Saturday, May 5, 2012

House for sale

Aguileri, Anambra State, Nigeria

Making architecture

Architecture is obsolete; the future is fabrication.

Since architects began to call themselves architects – before that, they were builders – they have sought to leverage drawings as instruments of service, in practice making pieces of paper produce the contractual terms for making a living by making lifestyles legible.

Fast forward to today: while movie and recording studios try to contain 'piracy,' newspapers and magazines battle 'aggregation,' fashion houses contest counterfeits, corporations protect their right to copyright and the West deflects the rise of 'the rest,' architects seek to keep the sanctity of their sect intact.

Design will always be in the details. But if in the past (when media was printed) data could be regulated, conversely in the present network culture dispersal of information decentralizes power and dissolves control. Suddenly a few individuals and many machines can outmatch the capacity of the State; case in point: the greater the number of distinct copies of Wikileak's insurance file that enter into simultaneous existence, the more difficult that file's secure contents become to lock down. As the digital real-time of the social web replaces the telephone call and the email forward, the spread of information is fast emerging as the new gravity, if not the new speed of light.

The globe today is a technological village compared to the mega- (meta-) urbanism of human society to come. That is to say, human beings are (voluntarily) networking themselves digitally at an ever-increasing rate. While planetary space is constant, social material is not. Given that technology is part of society, we can anticipate two main trajectories for the future production of space: (1) Mass Produced: The machine envelops man and the city; and (2) Custom Fabricated: Man hacks the machine.

In the first scenario, the masses follow the mass produced (think consumers falling constantly for the latest Apple). In the second, an individual cooperates with other individuals to re-appropriate function (using Youtube tutorials to jailbreak an iphone).

From a certain vantage point, the danger in deciding that the drawing embodies the sum total of design's power is that it overlooks the power of production. More specifically, the fetishization of the image is what led to architect's self-imposed exile from everyday relevancy and left a vacuum filled by a geography of McMansions, spec condos and urban stratification. That was then.

Now design needs to focus less on being cool, and more on heat. Reset to think globally, act locally. Designers need to remember that the power of design is in making. Give people the power of production: new possibilities through collaboration trumps incestuous discourse and new for the sake of novelty alone. In the post-bubble world, the only way to be radical is to build.


[This text was originally intended for Thresholds 40 Socio, but never finished (although excerpts accompanied three farmhouses by LOWDO in the exhibit 2084 at Brooklyn's Cameo Gallery). Part of the same thought process that started on this blog and led to LOWDODSGN AGNC and current work on Anam City. More recently: urban O/S and public hacking.]
Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC; more resources at BlogXpertise