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Architectural Travel Notes, Morocco

Wind over water at the unornamented mirror lake of Menara Gardens. Built afar, adjacent the olive grove, by an imagined beduin cult of brutalist worshippers.

There is no photographic image, no advertisement, no glowing condensed corporate typography. Buildings seem to emerge directly from the reddish-brown ground, molding into soft cubes and boxes. The cityscape does not pry for attention, its decidedly nonmodern psychogeography seamlessly merges into a pastoral sprawl inflated to vast dimension and density.

I have a great affection for cats, as all tasteful and self-respecting humans do. Particularly, I cherish their arcane capability to offer a particular kind of intense, but silent companionship. Observing a city beneath a full moon, low and heavy, in quiet unison with a cat is a privilege quite uncomparable to anything else.

Palais el Badi: Afroeuropean Mythologies

A gleaming S-Class in black and chrome is parked next to a reddish clay wall, passed by a kid on a creaking bicycle and a handsome old man in a grey kaftan (I take special note of his accurately groomed, short grey beard). The limousine’s presence marks the place as psychogeographic science fiction. It is an intruder, an object from another time and universe, one I seem to be strangely familiar with: NFC readers, softly organic trainers, caftans, dust, cooked wool, satellite dishes, Buckydomes, walled gardens, fliphones, iPhones, hairstyles, all somehow materializing in an unexpected kind of 2020.

Urban Moroccan housing defaults to a subtle ledge starting on the first floor. It offers shade to the life in the street, increases the size of the living quarters (ground floors are mostly used for storage or workshops) and lends an element of decided, simple ornamentation to the otherwise plain cube. This is usually mirrored by the roof construction: the top floor is reduced to about a third of the ground floor area, creating a large terrace. From this, the shape of the residential unit emerges: a soft-edged rectangular box, defined by two interrelating incisions.

A bed in the desert, nature in perfect silence. There is the soft sound of flocks of small puffy birds passing overhead, and a warm breeze. Sun sets over the ranges, the desaturated Atlas mountains loom in the background. Life is forced into equilibrium. Many ways to go from here. (02/10/20)

In Casablanca, architecture appears to be more substance than artefact. It seems to bee perpetually melting, flaking, merging with nature and civilisation. Many buildings echo a faint Art Deco heritage, misunderstood even by the foreigners that brought it to these parts. Since, the idea of the graceful line seems to have evolved into something more organic, matching northern African sensibilities and energies. Here, the new and modern appears as just another iteration, reintegrated into the profoundly social mechanics of the medinas and markets, all refinement reserved for two-storey courtyards, areas of consultation and quietness.

What would you go to Casablanca for? For two days? — Ingrid

Gasoline Zen

It’s remarkably silent as we slowly cross Beethoven Street. I ponder the gradually passing shadows and whether they are the most real thing I’ve seen today. Dry-clean smell permeates this black Kia Optima. We keep inching along Culver. Finally, the freeway sprawl, in front of us. I servo down a window in anticipation – only to find the freeway packed with the afternoon jam, and myself in stasis again.

Jon said that Uber has put a layer on top of the city, opened it up. It provides no freedom, replacing one rigged system with another. New economics, but no new access (economics newer create new things). Nothing improved, it’s a stall, sideways momentum. My driver is a quiet, chinese man, entirely clad in beige. He puts a Muji tray of caramel sweets on the handrest. I take one and never eat it.

Under the street lights, a Volkswagen Passat stops to pick me up. Its interior smells of industrial strawberries, the stereo playing progressive sidechain arpeggios. There is a moody iridiscent sliver in me that enjoys how well this music matches the ride, the nighttime tunnel flow. We are traversing the dark city in an almost meditative state. Gasoline Zen, I post to Twitter.

The music selection is an integral part of every ride, in a very different way than during Berlin Taxi rides. American radio stations somehow seem to have access to a deeper archive of 1980s rock classics, inacceptable music that seems strangely adequate in Californian air. Toto, Stones, The Wings, they all seem to complete a cliché that may be more real than the actual city.

Thomas is driving me. He is in a palm tree-patterned daishiki. He is listening to The Wave radio at full volume, some black-eyed R’n’B, and keeps humming along. The ever-present industrial strawberry smell mixes with his vanilla perfume. All of this is highly pleasant.

This one blasts trap beats, the stereo’s volume perfectly tuned. As the sun casts soft shadows onto my ankles, I notice yet another variant of the faint dry clean/dried fruit scent that I am unable to place (this country’s olfactory industry has long since emancipated itself from the limited selection of fruit available on earth, I scrawl into my notebook). The car is en route to Los Feliz, where I’d like to visit Ennis House, and stare at the cityscape in dusk and sun. On Glendower Avenue, the door closes and the Prius hums away. I remain by myself on a steep road, next to a vaguely Aztec structure.

Let’s save this particular now

Dieses Jahr hat in Los Angeles begonnen, nachdem die ersten beiden Monate in einer Art Druckwelle an mir vorbeigezogen waren, nachdem WAF GMBH ihre Existenz rechtsgültig begonnen hatte. Es war eine Rückkehr an einen Ort, den ich während meiner vorigen Besuche nicht verstand, aber mich stets fasziniert zurückließ. Das fundamentale Versagen dieser Stadt, eine Stadt zu sein1, ihre psychotische Dunkelheit, die Geometrie ihrer Schatten im immerzu perfekten Licht – mein Versuch, eine Perspektive auf Los Angeles zu finden hält an und findet inzwischen in einem Are.na-Channel statt: Parsing L.A..

Seit meiner Rückkehr habe habe ich nicht aufgehört, über diese projizierte Stadt und ihre Orte nachzudenken. Ebenso habe ich nicht aufgehört, Boy Harsher zu hören. Die dunkle Campyness des Projekts aus (enttäuschenderweise: Massachusetts) fließt gleichermaßen in den schwarzen Sonnenschein, der so spezifisch für Los Angeles ist. Diese Musik füllt Industriebrachen und flutet die mit 20 Meilen pro Stunde vorbeiziehenden leeren weißen Kuben, die Gebäude sein sollen. Wie so vieles in den Vereinigten Staaten ist sie eine Rekonstruktion europäischer Affekte mit amerikanischen Mitteln. Wie so vieles in Los Angeles speist sich ihre Anziehungskraft aus eben dieser monumentalen Fakeness.

Ich habe die Alben und LPs von Boy Harsher mehr gehört als viele andere Musik in diesem Jahr. Los Angeles blieb und die Stimmung blieb und die Erinnerung an das Licht und die Menschen blieb. Es ist schwer, sich der Sleaziness zu erwehren, dem Eingeständnis einiger Kaputtheit und der Weite und Freiheit, die von dieser Musik ausgeht. Das hat viel mit Jae Matthews‘ Gesang zu tun, geschult an der Attitüde und Anziehungskraft der europäischen Goths (Siouxsie Sioux, Anja Huwe, man muss die richtigen YouTube-Videos kennen).

Motion, Westerners und Morphine (ey, diese Titel) haben mich durch einige Härten halluziniert, als Narrative einer Welt, die es nur ausgedacht gibt, und halt in Los Angeles, wo alles erfunden ist. Es ist großartige Musik, wie L.A. eine großartige Stadt ist, wie es nichts sharperes gibt als eine Truckerjacke aus gewachstem Twill im richtigen Licht.

Boy Harsher wurden zum Kristallisationspunkt meiner Beach Goth-Playlist, vermutlich der reinste Ausdruck meiner Lust an brachial doofer Affirmation, zu der ich in diesem Jahr gefunden habe. Diese Playlist bedeutet mir viel – ebenso wie Los Angeles und meine Perspektiven in der Stadt, denen Boy Harsher Raum und Permanenz in 2019 gegeben haben, auch auf dem kalten Boden der Tatsachen zum Ende der Dekade.

There was a moment among the abstract government buildings. I was very tired, the mournful groove of Boy Harsher oozing from my wireless earpiece, an electric scooter zooming past. I realized where I was, which world, how far I had walked. Let’s save this particular now. (Berlin, September 2019)

  1. Traversing the airspace above L.A. and the valley beyond makes the vastness of this country apparent. It is, fundamentally, still the far west, unclaimed nature, emptied of its original inhabitants, painted with a thin layer of civilisation and semi-permanent architecture. Were the people settling here to leave, it would turn full western-trope ghost town of monumental dimensions.

Psychological Bar Reviews (7)

The coordination between hues of orange of about 24 vintage Polyside Chairs arranged around square plastic tables, four oversized umbrellas advertising SION KÖLSCH and the swooping letterforms so tastefully deployed to the menu headers of Café Hallmackenreuther is ever so slightly off, and thus achieves a kind of perfection any Pantone folder would ruin. The palette is positively exciting, reframing the scenery as an episode of quintessential 1973ish West-Germanness.

A table over, one of the quarter’s apparent doyens is holding court. With white-bearded smiles, patrons, strangers and acquaintances passing the square are waved over – while multiple magazines, tiny glasses of white wine and an eager young labrador keep being miraculously juggled. „Flat white, in a cup“ is the order, which is swiftly downed upon arrival.

Beyond the leafy courtyard, the café itself has opened its glass front, providing ample space to bustle about for a pair of stewards that tends to the crowd reclined in polyethylene. One is green-eyed, lanky and bumbling, a shoddy bowler hat hiding strands of streaky blonde hair and yesterday’s night out. His partner – all sagging thrashed denim and big-haired, nose-pierced, crop-topped street cred – is doing a considerably more professional job, inserting some urban eroticism into an otherwise almost pastoral scene. French, Italian and Kölsch are spoken among maple trees, all softly blending in the most pleasant summer air.

Hallmackenreuther, Belgisches Viertel, Cologne.

Psychological Bar Reviews (6)

The mezzanine level of Sightglass is bustling at this time of the day, making the fact that the lower floor is designed to hold a maximum of ten patrons at full capacity all the more commendable.

Along the bar, a free as in coffee startup consultation is taking place, the vocal fry soothing over whatever deep domain experience, human ressources and management background is relayed to two young trucker-jackeded entrepreneurs. The phrase fermented time is uttered and followed by a pause for added effect.

Despite the amount of business conducted in the former warehouse, the overall mood remains calm and Californian. It’s friday after all. Down below, the barista adjusts the small red comb in his sizeable afro after pulling what is presumeably the four hundred twenty second espresso shot of the day. He wipes a hand on his Queen shirt, skull motif. It has been a long day. Outside, the clouds lay heavy and low on the sightlines to downtown and Telegraph Hill. A single slim figure disappears into the haze. The dogs keep barking and a week proceeds to wind down.

Sightglass Coffee, SoMa, San Francisco.

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