aml

random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

lalibela solid void

…courtesy of mark “indiana jones” jarzombek. these churches are cut. into. the f’ing rock. i mean they are all one solid piece of rockness. and that is just the beginning, there is a crazy water tables story involved. the whole thing is insane. you can read about it here.

ps. people that would have enjoyed this way too much [other than me]: colin rowe, rudolf arnheim. which is odd, if you think of this [sorry—jstor link, login required—link goes to mmj’s article on wolfflin in assemblage 23].

also, reminds me of giambattista nolli. speaking of which, check out the interactive nolli map of rome from the university of oregon.

Filed under: ., jarzombek, maps, rocks, ruins,

trees growing on architecture. a reminder that we don’t need to plant them on top of buildings, they sometimes make their way there anyway. they look like they’re slowly climbing up to the top, no? for more info on el mirador, you can start here.

ps. this is also pretty cool. makes you want to go be indiana jones.

pps. a more official site here.

Filed under: ., ruins,

laberintos y retículas

estos ultimos meses he estado pensando en la relación entre la arquitectura y la escritura, inicialmente por un curso que decidi no tomar, porque no abordaba el tema de la manera que me interesa. hace pocos dias, lo volvi a pensar con la confluencia de este excelente post de enrique que usa la estructura de una parábola a la vez como forma y contenido del ensayo, y una referencia en mi inbox a borges, que me hizo pensar en como sus mejores laberintos son por supuesto no los que usan el laberinto como tema, sino como estructura o forma. y siguiendo la dicotomía de nietzsche, tafuri, y levi-strauss, me puse a pensar en laberintos y retículas [apolonio y dionisio, laberinto y esfera, bricoleur e ingeniero].

y es que muchas veces cuando disenamos algo (un edificio o un ensayo) seguimos la ruta de un laberinto. creemos comenzar por el principio y de pronto nos damos cuenta que estamos perdidos en alguna parte por la mitad… y comenzamos a caminar, para adelante y para atrás, y nos encontramos con corredores sin salida, y con otros que desembocan en sitios inesperados, muchas veces encontrados antes, y otras veces en lugares desconocidos que a la vez queremos explorar pero tememos nos resulten universos enteramente diferentes en donde podemos perdernos sin poder regresar al punto de origen. a veces los dejamos para otros proyectos. pensamos: este será otro ensayo.

creo que por eso los arquitectos, o para ser mas precisa, algunos arquitectos, nos obsesionamos con los libros, y con ciertos escritores laberínticos como borges, benjamin, kundera, murakami, caillois. bueno, listo los míos. obviamente en la estructura del laberinto hay algo de surrealismo, pero no quisiera entrar en ese tema (ese universo), porque lo que me interesa es la parte espacial de la escritura, y la parte narrativa de la arquitectura. tal vez por eso tambien me gustan mucho las peliculas que juegan con la estructura del tiempo (cuando daba clases, torturaba a mis alumnos pidiendoles que hagan un proyecto con la estructura espacial de run lola run, memento, lucia y el sexo, cidade de deus, y otras. por supuesto era una tortura divertida).

este pensamiento laberíntico también se ve en la obsesión de muchos arquitectos por la ciudad, que es después de todo nuestro laberinto diario, si lo dejamos serlo, y para un arquitecto una manera de ver como se puede perder el control, cuando el proyecto deja ver sus limitaciones y otras intervenciones cambian el contexto. luego vienen los que quieren dominarlo todo, como le corbusier o hilberseimer, y acabar con el laberinto para crear la ciudad como módulo repetitivo. aunque despues de todo en la repetición implacable esta el laberinto más confuso de todos.

porque otras veces la actividad de producir es más parecida a una retícula, pero la retícula no es necesariamente la repeticion de lo mismo. si nos enfocamos en los espacios de la retícula, como la manzana de una ciudad, entonces podemos pensar que en cada espacio de repetición infinita existe la posibilidad de algo totalmente diferente. ahi está también la biblioteca de babel de borges, que es una retícula infinita que alberga diferencias. o la rayuela de cortázar, en donde el libro se convierte en un laberinto de células o capítulos que se pueden leer en el orden que uno quiera. de igual manera pensaba koolhaas en su rascacielos en manhattan, en donde un ordenamiento bastante prosaico es activado por el ascensor, y cada piso se convierte en un universo diferente que puede ser ordenado de cualquier manera dependiendo de cómo decidimos el orden de nuestras paradas. entre koolhaas y cortázar la metáfora entre escritura y arquitectura regresa al comienzo.

