Formative Complexity: OMA / Seattle Public Library (globalized studio typology)

The main theoretical alternative to [the largely structuralist conception of] totalities is what the philosopher Gilles DeLeuze calls assemblages, [that is] wholes characterized by relations of exteriority…assemblages are made up of parts which are self-subsistent [so] that a part may be detached and made am element of another assemblage. Assemblages are characterized along two dimensions: along the first dimension are specified the variable roles which the component parts may play, from a purely material role to a purely expressive one…a second dimension characterizes processes in which the components are involved processes which stabilize or destabilize the identity of the assemblage (territorialization and deterritorialization).  (De Landa, A New Philosophy of Society, 10-19)

Among the projects I analyzed in the fall, OMA’s Seattle Public Library (SPL) façade details stood out as perfect tools to investigate the complexity inherent in the transnational cooperative agreements which parsed its design process. At the most fundamental level, take the fact that OMA is a Rotterdam-based firm, which (despite the presence of an American branch) chose to partner with a local design firm — Seattle-based LMN Architects — to complete this project; furthermore, as the design team coalesced it became increasingly split into several functional groups, one centered on OMA and their European manufacturing contacts (the former provided the parti for the building and massing models for early fundraising and the latter — Seele GmbH — fabricated the façade); a second focused on the concrete and steel of the central masses of the library (Hoffman Constructionand Magnusson Klemencic Associates), and a third on the discreet programmatically-defined interior finishes and public procession through the building (LMN and Arup Services Division). This territorialization of subsets of the assemblage actually acts to destabilize the identity of the overall assemblage, I would argue.

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