NK 24 50 Years

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2014 marked the 50th anniversary of one of those ubiquitous landmarks of the 60s visionary scene, Amazing Archigram 4: The Science Fiction Issue, which saw a truncated attempt at a big-scale celebration on my part. Again, 2015 marked another 5-decade anniversary: this time, it was the publication of Reyner Banham’s ‘A Home is Not A House’ in the April 1965 of Art in America. ‘A home is not a House’ is an inevitable go-to place for any fan ´(I’m including architectural scholars here) of the capsule, expendable, or ephemeral architecture movement of the 1960-70s and beyond -and a nice counterpart to Banham’s own Megastructure.

Also, the article featured those simple-yet-captivating illustration/collages by François Dallegret (I mistyped ‘Dallegreat’ and was on the verge of leaving the typo as it worked so well) which have become a visual sine-qua-non of the time. Dallegret’s pictures were as much responsible for the success of the article as Banham’s always witty, subtly (and not so subtly) ironic and sometimes inflammatory prose. Another installation in Dallegret’s works dealing with complex machines (the article also featured some items of his ‘Automobiles Astrologiques’ series) and intricate detail, the ‘Environment Bubble‘ displayed an immediate, on-your-face rawness that contributed to its lasting appeal. The naked Dallegret and Banham clones inside the bubble were just the icing on the polemical cake. It is a pity that the ‘Banhams’ were just paste-ups of the writer’s head on the artist’s body, although, according to Mary Banham, it was the right choice -aesthetically speaking.

Anyone who’s been following this blog for a while has surely noticed I have a little more than a slight infatuation with Banham’s work and figure, in general, as well as for his collaboration with Dallegret -see ‘A Home Is Not A Mouse’ to ‘Full House vs. Full(er) House’, ‘Banham Style’, and several others published here and there. [‘There’ standing for architecture magazines not yet featured in the blog]. So, when I noticed an issue of Uncube entitled ‘Commune Revisited’ was in the works, I didn’t miss the occasion to fit in a little nod to Banham&Dallegret’s work before the year went by. [Another homage was included some months later in Arquine magazine, and it will show up here at some point, I guess]. I also contacted Mr. Dallegret at the time, and his response included some surrealistic talk about going to the supermarket and eating a banana. But I’m not going to comment on that.

For those interested in reading Dallegret’s actual thoughts, I’d strongly recommend revisiting this interview delivered on the occasion of the 2011 exhibition at the AA school of Architecture (curated by Thomas Weaver and Vanessa Norwood). ‘A Home is Not a House’ is all over the internet, and can be either checked online, or downloaded in pdf form. For those of you too lazy to click on links, you can find the full article below.


The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #34: Commune Revisited, edited by Sophie Lovell, Florian Heilmeyer, Ron Wilson and Elvia Wilk et al. I’d check it right now, if I were you. Honest.

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Banham, Reyner, Dallegret, François: ‘A Home is Not a House’. Art in America, April 1965.




Caught in the quiet desperation of my mundane daily tasks, which for the last 6 months have meant an interrupted 24/7 working routine, I had finally decided -‘given up’ would be a more suitable expression- not to comment on last Wednesday’s massacre. I would be too late, possibly too lame, and certainly redundant, in the wake of the massive, comforting response coming from voices everywhere out there. Anything I could offer would have to be rushed, and probably too banal. And if there’s something this doesn’t deserve is to be banalized –or to be instrumentalized as a way to self-promote oneself, which is also an inevitable side effect of those tragedies-gone-viral. I understand the power of ‘every little voice joining the chorus’ >insert proper English idiom here<, but when figures such as Albert Uderzo have already offered their own contribution, I’d rather back off and listen to them.

But then, this morning I came across David Brooks’ piece in yesterday’s edition of The New York Times, ‘I am not Charlie Hebdo’, which after consternating me with its deceptive title, stroke me as a particularly lucid comment on those who call themselves proponents of the freedom of speech… but just in the right amount, ok?

In his piece, Brooks rightly argues that

“…the journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. (…) Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.

So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.(…)

In most societies, there’s the adults’ table and there’s the kids’ table. The people who read Le Monde or the establishment organs are at the adults’ table. The jesters, the holy fools and people like Ann Coulter and Bill Maher are at the kids’ table. They’re not granted complete respectability, but they are heard because in their unguided missile manner, they sometimes say necessary things that no one else is saying.

Healthy societies, in other words (…) do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect (…). The massacre at Charlie Hebdo should be an occasion to end speech codes. And it should remind us to be legally tolerant toward offensive voices, even as we are socially discriminating.”

And that is precisely the point: Maybe Brooks ‘is not’ Charlie Hebdo. Maybe he doesn’t agree with their opinions, maybe he finds them unnecessarily harsh, occasionally puerile or offensive. I, myself, find some of their stuff amazingly clever, some other rather trite, some too gross, some directly unfunny. And, the point is: It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to buy the magazine, because whether you like it or not is ultimately irrelevant.

Some years ago, Stephen Fry, in one of his most (among his many) memorable quotes said “It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what?” He couldn’t put it in a more eloquent way. People get offended. I get offended on a daily basis: By so-called politicians, by people who call themselves socialists as long as their money is safe -or, you know, those who believe in democracy as long as they are the ones who rule-, by TV programs where idiots are paid great sums for exhibiting their own idiocy, and become role models right away, by architects who think they can speak about anything art/philosophy/science-related -and people have to listen to them- because, you know, they practice Architecture (capital A here), by so-called academics who… the list is endless.

So, as Stephen Fry so aptly puts it, fucking what? The ability of human beings to be offended by the most diverse causes is infinite. Does this mean there are topics that shouldn’t be addressed? Are there things we shouldn’t be able to joke about? Why? Because they offend someone? Because they lack good taste? So what? Who defines good taste? Where are the guardians of good taste every time I turn on my TV set? You don’t like Howard Stern’s show? Ok, I can understand it: So don’t watch it.

So, you’re not Charlie Hebdo. That’s ok, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to like it. Just be glad it can be published*.

[*With my apologies to David Brooks for my butchering of his much more complex article, to the followers of this blog for the lack of a cartoon, and to Simone Florena for my clumsy manipulation of his photograph]

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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.

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François Schuiten

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Joost Swarte

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Marc-Antoine Mathieu

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Manuele Fior

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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

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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.

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V36 Cover

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So, slowly (very, very slowly, this last year), this blog arrived at its 100th post at some point during its fourth year of existence. It’s a rather paradoxical celebration, then, since this sort-of private milestone comes at a moment when the blog has been neglected for quite a few months. It’s also rather paradoxical that this lack of activity happens at a moment where I’m rather busy in my Klaus-related production. Adding to my ongoing collaboration with uncube magazine, which started last February, this year I traveled to Naples, where I was invited to participate in the 2013 Comicon, focusing on comics and architecture, along with European comic book legends François Schuiten and Joost Swarte. These upcoming months will also feature a few collaborations with Clog (in Clog: Sci-Fi), Praxis (In their special issue The Return to Narrative), Spanish blog La Viga en El Ojo, edited by architectural critic Fredy Massad, and I also got into some major trouble by accepting MAS Context’s invitation to guest-edit a special issue of the magazine which will be published (fingers crossed) by the end of the year.

This also speaks a lot about internet presence and online activity in professionals’ blogs. Somewhere else I’ve said that the extent of the current economic and professional crisis can be measured by digital activity, and the number of contact requests you have in LinkedIn. In my case, I guess it reflects in my number of twitter followers.

On top of all this, a few months ago I was also pleasantly surprised by an invitation from Brendan Cormier, managing editor of Volume, to join in a three-way conversation with him and Jimenez Lai. The conversation, chritened “Caricature, Hyperbole, and the Politics of the Cartoon” by Jimenez, has been featured in Volume #36: Ways To Be Critical, the 144 page Summer issue of the magazine, with contributions by Javier Arbona, Amelia Borg, Michèle Champagne, Justine Clark, Bernard Colenbrander, Demilit, Rob Dettingmeijer, Sergio Miguel Figueiredo, Bryan Finoki, Nathalie Frankowski,  Françoise Fromonot, Cruz García, Owen Hatherley, Charles Holland, Justin McGuirk, Markus Miessen, Luca Molinari, Timothy Moore, Douglas Murphy, Urtė Rimšaitė, Arjen Oosterman, Steve Parnell, Colin Ripley, Fred Scharmen, Nick Sowers, Naomi Stead, Michael Stanton, Jan Van Grunsven, Fabrizia Vecchione, WAI Think Tank, Paul Walker, Justine Yan, or Mimi Zeiger. A 34-page preview can be read here.

