Evil

AUDC is again teaching a studio at Columbia this fall. This time our topic is evil.

Evil

Advanced Studio V
Fall 2009
Kazys Varnelis

Robert Sumrell
AUDC
Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

Arguably the entirety of architectural production in the last forty years has been dominated by the problem of complexity. Whether architecture that wears the difficulty of complex programs and requirements of contemporary society on its sleeve, that tries to reduce such complexity by providing a neutral background, or that aims toward resolution through a complex but smooth multiplicity (be it a folded or bloblike), complexity is the main problematic facing architecture since high modernism.

This should come as no surprise. As a political project, modernism ran aground on complexity, its processes of abstraction unable to adequately describe the multifarious conditions of modern culture. Our society may well follow it. As archaeologist Joseph Tainter describes, complexity is a toxic by-product of advanced societies, slowly choking them as it demands such societies invest ever-higher levels of energy to maintain their structures. Our daily experiences with bureaucracy, jammed infrastructure, and failing technology serve as clear evidence of this.

Tainter offers two solutions to the problem of complexity. The first is collapse. Once societies can no longer provide sufficient returns, individuals make the choice to leave the complex society, to “walk away” from it all. As the society sheds layers of complexity, it reverts to a more primitive order. To a minor degree, last year’s stock market crash was an example of that, as society strove for a “reset” against the surreal complexity of financial instruments such as derivatives and credit default swaps. More dramatically, the collapse of the Soviet Union demonstrates a condition where individuals left an intolerable condition en masse. Or in the case of the fall of the Roman Empire, for many of the individuals involved, the collapse seemed to be progress. The second solution is more optimistic and is the one that the majority, but not all, of the members of this school would support: technological innovation. Technologies that allow for greater efficiency or new sources of energy allow complexity to endure, even when it would have produced collapse under an older condition.

But collapse is hardly a model for a studio and endless promises of technological innovation lead to boredom. A third option, perhaps more potent option presents itself: evil.

If one simply does not care about playing by the rules of the game, but only about seizing power to further one’s own ends, it becomes possible to shed layers of complexity and thereby continue society.
The human cost, of course, is quite high, as Mussolini’s quest to get the trains to run on time in Italy demonstrates. Still, with the recent economic success of authoritarian regimes—and the open advocacy of such regimes as clients by notable architects such as OMA—evil is on the table again as an option for architects to pursue.

Nor is this new to architecture. The history of architecture is marked by numerous works for evil patrons, for example, the Tempio Malatesta, the Casa del Fascio, the Palace of the Soviets, the Zeppelin field at Nuremberg, the Glass House, Neverland, Ryungong, CCTV. 

This studio is conceptual, aimed at developing arguments and polemics, but it sets out to do so using the tools of the architect. Dispensing with the prospect of realizing buildings as constructions of matter, we instead maintain that buildings can be constructions of thought, conceptual machines that produce arguments and state positions.

Although we expressly abandon any interest in construction, we nevertheless aim at designing buildings, or rather conceptual structures that look and perform very much like buildings. Our methodological inspiration is the radical architecture of the 1960s—e.g. Superstudio and Archizoom—but today we live in a world that has transformed more thoroughly than these architects could have ever predicted. Thus, we set out to seek other strategies and to look within architecture to seek what intelligence it still has to offer. To this end, this studio examines how architects can respond to evil. Irony, sarcasm, and direct complicity are too simple and are not options.          

Against the dominant forms of architectural education today, this is not a scripting studio, nor a place for unbuildable Hollywood fantasy, nor by any means is it a last refuge of the real or its friend, tired from too many hours surfing the Internet, the hand. Against these outmoded positions, we propose architecture based on rigorous design, architecture as a system of thought that makes abstract knowledge experiential and conceptual thought objective, rigorous and understandable. In setting out to design buildings not diagrams, our goal is to see what the world is telling us, not what we are telling the world.

