Think Tank Post

Narrative City

Research agenda / Teaching Interest The dissertation’s index is both, in relationship to a concept and to the academic structure embedded in the concept. Thus the subtitles of this paper relate to the course of the writers interest and expertise.

Index

  • Introduction

  • Middle Ground

  • Shortcut to Narrative City

  • Towards a Narrative City (seminar modern)

  • From

  • To (Introduction to Narrative City)

  • Narrative City (studio)

  • Let the war of scales begin!

  • Site identity as a myth

  • Parallel Encounters (visual)

  • Urban Metamorphosis

  • Chance Controlled Urbanity

  • Technology and media today

  • Augmented spatial reality

  • Introduction

Again, the answer is in the city!

I have become increasingly concerned about the bias towards aesthetics in building design, and the suppression of an urban discourse, in the way buildings are conceived, taught and critiqued, about the consequent disappearance of an urban sensibility in the scale of a building and a lack of urban technological preference in architecture. We ought to encourage an academic shift towards eliminating the existing ambivalence between the scale of the urban and the scale of the building in all regards to architectural definition and conceptualization.

  • Middle Ground

Architecture and Urban Design have both failed to respond accurately the implications of human artificial surroundings (objects for living) understood from different scale configurations. The academic division is based on a traditional financial and political separation which very well feeds previously tagged students into the market, but fails to inject students with the acknowledgement of the problem of architecture from a broader perspective. Relaying on the denominated “multidisciplinary” education as an argument for overlooking beyond our academic field, does not convey any clearness within our respective specific agenda. Architecture must be yield into a more ethical questioning by inheriting the broader scale (city, world, galaxy, etc) into its conceptualization and even more into its definition.

  • Shortcut to Narrative City

Narrative City is an experimental project which deals both with narrative constructions original from the mythical definition of site and with internalization processes inherent in multi-scale urbanization strategies. Narrative City is based on the following principles:

- The city as the main character in a story which serves as a framework built upon complex structured links.

- The city as a cultural construction of constant metamorphic changes due to active multi-condition dynamics (scale, territory, place and network).

- The city as a network of social-political enterprises representing a site and a client.

- The building as a cause effect artifact emerged from the internalization of urbanization processes.

  • Towards a Narrative City

Towards a Narrative City entails a conversation with the contemporary history of the common ground in architecture and urban design and lectures on different operations that deal/t with social production of meanings as a narrative component in architecture. Two chapters are here shaped (from and to). The first chapter focuses on the 60’s and the 70’s as two critical theoretical decades of the second half of the 20th century in regards to architecture and the second resolves the similitude with the present time condition. They correspond with the bases for Narrative City as a main research background.

  • From

The beginning time frame for the study has been established in Aldo Rossi’s The Architecture of the city (1966), at the doors of strong civil right movements and early global strikes which lead into a decade of economical and financial crisis seeding the land for a future social-global redefinition. Rossi’s metaphor of the city as a giant artifact is set and defined in two processes. The first one in the sense of the city as a work of manufacture (manufatto), an object literally made by the hands of men; the second process is that of time, which ultimately produces an autonomous artifact. Continued in the 70’s with the philosophical work of Henry Lefebvre’s The production of Space (1974), the architectural Collage City by Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter (1978) or the surreal Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto of Manhattan by Rem Koolhass (1978). Lefebvre's argument in his book is that space is a social product, or a complex social construction which affects spatial practices and perceptions. This argument implies the shift of the research perspective from space to processes of its production; the embrace of the multiplicity of spaces that are socially produced and made productive in social practices; and the focus on the contradictory, conflictual, and, ultimately, political character of the processes of production of space. Lefebvre’s writings connected with Guy Debord’s and the Situationist International group in their obsession with alternative ways to relate and experience the city opposing those induced by advanced capitalism at the time. On the other hand we have Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter in their theoretical treatise Collage City that sets out various analyses of urban form in a number of existing cities known to be aesthetically successful. The authors suggest (again) that architects and urban designers should aim for a middle ground, somewhere between the scientific engineering and the ad-hoc bricolage, to produce solutions which can be both contemporary, efficient, but flexible enough to move with the times and adapt to future situations. In the same year Rem Koolhass writes Delirious New York–A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. Referring to himself as ‘Manhattan’s Ghost Writer’, Koolhaas closely observes the Metropolis’s relentless metamorphosis: from ‘an unformulated theory’ as an initial response to the instinctual vanity imposed by the Grid’s blocks, to the cathartic realization that ‘the culture of congestion’ is a cure as opposed to a malady. Rem Koolhas recreates a series of observations on a constructed mythical status of the city of New York. Also he introduces the notion of “a city in a building” in regards to the multiple independent programs in each building floor as it rises indefinitely. As a result, all those attempting to provide antidotes to its mega-polis status end up absorbed in the vortex of its ambition and speed. The city has a plan and it is a cannibalistic one with a tendency to ingest its past in order to give birth to the future.

