Notes from
Valle Medina and Benjamin Reynolds

View work at PAL/AC/E


06/26/2014, by

'A Special Arrow…' at DRAF

Currently we are participating with writer Rachel O’Reilly and artist Rodrigo Hernandez, in A Special Arrow Was Shot In The Neck… at the David Roberts Art Foundation in London until 2 August 2014. The exhibition presents the work of artists, film-makers, choreographers and poets, as well as archival contributions, plotting relations between landforms, geological events and the rural paradigm, across colonial modernity and amidst the current regime of extractive commerce. It is curated by Vivian Ziherl and Natasha Ginwala. and was produced at DRAF by Nicoletta Lambertucci, with Rachel Cass and Benedict Goodwin, assisted by Sooanne Berner, Francesco Gorni, Harry Lawson, Sofia Lemos, Maite Marciano and Alex Roberts. Graphic design for printed matter by Paul Gangloff.

Download exhibition information here.

Above: Installation view of ‘Curators’ Series #7. A Special Arrow Was Shot In The Neck…’ at DRAF, London, 2014. Photo: Matthew Booth. (L+R)

Etel Adnan
Simone Fattal
Callicoon Fine Arts (Photios Giovanis)
Boyle Family
Georgia Boyle, Mark Boyle, Joan Hills
Filipa César
Sadanand Menon
Bonita Ely
Milani Gallery, Brisbane (Josh Milani)
Simone Forti
LA Box Gallery (Jacqueleine Tarquinio)
Simryn Gill
Jane Eyles
Ganesh Haloi
Akar Prakar Art, Kolkata (Reena Lath)
Camille Henrot
Marie Heilich
Galerie Kamel Mennour (Pierre-Maël Dalle)
Yee I-Lann
Siobhan Campbell
Angela Melitopoulos and Angela Anderson
The Otolith Group (Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar)
Yunjoo Kwak
Hannah Lilley
LUX Artists’ Moving Image
Rio Cinema Selma and Sofiane Ouissi
Dhouha Bokri
L’Art Rue Association
Prabhakar Pachpute
Experimenter Gallery
Kolkata (Prateek Raja, Priyanka Raja)
British Council
Dashrath Patel
Sadanand Menon
Rachel O’Reilly
Rodrigo Hernandez
Pa.La.Ce (Benjamin Reynolds and Valle Medina)
The Map House, London
Phillip Curtis
The Wellcome Library, London
Crestina Forcina

Above: Installation view of ‘Curators’ Series #7. A Special Arrow Was Shot In The Neck…’ at DRAF, London, 2014. Photo: Matthew Booth. (L+R)

Above: Installation view of ‘Curators’ Series #7. A Special Arrow Was Shot In The Neck…’ at DRAF, London, 2014. Photo: Matthew Booth. (L+R)

Above: Page selections from the exhibition document for 'Curators’ Series #7. A Special Arrow Was Shot In The Neck…' at DRAF, London, 2014. Photo: Matthew Booth. (L+R)

Above: Page selections from the exhibition document for 'Curators’ Series #7. A Special Arrow Was Shot In The Neck…' at DRAF, London, 2014. Photo: Matthew Booth. (L+R)

Above: Detail of Rachel O’Reilly, The Gas Imaginary, iteration #2, with Rodrigo Hernandez and Pa.La.cE (Valle Medina and Benjamin Reynolds), 2014 at DRAF, 2014. Photo: Matthew Booth.

The exhibition continues until 2 August 2014. Thanks to Rachel / Rodrigo and Vivian Ziherl and Natasha Ginwala.


06/26/2014, by

⋉0≅ Part Two (Works 2013-4)

We showed some architectural projects in the basement of Van Eyck Academie in late 2013. The works are the result of indeterminacies in simulations that are between a human-mediated subjectivity and the deep rationalism of computation.


Above: Arrangement of works and misc. notes. View full document here.

Above: Overview of Van Eyck basement.

Above: Space (Carving + Interference) (2013). 

Above: Floor Plate (Invitation) (2013).

Above: In the foreground is the a panel from dgPL (2013) biocomposite panel made from refined wood fibre and silicon.

Above: Drawings from Inhus/Uthus, (2013) (L) and Relationships, (2013) (R).

