Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Monday, 23 December 2013
Mt23v1-2 The law is universal regularity. It is steel structure as well as golden sunlight, as well as five-dimensional tapestry. Freedom is bound to the good as much as it is true, & so unyoked ones act in accordance with the law. An accordance dance, a paisley pattern of goodness, stretched through time&space, depthed with a hundred diamonds.
Mt23v3 Texting leads only to poverty Pr14v23, therefore, let my words be few Ec5v2. Economy of words: Christianity is not a doing we instruct but a done that we explain. Jesus rose. Use words if you have to, use those, Jesus rose.
Mt23v4 However, to cut a short story long, consider weight. The Pharisees' burdens are barea and dysbastakos: heavy and awkward, the rucksack is weighty and poorly packed, you're pulling a train and by hooks in your flesh, you know when your muscles shudder because the load is both very massive and very unstable. Mt11v30 Jesus' burden is elaphron and chrestos, light and delightful, nice and easy, chrestos appears also in Lk6v35 and Eph4v32 well-fitted actively kind. However. While Jesus accuses the Pharisees' burdens of being heavy barea, in Mt23v23 he will criticise that they neglect the heavier barytera issues. Christianity is heavier. We carry more weight, but with more help. Much more help. We carry a negative net weight. We're walking in the air.
Mt23v5-6 'the person accustomed to the ways of society is always outside herself & knows how to live only in the opinion of others' - Rousseau. Do I flog this horse to death? Only because Jesus has to keep bringing me back to life from this particular death, folding my paper facade back into flesh & breathing. Clothes, food & the spatiality of seating: prime vehicles for reified ideology. 'Talita kumi!' says he to me.
Mt23v7-8 Those who can, teach. Can you? Do you? Should you? 'Teacher' is used here pejoratively because it is ascribed exclusively, violently, and asymmetrically. By contrast with such teacherly powerplay we are a brotherhood, Jesus says. How we brother relates to how we teach relates to how we truth. I offer three kinds. There is a brotherhood who huddles unteachably from the world, defended by a warm blanket of aggressive subjectivism, what's true for me is true. Hey! Teacher! Leave us kids alone! And so Pink Floyd catalyse a brotherhood of resistance. Is this what Jesus means? .. Second there is the brotherhood that forms around a genius, the learnt mystique of architecture school's tutors, where 'teaching' is initiating into a dark art, a brotherhood of blood and late nights in the studio, learning the secret knowledge by which one day we will be a somebody, a brand, a tutor at the AA. .. Third there is a brotherhood that forms around superabundance, who truth not defensively as the first, nor defiantly as the second, but derivatively, teachable teachers passing on what they freely received. Thus Christianity advances schools with an urgency foreign to worldviews that consider knowledge to be useful but not saving. Aspire to the role of teacher in an unglamorous economy, that by whatever means or mediums the world would know. It is a noble task.
Mt23v9-10 So this feels like a silly extreme sort of thing to say, like hating one's mother & father. & we're told to call teachers Eph4v11, leaders 1Tim3 & fathers Eph6. So what's going on? The Jesus-is-anti-family crowd want to use this, the disestablishment of particularities & justice-is-radical-equality: impartial & impersonal, 'cause there's no marriage in heaven yeah, you should get amongst the subversion of it now? Which grieves not only the desire for particularity, & belief in the greater depth of life as such, but also the sense of what the best sort of justice could be, where all are family-found. Families in heaven? Jesus' own choices to be invested particularly, & the right order of the NT church are families by another name. Does Jesus make extreme statements to force us to reflexive equilibrium, an ongoing recalibration, of our understanding of family & church? What's going on?
Mt23v11-12 Pride comes before a fall, etc. Is this just a true truth, a general maxim? Is Jesus merely a karma policeman issuing an you-get-what-you-give-ticket under the jurisdiction of what-goes-around-comes-around? And what is pride anyways? Where does pride begin? None of us so naive as to be actually proud, not in the pantomime broad phylacteries sense of it. But sometimes I lack humility. Sometimes I can be passively tacitly unteachable. Humility is a choice. Pride is my resting state. I was born proud. There is pride in nonchalance. And, counter-intuitive though it seems, humility requires hard work in trying to achieve it. Just as Jesus actively humbled himself Ph2v8, we are to actively humble ourselves 1Pt5v5. By actively servanting, by becoming skillful in seeking out the thankless tasks of invisible servitude, by rendering all of life secret service.
