dossier

The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized

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1996.08.03
ideas
The Kahn, Stirling, Giurgola circle... ...potential Virtual Museum of Architecture documents.


1996.08.15
about the Virtual Museum of Architecture
The following is a list of projects already on the museum's agenda:
04. Giurgola and geometry
05. Religious buildings of Kahn
06. Venturi and Rauch's Canton, Ohio
14. Kahn's Governmental complex for West Pakistan
19. any unbuilt Kahn
22. any unbuilt Venturi, Scott Brown


1997.01.29
More Exhibit Graphics: Inspiration XIII
Giurgola's Roma Interrotta: ...overlay of the Philadelphia plan. ...photograph Mitchell/Giurgola buildings that are spread throughout Center City.
...including all the Mitchell/Giurgola projects that were not built in Philadelphia into the Philadelphia CAD model. This concept also brings to mind the inclusion of other buildings that could be included: Kahn's City Hall, Kahn's planning study, and even a reconstructions of past Philadelphia like Furness buildings destroyed, and even the districts that were demolished to make way for Independence Mall and Penn Center.


1997.04.07
model projects
...a new batch of building/projects to add to Quondam's collection of 3-d models. The following is a list of the new buildings:
a. Venturi - Dream House
b. Giurgola - Retreat House in Northern Europe
c. Venturi - Yale Mathematics Building
h. Kahn - Fleisher House
i. Kahn - Morris House
j. Kahn - Mikveh Israel Synagouge
k. Kahn - University of Tel-Aviv
m. Giurgola - Whitemarch Library
n. Giurgola - Acadia Park Building


1997.05.25
Body, Imagination, and Architecture @ Quondam
I am beginning to see the makings of a well connected set of pages that deal with the Body, Imagination, and Architecture theory and reach well into both Quondam's collection and the Timepiece of Humanity.
Related to Quondam, the connection will be to the forthcoming Strasbourg exhibit, Giurgola as pure assimilating metabolist, and Piranesi as the proto assimilating metabolist (although that title should probably really go to Michelangelo). There is also a connection to the Stirling. Le Corbusier, and Schinkel essays/ideas, and also Venturi's new theory of an electronic display architecture. All these topics/displays will house direct links to the Body, Imagination, and Architecture theory and thus contribute to the viability of the theory itself.

1997.05.28
projects
5. Parkway Interrotta
...the Berlin Science Center, as well as Wallraf-Richartz Museum and Florence and Bayer--all projects by Stirling/Wilford-- have clearly influenced the Parkway Interpolation design. I wonder if I want to admit this publicly right now. It might actually be fun. Of course, there is also the Plecnik Houses under a Common Roof reference, but the overriding influence is Stirling and this may actually tie into the Giurgola connection (the importation of Stirling into the Philadelphia area), plus I also just thought of the relation of Tredyffrin Public Library to the south museum plaza building group.
6. Philadelphia as a Mitchell/Giurgola museum


1997.07.25
NOT THERE
Mitchell/Giurgola architecture on a "not there" theme: colored pavilions at W.P.H.S., perhaps the Liberty Bell Pavilion, the Living History Museum, the Observation deck at Penn Mutual, the 8th Street subway entrance, brick facade at the Penn Parking Garage (Spruce St.), and maybe something about the park at Broad & Columbia.


1997.08.28
"Redrawing History"
3. ...tracings of the various Mitchell/Giurgola plans.
4. ...a scale comparison between the Kahn plans and appropriate plans from the Campo Marzio.


1997.09.08
comparative plans by architect
After seeing the Kahn plans, ...present these and similar plans at Quondam. ...all the plans at the same scale...


1998.08.13
notes
1. feature "Kahn's Drawing Table" @ Quondam


1998.09.14
ideas
Venturi is part of the equation almost unwittingly by virtue of the book title A View from the Campidoglio which in reality is the Campo Marzio! Both Kahn and Venturi were/are looking at the Campo Marzio, just as I have been doing.


