One Last Columbia Studio Brief

One last Columbia studio brief:

Ed Keller

'WORLD GAMES' for a GENERAL ECONOMY of Information and Energy

In the broadest sense, our studio program will be to design an infrastructure, a game, buildings, or even a city within an inclusive general economy that we describe in this brief. We will look to the way that energy & information are stored in the landscapes of the world- cities, highways, airports, deserts- and attempt to inflect the paths they flow along.

Dynamic systems in relation to each other condition not only the basics of interaction in the world, but also the very structure of time itself. The project of architecture, of design- is by its very nature, the construction of 'time machines'.

'"information and form always appear in association with historic development. In a world already endowed with a certain structure, any interaction between matter and energy- which signifies increased entropy- alters the structure and makes future changes more predictable..." In urban development, or in a building's construction, every decision- tracing a roadway, situating a facility, distributing a floor plan- conditions subsequent building episodes, rendering them more predictable; the energy necessary to materialize each of these decisions is accumulated in physical structures that on the one hand condition future construction, and on the other hand can be used to interpret past construction. The energy stored in construction- both in the materials themselves and in the significant order in which they find themselves as a result of transport and installation- is therefore projected toward the future, which it helps form, and toward the past, which it interprets.'
Fire and Memory, Fernadez-Galiano pp. 63/64

We will use this idea of energy, information, form, and time in the studio to develop a program in relation to contemporary problems of infrastructure and territory. We will add to it the model of general economy offered by Georges Bataille in his volumes The Accursed Share, and we will place Bataille's thinking against the 'World Game' concept proposed by Bucky Fuller.

'World Game is a continuing scientific research and physical prototyping development. It is devoted to progressive discovery of how most efficiently and expeditiously to employ [1] the total world-around resources, [2] total accumulated knowledge, and [3] the total already-produced technological tooling of Spaceship Earth, all three to the ever advancing equal advantage of all its present and future passengers.'
Critical Path, B. Fuller, p. 202

One of the strengths of Bataille's model in The Accursed Share is his ability to think through cultural, infrastructural and ecological energetic systems using an inclusive model. This addresses one of the basic limitations of Fuller's World Game, which emphasizes the fundamental survival of humans. I won't deny that our basic survival is indeed at stake today; however we will propose that factoring informational systems into the energy equations is necessary. One of the possible weaknesses of Bataille's model is an insistence on the unavoidable expenditure of energy. Whether this is seen as a waste, or a use of the energy for previously incomprehensible gains- c.f. potlatch, which Bataille cites, for example- will be one of the themes the studio tests.

'On the surface of the globe, for living matter in general, energy is always in excess; the question is always posed in terms of extravagance. The choice is limited to how the wealth is to be squandered... Solar radiation results in a superabundance of energy on the surface of the globe...living matter receives this energy and accumulates it within the limits given by the space that is available to it... real excess does not begin until the growth of the individual or group has reached its limits.'
The Accursed Share, Bataille, pp23-29

We will ask how architecture and urbanism can participate in a game within a general economy and general system of the world. What possible futures can be accessed by the time machines we develop?

We will visit several case study locations on our Kinne trip, which will include airports, highways around LA, the city of LA, and the Owens Gorge and Salton Sea desert areas near LA. In our visit to the Owens Gorge area, we will be guided by Matt Coolidge, working with CLUI [The Center for Land Use Interpretation], based out of LA. We will also visit their LA headquarters.

Considering the project of architecture within this model of a general economy suggests the need for a wider net which can compass the 'invisible conspiracies' that theorists like Jameson have suggested we live surrounded by, in today’s unescapably geopolitical world.

The factors of mediation and migration described by Appadurai in his Modernity at Large parallel ideas that Foucault unpacked some 40 years ago, when he called the great variables of the post-modern and post-industrial world 'speed, territory, and communication'. These domains are not inherently part of the previous paradigm's vision of what an architect manages in their practice; however, one could argue that our current paradigm, shifts in technology, the sciences, global culture, politics and communication are indeed all vectors for a redefinition of what an architect or urban designer does, and in fact all those disciplines partake in the realms of mediation and migration- in the realms of 'speed, territory, and communication'.

The territories that architecture can establish- not just lines on the ground, or geometric composition, but networked energetic and material flows- the new speeds by which urban programs emerge, evolve, and propagate worldwide through social practices that are not part of buildings, but are nonetheless inseparable from space as a practice- the communications systems which are increasingly part of architecture- not in a semiotic process but in the ways that the construction of buildings increasingly offers the opportunity of construction within an intelligent system of manufacturing, financing, and use; these are all reasons why architecture as it has largely been practiced must undergo a paradigm shift on the practical and conceptual levels if it is to maintain or increase is value.

