Harvard GSD Career Discovery Program



Jul '05 - Jul '05

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    One week left.

    By Evan Sharp
    Jul 23, '05 8:04 PM EST

    So I've been reading Koolhaas.

    How's this?:

    The increasing disconnectedness of the increasingly "connected" world is a result of a futile attempt to understand an increasingly complex present that becomes ever more complicated the more connected we become, i.e. the more access we have to information the more we have to process and the more obvious disconnections become.

    Furthermore, our perception of the world, our own personal reality is already so heavily influeced by our past experiences and biases that it is misleading to label our senses as objective. We see the world not as it is, nor even, except for those rare moments of hyer-selfawareness, as we are, but as we used to be; in this scheme, progress=future while we=past, and the present=(a persistent and eternal attempt at) personal progress, which leaves nothing left but a sort of conscious faith in doublethink, a post-ideological age that has hollowed out faith and filled its shell with, at least partly, a conscious reveling in the comforts of fantasy and escapsim. Some would say that's all faith has ever been, religion a sort of mass fantasy or mass escapsim designed to bring comfort. Well, granted. However, what's important here is the word conscious, the fact that there truely is no deeper level of ideology with which to ground our fantasies.

    Which leads to architecture. Curvilinear fantasy in a largely linear world, controlled chaos and unpredictability reflecting a disordered reductivism that slowly churns over all of society, overthrowing our understanding of economics and politics and aesthetics, but also reflecting our inability to bend linearity without it breaking.

    Gothic Cathedrals were designed around light, around a metaphysical ideal of "heavenly effulgence" that was intended to transform their structure into a literal heaven on earth, the lux and lumen of the sun filtering through the windows so as to transport the buliding's inhabitants into the being of God and the "potential of his grace".

    I once argued in a thesis for a sort of modern equivalent, an "electrical effulgence" of light in the city that transformed the modern built landscape into a noctural fantasy, an urban landscape transformed by the deep historical and instinctual allegorial connotations of light into a sort of connectedness with the potential of combined human effort - a literal field of icons built to worship the collective (synonym: corporate) efforts of our race, then illuminated at night to combine the majesty with the spectacle.

    Entry from S,M,L,XL: "Spectacle:...organizes ignorance of what is about to happen and, immediately afterwards, the forgetting of whatever has nonetheless been understood."

    Koolhaas says in DNY (which I just started), "The icons of religion are replaced by those of building. Architecture is Manhattan's new religion." While I don't entirely disagree, he seems to have (so far) missed a crucial point. Architecture used to be the choosen tool for religious expression. So now, what is architecture the choosen tool of? In the case of Manhattan, it seems not that architecture has replaced religion, merely that religion has retreated, leaving architecture standing by itself to represent human achievement sans diety, a sort of transcendent reveling in, as I said before, progress and modernity, as represented by the potential of corporate (combined) human effort - our built architecture. Even more, however, our architecture stands not just for some ideal of human achievement, but for the vagaries of human experience...for a COLLECTIVE sense of human life, in all of its conflicting forms.

    Thought: The machine age first turned the beauty and honesty of aesthetic ornamental expression against itself, and then banished the entire art form from the architectural avant garde...did content-oriented aestheticism also largely follow in its wake? Modern/Postmodern architecture lacks, for the most part, a popularly recognized catalogue of components; the absence of such a catalogue does not constitute a catalogue in itself...does it?

    The more I try and grasp what is happening in architecture, the more circular it seems. Complexity and technology, digital OCD and a sense of scale that seems either far too large or far too minute. Its been difficult, but fascinating. One week left.


    • Evan what background are you coming from to postherioze a noctornal urban setting - that's beautiful

      Jul 23, 05 8:12 pm
      Diego Rosas

      Evan, I am back in college now, at Lewis and Clark, in Portland, OR. Senior year. Thinking about writing my thesis --- but at the same time hesitant. I guess this sense of "personal progression" has been probably the most valuable asset that I have extracted from the Career Discovery program at HGSD.
      I am about to earn my degree in International Relations, keeping one eye at the possibilities in foreign service, and one at the possibilities of exploring "international architecture". After reading Koolhaas' "Content", I assume thoughts have been mustering concerning the role of urban planning and architecture as both victims in the ICC (International Criminal Court) scene.
      Regarding the questions you have posed, concerning the "content" and "role" architecture, I think aesthetics is now serving a different function rather than merely religious or iconographic tools. It seems like what the aesthetic dimension in architecture now seeks transparency and a "co-habitation" with the human. More and more society demands exposure of information and knowledge. This at the simplest level requires a physical dimension of transparency, perhaps best explained through Shigeru Ban's Curtain-Wall House. An open community, secular, modern, and inviting.
      Coming back to the idea of "international architecture", does that mean Americans should put up a Great Steele war around the United States borders to prevent climactic disasters and terrorism? Or should everything go through a "transparency reform" --- glass ubber-alles?
      Food for thought.
      Hope everything is going well and that you have been getting to the same conclusions as I have, or better.
      Go Section 12!
      p.s.: have you checked out Maybe it will assist in getting to a legitimate conclusion or objective.

      Oct 18, 05 11:03 pm

      I don't understand your first two paragraphs, are you trying to make a case for atheism? Kind of depressing unless i am comprehending inccorrectly.

      Manhatten has retreated religion?

      I am confused.....

      Jul 13, 06 10:36 pm

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