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Junkspace

I've just read Junkspace, an essay/whatever by Koolhaas, which, damn it but if it's not 10% pre-collapse Ballard, 10% late vintage Gibson, 80% my experience of shopping malls, airports, and, increasingly, office life. (I confess I have a soft spot for Koolhass; I bought S, M, L, XL without knowing anything about him, OMA, or, for that matter, architecture, just fascinated by the visuals of the book and the text.)



Because it cannot be grasped, Junkspace cannot be remembered. It is flamboyant yet unmemorable, like a screen saver; its refusal to freeze ensures instant amnesia.

History corrupts, absolute history corrupts absolutely.

The more we inhabit the palatial, the more we seem to dress down.

Junkspace is often described as a space of flows, but that is a misnomer; flows depend on disciplined movement, bodies that cohere. Junkspace is a web without a spider; although it is an architecture of the masses, each trajectory is strictly unique. Its anarchy is one of the last tangible ways in which we experience freedom. It is a space of collision, a container of atoms, busy, not dense... There is a special way of moving in Junkspace, at the same time aimless and purposeful. It is an acquired culture.

[Offices are] a Post-it universe: a team memory [..] futile hedges against the universal forgetting of the unmemorable, the oxymoron as mission statement. (This applies to too much of my work experience --- Marcelo)

A single shopping center is now the work of generations of space planners, repairmen, and fixers, like in the Middle Ages; air-conditioning sustains our cathedrals. (All architects may unwittingly be working on the same building, so far separate, but with hidden receptors that will eventually make it cohere.) Because it costs money, is no longer free, conditioned space inevitably becomes conditional space; sooner or later all conditional space turns into Junkspace.

Although its individual parts are the outcome of brilliant inventions, lucidly planned by human intelligence, boosted by infinite computation, their sum spells the end of Enlightenment, its resurrection as farce, a low-grade purgatory (This could be told of many, many contemporary places and organizations --- Marcelo)

"A Masterpiece" has become a definitive sanction, a semantic space that saves the object from criticism, leaves its qualities unproven, its performance untested, its motives unquestioned. Masterpiece is no longer an inexplicable fluke, a roll of the dice, but a consistent typology: its mission to intimidate, most of its exterior surfaces bent, huge percentages of its square footage dysfunctional, its centrifugal components barely held together by the pull of the atrium, dreading the imminent arrival of forensic accounting... (Sorry about the constant commentary, but the last clause, for me, is what makes the paragraph, and adds a very Gibsonian, that is, realist, edge --- Marcelo)

Because we abhor the utilitarian, we have condemned ourselves to a lifelong immersion in the arbitrary

Because we spend our life indoors -like animals in a zoo- we are obsessed with the weather: 40 percent of all TV consists of presenters of lesser attractiveness gesturing helplessly in front of windswept formations, through which you recognize, sometimes, your own destination/current position.

In this war, graphic designers are the great turncoats: Where once signage promised to deliver you to where you wanted to be, it now obfuscates and entangles you in a thicket of cuteness that forces you past unwanted detours, turns you back when you're lost. Postmodernism adds a crumple-zone of viral poché that fractures and multiplies the endless frontline of display, a peristaltic shrink-wrap crucial to all commercial exchange. Trajectories are launched as ramp, turn horizontal without any warning, intersect, fold down, suddenly emerge on a vertiginous balcony above a large void. Fascism minus dictator.

Junkspace seems an aberration, but it is the essence, the main thing... the product of an encounter between escalator and air-conditioning, conceived in an incubator of Sheetrock (all three missing from the history books).

Junkspace thrives on design, but design dies in Junkspace. There is no form, only proliferation... Regurgitation is the new creativity; instead of creation, we honor, cherish, and embrace manipulation...

Laughable emptiness infuses the respectful distance or tentative embrace that starchitects maintain in the presence of the past, authentic or not. Invariably, the primordial decision is to leave the original intact; the formerly residual is declared the new essence, the focus of the intervention. As a first step, the substance to be preserved is wrapped in a thick pack of commerce and catering, like a reluctant skier pushed downhill by responsible minders. To show respect, symmetries are maintained and helplessly exaggerated; ancient building techniques are resurrected and honed to irrelevant shine, quarries reopened to excavate the "same" stone, indiscreet donor names chiseled prominently in the meekest of typefaces; the courtyard covered by a masterful, structural filigree --emphatically uncompetitive-- so that continuity may be established with the rest of Junkspace (abandoned galleries, display slums, Jurassic concepts... ).

Seemingly an apotheosis, spatially grandiose, the effect of its richness is a terminal hollowness, a vicious parody of ambition that systematically erodes the credibility of building, possibly forever...

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