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Make it real. Architecture as enactment = Архитектура как воссоздание

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With each successive style or movement, redundant forms and technologies are replaced and then re-enacted in the name of progress. Ideologies and fictions become forms. And then there is the stranger world still of actual replicas, such as Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, where history is brought to life for didactic purposes. It can’t help it, architecture’s deepest instinct is to repeat, whether its columns, ceiling tiles or twin towers. Ours is a landscape of cover versions, copy and paste, rinse and repeat. In this polemical but also quizzical essay, Sam Jacob probes the architectural condition and wonders whether it’s all just an attempt to make what’s not real look real.
Джейкоб, С. Make it real. Architecture as enactment = Архитектура как воссоздание / Джейкоб С. - 3-е изд., (эл.) - Москва : Стрелка Пресс, 2017. - 36 с.: ISBN 978-5-9903364-8-3. - Текст : электронный. - URL: https://znanium.com/catalog/product/972670 (дата обращения: 20.07.2024). – Режим доступа: по подписке.
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STRELKA


�ЭМ ДЖЕЙКОБ

АРХИТЕКТУРА КАК ВОССОЗДАНИЕ





3-е издание (электронное)








Москва «Стрелка Пресс» 2017


AM JACOB
MAKE IT REAL
ARCHITECTURE AS ENACTMENT





3-rd edition (electronic)








Moscow Strelka Press 2017


�ДК 72
ББК 85
     I13

     Jacob, Sam.
I13 Make it real. Architecture as enactment = Архитектура как воссоздание [Электронный ресурс] / S. Jacob. — 3-rd ed. (el.). — Electronic text data (1 file pdf : 36 p.). — М. : Strelka Press, 2017. — System requirements: Adobe Reader XI or Adobe Digital Editions 4.5 ; screen 10".
         ISBN 978-5-9903364-8-3
         With each successive style or movement, redundant forms and technologies are replaced and then re-enacted in the name of progress. Ideologies and fictions become forms. And then there is the stranger world still of actual replicas, such as Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, where history is brought to life for didactic purposes. It can’t help it, architecture’s deepest instinct is to repeat, whether its columns, ceiling tiles or twin towers. Ours is a landscape of cover versions, copy and paste, rinse and repeat. In this polemical but also quizzical essay, Sam Jacob probes the architectural condition and wonders whether it’s all just an attempt to make what’s not real look real.

УДК 72
ББК 85

     The source print publication: Make it real. Architecture as enactment / S. Jacob. — Moscow : Strelka Press, 2014. — 35 p. — ISBN 978-09929-1464-6.


ISBN 978-5-9903364-8-3

© Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, 2014


                 The danger is that it’s just talk. Then again, the danger is that it’s not. I believe you can speak things into existence.

Jay-Z, Decoded, 2010


               REAL FICTIONS





‘The Great Roe’, Woody Allen tells us, ‘is a mythological beast with the head of a lion and the body of a lion, though not the same lion.’ In the Great Roe, the fictional and the real combine into a seamless composite. Though radically spliced, the line between myth and biology is invisible — there’s no way to tell where one begins and the other ends, which part is myth and which is real. Do its front paws walk on real ground and its rear on mythic landscapes? Or are both front and hindquarters real, with the myth being located in the splice? Other mythological creatures — the half-human, half-animal satyrs, fauns, centaurs and the like — distort reality into crypto-biological arrangements of pure fiction. The Great Roe, though, embodies a strange and absurd condition where the opposite conditions of fiction and reality are contained within the same physical entity. One does not undo the other. Instead, its idea (its mythic fiction) and its form (a real lion) coincide exactly.
    In constructing this comedic absurdity, Allen has accidently provided us with a fitting description of the way architecture occupies the world. Because architecture, like the Great Roe, is simultaneously mythical and real. Mythical, in the sense that it is the invention of the society that creates it — the ‘will of an epoch made into space’, as Mies put it. Real, in the sense that it is the landscape that we inhabit. The perfect registration between these two states provides architecture with its own supernatural power: its prosaic appearance cloaks its mythic, imaginative origins entirely. To begin to understand architecture’s Great Roe-ish state we must first think of how architecture mythologises and fictionalises itself, and then examine how it transmutes these fictions into reality.
    Like a mythical beast, architecture emerges from the psycho
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ultural landscape of its social, political and economic circumstances. Its body may be an exquisite corpse of (biologically impossible) architectural limbs, torsos, heads and tails, yet it is animated, active and alive — like Frankenstein’s monster. At any given moment it projects its historical situation — the great teeming mass of narratives that prefigured its existence — into the contemporary world. And in doing so it fundamentally rewrites that history, splicing and sewing the narratives together to make a radical new proposition for the future.
    The representation of history is, of course, highly politicised. As Churchill tells us, history is written by the victors. He suggests that history is at least part fiction, and that its writing is a spoil of war. In its own way, architecture is also a spoil of war, arising out of ideological, aesthetic, economic as well as military conflicts. But in contrast to written history, architecture’s victorious narrative manifests itself as reality. It not only represents and illustrates this fictional history but physically embodies it, playing it out through substance, space and programme.
    If we trace architecture’s history, we can see that this radical reenactment is a fundamental mode of its development. We might begin a historical survey of architecture’s re-enactments with the Egyptian column, which was carved from stone to represent a tree trunk or a bundle of reeds. Right here, in a foundational moment, we see reenactment as the primary architectural idea. The primitive treecolumn returns just as it is being technologically superseded. The original gesture of the tree-column is radically altered through its reenactment in stone, through its revival as a kind of ritualised symbol that celebrates its own origins.
    In Greek architecture too we can read architecture’s compulsion to re-enact. Not only is the Egyptian column re-staged in the Doric,

