Announcing the New City Reader

I am delighted to announce the New City Reader, a newspaper on architecture, public space and the city, published as part of the Last Newspaper, an exhibit running at the New Museum from 6 October 2010‒9 January 2011. Editorial work for the New City Reader will take place in the Museum gallery, starting at 11 tomorrow, October 5.

at linco

Produced as a collaboration between myself/the Netlab and Joseph Grima, the New City Reader will consist of one edition, published over the course of the project with a new section produced weekly by alternating guest editorial teams within the museum’s gallery space. These sections will be available free at the New Museum and—in emulation of a practice common in the nineteenth-century American city and still popular in parts of the world today—will be posted in public throughout the city for collective reading.

The New City Reader kicks off today with the City section, a massively detailed graphic produced by the Netlab recounting the 1977 New York City blackout and its effects on the failing city to reveal the interdependence of infrastructure, information, and social stability. If the challenges of that era map to the difficulties facing both the country and the city today, the New City Reader will inquire into these parallels.

Each issue of the New City Reader will be guest edited by a contributing network of architects, theorists, and research groups who will bring their particular expertise to bear on the sections.

You can also follow our tumbelog at newcityreader.tumblr.com

Staff: 

EXECUTIVE EDITORS

– Joseph Grima

– Kazys Varnelis

MANAGING EDITOR

Alan Rapp

ASSOCIATE MANAGING EDITOR

– John Cantwell

ASSOCIATE EDITORS

– Brigette Borders

– Daniel Payne

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

– Pantea Tehrani

ART DIRECTOR

Neil Donnelly

DESIGNER

Chris Rypkema

EDITORIAL CARTOONIST

Klaus

BLACKOUT! CARTOONISTS

– Momo Araki

– Alexis Burson

– Leigha Dennis

– Kyle Hovenkotter

WEB DEVELOPER

Jochen Hartmann

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

David Benjamin & Livia Corona

C-Lab/Jeffrey Inaba

Program for Media & Modernity

common room

DJ N-RON & DJ/rupture

– Jeannie Kim & Hunter Tura

Leagues and Legions

– Michael Meredith, MOS

Network Architecture Lab

Frank Pasquale & Kevin Slavin

School of Visual Arts D-Crit

Robert Sumrell & Andrea Ching

Geminidas & Nomeda Urbonas, Nugu with Saskia Sassen

– Eyal Weizman, Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University of London

 

 

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Netlab Wins Build a Better Burb Competition

The Network Architecture Lab, in collaboration with Will Prince of Park tied for first in the Build a Better Burb competition. Thanks to everyone who helped: Will, Leigha Dennis (the Netlab project lead), Momo Araki, Alexis Burson, and Kyle Hovenkotter.

More here at the Netlab site, including links to the project.

 

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Blueprints for a Better ‘Burb

The collaborative entry between the Network Architecture Lab and Park for the Build a Better Burb competition is featured in the New York Times today in an article by Alison Arieff titled "Blueprints for a Better ‘Burb."

During the first four (!) years of work at the Netlab, I wanted to focus on analysis. This summer, I felt that we were finally ready to undertake design work.

We have the best team yet at the Netlab—Leigha Dennis, Kyle Hovenkotter, Momo Araki, and Alexis Burson were the members who worked on this—and Will Prince, principal of Park, was a great partner. 

Get ready for more. Soon. In the meantime, take a look at revised version of our proposal, either in PDF form here or in the video below. And please vote for us on the site (here).

 

  


 

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On the Hole in Space

Chatroulette—a site that pairs you with a random person somewhere on the Internet so that you have a webcam conversation—has been in the news lately. But let’s compare it for a moment to another project, Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz’s "Hole in Space," which took place for three days in November 1980.

In this "public communication sculpture," the artists turned two walls, one at Los Angeles’s Century City Shopping Center and another at New York’s Lincoln Center, into two-way audiovisual portals. Video cameras transmitted images from each site to the other where they were beamed, full size onto walls. Microphones and speakers facilitated audio transmissions. You can get an idea for this in the video below. 

Hole in Space lasted three nights. During the first night, encounters were casual and accidental. Many of the first visitors did not believe it was live or thought that the ghostly black and white spectres on the wall were actors on a nearby set. Disbelief soon gave way to the creation of a new social space, to the invention of games and the telling of jokes. As word spread, separated friends and family made arrangements to meet through the portals on the second evening. On the third night, after Hole in Space was featured on television news, so many people attempted to participate in this shared human experience that traffic ground to a halt and the experiment was forced to end by the authorities. Incredibly, Galloway and Rabinowitz’s project is all but forgotten today.

In the original video, one woman asks why is it that this wasn’t done twenty years ago, i.e. 1960.

50 years after the possible date for the first hole in space, Rabinowitz and Galloway’s work remains a hole not only in space, but in time. We have video chat (how often do we use it?) and chat roulette, but we don’t have holes in space. Why is that?  

AUDC proposed WIndows on the World in 2004, an extension of the Hole in Space with even grander ambitions but less expensive technology, but apparently our proposal was too boring to be funded. 

The Netlab is going to try again with this in 2010, likely very soon. Stay tuned.

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Discussions 1 on Vimeo

I’ve posted the video for the first of five Discussions in Networked Publics at Vimeo. This panel, which took the chapter on culture in the Networked Publics book as a departure point, was held at Columbia’s Studio-X on February 9 featured Michael Kubo, Michael Meredith, Will Prince, Enrique Ramirez, David Reinfurt, and Mimi Zeiger.

 

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Network City 2010

Today marks the start of the tenth year of Network City. This may be my favorite course.

 

Network City
Kazys Varnelis, Ph.D. [kv2157@columbia.edu]
Avery 115, Tuesdays 11-1
 
“Cities are communications systems.” – Ronald Abler
 
This course fulfills the Urban Society M.Arch distributional requirement.
 
Network City explores how urban areas have developed as ecosystems of competing networks since the late nineteenth century.
 
Networks of capital, transportation infrastructures, and telecommunications systems centralize cities while dispersing them into larger posturban fields such as the Northeastern seaboard or Southern California. Linked together through networks, today such cities form the core of global capital, producing the geography of flows that structures economies and societies today.
 
Networks, infrastructures, and property values are the products of historical development. To this end, the first half of the course surveys the development of urbanization since the emergence of the modern network city in the late nineteenth century while the second half focuses on conditions in contemporary urbanism.
 
A fundamental thesis of the course is that buildings too, function as networks. We will consider the demands of cities and economies together with technological and social networks on program, envelope, and plan, particularly in the office building, the site of consumption, and the individual dwelling unit. In addition we will look at the fraught relationship between signature architecture (the so-called Bilbao-effect) and the contemporary city.
 
Throughout the course, we will explore the growth of both city and suburbia (and more recently postsuburbia and exurbia) not as separate and opposed phenomena but rather as intrinsically related. Although the material in the course is applicable globally, our focus will be on the development of the American city, in particular, New York, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Each class will juxtapose classic readings by sociologists, urban planners, and architects with more contemporary material. Readings will be available online.
 
This course is offered by the Network Architecture Lab
(http://networkarchitecturelab.org).



Project
 
The term project will be one chapter within a research book, exploring one architectural, infrastructural, or urbanistic component of the Network City.
 
Material should not be formulated into a traditional research paper, but rather assembled as a dossier of information that tells a story through the designed and composed sequence of images and texts lead by an analytical narrative you have written yourself.
 
Design is integral to the term project. All work is to be carefully proofread and fact checked.
Citations are required, using the Chicago humanities footnote method. Please ensure that all images are properly credited.
 
The book will be designed simultaneously as a printed, bound object and for the Netlab web site. A layout grid will be provided.
 
Plagiarism of any sort will result in immediate failure. Exemplary books are at http://networkarchitecturelab.org/teaching/seminars/network_city.
 
A Brief Bibliography of Books regarding Design and Presentation
 
Kimberley Elam, Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004).
 
Allen Hurlburt, The Grid: A Modular System for the Design and Production of Newspapers, Magazines, and Books (New York: Van Norstand Reinhold, 1978).
 
Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth. The Planetary Emergence of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It (New York: Rodale, 2006).
 
Enric Jardí, Twenty-Tips on Typography (Barcelona: ACTAR, 2007).
 
Josef Muller-Brockmann, Grid Systems in Graphic Design (Zurich: Niggli, 2001)
 
Robert Sumrell, Superbrutalism: An Architecture for Muzak, http://audc.org/superbrutalism/index.html
 
Timothy Samar, Making and Breaking the Grid. A Graphic Design Layout Workshop (Beverly, MA: Rockport, 2002).
 
