working title museum

publi/city: toward a new product placement

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1998.09.17 10:55
fact check and some truth
On Tuesday, I spoke (on the phone) with Susan S., the PR rep of Venturi Scott Brown & Assoc. She did not know that the big BASCO sign was now gone, and she pretty much assumed Mr. Venturi did not know either. Although this was our first time speaking together, we had a very animated conversation about "commercial" architecture and its fate as something fleeting. Recognition of this phenomenon may be especially easy for baby boomers to see because so many places of memories from the 1950s and 1960s are simply no longer there.
I specifically called to find out if the big BASCO sign's second design--where the red letters were painted yellow and then covered with an overall pattern spelling the word BEST--upon the meager of Basco and Best was also a Venturi office design. It was.
Last night, I re-read what Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour said about Las Vegas signs in Learning from Las Vegas, and it is as if they unwittingly predicted the fate of their own big sign.
Now on to reality, perception and truth.
In late July 1979, I and a friend were taking a long walk along the beach of Tybee Island (Savannah Beach); it was night and a full moon out over the Atlantic cast a magnificent reflection upon the ocean surface. We walked north about a mile and then turned back, and it was on the way back that I noticed a baffling inconsistancy in the moon's reflection. For the entire mile plus walk so far, the reflection of the Moon's (own reflected) light was always within the straight line area on the ocean surface between me and the moon, yet when I turned around and looked back to any of the areas of ocean that were in the straight line area between me and the moon just minutes ago, the ocean surface there was in total darkness. Why, I wondered, was the reflection of the moon on the ocean surface always and only able to appear as a straight line between me and the moon? and, moreover, why were there two lines of reflection when I and my friend separated by thirty feet or more?--one line of reflection came to me and another line of reflection came to my friend, yet neither of us could see the other's line of reflection.
The answer, I soon discovered by deduction is wonderfully simple. The reality (and truth?) of this situation is that the entire ocean surface was reflecting the light of the Moon. It is precisely a physical limitation of human perception that precludes us to only see the straight line area of relfection between us and the Moon. It is simple to prove that the whole ocean surface is reflecting the light of the Moon by imagining what it would be like to simultaneously look throught the eyes of 1000 people that are standing side by side up and down the entire shore line and looking out at the moon--you would see the entire ocean surface reflecting the light of the Moon.
This is a perfect example where perception is literally relative to where a person stands. It also unquestionably demonstrates that, at least sometimes, we humans are not seeing the "whole picture" or witnessing the "whole truth". In this case, therefore, the notion of relativity of perception is based entirely upon an objective limitation that all humans have, rather than a subjective difference of opinion between one human and another. Oddly enough, the "truth" in this situation comes with the contemplation of seeing everyone's view.
This is one of my favorite stories.

1998.12.18 07:56
Re: the e-media state
"reconstituting the materiality of the place in the form of electrons moving at the light of speed..."
The light of speed?!?
Why do I suddenly wish I was high?
Is a lot of today's built environment an unwitting form of "plug-n-play" architecture?
Didn't Archigram espouse a "plug-in" architecture?
I can't wait till 1999. I think it will be the perfect time for good old unadulterated sheer abandon.
Let's end this century and millennium with our own big bang!
God's (light of) speed.


1999.02.23
abstract done
"Inside the Density of G. B. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii"
Albeit resolutely virtual, Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii nonetheless manifests a high degree of density not only in terms of architecture and urbanism, but with regard to symbolism, meaning, and narrative as well. The hundreds of individual building plans and their Latin labels within the Campo Marzio do not "reconstruct" ancient Rome as much as they "reenact" it. Thus Piranesi's overall large plan presents a design of Rome that reflects and narrates Rome's own imperial history. Given Rome's history then, the ultimate theme of Piranesi's design is inversion, specifically ancient Rome's inversion from (dense) pagan capital of the world to (dense) Christian capital of the world -- a prime example of the proverbial "two sides to every story."
With the inversion theme, Piranesi also incorporates a number of sub-themes, such as life and death, love and war, satire, and even urban sprawl. Rendered largely independent, each sub-theme relates its own "story." Due to their innate reversal qualities, however, each sub-theme also reinforces the main inversion theme. Piranesi's Campo Marzio is not only dense, it is condensed.
In 2001, the finished Ichnographia Campi Martii will be 240 years old, yet Piranesi's truly unique urban paradigm--a city "reenacting" itself through all its physical, socio-political, and even metaphysical layers--may well become the most real urban paradigm of the next millennium.


