Arthropods: New Design Futures

title_spaceBy Jim Burns, Phaidon-Verlags, 1971

1. New Design Futures

2. Arthropods: An Accidental Metaphor

3. Experience in the Environment

4. Some Backgrounds of Arthropods

5. Arthropod Characteristics

1. NEW DESIGN FUTURES

Future shock, or Possibilities for Creative Future Change?

“In our time, the amount of change in the environment self psychologically is so great, and the pace of thispsyche’s capacity to adapt.” Nowhere, probably, are the forces of change Arnold Toynbee mentions so ap­parent and the means to deal with them creatively so diverse and protean as in the increasingly intertwined interfaces of art, architecture, science, and technology, public involvement in environmental change, and the other disciplines, talents, enthusiasms, and concerns that affect and/or are affected by man’s environment and the ways he manipulates it.

This book is an examination of a number of approaches to the general aspects of environmental change. It dis­cusses the work, practical and theoretical, of a number of individuals and groups from a number of countries who have as common ground an interest in ameliorating man’s lot in an increasingly desensitized atmosphere, and of postulating ways in which he can have—in smaller or larger scale—a deciding influence on the ways he will live and the nature of the places in which he will live. Some of the work will appear fantastic to many readers; other proposals will seem commendably “practical” and worthy of support by governments, industries, and the rest of the bureaucratic hierarchy that has gotten us into the sorry fix we are in at the present time.

This book seeks not to make laudatory, or disparaging, judgments upon specific projects or to arbitrarily segre­gate the workable from the visionary (the visionary must be tomorrow’s “workable,” anyway, if we are to move ahead), but to investigate the forces at work in new fields of environmental creativity and the interests that provoke them.

Changes in Creative Approachchildren_clouds1

One of the first things we become aware of in examining the activities of these new environmentalists (to use the current—and inadequate—fad expression) is that they are in a state of change in terms of how they practice their own disciplines, be they architects, artists, technologists, or people dealing with psychosocial phenomena.

A great number of young architects and planners have become weary of, if they have not rejected from the out­set, the concept of the architect as “master builder,” the benign (ideally) dispenser of masterworks for the people to live, love, and do business in. They—the young-perceive that the most neglected resources hi the creation of buildings and environments have been the feelings and needs of the people, the ultimate users of those buildings and environments, particularly as compared with the specifications of the private or government client, who as often as not has a completely different set of standards and requirements. This involvement of people in the process of change in their own environments leads to the changing role of the designer and planner as a guide not a director, an “expert participant” not an imposer of closed environmental systems.

For fifteen years I was an editor on the American architectural magazine Progressive Architecture. In that period—1954 to 1969—1 was fortunate to have a front-seat view of the changing performance of architecture and planning. The period began with the final triumph of “modern architecture” in the superactive building days following World War II. The ideas of the Bauhaus and the International Style became generally accepted as the new way of designing and erecting a vast number of necessary new buildings, created largely from a ma­chined kit of parts, still put together by hand on site. But the concept of the architect’s role, despite the teamwork pretensions of some, did not change; he was still the seminal “master builder.” The reaction in the late fifties and sixties against the “austerity” of misunderstood Bauhaus concepts set much architecture back into the exterior decoration cul-de-sac whence it had only recently emerged, and re-established the architect as a sort of “artist of the environmental object.” who festooned the landscape or cityscape with muscular pieces of sculpture or lapidary coruscations in which people were supposed to live and work, but within which they ultimately had to make their own life-sustaining connective tissue to the rest of the community without any aid from the architect, who had gone on to make yet another masterpiece.

Whole cities were planned in this object-oriented, closed-system, architect (or planner)-as-God manner, Vallingbv and Chandigarh being differing examples at the top end of the scale, and Brasilia illustrating the nadir of such pretensions. As isolated buildings, the powerful sculptures of a Saarinen or a Le Corbusier or a Louis Kahir had the impact of any superior three-dimensional work of art when this ego-trip architecture was working well; at the other end of that scale, the anemic neo-Gothic tracery of a Minoru Yamasaki. the elitist neo-classicism of a Philip Johnson, or the offensive, marmoreal monumentality of an Edward D. Stone could hoke up the urban scene just long enough to delude the public temporarily that the imperious design establishment might have some clothes on.

This closed-system approach to design and planning is not completely universal in the architectural Establishment  Among a few prominent architects some reflection signed environment can be perceived. Kenzo Tange’s proposals for an infrastructural system in Tokyo Bay would permit the input of various kinds of uses and structures. His main pavilion at Osaka’s Expo 70 with its servo-robots and various elements plugged into a gigantic space frame was a physical realization of new environmental directions. Paul Rudolph, surely a paradigm of the “object-design” persuasion for many years, has become involved in investigations using mobile living units plugged into service armatures on a large scale. Moshe Safdie, of a younger generation, continues to refine his concepts from Habitat for new ways of hous­ing people. Additive and/or accretive environments are being proposed—occasionally with actual realization—by people such as Noriaki Kurokawa, Leonardo Ricci. Fumihiko Maki. Manfredi Nicoletti, and of course, England’s Archigram group. The basic thrust to many of their concepts is the ability of the environment to change in response to the needs of its inhabitants.

The individual object-design building of great beauty or power as advanced by Kevin Roche, James Stirling, Cesar Pelli. and Haiis Hollein has so far been unable to provide this responsiveness—the “integrity” of the de­signer’s concept being the paramount consideration and the inviolable ideal. When these structures are well done, people respond to the architecture, not it to them: when ill-conceived for inappropriate goals, these struc­tures are intrusions on the physical, social, and psycho­logical landscape and merit negative reactions. Given the ineffectual—not to say disastrous—results these approaches have had in dealing with real life in real environments, the new design generation now says, “Thanks a lot, but we are not buying that!” (Or, as John Johansen quotes it. “Cut the crap!” -) New designers and planners now wish to work with the real pith and gut of the reasons for change, not worrying about Mies’s “God being in the details,” or Yamasaki’s manufactured “delight,” or the efforts of most architects toward creat­ing beautiful personal statements to elevate the self-esteem (and the bank accounts) of a few corporate clients. “We’ve all been brainwashed, for some two centuries, into servility in the presence of the Genius as Cult Hero,” says Orson Welles. who should know. “Essentially a Romantic institution, the Genius with a capital G re­placed the absolute monarch as a law unto himself, and took over from the church as spiritual bully. The true importance of the artist is judged not by how much he impresses us, but by the gifts we receive from him. Shakespeare and Mozart opened windows; they were liberators. The ego-licensed Cult Hero is an invader. He breaks in. and—drunk with the sound of our breath­less praise—burns down the house.'”

pneudesic

 

Impacts of Change

Like the young architect, many artists no longer are interested in such ego trips or in producing discrete paintings or sculptures as objects. Their creativity leads them into becoming part of ongoing creativity, dealing with natural, scientific, social, and, indeed, artistic (in a participatory sense) processes. They begin to deal in ideas, in exchanges of feelings and desires, in bringing other people from other disciplines into a shared crea­tion, one shared also with the public. The separations between art. science, technology, architecture, and every­day life., are beginning to appear as artificial boundaries, and hence to disintegrate. To some artists (using that term in its largest sense i, no one, ideally, should be ex­cluded from involvement in the creative process, nor even from actual participation in it.

The sculptor and author Jack Buriiham has postulated: “Remember—the Latin derivation of art. the term ars. in the Middle Ages was less theoretical than scicntia: it dealt with the manual skills related to a craft or tech­nique. But present distinctions between the fine, applied, and scientific arts have grown out of all proportion to the original schism precipitated by the Industrial Revolu­tion. … At a time when aesthetic insight must become a part of technological decision-making, does such a division still make sense?” He also remarks: “Apparently! once aesthetics is removed from the tidy confines of the art world, it becomes infused with ethical, political, and biological implications that are overwhelming but never­theless critical.”

The infusion of a universality of concerns into the crea­tion of art, architecture, and environment brings about a new ecumenicism of endeavor, where artists create with architects, architects with cyberneticians. sculptors with technologists, designers with ghetto-dwellers. It is pos­sible to conceive of an entire recycling or feedback sys­tem of environmental creativity through which all the elements of a creative “chain of evolution” might speak. This, at any rate, is the hope of many of the groups and individuals presented here. Art. theater, science, technology, architecture: all are in a situation of pressure to i respond to a multitude of newly vocal and visible forces • and requirements. “The achievements of the past, no matter how exalted, are always to some degree hostage to the standards of the present,” writes art critic Hilton Krarner. This is more apparent todav than at perhaps any period in the past. New needs, new media, new knowledge and experience of many more people, make it more and more imperative that the processes of environmental change and creation be visible, and be shared by the world’s witnesses and users of those processes.

Some planners and designers will find that this new visibility, this new involvement, is rather hard to take in their professional roles. Conservationists, for instance, have found a disturbing disinterest, indeed hostility, ‘ among people in underdeveloped countries to proposals for pollution control of various sorts. Far from wishing to keep their countries free from industrial and auto- ; motive pollution and close to a “natural” ecological balance, many of these nations cry out for more industry, i more polluting vehicles, more urbanization, more com­merce and trade—more of what the rich commercial and industrial countries already have, in fact. This attitude can be compared with that of ghetto residents in the United States or other technologically advanced coun­tries when confronted with designers and planners (or politicians or sociologists) who would “improve their environments” or “do good” for them. It frequently develops that blacks and other oppressed peoples want—much to the distress of the aesthetic designer—color television. Cadillac automobiles, furs, plastic convert-a-beds, sharp clothes, and the whole consumer bundle. Every- i thing, in other words, that they see others getting with ! little visible trouble, but which they can not have to ameliorate their rough existence—physically, at least. This has nothing to do with traditional approaches to good urban design, or beautiful cultural centers, or worry about “letting the materials speak their own nat­ural, truthful language” in a bit of architecture. It has to do with people who are denied the “good things of ‘ life” wanting them, just like the certified public accountant or the schoolteacher sitting next to them on the sub- • way. The designer’s concern about good taste is about ! as significant in this context as a society matron’s dither ‘ over which tiara she should wear to the Junior League, i The increased ability of planners and designers to sub­due their own professional egos (not their talents, their egos!) and respond to the needs and wants of people is of prime importance, just as it is for other profes­sionals, professional politicians included.

This is, of course, not an easy transition: it is not even easy to convince people in communities—once the de­signer has convinced himself—that they can perhaps have a say in the future of their environments. They have been imposed upon and lied to for so long by such a parade of believable and less-than-believable individuals and groups that a new way—or new ways—of doing things will seem as suspect as any previous offer. Therefore, candor about what designers can promise mid deliver: creative inclusion of people’s contributions in the de­sign and planning process: and. above all. the visibility of every action and reason for action during that process will add immensely to new possibilities for including people in the changes in their environments.

