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12 Months

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June to December last year was a golden time for the blog. Visitor and page view numbers were rising to approach what they’d been in 2018 before I tired of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the treadmill of promoting. I continued to announce new posts on LinkedIn though.

American reader numbers have always been the largest but I took pleasure in watching the number of readers in China grow steadily even though, in December last year, they were still only one third (2,354) of those in the US (7,792). I felt good, and the blog was growing organically by person-to-person recommendations as it should.

But come this year, view numbers flatlined while visitor numbers stayed approximately the same. There are now few or no visitors or views from China. Instead of being the country with the second highest numbers of views, only once every ten days or so will China appear near the bottom of the top ten list of countries. The net effect is as if access to the site is somehow being throttled to approx. 40%. It’s easy to say “Ahh it’s obviously The Great Firewall of China!” but the loss is greater than what the number of Chinese visitors and views had been. Something is happening and I’m trying to get to the bottom of it. If anyone has any thoughts, then I’d be grateful if you could share. misfitsarchitecture is currently hosted by the US web hosting company Bluehost.

While that has been happening, the blog continues and each Sunday grows by one post even if all of them aren’t pearls.

Of the blog’s 16 categories, this past year had no new posts for the CAREERS category even though there are architects like Jean Prouvé who would make a fascinating career case study. I discovered no new MISFITS in the past twelve months, even though there must still be many more little known architects from whom we can learn. There was nothing new in NEWS, even though there must have been items that I might have had some thoughts on had I known of them. However, in the past 12 months either no such thoughts crossed my mind or, if they did, they then went somewhere else.

The categories of MEDIA and FOOD each had one new post in the past 12 months. The one in MEDIA was the relatively recent one reflecting upon the generally perfunctory media coverage of the death of Ricardo Bofill. The one in FOOD reflected on continuing attempts to make the countryside more like the city.

I’m currently reading James C. Scott’s Against The Grain that makes a case for agriculture being used as a means for the formation of this thing called The State and its subsequent enslavement of populations via taxation. Extending this reasoning, rather than seeing the countryside as the new urbanism, cities are more correctly called the new ruralism in that they’re machines for faming people.

These past 12 months I’ve been fortunate to have been able to travel to Shanghai, Tianjin and Nantong. I thought Tianjin and Nantong were both extremely comfortable cities but Shanghai defies easy labels. All I can do is write about what it makes me think about. My first visit to Shanghai led to Misfits Guide to Shanghai, The Gardened City, and ZHA@MAM Shanghai that led to Automatic Design

My second visit to Shanghai led to The Elevated Road and three new posts in the HISTORY category, pondering the various ways the life of building stock is extended.

There were five new posts in the AESTHETICS category. Even re-reading the Aesthetic Efficiency post just then took me back to Fang Ta Yuan/方塔园/Square Pagoda Garden in Songjiang in outer Shanghai. I’m not normally moved by gardens but this was a totally contrived miniature universe of calm. Questions of natural and artificial didn’t apply, and that too was relaxing. Maybe my calmness came from the lack of display of authorship. It just was.

Someone once pointed out that my use of the word myths was incorrect but I think waht’s happening is that the word myth now has a touch of myth about it. I use it to mean those things we believe anyway despite the basis for that belief being rather shaky. Flexibility, Individuality and, only last week, Self-Sufficiency were three typical posts for this category. There’s a book there somewhere.

With eleven and ten posts each, EDUCATION and TYPOLOGIES were the categories with the largest number of posts although three of the Architectural Myths posts also appeared in MYTHS. I try to keep the categories separate but overlap between education and the continuation of architectural myths is no surprise.

Eight of the eleven EDUCATION posts dealt with various ways of having, generating or otherwise prompting an architectural idea. This is something of a preoccupation of mine. They’re all different ways of generating what it’s been fashionable for a while now to call “mutations”. An intern farm is the infinite monkey metaphor applied to the generation of an artificial diversity of architectural ideas.

