café for contemporary art

Unfinished Speculative Architecture Thread #1

Posted in architecture, exhibitions by tyler057 on July 26, 2009


>>From: Holly

Hello city dreamers,

Firstly thank you all for the huge interest and enthusiasm in this project, I realise it is all a bit vague at the moment and I really appreciate the trust you all have in the project and eachother even before it has all begun, it makes me really excited!
So it all begins on Monday 9:30am at Cafe for Contemporary Art,  It’s really important that you try your best to make it on Monday to meet everyone and get a good break down of the brief followed by questions…. and for coffee. If you can not work full time on the project then this will be a great time to share your schedules with each other and work out some sweet synchronisation.
Monday afternoon will be organised on the spot and primarily for discussion and maybe a field trip to the site. If you can not stay in the afternoon this is fine – and we can give you notes about how you can get to the site.  I do think it may be important for some of you to go alone to the site to experience it in a solitary way, but to go in groups first might be easier and more fun. If you have a laptop/

cameras/drawing equipment/—-/ you may find it very useful to bring them along.

attached is a brief to look over in case you didn’t get an updated copy.

and finally: If you all could please email me an image or a piece of writing or visual work by tomorrow that would be perfect (for an artists bio)…
Thank you all! We’re looking forward to monday in a huge way,
see you all soon,


>>From: Christina

Id like everyone to take a look at this diagram and I am going to explain it TODAY. Later today;
or maybe friday if thats ok because i left my examples at home; and as you know im at work right now.
This is a diagram that stipulates the FOUR different types of MINIMALIST SCULPTURE as seen by rosalind krauss….
i think i spelt her last name wrong. anyways I want you to look at this to talk about the states inwhich completion/incompletion of vision take. and can be mutated.


>>From: Daniel

A few things:

1) Yesterday I roamed the city looking at unfinished development sites (mostly downtown) and researched the various projects that were/are put on hold/aborted this year and last, due to the economic crash, to “over-speculation” (great term … Being too optimistic, assuming the market for housing was greater than it actually was). I will add some links to artcles about this at the end of this email.

Some of these suspended projects have since gone back to work. But there is one, V6A, in china town, which was supposed to be a condo unit and is now a wonderfully bleak watery hole in the ground.

I think it would be really interesting to think of the ways in which completed “plans” (architectural, urban planning, art, film) are typically represented, and then find ways of representing incomplete/halted/aborted projects in a similar way:

A)  (sexy condo-selling posters showing not a completed project, but an incompete one, with only concrete, exposed steel, piles of dirt, etc., construction workers, etc)

B)  (often time lapse films are made of a construction sites–sped-up, to show  building coming together “the thill of progress!” everyone is familiar wit these kinds of films.
for example, here:

It might be interesting to make a time lapse of a job site in which nothing it happening. Cars wizz by on the street, people scurry past, clouds race across the sky … We expect to see a building/city form magically being constructed because we are used to the conventions of film (film always shows action!) and the conventions of the city (the city always grows, the economy always flourishes) but if nothing happened on the job site, it would be really eerie. Maybe it could be filmed on one of these dead sites, or on a regular site on Sunday, when there is no work?)

2) I came up with an idea for what an installation at the gallery could be. We could think of the exhibition as a development (a plan, a vision) that never came into fruition. Frame the space of the gallery as a production/construction site, fenced off, the exhibition always still being installed, the installation still under construction. A spectacle of stalled plans. Or rather, leave it ambiguous as to whether there is something more coming or not, as to whether this anything is finished.

I made and have attached a quick pdf illustration of what I mean, take a look.


Here are some links to aborted projects


>>From: Matthew

Daniel I LOVE this – that suspension / hang time/ almost visceral anticipation, a corollary of perpetual construction. There is so much to say about this installation concept. I like the virtual museum idea too, and the SCARP project Fred sent may be useful in depicting a pragmatic terminal, anchoring the more fictional/irrational visions we might generate. On that note here are some additional things I wanted to share:

I was thinking last night about the word ‘vision’, and the semantic shift it undergoes once a disruption takes place – ie. from vision as aspiration to vision as apparition. Furthermore, the kind of disruptions that inspired Daniel’s synoptic diagram were those of trauma (woods’ Radical Reconstruction), and so this sense of trauma is something that might be worth further exploring.

Maybe the work of Simon Norfolk would be a good place to start, just in terms of clairifying the significance of trauma in re-visioning (planning, speculating). Norfolk is a kind of war photographer, focusing not on combat as it happens, but on post-conflict landscapes and the disrupted objects that populate them:

“these objects [the material subjects of his war photography] are beyond: they’re inscrutable, uncontrollable, beyond democracy.”

Note the allusion to anarchy, or “anarchitecture” even, and the sense of the unknown, the alien, the inscrutable traits these disrupted objects embody.

Beyond the shock inherent to large-scale disruptions (the terrorist attack, the economic crash, the environmental disaster, etc) a sense of trauma exists too in the vision itself then, because the vision is a ghost./(a geist , a stillborn monument ) and so we have, lingering just beyond these disruptions, a series of existential culs-de-sacs, squellettes of a fully imagined yet unrealized future.

(a terminal vision. )

and then this oblique, not necessarily rhetorical question:

what is the cultural significance of these kinds of visions?


>>From: Daniel

Awesome, matthew. I hadn’t thought of the momento-mori connection to these artifacts. But it is so that. I would love some inclusion of a traditional image of this genre alongside our inscription of it on the urban scale.


>>From: Fred

Whoa, loving all these ideas guys!

