As a guided missile, pointed in a wayward direction, Reiser and Umemoto continue, perhaps despite themselves to land on animism — bony, trabecular animism. And maybe it’s no surprise.

As part of our ongoing efforts to promote radically ecological practices in architecture we are going through our old academic papers and re-editing them for online publication. Much like the previously syndicated “The Architectural Animal” of a few months ago. These next few months will feature syndicated chapters of original works titled: “Lacuno-Architecture,” “Form of Arch.” and “Landscape, Ecology, Architecture” all of which were instrumental early papers in the formation of Animal Architecture, both as a theory and as a project. The series will start with Lacuno-Architecture, a paper developed for Sanford Kwinter in the Spring of 2007. These works will be filed under “The Wilding.”


Ned Dodington; All rights reserved


[a. L. lac na a hole, pit, f. lacus LAKE n.4 Cf. LACUNE.] Chiefly in physical science: A gap, an empty space, spot, or cavity. a. gen. 1872 PROCTOR Ess. Astron. xxiv. 303 The gaps and lacunae are left relatively clear of lucid stars. 1879 RUTLEY Study Rocks x. 107 Fluid lacunae.. are of frequent occurrence in nepheline. 1880 Sat. Rev. 15 May 637 The curious lacuna in the field of vision, known as the blind spot.


[ad. mod.L. can licul ris, f. can licul-us; see below. Cf. F. canaliculaire.] Of, pertaining to, or resembling a canaliculus; minutely tubular.

The work of Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto has a distinct aesthetic quality. Not so much a uniform look or style but something unmistakably “bony.” The new images for their tower in the UAE is a porous concrete tower with a direct visual reference to bone.Their plan for a larger office and residential tower in Dubai shows a number of large tubes branching out at the base to hold a podium that could be an assemblage of bone-like elements, or even a microscopic view of osteoporotic bone. Perhaps some of this is aesthetic. But the research associated with each project, and the office of Reiser and Umemoto in general, indicates that structural performance, and
material systems, not aesthetics are the paramount concerns.

Their recent publication “Atlas of Novel Tectonics” reflects rigourous studies in relationships between abstract systems such as matter/force relationships, diagram deployment ,and moving in a gradient field, but surprisingly (and here I might be committing one of their common errors to avoid) there seems little attention to bone.

About ¾ through the book they talk about Accidental animism.

“of course it is inevitable that this work will be, like all things, read semiotically…we accept that our work may at times display animistic qualities or traits…we feel it is imperative not to succumb to animism and above all, not to interpret the work during the design process on these terms. In fact, we find the greatest animus is achieved through a strict adherence to objective factors.” – Reiser and Umemoto

This is essentially the difference between looking like and being like. But inevitably the two are so intricately interwoven that they eventually become one and the same. Being like, when done with rigorous analysis cannot help but ending up looking like. As a guided missile, pointed in a wayward direction, Reiser and Umemoto continue, perhaps despite themselves to land on animism — bony, trabecular animism. And maybe it’s no surprise.

Bony Architecture

Bone, despite long-held beliefs to the contrary, is a remarkably plastic, malleable and fluid material. Contrary to the 19th century model of a static material arranged for optimal handling of mechanical loads and stresses, it has now become clear that bone structure is much more complex, serving the structural as well as nutritional needs of the body. Simply put, bone is not static nor does it operate according to purely mechanical rules. Bone morphs, grows, shrinks, bends, and deforms as each one of our bodies moves through time and space. What has always remained beyond the ken of bio-mechanics and physical scientists is why bone looks the way it does. What are the forces that govern its shape?

How does it “know” where to grow and deform? The 19th century claimed that bone morphology was primarily governed by mechanical loads, and bending stresses. The Mid-20th century began to show a slightly more complex picture of zones of loading and stress. But, in the last five years the attention as been focused not so much on the bone itself but on the matrix of tiny blood vessels that permeate trabecular bone. This is the lacunocanalicular network.

To be continued…

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