11/13/2012

Weekread 002 ı Everything Else

I am currently read Future Practice again, a book based on a series of conversations with architects, designers, urban activists, historians, speculators, etc. His author, Rory Hyde, is also architect, editor — Volume Magazine; he seems to appreciate audio format — he defined himself as an occasional broadcaster; he co-broadcasted an audio program during the first week of the Venice Architecture Biennial — as a medium to discuss architecture. I let his biography aside as I am planning to interview him about his book in an broadcast format very soon (hope the end of this November or the beginning of December).
I propose, again, some glimpses of his book Future Practice. As wrote in a previous post Rory Hyde discussed with his guests about their point of view on the future of architectural practice, and more broadly the future of architecture: from Jeanne Gang to Bruce Mau to, Wouter Vanstiphout, to Natalie Jereminjenko, to Bryan Boyer
Below some glimpses. I am starting with Natalie Jeremijenko:
RH: One of your strategies to challenge this pervasive notion is to let animals back into our world, our parents told us animals were carriers of germs and diseases, but in your projects we can text the fish, the birds can talk to us and we should be lucky to cohabit with mice. Can a closer communication with animals paradoxically make us healthier?
NJ: Yes, it's absolutely critical. I suppose the big representational challenge we face is to overcome this ethnic cleansing-inspired myth that germs are bad, when in fact we know that's not true. A robust and resilient system is a biodiverse one, and vice versa. A healthy biodiverse system is actually what will give us the capacity to endure a less predictable climate, and that's by definition the system we need to maximise the most. To look at it from a body perspective, our own human macro biome is made up of more nonhuman cells than human ones. So this idea that we could get rid of germs is primarily the reason why we've got there excruciatingly high levels of crohn's disease, autoimmune diseases and digestive issues. The body is a landscape for many other organisms, and we have to understand the landscapes we inhabit as complex socio-ecological systems that are health and work when they are biodiverse.
RH: This idea of the edge is a central theme of your thesis, what you call the zone 'between the lived and the built'. You state this 'is the domain that presents the architect with a great deal of difficulty', and yet to many architects this space is probably invisible, or it is at least accepted that there's an inevitable break between what is designed and how it is inhabited. How do you conceive of this space, and why is it difficult?
MD: It hinges on the presumption that the role of architect is to design a building, and when the work is finished, you leave and the building then goes into a second stage occupation. This idea that you're somehow an expert because you design buildings always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. It's frustrating that the discipline of architecture is poorly understood; it is both culturally critical and pervasive, but at the same time as an architect you get pigeonholed into the production of buildings alone. So there's an idea that maybe you can extend your role beyond the final completion — maybe there's an overlap, and maybe you're interested in the way people occupy buildings, and the way you might make very small changes to intercede in those occupations. I just enjoy not having an explicit boundary of what is considered architecture.
Camila Bustamante:

RH: I know the project is not about politics and you don't mention it explicitly, but I think it's important to discuss because for you, and perhaps for people from Lima, the politics is implicit…
CB: Yes, I don' really talk about it that way because I was also a little scared/ Once you do a project with the metro, it's immediately related to president Garcia, especially as he is now back in power again twenty years later. Which is more or less why I chose the map and the signage as a platform. I wanted to work with an established set of 'neutral' symbols, to try to address this issue in a more pragmatic and tangible way. So I tried to be careful to mention this as something neutral. Because, yes, I was also scared…
Bruce Mau:

RH: It's probably useful to now discuss you efforts to tackle these challenges through the work you're doing with the Massive Change Network, and this transition you've made from a designer in a studio to more a public figure spreading the word. In particular, I'm interested in this word 'network' and what that means in terms of how your organisation is put together.
BM: I think you're onto the key idea, which is network. A little over a year ago I stopped working in the studio, I'd got to a certain point in my work where it wasn't satisfying for me for a lot of reasons, I'd done it for twenty five years and it just became time. And we saw this other opportunity around education and design that needed to be developed, and as we got into the research we discovered that less than one percent of the word's population has had access to education beyond high school. And just think of the revolution of possibility that we've produced with this tiny fraction. When I first read it I was just like 'that can't be true! Is it true?' [laughs] Most people think it's between twelve and twenty percent, and you realise wow, they're off by an order of magnitude.
Before, having Rory Hyde on board for an audio discussion, I warmly suggest to grab a copy of the book.
In my wish list, you will find two highly expected book (it seems that The Landscape Future would be expected in December): Bracket 2 Goes Soft and Alejandro Zaera Polo's The Sniper's Log. These two books are announced for this month…

Another book in my wish-list: The Space of Agonism by architect Markus Miessen and theorist Chantal Mouffe published by the excellent Sternberg Press. If you are familiar with Markus Miessen's research, The Violence of Participation includes a conversation between the architect and the theorist. Chantal Mouffe has been developing a research on conflictual consensus, also known (I admit to vulgarly summarize her thought into a few words) agonism
As announced on the website, the conversations "were alternately driven by Miessen's specific concerns regarding his ongoing investigation into conflict-based forms of participation as an alternative (spatial) practice in democratic systems, and Mouffe's understanding and theory of a "conflictual consensus." This book gathers a set of conversations from 2006 to 2011 and envisions new approaches to countering and responding to the globalizing thrust of neoliberalism.
Below an abstract from The Violence of Participation — MM for Markus Miessen, and CM for Chantal Mouffe:

MM: Any form of participation is already a form of conflict. In order to participate in any environment or given situation, one needs to understand the forces of conflict that act upon that environment. How can one move away from romanticized notions of participation into more proactive, conflictual models of engagement? What would you refer to as micro-political environments, and what and where do micro-political movements exist?
CM: Concerning the issue of space, I don't think that there is such a big difference between what you call micro-political, macro-political, and geo-political, because I think that this dimension of the political is something that can manifest itself at all levels. It is important not to believe that there are some levels that are more important than others. In a way, it is coming back to what I have said before in regards to organize the European Social Forum, they were against the idea, because they were saying the struggle should be at a global level. There is no point in having a European Social Forum, because it automatically privileges Europe. But I think that it is very important to have social forums at all levels: cities, regions, nations — all those levels and scales are very important. The agonistic struggle should take place at a multiplicity of levels and should not privilege the geo-political one or the micro-political one, but should instead realize that the political dimension is something that cannot be localized in a privileged space. It is a dimension that can manifest itself in all kinds of social relations, whatever the specific space is like. As many recent geographers have insisted, space is always something which is striated, to use an expression which Deleuze and Guattari are criticizing. Because what they are thinking of is a smooth and homogeneous space, while Doreen Massey argues that every form of space is always some configuration of power relations. It means that what I would call the hegemonic struggle, or the political struggle, must take place at all of those levels. There is a multiplicity of levels in which the agonistic struggle must be launched. This is why I think that there is a potential for politicization at multiple levels, and it is important to engage with all of those levels and not just to simply say, oh well, the global struggle is the most important one, because that is not the case. We need to really try to transform and articulate power relations at all levels at which they exist.


Makoko Floating School is in progress… A school for a waterborne city Lagos and its population of 7,937,932, a density of 7,941/square kilometers, and a total area of 999.6 square kilometers. 
Adeola Adeyemo wrote for Bellanaija:

The Heinrich Boael Stiftung and its partner organisation NLE, led by the Nigerian architect Kunle Adeyemi, rather believe that people will cope better with the risks of erosion and flooding if they incorporate the water into their daily life instead of trying to dominate it. Just as the informal fishing community "Makoko", located in the lagoon waters of Lagos, has been doing it for over hundred years: It is a community without any government support or infrastructure, the traditional authorities are responsible for the social organisation of the over 100,000 members. They live in wooden houses on stilt, transportation is by canoe only.

Makoko Flooding School
Originally appeared on the facebook page of NLÉ

I, soon, will post a short email interview with Kate Orff about SCAPE's activities. Kate Orff and SCAPE, an agency she co-founded have been quoted in a recent article in the New York Times (See also these two articles from Inhabitat: Architects propose 'soft infrastructure' to protect NYC from the Next Big Storm; and New York Harbor School Students Suggest Oyster Reefs as Protection from Storm Surges). I asked her some questions about her work, and her approach to re-articulating coastal sites:
KO: When I say "the era of big infrastructure is over" I don't mean that we have to stop big, on the contrary, we need to think even bigger and strategically to be able to coordinate aggregate effects of many small and potentially dispersed and more effective and resilient infrastructure strategies - solar energy may be more dispersed, wind energy, agricultural systems, many of these systems can exist in small increments and be more effective and resilient to failure.
Oyster-Tecture | © SCAPE
Confluence | © SCAPE

November 15th, A twitter #citychat. MIT CoLab will organize a twitter chat on post-disaster planning, precisely on urban design and international humanitarian response after a disaster. This #citychat will start at 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 GMT 9:00pm CET and 12:00 noon (Pacific time)
About this topic of post-disaster this article I found on twitter. It is posted by Project for Public Spaces:

The term "community resilience" has been much debated in Government circles in recent years, with "resilience" commonly being defined as "returning to the previous state," or "bouncing back." Whilst this is a useful concept for Governments to consider, its use is limited when resilience is considered as a static "state" rather than a dynamic process through which community capacity is developed over time. It can be argued that community resilience is not just about returning to the previous state. In this context, community capacity can be thought of in terms of community attributes, such as the ability to self-manage and self-determine, the level of entrepreneurship, concern about issues/activism, volunteering and the general level of positivity/optimism about the future.
Architect Alison Killing of Killing Architects and her collaborator and architect Kate Crawford will discuss these topics this November 15th. Topics that I would like to submit are: zones-at-risk zoning, how to re-articulate traumatic areas, adaptive resilience in countries at-risk, among many others.
I recommend Killing Architects' research on post-disaster planning, a research titled (Re)constructing the city, which promotes integration of urban design into humanitarian response,

The rapid growth of cities has led to an urbanisation of vulnerability and a corresponding increase in urban disasters. Humanitarian agencies' experience over the past decades has been overwhelmingly rural, so that approaches to shelter and reconstruction and the tools and guidance which help to shape a response are rooted in a rural context. These rural approaches have too often proved to be inadequate to the challenges of cities, where humanitarians have been confronted by high population densities, a shortage of land and a complex and delicate economic and social ecosystem, a context for which their rural 'toolkits', assumptions and experiences have left them poorly equipped.
An initial study suggests that urban design practices do have an important part to play in the work of aid agencies in urban areas. These practices have not (yet) been adopted for two main reasons. Firstly, humanitarian agencies find it difficult to take a holistic approach to recovery, which it has been argued is necessary in the reconstruction of urban areas. The second issue is the mandates of humanitarian agencies and their focus on the individual, which creates difficulties in working at a larger, community scale, something which is regularly necessary in reconstructing urban areas.
An Urban housing collage in Champigny-sur-Marne, France by Paris-based Edouard François:
Urban Collage | © Edouard François Architects
This housing project is just completed.

I posted in my tumblr page a series of images that Polish photographer Pawel Starzec took years ago.
These images originally appeared on Cafe Babel. Fridom is a pan-European work-in-progress which documents squatting in Europe.
Warsaw | © Pawel Starzec
Image originally appeared on Cafe Babel
"Since 2010, Pawel has visited countries as diverse Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland and Denmark, to document squats and life inside. Pictured, the first day of Warsaw's new squat" [Cafe Babel]




Source: Project for Public Spaces, NLE, The New York Times, Inhabitat (article I, article II), Killing Architects, Sternberg Press, Cafe Babel

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