labor day never ends

I’m exhausted.

I’ve been tired for days since returning from my vacation, but it’s a good tired, the product of a burst of intense work as Leah Meisterlin (my amazing intern, working on the book’s maps) and I continue to chip away at the Infrastructural City for ACTAR. Alas, it looks like it won’t be on anyone’s Christmas lists, but it’s shaping up to be a great Valentine’s Day present.

Today, I had an opportunity to present the Network Culture studio at school.

I had hoped to show one of favorite videos today, but alas Vista wasn’t up to snuff. For anyone who witnessed it and still needs to see the video, here is the human slingshot in full glory.

Two things interest me about this video. First, that this is what you might do in a culture of relative affluence and total boredom and second, that this kind of YouTube production is a successor to reality TV.

While I’m posting youtube videos, I discovered this the other day on Underworld Live

I am really excited about seeing Underworld in Central Park next Friday, although a little sad too, since I would have enjoyed them at the Hollywood Bowl. I’ve never seen them, and I’ve pretty much listened to nothing else for years… (not kidding).

Oh and the underworldlive site? It looks like a blog, but it’s not. The top posts seem to disappear. (compare with google cache while it is still there) What kind of site is it if it isn’t a blog then? Interesting…

Regarding that post… The videos is of a Schneider TM song. Underworld recalls hearing Schneider TM on John Peel’s farewell show. That brings up a string of memories for me. In studio presentation, I showed the following image:

kazys in macweek(click on the image to read the text)

Even though I’ve come relatively late to the impact of computation on architecture (just what was I thinking until 2003?), I have always been fascinated by digital technology and by the Internet.

I must have first accessed a network (Tymnet) in 1982 or 1983, 25 years ago. My first encounter with email would have been in 1983 or 1984 in an army sponsored high school program called CRESS at North Carolina State University (incredibly enough, enshrined in an archive here). By 1990, I kept in touch with some of my friends via email and used FTP and USENET daily at Cornell’s University libraries. I remember the day when I first accessed a site overseas, it was in Finland and thought how strange it was that somehow a hard disk was being according to my instructions.

What ties this episode of Connections together is that at the same time I had a purchased a shortwave radio to listen to non-U. S. news (again: memories of listening to the ouster of Gorbachev immediately just two weeks after my first visit to Lithuania and being terrified that it would all end badly and listening to the first Gulf War because NPR was just far too in favor of it, as usual) and had discovered John Peel and his incredible radio show. Even with all the interference, this was a little hint of the up side of the globalized world we would soon live in, as well as the immense richness of the Long Tail. After a hack that I shouldn’t have made, the shortwave radio never worked right again and, in any event, the Internet had captured my interest.

I should have gone back to John Peel after he was on the net, but I was preoccupied with other things. Stupid.

Still, two things to carry away from this long post…

1) Although it can be very difficult to tell at the time, your world already contains the future within it.

2) Here’s to John.

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E-Book Prototype at the Netlab

With the start of a new school year nearly upon us, I have been putting up some student work that I really should have posted last year at the Netlab Web Site. Teaching at Columbia is a real treat and the work my students have done is so frequently superlative. I’ll post a little of it here and there prior to the start of the next semester.

Take, for example, Sang Hoon Youm’s fantastic prototype book interface. Unlike, say, Apple’s Cover Flow artwork, this proposal wouldn’t just use graphics as icons, it would allow you to browse in a way that is both familiar and entirely new. Think a book meets a browser meets hypercard meets … something else.

The project was done for my "Architecture of Interfaces" course, taught last fall.

Beware, this is a 30 mb flash video.

ebook image

Click here (or on the above image) to open a new window containing the flash video.

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week of transitions

It's a week of transitions, as the urgency of spring gives way to the languid days of summer (must resist at all costs through bike rides and caffeine). When I run into my readers they often ask what's new, so here's a brief summing up…

The Networked Publics book (unfinished revamped website preview here ) is once again moving forward. Reviews are in and we hope to have it in print by this time next year at the latest. When I've redone the site and have had a chance to put my thoughts together a little more, I will be posting a more enthusiastic call to comments in hopes of getting input in the final draft stages of this networked book.

Our previous networked book, Blue Monday is finally hitting the bookstores. It's in St. Mark's and, as my friend Mark Lee just informed me, at Hennessey and Ingalls. To ACTAR's credit, the object is far more beautiful than anything we have done on the web. But it is worth mentioning that I redid the AUDC web site last week.

