Bobby George

Journal

Organizing Architectural Surrounds

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It's a funny thing, looking back on your older work.

As a graduate student, I was fortunate enough to participate in the organization of an online conference, AG3 Online: The Third International Arakawa and Gins: Philosophy and Architecture Conference

As part of the committee, my responsibility was to help facilitate the "Education and Leadership" stream, participate in the online forum, keep the conversations alive, and introduce this educational section through a video.

I thought most of this work was lost.

I've only just discovered that the The Architectural Body Research Foundation was gracious enough to reconstruct what remains, from what was once hosted on the Griffith University's Center for Public Culture and Ideas website.

Here's my short video introduction:

 

 
 

I met Arakawa and Gins in a rather remarkable way. I sent them a fax, which outlined why I thought we should work together on a project.

The idea was bold and naive: to build a radically new type of learning environment for children based on the Montessori philosophy of education and their architecture of reversible destiny.

Of course, I had no idea if Arakawa and Gins would respond. But, the next thing I knew, my phone was ringing. It was Madeline Gins. 

"Hi, this is Madeline. We received your fax. Yes, let's work together". 

For the next three years, Madeline and I went back and forth incessantly. She asked us questions, and we vigorously read and discussed her texts.

Somewhere in the middle, we created our own vocabulary, and eventually, a set of architecture blueprints. 

I'd also like to think, we became friends.

 
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Over the years, and through many interactions, I developed an admiration for Arakawa and Gins.

In particular, I would chat on the phone with Madeline - at times, on a weekly basis - and she utterly transformed my way of thinking about the world.

She always had the most wonderful way of putting things into context: "How are we going to make death impossible today", she would inspire, as she answered the telephone.

Somewhere amidst those conversations, I abandoned my PhD research into an "Geo-Aesthetics: An Aesthetics of the Earth", and decided instead to focus on their body of work.

I would later come to successfully defend a PhD dissertation on Arakawa and Gins, entitled, "I love Arakawa and Gins: Forever, Always, Now".

 

"An architectural surround that is procedural, a tactically posed surround, fills an organism that persons with questions by enabling it to move within and between its own modes of sensing." - Arakawa and Gins

 
 

The process of writing that text, that dissertation, was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. 

I'd literally send Madeline a chapter that I had just completed, and she'd immediately hop on the phone and provide feedback.

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"Bobby. You really need an editor", she'd say. "Let me put you in touch with my friend. What were you trying to say here?"

Or...

"Have you read Thomas de Quincy? I always turn to him for writing inspiration. This bit about The Bioscleave House feels a little sticky."

When I'd ask her pointed questions about their concepts, like terminological junctions, she'd either eloquently articulate them, as if by definition, or leave subtle hints of where I should look into their origination.

She never led me astray, unless it was for a purpose of self-discovery. She always knew how to guide others, as if architecturally.

 

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Looking back at the conference, the committee put together an incredible line-up of speakers, with special credit to Jondi Keane and Martin E. Rosenberg.

Speakers included: Erin Manning, Tom Conley, McKenzie Wark and Don Byrd, Shuan Gallagher, Pia Ednie-Brown, Gregg Lambert, Alan Prohm, and Gordon Bearn.  

The thought-provoking, engaging, and multi-disciplinarian approaches to the work of Arakawa and Gins was stellar.

The second international conference/congress on architecture, philosophy, and the work of Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins is also available online

Bobby George