Look-No-Hands: Junkspace as Accidental Active Form
...For Keller Easterling, architects capably produce objects of strength, utility and beauty but fail to articulate and speculate on the relationships between these objects and other objects, concepts,
or political forces. While Easterling sees active form operating at the scale of infrastructure, the work and writing of Rem Koolhaas explores disposition acting at an architectural scale. This paper argues for a rereading of Junkspace, Koolhaas’s 2003 essay, that observes the power of undeclared forces operating without consent of the architect.
In Junkspace, Koolhaas observes a new spatial product proliferating in airports, convention centers, and shopping malls around the developed world. While Easterling stresses the importance of architects to practice a new type of design, she shares Koolhaas’s fear for architecture’s tendency to overprescribe, stating that to fix a social form, or “to give it a name or boundary, is to negate it or stop the flow.”1 Rem Koolhaas proposes a new type of representation, the diagram: “There is zero loyalty and zero tolerance towards configuration, no ‘original’ condition;”2 The nonmodern qualities of OMA’s diagrams, afford the designers additional options once lost to the polemical thinking.
A direct application of this insight is the office’s design for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, a temporary, inflatable pavilion. In programming a disposition of organized freedom, Koolhaas appears to have learned from the chaotic suppression of Junkspace.
Designers who heed the warnings of Junkspace and elevate the active potential of space will not escape the choice between corruption and freedom that this extra art affords. Keller Easterling’s description of the forces currently pulling the levers of active form reads like a machiavellian conspiracy theory. When faced with the application of these powers, the critical question about the values the architect chooses to project onto the form remains open.