Tuesday, November 15, 2005

PERIMETER PLEASURE




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PERIMTER PLEASURE

Dear Friends of the People:
Perimeter Pleasure is on the rise.

Kindly, conditionally, and pleasurably,
Robert Adams


11.14.05

1. Does the perimeter, by definition, entail a proximity to a center? What is the character of this relationship?

In the Perimeter the voice you speak with may not be your own. 1

Architecture in the Perimeter is the resultant space pilfered from the tyranny of choice. 2

The perimeter as a geometric relationship has never been directly associated with notions of center. Perimeter, as a dashed, perforated and malleable thick line favors areas, and thrives in the contested conditions between areas - areas of concern, areas of knowledge production, geographical areas, areas of discontent and content and other areas of responsibility. Identifying or securing the perimeter within architectural discourse, like many actions, is driven by the multi-polar ambitions of numerous cultural and special forces: aggressive and submissive states, tactical and strategic plans, access or denial to information currency, and the production of knowledge and, more importantly, ubiquitous stuff. Increasingly the perimeter is becoming evermore difficult to confine and define, but it may be useful to dislodge it from a literal geography and push towards more actionable metric pursuits. Regardless of how much intellectual or monetary capital is thrown at the chameleonic perimeter, it readily absorbs investment and just as easily can divest itself of responsibility to outstanding contracts or extenuating conditions within the conversation as it stands - architecture looking in, either selling out to the market, or trying to fix all the wrong-doings, but is anybody really listening anyway?

A study of Derrick de Kerckhove's [Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology and Professor in the Department of French at the University of Toronto] matrix regarding The Effects of Different Media on Representation, perimeter does not factor into the mix.
The Medium is the Perimeter is a false claim, and I would prefer to follow perimeter logic, if it has one, through the lens of ludi, a game or gaming, taking chances, seeing what pans out through the fall of the auctioneer’s hammer or bingo caller’s mantra, the perimeter is voiced. Kerckhove’s matrix makes it painfully evident that despite many advances due to electricity and by extension mass computation, architecture of the perimeter is fixed, square, horizontal and monumental. Of course we are interested in an architecture that is multipolar, dynamically in tune with various flows, ludi situational gaming and the ever emergent, but are we advocates of what the resultant project of architecture could be in these terms? Do we even really understand the potential what is being staked out as architecture works through the mid-ground of information management and globalism?

2. Given the perimeter, what are the most important tools for the architect? Are there new tools, or are we mutating the usual ones?

If you work the Perimeter, you have to be open to perceive its different frequencies.
New Perimeter sensitive tools and tolerances must be developed to find its main lines. 3


The perimeter will never be fully rendered safe. Regardless of the perimeter, the tools and skill sets associated with design work have always contended with the inherent limitations of procedures applied appropriately to study, advance and work on a set of ideas. Given the perimeter, it could care less about what types of tools are applied, it only cares about how quickly they enable decision making and expedite production. Before tools are loaded and fueled, it may make good sense to have an entrance strategy in place just in case something really does materialize. Could a school of architecture, the academy in general, convert all the well intended thinking and careful glances into something actionable at the speed of the street, or would one be vilified for selling out? Given what architecture has bought into, especially in terms of tooling up, selling out to establish intellectual profit could be a prudent and smart thing to do. It is not simply a question of using our new found tools to produce a set of effects, but rather becoming more adept and conversant across a range of platforms and tool paths to understand how lines can contain numerous types of spatial information. The ideal line or line as tool, to explore architectural thinking would be a fuse.

3. Is the perimeter a knowable circumstance? Or is it, by definition, formless and out of focus? Is it possible to manage a condition that is seemingly untamable?

Perimeter is the exchange rate of mediated bodies, migrant workers, manufactured goods, constantly moving hands collecting their scattered wits with eyes scanning the multiplex consciousness, the underpinnings of Perimeter logic. 4

Today there is not a complete map of the transportation infrastructure in Mexico City, D.F. To totalize the coordinate system for any territory is an extremely difficult task, especially in areas of rapid change and transformation. Is perimeter the market gone wild making the architect feel the need to step in as middle manager to cultivate a more readily digestible and civilized state? If perimeter is space somewhat unlegislated and tethered from the dynamic city, and perhaps urbanism all together, then its informal structural and underpinning logic is generative based on its ability to replicate itself, expressing its construction as a predictable spatial routine. Efficiencies in steel structural framing, extruded roadways, and readily available fuel and communication networks are all part of the architecture fulfilling expectations in the perimeter. If you are outside the service zone, you are likely outside the perimeter, yet wishing for increased bandwidth. The perimeter will eventually come to you. Imagine a world desiring to manage and control the seemingly untamable. One could reverse the tables. Perimeter is extremely knowable, architectural discourse and production is in a formless, out of focus, holding pattern, but no one is really interested in managing it because architecture is outside of the service zone.


4. Production in the discipline of architecture can be defined by recurring methods and techniques. What new methodologies become necessary in light of perimeter thinking? How do established modes of production get reorganized?

Architecture of the perimeter has long practiced the art of cloning, copy-cat logics of commerce without the shadow of academic intelligence hindering its propagation. Perimeter architecture has always been a “moving target” never hindered or mired in the debt of intellectual property, replicating itself adnauseam its typologies due for a face-lift. 5

I like recurring methods and techniques, and given the last seven weeks working on some aspect of the larger issues around Perimeter Projects, I am increasingly interested in the role of drawing. Drawing, now a sub-method of inquiry, could become more informative and interested in the multiple modalities and means to conceptualize space. Stronger advocacy of line intelligence that holds the designer to task could be considered a new methodology recalled from previous attempts to reorganize architectural production. It seems the interest and majority of new methods in architecture are inextricably tied to information economies, therefore issues of access and digital competency become more central to discourse. Working the perimeter on the surface seems to yield the perfect alibi to apply developing methods of fabrication, but what set of criteria will guide these operations? A careful study of the construction documents for Lowe’s, or any other rapid prototype building, could prove to be useful in educating the architect as these lines are more data rich though spatially poor. What types of knowledge and methods could be extracted from data rich practice and applied to making architecture? Couple that knowledge with whatever agenda you bring to the table - environmental, formal, new materials, prefabrication, etc – and see what happens to how we reconsider space of the perimeter.



5. How do you view the architect's role in the perimeter? As society becomes aware of the growing condition of the perimeter, do you see the architect - as - navigator within this system?

Navigating the aesthetics of the Perimeter is like sailing the Ship of Fools, architecture in crisis, lost at sea in the “boasting, pedantry, false learning, gambling, gluttony, medical folly, adultery, greed and other failings” of the storm. Oh, captain my captain, how I yearn to sail with thee. 6

The architect could be a student of the perimeter, as it has been a student of the city, other cities, great works of architecture, and other things in other fields all together. The designer could likely be an interlocutor of numerous cultural practices networking and brokering the gaps between disparate modes of material production, bantering with interest groups, getting the ball rolling, and defining not simply the terms of perimeter projects, but perimeter practice as a type of action practice undeterred by the preconceived notions of what is considered appropriate professional practice.

Architecture of the perimeter has long practiced the art of cloning, copy-cat logics of commerce without the shadow of academic intelligence hindering its propagation. The perimeter and its architecture has always been a moving target never hindered or mired in the debt of intellectual property, replicating itself adnauseam its typologies due for a face-lift. 7

For the academic architect, it is heresy to buy into the market, and even more so to become a proponent on its behalf. This is unfortunate.


6. In its current state, how far do you see the perimeter expanding? Is the perimeter necessarily a fleeting, transitory condition? Or is it possible to locate the edges of a perimeter condition, its beginning and end? How do you see it ending?

Perimeter descriptive geometry is vector based adjusting its length and direction without fixity, or fused position, the axis of which goes on and on infecting an architecture driven by the ease of which it eclipses the imagination of everything in its path – the consumer, automobile, identity, wage scales, simply wanting more – desire becomes its escape logic.8


7. We are witnessing a redemption of practice in the discipline of architecture. Many conversations are being centered around ways/means of practicing architecture. Has the status of contemporary urbanism affected this change? Are architects "redeeming practice" as an implicit response to the challenges of urbanism?