Since I don’t usually speak that much for/about myself, I thought this conversation with Brendan and Jimenez would be a good way to celebrate that ego-trip that hides behind Klaustoon’s blog. I also have to do it now, because in a few months’ time (caused by sheer serendipity) there will be a couple more of those around, so I’ll take the chance now that oversaturation hasn’t come yet. If you’re curious of what Jimenez and I say there, you can read a few excerpts below, or click on the images from the magazine.


Brendan Cormier:     I’d like to start with a sort of introductory question. You two have come to represent a rather specific area within current ‘fringe’ architectural trends, using cartoons and comics as a tool to generate critical discourses. What draws you to cartooning as method of architectural expression, and to what degree would you consider it a form of criticism?

Jimenez Lai:     If ‘caricature’ is a form of referencing known characters but spoken with hyperbole, I think cartoon can be a very generative form of criticism. I see cartoon as a sophisticated means to conflate representation, criticism, theory, historicism, and even design – while I have a lot of fun embedding cryptic references that close readers may pick up, the more important aspect I want to explore is for cartoons to become projective. So yes, I would agree with Klaus’ reading of ‘Sociopaths’ – for me, that story was a very satisfying moment in my cartooning career as I felt that I layered my references well, while designing three houses in a single effort. ‘Generative’ is also one of my interests in Klaus’ work, whether or not he sees it that way – when he creates the political caricatures, he speaks in hyperbole. Klaus’ work is not so straightforward to me because he relies on the exaggeration of identifiable qualities we generally know – ranging from people’s facial and physical features to architectural targets. For example, in his parody of MOS’s PS1 project, Klaus exaggerated the curvature on the profile of the piece to be more filleted to establish effects of suggestive motion and liveliness. This, to me, is a moment that sends the caricature off to becoming a new architecture of its own. Saturday Night Live’s President Obama vs Mad TV’s are very different, and I would say that we have three President Obamas each performing our idea of him. Can we even consider caricature-making to be cultural contextualism?

KL:     Well, caricature is certainly contextual, and that is particularly vivid in political cartoons (as in any sort of commentary of contemporary issues), whose validity is really ephemeral: As soon as the events and idiosyncrasies that generated them become past, they become totally extraneous to the reader. Even if that same reader actually engaged with them when they first appeared. It’s extremely context-sensitive material.

However, the part I’m most interested in, is the way in which context is dealt with. Cartooning relies, using one of my favorite expressions of Vivian Sobchack’s, on an interplay between familiarity and processes of defamiliarization which deal with hyperbolic distortion but not only. And this distortion becomes a design force itself, which is what you’re pointing at, and something which we both agree on, as we have discussed it before. That is: The interest on copying (the non-spurious interest, let’s say) is that if you copy something badly enough, then it becomes something different, something new. And this is very obviously present in caricature, moreover in architectural caricature: when you take an existing building and twist it, distort it, denaturalize it by contaminating it with other stuff that’s alien to it outside the specific environment, the suspended reality of the cartoon, it mutates. It moves on in a different direction (or directions). So cartooning becomes a tool to unleash architectural imagination. Of course, one could argue that this is true of any form of doodling and sketching, but to me, there’s an openness in sketching that also limits its usefulness. Meanwhile in cartooning, where there’s a certain narrative that one has to adapt to, this very limitation of the possibilities fosters the appearance of specific, productive design strategies. And this addresses the ‘not only’ part of my argument, which we can discuss later. <Monologue mode OFF>

JL:     In my opinion, abstraction is an active form of criticism. The cave paintings we discover today attempted verisimilitude, but they were unable to copy figurations exactly right. But because of the inability to repeat exact copies, only the intended elements are retained. With that, I’d like to maintain a focus on this question “just exactly what is criticism?” Building upon Klaus’s fascination with copies and defamiliarization, I think of abstraction as the retention of critical matters and a thickening of its aboutness. As a process of gradual mutations, abstraction between copies produces language, form, and reflects the zeitgeist of every era. This is doubly why I think representation is critical in the transference between generations, and that criticism simply isn’t just the business of wrist-slapping poorly behaved actions.

BC:     There’s also a distinction to be made here between fast and slow critique. Klaus, you hinted at this already by associating your work with the word ‘editorial’, it’s a quick response to very current happenings. You reference ephemera like Gagnam Style parodies, the buzz around Rem Koolhaas curating the upcoming Venice Architecture Biennale, even a relatively esoteric nod to Ethel Baraona-Pohl’s prolific tweeting. So reading your work is like getting very precise snapshots of a day and a time. This is also reflected in how you broadcast your work through fast platforms like your blog and the online architecture magazine Uncube. On the other hand Jimenez takes a slower introspective approach. You can read the general zeitgeist through some of the architectural questions he confronts, but it is much more implicit and usually involves architectural debates that have been drawn out over decades, such as designing via plan versus section. And in step with this slow critique, Jimenez publishes with slower platforms: books and journals. So two different strategies, with two different intents. Can you tell me what brought you both to these strategies?

KL:     It is true that much of the work I do is linked to a very specific timeframe, which adds to the indecipherability of the gags themselves for anyone not familiar with the referents. This does have to do with the medium they are designed for, which has a blog format, a very particular mixture between the syncopated, sequential – but also timeless – form of the diary, and the sequentially substitutive nature of the newspaper, where each new installment replaces the previous one. This ephemerality of periodical printed media is something that has been erased somehow by the internet, which has brought about an era where everything remains out there forever, establishing a rather interesting flattening of History where every moment – and every content attached – is equally accessible, cohabitating a sort of timeless ether where any former understanding of time as an ever-advancing line, gets diluted in the general matrix of hyperlinked data-events.

So, coming back from the heights: It is true that the blog format brought a change to my work. When I split my personality and created Klaus almost a decade ago, I used it to criticize the discipline in a less latest-news-sort of way, and it was when creating the blog that I started to feel the urge to reference current events as they happened. This is particularly true of my collaborations with Uncube, where the sort of ‘Good Morning America’ format brings the commentary aspect to the front. However, the timelessness of the net I’ve referred to has also prompted me to explore rather obscure corners of the discipline, and indulge into a lot of obscure image-producing which mixes referents at will, such as the ‘Latour in Urbicande’, ‘The Great Gizmo in the Sky’, ‘Eisenmania’, and others. Not surprisingly, those are the ones that make their way to architectural publications. 

JL:        I have a reaction to the word ‘commentary’ – I don’t think anyone should make a ‘commentary’ about anything. When someone makes a commentary, there is a suggestion that that person is above it. If a designer or a student or even a critic says: ‘I’m just making a social commentary on the…’ I am imploding on the inside wondering to myself: ‘Are you above the society?’ This attitude alludes to pointless projects that evade the pressure of practicing in a forward-thinking way. Maybe in a more reductive way, I am interested in projects that clearly exemplify qualities of ‘productive criticism’. 

Now, onto the speed of critics – and sadly all of this is in real time, I am not only some GMT’s behind both of you but actually need time to think things through… it feels like a bloody chess game with clocks to slam on. In another recent conversation I’ve had with my friend Pieterjan Ginckles, speed and irreverence came up as an agreement between us. We live in a society of the nonchalant, and I simply want to embrace that. I love reddit and 4chan. I follow suckerpunch. I’m a friend of the Archive of Affinities. I believe in the idea that work has to be visually striking for anyone and everyone, but with enough depth to be mulled over. I call it ‘calibrated superficiality’. But I think another thing that I admire about Klaus is his immediacy: ‘I think this is important. Therefore, I will make it important by doing something about it right this minute.’[…]








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– I’m thinking maybe -just maybe we went a little bit too far, didn’t we?

– You’d think so?


From Tomorrow and till July 1st, I’ll be in the architectural festival eme3, in Barcelona, which has selected for its 7th edition the motto “Bottom Up”. Here, I’ll be exhibiting the exibition (not euphonic, I know) Klaus.Toon: From New York to Portimao that Casa Granturismo and the Ordem dos Architectos de Portugal organised for me in late 2010. (You can check the original entries here and here).

Eme3 is open to everyone, free and a mix of cross-cutting disciplines. It’s goal is to make people discover and live other ways of making architecture, this time under the topic “Bottom-up”. It asks its audience to be curious and take part in a laboratory of experimentation that seeks to  explore participative and bottom-up approaches to architecture through: “an exhibition of projects and installations, Workshops where people will be able to build, design, debate, dance, share, fabricate strange things, projections, talks and debates with the participants, and moments of conviviality and relax around a drink, with concerts and dj’s.”

