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So, It’s been half a year since I posted anything here. I’m not going to promise things will be different from now on, because it wouldn’t be the first (or nth) time I fail to keep that promise. In any case, for those who have stopped by here faithfully these last 6 months just to find there was nothing new, let’s dust off an old piece, published some time ago in A10 magazine.

As those among you who know me already know, I’m partially skeptical about the ‘new architectural collectives’ scene that has emerged with renewed strength in the last years, fueled by the crisis. Not that I have any problem with the concept per se, mind you: I am among those who think that the profession is in desperate need of change and diversification, on the one hand. We are not in Le Corbusier’s times anymore, and -maybe sadly, maybe fortunately- few of us will have the chance to be that kind of architect. Also, I certainly find it worthy that architects climb down from their ivory towers and talk face to face -and hopefully in the same language- to real people. You know, the ones who will use the buildings we design. More on this later.

However, even if I’m happy to see this change, I feel a little less enthused when I see it becoming just a trend, and when the much needed diversification of architectural practice(s) is substituted by a sameness of hipster poses. I’m all in for an putting an end to the ‘starchitect wannabe’ era. Let’s just not substitute it for a New Establishment of allegedly ‘committed’ architects… whose ultimate goal is, again, become famous in the architectural scene, just by using different means.

Amongst the maremagnum of ‘cool’ collectives, there are of course those who are genuinely interested in giving response to the architectural needs of today, and truly believe in collaborating with the public -or, what’s even better, in accepting members who are not architects themselves. Withing this last group, British collective Assemble has become a referent in its own right, even winning the Turner Prize in the process. The fact that some have declared the death of the famous award because of this only underscores that they’re doing the right thing.

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The Power of Many

Assemble are probably one of the most prolific and influential collective architecture practices nowadays in UK. Working on very different scale projects from public realm improvement strategies to building renovations or exhibition designs, their 18 members have a shared interest to create projects of real social value. They don’t usually self-start their own projects instead of waiting for commissions to come to them. The collective jointly work with communities, institutions and other clients to make projects happen, what in many cases means to build them in case it is necessary by themselves, learning as they go. From their working space SugarhHouse in London they are shaking up the architecture panorama in UK.

How did it all start?

It was in 2009 when the majority of people that later became Assemble were doing Part I architecture jobs working on small part of big projects, we all had some kind of collective desire to understand projects in a more holistic way and have hands on role and experiment and try things. There was a collective dissatisfaction. (…)

What is the leitmotiv for all your projects?

First that we all really want to do them. Secondly, Assemble is a broad church and people act here in many different ways and for many different reasons. We don’t try to push a manifesto but to give people as much freedom, resources and critical support to do the work that they want to do in the best way that they can and in the ways that this is necessarily possible within a traditional practice. It’s very important in Assemble that works as a horizontal structure where everyone’s got their responsibility for what they do and think. (…)

Do you think there is any shared philosophy in the collective practices?

From our experience talking to other practices or groups that are in a similar position and make similar things, we see that there’s a shared ambition and dissatisfaction that can probably be related with a lack of opportunities. When you talk to people they seem fairly to turn on innovation, they have a shared interest in making things differently, mixing life and work in a different way and have the control of your own and your projects. (…)

Excerpts* from: Gonzalo Herrero Delicado: The Power of Many– An Interview with Assemble.  A10 Magazine #66. Dec 2015

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(*) If you are interested in reading more, you’ll have to buy the magazine. They have bills to pay, too.

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Yes, unfortunately, this year’s scholarly life and my increasing committments with real publishing (aaahhh… money…) and its dreadful deadlines (ahhh…. my weekends…) has resulted in an almost total neglection of the blog. So, in order to catch up a little, let’s move on with the series of illustrations I’ve been doing for A10 magazine (@A10magazine) this past year. All of them were done to illustrate a still ongoing series of interviews with ‘young’ architects or architectural teams (because if you’re an architect under 40, you’re still young, you know? -suck that up, engineers!) conducted by A10’s editor, Indira van ‘t Klooster (@IndiraS). This one, from December 2014, featured NY-based firm SO-IL, run by Florian Idenburg, Jing Liu, and an old colleague from my Cambridge days, Ilias Papageorgoulias Papageorgiou. Dang, has it been so long already??

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Unlike most architects in Europe, you mainly work for private clients. Why is that?

In Europe, one thinks that governments take care of public space, but outside Europe it’s usually different. (…) It’s very usual for an architect there to be part of the funding efforts for his own design. To arrange for your own fee calls for a different mentality. (…) Personal contact with your client is more important, mutual appreciation is crucial. Also, with public funding, the most important thing is to deliver a building on time and within budget. Once those demands are secured, there is little debate about the design any longer. 

