Landship. A reflection about the acceleration of reality.
”The great obsession of the nineteenth century was, as we know, history: with its themes of development and of suspension, of crisis, and cycle […] We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.”
It is not a coincidence that we have used a quote by Michel Foucault to close a post about ships as heterotopias and now, we’re quoting him again to write about a project built in the way of a boat hull, which questions our current concept of “progress” and the premise that the best is yet to come. Gautier Duthoit presented his project Landship for the Think Space competition in 2012 and it is a critical review on how technique has become one of the main instruments of progress, omnipresent in our society; it has become our environment. As he clearly points:
In an imperceptible way, technique has been sacralised. “It is not technique that enslaves us but the sacred transferred to technique” [J. Ellul] The transfer has generated an expansion of thought allowing mechanised time to dominate human reflection time. The acceleration of reality [P.Virilio] inhibits the sensation that time flies, when associated with efficient consumerism, the world is unable to find any form of rest. The idea is not to resist progress but to take a break in order to assimilate it. It is necessary to question the philosophical and political notions concerning progress. What is progress today, on an environmental, economic and political level? It is important to raise awareness of the impact of progress, which leads us to search for clever endings or a limit to things.
To develop the project, Duthoit’s research was focused on the concepts of anti-image and anti-object as means to raise awareness of the impact of progress. To do so, the leitmotif of the narrative is based on the concrete ships, especially the remnants of the Mulberry Harbours, a seawall composed by ships in the surface and enormous concrete caissons [called Phoenix] that was filled with water or sand and sank in order to break the deeper currents.
The Mulberry Harbours are the perfect example to develop the inherent contradiction which lies on the difference between the expected lightness of a ship and the stongness of the Mulberries, which were created to provide the port facilities necessary to offload the thousands of men and vehicles, and tons of supplies.
So, it is interesting to discover how can this project can become a critic of progress based in technology, as we’re witnessing in the current times. The narrative of the Landship project is like a dérive from such big and solid structures to a remote and isolated object, which in a provocative way refers to the concept of “island”: In the same way as a wrecked Phoenix Breakwater is also to be seen, broken in two, in the Thames estuary, the Landship is land-piece surrounded by water, but not the kind of oceanic island described by Deleuze, as an object lost in an endless extension of a uniform element. In Gautier Duthoit’s project, the complete absence of urban fabric becomes the context of the project, which differs from the context as much as it is a part of it, and in a Deleuzian sense, it serves as a reminder that the earth is still there, under the sea, gathering its strength to punch through to the surface. According to this, Duthoit says about his project and quoting Deleuze again, that it neither is a “New world” but an alternative critique of the existing world. It is an artifice, part of a larger ensemble: the lakes borders, the continents borders.
“The history of dreams is still to be written. Dream participates in history.”
This concept of borders and the melancholic monumentality of the project reminds also the No-Stop City by Archizoom or more closely, some of the projects by DOGMA, such as A Simple Heart, based on the divergence between the scale of architectural form and the urban dimension. DOGMA idea of enclosing an area of an existing tertiary district by means of an inhabitable wall can be deeply related with Landship, where the strong presence of “the perimeter” embodies the limit and allows the visitor to experience and play a part in the limited and closed environment. At the same time is thought provoking to think why do we need such solid limits in the middle of the sea. Can we think about the notion of archipelago proposed by Oswald Mathias Ungers in 1977, when he proposed an archipelago of dense urban artifacts surrounded by a forest that would gradually replace existing [vacant] portions of the city? And if so, are we allowed to think about Landship as a small piece of a wider project?
The use of the grid as a main element of the design also connect with Ungers and DOGMA projects. We can read what Duthoit wrote about Landship’s grid:
The tangle of borders put the vessel in relation to different scales and different places. It becomes the consecration of utopia, a heterotopia as defined by Michel Foucault: a real place where other spaces are connected around it. This “topia” is defined in contrast with the context through a basic figure that insures the projects’ clarity. The grid is used as the main architectonic structure; its geometry is altered by its relationship with other basic architectural elements that appear to be an exception to the uniform grid.
The references of this evocative project can be endless and can drive us to several fields. At first instance, is a response to the challenge proposed by Think Space to revisit the Blur Building, which was based on the symbolism inherent to the idea of “gave the site back to itself disguised as architecture.” But looking at the drawings, we can also think on John Hejduk projects, Archizoom’s experience on amplifying its surface values or the work by OFFICE Kersten Geers David van Severen, and their nostalgic vision of the world.
In the same way as Aldo Rossi wrote about the “objects of affection”, situated between the list and memory, Gautier Duthoit wrote:
Through its composition and its combination of limits, Landship appears as speculative fiction with a poetical dimension: a piece of land balanced under the water level by an archaic technique. The simplicity and the architectural abstraction leaves room for interpretation and imagination. Too often imagination has been considered as a secondary force or as a way of evasion. “The importance of imagination on the human psyche has not been emphasized enough. Generally, we tend place reality in first position, but how can Man create if he doesn’t feel what we could call the “possibility function”. To take action we must first imagine” (G. Bachelard).
From Odilon Redon‘s mysterious and evocative drawings to the surrealist symbolism of René Magritte‘s paintings; Duthoit project is full of poetry and symbolism too in terms of representation. We can’t avoid to remember this poem:
to manifest the presence
of the horizons
my eyes become earth
of a weithless body
without possible modulation
in space or time.”
—Raimund Abraham, 1973
Landship by Gautier Duthoit was awarded with an honorable mention at Think Space Past Forward 2012 competition. More info: Think Space