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Jon Kher Kaw

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    Hype

    Jon Kher Kaw Mar 1 '05 6

    I attended the "press conference" launch of Volume yesternight at Columbia - a collaborative effort between ARCHIS, AMO and CLAB (Columbia Lab for Architectural Broadcasting.) You can find a description of it at www.archis.org

    As usual, the auditorium was packed and the line into the auditorium extended to Fayerweather's stair core (The adjacent connecting building to Avery.) There were no answers at the press conference; only more questions. What is Volume? I have no idea except vague descriptions during the Q&A - that it is to become some sort of experimental effort to go "beyond" architecture, "an amoeba" and a "sushi box" of sorts. The protagonists - Rem Koolhaas (AMO), Ole Bouman (Archis) and Wigley (GSAPP) couldn't (or rather wouldn't in my opinion) describe what Volume is to be except that it will be a commercial venture into (quoted off the web) "Magazine, Object, Space, Event, Debate, Webcast, Consultancy, Talkshow, Travel, Surprises." I left the conference feeling vague about the whole thing. All this hype was about something yet I couldn't place a finger on it. It was definitely a publicity stint and this sort of thing can only happen in an architecture school - overhyping about nothing. Not to say it was nothing, in fact there was something. They gave the impression that Volume was yet to be defined, yet to be determined, open ended.

    Wigley appealed to us to be "members" not "subscribers". While everything else was vague, the commercial mechanics was very clear (which only popped up during the Q&A) - it will cost us $99 per year for 6 issues and the first issue will be launched two weeks from now. I'm pretty sure that there was more to what was revealed or claimed. I felt that the most pertinent questions were cleverly averted: "How can we become members and not merely subscribers?", "Who are the stakeholders and who owns Volume." Other questions that were slightly tangential to the conference were questions of the dying profession. (Rem showed a chart of earnings comparing other professions like scriptwriters, actors etc..." concluding that even starchitects like Gehry and Foster earn peanuts). Volume's slogan "Architecture must go beyond itself.” only reinforced the fact that Architecture must reinvent itself.

    While most of the students who attended seem really excited about what Volume will be, I'm partially skeptical about this whole event (with commercial overtones) not because I doubt what it claims it to be (I've decided to give myself a chance to see what Volume is capable of and also because its stated intentions are noble and had lots of potential) but because I feel that there was a slight over-hype about the press conference and the students there where only pawns to support this new-something. Maybe I'm just overly ideallistic about this whole issue - I'll wait for the first publication of Volume before deciding to subscribe.

     

     
    • 6 Comments

    • mjotter
      Mar 1, 05 10:10 am

      I also attended and posted about it earlier. It does seem like they are relying soley on Columbia GSAP students to fund this project, at least for right now. That has to change, and they need to get the word out to other schools and offices to help diffuse the cost an increase participation.

      I completely understand your skepticism about their lack of definition, however I think that lack of definition is the point. We are going somewhere completely new and unexplored and we are taking architecture with us. This is not a neat and simple project. It is an incredibly ambitious attempt at raising the bar and expanding our incestuous little community into a global community. It is about evolving and "opening" architecture. 'Volume' is simply the catalyst for this change, but it will not do it for us. Its success is completely dependant on the optimism, collaboration and ambition of its "members".

      In that respect, I beleive the hype is meant to get people, especially the students of GSAP excited and focused on contributing to this new goal. I am going to subscribe to Volume simply out of good faith and support for the goal. $99 is extremely expensive to me, and I have no idea what will come out of Volume. But I beleive that there is indeed a crisis in this profession. I agree with Wigley, Rem, and Bouman that this profession need a good kick in the pants and I agree with the direction that they are pointing us in. However, it is our job to take us there and make it happen. This is the future of our profession.

      Jon Kher Kaw
      Mar 1, 05 11:14 am

      i'm actaully agreeing with you regarding the direction this is going, i think think volume has a great potential in terms of redefining architectural content and the profession and the team that was assembled looked promising - I would even say that even if it fails, the attempt and enthusiasm and push is good enough for me to call it a success - as for the lack of definition (kudos for the great publicity stunt), i'm just saying that I think they have more than what they were revealing yesterday and I'm wondering what it is (assuming I'm correct.) As for "membership", I think it's still a word that has to be defined by Volume. Membership implies having a stake / being able to contribute etc etc... which wasn't really definied properly yesterday which I feel is one of the "keys" for Volume's success. Perhaps we are now initially supporting Volume as "subscribers" and hopefully the idea of "membership" will pull through in subsequent releases.

      Bill-nyc
      Mar 1, 05 11:30 am

      Hey could someone give me the short version of what the crisis in the profession is about? Wes Jones also mentioned a crisis at his lecture here a few months ago.

      I'm coming to architecture from Industrial Design, who I believe is in crisis. Specifically, I feel it has moved from user-centric design to Brand-centric design, it's been hi-jacked by the omnipresent force of "MARKETING". (Some designers actually talk about a Brand's DNA before solving the functional problem at hand). In addition, advertising agencies have co-opted my specific area of expertise (Exhibit Design), not to mention the ridiculous "overstyling", "overdesign" and baroqueness you see in most product design. Another factor is an ever increasing shift from analog to digital, and that the ultimate direction of most electronics is to reduce in size so as to either become invisible or implantable. (An I-pod chip in your eardrum! Believeme it'll happen....)

      So my interest in architecture centers around making more of a positive impact, than just the generation of more "stuff" for someone to sell, someone else to use, and then eventually be thrown away. I do realize that architecture is not completely free from the forces of marketing but I do feel it has more to counter that.

      If architecture is providing shelter, providing spaces for social relationships to happen, remaking the fabric of our everday reality....won't an architect always be needed?



      Alex MaymindAlex Maymind
      Mar 1, 05 3:07 pm

      to return for a moment to the questions raised by this post:

      while the ambitions of Volume are highly open-ended, the word membership has critical definitions that are common to many of us and prompts a certain degree of interaction between the members and the 'magazine' itself. i think its usage is dangerous simply because its connotations are usually explicit and part of already established relationships, say between a member and an actors guild. thefore in this new context it seems critical to elaborate on what this membership aims to be about. as for causing hype, its a two-way street. they absolutely need to raise attention, kick arch in the pants, and cause a stir but as with the previous point above, cause a stir to what end. if you are going to wave a pretty big matzo ball out there, make it tasty when we get to eat it. the attention is step 1 but i think to really capitalize on attention the next step needs to grab you just as quick and fast.

      on another note, i agree that columbia is a great place to start but other schools of arch should be follow shortly thereafter. at ohio state, we are aware of stuff like this and it would be just silly to make something that argues against incest limited to the columbia gsapp community. also to really kick arch in the pants, ideas that are not vague usually cause more effect than vaguaries that hint at notions but really dont hold much value.

      im really interested to see what comes of this and i hope for success to some degree, whatever that may imply.

      on a smaller note, while slightly egotisitical of me to say, this is what i was aiming for in my current attempt to start a student-run journal at ohio state, obviously in a much smaller setting. its interesting to see the big guns putting out a grander version of the idea, and actually doing it. hope this doesnt sound too much like boasting ...

      Suture
      Mar 6, 05 9:30 pm

      sad to hear that old bastard rem is now reduced to hucking rag mags to students. That qualifies as crisis!

      pazdon
      Mar 10, 05 4:01 pm

      did anyone subscribe? have you received the first installment?

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