Scape – Part 1

 

Some Implications of Scape

By James Quinton

.pdf here: Scape

Our ultimate gratitude to art.— If we had not welcomed the arts and invented this kind of cult of the untrue, then the realization of general untruth and mendaciousness that now comes to us through science—the realization that delusion and error are conditions of human knowledge and sensation—would be utterly unbearable. Honesty would lead to nausea and suicide. But now there is a counterforce against our honesty that helps us to avoid such consequences: art as the good will to appearance. We do not always keep our eyes from rounding off something and, as it were, finishing the poem: and then it is no longer eternal imperfection that we carry across the river of becoming—then we have the sense of carrying a goddess, and feel proud and childlike as we perform this service.1 Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

 

 

 

Architecture, it is said, is the craft of weaving science and art into built masterpieces.2 Â On the artistic side: aesthetics, representation, symbolism and cultural enrichment. Science: functionality, structural integrity, technical innovation and strong building practise. Conceptual appropriation of science and art by architects, (via the social sciences and philosophy) influence and alter the outcomes of architecture.3 Modernism sought rationality through its belief in the infallibility of science. If, through rationality, society could not be improved, belief in the progress and accomplishment of the scientific method further motivated the modernists to keep trying. Post-modernism rejects the call for the improvement of society through science and rationality; claiming it will merely lead to tyranny.4Perhaps prophetically, Nietzsche foreshadowed the post-modernist claim for reticence toward science. Art continues to move us, because it makes no claims against its fictional disposition. In a post-modern, globalised milieu, science, due to its fallible nature, is incorporated into notions of art.

 

Globalisation, a late twentieth century phenomenon, is a term used to denote the mass proliferation of information, commodities and images across borders, regardless of cultural and racial differences.5Employing the mechanics of the free market economy, the movement of global capital is inhibited only by infrastructural technologies that determine the speed of the goods delivery. The movement of people across the planet are also determined by those infrastructures. Sassen attempts to rarefy globalisation in terms of strategic sites: the places (non-virtual/virtual) where process and links materialise.6 Infrastructural technologies, often invisible, network and link everything. “Nothing escapes the panoptic reach of the new information system that oversees the emergent simultaneity of global cause and effect”7 writes Enwezor.

 

Globalisation, in its early conception, polarised observers.8There were those who believed that globalisation would lead to cultural/architectural homogenisation and gentrification. Others argued that globalisation would have positive effects by way of highlighting differences in local knowledge and sensibilities. There appears to be consensus amongst architectural discourse that globalisation has created the latter. Lootsma, quoting Polo, claims that “we witness an artificial regionalisation, an artificially enhanced nature, where the local flavour becomes synthetic.”9 Given its synthetic nature, identity is solidified, not corroded, by the proliferation of goods and services from certain local cultures.

 

The consequences of globalisation on architecture, landscape and infrastructure are the focus of this discussion. It should be clarified that globalisation maintains an internal set of cause and effect whilst also influencing processes outside of its metaphysical, dynamic self. An example of this difference is the baking of bread in Northern Africa for export to Europe and the resultant shut-down of European bakeries. An external consequence of globalisation is the manifestation of urbanization, a cities attempt to modernise, currently most prevalent in
Asia.

 

Urbanization records the dynamic dispersal and centralisation of people to and from urban centres. Urbanism, an alternative term for town planning, attempts to deal with issues of density and movement (through infrastructure) for populations in detailed relation to their territory. Koolhaas’ polemic: Whatever Happened To Urbanism? laments the demise of urbanism, which might have redirected people away from cities that have grown into metropolises, and in some cases megalopolises. Koolhaas argues, urbanism killed itself by belatedly rediscovering the virtues of the classical city as a model for metropolises10; a kind of grand-scale critical regionalism. Modernist architects, with their insistence on progress, could not accept the notion of returning to an older format for contemporary cities. The role of creating cities was left to modern architects to the exclusion of the expertise of urbanism.

 

Having severed off the expertise of urbanism, the modern architect was then found stranded in the wake of post-modernism. Postmodernism had constructed a theoretical basis for dealing with disunity that modernism had created.11 Modernism failed “to transform quantity into quality through abstraction and repetition…all attempts to make a new beginning have only discredited the idea of a new beginning.”12 Utopianism is flawed.13 Only individuals, not entire societies, it seems, can be rational on their own terms. 14 Bigness, simultaneously grafting ‘frozen music’, stifled the traditional notion of the People’s Architecture.15 The Corbusian megastructure supported urbanization whilst simultaneously killing urbanisms efforts. Bigness, whilst ignoring context, is “a kind of all embracing, all enabling technical support that ultimately questioned the status of the individual building.”16 Massive, continuous structures were possible through air-conditioning. The structures are so large they take on a logic and system of their own. The result is evident in Koolhaas’ most scathing polemic: Junkspace:

 

If space-junk is the human debris that litters the universe, Junkspace is the residue mankind leaves on the planet. The built product of modernization is not modern-architecture but Junkspace. Junkspace is what remains after modernization has run its course or, more precisely, what coagulates while modernization is in progress, its fallout. Modernization had a rational program: to share the blessings of science, universally.17

 

We witness the failings of modernization to pre-empt the technological breakthroughs that have enabled globalisation: a process that potentially avoids ‘Junkspace’. With technology, (informational) infrastructures can avoid the process of urbanisation, because people no longer need to work next to one another, shopping can be done over the internet, goods are held in strategically placed storehouses around the world, not in a single location. What are left are these large, empty, continuous buildings. Nevertheless, these large megastructures give rise to a new sensibility in regards to the landscape. Metaphorically speaking, these buildings become landscapes.

Bigness Taken to the extreme by Stuperstudio

 


 

Bigness, taken to the extreme by Superstudio18

 

Footnotes

1 Nietzsche, F,. 1974. The Gay Science, Vintage Books, New York. §107. See also http://www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/diefrohl7c.htm

2 Curl, J, S,. 1999. Dictionary of Architecture, Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 32.

 

3 Ellin, N,. 1996. Post-Modern Urbanism, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 133-135.

 

4 Bullock, A, and Trombley, S,. eds. 2000. The New FontanaDictionary of Modern Thought, Harper Collins Publishers, London. p. 540

5 Ibib, p. 367

6 Sassen, S,. in Davidson, C, ed. 1996. Anywise, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, London. p. 128.

7 Enwezor, O,. 2003. What Is OMA Considering Rem Koolhaas and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam. p. 108

8 Lootsma, B,. in Corner, J,. ed. 1999. Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, Princeton Architectural Press, New York. p.268.

9 Ibid, p.269.

10 Koolhaas, R,. and Mau, B,. 1998. SMLXL, Monacelli Press, New York. p. 963

11 Ellin, N,. 1996. Post-Modern Urbanism, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, Massachusetts. pp. 117.

12 Koolhaas, 1998, 961

13 Inherently on the horizon, utopia remains at a constant distance.

14 Bullock, A, and Trombley, S,. eds. 2000. The New FontanaDictionary of Modern Thought, Harper Collins Publishers, London. p. 540

15 Chuihua Judy Chung,. 2001. HarvardDesignSchool: guide to shopping, Harvard Design School, Cambridge, Mass. p. 408

16 Koolhaas 1998, 504

17 Chuicha, 2001, p. 408

18 Schaik, M.V, and Otakar, Macel,,. (2005) Exit Utopia, Architectural Provocations 1956-76, Prestel Verlag, Muich, London. p.145