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On Site review: other ways to talk about architecture and urbanismContains things you will never find anywhere else.

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Thursday
Mar062014

Jonas Dahlberg: memory wound, 2014

Jonas Dahlberg. Memory Wound, winning competition entry to Memorial Sites After 22 July. image: Jonas Dahlberg Studio

Memory Wound, above, is one of three memorials to the victims of the massacre at Utøya, Norway in 2011.  The rock cut out of the Sørbråten peninsula to make the channel will be used to make another memorial in Oslo on the site of a car bomb, also Anders Breivik's responsibility.  

According to The Guardian, Dahlberg has spoken of poetic rupture, beauty indissolubly linked to loss. One wall of the cut is inscribed with the names of the children killed, the other is carved out into a ledge from which to view the names.  The cut is aligned with Utøya – it doesn't eradicate Utøya by being placed literally on the site of the massacre itself.

This is how such massively inexplicable deaths are memorialised these days, by massive land art.  There is little else that we feel is significant enough to approach the scale of war, for this was an act of war between a race-based fundamentalism and an unwitting, wealthy, liberal and secular populace.  It seems to be too difficult to explain how Anders Breivik came to be, the best we can do is to set up sites where we can contemplate what he did.  Memory Wound is a powerful place to do this; does it address the rise of anti-islamic fundamentalism in Europe? Not really, it addresses the children, their absence – the effect of a cause that remains active, not absent.

Land art puts human activities into the context of the earth as a planet, the sun as a star, time measured in light years – things almost beyond comprehension for all we have been taught how geology and astronomy works.  These things have become our ineffable, things so detached from the development of the human race that they absorb human failings.  It's cosmic and all, but there are other Breiviks out there, and they are unmoved.  

Wednesday
Mar052014

John Thomas Serres: an artist in the Channel Fleet, 1799-1800

John Thomas Serres, Point de Roquilon, France. Captain M. K. Barritt. Eyes of the Admiralty: J T Serres, An Artist in the Channel Fleet, 1799-1800. London: National Maritime Museum, 2014. Image: United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. Don't think you'll find it on the UKHO website however, this appears to be a working website of great complexity for contemporary documents, maps, charts and shipping publications.

About the time I was young and tooling around on a little sailboat in Nanaimo Harbour, I found a book of drawings of the BC coast done by an artist on Captain Vancouver's ship. They looked much like Serres' paintings (above) – navigation charts, meant to point out signal points, rocks bays, harbours and dangers.  These and Vancouver's drawings, which I've never been able to find again, delineated land, not from land itself but from an opposing position on the water.  The land is the objective other.  

It is interesting, from our map-dominated representations of land today, that in the eighteenth century elevations were as necessary as reckoning by the sun: they are visual one-to-one maps without translation to a plan.  Of course they eventually had charts, but Vancouver was in uncharted territory: a drawing or a painting bypassed translation, gave the context and the scale of the coast, especially if it was potentially hostile.  

From the water, the land-bound built environment is very small – a toytown between the sky, the mountains and the sea, all huge. Even approaching a city such as Vancouver by ferry, its complex urbanity is itself but a pale cluster, not very tall, almost irrelevant.  From the middle of the strait one can see that the Island is the top of a mountain range, that the strait is full of small islands, that there are dozens of boats from tugs to freighters, container ships to barges: daily life on a terrain that remains mysterious to those on land.

Monday
Mar032014

on metaphor

James Gallagher, Domestic 2, collage, 2010 

This is how many of us feel after the grant and essay submission deadlines of last week – the whole community of architects who write or curate exhibitions, or try for the Prix de Rome, and publishers of same, and then [brkt] setting its call for submissions deadline on the same day: it did a lot of people in.  

James Gallagher feels (as quoted by Rick Poyner in 'Collage Now') that 'collage is the perfect medium for coming to terms with a culture saturated in images, both printed and online ... today's collage artists carve out fragments from this frenzy and force the disparate pieces to become one...'   This is probably the definition of all art, that one accumulates things: ideas, marks, scraps of paper perhaps, maps, photos – everything trailing histories, accumulated meanings, ambitions and contexts – and then makes something out of them, in some other medium. 

I doubt that fragments ever re-coalesce to 'become one' leaving their separateness behind.  Rather they are used to force a metaphor that might have some sort of unity, but which is only effective if it is complex and layered enough to cut through the frenzy of information, images and ideas with which we are surrounded.  But is this frenzy actually a frenzy, or is it just a very rich world we live in?

