To try to describe the breadth of material in this book is a challenge. Everything Must Move is a 488 page dense co-mingling of studio briefs, samples of student work (a lot of samples), well-considered essays (great writing), informal interviews, RICE memorabilia, years-after-the-fact musings on studio explorations, derive-like photo essays, and clever graphic design that attempt to document 15 years at the RICE School of Architecture under the leadership of Lars Larup.
The design of the book (by Thumb) is approached as a microcosm or extended metaphor of the loose urban organization of Houston itself: a sprawling pro-corporate ecological dystopia completely devoid of zoning (a conceptually productive counterpoint to the planned urbanism of Portland). Thus the book’s chapters are untitled and their conceptual edges are ambiguous and overlapping. Per Thumb’s description:
Nine notable qualities which were mobilized in Everything Must Move’s design:
1. Anything can be next to anything
2. Should be attenuated, vaguely amorphous
3. Should have punctuation, as in a stim; then, will necessarily have dross
4. Should be real, warts and all
5. Should be poly-vocal, a product of many collaborations
6. Should not have zoning
7. Will be incomplete
8. Form will be driven by the project’s economics
9. It is what it is
The book includes some classic influential essays, such as Larup’s Stim and Dross (as well as a newer one called Toxic Ecology, focused on a critique of infrastructure) and excerpts from Albert Pope’s Ladders, both of which have become integral stepping stones in contemporary landscape urbanism theory, such as Berger’s DrossScape (discussed previously here). I found the informal interviews that reflect back on the past years interesting to read (see in particular the A-to-Z interview with Larup–the man is full of bon mos quips).
As you make your way through the material it becomes apparent just how many ways RICE has boldly explored the urban vagaries of extensive horizontal expansion (i.e. sprawl) from the bloody, sublime front lines; debunking conventional notions of city, and creating new definitions of the contemporary metropolis through their research. The work doesn’t feel entrenched in a single ideology or design method (cluster 7 seems very influenced by the London AA style of landscape urbanism, cluster 4 influenced by the problem of bigness, cluster 5 by process and digital prototyping a la Columbia University). The faculty seem to have taken iterative opportunistic approaches, trying out all kinds of design processes and fashions to see what works and what is bunk. In reading the book I was amazed at just how many people have passed through RICE as well as the program’s interdisciplinary leanings (i.e. they get an A+ from me). The back cover extensively lists all the contributors, including Bruce Mau, Sanford Kwinter, and Charles Waldheim.
Everything Must Move concludes with Lars Larup’s Seven Aphorisms: Aphorisms for a desgn method which are worth retelling (in abbreviated form) here:
#1 The contemporary metropolis, or rather that which has replaced the contemporary metropolis surrounds us but is invisible, escaping the gaze of the architect whose knowledge of the metropolis was calibrated for another time and place. We are committed to retooling our profession to engage the vast field of urban flows in which we wade.
#2 Thirty years ago architects were told they had lost the ability to affect the development of the metropolis. And we believed it, rushing headlong into oblivious irrelevance…we seek to reinvest architecture into the pragmatics of space by radically innovating the conditions and objects of the architects practice.
#3 Form has become the refuge of the architectural scoundrel, who seeks to hide in it from the forces which are rapidly hunting his discipline down.
#4 Space, rather than form, is the subject-matter through which architecture (landscape?) can begin to track the multiplicitous forces which configure the contemporary environment. This space is neither uniform, empty or static. It is a flux-space through which all the heterogeneous dynamics of the metropolitan field and the suburban ecology manifest. The forms of the city are the momentary calcifications of these spatial dynamics.
#5 The alphabetization of the architect’s knowledge and practice in modernity, its segmentation into discrete objects and competencies, must be reversed by investment in the connectivity of these elements. Ecological ethics are not just about environmentalism but about understanding the complex topography of effects, agents and phenomena that traverse all boundaries and borders of the built environment. gradients rather than walls, fields rather than plots, links rather than nodes, hybrids rather than essences, slurries rather than names.
#6 The impending environmental calamity, for which the city will be a primary site, is at once the architect’s last hope and greatest challenge.
#7 We hope to engender a performative understanding of the built environment as a dance of matters, forces, ideas, things, economies, subjects.