brian carroll on Thu, 15 Jun 2000 01:28:11 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> * open-source architecture *

>>  brian carroll writes:
>>  i think the institution of the university (or government) is the
>>  only way to combat the real-estate industry on a large enough scale
>>  to affect change.

>How do you suppose the university or government will be able to affect
>change on the real-estate industry?  What you describe as
>open-architecture does indeed engender open dialog and the public
>development of architectural ideas, but I'm failing to see how this
>would change any meaningful aspect of how land is divied up thru the
>real-estate industry, or what epxectations people have as to the
>purpose of land and building on it.

 hi Craig, thanks for your questioning... architecture is a broad
 field of practice, so i can only offer one look at a situation
 much larger than my personal knowledge... this reminds me of the
 idea (Torvald's?) of software/architectural bugs related to the
 number of eyes able to look upon the problem in order to fix it...
 meaning, i have a few ideas, many others have theirs, and together
 i think these would be more effective than any one's solution to
 the problems at large (homelessness, energy inefficiency, sub-
 standard building codes, corruption, inequality, pollution...)
 also, i am wary about generalizing for the whole world in the
 specifics of real estate development, as i think patterns of
 development differ, but i will do so anyway to make my point...

 first, architects (in the US) are not organized. yes, there is
 the American Institute of Architects (AIA), but what have they
 done lately? i'm thinking of a proactive organization that both
 defines labor relations and defines the mission of the industry
 to which they supposedly lead. neither of these occurs in this
 sense. one look at their website ( )
 shows that professionalism and corporatism rule the organization.
 they do not speak out about fair housing, homelessness, pollution,
 but instead embrace the system that exists, as conservative
 institutions are wont to do. thus, they follow the imperatives
 of industry (i.e., the market) and its system of value...
 so, i'd say that either this institution needs to be reformed,
 reformulated, or superceded by a more progressive organization
 that will proactively address the needs of the natural and
 built environment.

 i'm not sure how representative this organization is across
 the world, but i do imagine architecture to be one of the
 most conservative ideological institutions that exists. one
 reason for this, i believe, is because architecture can simply
 be defined as `the manipulation of form in space'... and that
 is where the practice is, and where it finds its radicality...
 but what if, like a supermodel, these beautiful buildings were
 only a facade, an image, and the content of the buildings were
 looked at in terms other than those defined by the architects...
 what if Gehry's Bilbao was questioned/critiqued for its energy-
 use, cooling down all those heat generating shingles... and the
 large voids inside... this critique is never leveraged (for some
 reason) mostly because (i imainge) the critics are accomplisses
 in the development game: the architectural question is limited.

 cyberspace is the ultimate fantasy land for students and architects,
 a virtual playground of form, where they can design whatever form
 they want without restriction, and, maybe some of these forms will
 make it back into the actual space as real buildings... icons of
 the inside out... but how does global warming or homelessness make
 it into the clean slate of cyberspace (?), it doesn't.... thus, the
 'makers of forms' can do whatever they please in the clean-room of
 technology whilst the world outside rots, Brave New World, everyone
 take your vice of choice and smile...

 at a certain level this is the heresy of modern architecture (forms
 in space, reflected in light)... until cyberspatial architectures
 incorporate actual problems into their programs, there will be a
 split between the worlds, and the architects will be at the helm
 of a new totalitarianism. it will look good- it will look great-
 aesthetically architecture will be exciting, but the content of
 those forms will be hollow postmodern fascism (not fighting in
 the streets, but fighting a losing battle in the mind...)...

 an organization of architects, students, laypeople, theorists,
 researchers, critics, could change this course of development
 of the profession by initiating a new direction of governance...
 which could impact the way the environment is developed...

 for example, in America, there are endless housing developments,
 `the marching houses of civilization', armies upon armies of
 developer houses transforming nature into artifice... seemingly
 built to minimum standards (only a few different designs endlessly
 repeated)... what government could do, or organizations if they
 had a voice, would be to declare these status quo houses become
 model developments, with respect to the land/ecosystems they
 destroy, and to their transporation patterns (build near public
 transit and services such as stores)... and to make these energy
 efficient by using passive and active solar and wind energy and
 fuel cells and miniature powerplants and cogeneration heating
 where and when it can apply... for example, government could
 help subsidize the initial costs to, say, put solar shingles
 (roofing tiles) on these houses, to help jumpstart the market
 as a pilot project, and, like the car industry (in the US), give
 a date like 2010 when all new developments will need to be 2/3rds
 energy efficient using these various technologies...