In previous times it was probably organised belief systems that sorted out our information for us; in a secular world lots of other things step in and on competing terrains of ideology and politics we are confused.  We have always turned to art to make sense of things in that completely illogical way that artists consume and transform and represent the confusing, from mediaeval religious icons that stood in for the utterly ineffable, to poets that crammed it all into fourteen lines, to composers who shout into an open piano, as did John Tavener for The Whale, planting the transcendent and very useful understanding of metaphor firmly into our young heids.

Whether or not metaphor is actually what allows me to make sense of things, I don't really care.  It does, and that'll do.

Tuesday
Feb252014

Saskia Sassen: dense urbanised terrain – not a city

Uneven Growth, Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities. Part of a series, this one with Saskia Sassen, on the MoMAmultimedia site.

Monday
Feb242014

Thomas Morrison: families on the isle of Lewis, 1900s

Island life: a Lewis family, photographed by Norman Morrison in the first decade of the 1900s. Photograph: Tormod an t-Seòladair

The kinds of faces that built Canada, Highlanders and Islanders from Scotland. These, from Lewis, were photographed when they didn't know what they looked like – there is no rearranging of their faces for the camera: this was them.  No one is allowed that grim set to the mouth anymore, even if you actually feel it.  

For such a hard life, living in that pile of stones and sods that is a black house, every woman has a bit of lace somewhere - a collar, a shawl, a bed cover — clearly something so clean and precious, in which to invest one's pride.  

The image above is linked to an article on how the photos were found, and the one below takes you to a slide show of them.

A family group taken between 1910 and 1920. Photograph: Tormod an t-Seòladair . This was the era of mass emigration from Scotland to the Canadian West, especially; my own great grandparents in 1910 for example. It was hard in Scotland, it was hard on the Canadian prairies.

Monday
Feb242014

celebrity

architect: Joshua Prince-Ramus. photographer: Bjarne Jonasson, stylist: Tasha Green. New York Times, 2014

okay, here is the ultimate expression of architecture's current stars: a Wall Street Journal article from January 2014 on what they call Koolhaas's protegés, cleverly named as out of the Rem Schoolhaas. ho ho.  I had a friend who went off to work in Koolhaas's studio in 1984 or so, and found it really grim, utilitarian, hyper-efficient: they got work done.  This is the antithesis of the WSJ article, that carefully sets up young people who have worked with him, left him, and now dress in Prada and Lanvin.  Is Koolhaas responsible for this?  I don't think so.  

Koolhaas writes, he is clever, he has a photogenic topographic Dutch face, he had many years in the conceptual wilderness of the 1970s before he even got on the lecture circuit.  OMA started with Koolhaas, Madelon Vriesendorp, Elia and Zoe Zenghelis, passionate Europeans to the core; they started small, interesting and significant. His protegés are more savvy however, they trade on his name.  How, on earth, would they ever have agreed to this photo shoot if they hadn't known that today, publicity trumps all.  

Saturday
Feb222014

failure to update: 20 February 2014

What is the point of Google satellite maps if they only present clean copies taken in the summer? Is there no satellite path near Independence Square/ Maidan Nezalezhnosti/ Майдан Незалежності in Kiev these days? 

Here is the structure of the square: divided in two by a main road. 

and here is the reality of Thursday, 20 February 2014:

or marginally closer to the ground:

Thursday
Feb202014

Argentina's Playlist for Freedom

Part of BBC's Freedom 2014 programming: Natalio Cosoy's passionate explanation of the music of Argentina's often coded popular and folk songs during both military rule and after.  A wonderful half-hour of 'anthems to perseverance', as he says, 'what music can actually do, in terms of instilling freedom into society.'

Manifestación de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo en 1983, //diarioinedito.com/Nota/7932. Click on image to take you to the BBC page. Not ever sure how long these things are available for, but this image gives you all the tracking information.

This is an exciting series.  Here is a link to hip-hop in Africa.  For someone, me, who came to African music in the pre-African Rap late-80s, this program explains much that I had seen as neo-colonialism.  Again, it and the words were and are coded, flying under the radar of convention, tradition and military regimes. 