Bibliography

Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations 1956-76. New York, NY: Prestel Pub., 2005.
Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Meridian. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998.
———. The Man without Content. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999.
———. State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem; a Report on the Banality of Evil. New York,: Viking Press, 1963.
Arquilla, John, David F. Ronfeldt, and United States. Dept. of Defense. Office of the Secretary of Defense. Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy. Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2001.
Badiou, Alain. "Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art [Excerpt]."  http://www.lacan.com/frameXXIII7.htm
———. "Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art." Lacanian Ink no. 23 (2004): 100-19.
Bataille, Georges. Literature and Evil. New York ; London: M. Boyars, 1985.
Baudrillard, Jean. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. London New York: Verso, 1993.
———. The Illusion of the End. Stanford: Stanford Univ Press, 1994.
———. The System of Objects. New York: Verso, 1996.
———. Screened Out. London ; New York: Verso, 2002.
———. The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact. English ed. Oxford ; New York: Berg, 2005.
Baudrillard, Jean, Paul Foss, and Julian Pefanis. The Revenge of the Crystal: Selected Writings on the Modern Object and Its Destiny, 1968-1983. London ; Concord, Mass.: Pluto Press in association with the Power Institute of Fine Arts, University of Sydney, 1990.
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Empty Fortress; Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self. New York,: Free Press, 1967.
———. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Knopf, 1976.
Bloom, Howard K. The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History. 1st ed. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984; originally published in French as La Distinction: Critique sociale du jugement. (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979).
Branzi, Andrea. The Hot House: Italian New Wave Design. 1st MIT Press ed. [Cambridge, Mass.]: MIT Press, 1984.
———. No-Stop City: Archizoom Associati, Librairie De L’architecture Et De La Ville. Orléans: HYX, 2006.
Branzi, Andrea, and Germano Celant. Andrea Branzi: The Complete Works. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.
Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Edited by Wlad Gozich and Jochen Schulte-Sasse, Theory and History of Literature, Volume 4. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984, originally published as the second edition of Theorie der Avantgarde, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1974, 1980.
Caillois, Roger, Claudine Frank, Camille Naish, and ebrary Inc. "The Edge of Surrealism a Roger Caillois Reader." Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
Castells, Manuel. The Rise of the Network Society. 2nd ed. Oxford ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.
Clark, T. J. Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.
Eisenman, Peter, Giuseppe Terragni, and Manfredo Tafuri. Giuseppe Terragni: Transformations, Decompositions, Critiques. New York: Monacelli Press, 2003.
Foster, Hal. The Return of the Real. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. 2nd Vintage ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo; Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics. [Rev. ed. New York,: Norton, 1952.
Freud, Sigmund, and James Strachey. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. New York,: Liveright, 1970.
Galloway, Alexander R. Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004.
Galloway, Alexander R., and Eugene Thacker. The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, Electronic Mediations V. 21. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
Greene, Robert. The Art of Seduction. New York, N.Y.: Viking, 2001.
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.
Harris, Daniel. Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism. 1st ed. New York: Basic Books, 2000.
Jarzombek, Mark. On Leon Baptista Alberti: His Literary and Aesthetic Theories. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989.
Koolhaas, Rem, Bruce Mau, Jennifer Sigler, Hans Werlemann, and Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large: Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rem Koolhaas, and Bruce Mau. New York, N.Y.: Monacelli Press, 1995.
Liu, Alan. The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Mannoni, Octave. "I Know Well but All the Same." In Perversion and the Social Relation, edited by Molly Anne Rothenberg, Dennis A. Foster and Slavoj Zizek. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
Milgram, Stanley. "The Perils of Obedience." Harper’s Magazine, December 1973, 62-77.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Marion Faber. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. New ed, Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Douglas Smith. On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic: By Way of Clarification and Supplement to My Last Book, Beyond Good and Evil, Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford ;: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Rorty, Amélie. The Many Faces of Evil: Historical Perspectives. London ; New York: Routledge, 2001.
Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Sloterdijk, Peter. Critique of Cynical Reason, Theory and History of Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
Sumrell, Robert, and Kazys Varnelis. Blue Monday: Stories of Absurd Realities and Natural Philosophies. Barcelona: Actar, 2007.
Varnelis, Kazys. The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles. Barcelona: Actar, 2008.
Weizman, Eyal. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. London ; New York: Verso, 2007.
Winnicott, D. W. Playing and Reality. New York,: Basic Books, 1971.
Zimbardo, Philip G. The Cognitive Control of Motivation; the Consequences of Choice and Dissonance. [Glenview, Ill.]: Scott, 1969.
———. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York: Random House, 2008.
 

AUDC is again teaching a studio at Columbia this fall. This time our topic is evil.