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onic and Corinthian orders, but re-enactment generates the entire language of classical architecture through the re-staging of primitive timber Greek temples. As with the Egyptian column, stone replaces timber, but here the entire structure is transubstantiated. And in this transformation, architecture represents its own origin just as it becomes something else. We see this in details such as triglyphs, the vertically channelled blocks in a Doric frieze that are understood as stone representations of the original timber end-beams — even though these beams are unnecessary in stone construction. Under them are stone guttae that re-enact the wooden pegs that would have been needed to stabilise a timber post-and-beam structure, but here they are rhetorical. In these examples, we see one construction technology re-enacted in another, creating paradoxes where the image of one intersects with the other’s substance. These technological glitches are moments where the status of the re-enactment is made visible — like seeing a Civil War re-enactor on a mobile phone. They act like the splurges of a Warhol silkscreen or the howl of feedback, where the medium itself distorts the subject, where the act of reproduction becomes an active part of re-performance.
    Through the unfolding of architectural history we see culturally, technologically or programmatically redundant fragments of architecture re-enacted. In each case, this re-enactment of a preexisting image is a radical new iteration. Like Churchill’s idea of history, architecture’s re-enactment presents a partial and fictionalised narrative. What architecture chooses to re-enact, as well as the manner of its re-enactment, constitutes an ideological statement.
    Fast-forwarding through history, we see Greek architectural language stretched around new Roman typologies. We see architecture’s classical language resurrected (and re-invented) to

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nnoble and legitimise Renaissance culture. We see medieval forms of construction re-enacted by the arts and crafts movement as a means of opposition to the industrial revolution — a visual, material and structural analogue to its proto-socialist politics. And we see modernism’s appropriation of the language of industrial buildings, where the grain stores of Buffalo, for example, are cited by Le Corbusier as ‘the magnificent first fruits of the new age’. Modernism’s re-performing of industrial architecture’s logics of mechanisation and efficiency operated as a polemic. First it was a way of undermining the social and political hierarchies that Beaux-Arts architecture represented. Secondly it allowed modernism to lay claim to a preexisting machine aesthetic, to propose an architecture already embedded in the contemporary condition it described.
    In its freewheeling rewriting of the past, architecture uses history as a slingshot into the future. It endlessly re-stages itself, selfconsciously folding its own past into its future, rewriting its own myth into its very fabric. At the same time it legitimises its new propositions by embedding them within lineages of existing languages, materials and typologies. The re-enactment’s repetition of the existing helps to naturalise the shock of the new, declaring itself an inevitable product of historical circumstance. Architecture, then, mythologises its own creation while making a historical argument for itself and proposing a future world — all within the substance of its own body.
    Architecture’s preoccupation with re-staging itself is more than a disciplinary in-joke. And unlike, say, a civil war re-enactment, it never packs up and goes home because it is home (or anywhere else we might be). Rather, architecture’s re-enactments are deadly serious and entirely real.
    We could see architecture’s re-enactment of history in the present

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s a kind of anachronic radicalism. Here, fragments of history are sucked out of their chronological order, emptied of their historical context, to make them available as devices, strategies, images and forms that can be piped full of other narratives and re-tasked to perform with alternative intent. These re-formed references, at once familiar and made strange, can then be deployed to validate and manifest a version of the present. Through re-enactment, architecture rewrites itself, making fictions a part of the real landscape that surrounds us.
    Architecture’s strategies of re-enactment remind us of what, in science fiction at least, is a peril of time travel: when you enter the past, you risk radically altering the future. Trample on a single prehistoric butterfly and you could return to an entirely different world. Architecture too possesses this ability to rewrite the present. Using powers of cultural fiction rather than imaginary technology, architecture mobilises the same potential as science fiction: the possibility of manufacturing multiple versions of the future out of the past.


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