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Clog - Rem - It's not easy being Kool

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“[…] 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.

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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

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Metabunkers in da Haus blog 01Click to enlarge (Scroll down for full panorama)

“Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.”

J. G. Ballard: “Fictions of Every Kind” (Books and Bookmen -February 1971)

Koolhaas read The Cast of the Metabarons.

Or maybe not. Certainly, much as Rafael Moneo likes to trace the architectural lineage of the Casa da Musica back to Breuer’s Begrisch Hall in The Bronx (and, let’s be honest, they only look alike if seen from a certain angle), Koolhaas’s diamond-shaped starship bears more than a passing resemblance to the megastructural Metabunker -as does Mr. K to the Metabaron himself- designed by Jodorowsky and Moebius in the early 80s and refashioned a decade later by Juan Gimenez. The image of the music centre’s diamantine volume, landing on top of a stone tapestry that waves in Marilyn-ear fashion amidst Porto’s urban grid could difficultly be more accurate in its rendition of the megastructural ship, hanging motionless in the middle of the Möbiusian City-Well. The main entrance, with its porthole-like design,  reinforces the spaceship connection, also present in other projects by OMA, such as the aptly christened Transformer and its lunar module resonances. And the same case could be made for the transvestite Death Stars designed by the Office for the UAE, or, in a sort of Escherian flattening, by Heerim architects in Azerbaijan -while, to the eyes of those who discovered cyberpunk in the manga from the 1980s, it is difficult not to feel a dejá vu of Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed Arcologies (go check them!) when seeing the renderings for the similarly lunar-themed Crescent Hotel in Baku.

Weapons of the Metabaron
From left to right, clockwise: (1)The Metabunker as seen in Othon le trisaïeul, Les Humanoïdes Associés, November 1992. (2) Begrisch (Lecture) Hall. Marcel Breuer, 1964. (3) Casa da Musica in Porto. OMA, 1999-2005.

Did Koolhaas really read The Metabarons? In the end, it matters not.

Writing in a XXI century that has been a synonym for “the future” for more than a hundred years, those overlaps -be it direct inspiration or sheer serendipity- simply underline the way in which science fiction’s architectural imaginary has become part of  the general imaginary of architecture. Today, the conflation of the advances in representational and building techniques fosters a parallel conflation of the modus operandi of architects and sci-fi designers, as offices and publications such as Factory Fifteen and Beyond vividly illustrate. We live in a new paradigm where science fiction’s architectural imagery, so crucial in the shaping of the imaginary of several generations of architects brought up in visions of white, hi-tech landscapes and dark corridors covered with lockgates and leds, is as much a part of the architectural cultural heritage as the classical orders, the Pantheon, or the Unité d’Habitation. Nowadays, architecture has to fish in new (old) imagery pools, while postmodern citationality expands to encompass the products of popular culture. And, in the end, everything becomes science fiction architecture.

— Luis Miguel Lus Arana: “The Weapons of the Metabaron: Metabunkers, Music Halls, and the SciFi-cation of Architecture ” in Clog: SCI-FI, August 2013; 16-7

Metabunkers in da Haus blogClick to enlarge

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CLOG #7: SCI-FI, with contributions by 3.4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, After Architecture, Jared Banks, Katy Barkan, Sean Burkholder, Conner Callahan and Shana Opperman, Ryan Church, Matthew Clarke, Archie Lee Coates IV, Nathaniel Coleman, Eric De Broche Des Combes, Greg Cook, Mark Dermul, Kyle Dugdale, Jeffrey Franklin, Pedro Gadanho, Scott Geiger, Ricardo Gonçalves, Reinier de Graaf, Alpna Gupta, Patrick J. Gyger, Dalia Hamati, Sara Hayat, Brian Horrigan, Julia van den Hout, Kellen Qiaolun Huang, Justin Hui, Interiors, Andy C. Jenkins, Matthew Johnson, Damjan Jovanovic, Klaus, Joseph Kosinski, Simon Kristak, Jimenez Lai, Stephanie Lee, Sally L. Levine and Daniel I. Vieyra, Thomas Lozada, Alan Lucey, Luis Miguel (Koldo) Lus Arana, Casey Mack, John Marciante, Kyle May, Ian McAlpin, Craig William McCormack, Kimberly McGuire, Matthew Messner, Movingcities, Thomas Mical, Leo Mulvehill, Dan Newman, Matt Novak, Roberto Otero, Luke Pearson, Cyrus Penarroyo, Emmanuel Petit, Enrique Ramirez, Jacob Reidel, Doctor Laser, Fred Scharmen, Kyle Schumann, Neal Shasore, Dominik Sigg, SOFTlab, Rachel Meade Smith, Jason Vigneri-Beane, William Watson, Nathaniel Walker, Liam Young

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Previous collaborations for CLOG: BIG here and here

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 “Et in Arcadia Ego”

 Poussin

“And it’s a question of how far we’re willing to go in order to let the ego shine, in order to let that beacon penetrate not only the local scene but the world.”

