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    Rem, Wigley, Bouman... Introduction to voluME

    George Showman Mar 1 '05 1

    Alright, two topics to cover here:

    1) the "launch" of voluME here at the GSAPP last night, involving Rem, Wigley, Ole Bouman, etc.

    2) my ongoing studio struggles

    So, voluME... basically these three guys (listed above) gave brief lectures arguing for a "new kind of architectural publication/event" whose only guaranteed constant feature (so far as I can tell) will be its periodicity (bi-monthly, for now). I was generally interested and pleased to hear the range of perspectives the three put forward (basically, the problems facing offices, schools, and magazines). In retrospect I had heard a lot of this before, but not packaged in quite this way.

    See http://www.arch.columbia.edu/gsap/48775 for a pretty good description of what they're trying to do. In brief:

    Rem:
    - architects do lots of custom research (e.g. "how to work with the Portuguese construction industry") that they never re-use, never publish... i.e. just throw away. This is wasteful and is holding the profession back.
    - architects don't make enough money
    - do architects always have to build/propose/intervene or can they start to just consult/manage/observe when it's more useful?
    - in general he's arguing (as he has many times before) for the value of architect's way of thinking, beyond building

    Mark:
    - the "studio and library" talk, done with particular passion this time. Basically the point is that good architecture schools always involve the pairing of a space of doubt (studio) and a collection of knowledge.
    - he's also arguing that this way of operating should be adopted by a broader group of schools/professions
    - fun shots and vignette's from Columbia's past!
    - interesting statistics on the current architecture profession, the adoption of world-wide standards concerned only with "safety", the continued isolation of a few experimental schools in a sea of craft schools -- a situation he calls untenable in the long term
    - he thinks a periodical event/publication like voluME can be a useful tool for "infecting" those craft schools with little pockets of experimentalism, to spread ideas more broadly in the education community
    - architecture needs to go "open source" with a vengeance (echoes what Rem said about the need to re-use, share useful research... though Rem probably wants to sell his ideas)

    Bouman:
    - architecture magazines have historically not bothered to show "why" things happen the way they do in architecture... only the "who", "how", "what"...
    - suggests a good publication needs to conduct a kind of "forensic work", finding new briefs for architecture, producing "unsolicited" architecture.
    - clearly wants this publication to change society, to reach well beyond the traditional readership of an architectural magazine -- gets very political
    - shows an example of an event he sponsored when he was editor of ARCHIS: a dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian architects at a checkpoint in Israel/Palestine somewhere, talking about "wasted time"

    Questions from the audience seemed to be primarily about how many concessions the publication will make to "the market"... i.e. will there be advertising? Who owns it? Etc. All pretty pointless, since we haven't even seen the first "issue" (this, I believe, was a SNAFU on somebody's part... they wanted to have the thing sitting there at the conference table... Rem described it as a "sort of bento box" of media).

    Wigley has also set up a little lab here at Columbia (so far in administrative structure only, I believe) called CLAB -- sounds like a disease but stands for Columbia Laboratory for Architectural Broadcasting. It's first director (technically "co-director" pending another appointment) is Jeffrey Inaba, who teaches at Sci-Arc I believe. He gave a brief talk last night, where he mainly described the idea behind the lab: a "media-shop" to go alongside the "wood shop"... they will be looking for student involvement, and will be producing tools and/or content for the furthering of voluME's and the GSAPP's goals. I assume. It's really not too clear yet. But I think this is a good step, to have a dedicated extra-studio body in the GSAPP that will work on media technology and content.

    I'll stop here. To a certain extent I think this whole VoluME thing is just an attempt to formalize the kind of informal dialogue and exchange that happens all the time between thoughtful, engaged architects. I mean, I've met a lot of architects who teach, study, research, travel, proselytize, find and educate clients themselves, etc. But it's all done a little bit on the sly -- as Wigley said at some point last night (and has said before), architects tend to present themselves to the world as confident and sure of themselves, but operate in a sea of doubt in their studios. With voluME, he thinks we should start to expose some of our doubt to the outside world, to invite the world into the discussion, in a way.

    2) Let's not talk about studio right now, actually. My midterm is on Friday. I have a two-pronged proposal: the California Department of Randomness and a desert town that maps all its visitors into a virtual version of itself. It's kind of fun (and extremely interesting to me) but I'm operating with so few "knowns" that I can't help but
    stress a little.

    Thank god for the grounding influence of Frampton's "Tectonics" class, for which I am going to write a paper about traditional Japanese influences on FLW's Usonian houses.

     

     
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I did an M.Arch. I at the GSAPP between 2002 and 2005. I started this blog only in my final semester, when I had Ed Keller as my studio critic.

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