Our model Alejandro Hernández (@otrootroblog), editor in Arquine, lectures with style some weeks ago at the ISAD in Chihuahua. In the picture, he’s wearing the retro T-shirt ‘Hope’, from the ‘Kunst Haas’ series in our Spring 2009 Collection.
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“[…] For those who were already, let’s say, ‘architecturally active’ in the 90s, the second half of the decade featured an increasing presence of Koolhaas-isms in the architecture published by architectural media. Be it young offices paging Bakema through the Educatorium (those ubliquitous ‘single surfaces’ Jeff Kipnis still chitchatted on in his lectures more than ten years later), forests of tilted pilotis, cheap rubber surfaces or else, OMA’s supposed ‘house style’ had permeated through a whole generation that made justice to the old Spanish writer’s adagio: “Blessed are our imitators, for theirs will be our flaws”. Because, notwithstanding their varying degrees of success, none of those byproducts of OMA’s discourse seemed able to grasp its spirit. And it still goes on… monkey see, monkey do.
But, which is this discourse? Certainly, Koolhaas’ scant prose is, within its own scarcity, rich in suggestive, elusive terms: Manhattanization, Junkspace, Bigness -and you really know you have made it when Hal Foster writes a review of something like the Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping [ii]. However, as in Foucault’s Other Spaces/Hetrotopias, these are texts and terms that one seems to be able to make less sense of with each subsequent reading. All in all, it seems just a private a game, carefully designed to keep his audience intrigued while feeding his own legend by building an aura of impenetrability, to the point that one’s tempted to believe that every move is carefully staged: His carefully careless lectures, his unsophisticated, even clumsy descriptions of his own buildings, or his nervous, uncomfortable responses in interviews, all contribute to enlarge the halo of mystery that surrounds him. And, as I deduce from his always packed , rock-star-like conferences, it definitely works.
Five years ago, I published the first ‘Hope’ cartoon, with Mr. K posing as Shepard Fairey’s Obama. Five years later, I still wonder how many people did not get it was a joke.”
[i] See Heron, Katrina: ‘From Bauhaus to Koolhaas’ in Wired issue 4.07, July 1996.
[ii] See Foster, Hal: ‘Bigness’, in London Review of Books Vol. 23, no. 23, 29 November 2001.
Klaus: It’s not easy being Kool – 2001 ways to misinterpret Koolhaas… and help him have it his way (excerpt) in VV.AA: Clog: REM, June 2014.
So, in a sort of smart, happy and -also- inevitable move, the guys at Clog magazine sort of celebrated their 3rd anniversary (really, 11 issues already??) with their issue CLOG: REM, just in time for the Biennale. They also thought –as, apparently, everyone else– it was sort of inevitable to ask me to contribute. Of course, they were particularly entitled to, since they made sure to have me in Clog from the very beginning. Just click on the “clog” tag in this very site and you’ll get the idea. Also, they decided to open the issue with my contribution, which was very nice on their part. Thanks, guys! Oh, and a tip of the hat to Benjamin Greaves (@MrGreavesSays) for providing me with the title.
P.S.: For those among you who may have noticed, I’ve made a point of celebrating the 5 anniversary of “On Starchitecture” by using vriations of the “Hope” cartoon on all my contributions published around the time of the Biennale’s opening (all of them revolving about REMdamentals, of course). So far, you can check “Fundamentally… Myself” (in Spanish) in Mexican Magazine Arquine #68, and Keep your eyes open for Uncube #24: Mexico City.