Taylor Hackford

For all its promise of unlimited connetivity, Apple´s design seems to leave almost everything out. Apple has built a style on impenetrability, providing us with sleek, polished technological gizmos that are not only, a product of design, but a symbol of designed obsolescence.

Apple is itself a brand and a symbol, a signifier of future and Buzz-Lightyear-ian progress towards infinity. However, its approach to design takes us back to a past, long gone vision of future utopia bred in hardcore modernism. When Apple´s New Wave was launched in 1984, cyberpunk had started to reshape the image of the future and future technology according to a postmodern sensibility. Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner introduced an image of the future as a layered, additive and textured place, a dark but rich metropolitan –megalopolitan- reality whose productive (thanks, Chen&Young) dystopianism provided us with an inclusive approach to postmodernism, as opposed to the exclussiveness of academic PoMo, and a new way to conceptualise (a new eye to look through) our urban postmodern reality.It´s extraordinarily fitting that the man chosen to inaugurate the era of Apple Design in a commercial reminiscent of Owrell´s 1984 was precisely Ridley Scott, who touched in the lapse of two years on the two poles that, as Peter Lunenfeld notes, still rule contemporary culture thirty years after.

Apple´s present-future is not the system of constant retrofitting dictated by the permanence of every-thing that Syd Mead designed for Blade Runner, but the clean, plastic and semi-translucent reality of Alex Proyas´s I Robot, a reality of immutable and ephemeral objects designed to shine and die, as user-friendly as they remain impermeable to change (…the light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long). And in doing so, Apple leaps over postmodernity to recover the dream of a clean, antiseptic, white utopia dreamt in the age of pulp. Jobs´s dream of the future is that of William Cameron Menzies´s Things to come, of streamline design, of Norman Bel-Geddes´s Futurama, where Roman togas have been substituted for Mao collars and turtlenecks.

Looking like an alien mothership hanging gently in the middle of Arcadia, the new Cupertino campus resounds with echoes of Steve Jobs sitting in peaceful yoga position in his empty apartment in the 80s, and it really speaks of a dream of ascetic-aesthetic plenitude that goes back to modern utopianism. Foster´s design, bred in a sensibility nourished by Dan Dare, Werner Von Braun and the visionary 60s conjures an ultimate state of the Corbusian cult of the liner as a model for architectural assertion. The platonic exactitude of Cupertino´s rounded shell conjures the old ideal of ectopic utopianism: a technological eutopia of isolated perfection in an anthitetic relationship with natural beauty. Apple leaves behind the organic, anarchic ambiguity of postmodernity, substituting the visceral for the virtual; and somehow, this renewed dream of an (old) brave new world scares me a little bit.

But then, I´m a PC guy.

Image Captions: 1. Cupertino: Apple Campus 2. Foster and Parners, 2011. 2. Things to Come. William Cameron Menzies, 1936. 3. Heliopolis. Project for an Olympic Village in the Mountains of Tatras. Alex Mlynarcik, 1968. 4. Werner Von Braun et al.: Space Station. Across the Space Frontier, 1952. 5. Thalassa: Project for a Floating City. Paul Maymont, 1959.
Image credits: Heliopolis photographed by the artist. In RAGON, Michel:Histoire mondiale de l’architecture et de l’urbanisme modernes. T.3. Prospective et futurologie; 350. Thalassa: Photo by P. Joly/ Vera Cardot. In RAGON, Michel: Les Cités de l’Avenir. Paris: Editions Planète, 1968.  Space station: Illustration by Chesley Bonstell. In KAPLAN, Joseph et al.: Across the Space Frontier. New York, Viking Press, 1952. Everytown: Frame from William Cameron Menzies´s Things to Come. London Film Productions/United Artists, 1936.

Luis Miguel Lus-Arana: “Return to Ectopia: Apple Design and Futurist Classicism”. Published in MAY, Kyle et al. (edited by): Clog: Apple nº 2. NY: February 2012, pp. 96-7

