goodbye to the proximate future
In his insightful blog Pasta and Vinegar, Nicholas Nova posts today on the need to get over proximate futures. Nicholas is actually referring to an article by Geneviene Bell and Paul Dourish, "Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Notes on Ubiquitous Computing’s Dominant Vision." I have just downloaded the paper and look forward to reading it, but in the meantime, I couldn't resist commenting on this deadly lure that Bell, Dourish, Nova, and I agree on and respond with regard to the Netlab's relation to this question.
As a field that has recently been re-invigorated by technology and neo-modernism, architecture is also susceptible to the temptations of an endlessly deferred future. Whether it be leakproof flat roofs or mass production of carbon nanotubes, architecture has an inherent drive toward futurology that gets in the way of seeing the real and massive potential within the contemporary, both as it already is and as it could be, with some tweaking. We've lived through 1984, 2000, and 2001. So now what? The Netlab sets out to look at the contemporary condition.
To be sure, however, visionary, utopian, and dystopian projects do have a role, as for example, Superstudio's Continuous Monument or Archizoom's No-Stop-City. Yet these are most useful when they don't rely on a proximate future but rather suspend the question of their nearness, thereby being both already present and objects of contemplation.