Remember i was telling you about "Anti Anti Utopia", the talk that Vicky Messi gave at the FILE festival symposium a week ago? She was highlighting media art projects from Latin America that 'look beyond anti-utopia.' The first work she presented was Arcángel Constantini's Nanodrizas, a fleet of "flying" saucers deployed in polluted waters to clean them up.
A second brilliant project she mentioned was Ciudad Nazca / Nazca City, a land art project in which a robot draws a true scale map of an imaginary city onto the surface of the Peruvian desert.
Artist Rodrigo Derteano's autonomous robot plows the desert ground to uncover its underlying, lighter color, using a technique similar to the one of the Nazca lines, the gigantic and enigmatic geoglyphs traced between 400 and 650 AD in the desert in southern Peru. Guided by its sensors, the robot quietly traced the founding lines of a new city that looks like a collage of existing cities from Latin America.
Because of the city would extend over several squared kilometers, the map can only be appreciated as a whole from certain a height by means of airplanes or satellite imaging. Just like the Nazca lines.
The project invites to reflect upon the explosive urbanization of the deserts of the Peruvian coast, taking place since the middle of the last century, and its consequences on environmental sustainability and the quality of living.
I asked Rodrigo to talk to us about Ciudad Nazca:
Hello Rodrigo! What is the motivation behind the project? During her presentation at FILE, Vicky mentioned the spectacular growth of the city of Lima and the need to find new ways of designing and envisioning cities, maybe by building them in the desert. Can you expand on this?
I live and grew up in Lima. About 60% of the city today lies within the desert, most of it grew without any serious urban planning. It's a self-made metropolis, the second largest city built in the desert after Cairo. It grew from 1 million to 8 million people in less than 60 years. There's a lot of problems derived from this development in terms of sustainability and living standards which exacerbate the huge inequality of our society. The desert plays a big role in this regard. People living in desert areas of the city are usually poor and often have to pay more for water than those living in more centric (richer) areas. They also lack proper infrastructure and have much less public places and parks. For a long time, these areas were not considered part of the city by the ruling class and the authorities until they became the majority.
By drawing a gigantic map of a city onto the desert, the project not only seeks to draw attention to this facts, but questions our very concept of city, specially in regards to its environment. Lima is a sort of negation of the desert. Our model and ideal of city is very occidental, and does not adapt very well to its context. The desert is seen a kind of non-place, not a part of our living environment. In this sense, there's a sort of irony in using a robot to draw a city onto the desert, as if it would be drawing it on the surface of Mars (exploring the outer space for the possibility of urban life).
I'm also fascinated by the Nasca people and their lines (200 BC - 600 AD). Studying theories about them, I found their notion of desert as ritual space, and therefore an expansion of their living space, to be in sharp contrast to our notion today. Some see the Nasca lines as cult to fertility and life in the desert, trying to communicate beyond. In this sense, Nasca City is kind of a cult to urban life in the desert today, not communicating beyond, but within our society...
I was also interested in the cities you selected for the final collage. How did you chose them? Why Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro rather than Sao Paulo? Why Bogota rather than Medellin for example?
The project required an interdisciplinary group of people working together to make it happen. In regards to the design of the city we worked together with the Latin American architecture collective Supersudaca, represented by the 51-1 architecture studio in Lima. The collective proposed to do a real scale collage of pieces of the 10 largest cities in Latin America (Sao Paulo is included). They would overlap at the borders creating new urban forms and zones of conflict. The idea was to create a map of mixed references, city patterns already charged with meaning, that people would be able to recognise, compare, and understand the scale of the drawing according to their own real life experience.
Why 10? Well, they like to put up simple rules. The cities pieces were put together conserving their relative geographical position and original orientation.
The city drawn in the desert is ephemeral is that correct? Isn't it disheartening to dedicate so much energy and see the city being slowly erased by the wind and other natural elements?
Sometimes I also find it disheartening, but most of the time I think it is ok for it to be slowly erased by the wind. The lines loose the sharp contrast with the surface in a couple of weeks, but the relief will be visible for years. I don't know if I would find the drawing and whole action equally meaningful in, let's say, 20 years. The desert is quite a special place for me, and I had my thoughts about leaving permanent marks that large on its surface.
