A Specific Theory of Models

AD: On Beauty, September/October 2019

Architecture needs new scales of engagement. The scope of anthropocentric attention is one of familiarity and comfort, defined by and for the human hand and eye. It turns all the diverse and wild entities of the world into things “for us,” as if all the snowflakes, gas giants, polar bears, kittens, and aircraft carriers of the world existed only to serve the human mind. Now is the time for architects to engage with the massive variety of entities and scales that make up reality, as unsettling and unfamiliar as that might be. Freed from allegiance to the human scale, architecture can refocus on challenging our expectations of what our access to reality is like. In the philosopher Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects (2013) we see what can happen when we shift our attention from the human scale to that of the half-life of plutonium or the slowly shifting drone of the standing pressure wave over the Atlantic Ocean.We might also consider objects at a scale much smaller than human existence: “hypo-objects,” perhaps. In place of the human scale, we might jointly leverage the resources of the vast and the miniature, conceiving architecture at the scale of planets or toys. The aim would be to enchant the familiar by flattening assumed scale hierarchies onto a single ontological plane, as in the film Men in Black, when a jewel on the collar of a cat is found to contain a galaxy. ...

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TWA Monograph

Kasra Press, 2017

While this turn towards objects could be misunderstood as a simplistic focus on gratuitous things torn from all context, in fact it has more to do with shifting focus towards the alluring qualities of things-in-themselves, while at the same time, realizing their fundamental inaccessibility. Consider a Bengal tiger, Kubrick’s monolith, a Mexican crystal cave, a blood-comb jellyfish: each has an inaccessible interior life which is not reducible to bundles of external relations. For architecture, this does not mean that relations do not exist, but rather that architectural entities might relate at a distance without literally flowing into or becoming one another. In any case, architecture would cease to be a hollow conduit of flows and instead become a nesting of objects within objects. This points to a new form of coherence in architecture, which theorist John McMorrough has spoken about as the space “between collage and emergence,” where objects simultaneously retain discreteness, but enter into...

Tom Wiscombe Interview with
Zachary Tate Porter

Offramp 11: Ground, Spring/Summer 2016

At first it was an intuition about severing and drawing out the connection between a building and its landing, but now I have begun to see it as crucial to a larger framework of thought. I think of buildings as worlds, not as extensions of World or Nature, terms I find to be a very slippery subject at this point in time. Those terms too often generalize and reduce the huge variety in form, scale, and agency of entities that make them up, favoring a kind of ontological lump. If architecture itself is a world, that means it might have a continuous boundary. Like a planet let’s say, versus a landscape. While those two things may sound related, one is a circle that has an inside and an outside, and the other is a line that implies surface and goes on forever. I think that the idea of architecture as landscape is now exhausted, and I think the conflation of the two actually degrades both and kills their specificity as concrete entities.

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None More Black

Hatch: On the State of Quick Images, Spring 2015

So, what you heard were my smart friends basically saying, “But seriously, are you talking about a new project of autonomy? And, if so, in what terms and how do you deal with context which is there, like it or not?” So, what I was fighting for in the review, and what we’re all fighting for in the studio right now, is the idea that over the last ten years, mass media has begun a campaign to make architecture provincial. We always hear about context, as if architecture could be drawn forth from it. I will tell you, it cannot. So in studio we are turning the volume up to eleven to see how we could be contextual but in a radically different way, by being so self-reflexive that the building literally creates a new world and then begins to influence and remake its context. That is why we are using the “light studio” I mentioned earlier—the light studio is of this earth but also not of this earth. It is real but it has no determinate scale. The effects it produces might range from something like a toy to something like a black hole. This interest is related to Timothy Morton’s hyperobjects, or rethinking the world in terms of things which are massively distributed and disassociated with anthropocentric notions of scale.

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The Object Turn: A Conversation

Log 33, Winter 2015

In architecture, a similar shift is underway. Formal experimentation based on smooth manifolds and continuous variation – both generalizing models despite claims to the contrary – seems exhausted as a project. Instead, an alternative is gaining traction, one focused on a world made of discrete, withdrawn entities, things that vex and exceed definition through relations alone. This impulse decenters the human–object or mind–world relation that weaves through architecture as phenomenology or other modes of direct human access, instead tapping into a strange sub-phenomenal world that we can’t see or know but can try to imagine. It forces a reevaluation of the discourse of sensation and superficiality in architecture, opening up the possibility of crossing over between how things appear and their strange inner realities. In Guerilla Metaphysics, Graham talks about this crossing over in terms of allure, which could be understood as a combination of allusion – we can only allude to objects to which we have no direct access – and alluring, that is, powerfully seductive. Reorienting toward objects also injects life back into the concept of difference in kind over difference in degree, which ’90s architectural discourse promised but ultimately failed to deliver...

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