Thursday, August 25, 2011

ghost 13 [Recap]: Ideas in Things

an excellent recap of the ghost 13 symposium: "Ideas in Things", hosted by Brian Mackay-Lyons on his own farm outside lunenburg, nova scotia, can be found here:

Giving Up the Ghost [text by Trevor Boddy, photos by Cherish Rosas for Canadian Architect magazine]

Some featured presenters included in the article are:

Kenneth Frampton [with a fascinating comparison to John Ruskin]

Marlon Blackwell from Arkansas
the ghost village
Day 3: Sun
The debate was energized by Toronto's Barry Sampson, who first declared that too much of the work shown up to that point in Ghost 13 relied on the "aestheticization of nature." Sampson then reacted to a similarly romantic privileging of the hand-drawn and home-made by declaring, "Digitally driven manufacturing can revive craft traditions. It can make complex shapes feasible once again and it can attract young people back to the construction industry who enjoy problem-solving with computers." There was no better illustration of Sampson's point that day than the complex digitally milled stone pieces used at crucial plan junction points in Shim-Sutcliffe Architects' Integral House for musician/mathematician James Stewart. Craft like this as the "finely made" versus craft as solely the "hand-made" brought out impassioned spiels pro and con. Are Tom Kundig's retro-mechanical gizmos (chain-powered moveable windows, hydraulically lifted skylights, cabins on wheels) the triumph of contemporary craft, or imagistic throwaways? Coffee arrived just as the debate devolved into a discussion about whether the computer coding of design software is itself an exemplification of craft at its finest.

the 3 elders: [L to R] glenn murcutt, kenneth frampton, & juhanni pallasmaa

architect brian mackay-lyons addressing the ghost 13 attendees

Giving up the Ghost?

The Ghost Lab and spinoff events like this symposium (to be documented in a book and video) may well prove to be Brian MacKay-Lyons's great legacy. If they are to be that, the backward glances and self-congratulation evident at Upper Kingsburg need to be replaced by wider frames of reference and an architectural gene pool more diverse than the Scotia Brothers...

More architects like Burkino Faso's Francis Kéré (whose contribution was limited to a phone-in due to a sudden family death abroad) would enliven things, and future collaborative constructions might be better located in places like Burkina Faso, rather than further cluttering the magnificent slopes of Upper Kingsburg. Intellectually, the time of the Anglo-American axis of Frampton and friends has passed, but there is a lively new generation writing about landscape, craft, vernacular, and architectural making in all its varied glory. Having indulged his generosity, my challenge to Brian MacKay-Lyons--now that you have had your needed Ghost retrospective--is to mount a reconceived event in a couple of years, packing that barn with the best and brightest. That, or give up the ghost...

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