For it to stay forever, we would have had to do it in a terrain with almost identical conditions as in Nasca, which is a protected area classified as world heritage by UNESCO. We would have ended in jail for sure, if we had done it over there. Which brings me to question number 5...
How long did it take to draw the whole city and did you have to stay near the robot constantly to monitor its work?
The drawing took 5 days (4 under ideal conditions). We had to rescue the robot sometimes and had some problems, but most of the time, it would do fine by itself.
Did you need to obtain special permits to do this piece of land art or can anyone do anything they fancy in the desert?
In theory, you can't do what you want in the desert (in Peru), unless you own it. And even then, you'll have to do an official and quite expensive study certifying the absence of archeological rests. In a protected area like Nazca, it would be a serious crime (to destroy national heritage). We certainly could not buy up that amount of terrain (!!). But it is permitted to drive around in non protected areas, which also leaves marks. So there's kind of a gray zone. In practice, people exploit the landscape in all sorts of ways, but we wanted to go public with it. We had to make sure we could do it, or at least be prepared for the consequences. The local authorities were sympathetic to the project and we got an unofficial permit...
Are you planning to repeat or show the project elsewhere in the near future?
The project is not completely finished, because there are lots of follow ups. Maybe I'll take on the topic in further projects or exhibitions. Maybe someday we repeat the drawing process, but it's quite a production and I have no concrete plans. There are no exhibitions planned at the moment, but I have a lot of material and would like to show it again.
And if you speak spanish, check out this interview that Vicky did with Rodrigo:
All images courtesy of Rodrigo Derteano.
Previously: Nanodrizas, "flying" saucers for polluted waters.
The dream of self-sufficiency and sustainability has become true. Everyone is now able to produce goods, to communicate with anyone without being charged or tracked and to fulfill their basic needs without forgoing modern conveniences.
Cruiser Charisma intertwines extrapolations about the latest (and upcoming) advances in technologies with a series of research trips that designer Jonas Loh made into intentional communities, groups of people who attempt to establish their own society on a micro-scale. He visited Earthaven which is ruled by community consensus and divided in small villages, went to see what remained of the ethics and ideals of The Farm and even made a trip to Berlin, Ohio, to get to know the Amish lifestyle built around religious beliefs and resistance to modernity.
The project also professes faith into D.I.Y. and open source movement which could one day take technologies that are currently out of you and i -such as synthetic biology, genetic engineering, bio-printing and new form of production methods- out of the hands of venture capitalists and politicians and into everybody else's backyard.
The outcome of the project is utopian, yet credible: a caravan which will run on advanced biofuels, whose inhabitants will be able to produce all kinds of goods and organic materials thanks to a 3D printing production unit, eat synthetic protein rich meat that will be grown through a new generation of plants, recycle their poo to produce energy and experiment with new ways of community living.
Interestingly residents would communicate over long distance using the Earth-Moon-Earth, aka moon bounce, a radio communications technique developed after World War II. The system relies on the propagation of radio waves from an Earth-based transmitter directed via reflection from the surface of the Moon back to an Earth-based receiver. The residents of the caravan selected this form of long-distance communication because it is not yet privatized and because their personal data doesn't get tracked.
The project explores the possibility to reach a total state of self-sufficiency and with it a different social, political and economical system.
A couple of weeks ago, while i was visiting him at the School of Design and Crafts at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Otto von Busch told me about an extraordinary experiment that architect Armin Blasbichler had carried out with 21 of his architecture students at the University of Innsbruck. I didn't get much details, except that Blasbichler's students had been assigned to pick up a bank in the city, study it, identify its Achilles' heel and plan a bank robbery.
The best way to know more about the project was to interview the mastermind behind it...
If i understood the project well, you ran a seminar at the University of Innsbruck where 21 architecture students, the famous "Blasbichlers Twentyone", were given the assignment to study the plans of the bank, spot their weaknesses and then take advantage of them to make a bank robbery in which however, they could not steal money. Is that so? Could you give us a few more details about the project?
The project is the result of a semester-long design research course at the Institute of Design/ Studio1 at the University of Innsbruck. The course was conceived as a laboratory to investigate in the continuing marginalization of the role of the architect, the sheer new mass of young architects produced by Universities trying to find a stand, the potentials of role play and last but not least the bold attempt to run an academic course as a profit oriented business model. For the motivation of a young aspiring architect I would put it a little more dramatic:
"...Yo, we gotta take the power back! Bam! Here's the plan." (Rage Against the Machine,
At first glance the attempt to plan a bank robbery might sound like a post-adolescent prank. But it's not, of course. Such a project claims most of the core competences of an architect. i.e. research and value the site (if of necessity), find out weak/strong aspects, think, imagine, anticipate, sense and develop a concept, sketch, think, design, rethink, reimagine etc., prepare action plan documentation, plan the time schedule, the costs. And well, in this case also an escape plan was asked.
I suspect that you didn't warn the banks about the performance. Wasn't the
The single banks where not advised or involved in the project simply because I wanted to provide an authentic general framework. At some point in the research phase some students came up to me, worried about the fact that they are going to do something illegal. However, the University's legal department approved the project with some formal and privacy restrictions. Any time you put to the test your own imagination of things with the prevailing parameters of the real, things become potentially illegal. Architecture is always illegal.
The results were presented within the context of an exhibition in an art gallery in Innsbruck. That was the moment where bank representatives and safety officers came to see the poster size "emergency plans", for the first time. There was a mixed feeling of incredulity about the feasibility of the plans and at the same time a sense of appreciation for the inventiveness of the authors. Though tailored for specific banks branches in specific locations within specific conditions all plans showed a general validity. As a thank-offering for their involuntary participation to the project they all received a copy of the emergency plans for free, as it wasn't intended as a blackmailing event. But the key question for me was: is this immaterial architecture, the information provided by unsolicited architects, is architecture itself of any monetary value? To my surprise most of the banks appreciated the outcomes and gave a financial contribution. With that money we were able to finance the exhibition, material expenses and partly the expenses for the publication of the book. All in all a leveled risk capital venture.
What did the students steal by the way? Do you have some examples of what they brought back from their break-ins? Any anecdotes about some of the most original/spectacular/curious robberies? Did they get to keep anything in the end?
The students didn't steal anything. Their task was not to steal but to examine and exploit the weak points for their purposes to provide feasible emergency plans. The objectives ranged from assets like time, space, image, future clients, electric power, etc. up to the one student, who celebrates with unbelievable virtuosity the theft of the typical chained ball pen on the counter, an icon of worthlessness and petty-minded communication strategies. In any case, cash money assets were of a subordinate interest. You can find all instructions plans in the publication "Blasbichlers Twentyone".
I'm particularly interested in the result from these performances and researches. A series of plans and a book. i saw a few examples over here but could not see the details. Could you describe the sort of graphics and plans that the students created?
You are talking about number 14 and number 17. These two students have been adopting business models and principles which are written into the genetic code of the banking sector, namely "make money" and "time is money".
Number 17 was, according to the bank officials, the most alarming one as it is achievable with no particular effort. Basically the student steals time. She shows how one can jam a banks activity up to a halt and at the same time bring along consistent losses of money. The effect of this apparently trivial approach is startling and I can't go to enlarge it at this point. Check the book for the "source code"...
One would expect architecture students to build banks, not to rob them. What did the students learn in this process of masterminding bank robberies?
Architecture is much more than designing a building, it's about the making of the imagination. In this sense architecture is more related to the arts and the financial sector than one might think. Banking and architecture are of a kin.
Nowadays i suspect that people have very little sympathy left for banks. Was there any political or ethical reason why you decided to target banks?
You can't do without banks in prevailing global societies. Banks are not the enemy; rather they have become the fortresses of desires, the keeper of dreams, hardly accessible and locked-off from the public, although propagating transparency. From this point of view banks are a rewarding topic of research, also for architects. Banks constitute an almost invisible net of power structures. To examine these structures is to bring to light something which has been buried and set out of balance. Unfolding a system is not a crime, it rather adjusts the attention.
The approach of the Twentyone is comparable with the attitude of hackers. Without the commitment of hackers today you would not be able to send an email without somebody reading along, you would not be able to make a secure online purchase or bank online. No Firefox, no Open Office, no Linux - just to name a few - would be available. Hackers usually are related to an information technology security context. Why not set their working method to other topics and disciplines - "hitchhacking"?