1998.12.02 11:20
Re: def: AutoCAD Architecture
With regard to "flatness", take a look at Louis Kahn's first independent building commission--Ahavath Israel Synagogue, Philadelphia, 1935-7. My point being that "flatness" is an architectural aesthetic with a long history and very much independent of CAD. There are also some Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates buildings that absolutely revel in their flatness, e.g., any of the 1980s and 1990s university laboratory buildings. I also suggest you read Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word, within which you will find an analysis of the flatness of 1960s POP art.

1999.05.11
1. Alberti and types 2. virtual reconstructions
As to virtual reconstructions, Larson's reconstructions of some of Kahn's unbuilt designs are what I would refer to as the "accepted logical extreme" of computer aided reconstructions in that they present a photo-realistic end result. I realize that there is still a question as to whether Larson's reconstructions represent Kahn's "actual" intentions. Again, the "reality" of this situation here smacks against what one may think the "ideal" situation should be. Kahn is dead; we can't change that. His drawings, however, survive, and yes, I agree with Larson in that the surviving drawings are very much like unplayed musical scores, and to that end CAD software and hardware have become enabling "instruments" whereby the "unplayed scores" can now be "performed". The true potential of CAD reconstructions, however, is that one can "play" the "score" in a virtually infinite variety of "interpretations". Personally, I think this opportunity to "play" with no real risk involved is significant precisely because it establishes a "new ideal" whereby multiple possibilities rather than a single possibility is the overriding paradigm. It is exactly this freedom to "perform" as one chooses, however, that goes against established design training, and, therefore, the "free" use of "reconstructions" has a very "real" up-hill battle to fight if it is to reach its true potential.


1999.07.14
PMA + Quondam?
4. The Ichnographia Campus Martius in particular and Rome's Campo Marzio in general have a strong inspirational presence for Philadelphia's 20th century architects. A full scale reproduction of the Ichnographia Campus Martius hung over Louis Kahn's office desk throughout his mature career, and the title of Robert Venturi's and Denise Scott Brown's collection of essays A View from the Campidoglio taken literally is a indeed a view of the Campo Marzio. At least two prominent Philadelphia architects spent a lot of time "looking" at the Campo Marzio, and I see my long term commitment to redrawing and analyzing Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius as a continuation and reenactment of the same Philadelphia architectural tradition.


1999.08.26 09:53
Re: empire of light
...scale, which today often goes unrecognized and/or accessed (however, Koolhaas via SMLXL has certainly brought the scale issue to contemporary attention, and, of course, Venturi et al have paid close attention to the often overlooked obviousness of comparative architecture scale earlier). We are more used to thinking of scale in terms of physical magnitude/size, and indeed comparative analysis of such scale in architecture (e.g. seeing varieties of building plans at the same scale) is most times revealing of a architectural "dimension" not normally taken notice of. Scale can be a good theme to follow when comparing architecture...


1999.09.24
since equinoctial augury
The Philadelphia and Rome connections do not always have to be evident, but I'm sure that enough interesting notions will arise. There are already good connections, the Ara Martis-Independence Mall coincidence, the Fairmount-Campidoglio coincidence, dies sanguinis, the Hadrian tomb-Logan Circle coincidence, cardo and decumanus (and this can compare to Eros and Thanatos).
Overall, this project will hold together because I have the Center City model and the Campo Marzio database, and I also have all the Rome books and the Philadelphia guide books. I just also remembered the Roma Interrotta connection via Giurgola and VRSB, and then also the general Kahn and Venturi Campo Marzio connection.

