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    Scott Cohen and Wes Jones Discussion - LIVE BLOG

    Quilian Riano Oct 14 '08 13
    Wes and Scott are talking today, not entirely sure what about, so I decided to take notes and call it a LIVE BLOG.

    Watch it LIVE: http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/events/webcasts/

    Discuss and add your comments below.

    10:00- Finished dinner with Wes and GSD faculty Mariana Ibanez, Scott Cohen, Michael Meredith, Jonathan Levi, Kostas Terzidis, and 4 students including me. The discussions turned from presidential politics back to branding, composition in architecture, and the connection between digital technologies and the technology Wes uses. A conversation among friends. Throughout the conversation, I think that they missed an opportunity to talk about the political value of Wes' work in light of the current economic system.

    Also, someone pointed out that Wes answered every question using 'we'. It could be that Wes is talking about his office, but it really seemed like he was channeling an entire movement. And that may be his ultimate project: to be part (maybe leader?) of a group of architects working without a signature, working with similar ideas and concerns of how to humanize our overtly technological world.

    8:02- Now we are into an interesting but rather conventional conversation about craft. Are shipping containers more of a technology than wavy buildings?
    We are getting off subject, square vs. wavy is not the question. I think that is what I like the most about Wes' work is that it is about function, about mobility, in general about interactivity. When Wes talks about chisels and showing human hand it has to do a little bit about craft, but that is not the point. It is showing humanity through interactivity, architecture as media, the designer as political figure.

    7:55- Authorlessness? coming back to the idea of mid-tec, and Wes goes on the attack of high-tec. It seems to be about allowing technology to let us see the human again. He is arguing about using technology to bring back the human hand, signs of living.

    7:50- Question- How do you define Technology? It really does not to seem as part of a 'sustainable' project, it is not about saving resources it is about playful technologies for new uses/programs.

    7:45- I think a punch may have just been landed, Wes' theater as a giant mechanical box with a theater inside.

    7:37- Scott is talking about scale and context, apparently in CCTV the mechanical vents are close to the windows and scale that building immediately, flattening it and creating deadly 'shrinkage'.

    7:36-LAST ROUND - I am not sure too many punches connected in the last one...

    7:33- I don't know why architects always talk so much about color. In this case Scott is making the case that no one uses Wes' color palate in architecture today, I can think of at least 3-4 architects that do. I think that the idea of branding in Wes' pro-con project is the real issue, talking about color and its 'cartoon' quality is talking about the tree not the forest. Why are certain architects (80's trained, autonomy obsessed one's specifically) obsessed with color?

    7:28- Scott on Wes' other interest: Branding as an extension of Wes' 'cartoon' aesthetic. Cartoons, colors, representation, as a sign of mobility in an ephemeral way. But in a way it is a disconnection with Wes' work that rejects branding and signature.

    7:21- Wes Jones' primitive hut as a projection. Creating a techno-utopian collage to project a new world, something that could exist and a new way to use architecture.
    via shedworking

    7:20- There are rounds!! we are going into round 2 and Scott promises blows.

    7:15- Wes Jones' seemd to just claim that his work (and the technologies it uses) is nation-specific - American, the John Deere of architecture.

    7:12- Domesticity and the 'alien' - challenging it with things that at first seem from outside itself, scales (materials, koolhaas' elevator), typologies (lofts to the suburb).

    7:10- Wes' work as a 'vernacular for a community that has not found itself yet'

    7:03- Scott seems to think that Wes is overtly infested in a very specific, limited, and personal view of technology, allegedly rejecting others (digital?). Wes keeps repeating something about middle-tec, arguing, I think, that it is not so much about a personal or specific technology, but rather technology mediating a space for a person. Technology as mediator to create 'affect' and full of 'meaning'.

    6:59- Scott relentlessly asks and tries to codofy what architecture is, and claiming that Wes' work NEEDS to go outside the discipline to fulfill his ultimate project. Wes has a refined answer comparing a fascination to a Home Depot lift, to Corb's streamliners, eyes which do not see, etc... it is about bringing in things and MAKING them architecture. A long history of architects doing this.

    6:58- Wes said something interesting, are our clients are no longer 'inhabitants', but 'users'.

    6:55- Is Wes Jones' work really closer to 'industrial design' and thus not really (A)rchitecture as Scott charges?

    6:51- If architecture is about capturing the highest ideals in our world today, what world do we capture?
    How does that world come to us? TECHNOLOGY

    6:49- Did anyone catch what PCAT means? - will update later.
    10/15/08 UPDATE: it was PCAD (thanks joseph in the comments)- Parametrically Controlled Author-less Design. He uses it while criticizing digital design. Although I have to say that his 'authorless' way of working and love of technology seem to me closer to digital technology than he would care to admit. I think his biggest problem with current digital work is more experiential, it feels un-human. His work and the way he uses technology is about making the human aware of her space and place in the current world, the digital sanatizes spaces erasing the human hand.

    6:45- Wes seems to reject the notion of a more linear view of architecture (central to the 'nostalgia' argument) and instead espouses a 'buffet' view to architectural knowledge.

    6:40- Scott: Wes fights quotidian architecture by rejecting the more art-based architectural practices (Ghery, H&dM) and moves into work that is functional via technofilia. Is it nostalgic?

    6:38- This is the first of a series of conversations, that should be fun.

    6:36- While they start I will make a quick comment on atmospherics. They finally got some decent chairs for Piper, comfortable and black (as opposed to the ugly brown ones they brought in late last year). They set up the auditorium to half capacity, though I am not sure why, it feels pretty cramped.

    6:26- I guess I'll begin by sharing that I was selected by random lottery to go to the post-lecture dinner tonight. This is something new that Scott is doing, choosing a few students every week to attend dinner and sit there awkwardly with senior faculty and invited guests. It should be fun.

     

     
    • 13 Comments

    • Mission St.
      Oct 14, 08 7:36 pm

      Ha! P.S.C. just said "steampunk" in relation to W.J.'s work... wtf? "machinic" ... maybe, but "steampunk", no way.

      Anyway... terrifically entertaining feed. ;)

      grid
      Oct 14, 08 10:33 pm

      PCAT - if Wes was saying you probably misheard him say "PCAD" as in PowerCad... which is the software he uses to do his drawings.

      grid
      Oct 14, 08 10:35 pm

      typo. Should read "if Wes was saying it"

      Steven WardSteven Ward
      Oct 15, 08 8:14 am

      did they really snipe at each other? that's kind of how it sounds. is that fruitful or helpful as an educational exercise?

      i mean, i know their work is very different, but i also know that neither will 'convert' the other to his way of working.

      why does p.s.c. resort to pejorative metaphors and categorization so much?

      maybe i'm misreading the character of this exchange based on your notes, but it seems like a debate. these guys both do interesting stuff - for the most part very unique stuff that no one should exactly follow because the work comes from a specific personality, a particular vision and way of operating. was there a sense that someone was trying to win?!

      Quilian RianoQuilian Riano
      Oct 15, 08 8:31 am

      No sniping, I think Scott tried to be very critical, but these guys are friends and it showed. I think it was a good conversation.

      vado retro
      Oct 15, 08 10:45 am

      what's more branded than john deere(by the way i worked at a john deere dealer when i was a teenager so i have cred here) and by using an analogy such as john deere one is branding one's work admittedly or not.

      Nam HendersonNam Henderson
      Oct 15, 08 10:47 am

      I had never heard about either of those two architects.

      The work of JPA seems very "cool" (to steal a phrase from their website) and more contemporary in terms of addressing issues which seem to be on the tip of the current (my) generation of designers...

      However, i hate their website.....

      The work of Cohen seems more "cutting edge" in terms of style and technology used/or dealt with. And while i like the Taiyuan Art Musuem project of his firm PSC.
      But to me their work doesn't seem "warm" nor does it seem to address current and pressing concerns of the times which the younger generation of designers seems to be seeking to tackle.


      Plus, i particularly applaud this statemnet from JPA'a Pro/Con website...
      And it connects with your post at 7:50- Question- How do you define Technology? It really does not to seem as part of a 'sustainable' project, it is not about saving resources it is about playful technologies for new uses/programs.

      Under Enviornemntal Responsibility section they write.....
      "Being environmentally responsible is not just about solar panels and grey water. It is equally about makign things that will last and can be reused"

      So to answer your question Q,
      I wholeheartedly agree. It has been a constant harping of mine over the last few years. Why do project scontinue to be applauded for applying some green tech to their building and then suddenly being considered a green project....
      It seems that to use less and not require the tech in the first place (or at least the minimal amount of it) is the way to go.



      fays.panda
      Oct 15, 08 12:33 pm

      nam, both have a number of books that could help introduce them better than their websites,, and both their books are detailed, abundant with alot of text and visuals, and while i have reservations on some of the stuff within the books, i recommend them to anyone at any given moment, great resources

      also, both deal with the notion of drawing as building, or as an integral part of the design process, in different ways ofcourse, and that can be seen strongly in their outcomes

      its interesting that wes jones uses pcadd, i have used it in my education, and as a recent graduate i was forced into using autocad at the office (especially as am an integral part of the team, being the glorious cad monkey), while i acknowledge how amazing autocad is in terms of its production abilities, which powercadd fails at when producing huge numbers of drawings, it is no match to powercadd as a design tool.. i recommend it to all students, just look at wes jones' work and ull see a great difference in the graphics, and its interface is much friendlier

      fays.panda
      Oct 15, 08 12:41 pm

      can i not watch this now? only live?

      joseph keppel
      Oct 15, 08 1:25 pm

      pCAD = Parametrically Controlled Author-less Design. Wes was criticizing parametric/scripted design.

      Quilian RianoQuilian Riano
      Oct 15, 08 1:34 pm

      thanks joseph, I updated the live blog above.

      grid
      Oct 15, 08 1:49 pm

      are you sure joseph? out the 100+ times i've heard him saw "PCAD" he was referring to powercadd...

      Appleseed
      Oct 15, 08 4:11 pm

      'We' thank you for this Quilian. Good recap-

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