re-iterate: Dashalar

 

Later this month, friend and colleague Jordan Kanter will be running a workshop in Beijing together with Gilles Retsin (AA-DRL, Kokkugia). The workshop will be based in Dashalar, one of the most dynamic and well-preserved parts of the historic city of Beijing. Collaborators are CMoDa, a platform for digital art and crafts, fronted by former NOTCH organizer Yang Lei.

More info below:

 

// Workshop Overview

Ecology of Objects In the course of this 10 day workshop, we will explore new techniques for mapping, cataloguing and intervening in the processes of development of the Chinese city. Working directly in the streets, alleys and buildings of the historic Dashila district in central Beijing, we will trace the particular patterns of inhabitation, use/reuse, production and exchange, documenting the ways these processes are materialized in the physical structures of the site. Working out from this “ecology of objects,” this workshop aims to explore new perspectives for activating, illuminating and informing new meaning to the everyday spaces of the city.

Participatory Mapping // Object Oriented Urbanism This work proceeds in two independent, but increasingly interwoven tracks: on the one hand, the revitalization of the Situationist approach of participatory mapping to unveil the underlying, often hidden dimensions of city identity, formation and logic; on the other hand, the development of a computational platform custom built in the Processing coding language, allowing for the visualization and manipulation of the various objects and elements – both concrete and ephemeral – encountered in the site. This begins an exploratory process into possibilities for reconfiguration, mutation, remediation, logistical reorganization, etc. in the building up of city form that is both historically grounded and radically new.

Exhibition @ CMoDA (Chinese Museum of Digital Art) + Beijing Design Week We will work directly with the agencies responsible for the development of the Dashila district to envision strategies for dynamic, iterative interventions into the fabric of the neighborhood. This will be an intensive, team-based effort with the aim of generating exhibition quality work. We will employ a variety of overlapping media (diagrams, maps, renderings, video, animation, interactive computer scripts, etc.) to communicate the logics, narratives and iterative systems at work. The results of this workshop (and a previous workshop held in Dalian) will be exhibited at the 2012 Beijing Design Week and the GeoCity Smart City exhibition at the China Museum of Digital Art (CMoDA). The workshop is open to architects, landscape architects, urban designers and planners, geographers, artists, filmmakers and anyone interested in the intersection of city development, computation and design. No coding experience required.

// Instructors: Jordan Kanter (SCI_Arc, FuturePlay), Guest Instructors TBD

// Techniques: Processing, Rhino/Vray, Illustrator/Photoshop, Geotracking/Geotagging, Basic Film Editing + Motion Graphics

// Sponsors/Collaborators: CMoDA, Dashila(b), 北京大栅栏投资有限责任公司 Beijing Dashilar Investment Limited, 北京广安控股有限公司及旗下的北京大栅栏投资有限责任公司 Beijing Guang’An Holdings and Beijing Dashilar Investment Limited

// Dates: 2012/08/22  –  2012/08/31

// Location: Beijing Shijingshan Electrical Relay Factory, No. 8 Dawailangying Hutong, Dashila’r  石景山继电器厂分厂8号

// Workshop Fee: 500 rmb

// Apply: send resume + work samples (under 2MB) to j.kanter@gmail.com

 

http://foundcity.blog.com/

ITERATION and conclusion

 

It's now been two days since we drew our last screws into the two projects that became the product of the ITERATE workshop. The first thing I want to do is to thank our dedicated students Song Yating, Zhai Jingyang, Wu Yulun and Yangyang Seunghee. Without their adventurous choice of joining this speculative workshop, it would not have taken place. The fact that we had a group of students pushed us to do our homework and prepare a rigorous theoretical framework for our exploration, presenting a wide range of precedents and references from many different fields. The point being that we are operating in a field that crosses over to many other disciplines, and the two pieces that came out of the workshop also constitute an ambiguous result in terms of definition.

Defining what it is we made is perhaps not the most important issue here, but it still one of the crucial points of criticism that we are now facing. Early Sunday morning I received a phone call from our landlord saying that a group of neighbours had gathered in the courtyard in protest of the installation of sticks and string designed by student Yangyang Seunghee. The problem was not only that we had failed to inform all the neighbours in the courtyard behind, but also that these suspended objects were hanging at a height where you would have to crouch down to avoid collision, creating an especially precarious condition because of the lack of lighting during night time.

