lots to play with

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Paul wrote:
Steve, you ought to put your critique of the (NY) Guggenheim into some sort of article for wider distribution. As I said before, you make an intriguing connection, which gets better all the time, as you develop the scenario.
Steve replies:
Thanks for the endorsing suggestion. Yes, it would be nice to write for wider distribution, however, I genuinely like writing for email list distribution, and probably more than I would if I were to write for "print". There are several reasons for this:
1. I can write exactly the way I want to, meaning there is no editorial input or subtraction.
2. The writing is not necessarily in isolation. I really like the back and forths that email lists provide. For example, you say my Vatican/Wright scenerio keeps getting better, and you, Paul, can take credit for that 'betterment' as much as I can. So far, the "article" in question has two authors, you and me.
3. As to distribution, I have faith (or is it just hope) that email lists will grow in stature, as regards viable reading (and writing) material. Moreover, lists are archived and easily retrievable. I think its just a matter of time now before lists are 'discovered' as the genuine time capsules that the are.
4. More on distribution: as I see it, where else but here can a relatively unknown architect sitting in his modest Philadelphia rowhome parlay within the same arena as London's leading architecture critic among other signigficant voices. It would take me a very long time indeed to travel that distance and climb that ladder in the 'real' world.
5. I suppose many worry about the intellectual property issue of writing so "freely'. I now see it as the more you write about your own ideas, the more they become you, and therefore the less chance they have of becoming someone elses. And, like I mentioned already, lists very nicely keep track of who said what.

Paul wrote:
I am one who doesn't know what he thinks until he reads what he has written.
Steve unable to control himself:
WOW! Is that like an ultimate onomatopoeia, or what?!? mmm, mmm
Now, if only one could design a building that performs like that sentence. What a trope that would be!

everything: Image and actuality
I was inspired by Hugh's last post to 'perform' a simultaneous riff.
I haven't been to Bilbao, but I've been to Sydney (didn't hear any Opera though). I'm not much of a critic when it comes to visiting buildings, because I inevitably like most of them once I see them in person. So it comes down to anecdotes. You can have an inexpensive lunch on the terrace-plinth of the Opera House overlooking the harbor. There are signs on the tables under umbrellas; they read: "Do Not Leave Your Food Unattended". The reason for this warning, and I've seen it happen, is that the moment you leave food on the table unattended, a small flock of sea-gulls will "attack" your lunch. Yikes! indeed.
The Opera House is really a nice sight from the harbor. While in Sydney, I stayed at Manly Beach (not making that name up), which connects to Sydney via ferry or hydrafoil. The Opera House is quite the landmark, and it looks really good at night as well.
I went to Australia purposefully not taking a camera. In the early 1980s I read Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers, and very near the end of the book Mann writes a few lines about how there was no camera to capture incredible events throughout most of history, events like the reunion of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt. Mann simple said, "they had to use their own lenses." There are times when I now purposefully "use my own lenses," and my trip to Australia was one of those times.
I got to go to Canberra as well (this was early January 1987). I just happened to be there the day after the enormous flagpole was erected over the new Capitol. Well, as then installed, the flagpole looked straight from the front, but it definitely was leaning back by about 4 degrees when viewed from the side. To record that brief early history of the Canberra flagpole was the only time I wished I had a camera while in Australia.
Flying home, the pilot informed the passengers that Canberra was visible out the right side of the plane. I thought this would be real neat to see because of the huge circular geometrics of Canberra's urban plan. Well, I looked and I looked. I knew it had to be recognizable. Finally, there is was, the whole of Griffin's plan about the size of the hole in a piece of loose leaf paper. What a lesson in scale.
In the early 1980s, Aldo van Eyck was a guest chair at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Arts. Van Eyck gave several lectures during the course of the semester. The first lectures was standing room only, but the rest became less and less attended--van Eyck talked for at least 3 hours each time, and there was lots of repetition. Anyway, this was just at the beginning of post-modernism's popularity within architecture, and van Eyck didn't like post-modernism at all. Basically, he wanted to continually prove that anyone interested in post-modernism didn't 'really' know architecture. He showed this slide of a detail of a fountain. You could tell it was historical, as opposed to modern, because of some flourish in the detailing. Van Eyck challenged the audience to guess where this detail came from; his point was that one really had to look at architecture to truly understand it. I should have answered out loud, but I only told the person next to me: "that's at the Taj Mahal." No one else answered, and finally van Eyck said, "it's at the Taj Mahal." My friend immediately looked at me and asked, "How did you know that?!?" I answered, "When I was something like 12 years old, I had a big jigsaw puzzle of the Taj Mahal in its classic view. I kind of know every inch of that place."
I have constructed a computer model of the Villa Savoye (or Saviueezse or something like that) which I 'visit' occasionally, but I've never been there for real. The wife of an architect friend of mine tells a genuinely funny story about being there, however. When she and her husband were there, a group of other architects were there as well. Of course, all the architects had camera in hand, but it wasn't all that easy to take pictures. As Colleen stood in the background, she observed how each of the architects was gingerly walking around and taking snaps of the house while being careful not to get any of the other architects in their pictures or having themselves infringe upon another's pictures. Colleen said it was one of the funniest things she ever saw. I said, "You should have taken a picture of that."
Personally, I don't think architectural photographers are as important as architects, mostly because architectural photography only presents a very narrow slice of the building's life, and especially a slice when all the 'makeup' is on and anything unsightly is literally out of sight. Are they mostly false pictures? Not necessarily, but the potential for falsehood is definitely there, and it's often a potential fulfilled in one way or another.
Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but the architectural images I enjoy (and learn from) the most are the fine line drawings and engravings, be they plans, elevations, sections, perspectives, that are largely a product of the nineteenth century. That's why most of the architecture books I buy now are purchased through eBay.

2000.01.26 16:34
the body in architecture
Brian wrote:
I've missed the whole 'body' debate, not really having an understanding of its relation to architecture. Maybe someone on list can share what they know.
Steve replies:
Brian, you might find a series of essays in Anthony Vidler's The Architectural Uncanny (1992) of some interest -- there's a section on bodies. These essays provide a somewhat broad overview of the latest (trendy -- for the late 80s late 90s anyway) architecture cum body thinking. As you know, I have my own theory about the body -- chronosomatics -- and I also have an extended idea of how then the body chronosomatically effects architecture, for example, the way I interpreted your AE thesis vis-a-vis the lowest tips of the rib cage and the heart.
Regarding body 'modification', I personally think the Bellonarii, the priests and priestesses of Bellona, the goddess of war, who were accustomed, in their mystic festivals, especially on the 20th of March (hence dies sanguinis, day of blood), to gash their arms and shoulders with knives, and thus to offer their blood, are still more meaningful as to the use of their bodies than any of the stuff going on and hyped today. Of course, I'm a bit predisposed in this regard since the 20th of March is my birthday (1956), and the day my brother Otto was lobotomized (1980), and the day a working mother was car-jacked and abduced to be then raped and murdered in Tacony Creek Park (1997) just a few blocks from where I live.
Since I'm lately interested in reenactment, I have on occassion considered reenacting the Bellonarii on 20 March 2000. If I were to 'gash' my arms and shoulders, it would be with an exacto knife; I feel I'd have to cut enough to draw blood, but I wouldn't go as far as to 'gash' myself. The other alternative would be to get four tatoos, single dark red lines one on each of my shoulders and on the sides of each of my biceps. I suppose my point is that if I were to 'modify' my body, I'd only do it if the modification held meaning.
Perhaps the architecture that is best in conjunction with body modifiers today would be called "gratuitous architecture" or "uncalled for architecture".

2000.01.27 12:22
The Looking Glass
This week's The New Yorker magazine (Jan. 31, 2000) has a very interesting article by Lawrence Weschler entitled "The Looking Glass". The subtitles ask: "Did the Old Masters use cameras?" A theory from David Hockney. "How did Old Masters draw so well?" The modern master David Hockney has a theory that challenges five hundred years of art history.
Hockney believes that lenses, specifically those in camera obsuras and those of camera lucidas, have been 'secretly' used by great artists since the Renaissance and up until the invention of the photographic camera. The article is fascinating, and actually contains some curiously coincidential parallels to some of the threads here at architecthetics throughout the month of January 2000.
I hope many here get to read the article, because I'd certainly like to discuss what it says.

2000.01.28 10:24
Sorting out truth
Paul wrote:
Were I asked to nominate the pivotal architectural work of the twentieth century (no one asked, of course) I would suppose it be found at the nexus between the long architectural tradition and revolutionary modern movement in the earlier twentieth century, or else at the nexus with what as followed modernism. Restricting my view to the latter, I would suggest a work probably little known to most of others on the list: the project (unbuilt, alas) for a museum at Santa Barbara, California by Michael Dennis (and partner), which appears in Michael's book, Court and Garden. Without discussing this project further here, I advance it merely to assure others that I do hope to become more specific, offering "for instances" as exemplars of these fundamental issues. Clue: Michael's work was a brilliant confrontation of alternative spatial conceptions, and a highly rational and effective demonstration of how both spatial strategies may be employed together in a single work.
Steve replies:
I looked at Dennis' Art Museum project for Santa Barbara, and, although a nice design, I wouldn't call it pivotal because it is somewhat over the hump of the pivot of its particular time, i.e., the late 1970s - early 1980s. When looking at the Dennis design, I'm immediately reminded of virtually every published entry to the "House for Karl Friedrich Schinkel" competition run by Shinkenchiku and programmed and judged by James Stirling in 1979 (see The Japan Architect February 1980).
I notice that Schinkel is no where mentioned within Dennis' Court and Garden book, but Stirling is included on a few pages. The absence of Schinkel is curious in that the main historical precedent for the proposed Art Museum in Santa Barbara very much seems to be Schinkel's Court Gardener's House and Roman Bath complex (1834-40) on the palace grounds of Sansossi in Potsdam.
When it comes to values and truth (in architecture), I think it best to call "a spade and spade," and not rely on abstract categories which may or may not be of real use. Paul said, "artists commonly think that what they do is not to "express" what they bring to the work, but that they "explore" and "discover" in the process of doing the work what was not predetermined. Isn't this really our own experience as designers? ...this line of inquiry will bring us to Kahn's notion that we are not "inspired," divine "creators" of form, but that forms preexist us, and our function is rather to find them.
This, of course, becomes metaphysics--and I admit to being not only a rationalist and a formalist, but a metaphysician." I don't know how metaphysical it is to see an architectural design from the past and then, as a designer, wish to somehow capture the essence of the former design in a whole new design, but I do know that many designers are very protective of their "inspirations" only because they already know how easy it is to "copy" secretly while at the same time manifesting one's own originality publicly.
Haven't we already seen in our own time just how hypocritical "value" and "truth" are? I am now much more interested in trying to understand the ways and means of hypocrisy than I am interested in trying to understand the hierarchy of "value" and "truth". The presence of hypocrisy appears much more real than the presence of value and truth.