Finally, it looks like we'll be using the Studio-X space sooner rather than later. This is a major initiative at Columbia that I'm delighted that the Netlab is a key stakeholder in, along with C-Lab and David Benjamin's Living Architecture Lab.

So all is good, very good indeed.

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architecture is code

Nicholas Nova points us (yes, I noticed this via Adam’s blog first even though Nicholas’s is also in my daily RSS feeds) in the direction of a talk given by Rob Kitchen on "Code/Space." Kitchen suggests that (in the world of network culture) spaces of everyday life are increasingly coded by software, that is, not only are we more and more reliant on our PCs, we are also reliant on elevators controlled by computers, automobiles and streets controlled by computers, communication and entertainment networks, and on and on. Kitchen and Martin Dodge have written a paper "Code and the Transduction of Space" that elaborates on this condition.

But what is code? And why should architects care?

Although Lawrence Lessig famously argues that "Code is Law," throughout Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace he also invokes the field of architecture. Over and over, Lessig describes code in specifically architectural terms, referring to the shapers of cyberspace as architects. This is no accident. In his citations, Lessig points the reader back to texts on architecture. Lessig’s goal, in resorting to an architectural framework, is to underscore the constructed nature of both built environments and cyberspace, as Kitchen and Dodge suggest, environments are increasingly the product of code. Architecture, code, and law are increasingly melding into one.

For architects, the consequences are clear. Regardless of what the "Make it New" crowd wants, building codes, design review guidelines, historic preservation ordinances, protective covenants, together with the demands of the financial and real estate markets are creating a condition in which a building is virtually pre-determined before an architect ever sees it (if he or she ever does). Architects frequently lament this condition, but what if instead we agree with Kitchen and Dodge that code is a fundamental constituent of our culture. What then?

Well, to start, we realize that if these spaces are increasingly given by code, as Kitchen and Dodge suggest, they are also coded, active spaces. In other words, the old idea of the space invested with meaning is now replaced by a performative space with a certain capacity for producing situations.

And that, is a big change that we are investigating at the Netlab.


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Open Source Architecture

Architecture for Humanity's Open Architecture Network is in beta and seems to be off to a flying start. Just a few days after launch hundreds of projects have been uploaded and thousands of members have registered.

This shouldn't be a surprise. Not only does AfH have a great mission, but the idea of open source architecture (the concept, not just the site) is one whose time has come.

Architects constantly re-invent and re-use, but thus far, the archaic cult of the ego leads so many otherwise intelligent young designers to the dead end of "make it new" (but without telling anyone that this phrase is Ezra Pound's), to waste their time with exotic mesh structures that remain more viable (and more interesting) in animation software than in fact.

In the meantime, Christopher Alexander's idea of design patterns—that architecture can be made up of endless combinations of existing solutions—has been taken up by software engineers who actually ARE making the world new (Ward Cunningham designed the first wiki as a repository for pattern languages).

Over a decade ago, one of my students did a thesis on Linux and Open Source architecture at SCI_Arc. Although Rocio didn't wind up pursuing open source per se, she built one of the most successful prefab practices out there and, unlike most of the blob boys, has been profiled in the New Yorker. Her success demonstrates the importance of thinking outside of the box, or rather outside of the blob, and understanding the potential of more flexible ways of thinking about deisgn.

Caught up in a self-validating discourse that is increasingly irrelevant to network culture, design in the academy is falling behind innovators like Architecture for Humanity or Rocio Romero. The Network Architecture Lab is currently working on various open source initiatives. You will be hearing more about these during the next year.

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NetLab Logistics Studio Exhibit, 8 December, 12-6

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.

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ACTAR event at Van Alen, Thursday 16 November, 6.30-9.30pm

actar logo ACTAR is launching its New York office on Thursday the 16th, from 6.30 to 9.30pm at the Van Alen Institute. Come see Blue Monday, AUDC's first book as well as a preview of Infrastructural City: Los Angeles, which I am editing as a co-production of the NetLab and the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design.


Thursday, November 16, 2006, 6:30 ”“ 9:30 pm

Thursday, November 16 ”“ Friday, November 24, 2006

Van Alen Institute is located at 30 W. 22nd Street, 6th Floor. Take the Q, N, R or F, V trains to 23rd Street.

Hit read more for the invite text.

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