I recently stumbled across a periodical titled The Architecture Journal. The title, though, could be construed as misleading. Instead of content about buildings, materials, and cities, it spoke of software, business, and information. The Architecture Journal is, indeed, a publication about “information architecture” sponsored by none other than that great behemoth of the digital world, Microsoft. Information architecture is a term coined by former (I am tempted to insert the adjective “real” here) architect Richard Saul Wurman, who is also noted for creating the TED Conferences and has is involved with the Design Futures Council.
Mr. Wurman re-living his first TED talk, on an alternative way to peel a banana. Photo by Jeremy Edmunds.
Mr. Wurman coined the term information architecture in 1976 as a response to the explosion of ill-organized information in that era. Proclaiming the need for a systemic design in the organization and presentation of data, he developed the Access Travel Guides as a manifestation of what defined information architecture. The Access Travel Guides were something of the ancestors to the contemporary “infographic.” The Architecture Journal, on the other hand, moves even further into contemporary technology, aligning itself with the information architecture definition prevalent within information technology circles — that of the system design of networked computers.
Cover of The Architecture Journal Issue 15: “The Role of an Architect.”
It is interesting how close the metaphor of architecture defines the work that an information architect does and the processes by which he or she operates. There is even an issue of The Architecture Journal that is titled “The Role of an Architect,” a title that is eerily apt for the debates that are raging within the discipline of architecture. One begins to wonder what the definition of architecture is — can it be extended and simplified to the extent of vague “systems design”? Is there anything innate about buildings to architecture? Or, in other words, perhaps not all architecture is architecture, though all of architecture is architecture.
Once again, in the end, all we are left with is metaphor.
I have to apologize for the infrequency of posts — one whole month went by without a single post! I suppose I was a bit burnt out after the school year ended in May and never quite got up to the level of production that I had hoped over summer. Despite the summer not being quite as productive as I had hoped — in writing, as well as in a few other personal and school-related projects that I have been working on — I think it was a restful break that my mind and body needed. I am now back in Cambridge, moving into an amazing old apartment, working on a few projects, and gearing up for school. I’ll be doing a studio with Sheila Kennedy and taking a few other classes.
For the summer, I was originally planning on traveling but ended up spending the full summer in Los Angeles, where I kept fairly busy. Several exciting things are in the oven, so to speak, including my forthcoming editorship of Thresholds, the Archiprix International 2011 event at MIT, and a few developments at 58-12, among others! I also managed to pack in a bit of rest and recuperation. Instead of blathering on, I thought I would share a few photos about what comprised my summer:
The Hollywood Bowl
World of Color at the Walt Disney Concert Hall
The Ace Hotel, Palm Springs
Dragonette at the Echo
“Last Suppers” by James Reynolds at a Scion Space gallery opening
All photos are by Shawn Be.
John Snow’s 1854 map showing a cholera outbreak in London, whose creation is widely thought of as the birth of epidemiology.
It is no secret that a Sour Susan or a Dour Debbie can ruin a night of fun. According to recent studies, however, it turns out that the spread of a particular emotion within a group is far more rigorous and measurable than the tenuous links that are typically attributed to the mystery of human emotion. Scientists have, for the first time, applied epidemiological models of disease to study the spread of various behaviors and emotions and have found they are nearly identical. In other words, sadness might spread like a common cold — you can give it to other people if you are feeling down, and you might catch it if you spend too much time with particularly despondent friends.
A circa 1900 photograph depicting what Foucault would later call the “physician’s gaze” within the operating theater of teaching hospital Jefferson Medical College.
This discovery offers interesting insight into how we might deal with depression or, perhaps even more pressing in the United States, obesity on a social scale. Might there be an architectural response to help curtail sadness and to spread happiness? Is there a particular spatial pattern that could encourage healthy eating, via the regulation of infected and healthy individuals? It could very much be a re-thinking of the hospital aesthetic that permeates our germ-terrified society, a replacement for the systems of power that are embedded in Foucault’s architecture of the 20th century. Perhaps something a little more homeopathic, a little more friendly bacteria, and, certainly, less despotic. Perhaps BIG is on to something with their model: heavy on the infectious enthusiasm and light on the megalomaniac design of rigor.
Bjarke Ingels’ response to the “Less is More” philosophy adopted by Mies van der Rohe, with the model for the REN Building.