There is an attempt to peel layers of information from the city in different ways: from the social space inhabitation of the masses, from the designer’s perspective as techniques for better practice in the city throughout a time of existence and from the screen writer aiding research with a surreal envision of history.

  • To (Introduction to Narrative City)

Today a strikingly similar condition of revolution and revolts conduct our everydayness. As the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek puts it in The Year of Dreaming Dangerous “the subterranean work of dissatisfaction continues. Rage is building, and a new wave of revolts and disturbances will follow. Why? Because the events of 2011augur a new political reality. These are limited, distorted—sometimes even perverted—fragments of a utopian future lying dormant in the present”.

The difference with early thoughts is in the scale of influence, speed of propagation of the information and the apparent ineffectiveness of the social-political challenges. The city is immersed in data structures directly linked to social considerations of globalization and international migrations challenging new conversations about the complexity in the definition of “the public” today. Works by Saskia Sassen or Stefano Boeri deal with intersections within state boundaries and argue for a re-conception of national peripheries as strategies for better understanding world concerns. Also, today more than ever the city is clearly manufactured as a product of storytelling, reinventing the spectacle of the specificities of the city as a site for interventions and polarizing them to an extreme limit. Projects by Lebbeus Woods exemplified this line of thought in an invert correlation with Guy Debord’s unitary urbanism or psychogeography where they suggested and experimented with the "construction of situations", namely the setting up of environments favorable for the fulfillment of human desires. Lebbeus Woods recreates and exploits the spectacle that the Situationist group criticized.

  • Narrative City Studio

  • ​Let the war of scales begin!

There is a homogenization process undergoing throughout the world´s human networks. Narrative City proposes embracing the city with a basic shift of scale parameters as a response. If we had to change the traditionally conceived scale definition from top down or vice versa in a shrinking / expanding performative action, neither boundaries will be affected because of their naturally unknown dimensions. If we did so we could dare to state that, under this scale transmutation, the world is actually equal to the city and the city is equal to the building. In other words the configurative parameters of the world will now be assimilated by the city and those of the city by the building, transfusing all logic/s within the shift. Under this appealing new scenario the opportunities for absorption of urban principles and narratives are productive for opening a new discursive realm in architecture and urban design. We will be then internalizing urbanization processes, outside the urban unit component scope, towards a new definition of the unit itself.

  • ​Site identity as a myth

Constructing site identities allows for a myth creation phenomenon linked with the site specific narrative structures. The final product of an architectural proposal will indeed be a constructed myth (a fictional or invented physical story). It is within the characteristics of the story that the myth entails an engaging opportunity for an in depth architectural research. Along the studio development, rewriting the story will be a meeting point where the myth together with the project configuration will evolve into a complete work of architecture.

