Greebled architecture and visible Jaggies

A few years ago the internet discovered the art of greebling (using ‘a small piece of detailing added to break up the surface of an object to add visual interest to a surface or object… they serve no real purpose other than to add complexity to the object’), and before very long enthusiasts had rifled through the archives, looking at the making of classic movies or the best way to build Lego spaceships. In a short space of time, ‘greebling’ went from an obscure industry term to a mainstream concept, especially amongst aficionados of Lego modelling, and superfluous complexity once again entered visual culture. We think of greebling as a form of contemporary baroque; just as the Victorians loved their pattern and ornament, we love the implication of depth, complexity and scale that surfacing implies.

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Although there’s undeniably a digital-driven baroque revival underway, there’s also a perceptible amount of architectural greebling in contemporary practice. Surfaces are becoming deeper once again, largely as a reaction against the slickness of the International Style facade, where the culmination of glazing and sealant technology and computer aided design, created flowing, seamless structures with no hint of a join or blemish. These mythical beasts rarely lived up to the dead-eyed perfection intended in their genesis – one thinks of I.M.Pei’s Louvre Pyramid, or Vinoly’s Tokyo Forum or countless other shimmering columns of glass and steel.

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Perhaps taking a cue from the increasing number of virtual cityscapes available to explore (e.g. Greeble a 3D City: Tutorial 2: The Cityscape, at Digital Urban), we’re also seeing an emerging fascination with pixellated forms and deliberately low-res designs (United Nude’s Lo Res Project being the most obvious, but more recently there’s been Mineways, for reimporting the blocky recreations of real world objects back from Minecraft into physical form via a 3D printer – a kind of deliberately lossy design). no2self also carried the MVRDV controversy further, noting how pure CAD sometimes fails to translate into credible built form – buildings have ‘jaggies‘, if you like. The tweaks, twists and extrusions that characterise ‘Sketchup architecture’ are fast becoming this generation’s cliche. This phenomenon of detail lost in translation was made very evident in the failure of the detailing at Guangzhou Opera House, where shiny parametricism met the pragmatism of the building site and came away with a bloody nose. Now that austerity is once again a buzzword, perhaps high tech will take a leaf from low tech presentation when it comes to the built environment.

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Other things. We weren’t aware that Cabin Porn was an evolution of shelter porn (the latter term coined to headline a piece on then-nascent wallpaper* magazine) / the decoy Brooklyn Townhouse. There is also one in London, in Leinster Gardens (all noted, of course, in BLDG BLOG some 18 months ago) / related, a set of images of empty London (via MeFi) / on the houses of Edward Charles Christmas.

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The Obliteration Room, a project by Yayoi Kusama. From minimal white space, to dot-strewn OpArt landscape. Evoked the aesthetic of Devil’s Tuning Fork, a (free) first person shooter that uses waves of sound to define physical space / the Water Cube in Beijing is now the Happy Magic Water Cube, a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and the sets for Barbarella. A transformation reminiscent of the evolution of CargoLifter’s Aerium hangar in Germany into Tropical Islands.

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Happy 2012.

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