working title museum

trafficking in architecture

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1998.10.31 11:35
Re: Historic American Building Survey
I worked for HABS as a student architect for three summers: Perry, MO 1978, Savannah, GA 1979, Gunston Hall, VA 1981. On a typical project, the students are headed by a team leader and they thoroughly survey and subsequently delineate (ink on mylar still!) signifincant American structures. Sometimes the chosen structures are of historical significance and sometimes the chosen structures are to be destroyed by some govenment agency such as the Army Corps of Engineers and sometimes the structures are part of a rehab effort. Under certain guidelines, individuals can make proposals/submissions to HABS as well. All the original drawings are ultimately stored in the Library of Congress. The collection is truly vast, and one that deserves to be much better known by all American architects. Granted, there is not all that much published--at least not that I know of.
Personally, my HABS summers are so far now among the best summers of my life, even though I used to joke that HABS meant "have a bad summer."

1999.01.12 17:58
Re: virtual (muesum) dialogue
I'm not entirely sure what your question here fully entails, but I will nonetheless address how virtual/unbuilt buildings are dealt with at Quondam and how they thus contend within the "grand narrative" of architecture. Quondam's collection of 3d cad models is more than an act of documentation and/or preservation in that a cad model facilitates literally infinite illustrative and investigative possibilities, therefore a virtual museum like Quondam offers a wholly new paradigm in terms of establishing a truly unlimited collection. As to the question of how unbuilt architecture contends within architecture's grand narrative, Quondam is glad to be a forerunner in more completely engaging such designs into architecture's historical discourse, as well as setting an example of how to best approach the subject. For example, architectural (educational) courses that deal with constructing computer models of architectural designs should focus almost exclusively on the construction of unexecuted designs because the model construction of actual buildings is undeniably redundant. Unexecuted architectural designs offer multitudinous "untapped veins" of architectural history, and it is precisely 3d cad that facilitates the "mining" of such virtual architectures.
What I gleam from contemporary texts regarding architecture and the virtual realm is that all of today's "virtual" designers/thinkers/critics are oblivious to the long history of architecture's relationship with the virtual. My personal favorite example of an architectural/virtual environment is the emperor Hadrian's villa at Tivoli built in the early 2nd century--different sections of the villa were designed to evoke Hadrian's favorite places within the Roman Empire -- a true virtual reality in the making. There is no question that today's computer/electronic technology is rightly responsible for bringing virtual architecture to the fore, but it is also a serious mistake for architects and designers to remain unmindful of the virtual realities of architecture that have absolutely nothing to do with computers. As to the potential similarity between a video game experience and a virtual tour of a computer model, yes the two experiences are probably very close indeed, but I would caution that the two experiences also serve too very different purposes, and thus their comparison is limited. Moreover, in the same way that I think constructing models of actual buildings is redundant, I feel that video games would be more exemplary if they rendered whole new environmental paradigms rather than the mostly overly romanticized architectural settings they offer.
I have already from time to time entertained the idea of "building" a 3d model of/for Quondam, and the truth of the matter is that I am nowhere near convinced that the creation of an illusory museum is necessary for Quondam to fulfill its museum operations. Furthermore, and on the other hand, Quondam can already stand firm in the conviction that each of the "buildings" in its collection represents a virtual museum of architecture, and thus sets forth the notion that a truly virtual museum is indeed an institution that can readily be any building and/or any number of buildings. In either case, the illusion/incorporation of halls, stairs, rooms, etc. would demonstrate an "untruthfulness to materials" because Quondam utilizes the structural system of HTML and web browsers rather than architecture's traditional "building blocks".
Lastly, I want to comment on 2d and 3d representation/visualization. Architectural drawing in its true sense is a 2-dimensional entity, and it is the technical ability of architectural drawings to convey 3-dimensional space that gives the genre its unique representational power, indeed its virtuality (i.e., potential). Computer graphics has greatly enhanced an architect's graphic dexterity, and 3-d modeling specifically gives architects the unprecedented ability to construct 3-dimensionally within a 2-dimensional realm. Advances in computer rendering also play a negative/destructive role within the history of architectural drawing, however. Many, if not most, architects today view a computer generated photo-realistic rendering, the so-called high resolution image, as the ultimate architectural representation. I personally take a contrary point of view because I see high resolution images as a kind of "dead end after taking the wrong fork in the road." In other words, setting photo-realistic representation as the preferred goal tends to ignore, if not altogether eliminate, the literal infinitude of the other means of spatial representation that computer graphics afford. Essentially, as a representation becomes more real it simultaneously becomes less virtual.

1999.03.10 08:48
Re: epic architectural past
I think the "human story," like the movement of the present, is essentially linear. The first humans were extreme, and the best examples of extreme architecture are the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge. Circa 550BC, humanity began to operate with a highly fertile imagination, and this "age of highest fertility" lasted till circa 770AD, at which time humanity's imagination became [additionally] pregnant. At the first trimester of pregnancy, circa 1500, humanity began to assimilate itself and its place in the universe. By 1700, the metabolic imagination began to work in conjunction with the assimilating imagination.
We are today still primarily a humanity operating in both an assimilating and metabolic fashion, and thus our architecture too is primarily both assimilating ("international") and metabolic (creative/destructive).
Of course, the "human story" continues, and to discern how it will continue, you just have to analyze the sequential slices of the human body starting at the lowest tips of the rib cage and moving upwards.

