society in amnesia

We use archives as a method of remembering. We record and keep a track on information that range from stem cell research findings to the most mundane of shopping lists. We want to preserve it before it is set loose into the internal brain chaos. But on the contrary, it’s also an excuse to forget. Once words/images are exposed and captured by our senses (either in a photo, or a text, or a recording), the mind no longer needs to retain that information at its fullest – presuming that the detailed information could always be recalled/retrieved. This very notion was already apparent at the wake of scripture writing. In Plato’s Phaedrus, the first critique of writing, the voice of Socrates argues that the invention of letters will “produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory” –it is “an elixir not of memory, but of reminding … the appearance of wisdom, not the true wisdom.” If it does not capture real true knowledge, why do we hold so dearly to the things we keep and collect?

Recently, as presented by Mary Lou Jensen on TED, there is technology that can scan images from our brains. A huge breakthrough! The process of archiving our discoveries, our encounters, has dissolved, leaving it to technology to record them for us. This innovation continue to improve and exceed human translation accuracy. But is accuracy something we aim for? Will it lead to a society in amnesia, just as Plato had predicted? 

Papyrus of Plato Phaedrus, 370 BC

To Be Destroyed – Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art


Submitted under our new Critical Narratives Office: we have been among the selected works to be exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art gallery this Fall.

Team: Cesar Lopez, Nish Kothari, Anesta Iwan


To Be Destroyed / To Be Determined

“The exhibition proposes that the definition of a museum is not fixed but rather “to be determined.” By asking, “what is a contem- porary art gallery?” the exhibition questions our fundamental assumptions concerning the role and importance of museums in so- ciety and their associated architectural forms.”



The New Gallery

“The museum object is no longer displayed nor preserved,
it lives in archives and ages over time”

The New Gallery becomes a place void of objects,
a place filled with aura -
a reflection of the art’s context,
rather than its tangible inanimate form.
It repositions the act of the gallery
within the existing space.




Film, theater, and architecture –each situated within the niche of space and time through movement and dialogue.

in film, your experience is relative to frame of the camera,
in theater, your involvement is relative to the actors’ interaction.
but in architecture, your engagement is relative to your movement.




.Can theater and film instead be determined by the spectator’s movement through that very space and time? The experience becomes more fluid and less dictated –a choose-your-own-adventure scenario…

We are in a second wave of the Situationist Era –everything we see, say, or hear is captured and reproduced in some form or another. At its extremity, we would experience our lives only through the lens of its instantaneous reproduction. Imagine yourself as a player at the World Cup: the moment you feel the ball at your feet, you simultaneously see it happening through the jumbo tron, you hear it announced even before you’ve finished the kick itself.

The fiction inherent in theater and film will soon merge with the current reality. The happening and the “scene” captured becomes one and the same. The spaces we inhabit have evolved into the sets among the urban theatrical stage and the supposed spectator, forced to perform.




update on data! OPERATION DATA

a recent update on the previous DATA FARM project from 2013…




“The Condition”

The city is more machine now than human – cold and still. Only data lives there now; in the startling proportions created to feed our consumption and demands. The quality of life by which we’ve spent years developing our cities to has been overcome by our mass generation of data infrastructure. Storage and servers has created a new infrastructural landscape that has reconfigured the way we live, work and therefore inhabit our cities.

We are in the peripheries – colonizing the outskirts of what were formally our parks, our homes and our society.
Technology advanced so far that it has become ubiquitous— prices dropped on smart phones and devices. An increase in global networks has led to a greater collaborative setting and to a faster lifestyle. This has contributed to a new era of data, more commonly known as “Big Data”. Following the discussions around mega structures from the 1960s, this era of Mega Data have once again pressed new forms of mega structures upon us. Towering over the deserts of Arizona and the suburbs of Silicon Valley, these mega data centers incrementally transform the city into the fearsome machine of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Buildings that have once been occupied by people will soon be turned into the city’s data capsules.
Block by block this data will only continue to graze over our cities and convert it into its own kind –a storage for the endless data we use.  This has isolated us from the parks, plazas and shared space we hold sacred and it can do much more.  It has greatly altered the way we live. The new city has relentlessly pushed human habitation to its peripheries.

“The Action”

Our dependency on mega data will only continue but we must learn to come to terms with this addiction and realize a new space where data and a new public can live as one. By reintroducing the necessity of physical presence we can salvage the forgotten spaces of our old society. The interdependencies between data and people, energy/heat transfers, natural resource inventory and the exchange of knowledge – have always existed in the very concept of data making.  However, the fulcrum between the two isn’t quite balanced. Mass amounts of heat and light pollution generated by data servers will have changed our climate thus altered the seasons and threaten the discoloration of the sky.

“The Call”

This is a call to action! OPERATION DATA will put an end to data conglomeration through initiatives such as data recycling and the integration of public e-libraries. We will cap the seemingly bottomless pits of data. We will take control of our expanding dependency in both the digital and physical environment alike. Let us make our addictions spatially evident by populating our public spaces with both the masses we produce and the crowds who need them. This will be a new experience – a different environment and the realization we will all need to save our city from ourselves.


some past, current, and future thoughts:

DATA FARM: data is inevitable, therefore we must learn to dwell among them

OPERATION DATA: with time, data gains control and begins to hijack our physical space. It’s time to take action and become responsible about data

DATA ORIGIN: is the new data boom caused by an increased number of projects? or is it due to inefficiency on data collection?