In a different context though, this installation might have been understood as a temporary artwork which could be spared a few hours of existence, but in the context of one of the few remaining preserved Beijing courtyards, it was seen by the local retired residents as a threat to their security and therefore must be taken down. To make it simple, we were naive towards our neighbours' capacity to accept a temporary piece which would force them to take a different route, and they were perhaps overly dramatic in their reactions against this alien object. Nevertheless, it is worth reflecting on the consequences and how they could have been avoided.

Which leads me back to the main topic; the content of our exploration and conclusions which can be drawn from it.

There was a series of underlying notions in the formulation of the framework this workshop, and by extension in the research project that now has started. From my own side, I would like to stress the ideological aspect of our project: Addressing the prevailing issue of the credibility of our contemporary consumer society. The workshop addresses this issue in two direct ways: By limiting our source of material to used or discarded matter, things that would have been disposed of in landfills or incinerated, we would not impose unnecessary pressure to the environment for the purpose of developing a specific new knowledge. The fact that these objects have unique variations in terms of form, colour and texture as well as possessing their own latent history, make them all the more gratifying to work with. In addition, we explored the social aspect of how these objects can be retrieved and harvested in the specific context of Beijing's old city. The second point is the fact that the tool we used in the reconfiguration/design of these materials, Processing, is a free, open-source software and coding language. This of course means that while you as a designer first have to design and customize your tool in order for it to become efficient, it also brings a lot of advantages. During the past two weeks we only scratched the surface of the possibilities offered by using this environment, but the future process will be directed towards developing and streamlining the code to our use.

Another major aspect is of course that of using our abilities as designers to propose and speculate on solutions for local and global issues. This aspect of the workshop is perhaps where we failed. Despite an ambitious level of research in the way some materials are used and how they are instrumental in the accretion of small reclaimed spaces in the hutongs of Beijing, the connection between our design process and these issues became increasingly blurred in the second week. In many ways, it is just as important to learn new tools as to be critical to them while they are being applied.

With better planning and stronger focus for the Processing classes, we would probably have come further in the form explorations on an earlier stage, giving more time to establish a solid relationship between our materials and the environment in which they were found. To resume to our mission statement, we wanted to explore the intersection between design, computation and public space. By designing without specificity in neither user nor site and erecting the pieces in a sheltered, semi-private courtyard we not only avoided confrontation with the public, but projected an sense of arrogance towards the local community. Instead of allowing our neighbours and our initiated friends from outside to meet inside a common fascination for our research, and despite good intentions, the works provoked a sense of alienation from the point of view of our neighbours.

 

To conclude, I would like to see this experience as part of an ongoing process, in which we tap into a wide range of material flows in the city, in production processes and socio-economic systems and reformulate unwanted output into operational synergies. In other words, turning waste, in whatever scale, into desirable matter.

IFP Workshop lectures

The workshop is starting next week and we are working hard to finalize things. As promised, there will be a series of public lectures in the evenings at 7 pm, and anyone is welcome to join. Here is the list of confirmed lectures with date and time. All lectures will be taking place in the IFP Studio in Heizhima hutong 13, Dongcheng district, Beijing.

 

Michael Caster (US) is a freelance writer, researcher, and traveler. He has lived and worked in the United States, China, The Netherlands, Turkey, and Tunisia. His research interests touch on symbolic power and the politics of representation in social space, specializing in social semiotic analysis. He is currently involved in an ongoing independent research project examining the socio-political role and affect of street art.

Date & Time: Thursday, February 2 at 7 pm

 

Benjamin Beller (FR) of BaO Architects first came to China in 2005 where he worked with Beijing architecture studio Atelier 100S+1 while pursuing his own research on rapidly developing Chinese cities. In 2010 set up his own practice BaO as a collaborative platform engaging in China and abroad. The studios he leads concentrate around both urban and rural contexts as a way to challenge their ever-imposed dichotomy and to respond to Chinese urban agenda. Throughout his practice, he's been experimenting extensively with both research and design, with a strong belief that it is through acting and engaging within both grounds simultaneously that architecture becomes constructive.

Date & Time: Monday, February 6 at 7 pm

 

Hutopolis is a research program run by AQSO Architecture office  and architect Giannantonio Bongiorno that aims to investigate new boundaries for the urban development in China. The study intends to re-use and enhance the existing urban framework and networks as a key idea to generate a new evolution of the city. Meaning an utopic city of Hutongs, Hutopolis (h-uto-polis), is a fictive collage of words coming from radically different backgrounds that reflect the cultural openness of the project.

