western assimilation**

**eastward movement is included



what a week.

first graphic design / diagramming class with michael rock and yoonjai choi. lesson learned = it is just paper. funny how a white 8" x 8" box can turn you timid.

our first seminar with bernard tschumi is delayed until next wednesday.

for our third publications seminar we had the pleasure of seeing several pieces Avery's rare books collection, including several original lithographs by corbusier. an original print of Le Poeme de l'Angle Droit pretty much stole the show.

the BIM seminar is luckily a group project. finally learning revit. our team is recreating/rethinking an built project, which will likely result in some ugly hybrid version of an office dA slash SHoP project.

finally, studio with shohei is cruising. researching post-crisis situations and natural disasters. one more week of research, and then we move into architectural research. on february 28th we leave for the dominican republic and cuba to see our site and visit the client.

also, there's a draft with images from last semester sitting in my box that needs publishing. hopefully this weekend i'll get around to posting it.



my project finally has a name, and it only took me three and a half months to get here.

the institute of projected citizenship: a spatial declaration of political equality.

with this speculative project abuja could have its first critical infrastructure in the city. more to come soon.


a pause.

For a moment, a digression.

Recently in his seminar about the visible and invisible, Safran brought up Steven Holl's design for the Knut Hamsen Center in Hamarøy, Norway. Holl's argument is that it is "The building as a body, a battleground of invisible forces." The idea is that these forces are nonexistent because they exist in the mind, and only upon entering this building do they become spatial. The unique magic of this building lies in its capacity to make these forces, which may not actually exist at all, become real to those inside. An excerpt from Erik Fenstrad Langdalen's article in Hamsun Holl Hamarøy :

New, unexpected phenomena occur, impossible anywhere else, than in the real world: the sun is reflected in the elevator shaft, creating shapes on the wall that resemble northern lights; the windows frame unfamiliar fragments of the view, and there are new perspectives through the spaces that one could have imagined. ... A remarkable relationship building and its terrain has occurred. Contrary to what one might have expected, the building has not adjusted to the surrounding elements: the scenery, the view, the sun, the site, and the visitors. In fact, they are all props in the building's grand performance. The tower with its magic powers imbues fragments of the surroundings with new meaning viewed through this telescope, which inscribes them in Hamsun's universe.

I remain seduced by the notion of creating spaces that are imbued with this sort of a poetic narrative. It is one of the fundamental ideas that brought me to graduate school in the first place; my belief that building, as an act, is by its definition an act of optimism. Of course, Holl's narratives are completely self-indulgent, but what is more important is their intent to elevate the soul and cast light upon the invisible components that make us human.

I do not think this is a departure from the issues I am addressing in studio this semester. My reading of Abuja is that it is a visual landscape - an amalgamate of images and visual cues, whose collective endeavor is to project national power, stability, and coherence through a highly choreographed urban sequence. These issues are guiding the project down a road that I had not anticipated, which is forcing the project to evolve into reinterpretation of Nigerian culture, and how it is manifest through sequence, staging, and narrative. Of course these ideas, like Abuja itself, require a neutral territory in which they can be exchanged with others. The true test will be how I develop my process of exploring these ideas. In other words, until I test new modes of representation beyond pencil, paper, chipboard, and so forth, I will have gained very little from this project. In other words, my objective is to discover a project, rather than imagine one.

Unfortunately there is a gulf between concept and reality, which is often commonplace in a situation where the nation still struggles with its own identity. Abuja has fallen off track into a landscape of discontinuity and confusion. Unfortunately the only truly coherent part of Abuja is the terminus of this urban sequence, the Three Arms Zone, or the area that houses the Presidential Villa, The Supreme Court, and the National Assembly Building ( Congress ). The question becomes what to create that is the counterpart to this reality. More on this later.


the decorated shed meets tron.

