iconic aura: replication, refusal of verticality, stripping the form down to a Platonic level. If the Twin Towers both called for and negated the possibility of extending the series they created, Eisenman&friends solved this dichotomy by interposing a new order (…) Indeed, as interwoven as it was within the trajectory of its designers, there is very little in the way of the architect’s presence within the design, very little that had not been there already.  Other than that, the project was pervaded by an asceticism, a lack of gestures, determined to prevent the architect’s persona from showing, as well as to avoid any assertion of the project’s “object self” that would undermine the cupio dissolvi of the new towers within the memory of the former. Ironically, due to their kinship with Eisenman’s language of pure sign, the Tic-Tac-Towers stood as semiotic ghosts (a personal favorite among Gibson’s constructs) of their past selves, so, unlike their twin ancestors, they were signifiers with a very specific meaning, and certain representational requirements.

(…) In the shadow of this proposal, itself reveling in the shadow of the WTC Twin Towers, the underwhelming banality of the finally constructed Freedom Tower becomes doubly (inevitable, wasn’t it?) disheartening, both for its imposingly dull presence and because of the absence it implies. (…) For all their onanistic absurdity, the masturbatory excesses of some of the other proposals were still preferable to the coitus interruptus of the final built form of Liebeskind’s proposal. A compromise on top of a compromise (…on top of a compromise), the single tower at Ground Zero works as a perfect statement of architectural inanity. (…)”

Excerpts from “Iconic On”. Studio Magazine #03: ICON, October 2012

……………………………………………………………..

The cartoon that opens this post was originally meant for a post entitled with it “In the Shadow of No Towers -Ten years After”, intended to be published on September 11, 2011, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 events and celebrate the late twin towers of the WTC. However, although the cartoon itself was finished in time, several circumstances worked together to prevent it from being uploaded that day, and I decided to put it to sleep till a better occasion would come.

That better occasion (much better, indeed) was the publication of the third issue (ICON) of Milano-based magazine STUDIO, which were so kind as to publish it, and gave me the opportunity to expand the ideas I intended to tackle on in the original post into a full-length (longer than I remembered, actually) article, with a new ilo, too. The magazine, whose previous issues included contributions from Alberto Campo Baeza or Vittorio Gregotti, Luis Úrculo, DPR-Barcelona, features articles by RRCStudio itself, as well as Fake Industries, Alicia Guerrero&Freddy Massad, Léopold Lambert (The Funambulist), Franco Purini, Wai Think Tank and many others.

The complete issue can be read in its entirety in ISSUU, or bought here, if you’re a paper fetishist such as myself. I’d strongly recommend to go through the whole, nicely designed issue, and mildly recommend to read ICONIC ON in full, which I believe makes a little more sense that way. Please, just skip all the typos which are there due to my inAbiliti to corrrect te ttexts once I’ve writen tHem.

Click to enlarge

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.
%d bloggers like this: