Why Space Rocks?

I am cleaning files off my computer and so I wanted to preserve the introduction I drafted for Space Rocks! here on the internet webpage html site. Perhaps it's overly optimistic, but aren't all introductions?

What we are trying to do today is learn from our colleagues in other design and art disciplines: how do they communicate ideas about space? How do these methods of representation color the way that they conceive of space as a phenomenon?

Some of our guests work in 2 dimensions, producing comics, photographs, books and magazines, some produce installations, actual spaces, and objects in 3 dimensions and yet others are working fully in 4 dimensions, fusing space and time in the form of animations, film and motion graphics. The dialog internal to each of the disciplines represented here today is something we, as architects, are rarely privy to but it cannot be denied that we are influenced by these media of popular culture. Indeed, the zeitgeist of the youtube generation increasingly seeps into studio culture such that pop-savvy animations, complete with catchy soundtracks, are becoming a default part of our architectural presentations.

Video games, music videos, graffiti... these are some of the arenas of cutting edge developments in space. Freed from the demands of habitability, gravity, and all those other tedious things which architects must balance out -- and driven by the market requirement of continual novelty, agents in popular media are increasingly turning to complex spatial arrangements to give them this something new. For instance, Echochrome, a new video game by Jun Fujiki is based on the premise of inhabiting Reutersvardian optical illusions. By rotating the illusion you help your character to navigate this impossible mess of lines and surfaces. By virtue of inhabiting this space through your avatar, the mind-bending power of Echochrome is catapulted beyond simple optical illusion and into an entirely new territory that demands a concomitant mental ability to process these signals. In other words, the graphics and movement of Echochrome are combined to imply a new condition of spatiality. This, precisely, is the kind of space that architects rarely even acknowledge, let alone know what to do with.

What has changed in our culture to allow video games of such spatial complexity as Echochrome to be conceivable as mass-market products? The premise of Space Rocks is that while architecture has been locked away suffering an identity crisis in the vacuum of Post Modernism, popular media has been reacting to an increasingly media-rich world. Part of this reaction has been to claim space, 3 dimensions, and the manipulation of space as an essential act of representation. Ironically, in an era when architects spend an unprecedented amount of their time concerned with surface, the rest of the cultural world is digging their heels into space.

People like our guests here today have quietly been developing spatially rich, visually compelling ways of communicating their ideas. And, importantly, the audience that our speakers address is much larger than the available audience for architecture with a capital A as we know it. When one accepts the facts, we are a very small minority and only a tiny part of all cultural production. This necessity for our speakers to address larger audiences, and especially those who don't necessarily have architectural training, is a productive constraint on their work. Although it's clear that the projects we will see today are informed by a great intuition and understanding of spatial conditions, we are particularly interested in the demand that these sophisticated ideas be translated to audiences that may not be processing the content with a disciplinary understanding.

What we will find in many of the things shown today is a built-in ability to degrade gracefully. In addition to the work of each speaker here being innovative in their own way, what binds all of our speakers together is a supremely high level of visual production. This is the result of talent and obsessive care not only for the content, but also for the qualities of the representative act itself.... a level of care which used to be at the core of architecture and has lately begun to wane. At a time when even 1st year graduate students can produce photo-realistic renderings, representation as a problem in architecture has mysteriously been put on the back burner again. Although this amazing leveling of skills should have produced an environment where representational exploration is as important as plumbing the spatial imagination, instead a deadly, banal standard has set in: every project must be issued into the world complete with beautiful renderings; a bright, airy walkthrough animation; and a pithy, simple diagram. Representation, as an architectural issue, has been outsourced as "Rendering," now left as a commercial necessity rather than a disciplinary compulsion. Although the twin revolutions of desktop publishing and desktop video have put the power at our fingertips to design the ways of explaining architecture with equally as much care as we design architecture, this desire seems mostly absent from our studios.

This is why Space Rocks has come to be. It is our hope that by bringing people who are expert at thinking about and representing space into the same room as a bunch of very clever and talented architecture students we can produce a dialog benefiting both sides of the equation.