Acceleration and Rationalization.
Oswald Mathias Ungers and the Architecture of Logistics.
Published in Volume no.47, spring 2016 Volume Magazine
A city is not a uniform entity but rather the assemblage of self-standing parts dialectically juxtaposed, each resulting from stratifications of diverging uses and activities, political intentions and economic processes, geographical conditions and typological configurations.
From here, the ambivalent architectural understanding of logistics: either as the apparatus framing and exploiting the unmeasurable value produced by such a hybrid ensemble of clashing differences, or, to the contrary, as the system for exchanging goods and information indispensable to support every form of human conglomeration and collective production.
Despite not excluding each other, these two approaches move towards diverging strategies of opposition. Moving from the assumption that the vulnerability of capitalism lies in the system of distribution, the ‘logistics as exploitative frame’ approach endorses breakage, sabotage and interruption as possibilities for antagonism. The other, deliberately accepting the necessity of logistics, seeks to hijack its network of power towards common benefits, either by way of collectivisation or by acceleration.
A paradigmatic example of architectural acceleration was Archizoom’s 1969 project for a No-Stop City, which attempted to intensify the apparatus of production by extending the plan of the factory across the whole planet in order to make “the brain of the system mad.” The exponential increase of exchange and communications would have turned logistics into a self-destructing machine, internally dismantling the apparatus of exploitation by means of its own spatial principles.
A coeval yet reversed example of acceleration were the Oswald Mathias Ungers’ experiments on post-war Berlin, which extracted, introjected and multiplied the logistic order of the metropolis into a constellation of specific architectural forms. Recovering logistics as a “art of war” Ungers dissected the circulatory lymph of the metropolis into parts to conjecture new strategies of arrangement, able to intensify their collective assemblage without limiting their specific singularities.
If logistics aimed at the reduction of friction to facilitate the flow of people and commodities, then it was precisely by short-circuiting and accelerating these processes that the potential of the metropolis could have been redistributed and pushed towards different trajectories, creating new forms of resistance and overflow, breakage and organisation.