A Nomadic Complex: A Future Lifestyle

A nomadic complex

A nomadic complex

Architecture is built for the inhabitant. In its basic form it is created to provide shelter, space to live and work. The first forms of architecture were built for a nomadic lifestyle and our present world is turning back towards living a nomadic lifestyle. My generation does not feel the need to be bound to a traditional life lived in one place and in one house. Our lives are nomadic and thus fragmented by our desire for change and movement. Thomsen writes about the architect Tschumi in, Deconstructive Designs and Built Architectural Visions, “One of his axioms is that contemporary life is basically disjunctive, dissociated, and discontinuous: that is, life takes place in leaps; there is no one reality but many; meaningful value judgments are no longer possible; history cannot be controlled; and nothing can be considered definite. Everything, Tschumi believes, is fragmented…” (Thomsen).

Deconstructive architecture is beginning to reflect this nomadic lifestyle. However, our ideal nomadic lifestyle culminate with buildings that conform to the user as opposed to traditional modular style nomadic architecture. The fragmented nature of deconstructive architecture would support the ideals of the modern nomad. Thomsen writes that deconstructive architecture, “Involves an urge to overcome aesthetic borderlines and familiar structural principles…” (Thomsen, 2).

Perhaps cities could develop Nomadic zones, housing individuals who are free to come and go. Alison Furuto writes about nomadic architectural exhibit from Portland State University:

Nora Wendl, Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture, Portland State University,     writes, “Nomads move from place to place very purposefully in search of the things that sustain     them – food, water, and other resources. While one culture’s patterns of movement might be borne     out of necessity, for another culture movement patterns arise out of desire, a curiosity. For the     necessarily nomadic, it is often the case that the ways in which temporary, nomadic architectures     are constructed will echo the methods by which the nomadic body itself is adorned and protected”     (Furuto, 1).

Deconstructive architecture would form the stylistic foundation for a nomadic complex. The complex would latch on to existing structures within cities allowing for changes based on the people who would inhabit the structure. Similar to the ideas created in New Babylon by Constant Nieuwenhuis, where the individual would be allowed to design their living space. Constant states, “The optimum organization of material conditions and the maximum development of each person’s sense of initiative – we can deduce the essentials of a structure that is no longer composed of nuclei, as in the traditional settlement, but is organized according to the individual and collective covering of distance, of errancy: a network of units…” (Nieuwenhuis, 4). Cities will have fragmented nomadic societies living along side the normative; practical societies.  For those who rely on order the traditional city laid out in its rational grid would exist and intermingled would be a nomadic complex for those who thrive in fragmented; flexible spaces. A nomadic lifestyle could once again become a reality.

nomadic zones

nomadic zones


C. Thomsen, C. (1982). “Deconstructive Designs and Built Architectural Visions. In Visionary     Architecture: From Babylon to Virtual Reality. New York: Prestle, 134-50.

Furuto, Alison. “Toward a Nomadic Architecture Exhibition.” ArchDaily. 19 Feb. 2012. Web. 11 Dec.     2012. http://www.archdaily.com/209314/toward-a-nomadic-architecture-exhibition/.

Nieuwenhuis, Constant. “New Babylon.” Constant Nieuwenhuis:. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

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Living in the Future: The disintegration of the Individual

In our present world we are living our future. Technology has launched us into the future, far from the ideals of Sir Tomas Moore, the future is now within our grasp. The future is not the real manifestation of the fanciful worlds we create as avatars in our virtual realities. The future is our society living within virtual realities plugged into a network; ultimately at the loss of our humanity. The future is the disintegration of an individual and the loss of human relationships.

Blade Runner

Blade Runner

We already live in the dystopian world set in the 1982 movie Blade Runner by Ridley Scott, where the world is run by technology. Today even main stream consumers are so caught up by social technology and its desirous pursuit of the future that we are loosing our bond to the past. Our humanity is our past. It is the unique qualities that define us as individuals. The advent of technology began a lust for new and more integrated technologies; it has made us forget our reality and our individuality. Lara Schrijver, From Alphaville to Cyberville:The City of the Future is Science Fiction Films, writes “In focusing on efficiency and on how to attain goals as quickly as possible, man has lost sight of the goals themselves and the question of whether they should even be attained…The realization grew that the use of technology raised ethical issues. Were we starting to be overwhelmed by our own technology and the speed of its progress and could this mean we were surrendering our humanity?” (Schrijver, 34-35). Our society has already begun to use virtual realities to replace reality. We are using technology as a medium to interface with the world instead of actually interacting within the world we live. Schrijver continues, “We have a world in which everything is regulated by technology, and we have let the whole of society become geared to this. This is not necessarily a dreadful mistake, but one cannot help feeling we may have lost something essential in the process” (35). The more we use and rely upon technology the more we surrender to its control. The individual is no longer singular, through social technology the individual becomes lost.

If we continue to rely on technology we will forget our past; loose our individuality, and become replicants. In the movie Blade Runner individuals without a past are called replicants; machines which never to attain their humanity. Guiliana Bruno illustrates, “The replicants are perfect “skin jobs,” they look like humans, they talk like them, they even have feelings and emotions (in science fiction the ultimate sign of the human). What they lack is a history” (Bruno, 1). People without a history become replicants, machines. Just as humans become machines after allowing their social technology to integrate into our lives.

Even today we live in a society of consumers using resources to build new structures rather than renovate existing buildings. We are forgetting our past and structures we have built. Like the buildings in Blade Runner left to rot, “Now an empty shell to disintegrate” (Bruno, 2). The past is living with technology as a tool not as something which controls our daily behavior. A recent survey done by the Kelton group discussed in the Denver Post states, “The survey found 65 percent of respondents spent more time with a computer that with their spouse or significant other. More than 80 percent of those polled said they were more dependent on their computer than they were three years ago” (Gallegos, 1). Our lives are becoming more and more integrated with the technology we use. Our future has amounted to people who live in cities, yet never interact with each other or sit down for a conversation. It has become normal to Facebook chat with a friend who sits right next to you.

Droid DNA

Droid DNA

We become extensions of the machines that we use. Watching the new commercial for the HTC Droid DNA phone I saw a prelude to our future and the loss of the individual. The commercial depicts a consumer’s nervous system and brain being integrated into to his phone. With a glowing red eye, the phone brings back thoughts of Hal, from 2001: Space Odyssey, and the technological control he had over his human crew. The commercial finishes with the slogan, “It’s not an upgrade to your phone its an upgrade to yourself” (Verizon Commercial) The individual is lost by connecting into the technology of his phone; becoming another droid existing within a virtual network. Guiliana Bruno writing about Blade Runner states, “Exposing the dark side of technology, the process of disintegration” (Bruno, 2). If technology is disintegrating the individual and the more interlinked we become with our social technology then it seems we will loose our ability to sustain our humanity. Our humanity is disintegrating. The line between reality and fantasy become more and more blurred. The concept of history and a past are what hold humanity steady, the past acts as our base, the source.  Allowing technology to integrate and control our lives will disconnect ourselves from our source. Our realization of a past constitutes the reality of our humanity. We rely on the very thing which is stripping us of our individuality; becoming a part of the technology and therefore a member of a network and not a society of humans, but machines. We are already living our  future, a virtual future where the disintegration of individual is spreading.


Bruno, Guiliana. “Blade Runner Ramble City:Postmodernism and Blade Runner.” 41 (1987): 61-74. Print.

Gallegos, Demetria. “Study: Americans Spend More Time with Computer than Spouse.” The Denver Post.     N.p., 24 Jan. 2007. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

Schrijver, Lara. “From Alphaville to Cyberville:The City of the Future in Science Fiction Films.” (n.d.): 28-    45. Print.

“Verizon Commercial – Droid DNA “Hyper Intelligence”” YouTube. YouTube, 05 Dec.     2012. Web. 11     Dec. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYIAaBOb5Bo&gt;

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Archigram: How Architecture Promotes Social Change Through Pop Culture

Focusing on the group, Archigram during the 1950s-1970s, architecture entered a turning point. The Modernist movement brought about questions of architecture remaining steadfast to its traditional cultural forms, of the time, or begin to challenge those architectural traditions. Simon Sadler author of Archigram: Architecture without Architecture, focuses on issues Archigram raised during the modernist movement. Sadler writes, “Mainstream modernism had boasted of being technologically determined yet declined to respond to the catalogue of technological achievements of the decade or so leading up to the launch of Archigram.” (Sadler, 38) Archigram was on the cutting edge of architectural design using pop culture as a reference. While the architecture at the time represented, “The unprecedented powers bestowed upon architects were (in practice) perceived as reactive rather than active.” (13) Archigram questioned the role of an architect and architecture in society; to remain a supplement to life or begin to change the lives of those who inhabited their architecture. Archigram was frustrated and wanted to take an active role in the future of architectural design rather than accepting a normative traditional approach to design. They looked to pop culture for guidance, designing for social change and strived for architecture even in its singularity to play an active role. Architecture in its singularity, meaning that even one building could generate social change.

