Life Without Giveaways – Synecdoche, New York Blu-ray

synecdoche_box_art_bdSynecdoche, New York is a film about the search for truth in art. It’s also about a perpetually burning house, a mysteriously abandoned apartment, identity, infinitely recursive architecture, and poop. But, as you might as you might be able to guess, it’s the infinitely recursive architecture part I’d like to focus on here. The movie, from writer and director Charlie Kaufman (writer of Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine, and Adaptation), follows the life of theater directory Caden Cotard as he searches for his own truths in an ever-expanding stage production with the help of a seemingly limitless MacArthur Genius Grant.

Life Without Buildings has a Blu-ray disk of Synecdoche, New York to give away to one lucky commenter. Just leave a comment describing what you would build in an infinite warehouse if space, logic, and money were no issue. And maybe give a little insight as to why. I’ll decide the winner through a series of complex humor/sincerity equations, applied architectural theory, and the outside arbitration of what will most likely be drunk lawyers in Chicago. Winners will be decided on March 20th.

I had the chance to interview Charlie Kaufman back in October, and for those who are curious what he would do (other than what he did, of course), here’s an excerpt from our conversation: “I wanted to build a casino in Las Vegas called Las Vegas, Las Vegas. Like the idea of Paris, Las Vegas (the real life casino) is that you don’t have to actually go there — their campaign is something like ‘all the best of Paris without the French people.’ So then (with Las Vegas, Las Vegas,) there’s the idea that you don’t actually have to go to Paris, Las Vegas either because there’s a replica of all of Vegas—including Paris, Las Vegas—within this other casino. So you get even more safe by not having to go out into the strip at all. I thought that would be a pretty successful resort.”

Leave a comment! What would you build with limitless resources? Why?

&#183 Life Without Buildings Interviews Charlie Kaufman [LWB]
&#183 Infinitely Repeating Cities [LWB]

14 replies on “Life Without Giveaways – Synecdoche, New York Blu-ray”

I would work with artists I’ve worked with and reach out to new ones to create the industrial housed arts community that used to thrive in the city and has been sorely lacking, with emphasis on learning from each other and supporting the great new work that has sometimes been priced out of the city with rising rents and materials costs

I would work with artists I’ve worked with and reach out to new ones to create the industrial housed arts community that used to thrive in the city and has been sorely lacking, with emphasis on learning from each other and supporting the great new work that has sometimes been priced out of the city with rising rents and materials costs

I would build a temple around a replica of the Temple of Apollo at Didyma, which is constructed around an earlier Greek Temple to Apollo, which is constructed around the spring of a Pagan oracle. I would then stage an earthquake and leave it abandoned for 2000 years.

Upon my return to the site, it would be ruined and densely overgrown. I would begin to excavate and reconstruct the matryoshkian temple in attempt to discover the intentions of its builder.

I would attempt to develop a region composed entirely of man-made spaces that we recognize today as vacant, barren, completely wanting or lacking in substance, or places that only serve to get somewhere else. This would include alleys, cracked swimming pools, roads, construction sites, bombed-out factories, railway yards, parking lots, minefields, junk yards, and retention ponds, and so on. It would be developed in such a way that an occupant would not ever be able to precieve any boundaries to it.

Originally, I planned to occupy the region with people to see if the two were adaptable to each other in a way that I could not forsee. The results could be used to re-purpose these types of spaces in our own world, re-purpose the people to use these types of spaces, or perhaps a combination of the two. The benefit being people with the capabilities to utilize environments that have seemingly lost their utility.

However, I now think that it may be sufficient to only develop the region itself, without needing to occupy it, since the existence of such a place might produce any number of ideas and opinions in those who see or hear of it, for the benefit of society.

I would develop either an island or barren landscape that’s founding principle would be to take all the overly avant-garde architectural plans of architects such as Lebbeus Woods, Aranda Lasch, those unfounded plans of Steven Holl from 1993, and an urban planning system by Hernan Diaz Alonso. The intention would be to explore all of these spaces that would only otherwise would have found themselves on paper or exhibition space, never to be truely explored on the grounds of constant human interaction. It would not be a city based upon functionality, but rather the expression of ideas that were similarly unresolved when put into competitions and notebooks. At the very most, it might be a tourist attraction that would bring architecture back into the mix of media and critical universal discussion.