The Beauty of Archives

Archives can be both fleeting and permanent.
An infrastructure of the mind sculpted into an infrastructure of space.
A reflection and the invention of the mirror.

It is a memory and sometimes an attempt for one.
A simple recollection and sometimes an obsessive possession.
It is a collection that is never complete.

It tells but is also told.
A story captured in a dual state of reality and fiction.
It begins with a truth – the artifact – and evolves into theories.
Theories that when read as a whole, create a new reality in themselves.

Jardins de Metis Competition



We had a great team for the project Neeraj Bhatia (the Open Workshop), Cesar Lopez, Mauricio Soto and myself (Anesta Iwan). Although we were not amongst the winning entries, we still think we had a great concept for the garden!

In Canada, 486 invasive plant species exist, several of which were introduced during the colonization period of the 1800s for ornamental purposes — to create gardens. Ironically, it is the success of these plants in flourishing in non-native environments that now makes them a threat. Simultaneously, several of these ‘alien’ plants have resided in Canada longer than Canada’s own formation in 1867. Our proposal produces a living archive of 22 of the earliest invasive plant species to Canada that were intentionally introduced for their beauty. Organized within a tensile structure that allows each of these species to hover behind a transparent veil, these plants are separated from the ground below where they could pose a threat. As the festival continues through the summer, these plants will develop and their weight will pull them closer to the earth — the tension of the flexible portico structure aligning with the tension of the approaching species. In plan, the proposal forms a threshold — an outdoor room for relaxation, contemplation, and admiration of these species while framing the context beyond. Our garden celebrates these species by allowing people to interact with them and re-positions them as a part of Canadian culture.

If you’re curious, see more of it here.


just a thought….

In our current linguistic era, we find definition through repeated assumptions. “Green,” “Sustainability,” “Performative” have too often been cherry picked for their one-liner definition. And more political settings, the term “affordability” can strike both a high and low note.

“Affordability” is “being within the financial means of most people”, or in its simplest definition, “costing little.” It often evokes a sense of modularity, light assembly, micro, and aggregates. But why is that always the overriding connotation of it? One after another, design competition winners exhibit pod-like structures, shipping containers, or module clusters as a part of their affordability planning.

What if affordability can be achieved through an interchange between different households with varying financial strata? Because of its financial nature, the business model becomes the key player. The “new affordable” project doesn’t necessarily have to be bounded by its low budget. An exchange of services between two neighborhoods can help bridge the financial gap. Services either as environmental filters or climate data sensors, though may drive a project’s budget beyond its intended limit, the cost difference can potentially be made up through neighborhood subsidies. Affordability comes through projects that become infrastructures that go beyond their own purposes and physical boundaries. Affordable housing can become housing plus infrastructure for the city. Does it also become an emergency gathering space, a water supply, or a a research center? This business model recognizes the limitations of per-unit infrastructures within the existing fabric and instead taps into new development that have both site and scale potentials to support the new and existing sites.

In an attempt to resolve the issue of affordability, its definition expands and is redefined to also include a sense of accessibility. Affordable housing is one that would allow for its city neighbors to tap into its resources in exchange for a subsidized start-up cost.


define: function



As architects and thinkers we often pride ourselves on designing the most “perfect” solution. Each space is logically located and sized appropriately (often to meet the per-occupant standards). Materials are selected to convey a certain aura or emotion. Sometimes design revolves around efficiency (of space, of energy use, of flow, etc.). The slogan “Form Follows Function,” coined by Louis Sullivan and preached by other early modern designers, still resides with us today.

But can we reverse our thinking and design something that is non-functional?

Echoing the premise of the golden ratio, for an object or space to be functional, proportion is key. Whether it is between human and door, or a crowd and a stadium, or machinery and factory, there are basic minimum requirements for each space to function properly. So what happens when designers offset this proportion and pose the Goldilock dilemma, where there is no “perfect” size to the objects? Would it be considered non-functional?

The same concept applies to materiality. Some objects, like in Meret Oppenheim’s playful piece, Object, 1936, toy with function and material. Is it still usable if only its form remains true to the “original”? Or must it have 95% of the characteristics born in the original?

It depends on how we define “function.” Is “function” always attached to a label? –meaning is “sit” a function of “chair” because we have predefined a “chair” for “sitting”? Or is “function” simply a verb? A free-standing action detached from any given object. If, for the sake of the argument, assume function to be independent from the object, then we can also assume we can mix and match object and function. With each pairing, there is a degree of workability, for not every couple is a perfect fit.

This degree of fitness is related to the capacity for adaptation. As human beings, it is within our nature to be adaptive to our environments, in both the form of a space or of an object. For any given “thing,” our minds work to figure some use for it, whether or not it is appropriate. A part of the creative exercise is to break away from any presumptions and think of the other potential what-ifs. What are ten other ways to use a paperclip than to bind papers?

Any object is functional to some degree, but nothing is without any function –non-functional.