Ways and Means

There are at least two approaches to this enhancing of people as activators of. their own environments repre­sented in the work in this book. One has to do with means, and the other with ways. The means for greater environmental control include the provision of a whole new spectrum of readily available physical things and attributes for use in individual, group or community attempts to make for positive environmental alteration. The work of Archigram, Francois Dallegret. Event-structures Research Group. John Johansen. and others lies in this category, which can be described as the creation of physical things, of whatever scale, that people can relate to in active modes and can use to change or otherwise affect their lives.

The ways for people to become involved in environ­mental control include the Experiments in Environment of Ann and Lawrence Halprin, the process-oriented ideas of Cedric Price, and the participatory designs and public events of groups such as Haus-Rucker-Co., Ant Farm, Missing Link Productions, and Coop. Himmelblau. It is worth noting here that, while many of their ideas and proposals have been mainly limned in the architectural press or participated in by small selections of museumgoers and other cognoscenti, the Halprin processes have graduated into full-fledged com­munity-involvement workshops with real communities. Ant Farm has used its various techniques m many educa­tional and public situations (as has Haus-Rucker-Co), and there is a growing number of still younger students and practitioners (at least in the United States* who are taking community action and involvement as the initial steps in a responsive design and planning process, rather than as a reactive phase to occur after the publication of the design in local newspapers.

Ways and means for sharing the act of environmental de­sign have their advantages and drawbacks. Designing objects satisfies the creative urge that makes people become designers in the first place, but it may still tend to exclude some people in the [{immunity from partici­pating in the full use of the objects. Involving com­munity people on an ongoing creative basis may tend to thwart a designer’s impulse to get it down on paper, design it. and see what it looks like. But this process also can have the immeasurable advantages of the experi­ences, needs, and insights shared with people he might otherwise never contact.

In all candor. I must state that some of the individuals and groups you will see later on in this book may not agree with the inclusive tendency that I feel abroad in design and planning. Some may feel—.Superstudio comes to mind—that the act of design is such a special thing that, while the result may be responded to by others, they perhaps cannot share in the creating of it. I believe, however, that the trend is away from an elitist practice of closed-system design and planning, and toward the design of things that can change, buildings that can be altered, environments that will be responsive to the needs of the people who live in them and the people— professional or “amateur”—who will continually be re­sponsible for what happens around them.

 

2. ARTHROPODS: AN ACCIDENTAL METAPHOR

Misawa_Housing1When several friends and I were designing the poster that was sent to architects and designers asking for material to include in this book, we wanted an interesting visual image to symbolize some of the groups working in various countries. Coming upon an old scientific atlas of various insects, we chose them to represent Archigram, Ant Farm, Archizoom, and so on.  Not wishing gratuitously to label my hoped-for contributors as “insects” (I doubt that I would have gotten much cooperation that way), I looked up the technical terminology for these creatures, and so the design groups are called Arthropods. Most happily, if also most un­expectedly, the description of arthropods happens to coincide nicely with the creative activities and processes in which many of the groups and individuals are in­volved. According to the dictionary, an arthropod is a member of “a. phylum consisting of articulate invertebrate animals with jointed limbs, the body divided into melameric segments. . . .” This unexpected, aleatory knowledge meant to me that the groups in this book (and frequently their works also in another connection), can be described as Arthropods, since their members are articulated or interconnected for singular purposes of en­vironmental creation, while still being segmented into their individual personae as artists, architects, designers, planners, or performers. (Further metaphorical possibili­ties in this line include the prefix anthro meaning joint or jointed, and arthromere meaning one of the bodysegments of a jointed creature. The reader will be overjoyed to know that I will abjure such locutions as arthrotecture, arthrology, arthrotects, and the like. I trust others will do the same.)

In these groups, there are artists who design structures, sculptors who make pneumatic buildings, architects who deal mainly in information and graphics, planners who create community performance environments, scientists who are interested in environmental art events. Making their own personal and professional inputs as intercon­nected “segments” of environmental groups, they create many and various places, events, situations, projects, workshops, and possibilities for the involvement and participation of other people. Also, while perhaps working as part of the design “phylum,” they find it possible or necessary to create in the articulation of their own seg­mented individual professional and or artistic persuasions. Therefore, many of these people have at least three options to creativity: (1) within their own specific de­sign orientation; (2) acting as a “segment” of a common group endeavor; and (3) becoming part of an anony­mous Arthropod environmental influence for people to respond to in their own environments (much as a cloud of mosquitoes will influence people to react in one way. while a plate of crayfish ravigotte will cause them to respond in quite another!).

To drive my accidental metaphor just a bit further, these Arthropods also can be compared to their brothers in the worlds of insects and crustacea generally, because they deal in works that are self-regenerating, or creatively changeable in response to outside influences, the way many real arthropods can grow new segments when one is affected in some way. Personallv, I have observed this in the ways some Arthropods can move from group to group, office to office, commune to commune, or work alone, in different times and places. .Someone who was with Haus-Rucker-Co yesterday may be happily working with Missing Link Productions now: someone who de­signs festivals for Phoenix House might also consult with Experiments in Art i- Technology: and someone who works mainly with Ant Farm might decide to de­vote some time alone to an individual project.

Similarly, the works of many of the Arthropod groups support this metaphorical allusion. Archigram’s Instant City, which can segment (or attach) itself to an entire town temporarily and enrich and enhance it in sensory and three-dimensional ways, is a prime example (as are its famed “plug-in” concepts). Other illustrations in the following pages include Hardy, Holzmain & Pfeiffer’s Community Center us a Straddle Structure; the works of Evenstructures Research Group and A. Carlini, and the hang-on, clip-on, and plug-in designs of Haus-Rucker-Co, Missing Link Productions, and Coop. Himmelblau.

