“The Metapolis Dictionary of Advanced Architecture define an architecture that is inscribed in information society, that is influenced by new technologies and new economies, and that concerns itself with the environment and sustainability”.
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What we are interested in today is an ‘action-architecture’ defined by a desire to act, to (inter)act. That is, to activate, to generate, to produce, to express, to move, to exchange… and to relate.
To ‘agitate’ events, spaces, concepts and inertias.
Promoting interactions between things rather than interventions on them. Movements rather than positions. Actions, then, rather than figurations.
Processes rather than occurrences.
• In order to build the future, it is necessary to accept that major changes will be taking place in the near future due to the information revolution, and that this revolution will come and affect every level of the human being.
• The advent of the digital world is a new possibility for humankind: for it to reinvent both itself and its environment.
• Digital culture may help humankind to advance in knowledge, to find answers to the old questions and to formulate new questions.
• The world is waiting to be built, innovation is the source of every project; we live in a state of permanent creation.
• The entire planet is a city, and empty and full spaces must be planned with the same degree of interest.
• We think more in terms of landscape than of construction, of nature than of occupation, of integration than of superposition.
• The hybridisation of cultures, natures, processes, leads to a greater complexity of proposals and opens up new lines of action.
• We are talking of processes rather than occurrences, of open forms rather than closed designs, of operating strategies rather than finished pieces.
• Individuals are defined one by one, not as a mass.
• Where hierarchies exist, they are produced by knowledge rather than norms.
• The world is built by the coming together of multiple individual persons; the traditional hierarchies of business and politics will disappear in coming years.
• People must be valued for their qualities, not for their quantities (years, money, etc.).
• A city is built inwards, it does not grow indefinitely, it is re-informed and protects its own environment.
• Sustainable development on a global and a local scale calls for urban and territorial ecosystems that have to function for centuries.
• The digital world and the physical world will merge into a single interface that embraces everything, so the two have to be planned with the same intensity.
• We have to act locally and globally at the same time; cultures have to adopt dynamics of their own and interact.
• Education comes from within each individual rather than from external systems. Learning requires training.
• Artificial intelligence will be one of the pillars of human and cybernetic activities in coming years, and this will change the way we work, the way we act.
The best way of protecting heritage is to increase it. Traditional archaeology has studied, catalogued and exhibited the remains of the past as inert matter. From a physical point of view, a ‘fragment of a wall’ is a ruin. But seen as reactivated ‘information’ it can, once again, be a living (and active) urban element. That same wall, converted into an ‘urban document’, can issue information about the history of the city by ordering the genetic traces of our forefathers. Traces that need to be conserved, transmitted and integrated into the city’s cultural-museistic-touristic activity.
An on-line ‘urban editor’ could, then, act as an intelligent agent — an interface — that would help to show and order a considered route around historical environments. The new constructions should also use foundation techniques that are able to conserve most of the remains on which they rest, by means of partially glazed floors with underlighting. The multilayer city would, in this way, highlight its multistrata nature.
1. In advanced culture the ultimate aim is the quality of life of the individual, seen as an independent entity that participates in a collective. In the industrial world, the masses come first, followed by the individual.
2. Information and communication technologies amplify creative actions. Advanced culture aims to achieve active interaction between sustainable development and the integration of new technologies with a view to achieving increased quality of life.
3. Advanced culture arises from the interaction between all of humankind’s activities and information and communication technologies.
4. In advanced culture, information technologies are not just an instrument for carrying out the same activities as always but more efficiently (as in the case of electronic mail), they actually transform the very bases of the activity they affect.
5. Advanced culture sees the reappearance of optimism in the construction of a future that is foreseen as differing from the conditions in which we live today: more intelligent buildings, sustainable cities, large quantities of information that can be accessed from anywhere, much more leisure time, etc.
The state of maximum freedom of architecture is that in which the form, rather than being sought, appears as the result of a process. The aformal is weightless, profound, mysterious, black.
For centuries, man has colonised the territory by means of agriculture, creating irrigation systems and planting crops according to the laws of geometry. He has denaturalised natural spaces by planting natural elements. The distance left between the various trees and plants depends both on the size of the actual crops and on the systems used to harvest them.
Each crop produces a texture and a colour on the territory. On mountainous terrain, the slopes have been converted into finite elements by the construction of terraces.
In aggressive climates, greenhouses can be used to overcome the specific conditions of place, creating light-weight constructions that contain microclimates imported from other latitudes. Agriculture is being industrialised. The landscape is being urbanised.
The spectacle of nature and that of the city are now comparable.
Can architecture be digital?
Architecture is the process by which the organisation of activities in space is defined. Physical or virtual.
The architect and architecture have traditionally operated by manipulating material in order to define the limits of spaces to allow for activities.
From a physical point of view, the aims of traditional architecture are clear. The gravity of the physical world always works in the same direction.
Now, the digital material created using information, intangible, without gravity and mutable in time, leads us to reflect on the essence of architecture: how much of architecture is material and how much is information?
Cultural, functional, aesthetic, economic, physical, energy information.
Information that becomes saturated in time and space, defining a solid, visual, tactile fact.
Producing architecture is this abstract process that relates information to material, in space and in time. This is the task of the architect. Architecture is the process, not the result.
Buildings, parks, objects are all results of architecture.
Therefore certain buildings that have remained unbuilt physically are also the result of architecture as a process. Many of the best buildings in history were never built (this does not contradict the fact that architecture has on many occasions been produced by the sublimation of construction processes, with given materials, at a given moment in history).
In fact, in most cases, buildings are more beautiful during the construction process than when complete, because they represent the staging of a process of construction of ideas.
The ideal state of a building would be one of constant construction, supporting human activities.
The project for a motorway in a territory covering five thousand kilometres, the construction of a reservoir, a chair design or the soundproofing of a city is Architecture. Even, in spite of the economic logic that prevails in our world, the project for a building of dwellings ought to emerge from an architectural process. Specialisation and the complexity of processes have, on most occasions, forced the architect to forgo designing large infrastructures built on the territory as well as objects that contain space, be they fixed or moving.
Defining virtual reality, places of transit, meeting places, how we access information by means of a spatial code, using virtual material (noughts and ones), with a result that, whether or not it is similar to the constructions of the physical world, is an activity proper to architecture. Up until now, architecture has operated principally with space, because building meant finishing a process. Now, in the digital world, time too belongs to architecture. The new architecture organises what has come to be referred to as ‘heightened reality’, where the physical and the digital relate. Buildings and spaces will also begin to more actively include time and its self-transformation. Architecture is, then, the creator of processes rather than of finite events. As a process, it can be digital because it does not require material.
The artificial intelligence that, as explained by Ray Kurzweil in his book The Age of Spiritual Machines (Texere Publishing, 2001), will become an everyday reality when a standard computer has the same processing capacity as a human brain (set for 2020), suggests that the coming years will bring computer programs that can produce architecture projects.
‘Starting with a fixed site, with specific requirements, respecting legislation, the ARKITEKTOR program will be capable of offering different solutions to clients all over the world, who will be able to receive as many projects as they wish (and pay for) for their site, with an explanation of their advantages and drawbacks. The program will subsequently draw up the executive project, include the construction details of the geographic area of the world in question, calculate the structure and apply for building permission. And it will be built, using artisan or industrial means.’
This reduction to the absurd shows how the architect either brings added value to the process of the conception and construction of a building, or ceases to be necessary in the drawing up of projects.
– Architect: We’re going to create a program that produces architecture projects. So we need to find the genetic laws necessary to develop it.
– Programmer: Yes, that is quite possible.
– Architect: Just like Deep Blue, that knows all the principal chess matches in history and applies them as required, we will have to analyse history’s foremost buildings and extract their basic principles.
– Programmer: Perfect.
– Architect: Producing buildings as Le Corbusier did, or like Gothic palaces, can’t be difficult.
– Programmer: Of course not.
– Architect: Still, we have to think that someone might want a house in the style of Le Corbusier with Gothic windows. That ought to be more expensive, because the program will have more thinking to do. Or perhaps it should crash…
– Programmer: As far as programming is concerned, everything is possible. Both a strict definition of patterns and orders that, when logically applied, generate coherent buildings, and the absolute freedom of kitsch. To produce ‘new buildings’ we’ll have to define the laws of innovation, if they exist.
