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1998.11.19 10:26
Re: def: Architecture
from Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1966)
architecture 1 : the art or science of building; specif : the art or practice of designing and building structures, esp. habitable structures, in accordance with principles determined by aesthetic and practical or material considerations     2 : formation or construction whether the result of conscience act or of growth or of random disposition of the parts   3 : the exercise or the instance of the exerciseof the art or science of architecture   4 : a method or style of building characterized by certain peculiarities of structure or ornamentation.
[I think it best to start with an established definition; then all subsequent definitions have a base point of reference. This seems to be a very good definition of architecture to start with because, for example, it calls for aesthetic, practical or material consideration -- note it does not call for im-material consideration! Of course, today we have to add the notion of im-material considerations with regard to architecture, such as the wide variety of virtual architectures and the broad notion of electricity and architecture, for a start. Pushing the matter of im-material consideration further, there are now also questions regarding the aesthetics, practicality and even the materiality of "in-material architecures." -sl]
leading (rhetorical?) question: is there a purely aesthetic architecture, or a purely practical architecture, or a purely material architecture, or a purely im-material archtitecture? It seems possible that many buildings, broadly speaking, could be put in one category or another, yet, of course, probably all buildings share some characteristics from all categories.

1998.12.20 11:20
Re: def: AutoCAD Architecture
I'm hoping this is my final say regarding the defining of "autoCAD architecture".
1. I do not want my name attached to the definition --AutoCAD Architecture = "architecture made with AutoCAD software by AutoDesk" -- this definiton is derived from one of my recent posts, and refers to my comment that when I read "AutoCAD Architecture", my first thought is that that term means architecture DESIGNED (not made!) using AutoCAD Software. Personally, I don't believe there is a definitive "style" of architecture that AutoCAD software produces. Furthermore, I already stated I have no experience using AutoCAD, so I am not qualified to submit a definition regarding AutoCAD.
2. what i find most disturbing (and NOT insulting) about bc's "autoCAD architecture" definition is the scattered logic.
you say there a 1,000,000s of bland, mundane, "z-brick" buildings out there. these buildings are flat, they look like they are still on a computer screen. these buildings were designed by architects, most of which use CAD. because these buildings look like they’re still on a computer screen, and because 90% of the architects today use AutoCAD, these buildings are autoCAD Architecture. this is a breakthrough, you declare. i see it as something akin to mixing metaphors.
i see a real flaw in saying that buildings look like they are still on a computer screen. do you mean 2d elevations, wireframes, color shade/shadow renderings of 3d computer models, 3d computer model renderings with "realistic" textures applied? (i find the generality so far misleading)
with regard to "flatness", take a look at Louis Kahn's first independent building commission - Ahavath Israel Synagogue, Philadelphia, 1935 (images available @ xxx). my point being that "flatness" is an architectural aesthetic with a long history and very much independent of CAD. There are also some Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates buildings that absolutley revel in their flatness, e.g., any of the 1980s and 1990s university laboratory buildings (and yes VSBA uses AutoCAD, but i'm sure if you actually asked Venturi about flatness, you'd receive a whole history sans CAD). i also suggest you read you read Tom Wolf's The Painted Word, within which you will find an analysis of the flatness of 1960s POP art. i also suspect that the aesthetics (or lack there of) of mid-range real-estate developers has much more to do with the look of our environment than do architects and or CAD. (money, and who controls how the money is spent, is still pretty much the largest determinant of an architectural commission.)
the base problem i have with using terms autoCAD Architecture to describe the ticky-tacky nature of much of the (american?) real-estate development present today, is that to relegate all the cause on AutoCAD, or even just CAD in general, grossly simplifies and even totally misses the very complex root system of the phenomenon. like so many others in today's world, i fear bc has, in this instance, become a victim of the good "sound-bite". it seems more and more true now a days that sounding like a good idea and being a good idea are very much NOT necessarily the same thing.
off the cuff remark: if AutoCAD produces such bad designs, then architects should switch to a better CAD software. i've been using ARRIS for over 11 years, and recently ARRIS has taken first prize in the CAD Shootout twice out of three years of competition thus far.

