I. Mass Confusion - One cannot deny that 2005 was marred by events which exposed not only the lack of ethics in journalism, but also the fragility of the institutions of news information. Plame Gate, medias collusion in selling the justification for war on Iraq, or the debate on is torture legal ? Let's face it folks knowledge is power. And in today's world, corporate media's absolute power grip on information corrupts absolutely. This problem exists when a few companies, formed through media consolidation, have the ability to manipulate what we know. Now, I love the potential of detached, ephemeral, locally gathered globalized news brought to us by today's new digital citizenry via the internet, and it becoming a dominate form of news dissemination. But as we proceed as the proverbial needle that finds the cracks in the impenetrable structure of the corporate media apparatus - we should not forget that ethics in blogging or online independent journalism is the most important piece to build the future. Even if this forces the current media structure to implode (pdf ).
II. Panoptic Urbanism - Jeremy Bentham's egalitarian idea of creating good behavior through surveillance is slowly becoming a reality on an enormous scale (aside from Foucault's premise of course). All over the world surveillance systems and segregated communities are popping up like dandelions. Such examples are, the current roe in Washington over spying on the public, data mining becoming fashionable for most world governments, the EU launching its first spy satellite , the riots in Parisian suburbs , the gated McMansions communities in Pudong New Area Shanghai , and Chairman Daley's spawning his all seeing eye of Sauron of 20,000+ cameras to give the citizens of Chicago the proper motivation to act in the proper manner. Although this situation has been gathering for quite some time people appear to have little worry about the increasing centralization of surveillance and the effect this has on the further separation of classes. A separation that locks people behind concrete and digital walls . Let's hope in 2006 all of us "global citizens" out there follow the lead of these guys in Austria and take the power back.
III. A Taste of the REAL - If the war in Iraq has been hidden from our view, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was pretty much in our face. For a few moments in our usually blind social conscience, somewhere in between Lost and the Late Show we witnessed the plight of poor people in this country. The shock and awe of this event was that even in the face of such incredible suffering and loss we still found time for racism.
IV. Politics + Architecture - Domus' lucid and responsible design competition for a derelict and crumbling hotel in Pyongyang DPRK was blindsided in 2005, by a diatribe written by Jan Kaplicky of Future Systems . Domus' editor-in-chief Stefano Boeri returned the gauntlet back to Kaplicky with his own treatise on the matter. This in turn set the stage for an unprecedented debate on architecture and its role in an increasingly political world, where, in my view things are not always as black and white as they appear. Let's hope that more architects and institutions venture into these gray areas in 2006.
V. SAAH Look - The first rule of OMA , is you DO NOT talk about OMA !
a) There is no doubt in my mind that Rem Koolhaas is the greatest living architect/provocateur: He is the perfect hybrid of Phineas Taylor Barnum , Le Corbusier , and John Cleese . For several years I have debated friends, who worship him religiously, that he has never done a better building than the Kunsthal . This year I am beside myself, Koolhaas has finally done the impossible for me. The realization of the Casa da Musica has surpassed my beloved Kunsthal. I think I will finally have to eat crow!
b) OMA l AMO's (or AMMO) coup d'etat of the Hermitage from the Russian firm Studio 44 was one of the more interesting stories from Planet REM's orbit around the globe. With antics like this, one almost craves a Rem reality TV show that jet sets with Rem from Rotterdam to Beijing to New York and all points in-between.
c) The full spectrum dominance the Koolhaasian regime has on architecture, one has to ask themselves, 'are there any alternative perspectives to this pervasive Notorious B.I.G.ness ?' Are there too many weapons in his arsenal? Or is it possible that Cameron Sinclair and his cohort of designers who give a damn , or AFH capable of creating a new front in opposition to AMMO? Well with several thousands of dollars in design conscience prize money and the fact that global warming is here to stay , I expect AFH will eventual give Notorious B.I.G.ness a run for his/its money in 2006! AMMO vs AFH!
d) My final issue for this 2005 OMA roundup is the emergence of the OMA wonder twins Ole Scheeren and Joshua Prince-Ramus . It's not so much that these two, thirty-something, model quality ubermensches are leading separate offices in the OMA sphere of power, but that they're beginning to be discussed and promoted without Koolhaas. Is this a sign of things to come in 2006? AMMO without XL bullets?