Above: Drawings from Continuous Lodge (2013) (L), Roof Panel from Continuous Lodge (2013) (R).

Above: Space (Interference) (2013) (L), -a Tower Studies (2013) (R).

Above: Consumption Rate (2013) (L), drawings from -a Tower Studies (2013) (R).


06/26/2014, by


Again, some time ago New Value was shown in the AA Honours Exhibition in the Front Members Room at the Architectural Association in London. Thanks to Lee Regan and Sebastian Craig from AA Exhibitions.
Above: Front Member’s Room (L) and exhibition documentation (R). Photo: AA/Sue Barr.
Above: New Value was also shown with Beom Kwan Kim’s The Perpetual Evolution of Production in the City, Sam Nelson’s Towards Edufactory. Architecture & the Production of Subjectivity and Manijeh Verghese’s The Case of the Elusive Room. Photo: AA/Sue Barr.


06/26/2014, by


Some time ago we took part in a project at the Galerie Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris which resulted in a publication with several commissioned critical essays and an exhibition of diagrams from nearly 50 architects. It was our role to contribute an answer to the following question: With specific reference to your work, what role do diagrams play in the conceptualisation, elaboration and representation of a project in your work?
Above: Exhibition information, which can be downloaded here. 
Our answer was as follows:

Insofar as diagrams for us are used to manage outputs made from the massive and shapeless world of digital production, more and more they are becoming opportunities for us to physicalise this WORK that is stuck in our computers marooned on invisible islands.

Our diagrams try to exploit the old dogmatic idea of the diagram as a desire to pragmatise/rationalise ideas. For us they are rather reifications of the work of our minds, language and emotions. Where the diagram became the champion of modernism—at odds with roundaboutness and the unmanagable colonies of ideas (those that are wading in the backward continents of information)—our diagrams do not try to contain unkempt ideas. Instead, the diagram is about generating new REAL value from excesses. For all the volumes of data we now tackle the diagram has lost its organisational oomph; the classical diagram is now a redundant representation technique; weak vision.

Above: Detail of the side view of the output of a wax-cooled data centre.
The diagrams we showed were from—what was at the time an ongoing project—New Value. They represent a territory of events divided into two realms: an above and a below. The world of above is a carrier of values of no dimension, volume or time. It is a data centre. The world of below is made of excreted material from the above world, dripping in n-dimensions, an explanation across time of artificial and natural processes. The world of above tries to clean up concepts, while below is the domain of physical superabundance, error and excess.
Above: Galerie Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris (R). Full layout of the diagram (L).
Above: Detail of the diagram.

Sony Devabhaktuni & Jacques Sautereau.

Essay Contributors

Mario Carpo - FRANCE/ITALY
Erwin Gardner - NETHERLANDS
Andri Gerber - SWITZERLAND
Sanford Kwinter - USA
Jacques Sautereau - FRANCE
Georges Teyssot - CANADA/FRANCE

Diagram Contributors

Alisa Andrasek (BioThing) UK
AY Architects - UK
Chora Architects UK
Karl Chu - USA
Preston Scott Cohen - USA
Coop Himmelb(l)au - AUSTRIA
Odile Decq/Benoit Cornette - FRANCE
Diller Scofidio Renfro - USA
Hugh Dutton - FRANCE
Family and Play Lab - USA
FKAA/Architectural Agonism - USA/SPAIN
Marc Fornes - USA
Sou Fujimoto - JAPAN
Jeanne Gang - USA
Gross Max - UK
Imaginary Forces - USA
Zaha Hadid Architects - UK
Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects - JAPAN
Petra Kempf - USA
Perry Kulper - USA
Jordan J. Lloyd - UK
Peter Macapia - USA
PEG Landscape + Architecture - USA
Open Source Architecture - USA
David Vecchi, Emanuela Ortolonai - ITALY
de Ostos_Naja - UK
Valle Medina and Benjamin Reynolds (PA/LA/CE) - UK/SWITZERLAND
Dominique Perrault - FRANCE
Reiser Umemoto, RUR - USA
Snohetta - NORWAY
Work AC - USA
Peter Zellner - USA

Equal thanks to Odile Decq and Sony Devabhaktuni.

01/22/2014, by

Some Profound Misunderstanding at the Heart of What Is

Alongside Rachel O’Reilly's The Gas Imaginary, we’ve produced some drawings that are currently showing in “Some Profound Misunderstanding at the Heart of What Is” at Hedah Contemporary Art Space in Maastricht until Feb 23. Detailed information here.

Rachel O’Reilly’s The Gas Imaginary is an artistic research project exploring the mechanical ideology, linguistic creativity, and technocultural patterning surrounding the large-scale speculative installation of unconventional gas extraction, through conceptual writing and installation formats. ‘Unconventional’ gas extraction (aka ‘fracking’) is taken as a new rhizomatic territorial formation and corporate land art, which manifests a conceptual cut in the political imagination of mining and citizenship.

Above: Drawings and texts @ Hedah (L), Territorial drawing of fracking wells capturing the rhizomatic/lateral over-ground reach and breaching, of a practice that was formerly imaged underground (R).

Through this technology and industry, indebted governments expose disenfranchised rural but increasingly urban populations to speculate on their own health and futures: through compensatory leasing arrangements, temporary industry employment and privatised infrastructure delivery aimed at the social licensing of environmental injustice.

Above: Section of the Earth to show different mining methods (L), underground mine workers in a shaft, female idolaters looking down into the image (R).

This project continues our research into contemporary cultural and economic contexts through the documentation (and design) of spatial matter using digital processes. Using drafting software to diagram ‘unconventional’ political alliances and emotions within complex settler ecologies of labour and material inheritance, the diagrams we’ve produced—alongside Rachel’s writings—present the challenges that ‘unconventional’ extraction poses—at the level of the imaginary—to late liberal conceptions of place and territory, property and governance.

Above: People lying down on road stopping the literal flow of a truck/pipe/dozer etc.(L), woman standing in the water, gas particles swirling around her head, while a man floats away standing on a marlin (R).

Above: Rachel O’Reilly’s The Gas Imaginary Formats. Father away on a marlin form. / My actual seeing cannot come to the aid of / thinking by providing an / adequate outward image. / Water is the substrate upon which signs are momentary.

The wider exhibition represents the interests at hand of the ‘Moving Images of Speculation’ Inlab at the Jan Van Eyck Academie. The Inlab explores the valorisation of fictional power that has become central to cinema after Fordism by linking post-cinematic form and finance.

Above: Exhibition Poster of Some Profound Misunderstanding at the Heart of What Is by Stefano Faoro. Download here.

The collective effort of the exhibition outputs form and language links between thought and money—cognition and economics—with an investment in the performing aspects of financialised systems further in sub-thought.

Exhibition curated by Cathleen Schuster, Marcel Dickhage and Rachel O’Reilly.

Collaborative research, roundtable and performance workshop curated by Rachel O’Reilly, featuring Sven Lütticken (NL), Vladimir Jeric (SER) and Jeremiah Day (NL/GER/USA), Thijs Witty (NL).

Additional curatorial consultation, Jelena Vesic.

Artistic advisors: Bik van der Pol.

Inlab Participants: Oliver Bulas, Marcel Dickhage, Filip Van Dingenen, Stefano Faoro, Jan Hoeft, Julia Kul, Sonja Lau, Catherine Lommee, Valle Medina, Rachel O’Reilly, Vijai Patchineelam, Benjamin Reynolds, Alessandra Saviotti, Cathleen Schuster, Jelena Vesic.

Culiminating in an imprint publication edited by Rachel O’Reilly, designed by DongYoung Lee at Jan Van Eyck.

Images from the exhibition:

Above: Jan Hoeft’s Exit Strategy 1 – Exercise 2013.

Above: a fragment of Jelena Vesic’s and Vijai Patchineelam’s durational photography collaboration Artists at work (Restaged), 2014.

Above: Zachary Formwalt's In Place of Capital, 2009

Above: Vijai Patchineelam’s Negligência de Hemispatial / Hemispatial Neglect, 2013

Above: Cathleen Schuster’s and Marcel Dickhage’s Gesten einer Arbeit/Gestures of a work, 2012.

Above: Julia Kul’s KUL VIX INDEX, 2014.

Images from Saturday’s exhibition roundtable at Hedah with guests Sven Lütticken and Vladimir Jeric:

Above: Liesbeth Bik (L) and Sven Lütticken (R) during the exhibition roundtable.

