The Los Angeles Biennale

Currently at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam. Formerly at the Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture/Urbanism.



Feb '14 - May '14

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    A plausible reference

    By sarah123
    Feb 17, '14 8:03 PM EST

    "Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful."  Statistician George E. P. Box

    The difficulties in intervening in Los Angeles stems partly in our inability to grasp or describe all the underlying processes that give the city form. The only thing that is certain is that we need to account for contingencies and uncertainty. This complexity of our urban environments makes it extremely difficult to find causal relationships between a city's form and its social processes. Like other modern cities, Los Angeles "'has gone out of control . . . it has lost the signifying potencies and structural coherences that it once seemed to possess." (Steven Marcus cited in Stan Allen’s “Mapping the Unmappable” in Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation. Amsterdam: G+B Arts International.) Stan Allen responds to this description of the modern city by suggesting that we should relinquish some measure of control. He proposes that we develop notational systems that can capture and represent the interplay of information at diverse scales without relying on straight mimesis. These notations “are not pictures or icons. They do not so much describe or represent specific objects, as they specify internal structure and relationships among the parts.” (Allen 2000, 42) The goal of these notational systems is not to use them to fully represent the city, but to specify a variety of relationship between objects and processes over time to approximate urban behavior.

    The thinking goes that if we can begin to understand the way a city such as Los Angeles behaves we can begin to predict how it may evolve over time. “Unlike classical theories of mimeses, notations do not map or represent already existing objects or systems but anticipate new organizations and specify yet to be realized relationships. Notation is not about interrogation, critique or commentary...notation's more radical possibilities lies in the possibility of proposing alternative realities.” (Allen 2000, 41) For Allen, relinquishing control refers to both the incomplete nature of the information collected and to the heuristic method used to combine what information is gathered. “Fully aware of the dangers of mystification and false totalities, these proposals do not set out to impose coherence on an otherwise incoherent city, or to regulate meaning or behavior. Rather, they propose an open-ended series of strategies to use within the indeterminate field of the contemporary city.” (Allen 2000, 44) 

    We have yet to see what this collaboration will yield in Shenzhen, but from the preliminary conversations we have had regarding this endeavor it is clear that the group has embraced an open-ended, non-hierarchical approach.  Part performance-piece part conversation I am clearer on what we don’t want than what we do. We do not seek a common narrative. We seek no leader. We seek no solutions. We seek no truth. All I can say is that this event might show how much "real" information can be gleaned from a work of fiction.

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About this Blog

The Los Angeles Biennale is an experimentation in creating a nomadic biennale on urbanism, hosted by the International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam. This blog will cover the preparation, activities and findings from this experiment.

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