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transARCHITECTURES -Cyberspace and Emergent Theories 

 

3 August- 22 August 98

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AEDES East - Rosenthaler Strasse 40/41, 10178 Berlin.                                            Production- Architecture et Prospective, Brussels.                                                  German Partner- ABB Architects Scheid Schmidt und Partner, Frankfurt

Conference held by Lars Spuybroek for the opening in Aedes Galery;

"The Revenge of Architecture"

It is quite simple; the history of thought is that of machines, the history of machines is that of thought. Sure, it is social before it is technical, as Foucault stated, but it is conceptual even before it is social. And this conceptuality architecture has, through the ages, been incorporating from other disciplines. Always technologies of seeing and measurement. In this way machines that were built to reconstruct or register reality became tools to construct reality in architecture.

Tools that were at first meant as absorbing an outside reality, something essentially passive and receptive became in architectural practice active and productive. So: the machines to record images - throughout the whole history - became machines to create architecture. You have to imagine how an instrument starts out as something passive, to absorb reality, to only see reality, slowly takes place within the body, nestles itself in the dreams, the visions and hallucinations of the body, how this machine becomes virtual inside the body to produce reality. The old wooden machine of perspective for instance, the apparatus of Duhrer and Brunelleschi, is also the mental apparatus to understand cities like the Roma Barocca of Sixtus V, the Rome of the axis, the monument and the facade. The whole theatre of Machiavelli's politics, the policing of public space in an order of the visible, it is all structuring visibility. An architecture where all movement culminated in standing still, as Euclidean lines between points, where architecture was constructed by paintings.

Now consider two other machines, much later, like twins, the train and the film, and how they broke with the old perspective, I mean the train was for nineteenth century urbanism nothing but an accident, an enormous train accident - the whole carefully build up urban continuum was suddenly broken up by the railway system. The same as the mental problem they had at first with understanding or perceiving speed and montage and look how it slowly turned into Cubism, into James Joyce. Just look at Loos and especially Le Corbusier: one would never understand the way the floors were cutting through a new spatial continuum, one would never understand how Corbu varied between long slow lines and sudden curves, how he superimposed rooms with movement spaces, one would never understand without having seen films. Corbu designed "with the camera" - they always stress how much he looked at steamliners and cars, but that would only mean a metaphorical, aesthetic interchange of images swirling around in the zeitgeist. No, Corbu was a cyborg: the machine, the moving camera was part of him, was inside his body when he plotted the lines for Villa Garches and Villa Savoy... So, instead of using the camera, as a seeing machine it also became a drawing machine... From a receptive instrument towards an active part of the body/mind.

For the same reason I cannot ever consider Robert Venturi or the whole of Post Modernism without thinking of cars and television. Well, Learning from Las Vegas is a complete rethinking of architectural theory based on the perception from a car! Las Vegas has been designed by a car. Yes, it is very hard to understand this fata morgana in the middle of the desert while walking around. You would never understand why the billboard is not fixed to the building. In fact, Venturi should have written the book before Complexity and Contradiction, then the issue would not have been that of language and architecture, and the pitstop of PostModernism has been nothing else, but one of image and speed. That 15 why we have ended Up with cities that are meant to drive through towards neighbourhoods and Mails that are only meant to walk through. Never PosModernism has been able to think speed and image within one continuum, with incredibly beautiful highway structures cutting only through nomandsland on our way to horrific New Urbanism where ail the images of architecture are buried in an Open Air Museum. Well, it's obvious what I'm driving at; the .way Corbu designed 1with the camera', and the way Venturi designed 'with the car', the transArchitects are designing 1with the computer'. The computer is our destiny, in the virtual space of design, and in the real space of building. Now finally we can see image and movement, and form and time within one continuum. Finally we have a camera that creates geometry while it moves, 50 in stead of having movement as the disturbance of form we can finally create form out of movement. Since the Old Greeks we have been separating substance from accident, form reduced to a timeless space separated from events reduced to time alone. Substance was conceived as that part of an entity that stayed the same over the course of time, its essentials, the Ideal Type in ideal Proportion, and the accident was ail that derived from that. Accident as something that was 'breaking in' into form, now, finally we can see time creating form, form emerging from processes, unstable form, deform and unform. When the Greeks saw a cloud they saw spheres, when we see a cloud, we see the numerous iterations forming in time, we see the fractal dimensions, the catastrophic transition of vapor into liquid and how a stream of matter-energy is moving through the cloud substance. Substance created in the accident. While we see we measure, first the computer was a ruler or a compass, now, obviously, it is computing. We architects have become cyborgs, we wish to be cyborgs.