1999.01.14 13:33
Re: Target
joni writes:
Did anyone read the article in today's NY times about Target contracting Michael Graves to design a line of home furnishing items from spatulas to toasters to a less expensive ("less-designed" ?) version of his infamous tea kettle! Referred to in the article is the marketing director of the Target going through the store with Graves and applying yellow post-its to all of the products that Graves might potentially that conjuers up an image!
steve proposes:
perhaps michael graves should also redesign all mass transit systems so we can all go conscientiously shopping in style. hail designer bus fumes and a new cologne called "hold your breath".

2000.01.03 03:38
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 accommodates 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 argued, 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 accommodate our 'perceptual worship'?

2000.02.03 15:08
austerity = extreme assimilation?
In Hugh Pearman's piece on the New Art Gallery in Walsall, he begins with:
"If you could distill the essence of pure modern architecture, and remove all traces of the usual compromises and cut corners and clumsy details and flash populist moves, then you would get a strange, unsettling, austere, but rather beautiful building."
This sentence well describes what I mean by an architecture of extreme assimilation. Assimilation in physiological terms means the absorption of nutrients, and this corporal operation occurs primarily within the intestines. The final stage of assimilation is then in the large intestines where all moisture is absorbed, and them comes the purge.
Modernist Purism and now the New Austerity seem to work toward manifesting an architecture where all the essentials have been absorbed to the extreme, i.e., to the purge of anything extraneous.
Hugh (in his last post) also mentions possible forthcoming architectural 'revivals'. Could not the New Austerity be a Purism revival? (Seeing the interior shot of the Walsall gallery also reminded me of the interior court of Kahn's Mellon Art Gallery, New Haven. I see that building, as well as many other Kahn buildings, as 'embodiments' of a 'new' austerity, of an assimilating purge.)
Perhaps one of the drawbacks of the 'being-there-right-as-it-happens-history' of today's culture is that the sense of continuum is no longer as evident as it was in former times. With everything "new(s)' being automatically understood as 'of this very moment', the sight of 'events' being part of a much larger continuum is easily lost. I have a feeling that a 'style' like Purism(/New Austerity) is going to be part of 'international' architecture (and culture) for a few more centuries. It's already proved itself durable for almost a century, hasn't it?

2000.03.21 15:42
Re: Theory/negative+positive
Over the last several months, the notion of artist's/architect's intentions have consistently been given a very high 'value' with regard to how a critic can and should legitimately critique a work of art/architecture.
Yet, for the most part, whenever a lister posts something here at architecthetics, and then another lister responds to or interpretes the prior post, rarely does the respondee ask what the initial poster intended or whether their (the respondee's) interpretation comes close to the initial intention.
For all the talk of valuing intentions, there nonetheless still seems to be a lot of assuming going on.
I've written enough here at architecthetics for there to be a somewhat full picture of me in terms of what my interests are and what my "style" is, but do any of you really know what my intentions are?

2000.09.22 10:59
the architect's wife style [was 3-d]
Going through my collection of digital clips from Two For The Road inspired me to (soon) install a mini exhibit at entitled "the architect's wife style". As Joanna, Audrey Hepburn wears an assortment of very MOD fashion (designs). Normally, modernism and romanticism (in design) are anathama, but not in Two For The Road. If any movie can be labeled "romantic modern collage", it's Two For The Road (and you'll see what I mean if you watch the whole movie through to the end).
Anyway, the name of the cathedral in the movie is not mentioned. Here's a preview of the exhibit.
ps the soundtrack of Two For The Road is Mancini at his best.
pss I have a real liking of movies with strong "vehicle" motifs, and, if you do too, watch Vanderhoven's Spetters (1984?) after you watch Two For The Road. And if you want to make a game out of it, drink a shot whenever a new vehicle is introduced in each movie.
psss an even better "interactive 3-d" movie game is to watch Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolff and drink a shot every time the 'swampy' wifed Elizabeth Taylor (or the lushishly mousey Sandy Dennis) says "HEY!" -- cult fiction at its most base.

