Thoughts on eVolo

As I look through the previous winning and submitted entries to the eVolo skyscraper competition I cannot help but feel the plasticity and corporatization of a competition whose topic of discourse weighs so heavily on the importance of possible future city dwelling scenarios. In contrast to truly challenging multiple aspects of vertical dwelling, entrants are instead quick to slap on the latest “sustainable” technologies to the facade of a formally fetishized mega-structure. Since its inception eVolo has traditionally been a [skyscraper] competition seemingly focused on the instantaneously digestible image. Although some projects stray away from this generalization, and may in fact have a great deal of research behind the fantastical gloss that somehow eludes the captive audience, what is presented on the eVolo blog, and often filtered out to the final round, are those projects embodying the recognizably-gratifying-image to be most easily transmitted and disseminated in a media culture hooked on the quickest and cheapest visual fix bearing little to no substance to hold them up.

A large number of the projects displayed deal with the challenge only by addressing “sustainability” through a gauntlet of the latest gadgetry, fixated on a montage of renewable energy gathering devices. Nearly all geographic regions have been exhausted; coastal areas, sea/oceanic surfaces, mountains, the north pole, dense urban cities, underwater, space, floating within the atmosphere, virtual space, and even the seventh realm–digital space-time mutation…all carrying the same superficial gratification as the next.

In addition there has been a bevy of digitally gluttonous projects feeding off of the latest algorithmic “fads”; aggregations, packing, cracking, fractal, flocking, voronoi tessellations, boulder algorithms, minimal surfaces, and the list of biomorphisms goes on. A large portion of these were employed solely for their formal characteristics without their true understanding, denying the inherent systems logic that is associated in biological and geological natures, where each particular system is responding to processes and interactions at the microscopic levels; stress, strain, gravity, thermodynamic, and chemical reactions. It is not the case then that cancer cells at the microscopic level (for instance) should be scaled up to that of the human in an effort to solely mimic formal characteristics of a process occurring at several lesser magnitudes in scale.

It is often my provocation in competitions such as this to make an attempt at challenging the direction of the competition, and would therefore like to propose a representational technique for a speculative proposal; one of the anti-image, where there is no “final” image of the “thing” itself, but rather a diagrammatic representation of a collection of processes and events unfolding in space -where only the aggregation and accumulation of unique circumstances (flows of matter and energy input into a system) will lead to a new emergent amalgamation that will become the undefined project. We may speculate on a moment frozen in-time on what has coalesced as the project at a particular time, but the thing itself is not the final utopic construct–nor should it be represented as such-–a pristine image conveying sterility and stability. It is neither a utopia nor a dystopia, but rather a process through which there is only the perpetual need to ‘progress’. Only pressures, processes, flows, bifurcations, obstacles (actions and reactions, causes and effects) within a diagrammatic framework should contribute leading to an unknown and unforeseeable set of formations. These will, in place of the sterility of the “photorealistic” will have importance in contributing to the discipline through this project. THESE aspects of the project will be where the design holds “stability” breaking free of a purely formalist project reaching to attain a one-image proposal through pseudo-biological “form” alone. Like OMA’s proposal for Downsview Park and Parc De La Villette, these projects do not propose THE park itself, such as in setting up a ‘picturesque’ scene, but realizes the morphological change that occurs in nature(s) over time, and in doing so sets the stage for the program and park to unfold. These techniques should exemplify morphological change, variation, affect and effect all unfolding within two-dimensional representational space, therefore challenging the very nature of the competition itself representationally. Architectural visionaries such as Neil Spiller, Perry Kulper and Leebeus Woods, prior to the onslaught of digital gluttony, are examples of those who have achieved such powerful work that far outweighs the intellectual depth conveyed in the previous winning entrants of the eVolo skyscraper competitions.

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Categories: Competitions

Author:jonbailey

studying: architecture design

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