End(eavors) Game

When the \”age of the world picture\” gave way to the \”first machine age,\” architecture went from being a book to being a machine, from representing to doing, from a concern with truth to an emphasis on function. With the dawning of the \”information age\” architecture has again been asked to take account of a shift in paradigms. Many think of the digital as the epochal difference that must be answered, but in fact the digital itself has been enabled – driven – by a more fundamental epistemological and cultural shift: towards a increasingly immersive engagement with an progressively more fluid \”reality,\” where \”doing\” has become play and \”function\” has been supplanted by performance. This time, architecture, like everything else, is a game. That doesn\’t make it any easier or less serious, however. This studio will explore the game thesis through the design of a final resting place and display pavilion for the space shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. The shuttle has been called the \”most complicated machine built in human history.\” The conclusion of the STS (Space Transportation System) program is not only the end of an era of manned space flight, it is also an acknowledgement of the probable limits of mechanical virtuosity – the loss of two out of the original four shuttles revealing the tragic genius of stuff at the tipping point between control and chaos. The design of an \”information age\” exhibition environment devoted to this apotheosis of the waning \”machine age\” (with its implicit curatorial opportunities and critical demands) provides an appropriate arena for gauging the disciplinary effects of the transition from \”doing\” to \”playing.\” Games are distinguished as much by their rules as by the play those rules enable or circumscribe. In architecture the more important rules are not inherited or legislated, but discovered on the fly, in the feeling of rightness that settles over the project as it is refined during the course of design. A studio focused on game values will therefore not be a technique-driven studio, where \”process\” supplants thinking or stochastic dabbling yields inexplicable results. Instead, the game\’s natural regard for thinking and cleverness will be operationalized through willful, managed design that explicitly articulates relevant issues regarding the choice of games, their rule sets and criteria for success (and modes of failure), as well as the strategies and tactics of play.