2000.10.20 09:32
evolution in architecture
Do not the effects of war perhaps have an even greater effect upon the extinction of architectural styles? For example, has not the US government's wars of 100 years ago upon the Native Americans rendered "native" American architecture extinct? Additionally, did not European colonialism come very close to bringing many "native" architectures of the world to near extinction? One might even make a case that Western Europe and Japan would not be as architecturally modern as they now are were it not for the overall urban destruction of WWII.
There is also the reality that the ballooning world population has an enormous effect on how humanity reconfigures the planet. And today, doesn't the "creative destruction" of capitalism, ie, the underlying process of planned obsolescence permeating ALL consumer good, including architecture, make for "styles" that are literally "here today and gone tomorrow?" [Is "corporeal" capitalism then THE "fittest" "style" because not only does it make money for humanity, but it also makes sure humanity spends the money it makes?]
Perhaps when it come to human activities like architecture and the subsequent creation and destruction of syles, it is not so much an evolutionary "survival of the fittest", rather simply an imaginative and concrete manifestation of the (human physiological) metabolic process.
Migth it just be true that the "whiter" humanity thinks, the more it manifests extinctions?

2000.10.24 16:50
brown (lauf 2)
I much appreciate your thorough response to my questions/ponderings vis-à-vis your "evolution in architecture." You have thus provided what I take to be a continual fine tuning of your thesis/argument for "evolution in architecture," and your points are well expressed. I too am working on a "theory" of architecture (style) that relates architecture to a "process" larger than architecture itself, that is, the notions that 1) human imaginations reenact corporal morphology and physiology, and 2) architecture (style) reenacts human imaginations. The main theory is called chronosomatics (meaning literally time + the body), and the primary text on chronosomatics is entitled The Timepiece of Humanity (which was online for a few years at, but is presently not available there).
As your replies aid in the continuance of your theory, so too my initial reactions to "evolution in architecture" aided me in expressing my ideas. I'd like to see our mutual aiding further via an understanding that each of our texts potentially co-exist in a metabolic fashion.
You ask: "What has 'metabolic process' have to do with it?" The metabolic process within humanity, and, more or less in all (animal?) life, is a creative-destructive duality wherein the corporal destruction of matter releases energy thus providing creative impetus. I theorize that the metabolic process is (just) one of the human physiologies reflected in human imagination, and, subsequently, the metabolic process becomes reflected in human activities and events. [Note: the other corporal physiologies like fertility, assimilation, osmosis, etc. also play key roles within human imagination, but the theory of chronosomatics suggests the metabolic process as being one particularly dominant in our times.]
The issue of morals and morality inevitably arise within the "metabolic process" because it engenders creation and destruction in equal measures. I feel I should read your responses that include the issue of morals more closely before I offer a more complete reply. I can state now, however, that I treat morals vis-à-vis the metabolic as a secondary second system of analysis because creation and destruction are equal and interdependent within metabolic activities and events. [Note: I believe Hugh Pearman's latest post "war and architecture" describes perfectly a metabolic process we can all relate to. It's all about destruction, the release of energy, and then creation equal to the destruction.]
"Corporeal" Capitalism may name the metabolic process as expressed by capitalism on a global scale, moreover, a global capitalism that began in the late 1400s.
I have to stop at this point for now. I'm personally feeling the release of a lot of energy (and I don't think I have to any more explicit feelings about the destruction that causes the energy), and there is a lot of creative work ahead of me.