entonces en el modelo cortázar/koolhaas la variabilidad viene del contenido de cada célula y de la intervención del visitante en decidir el orden de las paradas del ascensor, o la lectura de los capítulos. en el modelo del laberinto, en cambio, nos toca decidir por qué camino seguimos y si vale la pena dar la vuelta o investigar otro rumbo. quizás podríamos decir que el laberinto se enfoca en el camino, y la retícula depende del contenido de las células. en el diagrama lineal de nuestra estructura, en el laberinto pensamos más el trazo de nuestra pluma, mientras que en la retícula lo importante es lo que queda entre líneas…pero es peligroso pensar así, porque andamos muy cerca del collage de colin rowe, y tal vez el peligro de pensar en laberintos y retículas está en reducir todo a la dicotomía que es tan traicionera. después de todo, hay laberintos que son retículas y retículas que son laberintos, hay líneas que se convierten en espacios y espacios que se colapsan en líneas. lo más divertido de crear una dicotomía está justamente en destruírla.

Filed under: ., borges, cities, labyrinths,

mapping caracol & new york city

using laser to map ancient civilization, in a matter of dayswith flyovers, a solar map of new york

both articles from the nytimes have been up for a few days, but its nice to look at them side by side. also mapping nyc, van alen fellows han and mihalyo.

also, as long as we’re on the map subject, eric fischer’s maps out of geotagged pics are pretty awesome [via ja]

ps. some cool images from national geographic

Filed under: ., cities, maps, ruins,

want to look ahead? look around instead.

while writing a post challenging current critique to take on a more global outlook, i ran into this post by kazys varnelis—now my original post has collapsed into my response for him. in his post, kazys starts by outlining two ‘types’ of consumers. the first one is the citizen of the global city, collapsed here with the creative class, who lives an apparently ‘green life’ (read: local consumption, pedestrian oriented) in new york, chicago, and other us cities, and then jets off to various parts of the world, often owning pied-à-terres on multiple continents. the second one is the suburbanite, often despised by the green hype movement but actually consuming much less in his daily commute since kazys assumes he suburbanite does not fly around as much.

let me stop here and just point out a few problems i have with these two ‘types.’ first, the prototype of the global citizen is not global: he (or she, although there is something very masculine here) is part of a very reduced, ‘local’ group that belongs to a few cities that all happen to be based in the united states. this problematic character is then eminently local. he jets away to different cities around the globe, but only finds the same: if anything, wealth has a tendency to equalize both consumption and environment.  however, he is actually in a very small group. let’s zoom out a bit. none of these cities (except shanghai, which seems hastily added as a destination in this argument) are among the biggest cities in the world. let’s review the top ten according to wikipedia: shanghai, mumbai, karachi, delhi, istanbul, sao paulo, moscow, seoul, beijing, and mexico city. so  kazys’s global citizen actually lives in medium- sized to small cities. but, you might say, they are a big influence in the global discourse. perhaps, but which discourse? the discourse that overwhelmingly seems to talk only to itself? and more importantly, how many people in these cities (big and small) actually live this jet-setting life? we would need a study to really know if there are any differences between the flying patterns of the city dweller and the suburbanite. isn’t the businessman after all the ultimate frequent flier, and isn’t he usually a suburban type?

the fact that a frequent flier that lives in the city is worse for the environment than the suburbanite is predicated on a dubious equation where the city dweller flies and the suburbanite doesn’t. this means nothing to the relative sustainability or lack thereof of city and suburb. the logical consequence is that, if both types were to fly the equal amount of miles (which for all we know, they might), the city dweller would still be more sustainable. answer: stop flying so much!

Suburbio - GYE, EC

the second part of kazys’s argument focuses on the volcano in iceland (i won’t attempt to type it). ah, the woes of interrupted flying in europe. first of all, coming from an andean country, volcanoes erupt all the time. the interruption of flying patterns is actually a minor problem. they cause great suffering, and while the losses might not be the same in terms of dollars, they amount to a higher percentage of the set of possessions people had. furthermore, you might loose the same amount of money on hotel and time than the total amount of losses by a farmer in the andes, but she just lost everything she owned. and the population affected can be much higher. let’s keep a bit of perspective here. so i hope by now you have surmised where i’m going  (and no, this is not an ethical, “third world,” post-colonialist argument, in case you are getting confused). rather, i’m arguing a truly global outlook.

the oil spill in the gulf scared a lot of people in the us. well, this is old news in the global picture. frequently, oil spills in the amazon jungle affect the last ecological reserve in the world. and oil spills in nigeria happen regularly. it is hard not to be cynical about laments on the gulf, when oil companies eager to accommodate the needs of the suburban lifestyle have caused so much pain and suffering in the rest of the globe. i understand kazys is not arguing for suburbia, but it is important to remember the consequences of this lifestyle. the recession has people talking of downward mobility and the new poor. again, old news. the rest of the world has been living in a recession for years. all these problems have already happened in the rest of the world. which brings us to my point: just as some of these problems are old news in the rest of the world, some of the solutions have already happened there also.

when new high-tech and high-priced gizmos like the kindle and its much hipper cousin the ipad came out, the blogosphere was very excited. nevermind that hacker websites from russia to south america have been scanning and posting pdfs for the consumption of the rest of the world that does not have a library around the corner nor easy access to jstor et al. the ipad is not the revolution, digital text is. it is less important how you read it, than the possibility of being able to read it at all! ingenuity finds uses for technology other than those originally intended, and this often happens because of need. think of cell phones used as micro loan mechanisms in india. think of the development of the bus rapid transit system in curitiba, transforming the bus into a dedicated line system resulting in an affordable mass transportation system that has been replicated in several cities in south america. christopher hawtorne thinks we should look at medellin… he is, of course, a bit late, but hey, we’ll take it.

in the end, i actually sort of agree with kazys’s conclusion, but my point is that it is not so much a prediction, as already a reality elsewhere, and that a more comprehensive argument should include this reality. want predictions for the future? want to look ahead? look around instead. the future of the ‘developed’ world is already happening in the rest of the world. it’s not all slums (although there are important lessons to be learned there, too). it’s not just a matter of ethics. it’s a matter of broadening our scope. so let’s fly sparingly. but the next time you fly, perhaps veer off your usual destinations (the same applies with your internet browsing!). it’s a big world out there, to be truly global you have to be aware of the full picture.

ps. ecuador: tungurahua volcano erupted and forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people. 28 may 2010

pps. nigeria’s agony dwarfs the gulf oil spill. the us and europe ignore it. 30 may 2010

Filed under: ., cities, rant,

penguins & bikes

i always wanted to slide down that penguin’s ramp. now i only need to get to shanghai.

ps. bjarke ingels bikes it, via bezoar via Orhan

Filed under: ., big, bikes, penguins,

inca stones

inca stonework around cusco and ollantaytambo. engineers and bricoleurs.

Filed under: ., incas, ruins,

we have always been modern

mmjmodernity equals rupture. we have always been modern.

bl: we have never been modern.

pe: we have never been modern, but now i’ll be modern. or rather, post-functionalist (c.1976).

rk: actually, you are being poststructuralist. or if you like, postmodern.

cg: but modernity is medium specificity!

ta: yes. and the only way to resist reification is to resist those culinary delights. only where the appearance of enjoyment is lacking is the faith in its possibility maintained.

mt: everybody is either reified or at a previous stage of nerve intensification. hence the dialectic of the avant-garde is between the sphere and the labyrinth, and both are stuck in the irrelevancy of the boudoir.

fn: manfredo. i believe you are ripping off my apollonian/dionysian impulses from the birth of tragedy.

mt: what if i am? we should forget about the avant-garde and think about the means of production anyway. and since we can’t, i’m going to go read some renaissance. buh-bye.

kmh: actually, we should think about the avant-garde as the critical, as a way of resistance [not form + not culture]

sw: but there is no reason for the critical to be negative. we should be projective. and the projective can be critical too.

mmj: discontinuous rupture happens throughout history. we have always been modern.

gwh: kids, could you keep it down? trying to sleep here.

Filed under: ., adorno, eisenman, greenberg, hays, imaginary conversations, jarzombek, krauss, latour, nietzsche, tafuri, whiting,

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