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CLOG: APPLE. On 7 June 2011, Steve Jobs presented Apple Campus 2 to the Cupertino City Council. Due to Apple’s high profile – not to mention the scale and iconic nature of Foster + Partners’s design – the online reaction to the “spaceship” was immediate and strong. While Apple has been building retail stores throughout the world for over a decade, discussion, even among architects, has typically focused on the company’s famed product design. With one of the largest American office projects in history underway in Cupertino, it’s time to talk about Apple and architecture.
Contributors: Michael Abrahamson, Paul Adamson, Gary Allen, Collin Anderson, Haik Avanian, Rachel Berger, Freek Bos, Gabrielle Brainard, Tom Brooksbank, Keith Burns, Marcus Carter, Haiko Cornelissen, Philippine d’Avout D’Auerstaedt, Erandi de Silva, Kevin Erickson, Matthew J. Giordano, Hanny Hindi, Julia van den Hout, Allyn Hughes, Axel Kilian, Klaus, Austin Kotting, Michael Kubo, Jimenez Lai, Nicholas Leahy, Christopher Lee, Frank Lesser, Michael Ludvik, Luis Miguel Lus-Arana, Kyle May, Adam Nathaniel Mayer, Nicholas McDermott, Mark McKenna, Samuel Medina, Louise A. Mozingo, Rob Nijsse, The Office of PlayLab, Inc., Glenn Phillips, Graffitilab, Nina Rappaport, Jacob Reidel, Erin M. Routson, Mika Savela, Chris Shelley, Noam Shoked, Mike Treff, Kazys Varnelis, Ronald Wayne, and Human Wu.

Clog: Apple edited by Kyle May, Julia Van den Hout, Jacob Reidel and Human Wu. Design by PlayLab, Inc. Find it here.

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“Tim Cook has just been given the toughest job of his life. He is stepping into the shoes of one of the most innovative leaders of our time and he now has to do it alone. And can anyone truly run a company that is really completely synonymous with its former leader? Tim Cook has not only been asked to replace a great manager but an icon.”

Meredith Lepore. – How Will Tim Cook Follow Steve Jobs?

The image in this post has been clipped from a bigger cartoon-proposal for Clog: Apple, the second installment of Clog Magazine that focuses on Apple´s architecture and design. Clog: Apple will be released in February 2012. My contribution for Clog´s first issue (Clog: Big) can be found here and here.

“If the passage falls below the levels of ponderous literacy and pedantically accurate spelling… the use of imagery has a knowing exactitude which overleaps conventional architecture-magazine rhetoric of the period, by-passes the reader’s normal verbal defence [sic]mechanisms, and thus produced a distinct shift in sensibility.” (Peter Reyner Banham: Megastructure: urban futures of the recent past, p. 94)

Had they not been written around 1976 by Reyner Banham to qualify the success of Space Probe!—the comic-collage that Warren Chalk produced for Amazing Archigram 4—these words could belong to any contemporary critic’s review of BIG’s first monograph, Yes Is More.

Since Le Corbusier wrote his storyboarded Lettre a Madame Meyer in 1925 comics have maintained an incestuous love/hate relationship with architecture or, better, with canonical architectural representation. Iconic power of the comic image aside, graphic narrative has an inherent appeal due to its capacity to combine the traditional tool of flat, linear drawing with the representation of timespace, and to permit the cohabitation of sequentiality and simultaneity.

I can’t help but  feel attracted by the possibilities of the cross-breeding between architecture and comics, of the condensation/articulation of time and architectural/urban space displayed by Winsor McCay or Frank King in their early but mature understanding of Thierry Groensteen’s sequence in praesentia / of the spatial play of non-linear narratives deployed by Chris Ware, Lewis Trondheim or Victor Moscoso / of the experimentations with the architecture of the page by OuBaPo’s Patrice Killoffer…

   

The particular potentialities of graphic narrative in the rendering of spacetime, and especially in the sequential representation of architectural and/or urban space have accompanied the development of comics since its very beginning. Decades before Sergei Eisenstein verbalized his theories about cinematic montage, pioneers of the medium such as Winsor Mc Cay were intuitively pushing the envelope, exploring the cohabitation of time and space in the page. McCay’s trip through a hyperbolic Manhattan in September 1907 [1] showed the different shots of the city (both different moments and places) fusing together in a timespace of a higher order (the page) that also constructed a hyperurban, kaleidoscopic space. In an opposite direction, Frank King experimented in several dominical pages of Gasoline Alley [2] with the atomization of a single space into different moments, an approach that has been often revisited in the alternative comics scene that started in the 1960s [3: Victor Moscoso plays with the adjacency between panel and space, making the traditional 3×3 grid into an architectural frame excavated on the blank space of the page, much in the way of Mathew Borret’s recent graphic experiments / Zap Comix No 2 – 1968].

Examples of non-linear and/or multidirectional narratives within and without architecture. [4] Patrice Killoffer in Oubapo no. 1, 1997. [5] Chris Ware – Narrative Diagram for Quimby – The Acme Novelty Library. [6] Chris Ware – Narrative Diagram for Lint – Acme Novelty Library no 20, 2010. [7] Chris Ware – original art for ‘Building Stories’. The ACME Novelty Library No. 16, 2005.

But BIG’s Yes is More is none of these.