In this sense the Twentyone are a non-institutionalized, slightly profit oriented breed of security "hitchhackers". A 21-architect resides in anyone of us and when you team up with your hidden alter-ego you make 42. According to Douglas Adams, with 42 then you can answer the ultimate questions of life, the universe and everything.
Thank you Armin!
Blasbichlers Twentyone - the book
The Architectural Association School of Architecture in London has just opened a fascinating exhibition titled Beyond Entropy, When Energy becomes Form. The works on show are part of a two-year project that brings together leading scientists, architects and artists to broaden the ways we think about energy.
A wooden time machine, a swinging pendulum that controls the destruction and reconstruction of a building, a highly frustrating pinball machine, forensic photography that captures your movements before the picture is taken, etc. Each work in the room looked at a different type of energy --electric, mechanical, potential, mass, sound, thermal, chemical, and gravitational-- in a way that makes us realize how little we know about energy.
MASS intends to break the second law of thermodynamics which wants that entropy always increases, even though the fundamental laws of nature are always symmetrical. A building that collapses never brings itself back together. However, architect Rubens Azevedo, artist Ariel Schlesinger and physicist Vid Stojevic created a system where the film of a building being imploded almost immediately comes back together as a pendulum swings. A pair of film projectors are placed on a pendulum, projecting the image of the building. The image remains motionless as long as the pendulum doesn't move. A swinging pendulum is a symmetrical, non-chaotic system but the projection it governs is chaotic. As the pendulum swings in one direction, the building collapses. When the pendulum swings back, the building comes back together. It goes on and on as long as the pendulum swings.
An event which is asymmetrical in time due to the second law of thermodynamics (such as the demolition of a building) is thus made symmetrical by the non-chaotic system (the pendulum.) This moment of entropy is continuously projected on the screen. The prototype currently shown at AA is the first step of a larger-scale installation in which a Foucault pendulum will screen a movie whose speed, in time and space, depends on the rotation of the planet.
Cosmologist Andrew Jaffe and architect Shin Egashira explored mechanical energy through a whimsical time machine inspired by Alfred Jarry's Pataphysics, a pseudo-science that investigates what lies beyond the realm of metaphysics. Jarry defined 'pataphysics as "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments." Jarry theorised a time machine made of giant mechanical flywheels and gyroscopic action to transport the user through time and space. The work on show at AA right now is one element of the prototype to be complete next year. This 21st century's version of Jarry's machine uses electric motors, computer-cut plywood, ball-bearings, bicycle parts and digital cameras. In Jarry's pataphysics, these elements work together to spin at such speed as to resist all forces, eventually even resisting our motion through not just space but time itself. The team has updated Jarry's machine and hope to achieve the same result the French pataphysician was postulating.
Bankuh, scientist Giuseppe Celardo and artist Alberto Garutti's way of exploring electric energy is as fascinating as it is simple. It stems from the idea that energy cannot be stored but has to be produced moment by moment. The logic and management that governs the network of the fluxes of energy is influenced by economic and geopolitical factors. The workshop that opened the Beyond Entropy project took place in Fondazione Cini in Venice. The energy arrives there from a dense network of energy-exchange via Sacca Fisola where it arrives from the regions of Veneto, Fruili Venezia Giulia and Emilia Romagna, from gas thermal power stations located in a number of small Italian towns. All of these stations are linked through a network of gas pipes to the sources in Algeria, Russia, Libya, The Netherlands and Norway.
Meanwhile the local coal-fired power plants are supplied with coal from the mines of South Africa, Indonesia, Colombia, Russia, Venezuela and China. The power plants use fuel from Italians localities and draw on feeder pipelines from Russia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. Finally, the hydroelectric stations are in Samplago, Cavilla and Barga while wind turbines are spread around the Southern regions of Puglia and Sicily.
The project hopes to bring together into a room 100 people who have the technical responsibility for managing this complex system behind the electric network. The 100 empty folding chairs await their arrival next year.
Artist Massimo Bartolini, architects Dario Benedetti, Riccardo Rossi and Salottobuono teamed up to explore the sound our bodies make through their own electromagnetic fields. The brass ring is a giant antenna, picking up electric signals and turning these into sound through speakers. As people approach the antenna, so our electric fields alter the sounds being created.
Publisher Ruby Press says: Founded in Berlin in 2000 by the brothers Jan and Tim Edler, realities:united have built a unique reputation for their spectacular art and media extensions to buildings all across the globe. Working together with some of the most prominent figures of contemporary architecture - including Peter Cook, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Foster & Partners, Will Alsop, Nieto Sobejano, Bjarke Ingels, Minsuk Cho and WOHA - realities:united have established an ingenious type of collaboration they refer to as featuring: Usually invited by architects to cooperate on a project, realities:united have a special gift to detect the idiosyncratic strength of a design and amplify its qualities by techniques and procedures that exceed the realm in which architects usually work. Inversely, realities:united can only work their magic by designing in a dialog with an architect featuring them.
This book offers the first complete survey of the work of realities:united to date. A lavishly illustrated tour de force of their manifold oeuvre, Featuring provides the reader also with rich background information by virtue of a detailed project documentation. Finally, a series of resourceful essays of reputed architects, critics and other thinkers will answer any questions you always wanted to know about realities:united but were afraid to ask.
I've stopped counting the number of times i've seen the work of realities:united in a book about architecture, dynamic architecture, interactive architecture, interactive design, interface design, 'media facades' or media art. The BIX communicative skin display they completed in 2003 for the Kunsthaus Graz could have turned them into a one-hit wonder. But years passed and their work has never ceased to catch the attention of magazine editors, publishers, bloggers and journalists alike. It was high time that the Edler brothers gave the public an extensive overview of their practice and published a book.
realities:united featuring has the elegance, appeal and clarity you'd expect from the architects. The inside of the first cover is printed with very short comments about their work. They range from "Jan and Tim Edler are the Neo and Morpheus of architecture" by Bjarke Ingels, to "Sweaty, loud and ugly" (??!?) by Christian Moeller. My favourite quote is obviously Jackie Chan's: "I saw your video." The book goes deeper into the study of their practice with essays by art critiques, artists, curators, academics who either profess their admiration for their creativity or bring analysis and context to their work.
Roughly 2/3 of the volume is dedicated entirely to the glorious images of their projects. The details about them can be found further down the book in a section that lists alphabetically and explain the works finished, the ones that are still in progress as well as the proposals that didn't go through.
Leafing through the book reminded me how ingenious the Edler brothers are. Yes, they do lavish, luminous and dynamic but their work also take more experimental paths in projects that investigate themes as diverse as energy-saving and mobile clubbing.
Check out the projects below if ever you still need to be convinced...
realites:united have a unique way of being both inside and outside the new media art world. In 2005, With the interactive installation 43-316/8017 9242, the designers of the BIX media façade returned to the Kunsthaus Graz with a work that invites passersby to interact with a façade as much as it triggers in their mind questions about interactivity and communication, two concepts that have sometimes defined and limited the computer art scene of the time. Does the installation do what we want, or is it the other way round and we do what the machine wants?
Cokpit, the universe's first cabriolet roof-top, made a summer bed-room out of an unheated, unused attic in Berlin.
Open the House proposes intelligent climate clothing worn like underwear that would enable a person to sit comfortably in spaces where the temperature is far below or above what is normally considered acceptable. The design opens up new possibilities to design houses and save energy.
ReinRaus, Extreme furniture and instant one-person balcony! One of my favourite works by realities:united.
Crystal Mesh, an ornamental and granulated light and media façade for the building complex "ILUMA" in Singapore.
MuseumX was conceived as a temporary installation to act as a surrogate and social placeholder for the Museum Abteiberg (Fine Arts) while it was closed for reconstruction. It took three comparatively small elements to turn the hulk of the 65,000 m3 structure of the city's empty theater building into a simulated museum: a flag on the top of the building, a new foyer and a set of printed façade panels strapped in front of the theater's façade from the 1950s.
Stereo Transformer is a vehicle system designed both to enable real mobile clubbing experiences and to stimulate innovation around the technical equipment of mega-sized urban pop-music events: Dividing the vehicle into two halves provides the structural precondition for putting the people in the center and surrounding them with the sound system, not the other way around.