Mt23v13-14 Thinking about ones we know, & thinking about me. Thinking about the painful & lonely space. What keeps persons from inhabiting with confidence the kingdom of heaven? Our words & our ways, our language, our silences, our premises, our conclusions, our forcefulness, our arrogance, our blindness, our narrowness, our shut-down, our simpering. Its been said, & unsaid, & needs saying again. Sorry but it does. Come Holy Spirit, upon raw wounds. Come under the bell jar. Come under the door, through the door, wrench it off its hinges. Doors doors. There's a crack in each shut door; its how the light gets in. Light get in, light get in. Please. Light of life of the world get in. There's a gate, you see. Its the light, & declare again, its how the light gets in. Praying. Forgive us our trespasses, & let us pass, let them pass, let's get in. Light. Get. In.
Mt23v15-16 'Ye compass land and sea' has less to do with internationality per se, rather, it denotes any energetic intentionality producing the export of your kingdom's worldview. What am I zealous to achieve in 2014? (New Year's Eve being the most zealous day of the year) What Resolutions am I making? What will I thus export? 'Sons of Hell' There's nothing like misdirected missionary zeal to innoculate children from the kingdom of heaven.. so, be less zealous? Seek less evangelism? Risk less, speak less, travel less? By. No. Means. What then? In v14 the Pharisees lock people out the Kingdom of Heaven, this is because in v15 they lock people into a Kingdom of self-relation. Belockedness is found in self-relation of the for-itself. First, in v15's critique of missionaryism - when 'crossing land and sea' becomes honorific it is an idol exporting idols. Second, in v16, when language becomes self-related, it becomes but nuanced nonsense: the export of superstitious powerplay. Oh Phil, beware christianese, beware the small talk that leads to destruction. .. What am I resolving in 2014? Timely these verses. I want to be zealous against my pride - to be drawn out of my self-relation, by Jesus, through prayer, especially prayer with others and for others. What are you resolving as 2014 begins? How can i pray for thee?
Mt23v17-18 'Blind fools.' The blindness of the arbitrary distinctions of religion, layers of self-related interpretation. The blindness that is a foolishness, that will never woo the world, never take flesh-heart joy in Jesus, but is stony, unseeing. 'Purge our sight', we prayed the new years prayer, & today is the day for our vision revision. Wisdom sees, it differentiates light & dark, depth & tone. Look again, He is more beautiful than you thought.
Mt23v19-20 Good news: Covenant-keeping is a binary thing to God who promises us Life! How freeing it is that there's no partiality with God Rm2v11! By contrast with magic (Weber). Magic is powerplay by the adepts, whereas Christianity is radically a plebian religion. Holy cows make secondary things primary, and swearing by gold makes an arbitrary thing sacred (& so also offers insurance collateral?) but if everything is spiritual, I can let my yes be yes?
Mt23v21-22 Meaning making. There are no symbols in a vacuum, no super-spontaneously-self-created meanings, but a shared framework required. What binds your promises, what premises your claim? What is the thing behind the thing? This is what philosophy done well does, it strips back to reveal things behind the things which makes meaning meaning making. & the ultimate shared framework: the throne & temple: the God of glory, the God who dwells close by.
Mt23v23 "What would Jesus make of Foodbanks?" I was asked out of the blue last week. Jesus loves feeding people, no? Contrast two charitable giving accounts: Mt23v23 and Mk12v42's widow's mite. When Phil gives a bag of pasta to a Foodbank, which is he?  As a proportion of his wealth: pedantic or sacrificial?  As a heart attitude: to look busy or to effect change?  As an ambition: addressing the symptoms or causes of injustice?
Mt23v24 Strain. I think the Jesus who loved to pun has also enjoyed that this has been variously (mis)translated 'strain at' and 'strain out'. The strenuous nature of divisive and excessive hygiene is visited by another playful and polemic poet, Lecrae: 'Christ rebelled by shunning the kosher, he eatin' with sinners, giving Pharisees ulcers..' Let Jesus take the strain. Let Jesus take the strain. So you can give yourself away.
Mt23v25-26 On the phenomenology of cup-cleaning, squelchy soapy sponge scraping out, rinsed a hot or cold shock. Gutted. Hollowed. Tipped upside down to steam dry. This now, for interviews, sermons, essays & friendships, easy to clean from the outside, to just keep together, to look okay. I want to be scraped out not scraping by. Create in me a clean heart oh God, & renew a right spirit within me.
Mt23v27-28 Why wash tombs? Demarcation and hygiene, minimalism and refinement, amnesia and denial. My self-whitened white is proud as chalk on a blackboard, yet lost and obscure as a polar bear in the snow. Silly, I already have a whiteousnous, not my own Ph3v9. Boast in that. .. Is1v18 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..' Who washes whom and how? Cleanliness proceeds from Godliness only as a gift from the God who cleans Jn13v5.
