A Media Centre for Manhattan in the Age of Post Truth
Marston Bowen & Ben Feher with the guidance of William Feuerman for a final year M.Arch design studio @ the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) School of Architecture
This project is a proposal for a media centre in Midtown Manhattan, located on the site currently occupied by Trump Tower. The project brief required the integration and re-appropriation of ‘White House North’ – or the Trump residence into a new chosen umbrella program – that of a Media Centre. As the Trump family and Trump himself, continued to occupy the penthouse residence atop Trump Tower well into and after the 2016 presidential election campaign, the building underwent intensive policing and securitisation of its POPS (Privately Owned Public Space) on the lower levels. In the wake of the Trump presidency and following the Occupy Wall Street Protests of 2011 in Zuccotti Park, A Media Centre for Manhattan in the Age of Post Truth investigates how the generation of a new kind of public space into a a politically charged site can deal with the paradoxical condition of security and publicness, and the role architecture has in a world of ‘alternative facts’.
“If architecture in the age of Trump is to be possible, it must first address its relationship to truth.” – Log 39
Panel 01 – Information Architecture
Architecture must situate itself within an environment of post truth – a new condition which both projected a pathological liar to the US presidency and continues to be perpetuated by the administration, most notably the Office of the Press Secretary. The world of post truth is exponentially intensified by algorithmically curated news feeds that trap citizens within a self sustaining bubble of media consumerism. If alternative facts are masking truth and interrupting or distorting the objective communication of current and past events, algorithms via social networks, news sites and online media sources are further limiting or enabling certain kinds of information to transmit to the public. The public citizen is both complicit and a bystander in this act. The new media centre must negotiate architecture via the production, consumption and dissemination of different forms of physical media.
Panel 02 – Program Interface
What does it mean to build a media centre in an age of post truth and information saturation? We propose a new interface in which 3 key actors participate – the public citizen, the press and the policy maker. A media centre in the age of post truth will favour the physical participatory consumption of media. The program of the centre will encourage the live consumption of media, primarily through its schizophrenic nature as both a machine of outward broadcasting and as a media library/archive. The library serves as the connective tissue within the building, negotiating the menagerie of different and diverse programs, and providing a singular moment in which all are tied together through information.
Panel 03 – Building as Campus
The programmatic complexity of the media centre is configured through the stacking of each program, resulting in a vertical campus of buildings. Whilst a single structure and envelope tectonically unifies the campus, the facade is expressive of this differentiation. The middle of the building, the unique part of the New York skyline that has traditionally been ignored by tall buildings, becomes a new public plaza, doubling as a reading room to which the information of the building is released to. The reading room becomes an extension of the street up through the machine cores, releasing the public citizen unto a new city datum.
Panel 04 – Archive as Machine
No longer is the archive a stagnant storage facility. The machine facilitates the vertical and lateral transportation of information, both material and immaterial, centring around each core within the building. Each stack is tied back to the core via a system allowing it to detach from either a horizontal rail or vertical rail set, and a pneumatic locking system allows for each stack to be precisely positioned within the machine room, before either rotating to a different angle, or being carried by the ceiling rails to another core. A computer is housed within each stack, and is wirelessly connected to a master control room within the machine room. The machine room is at the heart of the building, where all requests are sent, after which the stacks redistribute themselves accordingly. The machine room also houses 4 cylindrical motors, powering the centrifugal frame that allows stacks to be rotated around each core. Vertical transportation systems for humans – fire escapes and elevators – run directly though the middle of the core, with egress and entry points positioned on diagonal corners. The dual movement of people and information within the media centre becomes expressed through the technologies that facilitate these operations, intersecting the two within this moment.
Who influences you graphically?
It would be hard to say if there was a specific influence. I think the range of graphic media we have been exposed to both online and in our architecture degrees somehow subconsciously filters into the way we draw our projects.
What defined the language of representation of the project? How could the format of ‘media’ have been played around with challenging the notion of the medium is the message?
The language of representation really evolved in parallel to the project. There was no design stage and then a final production stage. Rather, we began working on each panel on by one as we fleshed out our ideas, constantly tweaking and modifying each drawing as we advanced. With each drawing in progress next to one another, we began to formulate a clearer vision of what each graphic was telling the viewer precisely about the project.
Several of our drawings were designed to expose our ideas. For example, the ‘Information Architecture’ drawing forced us to rationalise how we treated the consumption of media in the project by exposing every situation in which media and people interacted. The drawing evolved as our investigation and design matured.
Where do you see this project going next? How has it affected how you will operate as an architect?
For us, the project has cemented the idea that the architectural project can have critical value oriented towards real world events. Whilst the outcome is a speculative architecture and very much native to the discipline, the discussions and research conducted during the production phase challenged our critical perception of cultural and political events.
What was your work process in terms of project development from the initial collage to the final images? Which programs did you use?
The entire project was worked through Rhino for 3D modelling and line work. We then took to Photoshop and Illustrator for post-production.