1.2.15

Osaka Pigeon

Jury in the rear second presentation space - a classic example of carrot-and-stick. At first, when I presented, the critics seemed to steer the discussion in the direction of my own uniqueness, my "Oliver-ness", but my teacher quickly interrupted and declared: "It is too much Oliver! I don't know how to talk about it!" And I suppose she is right. Crits are surprising, a bit disconcerting, but ultimately we wouldn't want to live without them. Finally my birthday present for my girl arrived in Japan, two teddy-bears stuck in an embrace for almost two weeks (and a letter, of course).

Swedish meatballs in the fridge, with Greek salad, potential Greek defaults in the news, and Greek PhD-graduates slowly immersed in the Bartlett. The day is almost over, and with it, the harshness of the throat can be laid to rest, the chilly winds attempting to catch my hat on my way to Sainsbury's surrendering to the brick wall of my Edgware Road domicile. Now I have read Baudrillard as well, so what remains? A lot. A lot. Althusser, Adorno, Zisek, Foucault, Wittgenstein (again), Guattari, Popper ... all men, I notice. Maybe a bit of Simone de Beauvoir, if I can find her in the AA library.

From instrumental hip-hop to Zorba, from a selection of Chopin's finest to pseudo-psychedelic chamber music. There is no such joy as hitting "random" on a selection you've already made. Perhaps this is what Lefebvre meant when he discussed the aleatory?

28.1.15

You win again, SANAA

I wonder why I am doing this. Why I am attempting to be someone. Sometimes, I feel that it is easier to disappear, than to fail, for disappearance had with it a hint of mystery, a thought left unresolved. But somehow, I keep pushing on, for that moment when architecture means something more than just a passing glance and a knowing smile ... is there more we can do, or is that all? Is the impotence of architecture a reality, like the passengers on the bus choosing rather two empty seats back in the bus than sitting close to a stranger on a seat further up front ... ? I don't know. I wish I knew. Sometimes architecture matters, sometimes it is devoid of all feeling.

Perhaps I'm just timid. I make drawings, and photos. I'm slow, but, then again, everyone is, when they do something they care about. My demands got me where I am today, but they still can't bring me up early from the bed. And some things age with time, some routines just become impossible to break (unless, of course, you're forced to break them). Some things are problematic, and they seem not to be solved by thought. But, if I went down the route of feelings alone, I would have no choice but to end with the small house with a green door. Perhaps I'll end there anyway.

I wonder how much you can learn. Aren't we only learning to be more of ourselves? Like becoming caricatures of our own mirror image.

24.1.15

Gravity (is weird)

Finished another drawing, after a series of four brave 8 hour sessions the past days. I'm wondering what it would look like coloured, but, I don't think I want to go all Illustrator about it. Perhaps printing a version on nice paper and then going nuts with my set of colour pencils? We'll see. Tomorrow is my weekly Skype session, and after that ... more work ... of course ...

I think my strength, and my weakness, is that I do not make a difference between school and life. School is life to me. Architecture is that life. It is what I read, it is what I think of first thing in the morning, and often the last thing before going to sleep. It should be evident that I like it. However, there's a sharp difference, as I've pointed out before, between architecture and building. I don't think you need buildings in order to speak of architecture. In the same manner, I don't think my drawings, even though they're mostly concerned with the inhabitation of buildings, are not relevant to the AA. Some may like it, some may not. Nacho (of the TS crew) thought it didn't matter. One could easily upscale or downscale the items in my drawings to an "architectural" scale. Do I sound naive? Isn't that the certificate of youth?

Serenity is an undervalued feeling. It does not equal inactivity, rather it is the complete merge of intention and action, when there is nothing to look for, nothing to grapple, nothing with a dangerous twist. One can feel serene in Shibuya as much as in Siberia. Funny how you can cross both in a day ...

21.1.15

Schinkel in the house ...

Slowly beginning to rise slowly from a slow bus rider to a quick school, that's what I'm living at the moment. In a bid for advanced self-deception, I'm pushing ahead one TS-spread at a time. More information! More stuff! More everything! (Preferably compressed into a shot of acid you can take without going all schizo about it.) Things alter our course, and then, there's the lectures, which I still haven't attended. Sometimes I wonder of the reason why I'm paying all this money, in any case. What I use is the unit space, what I exploit is my teacher, what I enjoy is the evening when I shut down the computer and go home with a clear conscience. And, in the future, I will be paid for being somewhere, doing something, not always of my own choice.

By slowly recovering my conversational skills in English, I think I'm approaching the point where I can be of help to others. I've always thought it would be nice to be a teacher, but it is only very recently that I'm starting to build up the confidence in order to guide other people towards a goal that is the best for them (and which they, of course, do not understand). As a teacher, you want to be surprised, but not by the wrong kind of surprises (a student showing up at a tutorial after a mid-week of being hammered with zero to discuss, or, the dreaded phrase: "I don't know what to do so I've come here to ask you what I should do"). You want the student to have the ideas themselves, and *then* it is the teacher's role to prune them.

Tomorrow I will send my gift to my girl in Japan. Funny how quickly birthdays follow one another. And we should be happy for them. Another year of more experiences, another tome of knowledge we can add to our memories. Who wants to get old? Nobody. Who wants to get wiser? Everybody. What people only reluctantly accept is that the two go hand in hand.

17.1.15

Albanian Presidents vs. Holl

The cookies from Usuki found a home in the unit space, with my teacher remaining skeptical until the first bite. At the end of day, a cold sun set over the rooftops, busy with refurbishments, and the opening of the first exhibition for the term. Will take a closer look next week, but for now, it remains to push the project as far as possible. Tomorrow, I will go to school, as I do all Saturdays. My plan is getting loftier with every new spread added to the storyboard, and I try to ignore the fact that I still don't have a project (a building, a site, a program, whatever). Remains to see what comes out of it, after all, as I've said before, a project is not a neat pile of research, but neither is it a flurry of statements confused for manifestos that no-one but you wants to hear. Javier (the Technical Studies head) told me to stand down from the TS for a while to develop the project. But what project?

I'm not scared though. It will happen. It will be. I have an argument, I just haven't got a building. I'm fine with that. I left architecture school in Sweden because I was always told to do a building. For my 3rd year thesis, I set up a wacky narrative of immigrants invading the site of the competition we were told to partake in. It was weird, and, in the end, I was forced to present a building. Neat plans. Neat renders. How suffocating! If there is one place in the world of architecture where you can get away doing factories for black holes and graviton detectors of the size of Jupiter, it's here. Sorry if it sounds like I'm glorifying my school, as if I have been converted to its cult. It's not so. I am changing the school, and demanding of it to change, or, at least, that's what I'm trying to do. And so far so good.

15.1.15

Vitrahaus

(Oh, no, a grey building! Curse you SANAA for giving the Europeans an identity crisis!) London is windy and rainy, perhaps more windy than rainy, if one has the need to be exact. Tomorrow Technical Studies tutorial, with the option of an additional meeting on Friday. We'll see how that goes. Gravity is my theme - no, not the film; what Newton did - along with rallying points, and it will make my project curiously TS-driven, not just a detail or a facet to the project, no, the TS *is* the project. It's fun. I can go into strange territories of factories for black holes, factories for smashing together protons and creating antimatter, almost forming the plot for a Dan Brown novel. We are high-brow today!

When I was in Japan, my girlfriend and I walked by a store which sold Snoopy accessories, virtually everything Snoopy, including a giant dog (more of a bear, a panda bear) in front of the entrance, which we hugged. Tomorrow I will go to Hamleys on Regent Street, in search of a present for her birthday. I want to buy something big, but, then again, that would be difficult (and ridiculously expensive) to send by post halfway across the world. Am I being to sensible? Either way, birthdays are fun (as long as it is not your own that you're celebrating ...)

Now with Lefebvre finished (the anti-philosopher who is accused of being a philosopher, and who artfully dodges the subject by claiming to merely use "philosophical tools"), I'm thinking of moving on to Baudrillard, who I've only read essays of, but who I, already last year, bought at Waterstones near Piccadilly for some evening thoughtfulness. Will report on it soon here on the blog. In the meantime, I thoroughly recommend Lefebvre to you all, who makes philosophy more fun than nonsensical. As Baudrillard states, be wary of those who speak seriously and attempt to look serious. "They are insignificant."

12.1.15

If we leave the world, what will we do?

Reading some physics books, as well as the last twenty-or-so pages of "Preludes to Modernity." Said hi to some friends in the corridors, registered for the new term, inspected the temporary door to the library, said hi again (to the security staff), ate sushi (which I dip, as always, with the wrong side down), ate sandwiches, left my hat at home (it was too windy), printed pages for tomorrow's tutorial, tried (and try) to remember to bring the sweets to tomorrow's tutorial, and, finally, just enjoyed the rain. London, you are the same! Some of us may live like carp on the bottom of the pond, but what the scientist perhaps forgets, is that this pond is quite nice to be in, and should be preserved. That is our responsibility, or, like my first book on architecture stated: man does not yet know the world, and yet already searches for a way away from it ...

Having trouble sleeping, which is partly due to jetlag (which makes me more alert than tired), partly due to the many thoughts which pass through my mind each evening. Is my project relevant? Or am I crazy? Wouldn't life be much more easier if I just sat down and drew a building? Yes. Much more. But that's no fun, as we know. The AA is staging the comeback of the most hideous of po-mo: Bofill! Perhaps fitting since Quinlan Terry got the New Year Honours this 2015 as well. I'm still waiting for an award for Morris Lapidus, though. In other news, the return of the grandmaster Koolhaas again. Don't think I'll attend that one. Perhaps it's just the format that doesn't fit me.

J Soul Brothers in my headphones, of course. New shirt, new trousers. My new favourite wristwatch quickly becoming as indispensable as the triple-oscillated sawtooth waveform. I hope this year will be good. Many things will happen. It will be the year of changes, of conclusions, and of great sacrifices.

10.1.15

Some ends produce themselves

Sitting in Helsinki, awaiting the final journey that will bring me back home. What home? you may ask. Is it the place where I grew up, the place where I matured, or the place where I envisioned my slowing-down, the dedication to something, not just the whim of the self, of childishness? I don't know. Lefebvre might provide me some guidance, I've almost finished his preludes now and he has a conversational sharpness that few can match. If I choose Heidegger for the ontology, Lefebvre is there for the politics, even though I'm beginning to disavow myself from all things political, in a world that has become so political that it seems like the only option to express such a thing as an independent opinion. Strange, isn't it?

School starts. London returns in my life. For how long? I don't know. I think ... London is *convenient*, like Stockholm. But is it convenience I wanted? Didn't I come to London to seek something beyond the convenient? Am I not here to wager with my ideas, my illusions, my very own sturm und drang, as my father calls it? It is so, and it is why I continue. I cannot find any answers by waiting for the answers to come to me, or, as a psychologist said it, perhaps to find directions, we need to learn to listen better. Such delusions! Such truths. It is just like writing. You learn it by doing two things: writing itself, and reading. (I've said that before, haven't I?)

The Paris terrorist attacks happened while I was in Japan, so I had a bit of guilty conscience that I spend such a good time with my girl instead of paying attention to what was going around in the world, the discussions, the statements, the mass rallying against all forms of oppression. The world does that to you. Makes you feel indebted to it, from all its resources, myths, and, perhaps in a bit of a jargon, manifestations. But I'm going back now. I will pay attention. We cannot always dream.

またあとで。

7.1.15

Maybe not so much colour, but definitely nice

Cloudy-rainy skies give way to blue sunshine, and we went to the Stone Buddha's national heritage in Usuki, of which you will see photographic evidence later. Sometime. Maybe. After a visit back to the hotel for a clean shave via a ramen lunch eaten properly (with the spoon), we went to the bakery where my girlfriend works, to say hello to more of her staff colleagues. Of course, such a visit cannot go without the purchase of something fika, so two ice-cream cones were promptly bought and savoured on the parking lot. Later, we went home to her parents, to a curry and snow storm news from Hokkaido. Her mother commended me for my Japanese, and for the colour of the sweater which we bought two days ago.

So far so good. Tomorrow will bring more food, more shopping, and hopefully a visit to the cinema. It will be my last full day in Oita, before I take the Shinkansen back to Osaka on the 9th, to prepare for the flight back to Copenhagen, and, with only half-a-day to further recover at home from that flight, it's back to London with likely an insane amount of work an commitment to this strange profession I've chosen. My teacher has so far not commented on my ideas on the blog, which I take as a silent approval (and perhaps a nod of let's-see-where-this-goes, and if it goes totally strange and irrelevant, I trust her to steer me back to the right course).

Steven Holl drawings in the exhibition space, cold Januaries with or without snow, in my newly acquired colour-excursions of scarves and shirts. Who knows where all this will end? I just know that I don't have to reinvent myself in order to do it, just to forget why I need to reinvent something in the first place ...

5.1.15

Oliver Sauce

Currently in Oita, my girlfriend's hometown, in Japan, to celebrate the New Year and to indulge in many free hugs and stolen kisses. I tend to adjust quickly to new time zones, although I accidentally went back to sleep after the alarm bell went off (and missed the breakfast buffet as a consequence). Today, we will exchange New Year's gifts (I brought sweets and jam from London, Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly to be precise), go to piano lessons, and practice more Japanese. Since I learnt English mainly by reading and writing, I'm practicing the same in Japan, although probably a four-year-old could read faster than me. But the more you do, the better you get! Don't give up, I tell myself, listen and speak, and ganbatte ne!

I wish I could stay longer, but one has to be content with what one gets. I can't say I *miss* London (Japan is much more fun!), but I miss the school, the discussions, the late night ideas, and the frenzied attacks upon TS to make it happen. The school officially opened today, one week in advance of the new term, and it's time to crash through the walls (hopefully intact on the other side) ...

31.12.14

Orion

Something is happening. I feel better. Yes, I almost feel good. I'm going to Japan in just a few days, to celebrate the New Year twice. I will dance on Kansai airport, sleep in a capsule hotel (hah! did you fall for that one? it'll have to wait for another time, preferably not one where I'm stuck in the metropolis after another session of inhumane overtime work), and dream of loves long lost, which, I must confess, I would like to relive, if only in order to stay as friends. Friendship. I like that word. I'd like to be friends with you (cue hand-drawn handshake-drawing).

2014 disappeared in a whirl. Next year, I'm graduating from the AA. Just a few months left. Or six, to be precise. Boybands will make their round in my headphones until then, ridiculously happy sugar-inflated pop of the best kind. Not avant-pop. Not nostalgi-pop. Just a slice of 2015 exactly as it will be. The best things are still out there for us to savour ...

There was no Vitruvius in the library, so I settled for Palladio. They had refurbished the library since last time I went there (this summer). New entrance, the old entrance (which I, in a fit of reactionary stubbornness, walked up to) no longer in service, other than as an emergency exit. Palladio was dissected in two days. Lead to some good realisations. But Palladio would be happier if he had AutoCAD, I think. (Or maybe not.)