aside from examining the urban conditions of nigeria's two major cities, one of the key subjects of debate within this studio is how nigeria copes with neoliberalism and how it will shape nigeria's future. the central concepts are global currencies, free trade, direct foreign investment and financial markets. why is this discussion crucial in the overall critique of nigeria? because the concept that is missing is sovereign nations.

neoliberalism was popularized after the two world wars and the great depression for its conceptual framework of financial governance, which would make the people of the world interdependent. these new relationships would potentially render the national rivalries ossified by these conflicts obsolete. according to david westbrook in his book, city of gold: an apology for global capitalism in a time of discontent, the tools of the transformation were complex monetary treaties, deliberately impenetrable to all, except for specialists. the result, after thirty years of back-channel deals and shadowy agreements is a reckless community of bankers, brokers, corporations, regulators and private investors, equipped with the latest communicative devices allowing them to exercise control over the outcome of world affairs by decisions that make them money. this is the "city of gold" that westbrook defines in his book.

what's interesting to me about these systems is their relentless strength. when one considers the innumerable moving parts that are shaping nigeria's identity, neoliberal principles have claimed ownership of the discussion of how nigeria evolves economically, culturally, and politically. obviously nigeria's history of military and tribal conflict have given them every reason to develop a troubled relationship with their past, but the instinct of the state and the nigerian people to further distance themselves from themselves is only magnified by the global financial machine. nigeria's problem isn't the lack of production/distribution of food, resources and energy. instead, the issue is the production of imagery that generates a narrative that actually highlights the disjunction between reality and fiction.

my objective is to identify what is missing.

other thoughts/notes as a result of last wednesday's midreview :

- this research seems to be about control: what to control, and where to relinquish this control, therefore the programmatic agenda can be based on design controls.
- this can become more lucid once i am able to state the problem, and explain what it is, in detail, in my own terms.
- what becomes the threshold between the real and the unreal? media? image? silence? does this become a white space that is activated by some form of discourse? what sort of interaction can it generate? does it necessarily need to be positive? can it be activated by conflict, given the context?
- the nigerian state want to cleanse themselves their past, but what does the rest of the nation prefer? do they have the same degree of memory loss?
- what happens on a site may not make sense on a map, and these events may not be necessarily mappable in the first place. what is mappable may not want to be mapped.
- this requires a new technique of mapping.
- this mapping can endeavor to bring something to the surface - does it give the missing urban and cultural components visibility?
- this could be a collection of spaces where this conflict can play itself out.
- movement. time. identity.
- Stages : what stages are absent? what stages are missing? what stages are no longer necessary in the choreography and creation of the artificial city?

- precedents: Learning From Las Vegas, Lagos Wide & Close, Kevin Lynch's Image of the City, Archigram's Instant City, etc.



the theme today is could be about nothing other than in-between-ness. the semester is officially halfway over. i'm halfway through my graduate program. my projects tend to drift into an exploration of the spaces between spaces. i feel half awake. it's time to take a step back to unpack all of that.

[ surface, screen, structure ]

our mid-review is next week. so far we have had numerous site visits - the building in soho that we are designing our screening system for, Mayola, which is a fabrication shop about 2 hours east of the city on long island, and last week we visited FACE fabrication + design, which is a smaller outfit in williamsburg. the design has evolved from a screening device that attempted to generate a dynamic image from the shadows the screen cast on itself to a more elaborate, interlocking system that is more concerned with how it creates an image itself. our instructor is pushing the class very hard, and it has developed into a second studio. my objective was to acquire greater proficiency in grasshopper and solidworks, but it's been more of a struggle than i had anticipated. regardless, there's still plenty of time to do learn.

[ swarm intelligence ]

this is the probably the most difficult class i've ever taken. the root of the difficulty is coming to terms with the disjunction between my ability to conceptualize an idea and how to excecute it. because we are scripting the behavior of these agents rather than using drafting tools, paper and trace, i have essentially received what i asked for - discomfort. i didn't come to columbia to learn what i already knew. i wanted to test my open-mindedness, and right now i'm getting a dose of that by the bowlful. nevertheless, i have to continually remind myself that i will emerge from this class with a greater understanding of another design technique.

