Whilst in residency at ZK/U Berlin, the Singapore Psychogeographical Society has been working on a new body of writing, “Rules for the Expression of Architectural Desires”.
The time is neither future nor past. The place is neither East nor West. The design of our built environments begin with ideas, and these ideas are articulated in ways which may be conceptual, fuzzy, or imprecise. What we find is that the material of a city is actually immaterial at its very core. Our attempts to define rules for society precede every action, motion, or change in our urban environment, and our urban experiences can be altered when we change the manner in which we define a city.
The Singapore Psychogeographical Society presents a set of 24 speculative rules, schemes, methods, tools and instruments for the urban and social design of a city.
A few of the rules are as follows:
An expanded version of this set of rules will be worked on, published, and distributed later in 2014.
In July when I went to the Venice Biennale, one of the things I was most fascinated by was the reconstruction of the granite and grey brick gate house from Suzhou that was placed in the front of the Giardini – not so much because of its exquisite carvings and the apparent restoration work by Xiegu’s craftsmen, but because of the strikingly bright white building plaster which holds it together in place, which also spills over on its edges, perhaps as a result of weathering.
What is so special about things-holding-together-other-things? As the glue or mortar which keeps these bricks together, the white plaster in between these ancient Suzhou bricks is what physically makes this into a gate house, as opposed to a pile of discrete, separate brick elements. Yet it is also presumably the weak point of the structure. Where you have more than one material directly in contact with another, the different physical materials react to sun and heat and cold and dryness in different ways, producing cracks and weaknesses in the structure. I wonder what was the original mortar used in China, and if it were to be very different from the mortar used in this contemporary reconstruction in Venice. Lime? Gypsum? But surely Gypsum is not used in historical reconstructions? Or is this some other special temporary mortar, used in order to facilitate its eventual removal and dismantling at the end of the biennale?
On its own, the plaster begins to disintegrate and fall away in the rain. The gate house returns to a pile of bricks. The bricks begin to disintegrate, and the bricks return to a pile of rubble and sand. The sand is blown away, and is mixed with the unidentifiable, incomprehensible dust of the world.
On one of my last afternoons in Berlin, we went to Schlachtensee to wade around the lake. There, in one of its shady shallows, I found a bright yellow caterpillar in the water; a small Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala) that looked like it had already tragically drowned and sunk to the bottom of the lake. I didn’t know how long it had been submerged under water.
In any case, after thinking about it for a while, I fished the caterpillar out of the water and made a little shrine for it on the edge of the lake. A small german child came over to look at it, and poured a little of the grainy (and highly absorbent) sand over it. Later when Lecky and Chris came back from their swim I was going to show them the caterpillar shrine, and it was then that I realised the caterpillar had moved away from its original position where I had laid it down to rest. I poked it with a stick and it squirmed! The caterpillar had revived!
Here it is after I had replaced it back on a leaf on a nearby bush.
Next time you’re caterpillar-sitting your friend’s pet caterpillar and it has accidentally fallen into a moat for an undetermined period of time, don’t panic. Just take it out, let it dry out and maybe it will wriggle back to life.