lots to play with

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Robert Adam and His Circle...   pp. 168-175
Meanwhile he had another scheme in mind, he told James, 'which would be no less conductive to raising all at once one's name and character that it would be profitable to me and useful to everybody. It is shortly this. Desgodetz's book [Les Édifices Antiques de Rome] is almost entirely out of print. Neither in England, France or Italy can one get a copy of it under double price. Several have thought of reprinting it but neither had the talents, the money nor the courage. As I am on the spot where these antiqities are, have Clérisseau's assistance and other conveniences, in course of conversation with Wood and Ramsey the thought struck me that it would be a good scheme for me. I communicated my thoughts to Clérisseau who approved so much that he said if he had the money he would do it himself. And to augment the value of it I not only propose taking the measurements, so as to prove if they were just, but intend to add perspective views of these buildings as they appear at present…'
p. 170

sculpture versus architecture
A quick answer to the series of serious questions raised by Marcus and "Pavilion" is that the notion of hybrid is very much alive in architectural discussions and debates today. Is "Pavilion" clearly a sculpture/architecture hybrid? And if so, are hybrids a 'category' that aesthetics must begin considering?
I'm a hybrid of a very mixed sort. My father was an ethnic German born and raised in Poland; my mother is an ethnic German born and raised in Yugoslavia (the aftermath of WWII eradicated both my parents worlds); my brother was born in Bavaria (the only born German in my family); and I am born and raised in Philadelphia. My German relatives (in Germany) see me as a "typical" American, yet they are at the same time astounded that I'm fluent in Modern German, plus that I am also somewhat fluent in a Danube-Schwabian dialect, a 'language' that as far as Germany today is concerned is dead. Moreover, my German accent (when I speak German) gives Germans pause. From what I gather, Germans find my accent strange yet also familiar. And to complete my hybrid reality, apparently when I speak English, it's with a Philadelphia accent.
There are lots and lots of hybrids out there. Yes, the categorization of the hybrid is not easy, and even most times messy, but please let's not ignore the hybrid by simply not seeing it for what it really is.

2000.01.03 15:38
Re: sculpture versus architecture
Pinar Dinc writes:
What about the notion of life? In order to call a composition as a work of architecture there must be a life in it. A life around it does not make it architecture, I think. The composition must embrace a life style, must be an accompaniment of a life style but not be the focus of it. The objects which are for perception only, cannot be called architecture. They are called sculpture.
Steve Lauf replies:
What Pinar writes comes across as very true as a reasonably way to approach "what is architecture?" as opposed "what is sculpture?" And for the most part I agree with the notion that architecture accomodates life. So I then ask if this 'definition' must be broadened to include all built forms that once accompanied life and a life style, but over time have come to no longer do so. I am thinking of ancient ruins, be they Stonehenge, the Pyramids, the Parthenon, the cave temples of India, etc. These are commonly referred to as examples of architecture, yet today they are clearly "objects which are for perception only." Have these architectures become architecture/sculpture hybrids? Furthermore, no one now lives in Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, nor, it might be agrued, does the life style around which the Villa Savoye was designed to accompany now exist. Is the Villa Savoye a master work of modern architecture that is now an "object which is for perception only?" Or is it merely that the 'life style" the Villa Savoye now accompanies is one where great buildings (if they're lucky) become cultural shrines, where the buildings now accomodate our 'perceptual worship'?