Above: During the Sven Lütticken’opening plenary Filming Speculative Capital.

Above: During Vladimir Jeric’s contribution/response Speculative Mining Company.

Thank you to those who have provided additional photographs.

01/22/2014, by

()ur Eyes and Photoelasticity

The following is a summary of our ongoing investigation into the relationship between the concentration of stresses in materials and building functions. This example looks at photoelasticity.

In order to reveal the stresses, thermoplastic sheets sit between a LCD Screen and a polarising filter of which we vacuum-formed several iterations. The polarising filter only allows light of a specific orientation of oscillations to pass and blocks others.

This experiment follows our other investigations into the production of the ground (in buildings). In the case of Continuous Lodge, we looked at the deformation of material to invite uses that can relate to the physical lineaments of the ground to happen.

Above: The Visible Spectrum as a fraction of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. “We have always been blind”.

Given that photoelasticity uses the visible spectrum to quantify stresses, it inherently gives loose representations of the concentrations. For this reason this analysis technique has been superseded by computer simulations. To this end, photoelasticity hightens the incalculable that exists within all simulations (even in computerised simulations), by using a tiny window on the whole electromagnetic spectrum, the visible.

For almost all of human existence, we constructed the world using the only the visible spectrum (infrared was discovered in 1800), so in that sense we have been blind (Edward Wilson “Consilience”). By linking the material world with the limits of perception, a gap between the complexity of reality and what we can perceive through our senses occurs.

Above: Newton’s prism experiment. John Keats thought that Newton had destroyed poetry after he reduced the rainbow with the prism experiment. In fact the entire EM spectrum and indeed, all of science, offers the poet infinite inspiration beyond what’s perceptible by our eyes.

Above: Early test of thermoplastic deformation according to function.

This test above reveals the contrast between deeper troughs or higher peak areas—where the material is under higher stresses—and the shallower troughs or lower peaks —where minor, and a more even distribution stresses occur.

In the deeper/higher areas, functions to camouflage activities or that require narrow spaces occur. Here, bodies have a heightened experience with materiality. In contrast activities in the the shallower/lower areas receive full exposure given it increased horizontality.

Above: An evaluation of the surface’s smoothness and continuity.

The floorplate is considered as a continuum, differentiated in heights.

Despite the shortcomings of photoelasticity, we’re not declaring this a pseudo-scientific experiment because of its limitations by virtue of visual perception. Instead we’re treating it as a ‘pataphysic experiment where the imaginary constitutes the form, and thus the object exists between virtuality and reality. The process of defining building use deforms the topology.

So a complete object never exists; it survives until AFTER we have arranged the usage of space in our imaginations, but dies BEFORE the physical event…

…then back, and forth; over and over; existing and not existing.

Above: A detail of the visual feedback for the surface’s curvature.

So we are making it using a loop:
… imagination > building usage > surface deformation > photoelastic test > … imagination

Above: View of a temporary installation that reveals the stress concentration in a strategically deformed surface.

Between the results of the photoelastic test and the (re-)definition of building usage, there is a space for the writing of fiction; the space of the imaginary. The loose quantification of the stresses in the material that you are perceiving with your eyes that are limited by the visual spectrum, make a concrete experience of viewing, and as you walk around the surface, the stresses of a real building reveal themselves as both physical and the driver of form.

Above: Another view of the temporary installation.

The presentation was part of the ”What If Salon” at Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht on 14 January, 2014 at 19:00 with Jan HoeftJulia KulValle Medina & Benjamin ReynoldsOscar SantillanAlessandra SaviottiFilip Van Dingenen and Yeb Wiersma. Invited guests for the evening were Francesca Grilli, Nigel Harle, Ludo Hellemans and Kurt Schaefer.

Above: A pause in the Evening (thanks Marcel).

For more information about the “What-If Salon” see the following:

10/08/2013, by

⋉0≅ (Lectures)

Upcoming lectures:
⋉0≅ Part One
⋉0≅ Part Two

Jan van Eyck Academie 
Academieplein 1
6211 KM Maastricht
The Netherlands

Part One: Oct 17, 2013. 17:30pm.
Part Two: TBA Nov/Dec, 2013. 17:30pm.

image image

03/06/2013, by

The Sorry Jacket™

The following is an excerpt of a longer text published in Fulcrum (Issue No. 69). We contributed to the issue with Javier Arbona of Demilit.