Tomato, Bareback: A Tomato Project (Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press,1999).
 
Discussions on Networked Publics
 
Students are asked to attend the Discussions on Networked Publics series, taking place this semester at Columbia’s Studio-X on February 9, March 25, April 13, and May 4.
 
These panels examine how the social and cultural shifts centering around new technologies have transformed our relationships to (and definitions of) place, culture, politics, and infrastructure. Our goal will be to come to an understanding of the changes in culture and society and how architects, designers, historians, and critics might work through this milieu.


* denotes classic reading that demands special attention.
 


1
1.19
Introduction: Towards Network City
 
2
1.26
The First Network Cities
 
* Ronald F. Abler “What Makes Cities Important,” Bell Telephone Magazine, March/April. (1970), 10-15.
 
Robert M. Fogelson, “The Business District: Downtown in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, 1880-1950, (New Haven: Yale, 2001), 9-42.
 
Anne Querrien, “The Metropolis and the Capital,” Zone 1/2 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986), 219-221
3
2.02
The Metropolitan Subject
 
* Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” On Individuality and Social Forms, ed. David Levine, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 324-339.
 
* Ernest W. Burgess, “The Growth of the City: An Introduction to a Research Project,” The City: Suggestions for Investigation of Human Behavior in the Urban Environment, ed.Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1925), 47-62.
 
* Louis Wirth, “Urbanism as a Way of Life,” In American Journal of Sociology 44, July 1938, 1-24.
 
* Michel Foucault, “Docile Bodies,” Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 135-156.
 
Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Societies of Control,” October 59 (Winter 1992), 73-77.
4
2.09
Office Building as Corporate Machine
 
Special Presentation by Michael Kubo, MIT on the RAND Corporation
 
* William H. Whyte, “Introduction” and “A Generation of Bureaucrats,” The Organization Man, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), 3-13 and 63-78.
 
* Norbert Wiener, “What is Cybernetics?” The Human Use of Human Beings (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950), 1-19.
 
* John D. Williams, “Comments on the RAND Building Program,” memorandum to RAND Staff, December 26, 1960 (RAND M-4251).
 
Abalos and Herreros, “The Evolution of Space Planning in the Workplace.”Tower and Office: From Modernist Theory to Contemporary Practice (Cambridge: Buell Center/Columbia Book of Architecture/The MIT Press, 2005),177-196. (first half of chapter)
 
Reinhold Martin, “The Physiognomy of the Office,” The Organizational Complex, (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003), 80-105, 114-121.
8
3.09
The Return of the Center
 
* Jane Jacobs, “Introduction,” The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 2-25.
 
* Rem Koolhaas, “’Life in the Metropolis’ or ‘The Culture of Congestion,’” Architectural Design 47 (August 1977), 319-325.
 
* Sharon Zukin, “Living Lofts as Terrain and Market” and “The Creation of a ‘Loft Lifestyle” in Loft Living (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1982), 1-22, 58-81.
 
Richard Florida, “The Transformation of Everyday Life” and “The Creative Class,’ in The Rise of the Creative Class (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 1–17, 67–82.
 
David Harvey, “The Constructing of Consent,” A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005), 39-63.
 
Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, “The Californian Ideology,” http://www.hrc.wmin.ac.uk/theory-californianideology-main.html.
 
Optional:
 
Bert Mulder, “The Creative City or Redesigning Society,” and Justin O’Connor, “Popular Culture, Reflexivity and Urban Change in Jan Verwijnen and Panu Lehtovuori, eds, Creative Cities. Cultural Industries, Urban Development and the Information Society, (Helsinki: UIAH Publications, 1999), 60-75, 76-100.
 
Dan Graham, “Gordon Matta-Clark” in Gordon Matta-Clark (Marseilles: Musées de Marseilles, 1993), 378-380.
9
3.16
Spring Recess
 
10
 
3.23
The Global City and the New Centrality
 
* 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.
 
* Ignasi Sola-Morales, “Terrain Vague”, in Anyplace (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 118-123.
 
* Castells “The Space of Flows,” The Rise of the Network Society, 407-459.
 
Sze Tsung Leong, “Readings of the Attenuated Landscape,” Michael Bell and Sze Tsung Leong, eds., Slow Space (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998), 186-213.
 
