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OSITECTURE

Publishing Open source architecture, Anarchism and the Future.

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www.sarahlyons.portfoliobox.me

“Nowadays we hear no more of Caesars building cities for themselves; the city-builders of to-day are the great capitalists, the speculators, the presidents of financial syndicates.” The Evolution of Cities, Elisee Reclus, 1895

Within and throughout this text I endeavour to establish in clarity that no one thing is autonomous from another. Open source, anarchism, architecture and the future form a complex source for questioning the foundations of life* as we recognise and participate within it. I often reflect on my work and question why it is I remain in a field that appears to be incredibly absent from politics and philosophy, the core subjects that are paramount in defining my practice. Perhaps it is a rhetorical question, since it is precisely the apparent absence that encourages my work.   

OSITECTURE is a portmanteau** word formed by open source and architecture.

O(open)-S(source)-ITECTURE(architecture = O-s-itecture = Ositecture. Ositecture was conceived by myself for the sole purpose of identifying this project.

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11 months ago

Open Source:

The use of the term Open Source is most commonly recognised and affiliated with computer software, such as the operating system Linux. Unhappy with the services provided by Microsoft and Apple, the global team of engineers behind Linux established a new platform supplying free, transparent coding to their system blueprints. However ‘open source’ as a term is currently being applied to many different systems, practices, approaches and organisations beyond computer software, such as politics/governance, design, business and independent manufacturing.

 The Open Source philosophy is built upon five fundamental elements; transparency, collaboration, meritocracy, participation and rapid prototyping. Sheer passion for the righteous application of these principles is the bond between the elements that enables open source to function as a united framework rather than singular tools.

11 months ago

Anarchism:

Anarchism is a socio-political philosophy that encourages the exile of government and introduction of a horizontal system, as opposed to our current vertical, top-down architecture. Anarchism is absolutely opposed to coercion of any form, and advocates decentralised, spontaneous leadership in order to realise a truly free society.  I don’t consider myself a fully-fledged anarchist, but I do appreciate and in some cases absolutely rejoice in many of anarchism’s fundamental principles. 

11 months ago

Architecture:

Architecture can be approximated to define both urbanism and systems.  I don’t opt to use the term Urbanism because Architecture best illustrates configurations of systems, complex layers of constitutions.  For instance, there is a systematic architecture to urbanism.  Architecture is the largest, most obvious and visual effect of politics and its authoritarian nature. 

11 months ago

Government:

Government is understood as a top-down system that since its establishment has shaped and further established the continual growth of itself. In other words, politics in its most basic form, absolutely dictates economically, socially, culturally, physically, psychologically, our state of being in the world. 

I asked Ask.com when politics began. Ask replied; “There is no official date as to when politics got its start. There is not even an era that can be pointed out. The fact is that politics has been around for as long as humans”. I’m no expert on politics, or history, or social studies for that matter, I’m very far from it. However I struggle to agree with an understanding of politics as tied to the evolution of human beings. This assumes that politics; coercion, dominance, structure, power and so forth were a natural bi-product of Neolithic wo/man.  The Free Dictionary states that politics is defined as “The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs”. Wow, so we all agree that politics = government = the administration of absolute control. 

When I talk of politics I am not doing so in reference to internal political ideologies of a particular state or party, perhaps it is most effectively understood to say that I speak of politics in broad terms of its establishment and its effect, or its cause-effect.

11 months ago

The Future:

In anticipation of how an open source-anarchist urbanism might manifest physically, architecture and urbanism can be utilised as tools for exploring the implications of our current political framework (life), and investigate ways in which it would differ if human beings had opted for a different path, a different understanding of politics. 

11 months ago

Ositectecture; Open Source, Architecture, Anarchism and The Future, Sarah Lyons, 2013

In 2011 Domus invited Carlo Rattii  to write an Op-ed (an opinion editorial) on open source architecture, which naturally established itself as an open source document on Wikipedia.

OSArc (open source architecture) supersedes architecture of static geometrical form as it is traditionally recognised, with the introduction of dynamic and participatory processes, networks and systems. What this means is that open source architecture is somewhat autonomous from the rest of architecture, because it breaks free of the traditional system that architecture works within. Rather than adopting the mentality that there is a solitary best outcome for a project, open source promotes and encourages the copy-editing of shared plans, as in “Personalization replaces standardization”. Its purpose is to transform architecture from a top-down, unchallengeable delivery mechanism into a transparent, inclusive and bottom- up ecological system.

TECHNOLOGY

Technology in o.s architecture is what mobilises the philosophy from speculation to realised achievement. The Internet enables instantaneous collaboration and sharing of files to reference and work on, which of course requires a computer and software with which to work from. It is important to note at this point that the open source philosophy was practiced well before the establishment of computers and digital technology. In some regards, open source can be understood as a moral attitude rather than a system that is consciously and directly applied to something. A prime example of open source architecture pre-digitization is vernacular architecture; structures made by empirical builders without the intervention of professional architects. However the introduction of digital space and its positive effects in strengthening and the enabling of key concepts such as collaboration and easy access to data are unquestionable in areas of privileged with access to it, which I might add, only account for 37% of the global population.

11 months ago

Crowd-funding

Recently in Detroit a crowd-funded project raised US $67,436 to build a 3m high statue of Robocop to be placed somewhere in the city centre by 2014. The statue itself is not open source, you can’t access blueprints and build a giant Robocop for you backyard (as far as I’m aware), but there is an embedded expanding of ‘ownership’ based on the incredible amount of participation initiated by the Internet (80% of donations were made from out of Detroit). New modes of project initiation and development such as the efforts and results of crowd-funding seen in Detroit destabilise the traditionally feudal hierarchy of client/architect/occupant. One of the key areas of interest in o.s architecture for external analysts is the financing of private projects increasingly moving to the public domain, offering mass rather than singular ownership of a project. Earlier this year Nicolas Weidinger published an article titled Maker Cities, largely speculating and posing encouraging questions of the Maker City ethos. He writes: “When people are engaged in making and creating things, it provides the maker with a powerful sense of ownership that can help build stronger local communities and governments, or simply provide a sense of control over one’s own future”. This reclamation of peoples power can be seen a soft, spatial version of hacktivism, in New York the abandoned Riverside Park was a no-go zone until the public recovered the territory by walking dogs in groups. Examples of this nature offer evidence of the powerful leverage of a collective.  Collaboration is crucial to the open source philosophy, not solely because of the influence of mass, but because as a collective ‘we’ begin to recognise and associate with fellow human beings as ‘us’ rather than ‘them’. Beyond the leverage and potential of group activities, is an important sense of community, community that in a digital age is no longer restricted to the physical boundaries of streets, suburbs, councils – but is apt to extend above, across, and around the globe; open source communities.  When ‘we’ begin to associate ourselves with others - ‘us’, singular and central needs, morals, ideals, concerns and mentalities accommodate for others. It becomes a matter of all for one, in objection to one for all. The sense of self expands to acknowledge that ‘I’ am not autonomous from ‘you’.  Why this is important is because when a sense of self is reduced to accompany a sense of self among others, competitive and singular creeds that are associated with and encouraged by capitalist, egocentric ideologies in government are superseded perhaps by political ideologies and philosophy concerned at large by empathy.

