//SCI ARC discussion: 'beyond the product'

Final Presentation and Discussion, studio 4A @ Sci Arc, fall 2002

assistance: Takeshi Miura

invited guests: Herwig Baumgartner, Benjamin Bratton, Hernan Diaz-Alonso, Gudrun Hausegger, Sherry Hoffman, Dora Epstein, Thom Mayne, Lucas Rios Giordano, Michael Speaks, Susanne Zottl

It appears that part of the contemporary task profile of young architectural firms includes developing design strategies for retail facilities. Lately Architecture has been very successfully employed in constructing manifestations of commercial interest which partially lead up to enhancing certain marketing strategies of various kinds. Especially young architects have to come to terms with what role they want to play in this: are they willing to accept mostly commercially driven program as a basis for their design proposal – or do they seek to become intelligent, consulting designers discussing semi commercial, `extended ´ programming of space as much as innovative design strategies addressing subject matters reaching beyond the successful marketing of a product. The later obviously still caries some interest in understanding architecture as a means of culturally informed, socially engaged and community oriented implementation of space in the city- especially in a time in which nation based societies (like wise urban communities) seem to increasingly give up dimensions of particularity and coherence. Opposed to problem-solving oriented thinking by developing innovative design strategies more complex, program oriented design tasks can be actually addressed.

//SCI ARC workshop: 'minding the gap'

in cooperation with Angelika Fitz (Oct. 14th-25th `02)

In this (Post)Postmodern Area we often encounter two contrary narratives: one is focusing on “difference”, on different particularistic identities, on community politics which are based on cultural or sexual or other differences. The second narrative is connected to the vision of the global, to the diagnosis of an increasing sameness, to the hybrid. These two narratives are obviously interdependent. How can we relate these two narratives? How can we learn from this relation? How can we develop strategies to make this relation productive? How can we relate these parameters to our task?

Basic parameters from different “theories of difference” such as system theory (Niklas Luhmann) and deconstructivist political theories (Ernesto Laclau, Toni Negri) will show that we can only be socially active and politically effective after having drawn a distinction. Only conscious and clear operations of distinction, which are drawn after having made solid analyses, will allow us to enter a hybridism which can then become productive. First we need a terrain which we can transgress, trespass to become innovative (or even to become pirates or parasites if we want so).

An understanding of the political, social, economical, philosophical, esthetical value of the operation “drawing a distinction” will allow us to re-position the already existing blueprints of different store facilities and to re-configure programmes, typologies, placements, target groups, community politics, formal languages, urban strategies …

This will also allow us to understand new concepts of “the subject” and of “agency” which would be possible or even necessary for producers and consumers in our time - an era where a net-worked and highly media based Economy seems to have penetrated every sphere of our live, where it’s impossible to re-located ourselves outside the “Global Empire”. Following some arguments of Toni Negri and others we will learn that exactly this state of late Capitalism will allow for new innovative strategies. Analysing some recent changes in the consumption as well as the production sphere we will discuss settings, challenges and new opportunities for “the young, creative agents” in this time.

Re-Constructing the Consumer: From Citizen to Consumer

Today many studies refer to the transformation of former “citizens” into “consumers”. Before we can fully explore the impact of this transformation and the different consumer identities which arise upon this change, we have to understand what the term “citizen” has meant.

The first part of this session will therefore discuss different models of “the citizen” which have been developed during Modernity in the last couple of hundred years and which are still very much effective today. This analysis will reveal the ongoing battle of two alternative concepts of individualism: the control model versus the revolutionary model. Even within the so called Postmodern Age these two antagonistic sides of Modernity are still fighting each other. This analysis will help to understand the different constructions of “the consumer” and “the consumer world” today.

Task: Presentation and discussion of the different `consumer profiles` related to the different projects in progress

Material: films
Harun Farocki, “The Creators of the Shopping Worlds”
Paul Anderson, “Shopping”

Toni Negri and Michael Hardt, “Empire”
Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping

Re-Constructing Agency – Signifying Failures

The aim of this session is to elaborate why drawing a distinction is utmost important!
Why it’s not productive to say that everyone is a consumer all the time, that everything is consumption Why it’s important to draw a theoretical distinction while analysing and planning a project.
The operation of drawing a distinction is not banal, but the most important operation to produce meaning, create function, create communication, make politics.
Drawing a distinction is not limited to any operations with specific characteristics such as being moral or economical or esthetical…. We are talking about all kinds of decisions. This sessions tries to apply the social, economical, cultural impact of our theoretical approach (“Minding the Gap”) within the task of conceptualising a store facility. Which decisions will lead to a functioning entity and still allow the unforeseen to enter?

Positioning of the shop concepts in their social fields and the operational logic of these fields. Constructing and positioning of the innovative / the hybrid / the extended programmatic dimensions