Sunday, June 25, 2006

Transformation and Recuperation

Herzog says of 40 Bond Street:

"We like radical positions and we try to offer them. The idea of gates came to us first. It gave us a signature, a scale and an individuality. The gates introduce the scale of the townhouses. The question was what kind of structure or grid or image would they have on them. We tested different things and most of them looked too traditional but we then came up with the idea of something very chaotic which we thought could be seen as coming from urban street culture, where graffiti is part of the landscape. So we took graffiti and manipulated it on the computer, the result is radical but it was a classical process of transformation."

also from the 40 Bond site:

The extraordinary building began with a copied sample of the work of an anonymous human hand, a “wild style” script created on the fly with the magic marker, and transformed it into a building for the ages.

Transformation is the essence of Herzog & de Meuron’s aesthetic and process. In 40 Bond Street they have created a building that draws tremendous energy and form from its surrounding buildings and even the environment of the street, transforming not just our ideas of a residential building, but how we live.

See also; Wikipedia on Recuperation:

Recuperation, in the sociological sense (first proposed by Guy Debord and the Situationist movement), is the process by which "radical" ideas and images are commodified and incorporated within mainstream society.

To tie it together in a way that's a little more explicit, Anne writes:

I don't understand why user appropriation of technology is considered some sort of final step in technological production. And I don't understand why citizen appropriation of public space should be assumed to be some sort of final stage of urbanism either.

So if graffiti is seen as a classically Lefebvrian user production of space through reuse, then how is H&deM's re-reappropriation any different? Maybe it's just part of a cycle that all cultural production goes through. Ferdinand de Saussure, inarguably the founder of 20th century linguistics, always wondered why languages change and drift in the first place. Seen in this way, this process of production, reuse, and commodification could be the mechanism of change in all systems of content/expression: raw, abstract formalism that then gets metabolized in alternating cycles of radicalization and normalizing. Meaning is produced, changed, and wrung out until the ultimate death of expression as cliche. But by then the edge has moved on anyway, just to avoid being eaten: language changes because we always need new ways to say the same things.

How long until these gates get hit by acid or throwies?


Anonymous said...

interesting, although I think the last line misses the mark. For one the throwies are 98% media virus, 2% actual graf, while the kids out there with the acid are doing the real thing. Both only work on very particular surfaces anyway, so there is a good chance the trendy stuff is irrelevant. The real question then is what happens when it gets hit with the good old fashioned spray paint and superpermanent ink?

Anonymous said...

although I should ad/confess that NY's latest gated community is the first of the architected residences to actually make me wish I was superrich enough to afford to get in. Wonder how the actual buildings are going to stand up to the website and storefront though?

sevensixfive said...

You're probably right about the overspecificity of throwies and acid, I'm just trying to think of some techniques that are taking a graffiti thing 'to the adjacent level', now that the formal elements have been digested.

I think they look great, but those gates will get hit, and hard. Who's gonna step up to be first to go over H&deM?

Another less acknowledged graf/architecture tie-in that comes to mind is Zaha's work, I love her stuff, but she's been biting for almost two decades w/o giving credit.