Rem Koolhaas Junkspace Because we abhor the utilitarian, we have condemned ourselves to a life-long immersion in arbitrariness The average contemporary lunch box is a microcosm of junkspace: a fervent semantics of health - slabs of eggplant, topped by thick layers of goat cheese - cancelled by a colossal cookie at the bottom Polarities have become equatorial, nothing left in between. There is nothing between desolation and turmoil, between beauty and crassness. LAX: welcoming - possibly flesh-eating - orchids at the check-in counter
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Because we abhor the utilitarian, we have condemned ourselves to a life-long immersion in the arbitrary LAX: welcoming - possibly flesh-eating - orchids at the check-in counter If space-junk is the human debris that litters the universe, junk-space is the residue mankind leaves on the planet.
The built more about that later product of modernization is not modern architecture but Junkspace. Junkspace is what remains after modernization has run its course or, more precisely, what coagulates while modernization is in progress, its fallout. Modernization had a rational program: to share the blessings of science, universally. Junkspace is its apotheosis, or meltdown Although its individual parts are the outcome of brilliant inventions, lucidly planned by human intelligence, boosted by infinite computation, their sum spells the end of Enlightenment, its resurrection as farce, a low-grade purgatory Junkspace is the sum total of our current achievement; we have built more than all previous generations together, but somehow we do not register on the same scales.
We do not leave pyramids. According to a new gospel of ugliness, there is already more Junkspace under construction in the 21st century than survived from the 20th It was a mistake to invent modern architecture for the 20th century.
Junkspace seems an aberration, but it is essence, the main thing Continuity is the essence of Junkspace; it exploits any invention that enables expansion, deploys the infrastructure of seamlessness: escalator, air conditioning, sprinkler, fire shutter, hot-air curtain It is always interior, so extensive that you rarely perceive limits; it promotes disorientation by any means mirror, polish, echo Junkspace is sealed, held together not by structure, but by skin, like a bubble.
Gravity has remained constant, resisted by the same arsenal since the beginning of time; but air conditioning - invisible medium, therefore unnoticed - has truly revolutionized architecture. Air conditioning has launched the endless building. If architecture separates buildings, air conditioning unites them. Air conditioning has dictated mutant regimes of organization and coexistence that leave architecture behind.
A single shopping center now is the work of generations of space planners, repairmen and fixers, like in the Middle Ages; air conditioning sustains our cathedrals. Unwittingly, all architects may be working on the same building, so far separate, but with hidden receptors that will eventually make it cohere. Because it costs money, is no longer free, conditioned space inevitably becomes conditional space; sooner or later all conditional space turns into Junkspace When we think about space, we have only looked at its containers.
As if space itself is invisible, all theory for the production of space is based on an obsessive preoccupation with its opposite: substance and objects, i.
Architects could never explain space; Junkspace is our punishment for their mystifications. The beauty of airports, especially after each upgrade. The luster of renovations. The subtlety of the shopping center. Junkspace is the body double of space, a territory of impaired vision, limited expectation, reduced earnestness. Junkspace is a Bermuda triangle of concepts, a petri dish abandoned: it cancels distinctions, undermines resolve, confuses intention with realization.
It replaces hierarchy with accumulation, composition with addition. More and more, more is more. Junkspace is overripe and undernourishing at the same time, a colossal security blanket that covers the earth in a stranglehold of seduction Junkspace is like being condemned to a perpetual Jacuzzi with millions of your best friends A fuzzy empire of blur, it fuses high and low, public and private, straight and bent, bloated and starved to offer a seamless patchwork of the permanently disjointed.
Seemingly an apotheosis, spatially grandiose, the effect of its richness is a terminal hollowness, a vicious parody of ambition that systematically erodes the credibility of building, possibly forever Space was created by piling matter on top of matter, cemented to form a solid new whole. Junkspace is additive, layered and lightweight, not articulated in different parts but subdivided, quartered the way a carcass is torn apart - individual chunks severed from a universal condition.
There are no walls, only partitions, shimmering membranes frequently covered in mirror or gold. Structure groans invisibly underneath decoration, or worse, has become ornamental; small shiny space frames support nominal loads, or huge beams deliver cyclopic burdens to unsuspecting destinations Where it is absent, it is simply applied - mostly in stucco - as ornamental afterthought on hurriedly erected superblocks.
Like a substance that could have condensed in any other form, Junkspace is a domain of feigned, simulated order, a kingdom of morphing.
Its specific configuration is as fortuitous as the geometry of a snowflake. Patterns imply repetition or ultimately decipherable rules; Junkspace is beyond measure, beyond code Because it cannot be grasped, Junkspace cannot be remembered. It is flamboyant yet unmemorable, like a screensaver; its refusal to freeze insures instant amnesia. Junkspace does not pretend to create perfection, only interest. Its geometries are unimaginable, only makeable.
Although strictly non-architectural, it tends to the vaulted, to the Dome. Sections seem to be devoted to utter inertness, others in perpetual rhetorical turmoil: the deadest resides next to the most hysterical. Themes cast a pall of arrested development over interiors as big as the Pantheon, spawning stillbirths in every corner.
The aesthetic is Byzantine, gorgeous and dark, splintered into thousands of shards, all visible at the same time: a quasi-panoptical universe in which all contents rearrange themselves in split-seconds around the dizzy eye of the beholder.
