Part of Your Network

March 7, 2011

Issue introduction by Iker Gil, editor in chief of MAS Context.


Mas issue network cover opening

While in our previous issue we looked at the topic of PUBLIC, in the current issue we are looking at NETWORK. Both elements have been crucial in the recent events in North Africa and are unequivocally connected. While the power of people has been the engine of the protests, telecommunication networks have been critical for their coordination. And physical networks have been equally relevant, from the public plazas used for gathering to the internet data centers disconnected by the government to control the information. Much has been written about these events but it is especially interesting in an Andrew Blum’s essay in The Atlantic1, 2 where he establishes and identifies the internet choke points, physical data centers strategically located around the world.

In this issue, we look at the topic of NETWORK through a series of contributions that explore the physical and virtual relationships that shape our lives. One of the goals of MAS Context is to organize events that generate a discussion coinciding with the topics of each journal. For the event related to this issue, my design office, MAS Studio, along with the Chicago Architectural Club, organized NETWORK RESET, an international design competition to rethink the Chicago Boulevard System. With proposals received from all over the world, inside this issue you will find the winning entries as well as the honorable mentions.

Continuing with the exploration of physical infrastructures of Chicago, Bruce G. Moffat uncovers the freight tunnels that lay beneath the Loop. Currently housing communications and high voltage electrical conduits or lying empty, during the firs half of the 20th Century they were a vital network for the city and the images from Bruce’s collection are a testimony of it.

Designer Nick Axel looks at the city of Phoenix and proposes in his thesis a sprawling form superimposed over its landscape. A juxtaposing of distinct spatial ecologies that engenders a dynamic landscape of differentiation and localization.

Transportation networks have a constant presence in the city. They overlap, connect, divide, evolve and become obsolete. Photographers Marc Goodwin and Cecilia Galera document the everyday traces left during the winter by the cars, streetcars, pedestrians, skiers and boats in the city of Helsinki.

Architect Ioanna Angelidou looks into two key conditions in contemporary Japanese architecture, namely genealogy and mediation. The first is relevant to Japan’s long tradition of hierarchy and apprenticeship. The second is relevant to its contact with Western culture through Modernism. The two of them together essentially constitute aspects of network and networking respectively.

Media and information are generating new opportunities based on networking. The work of Aaron Koblin, featured in our Information issue is a great example of the possibilities of this approach. In this issue, Ethel Baraona and Cesar Reyes from dpr-barcelona talk to Beatriz Colomina on the idea of blogs and on-line conversation as the little magazines of our time and they discuss if it is the new adequate forum to speculate on the future of architecture.

Our second conversation revolves around the idea of looking at the city through existing food networks. Sarah Rich and Nicola Twilley, founders of the Foodprint project, respond to my questions about built environments, physical networks, food behaviors, the role of design and if food can ultimately help reshape the new American city.

Architect Jesse LeCavalier explores two accounts of architecture understood and deployed as a network of connected buildings in pursuit of a territorial agenda. Looking at these two examples together helps to better understand the possibilities of architecture to operate in unison, beyond the envelope of any single building.

But this territorial network can work at different scales and contexts. This is the case of Dafen, a village on the outskirts of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Through the essay by Jiang Jun, the diagrams by Underline Office, and the images of photographer Haibo Yu we understand the territorial strategy and building network of this town known for its replication of masterpieces and popular oil paintings.

And to start it all off, Paddy Harrington, creative director of Bruce Mau Design, opens the issue with his essay about the power of network. Our process to create MAS Context is based on that power. It is the way we collaborate with all contributors and the way we generate each issue. Let us be part of your network, connect with us.

1 Andrew Blum, “Tunisia, Egypt, Miami: The Importance of Internet Choke Points,” The Atlantic, January 28, 2011.