intro’d to Mark here via the new normal fb share:
“New Babylon is an experiment in extreme hospitality. It’s not an architecture in which the whole world would be housed, but a piece of architecture in which the whole world would be able to house itself according to the way it wishes to, according to the life it would like to live. Hospitality is not easy. Hospitality is openness to the stranger. It is to embrace the risk of the other. It is to welcome somebody else into your house who you don’t know, and without knowing how they’re going to act.”
Read an excerpt from Mark Wigley’s essay reflecting on the work of Constant Nieuwenhuys and an architectural paradigm of free space and time afforded by automation.
NEW BABYLON: RADICAL HOSPITALITY IN A WORLD BEYOND LABOR
An excerpt from Mark Wigley’s essay about an architectural paradigm of free space and time afforded by automation.
As part of the exhibition at the Dutch Pavilion at the 16th Venice Biennale of Architecture, Mark Wigley has revisited “New Babylon” (1956-74), the project by influential Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys which envisions models for cities with the playful and creative human being at the center. Attempting to resolve the dichotomy between work and leisure, Constant speculated about a society freed from the need to work by automation and visualized the post-labor world.
In New Babylon, people are liberated from manual labor and can dedicate themselves fully to the development of creative ideas. Constant did not simply consider New Babylon as a design for a futuristic city, but as a “design for a new culture.
In his project and essay, commissioned by Het Nieuwe Instituut as part of “Work, Body, Leisure” exhibition, Wigley explores the conflictual ethical questions that arise from the idea of a society freed from work. *Will technological order eradicate violence? Would New Babylon be possible without the work of the other?
now into excerpt (first section is original new normal fb share above)
Seemingly benign, conventional buildings, very simple buildings that simply offer an interior space, always sustain violence through these systems of exclusions and hierarchies. Every time architects draw a line, there is always on the one hand a promise for making a space for people, and maybe a wider space for more people, but it’s always exclusionary; there are always those who are left out.
The language of inclusivity is a secret language of exclusivity.. Every line has the capacity to give comfort, space, time, to one group, and take it away from another.
Can you draw a line that welcomes without also excluding?In Constant’s theory,
every line is violent.
Every line has to be undone. Every line has to be provisional, dotted, blurred, contested.. t How, then, do you operate as an architect? That is to say, a person who draws lines, while depowering the lines, by not allowing the line to be violent, to exert its violence? Miesian architecture may inspire hospitality, but it never strays too far away from the idea of authority. The room we are in is in every sense exclusive.
Real hospitality is a radical act. This invitation and embrace of the unknown guest necessarily undermines the designer and the design itself. In other words, a genuinely hospitable architecture that would welcome the other would welcome its own destruction. It would welcome the dissolution and blurring of the figure of the designer.
The real generosity of a host is not to invite someone or something to occupy a space, but to invite a transformation of the space..t
New Babylon is the most extreme and invaluable example of extreme hospitality. Here, hospitality is extended to the whole species. It is a genuinely popular architecture for a world in which no one would be considered either ordinary or strange. This would be, to put it crudely, an architecture for the people, and nothing less.
Constant really tries to ask the question: how could we live together? What does it mean to be suspended within a networked world beyond labor? ..t
But the question Constant could not answer remains, this brutally important question: how will we live together when it would seem that one of the key characteristics of our species is its murderous relationship to itself?..t.. Our insensitivity and brutality towards others, our ability to anesthetize ourselves to the suffering of others, even to our own pains and pleasures. The repressive default setting reinforced by the new brains and body that we have become through the *technological adjustments to our own organism..t.. forces again a new generation of architects to ask, what is it that we could offer? What could hospitality be?
taking him in here 50 min convo from 2015:
Salon | Architect Talk | Constant’s New Babylon
Mark Wigley, Author of Constant’s New Babylon: The Hyper-Architecture of Desire, Princeton; Ludo van Halem, Curator for ‘Constant and the European avant-garde 1950 – 1960′ at Cobra Museum, Amstelveen
3 min – new babylon is a project that goes 54-55 to about 74.. so a classical artist spends 20 years on one piece.. but that piece is explicitly anti art.. but of course anti art is a huge part of art.. so the paradox is already there from the beginning
4 min – anti art means .. trying to locate potentials that are not available w/in a classical defn of art
we’re in this huge hall – connected to others.. kind of like a labyrinth.. going from occasion to occasion.. you feel somewhat exhausted.. almost no place for you to sleep.. in theory you are not working.. in theory you are enjoying art..
