Forum A+P Vol.23
Call for Papers for Forum A+P N. 23
SCIENCE AND THE CITY
1946, Le Corbusier met with Albert Einstein in Princeton, NJ, and took a picture together under a tree. Seeking ‘scientific’ validation for his Modulor from Einstein, Le Corbusier’s pursuit represents Architecture’s eternal desire to be bound to Science. It is through ‘scientific metrics’ that normativities in architecture – from ADA to the stability of structure, from light distribution and acoustics to indoor air quality – are defined, measured and legitimized. While Architecture employs science for assembling material realities, it also embodies its scientific thought processes in form. For example, in their Electronic Poem Iannis Xenakis and Le Corbusier captured the dynamic physics of sound in ruled surface-structures; Gaudi’s hanging chain models informed his catenary masonry arches; and Frei Otto used the material reactions between wool and water as a ‘model’ to form-find and to design structure. Furthermore, notions of space, time, form, architecture, atmosphere, and so on – matrices of objectivity that architectural historians inevitably employ – are also legitimized by allusions to Science. Empiricism, objectivity, and rationalism in architectural history are indebted to methods and discourses in the Sciences. The History of Architecture is thus analogous with the History of Science.
How is the relationship among science, technology, architecture and the city trans-figured or reconfigured in the context of technoscience? Our reality today is not only mediated but steadily trans-formed, re-produced and re-invented through technoscience both at a macro and microlevel. The “com-position,” as Stiegler puts it, of increasingly miniaturized hardware with increasingly personalized and personalizing software implicates scientific knowledge at every scale and moment of our “being-global.” Such com-position points to spatio-temporal realities that can hardly be accounted for through the traditional architectural concepts of composition, geometry, boundary, enclosure or threshold. If we agree with Fredrick Jameson’s hypothesis that postmodernism is a “force field” that affects a wide spectrum of cultural, economic and social practices, then what form will architecture and the city take under such technoscientific dominance? Are the archipelagoes of gated communities with smart homes amid a chaotic sprawl and non-normativity in the margins the only form that the contemporary city can take? How does architectural composition figure in the com-position of techno-science and being-global?
Such questions only become more tangible and urgent during crisis such as these pandemic times. The world resembles a complex web where everything is entangled in a knot: technoscience, politics, economy, health care, media, morality, popular myths, conspiracy theories, history, education, as well as urbanism and architecture. As often happens in postmodernity, the high and the low come dangerously close to one another. On the one hand, we hear complex scientific arguments on the probability of virus’s dispersal and effectivity; on the other hand, we are told that a geometrical concept as primitive as a (social) distance of 1.5-2 meters between two points (people) is the best defence against COVID-19. On the one hand, we are fed complex technoscientific arguments on possible cures and vaccines; on the other hand, we are told to stay inside and drink a lot of water. On the one hand we ‘surf’ and teach online; on the other hand, we are physically stuck inside four walls and more isolated than ever. On the one hand, we have a lot of information; on the other hand, we don’t have a clue what and how to deal with it. At the same time digital technologies shows us as graphically as possible how powerless and fragile we are. The city is the empty stage where this crisis of the being-global body without organs, to borrow a term from Gilles Deleuze, is played out. It seems that in these difficult and unusual times architecture has recovered one of its most primitive functions: that of division and separation.
Introduction from the Editors
The 23rd Issue of Forum A+P investigates and speculates on the relationship between the city and techno-science. The term ‘city’ is understood in two ways: first, in a discursive sense – as an object of study and a set of practices – epistemological, aesthetic, architectural, political, economic, and social among others - that deal with such object; and second, as a reality that both delimits and challenges the very notion and possibility of representing and knowing it as an object. In its hyphenated form, techno-science is understood - in Bernard Stiegler’s words: “as a com-position of science and technology, meaning that science submits to the constraints involved in becoming the technology that formulates the systematic conditions of its evolution.”1 The
hypothesis we anticipated the contributions collected in this volume to reveal was that the discipline of architecture is not and has never been ‘safely’ situated in a discursive niche; that its boundaries are always shifting in relation to the changing relationships of techno-logy and science;
and more importantly, that architecture – in various discursive scales and modalities –is discursively implicated in the network among technology, science, and the city. Read More
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