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museum of architecture, virtual

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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.

2002.09.11 13:26
if it's not there, it's here
I believe the following sentence nicely explains the pattern of certain absent things.
The Spire of the Cathedral of Beauvais is the first world's tallest building to collapse after a brief existence, and the World Trade Center Towers are the second world's tallest buildings to collapse after a brief existence.
ps 11 September 2002 There is an article in today's New Yorker magazine entitled THE "HOLY GROUND" which is about "the early history of the World Trade Center site." Atop the title are the words "THAT WAS NEW YORK."
According to my notes, on 18 August 1996 I was still referring to the virtual museum of architecture I was then planning to 'create' as Non Ici, and by 2 October 1996 the virtual museum was being referred to as Quondam. What happen in-between these two dates was a phone conversation with Susan M. Dixon, a friend from our mutual architecture school days and now an Art Historian whose PhD word was on Piranesi's archaeological publications. Sue and I had many conversations back then regarding a virtual museum of architecture and Piranesi's Campo Marzio. It was Sue that suggested the name "quondam" for the virtual museum of architecture. She had once heard reference to a Professor Quondam in Rome, and the name/word since stuck in her mind. I liked the name immediately.
Quondam used to have an online journal entitled NOT THERE, and here's its first editorial dated 13 December 1997:
Editorial
Don't let anyone ever tell you that anti-matter doesn't matter.
Credit for naming the first virtual museum of architecture Quondam goes to Susan M. Dixon. She made the suggestion when the museum's working name, Non Ici, proved unsuitable. NON ICI is a literal translation into Latin of the phrase "not there," however, in Latin, saying that something is not there is the same as saying that that something is here. This obscure bit of linguistic information is good for a laugh, but not good for the naming of a virtual museum of architecture intending to display significant unbuilt architectural designs. Fortunately, the word Quondam, with its meaning rich in temporal ambiguity, immediately struck a chord, and, hopefully, the name Quondam and the virtual museum it stands for will eventually take a place within some small corner of architectural history.
It's Latin meaning notwithstanding, the notion of things not there still lies at the conceptual core of Quondam's virtual existence, and thus, NOT THERE is the name of Quondam's electronic journal.
The mission of Not There is sincerely direct. As the electronic journal of the first virtual museum of architecture, Not There will strive to continually investigate aspects of architectural design and history that would remain unseen were it not for the aid of computers and CAD. Furthermore, Not There plans to present the wide array of new "tools" and options that computers now make available to architects and designer.
In terms of delivery, the publication of Not There will not follow the tradition of periodic renewal. Rather than come out in monthly or quarterly issues, Not There will simply provide the framework for an ongoing presentation of essays and articles, which will appear as soon as they are prepared and written.
Perhaps the Romans were right after all, because if it's not there, it's here!

2002.11.20 12:17
a 'real' virtual architecture in them
I visited the site of the forthcoming Alexander Calder Museum last Friday. The site is still a park lawn, but there is now a Calder mobile on pedestal gracing the site as well. Additionally, there is an exhibit of three Calder sculptures within the forecourt of the Rodin Museum. I found myself really admiring all these sculptures because I now see a 'real' virtual architecture in them. I took lots of pictures...[2002.11.15]


2002.11.21 14:04
what a difference 250 years make
Well, I did make a pilgrimage this morning down to Ridge Avenue and Buttonwood Street, Philadelphia, where "legend" has it that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with key and discovered that lightening and electricity are the same thing 250 years ago. Although in an area still full of a lot of old warehouses, many now facilitating Chinese/Oriental businesses relative to Chinatown several blocks south, the "historic site" is an otherwise somewhat decrepit part of the city. There actually is an empty lot just east of Ridge Avenue on Buttonwood Street, and that's what I took pictures of. Otherwise, there is nothing at all to suggest that something of quite modern significance ever happen at this place, except perhaps the rather large outdoor electrical power station enclosed within a high chain-link fence a half block south on the other side of Ridge Avenue.
I had somewhat heightened expectations of my visitation since deciding to go yesterday morning. Last night I was watching a movie over a friends place, and I asked, "Do you know where Buttonwood Street is. I think it's right around Ridge and Spring Garden." My friend didn't have any idea, but offered me a SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) map. I found Buttonwood Street a block south of Spring Garden Street, and I thought I actually knew the site because I thought it was where a building I finally photographed this past February was. This building/warehouse is one I've known since my college days, and I always admired it because of its facade's striking similarity with the facade of Venturi and Rauch's D'Agostino House (1968, unbuilt). I then found myself even wondering whether Venturi actually knew this warehouse because, just maybe, Venturi had once gone to make his own pilgrimage to Ridge and Buttonwood. Alas, the warehouse I know is not at Ridge and Buttonwood, rather at a similar intersection with Ridge Avenue a block north of Spring Garden Street. It should be noted that Ridge Avenue is one of Philadelphia's old zig-zagging diagonal streets in contrast to the otherwise planned grid of streets, off the grid because it follows an old "Indian" trail, and in Franklin's time was the main route out of town to the north-western countryside.
   
I now find myself wondering what all this "says" about us in the beginning of the 21st century, a people so reliant on electricity, yet otherwise largely oblivious to how we got that way. There is a tiny triangular block just south of the empty lot on Buttonwood Street with a small used-car business on it. I knocked on the office door, and a tall black Muslim (I assume by his garb) man in his thirties answered. I asked him if heard of the story of Benjamin Franklin flying a kite and "discovering" electricity. He said, "I don't think I ever heard dat." I told him Franklin did it here over 200 years ago. He said, "What? In dis building?" I said, "No. Like over there." Then he asked in a kind of mean voice, "Why you sayin' all dis?" I then smiled, but I didn't say much more.
As I drove home up Broad Street I thought to myself in irony, "Well that was a swell way to celebrate Quondam's 6th anniversary." And then I thought, if that's what Franklin's kite flying site is like after 250 years, God only knows what Quondam will be 244 years from now.

2003.01.23
ideas
Reenact Kahn's Philadelphia via (enlarged) Campo Marzio. Kahn's City Hall + surfaces.
Hyper Size: virtually small, virtually medium, virtually large, virtually extra large; a virtual bigness book. This is where scale in architecture goes.


2003.02.06
ideas
The introduction to The Museum as Muse is very good and I should write my own long essay as to how I too have been actively "artistic" with regard to museums... This essay is perfect for Unthinking an Architecture. The Hubert Damisch "A Very Special Museum" also needs to be addressed in terms of a/my museum of architecture.


2003.02.10
ideas
Reconstruction of Whitemarsh Hall; Altes Museum columns; marble slabs in place; baluster in place. The whole exercise can be a Piranesian reenactment (presently a "scenographia;" redo the current housing as well via Quondam's domestic models.
New idea of expansive picture field via virtually infinite cad drawing field.


2003.02.13 10:25
mixed things up more
I wish museums mixed things up more. For example, I'd like to see Poons in a French period room, or Duchamp in a Ladies Room. Brancusi next to armour, why not? Museum as future-shock, sorta. Pick your destiny.
Hold me! Thrill me! Kiss me! You're my pride and joy, etc. Now rearrange me.


2003.03.07
slapdash architectural publications


2003.04.16 11:18
Re: Do we live in some virtual Zoos ?
Museums have over time become my favorite type of building, specifically as architecture as delivery of content, even the 'secret' content.
It really is amazing that something that remains basically the same all the time (ie, the design/plan of the human body) nonetheless manifests so many, many differences. I sort of stopped looking at humanity as an animal, and (since 1981) starting looking at humanity (specifically the male/female human body) also as architecture as the delivery of content.


2003.08.28 12:50
Re: FW: Evolutionary theory and architecture
Regarding "evolutionary theory and architecture," there are some precedents that should be considered. For example, the works of J. N. L. Durand and Seroux 'Agincourt, both from the early 19th century, offer 'histories' of (art and) architecture that are (up until then) unique in their application, indeed a more 'evolutionary' approach towards classification.
Durand, in his Recueil et Parallele des Edifices de tout Genre - Anciens et Moderns, specifically categorizes the history of architecture (including non-Western examples) by type, but he also presents all examples drawn at the same scale, thus simultaneously rendering a history of architecture via comparative size.
Seroux 'Agincourt, in his Histoire de l'art par les monuments depuis sa decadence au IV siecle jusqu'a son renouvellement au XVI (The History of Art through its Monuments from Its Decadence in the Fourth Century to Its Renewal in the Sixteenth), attempts to document how (mostly Western) architectural style became decadent between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, as if displaying all the mutations (Western) architecture went through until it again became 'classical'.
Both Durand's and Seroux 'Agincourt's tomes are not exactly easy reference books (to find/utilize) these days, and (at least to my knowledge) neither of the texts that accompanied the drawing plates have been translated into English. Durand's Recueil et Parallele was republished by Princeton Architectural Press in 1982 (or 1983), but without any text, and English translations of some of Seroux 'Agincourt's text(s) are available within Vidler's Writing of the Walls.
Quondam's collection holds a late 19th century German edition of Seroux 'Agincourt's architectural engraved plates, and the Princeton Architectural Press 1982 edition of Recueil et Parallele, and recently acquired (last month via ebay) a 1823 3 volume Italian edition of Recueil et Parallele, which is combined with work by Legrande and has Italian text (which I assume is in part a translation of Durand's original text).
Perhaps one could study/document the evolution of "evolutionary theory and architecture" itself. See an architecthetics post.

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