11 months ago

Law

Open source architecture has particular appeal for those that could be considered peripheral to the mainstream economy, such as squatters, refugees and the military. Leopold Lambert exchanges thoughts on architecture and the law with Lucy Finchett-Maddock in his most recent pamphlet, Legal Theory;  “[In Turkey] the police cannot immediately destroy an unauthorised dwelling whose construction has been completed: this kind of dispute has to be settled in court. Because it involves the inertia of the administration that a court settlement implies, this scenario is likely to require enough time for the dwelling’s inhabitants to use it for a substantial amount of time. There are, therefore, strategies to build a home in one night to avoid a potential destruction the following day, if the construction would have not been completed”*.  This kind of make-do vernacular architecture that bypasses the law in order to defend its inhabitants is made possible only through trade of ideas and methods within a community.  Recently I had the privilege of attending one of Melbourne Free Universities’ (not to be associated with Melbourne University) discussions on Media Ethics; examining the relationships between information, secrecy and freedom with Binoy Kampmark (RMIT / WikiLeaks). Kampark impressed an image upon the audience when he spoke of the complicated nature of working within a structure that you inherently challenge. Do you change/effect from without, or within? Perhaps o.s architecture inhabits a similar stance, it retreats from the confines of the disciplines centre but still very much exists within it.  Asger Strodle wrote a slightly amusing ‘project primer’, whereby he states in a systematic and marginally prescriptive manner, “the immediate possibilities of founding a explicitly functional and long term anarchist commune in Australia”. This commune is expected to be located in a ‘Permanent Autonomous zone’ – a location whereby the state and the spectacle of capitalism don’t have absolute control. Strodl makes reference to the notion of Reform as supporting the status quo, but analysing or changing the symptom of the problematic issue. The eco village he proposes will “produce most of its own resources like energy, water and is not reliant on mass centralised services like piped water, sewerage or state electricity grid”.

The recent Occupy Gezi Movement in Istanbul, Turkey, was/is a protest against the government’s plans to stomp on the last public green space in the central city. Turkish architecture studio Architecture For All documented the protestors’ make-do shelters that were erected with localised materials and objects at hand and translated selected constructions into informal manuals for future request. One of O.S architectures defining characteristics is the notion that adaption overrides status, and life over plans, inherently opposing positions of ‘fashion’ or ‘trend’ in building. 

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11 months ago

Counter -

Klaus AE. Mogensen and Katrine K.Pedersen wrote a fantastic article titled Countercultures of the Future, whereby they speculate upon possible counter-reactions to the establishment at that future time. It’s curious to consider if open architecture is a counter cultural movement. The text validates countercultures as temporal in their nature due to the simple reasoning that in order to counter-react the establishment at hand they are denied the possibility of becoming a static entity. An example of this is the Radical Design movement of the mid 20th century. The counter-cultural movement rejected capitalist driven design embodied by the modernist movement, producing speculative examples of dystopian disaster worlds manufactured by the status quo. When the movement disassembled in the late 70s, many of its initiators found work in mainstream architecture and have come under heavy scrutiny since.  Adolfo Natalini of the former Superstudio group responded to these attacks by laying bare the fundamental initiation of a counter culture, “We looked with a critical eye at the situation which existed in the 1960s – the political and social situation against which we reacted with revolution in schools, left-wing movements, etc., but also the architectural establishment…Now I guess I’m involved in a similar reaction against the present situation, which I consider unbearable in the same way that we considered the situation unbearable in the 1960s”

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11 months ago

“My earlier work is largely contained in my current work, even if it can be difficult to trace. M work is still anti-utopian, if the only utopia left to us is globalization. Today architecture has been homogenized by a cynical ad useless experimentalism: the only possible reaction is a return to order or, better, traditional (the consolidated patrimony of successful experiments). I wish to counter the utopia of globalization with harsh local realities and lining for beauty.

Superstudio’s work as necessary for the 1960’s; my work in Holland was necessary for the 1990s and for the beginning of the new millennium. At the time, we needed a revolution, to break away from established culture. Today, with our failed ideologies, we need to work against extreme liberalism and consumerism, again too-fast pace if fashion and aesthetics devoid of content, against the cult of personality and useless experimentation.

 … I am fully aware that rejecting contemporary experimentation takes me out of the race for success (and fame), but I believe higher values lie in a dignified and civil city, able to transform itself without losing its patrimony of beauty and humanity; the values of a form of architecture, calm and with solid bases, that can reassure and protect us against the season and human beings.

The buildings that I’ve designed and built in the last ten years are based on resistance. Since 1979, I’ve worked in various historic European cities, and have faced different realities. Books and journals sho me a world where architecture has produced only trends and variety without any attention to places and people, without any necessity; an architecture aimed only at self-affirmation through the artifice of wonder created by being simply different and ugly.

As a result, the only avant-garde stance today is to try and reaffirm the uniqueness of every singly place, need, hope and the memory of those who have been here before us. No longer a search for useless originality but a necessary return to our origins. My work aspires to a timeless normality. I would like to vanish into my buildings. I would wish that these building disappear into their city context and become a landscape where it’s possible to live peacefully.”

September 18, 2004

P27-28, Superstudio: the Middelburg lectures, De Vleeshal, Zeeuws Museum, 2005

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11 months ago

If O.S architecture is a counter-movement, the criteria of its defence are much more expansive than simply defying the limitations of a privatised, scripture practice. Open source as an umbrella term apt to be applied to anything, however, in its purest form the crux of its application considers access to knowledge a very basic human right. After all, is that not what the defendant of Linux asserted when they recognised that we should not be limited to what is made available for us, to us. That we should not find ourselves bound within the law to accept only what is provided for us at a price.

Online platform Openstructure have two definite guidelines for their open construction project; that the design be able to dissemble and that it be based on a common modular system knows as the Grid. At first I questioned the logistics behind confining all designs to a grid, however the necessity to provide a consistent metrical tool to allow for additional components or editing overrides any unintentional connections to Avant-garde criticism of the grid; “its ubiquity and extension throughout the series of images [Superstudio’s Continuous Monument] implies a vision of an oppressive crushing architectural totality… The absolute stasis of the grid, its lack of hierarchy, of centre, of inflection, emphasizes not only its anti-referential character, but – more importantly – its hostility to narrative”.[sl1]  The establishment of universal standards also encourages the growth of networks of non-monetary exchange in the form of knowledge, parts, components and ideas, a trade of labor, expertise and skills.


 [sl1]http://terrapol.com/blog/2011/11/29/superstudio-the-continuous-monument-to-indecision/

11 months ago

Need

Boing Boing user Stephaniel commented on the content of OSArcs Wikipedia page regarding their own publicised plans. “We were happy to share our design ideas, but worried that structural details, climate strategies and programming ideas wouldn’t translate for another project, possibly resulting in a building that was, at best, not very pleasant to spend time in or look at and, at worst, structurally unsound”. Problematic fears in regards to dangerous applications of open source architecture are of course a draw back for the philosophy. Stephaniel continued to add that the OAN (Open Architecture Network) seemed to regard architecture as a product, rather than a process that takes a skilled professional as Stephaniel believed it to be. The question as to whether architecture is a Product or a Process is a good one because it requires one to decide weather they value ability over standardised expertise, and why. An analogy that was provided for me when sharing this proposition was that a Dr. is a service who provides a patient in NEED with a product. A patient NEEDS the expertise of a Dr to prescribe the correct medication. Do we need architecture? Why?

Saskia Sassen is a contemporary sociologist whose research practice focuses on social, political and economic globalization in reference to terrorism, immigration and global cities. In January 2011, Sassen contributed to #15:Local of The New City Reader, a temporary newspaper on architecture, public space and the city published between 2010-11, with a piece titled Open Source Urbanism. Much like o.s architecture, Sassen refers to the city as an open structure, open as in incomplete and so apt to be remade for better or for worse. Architecture and building are never complete in the world of growth and change, and, once again, oppose the static geometries of traditional architecture and its process. Architecture, as I have discussed in my most recent text Politecture, should be continuously re-examining itself and explaining just what its relationship is with the social organisation in which it works.  This type of consecutive critical examination of architecture is necessary in order to eradicate the growth of signature, trend and monolithic architecture; form ought to follow function. In 1895 French anarchist/geographer/writer Elisee Reclus published The Evolution of Cities, a historical account of the development of urbanisation. Reclus establishes an understanding of the manifestation of cities and their continual growth of expansion; “The city must widen its streets and its squares, rebuild its walls and replace its old and now useless buildings with structures answering to the requirements of the time… …The only obstacle to the indefinite extension of the towns and their perfect fusion with the country comes not so much from the distance as the costliness of communication, for, in less time than it takes to walk from one end of the town to the other, one may reach by rail the solitude of the fields or the seas at a distance of sixty or seventy miles. But this limitation to the free use of the railroad by the poor is gradually giving way before the advance of social evolution.” Nearly two hundred years later and Reclus’s statement could be appropriately applied to our contemporary condition. Reclus examines the history of urbanisation across Europe, highlighting ancient localization of villages and towns based on basic surrounding resources, to the additional construction of towns based on the distance that wo/man could walk from existing town A. to proposed town B. between dusk and dawn.  Gentrification has changed drastically since 1895, and it is an honest observation to state that the location of settlements are still based on resources, such as the coal town built in Yallourn in regional Victoria between the 1920s and 1950s, however, the context of these decisions and the crux of the situation is motivated by very different resolutions.   

