Monthly Archives: April 2014

Ground Zeros


Memorial site plann (c) SDL_four to five tosite 30 SMAKopie van Kopie van scan003


In a time where urbanization takes command, it is the plinth which becomes the critical line on the battleground.
The city exists under a constant state of attack, from all directions, and this has not resulted in one Ground Zero,
but multiple ground zeros. We should therefore know that a certain ground zero is not only to be understood as the
point of detonation, but also as the center of rapid, intense, even violent activity or change. So, what kind of
architecture can exist on such a site? And how can the plinth, as essential joint with the ground, still manifest
itself? Therefore, in this short investigation, the central question is asked: where has the plinth gone? By looking
into the relation between building and site in three recent projects (Ground Zero Master Plan – Studio Daniel
Libeskind; 30 St Mary Axe – Foster+Partners; Shenzhen Stock Exchange – OMA), it becomes apparent that
the plinth, or at least that what it symbolizes, still plays a crucial role. Moreover, we could go as far as to say that
it is the plinth which might soon take back the command…

Buildings seem to solidly touch the ground, or at least this is what appears to be happening in and through the plinth.
We should take a deeper to look, though, to understand what this means, seeing that the plinth is an entirely ambiguous
element of architecture. The plinth represents a solidity in that it is the base, the substance on which all loads of
construction rest. It is understood as the foundation anchored to the bedrock, and thus the lay-out of the plan; literally
the footprint of the building on the ground. But it is also that what appears to be the base (the original crepidoma),
in so far that it represents “the symbolic possibility of confrontation[1]”. In a typical urban context, it is therefore the
boundary on ground level, the critical line in between public and private space, where the subject constitutes its image
of place.

As a result, the plinth always exist in between  a set of dialectics. It lives in between interior and exterior, private and
public, security and risk, control and freedom, substance and image, performance and representation. In this sense,
the plinth belongs as a means of what Foucault describes as “the apparatuses of security” through which a milieu is
produced out of the multiplicity[2]. This means that out of a set of natural and artificial givens, a plan should be generated
in which uncertainty can be given a specific place, namely the place of security. In this sense, the plinth constitutes an
artificial hold on life as it happens through architecture. It therefore does not only impose a boundary on the inside of the
building, but it will also be used to extend the conditions of that inside (the interiority) outside itself.

As we take Sloterdijk’s allegorical image of the exclusive neo-liberal party that was happening throughout the last two
decades, we should also not forget that this party implies a guest list[3]. The invitations are limited and selection is based
on cultural realities which determine in a very strict and specific manner the place of security. We should therefore realize
how far not only the form but certainly also the image of the plinth extends in space, setting up an architectural frame
within the city which organizes both exchange and containment of those who live within. How the plinth appears, i.e. the
conditions of its apparition, therefore has a profound influence on how the subject, in this case the passerby on ground
floor, constitutes a specific context out of the multipli-city.

Read more→ 

[1] P.V. Aureli (2009) More and More about Less and Less: Notes Towards a History of Nonfigurative Architecture In: Log, no. 16, p. 18.

[2] M. Foucault (1978) Spaces of Security: The Example of the Town. In: Political Geography, no. 26, p. 55.

[3] P. Sloterdijk (2009) Tegenlicht Talk: een partijtje vrijheid  On: (published 02 Sep. 2013)


Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment

London’s Index

‘… not far from London Bridge, you will find a towering, and more modern, column, which is simply known as ‘The Monument’. It was designed as a memorial of the Great Fire, which broke out in that neighbourhood in 1666 and destroyed a large part of the city. These monuments, then, resemble hysterical symptoms in being mnemonic symbols ¹.’

