In Context | Katya Tylevich



Tom James’ essay, “The Advanced Passenger Train,” cuts frankly to the poetry of a “vision of the future” — an advanced train, which was unveiled in the 1970s by British Rail and capable of travelling at an unprecedented 155mph. The poetry resides in the fact that the APT now sits on a dead-end track, reaching a top speed of “zero,” as it has for roughly three decades. James deftly describes APT’s high-profile breakdowns and motion-sickness bloopers, which left sick-bags full and the press with plenty to write about.

“The future is here,” a trope rolled out for the APT’s premiere, quickly became an irony that needs no introduction. Perhaps the most touching sentence in James’ piece is one that briefly mentions a group of volunteers who’ve “lovingly restored” the APT, eclipsed though it is by its past, the present, and a Tesco superstore.

For this edition of “In Context,” James’ essay is the coat-rack off of which my four additional selections hang: like James’ story, all of them are an examination of the absurdities, narratives and (in some cases) melancholies of circumstance and unpredictability. As a collection, the five articles I’ve selected all detail some “vision of the future,” obstructed by a present that wasn’t properly addressed in the initial designs. Each article is a stethoscope, amplifying the breaths and pulses of misunderstandings — some purposeful and dangerous, some honest and strange.

Iker Gil and Andrew Clark’s interview with photographer Mitch Epstein, illustrated as it is by Epstein’s startling photographs of America’s power plants within natural and social contexts, is a significant confrontation between foregrounds and backgrounds: between power and its absence, nature and its poisons, security and paranoia.

Gil and Clark ask smart, direct questions that allow Epstein to clearly elaborate on the basic and sometimes chilling discoveries of his project. “As I went about trying to make pictures, I saw that the whole notion of power was something often hidden and, in a sense, very potent,” says Epstein, encapsulating the double meaning of his work. “Often times, when you are in these small places, you have local law enforcement very much working in tandem with the private security and so on. Let’s face it. They are drinking in the same bar,” Epstein tells Gil and Clark. “The irony is that all of these places are all photographed, they are in Google Earth, everything is transparent. So then, what is the big deal? I think there really isn’t a big deal.”

The absurdity of these kinds of “big deals,” which history so often skewers and which clutter the “hubris” bins of relevant memories, is also apparent in the photo essays of Brian Rose and Lisa Hirmer. Rose’s portraits of the Berlin Wall, both as a physical structure and a phantom limb, speak to the farce of “solid” or “concrete” ideology. Hirmer’s photographs of well-kempt single-family homes in Windsor, Canada, sitting shuttered and empty, are sentences in a much bigger story about a bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, and the standstill between questionable interests, money, big ideas, and their sad consequences.

Although these two photo essays zero in on vastly different geographies and moments in history, they are united in their thoughtful reflections of physical and cerebral life — they are the stuff of dark regrets and dark comedy alike.

Finally, I end with Mike Walsh’s essay, “She Was Not Amused,” a first-person account of traveling America’s fifty states in an examination and defense of bowling alleys, and their social relevance. Ostensibly “lighter” in tone than the previous four articles, Walsh’s essay similarly examines the symbolism attached to spaces and structures, and the narratives that adjust and unravel according to those physical confines. Anyone who’s seen The Big Lebowski or experienced its ripple effect will sing an ‘amen’ to the truth that bowling alleys are windows into an important kind of America.

“Any given bowling alley on any given day is a microcosm of the community in which it sits,” writes Walsh. “The bowling alley is a gathering place, and much more transpires within its confines than merely a series of sporting contests divided into ten frames. People don’t just bowl at bowling alleys. They eat and drink. They karaoke. They fall in love. They sneak behind the vending machines and have sex. They spend the one Saturday afternoon a month they have custody of their son there.”

Besides the concepts and general atmospheres that bond the five pieces I’ve selected, there is a shared ease and honesty with which all of these written and photo essays are presented. They are complex and weighty in content, but not in presentation. That “poetry” I mentioned back in the first sentence is integral to the way that these five pieces communicate about spaces and their effects on us. Sometimes it takes the tools of fiction to comment most accurately on the facts.


Short Essay by Tom James. Photography by Theo Simpson.

Iker Gil and Andrew Clark interview photographer Mitch Epstein, author of American Power.
Issue: 5 | ENERGY SPRING 10

Photo Essay by photographer Brian Rose.
Issue: 17 | BOUNDARY SPRING 13

Text and photographs by Lisa Hirmer.

Essay by Mike Walsh.


Katya Tylevich is an arts, architecture and design journalist based in Los Angeles. She is an editor for Elephant, contributing editor for MARK and White Zinfandel, and frequent contributor to magazines like Domus, Pin-up and FRAME. Her interviews and essays appear in books like Todd Hido’s Excerpts From Silver Meadows (Nazraeli Press, 2013), Pin-Up: Interviews (powerHouse Books, 2013), Operations In Populated Areas (2013), and Michaël Borremans’ As sweet as it gets (Hatje Cantz, forthcoming 2014). Currently, Katya is working on a book for Laurence King Publishing, which examines contemporary artworks in unexpected ways, to be published in 2015. Together with her brother, Alexei, Katya is co-founder of Friend & Colleague, a company producing original content and art projects. She was born in Minsk, Belarus and runs a website called Happy Nothing. | www.happynothing.com

In Context | Ross Wolfe



Architecture and Social Structure


Architecture today is, first and foremost, a social product. Not just in the sense that it’s constructed by means of a complex, global division of labor (though this also), but at an even more basic level — it both embodies and envisions certain relations between men, as well. Make no mistake of it, however. In no way should this be taken to imply that architecture is produced for the sake of society. Quite the opposite. Like any other commodity, a building comes about socially, through the productive agency of groups and individuals working together. But this work is directed toward ends fundamentally alien to itself; its purpose is not to benefit society or edify mankind but rather serve as a site for the accumulation of capital. Either that, or the built object merely rematerializes the ghost of that which already floated up from the base, ideological figments and fragments that outlive the historical epochs from which they first arose. These now nestle into mortar, stone, and brick. All that melted into air is made solid once again.

