Occulted architectures; or, a shiver along the planet’s spine

The intention of Laka’s REACT competition is left refreshingly ambiguous: to create an “architecture that reacts”. This ambiguity rehearses intriguing possibilities to go beyond what is typically considered architectural reactions—passive phenomena that are a direct communication between the building and the visitor. Light, space, movement, etc. These reactions are the common pidgin of modernist architecture vernacular and produce a linear sequence of preprogrammed evental and discrete moments that insist on recuperating ecological relations in rarified Euclidean space. Architectural reaction in this vein is a mechanical, strictly curated sequence of events occurring between populations of hominid organics and rigid hylospatial structures, using environmental phenomena as its engine.

Reaction can no longer follow a cybernetic/modernistic paradigm that leaves us pushing buttons and watching lights and claiming to be moved. Modernity’s hackneyed interpretation of the machine as a model for architecture has enforced a shallow bottom. We want to interact deeply with our machines, not stare at them; to dip our hand into the water and watch solitons and saltations cascade around our fingers. Pushing a button is no longer enough; its time to recuperate the architectural machine as an architectural ecology.

The architectural ecology is transcalar and emergent. It can be many pieces, or one structure; it can be newly built or retrofitted to existing structures. Whether planetary or local, the architectural ecology is an infinity of potentially moving parts—a bristling biome of seething possibility and interpretation. The movement I’m describing does not have to actually take place, but will always be implied—constantly moving outward, a rarified explosion, a gordian knot of vector rays and axis mundi offshoots that terminate cloudily in an occupied space. It is an animal, with life pulsing beneath an operable exterior. Architectures of flesh are no longer for demonic cathedrals or parasitical infestation. The bleeding tunnels are our own, and as we recapitulate them, they will lose their alien quality. Their twitches, their shivering, their musculature, their teratology is our own.

Sinking down deep into the loam of the planet, the architectural ecology buries itself—or maybe its a planting?—only to grow forth or be exhumed at the proper moment. This moment is one of pure function, a distinct hinge point, in which the architecture announces itself out of the swarm-void to become of use. Instead of reaction functioning as the mouthpiece for an architecture that sits hollowly and lets environmental and operational use define its tongue, it withers vestigial. The architectural ecology is the environment, is the mouth—allowing hylospatial practice, the planet, the operator, and especially the reaction to go alchemic, to commit autophagy. Reaction and architecture become indistinct, inseparable, twinned.

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