Architecture in the Age of Radio: Mark Wigley

Oct 11, 2013, 13:00
Museum of Architecture, Oslo

Wigley radioFor the ForArt lecture 2013, ForArt in collaboration with OCCAS, invited Mark Wigley, Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, to explore architecture’s nervous encounter with liquids—the material flows in pipes and the immaterial flows of radio waves. The lecture “Pipeless Dreams” will be held at Litteraturhuset Friday at 6 pm, and the seminar “Broadcasting Shelter” will take place at the Museum of Architecture Saturday at 1pm, with Mari Lending, Thomas McQuillan, and Mari Hvattum (all AHO) on the panel.

ForArt Lecture: Pipeless Dreams: Our buildings, like ourselves, are filled with pipes. Water, gas, electricity, and information flow inside walls, floor and ceilings, crisscrossing basements and running across rooftops. A complex interconnected net of tubes supports each space, from the largest waste pipes to the finest wires. Yet these tubes are  rarely allowed to enter the space. They are asked to bring things in or take things away but are meant to remain outside.  A pipe can only enter a room if concealed. Pipes must always be close to us yet unseen and unheard. A huge effort is made so that the sound of movement within them cannot enter. No evidence of flow is allowed. No rustle, gurgle, whoosh, hum, shudder, click, or thud. Architecture itself might be largely defined by this psycho-sexual embarrassment. After all, the basic definition of interior is now less to do with walls, doors and windows and more with the countless valves that regulate the flows in all the tubes and the array of orifices through which material is allowed to enter and leave our spaces. And the ever expanding repressed world of pipes always has its leaks, blockages and occasional overflows. The building and the discipline occasionally gets covered in what it wants to exclude. There is an astonishing architecture of pipes, a radical liquid architecture.

ForArt Seminar 2013: Broadcasting Shelter. Every object, including ourselves, seems to have a radio attached to it. Every event is suspended in countless overlapping waves of communication. Our environment is completely flooded with signals. The space of radio we inhabit is more infinitely more complex than the space of visible buildings. We still engage with physical objects, even encounter them as a kind of anchor or resistance against all the unseen flows, but the physical environment is much more intimately sensed and engaged by hidden signals–so closely and continuously that it is not so much an encounter between the visible and invisible worlds but a kind of symbiosis, a vibration between object and radiation. The line between them is no longer clear. The defining characteristic of radio is its disinterest in objects. It literally passes right through them. Yet the objects around us are located, marked, connected, exposed, infiltrated, monitored, reorganized, promoted, locked, archived, protected, dissolved, and even destroyed in the space of radio transmissions. Object and radio have become inseparable. There is an unprecedented blurring of object and information, territory and map. It is as if every object lives only to broadcast itself. Architectural discourse is afraid of radio, and with good reason.


Originally posted Oct 8, 2013. Latest revision May 5, 2021.

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