I just found a website that might be of some interest for those wishing to explore the official/pragmatic vision of South Cambie by the City of Vancouver.  I haven’t had time to look into it as much as I would have liked to yet, but I thought I would forward the link to all of you, nonetheless:

(Sorry for the double e-mail Daniel, forgot to hit reply-to-all!)


>> From: Christina

ahhh its soooo good. this is soo good. remember how i said to look at that diagram
welll look at this too
and remember the woodshed for later ok!


>>Also From: Christina
cc: i Michel Poivert, “Utopia’s Form,” États Imaginés, Ed. Actes Sud, 2005, p. 89


>>Again From: Christina

sorry andd


>>From: Jadis

this is really exciting!
I find all these concepts extremely fascinating. After reading into Lebbeus Woods’ theories(rad reconstruction) I am particularly drawn to the question of this post-destruction reconstruction vs. remedial restoration as a metaphor for the human embodiment. I have been re-imagining Daniel’s diagram as an organic anatomical grafting scheme, in which these parrallel(open-ended) vision routes(the wounded “geists” as Matthew expressed) are the disrupted/disconnected vessels of abandoned sites in liminality, waiting to be restored into our cultural image of man-as the city object.  Except that, like these bizarre “bio-grafts”(ex: tree branches fusing into sculptural forms) are confusing the repression of crisis/trauma with the collision of disparate realities( a trigger for more trauma itself).
I love this idea of disguise as a passive way to apease the idyllic memories of what should have been, based on consumer demand.
“it may be argued(…), that architecture is a juncture between matter and memory in which the two are the same.” -aleksandra wagner(The nature of demand).

I’d like to see these parrallel visions mapped around the idea of this unfinished construction site installation, perhaps in an audible form. An aspect of the terminal site that struck me the most was the soundscape. So much of what one could hear from the SKytrain seemed to reflect the uncertainty of the area.
The long screeching halt, the distant voices of children coming from nearby housing coops slowly being drowned out by traffic.
like the sounds of a plane(or in this case, the train) approaching, the warning of something big coming towards us is justified by our knowledge of this phenomenon.
But these interruptions suggest a new experience, requestioning of the why of this space.  I’d like to hear what this sounds like.

my two cents,


>> From: Matthew

It was “Etant Donnes” I was thinking about today – Duchamp’s final work. It’s constructed as a peephole / diorama, and in a morbid, carnal way engages ideas of voyeurism and desire. I want to somehow incorporate elements of this piece as a terminal vision.

coming soon


>>From: Holly

Hey you beauties,

This is me chiming in just to say hooray – you guys are developing some rich theory and process here, and I love the references… Eric Baudelaire is awesome! and when i saw the gallery under construction today i got way too excited.
Another vision that might help… (this is a GREAT  woman who I worked with in NZ, originally from montreal) see specifically ‘siteworks’ and ‘ruin the city’



>>From: Andrea

Hi all,

something else I wanted to bring up:

So, this actually speaks to our installation (or the other way around) more literally than I initially thought- maybe we want it to even more?  Or maybe it already does enough… ?

Anyway, so Vancouver’s View Corridors:  there is zoning in place to protect certain views (even glimpses), that restricts the design (height particularly) of new buildings.  This restriction on the city’s physical growth and the way it guides its occupants’ eye is interesting.  It encourages a person walking/driving around Vancouver to look beyond the core, rather than at their immediate (urban) surroundings, this web of sightlines.  (Maybe we want to map these in ways discussed yesterday?)    (also, map here)

These corridors are up for review this year, and generally, I think their existence and their re-evaluation says a lot about what people are trying to prioritize for Vancouver, and what ‘we’ (everybody from planners to the average citizen) want our city to do/be for us.  Certain things remain the same, (preservation of views?!), certain things change, in order to accomodate these self-conscious/superficial choices that affect the way the city looks as a whole.

There are a few corridors surrounding the Cambie Bridge, and it looks like the Canada Line (or something parallel) is a “walking corridor” to the downtown north-shore-mountain views; I like to think of the skytrain as a literal and visual corridor, what this implies, and all the other implications of what these views are supposed to achieve, etc, etc… Vancouver’s idealised self…

Anyway, so I’m excited that we are working with similar manipulations, since the average person on foot walking around the city may not be aware that the natural views they see are actually the result of composition/manipulation, rather than a poetic or happenstance observation on their part.  (-Making compositional decisions for the individual.  – The city walkers become voyeurs/’audience’, who are shown something, rather than participants.  Maybe I’m stretching the art/audience/voyeur metaphor too far for these purposes.. but it seems sort of like that… The person looking around becomes passive, since so much is already decided in what they’ll see…)

That is all,

(ps so I’m making the text lightbox, yes-
Were there any further thoughts on altering the quote we had decided on initially? there seemed to be some reconsiderations yesterday…

“Without vision the nation perishes/Without perishing there is no vision”  )

One more thing, Daniel, I like your postcard-of-awkward-

foundations idea- are you following through with this? (I mean to express my yes-vote in its favour.)  I like the idea of exposing the stagnant present through kitsch/novelty items… ha; catching the city with its pants down.  (or perhaps just developers.)  Immediate undermining of nostalgia… tongue in cheek..!


>> Also From: Andrea

Another quick note to add to my previous email:

The photos of the city showing the view corridors have a really interesting sense about them;
Maybe we want to create our own outlines of corridors on our own pictures of the cambie site, or of (failed/halted?) construction sites in the city?
Maybe not.  I like the banality of the rectangle… The idea of taking otherwise neutral images of the city and revealing the intended bias…


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