introduction

In its inaugural semester at Columbia, the Network Architecture Lab investigates the role of logistics in the Northeastern American megalopolis.

Our studio begins with the premise that if contemporary culture is defined by the network, that definition takes place not only in the immaterial but also in the physical.

For researchers in new media, the debate between the dominance of the real and the virtual is over, our interest instead being absorbed by the dialectical motion between the two. In place of dwelling on how the virtual will supplant the real (“this will kill that), we seek to analyze how the virtual and the real hybridize and deform under pressure from escalating technological developments.

The Economist Magazine recently suggested that although the Internet may be the most talked about network of our day, it is hardly separable from the "physical Internet," the world of logistics and its contemporary embodiment as supply-chain management. This global chain of just-in-time command and control ensures that products are assembled and sent to us to consume them with virtually no delay in inventory. For its part, the Internet has exacerbated the demand for such products by making possible greater efficiencies in supply-chain management, lowering costs while allowing greater customization.

By looking both at the assembly of individual objects and supply chains, we can address a series of crucial questions for the field. What implications do logistics have for architecture? If we are moving from objects to networks, what does this say about architectural and urban conditions? What role does architecture have in the regime of the rapidly moving, hastily assembled object?

Understanding this often-surreptitious transit of things allows us to respond to Bruno Latour's demand that we make things public, that we expose the lives of objects, all too often left out of politics.

In the course of our investigation we seek to understand our fatal love affair with the object, that is the resistence of objects to fully give themselves up to us and, conversely our willingness to supplicate ourselves in front of them. If just-in-time logistics promises immediate, custom-made satisfaction, it only makes our relationship to the object ever more fraught.