the network architecture lab @
the columbia university
graduate school of architecture, planning, and preservation
Since the Renaissance, architecture has responded to new sociocultural eras (the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, modernity, postmodernity) with utopian and dystopian schemes (ideal cities, Piranesi’s Carceri and Campo Marzio plan, Boullee’s visionary architecture, Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse, Sant ‘Elia’s Città Nuova, Hugh Ferriss’s Metropolis of To-Morrow, Hilberseimer’s Metropolis, Archigram’s Walking City, Archizoom’s No-Stop-City, Rossi and Scolari’s drawings, Koolhaas’s Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture, City of the Captive Globe, Lebbeus Woods’s visions, and so on). Such fantasies have not only served to advance the discipline, they are a means by which architecture can research, analyze, and investigate society.
It is the Netlab’s contention that we are living in a new era defined by the network. During the last fifteen years, the Internet has joined us together and gone wireless; computing has become mobile while applications are increasingly network-based; the mobile phone has become the world’s most successful gadget; virtually any form of publication has become available to virtually everyone. But these technological changes are only part of a broader shift in society. If in Fordist modernity the individual was located in a hierarchical system and in post-Fordist post-Modernism the fragmented individual was in a system of flexible production and consumption, today we conceive of ourselves (and are conceived of) as networked dividuals, composed of a myriad of flows of people and things.
By and large, architecture has failed to deliver visionary proposals for this moment. Students will respond to this condition by studying an aspect of network culture in depth and producing schemes based on an exacerbation of that condition that could be utopian, dystopian, or both utopian and dystopian.
Kazys Varnelis, “The Rise of Network Culture,” in Varnelis, ed. Networked Publics (Cambridge: The MIT Press, forthcoming 2008).