It’s your job to define the rules of play for the ARKITEKTOR.
– Architect: That’s what we’ll do.
Natural nature ceased to exist when humankind left the planet and we were able to see ourselves from the outside. Everything is artificial.
Virtual personality of a physical entity. An avatar of a person may be a three-dimensional model of that person, or any other form that represents him or her.
If in the virtual world there are representations of physical beings that are not pure mimesis of that which is represented, the physical world can construct elements whose forms differ substantially from those that are traditionally attributed to them. It would be unthinkable to place a musical instrument (a piano or a synthesiser) as an item of urban furniture beside a fountain in a children’s play area. But sound instruments could be designed for public space that react, with sound, to human activity. Musical series produced by man’s interaction with space and with other men. Instruments produced with natural or artificial forms. A tree, a rock, a cylinder. A world behind another world.
Cities, organisations, are centres that accumulate informational energy. They can be stars. Environments in which the attitude of the governors has the effect of one idea being amplified by another, producing a chain reaction that illuminates its environment. Or they can be black holes. Places with great potential due to their infrastructure, places that receive large amounts of information, though they overload their interior. That nothing comes out of. Their energy can be felt around them. And sometimes cause fear…
‘To represent a reality is to begin to transform it.’
Client: I’d like to have a big house. When I was little, I lived in a conventional house, with an L-shaped living room and a little bedroom where I could always hear the television. Now I’d like to be able to enjoy a large, high space, with lots of light and not very much furniture. The bedroom will be on the top floor overlooking the mountains.
Architect: That sounds good.
Client: I’d also like a garden, with trees and flowers, a tennis court and a swimming pool, but I don’t want to have to look after it, like my father did his allotment.
Architect: We’ll make it all artificial. Astroturf, iron trees, artificial mountains with the earth dug away, flowers with coloured lights inside them… It won’t be a ‘consolation’ project.
Client: But I’ve only got a very low budget.
Architect: Achieving the highest quality at a low cost is a good challenge. We’ll construct a noble building out of simple materials.
Client: How will you manage it?
Architect: The house will be hard and comfortable; abstract and natural, all at once.
Congress centres are the meeting places of the information society.
A suitable setting not only for the issuing of contents but also for the interaction of people.
Two at a time, four at a time, ten at a time, a hundred, five hundred, a thousand…
In the face of the Virtual Reality that is advancing and conquering moments of human relation, congress centres are the place of Real Space.
The best way of conserving something is to increase its number. The best way of conserving heritage is to increase it.
See ‘direct logic’ and ‘uppercut’.
‘Talento llevaba un traje de terciopelo verde botella y zapatos de ante; era apenas más alto que ella y algo estaba torcido en su espalda o en sus caderas, de modo que caminaba con una pronunciada cojera que realzaba la impresión general de asimetría.’
(GIBSON, William, Mona Lisa acelerada, Barcelona: Minotauro, 1992)
The orientation of a universe that is multiplied by communication and information requires a precise selection of the operating data that can be processed with a view to action. Exploration then becomes ‘tactical intentionality’. Capable of formulating criteria rather than following models. At once diagnoses, hypotheses and predictions of movements, able to connect physical data and strategic information; generic conditions and specific responses; ideas and materials. Criteria as positionings, as formulations that are both flexible and precise, directly related to the idea of disposition. We prefer the terms ‘positioning’ and ‘disposition’ to that of ‘position’: both designate an elastic situation; a contingent, unstable action rather than a position that is fixed or stabilised (whether by dogma, conquest or permanence). Strategic criteria for the global and tactical criteria for the local. Criteria of relation and action. They are, then, operating criteria — that is, ‘active machinations’.
The construction of the city environment is a cultural problem, taking culture in the broadest sense of the word — that is, the focus of intervention for economy, art, science, thought, etc. Culture is a driving force of the economy: creating a product according to the guidelines of the advertising market, directing it at the right people at the right time and in the right place and selling it at the highest admissible price having invested what was needed for its production. Architecture is a product of our time. And the only way to be timeless is to be absolutely of a time: for buildings to reflect the hour and the minute in which they were designed and constructed.
‘No hay un donde, allí. A los niños se les enseña eso para explicar el ciberespacio. Recordó la clase de una sonriente maestra en la guardería ejecutiva de la arcología, imágenes que se sucedían en una pantalla: pilotos con cascos enormes y guantes de torpe aspecto, una primitiva tecnología neuroelectrónica del “mundo virtual” que los unía más eficazmente a sus planos, pares de terminales de vídeo en miniatura que les proporcionaban un flujo de datos de combate; los guantes vibrotáctiles de retroalimentación ofrecían un universo táctil de botones y conmutadores… A medida que la tecnología fue evolucionando, los cascos empequeñecieron, las terminales de vídeo se atrofiaron…
Se inclinó y levantó el juego de trodos y lo sacudió para desenredar los cables.
No hay dónde, allí. Estiró la tira elástica y se aplicó los trodos a las sienes: uno de los gestos más característicamente humanos, pero un gesto que ella rara vez ejecutaba. Pulsó el botón que verificaba la carga de la batería de la Ono-Sendai. Verde: listo. Tocó el conmutador de alimentación y el dormitorio se desvaneció tras una pared incolora de estática sensorial. Le inundó la cabeza un torrente de ruido blanco. Sus dedos encontraron al azar un conmutador y fue catapultada al otro lado de la pared elástica, hacia la abigarrada inmensidad, el vacío nocional del ciberespacio, y la brillante retícula de la matriz se extendió a su alrededor como una jaula infinita.’
(GIBSON, William, Mona Lisa acelerada, Barcelona: Minotauro, 1992)
An object or an environment produced by the interaction between cyberspace and the physical world. It is the state in which we permanently operate when nanotechnology is widespread throughout the physical world.
Action carried out when architecture is worth less than the space it occupies.
(density and scale)
The historic city also exists in the ‘place supply’ that is a metapolitan city. The differential value of each of these cities in the city is its scale. Urban scale is the relation between humankind and the spaces offered by the city (streets, squares, etc.). For this reason, scale, the relation between the size of things, is always more important than the form of the things themselves. Formal mimesis produces grotesque situations in the city that merely undermine the originals. Spatial mimesis, in the traditional places of the city, differentiates this part of the city from others. This is why many of the regular interventions that take the form of demolishing buildings to produce decompressed spaces in historic centres merely dispossess them of one of their differential qualities.
Something quite different is the discovery of new spaces for and in the city, where it is possible to innovate. In built-up environments, roof tops are a place to be conquered. They are places that enjoy the conditions of light, ventilation and views that are characteristic of environments further from the centre. The dwelling is, however, a contrast in this urban density. The large spaces of traditional constructions (large houses, very high ceilings) make for good climatic conditions and are generous in terms of space. New dwellings ought to recover this adimensional condition of generous spaces. Strategically situated tunnels would also enable vehicle access to dwellings and commercial areas in a potential operative use of a new reinterpretation of density.
New technologies make it possible to transform data flow to the point of creating authentic landscapes.
Spaces with or without limits.
Spaces with or without gravity.
The paradigms and the physical laws of the real world are not necessarily applicable to the virtual world.
But this virtual world could be a clone of a real world, or generate infinite possible spaces, like a world with infinite times and therefore infinite possible, parallel histories.
An acoustic space: a music room.
A fractal trajectory.
A mountain of infinite dimensions.
A cloudy dawn: a city.
Settings for virtual meeting and real use.
Spaces and computer programs accessible from an intermediate space that can lead into a virtual world full of real content.
The digital world is like a stratum superposed on an existing human geography. Geography formed by cultural, social, technological, economic strata, and so on, which are, in turn, all constantly interacting. A stratum that issues digital material, like radioactive rain that soaks the layers through which it seeps, transforming old substances and creating new chemistries.
Discipline in all fields of human knowledge has been created by individuals who broke the rules of play of their historic context in their eagerness to invent the future.
Projects that seek solutions within their own discipline, insensitive to their cultural environment, produce autistic interventions that conceal the most entrenched immobilism behind their apparent refinement. A dead weight in history.
The dwelling is the individual’s skin, the ultimate space that divides the individual from the collective. Each dwelling reflects the soul of its inhabitants.
The house is the computer. The structure is the network.
