• FRONT SECTION
    “Interlock, Front Section,” T4T Lab Spring 2018, Texas A&M Department of Architecture. Invited professor: Nate Hume. Team: Madison Green, Finn Rattana, Ray Gonzalez, Lauren Miller. Image courtesy TAMU.

Deep Vista took place at Texas A&M University on April 27 and 28. Curated by architecture professor Gabriel Esquivel, the conference involved a series of seven themed panel discussions, bracketed by introductions and closing remarks, that grappled with the current state of architecture as a cultural agent. The themes were Ecologies; Sites (Geo-Specificity); Built Environment & Digital Media; Borders & Thresholds; Program; Design Research; and The Actual Space of the Studio. The panelists included philosophers, writers, curators, designers, architects, and educators: Sean Anderson, associate curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art; Kristy Balliet, assistant professor of architecture at Ohio State and co-founder of BlairBalliet; academic and video game designer Ian Bogost; philosophers Levi Bryant and Graham Harman; Courtney Coffman, manager of lectures and publications at Princeton University; Abigail Coover Hume and Nate Hume of Hume Coover Studio and suckerPUNCH; TAMU’s Sarah Deyong; Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular; Rice University English professor and ecological thinker Timothy Morton; Dwayne Oyler of Oyler Wu Collaborative; Michel Rojkind of Rojkind Arquitectos; Kivi Sotamaa of Ateljé Sotamaa; Robert Stuart-Smith, professor of architecture and director of autonomous manufacturing labs at PennDesign; and Michael Young, assistant professor of architecture at Cooper Union and co-founder of Young & Ayata. The discussions were lively, and the panelists expressed a variety of divergent views. Here, Aaron Seward presents a journalistic poem, a kitbashed assembly of unattributed voices, heard and overheard, however unreliably, at Deep Vista.

I.

Architecture is just as much

about not communicating

as about communicating.

You can never get it perfectly

right. Architecture is an open

system, an object made by

other objects. We need another

way of talking about it.

The idea of nature is

dangerous because it separates

us from it. Global warming is

really big, but it’s finite.

More like a titan than a god.

Like Kant’s sublime, it’s

huge and can crush us. But

you can dispel it: Stop

burning fossil fuels,

nowish. Everyone needs to

jump into the uncanny valley.

Saying everything is connected

overlooks the important connections.

There’s a danger of architecture

being subsumed by ecology,

erasing objects into the infinite

surround of space and time.

What’s an object? That which

can’t be reduced to its components

or its effects.

How do we think the relationship

between ecology and architecture?

Think the relationship between

the Museum Tower and

the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Another name for ecology

is realpolitik.

Take the beaver approach.

II.

Every idea has a shelf life.

Site specificity has reached

its end. In College Station,

people are aligning their

graves to Kyle Field.

Take a model and hold it in your

hand. Now, soliloquize. The site

is within the self, the self

is Theseus’ ship, it sails around

the world and returns to port

interchanged.

SCI-Arc has changed its site. But

SCI-Arc is the software, not the

hardware. Any action creates

its own context. The aim is

to transform.

Site specificity suggests

it’s a process, it stretches

out. The pyramids are not the

same in Vegas as in Giza.

I subscribe to relationism. The

moving target of normal makes it

difficult to claim an essence.

Autonomy, implied absolute power,

can be politically harmful.

I’m a fan of autonomy.

There’s an assumption

that more relationships,

more people will improve

projects. But there are

more powerful ways

to have a cultural effect.

Site always matters, it’s

unavoidable if you do a

building. AT&T Long Lines

in New York makes you

think differently about

the surroundings.

III.

How do we understand the

aesthetics of realism? What

do you want to communicate?

How do you know it’s real?

The questions you ask are

the same: They’re all real.

Realism has bigger fish to fry

than traumatizing humans.

Things have a surplus

beyond form and purpose.

Abstraction is involved

in the aesthetics of realism.

In video games it looks real.

Draw more. Draw humidity,

temperature, atmosphere.

Plans and sections are

not necessary for fabrication,

just points in space.

In Los Angeles, they mock up

additions so people will know

the size and impact

of a proposed development.

Tools that might sound

retrograde to architects

can be very useful to

preservationists. And

we’ll need them as evidence

in legal battles.

IV.

Can you empathize?

I’m hearing cyborg.

Screens are a portal into

a yet-existing reality.

The body looks through the screen.

Bodies are borders. The site is

bordered. There’s a modulation,

whether in or out. The threshold

is a lumpy thing that causes you

to hesitate for a moment

of aesthetic appreciation.

Take a world that’s well

defined and work on it to

make it something else. But

when it’s built, and out

there, there’s a burden.

How will it be absorbed?

Six minutes or 5,000 years,

it’s all temporary. It’s all

for the purpose of photography.

If we reach the real, we die. It’s

a threshold. When I’m finished, I feel

depressed. That’s how I know.

I’m on the threshold of wanting to

throw it all away. At the end,

I’m excited to do new things.

I don’t look back with regrets. When

I’m done, I want to get away

from it quickly. I get angry when

I read something I wrote.

V.

No amount of facts will tell you

what a design is like. Programs

will change over time, but the

building will not be exhausted. Socrates

was a person who knew nothing.

I walk into a bedroom and see a

mattress. I know what to do.

If I ate there, it would be

naughty. Furniture that looks

like a manta ray had sex

with a stealth bomber might

make you uncomfortable, but it

triggers the imagination. It doesn’t

have to justify its existence.

Another word for program is

narrative. And the author is

dead. How do children and

animals use something? There

are bats living in the

Congress Avenue Bridge.

Encourage the assembly of

adjectives. Think the exploded

view, the suspension of components.

Hieronymus Bosch’s composites equal

cross-programming, conflicting frames.

There’s a risk of mistaking one

interpretation for all possible.

Inside and outside don’t have to be

mutually exclusive. It’s more

interesting when the bats take over.

VI.

The fact that we commodify

ideas is problematic. Between

quantitative and qualitative,

funding is attracted by

quantitative. The sound of a

door closing on a luxury car

is a subject of research.

To treat design as problem

solving is problematic,

the enemy of sensation.

Design is not itself research.

Our values are screwed up.

There’s a disconnect between

research and any economic end,

in which nothing is valuable

in itself. Think the speculations

of Cedric Price. Think telescopes

that let us see the universe

and know we can’t go there. 

Wasteland becomes land art.

VII.

Nothing is given, everything

is designed. Architecture has

agency, but we don’t recognize it.

The world is permeated with

objects, gadgets pervade our

existence. Hold open the door.

More entities can be included.

A strong philosophy should

carry many ideas.

Lovecraft cannot quite

describe the Nameless City.

His agglomeration of descriptors

shows the tension between

an object and its qualities.

There’s an ambiguity to the truth

and more than one perfect solution.

Relax and let go of control.

When you relax you can see,

like meditation, which

is getting used to.

Space involves an inference.

Don’t overthink the tower.

Leave a Comment