e-flux #66

The second part of the ‘Architecture as Intangible Infrastructure’ issue of e-flux journal, has been published. It begins with an editorial which argues –

It is actually through ethical, historical, economic, and social apparatuses that today’s information flows are placing the greatest stresses on the formal language that architects have been trained in. The question then becomes whether this language can remain relevant in designing spectacular parametric signposts for concentrations of heritage, capital, and tourism.

Highlights include;

Andrew Herscher on Digital Food,” “Digital Shelter,” and Voucher Humanitarianism wherein Herscher suggests

the refugee camp is in effect privatized, its functions distributed across city-as-such, no matter its condition. Normalizing precarity, this rendering disposes of the housing question as a provocation to envision other forms of housing, if not other ways of living in common. When housing questions are answered by the existing housing market, in other words, the market’s structural inadequacies and inequities are assumed and reproduced;

Hans Ulrich Obrist In Conversation with Hans Hollein and a mapping “of the convergence of global workforces on a building site” by WBYA.

Plus, Jorge Otero-Pailos proposes the neologism Monumentaries to describe the notion that monuments are not just material documents of the past, but also the expression of a contemporary editorial point of view. He also digs into the “paradoxical status of the supplement” in relation to architecture and historic preservation.

“You have to have, as Ernst Bloch said, revolutionary hope”

Hakim Bey, Oscar Wilde, 2010, mixed media.

Above image from an old e-flux interview ft Hans Ulrich Obrist In Conversation with Hakim Bey. The two discuss mapmaking, the Empress of Iran’s support of modern art in the 60s and Hakim’s recent interest in “queering the landscape”.

Hans Ulrich Obrist closes by acknowledging his own debt to Bey in developing his approach to curating wherein art exhibition becomes TAZ. Obrist asks him whether or not Bey believes exhibitions and institutions can become these sorts of pockets of anarchy, temporary, flexible and with a predefined short lifespan.

Bey notes “I think it’s an excellent idea. Of course, it sounds absolutely ghastly to anyone who has to think about the budget. If you’re talking to your accountant about this, better not mention your plans to stop after five years, because it’s going to be a nightmare to raise and administer the money. That’s mostly why it doesn’t happen, because capital doesn’t work that way…But now, you have an advantage. You can tell people you’re a curator and that what you’re doing is an art exhibition. And then they understand it in a certain way, say, as a temporary project. But if you told people that you’re founding an institution, then their reactions are going to be very different, right?

Discovered via Arthur Magazine’s new(ish) tumblr here

The Edge World Question 2011

The Edge World Question 2011 was “What scientific concept would improve evrybody’s cognitive toolkit.

There were many interesting and intelligent answers from the hive mind. Also divergent.

Particularly noticed the following:

Brian Eno’s answer is, Ecology and concluded, “When we realise that the cleaners and the bus drivers and the primary school teachers are as much a part of the story as the professors and the celebrities, we will start to accord them the respect they deserve.

Neri Oxman responds, It Ain’t Necessarily So and she questions ‘reality’. She then references Gershwin’s song to remind us all that “ Still, it is worth remembering to take your Gospel with a grain of salt because, sometimes, it ain’t nessa, ain’t nessa, it ain’t necessarily so.

James Croak replies, Bricoleur and describing the acceptance of the loss of the master narrative and contemporary disinterest in the ‘isms’, writes “The common prediction was that the loss of grand narrative would result in a descent into end-of-history purposelessness, instead everywhere the Bricoleurs are busy manufacturing meaning-eliciting metaphor“.

Nicholass Car warns, Cognitive Load and cautions us about the potential ramifications of our digital wide broadcast culture. Are humans reaching the real world limits of our cognitive capacities? Either way, “it’s important to remember that, when it comes to the way your brain works, information overload is not just a metaphor; it’s a physical state.

Hans Ulrich Obrist chooses, To Curate and notes that given the level of data and experience available, finding, filtering or curation is key. Moreover, is the chance that these sorts of relational structures can provide a new path forward for society, “Selection, presentation, and conversation are ways for human beings to create and exchange real value, without dependence on older, unsustainable processes. Curating can take the lead in pointing us towards this crucial importance of choosing.

Daniel Goleman selects, Anthropocene Thinking and points out that what contemporary humans really lack is a contemporary conception of danger. Meaning that, “Anthropocene thinking tells us the problem is not necessarily inherent in the systems like commerce and energy that degrade nature; hopefully these can be modified to become self-sustaining with innovative advances and entrepreneurial energy. The real root of the Anthropocene dilemma lies in our neural architecture.” Here an awareness of deep human behavior and not the lack of hard science is the larger problem.

Finally, Jaron Lanier offers up, Cumulative Error and argues that the contemporary networked information age and culture is dangerous. Errors may result or, “A joke isn’t funny anymore if it’s repeated too much. It is urgent for the cognitive fallacy of Platonic information to be universally acknowledged, and for information systems to be designed to reduce cumulative error.

