Sep '13 - Nov '15
So, I feel that at this point I should take a small pause and give more context to what has happened so far.
From the last post, we see a lot of terms and architectural references. Basically, the thoughts circling around me question whether or not the public should have a more active role in shaping its environment.
I had previously read in the Fall 2011 semester about the Metabolists of the the 60's in Japan and their hypothesis that buildings and the built environment can operate as a living organism--growing, shrinking and morphing based on the needs of the people it serves.
So I started questioning the strive for permanence in architecture. Most building are built to last a long, long time but their actual life spans may only reach 10-30 years before they are demolished and recycled. Can there be a temporary or adaptive architecture? Very early on in the summer before the Fall 2012 research semester, I wondered if parasitic architecture would be something worth exploring. Or maybe a 3D printed architecture. Or maybe an architecture powered by the under utilized light rail (Metrolink) system in St. Louis. Or maybe some exploration regarding group form.
The next semester in Spring 2012 I read Aldo Rossi's Architecture of the City and found his ideas about a city's growth reflecting both the contemporary needs of the time and (what I call) the collective unconscious of its history fascinating. In the same class--American Architecture Culture since 1945--I learned a lot more about the ideas exploding out from the post war period and how many different architects were feverishly searching for what the essential expression of America should look like. We only really got up to about 1975 ish. The 90's and 2000's are awkward territory for historians to walk on because there is not too much distance in time yet.
That same semester I took a class called Community Development in American Cities and felt really moved by the efforts of architects and community leaders to make sure that the authority to build and shape the city fabric came from dialogue and meetings with the affected area's denizens.
In roughly the same one year span, there were protests all over northeastern Africa and then the global Occupy movement which started in New York City. I then saw the terrible violence committed by law enforcement officials, militias, and militaries.
So it comes time for me to work on my design research in Fall 2012 and the most prominent question in my mind is:
Can architecture help in revitalizing a political public life?
In other words, I am asking myself, is there a place for architecture to encourage more interaction between people? Does it have to be a moment of crisis before one group starts to listen to another? And in a typical American city such as St. Louis, can architecture help bring a healthy public life into the downtown instead of the sporadic and sometimes caustic activation during weekends and major events? Must we simply look at SanFran, Chicago, and New York as exceptions to an otherwise dormant American city life?
Basically, it had been almost a generation since (mostly American) architects seriously put forth theories around the political nature of architecture and I had just bore witness to some of the greatest American political activity in a generation. Yet I saw nothing written or presented from the stand point of architecture. All I could hear relating to creative professions was the design and organization of protest events through social media networks.
okay? Nothing to say architects?
And then massive amounts of people were gathering, living, and temporarily dwelling in public space.
okay? Still nothing?
I am neither a populist nor a revolutionary. I am an American citizen. And I am/was very concerned about the health of public interaction in America. On that note, I highly, highly recommend everyone to read Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition and On Revolution. Really great works on the political life of humans and the different roles humans work within.
Gregg Pasquarelli from SHoP Architects came to speak at our school in Spring 2012 and I had asked him during the QA session about his thoughts on the role of architecture in the Occupy movement.
He started off by saying "Every act of architecture is a political act." And keeping that in mind in Fall 2012, I had some courage in my exploration.
I gained a little more courage recently when watching Jacques Herzog from Herzog & de Meuron give a lecture at Columbia.
Towards the end, he points at American architecture's lack of political dialogue. Regardless of our current plurality, I too find it a bit uncomfortable that we have been very silent when it comes to politics. [Keep in mind that politics and political parties are not the same thing.] He is asking why we are in no way political. I wonder the same.
Whew. Anyway. I will move forward more tomorrow. The next four weeks of that semester were very painful because I still was searching for what I was even trying to say.
The difficult thing about design research is that it is sort of a mirror to the soul. It offers nothing for me to grab onto and start off from. It just looks at me and says "Well, what are you interested in and why should I care?"
I needed to create my own foundation and build off of it. I could only hope through much work, production, presentation and dialogue that the structure could begin to take shape and become compelling. So even though I had ideas, their expression needed a lot of work. It was hard.
All for now.
I will chronicle my design research and degree project, providing commentary on my thought process at the time. From there, I will transform the body of work into a book which seeks to place into dialogue the two (currently) separated semesters of work.