4th UNS Conference : Culture

We began with the task to question the big ‘C’ulture, and we ended up with lots of little letters representing types of little ‘c’ulture: ideas, experiences, etc. So then, how did we get to this understanding?

There once was the big ‘C’ulture on its pedestal, and resting on its laurels in hierarchical fashion. It was encased in classicism and created representation of class that was meant to bring ennoblement, inspiration and aspiration to the masses. You could say that it was brought down by the completed Opera Garnier never being used for its original aspirational bourgeois intent; or maybe the ideology of the National Socialist Party who created several traceable cultural diasporas (artists, Jews, philosophers, and scientists, not to mention architects); or was it the mid-century Chinese communist party twisting Chinese cultural history to their own quasi-techno-modernist ideal; or is it now the proliferation of communication technologies that has a more humanist approach to cultural dissemination thereby shrinking the big ‘C’ incrementally one kilobyte at a time, allowing (almost) everyone to participate. Any way you look at it, by the turn of the 21st century, we find ourselves floating in a sea of little ‘c’s.

And at UNStudio we are deeply involved in the latter way of creating culture as an intricate, cyclical cultural process. Each of us brings to the office our own individual cultural heritage and memory to inflect each design we are involved in. Our projects are then inflected by, and in turn inflect, the cultures of the various regions of the world in which we work. This cycle repeats itself–though not identically–enough that we can begin to forecast the upcoming shifts in the cultural landscape.

The cultural landscape is now more an atmosphere of unpredictable inflections of experiences than it is an ivory tower. These may occur on the internet, of course, and also in parks, shopping malls, office buildings and other typically non-cultural architectural projects. The inflections that we come into contact with serve as our framework for identifying and understanding our individual interests, and those of our friends and collaborators. This is where the hegemony of ‘c’ulture is situated now, which may very well be more robust than the ‘C’ulture of previous centuries.

Posted by: UNStudio / Rob Henderson + Ariane Stracke