Dr. Thomas Mical


The stealth landscape operates around us, unseen. As objects, incidents, and spaces within the city are lost or disappear, the question of their duration and destination are raised. If they are reconfigured or recede into the mottled and weathered back ground textures of multiple (formal, conceptual, electro-mechanical) landscapes, clearly any space, city, or landscape can be defined by its negations rather than by its institutions. The spaces of modernism are the scene of disappearances, or imploded theaters of negation. These alternate readings, in their entirety, comprise the stealth landscape.

Primarily a hypothetical aesthetic terrain vague, this covert landscape is but a penultimate realization of the forces of negation lurking within every nascent technology - that is to say, within every (virtual) landscape. The stealth landscape is a post-machinic landscape aesthetic informed by the art of disappearances operating within every metropolis (and its electro-mechanical re/presentation). It is the realm of interstitial projections, where the virtues of concealment and erasure give rise to parallel processes, to multiple landscapes, multiple codings, multiple bodies. Not a pre-modern notion of edenic classical pastures, this construct (sw)allows the possibility of recognizing the sum total of erasures within any (virtual) landscape overlapping the boundary line between the virtual world of technology and the corresponding spaces of immanence within prosthetic urban spaces. Once recognized, both body and terrain are irreversibly bound by the negational tendency of all technology. From this vantage point, cyberspace is not a place but a persistent negational atmosphere.

As a landscape, the undecidability (visual ambiguity arising from simulation) of virtual space is initially a question of the absolute (event) horizon [that both bounds and exceeds the eye]. Like other landscapes, the stealth landscape is composed of metastatic atmospheres and terrains. The stealth body in the stealth landscape, as the fruition of Futurist agenda of speed and vectoral bodies, generates ambiguities of distance and position. The landscape of negation both slides from beneath and exceeds the pastoral lands cape tradition, as it does the urban tradition.

The black forest of cyberspace deliberately overlaps multiple stealth landscapes: in our metropolis, in our imaginations, in our terminals, in our optics. Negational operations, embraced in a (deliberate) stealth architecture - operations of cloaking, screening, concealment, negation, suspension, interruption, of "mottled" atmospheric spaces receding into the background of white noise - are clearly evident in the electro-mechanical metropolis - where the stealth landscape is its dominant shadow. In this landscape, marginal positions become derelict information-shadow zones that duplicate the vacant/exhausted spaces in the metropolis (or its virtual re/presentations).

Not a physically present bounded and static (Roman) space, nor the idle divergence of affluent programmers, the stealth landscape is a commonplace territorial field for the projection of our own unseen thoughts. Like other landscapes, it is both aesthetic and accessible. It can be traversed by (virtual) bodies, the gaze, or pure information. The orthodox possibility of the sublime manifest within a landscape points toward the unexplored option of a post-machinic electro-mechanical sublime. In it one can be immersed or dispersed, simultaneously. Privileging simple curves and densities of (Riemann) space over the tedious landscapes of nature, (those that have irretrievably lost their dominant status and are now being overwritten/reformatted by the manifestation of stealth tectonics/technology), the stealth landscape presents itself to us as the phantoms of unseen "others" layered beneath and between visible stretches of textures and forms. In cyberspace, these textures and forms exist as alphanumeric data arrays and implied/feigned Gnostic space [The Matrix]. Both slide into the stealth landscape when they proliferate operations of erasure and negation (intertwined into a logic of disappearances).

The difficult quality of atmospherics [stimmung] is a crucial but under-emphasized aspect of architectural space within the metropolis - the ambient spaces of the contemporary urban landscape implicate an atmospherics of architecture (architecture as the precipitation of ideas). Though the role of atmospheres (plus terrain and opposition) in traditional Japanese aesthetics, architecture, and martial strategy is primary, it connotes an alternate reading in the design process - engendering atmospheres that acknowledge the necessity of disappearances. Just as shadow and light are conditional boundaries of countless potential spaces, so too the complex interrelation between light/shadow in post-machinic neon streetscapes makes further demands on the occupation of shadows - or the region where multiple shadows overlap and intersect.   In classical architecture, shadows were the haunts of disembodies souls.  It is in this intersection that the anti-metaphysical stealth landscape is born.