[…]

What do you think would have happened if you had stayed in Europe?

My career would have been entirely different. It would have been harder, I believe, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. I learned the most by leaving the Netherlands, but I never intended to ‘escape’. We seek commissions in Europe (…).As an office, we are much more European than an average American practice, for example, when it comes to our attitude toward public space.

What would be your advice for young architects?

We are six years old now and have set the office on a track that currently allows us to work on a range of exciting projects around the world that engage culture and the public realm. The path of an architecture firm is inherently rocky. The people in our office are even younger than us. The new generation is much more flexible; it’s a more fluid generation. Traditional buildings will always be needed, but I think architects will find a wide range of new fields in which to work. Their skill set is ultimately suited for the demands of our time. Americans are unbeatable in their knowledge of computer coding, which is essential if you want to remain in control of your design. That’s something European architects should be concerned about—they know how to make a model, but very few have a clue about writing computer scripts.

Excerpts* from: Indira van ‘t Klooster: Reflections from overseas An Interview with SO-IL. A10 MAgazine #61. Jan-Feb 2015

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(*) For the rest you’ll have to buy the magazine. That’s the way it works. Toughen up.

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(*I know there’s a Numerus Klausus Cartoon missing; I’m saving that one for later). You’ll excuse me if I don’t comment much, but I pulled an all-nighter yesterday. Now, plug your Tito and Tarantula’s ‘Greatest Hits’, and relax.

The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #29: After Dark, edited by Sophie Lovell, Florian Heilmeyer, Ron Wilson and Elvia Wilk et al., which is full with Luna Parks, neutrino detectors, night walkers in nocturnal london (this one’s particularly worth checking), an article on NY’s 1977 Blackout (which was also the sunject of the inaugural issue of The New City Reader), and a lot more…

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I used to have a blog, didn’t I?

Ok, so, now I got my life back, I’ll possibly be updating the blog with all the stuff which, forcefully, has kept being produced throughout all these months. And, for starters, a couple of takes on the cartoon produced for Uncube #25, ”Soft Machines’ (yes, we’re that behind), within the ‘Numerus Klausus series. A no-prize to anyone who finds all the nods to Ridley Scott’s Alien, Frank Miller’s Ronin, Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame!, Dave Taylor’s Big Robots (a great Judge Dredd story, by the way), Luc Schuiten, Neri Oxman, et al, which can be seen in the ‘cinemascope’ version below:

NK18 cinemascope blogClick to Enlarge (DO IT!)

The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #25: Soft Machines, edited by Sophie Lovell, Florian Heilmeyer, Ron Wilson and Elvia Wilk et al., which is full with bio-cities, microbial homes, micotecture, interactive edible products, etc.

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“More than 100,000 people have applied to be a part of the Mars One project, which aims to colonize the red planet starting in 2022. Out of the thousands, 40 people will be selected. Of the 40, just four will participate in the first passage to Mars, which is scheduled to leave in September 2022 and land seven months later in April 2023. None of the four will ever return to Earth.

More than 30,000 Americans have applied for the chance to be the very first settlers on Mars, paying a $38 application fee. The audacious project is the brainchild of a Dutch company run by CEO and creator Bas Lansdorp. Lansdrop told CNN that the price based is on the gross domestic product per capita of different nations. For example, Mexicans pay a $15 application fee. ‘We wanted it to be high enough for people to have to really think about it and low enough for anyone to be able to afford it,’ Lansdorp said. The very first mission to Mars will cost $6 billion, according to Lansdorp.”

Alex Greig: “More than 100,000 people want to fly to Mars in 2022 – and never come back.” The Daily Mail Online, August 10 2013

Trying to catch up with stuff published in March-April. This one was commissioned for Uncube Magazine’s 19th issue, focused on Deep (architectural?) Space, which, knowing my penchant for sci-fi, came as a gift (thanks, guys). Not the last time, as you’ll see in Issue #21, Acoustics, which is due one of these days. More on that later.

The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #19: Space, edited by Sophie Lovell, Florian Heilmeyer, Jessica Bridger, Elvia Wilk et al. Anyone caring to name all the referents (sci-fi related or else) in the drawing, please help yourself and drop a comment for an invaluable no-prize.

So, before January is over, I’d like to post the first one in a series of posts that look back at some of the stuff that happened in 2013 but which, due to the hectic-ness of these last months, had to wait till now. So, as a starting point, I thought it would be nice to celebrate the imminent -and eminent- first anniversary of my ongoing collaboration with Uncube Magazine, a Berlin-based, online journal that has managed to make its own place in the netsphere through a steady flow of thematic, monthly issues, since August 2012.

Drifting a little from my usually elusive manners, I offered them to draw an egotistic strip, “Numerus Klausus”, commenting on current issues on and around architecture in my own section within the magazine, ‘Klaus’ Kube’. Of course, even though it started as a regular-looking comic strip, they soon talked me into doing something a little more complex -they didn’t have to try too hard. Some of the strips are still pretty elusive, but at least this time their backstory is easier to trace back. Also, the editors’ suggestions gave me the opportunity to feature a lot of guest stars, such as the inevitable Rem-the-Man, but also MVRDV, Rafael Viñoly, Renzo Piano, Kieran Long, Pink Floyd (seriously), Florian Heilmeyer, Sophie Lovell, Zaha Hadid, Gregg Lynn, sylvia Lavin, Jean Nouvel or Sigmund Freud.

Scroll down for the whole series (including two non-posted ones)

Klaus's Kube 01 Delusional EconomiesI. Delusional Economies, in Uncube’s blogklaus Kube 02 You're so Kool blogII. You’re so Kool in Uncube Magazine # 07 : Off-places.

NK 03 On Intellectuality blogIII. On Intellectuality in Uncube Magazine #9: Constructing Images

NK 04 Taylorist Designs 01 blogIV. Tayloredist Designs in Uncube Magazine #9: Constructing Images

MVRDV Cloud EncountersV. Cloud Encounters of the 911th Kind in Uncube issue #10: Wood, Paper Pulp

NK06 - DEF 03 smVI. Metropol Para-Poli in Uncube Magazine #11: Charles CorreaUncube Numerus Klausus 07  Architecture Mon AmourVII. Architecture, Mon Amour in Uncube Magazine #12: Into the Desert NK08 02 xsmVIII. One of my Turns in Uncube Magazine #13: BerlinNK09 Viñoly attacks uncube 03IX. Faulty Towers in Uncube Magazine #15: Small Towns, Big ArchitectureShardnadoX. Shardnado! in Uncube Magazine #14: Veins

NK 11 01 smXI. Form Follows Friction in Uncube #17: Construct Africa

This last one came after a suggestion (as another one preceding it and yet one more to come) by Sophie Lovell, who thought it would be better not to have me making humor of anything Africa-related, and asked me to tackle on Zaha Hadid’s vagina-like stadium instead. I have to say that, were I an editor, the prospect of myself being given free reign to draw vaginas in the magazine wouldn’t make me any less worried, anyhoo… so, consequently, I took the opportunity to throw in some of all this phallic proliferation that’s been happening lately in architecture, ranging from Jean Nouvel’s dildo to Foster’s recently-flaccid Gherkin, China’s People’s Daily Newspaper circumcised HQ, or that infamous church that looks like a penis in aerial view (if you’re interested in this highly intellectual topic, check Cabinet Magazine’s 2003 Competition for the Most Phallic Building in the World). It also gave me the chance to feature Gregg Lynn and Sylvia Lavin (not her first time in the blog), who’s the subject of a cartoon I never get to sit and draw. Over there, writing on his blog in Providence, David Brussat identified this as an ITD (Internet transmitted Disease): “Klaustoon on Koolhaas and Penises” at Architecture Here and There.

Next issue, it  will be FAT time.

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“Developers have promised urgent action to “cover up” the Walkie Talkie skyscraper in the City after an ultra-bright light reflected from the building melted a Jaguar car on the streets below. 

The 525ft, £200 million building has been renamed the “Walkie Scorchie” after its distinctive concave surfaces reflected a dazzling beam of light which blinded passers-by and has now caused extensive damage to vehicles parked beneath it. Martin Lindsay, director of a tiling company, left his Jaguar XJ for one hour opposite the building, and returned to find warped panels along its side, accompanied by a smell of burning plastic: ‘They’re going to have to think of something. I’m gutted,” he told City A.M. “How can they let this continue?

Eddie Cannon, a heating and air conditioning engineer, said his Vauxhall Vevaro had suffered similar damage: ‘The van looks a total mess – every bit of plastic on the left hand side and everything on the dashboard has melted, including a bottle of Lucozade that looks like it has been baked. When I got in the van it was a really strange light – like it was illuminated and they were filming.’  David Banks, a PR consultant who felt the force of the intense beam, said: “It is like a huge lens. It is magnifying the sunbeam. It’s like trying to fry ants with a magnifying glass.” He added: “It was uncomfortable to be underneath and I was conscious that it was probably unsafe to spend too long under that particular beam.” Mr Banks expressed concern that the blinding rays could impair motorists’ vision. Joint developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf said they are looking into the incident. In statement they said: “As a precautionary measure, the City of London has agreed to suspend three parking bays in the area which may be affected.”

