Archive for April, 2006


Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Friday. A long day of CAD drafting ahead of me. My spirits are lifted briefly by the latest article by Hugh Pearman about James Turrell’s installation, Skyspace. I get to the links at the bottom and realise that it’s at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Hooray for the interweb! I know someone nearby…

From: Rob
To: Neil
Date: 28-Apr-2006 09:54
Subject: in the name of art

Dear Neil,

Need a big favour. Please could you fix it for me to see some photos of this:

I know you’ve got the skills to nail it.

All the best,


A couple of e-mail exchanges later…

From: Neil
To: Rob
Date: 30-Apr-2006 14:44
Subject: Re: in the name of art


Mission accomplished! Here’s all the pics I took today, smallenised down for easy emailage: let me know if you want particular ones biggerified.

I picked a busy time, Sunday afternoon, so that The Art Guards would have more people to bother with, and I was all hoodied-up for some sneaky phonecam action. Rather disappointed, then, that there isn’t a member of staff /in there/, just one on the door. And I knew him. People were taking photos in there with normal cameras quite openly – in flagrant disregard of the rules – so I joined in.

Don’t get me started on the two incredibly loud women…


Then there was a lull in the traffic and it was just me in there for a while, so I got some architecturally bits and pieces that I thought you might be interested in: since the roof is open to the sky it seems to be designed a little bit like a wetroom, with channels in the concrete sides and a sort of drainage ditch running around the
edge of the floor.

escape bench drainage corner shaft

It’s very calm in there, provided there aren’t any talking people (quite an echo). It’s a perfect square in plan, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if the height of the room was the same, too. The sky-window seems to have almost no lip to it – it’s a frame, not a shaft. Quite cloudy but bright today, so the sky was a big glow of white rather than blue. The walls and the ceiling around the frame are white, the sides/benches are that sort of smooth concrete stuff they seem to like using in modern builds these days and the floor is a rougher concrete-eqsue stuff. The sides and particularly the door frame with its slab of lintel lend the place a tomblike feel. The sides are sloped back at just the right angle to gaze upwards.

Apparently they’re going to open it at night sometime, which will be /so/ cool.

I’ll probably sneak back in during the week when there are less tourists about, and get some realcam pictures.



Like I said, hooray for the interweb. And hooray for folks like Neil. I was a little skeptical when I first started reading the Hugh Pearman piece, much less so by the time I finished it. Now I’m entirely sold on the idea. It looks like an absolute delight for eyes and fingers. Anyone for a trip to the YSP?

today’s links

Friday, April 28th, 2006

(taken from my linklog, broadcast using deloxom)

best block

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Polis and Curbed have hooked up to propose a contest to name the most Jane Jacobsian block in New York City:

The idea is to celebrate the “street ballet” of your favorite block, not just because you like it, but because it exhibits the characteristics that Jane Jacobs enumerated as essential ingredients to a quality urban life.

RIP Jane Jacobs

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Toronto’s Mayor, David Miller:

Jane was a champion of diversity, a diversity of buildings, residence, businesses and other nonresidential uses and different people of different ages in an area at different times of every day. She gave us eyes on the street.

Her philosophy was a neighbourhood’s safe, active, vibrant and economically successful when there are people there all day doing different things, from all backgrounds in life, and from all cultures.

Jane was way ahead of her time. She saw cities, as in her words, “organic, spontaneous and untidy,” and viewed the mingling of city uses and users as crucial to economic and urban development, and by understanding and dissecting how cities and their economies emerge and grow, she cast new light on the nature of local economies and communities.



Related entry: Here and There.

today’s links

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006
  • People Like Us

    ‘…animating and recontextualising found footage collages with an equally witty and dark view of popular culture with a surrealistic edge…’ – check Molaradio in the downloads section (via WFMU)

(taken from my linklog, broadcast using deloxom)

open sauce

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

Just landed via e-mail; Usman Haque in issue no.7 of Archfarm on applying the open source software model to architecture:

There are several key features to an open source architecture:

  1. Designer–participants: where those who participate are also those who design the system.
  2. A control system that one allows oneself to be part of in order to expand that structure: an example can be found in computer games that provide modules for end-users to code and create their own, sometimes startlingly different, versions of the game.
  3. Choreographies for openness: group instructions that are interpreted and modified as necessary by participants, individually or collectively. To begin, established boundaries are required in order to foster creativity; this does not mean that they cannot be breached. They are placed as reference points, not to pre-define limits.
  4. Re-appropriation: where existing spaces, objects or actions are both fuel and catalysts for further creativity
  5. Capacity for sharing design problems: each person has different skills and often a problem requires a solution that can only be provided by another. A web-based example,, shows how it is not important for everyone to have the technical capabilities in order to have an open source model of production.