Three from Abitare

Norman Foster writing about Foster and Partner’s design for the Beijing airport. He writes “I think that the Beijing airport is an attempt to recapture a golden era of travel; when it was more generous, when it was a luxury experience, but accessible to all. And in that sense, I think it is really radical and also very successful.” Foster also describes a bit of the firm’s design process in terms of evaluation and testing, the iterative development of a design. Surprisingly although a computer is important he writes, “What you can do with a model is also take photographs of the model and you can insert scale references, like figures. And curiously, the photograph of a model is one of the most important tools for usIn the past we worked with two types of models: a model to communicate an idea and a model to explore an idea.” More (here)


Yehuda Safran in Gravity and Grace on Steven Holl’s  Horizontal Skyscraper-Vanke Center in Shenzhen. “Unlike most buildings in this town, Holl’s Horizontal Skyscraper not only resurrects dreams of past generations of Megaform/Megastructure, but it does so in a manner which retains a large variety of interiors and a constant shift in direction. Rhizomatic in plan, it provides an endless play on the inside/outside experience.

Peter Fischli, Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist talk about the photos taken during the Venturi, Izenour and Scott-Brown’ noted trip to the US town. Koolhaas speaking almost nostalgically about the 1960’s notes “At that point there was still a more elegant form of mass culture. That’s perhaps the great thing about the 1960s. It had that kind of perfection not only in high culture, but also in low culture. If you look at the interiors of the largest restaurants, the largest casinos or hotels from that time, they looked exactly like this. It was before the arrival of populism as we know it.” He also distinguishes between the ‘as found’ and Pop art movements thusly, “More nostalgic maybe, too. With Pop, everything was new. But “as found” could also be amazingly touching, or amazingly sad … But there’s nothing tragic to Pop. Whereas I would say that even Ed Ruscha’s pictures of parking lots have something tragic about them.” More (here)

Recently On Mapping

A brief Twiter exchange re: maps and mapping between Javier, myself and others…

When it began i had just finished reading about the recent Map Marathon curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist at The Serpentine Gallery.

Next the exchange

javierest “Maps are overrated

Geotch “@javierest nope you’re wrong. Maps are the lenses to data

javierest “@Geotch hardly. maps don’t understand or order data on their own, even w/ software. Humans do, and w/ their politics.

namhenderson “@javierest re: http://bit.ly/dwRc1A ? and weren’t you telling me that a while back… #maps

namhenderson “@javierest also re: #maps or #mapping, maps = static image, mapping is active process of data acquisition?

and finally, javierest “@namhenderson #mapping isn’t just acquisition; it’s also process of altering reality; of also stealing knowledge, at times

Beenie Man (as soundtrack) and Benoît Mandelbrot and some Sunday reading…

Three latest reads from Edge.org

THE FATHER OF LONG TAILS Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews Benoît Mandelbrot (here)

A primitive man or woman saw very few, simple, smooth shapes. For example the full moon is a simple shape, a circle. The pupil and the iris of the eye are circles. Some berries are spherical. But in the wild, almost all the shapes are extremely rough and complicated; there is a sharp distinction between the smooth/simple and the rough/complicated. Historically, geometers concentrated on the properties of a very few smooth shapes and physicists were also significantly devoted to smooth, regular behaviour, with perhaps sometimes a complication of the kind that the French mathematician René Thom theorises as “catastrophe”. But trees are not smooth at all, neither are mountains and clouds.”

A THEORY OF ROUGHNESS by Benoit Mandelbrot

Since roughness is everywhere, fractals — although they do not apply to everything — are present everywhere. And very often the same techniques apply in areas that, by every other account except geometric structure, are separate.


W. Daniel Hillis on CANCERING : Listening In On The Body’s Proteomic Conversation


Just to show you how precise these pictures are, you notice that these things tend to occur in these little groups of stripes, tick, tick, tick. You see there are several of them in each group, and they kind of trail off; it’s almost like a ring, or an echo. Well, the reason for that is that carbon has different isotopes, and so if there is an extra neutron, you have a different isotope of carbon in the protein, then it’s going to be slightly heavier. That distance between the stripes is actually the weight of one neutron; it gives you an idea of how precisely we’re measuring things. There’s nothing in between because there’s no such thing as half a neutron. In fact, measuring things so precisely we can often tell by the shape, how many carbon atoms there are in the protein.


The 2010 attack of Eyjafjallajokull attacks

Amidst recent news that the threat to European air-travel by volcanoes in Iceland is returning I came across this insightful discussion hosted by John Brockman of Edge.org‘s.

I particularly enjoyed the contributions of Hans Ulrich Obrist, Delta Willis, James Croak, Karl Sabbagh and this quote from John Tooby;

These have been hidden from us not only by our ostrich-like inclinations, but because their time scales and physical magnitudes transcend those that evolution equipped us to perceive or appreciate.

As life forms, we have become physically, biologically, culturally, economically and personally dependent on “present” conditions, on the lazy assumption that they are “normal” and will indefinitely persist.

Which I thought timely, in reference to either the climate crisis, ash crisis, economic crisis or terrorism crisis

For more see (here)