2000.01.29 18:19
glossy words/ethics
My answer to your glossarist ethics question may sound too simple, but I offer it in earnest.
The potential ethical problem may stem only from the way you yourself see/utilize the glossy, in that, for example, your 'definition' of BUILDERAMA is not so much a **definition** as much as it is an **evocation**. Your 'definition' more defines what the word BUILDERAMA evokes within your imagination than it does a 'real' BUILDERAMA, which in many cases simply means a big store that sells building supplies, etc.
I suggest seeing what happens when input for the glossy is classified as an evocation rather than a definition. In time, the glossy may indeed provide a quite wonderful collection of concepts and wide-reaching architectural imaginings.

2000.01.30 11:44
glossy words/ethics
here are some further suggestions:
1. giving credit - if a word comes to the glossy as something coined but not defined, simply include the word as used in the sentence within which the word was 'originally' used, and give the author of the sentence's name. the word in its 'original' sentence usage would then be the first entry for the word, even without a definition.
2. evocation and/or definition? - perhaps it's as easy as providing a check-off choice within the submission/display of words, e.g.: a) the following is a definition
b) the following is an evocation
c) the following is a definition and an evocation
of course, you could make evocations the rule of glossy, and definitions the exception:
**unless otherwise noted, all entries within the glossy are evocations**
3. I, for one, do not find it awkward if a word is only accompanied by an evocation without a definition.
4. the whole point of introducing the concept of evocation as opposed to definition is that the more or less automatic subjectiveness of individuals writing what they regard a word to mean is recognized within the notion of evocation, where as the notion of definition, by its very nature, requires strict objectivity first and foremost before subjectivity can legitimately begin to enter in.
Who knows, maybe a big step in 'hacking and cracking" the architectural code is to realize that much of what currently passes for architectural definitions is actually most often evocations.

2000.01.30 12:44
Additive/Reductive Form
In writing about additive/reductive form, Paul uses two(?) projects of mine as examples. These projects are within Quondam's current exhibit schizophrenia + architectures, and, because the presentation of these projects within the exhibit offer no explanation besides a series of images, I feel it necessary to here include some background for the projects and how Paul came to see them.
After he introduced the Michael Dennis project, I sent Paul a private email suggesting he look at a series of web pages that display the various schematic designs for a "house for Karl Friedrick Schinkel" plus views of a(n actual) model of the final design. This set of images begins at wqc/1999/5/0417.htm and ends at wqc/1999/5/0430.htm. This is the project that Paul refers to as Roman.
I today followed through all the web pages I suggested to Paul, and was surprised that the forward link of the last "Schinkel" page connects to the "Steve's Arcopolis" web pages, which are another set of images within schizophrenia + architectures that display the ongoing development of three different house designs that are grouped on a steep ridge. The design from the 'Steve's Acropolis' collection that Paul saw first originated as a 'mythical' House in Laguna with Spears. In any case, the design as seen as Greek by Paul is the beginnings of a reenactment of Le Corbusier's Palais des Congres a Strasbourg.
The Schinkel House designs represent work I did in 1979 and 1980.
The three houses of Steve's Acropolis are designs that originiated as single plan sketches drawn in the 1980s, which have hence been elaborated upon via CAD throughout the 1990s.
For my very latest "house" plans, check out the various renditions of a "House for Otto L." starting at: wqc/1999/1/0004.htm and continued at wqc/1999/2/0110.htm through wqc1999/2/0114.htm and wqc/1999/9/0849.htm through wqc/1999/9/0854.htm and there is also the "disturbing" house 1983 which is found at: wqc/1999/3/0259.htm through wqc/1999/3/0266.htm">0266.htm




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