Very gradually each invention came to be used for more purposes than those for which it was originally intended, and the standard by which its excellence and usefulness were judged was gradually raised. An external necessity thus demanded its improvement, and from this cause machinal ideas slowly crystallised themselves out, and gradually assumed forms so distinct that men could use them designedly in the solution of new problems. These attempts resulted in further improvements, and these in their turn led once more to new applications and more extended use.
(Reuleaux 1876: 231)
This image is a dissection of the parts of a whole. The traditional smocking that was a craft originating in the 1800s. Contrasted with the technology of parametric design and simulation. This is a list of the multi-layered components working together behind the seeming artistic facade of Concrete Forming[work]’s layers. Within the sinuous, flowing lines of fabric-formed concrete, there is a python script of pattern generation. End points of vertices of smocking lines. Tailored concrete mixes. Sliders. Kangaroo goals. Mesh vertices. Lists within lists. These work together to address the question of innovation, Darwin’s theory of natural selection of putting old structures to work in new ways.
It can be said, that technologies are means of transferring things from the realm of nature to the realm of culture. In turn, technologies constitute industries which extract, process, and machine nature in order to present it as a commodity on the market. These sets of actions, which transform natural things into things with bar codes, are commanded by the higher-level intellectual decisions, usually referred to as the design.
Since the rise of environmental consciousness, proclaimed through the notion of the Anthropocene, a debate around the environment-conscious design was being imposed on the public through the effort of environment scientists such as Michael Braungart. The main thesis of his critique is that the industries inherited from the anthropocentric era do not comply with the basic ideas of the environmental sustainability. When expanded to a global scale, they create a dramatic hazard to the biosphere of our planet.
Obviously, interruption of the industrial and economic development is not a solution to the crisis we are facing. As Braungart suggest, the transition to a sustainable living can be facilitated through a revision of the design approach not merely limited to the performance of a product on the market, but including numerous other criteria deriving from the awareness with numerous environmental and social conditions.
Such a design problem can be represented in a form of a differential equation with hundreds of variables. Thanks to computer aided design tools, a solution to these inhumanly complex mathematical problems can be calculated almost effortlessly. However, the problem one would face when following this method is that such a sustainable product won’t necessarily respond to our habitual modernist expectations of form and function; rather, it’ll be a sudden, unforeseen object, a sustainable artifact. To become a commodity on the market, this noumenon would need to be given sensible and practical qualities. This work of post-rationalization and retrofitting may be seen as a true design challenge of the posthuman design industries.
1 part clay
3 parts sand
1/3 part sawdust
water, according to the consistency of the clay
The list is a pick-up list, or a map of places to find. It calls for knowledge about our planet, about it’s materiality, about slow processes of creation and of geographic changes. It is further an invitation to the body to wander, to experience and to explore.
In order to find good clay one must move back in time, roughly 13.500 years back. The clay started out on its journey of creation during the deglaciation of the nordic ice sheet. Now it rests a meter or so down in the ground in coastal areas and along riverbanks. Digging too close to the river is no good, the clay will be thoroughly mixed up with decomposing organic material; you have to try a couple of hundreds of meters from the riverbank, where the old seafloor has been dried up and formed plains of clay.
As you mix the ingredients you will get a mortar strong enough to hold together a wall of bricks or cordwood. It binds together all the pieces and move along with them as they move.
It stands in middle of a field, watching passersby with an easy and happy appearance. A piece of the metal has been torn down by the wind but it doesn’t seem to concern it. It has probably never been the overanxious type.
This thing is one of many in a series of almost hundred that I have documented over the course of three years. It all began when I found a lion staring at me, jaws wide open in astonishment. It took quite some time before the second one approached me; a count waiting for some sort of notification that could be either of good or bad. I didn’t wait long enough to find out which. When I took his picture, that’s when I decided to make it a series. After that moment, they came to me much more often. It’s almost as if they go out of their way to find me, begging me to take their picture. I have entered a new world of reoccurring characters; the timid and surprised, the shocked, the presumptuous. And every time I think I’ve seen them all, a brand new type of character pops up and surprises me.
Sometimes I wonder wether the people who put them together really saw them; are they consciously made or creations of chance? I don’t know if it really matters.
Once in a while I get a quick chat with a human living in or around one of them. At first they are generally suspicious of my, somewhat intrusive, behavior. But as I explain the reason as to why I’m so awfully close to their property their suspicion, and the slightly threatening atmosphere, vanishes. I ask them about the characters they inhabit and they answer that all they have ever seen is a house. Then suddenly, simply because I’ve told them about the characters, they too can see them. I think this is part of my fascination with the characters, they are pedagogical, you can so easily begin to see them in all their “expressiveness”. And once you’ve seen them, it doesn’t take long before you can hear them talk. And they tell us that attention comes prior to caring; that the ability to see, listen and think with our surroundings is the foundation for all forms of well-being on the planet.
As my research concerns with architectural pedagogies my objects have been selected accordingly. What are the things that are fundamental in architectural education?
THE THING: THE MODEL
Architectural pedagogies are armed with things that are considered essential in the education of an architect: books, drawings, pens, chairs, tables, maps, and models.
Model’s making is a method of enquiry, research, experimentation and a primary medium to communicate our design’s decisions and consequently our project. Yet models are not architecture, but a mere representation, often biased and unreal. The architectural model represents the thing that I have selected. It is what in my opinion captures the essence of architectural education: laborious, intense, demanding, onerous, lengthy, self-indulgent, and even narcissistic. The model becomes the thing conceived and created by us, our baby, our Frankenstein, our dream of how the world should be. Yet the model limits us. Its materiality has the limit of representing social relations, engagement, and care with our society and nature. Very seldom models are actually used to represent the destructive impact of a new construction, they are on the other hand used to validate our intentions. The model becomes the thing that allows us to make sense of the world both the real one and the imagined one, but at the same time we have to be aware that model making and drawings are not architecture, and the image that is consequently created cannot be confused with architecture.
THE THING: SHOES
These are my shoes. 1,000 km were walked with these things in 6 weeks. Walking is way to explore the world and to become part of our environment. Shoes are also an architectural thing.
The thing I have chosen for this task of is a piece of plywood. It is also an agent in the transformation process in one of my case studies, serving as a protective layer to keep the new floors from wear and tear as construction workers are walking and moving heavy equipment over them. The protective layer is a temporal ingredient in the process of alteration with a short lifespan, starting when new floors have been installed and gradually being removed as the construction phase is coming to an end. Most of the plywood covering is laid out unprocessed, but in some cases they have been cut, arranged and adjusted to accommodate a particular use, such as described in the image. The cut-out suggest the need for the possibility to close the doors, but when the image was taken in summer 2017, the cut out part was nailed back, adapting to new needs and securing the doors in an open position. This plywood sheet has now been discarded as obsolete, possibly re-used or reprocessed. Used for a few months up to half a year, the floor underneath has an estimated life expectancy of 50 years. The environment-worlds that these things are participating in are changing as the process of the construction project evolves. New constellations are formed and the relationships are altered and dissolved. But, in a short period of time, this thing comes into power, forcefully keeping the new oak doors in place, establishing a passageway, protecting the floor and directing the construction workers and whoever has access to the site.