Architecture as a form of deliberate paranoia

I once knew someone who owned a drum machine on which he had been, he claimed, programming extraordinary amounts of really great music. Being naive to the thieving ways of the world, however, this friend – or aquaintance, really, from Canada – in fact the best friend of the fiancé of my girlfriend's sister – came home one day to find that his drum machine had been stolen.

[Image: From Keith Kin Yan's Overshadowed, a site – and photographer – previously discussed here].

This act of musical thievery propelled him into a state of unremitting paranoia so intense, and so interesting, that I still think about it, nearly fifteen years later.
What happened was that every time he went out to hear music – mostly at raves in New York City – he claimed that, at some point in the night, he had heard one of his own songs. Flagrantly stolen from his own stolen drum machine, then inscribed to vinyl – only to be spun, live, to the dancing masses – his music popped up at least once every few hours.
Wide-eyed, emotional, convincing: there he was, in front of us, the people who hung out with him, explaining that this song was his.
Of course, I mention all this because I wonder what the architectural equivalent would be.
Perhaps a man, or woman, who spends all of his or her time sketching strange buildings – detailing elevators that lead to elevators and hotel rooms that interconnect to secret swimming pools in which hundreds of people sit, talking – finds that his (or her) sketchbook has been stolen.
Fifteen years later, then, this person is on vacation with friends – but the hotel they've chosen looks awfully familiar.
Too familiar.
It's his building.
"I designed this goddamn thing!" he screams, rattling door handles and staring through rotating glass doors at the swimming pool. He's sweating, veins visible, pulsing on his forehead. Everyone takes a step back. Is my cell phone charged? one thinks. Should I call 911?
"This is my hotel!" the man screams, kicking over an ice bucket.
He gets so loud his friends start to panic, eventually punching him in the face, hoping it will knock him out; it doesn't work.
The police arrive.
Our architectural sketcher is immediately arrested. He is strapped face-down to a table and injected with horse tranquilizers.
But the thing is: he's right. He really did design that hotel. It really did come out of his sketchbook. That swimming pool really was his idea.
Even worse: so was the building across the street – a building he's about to see when the police release him from custody.
And those buildings downtown? He designed them, too.
He designed this whole city, see: he sketched the whole thing in his now lost book.
Except he's the only one who knows it. Not a single one of his friends believes him. In fact, people make fun of him, call him "Charles Manson" and point out the window at different buildings as if to antagonize him. "Did you design that, too?" Everyone giggles.
Soon, old friends are writing blog entries about him.
To escape the madness, the man moves to a new city, packing his bags and buying a dog – only to realize that everything about even that new city was all his idea.

(Perhaps coming soon: Sketchbook, starring Christian Bale).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This could be one of Italo Calvino Invisible cities. Geoffia, one of the cities of memory perhaps?

January 16, 2007 8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi !
i remember you like Michael Kenna B&w shots , so i think yo will like also mirzaei : , michael kenna have write a preface on his last work " humans " ...

January 16, 2007 8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's probably one of the main reasons architects become teachers. To take ideas from students. I've seen it happen a couple of times and I heard about it a lot.

January 16, 2007 9:06 AM  
Blogger cemenTIMental said...

I misread thus: escalators that lead to elevators. I think that, or vice versa, would be a pretty audacious/alarming piece of architecture. Not ideal for a very busy building needless to say.

January 16, 2007 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you

January 16, 2007 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't fiction. I have the very serious problem of Italian spammers stealing all my brilliant porn site names. Do you have any idea how long it took me to come up with 'Intenso Vagina'? Is nothing sacred?

January 16, 2007 12:12 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Hey sheepish cowgirl - I just erased the Italian porn comment-spam; sorry about that. But I'm sure he'll be back...

And it is Calvino-esque, perhaps. Hopefully not in a bad way.

January 16, 2007 12:44 PM  
Blogger Egregorian said...

I have had two seriously cool Journals stolen, or throne away... I hope stolen, and I hope that they were kept by whoever, and looked at everyonce in a while, or even used.. I sketched a city out, named it Tetragrammatiton, "the City of God" That would be cool!
Another verse in the first journal was: "in the Bible it says in the new heaven and the new earth, all the roads will be straightened, all the mountains flat, the seas smooth... I despise this idea, I say let chaos rule!" And it did!
It is not a big deal, but it made me very sad and despondant, I ran around in a very dangerous neighborhood asking drug dealers and pimps (at midnight) if they had seen a green back-pack...
I can always try to remember them!

January 16, 2007 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Straight out of Foucault's Pendulum.

The Plan subverts the Planners.

However, this lucky architect is able to recall the details of security systems that he inscribed in his designs during his drug fueled burst of creativity before his books were stolen.

Employing techniqes from the best cat-burglar movies, he sneaks back into his imagined buildings and takes up itenerant residence in maintenance closets, boiler rooms, and unleased offices.

January 16, 2007 2:58 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Wow - the Italian porn guy really did come back. Be gone, porn spammer!

January 16, 2007 4:33 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

PS: My previous comment is not directed at Tim! There was a porn spam there.

Also, Prunes, I love it! You should write the screenplay. Panic Room meets, what, Total Recall or something, via Invisible Cities and the Unabomber...

Also, Bardia, thanks for the link -

January 16, 2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

I'm guessing you don't want to hear about the relevant copyright issues. (Takes the fun out of things.)

January 16, 2007 8:47 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Actually, I'd love to, Octo.

For instance, could the mocked sketcher sue his friends...? ;)

January 16, 2007 9:42 PM  
Blogger Peter Hoh said...

deja blu (print)

January 17, 2007 1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I met this unfortunate man at Stanford in early 2000. He had designed both the new Packard building of EE, and the Mac user interface (pre-X, mind you), and been paid for neither, and he was not pleased.

I posted the full story as I remember it; thanks for prompting me!

January 17, 2007 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is SO true. Architects are insane about protecting their ideas and designs, as if they live in some kind of vaccuum.

Nothing ever arises spontaneously, it's all stolen! Stolen! Aieeeee!

January 17, 2007 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

were this to hypothetically become a movie, I would be tremendously interested in Peter Greenaway directing.

January 17, 2007 2:03 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

I think Christopher Nolan would do a better job, personally...

January 17, 2007 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was about 14-15, around about 1984, I designed a twisted skyscraper, inspired by a cough-candy twist. Even made a little maquette out of piece of polystyrene foam. Now of course everyone's seems to be doing them - Calatrava in Malmo, SOM in Dubai. And I never did find that piece of foam. That's my builidng!

This post also reminds me of Lebbeus Woods' legal action against Universal Studios after a scene in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys plagiarised a drawing published by Woods in 1987 called 'Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber'. Woods successful claim meant that the film could have been withdrawn a month after release, and only re-released after the scene was cut, but sense prevailed and Lebbeus settled for a huge amount of cash. Kerching!

January 17, 2007 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not architecture - but my ex genuinely believes that he began several fashion trends:

1. Cutting the collar from round necked t-shirts
2. Wearing t-shirts tucked into jeans at the front and not at the back
3. Wearing gym shoes without socks and leaving the laces untied

But then he also eats leaves.

Love your blog.
SJ xx

January 18, 2007 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shut down this crazy world. Make me real make, me real. I, architect and creator of your being summons you from the dark page of this sketchbook and BE REALLLLL!!!! The creation must live, master. Let it roam free amongst the scrawny pox-ridden masses and soothe humanity of its ills.


When I was a kid I created all sorts of fantasy lands. I once planned a house five miles long and three thousand storeys high. There was a whole floor dedicated to playing Lego. I think that was in reaction to not having enough Lego as a kid to build the really cool big projects I wanted to. I don't think my mother ever really understood that my true ambition was merely to be an architect but to become creator of Legopolis. I remember now...the place was so big it had a little railway track to take you round it. Oddly enough the things it didn't have too much of were kitchens and bathrooms and living rooms...something that seems to preoccupy every discussion i've had about homes lately. Another floor of this house had the world's most sophisticated computer that could read everybody's thoughts. Police would come to me to solve crimes because I had this computer and could instantly tell them who was where and what they were doing AND THINKING. But i would say "I'm on my break buddy, You'll have to do this one on your own".

Well that was just a zany excuse for an anecdote....pointless really...

But if I look hard enough on Google Earth, I'm sure i'll find this place...

January 28, 2007 7:54 PM  

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