Globalization, architecture, media

Keller Easterling and Erica Robles-Anderson hold recently a talk about globalization, architecture and media.

Architecture and globalization

Keller Easterling explains through examples what kind of spatial products does the globalization generate. The huge and dense agglomeration of generic skyscrapers, resorts, free trade zones or the romanticized villages of the suburbs are in her view a product of a supra-national powers, that are able to define the way in which millions of people experience the world. Echoing Henri Lefebvre, she argues that the most powerful tool of the global actors is the planing and construction of large urban agglomerations, which in turn lead the urban population towards a predermined ethos.

Both the manipulation of information and the flows of information enabled by the communication and computation technologies are the pillars upon which such transformation is based. The complex geometrical operations that the computer allows and the possibility to design spaces in distant geographies, are the tools that enable the transformation of the urban spaces by the global powers.

According to Easterling such urban spaces are among the major consequences of globalization, as they will determine for a extremely long period certain patterns of mobility, occupation, consumption and experience. The construction of such spaces compete with the power of the states to regulate the urban environment and enables the establishment of global powers in diverse local contexts, creating territories that function parallel to the states.

Architecture & Media

Erica Robles-Anderson has been working for about seven years on churches and the way in which they use architecture as a mean to transmit their religious message. She has been focusing on the so-called Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove (California). This church has a very large structure, capable of hosting 3.000 partisans and it was equipped with the very first worlds-tron-plasma screen.

With a background in computer science, Erica Robles-Anderson started to look for environments in which technology could be used to distribute information at a massive scale. The churches turned out to be a perfect example for her research purpose, because in the church a particular, sacral message is communicated in real time to a large audience. Contemporary media technologies have come to replace former methods of communication, such as the distribution of books among the audience. The introduction of contemporary technologies has created new ways in which the church members can participate in the shared experiences of the religious life.

The Crystal Cathedral, however, is not the result of a moment of holy inspiration. Instead, it is the result of a long development process, in which the church space endured a radical transformation that lead to the mentioned mediatization and augmentation of architecture.

The process started back in the 60’s when a small reformist church was searching for suitable location to carry out the holy service. The limitations of other places and the small amount of resources forced the church to innovate and use the Orange drive-in theater as a church. The particularities of the place posed some challenges for the members of the church and a slow process of appropriation of this already mediated space started. Billboards, booklets, messages and some adaptations of the scenario are part of the strategies that the church used to transform this profane space into a holy one. The drive-in church offers at the same time a private experience inside the automobile and a common experience mediated by the devices available at the theater.

Later, when the church collected the necessary resources, the ministers started to create their own churches, which were influenced both by the experiences collected in the drive-in and the fluidity of spaces introduced by Richard Neutra the architect commissioned for the design. The result was a church with lots of transparencies, fluent spaces, designed to massively broadcast the messages of the ministers and created the sense of a common experience. This building did not only allowed a massive assistance of  partisans but also settled the basis for the construction of structures like the Crystal Cathedral.