“The most important thing I learned on Traflamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Traflamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.”
- Billy Pilgrim writing a letter in Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut [bold my emphasis]
February 22, 2034 – 11:30pm
We had finally arrived at the level of the space elevator cable where the Liberland: 15th Annual Parametric Convention was being held. The level looked like John M. Johansen new species of architecture - froth of bubbles with a space frame connecting web. Clear pods over platforms extending off the space elevator core into outer space. Space and earth visible from all locations, and all materials were engineered at the molecular level to adapt to the environment. Google it.
The convention was at the “The Monad”, a hotel loosely designed based on Gottfried Leibniz’s monadology. Simple round white pods with constant changing perceptions through window walls into the world – memories to reflect on. Were they your memories or someone elses? My cloudgänger had actually checked me in. Remember those days of Siri and Alexa. Alexa could order pizza for you from Domino’s with your credit card number and all you had to say was “Alexa order me pizza!” (more of less). Now your assistant was a version of you. A case relevant applicable thread of your existence. The entity in charge of your schedule and pragmatic tasks such as paying bills was nothing more than algorithms and data reflecting a specific thread of your life.
As an architectural consultant, Olaf was not who you hired to design your spaces and produce drawings, it was Olaf’s architectural thread. An artificial intelligence dedicated to architecture based on assembled experiences and documented interviews with random thoughts (the sub title of this very blog). Collected data and cadence of computer commands. Trained perceptions on how to address and interpret architectural problems. Trained solutions with the appearances of creativity. Occasionally the flesh and bones Olaf would get on a call with the flesh and bones client, but neither client nor architect were ever quite certain if they were communicating with the flesh bones version of who they thought they knew they should know. Does it really matter?
Have you ever produced architectural drawings for someone without meeting them? No different than ordering a pizza. Do you know who made your pizza? Did you get to know them first in flesh and bone before ordering a pizza? Does it really matter? Why should architecture be any different?
How many threads does your life currently have? You may have multiple threads of relationships with the same persons over various medias – email, txt, phone, television, radio, in person…. You may follow someone on twitter. This counts as a relationship these days even if the entity you are following is not aware of you.
Last Interlude (I swear): Free Will and Creativity in Design
In short, free will is an illusion, and the illusion of free will is determined by chemistry in your brain. For you to even have a thought the neurons in your brain must first fire and you cannot determine how they will fire. The logic is simple – you don’t create your own thoughts, the thoughts are created first by your biological brain – you hear them, see them, you reflect on them and believe or think you are them – your thoughts.
When did you decide you were going to be an architect? Why become an architect if you wanted to build? You could just as well have been a builder or an engineer. Why did you decide to apply and attend a university to study architecture? You could have just as well been a boxer who then traveled the world to learn about architecture just like Tadao Ando. When and why did you determine to be a modernist or classical design architect?
You did not determine your genetic make-up nor when and where you were born, but without Free Will you could not hold yourself or anyone else accountable for their actions. As Sam Harris points out Free Will is essential to religions that involve sin and retribution and is at the very core of United States legal and criminal justice system as determined by the US Supreme Court. If the brain tumor made you do it, then it’s not your fault. If your brain made you do it, whose fault is it?
If you are going through the typical academic studio training of an architect you might be experiencing an amazing tabula rasa (clean slate) unhindered by restrictions to be creative. Sometimes studio culture is too “free” for certain types of individuals who would rather be taught how to design or be taught the steps necessary to do so. At some point though you had to make decisions. Should a plan be symmetrical or asymmetrical? Should you try being avante-garde or rigorous in execution of proportions?
Interestingly enough a proponent of Liberland whose country slogan is Live and let live is also an author of an extremely detailed system about designing/doing/being architecture that at best once photographed, photoshopped, and posted on the internet for eye candy purposes appears – simply curvy! Maybe you should go visit the building in person?
In a short an essay on Brexit in Log 38 Schumacher states: “Real competition requires real freedoms.” This is a generic enough sentence anyone could have wrote it, but we’re discussing architecture here and there are many allusions to be made by attributing that statement to Schumacher.
Do you consider your design studio competitive? Is your office competitive? Is the architecture world competitive? How free are these environments?
Does competition engender creativity? Do less regulations, rules and laws allow for creativity in architecture?
And is Free Will required for being creative?
It must be required, if you had no Free Will how could you create? You tell me. What do all your threads of your life indicate?
February 23, 2034 – 12:05am
The bottle of MacAllan 18 had been delivered to the pod. I wasn’t sure what I wanted shown on the screen window walls so I left them blank. Pitch black.
After being left alone with my own thoughts for a few hours with a bottle of fine single malt whiskey I asked the inevitable question, why can I not make a choice? Which memories did I want to view? Which thread of my life did I want to re-hash. Should I be someone else?
Olaf has had many incarnations outside the author’s flesh and bone in the spiritual world known as the virtual world, the internet, and occasionally social media. Olaf in archinect forum threads could exist as at troll or a tool for thought, testing thoughts and theories against real humans, or were they? Olaf could be an old man being interviewed in a nursing home: true stories retold with names changes. Some flesh and bones humans confirmed Olaf read like a real old school architect, that he might actually be real somewhere. Did you ever meet Olaf? I can’t get out of his head unfortunately.
Olaf was invented in a bar with Jamas and Wolf. We were drinking Vuuve beer whose logo was two U’s that looked like tits. Wolf re-hashed a story about the invention of a name for a famous architectural and branding firm that was based on a partner’s trip to Italy - he saw a partial name on a moped and the rest was history. We wondered why www.xxx.edu did not exist and from then on random ideas became images became themes and became almost real – posted on the internet.
But if the internet is real, isn’t Olaf’s threads of existence just as real? Is not paper architecture as real as physical architecture? Eventually. I have been to Quondam’s museum many times.
I had designed the pods I was staying in. I was very familiar with the escape hatch, I had detailed it, my CAD files became standards and a once apparently creative thought became a reality in physical form everywhere. My immortality was an escape hatch.
Olaf, or me, I wasn’t sure anymore, opened the hatch, and climbed out on top of the pod. Inside the clear bubble in space I could see earth and the other round white Monad hotel room pods. No wind, just silence. I was about 200 feet above a busy platform at the base.
As a young intern architect the notion of testing Free Will had crossed my mind many times. Underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated. After you leave the "free" environment of studio and enter the heavily regulated real world – depressing. The excitement of studio culture for the most part was not what it was even if you attempted to recreate it professionally. The ultimate choice to test free will is existence. I found both options elaborated and experiential within the mind of Albert Camus. For homocide it was The Rebel and for suicide The Myth of Sisyphus. Better than actually testing the theory.
Over the years Olaf had kept up communications with a saved thread of an old friend for years. He knew the friend had been dead in flesh and bone for years, but the thread was an assembly of experiences and forum threads and facebook posts of random interviews and discussions. The cloudgänger app had kept not only the memory of the friend alive for years but allowed Olaf to have conversation and phone calls as if the friend was still around. So jumping off the ledge did not seem all that selfish if his family kept in communication with their favorite versions of his life’s thread. In his mind he had failed as an architect, he was no Schumacher and the only stamp on the world of architecture he had made was the detail for the very escape hatch he had just opened to begin the end. Olaf had opted for the no report option of the flesh and bone death and therefore no one would ever know: in theory.
Olaf Design Ninja: 2010-2016
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.