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Mission Statement

Our primary goal is to radically re-interpret how cities are understood in order to re-imagine how development might occur.  We pursue this goal because we are deeply concerned by huge swaths of the American City that show signs of homelessness, poverty, lack of jobs, violence, decay of infrastructure, and addiction.  This concern is heightened by our perception that few entities are investing directly in these areas of the city and that little hope is being offered to the people and landscape on whose back and ground great American companies built their success.

Our belief, however, is that this lack of investment does not occur as a result of being oblivious to the situation or unwilling to help.  Instead, we feel that it is driven by a lack of imagination and failures that have occurred at the hands of current stakeholders and speculative developers.  In light of this situation, Naught is a company designed to manifest a creative force that is capable of rethinking how we build cities and putting our thoughts into action through strategic partnerships with clients and coordinated work with consulting experts. 

We intend to do so without waiting for a client to come to us and ask us to begin looking at a specific site that they are interested in transforming.  Instead, we take the initiative and examine parts of the city that appear affected by a state of crisis and emergency.  We are beginning by looking at the West Side of Chicago, will expand our efforts to other parts of Chicago, before ultimately deploying our imagination to cities throughout the Mid-West, the country, and the world.  As we do so, we are building a dynamic team of artists, architects, designers, planners, fabricators, activists, developers, filmmakers, directors, actors, and managers under the guidance of founding principal Walker Thisted.

While an investigation of a particular site is unique, they are guided by exploring the question of what is possible when limits are removed.  These limits can refer to those imposed by the cost of land, the availability of labor, or the access to innovation.  At the same time, they could be understood as the limits that separate one discipline from another.  In the work that we do, we are particularly interested in what is possible when artists, architects, designers, and urban planners work together with real estate developers, community organizations, large corporations, and media companies.  In doing so, we open the possibility of considering cities and development on terms other than how transformation might occur one lot at a time and at the hands of a particular owner.  In this sense, we explore how a section of the city might be considered a common ground that a diverse and unexpected combination of groups might be interested in such that they might operate on that site in ways that would be impossible under current ways of thinking about property division.  The result will define a new scheme of interest – in terms of human attention and rate of interest on a given investment – that benefits all stakeholders in an unprecedented manner and degree.

Thinking beyond limits of property, capital, and disciplinary boundaries stems from an ideological commitment to the dire nature of the crisis and from a belief that urban renewal solutions have only reinforced the conditions that led to the problem to begin with.  In order to chart an alternate course, we must begin by directly examining the materiality of the landscape.  In doing so, we begin with the evidence that is left on the ground rather than with the way that the space is represented by the media or via documents that define ownership.  We begin with the assumption of total continuity between vacant lots, apartment buildings, and abandoned factories, allowing our minds to explore what it might mean for an organically linked community to once again thrive in this location.  As we do so, the history of this community begins to emerge and those who have a stake in it begin to step out of the shadows as a reality capable of informing change.

In painting a portrait of the landscape, the story of how various aspects of the land, the people, and capital are connected begins to emerge.  What emerges, however, is remarkably slight in relationship to the bigness of the situation.  It pales in comparison to the scale of industry that once existed on many sites, the void that was left when it moved elsewhere, the pain that has been caused by intense prejudice and racism, the loss of capital as the area declined, and the physical scale of many of these neighborhoods. 

In order to confront the bigness of the problem in relationship to the smallness of Naught, we explore how the physical materiality of the site and its image can be manipulated, re-imagined, and publicized in order to attract interest.  This confrontation is guided by our faith in the simple power of drawing a sound plan for an alternative and the extensive range of contemporary art practices that have attempted to do so.  These practices have created a huge vocabulary of tactics that might be employed if they are liberated from the confines of the gallery and introduced to a new set of individuals and groups who likely were unaware of their existence. 

The tactics of artists used within a number of socially engaged art practices drive the creation of numerous art objects that command high prices within galleries that publicize the activism they stand for and the potential for change they represent.  The result is often a space that is not programmed in any conventional sense, but instead makes room for multiple functions and perspectives that often lie somewhere between conventional uses.  This space is supported by a broader concept, text, or narration and becomes charged as an image that provokes broader awareness of the situation from within the situation.  Our interest is in exploring how this quasi-programmed space can be the instigator for a broader process of transformation that ultimately comes to include more traditional modes of development.

The result is akin to spreading a story or mythology that is drawn out of the past, present, and future of a site by a particular artist or group over the landscape as an atmosphere that can be accessed in a variety of manners.  Our interest is facilitating the presence of this mythology, making it more visible to a wider range of people, linking this vision to those who have the power to make it a reality, managing the process of transformation, and delivering a return to the investors.  This interest allows us to imagine the future as a radical alternative to the present that is, at the same time, still comprised of its material and spiritual elements.

This exploration of an image of the future as an alternative to current suffering rests on a textual spine, script, or plan that knits together various approaches to the site.  It defines a concrete timeline for transformation and return on investment.  It is an argument for an alternative and a reason to invest that only makes sense as a collaborative and coordinated effort guided by Naught.  It traces an exploration of the space and its limits in order to draw together a unique and unexpected cast of characters who are affected and motivated in different ways by the collaboration and desire for change.  These characters are the real people who take the initial risk.  They become the icons of the change that occurrs.  Naught hopes to publicize their work and allow them to be guides for the second, third, and sustained waves of interest in the site and the work being done there. 

As leaders of a transformation become iconic, we hope to help infuse their existence and the broader site with poetry.   In this sense, the urbanism that Naught fosters is cinematic.  It is connected to a broader legacy of art and entertainment in order to make the process of transformation fun rather than a death of the existing that residents must pass through in order to arrive at the new completed vision of the urban planner or architect.  To do so, we draw on the legacy of fun and exciting urban events as a user’s manual left behind to restart a stalled society that increasingly shares very little common space.  The result will be an entirely new way of investing in local conditions while drawing upon broad resources to create a new space that is globally connected and visible.

Naught is currently drawing the plans to accomplish these goals.  We are building the internal team required to execute the.  Most importantly, however, we are getting our vision into the hands of the initial artists, community members, and investors who can set this remarkable process of transformation into motion.  

In order for these plans to be a success, there are 13 essential guidelines:

1) We should not be afraid of lingering in the silence of the wasted city in a state sponsored and suspended by art.  It is the “only” way to break free from the cycle.

2) Our work must support an exploration of the stories and events that unfold and have unfolded on the landscape and how these stories relate to a broader cultural context.  These stories must be made accessible to a broad public through novel encounters with works of art derived from these stories and installed in the city.  The result of these encounters should be to provoke wonder.  These stories and work should allow us to approach the materiality of the city in order to gain access to the historic cannon, collections, histories, traditions, art forms, and their capacities.  This nostalgia should help us connect to and use prior knowledge and tactics for building, dwelling, and thinking.  The goal should be to break them from the page where they remain locked in a state of representation, unable to affect change in the world.  Wonder, in this sense, would be driven by a new found capacity for action to change a vast nature through an extreme vision into the depth of its history.

3) We should write cities like movies.  The process should be entertaining.  We should be able to move through the change, to dance with it.  The result will be an architecture of dynamism that demands attention.  It will be diverse and unexpected.  It will be playful and reverent to a global culture of pleasure, excess, and a desire to be part of it.  These stories of transformation and culture more broadly will begin to trace the site, become installed as art that supports additional capacity as the site evolve.

4) This filmic vision of the city should be supported by an overarching virtual network.  Together, they will turn the whole city into a tablet capable of inscribing a desire or development via an underlying data set and rendering capability.  Such an interface can neither be conceived strictly digitally or as a social practice.  It must be equal parts concrete and silicon.

5) Our work must benefit the landscape as a physical site and broader ecology.  To do so, its capacity to support sustained dwelling must be increased.

6) This capacity should be defined by and benefit current stakeholders in dialogue with those who might contribute new resources.

7) We should create devices to facilitate this dialogue across the landscape, especially in so far as they map common interests across existing property lines and limitations.

8) These devices should be derived from tactics developed by artists across media.  These artists should participate in the question of what an urban play is and what the new urbanism that is provoked might be.

9) We must explore novel means of publicizing and marketing this dialogue, especially through re-purposing existing outlets and channels.  When stringing the overall effort together, we should do so by describing the group of “developers” who are actively engaged in transforming the scope of the energy that they direct from and with a particular position.  We might do so via a story that follows them and is representative of the various interest groups.

10) Our aim is to do nothing short of re-use tracts of land both for residential purposes, but also for industry and commerce.  We must take responsibility for researching and provoking them, especially in so far as the innovative urbanization process can itself be used as a source of jobs.  Our goal should be to take these products that kick start change and export them to other cities.  We should manufacture these tools as domestic / commercial / industrial / cultural units that can be combined around whatever previous state of the land.  In many ways, this would duplicate what Sears did years ago, but in a different language suited to a different spatial situation and client base.

11) We must create a market and demand for this brand and mode of urbanism.  We should aim to attract people from other cities with the novelty of our project.  We should sell the utopia and the real space by highlighting its merits and showing how a kit of parts or operating system that can be used in other cities to support a similar transformation. 

12) This new urbanism will be based on a conception of space and representation more broadly that takes a web or distributed network – with all the corresponding media and levels of interest – as its generative source.  It will drive the geometry of space in much the same manner that perspective once did.  It will be a direct evolution of how commerce and industry through technical capacity has influence design in the past.

13) Naught should become a firm lean enough and large enough to accomplish these goals, ultimately aiming to employ as many creative individuals as possible to aggressively tackle the crisis of the American City.