A recent internal memo meant for heads of executive departments and agencies revealed the documentation of a “Sorry Jacket” at the request of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The proposal was first mentioned by Clinton in February 2011 following the diplomatic cables leak—Cablegate—that began in February 2010. The request called for an “apology tour jacket” to replace the constant verbal admission for any embarrassment caused following the leaks, and should be worn by all members of the US Foreign Service partaking in the tour of states where diplomatic relations had been tarnished or in some cases severed.

The call for the jacket spells the end of the US as “the reluctant sheriff”, but also its recasting in the role of the overeager participant; and while it might not be the end of a state-centred realism, the leaks have spread a diplomacy where acting upon generalisations and pseudo-psychoanalysis have made way for new forms of protocol and behaviour. This is a result of new paradigms in communication: concerning namely its fragility and pervasiveness.

Continue reading over at Fulcrum…

The front and rear of the jacket.

Left: The word “Sorry” in the languages of the World. Right: Tour Dates

Left: Personalised name and role within US Government. Right: The number of gold stars = number of countries visited.

Left: The official seals of the Departments of Homeland Security and (right) the State.

Thanks to Jack Self from Fulcrum and Javier Arbona for his contribution.

01/24/2013, by

Model Milieus

PA/LA/CE led a workshop—Model Milieus—with first year students at the Architectural Association in London on Monday 21st January. The aim of the workshop was to stimulate ideas for architectural projects based on a few parametres (namely social and cultural prerequisites) whilst looking at structures in nature that could be linked to the social practices occurring within their projects. The workshop also explored the history of ordering spaces (the changes from sensualism in medieval mapping to today’s hyperrational demarcating; from Australian Aborigines to the EU), and to design in reflection of contemporary understandings of space and structure.

The students translated their ideas into 1:100 physical models and used them as tools to embed their own theories/ideas, exploring the physical and tactile representations of their early ideas.

The initial brief of the day.

A more detailed brief with shopping list and the outline of three small talks.

The voting sheet for the models that best fulfilled certain criterion.

At work.

Students had an hour for each model.

The models examined nature as capable of informing architectural technology, and some were seen as experiments that had no clear end.

Thanks to John Ng from the Architectural Association and the Book of Elsewhere for his generosity and contribution on the day, and to the AA First Year students for their enthusiasm and energy.

07/25/2012, by

Public stages for a Bios-politikos

In Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition she describes how an active life is composed of three elements: labour, work and political action. Labour is a non-natural activity of man’s exigency, work provides an “artificiality” to the world of things (all of those that differ from the natural) and action is the only human activity that happens without a mediation between things or material; it belongs to the human condition of plurality such that we inhabit a social world.

During birth of the city-state man would receive, in addition to his private life, a kind of second life—bios politikos—a duty of free men of the polis (the city-state) to “make politics” in order to be known and recognised. From then on every man belonged to two orders of existence and the distinction between between what belonged to him (idion)’1 and what was communal (koinon)’2 was established. 

Yet it was man that was public and woman the keeper of the private which accorded a much lower status in Greek life.

The distinction between these realms quite clearly emphasises a distinction between things that should be shown and things that should be hidden. Only in the modern age, with its rebellion against social protocols, have we discovered how rich and manifold the realm of the hidden is, as it bears conditions of intimacy. But it is striking that from the beginning of history to our own time it has always been the Human Side of human existence that was parried into privacy; all things connected with the necessity of life itself, serving the subsistence of the individual and the survival of the species. Hidden away too, were slaves who with their bodies administer to the [bodily] needs of life, and women who with their bodies guarantee the physical survival of the species; hidden away because their lives were “laborious” solely devoted to bodily functions (Arendt 1958).

Further evolution of public and private life we owe to the political sensibility of the Roman people who, unlike the Greeks, never sacrificed the private to the public, but on the contrary understood that these two realms could exist only in the form of coexistence.

Primitive example of undefined privacy: digital 3D reproduction of Chauvet caves of Southern France as appeared in Wegner Herzog´s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The cave´s raw nature represents both a 30.000 years old public space (perhaps for communal rites) and a home.

Only in the 5th century B.C. Ancient Greek writers orientated the nature of the oikos or home (the basic unit of society and considered by Aristotle as a community that satisfied daily needs) with the polis (which was the city, citizenship or body of citizens). Greek Tragic theatre was the vehicle by which these two realms were addressed and in particular the conflicting interests in terms of property. Both the oikos and polis desired to be states of autarchy; self-sufficient rejecting any external help. The conflicts between the two lead to the structural decay of the society. 

Oikos vs Polis: The conflicted nature of the oikos and the polis comes from the distinction of the property. On the left: Interior of a Russian Yurt, a unit for an autarchical and nomadic life. On the right: Second Life suburbia, units for a life based on virtual  assets accumulation, conflicting with the fundamentals of  the “commons” in the polis. Sourced from everyculture and slifefantastic.

The term oikos is contemporarily used to describe groups that are formed through friendships or acquaintances’3. Several dozen to several hundred people may be included in this definition but the quality of time spent with one another is extremely limited. Each individual has a primary group that includes relatives and friends who relate to the individual through work, recreation, hobbies, or neighbours. The modern oikos, however, includes people that share some sort of social interaction, be it through conversation etc. for at least a few hours per week. The definition is reserved only for those whom quality (face-to-face) time is devoted can be said to be a part of an oikos.

The idea of publicness is originally linked with the idea of nudity, which is an exclusive human characteristic. In Ancient Greek, Egyptian and Babylonian imagery, females were depicted nude to represent maternity and fertility. See Venus of Willendorf’s buttocks, her belly and breasts and how they have been voluptuously represented; a sincere depiction of health, wellbeing and social comfortability. They are pieces of art that nowadays could act as political statements.

On the left: Representations of Venus of Willendorf seen in Werner Herzog´s Cave of Forgotten Dream. On the right: Dancing by the Poolside, collage by Fatimah Tuggar. We can consider the representations of Venus on the left as representations of Publicness through nudity, whereas on the right, social and cultural codes construct the forms of private self.

Erwin Wurm working with Austrian lingerie brand Palmers. Subverted intimacy & anonymity. 

Nowadays, the ultimate public stage is the net. Like the Chauvet cave’s immaterial other half. Nudity is dressed up in anonymity. The net is a stage where the issue of privacy is as complex as in the Chauvet caves where it is hard to manage the distinction between the two.


Mitropoulos, A. 2009, “Oikopolitics, and Storms” in Global South, pp.18

Arendt, Hannah, 1958, “La condicion humana”. [Trans. Ramon Gil Novales]. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 72


1Idion: Also, Idiot- The private person. Of lower purpose, goodness, rationality, and worth than the Polites or public citizen who belonged to and participated in the city.

2Koinon: meaning “common” and interpreted as “commonwealth”, “league” or “federation”.

3Max Weber M., Roth G., Wittich C., 1978  “Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology‎. University of California Press,  Los Angeles, pp. 348

12/29/2011, by

Celestial Home Button

A series of explorations on the idea of “Home Buttons” for JUNKJET nº5.


Palace, “Dimensions of Home”, 2011

We are used to looking back to understand the origin, we click on the home button as an act of renewal, and reference in real-time.


Palace, “Home Button Series”, 2011


Palace, “Home Button Series”, 2011

12/26/2011, by

Merry Materiality

Objective: To exchange material goods wrapped in the symbols we identify as our contemporary immaterial goods and tools of exchange.

Process: Strip off these symbols and slow bits and bobs that are soon to consume our precious space and occupy our living rooms. Take away the flat image-buttons and instantaneously begin to devalue what is inside.

Enjoy the sensation of tearing; the sound of ripping.

You will only destroy what is contained within.

The moment when you dreamt of owning what is inside this wrapping paper was the original fun; untainted joy. Now your interest in this object has converted into a desire for something else you don’t have.

Merry Materiality

Download them here.