Extreme conditions demand extreme responses. 9

This question is best entertained by a theologian. To redeem or recuperate practice seems to explicitly admit that practice somewhere along the way got really botched up, and now with reconciled eyes the architect must make amends with practice. There seems to be implied a sense of loss, or even longing in the question, and I wonder what this may indicate. The conversations around the ways and means of practice could be aggressively apprehended if more attention were given to understanding and advancing the methods and techniques applied throughout the design process. Within the academic environment it is increasingly difficult to identify particular ambitions for the project – perimeter, practice, what do you want to do with it all anyway, critical attitudes where architecture is often exercised with a going through the motions attitude. How does practice become more vulnerable through intelligent risk within an environment increasingly intolerant to difference, reluctant to open debate and criticality within a conservative culture of fear? This is especially evident in architectural discourse where questions of creative practice or informed aesthetics are displaced by moralizing positions attempting to problem solve various inequities.


8. How do you see the perimeter evolving as the economy transitions from one based on heavy industry to a technological era of smaller, faster, and more efficient? Does it modify the size, speed or value of the perimeter?

Banished by the current Age of Techne, the regime of technology prevailing; all mythology and myth-makers are forced to seek refuge in the Perimeter [along with Giambattista Vico who said our minds mediate the mythologies of our time; and Gianni Vattimo where it is all fiction anyway; as Paul Virilio watches it all disappear into militarized oblivion].10

Even within heavy industry today, the economic shift from the Steel Age to the Infozoic [Karl Chu coined this term] could have very little to do with modifying the size, speed or value of the perimeter, and have everything to do with modifying the status of design as an incredibly applicable cultural, aesthetic and economic agenda that could learn from existing perimeter practices. Though no one has yet published the book entitled, A Natural History of the Perimeter, or Learning From Perimeter, these texts will in the future tense have an incredible influence on architectural education. In twenty years the warranty on the perimeter will have expired releasing its producers from all forms of litigation, and then things will get really interesting as the perimeter is evacuated, exacerbated, proliferating across the globe and still only in its infancy. Globalism in its infancy and with our new found awareness the crisis of what to do, and how architecture becomes performative.
Mario Merz woke up every morning asking the same question.



9. What does it mean for a graduate program in architecture to work the perimeter? What are we doing by implication when we think the perimeter?

Like Learning from Uncertainty, working the Perimeter is “a set of conditions that makes anything possible but everything extremely difficult”. 11
It means we are opening up the bandwidth as to what constitutes satisfying our intellectual curiosities. This is not as trite as it sounds. The operating mandate for the university is the education of students and knowledge production by its faculty. Perhaps what we are doing in this school is just beginning to think the perimeter, attempting to understand it as fertile ground from which to explore architecture within our immediate surround. The looming question is whether or not our interests will proliferate with enthusiasm for the perimeter project, and will we stay interested long enough to pull something together that is densely packed with insightful, meaningful, creative intelligence?


The Perimeter throws a sideways glance, a faint smile to Architecture and the City of Architects chanting its Anthem,
“I’m coming down fast, but I’m miles above you”. 12



SHOUT-OUTS: END NOTES + CITATIONS
1 Miller, Paul D. Rhythm Science. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid. MIT Press. Cambridge. 2004.
2 Rotondi, Michael. Conversation with Jim Bassett. 2005.
3 Miller, Paul D. Rhythm Science. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid. MIT Press. Cambridge. 2004.
4 Mexico City: An Exhibition About the Exchange Rate of Bodies and Values. P.S.1. MOMA. New York. June 30 – September 2. 2002.
5 Bernstein, Fred. Hi, Gorgeous. Haven't I Seen You Somewhere? Diller, Elizabeth quote. New York Times. August 28. 2005.
6 Brant, Sebastian. The Ship of Fools. Originally written in 1494. Dover Press. 1944.
7 Allen, Stan. Points + Lines: Diagrams And Projects For The City. Princeton Arch Press. New York. 1999.
8 Test Department. LP A Good Night Out. 1988.
9 Kwinter, Sanford. Modulations.
10 Chang, Yung Ho. Learning From Uncertainty. AREA. 2004.
11 Beatles. The White Album. Lyrics from “Helter Skelter” + many other bands covering this song. 1968.





Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Final Three

7. We are witnessing a redemption of practice in the discipline of architecture. Many conversations are being centered around ways/means of practicing architecture. Has the status of contemporary urbanism affected this change? Are architects "redeeming practice" as an implicit response to the challenges of urbanism?

8. How do you see the perimeter evolving as the economy transitions from one based on heavy industry to a technological era of smaller, faster, and more efficient? Does it modify the size, speed or value of the perimeter?

