The basic idea behind this work was developed during a lengthy research stay at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, in Detroit, Michigan.
Detroit is a city where everything is about production. When you drive around the city, you notice that factory buildings from the past 100 years plus of car manufacture make up the city's monuments. They include both old complex structures, where you can follow production from beginning to end, and many more recent, anonymous prefabricated halls that contain various sub-productions from the automobile industry. But what stands out as the all-dominant feature in the city is the transformation of material – steel, aluminium, rubber, glass made into components, a process spanning from the untreated through to the manufactured object.
More than anything, Detroit is a product of this continuous industrial transformation process. The population of the city keeps changing in step with financial crises and industrial progress, a trend reflected by the migration of its inhabitants. People move around and out of the city, leaving vast areas empty. Over time, the city's layout and spaces have been left as a trace of this ongoing transformation process – a record!
Even though I had previously lived in the US for a number of years and trained as an architect in New York, I was overwhelmed by the speed of the changes. It became evident to me that the city did not have a fixed form, and I experienced it rather as a physical mass, where areas changed for a while, densified or spread out, were extended or broken down. Its development was without clear objectives and recognisability, the city was in a state of constant physical transformation.
It was clear to me that this formless physical transformation is a fundamental condition, albeit to a less recognisable degree, for almost all cities – and for that which is created by culture in general. When you visit the Bingham Copper Mine in Utah or the lighthouse by Rubjerg Knude in Denmark, (which is slowly being swallowed by the sand dunes), it is evident that these areas are in a process, the places are being created all the time – right now! When you stand in Tokyo under a bridge and gaze at the space between the houses; when you consider the construction of a residential complex made of prefabricated concrete elements, or look at a photo of a stack of lumber from the Sydhavnen harbour in Copenhagen – the most characteristic trait is not the form, but the different degrees of organisation of a material. This bodily and mental experience of physical and spatial states between chaos and order connects country and city in a cohesive culturally created state, a new nature.
Architecture constitutes a very small part of this composite state, which primarily consists of generic elements. Consequently, it is necessary that the architecture we create be related to this context – not as a form with a fixed content, but as an architecture, which can be a part of and affect the continuous transformation process of which we are a part, simply because it is a state in itself.
This book builds up poetics that think and develop architecture as states, and it is based on my PhD dissertation in the category of artistic development work, which was defended at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in 2003.
Parts of the project have been exhibited, including at the Architecture Biennale in Venice.
The original manuscript has now been edited and translated to English, and the layout of the dissertation has been developed and finalised in collaboration with graphic designer Jeanne Betak Cleemann. In the course of this work, it became clear that it would be relevant to conclude the book with a number of selected projects produced in the period of time between the submission of the dissertation and the publishing of the book – because the projects will make it easier to appreciate the concrete potential of the more abstract features of the material.
In one of the final projects – the small town of Brösarp, Sweden – a type of urbanity is developed that includes the social, political and programmatic aspects, and which is not captured in an image of a historical town, but is a complex urban state.