1999.05.16 17:32
Re: Piranesi
I did not know that Le Corbusier curated an exhibit on Terragni. I am only aware that the Villa Savoye dates 1929 and the Danteum dates 1938. In terms of the promenade bifurcating, take note of the ramp at Le Corbusier's Palais des Congrès, it too bifurcates, but the important issue (for me at least) is the transition from inside to outside, and, of course, the continual rising which is found in (so far) the Villa Savoye, the Danteum, and the Palais des Congrès.


1999.06.14 12:26
interview 2.6
I suppose what is most evident in my manipulative cad work is that virtually anything can be rendered graphically, and my personal inclination is to explore manipulations whose potentials are overlooked only because of traditional design (training and) conditioning. I also like (and therefore practice) the notion that it is easier to design by breaking "rules" than it is to design by following "rules".


1999.07.21 10:23
gullible's travels
gullible's travels
by lauf (vague) s.
Ferdinand Magellan is commonly referred to as the first man to circumnavigate the earth. This is not entirely true, however. In 1505 Magellan enlisted with a Portuguese fleet that would take him around Africa, through the Indian Ocean, and eventually as far east as Malaysia in late 1511. From there, Magellan went back to Portugal with a cargo including spices and even a personal slave named Enrique. In 1519, under the flag of Spain, Magellan embarked upon his famous westward voyage whereby he became the first European navigator to sail around South America and across the Pacific Ocean. Magellan did not make it all the way back to Spain, however, because he was killed by natives in the Philippines on 27 April 1521.
Those that wish to believe Magellan is the first person to circumnavigate the earth do so because technically Magellan was the first person (on record) to traverse all the longitudes of the earth if you combine both his voyages from 1511 and 1519, but Magellan never went around the world in one continuous trip.
Oddly enough, the first person to contiguously (and truly?) circumnavigate our planet is Magellan's slave, Enrique. Upon Magellan's initial encountering of the Philippines, it was found that Enrique could speak with the natives there. As it happened, Enrique was a Philippine native himself who was captured from his home into (the local southeast Asian) slavery trade and subsequently sold to Magellan in Malaysia.
As I grow older, it becomes ever clearer to me that "history" does not necessarily portray the truth, as much as it portrays what certain people want to (or are led to) believe.

1999.09.15 12:37
architecture in cyberspace?
First, I said, "I'd hate to see the virtual merely become a reflection of the real." This means I'd hate to see architects/designers/theorists neglect an investigation of the inherent qualities of the virtual/cyber realm, where they can find virtual/cyber's own "natural" order. For example, one huge difference between architecture in the real world and architecture in cyberspace is that in cyberspace actual buildings are redundant, indeed a real auction house that does what eBay does couldn't even be built. Another difference between real architecture and cyber architecture is that one goes to real architecture whereas cyber architecture comes to you. It may simply be that "real" architects have to begin also thinking about what it means to design architectures that go to people.
On a personal level, I like that www.quondam.com is a museum of architecture that is not a building, and, moreover, a museum of architecture that goes all over our planet.
Perhaps the purest architectures of cyberspace are precisely those architectures that can't be built [except in cyberspace].


1999.12.29 17:30
as dense as architecture can get?
The last paper of the "Thinking Density" session at Inside Density was presented by Kai Vöckler and entitled "Monument of Density: Albert Speer's 'Grosbelastungskörper'". This Grossbelastungskörper was the punctuation point for both of Inside Density's days--Kai's presentation was the last on Thursday, and Mark Wigley incorporated the Grossbelastungskörper into the conclusion of his keynote address which ended the colloquium on Friday.
The Grossbelastungkörper is this enormous solid concrete cylinder about 4 stories high with a diameter about four times its height. It sits in Berlin along the middle of what was to be the great north-south axis of Speer's Third Reich plan for Berlin. The Grossbelastungkörper was actually a 'structural' test to see if the ground in that part of Berlin could withstand the weight of the enormous triumphal arch proposed for the midpoint of the grand axis. This thing, which is best described in terms of its present context as something that is just there without being able to be gotten rid of, weighs 152,000 tons, and, albeit only slightly, measurably sinks as each year goes by. When all the presenters of "Thinking Density" were together on stage, I referred to the Grossbelastungskörper as this great inverted monument, in that, as big and impossible to remove as it is, it's now just a big nothing representing an even bigger [architectural] non-event.
That night I found my self wondering, given it current rate of sinkage, how many years it would take this thing to reach the Earth's core. Of course, I quickly realized that the geological/physical changes this thing would go through as it sunk deeper over time meant it would never actually reach the core in one piece, if at all. So I limited my speculating to wondering how many years it would take for the top of the Grossbelastungskörper to become even with Berlin's ground plane.
Perhaps the Grossbelastungskörper is precisely the design that proves something in that it is a big something that proves the eventual existence of the big nothing.


