A model landscaping catalogue illustrates how standardisation in public space is employed to smooth and simplify society. Lüschen discerned an interesting opposition at work within the notion of a cookbook: one pole, the mixing of ingredients to fabricate clear-cut rules and conformity (lulling our autonomy and intellect to sleep), and the other, the activation and engagement with the senses.
Wondering the extent to which the built environment allows the prioritization of the senses when it comes to its design and construction, Lüschen combines the two in his project The Urban Crust is not Flaky (2021). He does so quite literally, by developing a machine-learning program that operates like a slot machine. The program randomly sets parts of public-space typologies from the scenery catalogue alongside verbs from the gastronomical guide The Pastry Chef’s Companion (2008). The resulting sentences are pretty ludicrous: ‘Woodlouse garnished with braised lamppost and pickled concrete floor’. Significantly, the algorithm operates against a background of white noise, the disintegrated or yet-to-be-formed building blocks of computer space.
An exhibition in Culemborg presented realizations of a couple of the machine’s reconfigurations as physical works that speculate on the possible outcomes of sensory-driven constructions. For instance, visitors encountered a performer striding through the Gelderland Factory wearing a wedding dress with a long train. She approaches a hoist suspended above a container and uses it to lift shining tiles out of a sugary substance. The unexpected sight is the three-dimensional iteration of the text ‘remote controlled candy coated sidewalk tiles with bride and illumination’.
The absurd interventions confront spectators with something out of the ordinary, obstructing any swift reading of the space. The Urban Crust is not Flaky contains within itself an opposition: rational equations are employed to make way for the irrational and to open doors for ‘the vague’ to enter. Its title is derived from ‘The finished crust is not flaky’, an undesirable baking result discussed in the The Pastry Chef’s Companion’s chapter ‘What went wrong?’