Of course, none of this is to say that great architecture can’t be produced under capitalism. Hardly anything could be further from the truth. The architectural legacy of the modern age is at least as impressive as that which preceded it — whether one begins, as Kaufmann did, with the French revolutionary architects of the eighteenth century, or reaches further back, like Tafuri, to the city-states of the Italian Renaissance. Modernism itself was nothing but the self-conscious attempt to take hold of the forms and forces unleashed by modernity, as the spirit of the times comprehended in concrete. Even if its sociohistoric mission was tragically cut short, the greatest examples of modern architecture are on par with any of the iconic structures of classicism, or for that matter the Gothic or Baroque. Some of what’s come afterward — postmodern populism, neo-avant-gardish deconstructivism, digital Deleuzeanism — has likewise yielded works of enduring value, though these are admittedly fewer and further between. Brilliant formal and technical solutions have been offered to address problems previously thought insoluble under capitalism, and who knows how many architectural innovations that may take place before this chapter of history finally closes.

Yet the fact remains that any social good that results from the erection of a given building is entirely incidental to its primary function: namely, as a reservoir for the storage, collection, and augmentation of value amassed over time. It may double, temporarily, as a conduit for the movement of capital (as money or commodities) through space. Or else it might serve as a site for circulation, the sphere in which the surplus-value of goods forged in the fires of production is realized in exchange. Until society achieves self-mastery, however, and directs the means of production toward its own enrichment — instead of the enrichment or fructification of capital — architecture as a social product will be held captive to an end outside itself, subordinated to a logic of production for production’s sake, in a world it did not design. A revolution worthy of the name would not only allow architecture to liberate its occupants and passersby, but would simultaneously entail the liberation of architecture.

Enough for now. The scope of inquiry — the social — has been delimited and defined. We proceed to method: structure. Structure doesn’t refer to architectural arrangement, or even the core around which a building’s cladding is organized. A series of binaries unfolds:

       1. Visible/Invisible
       2. Real/Virtual
       3. Production/Consumption
       4. Appropriation/Expropriation
       5. Work/Life

Dissecting its place within society, architecture can be articulated along these lines. In MAS Context’s context, several articles are exemplary. Ya’el Santopinto and Jonathan Wong propose the “invisible” architect as an alternative to the highly visible starchitect model in their jointly-written article, “The Disappearing Architect: Four Moves Towards Invisibility.” The invisible architect, they explain, is a kind of “cultural ghostwriter.” Wong’s spatial experiments, conducted anonymously, are presented as paradigmatic in this regard. But in highlighting his work, the authors risk a performative contradiction. Do they not seek to render his invisibility visible? Is his anonymity not compromised the very instant that he’s named? Vassiliki-Maria Plavou and Eva Papamargariti explore the possibilities of architecture in the digital age in “Netopias: Premonitions of Past Futures,” as new technologies facilitate ever more virtual connections across immeasurable real distances. The world at one’s fingertips: the annihilation of space by time. Or perhaps the annihilation of space by cyberspace? Past futures are peripheral to their chronicling of architecture’s love affair with technology, acting mainly as a springboard into Plavou and Papamargariti’s effusive account of intercontinental collaborations and expanded fields of communication. A danger resides in such enthusiasm, however — where technophilia abounds, technocracy is never far behind. Revolution may have been tweeted in Tehran 2009 (the largely forgotten “green” movement, a non-started revolution) and Cairo 2011, but can the gains of such virtual politics prove real and lasting? Nina Rappaport’s “Vertical Urban Factory” is one of the best articles yet featured on MAS Context’s website, tracing a history of Detroit’s overnight rapid growth as the automobile workshop of the world. Henry Ford, hero of the era of rational assembly-line production, found in Albert Kahn an architectural accomplice to match his own grandiose ambitions. As soon her narrative of Ford’s industrialism is finished, Rappaport quickly transitions to speculation about what the future of the factory might hold. In this, she touches on consumption. She advances the notion of a “Spectacle factory,” which represents what she calls the “consumption of production.” That is to say, the production process would be submitted to the public gaze. What would be consumed here is the spectacle of production itself, a rather terrifying prospect if you think about it. A glassy-eyed, half-erotic fixation on “factory porn” awaits the huddled masses. Continuing along the axis of consumption, we come to Eleanor Chapman’s reflection “Ownership is Dead,” written during that brief stretch of unrestrained optimism that accompanied the Occupy movement in Spring 2012. She warns against consumerist impulses, the insatiable drive toward new frontiers of appropriation, stressing auto-expropriation instead. One must also avoid re-activism, as Chapman writes: “An architect’s lot is historically to be a re-activist. But in the fledgling economy of ‘collaborative consumption,’ is it really viable to be reactionary?” From our present (2013) vantage of capitalist reaction, it’s fair to say her predictions were somewhat premature. Liz Potokar’s discussion of office layouts and business administration in “Workplace” rounds out this discussion. The article focuses on different management styles and their expression in various architectural styles. Completely elided is the life-world outside of work, the world of “free time.” Homes enter in only insofar as work begins to impinge upon life, in the form of home office.