2000.01.08 13:48
a virtual museum of [disimformation] architecture?
John Young wrote:
Imaginary architecture, Escher, Piranesi, Heaven, Hell, visionary, virtual, has always mesmerized, inspired, perhaps terrified, for being beyond what is accompishable.
To be sure most architecture begins as imaginary and then it's all down hill from there as other brutally realistic forces have their way. Until ruins once again induce fantastic possibilities.
I especially admire Steve's fictional conference........
Steve Lauf continues:
Before going INSIDE DENSITY and while INSIDE DENSITY, the back of my mind was occupied with "what could a virtual museum of architecture be that a real museum of architecture could [or would] never be?"
www.quondam.com presently comprises over 80 megabytes of data in the form of texts and images. As 'director' of Quondam, I'm hesitantly contemplating the (online) deletion of all the data in one keystroke. Seems drastic, but dia(meta)bolically desirable(!) -- kind of like pushing that big red button somewhere in Washington, or where ever red buttons are.
Tabula Rasa is too easy, however. I prefer palimpsest, instead -- erasure and then overwriting/overrighting. Of course, replacement would be necessary and necessary in quick order (...don't want those rising web stats to suddenly evaporate).
So what can a virtual museum of architecture be that a real museum of architecture can not be?
I'm at the point where the dissemination of disinformation appears the most appealing. I'm imagining a museum of architecture that curates and displays an 'un-real' history of architecture, you know, among OTHER things, all those buildings Le Corbusier designed since 27 August 1965, and likewise the dies sanquinis urbanism of lights-camera-Africa in 2056 AD which is covertly inspired by the OTTO-man architecture of pre-Christ South America, and don't forget the equinoctial architecture along the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Yes, www.quondam.com may well soon be a 'new and improved' virtual museum of [unscientific fiction] architecture, written and delineated in palimpsest (so the faded 'truth' is nonetheless incompletely 'not there').
I'm becoming more and more convinced that a virtual museum of architecture misses its full virtuality unless it 'calendrically incarnates' other zeitgeists + architectures.

2000.01.09 12:37
a virtual museum of [disinformation] architecture
in respose to the notion of a virtual museum of (unscientific fiction) architecture, Rick wrote:
Sounds great Steve; Sounds fun; Sounds like playing "Byzantine -- The Betrayal" with the graphics of "Riven"; or, is it "Riven" using the historical-farcical plot of "Byzantine"? Either way, it would seem to fulfill the virtual appetite of this jogging crazed generation.
Steve gratefully requests and then adds:
Thanks for the encouragement and also for proving some further inspiration. For my sake, and perhaps for some others on the list, could you briefly explain the "Byzantine -- The Betrayal" and "Riven" references. I've not read either, nor do I even know them for sure. Only Riven sounds vaguely familiar. [the following written just prior to posting: believe it or not, at first I did not know Rick was here referencing video games. I've never played a video game in my life, and I honestly thought Rick was making literary references. As it thus stands, I continually feel that the architecture of video games, even the latest, lack substantially in true architectural imagination. Maybe I'm just showing my age, but I think video games would be a lot more fun and architecturally stimulating if they started emulating the architecture of Krypton as protrayed in 1960s Superman comics -- personally I haven't seen such comics since the sixties, but I still remember how the buildings of Krypton mesmerized me as a child. Not that I want Quondam to now become 1960s Krypton, but rather, I want to take the 'new dexterity' manipulation of architectural digital data down a trail not yet blazed.]
In any case, here are some of the 'building plots' and 'character architects' I'm currently mulling around in my head with regard to the "new and improved" Quondam:
the exhibit schizophrenia + architectures will morph into anOTHER exhibit entitled either hypochondria + architectures or kleptomania + architectures (and no that second title does not imply an exhibit on the architectural career of Philip Johnson).
architects featured generally throughout the museum will include: John Phillipsonian and his partner/wife Whitney Davidoff (of Hybridsburg, Texarkana), Eon Krie[ge]r (architect of the war against time), La Corbusienne (the Alpine 'Suzie Chapstik' of exposed skin architectures), St. Helmut (infamous heretic architect martyr of the cutting-edge [sword of] antiquity, lately proclaimed by the Vatican as a dubious 'real' fraud), Lois Ikonotsky (of Upper Reaches, the Caulklands), Franc-Le-Luc-Adroit (global net-setting architect of 'die schlampigen neue Reichen'), Scott Ventura (pet [house] architect, who btw is inseparable from his brown-nosed hound Dee-leash), Jasper Sterling St. James Goldsmyth VI (most recently lauded for his just completed Good-Looking Sachlichkeit Gesamtkunstwerk Museum on post-shell-shocked Helgoland), and (the 'queen' of all narrative architectures), Rita Novel. . . plus many, many more, like Meandra Refrigidhaar (as the architectural critics love to say, "She be syncin'!").
Additionally, Quondam will keep its finger on the pulse of the exponentially and geometrically expanding urban environments of both Older and Newer Infringement Complexopolises.

