intro’d to Darran here:
“We log on to the 21st century and log off increasingly into the 18th.” RECOMMENDED twitter.com/closeandslow/s…
poetry is a way of slowing down time until the world appears as strange, hideous or wondrous as it really is.
These may seem like victories but, in the wider scheme of things, they’re defeat with tassels.
an approach that takes the ideas of inclusive architecture we see architecture studios proposing, an approach that demands, ‘Why not now, why not here and why not for everyone?’ To resurrect the egalitarian spirit of the early Bauhaus or the Russian Constructivists and apply it to contemporary developments, to expand and innovate public space and opportunities. To oppose plans that simply omit the populace, building citadels rather than cities, and propose and support plans that recognise that the citizen is more than just a consumer to be fleeced by spivs, spied on by our technology or moved along by some private security goon. Cities are husks of steel and glass without citizens.
The real choice we have, which we’ve always had, is not between utopia and dystopia but between competing attempts at utopia. If we don’t try for ours, and there’s no shortage of ideas on what that might be, we’re guaranteed to end up living in someone else’s.
This isn’t a question of plucking a fanciful idea out of the ether; it’s a question of looking at what is useful and desirable (rooms which are as fluid as our lives, needs and tastes are), where the inefficiencies lie that block those, and then following the paths that technology may open up.
My suspicion is the danger lies beyond grand technocratic plans. The real threat of future, and indeed present, urban development will be much more passive. I talk to planners and engineers and a lot of their focus is on removing inefficiencies. The problem is inefficiencies are very much where we live our lives and where our freedom lies. The dystopian is unlikely to manifest as ‘evil’. Rather it’ll come bundled up in things we want, in a sort of toxic financial package model.
Our poison will be sweetened to the point we crave it. It will be intrinsically tied in with our vanity, our security and our fragile self-worth. It will move from performing surveillance on ourselves through social media to more esoteric fare. One of my favourite examples of what is to come is the much-touted internet of things.
Again, it’s not a new development but our panopticons will be much more comfortable and desirable than those of the past.
It’s likely that which oppresses will not even be aware that they are oppressive. The casual misery will come in their blind spots, their omissions, their good intentions. We can see this in the spread of liminal space, what Rem Koolhaas called ‘junkspace’, once restricted to airports but which has gradually filtered in towards the cities and into our lives. There’s a particular form of contemporary purgatory and it resembles an Apple Store. I’ve seen this directly in places I’ve worked, where everything is slick, clean and characterless, where your computer times your piss-breaks and inspirational mottoes adorn the walls, where they throw in a glorified playpen for adults to prevent it going Ballard, where the window blinds never quite open and you go outside at lunch for a walk and find yourself on the side of a motorway or in an industrial estate. I used to think this was a particularly modern phenomena but have gradually realised it’s simply a feature of imposed hegemony. “If you had gone into the square of any Mediterranean town in the first century” Kenneth Clark notes in Civilisation, “you would hardly have known where you were, any more than you would in an airport today.” This is what victory looks like, even today, and it sucks.
There is a hope however and it lies in architecture. It exists in the vernacular, the unusual and the inclusive. It exists in anything that celebrates the plurality of the city, and the citizen, and champions the personal mythologies we attach to space. It asks a great deal of us. It requires us to be individual Jane Jacobs, Guy Debords and Friedensreich Hundertwassers. It requires us to defend the places that we can call our own and, in their absence, build such places. In this, I am profoundly hopeful, simply because we’ve no other options.
Societies stagnate when they lose the ability to adapt and adapting means questioning. As the present sprawls face-first into the future, we need to ensure social, economic and political progress keeps pace with technological progress (at the minute all of the former are being reversed). This means demanding a lot of questions are answered, alongside every great leap. Who benefits and at whose expense? What are the side effects? Who is excluded, why and where to? And, when shiny futures are being proposed, what is being sold?
We are continually presented with a world that is starkly binary (for us or against us, good or evil, male or female, left or right, black or white, cowboys or Indians etc) that bears no resemblance to how life actually is. We are bound up in disingenuous myths. The result is a catastrophic waste. In my youth, I hoped for the dispelling of myths but now I think the radical thing is to insist on these phantasms becoming reality. Let’s have the American dream and the Golden Rule. Let’s insist on them coming about. Imagine the creativity and innovations unleashed, if we got rid of anachronisms like the class system or the death-grip that old money has, and establish a genuine meritocracy. Perhaps the most radical thing to do is simply to insist that reality matches the fictions we’ve been presented with for a hundred years, to insist on the dream becoming real.
video on imagining cities:
Festival of the Future City: What Happened to Utopian Cities?
