Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cities' Systems & Geopolitics

Yoz! Sernhong here. A very Happy New Year to everyone! Its been a while since I have put up any blog entries. ReallyArchitecture [react] just had an AGM 2 weeks ago, a successful one that managed to overcome the geographical boundary problem which we fear yet embrace at the same time. Kudos to the inventor of the Internet! All of us from Singapore, Los Angeles, New York & London met online for a video conference and had a meaningful and fruitful 3-hr meeting session!!! We all look forward to a fruitful and adventurous time ahead.

The Spring semester just started for me here at SCIArc. In Wes Jones's studio now. Since the blog also serves as a way for each of us to share our experiences and architecture education, I am putting up a series of stuff which I have come across, as well as stuff which I have done. I hope they will be beneficial to you as they have been to me. The topics/issues range from architecture digital intelligence to urban strategies and political empowerment. Hopefully, these can stir up a dialogue among ourselves to think about the following: the definition of ’the architect’, the architect’s role, architecture & practice, relevance to society, impact of intervention & individual’s purpose as an architect. Feel free to comment.

The 1st of the ‘series’ is an extraction of a seminar brief by this
media-artist-cum-architect-cum-film-maker called Ed Keller. You can check out his office’s website This semester he wants to push everyone to possibly come up with a manifesto from the studio work. The stuff he is looking at got to do with Geopolitical issues, Power of the city, 21st century borders, city morphologies, tipping point of each city, etc.

Here goes >>>

Scenes from Syriana (top) & Code 46 (bottom)

City Systems

(Below is an extraction from the Post-Empire Urbanisms course description, by Ed Keller)

Cities have historically functioned as ‘ambient’ environments, with many cultural, economic, political and aesthetic systems inflecting each other and creating complex urban ecosystems with lifespans in the centuries. The city comes to life through the overlapping ambiences it can host: either as a kind of software, in cultural movements, or a kind of hardware, in the physical forms of the architecture of the city itself. The unique nature and identity of any urban location emerges in an irreducible resonance that is produced between that ‘software’ and ‘hardware’. In the case of the contemporary global city, the intensification of this relationship has produced a more radical set of bifurcations, no longer resolved as the outcome of a binary logic (‘ambience’), yet rather as a monolithic temporal construct of parallel realities.

… … Design of the city now has to ask how we can harness globally networked systems of capital, transnational entities, and technologically enabled relationships and use them to energize the city.

… … Today’s development of Geotagging, locative media systems and the like are symptomatic of a new genre of representation and communication that will radically transform the city. Likewise, a new paradigm in both theory and narrative [written and filmed] provides us with glimpses of parallel realities which function as futures that we can anticipate with a mixture of dread and delight … … The global spaces of contestation for resources, identity, infrastructure, military control, or desire that we see in films like Demonlover [Assayas,2003], Syriana [Gaghan,2005], or Code 46 [Winterbottom, 2003] are not science fiction speculations, but verifications of the wildly reterritorialized reality we inhabit today.

… … The ‘time’ of the institution, which organizes a kind of monolithic memory structure on a political and cultural level – contrasts dramatically with the time of the individual subject, which is filled with myriad unpredictable details … … Urban morphologies are now on fast forward, as they adjust ever more rapidly to global systems that provide individuals, collectives, institutions with constantly shifting ways to interact. Architecture operates as a key link in this dynamic relation, in its capability to slow down such time, unlike many other disciplines tied into the practice of generating urban morphology. This seminar will study these emerging ‘Post-Empire’ landscapes of control, systemic tendencies, and new freedoms.

Well, I am taking this seminar to aid in my thesis(summer 2007) and trying to relate to how the morphology of not just Singapore, but Asian cities, particularly East Asia and South-east Asia, have developed and how it can potentially develop if we can understand them more and get a grip on the ‘systems’ in the midst of globalization. Personally, I feel a slow but sure subtle displacement of the architect’s role in the development of cities’ morphology. It also brings us back to the issues we discussed during the ‘Architect in a Bottle’ forum in June 2006. As Sylyng might agree, these also will link to what we have in mind for the theme content of the REACT’s newsletter, now in its 4th draft review.