Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Norman Foster

Science of synchronization: Are we talking of Chinese swimmers?

“Your pacemaker is not a single cell. It’s this democracy of 10,000 cells that all have to fire in unison for the pacemaker to work correctly”

I was trying to think, how is sync connected to happiness, and it occurred to me that for some reason we take pleasure in synchronizing.

We like to dance together, we like singing together. And so, if you’ll put up with this, I would like to enlist your help with a first experiment today.

The experiment is — and I notice, by the way, that when you applauded, that you did it in a typical North American way, that is, you were raucous and incoherent. You were not organized. It didn’t even occur to you to clap in unison.

Do you think you could do it? I would like to see if this audience would — no, you haven’t practiced, as far as I know — can you get it together to clap in sync?

I mean, I expected you could synchronize. It didn’t occur to me you’d increase your frequency. It’s interesting.  

1:23 So what do we make of that?

First of all, we know that you’re all brilliant. This is a room full of intelligent people, highly sensitive. Some trained musicians out there. Is that what enabled you to synchronize?

let’s ask ourselves what are the minimum requirements for what you just did, for spontaneous synchronization. Do you need, for instance, to be as smart as you are? Do you even need a brain at all just to synchronize?

Inanimate objects might spontaneously synchronize themselves. It’s real.

In fact, I’ll try to explain today that sync is maybe one of the most pervasive drive in all of nature. It extends from the subatomic scale to the farthest reaches of the cosmos. It’s a deep tendency toward order in nature that opposes what we’ve all been taught about entropy.

 I’m not saying the law of entropy is wrong — it’s not. But there is a countervailing force in the universe — the tendency towards spontaneous order. And so that’s our theme.

to get into that, let me begin with what might have occurred to you immediately when you hear that we’re talking about synchrony in nature, which is the glorious example of birds that flock together, or fish swimming in organized schools.

these are not particularly intelligent creatures, and yet, as we’ll see, they exhibit beautiful ballets. This is from a BBC show called “Predators,” and what we’re looking at here are examples of synchrony that have to do with defense.

When you’re small and vulnerable, like these starlings, or like the fish, it helps to swarm to avoid predators, to confuse predators.

Let me be quiet for a second because this is so gorgeous. For a long time, biologists were puzzled by this behavior, wondering how it could be possible. We’re so used to choreography giving rise to synchrony. These creatures are not choreographed. They’re choreographing themselves.

only today is science starting to figure out how it works.

I’ll show you a computer model made by Iain Couzin, a researcher at Oxford, that shows how swarms work. There are just three simple rules.

First, all the individuals are only aware of their nearest neighbors.

Second, all the individuals have a tendency to line up. And

Third, they’re all attracted to each other, but they try to keep a small distance apart.

And when you build those three rules in, automatically you start to see swarms that look very much like fish schools or bird flocks. Now, fish like to stay close together, about a body length apart. Birds try to stay about three or four body lengths apart. But except for that difference, the rules are the same for both.

all this changes when a predator enters the scene.

There’s a fourth rule: when a predator’s coming, get out of the way. Here on the model you see the predator attacking. The prey move out in random directions, and then the rule of attraction brings them back together again, so there’s this constant splitting and reforming. And you see that in nature.

Keep in mind that, although it looks as if each individual is acting to cooperate, what’s really going on is a kind of selfish Darwinian behavior.

Each is scattering away at random to try to save its scales or feathers. That is, out of the desire to save itself, each creature is following these rules, and that leads to something that’s safe for all of them.

Even though it looks like they’re thinking as a group, they’re not. You might wonder what exactly is the advantage to being in a swarm, so you can think of several.

 if you’re in a swarm, your odds of being the unlucky one are reduced as compared to a small group. There are many eyes to spot danger. And you’ll see in the example with the starlings, with the birds, when this peregrine hawk is about to attack them, that actually waves of panic can propagate, sending messages over great distances.

You’ll see — let’s see, it’s coming up possibly at the very end — maybe not. Information can be sent over half a kilometer away in a very short time through this mechanism. Yes, it’s happening here. See if you can see those waves propagating through the swarm. It’s beautiful.

The birds are, we sort of understand, we think, from that computer model, what’s going on. As I say, it’s just those three simple rules, plus the one about watch out for predators.

There doesn’t seem to be anything mystical about this. We don’t, however, really understand at a mathematical level. I’m a mathematician. We would like to be able to understand better.

I showed you a computer model, but a computer is not understanding. A computer is, in a way, just another experiment. We would really like to have a deeper insight into how this works and to understand, you know, exactly where this organization comes from. How do the rules give rise to the patterns?

There is one case that we have begun to understand better, and it’s the case of fireflies. If you see fireflies in North America, they tend to be independent operators. They ignore each other. They each do their own thing, flashing on and off, paying no attention to their neighbors.

But in Southeast Asia — places like Thailand or Malaysia or Borneo — there’s a beautiful cooperative behavior that occurs among male fireflies. You can see it every night along the river banks. The trees, mangrove trees, are filled with fireflies communicating with light.

Specifically, it’s male fireflies who are all flashing in perfect time together, in perfect synchrony, to reinforce a message to the females. And the message, as you can imagine, is “Come hither. Mate with me.”

In a second I’m going to show you a slow motion of a single firefly so that you can get a sense. This is a single frame. Then on, and then off — a 30th of a second, there. And then watch this whole river bank, and watch how precise the synchrony is.

On, more on and then off. The combined light from these beetles — these are actually tiny beetles — is so bright that fishermen out at sea can use them as navigating beacons to find their way back to their home rivers. It’s stunning.

For a long time it was not believed when the first Western travelers, like Sir Francis Drake, went to Thailand and came back with tales of this unbelievable spectacle. No one believed them. We don’t see anything like this in Europe or in the West.

And for a long time, even after it was documented, it was thought to be some kind of optical illusion. Scientific papers were published saying it was twitching eyelids that explained it, or, you know, a human being’s tendency to see patterns where there are none. But I hope you’ve convinced yourself now, with this nighttime video, that they really were very well synchronized.

the issue then is, do we need to be alive to see this kind of spontaneous order, and I’ve already hinted that the answer is no.