[ 12 dialogical / poetic strategies ]

the topics and readings are familiar and foreign at the same time. most of us have a passing familiarity with several of the authors and philosophers ( calvino, proust, heidegger, burke, freud, tafuri, and so forth ) as well as the topics covered ( gravity and grace, exile, lightness, the sublime, iorny, etc. ) but no where near the amount of depth exhibited by yehuda.

a portion of the discussion this morning was centered around the artificiality of architecture and what consciousness is. perception vs. knowledge. husserl's concept of the the absolute beginner was especially interesting - that the ultimate technique for a radical transformation of both self and world is to consciously assume the role as a complete outsider. in other words, radicality is at the root of any genuine philosophical activity. other notes: first philosophy, second philosophy (metaphysics in the cartesian sense), the irrational fact of the rationality of the world, transcendental subjectivty, and others. how to package these ideas and translate them into something useful is still up for debate.

[ studio ]

the feedback we received from our projects on wednesday was tremendous. the panel was lucid and insightful. of course they were brilliant, but i suspect the amount of feedback was in direct proportion to the amount of research our studio had presented. in other words, i cannot imagine anyone else in the world having such a precise focus on abuja & lagos. probably an exaggeration, but its fun to imagine that our perspective is that interesting.

in my last post i expressed frustration that i had a vague understanding of what abuja is like on the ground. looking at google earth maps, promotional maps issued by the government to tourists and businessmen, and historical maps of western africa can only describe so much, especially when maps of these sorts are surprisingly conceptual. youtube videos have been a useful tool in more clearly understanding abuja's identity up close, but they still have limits. because of this i chose to accept these parameters and think about abuja as a simulated landscape, where images are projections and the city is understood through its effects.

i can place the first moment i discovered an academic curiosity in artificiality. it was in a class i took at kansas state taught by david seamon. seamon's research was largely about urban spaces, cities, and their functionality. the subtext of this class was significantly more phenomenological, and my and papers and discussion clumsily attempted to decode what these concepts of the synthetic and the authentic actually meant to me. place and placelessness were two themes that have always resonated for one reason or another, but i've determined that these concepts remain in my scope of interest. the only change is the context.
testing these ideas further within the context of abuja is exciting for so many reasons. because abuja was conceived as a built solution to nigeria's reputation of wars, coups, and continual ethnic tensions, it is the ideal laboratory to examine how a state grapples with its own identity and how it synthesizes these ideas architecturally. in other words, abuja's built landscape refers to its own past by avoiding a confrontation with it. an authentic recognition of itself, at least from the eyes of a white midwestern-born neophyte academic, would require that nigeria mobilize efforts to highlight and expose the past rather than erase it. on the other hand, this suggestion is rooted in a desire to reveal the truth and unpack its meaning. perhaps this is an approach that's completely wrong within this context, and an alternative must be explored.

nigeria's objective is to appeal to a different audience, and therefore it is performing for a different audience. because lagos and abuja are umbilically tied abuja has to work that much harder to distinguish itself from the narrative of chaos that lagos is assumed to contain. this audience is global, it is wealthy, and it is powerful. this audience wants to invest in cities / nations whose infrastructure is reliable and functional. this audience wants to work with a government that is competent and stable. this audience wants to be entertained and is accustomed to a certain degree of luxury and comfort.

so many more thoughts to elaborate on, which i need to spend more time ruminating over. a new post is already being drafted.



notes from the quarter review friday :

the city of abuja is not imaginary, but it has been imagined. it is a city that is a fulfillment of a bold urban prophecy, and one that endeavors to rescue nigeria from its own virulent identity. the members of the panel that gathered in the late 70's to re-imagine and re-configure the nigerian state intended to create a new capital that was, in effect, a direct response and direct solution to lagos. while this sounds like an oversimplification it remains an idea that is central to my reading of the city; abuja is a contemporary representation of staged power. the architecture of the city and composition of its components is overflowing with gratuitous symbolism, so much in fact that i'm actually willing to consider letting this serve as the guiding principle for the rest of the semester.

the masterplan and the accompanying images and models are artifacts that illustrate the grandiloquence of both the governmental panel and kenzo tange.

i want to understand how the strength of the state can be manifest not through that which man has built. however, the images of the city are conspicuously devoid of human life and activity. similar to some of the paintings by giorgio de chirico, the built landscape is so overwhelming that there is no longer room for man to exist. what's more, these images are simply images. they are not representative of any adjustments to governmental policy or law. instead, they are intended to serve as an instrument of inspiration, as though the city might one day live up to these grand expectations of a nigerian global city can be.

it's also completely fascinating how centrality plays such a significant role in establishing power. i have been studying the panopticon, which is a concept created by jeremy bentham and further analyzed by foucault. the basic principle is that centrality and power are inextricably linked. this is especially effective when used in prisons, where the periphery (the soldiers) are under constant watch by the guard at the center ... or are they? the idea is that the prisoners could presumably adjust their behavior, not because they are being watched but because there is the possibility that they are under surveillance. the nigerian capital being moved from lagos in the south to the "neutral" territory (it's actually not that neutral) of the central plains is a gesture too closely related to be ignored. more on this later.

these images of the city play a role in myth-making. they are intended to serve as unifying devices, and to fulfill the notion that post-civil war nigeria wants to be rest of solid ground, to be unified, and to be a stable nation that is appealing to global markets.

what i also find interesting is nigeria's inability to escape the principles imposed by the original british colonists. while lagos is a wasteland of density, chaos, and filth, abuja used traditional principles of the british picturesque as guidelines for how it could rest side-by-side with the landscape. in other words, the city planners (either willfully or unintentionally, who really knows) utilized the principles that were generously bequeathed (forced upon?) to them hundreds of years ago. what's more, this brings of many questions about whether nigeria is actually in a post-colonial state or it is simply recycling the ideas of the past.

the objective now is to figure out what to do with what i've found. it seems both vague and precise, aimless and direct, superficial and meaningful, all simultaneously. more experiments are necessary, and i suspect i need to spend a significant amount of time accumulating more information of what is occurring on the ground. is there more precise information about the infrastructure that could serve as an inspirational device? is there something very specific about the way information is disseminated by the people that resist the heavy hand of the state?

i feel as though i have almost no clue what the city is actually like. in other words, all of these images of the city seem to be synthetic, fraudulent, and topheavy. the obvious question is, what is abuja really like? are the images dreamt up by tange and the rest of the team the real abuja, or is abuja actually the spontaneous peripheral settlements that the state has gone to great lengths to regulate and sometimes even demolish? i suspect the strangeness will continue to present itself as i continue to dig.

more on other classes later. for now, i must get some needed rest.


power and memory

Like any colonized territory, Nigeria has been subjected incremental reformulations of the citizens' collective memory. In other words, the past is systematically altered or erased. the objective of these interventions is to search for ways to move/look forward, while simultaneously commemorating the heritage of the nation with symbols that typically fall short of recalling anything truly authentic or accurate. what i'm really curious about is how the regular folks feel about this, and for that matter, how does it make the people making these changes feel?

For example, the original name of the place called Lagos is Isale Eko, or the town of Eko. this name allowed the citizens to claim ownership of it, and helped establish another boundary between itself and the outsiders that collected there. it was the Portuguese who applied the name Lagos after a city in portugal, where lagos is Portuguese for lagoon. dissociation and reinvention are inextricably tied.

