“Don’t start with the good old things but with the bad new ones.” —Bertolt Brecht
As a contemporary movement in economics, politics, and philosophy, Accelerationism has developed ever increasing attention over the past decade with a growing quantity of both supporters and detractors. There are several different strains of this movement, but at its kernel they all hold that the way forward in a moment of crisis is not to resist, reject or return to previous epochs, but to move forward through the conditions at hand; to intensify aspects of the current reality, accelerating into what may come next. This studio will look at architecture as the discipline responsible for the aesthetics of the background of reality, and because of this, attempt to speculate on these aesthetics by accelerating several contemporary crises into the near future.
If Accelerationism is left to operate only through economics, technology, and ecology, it quickly moves into utopian, dystopian, or nihilistic tendencies. To counter these tendencies, it is necessary for a cultural practice such as architecture to deeply investigate questions of aesthetics. These are critical questions, for if ignored, architecture can become merely the outcome of capital, technology and ecology. Although architecture is intimately entwined in these concerns, it should not be seen as the result of these forces, but as a cultural project that contributes to a developing understanding of how they affect our built reality. Projections into the future can often become mere fantasy escape. But an aesthetics of a speculative realism can produce scenarios that directly comment on our own moment in time through advancing a particular crisis into the near future. These scenarios are often great lenses for a critical engagement with contemporary problems.
In many ways architecture is always a future speculation. This can be as simple as proposing a new lifestyle for a client’s domestic environment, or as grand as imagining a new city with new social relations. This aspect of architecture places great pressure on the representations that create the plausibility of this new reality. If the aesthetics of a future reality can be articulated to a point where the familiar becomes strangely other, these speculations can gain political influence; they can build new audiences, new constituencies. How architects have made aesthetic arguments through different mediations is of crucial importance for the discipline of architecture, both past and future.
The semester will begin with a series of representational experiments looking at the conventions of contemporary architectural mediation. The goal is to challenge these conventions to explore their aesthetic and communicative potentials. This first month will also consist of readings, lectures, and discussions regarding the studio topic. There will also be time devoted to research into the studio site.
The site for the studio will be Iceland. The entire island will be considered as a potential site for the development of future scenarios. Iceland presents a unique setting for the issues of accelerationism. As remote and isolated first impressions of the island may seem, Iceland is strangely at the center of many global issues ranging from data centers to climate studies, genetic research to financial investment. The primary questions that the studio will ask for this situation are: How will the aesthetics of the background reality in Iceland be altered in the next two decades?
What will be the role of architecture in relation to the different crises that exist today accelerated into tomorrow?
Upon returning from the travel week, each student group will choose an issue related to the built environment that is currently in crisis today. The task then is to document the state and impact of these issues in Iceland, in the year 2036, as viewed from the year 2056. The future is now past. All forms of media are available for these speculations. The two key questions pertain to; plausibility as established through representation, and the aesthetics of estrangement in realism. Each group of students will develop and present a complete scenario of the future Iceland at the midterm review. These scenarios will set the stage for a re-imagined “site”, that will consist of specific programmatic, cultural, technological, ecological and economic issues. Each building design will respond to these as the new reality of the future. The building designs will be fully represented through sets of architectural representations, based out of the initial representational exercises from the start of the semester. The final review will be the presentation of a documentation of a “new” building that was completed 20 years in the past. Thus, the architectural becomes available for aesthetic speculation.
Studio will take place Monday and Thursday. The first month will be heavily dedicated to discussions through lectures and readings, combined with a series of representational exercises regarding conventions and estrangement in mediation. After returning from our travel week, the studio will be divided into 4 to 5 groups to propose scenarios regarding the documentation of the past future. The Midterm review will be a review of these scenarios. Following the midterm, each group will work on the design and documentation of an building intervention into these scenarios. These projects will last the second half of the semester up to the Final Review.
Each student is expected to be in studio during all required class hours and to complete all work in the time periods given. This course will primarily focus around an investigation and the development of architectural mediation as a theoretical argument. There is no single medium or software stressed, but instead the ways in which all mediations build their arguments through different aesthetic attitudes. This will require a constant effort through design work, visual output, and discourse.
Steven Shaviro, No Speed Limit (Mineapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2015)
Steven Shaviro, Discognition (London, UK: Repeater Books, 2015)
#ACCELERATE The Accelerationist Reader (Falmouth, UK: Urbanomic Media, 2014)
Benjamin Noys, Malign Velocities (Zero Books, 2015)
Boris Groys, In the Flow (London: Verso, 2016)
Quentin Meillassoux, Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction (Univocal, 2015)