Well, you don’t have to be a whole creature. You can even be just a single cell. Like, take, for instance, your pacemaker cells in your heart right now. They’re keeping you alive. Every beat of your heart depends on this crucial region, the sinoatrial node, which has about 10,000 independent cells that would each beep, have an electrical rhythm — a voltage up and down — to send a signal to the ventricles to pump.

Now, your pacemaker is not a single cell. It’s this democracy of 10,000 cells that all have to fire in unison for the pacemaker to work correctly.

I don’t want to give you the idea that synchrony is always a good idea. If you have epilepsy, there is an instance of billions of brain cells, or at least millions, discharging in pathological concert.

So this tendency towards order is not always a good thing. You don’t have to be alive. You don’t have to be even a single cell. If you look, for instance, at how lasers work, that would be a case of atomic synchrony.

In a laser, what makes laser light so different from the light above my head here is that this light is incoherent — many different colors and different frequencies, sort of like the way you clapped initially — but if you were a laser, it would be rhythmic applause. It would be all atoms pulsating in unison, emitting light of one color, one frequency.

1Now comes the very risky part of my talk, which is to demonstrate that inanimate things can synchronize. Hold your breath for me.

What I have here are two empty water bottles. This is not Keith Barry doing a magic trick. This is a klutz just playing with some water bottles. I have some metronomes here. Can you hear that? All right, so, I’ve got a metronome, and it’s the world’s smallest metronome, the — well, I shouldn’t advertise. Anyway, so this is the world’s smallest metronome.

I’ve set it on the fastest setting, and I’m going to now take another one set to the same setting. We can try this first. If I just put them on the table together, there’s no reason for them to synchronize, and they probably won’t.

Maybe you’d better listen to them. I’ll stand here. What I’m hoping is that they might just drift apart because their frequencies aren’t perfectly the same. Right? They did. They were in sync for a while, but then they drifted apart. And the reason is that they’re not able to communicate.

Now, you might think that’s a bizarre idea. How can metronomes communicate? Well, they can communicate through mechanical forces. So I’m going to give them a chance to do that. I also want to wind this one up a bit.

How can they communicate? I’m going to put them on a movable platform, which is the “Guide to Graduate Study at Cornell.” Okay? So here it is. Let’s see if we can get this to work. My wife pointed out to me that it will work better if I put both on at the same time because otherwise the whole thing will tip over.

All right. So there we go. Let’s see. OK, I’m not trying to cheat — let me start them out of sync. No, hard to even do that. So before any one goes out of sync, I’ll just put those right there.

 that might seem a bit whimsical, but this pervasiveness of this tendency towards spontaneous order sometimes has unexpected consequences. And a clear case of that, was something that happened in London in the year 2000.

The Millennium Bridge was supposed to be the pride of London — a beautiful new footbridge erected across the Thames, first river crossing in over 100 years in London.

There was a big competition for the design of this bridge, and the winning proposal was submitted by an unusual team — in the TED spirit, actually — of an architect — perhaps the greatest architect in the United Kingdom, Lord Norman Foster working with an artist, a sculptor, Sir Anthony Caro, and an engineering firm, Ove Arup.

And together they submitted a design based on Lord Foster’s vision, which was — he remembered as a kid reading Flash Gordon comic books, and he said that when Flash Gordon would come to an abyss, he would shoot what today would be a kind of a light saber.

He would shoot his light saber across the abyss, making a blade of light, and then scamper across on this blade of light. He said, “That’s the vision I want to give to London. I want a blade of light across the Thames.”

So they built the blade of light, and it’s a very thin ribbon of steel, the world’s — probably the flattest and thinnest suspension bridge there is, with cables that are out on the side.

You’re used to suspension bridges with big droopy cables on the top. These cables were on the side of the bridge, like if you took a rubber band and stretched it taut across the Thames — that’s what’s holding up this bridge. Now, everyone was very excited to try it out.

On opening day, thousands of Londoners came out, and something happened. And within two days the bridge was closed to the public. So I want to first show you some interviews with people who were on the bridge on opening day, who will describe what happened.

16:13 Man: It really started moving sideways and slightly up and down, rather like being on the boat.

16:21 Woman: Yeah, it felt unstable, and it was very windy, and I remember it had lots of flags up and down the sides, so you could definitely — there was something going on sideways, it felt, maybe.

16:31 Interviewer: Not up and down? Boy: No.

16:33 Interviewer: And not forwards and backwards? Boy: No.

16:35 Interviewer: Just sideways. About how much was it moving, do you think?

16:38 Boy: It was about —

16:40 Interviewer: I mean, that much, or this much?

16:42 Boy: About the second one.

16:44 Interviewer: This much? Boy: Yeah.

16:46 Man: It was at least six, six to eight inches, I would have thought.

16:49 Interviewer: Right, so, at least this much? Man: Oh, yes.

16:51 Woman: I remember wanting to get off.

16:53 Interviewer: Oh, did you? Woman: Yeah. It felt odd.

16:55 Interviewer: So it was enough to be scary? Woman: Yeah, but I thought that was just me.

17:01 Interviewer: Ah! Now, tell me why you had to do this?

17:04 Boy: We had to do this because, to keep in balance because if you didn’t keep your balance, then you would just fall over about, like, to the left or right, about 45 degrees.

Interviewer: So just show me how you walk normally. Right. And then show me what it was like when the bridge started to go. Right. So you had to deliberately push your feet out sideways and — oh, and short steps?

17:30 Man: That’s right. And it seemed obvious to me that it was probably the number of people on it.

17:37 Interviewer: Were they deliberately walking in step, or anything like that?

17:41 Man: No, they just had to conform to the movement of the bridge.

17:45 Steven Strogatz: All right, so that already gives you a hint of what happened. Think of the bridge as being like this platform. Think of the people as being like metronomes. Now, you might not be used to thinking of yourself as a metronome, but after all, we do walk like — I mean, we oscillate back and forth as we walk.

And especially if we start to walk like those people did, right? They all showed this strange sort of skating gait that they adopted once the bridge started to move.

And so let me show you now the footage of the bridge. But also, after you see the bridge on opening day, you’ll see an interesting clip of work done by a bridge engineer at Cambridge named Allan McRobie, who figured out what happened on the bridge, and who built a bridge simulator to explain exactly what the problem was.

It was a kind of unintended positive feedback loop between the way the people walked and the way the bridge began to move, that engineers knew nothing about. Actually, I think the first person you’ll see is the young engineer who was put in charge of this project.

18:46 (Video) Interviewer: Did anyone get hurt? Engineer: No.

18:48 Interviewer: Right. So it was quite small — Engineer: Yes. Interviewer: — but real?

18:51 Engineer: Absolutely. Interviewer: You thought, “Oh, bother.”

18:54 Engineer: I felt I was disappointed about it.

18:57 We’d spent a lot of time designing this bridge, and we’d analyzed it, we’d checked it to codes — to heavier loads than the codes — and here it was doing something that we didn’t know about.

Interviewer: You didn’t expect. Engineer: Exactly.

19:09 Narrator: The most dramatic and shocking footage shows whole sections of the crowd — hundreds of people — apparently rocking from side to side in unison, not only with each other, but with the bridge. This synchronized movement seemed to be driving the bridge.

But how could the crowd become synchronized? Was there something special about the Millennium Bridge that caused this effect? This was to be the focus of the investigation.

19:35 Interviewer: Well, at last the simulated bridge is finished, and I can make it wobble. Now, Allan, this is all your fault, isn’t it? Allan McRobie: Yes.

19:46 Interviewer: You designed this, yes, this simulated bridge, and this, you reckon, mimics the action of the real bridge?

19:51 AM: It captures a lot of the physics, yes.

19:53 Interviewer: Right. So if we get on it, we should be able to wobble it, yes?

Allan McRobie is a bridge engineer from Cambridge who wrote to me, suggesting that a bridge simulator ought to wobble in the same way as the real bridge — provided we hung it on pendulums of exactly the right length.

20:09 AM: This one’s only a couple of tons, so it’s fairly easy to get going. Just by walking. Interviewer: Well, it’s certainly going now.

20:15 AM: It doesn’t have to be a real dangle. Just walk. It starts to go.

20:18 Interviewer: It’s actually quite difficult to walk. You have to be careful where you put your feet down, don’t you, because if you get it wrong, it just throws you off your feet.

20:27 AM: It certainly affects the way you walk, yes. You can’t walk normally on it.

20:32 Interviewer: No. If you try and put one foot in front of another, it’s moving your feet away from under you. AM: Yes.

20:37 Interviewer: So you’ve got to put your feet out sideways. So already, the simulator is making me walk in exactly the same way as our witnesses walked on the real bridge.

20:45 AM: … ice-skating gait. There isn’t all this sort of snake way of walking.

20:48 Interviewer: For a more convincing experiment, I wanted my own opening-day crowd, the sound check team. Their instructions: just walk normally. It’s really intriguing because none of these people is trying to drive it.

They’re all having some difficulty walking. And the only way you can walk comfortably is by getting in step. But then, of course, everyone is driving the bridge. You can’t help it. You’re actually forced by the movement of the bridge to get into step, and therefore to drive it to move further.

21:31 SS: All right, well, with that from the Ministry of Silly Walks, maybe I’d better end. I see I’ve gone over. But I hope that you’ll go outside and see the world in a new way, to see all the amazing synchrony around us. Thank you.

Patsy Z shared this link TED
Mathematician Steven Strogatz shows how flocks of creatures (like birds, fireflies and fish) manage to synchronize and act as a unit
— when no one’s giving orders.|By Steven Strogatz

Paradigm shift in Architecture or expanded job definition? Steve Jobs, Rem Koolhaas…

An émigré architectural historian who teaches across disciplines in California, at a public university near Apple’s lair in the Bay Area (close to San Francisco), is posting an essay. Since architectural stories are surprising rare on the edge of the continent, he needed a shtick; no matter what’s his connoisseur-ish personal tastes and leftist political dispositions.

Simon  Sadler published an essay on March 13/2013 in The Design Observer Group: “Steve Jobs: Architect”

Top: Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York. [Photo by Eric Wüstenhagen]

Bottom: Steve Jobs and Rem Koolhaas. [Photos by James Mitchell, left, and Rodrigo Fernández, right]

1. An Apple for the teacher
Yet another treatise on Steve Jobs? As an “architect”?
And with Apple seemingly waning,  aren’t we behind the curve on this?  Suffice it to say that my interest is not solely in Steven Paul Jobs himself, but rather in the challenge that the late computer impresario and legendary technologist poses to the methods and purpose of an architectural historian.
My job and my location place me close enough to Silicon Valley that students might fairly assume that I have something cogent to say about all this.  Apple is working with Norman Foster to build a donut-spaceship as its headquarters in Cupertino.
So what are my options?
1. Compare and contrast, that trusty standby of art history, in which I drill my students. I can compare Jobs with … with whom, exactly? Bill Gates, or maybe Thomas Edison? That route would take us away from design, away from architectural history, away from aesthetics.
I like to pay close attention to both Science and Technology Studies and Cultural Studies, which are the disciplines perhaps most comfortable with technology and the American experience.
But neither the Apple HQ, or the iPhone for that matter, readily lend themselves to STS and Cultural Studies’ emphases on flattened and distributed innovation and on user-generated meanings.
So any methods I might borrow from those anthropologically-inclined fields will need to be augmented by the emphases on authorship and aesthetics that architectural history traditionally draws from art history. Peel away his ruthless command of global consumer markets and Jobs can seem to the art historian more akin to Gropius than Gates.
2. Criticality.  Since Jobs’s ruthless command of markets is a fact that cannot be peeled away, we are obliged to deploy the criticality that has been central to architectural historical method that was started by Tomás Maldonado and Manfredo Tafuri.
I am duty-bound to tell students that design is not necessarily benign, especially when it seems to be.
Yet they can see me teaching from the MacBook I am writing on even now. Some of the students I have trained will graduate into Silicon Valley. I wonder what that suggests about my own complicity with the very things which I am attempting to critique?
How does my salary, my adopted state, my consumption, tie me to all this?
So I discreetly edge the conversation back to my own disciplinary competence by comparing the design for the new Apple headquarters with other corporate buildings. We take another iconic and somehow ominous HQ — OMA’s recently completed CCTV tower in Beijing — and we then compare Jobs with OMA’s head, Rem Koolhaas. As if they were both architects.
And then we treat Jobs as though he were an offshoot of a Bay Area design history that was substantially driven by architecture. My concern is to have something to say about design in the far western region where I teach; even though major monumental buildings are scarce on the ground here, and even though the politics of good design are adulterated by my state’s politics of good business.
This effort becomes a test of the limits of my discipline, devoted as it has long been to the maintenance of European critical traditions, and to monumentality and the public sphere, and to the continued preeminence of the academic institutions of Northern Europe and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
Such is the fate of many an émigré architectural historian in California, at once living and working within a global engine of economy, design, ideology and media, yet rather far from the concatenations of Greater New England architectural historical scholarship.
We wonder whether there is any more that can be said about the Mission Style, the Case Study Houses, the freeways; or whether anything whatsoever can be said about California’s inland agricultural empire of the Central Valley, which is where I live.
Norman Foster’s design for the Apple headquarters, center, surrounded by the California architectural historian’s canon.
Talk about Jobs as though he were an architect — already a dubious proposition — is to talk as well about advanced capitalism, about global systems, the counterculture, Zen Buddhism, and all manner of phenomena apparently inimical to the critical tradition, to monumentality and the public sphere.
This approach might threatens to liquefy my discipline through a Golden State looking-glass.
Maybe I should emulate the resolve of the philosophers Adorno and Horkheimer who were stranded in sunny Los Angeles during the war, refused to succumb to California languor.
To be frank I think that architectural-historical methodology can benefit from this modest test, and prevail.  This is one of those experiments in method encouraged — forced — by the study of California: here subject and method evolve symbiotically, as befits scholarship in a region enamored with holistic thought, even as my disciplinary training prevents me from ever going fully native.
2. Why it’s simpler to treat Jobs as a California Modern Architect To the subject at hand?
To me, treating Jobs as an architect has merit, if for no other reason than to bring sort of conclusion to the popular psychologizing of what made Job tick.
It is no secret that Jobs was a “complicated” man. Nothing more typifies the persona of the “great architect,” driven to get his ideas executed with minimum compromise, somehow distrustful of people yet seemingly concerned about their welfare, preferring to channel politics through design rather than to actually participate in political activity.
Eric Alterman writes in The Nation’s: Despite the myriad ways his companies improved our lives, Jobs was a hero only in the Ayn Randian sense…” de facto connecting Jobs, via Rand, to that archetype of the “complicated” architect, Howard Roark, a.k.a. Frank Lloyd Wright.  A sense of what you might call “psychopathic humanism” attends such personalities: they are determined to improve the human lot no matter how many individual humans they offend along the way.
Bucking our current postmodern era, Jobs and Koolhaas both seem to have been driven by the possibility that they can act inside, or around, a postmodern world resistant to purpose. Jobs and Koolhaas share, I suspect, an attraction toward design as a type of hermeneutics — a will to learn about the world through the attempt to change it. Koolhaas assigned his Harvard students and OMA assistants to track aesthetic multiplier effects through the study of shopping and of African urbanism; he is passionate, in a manner worthy of a surrealist or second-order cybernetician, about paradox and overdetermination.
Meanwhile both the personnel and the customers of the Apple Corporation functioned as an extension of Jobs, and not simply through the authoritarian exertion of will. In this sense Jobs hasn’t died in the same way that Mies van der Rohe hasn’t died: something of his very thinking, his gestalt, has been learned by other designers and consumers, and in this way Jobs’s legacy — like influential pedagogy — is “architectural.”
That Jobs’s work, his products, has constituted a daily part of people’s lives over several generations was testified to by the peculiar and public demonstrations of grief at his passing.
Steve Jobs memorial, Apple store, San Francisco. [Photo by raumish]
Koolhaas, for sure, is a redoubtable figure for historians and theorists of architecture in a way that Jobs never will be. Judged by his impact on architectural pedagogy and his reception by critics, he probably remains our most important living architect, popular with scholars to the degree that he is apparently unpopular with, even obscure to, the public at large.
Koolhaas invites interpretation. In contrast, scholars are left practically redundant by the sheer popularity of Jobs’s work: there is, apparently, no work of interpretation left for us to do.
We can try to deepen our analyses of Jobs by citing the pivotal influential of industrial designers like Dieter Rams; but accounting for Koolhaas’s interests in the surrealist paranoiac-critical method, Soviet Constructivism and Italian Autonomist Marxism would require graduate-seminar-level exegesis.
Put another way: if Koolhaas’s aesthetic is difficult, Jobs’s is dumb. The categorical difference is that one really is an architect, steeped in the arts, and the other is an ambitious industrial designer, steeped in the applied arts; which is why Koolhaas presents an explanatory challenge, Jobs a functional literalness.
I am not so sure about this distinction, though; whatever the philosophical and formal challenges which Koolhaas’s buildings pose, they function well. And Jobs’s intellectual formation was easily as esoteric as that of Koolhaas.
It’s no surprise that architect Norman Foster has referred to Jobs as though he were a professional peer, “in every way so much more than a client,” as Foster put it in his tribute. “We are better as individuals and certainly wiser as architects through the experience of … working for him. …  Job participation was so intense and creative that our memory will be that of working with one of the truly great designers and mentors.
(This is the sort of language we might expect Foster to have reserved for his earlier mentor Richard Buckminster Fuller — another figure whose functionalism, anathema to the richly formal work of Koolhaas, is adored in Bay Area.)
When Jobs’s name is used as a search term in the scholarly Avery Index to architectural history, it retrieves a 2005 article from Britain’s ID magazine that lists, in this order, the most influential design thinkers in the world: the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Department, Steve Jobs, Rem Koolhaas.
For ID, at least, we are in some way comparing like with like. And the listing of Jobs with MoMA and Koolhaas has the intriguing effect of drawing a westward axis of transnational design, as it transposes from The Netherlands, then to the United States via New York and Northern California, then onward to China, where Jobs and Koolhaas confirm their incendiary reputations in the factories of Shenzhen and the political machine of Beijing.
The modernist tradition becomes — to use Koolhaas’s celebrated term — increasingly delirious, as it gravitates from the Heroic Age Netherlands, to Jazz Age New York, to Aquarian Age California.
If Koolhaas has capitalized upon a distinctively Dutch taste and Northern European aesthetic, Jobs has championed a distinctively Californian energy.
In the early 1980s, the German industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger proposed that there should be a “born-in-America gene for Apple’s DNA,” one that would produce what Esslinger called a “California global” look. Esslinger, then newly arrived in the United States, initially suggested that Apple’s aesthetic be inspired by “Hollywood and music, a bit of rebellion, and natural sex appeal.”
But Hollywood, rock music, sex appeal and rebellion did not prevail in the iconic forms that embody the Apple brand identity created so obsessively by Jobs. In its stores, in its devices, even in the book cover he designed for Walter Isaacson’s biography (which he himself commissioned Isaacson to write), Jobs recovered a vision of the modern as clarified, normative, truthful, perhaps somewhat German though even more Zen.
Is there a relationship between California and these qualities of clarification, normative, truthfulness and Zen? I believe that Apple really does represent a genus of Californian design — that the slogan “Designed by Apple in California” conveys something like an ethos.