9. What does it mean for a graduate program in architecture to work the perimeter? What are we doing by implication when we think the perimeter?

more

4. Production in the discipline of architecture can be defined by recurring methods and techniques. What new methodologies become necessary in light of perimeter thinking? How do established modes of production get reorganized?

Methods are one thing; methodologies are another. Architects have remained shy to the latter ever since the 1970s. Lately they have at least been borrowing methods, however, mostly from related design disciplines (e.g. information sciences, geodata, web design) that are better geared toward identifying new design subject matters.

5. How do you view the architect's role in the perimeter? As society becomes aware of the growing condition of the perimeter, do you see the architect - as - navigator within this system?

Again, our studios are directed just to doing projects in the perimeter, not understanding the perimeter. Nevertheless some projects may show some people--although I think it is unwise to refer to society in the singular--somehting about how oddly they live. For example my studio is about public education. The outreach director of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Labs just told us yesterday never to undersestimate the level of environmental ignorance out there. Especially in the perimeter.

6. In its current state, how far do you see the perimeter expanding? Is the perimeter necessarily a fleeting, transitory condition? Or is it possible to locate the edges of a perimeter condition, its beginning and end? How do you see it ending?

Yow. You make it sound like a tsunami...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Perimeter Displeasure

4. Production in the discipline of architecture can be defined by recurring methods and techniques. What new methodologies become necessary in light of perimeter thinking? How do established modes of production get reorganized?

Perimeter thinking? It already sounds like we should be bracketing a new form of thought process specific to this theme, which would implicitly entail the generalized obsolescence of any ‘established modes of production’, if they are to be defined per subject matter/site of interest. A grammar of exceptions. You’re answering your own question..

I see among our studio themes the perimeter expressed as one of three possibilities: the edge of uncharted territory, be it geographical or knowledge based; the urban ready-made, the land of ultimate banality which we-architects are quick to aestheticize (one wonders: to whose benefit?); and the cracks and malfunctions within planned system, the anomalous zones that have been marginalized because our society likes to spotlight its failures about as much as its losers (ever noticed that in most other countries, defeated candidates get to come back and try again?). These categories widen the role of the architect to explorer, popular culture theorist and social worker, respectively, and whole new sets of methods and techniques become available.

In terms of architectural interventions, these specific perimeters all suffer from a lack of existing (or proven valid) methodological precedent. Architecture on virgin territory. So how do we lay an infrastructure of creative possibilities, without which any intervention, as good as it may be, could be erased without consequences to the land or to the people? Malcolm’s ‘art of composition’ is a possibility, if it speaks of tapping into existing harmonic needs other than formal (for now). It would demand extensive analysis (a scientific approach, watch out!) of programmatic needs. What is available, what is necessary, what is desired? What other desires and necessities would emerge as a consequence to any proposal? It’s a difficult exercise in proportioning. If many of these ‘perimeter conditions’ have not benefited from the touch of the ‘dream-maker’ architect, they certainly have already either been exploited or rejected as non-lucrative by the ‘money-maker’ economists. We’re always a bit behind on that one. Our role is to make spaces for local desire rather than for delocalized cash. Whether we are event-designers or space-manipulators, ultimately we’re trying to provide an optimized pleasure vs. displeasure ratio, and it should involve a clear, proportional and scaled definition of those affected. Sadly, pleasure is more easily evocated by a nebulous zone made of 100% potential than by any attempt post execution.
Is perimeter a sine qua non to pleasure?

Round 2 - New Questions

4. Production in the discipline of architecture can be defined by recurring methods and techniques. What new methodologies become necessary in light of perimeter thinking? How do established modes of production get reorganized?

5. How do you view the architect's role in the perimeter? As society becomes aware of the growing condition of the perimeter, do you see the architect - as - navigator within this system?

6. In its current state, how far do you see the perimeter expanding? Is the perimeter necessarily a fleeting, transitory condition? Or is it possible to locate the edges of a perimeter condition, its beginning and end? How do you see it ending?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Question 3: how knowable?

3. Is the perimeter a knowable circumstance? Or is it, by definition,
formless and out of focus? Is it possible to manage a condition that is
seemingly untamable?

Ahh, EPISTEMOLOGY--my favorite topic in philosophy--(and Immanuel Kant's favorite too.)

Something can be quite knowable and yet not have form or focus: hope, for example. Or in realm of the spatial: the distribution of Starbucks franchises.

To speak of "the perimeter" as a singular noun could be presumptuous. Our studios' topic uses the word as an adjective: "the perimeter projects." (That title was taken from an obscure and barely readable essay published 20 years ago--if it were food you would spit it out instantly--but for good reason that sometimes (not always please) to educate is to confound-- the first step too often neglected by our "expert" counterparts in other fields is to remind ourselves that we don't know much).

A perimeter project could for example be devoted to a frontier of the knowable. Robert Adams' studio went to Fermi Labs to see such a place. My own studio has been hosted by people who believe that much about the Great Lakes is not yet known.

Architect's usual approach to the frontiers of knowledge has been through art more than science, however, and especially, I think, through the art of composition. Much as in music Bach is still the mystical summit of the knowable and not just for simpering snobs, so architecture has its oeuvre. Tastes change of course, but some works endure. But seen though this lens, the discipline of architecture has a knowledge base that appears quite alien to present times--as alien as the English Suites would sound to someone reared on reggae. I mean, who else, except perhaps a few cooks or chemists, has as sense of proportion anymore? Certainly not the mainstream cultural media...

Alas, "to manage a condition", as the question puts it, seems to have little to do with it. (Aside: when I arrived at TCAUP, one senior faculty member astutely advised me that as soon as the junior faculty start talking about any "condition," it is time to leave the room.)

Nevertheless: epistomology of the transurban infrastructural landscape. That is the sort of word length that architecture theorists prefer. What would be brought into harmonious proportion? The flows? Crossover points? Does anybody know?

Question 2: the tools

2. Given the perimeter, what are the most important tools for the
architect? Are there new tools, or are we mutating the usual ones?

In my view, it is better to discuss medium than tools. Merely performing a process does not imply that one has a tool. The medium in question is certainly software, but that is a broad range. Geometric modeling is difficult and time-consuming; GIS is geeky; but photoshop and illustrator let even a beginner fill up screens and walls.

Or one could ask about representational genres. By whatever name, it is DIAGRAMMING that has risen to the forefront, both in schools and in practice. This is a much more information-intensive form of diagramming than the circle-and-arrows versions used by architects in the mid 20th century. Its mastery raises the stakes in INFORMATION DESIGN, or at least a subset of that larger and newer field.

Question 1: the word itself

1. Does the perimeter, by definition, entail a proximity to a center? What
is the character of this relationship?

Accroding to Webster, "perimeter" does involve a figure. The roots of the word mean around and measure.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Order of 1 with a side of 3



Somewhere in the syllabus, it says: What if the city is not where you expect to find it? I think it’s safe to ask: what if the perimeter is not where you expect to find it? i.e. contingent on a ‘center’ (2πR). We are continuously setting up oppositions: suburbs vs. inner-city, rural vs. urban, the ‘coasts’ vs. our identity-challenged Midwestern state. These may be temporarily meaningful, but have been proved unstable. Once vibrant centers vanish into the void of the doughnut hole (Detroit), relationships get reversed.
In my late great-grandmother’s house in Burgundy, old and heavy hemp sheets fill the linen shelves. A hand-stitched seem runs down the length of middle: a century ago, at the time of the sheets’ estimated midlife point, they were cut in half, flipped, and the worn out center area was relocated to the periphery, to be tucked in. In our studio, we’ve addressed ‘perimeter’ as the zone of marginalization (if not rejection). It may have a geographical implication, but originates as a social circumstance. Orphaned zones, unclaimed citizens. When searching for the zoning plans of the 8 mile strip, the Detroit bldg department suggested we contact the Warren/ Royal Oak/ South Field administrations -- who referred us right back to Detroit, mission unaccomplished.

The condition is untamable, clearly and for the better. The question is not whether architecture can control it, but more modestly, if it can achieve an active degree of participation. I would hope that the myth of architecture as an innocent and un-implicated practice is finally over. If it’s not working for you, it’s working against you.

Starters

1. Does the perimeter, by definition, entail a proximity to a center? What
is the character of this relationship?

2. Given the perimeter, what are the most important tools for the
architect? Are there new tools, or are we mutating the usual ones?

3. Is the perimeter a knowable circumstance? Or is it, by definition,
formless and out of focus? Is it possible to manage a condition that is
seemingly untamable?