In 1964, Plug-In City, designed by Archigram became that singular architecture. In response to a worker housing crisis in London, Plug-In City generated social change. Sadler states, “With Plug-In we are at the outer edge of the early sixties avant-garde, primarily motivated not to make architecture better behaved but to make architecture change life.” (14) The normative housing style of the 1950s was an individual family living in a traditional framed house with a yard and white picked fence. With Archigram’s, Peter Cook’s Plug-In City and Ron Herron’s Walking City, architecture became a discussion of the re-organization of how people live their lives through re-shaping social thinking. Plug-In City and Walking City promoted, “The principle of collectivity, of interchangeable apartment units, and the incorporation of rapid transportation links. In this there was a disarming reasonableness about the Plug-In proposal, with its attempt to keep cities viable in an era of rapid change”. (14)

Archigram brought about ideals of interchangeable parts existing within a living structure. They were creating architecture which could be quickly and easily constructed; knowing it would have a temporary life span. While pop culture was telling its consumers life was about amassing products of temporal value and leisure; Archigram responded with architecture to match. Marko Home and Mika Taanila who wrote, Futuro, state, “The early 20th century dream of machine cities with automated buildings started to become a reality in the 1960s, with architecture striving to reflect the ethos of a highly industrialized consumer- and information society. Homes and cities were to become mobile, adaptable machines that could be carefully regulated to serve human needs.” (Home and Taanila, 60)

In response to the need for temporary shelters and mobile homes, Archigram began building temporary houses based on ideas from the productive car manufacturing industry. “Thus it was that the bolt-on, car-body, disposable pop home could be regarded by Archigram not as fanciful diversion but as the solution to housing an economically transformed society”, explains Sadler. (Sadler, 37) Archigram was finding architectural solutions to societal problems by extracting ideas from new products and cultural trends.

The invention of plastic inspired buildings of organic form, as seen in “bowellism” designs. Plastic allowed Archigram to build their organic designs for the future of housing. Sadler writes of Polygon a student magazine edited by Outran and Wilfred Marden who, “Talked of new building technologies such as glue, plastics, and mechanical systems, and of how, ‘the environment would adapt in a manner more flexible that any living organism’.” (24) Changes in technology were greatly influencing the built environment Archigram was designing. The world, in 1960s, was turning away from “the worker” towards a consumer lifestyle, one which people became consumers of technology and social media. Sadler expresses, “The built environment was being redirected to service a liberal, not centrally planned economy; to house consumers, not workers; to delight the body, not discipline it.” (36)

Archigram’s cities of the future became megastructures condensing life into a select area where people could live free from the rigors of a work environment. Archigram created a living architecture. Sadler writes, “If city planning had traditionally encouraged contemplation of the fixed and idea architecture object. Plug-In planning promoted architecture as a event that could only be realized by the active involvement of its inhabitants.” (16) Plug-In City showed people that architecture was about promoting an aesthetically pleasing environment to live and not just providing shelter. Sadler writes, “Plug-In City turned architecture inside-out… units stacked into profiles that, far from being repetitive, bordered on the picturesque, clustered like coral and tumbling down the megastructure precipices like troglodytes.” (18) Archigram was reducing the life span of a building so the focus could turn towards designing a creative space. Archigram allowed the architect and architecture to have a life of its own with minimal responsibility of the functional engineering of the structure and its systems. Sadler expresses, “The Archigram generation of architects would not submit to these classical hangovers: this time, history really wasn’t going to be tolerated. New buildings would be placed on top of and around those existing designs whose fixed plans had out served their usefulness.” (42)

Archigram changed social thinking about the longevity of products and structures and threw out the ideas of traditional buildings lasting generations. Temporary structures were of more worth to the new pop society of consumers because the buildings offered the opportunity for replacement. Archigram designs could quickly replace out-dated buildings and bring an instantaneous urban utopia to society. They generated architecture which reflected pop culture, designing for an immediate adaptation to one’s environment through the use of temporary buildings. Archigram responded to its fast passed world with dynamic architecture to meet the needs of the human and not the machine. Ultimately Archigram encouraged designers to use pop culture, in all its mediums, as a design tool for understanding the present social environment. They took an active role in the future of architectural design and therefore created the possibility of an urban utopia.

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World’s Fair the Forgotten Utopia

The World’s Fair gives the imagination ideas of mystical and extraordinary machines, booths from far away with exotic foods and people gathering from all over the world to unite and share their culture. The World’s fair has brought about an explosion of talent, culture and perceptions of the world. It is the chance for nations to display their creativity and progress. I never realized the major impact a world’s fair has on the future economy, social structures, political environment and city planning. It represents an opportunity for invention and reflection. World’s Fairs have produced gateways into causing substantial growth towards new inventions and overall social progress.

Architectural design has had a major role in the representational environment of the world’s fairs. How do we develop the present world we live in and change it for the better? “World’s fairs opened a new historic period in which exchange of products from all parts of the world played a new and differently evaluated role. The building type of exhibiting this multiplicity of goods served a new function and, in addition, had creative, innovative impacts on other building types as well. Major buildings designed and built for the world’s fairs have since become historically significant to architectural development in spite of their temporary existence.”(Kultermann, 10) Even though these buildings were short lived they challenged and re-invented traditional building typologies: introducing city planning, illumination through electricity, as well as gender  and racial equality. The architecture at a World’s Fair transformed and ignited social, political and economic progress. Such as the Crystal Palace, La Tour Eiffel, the Chicago Transportation Building, Barcelona Pavilion, Habitat ’67, and Space Needle among others begin to transform normative architecture. These structures could be seen as futuristic ideal for a utopia.

Yet the impact of the world’s fairs has dwindled over the years, at least for the Americans. In the past world’s fairs have been about the expedition and becoming integrated into the environment; becoming socially united. Today, because of the wide accessibility of the internet world’s fairs have fallen into becoming an event to monitor instead of a world event to experience. The internet has been a great globalization tool, yet it still remains a tool. It was not designed as a singular place which forces an individual to focus on one issue. Where as a Worlds Fair is a tool within an environment constantly focusing on promoting debate and invention towards progress in all the arts and sciences.  As seen in the Seed Cathedral, by the United Kingdom 2010, the focus was on re-connecting people with the fundamental relationship humans have with plants. Yet, no matter how many images one looks at, one cannot fully experience the intent of the architecture unless one was to visit the building while becoming immersed within the world’s fair environment.

In America we are perhaps loosing our innovative momentum by reducing the world’s fair to a monitored event only viewed through the internet. Viewing the world’s fair by watching you tube videos does not ignite the human intellect. We have backed away from the economical, social and political potential the world’s fairs hold. The internet has disconnected people from reality and ultimately from social responsibility towards progress. Architecture has always been about changing people’s perceptions, it cannot simply be imagined or photographed. Architecture must be felt must be experienced to fully grasp its purpose. World’s fairs have gone on to inspire the creation of museums and college campuses. The  architecture of world’s fairs has remained a key to focusing the minds of those who visit and to inspire world progress.

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Corporations Returning Modern Architecture to the Common Man

In the future corporations will be building the architectural environment. Just as there has been a fluctuation in corporate housing throughout time; there has been a fluctuation in the representation of modern architecture as well. In the 1800s mining corporations would build mini cities to house employees in order to control them. The corporate mini city building trend is recurring again presently, yet with different holistic goals in mind. The fluctuations in architecture has been represented in film media of modern architecture with it’s white pure forms portraying a high life style designed for the elite.

As discussed in our presentation, some corporations have been progressing towards creating their own architectural environment. For instance, the Apple corporation from its founding has strived towards creating standards of business, design and a life style. They first began to achieve these standards through product design. Back in 1976 Apple’s product design followed the architectural trends of the time, it reflected modern pure forms. However, Apple products were still portrayed in the 1980s as high end and could only be had by the elitist groups. Over time this product life style correlation has altered. They began to propose a life style with their products that could be attained by all. Apple products have now come to represent a progressive life style, most people now have an iphone, ipad, or ipod.