2000.01.21
everything: Image and actuality
I was inspired by Hugh's last post to 'perform' a simultaneous riff.
I haven't been to Bilbao, but I've been to Sydney (didn't hear any Opera though). I'm not much of a critic when it comes to visiting buildings, because I inevitably like most of them once I see them in person. So it comes down to anecdotes. You can have an inexpensive lunch on the terrace-plinth of the Opera House overlooking the harbor. There are signs on the tables under umbrellas; they read: "Do Not Leave Your Food Unattended". The reason for this warning, and I've seen it happen, is that the moment you leave food on the table unattended, a small flock of sea-gulls will "attack" your lunch. Yikes! indeed.
The Opera House is really a nice sight from the harbor. While in Sydney, I stayed at Manly Beach (not making that name up), which connects to Sydney via ferry or hydrafoil. The Opera House is quite the landmark, and it looks really good at night as well.
I went to Australia purposefully not taking a camera. In the early 1980s I read Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers, and very near the end of the book Mann writes a few lines about how there was no camera to capture incredible events throughout most of history, events like the reunion of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt. Mann simple said, "they had to use their own lenses." There are times when I now purposefully "use my own lenses," and my trip to Australia was one of those times.
I got to go to Canberra as well (this was early January 1987). I just happened to be there the day after the enormous flagpole was erected over the new Capitol. Well, as then installed, the flagpole looked straight from the front, but it definitely was leaning back by about 4 degrees when viewed from the side. To record that brief early history of the Canberra flagpole was the only time I wished I had a camera while in Australia.
Flying home, the pilot informed the passengers that Canberra was visible out the right side of the plane. I thought this would be real neat to see because of the huge circular geometrics of Canberra's urban plan. Well, I looked and I looked. I knew it had to be recognizable. Finally, there is was, the whole of Griffin's plan about the size of the hole in a piece of loose leaf paper. What a lesson in scale.
In the early 1980s, Aldo van Eyck was a guest chair at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Arts. Van Eyck gave several lectures during the course of the semester. The first lectures was standing room only, but the rest became less and less attended--van Eyck talked for at least 3 hours each time, and there was lots of repetition. Anyway, this was just at the beginning of post-modernism's popularity within architecture, and van Eyck didn't like post-modernism at all. Basically, he wanted to continually prove that anyone interested in post-modernism didn't 'really' know architecture. He showed this slide of a detail of a fountain. You could tell it was historical, as opposed to modern, because of some flourish in the detailing. Van Eyck challenged the audience to guess where this detail came from; his point was that one really had to look at architecture to truly understand it. I should have answered out loud, but I only told the person next to me: "that's at the Taj Mahal." No one else answered, and finally van Eyck said, "it's at the Taj Mahal." My friend immediately looked at me and asked, "How did you know that?!?" I answered, "When I was something like 12 years old, I had a big jigsaw puzzle of the Taj Mahal in its classic view. I kind of know every inch of that place."
I have constructed a computer model of the Villa Savoye (or Saviueezse or something like that) which I 'visit' occasionally, but I've never been there for real. The wife of an architect friend of mine tells a genuinely funny story about being there, however. When she and her husband were there, a group of other architects were there as well. Of course, all the architects had camera in hand, but it wasn't all that easy to take pictures. As Colleen stood in the background, she observed how each of the architects was gingerly walking around and taking snaps of the house while being careful not to get any of the other architects in their pictures or having themselves infringe upon another's pictures. Colleen said it was one of the funniest things she ever saw. I said, "You should have taken a picture of that."
Personally, I don't think architectural photographers are as important as architects, mostly because architectural photography only presents a very narrow slice of the building's life, and especially a slice when all the 'makeup' is on and anything unsightly is literally out of sight. Are they mostly false pictures? Not necessarily, but the potential for falsehood is definitely there, and it's often a potential fulfilled in one way or another.
Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but the architectural images I enjoy (and learn from) the most are the fine line drawings and engravings, be they plans, elevations, sections, perspectives, that are largely a product of the nineteenth century. That's why most of the architecture books I buy now are purchased through eBay.





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