Subnatural Tendencies in New York

I’m impressed with two projects (one being built) in New York City that suggest less techno-scientific interpretations of material, visualization, and assemblage. The authors of these projects are new to me, but I think they relate to many of the attitudes I hoped to capture, historicize, and theorize in the Subnature book. We are intellectually connected; and that makes me quite happy.

The first project —”dig”— is being staged by the firm “Snarkitecture” at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. According to the authors, it employs excavation as a type of ontology of architectural production and narration:

“Dig explores the architecture of excavation. Storefront’s distinctive gallery space will be filled with a solid volume of EPS architectural foam, engulfing the existing interior in an unyielding flood of white. The volume will then be excavated using simple tools – hammers, picks and chisels – to transform a stock industrial material into a strange, unexpected cavern for both work and play”

Here we see a collective, labor-oriented theory of architectural construction outside the tectonics theorized by Frampton. One might argue that a firm as vanguard as Aranda/Lasch still clings to a 19th notion of tectonics in their digitally infused assemblages. But, “dig” is something all together different; and shows us a potential way out of dominant theories of construction, generally either neo-grec or phenomenological in mode.

The second project is the PS1 finalist entry by formlessfinder. Here we see the type of rubble and debris heaps explored in the book Subnature transformed into a meta-language for architecture (and the firm’s name obviously invokes the “formless” theory of Krauss and Bois, embedded in the Subnatural idea). I hesitate to say we witness debris piles becoming a formal structural language in this project, as the firm’s representations suggests the witnessing of the material in its various states – heaps, assemblages, scatterings. In other words no one formation of the debris is valorized over the others. We have a sense of debris for what it is – formless, historically evocative, brooding — but laced with myriad possibilities. Again, this is a construction outside a tectonic or techno-scientific sense of construction.

I’m a bit confused by PS1/MoMA’s selection of the winning project by Interboro (is it because one or two of the images of the above project evoke the work of Herzog deMeuron?). I know the management at PS1/MoMA must factor in many aspects in addition to the allure of a firm’s proposal representations. I imagine this project must have looked like a risky bet in comparison to the winner’s; nevertheless, I wish I was on the jury to agitate for this project!


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