Top and Middle: Norman Foster, drawings for Apple headquarters, Cupertino, California, projected 2015. Bottom: Bernard Maybeck, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1915. [Photo by Wally Gobetz]
Apple’s image evolved markedly from the early 1980s to now, but it remained consistent with Bay Area taste, from the counter-cultural feel of the offerings to be found in (say) its early-’80s gift collections —with their totes, kites, belt buckles, wall hangings and rug kits — to the New Age aura of transcendent consciousness and spirituality of more recent Mac products, their concealed LEDs practicing controlled yogic breathing when left on standby.
Apple was a Bay Area company led by a lifelong Bay Area homeboy steeped in such Bay Area enthusiasms as the Whole Earth Catalog and The Grateful Dead.
In the dominant culture of the Bay Area — if I can indulge in a sweeping summary — you find a deep distaste for representing established culture: culture is to be invented, here and now, and to be lived rather than observed and learned. It is a culture that imagines itself as exploring truth and possibility.
This is a trait stretching back through several generations of Northern California designers — Bernard Maybeck is my personal favorite, with his eccentric combinations of materials, technique and historical association. Jobs, too, pursued an aesthetics of truth and possibility.
Compare the design of two corporate animation facilities, one for The Walt Disney Company, in Southern California, the other for Jobs’s Pixar, in Northern California. In his 1991 design for the Team Disney building, in Burbank, Michael Graves employs the Seven Dwarves as Atlantes not only to symbolize a passing world of animated arts but also to make an inside joke about the conclusion of classical civilization.
In contrast, in their Pixar Studios, in Emeryville, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson deploy the patterning of bricks of different hues to make decoration immanent to the materials themselves, in this way suggesting that the building itself is pixelated — a pattern waiting to be orchestrated. Facts before pictures.
The tectonic and material truths of this factory of the virtual feel hyper-real. Its hand-laid brick courses suggest an unnerving sincerity far removed from the postmodern irony of Graves or the postmodern tragedy of Koolhaas.
The Bohlin Cywinski Jackson practice, founded in 1965 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, under the sway of Louis Kahn (that vital transitional figure between modernism and postmodernism who recovered architectural verity from dogmatic functionalism and returned it to custom, ritual and place) has proven adept at delivering to commercial and technological clients buildings of a local phenomenological intensity. In 1997 the firm completed the residential compound of another computer maven, one Bill Gates of Bellevue, WA, in an earnest regional “Pacific Lodge” style. A couple of years later, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson opened its San Francisco office to handle the Pixar campus for Jobs. What they delivered doesn’t look much like a fun factory.
The main pavilion is an elegant warehouse, its flat arches an acknowledgement of the local light-industry context, with plate glass recalling the notoriously generic corporate architecture of Silicon Valley.
The Pixar campus is a place for serious research, not decorative puns; a place where the arts of animation from the classic era of Disney are preserved within three-dimensional computer modeling originally developed for medical imaging; a place to discover the sorts of truths about the self and the world that were earlier discovered in the Marin County summer camps, Palo Alto garages, East Bay cafés, Silicon Valley laboratories and Silicon Alley warehouses recalled by the campus ensemble.

Top: Michael Graves, Team Disney Building, Burbank, California. [Photo by Loren Javier] Middle and Bottom: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Steve Jobs Building, Pixar Campus, Emeryville, California. [Photos by John Lambert Pearson, middle, and Michael Heilemann, bottom] The comic foil provided by the monumental Luxo lamp is an addition.
The lamp — an homage to Pixar’s celebrated 1986 demo reel, “Luxo Jr.” — was a gift from Australia, as though Pixar were a new nation — a corporate nation that reaffirms the Bay Area as a center of the creative world (with a nod, in the naming of its new building “Brooklyn,” to an East Coast counterpart). Jobs was the undisputed ruler of this nation; Pixar employees knew him to be the hidden hand in the building’s design,  [11] and Jobs was always adamant that all core creative production for his companies would happen in the Bay Area in real diurnal time, defying the industry trend for the globalized dissipation of the design process across facilities, specializations and time zones.
At a Cupertino City Council meeting in June 2011, a clearly ailing Jobs made what I assume was his last public appearance to present the plans for the new Apple HQ; he promoted the Foster + Partners design as a great entity in a traditionalist Bay Area landscape to be designed by Stanford University’s arborist.  The building thus becomes the capsule, the beehive, the phalanstery for 15,000 engineers circling the wagons against the outsourcing of Californian design.
Apple had thus become the new Californian “machine,” reproducing local tastes and predispositions even through its immigrant employees, like the British designer Jonathan Ive, or the German Esslinger and his practice frog design, all of whom were required to relocate to the region as part of their association with Jobs.
Even the design presence of Baron Foster, whose ideas were profoundly affected by his admiration of the Case Study houses, does nothing to deflect the broad, synthetic Californianism of Apple’s trajectory. Yet ultimately Jobs’s phenomenology can be founded on certainties of place and language no more than the modern-day Bay Area can be founded on certainties of place and language. It is a light phenomenology, slickly tuning consciousness through sensory experience.
This calibration of affect, surely at Job’s behest, explains how Bohlin Cywinski Jackson effortlessly switched from the vernacular brick and iron opacity at Pixar to the Zen-like transparency of the 2006 Manhattan Apple Store.
Opacity, transparency, Jungian forms, materials, place, tectonics: Jobs and his collaborators were trying to access phenomenological truths at the office and at the store.