Evil

Advanced Studio V
Fall 2009
Kazys Varnelis

Robert Sumrell
AUDC
Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

Arguably the entirety of architectural production in the last forty years has been dominated by the problem of complexity. Whether architecture that wears the difficulty of complex programs and requirements of contemporary society on its sleeve, that tries to reduce such complexity by providing a neutral background, or that aims toward resolution through a complex but smooth multiplicity (be it a folded or bloblike), complexity is the main problematic facing architecture since high modernism.

This should come as no surprise. As a political project, modernism ran aground on complexity, its processes of abstraction unable to adequately describe the multifarious conditions of modern culture. Our society may well follow it. As archaeologist Joseph Tainter describes, complexity is a toxic by-product of advanced societies, slowly choking them as it demands such societies invest ever-higher levels of energy to maintain their structures. Our daily experiences with bureaucracy, jammed infrastructure, and failing technology serve as clear evidence of this.

Tainter offers two solutions to the problem of complexity. The first is collapse. Once societies can no longer provide sufficient returns, individuals make the choice to leave the complex society, to “walk away” from it all. As the society sheds layers of complexity, it reverts to a more primitive order. To a minor degree, last year’s stock market crash was an example of that, as society strove for a “reset” against the surreal complexity of financial instruments such as derivatives and credit default swaps. More dramatically, the collapse of the Soviet Union demonstrates a condition where individuals left an intolerable condition en masse. Or in the case of the fall of the Roman Empire, for many of the individuals involved, the collapse seemed to be progress. The second solution is more optimistic and is the one that the majority, but not all, of the members of this school would support: technological innovation. Technologies that allow for greater efficiency or new sources of energy allow complexity to endure, even when it would have produced collapse under an older condition.

But collapse is hardly a model for a studio and endless promises of technological innovation lead to boredom. A third option, perhaps more potent option presents itself: evil.

If one simply does not care about playing by the rules of the game, but only about seizing power to further one’s own ends, it becomes possible to shed layers of complexity and thereby continue society.
The human cost, of course, is quite high, as Mussolini’s quest to get the trains to run on time in Italy demonstrates. Still, with the recent economic success of authoritarian regimes—and the open advocacy of such regimes as clients by notable architects such as OMA—evil is on the table again as an option for architects to pursue.

Nor is this new to architecture. The history of architecture is marked by numerous works for evil patrons, for example, the Tempio Malatesta, the Casa del Fascio, the Palace of the Soviets, the Zeppelin field at Nuremberg, the Glass House, Neverland, Ryungong, CCTV. 

This studio is conceptual, aimed at developing arguments and polemics, but it sets out to do so using the tools of the architect. Dispensing with the prospect of realizing buildings as constructions of matter, we instead maintain that buildings can be constructions of thought, conceptual machines that produce arguments and state positions.

Although we expressly abandon any interest in construction, we nevertheless aim at designing buildings, or rather conceptual structures that look and perform very much like buildings. Our methodological inspiration is the radical architecture of the 1960s—e.g. Superstudio and Archizoom—but today we live in a world that has transformed more thoroughly than these architects could have ever predicted. Thus, we set out to seek other strategies and to look within architecture to seek what intelligence it still has to offer. To this end, this studio examines how architects can respond to evil. Irony, sarcasm, and direct complicity are too simple and are not options.          

Against the dominant forms of architectural education today, this is not a scripting studio, nor a place for unbuildable Hollywood fantasy, nor by any means is it a last refuge of the real or its friend, tired from too many hours surfing the Internet, the hand. Against these outmoded positions, we propose architecture based on rigorous design, architecture as a system of thought that makes abstract knowledge experiential and conceptual thought objective, rigorous and understandable. In setting out to design buildings not diagrams, our goal is to see what the world is telling us, not what we are telling the world.

