Ugly, Useless, Unstable Architectures traces productive intersections between architecture and the discourses of Post-Structuralism and New Materialism. It investigates how their unique ‘ontological regimes’ can be mobilised to supersede the classical framework that still informs both the production and the evaluation of architecture.
Throughout its three main chapters, this enquiry challenges one of the most prevalent tropes of architectural assessment: Beauty, Utility and Stability. Author Miguel Paredes Maldonado critically unpacks the spatial and operational qualities of these three idealised concepts, before setting out an alternative framework of spatial practice that draws from Gilles Deleuze’s post-structuralist take on the production of the real and Manuel DeLanda’s model-based branch of New Materialism. This book reads and situates a series of spatial works through the lens of this critical methodology to contest the conceptual aspects traditionally underpinning architectural ‘value’. It posits that architecture can operate as a continuous, generative spectrum encompassing a broad range of potential configurations.
Written for academics and students in architectural theory, design and contemporary philosophical thought alike, this book should appeal to a wide audience.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction 1 Why bother? New Materialism as a tool for reappraising the classical architectural canon 2 Theoretical scaffold: Inverted Platonism and the theory of Models 2.1 Inverted Platonism 2.1.1 The conceptual origins of difference in Platonism 2.1.2 Traces of the Platonist model of identification in contemporary though 2.1.3 Platonism and the theoretical apparatus of the classical 2.1.4 The operations and implications of Inverted Platonism: continuity and difference 2.2 Theory of Models 2.2.1 Deleuze and the redeployment of mathematical models 2.2.2 The redeployment of Poincaré’s possibility spaces in contemporary thought 2.2.3 Possibility spaces, the modelling and the co-production of reality 2.3 Methodological integration 3 A matter of Structure 4 From Identification to Differentiation Chapter 2 The Project of Ugliness (The trans-Beautiful as a productive domain) 1 The Ugly 2 Classical Beauty as a model of identification 3 Overcoming dualism: Transgressing classical Beauty 3.1 The problem of evaluation in a dualist scenario 3.2 Alternatives to a scenario of dichotomy 4 Deploying phase space as a continuous framework of evaluation 4.1 Attractor behaviour – Configuring the phase space of trans-Beauty 4.2 Drifting away from the attractor of classical Beauty. 5 Regions of non-compliance. 5.1 Misplacement, or the modalities of being out of place 5.2 Beyond the positional and relational properties of classical Beauty: The Monstrous 5.3 Incompletion as resistance to classical Beauty 5.4 Setting up a spectrum for aesthetics in phase space 6 Strategies of departure from classical Beauty 6.1 Correspondences in the operations of distribution and arrangement of matter 6.2 Overcoming the limitations of mapping 6.2.1 Non-dimensional principles of formal organisation 6.2.2 Cartesian transformations as means of form generation 6.2.3 Topological geometries as open generative frameworks 6.3 Diagrams as topological generators 6.4 The operative qualities of the architectural diagram 6.5 Architectural production in phase space 6.5.1 Thresholds, local extremes, slippages and attractors 6.5.2 Diagrams and the phase space of trans-beauty 6.5.3 An immanent framework 6.6 The trans-beautiful diagram-as-practice Chapter 3 The Limits of the Useful (Revising the operational framework of usefulness in architectural production) 1 Use, Utility and the conflict of Uselessness 2 Utility and the persistence of space and function relationships 3 Transgressions of the classical canon of Usefulness 3.1 Trans-Utility as a phase space 4 A dimensional account of the limits of the Useful 4.1 Utility, Use, Function and Value 4.2 Type as the relational model of function and spatial organisation 4.3 Space, Function and Time as dimensions of trans-Utility 5 Non-compliance: Potential vectors of trans-Utility 5.1 The Obsolete and the Reprocessed 5.2 The Dysfunctional 5.3 The Dissipative as a counterbalance to productive optimisation 6 Beyond a binary model of the useful: Phase Space as a multidimensional range of oscillation 6.1 The expanded field of usefulness. Exploring the lines of flight from classical Utility 6.2 The notion of Function as a relation of cause and effect 6.3 Assemblages as non-hierarchical relational systems of causes and effects 6.4 An alternative model to classical, linear causality 6.4.1 Non-linear 6.5 The generative domain of non-linearity: process and processual systems 6.5.1 Processual operations: Accumulation, stratification, destratification 6.5.2 The dynamics of processual systems: Abstract machines and morphogenesis 7 A tentative taxonomy of processual systems 7.1 Causally univocal operations 7.2 Processual systems 7.3 Some remarks: process, interaction and the domains of trans-utility Chapter 4 Unstable Organisations (Or the Spatiotemporal Processes of Becoming) 1 The Unstable 2 Stability and time 3 The problem of endurance: Transgressions of Classical Stability 3.1 Difference as an index of instability 3.2 The unstable as a domain of fundamental transformations 3.3 The domains of the stable and the unstable in phase space 4 Domains of transgression of classical stability 4.1 The structural domain: consistent, connective networks 4.2 The dynamic domain as a field of continuous actualisation 4.3 The domain of duration: Continuous, heterogeneous transformations 5 Operating far from classical stability in phase space 5.1 The ambiguous –open to multiple interpretations- 5.2 Blurry: the domain of diffuse boundaries 5.3 Mutable: a domain of transformation at the structural level 5.4 The domains of the stable and the unstable in phase space 6 Organisational strategies: lines of flight manifesting the trans-stable in phase space 6.1 Field conditions as strategies of open propagation 6.1.1 Field conditions operating at different scales 6.2 Event: A domain of transformation within duration 6.3 Change and development in the temporal domain of duration 6.4 Alloys: heterogeneous mixtures of field conditions 6.4.1 Layered development: an architecture of alloys 6.5 Field-Event Alloys: Intervals of dynamic interaction 6.5.1 Metropolitan alloy. Los Angeles, Mario Gandelsonas, 1984 6.5.2 Hibiki Hana Ma, Iannis Xenakis, 1970. Sound-Space alloy 6.5.3 KAIT Workshop, Junya Ishigami, 2008. Alloy of architectural fields 6.5.4 Some notes on the examples above Chapter 5 Colophon (Or the Spatial Regimes of Architectural Ontologies) 1 A brief summary. 2 Methodological and ontological implications. 3 The extended possibility spaces of the classical canon: Diagram, Process, Duration. 4 The ontological regimes of architectural production
Miguel Paredes Maldonado is a lecturer in Architectural Design at the University of Edinburgh, a chartered architect in the UK and a partner in award-winning research and design studio Cuartoymitad Architecture & Landscape. He taught at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid before relocating to Edinburgh in 2013. In the recent past he has been visiting faculty at the Università degli studi di Cagliari, the School of Architecture at Taliesin and the Technische Universität Graz. Miguel’s research is articulated through writing, speculative design and architectural practice. His enquiries operate at the intersection of computational media, the development of contemporary urban commons, and New Materialism as applied to design theory. As a body of design research, his work has been published and exhibited internationally, most notably at the 11th and 16th editions of the Venice Biennale.
"Inspired by New Materialism, this book challenges the ultimately Platonic ideals of beauty, stability, and utility in architecture. In reversing all three, it expands our space of options. In particular, the book’s Bataillean appeal to ugliness will be of interest given the return of beauty in recent aesthetic theory." - Graham Harman, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, USA