The Coming Community

In The Coming Community, Giorgio Agamben recounts the following tale, as told by Walter Benjamin to Ernst Bloch: "The Hassidim tell a story about the world to come that says everything there will be just as it is here. Just as our room is now, so it will be in the world to come; where our baby sleeps now, there too it will sleep in the other world. And the clothes we wear in this world, those too we will wear there. Everything will be as it is now, just a little different."

Architecture may have been a little lazy. First, its long-held infatuation with newness – new forms, new media, new materials, new images, and new urgencies, creates a convex gaze of the field that often small and superficial (new) elements are magnified and obscure the complacency underneath. Then it has also perfected the art of copy-pasting through best practices, standardization, and as-of-right developments. Repeated enough times, the mundane becomes best-of-class. Finally, we seem to have forgotten the wonderous world of kintsugi, spolia, and metamorphosis, where that which has passed and which is to come engage in an alchemic dance of co-creation. The old scribes memories and histories for the new, for it to gain meaning and purpose, and thrust the mere possible into contingent.

The Coming Community studio turns its cheek away from tabula rasa and earnestly examines the fossils of architecture, including those that are no longer replicated. It refrains from the acritical production of complacent architectural objects varnished in a thin layer of newness and instead takes “disdained'' architectural elements – their outdated forms, overlooked (mis)uses, obsolete programs, (dis)functional parts, expiring materials, antiquated systems, and forgotten desires, and embed within, bond together, trace over and transform them anew. We explore the threshold where the past transgresses into the coming through the love affair between the old and the new. As the world becomes increasingly atomized and siloed, capitals increasingly consolidated, and unbridled material and energy extraction increasingly unsustainable, such critical discovery and nuanced interpretation of and more empathic attitude towards the past might bring worthy profit.

The site for The Coming Community studio at GSD 24’ is the Guggenheim Museum, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s latest works, completed in 1959. In 1990, the Guggenheim Museum was the youngest building to gain city landmark status. It is now designated as a National Historic Landmark and appears on the World Heritage List. Implicated by its own success, the architecture of the Guggenheim Museum has crystallized into a hermetic object, with the years passing, becoming fossilized in the past. What would it take for the Guggenheim Museum to not only be preserved but also to be alive? How can the whispers in its everyday hum be amplified and say something relevant today? Can we imagine a Coming Community for the iconic building that promises a future that is “just a little different”?

The design process takes the dual track of research and experimentation. Final designs will be represented through one model, drawings, and two printed archives catalogs. They will be exhibited and circulated at the museum in a form still to be determined.