Student(s): Penwell
Instructor(s): Stephen Turk
Course: ARCH 3420: Architectural Design IV
Term: Spring 2017

Architecture Landscapism:

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the anthropocene.

This research studio focuses on the speculative possibilities of architecture in the age of the anthropocene. It takes as its premise a concept called Architecture Landscapism, a darkly comic critique of the institutionalization of Landscape Urbanism, as it has been commodified and accepted into the mainstream of our discipline. Architecture Landscapism develops a new understanding of the status of architectural figure and ground relationships at the monumentally vast scale. It seeks to understand the roles of these principles in architecture in a period in which the distinction between the natural and the artificial has been irrevocably blurred and the philosophical status of Man as the apex species on the planet is under renewed moral scrutiny.

Architecture Landscapism invokes the idea of domestication as a radical concept affecting all animal life on the planet including humans themselves. It takes literally the ancient concept of the oikumene (the inhabited or known world- from which the idea of Ecumenopolis is derived vis-à-vis the Greek word for house, oikos) and sees the concept of architecture as emerging at the historical moment when humans domesticated companion species and developed agriculture as evidenced in early human urban settlements such as Çatalhöyük. Architectural Landscapism emerges at the historical moment when humans realize that they themselves are not separate from the effects of domestication and the world is effectively one house. From the point of view of proponents of Architecture Landscapism, Landscape Urbanism ultimately fails to question the status of human primacy. Thus it should be subsumed into a new more generalized theory of animal settlement in the (ironically named) anthropocene.

The studio investigates these concepts by unpacking contemporary disciplinary theories concerning large scale aggregated and fractal architectural and urban effects. Architecture Landscapism is in the end a critical reinterpretation and extension of Koolhaas's 1909 theorem as understood through the lens of early 21st century representational technology. The studio

particularly focuses on a radical reinterpretation of traditional notions of scale as reflected in such tools as Google Earth but that also appear in the everyday tools of our profession. 3D modeling systems such as Rhino, provide a representational field whereby vast scale differences can be dialed in with the simple rotation of the wheel of a mouse. The 1909 theorem was the result of Koolhaas's brilliant insight into the nature of the elevator to transform the stacked realities of the Manhattan skyscraper. Google earth can be seen as an updated analog for this insight. It provides an accelerated and exponentially magnified virtual version of the same idea but one that can move horizontally as well as vertically. It is not unlike Willy Wonka's glass elevator or a mobile version of the space elevator first imagined by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

The studio revisits Koolhaas' sequence of S,M,L,XL and extends it by including a new category V, the vast scale, in which architecture subsumes the idea of landscape and eventually the world itself. Rather than a linear sequence, Architecture Landscapism imagines an exponential relationship between each of the constituent parts of the sequence. Like a Borgesian parable it sees a relationship between the grain of sand, the pebble, the rock, the boulder, the mountain and the continent, all of which are replaced with architectural elements. Koolhaas' City of the Captive Globe is taken at face value - the globe itself is captured by the architecture of the city. The studio pushes this idea to its logical conclusion where the world surface is re-conceptualized as a fictionalized and figured ground composed out of the aggregated and pocketed components of the history of our discipline. It’s as if Archizoom's all interior Ecumenopoli was reimagined and replaced with a system of pure exteriority existing between the three dimensional matrix of an urban poche.

The studio explores the influences of the tradition of utopian and dystopian speculative architecture of the 1960's and 70's and focuses on the design of vast systems of organizations that rewrite the distinction between the domain of man and animal. The design work was prefaced by an in depth investigation of contemporary electronic gaming. The aesthetics of gaming were invoked for the conceptual and spatial avenues they offer as tools to explore this problem. Each student’s project is presented in the form of an abstract children’s book originally modeled on the dimensions of Lissitzky’s About Two Squares.