Practice, Product, Protocol is an exhibition on the work of Jacob Comerci (William Muschenheim Fellow), Matīss Groskaufmanis (Walter B. Sanders Fellow), and Eduardo Mediero (Fishman Fellow). The exhibition was scheduled to be on view at the University of Michigan Taubman College’s Liberty Research Annex between March 30-April 30, 2020. [Taubman College and the University of Michigan closed in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)]
Practice, Product, Protocol is an exhibition about architecture’s entanglement with immaterial systems. In the era of the information economy, an increasing part of architectural discourse no longer responds to material assets but rather to the value and opportunity of intangible ones, such as financial instruments, digital interfaces, spreadsheets, invoices, and diagrams. The emergence of abstract organizational structures has also led to the inability of establishing clear boundaries between traditional notions of public and private space, as domestic and working environments have converged into a single place of life, work and leisure. Increasingly, these environments are mediated through corporate organizational platforms, allocating space as a subscription based service. The entanglement of architecture with these immaterial systems is displayed in three interspersed parts, ranging from a serially produced catalogue of deployable soft architecture, a video game environment that examines organizational models of architecture practice, and financial formations for a post-property urban condition.
1. Matīss Groskaufmanis
According to some estimates, the 1990s saw global market value of intangible assets exceeded that of tangible ones. This shift profoundly affected the notion of value, as intangible dimensions of products—such as symbolic, aesthetic, and social—foreshadowed their exchange value. Not only intellectual property, brands, e-commerce, and services, but also managerial constructs—layers of subcontracting, service agreements, and other organizational capacities—became valuable assets in their own right.
During the same period, structural changes had emerged in architectural practice. Both the effects of the deregulation of global finance, and the collapse of the communist geopolitical sphere allowed access to new markets. Only a few decades later, lubricated by file transfer services, air travel, social media, CAD and ICT technologies, it has become ever easier to design spatial products across the globe, whether in the Middle East or Asia. At the same time, these new realities are demanding more management of architectural production in practice, as a growing proportion of architects’ work has become intangible.
The exhibition offers a peek into a virtual present-day workspace of a multinational architecture practice. The workspace can accommodate up to 576 architectural workers and managers, and at its peak capacity it can simultaneously develop up to 288 architectural projects. Walking through space induces hallucinations of fatigue studies, commodity forms, BIM protocols and other technologies of management. Both projective and retrospective, they offer narratives about the convergence of culture and entrepreneurialism into the smooth managerial space of the post avant-garde architecture practice.
2. Jacob Comerci
Major US cities continue to see increases in co-working and co-living spaces resulting from rising real estate values, urban migration and digital nomadism. An incoming generation of professionals find these companies’ low-risk rental and subscription models of shared living and working desirable, as they provide conditions otherwise unattainable for individual renters. This fellowship work capitalizes on business strategies of major co-working and co-living companies, which produce total environments equipped with desks, conference rooms and coffee bars, and also with an invisible set of protocols which facilitate the politics, organizational structures and management of people in space.
There is an opportunity to learn from these company models, as they have proven to nimbly adapt to socioeconomic conditions and produce architecture at scale. At a time when profit-driven real estate schemes, increasingly tightened regulations, BIM standards and the mass production of building components have rendered the architect increasingly powerless in the production of the built environment, this project points to an alternative model of practice which critically and opportunistically inserts itself into an existing framework of prolific architectural production.
The work on display is a proposal for a readily deployable series of discrete architectural objects which can be assembled, disassembled and transported with ease, unbound by building regulations and costing a fraction of ground-up building. The project operates somewhere between the space of architecture, industrial design and furniture design—a soft architecture produced not in units of one, but many—an itinerant, serialized catalog of equipment.
3. Eduardo Mediero
In a city where the belief in private ownership is thought to be an inalienable right and property laws bolt personal gain over public interest a real estate speculative derail should not be a shock to anyone. For centuries, Madrid has developed itself around the defense of property laws that go so far back in time that it now seems impossible to question. However, with the rise of finance capitalism in the last decades, we have witnessed the emergence of immaterial assets which have challenged the ability of property laws to establish clear boundaries. Land, buildings and objects have now been replaced by bonds, derivatives and stocks, producing an imperceivable and limitless financial structure which accommodates the never-ending hyper-accumulation of neoliberal economies.
Today, as Madrid’s real estate market values continue to rise towards another collapse, the accumulative character of the urban must be brought into question. To define its negation becomes not only an oppositional counterforce, but a responsibility in defending the common realm over private interests. Against this infinite, totalitarian condition, the project presents a series of isolated products—financial formations that act not as generators for capital, but rather as a parallel real estate network that adopts the algorithmic structure of finance capitalism. Assigning a material representation to intangible financial instruments, these formations suggest a post-property scenario, in which private interests are replaced by common use.