The regenerative aspects of these design processes are particularly apparent when seen in combination with older architecture or other people’s structures: a build­ing (or a neighborhood) does not wither away and die, but is revitalized and regenerated by the infusion of new dimensions, new spaces, and new uses. The accre­tive, additive nature of much of Arthropod work is thus more than just a physical piling up of something on something else or plugging another pod onto a larger structure. In many of these creative concepts, it has the potential of a sort of fulsome gestalt growth, in which the burgeoning human environment becomes more than the sum of all the infrastructures and the additive elements.

Misawa_Housing3

This is the meaning of working with process in the environment rather than being concerned merely with the design of a predetermined product in a closed-ended system, be that product a building, a master plan for a city, a painting, a dance, a sculpture, or a space vehicle. The process orientation permits positive change, asks for the involvements and feedbacks of other people, and, in its responsive (non-reactive) nature, seeks to relate the work (of art, architecture, planning, science, technology) to the physical characteristics and the needs, desires, and feelings of the people and places it is going to affect (and which will inevitably affect it). The entire continuing process can become the participatory growth of cul­ture, for, as my nine-year-old niece Victoria Lindgren reminds me. “Culture is what people do to their environment.” It is here that I persuade myself to draw [ the arthropods image further again, for the connective-ness between designers, architects, and planners with what they do, who they do it for (and with), and the ! places they do it to, seems to me to evolve a living cycle of consequences that we must begin to learn to nourish ! compassionately. We may all be segmented into our own private family group, or cultural wants, needs, and ambitions, but. in positive terms, man’s relationships with his environment and with other people must also have its integrally articulated aspect, wherein all of us are responsive to, responsible for, and dependent upon each other for our well-being and for our creative, continual, positive environmental changes. We can all open win­dows; be liberators; share the consequences of what we create!

 

Pneumacosm13. EXPERIENCE IN THE ENVIRONMENT – EXPERIENCE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

Observations from nine quite different sources indicate the need for a nonstatic environment; cities we can all be performers and effectuators in; places where the architect, the greengrocer, the artist, the bureaucrat, the whore, the player, the scientist can share and experience their mutual environments and influence in them the changes necessary for fulfilling satisfactory life styles (or cultures. Victoria!).

The city of power, dehumanized tribute to the stan­dardized industry of men and machines, nevertheless may fail—not owing principally to its size, nor to its labyrinthian complexity, and not because it does not tend to its inhabitants’ business and governmental interests; but, more provocatively, because it has not taken account of their nonmaterial aspirations, espe­cially the elusive need for variety.

Mary Otis Stevens and Thomas McNulty

In any building I go into for the first time, the first thing I ask myself is whether I could find my way around in it if I were drunk.

Dr. Humphry Osmond

We cannot draw back. If the outdoors is to be colon­ized, architecture is not enough. The outdoors is not just a display of individual works of architecture like pictures in a gallery, it is an environment for the com­plete human being, who can claim it either statically or in movement. He demands more than a picture gallery, he demands the drama that can be released all around him from floor, sky, buildings, trees, and levels. . . .

Gordon Cuilen

Architecture is not something outside the head trying to push its way in; it is more like a layer of fantasy-reality somewhere between you and life.

Chip Lord

The form of a street, largo, or plaza was never per­manently fixed in medieval cities except by artificial controls (as in the case of the Campo in Siena). In­finitely expanding public space and eternally en­croaching buildings remained in a fluid balance, ever changing as the contrasting forces changed in scale and importance.

 

Howard Saalman

It is clear that the form of a city or of a metropolis will not exhibit some gigantic, stratified order. It will be a complicated pattern, continuous and whole, vet intricate and mobile. It must be plastic to the per­ceptual habits of thousands of citizens, open-ended to change of function and meaning, receptive to the formation of new imagery. It must invite viewers to explore the world.

Kevin Lynch

It is significant to note that once again the street is becoming a meaningful part of our changing cultural patterns and that the young are referring to [hem-selves as “street people.” The street is the city for many people—only the middle-aged avoid it. For the middle-aged, the home, the security of four walls, the dining-room table and the over-stuffed living-room chair in front of the TV is the city environment. But for all those others, the city street is where the action is and where the quality of life in a city is determined.

 

Lawrence Halprin

Like any organism [a city] has a circulatory system in its streets, railroads, and rivers; a brain in its univer­sities and planning offices: a digestive system in its food-distribution and sewerage lines: muscles in its industrial centers; and any city worthy of the name has an erogenous zone.

Matthew Dumont, M.D.

If Freud and Marcuse are right and art is like sexuality —a prime pleasure—then surely the reification and re­pression of sexuality will go hand-in-hand with the reification and repression of art. My speculation is that art-far-sale is art repressed: that aesthetics is a function of this repression. Furthermore, once a strug­gle begins to end, diminish, or redirect repression, there is no doubt that art will be in the thick of it.

Richard Schechner

Art in the thick of it. Art in its broadest sense (architecture, planning, design, politics, etc.) as the environmental explicator and energizer of cultural change. The Arthropods in this book are mobilized against the “reification and repression” of feelings and creative instincts on a broad scale; they aim to return the life to the streets, to experience the city’s erogenous zones; to en­compass the open-ended strivings of the citizens, and ex­plore the world; to grow synergistically in a fluid bal­ance; to perceive the layer of fantasy-reality between ourselves and life; to release the drama all around us; i to experience it in drunk and sober, vivacious and placid ways: to make provision for nonmaterial needs and aspirations, and to create a world of variety.

 

Pneumacosm34. SOME BACKGROUNDS OF ARTHROPODS

The involvement of different people from different dis- I ciplines in creating what might be called three-dimen- ; sional group fantasies, in participating in many kinds of i performances, in designing and producing environmental events and public activities, is not advanced here as a totally new and revolutionary concept. The interdis­ciplinary work of the Bauhaus and its famous group theatricals had many of the elements inherent in some of the work in this hook. It should be pointed out, how­ever, that those activities continued a rather special at­titude in which the artists and craftsmen were the creators, performers and major “appreciators” of the works—in cathedra, so to speak.

More “democratic” activities have been seen recently in the form of the happenings and participatory art and theater events of the past decade. Kaprow, Rauschenberg, Ann Halprin, Oldenburg, Richard Schechner, the Becks. Grotowski, Chaikin, and others have moved art, performance, and the involvement of the observer-par­ticipant toward new interfaces of audience-perfomer relationships. Significantly, the traditionally more staid and aloof arts of architecture, planning, and technology have just recently begun to become more active in participatory activities and to realize the rich resources in community involvement that their sister arts have been mining over the past dozen or so years.


Pneumacosm2Work in Progress/Process

It is with the realization that environmental design—if we thus characterize architecture, design, planning, and other disciplines that have an effect on our environment —is at a changeover point from studio or product-oriented design to design that will involve the participation of more and more people in the act of environmental change that I submit this book to the reader as a report of work in progress, or, rather, in process. Most of the Arthropods shown here find themselves and their environmental creativity in a state of ongoing change, of response to new stimuli, new contacts, new needs of people, and even new evaluations of the basic influences apparent in visual and verbal references to past ac­complishments in the history of art and architecture. I ask the reader to attempt to put himself in this process frame of mind, one that sees the experience and the creation of the immediate present as a changeable situa­tion and an alterable artifact in time—to think of every­thing as an open-ended, nonpredetermined progression of involvement in environmental change.

Some of the material presented here might appear to be transitory, some ultraplastic. some with no traditional “design” attributes whatsoever. Some of it illustrates people having fun. playacting, making love, creating encounter situations in everyday environments. Much of it, too, applies the lessons learned in past architectural, planning, and technological experiences in new ways to new situations. The underlying common pursuit in all of these Arthropods is, I believe, the ways and means of bringing environmental processes ever more intimately into the lives of many more people. These Arthropod activities add new dimensions to our experience because we are all, every one of us. “in process.”

Towards Future Chances/Changes (Take a Chance, Make a Change)

As we are increasingly face to face with exponential environmental, social, psychological change, we are simultaneously presented with opportunities to create incredible new options for ourselves and others in new experiences and life-styles. Our impulses to take our chances, to involve men and women of all kinds in the process, will more and more engage us to realize posi­tively the chance to work engrossingly with each other in the process of change.

“What we feel when we feel we are hungry, when we feel that hunger which drew the Spanish soldiers under fire towards that botany lesson, drew Mermoz across the South Atlantic, draws a man to a poem, is that the birth of man is not yet accomplished, that we must take stock of ourselves and our universe. We must send forth pontoons into the night. There are men unaware of this, imagining themselves wise and self-regarding because they are indifferent. But every­thing in the world gives the lie to their indifference.”

Antoine de St. Exupery

insider2

5. ARTHROPOD CHARACTERISTICS

There are a number of approaches, themes, situations, ways, and means through which the Arthropods in this book deal, individually or in groups, with new concepts of environmental creativity and involvements. I list and characterize many of them in this chapter, not from a desire to immobilize these protean aspirations and activ­ities in sepulchral columns of comparisons and descrip­tions—far from it. I simply wish to provide a starting point for the reader to use in orienting a personal view­point of what is going on. After that, I invite you to infuse your own responses into these processes, make up your own terminology, feel your own feelings.

I see the Arthropods and their activities basically from two viewpoints, which I call “attitudes” and “aspects.” The first is concerned with the persuasions and philoso­phies of. the designers; their impetus for doing what they are doing; interests; professional positions; concerns about people and environment—their particular processes. The second involves the nature of that they are doing— what it looks like, feels like, how it involves or excludes, what its characteristics are.

Within these two areas, I have further characterized the “attitudes” and “aspects” for a more descriptive over­view. Here is an illustrated glossary:

 


ProjectApolloAttitudes

Performance:

Designs, events, and places principally involving per­formances by the designers and or their creations. These performances most frequently deal in new experiences —by the performer and the observer—of everyday places, actions, or objects that are placed in a new plane or dimension through the performance.

Salz der Erde and Zund-Up of Vienna, perform in the streets, in the subways, in the sacrosanct halls of the Establishment, freaking out the people with extravagant actions designed to make evident to them the actualities of their environments.

Tote Kultur—Hitl, Kistl, Krippl, Taferln—symbolic play in the streets to puncture pretensions of nationalism, society, traditional approaches to just about even-thing. A performance at the 1970 Architectural Congress. What is this all about, architect? Your sublime traditions don’t deal with our reality. We perform and you laugh. How much longer will you laugh?

Living in the subway. Enter naked into a new environ­ment. Build a life-style in the underground regions. Talk with the people, eat. sleep, drink. Make a film of it called Metro and show it around.

Involvement:

Processes that seek to involve people in the ongoing nature of the communal event, artwork, or performance, to give them a more direct contact with the environment or process.

Phoenix House is a therapeutic community for treat­ment of former drug addicts. One of its groups occupies Hart Island offshore from New York City. Each summer, Phoenix House has a Summer’s End Happening and invites the public for a day of rock music, games, cooking contests, inflatables, funhouses, a strobe-light environment, and other activities. The visitors participate in tie happenings, but more importantly through them be­come involved in the meaning and activities of Phoenix House.