CLOG: REM, with contributions by Michael Abrahamson, Stan Allen, Joseph Altshuler, Serafina Amoroso, Haik Avanian, Cecil Balmond, Dorin Baul, Aaron Betsky, Petra Blaisse, Jim Bogle, Ole Bouman, Mat Bower, Eric de Broche des Combes, Brian Bruegge, Galo Canizares, Stephen Cassell, Archie Lee Coates IV, Rene Daalder, Ozge Diler, Ryan Drummond, Keefer Dunn, A. A. Dutto, Erez Ella, Valeria Federighi, Kim Förster, Jeffrey Franklin, Joseph Godlewski, Adam Himes, Matthias Hollwich, Julia van den Hout, Frances Hsu, Bernard Hulsman, Hans Ibelings, Klaus, Charlie Koolhaas, Tomas Koolhaas, Andrew Kovacs, Jimenez Lai, Stephanie Lee, Thomas Lozada, Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs, Brandon Martinez, Isaac Mathew, Kyle May, Philipp Oswalt, Roberto Otero, Steven K. Peterson, Wim Pijbes, Jacob Reidel, Michael Rock, Joanna Rodriguez-Noyola, Fernando Romero, Alejandro Sanchez, Mika Savela, Jonathan A. Scelsa, Kyle Schumann, Brian Slocum, Galia Solomonoff, Frederieke Taylor, Will Thomson, Madelon Vriesendrop, Luke Yosuke Willis, Human Wu, Albena Yaneva, Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Zoe Zenghelis
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)
III. On Intellectuality in Uncube Magazine #9: Constructing Images
edist Designs in Uncube Magazine #9: Constructing Images
V. Cloud Encounters of the 911th Kind in Uncube issue #10: Wood, Paper Pulp
VI. Metropol Para-Poli in Uncube Magazine #11: Charles CorreaVII. Architecture, Mon Amour in Uncube Magazine #12: Into the Desert VIII. One of my Turns in Uncube Magazine #13: BerlinIX. Faulty Towers in Uncube Magazine #15: Small Towns, Big ArchitectureX. Shardnado! in Uncube Magazine #14: Veins
XI. 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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Ok, let’s see if I can bring this back on trail. I really need to catch up with the blog.
This comes from Uncube Magazine # 07 : Off-places. The published version is slightly different. In the same issue, there’s an interview with Gottfried Böhm by Florian Heilmeyer which is really worth checking, if you’re a Brutalist fanatic such as myself. So go check it.
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(…) Digging into the dirty laundry of the architectural star-system is, in any case, neither a recent phenomenon nor a curiosity exclusively circumscribed to today’s divas. The mouth-to-ear airing of our architectural heroes’ private sins has been an inevitable aside of their rise as idols. Small talk on the lower passions of the masters of the past has accompanied the writing of the big lines of the History of Modern Architecture, and along with our worshiping of their oeuvre comes the delight to learn about their quaintest interiorities: Mies van der Rohe´s infamous (non) affairs with Ms. Farnsworth, Alvar Aalto´s alcoholism -a recurring topic for Finnish cartoonists3, or Le Corbusier´s pathological Messianic obsessions are personal details that have transcended the boundaries of scientific biographies to become precious pieces of information we love adding to our common knowledge of them. We need both heroes and villains: The formers to inspire us, the latter to offer us some moral relief at the sight of a worse human being than ourselves. But even more, we’d rather having our heroes be our villains too. Some will argue that these minor flaws humanize our icons, making them flesh and blood human beings we can better relate to, and certainly this “fleshing out” helps build our interest on them. But this humanization is also an excuse that sugarcoats a very straight forward preservation mechanism, devised to protect our self-esteem at that point where admiration meets sheer envy. There’s nothing we love more than a rags to riches story -except for a riches to rags story, that is.
A most interesting reversion of this turns up, however, when these minutiae actually become an integral part of the mythos, to the point of being vital contributors to its very construction. Again, the careful devise of its own legend was an inherent feature of architecture’s entrance into modernity, often created as a fiction before it really happened. (…) The fascinating point here is how this emergence of gossiping contributes to the creation of the starchitect; how in the case of contemporary icons such as Rem Koolhaas it´s the unofficial flux of information surrounding the figure which ultimately elevates him into a legendary status.
Of course, in the case of Koolhaas the shaping of this aura is also engineered through conventional means; Koolhaas is a sharp thinker and an eloquent writer and spokesman who has shaken the architectural scene of the last decades with acute reflections of deliberate and controlled ambiguity. But even more than through his words, the Koolhaas mediatic persona has been constructed through a parallel dissemination of details about his behind-the-scenes: stories that tell us of a man who lives in airplanes, sending by mail corrections for a document he was given in a meeting a few hours before, of a Renaissance man who swims every time he lands, or wins a competition with a single, cunning speech5. All this mouth-to-ear stories, propagated through the netsphere, contribute to endow his figure with an halo of epic mystery that propells him into an almost superhuman category. Koolhaas is the über-example of the starchitect, where the personality comes first and the work second. And that’s the bottom line: Koolhaas can produce starchitecture because he is, first and foremost, a star. Le Corbusier´s delightully maudit portrait, painting nude in Saint Tropez has been replaced by a cover of L’Uomo Vogue.