Call for Proposals
Moreover, the project’s scope of possibilities is broadened through a call for proposals that questions architecture’s reliance on private property. Eight architecture practices from across the globe, ranging from Australia, Mexico, Norway or the US, have responded to a brief, asking to design a room that considers alternative modes of cohabitation through demanial ownership, or public domain. Each room belongs to a larger system in which the appropriation of architecture through private property is superseded by inalienable, communal protocols.
Casa Blanca Oficina de Arquitectura: www.cargocollective.com/casablancaoficina
GFA2 & Christina Deluchi
LCLA Office (Luis Callejas and Charlotte Hanson): www.luiscallejas.com
Matilde Cassani with Leonardo Gatti: www.matildecassani.com
Noam Saragosti & Juhee Park: www.noamsaragosti.com
Parasite 2.0: www.parasiteparasite.com
Studio Vatn: www.studiovatn.com
Oakland, California is booming. The economic explosion of Silicon Valley has spilled over into neighboring Oakland, increasing housing prices five-fold over the past twenty years and driving developers to race to build as much housing as quickly as possible. Tens of thousands of new luxury units rent for 20% more in average than their neighbors built five plus years ago. These new buildings are typically constructed as cheerfully painted stucco boxes whose façades shift in and out every 20 feet, a requirement of local building code which seeks to promote a “friendly streetscape.” In a city desperate for low-cost housing, these new development function as both mechanisms and symbols of exclusivity. Oakland, California is crumbling. One quarter of all homeless Americans live in California. Homelessness in Oakland has risen 47% over the past two years. Today, nearly 1 in 100 residents of Oakland are without permanent housing. Ad-hoc homeless encampments have sprung across the city in large part because of this skyrocketing real estate market. These camps, generally constructed on public lands, are routinely demolished by city workers, police officers, and bulldozers. When a camp is destroyed, the city surrounds the former site with chain link fences to ensure residents do not return. Chain link cordons off a former public space and amenity, and in doing so defines who has access to which parts of the city for what purpose. The building proposed here is composed of two halves, part luxury condo and part chain link doppelganger. The proposal sets these two construction methodologies, each which produce their own particular version of urban spatial exclusion, in direct architectural conversation. This juxtaposition seeks to engage questions raised by The Own Foundation regarding the primacy of private ownership, the de facto nature of shared places, and how notions of urban cohabitation can be understood in this moment of surreal economic inequality.
Casa Blanca Oficina de Arquitectura
On an invisible city by Italo Calvino
When they enter the territory of which the neighborhood is the capital, private life is so rich that it does not admit borders in a common street, a neighborhood street. The traveler sees not one place but many, of equal size and not unlike one another, scattered over a vast, rolling landscape. The street is not one, but all these places together; only one is inhabited at a time, the others are empty; and this process is carried out in rotation. Now I shall tell you how. The street is an atrium that negotiates between the discretion, sheltered by the house, where the familiar happens; and the surreal exuberance of the mundane in the open space, public and communal, for the street is the empire of casualty-entropy is its currency.
Change, only constant of the neighborhood street, synthesizes not in academic nartex nor a spotlessly designed portic, but in a house that pours out its intimacy, onto the street, and the street that invades the house: a dialogue.
Here, saints go by and turn a garage into their sanctuary. Here, people say goodbye to their love ones, neighbors gather at the entrance to pray for the dead, invading the street with foldable chairs, community first, traffic can wait. Here, there is livelihood, a garage is a market, claiming for itself the space with improvised tents. The street is a democratic space. Since the neighborhood is ordered without great distinctions of wealth and authority, the passage from one function to another takes place almost without jolts; variety is guaranteed by the multiple assignments (. . .) Thus the street repeats its life always the same, and always different, shifting up and down on its empty chessboard.
The street is an atrium, the street is casual, it’s a river of time where life resides. Each house, each threshold, is a dock from which to jump and get soaked. Everything happens. Even the architecture that isn’t, the architecture that is only when someone inhabits it, happens. Virtual spaces that are defined by its use, and the casual appropriation of the public and private bodies that walk it, transform it, live it, and activate it. Life resides in its form and ways, not within limits of the designed spaces that renders insufficient.
Guillermo Fernández-Abascal & Christina Deluchi
The social contract is broken as we enter a new climatic regime. There is only one possible way to address the question of the room in the decolonized future of post-capitalism.
