Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Matrix City

So this is the poster for our conceptualised city.. Matrix City...

Some More Playing

Here are some more renders from our 'cities of science and fiction' project... It is starting to evolve into something quite fun. Send Comments....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Just Playing...

We have a digital design apps project to conceptualize a future for Johannesburg... I have take it to the ridiculous and applied ideas relating from the 'matrix' _ that we are somewhere else and the city is a figment of out imagination... This city is simply a metaphysical layering in extruded Johannesburg's contours extruded and morphed as the implied city adapts...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coelacanth found @ Wits

For those of you who are interested, there is a Coelacanth on display @ Wits Uni for those of you who are interested.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Site for Thesis - 80 Albert Street

This is my site for my thesis. This building was the pass book or dompas head office during apartheid - a building that was the cause of much trauma and discrimination during apartheid. Today, the building houses abused women and will make for a fascinating site for my thesis.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

1000 word Thesis essay

So we are into the swing of things regarding Thesis. This is my first attempt at an idea. I have been critisised that the writing is too heavy, and there are a few flaws in aspects of the idea which I agree with. Please feel free to comment.

Environmental Psychology addresses the notion of the human observer physically and psychologically placed within the built environment. It addresses the effect of numerous architectural elements on the psyche of its explorer within a particular spatial setting. The built environment seemingly appears as a cause and the psychological result, which manifests as a “predicted” human action as an effect. It would seem that architecture, itself, is made void of any influences that would occur as a result of the numerous micro and macro programmes that take place within and around it. Architecture becomes a sterile laboratory which allows the human guinea pig to react under prescribed clinical conditions. It simply becomes the stage or the setting which does not absorb the effect from the everyday life that it silently plays witness to.

Is this implied architectural sterility a reality? Is a building able to pass through time and negate any ‘psychological’ influence that is caused to it by multitudes of occurrences that it observes - either good or bad? Would one dare to say that a building not only has a collective memory that is constructed through its past, but that it also holds a collective psyche that is a residual effect of events, experiences, and occurrences that take place within its very domain? Perhaps this urban residual psychology that a space “preserves” has a lingering taint on the current use of the building, even though it’s enduring implications of its psychological state is from many years past?
In Architecture of Happiness, Alaine de Botton describes an image of a fictitious house in a state of serenity and bliss. One could say that the house poetically described by de Botton is one of a healthy psychological disposition. This ‘mental wellbeing’ of the house, creates a comforting sentiment for the reader, and would surely create the same sentiment for those who live in this quaint house. There is a dual relationship between the effects on the family that shelter within it and the spaces that the house offers the family to live within. The family gains a place to call home while the house metaphorically builds up a ‘character’ that one could argue is as unique as our own.
What would be the result of a building that was not in a healthy ‘psychological’ state? Perhaps a building could be in a ‘mental’ position of trauma? Furthermore, a building that has not dealt with its trauma could arguably be in a state of Post Traumatic Stress. Just like de Buttons quaint house of comfort that offers a place of reassurance because of the stable or perhaps healthy lifestyle that has been lived within it. A building that has been witness to trauma would surely, by the same evolution of metaphor, begin to show signs of an unhealthy psychological existence?

Do buildings adopt a metaphorical state of ‘psychological well being’, or a condition simply described as a ‘mental disorder’ based on the episodes that occur within and around it? Is there a need to consider, not only the memory of a space, but more importantly, the resultant psychological agendas that might be caused because of that memory? Would it be feasible to consult with the field of psychology to run parallel to this notion of a building that requires attention and help to move beyond its particular traumatic event? Is space able to be reconciled to successfully progress past the crippling ‘psychological state’ that silently, but tangibly resides within its walls?