(Media House Project. Metapolis-MIT Media Lab)
Domotics came into being with a view to automating the dwelling. It is the robotics of domestic space and therefore a product of the industrial era.
The new applications related to the dwelling seek to develop informational relations between users, objects and spaces that emit and receive the data flowing around the dwelling’s various networks, via interfaces inserted into everything.
If the dwelling was transformed by the advent of mains water and, years later, by electricity, the arrival en masse of information will produce a transformation on a similar scale.
In the industrial economy, economic growth required physical growth. In the new information economy this is no longer necessarily true. Cities ought to behave like chips, that are increasingly able to do more things in less space.
Educating consists in conveying the logic followed by processes that lead to something. Order as a principle, and the result as the logical end of a process. To show the result of a creation without understanding its order is to deprive the spectator of the creative principle that, in turn, enables creation. Showing the result without understanding the process only produces a copy which, as in human reproduction, degenerates the species. Architecture, the good architecture we know and love, is creation. And it was promoted by generous persons (developers, the state, the church, princes, a housewife…) who allowed creation. Creators, those who had access to a degree of education, have the moral (and strategic) duty to disseminate their knowledge, their way of seeing and acting in the world. The education of the users of architecture is a basic task of the architects themselves, comparable to the literature of writers and the music of musicians. Architecture and pleasure in quality spaces should be taught from a very early age.
energy as an impulse
Places have energy of their own, built up throughout their history by physical or spiritual phenomena. Any human action should amplify the energy of a place, they should be on the same wavelength. Any work of architecture should amplify the conditions of a place, give the place energy, never detract from it.
fractal (and fractals)
Architecture has traditionally used Euclidean geometry that represents pure volumes that can be defined by equations. It enables us to describe smooth surfaces and regular forms. However, natural objects such as mountains have irregular, fragmented characteristics.
Natural models can be described realistically by using methods of fractal geometry, using procedures and equations. A fractal object has two basic characteristics: infinite detail in each point and a degree of self-similarity between the parts of the object and its overall characteristics. Processes rather than equations.
Processes to represent the object viewed from different distances, with the same degree of detail. And also to analyse and represent things in the course of time. Fractal methods have shown themselves to be useful in moulding terrains, clouds, water, trees and other plants. Fractal patterns have been identified in the behaviour of stars, meanders, stock-market variations, traffic flows, the use of urban property… Processes rather than occurrences.
Today, there are just two ways of succeeding in the global economy: being an innovative city, a leader in culture, in industry or in international economy (such as Hollywood, London or Salzburg), or adopting the role of franchise, an intermediate role, that imports models created in other places and participates in a network of influences (like the case of Bilbao with the Guggenheim).
Success is possible in both cases.
The problem lies in being neither one thing nor the other.
In a world in which work, leisure and commerce can be carried out by means of computers occupying spaces that do not require spatial classification, function should not be a basic parameter in defining a portion of land within the territory.
Functionalism is a concept linked to the industrial society, that sets out to efficiently organise humankind’s activities in a space or on the territory. In the information society, people’s individual activities no longer classify space because they do not modify it. Any activity related to the information society (be it work, leisure or commerce) can be carried out by means of minuscule interfaces that can appear or disappear from places as required.
(vision) One possible scenario that has been described for the future of our habitable environments suggests a virtual reality, accessible by means of glasses, that functions effectively, a fast, light-filled, beautiful, excited world. When we take off the glasses, the city we live in is dark and dangerous, full of waste and violence. A dynamic, light-filled virtual world and a dark, decadent physical world.
(hybridisation) The best way to prevent the two worlds — physical and virtual — from separating is for them to be the same. For the energy put into the construction of the virtual world to also be applied to the re-information of the physical world. Why should cities grow physically if their populations don’t? In fact the cities of coming years will have to grow inwards. They will have to make and produce things in less space. Increase the quality of existing buildings and public spaces. And when building new spaces, we have to think about both the quality and the permanence of solid construction and about the mobility and flexibility required by their interaction with the virtual world.
Each new street to be built has to be prepared to reflect and to be reflected in the virtual world. Not only does this require the construction of cabled streets which convey information at high speeds to the adjacent dwellings, but information also has to flow through public space. And public space has to be sensitive to the people who inhabit it. It has to allow the active expansion (in the form of sport and leisure) of the people who are digitally concentrated in the surrounding dwellings. It must enable the flexible regulation of flows of vehicles and persons, and actively manage the climatic and atmospheric phenomena of its environment.
The industrial society brought about a transformation to produce basic quality for as many people as possible, in the city and in the dwelling. The information society has to seek maximum quality for a maximum number of places. More is More.
Paul Virilio maintains that a generation is twenty years. Twenty years is the time that Ray Kurzweil calculates it will takes a conventional computer to have the same reasoning capacity as a human being. Will the next generation interact with people and computers without distinguishing between them?
The twenty-first century will see the inversion of the process that began during the Renaissance, in which men and women began to gather together in cities to live.
The development of physical transport networks (car, train, plane) and telematic networks means that any point on the planet is suitable for living and working. City and country.
Motorways criss-cross a territory modified by man using agriculture or border natural spaces that are now the green areas of inhabited territory. These motorways are the avenues of a new city that has no limits.
They are constructed in the landscape by making a section of the earth and displaying its internal nature.
The streets no longer run between facades, but between stratified masses.
Man has ‘urbanised’ the territory by means of agriculture for centuries now, creating irrigation systems and planting crops in keeping with the laws of geometry.
He has denaturalised natural spaces by planting natural elements. The spacing of the various trees and plants depends both on the size of the crop itself and on the harvesting systems used. Each crop produces its own texture and colour on the territory.
In mountainous terrain, the slopes have been turned into finite elements by the construction of terraces. In harsh climates, greenhouses can be used to overcome the specific conditions of place with the creation of light-weight constructions containing microclimates imported from other latitudes.
Agriculture is being industrialised.
The landscape is being urbanised.
The spectacle of nature and that of the city are now comparable.
Represented in this way, nature can now be reconstructed by man. The world is turning into a habitable environment, into the city of 1,000 geographies…
MG (citat per en Manuel)
‘Ya no se trata de dibujar tramas urbanas, tráficos, flujos, usos, secciones de calles, fachadas…, sino de sintetizar las montañas, sus perfiles, los cursos del agua, los vientos, el soleamiento, los espacios libres, las vistas, la vegetación, las vías de transporte… La articulación de todos estos modelos entre sí parece asegurar la continuidad del pensamiento arquitectónico: del mundo al hábitat, de la naturaleza a la cultura, del lugar al edificio, del grupo al individuo. Si en China se dibujó la naturaleza con pincel, en blanco y negro (representando simultáneamente planta y alzado), ahora nuestros medios son otros y a ellos hemos de referirnos.’
(GUALLART, Vicente, ‘La Ciudad de las mil geografías’, Quaderns 217, 1997)
Building in cities calls for an analysis of the place; building in non-cities requires a similar process of analysis.
Any analysis requires a process of representation.
In Chinese tradition there is a science, geomancy, to determine the appropriate positioning of cities and dwellings in the landscape.
Geomancy involves, firstly, a theoretical model that reflects the organisation of the world, and then an analytical model that allows the specific observation of places, as well as determining a system of correspondence that is used for composition and allows the combination of space of representation, project and living space.
In the traditional thought of the Far East, we note the absence of dichotomy between nature and culture, bringing an overall approach to the environment, be it natural place or urban environment. Unlike fixed architectural models (orders, types, etc.), geomancy prefigures the rules of play of a form of conception that remains open.
Our immediate physical environment (the vineyards of El Penedès, the plains of Zamora or the cork oak forests of Badajoz), about to be manipulated by the forces of history and economy, ought to be analysed in a similar way.
If architecture is landscape, buildings are mountains. If buildings are mountains, geometry is geography.
Think global, act local.
‘La casa era EMBA, el Ensanche, el Eje Metropolitano […]. Programa un mapa que muestre la frecuencia de intercambio de información, cada mil megabytes, un único píxel en una gran pantalla, Manhattan y Atlanta arden en sólido blanco. Luego empiezan a palpitar; el índice de tráfico amenaza con una sobrecarga. Tu mapa está a punto de convertirse en una nova. Enfríalo. Aumenta la escala. Cada píxel, un millón de megabytes. A cien millones de megabytes por segundo comienzas a distinguir ciertos bloques del área central de Manhattan, contornos de centenarios parques industriales en el centro antiguo de Atlanta.’
