Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Book - Behaviorology - Architecture and Time


Behaviorology is the title of the new Atelier Bow-Wow book. It is published by Rizzoli International Publications and contributors include Terunobu Fujimori, Meruro Washida, Yoshikazu Nango and Enrique Walker. A monograph one could say, summarizing most of the architecture projects they have realised. Bow-Wow is well known for their indepth research resulting in a series of books an use of diverse media, methods and techniques to investigate and create. In this sense a monograph is a bit a surprise.

It is almost, as is pointed out at A Daily Dose of Architecture, it seems as if this book has to be read together with the previous Bow Wow book Graphic Anatomy. In contrast to this most recent publication the focus of the previous publications lay on the representation of the projects in drawings. In this sense the drawings and te now published photographs could be read together. How they could fit together was beautifully demonstrated in the earlier reviewed book 'Portrait from Above' wich does employ a very similar 'research' strategy as the earlier Bow Wow 'Guide Books'.

However, there is more to this publication that a first impression might reveil and it starts with the title: Behaviorology, what does that mean?

For one, as the introduction explains, the term summarises the range of interests the Bow-Wow team has investigated and continues to investigate. This includes the focus on the interrelations between people and architecture, the architecture and the city and the city and people.
The second and probably more dramatic aspect to the term is the clear intention to establish an alternative to 'function' as the traditional modernist term. Modernist practice and definitions are critiqued and through out the work of Bow-Wow the wrestling with the omnipresence of this universal term of 'function'.

To create a new term and trying to establish it is a bold move, but the intentions are clear. It proposes an activity and subject centred new perspective. Probably a move so many practitioners and offices could buy into. This new perspective is of course something that is of course highlighted in this 'monograph' in all the project presented. And the introduction also outlines how te term can be applied on to three different areas of human beings, natural elements and buildings.

How this could work is the core of the introduction and the fundamental structure are the above mentioned three groups as areas of separate interests that will be tied together by the new term. Surprisingly these three groups could probably also be found in the modernist description of 'function' as a conception of the matter at hand.

Nevertheless, the term implies a new dimension of time at a much more dramatic scale than function ever did. Moreover function, probably intended to freeze time where behavior incorporates temporalas an active aspect. This in it selve is a paradigm shift and opens new dimensions for architecture and its positioning or role in everyday culture.

As an fundamental aspect Bow-Wow characterises this temporal aspect as a rhythmic repetition, very similar to what was proposed in 'Cycles in Urban Environments'. It proposes to use the routine and the cycle as a standard overarching the here proposed three main groups. This conception places the subjective and individual at the centre and establishes a 'bottom up' perspective. This conceptions could mark the departure from old practices and fuel the ongoing debate with a new term that ties in with a new understanding.

As described in the beginning and highlighted by others hoever, the book reads a bit in a rather confusing way, especially when it come to the presentation of the projects. We have been trained over the years by a flood of glossy monographs to read these marketing statements as a cultural contribution (which it was in some cases) and in this sense it is difficult to make an exception for the book a hand. The story is great and very convincing and we are all dreaming of this, a word, a term that would finally open the chains and lead on to new horizons.

Somehow the project documentation can not really live up to this promis. It is a good monograph, but it is still at large a glossy documentation of architecture. The photographs are very good and bring the objects across in vivid colours with shadows and lively materials. However, the settings are standard as are the situations. There are a handful of images that incorporate the behavior idea, but at large the images are standard architecture photography.

In this sense it remains unclear how this theoretical positioning of the approach ties in with the documentation of the body of work. The approach to integrate the two aspects is of course the best way to go about it, but at the same time the most problematic.

Nevertheless, it becomes clear while reading the texts that accompany the different chapters that this is definitely more than a simple monograph, but it is a process. I this sense this could be an actual milestone. An clearly the process will role on and might need further departures from terminologies, but could definitely lead on and in many sense it has already managed to incorporate the important dimension of time into the discussion and this could proof as a vital first step.

It is an unlikely contribution but things are not as they seem. It offers a lot of material for discussion and thought.

Behaviorology
Image taken from Amazon / Front cover of the book Behaviorology by Atelier Bow-Wow published by Rizzoli International Publications


Bow-Wow, A., 2010. The Architectures of Atelier Bow-Wow: Behaviorology, Rizzoli International Publications.

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