Date & time: Tuesday February 7 at 7 pm

 

WAI Architecture Think Tank is an international studio practicing architecture, urbanism and architectural research. Founded in Brussels in 2008 by French architect Nathalie Frankowski and Puerto Rican architect Cruz Garcia WAI is currently based in Beijing. WAI focuses on the understanding and execution of Architecture from a panoramic approach, from theoretical texts to architectural artifacts, narrative architectures, buildings and urban and cultural conditions. WAI strives to make significant contributions to the collective intelligence of architecture, from the conception of intelligent buildings and masterplans to the production of fresh research projects and innovative publications. WAI is a workshop for architecture intelligentsia. WAI asks What About It?

Date & Time: Wednesday, February 8 at 7 pm

Spring Festival workshop 2012

From January 30 to February 12, I will host a workshop in our studio in Beijing together with architect Jordan Kanter. The workshop will investigate the nature of the hutong as a public space through reiterative analytical processes, with the aim of introducing architectural intervention(s) in the city. We will also host a number of lectures during the course of the two weeks.

Below a short introduction:

 

ITERATE workshop 2012

This workshop aims to create new perspectives for activating, illuminating and informing new meaning to the everyday spaces of the city.  Working in the neighborhoods, streets and hutongs of Beijing, we will identify and define ongoing patterns of use, materializations and micro-topologies as a catalogue of the urban experience.

Using a variety of computational tools, including the KML language in Google Earth and the Processing coding language, we will develop techniques to operationalize this data as dynamic diagrams.  These diagrams, in turn, will guide and inform a series of interventions back into the public space.  The process is inherently iterative, alternating between observation, activation and evaluation of the intervention, constructed with new or reconfigured material on the site.  The computational diagrams function as a mediating framework between these modes of work by charting and informing the interventions as an ongoing emergence. The first part will be a series of exercises familiarizing ourselves with the site and the scripting tools, proceeding to the formulation and execution of rigorously conceived, team-based projects engaging (physically, virtually or both) the public space of Beijing.  It will culminate in a review by an outside jury and a public showing (and possible publication) of the work.  A lecture series exploring the relationship of public space to politics, individual agency, computation, art and architecture will coincide with the workshop.

The workshop is open to architects, artists, planners, geographers, engineers, programmers and students of the above or other disciplines; anyone interested in exploring the intersection between design, computation and public space.

Instructors: Max Gerthel (SE) (KARCH, Tsinghua, HUST) Jordan Kanter (US) (Sci-Arch, Tsinghua)

Lecturers: See the workshop blog

Software: Processing Google Earth KML Rhino/Maya

Date: 2012-01-30 - 2012-02-12 Location: IFP workspace in a Beijing courtyard near Nanluoguxiang Cost: 2000 RMB for students 2500 for professionals

Apply by sending a brief portfolio (max 10 MB) to: hutongworkshop2012@gmail.com

Find more information on the workshop blog

Organizer: Institute For Provocation (Beijing)

Supporter: Huazhong University of Science And Technology (Wuhan)

 

A New Beginning

Swarm Intelligence I haven't blogged for a year! Now I'm not really sure whether the exclamation point was there to emphasize the positive or negative bias of this statement, I'll let that keep it hanging.

So, it's time to start again, since this is a good chance to log my experiences for the coming three months which constitute my Final Project. Let's just admit, prematurely, that I probably won't be able to follow myself as much as I'd like to. But that doesn't stop me from trying, does it? It would be a nice thing to be able to look back on my thoughts during bright and dark moments, written in deep presence.

Today I've been starting up the actual work, which seems slightly hard to grasp considering the size of the site and the fact that I don't know what I'm doing. And there has been troubles. Firstly, whenever I try to import the rather extensive dwg into rhino, it fails and crashes. Out of memory. Well, with so many calculations, I guess it's easy to forget. But it is an important step. I really need to get started on a model, whether physical or 3D, in order to understand the space within which I'll be working. Once I have a rough model I can start planning how to make it physical. But that's just one part of the plan.

The next part of the plan is to start trying a few different digital tools. Yes, I'm familiar with grasshopper and I think I could start do some basic scripting, but I am also realizing that what I am attempting to do - simulating variations in differentiated modules over time - is actually closer to animation than parametrics. So that's why I'm going to spend a few days to get started on Processing, a "programming environment that was created to make it easier to develop visually oriented applications with an emphasis on animation and providing users with instant feedback through interaction." Sounds cryptic? Well I'm not too sure myself. But I thought it could be worth trying out before I decide to drop my initial ambitions and focus on a more analog approach.

So let us see where this could lead! I'm looking forward to updating on a more regular basis, maybe even daily. But no promises that I can't keep.