Social condensor

From ArticleWorld

Social condensor is a term used in architecture, though it originates in the constructivist movement. A central premise, or conceit of architecture, is that space exerts a powerful influence on how people think and behave. A built social condensor is aimed at resisting, or at least not reproducing, the social ideologies embdedded in mainstream discourses of architecture. The point is to create more equitable, free public spaces which, in turn, foster more inclusive attitudes, which then, in turn, aid in truly creative thinking and living.

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas is a key figure in the movement to produce new fields of social encounter, and is known to describe the design of a social condensor in terms of changing patterns circulation in order to allow different agendas or 'programs' to intersect and overlap. These points of interaction are referred to as nodes, where disparate constituencies interact. Architects often see themselves as social engineers, and the contemporary work of Rem Koolhaas/ OMA strongly reflects this. The OMA text Content is often quoted as describing a social condensor thus: 'Programatic layering upon vacant terrain to encourage dynamic coexistence of activities and to generate through their interference, unprecedented events.' Koolhaas and graphic designer Bruce Mau explore these ideas in their influential books of architectural theory, Delirious New York and S, ML, L, XL.

The idea of a social condensor comes from the Russian constructivist school, which held that art need not be pure but should instead be used in the service of advancing social goals, here socialism. Yet some critics of the architectural movement allege that many spaces designed to be social condensors are indulgent, reflecting an architect's sense of self-importance, rather than truly helping equitable social encounters, because the design renders them inefficient and close to barely controlled chaos.