Preface [warning]: the movie Back to the Future Part II was low grade crap like this blog post. It was this strange interlude to take you from the original movie to the place we all wanted to go- the Wild West! (aka Liberland or maybe HBO’s Westworld) anyway:
still February 21, 2034
That Benjamin H. Bratton book “The Stack” is thick and densely intense. I was going to need more time to read it than it would take to get to the 15th Annual Parametric Convention located on the space elevator at the level somewhere in the earth’s atmosphere where Nikola Tesla thought electricity could be conducted.
Outside the space elevator cable at this layer of the atmosphere there were acres of solar panel farms transmitting power wirelessly to the space elevator cab itself. The elevator cab was more like a cruise ship. I could play slot machines and get drunk while listening to some band do a cover of a cover of a cover of any song…but I was hungry.
En route to some cafeteria miles above earth I felt like I was going through Helmut Jahn’s Chicago Airport underground terminal connection, seemed vaguely familiar – guess it’s just Junkspace, but smart city Junkspace with the Panopticon effect - That’s your problem Rem Koolhaas.
[$ - represents currency here]
Downtown Liberland was not on earth contrary to the design competition launched a few decades back, except perhaps Krzysztof Juroszek 2nd place entry, which provided an example of what would become zoning regulations – simulations. Something developers have done for years, but has never made it past an accounting spreadsheet.
Downtown Liberland starts at the base of the space elevator cable. The Liberland space elevator cable was a linear city into space; seemingly unending. It had more square footage than Manhattan, Hong Kong and Singapore combined.
I was feeling noodles and was feeling Augmented Reality, tired of real people. Real people are a challenge. This is the future.
The young ladies walking next to me wouldn’t stop talking about their childhood experiences playing with Shopkins. Consumable products as toys. The joy of consumerist capitalism as imagination and creation or was it imagination and creation in the form of a consumerist product?
“oh my god, I totally loved Cara Carrot Cake, that’s so me!” – rambling blonde with a Princeton baseball cap
“I was more of a Karon Carrot!” – screeching brunette with a Yale baseball cap.
“I’m Miss Mushy-Moo!” – loud obnoxious girl with a UPenn baseball cap.
[the future of western civilization was Monmouth County, NJ mid 90's, mallrats]
“Imagine if you could go on a date with yourself!” – number one running billboard ad in Liberland space elevator cab cruise ship.
“The only real difference between you and your cloudgänger (aside from the fact that you’re made of meat and it isn’t) is that it’s a quadrillion times smarter than you. It knows the eighteenth root of pi. It knows the cube root of every book written in the nineteenth century. And if you attach your cloudgänger to a biometrically hyperaccurate ultra-Pixar version of your body, even your meat becomes a quibble. You’ve been duplicated. And then, after few decades, you get hit by a bus and die. But your cloudgänger lives on. For the people who knew you – or the other cloudgängers that knew/know you – the missing meat is no big deal, with the added bonus that you, as an entity, keep growing, and growing as a personality and person. You have become an App.”*
Enough about me. I found a lounge with a Simpson’s movie playing, what a classic. Back in the day there were all these conspiracy theories about the writers of the Simpsons. They could either predict the future or were part of the top secret elitist group of world manipulators who somehow existed while not existing at all. My hunch though, the Simpson writers probably just read and wrote a lot. It's called being EDUCATED.
You can become this world and the world can become part of you, it’s possible. Something fundamentalist religious parents tell you never to do, but I did it. What did I learn?
This was the future, you existed, but so did all your avatars, cloudgängers, etc... The narrative was reality and reality was augmented, virtual, trending, data, and you were in the narrative. You wrote it, read it, lived it, and dreamt it. You dated yourself. You dated avatars of long changed selves such as ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends locked in at the time when things were great. You were an app within an app being controlled by an app. The only app that could tell the difference between a real self and an avatar were the sentient apps.
Becoming a citizen at Liberland is the equivalent of being an accepted app, or so I've heard. Liberland doesn’t have illegal immigration problems, it has artificial apps, fake sentient immigration problems. Fake existences are immigrating and becoming citizens.
A land full of humans and Bladerunner Replicants - and that’s the way humans want it.
This is the world you already live in - or you could just go straight Ted Kaczynski.
