The Suburban Home as Vehicle for an Architectural Manifesto.
When talking about the suburbs, we can think on many concepts: urban sprawl, area outside a town or city, inner political boundaries, and consumption among others. The first well-known suburbs were born in North America exploded during the post-World War II economic expansion. In the current times the most obvious economic expansion worldwide is the Internet, and for Andreas Angelidakis, the internet is the new suburban home we’re living in, represented by the accumulation of all the things we do on-line. The relationship between capitalism and utopia has been on the focus of architects interest starting with Manfredo Tafuri until the most recent project by WAI Think Tank. All of these concepts and ideas are part of Angelidakis’ main focus on his project Domesticated Mountain, exhibited at GloriaMaria Gallery. We can read the following description:
Domesticated Mountain is the story of citizens grewing up in an undefined suburbia. Their parents came there to avoid the noise and the pollution, chasing a post-fordist dream of life with a back yard and a double driveway, their home closer to nature. They had visions of mountains but now suburbia was just bundle of credit-card ruins, the post-fordist dream turned into neo-liberal nightmare. People never stopped buying, some of them forgot to throw away, or to pay. Now they could buy in their sleep, on a trip to Egypt, riding a camel, browsing the latest bargains on Uniqlo, lets get another cashmere blend sweater honey, even in the sweltering heat.
Nowadays the concept of “suburb” has evolved, as mostly all of the past century concepts. We’re witnessing times when even IKEA is projecting to build a new neighbourhood with 1,200 homes and apartments, 40 per cent of them large enough for families; where living in an Ikea neighbourhood might come to resemble a long day in an Ikea store: The company wants you to be in a neat, clean, pleasant environment. But do we really need this model for living?
Ikea’s manual for building a neighbourhood. Source: The Globe and Mail
As a counterpoint to this kind of proposals, as the IKEA neighborhood, which tries to represent a “radiant city“, Angelidakis presents his vision of “mountain” referring to an accumulation of objects, but also to the idea of the primitive state or the last house for a man: the grave. It’s interesting to think how can our addictive consumerist anxiety of possessing can easily become our own grave.
Tafuri explained that “The cell is not only the prime element of the continuous production line that concludes with the city, but it is also the element that conditions the dynamics of aggregations of building structures” and, according to this fact, we can recognize on this project the idea of “cell” as a building element, represented by simple boxes. This minimal unit that grows creating an infinite mountain has the aim to remind us the changes that e-commerce has brought to our lives, delivering all of our dreams and desires inside small boxes. Angelidakis describe the phenomena with this words:
The internet changed the way they consumed, their palaces of shopping lay empty. Shopping malls were the Campo Marzio of the standard delivery generation. Nobody went there anymore, nobody knew what to do there. The suburbs became endless scrolls on our google earth, areas of continuous texture mapping, delivery addresses that matched the billing address, you only needed to remember your three digit security code. Sometimes they forgot what they ordered within the hour of buying it, and sometimes bought it again. By the time it arrived nobody knew what it was or who had wanted it, so they put it in the pile of the other boxes waiting to be opened. The pile grew larger, soon they used the boxes to sit on, at first it was strange but the view was great.
Are this new suburbs, the Internet, a new kind of “no-place”?
Capitalism transform itself in a different experience of temporality. At the Domesticated Mountain there’s not time anymore: people fall asleep on their iPad screens, and things keep arriving. There isn’t a start point, neither and end. Fredric Jameson pointed that capitalism is the alienation of leisure, and maybe it is the state of the inhabitants of the Domesticated Mountain, which passed through an evolutionary process. “Before they knew it, they were living on a mountain of purchases. This was the architecture of logistics, the post capitalist crisis of over consumption, the continuous flow of unnecessary acquisitions. They liked it here, so they decided to make their home, on the pile of impulse shopping and forgotten returns. Their home was a domesticated mountain.”
Living within the complexity of the electronic era, contemporary e-commerce involves everything from ordering “digital” content for immediate on-line consumption. The feeling that we can have everything we want just with one click, makes us to need more and more products to satisfy our ever expanding needs. Although sometimes it is difficult to speak of the problem imposed by technology in the architectural field, at this moment we’re talking about not only architecture, but also about human behavior. Angelidakis describes the situation like this:
Slowly they realize that their home has become a mountain of things, stacked boxes of almond puree makers and organic ironing kits. And while this accumulating was going on, they got saturated with accumulating, with buying, with owning.
Our ever increasing demanding of resources should change: in the era of “planed obsolescence”, maybe this is the moment when we stop needing things or even, in Angelidakis’ words, needing new buildings. Jean-Paul Jungmann wondered if it exists a spatial ideology of society, and he suggests it could be the anxiety of possessing, the need of collecting things, what shapes our cities now. The excess of consumerism reminds us what Victor Lebow wrote in 1955:
“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms.”
Angelidakis’ project drive us to the question: Is it enough to just “consume” online without ever buying anything? Will the manifesto house, and its mountain of objects just evaporate into an ephemeral scroll up to the suburban sky?
Where Angelidakis points: No more products? no more buildings? no more images? no more real people? —Maybe we’re still on time to transform it into: No more products? no more buildings? no more images? … more real people.
A project by Andreas Angelidakis
Curated by Maria Cristina Didero at GloriaMaria Gallery
Opened 18th April 2012 during the ultimate torrent of objects that is the Salone del Mobile in Milano.