The construct of a "landscape" is like stealth technology; both engage tectonics, proportions, geometry, textures, depth, and intention. The tendency toward stealth is a fragmentary ahistorical process; the stealth landscape is a post-structuralist revision of landscape aesthetics designed for new telemetric consumptive gazes. The stealth landscape becomes a radical inversion of optics (as the rigid reference of certainty) where concealment is the aesthetic value [Blanchot argues that the gaze is the eruption of what is concealed by vision].  Bergson argues that the thinking mind subdivides both time and space if they appear as endless continuums, as in the feigned space of virtual technology. Now the apparatus of the modified eye does this for us - a taxonomy of gazes unique to this medium will be eventually articulated.



Musashi, the classical theorist of kendo (Japanese sword combat) states (in an apparently Taoist moment): "By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist - that is the void...where there is nothing...". Origin and end, the cauldron for virtual architecture.  All disappearance can be read/reconfigured as strategic; therefore architecture in the metropolis is strategic disappearance. Peter Wilson, in a Tokyo design competition based upon Ninja architecture, developed a figurative architectural vocabulary founded no only on secrecy and concealment, but a deliberate attempt to negate the information-age metropolis, by filling an absence with a void.

Absolute essences are here supplanted by transitory images across an indeterminate frame. The urban nomad (simultaneously Benjamin's "flaneur" and Poe's "Man of the Crowd"), in his endless wanderings, traces in this disappearing metropolis a futile cartography. The images of the city appear constructed to "diffuse" the metropolis through a deliberate suspension of perspectival laws and positional multiplicity - in these streetscapes there is always the sensation of being "underneath" or "between" spaces; the viewer is continuously established in a floating relationship with the implied depths of volume encountered when inhabiting shadows (physical and gestural).



Asian military theoretician Sun Tzu places deception at the center of all endeavors ("when near, appear far - when distant, appear close"). Technology is no longer the extension of desire, but appears as the manifestation of these secret processes - stealth technology is merely an acceleration of forces always already present in the technological impulse. Stealth technology posits a mutable and deliberate relation between what is revealed and what is concealed, where one appears as opposed to where one is projected (both positionally and conceptually). Not an obscuring architecture, it should be a sophisticated response to the multiple negations consumed in the aesthetics of disappearance. The stealth landscape engages assemblages and techniques of concealment and erasure derived from (stealth) technology (insofar as all technology is stealth technology).

Not merely the desire to decrease its visual presence while increasing its potential threat, the advent of deception, concealment, and stealth within (military) strategy is a continuous trajectory from ancient treatises. Traditionally, advances in (stealth) technology are frequently derived from the military - timeless strategies (of concealment) supplement the current boundary of technology: deliberate positional mis-information equates with time (surprise). Virilio and De Landa have exposed this. Stealth technology is also a deliberate negation of form by form - though the stealth aircraft may be visually seen, its threat of instantaneous presence (a negation of distance time) is a distillation of suspense. Here, as in architecture, maximum precision creates maximum uncertainty. Cybernetics tells us that information is positively quantified by its uncertainty - uncertainty assumes a recurring dominance; signal differs from noise in increasingly smaller slices. Marx and Adorno have addressed the "negation of negation," but technology refuses to stop time or limit this reduction.

Every technology creates analogous space(s) that negate and erase; shadows in the electro-mechanical landscapes of the metropolis are now more significant as those cast by volumes - the distinction between night and day are tired romanticism. As a consequence of technological oscillations in the late 20th century metropolis, bounded and static spaces are replaced by a hypothetical thermodynamics of form. As technology operates as a pure vehicle for erosion (for erasure/dissolution), it destabilizes the stasis of these spaces and landscapes - it accelerates the possibilities of disappearances, and postpones linear time.

By privileging information (over force) as the true commodity of information, the stealth landscape points toward a radical rethinking of the contemporary urban, critical, or electro-mechanical landscapes in relation to the process of negation (and derivatively an architecture derived from stealth tectonics) and information. If every reading is a misreading, and the value of information lies in its uncertainty, then of course the traditional values of architectural discourse must be suspended in favor of exploration of the se "others"/"doubles" of architecture.

Stealth technology, which emphasizes minimal areas of appearance through distortion (especially the ability to appear as many things from multiple positions) places a greater reserve in the concealed, in the collapse depth of disappearance. The ability to appear as many things from multiple vantages implies a radical perspectivism (one without absolutes), as a discrete strategy of urban in(ter)vention. It contains a parallel desire not to appear at a distinct position, but to hold many (false) ones, or no true one. Thus the strategy of stealth (the desire for negation/disappearance) encoded in technology becomes tectonic strategy of making/intervening in the stealth landscape.

The tendency of technology to diminish in size, to seek its own oblivion, is manifest in stealth technology, as it is the essence of civilization. The graceful curves and invisible/absorbent materials of this technology point toward both a new vocabulary of curved/faceted spaces and plates, and concave/convex spaces that correspond to concave/convex ideologies. A traditional vocabulary of voids must not be equated with the erasures of technology (or the aesthetics of disappearance). These absences resist a simple taxonomy; the stealth landscape could generate unexplored/unclassified (proto)types of space: the manifold space, pressure gradients, modal space, oscillations, distortional space, topological breaks, white noise, warped space, spaces of erasure, spaces of concealment, dissections, liquid space, erosional space, dislocation/mis-location space, unfolding space, implosion space, and countless unnamed others. Project your fantasy into this darkness. The stealth landscape corresponds to a geometry founded not on absolutes, but impermanent durations and sections. As the concealment or disappearance of things is necessary to recognize identities and histories, it is clearly a crucial component of any metropolis, one worth examining.

The modern landscapes are themselves each a multiplicity, written by gestures and vectors, by gazes and desires, simultaneously. These multiple frames provoke a metafiction (fictional discourse piled upon fictional discourse, similar to superimposing multiple languages), one that lacks a map. The motions of the virtual body write gestures into the site that persist as traces. Into the discourse of the body (exhausted in literature and virtual space, only belatedly in the simulated city of the media), a slow erosion of the tenuously integrated subject leads to a liberated "nomadic" drift or "skimming motion" through the stealth landscape(s), whereby the master narratives are partially erased and overwritten by the isolated turbulence generated in the post-Oedipal metropolis. The inscribing of the dashed lines of hurried trajectories and information flows slipping between plates and screens generates a possible web-matrix of frictionless glides, a map of desires created by tactile surfaces of alphanumeric arrays, a map that is equivalent to the stealth landscape. It will be a disjointed map, like the first ones, full of voids and dragons, inviting the projections of our own (sub)conscious desires.



By utilizing a compressed history of mapping and projection practices (with special emphasis on the representation of the lost, absent, and forbidden), there exists the possibility of developing a representational vocabulary for their investigations of the disappearing city. Not mere mechanical rules, this can be an active effort to capture imaginative gestures and record "the non-existent." in reference to the body and the metropolis, as dictated by the ferocity of events generated by passing through the occupied city. Exploration of systems of projection can be expanded to include recent film theory (already a projection of a projection, a telescoping of theories), which emphasize who is casting the projections, why project, and what is concealed in this endeavor. The interrelation between optics and occlusions will inform this drift/search for untried representations of the metropolis, through disappearances.

Examination and elaboration of these possible multiple systems of projection require a sensitivity to the type and degrees of distortion (both mechanical and conceptual) possible. This is not meant as a critique, but as a further definition of possible techniques. As every act of mapping or projecting will inherently contain distortions, these occurrences can be sustained, erased, or enhanced. Traditional techniques can be grafted or superimposed onto non-traditional techniques, artifacts, or discourses to generate unforeseen original contributions, in a process analogous to "minor" building strategies in the stealth landscape.

Lines that intersect with discrete terrains can be read in the metropolis at every level, and at every level they engage the act of stealth/concealment. Note: all laminar flows become unstable after a specific velocity; the smallest deviation from a line toward a vertiginous motion defines the construct of the "clinamen" since Lucretius ("exiguum clinamen principiorum"). Perhaps an infinitesimal sphere of massless points surrounding an (even more) infinitesimal speck of momentum-flow will swerve.  This ancient term is perhaps a more appropriate construct for speculative design research in the metropolis - as the origin of a radical transformation, it is the unity of both event and space. Linear trajectories, clinamens, voids, and erasures are simultaneously architectural and epistemological tools, in that knowledge is an intersecting of fields, flows, and terrains. Within these intersections, cognition of the stealth landscape will be founded on instantaneous shifts from the distant to the immediate point-of-view between overlapping shadows.

The line is primarily a diagram of relations (hence it is the first primitive machine); so to is the electro-mechanical gaze of virtual bodies in cyberspace and post-structuralist urbanism. Discourses of the camera obscura, gendered directional gaze, and haptics is crucial to the study of disappearances - e.g., disappearances of historic figures (and history), or of objects within the urban landscape. As our eyes draw invisible lines with the gaze, and the gaze is always already framed by alternate lines/borders, there are great possibilities of conflating this condition with the architectural necessity to draw [increasingly digital] lines. These lines can operate through the surface level, but more profoundly in the transforming metropolis. The laws of perspective, of rational alignment, can here be disregarded in favor of other (stealth) geometries, devoid of privileged phallocentric and logocentric points-of-view. There also exists the possibility of replacing the tyranny of the petrifying medusa/panoptical gaze (as referent) with more precise non-hierarchical tracings of the flows and turbulences that define the unseen stealth landscape - at diverse scales.

Though it is pointless to reconstruct a brief history of the erasure of the subject in the face of negational technology, exploration of discrete occurrences of loss, absence, and the forbidden are crucial first gestures of constructing stealth landscapes - those landscapes that incite or provoke bodies (real or virtual) to seek their own disappearance. Baudrillard's tagging of the "viral contamination of forms by images" immediately destabilize all stable spatial referents. Intertextual negation, as processes of erasure, attempts to eliminate the pre-modern landscape's imprint (writing) upon modern space. The spaces of landscape themselves suffers a negation, in that the static/bounded/atmospheric space is erased in favor of an evacuated/voided landscape. Classical ordering principles, derived loosely from an obsolete vision of landscape, are themselves negated by the inevitable consequences of technology.  Everything topologically extends into itself (the body, subjectivity, space) like a Klein's bottle-space, casting immaterial shadows. It is only the stealth landscape that endures.



The virtual body, the virtual space, and their machines are co-conspirators in the radical rewriting of the urban landscape as a prosthetic process of (Nietzschean) transvaluation. The stealth landscape, which is really a latent possibility within every landscape, can be seized in both the exhausted/marginal spaces of the metropolis and the dark fields of cyberspace. Le Corbusier's ocean liner is eclipsed by the stealth shadow; the possibility of constructing static space is contaminated by the projected unconscious, the uncanny space, the spectral space excluded from but haunting the visual frame.

Cyber-City Tokyo: immersion in THE city that fears the daylight causes one to investigate the possibility of the smallest inhabitable space. The endless stealth landscape dwells (poetically) in these minuscule spaces. Every act of disappearance points towards the possibility of a metropolis that has left behind its dialectical need for stone and shadow, of body and space. The need for commodification of EVERY object of desire encourages the surgical revision of bodies, of architectures, of ideas.  The possibility of the stealth landscape is merely one amongst endless others (commercial, sexual, political, tectonic, aesthetic,...). It is in the dual processes of erasure and (false) projection, of calligraphic reduction and surgical revision, that the re/presentation of the contemporary metropolis is being supplanted by its electronic "other". Tokyo is the first among many intersections of feigned space and overlapping plates, a prevalent stealth landscape driven by unseen machines grinding towards pure white noise through condensation and displacement.


Stealth Landscape: Virtual

Architecture exceeds writing; the stealth landscape exceeds the sum of gestures inscribed upon it. Buildings absorbed into their viral images implicate a calligraphic architecture (an analogue to wireframe gestures). In the nighttime metropolis and in cyberspace, shadows layered upon shadows are the mottled field that render the individual a transparent mirror of these non-dialectic erasures.

As the possibility of re/constructing an absorptive cyberspace asks us to revise our theories of knowledge and the production of artifacts, so to our assumptions relating to the translation of the body from flesh into trajectory across the cold surfaces of the stealth landscape demands reconsideration. Feigned bodies in feigned spaces lead us to a suspension of disbelief of the cyber-city, such that this immense realm of immersion and potential always abandons us into the vacant parking-lot of midday (identical with a matinee film-viewer's disappointment upon exiting to the parking lot of the "real" world). It is this disappointment, this fatigue, that characterizes the most significant contribution to our readings of the metropolis, those repeatedly generated by the (unfulfilled) potential of cyberspace.

If we can expand the construct of the stealth landscape, as the unfolding of multiple skins from a body into a city of saturated negations and shadows, there exists the possibility of the interjection of cyberspace surfaces (feigned AI-generated or computer-generated simulation space) into the arenas of pre-modern space (the city). Here the crucial distinction between immersion and representation under the rubric of stealth can finally be raised - as the stealth landscape is driven by technology, immersion/dispersion stresses the limits of representation.


Machine, Landscape, Machine-Landscape

The projective body of technology leaves behind traces of negations. The permanence of ruins gives way to transient situations; the static and bounded space of our past surrenders to the virtual space of technology; spatial and temporal constructs collapse in the unflinching presence of the machine. The stealth landscape, one irritated by the this presence, now cannot exist outside of the machine.