  • Parallel Encounters

  • Urban Metamorphosis

Cities today contain more than 50% of the population of the world and this figure is expected to reach 70% by 2030. This statement in itself is almost meaningless. We must question culturally constructed boundaries within cities and understand urbanization as a variation of the urban fabric in terms of density. Furthermore, without a deeper comprehension of the urbanization processes taking place we cannot formulate problem solving protocols in neither local or global urban configurations nor can we determine what the specific problems are. The reality of this fabric is complex and we need to understand its complexity as we formulate alternatives to the acknowledged system. Urban Metamorphosis explores the means of the city as a multilayer data structure with infinite conditions for variations or metamorphosis. In our story, architecture is conceived as an artifact dependent on urban typological urbanization processes. Architects need to understand the constantly driven metamorphoses that construct informational grids within cities. In an increasingly data-driven urbanization reality, the discourse has evolved around how architects manage, select and manipulate all this information.

Four main challenges:

- Understanding the city as a “moment” of urbanization protocols with no clear boundaries.

- Accessing and representing data.

- Predict urbanization structures with associated data responses.

‘The city is a heavy magma that flows or seeps like a sea or sand bank, rising and falling according to the energy of its own interior mass. Its sensitivity to the gravity of urban forms finds meaning and beauty in the density of events, buildings, open spaces and volumes in the urban landscape.’

Manuel de Sola Morales: A Matter of Things

  • Chance Controlled Urbanity

Truly experimentation generates advanced architecture and experimentation means moving away from individual preconceptions. Only through our mistakes in a design process we can see proper lines of dissertations. Starting from a white paper as a clear origin, finishing never and transforming constantly is the only key for a retroactive evolving procedure. We weld, glue, cut, fix parts, bend, melt or crystallized for the sake of a protocol that is yet to come. But first we must eliminate the purpose to understand the notion of the transformation. Learning from John Cage and his theory of aleatoric or chance-controlled to which music meant "imitating nature in its manner of operation". Architects should be capable of creating aleatoricly in order to anticipate acting protocols subdue in their subconscious. On the other hand chance refers to the beauty of a chaotic framework with proportions, symbiotic relationships, scales, rhythms, or even functions, materials and weight. They construct all change driven transformations. We can and should talk about the reasons behind or the conceptual interpretations arising from a specific chance factor in a particular art form for years. To analyze an object means living with it in an effort to understand the rules that define it. It is a mix exercise between the Surrealists further comprehension of a reality and the perfect engineer as a constructor of that new reality. Observation is performed for such a long time that afterwards you know better and allow enrichment to happen.

  • Technology and media today

In the line of Kevin Kelly, technology forms a kingdom by itself in all respect to evolution. Architects ought to know in what point in the evolution of technology their place in the present. Ray Kurzweil also exposes the reality of exponential evolution in the history of technology and its direct implications to human understanding of the world. Engaging with the most advance technological tools of today signifies a finer capacity to establish the changes of tomorrow. New software and media is revolutionizing not only the purely design aesthetics but also the conceptual approaches in design. Swarm intelligence as a calculated protocol in the creation process has becomes committed to design. New answer engines based on computational technology from structured data is leading towards creation importantly base on parametric base analysis. Examples as Wolfram Alpha developed by Wolfram Research is a step forward in the exactness of enquire solutions via Internet in a computational generated data base. Also new media such as smart phones constructs digital environments that defeat real landscapes and its physical structures proposing an alternative global language to the existing ones before the internet era. Parametric software and scripting coding as a tool for the design is emerging as a non-conventional and un-expected inertia in project conception.

  • Augmented spatial reality

Morton Heilig was a thought-leader in Virtual Reality. He applied his cinematographer experience and developed the Sensorama over several years from 1957. The game gave the player the experience of riding a motorcycle on the streets of Brooklyn. The player felt the wind on their face, the vibration of the motorcycle seat, a 3D view, and even smells of the city. Today architecture is weatherizing itself as a virtual reality project on its own. Philippe Rahm’s texts on the artificiality of exterior urban spaces in relationship to a reinvented natural interior and the need to incorporate a technological created natural atmosphere in them, proposes a social and cultural reaction to this existing conditions in all urban spreads throughout the world. Architecture is now reinventing “a new nature by technological means” inside cities through projects that entail the same complex paradox issued by Philippe Rahm that has yet to be understood and resolved in terms of efficiency, cultural assimilation or social implication.

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