Text by Ya´el Santopinto and Jonathan Wong
Issue: 15 | VISIBILITY FALL 12

Essay by Eva Papamargariti and Vassiliki-Maria Plavou

Essay by architectural critic, curator and educator Nina Rappaport

Essay by architect Eleanor Chapman

Essay by Liz Potokar
Issue: 3 | WORK FALL 09


Ross Wolfe is a writer, critic, and translator. The main focus of his work is Russian and Soviet studies, but he is also interested in the history of Europe, philosophy, and Marxism. He writes primarily about classical avant-garde architecture, contemporary political issues (elections, activism, current events), and topics such as the environment, technology, liberalism, utopianism, and the history of the Left. His forthcoming book, The Graveyard of Utopia: Soviet Urbanism and the Fate of the International Avant-Garde, is scheduled to be published in the next few months by Zero Books.

In Context | Chris Berthelsen



In-Context in Context


I am sitting next to a man who used to be the oldest registered architect in New Zealand,[1] and Company Architect for New Zealand’s once-monolithic Winstone Group. [2] In between nodding-off and perking up, blood infusions, pills, and cheese-on-toast I absorb fine details of company headquarters to copper church steeples, remote holiday homes to gib-board factories, gin-toting bosses’ wives, and secretaries sleeping under drawing boards.

In this context I find it hard to dangle multiple tabs and try to scrape some personal meaning from the diverse archives of MAS Context; Petro-urbanism/ city branding/ networked subjects/ securitization/ melancholy/ curation as critical practice/ democratizing technologies/ these were not considered while supervising the construction of a rural New Zealand tile factory, or when self-building his homes in Auckland (then without basic services, now highly sought-after beachside suburban spot). But I can, in his life, see how the architect as a designer/builder, manager, craftsman, friend and antagonist plays a part in pockets, blocks and tracts of the city and country. At the moment, I feel like I can gain more rare insight into questions of place in time, history, landmarks, communication, and “who and what defines the city” by talking to him rather than drying out my eyes on e-readings. (I’m sorry).

His life-drawing is shit (failed undergrad courses bear witness) but he is on-point concerning the dead art of by-hand draftsmanship (Image 01) and will locate the discrepancies in a set of working drawings with precision…. My childhood was infused with German artifacts in antipodean suburbs – Staedtler (Mars Magno, Mars Plastic, Pigment Liner), Rotring (Radiograph, Kapillarpatrone); and tracing paper, masking tape, t-squares, scale rules, razors, and sandpaper (Image 02).



Image 01 – My memories of trees are in plan view © Chris Berthelsen


Image 02 – In my childhood razors and sandpaper trumped pencil sharpeners © Chris Berthelsen


A consequence of Nurture (perhaps), I prefer to work in diagrams that provide structure to coherent inputs – Writing is a burden. My sentences barely let themselves be scraped out, and are often hallucinogenic.

Further I guzzle through words, but retain them as if I hadn’t. Trying to sense-make MAS Context on these long, slow days caring for a solid-as-a-rock practitioner feels like it will sink me.

My makeshift arrangement, then, to respond to the treasured invitation to contribute to In Context involves scratching, then sketching (Image 03), through previous editions to divine points of meaning. Trying to grasp what more lucid minds behold. Towards loci of shared understanding. Noting connections and pathways that draw lines of coherence. It is my always-selfish practice of pocketing traces of other peoples ideas for my own use.



Image 03 – Scratch for MAS Context in-context © Chris Berthelsen


My semi-arbitrary plottings (Image 04) suggest myriad pathways through which to understand how others have taken on the archives of this publication. This soothes me greatly.

I move from history, through transmedia landscapes, to a trinity of communication, translation, and curation – the suggestion that the blurry and ambiguous open doors to the new and unexpected reassures me. Regarding history as an affront to the now brings me to think about a present that is a utopia that speeds up and passes us, all the while having history folded back into it. At the foundation of my scratched mess (lower part of Image 04) are the real actions of humans in the tension between authorities and activism, located in the broader aspects of politics and place, contextual crises and consequences, and social practices that work on the question of city definition.

For my work, there are useful traces here in ideas of place in time, history, melancholy, unconventional practices, and energy. You can find your own.



Image 04 – Sketch for MAS Context in-context framework © Chris Berthelsen

Letters in square brackets are the initials of in-context articles used in the sketching of the above digram – BC (Brendan Crain), DA (Diego Arraigada), DPR (DPR-Barcelona) JA (Javier Arbona), MK (Michael Kubo), MS (Martine Syms), MW (Mason White), MZ (Mimi Zeiger), TS (Tomas Skovgaard)
Download a high-res version from here.


Sketching out the ideas of many, tabbing through the archives of MAS Context, I got caught up in my own flights of fancy – logistics orifices, altered proximity, the contemporary informational sublime, and genealogy and meditation in Japanese architecture. These topics caught my eye at the start. They remind me of my scrappy academic past in economics and international business, a pleasurable time researching the Tokyo landscape, and tawdry experiences in designing for online retail.

But really, I don’t have the skills or the mental tools to work with this stuff. I’m sorry. Enjoy the diagram!

My left ear conduits useful advice: “Always check your boundary pegs” “Get in a registered tradesman.”

Anyway, Thanks, Dad



1. To the best of my knowledge.

2. A firm that “literally create[d] New Zealand cities from the ground up”, according to folklore and the company website.


Essay by architect Deborah Richmond

Text by Ya´el Santopinto and Jonathan Wong
Issue: 15 | VISIBILITY FALL 12

Essay by Troy Conrad Therrien
Issue: 11 | SPEED FALL 11

Essay by architect Ioanna Angelidou
Issue: 9 | NETWORK SPRING 11


Chris Berthelsen investigates use.

In Context | Léopold Lambert



Architecture and the Law


The relationship between architecture and the law is a similar one than the egg and the chicken: it would be difficult and probably useless to determine which one created the other. What is interesting to question however, is whether one can exists without the other. The law requires architecture to crystalize the territory on which it applies on (the example of private property is the most obvious one), and architecture, in its inherent power to control the bodies, cannot help but to create new laws for each diagrammatic line it materializes into walls.

Those five examples constitute my selection as they engage the legal framework they are embedded into. The Center for Urban Pedagogy stresses the contradiction between one of the law’s axioms (nobody shall ignore the law) and its application by creating a series of pamphlets presenting the rights of a specific – often vulnerable – profession or citizenship. WhOWNSpace examines the ambiguous legal status of the New York privately owned public spaces, particularly revealed during the 2011 occupation of Liberty Square. Edward Emile Richardson investigates the New Orleans’ social housing regulations and how the latter triggered a pauperization of the low social class after hurricane Katrina. Alex Lehnerer shows us how visualization tool brought enough attention to influence San Francisco’s building height legislation. Last but certainly not least, the projects of Santiago Cirugeda and his Recetas Urbanas, which implement themselves in the ambiguity of the law’s interpretation. This last example is fundamental as it explores the possibility of an architecture that, rather than being subjected by the legal framework, uses the latter as a generator of projects which, most of the time, serve the collectivity.

If one agrees with my base thesis according to which architecture and the law are inseparable, one will recognize the importance to give as much importance and power to the former than to the latter. Just like there are no laws that are not fundamentally political, there are no apolitical architectures either and both should be continuously questioned within the societal debate. In order to do so, we need to examine the relationship they have between each other. Those articles are a good beginning.


Projects by the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)

Essay by Quilian Riano on behalf of the #whOWNSpace collaborative project

Essay by architect Edward Emile Richardson
Issue: 8 | PUBLIC WINTER 10

Essay by architect and urban designer Alex Lehnerer
Issue: 10 | CONFLICT SUMMER 11

Projects by Santiago Cirugeda, architect and director of Recetas Urbanas


Léopold Lambert is a French architect[e] living in New York. His work is based on a balancing act between writing/editing and designing. With this method he created a book, Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012) that examines the inherent characteristics that makes architecture systematically conceived or instrumentalized as a political weapon. He is also the editor of the blog The Funambulist that approaches architecture through an interdisciplinary spectrum (philosophy, cinema, literature, law, politics etc.).

In Context | Suzanne Strum



As a collaborative project, MAS Context presents a compelling mode of inquiry into “Things” as “Matters of Concern;” a way of tracking objects and relations, and of tracing connections. As I journeyed through the different issues, there seemed to be suggestions of an implicit, but unstated methodology that brought to mind some of the theoretical concepts of Bruno Latour. In his exhibition “Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy” (2005), Latour suggested the idea of a “Parliament of Things,” where objects might be thought of as a “gathering” or assembly that may act as agents to open up public conversation about important collective issues. [1]

I have sorted a number of projects that deal with both hard and soft infrastructures, as assemblages of the technological, the natural, and the social. The selected pieces “make things public” by deploying controversies and associations surrounding complex urban systems. They create narratives and negotiations around material things in the urban realm.

In Manufactured Landscapes, activist photographer Edward Burtysnky´s documents sublime man-altered landscapes and places of globalized production, consumption and obsolescence. His goal is to reveal the social and environmental costs. The most apocalyptic images were taken during the construction of Three Gorges Dam, the world´s largest infrastructural project, which was built to provide power for China´s growing industrial society. A number of urban centers in the dam´s path were destined to be flooded and disappear, as residents were paid to dismantle their own cities, brick by brick.

In Visualizing Urban Hidrology: The Design of a Wet Surface, Carolina Gonzales Vives documents some urban projects that render the historic and technological flow of water through urban areas, to reveal the hydrologic palimpsest. For the “Blue Road” project by Dutch artist Henk Hofstra, a km long street was painted blue in order to represent a historic water channel, thus making evident a part of the invisible systems and memory of the city.

In The Limits of Google, Pedro Hernández confronts the apparent neutrality of Google Street Views to reveal places beyond the camera´s eye, in this case a slum settlement in Madrid´s periphery. Introduced in 2007 as a feature of Google Street Maps, an army of hybrid electric cars equipped with 9 cameras, GPS and three laser range scanners was sent on the unending quest to document every roadway in the free world. These images now provide an immense readymade collection to be sorted and selected. Like, the artist Jon Rafman´s ongoing curatorial project “The Nine Eyes of Google Earth,” Hernández also mines this archive of the world, to critically discover the unexpected as well as to determine what has been left out.

Michael Chen´s Weak Networks and Movement Scales in Architecture, explores the relation between recent political actions, real physical space and ubiquitous social media that has revolutionized urban upheavals including the mass protests of the Arab Spring and the Spanish Indignados movement. Addressing the critiques of Occupy Wall Street as a form of “low risk activism,” Chen draws on Bruno Latour´s Actor Network Theory. He defends the non-hierarchical protest model and the notion of the weak link as part of a dynamic network in constant transformation, one that employs the model of social media itself.

Mitch Epstein´s photographic project of some American power plants might be contrasted against the heroic historical Works Project Administration images of the Hoover Dam taken during the Depression. Beginning as a newspaper commission, Epstein´s work developed into a far more complex commentary on “Energy as Power,” which includes the struggle of local communities with contamination; conflicts with corporate interests and governmental policy; and the problematics of documenting sites that Homeland Security has designated as security sensitive zones.



1. I am indebted to terminology and concepts from Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel´s Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (MIT Press, 2005). In the catalogue essay “From Real Politik to Ding Politik,” Latour asked, “What would an object-oriented democracy look like?” Bruno Latour´s work developed out of science and technology studies including “ethnographic” observation of scientists at work in the laboratory. He developed the Actor Network Theory, ANT with sociologists John Law and Michel Callon. This theory treats objects as part of social networks and includes the controversial idea that inanimate things can act as agents. In recent years, a number of philosophers such as Levi R. Bryant has expanded the idea of an object oriented ontology.


Photo essay by photographer Edward Burtynsky

Essay by Carolina González Vives
Issue: 15 | VISIBILITY FALL 12

Project by Pedro Hernández
Issue: 15 | VISIBILITY FALL 12

Essay by Michael Chen

Iker Gil and Andrew Clark interview photographer Mitch Epstein, author of American Power
Issue: 5 | ENERGY SPRING 10


Suzanne Strum is an architect and Co-Director of the Metropolis Master in Architecture and Urban Culture, a collaborative project between the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) and Pompeu Fabra University (UPF).

In Context | Tomas Skovgaard


”New trends and new times, new market conditions and newer communicational means are also creating, it seems, new modes of architectural production-consumption and along with them, an allegedly new type of professional with skills suited for an era where communication primes.

News spreads at an increasingly faster rate, generating an exponential inflation in the informational corpus: news and texts are forwarded, commented on, cut/cropped/quoted/linked and disseminated in the blink of an eye, and we, internauts brought up on a steady diet of continuous feedbacks, updates and comments, have quickly grown dependent upon the continuity of the flux. We require a constant nourishing perpetuating the dynamics of a performative informational experience, which has become the default setting. […] The rise of the contemporary starchitectural system reflects very vividly this situation, where architects stand in the spotlight not only according to the quality of their (classically considered) architectural production, but also corresponding to their qualities as performers, or even due to their ability to keep a network of gossip circulating around them.

Might it be — I can hear Roger Waters singing — that Architecture is communicating itself to death?”


…architect and cartoonist Klaus asks in Modern Talking [don’t you…forget about me]


For this piece of In Context, I wanted to highlight the thread through resent issues of mixed contexts and, in particular, the recurring thread of online curations [communications typologies] as trajectories that operate through both time and memory, and inform the financialization of the everyday life. They are splits between a present that passes, and a past which is preserved traversing the online world economy, and crystallizing new measures of autonomy from biopolitical mornings.

Browsing the archive of MAS Context — cutting / cropping / quoting / linking — from Jack Henrie Fisher’s Lines of Reading to Michael Hirschbichler’s Notable Realities: Balancing from world to world — I’ve selected five pieces of all types that confront and examine the thread of curation as a critical practice in architecture.

… Forward / comment / cut / crop / quote / link, disseminate… + enjoy…

In the end, what’s important is not to affect networks of gossip circulation around oneself, nor not to communicate at all, but to liberate critique from what is communicated — communication itself…


Artwork by Jack Henrie Fisher

Essay by Antonio Petrov
Issue: 15 | VISIBILITY FALL 12

Essay by architect and cartoonist Klaus

Ethel Baraona Pohl and Cesar Reyes from dpr-barcelona interview Beatriz Colomina
Issue: 9 | NETWORK SPRING 11

Essay by Michael Hirschbichler


Tomas Skovgaard is an architect and critic interested in cultural studies, inter-networked media and communications. He lives in Copenhagen Town in a tiny little ‘Social-Democratic Paradise’ far north in Old Europe where summers are short, and it constantly rains… | @endlessCities

In Context | Martine Syms


Notes on Translation

For the past few months I’ve been thinking about the form of narrative. What does it mean to be formalist in a transmedia landscape? Each medium has its own language. What would a film, which includes mise en scène, cinematography, editing and sound, broadcast as a book or a building? Why make one and not the other? How you say is just as important as what you say. If we understand manufacturing as a process or context that provides repetition, then mass media allows for narratives—and subsequently, ideologies and typologies—to be industrialized. A wide vocabulary of words, images, styles, actions and techniques in every possible language is at the immediate disposal of the independent imagination. Hence the golden age of the “hyphenate” or, if you will, “slasher.” Perhaps we’ve actually come to value the translator.

My selection for In Context is about translation, going from this to that. Jenova Chen makes video games from feelings. Paul Shepheard explains how the present is a utopia. Jörg M. Colberg considers whether or not truth is any different in high-definition. Denise Scott Brown examines the paradoxes of place making. Sam Jacobs wonders what architecture can communicate.


Andrew Clark interviews Jenova Chen

Essay by Paul Shepheard

Essay by Jörg M. Colberg

Essay by Denise Scott Brown

Essay by Sam Jacob


Martine Syms is a conceptual entrepreneur based in Los Angeles, California who grew up going to punk shows and watching lots of television. Her work focuses on the relationship between commercialism, identity and experience. She helps institutions, businesses and artists advance culture. | @martinesyms

In Context | Diego Arraigada



“There is something abominable about cameras, because they possess the power to invent many worlds” Robert Smithson, (Art through the Camera`s Eye)


I want to propose to the reader a drift through the beauty and the poignancy of some of the photographic essays that regularly appear in each issue of MAS Context. Usually they relate to the theme that is being treated. However, sometimes this relationship is not an obvious one, but rather an ambiguous, blurry or even contradictory one: it is in these last ones that I am interested in because they open the door to the unexpected and new. If the written articles give an insight and define the position of the authors in relation to a specific topic, the photographic articles are the place for multiple readings and open interpretations; they can ultimately articulate the unsaid.

Consider the work of Yosigo in the context of the “Amusement” issue and the perplexity his pictures can produce in the viewer – for there is nothing amusing on them. Andrew Bush’s Vector Portraits may seem appropriate to illustrate the theme of “Speed,” except for their stillness is so well achieved that one has to look very carefully to detect traces of movement. Suburbia gone wild, by Martin Adolfsson, deals with the global landscape of the new middle class suburban owners that paradoxically don’t seem to own an individual identity. David Schalliol’s Isolated Buildings makes us think about the relevance of “Work” as a powerful counter entropic force by showing the effects of its absence. The energy of a live performance stage seems to be very well captured in Staged Energy images, by Chris Martin and Cesar Russ. But where does their melancholy come from? Perhaps -as in every photograph- from trying to grasp a live instant in time and turn it into something frozen and eternal.


Photography by Yosigo

Photography by Andrew Bush
Issue: 11 | SPEED FALL 11

Text and photographs by Martin Adolfsson

Photography by David Schalliol
Issue: 3 | WORK FALL 09

PhotographY by Chris Martin and Cesar Russ
Issue: 5 | ENERGY SPRING 10


Diego Arraigada is an architect and Professor at the Escuela de Arquitectura y Estudios Urbanos of the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires. He established his office, Diego Arraigada Arquitectos in 2005 in Rosario, Argentina.

In Context | Michael Kubo


Resistant Objects

In plumbing the already-extensive depths of the MAS Context archives for this edition of In Context, I found myself confronted by a menagerie of resistant objects that cropped up from issue to issue. These are physical things, whether found or invented by those who introduce them to us, whose stubborn agency and incommensurability has provoked a series of unconventional practices — not just writing but making souvenirs, filing lawsuits, drawing obsessively, or collaging histories — for the authors and audiences that encounter them.

Tom Keeley’s Boom Boom Rubble Dust gives poignant homage to a pair of industrial objects that unwittingly became heroic bastions of resistance against the generic “airbrushing and botox-ing” of Northern English cities, “tarted up beyond recognition” under the market economy: the Tinsley Cooling Towers of Sheffield. Abandoned as relics, memorialized as icons, nearly transmuted into artworks, circulated as memorabilia, finally reduced to rubble: for Keeley, the Towers offer a stubborn reminder that cities like Sheffield have a history, too, one that deserves to be folded into the transformations of the present.

“Social architect” Santiago Cirugeda clearly relishes the resistant nature of the objects he introduces aggressively into urban contexts in Spain. He gleefully notes “the interest of the police to fine him” for his Containers project in Seville, and faithfully reproduces the newspaper articles through which an ongoing debate about the legality of his work has been conducted in the Spanish press. In one instance, he even sued himself in order to be able to erect temporary scaffolding, a canny exploitation of legal codes to convert a resistant act (grafitti) into the pretext for an even more intrusive spatial intervention (extra room).

Mika Savela’s form of resistance to reactionary cultural politics in Switzerland is mediatic rather than physical. In The Great Mosques of Lake Geneva, a highly charged series of images are used to subvert the country’s recent constitutional ban on the construction of minarets by projecting the fictional history of a nation in which the Ottomans, rather than the Habsburgs, had won the decisive battle at Zenta of 1697. Savela fuses the classical landscapes of nineteenth-century Switzerland with the minaret-studded panoramas of Constantinople, forcing us to confront challenging questions about the idealized constructions of nations and histories.

The objects that generate discomfort for Kate Bingaman Burt are the everyday detritus of products, packaging, fast food, energy drinks, movie tickets, and other remains of a consumer lifestyle faithfully catalogued. Obsessive Consumption is itself an obsessive recording of these items — everything Burt has purchased since 2006 — through drawings accompanied by captions which betray both attraction to and repulsion from these products. The “gross” Chick-fil-a sandwich Burt guilted a student into buying (“I need to stop”), the admission of temptation of Powerade’s “orangy sweet goodness” instead of drinking water—the process of documenting these objects amounts, for Burt, to a measure of her resistance or submission to their seductions.

To produce an architectural object that resists classification: that was the aim, or at least the result, of Antón García-Abril’s project “The Truffle.” Fittingly aberrant for an issue on speed, the Truffle undoes the conventionalized processes of design and construction to produce a formless register of the animal and mineral traces of compression, erosion, cutting, grazing, and hollowing. Is it a grotto? A hollow rock? A bunker? The object stands there silently, both suggesting and resisting interpretation.


Essay by Tom Keeley

Projects by Santiago Cirugeda

Essay by Mika Savela
Issue: 10 | CONFLICT SUMMER 11

Text and Illustrations by Kate Bingaman Burt

Project by Antón García-Abril
Issue: 11 | SPEED FALL 11


Michael Kubo is a writer and editor currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture at MIT. His research focuses on topics such as history of publishing as a strategic form of architectural practice and the Cold War architecture of the RAND Corporation. He is also the director (along with Chris Grimley and Mark Pasnik) of pinkcomma gallery in Boston. | @microkubo

In Context | Brendan Crain


Icons in Real-Time

If, as Alexandra Lange writes in Writing About Architecture, “The idea of a landmark becomes fuzzier as we move closer to the present,” then how are landmarks defined as the present keeps speeding up? That question was stuck in my head as I dove into the MAS Context archives to curate this In Context. Richard Prouty contrasts Wordsworth’s London–a city that could be seen in its entirety from a bridge–with the contemporary techno-augmented cityscape to great effect. Today, we’re as likely to navigate a city by looking down at our smartphones as we are are by looking up at our buildings, meaning that a landmark can be created simply through the manipulation of data. That has huge implications for what–and who–defines the city.