Nor should it be. Displaying his trademark proactive approach Bjarke Ingels takes comics at face value. Yes is More is not an experiment on the ability of graphic narrative to represent architectural space, but a straightforward, use of comics to tell architecture. In a field pervaded by the artificial construction of the-project-as-a-narrative, BIG chooses to openly present the work within a narrative constructed ad hoc, using the very architecture of comics as a natural way to combine the texts and images through which architects develop work into a consistent ideovisual (if I may use the pun) discourse. It’s somehow refreshing (as unusual) that here the authors show a natural understanding of the rules of the medium, avoiding the all-too-common mistake of taking collage for montage,  and subsequently provoking collision where transition should take place. Yes is More is a nicely crafted work of/on narrative that plays with alliterations and takes its time to domesticate the source material, effectively succeeding in fostering a certain closeness between the viewer and the buildings: Softened by the voice of Bjarke Ingels as the story’s narrator, the usual coldness of architectural renderings gets replaced by a sense of familiarity, conjuring in them an aura not of represented spaces, but of lived places.

Of course, as usual in BIG, there is a tendency to excess, to oversize the communicational apparatus with an overabundance of words, pictures and diagrams rather skillfully inserted without much self-censorship. If in his seminal short story Here Richard McGuire condensed a lapse of billions of years in 6 pages -that could have been reduced to a single, wisely designed panel, In Yes is More, Bjarke Ingels unfolds a few years of practice in four hundred busy pages. But Bjarke Ingels is nor McGuire.

Nor should he be.

[Published in Clog Magazine, September 2011]

Futher reflections can be found in the comments section of the previous post, and in a follow up post in Comics Metropolis, where Andrea Alberghini, author of Sequenze Urbane: La Metropoli nell Fumetto, comments (in Italian) on the presence of comics in the work of Rem Koolhaas, Neutelings & Roodben Architecten, or Jimenez Lai.

A translation of the article into Spanish has been published by fellow Spaniard bloggers FreakArq here. (Thanks, guys!)

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Bjarke Ingels Group: YES IS MORE, An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution. Taschen, 2009

I rarely publish articles under Klaus’s name (I have a whole different personality just for that). However, when Kyle May approached me in order to collaborate with a short review (a sketch of an article rather than a long text) on BIG´s “Yes Is More”  in the debut issue of Clog Magazine, it seemed most appropriate.

Clog aims, according to its editors, at slowing things down, with each issue exploring “from multiple viewpoints and through a variety of means, a single subject particularly relevant to architecture now. Succinctly, on paper, away from the distractions and imperatives of the screen.” The first issue, focused on Bjarke Ingels Group, gathers together a sort of critical aleph, showing a cloud of different glimpses/glances from an extensive list of contributors, including Michael Abrahamson, Iwan Baan, E. Sean Bailey, Greg Barton and Michael Keller, Aleksandr Bierig, Janine Biunno, Gabrielle Brainard, Greg Broerman, Sean Burkholder, John Cantwell, Dan Clark, Justin Davidson, Obinna Elechi, Fake Design, Graffitilab, Rúnar Halldórsson, Jonathan Hanahan, Han Hsi Ho, Julia van den Hout, Karrie Jacobs, KiBiSi, Klaus, Jonathan Kurtz, Alexandra Lange, Kyle May, Stephen Melville, Michel Onfray (translated by Charlotte van den Hout), Carol Patterson, Ethan Pomerance, Jacob Reidel, Team JiYo, Erandi de Silva, Bernd Upmeyer, Oliver Wainwright, Human Wu, Sung Goo Yang and Ying Zhou.

Along with the official launch in October 1, 2011, Clog will feature a tête à tête with Bjarke Ingels in the Storefront for Art & Architecture on October 7. For further details, check CLOG’s website. Find my few scribbled lines below.  A full version with images here.

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You can find a short preview (it used to be longer) of Yes is More at Taschen’s site here. A useful introductory analysis of the book by John Hill can be found here, and a review of Clog here.

Also: A translation of the article into Spanish has been published by fellow Spaniard bloggers FreakArq here. Baunetz.de uploaded some images of Clog: Big, in their blog here, including one of Yes is More or Less.

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Clog: BIG. Online press, blogs, tweets, social media, and other digital forums have drastically increased the speed at which architectural imagery is distributed and consumed today. While an unprecedented amount of work is available to the public, the lifespan of any single design or topic has been reduced in the profession’s collective consciousness to a week, an afternoon, a single post – an endlessly changing architecture du jour. In the deluge, excellent projects receive the same fleeting attention as mediocre ones. Meanwhile, mere exposure has taken the place of thoughtful engagement, not to mention a substantial discussion. CLOG slows things down. Each issue explores, from multiple viewpoints and through a variety of means, a single subject particularly relevant to architecture now. Succinctly, on paper, away from the distractions and imperatives of the screen. 
Clog: Big is edited by: Kyle May (Editor-in-Chief), Julia van den Hout, Jacob Reidel, Human Wu, The Office of PlayLab, Inc. (Design)
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