Brands in Junkspace perform the same role as black holes in the universe: essences through which meaning disappears The shiniest surfaces in the history of mankind reflect humanity at its most casual.
The more we inhabit the palatial, the more we seem to dress down. A stringent dress code - last spasm of etiquette? As if the People suddenly accessed the private quarters of a dictator, Junkspace is best enjoyed in a state of post-revolutionary gawking.
Polarities have merged, there is nothing left between desolation and frenzy. Neon signifies both the old and the new; interiors refer to the Stone and the Space Age at the same time. Like the deactivated virus in an inoculation, Modern architecture remains essential, but only in its most sterile manifestation, High Tech it seemed so dead only a decade ago!
It exposes what previous generations kept under wraps: structures emerge like springs from a mattress, exit stairs dangle in didactic trapeze, probes thrust into space to deliver laboriously what is in fact omnipresent, free air, acres of glass hang from spidery cables, tautly stretched skins enclose flaccid non-events.
Transparency only reveals everything in which you cannot partake. At the sound of midnight it all may revert to Taiwanese Gothic, in three years segue into Nigerian Sixties, Norwegian Chalet or default Christian. Earthlings now live in a kindergarten grotesque Junkspace thrives on design, but design dies in Junkspace. There is no form, only proliferation Regurgitation is the new creativity; instead of creation, we honor, cherish and embrace manipulation Junkspace is hot or suddenly artic ; fluorescent walls, folded like melting stained glass, generate additional heat to raise the temperature of Junkspace to levels where you could cultivate orchids.
Pretending histories left and right, its contents are dynamic yet stagnant, recycled or multiplied as in cloning: forms search for function like hermit crabs for a vacant shell Junkspace sheds architectures like a reptile sheds skins, is reborn every Monday morning. In previous building, materiality was based on a final state that could only be modified at the expense of partial destruction.
At the exact moment that our culture has abandoned repetition and regularity as repressive, building materials have become more and more modular, unitary and standardized; substance now comes predigitized As the module becomes smaller and smaller, its status becomes that of a crypto-pixel. With enormous difficulty - budget, argument, negotiation, deformation - irregularity and uniqueness are constructed from identical elements.
Instead of trying to wrest order from chaos, the picturesque now is wrested from the homogenized, the singular liberated from the standardized Architects thought of Junkspace first and named it Megastructure, the final solution to transcend their huge impasse. Like multiple Babels, huge superstructures would last through eternity, teeming with impermanent subsystems that would mutate over time, beyond their control.
In Junkspace, the tables are turned: it is subsystems only, without superstructure, orphaned particles in search of framework or pattern. All materialization is provisional: cutting, bending, tearing, coating: construction has acquired a new softness, like tailoring The joint is no longer a problem, an intellectual issue: transitional moments are defined by stapling and taping, wrinkly brown bands barely maintain the illusion of an unbroken surface; verbs unknown and unthinkable in architectural history - clamp, stick, fold, dump, glue, shoot, double, fuse - have become indispensable.
Each element performs its task in negotiated isolation. Where once detailing suggested the coming together, possibly forever, of disparate materials, it is now a transient coupling, waiting to be undone, unscrewed, a temporary embrace with a high probability of separation; no longer the orchestrated encounter of difference, but the abrupt end of a system, a stalemate.
While whole millennia worked in favor of permanence, axialities, relationships and proportion, the program of Junkspace is escalation. Instead of development, it offers entropy. Because it is endless, it always leaks somewhere in Junkspace; in the worst case, monumental ashtrays catch intermittent drops in a gray broth When did time stop moving forward, begin to spool in every direction, like a tape spinning out of control? Change has been divorced from the idea of improvement. There is no progress; like a crab on LSD, culture staggers endlessly sideways The average contemporary lunch box is a microcosm of Junkspace: a fervent semantics of health - slabs of eggplant, topped by thick layers of goat cheese - cancelled by a colossal cookie at the bottom Junkspace is draining and is drained in return.
Everywhere in Junkspace there are seating arrangements, ranges of modular chairs, even couches, as if the experience Junkspace offers its consumers is significantly more exhausting than any previous spatial sensation; in its most abandoned stretches, you find buffets: utilitarian tables draped in white or black sheets, perfunctory assemblies of caffeine and calories - cottage cheese, muffins, unripe grapes - notional representations of plenty, without horn and without plenty.
Each Junkspace is connected, sooner or later, to bodily functions: wedged between stainless-steel partitions sit rows of groaning Romans, denim togas bunched around their huge sneakers Because it is so intensely consumed, Junkspace is fanatically maintained, the night shift undoing the damage of the day shift in an endless Sisyphean replay.
As you recover from Junkspace, Junkspace recovers from you: between 2 and 5 am, yet another population, this one heartlessly casual and appreciably darker, is mopping, hovering, sweeping, toweling, resupplying Junkspace does not inspire loyalty in its cleaners Somewhere, workers sink on their knees to repair faded sections - as if in a prayer - or half-disappear in ceiling voids to negotiate elusive malfunction - as if in confession. Traditionally, typology implies demarcation, the definition of a singular model that excludes other arrangements.
Junkspace represents a reverse typology of cumulative, approximative identity, less about kind than about quantity.
Rem Koolhaas, l'architecte de toutes les contradictions
IX - Une lecture de Junkspace de Rem Koolhaas…
Rem Koolhaas. Junkspace