2000.10.27 12:43
Baroque ending (for sure)
Although most of the current discussion at architecthetics deals more or less with theorizing of how 'style' (might) come to be, generally how things/styles emerge, I nonetheless offer the following as an example of how (a) style ends, in this particular case the Baroque style.
The following is a passage I first read over 23 years ago. It comes from Thomas K. Kitao, Circle and Oval in the Square of Saint Peter's: Bernini's Art of Planning (New York: New York University Press, 1974), pp.22-23. I was reminded of this passage after some reflection upon the recent bit of cyber theater that occurred here at design-l [i.e., the email list I first sent this post to on 16 October 2000--design-l and architecthetics are the double theaters I play in] a month and a half ago.
"In the well know production of the Due Teatri, first given in 1637, Bernini developed a simulated amphitheater of a very elaborate kind. This is, of course, the best known of Bernini's theatrical works, but a recapitulation is in order.
According to Massimiliano Montecuculi, who witnessed the performance, the stage was prepared with "a flock of people partly real and partly feigned" so arranged that, when the curtain had fallen for the opening of the play, the audience saw on the stage another large audience who had come to see the comedy. Two braggarts, played by Bernini himself and his brother Luigi, then appeared on the stage, one facing the real audience and the other the fictitious; and recognizing each other in no time, they went on to claim, each in turn, that what the other saw as real was actually illusory, each firmly convinced that there was no more than one theater with its audience in that half he was facing. The confusions of realities in mirror image thus heightened, the two firmly decided "that they would pull the curtain across the scene and arrange a performance each for his own audience alone." Then the play was performed to the real audience, that is, the main act to which that preceded was only a pleasant prelude. But through the play another performance was supposed to be taking place simultaneously on the second stage introduced by Luigi; the play was, in fact, interrupted at times by the laughter from those on the other side, as if something very pleasant had been seen or heard.
At the end of the play, the two braggarts reappeared on the stage together to reaffirm the "reality" of the illusion. Having asked each other how they fared, the impresario of the fictitious performance answered nonchalantly that he had not really shown anything but the audience getting up to leave "with their carriages and horses accompanied by a great number of lights and torches." Then, drawing the curtain, he displayed the scene he had just said he had shown to his audience, thus rendering complete the incredible reversal of reality and illusion to the confused amazement of the real spectators, who were now finding themselves ready to leave and caught in the enchanting act of feigning the feigned spectators."
Here's my analysis:
Of course, the Baroque style continued beyond Bernini--I believe even the double porticos of St. Peter's Square were done after the above performance. All the same, Bernini's theatrical performance manifests the Baroque's consummate ending. Within his double theater Bernini capsulized the beginning of Western culture's new bifurcation of the real and the illusory, introduced mirroring as a henceforth dominant Baroque (stylistic) theme, and, at base (or should I say at the ultimate end), inverted reality into a reenactment of its own illusory mirror (--is this perhaps also the genesis of historiography?).
Essentially, beyond the Baroque (and still often in our own modern times) architecture at its best is very sophisticated theater, keeping in mind that theater is one of the earliest forms of (man made) reenactment.

inconsistantcies and hyperboles
Alex first (rhetorically) asked:
who designed the Baroque? OR How did the Baroque arise (emerge)?
Steve gave some intial answers, plus offered a "Baroque ending."
Alex then states:
When in my previous post I rhetorically asked who had 'invented' or 'designed' the Baroque, I was somewhat shocked to see candidates actually being proposed for this mythical position.
Steve now asks:
Why were you shocked and what specifically makes the emergence of the Baroque a mythical position?
Alex also states and asks:
It is noticable that while we can have ruminations on metaphysicks, when it comes to 'theorizing' about architecture as such - bang! We drop 50 levels of scale and talk about the 'feelings' of the individual artist (architect?). How this is supposed to explain the evolution of one style into another I don't know or the interactions between the many individuals involved.
Steve ruminates and states:
Can one do anything else but ruminate on metaphysics? And, if one can something additional, please tell me what it is.
Specifically what 'feelings' of individual artists or architects were talked about in this discussion recently?
Please describe for me each of the 50 levels of scale that are dropped when one moves from ruminating on metaphysics to 'theorizing' about architecture via talking about artists/architects 'feelings'.
Does it not seem completely odd to discuss architecture without discussing works of architecture itself?

inconsistantcies 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 scenerio. 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 bifucation of reality and illusion, b) pervasive mirroring (figuatively 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 sporatically 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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