Optional:
 
Martin Pawley, “From Postmodernism to Terrorism,” Terminal Architecture, 132-154.
11
3.30
The Clustered Field: Postsuburbia to Edgeless Cities and Beyond
 
* Robert Fishman, “Beyond Suburbia: The Rise of the Technoburb,” Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books, 1987), 182-208.
 
Rob Kling, Spencer Olin, and Mark Poster, “Beyond the Edge: The Dynamism of Postsuburban Regions,” and “The Emergence of Postsuburbia: An Introduction,” Rob Kling, Spencer Olin, and Mark Poster, eds. Postsuburban California: The Transformation of Orange County (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), vii-xx, 1-30.
 
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).
 
Robert E. Lang and Jennifer LeFurgy, “Edgeless Cities: Examining the Noncentered Metropolis,” Housing Policy Debate 14 (2003): 427-460.
12
4.06
The Tourist City
 
* Robert D. Putnam, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital.” Journal of Democracy 6 (1995): 65-78
 
* Melvin M. Weber, “Order in Diversity: Community Without Propinquity,” Cities and Space: The Future of Urban Land, ed. Lowden Wingo, Jr. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963), 23.
 
Wolfgang Scheppe, Migropolis :Venice / Atlas of a Global Situation (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2009), excerpts.
 
Paul Goldberger, “The Malling of Manhattan.” Metropolis (March 2001), [134]-139, 179.-
 
Bill Bishop, “The Power of Place,” The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 19-80.
13
4.13
Conclusion
 
Kazys Varnelis, “The Centripetal City: Telecommunications, the Internet, and the Shaping of the Modern Urban Environment,” Cabinet Magazine 17.
 
Mitchell L. Moss and Anthony M. Townsend, “How Telecommunications Systems are Transforming Urban Spaces,” James O. Wheeler, Yuko Aoyama, and Barney Warf, eds., Cities in the Telecommunications Age: The Fracturing of Geographies (New York: Routledge, 2000), 31-41.
 
 
 
 

 

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Networked Publics 2010

Two phrases occupy my thoughts at the moment:

"All that is solid melts into air," Karl Marx’s adage suggesting that under capitalism all existing order will be swept away to be remade for the purposes of profit and efficiency has never been more true than today, when capitalism’s creative destruction is viciously turned on itself, causing a global economy crisis.

"The more things change the more they stay the same," or as written by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the original French, "Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose." Not only is Karr’s statement a way of looking at what Marx said, but it also seems true of what I’ve been doing for the last few years. As I finished Networked Publics and the Infrastructural City, I thought I had put those projects behind me, but now it’s clear that they are not so much books as categories that the Netlab will pursue for the foreseeable future, even as the other categories of network culture and the network city get added.

This spring, the Netlab is launching an ambitious series of panels, Discussions on Networked Publics, at Columbia’s Studio-X Soho. These will be framed along the categories that framed the chapters of  the Networked Publics book, e.g. culture, place, politics, and infrastructure.

The first panel, "culture" will be held at 6.30 on February 9 and will include as panelists Michael Kubo, Michael Meredith, Will Prince, Enrique Ramirez, David Reinfurt and Mimi Zeiger. These are among the sharpest minds in the field today and I am excited to have them participate in this discussion with me. There are more plans afoot in this project and I’ll keep you alerted as they develop.

In the meantime, I’ve spent a few days rebuilding various aspects of the Networked Publics site that broke during the past few years. The front page has been fixed after an update to a Drupal module killed the last version. I’ve also gone in and fixed a number of the links to videos, both the curated gallery of videos for the DIY video conference and also the videos for the three future scenarios that accompany the chapter on infrastructure and bring up consequences of policy decisions regarding network access. Throughout, the material hasn’t so much dated as demonstrated the importance of what we were talking about from 2005 to 2008. Seriously though, this isn’t a plug for me but rather for the other members of the team, who did such a great job identifying the critical issues.

Get the book, come to the discussions, and stay tuned to this blog to see how you can get involved (or if you’re really interested, drop me a line).

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design in the age of intelligent maps

The Netlab has the first product of this summer of work over at Adobe Thinktank. Our article, "Invisible City: Design in the Age of Intelligent Maps" went live this morning. A new link is here (2014)

Many thanks to my collaborator at the Netlab, Leah Meisterlin and to David Womack at Adobe, a great editor.

