Red Corner Talk / Lars Spuybroek + Jan Willmann

06 13th, 2012

Lars Spuybroek and Jan Willmann talking about the book „The sympathy of things“ by Lars Spuybroek and the discussion: „The politics of digital architecture: complexity, responsibility and the production of space.” “We have to find our way back to beauty,” Lars Spuybroek writes in the introduction to The Sympathy of Things. In this highly original book, he argues that we must “undo” the twentieth century – the age in which the sublime turned from an art category into a technological reality. It leads Spuybroek back to the aesthetic insights of the nineteenth-century English art critic John Ruskin, from which he distills important clues for our time. In The Sympathy of Things, the old romantic notion of sympathy, a core concept in Ruskin’s aesthetics, is reevaluated as the driving force of aesthetic experience. For Ruskin, beauty always comprises variation, imperfection and fragility. Spuybroek argues that these three concepts not only define relations between humans and their designed products but between all things, animate and inanimate: “Sympathy is what things feel when they shape each other.” Spuybroek addresses the five central dual themes of Ruskin: the Gothic and work, ornament and matter, sympathy and abstraction, the picturesque and time, and ecology and design. He wrests each of these themes out of the Victorian era, compares them with the related ideas of later aestheticians and philosophers like William James and Bruno Latour, and begins a project to retrieve a whole world of feeling and beauty. Lars Spuybroek has been researching the relationship between art, architecture and computing since the early 1990s. He received international recognition after building the HtwoOexpo in 1997, the first building in the world that incorporates new media and consists of a continuous geometry. He published his monograph with Thames & Hudson, NOX: Machining Architecture (2004), and the first fully theoretical account of his work titled The Architecture of Continuity with V2_NAI publishers (2008). Since 2006 he is Professor of Architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and held the Ventulett Distinguished Chair until 2011. As Ventulett chair he started the Research & Design bookseries with The Architecture of Variation (Thames and Hudson, 2009) and Textile Tectonics (NAI Publishers, 2011), publications that combine theoretical with methodological research and design. His latest book titled The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design is a theoretical revisiting of the ideas of John Ruskin within the framework of both historical and contemporary thought. Jan Willmann graduated at the School of Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University with a Master of Architecture with Distinction. To establish his interest in linking architectural theory with computer-aided architectural design, he has been research associate at the Chair of Architectural Theory in Innsbruck (Prof. Bart Lootsma) where he also received his Ph.D. with honors. Since 2011, Jan holds a position as a senior researcher at the Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication (Prof. Fabio Gramazio, Prof. Matthias Kohler) at the ETH Zurich.

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