<h1>on Architecture and related Media … </h1>


Assessing superficiality … [autumn 2001]
Online since April 2007
Last changes: 29th of September 2015

'Electronic Lounge' Graz 1997
I.) Img. _01

Face to [sur]face

This curtain wall screen [Img. 01] portrayals a man - machine encounter, [unveils] a face to surface construction, [presents] in media terms an architecture – interface.
Albeit [we] architects do not think in media terms – we (prefer to) think in spatial terms. It's at the fringes that we touch [upon] mediality, mediated by surface(es) – the limit(ation)s which constitute space. The media means of architecture are determined by [their] superficiality and thus rendered implicitly in three-dimensions.

How do architecture and media relate?

'Haizaki San No Omise' Vienna, 2001 - 2002
II.) Img. _02


Established architecture, realises media(lity) as function(s), defines space as immersive X.) 9 ambience, where message and medium are to converge inextricably for perception. True for Las Vegas, Disneyland, any Opera(house) or the Electronic Lounge [Img. 01].

In the realm of digital media however, 'architecture' is a well-established notion - we speak of 'chip architecture', praise 'Architects of the New Economy' or engage in 'Interface Architecture'. It seems to suggest itself, due to the completely analogous nature of the task: To create a convincing image for a complex system of abstract requirements. Thus building a façade for technology, whose own vocabulary is deemed unapproachable and unpopular.

Icons on screen do not represent functions or any inherent logic of the apparatus creating the very image. They refer to notions and perceptions before any machine - in temporal and spatial terms.

Yet fhe form of visual information involved is considered to be an empirical matter, namely systematic "Interface Design" based on probation sequences and their statistic evaluation.
For example: user testing for mainstream websites.

Jakob Nielsen (a [quasi] normative authority) issues clear operative instructions in 1999: "Designing Web Usability" establishes codification of the Net simply by "The Practice of Simplicity".

Procedures are accordingly:

A Focus group challenges the problem of how to access (certain) information by means of assigning topics to heaps of classes (or vice versa). Analysis of such clustering provides for a (hierarchical) structure, resulting in prototypes of informed surfaces.

'Electronic Lounge' concept drawing, Graz 1997
I.) Img. _03

Informed surface

5 to 15 user (as recommended) are being exposed to the surface (skin) while monitoring their behaviour. Buying a book with amazon.com (in such a test environment) takes x clicks. Reducing those clicks simply increases turn-over. "User don't want to be entertained, they want to find something!" XIV.) 15 Goal directed behaviour as a prerequisite for (involving) perceptual psychology.

Application of such empirical engineerings claims first and foremost assessability and subsequently tractability of human behaviour, dismissing (all) issues of normative significance. [When habitual procedures establish certainties.]
The principle of majority rule (desinging by pools) is turned into design practice. Surveys sound convention, assess consumer behaviour and define (spatial) arrangements. Of course "good design" (here) equals (widely) acceptable design. An approach shaping consumer society.

Applied to architecture such (strategy) figures in analogous terms:
Haphazardly picked (sample) groups of passer-bys spontaneously decide whether the entrance to a building can be found (or not). Readers/writers of leading newspapers prevent building(s) by leading architects IV.) 1, and animal rights groups argue lethal effects of curtain wall glass [to endangered species, inhabiting developments]. V.) 2

With Architecture being reflected in the (mass) media, we're touching the second disposition of MediaArchiecture: perceived as an object of mediated reality.

As a result Vitra, Guggenheim XIII.) 14 (not to forget our home grown Gasometer and Museumsquartier attempts) freshen up the tabloid headlines, anecdotes in newspaper art sections and footnotes of architectural symposium papers. These architectures exist through and for the media - they are both: communication cause and effect.

The omnipresent talkshow format VI.) 3 settles general opinion on a daily basis. Magazines like Arch+, Schöner Wohnen and Wallpaper* inform users/architects what trend to advance. Their target groups set the current course of architecture.

Such routine [repetition] makes sense - in Luhmann’s terms - constitutes meaning. XI.) 10 XII.) 13

Object for the exhibition: »Young Blood: I'm a Young "Austerian" Architect!« 2006
III.) Img. _04

Object of i[r]conic admiration

But what about surfaces, when architecture is keen to convey its own meaning. How is such architecture supposed to communicate, how should it (in)form understanding?
Met with envy by (new) media designers, the present past provides us (architects) with a repertoire of signs and symbols unmatched as matter(s) of course. Streets, squares, buildings are completely common to all users in form and function. The Home house is universal. Even Windows Windows need no explanation.

Nevertheless the usage of icons (prototypes of modern media signs) in architecture proofs precarious, as exemplified by the project for a Greek Orthodox Church in Zurich: VII.) 4
Herzog & de Meuron conceived » A church space composed exclusively of icons […] For this we use photographic representations of old icons [… which] will be copied onto thinly-ground penetellic marble slabs by means of silk screen and etched in. […] The whole church space, walls and ceiling, is built from these large, flat, translucent, icon-etched slabs. « VIII.) 5

In autumn 2000 Jacques Herzog described the project as » The most beautiful building we ever would have built. « VII.) 4 The project failed to convince the (local) Orthodox leader. Why?

An Icon is not a depiction - an illustration of reality, in our case the presence of God. It isn’t a painting or an image either. And in spite of having been copied across congregations throughout the centuries, the icon is not only identical with the presence of sanctity - it is sacred. For Orthodoxy, (approach of) God isn’t mediated.
Since Benjamin - (re)constructions of God replace the "original" by means of 'technological reproducibility'. Quintessential to mediality [an awareness of all things mediated ] I presume, this is what the orthodox bishop had figured consequently. VII.) 6

According to Hörisch [alluding to economic terms] there is only one truth, which is strictly scarce (as a commodity). IX.) 7 - 8

Criticism of such superficial engineerings is the last (futile) attempt to increase the amount of truth expressed in architecture by means of restraint. The distinction between reality and representation (of reality) has already vanished in favour of mediality. Discharging all claims for truth in architecture leaves no inhibitions regarding the media.

More renderings, more animations, more Photoshop, more Wallpaper*.




  1. PELZIQ [Franz Sdoutz | Andreas Rumpfhuber]
    Img. _01 Electronic Lounge 1997
    Img. _03 Electronic Lounge concept drawing 1997
  2. beige. [Franz Sdoutz | Andreas Rumpfhuber]
    Img. _02 Haizaki San No Omise 2001 - 2002
  3. Franz Sdoutz
    Img. _04 Object for the exhibition: » Young Blood: I'm a Young "Austerian" Architect! « 2006 [See File Log]
  4. 1 At the time (2001) there was outrage in Austria regarding certain architecture(s). I've mentioned two (then) well known examples, where the 'public' had appropriated the discourse (sporting particularly ludicrous arguments):
    On the genesis of the 'Viennese Museum's Quarter' [Museumsquartier Wien] by Ortner & Ortner architects (former members of Haus-Rucker-Co) http://www.museumsquartier.de/
  5. 2 On preventing a 'National Park Centre' [Nationalparkzentrum] in Hainburg by Coop Himmelb(l)au (unfortunately offline.) What the net still remembers … http://diepresse.com/
  6. IN:
    Medienpraktisch, Heft 1/98, S. 51 - 56.
    'Die Talkshow als "säkularisierte Beichte"?' by Rolf Schieder
    Online: juergen-fliege.de

    3 If talk shows are to be credited with societal functionality, then its conformation: "conventionalisation by means of interpretation". [ » Normierung durch Deutung « ]
  7. 4 Referring to a lecture by Jacques Herzog 'On Image & Surface' [The power of images'] Autumn 2000, AA London http://www.aaschool.ac.uk/
    6 In order to grasp the scope of such conception, one needs to conceive (in catholic ritual) a reproductive usage of communion wine in consecration. [The joke here is to state the obvious. The actual miracle (performed on an everyday basis) is to transform a mass reproducible commodity (wine) into the actual blood of Christ. But, and this is essential, it is not meant for architects to perform miracles (anymore) … Such aspiration is profane.] Of course Herzog & de Meuron give entirely different reasons why that project had failed. http://www.herzogdemeuron.com/
  8. IN:
    ARCH+ 129/130 December 1995 http://www.archplus.net/

    5 'Greek Orthodox Church in Zurich' [competition project, 2nd prize] 1989, Herzog & de Meuron [page 49] http://www.herzogdemeuron.com/ [images]
  9. 'Kopf oder Zahl. Die Poesie des Geldes' by Jochen Hörisch, published by Edition Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main - 1998 (published first 1996) http://books.google.at/

