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.


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