Participation:

Attempts to allow people to become more personally active in the actual experience of working with creativity and change, generally in a process-oriented sense.

Roth Recycles is an event by Evelyn Roth of Vancouver done at the University of British Columbia Kontemporary Festival and at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York. Participants brought old clothing about to be discarded—sweaters, socks, dresses, shirts—to a com­munal resource pile where everyone could add or ex­change items as they wished. The discarded clothing was cut up and—continuously throughout the week-to-ten-day period—knitted into a “huge, giant ART-icle which we could crawl into at the end of the time.”

Play/Recreation:

Events or plates in which particular emphasis is given to the fun aspects of involvement and/or participation.

Children-Clouds by Angela Hareiter of Missing Link Productions. Vienna. Lire made of PVC (poly-vinyl chloride) and hang between buildings in crowded sites, inter­connecting the children of many families in a kid’s play communitv high above the teeming’ traffic. “Soft, tender, and flimsy, for jumping in and hiding. Clouds change. Children-clouds do the same. They grow with the children, they get wider. larger, piled up for plays and] gymnastics, until the children are old enough to come down to the ground.”

Theater:

Dramatic environments, dramatic performances to make particular experiences vivid, to underscore environ­mental happenings—In other words, to encourage public involvement.

Funeral for the Don by FUNCO-Canada for Pollution Probe was a theatrical event dramatizing the slow death of the Don River in Toronto from pollution and neglect. Results: public interest, media coverage, poster cam­paigns, and, hopefully, positive ecological action by au­thorities.

Live-In:

New places and ways for people to live; temporary or permanent involvements with the kinds of places people live in today and tomorrow, and the ways they live in them (and some transformations, such as Ham Hollein’s aircraft carrier in the landscape—an instant megastruc-ture).

Nonstop City by Archizoom of Florence is a megastructural concept encouraging the interpenetration and inter­action of service lines, traflic. parking, transit, trucking, and other mobile systems in the lower levels of a vast superstructure for urban living. Vertical transportation systems and top-level recreational and park spaces add to the three-dimensionality of the concept.

Haus-Rucher-Co LITE was the title and the theme of a 1970 exhibition in New York’s Museum of Contem­porary Crafts by Haus-Rucker-Co of Diisscldorf, Vienna, and New York, Members of the group lived in the museum, shared food and drink with the patrons, ex­plained their work and philosophies, slept, and bathed, watched TV, and celebrated together.

A “pneudesic” system is proposed by Edward Suzuki of South Bend. Indiana, as an answer to the need for low-cost, individual housing. The basic module is an air-inflated, plastic-membraned triangular “cushion”; in­stead of rigid members constituting the geodesic system as in normal construction, the sides of the triangular modules do this here. Suzuki says that utilizing this system, the hopeful householder will be able to go to the store, buy the appropriate units, return to his site, and put up the house himself in the size and perhaps con figuration he desires. Modules are fastened together along their sides by zippers and plastic fasteners to form a geodesic sphere or dome. Growth is accomplished by addition of units. The complex plugs into power sources just as mobile homes do today. The house can be simply folded up and taken away to another site when the owner wishes. The present floor system is a tetrahedral space-frame, but Suzuki notes that with the development of very lightweight structures, the home could actually float when inflated with helium—a mobile-home balloon.

Communications:

Exchange of information in various forms of media (graphics, sound, tapes, film, video-tapes, etc.). Also, sub­liminal “messages” in designed events and environments. This category can include almost any form of com­munication between the designer and his audience, of course.

Documentation of the ephemeral continuum of com­mercial television is the process in which TELETHON of Los Angeles is involved. John Margolies and Billy Adler say, “If commercial television is about creation of the forgetful, TELETHON is about remembering what we have forgotten/’ The documentation is going forward as a day-to-day process using color slides and research papers, with exhibitions, films and other media to be utilized in the future (including TV. of course). TELETHON states that its concern is with TV as an information medium rather than an entertainment. They grant that entertainment is a major conduit o: cultural information, however.

Architect and Arthropod Gunther Feuerstein of Vienna, sensing a lack of information flow between Arthropod-and other interested parties, did something about it: he started his own magazine— Transparent—which you can find out about by writing him at Wiedner Haupstrasse 40. A-1040, Wien, Austria.

ONYX of New York began a communications network by mailing posters to friends, famous people, magazine’, etc. The network grows and grows with every mailing; a communications process.

Interfacing:

The juxtapositioning of two or more supposedly “in­compatible” areas or processes, e.g.: art and science; men and machines.

Experiments in Arc S: Technology was founded in 1966 to encourage creative relationships between artists and engineers and scientists from industry. It has since be­come an international “group,” with sub-groups in many countries and missionary projects to other countries and cultures. Notable interdisciplinary events have been: 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering, of I966; Some More Beginnings: An Exhibition of Submitted Works Involving Technical Materials and Processes at the Brooklyn Museum, 1968-69; and the Pepsi-Cola Pavillion at Osaka’s Expo 70. EAT maintains a full-time communications network among artists and technicians working in environmental events and designs.

Monumentally:

Creation of superscale environmental effects for:

environmental awe;
creating illusionary effects;
“commenting” on matters of appropriate scale; fun.

Superstudio of Florence is into a series of investigations dealing with the impact of man made buildings—objects —on the landscape and citYscape. The most concentrated visual application of the theories so far has been in The Continuous Monument, in which “the history of monu­ments, which began with Stonehenge and. passing on to the Kaaba and the Vertical Assembly Building, found its completion with a monument capable of forming the whole world (forming = understanding).” Here are Superstudio’s continuous monuments for Rome’s Colosseum and for the city of Graz.