Top: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006. [Photo by Jorge Láscar] Bottom: Early graphical user interface, Xerox Star, 1981. [Via DigiBarn Computer Museum]
Along the way Jobs conscripted the very typology of the window from the Graphical User Interface — which he explored soon after it was invented at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto — to the service of his light phenomenology that sought to reveal the world. Floor-to-ceiling windows, beloved by Bay Region architects, became the central motif of Jobs’s inventions — from the computers to the phones to the stores, the windowed grids of the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue relaying attention to the windowed tablets relaying attention to windowed operating systems, propelling us steadily out of history.
Though routinely described as iconic, Apple products seem actually to be moving away from idiosyncratic forms like the trend-setting colored-jellybean style of the late ’90s iMac series. The aluminum, glass and radius edges of the recent products strain for ascetic neutrality.
Without much difficulty the Apple consumer could imagine information one day floating in the environment, dematerialized into the “cybernetic meadow” forecast in the celebrated (if ridiculed) 1967 poetry collection by San Franciscan Richard Brautigan when he was poet-in-residence at Caltech. [15] So at the end of his life, Jobs settled on a Zen-like approach as the appropriate phenomenological architecture for information technology, just as a Zen-like transcendence had attracted generations of Bay Region aesthetes.
Bay Region Style itself bore the clear imprint of Japanese Zen architecture. In a famous 1947 essay on “Bay Region Style,” Lewis Mumford described the style as “a product of the meeting of the Occidental and Oriental architectural traditions,” and 6 decades later Steve Jobs concurred: “I have always found … Japanese Zen Buddhism … to be aesthetically sublime.
Zen is to California as Greece is to Germany“: so an uncommonly insightful student quipped to me recently, bridging the Bay Region’s dogged pursuit of higher consciousness and the German phenomenological tradition. Jobs’s seemingly existential understanding of design does indeed remind one of the fascination exerted over architects by Martin Heidegger, for whom design functioned best in the background, the better to “bring forth” Being.
Bay Area and German existentialism are even linked by a proud sense of their higher provincialism, the disdain for metropolitan affectation. William Wurster, referring to the Bay Region Style, wrote in 1956  that “Architecture is not a goal. Architecture is for life and pleasure and work and for people. The picture frame, not the picture.”
Jobs enthused about the Bay Area’s mid-century stick-built houses developed by Joseph Eichler: Eichler’s “houses were smart and cheap and good,” Jobs told Walter Isaacson. “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost too much. … It was the original vision for Apple.
And so we have that paradox that the normative or the provincial comes to embody rarefied taste and so occupy a central place in design culture. (Something similar happened with critical regionalism.) [22] By the early 21st century, Apple products were the summary forms of international modern design, recalling the abstemiousness of Viennese architect and journalist Adolf Loos at the turn of the 20th century, of the German industrial design of the Dessau Bauhaus of the 1920s, and of the Braun products of Dieter Rams in the 1960s, admiration for the latter of which Jobs developed when attending the Aspen Institute’s conferences in the early 1980s.
Top: Eichler home, original advertisement. [Via Architizer]
Bottom: Dieter Rams, Braun radio and record player. [Photos by Nite Owl, left, and Toby Evans, right]
3. Thinking inside the box What did it mean for Jobs to attempt to recuperate “normative,” “classically” modernist values for a postmodern, late capitalist world order — for a world order whose anguish seems better captured by the old-world Koolhaas, and in which modernism’s promise of emancipation is trammeled in the off-shore factories of Apple’s manufacturers? Is this nothing but a travesty of modernism? For of course we know that aesthetic culture is at best a poor substitute indeed for truly political society, and a sickening lie in its absence.
The clamshell form of the late ’90s MacBook was redolent of the sort of cigarette case that Loos identified in 1908 as the touchstone of modern culture: stripped, portable, repetitive. Ornament became Crime, in Jobs’s mind as it had in Loos’s. The Mac and the cigarette case were trade objects emblematic of their respective epochs, their meanings indefinite, not predetermined: as a content-producing machine, the Mac strenuously obliges society with cultural “running-room.”
Yet the aluminum sheathed MacBook is not quite the quintessential Loosian object. It is almost too refined for its purposes, courting the status of a commodity fetish, mystifying and objectifying human relations through its market exchange. The MacBook confuses the urn with the chamber pot, to borrow Loos’s terms; it struggles to distinguish the ceremonial from the functional. It ennobles the rituals of everyday life, like writing email, but it is too slick to disrupt our lived continuum, which for Loos was the critical function of art, architecture and language — a way in which to make sense of our world. So it is to Rem Koolhaas and his firm, OMA, that we must turn for manifestation of the disjunctions of tradition and modernity, of place and space.
The contrast in taste, in aesthetics, between Jobs and Koolhaas is illustrated most obviously by comparing the two headquarters buildings. With its twisting and grotesque form, the China Central Television tower underscores the tragic deterioration of the public sphere, as the production of information is impressed into the service of the capitalist dictatorship of the People’s Republic.
It is practically a Salon work of art, simultaneously repulsive and fascinating, politically and aesthetically, in a way that reminds me of that classic of the Salon genre, Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819).
Whereas the Apple HQ suggests a very different version of the Romantic legacy, of the recovery of a primordial reason beyond intellectualization — it strains to be “insanely great,” in Jobs’s famous phrase. The circle of steel and glass suggests no history, no past; its gesture is spontaneous, or Jungian, or Zen,  childlike in its simplicity and secrecy. It needs no interpretation because, as designer Sean Daly blogged in The Architects’ Newspaper:

The ensō, or “circle,” is perhaps the most enduring motif in the Zen tradition, one that first appears in Japanese monasteries in the mid-1600s. The Zen circle is not a linguistic character, but rather a symbol that conveys a host of things — the universe, the cyclical nature of existence, enlightenment, strength, and poised contemplation. It suggests the Heart Sutra, which explains that “form is void and void is form” … [27]

Like Pixar in Emeryville, Apple in Cupertino exemplifies a light phenomenology. It’s Zen kitsch. Jobs’s Zen postmodernism, of which Foster’s building is an embodiment, acts upon the world through process, intervening in a cybernetic cycle for which the record of historical struggle is but a dysfunctional footnote.

In sharp contrast, the tragic postmodernism of Koolhaas and the CCTV feels jagged, a beauty of terribilità.

Top: Norman Foster, Apple headquarters, Cupertino, California, projected 2015.