Troy Conrad Therrien explains the difference between the speed of information (fast) and the speed of knowledge (slow), highlighting how widespread public access to data is eroding the very idea of “official,” for better or worse. Tom Keeley’s account of the re-framing of un-loved structures (in this case, a pair of cooling towers) as an emotional touchstone for the city of Sheffield serves as a case study for how a meaningful civic landmark can be established by a couple of determined individuals. Ethel Baraona Pohl, in her piece on Jürgen Mayer’s Metropol Parasol in Seville, shows how even a formally pure, officially-sanctioned landmark can be claimed and re-defined by the motliest of crews.

Iker Gil’s interview with Everything is a Remix creator Kirby Ferguson provides an interesting jumping-off point for considering how the experience of a city’s “sense of place” could be remixed by agents of its myriad subcultures. This consideration is vital, as technology democratizes ownership of urban identity. But as Ferguson’s series points out, gatekeepers don’t cede authority without a fight. So how will this democratization play out when a city’s global brand is at stake? Something to think about.


Essay by Richard Prouty

Essay by Troy Conrad Therrien
Issue: 11 | SPEED FALL 11

Essay by Tom Keeley
Issue: 12 | ABERRATION

Essay by Ethel Baraona Pohl of dpr-barcelona
Issue: 12 | ABERRATION

Iker Gil interviews Kirby Ferguson


Brendan Crain is a writer and urbanist who spends an inordinate amount of time pondering the effects of social technology on the urban environment (and vice versa). He is the founder of the Where blog and the Communications Manager at Project for Public Spaces. | @thewhereblog

In Context | Javier Arbona


Flipping through a stack of browser tabs to uncover a hidden thread within the archives of MAS Context, I found myself interested in the tensions and latent cross-provocations gravitating around ideas of social practices. In a Fall 2010 number devoted entirely to the theme of “Public,” editor in chief Iker Gil wrote, with lucid foresight of what was to come in various 2011 uprisings: “Why react when we can act? We want a PUBLIC that demands more and proposes more.” And that’s exactly what happened this year, it would appear.

But to judge by voices and images in MAS Context, there has not been (fortunately!) a monolithic approach within the architecture and architecture-related disciplines about how exactly to act. As citizens, practitioners, and sometimes as amateurs in the space of activism, authors have grappled with questions of civil engagement, self-reliance, and spatial reclamation. Perhaps sometimes less prescriptive than some may thirst for, the following pieces instead draw out, for me, some of the thorny challenges that emerge when space is identified, parsed, occupied, or otherwise subverted.

Karla Sierralta and Brian Strawn examined acts of resilience and adaptation to the rising disparities of petro-urbanism in Maracaibo, Venezuela. But they also highlight, perhaps without intending to, a troubling securitization of everyday life that at once comes from both the state and the citizen. David Schalliol, in contrast to the busy urbanism of Maracaibo, represents American cities through carefully isolated portraits of buildings, as the title of the feature plainly expresses. Though it’s tempting to label these as “urban decay,” nuances in the photos chart iterative changes and adaptations going on just below first impressions.

Meanwhile, Lick Fai Eric Ho finds chances for architects to work in new arrangements with networked subjects. Though I would be less sanguine than he is about the provision of an “open” infrastructure from the corporate internet, Ho’s essay indirectly shows the narrowness in typical architectural discourses that reify fixed place as the one, original setting for social practice. Candy Chang’s work, exhibited in the Fall 2011 issue, has been seminal in defining entries for architects to engage communities through geographically-minded temporary interventions in the landscape. To close this quintuplet of articles, María Moreno Carranco’s marvelous “Public Works,” about Santa Fe, Mexico, examines improvised and opportunistic ways of laboring and transacting in privatized spaces of public life. To borrow Iker Gil’s term, Santa Fe’s vendors “act” out an extra-legal space for laboring and engaging with current economic structures. Yet I would argue that there has been a notable absence of articles that embrace or even facilitate explicitly disobedient, illegal or pirate strategies to public space, judging by these and many other essays beyond MASContext. We can perhaps learn from recent events about what such acts reveal about the limits to current architectural imaginaries.


Essay by Karla Sierralta and Brian Strawn.
Issue: 4 | LIVING WINTER 09

Photography by David Schalliol.
Issue: 3 | WORK FALL 09

Essay by Lick Fai Eric Ho.
Issue: 8 | PUBLIC WINTER 10

Projets by Candy Chang.
Issue: 11 | SPEED FALL 11

Essay by Maria Moreno-Carranco.
Issue: 3 | WORK FALL 09


Javier Arbona is a PhD candidate in geography at UC Berkeley with a background in architecture and urbanism. His work looks at the politics and ideas of land use, spatial practices, design and visual culture, experimental landscapes, social movements, mappings, social theory, digital culture, and ephemera. | @17644995

In Context | Mason White


For this series of In Context, I wanted to highlight the thread through recent issues of temporal contexts; And, in particular, the recurring problem of history. How history is represented, how it is written, and how it is preserved, as one of the more significant acts and byproducts of design. Browsing through the impressive archives of MAS Context, I have selected submissions of all types that present this problem of the archive itself. The problem of history as an affront to the now, and a provocation to our memory of what was, that really mattered. Maybe even more so now—as any form of permanence is seen as unnecessary, wasteful even—in the face of rapid urbanization and conflicted renewal and adaptation standards, history is a project unto itself.

