Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Stupid Cities_Part 2

Politics of Obsolescence: Planned Obsolescence is an integral part of consumer society, stretching from the Phoebus cartel of 1925 to present day marketing strategies adopted by car giants and tech companies. A planned obsolescence of technology in cars, mobiles, operating systems maintains a gradual stream of consumers. This when asserted on cities leads to a trend of steel and concrete buildings in cities like London, New York, Chicago having an average life span of 40 years, not necessarily due to material deterioration but instead opportunities arsing from speculation, facilitating wealth creation by increasing density over city spaces.

Kit of Parts: With modular technology, 3d fabrication and Smart city technology, our increasingly Smart buildings are moving away from being buildings built to last, but instead gadget-like that can be changed, retrofitted, upgraded. New innovations in timber construction and prefabricated modules allows for quick ways to not only construct but also dismantle buildings, bringing the building industry within this sphere of obsolescence. In such a speculative fast changing landscape it is only natural that most clients adopt Flexibility as their motto. If buildings are turning into gadgets, then the city is increasingly resembling a motherboard which mitigates and provides flexibility for each component and sustains its “pay as you go” citizens. Is this Fukuyama's physical manifestation of End of History? where as a human race we no longer have ability to design and deliver even institutional buildings that are solid?

As professionals of built environment, we must be clear, we do not make gadgets, we make buildings that displace air, cast shadows and influence space. It is this awareness that will make us take design decisions with greater sense of responsibility, thought and consideration.

Note: above is a summary of an ongoing discussion with my colleague and friend Konstantinos Dimitrantzos.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Stupid Cities_Part 1

While the technological components of Smart City and what each technological system can do is impressive, the representation of space and form of Smart Cities is increasingly caricatured, with a generic axonometric image stamped with icons, Wi-Fi symbols and acronyms. Following that is a long description on IoTs, Servers, Networks, real time mitigation of services and everyone’s favourite autonomous vehicles, yet there is no specificity to this technology’s influence on form and space.
The two big technological advancements, electricity and the internet were able to seep seamlessly into oldest of the old city cores from gothic quarter of Barcelona to Beijing without asserting a direct impact/influence on the urban form and space! So if someone is going to claim that a bunch of IoT devices and real time data flows are going to shape urban form and space ("in ways we have never imagined!"...all explained on ppt with black slides and vague Matrix like graphics that don't mean zilch)....we should insist on what does it look like???!!!
One exception that has had an impact on urban space is the invention of automobiles. In which case, Frank Lloyd Wright was able to interpret his image of a new city influenced by the technology of the automobile in the form of Broadacre City. 
Which again brings us to what does it look like?!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Can we?

Photo from Venice Biennale 2014 curated by OMA
Superstudio was an architecture firm, founded in 1966 in Florence, Italy by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia. The founders had gone to school at the University of Florence with Archizoom Associati founder Andrea Branzi and first showed their work in the Superarchitettura show in 1966.
Adolfo Natalini wrote in 1971 “...if design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design; if architecture is merely the codifying of bourgeois model of ownership and society, then we must reject architecture; if architecture and town planning is merely the formalisation of present unjust social divisions, then we must reject town planning and its cities...until all design activities are aimed towards meeting primary needs. Until then, design must disappear. We can live without architecture...”