The Monument – capitalized – with an emphasis on the the – not the monument, but thee Monument. The one, not just any. One single pillar. A most primordial form of architecture. If even: in a sense it seems closer to the hand of a clock, than to a building. A single line, a vector. An index pointing out something. Where is it pointing to? Well, geometrically it must be close to (0,0,1) – but in terms of the socio-economic, political and technological conditions of its conception, construction and reception? Superficially the Monument is merely a doric column – with no load to bear. Except a golden urn on its top. What is buried inside there? What is entombed in this monument? The full name alone provides clear evidence here: The Monument to the Great Fire of London. The ashes inside this cinerary urn must then be the remains of London, and the Monument thus a tribute to a great loss. Well, in a way, but definitely not through and through ². Commemoration is engraved in the Monument’s inscriptions and ornament, but they also identify it as a symbol for a resurrection. So then, unlike its ancestors which commemorate the victory over another nation, this column monumentalizes the overcoming of a situation – and the constant advancement from thereon. As a marker to the future, a symbol of progress and growth. In this sense it appears almost as the prototype for its phallic epigones (bearing equally concise, though somewhat less dignified, titles: the Gherkin, the Shard, the Walkie-Talkie), in whose shadow it now stands. Usually these more recent exemplars are primarily seen as manifestations of financial and technological progress, while the older, venerable monuments of London appear as celebrations of the Kingdom’s – and later the Empire’s – glory. Although the Monument most definitely is a tribute to the royalty, it concurrently (concealed on the inside) epitomizes technology and science. And there are more ambiguities: the questions about its authorship, about who administered it, et al. Thus while the column appears so pure, it is actually utterly ambivalent – in a constant state of ambiguity: of both … and, neither … nor. But let’s not prejudge – first the stumbling block itself should be observed and forensically analysed. Maybe then one can draw some conclusions on the extraordinary position this structure holds in respect to the emergence of London as a modern metropolis – and as an index to its continuing transformation…³

→ read more: ‘London’s Index’ by Winston Hampel

1.  S. Freud, ‘Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis’ (1909)

2.  Even though tomb and monument have obviously always had a unique connection: ‘Only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: the tomb and the monument. Everything else that fulfils a function is to be excluded…’ A. Loos, ‘Architecture’ (1910)

See it surveys the City as its charge,
And seems to scorn
Flames, which lye buried in this flaming urn;
The City’s liberty it doth enlarge,
The Boys could never go
So high Processioning in th’ Air till now.
This is the Planet, which will always tell
The City’s well;
For its Ascendant, it doth London own,
Scarce one degree below the Moon.

Anonymous, LONDON’S INDEX OR Some Reflexions ON THE New built MONUMENT (1776)


Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment

The Name of Those Who Travel

to be given a name

 Carnet de circulation A

All the controversies associated with gens du voyage in France are related to the sort of baptism that inevitably comes along with the utterance of that name. Despite the historical efforts of sociologists and anthropologists to find a politically correct, and somewhat accurate denomination for the existing phenomena, problematics arise at the same moment that a term is intended to designate a community that never existed as such. Every now and then, outbursts of impolite sincerity and exasperation make their appearance on media, like the declaration of monsieur le maire of Maine-et-Loire, the MP Gilles Bourdouleix, last month of July; «Perhaps Hitler didn’t kill enough of them.» In France, gens du voyage do not have a straightforward definition; too often they are defined in negative terms, by stating first what they are not, as if they were hunted by clichés, under the shadow of multiple types of discrimination or confusion with someone else. To discriminate is to make a distinction and that is precisely what words are for. The act of coining a term is precisely the genesis of inequality, a declaration of the intention to define a boundary; the multiple claims for the contrary are by all means fallacious.

Continue reading >

Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment

Pandemic of Society

Today the world is consumed by an overwhelming dread; every new threat, danger, and dis-ease is seen and portrayed with the utmost fever and intensity. Media wantonly delights in displaying images from such an uncompromising standpoint that they verge on the hysteric. They scan the airwaves for the most spectacular events in order to bombard their viewers with a series of ever faster, ever more spectacular visions; creating the need, the desire, and the evermore-present institution of fearful reaction to the event.  It this reactionary proliferation of images that has lead to the destruction, and reclassification, of cultural identification. We start to question our own perceptions. How do we look at each other? Where do we stand? In this world inundated with images constantly flipping across every screen, images constantly in motion, how do can we stop and see ourselves?

