Like Legos

I find myself completely fascinated with this Korean competition for the design of a Central Open Space in a Multi-functional Administrative City, which comes in via the excellent suckerPUNCH.

Some of its oddness, obviously, comes from the fusion of bureaucratese and Konglish in which it’s couched, but I think the balance of the frisson I get from it is down to something else entirely. I’m thinking of it as a weak signal from one possible future-becoming-present, one in which the scale-free generative modeling processes we’ve lately fallen for are mated to the very ambitious ab initio development programs we’re starting to see in places like the UAE and the PRD.

If such a contingency came to pass, I’d imagine its characteristic artifacts would be things just like this: RFPs, in effect, for rapid-fab Lego cities, readymade to plug into existing service infrastructures.

It’s not that such a scenario is entirely incapable of being handled intelligently; I think of some of the smarter work in Typological Formations, a neat volume I picked up last week at Architectura & Natura, as exemplary in this regard. But oh, I can also see way too much potential for misery in these self-consciously generic urbanized fields – I mean, they’re not even really “cities” anymore, are they? – and the correspondingly anomic quality of life I’d imagine going hand-in-glove with any large-scale procedural rhetoric of composition. (Residents? Any, y’know, culture they might tend to accrete around them? Modular, entirely fungible.)

Now, I’d be willing to bet that peak oil is going to set real limits on this kind of hubris long before us mere critics need to worry about its implications for the texture of everyday life. But then I’ve been wrong before.

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