Tuesday
Feb182014

Nancy Holt: 1938-2014

Nancy Holt. Sun Tunnels, completed in 1976. Photographed by Mary Kavanagh (image is linked to her site). Four large concrete tubes are arranged in an open X. The 9' diam x 18' long sections of culvert are pierced by holes of varying size that correspond to the pattern of the constellations Draco, Perseus, Columba and Capricorn. The tunnels line up with the rising and setting sun on the summer and winter solstices.

Nancy Holt, who died last week, was one of the original land artists working in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, along with Dennis Oppenheimer, Michael Heizer, James Turrell, Walter de Maria and Robert Smithson, all of whom had little time for the constricting space and rules of urban galleries and art museums.  They said they were making art for the land, the ultimate expression of 1960s freedom – at the beginnings of the environmental movement and working at the scale of infrastructure, the military and the mining industry.

Land Art had its roots in Minimalism and Conceptual Art, where 'art products' are often ephemeral, unrecognisable or self-destructing.  Looking back on it now it appears as a real struggle to return agency to the artist: Nancy Holt bought the 40 acres of Utah desert for Sun Tunnels, and hired, as she listed: '2 engineers, 1 astrophysicist, 1 astronomer, 1 surveyor and his assistant, 1 road grader, 2 dump truck operators, 1 carpenter, 3 ditch diggers, 1 concrete mixing truck operator, 1 concrete foreman, 10 concrete pipe company workers, 2 core-drillers, 4 truck drivers, 1 crane operator, 1 rigger, 2 cameramen, 2 soundmen, 1 helicopter pilot and 4 photography lab workers' to install it. Plus the culverts.  

The places that Land Artists worked were marginal – in those vast deserts of the American southwest, there were hardly any roads.  When in 1982 Reyner Banham wrote Scenes in America Deserta, a reprise of Charles Doughty's 1888 Travels in Arabia Deserta, Banham was well aware of the elision of desert and deserted.  And in the mid 1990s when I tried to plot a winter route from central Texas to Calgary through all the flat bits, I found one cannot cross Nevada from north to south.  This is a deserta militaria, for most of those deserts are used as test sites, training exercises, speed tests and places to go mad in.

Nancy Holt did not go mad; she married Robert Smithson and continued to work in land art, film and photography from France to Finland and across the United States.  There was an exhibit of her photographs last year at Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery, whence this lovely image comes.

Nancy Holt, Concrete Poem, 1968. composite inkjet print on archival rag paper taken from original 126 format black and white negatives, printed 2012

Tuesday
Feb112014

Anselm Kiefer: Alkahest, 2011

Anselm Kiefer. Oh, ihr Stimmen des Geschicks, 2011. Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, charcoal, lead and iron object on photograph on cardboard 83.5 x 113.5 cm (32.87 x 44.69 in). Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Salzburg

Alkahest is a series of large paintings, paintings on photographs and assemblages that site mountains as places of material transformation where water dissolves, ultimately, stone.  According to the press release statement from the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac that showed this work in 2011, the term Alkahest comes from alchemy and indicates that anything can be dissolved by some solution, in this case, simply water, which through the processes of erosion dilutes whole mountains into mud.

The geologic reality of this is mirrored, for Kiefer, by spiritual battles found in German literature from Hölderlin and Goethe's poetry of the eighteenth century to Heidegger, and in Norse and Christian mythologies with their voluminous and powerful metaphoric imagery.  This image above, O Voices of Destiny (a phrase from Hölderlin's late poem 'Greece'  — O voices of Fate, their paths of the wanderer!), is Thor's Hammer, the weather maker for us mere mortals.    

This wonderful slippage in and out of metaphor and geology grounds the most enormous of world processes in the completely mundane experience of something like being caught in a June sleet storm in the Kananaskis.


Chris Conway. The flank of Mount Hart-McHarg through the cloud and snow showers of an approaching spring storm at Upper Kananaskis Lake. Kananaskis Lakes, Rocky Mountains, April 20, 2013The name Kananaskis isn't even the aboriginal term for the area – it was named by Palliser after a local man who recovered from an axe wound, a story that only dates from 1857.  I'm feeling culturally bereft here: German poetry, Norse myths are not mine, aboriginal structures of meaning are not mine either, the tenets of Christianity are stories rather than belief and the worst of it, given our current preoccupation with resource extraction, is that Kananaskis ranges were only explored in the first place in case they held gold.  They do have the less glamorous coal, and lots of ski trails put in for the 1988 Olympics.  