2000.01.17
Saarinen, Kahn and the Use of History
Paul wrote:
Kahn did not replicate images from history; he abstracted ideas.
Steve replies:
This remark may be somewhat misleading in that Kahn is noted for suggesting and exercising the notion of wrapping ruins around buildings.
I've never met Kahn, but practically all of my architectural teachers (at Temple U. in the mid to late 1970s) were taught by Kahn, or worked for Kahn, or both. I very much liked the architecture of Kahn; I liked the rigorous geometrics, and it is indeed via Kahn that I came to fetish Piranesi's Campo Marzio plan. In the summer of 1976 I purchased a special edition A+U book Kahn' work (for those that may not know, architecture books (and magazines) full of color images were still a rarity in the mid 1970s, and it was basically Japanese publishers that began to change all that). It seems there was a time when that book was not out of my sight.
In the summer of 1977, I went on an architectural study tour in Italy. I spent a whole afternoon on the Palatine Hill, walking through the Palaces of the Caesars. I saw 'Kahn' all over the Palatine Hill. Here's what I wrote then (right after my sophomore year).
Saturday, August 13, 1977
. . . We ended our tour on the Palatine Hill in the Palace of the Ceasars. The masonry structure is incredible. I want to go back alone and do a good study of it. There was so much to see and take note of that I was very discouraged to even start. (It was also too hot, but that's really no excuse.)
John [who was a graduate student from Penn also on the study trip] and I started to get into all of the structure. I was surprised to see how much [history] he really didn't know. I made a couple of references to Kahn, and I think he [John] was offended. (Too bad for him.) He said Kahn couldn't be limited to one period. I say, who's limiting him? It's obvious he [Kahn] took a great deal from the architecture of ancient Rome, and that's a fact that can't be disputed at all. I think he [Kahn] was wrong in doing it now that I see the ruins. Like India doesn't seem that great anymore, only the ruins are better, and his [Kahn's] plagiarism for Exeter almost makes me sick [how's that for a visceral reaction]. Wrap ruins around buildings my ass!!!
I really don't know what to think about architecture anymore.
Venturi - Kahn - Corbu - who the fuck knows???
Back to the 21st century...
What I like best so far about investigating reenactment in architecture, it the search for origins, that which is being reenacted, because it's in the origins that true originality resides. Kahn himself said he wished he could write 'Volume 0'. I'm not going to say that I too want to write 'Volume 0', but I do have real faith in its existence.


2000.06.24
The Architecture of Being [FOG]
...and successfully records the 'Neil Levine' kitchen conversation.


2000.06.30 13:48
hello
In 1983, I paraphrased Kahn and Venturi by saying that "Order is OK." Today I'll say that "logic is quondam."

2000.09.20
museumpeace
1. Artistic License is the title of the Venturi-Scott Brown-Gehry-Warhol collage...