VI. Harold Pinter - The 2005 Noble Prize for Literature Laureate drew out a line for all of us to measure where we stand now and in the future in his acceptance speech to the Nobel Committee . Will we continue to feed upon a "vast tapestry of lies" in 2006? I, for one am hungry for something elseÃ¯Â¿Â½at least something with some taste !
VII. Four Left - To complement my peers I chose a journal slightly different from Javier's and Mason's choices. New Left Review is a perfect mix of politics, culture, art, and commentary that comes to your door 6 times a year. It is a bit pricey, but worth every pence. Here are some of my favorite essays from 2005.
- Feathers of the Eagle by Sven Lutticken
- Koizumi's Coup by Gavan McCormack
- Against Human Rights by Slavoj Zizek
- Learning from Lagos by Matthew Grady
VIII. Double Happiness - Well my wife and I were finally recognized as married in the People's Republic of China over the past holiday season. The wedding/game show was held in Changsha on December 19, 2005. My experiences in China will be seen in a few forthcoming essays/views on Archinect.
North Korea: Another Country (2004), Bruce Cummings - You'll never see Bruce Cummings as a guest expert about Korea on TV. Nor will you see him as a consultant on the current multi-party talks. Instead we hear from hotheads like John Bolton. I highly recommend all the books on Korea by Cummings, as I believe he is the most even-handed with this subject.
Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts (2004), Gottfried Semper - Okay, I still haven't finished reading this 900+ page behemoth, but Semper's treatise finally being translated into English makes S, M, L, XL look like hors d'oeuvres. Now this is what architectural research should be, voluminous and with real depth!
Revolution at the Gates (2004), Slavoj Zizek - If you've read a lot of Lenin (or even if you haven't) skip to Zizek's brilliant treatise at the end which is amazingly relevant in today's world of dominant triumphalist capitalism.
Avant-Garde Florence (1993), Walter Adamson - Okay, okay, I've been obsessed with Fascism this year. Not Nazism , but good old original recipe Italian Fascism. Maybe it's the current state of American politics, or Berlusconi's revisionism of Mussolini , or the fact that architects seem to have an insatiable appetite for power and the narcotic value of aesthetics. In either case, this book is a valuable resource to understanding the fine line we all walk. Beware what you wish for.
X. The Cinematic
Man Escaped (1957), Robert Bresson - This past year saw the release of Bresson's film Pickpocket on DVD and a flood of commentary and admiration (even Peter Eisenman was sighting Pickpocket !) on this influential French filmmaker. However, although Pickpocket is an excellent film, I prefer Man Escaped .
The World (2004), Jia Zhangke - "You don't have to leave Beijing to see the world." Even though The World was released in 2004, it took one year for it to get to Chicago proving that globalization might be one-sided. This movie is an incredible look in to the very effects of globalization on a changing China. The best film of 2004/05 from one of the best young filmmakers in the world.
Grizzly Man (2005), Werner Herzog - This film is about a man who has come closest to literally fulfilling Deleuze's idea of becoming intense, becoming animal.
Heimat - Chronicle of Germany (1985), Edgar Reitz - Finally on DVD from Facets in Chicago (at least in the US). Heimat is truly a masterpiece of cinema and an incredible event of reckoning on the German psyche through art. The epic film made for West German television spans the years of 1919 to 1982 in German. At 45 hours and 25 minutes long its fun for the whole family!
King Kong (2005), Peter Jackson - What would iconic architecture be without an 8,000lbs gorilla on its back. My New Year's Wish is that Archinect will be the 8,000lbs gorilla for 2006.
XI. What's on Your Best of 2005 List - Post it below!
John Jourden is an (a)rchitect and pathological thinker living in New York.