Brendan Crain’s survey of applications preserving digital ghosts of cities past outlines a potential augmented history. Jonathan Andrew’s stunning photographs of World War II bunkers across The Netherlands, Belgium, and France convey the spatial permanence of (some) history. Ethel Baraona and Cesar Reyes engage Beatriz Colomina on the fleeting immediacy of (little) publications to curate and steer the future of history. Lick Fai Eric Ho’s essay offers a range of trajectories on historical models of open processes and collaborative networks. Iker Gil’s conversation with Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle inspires the possibilities of phantoms, clouds, icebergs, and delays to create temporary registrations of histories or, even, false histories.


Essay by Brendan Crain.
Issue: 11 | SPEED FALL 11

Photographs by Jonathan Andrew.
Issue: 10 | CONFLICT SUMMER 11

Ethel Baraona Pohl and Cesar Reyes interview Beatriz Colomina.
Issue: 9 | NETWORK SPRING 11

Essay by Lick Fai Eric Ho.
Issue: 8 | PUBLIC WINTER 10

A conversation between Iker Gil and Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle.


Mason White is Director of the Master of Architecture Program, University of Toronto. He is a Partner in Lateral Office, and a Director of InfraNet Lab. | | @masoncwhite

In Context | dpr-barcelona



Lately, a series of spatial mementos have appeared in our cities. Closed or empty urban spaces remain as scars of a time of abundance that may not be the same anymore. The result is a sense of emptiness, enhanced when talking about high density cities, that can be traced in different contexts; no matter if we read the city under it’s “public works” or as the place for “summer amusement”.

In Empty Amusement, a photo-essay by Yosigo we can travel through the emptiness of different amusement parks around the world and even feel the loneliness transmitted by it’s big, isolated structures. In this travel, our next stop is the abandoned mid-century public schools of New Orleans. Francine Stock wonders about the future of what once was an example on avant-garde architecture and now is nothing more than a collection of obsolete buildings. Photographer David Schalliol’s photo-essay Isolated Buildings, remarks on the importance of the relationship between the current economic downturn and our built environment: nowadays it is more and more common to find empty, abandoned buildings in our cities, which easily can be the landscape of a Kafkian book in an existentialist context. The Chicago Freight Tunnels by Bruce Moffat talks about the differences between a normal subway station, filled with a crush of humanity during the day and the old freight tunnels, built in the early 1920s, most of them now lying empty in the bowels of the city. We finish with Maria Moreno-Carranco’s article Publics Works, which shows how we are able to transform the concept of emptiness through the practice of “spatial appropriation” in the urban landscape. As Moreno-Carranco points out, there are so many possibilities of transformation and subversion of the intended use of urban space. We see this last stop in our MAS Context travel as a provocation to re-think how can we transform emptiness and use it as a catalyst of relational infrastructures, which can be materialized through real citizen participation.


Photography by Yosigo.

Essay by Francine Stock, president of DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana.
Issue: 8 | PUBLIC WINTER 10

Photography by David Schalliol.
Issue: 3 | WORK FALL 09

Essay by Bruce G. Moffat.
Issue: 9 | NETWORK SPRING 11

Essay by Maria Moreno-Carranco.
Issue: 3 | WORK FALL 09


dpr-barcelona is an innovative publishing company based in Barcelona, specialized in high quality architecture and design books. With an international scope and founded by two architects (Ethel Baraona Pohl and César Reyes Nájera), our catalogue vary from monographs and documentation of buildings to historical studies, collections of essays and dissertations. | @dpr_barcelona | @ethel_baraona | @cerreyes

In Context | Mimi Zeiger


For the inaugural In Context, I chose five articles that are about context, the particular conditions and representations of a place in time: Shenzhen, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, and Beirut. Although my hope is to draw connections between these contexts, I also am looking to expose disconnects. For instance, there’s thematic similarities in the relationship between labor and location in both Dafen, a Chinese industrial village known for producing reproductions of famous oil paintings as documented in Jiang Jun’s essay A Village by the SEZ: The Dafen Sample of China’s Urbanization and evocative photographs by Haibo Yu, and informal transport hubs that cropped up under Lebanese overpasses in the wake of civil war as explained by filmmaker Nora Niasari in her piece Under the Bridge. And there’s formal and historical overlaps between Selling Lifestyle, Iker Gil’s interview with Eric Bricker, director and producer of Visual Acoustics, a film about legendary photographer Julius Shulman, and Andrew Dribin’s meditation on Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City. But perhaps it’s also productive to read between the kinds of urban renewal that led to the development of that Chicago mid-century tower complex and the kinds of policy changes affecting public housing in New Orleans as HUD razes blocks of low-income projects. What’s made clear when we recontextualize the accumulated material of ten issues of MAS Context is not only the publication’s commitment to delving into topics of politics and place, but the ongoing need for discourse around contextual crises and their consequences.


Essay by Jiang Jun. Photography by Yu Haibo.
Issue: 9 | NETWORK SPRING 11

Essay by Andrew Dribin.
Issue: 1 | MORE SPRING 09

Interview with Eric Bricker by Iker Gil.
Issue: 4 | LIVING WINTER 09

Essay by Edward Emile Richardson.
Issue: 8 | PUBLIC WINTER 10

Film and essay by Nora Niasari.
Issue: 10 | CONFLICT SUMMER 11


Mimi Zeiger is a Brooklyn-based freelancer, writing on architecture, art, and design for a variety of publications including The New York Times, Dwell, and Architect, where she is a contributing editor. She is the founder of the architecture zine and blog loud paper. | @loudpaper

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