Friday, February 29, 2008


1. what are examples of un-historical interpretations of the ruin?

2. what is an example of contemporary architecture that deals with temporality?

3. what about contemporary architecture that deals with temporality and the ruin, emptiness, abandonment, etc.?

bill viola

Sunday, February 24, 2008

keep going

two quotations from Peter Conrad's excellent Modern Times, Modern Places:

To close the gaps or to conceal the evidence of incompleteness would have seemed dishonest. We inherit waste, or whatever has survived the modern campaign--in science, warfare and culture--to destroy the past and (possibly) the world. Eliot in The Waste Land gathered poetic quotations together to solace him in what he gloomily called 'my ruin.' Later in the century, the Lithuanian poet Czeslaw Milosz--having lived through a series of historical calamities and geographical dislocations--took a less doleful and defeated view of the matter. 'Man,' Milosz argues, 'constructs poetry out of the remnants found in ruins.' For a child, a ruin is a playground, an innocent field of new possibilities. (716)


This, confounding all prognostications, is the simplest truth about the twentieth century. Doomsday did not occur. Nor was the individual exterminated, as the ideologues of both the left and right wished. (713)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


instituto superior de arte - cupola
Originally uploaded by jgeis

narrativity and super-modernity

Heiki Munder and Adam Budak, in An Immense Museum of Strangeness:

It is as if we were living through a moment of intense psychasthenia, as the attraction of space as well as the (forced) assimilation to space, are reaching their peak. As such, space dense in itself appears in Marc Auge's anthropological elaboration of super-modernity, as a feature of excess. It is not only a place (of a firm historical, sociological and ethnographic nature) but also a non-place (a transit space of everywhere and nowhere, something which we experience and perceive but only in a partial and incoherent way), contributing to this overwhelming and all-encompassing spectacle of spatial overabundance, resembling the Deleuzian despair of "any space whatsoever.

fragmentation and wholeness

Sanford Kwinter, in Chapter 2 of Architectures of Time:

Much of our (modernist) culture clung exuberantly to this new world, but often as a radical, new form of totality that was comprised no longer of oppressive, passe, or falsely consoling forms but of fragments. This gesture came to represent nothing less than an apparent rebirth of matter and meaning, for suddenly anything seemed again possible, the old laws no longer applied, the new ones were yet to be invented; all was polyvalency, possibility, and promiscuity. But this exuberance of experimentation was seldom separable from an almost universal anxiety of loss, of disenfranchisement and disorientation. Fragments after all were shards, ruins--at best, braves traces of a past or future plenitude. Fragmentation and its attendant spectacle of polyvocality was perhaps an incomplete consolation for a world that would never again serve as a home. Yet are we not still far from the Greek world of happy immancence where delight in phenomena and appearance was everything? Can our own "condition," typified and expressed through the modern emblem of the "fragment," ever be conceived free of the nihilism embedded both in myth and memory, a nihilism by whose agency we define ourselves (and our world) always in relation to what we are not (and never were)--that is, unitary and constant beings? Fragments, for the moderns--though still for us today--are too often "thought" in terms of a world and a Wholeness to which they no longer have any relation. Is it not possible, however, to restore to the fragment that which is properly its due, to develop it in the element of its positivity, as a specific characterization of matter within a continuous, fluctuating, and time-imbued multiplicity? (37)


1. Kwinter's last question is that which faces all students as they posit the function of constructed space under the pressures of pervasive globalism.

2. Kwinter suggests that we re-place the fragment within that which is continuous, but also that which is fluctuating and time-imbued. i'm not sure what he wants from such a project. isn't it the fragment that has not been restored to "that which is properly its due" that describes a continuity in a fluctuating multiplicity? i thought that's what he was saying before the last sentence.

3. i agree with Kwinter's use of the term 'ruin,' and my project at this point is to position the physical ruin within what Kwinter describes earlier in chapter 2 as the "philosophical, ontological problem of modernity."

on ruination

It is worth it to say that ruination is not the mere dysfunction of things. It is not ‘broken society’ in such terms. Rather, it is the greater arena for such conceptions of ‘brokenness’ in which communities and societies find outlet and dispossession in the physical environment for forces that act in other means. That is to say, all things meet the ground at some point and require an entropic expending of resources that affect the physical environment. This is at the heart of Harvey’s notion, invoked previously, of the “spatio-temporal fix,” which is a moment in time and a place on the earth, where economic forces and the constitutive forces that influence it (such as consumer habit or trade policy) require a physical outlet of appropriation.

My interests in defining the terms of ruination lie in a few key areas. They are: abandoning place, transfiguration, the iterative collection of artifacts, re-appropriation of content and meaning, and the hypothetical architecture of emptiness. To be more concise, I have broken down these areas below:

Abandoning place: ruination is a process of dis-inhabitation, the emptying-out of inhabitants and the items of inhabitation that describe inhabitation on social, cultural, and emotional grounds. Ruination in this description may be illustrated by cases such as the leaving-behind of all manner of items in the rapid dis-inhabitation of Pripyat; the art removed from the museum walls as it no longer becomes viable due to either extreme circumstances (flight) or more those more subtle (depopulation).