...just upload the rest of my web pages dedicated to Tafuri's Campo Marzio mistakes.
...just received word two weeks ago that my abstract/paper entitle "Inside the Density of G.B.Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius" has been acceptedfor presentation at the first annual colloquium of the Network for Theory, History and Criticism of Architecture (NeTHCA) in Brussels, Belgium. I'll be working on the paper throughout the summer, however, in the meantime I'll also be documenting my ideas regarding reenactment architecture/urbanism. e.g., the Hindu temple and the ritual involve around it are (for me at least) a "consummate" reenactment of human procreation.

1999.06.14 12:28
interview - catching up
All buildings are not architecture, but all buildings have the potential of being architecture.
Buildings become architecture once they exhibit artistic presence.

1999.07.29 14:28
Generally, Bloomer's treatment of Piranesi's Campo Marzio follows that of Tafuri's, but she investigates some of Piranesi's other work with some originality. She is much better at finding symbolism/hidden meaning in Joyce, however, than she is in finding the same in Piranesi. For her, the (s)crypt(s) signifies a labyrinth (one she often seems lost in herself, even though it is a labyrinth of her own making!). For example, she sees the Campo Marzio plan as representing the labyrinth of the underworld, that place where the [Cartesian] grid/cage of rationality does not apply. Her [s]cryptic efforts getting into this underworld are especially worth reading because it is a thorough aggregate of good research mixed (unfortunately?) with the Tafurian and Derridian agendas (see her treatment of the CM's Terentus occulens aram Ditis et Proserpinae). Inadvertently, however, by going 'underneath' the large plan, she puts all her effort into seeking something that is not there. Essentially, she avoids the real plan itself.

exporting merrie olde england
What you are basically questioning and evaluating are the (aesthetic) notions regarding reenactment as a purposefully designed phenomenon within the built environment. As my abstract indicates, I see this particular 'brand' of construction as something on the rise, but it is important to remember that reenactment is a 'theme' that exists throughout history. For example, Hardian's Villa of the second century AD and Las Vegas of the 1990s. And aren't the Great Pyramids 'perfect' reenactments of mountains?

2000.01.03 03:38
Re: sculpture versus architecture
Pinar: What about the notion of life? In order to call a composition as a work of architecture there must be a life in it. A life around it does not make it architecture, I think. The composition must embrace a life style, must be an accompaniment of a life style but not be the focus of it. The objects which are for perception only, cannot be called architecture. They are called sculpture.
Steve: What Pinar writes comes across as very true as a reasonably way to approach "what is architecture?" as opposed "what is sculpture?" And for the most part I agree with the notion that architecture accommodates life. So I then ask if this 'definition' must be broadened to include all built forms that once accompanied life and a life style, but over time have come to no longer do so. I am thinking of ancient ruins, be they Stonehenge, the Pyramids, the Parthenon, the cave temples of India, etc. These are commonly referred to as examples of architecture, yet today they are clearly "objects which are for perception only." Have these architectures become architecture/sculpture hybrids? Furthermore, no one now lives in Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, nor, it might be argued, does the life style around which the Villa Savoye was designed to accompany now exist. Is the Villa Savoye a master work of modern architecture that is now an "object which is for perception only?" Or is it merely that the 'life style" the Villa Savoye now accompanies is one where great buildings (if they're lucky) become cultural shrines, where the buildings now accommodate our 'perceptual worship'?

2000.02.03 15:08
austerity = extreme assimilation?
In Hugh Pearman's piece on the New Art Gallery in Walsall, he begins with:
"If you could distill the essence of pure modern architecture, and remove all traces of the usual compromises and cut corners and clumsy details and flash populist moves, then you would get a strange, unsettling, austere, but rather beautiful building."
This sentence well describes what I mean by an architecture of extreme assimilation. Assimilation in physiological terms means the absorption of nutrients, and this corporal operation occurs primarily within the intestines. The final stage of assimilation is then in the large intestines where all moisture is absorbed, and them comes the purge.
Modernist Purism and now the New Austerity seem to work toward manifesting an architecture where all the essentials have been absorbed to the extreme, i.e., to the purge of anything extraneous.
Hugh (in his last post) also mentions possible forthcoming architectural 'revivals'. Could not the New Austerity be a Purism revival? (Seeing the interior shot of the Walsall gallery also reminded me of the interior court of Kahn's Mellon Art Gallery, New Haven. I see that building, as well as many other Kahn buildings, as 'embodiments' of a 'new' austerity, of an assimilating purge.)
Perhaps one of the drawbacks of the 'being-there-right-as-it-happens-history' of today's culture is that the sense of continuum is no longer as evident as it was in former times. With everything "new(s)' being automatically understood as 'of this very moment', the sight of 'events' being part of a much larger continuum is easily lost. I have a feeling that a 'style' like Purism(/New Austerity) is going to be part of 'international' architecture (and culture) for a few more centuries. It's already proved itself durable for almost a century, hasn't it?



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