The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

100 MAJA/ HOUSES #La Biennale di Venezia

POPULATION 1 370 000

Architecture is encountered by people throughout the built environment. The experience of architecture is part of everyday life, divided between many spheres and contrasts: public/private, physical/virtual and modern/classical. One of the initial stages in the experience of architecture is the life environment, which provides personal impulses that affect everyone. The private residence has always been a favorite topic for modern architecture, illustrating in its compactness and simultaneous complexity, people’s relationships with their environment and the way to shape it. The creation of private residences is also one of the most intimate forms of architecture, in which the client’s relationship with that which is being created is indivisible. Private residential architecture with it multifaceted nature raises many questions by graphically reflecting the society and its operational mechanisms. (Karen Jagodin, editor and curator of the Estonian Exhibition in the 12th Venice Architecture Biennale)

Present-day professional residential architecture is highly valued in Estonia as it is in the Nordic countries. However, if factory-built standardized solutions are very popular in the Nordic countries and relatively few unique projects are commissioned from architects, in Estonia the construction of private residences based on unique projects has been relatively popular throughout the period of re-independence. In Estonia, the architectural and structural quality of catalogue houses is relatively mediocre, and therefore, the majority of local professional architects have received a large number of commissions for private residential projects. The new Estonian residential architecture provides a cross-section of the trends of local architectural practice since the restoration of independence. (Karl-Dag Liege)

Architecture – and private residences among them – create and shape the relationships between people, as well as people’s relationships with space. The quality of architecture is not hidden in the fact that it conveys reality, but rather in its ability to arouse our imagination. (Triin Ojari)

You can view selected projects or download full pdf-catalogue from Estonian Architects website.

[Photo by Tiit Trummal from catalogue 100 MAJA/ HOUSES ]

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

City of the Mind, City for the Mind

The article "I walk in dreams and I can change them" by Tristan Priimägi, Estonian pop culture enthusiast as he calls himself, brought my attention to few of the recent discoveries and inspirations.

In this article he recalls that according to his friend there has always been an exception in the film production course in the audiovisual media department in the University of Tallinn - the sketch or a story can not take place either in the psychiatric clinic or in dreams, as in the above named places there is no need to seize the narrative structure. Indeed who of us does not remember that writing an essay on a free subject actually always turns out to be one of the most impossible tasks you have ever had to do in your life. As if some restrictions were always necessary...

Once Plato imagined a place where a group of people who had lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall, known as the Allegory of the Cave. The people watched shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and began to ascribe forms to these shadows. The shadows were as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. However in Plato´s vision, once the prisoners were freed from the cave, they would come to understand that the shadows on the wall were not constitutive of reality at all, a perceived true form of the reality, but rather the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

We construct worlds daily whether we call them invisible, hidden, parallel societies, imagined landscapes or anything else. But what if there were no limits to our imaginations? How many of us would be able to construct completely unseen world not using and/or copying elements of the seen?

That´s something Christopher Nolan has pointed out, against some academics belief that narrative subject needs to be limiting, in his new film Inception. The description of the movie would seem shallow in the paper, the content incomplete and maybe even somewhat comical. But the movie has few angles that keep haunting and inspiring me : "(...) you gotta draw from stuff you know right? (...) never re-create from you memory, always imagine new places (...) it is pure creation."

Mapping a city in film has been exploring relationships between city, urban space, moving image and memory for centuries. Why am I inspired? Inception, one of the few latest blockbuster movies, does not describe cliche worlds, but rather tries to question the limits as well as ethics of our imagination and is therefore something intellectually challenging, at least for me...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Trafalgar pops green, again...

Last night a hedge maze appeared in Trafalgar Square, London. According to the organisers (West End Partnership) this green labyrinth aims to encourage Londoners and visitors explore West End  beyond their usual paths. The maze consists of hedges over 2 metres high with lanes within that 30 by 20-metres puzzle named after famous West End streets. Taking some time to get lost in a green labyrinth is worth an effort, however one would also expect local partnerships to take a step beyond of just creating another temporary art and advertising installation - to actually take time and study people and their behaviour  in order to create better permanent open green (?) places for rest and play (see also intervention in Trafalgar in summer 2009).

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Heightened Level of Realism

"Our society tries to understand its own structure, and builds its physical extensions on the earth's surface, guided by blank slate hypothesis. City planners believe that people's taste for green, for functions, is just social construction. We do no not inhabit architectural space simply for shelter. We do so because we need the experience of space." (Salingaros; Jane Rendell "Critical Architecture")

When the space can understand what it is what we appreciate about it, that space can sustain, replicate or even enhance the aspects that make it special on a personal level. When architectural space has a true communicative capability, it can foster a heightened sense of attachment.

"It is a well known saying that you see your habitat anew through the eyes of a stranger. It's a cliche so it must be true. Take a guide of your own city. For once try to follow its instructions and become a tourist in your home town. Everything will be different. First of all, the aesthetic experience becomes central, instead of functional and emotional ones. One must keep in mind though that there are more reasons than one to keep on searching for characteristics and qualities that do not only conform the aesthetic tourist or commercially successful image." (Arjen Oosterman; Volume #4 2009)

A guide is not only a program or a manual for making decisions. It might also show realities that are influenced by design decisions and other interventions. Exploration of the city does not need to start from the idea of continuously aligned streets, but looking at the "blocks" behaving independently. 

So what about taking Google Street View a step further and looking at those immersive spaces with panoramic video? Not only recording stills of streetscapes but exploring the interactive inner lives of city blocks? As Marshall McLuhan has once said: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us” - our experience of the space.