Transfiguration: ruination lends way to possibilities of transfiguration, for instance in change over time in which decay and trespass set in. Also, squatters and alternative populations (animals and sometimes entire ecosystems) neutralize the programming of space, pay it no heed, re-appropriate its edges, or make it the subject of artistic interpretation as in the case of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit. Even more compelling to me is transfiguration in the sense described by the modern urge of exhalation. Thus Kafka, Shoenberg, and Strauss articulated worldviews of transfiguration in a post-Nietzschean conception of death and potential. Anxieties of despair and hope in the modern mind run profoundly deep through ideas of ruination. Thus Strauss lamented the ruination of German cities laid bare following World War II—a sensitively cautious invocation of Germanic mythologies of death—in his Eroica-quoting and revealingly named Metamorphosen.

Iterative collection of artifacts: ruination often describes the planned or unplanned collection of documentary objects. Battlefields are left littered with abandoned war equipment and items of value or witness are deposited into safekeeping or hidden for future recovery. The spaces from which these items are harvested, and the intentions or deliberation by which such harvesting and depositing occur, point to those of ruination. The genocide museum of Murambi, Rwanda is a chilling example of the collection of artifacts within a place of ruination. The exposed laying-out of corpses from the massacres blurs the limits of cultural, physical, and emotional ruination.

Re-appropriation of content and meaning: again, the Heidelberg Project in Detroit comes to mind. Natural reclamation, architectural or artistic intervention (to use a common example, Gordon Matta Clark), preservation of ruination, and memorialization are all ways in which content and meaning are re-appropriated to areas of ruination. This is one category that certainly merits more research at this point.

And finally, the architecture of emptiness: mold. What would an architecture which spawns from the tectonic, environmental, or otherwise physical circumstance of ruination look like? On the other hand, what about the cultural, social, or political circumstance of ruination? That is to say, is the architecture of emptiness poietic or technesic—in which the former represents an Aristotelian and mold-like self-manifestation whereas the latter represents a self-conscious and creative intervention.

Monday, February 18, 2008

weekend reading list

1. The Picturesque: Architecture, Disgust and Other Irregularities
John Macarthur
Picturesqueness and objecthood
Appropriation - all

2. Utopische Orte: Utopien in Architektur-und Stadtbaugeschichte
Kegler, Ley, and Naujokat

3. Archipelago
Ed. Peter McKeith
Space as Construct, Karsten Harries
The Sixth Dimension of Architecture, Esa Laaksonen
Place, Memory, and the Architectural Image, Philip Tidwell
Faith and Possibility, Marlon Blackwell
Body and Image, Peter Zumthor

4. For An Architecture of Reality
Michael Benedikt

5. The Architectural Uncanny
Anthony Vidler
Buried Alive
Architecture Dismembered
Dark Space
Vagabond Architecture

6. Architectural Regionalism
Ed. Vincent B. Canizaro
The Regional Motive, Wendell Berry
Universal Civilization and National Cultures, Paul Ricoeur
Regionalism with Modernism, Suha Ozkan
Becoming Regional Over Time, Timothy Cassidy
Strong Margins, Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till

7. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered: Spatial Emotion in Contemporary Art & Architecture
Ed. Heike Munder and Adam Budak

death and transfiguration

Henrietta has a friend...
Originally uploaded by Martin Isaac

Sunday, February 17, 2008

what to do with an empty box ii

from the ruins

sound, in this case, (music) can attest to what remains. a composition of music is the articulation of idea. when the music is performed, again and again through time, the ideas at its origin may be accessed differently by different audiences, or created based on an individual's own listening experience. but the idea of the composer does not change. idea here is loose, not meant to be too weighty. the idea is always what remains in a piece of music. i will take from it what i will, as will you, but always in the background remains the idea at the origin of music. it is a ruin in many senses. the ruin is the remainder of the articulation of an idea of place.

what do you do with an empty box? here, the music of ryuichi sakamoto, the remainder of an idea, is taken as an empty box to be filled by the animated content of alva noto. this content is organic, in this case with a highly one-to-one (blob-to-note) correspondence between music-as-remainder and animation-as-content. what architecture fills a ruin? or what architecture grows like mold from its remainders?

what to do with an empty box

Saturday, February 16, 2008

reappropriation 1

Stuffed animal road trip
Originally uploaded by caterpillars

reappropriation 1

Friday, February 08, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

port oneida

paperneg, originally uploaded by Matt Callow.

is the ruin
1. stark in the firmity of its place; or,
2. deworlded by abstraction?