Alternatively, cynically, in far fewer words:

  1. Ask the client what they want.
  2. Agree the brief.
  3. Acknowledge the budget.
  4. Get it to work with the site.
  5. Ask a builder to help construct it.

Job done. Does it seem more familiar now?

filling the void

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

Extensive quotes in this baby. Some new, some old; go put the kettle on first. Emphasis in bold by me…

Geert Lovink on Blogging and Nihilism:

Instead of merely looking into the emancipatory potential of blogs, or emphasize its counter-cultural folklore, I see blogs as part of a unfolding process of ‘massification’ of this, still, new medium. What the Internet after 2000 lost is the “illusion of change”. The created void made way for large-scale, interlinked conversations through automated software, named weblogs, or blogs.

Kazys Varnelis (who provided the link to the above) on Geert Lovink:

I’d like to suggest that this isn’t merely a conflation of unlike terms but rather that there is a steady evolution here. There is a desire in each of the subsequent movements to affirm the individual (through subject position, through productive agency, and through an active DIY voice), but instead each one actually does a more thorough job of wiping out individual subjectivity than the previous iteration (please slot the blob under Deleuzeanism… a million 20-40 year old students, all being original, all making nearly identical shapes).

But, like Geert, what I am observing is not only the massification of the Internet but a more generalized cultural move toward nothingness that expresses itself through the medium of the blog. Through the blog, we attain a complete and fatal condition, making our comments into the void, thereby affirming our existence while we also emphatically assert our distance from any situation we might act in.

Me in December 2000 (opening paragraph quoting Jencks):

“It would be interesting enough if adaptive complex systems inescapably were located at the edge of chaos, the place of maximum capacity for information computation. The world could then be seen to be exploiting the creative dynamics of complex systems, but with no choice in the matter. But what if such systems actually got themselves to the edge of chaos, moved in parameter space to the place of maximum information processing? That would be really interesting: the ghost in the machine would seem to be almost purposeful, piloting the system to maximum creativity.”

Jencks introduces this discussion to architecture. Firstly describing the importance that science has within our changing understanding of modern culture and secondly by drawing comparisons between nonlinear theory and the process of making architecture, demonstrating which practices are already developing new theories for ‘maximum creativity’. Outlining the manifesto for what he calls ‘cosmogenic’ architecture, Jencks attempts to predict the new movement of complex, emergent design. Simultaneously an assault on the reductivist modernist movement, the exposure of early post-modernism as an applied typology and an escape from the fragmentation of post-structuralist theory, ‘The Architecture of the Jumping Universe‘ is a key text in our investigation.

Following the post-structuralist flattening of hierarchies, the erasure of the architects ability to prioritise his subjective will creates a vacuum. The defining of the undecideable/in-between space allows theorists to reflect upon the moment that represents the act of making architecture, and the rigorous examination of process rushes in to fill the vacuum. Alongside this, the growing culture of scientific uncertainty (quantum science) creates new questions regarding Western society’s ideas about the Universe’s dynamics. If the processes of nature demonstrate a self-organizing ability to find the most powerful creative/evolutionary moment, why shouldn’t architectural creativity demonstrate the same? Complexity science exposes the source of that creativity and finds that it too exists as an undecideable.

The created void, the cultural move toward nothingness and the erasure of the architect creating a vacuum – all an expression of the same thing.

The quote taken from my own post-graduate work six years ago (I’ve added some emphasis for this outing) is part of a dissertation that tried to propose the computer was filling this vacuum or void. One of my mistakes (sadly there were many, don’t expect me to link to the rest of it) was that I didn’t sufficiently drill down far enough, beyond the beige box. I didn’t look at the medium that Varnelis highlights.

There was a feeble attempt in the conclusion:

Let us return for the moment to the theory of the Universal Turing Machine. The concept is that the Universal Machine itself has no predefined purpose. For the machine to function it must be able to deform to the requirements of each new task it is given (the radical nature of Turing’s vision is clearer when you remember it was originally perceived as something mechanical) as well as provide the result. Each problem the Universal Machine is set must also contain the instructions for how to solve it. Now, it is of course easy to see how this is precisely the way in which a modern computer performs, with it’s dumb hardware supplied a purpose by the software; but it also reminds us that this Universal Machine is the perfect embodiment of objectivity. To use Eisenman’s terminology, until the task in hand is commenced, it has no ‘interiority’1. It is formless.

It is widely accepted that the benefits of using a computer are found among such things as its ability to perform complex tasks quickly, sort and store large amounts of data and, in an abstract fashion, shrink or expand linear restrictions of time and space. However, what I would like to focus on here is what the computer represents in the design process, rather than what it actually does.

What it represents is the answer to the question of how to ‘open up process’ 1. The continued search for objectivity or releasing of authorial control is over, since it is resolved by the presence of the Universal Machine. Since we are incapable of achieving true objectivity, we have introduced a stand-in that can.

Now we can begin to see the importance of Van Berkel’s statement, ‘But it has to sound right’2. Providing the source of objectivity is not the end to our quest; somebody must feed the Universal Machine. The one factor that all the architects we examined have in common, regardless of which side of the discourse they reside, is that they must all deal with their relationship to their machine. The most difficult task becomes how to move the process into and out of the machine, performing the eversion from the virtual to the real. We must find new ways to interact with the results of our emergent processes and position ourselves within our work.

Am I ‘dealing with my relationship to my machine’ via my blog? ‘Moving the process into and out of the machine’ feels like filtering through the move from txt to html to rss to tags. Perhaps if my tutor were here now I could excuse the dead end of my dissertation4 by the fact that I didn’t know what a blog was in the year 2000.

Related entries: Contextual Slippage and the Info Pimp Force Diagram and I would have missed a few things if he hadn’t pointed with his trunk occasionally and Parc de la Villette.

1. I’ll come back to this in an upcoming entry about Thom Mayne
2. Winy Maas, RIBA conference, Oct 31 2000 responding to a question from the audience about authorial control
3. ‘Move’ by UN Studio
4. Note to students: never write an academic paper on the assumption that a conclusion will appear through the very act of writing it. It won’t. Ask a scientist to tell you what a hypothesis is and why they’re important.

get messy

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

More on the value of the hand crafted by Luke Chandresinghe – take a look at his breathtaking Bartlett thesis project.

I think the computer is one reason why many drawings today are so lifeless and empty. There is no soul. It would be nice to see the blood, the sweat, the tears on the page, but you just don’t see that very much anymore. It’s an important process, to get messy, try, and test things on the page. I see an empty sheet of paper as an empty construction site – a test site for architectural constructions.

Found via the always interesting Anne Galloway linklog.

today’s links

Friday, April 21st, 2006
  • Lomo pinhole

    Pinhole cameras and info – beautiful cardboard and a paper fold-it-yourself camera available

(taken from my linklog, broadcast using deloxom)

meat pei

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

You may already know, from things I’ve said in the past, that as a rule, I tend to get excited by process. The cause rather than effect. So, as a rule, I’m not a big fan of rules of form that prejudice the final effect before you’ve fully understood the cause.

Rules can be broken. Standing on one of the upper levels of the foyer under the Pyramide at the Louvre with sketchbook in hand, I realised that I was looking at a pattern book. A pattern book of formal effects that you could point at and say, I’ll have a bit of this, a touch of that and smattering of the other.

So here it is, the I.M. (Meat) Pie Pei. It’s got the lot.


If I were Rod McLaren I’d tell you that you could visit this location by standing at the base of Nelson’s Column.

See it in full colour in the Paris photo set.

Watch for it when The Da Vinci Code movie is released in a few weeks.

Related entries: The Dark Arts.