“Mindscapes” by Superstudio

There’s a quote at the beginning of “Mindscapes” which touches on an idea that’s been echoed in past essays in this series:

And having for years interrogated the stars on the itinerary to follow, the navigator drew the constellations in the night…. Having for centuries interrogated the earth, the farmer drew geometric patterns on hills and valleys, transforming them into mosaics…. Finally, after examining the omens, the founder of the city drew a geometric perimeter on the ground and thereon he built the city….

All these things—constellations, patterns for farms, city limits—are imposed upon the world. They are contrived. They have no right to exist, and they are neither correct or incorrect. These designs are our attempt to make order out of chaos, to control and manage some part of the environment around us. These things make so much sense to us, in fact, that we often forget that they are there. They seem almost as natural as the things they obscure. We look at a globe not remembering that there is no reason why it is placed with North at the top and South at the bottom, or why countries begin and end where they do. The grid, those lines marking latitudes and longitudes, are comforting in their rigidity.

Some of the projects in “Mindscapes” almost seem like a caricature of those ideas: order and rigidity and grids blown up to huge scale, something straight out of a science fiction paperback. I’ve come to understand it as a piece of speculative design and a commentary of how unchecked, rampant design (a distinctly human trait) in the end causes us to lose our own humanity. When we look at these landscapes, we see massive, spanning structures which trace a perfect line to a distance focal point. They in many cases (Logging Operation, Niagara: The Reflected Architecture) literally dominate the natural world. To us, they stick out and seem unnatural. But will they always? Humans have a remarkable ability to adapt to new environments. Very rarely do we notice all the unnatural buildings and landscapes we live and operate in today. Technology changes rapidly, but we rapidly assimilate it into our lives, adopt it into our work and play.