Above all, what's most interesting and relevant to this discussion is how the Nigerian authorities conceived, planned, produced and appropriated an ideology of nationalist architecture and planning in Abuja. this approach began with the images of the master plan that were both propagandistic (probably not a word) and alluring, and has continued to this day with the demolition of self-organized settlements that have sprung up on the exterior of the city. The State is so completely self-aware of these images, and has worked extremely hard to present itself in a way that contracts the imagery and negative stigma that Lagos helped create.

in any case, i have definitely spent entirely too much time looking at the history of the city and its relationship with itself and the history of Nigeria, which has taken me away from several relevant books and articles related to food, fuel and finance. Nevertheless, I know it's not too late to use this external information to guide the project.


a schizophrenic nation.

"Speed expands time by contracting space. It negates the notion of the physical dimension."

_ Tschumi.

we are collectively swimming through a deep sea of data about the history of Nigeria. the forces that have shaped it into what it is today is both fascinating and tragic. i've managed to locate several maps, models and conceptual images of Tange's master plan for the city. they are, without question, depictions of a utopian and therefore imaginary place.

abuja officially became the new capital of nigeria in 1991, after about a decade of planning and relocating from the former nigerian capital of lagos, a self-organized cesspool of humanity and neglect that is one of the fastest growing cities on the planet. abuja is also located literally in the center of the country, a political calculation intended to locate the physical center between the Christian south anchored by Lagos and the Islamic North anchored by Kano . Upon the discovery of these details, many questions immediately presented themselves. Is Abuja a bridging device, or does Abuja divide the country in half? Is it an impartial political, cultural, and financial arbitrator or is it concerned with itself as a polemical entity? What comes at the expense of distancing the capital from the grit, chaos, and disorganization that characterized these colonial cities that are inextricably tied to the national identity of Nigeria's citizens? In other words, Abuja is a perplexing and ambitious project that's also very very strange.

When I began this research I suspected we would discover that Abuja and Lagos, despite the best efforts of the state, would have been slowly converging demographically and urbanistically. What I found was more less true - that Lagos was being incrementally stripped of the disorganization, slums, and markets that so clearly defined what it was. in fact, the fascinating markets that koolhaas examined in his documentary, lagos wide & close, have vanished. a consequence of this cleansing was that these displaced people needed someplace to go, and thousands migrated seven hours north to Abuja where they have basically recreated the chaotic urban conditions that existed before. But who is responsible for this? A valid argument is that there wasn't enough affordable and accessible infrastructure in place when they arrived, and so they had no choice but to make a life in any way they could on the outside of the city. Abuja was conceived as a necessary response to Lagos. In other words, the state knew what Abuja could not be, and so they looked for ways to reconstruct their reputation.

abuja then becomes a patchwork of old habits and glossy ambition, continually at odds with its own identity and put under pressure and precise scrutiny by the external forces (corporations) it so desires (needs?) to attract.



there are a handful of things that i have learned are impossible to escape. one of these obsessions appears to be oppositions.

now that i actually consider this idea, i have come to realize that i have been consumed by this for as long i can remember. is this by design? the problem is i have only recently been physically toying with these ideas; since around 2nd, maybe 3rd year of undergrad. that said, it would make some sense why its taken some time to come to terms with this habit of mine.

nearly every single project, no matter what the program or context, managed to transform into meandering and occasionally fruitless investigations into the strange territories of two oppositional things. projects were always about dualities, divisions, competition, boundaries, juxtaposed materials and forms, and so forth. realizing this now has me alarmed, confused, and a little surprised. on some level it makes no sense why someone would continue to unwittingly and relentlessly bang his head on the wall, agonizing over the many ways to appropriately to resolve such a simple idea through architecture. the coolest part is that i think my mind just might be trying to say something, and i've only begun to actually listen.

that said, i think i've actually had it all backwards. what's exciting about this idea, and what i've only recently begun to consider is the notion that i may have been distracted by the wrong thing. previous studies were always about the oppositional conditions, but rarely about the threshold that divided them. my hudson house design ( our final project fifth year ) is good example of a discovery that simply made sense to me, but i could not possibly explain why. of course this is not simply about number one versus number two, because things are rarely that easily contained and simplified. nevertheless, i'm beginning to wonder if the separate conditions are significantly less interesting than the boundary that stands between them. this idea, despite its simplicity and relatively obvious conceit, has me tremendously excited about the future. its applications both conceptually and materially are innumerable, and i suspect that because this is something that i obviously cannot escape, it is the territory that which i must pursue.

