A “transaction” (Miriam Webster) is defined as;
an exchange or transfer of goods, services, or funds electronic transactions
or; transactions plural : the often published record of the meeting of a society or association or;
an act, process, or instance of transacting and thus;
a communicative action or activity involving two parties or things that reciprocally affect or influence each other
As an architect and artist I am not “judging” transactionalism as a part of this essay. Rather, I intend to demonstrate how architecture can integrate interrupt redirect and morphogenically redefine its flow.
Architecture & Transations
In architecture, we are concerned with all the definitions of “transaction” above.
I am also interested in the way Transactionalism ties to “translation” in architecture. I will propose in this essay that “Transactionalism” defines our moment in history in a fundamental and awe-inspiring way for better and for worse inclusive of all the above and the way that architecture translates communication among living things into the inanimate.
Architecture is, ultimately, fully political. If you choose to think that architecture is not “political” then you are, perhaps in an unquestioning way, accepting the status quo and very political indeed. There’s no escape from politics in this sense. Politics is how humans communicate. We are opinionated creatures. Witness social media.
I saw a funny meme (short video) the other day (on Facebook) that shows two packs of angry dogs across a fence. When the fence/gate slowly swings open the dogs stop barking at each other!
While laughable, the meme reminds us that we are very similar to the barking dogs. Debate appears to be endemic to life. Perhaps far less violent when the gate is open.
A Transactionalist Economy
We live, in these United States and in most Western countries, in a transactionalist economy.
We are living in what I have referred to as a hyper-capitalist economy. A hyper-capitalist economy is an economy that is fully controlled by Oligarchical interests, basically a sub-class of extremely wealthy people often in control of essential corporations.
Capitalism is defined as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”
Instrument of Oligarchy
Transactionalism, as I define it, is fundamentally an instrument of Oligarchy which includes:
An often malevolent state and a wealthy class energetically oriented towards the consumption of everything. Transactionalism is fully tied into excessive production and consumption.
The ultimate goal of a hyper-capitalist oligarchical transactionalist culture is artificial intelligence and infinite life. If indeed hyper- capitalism and a billionaire are both cause and result of this compulsion towards immortality then so be it. I have often argued that the religions all contain variants of the wish for immortality, whether the leaders of those religions deny it or not. Heaven and hell are the stand-in concepts which have been “waiting” for technology to catch up, so to speak.
Science, in its contingent continuing and driving motion for knowledge has given us technology and computational capacity that is pushing lifespan forward and forming the very backbone of transactionalist culture and the search for the infinite.
Remarkably at the heart of understanding transactionalism in architecture we must first dispel any common notion of the immortality of architecture itself.
In the fundamental human drive towards immortality, architecture was probably the first human activity to attempt to create constructions would stand the test of time. The creators and conceivers of the Pyramids did not take into account the basic principal of entropy and that everything in this universe spins into nothingness eventually.
Transactionalism as design methodology
This is, ultimately, the great tragedy of the architects. We strive as professionals to create timeless structures but, like all the arts, we are stuck in the mire of the temporal, and all we imagine will turn too dust and/or a geologic layer given enough time.
So arguably it is time itself that is the ultimate transaction and it is this reality that forms the backbone of Transactionalism as design methodology.
Architects are the penultimate translators. We process information from clients but also from the culture at large. We translate money into form, and ultimately into materials such as stone, concrete, or glass. Buildings are translations of human desire, emotions, economic reality, and cultural reality.
Yuval Hariri, in his wonderful book Homo Deus, elucidates recent behavioral theory clarifying that, thus far at least, scientists have not even remotely been able to identify anything we could refer to as “the soul” or “the mind”. Indeed, it appears that the human “soul” is an emergent phenomenon. The “soul” is a kind of light pollution resulting from an abundance of algorithmic interactions. In this sense artificial intelligence may (and probably will) arise from the achievement of enough algorithmic processes that the computer in question will become “self-conscious” full of the “light pollution” that so plagues and certainly often overjoys homo sapiens.
Transaction & The Decision Making Process
Transactionalism can be taken into darkness or into light, as it were. Its all in the decision making process of the designer at the nexus of the transaction.
This becomes an incredibly important activity when tied to any kind of resistance attached to the consuming of the world. In other words the architect can translate the algorithms of a variety of desires and economic realities through a resistor of halting or reversing climate change criteria.
A climate change transaction, then, opens a spectrum of possible language typologies in response to the necessity of resisting the consumption of our environment.
Architecture, through a consciousness of Transactionalism, can resist authoritarianism in this fashion as well through the creation of open and communicative and even transparent environments.
Architecture & Government Control
This is why governments often step in to control what the designer produces. The symbiosis between government and the architecture being designed within that government is most prevalent and preceding as of this writing, however, in the realm of Climate Change.