Transurban Sex: The Architecturalization of RomanceAndrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation | Miguel Mesa
In the last decades, four simultaneous phenomena have revolutionized the way architecture participates in the making of sexuality: 1. The development of location-based dating media (such as Grindr); 2. Monopolized control of the distribution of adult films (MindGeek); 3. The financial crisis; and 4. The money-storing condominium towers with “helicopter views”. These four emerged in 2008 as a coordinated process that produced an unforeseen outcome: a shift from the desire for true sex to the collective assessment of verified sexuality. Post-2008, sex has progressively stopped being an interpersonal human transaction (in the US, interhuman intercourse has decreased at a consistent rate of 5% per decade; in Japan, half of the adult population claimed not to have engaged in interhuman intercourse in the past month) and has instead become an architectural business. This started as a process of urban atomization. At the height of the HIV crisis, humans were distributed in bubbles of comfortable prophylactics, and risk was surrogated to pockets of recorded promiscuity. Thirty years later, this has resulted in a process in which romance has progressively been embodied in architectural devices that no longer provide accommodation for sex, but have become sex itself.
0. Antecedents: Air-Filled Urbanisms: Surrogating Risk Into The Unlatexed
Sexuality was changed radically by the 1984 Betamax Case, and so was its urbanism. That year, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sony Corp. that VCR users had the right to make copies of complete TV shows as a way to achieve a new media experience: “television time shifting”. In four years, the percentage of US homes equipped with VCRs grew from 19% to 88%, as revenues from film studios drastically shrank. VCRs allowed many people stay to at home instead of going to the movies.
Something was already happening to the architecture of homes. In 1969, the Monroe, Michigan-based company La-Z-Boy patented the first upholstered reclining chair. Promoting the predominance of latex-made rubber foam in domestic furniture, in a single year the company absorbed many of its competitors in the US furniture market by massively rendering domestic interiors upholstered. Its sales grew from 150 million in 1981 to 500 million by 1983. A year later, General Mills developed the first mass-produced microwave popcorn with butter flavoring, which shifted the $53 million home-popcorn market of 1983 into a $250 million market 10 months later. VCRs and couches came with fat. In 1985, Tom and James Monaghan’s Domino’s Pizza opened franchises in Japan and the UK in a transoceanic expansion that, 10 years later, brought their “mouth watering” meals to five continents. The transnational retreat of the social into fat-retaining homes synchronized with the transnational HIV crisis, which resulted in the disappearance from cities of spaces where sex was staged and negotiated, a regime that established the fear of fatless bodies. The architectural socialization of movies left theaters to circulate within the connected but isolated, sweet, homey couches of the living room, where hyper-caloric food was delivered.
Air-filled-latex-couches make love sex go home. La-Z-Boy. A chair by any other name is just a chair.
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