2000.01.09 13:05
a virtual museum of [disinformation] architecture
John Young wrote:
One could hardly envisage a better architecture of disinformation than historic preservation. Not only virtual but actual.
Steve replies:
John, I agree wholeheartedly with the above and the rest of your post, and since I'm from Philadelphia, I can easily see historic 'preservation' at its best and at its worst, and, unfortunately, taken as a whole (here in Philly), the summation comes close to being a joke (and I use joke here in its most serious sense). Hence, I will again bring up the notion of palimpsest, not only in reference to the new forthcoming Quondam, but to historic preservation as well. Regardless of whether its widely understood as such or not, all architectures manifest many layers of masks, and, like cosmetic surgery, historic preservation is a most extreme form of mask. With palimpsest on the other hand, although there is erasure and then over-writing, traces of the original (text) remain. The notion of layers (of texts), be they new or old, discernible or discrete, genuine or faux, is (for me at least) the 'true' reality. Semper theoretically took architecture back to the weaving of fabric. Perhaps Semper should have said architecture goes back to the weaving of fabrication.

2000.01.10 00:26
as dense as architecture can get?
Rick asks a number of questions re: Speer's plan, plus he raises the issue of proper comparative scale. First, I'll leave the issue of proper scale aside until I find a photocopy of Speer's entire plan (and if anyone has access to Leon Krier's book on Speer, that's where I got the copy of the plan) -- it's there that the comparative scale of Speer's north-south axis can be seen in context relative to Unter den Linden.
Unter den Linden crosses the Speer axis directly in front of the Big Dome's forecourt, that is, just south of the dome's forecourt. The bend in the Spree River then curves around the back of the large dome. Now that I think of it, Spree did not eliminate the Reichstag, but in fact incorporated the (still existing today) Reichstag as the east side of the big dome's forecourt (I'm pretty sure this is what that plan from Krier's book indicates, and you can see a slice of the front of the Reichstag's footprint creating the (upper side of the) forecourt in the image Rick sent). And comparing both Speer's axis and the Unter den Linden plan within the plan comparisons Rick sent, it looks like they ARE the same scale--in the Unter den Linden plan you can see the southern half of the Reichstag's footprint, which is just northwest of Parisier Platz/Brandenberg Gate.
As to wondering about the 'easy' play with scale's relative to Piranesi's Campo Marzio, in part, Rick, you guess correctly. I say in part because when Piranesi delineates the Campus Martius proper, he more often than not uses the correct scale for the buildings that once existed there. Piranesi grossly exaggerates building scale in the Campo Marzio's outer regions, however. Nonetheless, Piranesi is deliberately 'playing' a learning game here, in that the outer regions is where Piranesi's plans and programs lack practially all veracity, hence, the hyperbole of Piranesi's architectural imagination is coded by a hyperbole of architectural scale. In simple terms, the over-sized plans of the Campo Marzio indicate buildings that Piranesi completely 'made-up', where as a high percentage of the smaller building plans indicate buildings that actually once existed and are drawn in their proper scale. (Mind you, the drawn plans of the once existing buildings, even though at a correct scale, are still most often individual plans of Piranesi's invention.)
in case it isn't already obvious, I have something of a fetish for reading the plans of places that don't exist. kind of an inversion of deja-vu all over again. or is it a reenactment of deja-vu all over again?

2000.01.11 00:43
as dense as architecture can get?
Mark asks:
...ber2.jpg show the northern half. Is the circular platz about halfway down about where Potsdamer Platz is?
Steve replies:
I think you mean berlin1.jpg, and yes the circular platz is just southwest of Potsdamer Platz.
Mark then asks:
Somewhere amongst the IBA housing projects by Rossi, et.al.? That's interesting. Talk about settling!
Steve further replies:
With piecing different maps together, Speer's triumphal arch would have been southwest of Victoria Park (which contains Schinkel's Kreuzberg Monument) and directly west of Tempelhof airport by about 5 blocks. Looking at a contemporary guide book map, there seems to be a major rail line of some sort running diagonally southwest-northeast across where the triumphal arch was to be. If the Grossbelastungskö'rper is in this area, the proximity of rail lines may explain why the big thing never received much attention. It may well be within those kind of no-man's lands that often skirt rail lines.
I'm not sure if there are any IBA housing projects in that area.