But public notoriety is as easy to gather in the age of software as difficult to retain. The internet era is also the age of the twitterization of knowledge, a time where information both reigns and deflates, where news are as ubiquitous as thoroughly made-to-forget, immediately replaced by new installments. The same could be said about some of the architecture produced by this idiosyncrasy, made to glow for a moment and quickly disappear; architecture of futile monumentality and inevitable ephemerality designed within a discipline obsessed with creating the building of the century… of the week. In this new paradigm, the (st)architect has to become a public figure, an entertainer, a performer, or even, if needed, a celebrity of the Kardashian kind. The World Wide Web and the rapid production allowed by digital tools have multiplied the presence of architecture in everyday life, and have worked together to create a new type of architect sustained above all by his communication skills. The internet, blog culture, Twitter, have leveled the capability of everyone to achieve their share of Warholian fame, but in turn, their allotted fifteen minutes have been drastically reduced to -maybe- fifteen seconds. The attention of the audience, brought up in a solid diet of continuous novelty, is volatile, and the architecture of today has to keep nourishing its audience at a steady pace, or risk disappearing from the picture right away.
And it is in this context where gossip, criticism and satire, emerge as tools for the maintenance of public presence. The internet has also revived the long-loved tradition of the fast gag, the sketchy commentary, and the cartoon, which offer the necessary escape route for the asfixiating ubiquity and self-indulgence of architectural discourse. As any endogamic discipline, architecture has a record of taking itself too seriously, and of alternating victimism and self-deprecation with tremendous arrogance and a myopic lack of perspective (ironic as it is) on the relevance of its own obsessions. The reemergence of satire appears as a natural counterbalance for this, offering us a way to mock our loved-hated idols that’s apparently naive, inoffensive (but with the potential to become really offensive), and sublimate our frustration through ironic laughter, instead of bitter full-frontal (yes) criticism, while at the same time, reinforcing the (com)position of the starchitectural who’s who. As Oscar Wilde, via some of our infamous celebrities, would point out, the ultimate goal is to be talked about so as to be (there), even if just to be thrashed, and architects, with their fragile yet unrestrained egos, become the ideal victim/beneficiary of this revival. Today, gossip refashions itself as a form of viral advertising. The motto is “keep them talking”. (…)
Tell me more! – Gossiping, cartooning, and the nourishing of the Starchitectural status quo
Conditions magazine #10: Gossip, July 2012
The above are some excerpts from a (not really much longer) article published in the last issue of Conditions magazine, which I received last month, in the middle of the busiest July I can remember. Conditions is an independent Scandinavian magazine on Architecture and Urbanism edited by Joana da Rocha Sá Lima, Tor Inge Hjemdal, and Anders Melsom whose next issue, “Possible Greenland”, will be part of the official catalogue of this year’s Danish/Greenlandic contribution to the Venice Biennale. Conditions #10 is dedicated to gossip, and features contributions by Robert Somol, Eduard Sancho, Christian Hjelle, Irene Hwang, Ed Ogosta, Espen Vatn, Freddy Massad&Alicia Guerrero Yeste, Roberto Naboni, Iben Falconer and yours truly. The essay above was written around the same time as Modern Talking, the article published in Mas Context #14: Communication that tackled on some overlapping issues, which explains the recurrent use of some examples and ramblings; either that or I’m entering a wino-in-a-bar dynamics where I just keep repeating the same the same stuff over and over. Please, be forgiving.
If you want to read the full article, click in the images below, or -much better- order a copy here. You can also read the text of Eduard Sancho’s And if most of the job offers are fake? here. Special thanks to Gislunn Halfdanardottir.
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At some point at the beginning of the Summer, Darwin Marrero, Assistant Dean at the School of Architecture of the University of Puerto Rico contacted me in order to contribute something to the upcoming sixth issue of (in)forma, which he was editing. The topic for the issue, “Hiperturismo” (Hypertourism) sounded really engaging, but unfortunately I was swamped by work, so I agreed to send him the hope–kool–pope trilogy, plus a modified version of (the) man on the moon as illustrations for “En el Limbo del Ocio”, a conversation between Michel Houellebecq and Rem Koolhaas. However, I couldn´t resist much time, and as the release date moved forward, I decided to adapt an old illustration (which was itself a reworking of another one) to the square format of the magazine, thinking that it wouldn´t take much time. In the end, it turned out to be really time-consuming, and I gave up, sending the ilo without all the modifications I intended to make (a flying bus-city-tour was supposed to be crossing the center of the image – And yes, it´s the image that sits on the background of my twitter profile).I guess I´ll make them at some point.
You can read the article, cartoons, and editorial as originally published (in Spanish) below.