atypical/content of a museum [of] otherness

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2002     Palace of Knowledge
2002     Ludi for Schinkel

2002.01.09 10:31
I think there is an interesting correlation between the evolution of Frank Gehry's architecture and the evolution of Frank Stella's art. Neither does things just to be different. Rather, whatever 'style' is current is also a next step relative to what 'style' came before. Both artists have taken progressive steps with their works, steps that lead to ever freer use of form(s). Thus their 'expressionism' is not at all a free-for-all.
Judging from my own art/design experience/work, one has to know/do-it-by the rules in order to begin moving beyond the rules. And once you've gotten beyond the 'rules, then you work to understand the 'new rules' in order to begin understanding how to go beyond them. And on and on it goes.

2002.01.09 12:15
learning from CAD and Stella
When I was CAD system manager at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Art, I became acquainted with many of the landscape architect students, as they were the only students seriously learning CAD at the time, while most of the architecture students, or their teachers at least, saw very little use for CAD. The landscape students didn't use CAD so much for design, however, rather they utilized CAD for mapping integrated with data. Nonetheless, I remember when many of the landscape architect students were also busy working on a landscape design project for Battery Park City in New York. It was a challenging design project, and many of the students were having difficulties coming up with satisfactory solutions. I decided to quickly draw up my own design, which I did by hand in about two minutes, and hung the result on one of the computer room walls where I was sure the landscape architect students would see it. One of the students subsequently left a note on the drawing/design: "I fear computers have made us think we are more creative than we actually are!"
In retrospect, it was indeed CAD that made me more creative, or at least freer with form. It was also in the mid-1980s that I began to become aware of Frank Stella's work current at that time, particularly his 'Circuit' and 'Cones and Pillars' series
As far as my design is concerned, it was the centerpiece sculpture that the landscape students most liked, i.e., a rectangular platform the size of the largest public elevator within the World Trade Center towers, and on this platform were as many life-size nude sculptures as it would take to fill it, like a crowded elevator, and trailing from this platform was a line of single nude sculptures meandering through the site and in into the Hudson River beyond.

020528   Parkway Interpolation   7800k

2002.06.19 13:00
Re: dead languages
If you read a lot of architecture theory books or essays, every so often you come across an analysis/explanation of something Victor Hugo wrote about architecture and books. Here's an example from a quondam online source:
In Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame Book V Chapter 2 is titled "This Will Kill That". Hugo tells how human history, pre-Gutenberg, was written in its buildings: huts and temples, pyramids and pagodas, tombs and towers. Now (as of the Fifteenth Century) he argues that the printing press and its products have taken over the rôle of recording knowledge. Faster, cheaper, more democratic --- and, with widespread proliferation of books, far more imperishable than architecture. Hugo says, "The invention of printing is the greatest event of history." True? Chapter 2 concludes with a summary of his thesis:
"Thus, to put it shortly, mankind has two books, two registers, two testaments: Architecture and Printing; the Bible of stone and the Bible of paper. Doubtless, in contemplating these two Bibles, spread open wide through the centuries, one is fain to regret the visible majesty of the granite writing, those gigantic alphabets in the shape of colonnades, porches, and obelisks; these mountains, as it were, the work of man's hand spread over the whole world and filling the past, from the pyramid to the steeple, from Cheops to Strassburg. The past should be read in these marble pages; the books written by architecture can be read and reread, with never-diminishing interest; but one cannot deny the grandeur of the edifice which printing has raised in its turn.
"That edifice is colossal. I do not know what statistician it was who calculated that by piling one upon another all the volumes issued from the press since Gutenberg, you would bridge the space between the earth and the moon --- but it is not to that kind of greatness we allude. Nevertheless, if we try to form a collective picture of the combined results of printing down to our own times, does it not appear as a huge structure, having the whole world for foundation, and the whole human race for its ceaselessly active workmen, and whose pinnacles tower up into the impenetrable mist of the future? It is the swarming ant-hill of intellectual forces; the hive to which all the golden-winged messengers of the imagination return, laden with honey. This prodigious edifice has a thousand storeys, and remains forever incomplete. The press, that giant engine, incessantly absorbing all the intellectual forces of society, disgorges, as incessantly, new materials for its work. The entire human race is on the scaffolding; every mind is a mason. Even the humblest can fill up a gap, or lay another brick. Each day another layer is put on. Independently of the individual contribution, there are certain collective donations. The eighteenth century presents the Encyclopædia, the Revolution the Moniteur. Undoubtedly this, too, is a structure, growing and piling itself up in endless spiral lines; here, too, there is confusion of tongues, incessant activity, indefatigable labour, a furious contest between the whole of mankind, an ark of refuge for the intelligence against another deluge, against another influx of barbarism.
"It is the second Tower of Babel."
Interestingly, the paragraph that follows the above addresses pretty much the same idea that I thought of last night:
"So does that put the Web into a better context? Is what we're now experiencing just a step or two more along the road that Victor Hugo identified in the move from the building to the book? And is the noise of the 'Net only an increment (though perhaps an order-of-magnitude worse) to the pandemonium that the printing press has already brought us?"
Actually, what I was thinking last night is more an inversion of the prior paragraph--last night I thought to entitle my post 'virtual [architecture] inversion'.
My thoughts where about Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) as now 'virtually' killing the book. Moreover, I was thinking how HTML manifests the 'structure' of virtual architecture, thus bringing back [reenacting?] an "architecture as delivery of content".
Robert Venturi in his latest theory regarding electronics and iconography upon a generic architecture is almost saying the same thing as far as architecture again being a delivery of content, but, for me at least, Venturi's theory becomes flawed when he admits to not knowing what the content should be. More than anything, what he so far fails to acknowledge is that iconography on buildings today, be it either electronic or not, is almost always advertising, advertising, advertising--essentially a very limited, narrowly focused delivery of content. Since 1999 when I did a large number of webpages utilizing the HTML 'marquee' tag, I've wondered if HTML might not be a better 'programmer' for the 'screens' that are now on buildings (as in Tokyo and NY's Times Square and Lehman Brothers Building). For example, if I were commissioned to design content for some real (generic) building whose 'skin' was an electronic screen, I'd propose a vast series of 'webpages' that act as a museum of architecture, thereby making the building, at least on the surface, a 'virtual museum of architecture.' I wouldn't necessarily be advertising Quondam, rather I'd be cloaking real generic architecture with many architectures. It wouldn't really matter what goes on inside the building because that will probably change from year to year, and the 'bulk' of the building's real architecture will be literally superficial and ironically really virtual.
I could go on and on, like pondering what kind of content I would propose for a hospital that had screen facades, or electronic/iconographic houses that change decorations by seasons or holidays, or even imagining the imaging of a house of ill-repute.