Palace, “Web Wrapping Paper - Google Maps”, 2011

Palace, “Web Wrapping Paper - Google Maps” [Detail], 2011

Palace, “Web Wrapping Paper - You Tube”, 2011

Palace, “Web Wrapping Paper - You Tube” [Detail], 2011

08/25/2011, by

What Architectural Images Do

Recently I was at a large London architectural office for a meeting to discuss whether spandrels on a residential tower in the city’s south east should be expressed in glass, metal or stone. The end of the discussion took a different tack and became an opportunity to discuss how the building was to be represented to the public in an exhibition of the design in its respective borough. It was quickly established that the question of the height of the building (then pencilled in at 198 metres) was the first problem the residents would have with the scheme. Thereafter much of the discussion was geared towards how the height could be downplayed in the imagery so the prospect of its construction would simultaneously excite the public yet subdue its true height. The office demanded that a cabal be formed immediately to confront their fear that local residents of myriad enthusiasms and political leanings could turn, and stem their architectural desires from becoming real. It was decided that the images were to suppress the height of the building by choosing a strategic point at which to illustrate it with the right angle of perspective. 

The architectural image is not just tailored to censor or accentuate aspects of a design, they also contain an intrinsic duality that is used by the architectural press to exploit the disconnection between viewing and inhabiting, namely that a temporal empirical reality which governs inhabitation is lost and replaced by the frozen eternal Idea. The image as a limning of material form negates architecture’s own ability to harbour ‘the external conditions of political and social struggle’[1] that ‘scatters us around in a maelstrom of controversies: namely passions, subjectivities, cultures, religions, tastes.’[2] Architectural images are so beguiling because they are political vacuums. This loss of the political dimension of space in the image masks everyday life and serves only to suggest a utopian clause of architecture: its triumph over mediocre design.[3] 

The images of the residential tower in question was also to be framed in such a way to coax audiences into falling for what Robin Boyd called the feature eye-trap set by the architect[4], when we ignore what is around the gestalt, or dominating thing. A double-team of: a system of Hegelian negations that are describing what the architecture is not, and traps that focus our attention, both haggle our deepest desires to inhabit the image itself. The image creates a division of lived-space between the Real spaces we normally inhabit and what it offers us as an antidote to our space-poor experience. This becomes particularly challenging as the pervasiveness of the architectural image in contemporary culture contends with the inhabitation of our Real space because images are equipped with political and emotional instruments that don’t come with us when we visit Real space.

This reality loss is many things: the press’ cash cow, slippage, it just happens, the audience doesn’t notice or they don’t care, or comment ironically, or a part of a large ironic commentary on the way we live now, artistic in nature, postmodern paraphernalia. Whatever it is, it is endemic.

What Architectural ImagesDo
WYW - Only Look Here, and Here.

Boyd, Robin, 1963. The Australian Ugliness. Sydney: Penguin Books Australia.
Latour, Bruno, 2001. “Which protocol for the new collective experiments?” in Ciudades para un Futuro más Sostenible [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 25 August 2011].
Vidler, Anthony, 1993. “Spatial Violence” in Assemblage, no. 20 (April), pp. 84-85. 
Žižek, Slavoj, 2007. “Censorship Today: Violence, or Ecology as a New Opium for the Masses" in Lacan dot com [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 25 August 2011].

[1] Vidler (pp.84) 

[2] Latour (2001)

[3] Žižek (2007) 

[4] Boyd (1963, pp.186) 

07/27/2010, by

The Social Home

There is a peculiar habit of “Austericans” (members of a society whose New culture takes over its indigenous civilisation) Robin Boyd was ever the serial neologiser (Featurism, Austerican, Bushmanist, etc.) whereby they find privacy in their own car. Marshall McLuhan called this a “hidden ground” behind the use of the car. Australians paradoxically go outside to be alone and go home to be social, which explains the average oversized Australian car. Whereas a great majority of the world goes home to be alone and finds the social world outside, which would explain the popularity of the small European/Japanese two-door. So while the car bites back in the face of the motorist by being at once a hermetic private space where the driver is alone, immobilised in the gauntlet of traffic we all know so intimately, the Australian home is a social space, requiring the sort of finery on show for when guests arrive: the very same Featurist things that made Boyd cringe crimson red.

