Dear Friends of the People:
Perimeter Pleasure is on the rise.
Kindly, conditionally, and pleasurably,
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.
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?
“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.