Friday, April 2, 2010

smallBIG: roundtable

Following the Friday, February 5 2010 opening reception of "small architecture BIG LANDSCAPES," a roundtable discussion was held the afternoon of Saturday, February 6. Titled "small group of architects BIG PUBLIC DISCUSSION," the session was moderated by Wes Janz, with smallBIG contributors Azin Valy, Bryan Finoki, David Stairs, Giulia Fiocca, Olon Dotson, and Scott Shall asked to take leading roles in setting out questions or responses to the larger group. Persons from the local community also participated in the roundtable, held in a permanent gallery room of the Swope Art Museum.

Central to the conversation, as set out by Janz in his introduction to the roundtable, was the need to both reflect critically on the show and to ask questions about where this work and these works might and should go in the near future -- the main point was to look forward, to imagine what to do next. Comments, as they came from the assembled group and were noted by Janz, are included below. Giulia Fiocca, contributor to the "Walk On" small architecture was asked to begin the conversation:

Giulia Fiocca
It is important "to build relationships, rather than to build," and to be involved in ways that cause us not to be the tools of developers. People "survive without us." Think: "small action BIG REINVENTION."

Bryan Finoki (roundtable)
"Who are we to try to depict" the lives of those living in distress? The architect should function in "strictly an assist role, maybe as a translator." Remember: "humanity persists despite struggle."

David Stairs (essay)
It's important to shift curiosities from "What are we doing?" to "Are we doing any good at all?" His interest is not in the "cult" of the architects, but in the profession of architecture. Here, "Ivan Illich has discused professions as self-aggrandizing." David does not use the word "intervention," which is popular with architects. The "wisdom on the ground" should be the "first precept." Get involved on a "first name basis." For more on Illich, see David's article "POSTprofessional" at Design-Altruism-Project. For more on "first name basis," see Janz's postings (Part 1 and Part 2) at Design-Altruism-Project.

Scott Shall (small architecture)
"When the word 'intervention' is used, it's not neutral." He prefers "injection," is in "going with the flow."

Bryan Finoki
Sees the "built environment as an enforcer of behavior." "Who do we define spatial justice? ... Is there ethical space? ... How do we practice spatial justice? ... What is spatial injustice?" "We can't go anywhere without money being involved."

Wil Marquez (small architecture)
We need to be concerned with "civility," with "staying involved... People have forgotten how to participate in spatial justice."

David Stairs
"Ownership factors into it... What is owned in private? What is owned by the public?"

Scott Shall
We can speak of "owners and non-owners." "Can space liberate?" "Foucalt said: space can liberate if occupants and designers are in alignment." "Are we much better at creating oppressive space?"

Bryan Finoki
"Architecture liberates power and capital. Not people."

Wil Marquez
"Sharing information can liberate people and bring about collaboration and cross-pollination."

Bryan Finoki
"The internet has made us lazy... We're not getting out to make public space."

Wil Marquez
"Do we knock on doors or do we come in through the door?"

Shai Yeshayahu (small architecture)
"The information age is changing things rapidly... Tomorrow we'll have to be reparameterized."

Azin Valy (small architecture)
"What is justice?"

Janice Shimizu (small construction)
"How long do you have to be in a place to know what is justice?"

Bryan Finoki
There is a "complete assault on our lives." This "small architecture BIG LANDSCAPES" show argues for a "return to our own empowerment at a rudimentary level."

Olon Dotson (small architecture)
Is the architect a "facilitator of people's processes?"

Giulia Fiocca
"Who are these people? How much can we share with them?"

David Stairs
"Justice is something that's bred in the bone. "We exult in the freedom of the internet at our peril." "Most of the people in the world communicate face-to-face. We must see human interaction as a face-to-face activity."

Lisa Petrulia (curator, Swope)
"Can you give an example of spatial injustice?"

Tara Sumrall (essay)
"Yes. The houses 'given' to people on reservations. The way they are just dropped off, the low quality of the dwelling to begin with." When teaching at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, she saw "people come to school and wear the same sweatshirt every day."

Craig McCormick (photographs)
"You're underwater and that's not questioned."

Tania Lopez (roundtable)
The "architecture of 'the projects' is the same as the architecture of prisons."

Olon Dotson
"Where did the word 'projects' come from?"

Azin Valy
What is the root cause of the problems? ... It's so easy to blame poverty, or capitalism, or justice." It's important to see "words not as absolutes, but as gray."

Craig McCormick
See the "Clip House" by Interloop Architecture in Houston.

Scott Shall
"All too often, the spaces are more menacing than the people."

Giulia Fiocca
See the thematic for the 2010 Venice Biennale, "People Meet in Architecture."

Scott Shall
"How does this work move forward?" (referring to the smallBIG show)

Maria Del C. Vera (small architecture)
"We are embodied by discipline and law... (We) feel the immediate realities."

Timothy Gray (small architecture)
"Are there models of good works? ... I'm sitting here as a citizen, not as an architect... Architects are seen as the servants of the rich... Are there any good alternative examples? Can we find models that give us a sense of how to move forward?"

Shai Yeshayahu
"I don't like and I don't want models. I like this idea of one small project with big impact. How does one module provide a beginning point?"

Harold Baker (roundtable)
(referring to the smallBIG show) "This is it ... this is next ... this is it... This is a fledgling field of sorts."

Bryan Finoki
Maybe The 1% pro bono design program by Public Architecture

Harold Baker
"How about Robin Hood?"

Giulia Fiocca

Craig McCormick
Community development organizations, like LISC (Local Initiative Support Corporation), people with "a heart for the development of communities."

Scott Shall
See the book, "The Starfish and the Spider." Spiders are centralized -- cut off a leg and you have a seven-legged spider, crush the head and you have a dead spider. Spider organizations are centralized, structured. Everyone knows the identity of the boss. Starfish are decentralized -- not only can they grow new limbs, they can regrow their body from a part of a severed limb. Every limb has everything it needs to fully exist. Starfish are organized not around hierarchy or structure, but around ideas and shared principles. The internet supports starfish, like Napster which was forced to refine and re-up itself after some of its essential identity severed.

Harold Baker
"The future will be designed collaboratively... The group brain is more effective than the singular brain."

(photo above by Josh Coggeshall)

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