C4 is a media skin developed in close cooperation with Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos for the "Espacio de Creación Artística Contemporánea" in Córdoba.
If you want to follow more closely on realities:united, i'd recommend that you swing by their facebook page which lists their upcoming talks, the competition they participate to and the projects or causes that interest them.
Image on the homepage from the project Big Vortex.
If i'd have to name two of my favourite architecture studios i'd probably come up with Recetas Urbanas and realities:united. I can't imagine architecture studios more different from each other. A simple look at their website (one is a delight to use, the other never fails to drive me insane) will prove my point. Both have recently published a monograph about their work and i'm going to review them over the weekend. Today, i'll kick off with Collective Architectures | Arquitecturas Colectivas - Trucks, Containers, Collectives | Santiago Cirugeda. Tomorrow will be the turn of Tim and Jan Edler.
Publisher Ediciones Vibk says: Trucks, Containers, Collectives is an initiative by Santiago Cirugeda (Recetas Urbanas) which has inspired more than a dozen collectives to get involved in creating a network for spaces that are self-managed by the entire Spanish territory. This is no longer a matter of experimenting with individual, isolated situations, a process which Cirugeda initiated fourteen years ago and, in any case, is being reassessed during these times of recession. Rather it's a
This book is released under construction. It's an incomplete book, undergoing changes and will remain alive. At www.plataformabooka.net its contents are updated and rewritten. Anyone who is interested as well as those involved are welcome to offer up their perspective. This open book aims to capture new questions that boost and enrich an environment of collaboration and knowledge rooted in experience.
The printed book is thought up as a dynamic object. Words and veils invite us to explore it, in a tactile and joy experience. It skin goes off, the interior displays and reorders. When empty, the book reveals a code that connects with its digital double. The imagination and action of readers are invited to design and editing.
At the end of the 90's Santiago Cirugeda Parejo set up a provisional scaffolding in the front of the building where he lived. He needed a space to study but didn't have the permit to build. What he did obtain however was the permit to erect scaffolding "to clean up the wall". The scaffolding was quickly turned into a place to relax and invite friends for beers. For the architect, the city is a 'living organism that must be adapted to the needs of its inhabitants."
Cirugeda trained as an architect. If circumstances want it, he'd also define himself as an artist. Some would add that he is also a social agitator and a space hacker. Since 1996, his critical practices has been bending, testing and flexing the rules governing city planning in what he calls actions of 'a-legality.' His actions are not illegal but they are not strictly legal either, they just take advantage of the loopholes in city-planning regulations. Once the validity of his experiments has been tested and approved, they are explained into recetas (recipes) which can be replicated in other locations and contexts.
Cirugeda's studio, Recetas Urbanas, is building prosthesis on the side or top of buildings for people who lack the means or time to rent a flat and even for institutions in need of a quick space for meeting or residencies.
Cirugeda's charismatic personality never prevented him to step back and see his work as the result of a collective effort that involves networks of architects and groups of citizens.
The book Collective Architectures - Trucks, Containers, Collectives contains mostly essays by architects, art critics, curators, artists and academics who give their own interpretation of Cirugeda's work. The volume itself is encased in a cover along with a few sturdy leaflets that analyze in details some of Recetas Urbanas' most recent works. Each leaflet unveils the budget of the construction but also its story, the outcome of the project, the lessons learnt from it and the hopes that have arisen during the whole adventure.
Collective Architectures - Trucks, Containers, Collectives is published by VIB[ ]K, a young, independent publishing house that investigates innovative ways of re-considering the traditional publishing process and breathing new life into books. Their methods involve combining printed and digital media in order to make books responsive to the interchange between authors and readers, even before being printed. The books are 'open', they grow and evolve through the open platform b()()ka. And you have until June 15 to submit your contribution and be part of this experiment in "Collective Architectures."
Another book about Cirugeda's work was published in 2007. Its design was much simpler and the content reproduced mostly what you can already find on the website of Recetas Urbanas. Given the grudge i bear against that website, Situaciones Urbanas ("Urban situations") was a gift from the gods for me and it remains my favourite. Collective Architectures - Trucks, Containers, Collectives, however, has several advantages over its predecessors. It's in spanish and english (whereas Situaciones hasn't been translated yet), it's in colour and contains many more in-depth essays.