Ricardo Bofill: Seeking Ruin
If postmodernism has been reduced to rubble we can inhabit its ruin to find a way through it. One modality of reference - arguably the apotheosis of the postmodern condition - is nostalgia and ruin. The ruin in the work of Ricardo Bofill and Taller de Arquitectura acts as a leitmotif to confirm the potential for nostalgia to become its own space of critical invention. The ruin is argued for as both an attitude and a technique, as perception and procedure. Where restorative nostalgia attempts to reclaim the essence or existence of an “absolute truth”, reflective nostalgia reframes the part of nostos, or home, as ephemeral rather than absolute.1 Ricardo Bofill nomadically pursues reflective nostalgia by recuperating vernacular architecture and then abstracting it into cubic forms, which cluster, accrete, and march in opposition to the flat International Style slab, or the classical wall surface. Bofill’s architecture is built through literally exploding cement factories. Bofill has shown us that various pursuits of the ruin create a continuum where certain essential parts are missing, whether interrupted by nature, physically destroyed, or stripped of sign. His forms refer to a place that will not exist, exposing rather than imposing a world. Bofill’s invention avoids stability, a final answer, and a fully integrated system. Building and destroying through ruin enables us to straddle the problem of our historical moment and the past that haunts us from both ends. We can work with a rigor and a forgivable tolerance, so we do not lose architecture or ourselves in the process. Ruin, as noun and verb, as object and process, exemplifies a mode of working that can be historically materialist, poetic, allegorical, and critically inventive.
Otakupop: A National Center for Manga Culture
Manga is about transporting oneself into another world, falling in love with it, and inhabiting it. Tokyo commuters pack into trains, read manga, and leave it for the next passenger. You can ride the train and shed your business suit for a cosplay costume. The building interprets the world of manga and the national culture of Japan as heterogeneous and ephemeral. The building is meant to be in a state of metamorphosis, much like its users.
The building wholly accepts the dualities between good and evil, the otaku (the Japanese term for nerd or geek) and non-otaku, and their respective spaces of consumption -- cluttered collection or polished department store. Otaku and popular culture are meant to intersect and impact one another to dissolve the typecast. The building absorbs Odaiba’s bizarre breed of island urbanism (its suspended spheres, monorail, and pedestrian bridges), as well as satellite districts that are essential to manga culture in Tokyo (such as Akihabara, Ikebukuro, or Harajuku bridge). The hope is that the building can absorb and promote different forms of urbanity, as well as the transformation of the tastes and personalities of its users. Everyone may be an otaku.