Kiefer's work comes out of a deep sense of his own German culture, which is why he spent years dissecting and reworking the second world war, and has continued working back and forward into mythology, geology and German philosophy: it is within him.  Settler colonies have such shallow roots: hair roots so lightly attached to the soil that it pushes phenomenological experience to the forefront. Interesting, but self-validating, and rarely linked to any sort of deep traditions. For this country, mountains mean mining and sports.  period.

Tuesday
Feb042014

Anselm Kiefer: Wilder Kaiser, 1975

Anselm Kiefer. Wilder Kaiser, 1975. Watercolour and acrylic on paper; 6 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. (16.2 x 24.1 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art 1995.14.11

Because I was thinking about Keifer after thinking about Gerhard Marx's grass and mud drawings of Johannesburg, I came across this drawing he did in 1975 of what the Met describes as 'the limestone massif of the Kaiser mountain range in northern Tyrol', the Kaisergebirge.  The Wilder Kaiser is one ridge, the other is lower and rounder, the Zahmer Kaiser. Somehow, living next to the Rocky Mountain Range, and driving back and forth 1100km to the coast through this range, the Selkirks and the Coast Range, a range of two ridges seems rather European.   

Nonetheless, and that is irrelevant, Keifer's Wilder Kaiser is a gesso crag in a watercolour sea.  Evidently he worked from a map and included a bit of cartographic information for Predigtstuhl: 2083m.  

Because the next issue of On Site review is on mapping, and because it was -26 this morning and it is a tad chilly about the edges here, this particular drawing appeals.  Keifer's mapping shows the limits of perception: either what you can see or what you want to know, both necessarily limited.  The size of the subject, here a mountain, has nothing to do with the size of a map, or a drawing, or a thought.  The name stands in for the range, the gesso peak for one of the individual peaks in it.

Conventional mapping flattens a complex and emotional world to a flat sheet, coded to illustrate topography, and imposing an equivalence on all information that is distinctly misleading.  And yet it is so pervasive it has us running around on the surface of the world as if we were on charts, and as if we are incapable of holding opposing thoughts and perceptions in our heads.  Yes Predigtstuhl is part of the Wilder Kaiser, but yes too, it is separate from it.  For this we need artists.

Friday
Jan312014

Boyle Family earth casts

Boyle Family. Rock and Scree Series, 1977. British pavilion, Venice Biennale 1978

Part of the Boyle Family Manual for the Journey to the Surface of the Earth: 'The objective of this Journey will be to make multi-sensual presentations of 1000 sites selected at random from the surface of the earth.  Between August 1968 and July 1968 blindfolded members of the public selected these sites' [by throwing darts at ever larger-scaled maps until a 6' square was found].

1. Take the actual surface coating of earth, dust, sand, mud, stone, pebbles, snow, moss, grass or whatever hold it in the shape it was in on the site. Fix it. Make it permanent.

The rest of the instructions, 6' core sample, film pan from the centre and a 100-frame film of the site, and a study of 'the effect of elemental forces' on the site were always less captivating than the casts of the site itself.  This was done with frames and plaster lifting the surface material with it when the cast was removed.  
There were more instructions for dealing with plants, animals, people, filming them, taking samples, but it was the cast that was the enduring gallery material. Accompanying texts found on the Boyle Family website are impenetrable streams of consciousness, a barrage of words working their way into description.  There is a review by J L Locher, which one suspects was written by Mark Boyle himself as it is so similar to all the other writings on this site.  But what of it, this is a body of work that started in the 1960s and continues still, this recording of the world.  

Such a conceptually simple frame produces simple objects: 6' squares of ground and it is these themselves that invite speculation, rather than the process.  They are notes from the earth, unconnected to any discernible narrative.  The squares of ground are not linked by resource-extraction, climate, cost or beauty; nationalism, history, productivity or location.  They are microscopically complex, conceptually reflexive and this is what is so interesting, that this work shared the unemotional approach to process of Sol Lewitt, in Boyle's case with the complicity of the earth, and that makes all the difference.   

Thursday
Jan302014

Gerhard Marx: Johannesburg, 2012

Gerhard Marx, Garden Carpet: Johannesburg [1], 2013. Plant material, tissue paper with acrylic ground on canvas board, 120 x 180cm Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

Gerhard Marx, a South African artist, seems interested in the underpinnings of the commonplace, in this case the map of Johannesburg which becomes reinscribed with the surface materials of Johannesburg.  Not quite geology, more dirt, as if the gleaming towers and freeways of the modern city are just this: dirt, roots and grass, the map itself scratches on the ground.

