TALLINN AS A BIRD
TWO LETTERS FROM VINCENT VAN GOGH TO HIS BROTHER
TO SING TILL DIE
PERFORMATIVITY OF GARDENING
CROSS-OVER ARCHITECTURE AND THE THIRD GENERATION CITY
HARRY PYE'S POSTCARD FROM SAO PAULO
CROSS-OVER ARCHITECTURE AND THE THIRD GENERATION CITY
In this article I am going to discuss two topics that I feel need to be defined as part of a broader discussion of the future of the build human environment. In architectonic scale I am trying to define the anatomy of Cross-Over Architecture and as a social drama the characteristics of the Third Generation City.
1. Cross-Over Architecture
The thinking of the cross-over architecture is based on my personal line of works from 1999 onwards that move freely in-between architecture, installation art, environmental art, circus, environmentalism and urban planning.
Photo: August Künnapu
The bottom line of all these works is not to define the border between architecture and other disciplines of art and science, but to ignore the tradition of framing the expression of creativity into fixed set of disciplinary categories. In other words the work and its interaction with people is the only important thing and through this interaction the story of the work may start breathing. For the story the discipline of art is irrelevant. Cross-over architecture does not steal or borrow methods, images or characteristics from the different artistic disciplines but it takes it for granted that all the tools of the creative legacy are free to be used in creating a work that has a story and thus has a life. President of Finland Mr. Mauno Koivisto has said: “First one has to have something to say, and then find the ways how to say it.” Design should not replace the real reality of the social narrative in the build human environment. Design follows drama.
I grew up in Ylitornio in the Finnish Lapland. My childhood memories are linked with nature and build human environment through stories. The narrative of my childhood memories and the environments that the stories are taking place in are blurred. The environment and the story are inseparable. The story would not happen without the environment and I wouldn’t even remember the environment without the story. These are my stories. For other people the same environment has different lines.
In the 1999 architectonic installation Land(e)scape (Casagrande & Rintala, Savonlinna, Finland) many elements of a work of cross-over architecture are present. The scale is architectonic and the setting is strongly tied up to a narrative. The work has elements from environmental art in the end it is interpreted by an act of performance. Desolate, longing after their farmers the three abandoned barn houses have abandoned their primeval union with the soil and have now risen on their legs and are swaying towards the cities of the South. On a dark night of October the work was set on fire according to the choreography of contemporary dancer Mr. Reijo Kela. The function of this work of cross-over architecture is to wake up stories in people’s minds. We wanted the barn houses to walk into their dreams and to burn a memory of the global process that is also desertingthe Finnish countryside and cutting away ancient traditions of men living as part of the environment.
The 2003 work Potemkin (Casagrande & Rintala, Kuramata, Japan) is a steel made park in the middle of rice fields for post industrial meditation. The village of Kuramata has 120 people left after the younger generations have moved to the Japanese big cities. The farmers are very old, but every morning they go to the rice fields together with the rising sun. In the evening they get together into a Shinto –temple to form a circular dance to commemorate a samurai that crossed the mountains to Kuramata to set up an army to overthrow a degenerated feudal lord. They have danced this dance for 400 years. The Potemkin is a mixture of a temple, machine and a ruin. It is an acropolis of reorganized urban waste – steel sheets from the shipping industry, broken glass, concrete and asphalt from the cities and pieces of machinery. In the end of the park there is an interior space that is directed towards the river Kamagawa running in the valley. You can go and fish an Aju –fish from the river and barbeque it in the steel temple. The rusty walls are opened up to the rice fields, to the river and to the Shinto –temple. The Potemkin was blessed in a Shinto ceremony and the Kuramata farmers moved their dance into steel ruin and keep telling the story of the righteous samurai.
Marco Casagrande. Aarete Mäe rekonstruktsioon. Taipei, Taivan / Reconstruction of Treasure Hill. Taipei, Taiwan, 2003.
2. The Third Generation City
The first generation is when the city is fully dependent on the environment and the understanding of nature. The second generation is the industrial city. Mr. Neil Armstrong brought us the Third Generation City from the moon after checking the planet Earth from outside and seeing that it really is one big organism on the surface of which the industrial cities were like anti-acupuncture needles dotting the living skin as cancer. The post-modern rendering of the industrial reality has not proven much better than the modernism itself. It is still lacking the pipes into the common subconscious, to social mysteries and to every day mysticism and it is still neglecting the big voice of nature.
The Third Generation City is the industrial city ruined by the people - human nature as part of nature. Like a weed creeping into an air-conditioning machine the industrial city will be ruined by rumors and by stories. The common subconscious will surface to the street level and architecture will start constructing for the stories - for the urban narrative. This will be soft, organic and as an open source based media, the copyrights will be violated. The author will no longer be an architect or an urban planner, but somehow a bigger mind of people. In this sense the architects will be like design shamans merely interpreting what the bigger nature of the shared mind is transmitting.
|In 2002 I wrote a letter to the Taipei City Government explaining that they will die. In the letter I was referring mainly to the industrial and life destructive condition of the city. A year after the City Government replied and invited me to produce an alternative plan for the urban development. At the moment the officials were bulldozing down an illegal settlement and we came to an agreement that I would have a chance to change the illegal settlement Treasure Hill into an experimental laboratory of environmentally conscious high-density urban living. After visiting the remaining houses of Treasure Hill I was convinced that the illegal settlement had more sustainable values than the surrounding official Taipei. The residents were producing their own vegetables on urban farms along the Xindien River – the same river that the industrial city had blocked away with 10 m high concrete walls. The whole Treasure Hill was stealing their electricity and fresh water from the official city and both were used secretly in minimal quantities. On top of this the Treasure Hill veterans were harvesting the surrounding city from what it regarded as garbage and recycled the material in the urban village enclave.
For the ecological urban laboratory I had to do nothing, it was already there. What I did was to construct wooden stairways and connections between the destroyed houses and some shelters for the old residents to play mah-jong and ping-pong. I also started up again the vegetable farms that the city had already destroyed and changed into lawns. In the end of the work a parade was organized from Treasure Hill into the Taipei City center dragging the urban farmers in scaffoldings as Trojan Horses to eventually attack the whole industrial city. Treasure Hill is the attic of Taipei carrying the memories, stories and traditions of the past generations. In some way it is a reflection of the Taipei mind that the industrial city is not able to reflect. For the stories to surface the industrial city must be turned over: the city must be a compost.
During the Treasure Hill campaign the mind of the city officials changed from one end to the other. In the beginning they were destroying the very same settlement that they were posing with to the media in the end. What made this change? The key word is power. When Treasure Hill was doomed to be destroyed even the residents had lost their hope and the power to dominate the site was lost to the bulldozing official city. My strategy was to regain the initiative back to Treasure Hill and to launch a campaign off small scale but subconsciously powerful interventions that would connect to the common subconscious of the settlement. I call this urban acupuncture. When the energies of Treasure Hill were awaken and directed to surface the build human environment the energy impact was also felt by the surrounding city and this is the moment when power is gained back. The rest of the campaign I had to protect the energy, dominate the no man’s land and in the end – to attack the city. As a result the illegal settlement was legalized as a permanent work of environmental art. Treasure Hill has been starring in the Discovery Channel and is one of The New York Times Taiwan’s must-see destinations. It is also a standard site for the Taipei politicians to smile in.
The Treasure Hill documentation was exhibited in the Venice Biennale 2006 together with interviews of Taiwanese urban farmers by 3R-W Architects from Norway. The interviews were displayed in a Zen-garden made out of recycled glass.