(GIBSON, William, Neuromante, Barcelona: Minotauro, 1997)
See ‘intelligent production’, ‘material’ and ‘product’.
See ‘city?’ and ‘global’.
Concentrate to design; where the urban concentration is greatest, at the inner limit of the city (historic centres), or at its outer limit, beyond the city periphery; in an environment formerly referred to as rural that is now a different kind of city. There, thirty minutes by car and by motorway from a high-speed train station, in the middle of a ‘desert’, with the constant background noise of planes, trains and cars, permanently observed by satellites, man can create his own individual world.
When 100 km measure 20 minutes.
If the cultural revolution brought about by machines and their aesthetic (hardware) in the twenties produced a tabula rasa with regard to history, the digital revolution of information (software) has to voice its alternative for action in the existing city. Four proposals:
Culture: how to integrate the knowledge that emanates from historic cities with universal knowledge in order to take action in our times (using new technologies, evidently).
Image: how to take action in an environment that has many languages and codes accumulated over the course of history (obviously by creating a new one).
Mobility: how to achieve the mobility required today to be an active part of the city, maintaining the scale of historic cities (acting level by level, of course).
Uses: which activities are compatible with the spaces offered by the old cities? How should we act on the territorial scale of the macrocity without distorting the spatial qualities of the microcity (the historic centre is one enormous building and ought to function as such…)?
The information society ought to encourage the individual qualities of things and territories, as opposed to the total continuity of cyberspace, in which the conditions are the same for every place on the planet. In many cities and in European territory, history has contributed fundamentally to fixing their present. History and the present are vital data to determining the starting point of a project and defining an overall strategy (not necessarily coinciding with the legal framework) for inventing the future of that place.
No dwelling is the same as another. No dwelling should be the same as another.
Question: On a construction site of 50 plots, how many different types should there be? Two, three, five, fifteen? Fifty.
Typology no longer exists. The systematic repetition of compartmentalised spaces rationally intended for dwellings was the product of an era that began with the mass manufacture of cars. They all had to be the same so that thousands of people could have access to a minimum standard of living.
Information technology makes for an almost infinite flexibility in the process of production and transmission of information and in the use made of it.
The problem is no longer one of the masses, but of the individual. The culture of sameness is succeeded by the culture of difference. Each person is a world. Each dwelling is a world.
See ‘digital’, ‘inform(ation)al’ and ‘exchange’.
The capacity for innovation should be understood here as being exclusive not to the youngest but to those with most energy.
In architecture, innovation is not a totally shared collective phenomenon, but a fact driven by individual forces and attitudes that are capable of correlating, that ultimately creates its own expression.
But this desire to forge channels of development tends to be set in a given atmosphere, generally promoted by the public authorities.
High quality architecture represents just 1% of real-estate activity in our country, whereas meaningless construction, junk building, is gradually spreading. We have to vindicate Architecture as a cultural aspect of the territory. The authorities should not continue to organise architecture competitions in the same way as those for the adjudication of services or urban furniture. What they should do is consider the cultural and environmental added value of architecture and promote a truly qualitative development of the profession.
The real problem, then, is not so much one of generation as of ideas, attitudes and, ultimately, qualities and, therefore, horizons.
Architecture, the city, physical space is an instrument that allows human activity to be performed; it is tuned according to previously established data (man’s measurements, climatic conditions, the speed of transport, etc.).
As the American architect Marcos Novak holds, the task of the architect should not centre solely on the design of the instrument, but also on writing scores to be performed in space. Scores written using data produced by man — and cities — on a scale that is both near and far, allowing awareness of the environments in which they are acting and how they transform them.
See ‘intelligent production’.
Repeating variation. The aim of any system of intelligent manufacture is to be able to produce pieces with a totally free form, by industrial means — that is, to repeat variation.
Advanced industrial systems, in association with the digital world, enable the production of pieces with an absolute flexibility, provided the machines needed to manufacture them can be parameterised.
It is the architect’s drawing, in digital format, that is assimilated by the machine to produce the pieces needed to construct a surface or a complex structure.
If objects think, react and take action beyond their material qualities, spaces and places have to react with them.
Objects think because someone has thought about them. Someone has programmed and given them qualities so that they can be integrated into a new logic of the world in which everything is connected to everything. In coming years, not only will the capacity for computation will be attributed to machines with monitors that allow work and leisure, but the digital effect will reach every strata of the physical world. Man will know himself better after the human genome project and the development of the nanochips that will be incorporated into him.
The traditional atmospheric and climatic air-bound medium in which the physical world is built will have the digital medium superposed over it, leading to the disappearance of traditional space-time relations on the planetary scale. Intelligence will therefore have to be breathed into houses, buildings, public spaces, cities, by means of precise codes that make spaces react to objects and persons, knowing who’s who, who does what… The world as one great Net.
While in the early days of personal computing the simile of the desktop was used to access information, these days there are more and more virtual buildings, in three-dimensional environments, where activities can be carried out. But with real uses! Real uses in virtual spaces. And it is in this new world that architecture can be heard, where spaces transform the shape, the colour and the texture of its borders, where objects react to external pulses and are transformed, where gravity is just another parameter that can be controlled, like space and time, where we can learn a new way of doing things. This kind of architecture would be splendid!
Architecture has always been the interface of human activity. It has always supported uses. Now, architecture has to be functional and aesthetically sensitive to the digital world.
Faced with the possibility of imagining an environment on the basis of which to take action in the hypertextual or hypervisual world (characteristic of the late twentieth-century web), an overall understanding of the world by means of its spaces and the actual functions of architecture propose a hyperreal future. Where reality, accessible to man through his five senses, extended by nanoprosthesis or otherwise, is the surround by means of which to take action in the world.
We come to know the world from an interior. The security of an interior: a car speeding along a motorway; a high-speed train crossing a territory at 300 km/h; a dwelling that leads to anywhere in the world in real time.
Projecting. Projecting ourselves.
Windows and balconies were useful in the past, when we became aware of the world through them. Today, our windows on the world are à la carte television channels, the presence via satellite of the worldwide network of landscape-cameras, that bring to a studio in a Barcelona neighbourhood the light and the sounds of dusk in the Grand Canyon, real time. Intensity in light and sound. The acceleration of space and time. Planetary scale.
In the information society, the intermediary disappears. There will be direct communication between the manufacturer and the user, between teacher and learner. Anyone or anything that makes no contribution to the chain of transmission of knowledge will disappear.
A creator or researcher writes a book explaining his ideas. A critic gives a lecture, taking these ideas as his basis. A university lecturer teaches a class on the basis of this lecture and evaluates his students according to what he thinks someone who says they have read the work of a creator says. The average exam result is 4.3.
There are people who invent or create ideas, processes, materials, solutions. The information society needs invention. Not the evolution of old ideas, but the creation of new paradigms produced by a new age. Education in people has to allow for the direct transmission of knowledge, from the creator to the receptor.
As the chef Ferran Adrià says, the cutting edge of creation is not ‘inventing the onion omelette, but inventing the omelette itself’. Inventing means going back to the roots of human activity and contributing to it by opening up new paths for the development of plural applications of what has been invented.
The development of the information society represents a new moment in history that redefines paradigms in architecture. Many technological inventions have transformed architecture and urbanism. Electricity, the lift, the car…
The term invention is rarely applied to architecture. But as architecture becomes the result of advanced processes, the product of informational and industrial developments that affect the way architecture is thought of, represented, produced and carried out, the concept of invention can be assimilated to it. So new processes of representation can be invented that transform construction systems; materials and mechanisms that transform the functioning of skins and structures; spaces for thinking and action that may suppose multiple specific applications, using the resources available in each economic and cultural surround.
Inventing architecture means going back to the prototype when projects of architecture are produced. Not knowing beforehand what the result will be. And proposing that the result be a specific response to the object of the project, at the same time bringing a new approach to general, commonly accepted bases in architecture for this question. In fact, one fundamental strategy for the advance of architecture is to invent questions that respond to situations affecting architecture as a whole.
With his office building in Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse in 1919, Mies van der Rohe invented the question of high-rise glass architecture, a question he himself resolved with his Lake Shore Drive apartments twenty nine years later, the first apartment buildings to have a glass and steel facade. Le Corbusier invented the question of separating structure and facing using his Domino structure in 1914, which became a central theme of architecture in the following years.
In both cases, the proposals pick up technological solutions developed by other persons or organisations. Their basic contribution consisted in presenting the question in the realm of architecture.
The active reaction to a city without direction, with no capacity for renovation, in the face of a megacity that is formed or in the process of formation, is the creation of island-cities.
Island-cities are new settlements in the territory, in non-urban surrounds, that institute a new use in the territory, such as leisure centres, business parks, shopping complexes, residential areas, or a combination of several of the above, on the premise that it is a private, reserved place with access restricted to the owners or to people who identify themselves and pay a sum to be, for a period of time, inhabitants of this new artificial surround.
These islands, with their defined perimeter, situated in the amorphous territorial magma, strategically select their location in the territory on the basis of criteria of ease of access, surroundings and climate.
It is a similar process to that of the founding of cities in the past.
Except in the case of theme parks, all the functions generated by these island-cities are the same as those of traditional cities. But the quality of life offered by the latter is not enough for certain social classes that are capable of organising an environment in accordance with their needs. In this case, the city may find itself immersed in a process of loss of economic, social and cultural content.
Island-cities are the natural result of the city of motorways and individual mobility.
Islands are accumulations of capital and energy with defined limits, in an environment apart. Port Aventura is an island. Majorca is an island. The need to concentrate latest generation activities in the territory means that, alongside the recycling of historic urban accumulations, new territories have to be colonised.
Physical and virtual. By land, sea and air.
We can no longer believe in the transmission of knowledge by dictating given information.
Instead, we have to design and create physical or mental places and frameworks that provide the conditions (operating environments) for knowledge to emerge from within the individual: a person only accumulates in his active memory the things he discovers for himself. Only the knowledge that emerges from within can establish links with other knowledge of his own and produce individual progress, be useful for thought and action.
Today’s images and traditional architecture come together in light.
These days, every image is light. On TV, in computers, in the cinema, or in commercial night.
Architecture was ‘the magnificent meeting of volumes in the light’. These days, it is not made with volumes, or with forms, and is not seen in the light.
The light can only be artificial.
The dwelling is a micro-city in and from which we work, shop and rest.
Space is measured in m3 rather than in m2. Houses should be sold by m3, and would be occupied by furniture-room pieces, free to be arranged by the inhabitant. The section and the floor plan of a house are equally important.
Process of transmission of knowledge developed by Socrates, according to which the individual learns (remembers) a concept by answering a series of precisely formulated questions.
The masses are lost in the mass.
But we are seeing the rebirth of the individual who flees the city, hitherto a synonym of culture, to a new refuge in the middle of nowhere, or who flees in a constant attempt to follow the trace of digital information. Silence is his living space. With so much information-communication, silence is heaven.
Architecture’s new construction material is information. Just as modern architecture is indebted to reinforced concrete, steel and glass, our age has not yet invented a material that changes the deep-rooted principles of construction. The process of re-information of the physical world means developing intelligent, re-active materials, that recognise the environmental or functional phenomena occurring around them and react with them.
Mr Mayor: is your city advanced?
The Media Lab is the Bauhaus of the information society. The list of projects by MIT’s Media Lab (founded in 1985) presents a programme of action for investigation and development as digital information is superposed on the physical world we live in every day. Here are some examples:
Consortia: Digital Life (DL), News in the Future (NiF), Things That Think (TTT).
Special Interest Groups: Broadercasting, CC++, Counter Intelligence, e-markets, Gray Matters, Penny PC, Toys of Tomorrow (TOT).
Research Groups: Aesthetics and Computation, Affective Computing, Context Aware Computing, Electronic Publishing, Epistemology and Learning, Explanation Architecture, Gesture & Narrative Language, Interactive Cinema, Machine Listening, Machine Understanding, Micromedia, Nanoscale Sensing, Object-Based Media, Opera of the Future, Personal Information Architecture, Physics and Media, Responsive Environments, Sociable Media, Software Agents, Spatial Imaging, Speech Interface, Synthetic Characters, Tangible Media, Vision and Modeling.
Beyond the metropolis of the industrial era emerges the metapolis of the digital era. The city is now a place of places, where numerous urban models coexist, each with its own qualities that make it different from the rest.
Where the dwelling becomes a place where we live, work and rest, thanks to audiovisual and telematic systems. And where the neighbourhood is a multinational environment of direct relation between citizens. Zoning no longer has any meaning in this new city that sets out to create complete environments (dwelling, leisure, commerce, education) in the proximity of the dwelling.
Metareality is the broadest most perfect interface for action in the world, the place where the physical and the digital meet.
Metareality is a new state in the physical world, transformed by the energy of the virtual world.
Metareality emerges from the re-information of the physical world.
It is an environment where places are sensitive to people, and where the generosity of creation receives the impetus of a new digital culture.
Where the best source of information about the world is reality itself.
Where all matter and all empty space connect with each other and, in turn, with individuals. Where total disconnection is also possible.
Where cities exist as nodes in the planetary network. Of the global village. And are splendid. And transform themselves to accept their new state.
Where the arts and sciences are related in virtual and metareal exploration. Where the two worlds are compatible.
Where weightlessness exists and is inhabited. Where the virtual world, with its new physics and its immaterial condition, is inspiration for the construction of the physical world.
Where emptiness is a rare commodity that has to be treasured as though it were gold.
Where nature and its fractal order are inspiration for the construction of the physical world.
Where all things are as different as their users are.
Where educated man, with the capacity to make decisions, is once again the centre of the world.
The necessary condition for preventing a rupture between a hypothetical virtual world — fantastic, full of creative energy, in a constant state of transformation, where the planet’s best brains work for its construction, as it generates a new economy — and a solid physical world — heavy, weighed down by a history, conditioned by tradition— is for the two worlds to be the same; for the virtual world to affect and transform the physical world at the same time as it constructs itself, not just economically and socially, but culturally, and spatially; for each innovation in the virtual world to transform the physical world.
Mountains are concentrations of natural or artificial energy that can be inhabited. They are ascale folds in extra or intraurban land.
They are accumulations of matter. Organic or economic.
The organic mountain emerges as part of a natural cycle, in the form of the folding of sedimentary strata, of the thrust of internal forces, or as a magmatic eruption.
The artificial mountain emerges as an instant accumulation of man’s activity. His intellectual, economic, human, religious activity…
The mountain defines its instant form as a product of its origins and of the interaction with its environment.
A mountain has neither beginning nor end. We can observe just one moment in its history. A mountain is an X-ray of a place. Its section shows us its history. Its near and far environments allow us to predict its future. The mountain has absolutely no predisposition to a predetermined shape. The mountain is constructed more as a process than as an event with a beginning and an end. It is constructed by fractal geometry, allowing complex relations between its parts, following a coherent process.
The crystalline arrangement of its atoms conditions its final shape. It gives it its colour and texture. The interactions of its microscopic components with the conditions of the environment define its final shape.
Its upper limit is the ground, the limit between fullness and emptiness. Between all the mass of the earth and the atmosphere that surrounds it. The mountain’s skin may have different resolutions according to the conditions of the environment. Each chemical organisation of its raw material generates a form with its own resolution.
Rocks are a part of the mountain constructed in its likeness. They concentrate information about the whole. In terms of size, the rock may be likened to human beings.
Different types of mountains can be recognised:
The interior mountain is a cavity in a mass. It is a space without light and, therefore, adirectional.
The ground mountain is a flat space, where interior and exterior blend with no discontinuity. It is a horizon that moves.
The rock-mountain is a vigorous irregularity in a terrain that energetically manifests the presence of local interior forces that have modified that place.
The light-mountain is an accumulation of activity, of light, of gas.
Building is a natural act that generates economic, human, material and cultural sediments. Buildings, mountains form a coherent system with the place’s other energies.
See ‘m. city’ or, better, ‘Metapolis’.
Hybridisation of uses, landscapes, programmes, activities and multiple spaces in a reinformed environment that is mixed in nature.