Apple has progressed towards its original design and life standards through product designs and now into architectural environments. The “Mothership“, Apple Campus II, was proposed for the integration of the Apple corporation now spread across many buildings in Cupertino, California. The campus building will hold 12,000 employees while providing for every amenity one could need. Not only does Apple provide this for their employees the building design represents Apple’s holistic approach as well. The form is a mega  white and glass circle; the ultimate iconic pure form to represent connectivity and progress.

It could be argued that it represents a corporation controlling their employees much like early mining corporations. However, earlier mining corporations were not always interested in happy and healthy employees. The Apple Mothership is controlling the lived environment of its employees, yet it is providing a progressive holistic life style for its employees, a fair trade? Yes, by creating a holistic work environment the employees are more productive and therefore leading healthier life styles, mostly likely live longer as well, so it is a fair trade. Living where we work, much like Chever as architecture students we are more productive as individuals because we are living in an integrated environment Design is fully integrated into our every waking hour, and dreams, as students we feed off of each others design experience to develop new concepts to progress through the program. I see the same actions happening within the Mothership, design is lived and breathed by the employees and therefore design/technology progress is accelerated.

Basically there has been this fluctuation in what architectural forms have represent over time. For Buckminster Fuller designing the modern home with white pure forms with scientifically efficient and functionality was transformed by the film media into an architecture for the elite. As stated, “Modernism altered notions of home through a methodical approach to aesthetics and social behavior under the assumption that design methods could alter society in a positive and healthy manner…” (Fortin,33). Apple has brought back Buckminster’s ideal that modern architecture represents progress and prosperity for the common man. So will corporations be the hope for the future, giving everyone a fair chance towards progress and prosperity?

Apple Mothership


Joke on the Mothership…. other possibilities



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The Pulsating Nexus

Housing for all, efficient, clean, and progressive. Predictions for the future are ideal and yet some how never seem to be more than a theory. Jencks, Inexorable Trends, wrote that tends and predictions of the future inevitably end up recurring throughout time. Jencks explained, “How civilizations tend to pulsate between opposing, polar terms…through cycles of birth, growth, maturation, death… eternal return.” (Jencks, 41) Buckminster Fulle, Nine Chains to the Moon, saw the birth of a future as a world where slums were extinct and houses were of the highest efficiency.

Buckminster Fuller wrote, “From a future viewpoint, there is rationality both in the skyscraper building of the city and in the mass production dwelling for the urban community.” (Buckminster Fuller, 293) He continues, “Scientific, mobile shelters will be utilized, also, for the constantly moving placement or deployment of  city-bogged, non-employed people to play lands of the world where it would be possible for them to develop in health, strength and intellectual ability.”(302) Buckminster Fuller created new opportunistic life style for the slums or “non-employment people”. He saw social progress through the fabrication of scientific and efficient housing. These high efficiency mobile houses are much like a double-wide trailer in the environment of a trailer park today. The idea of pulling people out of the slums to live in these houses was honorable, yet only ended up creating future trailer park slums. So why did this master idea fail? The idea was only partially manifested, the mobile house was not fully efficient, human will, capitalism intervened and therefore the master idea died into an existence of slum trailer parks.

Developing mobile housing was a trend. If trends go through the cycles of life and ultimately crumble and cease, is the purpose of their creation valid? Is there reason to continue to build for the future? We architects design knowing the longevity of the project is short lived, yet what survives are the ideas, goals and purposes set forth by the architect to advance society, even long after the physical built environment fades and crumbles.

We attempt to predict the future by following the tends of the past. Jencks writes, “If trends did not exist we would have to invent them, because to a large extent they constitute that common framework of continuities on which we speculate and act.”(Jencks, 34) I was intrigued how Jencks saw these trends creating a nexus of architectural ideas. He states, “(1) that any interesting architecture is made up of multiple classifiers and (2) that a nexus of ideas and forms continues to develop and pulsate.” (39) I see architectural students as this pulsating nexus. As a student we enter school to understand what has become before us to learn where to advance architecture. In essence school becomes this nexus, we students are integrated into the pulsating trends to come. I believe future predictions are imagined, formed, created in the nexus and hopefully applied in the real architectural field long after schooling ends.

Is the future trend our society is emerging into a recurring trend or possibly breaking through and generating a new trend typology? I see this nexus of students breaking free from the reoccurring pulsation of past architectural traditions to discover new trends. As discussed before in a past blog, school is the host for student invention it is the place to challenge and re-formulate architecture. School is where students can predict the future, knowing they might fail, yet it is where generative ideas begin that will survive through pulsating trends. The pulsating traditions of the past will continue forever, yet the nexus is opportunity for the creation of future architectural tends to emerge.

