Wired is a magazine that sounds out, studies and shapes the symbiosis between culture and new technology. A forward-looking, model magazine, it reaches out to a readership that effortlessly navigates between reviews of the latest 'Prefuse 73', the military strategy of North Korea, and the Garmin Rino 120. To guest editor Rem Koolhaas, the world's most wired architect, the honour of compiling an unconventional lexicon for the 21st century. Koolhaas invited a cadre of intellectuals and researchers to outline their views on space in the world that is emerging, the only restriction being that all concepts are suffixed by the word 'space'. What follows, and I list them for the sake of completeness, is an inventory of 26 concepts: EURO, NANO, SPACE, RELATIONSHIP, DUMP, VOICE, OFFICE, HOME, BUSH, PROTEST, BODY, RESEARCH, TIGHT, ART, SEX, CROWD, FUTURE, SECURE, COLOR, BLOG, ROBO, DNA, AD, GOLF, LIMBO and PUBLIC SPACE. Among the contributors are Mark Leonard, Martha Stewart, Sanford Kwinter, Miuccia Prada, Hans Ulrich Obrist and R.E. Somol. But what is Koolhaas trying to tell us with this offbeat atlas grounded in indetermination and amplified contrast? That he's a Tireless Mythical Atlas shrewdly making sense of the dilemmas facing the world?
'Our old ideas about space have exploded', Koolhaas proclaims as he posits new concepts of space, not in an architectural sense, but ones that are applied conceptually and metaphorically in other domains. Examples are legion, he tells us. Chat rooms, Web sites and firewalls must convince us that our old ideas about space have been adopted by virtual counterparts, like flash architects and PowerPoint urbanists. With this '-space' approach, however, Koolhaas diminishes and dilutes the very concept of space, and each contribution in Wired amounts to a gentle assault on the notion of space.
And then a look at some of the contributions. First that from AMO. Depicted under the title Atlas Space are new borders, new points of contention, new islands, new politics (leftist activism versus right-wing conservatism) and the new globalists. It is a well-illustrated presentation of contemporary geographical transformations that define the current global situation. In general, each contribution can be reduced to, firstly, an analysis of the state of affairs and, secondly, a view of what the future holds in store. In Space Space, for example, William J. Clancey talks about how humans adapt their behaviour to negotiate small spaces and the as yet unexploded concept of 'habitat', which he examined at the Mars Desert Research Station. Other concepts cover more familiar territory: Relation Space deals with the network society; Voice Space looks at audio signage in public space à la 'Mind the Gap'; Border Space highlights some specific borders; in Art Space Hans Ulrich Obrist discusses Van Lieshout's AVL-Ville; and Blog Space examines logbooks posted on Internet. The conclusion of each of these notions of space is fairly simple: we need to find a balance between humanity and technology. Space in the future, after its explosion, thus seems like a LAT relationship inside the Big Brother house.
Of interest to architects and urbanists is an interview with Martha Stewart. In Home Space she explains how in her magazines and on her TV shows she wants to teach people 'that in that edited space can be… life'. She sees a future in voice-activated computer screens. Here, too, the future is a continuous updating of built-in support technology. In Golf Space R.E. Somol examines the defining tool of the golf course in urban design. Seeing evidence of a shift from the grid pattern that once defined American development, he claims that the landscape is no longer merely a resource for health and adventure but something that '… effortlessly combines personal security and group play, community identity and topographical variation'. But this is just an elaboration of the analysis Utopia of Golf© by Koolhaas in his study of the Pearl River Delta. In Waning Space - Delirious No More the man himself lets fly at New York. His analysis of New York since the 1950s reads as a Shakespearean epic in which cowardice and heroism alternate with each other with increasing rapidity. The protagonists are the Twin Towers, the NY of the 1970s, and the 'I ♥ NY' - slogan - 'Its logo, like a brand, diminishes the virtual space of the city' - in which narcissism conceals a fear of the new. His text zooms in on 9/11 and NY's surrender to empathy. In the apotheosis of the article, which deals with the reconstruction of Ground Zero, Koolhaas comes with the type of urban lament he has seldom written. He hovers over New York like the doubtful, broken-hearted lover in a film noir, denounces her new sweetheart, 'an immigrant', and leaves her a departing note: '...the city will live with five towers, wounded by a single scything movement of the architect, surrounding two black holes. (...) Instead of the confident beginning of the next chapter, it captures the stumped fundamentalism of the superpower. Call it closure.'
In Wired Koolhaas posits a number of concepts in which 'words that die in the real are reborn in the virtual' (i.e. words that deal with space). The compilation is an absorbing inventory to delve into, but it doesn't offer a fundamental framework of possibilities for the future after the explosion. And that is strange, because some years ago Koolhaas succeeded in making a splendid symbiosis of the virtual and spatial with the following remark: 'Richard Meier everywhere. A new category: virtual space that exists.' The 'Koolworld' in Wired leans on 'Koolspace', spaces that combine intellectual richness with intelligent poverty. And so while the guest editing may be of interest for history books, it is more a brief snapshot than the ultimate atlas. The latter would have required a more spatially specific approach.