I will be appearing alongside Leah Meisterlin (formerly of the Netlab) and authors Astra Taylor and Andrew Blum today at noon in Ware Lounge (on the 6th floor of Avery Hall) at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation to discuss the impact that digital technology is posing on architecture, cities, and most of all our lives. Topics to be discussed will likely include data centers, debt, oversaturation, creative workspaces and the tyranny of fun, together with ways to make all this better. Hope to see you there if you are in the area!
I am delighted that tonight I will be participating in a reading from my colleague Michelle Fornabai's book ink Or “V is for Vermilion as described by Vitruvius” An A to Z of Ink in Architecture.
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
A4515: Network Culture. The History of the Contemporary Fall 2013
Professor Kazys Varnelis
The purpose of this seminar is to come to an advanced historical understanding of the changed conditions that characterize our networked age. As a history of the contemporary, the seminar is organized around a series of topics tracing a genealogy of present-day culture, focusing on the network not merely as a technology with social ramifications but rather as a cultural dominant that connects changes in society, economy, aesthetics, urbanism, and ideology. It's a primary thesis of this course that the network is not an innocent technology but rather a social construction that serves to naturalize and exacerbate uneven growth and the distribution of power.
Topics to be addressed include network theory, changing concepts of time and space, the rise of networked publics, contemporary poetics, new forms of subjectivity, and methods of control. Throughout, we will make connections between architecture, urbanism and this insurgent condition.
The theme for fall 2013 is Uneven Growth and responds to a MoMA exhibition that will open in October 2014. Students will be welcome to participate in the workshop at MoMA leading to the exhibition and are encouraged to pursue the topic of Uneven Growth in networks in their research projects.
Each class will consist of a presentation by the instructor on selected themes, followed by an in-depth discussion in seminar. Students are expected to prepare all readings in order to facilitate a discussion in which all students participate. Active participation by all students in each session is required.
Each student is expected to maintain a tumblelog on tumblr.com and to post at least twice a week. Beyond mere reblogging of information pertinent to the course, the tumblelog will form a record and commentary upon their research during the semester.
Research Project: 60%
For a research project, students have an option of either undertaking a curatorial project or an essay. Either is due on Monday, December 16.
The curatorial project will explore the topic of uneven growth in networks. The Netlab’s specific focus in this exhibit is research on the future of uneven growth in Hong Kong but students are encouraged to explore uneven growth as a constituent of networks.
Both design and scholarship are integral to the term project, which should take the form of an exhibit catalog as might be found in a museum. A carefully curated and designed book will be accompanied a 2,000 word essay (roughly 10 pages double spaced, 12 points) on the curated material. If students choose to write an essay, they should turn in an essay of roughly 4,000 words (roughly 20 pages double spaced, 12 points).
Plagiarism of any sort will result in immediate failure.
All readings will be available on-line.
|An Overview of Networks|
Manuel Castells, “Informationalism, Networks, and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint. In Castells, ed. The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2004), 3-45.
Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Control Societies,” Negotiations, 1972-1990 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 177-182.
Charlie Gere, “The Beginnings of Digital Culture,” Digital Culture (London: Reaktion, 2008), 21-50.
Optional: Kazys Varnelis, “Conclusion: The Meaning of Network Culture,” Networked Publics, 145-163.
Albert-László Barabási, “Six Degrees of Separation,” “Small Worlds,” and “Hubs and Connectors,” Linked: The New Science of Networks (Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2002), 25-63.
Nicholas Carr, “From the Many to the Few” The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 127-149.
Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired, October 2004, https://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html
Clay Shirky, “Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality,” Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet. https://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html
Mark S. Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology 78 (May 1973), 1360-1380.
Duncan J. Watts, “The Connected Age,” Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003), 19-42.
Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, “The Californian Ideology,” https://www.hrc.wmin.ac.uk/theory-californianideology-main.html.
Saskia Sassen, “Electronic space and power,” Journal of Urban Technology 4 (1997): 1-17.
Alexander R. Galloway, “Physical Media,” Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 29-53.
Saskia Sassen, “On Concentration and Centrality in the Global City,” Paul L. Knox and Peter J. Taylor, eds., World Cities in a World-System (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 63-78.
