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Extended Play


Winka Dubbeldam

It is not the conduct of bodies but rather the conduct of something that existed between them, i.e. the field, that could be essential for ordering and interpreting all events.
Albert Einstein


Traditionally the distinction between the public and the private was located at and limited to the front door or the facade. Today, a third condition proliferates; electronic space has introduced another public domain, de-localized in the infinite thickness of the screen. Neither here nor there, neither then nor now: no-one, no-where, no-when, this computer screen, more than the television, has intensively and extensively transformed the meaning of the facade as barrier. Unlike the externalized physicality of the screen's now distant ancestors which acted as foils or operative others to the hidden private spaces of the individual, our outside world is now permanently interred in our most intimate private spaces. As an integral part of this private space, the new public space is now only a virtual space, a memory or trace of ancient dichotomies of privacy and publicity now conflated and inverted in a public-private, private-public spatial system. Non-hierarchical and boundaryless, it is along this labyrinthine smooth surface that we now constantly re-negotiate and re-make our contingent private and public spaces.


The change from the creation of place (static) to the modulation of space (dynamic), is described by Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Every Day Life: A space exists when one takes into consideration vectors of direction, velocities and time variables. Thus space is composed of intersections of mobile elements. It is in a sense actuated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it. Space occurs as the effect produced by operations that orient it, situate it, temporalize it, and make it function in a polyvalent unity of conflictual programs or contractual proximities." In this space, the former wall-as-barricade between public and private has mutated and re-made itself such that it has become a communication device instead of a protection device, a soft zone, a crease allowing for slippage, leakage, and errors. Mis-takes then become active ingredients in a series of dis-placements and re-placements, constantly diverting the real. Even Disney's dreams of the simulacrum, a re-imaging of the real, did not provide for this sort of a space of the accidental.

Fade out the individual. Transgress the liminal space between the private and the public. Dis-avow the Internet's illusory utopias of neutrality and democracy. Inhabit the slip between former dichotomies. Ride this slip until its surface creases from internal and external pressures, producing a space that is at once grotesquely beautiful, intimately public, urbanely private, and tactilely cerebral. Penetrate the delicate surfaces of this crease, the unimagined depths of our fac(ad)es. Wander across these faces and keep moving. 

Located in-between at the incidence and co-incidence of modern life, the crease is malleable, soft, adaptable. Not unlike marrow between spinal cord fragments, it allows for flex, and precise adjustment. The soft zone re- negotiates both the urban landscape (hard space) as well the private domain (soft space). Disseminating the soft in the hard and the hard in the soft, and produced in collaboration with the complex exigencies of contemporary urbanism, the hard-soft space of the crease works between and conflates the requirements of the urban and the individual, demanding minimum space and providing maximum comfort and efficiency. Virilio and Claude Parent discussed a similar phenomenon, which they called the oblique, or the 'third urban order'. Neither the horizontal (the agricultural), nor the vertical (the skyscraper), but an oblique system of planes, moving between these two orientations. While they limited their order to this tilted plane as a zone of occupation and infra-structure, for us the crease becomes a multiplicity, an inflection of systems. Such a spatial condition necessitates integral design--a design of precision, a design of innovation. 


Industrial Innovators; the speed of innovation in industrial design technologies provides for a smoother and more inter-effective relationship between design and the life it houses. It collapses existing subject-object and interior-exterior dichotomies and hierarchies, presenting us with a set of intelligent and layered objects, surfaces and skins, and a set of supple, responsive and connected subjects and interiors. With these sorts of collapses and inversions, we find ourselves in the midst of objects and subjects and exteriors and interiors which are constantly re-tooling and optimizing each other. Gels, soft lap-tops,... with their mutant materials, hybrid qualities, and material memories, improve the performance of the product and the relationship of the body to the product, creating greater comfort and more perfect forms. The body imprints itself on these objects, maximizing their intelligence, as these objects in turn re-contour the bodies they house. A set of unseemly interfaces is constantly under production and negotiation as the body or the private swallows its outside or its other whole, filtering and straining it through the requirements of needs and efficiency and spitting it out re-made. The object invades this same body, refining it and realigning it for optimum performance.

IMAGINE the following architecture:


Its outer layer is a hard shiny shell, which protects against weather (rain, wind) and forces (traffic accidents, impact). Part of this outer, hard shell is movable and transparent, a large viewing window that can be slid open into different positions. Its form mimics the curvature of the hard shell. Integrated into its transparent material is an active sun filter, which adapts to the brightness of the sky. The politics of layering, creasing, and wrapping activate this zone where boundaries are negotiated and distinctions are blurred. The city in its global expression is folded into the crease of the facade (face, facea), the entry zone. The Metropolis, with its extravagant real-estate prices, values efficiency of use with a high level of flexibility.


The second layer, an integral foam layer, negotiates between two systems: the shell's hardness and the biological frailty of the body. It creates an amorphic shape configured by negotiating the imprint of its two adjacencies, the body and the shell. This smart layer adds comfort (softness) and impact protection, as it envelopes and provides integrated amenities like speakers for communication, music for pleasure, and ventilation systems for the intake and outtake of external air. It is an informed, intelligent layer, constantly providing and adjusting, to achieve ultimate efficiency , resulting in an optimization of space. The traditional hierarchy between 'chamber' and 'hallway' is here dissolved into active and passive zones that are infinitely connected.


The last layer is the animate body; or the animated body, the modulated void--a fragile unit, reflective of the soft body. It creates a space to be occupied, a free zone, undefined in use, but specific to its environment. The human body -its other, its imprint- occupies, floating through, similar but not the same. The trace of efficiency of use, the memory of comfort allows for an organic formulation of space, thus negotiating desire with facility.

Imagine this not as some sixties architectural project which would foist a future vision, a new public exteriority, over an untouched and unmarked interiority. Instead, realize it is a description of an integral motorbike helmet; such a smart architecture forms an interesting example of interdependent layering, efficiency of use, and negotiation of means. Here, behavioral aspects rule the state between two dynamics and architecture becomes a materially responsive expression, with its intelligence inciting efficiency of use, high performance, smart controls and the resultant modulation of space. The human body form resembles this modulation and allows for a smooth transition between the layers.

ARCHI-TECTONICS NY. Winka Dubbeldam is the principal of Archi-Tectonics, NY founded in 1994. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture at Columbia University in New York City and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has taught and lectured at numerous Universities in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. Her work has been exhibited in solo shows in many galleries in Europe and in the USA.. She was a participant in the MOMA show, "The Unprivate House" (1999) NYC, and participated in the Archi-Lab 2000 conference and exhibit in Orleans, France. With her office Archi-tectonics she has constructed an Art Gallery on West Broadway, the new offices for Gear Magazine and several loft renovations -all in New York City. She developed urban planning proposals as consultant to the City Councils of Dordrecht and The Hague in Holland, and recently was one of a team of 5 international architects, developing an urban scheme for Moscou (Febr 2000). Current built work includes a new 25,000 sq.ft Digital Imaging Facility in Midtown Manhattan, a 2500 sq.ft. Hairsalon at the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and a residence in Jersey City. Recent projects include; an 11 story mixed-use building in SOHO, a private residence Upstate New York, and the Eniac Museum in Philadelphia. She is a graduate of The Institute of Higher Education, Faculty of Arts & Architecture, Rotterdam (1990); and she received a Masters Degree in Architecture from Columbia University in New York City (1992). She has previously worked in several offices in Holland as well as in the offices of Bernard Tschumi Architects and Peter Eisenman Architects, NYC.
Winka Dubbeldam
Text editor: Deborah Kully



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