Rafael Viñoly said he designed 20 Fenchurch Street “to respect the city’s historic character, following the contour of the river and the medieval streets that bound the site, while further contributing to the evolution of the high-rise building type.” […]

Pffffffffff…..

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The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #14: Small Towns, Big Architecture, edited by Sophie Lovell, Florian Heilmeyer, Jessica Bridger, Elvia Wilk ey al. Above text extracted from: SHERWIN, Adam: “Walkie Talkie City skyscraper renamed Walkie Scorchie after beam of light melts Jaguar car parked beneath it”. The Independent, Tuesday 03 September 2013,

 

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“He flew Tina Turner over her audience on a huge mechanical arm, drove U2 through their arena inside a mirror-studded lemon, and thrust the Rolling Stones between stages on a 45m-long telescopic bridge, complete with helicopter searchlights. The architect and set designer Mark Fisher, who has died aged 66 after a long illness, defined the rock’n’roll spectacular over the last 30 years, dreaming up ever more elaborate contraptions to match the wildest visions of his bands.

Vast inflatable characters were a regular feature of his shows, reaching a surreal climax when a 30m pig burst through a wall of 2,500 polystyrene blocks, for the ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Waters’s 1990 performance of The Wall in Berlin. Designed with Fisher’s then-partner, Jonathan Park, it was one of the most ambitious sets ever conceived outside an arena, with the wall marching 170m across the former no-man’s-land of Potsdamer Platz, before tumbling down in front of an audience of half a million people. A stage version of the show, which features flying puppets based on drawings by Gerald Scarfe – including a caricature of Fisher as a schoolteacher – remains one of the most complex rock shows on tour, costing almost £40m to stage.

Fisher’s designs always broke new ground in the sheer scale of their spectacle. For U2’s PopMart tour in 1997, he developed the world’s largest LED screen, stretching 50m across the back of the stage. In front of this glowing cliff of pixels rose a giant golden arch, in the style of the McDonald’s logo, from which a bank of speakers was suspended like a great basket of fries. Topping off this supersized satire of consumer culture, an illuminated olive shone at the end of a 30m cocktail stick.

“A rock show is a sort of tribal event in our culture,” said Fisher. “It’s preparing everyone for the arrival of the high priest.” In this case, the priestly vehicle took the form of a 12m-high lemon-shaped mirrorball, which flipped open to reveal the band inside. “The grail,” the designer would say, “is to give the audience something spectacular it really didn’t expect.”

Born in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, Fisher began his studies at the Architectural Association in London in 1965, where he was surrounded by the dreamy visions of floating cities and plug-in megastructures of the experimental Archigram group. Working on set designs for musicals after graduating, he was given the chance to test out his pneumatic ideas on Pink Floyd’s Animals tour in 1977, producing a striking inflatable menagerie that caught the imagination of bands and audiences alike.

Fisher designed the band’s lavish stage sets for the next two decades, culminating in a 40m-high tilting steel arch for the Division Bell tour in 1994. It was the biggest portable stage set of its kind; it took three days to erect the 700-tonne steel structure, three versions of which were fabricated, in order to leapfrog between venues on 53 articulated trucks. […] One of his most elaborate bespoke designs was “the Claw” for U2’s 360 tour, a 180-tonne steel arachnid that loomed over the stage, enclosing the band along with several thousand members of the audience.

“He was an architect with an extraordinary imagination,” says U2’s manager Paul McGuinness. “He turned everyone’s wild ideas into steel and lumber and canvas reality.” It was a reputation that drew a stellar client list, with Fisher crafting extravaganzas for everyone from Elton John to Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga to Take That, Madonna to Metallica.

Outside the world of rock’n’roll, he was invited to work on the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, constructing a glowing telescopic “dream sphere” around which swarms of acrobats performed. For the Commonwealth Games ceremony in Delhi in 2010, he developed an ingenious system of hanging everything off a 90m-long inflatable structure, as the suspended floor of the stadium could not take high loads. […]”

He is survived by his wife and fellow architect, Cristina Garcia. Mark Fisher, architect and stage designer, born 20 April 1947; died 25 June 2013.

Oliver Wainwright: Mark Fisher Obituary. The Guardian, Wednesday 3 July 2013

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The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #13: Berlin, edited by Florian Heilmeyer, Jessica Bridger, and Elvia Wilk.

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Architecture, one of the most revered professions around the world…

For a more accurate depiction of the current situation, check On Starvechitecture I and II.

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The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #12: Into the Desert, edited by Florian Heilmeyer, Jessica Bridger, and Elvia Wilk.

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“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

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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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