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2001.09.14 08:20
Re: Philadelphia churches, etc.
Off-hand I do not know of any specific books on Philadelphia Churches of the period you're looking for.
I seem to have missed the fact that the synagogue you are writing about was (or still is?) at what is now Einstein Medical Center. Was Einstein once known as the Jewish Hospital? It was the title "Building an Ancient Synagogue on the Delaware" that confused me. I was thinking the Synagogue was somewhere along the Delaware River. I also now noticed the blanks within the original text you sent. In terms of identifying comparative churches to the synagogue, an image of the synagogue would be helpful.
The closest Roman Catholic Church to Einstein Medical Center is Holy Child, just a few block down on Broad Street. It is a truly enormous church (very, very tall tower), and my well be c. 1900. The building is all stone, and the style is more neo-Romanesque. I've never been inside. Several block north of Einstein, again on Broad Street, is a Christian church (not sure of the denomination) that has a very nice 'Early Christian' style baldachine on the outside as its main entrance. Again it may be c.1900.
I'll gladly do some footwork, but confirm for me the (exact) location of the synagogue and supply me with an image of the synagogue (or let me know where I can go look at an image here, or if the synagogue is still standing, I'll go look at it).


2001.09.20 08:48
Re: travels in hyper-reality
The use of the word artificial in your arguement is the tricky one. The reality is that themed environments are very real, and the money they produce surely goes a long way to prove that. Moreover, the notion of reenactment in architecture is not limited to themed environments/buildings. Within reenactment there is always a play of degrees of separation from that which is being reenacted, therefore where exactly is the authenticity that you see in reenactments that keeps them from being artificial? It might now not be prudent to make a case based on artificial versus authentic, because that distinction is completely blurred anymore. For example, Wildwood, New Jersey is full of themed hotels that artificially evoke other places on this planet and even sometimes other places in the solar system, yet it is now exactly this concentration of artificiality that gives Wildwood its unique identity (ie, authenticity).
Not to confuse the issue, but Wildwood is overall a concentration of what is being called the "doo-wop" style, which is basically hotels and other buildings all done in playful 50s and 60s modernism. Even back then, however, each hotel evoked a different theme via the hotel name and stylist quirks in the building details.


2001.11.10 16:39
Louis Kahn's son
Here's part of an email an architect friend of mine sent a few days ago:
Speaking of Kahn, I don't know if you are getting The New Yorker again. There is an article in the recent issue on him by Paul Goldberger. A particularly interesting section of the article talks about where Kahn lived in Philadelphia growing up. Kahn had two mistresses. I knew about Anne Tyng but the other was Harriet Pattison with whom he had a son, Nathaniel. He is making a documentary about his dad, and filming both at his buildings and where he lived in Philadelphia. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"As part of his film project, Nathaniel, along with his producer, Susan Behr, visited the neighborhood Kahn grew up in, an area just north of downtown Philadelphia called Northern Liberties, which has diagonal streets, narrow alleys, freestanding houses, and, most striking of all, a number of red brick factory buildings. When Nathaniel and Susan (the film's producer) walked through the streets of Northern Liberties, it became clear that the roots of Kahn's style are not in Rome but much closer to home. The big factories are remarkably like many of Kahn's buildings. One of them has large square windows and a sliced-off corner, and it looks for all the world like the exterior of the library Kahn designed for Phillips Exeter Academy. The most unusual industrial structure in Northern Liberties has a kind of zigzagging fašade of brick and a series of open loggias, like brick-enclosed balconies, set into the fašade, with solid brick walls behind them. The brick window openings are topped by concrete lintels. It is a composition of light and shadow, solid and void, with a solemn grace.
The similarities between the factory buildings in Northern Liberties and the architecture Kahn designed, not only at Exeter but also in India and Bangladesh and elsewhere, are too great to be accidental. The impression the old buildings made on Kahn could have been unconscious, or perhaps he carried it around with him knowingly, afraid for years to make much of it. Nathaniel, who went to Northern Liberties in search of a personal connection to his father, seems to have come back with a scholarly insight."
I've never heard Northern Liberties quoted as an influence in his work before, have you? Might be an area for an interesting photo trip to look at those factories.

