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Out of Time and into Space   John Hejduk


In Gris' Guitar, Bottle and Glasses, the use of grid is most pronounced. Two major systems of gridding are incorporated; one at right angles upon the picture plane, the other at 45 degrees. The meshing of the two grids produces innumerable combinations of figure readings. There also is implied a third gridding of 60-30 degrees.

The subtle play of the shaded, shaped, modulated curves and warps creates the necessary concentrations which explode the initial smaller griddings into larger more central squares and diamonds. The smaller, minor spatial griddings have quite simply expanded into larger, major griddings through the use of curved figure imposition and intensity. One is approaching the realm of the infinite. Le Corbusier does not abandon the three dimensionality of architectural space. but he does insist that the observer become invloved with the geomtric rules of the game. The visual-cerebral mechanism must be generated for total effect to take place. In this respect the intention can be measured as to its validity. The structural frame plays the inquisitor. The Center's column/slab system of construction was stated in all its purity in the Domino House drawing of 1914.

Since that inception. Le Corbusier rarely forgets it and continually is the user. As in most pavillion-loft structures, architectural containment of space is at best problematic. Planes enclose space, lines elaborate; planes emphasize, lines dissolve. The structural bay mentioned is directional, yet square bay readings are possible. Every third column of the lateral spacing completes a square with its opposite number. Le Corbusier wants it both ways. The prime longitudinal reading states first direction, but a more subtle secondary central reading of the square exists. Similar readings found upon the Juan Gris canvases are again discovered in architecture--in a way more diabolical because the idea is running loose in a three dimensional field.



The shape of the structural columns is round. indicating a centrifugal force and multi-directional whirl. In section the columns are at times caught by the floor slabs, at other times they by-pass the slabs and rise un-interrupted through two stories. A piston-plunger; compression-expansion of column lines is effected. Not only are the column lengths modulated, so are their diameters; if the observer takes the same 360 degree course about the columns, he will enter the realm of dynamic and static kaleidoscopic relationships. A 90 degree view parallel to the columns proposes an ordered, static system of space except for the before mentioned peripheric interaction. The observer can now begin the trek of the arc with the next stop at a 60 degree point then a 45 degree, and finally back to 90 degrees. The spatial views between these fixed geometric points and lines are filled with a conglomerate of fluctuating columnar tensions. First, when one looks into the kaleidoscope, he sees an ordered system. The box is then shaken, the elements move into dynamic relationships and upon deceleration are fixed into a new order. After each shake new spatial configurations take place, the added gifts are the outside walls, bellow-like, compressing and expanding the linear formulation. Still, through this labyrinth one is always conscious of the centralizing aspect of the scheme.



*A New Realism--April, 1943.

It is hard to believe that anyone could have conceived all these levels of spatial consciousness. It is even harder to believe that they were not so conceived. The above has attempted to explain the technical feats in space accompl ished by one of the masters of geometric figures. In a way. Le Corbusier has not been able to detach himself from the Cubist tradition; more cannot be expected from one man's vision. Our heritage is shown and our future can only be anticipated. The technical competence and accurate finish needed to strengthen the theoretical arguments are impeccable. The ease in which one floats through the building is like being on a magic carpet. It makes all things possible. Le Corbusiers solution to clear. defined central circulation is classical.

Unfulfilled promises of past drawings haunt the Center's halls. The vast spaces of the Palace of the Soviets (1931) and the grand stair of the Rio de Janiero ministry project (1936) are unveiled in a more modest way. The decorative use of color will only sadden the purest of color structure. One can feel secure that all the other promises have been kept. Of course the old dogmatic arguments between Van Doesburg and Mondrian are again unearthed with the erection of the Center. One imagines Van Doesburg would have been excited and elated were he to be here, and perhaps Mondrian would be interested, impressed, and skeptical. The very placement of the diagonal on the canvas caused the break-up of the two De Stijlists. Mondrian's answer to the diagonal was delivered with tipping the whole field at 45 degrees but insisting on the maintenance of right-angle relationships. This brings up one of the strange feelings of uneasiness upon being lured into the Center. The sense of being twisted and torqued upon the rack of Architecture is a new one. The tension-compression, the push-pull may have therapeutic value to the docile; the question remains, at what point do the harmonic fluctuations crack causing dissolution and failure to the spatial organism?

Mondrian's concern for the spatial-architectural dilemma was prophetic. Painting can be a purely abstract expression. In painting reality is established with the limited space of the canvas which can be completely determined by planes. In sculpture and in architecture, the work is a composition of volumes. Volumes have a naturalistic expression. Seen, however, as a multitude of planes, sculpture and architecture can be an abstract manifestation. Moving around or within a rectangular building or object, it can be seen as two-dimensional, for our time abandons the static vision of the past. By moving around, the impression of a two-dimensional aspect is directly followed by that of another two-dimensional aspect. The expression of the structure, form, and color of the planes can have a continuous mutual relationship which produces a true image of the whole. This fact shows the intrinsic unity of painting, sculpture, and architecture.

The conception of a mobile viewpoint appeared first in early Cubism. Already in that tendency, the need for a truer and more concrete expression was felt. But this Cubism intended to express volume. Intrinsically it remained naturalistic. Abstract Art attempts to destroy the corpoporeal expression of volume; to be a reflection of the universal aspect of reality.*

Skepticism can cause the martyrdom of an idea; inquiry can cause its liberation. Civilized memory may be preferable to barbaric sensibility. If the oridinary mortal of architectural endeavors had to conceive works in such a complex manner there would probably be fewer buildings--on the other hand perhaps better ones would be imagined.

It appears that the revolutionary tribunal has relaxed its stringent laws as regards the encyclicals of purism, in favor of a more tolerant acceptance of spatial views. When the laws are not enforced, neither are the forms. Perfect works not only become impossible, they become undesirable. When the pursuit of the ideal is cut off, so is the bloodstream of an organic unity--where flow the genes of codified space. When everything is permitted, limits are in jeopardy--objects then enter the realm of the celestial float. The joy of the remembrance of things past. Fernand Leger returned to painting figures incorporating al! the principles of the new spatial discoveries. Braque returned to flowers. Le Corbusier, in a similar way, returns to some of his early triumphs with a more poignant commitment to expanding space. If the Harvard Visual Arts Center had arrived prior ro Villa Garches, all the armchair historians could rest unmoved, for was this not the natural order of events? The fact that it post-dates Garches by some 30 years can only prove the quirks of time. Whereas Garches heralded the promise of things to come, the Center postpones them. Whereas Garches appealed to the proper elite, the Harvard Center appeals to the improper common; it is, to put it bluntly, 'as you like it'. Some won't, some will.

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