Pulsating nexus of architectural theory

Ideal mobile house

Existing future of mobile housing


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New Babylon a World without Reflection

In a  freed and creative society, proposed in New Babylon by Constant Nieuwenhuis, how could the world sustain this type of life style indeterminately? Constant poses a society of ludic men who are, “Freed by automation from productive work, is a least in a position to develop his creativity.” (Nieuwenhuis, 1) He sees a world full of creative nomadic men able to decide when and were they want to go and want to do. It is a  world without set standards or rules because if rules were established then the nomadic man cannot be purely creative. He states, “The liberation of man’s ludic potential is directly linked to his liberation as a social being.” (2) Yet I challenge this idea of a man unable to be fully creative as a social being, as if some how oppressed by his society. Society can only govern those who freely choose to be governed. If a person chooses to not be oppressed by those who govern then that individual is, in my mind, free and therefore is free to be creative.

Back to the issue of men freely roaming the Earth allowed to create and use whatever they want where ever they wish to. I find this type of life style intriguing, yet highly destructive to the Earth’s environment which would not be able to sustain a ludic society for infinite time. He imagines that the, “New Babylon ends nowhere (since the Earth is round); it knows no frontiers (since there are no more national economies…” (4) How did Constant not see that a society of free creative thinkers would not be able to support themselves long term as they consume the Earth’s resources? Where is the free space, untouched by man, preserved earth?

This is where I begin to see the parallels between Constant’s New Babylon and our present world, where we humans move and create and consume the resources of our Earth, without concern for the harm we inflict. The author began with describing nomadic gypsies, who are a creative group of people, who upon leaving a place never clean up the place they temporarily occupy. Is a ludic society all that more advanced if they cannot even accept and become responsible for damage to the Earth? A parallel to our vehicle express ways, “As to rapid circulation on the ground, we have to imagine a road network as independent as possible from the sector network. A multi-level layout would guarantee the autonomy of networks and thoroughfares.” (5) Our world today is moving closer to New Babylon. I see our world now as consumers who live in suburbia (left behind nomadic homes) trying to become free from automation and work through the use of technology. “Freedom depends not only on the social structure, but also on productivity; and the increase in productivity depends on technology.” (1) If we are headed towards becoming New Babylon, in some aspects, I do not see the Earth being able to sustain humanities blind consumption.

It is exciting to think of a society where a person is no longer bound to a 8-5 schedule where creativity and a nomadic life is the goal of living. Yet, people need stability as much as they need their freedom. Perpetual travel is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is great to be a nomadic but it is equally important for a person to remain in one place and reflect. Traveling around Europe for three solid months opened my eyes and allowed me to be free from working burdens, however when the end came I realized the joy of rest and time to reflect, absorb and learn from my experience.

Constant did not see education and reflection as a necessity in New Babylon. He writes, “Education can only play a negative role in the repression of all spontaneous creativity… But can one conceive of an education aiming at the development of creativity?… Homo Ludens dispenses with education.” (8) I believe there is great value in education. It gives a person time to educate others on what they have learned from their creation and reflect on what they have created. Constant spoke of freeing the worker man (Homo Faber) to become the creative man (Homo Luden), yet I see freedom from work only creating a man of consumption (Homo Perussi). Without reflection a person is a consumer instead of a creator. Humanity functions on balance. It is this blind consumption of the earth and life style without reflection that will be the downfall of New Babylon (our future?).

a world of consumers

creation with reflection

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Modernist Inpiration: Challenge the Present for the Advancement of the Future

Modernism a progressive movement towards architectural unification and civic thought. The movement inspired critical thought on the arrangement of spaces based on function and design based on how the human form interacts with architecture. Le Corbusier was a modernist who believed in the transformation urban planning could instill upon the normative conditions of society. During the 1920-60s urban planning was seen as designing the neglected space, the “beast”. Le Corbusier tackled a major question which the  architectural society still questions today: how do we today battle creating hyper meaningful building, designing for the future inevitably for the advancement of humanity? A “beast” indeed, designing a house or an entire city, the question of  how will this design impact and change the present architectural notions, is consistently challenged.

Being a student I look to how the academic world handles this “beast” question in the studio setting. For Sadler, An Avant-garde Academy, the academic world is, “The best place where architecture can talk of the things-to-come is the Schools…”(Sadler, 52) The school setting is a haven,  an area for critical questioning of architectural standards to be can be freely contested. Even in studio now I ask the question, how can my program be more than just an idea, how can in challenge and change architectural traditions? For Corbusier the “beast” the bigger purpose was tackled by posing, “I have assumed an ideal site to begin with [then] arrive at the fundamental principles of modern town planning… the rules according to which development will take place” (Le Corbusier, 345) Corbusier battled the concepts of normative architectural traditions by leveling the field, literally, and setting up standards from which architects should follow in order to deal with these design issues. He was able to resolve a major issue by rationalizing standards to follow.

Yet, recently having internship experience at a firm, I counter myself with the question must every piece of architecture have a deeper purpose? Will the public know, if so then we would live in a world of hyper meaningful buildings which becomes the normative condition? Is it practical for me to think of hyper meaningful concepts in a rational world, when in the real capitalist and economic realm these concepts are reduced to fanciful ideals for future generations to deal with.

Do we build to build, build to improve or build to revolutionize? The Situationist, “Were deeply  interested in the potential of architecture and the city to instigate radical social change…the overthrow of the rational instrumentality of design…” (Sadler, 45) They believed in radical thought, that architecture was not about always designing rationally. For the American postmodernists, “A relevant architecture now meant not the perpetual change of super-technological consumerism, nor a dissembled architecture of revolution, but a ‘homecoming,’ a ‘retrenchment,’ a new interest in meaning and legibility, a new vernacular, a true expression of ’everyday people’.”(Sadler, 48) Two views on how to approach designing for the future, one to be creative and unbound by rational architecture. While another suggests designing rationally for the “real over the ideal.” (Sadler, 41)

These architects relied on the machine of technology to propel society to change and revolutionize architectural traditions. Yet has technology propelled society closer to answering the question of designing hyper-meaningful buildings? Architects have used technology to design creatively and are slowly building  meaningful structures changing societies for the better. Example the Heifer International building in Little Rock, which had a greater goal in mind, built with an integrated design of sustainability and green building. If we can harness technology as a tool we can use it to advance humanity. I believe we build to revolutionize towards advancing humanity.

Through the use of the internet and social media our world has become hyper-connected allowing us to pool ideas and create buildings with the whole world in mind, creating hyper-meaningful buildings. Which stance will firms design for the future and how can students, who are asking these questions in school now, create a passion to challenge architectural traditions? When will we begin to challenge, why not dive into these concepts right now for the present is all we have to make towards the advancements of the future.


Heifer International Building – Green Building

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Alternative Utopia of Piranesi

What is in Piranesi’s head, what are in the depths of these infinitely etched shadows? Piranesi creations of the Le Carceri are full of mystery and substance. During the time he began to create his dark dungeons the world was enveloped in the Rococo artistic movement. A movement in which architecture was about adorning walls with florid motifs, where the bourgeoisies were in style and ideas of enlightenment were about to embark. I believe Piranesi etched these tormented utopia’s to reflect upon the societal impressions of the time, an anti-florid and anti-frivolity ideal of utopia.

Piranesi was depicting not a negative view of utopia, but exposing the veiled reality of the belief in a perfect utopia. The Enlightenment brought about ideals of a greater and more perfect world, where men moved up in society: gained power, loose their enlightenment and fall prey to ‘power’, which corrodes and dissolves one’s self in the attempt to achieve a perfect utopia.

In my minds eye utopia is the quest for perfection. The perfect utopia which society incessantly strives for would be represented by a harmonious culture in which people strive for centrality, a place of high form and function, rationally and reason. Tafuri expresses, “The absolute presence of reason by itself leads to silence.” (Tafuri, 44) Which amount to utopia becoming an allusion only capable of being sustained within the dream world. Tafuri writes, “A utopia so dangerous that it could be manifested only through allusions and structures of limited dimensions.” (33)

It is futile to reach for perfection, for at the moment one achieves perfection and becomes aware they loose their perfection. “This same exhalation of the fragmented also permits him to demonstrate, conversely, the uselessness of this breathless pursuit of exceptional structures…The clash of the organisms, immersed in a sea of formal fragments, dissolves even the remotest memory of the city as a place of form… the supremacy of pure form declares its own ineffectuality…” (35-37)  Tafuri talks of these ‘exceptional structures’ which represent ambitions to build ‘perfect’ structures for the ‘perfect’ utopia. The place of form no longer can be this idea of a perfect city, it can not support its perfection. It is an impossible task for humanity to create a perfect utopia in the real and living world.

Piranesi’s Carceri were an expression of an alternative utopia. A utopia without center, “Piranesi presents organisms that pretend to have centrality but that never achieve one.” (27). The focus of the world at the time was about finding one’s center. Yet, Piranesi presents a life without a center as the true identity of a utopia. Piranesi’s fragmented images articulate the impossibility of perfection and the truth that the perfect utopia is merely an allusion.

Alternative Utopia, resides in the existing world

Allusion Utopia, resides only in the imagination
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The Geometry of The Ideal City

The Ideal City and Utopia are well written and artistically depicted throughout time. Writings have described utopia as a place with fertile soil, fortified walls, fair trade and a peaceful quality of life. Utopia stemmed from the verses in the Bible describing Heaven and Eden. These religious ideals were consistently integrated into the perception of the ideal city in which two geometric typologies emerged: the circle and the square.

In the readings the Ideal City originated from two great cities Babylon and Jerusalem. In these cities the geometric order plays a important role in the societies structure. The circle and the square were used with the use of a grid that either followed a orthogonal or a radial pattern. The creation of the ideal city was influenced by these two geometric forms. The circle came from the divine and heavenly world where as the square was cemented as the earth.  A societies goals would be integrated into the layout of the city by the use of a circle having a connection to the divine and the square giving a foundation and order to the system.

It is interesting how the architecture of a city is influence by geometric forms. When creating the ideal-city it seems to lend its self toward an organizational system like the circle or rectangle grid. Looking at Paris, for instance, when certain areas were redesigned the radial grid pattern was widely used to organize the city. For the Israelites the Tabernacle was laid out in a rectangular grid which has influenced future city planning. Thompsen states, “The layout and measurements of the camp and particularly the Tabernacle have exercised a profound and enduring influence over ideal urban design.” (Thompsen, 25). The Tabernacle represented a transitional place that was built upon the Earth yet held the divine presence of God. It was an endeavor to unite the Earthly and Heavenly realms therefore creating a Utopia.

So for the utopias of the future, will they follow the traditions of the past to be organized within the geometry of the circle or rectangle or follow a different pattern? It seems like there is something within the human mind that gravitates toward the idea of a circle representing purity and wholeness and a rectangle representing logic and order. I believe these two forms will continue to influence the Ideal City planning of the future, but be reconfigured. These geometric designs were meant to advance a society towards political and spiritual goals. Thomsen writes, “Certain early examples of cities created, or imagined to be so, by humankind were to influence future ideal-city planning from a complex intertwining of formal and social viewpoints. Throughout the history of utopian design, geometrical patterns appear and reappear and the legacy of the two basic forms – the circle and the square.” (26).

Are these geometric forms pertinent to the architectural layout of future ideal cities if our future goals no longer align with political and spiritual goals? For example, being from Alaska one of our states long lasting debates is the issue of the relocation of our state capitol, Juneau. Established in 1900, it is located in the South East panhandle, has no vehicle access and is perched along a fiord. There always has been an issue over land and access. Some people wanted the capitol moved to allow for easier vehicular access, so a planning committee was instigated.

My boss, CB, I worked for this spring was on the committee and described how the committee ended up choosing 10 sites around Alaska to build the new capitol. CB told me how some of their guiding parameters for these sites were for the site to have road access and a piece of land that measured 10 miles by 10 miles. The ideal capitol site was chosen by the geometry of a square, 10 miles by 10 miles! I asked why the 10×10, and he said it lent best towards efficient layout for a grid system and movement of vehicle traffic. In the end there was not sufficient funding to relocate the capitol, so it still resides in Juneau. What is interesting is that having the capitol located in a compressed area made pedestrian access better. Juneau works well now because all the buildings are stacked along the mountain sides and the departments have easy pedestrian access via walkways and elevators rather than vehicular access. It works better to guide a design than force a design form upon a society. In the future I see the ideal-city geometric form switch from the traditional square and circle horizontal pattern to a vertical pattern as the area of build able land diminishes.

compressed city planning

vertical city planning

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