Is there any point to address this concept of urban residual psychology? As explained by psychologists, individuals that experience trauma during their youth and do not address the effects of the post traumatic stress could sadly become perpetrators of that action that caused the original trauma to them in the first place. If one brings this somewhat disturbing concept back to architecture; space making tactics that were used by the past oppressive apartheid regime, may be perpetrated in post-apartheid South Africa because of the very fact that the trauma that resides within these buildings has not been healed. Furthermore, the concept of intergenerational trauma suggests that effects of trauma can be genetically carried through generations and will not be able to be overcome until a version of the original trauma is repeated to its victim and they in turn attempt to address the underlying issue. Again, if we run this concept with the metaphor explained so far, despite the fact that we are a number of years past apartheid, our space making today is stained with the lingering subconscious trauma that will inhibit any valiant attempts to produce appropriate and successful space. It is my hypothesis that Johannesburg, which is city that not only witnessed, but facilitated many acts of trauma, is in an unhealthy state, and metaphorically addressing a traumatised building through lessons learnt from trauma psychology and psychoanalysis, one may begin to formulate a language of architecture that deals with freedom, democracy, reconciliation and healing.
One may suggest that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that took place after the democratic government was voted into power in 1994, was the biggest step that South Africa has taken on a social level to address and heal from apartheid. Alex Borain, the founder of the TRC suggests that,”The search for truth and a commitment to truth must be under taken by the entire nation: ordinary people, government agencies, poets, writers, historians, academics and who ever cares about the future” . He saw the TRC as the beginning of a process, not as a once off gesture. It is my intention to apply the lessons established from the theory of urban residual psychology, and apply it to an existing building that shows evidence of unhealthy psychological disposition to pay homage to the efforts of the TRC - perhaps as an archive or museum. To continue the forward momentum of Borain’s vision behind the TRC, my building would more importantly house particular Non-Governmental Organisations, who I feel continue the spirit of the TRC. The siting of the building would be in a place that either, historically saw trauma committed on it, or a contemporary building that unintentionally, carries the legacy of the intergenerational trauma that was not appropriately dealt with. The building would not take on a concept of rebirth, which would imply a forgetting of the past, but one that imbues the spirit of the TRC and reconcile it.

To acknowledge that the premise of my thesis is based on a metaphorical narrative that gives a building a psyche and the architect the ability to engage with that psyche is imperative. To allow a consistent engagement between architect and building without periodically reminding the reader that this notion is metaphorical, it is my goal to write the thesis not as an essay, but as novel that allows a verbal interaction between a building and architect.

It is my intention to study many local and international precedents that have dealt with trauma in same way or another. I seek to find buildings that attempt to address the past rather than whitewash it.
I aim to draw on readings from the fields of psychology, philosophy, architecture, urbanism and history. Currently I have read:

BACHELARD, G. and JOLAS, M., 1969. The poetics of space. Boston: Beacon.
BELL, T., NTSEBEZA, D.B. and UNDERSTANDING OUR PAST, 2001. Unfinished business : South Africa, apartheid and truth. Cape Town: Redworks,2001.
BORAINE, A., 2001. A Country Unmasked : South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
CANTER, D.V., 1970. Architectural psychology. London: Riba.
CARUTH, C., 1995. Trauma : explorations in memory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
CREWS, F.C., 1997. The memory wars : Freud's legacy in dispute. London: Granta Books.
DE BOTTON, A., 2006. The Architecture of Happiness. London ; New York: Hamish Hamilton an imprint of Penguin Books.
EDELSTEIN, J. and IGNATIEFF, M., 2001. Truth & lies : stories from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. London: Granta.
MIRREN, H., HOFFMANN, D., REID, F., IRIS FILMS/IRIS FEMINIST COLLECTIVE and CALIFORNIA NEWSREEL, 2000. Long night's journey into day. San Francisco, CA: California Newsreel.
QUANTRILL, M., 1987. The Environmental Memory: Man And Architecture In The Landscape Of Ideas. New York: Schocken Books.
VALE, L.J. and CAMPANELLA, T.J., 2005. The resilient city : how modern cities recover from disaster. New York: Oxford University Press.
WILKS, B., Recovering lost silence.

This reading list is intended to grow dramatically to construct the theoretical backbone to support the notion of urban residual psychology.