samedi 30 octobre 2010

# Violence Taking Place. The architecture of the Kosovo conflict by Andrew Herscher

Almost as a sequel of the article I wrote about the notion of Urbicide, here is a invitation to read Andrew Herscher's essay, Violence Taking Place. The architecture of the Kosovo conflict which attempts to illustrate the role of architecture destruction in the second conflict of the Balkans in the 90's (the first one being the Bosnia war).
In fact, destructing buildings in an asymmetrical conflict is not anymore a strategy of diminution of the enemy's forces but rather a symbolic negation of the otherness' culture and to a broader scale, the otherness' existence.
Herscher thus recounts the three phases of the Kosovo conflict which all dramatized this perspective on architecture assassination. The first one (1st and 2nd images) is the 1998 series of attacks, massacres and profanation from (Christians) Serbians towards (Muslims) Albanians in Kosovo. The second one was the surgical bombing of Belgrade by NATO (3rd image) targeting not only political objectives but also civilian infrastructures like bridges or the TV Tower. Eventually the third one occurred after the partial retreat of Slobodan Milosevic's Serbian troops from Kosovo and the non official Kosovo Liberation Army's retaliation of destruction (4th image) on Christian churches...
Herscher finishes his essay with the description of a billboard (5th image) encouraging the new independent country of Kosovo (still not recognized by Serbia) to preserve the common architectural patrimony of the country as being fully part of the National narrative.

vendredi 29 octobre 2010

# The Truffle by Ensamble Studio

The Truffle is a self sustaining small shelter designed and built by the Spanish office Ensamble Studio (see previous article about their incredible Hemeroscopium House). The most remarkable aspect of this building to me is its construction process. In fact, in a way which recalls Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev's Bell construction, the team has first created an empty hillock, then assembled the negative of the architecture with hay bundles within this emptiness, cast concrete in between and eventually after the concrete dried, destroyed the earth hillock. The remaining step then consists in the evacuation of the hay from the inside of the building, task which is ensured by Paulina the cow in the following movie:

thanks Xinyang for reminding me of this beautiful project !

mercredi 27 octobre 2010

# Poema des los dones by Jorge Luis Borges

Poema des los dones (Poem about Gifts) is a poem written by Jorge Luis Borges after he was nominated Director of the National Library in Buenos Aires. That is that time that he strongly lost his sight and this poem expresses the beauty of the irony of his inability to fully appreciate his function. He is in fact condemned to be the blind warden of the Library.

Original Spanish version follows the English one:


Let none think that I by tear or reproach make light
Of this manifesting the mastery
Of God, who with excelling irony
Gives me at once both books and night.

In this city of books he made these eyes
The sightless rulers who can only read,
In libraries of dreams, the pointless
Paragraphs each new dawn offers

To awakened care. In vain the day
Squanders on them its infinite books,
As difficult as the difficult scripts
That perished in Alexandria.

An old Greek story tells how some king died
Of hunger and thirst, though proffered springs and fruits;
My bearing lost, I trudge from side to side
Of this lofty, long blind library.

The walls present, but uselessly,
Encyclopedia, atlas, Orient
And the West, all centuries, dynasties,
Symbols, cosmos and cosmogonies.

Slow in my darkness, I explore
The hollow gloom with my hesitant stick,
I, that used to figure Paradise
In such a library’s guise.

Something that surely cannot be called
Mere chance must rule these things;
Some other man has met this doom
On other days of many books and the dark.

As I walk through the slow galleries
I grow to feel with a kind of holy dread
That I am that other, I am the dead,
And the steps I make are also his.

Which of us two is writing now these lines
About a plural I and a single gloom?
What does it matter what word is my name
If the curse is indivisibly the same?

Groussac or Borges, I gaze at this beloved
World that grows more shapeless, and its light
Dies down into a pale, uncertain ash
Resembling sleep and the oblivion of night.

Original Spanish version:


Nadie rebaje a lágrima o reproche
esta declaración de la maestría
de Dios, que con magnífica ironía
me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.

De esta ciudad de libros hizo dueños
a unos ojos sin luz, que sólo pueden
leer en las bibliotecas de los sueños
los insensatos párrafos que ceden

las albas a su afán. En vano el día
les prodiga sus libros infinitos,
arduos como los arduos manuscritos
que perecieron en Alejandría.

De hambre y de sed (narra una historia griega)
muere un rey entre fuentes y jardines;
yo fatigo sin rumbo los confines
de esta alta y honda biblioteca ciega.

Enciclopedias, atlas, el Oriente
y el Occidente, siglos, dinastías,
símbolos, cosmos y cosmogonías
brindan los muros, pero inútilmente.

Lento en mi sombra, la penumbra hueca
exploro con el báculo indeciso,
yo, que me figuraba el Paraíso
bajo la especie de una biblioteca.

Algo, que ciertamente no se nombra
con la palabra azar, rige estas cosas;
otro ya recibió en otras borrosas
tardes los muchos libros y la sombra.

Al errar por las lentas galerías
suelo sentir con vago horror sagrado
que soy el otro, el muerto, que habrá dado
los mismos pasos en los mismos días.

¿Cuál de los dos escribe este poema
de un yo plural y de una sola sombra?
¿Qué importa la palabra que me nombra
si es indiviso y uno el anatema?

Groussac o Borges, miro este querido
mundo que se deforma y que se apaga
en una pálida ceniza vaga
que se parece al sueño y al olvido.

# Conversation between Ed Keller, Carla Leitao, Bruce Sterling & Geoff Manaugh

I recently evoked the series of lectures organized by Parsons via its assistant Dean Ed Keller (see previous post) entitled Design and Existential Risk. The first event of this series occurred on October 9th with a conversation between the same Ed Keller, Carla Leitao, science fiction writer Bruce Sterling and the figure of the blogosphere, Geoff Manaugh.

The next lecture will occur on Thursday with the interesting author of the book Enduring Innocence, Keller Easterling.

mardi 26 octobre 2010

# Refaced facades by Alexandre Farto

Alexandre Farto is an artist who creates monumental faces by scratching facades' material until it composes beautiful bichromic compositions. He also works with wood, metal, paper and billboards but the wall series seems to be the most architectural one.
As every piece of art which is created by subtraction of material (sculptures coming obviously first in mind), it is beautiful and vertiginous to think that the work is already contained within the material and that the artist content himself to reveal it.

Thanks Martin.

dimanche 24 octobre 2010

# Brittlebush by Simon de Aguero

Brittlebush is a desert dwelling designed and built by Simon de Aguero in Arizona. 90% of the construction material have been found on site or nearby which makes this shelter being both high-tech and vernacular at the same time...

More to read on Designboom

Thanks to Nikolas (who sent me this link after finding disturbing similitude with the project I am currently working on !)

samedi 23 octobre 2010

# Profaning Colonial Architecture / Sandi Hilal & Alessandro Petti at Columbia November10th

Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, the two founders of Decolonizing Architecture (with Eyal Weizman) will be presenting their work at Columbia University on November 10th (at 6:30pm). Their lecture entitled Profaning Colonial Architecture will introduce their strategy of re-using abandoned Israeli settlements in the West Bank for the future new state of Palestine. Their projects are therefore based on a pretty optimistic scenario (Israel leaving the West Bank (1) without destroying their own settlements as they did in Gaza (2)) but as said in a BBC article that a reader just sent to me, the colonization's impact on land is such that it can now be considered almost as irreversible which make Decolonizing Architecture's projects even more important.

vendredi 22 octobre 2010

# The biblical battle of Jericho / When the trumpets destroy the walls

The biblical episode of the battle of Jericho has always fascinated me. The story from the book of Joshua (6:1-27) introduces the first battle the Israelites had to win in order to conquest the land promised by God after the Egyptian slavery period and the forty years spent in the desert. God gave Joshua instructions in order to take the city of Jericho: the Israelites had to march around the city's walls once every day during six days. Then on the seventh day, they had to do the same but in addition to blow in their horns which would make the walls collapse and the city easily defeated.

It always pleases me to imagine a poetico-scientific explanation to this episode by thinking that the horns actually reached the resonance frequency of the walls; this same phenomena that explains why military manuals prevent troops to march on bridges not to risk to make them collapse. I find very compelling the potentiality of destroying whole buildings with only human means (or in that case, music instruments). This could in fact be considered as a metaphor of revolutions which make institutions collapsing...

Here is the text in the Bible.

# Terrorist Motel by Stealth Architects on Archinect

Archinect just released an article about a very ironic project which proposes to build a "terrorist motel" instead of the controversial Muslim Cultural Center in Down Town New York. Mocking the idea of associating Muslims with terrorists and acknowledging the fact that the West always needs enemies in order to sustain itself, Stealth Architects proposes to provide terrorists directly on the U.S. ground thus authorizing an organize a local hunt rather than expensive abroad wars in Afghanistan.
This project is also a small ode to the act of excavating by creating construction documents that indicate the process of digging in order to achieve this negative labyrinth.

More to read and to see on Archinect's page about the project.

mardi 19 octobre 2010

# Wind as a tree sculptor

photograph by Anita Gould in New Zealand...

lundi 18 octobre 2010

# Low Tech intelligence on Deconcrete

Our friend Daniel Fernandez Pascual from Deconcrete recently published two very interesting articles involving very cheap processes of construction.

The first one
introduces La Havana's Barbacoas (unformal mezzanine added illegally to the old colonial buildings of the city) and Andiamos (scaffolding preventing buildings to collapse), the second ones inviting (or suggesting) the first ones to exist in a beautiful ambiguity of decay and urban appropriation.

The second one involves the collective Inteligencias Colectiva which investigatesvernacular smart modes of construction and introduce the example of Justo Gallego’s self-built cathedral constructed with concrete reinforced by cheap metallic spinning bar.

dimanche 17 octobre 2010

# If Antigone was a Refugee / Zizek, Badiou and Aloni's lecture yesterday for the Jenin Freedom Theater

Philosophers Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek and filmmaker Udi Aloni were invited yesterday in New York (peculiarly enough, hosted by St Paul's Church in Manhattan which seems to have an interesting priest) by the famous Jenin Freedom Theater (located in Jenin's refugee camp in the West Bank) in order to expose their thought about the current Palestinian situation.
It would be hard for me to make a coherent summary of those three talks and I am unfortunately lacking of time to do so; however I wanted to report several points which were evoked yesterday:

- The Palestinian weakness is and has to be an affirmation of existence
- Under the name of Palestinian lies something universal
- Palestinians are being presented but not represented

UDI ALONI (who wanted to talk as an "Israeli Jew"):
- It is very important to distinguish which art if the official art and which one is the resistive one. Films like Waltz with Bashir or Lebanon are the official art.
- The difference between Tel Aviv's population and Jerusalem's population is that Tel Aviv's is racist but think it is liberal whereas Jerusalem's know it is racist and acts like it.

- Colonization does not really happen between "what is happening" (in reference of what interests Western medias). Colonization is a slow and invisible process enforced by a Kafkaesque bureaucracy system
- Joke: "In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German worker gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by the censors, he tells his friends: 'Let's establish a code: if a letter you get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it's true; if it's written in red ink, it's false.' After a month, his friends get the first letter, written in blue ink: 'Everything is wonderful here: the shops are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, cinemas show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair -- the only thing you can't get is red ink."
That is our role to be the red ink.
- Israeli liberals want "decaffeinated Palestinians" (in reference of his observation on nowadays' society who wants coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, cream without fat, warfare without casualty, sex without sex etc.)
- Western Countries (especially in Europe currently) are acting for a "reasonable racism", a "barbarism with human face", a racial oppression that does not kill.
- "Antigone is a true bitch". He advices the Jenin Freedom Theater which wants to play Antigone to change the script during the fight between Antigone and Creon by an exasperation of the people of Thebes who proclaim a revolution and kills both of them (!).

I know that it is sometimes risky or irrelevant to extract those quotes from their context (each ot their talks last for thirty minutes), but I thought it was worth it to have a bit of the substance of what have been said.

samedi 16 octobre 2010

# The excavated books of Noriko Ambe

Noriko Ambe is an artist who magnificently excavates books to create troglodytes landscapes within them. The physical landscapes thus dialogue with the imaginary landscapes created by the books' content in an almost inversion of form and substance.

A tremendous multitude of other works are visible on her website.

Thanks Biayna

vendredi 15 octobre 2010

# 1933 Slaughterhouse in Shanghai

Shanghai's 1933 Slaughterhouse has now been reconverted into an Art Center. The intermediary area between the peripheral building and the central cupola is composed by a multitude of beautiful massive concrete pathways that were originally paced by the animals.

mercredi 13 octobre 2010

# Sympathy with the obstacle / Parkour in Gaza

Thus, hostile urbanists or militias always conduct the battle towards the inside, or the domain of obstacles, the urban canyon. When it comes to urbanized war, every combatant must think like an obstacle –‘See everything from the perspective of an obstacle’. West then uses Parkour as the exemplary discipline in which the practitioner becomes as one with the obstacle during movement. Every soldier should be a traceur, a swerving projectile which has a deep sympathy with its physical obstacle.”
Negarestani Reza. CYCLONOPEDIA. Complicity with anonymous materials. Melbourne: Re-Press 2008

We already wrote a bit about Parkour on boiteaoutils (link 1 and 2) and our fascination for this practice of architecture which attempts to consider every surfaces as a potential ground for the body.
In his great Cyclonopedia (already evoked in a previous article), the Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani evokes urban combat as the new paradigm of war in the Middle East. He establishes a materialist interpretation of the city as a set of obstacles and the militarized choreography of bodies as a set of trajectories that develop a "sympathy" for these same obstacles.
I recently discovered this following video showing three young men practicing Parkour in the Gaza Strip. My romanticism did not need so much to see a poetical resistance by the bodies to the various obstacles the Israeli Army impose to the Palestinian population...

mardi 12 octobre 2010

# Tate Modern Unilever Series 2010 by Ai Wei Wei

The new installation in the Tate Modern's turbine hall in London for the now traditional Unilever Series has been created by the Chinese artist/architect Ai Wei Wei who populated the ground by 100 millions (!) hand made unique porcelains mimicking a sunflower seed.
Visitors are invited to set foot on this particle-landscapes and probably experience the change of the surface imposed by their body.

Tate Modern 12 October 2010 – 2 May 2011 (London)
photographs belong to the Tate Modern