If the old perspective was an apparatus to look at form in space, then the computer is an apparatus to look at form in time. We are not looking at objects anymore, static or moving, or objects containing movement, we are actually looking at movement as it passes through the object, we look at objects as processes, as events, where many temporalities come together. Yesterday we were obsessed with the cube and the sphere, now we have become obsessed with a cloud, or a flock, with a traffic jam, with the behaviour of a dog, with the substance and the surface of water. We are drawing less and less - we stopped modelling from the outside on and started generating from the inside out. This is transArchitectures. That means we re not interested in creating images on architectures, not applying the virtual onto the real, we're not interested in the old Semperian distinction of Image and Building, of textile and tectonics. No, we're actually more interested in finding the tectonics of the flexible, of the textile itself. In charging the real with the virtual, pushing the virtual into the real. By this we don't think movement on the floor and images on the wall, we're stepping right into the image, and for this we need to blur all architectural elementarism, all tectonics, all Modernist idiom of columns, voids walls and replace it for a smooth surface of threedimensionality without any proper Up or down. Still with Corbusier the problem was that he could only use the camera in a conceptual way, by enacting the machine, and not instrumentally, on that level he could not be precise. With us this is the other way around, because of its calculating power, the computer has almost only been used instrumentally. That is: every force in reality can be mapped and design is only the outcome of this diagramming of needs. Typical cybernetic problem-solving; reality is the supplier of needs, which are of course in opposition to each other, then one invents a technology that equalises all these needs, and brings them algorithmically in relation to each other, and we end Up with tranquillity and equilibrium. My view on the other hand is putting machines into reality not to serve needs (or just for a certain percentage) but to create desires, to charge reality with the multiple, multiple images, and not to replace reality by a TechnoGnostic heaven, a parallel World Named Cyberspace. This is the greatest danger of real-time computing, I agree with Virilio, that's is why we transArchitects are stealing the computers from the system operators, from the cyber engineers and interface designers who are only interested in user-friendliness. 0f course Architecture has always been this mechanistic schematisation of actions and habits and behaviour, cooling us down, separating our actions, in stead of connecting them, and, sure, this is a deep desire too. And now we're coming to the crux of transArchitectures. Because for too long Media and Architecture have been opposed, and I'm furiously resisting this conceptually and instrumentally. Not only can we now step into television and in that virtual space actually design architecture - this is computing as a theme based art - but we can also step into architecture and encounter media... There 15 not one without the other. So, if we use animation software to generate form, I'm ail for it, I'm doing it, we should connect the distribution of forces and parameters with something better than just program. Because program is the prewritten scheme of behaviour, where architecture can only be the material repetition of that behaviour, pure Jesuit and military thinking. Pure disciplinization. We should therefore connect these forces with a multiplication and differentiation of behaviour, something that can continuously charge the repetitive patterns of the programmatic, and become action. An architecture that does not reflexively respond to different actions with the same answer, but by its topological smoothness provokes action, not a prescribed one, not function, but an event in itself So, in stead of packaging behaviour, architecture could also be like a spring or diving board, at the start of an act, in stead of at the end. So, this electrical view on geometry, this neuro-electrical view on topological form, opens the way towards applying interactive electronics as part of the architectural concept. Because I am ail for the perceptual implosion of body, technology and environment I've never tried to distinguish between media and architecture, I've done things that where done completely in concrete and those which are wholly electronic, and everything in between, that is really not the point: the point is to develop a view either of geometry, either of electronics, or of both, were the Liveliness and instability of action and perception is central, THE MOVEMENT WITHIN THE MOVEMENT, where action multiplies in time.

Lars Spuybroek