Pandemic of Society_CaitlinDaly

Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment

Behind the Zoo: Through the Looking Glass

Being put on display, expected to perform, presented as a collective, while ignoring the forced segregation and the invisible barriers, brings us to an interesting question.  What is captivity?

 zoozoo 2

What makes an object worth collecting? Curiosity is an important aspect of collecting. With the spread of colonies, there was an affinity to discover the unknown, or rather, the different. The nineteenth century paved the way for many sponsored expeditions, looking for curios. Found object; vases, pots and pans, tools of everyday use, gained an importance, as curios. Nature has captivated the human cognizance since man first acquired tools, it would only be natural for the curiosity to extend to the subject of new flora and fauna. By means of collecting it is possible to establish a personal identity or characterize the other and often identifying this other as a conquest. This idea of conquest can be analyzed in the manner in which collection is presented, making presenting as important an aspect as the collection itself.

Presentation of a collection in a public forum goes beyond presenting taste, it also becomes a tool to showcase the ‘new’. Any exhibition must have a sense of completeness or at the very least abundance. The nature of the presentation is often not a permanent feature. Initially the Cabinets of Curiosities, which was an established typology, sufficed. However, with growing knowledge came a better understanding of habitat. This knowledge also encourages a shift in the collection itself. With understanding what to reveal, and the quantity to be exhibited the artifacts, a new question emerges. What would be the best way to display the constant influx of new arrivals? Establishing a typology of collecting ultimately leads to the displaying of these artifacts, as we view them now.

Is a presentation of a collection that different from a display of a collection? Once you display an artifact, it can no longer be part of a collection. The display now projects on the object, a different set of characteristics. The Cabinet of Curiosities was a congregation objects, from different, not necessarily connected sources. But by placed on display, the artifacts gain an identity outside the collector. However, this identity is a façade, one which is carefully crafted. While the public animal fights in the menageries were staged, they still lacked the show of a display. Every habitat, provided for the animals is done so in a manner to mislead both the viewer and the displayed animal. The viewer is meant to accept that what being presented is natural, not just in terms of the environment but behaviour as well.

To read the complete text:

Behind the Zoo – Devanshi Shah


Posted in 2012 | Tagged | Leave a comment

(Re)Discovering the Mediterranean


(Re)DtM_Alvaro Velasco (Download pdf)

As a kind of ghost ship, Mediterranean-ness, even apparently sunk, seem to reappear persistently in current debates of this latitude of Europe. On the depths of this sea we submerge to look for the wrecks of a glorious past. Its waters conceal a bright heritage in which the idea of human was conceived; the cradle of Western civilization and, for many, the only ship of hope in a tempestuous world. However, the Mar Medi Terraneum—“sea in the middle of the land”—long time ago stopped to be the centre of the World. Europe is found trapped between a glorious past and a decadent present; who can foresee the future? Delphi does not enjoy its best times nowadays. What does it mean to be Mediterranean in the XXI century? Keep talking about the past only perpetuates the interruption of our story —as Matvejevic poses it—; mentally frozen in a status that not always correspond to the present. We still talk about the Mediterranean as our cultural condition while time proceeds stubbornly passing by. In our mind, the waters of this sea are conceived, not only as the demiurge of our past, but also the one who determines our future. Meanwhile, the ports of our cities welcome very different vessels. What has changed? What still remains? In the eyes of Benedetto Gravagnuolo, “apparently nothing!” Does it make sense to keep talking about the Mediterranean as our cultural condition?(…)

Posted in 2012 | Comments Off on (Re)Discovering the Mediterranean