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Saturday, May 10, 2003

testing..... give me a day or so to sort out the templates and everything should be working fine..... daniel... posted by Michael at May 10, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Packing and moving
A note from Friedrich von Blowhard and Michael Blowhard: 2Blowhards is going to be doing some redesigning, renovating, packing and moving over the next few days. So, though we expect that the site will remain visible, it'll be inactive for a little bit. Please enjoy what's here. We'll be back in the fray with fresh material starting next Monday. Thanks again for stopping by.... posted by Michael at May 7, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

A Week With Nikos Salingaros -- Part Five
2Blowhards is taking a break from the usual to devote a week to a conversation with the architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros. This is Part Five, and the last installment in the series. Part One is here. Part Two is here. Part Three is here. Part Four is here. Many thanks to Prof. Salingaros. PART FIVE of FIVE 2B: What makes you sure you're right and the orthodox architectural establishment is wrong? NS: I'm trained as a scientist. Incidentally, so is Christopher Alexander. And scientists are trained to discover facts about the universe. When we think we have discovered something and it is tested by scientific methods, as opposed to political methods, then we are absolutely secure in our convictions. We are aware of entire fields of civilization based on myths and superstitution. So we are ready to defend a scientifically-derived idea against millions of people, and certainly against other so-called established disciplines, because we know that ideas are selected, like in a Darwinian process. The scientific arena is a fierce and highly competitive arena in which ideas are selected by means of verification and reproduceability of results. All the scientists attack the ideas, but those that survive, that means they are verified by the scientific method. The method of selection of ideas in the architectural world is chiefly authority. Architects and architectural students believe something because it is given by a figure of authority. Scientists, on the other hand, believe something because it has been attacked by other scientists and it has survived. It has survived because you can do an experiment and test it, or because 60 other people have done the calculations and said, Yes, this is correct. That's totally different. After it has passed this process it goes into the textbooks and it becomes authority. 2B: You, Leon Krier and Christopher Alexander could be seen as thinking that you know better than people do themselves how they prefer to live. Who's to say they don't like living the way they're living right now? NS: It's true that Alexander, Krier, myself and our friends, who are a considerable number, we believe very strongly that we know what most people would prefer if those people were not brainwashed. Now, many people around the world have been brainwashed by these images and by their education. For the last 60 years or so our schools have been saying that modernist architecture is the future, and they have been propagating the propaganda of the modernists, linking modernist architecture with progress, with hygiene -- 2B: With beauty and glamor. NS: Sure. And with personal economic success, rational thinking -- also mathematically pure forms. All this is very positive stuff. They have made a very strong political linking between their kind of architecture and freedom, with emancipation from the tyranny of previous years. Of course, all this is phony. All these are lies. But they have made their way into our culture. We, on the other hand, claim to know what most people are... posted by Michael at May 7, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

A Week With Nikos Salingaros -- Part Four
2Blowhards is taking a break from the usual to devote a week to a conversation with the architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros. This is Part Four of Five. Part One is here. Part Two is here. Part Three is here. PART FOUR of FIVE 2B: I take it that as a scientist you've been helping Christopher Alexander make sure that his science is good. What's your own proudest contribution to this kind of approach? NS: Wait a minute. Alexander doesn't need my checking. Alexander is a scientist. My role is not to check his science. My role is to be a friend, and to edit the text and to bounce ideas off of. I will describe the role for posterity. (Laughs.) For the last 20 years, I've been working with Christopher Alexander on The Nature of Order (here). I realized early on that his book is going to be as important as "The Origin of Species" and the "Principia." I didn't want to mix myself up in it -- this is Christopher's baby. But I will help him with editing. So I would visit with him in Berkeley or England, or he would send me the manuscript. And I would go through it and edit it, and cut out redundancies, or suggest rewriting to get the thought across. Strictly editing. The next time I would get it back and it would be double the size! However, I would compare and I would feel that he had in fact followed my suggestions for deletions, but had also written brilliant new material. I kept pruning it in order to encourage him to develop his ideas, and we would have conversations about how to present his point of view in the best possible way. 2B: That must have been great fun. NS: Great fun. So Alexander did not need my checking in the science, he's every bit as good a scientist as I am. Now, for these 20 years I have been having my own ideas and jotting them down on yellow notepads. And when the dam overflowed I thought, Well, it's time to publish all this stuff -- ideas that I have gotten from my collaboration with Alexander that are different, because I'm a different person and think in a different way. I think it will be very complementary to Alexander and will certainly help. I'm saying different things in a different way but supporting exactly the same goal. 2B: I was most struck in your work by the way you'd worked out the question of scaling and hierarchy. NS: The number should not be taken as too exact. The important thing is the existence of hierarchy, not the number. Hierarchy is such a key feature in nature and the universe. It's so important, and it's another thing the modernists erased, both on the architectural scale and on the urban scale. And that has done much damage everywhere. Luxembourg's Heritage District shows hierarchies of scale; the new Arts Museum lacks them (Photo by... posted by Michael at May 6, 2003 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, May 5, 2003

A Week With Nikos Salingaros -- Part Three
2Blowhards is taking a hiatus from the usual to devote a week to a conversation with the architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros. This is Part Three. Part One is here. Part Two is here. PART THREE of FIVE 2B: From a practical point of view, some of the things you advocate don't seem very practical. No skyscrapers, for instance. NS: Well, no one has asked, "What is a skyscraper?" It's just a very large construction that requires the very latest technology to make it work. Let's look at other large constructions mankind has built -- say, a petrochemical plant. Now a petrochemical plant brings together things that necessarily interact, pieces of chemical processes and pipes, because they connect with each other to perform a technological and industrial task. And every piece of the petrochemical plant is there to interact with every other piece. Self-organization: Parts interacting with other parts 2B: The purpose provides the organization. NS: Right, it is self-organized. Not that things snap into place by themselves, but every piece is necessary because the pieces form part of a larger whole. Because of the nature of the petrochemical plant it has to be a huge thing. So human beings construct a petrochemical plant -- horizontally -- and it has a specific function. Now when you look at every complex structure in nature it's of that type. The pieces come together because they interact. And they stay together because they interact. And they form a large complex whole that does something. And the pieces are there because they contribute something to the larger emergent structure of the whole. 2B: Again, the purpose. NS: Right. And let me get to the modern skyscraper. What does it contain? It contains non-interacting parts. None of those parts are there because they need to interact with each other inside the skyscraper. Today's skyscrapers, like the defunct World Trade Center, contain people in non-interacting offices. They interact electronically with other people outside that building. There's absolutely no reason for all those people to be there together. It is the antithesis of the formation of a complex system. 2B: They're just a bunch of monads that have been stacked on top of each other. NS: It's called a heap -- a bunch of non-interacting nodes that are just pushed together. An enormous amount of advanced technology is required just to keep them geographically and geometrically together. But there's no reason for them to be together, and absolutely no reason for them to go up. A heap: Pushed-together, non-interacting parts 2B: What are the disadvantages of going up? NS: The disadvantage is that a skyscraper is like a tree with leaves -- what you see up top represents something even bigger down below. The skyscraper has to be fed. It exists as a concentration of nodes in the network -- the electricity, the sewage, the transport. So there's a concentration of nodes there, and when you concentrate nodes things become singular. Too many, and the thing becomes unmanageable.... posted by Michael at May 5, 2003 | perma-link | (8) comments