2002.06.21 11:55
Re: genetic architecture
The forms don't bother me, and the method (i.e. using CAD, etc. software) doesn't bother me. What I think is wrong, however, is the hype, specifically, in this case, that all this is somewhat more authentic because it is more natural, more 'genetic' and therefore more correct. Where, in reality, it is all just more arbitrary.
I remember back in school where there had to be a reason for ones design, and the worst thing possible to be criticized for was for being arbitrary. I more or less had to comply then, but I know better now--for example, I venture to guess that most architectural clients are almost fully arbitrary, as is almost all of the architecture being built today--how else would you explain the way things really look out there.
arbitrary 1: depending on choice or discretion; specif : determined by decision of a judge or tribunal rather than defined by statute   2 a (1) : arising from unrestrained exercise of the will, caprice, or personal preference : given to expressing opinions that arise thus (2) : selected at random or as a typical example   b : based on random or convenient selection or choice rather than on reason or nature   3 a : given to willful irrational choices and demands : IMPERIOUS : characterized by absolute power or authority : DESPOTIC, TYRANNICAL
There really are no statutes of architectural design, except for building codes, and even they are not beyond being side-stepped, and there certainly is no definitive common ground as to what is good design and what good design isn't. So-called 'Genetic Architecture' is no better or worst an any other architecture available; right now it's just more trendy.
Teaching designers/architects (how) to be arbitrary might just be the real natural, rational thing.

2002.08.08 20:10
axis of synagogues
Ahavath Israel Synagogue [Kahn's first independent commission] was/is situated within a typical northern Philadelphia block of row homes where it is indeed atypical for a synagogue to be in the middle of the block. Nonetheless, Ahavath Israel is indicative of the large Jewish community living in northern Philadelphia, particularly along the North Broad Street corridor, during the first half of the 20th century. Although a large building within its immediate context, Ahavath Israel represents the smaller type of synagogue intended for more informal daily use by its neighbors.
By the 1950s, North Philadelphia Jews began moving out to the suburbs directly north of Philadelphia.

020903   Tower PMP   Gooding House   7800l
020922   Wallraf-Richartz Museum   7800l
020922   Museum for Nordrhein Westfalen   7800m



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