this is especially exciting considering its application to my current studio topic in which we will be in an ongoing discussion about lagos and its role as a global city, as well as africa's role in general, and its historically central position within the thousands of complex political, national, and economic webs that exist in the modern world. what's more, the president of nigeria is speaking at columbia on monday, which should be fascinating. needless to say, i'm beginning to ask myself - can columbia get any more exciting than this? if it does, will i be able to handle it?



this semester i'm going to once again attempt to write more spontaneously, which will hopefully create a more lucid and accurate description of what occurs here each day. the largest surprise about columbia so far is that we are incapable of maintaining focus. this is clearly by design, but this occurs almost daily; i have a conversation, a realization, or a lecture that absolutely blows me away and i want to document it here, but as soon as i leave that moment another task presents itself and i must move into another territory of thought. it didn't frustrate me until now, when i have time to think about it more (go figure).

all that said, i will make a concerted effort this fall to address this issue. this is largely a commitment to myself and is therefore largely self-indulgent, but i guess that's the point of most blogs anyhow.

[ studio ]

my instructor this semester is mabel wilson, and the title or topic is 'urban futures / future architectures.' broadly speaking, the focus will be on the african continent, but will focus most of our attention on lagos, the former capital of nigeria and one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and abuja, the high-modernist city planned by kenzo tange. we will use these two places as stages a discussion about the forces, both internal and external, that have shaped their cultural and architectural identities as well as their respective flows of operation. in other words, these two cities, like africa in general, are linked to the rest of the world through an inconceivably complex network of connections. it is our task to examine these forces and consider architectural solutions through which they can be addressed and questioned.

the initial exercises require us to trace the trail of various resources, raw materials, fuel, and finance. data mining and mapping these commodities will presumably result in new ways of understanding the complexity of their formulation, providing us with tools to utilize later in the semester. my resource? milk.

[ swarm intelligence ]

this is one of the two visual studies classes i'll be taking this semester, and it is basically a scripting course taught by roland snooks, partner and design director of his studio, kokkugia. the software we are using is called processing. this is completely unfamiliar territory for me, seeing as the closest thing i've experienced to scripting is actionscript 3 in flash. i've decided this is the semester of discomfort and unfamiliarity, so this is basically where i belong. i'm hoping that learning this software and understanding a new language technique will be more useful and interesting than learning maya or taking a risk on a utilitarian but forgettable rendering class.

[ 12 dialogical / poetic strategies ]

taught by yehuda safran. i missed the first class because i was enrolled for another, but i switched out because it wasn't exactly what i wanted. hopefully this class will blow my mind / knock my socks off.

[ surface, screen, structure ]

this is a technical seminar that i elected to take at the last minute as well. we will basically be working in teams, designing and fabricating our own sun screening devices. we'll be using sheet metal to create prototypes, which is something i've fantasized about for some time now. i'm really looking forward to aggressively looking at these new softwares to cleverly fabricate actual screening elements. most of us aren't as familiar with the software, so working in teams should be worthwhile.


that's all for now. it doesn't sound like much, but the workload will be robust, diverse, and beyond overwhelming - which is the way it should be, i suppose. now i must rest for a sss team-meeting in the morning. conceptual proposal is due by six tomorrow before class, and then i have a presentation on friday for studio.

About _

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New York, New York, United States
I take myself too seriously most of the time and I am trying to do that less. I remind some people of Woody Allen. I occationally indulge in the weekend camping trip. I adamantly support the Kansas City Royals baseball club. My identity is wrapped up in a few simple things, most of which are continuously displayed on this here blog.

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