“When I awoke in a new world everything that I found there was perfectly familiar and near to me, so much that I felt more at home in it than in my previous surroundings and manner of life, which, so it seemed to me, had been only the reflection of my real life. It was a different world but one in such perfect harmony with me that I felt as though I had returned to my natural surroundings. I had been born again in a world which was ancient but which at the same time was closer and more natural to me than the other.
It was still twilight. An oil-lamp was burning on a shelf. There was a bed unrolled in the corner of the room, but I was awake. My body felt burning hot. There were bloodstains on my cloak and scarf and my hands were covered with blood. But in spite of fever and giddiness I experienced a peculiar animation and restlessness which were stronger than any thought I might have had of removing the traces of blood, more powerful than the thought that the police would come and arrest me. In any case I had been expecting for some time to be arrested and had made up my mind, should they come, to gulp down a glass of the poisoned wine which I kept on the top shelf. The source of my excitement was the need to write, which I felt as a kind of obligation imposed on me. I hoped by this means to expel the demon which had long been lacerating my vitals, to vent onto paper the horrors of my mind. Finally, after some hesitation, I drew the oil-lamp toward me and began as follows:”**
Interlude II: Diagrams, Platforms, Energy and Thought: A Plan is a Section looking at the Floor
“The flow of energy makes possible the circulation of money and the manipulation of money can control the flow of energy.”***
In grad school in 2007 with a Red Bull in hand, gulping it down while walking - just leaving the corner Convenience Pharmacy near UPENN’s campus I ran into my professor.
I said “Man, that Howard T. Odum, something else. Why is he not more known?”
He replied to the effect (imagined paraphrase) – “US government agencies used his methods to analyze things back in the 80’s.”
Could diagrams be that useful? Peter Eisenman would suggest so in this manner:
“The diagram acts as an agency which focuses the relationship between an authorial subject, an architectural object and a receiving subject; it is the strata that exists between them.” – Diagram Diaries
This sounds vaguely familiar to what Bratton defines as Platforms.
“As opposed to the other macrogovernance institutions, platforms do not work according to detailed premeditated master plans; rather they set the stage for actions to unfold through ordered emergence….Platforms begin by fixing equally strict means but are strategically agnostic as to outcomes: ends are a function of means.”
That’s the first of 17 points (a prime number that Bratton is excited about). Is not the future of any governance such as Liberland and the likes based on this notion of a Diagram and/or Platform. This, in architecture expressly serves to provide the opportunity for creativity. The Diagram and/or Platform in various forms and nomenclatures has been accepted as the creation tool within a deeply traditional bureaucratic system such as architecture. Modernism is no more less bureaucratic than classical.
The Patrick Schumacher qoute at the beginning of the Liberland design competition invite is extracted from the following essay: Fluid Totality – The dream of inhabiting a nature-like built environment., which ties these ideas on diagrams and platforms into a totality. In this text (assuming you can read it, took me like 8 tries. His English is amazingly German, like Immanuel Kant German, like where does the sentence end and begin - I mean the thought within a thought with a comma after a comma, but I digress):
“And it is precisely this heightened interconnectedness that more than ever calls forth the necessity to theorize and engage the social world and world civilisation as a totality. This totality is a fluid, bottom-up, evolving totality that has no control centre that we could call on, petition, or be commissioned by. Nor can such a control centre be conceived or designed. Instead we are thrown into the ongoing co-evolution of semi-autonomous subsystems. The built environment - with architecture as its driving discourse and professional innovation machine – is just one of these co-evolving subsystems.”
See that, he started a sentence with “And”, my English high school teacher told me to never do that, and centre is spelled the French way (not in America!).
Bureaucracy is dirty.
It was ‘Vitruvius, Machinator, Terminator’ according to Bernard Cache, who in order to make this profession justified rationally and scientifically wrote a treatise on De Architectura - “For it is too often forgotten that the first theory of our discipline of architecture was the work of a military engineer who constructed war machines during a period when the Roman republic appeared to be giving way to the measured dictatorship of Augustus.”
Machines are even dirtier. Machines are automated physically enacted bureaucracy.
Gerald Raunig in his review of Karl Marx’s “Fragment of Machines” arrives at “The reversal of the relationship of workers and means of labor in the direction of the domination of the machine over the human being is not only defined through the linear development from the tool to the composite technical apparatus and through the hierarchy in the labor process, but also as the inversion of power over knowledge. In the logic of social subjection, it seems that “all sciences are imprisoned in service of capital.””