5 min – but of course the only way to enjoy art today is with a very serious look on your face and a business card and a credit card.. t.. so people are working at engaging w art.. and we don’t know if it’s light or day outside.. so these are very much the conditions of new babylon
new babylon was a very prophetic project.. at time it was done.. not clear if a sci fi or documentary.. now it looks like documentary.. it shows you the way things are in some aspects
6 min – ie: life of continuous interconnectivity.. of drifting from event to event.. of relationships formed w whoever you meet
it was a project.. trying to understand.. is there a society possible in which nobody is considered to be a stranger.. that everybody is welcome.. everybody has the same status.. a kind of post marxist dream of no longer the dignity of the worker because now nobody works.. but the dignity of the player.. a horizontal architecture for a horizontal society..t
7 min – mc: so freedom equality.. everyone artists
look at today.. every child is encouraged to be an artist as you will use your cellphone to curate your life and rep your life in little exhibitions that you make digitally to show to your friends and you start to live your life like both the curator and the artist of your life.. so we’re living now in a time in which this dream of creativity.. even the word creativity is used in govt/business/school/life.. you don’t just have a meal anymore.. you have an idea of a meal.. and must have a thought of the food before you eat it.. that really you eat it by showing it to your friends
though we do have the potential to do it today
8 min – so constant was capturing very very well what was the trajectory of society.. but of course his dream was really an architecture for people.. an architecture w/o hierarchy.. w/o violence.. w/o exclusion.. and today we live in a world that as very much actually the structure he describes.. but the world we live in today is full of violence/exclusion.. so in a way i think the trojan horse is the right image because constant’s project is a kind of warning.. that a world of hyperconnectivity.. a world of the internet.. of fluidity of exchange.. a world in which national boundaries no longer have real meaning.. a world of 24 hrs.. is not paradise
no.. not with just those.. but those need to be a part of it.. the biggest problem is that that scenario .. has never been one of total inclusion.. and it has to be everyone.. everyday.. as the day…. or it will never work..
13 mi – geometry was the enemy.. the line is absolutely the enemy.. because drawing a line.. no matter how simple.. is always a violence to this.. someone is always outside and someone is always inside.. t
14 min – so new babylon is one of the projects for an attempt at revolution.. and this is the word used.. a revolution.. against the line..t
so.. in a way .. architecture had this double role.. on the one hand it was not art.. so it was a refuge for a groups of anti artists.. on the other hand.. architecture was normally… purely about domination and control.. so the trick was to make an architecture that undoes architecture.. t.. a deconstruction.. so you use architecture against itself
so you have to draw a line.. which is anyway what an artist would easily do.. but a line that would dissolve the power of the line.. the violence of the line.. t
of course this is a model of a huge landscape.. so basically it’s a horizontal space in which the only lines that will be drawn are drawn by your own creativity.. so you can draw a line.. but it will be undone by somebody else’s line and somebody’s else’s line.. use lines against lines.. geometry used to undo itself..t
15 min – got to remember.. this is the single biggest architecture project in history.. this is one building at the size of the planet..
be you house as that..
imagine that you make the biggest project/building in history of the world and you say you are against the domination of the power of architecture.. so it has the idea to use a project that is so big that the normal force of scale is lost..t
ginorm small ness
16 min – what it means is that you must produce a kind of mirage.. you cannot draw this thing.. you must draw the potential for almost anything.. to be produced by people..t
mc: if everyone is so free.. why do you need buildings
it’s the playground
mc: but couldn’t they realize their own
city sketchup ness
l: line includes/excludes things but also connects things.. basic element of a network and new babylon was envisioned as a large network in which everyone could make his own space again and again and again.. an open structure.. that you can fill in..t
l: so it’s against architecture in that way.. but on the other hand he was really a believer in technology.. so power of tech is also a basic element in the whole new babylon project.. tech is the instrument to take over manual/production labor
18 min – this idea.. comes w radio.. w radio we have the possibility that we can be connected to each other.. and no longer trapped by time/space/bodies.. and this is not just a fantasy of sci fi writers or scientists.. this is in all of the newspapers.. right up until ww1.. and drawings that look very similar to new babylon.. so the idea of a kind of tech.. in this case radio.. which liberates a new kind of connectivity.. and therefore a new way to be human.. is a huge kind of .. let’s say.. fantasy .. just before the war (14-18).. it’s also of course a military fantasy.. and the war turns this fantasy of interconnectivity into a weapon..