2000.12.01
context (Quondam thinking?)
Whenever I read about architecture and context I can't help but automatically recall my architectural education at Temple University, Philadelphia, 1975-81. Temple's architecture program was then in its infancy (begun 1973), and the faculty were largely either/and/or students of Louis Kahn, former employees of Louis Kahn, current or former employees of Romaldo Giurgola (Mitchell/Giurgola Architects), or employees at Venturi and Rauch Architects. Besides that 'august' lineage, what impressed my design thinking most was the issue of designing with respect to context, indeed I'd say that that notion was the touchstone of my entire formal architectural education. [I also have a strong independent streak when it comes to continually self educating myself architecturally, and my subscribing to Oppositions throughout the late 1970s through the early 1980s--I have all 26 issues except nos. 1 and 3--is just one example of that. Oppositions was never required reading at Temple U. while I was there.]
I now want to make a bold statement regarding (the evolution of?) contextualism and architecture:
What is probably the best example of Philadelphia architecture from the 1990s happens to not be in Philadelphia at all, rather it is in London, namely the Sainsbury Wing addition to the National Gallery by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Philadelphia.
I have never been to London, but I know the Sainsbury Wing fairly well via publications, plus, and here's the beginning of my point, I almost viscerally understand all the 'contextual' design idioms and eccentricities because they are, and the building as a 'whole' is, a consummate example of (questionably labeled post-modern) Philadelphian contextual architectural design thinking. I'm not suggesting that Philadelphia has some sort of propriety when it come to designing architecture contextually in the late 20th century, rather that there is a uniqueness to Philadelphia's 'brand' of contexturalism (indeed retrospectively related to Rowe's thinking, but clearly distinct nonetheless mostly because of Giurgola and Venturi who both taught at the University of Pennsylvania at the same time that Kahn taught there). What's wonderful about the Sainsbury Wing is that as a program and site it boiled down to being almost entirely about designing in context, and, with Venturi and Scott Brown as the competition winners, they were given the opportunity to do, in a sense, a 'hyper' contextual building, i.e. dealing with both London (and even royal) contexts as well as Philadelphia's theoretical architectural 'contexts'.
I'm going to be even more bold by suggesting that the Sainsbury Wing is not so much 'post-modern' design, rather very good 'post-imperial' design. Isn't the UK still more specifically operating within a post-imperial milieu (as a childhood stamp collector of the 1960s I'm very aware of exactly how and when the British Empire ended) and isn't Philadelphia the foremost post-imperial city when it comes to the British Empire--site of the Declaration of Independence and all that? I actually think the world of architecture is extremely fortunate to have an iconic post-imperial building in a post-imperial capital transplanted there by architects from the Empire's proto post-imperial city.
[Earlier, when the discussions here centered on evolution versus invention of style, I wanted to introduce the notion of Venturi's role vis--vis POMO, specifically the publication of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, which is based almost entirely on the early 1960s architectural theory course that Venturi taught at the University of Pennsylvania (in Philadelphia, founded by Benjamin Franklin). Essentially, I wanted to raise the question as to what influence the Philadelphia 'context' had on 'Post-Modern Architecture'. If you asked me, I'd say the influence was indeed seminal, and Venturi's Mother's House (Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, a 15 minute ride from where I'm presently sitting as I write this) had a great deal to do with the earliest manifestation (dare I say invention?) of what has come to be labeled Post Modern Architecture.]
I'm going to table the issue of what exactly Philadelphia contextualism is in specific terms of style, and instead ask all you that can readily visit the Sainsbury Wing to go there next time with the thought that you are going to a truly Philadelphian building because the style you'll see there is, like I said, an example of Philadelphia architecture at its best. If you don't know Philadelphia itself, and/or are not too familiar with Philadelphia's indigenous architecture, I'd suggest concurrently looking at (any book on) the architecture of Frank Furness (1839-1912), the sort of ur-architect of Philadelphia uniqueness and perhaps Venturi's strongest stylistic influence.
Like Venturi and (almost) Kahn, I am a Philadelphia native (although I'm also the only member of my immediate family born in America), and I've sort of made Philadelphia context an integral part of my life, e.g., I've been living in the same Philadelphia house for almost 43 years, all but the first 20 months of my life). As much as Philadelphia is often called the cradle of democracy, a kind of New World Athens, at base (i.e., literally infrastructurally) Philadelphia is a Roman colonial camp reenactment (and you might even put camp in quotes, a la Learning from Las Vegas via Philadelphians). Philadelphia's original plan is a Roman grid complete with a real cardo and a real decumanus, and the plan is still very much intact today. Indeed, Broad Street, the north-south axis is the longest straight street (in an urban context) in the world, an ultimate cardo, primary axis if there ever is one (and Stauffer Hall, the site of Temple University's architecture program from 1973-1980 was right on Broad Street). I don't have to tell all of you how much I look to/at Rome, but I should mention that the main reason I started redrawing and studying Piranesi's Campo Marzio (and all the subsequent ancient Roman studying being done like on St. Helena) is because I was inspired by the fact that Louis I. Kahn, throughout his mature years, had a copy of Piranesi's Campo Marzio plan hanging on the wall over his desk at his office (on Walnut St. in downtown Philadelphia, and no I'm not suggesting that Kahn was some kind of 'wall nut'). After Learning from Las Vegas, Venturi next published a group of essays under the title A View from the Campidoglio, and just a few years ago it dawned on me that when one is actually standing at the Campidoglio in Rome, the view being taken in is literally Rome's Campo Marzio. I'm going to make one final bold statement here, and that is to ask you to now trust me when I say that I continue to see what some of Philadelphia's best architects looked at.

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