If you give a monkey a typewriter and an infinite amount of time then sooner or [much, much] later it will type Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s a disingenuous metaphor because 1) it assumes we all think Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the pinnacle of human creativity, 2) it wants us to ignore the fact the monkey will also reproduce every piece of crap writing that has ever existed, and 3) it also wants us to ignore the fact that, should it succeed in typing Hamlet, it’d be a chance occurrence and not creativity at all. (“Hey monkey – somebody’s already written this!”) The random generation of mutations simulates the appearance of architectural ideas but design as a creative endeavour only exists when a process of selection is applied and decisions made.

Because infinite numbers of typewriters, time, and monkeys (and infinite bananas to incentivize them) are hard to come by, we have algorithmic design but somebody still has to sift through all those possibilities and find something that can be used to make design decisions. It’s just another way of arriving at an idea and not a way of designing. In Formative Houses I recalled some buildings that made a huge impression on me, and became aware of how much I was still referring to them. Knowledge in the form of a library of images and memories is just one more (traditional? conventional? archaic? inexpensive?) way of generating an architectural idea. More recently, in Associative Design, I wrote about how a project can begin by recreating some memory, and then being sensitive to how that memory leads to another, and then another that opens up more memories. This too is nothing more or less than an old fashioned analog way of generating a sequence of mutations, all of which are design ideas. As a way of designing though, it has the advantage of there always being a finished project because the universe of possibilities is always the universe of possible possibilities. You don’t have to select a design and then fit your program into it. Let’s pick this up again some other time.

I suspect I might be using the word typologies when I should be just using the word “types”. Nevertheless, the TYPOLOGIES category best represents my interests. The posts in this category all look at a particular building type and all produce some proposal that I think improves upon or solves some problem. The Space Between Apartments and The Not-so-elevated Road are not just two of my favourite posts from the past year but two of my favourite projects.

All these proposals are collected on my other website grahambrentonmckay.com with projects added to the five categories from the top. These categories are ill-defined and have considerable overlap but they’re all about the sharing of building elements.

These are the ones from the past 12 months.

There are also links across categories. For example, there’s a progression of thought from The Handshake Apartments to The Handshake House to Handshake Hotel, but there are three different proposals for three different situations. Non-Algorithmic Housing I and Non-Albgorithmic Housing II are obviously related.

There’s another book in there somewhere. Proposals that find their way to this website are all concerned with high density or high-rise and this is no accident. One way of saving space and resources is to make detached houses smaller. Another is to not waste space and resources through inefficient planning. A third way is to share the same building element for two or more dwellings. High rise buildings share floors, lobbies and elevators and most have shared walls on shared floors but the high-rise apartment block outside of south-east Asia has settled on the Lake Shore Drive single-sided apartments off dual-loaded corridor configuration because it’s cheapest to build and heat. I believe there are other, better ways of doing it.

I’ll post this one under NEWS to be with all the other posts about this blog, and I’ll tag it misfits, education, and typologies.

Comments

  • Do you know the husband and wife team of Antonin & Noemi Raymond ?
    Incredible career, incredible skills…I think they deserve misfit recognition

    • says:

      Thanks Bill! Yes but (typically) I had only heard of Antonin. That immediate post-war pre-boom Japan period is a very interesting one but also a poorly documented one. I’ll dig around.

  • The pearl is that you have the imagination, and desire and energy to do this every week. I truly salute you.
    Please don’t stop.
    I enjoy and look forward to the weekly instalment. Although I do admit sometimes it is a cursory once over.

    • says:

      thanks Jonathan, and of course you’re right about some of the posts. Some are more like placeholders for thoughts, rather than explorations. hhh I hope there will be many more.

  • Hello Graham – My only thought about your lack of China- audience participation is that possibly the Chinese government is censoring your website as a continuation of China’s ban on ‘weird’ public architecture. Some of your posts could be construed by the authorities as being contradictory to the State’s policy. Otherwise, I have no idea – being an ardent admirer and follower for almost ten years.