Object Design:

Design oriented toward .specific visual and or physical ends. Consider cities, buildings, toys, ballets, music, statues as objects.

Superstudio’s Endless Grid responds to a multitude of conformations to make possible object-design buildings —Architect’s Tombs, a Catalogue of Villas—with com­modity, variation, and possibly (I am not sure) responsiveness to individual needs.

Process Design:

Design working and changing within the ongoing activ­ities of an open-ended creative system, as contrasted to object design, which usually works toward a precon­ceived, three-dimensional goal.

Computer City by Archigram’s Dennis Crompton is a systems-oriented example of process design. The service networks of the city are sensitized to changing needs and demands in the ongoing processes of the city s life. A three-dimensioned informational system interacts with the city’s changes and feeds them back to program the computer to respond to the new situations.

Permanence:

Structures or environments designed with a view to some permanence, if not immutability. Housing, for in­stance, might be designed for long life, but have built-in possibilities for change by its inhabitants.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard across the East River from Manhattan is an abandoned industrial-military base with vast potential for redevelopment. Instead of destroy­ing the strong nature of the area and substituting a “nice” design. Hardy. Holzman & Pfeiffer of New York propose a “community center as a straddle structure,” whose aim is the interrelationship of existing neighbor­hoods to a future industrial use of the Navy Yard through a strong community structure.

Sam Carter of FUNCO-Canada. in designing the exhibits for Toronto’s new Science Centre, drew his inspiration from ancient people-processes: “an ultimate altar-temple process: the marketplace. Oaxaca, Mexico—[a] designer-shaman-people cycle.” He transposed these meanings into a series of exhibits that can involve the people of Toronto in a permanent, albeit changeable, process. “Museums are temples. I call the Science Centre in Toronto a macro-museum. … It is a temple to science and technology. . . . whose function should be to provide the necessary lubricant for change. . . . that is what seems to have made temples and churches work in the past. … it makes change easier or it dies. Hopefully, museum people and other temple people will realize this. There will always be temples—more and more in the mind.”

 

Aspects

Graphics:

Visual effects with paint, print, signs, symbols, and words to transmit messages or affect the appearance of build­ings, interior spaces, and temporary environments.

The supergraphics on the buildings of Hart Island by Jason (Cruru) Sky and the residents of Phoenix House transform what had been prosaic buildings for a New York state institution into a visually exciting community, one that announces its optimism and togetherness across the waters to New York City.

Movement:

Movement scores and spontaneous movement events add another dimension to environmental happenings, and infuse the atmosphere with the feelings and physical attitudes of participants.

Blindfolded walks together in unaccustomed places—a wooded mountainside, an old house, city alleyways-create mystery in movement, emphasize mutual de­pendence for safety, bring about new experiences of space, textures, bodily awareness. Here, young dancers and architects move through a blindfolded walk below Mount Tamalpais, California, in the Experiments in Environment workshops of Ann and Lawrence Halprin.

Dispensability:

Temporary structures, environments, exhibits, inflatables, objects that can if desired, be discarded after use. perhaps to be replaced by another “model.”

Fleder-Housing by Missing Link Productions is ideally suited for people with tiny house budgets. A foldable structure of cloth, synthetics, or other fabrics over a lightweight frame, the system can be situated in many places, and can be disposed of when the owners can afford more substantial living arrangements. It appears to be a good Arthropod, incidentally. Arid I feel Mr. Strauss would have appreciated the tribute in nomencla­ture by his fellow Viennese.

Mobility:

Structures and environments that can be moved from place to place using various means of locomotion, in­cluding means interral to the structure itself. Includes most plug-in systems.

The proposal by Einar Thorsteinn of Iceland and West Germany for a housing capsule system concentrates on the mobility of the units. The architect notes: “It should be possible to change the position of houses relative to each other as easily as driving a car. . . . Houses should be transportable in order to give the occupants freedom to choose new surroundings rapidly.” (Note: Thorsteinn’s environmental montage illustrates en­vironmental concepts and preoccupations; it is a good example of good Arthropod graphics communication.)

Sensuality:

Environments and happenings designed to enlist the senses of participants in the experience of the event. We often depend so primarily on the strong visual sense that it can alter our perceptions when other senses are brought actively into the process: smell, touch, taste, hearing, awareness of moving into altered environments, and so on.

Cily Feast was staged by Peoples Plans Company (Helen Goodwill, Director) in Vancouver. Canada, as the climax of a ten-day festival by the Intermedia artists at the Van­couver Art Gallery. Restaurants, homes, studios, and peripatetic food-stalls were used as the sites of a com­munal eating event throughout the city. Choice was built into the program by everyone deciding where he would like to eat. what he could afford, whether he would host a feast or be a guest at one. At the end of . the feast, all feasting groups converged on the Vancouver Art Gallery for “an extravaganza of entertainment gathered from the city’s night spots.”

Changeability:

Structure, environments, objects with the capability of being changed or changing themselves in form, function, use. applicability, and appearance as the needs or wishes of. the users and participants change.

Edward Suzuki of South Bend. Indiana, has invented a geodesic dome that can be converted from a tent-like dwelling into a boat, and vice versa. It may also be made into a “soap-box-derbv” car when wheels are attached to the two horizontal members of the boat configuration. Suzuki says: “The members that constitute the geodesic framework may be disassembled and packed around the plastic (continuous) membrane that covers the frame­work. The whole apparatus thus mav be shoulder-packed and serve as a useful camping tool—a tent at night and a vehicle by day.”

