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Invited Distinguished Professor:

Joris Puttenners.


Gabriel Esquivel,  Studio Professor

Texas A&M University


Team: Hans Steffes, Aaron Sheffield, Fernando Rosas and Rebecca Romero.

Counterfactuals, or discourses concerned with the alternative outcomes of situations, have been foundational to architectural discourse over the past century. They have been of particular interest in the post-modern, neo-liberal context in which movements like modernism and speculative realism have emerged from. Counterfactuals allow the architect to speculate about what society would look like if the ideals behind the discourse were unilaterally accepted. Epistemological questions asked through the lens of counterfactuals allow us to wonder how our experience can justify thought and allow us to talk about remote possibilities without the limitations of our immediate episteme.

These speculations raise very serious questions about why we accept our immediate reality and what is to be done about it. Counterfactuals hold a particular allure to architects as they blend fact and fiction, justifying any speculation as long as it purports a realist or scientific basis. The critical issue facing speculative realism is the distinction between fiction and lies. Fictions are told with the understanding that they are not truth and are intended to convey some moral, lesson, or hope. Lies are the blatant misrepresentation of reality in order to achieve some end, or convince others of the projects validity. While science and fiction are not incompatible they are not replacements for each other, thus the very subtle difference between science fiction and fiction science. This is the danger of counterfactuals, their inherent ungroundedness makes them easier to accept as truth, especially when engulfed in a firehose of untruth and propaganda. When immersed in such fictions, all this project can be is counterfactual.

In 1944 at the Democratic national convention, incumbent vice president Henry Wallace overwhelmingly won the nomination for Vice President to Franklin D. Roosevelt for his fourth consecutive term, making him the 33rd president of the United States. Following the end of second world war following the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and Japan, Wallace and Stalin signed a treaty promising that in exchange for Soviet ownership of Alaska, both sides would denuclearize and instead spend research funds on public interests such as humanitarian crises and materials and architecture research. The groundbreaking development of self replicating and repairing material allowed for the construction of large infrastructural and public works projects such as high speed trans-continental railroads, public housing, and immigration centers. The potential prosperity flaunted by the proponents of these innovations never came.

The miracle technologies were quickly co-opted by corporate powers and used to produce larger and more monotony. The wealth and prosperity promised by the efficiency of these new technologies was swallowed up by those with the capitol to utilize them and the wealth gap spiraled to record levels giving rise to a populist movement. The Henry A. Wallace Immigration Center was one of the first and only unique architectural expressions to come out of the “Architectural Revolution.” It was constructed in 1965 and served for 54 years before the rising populist movement condemned the flow of migrants into the United States from the northern border and the center was deemed a threat to national security.

● When they set up the fire hose of falsehood they are asserting that they are not constrained by reality

● There is nothing so humiliating and degrading as trying to prove the truth

● The goal is to rob facts and reality of their power

○ Its the storys we tell about facts (or counter facts) that influnce people

● “Truth isn’t truth”

● Facts and objective reality dont mater to people, interpretation does

● Don’t tell open ended stories, they can be distorted to mean whatever someone wants

● Speculative realism is in a particularly vulnerable position in that its disregard for reality

leaves it open to being co-opted by those who might use it for unsavory purposes.

● The critical issue is between lies and fictions, fictions have morals and are not intended

as replacements for reality, lies are intended to be believed as reality.

○ Lying that things are based in science and presenting them as engineered,

scientific solutions is dangerous to the profession and the discourse.


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