Mt23v29-30 The existentialism that is not a humanism, as the response to the act of killing. Apt in our comfort believing we are good, separated by history & geography sufficiently to believe ourselves not that evil, not that evil. But bones & blood & death in my heart. I know, i know, you're right, i know. Christ the light of the world came to dispel the darkness of our hearts, because it's dark down here, you're right.
Mt23v31 Son of a wha'? Name-dropping Nelson Mandela. Moi? Pity the powered-by-association: proof-texting, back-biting, and half-believing their own striving veneer of authenticity, founded on a reconstructed history. Back in the day bitches, after photoshopped pictures, Moses and me in felt-board stitches, history is written by the victors. The prophets? They had it good / they had it coming. As the Pharisees were towards the prophets, so it is possible for me to be towards Jesus, just another name-dropper.
Mt23v32 Jesus bates, bring it. This the crescendo of his battle rap. This the call-my-bluff, this the but-if-not, this the 'Come and kill me now while my name's hot. Shoot me twenty-five times in the same spot...' Jesus bids us come and kill, knowing we will. Both barrels, filled up to the full measure. To abstract Jesus to an ahistorical idea or ideal, to speak of him blithely, to say nothing new, nothing now, nothing alive, is to have killed him, is to kill him. Why not just go all the way. .. Maybe such confrontation is the only way to prise me from my religione? Jesus waits for me with broken heart v37.
Mt23v33-34 I started by thinking about the intellectual difficulties of not being a hypocrite, but this is not what Jesus is calling out. Jesus doesn't condemn real wrestling for truth. Jesus calls out the heart attitude that resists telling & being told the truth, that Jn3v19 loves the darkness. A heart like a brood of vipers, like this woman's dream i read yesterday: goo.gl/OXd5XE, the poison of resisting the truth, resisting the light, snakes on snakes on snakes. & of the brood, thinking on its multi-use in the English: broods as in brooding, brooding on something, dwelling in it, steeping deeper & deeper in venom. & broods as in breeding, begetting. The GNB: you snakes & children of snakes! Lies beget more lies. But light had come into the world. But the truth shall set you free.
Mt23v35 A tidy accident of translation that the Pharisees murdered from A to Z through history. When you censor prophecy you have to be comprehensive. When you start censorship, intractably, it escalates. Fear to anger, anger to hate, hate to the dark side / fury. Thence to all the righteous bloodied - such good intentions and insecurity made the murder of Jesus coherent to some. What trajectory am I a part of? Where do i despise prophecy? Danger.
Mt23v36 'this generation'. Jesus is no longer woing the Pharisees, he woes the whole crowd. He no longer woes those who have gone before, he woes you. Now. Talking about my generation. Some sin lies latent: unpunished patterns of encultured disbelief and systemic nominalism.. Ac17v30 In the past God overlooked.. but now. Who is this generation? v33 How will they escape being condemned to hell? How have I escaped being condemned to hell? Have I? Danger.
Mt23v37-38 Christ the eternal maternal. For the chicks nestled, the babes at bathtime, the mother is alpha & omega, beginning & end. How quickly & fickly children resist the mother, smiles to screams & yeses to nos in a moment, because of our own caprice. How much more do we resist Christ as mother because this has been systemically covered over? The peace required for sound sleep comes with the safe, dark, secret place of the lap of the mother God.
Mt23v39 'O Jerusalem..' The urban condition is one deserving special pity, concern and lament for Jesus, as for Nehemiah before him. Thusly should we weep for London. So must we pray for London - a city with an Eye that does not see, blinded by the lights, with selective hearing, resistant and rebellious, as I. Aren't we all, chicks dispersed to a hen of our own making. Note that worship precedes sight. When we speak the 'Blessed is he', then we'll see.
The interest of our group was particularly in those buildings which were like teeth hollowed out, rotted within, shot through with the cavities of disuse. Unlike a missing teeth investigation which notes the absences, omissions and demolitions; this inquiry looks to the ruins and remains that hint at what was: which offer scope for adaptive reuse, imaginative reinvention, and building back better. We are interested in those sites which represent rotted teeth ready for gold-fillings.
Dental ontology: a tooth is alive, and regularly, it would itself maintain the integrity of its pearly white outer and the root which that protects. However, it can happen, by trauma or neglect, by accident of circumstance or the specific conditions of its immediate location that the structure of enamel comes to be damaged and gradually demineralised, or otherwise, from within the life of the living tooth inside is cut-off or poisoned. This relationship between integrity of external form and successful function of its internal use is true also for buildings.
Mapping the site, the so-called rotten teeth make their neglect conspicuous: the wildly overgrown St Clement's Hospital Site, the richly graffitied office block opposite Bromley-by-Bow station, the locked and rusted underground toilets at Bow Church. In each of these places the original life has gone out of the organ and left it vulnerable to the parasitic colonisations of squatters and the natural elements. On these sites, our investigation proposes to imagine a new life by a new use, which would restore in gold the neglected teeth, rendering them as the crowning glory in the smile of Tower Hamlets.
Saturday, 21 December 2013
Friday, 20 December 2013
"We left the house in Alderney Street together to walk a little way out of town along the Mile End Road to the large Tower Hamlets cemetery, which is surrounded by a tall, dark brick wall and, like the adjoining complex of St Clement’s Hospital, according to a remark made by Austerlitz in passing, was one of the scenes of this phase of his story. In the twilight falling over London we walked slowly falling along the paths of the cemetery, past monuments erected by the Victorians to commemorate their dead, past mausoleums, marble crosses, stelae and obelisks, bulbous urns and statues of angels, many of them wingless or otherwise mutilated.."
(Austerlitz - W.G. Sebald p320)
Following in the inquisitive footsteps of Sebald’s protagonist we went forth, criss-crossing the dense and varied social topology that extends from Mile End to Bromley-by-Bow. For our initial project, a ‘test strip’, the 2013 London-based group of students from Diploma Unit 6 were tasked with exploring and surveying a diverse but deprived borough - one with the highest rate of child poverty in the city.
The exercise involved mapping the metabolism of a region, outlining the spirit of a place and gaining a fluency in the ways the site’s character surprises and delights as it permeates a range of spatial scales: building, street, neighbourhood. As well as uncovering some of Tower Hamlets’ energy, novelty and history. Such mapping finds also that the physical and cultural artefacts betray the vast urban anxiety, dereliction and madness so vividly captured in Austerlitz.
The site in question falls in an ambiguous fringe between the energetic hubs of the City, the Olympic Park and Canary Wharf. Locally, the area selected for our investigation is bounded conspicuously by major transport arteries: pieces of massive civic infrastructure which threaten to dominate the fragile feel of this small district, suffocating the life of it by their impassability. To the North stretches unbroken the loud and unforgiving Mile End Road, hailed as Highstreet 2012 during the Olympics, this road was the site of three of November’s shocking series of cyclist deaths. To the South, the intersection of three Victorian railway lines generates a web of divided urban pockets in a warren of low-density industry and intrigue. The effect of these rail tracks on the site typifies the urbanism of the ‘East End’ - a term which gained a pejorative sense in the social fallout from the 19th century’s rapid and unplanned expansion of a desperate population alongside the ruthless industrial spatiality of docks, mills and the railway.
To the East, access to the River Lea Valley and historic mill district beyond is abruptly cut short by the Blackwall Tunnel approach. The limit of the site is marked at the North-east corner by Bow Church, where a statue of William Gladstone with bloodied hands overlooks a traffic island before Bow roundabout. Further down, to the South-East Bromley-by-Bow is another edge marker made boldly visible by St Andrew’s recent addition of towering residential blocks. Lastly, to the West, the long Millennium Park following Regent’s Canal offers an edge to the site, sympathetically, but absolutely. This greened strip now sits atop the rubble of the houses intensively bombed in some of the worst of the destruction wrought by World War Two on London.
Somewhat hidden behind unkempt trees, but commanding a strategic position at the centre of this metropolitan block stands the former St Clement’s Hospital: a workhouse, before it was an asylum. The walled site begins on Mile End Road and backs onto Tower Hamlets Cemetery park, (a 27 acre woodland in zone 2!) This large central piece in the mosaic of the site aptly presents two quintessential heterotopias, in the terms of Foucault, asylums and cemeteries are spaces of otherness, altered microcosms of city life, found typically on the fringe of society, where life crises can be processed, or deviations perpetrated.
It is on this site, closed since 2005, that London’s first Community Land Trust is being developed. On our first visit we were introduced to the Trust and their Shuffle festival, whose aims parallel those of the unit: to be a catalyst for adaptive change, cultural exchange and authentic revitalisation, at the heart of a hinterland marked by the volatility of migration, rash regeneration and a lack of legible public centres. And in the vein of the ELCLT’s ambition, the preliminary project, following the survey, was to conceive adaptations, subtle erasures and additions to the existing found fabric of Mile End and Bromley-by-Bow.
This exercise sent us to draw out the jewels in the metabolism, like Kingsley Hall, which embody a memory with many layers, here the temporary home to Mahatma Gandhi in 1931, elsewhere thousands of stories of historic Huguenot refugees, Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and, in the 20th century, Bangladeshis - who have shaped the landscape, defined the economy and rendered this topology rich with potential for an architecture of exchange.
Thursday, 19 December 2013
"this still and private place,"
"something of a jungle, scattered with ruinous buildings from which birch trees grew in profusion."
(Gerard Morgan-Grenville on Llwyngwern before CAT)
Small is beautiful. Here it is exquisite. At the Centre for Alternative Technology, the case for appropriate building methods is made phenomenologically: when on a crisp and early dappled dawn, the late autumn’s mellow fruitfulness hangs moist in the valley, one emerges from the wood-fired snug of an eco-lodge to a curious collection of exemplary improvisations, adaptations loosely fitted but perfectly suited to their place, each standing as living pictures of an other way to conduct our building on earth.
Between the 8th and the 11th November, the UK-based group of Diploma Unit 6 students shared the six hour overland journey to the renowned but remote enclave of experimental architecture and technological demonstration. As a field-trip, CAT near Machynlleth in Wales, by its affordability of access and by the understated and unexotic brand of its location, represents exactly the wealth of possibilities available at the neglected frontier of architecture for the unpublished 99%.
The current global climate of rapid change and scarce resource affects every locality and it needs for a radically unprejudicial reappraisal of the notion of the ordinary and its neglect in many localities. Resource scarcity demands architects give themselves to the ernest uncovering of the hidden and extra-ordinary, natural and human, physical and cultural energies latent in that environment into which they are thrown. In this transformative view of the world, even the entirely ordinary motorway expedition is rendered as an adventure or a pilgrimage, an extension of the destination where intentional but unknown, creative but cooperative enterprise And at the journey’s end, the red and yellow hues of the valley enveloped a frenzy of activity. Our brief was to take the earlier London exercises of mining the site at different scales by survey, and translate these to a mining of the site at different scales by production: a learning by doing and by so doing, making real the latent potential of the waste we found on site.
"..we know by instinct that outsize buildings cast the shadow of their own destruction before them, and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins"
(Austerlitz - W.G. Sebald p19)
The history of CAT is the history of many exploited natural landscapes, sites where the ground itself is commodified for the one dimensional extraction of a briefly lucrative resource before the shifting tide of profitability renders the enterprise, the equipment and related infrastructure obsolete. Such was the case at the Llwyngwern Slate Quarry, which dates from at least 1835, and maintained production under various proprietors during the 19th century. However, the efficient disposal of waste rock began to become a problem and production volume dwindled, work ceased in 1941 and the final sale, closure and the scrapping of machinery took place The quiet site was gradually colonised by birch trees, until this landscape of a spent resource and the detritus that proceeded from its exploitation found a valuation as an entirely different resource to serve an imaginative end, in the vision of Gerard Morgan-Grenville in 1973. The site thus became a mine for an alternative economy. CAT was founded as "a project to show the nature of the problem and show ways of going forward.". Such a project begins with an attitude to the site, which values place and material differently.
In four small groups, we set about to undertake a large scale modelling exercise, cooperatively. Each group was concerned with a single building element, each a single piece that corresponded roughly with a major programmatic concern from the group members’ London proposal. Thus we variously developed four elements: a monolith, an arched window wall, a frame and a roof structure. Each Working in a single material crucially distills the design focus, forcing the emergence of only the forms which come most readily to the properties of that material. Bricks behave in their own unique way, with their own unique strengths, limits and inexhaustible poetic potential. Thus, standing alone, the material is freed to display its innate qualities without the ambiguity of intra-material subjugation or pretence that complex and compound material structures risk. However, the challenge was not only to draw to an excellence the individual piece in its respective woodiness or stony-ness, as if fetishied and willfully puristic, but rather, to do so in a way whereby the components interact interdependently, mutually, cooperatively, even conversationally with one another. The excellence arrives when the elements speak to one another, bear up and bear upon one another and sing together as more than the sum of their parts: working thus so cooperatively that when considered together, this community of objects can be considered as a single actor set upon the stage of a larger scale: the neighbourhood or landscape or larger organism. Thus, in playing this game with materials, setting one scale of construction in the context of another, one is caught up in recursive communities of cooperating elements made out of cooperating elements made out of cooperating elements. It is a fluency in this vocabulary of scales which is the primary language of architecture, and the poetic basis for sustainable living.