What About Understanding Contemporary Architecture?

The Shapes of Hardcore Architecture

By N. Frankowski and C. García (WAI)


Modern Architecture was a fashion statement. Coated with an ideology of social impromptu and urban reconstruction, it seems undeniable and remarkable that the dominant gene of the Modern Movement’s DNA was its aesthetics.

Everything, from the “hygienic” appearance of its white villas, to its revolutionary materials—glass, steel and concrete, to its grid-restricted urban plans and its desolated tree-less plazas, was a trend; a stylistic straightjacket fiercely defended through an almost endless list of manifestoes and catalogues that prophesied how the modernist Zeitgeist should be portrayed.

Modernism’s plan was to become alchemistic through fashion; it was trying to transform positivism, rationalism, and Cartesianism into an architectural style, and its aesthetics into a science.


Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier introduced modernism from two opposite directions. While Loos anounced the advent of a modern architecture by emphatically denouncing previous styles, Le Corbusier welcome its arrival by creating five categories which would soon become the modernist's ethos.

In 1908, Loos published Crime and Ornament —a written plead for a halt to the use and production of ornamentation. In it he banned the use of ornament in order to instate the “rational” design of the new century.

A decade and a half later, Le Corbusier published the first catalogue of modernist aesthetics. In the Almanach de l’Architecture moderne; les pilotis, le toit-terrasse, le plan libre, la fenêtre en longueur, and la façade libre became the five official organs of the modernist anatomy.

Even though Loos and Le Corbusier sketched different routes to becoming “modern”, the bottom line was that Modernism was still about style.


In total contrast to the modernist dogma, contemporary architecture defies classification. Despite its unprecedented amount of production—both speculative and materialized—it is still waiting for a screen to project its intentions.

The paradox of contemporary architecture is that even though it doesn’t have a written manifesto—like Loos’s or Le Corbusier’s—it does have a shared visual language; an unclaimed common plot.


In 1992, Peter Eisenman presented a “work in progress” in front of a battalion of architects, urbanists, and critics of intimidating gravitas. The project—a looping tower—was being grafted onto the former Max Reinhardt Schauspielhaus site in Berlin, just in front of Mies’s original unrealized glass tower.(1)

In the discussion after the presentation, Rem Koolhaas –who was amongst the observers—tried to disarm Eisenman’s claims, over a project that the Dutch architect found “extremely beautiful.” Thus he found the looping tower appealing; Koolhaas was not convinced by Eisenman’s explanation of the project.

The final conclusion of the debate was that while the project was still a “work in progress” it should be criticized for its image and not for its architect’s words.


Ten years later Koolhaas presented a building in Beijing —a looping tower. Although in a different context and with a totally unrelated program, this project raised eyebrows because of its striking resemblance to Eisenman’s previous proposal.

In Delirious New York, Koolhaas compared Le Corbusier to a magician who gives his trick away when, inside the black velvet pouch he made the American Skyscraper “disappear” and pulled out his “Cartesian rabbit”: the Horizontal Skyscraper. (2)

With his proposal of the headquarters of the CCTV Koolhaas became an impersonation of his own “delirious magician.” He pulled out of his top hat his own version of the looping skyscraper, this time making disappear the corrugated folds of the facade, and sticking the building in Beijing—far from Berlin and from Mies’s ominous presence.


In 2004 the Office for Metropolitan Architecture claimed in their Universal Modernization Patent that they had “invented” the skyscraper loop. (3) Had they forgotten the fact that Eisenman had proposed a similar shape for a building ten years before? Or was the patent a hoax, ironically outlining the fact that contemporary architecture doesn’t invent, only “shares” shapes?


These two versions of the looping tower—the Max Reindhardt Haus and the CCTV—not only marked a revolution in skyscraper design, but in the dialectics of contemporary architecture.

The reappearance of the looping skyscraper reinforced the idea that a tower could be done as a Moebius strip and, more importantly, that after the abolition of concepts like scale, function, site or program, architecture can assume any shape in any place.

Additionally the seducing glitter of the papier couché, the fame of competitions, the glamour of awards and the virulent speed of websites, blogs and other types of e-fiction have propelled and multiplied the amount of images that are produced and consumed, badly outpacing a discipline as slow as architecture.

The result is a subconscious recognition of architecture’s limited amount of “shapes” and consequently their repetition as a fashion trend.


While in hardcore modernism the aesthetics were strongly defended by sharp statements, in contemporary hardcore architecture the shapes don’t have a stated manifesto, they have become the manifesto itself.

There are no doctrinal texts for contemporary architecture. It simply refuels itself visually by modernism and its multiple reincarnations; it draws inspiration from the unrealized schemes of Le Corbusier, Mies, Alexander Vesnin, El Lissitzky and Ivan Leonidov; it reinterprets the social utopias of Ledoux and Boullé; it recycles strategies aborted decades ago, and invokes schemes from totally contrasting historical, political and economic situations.

In contemporary architecture the shapes are indifferently repeated, from the sanded no man’s land in the mid-east, to the bamboo fields in Asia, to the flat landscapes in the Netherlands, to the sheetrock solid soil of New York.

Modernism’s ultimate goal of conquering the world through abstraction and repetition is finally being achieved, albeit on “steroids.” The buildings are twisted, bent, melted; in fact they’ve become the absolute incarnations of software simulacra and Styrofoam models.


Part of an extensive research, The Shapes of Hardcore Architecture proposes an understanding of contemporary architecture through the creation of a taxonomic catalogue of shapes; an ontology of forms. This study shows how leading contemporary practices find their common language without any official statement to justify any political ideology or aesthetic trend.

The following categories are an assemblage of buildings that, grouped according to their share of coincidental similarities and stripped from their original context, are displayed as “evidence” of the condition of contemporary architecture.

The possible categories which can emanate from a classification based on building shapes are to contemporary architecture what the Lecorbusian “five points” were to Modernism.

Sharing the romantic political ideals of the Russian Constructivist that evoked highly mechanized utopias at the advent of a “communal way of life,” the Horizontal Condensers are towers connected through built-on bridges. These horizontal segments once attached to individual towers not only act as physical links but integrate the otherwise isolated programs throughout collective and communal space. (4)

Blow-Up Fonts is a “trend” of buildings whose shapes emulate letters from the alphabet. The use of these typographic buildings can change according to the spelling of its intentions; referring in some recent examples to the name of the designer office (OMA’s “OMA”) or to the city where the project is proposed (JDS Architects’ “BE”).

In Ziggurat-Polis, Hans Konwiarz’s 1966 proposal for an urban intervention in Hamburg is revisited. The general scheme in this category consists of a common ground plan that in its higher levels get separated into a series of individual ziggurat-shaped towers. As in the other categories, the program can vary, from residential apartments, to hotel rooms, to office space.

Another revival of the Constructivist unbuilt proposals, Tower(s) and Box recalls El Lissitzky provocative photomontage for a Wolkenbügel (Cloud Iron). The proposal that showed a tower crowned at the top by a pronounced cantilever, proved to be basically impossible to build under the technological and economic limitations of its period. Meanwhile, further advances in engineering have launched a series of modifications of the Russian’s original design, allowing the cantilevered box to be reshuffled and redistributed at different heights on the building.

The Loop is named after the shape of a tower which instead of going just up and down in a straight vertical line, gets bent and connected to itself at its top and ground levels, creating a continuous Escherean form or a vertical “Moebius Strip.”

Stacking Boxes as the name suggests, simulate a conglomeration of volumes that are collocated one on top of another and next to each other to create the impression of being a random amalgamation of boxes. Highly popular during the 60’s it was one of the preferred shapes of the Japanese Metabolists. Its climax came with Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67 in Montreal. These last years have seen a resurrection on the use of Stacking Boxes as an architectural strategy due to the high flexibility of its uses, as the boxes can be scaled to host an endless variety of programs, ranging from housing schemes (MVRDV’s Skyvillage) to mixed programs (OMA’s Bryghusprojektek), to exhibition space (SANAA’s New New Museum).


1. Peter Eisenman, “(K)nowhere to fold”, Anywhere, ed. Cynthia Davidson, (Rizolli: New York, 1992), 218-235.

2. Rem Koolhaas, “Europeans: Biuer!; Dalí and Le Corbusier Conquer New York”, Delirious New York, (New York: Monacelli Press, 1978), 253.

3. Rem Koolhaas, “Universal Modernization Patent: Skyscraper Loop(2002)”, Content, (Kölhn: Taschen , 2003), 511.

4. Camilla Gray, “1917-21”, The Russian Experiment in Art 1863-1922, (London: Thames & Hudson, 1962), 219.

What About Oslo?

Conditions Magazine #2: Copy and Interpretation release party in the 0047 Gallery in Oslo

14 October 2009

CONDITIONS MAGAZINE and 0047 invite you to the release of

TIME: Thursday 22 October, from 19:00

PLACE: 0047, Schweigaardsgt 34 D, Oslo

WAI is an intellectual collaborator of Conditions Magazine. The second issue contains the article “The Shapes of Hardcore Architecture”, which consist of an abstract of the upcoming book of the same name.


What About Tokyo?

MONU to be exhibited during the TOKYO DESIGN WEEK

MONU magazine on urbanism will be exhibited during the TOKYO DESIGN WEEK from October 30th to November 3rd 2009 inside the main venue of the 100% DESIGN TOKYO hall. The Magazine Library space will be in the center of the main venue.

WAI is an intellectual collaborator of Monu, appearing in the 6th and 11th issues of the acclaimed critical magazine.


What About Conditions?

WAI has been featured in Conditions Magazine

The second issue of the Scandinavian publication centers its attention on the topic “Interpretation and Copy.” The magazine also includes articles, interviews and projects by: Julien de Smedt, Joana Sá Lima and Anders Melsom, Alexander Maymind, Tor Inge Hjemdal, Alv Skogstad Aamo, Piet Vollaard, Baukuh, Rolf Hughes, Sören Grünert, Karen Crequer, Noa Haim, Brian Cavanaugh, Iwan Thomson, Richard Woditch, Quentin Le Guen-Geffroy, Justin Fowler, Anders Melsom and Pawel Druciarek, and Dahl & Uhre, 70°N.


To order a printed copy:


What About the Web Site?

WAI is happy to announce the new website and email addresses.
The future WAI Website is under construction.
Meanwhile you can access the posts in our blog
and contact us at:

general information

What About a Metropolitan Amsterdam?


Manhattanism is the urbanistic doctrine that suspends the irreconcilable differences between mutually exclusive positions.

-Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York


Henry Hudson “discovered” in 1609 on behalf of the Dutch the area that later became New Amsterdam. Four hundred years later—Manhattan being an icon of density and cosmopolitanism—fate is reversed; it becomes a tangible possibility to re-conquer Amsterdam, only this time through the understanding of New York.

It has become almost a requirement for the avant-garde to insert in Manhattan fragments of their unsatisfied urban desires; their dreamed metropolis.

From Malevich Arkhitektonics to Le Corbusier’s Ville-Radieuse, from Fuller’s Geodesic Dome to Superstudio’s endless Monumento, the avant-garde cannot exist without trying to graft “something” onto New York.

But what happens when the strategy is inverted, when the island is left untouched and it is its counterpart that is manipulated by a transplant from the American metropolis? Are we then to become the surgeons of the contemporary European city?

Amsterdam - New York
In order to perform the “operation” from one body to the other—from the American to the European—a study of compatibility must be carried out.

New York and Amsterdam have striking similarities, and contrasting differences.
Manhattan became iconic not only because of its unique acrophilic condition—the one that sent hundreds of buildings into a contest to claim the sky—but also by its capability to integrate an almost endless variety of cultures, activities and social classes.1

On the other hand, the center of Amsterdam has become almost the total opposite of an urban laboratory. Its caricaturesque charisma is enforced through the image of old buildings, and local programs; who can ever forget to mention the “red light district” and the “coffee shops”? Amsterdam is the epitome of the picturesque Dutch city. And even when it has served as a European paradigmatic melting pot, there is still a growing need for programs that stimulate social interaction.

New York’s colossal density amounts inevitably to high congestion levels, while the “village” type urban composition of Amsterdam suggests that density could be reached without the same predicament. The possibility of a Manhattanistic “operation” over Amsterdam would seem possible.

As the name suggests, Metrodam takes urban strategies that resulted from the metropolitan condition of New York and applies them to Amsterdam. In that sense the project is conceived as a revision of the metropolis role of New York and how it could be incorporated into Amsterdam, in a social, economic and artistic way.

Metrodam reinterprets specific references from New York where social interaction is stimulated—as the wooden decks in Coney Island, the ice-rink in the Rockefeller Center, and the outdoor cinema in Bryant Park—and incorporates them through a series of spaces where mixed uses are encouraged.