 another idea where architects could implement different than
 market visions of development is with computer networks... i
 personally had great hope with the advent of bbs' and then the
 incorporation of intranets into company designs, in that they
 would be great equalizers and allow new relationships between
 workers... architects could take these tools and use them to
 design a different organization within a company, in unison with
 the re-design of a companies building... this actual/virtual
 design could offer new freedoms... but instead, like the division
 of labor, computer technicians use these tools and network admins
 monitor them and their emails, etc... and the potential, the
 potential for architecture to ask questions about how these
 things are used vanishes. the question vanishes. it becomes only
 a technical/market question, already answered by the reigning
 system of operation.

 other ideas for real estate, in the inner city ghetto's, like
 along east 14th in nearby Oakland... would be to plan the development
 of small businesses that facilitate both learning technology skills
 and support small business development... such as making a copy
 shop and postal mail store part of the early redevelopment efforts
 in the neighborhoods... in other words, creating an infrastructure
 for an economic, social, and political architecture to develop...

 another idea is in development itself, say, in rehabbing lead houses
 or demolition of houses... often, outside contractors and their crews
 are brought in to do the work... but what if people in the neighbor-
 hood, the young or unemployed, were given the opportunity to learn
 new skills as a part of the crew and worked primarily in the area...

 another idea is collective redevelopment, pooling resources... such
 that, say, everyone who needs a new roof gets together and bargains
 with several roofing bidders, and gets a reduced rate and like the
 above, has their own workers as part of the deal...

 i know these are only a few examples, but like i said in the beginning,
 i only have a few ideas, others have theirs, but together i think if
 we pooled these ideas and parsed their viability out, that a new agenda
 could be set which could influence the direction of the development of
 the industry. if this is not enough about real-estate/property, i am
 sure there are people who have ideas to share about those issues. in
 a sense they all are intertwined. and to make headway in one way may
 allow changes in the larger whole...

>These are the same type of questions I've asked myself about Free
>Software, so I don't intend these as "stumpers" or a setup.  Rather, I
>hope that it would give me a better understanding of how you see
>open-architecture affecting the situation on the ground, in the
>process of developing and building.

 i'm not sure if i addressed your question any better this time, but
 i am interested in reading about any parallels between Free Software
 and architecture/development/building as you see it.

>What affect would open-architecture have on the gentrification process
>whereby an "undeveloped" portion of a city is rapidly bought up and
>it's previous contents replaced with buildings that offer higher
>return on investment?  I lived in Chicago for several years and have
>watched this happen in multiple neighborhoods.  I consider this an
>important problem with the architectural process because it has dire
>effects on the previous residents of the gentrifying zone.  The
>problem seems to be rooted in a demand that buildings make money at a
>rate that warrants their investment.  This is why gentrification often
>replaces low rent apartments, locally owned stores, urban warehouses
>and manufacturing plants, with condos, fancy storefront and loft
>offices/condos.  The new generation of buildings are architecturally
>inferior[1] (any walk thru Wicker Park will show you that) but they
>provide the maximum return on investment with the minimal materials

 great question. i'm not sure. there is a debate surrounding this
 issue regarding New Urbanism, whereby mixed-use developments are
 supposed to be inclusive, yet the properties are so desirable that
 they become high-rent. if i were to make a comparision, i would
 focus on people who are on welfare earning $300 month, without
 housing assistance, living in markets where studio apartments
 rent for $800+/month. that's an equation for homelessness. but
 somehow it doesn't matter. it is not a topic for discussion. it
 is not an architectural issue. it is something for the marketplace
 to determine. to me it is inhumane. especially seeing so many who
 are homeless. the memory of a man sleeping on a park bench comes
 to mind, in the middle of the day, hopefully in a good dream, while
 his feet rotted with green mould on them... something is wrong, and
 no one wants to take responsibility. architects included. but, i
 believe, ethically, architects are responsible for not making it
 an issue for the profession to deal with. instead it is ignored.


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