Middle and Bottom: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, China Central TV headquarters, Beijing, 2012. [Photos by Jim Gourley]

Koolhaas’s abstraction of modernity appeals more to critical tastes than Jobs’s interaction with modernity. It is almost as though Koolhaas courts his appeal to art-historical criticality, even contributing to its veritable organ, October. Koolhaas, who clearly rejected “interactive” and “gadgety” design — as a young architect at the Architectural Association in London in the ’70s he had little use for the Archigram influence — seems to think like an art historian, and his relative lack of name recognition in the broader culture perhaps confirms the discernment of the specialists.

Whereas the outpouring of grief over Jobs’s death was often in questionable taste. “It sounds crazy,” a student in my modern architecture class said the day after Jobs died, “but for people of my age, it’s like we lost our Bobby Kennedy.” Could my students be so lacking in discrimination? Perhaps … but perhaps not.

I would be fuming if that student had responded in the same way to, say, the untimely passing of Mark Zuckerberg. No disrespect, but Zuckerberg is, we might agree, no Kennedy. So maybe we might agree as well that my student was simply one of many seeking inspiration as an Obama administration elected upon the promise of hope struggled to the end of its third tumultuous year.

And apparently she found it: I noticed her in the crowd when Occupy arrived at my university campus not long after Jobs’s death. One of the few commentators to understand the strange politics of the mourning of Jobs was Frank Rich. Writing for New York Magazine, Rich compared Jobs to Edison as an inventor-entrepreneur whose American technological “architecture” (so to speak) was constructive to the same extent that the upstart American financial-services “architecture” — of the type built by the GE Capital division that had eclipsed the GE industrial division founded by Edison in the 1890s — was destructive.

“Some on the right were baffled that the ostensible Marxists demonstrating in lower Manhattan would observe a moment of silence and assemble makeshift shrines for a top 1% like Jobs, whose expensive products were engineered for near-instant obsolescence and produced by Chinese laborers in factories with substandard health-and-safety records,” said Rich. But, he continued:

If you love your Mac and iPod, you can still despise CDOs and credit-default swaps. Jobs’s genius — in the words of Regis McKenna, a Silicon Valley marketing executive who worked with him early on— was his ability “to strip away the excess layers of business, design, and innovation until only the simple, elegant reality remained.” The supposed genius of modern Wall Street is the exact reverse, piling on excess layers of business and innovation on ever thinner and more exotic creations until simple reality is distorted and obscured.

The paradox was also understood, more viscerally, by that bellwether of campus humor, The Onion:

Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple Computers and the only American in the country who had any clue what the fuck he was doing, died Wednesday at the age of 56. “We haven’t just lost a great innovator, leader, and businessman, we’ve literally lost the only person in this country who actually had his shit together and knew what the hell was going on,” a statement from President Barack Obama read in part, adding that Jobs will be remembered both for the life-changing products he created and for the fact that he was able to sit down, think clearly, and execute his ideas — attributes he shared with no other U.S. citizen.

Sit down, think clearly, and execute ideas: this is what draws students to design in a postmodern age, yes? “Obama added” (according to The Onion) “that if anyone could fill the void left by Jobs it would probably be himself, but said that at this point he honestly doesn’t have the slightest notion what he’s doing anymore.”

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, North Michigan Ave, Chicago, 2003. [Photo by Almond Dhukka]

We might decry the chirping of an Occupier’s iPhone as a mere simulacrum of political society.  We might better see the fate of political society in the metaphor of Koolhaas’s atolls of beauty and social space cast adrift in a neoliberal world. But by a remarkable historical turn, the Pollyanna-ish aesthetic of the Apple Mac has forced us back (somewhat) to actual political society, to actual consumer-political activity. What R. John Williams has called Californian Techne-Zen was articulated so forcefully by Apple that it has seemingly necessitated its own exposure as a false consciousness.

Millions of consumers seem to have understood instinctively an incongruity between Apple’s aesthetic triumph and its refusal to advance social justice: it failed our expectation that advanced bourgeois art will articulate or resolve contradiction. Instead the iPhone starkly verified the dichotomy of its slogan “Designed by Apple in California.

Assembled in China”: capitalist differentials in land and labor value exclude millions from the Bay-Area nation. In so nearly sublimating the contradiction, Jobs’s art drew attention to the contradiction. Jobs’s electronics were so beguiling that their users were forced into a classic, bourgeois, visceral encounter with guilt, contradiction, tragedy: it was this that finally confirmed Jobs as an architect-provocateur on a par with Koolhaas.

Both are indeed Salon designers, ageless enfant terribles and lightning rods, prompting and giving shape to otherwise formless feelings and debates. Still, nobody seems to be holding Koolhaas responsible for the work conditions of his building contractors or steel millers, though the unnatural and monumental gesture of CCTV did indeed draw attention to the furtive modes of production — the state censorship — of Chinese information.

When it was occupying its old building (whatever it was), I had never heard of CCTV, nor paused to consider its role in censorship. And when I was using a Dell laptop, the working conditions enforced in China by Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn were remote from my awareness, even though Foxconn supplied Dell and practically every other electronics manufacturer of which I am a customer. Was it preordained, one wonders in retrospect, that Jobs’s iPad — which he loved to point at the front page of The New York Times during his famous new product presentations — would deliver New York Times reports about the wage and health and safety scandals in the Shenzhen factories in which the apparatus was made?

I used my MacBook Air to sign a petition demanding that Apple redress Foxconn worker grievances. Every keystroke on the superlative machine reminded me of my desire for a better world, for a more complete and transparent political architecture, and of my complicity with forces I prefer to imagine as beyond my control. To borrow the terms popularized by anthropologist Bruno Latour, the works of both Jobs and Koolhaas function as “things” in and around which are assembled public “concerns” that might otherwise slip through the net of parliamentary discourses arrayed around both left and right.

Even the Wall Street Journal felt compelled to question the “secular prophecy” of technological salvation wrought by Jobs. Apple and OMA objects succeed as works of art, and also as catalysts of public attention, not just by being so astonishingly outré, but also by picturing the world unexpectedly — in extreme resolution, in extreme disjunction — and then by suggesting a means to interpret our existence in the world.