Bibliography

Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations 1956-76. New York, NY: Prestel Pub., 2005.
Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Meridian. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998.
———. The Man without Content. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999.
———. State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem; a Report on the Banality of Evil. New York,: Viking Press, 1963.
Arquilla, John, David F. Ronfeldt, and United States. Dept. of Defense. Office of the Secretary of Defense. Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy. Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2001.
Badiou, Alain. "Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art [Excerpt]."  http://www.lacan.com/frameXXIII7.htm
———. "Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art." Lacanian Ink no. 23 (2004): 100-19.
Bataille, Georges. Literature and Evil. New York ; London: M. Boyars, 1985.
Baudrillard, Jean. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. London New York: Verso, 1993.
———. The Illusion of the End. Stanford: Stanford Univ Press, 1994.
———. The System of Objects. New York: Verso, 1996.
———. Screened Out. London ; New York: Verso, 2002.
———. The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact. English ed. Oxford ; New York: Berg, 2005.
Baudrillard, Jean, Paul Foss, and Julian Pefanis. The Revenge of the Crystal: Selected Writings on the Modern Object and Its Destiny, 1968-1983. London ; Concord, Mass.: Pluto Press in association with the Power Institute of Fine Arts, University of Sydney, 1990.
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Empty Fortress; Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self. New York,: Free Press, 1967.
———. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Knopf, 1976.
Bloom, Howard K. The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History. 1st ed. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984; originally published in French as La Distinction: Critique sociale du jugement. (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979).
Branzi, Andrea. The Hot House: Italian New Wave Design. 1st MIT Press ed. [Cambridge, Mass.]: MIT Press, 1984.
———. No-Stop City: Archizoom Associati, Librairie De L’architecture Et De La Ville. Orléans: HYX, 2006.
Branzi, Andrea, and Germano Celant. Andrea Branzi: The Complete Works. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.
Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Edited by Wlad Gozich and Jochen Schulte-Sasse, Theory and History of Literature, Volume 4. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984, originally published as the second edition of Theorie der Avantgarde, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1974, 1980.
Caillois, Roger, Claudine Frank, Camille Naish, and ebrary Inc. "The Edge of Surrealism a Roger Caillois Reader." Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
Castells, Manuel. The Rise of the Network Society. 2nd ed. Oxford ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.
Clark, T. J. Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.
Eisenman, Peter, Giuseppe Terragni, and Manfredo Tafuri. Giuseppe Terragni: Transformations, Decompositions, Critiques. New York: Monacelli Press, 2003.
Foster, Hal. The Return of the Real. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. 2nd Vintage ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo; Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics. [Rev. ed. New York,: Norton, 1952.
Freud, Sigmund, and James Strachey. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. New York,: Liveright, 1970.
Galloway, Alexander R. Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004.
Galloway, Alexander R., and Eugene Thacker. The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, Electronic Mediations V. 21. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
Greene, Robert. The Art of Seduction. New York, N.Y.: Viking, 2001.
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.
Harris, Daniel. Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism. 1st ed. New York: Basic Books, 2000.
Jarzombek, Mark. On Leon Baptista Alberti: His Literary and Aesthetic Theories. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989.
Koolhaas, Rem, Bruce Mau, Jennifer Sigler, Hans Werlemann, and Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large: Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rem Koolhaas, and Bruce Mau. New York, N.Y.: Monacelli Press, 1995.
Liu, Alan. The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Mannoni, Octave. "I Know Well but All the Same." In Perversion and the Social Relation, edited by Molly Anne Rothenberg, Dennis A. Foster and Slavoj Zizek. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
Milgram, Stanley. "The Perils of Obedience." Harper’s Magazine, December 1973, 62-77.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Marion Faber. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. New ed, Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Douglas Smith. On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic: By Way of Clarification and Supplement to My Last Book, Beyond Good and Evil, Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford ;: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Rorty, Amélie. The Many Faces of Evil: Historical Perspectives. London ; New York: Routledge, 2001.
Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Sloterdijk, Peter. Critique of Cynical Reason, Theory and History of Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
Sumrell, Robert, and Kazys Varnelis. Blue Monday: Stories of Absurd Realities and Natural Philosophies. Barcelona: Actar, 2007.
Varnelis, Kazys. The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles. Barcelona: Actar, 2008.
Weizman, Eyal. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. London ; New York: Verso, 2007.
Winnicott, D. W. Playing and Reality. New York,: Basic Books, 1971.
Zimbardo, Philip G. The Cognitive Control of Motivation; the Consequences of Choice and Dissonance. [Glenview, Ill.]: Scott, 1969.
———. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York: Random House, 2008.
 

3 thoughts on “Evil

  1. le bricolage
    The very notion of “architecture” contains within it the enormous conceit that a fixed abode/workplace/monument can be designed so that it may either influence or accommodate the endless mutations of human necessity that come to pass in the unanticipatable present moment. All buildings become obsolete tyrants at the very moment of their unveiling.

    I reject all architecture, and its apologists, as grandiose nonsense and enablers of such nonsense, respectively.

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