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Curated conversations with contemporary critics on architecture, and architectural thinking.

Hosted by Vikram Prakash, Professor of Architecture, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.
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Jan 30, 2019

“We have to not take things as given, but rather tap into [our] own imaginaries, into [our] own yearnings, and longings, as an alternative world.”


Today we discuss the potential of architecture as the work of the perennially unfinished project, as a site for transgression, as the other to utopia and fundamentalism. Nicole Huber is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Washington. Discussion topics include: Fiction making, post-critical architecture, Tarkovsky and science fiction, surrealism and design thinking.


Timestamp Outline


1:45 Architecture as fiction-making and imagining alternative worlds through storytelling

3:58 Oscar Niemeyer's French Communist Party Headquarters and Solaris by Tarkovsky: “a dreamworld of futurist past”

5:32 “It was a sense that the key to architecture is the imaginary, is then the relation to narrative, to stories, and the yearning that is related to that storytelling.”

6:18 The post-critical turn in architectural education in the 2000s and relationship to economic cycles.

9:04 Urbanizing the Mojave Desert: Las Vegas by Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern

11:37 Architecture and Fiction Syllabus: Mad Max: Fury Road, Blade Runner, Paris, Texas. The Road, Chinatown, Get Out, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Party, Playtime

13:03 Mad Max: Fury Road contemporary pop culture and paradise lost of the green “land of the many mothers

14:10 Western as a genre, manifest destiny, and the uncanny: Sergio Leone, Sholay and the relationship between Westerns, Spaghetti Western, and Chapati western

16:49 Women as the carriers of seeds in Mad Max

19:23 Dreams of Modernity, turned to nightmares: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson; rationalization and efficiency: the Holocaust; science and technology: Nagasaki

20:51 “We have to...not take things as given, but rather to tap into [our] own imaginaries, into [our] own yearnings, and longings, as an alternative world.”

21:47 Black Panther and futurisms that impact the here and now

22:25 Bruno Taut and Glass Chain members as fundamentalist utopians in post-WWI Germany: expressionist drawings of utopias

24:22 Le Corbusier and the dangers of concrete utopias

24:40 Turn to transgression: process of thinking to transgress

25:28 “Always attracted by the provisional!”

26:46 Radiologist parents: diagnosis vs design as open-ended

28:36 Libeskind and Scarpa processes

28:51 Ernst Bloch, The Principles of Hope

30:28 “The present is always pregnant with the not-yet,” and a yearning impulse vs a Freudian lack

31:50 Slavoj Žižek and reality as an incomplete process of the “not-yet”

32:52 Architecture as this “not-yet” process

33:04 Berlin’s sister city Los Angeles as anti-utopia (continuously changing) and the theories of Edward Soja, Mike Davis, and Michael Dear

35:44 Alternative narratives in Seattle: colonialism, Gold Rush, and the Duwamish

37:14 Futurisms as counter-narratives: Afrofuturism, Shanghai Futurism, Indigenous Futurism, Black Mirror, digital algorithms and big data as colonialism

40:55 Andy Everson, Star Wars narrative and indigenous storytelling.

41:09 Google Smart cities: SidewalkLabs in Toronto

41:55 Henri LeFebvre: Right to the city and transgression in lived space

43:04 Transgression within the digital future

44:16 Surrealism today: Marina Abramovic, Alexander McQueen, Wangechi Mutu, Jean-Michel Basquiat

46:14 Rethink time as a simultaneity of past-present-future: Looper

48:44 “It’s a search, it’s an inquiry”: architecture as an ongoing conversation