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1999.02.23 19:08
Re: irrational architecture
You raise an interesting point which suggests a paradigm shift in how we perceive (and I use that term loosely) space-architecture, however, I don't think such an operational shift is all that "simple," nor does the notion of "space moving through us" necessarily eliminate architecture. To your idea, I'd like to add a complementary idea (not entirely mine) regarding the continuum of time.
It is common to perceive time as moving, specifically in a linear fashion--past, present, future. Time, as Einstein suggests, is a continuum, and therefore past and present coexist, and thus, relatively speaking, past and future do not move. It is the present that moves through the continuum of time and, much like a radio, picks up "signals" relative to its position within the continuum band. Within such a continuum paradigm, both we AND space move through time. In terms of endurance of presence, however, much great architecture clearly holds its own in terms of the span of time (and here the Great Pyramids of Egypt getting close to 5000 years old are the prime example). Perhaps what we today are experiencing more than anything in our present "built environment" or "space" is its (almost patented) premature obsolescence.


1999.03.10 08:48
Re: epic architectural past
I think the "human story," like the movement of the present, is essentially linear. The first humans were extreme, and the best examples of extreme architecture are the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge. Circa 550BC, humanity began to operate with a highly fertile imagination, and this "age of highest fertility" lasted till circa 770AD, at which time humanity's imagination became [additionally] pregnant. At the first trimester of pregnancy, circa 1500, humanity began to assimilate itself and its place in the universe. By 1700, the metabolic imagination began to work in conjunction with the assimilating imagination.
We are today still primarily a humanity operating in both an assimilating and metabolic fashion, and thus our architecture too is primarily both assimilating ("international") and metabolic (creative/destructive).
Of course, the "human story" continues, and to discern how it will continue, you just have to analyze the sequential slices of the human body starting at the lowest tips of the rib cage and moving upwards.


1999.03.10
Jencks/labeling
In his synopsis of Jenck's recent lecture, Stephen Marshall included the phrases:
"life cycles of cities," "cells must die periodically so that other cells--and the organism as a whole -- might live," "cities undergo phase changes."
The word that best describes these notions is metabolic -- metabolism is a duality whereby anabolism is creative metabolism and catabolism is destructive metabolism. The "design of" many cities today exhibit metabolic "operations" when both creative and destructive manifestations occur. Metabolism is perhaps the primordial duality, and, like all dualities, is difficult to resolve precisely because of its inherent opposing forces.
The metabolic "operating system" is very prevalent today, and has been growing in prevalence over the last few centuries. For example, it is easy to recognize Berlin as the foremost metabolic city of the 20th century. Before our time, Piranesi, in his Ichnographia Campus Martius, offers a poignant example of "life and death" in the city, and before Piranesi, perhaps Michelangelo's architecture (and some aspects of Mannerism in general) offers an example of metabolic design, albeit slightly a head of its time.

1999.03.10
classical/modern
Hugh Pearman in two recent posts wrote:
"Architectural operating systems (as opposed to surface styling) are predominantly Gothic or Classical."
"What I called the 'architectural operating system' as a deliberate computer analogy--might clarify rather than confuse, for me if nobody else."
I suggest a wholly other batch of "architectural operating systems" that derive from the morphology and physiology of our own bodies, the machines that we are instead of the machines that computers are.
Some architectures are extreme.
Some architectures are fertile.
Some architectures are pregnant.
Some architectures are assimilating.
Some architectures are metabolic.
Some architectures are osmotic.
Some architectures are electro-magnetic.
Some architectures are total frequency.
Figuring out what buildings/architects fit in which category(s) may well be the ultimate architectural parlor game. (Hint: Classical is high fertility and Gothic is early pregnancy.)
Hugh also made reference to the notion of architects having "to have his or her 'personal myth' to believe in and guide them." For what its worth, I have "discovered" my own myth, and its called The Timepiece of Humanity or the theory of chronosomatics.


1999.03.11
Jencks/labeling
Elliot,
I can't help but think that you did not read Re: city making and city breaking because my point about Berlin involves its entire history over the last 100 years, where it would be hard to argue against a pervasive (and mostly unique) creative-destructive pattern that even includes a spliting in two! You seem to be missing the point that Berlin's "growth" (as you put it) throughout the 20th century was/is both creative and destructive. The best way to describe Berlin over the last 100 years is to call it metabolic. Just because one city manifests a metabolic pattern, doesn't mean all cities have to exhibit the same pattern, however, over the next 100 years there may indeed be many more cities that are metabolic--Beirut and Kosovo, and maybe even Kobe, to name a few, already seem to have a head start.
I feel my "argument" is sound, especially if you read all my content. And, for the record, I say that Berlin of the 20th century presents a (or is it the?) prime example of metabolic [growth], that is, creative-destructive urbanism.


1999.04.01 13:06
aesthetics of war design
What I realized while viewing through some of the [destruction] images is that I could take pictures walking around my own neighborhood of Olney in urban Philadelphia, USA, and they would be very similar to those of Kosovo today. Of course, what's going on in Kosovo now is extremely upsetting, but what's equally upsetting is that destruction is not just going on there but in many, many places on this planet.
Perhaps the aesthetic of war design is more prevalent than we most times realize.

1999.04.01 22:37
aesthetics of war design
...discovering that the first master architect of Christianity was a woman.


1999.04.08 10:00
war design (shameful architecture)
...my original statements on the subject which included to statement: "concentration camps are always real, and rarely, if ever, virtual." what I meant here is that concentration camps absolutely require physical architectural entities -- walls, gates, some kind of "ordered" housing, (watch) towers, places for the oppressors, and places for the oppressed. manifestation of the 'concentration' in concentration camps emanates from the delimiting and restricting nature (or is it power?) of architecture itself. in this sense, concentration camps utilize architecture for what is surely among the worst of purposes (and, as an aside, Piranesi's Carceri (prisons) also represent architecture used for one of its worst purposes, however, in this case it is our perception that is "tortured" rather than our corporal beings).
...about "her" concentration camp in Russia, and she told me it was a bombed-out hospital complex (and here Anand's observation regarding the wide spread potential for concentration camps definitely rings true). when those to be concentrated arrived, the surrounding "wall" was already there, however, shelter for the concentrated was merely buildings without glass in the windows, that is, until the windows were simply boarded up two weeks later.
What is most upsetting about the current events in the Balkans is Serbia's concentration on reenacting the worst parts of their history rather than reenacting their best.


1999.04.30 13:15
new architectural agenda
...reading Martin Pawley, Terminal Architecture (London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 1998), which so far is interesting in that it addresses architecture vis--vis our current media revolution, computers, stock market fluctuations, politics, etc. I didn't expect to like the book after reading the back cover: "In Terminal Architecture, Martin Pawley argues that nearly all modern architecture is misconceived. Focusing as they do on form, not function, the buildings we appreciate in an art-historical context no longer possess any cultural significance in this electronic age. ...." I'm actually going to finish this book because it's well written, and after reading the first 64 pages I definitely want to know how Pawley concludes his thesis. Pawley uses lots of facts and figures as well as architectural examples (mostly in England) in an analytical way that seems new at least within architectural criticism. The book is also very up to date.


1999.05.21 11:24
May 21st - the Agonalia
Agonalia - a festival in honor of Janus celebrated in Rome on the 9th of January and the 21st of May.
Janus is my favorite Roman god.
Janus - an old Italian deity. He was represented with a face on the front and another on the back of his head. The month of January was sacred to him, as were all other beginnings. The myth makes him a king of Latium or Etruria, where he hospitably received Saturn when expelled by Jupiter from Crete. He had a small temple in the Forum, with two doors opposite to each other, which in time of war stood open and in time of peace were shut; the temple was trice closed on this account. With reference to his temple, the deity was called Janus geminus or Janus Quirinus.
I like Janus because he can see in front of him and he can see behind him--into the future and into the past? Also, I like to wonder whether Janus was "two faced" or was he schizophrenic?
Within his large plan of the Campo Marzio, Piranesi applies the label "Circus Agonalis sive Alexandri" to the original Circus of Domitian which is today Rome's Piazza Navona. Albeit obscure information, Piranesi was indeed correct in his designation because the emperor Alexander Severus rebuilt the Circus of Domitian and renamed it in honor of Janus. It is fun to imagine all the big goings-on over 1700 years ago today within what is now the Piazza Navona.