Stephen Graham, “Communication Grids: Cities and Infrastructure,” in Saskia Sassen, Global Networks. Linked Cities (London: Routledge, 2002), 71-92.
Kevin Phillips, “Preface,” “Introduction. The Panic of August,” “Finance: The New Real Economy?” Bad Money. (New York: Penguin, 2009), xi-lxxiv and 1-68.
Postmodernism and Periodization
David Harvey, “Fordism” and “From Fordism to Flexible Accumulation,” in The Condition of Postmodernity, (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1989), 125-172.
Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” New Left Review 146 (July/August 1984): 53-92.
Jeffrey Nealon, “Once More, With Intensity, Foucault’s History of Power Revisited,” Foucault Beyond Foucault, 24-53.
Hal Foster, “Postmodernism: A Preface,” in Hal Foster, ed., The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture (Townsend, Washington: Bay Press, 1983), ix-xvi.
Jean François Lyotard, “introduction” “Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?” Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1984), xxiii-xxv, 71-82.
Jean Baudrillard, “The End of the Millennium or the Countdown,” Economy & Society 26 (1997): 447-55.
Bruce Sterling, “Atemporality for the Creative Artist,” https://www.transmediale.de/en/keynote-bruce-sterling-us-atemporality
optional: Robert Sumrell and Kazys Varnelis, “Personal Lubricants. Shell Oil and Scenario Planning,” New Geographies 02(2010), 127-132
Michel Foucault, “Docile Bodies,” Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 135-156.
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, “Capitalist Sovereignty, Or Administering the Global Society of Control,” Empire (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 325-350.
Marc Augé, “Prologue” and “From Places to Non-Places,” in Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, (London; New York: Verso, 1995), 1-6. 75-115.
Hans Ibelings, “Supermodernism,” Supermodernism (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 1998), 55-102.
George Simmel, “Metropolis and Mental Life,” Donald N. Levine, ed. Simmel: On individuality and social forms, (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1971), 324-339.
Kazys Varnelis and Marc Tuters, “Beyond Locative Media: Giving Shape to the Internet of Things,” Leonardo 39, No. 4 (2006): 357–363.
|Uneven Growth Workshop, MoMA|
Kenneth J. Gergen,“Social Saturation and the Populated Self,” The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 48-80.
Brian Holmes, “The Flexible Personality. For a New Cultural Critique,” Transversal, https://transform.eipcp.net/transversal/1106/holmes/en
Jeffrey Nealon, “Once More, With Intensity, Foucault’s History of Power Revisited,” Foucault Beyond Foucault, 24-53.
Warren Neidich, “From Noopower to Neuropower: How Mind Becomes Matter,” Cognitive Architecture:From Bio-politics to Noo-politics; Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information(Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2010), 538-581.
Yochai Benkler, “Chapter 1. Introduction: A Moment of Opportunity and Challenge” and “Chapter 4. The Economics of Social Production,” The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 1-28 and 91-127.
Bill Wausik, “My Crowd. Or Phase 5: A Report from the Inventor of the Flash Mob,” Harper’s Magazine (March 2006), 56-66.
Bill Bishop, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 1-77.
Selections from Michael J. Weiss, The Clustered World: How We Live, What We Buy, and What it All Means About Who We Are (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1999).
Geert Lovink, “Blogging: The Nihilist Impulse,” Eurozine (2007), https://www.eurozine.com/articles/2007-01-02-lovink-en.html
Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002), 7-48.
Alan Liu, The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), excerpts.
Jordan Crandall, “Showing,” https://jordancrandall.com/showing/index.html
Joseph A .Tainter, “Introduction to Collapse,” The Collapse of Complex Societies, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 1-21.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1977), 13-32.
Charles Perrow, “Normal Accident at Three Mile Island.” Society 18, no. 5 (1981): 17–26.
|Thanksgiving Break / No Class|
Fast Flux: New Art from Lithuania Opening
Tuesday 10 September 2013, 7:00-8:30pm
Studio-X NYC, 180 Varick St., Suite 1610 (map)
Free and open to the public. No RSVP required.
This opening marks the beginning of Fast Flux, a residency and exhibit by young Lithuanian artists from Rupert at Columbia University's Studio-X NYC.
A panel of speakers will discuss the exhibit, the role of art and architecture in Soho, and the role of Lithuanian artists George Maciunas and Jonas Mekas in the establishment of the arts community in the area.
Juan de Nieves, Director, Rupert, Vilnius, Lithuania
Inesa Pavlovskaite, Co-Curator of Fast Flux, curator, Vilnius, Lithuania
Lytle Shaw, Associate Professor of English, NYU, Editor, Chadwick Family Papers
Kazys Varnelis, Co-Curator of Fast Flux, Director, Network Architecture Lab
Mark Wigley, Dean, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University
In August 1966, George Maciunas set out to found an artists collective in Soho with the help of Jonas Mekas. Together, they envisioned a Kolhkoz with a Fluxshop and a 120-seat cinema at 16-18 Greene Street, just east of the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, in an area that was the site of Manhattan’s first Lithuanian-American community.
Although the Greene Street cooperative was not to be, Maciunas would go on to develop a series of lofts in Soho, all the while lurching from one crisis to another as he faced issues with money and deadlines. In November 1975, thugs hired by electrical contractor Peter D. Stefano administered a severe beating, causing Maciunas to lose an eye. Ten years after Maciunas had begun his project in Soho, he set out for New Marlborough, Massachusetts, where he would purchase a farm in hopes of starting a new, exurban Flux collective. His obituary in the May 11, 1978, edition of The New York Times was titled “George Maciunas, Artist and Designer Organized Fluxus to Develop Soho.”
In the thirty-five years after Maciunas departed Soho, the postmodernization of the area has long been complete. Not only is the industry in the area long gone, so are the art practices that eulogized it. Contemporary Soho is a preeminent location for flagship stores, boutiques, and a new infrastructure of media and design that services the needs of this global city.
On the farthest western reaches of Soho, Studio-X NYC, part of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation's global network of urban research labs, offers a site to investigate, if only temporarily, possible transactions between art and architecture, New York and Lithuania.
Between Tuesday, September 10, and Friday, October 4, 2013, Studio-X NYC will host a group of Lithuanian artists whose work will explore these transactions of art and architecture (real estate), New York (the core, the global hub) and Lithuania (the periphery, that which makes the core possible).
The exhibition will be open for public view Monday through Friday, from 1 to 6pm daily, or by appointment.
Sponsored by Rupert, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, and the Network Architecture Lab and Studio-X at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University.
The Netlab explores architecture, networks, privacy, voyeurism, and exposure on Monday, February 11, 2013 6:30pm in Columbia University's Wood Auditorium.
Tomorrow I'll be discussing copyright in architecture with architect Lebbeus Woods, music critic Geeta Dayal, AAAARG webmaster Sean Dockray, and NYU law professor Amy Adler. The event will take place at Altschul Auditorium in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), 420 West 118th Street, between Amsterdam and Morningside Drives. Directions may be found here.
As new technologies make it easy to copy and build upon existing content, and as network culture simultaneously encourages the proliferation of the copied content, media corporations increasingly lobby Congress to restructure copyright law to protect their interests. How will this new legal landscape affect architectural design and discourse? Join a cast of designers and thinkers on the intersection of law and imagery in this conversation organized by the Network Architecture Lab at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Participate with the tag #wood020612
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
Network Architecture Lab
Professor: Kazys Varnelis, Ph.D.
Assistant: Leigha Dennis
This studio explores the re-construction of a large-scale infrastructural element in the city, specifically the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. A structure of 1.5 million square feet, passed through daily by hundreds of thousands of commuters, over seven thousand buses, and thousands of automobiles, providing parking for over 1,000 spaces for automobiles on top, surmounting a subway below, linked to the Lincoln Tunnel through massive ramps for vehicular traffic, and accommodating a significant shopping area, the PABT operates in a realm between building, city, and infrastructure. We are interested in this overlap as a venue for experimentation in programming and design.
