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RoTo, Spring Studio 2009


The epicenter of commerce and contemplation

A reconciliation of two speeds;  slow (memory) and fast (action)

Things are different now. Just how different is indeterminate, and what the final state will be is unknowable. What created this predicament is short-term thinking: our inability to pace ourselves to endure, our diminished patience, and our need for diminishing time horizons for 'returns on investments', both personal and collective. It seems that we no longer are regulated or guided by a common vision or story, and we have a growing propensity to negotiate our private interests in public forums. We have created quite a mess.

Individualism Altruism 
Why do we study insect societies? Because their social organizations are cohesive and innately altruistic. They best exemplify the full seep of ascending levels of organization from molecule to society. We witness social design to solve collective problems, both communal and ecological, for the  sake of endurance. This is a fundamental imprint. We can only emulate this behavior, although we have a similar imprint. We are primarily Individualistic. Altruism is present when our survival as a species or a society is threatened. Our question this semester will be, ‘is it possible for us to be altruistic in the best of times?’

Body Mind 
The body moves systematically, and relatively slowly. When it is working properly and with a particular focus,  each part ‘moves’ in proportion to other parts ; common goals, synchronized action, effective performance. It apprehends the world directly through senses and sub-senses (heat and cold, gravity, speed, etc). The body's time structures are rhythmic, cyclical, and sequential.

The brain works systematically, but moves a-systematically, and at warp speed. When it is working properly and with particular focus, it can see what is less than visible, the order that lies within, and can imagine what is not present yet. It apprehends the world by analyzing primary sensations and transforming them into perceptions. The brain's time structures are non-rhythmic, non-cyclical, and non-sequential.

The mind-body complex (subtle body) is the quintessential example of the ‘hybrid of extremes’. One plus one equals one.

The hybrid of extremes occurs when two ‘things’ become one. In fact they already are one system, but we could not see it or imagine it. Finally we realize that it has always been so.

In the influential book Complexity and Contradiction, Venturi and Scott-Brown proposed an aesthetic argument for a more balanced and inclusive world view and approach to practice. The phrase either–or  was replaced with both-and. Colin Rowe also implied this in Collage City. We often talked about this as a social model, unity and diversity - and then a personal model – intense concentration and open mindedness,

Introverted and extroverted,
Particular and universal,
Simplicity and complexity,
Consistency and contradiction,
Continuity and discontinuity

We no longer had to take sides, or dis integrate something to know it, when we accepted the meaning of both – and.

“'What part of the horse is the horse?' the shaman asked me, when  I looked puzzled at his naming of the constellation, the star, the place, the ritual, the dancer, and the experience with just one word. This was unusual for me to hear."

The philosopher Alfred N. Whitehead described a symbiotic binary relationship of conservation and change. These two principles are inherent in the very nature of things. There can be nothing real without both, he stated.

In the human body this is known as Homeostasis, a regulating system and a fundamental expression of the conservation of energy.

The conservation of energy is fundamentally a symmetry operation at all scales, in all dimensions simultaneously.

The world as it is now is alarming and destructive, but it should not blind us to the fact that at this very time it is also one of its most creative periods. The forces in play have brought us back down to Earth, making us aware once again of two profound existential realities: the interdependence and impermanence of everything. Ashes to ashes. And back again like the phoenix.

Considering this, I am proposing we explore the possibility of a Societal Homeostasis, one that acknowledges striking a balance between human and natural systems, and their time structures, slow and fast.

Is it possible to strike a balance between these two speeds?
Is it possible to move fast in slow motion?
Is it possible to move fast and think deeply?
Is it possible for all of you to envision a world that is not predicated on the values, performance criteria, and expectations of the world you will inherit from your parents, remaking it as you know in your hearts it should be?

And finally, Is it possible for you to imagine what the architectural equivalent of this new world might be?

This is not a formal proposition as much as it is a spatial and programmatic one.

We will explore this with the help of some friends,
Professor Michael Dobry and Lama Tenzin ‘Wangdu’ Thokme.

Two extremely different uses that meet in the middle.

Extreme 1  

An urban Monastic Retreat 
30 lay people and 7 support staff
Extreme 2 

A contemporary interpretation of a Caravanserai.
depot, storage, hotel for 10 drivers, 10 workers, 10 craftsmen.
light industrial (manufacturing), stores, public spaces

Liminal Zone

In between the two extremes is a zone where both need to be                

reconciled. It is the segue from one to the other conceptually                

and experientially. It is where the identity of the other two                

programs dissolves. 2 become 1+1=1.

Solitude and Communitas
In retreat, living in silence for 3 days to two weeks everyone is there to focus on an inner World of mind and body. In time, one moves into a liminal state, a positive twilight zone. It is a place and space of transition where normal limits to experience, thought, and self understanding are relaxed and can lead to new perspectives. Normally accepted difference between participants are de-emphasized. As it says in the American constitution, ‘all men are created equal’ (another symmetry operation) for a while, living in a provisional community of 30 other people. A social structure of communitas forms. One based on humanity and equality rather than recognized hierarchies. An overwhelming sense of joy and compassion can be experienced.

Introduction to the Physical World: a metaphor of our social world 
First law of thermodynamics  

Conservation of energy
It can change form – kinetic to thermal
It cannot be created nor destroyed

Third Law of Motion

Reciprocal Action
To every action there is an equal and
opposite reaction


Quantum Mechanics            

The observer is the observed

We see what we have a capacity to see
Our lens sets the limits
We see ourselves

Spiritual Law of Motion     


What goes around comes around                        

Who we are is what we manifest

When two things meet in this zone of interference, they do not assimilate, homogenize, or emulsify into similarity or sameness. There is at first a marginal overlap where a rite of passage will occur, which involves some change characterized at first by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. Each part remains integral in this new context,  a unified field of semi-transparent inter-dependencies and interactions that are mutually defining.  Sometimes there is a transformation - one thing becomes another, or so it seems, until something new emerges. Then, as they leave this field of interference, they return to their original state with an evolved memory.


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