19 min – so of course the first world war is the first war of radio.. but by the time you get to the reaction against the second world war (39-45).. again.. you have artists/intellectuals mobilizing the idea that if we could all be connected to each other.. you could avoid war by discussing/sharing ideas.. so i would say.. new babylon is a kind of a theory.. and you have to remember constant is super intelligent/sweet.. a very good writer/thinker and he’s surrounded by theorists
20 min – and he’s basically saying.. what would be extreme hospitality.. the welcome to everybody.. how do you make a welcome to everybody.. that rejects millennia of hierarchical oppression and so on.. how do you make a hospitality..t
i think by the way.. this is why the work resonates so strong today.. not simply because now of course.. that fantasy about radio.. that’s absolutely the reality.. we all have the radio in our pockets
so it’s not utopian.. he was observing the new tech.. but now we have in our world.. an absolute crisis of hospitality.. we have techs that make us extremely intimate w each other.. but these techs are still largely weapons of war (ie: drones.. watching you.. might kill you.. nothing could be more intimate)
21 min – so once again.. we have this situation of trying to understand how to turn this new kind of connectivity into a new form of hospitality.. so again i think we have to look back to those projects/artworks that were really serious investigations of .. how should we share our planet.. and i think there are many many artists today for whom this is the single most important question.. and i think this is why they find constant’s work intelligently (?) alive
27 min – (new babylon) is basically a work that humanity is dark.. most architects work w an absolute and unlimited confidence in the beauty of their own work.. here you have a non architect who simulates being an architect and then critiques his own work and takes a full 20 yrs to study his own work
28 min – he’s deploying beauty thru out this.. even when it’s critical..
29 min – you are caught by the pleasure you take in this beauty – playground becomes seen of violent sexual crime scene..
how do we share our world in such a way that our creativity is max’d and our desire to kill each other is min’d.. i think it’s hard to think of a more important question..t
34 min – a psycho analytical assault on architecture.. go inside of archi .. and find what it is repressing.. go to the unconscious of architecture to undermine a social system based on hierarchies and so forth .. of which architecture is the basic rep.. so it’s a trojan horse argument.. we will use the enemy against the system
41 min – what he was trying to do was put concepts in people’s minds.. and it wouldn’t be the way he drew it.. somebody has to have an idea.. that everybody has to have an idea..t
he spent the rest of the 20 yrs. living inside the project.. and undoing every drawing.. stop it from being a monument.. have to start erasing your own work..t
his project was a bit like good drinking.. you start to be a little unsure of yourself..t
45 min – he can quote marks perfectly.. but he’s looking too nice/innocent
46 min – koolhaas – biggest stupidity reduction in our field.. constant is a writer who can paint.. comrades.. both of whom have the whole world for the min setting for their work
48 min – l: it’s about how you use social space.. i think that’s very appealing to new generations.. interacting.. creating your own world.. doing it yourself
in a space ness
49 min – i think in short – research in how to share the planet together.. we live in a sharing econ.. and more than half contemp artists are working on how we share.. as w koolhaas.. artists just feel that’s a contemp comradery..
at columbia: https://www.arch.columbia.edu/faculty/33-mark-wigley
Mark Antony Wigley is a New Zealand-born architect, author, and (from 2004 to 2014) Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, New York City, United States.
In 2005, Wigley founded Volume Magazine together with Rem Koolhaas and Ole Bouman. A collaborative project by Archis (Amsterdam), AMO Rotterdam and C-lab (Columbia University NY), Volume Magazine is an experimental think tank focusing on the process of spatial and cultural reflexivity. The magazine aims to explore “beyond architecture’s definition of ‘making buildings'” by presenting global views on architecture and design, broader attitudes to social structures and created environments; and embodies progressive journalism.
Created and founded in collaboration with Brett Steele the Institute of Failure; essentially an academic institution for the instruction and theory of failure (as opposed to success).