The Fictional Paradigm - Memetic lab
Brief: “One must create a Cultural development Lab that echoes the developments taking place within South Africa and at the same time harvests an individual’s potential to engage with the development of a South African culture.”
To analysis an approach in which to engage with this new project one looked at how a South African culture could be developed. Culture is essentially comprised of memes ‘an element of culture or behaviour that may be passed from one individual to another through non-genetic means.” If culture can be spread like this, then what type of place is required for these memes to stand out and spread virally? For these memes to stand out they should be juxtaposed against a culturally neutral backdrop’ whereby many cultures can relate to the form however the form is not related to any culture in specific. This form should also consist of many places where interactions can take place, and these spaces should be unusual spaces so that the viewer’s senses are heightened in a somewhat ‘fight and flight’ mode, as to allow for the maximum number of memes to be transferred. As memes are directly related to Darwin’s theory of evolution one should incorporate evolution into the pretence of the building.
A Fictional Start to the Development of Cape Town
Remove the roads, the curbs and the pavements. Erase the buildings, their inhabitants, and the alien vegetation and bring the see shore back to where it was three hundred years ago. One will find that the Contemporary Harrington square (parking lot/site) is meters away for the see shore and consist of several sand dunes covered in a rampant Fynbos, inhabited by Oystercatchers, reptiles, and small mammals of all shapes and sizes.
Now bring on the natural weathering processes, add two parallel winds (the South Easter and North Western). Let these winds reshape the sand dunes. Bring back the mountain tributaries and let there be horizontal water erosion over the site. Let the heavens open and bring with it vertical water erosion. Finally re-introduce the contemporary human foot print back on to the site and let the site weather further under these conditions.
“A new Urban culture must be created in which the untouched natural areas and human density are developed conjointly” (Arno Ritter)
Reaching ones Unconscious
Throughout history ones interaction with one’s unconscious has been a highly valuable process particularly within the art movements of Dadaism and Surrealism. Surrealism was born out of Dadaism and was started by the artist Andre Breton in the 1920s. Although surrealism can be read as an extension of Dadaism, their outcomes were entirely different. Dada was a form of anti-art that deliberately defied reason; whereas the surrealist movement was based on eroticism, socialism, dreams and the subconscious. The Surrealists saw dreams as being part of one’s unconscious thus dreams offered pure accounts untainted by society and its ideologies. Miro who was not a Surrealist but who had a great influence on the movement once stated that “that the first stage should be to free ones subconscious, and the second stage should always be carefully calculated." This holds true for the fictional process of architecture. Entering ones subconscious and freeing it is vital in allowing oneself to start designing an entirely neutral, individual and site specific piece of architecture. There are many ways in which to free ones subconscious, one could use the techniques employed by the Surrealists such as automatic writing, hypnotism and games of chance or one could simply set out several pieces of paper and draw over them in no particular order and with no particular thought. This latter method was the method that was used to free ones subconscious for this particular project. It resulted in a series of strange morphed landscapes with a singular creature that changed form in each of the different landscape. This series was entitled Meme and his Dreams and progressed to include brief poems of each of his adventures.
The outcome of a Fictional process resulted in a morphed piece of architecture that could have been a natural element on the site, but at the same time offers a ‘Futuristic’ account of the type of forms that could be used to produce a “South African Culture.” Furthermore the building has been designed in such a way as to incorporate the idea that the “Public Sphere is everywhere” (F. Roche) thus literally creating a public landscape where people can essentially access the entire roof scape if they wanted. It is a building that is not bounded by rules or regulations; but instead is harvested from its primary function (the spreading of memes).
Thresholds and Their Junctions
‘Vertical and Oblique slippages are the key to new spatial perceptions,’ and it is these slippages that have the greatest effect on how one experiences a space. Thresholds or rather ‘Crossing through Spaces’ allow for reactive spaces to be formed. Until recently the boundaries of buildings have been seen as solid junctions. The breaks in these solid forms, or rather the windows and doors have provided conventional boundary thresholds. Through engaging with a fictional process one can now see that these conventional thresholds are somewhat of a disappointment, a short cut, an easy way out; acceptable in the publics’ opinion and a plausible solution in terms of a building construction; however seriously lacking in terms of what is possible. Places and Spaces and their junctions can be organic. ‘Evolution provides forms that are fractal, contingent, interactive and combinative,’ thus architecture should consist of such elements. The fundamental principle of our planet is that it is constantly transforming; thus one needs to design architecture that allows for transformation. By taking on a fictional process one can simulate and potentially build buildings that can adapt, react and transform in previously unimaginable ways. As previously mentioned the works by the company R & Sie(n) are doing just this however they are not alone; GROOS. MAX, Patrick Blanc, Triptyque Architecture, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, Gregg Lynn, Architectenbureau and Paul de Ruiter are all questioning the possibilities of space by redefining its boundaries thereby allowing for a complete osmosis to take place between the interior and exterior of their buildings. This idea of junctions was taken seriously in the development of one’s South African Cultural development Centre (The Memetic Lab) as it is these junctions and slippages that result in the areas where the most memes can be spread; and if one includes art installations at these slippages, one will have a greater emotional and intellectual experience within the space.
Working with Times’ Multiplicity
‘Architecture must always serve as an index of time,’ (S. Holl) as well as being the ‘transforming link that links our ideas with our orders of perception.’ A fictional process allows one to literally comprehend what a building could be and how it could evolve. Within fictional architecture ‘The multiplicity of its interwoven experiences and forms is matched by the apparent simplicity of its mechanisms” (R&Sie(n)). This is one of the most captivating elements of a fictional approach; it literally allows one to create formalist building that can be read differently by every individual. The Memetic Lab literally tries to incorporate times’ multiplicity, by creating a form that can undergo natural weathering and at the same time start to harvest indigenous flora, moss and lichens on its exterior and interior shell; similar to the way in which a natural landscape and ‘cave-scape’ would develop.
A successful fictional process in architecture allows one to constantly engage with one’s unconscious. It drives one to question their place within contemporary society and forces one to try to re-imagine their place within an alternative reality. Essentially architecture can be seen as a meshing of sensations and thoughts; in other words architecture should have both physical and ethereal qualities. A fictional process allows one to create a building that is able to merge these physical and ethereal qualities in ways that have never been seen or experienced before; as one undergoes a process whereby the physical earthly elements are morphed with those of one’s unconscious in a virtual state. “When we cannot see the limit between reality, render, miniature and major setting, architecture becomes kinetic and is able to travels between new technologies, new realities and new sensibilities (5. E. Ruiz-Geli) Furthermore “when everything works: light and sound consoles, interface, projectors, structures, floor, laser, magnetic field, sensor and light, scale, item and budget, light, microphone, webcam, bonsai, models and carpet, press and article, digital camera and choreography, catalogue and text, languages, email, messages, cell phones…, then architecture is simply the power of dreams, of the unconscious”(E. Ruiz –Geli).
Status: School Project
Location: Cape Town, ZA
My Role: designer