Appadurai's terms mediation and migration can impact design thinking on a very practical level. Much as Foucault changed the way we understand the work of language itself, in his text Archaeology of Knowledge, which redirected our attention away from a search from meaning, toward a search for the AFFECT of assemblies of words and concepts- similarly we have to consider the affect of mediation in today's world. This affect has little to do with the meaning or semiotic of architecture and space, and much more to do with the ways that space mobilizes ideologies, economies, cultures, and subjectivities. In this mode of thinking, it is irrelevant to argue about the meaning of a building, a facade, an urban space, a technology. The primary question leaps up in scale to ask how the design works, where it is relevant, what it moves. Affect addresses this issue.

Affect mediation is linked to MIGRATION. Migration of cultures, ideas, economies, information and energy. But also, migration of biomass and power. The biopower issue as engaged by thinkers like Foucault, Negri and Hardt, et.al., is key here, and today's architecture needs to address this fully.

Cities can inflect the massive flows of human bodies- by some accounts, in China alone hundreds of millions in the floating population, and worldwide some billions squatting on land they do not own- with entire nations depending on these 'illegal immigrants' to power economies, industry, agriculture. If cities can acknowledge, integrate, and inflect these masses, then they will be participating in an unprecedented manner.


The site for this studio will be a generic, extended global landscape of migratory
infrastructures, highlighting the contrast from the open energy fields of the desert,
through the channels of the highway and the airport, to the energetic reservoirs of the city.

Although a general range of sites is given- Deserts, Highways, Cities, Airports- this site is extremely open. This studio will ask the students to formulate a thesis in response to the challenges offered by the studio brief. Students will develop their own programs and choose specific locations in the global 'site' to design their projects. It is suggested that the design solution is positioned approximately ten years in the future.

Our travel will take us to several locations on our Kinne trip to do case studies in Los Angeles, several airports in transit and in LA, the highways we can study around LA, and the Desert south and east of LA: the Salton Sea and Owens Valley areas. We'll pass infrastructural and energy accumulation sites: the Windfarms near Palm Springs, the many power plants, irrigation networks and infrastructures outside of LA.

There will also be an optional hop to Seattle to investigate further airport infrastructures, and the recently completed Seattle Library.


Methodologically, we will begin with an analysis process and develop a predictive model .
This will involve the conversion of data from dynamic, analytical models which simulate
systems behaviors, into a set of rules for designing architecture, infrastructure, and urban space. This process also will demand the conversion of these models into a set of rules for
playing the game. In this world game, the dynamic models should tell us something about the flow of energy and information through that world system.

Fire and Memory: Fernandez-Galiano
Taking Measures Across the American Landscape: Corner & Maclean
Crying of Lot 49: Pynchon
Critical Path: B. Fuller
UBIK: Philip K. Dick
The Accursed Share: G. Bataille
City of Quartz, Dead Cities: Davis
Empire + Multitude: Hardt and Negri
A Thousand Years of NonLinear History: M. DeLanda
Structural Stability and Morphogenesis: R. Thom
Geopolitical Aesthetic: F. Jameson
Diamond Age: N. Stephenson

Koyanisquatsi: Reggio
Lessons of Darkness: Herzog
Once Upon a Time in the West: Leone
Mamma Roma: Pasolini
Chinatown: Polanski
Easy Rider: Hopper
Beau Travail: Denis
Playtime: Tati
Crash: Cronenberg
Lost Highway: Lynch
Paris, Texas: Wenders
Man With a Movie Camera: Vertov
Passenger, Zabriskie, Point, Red Desert: Antonioni
Repo Man: Cox
Until the End of the World: Wenders
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Gilliam
Polygraph: LePage

Shockwave Rider: J. Brunner
Electronic Disturbance, other texts: Critical Art Ensemble
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Thompson
Organizational Space: Keller Easterling
Tomorrow Now: Bruce Sterling
Anabasis: St Jean Perse
The Invisibles: Grant Morrison
Transmetropolitan: Warren Ellis
Lipstick Traces: Greil Marcus
Out of Control: Kevin Kelly
Smart Mobs: Howard Rheingold
Modernity at Large: Arjun Appadurai
Double Game: Sophie Calle
TechGnosis: Erik Davis
Watchmen: Alan Moore
A Thousand Plateaus: Gilles Deleuze + Felix Guattari

No comments: