Aaron Parr 
Member since Dec 30, 2017


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Re: “Architect Eugene Tssui Might Be the Most Interesting Man in the East Bay

While I am impressed by Tssui's aesthetic vision, these all encompassing massive projects like the Ultima Tower are more suited to our current unsustainable political and economic system or Utopian fantasies like Star Trek rather than to any real future in which we should all have a stake.

The Ultima Tower suggests top down and centralized control, showing great disregard for the lives and needs of the people living in place now. Such projects would displace and disrupt and destroy the lives of huge numbers of people UNLESS an additional massive project simultaneously accommodated them during construction was also funded, and yet this would also disrupt other people and so on.

Far more interesting is architecture which is designed to be built, financed, maintained and operated from the bottom up rather than the top down.

Take a project like the Ultima Tower but consider it only public infrastructure, and design it to allow smaller scale building and development enterprises which constantly remake the city within it. Consider the current model of a highrise and subvert it to the form of a public street arranged vertically, each unit within it analogous to a separate parcel on a city street capable of being developed independently, the building providing all the infrastructure (like cranes, public utilities etc...) which are needed for a small enterprise to develop the parcel.

Then take the next step and consider the construction process and how you organize that to happen over a time frame which does not require an entire city to be wiped out and rebuilt in 25 years but instead can grow and evolve into such a tower over perhaps one or more centuries. Bringing the city into an arcology which resembles an ever evolving community structure more like a coral reef of many species living side by side rather than that of a community insect like ants or termites who all serve one individual.

You'd need public banking and worker owned and operated enterprises following charters written to keep us all on task for such a long term project while allowing the people doing the work to continuously adapt to the problems of their present. Our current model of development - private finance and crony capitalism for an election cycle or two - can not sustain this because it serves short term private interest rather than long term public interest.

And these huge projects as envisioned here would be controlled by the immensely wealthy/powerful. In addition their implementation does not consider the people of the present, nor of the future, but only that of the people who would be living within it upon the building's completion. I could be wrong but the Ultima Tower as presented in this article does not appear to be designed to evolve with its population or to adapt itself to accommodate the existing population during its construction. It is rather a fixed and lifeless thing like a work of art rather than like a city or living system which is in the constant flux of life. Again for a biological model, a coral reef is a better one than a termite mound because you have to consider the human systems within the structure rather than simply the physical qualities of the finished product.

In otherwords, while Tssui's work is indeed visually beautiful I don't see anything visionary about them. These are works of art in need of a patron which is more or less the model of market rate housing development except for projects like this the architect necessarily has more project control than the developer. I don't see that as particularly visionary, but rather as a doubling down on old ideas which are proven failures. His work is beautiful, but this is the work of a virtuouso rather than a visionary.

If I have mischaracterized his purpose I appologize. BUT the writer of the article has presented Tssui's work in this light, and that is what I am reacting to.

Posted by Aaron Parr on 12/30/2017 at 7:22 AM

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