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Pagan - Christian - Triumphal Way
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def: a-typological architecture
David L. Cuthbert wrote:
Eisenman's work approaches [a-typological design] - but to copy it is to make the same mistake twice.
Steve Lauf offers:
One of the people I immediately 'clicked' with at the INSIDE DENSITY colloquium in Brussels, Belgium last week is Bernard Kormoss, who (even though living in Belgium) works for Peter Eisenman and who is currently working on a book entitled EISENMANUAL (Monacelli Press and going to press in about 4 months). I believe Bernard is co-authoring the book, and he showed me the current mock-up. The book outlines all of Eisenman's work and thinking, and attempts to emulate hypertext in its layout and conceptual organization.
I would let Bernard know about the 'a-typological' definition, but I hesitate to do so because the definition so far and the term's use in the above example sentence do not coincide. The definition [a-typological architecture: based on Hegel's "back to themselves" - architecture not generated from examples but on the very psychological and physical conditions that are present] implies a positive newness of design based on given conditions alone, whereas the example sentence implies that 'a-typological' design is a mistake to begin with. (yes David, I know what you are trying to say, but the sentence is exactly the opposite of the definition's intention.)
The main reason Bernard and I instantly 'clicked' (we were part of the same session and my paper was delivered first and his was third) is because he straight away understood how my concept of reenactment (which, btw, became the hot, new idea at INSIDE DENSITY) fit exactly with the point of his paper, which was that there is now indeed too much copying of Koolhaas and Eisenman by a 'second generation' that does not fully understand the process behind the 'original' designs (and here I'm over-simplifying Bernard's argument, and which I believe is what David's definition and sentence may be trying to convey). Bernard subsequently embraced the notion of 'critical' reenactment as a key to continuance of methodology that does not merely become an insufficient copy.

1999.12.30 17:03
Teresa writes and asks:
It seems to me that email has brought back an age of written communication that hasn't been seen since the advent of the telephone or radio. Our audience is vast, more so than ever; individuals in India discourse with those visiting Belgium, never meet, yet have a strong relationship due to written word.
Has technology allowed us to "regress"? Is this progress?
Steve replies:
Anyone that has ever taken piano lessons as a child knows full well that one is never going to be a piano player unless one practices, practices, practices. I took piano lessons as a child, but I never practiced, and hence my piano playing is useless. The point is that in order to be good at something, you have to do it over and over again.
While I was not practicing my piano lessons, I was also being a lazy student in school. I always seemed to know enough to pass, and even pass with some success, but I never pushed myself. Eventually, I took an architectural writing/journalism course in collage, and that's when I really learned I was a horrible writer (and I'm still far from having perfected my spelling). I'm not going to say that by the end of the writing course that I learned how to write, because that didn't happen. So, as a result of general laziness, I somehow managed to graduate from college with very poor writing (and even reading) skills. Ironically, however, all that started to change right after college.
At the end of 1981, within a half year of my graduating with a B. Arch., I began to read. I started with a challenge, Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, and then I moved on to an even greater challenge, Mann's Joseph and His Brothers. The latter took me just over a full year, but the reading in that year changed so much for me. I actually remember realizing that I was getting smarter the more I read the book, and indeed Joseph and His Brothers taught me things about the ways of the world that I would never have been able to experience otherwise. After finishing Joseph and His Brothers I just started reading all kinds of stuff, however, I rarely read fiction, it mostly seems to easy.
In April 1983 I began working full time as an architect on CAD. Even though I nearly failed my computer programming course in college, I quickly excelled in CAD. I love drafting, and in simple terms I saw that CAD allowed me to create drawings that I'd otherwise only be able to dream about. I have to confess, however, that I also loved the power that CAD gave me within the office hierarchy; suddenly I was a participant in every office meeting, and often it was up to me to say whether something could be done or not. I quickly grew to like computers so much that within six months I purchased a personal computer for myself; in late 1983 that was still very uncommon, especially for an architect. It was on that first Digital pc that I began to write -- if nothing else, I was thrilled that any typing mistake I made really didn't matter because mistakes were suddenly so easy to correct.
To make a long story short, it was word processing that taught me how to write. For example, because of many, many electronic grammar checks, I now instinctively know when I'm writing a sentence in passive voice. And it is now through design-l that I practice, practice, practice writing. I may still not know how to play piano, but I'm at least beginning to master a whole other set of keys.

