Robert Somol characterizes his topic as the realignment of words and things, or more precisely books and buildings from the 1960s through the mid-1990s. He argues that two modes of engagement with language: indexical (words to read) and speech acts (words to look at) generated two different streams of architectural discourse. One stemming from Colin Rowe, and includes Hedjuk, Rossi, and Eisenman. The other from Banham, and includes Cedric Price, Venturi, and Koolhaas. Somol proposes Herzog and De Meuron as a hybrid of the two streams, and continues the discussion of words as language and words as things, illustrating his points with projects by Herzog and De Meuron with Rémy Zaugg. Somol contrasts the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennal with the State of Art of Architecture symposium held in Chicago 38 years earlier. Where earlier the goal was debating positions, the current emphasis is on presenting results. Somol argues that one symptom is a disconnect between the discourse of architects and their forms.
Benjamin Bratton makes the argument of impetus of accidental megastructures and how they could potentially be related to Utopian concepts in a close-loop system. Using historical analyses of megastructures and their present embodiment, Bratton solidifies his argument to very fine details and evidential claims. He concludes the lecture with a reading of a particular story from his book Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury.
Beatrice Galilee discusses her work as an architecture curator from her start at Icon magazine, through the Ordos Art Museum, the 2009 Shenzhen Hong Kong Biennale, the alternative architecture space Gopher Hole, the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, concluding with her first projects for the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She stresses her interest in actively producing architecture and discourse rather than passively reflecting already existing work. Her process is intensely collaborative, and employs performance and direct engagement of the audience.
Ben Bratton characterizes the third and final presentation for the Architecture, Computation and Globalization seminar as an exploration of how the emergent planetary-scale computational infrastructure discussed in his previous talks relates to cities. He discusses the airport as the urban space of hard and soft control, and new digital gateways which control access without capturing bodies. Bratton discusses the physical organization of the crowd performed by the building envelope and virtual envelopes. He discusses generative design in the context of the new cities being built around the world like Masdar City and Songdo. Bratton responds to comments from the audience about surveillance, airports as sites in which the city is repeatedly miniaturized, and dis-enchantment as a call to arms.
For the first of a series of public conversations structured as duels and duets, Hernan Diaz Alonso proposes investigating the idea of the architect, precedent, and genealogy. Brett Steele responds by arguing that duels and duets are ritualized forms of conflict that have renewed relevance, and outlines oppositional pairs that have defined architecture from Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe to Peter Eisenman and Rem Koolhaas. Diaz Alonso and Steele discuss the tribalization of architectural culture, nostalgia versus history, the need to create audiences for architecture, and the fragmentation of the avant-garde in the absence of historical enemies.
N. Katherine Hayles proposes to discuss ideas that will be presented in her upcoming book, You Are More Than You Think: the power of the cognitive nonconscious. She describes current models of consciousness, stressing cognitive processes which create the basis for consciousness but are not available to introspection. After Hayles outlines many inadequacies, inefficiencies and costs of consciousness, she reviews some of the benefits of nonconscious cognition–defining cognition as a process that interprets information in contexts that connect with meaning. She argues that all biological life forms have some cognitive capacity, and that computational media constitute another field of cognitive processes. Hayles speculates that awareness of nonconscious cognition will de-center humans from the humanities. She suggests that awareness of alternative forms of cognition offer a way of making complexity comprehensible.
Fabian Marcaccio disavows any interest in representation, decoration or the object, but focuses on process and methodology. He describes how his early interest in taxidermy, dissection and comics led to his “groundless” paintings that spilled out over the edge of the rectangle. From the late 1990s, his large-scale Environmental Paintant works–unlike traditional paintings–engage viewers in motion, as they walk along beside them. Unlike these abstract works, the “picto-photo-sculptural” Structural Canvas Paintant works employ representation, but filtered through his artistic influences and his life and media experiences. Marcaccio concludes with a discussion of his recent re-engineerings of longstanding visual motifs via 3D printing.
Neil Denari surveys historical examples of buildings that might or might not constitute a thesis, starting with Corbusier’s Villa Savoye and the Florey Building, Oxford (1971) by James Stirling, to Toyo Ito’s Taichung Metropolitan Opera House (under construction). He feels Robert Venturi’s house for his mother (1964) definitely argues a thesis, as do Peter Eisenman projects from House III (1961-71) to the City of Culture of Galica (2013), and projects by Superstudio, Buckminster Fuller and Coop Himmelb(l)au. Denari discusses his own Interrupted Projections (1996) as a project that presented ideas worked out in detail in his subsequent career. He discusses the difference between designs that exist in movies and reality, and the distinction between just going with your interests and attempting to make a contribution.