The room’s architecture focuses on the Earth’s four spheres—the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere—not our national, nor global, political climates. The room reorients conversation away from ownership of the Earth’s resources to instead ponder our coexistence with Earth. The room provides a space to imagine this coexistence by visualizing the Earth’s composition. Learning new ways to exist with the Earth’s matter—rather than consume it—is our biggest challenge and the urgent task of architecture today.
The proposed room is, at the same time, highly specific and generic. It houses the material and chemical composites of the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere. Displaying the four spheres in this way seeks to acknowledge their fragility, incite awareness, and provoke new ways of belonging to Earth.
The (Earth) room belongs to everyone and no one.
Juhee Park & Noam Sagarosti
The Station is a storage infrastructure that houses goods offering ownership through use. It is defined by a threshold of storage shelving that demarcates a thickened perimeter. The structure is built very precisely from standard components, quickly and with ease, and can be adapted to different scenarios. It is detailed primarily in its section—a prefabricated galvanized metal shelving structure. It hovers above the ground, to protect its goods from floods or creepy crawlers. Above, a wide gable roof protects its goods from rain, snow, and sun.
In plan, a line from a shallow spiral, with only one return. As the line returns on itself, it frames two spaces—a central room and a corridor leading to the room. As the roof pitch turns the corner, it grazes the roof of the line’s starting point, marking the entry as an inverted gable. The entry corridor leads the owner into the corner of the room. It is open to the sky—a court defined by the shelving colonnade. Lining the inside edge of the roof is a curtain that hangs down to an ankle length. When closed the curtain provides a degree of temporary privacy and serves a an ephemeral backdrop for the collection of miscellaneous objects.
The line of shelving doesn’t know how to turn the corners, it simply avoids it. The corner is completed by the intersection of the gabled roofs. All of the station’s components are painted the same color to flatten their individual reading. This flattening distinguishes the station’s silhouette against its context while highlighting the contained objects within.
The Station is shared by everyone—the protocol is known by all tacitly. The rules of use range from first-come-first-serve, time limitations, and replacement of repair upon damage. The Station’s context is anywhere. Wherever it stands, it reveals itself as an oasis for the owner, a room for one’s necessities and desires, offering the gift of temporary use.
LCLA Office (Luis Callejas and Charlotte Hanson)
We read your long curatorial statement with excitement. However, we don’t think the design of such individualistic room is possible on Earth. Because of this, we propose to you to exhibit this small room we designed to look at the stars and outer space, which is perhaps the only place left where it is possible to aspire to play under the utopian rules you describe in the compelling curatorial text. Your argument made us think of early debates about the sovereignty and usufruct of the moon, back in the 60s at the time of the so-called “space race.” Some of those debates seem relevant again, if not to define inhabitation on Earth, at least to aspire a whole new way to look at the questions of property and land use in the future.
Luis and Charlotte
Matilde Cassani with Leonardo Gatti
In a future of complete freedom from private ownership, we envision a total sharing of property from home to transportation systems, to services, to your own private interior.
From the moment in which street culture entered the world of fashion design, HYPEBEAST has become the reference point for anyone looking for news and information. In a few years it has become the online leader in scoops and news about HYPE design, fashion, music, videos, and art.
Following the trend of limited editions, and hype extreme followers, we envision a service, providing your total HYPEBEAST loo: clothing, accessories, and everything else you might desire.
All products would be directly delivered to your closest “HYPEBEAST locker” as an extension of your own private closet. By ordering your look, a day in advance, you would be able to receive all the products, and dress up before your meeting.
The locker sis the maximum expression of a semipublic space in the field of furniture design: you just need a device on which you can receive your code and in a few seconds you get a temporary exterior private space; open it, get changed, look at yourself in the mirror, and go. After a few minutes, this becomes public again.
Combining the elitist research of hype and the sharing economy, the final outcome is a hybrid object, public by nature, and private by use.
If the closet belongs to a private imaginary, in this occasion it is eviscerated from its intimacy and inserted in the public system of the city. Whether you are a businesswoman or an avid sneakerheadz, the HYPEBEAST locker is what saves you when private property disappears, by nourishing your collector’s thirst through the continuous renewal of your own wardrobe.
I had a business dinner and then a fashion show event, I had no idea where to find quick change. HYPEBEAST locker made my day!
Set for Possible Rooms
Set for Possible Rooms is a series of scenography which can be used to frame a possible space. The model is a tribute to Archigram’s project Suburban Set.
Suburban Set, designed by Ron and Andrew Erron in 1974, can be read according to Reyner Banham as “the undermining of suburbia from within and by its own implicit value system.” Following Banham “the inner contradiction that will destroy suburbia-as-we-know-it has nothing to do with Marxist theory and a great deal to do with, e.g., picture windows.”