Top: Taiwanese protestors outside Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.) headquarters in New Taipei, 2010. [Photo by Lennon Ying-Dah Wong]

Bottom: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006. [Photo by Mecki Mac]

4. The varieties of bourgeois experience I don’t want to muddy the waters of judgment as a caprice. My purpose is to draw attention to the way that art-historical judgment thinks in several registers, about design that works in several registers, in a world that operates in countless registers. To an art historian, the minimalism of the 2006 Manhattan Apple Store is evocative of European Rationalism and neo-Platonism, when to many other cultural critics it is simply an extravagant warehouse, a shop composed of nothing but shop windows.

But now watch how Jobs and Koolhaas complicate the relation between value and values (between exchange value and human value) in similar ways, by thinking like art historians. “Great products,” Jobs told The New York Times, are triumphs of “taste” derived from “study, observation and being steeped in the culture of the past and present.” OMA designs one of its best buildings for Prada, and Apple amasses $70 billion in cash. Both insist that we pay attention to the art of shopping but then shun the pursuit of business for its own sake.

Koolhaas’s studio at Harvard studied shopping, with delicious paradox, and Jobs saw himself as the nemesis of Michael Dell’s fixation with the bottom line. No part of Apple’s organization would ever be “junkspace.”
Their work invites a moral response, and Jobs and Koolhaas pass onto us, their consumers and interpreters, the responsibility to square their contradictions.

Jobs and Koolhaas alike chose the role of eyewitness to the student uprisings in Berkeley and Paris in 1968, and for each the activism of the Sixties would be formative; years later each would be content to observe the political responses to their work in the ’90s and ’00s with similar remove. These two modes of architectural ambition, interactive and abstract, Californian and European, are not categorically different modes — the one in a naïve or affirmative association with capitalism, say, the other in a critical relationship — but are two sides of the same coin.

Jobs and Koolhaas each project variants of postmodern modernism: one optimistic but quietly doomed, the other doomed but quietly optimistic.
The reason of course is that design (like art) is pretty much inevitably a dialectic between God and Wall Street. The Occupier’s iPhone. The Eichler House. The double bind, built simultaneously, of OMA’s two West Coast projects: the Seattle Public Library and the Prada Epicenter in Los Angeles (both 2004). Enlightenment and shopping.

Oscillating between Soviet constructivism, Manhattanite cosmopolitanism, and commercial midcentury modernism, Koolhaas reminds us that at the very moment that modern design triumphed, its utopian political project was doomed. Meaning that questions about Steve and Rem are ultimately questions about us. What more literal object lessons could we ask for, as art historians standing in front of our students, than OMA’s CCTV and Apple’s Campus 2?

One abstracts the agony of the European public sphere, its workers eking out a living in a Chinese capitalist dictatorship, while the other promises an interactive Californianism after the near-eclipse of the New Deal. The university design studios of the Great Recession, rather than transcending the dialectic, are rather merging abstraction and interactivity, producing student projects that routinely integrate buildings with transgressive spaces, sites, economies, nutrition, mapping.

Given the questionable origins of our own paychecks, it’s a devil’s bargain that few art historians can evade for long. Something of the Shenzhen “disgrace” of Jobs might reciprocally be carried over to art history, which is adept at using the abstractions of critical theory to describe the complicity of buildings and architects with economic regimes, but most often shies away from any explicit description of the deep connections that bind architecture to labor and poverty.

Left: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Seattle Central Library, 2004. [Photo by Sean Munson]

Right: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Prada Epicenter, Los Angeles, 2004. [Photo by Corbin Keech]

Architecture is a lifeworld within which none of us can parse absolute judgments, yet it still offers ethical and actionable bearings. This I hope I am illustrating precisely by comparing two of its most notorious architects: the fascination of design is exactly its hermeneutic potential for thinking and working from the inside, across several registers. We can study the varieties of advanced bourgeois thinking that constitute and shape architecture as it re-combines — and reconciles [?] — base economic determination with the factors of geography, language, desire, technology, materials. Much as we return to other moments in the history of capital accumulation — Florence in the 15th century, Holland in the 17th century, Manhattan in the 19th century — and detect something mortal about their arcades, portraiture and still lives, so we can imagine art historians of the future scrutinizing the ambitions of OMA and Apple.

One day the Bay Region will make for a particularly intriguing study in New Deal, systems-driven and neoliberal art history, the Golden Gate Bridge an analog of Brunelleschi’s Dome, a place awash with new money, fusing science, technology, engineering and learning, humans and gods, an outpost of godly and economic universalism at the center of a trade network. We can already see the next chapters getting written; Elon Musk is the latest guru.

It is pointless to try and demote Musk’s wild gamble on the Tesla electric car, his fantastic ambition to save the world one drive-train at a time, his thinking across scales (the roadside rest and recharge stations, his concomitant interest in internet commerce and space exploration), the “insanely great” quality of his early products, his commitment to the Bay Area (to the point of locating his factories there) as an instance of business as usual. His products imply a cultural program beyond the marketplace. Musk compels public discussion. He’s a sort of architect.

Looking at California in this way points back to older, iconological approaches, art historical analyses applied across objects and institutions, ecologies and economies of dissimilar scale, type, intention, moving beyond connoisseurship and critical readings to capture something of the intellectual ecology behind things — the epistemology, or ontology; more than just the study of ideology, the study of ideas and intellectual frameworks particular to design, to its active attempts to mold the immediate future, and to its presuppositions about the world and the way it works.

That things don’t just happen, that political economy and subjectivity aren’t givens; that the meeting of matter and consciousness can be altered is not a general understanding but one particular to a class educated in design.
At which point I might be able to take my students out of the lecture hall (where we study OMA’s staggering and faraway monuments) and attempt an architectural exegesis of the systems of the Central Valley, scouring it for meaning, agency, interruption, rather than celebrating it as a vernacular, or damning it as pure instrumentalism. Perhaps we can stand above Cupertino and regard it like the heroine in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1965), who observes a new town a little further south in California:

Like many named places in California it was less an identifiable city than a grouping of concepts — census tracts, special purpose bond-issue distracts, shopping nuclei, all overlaid with access roads to its own freeway … a plinth course of capital on which everything afterward had been built, however rickety or grotesque, toward the sky. … she thought of the first time she’d opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets … sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. … there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. … [A] revelation … trembled just beyond the threshold of her understanding … she and the Chevy seemed parked at the center of an odd, religious instant.




May 2017
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