2001.11.27 13:27
Re: Substantial Theory Article
I wouldn't exactly call "Darwinian Processes and Memes in Architecture: A Memetic Theory of Modernism" a substantial theory article. There are several flaws, and didn't Tom Wolfe pretty much write the same thing twenty years ago in From Bauhaus To Our House?
I also had to ask myself, where is this world that has been taken over by International Style modernism? There happens to be one truly International Style house in my neighborhood, but I doubt if you can find a half dozen more in Philadelphia. So, from where I'm sitting, Modernism is only a small percentage of reality here. Maybe there is rampant International Style in Texas where the authors are from. Or maybe the authors really live in Europe or South America or Southeast Asia. Or maybe the Modernism virus has infected most of the world, and somehow where I live is not effected. Does that mean I live in a place that actually hasn't evolved? Oh dear.
Isn't it completely ironic that an article about evolutionary processes contains the following passage? "No-one wants to have to reach back and re-wire their brain into new habits of thinking, because such a process can be traumatic. It is far easier to hold onto one's ideas and values, and when challenged, the natural reaction is to defend them emotionally without thinking about their origin." Evolution aside, to me this is just proof of widespread intellectual laziness. And besides, isn't evolution a rather slow process? Hey! Isn't there usually a direct relationship between laziness and slowness?
I thought this "theory" was going to get interesting when metabolism (of all things) came up. But, mentioning metabolism without relating its inherent creative-destructive duality is nothing more than a sign of either laziness or slowness. Personally, I think slowness is the operative here. Maybe there's a virus that causes slowness, and another one for laziness. That would certainly explain why it is so prevalent.
Funny how there was no real analysis of the effects on 20th century world design engendered by World War I and World War II. Or, before that, Colonialism as ur-International Style.
I remember when I was a second year student and I had to explain to my studio adviser at the time (Hal Guida, he went on to be the Project Architect for the new Capitol at Canberra, Australia) why I didn't have more work done after the weekend. I told him I went to the King Tut exhibit in Washington DC. Hal immediately became excited because he had recently seen the exhibit as well. We talked a little about the great stuff in the exhibit, and then he said, "We really haven't come that far since then, have we?"


2002.02.03
Restored in 1976 by the City of Philadelphia and the Fairmount Park Commission, Hatfield and its furnishing suggest a style of life which has long since vanished in America.


2002.02.09 14:45
Re: Wittgenstein's Poker
While I have a few of Wittgenstein's books, the only one I've read completely (I think even twice in the early 1980s) is Culture And Value--a collection of aphorisms that are refreshingly easy to read. I mentioned this book here at Architecthetics just over a year ago. Here's a sample from page 53e[nglish]:
"One's style of writing may be unoriginal in form--like mine--and yet one's words may be well chosen; or, on the other hand, one may have a style that's original in _form_, one that is freshly grown from deep within oneself. (Or again it may, of course, just be botched together anyone out of old bits and pieces.)"
Anyway, I've been reading (and writing) lately too: [Sent yesterday to Design-L] Here's a bit of a shock I want to share. I've read HOW ARCHITECTURE GOT ITS HUMP over the last Wednesday to Wednesday week, and in chapter 5, the last chapter, I was shocked to read on page 152:
"Are Gehry and Rauschenburg's binoculars in Los Angeles the upturned result of sculpture freed from a toothpaste image of softness? Just what have these installations got to do with architecture's own program?"
I'm thinking, what a shocking mistake, and what a disgrace for both the author, Roger Connah, and the editor at MIT Press. The binoculars are not Rauschenberg's, and I won't even bother to write the name of the binocular's correct artistic father. Isn't such a printed mistake from the most respected architectural editor of books something to be concerned about? Is it actually true that no one really reads these kind of architecture theory category books that for the most part are just words with very few images?
For a moment there, I was just in the mood to write How Architecture Got Its Lacunae, and every line in the book was going to be a big, fat, fucking mistake! Oh, I'm suddenly so overwhelmed.

2002.03.21 19:31
Re: fwd: the dominion of art & architecture
I know exactly what all this means. Isn't it ever possible for people to get right to the point and stay there, like at the WTC! Clean cut-clarity and economy as an architecture style, of course.
This stream of consciousness architecture style, meaningful as I am sure it is, is tedious, tedious, tedious and "dumbingly" turns people every which way, doesn't it?!? Give me a crystal idea architecture style (and not please about the quondam WTC!).


2002.04.04 16:26
Re: [art] being/appositional [to architecture]
At the end of a very picture-in-the-mind making description of the latest apposition at the Newcastle upon Tyne city centre Peter asks: Is this an example of the kind of layering of architectural styles, historical relevance, use and meanings to which you are referring to in the creation of appositional spatial interpretation?
Steve replies:
Yes, you definitely describe a layering, although labeling this layering one of architectural styles is your interpretation. The reality is I'm sure as you describe it, but perhaps not everyone would label it a layering of styles. For me the main point is to completely recognise the layering, appositional process itself. As we should all know by now, if a layer isn't well liked, it will probably sooner or later get changed anyway, just like layers that are well liked likewise sooner or later get changed anyway.


2002.04.04 17:22
Re: What is Design List?
Speaking (momentarily) as only an artist, for me it is the doing of art, the "creating" of it that is the utmost delight. And the more delight you're receiving while doing it, chances are more it's really good art. And, if you find others that also delight in what delights you, then the delight simply multiplies.
Now, speaking as only a virtual architect (of Quondam and Museumpeace), all I really want is for everyone to freely use and enjoy my virtual architectural creations, but please provide your own firmness (and, ok, provide your own infirmities if that's how you're wired).
Now back to being only an artist--you know, I think slapdash is probably one of the only really modern styles. Just thinking about slapdash Papal art all over the Vatican triggers a gush of drives and juices. Umm! Boy were those crab cakes and wild rice good today. And, as my fraternal schizophrenic often proves, they can read apposing minds, and even sometimes apposing futures.


2002.04.05 11:18
Re: art as architecture as art
Alex, I don't like saying so, but the following passage contains too may side-by-side contradictions:
"For the artist, the work/object is an end in itself. It refers to itself. For the architect, the building refers to a set of activities or processes that take place within it. The raison d'etre of the building lies outside itself in some institutional context. The building represents (materializes)the state of things 'elsewhere'. The building is a (static!) vehicle for social processes taking place within it. (It can be looked at as an end in itself, as an object for contemplation). But its justification ultimately lies outside itself."
That a building refers to what goes on inside it, but its reason for being lies outside it just doesn't seem to make sense, even as an abstraction. Then you contradict this with the notion that buildings represent things elsewhere, which in turn is further contradicted by the building being static, which implies that a building only does whatever it does at the place that it is, and not someplace else.
And, where exactly is this "elsewhere" where the events are taking place that buildings and artworks are are only metaphors for? Of course, I already know that this 'elsewhere' doesn't even exist. It's just like that made-up 'ether' that physicists used to 'believe in' to explain things they really just didn't understand correctly.
Isn't it fairly obvious that to explain what's there by making up 'places' that are really not there is very much the same as taking an illusional approach to reality?
If you asked me, one of the best ways to insure good architecture is to first carry out a whole lot of site analysis, going to the real place repeatedly, at different times of the day, collecting as much data on the place as possible, especially past data. I know that I personally have an inate ability to 'feel' places. I don't think all people have this ability, and I don't think even all architects have this ability. Moreover, this ability might only be able to be learned if a person with the ability is the one doing the teaching. Site analysis has always been my favorite aspect of architectural design, and hence I most appreciate site specific architecture, especially non-static site specific architecture like the Berlin Wall (part of which I see everyday on the window sill of my living room).
Lately, I've become very interested in architecture that has moved (from place to place). For example, the 17th century style Japanese (Philosophers) House in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park was created/built in post WWII Japan, then shipped to NYC for exhibition at MOMA, and then found its way to Philadelphia, which is probaly where it will from now on remain. The house is constructed of a fairly rare Japanese cedar, and the recent installation of a new cedar roof cost something like 1.6 million dollars. You could say that this building represents a real someplace else (or at least is literally composed of things from someplace else), but what it probably more truly represents is its own journey as literally moving (ie, non-static) architecture.
Gotta go. My brother just called and asked me to take him for a ride downtown. I think we'll drive past the soon to be quondam Liberty Bell Pavilion (which if I had my way would, rather than be demolished, be dismantled and moved to someplace else (Fairmount Park?) and installed with the replica Liberty Bell that Queen Elizabeth II (the Queen Daughter of Britian's second Elizabethian age?) presented to Philadelphia in 1976 when she came here for the USA Bicentennial -- or maybe this quondam Liberty Bell Pavilion package complete with replica bell could be moved to some reenactionary theme park in Japan, or moved to MOMA and presented as a work of art for that matter). Anyway, moving along.

2002.04.07 16:28
Re: art as architecture as art
I made some perfectly fine points, and just becasue they made some of your prior points seem stupid, doesn't nessecarily mean that they, your points, are stupid. But acting as some sort of judge by keeping score IS stupid. And money is not the reason for architecture's being, rather, it is one of the means of architecture's being.
What I wrote has several contradictions as well, they just aren't all side-by-side like the way you wrote.
One could well argue that the reason for a building becomes a non-issue once the building exists--that the reason of/for a building is more an entity proir to the building's existence, but not much of an entity after.
Earthquakes are not the only thing that cause buildings to literally move from one place to another.
Yes, movies, tv shows, art, etc. are all illusional approaches to reality, but that doesn't mean that movies, art, etc. explain or present reality just as good as reality explains or presents itself. Seeing someone shot with a bullet or seeing a movie with lots of people in a sexual orgy or reading a novel about a man and his schizophrenic brother all fall far short of (my) really being shot by a bullet or with (my) really being involved in a sexual orgy or (my) really being a man with a schizophrenic brother.
Philadelphia is for sure a large place where the lion's share of its best architecture is by local architects--VSBA, M/G, Kahn, Cret, Trumbauer, Furness, Strickland, just to name at least 100 buildings.
Stephen Lauf
and
The Unfinished Style

[Do you think that's an appropriate title for a documentation of me and my art and my architecture? It certainly describes most of I do (or rather what I don't do). Look, a virtual first sentence: "I am, therefore, I am unfinished." With a title and concept like that, I can accomplish just about anything as long as I don't finish it. Could it be that I now know what I'm best at.]


2002.06.16 15:23
houses that morph...
houses that morph into something else
The Sessorian Palace, as it morphed over centuries from imperial home of Elagabalus to the baroque church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme today, is what started me thinking about houses that morph into something else. Such changes are not at all uncommon however, and any trip through inner urban areas, like North Philadelphia, for example, will present many former houses that are now either churches, or stores, or some other businesses. Houses that morph into something else are likewise not uncommon among the 88 Houses of Ill-Repute as presently featured at Quondam.
Of the 88 houses so far, those that (have) morphed comprise:
Franklin Court **
Bye House
Maison Millennium 001
Maison Millennium 002
Maison Millennium 003
Maison Millennium 004
House for a Schizophrenic [Brother] 01
House for a Schizophrenic [Brother} 02
Houses 10: Museum **
House in Laguna 01
Knowleton
Pennypacker Mills **
Lemon Hill **
Japanese House * (**)
Hatfield * (**)
Mount Sharon Baptist Church
Letitia Street House * (**)
Glencairn (**)
John Pitcairn House
Fonthill **
Sessorian Palace
Ryerss Library and Museum **
Glen Foerd
Cedar Grove * (**)
Mount Pleasant **
Lynnwood Hall
Maison l'Homme **
Deschler House **
Of these houses, several are houses (marked *) that have physically moved from one site [their original site] to another site, and in one case, the Japanese House, to a third site. Here, the houses themselves have not changed but their location has. Incidentally, all these houses that have moved are on or adjacent Girard Avenue, Philadelphia.
John Hejduk's Bye House has recently moved from being a virtual building (in this case 'paper' architecture) to an actual building now in the Netherlands, and in this 'morphing' process the built rendition was increased/morphed in scale by a factor of 1.2 (I think) for easier construction.
The Maison Millenniums, the Houses for a Schizophrenic [Brother], House in Laguna 01, and Design-L House are all virtual houses that morph mostly because of or to demonstrate that morphing is easy within and often an inert quality of being/remaining virtual.
Mount Sharon Baptist Church, the Sessorian Palace, and Lynnwood Hall are houses of residence that morphed into Houses of Worship [although Lynnwood Hall may be in reality only a tax shelter].
Deschler House, in Germantown, Philadelphia, morphed into the US Executive Mansion (ie, presidential home of George and Martha Washington) in the mid-1790s, when Yellow Fever broke out in 'downtown' Philadelphia. I'm not exactly sure, but I assume Deschler House is today the only existing true (albeit quondam) Executive Mansion besides the White House.
Knowleton, Glen Foerd, and, to some extent, the John Pitcairn House have morphed into popular catering/event facilities.
The rest of the houses on the above list comprise the type of morphed house that is most common to the list, namely, houses that morphed into museums (marked **). Museum houses, as they are usually called, are indeed popular around the world, thus it is perhaps not surprising that so many should be on a list of 88 houses from within an architecture museum's collection. Personally, I find houses that morph into museums fascinating because the best ones are more museum's of someone's life(style) rather than museums of a certain field of natural or historical significance. Houses that morph into museums also often have limited design input from architects--I like the lesson of that irony as well.
And speaking of ironies, 5233 Arbor Street, my own home, has more or less been striving to be a house museum for quite a few years now. Being the base of www.quondam.com and www.museumpeace.com help in this regard, but the latest scheme is to turn 5233 into a house of reenactionary architecturism. So far the Wentz Farmstead (do a web search), the Venturi/Scott Brown Residence and Rem Koolhaas' LIVING exhibition are the prime inspirations. For example, LIVING was within a space where the walls were covered with pages from SMLXL. Just a couple of months ago I found/purchased a 2nd edition copy of SMLXL at Border's Chestnut Hill for $49.00. Since I already have a 1st edition, I now also have what basically amounts to the cheapest 'exclusive' wallpaper available, and, since the tiles of my kitchen already have Dutch motifs, Quondam's Dutch Kitchen or Q'sDK (pronounced 'queue's decay') will be the first installment of the House of Reenactionary Architecturism.
ps
While writing this letter I noticed that Stenton, Robert Venturi's favorite building in Philadelphia, was mistakenly omitted from the list of 88 Houses of Ill-Repute so far. Stenton is now (or at least by tomorrow) the 87th house.

2002.06.19 13:52
88HoIR spectrum almost full
Since introducing 88 Houses of Ill-Repute over a week ago, the list of 88 houses has become full to the point where only 2 slots remain undetermined. The latest 'afterimages' are:
Stenton (the original omission was an oversight)
Hadrian's Villa (as featured in Quondam's inaugural exhibition seeking precedents... ...finding inspiration where Hadrian's Villa was the first precedent that very much in turn is the first inspiration for a virtual place and even a virtual museum of architecture)
Peter Wentz Farmstead (a place I first visited this past April, but have known of since it's restored mid 1700s 'stenciled' interior was published in House And Garden magazine circa 1984--didn't remember that this place was near Philadelphia, however. I like to now think of this place as possibly the only example this side of the Atlantic as what might just qualify as vernacular German Rococo.)
The Have A Bad Summer Houses (Over the past year I found that reproductions of all the drawings I did for the Historic American Building Survey--HABS, as in jokingly 'have a bad summer'--are now available online. Interesting, all the buildings I surveyed and drafted are houses, like a huge two story log cabin in rural Missouri, the Samuel Bell House which we later found out was built over an Native America burial mound also in Missouri, many homes that were occupied by poor African-American families in Savannah, Georgia's Victorian District, and the stately Gunston Hall in Virginia, home of George Mason, second largest slave owner in Virginia after George Washington, author of the Virginia Declaration of Right which became the US Bill of Rights, a house now supposedly haunted by Thomson, Mason's youngest son who died as a child. By the end of the summer in 1981 when I worked at and in Gunston Hall I became convinced that some, if not all, of the house volunteer tour guides were practicing witches (wealthy WASP women on the surface)--at least one of the guides admitted that her mother-in-law was a 'real' witch.)
Stotesbury Mansion (an enormous mansion designed in the English Palladian style, now demolished, housed the art collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum during World War II, I have two pieces of marble from the Marble Room and a baluster from the entry court. My brother Otto first took me to Stotesbury, which back into the 1970s was a local teenage drinking/partying hangout. I was still in high school at the time, but I already loved architecture, as in I read Banister Fletcher's History of Architecture on the Comparative Method during freshman year study hall, and seeing Stotebury for the first and ever time thereafter was like finding an abandoned Kedleston Hall or Blenheim Palace kind of in my own backyard.)


2002.08.11 10:44
Kahn and Wright
Here are two excerpts from Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture (1997) with some commentary following:
on page 64: Kahn's synagogue [Adath Jeshurun] was planned for a site on York Road in North Philadelphia near Elkins Park where Frank Lloyd Wright's Beth Sholom synagogue (1954-59) would shortly rise. Kahn kept clippings illustrating Wright's hexagonal plan; in his own design he effectively rationalized Wright's romantic essay.
on pages 79-80: Documented evidence of ties between Wright and Kahn is slight. His connection with Henry Klumb (1904-1985), a former associate of Wright's and a staunch supporter of his ideals, is noted in chapter 1. In 1952 Kahn and Wright both attended a convention of the American Institute of Architects, in 1955 (as previously noted) Kahn praised Wright's early work, and when Wright died in 1959 Kahn wrote in tribute [published in Architecture Record], "Wright gives insight to learn / that nature has no style / that nature is the greatest teacher of all / The ideas of Wright are the facets of his single thought." Scully recalls that later that same year Kahn made his first visit to a Wright building, the S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building (1936-39), where, "to the depths of his soul, [he] was overwhelmed."
commentary: The first passage harbors mistakes. The site of Adath Jeshurun (1954-55) was on Old York Road and not in North Philadelphia, but indeed in Elkins Park, and not much more than a mile south of Beth Sholom, which is on the same street. Furthermore, Beth Sholom (from the exterior at least is a huge triangle in plan--I do not have a plan handy and could not easily find one online). Interestingly, Kahn's first scheme of Adath Jeshurun is a pure hexagon in plan, while the second (and final) scheme is a pure triangle in plan. These mistakes make me curious about the authors. Either they never investigated the exact site/location of Adath Jeshurun, or they purposefully distanced Adath Jeshurun/Kahn from Beth Sholom/Wright. (More on this point below.) In doing a web search for a plan of Beth Sholom, I found that Beth Sholom is the first Philadelphia Congregation to move to the suburbs (or so they themselves say).
The second passage is extremely curious in that the Scully quotation (from Scully's book Louis I. Kahn (1962)) also seems to harbor a mistake, a distancing again, and/or perhaps even an intentional fabrication. I, for one, find it hard to believe that Louis Kahn never visited Beth Sholom prior to late 1959, thus I doubt very much that it is true that the first Wright building Kahn visited was the S.C. Johnson building in Wisconsin. Now I have to wonder about Scully and Brownlee/DeLong (authors of Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture). Was Scully or even Kahn(!) fabricating a false history that would distance Kahn safely away from being suspected of having ever been really influenced by Wright? And why did Brownlee/DeLong not notice and/or correct what appears to be just plain false? The only real reason I'm pointing all this out is that I believe it is much more valuable to know how designs really came about rather than how they really didn't come about.
This leads me to bring up the anecdote RE shared here as to what Wright said to Venturi about Kahn, i.e., "Beware an architect with one idea." If Wright said this to Venturi circa 1955 (date of Beth Sholom construction), then the "one idea" Wright was speaking of may well be the Yale Art Gallery (1950-53). The Yale building is the first to get Kahn very wide recognition, particularly for its triangulated ceiling structures, a structure, moreover, that Kahn further investigated in the second scheme of Adath Jeshurun. Furthermore, the second scheme of Adath Jeshurun is remarkably similar diagrammatically to the stairwell plan within the Yale Art Gallery, i.e., a triangle within a circle.
Could it be that Venturi told Kahn what Wright said, and that is perhaps why Kahn wrote "The ideas of Wright are the facets of his single thought"?

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