Live long until the next minute.
See you on the other side of time.

27.12.14

Christmas Market in Basel

The library is opening tomorrow! Hallelujah! The more books one can surround oneself with, the better. My writings have taken yet another detour, but not into unfamiliar territory. I'm reconsidering the clichés of my project last year, and how we, in architecture, have certain objéts d'théorie which remain quoted over and over again, in articles, in interviews, in crits, and so on. Another New Year's Promise: to read the classics, to indulge in the most well-known tomes of architectural criticism, and to, hopefully, give them new life by some sort of crazy twist.

I will probably, at some point, return to the Italian avantgardes, and give them the most humourous treatment I feel inclined to use in the moment. Such as concluding that the best use of Archizoom is to set No-Stop City as your mobile phone background, and the Superstudio collages as your profile photo on Skype and Soundcloud. Naturally, it is done with a knowing glance towards their incalculable impact on progressive architectural culture. I mean, who wouldn't wish to have created The Continuous Monument? Preferably someone with the guts to do it.

I wish to find Vitruvius in the library.
If he is waiting for me, tell him that he is right.

22.12.14

Post 1000 with a promise: Colour!

When I was walking down the streets of Basel, I had a conversation with a girl in our unit, and we, for some reason, touched on the subject of colour. She said: "I've been thinking about this, and I wonder: why don't you use colour in your drawings?" I responded that I'm thoroughly bad at colour, at mixing-and-matching, so I've just generally avoided it up until now. But, as we talked, I realised that everyone has to be bad at something before they can get better, and in my case, colour ought to be a challenge, not a limitation.

So here I am at the New Year: determined (and slightly scared) to use colour everywhere and nowhere in the following year. It's a fun resolution, don't you think? Like I told my friends: the promises we make should be both fun and challenging. It's hard to find both, because usually, we are too good at that which we enjoy. But, in my case, I think it's a good one.

If I had to choose between Berlin and Basel, I would choose London. As I took the tube back to Edgware Road and ran into hordes of Christmas-stressed pedestrians, I felt oddly comforted. It still is, in all its ugliness and messiness. London has never been beautiful, but that's not its cause. It's smelly, noisy, impolite, expensive, overcrowded, slightly claustrophobic, but that's what I like about it. I doubt I will stay here for the rest of my life though, if we are in the mood for making promises. I miss Japan far too much.

Less than two weeks until I go.
The presents have been acquired.
Bravery keeps pushing us forward
towards post 2000.

19.12.14

Lost in Europe

View from John Hejduk's social housing tower in Berlin, where we met up with a former AA tutor who is fulfilling his dream by living in this building. Very weird, but very good. Inspiring. Makes you want to go: yes! architecture of the strangest kind can be built! under the strangest circumstances! with the strangest results! Currently in Basel, shop-dropping between Christmas markets, chocolate cakes, and museum visits. Everything expensive. Wallet being drained. New epiphanies acquired, one that doesn't even require words - it just is, which is to say: I am what it is. Also, New Year's Promise: colour! colour! colour!

Tomorrow Vitra.
Frank Gehry. Zaha Hadid.
Herzog & de Meuron (of course).
And Tadao Ando. Among others.

12.12.14

Winter in London

Grey, brown, black. Such are the shifts of the day on my journey on the bus every (late) morning to school, worrying excessively about everything, which then, somehow, falls into place as the day goes by. Opportunities are found, exploited, and then left behind when they no longer offer anything new.

Just because we do not talk, doesn't mean we don't have something to say.

I like writing, but I don't like writing traditional essays. Hence, my last essay as an undergraduate at the AA, is comprised with everything I'm critical about theory. And maybe, if I had a bit more guts, I would've played the game to its utmost conclusion: that this is not architecture, this is philosophy. But if philosophy begins in architecture, does it not become architecturally constituted?

Last day before Christmas in school tomorrow. We will have a pseudo-formal pinup, and we will provide each other with as much thought as possible. After that, some students who graduated in the past will come to show their projects, along with an invasion of Intermediate 1, who, for some reason, find our projects relevant for their research. Or, perhaps I shouldn't say research. Inspiration.

Pic: the sea from Cannes.

9.12.14

Fake Perspectives and Trance Mixes

And so, nearing the end of the first term, preparing for Christmas and Secret Santa, the tutorials end because they have to, Berlin is waiting and Basel as well. I'm exercising, in a vein of Zen, to think as little as possible. It's not that I haven't received that advice before, but it is only now that I'm starting to realise its potential. Mindless. I'd like to be mindless. This is not to say that we stop thinking, but that we stop being aware of the fact that we're thinking. We just think. We draw. We write. (Occasionally, we speak.)

These must be stressful days for our dean as well, nearing the end of voting for his proposed contract extension to 2020. I have voted already, I like him. I have faith in him. He has done much for the school, and with his help, the school can do even better.

