Issue #0 Annotations
Peter Wilson
21 Jul 2022

A Box—forA—mussel not muscle

A box is a blob with corners. It is typologically a close relative to a building (even when the comparison might be derogative), both have robust exteriors and a tendency to dark mysterious interiors. But buildings do not arrive unexpectedly in the post with a return to sender request, as this one did.

(FIG. 1)
Peter Wilson, The Enigma of Telephoning in Beijing, annotated forA box, 2022

We know from Barthes that in Japan, wrapping (not always boxes) is the signifier for presents, and as such more important than the content (certain folds communicate commiseration, good wishes, or even more sinister instructions). I was once charged with bringing a wrapped present from Tokyo to a Buddhist monk in Kyoto. To my horror the wrapping came undone in my bag, heaven knows what my clumsy repair efforts communicated. Luckily the Japanese now export patterned sticky-tape for me to employ on this forA box. By way of wrapping, I hedged my bets and used a page ripped from a Beijing telephone book. This risks misreading, since today many digital natives do not even know what a telephone book is. There is also the possibility that not all telephone numbers in Beijing appear in this now rarely used book. (Do musclemen still demonstrate their strength by tearing telephone books in half? Last year I had a Chinese student with the chosen western name of Hercules; perhaps today there are just too many telephone numbers in Beijing for this trick.)

(FIG. 2)
Peter Wilson, The Enigma of Telephoning in Beijing, annotated forA box, 2022

The title of this ‘return to sender’ work is The Enigma of Telephoning in Beijing.

The interior needs less explanation—night has fallen on Peter Cook’s psychedelic landscape and two white meteors (or possibly fallout from the postage stamps) have landed, one from an orbiting artist, the other from the purist white-box-camp. Profound texts and other forA contents are answered by a super-sensual natural surface (look closely at its shimmering concavity), crafted and parametricized by its original occupant (mussel…not muscle).

Annotations is an ongoing project initiated by the editors of forA on the Urban which seeks to extend and deepen the ideas and discussion that emerged in issue #0. New and previous contributors to the journal are invited to reflect on the subjects of the publication by engaging directly with the printed object, whether by writing in the margins of the page or transforming the journal into something else entirely. Annotations is meant literally: that is, issue #0 becomes a working document (and surface) for collecting reflections and thoughts. In doing so it allows the conversation on the urban to move in new and surprising directions.

Peter Wilson is an architect based in Münster, Germany. He is the founder, with his wife Julia Bolles, of the architectural firm BOLLES + WILSON, architects of many significant buildings across Europe. His latest book is Some Reasons for Traveling to Italy (MIT Press, 2022).