MEDIA, MOUNTAIN & ARCHITECTURE are interfaces of the three inhabitable natures: digital, natural and artificial. Three manifestations that need a new order (or dis-order) to organise their interaction.
INTERNET: the Net.
The Internet is the overcoming of physical distances by means of the machinery of war.
War has always generated centralisation, physical limits (town walls, refuges, etc.) behind which to protect oneself.
Once physical distances had been overcome by intercontinental missiles, the threat of war changed from physical invasion to total destruction.
It became necessary to decentralise the location of information.
In 1957 the first letter was sent via the Internet.
It was an L.
network of cities
As opposed to the big metropolises of the twentieth century, the information society will create Networks of Cities.
Cities are to the territory what computers are to the net. Nodes of accumulation, territorial IP numbers, points of concentration that need to be absolutely efficient for the system to function.
Otherwise, like on the Internet, information flows are diverted and reach their destination by other paths.
Cities are entering a state of decadence.
Traditionally, urban nucleuses emerged in two ways: either at crossroads as meeting places, in places of easy territorial accessibility (Paris, London, etc.), or along paths, as the result of intermediate stops marked out by the transport of each age (the pilgrims’ walk of Santiago, the American wagon trails, etc.).
In both cases, the ultimate aim of a city in the course of its history, social and military circumstances allowing, has been to grow. Like companies: economic growth required physical growth.
The urban model produced by the evolution of medieval cities up until the present day is the great metropolis.
Today, we are witnessing a phenomenon in which cities are working simultaneously on their internal renovation, increasing their efficiency from within at the same time as they organise themselves territorially in the form of NETWORKS OF CITIES.
The network is a structure in which two orders exist: the local and the global. The two are equally important to the perfect functioning of the system. Without nodes there is no network, just lines taking information nowhere. If there is no communication between the nodes, they are no longer part of a network, just isolated points in an unknown environment.
The network in turn has a fractal structure, in which the part is self-similar to the rest, allowing multiple zooms without changing the structure.
The basic social node would be an individual person (human node), or any object (object node) provided with a chip and able to interact with the network.
The urban order of the network begins, then, with the individual, who acts in a space (room), or in a house, or in a building, or in a street, or in a district, or in a city, or in a region, or in a country, or in a supercommunity, or on the planet.
The classical notions of territorial identities may therefore be strengthened by the existence of mechanisms that allow them to strengthen the communities with which they feel identified. The most identifying territorial orders in recent decades, the country and the city, are now watered down in comparison with the district and the region, which have more powerful identifying signs. Nonetheless, each level has its internal and external function which is vital to the global system.
The net, which organises different communities, allows the creation of a network of networks, due to its self-similar nature.
In this way, not only will district organisations connected by local networks be created, but there is also the Intranet, the possibility of being related to other similar neighbourhood networks on a similar scale (a city), which in turn will connect with district networks throughout a country, or all over the world.
If the city is a landscape, buildings are mountains.
operation desert storm
Journalist: General Schwartzkopf, how did the attack on Iraq begin, by land, by sea or by air?
General Schwartzkopf: The attack began simultaneously by land, by sea and by air, from inside and from outside, by shutting down communications and with missiles… It’s all-out war.
In the course of this year, the Sun will shine down onto the Earth four thousand times more energy than we will consume. By duly collecting the solar radiation, we can obtain heat and electricity. Heat is produced by heat collectors, and electricity, by means of photovoltaic surfaces (www.censolar.es).
(energy, place and corpse)
1. Architecture has to bring vital energy to a place, never detract from it.
Only too frequently, in the name of place (a monumental setting, a sea front, an archaeological complex), the buildings constructed are soulless. Experiments have been carried out with architectural corpses, in an unsuccessful attempt to revive them. Interventions of spiritism that invoke the dead of the past to build the present. Success in these experiments is impossible. It’s the night of the living dead!
Only buildings created with a soul of their own, that are more than mere appearance, that interact with their social, spatial and aesthetic surroundings, that demand a place of their own in history because they know when and for what purpose they were created, can give a place energy.
2. The architect is increasingly becoming a creator of places. Unlike the traditional situation, when the architect was given a brief and a definition of uses, the plot is often no longer a vital datum for the project.
Projects, like films, follow a strategy. The choice of a place in the territorial magma is the first decision that characterises a work.
In a convulsed city, in a territory that requires active protection (rather than freezing its activity), the position of what is built (or of the empty space to be protected) is far more transcendent than the work itself. When a place is built, it is there for good.
The principles on which architecture is based are so open and generous that they allow its reinvention with every new age.
Architecture is a process that allows us to generate habitable spaces. Architecture is alive when, once its construction is complete and it is inhabited, it is installed in a process of transformation and interaction with the people who inhabit it and with the environment in which it is situated. Like processes, architecture and the city constantly evaluate the information they receive and issue, and have the capacity to analyse their actions over time. Processes rather than occurrences.
Advanced architecture is produced rather than constructed.
Progress is not linear. Progress is re-information.
A progressive society is one that leaves a greater inheritance than it inherited. In the city and in the country. We citizens cannot be spendthrift heirs who squander history’s fortune. History is a fortune because it allows us to be what we are; to have been born where we were. We have to collaborate with history in order to improve it.
If what is left to us of history is innovation (Gothic cathedrals, Renaissance palaces, all innovative constructions in their time), we can only respond to it with innovation. Not with imitation.
Progression comes from progress. From a dynamic system that advances. Like the transformation of an initial position.
Virtual displacement of image. Superposition of light on material.
See ‘Liceu syndrome’.
The best way of protecting heritage is to take action on it. Fundamentalist protection, representing the inactive freezing of an environment, can only lead to its degradation.
Research + Development, but also + eDucation + Diffusion.
See ‘recycling’ and ‘re-information’.
Since the definition of the global village in the sixties by Marshall McLuhan, now implemented by today’s satellite communications network, any intervention on the territory is an act on a known environment. The entire planet is a city. Taking action on any place (the centre of Paris, the Amazon jungle, an island in the Pacific, the American desert or the neighbourhood of El Raval in Barcelona) can never again be an act of conquest of an unknown territory. The limit between city and country, between dwelling and landscape, between the natural and the artificial, no longer exists. Expansion is no longer possible. Any action on the territory is an act directed towards the interior of the global village. It is a re-act.
‘Physical and virtual, rather than real and virtual.’ (From a conversation with Artur Serra)
Today we need to set forward a possible refounding of the city — of Barcelona, for instance — that enables us to operate with the topography and with the built continuum as our points of departure, encouraging its progress by means of improved management and design of infrastructures, allowing telematic and cable networks to reach everywhere, promoting recycling in zones of physical decadence (creating new urban icons as the product of architectural innovation that permanently display an image of progress to the outside), just as theme parks do when they renovate their attractions and create new spectacles year after year.
This calls for new freedoms and a form of development based not on rigid regulations but on an intelligent dialogue between developers and government agencies. In this way we will avoid creating ‘exquisite corpses’ that quickly begin to smell of decomposition…
The territory is just another of a country’s assets, and ought to be treasured as though it were gold. Mediterranean forest fires were produced by the pressure of civilisation and the lack of economic interest. This situation calls for action on the appropriate scale. Regional parks should be created, planned as green zones in the territory-city. Territories controlled by new technologies and protected from fire by huge territorial sprinklers. Trees should be replanted to create firebreaks, with a geometric organisation that illustrates man’s action on the large scale. Like agricultural plantations. Like Christo’s projects.
Re-information. To form something anew using information as the basic raw material.
In a city that cannot (and must not) grow physically outwards, it is necessary, as with computer chips, to ‘do more things in the same space’, in order to enable its economy to progress. To do this, it is necessary to analyse the information emitted by the city according to multiple parameters and to design ways of increasing its complexity without a corresponding increase in the ‘quantity’ of chaos. Urban re-information sets out to invest effort in finding out precisely, and in real time, the social, environmental, physical, functional, economic and cultural information of a city with a view to taking action in it.
The urban territory to be re-informed should be analysed with a view both to affecting existing buildings and conditioning new constructions, and to stimulating the construction of a new public space.
Re-information of buildings.
Faced with a world where work, leisure and commerce can be carried out by computer (which occupies a space that does not require spatial classification), function should not be a fundamental parameter in defining a portion of the city’s land.
