Superhumanity conversations #1:
on management and bureaucracy
"Learning by Numbers"
Maria S. Giudici responds to Zeynep Çelik Alexander, “Mass Gestaltung”
Zeynep Çelik Alexander’s fascinating account of the pedagogical project of Gestaltung explains the way in which formalism became a model for modern education; a model in which the “design of forms and design of the self” coincided. Alexander’s article is a precious contribution as it sheds light on the reason why design as intellectual—and political—category is such an enduring presence and why its roots are more complex than we might think (not to mention steeped in religious convictions just as much as in an ostensible search for rationality). Interestingly, the conjuncture described by Alexander seems to mirror and invert another fundamental moment: if mass Gestaltung posited design as a core category, in the fifteenth century it was the idea of the project that emerged as the keystone of the education of a new urban class through the pedagogical model of the abaco (computing) schools. Contrary to design, project does not necessarily imply a formal resolution: it is a term that is more concerned with the management of things to come. Project implies shaping a direction by handling, influencing, and steering a number of factors we do not necessarily fully control. It is necessarily managerial, and it is more focused on the process rather than the result. It is not by chance that the emergence of a generation of architects and artists who see themselves as authors—and managers—of projects rather than artefacts happens at the very moment and in the very place in which abaco schools flourished: fifteenth century Tuscany...
"Manila’s Tenements and the Humanitarian Impasse"
Georgia White responds to Andrew Herscher, “Cardboard for Humanity”
The urban dynamics in Manila and its planning system have formed around a specific series of political evolutions that took place in rebuilding the Capital as its new industrial center after the devastation of the Second World War. The city is punctuated by dense, sprawling settlements squeezing over, under and around private gated communities, public buildings and infrastructure, giving rise to a boundary dynamic that is fraught with political tension. These settlements have their own organizational codes that defy spatial legislation and their residents are largely feared, resented and generally misunderstood.
Migration incentives, agrarian land disputes and the industrial development of the new Metropolitan Manila first led to the growth of the city’s informal urban population in the 1940s. Legislation and attitudes towards housing standards, density and land value evolved in response to such rapid migration, and incentives were offered for industries to develop external sites, away from the new center. Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator who was eventually overthrown in a revolution in 1986, was the first to criminalize squatting, though the Slum Clearance Committee had existed since 1950. The contiguous cities and municipalities that make up Metropolitan Manila were united in 1975 and several land and housing management initiatives have been introduced with overlapping and sometimes conflicting responsibilities, giving rise to a complex and disjointed framework for planning and affordable housing provision in the country...
Superhumanity conversations is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the Royal College of Art School of Architecture.