Algorithms can be thoughts for machines: automated and enacted virtual and physical bureaucracy - just plain dirty. Dirty.
I feel all this thought cited above, starting with Eisenman and Diagrams, Bratton and Platforms, and Schumacher has to do with really only one thing: the quest for Artificial Intelligence (creativity) in an accepted bureaucratic language such as archtecture. This is at least what it looks like when architects and persons close to the field of architecture talk about design and its moments.
[to be a false prophet means to be right about what’s wrong that is assumed right]
Peter Eisenman came the closest to defining artificial intelligence by starting with translating Derrida and Deleuze into the world of architecture. What do you think deconstruction was about? Was it about absolute order and Bureaucracy or finding an essentially bureaucratic (read stated logical postulate) defined mechanics for creation within the system – to buck the system. What was Eisenman’s beginning of the end really about? Maybe that’s why Eisenman is hard to understand, he is about one sentence away from telling us what Artificial Intelligence or creativity looks like in a Euclid like postulate for architecture or in less English wording: a defined sentient algorithm for architectural creation. Eisenman has always been one sentence away. Maybe that’s why I detest him a bit, he’s that damn brilliant: to be only one sentence away.
One time I thought Giorgio Agamben wrote that one sentence in “Infancy and History: On The Destruction of Experience”: …infancy is precisely the reverse engine, transforming pure pre-Babel language into human discourse, nature into history.” To be honest I’m not sure that was the sentence anymore. Seems like when actions (verbs) become objects (nouns), all is lost - Wittgenstein.
The only other guy close is Sanford Kwinter with his creodes and epigenetic landscapes.
Anyway, see how side tracked we can get when discussing how to recreate the agency of the architect as a formulated algorithm or machine?
Steven Holl. Peter Zumthor. Tadao Ando. Tadao!
As if Phenomonology kicks Parametricism’s ass because, wait for it, the architect meets the client, listens to them, and designs great spaces and the aesthetics are intuitive?
Back to basics, the quest for defining creativity is futile!
In Francesco Marullo’s essay “Logistics Takes Command” (Log 35) he defines “Real abstraction is not the fruit of purified logical distillations but the expression of endless concrete combinations and spatiotemporal activities carried out by autonomous individuals.” He takes us from the Art of War to Amazon and Wal-mart with regard to logistics.
Let’s not deny logistics are important for any architectural project. Let’s not discredit Vitruvius, his theories still apply. Let’s not be disillusioned that deconstructing every natural logistical part of the architectural program will make anything better. Let’s stick with basics – logistics through a floor plan considering the occupant.
[without permission linked image above]
The plan or any work of art is a fixed moment in a trajectory of thought—implosive or explosive—accepting a stop action, which has implicit rather than explicit trajectories. My reading of Corbs vision of plan from the new cosmological section captured in the eclipse photograph is a different conduit of thought to matter than any methodology using analogy between disciplines for the derivation of form. The acceptance of a fixed moment in space-time as an equivalent to the essential portrait of architecture shown in the language of the cut is the key to an ‘open’ text. The artifice of the two dimensional slice of space and time is indigenous to the space of architecture, where the suspension of scale is a tool to create the plan for the founding myth of the epoch. The long span image of space-time can be embedded in plan notation, a collapse of universal order into a singular structure.
So let’s acknowledge the obvious: the plan is a section is a diagram is the platform is a parametric function within Schumacher's totality.
Kids if you want to be an architect, learn to draw a floor plan.
* p. 88 “Shopping in Jail: I am you and You Are Not Me: A Three-Part Look at Biography” - Douglas Coupland
** - "Blind Owl" by Sadegh Hedayat (if you like Franz Kafka and Edgar Allen Poe)
*** - "A New Philosophy of Society" by Manuel DeLanda, quoting Howard T. Odum
"A Thousand Machines"" by Gerald Raunig
"The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy by David Graeber
"Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience" by Giorgio Agamben
"Projectiles" by Bernard Cache
"The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty" by Benjamin Bratton
"Systems Ecology: An Introduction" by Howard T. Odum
The following blogs are Interviews performed in the years of 13/14 with a man full of random thoughts and legendary type of architectural experiences. Olaf is his real first name. I knew his son Tom from my studies at University of Kansas and randomly ran into Tom in 2012 in NYC. We reminisced about all the great stories Tom had told me about his immigrant architect father. Given my boredom with the profession I requested an interview with this now insane man. Archifiction.