If we accept that the number of levels of a terrain (that is, how many times a portion of land can be multiplied over itself) is a parameter to be defined, the re-information of buildings ought to influence the capacity to organise their functioning in the section rather than in the floor plan. With the basement given over to storage functions (cars, objects), the ground floor and its surround to the functions of commerce and public attention, and the higher floors to mixed uses (dwelling, processing of information), the roof would become the new space to be discovered, a place for public or semi-public leisure and recreational activities. The organisation of the floors should provide for total flexibility that allows variation in the use of spaces in the course of the day and the life of the building.
The re-information of building represents a massive input of information, principally by means of fibre-optic cable. Cable should produce a similar transformation in the building to the advent of running water or mains electricity, over a hundred years ago.
Telework (carried out in the dwelling, or in an apartment or on premises nearby) will require specific spaces in domestic settings to prevent ‘non-stop work syndrome’.
The increase in domestic leisure time will allow people to enjoy large-format spectacles in their own homes, in audiovisual lounges.
The dwelling, now domotic, will become part of the network of places where people live their lives (it includes the car, the place of work and places of leisure) in keeping with the process that we will witness of the disappearance of computers and the creation of a connected environment.
Further, the re-information of buildings means that the building is sensitive to its surroundings, and therefore organises its interaction with the urban eco-system in sustainable fashion. The building therefore produces most of the energy it consumes by means of photovoltaic surfaces installed in the facade of the actual building or photovoltaic trees positioned on the roof. Likewise, the building should be capable of accumulating water, or extracting it from the nearby subsoil with a view to decreasing external consumption.
With the re-information of public space, each new street to be developed has to be prepared to reflect and be reflected in the virtual world. Not only does this require the construction of cabled streets which convey information at high speeds to the adjacent dwellings, but information also has to flow through public space. And public space has to be sensitive to the people who inhabit it continuously (from the ground), and by means of new urban icons that interact with inhabitants in near and far environments. It has to allow active expansion in the form of sport and leisure for the people who are digitally concentrated in the surrounding dwellings. It must enable the flexible regulation of flows of vehicles and persons in the course of the day, of the week and of the year, with permanent interaction with the actual vehicles that also process its information. It has to allow new relations between organic elements (trees, plants, etc.), not now as elements that respond to an urban logic (alignment, perspective, repetition), but allowing them to have their own logics. To actively assimilate the climatic and atmospheric phenomena of its environment, producing the energy consumed. New urban elements characteristic of digital culture will emerge such as the photovoltaic tree, the urban avatar, reactive paving, sport rocks, urban agriculture and mini-telecentres.
If industrial society produced a transformation intended to obtain basic quality for the maximum number of people, both in the city and in the dwelling, the information society has to seek maximum quality for all those places it transforms.
The re-information of buildings enables:
1. Functional regulation in section.
2. Functional flexibility in floor plan with the appearance of new spaces.
3. Use of the roof for recreational purposes.
4. The mass advent of information by cable for work, leisure and commerce.
5. Interaction between the dwelling and individuals’ other objects and places.
6. Sustainable interaction with the environment.
The re-information of public space enables:
1. The design of reactive spaces that are sensitive to individuals with access to telematic environments.
2. Production of new urban icons that interact with individuals.
3. Zones of continuous recreation and leisure.
4. Flexibility in traffic flows and in the relation between pedestrians and vehicles.
5. Production of energy in the street and intelligent interaction with the environment.
6. New types of plantations.
Only that which can be represented can be constructed.
As the twenty-first century approached, the information era transformed the traditional concepts of ownership and dwelling.
Information workers (analysts, lawyers, consultants, computer programmers, translators, artists, etc.), 15% of the population, are people who work with knowledge that can be transmitted to their clients all over the world, from anywhere in the world, via telematic systems.
In the information era, all that is left is the earth, covered by satellites that retransmit bits of money, science, culture, etc., and criss-crossed by motorways providing rapid access to cities.
Hardware as opposed to software.
Information workers no longer need to live in cities to live an urban life. Five days in the country, teleworking, two days in a city in the world, for business and leisure. A big house in the country, a small, jointly owned apartment in the city. The entire territory is now inhabitable. For this very reason it deserves a project. Its cities. Its agriculture. Its regional parks (now green spaces in the landscape-city).
The new dwellings, mono-volume spaces (like the cars) occupied by furniture-room pieces that can be bought at shopping centres as though they were consumer products, can be located on farm land, that continues to be productive.
Superposition of uses. Multiplicity of lives.
Principles of the metapolitan dwelling:
1. Integration into the landscape: an analysis of the landscape and its natural elements is the origin of the project, just as the analysis of a street or an urban fabric is the origin of the city. The whole plot merits a project, by action or by omission. The construction of the dwelling is a naturally artificial or an artificially natural process. Dwelling and landscape are integrated to form a new unit.
2. High quality at low cost: this means making the most out of the least. Money is a limited commodity these days. We have to optimise available resources. The beauty of a place does not lie in the quality of its materials but in its spatial qualities. Quality is a question of ethics. Of precision. Of an attitude to the construction process that depends on everyone who takes part in that process, from the client to the least of the industrialists.
3. Concentration, making the very most of everything: accumulation and concentration make for optimisation of resources in the functioning of a building or a city and, rather than dispersion, permanently require resources to allow its functioning (energy, movement, etc.). The material of the place (rocks, earth, water, air, etc.), urban energy can potentially be integrated into the project at no extra cost.
4. Artificial materials: industry provides increasingly intelligent materials at lower prices. Materials that preserve their properties and their effect in spaces independently of the time of year or the time of day. Materials that require next to no maintenance.
5. Mobility of interior space: dwellings are large empty spaces occupied by mobile objects that allow the inhabitant to carry out activities in that space. Intelligent objects, sometimes multifunctional, that turn the entire interior into an item of furniture. The inhabitant lives in a piece of furniture.
6. Intelligent limits: empty, single-material spaces have intelligent limits compounded in a thin surface: aluminium, wood, blocks, glass. The glass in the facades is made up of different sheets that, depending on the case, provide thermal, solar or anti-theft protection, and can be printed with images and textures using the screen process. The reconstruction of the floor on the artificial terrain involves inserting electricity, water and heating installations that will give the habitable space the necessary comfort level.
7. Uses are developed in section: the subsoil, introduced into the earth, and the roof, in contact with the sky, are spaces to be used with the same intensity as the level of the natural terrain. Taking as its point of departure a simple shape for its floor plan, the building or the city is organised by means of the superposition of layers with a nature of their own. The route around the building is produced by means of ramps or stairs, as though it were a walk.
8. The measurements of space: quantity is quality. Every use requires a space of a given size. The dwelling is organised on the basis of the contrast between sizes of spaces. There is no standard height or standard measurement: generous height, width and length at the service of quality.
(as an individual action)
New urbanism is aimed not at the masses but at individuals. One by one, not as a collective.
Faced with the menu of possibilities offered by the city and the territory now that information technologies reach any point in the territory equally, each individual can decide where and how he wants to live. There is no single model of city. In fact, each house is a micro-city from which its inhabitant works, shops and rests. The decision as to where to situate a home is an operation of self-urbanism; and the way in which the individual relates with his surroundings is an operation of self-urbanism.
(as a process of spontaneous settlement)
These days we are aware that the biggest housing crisis is taking place not in the most developed countries, but in developing countries that are subject to vertiginous mutations and exponential growth: one fifth of the world’s population is currently located in fringe areas and ‘clandestine’ human settlements: spontaneous structures that have developed in poorly structured spaces, the consequence of fast population growth and the generalised deficit of affordable dwellings. Bidonvilles, favelas and shantytowns configure such structures independently of any kind of order or planning.
These are, then, self-organised structures that should be regarded without prejudice, with attention to the internal logics of this kind of spontaneous growth; processes arising from a mutual interaction between self-planning and self-organisation, leading to complex functional configurations that in no case convey an impression of disorder or arbitrariness. They present these notable similarities with self-generated structures to exist in nature (the veins in an insect’s wing, irrigation vessels in the leaf of a tree, fissures in breaking processes, bubble wrap, etc.) that, despite their diversity and irregularity, adjust their development to given rules or generic patterns, whose dynamics can be analysed by analogue simulation models.
