Monday, July 02, 2007

to design an efficiency tree

To design an efficiency tree -- to design a tree that functions the best and most efficiently -- what would it look like?

Yet there are also so many different types of trees -- the purpose of a tree is not to simply, in a one-dimensional sense, to breathe co2 and emit oxygen for other organisms to breathe; just as the purpose of a human life is not to simply to breathe oxygen and emit co2. The purpose of a tree is far more multidimensional, as is the purpose of a human. Contemporaneously there are 6.7 billion people on this planet and far more trees than that -- not even to mention the other lifeforms! To examine the tree, many purposes can be seen and discovered. An airplane was engineered to fly, and its purpose is visible in its form. Was a bird engineered with the purpose of flight? But a bird is not simply a flying object.

Built structures, furniture also -- and cities -- have no "nature" given counterparts of which the human-constructed seek to imitate, other than biomimicry. I may be kidding myself here, for there is a lot to learn from the natural world, for sure. Yet all of these, biomimicry included, can be purpose driven. Biomimicry is design and engineering purposefully imitating, learning from, natural systems and emulating them to achieve particular, sometimes emulated, results. Nature can also be purpose driven, cultivated, articulated, arranged, or let loose to grow on its own where purpose can appear to our human eyes and ears and fingers and walks as emanating from the ecosystem, as "natural," "organic" or even "chaotic" and with a purpose like a "higher power" or engendered by some other set of species. "Progress," as a concept, can also be purpose driven. Although more superficial progress, where progress is more of an aesthetic appropriated to make a conscious image of progress -- a "postmodern" progress -- can also lack a more meaningful, arranged purpose.

What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of life? What the heck are we doing here? I like to say the meaning of life is the meaning of life. That's the meaning of life is, is as in within, life, is the meaning of life. The purpose is the purpose. I'm talking about perspective, perception, views, and ways of seeing the world. What do you think? What do I think? What do they think? What is believed to be manifested can be and also not be and partially be what is manifested. Look at your feet and ask questions about where you stand. But beyond imaginary and cultural superstitions -- purpose can really, quite frankly, be ambiguous and multiplicitous and hybrid and awkward and clear and obvious and distinct and everywhere. Material like a rock, or wind beating your ears, or yourself, and consequences. Immaterial like the real words and images of a thought in your head, an emotional attachment to a cat, or butterflies in the stomach. There are no purpose to these and one can create purposes. One could also say validly: life has no purpose. And what a contentious statement that is!

And following from all this, I feel the "pleasure pavilion" is a very important concept. When I studied architecture in Florence with Syracuse University, our class had a seemingly-simple design project located at the Medici Villa in Fiesole. We were designing a pavilion for the lower partere of the villa's garden. With a small selection of materials and shapes we could use, our designs could fill a 10 by 10 meters site and achieve a height of 5 meters. During the week the project was assigned I remember asking my teacher what the program of the pavilion was supposed to be. Her response: there is no program, you decide. I felt it was wasteful to concieve of spending money (here imaginary) on something with potentially frivoulous purpose. To contextualize my comment, I must note that I had just come from involvement in activities where I had picked up an apparent bias and became a bit unaware of the idea of unprescribed program. The more I took on this strange, ironic artifact of no assigned purpose, I found the challenge to deepen and widen, to become ever-more intriguing, and to transform my appreciate of architecture and life.

No program was not 'bad,' nor strictly 'good,' it was -- like, I think, pretty much all contradictory problems and themes -- a question of 'how.' The pleasure pavilion has no purpose, it has no reason for being born other than to make something great to experience, to catch water, to look out of, to look at, to wander around, to contemplate, to hold dinner parties in, to age, to design, to feel, to experience, to pleasure.

And purpose? The purpose of the pleasure pavilion is there, there are lots of purposes within it. Of course, in here comes the role of the architect, he or she can design purpose, with "complexity and contradiction," as Robert Venturi also likes and enjoys. I feel my project created a complex, contradictory, experience. I'd love to see it built, frankly. An internal reflection and external recognition of the site's context. There are lots of different experiences for people I concretely see in the project, and more than may be composed, I think. The pleasure pavilion, all complex and contradictory, all wound up like a character who collects rubber-bands to make a huge rubber-band ball, a conundrum of life. It simply lives and, in its own natural order, it is seriously pleasureful and in some cases is ironic and humorous, like a tree or a bird, or water.

Water also makes a good example (as are all the elements) because it can have applied purpose, value, vitality, yet its fundamental existence has no reason.... one supposes...

And the Kyoto train station by Hiroshi Hara is worth studying in this regard -- it has purpose apparent and purpose discoverable -- the architect can design such purposes and give meaning to life, can give reason to believe in spirit, God(s), Earth, life, elements, time, Universe, beyond. The train station has so many meanings. Elsewhere in Kyoto I spotted a large sign on the outside of a Buddhist Temple saying "Let us discover the significance of birth and the joy of living."

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