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On these days of seclusion, internet is becoming for many, more than ever, the only contact with the world outside (as if it wasn’t before already, for some). And for those of us whose daily activities deal in one degree or another, with drawing, social media are offering a wide range of activities to invest our time and neglect our real work.

One such opportunities for procrastination is the CoronaMaison (‘CoronaMansion’) challenge, launched a week ago on twitter by French illustrator and webcomic author Pénélope Bagieu (@PenelopeB). The call was very simple: to design one’s ideal house for this confinement conditions, using a template provided by Timothy Hannem (@acupoftim). So far, over 1,000 people have contributed their own visions to this challenge, which can be checked clicking on the #coronamaison hashtag on twitter. 

As an architect-cartoonist I thought I couldn’t let this opportunity to step in and bring some order pass. However, I failed miserably and just indulged in my usual obsessions. I had also thought of making a series out of this, each one with a different architect, but, knowing my lack of perseverance, I doubt it will ever happen.

Well, it was fun, at least.

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Here’s a wordless version, in case you like it better. Click to enlarge.

 

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As many of you already know if you’re reading these lines, in 2014 I started contributing to Mexican architecture magazine Arquine, which, after the sad demise of both Uncube and A10, has become my longest ongoing collaboration with any architectural media. There have been many -and varied- fruitful results from this relationship, starting with my section Arquinoir, which gives me a venue both for my usual rants about any aspect of Architecture’s present, past, History and Theory, as well as for my drawing urges. (I cannot stress enough how permissive and supportive they are when it comes to publishing everything I send them, no matter how outlandish it may be). Throughout the years, this collaboration has extended to book chapters, posters, prefaces to very nice books, an exhibition in the CCEMex, and even an invitation to the Mextropoli Festival in 2018.

Last in this series, and at a point where I thought I had lost my ability to be surprised, has been Miquel Adriá’s and Alejandro Hernández’s idea to use the lower half of my cartoon for issue No. 91 (March 2020) on the cover. When they asked me about it, I thought it was flattering but not a very good idea (my style kinda clashes with the clean-cut design of Arquine’s covers). Now, after seeing the fantastic job they have done with it (my cartoon, featured inside, has the usual graytone shading), I’m just flattered. Cheers, guys!

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Just one more pic, because it looks so cool.

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Following last month’s lecture at the School of Architecture of Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Barcelona, next Friday I’ll be presenting a retrospective of my work at the School of Architecture of the University of Navarra (ETSAUN). You’re all welcome if you feel like attending, and you might get a signed print if you do, too.

Cheers!

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This is something that should have been done almost a month ago, but, as my recaps of my own events go, it’s possibly one of my teeniest delays (there are some events from 2018 which are still waiting their turn into this not-yet-completely-abandoned blog).

So, just a few lines to acknowledge & thank Fredy Massad, Guillem Carabí, and the UIC School of Architecture in Barcelona for inviting me to open their ‘Foros 2020’ Lecture series. It was great to meet the students and show an overview of my work in the past decade, answer their completely spontaneous questions (ahem), as well as having the opportunity to meet some old (as in ‘long-time’, not ‘agey’) friends such as Ethel Baraona, from DPR-Barcelona.

Next stop in my Iberian tour: Pamplona!

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Here, some pics of the event taken by the attendees. Sorry for the lack of credits. I grabbed them from twitter and forgot to write doen where they came from. Thanks to the kind photographers!

 

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Next week I will be ging the opening lecture of theForos’ lecture series at the School of Achitecture of the UIC Barcelona – Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, thanks to a kind invitation by Fredy Massad and Guillem Carabí, organizers of the 2020 edition. This year’s series, titled ‘Co-Benefits’, will focus on the multiple overlaps of architecture and the arts, from dance and sculpture to photography, cinema and comics (ahem).

The series will feature lectures by sculptress MADOLA, dancer Carme Torrent, critic and curator Maroje Mrduljaš, as well as Elsie Owusu, Éric Fassin, Jorge Gorostiza, and yours truly. Below you can find the poster for the series, with the speakers’ Bios and a general description of the program.

See you all there, if you can make it. There’s a possibility that some prints might be awarded to those members of the audience who ask interesting questions.

 

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Architecture has perhaps been the Fine Arts discipline that historically has most heavily drawn from the other arts. From ancient civilizations up until the 19th century, its necessary condition of habitability enabled architecture to incorporate painting, sculpture, music and literature, to its façades, its roofs, on the outside and the inside of buildings.

However, at the beginning of the 20th century, the emergence of the artistic avant-garde meant that architecture had to swing between the adapting of its forms in response to a new way of perceiving the world, and the pressing need to solve the housing shortage in war-torn Europe. This produced a pendulum motion where the arts, as an escape valve for a continent in ferment, influenced a significant proportion of architectural designs, inevitably moving them closer to the new visual arts. And, at the same time, the absence of distinct ornamentation revealed, from the nature of the architecture itself, its own artistic quality.

