tirado/thrown


“Dasein ist Design”

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That was the philosophical catchphrase proclaimed by the self-described “Sloterdijkian” Bruno Latour during his portion of a public lecture with Peter Sloterdijk at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design a couple of weeks ago.

Taking as its theme, “Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Interpret Globalization”, the tandem lectures and discussion was a sweeping journey through very basic issues of space, dwelling, and modes of design required to meet the demands our current socio-spatial conditions.  

Peter Sloterdijk quietly approached the lectern after being introduced by GSD Dean Moshen Mostafavi and lectured with a measure of understatement and modesty.  In the form of a self-colloquy, Sloterdijk introduced listeners to the main features of his three-volume Spharen (Spheres) project, citing VonUexkull, Benjamin, LeCorbusier, and a view of psychedelic capitalism as exemplified by the structure heralding the birth of mass culture: London’s Crystal Palace.  Taking seriously the notion of space as a key anthropological category, Sloterdijk develops a heuristic questioning the home or the dwelling as the primary philosophical space in a context of profoundly fragile spatial and social complexity.  

In the sense that ethos designates a habitat or “accustomed space”, the home is the site western philosophy and ethical thinking.  Instead, Sloterdijk proposes the flexible, structures of spheres and foams as structuring spatial relations (whether biological or interpersonal) noting that the task of architecture is to understand its place between biology (dealing with atmosphere or environment) and philosophy (whose inquiry is oriented towards the world).  Sloterdijk’s lecture hinted at architecture’s biopolitical vocation in the design and construction of habitats organizing space in dynamic constellations of spheres and islands.

Sloterdijk concluded his portion by noting architecture’s contribution to scientific discovery. He cited the early biologists’ use of the architectural terminology used in the design of monasteries to inspire their study of microscopically experienced structures, saying that “the real owner of the use of the cell is the community of architects…”

An energetic Bruno Latour followed. Drawing upon Sloterdijk, he announced at the very beginning of his lecture, “I was born a Sloterdijkian!”  To test out the ideas of spheres and networks in his proposed thought experiment, he took to task contemporary internet-based notions of networks against his understanding of networks as inspired by Leibniz’s monadology and Diderot.  Latour equally takes to task Heidegger’s ontological enterprise, which he claims, superficially considers the atmosphere of the world at its peril. Biopolitics again reared its head, this time in the midst of a critique of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology.  In Latour’s words,

The Dasein is thrown into the world, but so naked that he doesn’t stand much chance to last. …the respective relations between death and superficiality are suddenly reversed.  There’s not the slightest chance to understand being when it has been cut off from the vast numbers of apparently “trifle” [sic] and “superficial” “little beings” that make it exist from moment to moment…In one stroke, the philosopher’s quest for being as such, looks like an antiquated research program.

Latour’s lecture simultaneously glossed on Sloterdijk’s and challenged philosophic thought to re-think itself by diving into the material conceptions and conditions of our dwelling and recast the split between nature and culture in terms of spheres and networks. This provocation calls on us to consider justice and equality as operative in environments where space is needed, spherically structured, and mediated by circuits of networks.  In a parody of Heidegger, “Tell me what is your position on space, and I’ll tell you who you are…” he proposes a dead-serious litmus test for philosophers and architects alike to consider.  Towards the end of the lecture, his reverie along theological, economic, political, spatial, and historical lines illustrated the urgency of such a project.

Additional Materials:

Image: From left, Bruno Latour, Peter Sloterdijk, and Moshen Mostafavi at the “Networks and Spheres” discussion at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, February 17, 2009.  Photo by Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard University News Office.



Late Winter Video: Waiting for the Gift of Sound and Vision

Here at tirado/thrown, we heartily anticipate the end of the winter.  With the clear light and the cold air, we’re slowly attempting to shed the frozen snow that stubbornly sticks to the ground here in Boston (but not before the upcoming Agamben post, though).

The Sea and Cake’s cover of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” is the perfect song for this time of year.  They take on Bowie with a blast of cold Chicago air and fashion a tempered interpretation that does not threaten the original version’s excitement and buoyancy.

In an issue of loud paper a number of years ago, The Sea and Cake’s lead singer Sam Prekop professed his love for the work of Mies Van Der Rohe.  Lines, glass, light, and steel, Van Der Rohe’s architecture trades in the very basic terms of experience and dwelling. 

It’s not entirely surprising then, that the video above marshals high-modern experimental animation to offer a visual expereince well-coordinated with a song that is about experience, broadly conceived: wonder, awakening, anticipation, becoming alive, the senses sparkening and opening to the world.  The above video is vitalism wrapped in the guise of a collected, though vibrant, formalism.  Here’s to ushering the end of Winter.

UPDATE: A far better version of the video is up on Pitchfork.tv, which I recommend over the video I posted above.



Varnelis on the Closure of Post-Critical Architecture
November 24, 2008, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Aesthetics, Ideas, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

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Goodbye marketechture, um I mean, starchitechture: many hardly knew ye. 

At his blog, architecture theorist Kazys Varnelis shares some thoughts and questions on the post-critical moment in architecture, that lavish marriage of private wealth, tidal infusions of capital, technology, building, and design.  This movement might be mercifully on the wane, at least for the time being.  Varnelis summarizes:

Now that architecture has allied itself with a failed theory of the market, what will become of it? This isn’t an idle question. As society and culture reconfigure, an architecture that has little to offer except a direct representation of capital flows is unlikely to succeed. Moreover, the fascination that post-critical architects had with producing designs through software parallels the reduction of architecture to complex financial instruments that existed primarily in the network. This has already been called into question in the market. Architecture is, as usual, just a little behind.

The failure of markets to justly dispense goods and resources not only re-poses the question of a just political economy, but also with respect to the political significance of architecture.  Will we begin witnessing the dethronement of the starchitect as the paradigmatic figure of building and design in culture?  Can more critical perspectives on these relationships gain serious traction in architecture education, urban design, philosophy, and aesthetics?  I would like to believe so, and in the process make amends for fawning over the overwhelming and nearly stultifying triumphs of Gehry, Mirer, Koolhaas, and the market-driven architecture that defined my adolescence and early adulthood. [kazys.varnelis.net]

Image: The Frank Ghery designed Deutsche Bank building in Berlin.  As of this post, DB’s US stock closed today at $30.68 a share, down from a 52-week high of $135.49. Image source, Paw89, Flickr; stock source, Google Finance.