Friday, February 12, 2010

Architecture of the DPRK

Many true and false criticisms can be made of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, however "poor architecture" is not one of them. Below are images from: This Blog showing artistic beauty of the city.

1 comment:

Jay Rothermel said...


Architectural Parallax
Spandrels and Other Phenomena of Class Struggle
Slavoj Zizek

My knowledge of architecture is constrained to a coupler of idiosyncratic data: my love for Ayn Rand and her architecture-novel The Fountainhead; my admiration of the Stalinist “wedding-cake” baroque kitsch; my dream of a house composed only of secondary spaces and places of passage – stairs, corridors, toilets, store-rooms, kitchen – with no living room or bedroom. The danger that I am courting is thus that what I will say will oscillate between the two extremes of unfounded speculations and what most is already known for a long time.

I would like to begin with the notion of parallax which I took from Kojin Karatani. The common definition of parallax is: the apparent displacement of an object (the shift of its position against a background), caused by a change in observational position that provides a new line of sight. The philosophical twist to be added, of course, is that the observed difference is not simply “subjective,” due to the fact that the same object which exists “out there” is seen from two different stations, or points of view. It is rather that, as Hegel would have put it, subject and object are inherently “mediated,” so that an “epistemological” shift in the subject’s point of view always reflects an “ontological” shift in the object itself. When confronted with such a parallax gap, one should renounce all attempts to reduce one aspect to the other (or, even more, to enact a kind of “dialectical synthesis” of the opposites); the task is, on the contrary, to conceive all possible positions as responses to a certain underlying deadlock or antagonism, as so many attempts to resolve this deadlock… and this already brings us to so-called postmodern architecture which, sometimes, seems to enact the notion of parallax in a directly-palpable way. Think about Liebeskind or Gehry: their work often appears as a desperate (or joyous) attempt to combine two incompatible structuring principles within the same building (in the case of Liebeskind, horizontal/vertical and oblique cubes; in the case of Gehry, traditional house with modern – concrete, corrugated iron, glass – supplements), as if two principles are locked in a struggle for hegemony.

In his essay on Gehry, Fredric Jameson reads his plans for individual houses as an attempt to mediate tradition (old ornamented wooden structures) and alienated modernity (corrugated iron, concrete and glass). The result is an amphibious building, a freakish combination, an old house to which, like a cancerous outgrowth, a modern concrete-iron part is annexed. In his first landmark, the renovation of his own home in Santa Monica (1977-78), Gehry ”took a modest bungalow on a corner lot, wrapped it in layers of corrugated metal and chain-link, and poked glass structures through its exterior. The result was a simple house extruded into surprising shapes and surfaces, spaces and views.” Fredric Jameson discerns a quasi-utopian impulse in this “dialectic between the remains of the traditional (rooms from the old house, preserved like archaic dream traces in a museum of the modern), and the ‘new’ wrappings, themselves constituted in the base materials of the American wasteland.” This interaction between the preserved old house space and the interstitial space created by the wrapping generates a new space, a space which “poses a question fundamental to thinking about contemporary American capitalism: that between advanced technological and scientific achievement and poverty and waste.” A clear indication, for my Marxist mind, that architectural projects are answers to a problem which is ultimately socio-political....