22 min – darran.. utopia cities… still exists.. all around us…in fragments… a battle best fought in advance…. locate these utopias…. these spaces that enable us to live fully… develop and expand them…
27 min – architecture is a sculpting of space.. and space is power.. who’s excluded/included in space is diff between utopia and dystopia…
30 min – radical architecture… all pushed crazy/visionary architecture.. but all had sense this was for everyone… what we’ve seen in last 10-20 yrs is severing of that link…the link of it being public space… is being severed…
31 min – every city is constituted by dreams of individuals… why do we leave this to others... why do we let on that we have nothing to do with this… city and citizens.. both polis… we are the city.. and we should have an input… utopia – from no place… if it can’t exist… it’s from an impulse.. that says.. it doesn’t have to be like this... taken us from cave to city….
44 min – city as organism… a body.. always been a sense of seeing cities as a form of biology… culture is an echo chamber… modernism is ancient…
46 min – archi-gram – collective based in london in 60s.. folded in 70s… were creating impossible designs…walking cities… plug in cities… instant cities.. conceptual.. thinking aloud.. never intended to be built… they were connecting ideas that have actually come to physical forms… (burning man ref).. they cleared the space and took a lot of the flack…
59 min – symbiotic relationship…(rural/city… all the same).. one supports the other..
1:01 – on being in cambodia – and the draining of lake.. destroying villages to build an eco city… the paradox..
1:06 – all of my thinking of cities is based on my upbringing in city… good can filter down from above… i think there is a danger though.. of road of paved intentions… i wouldn’t rule out a single voice… but things coming from bottom organically is crucially important…
1:10 – the future will be older than the present… all inclusive… son could go anywhere.. public space max’d … live a life full/deep/ money free… able to loiter.. a city that’s ours.. basically..
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 4:03 AM – 7 Oct 2016 :
Looking forward to talking about cities at the Dundee Literary Festival on the 22nd of October. All welcomehttps://t.co/B4HzORdZofhttps://t.co/tBqDKAcgMX (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/784333299640508416?s=17)
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 4:13 AM – 7 Oct 2016 :
I’ll also be talking radical politics & architecture at the University of Glasgow on the 15th of Novemberhttps://t.co/rFYmCReTVH https://t.co/5t01fual1g (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/784335919675379713?s=17)
Influx Press (@Influxpress) tweeted at 3:00 AM – 25 Oct 2016 :
.@Oniropolis was interviewed recently about Imaginary Cities here https://t.co/NZUui5xYAX Order the book herehttps://t.co/waMESAFeck (http://twitter.com/Influxpress/status/790840323819855872?s=17)
It would be as much a map as a book.
The sense of poetic incompleteness to it. The feeling that the story is continuing on somewhere beyond its pages.
We forget the fictional origins of the places we live. Every building originates in someone’s imagination and when you flick through architects’ notebooks, blueprints and failed competition entries as I do a lot, you realise it could’ve all been very different. When you look at a skyline, you’re looking at the dreams and decisions of individuals, for good and ill.
You make sense, or create the artifice of sense, in hindsight.
I’ve always been interested in the thresholds and crossovers of disciplines. “Architecture begins where engineering ends”, the great Walter Gropius said. I think there’s a sort of shifting hinterland between the two, where often the most exciting things are happening. We limit ourselves when we separate things too much….
There’s a lot to learn from peering over the walls we’ve built. And I’d question the motives we have in building most of these walls; very often it’s quite petty obscurantism, which ultimately holds us all back.
The first writer I ever fell in love with was Robert Louis Stevenson and I think he had a lasting influence; by his example, you have the permission to wander, literally and figuratively – …you can do it all with a continual voice and purpose that threads through everything, even when it seems like chaos or a cacophony.
The writers I’ve loved since, from Montaigne to Borges to Solnit have that same sense of roaming, of proving “why not?” when stepping over frequently-artificial boundaries. It’s not for everyone but I love literature that contains this tendency to roam. It goes beyond even literature I suppose…… I’m not really interested in literature that just speaks to itself. I’d rather literature be a dense and messy city than an ordered monastery.
