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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.

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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.

 

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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. 

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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.

NK13 01 blog

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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.

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