2000.01.16 21:54
Re: architecting
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 I'd 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 xxx.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
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.

2000.02.20 12:09
You wrote, "In the end, I never got past Tafuri; regardless of how he tries to recapture the value in the implicit recognition of the futility in the archtectural project, this might be a personal salve for me as I try, but if I am establishing and sustaining agency, they abandonment of the archtectural project is my only recourse."
Since I have never been taught Tafuri, and only read some of his texts (but not entire books), what is it that you "never got past"? Is it a kind of disenchantment?
I ask because I have found that Tafuri is more or less completely flawed in his interpretations of Piranesi's Campo Marzio (in The Sphere and The Labyrinth). Moreover, I've just recently become award of Tafuri's stance regarding historical criticism versus operative criticism, and it seems to me that with regard to Piranesi's Campo Marzio, Tafuri is just as guilty of utilizing operative criticism as opposed to historical criticism (which I understand Tafuri recognizes as a "better" mode of criticism/theorizing).
I am not necessarily someone that is anti-Tafuri, in fact, it was Tafuri's texts regarding the Campo Marzio that were for a long time the only texts I could readily find on the Campo Marzio as it might relate to architecture, but as I further researched Piranesi's Campo Marzio plan, and other texts (e.g., Fasolo's 1956 text, which too is full of literal mistakes, and which seems to have also informed Tafuri), I began to see where Tafuri makes many mistaken interpretations as well. Moreover, if Tafuri is wrong about the Campo Marzio, of which his interpretations form the foundation for his Sphere and Labyrinth text/argument, is it possible that a great deal of the argument may be flawed?
Basically, I'm asking if you might be interested in (privately) discussing Tafuri via email, especially with regard to the Campo Marzio.

2000.03.23 10:20
teaching at its worst
I find you and your hypocritical attitude shameful, and I am certainly glad I never paid money to have you as a teacher. What a disservice you are. I call you a hypocrite because you "profess" to know things that in actuality you know little or nothing about. You professed that Frank Lloyd Wright never, ever looked at or borrowed from European models, and you were wrong; you dismissed Oppositions with some sort of authority, and it turned out you know virtually nothing about the magazine, and, moreover admitted that even now it's not worth your time and effort to fix your mistake; and now, "for the sake of those that may not know," you offer just more of the stereotyped info regarding Ludwig II and his architecture.
And worst of all, you profess to be a teacher, while at the same time you show a high procility for not being willing to learn yourself.
Stephen Lauf

2000.05.02 11:11
Thanks for kukos, and I'm glad my Piranesi is work generating some 'archeological' interest. What I've found is that Piranesi, by drawing the Ichnographia, is playing a very clever 'archeological' game whereby his mistakes, ie, misplacement/conjecture of buildings, actually represent an inverted meaning, specifically a Pagan versus Christian inversion -- see for a paper I delivered in Belgium Nov. 1999 on Piranesi's inversions within the Campo Marzio. For example, Piranesi's placement of the beginning of the Triumphal Way within the Vatican valley represents the fact that the Triumphal Way of post-Constantine Rome ended in the Vatican Valley, namely at St. Peter's Basilica, as opposed to ending at the Arx. [I'm now very curious about the Livy/Jupiter Ferretrius story you mentioned; I don't know this story so could you provide a reference?] Piranesi positions the Porta Triumphalis adjacent the Foro Holitorium, yet he does not delineate an opening in the Servian Wall. I suspect Piranesi, in 1761, was already aware of the gate's ambiguous presence.
The Catalogo is indeed a tremendous bibliographical reference. It made me realize just how much of ancient Rome's architecture is known only via textual (written) reference, as opposed to existing remains. Here's what the Catalogo says about the Triumph:
Ponte Trionfale, o sia Vaticano, Alcuni suppongono, che le rovine, che rimangono nel letto del Tevere incontro lo spedale si S. Spirito in Sassia, Tav. 3 num 39, appartenessero al ponte trionfale. Per vedere di che qualita elle siano, veggasi la Tav. XIV, fig II e III. Si paragoni colle rovine presso il Teatro di Tordinona, che noi crediamo esser di questo ponte, Tav III, num 36, e si dimostrano in prospettiva nella stressa Tav. XIV, alla fig. I, e si riconoscera, che quelle che rimangono presso lo spedale sono affatto diverse dalle maniere dei ponti. Di piu la stessa loro costruttura ben dimostra, che non sono opera antica, ma de' tempi bassi, la quale da cima a fonda e della medesima forma e figura, come abbiam riconosciuto col tastar colle pertiche la profundita di tali rovine: il che abbiamo dimostrato nella stessa Tav. xiv, figura 2 e 3
Porta Trionfale <> sembrano voler dire ch'ella stesse chiusa, e fosse solita aprirsi ai triunfatori.
Via Trionfale <> Vicolo di Gordiano. << Porfir. nella pist. ult. del lib. 1 d'Oraz.>>
I don't understand Italian, so I can't help you with a translation, however, if you can readily translate these citations, I'd appreciate your sharing them with me.
My background is architecture. I'm licenced in Pennsylvania, however, I am not an academic. My redrawing of Piranesi's Campo Marzio is more a huge hobby, albeit, an extremely fertile hobby -- I've learned more about Ancient Rome's monuments and topography in the last 4 years than I ever imagined. For example, I'm presently putting together a 'thesis' that Flavia Julia Helena Augusta, St. Helena, mother of Constantine I, was the 'architect' of Christianity's early 4th century church building boom. This thesis will develop online at over the next year or so.
Keep in touch, I never tire of discussing Piranesi and the Campo Marzio.