    7 » Wahr wären demnach Sätze, die Sachverhalte adäquat repräsentieren; gerecht wären demnach Preise, die Wahrenwerten äquivalent wären. Und weil Wahrheit wie Reichtum selten, knapp und wertvoll ist, muß Sprache, die Wahrheit ausdrückt, und muß Geld, das über Preise wertvolle 'Sachen' repräsentiert, knappgehalten werden. « [page 309]
    8 » Wahrheit gibt es nicht … « [page 311]

    For comparison: Review and discourse by Hartmut Winkler. http://homepages.uni-paderborn.de/
  10. IN:
    ARCH+ 178, Zeitschrift für Architektur und Städtebau, June 2006 http://www.archplus.net/

    9 For some enjoyable insights regarding immersion [as management of hallucinations] see 'Architektur als Immersionskunst [Architecture as an Art of Immersion]' by Peter Sloterdijk [pages 58 to 61]
    [PDF translated by A.-Chr. Engels-Schwarzpaul
    German from 'ARCH+ 178: Die Produktion von Präsenz'
    For more Sloterdijk in English http://seansturm.wordpress.com/]

    Also interesting: 'Total Immersion' Lecture by Bart Lootsma, London September 2007 PDF [from 404]
  11. 10 "Meaning [Sinn] " [only] requires observation: DIFFERENCE [from anything not making sense, hence remaining » ineffective autopoietically. « V.) 11]
    REPETITION distinguishes from chance V.) 12 [what is unobservable, indistinguishable white noise].
    [See Bikini Bottom for translation(s)]
  12. 'Theory of Society' (Volume 1) by Niklas Luhmann, translated by Rhodes Barrett, published by Stanford University Press in 2012 [published first in German as 'Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft' (The Society of Society) by Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, 1997, my paperback edition is from 1998] http://www.sup.org/ [German]
    Volume 1 [Chapter 1-3]
    13 » Society is a meaning-constituting system. « [page 21; see Bikini Bottom for translation(s).]
    11 » "All communication" even includes paradoxical communication, communication that denies that it says what it says. We can communicate paradoxically and do so without communicating "meaninglessly" (in the sense of ununderstandably = autopoietically ineffectively). « [page 48]
    12 » We ascribe no causal-theoretical importance to the concept of chance. In extremely abstract terms, we can speak of chance as a difference-theoretical boundary concept. Chance then means that determination of the one side of a distinction has no meaning for determination of the other side. […] By “chance,” we understand a form of correlation between system and environment that eludes synchronization (i.e., also control, "systematization") by the system. « [page 271]
    See also volume 2 [Chapter 4-5] http://books.google.at/
  13. 14 With respect to the Guggenheim-Museum Bilbao see: 'On The Bandwagon' written and presented by Jonathan Meades ['Abroad Again'] produced in 2006 by BBC Scotland http://www.youtube.com/ [3/5] [added 2010]
  14. 15 Referring to prevailing Tech-Talk at the time. (Nielson merely being a prominent figure.) In the era of social networks, over a decade later, when users don't want to be informed, but prefer to participate, the sarcastic undertone still applies.





more Bikini Hypotheses


File Log

  • Talk extract: assessing superficiality… : "New Surfaces in Architecture - Perfect Location", Symposium and laboratory: "On the creation and design of media-generated architectures".
    HdA Graz, 3rd November 2001. steirisc[:her:]bst
  • In March 2006 a jury awarded this statement to be part of a joint exhibition, aiming to present current positions of young architectural practises. » Young Blood: I’m a Young "Austerian" Architect! «, was featured at CCEA (Center for Central European Architecture) in Prague in June 2006, at stadtmuseumgraz in November 2006 and finally at Az West (Architekturzentrum Wien) in April 2007.
    [Yes "Austerian", nothing austere, no Auster(ian) narratives; simply Austrians with an "e" … ]
  • February 2012:
    This was a tricky text to translate for its prerequisites are almost "too German" to make sense in English …

    In case my translation does not convey: The key argument: "Truth is NOT an architectural category" renders a pro [new]media approach!
    1. media as function
    2. mediated reality
    3. mediaarchitecture

<h3>&copy; Franz Sdoutz, February 2012</h3>

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