8:15 pm ]
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Studying in Delft has its own philosophical disadvantages. One of which is the Burden placed here on the students to question, and to question incessantly, the whole connection between theory and the making of architecture. While that in itself is a pure and noble thought, it seems like the selection of intellectual feed we are given (in terms of readings, tutors and speakers) all point away from the most fundamental thing of all- Truth.
Now Michael Speaks is the new star in architectural talk. He has one tune to sing- Design Intelligence. He argues how the Modernist search for the ideal, and the Post-Modernist search for ideologies, are obsolete, and, by looking into the business world for a new model, we should in fact be pragmatic, and search for plausible truths instead of the fundamental truth. He literally uses Heidegger (who questions the whole built-up of Western metaphysical philosophy) to discredit the search for ideals and ideology.
This morning, he talked about Heidegger and Heidegger's search for the Being of beings. Heidegger was in fact quite close to comprehending the notion of God- he said that we human beings should in fact be responding to the call of the Being to us, instead of asking what Being is (in terms of western metaphysics). Speaks mentioned how another writer writes about this call metaphorically as a telephone conversation. But this writer mentions how the Being retracts when we answer the call, and all we can do is wait for the call again, and the Being retracts again. And I thought about Jeremiah 33:3, and felt really saddened at the whole convoluted notion. The philosophers so sadly do not know the God that responds to their call...I was praying that my friends' minds will be protected from all that rubbish.
So after the lecture, I came down and saw a friend's email on Jeremiah 33:3, and I am heartened...it is so great to serve a living God.
People here live in the desert. It is particularly dry, in architecture, because philosophy and theory is a big thing here. Architects are obsessed with meaning, not only technology and advancement. And the scary thing that Speaks is proposing is the abandoning of meaning and the pursuit of progress. He ended today's lecture with this epitaph: You either have ideology and fall backwards, or intelligence and progress.
So what is this Intelligence, or rather Design Intelligence, that he proposes? He starts by explaining it in terms of the scientific understanding of human intelligence- the brain and its selective connections. He goes on to use the Pragmatism philosophy- Intelligence is keen on creating new plausible truths (as opposed to the search for fundamental truth). Thinking and doing becomes reciprocal, you think and do and think. This is exemplified in the architecture practice through:
1. The creation of scenarios
Let's say you are designing an airport, you need to speculate multiple plausible scenarios that might happen to that airport, for example you think that the airport grows to become international, double its capacity, gets demolished in 20 years etc
2. Rapid prototyping
The idea of testing. Of making lots and lots of models to see if it works.
Now the problem with this whole intelligence thing is that it is so seductive- it is like chocolate, it can give you the high, but it is essentially shallow. What then is the guiding principle for selection? The answer- respond to the market. Just taking great companies operating in the market; eg. Steve Jobs and Apple, Apple was not just responding to the market, it was creating a new market for a product that was, in the beginning, never in demand. This comes down to ideology- Steve was crazy about making the most beautiful and sexy music player that ever was. Ideology drives intelligence. Ideology is not, in my opinion, in opposition to intelligence. Ideology becomes the filter to the noise, the chatter of information, that although intelligence tries to narrow down, it does not narrow down sufficiently for choice, because the premise here for intelligence is the multiplicity of options.
Then there is also the question of ethics. A company which is ethic-less is a company that might play well in the market, but will never make a great company. Great companies thrive not only on clear ideologies, but good ethics as well. Google’s motto of Don’t be Evil lends a lighthearted (yet fundamentally serious) question of ethics to decision-making. Ethics (and of course the fear of God), narrows down again the type of options one can have, and guides towards the final selection.
Now I am hard pressed to believe that the forefathers of architecture, with their search for ideals or ideology, do not engage also in the kind of Design Intelligence described by Speaks. Just because he talks about it now, and uses snazzy words like intelligence, does not mean the process he describes is anything new. It is just given a new name, or given a new boost by technology. The creation of scenarios, for example. Please, architects have always been thinking about multiple possibilities. That is their job.
Replacing the search for meaning with a “Just Do It” philosophy is worrying. It has no meat.
Tomorrow- Lecture on Eisenman.
7:13 pm ]
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Retelling the story of my Portuguese friend:
My two friends and I drove to the woody mountainous area of the south of Portugal, which was really close to to the border of Spain. We climbed up the hilly wooded area and lost our way. As dusk approached, we decided to spend the night in the woods, with only our bathing suits and towels. It was freezing cold.
Strangely, we were not afraid, we were just cold! I remember looking for a rock to lie on and staring up at the starry expense of the sky. In the morning, we decided to call 911. As we were really close to the Spanish border, the call connected to the Spanish emergency services! After explaining our situation, (that we really needed the Portuguese emergency services, and that we were lost in the woods in the south of Portugal) the guy on the line managed to get us the number to the Portuguese emergency. So I called the number and explained our situation for the second time.
The guy on the line says, "Well, is anyone hurt?"
And I say, "No, we are just cold and tired and hungry and lost."
The guy says, "Well, we have helicopters that we can send, but since no one is hurt, I suggest that you call the park ranger."
So for the third time, I call another number (bearing in mind that we were already exhausted and hungry and only in our bathing suits), and explained the situation again. This time, the person on the line knew what to do.
"Go back to the trail where you came from and we will send a truck to pick you up."
So they were saved after all. After a cross-border detour in telecommunications...
ps: I ask him if there were snakes, and he said that there were, probably. But none bit them. Fortunate...
5:46 am ]
Thursday, October 12, 2006
My German housemate found out about my blog post!
He told my housemates that he actually said "Solala" which is a German word for moderate!
8:11 am ]
8:09 am ]
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Logger logger burning bright
Indon forest of the night
What immoral hand or eye
Go find yourself a real &$#%*@^ job.
Labels: arts, society
11:06 pm ]
Monday, October 02, 2006
Have been conditioned to read Aldo Rossi's Architecture and the City, and to talk intelligently about it during my seminar sessions. The seminars is conducted by a tutor who seems to be able to read Rossi's mind. He speaks of how Rossi writes with such nuance that I imagine he must have been Rossi's best friend. He is one step short of calling Rossi by first name. I recall Aglie in Foucault's Pendulum.
Anyway, about Rossi, even though he invents new terms, we are told not to dwell on the definitions; even though the book sounds rather pedantic in the way it reads the city, we are told to forever hover above it with a sense of intellectual doubt; even though the book is written in the long rambling Italian style that forever knows no end, we are told to read it in 2 weeks; even though he casually mentions other writers/thinkers/works, we are fed this network of thinkers and a succession of events and happenings which is completely out of my world view, because my tutor cannot summarise things and he goes from one thought to the other, while telling us that Rossi mentions them just so to acknowledge a prior/contemporary body of work. (this last part is nice, though baffling at times)
That paragraph was besides the point. What Rossi mentions about the city is that the architecture becomes to containers of memories, where past and present reside. The past IS the present in a city, where old buildings stand as testaments to an era bygone. People carry their past around as well- in the creases on their foreheads or in the stride of their walk. And like the case of the toaster, sometimes, the past makes itself rather obvious.
7:05 am ]