[iDC] Beyond the blob

Christiane Robbins at Jetztzeit cpr at mindspring.com
Wed Sep 27 20:09:31 EDT 2006

Dear Mark,

In my earlier email, from which I believe Brian was responding, my intent was not to point to Starachitects, it was merely to expand beyond the seemingly narrowcasting of this discussion to primarily Archigram and DeBord.   As you have noted, there is a recent and fertile discourse in which architects themselves are steeped 
 and which might well find our own current discussion to be somewhat, and hopefully, refreshingly naive!

As an aside, I don’t pretend to ownership of that silly phrase blobatecture 
 its just one that has been thrown around so much ( and spelled/pronounced so differently)  in the past ten years or so that it verges on absurdity.  Its had more than it share of different spellings, etc
.but as you noted there has been a shadow of derision that follows it no matter where it goes!

I am glad to see that you have raised the LA architect, Neil Denari.  His somewhat underecognized work has been stimulating to me for years now.  I have used his work, such as “Interrupted Projections” Another Global Surface or Territorial Re-codings of the World Sheet”  as seminal texts in my digital media classes on Mapping since 1996.

 since there have been few, if any, women noted in this conversation, another architect whose work in the digital realm (again, mapping) is certainly worth noting is that of Laura Kurgan (http://www.l00k.org/) whom I believe is at Columbia and who’s firm is based in NYC.

Another collective architect/design studio (collaborative practioners) are FAT (http://www.fat.co.uk/) – out of the UK.  They have been dealing with digital tools, skill-sets and a rather idiosyncratic aesthetic of pop/hipster culture for years now.  

Point in fact, their collective speaks to a burgeoning migration of architects from a professionalized, licensed positioning into that of the conventional categorization of designers (product – buildings as commodities - industrial and graphic) which is less risky from a liability/financial point of view.  Whatever the underlying directive of this migration, it may point to a more mutable embodiment of Buckminster Fuller’s proposal of a comprehensive designer, a creator who would embody “ an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist.”

But returning to your concern re: architecture becoming more interactive – you state that architecture involves dialogue 
 well, yes 
. but the very nature and framing of that dialogue begs the issue, no?   And who is to say that evolving mobile and locative technologies will not (reciprocally) inform us as to how a building is built or permutates throughout a lifetime.  They already are doing so.  If one were to consider only the plethora of technologies being embedded into building due to amped up security issues – these building are going live to be sure 
BUT, they are doing so following the embedded conventions and tenets of security risk management, which, as we know, is an inscripted dialogue (rather a monolog impersonating a dialogue 
 which, then again is true of a significant percentage of interactive “experiences.”)

 is it, once again, simply a question of a re-purposing of technologies generated and handed down by the military or corporate America.  Or, as it seems you are suggesting, is it that architects/artist need to advance these developments ahead of the military –industrial curve?

The process by which buildings are constructed will likely shift dramatically once these " invisible" technological influences enter in to the process of design and survive into the post –occupancy phase 
 and then all we have to do is consider the planned obsolensce aspect of building 
 and the process begins once again.



>Brian pointed to Non-standard Architectures @ the Pompidou. Frank  
>referenced "Hybrid Space : new forms in digital architecture". To  
>that I would add the Non-standard Praxis symposium @ MIT - http:// 
>Ahh... The usual suspects. The starchitects are in the house!

>It's high time we get beyond the blob, the digital hybrid, and the  
>tendency of architecture to merely "represent" ideas in formal terms  
>using the common digital tools (CAD/CAM, digital fabrication)  
>available to us today. I think for some architects at least, the  
>whole "constructing digital architecture" debate has really run its  
>course. Moving beyond screen-based simulations or real-time  
>"reactive" spaces (which are often no more than glorified automatic  
>door openers), the questions today have less to do with the old  
>digital/analog debate.
>I know I'm the one who introduced the form-fetish syndrome into the  
>discussion, but I did so more as a provocateur than anything else.  
>It's been more than a decade since people like Niel Denari  conducted  
>a graduate design studio at Columbia on blob-form as a graphic  
>strategy, or Greg Lynn introduced concepts of generative form,  
>iteration, and responsiveness into the design process (also at  
>Columbia). I'm not a historian of the term, but I recall hearing (and  
>using) blobitecture (and its close cousin "spaghetti architecture")  
>as a derisive label for the work going on there at the time. (Mea  
>culpa: I was a graduate student there then). I find it remarkable  
>that these terms could be still "in vogue" today.
>I think Usman's on to something here:
>> As I see it, interest in hertzian and networked space is a  
>> satisfactory first small step in the right direction, because it  
>> negotiates between a fascination with form (ala blobs) and a  
>> fascination with architectural program (ala early Tschumi) because  
>> such an approach deals explicitly with both the relationship  
>> between people and their physical spaces and with topological  
>> frameworks that give rise these relationships.
>> A subsequent step must be to question the design process itself,  
>> no? How might the production itself of an architecture *really* be  
>> "interactive" (in the sense that Maturana or Pask use the word)?  
>> Surely such an architecture would never be "complete"? This is why  
>> I find it quite interesting that Omar, too, is interested in the  
>> notion of "performance": because performance is a work, the  
>> production of which is very much the work as well.
>Architecture in this sense involves a dialogue (conversation?)  
>between people, physical space, and the topological frameworks that  
>structure and inform this dialogue. What happens when this dialogue  
>is understood not in terms of real-time "reactions" or "responses,"  
>but rather over an extended time-frame? The life of a building, for  
>example? What happens when the "certificate of occupancy" (issued by  
>the building inspector when a building is considered "finished" and  
>safe for inhabitation) is not the end of the design process, but  
>merely another step along the way?
>mark shepard
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                  Walter Benjamin

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