[Dec 1, 2014] Constancy of Change
Lately we have been thinking about the scale of development, in response to an image we saw of an anonymous project - we use anonymous here because it could actually be any number of projects, same in their ambition and execution, that are a means of mimicry of open-system evolutionary developments of cities over the last 5000 years.
Barry Bergdoll in his introduction to Small Scale Big Change, indicates that large scale development has been a means of affecting social and political outcomes as much as structuring architectural form. It rapidly ascended with modernism. Furthermore, he indicates a reactionary counter-culture as follows:
"Critiques of the modernist dream of remaking the world arguably began with demands for more attention to individual needs rather than simply planning for abstract social groups, and were soon followed by pressing calls to respond to the ecological and demographic crises that gained force in the late 1960's and early 1970's."
It got us thinking that no single architect, or team of architects for that matter, should be in charge of dictating structure and form beyond some seminal scale. In short, the scale of development has increased beyond a threshold of human accessibility. Architects can not, and should not, try to impose these scales upon us. Whether it be Yamasaki's Pruitt-Igoe or Schumacher's London Docklands, the scale of architectural intervention has exceeded, and is thus counter-intuitive to, the inherent characteristics of a city as an amalgamation of interconnected but independent parts. As such, 'situations are improved not be eraicating what already exists,' but through selective and responsive execution at the scale of individuals. I think back to Moholy-Nagy's description of a city in Matrix of Man:
"Most decisive of all cities, like mankind, renew themselves unit by unit in a slow time-bound metabolic process. The constancy of urban change derives its dynamism from an externally evolving imagination kindled by the coexistence of past and present."
Perhaps it is time to reengage this statement critically, insofar as the scope of architecture, and the quantities of inhabitants impacted, far outstretches the capabilities of a single architect (or group of architects). Like Moholy-Nagy indicates, cities operate differently than architecture, its qualities are inherently different and should not be treated the same. Architecture of scale unfold and mutate slowly through time. It is not a singular scale frozen in time, given its 'dynamism' through curving forms nor false facades. As Bergdoll also notes, change is incremental and constant.