It is interesting that the spaces of modernity negate the vegetal landscape, a reversal of the pre-modern convention. The absent vegetal landscape signifies this process of (partial) erasure, as a site of inscription for new routines and sub-routines of modernity. Each potential substitute further erases the pre-modern condition of an integrated landscape in a bounded space. The landscape, once the ultimate integrated referent and locus of meaning, no longer maintains its unity, but becomes another site of intervention for virtual strategies of desire. The landscape's fall from epistemological grace invites countless speculative revisions in favor of the hegemony of the relentless but diminishing machines that drive our desires. The machine in the landscape subsumes, obscures, and overrides all. Now the machine IS the landscape.

The radical transformation of post-machinic spaces places the post-machinic body in a marginal but dependent relation to those virtual spaces; therefore the body is not only a remainder of superimposed inscriptions for modern disintegrated strategies of abstraction - the body-space relation shifts irreversibly into a (para)sitical relations to the negational landscape. Implicit in the apparatus and the medium of the emerging (recombinant) code of (stealth) technology, a formal methodology arises intrinsically from the machine (as ideological apparatus). It begins as a political theory of concealment engendered within a machinic assemblage, not exterior but folded into itself, into its shadow. The shadow overwhelms its object.  The stealth landscape obscures its own origins and boundaries. In each case, the relation between artifact, gesture, and space will implicate suppressed architectural strategies in the city of twilight. We must always be aware that disappearance is a composite action, never a simple erasing, but an occupying of empty shadows by negation and minor erasures of that which once mattered, and once was matter.



In 1753 the Abbé Laugier introduced the primitive hut as an embodiment of reductivist principles of the origin of architecture in his Essai sur l’architecture. Normative techniques can be grafted or superimposed on to non-traditional techniques, artifacts, or discourses to generate unforeseen original contributions, as spolia (hybrid monsters). This method of assemblage has always been the shifting terrain of progress. In this worldview, we cannot build upon the ruins of the past - the ruins of the past belong upon the desires of the present. Origin and end are a meaningless unity in the multivalent shadows of the stealth landscape.

Let us exhume the 18th century debate regarding the origin of the first primitive hut in relation to the primitive landscape, as an archaic question of the origin of architecture which confronts us today. The stealth landscape is the base ground for a new mythical exit of architecture and urbanism. Now we must be concerned with the impending end of architecture forecast in the first moves. We must move beyond the implicit necessity of projecting the question of virtual dwelling within the stealth landscape as origin, and witness its consummation into the shadows of negation and disappearance, like the reverse image of the burning primitive hut in David Lynch's film Lost Highway. This dissociative fugue is the teleological movement towards the primitive origin of (stealth) technology.  As a chance to rewrite the origin of architecture as the future "architecture degree zero," the origin persists as a rhetorical question that negational technology is drawing us back towards the impressionable void of the immediate future.

Consider the words of dead Laugier, rewritten for the 21st century:

It is the same in architecture as in all other virtual arts: principles are founded on disappearing nature, and nature's process clearly indicates its rules of erasure. Let us look at cybernetic man in his high-tech primitive state...without any aid or guidance other than his digital senses. He is in need of a place to rest. On the rooftops over a violently flowing streetscape he notices a stretch of concrete; its fresh solitude is pleasing to his eyes, its dereliction invites him; he is drawn there and, stretched out at leisure on this sparkling carpet, he thinks of nothing else but enjoying the gift of urbanism; he lacks nothing, he does not wish for anything. But soon the scorching heat of information technology forces him to look for shelter. A nearby alley draws him to its multivalent shadows; he runs to find a refuge in its depths, and there he is content. But suddenly mists are rising, swirling round and growing denser, until thick clouds cover the skies; soon, torrential rain pours down on this refuge. The digital savage, in his stealthy shelter, does not know how to protect himself from the uncomfortable electro-mechanical atmosphere that penetrates everywhere; he creeps into a nearby cinema and, finding it dry, praises himself for his discovery. But soon the darkness and foul air surrounding him make his stay unbearable again. He leaves and is resolved to make good by his ingenuity the careless neglect of the relentless metropolis. He wants to make himself a dwelling that protects but does not bury him. Some scintillating billboards in the city are the right material for his purpose; he chooses four of the closest, rearranges them into a square; on these he hoists from two sides yet another row of discarded artifacts of concealment which, inclining towards each other, meet at their highest point. He then covers this kind of roof with recycled detritus so closely packed that neither spotlights nor radio waves can penetrate. Thus, the post-humanist man is housed by the stealth landscape.







bacaBACA2002 . architecture