Submitted essay published as "Architecture is a SeriousThing" in Underscore Vol 1 ("Ludic"), a student-run journal atThe Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), 2014

The strange phenomenon about most things ludic is their enhanced quality in immediate vicinity of danger. It is almost as if those behaviors or interactions we find most laughable are heightened only in the clear presence of life-threatening backdrops – existential termination as prerequisite to joviality. A flight attendant whimsically flaunts her airline in an advertisement, parading inches from the blades of a jet turbine; a man lightheartedly tiptoes across a hair-width string between the formerly mirrored towers at the World Trade Center — each of these jubilant displays dances the beleaguered partition between our otherwise quotidian livelihoods and the persistent presence of doom so inherent to our mentality.

Ca. 1965 advertisement for Braniff International Airways, showing new Emilio Pucci-designed uniforms. What a surreal display of playful naïveté! As United Airlines Flight 811 can grimly attest, the jet engine is no hospitable place for the human being. Nonetheless, its presented peril only seems to heighten the playfulness in this visual. Does our lighthearted engagement of the built world string itself tangentially to the ominous presence of demise? Image courtesy Wings900

When we really ponder it, "ludic" isn't as playful as first presumed. Therein, the etymological distance spacing it from the related "ludicrous" seems foreshortened at best, coincident at worst. This experi-ential interchange between the ordinary and the abhorrently abnormal is offered here to us within the domain of such a surreal "playfulness" as a methodology by which we might estrange ourselves from the pervasive disenchantment we face in a reality discernably ever-more-so intricate and deter-ministic. Explicated architecturally, the notion of this “anticlimax as dénouement”, notably pontificated by Koolhaas, serves to procure us a grounds of pleasure perfectly tangential to the unarticulated pos-sibility of extinction. In as much as the cantilever grows only more jocose whilst it forcefully appears to overreach in soaring above our heads, we grasp to the morose dichotomy which divides our play from our demise.

Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Busan Cinema Complex’s (영화의전당) sculpturally jocular cantilever boasts at once a presence of experiential estrangement and supposed danger. To frolic below its copiously weighted spans is to engage the contrariety between ludic play and ludicrous annihilation. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Implicit to this mental juxtaposition is a perversion of things or situations often overtaken in everyday life by habitualization, in so doing allotting us novel experiences performed to logically ludic (or ludi-crous) ends. Upon return from our journey of defamiliarization, we encounter a tweaked perspective, something more akin to the nuances of our existence. This is the unique ability of our constructed sur-roundings to shift, without conscious effort or blatant patronage, the very mechanisms through which we perceive existence by engaging alternative conditions such as ludic frivolousness. In its wake, we, the Audience, are irreversibly more indulgent, enhanced Spectators capable of deeper interaction within our world.