Formerly ‘duality’. We might imagine digital aliens who only operate on the Net. Or farmers who live off the resources they generate. But the spirit of our time will always be dual (simultaneous): physical and virtual.
INFORMATION is the fundamental raw material of our century and software is the tool we use to process it.
At the start of the twentieth century, the big problem to be solved was the living standards of the masses, whereas now the problem is individuals. Then, mass production had to be developed, whereas now, personalised production is required. Both the fact that the first mass production line was for the production of cars and the appearance of the lift changed the concept of space and time in buildings and cities. The next change is that of software, of the intangible, of flexibility in production, of à la carte television. Of a form of interactivity that creates a favourable atmosphere for individualism. Of the decision-making capacity that calls for criteria rather than knowledge.
Spain is (a) multinational.
Artificial rocks, introduced into the city, that create circuits for stretching exercises. These rocks, that vary in size, are created on the basis of Boolean operations in volumes with faceted surfaces.
A new layer to public space.
‘To preserve something, you have to take action on it, otherwise it degenerates or is destroyed. Or burnt. This syndrome detected in the case of Barcelona’s opera house has in recent decades affected Mediterranean forests.
Synthesis of concentrated information.
The operating system is the series of laws allowing an environment to function and develop. Be it physical or digital. The architecture of recent decades has fundamentally operated in the design of the most superficial part of the urban system that is the design of icons, objects that act as attractors but that have no overall repercussion on the system. The buildings constructed in recent decades whose value is greater than that of the simple accumulation of the materials they contain are minimal. It is highly likely that the actual system prevents architecture from having a presence beyond the purely iconographical. We will therefore have to think about changing the rules of play if we truly aim for our interventions to acquire spatial and moral quality and leave a large inheritance for future generations. We therefore have to propose a new form of interaction between the creators of programmes and contents and the designers of icons. In fact, this difference does not exist in the most advanced operating systems. The icon emerges coherent from the interface of development. In this way, architecture will have to mutate into an activity that initially participates in the creation of this new system. And then go on to develop strategies to operate actively in the process of technical, artistic and functional development.
A telecentre is a petrol station of information.
‘Jack Nilles, the North American inventor of the term telecommuting, the equivalent of the British English teleworking, suggested that telework could be a solution to traffic jams. However, while it initially referred to the work of those people who managed to avoid motorway snarl-ups because they worked near home, in time the term was distorted and came to mean precisely the opposite: work in a place a long way from home, obliging workers to take various means of transport, even aeroplanes, to get to work. This progression is determined by the evolution of the world of the economy, which forces companies to continually exercise flexibility, innovation and globalisation. A professional who reaches the world of the Internet experiences an increase in physical as well as telematic mobility.
This opinion is shared by the expert Manuel Castells. He holds that transport problems will increase instead of improving, as increasing mobility and the condensation of time allowed by the new organisation of the Net is translated into a greater concentration of markets in certain areas and an increase in the physical mobility of labour, that used to be confined to its workplaces during working hours (La Sociedad Red, 1997).
The evolution of telework, moreover, is not determined only by the possibilities of teleworking at a distance (or from home), but also by the economic and production context (marked by globalisation and high levels of competitiveness), meaning that teleworkers have to compete in a global labour market. As a result, today telecommuters are leaving behind their role of teleworkers who go from one place of work to another to become people who work as they go, be it on line, on the road or in the air.’
(GUALLART, Vicente; SERRA, Artur; SOLÀ, Francesc. El teletrabajo y los Telecentres como impulsores del equilibrio territorial. Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona, 1998)
Time is a new material in the project. Architecture as an open process, as a non-finite act, has to be able to incorporate time into the score of its organisation.
Architecture, unlike other artistic expressions (such as sculpture or painting), is difficult to transport. Nonetheless, large works of architecture have been dismounted and moved to museums in order to be studied and exhibited (such as, partially, the Parthenon of Athens, some Romanesque churches, etc.). In the face of this impossibility, some of the theme parks emerging in our country that simulate entire cultural environments (including architecture, folklore, customs, cuisine, etc.) are an example of this desire to get to know other cultures without physically going there. By this token, it is, if possible, even more valuable for a city to possess original elements that can be shown in situ, where they were built, and create touristic and cultural circuits around them. Tourism is our country’s number one economic activity and a phenomenon that marks the difference in the face of the extensive range of similar offers proposed by various resorts. If a city has architectural and cultural elements, they should be exploited with a view to encouraging a flow of visitors and, therefore, the economic flow.
See also ‘re-information’.
A photovoltaic tree is an item of urban furniture whose structure and functioning are similar to those of a tree, but whose fruit is light.
Photovoltaic trees are a hybridisation between a natural process (the functioning of a tree) and artificial nature (arboreal structure and photovoltaic cells).
The light captured by the photovoltaic leaves descends to the tree’s roots via the cabled branches and trunk, where there are either batteries to store the accumulated energy or a transformer that transfers it to the grid.
At night, the projectors at its base send the light flowing upwards towards the lines of fibres forming the actual tree or towards lights arranged in its proximity.
There are no standard models. An intelligent programme produces personalised designs in accordance with the contour conditions of each place (building height, orientation, etc.), the energy needs and the available budget, generating the necessary documents for its development.
See ‘re-information’ and ‘urban recycling’.
Using multimedia technologies we can convert architecture into the interface of its own history. Provided with the appropriate mechanisms, we can obtain sound information about buildings and urban spaces as we visit them contextually and randomly. The images superposed on stone may highlight certain historical and aesthetic aspects of archaeological documents. They allow ephemeral intervention on the historical remains that create a new unity between the virtual (light) and the physical and heavy (stone), between future and history, between movement and staticness. Buildings speak!
Developer: Mr Architect, we’d like you to draw up an urban development plan, have you thought about the installations yet?
Recycling (introducing old structures into a new cycle) rather than rebuilding (building anew something that has existed) or re-habilitating (habilitating a decrepit construction). Urban recycling means beginning a new cultural, physical, economic and social cycle in a city.
Re-cycling means accepting that something has reached the end of its life cycle and that another cycle has to be begun on the basis of an existing condition. The culture of re-cycling, proper to the twenty-first century, is different to the culture of re-habilitation, proper to the late twentieth century, which aimed to habilitate something that was valid in its time and that, after a period of abandonment, was to be restored to its original state. Recycling allows construction on existing bases (it does not require the creation or importing of new products), turning it into a material that is coherent in itself.
The history and the culture of a place is a fundamental datum on the basis of which a new cycle is begun. Urban recycling not only affects the physical aspect of the city, but also the behaviour of its inhabitants, a new attitude on the part of its managers, the development of new economies.
Recycling is innovating.
In the new economy, a territory’s principal capital is human capital. And not only does it have to preserve it, it has to endeavour to extend it, offering quality of life and an environment fit for economic development. In this way, cities have to grow inwards, with a view to preserving the nature that surrounds them. To construct themselves over themselves.
The economic and cultural substratum has to be maintained and exploited because the new information economy requires spaces for collective culture and leisure. And Barcelona has a heritage to be exploited that was built in past ages. The best way to maintain heritage is to increase it.
The leading cities of coming years have to know how to grow economically without growing physically.
Once the territory of cities is finished, or once cities have been constructed to a vast extent, the city will have to reinvent itself, go back to believing in its capacity to transform and create new and innovative realities by means of architecture, like in the years of modernity (with the recognition of historical data as another value).
Otherwise the collective will disappear, assimilated and diluted in an environment of limited individual interests.
The WebHotel is a hybrid building, constructed between the physical and the virtual world. Its facade is built using a metal structure and fabric with graphics in an urban space. Its rooms are built out of virtual objects and with lines of code on the Internet. When a person enters a virtual room, he can manipulate its walls and the objects it contains. Its virtual presence is manifested in the physical world by means of lights and sounds that are superposed onto its thin skin. In this way, for the first time a facade manifests an occurrence that rather than taking place behind it in a nearby environment is the product of actions in different places in the world. A webcam trained on the building sends real-time images to the Internet so that the user of the room can view the effects of his action. The actual building, with a server inside, produces its physical and its virtual images simultaneously.
(The WebHotel was produced in Barcelona during the exhibition Fabrications organised simultaneously by the MACBA, the MOMA, the SFMOMA and the WEXNER)