2022
2021
2020

 ARCHITYPE.METROPOLIS

 HE CONQUERS WHO CONQUERS HIMSELF

I had the pleasure of designing The Strenuous Life Class 061 logo with the feedback and suggestions of fellow class members. After 30+ iterations over the course of a week we arrived at a consensus regarding its basic design elements. The following constitutes the final logo - a synthesis of the best of those iterations:

 LONGITUDES BY YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA

Before zero meridian at Greenwich
Galileo dreamt Dante on a ship
and his beloved Beatrice onshore,
both holding clocks, drifting apart.

His theory was right even if
he couldn't steady the ship
on rough seas beyond star charts
and otherworldly ports of call.

But the damn blessed boat
rocked, tossing sailors to and fro
like a chorus of sea hags
in throes of ecstasy.

My whole world unmoors
and slips into a tug of high tide.
A timepiece faces the harbor -
a fixed point in a glass box.

You're standing on the dock.
My dreams of you are oceanic,
and the Door of No Return
opens a galactic eye.

If a siren stations herself
between us, all the clocks
on her side, we'll find each other
sighing our night song in the fog.

I like this poem but can't really pin down the reason why. Maybe it's the way that it suggests a call to adventure, the pull of uncertainty, maybe of danger, the reward at the end, wrapped up in something like a dream. I think it speaks to my own pursuit of some (more certain) end on the sea of life. When I'm taking a walk I often recite this mentally, meditatively, maybe as a way to straighten the path when it seems to be deviating.

 TOWARDS A SENSORIAL ARCHITECTURE

Architecture is a multi-sensory experience. When we engage architecture it engages us in passive (subconscious) and active (conscious) ways, altering our perceptions of a space, building, site, or city. We see architecture: as we move in space-time architecture visually shifts its symphony of material, light, shadow, form, mass and void. We hear architecture: the reverberation, dampening, and amplification of audio, objects, and people signal human occupation. We touch architecture: we connect with the qualities of surfaces while walking or brushing up against a wall. We smell architecture: sometimes spaces are olfactorily blank and sometimes space is a suffocating olfactory buffet for better or for worse. We typically don't taste architecture, taste being excluded from architectural experience, but architecture continues to reinvent itself in parallel with technological development and programmatic necessity. Perhaps one day we'll eat our way through an edible building.

When we occupy architecture, it engages at least three of our senses, enhancing, dulling, or supporting cues, perceptions and actions. These senses become neatly packaged into a sensorial bundle - an aggregate that forms individual perception of an architectural element or space with one sense dominant at any given moment. When we attend a lecture, we watch, listen and feel (air, temperature, tile or carpet) within the context of an educational function. Here, architecture accommodates the act of learning. There are infinite ways architecture can support and express this. Learning doesn't just happen in a lecture hall or auditorium but in informal spaces outside of educational forms and norms. A concert can take place in a living room or a stadium - the difference is equally experiential and spatial.

Architecture creates sensorial spaces by default. Regardless of spatial function, if it is occupied by a living, especially sentient, being, architecture will do its sensorial job. Architecture is weird: if there is no live occupant or being engaging with at least one sense, architecture is not at play, but what matters more is the extent that architecture acts on sensorial effect. Does it play it up or play it down? Is it intentional or accidental? Paradoxically, architecture can even be working when it's not even apparent or physically extant: the light radius of a street lamp defines the limit of visibility and safety - a circle of protection. The cone of light projecting onto a dark street is a volumetric delineation of both space and safety. Light is a sensorial architectural "material".

In order to properly affect human senses in new and engaging ways, architecture has to do more than treat sensorial effect as a byproduct of providing a decorative, occupiable box, and certainly not leave the task to technology alone. Architects should actively design the sensorial experience where select elements intentionally generate sensorial effect and the "immaterial" (light, scent, air) becomes material. A sensorial approach could generate an architecturally living "pulse" of sorts - a series of complementary cues that interacts with its users in a number of intelligent ways depending on spatial function, utility and program.

Graphically, surfaces can be understood as optical illusions with patterning, abstract color blocking, painted tromp l'oeils, digital projections, or the wall form itself combined with motorized parts or mirrored surfaces. A sensorial pulse can occur in form. Parametric approaches to architectural form are particularly adept at generating cohesive visual effects through often arbitrary-seeming discrete repetition (like mountain ridges) or surface smoothing (like ocean waves). Natural and artificial lighting delineate in multiple dimensions, giving preferential treatment to specific areas or elements on a temporal basis. Alternatively, a spatial experience may be enhanced by the absence of light as with spaces of worship or meditation or a romantic candlelit dinner. One could begin to question how we might benefit from a lack of light in daily experience. Would we be encouraged to spend less time staring into the flashlights that are our mobile devices if we were forced to only use them in dark spaces? Supergraphics, tech-driven hyper-graphics, parametric form, and selective lighting are some possible approaches toward a sensorial architecture. How might they all be combined for perhaps a more desensitizing, overwhelming or even cathartic sensorial experience?

Sensorial effects already inform our experience of architecture and space in perceptual and more subtly perceptible feedback loops. Imagine the possibilities if architecture were to more intentionally engage our senses. What might be gained from sensorial architecture? It can enhance the experience of typical spaces, generate new spatial experiences and architectural perceptions and progressively introduce new architectural elements, programming and typologies. Our thinking about architectural experience through the lens of sense perception is currently limited. Instead, in actively expanding on typical notions of sense's relation to space, we might venture upon a new architectural sense-scape that takes hold in the notion of sense as a starting point and a goal of architectural creation.

 NEW BABILIM

From Memoir on the Ruins of Babylon by Claudius J. Rich:
From the accounts of modern travellers, I had expected to have found on the site of [Babilim] more, and less, than I actually did. Less, because I could have formed no conception of the prodigious extent of the whole ruins, or of the size, solidity, and perfect state, of some of the parts of them; and more, because I thought that I should have distinguished some traces, however imperfect, of many of the principle structures... I imagined, I should have said: "Here were the walls, and such must have been the extent of the area. There stood the palace, and this most assuredly was the tower of Belus." - I was completely deceived: instead of a few insulated mounds, I found the whole face of the country covered with vestiges of building, in some places consisting of brick walls surprisingly fresh, in others merely of a vast succession of mounds of rubbish of such indeterminate figures, variety and extent, as to involve the person who should have formed any theory in inextricable confusion.

The Future
The elimination of zoning and height restrictions along urban coastlines has enabled the generation of hyper-urban sea walls that mitigate rising ocean waters. Building up is prioritized over building out, thus creating an extreme wall made of hundreds of urban layers. The old city becomes the foundation and bedrock of a new hyper-dense-city - a new urban and environmental reality layered over old urban forms. New Babilim is the world's largest, thickest, richest, and most diverse city - a city that despite being continuously flooded, continues to grow. New Babilim is the past and the future of human urbanism - hyper-scaled, monumental, bold, daring, innovative and diverse in aspiration, and a synthesis and reflection of the pure capitalist freedom of its individual denizens. New Babilim is the Last Wonder of the World.

Flood Level 200
Futuremasons, the heroic architects responsible for New Babilim's splendor, continue to build up over existing buildings. The city's vertical breadth rivals its horizontal expanse as its denizens vertically organize into those living in Flood Levels and Dry Levels. New Babilim builds up indefinitely to thicken its unprecedented urban mega-poche.

Hanging Forests
New Babilim is a giant machine actively resisting the rising waters while utilizing it for sustenance. From the lower exurbs and rural communities, the city appears as an imposing urban monolith that can be seen for hundreds of miles across the countryside. The rising waters breach the lowest points of the city's foundations as the outer zones of the city become flooded. Waterfalls burst from the foundations, flooding the old city, New Babilim's depths and sewer districts, but not before the water is filtered to become potable for its 1 billion inhabitants. The waterfalls feed forests and plains that begin to grow along New Babilim's miles-long facades, which in turn become fertile surfaces for vertical farming.

Urban Breakwater
As if the canals of Venice inundated Manhattan, there's a certain romanticism in its condition as a modern ruin - as a city being ruthlessly destroyed and tirelessly constructed. The submerged buildings of the old city pile up on the seabed, creating an urban breakwater that resists the tall waves crashing into New Babilim's foundations. The ruins of the old city are natural stopgaps, and as the city builds up, the water continues to rise... In the face of hardship, the promise of growth and unlimited enterprise gives its citizens the motivation to aspire and overcome.

 HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Legend has it that on July 4, 1776, King George III wrote in his journal nothing important happened today.

Some may be tempted with the sentiment that trashing your 2020 calendar and putting up that fresh 2021 calendar will somehow alleviate the issues surrounding everything and everyone around you. We naively expect the world to change for us, and barely expect anything of ourselves. How backward! Good news: the world won't change for you, as egotistically as we might be led to believe. You have to change it yourself through a better kind of, perhaps Randian, selfishness and a Jordan Peterson-esque discipline. When you turn that calendar page it's not the world that you should realize is turning, but the inner depths of your being. Those fundamental questions of who you are, what you are, how you are, why you are, of purpose, of destiny, of faith should rise to the surface. You, the real you, should emerge fully formed out of the abyss of the prior year, every year - that's the foundation from which you craft a true resolution.

In many ways we all tip-toed through 2020 on a balance beam. Some walked on eggshells for fear of being a supporter of this or that politic while others screamed in both fear and anger. We all acted out irrationally, reacting to some media outlet that banks off of our reactions while towing the party line. We all stayed silent, some threw caution to the wind as if there were no pandemic while others panicked to the point of near total fear. The scales are bobbing back and forth in reaction to our naivete, immaturity, petty behaviors in the face of adversity. If you're looking for someone to blame there is not one person to point to but yourself. You make the contribution in thought, word and deed to whether or not you want to improve the world by virtue of negation or by virtue of honor - to destroy or to create is each individual's choice every day. Some view the president as a king, others view him as a servant.

As far as I've been able to observe the social and political turmoil in the air in these amazing United States cannot be pinpointed neatly to a specific person, party or ideology. Driving all our anger, resentment, complacency, laziness, obedience, and gullibility, the reason for our lack of individual ambition and initiative, is the absence of purpose. We've created a spiritual void over the decade, and filled it with things like social justice, the will of the mob, or massive concepts that exist in abstract data sets like climate change (impossible for any single person to grasp). While there's nuggets of truth in all the aforementioned, they are fundamentally not truths. So we feel guilty, we feel rudderless, alone - so we gravitate to what we see everyone else doing, thus we forget about ourselves, who we are as individuals, citizens, Americans. We forgot what it means to be an American. It has nothing to do with party politics, it has everything to do with how you, as an individual, choose to live your life, and whether you choose to make the best of your situation no matter how your advantages or disadvantages. You can only blame society so much until ultimately you have yourself left to point the finger at.

Let's say nothing important will happen in 2021. For our purposes, nothing really will other than what is happening in our individual lives - not outside, but inside. 2021 prediction: PAIN. In addition to going as far as I can the next four years with GoRuck Tribe, I've become a lifetime member of The Strenuous Life and have undertaken the Train To Endure 100 daily push-up challenge for January. In return I get patches and challenge coins, skills and most of all a greater mastery of self. This year I'll be turning the corner on self-mastery and a mastery of temptation and discipline that began the day remote work became a norm for me back in March. If 2020 was about resilience, the phoenix, 2021 is about anti-fragility, a three-headed hydra. May your 2021 be an individually enlightening, productive and prosperous year and may you find purpose in your pursuit of unending self-improvement.

The question isn't who is going to let you, it is who is going to stop you?