With consummate skill the spectacle organizes ignorance of what is about to happen and, immediately afterwards, the forgetting of whatever has nonetheless been understood. The more important something is, the more it is hidden.
—Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau, S, M, L, XL
I borrow the last sentence of Rem Koolhaas’s definition of Hidden for the title of the introduction to this issue as it perfectly captures our approach to the topic. Our built environment is constantly changing, with new developments taking place close and afar that briefly capture our imagination and take over our conversations. It does so until news of the next new thing comes our way almost immediately via multiple devices, and we forget about what came before, creating an endless cycle of new becoming old. But behind all the shine of all the changes that we witness, we question what the conditions are that allow them to happen. We question what all those elements are that we can’t see, metaphorically and physically, and that allow for our built environment to work and evolve. Therefore, those hidden conditions can be considered the critical components needed for our cities to exist and what we see, whether positive or not, just their consequence.
The topic itself continues an ongoing interest of our team in exploring what is hidden that was initiated with the Visibility issue followed two years later by our Ordinary issue. Both explored the aspects of the topic from different angles and we wanted to continue this exploration with new perspectives and voices. Those come in the form of essays about forgotten buildings, interviews about outsider artists, speculations about Los Angeles and Boston, analysis of the conditions that shape Johannesburg, photo essays about massive water infrastructures and ordinary tunnels, videos contrasting the logistical infrastructures of the Midwest and Texas; illustrations about what we miss when we don’t pay attention, and hidden tracks in some of our favorite albums, just to name a few of the contributions included. All of them provide new possible ways of looking at our cities and the people that inhabit them. They reveal what we were not able to see until now.
For the design of the issue, we collaborated with Chicago-based graphic designer Jason Pickleman of JNL Graphic Design. Jason is not a stranger to MAS Context: he has been on our board of advisors since 2012, we interviewed him in our inaugural issue MORE for which he also designed the cover, he has contributed his poetry and artwork to three other issues, he lectured in our first MAS Context Analog event in 2011, and we visited his studio last year as part our spring events. His work is superb and we are thrilled that he agreed to give shape to our Hidden issue.
Hidden has had invaluable help from Emily Louise Allen, Chris Bennett, Michelle Benoit, Roberto Boettger, Julio Brenes, Andrew Clark, Odile Compagnon, Carlos Copertone, André Corrêa, Counterspace, Leandro Couto de Almeida, Caroline Dagbert, Patxi Eguiluz, Naomi Evans, Albert Ferré, Iker Gil, Igor González, Luke Hegeman, Matthew Hoffman, Sam Holleran, Tom James, Rene Kersting, Sergio Lopez-Pineiro, Reinaldo Loureiro, Geoff Manaugh, Julie Michiels, Conor O’Shea, Jennifer Park, Bertrand Prévost, Shame Ray, Charles Rice, Andrew Ruff, Dan Rybicky, David Schalliol, Theo Simpson, Smout Allen, John Stirratt, Studio Déclic, Luke Sturgeon, Jan Theun van Rees, Florence T. Twu, Faiza Uppal, and Cyrille Weiner.
We would like to extend our gratitude to the studios and institutions that have provided photographs for this issue: the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid (COAM), Construire Architects, Daniel Cronin Photography, and Salvemos el Beti Jai.
Special thanks to Jason Pickleman, Ashley Ryann, and Daniel Marsden from the JNL Graphic Design for their excellent work designing this issue and for being some of the smartest and most supportive people we have ever met.