The book appears to shift between memoir, science fiction, critical writing, and philosophical discourse. How do you think your work engages different forms of writing?
It’s down to liking literature that can’t be contained in a single genre….where you have to wonder where their books are located in a bookshop. I like things that don’t fit in.
When a city is dominated by one vision, it becomes either a sterile corpse, however pretty it looks, or, at worst, an all-out tyranny. I’d go as far to say that the very idea of a city is predicated on it being a plurality. When it is singular, it becomes something else; namely a citadel that benefits the powerful, whoever that may be in a given society. That’s one of the reasons that planned cities very often (though not always) fall flat. We forget to build in accidents and resistances – the dialectics of urbanism where different ideas are colliding and synthesizing and pushing things creatively forward in the process. When cities, and indeed countries, adopt a siege mentality, they stagnate and the inhabitants go slowly mad.
We are mongrel peoples on these islands. We do well not to begin attempting to dismantle ourselves or anyone else for that matter. The future, if we wish to be part of it, is plural.
h u g e
As much as culture helps define our perception of cities, it has its limits. For me, the starting point for Dublin is Ulysses, just as Kafka is for Prague, and Dostoevsky or Bely is for St Petersburg and yet when I go to places like those, I find that these presumptions are attractive illusions. So much time has passed since those works were written and it was all subjective to begin with. That’s the beauty: the city is not the same thing to any two people, no matter how it is branded. One of the things I’m interested in is how the urban influences us, and the way we see ourselves, in ways that are often overlooked or come by implication.
In the near-future, I see the manner in which our identities merge with our surroundings becoming acutely apparent.
This isn’t a new idea. The Situationists, who I’m not uncritical of, hinted at this by shifting the focus away from academic texts to games, maps, graffiti, and the streets themselves. With developments in augmented reality, I can see the city becoming a form of text, not just with buildings annotated but actually offering creative input and manipulation. We already read cities without thinking about it. We may come to write them too.
To even possess an identity, you need a past and you need somewhere to live. I’d like to see writers pave the way and re-engage with these issues. It amazes me, given the news every single day, how few writers even touch on themes like migration, xenophobia, climate change, the politics and economics of space, or even just cities, the actual places we live and how they work, especially given we’re facing global urbanisation on a scale never seen before in human history. Maybe literature will survive as a pleasant escape or distraction from everyday life, which has its charms, but in doing so it risks becoming an otherwise irrelevant hobby.
If we begin to become passive spectators to the world around us, we will soon become passive spectators to our own lives.
Do you have any key influences or texts that you return to?
There are so many and they change continually. Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space. Richard McGuire’s Here. Benjamin’s Arcades Project. Sontag’s essays. Eliot’s poems before he found God. Frank Lloyd Wright’s renderings. Anything by Borges. Lots of Oulipo. In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. Robert Hughes’ The Shock of the New. Kenneth White’s The Wanderer and His Charts. Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust. Peter Conrad’s Modern Times, Modern Places. Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands. Pepys’ diary. Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World. John Wyndham. Werner Herzog’sOf Walking in Ice. I’ve been reading a lot of William Golding’s more obscure books recently for some reason. Lewis Mumford’s texts. China Miéville‘s New Crobuzon series. I always come back to Rimbaud. Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life. Thomas Nashe’s The Terrors of the Night. Breton’s Anthology of Black Humour. Brodsky & Utkin. Hugh Ferriss’ The Metropolis of Tomorrow. Grant Morrison comics. Pat Mills’ comics. Moebius comics. Schuiten and Peeters’ Les Cités obscures.
a nother way (short)
as we write ourselves/cities.. everyday.. as the day..
Due to the fact it favours curation over creation, there’s a danger in praising people for their ability to point at things. It’s the end work that counts and the people who create it; otherwise all we’ll have is gates leading to more gates, like some Borgesian nightmare.
Twitter does intrigue me as a medium. I see Marshall McLuhan being vindicated when people assume Imaginary Cities is the book of a Twitter feed rather than vice versa….It’ll be a gift for the digital mudlarks of the future to come back and wonder what in god’s name we were all thinking, like graffiti on the walls of Pompeii.
at some stage, I’ll start typing up almost twenty years of notes I’ve been keeping on actual cities, which will makeImaginary Cities seem mercifully succinct.
what a great interview/mind
so very resonating.. i guess
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 6:31 AM – 1 Mar 2017 :
I’ve been interviewed in @MinorLits about writing, rebellion, art & cinema https://t.co/pz24F432Ythttps://t.co/YVv3JTTUpg (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/836931951294570497?s=17)
What I realised early on is how exhausting that is and how you’re defined and trapped by the things you rail against.
You can beat yourself to pieces against those in power. And it can “make a stone of the heart” in the process as Yeats put it.
The alternative was to create spaces that were yours, that they couldn’t reach, .. Everything I’ve done since has come out of that.
..the relative breathing space for that to be an option.
rat park ness
It’s not a surprise that for fifteen years I wrote loads of unpublished books and worked on lots of hare-brained projects that would self-destruct at the last minute but now there’s a sense of purpose and immediacy to it all.
I’m not one for boasts. They seem an expression of insecurity. If you need to call attention to something, it’s probably lacking in some way. I’d settle for some music. Words are overrated.
no words ness
Perhaps there are other forms of integrity; looking after the people you love, continuing to do what’s worth doing. I wouldn’t go as far as Brecht in saying “Food first, morals later” but many people I’ve seen making valiant public stands can afford to do that. There’s a piety often involved in talk about wealth that I’m resistant to. Give me Machiavelli any day over Mother Theresa. Offering the poor the dubious consolation of authenticity has always seemed to me to be a shoddy deal. If you haven’t a pot to piss in, integrity isn’t really one of your main concerns. Finding a pot to piss in is. It’s important to be able to look at yourself in the mirror undoubtedly but there are other considerations that are just as vital.
I try to have influences outside of literature so I don’t just repeat what another author has written, and curious things happen in translation from one medium to another.
There’s an insatiable curiosity there that really appeals to me and which I try to follow. And the way he has these small moments of everyday surrealism, often extracted from unlikely sources, next to a sudden broadening out into the Sublime of the natural world. …The idea of going out and finding strange things or sanctuaries. Looking at the world differently.
generally the more affable they are on screen the more insufferable and wilfully unpleasant they are in reality. That’s who I don’t want to be.
We’re continually trying to stand apart from a world which we’re intrinsically part of. There’s no escaping it. Boccioni reminds us that this is not necessarily a bad thing. We’re not just immersed in the world, we’re of the world. It’s a continual reminder, when undertaking an activity as solitary as writing, to dive back in.
zoom dance ness
Jussara Almeida (@juss_almeida) tweeted at 2:10 PM on Fri, Apr 28, 2017:
“The difficulty is how to deal with noise without locking ourselves away in sterile environments.”
Noise complaints are as old as cities. Yet from Seneca’s complaint about “sound that can make one weary of one’s years” to the nightclubs shut down today, history hints that the yearning for silence may be more about control than decibels.
It moved easily because it expressed a universal desire. As tempted as we are to place a curse on inconsiderate neighbours, the distractions reveal how architecture sometimes fails in its attempts to create autonomous rooms of our own. Thin walls and floors, unsealed windows and doors, pipes and vents, and shoddy building materials let the sound of the outside world seep in. The difficulty is how to deal with noise without locking ourselves away in sterile environments.
Consider how enraged we can get if someone breaks a minute’s silence, talks loudly on the phone on a train, wolf-whistles from above, beeps their car horn unnecessarily, begins building work before eight in the morning or plays tinny music loud on a public bus. It feels in each case like a gross intrusion into personal space. They imply disrespect. They break the implicit social contract that keeps the organised chaos of cities from malfunctioning; the message is this person doesn’t care about you or anyone else. This feeling is at the heart of our problems with urban volume. It is not necessarily a matter of loud and quiet as it is often posed, but rather a question of voluntary and involuntary exposure.
Living next to a busy roads, railway lines and especially below flight paths have been cited as increasing stress, disturbing sleep, and diminishing memory recall and concentration ability. Studies have suggested that increases in hormones in response to continual noise, where the body at rest is continually set on edge, increases blood pressure and the chance of a heart attack.
Things are more complicated than that.
Architects have a crucial role, then, in containing sound. Some sculpt with it in mind. Louis Kahn placed silence “with its desire to be” right at the core of his architecture
Holocaust Tower where sound and light channel in from a distance, transforming the everyday outside into something profoundly haunting and disturbing. You feel like you are somehow in the terrible presence of absence.
there is no such thing as pure silence. ..In anechoic chambers designed to absorb sound, the quietest places on earth, people are startled to hear not total silence but the blood circulating through their body.
Sound and silence are other words for society and solitude. We continually try to find a healthy balance between the consuming extremes of the mob and isolation
John Cage’s 4′33″, ..often interpreted as being about silence, when it’s more about the impossibility of silence. Throughout the duration of the performance, you are drawn to listen to the quiet: the shuffles, the coughs, the background noise, the breathing. It is a tuning of the senses. … it turns our attention to our own existence. I find myself listening to my own being.” This encourages perhaps a different way of listening, a different focus or intensity. Even noise, where we feel subjected to and overwhelmed by outside forces, does not have to necessitate an entirely passive response. “Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise,”
Cage wrote, “When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating.” It seems then that it is not silence or a shutting away that we are seeking but clarity, knowing that we are hearing and contributing to what ultimately is the soundtrack to a life we can call our own.
crazy brilliant interweaving ness
The question we need to ask is who is this efficiency for? Sure, it shaves a few minutes off our routines but that’s not really its purpose.
P.S. before I drink myself into oblivion, it’s worth considering how much of what we regard as freedom is just another word for inefficiency
Adelle Stripe (@adellestripe) tweeted at 4:25 AM – 9 Nov 2017 :
Tidewrack by @Oniropolis is the book I’m most looking forward to reading in 2018. ‘So much rain the river flows backwards…’ https://t.co/3Wk1x6UCP1(http://twitter.com/adellestripe/status/928584213565247488?s=17)
amazon uk says coming out mar 2019
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 5:37 AM – 24 Feb 2018 :
Growing up in a society where urban space was defined by conflict (to say nothing of those who grow up in all-out war), Lebbeus Woods was, for me, one of the few thinkers who really engaged with what that actually means and how to respond creatively. https://t.co/jqPkgt2agq (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/967378065537032193?s=17)
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 5:40 AM – 13 Mar 2018 :
I’ve spent the last five years looking into why young men (family members) are inclined to kill themselves, how stoicism and maturation figures into preventing it (a lot imho) but this shit borders on snake-oil. (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/973524124013297664?s=17)
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 5:47 AM – 13 Mar 2018 :
Here’s the thing: He (j peterson) teaches undoubtedly valuable lessons for young men but part of the process of becoming an individual is discernment and the ability to take what is useful and reject what is manipulative. Embrace that. (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/973525986670202880?s=17)
Be strong and kind and decent. That’s it. No need for charlatans.
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 5:28 AM – 29 May 2018 :
I’ve written a piece on Postmodernism for @DisegnoDaily https://t.co/GYDHHUFMamhttps://t.co/QEYp6rjYXu (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/1001425107804442625?s=17)
“Modernism searched for and celebrated certainty,” the authors point out – but we are uncertain beings living in uncertain times.
The escape from the grand narratives of modernism and PoMo’s treatment of history as a scrapyard to be raided and re contextualised could be suggestive of the approach of someone who believes themselves to be free and healthy, but who is actually a compulsive hoarder or even a nihilist. What if the energy that postmodernism undoubtedly displays is a giddiness that comes from vertigo? What if its nerve is actually a collapse of nerve?
The critical difference seems to be sincerity. Modernists meant it, so we’re assured without ever really being told what ‘it’ is. Maybe PoMo means it too (if we take architecture to be the sculpting of space for people to exist in), but disguises this with a smirk.
“Whereas Modernists always sought to
actively build solutions to society’s ills,” the authors write, “[postmodernist] architects were primarily inspirational artist-poets, using their work to highlight problems and tell stories about the contemporary world, without in any way proposing viable tools for achieving a better world.” As insecure narrative-fixated creatures, we certainly require stories and inspiration but we also need tools when facing the colossal challenges around us. These ambitions are not mutually exclusive.
in a time of gathering nightmares, it may do no harm to dream.
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 5:56 AM – 24 Jun 2018 :
There should be more secular pilgrimages. (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/1010854193891106816?s=17)
Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) tweeted at 3:37 AM – 25 Jul 2018 :
I’ve spent the morning reading Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life. It is quite a formal book except for the final chapters, when he is stateless, which are increasingly unbearably claustrophobic to read. And that is happening to people now. And it shouldn’t. (http://twitter.com/Oniropolis/status/1022053297497272320?s=17)