27 March 2017

Building Words


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Video of the talk I gave at 2016’s Typo conference, held at the HKW in Berlin, has finally been released from password-protected seclusion. The theme of that conference was “Beyond Design”, which provided me with the narrow opening I needed to drop 40 minutes of psychogeography onto an audience otherwise invested in topics more closely related to typographic design.

Building Words – Exposing fictions in architecture and urban design

In contrast to previous speaking engagements held in the context of architecture or urban design, it seemed helpful to provide the Typo crowd with something akin to an overarching hypothesis for the writings collected here. This writer has been shortcoming in that respect, aside from the somewhat dated and vainglorious effort provided by the About page. True to our strapline, this is a heuristic journal, braced for the inevitable pitfalls of not knowing where one is going, but keen to divulge the resulting narrative all the same.

Being forced to explain Slab Mag’s thrust was a gruelling, but ultimately rewarding endeavor. Whilst structuring the talk’s first 15 minutes, I hit upon the notion of the “phantom narrative” to describe the transient subtexts of our built environment, rendered legible only when critical reflection prioritizes the personal over the theoretical. Not long after this coinage, I stumbled across Werner Herzog’s Minnesota Declaration, in which the film director famously explained his theory of “ecstatic truth”, an elusive substance “reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization”.