A hundred years later, looking back we can continue to observe a fruitful feedback process between the arts: while the various manifestations of contemporary art draw on numerous occasions from architectural elements, freed from any connotation of habitability, architecture in turn draws from the various artistic disciplines to emphasise its emotional nature and thereby reconnect with its users. In this way, dance, sculpture, thought, or the newer arts like photography, cinema and comics become, deservedly, both components of  and interpreters of contemporary architecture.

Direction of Foros. Guillem Carabí, Fredy Massad.
Aula Magna UIC Barcelona
uic.es/architecture

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It’s been an wful amount of years since I haven’t drawn a Christmas -or New Year- greeting cardtoon (I just made that up as I typed), and I thought it was about time, so here it is: Happy 2020 to everyone! -most especially to all those who have been following this humble site from the beginning.

Of course, even in such a straightforward drawing I couldn’t resist including a few nods to things both past and present, from Planet of the Apes to Climate Change, Brexit, Calvin and Hobbes, postmodern architecture, or Disney’s The Mandalorian, which has been the first time I enjoy a Star Wars-related product since the original three. (Well, I also enjoyed ‘Solo’, but that’s something I guess I shouldn’t admit publicly). Together whith those, there’s as usual, my cringe-worthy self-caricature, and these two guys which, if you look closely, tend to show up in many of my works. The reason for their inclusion here, other than habit, is that 2020 also marks the 15th year (oh, dear…) since I started using the ‘Klaus’ moniker, which I created in 2005 when I started publishing the architect-themed comic strip ‘El Corbu’ (which Quilian Riano suggested translating as ‘John Corb’). The strip featured a struggling young architect (as I was at the time) dealing with the typical problems of the profession, mostly low wages and clients who don’t like modern architecture. The strip only lasted for a year, even if I had sketched ideas for some 200 installments. As usual, again, the magazine that published didn’t last long, and I abandoned the project. I still like it, and perhaps I’ll retaake it. When I’m retired, I guess. In the meantime, and, for those who might feel any curiosity, here’s a taste, with a strip  that makes part of a series where John Corb hs to deal with a client particularly opposed to flat roofs. Enjoy.

And a let’s all hope for a Happy 2020!

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I saw Blade Runner for the first time on the end-of-the-Summer Friday night of September 2, 1988. I remember it with such accuracy because, at a time where there were only two TV channels available, and I still had no VCR at home, the premiere on television of any movie was greeted as an event – and so did, on this occasion, the people I was having dinner with. Truth is, at my still somewhat tender age, I hadn’t heard of the film, but one of the main roles was played by the actor who had previously played Han Solo in Star Wars (the FILM; not ‘A New Hope’, not the Star Wars Universe or any of that mumbo-jumbo). So I sat in front of the TV, still some two years too young to truly enjoy it. Certainly, the film impressed me, although not in the way one would hope for. A couple of years before that I had fled from a morning projection of Blade Runner’s coetaneous Escape from the Bronx (1983), Enzo G. Castellari’s sequel to his own Escape From New York exploitation film 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1990: I guerrieri del Bronx, 1982), whose crudeness -incredibly tame for today’s standards, I’ll freely admit- proved to be too much for my youngster sensitivity. That experience had an echo that night, while watching Scott’s film, which granted me several disturbing moments. From that session I kept, engraved in my retina -and my brain- the indelible image of Zhora going through several layers of glass store windows in her plexiglass raincoat, which became less and less transparent as the blood escaping her body impregnated it. I also remember with a similar ambivalence the mixture of repulsion and morbid fascination that the grim porcelain doll look of a very young Sean Young caused on me; or the final scene with Rutger Hauer, majestic in full Norse god magnificence, reciting his semi-improvised monologue on a rainy roof surrounded by blue light.

None of this happened to me some -very few- years later when, also at night, but this time on my own  and with some more – although still meager – knowledge and maturity, I finally watched Scott’s previous film, Alien (or Alien, the eighth passenger, in my case , in one of those rare moments of brilliance of the usual ‘creative translation’ of original film titles for Spanish audiences). That is: the fascination was there, of course, but in this case, it was not a morbid mixture of attraction and repulsion, but the pure aesthetic delight of those who experience something for the first time with the growing awareness of being in front of a masterpiece. I must say that this did not happen to me with Blade Runner, not even some years later, when, in the somewhat more reasonable condition of having some previous knowledge of the film and being halfways -more towards the second half, really- of my architecture studies, I rewatched it in order to help a colleague with some coursework. Don’t get me wrong. Blade Runner is one of the films I have most extensively (and often) discussed, one of my favorite films, a milestone in the history of cinema -indisputable if we’re talking about science fiction cinema-, and an icon of postmodernism that has generated rivers of ink, with some minor branches fed by yours truly. I neither confirm nor deny I may have devoted a chapter to it in a PhD dissertation at some point in the past.