As the largest commuter facility in the city, the PABT is a necessary part of everyday life for hundreds of thousands of workers in the city. The PABT was constructed in response to growing traffic congestion in midtown produced by the operation of eight independent bus terminals in the area a decade after the opening of the Lincoln Tunnel in 1937. Costing $24 million, the PABT bus terminal started operations in December 1950, consolidating eight independent bus terminals located in the midtown area. The building has been expanded twice to accommodate growing bus traffic: in 1963 a $30 million expansion added new decks and in 1979 a north wing was built at a cost of over $160 million, integrating with the original structure with a bridge over 41st street through a series of massive X trusses designed by Port Authority chief structural engineer Eugene Fasullo.
Bringing over 50,000 sightseers to the city daily, most of whom stop at Times Square, the PABT has been a key player in midtown, caught up in a longstanding crime problem that only abated during the last decade. With a new, modern exterior and a tiled interior resistant to vandalism, the 1979 reconstruction was intended as an architectural solution. But the expanded space quickly wound up serving a growing population of hundreds of homeless people, drug dealers, and male prostitutes while the “Minnesota Strip” on Eighth avenue outside became a site where newly-arrived runaways of both genders, particularly from the Upper Midwest, would be pressed into prostitution. Soon, the brutalist trusses became seen as a symbol of the decay of the Times Square area. In response, the Port Authority invested significant funds in the redevelopment of the neighborhood and implemented crime prevention strategies. The building is now vastly safer, but with the successful redevelopment of Times Square, the PABT is one of the last vestiges of an older, less commercialized New York. Over the last decade, the Port Authority was working with the Vornado Realty Trust to construct a skyscraper over the north wing, which was built with the possibility of exploiting its air rights in mind. Plans for a forty-story office tower by Richard Rogers including a rooftop garden and eighteen new bus gates came to naught when the Chinese developer pulled out this past November.
In this exercise, we set out to develop new hypotheses for the future of the PABT which we see as needing to respond to a world in which mobility is as much a matter of portable networked telecommunications devices as travel. With the resurgence of bus travel, the Terminal has the opportunity to become an even more significant gateway into the city for both commuters and visitors. Containing significant retail space, the PABT is a major center of commerce in the Times Square area. How do we make a building that embraces civic, commercial, and infrastructural spaces while remaining secure?
This studio understands the architect as a builder of not merely physical edifices but also social, conceptual, and technical structures. Our interest is to use architecture and the most advanced thinking in network culture to construct new and better ways of life. In doing so, this studio is engaged first and foremost with institution building and shaping of social behavior.
We will begin the semester with team-based based scenario plans. Students will identify the drivers in society, technology, economics, ecology, and politics likely to impact the building over the next generation. These scenario plans will be communicated through the technique of architecture fiction. A review exploring these scenario plans will be held in mid February.
Students will individually develop detailed proposals for the reconstruction of the building by mid-review in March. These proposals will take the form of books that define the mission and goals of the reconstructed PABT and a preliminary idea for an architectural program.
As a Netlab studio concerned with the topic of mobility, this studio will be the first prototypical studio in the GSAPP Cloud. To this end, students will be expected to maintain Tumblr blogs of their research and to keep up with the online work of other students. All student work will be posted online and aggregated to the emerging GSAPP work site.
Students will be responsible for devising programs for a 21st century PABT. With the scenario plans from the first part of the studio in hand, students will be asked to identify the programmatic direction of the new PABT. Crucial to this will be a balance between city, building, and infrastructure. How can the building maintain its own identity while integrating better with the urban environment surrounding it?
In the wake of an era defined by the attention-seeking strategy of shaping, it is only appropriate to ask if architecture shouldn’t lose its singularity and obsession with performance. Can we develop architectural strategies aimed at producing less individualistic works that operate in a more ambient register, embracing formlessness instead of shaping, works that build intensity more subtly rather than giving it away all at once, works that question the boundaries between the city and the building rather than affirming them?
With regard to the site, students will be encouraged to consider the extension of the PABT into New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel and the dedicated Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) that stretches from the New Jersey Turnpike onto Route 495, underneath the Times Square area through the underground subway station and the subway routes beyond.
Students will work with roving engineers from ARUP during the semester to address the immense requirements of the PABT and the prospects for the construction of their project without disrupting the terminal’s operation.
Ultra-realistic perspective and Photoshop-based montages are banned in this studio. We propose that this sort of representation is inappropriate, corresponding to what Mark Fischer has dubbed “capitalist realism,” a condition in which we are offered nothing but the present the eagerly wait for the next thrill the system has to offer. Evacuated of any critical intent, such work only cements the false notion that modern technology has made communication transparent.
But more than that, if all architects produce a form of science fiction, then to paraphrase William Gibson, we need to remember that as we construct futures, all we have at our disposal is the moment that we are currently living in. The moment we construct a future it starts to age rapidly. Since the crash, along with the development of technologies that were formerly consigned to an endlessly deferred proximate future such as near-universal wireless Internet, locative media, tablet computing, and touchscreen interfaces, it seems that we have exhausted the era of the next new thing, of rapid technological and cultural development and obsolescence.
Thus, envisioning the future through architecture forces us to follow Alex Galloway’s suggestion that “all media is dead media,” to understand that appropriate representational strategies that might resist capitalist realist representations might emerge out of a new understanding of what Gibson calls a “long now,” a temporally stretched condition out of which we can freely recombine material and representational motifs.
We will look at forms of representation immanent to our topic at hand, from schedules to traffic engineering plans, flowcharts, to exploded axonometrics for vehicle parts. Such diagrams not only offer rich territory to mine for representational strategies, their close study allows us to better understand the topic we are involved in. Precise, unshaded hidden line drawings, plan, section, elevation, and axonometric offer us a carefully and logically articulated system of delineation appropriate for a bus terminal.
20% Attendance and Participation
Students are expected to attend studio sessions, be on time, and ready to discuss their work at every session. Students are expected to participate in group discussions, to cooperate with other studio members by offering criticism, advice, and good spirit.
Group meetings, regularly scheduled once per week allow us to share our research and constantly re-tune our method and approach to the material.
Students are expected to be at pin-ups and reviews on time with work ready to present. Students who are not ready at the beginning of the pin-up or review forfeit the right to receive criticism. Students are expected to contribute to pin-ups and reviews, both in terms of criticism and questions as well as by working in a team to ensure that rooms are ready to present in (adequate chairs, projectors, and so on).
Students will be graded on the originality and rigor of their concepts. All students need a coherent thesis in this studio.
Columbia teaches in English. There is help available for difficulties with the English language in the university, but lack of understanding is not an excuse.
40% Execution and Presentation
A good concept means little if it is poorly executed or presented. Presentation and execution are not trivial, nor are they mere “polish,” rather the choices made in presentation and execution should inform, and be informed by, the concept.
Students are expected to render and present their work clearly, succinctly, and elegantly.
Work should be thoroughly and represented.
 Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism. Is There No Alternative, (Hampshire, UK: Zero Books, 2009).
 Scott Thill, “William Gibson Talks Zero History, Paranoia and the Awesome Power of Twitter,” Wired Underwire Blog, posted September 7, 2010, https://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/09/william-gibson-interview/all/1.
 Alex Galloway, “Cory Arcangel (Beige) and Paper Rad’s The Mario Movie" (2005)https://www.deitch.com/projects/press_text.php?pressId=29. Michael Parsons, “Interview: Wired Meets William Gibson,” Wired UK posted October 13, 2010, https://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-10/13/william-gibson-interview.
My students put up the exhibit for the factory studio in the end of year show yesterday.
The exhibit consists of a slit in a door. The space beyond it is bifurcated by a wall that allows view into two separate rooms. The first, to the right, is a factory office from years gone by. The second, to the left is a radical vision of a future factory. The children in the images below are mine.
The show will be up until for about six days.
With luck, we'll have student work from the studio up in a few days.
The NetLab's first studio at Columbia's GSAPP concludes this Friday with an exhibit in 200 Buell Hall from 12-6. Students will be presenting pamphlets they have designed. The topic of the research studio was to explore a logistical network in considerable depth. The studio brief is located here. A roundtable discussion will be held at 4pm followed by a reception. All are welcome.