There are two categories for participants: SHARE IT! (for already built projects) and BUILD IT! (where participants get the opportunity to build their proposals – see full list here). From 28 of june until 1 of july (except some workshops starting on 20 of june) EME3_2012 will base its headquarters in the COAC (Official Chamber of Architects of Catalonia) and in the EME3 Plaza, located in the adjacent square of the Cathedral in Barcelona, but it will also feature different interventions and activities scattered through the urban spaces of the city centre (Ciutat Vella). (See map below or here, in google maps).

Tomorrow, June 28 from 20.00 to 22.00, I’ll be participating in a round table organised by Ethel Baraona (from dpr-Barcelona publishing) under the suggestive title “The Importance of the Way Stories Are Being Told”. There will be Edgar González (, Nerea Calvillo (C+ arquitectos), Paco González ( , Tiago Mota (ateliermob), and Ariadna Cantis.


As of July 2012, dpr-Barcelona launched the e-book ”The Importance of the Way Stories are Being Told”, a “fast-generated” publication aimed at continuing the debate in an editable format. A short review of the book can be found at Archdaily, along with a well-known cartoon by yours truly (a pingback would be much appreciated, you powerful people).


”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 (, 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.

Strolling the Architectural Zoo: Eisenmanis Infuribus (click to enlarge)

Later today (in my time zone), the jury of the Pritzker Prize will reveal the name of the laureate for the 2012 edition of the award. This year, the 9-member jury integrated by Lord Peter Palumbo, Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Glenn Murcutt, Juhani Pallasmaa, Karen Stein, and Martha Thorne will decide the name of the architect who will be invested as the 34th laureate in a ceremony that will take place in Beijing. Thomas J. Pritzker, in reference to his city being selected as this year’s host, commented that “over the three decades of prize-giving, we have held ceremonies in fourteen different countries, in venues ranging from the white house in Washington DC to Todai-Ji temple in Nara, Japan. the tradition of moving the event to world sites of architectural significance was established to emphasize that the prize is international, the laureates having been chosen from 16 different nations to date. This will be our 34th event marking the first time we have gone to China.” Inevitably, China and Beijing have also hosted an increasing number of projects built by past Pritzker Prize laureates, such as Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Herzog&de Meuron, and I.M. Pei, winner of the 1983 edition.

Over the years, the Pritzker organization has featured a combination of total predictability, submitting to the architectural status quo by awarding its prize to the decreasing members of the star(chitectural) system who are left -and the Oscar-like custom to reward old-timers in not particularly moments of their careers before it’s too late-, and a penchant for alternating those with lesser-known names, usually artisans from the outside of the anglo-saxon market. In 2011, Eduardo Souto de Moura came (at least for me), as a pleasant surprise, and this year there seems to be a consensus -as there was last year- on Steven Holl’s or Toyo Ito’s likeability to become laureated. However, the web resounds with many other names, from David Chipperfield to Kengo Kuma and Ben Van Berkel, or even the recently deceased Luis Moreno Mansilla, among other more extravagant proposals. There seems to be also a big consensus on the unlikeability of both Daniel Libeskind and Peter Eisenman, who I think would qualify to reprise the equivalent of Martin Scorsese’s role in  the Oscars of 2006.

Anyone wanna bet?


UPDATE: Finally, Chinese architect Wang Shu, from “Amateur Architecture Studio” received this year’s Pritzker Prize.

From Chigago Tribune’s Cityscapes: Wang Shu, 49 (left), deftly melds tradition and modernity, often by reusing bricks and tiles from demolished buildings in such bold new designs as a history museum in the Chinese city of Ningbo. Wang calls his office the “Amateur Architecture Studio,” yet that name is far too modest, the jury that selected him said in its citation. His work “is that of a virtuoso in full command of the instruments of architecture—form, scale, material, space and light,” said the jury, which mainly consists of architectural experts. This year, it included for the first time U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who has a keen interest in the field.

