• FRONT SECTION
    “Interlock, Front Section,” T4T Lab Spring 2018, Texas A&M Department of Architecture. Invited professor: Nate Hume. Team: Madison Green, Finn Rattana, Ray Gonzalez, Lauren Miller. Image courtesy TAMU.

Deep Vista took place at Texas A&M University on April 27 and 28. Curated by architecture professor Gabriel Esquivel, the conference involved a series of seven themed panel discussions, bracketed by introductions and closing remarks, that grappled with the current state of architecture as a cultural agent. The themes were Ecologies; Sites (Geo-Specificity); Built Environment & Digital Media; Borders & Thresholds; Program; Design Research; and The Actual Space of the Studio. The panelists included philosophers, writers, curators, designers, architects, and educators: Sean Anderson, associate curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art; Kristy Balliet, assistant professor of architecture at Ohio State and co-founder of BlairBalliet; academic and video game designer Ian Bogost; philosophers Levi Bryant and Graham Harman; Courtney Coffman, manager of lectures and publications at Princeton University; Abigail Coover Hume and Nate Hume of Hume Coover Studio and suckerPUNCH; TAMU’s Sarah Deyong; Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular; Rice University English professor and ecological thinker Timothy Morton; Dwayne Oyler of Oyler Wu Collaborative; Michel Rojkind of Rojkind Arquitectos; Kivi Sotamaa of Ateljé Sotamaa; Robert Stuart-Smith, professor of architecture and director of autonomous manufacturing labs at PennDesign; and Michael Young, assistant professor of architecture at Cooper Union and co-founder of Young & Ayata. The discussions were lively, and the panelists expressed a variety of divergent views. Here, Aaron Seward presents a journalistic poem, a kitbashed assembly of unattributed voices, heard and overheard, however unreliably, at Deep Vista.

I.

Architecture is just as much
about not communicating
as about communicating.
You can never get it perfectly
right. Architecture is an open
system, an object made by
other objects. We need another
way of talking about it.

The idea of nature is
dangerous because it separates
us from it. Global warming is
really big, but it’s finite.
More like a titan than a god.
Like Kant’s sublime, it’s
huge and can crush us. But
you can dispel it: Stop
burning fossil fuels,
nowish. Everyone needs to
jump into the uncanny valley.

Saying everything is connected
overlooks the important connections.
There’s a danger of architecture
being subsumed by ecology,
erasing objects into the infinite
surround of space and time.
What’s an object? That which
can’t be reduced to its components
or its effects.

How do we think the relationship
between ecology and architecture?
Think the relationship between
the Museum Tower and
the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Another name for ecology
is realpolitik.

Take the beaver approach.

II.

Every idea has a shelf life.
Site specificity has reached
its end. In College Station,
people are aligning their
graves to Kyle Field.

Take a model and hold it in your
hand. Now, soliloquize. The site
is within the self, the self
is Theseus’ ship, it sails around
the world and returns to port
interchanged.

SCI-Arc has changed its site. But
SCI-Arc is the software, not the
hardware. Any action creates
its own context. The aim is
to transform.

Site specificity suggests
it’s a process, it stretches
out. The pyramids are not the
same in Vegas as in Giza.

I subscribe to relationism. The
moving target of normal makes it
difficult to claim an essence.
Autonomy, implied absolute power,
can be politically harmful.

I’m a fan of autonomy.
There’s an assumption
that more relationships,
more people will improve
projects. But there are
more powerful ways
to have a cultural effect.

Site always matters, it’s
unavoidable if you do a
building. AT&T Long Lines
in New York makes you
think differently about
the surroundings.

III.

How do we understand the
aesthetics of realism? What
do you want to communicate?
How do you know it’s real?

The questions you ask are
the same: They’re all real.
Realism has bigger fish to fry
than traumatizing humans.
Things have a surplus
beyond form and purpose.

Abstraction is involved
in the aesthetics of realism.
In video games it looks real.

Draw more. Draw humidity,
temperature, atmosphere.
Plans and sections are
not necessary for fabrication,
just points in space.

In Los Angeles, they mock up
additions so people will know
the size and impact
of a proposed development.

Tools that might sound
retrograde to architects
can be very useful to
preservationists. And
we’ll need them as evidence
in legal battles.

IV.

Can you empathize?
I’m hearing cyborg.
Screens are a portal into
a yet-existing reality.

The body looks through the screen.
Bodies are borders. The site is
bordered. There’s a modulation,
whether in or out. The threshold
is a lumpy thing that causes you
to hesitate for a moment
of aesthetic appreciation.

Take a world that’s well
defined and work on it to
make it something else. But
when it’s built, and out
there, there’s a burden.
How will it be absorbed?

Six minutes or 5,000 years,
it’s all temporary. It’s all
for the purpose of photography.

If we reach the real, we die. It’s
a threshold. When I’m finished, I feel
depressed. That’s how I know.
I’m on the threshold of wanting to
throw it all away. At the end,
I’m excited to do new things.
I don’t look back with regrets. When
I’m done, I want to get away
from it quickly. I get angry when
I read something I wrote.

V.

No amount of facts will tell you
what a design is like. Programs
will change over time, but the
building will not be exhausted. Socrates
was a person who knew nothing.

I walk into a bedroom and see a
mattress. I know what to do.
If I ate there, it would be
naughty. Furniture that looks
like a manta ray had sex
with a stealth bomber might
make you uncomfortable, but it
triggers the imagination. It doesn’t
have to justify its existence.

Another word for program is
narrative. And the author is
dead. How do children and
animals use something? There
are bats living in the
Congress Avenue Bridge.

Encourage the assembly of
adjectives. Think the exploded
view, the suspension of components.
Hieronymus Bosch’s composites equal
cross-programming, conflicting frames.
There’s a risk of mistaking one
interpretation for all possible.

Inside and outside don’t have to be
mutually exclusive. It’s more
interesting when the bats take over.

VI.

The fact that we commodify
ideas is problematic. Between
quantitative and qualitative,
funding is attracted by
quantitative. The sound of a
door closing on a luxury car
is a subject of research.

To treat design as problem
solving is problematic,
the enemy of sensation.
Design is not itself research.
Our values are screwed up.
There’s a disconnect between
research and any economic end,
in which nothing is valuable
in itself. Think the speculations
of Cedric Price. Think telescopes
that let us see the universe
and know we can’t go there. 

Wasteland becomes land art.

VII.

Nothing is given, everything
is designed. Architecture has
agency, but we don’t recognize it.

The world is permeated with
objects, gadgets pervade our
existence. Hold open the door.
More entities can be included.
A strong philosophy should
carry many ideas.

Lovecraft cannot quite
describe the Nameless City.
His agglomeration of descriptors
shows the tension between
an object and its qualities.
There’s an ambiguity to the truth
and more than one perfect solution.

Relax and let go of control.
When you relax you can see,
like meditation, which
is getting used to.
Space involves an inference.

Don’t overthink the tower.

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