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11 months ago

Open urbanism and architecture quite literally exceeds the physical and limiting boundaries of building, it introduces collaboration along with notions of ‘us’ and ‘we’, a reformation of community initiatives, local economic growth and much more, but above all open source activities generate another positive force towards destabilizing top down governance and politics. Contemporary Anarchist writer Chaz Bufe suggests that alternative political ideologies fail in their attempts because they spend so much energy in protests, coercion and an oversaturation of slightly harassing propaganda.  This focussed energy on external areas in politics is fascinatingly reflective of the methods used in religious sectors. The concept of propaganda is rich in this sense; do countercultures participate in this external, coercive, energy consuming propaganda? 

Bufe advises that along with hierarchical, centralised, patriarchal, authoritarian behaviours, coercion of all is a vivacious activity that ought to be made redundant, and thus only those of their own unrestricted will participate in countercultural lifestyles, toward A Future Worth Living. Bufe frames this counter-intuitive ideal well when he acknowledges that ‘anarchists appeal to reason and ignore the fact that most people never learned to think very well in the first place’. It is no surprise that within his pamphlet, of the same title, A Future Worth Living, Bufe treads carefully to avoid alluring to notions of ‘utopia’, aware of the problematic nature of providing/preaching a ‘solution’ for all.  This is a complicated issue because, on one hand, when a belief in an alternative to any form of status quo is consumed by so much authentic passion, we want to share our findings of better methods with the public, just as religion does, and just as the founding fa/mothers of Linux did so.  Where it becomes complex and disheartening is the understanding that the whole harmony of an ideology or method is impossible and could only ever be realised, as anarchism acknowledges in its anti-coercion approach, through absolute dictatorship. Most countercultural movements are never solely focussed on a singular issues, rather they acknowledge the interconnectivity of all matters of life, and furthermore obtain extreme ambitions and visions that require whole systems to be reprogrammed, requiring an open model to work from and with, requiring collaboration and transparency.

11 months ago

Concluding

Open source, anarchism and architecture are subjects that ought to be spoken of, but not in isolation. Open source is a pragmatic framework that could be applied to anarchism and it’s rejection of governance, and often already appears to have naturally culminated that way. Architecture, as in building, is a direct physical manifestation of politics, governance, law, policy, culture, and the economy. Perhaps architecture and urban planning can be utilised as tools for implementing an open source/anarchist ideology of empathy.

When Ask.com told me that politics had existed for as long as humanity I absolutely rejected that conception.  What I realise now is that the terms Politics and Government should be used cautiously and astutely.  It is my understanding that government is a construct that controls and orders civil infrastructure, public works, the military, economy and social behaviours. Politics decides how these matters will be addressed. This is the key concept; politics and political ideologies gain power to advise governance.  So perhaps Ask is right in proclaiming that politics evolved as wo/man evolved, perhaps politics can be better understood as morals, ethical positions, understanding of what constitutes life, its values and needs*.  At this point my position on politics has shifted. Politics is a natural phenomenon whereby an individual obtains responsibility for her/his/their life needs. But do we need governance? And if life were correct, would we need politics? Is politics a by-product of life taking the wrong turn? What is politics and government and why do we need them? And why cant somebody provide me with a mildly satisfying answer?

 

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11 months ago

OSITECTURE

OSITECTURE: Sarah Lyons, 2013
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