However, whilst Alien is a film that works with (Swiss) clockwork precision, Blade Runner is a more irregular effort. Scott’s second film -let’s not forget he had already directed the beautiful The Duellists, which provided him with the Best Debut Film in Cannes in 1977- was a prodigy in the control of cinematographic tempo and footage economy Blade Runner presents an uneven success in the handling of pace, and a clunkier narrative. Alien toyed with the spectator, presenting him with a morose pacing, slowly building tension and then throwing him into an adrenaline-boosted rollercoaster. Blade Runner, on the contrary, is burdened by an occasionally choppy montage and an erratic narrative, full with scenes that drag on screen, whose purpose is not always clear. When it first hit the theaters, viewers often complained about the difficulty to follow the otherwise ridiculously simple plot. Alien had been a filmic prodigy in many respects, ultimately upgrading what had begun as a B horror movie set in space to the category of small cinematic gem. Three years later, with a budget three times bigger, Blade Runner was conceived as a much more ambitious enterprise. Here, Ridley Scott left the megastructural but still somewhat modest inner architectural ecosystem of his second film, and took over the visual creation of a complete world: the megalopolitan continuum of Los Angeles in the -yet to be- future of 2019. However, this expansion in the scope did not lower its level of demand when it came down to the detail in which this fictional world had to be presented to the viewer. Blade Runner was built using the same layering1 method he had applied to the design of The Duelists (1976) and Alien (1979): an accumulation of data in which each frame of the film was crowded with layer upon layer of information. This diogenetic strategy of visual design overwhelmed a viewer unable to apprehend everything that on display, which ultimately resulted in an unbearable feeling of veracity. The images in the film did not look like a set, like a staged, but limited imitation of reality built for the eye of the camera. They looked like real environments whose complexity exceeded the viewer’s ability to apprehend them in their entirety. They were too full with information; they seemed to extend beyond the limits of the screen, equally detailed and complex everywhere the camera bothered to point at; like the real world.

This excessive ambition would also take its toll in the film. If Alien, despite its relative yet limited variety of sets, exuded coherence in his visual treatment, in Blade Runner the team led by Douglas Trumbull had no other option but use all the tricks in the book in order to address Scott’s growing demands, which ended up instilling the fictional reality of the film with a certain collage nature on2. Blade Runner/ Los Angeles 2019 is a film/ place made up of juxtaposed moments/ spaces whose connection, as in the Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, is left to the discretion of the viewer’s imagination.

And yet, it would be this multiple, oversaturated, fragmented condition that would ultimately result in the film’s seemingly inexhaustible ability to both represent postmodern reality, and fascinate audiences and the Academia alike. Back in 1982, Blade Runner shook the filmgoing world with a future-present (a 1980’s future) that was presented to the viewer with overwhelming physicality; a dark but palpable future, which would lead to paradoxes such as the curious Stockholm Syndrome described by Norman M. Klein in 1991, when he wrote that: “(i)n February, 1990, at a public lecture series on art in Los Angeles, three out of five leading urban planners agreed that they hoped someday Los Angeles would look like the film Blade Runner …It has become a paradigm for the future of cities, for artists across the disciplines3.” November 2019 is here, and the reality on the other side of my window is just as ominous as the one described by Scott, but much less fascinating. To make it worse, the same can be said of the one on the other side of the -now predominantly digital-silver screen.

See? See why I hate Blade Runner?

1 “Alien’s ‘environment’ was the popular filmgoing public’s first exposure to “layering”, Scott’s self-described technique of building up a dense, kaleidoscopic accretion of detail within every frame and set of a film. ‘To me (Scott Said) a film is like a seven-hundred-layer layer cake.” Paul M. Sammon, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner (New York: HarperPrism, 1996); 47.

 2 Norman M. Klein, “Building Blade Runner” in Social Text, 1990, no. 28; 147. Yes, I know I’ve quoted this text at least as many times as Rowe’s ‘Introduction with Five Architects’. Well, as Eric Idle, in full Michelangelo attire would say: ‘It works, mate!’

“Por qué Odio Blade Runner.” Arquine. Revista Internacional de Arquitectura. ‘Lo que Falta / Missing Pieces.’ Mexico DF: Editorial Arquine, Julio 2019. Nº 89, pp. 23-25.

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So, now that November 2019, the year Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (you know, the REAL one) is set, is over, I thought it might be worth remembering the film through this installment of my section ‘Arquinoir’ in Mexican architecture magazine Arquine. I haven’t translated the texts in the cartoon so far. Later, perhaps. The Spanish version can be found online here. Although I strongly suggest buying a physical copy.

 

 

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