Grid-Less Micro City
The Metrodam is envisioned as a micro version of a gridless-Manhattan where the collective of activities is stimulated not by the rigorous implementation of the square angle and strict divisions, but by the incorporation of programs that enhance a diversity of uses and people while allowing an effortless flow through open, semi-open and enclosed spaces.

Without the need of a grid, the program is distributed on layers and levels creating a flexible surface of programs that fit with their surroundings, generating a platform where architecture, landscape and urbanism become indivisible one from the other and where social, economic and cultural interaction is considered a sine qua non condition.

By inserting fragments of New York’s metropolitan lifestyle we aim to make a collective of programs that individually attract people and collectively act as a heterogeneous social condenser.

The Key Parts of the Program are as follows:

The Metrodam acts as a trait-d’union that not only connects the waterfront of the north of Amsterdam physically, but that creates a visual link reachable from the center of Amsterdam. As part of the Masterplan the plaza facing the IJ incorporates a green corridor that extends from the Overhoeks Masterplan. Through this corridor, Cycle and Walking Paths will connect pedestrians and bicycle users through al the IJ Sideline. The strategic location of the site also aims to incorporate a link with ferries and tourist boats for easy access from the opposite side of the IJ.

Public Art
Spaces through the plazas are intended for the insertion and/or construction of art for public display. The task of these areas is to incorporate art on an urban scale and incorporate them into public activities such as shopping, working and living. These spaces are also aimed to create a platform that not only gives a protagonist role to artists but that recognizes the potential of art as a meaningful contribution to the built-up environment.

Wooden Beach
While in Coney Island the people are attracted to the natural beach by its artificial program, in the Metrodam project it is the artificial beach that seduces the people. The Metrodam faces the IJ with a new feature: a wooden beach. A platform of wooden decks opens downwards creating pools where people can enjoy a variety of water activities or just sit back and relax having an unobstructed view towards the city of Amsterdam.

Ice-Skating Rink
Using the Rockefeller Center as a reference, during the months of winter, the wooden beach can be covered and converted into an Ice Skate Park. This program will enhance the active use of the deck facing the IJ on the cold months, while creating an epicenter of activity that can draw people from the surrounding areas and from the other side of the IJ, from the Center of Amsterdam.

Just like the open cinema in Bryant Park in New York, an auditorium is offered by lifting the roof of the new retail area. The sloping floor creates a wooden seating zone were people can gather to watch on a screen collocated on the interior side of the tower either movie projections, performing art shows, fashion displays or any kind of public viewing activity. This area is intended to work as an extension of the activities celebrated in the New Film Museum on the Overhoeks Masterplan, and is also connected to the public art, the retail and restaurant area, and the wooden beach/ Ice Skate Park.

Mixed Use
A key factor of the project is the incorporation of mixed uses in terms of a sustainable economy for the area and a balanced injection of activities. The first and second levels will be designated to retail areas, restaurants, and workshops for creative oriented industries. The superior floors of the tower are intended for the occupation of a mixed area of office space with the possibility of residential spaces while allowing the superior “bridge area” to host residential spaces. The mix of uses will not only attract a balanced heterogeneous mix of public but will also create a constant flow of users within the building as its surroundings.

Sustainable Future
The project is intended to serve as a paradigm for future developments of this scale. The aim is to show that art, architecture, urbanism and landscape can equally promote a sustainable and ecological socio-economic growth through the incorporation of diverse activities as well as in human resources. In this way, Amsterdam could be Manhattanized.

1.The term acrophilic is first used in Shumon Basar, “The Sky Is Not Near Enough: On the New Sublime Mediocrity of Dubai’s Teaming Towers,” Monu #9 Exotic Urbanism, ed. Bernd Upmeyer, (Board: Rotterdam, 2008), 80.

Project Data:

Codename: Metrodam

Program: Mixed-use development including retail, office, housing and public spaces

Location: Amsterdam, NL

Status: Competition

Design Team: N.Frankowski, C.García (WAI)

Image Credits: WAI (N.Frankowski, C.García)

Year: 2009

What About Clean Urbanism?

Rendering the clean
What about blue sky utopias and dreams of green cities?

