Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Open Source Architecture, The Power of Collaboration

Worldchanging: Bright Green: Open Source Architecture, The Power of Collaboration

"By the middle of the century, one in three people on the planet will be living in inadequate, often illegal housing," says Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity. "I mean, think about that! The formal architectural profession does not have anything like the capacity to meet people's needs on that scale. Worse, many of the people working in this space are unaware of each other's work. There's a vast replication of effort, not only the same successes, but the same failures. We need millions of solutions, and we need to share them all across the world."

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Shadow Cities and the Urbanization of the World

Rio (
Worldchanging: Bright Green: Shadow Cities and the Urbanization of the World

An article by Jamais Cascio at Worldchanging

"Some numbers: today, there are approximately one billion squatters -- about 1 in 6 people on the planet; by 2030, it's estimated there will be two billion squatters, or about 1 in 4; by 2050, there could be three billion squatters, or 1 in 3. Some 200,000 people move from rural communities to urban communities every day, globally. That's around 70 million per year, or 130 every minute. Inevitably, the cities of the future will be built by squatters."

Thursday, 17 May 2012

What is Kitsch? (T. Kulka)

Romanticism is outmoded, symbolism disused, surrealism has always appealed to a small elite but kitsch is everywhere. Even more pervasive and indestructible now that it is fused to a civilization based on excess consumption.   - Jacques Sternberg
"One of the questions often raised in connection with kitsch is whether it is a distinctly modern phenomena, or whether it has accompanied art throughout its history. Is kitsch historically dated, having made its appearance some hundred and fifty years ago, or is it as old as art itself?
Most of the authors who have dealt with this issue believe that kitsch is indeed a relatively recent arrival in Western culture. Although the reasons they cite in support if this claim vary, two distinct lines of argument can be discerned. The authors who focus on the sociological and sociocultural aspects of the phenomenon emphasize that the proper conditions for both the consumption and the production of kitsch did not exist prior to the modern era (Greenberg, Morreall & Loy, Calinescu). They invoke factors like the emergence of the middle class, urbanization and the influx of peasant populations to the towns, the decline of aristocracy, the disintegration of folk art and folk culture, increased literacy among the ploretariat, more time for leisure, mass production, and technological progress, as preconditions for kitsch. Thus, for example, Clement Greenberg, who sees the emergence of kitsch as more or les simultaneous with that of modernism, claims that "[k]itsch is a product of the industrial revolution" (Art and Culture 9).

Authors who are more concerned with its art-historical, stylistic, and aesthetic aspects consider kitsch to be an offspring of the Romantic movement (Dorfles, Broch). Hermann Broch, for example, maintains that "every form of kitsch... owes its existence to the specific structure of the Romanticism." He claims that Romanticism, "without being kitsch itself, is the mother of kitsch and that there are moments when the child becomes so like its mother that one cannot differentiate between them".

The two perspectives support each other, since they claim roughly the same starting point for the appearance of kitsch. This stance seems to be further strengthened by the fact that the term kitsch has nowhere been recorded before the second half of the nineteenth century.

Yet there are dissenters. Arthur Koestler, for example, maintains that when Petronius in his Supper of Trimalchio describes the bad taste of the newly established class of the merchants, he is clearly referring to kitsch. A similar claim is made by Susan Sontag about Cervantes, who makes fun of seventeenth-century chivalric romances. Others maintain that the small Hellenistic painted statues that were produced in large quantities mainly for export, as well as many of the objects in Pompeii, can be seen as examples of kitsch from the distant past.

[...] Kitsch as we know it cannot be divorce from the socio-economic conditions described by those who see this phenomenon as a product of industrial revolution. It also seems true that of all artistic movements it is the Romantic movement that created the most fertile grounds for kitsch. One can hardly deny that Romanticism, with its emphasis on dramatic effects, pathos, and overall sentimentality, displays intrinsic affinities with kitsch. It seems also plausible to claim that since the term kitsch is relatively new, there was probably no acute need for its use in early times. Yet, the denial of the existence of kitsch prior to the nineteenth century seems too strong."

Kulka, Thomas (2002 [1996]) Kitsch and Art. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Plastic Flowers Are Almost All Right (A. L. Huxtable) III

Part II
From Learning from Las

"They [the Venturis] have a gift for that kind of outrage. Not content to score the "personalized essay in civic monumentality," they add the ultimate insult, "It's a bore." With more-than-candour, they point out that the renunciation of decoration has led the modern architect to so manipulate his "structural" forms that the entire building becomes a decoration. Then, with less-than-innocence, they draw an analogy between the building as decoration and symbol and the building in the shape of a duck or the highway. Furious, architects reply that the Parthenon is a duck, too.

The Venturis design "ducks" and "decorated sheds". To them, Main Street "is almost all right." So is history, and it is not surprising that mannerism suits them best. They accord the dumb and ordinary, the full seventeenth.century treatment. Piling paradox on paradox, they combine the obvious and the arcane. You can peel off the layers of meaning. Call it pop mannerism.

Guild House, a perfectly dumb and ordinary, and incidentally, very satisfactory, apartment house for the elderly in Philadelphia, is a mannerist exercises that uses blatant façadism and a perverse assortment of details that sets other architects' teeth on edge. Like all Venturi and Rauch buildings, it is intensely personal, idiosyncratic, and arbitrary, done in an intelligent but totally unsettling way. It is meant to make the educated viewer look twice, to see why the ordinary is extraordinary. Because never doubt it for a moment, the Venturis are determined to make it so.

The results are undeniably extraordinary, and many qualified judges think they are perfectly awful. I have a kind of love-hate relationship with Venturi designs, more for their ideological input, their profound comments on our culture, their intense and often angry wit, their consummate one-upmanship, than for their architectural quality. Yes, I am avoiding the issue of quality.

I suspect that the conscious application of theory always produces noble experiments and abysmal failures. If theory is valid, it usually leads to something else. The ultimate irony is that the cost of building today is making the dumb and ordinary inevitable. The prophecy is self-fulfilling. But this work is eye-opening and catalytic, and if response is complex and contradictory, so are the Venturis, and life and art.

New York Times, October 10, 1971."

Huxtable, Ada Louise (1971) "Plastic Flowers Are Almost All Right". En: Huxtable, Ada Louise (2008) On Architecture. Collected Reflections on a Century of Change. New York: Walker & Company.
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