Gerhard Marx, Garden Carpet: Johannesburg, detail. Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

Tuesday
Jan282014

Rodney Place: art and revolution, 2012

Brett Murray The Struggle, 2010 Silkscreen 100 x 70cm Edition of 22. Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

Something to think about: the artist, after the revolution.  We are so distant here in this snow-muffled northern country, the end of apartheid so abstracted, that Mandela's gracious processes of reconciliation have effectively buried the bodies.  

However, on the ground in South Africa the revolution continues to play itself out.  It was announced today that Mamphela Ramphele has become the head of the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition to Jacob Zuma's ANC, which is perhaps a different animal than the ANC of the struggle.  Ramphele was Steve Biko's partner, her cred is enormous, as an activist and as a now wealthy mining executive, doctor and World Bank director.  

Rodney Place in a 2012 essay about the place of the artist in post-revolutionary times, speaks about the relativism of the word 'freedom'.  In the balance between control, as seen in the limits of how and how much the artist can speak, and actual freedom historically charted in other revolutionary times, control has all the weight: the more weighty the control, the more rapier-like the tiny artist must be.  But only if the artists are up to it, and for this, they must be uncorruptable, immune to such things as  fame, market, comfort and the refuge of apoliticism.  Ha.  

The occasion of this essay was Brett Murray's 2012 exhibition in Cape Town, Hail to the Thief II, a collection of vicious satirical pieces that rant on the venality of current South African political culture.  The exhibition evidently was the site of public protests against such a critique, and it was to this that Place's essay responds.  

Revolutions betrayed are tragic, no less so in South Africa than in North Africa and the Middle East.  The Arab Spring has turned into a geography of proxy war on a dozen fronts.  Rodney Place excoriates artists who, as he says,  'want revolutions but we usually prefer being left alone to make art.'  Can art be the gun?  A romantic idea; when it happens it reveals polarities covered by other more pervasive mythologies. 

Thursday
Jan232014

more flight paths

Murder of Crows from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

Dennis Hlynsky, who teaches at RISD, has a number of these small films on his website. His post, 'murmuration of starlings' outlines how he does it all technically.
After watching these videos for a while you start to recognise slow hops from wire to wire and swift flashes across the sky.  Presumably each trail is visible for the same time in these films – clearly some birds are lazy little laggards. Or maybe just tired.

data in data out from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

Wednesday
Jan222014

un autre monde, 2014

Flight data provided by FlightStats

This is an interactive site about 100 years of aviation.  Click on the image to go to the whole site: there are various pages, graphs, historic photos and projections, but the most magical is the world shining with route paths. 

Tuesday
Jan212014

Le monde au temps des surrealistes, 1929

Variétés - Le Surréalisme en 1929 Print, Illustrated book, photomechanical reproduction, letterpress 25.2 h x 17.8 w cm National Gallery of Australia

'Le monde au temps des surrealistes', published by Breton in 1929 to show the parts of the world important to the surrealists: the places, named by country, tend to be those with aboriginal art, the operative word being original.  Thus Europe, the United States, sites of a kind of universal western culture and product, do not figure.  

Jean Claire, in an essay on surrealist anti-materialism and non-western art, mentions the universalising tendencies in Europe at the time: the rise of Hitler's Volk, the appeal to Italian nationalism.  Politically the surrealists worked against synthesis, coordination, cultural coherence; masks and arcane rituals appealed precisely because they didn't understand them — they couldn't be appropriated by bourgeois culture.  

This is an 80-year old anti-globalisation map.  It is also the opposite of anthropology that seeks to understand the non-Western world.  The surrealists did not want to understand other cultures, it was important that there were other cultures. Can that be said, eighty years on?  As a child, David Bailey had read about Nagaland – a very obscure part of India on the Burmese border, and had always wanted to go there.  He went, eventually, in 2012 and found kids with iPhones and jeans and the elders living a thousand-year old life in their heads: when they go, it will go too.

Look up Naga people on wikipedia, one finds a struggle for statehood, a desire for autonomy, the predictable results of colonisation – that insistence that all peoples come under some central authority that they then have to spend much blood and many years to undo.  The surrealist map of the world isn't an exercise in sentimental preservation of innocent cultures, rather it can be seen as a map of the post-WWI periphery.  The south consists of islands and archipelagoes: a metaphor, contradictory, for the surrealist movement itself. 

Monday
Jan202014

Paul Nash: Wittenham Clumps, 1943-4

Paul Nash. Wittenham Clumps, 1943-4. oil and pencil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 29 3/4 inches. Tate T04157

The Tate catalogue entry says this sketch is one of Nash's rare unfinished paintings that he saved, then goes on to point out what it wrong with it: the curved shape in the centre is too large for the sun or moon, too precise for a cloud, probably the beginning of a parachute; abandoned as unsatisfactory.  But he didn't paint over it, so it must have said something to him worth retaining.  

The trees on the top of the hill he had painted in 1914, revisiting it in the mid-thirties and again in the mid-forties.  The trees sit like a fort on the rise, or pillboxes, or gun emplacements: this was the middle of the war. Was it possible to view a landscape after two wars as anything but strategic terrain? Was this painting left unfinished as the curved shape had entered the painting as an unwelcome visitor?  Nash was a surrealist: the curved shape doesn't have to be anything other than some harbinger of dread.  Perhaps he couldn't go on with it.

It reminds me of Man Ray's Observatory Time, a painting done in the 1930s where Lee MIller's lips float in a mackerel sky, and used here in 1936 in a photocollage of nude and chessboard.  There were no rules, however lots of people still try to tell us what things 'represent'.  They represent nothing accessible, but they do tell us things.

Man Ray. Observatory Time: The Lovers, 1936Very curiously, Paul Nash has come my way twice recently.  One contributor to On Site review 31: cartography + photography, Robin Wilson, found us through a post I'd done on Nash (the surrealism of ordinary things) in 2010, and Will Craig is writing a piece on the contradictions of modernism and nationalism as found in Paul Nash's work.  The time must be right to look at Nash again. 

Friday
Jan172014

Wang Shu: Geometry and Nature, 2011

Wang Shu's lecture when he was Harvard's GSD Kenzo Tange Professor in 2011.  Almost two hours, it shows the difference between someone who is deeply embedded in a culture with a thousand-year old relationship between landscape and occupation, and our immigrant multiculturalism, dislocated from any sort of visceral understanding of either the past or landscape, and easily captured by ephemera.  

Clearly he is distressed by the last twenty years of extreme development in China; traditionally there were no architects and planners, just builders within a system of landscape and landscape interpretation by poets and scholars.  It explains Wang Shu's practice completely: he is not an architect, he is Chinese. 

Thursday
Jan162014

Wang Shu: Ningbo History Museum, 2008

Wang Shu, Ningbo History Museum, Ningbo, China, 2008. Photographer: Fernando Guerra, Project 679, FG+SG fotografia de arquitectura

Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio, Hangzhou, Zhejiang.  When most of China seems to be the playground of capitalist architectural excess: an excess of ambition and money, the new China seemingly free of inhibiting content, we have Wang Shu, whose statement of intent on his website reads:

I design a house instead of a building. The house is the amateur architecture approach to the infinitely spontaneous order.
Built spontaneously, illegally and temporarily, amateur architecture is equal to professional architecture. But amateur architecture is just not significant.

One problem of professional architecture is, that it thinks too much of a building. A house, which is close to our simple and trivial life, is more fundamental than architecture. Before becoming an architect, I was only a literati. Architecture is part time work to me. For one place, humanity is more important than architecture while simple handicraft is more important than technology.
The attitude of amateur architecture, - though first of all being an attitude towards a critical experimental building process -, can have more entire and fundamental meaning than professional architecture. For me, any building activity without comprehensive thoughtfulness will be insignificant.


Ningbo History Museum is built from tiles, brick, concrete and stone, salvaged from other buildings, sites of collapse, rubble: each piece comes with a fragment of history and unrepeatable form, giving an elasticity to its use: fit is unpredictable but follows very old techniques.  There is a patience both to assembly and to the concept as a whole: the building evolves from its materials.  

When one thinks that the Great Leap Forward only happened in 1958, the Cultural Revolution  in 1966 and the economic reforms in 1978, it is possible that Wang Shu is reclaiming China's deep past — not historicism, but a sophisticated historical thinking.  

Wang Shu, Ningbo History Museum, Ningbo, China, 2008. Photographer: Fernando Guerra, Project 679, FG+SG fotografia de arquitectura

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