Imagine a city for three million inhabitants. Now add pedestrian walkways separated from the noise of the traffic. Envision greenery in every space between well distributed buildings. Picture a center with skyscrapers, cross-formed for optimized sunlight and spatial distribution, specifically designed to house intellectuals, creative minds, and bureaucrats. Visualize low-rise high-density housing - buildings for workers surrounding the center- and between those buildings, green belts of leisure parks where kids and adults can play and relax in contact with nature and without the need to leave the city. Within the residential spaces, imagine an optimum amount of health facilities, schools and libraries. Now insert this city in the center of Paris. And voila!

There is a popular phrase that claims that one image says more than a thousand words; some images shout more than a million. The perversity behind the well known collage of the Cartesian city inserted next to the Ile de la Cité shows just how a plan driven by hygienic ideals can turn out to be a city’s worst threat (at least on paper). Le Corbusier obliterated the center of Paris in the name of a sanitary duty. Paradoxically, his urbanism depended on the eradication of actual cities in order to prove its efficiency as an urban strategy. The French capital was not the only one threatened. New York, Buenos Aires and even Stockholm were in the "cleansing" plans of the Swiss architect; who can ever forget the infamous VR-8 diagram sweeping three cities at once?

It requires an ambitious mastermind to transform the four apparently harmless values of travailler, habiter, circuler et cultiver le corps et l’esprit into a series of cruciform skyscrapers and paste them on top of the “cancerous parts” of Paris and Manhattan: the historic center in the first, the island in the second. Even more, it takes a perverse deliberation to acknowledge the power of the images that depicted such megalomaniac urban strategies. The bottom line is that Modernism’s real alchemy didn’t lie in its social impromptu; it was in its imagery. Le Corbusier utilized every graphic tool available to make the cities look clean and at the same time to persuade everybody to believe in it.

In his cities, the air was fresh and clean, but social classes were strictly divided by their “green” architecture. Le Corbusier’s plans were a clear suggestion that only a strict political regime could achieve such a massive wash-out, eradicating the anguishing problems of the past; starting from afresh with a new architecture, a new city, and new people. Les Villes Radieuses were skyscraper Edens for the bureaucrats and intellectuals, and a green prison for the lower classes.

Le Corbusier was not alone in the voracious crusade for a new clean city. With similar intent, urban, architectural, and artistic masterminds have envisioned blocks, sectors and even cities bulldozed in the name of cleanliness. Ebenezer Howard’s slumless and smokeless “Garden Cities of Tomorrow” seem like a prototype for what today would be a carbon neutral city. The American counterpart Frank Lloyd Wright designed his “Broadacre City”, where Americans could live in harmony with their vast amounts of nature. The Japanese Metabolists were busy wondering how to multiply housing schemes while preserving the little nature Japan had left. Yes, we can easily make up an almost endless list of attempts that tried to make a perfect combination between designed surface and idyllic landscape. The ideal cities of yesterday were betting on the power of urban planning and architecture to solve all of the social burdens and wash down the cities once and for all. Ironically, they were all trying to do the same cleaning only each one using a different “detergent.”

Today, Photoshop imagery has become the favorite tool of green warfare. Contemporary “urbanists” have been uncritically green painting every Google image in the name of sustainability. So, are we about to succumb to a tsunami of green perspectives of pseudo sustainable urban irresponsibility? Or will we be able to use the same imagery as a critical tool in face of the global warming paranoia?

At this point in time we persist with the same failed strategies. In an age of green slogans everything seems to point towards a “new” campaign against the so called global warming. Photoshop utopias display green-washed urban projects thanks to the filling tool (CTRL+DEL) presented for every kind of environment, from the rural villas in China, to the deserted and sanded no man’s lands in the Middle East. Sustainability has become a cache misère for our lack of intent, a trendy make-up hiding our impotence; clean urbanism being its apotheosis.

It is obvious that amnesia has become a critical part of the repertoire that enables us to repeat failed urban plans/strategies. In order to replicate the wrongs of before, we have got to ignore the urban threats of the fin de siècle. Clean urbanism has gone mainstream, and with it has vanished our ability to be critical. We have a resurrection of the megalomaniac clean cities of the 20th century, but we no longer have a Team 10 to pose the Shakespeareanism: “what is the city but the people?” We have also lost Archizoom’s power to ridicule the institutionalized. We can’t even pretend to have a Situationist naiveté and proclaim a war against the Green Corporation. The broadbands are saturated with redundant green slogans, senseless manifestos and trendy “yes is more” claims. We reiterate with blinded faith the credo of everything that was wrong with Modernism, and imitate with a fashionable style every menacing image that was created as Modernist propaganda for the “cleanest” of the strategies: the Tabula Rasa.

In a desperate attempt to resurrect, regenerate and renew the hopes for greener and sustainable cities, we have been selling ourselves as the cleaners of all the junk we’ve accumulated. We’ve been filling every blog, every magazine, every book, every international competition, and every commission with the opposite of an urban utopia: entire master plans with absolutely no intent, no strategy and no logic, displaying what is no more than a “nice looking” image from Google Earth and a pleasant picture from a render office.

To make matters worse, we have lost the power to be critical with the arrival of Photoshop. We’ve been blinded by the glare of the lens flare and sedated by the blue of happy skies. We’ve been fooled by the camouflage of virtual cities and perfect skylines of LEED certified skyscrapers. We crave for eye candy. While perspectives are being use to seduce instead of to inform, we have surrendered to a shallow trend of green images and uncritical superficiality. The pleasures of satisfying simulacra and e-fiction have anesthetized our ability to be critical.

Frivolity is the new substance. Architecture with a capital A has been usurped; no longer important it is disappearing behind layers of uniformly cropped trees. Whatever happened to the collage as a tool of guerrilla warfare against the institutionalized? Whatever happened to a time when architecture was used as a narrative Deleuzean tool to battle against the centralized powers of the established, of the politically correct, of the “socially responsible” and collectively accepted? Maybe we should reconstruct these last years of “inconvenient truths” and apocalyptic panic by way of the skepticism of a Foucaultian genealogy. Like at the time when there was an “Il Monumento Continuo”, an “Exodus” and a “Non-Stop City.” Maybe then, we will be able to subvert the “green” and criticize the uncritical. ■WAI

By N. Frankowski and C. García

What About Monu?

WAI has been featured in MONU

(Magazine on Urbanism #11)

Clean Urbanism also includes articles, interviews and projects by: OMA, Bernd Upmeyer (BOARD), Felipe Correa, The Jackson Community Design Center, Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today, Gerd Hauser, John Southern, Randall Teal, Nikonus Pappas, Bryan Norwood, Darryl Chen, Amanda Webb, Rogier van den Berg, Aleksander Tokarz, Simon Swietochowski, and Greg Keefe.


to order a printed copy:

What about the King?

«(…) Le seul, cependant, à avoir poussé le processus jusqu'à son terme était Michael Jackson: il n'était plus ni noir ni blanc, ni jeune ni vieux; il n'était même plus, dans un sens, ni homme ni femme. Personne ne pouvait véritablement imaginer sa vie intime; ayant compris les catégories de l'humanité ordinaire, il s'était ingénié à les dépasser. Voici pourquoi il pouvait être tenu pour une star, et même pour la plus grande star -et, en réalité, la première – de l'histoire du monde. Tous les autres (…) pouvaient tout au plus être considérés comme des artistes talentueux, ils n'avaient fait que mimer la condition humaine, qu'en donner une transposition esthétique; Michael Jackson, le premier, avait essayé d'aller un peu plus loin.»

-Michel Houellebecq, Plateforme

What About the Fire?

Entre realidad y ficción:

Como un edifico en llamas pudo haber liberado a la arquitectura de sus ataduras

Por N. Frankowski, F. Pedrini y C. García

Rem Koolhaas no es Howard Roark. Sin embargo debo admitir que el nueve de febrero deseé que el arquitecto holandés fuera el protagonista del texto de Ayn Rand. Durante el festival de la linterna que marca la culminación de las celebraciones del año nuevo chino, la torre del TVCC se prendió en llamas. La destrucción del escultural hotel y centro de convenciones a manos de su autor sería perversamente audaz.

Tal como Roark destruyó Cortland Homes inconforme con la ineptitud que se tuvo en su construcción, Koolhaas quemaría su torre para denunciar la incapacidad de la arquitectura de los excesos de adaptarse a un periodo de debacles económicos y ambientales. El autor de Delirious New York y S,M,L,XL escogería las celebraciones de año nuevo para acentuar la diferencia entre un año de genialidades e inauguraciones monumentales y un nuevo periodo que verá pocos estrenos y se enfrentará a un clima saturado de tempestades anímicas. La imagen del centro cultural de la televisión china en llamas sería metáfora perfecta: el dragón chino arrojando fuego al cielo oriental languidecido por la profanación de sus tierras a velocidades exasperantes, anonadado por el estridente motor político que ha movido las megaestructuras que ha visto construirse sobre la tierra que debía proteger. Koolhaas habría reconocido que la arquitectura con A mayúscula sufría de sordera ya que había perdido la capacidad de reconocer el sonido de la vida cotidiana.

