François Blanciak

François Blanciak is an architect and Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of Siteless: 1001 Building Forms (MIT Press).

  • Tokyoids

    The Robotic Face of Architecture

    François Blanciak

    A photographic survey of the robotic face of Tokyo buildings and an argument that robot aesthetics plays a central role in architectural history.

    In Tokyoids, architect François Blanciak surveys the robotic faces omnipresent in Tokyo buildings, offering an architectural taxonomy based not on the usual variables—size, material, historical style—but on the observable expressions of buildings. Are the eyes (windows) twinkling, the mouth (door) laughing? Is that balcony a howl of distress? Investigating robot aesthetics through his photographs of fifty buildings, Blanciak argues that the robot face originated in architecture—before the birth of robotics—and has played a central role in architectural history.

    Blanciak first puts the robot face into historical perspective, examining the importance of the face in architectural theory and demonstrating that the construction of architecture's emblematic portraits triggered the emergence of a robot aesthetics. He then explores the emotions conveyed by the photographed buildings' robot faces, in chapters titled “Awe,” “Wrath,” “Mirth,” “Pain,” “Angst,” and “Hunger.” As he does so he considers, among other things, the architectural relevance of Tokyo's ordinary buildings; the repression of the figural in contemporary architecture; an aesthetic of dismemberment, linked to the structure of the Japanese language and local building design; and the influence of automation technology upon human interaction.

    Part photographic survey, part theoretical inquiry, Tokyoids upends the usual approach to robotics in architecture by considering not the automation of architectural output but the aesthetic properties of the robot.

    • Paperback $24.95
  • SITELESS

    SITELESS

    1001 Building Forms

    François Blanciak

    An attempt to free architecture from site and program constraints and to counter the profusion of ever bigger architecture books with ever smaller content.

    Some may call it the first manifesto of the twenty-first century, for it lays down a new way to think about architecture. Others may think of it as the last architectural treatise, for it provides a discursive container for ideas that would otherwise be lost. Whatever genre it belongs to, SITELESS is a new kind of architecture book that seems to have come out of nowhere. Its author, a young French architect practicing in Tokyo, admits he “didn't do this out of reverence toward architecture, but rather out of a profound boredom with the discipline, as a sort of compulsive reaction.” What would happen if architects liberated their minds from the constraints of site, program, and budget? he asks. The result is a book that is saturated with forms, and as free of words as any architecture book the MIT Press has ever published.

    The 1001 building forms in SITELESS include structural parasites, chain link towers, ball bearing floors, corrugated corners, exponential balconies, radial facades, crawling frames, forensic housing—and other architectural ideas that may require construction techniques not yet developed and a relation to gravity not yet achieved. SITELESS presents an open-ended compendium of visual ideas for the architectural imagination to draw from. The forms, drawn freehand (to avoid software-specific shapes) but from a constant viewing angle, are presented twelve to a page, with no scale, order, or end to the series. After setting down 1001 forms in siteless conditions and embryonic stages, Blanciak takes one of the forms and performs a “scale test,” showing what happens when one of these fantastic ideas is subjected to the actual constraints of a site in central Tokyo. The book ends by illustrating the potential of these shapes to morph into actual building proportions.

    • Paperback $19.95