It’s taken a few decades, but we’re finally getting to the point where theoretical assessments of the effects of computing and communications technology are becoming more thorough. These questions are deepened today in the historical perspective, not only by focusing on both the effects of devices and modes of communication on the practice of design, but also on the role that the architect perpetually seeks to carve out for himself. , to define an activity that uses its skills and knowledge for something other than the satisfaction of the customer’s needs.
Perhaps what Young really discovered was that relying on all the tradition, labor and technology required to construct a building is so last millennium.
It took several decades of semiotics, cybernetics and other ways of analyzing the tools of the second industrial revolution of electronics and consumerism to give us postmodernism in all its forms. Now we go beyond object-oriented ontology, post-orthography, and earlier attempts to codify blobism and parametrics to find continuities and developments in architectural practices. If an important evolution of architecture has been the opening of the discussion to a broader history and to a greater concern for social justice, which the editor of this magazine has just welcomed, the new perspectives on the processes of design are equally important.
One example is Dutch architect and theorist Lars Spuybroek’s masterful, if idiosyncratic, reading of this era as a new rococo, which I have reviewed recently. Another is a forthcoming essay by designer Hans Tursack which, judging by a few excerpts I’ve read, promises to be the first serious analysis of the effect of gaming aesthetics and the development of its ways of look and do about architecture. Add to this list Reality Modeled After Images (Routledge, 2021) by architect and theorist Michael Young. A partner at the bi-coastal firm Young + Ayata, he has already produced essays as well as designs that probe the contours of post-parametric postmodernism. In the current book, he unearths a surprising continuity of several aspects of architectural design rooted in the teachings of the École des Beaux-Arts and even of the Renaissance within the decorative aspects of his practice. He also looks at the effects of digitization, LIDAR technology, and other ways of documenting, communicating, and analyzing built form.
Young is particularly enamored with both the historical and current pocket potential, meaning both the dark material of the thick, load-bearing walls and the black spots between the articulated spaces in the designers’ drawings. For Young, a pocket is above all an intellectual construct:
“The pocket aesthetic shifted the focus from material craftsmanship to intellectual concept. This is part of how the emerging discipline of architecture has legitimized its expertise, claiming social distance from manual layers… The architect has come to be defined as one who works through representations, who can wear a judgment on the architecture through drawings rather than by participating in the physical construction. ”
The way things were built, the materiality of the construction and all the work that the appearance of the structure required has been removed and hidden:
“Pocket conceals both the work of material construction and the work of geometric underdrawings, it does so in order to displace an audience’s engagement with the performance… Its statement is not that of a process, of a becoming; instead, it solidifies a design idea as an image.
In the modern era, he goes on to say:
“[t]he Renaissance pocket as concealed construction work thus transformed into the modernist concealment of building performance systems, pipes, conduits and wires were now concealed within the pocket. These technologies fell outside an ideal of architectural expression, even though they were crucial elements allowing this expression to take place.
Through this same practice, the pocket also becomes a place of resistance:
“There is power in occupying the pocket, as pockets of freedom outside of a dominant eye allow for the development of alternative expressions. These spaces, concealed between interiority and exteriority, are where resistance develops in a gap in the gaze of the public and the gaze of the “master”, it is there where experimentation can ferment, where the repressed festers in the expectation of a return to reality. . In many ways, we regard what is in these spaces as ‘real’ precisely because it is hidden, withdrawn within spaces beyond cultural control. »
He is less interested in showcasing the aesthetics and value of these mass-produced objects and images than in creating a new normal in which the pocket has blown off the wall; the decoration has strayed from the surface of the building and has become furniture and fashion; and the building becomes a montage of all these things in their fabric.
I wish Young had given concrete models of what he is talking about; the text evokes arguments similar to those advanced at the height of deconstructivism by Anthony Vidler, Mark Wigley, etc., about the “inhospitable” and the dark crypts of buildings as potential forms and sites of resistance. However, the main thing turned out to be that these shadow plays could and perhaps only exist as theoretical positions. As soon as they are displayed, they lose their pocket life and become part of the masterful play of form in light that is the bread and butter of modernist representation.
Perhaps for this reason, Young turned to another aspect of Beaux-Arts architecture: the “mosaic” or decoration that gave life to the formal axes and grand orders of this neoclassical mode of architecture. . Although the Modernists taught us to consider this as an added element to architecture, in Beaux-Arts architecture it was as important as the other more structural elements of buildings. Young is transitioning to the value of decoration by turning to scanning technology, which is becoming a way of producing the building blocks of architecture for Young + Ayata and many of their colleagues. Instead of drawing abstractions or running forms on their computers, they start their designs from scans of existing conditions or types of interest. In doing so, they produce another type of pouch semi-automatically:
“In its attempts to register surfaces, scanning technology does not differentiate between articulated layers of decoration (mosaic); transient objects such as people, cars, furniture and vegetation (surroundings); or the solidity of the architectural mass (pocket). These are all crushed into a thin, glitched body of surface topology floating in three-dimensional space, devoid of thickness and solidity.
The result is an expansion of architecture into its environment, its contents and the images they bring with them. The scanner – or, for that matter, the avid image collector of Google, Instagram and other digital tools, or their own fidgety cell phone camera – captures it all, noting specific items ranging from interesting to meme-worthy, without the usual hierarchy of judgment, but with all the messages inherent in this stuff. As a result:
“Furniture, tableware, light fixtures, trees, plants, artwork, hats, ashtrays, and even things like automobiles and airplanes—commodities, in short—are invited to carry the meaning once conveyed by architectural ornament. By borrowing images of objects that are also, through advertising, encoded as signifiers of social aspirations, architectural renderings also adopt the lifestyle aspirations attributed to those objects.
As Young himself notes, these techniques have all the popular culture appeal of Pop Art and some aspects of postmodernism, but he is less interested in highlighting the aesthetics and value of these produced objects and images. in series only to create a new normal in which the pocket exploded from the wall; the decoration has strayed from the surface of the building and has become furniture and fashion; and the building becomes a montage of all these things in their fabric.
Young traces Payne’s description of the growing interest in mass-produced artifacts of everyday life as modern sources of “mosaic” or decoration, with interior design or the arrangement of artifacts forming a way whose buildings are connected to the human body and aesthetics. systems, He finds that, a century after the development of this interest in the typical and the meaning of everyday artifacts, which Payne traces back to nineteenth-century aesthetics and the ethnographic and psychological studies that flourished in the Bauhaus, the architecture has now gone a step further to integrate daily life and its elements by eliminating abstraction and standardization to directly scan and assemble all of our daily reality into buildings like, for example, him, his co-founder Young & Ayata Kutan Ayata, Ruy Klein and Mark Foster Gage design.
That this liberated and atomized pocket browsing of architectural proposals didn’t find much residue in a real, old-fashioned building is either telling or, to be more charitable, just a matter of time. In the era of socials, there are few shadows, even less solidity and therefore pocketability, but also little value in fixed construction. Perhaps what Young really discovered was that relying on all the tradition, labor and technology required to construct a building is so last millennium. The architecture is there in the scan, the noise and the remains of human lives, a liberated pocket waiting to be scanned, represented and assembled into not buildings, but an unstable and ephemeral architecture.
The opinions and conclusions of this author are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine or the American Institute of Architects.