Another monument in honor of Janus that still stands in Rome today is the Arch of Janus Quadrifrons, which is in the Forum Boarium. It is one of those unique four-way arches, and, according to Banister Fletcher, is "of poor design." What is most interesting about this arch, however, is that it was constructed under Constantine the Great after he converted to Christianity. I believe this signifies two important facts. First, the aristocratic and pagan population of Rome still had tremendous influence and power. Second, whoever designed this arch was extremely clever in that Janus, precisely because of his "two faced" nature, was the perfect god to reflect Constantine's own political position--exactly because of his conversion from paganism to Christianity, Constantine himself is Rome's ultimate Janus-like emperor. [Personally, I can't help but believe that it was Constantine's mother Helena that thought all this poignant symbolism through.] And, in an almost too good to be true sense, the Arch of Janus may well have predicted (looked towards) European architecture's next 1200 years: Banister Fletcher notes "it has a simple cross-vault with embedded brick box-ribs at the groins, affording a further instance of the progressive character of Roman construction techniques: such ribs are possibly the prototypes of Gothic rib vaults." [Fletcher is being a little two faced himself here -- first the Arch of Janus is not good design, and then the arch is progressive construction!] Could it really be that the first ribbed cross-vaults ever were built in late antiquity? Do these vaults, built by ancient Rome's first Christian emperor, unwittingly and uncannily prophesies a whole new future era of Western architecture? [And is it possible that Helena, besides being the first master architect of Christianity, is also the world's proto-Gothic architect?]
Constantine converted to Christianity the night before the Battle at the Milvian Bridge (October 28, 312) which lead into the City of Rome. He saw a vision of the (Christ) Cross in the sky, and hence ordered his troops to paint the (Christ) Cross on their shields. Constantine was victorious over the usurpative emperor Maxentius, and on October 29 entered Rome in triumph. Constantine's mother, St. Helena, is most known for having discovered the True Cross in Jerusalem (most recently dated c. 324-25). If you asked me, I'd say the "signs" surrounding this incredible mother-son team are still appearing.

1999.05.21 16:40
Agonalia postscript
As odd as it sounds, only after sending the initial Agonalia post did two things occur to me:
1. the space created by the plan of the four-way Arch of Janus essentially forms a cross.
2. Only Helena is honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, and her feast is celebrated the 18th of August. The Greek Orthodox Church, on the other hand (or is it other face?), honors both Helena and Constantine as saints, and they share a combined feast day, which happens to be today, May 21st.


1999.05.30 10:18
architectural theory
...I am now also thinking about 'Piranesi and the torture of two-dimensional space' as a topic to investigate.


1999.06.14
compromise
I'm learning a major lesson about the "writing" of history in doing my Helena/early Christian architecture research, and it is sometimes so clear that "history's" occasional omission of seemingly insignificant details effectively changes the awareness of what really happened.


1999.06.14
reenactment architectures
...the whole notion of reenactment itself, and how it differs from simulacra and plain memesis. The key factor is the "acting" out again of a prior event or situation, which is different from mere copying.


1999.07.23 09:32
German doors?
Your parenthetical reference to osmotic has not escaped me. Indeed it surprised me, especially since you point out a very interesting example of that inside/outside, permeable space that manifests the osmotic in architecture. I know that I from time to time have posted (vague?) ideas about the osmotic (metabolic, etc.) in architecture, but I didn't think any of it was much considered by others. Seeking out the osmotic in architecture is a rewarding experience. So far, the best gauge I can come up with is to see the Pantheon in Rome and Kahn's Kimbell Art Gallery and Schinkel's stair hall (German doors?) of the Altes Museum as osmotic at the high end, and an open bus stop at the low end. There's lots of in-between stuff out there, and, of course, it would be great if architects began to consciously create osmotic spaces.


1999.08.10 10:58
ae fragments/vitruvius
The importance/power of water remains vital with regard to electricity and urban design, specifically the power of hydro-electricity, and thus there is one more thing to "learn from Las Vegas" vis--vis Hoover Dam. The history of both Las Vegas and Hoover Dam are inseparable, albeit, Las Vegas is there because of Hoover Dam--a new and electric (powered) oasis in the Nevada desert.
Like the multitudinous fountains of the Villa d'Este garden near Rome--a Cardinal's Renaissance retreat brought to life subsequent to the reinstatement of a long destroyed ancient Roman aqueduct--the multitudinous flashing (splashing) signs of the Las Vegas strip and the old part of town are indeed water fountains reenacted as spent electricity (water power energy!).
Las Vegas is nothing less than an enormous hyrdo-electric reenactment of an oasis (complete with caravans, watering holes, and even a pyramid), and thus it is not at all unusual that the whole notion of reenactment is now Las Vegas' predominant theme.

1999.11.21 08:15
(third of) Top 10
The Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall
What other built form of the twentieth century had such power, yet, in the end, was also so disposable?
An example of extreme modernism?


1999.11.21 08:31
(fifth of) Top 10
Le Corbusier's notion of the promenade architecturale.
Too bad most architects don't even know the full extent of what that is exactly.


2000.01.15 10:15
pretty [scarry] hybrid?
The following is an anecdote relative to the (new) notion of beauty (and aesthetics), etc.:
While still an architecture student, I spent the summer of 1978 working for the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) stationed in Perry, Missouri, a very small town (pop. 931) 30 miles west of Hannibal (of Mark Twain fame). It was then that the city of St. Louis (120 miles south) became the 'big city' destination on several weekends. What struck me the most in St. Louis was Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch--not only is it an incredible site from a distance, but even more amazing when perceived while walking around its base, (and I won't elaborate here about the "otherness" of its elevator ride up to the top observation room inside, which I believe I heard is something you can't do anymore).
On what was my third visit to St. Louis, I was with several of the other student architects I lived and worked with--it was their first trip. We were all around the same age and education level, i.e., early twenties and full of youthful over-confidence. I distinctly remember being asked by Mike, "So, what do you think of the arch?" (Mike and I were room mates, and we often 'discussed' architecture). I said, "I think the arch is very pretty." Well, Mike quickly told me that one just DOES NOT use the word 'pretty' when referring to architecture!--(apparently) pretty has such lowly connotations. I briefly argued that I thought 'pretty' was the best word to describe how I saw the arch, largely because I see its 'prettiness' as pretty much undeniable. I was confident I used the right word to describe how I felt about the arch.
Today, just two weeks into the 21st century, I looked up pretty in Webster's Third International Dictionary:
pretty 1 a : marked by or calling for skillful dexterity or artful care and ingenuity, esp. in coping with some difficult or complicated matter.
I am thus (finally) completely convinced I saw the arch for what it is, and then also described how I saw the arch in a most fitting manner.
Now being somewhat older (and hopefully somewhat wiser), if I were today asked what I thought of the arch, I'd say, "The St. Louis Arch is very likely the prettiest architecture-sculpture hybrid I will have ever perceived."


2000.01.16
the arch, the trope, and the reenactment
Is Saarinen's Gateway Arch in St. Louis a trope or is it a reenactment? That is, is the Gateway Arch (actually the arch in St. Louis has a rather profound formal name which I cannot remember) a "turn" of manifest destiny into symbolic form, or is it a long standing architectural tradition enacted yet once again?
The assimilation of trope into recent architectural (theory) writing and criticism is an example of trope itself, is it not? And it often seems (to me at least) that "troping" (excuse my verbing) within current architectural parlance and design is treated somewhat as a whole new "Concept" in and of itself. Perhaps I'm here being overly simplistic, but recent architectural tropes and the pronouncements of such often appear to be elaborate justifications for what is otherwise plainly arbitrary in terms of ultimate design form. Personally, arbitrariness in design is not something I shun, but even I cannot escape the fact that 'arbitrariness' and 'design' are fundamentally anathema. [God forbid an architect actually says he did something purely arbitrary.] Nonetheless, informed decisions apropos design in no way lead to single conclusions; there are so many options, especially in our time, that ultimate design choices manifest a high degree of "post-objective subjectivity" (to perhaps coin phrase).
Here are my recent thoughts regarding symbolic arches and trope vs. reenactment:
I first 'found' the notion of reenactment within ancient Rome's Triumphal Way, which is itself an oft reenacted reenactment of something Romulus did after his victory over the Sabine men. The funeral of Princess Diana is the most recent reenactment of Romulus' parade. (Yes, because of the "turn" of Paganism into Christianity the Triumphal Way "troped" into elaborate, albeit highly meaningful funeral processions, however, it remains that still only heroes, and finally heroines as well, get the Triumphal Way treatment.)
With the Triumphal Way then came first the Triumphal Gate and then several Triumphal Arches. The Triumphal Gate was the gate within Rome's wall (and sacred boundary) through which the victor's entered the city after first assembling within the Campus Martius. Over time, special victories sometimes added a Triumphal Arch somewhere along the route of the Triumphal Way (e.g., the Arch of Titus, the Arch of Constantine, etc.). One could say that each of these subsequent arches, although rendering the victory newly being celebrated, nonetheless is a reenactment of the Triumphal Gate, but I'm now of a mind that, while indeed reenactments, the arches re-enact something more obvious:
Could it be that Triumphal Arches plainly reenact the structural arch itself?
Moreover, could it be that Triumphal Arches reenact the structural triumph of the Roman arch?
Was the arch an obvious form to use as symbolic of triumph because of its gateway /passage /breaking-through implications (the triumphal arch as trope)?
Or was there some clever designer back then that thought the arch was 'the' perfect manifestation of triumph because the arch itself is a structural triumph (the triumphal arch as reenactment)?
Does the Arch in St. Louis trope Manifest Destiny or does it reenact a triumph over gravity?


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