Humans and Space

Since the middle ages the human perception of space has changed as dramatically as merely everything else. Improved transportation and technology have been widening the horizon of mankind since the invention of the wheel in faster and faster paces. Today the digital domain causes a rapid shift in that perception and takes a progressing larger role in our lives. More and more often people describe themselves as cosmopolitan or global citizens and seem not to be bound by geographic locations. So is the connection of humans to their places expiring?

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Humans and Time

“[…] for the clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours, but of synchronizing the actions of men.”

We are equipped with many senses in order to interact with our environment and survive and adapt to even severe conditions. We can measure temperature with our skin, luminosity with our eyes and sound with our ears. Time however is something a human cannot detect or measure purely with his body, despite his life being ultimately dependant on it. Through the ages we have come up with various methods and mechanisms to rationalize and measure time. In his infamous book “Technics and Civilization” Lewis Mumford argues that it was the invention and utilization of the Clock that started the first technological revolution. The conceptual separation of a day into abstract bits that therefore separate another abstract entity – work, into sizable units, allowed for rationalization of days and enabled processes such as planning or measuring efficiency. This kicked off a series of decisive inventions and progress was accelerated.

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Grief in Architecture

There is  little doubt that buildings of cultural and historical significance need to be restored and protected for the future generations, both as monuments and documents of the past. History however is not always a tale of successes, glorious discoveries, pride and celebration. Every country has a piece of its past that is hurtful, shameful or regretful and also the architecture to bear those memories.

When dealing with that reoccurring struggle in architecture, communities, government and architects search for local solutions despite the global aspect of the problematic. Is it possible to create a framework and strategy for overcoming that sensitive issue or is the historical and cultural background too important with its nuances to allow for a ubiquitous solution?

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The History of a City is Written in its Slums

Currently around 1 billion people worldwide live in slums. Between the years 2000 and 2010 the number of slum dwellers has increased by six million every year. The prognosis is that this growth will pinnacle around 2050 when over 7 billion people will live in slums, which makes every third person on Earth.

Slums seem to be our future so it might be worth it to take a closer look at the characteristics of these fascinating urban dwellings. In this article I argue that by examining their social and spatial structures, one can read a history of a city, with its past, present and future, hiding in its slums.

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With the insides out : Prisons

“A whole problematic then develops: that of an architecture that is no longer built simply to be seen, or to observe the external space, but to permit an internal, articulated and detailed control – to render visible those who are inside it. ”

–  Michael Foucault, “Discipline and Punish – The Birth of a Prison”, 1975

The following piece is dedicated to a type of building that turns architecture inside out and upside down. A strong political and cultural statement, no other building type speaks of a society as clearly as prisons do.

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Beginner Thoughts on Economics (and the future of our planet)

Economics are usually not on my hot topics list to write about or even think about, however recently I came across too many too good articles on the discrepancy between “free” and “open” content (find an incomplete list in the references at the bottom of this post) that make me want to join the conversation.

There was a time, ages ago, when everything was offline and if you want to read an article you buy a newspaper and if you want to listen to music you buy a cassette (or a CD if you are that cool). People were actually much poorer then than we are today and yet they were crazy enough to spend money on things like art or culture.

Not paying for art and information is a big problem in a world where everyone can post information and there is no one to curate it. Curation is something we need more than ever today and yet noone is ready to pay for it. Nevertheless, I fear this is just one symptom of our big big problem.

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The Mortifying Powers of Tourism

More people travel for pleasure today than any other time in history. Mass tourism is not a new term anymore and it seems it is not one we are going to forget any time soon either. The number of tourist only increases from year to year, everywhere around the world. Due to overcrowding however, the most beautiful and spectacular places of the planet become unpleasant to visit. With their presence, too many people turn a unique place into a deserted and meaningless territory. Since in recent years the digital domain becomes ever so large and all-encompassing, speculations suggest that it might in the near future be able to substitute many physical environments and needs such as shopping or communication. This post focuses on the link between the digital and physical in travelling and tourism – what are the dependencies between the two domains and how do they influence each other.

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On the Evolution of Ideas

How does an idea go through a tool to become a project

Thinking is the most complex cognitive mental process, which consists of reflecting essential properties, features and regularities from reality. Through this process we can create models of the world and represent it according to certain objectives, intentions and desires. The main forms of thinking are observation, analysis and synthesis (rational discourse).

In those three forms certain knowledge also goes through different kinds of consciousness or media and with every step it is abstracted and therefore gains a different kind of meaning.

In the paper Entering a Risky Territory: Space in the Age of Digital Navigation Bruno Latour1 analyses the evolution of mapping and it’s radical transformation since the digital age. The reason for depiction, the means of gathering data and their representation has developed over time  parallel to our society. Typically, following a scientific discovery, the newly aquired knowledge shifts the general understanding of our place in the world and artists are fast to grasp those new notions and interpret them subjectively. Later that change further reflects also on our everyday life. So if in his work Bruno Latour is focusing on the shift of pre-digital and post-digital age and the different notions it gives, the text The New Plasticity by Sanford Kwinter2 from 1986 follows much deeper the transition of knowledge from one area to another. The process starts with the publishing of the relativity theory and the revolution it caused in terms of new understanding of time and space followed by the interpretation in the arts, described by the paintings of Boccioni and the Futurists, and ends in architecture with the project for La Citta Nuova by Antonio Sant’ Elia and his visions. In both texts, as well as in many other interpretations, it is easy to follow the tendency of knowledge to morph its concept as it transitions through different medium. As Marchall McLuhan  famously concluded – The media is the message. However, this conclusion leads to the question – now that we are equipped with such powerful tools, tools which are creating themselves just as actively as we are, how does that change our designs and understanding of our environment?

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