touring the bush (20) : caribbean, tropical nonplace (epilogue, easterling)

architects concerned with the future of the profession (and practice) would find a certain relief if they shifted from (or added to) the inevitable question(ing) of architecture’s role in contemporary contexts to the apparently more focused but in fact incredibly rich and relevant search that keller easterling has assumed in her recent work:

“an amplified understanding of what constitutes infrastructure.”

this perspective avoids the classic and somewhat stale opposed and simplified dualities of architectural ponderings (form vs. function, style vs. substance, content vs. context, etc. etc. etc…), even though it ultimately entails all of these issues. the relief doesn’t come from finding solutions or making things easier, but from having the option of a more dynamic and significant approach to re-address fundamental problems and challenges. it is the same question other smart people –from kazys varnelis to eyal weizman to sanford kwinter– are asking themselves. this unique approximation requires picking at both the core and the fringes of architectural production (politics, economics, social organization and practice and imagery, technical innovation, etc.)(what is considered the core and what is placed on the margins may vary, and usually does).

“for some time we have been considering infrastructure to be something beyond transportation, communication and utility networks. infrastructure may even include collective standards or shared mechanisms of financing. still some of our spatial skills would find new territories (and seductions) in an understanding of infrastructure as a recipe for political disposition. a recipe for the character of a polity.”

tourist itineraries, marketing literature, promotional leaflets and websites, exceptional localized legal parameters, postmodern piracy, the love boat, freakish tomatoes, wal-mart, terrorists, yogis, maquiladoras; a world of “instrumental fictions,” masquerades and camouflage…these are some of the elements entangled in the triple tragicomedy of politics, economic exchange and architecture easterling evokes in her poignant, analytical (and yes, theatrical) storytelling.

unlikely sites become “aggregates of the global city.” fantasy and folly is “tabulized and capitalized” through organization, marketing techniques and eventually come together in real estate and other types of “spatial products”:

“i kept seeing these formulas for space that developers were able to define and sell even in the absence of a location or a building. there are many such recipes and formulas that naturally index qualities essential to the formula. so a tourist resort is looking for a certain temperature and color of sand. such conditions mesh with a marketing profile and a number of other parameters to create 'the package'... tourism is probably not what we think it is. tourism no longer assumes the diplomacies of the state. the state borrows techniques from tourism. It is how the state has learned to float multiple stories and fabulous stupidities over a revenue stream.”

finally someone came up with a sharper definition of nonplace than mark augé’s supermodern superfrenchy superbland superboring (dare i say passé) first shot.

next stop : los ángeles, city of angels

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