If in Suburban Set, the façade is a scenography to the exterior, a mask, hiding possible intimate words inside, Set for Possible Rooms change the perspective. The interior de ned our set is the image of the collective desires from our inner imagination.
The Property Courtroom
There is, however, no such thing as private ownership established by nature, but property becomes private either through long occupancy or through conquest or by due process of law, bargain, or purchase, or by allotment. Therefore, in as much as in each case some of those things, which by nature had been common property, became the property of individuals, each one should retain possession of that which has fallen to his lot; and if anyone appropriates to himself anything beyond that, he will violating the laws of human society.
—Cicero, De Officiis
The courtroom defines private property, borders, edges, and hierarchies like no other civic program. In a court of law, each actor has a specific role and the spatial configuration enhances these. The courtroom is a microcosm of society, but also the room where the state can act on the private sphere and the body of the citizens. One can claim the courtroom is equally importantly a physiological construction as a well as a physical one. But what is the courtroom, and ultimately representation of justice, in a time where the fundamental role of the court as balanced and neutral is being questioned, wen the public is losing trust in the objectivity of the legal system?
This model is a courtroom, a series of rooms with specific internal relationships and procession. The model describes how the courtroom is a meeting point of several interests and roles, with movements and scenarios for different outcomes. This courtroom has three levels separated by thick, opaque, inhabited walls where the stairs run perpendicular. This courtroom is reminiscent of a stage set, or perhaps like the set of a sitcom, or a Pompeian ruin.
Participants: Jacob Comerci, Matīss Groskaufmanis, and Eduardo Mediero
Call Participants: Aleksis Bertoni, Casa Blanca Oficina de Arquitectura, GFA2 & Christina Deluchi, LCLA Office, Matilde Cassani with Leonardo Gatti, Noam Saragosti & Juhee Park, Parasite 2.0, and Studio Vatn
Fellowship assistants: Mackenzie Anderson, Christian Austin, Lindsay Barranco, Adrian Dicorato, Chris Humphrey, Jamie Lee, Ziyuan Li, Kathryn Mallory, Laura Lisbona, Victor Mardikian, Sang Won Jee, Danrui Xiang, and Gary Zhang.
Graphic design: Sam Wood
Organized by: Taubman College
Dates: March 30–April 30, 2020
Jacob Comerci is a designer and educator. He is the 2019- 2020 William Muschenheim Fellow at the University of Michigan. He received a Master of Architecture from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While at Princeton, he was awarded the Howard Crosby Butler traveling fellowship where he studied building groups in Berlin as well as the Suzane Kolarik Underwood thesis prize for excellence in design. He has previously worked with Bureau Spectacular in Chicago and Los Angeles as well as with MOS Architects and LTL Architects in New York. His research and design work reconsiders models for collective life and work by way of the interior fit-out of existing real estate with furniture-scaled domestic equipment.
www.jacobcomerci.com | @jacobcomerci
Matīss Groskaufmanis is the 2019–2020 Sanders Fellow at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. His research and design work examines architecture’s relationship to political and economic ideologies, with a particular focus on the emergence of global architecture practice. In 2018, he served as a curator of the Latvian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, exploring housing as a means of nation building. An alumnus of the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow, he holds a master’s degree in architecture (with distinction) from Delft University of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Glasgow School of Art. Prior to founding the architecture agency Schema in 2019, Groskaufmanis worked on research, publishing, and building projects as part of Rotterdam-based architecture practices OMA/AMO and MVRDV.
Eduardo Mediero is the 2019-2020 Fishman Fellow at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Mediero is a licensed architect and founder of HANGHAR, an architecture practice based in Madrid that works on the confluence between architectural precedents and financial organizational models. The practice develops projects that include furniture, interior design, housing, and urbanism. Mediero holds a Masters in Architecture with Honors from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and a Masters in Architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he was the recipient of the 2018 KPF Traveling Fellowship. His work has been exhibited at the XIV Biennial of Spanish Architecture and Urbanism, the 16th and 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, and the Colegio de Arquitectos de Madrid.
Tags: 2020, ALEKSIS BERTONI, ANN ARBOR, ARCHITECTURE, CASA BLANCA OFICINA DE ARQUITECTURA, CHARLOTTE HANSON, CHRISTINA DELUCHI, EDUARDO MEDIERO, EXHIBITION, GFA2, JACOB COMERCI, JUHEE PARK, LCLA OFFICE, LEONARDO GATTI, LUIS CALLEJAS, MATILDE CASSANI, MATISS GROSKAUFMANIS, NOAM SARAGOSTI, PARASITE 2.0, STUDIO VATN, TAUBMAN, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN