The Interview

FOCUS: Why don’t we start with a little background on you personally and the team you are with? Just some general statements that we can begin to explore in more depth.

Jorda Tivva: Given what we do, maybe I should start by saying that all my life I have been intrigued by cities and this is true of most of the team. This may seem odd since my generation mostly gave up on cities. We all grew up in the satellite communes and only visited the cities during commune history field-trips or to see elders who moved back for various reasons.

I was no different. But maybe the fact that my great grandparents, along with my grandparents and other relatives and friends, refurbished an abandoned factory into a livable compound attuned me, early on as a kid, to the possibilities of transformation. Of course, today this is a pretty common enterprise.

Anyway, after my early education in the commune, I had a chance to do an edulude with my elders, and just as I moved in with them, my grandparents joined a team to begin a transform of an abandoned office building. I learned a lot in that first year and got an extension of a year because the edulude was so fantastic. I learned many of the old crafts and even used antique hand tools.

The office building my grandparents’ team acquired was only eight-floors, so consequently they didn’t need to do a major transform. After two years, the transform was suitable for housing, a theater, food production and various ludoshops. It was amazing for a young kid to see the slow but steady progress towards the realization of a vision. Several on our team had similar experiences in their youth.

F: But it was a relatively low building that, as you say, didn’t require vertical transformation. When did you become interested in the so-called skyscraper transformations?

JT: Well, it’s a long story. I mean I didn’t realize the problem the tall structures presented, nor, of course, the potential for re-use when I lived with my elders. The tall structures were very far from where we were located. Twice I remember travelling south to claim some materials and I saw them in the distance and they initially startled me. They were so enormous. And, as I learned, so useless – a total waste as my great grandmother would say repeatedly in disgust.

I remember first recognizing the potential of those structures when we received a shipment of reclaimed steel from one of those tall buildings. In those days, they did controlled demotions like in the old days – a wasteful enterprise for little reward. I mean most of the materials afterwards were beyond reuse. We were fortunate in our case to secure some fragments of steel beams. Mostly they only did those blastings when the structures became unsafe. But it still seemed a poor choice.

What interested me most during that two-year edulude period was chemistry not transformation, oddly enough.

F: That does seem odd.

JT: It wasn’t really, because my grandparent’s team developed various appliqués on metal undergirding mostly made of clay bases and then with their chemical engineering background, they experimented with the addition of bio-materials to strengthen and add surface texture for aesthetic appeal. Their early explorations were widely distributed, but have now been superseded with crystals and airfed corals. I especially liked how their team explored bio-color seasonal alterations. They developed some of the first coatings – viamolds – that responded to sunlight to nurture vertical gardens, for instance.

F: When your two-year stint of edulude was completed you went into a lablude and abandoned the field of transformations?

JT: I spent four years with bio-lablude and a practicum – a solid foundation, but then I realized I needed a break from all this cerebralism and joined a circus co-op.

F: That seems like quite a “break” – why a circus?

JT: When I was with my elders we had the usual transitions to the arts, but since our project was so engrossing to me, I resisted the time away except when a circus would come through. I loved the gymnastics, the colorful costumes and, not the least, the clowning. I envied the troop’s physical synchronicity – their gymnastic rapport mirrored their harmonious collectivity.

My grandparents’ team had many moments of exhilaration and effusion especially when we tested a new viamold. Boredom never entered our lives, which is why the arts often felt like a distraction for me. But the circus co-op seemed to me, at that impressionable age, to be living the ludique.

I also loved their nomadic life-style. The co-op I joined mainly visited old urban complexes where transformations were underway so that they could incorporate the skeleton of the old structure in their aerial acts. Their performances consciously prefigured the creative use of the transform – they envisioned, with their aesthetic, how structures could be reused for ludic pursuits. With the circus, my early edulude experiences deepened my interest in transforms that offered possibilities of new ways to live. Seeing their creativity in action, so to speak, emboldened my imagination.

I recognized, though, in these visits a real stumbling block, excuse the pun, with many attempts to transform the larger structures. No matter how many debuilds the teams introduced to a project their efficiency always disappointed expectations: they moved too slowly, they expended energy wastefully and they repeatedly broke-down. On many projects, half the debuilds were in repair! Disappointed transformation teams abandoned projects as a result. A better way had to be found and I knew that bio-labs and specifically the viamolds held the secret.

F: So you returned to the bio-labludes to help discover a breakthrough, now it’s my turn to pun.

JT: I won’t use “breakthrough” to depict our process. It smells too much of the old world when greed determined the pace of discovery – the “get there before the next guy” syndrome. We opted for a systematic, slow process.

F: You focused on the coatings on the ironwork in the old structures?

JT: Yes, the debuilds did fine with structural iron once the coatings were removed. Their powerful lasers sliced through the stuff, but getting to it was their problem. Coating dust and debris ruined their delicate mechanisms.

As I was saying, we developed various compounds but had to wait for months for miniscule results, which indicated that our method could take decades, if not longer to transform a tall structure. And as is often the case, it was serendipity that sparked our discovery. A member joined our team one day for a brief stint to complete her oblo. She expected to do supportive tasks as she had scant experience with bio-labludes. She did however have extensive experience with mycelium in ecoludes. One day about a week into her stint, while we were lunching, she listened to our grumbling about our lack of success with viamolds and asked casually if we knew of the bio-accelerated mycelium. We were all stupefied.

Mycelium naturally draws nutrition from its host and we had engineered our viamold to suffuse moisture to rot the old cement used in the 20th century but it was an agonizingly long process and we couldn’t come up with a way to speed it up. Patience, we began to tell ourselves, had its limits – slow is one thing, but a crawl is another!

When we heard more about the amazing growth patterns of the mycelium we brainstormed at the lunch table well past dinner to come up with a protocol.

F: And you have reported some success in a short period of time.

JT: Yes, our first major test turned the coating of a five-foot structural steel wall into a gelatinous mass in three months! We imagined a complete 25,000 sq ft floor taking two years, but in fact when we applied the mold in the field to a 20th century factory relic it took half that time to achieve reuse. We attributed that to the antique cement mix, but since we expected to use viamold on similar relic structures, we expected the same results and that’s what we’ve achieved.

F: Yes, but the prep for towers takes time.

JT: The prep will take up to a year. Given that we are currently transforming a sixty-story structure – our largest project to date, which required doubling our team and training support groups – that timeline is pretty good. Putting the drainage tubes in place at that height takes time, of course, but it’s a straightforward procedure now that support teams have been trained.

F: Originally your reuse cement was eagerly anticipated, but now that your output has quadrupled in two years has the distribution kept pace?

JT. We can distribute all that we produce and in fact are spinning off teams in six localities because of the need for reuse cement.

F: I understand that the aeration and bonding agents incorporated with reuse have meant an expansion of ludistructures.

JT: Precisely, the rehabitation of antiqubans zones is accelerating with the creativity possible with reuse. As fast as we transform the relics, rehabitation occurs. The modest transforms of my elders have been superseded by the new explorations of quarribans, the below grade developments in the southern antiquarian zones, for instance. And many new teams have members with an additive design background and they are stretching the imagination of what’s a habitable and playful space.

F: Some are saying that we may see the transition of the antiqubans surpassing the earlier neourbanist vision and creating something entirely plastic, reformable, endlessly.

JT: Yes this is what is so remarkable. The neourban craze arose in opposition to the attempts in the mid-20th century to create – “livable cities.” The total farce of that term, like so much of the terminology then, was obviously in the service of the profiteers. As the neourbanist critics said, “Spaces in the service of the commodity economy.” I’ve visited the Archive and have seen the records of the pedestrian streets, promulgated as vehicle-free, but which were nothing more than “inner-city shopping malls.” Vehicles were banned so eateries could expand into the streets and consumers could shop leisurely. Everything then was geared to shopping – it must have been pretty crazy.

The neourbans remade those urban malls into craftmaking spaces of all sorts – from traditional arts to the live arts, everything you could imagine occupied the former sales hovels. And they began to modestly transform the taller structures that were abandoned as clerical spaces – or as they called them “offices” – another strange term for what was, in fact, incarceration. As neourbanism evolved as a movement, floors in these “office buildings” were cleared to allow games and some gardening, but really none of these uses could be sustained. I mean some of those buildings were constructed without exterior ventilation, vast amounts of energy were wasted simply to provide fresh air! The structures had to be transformed, but no one knew how.

F: Some were exploded into dust!

JT: Well not in recent times. The last use of “explosive demolition” – except for emergency purposes – was over a century ago.

F: Does this movement to rehabit the antiqubans have a vision?

JT: Some participants, and some are on our team, call it ludobanism: to transform the material environment, so teams with little training can endlessly reconstruct it. Even spontaneous teams could undertake a project to refashion an area. To rehabilitate that old term – architect – they say “Each team to its architisms.”

F: And this movement began in the antiquban zones and has now moved into new territories?

JT: Right, the reuse cement, with the proper additives, can be adapted in the temperate zones just as easily as it serves to create the spines needed for below grade cavity developments.

F: And what’s the future of those antiqurban zones? Do you think transition is possible for all of them?

JY: No, those in the zones of inhabitability will continue to be reclaimed by the sea. Isolation teams have made good progress containing the inevitable pollution from the eventual collapse of the tallest structures. One team we have advised is trying to do transforms with floating base stations, however they have many obstacles to overcome and they have no intention of transforming anything over fifty stories. The rest will collapse just like the hubristic economy that built those monuments to speculation and misguided technique.