LeDeuzzy, Q.

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Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project within the Palace gardens of Versailles

1999.07.20 13:17
Colored doors!
Edward T. Hall's The Hidden Dimension was the first required reading of my formal architectural education, which began in 1975 at Temple University. I remember forcing myself to read the entire book mainly because it was required, but I can't say that I liked the book. (In a sort of naive way) I most wished the book was about architecture as opposed to being about psychology. I also remember thinking Hall's portrayal of German's being particularly stereotypic. In retrospect, Hall's book is a prime example of the anthropological blind-sightedness of that (and our?) time (published first in 1966). No where in the book does Hall describe and/or analyze the white American's enforcement of the black American's public and private space! And, I dare say, if Hall's book is still read (by architects) today with the belief that it contains a fair portrayal of the truth, it then only serves to extend the life of a (New Urban?) myth whereby large portions of reality are outright ignored.
In replacement of Hall's book, I propose the required reading of first year architect students today should include Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens--a study of the play element in culture because the contemporary field of architecture is (fundamentally, unavoidably, and inexorably) lots and lots of games.

irony and feeling
To answer your question, I'm trying to come to grips with the notion of why European colonials didn't simply accept the architectures that were indigenous to the lands that they (the Europeans) colonized. I see this as a negative action because I think a case can be made that many of this planets indigenous architectures are now virtually extinct because of Western colonialism/imperialism. During the first half of the 20th century, while large parts of the world were still colonies of Europe, Western modern architecture or the International Style (again a term used more for convenience) continued the global domination of Western style and furthered the extinction of indigenous architectures.
As much as I like Classical Greek and Roman architecture and Modern architecture, I nonetheless see it as a tremendous loss to architecture in general that these styles are now so global at what seems to be the expense of so many other architectures. This is why I am less and less tolerant of architectural criticism/theory that goes to far as to say "this architecture here is good" but "that architecture over there is bad."
In a recent post, you mentioned that commercialism may be readily acceptable to the post W.W.II generations, but I have to wonder whether the end of colonialism and the US civil rights movement are a better benchmark for the acceptability of diversity in all its guises.
When I first thought up the quote, "The whiter humanity thinks, the more it manifests extinctions," I was thinking of architecture.

2004.09.20 14:37
Julian Abele wept 20 September 1938
Racial bias was to remain a constant of [Julian] Abele's professional career. [Alfred S. Branam, an architectural historian, has concluded that Abele was the first Negro to practice architecture professionally in the United States. He was undoubtedly the first American Negro to study architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.] "There was a great deal of feeling against Mr. Abele because of his color," Mrs. Fennessy has recalled from conversations with her stepfather [Horace Trumbauer], whom she called Père, a reflection of her schooling in France. "Père was widely criticized for hiring Mr. Abele, and the bias extended right in the office--even after the years had passed. I remember him saying there was an office dinner once, and when several of the men found out that Mr. Abele was coming, they deliberately stayed away. But Père never backed down. He thought very highly of Mr. Abele. And they worked very closely for such a long time. I remember that when Père was buried, Mr. Abele broke down. He was a very reserved man, but that day he wept."
James T. Maher, The Twilight of Splendor: Chronicles of the Age of American Palaces, p. 372.
Horace Trumbauer died 18 September 1838, and was buried 20 September 1938.
We were driving in the red VW sedan I had for a year or so. We were playing a game--we couldn't leave the cemetery until we each spotted a tombstone with our respective first names on it. That's when I suddenly saw TRUMBAUER on a rather nice pink stone plinth. I hit the brakes, jumped out of the car, knelt before the tombstone and shed fake tears of lament, albeit out of all respect. Who knew I was also reenacting Julian Abele?

2004.09.20 15:12
Julian Abele and James Stirling
As an undergraduate, he had to confront a racial cruelty so remarkable in university discourse that one may cite it without risking the self-righteousness of most rebukes to the past. In the tradition of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, young architecture students at the University of Pennsylvania were expected to perform a number of routine tasks for the elder students--redoing a drawing in a larger scale, laying out mechanical work, inking in pencil drawings, and so on. The quid pro quo was that the older students would lead the apprentice-newcomers to the architectural documents they needed to complete assignments, help them with their renderings, and tutor them in other practical ways.
Under this system the younger students were called "niggers" and their services "niggering." After long use, the terms were formalized in the university's textbook on architectural design, chapters of which were published as early as 1921. Abele and Louis Magaziner, a white classmate who was to become Abele's closest friend and confidant, were thus both called "niggers," without discrimination one might add. The danger of our absurdities, one might further add, is that they sometimes seize us by the throat.
James T. Maher, The Twilight of Splendor: Chronicles of the Age of American Palaces, p. 372.
I realize that I am the product of a latter-day Beaux-Arts training received at Liverpool School of Architecture in the late 1940s. Renderings were executed on stretched Wattman paper, flood-washes were used and graded shadows were normal. In first year we did full color compositions of the classical orders. The final year thesis was the ultimate test and it was customary to get help from junior students--the 'atelier' system. This system was referred to in those days--is it still now at Liverpool, I wonder?--as 'niggering': ie "Who have you got niggering for you?" "Who is your nigger?" Colin Rowe and I have fantasised quite often on the making of a conversation along these lines at the rarefied revues at Yale or Harvard. Would we dare ask a bad project student, "Couldn't you get any niggers to help you?"
James Stirling, "Beaux-Arts Reflections" in Architectural Design (1978, vol. 48, nos. 10-11), p. 88.
Abele and Stirling are to present Parkway Interpolation, a reurbanization design for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, at the Horace Trumbauer Architecture Fan Club Convention. No doubt John the Baptist Piranesi will have something to add, especially since Stirling (in 1979) said Piranesi was surely a MFA, a megalomaniac frustrated architect.
James Stirling was born 22 April 1926.
Julian Abele died 23 April 1950.

2006.02.12 18:27
African American architecture?
Architecture in Black
Darell Wayne Fields, 2000
I have no idea why this book is listed at $130.00 at amazon.com, but there is a copy at Temple University's Paley Library.
Fields presents a very interesting argument that deals with Hegel's avoidance of ancient Egyptian architecture (i.e., African architecture) when he, Hegel, first writes about art history. (I think I'm remembereing correctly; it's over five years since I've read the book.)
Fields taught at Harvard in 2000, and I assume he still does.
Plus there's I want to be an ARCHITECT by Eugene Baker and illustrated by Felix Palm, 1969.

A copy of this book is in Quondam's collection.




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