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Ode to Fluff

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This video was created for Cornell Architecture's Thumbnail event in April 2016: "Based on the model of PechaKucha, each presentation is 20 slides, 20 seconds each."

Here is a transcript of the entire 400-second (i.e., 6 minute - 40 second) presentation, including both the introduction and the song lyrics, along with some notes on the images. There are 20 images, each lasting 20 seconds.

Ode to Fluff
Words and music © 2016 J. Ochshorn

SPOKEN TEXT:

1
Back in 1993, I wrote a paper called Disembodied Technology and Design, which concluded with these two contrasting images, each featuring a solid red line drawn over a black and white field. In both cases, the red line is intended to bisect the image in a radical way.
Ode to Fluff image
The building section on the left is from Ronald Brand, Architectural Details for Insulated Buildings, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990 (Fig. 2, p.28); the image on the right is from Thomas Fisher, "Eisenman Builds," Progessive Architecture, October 1989, p.69. In both cases, the red line has been augmented for clarity.

2
Ronald Brand drew the red line on the left to highlight the importance of air barriers in modern construction; the red line on the right is Peter Eisenman's representation of the urban patterns underlying his fragmented design of the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University.
Ode to Fluff image
The fluid-applied air barrier superimposed over Ronald Brand's cross section (left) is manufactured by PROSOCO R-GUARD; the image appears here. The image of the Wexner Center for the Arts (right) was taken Oct. 1, 2009 by Ibagli
.

3
Now, while Karl Marx may well have underestimated the power and persuasiveness of capitalist ideology, his manifesto accurately anticipates the coming revolution in building construction described by Brand: "All that is solid melts into air, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life…"
Ode to Fluff image
There are actually three images here: the head of Karl Marx is from a painting found here (I haven't been able to identify the artist); this head is superimposed over the famous image of Einstein at the blackboard, taken in 1931. The building section on the blackboard is the same image used in the first slide, by Ronald Brand. And the text is from the first section ("Bourgeois and Proletarians") of the Communist Manifesto. An excellent article about the Manifesto, on the occasion of its 150th birthday, is the source of my contention that the young Marx "may well have underestimated the power and persuasiveness of capitalist ideology…" In criticizing the view that history somehow and inevitably compels capitalist society to collapse, the GegenStandpunkt authors state: "Bourgeois society is said here [e.g., in the passage that includes the famous lines about "all that is solid" melting into air] to have effects in the area of consciousness-forming that are simply not true: capitalism, of all forms of society, is supposed to disclose, in the relation of factory owner and free wage-laborer — or in modern terms: employer and employee — naked and brutal exploitation to everyone and compel a sober assessment! It may be true that the bourgeoisie subjects the whole world to their materialism of money and gives the whole rest of society the status of paid servants. But it can hardly be true that this has banished all ideologies about the relation of production along with its 'achieving society' and its 'free market economy.'"

4
What are these real conditions? The solid elements of traditional building — stone, brick, glass, steel, and concrete — have become secondary and contingent; their purpose is now only to support and protect an air barrier and insulation: the traditional determinants of building construction have melted into air.
Ode to Fluff image
The base image is taken from the Masonry detailing series (2009) of the International Masonry Institute. Superimposed images include stone, brick, glass (from the Seagrams Building), steel, and concrete (from one of Ando's facades, but rotated 90 degrees).

5
And what has replaced these heroic materials is literally fluff: air barriers consisting of thin membranes, and puffy fiberglass or foamed plastic insulation products that minimize the loss of energy and keep moist air from condensing on the air or vapor control layers.
Ode to Fluff image
This image of pink insulation was found here. I added some plywood, Tyvek, and plaster interior finishes, along with my own backyard, seen through the window.

6
Meanwhile, like so many heroically misguided buildings, the Wexner Center experienced cracks, leaks, and other failures; this is what happens when a designer attempts to express the "style and significance of… the look of architecture" independent of its changing technological basis.
Ode to Fluff image
The image reproduces this article: Robin Pogrebin, "Extreme Makeover: Museum Edition," New York Times, Sept. 18, 2005. The scanned images from the original print edition, shown here, do not appear in the digital version. The quote about the "style and significance of… the look of architecture" is from Eisenman, Peter, "Architecture as a Second Language" Restructuring Architectural Theory, Diani and Ingraham, eds., Northwestern University Press (Evanston, Illinois) 1989, p.71.

7
So here's my Ode to Fluff: I've set the tempo at 96 beats per minute so that each 16-bar phrase is exactly 20 seconds long. Even a simple artistic exercise can benefit from some rational calculations.
Ode to Fluff image
So this is just me in front of a black cloth. Many songs, especially within the electronic dance music or disco genre, have a tempo of 120 beats per minute (or more). Combine this with the fact that many such songs utilize a 16-bar phrase, and it's easy to see that this basic musical segment will not fit within the 20-second format required here. A calculation, therefore, is necessary to find an appropriate tempo such that a 16-bar phrase — the length of my chorus or half of my verse — will last exactly 20 seconds.

8
VERSE 1:
In architectural history
When buildings were of brick or stone
Construction was no mystery
Whether it was Greece or Rome
Ode to Fluff image
This image consists of brick walls and vaults below the Palatine Hill in the Forum Romanum in Rome (left) and the Parthenon in Athens (right). The Rome image is by Jebulon and the Greek image is by Kyri Sarantakos.

9
We chopped down trees for fireplaces
But old growth forests didn't last
So we looked for carbon's primal traces
First in coal, then in oil and gas
Ode to Fluff image
This segment actually consists of two pairs of two images each; all four images are completely independent of each other, although they are edited so that the first images of bucolic settings seem to transform into the deadened landscapes of the second set of images. I haven't any sources for the initial images, but the clearcut forest is in southern Finland and was taken by Tero Laakso; the strip mining image is from Inner Mongolia and was taken by Herry Lawford.

10
VERSE 2:
For many years this stuff was forming
Before dinosaurs were around
To stop anthropogenic warming
We need to leave it in the ground
Ode to Fluff image
This is a conceptual cross section showing various types of oil and gas wells, found here. The original source is: U.S. EPA. Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources (External Review Draft). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-15/047, 2015. The dinosaur was found here and appears to be a fictional beast named Gorgon who appeared in the film, Walking with Dinosaurs.

11
It isn't hard to do this right
We're in a dire situation
We need to make our buildings tight
Using lots of fluffy insulation
Ode to Fluff image
The underlying image is a thermogram of a Passivhaus building (mostly blue, which is good), with a traditional building in background (not so blue, which is bad). This image was copied to Commons from Wikipedia. The original source is: Passivhaus Institut, Germany. I have superimposed various trees and an invented building cladding, none of which appear in the original image.

12
CHORUS:
Doing anything is tough (I just need that fluffy stuff)
The situation's getting rough (I just need that fluffy stuff)
And I can't seem to get enough… (I just need that fluffy stuff) of that fluffy stuff
Ode to Fluff image
This image is based on JM Corbond's closed cell and JM open cell spray foam product information. I added some 2x4 framing around the opening where I appear.

13
VERSE 3:
We keep on building big glass boxes
They're proliferating like a cancer
Well if we guard the chickens with the foxes
We can't expect a better answer
Ode to Fluff image
These are four "glass boxes" recently constructed at Cornell University: an addition to the School of Hotel Administration by KSS Architects (top left); Gates Hall by Morphosis Architects (top right); the Physical Sciences Building by Koetter Kim Associates (bottom left); and Klarman Hall, also by Koetter Kim Associates (bottom right).

14
But Leger, Bentley, Orr and others
In the nineteen-seventies
Had the insight to discover
An antidote to this disease
Ode to Fluff image
This is the Saskatchewan Conservation House. I've taken much of the historical information about the early history of such passive houses (they were often called "superinsulated houses" back then) from this excellent article on the Westford House by Jospeh Lstiburek (2009).

15
CHORUS:
Doing anything is tough (I just need that fluffy stuff)
The situation's getting rough (I just need that fluffy stuff)
And I can't seem to get enough… (I just need that fluffy stuff) of that fluffy stuff
Ode to Fluff image
"The Passive House in the Woods was commissioned by a private client. It is located in the Town of Hudson, WI. It is the first certified Passive House in Wisconsin. It operates carbon neutrally and makes a surplus of energy. The Passive House in the Woods was designed by Tim D. Eian of TE Studio in Minneapolis, MN." This quote and the image of the competed house can be found here. The image of the house under construction is found here.

16
BRIDGE:
It might seem a tad ironic
That fluff is what these buildings needed
All that made these forms iconic
All of it — has been superseded
Ode to Fluff image
This is, of course, the famous Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, designed by Walter Gropius. It was perhaps the most important and iconic building of the modern movement in terms of promoting the rather insane notion that having walls made entirely of glass was a good idea. (Not visible in this image are the continuous bands of cast iron radiators immediately behind the glass facade.) The image is credited to Dr. Volkmar Rudolf/Tilman2007.

17
VERSE 4:
Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist
Started to elaborate
This "Passivhaus" designing geist
Back in nineteen eighty-eight
Ode to Fluff image
Bo Adamson (left) and Wolfgang Feist (right) are shown together in 1988 at the Passive House Conference in Duesseldorf, and then separately: Adamson here; Feist in this video here.

18
"Make the building tight," they pleaded
"No thermal bridges through the insulation
"Use triple gazing but only where it's needed
"And heat recovery ventilation."
Ode to Fluff image
This image is a highly-edited and compressed version of a cross section through the Passive House in Darmstadt-Kranichstein. The original should be consulted for a complete and accurate schematic understanding of passive house elements.

19
CHORUS:
Doing anything is tough (I just need that fluffy stuff)
The situation's getting rough (I just need that fluffy stuff)
And I can't seem to get enough… (I just need that fluffy stuff) of that fluffy stuff
Ode to Fluff image
This image of roof rafters, with spray-foam insulation, was split apart through the magic of Photoshop and brought back together using the motion keyframe feature in Final Cut Express.

20
CHORUS:
Doing anything is tough (I just need that fluffy stuff)
The situation's getting rough (I just need that fluffy stuff)
And I can't seem to get enough… (I just need that fluffy stuff) of that fluffy stuff
Ode to Fluff image
This is the same image used previously of fiberglass insulation in a wood-framed house. I added the interior finishes, as well as my own backyard, seen through the window.

Production notes:
Arranged, performed, and recorded using Logic Pro 9 by Jonathan Ochshorn.

Lead vocal: Jon Ochshorn
Background vocals: Jon Ochshorn
Keyboards: Jon Ochshorn
Software instruments played live on a midi keyboard by Jon Ochshorn: piano, bass, drums, trumpet, and organ

All recording and video editing in Ithaca, NY.

Produced by Jonathan Ochshorn.

Video notes:
The video was designed in twenty 20-second segments, to approximate the PechaKucha model for which it was created. Live images are captured on my iPod Touch, generally shot in front of a black background fabric. All images are modeled in Photoshop, some put into motion using the motion keyframe feature in Final Cut Express.