Feb 24, 2012

lebbeus woods comment


In a recent post I spoke of drawing “what architecture could be.” Since the days when I first set out to do that with hand-made drawings, the digital computer has become commonplace and has enabled many architects with similar ambitions to create provocative images that 1) could never be hand-drawn; 2) speak a visual language previously unknown; and 3) at least in theory promise to tie into a world of construction that is increasingly digitally controlled, making their actualization possible, if not probable.  In a sense, the only thing that stands in the way of building many astonishing digital images is the question, “Why?”
The images of Margot Krasojevic are for me as compelling as most I have encountered in the current flood. What sets them apart is not their style or character—they have the same anonymous, mechanical look and feel as most other digitally produced drawings—and not their spatial accessibility—we never get inside the depicted forms, another common feature of such drawings. Rather, the appeal of her drawings is found in their playful yet refined tectonic language, which offers us big, generalized forms, and a flurry of fragments that either inhabit the big forms, or move in opposition to them. It is a dialectical approach that she handles in a very architectural way, embracing several different scales and speaking of the necessity for architecture to assert its presence in even the smallest details.
Yet—the question persists—”why?” Could we inhabit these designs, if they were constructed? Are they meant to be constructed—and inhabited—at all, or might she intend another purpose for them? We can only speculate about possible answers.
It’s intriguing to imagine that in some future time, when not only technology but also human conceptions of how to live have evolved far beyond what we now know, and that buildings such as Kraselovic’s might become commonplace. In such a world, the social and political and perhaps also the economic relationships between people and what we would call a wider nature would be very different from today, though in ways we can only infer from the drawings. What the drawings suggest is an isolation in which things do not interact with each other very much, but are self-contained and self-sustaining. Each building is a world unto itself, a domain of individuality. Or so I see it.
Somehow, though, I do not think the architect sees her designs as belonging to a distant future. Her texts make no reference of this kind and seem much more focused on her concern with formal details of technique and method—how she made the drawings more than why. Back at square one, we can only conclude that the drawings, and what they depict, are intended for the present, one that shares her concerns and projects architecture as essentially self-referential—“art for art’s sake.” As such, architecture severs its conscious ties with other fields of knowledge, from social science to psychology to literature, aiming for a pure expression of its essence—the design of space. This perspective can be and has been justified in countless modernist arguments by the need for existential integrity: each thing must be true to itself, before it can come into a ‘true’ relationship with other things. A powerful but problematic perspective, to be sure.
In the 20th century, modernism and its counterpart, existentialism, played themselves out against a backdrop of war, totalitarianism, social disintegration, and personal alienation. The “death of God” announced by Friedrich Nietzsche at the end of the 19th century was really the birth of a wholly anthropocentric society. Modern technologies were merely the enablers of a historically new form of freedom, defined in a famous pop song as “having nothing left to lose.” Post-modernism in philosophy, art and architecture emerged as a supposed antidote to the toxic and deadly consequences of the demise of moral values that had, for many centuries, given human relationships cohesion in spite of their many contradictions. In a sense, the digital computer has been the ultimate liberator, making anything possible while remaining totally amoral. The digital computer (there is also the analogue computer, underused and misundertood today) makes the work of Krasojevic possible, but does not help us make any sense of it. To do that, we have the choice of going by consensus—whatever is fashionable—or interpreting it in private terms.
This says more about our contemporary state of affairs than the works of Krasojevic. I have no doubt that she presents them in the expectation that others will understand her intentions. And well they might. The constructed elements of a new world she has drawn glimpses of reach out to those intrepid souls who know that not only the future but also the present demand our imaginative participation in continually reshaping what we already know. The answer to “why”—draw it or build it—becomes obvious: we really have no other choice.
The following images are from an article called Dimensions of Concept—Illusions: The Fractal Tower:

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