In a telephone interview from Los Angeles on Saturday, Wang said the award was “big surprise.” He was sharply critical of the tabula rasa development practices that are transforming the cities of the world’s most populous nation.  “Originally, Chinese had many beautiful cities,” Wang said in his clear but imperfect English. “They demolish everything. They called it modern city. They build a very wide road system. Then every block they give to a development company to build a high-rise apartment building. Suddenly we let every Chinese city become big suburb. (…) New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas combined together (…) is Shanghai.”

Wang and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded their practice in 1997 in the southeastern Chinese city of Hangzhou. Their portolio spans a broad range of scales, from museums, high-rise apartments and college buildings to single-family houses whose curving roofs subtly evoke ancient Chinese pagodas. The Pritzker jury singled out Wang’s Ningbo history museum as a superbly-functioning icon that presents a powerful alternative to the twin extremes of architectural nostalgia and shock-of-the-new modernity. “In this world, people like to talk about science, technology, computer,” Wang said. I like to talk about architecture by hand–hand-drawing to hand-making.”

“His buildings have the unique ability to evoke the past, without making direct references to history,” the jury said in its citation.  Although jury members knew the presentation would be made in Beijing when they deliberated earlier this year, the location of the ceremonies did not influence their decision, according to administrators of the prize. “The jury does not speak about geography. They never portion out between countries. The only concern they have is architectural quality,” said Martha Thorne, the prize’s executive director.

More at Cityscapes and


A fistful of useful links: The official announcement can be found at the Pritzker official site here, along with a -not that- short bio of the architect. An architectural tour through Wang Shu’s different works can be found in this post by Edgar González, and this other one in Domus, while Los Vacíos Urbanos offers a nice set of the Ningbo Museum with photgraphs by Iwan Baan (more here). Another impressive set by Evan Chakroff  can be found in Archinect (more in Evan’s own blog, Tenuous Resilience), and A Weekly Dose of Architecture already featured a stroll through the China Academy of Art third campus in Zhuantang Town in this nice old post from 2008. Designboom has a couple of posts dedicated to Wang Shu’s installations in the Venice Bienale and the 2011 Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Shenzen/Hong Kong. Finally, Archdaily offers a review of Shu’s figure by Pritzker member of the jury Alejandro Aravena.


LAST UPDATES: Why Wang Shu? An article by Brendan McGetrick at Domus Web. Domus also recovered a quite complete article on the  Ningbo History Museum from their archive here.

Also, the nice people in METALOCUS decided to translate part of this post and publish it, along with the illustration, on their website.

(Via Lily Ladaga from Yahoo News)

Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded on March 11. The magnitude-9.0 quake spawned a deadly tsunami that slammed into the nation’s east coast, leaving a huge swath of devastation in its wake. Thousands of people are dead and many more are still missing or injured.

Japan has often donated when other countries have experienced disasters, such as when Hurricane Katrina impacted the United States. Below are organizations that are working on relief and recovery in the region.

AMERICAN RED CROSS: The American Red Cross is currently supporting and advising the Japanese Red Cross, which continues to assist the government in its response.  You can help people affected by disasters, like floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as countless other crises at home and around the world by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Donate here.

GLOBALGIVING: Established a fund to disburse donations to organizations providing relief and emergency services to victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Donate here.

SAVE THE CHILDREN:  Save the Children, which has worked in Japan since 1986, has an immediate goal of $5 million to launch longer-term recovery for children affected by Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Donate here.

SALVATION ARMY: The Salvation Army has been in Japan since 1895 and is currently providing emergency assistance to those in need. Donate here.

AMERICARES: Emergency response manager and local relief workers are in the city of Sendai to assess medical needs and coordinate with government officials and other international partner organizations. AmeriCares is also directly in contact with hospitals treating the injured in Miyagi, Fukashima and Iwate. Donate here.

INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS: A team of doctors flew to Sendai, where they will be delivering supplies, assessing needs, and identifying communities that have not yet been reached. We continue to coordinate with local health authorities and partners on critical gaps, providing technical expertise and assisting with logistics. Donate here.

SHELTERBOX: ShelterBox responds instantly to natural and man-made disasters by delivering boxes of aid to those who are most in need. The box includes a tent for a family of 10, cooker, blankets, water purification, tool kit and other items survivors need to rebuild their lives in the days, weeks and months following a disaster. Donate here.

A collection of artwork attempting to raise money for relief efforts in Japan to be found here, ando also in Tsunami: Des Images pour le Japon, as well as in this auction of works by Spanish comics artists.


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