Labor, Creation, Maintenance – Fun times with Perec



Ok, so moving on from Tuesday, I had a look at both ‘Species of Space’ and ‘Life: A Users Manual’, I started to think about the separate moments at each time period I have, and you guys were definitely right in that the research on the site I already have should drive the narratives. I started thinking about what would a factory worker be doing at 9am, what would an artist be doing, what would a banker be doing, all respective of the time periods within which they operated.


So it began to tie in with some reading I’d been doing on Lefebvre’s ‘Production of Space’. Lefebvre talks about the ideas behind Marx, during which he defines the concepts of production and work. Production entails repetition, banality, lack of connection with the product, and just generally labor, of struggle with repetitive overtones. Work entails creative struggle. So we have two concepts which can readily be exploited when referring to the different time periods. Factory workers produced under long work hours, the 80’s artists worked to creatively produce something with which they had a direct connection, and then the bankers moved in. The only concept I can think of relating to banking in a similar logic, is the idea of maintenance. Not actively producing, or creating, the banking moment has overtones of maintenance. One of the professors at Columbia said something interesting during their discussion about the idea of modern society just maintaining things… such as the environment, the economy etc. So really the building actually really actively displays the shift of society, it traces changes in society and ideas of work.


So these changes can be reflected through details in quite a fun way I think. Labor making way for work, work making way for maintenance. One more interesting note is that the act of living manages to transcend all of the these concepts. Living involves concepts of labor (routine, repetition… wake up, boil kettle, have breakfast….. an ideal about the banal which has massive ontological ramifications, and effects on well-being and happiness.), concepts of creation (ie. the projection of self and living creatively…. Customizing your home, expressing the self by projecting it upon the environment through materials, configuration, decoration etc.) and maintenance (Habitually ensuring the continuation or tendency towards these other concepts in each instant, in a way Bachelard describes the present moment or instant, in which we consciously renew our existence).


Machinery Collage illus-01


So, I wanna take on board Perec’s beautiful way of describing and listing attributes when I work out what was happening in each instant or space-time coincidence. And then use these to match different activities or thoughts, relating to each concept (labor, creation, maintenance), and make them material in the same way the moving wall detail does. Also it may be good to make an inventory of each type of product I may need to make the building move etc.. these can give form to the metaphors.

One thought on “Labor, Creation, Maintenance – Fun times with Perec

  1. I like the idea of the inventory of actions that then manifest as moving details, joints and built elements – so the building really starts to tell the story and manifest the ways simultaneous events are separated or combined. Perhaps you need three lists – a list of scenarios at specific times of day, a list of corresponding details and then a list of how these details will affect/ change/ amplify the scenarios?
    Here’s an interesting project done last year in a Diploma unit at the AA that used Perec’s writing in Species of Spaces to challenge the traditional english terraced house by advocating for more luxurious forms of living within cities:
    This is also an interesting collaboration between the New Yorker magazine, the NPR radio show This American Life and the graphic novelist Chris Ware (author of Building Stories – which you should also look at for how he draws the simultaneity of everyday life within a single building): – disregard the storyline and watch for the animation of the building in section starting at this time stamp: 1:55
    The way you are thinking about this is a great way to develop the drawings you have already made – it could be a terrific animation of the section through your building and how the simultaneity of activities at certain times across history is played out through architecture and its inhabitants but it would be nice to use the blog to not just think through your ideas in text form but also accompany it with sketches or quick collages so we have a better idea of how you are thinking about spatialising these ideas -you can get more feedback this way on both the idea and its execution. Keep going – looking forward to seeing the scenario inventory and more details on Tuesday!

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