Home owners, like mayors, keep a watchful eye over their public space, and ‘insist on featuring something…some symbol of his own success’1 and eagerly look for the next investment to garner status. As much as the home shapes histories of migration and material culture, ‘at least half of the monthly mortgage payments paid by the average Australian home owner goes towards sustaining meanings, rather than keeping out the rain.’2

And so admiration is received of a suburban home if it is associated with catalogue-style character, which requires regular consumption and the sort of finished quality not indicative of issues common to families like mortgage debt, sexism, domestic abuse, clutter, crime or any of the chaotic normalities that typify daily suburban life. Catalogue-style character and its ‘quality of empty perfection, however, is precisely why such images are so appealing to us.’3

Grace Bros. carpet cleaning ad 1984 Australia
'Keeping a family home clean and tidy can be a full time job, especially when your family treats it like a pigsty.'


Boyd, R., 1963 [1960]. The Australian Ugliness. Sydney: Penguin Books Australia.
Dever, M. 2006. “Introduction” in Exhibition Catalogue: Home. Melbourne: Monash University, pp.1-3.
Fiske, J., Hodge, B., Turner, G., 1987. Myths of Oz: Reading Australian Popular Culture, Sydney: Allen & Unwin.


1Boyd (1963, pp.132)
2Fiske, J., Hodge, B., Turner, G. (1987, pp. 26)
3Dever (2006, pp.3)

06/01/2010, by

Wiry Ghosts and Informed Decisions

Again, this post takes snippets from a forthcoming article commemorating the 50th year in print of Robin Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness:

Boyd insists, that Featurist things are ‘non-intellectual, non-emotional and entirely optical’1 and that ugliness is class relative: ‘Georgian for high income, numb conservatism for the low, and for the great central majority coloured plastics, paint, and flat black steel welded into hard geometrical shapes.’2 Furthermore, he notes that non-English visitors regard ‘the difference between an English and an Australian accent [as] a class distinction, and that a visiting Englishman cannot really take seriously any intellectual or artistic idea [of Australians]’.3 As though in accordance Boyd feels that ‘in England, unlike America and Australia, there is always something of genuine beauty around the corner, a medieval church or a glimpse of field, hedge and honest stonework, even if it is hemmed in by rival service stations and haunted by the wiry ghosts of electricity and telephones.’4 Comparatively, in Australia he finds ‘diggerdom where all men are equally inferior.’5

High income, low and the Great Majority.
L to R: High income, low and the Great Majority. (The ever-desirable Phonia-Colonial style, Wolfgang Sievers’s Housing Commission flats and post-Fordist plastic cells.

But Boyd wasn’t alone in attacking the masses and their decorative misdemeanours. Starched, dyed-in-the-wool modernists Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier alike, were a little more stern. Loos: primitive people ornament. Le Corbusier: everyone else has eyes that do not see.

Whether, as Boyd points out, Featurist decisions and objects are “non-intellectual” or markers of class distinctions is open to doubt. Even people equipped with the minimum of will, voluntarily choose to conform, or fall victim to Kant’s notion of public reason. Immanuel Kant’s thinking contains a notable distinction between public and private reason. The former regards the masses following prescribed knowledge rather than thinking for themselves, and the latter regards the masses taking initiative, working things out for themselves. But to Kant, the majority is always wrong. A liberal market economy defines freedom of choice as key, and uses forces to invite participation. Freedom of choice and participation mixed with Slavoj Žižek labels as a spontaneous unreflective ideology where the masses actively choose stupidity leaves Boyd’s argument that the general public are stupid, conformist or conservative misleading and borderline offensive. Masses, rather, skirt rational decision-making unaided and indeed provoked by a remorseless market.

Wiry ghosts of electricity and telephones.
Wiry ghosts of electricity and telephones.

Add to that Loïc Wacquant, recounting that ‘the culture of everyday life, the production of desire, [is] generally not much interested in the state’6, nor class distinctions or even about making rational and informed decisions. Responsibility to original thought is taken away from the masses. Featurism flourishes amidst an inundation of perplexed, run-of-the-mill choices orchestrated by the market.


Boyd, R., 1963 [1960]. The Australian Ugliness. Sydney: Penguin Books Australia.
Wacquant, L., 2009. “The Body, The Ghetto and the Penal State” in Qualitative Sociology, Vol.32 (1). Heidelberg: Springer, pp.101-129.


1Boyd (1963, pp.141)
2Ibid. (pp.110)
3Ibid. (pp.75)
4Ibid. (pp.16)
5Ibid. (pp.77)
6Wacquant (2009, pp.114)

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