As usual, your comments make all our work worthwhile!

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seven for 2007

It’s time to take one last look back at 2007. For AUDC, the Netlab, and myself it was a great year, as AUDC’s Blue Monday hit the bookstores and as the Netlab brought two books—the Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles and Networked Publics—to press. The latter contains my conclusion on the Rise of Network Culture, a text that I ambitiously crafted as being one of the first attempts to periodize this moment. The reaction to it has been incredibly favorable and I look forward to seeing what people have to say when it hits print this fall. In other news, the Netlab began working at Columbia’s Studio-X space in Soho as I spent more time blogging on this site than I have in a while.

But what about the wider world? What were the trends that struck me as significant this year in architecture and network culture? This list may strike someone who isn’t familiar with varnelis.net as Borgesian, but remember that the Netlab’s mission is to study the impact of digital technologies together with electronic and social networks on architecture and the city. These developments have a critical impact on the field: how (or whether) we choose to understand them is key.

Many of these are end-game scenarios, but this shouldn’t be surprising if the rise of network culture obsoletes earlier sociocultural forms.

1. The Decline of the City, the Rise of the City

So let’s start with a condition of closure. Nearly every time I go into the city, I lament its passing. In its stead rises a fabulous machine for consumption, a playground for the global élite. Banish any thought that this city is still the place to meet others unlike yourself—Louis Wirth’s great insight that urbanism was first and foremost a way of life. The result is that the global city is, more and more, a metropolitan version of American girl town. But if a lament is necessary, its also the symptom of an aging cultural critic. So let’s not go there. Closure brings new opportunities.

After all, Jean Gottmann re-mapped the city as megalopolis for us back in 1961. Today the suburb, not the inner city, is increasingly the first stopping point for immigrants, a new mixing-ground, the place where a new urbanism is emerging. What new cultural forms will this new city, writ large, produce? France seems ahead of us in this with le Parkour and French Democracy, What else might be out there?

2. The End of Privacy

Speaking of end-game scenarios, how about the utter and complete decline of privacy in our lives? We live in a world worthy of Orwell, in which every action in our lives is increasingly transparent while the government operates in a state of exception, shrouded in mystery, operating a war without end. Nor is this only a question of the individual’s relationship to the state. With the rise of social networking sites and blogs, the boundaries between public and the private are blurred. Make no mistake, this transition is as great as that from the bourgeois public sphere to the age of mass media and will have similar architectural implications. If transparency was one of the foundational principles of modernism and if it remains so in our own architecture, what of it when, like modernization, it is no longer a goal but a default condition?

3. The Return of Big Computing

How is all that information that we are leaving behind being processed? What does it mean that social networking sites pull our attention away from PCs and onto massive, centralized sites? How about the rise of networked applications such as Google docs together with online mail storage? Key software publishers such as such as Adobe suggest that in the near future they will be switching, at least in part, to an on-demand model of software in which users rent applications from on-line sources. One of the hottest trends in web browser development in 2007 was the rise of Site-Specific Browsers.

The result is the emergence of vast server farms and the erosion of the decentralized model of networked computation. Late Fordist computing was big and centralized around mainframes while digital culture focussed on the discreet PC. In its first phase, network culture promised a peer-to-peer model even if it never delivered that, but now this is giving way to big computing.

If so, what are the implications for urbanism? Remember that the growth of the global city has in many ways been the product of its role as a command-and-control center in flows of information and capital. This has been made possible by the decentralized model of large telecom hotels located near key financial centers. But if more centralized than the distributed model that the Californian ideology promised—and thereby ideal platforms for surveillance—telecom hotels still consisted of a multiplicity of individual servers. These too are likely to be replaced by cloud computing, in which virtual servers will be rented from the big players like Amazon or Google. The result is the impending end of the telecom hotel and the rise of utility computing in its stead. Utility computing isn’t a bad name for what this new model will be like. Demanding vast amounts of space and power of these server farms will likely be located far from city cores in places like the Dalles, Oregon.

Coupled with new technologies for bringing the net to the home or office—for example, Verizon FiOS—that are being deployed first in suburbs instead of in cities, the computational drive toward urban centralization may be fading.

One consequence could be that we’ll see a lot of the "creative industries" going suburban to take advantage of faster online speeds, lower rents, and a less exhausted urban condition over the next half decade.

4. Systems not Sites

2008 is the Web’s fifteenth anniversary. But the old Web is dead. We just don’t build Web sites from HTML anymore. If you have a site, it’s run by a content management system. Now some backwards sites still rely on Flash, but they’re easy to identify: they haven’t been updated in two years. Instead, most sites that people I know operate or own are either built on Open Source database-driven systems based on modularity and interoperability or hosted on server farms.

Could there be any connection here at all to architecture? Well, if our virtual spaces operate on such principles, why are our real spaces still based on handicraft, low-quality labor, and thoroughly proprietary (the more so, the more "advanced" they purport to be)?

Sure, scripting is all the rage now (having taken over from parametrics), but for the most part this has aimed at producing "cool" design without taking any responsibility for it. Nothing new about that since Eisenman’s House series in the early 1970s. Is there any chance that architecture can figure out network culture before its shown the door?

5. Goodbye, Bilbao

On a related note, one of the most pernicious influences in architecture over the last decade has been the Bilbao-effect, the idea that architecture could effect urban change simply by looking cool.

Sure, it worked for Bilbao—maybe everybody was just so shocked by Gehry’s only decent building in thirty years—but 2007 was the year in which it became clear that this idea was thoroughly played out. Just who is going to go to Toledo to see SANAA’s Glass Pavilion, let alone Roanoke to see Randall Stout’s Art Museum of Western Virginia?

There’s no question that the Bilbao-Effect has been bad for architecture, validating long-obsolete practices and putting the focus on visibility precisely at a moment when invisibility should have been the focus. Take scripting again, its painfully retardataire, obsessing with form rather than program.

Remember the 1960s, when Philip Johnson museums sprouted everywhere from Utica to Lincoln, Nebraska? Or the 1980s, when every city thought it needed a stadium and convention center to attract businesses until Richard Florida encouraged them to think what that they really needed was an art museum and a gay district?

So too, this fad will pass. Watch the Bilbao-Effect take on water as the real estate bust continues into the next year and begins to negatively affect tax rolls. Architects better make sure they’re not so thoroughly identified with cool form that the discipline suffers heavy damage. After all, the alliance of big architecture, big business, and big government has gone awry once twice—in 1929 and 1968—and it nearly meant the end of the discipline the second time.

[Interesting historical note: 1968 – 1929 = 38. 2007 – 1968 = 38. Meaningless no doubt, unless perhaps you believe in Kondratieff waves but interesting to think about how when we refer to 1968 as our formative cultural moment, we are referring to something as distant in time from us as Black Friday was from 68.]

6. The Bust

Which bring us to… the bust in residential real estate. Like the Economist, I have been predicting this for a while and it’s finally here. And like anything that’s been around too long, the boom bred all sorts of badness as it lasted too long. As a consequence, it may well be harder to pull out of this one than it was to pull out of the great recession of the early 1990s.

It’s going to be tricky for the profession not to take on heavy damage in the next year, even with China and Dubai (themselves not very stable propositions) offering work to many. I hope everyone has their paper architecture skills honed. For a short time, at least, paper architecture could be a good thing. The boom has been going for so long that its exhausted the profession thoroughly.

Take Rem, for example, I suppose it’s nice that he’s building the CCTV tower and all, but during the 1990s he was one of the great thinkers in the field. He hasn’t had anything interesting to say since Junkspace and that was pre-9/11 and while Porto was certainly a great building to visit, what happened to immensely intelligent urban plans like Melun-Senart or Yokohama? I was talking to one colleague. In his view, this was no surprise. Rem is going to be able to collect social security a year from now and he’s said everything he would ever say. Could be. But there are plenty of thinkers who do great works in their sixties, unless of course they’re off chasing their retirement dollars in China and Dubai. And Rem is only one example. Architecture needs practice from time to time to thrive, remember when Praxis (a journal I greatly admire) was founded as a counter to the world of paper architecture and bad theory? But architecture needs down time too and its state of continuous partial attention is, well, increasingly irritating and pointless. The same can be said of culture as a whole. Let’s have a good recession and get some good music and art out of it for a change, ok?

7. The iPhone

It’s hard to deny the impact of the iPhone. Even with all of its faults—the most awful network in the country, a locked-down interface, and an interface that has its quirks, such as no cut and paste—its a remarkable achievement. For now it unites the iPod and the cell phone, but what’s more interesting is that the iPhone is roughly as powerful as a 2002 vintage iMac.

Nor is it unimportant that even as Apple and AT&T proved themselves to be part of the old economy, locking down the platform not just once but repeatedly, a guerilla army of developers successfully broke Apple’s code. Among the programs already available for the iPhone are a Last.FM scrobbler, Navzon’s simulated-GPS locator that works by triangulating your distance from cell phone towers, and a program that uploads photographs you take immediately to Flickr.

Hundreds of thousands (and just possibly over a million) users have jailbroken their phones, downloading programs onto them and something like one in six went a step further to unlock them to use non-AT&T SIMs. For comparison’s sake, Apple only sold 4 million iPhones. This means that hacking firmware is no longer only for the elite anymore. If you haven’t done so yet, it’s easy… just click this naughty link. Whether Apple gave in or whether this was their canny intention all along, they are releasing a developer kit and opening the iPhone for third-party applications in February.

If Apple opens up the iPhone enough and if Navizon allows hooks into their system from other applications, then the era of mass locative media will be upon us very rapidly in 2008. And if that doesn’t happen, then the upcoming Google Phone likely will do that too.

But in this interesting post, Chris Messina suggests that there’s something disappointing about this situation. Messina, an advocate of web-based applications, suggests that the iPhone could have been the first real web-driven platform. Now I think there is something interesting here since web apps are in many ways easier to code for (at least for me). There are rumors that the next iPhone update will allow Safari bookmarks to be saved as icons on the iPhone, something that relegated web apps to second-class citizens thus far. If, I differ with Messina in thinking that a forced march into web apps was a bad idea and if I’ve suggested that there are problems with the web apps model (see #3 above), there is potential here that could be exploited. Of course, I’ve also said things about web apps in item #3, so exercise some degree of caution as you throw away the CDs for your software.

Alright, enough of 2007. More than half of its last day has passed. Time to pay my final bills of the year, grade my final essays of the year and hope that the former will be smaller, the latter much better in 2008. Stay tuned tomorrow for a surprise or two on the blog.

No doubt there’s much more to say about this past year. As always, I’d love to hear about it. Comment away.

Continue reading “seven for 2007”

netlab network culture studio review tomorrow

The Network Architecture Lab for fall 2007 invites you to our review tomorrow, from 2 to 6 in room 114 of Avery Hall at Columbia University.  
 
This review is based on the model of the gallery. Students will display work in a variety of media—image, model, and text—but will present it primarily through brief videos that hopefully will be completed and uploaded to the Internet tonight. Videos willl also be shown alongside finished work in the review. Students will be available to discuss the work in the review. At 4.30 we will hold a round table discussion that we hope you can attend to talk about the trajectory of the work as a whole.  
 
Review brief below:
 
Since the Renaissance, architecture has responded to new sociocultural eras (the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, modernity, postmodernity) with utopian and dystopian schemes (ideal cities, Piranesi’s Carceri and Campo Marzio plan, Boullee’s visionary architecture, Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse, Sant ‘Elia’s Città Nuova, Hugh Ferriss’s Metropolis of To-Morrow, Hilberseimer’s Metropolis, Archigram’s Walking City, Archizoom’s No-Stop-City, Rossi and Scolari’s drawings, Koolhaas’s Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture, City of the Captive Globe, Lebbeus Woods’s visions, and so on).  Such fantasies have not only served to advance the discipline, they are a means by which architecture can research, analyze, and investigate society.    
 
It is the Netlab’s contention that we are living in a new era defined by the network. During the last fifteen years, the Internet has joined us together and gone wireless; computing has become mobile while applications are increasingly network-based; the mobile phone has become the world’s most successful gadget; virtually any form of publication has become available to virtually everyone. But these technological changes are only part of a broader shift in society. If in Fordist modernity the individual was located in a hierarchical system and in post-Fordist post-Modernism the fragmented individual was in a system of flexible production and consumption, today we conceive of ourselves (and are conceived of) as networked dividuals, composed of a myriad of flows of people and things.  
 
By and large, architecture has failed to deliver visionary proposals for this moment. This studio hopes to remedy that situation. Students will respond to our contemporary situation by studying an aspect of network culture in depth and producing schemes based on an exacerbation of that condition that could be utopian, dystopian, or both utopian and dystopian.      
 

 

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