2000.01.11 00:55
altes (museum) trash
Mark asks:
I found a colonade outside the Altes Museum, mostly trashed, a forlorn statue of its creator Karl Friedrich Schinkel standing amidst the rubble. But what was I really seeing? The columns certainly LOOKED like they had suffered bullet and shrapnel hits, but what was I missing?
Steve wondersand suggests:
Mark, I'm not sure that the Altes Museum colonnade can be referred to as presently trashed or 'rubble'; it's been restored for over 20 years. There were, however, murals within all the panels of the colonnade and stairhall, and these were destroyed by WWII bombing, and never (or not yet) restored. If you want to see what Schinkels Schauspielhaus looked like right after the war, go to...

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, but which I hope to eventually find out again) 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 beinging 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 fundamentaly anathama. [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, so many options, especially in our time, that ulimate design choices manifest a high degree of "post-objective subjectivity" (to perhaps coin phrase).
Of late, I've been investigating and writing about reenactment in architecture, both currently and throughout history. You can read a paper I delived at the INSIDE DENSITY colloquium in Brussels, Belgium this past November -- it is entitled "Inside the Density of G.B. Piranesi's Ichnographiam Campii Marti" and available at w.q.c/density. The last section of the paper treats reenactment -- there are four web pages:
I suggest reading pages 1001 through 1003 and then going to page 1000. You will find an email dialogue between Rick McBride and myself conducted in early November last year within design-l (a stateside art and design email list server).
In anycase, here are my recent thoughts regarding symbolic archs and trope vs. reenactment:
I first 'found' the notion of reeactment 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 heros, 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 (eg, 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 truimph 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?

2000.01.16 14:14
Brian asks:
lauf-s, so real architecting uses the real scale, and virtual architecting uses the virtual scale.... could you define the 'real scale' and 'virtual scale', so that i can hyperlink to these definitions...?
Steve replies:
At this point I'd rather not define 'real scale' and 'virtual scale' because I don't want to be definitive right now. I'd rather wait and see what (if anything) others think these terms might mean. I believe there is a certain obviousness to what I meant within the context of my use of the terms, i.e., the scale used to generate building documents versus the now "world wide" implications of designing electronic/digital media systems (be they computer operating systems, web sites, entertainment corporations, or even email lists, etc.).
Real scale deals primarily with physical limits and the coordinated representation/manifestation of those limits, while in virtual scale limits are 'fluid' and/or 'meandering' and/or 'oscillating' and/or 'undulating', etc..
It would seem then that the difference between real scale and virtual scale is in how each scale respectively treats and/or renders limits. Real scale and virtual scale do not treat or render different realities, however, because all reality is relative to the limit of its container.

2000.01.16 21:54
Van asks:
What, exactly, were those *'fluid' and/or 'meandering' and/or 'oscillating' and/or 'undulating',* scales?
Steve reiterates:
I said, "while in virtual scale LIMITS are 'fluid' and/or 'meandering' and/or 'oscillating' and/or 'undulating'" and I did not say that scales are fluid, meandering oscillating, undulating, etc. Perhaps your mistake in interpreting what I said leads to another sense of scale not yet touched upon, but it is not for me to expalin since it's something new to me as well.
Van then adds:
Groping around to touch this I find that I¹d been treating Relevance, Human Interest, Senses, Emotions (simple and mixed), and a catagory of things such as humor, insight, surprise, awe, and nostalgia. But these are not how computer programs or web sites etc. are built.
Steve suggests:
Van, if you ever have the time, go ahead and visit all of gallery 1999 - schizophrenia + architectures at wqc/1999/0000.htm. You might have to read all 2000 pages to be convinced, but, regardless, it was exactly with "Relevance, Human Interest, Senses, Emotions (simple and mixed), and a catagory of things such as humor, insight, surprise, awe, and nostalgia" that I built this particular web site. At least visit wqc/1999/1/0003.htm and then read all of crash results which is reached via the automobile accident hyperlink on page 0003.
My goal for gallery 1999 was to generate 2000 web pages on schizophrenia + architectures throughout last year. I accomplished that goal, but I in no way completely gauged or fulfilled all the 'fluid' and/or 'meandering' and/or 'oscillating' and/or 'undulating' limits that schizophrenia + architectures continually presents.




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