Checked the President's Medals for 2014, and was a bit surprised the AA didn't get any wins or commendations this year. But, then again, maybe it is not so surprising. The AA has moved on. It is no longer concerned with what the RIBA considers a good project, how the Bartlett works, and all the other universities trying to be the Bartlett. This is not to discredit the UCL, I'm just saying, that the AA is different. It needs to be. Otherwise, it would lose its raison d'être, which is to always be one step ahead of all the others. Or, perhaps "ahead" is the wrong word. The AA is just a bit more punk, I'd say.

Technical Studies is starting to take off, with my first tutorial behind me and various drawings of precedents coming together in the first drafts. I'm less scared about TS than I thought I'd be. Perhaps it is a matter of growing with the task. I'm fifth year now. "Still a rascal!" says the seasoned teachers ...

3.12.14

The Feeling

I think, that I have to accept that part of me is not about thinking, not about rationality, not about logic. Part of me is a strange beast of feelings, a monster in my heart, if you allow such words to be spoken, which I cannot avoid, which I shouldn't avoid, in fact, which I ought to listen to, in order to make my decisions.

Worked on Professional Practice today, not so much, but it will be done. At least I finished the difficult parts, now it's just a spacing out of the layout, and to combine all the things I've read about. I'm saving the essay for the weekend, and I think, I hope, it will turn out well. I like to write, but I don't like to be forced to write, so I have to animate that feeling that keeps me in the position of deciding things. It is this mysterious balance you seek in school, between doing for yourself (learning) and doing for others (helping), between listening to your peers, the authorities you trust, and sticking to your gut feeling. It's difficult. It is fun. Mostly. Or perhaps, as I said yesterday to a friend, perhaps it is not so much fun as it is satisfying.

Darkness falls over the neighbouring housing block, and my room, a white little cub with one stinging light in the roof, feels like both homely and uncanny. (Shouldn't be surprising as I'm proceeding into the Heidegger-area of Wigley's deconstructivist book.) I've decided, in the spirit of my younger days, to dedicate my winter this year to reading all the classics of architectural literature. This means that I will, at some point, tackle Koolhaas again. I would like to read Venturi as well, and Christopher Alexander ... so many books, so little time ...

Pic: The ceiling of a Japanese train station.

28.11.14

Sacrifice

Some tend to wonder why I always stay in school until ten in the evening. Or why I don't eat lunch. It's partially because I'm comfortable with it; I find a place of refuge in school which I don't find at home, also, home is a place to rest in nightmares, not a place to work. Every time I stay at home when I am supposed to go to school ends in discomfort and a wasted day. When I sit by the table in school and listen to my music, drawing or modelling or whatever, I'm touching a way of living where I see the reasons behind all my struggles. Every day is a sacrifice of comfort in favour of accomplishment, and for that reason, when we ask *why* we do it, we answer with a sense of responsibility. I am accountable to myself, as I've stated elsewhere.

Jumped far too quickly to a new stage in my project, effectively declaring the death of my latest drawing to pursue some other scattered dream. What brings me to knowledge in my way of writing, in that I avoid tropes and metaphors and ossified phrases, is that the language of excess is always better than that of the sufficient. Now, I will have to mull over my current state for a bit longer, researching, reading, working on my Professional Practice task, and get going with my essay. The easy way out is never the most exciting one - it is simply the easiest.

27.11.14

Neurofunk mornings, APP afternoons, and deconstructed evenings

What I'm most grateful over my almost two year long residence in Dip 9 at the AA is the way it has allowed me to see the issue of "context" from a different point of view. I once wrote a post here on blogger about my hatred for that very word "context" in architecture, and it occurred to me that I was right. I reread the post earlier today, and my eyes were fixed on one phrase: "context, as it is understood today within the architectural community, is ..." What I want to touch upon with this retrospective post is that context has been applied to architecture in the most unimaginative manner possible: that of simply linking together buildings.

I do have respect for the ones who have as their task to build a coherent city, but it is not *my* city, not the city I want to live in. That's fine, that's why we're different, as people, as architects. No building can build for everyone, despite how alluring that promise is. As long as architecture remains specific, there will never be a facade system, a material, or a colour, that has a strict impact on the onlooker's sentiment. In fact, I've always vehemently criticised what I call the universal specific, which has, as its ground, the thought that certain extremely subjective propositions may have objective effects.

For instance, I happened to read over the shoulder of the passenger next to me on the bus home, who was using a Samsung tablet. He was reading about logos. No, not "logos" in the antique Greek meaning of the word (which I thought it was for several minutes). I mean the corporate logo. Before I got off the bus, I glanced over the next paragraph, which dealt with colours in logos. According to the patronising text, which read like a graphics-design-for-dummies-book, "red" stands for love, intensity, sex, and so on. What? In which culture? In which context? Association does not work that way. A colour like red is so readily available everywhere in our metropolitan lifestyle that there is no possibility for it to remain specific. It is truly universal. It is neutral, as neutral as grey, yellow, blue, or any other colour. It is as absurd as claiming that your building turns instantly sustainable as you paint it green.

In the end, what the author of the text doesn't realise, and what everyone else ascribing certain definite characteristics to architecture, is that every sign within a culture sits in a cultural context. Not a physical context, nor a mental (mnemonic) one. This cultural context has several layers of oppression and emancipation, which run parallel to each other in the consideration of every project, visible or not. From a dry consideration of the function of a building to institutional theory, cultural context forces you to take an *informed position*; you cannot remain innocent. That is my lesson, and that's the reason I continue to write.

25.11.14

We are only accountable to ourselves

For my essay: I'm writing about transit spaces at airports as our new, ambiguous space of jurisdictional and inter-national limbo. Mark Cousins, head of history and theory and my course lecturer this autumn, approved of the theme and gave me a reference to find in the library (which I've already forgotten). Finding a tutorial is hard when you don't follow the rules. Architectural Professional Practice (APP) scares me, not because it's hard to do, but because I hardly find the purpose of it. The course is so watered-down that you cannot see how it will aid you in your future career, whilst the themes addressed are important indeed, and perhaps even challenging to find creative solutions in. But no. This course is not for creativity, as my teacher told me. You tick the boxes. You do as you're said. It's kind of central to the question I'm addressing in the unit work, which is: why does the practice of architecture and its spacial setting have to be so conservative? Is the Fantastic Form disease not considering anything deeper than the skin of the building? How can architectural practice change?

I wish I wasn't so tired everyday. I can't drink coffee, because it makes my hands tremble, which is not good when you're drawing delicate pencil strokes. Another drawing is coming into existence, another one-point perspective which I distort in ways you can only do with paper. Reality is much too boring to remain in, which is why I like cities, because they have erased the givens and exaggerated the human. It doesn't surprise me that teenagers these days find a better reality in Skyrim, than in the outbacks of their own neighbourhoods.

Pic: New OXford Street seen from the upper deck of a Routemaster.

21.11.14

Skyscraper Trenches

Late evening at school, and I walked down the shortcut behind Dominion Theatre to my bus stop on New Oxford Street. I remembered Le Corbusier's notes on the vice of the street, cramped, dirty, dangerous, a perpetual life in shadows, a canyon in-between buildings ... and it occurred to me, that this is precisely what I love about the street. When I walked the back alleys of Tokyo, I was drawn to the dense, almost suffocating hustle-and-bustle, where fishmongers, konbinis, DVD-shops and pachinko halls took turns in trying to grab your attention, all while the skyscrapers rose over the rooftops. When I saw the Centrepoint blocking the sky from my little shortcut, I was struck with the same feeling. I was dwarfed by the building, completely surrounded by architecture, and it was good. No nature. No park. Just pure artificial bliss.

It was touched upon in Rem Koolhaas retroactive manifesto for Manhattan, in which he outlined the now famous dictate of the "culture of congestion." It is the congestion not only of city life, but of architecture itself, becoming so dense, so oppressive, that there's nothing we can do but surrendering to it, being swept away by its concentration, and thus becoming the purest form of the city we can experience, if we take the city to be its architecture, and architecture as the polar opposite to nature. In my case, I don't know where my fascination with the metropolitan comes from. It is not so much the surplus of people that attracts me, it is the possibility of filling a space with so much content that what you're surrounded with is so intense that you are visually entranced by it. The lights on Oxford Street is just part of that.

I would like to go to Hong Kong one day. I've been fascinated by the city ever since I read the Robert Ludlum novel "Operation Hong Kong" (Swedish title) in school, captured from the library at home, a thriller which grandpa brought on one of his visits to our family in my childhood. I can still see the cover with its Chinese dragon converted into a gun to my inner vision. It enthralled me like few things have done afterwards (the Akira manga being another example). I'm a bit afraid of going to Hong Kong though. What if it isn't what I pictured it to be? What if the most densely populated city on Earth, just isn't dense enough?

Pic: Oxford Street, by Marble Arch tube station.

20.11.14

Our Choices

Booked my tickets for this winter's journey back to Sweden, and to Osaka. It hurt my bank account. Fortunately, I'm not forced, like Dip 2, to print new versions of the drawings I'm working on for every tutorial. Not that it would make much difference, I'm mostly, almost entirely, occupied with writing these days, writing short notes for research, as well as longer manifestish pieces of self-positioning. This year, I'm a digger, while last year, I was a skipper.

What I'm looking for, first and foremost, in my project, is relevance. I want it not just to be a statement of myself, saying, here, this is what I like, take it or leave it, it doesn't matter, because I will go on without you. That's just narcissistic. The relevance in my project is on an interpersonal level, as should all things we do in architecture be. What we do has relevance for those who accompany us, who look at what we do, and ask, what is it? Can I see? I want to know. And that's the most satisfying part of architecture school, when you express exactly what you're thinking, and that voice, by virtue of being a human voice among others, can be assimilated by the listener.

My teacher told me that the best and worst projects are those who make the audience wish that they'd done it. The best, because we actually feel a sting of jealousy and awe, in that we, yes, we see that it is precisely *this* that has relevance for architecture, and it is something I can take with me, that challenges me, my peers, and our work. The worst, because we see exactly how the project went wrong, and what we can do about it for it to be better. If only *I* was in charge of it! Surely it'd be much better! (The AA is good at keeping you on your toes.)

Pic: my latest paper-blog-post on the studio wall.

18.11.14

Changing the way we are (is it for the better?)

Missed a Mark Cousins lecture in the morning. It's the second time in a row that I skip a lecture. Is it because I'm a bad listener? I prefer to take in information through reading, rather than listening, but perhaps to blame is just plain disinterest. Perhaps I'm just being a bit too self-absorbed. Tomorrow is a new tutorial, but I've only been working on the texts of the project, the thesis, in plain words. It's not that I want to settle everything before I begin to draw (as the crew of Dip 14 are sometimes accused of doing), but I want to craft the argument together with the drawing, and since I don't know what to draw at this moment, I'm concerned with writing. You can't do everything, although we often wish we could. The clock is twelve again, and it is time to go to sleep.

Projects of previous years on the shelves. The unit space was strangely clean today, as if the tempest of the recon was over and had been replaced by some sort of serene calmness. I discovered that I had predicted the rise of trap music already back in 2009, when I was writing a text, on this blog, about the history of the TR-808, including its famous bass drum, which is not so much a sample as the essence of pure sonic terror. Before the evening was over, I stopped by the library to hand in "From Bauhaus to Our House", and left with "The Architecture of Deconstruction", a fitting document of perhaps the last movement in architecture, if it can ever be called a movement. It was at least an ism. In a bid to increase contextual awareness on my part, I will try to bring the arguments of this surprisingly readable account of the theoretical heydays of the '80s.

When is my happiest moment?
When I ride the 98 through New Oxford Street
watching the Christmas decorations go by.

Pic: Studio space in 36 Bedford Square.

16.11.14

Two New Epiphanies

As I was reading an interview with a former student of my unit at the AA, I was struck by the last sentence that she gave, about not knowing yet "what type of buildings I want to do." I think it's amazing; you can go through five years of architectural education (six including the more or less obligatory year-out experience) and not know what kind of architecture you want to do! That, if anything, is a sign of a proper school. Don't misunderstand me, I love architecture, but what the school ought to teach you is not what kind of building you want to do, but *how* you do it. It's a matter of design process. That is what schools should teach. Me, I know far too well what I do *not* want to do, and only vaguely what I prefer, but in the end, I learn to drive a project, to communicate my ideas to others, and to manage my time well. Is that not enough?

Later today, I finished "From Bauhaus to Our House" by Tom Wolfe, a scathing critique of virtually everyone within the field of architecture, and it struck me, that what made it interesting was Wolfe's background as a writer, not a practicing architect. Neither Mies, Corb nor Wright completed a formal education of architecture, and yet they stand out as the most eminent architects of the past century. In the same manner, I seem to become the most excited when I see architecture portrayed by non-architects, that is, architecture remains the same, but it's interpretation is altered. It occurred to me that what is needed today is not architects pursuing non-architectural projects, but non-architects pursuing architectural projects. Speaking for myself, I find more inspiration in the naïve than the educated, in innocent optimism rather than the well-educated pessimism. I cannot un-learn my architecture, and I should not teach those who give me only a passing glance. "Bauhaus" today means more to people as a specialist decoration store, than as a school of architecture. And that's the best thing about culture.

Pic: Albert Memorial in Hyde Park.

14.11.14

Resist the Factory! (When Appropriate)

I think I am seeing an opportunity that is emerging now a bit into my last year at the AA, and that is a general critique of the school, as it is, and what it produces. The perfect opportunity for a student is to *not* fit in perfectly in the school that he has applied for, not because he can only adapt to the community and embrace the things he previously rejected (because to what degree can we call this learning?), but because he can *change the school for his purposes*; in the end, we're here to make ourselves, our agenda, our pursuits, and to be proud of that. We change the school, or the school changes us. It is your choice. Like I said, I truly believe that learning is not a matter of changing opinions, because every opinion, I have learned, can be argued for in one manner or another. Our opinions are exclusive to ourselves, and their are the foundation of knowledge, not the other way around. You are attached to the opinion, and it is your duty to explore it, until it is not outer evidence of the counterpoint that changes you (if you're changed), but the inner realisation of the truth to the matters, and how you understand it.

Revolution to the architecture students! In a way, every situation carries with it its own seed for revolution, as utopia does not exist (and will indeed be resisted in the case of its existence; an eternal Heaven will turn out to be an eternal Hell in no time). I am not young any longer, but I still believe in youth. Or, perhaps, I only appreciate youth because it is associated with rebellion. Is this not the most important trait to every architect, in that the world that he lives in is incomplete, or even plain wrong, and he alone (or paired with a group of friends as like-minded and obstinate as you) knows what the perfect world would be. We are required of each other not to build the world that suits the Other the best, but that which suits ourselves. We are not editors, the way the dean of a school is. We are artists, we are not scientists (yet). At least, I'm choosing that *I* am not a scientist, but an artist.

Pic: From the unit trip to Belfast with Inter 2, in 2012.

13.11.14

TS Registration Madness

Sat in the studio today together with the fourth years, who maniacally pressed the page refresh keys in order to sign up for their preferred courses in Technical Studies. Of course, the system crashed. However, when it finally came back, 17 minutes of frantic clicking later, everyone got the ones they had decided upon. Me, I'm taking a step back from production in order to contemplate the feedback from the jury - which went surprisingly well, actually, despite a very messy presentation; Elia was excited to hear someone address the topic of the collective vs. the individual, and now I just have to specify more clearly its relation to the year's theme of the factory, along with narrowing down my interests and my arguments, so they become as precise as possible.

Also, the fire alarm went off, for the first time this term, and while I left my computer inside (I had a backup at home), I kept my slippers on and subsequently experienced literal "cold feet" in Bedford Square, where we waited for the Health and Safety crew to find the source of the "fire" (it's never a fire, until it really is a fire, as the Glasgowers had to forcefully realise last year), and lead us the way back in. Later, I went out to the local sushi place for a refill of energy, but this time I at least changed my shoes.

I seem to have no problem to come up with ideas. The foundation of my recontextualisation was intellectually settled in two days, notwithstanding the prolonged fine-tuning that followed. Hopefully my idea will find a good expression in tomorrow's tutorial. I have to research more, read more, write more, think more - to really make my case. The school is like a exquisite corpse, a Venturian ghost, along with a Miesian stubbornness: always both/and, including either/or, in appropriate cases. When you graduate, you can be the resident 3D guru at Foster's, but up until then, you're in charge of *everything*; not a stone left untouched, no division of labour over the students themselves. In the end, what you become is an expert of yourself, your agenda, your pursuits.

10.11.14

These Moments of Revolution

Now I've been at the AA for almost 2½ years, and with only a couple of months left until my graduation, I can allow myself to remember these days at school, and to define what this school is, as it stands. Slowly, from all the dizzying complexity, it becomes apparent to us that an architecture school can indeed be condensed to a few words, if we allow these words to stand with certain arbitrariness. My experience of being in fourth year at the AA was probably the one where I learned the most about the world, while my third was the one where I learned to be myself. I tend to remember these moments where all I thought was evident was challenged, until I realised, that nothing is stable and the alternative always has to be included.

I remember talking to Eleanor in year five about the state of architecture and philosophy, in which I put forward the popular postmodern theory that our intellectual world has been shattered, that there is no longer such a thing as a movement, that individualism reigns unchallenged, and Eleanor's response was: "yes, but it has to change." That phrase swept away the foundation of much of my philosophy. It was clear that, to her, what was gone could come again, and what seemed so evident these days would be dated tomorrow. It became the foundation for the rest of my project that year, in which I began to argue that what architecture lacks today is a movement, a rallying point around which architecture can gain a direction again, instead of just celebrating faux complexity.

My second sudden realisation came when I had looked at a poster in the corridor between the computer labs, which said: "do you like buildings?" and then there was some infomercial about an architectural Minecraft, whatever, I don't remember. What I *do* remember however is that I took the words as so self-evident that they were redundant. We are in an architecture school - of course we like buildings! When I arrived upstairs in my unit space, I shared my thoughts with Natasha, my teacher, upon which she said: "that's actually a very relevant question at the AA. It would be incredibly interesting to stage a seminar with it as a title!" Again, this shook me in my conviction. Is this what separates the AA from other schools of architecture, that here, we're interested in *architecture*, not necessarily *buildings*; I think it works. And perhaps, this will be the overarching question to my fifth year. Is it possible to learn architecture without learning of buildings? Can there be a project which is *about* architecture, which *speaks* of architecture, without being a proposal for a building?

We'll know the answer next summer.

9.11.14

The Diplomat

Presentation on Tues, and my project is starting to come together, in all its fake appearances. I'm drawing, and I try to have faith in what I'm drawing, although I tend to find everything that is wrong with it rather than that which is right. I might be a tad too judgemental. Techno is only for the young, so I listen to drum and bass instead and feel like Ali G, minus the garish yellow clothes and chains. Tomorrow will be more drawing, a Skype-date, and chicken kievs for dinner. With every new year, things do not necessarily become easier, because as your skills increase, so does the demands. The man who has beat the world record is competing against himself. I have no records to break, but I still don't believe I'm done. Life is far too interesting to not experience.

I live on breakfast and dinner, and somewhere in-between, I'm enjoying chocolate chip cookies and more pineapple juice. I don't believe I live healthily, so perhaps that could be a better, if clichéd, new year's resolution. I've already failed completely at my former promise. It was: to stop demanding of life to have a reason. It's the urgency of it that disrupts me. If I had nothing to adhere to, there's nothing to do. And then, I jump out of bed everyday I find the reason to motivate me for the rest of my life. It is hard. Life, I mean. No matter what identity I assume, I don't seem to be able to keep it. Who am I? I still ask, and I don't have a good answer yet. But on the other hand, is that not the beauty of living? That you cannot predict what a man should do, or ought to do, in our presence? We fictionalise what we understand in the Other, and forget that in every eye is the same complexity as that which drives us. Am I a complicated person? If so, I am only because you are complicated.

Five minutes to midnight.
The curtain waterfalls sweep my room with indoor rain.
Tomorrow, I start over again. Tomorrow, I test my theory.