jeudi 31 décembre 2009

# Computationnal neo-baroque / Projects by Tobias Klein and Jordan Hodgson

"Ornament is a crime" wrote Adolph Loos in 1908. This sentence was opening one century of disdain for architecture's aesthetic developed by modernism. A hundred years later, a School claims for an embrace of ornament via computation. This approach of architecture is highly debatable since it seems to fully accept the role of the architect as only a embroiderer who would be able to express his creativity in non-essential elements (just like the French law which plans that 1% of every public building's budget should be dedicated to a piece of art).
However, some people succeeds to design ornaments as fully part of the narration expressed by a project. Computation allows them then to populate a structure with an expressive ornamentation that register the resulting architecture in what we could call neo-baroque. Architecture becomes thus a materialized surrounding narration and computer seems essential to have a global and local control of the project (capitalism not allowing the construction to take as much time as it used to do in the 17th century during the baroque era).
Tobias Klein, former student at the Bartlett and now teaching at the Royal College of Arts, the Architectural Association and one of the founders of an experimental design group called horhizon, is one of this rare people. His two projects, Synthetic Syncretism and Contour Embodiment and the project developed by one of his student, Jordan Hodgson at the RCA are examples of fascinating narrations embodied by their neo-baroque architecture.

Synthetic Syncretism by Tobias Klein
The project’s narrative background is based upon the hybrid Cuban religion of Santeria (a mixture between Catholicism and the African Yoruba tribe beliefs). As a result of this unusual syncretism an altered kind of religion evolved which hybridizes Catholic Saints with animals and Sakralraum with sacrifices.
The necropolis Christobal Colon, the main cemetery, does not provide enough burial space hence the proposal for a processional route through the city of Havana for a ceremonial funeral in the sea. Along this processional route the ‘Chapel of Our Lady de Regla’ acts as architectural highlight.
Slotted inside an existing cross shaped courtyard, this inverted chapel contains a series of Santerian relics and utensils condensed from the virtual into the actual. Tweaked to the max, skeleteral and visceral at the same time, these ‘cybrid’ objects, 3D modeled and 3D printed in order to perfectly fit animal bones found on the site in Cuba, and 3D scanned into virtuality and re-moulded into actuality in London, provide, on a smaller scale, the formal expression for the larger architectural intervention.
At face value computer-aided architectural design (CAAD) merely performs within the domain of what is best described by the German term Technik (it expresses technology, technic and technique). Thetruth is that CAAD overcomes the dichotomy between technē (craftsmanship) and poiēsis (art).
Although digitally driven, the project does not succumb to the pervasive allurement of ‘Parametric Digital Modernism’—the unspecified whitewash (actually grey) of =3D surfaces, the universal Sachlichkeit of algorithmic design techniques, and the mechanistic vision of input-output interactivity.
The project provides an example of syncretism of contemporary CAD techniques and CAM
technologies with site specific design narratives, intuitive non-linear design processes, and historical architectural references. The project shows the architect as the creator-craftsman that finally has the chance to overcome the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century schism of intellectual from manual labour, as well as the nineteenth-century gulf between automatic mechanisation and poetic

Contour Embodiment by Tobias Klein and Ben Cowd
On a tectonic level, the project amalgamates symbiotically the qualities of contoured geometries (Ben Cowd) and volumetric voluptuous embodiment of MRI generated organs(Tobias Klein). On the conceptual level, the work is much guided by a fascination of catholic Iberian baroque, the scale-less implementation of symbolism of the Sacred Heart by the use of MRI generated body data; aconversation with the particular architecture of St. Paul’s cathedral by Sir Christopher Wren and the adjacent properties as constructive interpretation of the hidden spaces of the double dome /cone lighting qualities within St. Paul.

Workhouse of the Infrastructural [Counter] Reformation by Jordan Hodgson
‘Inequality has reached Victorian levels’
'Britain has the lowest level of social mobility in the developed world.'
(July 2008 - Shadow Minster Chris Grayling)
By 2032 the chaotic urban conditions that once helped define Elephant and Castle have given rise to a cripplingly disenfranchised underclass. In this bleak landscape of proletariat discontent, might the British government revert back to Victorian modes of jurisdiction, whilst simultaneously providing an architectural placebo to soothe a nervous population?
Unprecedented levels of unemployment generated by the crash of 2008, combined with a paralysis of social mobility triggers the reinauguration of the once potent Workhouse typology. A re-branded Victorian-style workhouse, reminiscent of a lost empire, provides a sanctuary for adrift individuals and the crucial workforce required for a British industrial renaissance. The lost industries of the golden age are reawakened from decades of slumber and manifested in a glorified cathedral to the plebeians of Elephant and Castle.
Car manufacturing and living quarters are positioned uncomfortably adjacent to bureaucratic authority, with a constitution of rationality, efficiency and profit permeating throughout. A sprawling workhouse, providing a clear separation between its occupants and the population of Elephant and Castle at large, gradually inhabits the infrastructurally intensified cityscape. A language of sublime ornament and excess exerts a sense of authoritative power over the workers, but a gain in momentum sees the emergence of an architectural encrustation that quite literally embodies the paupers that it controls.

mercredi 30 décembre 2009

# Street Packaging

Each product around us got its own use and it is destinated to this one purpose, but sometimes the simplest things create the more interesting results being corrupted by a new employment. The exemple of the cellpohane is pretty relevant, I would like to present the work of two talented graffity artist, and one street artist, two very interesting approach of the cellophane misuse : a graphic one and a three-dimensional one, both in an urban context .

Astro and Kanos, two members of the graffity crew ODV, are the creators of the Cellograff. This new style of street art/graffity, is a new way to paint in the street, painting with spray and being in an urban area, but getting out of the basic transgression cliché of illegal tagging.The Cellograff is more about to sharing an original piece of art and creating an ephemeral performance in an unexpected location than just writing a name. Following you can see few examples of their performances in the streets of Paris.

Cedric Bernadotte defines itself as a street artist, using the cellophane as a medium for a new urban practice, he's creating, with his installations, a new relation between the body and the urban context. With this material Bernadotte is changing the shapes of the streets, from concrete blocks to tense organic forms. Following few examples of some installations in the streets.

More about Cellograff : here
More about C.Bernadotte : here

lundi 28 décembre 2009

# Complex shaped art by Florian Claar

Here is few exemples of the astonishing work of the tokyo based german artist Florian Claar.
Between Art, Architecture and Science-Fiction, the art of Florian Claar is
noteworthy for the approach of geometrical patterns and continuous surfaces, but moreover for the production's quality of the pieces. We can notice in each of his works the precision and the highly detailed finition that bring those scultpures to reality from the nano scale to the human scale. On his website you can see, for some project, a well documented part on the building process.

dimanche 27 décembre 2009

# HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA /// One flew over the cuckoo's nest by Milos Forman

One flew over the cuckoo's nest is a movie directed by Milos Forman in 1975 interpreting Ken Kesey's novel from the same name. The heterotopia here is a mental hospital which tackles the question about one's madness and about devices of discipline within this kind of institution. The set of new rules here is frankly tyrannic and is justify by the supposed status of the patients.
There is a lot from Foucault to read about history of madness and how a society is extracting from itself people who are not obeying to the same system of rationality in order either to put them apart, or even worst to re-educate them.
When I observe that geniuses like Antonin Artaud or Camille Claudel have spent some time in those institutions (and institutional they are !), I have the intuition that the people we are calling crazy might just be people who had a glance at real freedom.

vendredi 25 décembre 2009

# HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA /// Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky

- How far away is that Room ?
- If you go straight, about two hundreds meters, but there is no going straight here

It has nothing to do with chance that the picture used for this theme's introduction of HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA was extracted from Stalker (1979) of Tarkovksy since the Zone is, as far as I am concerned, one of the best achieved heterotopia in the world of cinema.

I wrote a small essay last week about the resistance to an institutionalization of power based on a study of heterotopia. Here is the little chapter I wrote about Stalker:

Stalker is an interpretation of the Strugatsky brothers' novel called Roadside picnic. This example of heterotopia illustrates perfectly the adoption of behaviors set in a different system of rationality than the ones belonging to the normative world. It quite matches with the type of heterotopia that Michel Foucault calls: "crisis".

In the so-called primitive societies, there is a certain form of heterotopia that I would call crisis heterotopias, i.e., there are privileged or sacred or forbidden places, reserved for individuals who are, in relation to society and to the human environment in which they live, in a state of crisis: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women. the elderly, etc.
Of Other Spaces. Michel Foucault.

There is nothing here as "biological crisis" per say. However just as those crisis heterotopias, the Zone asks for a radically different behavior from the one normally used in the exterior world. In the same manner than a shamanic dance or a Papoo initiation ritual, this behavior escapes to the scientific rationality and thus accesses to a mysticism that only the heteropia can maintain as a space.
This ability to escape from a rational system does not constitutes in itself a defense against the institutionalization of power since a initiated guide (shaman, wizard, stalker) is necessary; however the even existence of alternatives to a scientific logic based on postulates which can no longer be claimed as unique, allows anyway an increased freedom to the one coming from a unique system. Moreover, experience with the unknown or the danger always participates more to an individual use of the political power than within a daily comforting and confortable environment.
It is also interesting to observe that, despite heterotopia needs some entrance/exit processes (very visible in Stalker. see first picture below), it does not necessitates to own a different physicality in order to apply a set of different behaviors. All the ambiguity of Stalker comes from the fact that, at any moment of the film, the spectator is able to know if the zone is ruled by extranormal logics (the Strugatsky's zone was supposed to be a leftover from an aliens' picnic), or rather if it is only a human perception. This second proposition seems to be more interesting since such an heterotopia would be applicable within any territoriality which would thus change its status and allows a proliferation of zones within the normative world.

jeudi 24 décembre 2009

# L'enjeu Capital / Large scale metropolis in Pompidou Centre

Eventually I write this article about the big conference L'Enjeu Capital which was held the two first days of October in the Pompidou Centre. This event was organized by Frederic Migayrou and was gathering big names of worldwide architecture (France seems to be better to ask for people to speak than to build...).
This conference was commissioned by Frederic Mitterand, the French Cultural Minister for feeding the national reflection around the Greater Paris.

What is incredibly stupid is that almost all lectures are in English, but they superimposed a French audio translation on it, therefore you have to try to distinguish the original voice behind that...or write to the Pompidou Centre and express your anger...

I did not listen to all the lectures but what I can say about the one I did is:
- Big guys like Eisenman, Branzi or Mayne are equal to what they usually are...meaning interesting but completely un-emotional.
- James Wines is surprisingly un-provokative when he gives a very politically correct speech about sustainability
- Rem Koolhaas is changing interest. After promoting ambiguous ideological situations of blossomy economies such as China or the Emirates, he now feel the wind changing and go sheltering in...small villages of Switzerland. Seriously I don't know if it is a joke but this lecture is worth it just for that!
- The AADRL crew and Makoto Watanabe do not bring really new ideas but the work is still interesting to look at...
- Brendan McFarlane is superbly ridiculous. Take every trends of a period (light computation, sustainability, a dash of philosophy, glossy renderings ), mix it all together and you basically get McFarlane's discourse. What a pity since I still believe that Mr. McFarlane and Mrs Jakob could potentially do far better than what they are currently doing...
- Hernan Diaz Alonzo's messy lecture is however delightful to explore. Actually this lecture helped me to understand what he was really trying to do in his practice and with his teaching, which I did not get until then ! If you have to see only one, it might be this one. Especially for the metaphor with the Coyote and the Road Runner at the very end.

Anyway, that is only a part of all the lectures. Some others may probably be interesting (Galofaro, Yeang, Tschumi etc.) so the best is too spend a bit of time on it...

mercredi 23 décembre 2009

#Architecture for sale

Looking for drawings of the incredible Claude Parent, I found an ad for one of his house , known as Maison Bordeaux le Pecq,in Bois-le Roy, that is for sale.

It is always a weird situation when some iconic buildings have to be sold, specially to a private owners, that implied the limitation of the access or most of time no accesss at hall, it reminds me being in LA in front of the closed door of one of the case study houses...pretty frustrating!

The act of buying or saling architecture as a completed building is different than buying or saling an Art piece, because sor far you can not move it an art piece is most of time something you cand export, sale, sometimes reproduce in a limited serie...
But Last year The Kaufman House of Richard Neutra has been sold as a piece of art and reach the price of $ 19 million in an auction sale in 2007 , the former owner purchased it for $1.3 million in 1991.

The name of the architects are more and more well know and the signature really matter specially for the modern architecture, a real market is being developped around that.
Architecture is a pretty
imperceptible quality , that no one can evaluate precisely, it is bringing the architecture market closer than ever to the art market.

More about Neutra's Kaufman house Auction read: this on the New york times
More about Architecture for sale see : here and here


# HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA /// Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton

I do know that this movie won't be released before March 2010 but Tim Burton's revisit of Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland for Walt Disney won't miss to be another interesting heterotopia, a landscape of mathematical fantasy implying a very different set of rules of behaviors.
To be notified, the role of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter...very promising.

See the preview here

mardi 22 décembre 2009

# Injection rooms questionned for Paris

According to an article published in French newspaper Liberation, Paris' authority is currently studying a possible construction of injection rooms which would allow drug users to take heroin in safer conditions than the usual ones experienced. This kind of rooms already exist in Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Spain, Germany... and provides an hygienic equipment and environment for drug users.
I am a bit suspicious about them though; obviously not for the usual reason invoked which is to say that it will make the drug consumption increasing, but rather bothered by the fact that it could therefore become an easy institutional way of controlling drug users which is always a dangerous thing...

You can also read an old article from the BBC about Switzerland's injection rooms.