Transformation:

Designs, structures, activities, graphics, and performances that alter the impact, effect, and appearance of existing environments, things, and sometimes people.

Apparitions on the Ponte Vecchio by 9999 of Florence transforms an ancient monument for a brief period into a living performance of kinetic graphics. Op-art slides and supergraphics were projected on the bridge at night, altering the experience and perception of a famous land­mark. A similar event has been staged at an old power-plant in Georgetown. Washington. D.C.. by Doug Michels who later co-founded Ant Farm.

Situation Schackstrasse was an environmental transfor­mation event in Munich by HA Schult. One section of the street was completely covered with the printed word Now. The second section was “soundproofed” with hun­dreds of doormats placed over tar. The third section was filled with about five tons of waste paper. A lawsuit fol­lowed. Responses are not always favorable!

Man/Machine Media:

Creation of places and situations that can bring about interfaces and exchanges of messages and maybe feeling” between men and machines, men. and media. A cyberne­tics trip, really.

In March, 1970, Coop. Himmelblau performed Hard Space, an event in which heart microphones were at­tached to the three group-members and electronicallv connected to three explosive charges two kilometers away. The transmission of the three heartbeats activated the explosions, and three “instant” (and very temporary) spaces were realized.

Willard van de Bogart designed the Film Chamber as an environment for the experimentation with projection systems and visual effects. His Plastic Inflatable Media Environment incorporates visual sensations as well, but also introduces sounds (electronic), smells (odor varia­tions), touch f large foam-rubber objects!, and balance (irregular floor levels). A timing device connected to I two fans permits the environment to “breathe/’ expand­ing and contracting like a living organism. A sensorv-media experience.

Architectonix:

Design wherein a more traditional approach to architecture-as-object acts as the environmental agent.

Super studio’s “mental furniture,” such as desert lamps, information table, and dining room, and its Catalogue of 1’illas, including Cubic Villa and Villa on the Sen Coast, emphasize the group’s belief in the power of the architectural statement to make a firm commitment to influence the way humanity lives.

Closed System:

Affords a prestructured environment or series of experi­ences—a more traditional approach wherein the observer is treated as audience. Examples might include Willard van de Bogart’s Film Chamber (p. 49) and Superstudio’s Villas.

Open System:

An environment, artwork, and/or experiential series that allows the observer to become involved and perhaps participate, adding additional, and unexpected, inputs to the process.

Archizoom’s Interior Landscapes presents us with a vast, loft-like, characterless interior space within which people can move and make their own environments for them­selves. The existing environment makes no demands and creates no parameters. What environment develops is totally developed by the people in their provisions for play, performance, sleep, love-making, eating, storing their bikes, and so on.

Pneumcicosm of Haus-Rucker-Co is a means of inducing continuing, open-ended process into existing cityscapes through the use of pneumatic dwelling units in vertical urban structures. The units respond to changing needs, are transportable, plug into existing common facilities, and add a vivacious slow-motion kinetic rhythm to the metropolis.

Individuals:

Mini-environments or events for the experience of oni or at the most two persons.

Haus-Rncker-Co did Flyhead for a single person to put on and have a complete alteration of his environment, get away from the daily, dreary sameness. A solitary trip: refracting prisms, colors, different sizes and dis­tances than in “real” life. Mind Expander is for two-presumably male and female. A place for them to really get together; a changed environment for two people to be alone in.

Various activities, environments, happenings, and struc­tures designed for the experiences, involvements, and/or creative inputs of a number of people—artists and audi­ences.

There are numerous examples, including Coop. Himmelblau’s Restless Ball, an inflated vinyl bubble for the activities ol nvo to fifteen people indoors or out-or-doors; Yukihisa Isobe’s inflatable for a thousand people at the Phoenix House Summer’s End Happening; Haus-Rucker-Co’s Giant Billiard, a superscale jumping in­flatable group game; and many, many more.

Permanence:

As under Attitudes, a structure or environment in­tended to last, perhaps to be lived in. or offer other long-term use.

The group-planning process for Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, by Hardy, Holzrnan & Pfeifler with the university community illustrates an open-ended, process-oriented activity that will result in the creation of a permanent, three-dimensional complex for living and learning.

As I said, these are a variety of the attitudes and aspects of the work in this book that I have responded to and experienced during the preparation of. Arthropods. Every reader will bring his own feelings, knowledge, experi­ences and in-experiences, needs, ideas, criteria—in two key words, his attitudes and aspects—to the material presented here. I hope this can. in a sense, become part of a continuing process of investigation among many people in many places for ways to energize shared environmental involvements.

The next seventeen elements of this book will be in-depth portfolio presentations of the work of Arthropod groups and individuals, ranging from such “old masters” as Cedric Price and Francois Dallegret (very lively young old masters, those!) through some of the newer Arthro­pods such as 9999 in Florence and Missing Link in Vienna. (The Halprins and John Johansen, though of an older generation, speak much younger than most under-thirties.)

“The present technological age occurs in a new environ­ment, an electric environment, which has reconfig­ured our senses. Seeing is no longer the primary means of knowing. Hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling have become more important. Our five senses are rapidly becoming more completely integrated. We • now demand greater participation in events. We have ; reached the end of contemplation, impartiality and | disinterestedness. We are embarking on a new phase i of artistic awareness in which participation, partiality and interest are the chief characteristics. There is an increased participation in the physical environment that results in an open-ended experience which can only be completed by the participant. Involvement mitigates the inside and outside split. It destroys the subject-object duality. Fusion brings us into a single spiritual body.”

Willoughby Sharp

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail