What About the WAIzine?

What About It? Part 1 to be released after the Chinese New Year

What About it? Part 1 is a printed narrative in magazine format that includes the production of the first two years of WAI Architecture Think Tank as well as several ongoing projects. The WAIzine would be released after Chinese New Year to commemorate the second anniversary of WAI Architecture Think Tank.

The prints will be on a limited edition.

For more information on availability: contact@wai-architecture.com

What About Dreaming in (in)forma?

What About Dreaming in Beijing?

By Nathalie Frankowski and Cruz Garcia

The Chinese capital wakened up under the veil of a thick cloud of sand. The sepia tinted light gave a gloomy atmosphere to the city which made the time of day uncertain. The cars and the streets were covered by a uniform layer of orange-colored dust. As the small sand particles were violently smashing on the glass windows, you could spot outside several courageous people fighting against the saturated wind; their faces partially covered by masks so as not to breathe in the sand, moving as if in slow motion, painfully trying to reach their destinations.

It would be the day that we discover “it”.

A tower was standing in the center of Beijing;
no one could remember how it got “there”. The tower looked simple from the outside. It was one of those buildings that despite its sheer size had nothing to alarm your senses. It could have been one of those developments that pop up from one day to the next like mushrooms after a rainy day.

When we first noticed the tower, the sand storm was not as severe as some hours before. The effect of the small particles flying in the air mixed with the dimmed light of the afternoon gave the building a mystical halo. As we were approaching from Dongzhimen Street, our curiosity started to grow stronger. When we got closer to the tower, we noticed to our surprise, that it was free-standing above the Hutongs. None of the traditional courtyard residences had been removed. Instead, the massive monolith seemed to levitate over them. We were left speechless at the
sight of this visual spectacle. We had never seen anything similar before. The contrast with the colossal proportions of the tower intensified the fragile appearance of the Hutongs. We had thought it impossible to see the old and the new coexist in such propinquity in a city where tabula rasa is a daily exercise.

Once inside the tower, we were astonished by what we saw, the sober and neutral façade had nothing in common with its interior. The building was
bustling with activity, smells, sounds, colors, textures. Every level that we reached had a different function or use. Some levels were housing entire Hutongs, others were parks or theaters, or neon lit markets, with a color palette like that rendered by Hayao Miyazaki. In fact the building seemed to be like an endless city contained between four walls.

As the sun outside
faded away, the tower turned gradually into a glowing lantern. The noise of the crowd grew loud enough so as to muffle our words. The laugher and conversation created a kind of uniform humming sound that was only interrupted by the sudden clap of hands of people cheering the dancing couples. In a matter of minutes the space appeared to us completely different from when we first came in. It was now almost impossible to walk between the staggering amount of people, the dining tables, and ambulant vendors.

Once outside the tower, after leaving its intense
excitement behind us, we noticed that even the size of the building had changed. It seemed to have gained some extra storeys during the night. Restless and under constant transformation the sight of such a monumental structure made us wonder if it was the city whose accumulation of layers was literally piling up as a tower, or if it was our growing understanding of Beijing which made the building appear like a city of endless possibilities.


Dreaming in Beijing Has Been Featured in the IV issue of (in)forma the official journal of the School of Architecture of the Universidad de Puerto Rico. The issue titled Living in the City includes a wide selection of articles, projects and interviews that feature Michael Sorkin, Ciudad Urban Think Tank, Rodrigo Vidal, Lilliana Ramos Collado, Jorge Lizardi Pollock, Andres Mignucci, Jorge Rigau, and Francisco Javier Rodriguez, between others.

What About Wall Stalker (Chapters)?


By Nathalie Frankowski and Cruz Garcia (WAI)

A Stalker is what people in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic (1971) call a whole new profession of misfits that risk their lives in the Zone (a mystical place of transcendental powers) to seize valuable things. A Wall Stalker then, is somebody who is taking the same risk to grasp whatever he can find in an equally mysterious Wall.

Wall Stalker is an animated architectural narrative, in which the characters of Andrei Tarkovski’s 1979 film Cталкер (Stalker) (based on Roadside Picnic) become the protagonists of a three man exodus from a city of icons, in search for the essence of architecture.

After opening with the title illustration, the first image of Wall Stalker shows an overview of Egoville, the capital of Ego in which the skyline is highlighted by a wasteland of desolated icons. This post-apocalyptic environment offers no hope for the three characters as they decide to break away from this city product of the cynicism of man, and reach for the legendary wall, where they believe the essence of architecture can be found. Once the characters leave the city behind them, they find themselves melancholically traveling through a purgatorial landscape of post-iconic desolation. Submersed in a forsaken desert with their last hopes about to evaporate, they finally spot the legendary wall they’ve been looking for. The mysterious presence of this mystical element becomes accentuated by its striking visual silence. Free of any kind of symbolism and stripped of any ideological aesthetic, the wall only offering for the three exhausted men is its inherent inertness. After completing their intended journey, the new predicament of the three wanderers will be how to grasp the mythical “essence” of the wall. From that moment on, their lives and the city will never be the same.

Wall Stalker is a graphic journey through the fictional subconscious of architecture. Using pieces of Jan Garbarek as acoustic background the architectural narrative is built around twelve chapters/photomontages that depict the three men odyssey through the dialectics of architecture and the city they created. The compositions of the twelve chapters not only absorb into its plot Tarkovski’s film but also pieces of El Lissitzky, Vladimir Tatlin, Paolo Soleri, Caspar David Friedrich, and Giambattista Piranesi in the form of collage, in order to create a scheme full of symbolism while simultaneously being disconnected from any other plot.

Wall Stalker is divided into three parts with four chapters/photomontages in each. The first Part is titled Egoville and includes The capital of Ego, The Meeting I, Exodus, and The Last Glimpse. The Second Part is named Un Voyage Purgatoire and includes Les Portes du désert, Sea of Sand, The wanderer, and Conquest. And the Third Part is The Wall, which includes The Meeting II, Inquisition, No turning Back, and Blindness.

Wall Stalker is the first of a trilogy of architectural narratives of WAI Architecture Think Tank that explore the essence of architecture.


The capital of Ego

The Meeting I


The Last Glimpse

Un Voyage Purgatoire

Les Portes du désert

Sea of Sand

The wanderer


The Wall

The Meeting II


No turning Back


What About the Burning Icon?

What About the Burning Icon?

By Nathalie Frankowski and Cruz Garcia

Rem Koolhaas is not Howard Roark. Nevertheless last year on February the 9th it appeared that for once reality could have been inspired by a book, when Koolhaas gave the illusion of becoming the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead (1943). During the Lantern Festival that marks the end of the Chinese New Year’s celebrations, the TVCC tower was set ablaze. While for hours a thick smoke curtain floated above the uncontainable flames, those eager to fantasize about architecture started wondering about this peculiar image. Imagine: the destruction of the hotel and convention center on behalf of his author would be perversely audacious; a perfect climax for an already known plot.

Rand’s novel highlighted the erosive friction that exists between the architect and the politics of architectural quality. The story exposes the struggle of the modern architect—willing to exhaust all his energy in his quest for quality—in front of the mediocre world of the profession—willing to do everything to make his mission impossible. This dialectical relationship of the architect and the profession reached its apotheosis when Howard Roark—the irreverently modern architect—upset with the impasse of the profession, decided to blow up his own project.

Roark took the fate of his design in his own hands. He determined that his building should be destroyed when he recognized that the politics that surrounded the quality management of the project appeared to becoming a vortex that swallowed into sheer awfulness everything which was within reach—and that his building was not going to be an exception. When he grew upset with his Cortlandt Homes scheme because of the alterations to his original design, he didn’t hesitate before he decided to destroy it or felt unabashed after. The implosion of the welfare project he designed came as a critique to an architectural culture driven by incompetence and mediocrity. For Roark there were no doubts about deleting a mistake, and they—the profession—according to his vision, had failed to execute the project according to his quality standards. If Howard Roark had anything, it was conviction and with the explosion of Cortlandt he made his point clear: he wouldn’t allow anybody—clients, developers, contractors, builders, critics or the public—to stand between him and his chef d’oeuvre.

Would it be absurd then, to raise a hopeful and maybe naïve “what if” and wonder what would have happened if Koolhaas assumed the role of The Fountainhead’s main character? What if like Roark, Koolhaas decided to eliminate his own building just for the sake of delivering a powerful message? What if the architect in charge stopped suffering from that hazardous impotence that he claims is the condition of architecture, and confronted the wave instead of just surfing on it? What if the moral incompatibility of the client’s demands was the factor that triggered the building’s fate? What if Koolhaas decided to risk it all while starting a battle against the agents of architecture’s misfortune? What if for once architecture quality only depended on the architect?

By doing so, Koolhaas could be more than just denouncing an architecture that has become incapable of adapting to a period of economic, environmental, and ideological struggle. By destroying his own work he could have become an impersonation of the Nietzschean madman, an architectural Zarathustra, a rebellious prophet. His herculean effort would have faded the image of the martyrdom of the impotent architect under the unbearable power of mean institutions, despotic politics, unscrupulous clients and envious public. Being Howard Roark could have challenged the cynical attitude that architects frequently use to justify projects of questionable ethics like Mies’ proposals for a Nazi National Pavillion in 1933 (for the 1935 Brussels World Fair), or the museum of tolerance in Jerusalem that Frank Gehry projected over an ancient Muslim cemetery, or the Faustian flirt that makes architects feel aroused by the impertinence of scraping the most uncomfortable corners of memory like on the Haus Der Kunst renovation in Berlin.

Koolhaas igniting the TVCC tower could have been the apotheosis of a year of extreme highs and lows. Blowing up the building on the New Year’s celebrations would have marked a breaking point between a time of genialities and monumental inaugurations and a new period that would see few openings and that would face a climate of anguish and disconcerting fate. Koolhaas destroying the work for his biggest and wealthiest sponsor would have made people point fingers in all directions, plotting theoretical schemes for such a catastrophic meltdown. All the questions regarding the authorship of this apocalyptic incident would have evaporated after Koolhaas had taken responsibility for his actions. “I burned the building”, he would have announced.

By condemning himself, not only would he commit all the other stars of the architectural constellation to assume responsibility for what they have created, but architects would start handling more than just the artistic credit of their project, as they would take the ethical one too. Junkspace , The Generic City and the rest of Koolhaas’ intellectual repertoire would stop being read as academic essays and instead would be immediately raised to cult status, being praised and hated for their political agenda. Architecture would stop being used as a vehicle of political propaganda and instead would assume its own aesthetic, ethic, and political agenda.

People would create and endless list of theories that would surface regarding Koolhaas intentions for terminating his own work. Some would think that he grew upset with the project not being carried out on time for the Olympics that were held months before the fire broke out. Others might speculate about his critical position towards his client, about their clashing views on politics, quality and management. All of this would add up to create a great expectation for the jury against the architect. And when the time of the judgment came the world (or those interested) would watch in astonishment as Koolhaas’ allegations were spelled out denouncing all the reasons that led him to finish his project. Standing in front of the judge he would read his testimony: being sponsors of the massive overspending; being the builders of the modern pyramids for the contemporary pharaohs; leading an army of uncritical designers looking for fame; feeding a media that only responds to glitter and glamour; ignoring the demands of a crisis that had eroded all layers of coherent development, destroying architecture in order to save it from mediocrity.

But the fact is that Koolhaas did not burn the tower of the TVCC. The fire that illuminated the night of Beijing for hours seems to have been the result of an accident with fireworks. The zinc that sent uncontrollable flames was not a premeditated spectacle; there was no supposed hidden message behind the fire. At the end of this story, there won’t be a Cortlandt Homes trial against Koolhaas. The Dutch architect will not have denounced the ineptitude on a monumental scale of the profession in a court case against a battalion of politicians and infuriated developers. Architecture will continue to be an exercise for the powerful, and the economically privileged, while the architects will still be seduced by the flash of the cameras and the brightness of the papiercouché.

In The Fountainhead, the architect became a hero by leading the way towards an architecture of high quality by any means necessary. At the moment we have all the elements necessary to make our own novel; but, will we finally have our hero or will Howard Roark only remain a fictitious personage?

special thanks to Federico Pedrini

What About the Politics of Quality Management?

WAI has been featured in Conditions Magazine

WAI’s What About the Burning Icon? has been featured in the double issue of CONDITIONS dedicated to “The Politics of Quality Management”. The magazine includes works, interviews, projects and articles from NAI director Ole Bouman, Pritzker Prize Executive Director Martha Thorne, Norwegian practice Jensen & Skodvin, Polymath Dr. Rachel Armstrong, French practice Phillipe Rahm Architectes, and graphic wonder Jimenez Lai, between others.

To order a copy: www.conditionsmagazine.com

What About Portfolio Interview?

WAI’s Interview has been featured in Damdi’s latest publication Portfolio

The Interview in English as follows:

Q. Is your portfolio for your own or for an office? What is the difference between the two?

Our portfolio is for our office, WAI Architecture Think Tank. The office portfolio focuses on the particular design philosophy of WAI; in this way our first concern is to integrate theoretical texts, which we consider as a major part in our approach, as well as underlining the development of our different projects ranging from pure research, urbanism, architecture and several experimental mediums, like magazines, film and exhibition art. An individual portfolio, for somebody as young as us, would usually focus more on the diversity of approaches and experiences that you can acquire through your studies and professional practice.

Q. What is the most important element in a portfolio?

For us it can be seen as the good balance between content and layout. Too much of either of those elements can alter the harmony, and result in a portfolio too heavy in the first case, or a portfolio too banal in the second.

Q. How do you select the works to be included in the portfolio? Where does the most successful project placed within the portfolio? What is the best way to order the projects?

It all depends on the projects that you have, and what you want to communicate through the portfolio. It is common to think that the logic corresponds to a chronology, with the most recent projects or the projects that portray the best of your development in the beginning to make a good first impression.

Q. What makes a successful portfolio?

A really successful portfolio is the one that highlights your capacities. A portfolio is something very personal that should reflect the best characteristics of the author. The size, layout and colors should variate according to the preference of the author, as long as it takes into account that which is most suitable way to display his or her work.

Q. What is the most effective layout?

What can be reckon as being a clear layout would be a design that doesn't obliterates the content. The layout should help to showcase the work displayed without competing with it.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?

We are constantly reading and looking around us. We get inspiration everywhere, from graphic design websites, contemporary magazines on design and culture, to the historical research we do for theoretical projects as on the 20th century avant-garde movement in art and architecture that particularly interest us .

Q. If there is one, what is the weakness or needs of development of your portfolio? If none, how can you make the perfect portfolio?

In the name of WAI architecture, we are concerned in developing our design philosophy, and that is reflected in our portfolio. For us the most important thing is how to manage to have substance and content in what we do, and how to create a visual language that displays it. In that sense our portfolio will develop as our projects get more complex and our practice more mature.

Q. What are the most common mistakes made by people making portfolio?

A very common mistake in portfolio making is the overload of material. Editing plays a major rôle at the time of making a portfolio. Very often portfolios get too saturated with material, and sometimes even too crowded with a unrefined layout. Another issue is to avoid emphasizing too much on yourself, taking the focus away from the projects.

Q. Is there a rule in making a portfolio?

For us a portfolio is like a personal magazine; the project images, content, information, and text in our case, should be integrated harmoniously. It usually follows the same logical order as in a magazine, with a front cover, followed by a small curriculum vitae, an index or page of contents and then the projects. The colors, texts, titles and images are to the discretion of the author; we don't think there is one rule for it.

Q. When and why did you make your first portfolio?

What can be considered as our first portfolio is a magazine called « What About It? Part 1 ». The publication represented a compendium of one year of WAI's work. The challenge was how to address graphically the underlying consistency of ideas behind all the different projects, even when they varied from publication texts, to architecture and urbanism competitions, to film and exhibitions.

Q. Anything to say to those making their first portfolio? If you were in the shoes of one who is judging the portfolio, what would you look for and why?

A good portfolio should achieve two main goals: be a good visual tool, and at the same time be clear about the capacities of the author. When we are judging a portfolio, we look for a line of thoughts behind the designs and the craftsmanship of the author (i.e. model making, image making, renderings, CAD).

To see complete interview and portfolio see Damdi’s Portfolio Volume 5.

Interview Available in English and Korean

To Buy a Copy: www.damdi.co.kr/

What About Post?

WAI has been featured in POST POST POST Nuevas Arquitecturas Iberoamericanas Exhibition

WAI Think Tank has been selected to be part of an exhibition in the CCEBA (Centro Cultural de España) in Buenos Aires.

The exhibition that spans from August 11 to September 11 includes selected practices from Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, España, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Paraguay, Perú, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela. Between them: A77, Estudio POP Arq (Argentina), Grupo Bijari (Brasil), Supersudaka (Chile), Mesa Editores, Plan b, and JPRCR (Colombia), Estudio A0, and Somadic Collaborative (Ecuador), Fabrica de Paisaje, Monica Galain (Uruguay), Mateo Pinto D’Lacoste & Carolina Cisneros (Venezuela), Tatiana Bilbao (México), Edgar González, elii Agencia de Arquitectura and C+ Arquitectos (España) and Pedro Bandeira (Portugal).

For More information visit the CCEBA : www.cceba.org.ar

Revista Plot: www.revistaplot.com/

What About Mark?

WAI has been featured in MARK Magazine

WAI’s project for a Fashion Museum Tower Vertical Omotesando has been featured in the Notice Board of Mark Magazine’s 27th issue. This number of the leading architecture magazine features projects and interviews from standardarchitecture, Michael Sorkin, Neutelings Riedijk, Preston Scott Cohen, Michael Maltzan, Giancarlo Mazzanti & Felipe Mesa, and Peter Eisenman, between others.

To order a printed copy www.mark-magazine.com

What About Wall Stalker?


WAI’s Wall Stalker is the first of a trilogy of Architectural Narratives that explores the Essence of Architecture.

Stay tuned to WAI for the complete release.

What About the Last Urbanisms?

Potentially Valuable

What About reconsidering the last (Hardcore) Urbanisms?

By Nathalie Frankowski and Cruz García (WAI)

L’urbanisme n’existe pas : ce n’est qu’une « idéologie », au sens de Marx.

-Attila Kotanyi [1]


Urbanism is not a profession; it is ideology in a pure state. Often confused with urban planning, its real value gets undermined; its potential spoiled. Urban planning can be taught in school, and like architecture, it has become a conformist result of endless discussions, bureaucratic dialogues, constant editing and undesirable modifications. On the other hand urbanism implies an intoxicating faith in the power of design to transform the city and whoever that lives in it. Urbanism is architecture’s oxymoron: if Architecture is constrained, urbanism is unlimited. How to explain that urbanism as a belief has ceased to exist just when prosthetic architectural reincarnations of yesterday’s ideal cities seem to be proliferating everywhere? Are those architectures organs without a body? Would we be able to unearth the corpse?


A contingent of statistical failures has forced urban visionaries to abandon utopia in exchange for taxable facsimiles. Usually accompanied by totalitarian regimes the potential of urbanism has been abandoned, overlooked; never again seriously considered. After declaring “all the solid melted into air”, urban production has been reduced to a belated and partial reclaiming of the city. Paradoxically, architecture has become the immediate substitute for urbanism at the very moment that architects stopped talking about architecture and concentrated all their “manifestoes” on the city. We have read an endless list of (post-modern?) arguments about generic cities and junkspaces, metacities and datatowns, spaces of flow, green cities and virtual networks, and all the other speculations about contemporary urban understanding, but we have failed to see the staggering potential of the last real urbanisms. More than forty years ago urbanism was declared dead, and after that nobody has even tried to resurrect it. Conformity with the status quo and the role of the architect as a rockstar has forced a prolonged disqualification of the wholesome ambitions of urbanism. In order to claim relevance the architect has remained irrelevant; the urbanist has become nonexistent.

Bolshevik Urbanism


Despite its premature abandonment urbanism is not finished. The inevitable resurgence of Brasilia fifty years after its creation proves that ideas don’t die. A statement on the belief of the spatial politics of Juscelino Kubitschek, Brasilia reinforces the notion that the true value of urbanism doesn’t lie in the conformist policies of categorized living standards, but in the potential to establish visionary plans with a strong determination. A newly founded Brazilian capital marked the apotheosis of a period characterized by an intense intellectual urban brainstorming fueled by social reform and political ambition. Motivated by decades of social instability, urbanism became a tour de force in the hand of visionaries. From the Bolshevik constructivists, to a Le Corbusier led CIAM, urbanism was the ultimate tool for change; a deus ex machina for social transformation.

Le Corbusian Urbanism


Urbanism’s passionate involvement with utopia has evaporated into the air. The twentieth century alone saw urbanism dissolve from the most volatile, experimental and intellectually fertile period into a passive analytical phase that extends right up to today. [2] It’s not a coincidence that the heroic period of Modern Architecture was not driven by architecture but by the appeal of the city as a hotbed for social, political, and economical transformation. After the Bolshevik revolution urbanism was highly fueled by ideology and ideology was being catalyzed by urbanism. The series of stratagems utilized by the architects of the revolution were not only relegated to the creation of propaganda, the city, and hence its architecture, became a monument for the class struggle and a collective infrastructure for the highly mechanized communal lifestyle of the new “ruling” working class. As strongly as these ideologies were manifest in the projected urban landscape, the palette of proposals could not have been more diverse; une autre ville pour autre vie was easily translated into whatever form urbanism can take. During this same period Le Corbusier went from declaring a war on the actual city with his publication Urbanisme and the presentation of the Plan Voisin (both released in 1925), to using the CIAM—the most ambitious modernist enterprise—as a screen to project his urban intentions. [3][4] After him, a fluctuating series of sublime urbanisms took shape, from the rapidly multiplying Metabolist cities in Japan, to the high flying Architecture Mobile of Yona Friedman and the GEAM, to the Walking, and the Instantaneous and Plug-In Cities of Archigram. Even the Situationists with their sharp critique on modernist urbanism –especially on Le Corbusier, went on to develop their own customized version of urbanism: Constant’s New Babylon.

Situationist Urbanism


Forty years after those clouds of tangible possibilities dissolved from the urban atmosphere, the remaining forms of urbanism have been turned into an exhaustive catalog of pessimistic explanations and uncompromising arguments. No matter how strong the convictions can be, or how inevitably obvious the ideas can seem, urbanism appears to be unable to be crystallized into concrete forms. What would happen if, with the humorous sense of a Foucaultean genealogy, we decided to carry out an archaeological survey of the remnants of the last specimens of urbanism? What if we decided to analyze them not by their known fate, but by their conceptual value? What if for once we stopped admiring that last breed of hardcore urbanisms by their seductive aesthetics and their aura of naïve ingenuity and evaluate the potential they had to carry out the hedonistic utopias that the old reformers envisioned? Maybe then, we would stop looking at urbanism as a fossilized enigma, reconsider its true value and grasp its ultimate potential.

Archigram Urbanism

Metabolist Urbanism

[1]. Attila Kotanyi, “Programme élémentaire du Bureau d’Urbanisme Unitaire” originally appeared in Internationale Situationniste #6 (Paris, August 1961).

[2].Ideological Urbanism or Hardcore Urbanisms as stated in this article passed through three main phases during the Twentieth Century: revolutionary, reactionary and analytical. The revolutionary period started to reach its peak during the 1920’s with the Bolshevik revolution, the multiple ideal cities proposed by Le Corbusier and the creation of the CIAM, and lasted until the upheavals of 1968 following the dismissal of the CIAM. The reactionary period post 1968 includes projects like Superstudio’s Il Monumento Conitnuo, Archizoom’s No-Stop City (both 1969) and Rem Koolhaas’s Exodus or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture(1972). These proposals were created as ironical critiques on urbanism and its tools of representation. The beginnings of the analytical period could be traced to the publication of Robert Venturi and Denisse Scot-Brown’s Learning from Las Vegas (1972). This category marks a distancing from the proactive urbanistic proposals of the reactionary period and creates a more descriptive attitude towards the city. The projects –between them Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York, and all the other observations on Atlanta, Lagos, Pearl River Delta, Singapore (just to mention a few) —are more observations that incursions on the city.

[3]. The Plan Voisin was an adaptation of the project for three millions of inhabitants or “Ville contemporaine de trois millions d'habitants.”

[4]. A Le Corbusier fueled CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) produced documents like La Charte d'Athènes, that summarized under an official document that the future city relied under the four canonical values of travailler, habiter, circuler, et le cultivar le corps et le spirit.