LeDeuzzy, Q.

hybrid of a very mixed sort

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aesthetics? (etc.)

I like Alex's quest/quiz regarding "any alternative one-liners" for defining elegance apropos a definition of aesthetics, and here's a one-liner I thought of last night:

There is a magnificent elegance when huge chunks of intellect[ual property] masonic-ly fit together.

Essentially, I'm thinking maximum effort with minimum friction. Could this dictum be indicative of the thinking had over 4500 years ago in the Nile valley, or, for that matter, circa 800 years ago during Gothic times?

Given it's incredibly long aesthetic life (almost 3000 active years), doesn't the art and architecture of ancient Egypt stand for an extreme elegance somehow proven by its sheer endurance? What's really good (aesthetically) is perhaps just plainly not worth changing too much (and in this sense the notion of stylistic evolution, if taken as a continual progression, loses some of its credibility). I'm now curious as to just how many Gothic structures will still be standing 1000 years from now, versus how many building of the last century will still be standing then.

I also like Christopher Townson's closing remark:
"One final issue that I would like to raise in relation to the aesthetics of architecture is the problematic of the typology of praxis itself (painting, sculpture, architecture etc.) Where exactly does the boundary lie between sculpture or 'land art' and architecture? Is the work of James Turrell at Roden Crater architecture? Or are the pyramids land art?! The absurdity of borders and definitions that are mere impositions, foisted upon things through the activities of Intellectual reductionism becomes stark."

I voiced a somewhat similar concern here at architecthetics right at the end of 1999. From the architecthetics archive, December:

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 irradiated 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."

I actually thought of the above post last night (prior to reading Christopher's post) because of what I wrote yesterday about my 'view' of context from Philadelphia, and the notion of hybrid-ism may be one that helps me to continue sharing my (contextually unique?) view. Picking up on Paul's comments on Frank Furness and whether he is contextual, I'd first off say yes Furness is very contextual, but not exactly in the same way contextualism is generally thought of today. Furness architecture is (unfortunately?) one of those architectures that really has to be experienced in person, pictures just don't suffice. Anyway, the buildings are often very clear albeit uncanny responses to the surroundings; the buildings also often indeed make the 'place'; but, more than anything, it is within the compositions of Furness buildings themselves where the contextual dialogue fully occurs--there are virtually always incredible juxtapositions of interior spatial scale, then also tremendous exaggerations of scale among individual elements. None of this is arbitrary because the various scales always reflect various aspects of program and function, and even structure. Aesthetically, the architecture of Furness is all hybrid, or, as Venturi would say, "a difficult whole."

On Kahn, I have to (respectfully) change some of what Paul said, for example that "Kahn has always been more object-oriented, in a traditional architectural sense (and Kahn was indeed a traditionalist)." Kahn for sure had a 'traditional' training, pure Beaux-Arts via Paul Cret, but, as Kahn matured, the orientation was not on 'object'(ness), rather that of conceptually forming the building program as a much higher priority than figuratively forming the building. This at least is what I learned from those of my teachers that studied with and/or worked for Kahn. The figural forms of Kahn's compositions always changed radically during the design process, and this (evolution?) occurred, and is indeed reflective of, the serious ongoing pondering of just what the program of the building "wanted to be." Kahn very much took program to a somewhat spiritual level, and, lucky for him, he found a way for bold and complex geometrical compositions to manifest the conceptualized resultant spirits. For Kahn, context did not so much involve physicality, rather the spiritual realm, specifically that spirit that good architecture should embody, thus making good 'place'. That's why Kahn could simple say, "Order is."

Soon after I graduated from Temple U., I participated in an alumni exhibit hosted by Temple's architecture program, and, among other things, I hung up a sign that said "Order is. . .OK." Most 'Philadelphia's' that saw the sign got what I did immediately; a few appropriately laughed, while most smirked and got stern in the face. Of course, I was commenting on (and hybriding?) Kahn's "Order is." together with Venturi's "Main Street is almost all right." Anyway, Rick makes some interesting comments on Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, e.g., "It was surprising to me to see how thoroughly Contextual (in the philosophical sense of Peirce's Pragmatism) that this work was. Surely, it is the first apology with an Architecturally Contextual base? Not that it was perfectly so, for as I recall, there are a few cases, such as the Jasper Johns Flag on Flag illustration, which a better fit for popular notions of taste, not for thoroughgoing Contextualism." Between 1974 (my senior year in High School) and 1984 I've read Complexity and Contradiction five time, four times reading the chapter in consecutive order, and once reading the chapters in reverse order (and one of the readings was done while on an Italian study tour, which is the best "context" to read that book in). [The only other book I've read multiple times including once in reverse is Revelations, the last book of the New Testament. What I found through that experience is that Revelations actually starts making sense when you read the chapters in reverse "order".] I'll touch upon Rick's insightful focus on Jasper Johns Flag on Flag illustration because it represents Venturi's relationship with POP Art taking precedence over Venturi's relationship with popular culture. The whole aesthetic notion of POP Art flatness (as best described in Tom Wolff's The Painted Word) is an aesthetic that Venturi still to this day strives ardently toward in many aspects of his designs. This 'style' is rarely, if ever, discussed within the plethora of writing on or by Venturi, yet it is definitely a substantial part of Venturi's design psyche. Let me explain further so as not to begin sounding like, as Alex once described, Kenneth (Civilization) Clark when he (Clark) was adamant about what Michelangelo "must have thought." One of my best friends, RE, a former Temple U. classmate, was an associate at Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates for 10 years. Whenever R and I discuss the 'flatness' issue, it gets very intense; R offers lots of actually working examples of the quest for flatness in the design process, and then we inevitably agree that it is somehow amazing that hardly anyone (else) knows about this very integral component of Venturi's style.

Rick, it was very nice of you to also mention some of the design analyses that used to be at Quondam. Alas, Quondam over the past year undid itself, in what I believe to be the virtual's greatest virtue, i.e., building and unbuilding at the stroke of a few keys, yet all the talking about Philadelphia architecture is spurring me on to reinstate the series of (kind of) essays under the title "Learning from Lauf (Vague) S." When I first introduced this title and texts, it was done in all seriousness, yet, like my "Order is. . .OK," I knew that not everyone would get the full extent of my 'playfulness'. There is now lots of new material to add to Learning from Lauf (vague) S., not the least of which is a new essay entitled "Constantine's Mother's House", a lively and in-depth look at the history and architecture of the Palatium Sessoriaum, Helena's residence in Rome, the only remaining part of which is today's Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.

Since I now have a working model of the first Sessorian conversion (into Santa Croce in Gerusalemme), this is where I will do the most virtual/Quondam play, e.g., design the floor paving based on 'to scale' representations of other floor plans (like Arbor Street House, Acropolis Q?) and filling the interior elevations with renderings of other to scale elevations, animated.

Acropolis Q

Basilica Sessorianum

Arbor Street House




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