La ignición del TVCC por manos de Koolhaas sería el perfecto clímax para una novela de Ayn Rand. El intolerable arquitecto iracundo con la profesión, destruyendo la obra de su más ostentoso apadrinador. Congestionadas de especulaciones sobre las causas del incendio, las autoridades no sabrían que hacer. ¿Sería la póliza de seguros contra accidentes de un edificio que llevaba más de un año de atrasos? ¿Habrá sido resultado de un recorte en el presupuesto de protección contra incendios debido al inminente debacle económico? ¿Habrá sido el pueblo chino en una revuelta para reclamar para el pueblo lo que el pueblo construyó? Y si fuera así, ¿Cuál sería el próximo edificio? Estas incógnitas se desvanecerían luego de que el autor del “incidente” declarara sus acciones. “Yo quemé el edifico”, declararía Koolhaas.

Sin embargo, Koolhaas no quemó la torre del TVCC. El incendio que iluminó la noche de Pekín por horas parece ser producto de un accidente con fuegos artificiales. El zinc que lanzaba llamas incontrolables no fue un espectáculo premeditado; no había un mensaje oculto detrás del incendio.

De este modo, no habrá un juicio como el de Courtland Homes en contra de Koolhaas. El arquitecto holandés no denunciará la ineptitud en escalas monumentales de la profesión en un juicio en contra de un batallón de políticos y desarrolladores coléricos. La arquitectura seguirá siendo un ejercicio para los poderosos, los ojos entrenados y las mentes educadas. Los arquitectos seguirán siendo seducidos por el poder de las hegemonías y el brillo del papel couché. Lo que mas me llamó la atención de “The Fountainhead” es como el arquitecto se convirtió en héroe al no perder la compostura y resistir la “crisis”. En estos momentos tenemos todos los elementos necesarios para hacer nuestra propia novela pero, ¿tendremos al fin a nuestro héroe o Howard Roark seguirá siendo solo un personaje ficticio?■

What About the Wall?

Strip City: Rethinking the Meaning of the Gaza Border

By N. Frankowski and C. Garcia

A wall in itself is meaningless. But instead, if that wall is charged with symbolism or with “content”, it can become the ultimate tool for change. As the most basic element of architecture, “the wall” can produce an unlimited array of possibilities. Very often used as a tool for separation, what happens when “the wall” is repurposed to “embrace” instead of excluding? What happens when the “wall” is fragmented to allow permeability? What happens when a no-man’s land is metamorphosed into a social condenser? What happens when instead of dividing East and West, it becomes a “melting pot”?

Strip City addresses the concept of the wall as a barrier, moreover rethinking the border line of the Gaza Strip. In the pictured scenario a ceaseless band of buildings is displayed along the Strip. Rectangular Blocks seem from far as a reminiscence of a continuous wall. But instead of an uninterrupted barrier, the buildings are spaced between them creating a zone for an incessant flow of creative freedom and possibilities.

The East-West conflict that used to be accentuated by a strong physical division is cancelled by the creation of transitional space. Taking as departure the point “0” that marked the separation between two territories, a new Architecture is enhanced. One that looks for the optimization of different behaviors, utilizations, and interpretations of space. Architecture in the “border zone” acts as a landscape background for a space intended to assemble differences and similarities.

As a new archaeological discovery, Strip City proposes a refreshing programmatic flexibility to its occupants. Like an oasis in the desert, people are attracted to the infinite possibilities of the space created that acts as a trait d’union between East and West. A new architecture welcomes the new comers and gratifies its inhabitants with its neutral and peaceful spaces. Common areas are displayed all over between the buildings as tangible ways of social, cultural and economic integration. Sport, health, economic and educational facilities act as enhancers of multiculturalism. Like alchemistic architecture, Strip City turns desolation into hope; a desert into an oasis. At the end a new and healthy architecture shines full of promises.