The Tokyo Zoo
BLOG PROMPT #1
I could try to write something impressive. But I'm not an impressive person. Well maybe I am but not in the sense that architects and the many potento-architects (yes, I did make up that term and while I'm spouting crap I might as well mention that I loathe the pretentious air that seems to pervade the profession of architecture. Architects make buildings, not babies, it's not that mind-blowing...) in this class seem to revere. There's a list of men that I'm supposed to know about. I don't know about them. I live right next to the Weisman so I ought to know something about Frank Gehry
...I haven't stepped into that building since I went on a field trip there in fifth grade.
Some people say art is dead. I say art is dead to the poor. The grand struggle to survive leaves little room for aesthetics. To dig ourselves out of the deep miry depths of practicality and give in to our more base and instinctual properties seems at once vain and necessary.
In a Biology lecture I once heard my professor say that if you picked up Tokyo, flipped it over, and shook it an amazing plethora of animals would fall out:
tigers, monkeys, maybe a panda,
a lot of unnaturally huge snakes, chickens, a couple parrots, a reindeer,
possibly some komodo dragons.
The point in mentioning it really is that "nature" has a way of existing in and regardless of the man-made world. What separates man and nature? What makes the city so vital and yet so lifeless? So void of the exciting variety of things eating and progenerating with each other? It's not much. It's an idea. The reality is that man cannot exist outside the realms of nature. All things are natural. You can pile rock upon rock until you build something as ridiculously tall as the Empire State Building, but eventually the stone will crumble and the steel will rust. In the same way we can take some sort of morbid pleasure/levity in the crumbling of buildings in the thralls of nature in Jakarta, Pompeii, Pakistan, New Orleans. The city is an idea more than it is a practical reality. Sewer grate facades that hide the more tangible ebbs and flows of our animalistic nature.
As a facade and an idea that is firmly planted in disreality I see the "city" as stagnant and unwielding; the idea of energy, flow, movement, change and transformation all seem to undermine what I immediately imagine as the city. Things move within the city but the city itself carries with it a great air of permanence, inflexibility.
Andy Goldsworthy reveled in the destruction of his temporary structures. At first I though he was just some weird moron (he is so childlike!) but then I thought to myself: why not? It's not as though the construct of any other piece of art, David or the Parthenon, the Venus di Milo, makes all that much sense either; the most his art lacks in regards to public acknowledgement of his methods is a lack a precedent. It really struck me how he could make something so beautiful and then let it wash away in an afternoon, and his radical acceptance of the impermanence of all things is the point on which I choose to extend my thoughts.
As all things are natural, the city must at some basic level be a complex emulation of nature by man. Plants and animals are indomitable, they are the source of the energy that traverses cities, and so it seems that there is a disjunction between how the city interacts with us and how we want it to. Like nails on a blackboard there is a grating friction between the nature of change, nature itself, and the way we try to interact with our own environment and use its resources. Just as there is a conservation of energy in physics, if you build a monument to the permanancy of a place made to funtion for our specific purposes (i.e. a building) eventually there will be no resources left to build anything else for the new purposes that must arise in conjunction with the nature of change. Just as buildings make up the landscape of a city, so a city embodies the idea of permanancy and stability, which is, to me, grossly out of bounds of the true parameters of reality.
In any case, after we blow ourselves up, I have faith that there will still be animals and plants and things that will grow and adapt and overtake the skeletons of our failed human experiment. It's a bit pretentious of us to think that we have that much authority here on earth. Our cities are not as powerful and influential as we might think. It's an unnerving thought, but it helps me to get through the day without worrying too much about the future of life here on earth...it's nice to not have to be responsible for the future of the world. I think I'll just try my best.
"Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin