[design] Big Boxing

have been thinking about big box stores for a few
weeks now, wondering if there is a precedent in
earlier warehouse structures (Roman) or another
type of building which may be rather anonymous.
I've never been to ancient ruins before, though
imagine there must be a few such buildings still
around. though it seem more likely documentation
would show up in archaeological surveys instead
of architectural history books about the 'duck'
buildings, rather than 'decorated sheds'. though
when in Home Depot, there seems to be something
incontestable about the success of this type of
architecture and its aesthetics; it is total --
from the orange aprons and warehouse dollies to
the orange and white signage and chain link and
wood. it works as a warehouse, conceptually.

another approach to warehouses, save the regular
grocery store, department store infill, is the
outdoor-recreation places which add that extra-
aspect of Las Vegas artifice into the warehouse
open-volume (vs. open-plan) -- and rock climbing
walls and other features (water, playgrounds, etc.)
are incorporated into the 'theme' or the specific
content of the building's program. some dorms are
following the theme-park trend, resorting to style.

has there ever been a thing called 'conceptual
architecture', it is curious. as to the content
and meaning of these places, at first glance they
are unspectacular, and commonplace. yet in terms
of ideas there is still a lot to be found in such
places -- if images and preconceptions and-or pre-
judgment do not nullify their being architecture,
firstly, and at all. this is what doesn't make a
lot of sense, where there is some divide between
this building (say a HomeDepot, which SITE could
have as easily designed as the early, surreal Best
Buy buildings) - and 'higher-class' Architectures,
which are obviously type-matched based on (easy to
recognize) formalism, even formulaic approaches to
the idea of architecture (abstract expressionism
of aesthetic facades for architectural engineering).

what is said of 'modernist' buildings today -- in
terms of their actual content or ideas, besides a
descriptive use of their materiality and its extra-
ordinary qualities of transcending or failing to
transcend this condition- as if a cathartic and
cathedral-like experience, ecstasy of the rapture.
where's the content? is everything trying to be a
new parthenon, versus the anonymous warehouse, of
ancient times, reconfigured? the glorious praise
of Architecture does not match its actual role in
the total field of architecture, as just another
part in the whole that is much larger than any one
given view or perception of the totality. this is
one aspect where criticism shines a bright light
upon the inability to 'conceive' of a greater view
than that of historically-limited modernist world-
views. modernism isn't everything it was cracked-
up to be, yet the true belief in its universality
and values continues to be judge, jury, executioner
of this past which continually seeks to conquer all.

beyond this modern condition, architecture is all
over the place. it is in the really big box under-
ground mines, where huge caverns are excavated and
enormous spaces exist which could easily become a
big-box city. this is the type of enigmatic view
that Lewis Mumford referred to, that at this place
of development (mining technology and civilization)
that the future unfolds, it may have been related
to warfare too, I've forgotten. there is, though,
something that is conceptually rich in what is an
unremarked landscape and built environment, which
exists outside the mental bounding-box of modernity
in which its effects have brought to bear a lot of
the things missing from architectural officialdom,
from space centers to giant mines to the internet.

this architecture has yet to be integrated into a
shared and common story of its development, in the
terms of the environment in which people operate.
it is a social, science-technological development,
in service of economy, just another detail to make.
some made light of philosophy's role in architecture
though there is little to architecture without it.
and so too, beyond modernist world views and those
vantages which may be required to fit into reining
belief systems, indoctrination and for incorporation,
without a chance in such static views there is no way
to change the outcomes and conceptual equations by
which to open-up the ideas of architecture beyond
the individual and group of status-quo bureaucracy,
where conformity of view and its ability to operate
friction-free enable this machine to continue its
advance -- against the very ideals of architecture
which includes the social and cultural dimensions
of existence, and choice in determining value of
ideas and concepts by each generation, to adapt.

things seem not to change, that is what is so very
remarkable. lots of hoots and hollering and yet it
all remains the same. same structures, peoples, and
types of agendas, working the myth even further on.
what is this lack of critical insight into everyday
environments that it can be ignored and left silent,
while things continually degrade. this is the work
of an embedded philosophy where people believe in
the system itself, and all that is needed is to be
able to find comfort in the existing super-patterns
so as to continue life as it was, if ten years ago
or earlier, if only things were as they once were.
like entropy, the energy is expiring from the beast
and it feeds itself by taking more and more 'ideas'
which fit the generative pattern and replicates the
ideology anew, seeking to grow and inflate its way
out of its own boxed-in boundary of mind, which has
refused to consider changing any core assumptions.

it is one reason why it is futile to 'draw' as a
way of representing architectural ideas today, in
a critical assessment of options available. as it
is in the mind, the consideration of the ideas and
not their particular deployment, it is on a general
scope and larger scale than the specific building
in which these questions are playing out. it is a
realm more of history and assumptions than it is
of architectural designers and fashion photography.
it is the bane of the 'critic' who bases the field
too narrowly on the visual, too, as the seductive
image and its treachery are lost without knowledge
to judge the larger issues beyond the hand-holding
docent for museum-going connoisseurs of detailing.

the profane landscape and built environment offer
architectural value in a way that is vacant from
the prescription offered by the design orthodoxy.
the largess of the mythic individual pales when
related to the largeness of questions to be faced
and responsibilities to be addressed, together, in
a concerted effort in which every detail is critical
and important to the totality of the building, in
which every building is a part and a whole of the
same design movement- to change, adapt, grow, and
live in the present, at the height of integrating
the skills of all architects in all buildings in
many ways and yet advancing the field together,
not one building at a time, but legions of them,
exponentially advancing the field to see changes
that are held back by the futility and feudalism
of modern ideology which cannot transcend itself.

the ideas, where are they in architecture today?
what are they focused on and why? what is being
advanced and what is being limited as a result?

brian thomas carroll: research-design-development
architecture, education, electromagnetism

  • Re: [design] Big Boxing
    • From: lauf-s
  • Replies
    Re: [design] shopping at the big box, John Young
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