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The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized

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2009.11.27 12:10
The current state of Architecture Theory
an (experimental inclined toward intuitive) architectural theory:
ossilate architectural design falls into three types:
intuitive architectural design
theoretical architectural design
experimental architectural design
with the three types forming a triad, thus each type can incline towards one or the other.
e.g.
the architecture of Frank Gehry -- intuitive architectural design inclined toward experimental architectural design
the architecture of Peter Eisenman -- experimental architectural design oscillating between theoretical and intuitive architectural design
the architecture of Le Corbusier -- theoretical architectural design oscillating between experimental and intuitive architectural design
Gothic architecture -- experimental architectural design inclined toward intuitive architectural design
Beaux Arts architecture -- theoretical architectural design oscillating slightly between experimental and intuitive architectural design
the architecture of Louis I. Kahn -- started as theoretical architectural design and ended as experimental architectural design inclined toward intuitive architectural design
the architecture of H&dM -- experimental architectural design inclined toward intuitive architectural design
the architecture of UNStudio -- theoretical architectural design inclined toward experimental architectural design
[to be continued]


2010.09.21 15:49
institutional critique [sort of]
I too, just last week, read of Gandy and his perspective of the Bank of England:
"Girardin's unfinished temple even today forces the observer to do a double-take. No matter how much we are prepared for it, the realization that the building is unfinished, and not a ruin, is difficult to internalize. Indeed, the attraction of such architectural indeterminacy led to a fascinating type of didactic representation in the nineteenth century that curiously links John Soane and Joseph Gandy to Violette-le-Duc and Choisy. At the beginning of this chain lies Gandy's watercolor of Soane's Bank of England exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830. It shows the entire block Soane began working on in 1788 in a cutaway aerial perspective taken from the southeast. A storm has just passed over the building, appearing to leave in its wake a path of destruction brought to light in the ensuing calm. Bu on closer inspection, what at first seems to be a ruin is verisimilarly a projection of the site under construction."
Neil Levine, "The Architecture of the Unfinished and the Example of Louis Kahn" in Fragments: Architecture and the Unfinished (2006), p. 327.
It's interesting to note the metabolic (destructive/creative) nature of Gandy's "view." Perhaps "institutional critique" is inherently metabolic.
There are seeds of "The Architecture of the Unfinished and the Example of Louis Kahn" within Levine's earlier (1989) "Robert Venturi and "The Return of Historicism"".

2012.03.27 10:28
Response to Donna, re: Traditional Architecture
Otherwise, working on The Philadelphia School deterritorialized.
"Trust me, deterritorialized thinking isn't necessarily brillant, although for the most part uninhibited."


2012.03.27 22:01
Response to Donna, re: Traditional Architecture
Wikipedia has a fairly concise entry on deterritorialization. Some the concepts there relate to how the Philadelphia School will be 'exhibited' via a virtual museum of architecture.


2012.03.28 16:09
Re: Traditional Architecture
"But Lou and Arthur were on my roof talking, so that Lou could meet this interesting South African architect, which was very nice. I was a young widow living in Philadelphia and living at Penn. And I seemed to have been an unwitting member of all sorts of situations, which I didn't know what was happening, but had some intuitive feelings of things happening. Which were men -- married men and unmarried men -- who were seeming -- it seems as if I had figured in their lives in some sort of way that I wasn't quite sure of, and I didn't want to know about. That is, I wasn't interested in the side of being a young, single woman, experienced -- I had been married already -- and of interest to a range of different people on the faculty and around. So within that sort of context, Lou was interested in me in that way, too. It's something a woman professional learns about. Men have other interests in her than as a professional. Oskar Stonorov was like that. I thought I was being invited to dinner to talk about Le Corbusier, and I discovered that that wasn't his agenda. But it had been my agenda. When I met Oskar Stonorov, I thought of him as the American version of Ernö Goldfinger, and Ernö Goldfinger was an English version of Oskar Stonorov. They were very similar people. And sure enough, Oskar Stonorov suggested -- he said, "Oh, yes. I remember Ernö Goldfinger. He was the one who couldn't draw." [laughs] Just the sort of thing Ernö would have said. Anyway, what I'm saying is nothing happened in any of these situations, because I was just not -- that wasn't my role in life. In other words, if I got invited for dinner by Stonorov, who had a wife, and I thought I was being invited to talk about Le Corbusier and architecture, and I found that that probably wasn't what he had in mind -- what he had in mind, I would not let become very explicit. And there was something like that with Lou, too. But what are you going to say? Later he took up with Harriet, and he had been with Ann [Tyng]. He didn't manage to have a relationship of any sort of sexual nature with me, though he would have liked to. And I was just the kind of person he was attracted to. Now, that's one of the sort of things I should probably restrict. It's pertinent, but it isn't. I never know quite whether those things..."
--Denise Scott Brown


2012.07.04 13:24
The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized
There is a classic story about Carles Enrique Vallhonrat, a principal in Kahn's office and then chairman of the school, who upon being called up by Progressive Architecture for an interview responded: "Progressive Architecture? I don't think I know that magazine. . . . No, we don't give interviews."
Jan C. Rowen, “Wanting To Be: The Philadelphia School” (Progressive Architecture, April, 1961), 4001-.
Last month's first part of the P/A Symposium on the State of Architecture brought out quite clearly the prevalent confusion and aimlessness in today's architectural design philosophy. The sixties, it appears, began without any coherent ideologies and systematic disciplines; instead, a strange free-for-all is the admitted, accepted, and defended design approach. There are indications, however, that among this confusion there is already in existence a new design movement with a powerful ideology and a clearly defined design approach. This movement, stemming from Philadelphia, heralds a new renaissance that might prove to be at least as important to the course of architectural history as the emergence of the Chicago School in the late 19th Century. In this article, P/A's Managing Editor traces, describes, and explains this significant new development in contemporary architecture and refers to it as: The Philadelphia School
Is there is any other magazine article on architecture in which the word ‘transcendence’ is so often used?
To someone who started architecture school in Philadelphia one and a half years after Kahn’s death, “Wanting to be” reads like boilerplate on how to teach Kahn.
The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized is an exhibition [40/index] just beginning at Quondam.
Preludes (from the fourth dimension)
There have been times in the past (and sometimes still on occassion) when I thought that one's own electro-magnetic waves either meshed well with computers or they didn't. Early on, I even wondered whether different musics meshed well with computers or not. When I first worked with CAD at Cooper Pratt Valhonrat Architects (1983), the big two-screen INTERGRAPH workstation was run by a PDP-11 (a pre-VAX mainframe about the size of two small refrigerators). All this hardware was in the same room/space somewhat partitioned from the rest of the drafting room. The other architects in the firm did not use CAD, but they always had to walk past the back of the PDP-11 to get from the front of the office to their desks. Everytime Carles Vallhonrat walked by there was a slight blip on the screen. I only noticed this because it actually happened most of the time. Carles was a true Kahn disciple (as in project architect of Salk Institute), he taught at Princeton at the time, and wasn't really happy about his situation at CPV Architects. Plus, although he never said so publicly, I believe he hated what CAD was doing to an otherwise traditional architectural office. I should also mention that Carles continually worked at projecting a strong personal character. Could it be that Carles' otherwise unseen electro-magnetics was at least registered by the PDP-11? After I told my CAD co-worker about the Carles/screen blip coincidences, he started watching for occurrances himself. Within a day of observation, Bernie confirmed that the computer system does appear to 'notice' whenever Carles is around.
2001.12.01 12:46
I saw My Architect yesterday, and a neat part of the film was when Nathaniel was speaking with a couple of taxi-cab drivers (who supposedly drove Kahn around Philadelphia over 30 years ago)--in the immediate background of this scene is the Ritz Theater (within which I was actually watching My Architect). Seeing the scene, I said to Tony, "Look, it's 3D," but watching a movie in a movie theater that you see the movie theater in is probably much more like 4D. Hence, I'll tell you what it's like being in My Architect, albeit from the fourth dimension.
Countless times between January 1982 and May 1985 I walked by and into 1501 Walnut Street (where Kahn's office used to be, where you see him walking outside of several times in the film). I worked at 1611 Walnut Street (for Cooper and Pratt Architects, later Cooper Pratt Vallhonrat). I used to buy my "Dunhill Green" cigarettes in the tiny tobacco store on the ground floor of 1501 Walnut Street. Cooper is the older brother of NY's Alex Cooper, Pratt is from Pratt-Lambert Paint money, and Vallhonrat was the project architect of Salk Institute--three bosses and a staff of four in the drafting room; we all knew each other fairly closely. Nathaniel speaks with the project manager of Salk Institute in the film. If you ever visit the new US Constitution Center in Philadelphia, look at the Federal Reserve Bank building across 6th Street, a design by Vallhonrat that tries hard to emulate Kahn's Mellon Art Gallery at Yale.
In 1979-80 there was a lecture series at the Art Institute on "The Philadelphia School." One night the lecturer was Anne Tyng, and I was one of the five or so people that attended. At the end, someone said to Anne that the attendance was so low because it was Yom Kippur as well. Cold comfort, I'm sure, for the "other woman." Tony remembers going with Franco to Tyng's house to pick up her article for Stanza in 1975
By the mid-1980s, I was working at/for the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Art--you see Kahn kind-of prancing around the Fine Arts campus in the film. The Kahn Collection was recently installed within the GSFA's Architectural Archives, and, since I was the resident 3D CAD expert at the time, I asked for access to the drawings of Kahn's design of the Dominican Sister's (who you also see in the film) Convent so I could then construct a 3D computer model of the unexecuted design. Julia Converse didn't allow me free access to any of the drawings done in Kahn's own hand, but I certainly spent several hours over several days going through all the office drawings relative to the project--this all predates Kent Larson's computer model construction of Hurva Synagogue; in fact, the computer model of Hurva Synagogue in Quondam's collection even predates Larson's.
You know, Nathaniel's whole premise of the film is his search for a father that he never really knew, while the reality is that Nathaniel knew Kahn in a very real way that no one else did. Searching for Kahn, for me, really was trying to find an unknown. Unlike Nathaniel, I would never bother speaking with Johnson or Pei or Gehry or Stern to find Kahn, rather I went to Piranesi because Kahn, during his mature years, had the Ichnographia Campus Martius hanging on the wall above his office desk. Yes, were it not for that, I would never have found/discovered (in 1999, in the same building where Kahn taught at Penn) the heretofore unknown first version of Piranesi's great Campo Marzio plan.
I enjoyed My Architect, especially seeing Kahn resembled in all three of his offspring--the daughter of Esther, the daughter of Anne and the son of Harriet. My only regret is that I didn't have the opportunity to coach Nathaniel before he talked with Edmond Bacon. After having several (business related) conversations with Bacon myself in the late 1980s/early 1990s, I finally learned how to best put Bacon in his place (although he still owes me $200).
2003.12.22 13:58
The second set of CAD CDs I produced were for a project by Carles Vallhonrat (he was the the project architect for Kahn's Salk Institute) and he very much sought to work within the CAD drawing aesthetic which ultimately were meshed with the CD drawing standards he set years earlier for the CDs of Salk Institute. There is no doubt in my mind that that was a rare exercise/experience in 1984. I was most glad that he complied with my wish to "print" the drawings at 11" x 17", thus using the electrostatic printer (as opposed to the pen plotter) and then the xerox machine for copies instead of the "blue print" machine.
2006.03.29 20:39

2012.07.17 14:20
koolhaas' Junkspace
...your answer is a masturbatory game itself, and has nothing to do with the foundations of Post-Modern Architecture.
Here's one better answer, from a lecture given by Robert Stern, February 18, 1975:
"...Diversity, heterogeneity, even eclecticism can now be spoken as the watchwords of post-modern architecture.
A confluence of events seems to mark this movement from the exclusionist neoclassicism of the late 1950s--still with us today in the work of such firms as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill--to the more inclusive, contextual, sometimes even ad-hoc work of the Venturis, Charles Moore, Aldo Giurgola, and their followers, among whom I number myself.
The so-called post-modern architecture of this group is now coming into its own style--or at least as an attitude, shedding its negative, anti-establishment tone and growing self-confident with its point of view. While not exactly a new establishment, it can be claimed to be, for the moment at least, a kind of institutionalized counterculture.
Before attempting to explain post-modern architecture I would like to make clear that the term post-modern is, in my mind at least, not a proper critical or art historical term at all but simply a convenient description for an attitude which I believe to be emerging and valid. This attitude can be described as cultural and historical inclusiveness; and as such it opens up for discussion the fundamental tenets of what for fifty years or more has been regarded as the Modern Movement in architecture."
Your answer is probably better aimed at what Peter Eisenman, in 1975, labeled as his position--"post-functionalism" See the opening of Stern's 1981 "Notes on Post-Modernism" for the full story.


2012.07.18 19:04
The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized
I just went to vsba.com and found out that Robert Venturi is now retired from practice and Denise Scott Brown is remaining busy publishing and exhibiting her work. Now see venturiscottbrown.org.
I'm sitting here feeling a very real deterritorialization.


2012.07.24 17:21
The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized
About a half mile into my exercise walk this morning, I looked up and was surprised to see the path abruptly end in a great mass of foliage. It's the same path I take everyday, basically walking through the woods along Pennypack creek, but today I was also deep in thought about what I read last night, and instinctively mostly looking down at the path for the occasional debris there since the last rain storm. In a truly uncanny way, immediately upon perceiving the path ending in a great mass of foliage, my mind told me I was suddenly in a whole different place; it was like waking up from a trance or something and finding myself in a whole other place I hadn't been before, but the sensation only lasted that initial second of perception. What happened is a substantial limb of a tree fell, probably yesterday during the heavy winds at dusk, directly down on the path, and luckily you could rather easily work your way around the obstacle. Subsequently, this little episode of deterritorialization changed the focus, so to speak, on what I was already thinking about, namely, Sam Rodell's "The influence of Robert Venturi on Louis Kahn."
Without ever expressly saying so, Rodell's "thesis" boils down to being very much about deterritorialization. There is the whole notion of Venturi influencing Kahn, a not-too-commonly held historical fact, yet a quite deterritorializing proposition if indeed true--it really shouldn't be so hard to believe that the servant space can have a significant influence on the served space as much as the served space can significantly influence the servant space, however. Yet there is also the notion that the evidence of Venturi's influence on Kahn is more circumstantial than substantial, a simultaneous 'there' and 'not there', again a quite deterritorialized state of being. It's not like "the jury's still out" though, because there is general agreement that Venturi would have inevitably had an influence on Kahn, but it is not all that easy, except in about three specific cases, to pinpoint exactly what the influences were.
Excerpts from the interview with historian David Brownlee:
DB: In any case, what happens in the late '50's is a more palpable historical reference. There is the peculiarity of what I call the Philadelphia corner--the plan form that is sucked in at the corner--the diagonal across the corner (refers to Kahn's Goldenberg house and Venturi's beach house). They are both '59. Now I have to say, on the face of it, this (Goldenberg) is a lot more sophisticated looking design. But that element of design is seen in Mitchell Giurgola's work, and in Vreeland's work. That's a vocabulary that has gone around--it pops up in Kahn's work at this time--Kahn's dorm at Bryn Mawr, and the Richards Medical Building has it sort of implicitly--you enter off the diagonal of a corner…
SR: You see this corner treatment as something specifically about the Philadelphia School?
DB: I do. It all appears about the same time?
SR: Do you think anyone can be identified as being responsible for it? Does Venturi have a hand in it?
DB: I don't know. One of the things I would venture is to say that a more established architect like Kahn--with a formal vocabulary already established--may not be the place where you look for such provocative innovation. It certainly happens--but it is a teasing sort of thing. And another formal trait I see coming in at this time are, what I call another Philadelphia School trait, the big chimneys. They pop up out of the skyline in everybody's work about this time. Those would be places I would look for anything you can in terms of concretely dating 'who does what first.' I have found nothing written that acknowledges or even suggests that kind of influence between the two, having worked through the papers of both. There is not much to go on--Kahn, I think, writes a letter of recommendation for Rome. But that's about it. It has always been said that after the '60s Kahn expressed verbally his respect for Venturi, but said he was unwilling to 'go that far.' He did not follow Venturi's interest into Pop culture. Or, you know, large graphics. Or into the vocabulary of commerce and the strip. And fundamentally, I think, continued to believe in abstraction. He did not believe that buildings required words or intelligible historical references in order to be meaningful. At one point, he said that he 'liked ruins because in ruins the architectural forms had been detached from associated use." They had no denotative meaning left with them anymore, and in that sense continued to be an abstractionist, a modernist of that kind. The things that I see that I can plausibly say are the contributions are some of those stylistic--I won't call them quirks, but they are stylish bits and pieces--and within that, the broader acceptance of things that people could call 'historical' in his work. Now mind you, he was almost always hostile to the notion that anything he did had specific historical references. His willingness to talk about his fondness for history generally, and to speak admiringly of medieval and ancient buildings, never allowed you to draw a connection (that was pretty obvious) between these historical precedents and his work. Whereas Venturi, of course, was underlining that connection wherever possible. Certainly, the younger man's rhetorical style, in using those forms, did not rub off on Kahn at all. But I think the case is plausible that in the period of '54 to '58, as the Philadelphia School was coming together, that some of the distinctive features of it were created by people other than Louis Kahn--although Kahn gets to be their Guru.
Later...
DB: I find it hard to think of Kahn as a mannerist. But I… Maybe the Goldenberg house, which is almost unique; right where you expect the corner to be, there is nothing. [The corner deterritorialized!?]
And from the interview with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown:
SR: Dr. Brownlee was talking about a couple of things he thinks of as being characteristic of the 'Philadelphia School.' One: big chimneys. The other: what he calls the 'Philadelphia corner.' The latter, I think he may have written about--how various architectural historical approaches 'solve the corner problem.' Is that ringing any bells for you?
RV: What does he mean by the corner? Big chimney--actually I think I may have possibly been influenced by Kahn to some extent, but I don't think he ever had a chimney like that. My beach house project, with its big high chimney--never built---horrified Vince Scully. But then also fascinated him at the same time.
DSB: You know, the diagonal was very much Philadelphia School.
RV: Yes. The diagonal. That's right, that diagonal. That, I got from Louis Kahn.
DSB: Well, I know where Lou Kahn got it. He got it from Team Ten. You know, in Europe, there was a lot of thinking about diagonals at that point. Lou had more influence from Team Ten earlier than has been generally recognized. I think I discovered how that happened, too. But that's another story. You know, the conference in Amsterdam in '59 he met Blag Valenca and Aldo Van Eyck. That's how Aldo Van Eyck eventually wound up coming to Penn. [The diagonal reterritorialized!?]
Note to self:
Don't forget Dr. David Brownlee's skillful deterritorialization of mid-century 'context'.
By the end of my walk I started to wonder whether anyone [else] is thinking about who subsequent to Venturi may have had an influence on him. Prime candidates, of course, are Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, but maybe also Friday Architects or Kieran/Timberlake. Alas, who knows?
And after I took a shower, I thought about Scott Brown's first association with Venturi and Rauch, the competition for a Monumental Fountain on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (1964).

Here we have an enormous egg, cracked open by a very long diagonal(!) axis with a giant jet-stream gushing inside.
Yesterday was Venturi and Scott Brown's 45th wedding anniversary.

2012.08.09 13:09
The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized
Back in 2003, in to see in Philly, a quondam thread at archinect/forum, I wrote, "There's more obscure early Kahn in the Philadelphia area, kind of like going on a treasure hunt." Since then, someone has actually gone on that "treasure hunt" and published the findings on flickr.


2015.05.10 09:33
Robert Venturi, Prince Charles & that false Corinthian column
Not sure about the "free play" part. Venturi's (personal) design method involves a much more studied play "of signs and signifiers." Perhaps what most don't realize, however, is just how facile Venturi is/was with studied play. His draftsmanship was always simultaneously designmanship.

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