If I had a large warehouse space I would recreate space in the space. Not “space” like outer space, but “space” like the space that is in the space. I would take all the discarded materials in the space to a new space and remake the materials out of biodegradable materials. Then I would take the new materials that were made in the new space and put them in the old space. Over time, the new materials in the old space would start to deteriorate, grow mold and algae, forcing the new materials
to deteriorate more quickly. To further along the process of deterioration I would litter the space with fog machines… many fog machines… hundreds of fog machines. So that the fog machines would fill the space with fog. The fog would fill the entire space from side to side, bottom to top. The light that comes through the windows of the space would then unintentionally make the fog in the space resemble space – “space” like a nebulous in outer space not like the space in the space’s space. I would then sit on one side of the space
have an irreconcilable other sit of the other side of the space. I would want to do this because I want to see what space looks like over time… not “space” like the space what fills an area, or “space” like outer space, but “space” like the space that needs to be put between two people who need space.

love this. well, I do love buildings, but, I’d never attempt to build one… too much risk, too much responsibility… & too much logic involved… so, I’ll just say, I’d hope these buildings are magnificent, are as high & as shiny & as new, as respected, as connected to their communities, & as useful as they can possibly be… &, I’d request that you build them in cities the world over, & allow those of us with passion for our built environment to marvel…

&, I wish for you to find a great artist to create a…mooood….

I’d design a building in the shape of a donunt and construction would work in a radial fashion. When the “ring” of the donut building is completed, the workers would tear down the first-built section and rebuild in the exact same place by recycling the materials. The design would change slightly with each iteration due to a very vague set of construction documents. Building would continue endlessly, keeping our economic system intact but not consuming an endless amount of land.

Neverending Dolores Park. Always sunny, never windy. Plenty of room for everyone. No lines for the infinite bathroom. Good views of the SF skyline from every single vantage point.

Because Dolores Park is my favorite place in the world even with all its flaws. So imagine if it was flawless.

Imagine one of those huge dirigible hangers from the 30s. That would be my work space, and it would have two entrances. All of the material comes in from the front entrance and the rear entrance is sealed shut (this is important).

What I would build:
Imagine a giant, series of hot-air balloons. A mishmash of irregularly shaped balloons that heave and hiss. They expand and contract at different intervals and are contained by a patchwork of stretched steel struts. Miles of tubular duct-work, piping and valves link them together… a patchwork of vains and arteries.

I would build a giant labarinthian set of spaces inside, filled with hydroponic gardens, smokey bars (with lots of chrome and juke boxes), endless hallways with Victorian era paintings and crownmolding, and small rooms in the flavor of Corbusier’s La Tourrette.

Finally, I would populate it with all the lost souls of everyone’s favorite stories — Melville’s Captian Ahab meets Wilder’s Norma Desmond meets X-man’s Gambit. I would have cameras installed at odd angles throughout the station and a mixer that randomly patches different shots of the inhabitents together and then shoots the compilations out as movies via strong broadcasting antennas.

Once I was done, I would open up the other huge door, to reveal that it leads to Venus. The whole thing will float, since the mixture of air we breath is lighter than the air on Venus.

A floating, giant mechanized heart that beats against the orange Venusian sky and broadcasts an infinite array of movies that mimic the claustrophic / romantic style of Wong Kar Wei and Christipher Doyle across the galaxy. The fictionalized heart-broken finding true love on Venus. I’m thinking Retro-Ovid here.

I would do it because it would be the coolest reality TV show ever; way better than the Bachelor even.

My “warehouse” would be a Dyson Sphere around a small star. Inside the sphere would be populated with human beings. The outside of the sphere would also be populated with human beings getting their sunlight from a star the Dyson Sphere is orbiting. There would be a few hidden openings in the sphere, but it would be a long time before the two civilizations met (Deculture!). In the meantime, I would go back and forth from the inside and outside to watch the cultures develop in different (or similar?) ways.

I just think Dyson spheres are cool. Probably the most gargantuan form of architecture ever imagined.

A replica of a modern (i.e. contemporary) city that shares every aspect with any of our biggest cities struggling to come up with solutions to their particular urban mess. The only thing different is that its citizens are consisted of current or future couples who are committed not to have more than one child on average.

Give the replica city a few decades.

Witness the improvement in life quality, as population decreases in a healthy manner. More of everything for less of us.

All that is left to be retrofitted remain as constant reminders of how not to build, how not to live.

An architectural archive:

Halogen lights lining the arched ceiling like the lid of a massive tanning bed, the “curator” could create the conditions of day or night in any part of the world with a few adjustments.

Every notable architectural work would be transported in whole to the archive and arranged on a massive grid organized by architect and date. Tracks would allow brisk conveyance from one work to another.

One wall of the warehouse would be a rapid prototyping machine that is beyond our time in terms of size and produceable detail. As the warehouse fills this wall simply prints more warehouse, endlessly constructing the archive as time progresses.

Cocktail parties; tonight’s hosted at Koenig’s Case Study House, could unite a resurrected Carlo Scarpa ( on loan from the archive’s library of architects) to have a conversation with Frank Ghery. The two could argue, fight or collaborate on something, their ideation and process produced in real time and full scale by the printer and catalogued in the archive.

The brains in this library of architects would find the need to continually redesign the archive itself. This constant change of design as the warehouse perpetually builds itself would almost lend the overall structure an organic living quality. The front of the ever-building building would always reflect the most current style. But the trends of the past, only a short distance behind, would remain inescapable.

And we would keep it classy with some nice marble columns.

Why? Because I could.

Comments are closed.