new books
1. Virtually Carved in Stone: a masterplan of mistakes and inversion

2000.10.23 12:39
after the last coffin
Sometime in 1999 I mistakening posted (to another email list) that my grandfather, Georg Brenner, was buried (1945) in a Serbian dug mass grave. I've since asked my mother to clarify this story, and she said, "Oh no, he was buried in Brestowatz (the town), but, it was said 'he got the last coffin.'" Subsequently, the ethnic Germans of Brestowatz were either transported to labor camps in Russia (my mother included) or to a concentration camp in Gakovo, Serbia. Over 400 Germans from Brestowatz are buried in mass graves at Gakovo, including one of my great-grandmothers, two of my mother's aunts and more than a few of my mother's childhood cousins.
Every Father's Day there is a religious pilgrimage here in Philadelphia at St. Peter's Church, where St. John Neumann rests. The pilgrimage is organized by the increasingly fewer surviving Danube-Schwabians living in the Philadelphia area in honor of all the Danube-Schwabians buried in Soviet/Serbian dug mass graves. My mother and I attend almost every year.

inconsistencies and hyperboles?
Thanks for your replies. I now have a better understanding of your evolutionary theory of architectural styles, and for that I'm grateful.
I'll add a few comments, however.
1. I agree that historians will never really know what an artist was thinking, and to that end whenever I analyze historically I try to give exact textual reference and/or make it clear that what I say is my opinion/interpretation (hopefully with some basis). Nonetheless, there is that (exciting) element about historical research that is akin to being a detective finding clues and then 'fabricating' a possible or likely scenario. Moreover, it is more and more the historian's job today to search out and correct the mistakes of previous historians (a kind of Baroque activity?).
2. I'd like to be on the record for proposing that in essence the Baroque involved: a) a bifurcation of reality and illusion, b) pervasive mirroring (figuratively and literally), and 3) reality reenacting its own illusory mirror. For now I'm working on the premise that the combination of these three attributes is mostly unique to the Baroque. [I am not asserting, however, that the artists of the Baroque were actively thinking about the combination of the three attributes when creating their works. I'm simply calling out a (distinct?) pattern that (for me at least) is there.]
3. Please consider my contributions to the recent discussion as addressing the notion of emergence of style as opposed to the invention of a style. [Although, I have to again stress that there really is a lot of invention going on within the designs of Michelangelo's fortifications of Florence.]
4. I'm going to venture into some new activity at architecthetics, and that is to outline and ruminate on the beginnings of Christian Church architecture and specifically the (very possible) role that Flavia Julia Helena Augusta (the mother of Constantine, St. Helena) played within those beginnings. I'll be sporadically sending posts that are more notes than polished texts, and the intention is simply to share the information I've gathered as well as invite comments and questions.



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