**eastward movement is included


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.

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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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