127sho_the building as a container of narratives

Michel Gondry’s continuous camera-take joins disparate events together within this high rise. The building becoming a container of narratives. A cinematic fusion of both Hitchcock’s Rope and Rear Window with George Perec’s Life User’s Manual, Gondry apparently did not use a conventional story board to describe to Massive Attack how the video would work but an architectural model made out of Lego…

Life A User’s Manual tells the stories of the inhabitants of an apartment building at 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier, a fictional Parisian address. The map below by BarcoBorracho (Él puzzle está en tu cabeza: The puzzle is in your head) illustrates how moves throughout the apartment building lie at the heart of the novel. One passes from Chapter 1 to Chapter 99 in a series of structured manoeuvres – a passage through passages. Perec himself describes how he settled on this decision: “It would have been tedious to describe the building floor by floor and apartment by apartment; but that was no reason to leave the chapter sequence to chance.  So I decided to use a principle derived from an old problem well known to chess enthusiasts and known as the Knight’s Tour; it requires moving a knight around the 64 squares of a chess-board without its ever landing more than once on the same square.  Thousands of solutions exist, of which some, like Euler’s, also form magic squares.  For the special case of Life A User’s Manual, a solution for a 10 x 10 chess-board had to be found; I managed this, rather miraculously, by trial and error.  The division of the book into six parts was derived from the same principle: each time the knight has finished touching all four sides of the square, a new section begins…  It should nevertheless be noted that the book has not 100 chapters but 99.  For this the little girl on pages 295 and 394 is solely responsible [pages 231 and 318 in the English translation].”  

Georges Perec, in Oulipo Compendium, p. 175 www.whatarchitecture.com



In December 2011, the Swedish car manufacturer Saab went into bankruptcy. The company had been mortally wounded since April when it ran out of cash, could not pay its suppliers and had to stop building cars. After eight months of extraordinary and desperate negotiations over potential rescues, it looked like Saab was safe when a sale was agreed with a Chinese manufacturer Youngman and distributor Pang Da. That deal was, however, called off as General Motors who owned Saab’s design patents considered copyright protection too weak in China and so expected its engineering would be pirated. So paradoxically, the designer’s favourite car will now disappear due to design infringement issues. The designer’s favourite? If we accept that a cliché contains at least a pixel of truth, then why was Saab seen as the Architect’s car? Was it because the driver wore black? What is the owner demographic? For the ten greatest Saabs in history: http://www.complex.com/rides/2009/12/saab-story-the-10-greatest-saabs-in-history

In the wake of Saab’s demise, which car manufacturers will architect’s now turn to? One way to project the future is to extrapolate the past. With the industrialisation of mobility, the modern age gained its definition. In Vers Une Architecture, Le Corbusier confirms his fascination with the morphologies and technologies of aircraft and automobiles. For Le Corbusier, the house was a machine à habiter, (‘a machine for living in’ or a kind of static car). One would have thought then that Corbusier would have embraced Saab given its unique position as being a manufacturer of both aircraft and automobiles (SAAB: Svenska Aeroplan AktieBolaget) yet his ‘vroom with with a rue’ was overtly French: the Citroen 2CV. Le Corbusier even named one of his houses the Citrohan 2 and his own design proposals (see below) belie a 2CV lineage. Le Corbusier’s ride is based upon an ideological preference for the affordable and the compact. Compare this with the contemporary architect: Zaha Hadid owns a London black cab; Nigel Coates owned a Jensen Interceptor; a licence-free Peter Cook walks… please feel free to email us your own carchitect.


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000off_Forthcoming WHAT_architecture publication

Forthcoming WHAT_architecture ‘power book’ with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology…