Archive for the 'process' Category



There must be an Order and just Proportion, Intricacy with Simplicity in the component parts, Variety in the Mass, and Light and Shadow in the whole, so as to produce the varied sensations of gaiety and melancholy, of wildness and even of surprise and wonder.

Sir Sohn Soane Lecture on Architecture




Something is uncanny – that is how it begins. But at the same time one must reach for the remoter “something” which is already close at hand. The hidden “who” is in demand … there must be something to this case after all.

Ernst Bloch A Philosophical View of the Detective Novel

My Muse is Not a Horse


Nick Cave, in a letter to MTV in which he declines a nomination for the ‘best male artist’ award in 1996:

My relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times and I feel that it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile nature.

She comes to me with the gift of song and in return I treat her with the respect I feel she deserves — in this case this means not subjecting her to the indignities of judgement and competition. My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and if indeed she was, still I would not harness her to this tumbrel — this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May abandon me completely!

From the endlessly fascinating Letters of Note



We understand so quickly that we forget to imagine.

Gaston Bachellard

on Borges


The last great invention of a new literary genre in our time was achieved by a master of the short form, Jorge Luis Borges. It was the invention of himself as narrator, that “Columbus’ egg,” which enabled him to get over the mental block that until nearly forty years of age prevented him from moving beyond essays to fiction. The idea that came to Borges was to pretend that the book he wanted to write had already been written by someone else, some unknown hypothetical author – an author in a different language, of a different culture – and that his task was to describe and review this invented book. Part of the Borges legend is the anecdote that when the first extraordinary story written according to this formula, “El acercamiento a Almotásim” (The Approach to Al’Mutásim), appeared in the magazine Sur in 1940, it was in fact believed to be a review of a book by an Indian author. In the same way, critics of Borges feel bound to observe that each of his texts doubles or multiplies its own space through the medium of other books belonging to a real or imaginary library, whether they be classical, erudite, or merely invented.

What I particularly wish to stress is how Borges achieves his approaches to the infinite without the least congestion, in the most crystalline, sober, and airy style. In the same way, his synthetic, sidelong manner of narration brings with it a language that is everywhere concrete and precise, whose inventiveness is shown in the variety of rhythms, the syntactic movements, the unfailingly surprising and unexpected adjectives. Borges has created a literature raised to the second power and, at the same time, a literature that is like the extraction of the square root of itself. It is a “potential literature,” to use a term applied later on in France. The first signs of this may be found in Ficciones, in the little hints and formulas of what might have become the works of a hypothetical author called Herbert Quain.

Italo Calvino Six Memos For The Next Millenium

Koolhaas and his world


The first thing to confront you upon entering the OMA Progress exhibition at the Barbican is the following text of the acclaimed science-fiction writer, Philip K. Dick in huge font:

It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall about two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it.  Do not believe – and I am dead serious when I say this – do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.

Philip K. Dick How to build a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later, 1978

More insight may be gained into the workings of Koolhaas’ mind by listening to his ‘conversation’ with Peter Eisenman at the Canadian Centre for Architecture earlier this year. They discuss contemporaneous issues and how they contribute to the problems and answers. What is particularly fascinating is the manner in which Koolhaas delivers his speech – if you don’t watch the video, but rather only listen to the soundtrack, then you might be forgiven for thinking that these are the ramblings or trains of thought of a neurotic in an analysts chair.

Finally, also in the Barbican exhibition, there is a gallery of ‘influences’ that currently excite the OMA/ AMO studios. These are variously images, texts, collages etc. The following can only be partially tongue-in-cheek:


If the ‘war on terror’ made us more dogmatic atheists, did the other side maybe win after all? Maybe the way to address aberrant Evangelism or Islamo-whatever would be to imagine “good” religions and beliefs, instead of spending energy in proving that there is no God. I would like to believe that AMO could be part of a religious effort, an OMA temple, or monastery? Or short of that, an earnest pulpit?

Taste of an Apple


The taste of the apple … lies in the contact of the fruit with the palate, not in the fruit itself; in a similar way … poetry lies in the meeting of poem and reader, not in the lines of symbols printed on the pages of a book. What is essential is the aesthetic act, the thrill, the almost physical emotion that comes with each reading.

Jorge Luis Borges

Pulling Back a Swing


Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles:

pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest;
turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through the bottom;
placing your feet in the sand by the ocean’s edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them.

from Steve Reich, ‘Music as a Gradual Process’


The artist’s will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His wilfulness may only be ego.


Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist’s mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.


The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.

from Sol LeWitt, ‘Sentences on Conceptual Art’


(Image of Sol LeWitt wall drawings at Dia Beacon by Bill Jacobson)






An architect is a mason who has learned Latin.

Adolf Loos. Or a Latin scholar who has learnt masonry, presumably.



If a way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.

Thomas Hardy