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1999.02.23 19:08
Re: irrational architecture
You raise an interesting point which suggests a paradigm shift in how we perceive (and I use that term loosely) space-architecture, however, I don't think such an operational shift is all that "simple," nor does the notion of "space moving through us" necessarily eliminate architecture. To your idea, I'd like to add a complementary idea (not entirely mine) regarding the continuum of time.
It is common to perceive time as moving, specifically in a linear fashion--past, present, future. Time, as Einstein suggests, is a continuum, and therefore past and present coexist, and thus, relatively speaking, past and future do not move. It is the present that moves through the continuum of time and, much like a radio, picks up "signals" relative to its position within the continuum band. Within such a continuum paradigm, both we AND space move through time. In terms of endurance of presence, however, much great architecture clearly holds its own in terms of the span of time (and here the Great Pyramids of Egypt getting close to 5000 years old are the prime example). Perhaps what we today are experiencing more than anything in our present "built environment" or "space" is its (almost patented) premature obsolescence.

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.

21st century buildings
I was just thinking tonight how I seem to have the ability to think about (design) what the next big "style" will be well before it actually happens, and along those lines I thought one easy way to figure out what's going to be next is to look at the late work Le Corbusier and then take it a step further. I immediately thought of the Olivetti project and these wild curvy, wiggly office towers, and even then crashing them together. Moreover, the way that Olivetti is on a raised "terrain", I thought of easily creating a "terrain" out of pieces of the Media base model, and then having that raised on pilotis. The imaginative designs on this theme alone are boundless.
I next thought how Quondam could (should?) in 2000(+) exclusively present 21st century buildings, i.e., buildings designed within the first days, weeks, months, year of the 21st century -- of course, these buildings will be entirely my design--"History is largely controlled by those who write it."

1999.03.22 18:37
(most modern?) rear-view architecture
...[the] suggestion of hi-tech military tents as ideal housing for the homeless is a definate forerunner for the "most modern building of the 21st century" category.

1999.04.01 13:06
aesthetics of war design
What I realized while viewing through some of the [destruction] images is that I could take pictures walking around my own neighborhood of Olney in urban Philadelphia, USA, and they would be very similar to those of Kosovo today. Of course, what's going on in Kosovo now is extremely upsetting, but what's equally upsetting is that destruction is not just going on there but in many, many places on this planet.
Perhaps the aesthetic of war design is more prevalent than we most times realize.

1999.04.18 10:54
The Saintly Patronessing of Woman Architects
Would the history of architecture significantly transform after acknowledging that the first master architect of Christianity was a woman?
Does it indeed matter whether Christianity's initial monuments were the design and plan of a woman?
Is there even a woman in history that could fulfill such a high and powerful role?
The simple answer to all three of the above questions is a resounding yes.
Yes, the history of architecture would significantly transform if the first master architect of Christianity was a woman because such an acknowledgment would profoundly effect architecture's entire future.
Yes, it does indeed matter if Christianity's first monuments were planned and designed by a woman because architectural history has yet to ascribed such a dominant position to a woman, and, moreover, the presence of a leading woman architect within the context of early Christianity only compounds the implications of origin with regard to such a pivotal point in not only architectural history, but in all history.
Yes, the woman in history that could fulfill the role of Christianity's first master architect is Flavia Julia Helena Augusta, the mother and empress dowager to Constantine the Great, otherwise know as Saint Helena.

1999.04.19 07:34
test (poem?) by whomevers
Is there ever a time in architecture when one can be simultaneously inside and outside a SPACE?
Is there ever a time in architecture when one can be simultaneously neither inside or outside a SPACE?

1999.04.19 09:12
test (poem?) by whomevers
My point deals specifically with architecture's first principles, i.e., duality in extreme and its unrelenting distinction between inside and outside. I cite the Great Pyramid as a prime example of architecture as duality in extreme, and you (correctly) cite the International Space Station as also an example of extreme architecture. Just be sure that you likewise acknowledge that the International Space Station is also an example of architecture's unrelenting distinction between inside and outside (and in that sense, even a space suit is exteme architecture).

1. Alberti and types 2. virtual reconstructions
Regarding ideals and type, the reality is that architects, when asked to design a specific "type" of building 1. look at the program and site provided, 2. look to their previous work experience within that "type" for further inspiration (that is, if they have previous experience in that "type"), 3. look to the (recent) work of other architects relating to the "type" in question. Because of this situation, there is no real ideal type, but more a constant manipulation and transformation of the mental "ideal". I know I'm over-simplifying, but my point is that there never was nor will there ever be a built "ideal" of any specific building "type". Types, at best, are a form of common understanding, and ideals probably have more to do with buildings working well and being on budget given their particular set of circumstances. Moreover, experience has already shown that the closer we get to building "ideal types", the worse the resultant buildings are, e.g., public housing!
As to virtual reconstructions, Larsons 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.

1999.05.13 09:02
Eisenman concludes (in 1984):
Therefore, to propose the end of the beginning and the end of the end is to propose an end of beginnings and ends of value- to propose another "timeless" space of invention. It is a "timeless" space in the present without a determining relation to an ideal future or an ideal past. Architecture in the present is seen as a process of inventing an artificial past and a futureless present. It remembers a no-longer future." [end]
B concludes (in 1999):
I think this means that there might be a thing or issue called- architectural "literacy" -about which the reading of buildings consists of a knowledge system of material culture. That is why, architectural and culturally, I think it is significant to focus on the mundane buildings- in order to read the built environment. Places like fast-food restaurants, gas stations, powerplants, ports, industrial ruins, in opposition to what is considered "great Architecture" and great Architects.
Steve replies:
I think it is important to note the 15 year differential between the two about texts-opinions. Despite its erudition, Eisenman's text is very much also an attack on post-modern architectural design as well as propaganda for his own "brand" of design (at that time). It is somewhat ironic that brian receives an inspiration, a way of looking at today's built environment, from Eisenman's 1984 text that may indeed be exactly opposite to what Eisenman proposed 15 years ago. To more fully understand Eisenman's text it is necessary to know Tafuri's texts as compiled in The Sphere and the Labyrinth, particularly the notion of (classical) language being dead. Unfortunately, Tafuri's big example of dead classical language is/was Piranesi's Campo Marzio, and it is there that Tafuri is entirely wrong, which by extension undermines Eisenman's argument as well.
B, you are and have been looking to understand a design language that is almost entirely ignored by the design profession, and that is (I think) the greatest value of your work. At this point, be careful not to confuse your own issues with other texts that may or may not apply. Your own originally is probably your greatest asset.
The above was more of a specific reply, and for a more general reply to Eisenman's end-beginning-end text see xxx.htm--there you will find a "design of a house 1983" accompanied by some real schizophrenic text written by my brother (which is coincidentally a perfect (non)reply to Eisenman), plus a small detail of my former living room. The living room photo is merely incidental, but the plan and the text are there precisely to be "read" with regard to classic(al) "literacy" (or the end-beginning-end thereof).
M wrote:
In the opening pages of Civilisation & Its Discontents, Freud makes some interesting remarks about the nature of memory and psychic structure in a metaphorical passage about the architectural history of Rome. Malcolm Bowie once memorably suggested that this could provide the basis for thinking Freud as town planner!
another general Steve reply:
See xxx.htm and follow the "eros and death" link to encounter another "metaphorical passage about the architectural history of Rome" courtesy Piranesi (who knew exactly what "classic" architectural literacy was all about, not to mention his knowledge of the dead language of Latin).

1999.05.21 11:24
May 21st - the Agonalia
Agonalia - a festival in honor of Janus celebrated in Rome on the 9th of January and the 21st of May.
Janus is my favorite Roman god.
Janus - an old Italian deity. He was represented with a face on the front and another on the back of his head. The month of January was sacred to him, as were all other beginnings. The myth makes him a king of Latium or Etruria, where he hospitably received Saturn when expelled by Jupiter from Crete. He had a small temple in the Forum, with two doors opposite to each other, which in time of war stood open and in time of peace were shut; the temple was trice closed on this account. With reference to his temple, the deity was called Janus Geminus or Janus Quirinus.
In its over 800 year history, Rome was at peace only three times?
I like Janus because he can see in front of him and he can see behind him--into the future and into the past? Also, I like to wonder whether Janus was "two faced" or was he schizophrenic?
Within his large plan of the Campo Marzio, Piranesi applies the label "Circus Agonalis sive Alexandri" to the original Circus of Domitian which is today Rome's Piazza Navona. Albeit obscure information, Piranesi was indeed correct in his designation because the emperor Alexander Severus rebuilt the Circus of Domitian and renamed it in honor of Janus. It is fun to imagine all the big goings-on over 1700 years ago today within what is now the Piazza Navona.
Another monument in honor of Janus that still stands in Rome today is the Arch of Janus Quadrifrons, which is in the Forum Boarium. It is one of those unique four-way arches, and, according to Banister Fletcher, is "of poor design." What is most interesting about this arch, however, is that it was constructed under Constantine the Great AFTER he converted to Christianity. I believe this signifies two important facts. First, the aristocratic and pagan population of Rome still had tremendous influence and power. Second, whoever designed this arch was extremely clever in that Janus, precisely because of his "two faced" nature, was the perfect god to reflect Constantine's own political position -- exactly because of his conversion from paganism to Christianity, Constantine himself is Rome's ultimate Janus-like emperor. [Personally, I can't help but believe that it was Constantine's mother Helena (that most saintly of architects) that thought all this poignant symbolism through.] And, in an almost too good to be true sense, the Arch of Janus may well have predicted (looked towards) European architecture's next 1200 years: Banister Fletcher notes "it has a simple cross-vault with embedded brick box-ribs at the groins, affording a further instance of the progressive character of Roman construction techniques: such ribs are possibly the prototypes of Gothic rib vaults." [Fletcher is being a little two faced himself here -- first the Arch of Janus is not good design, and then the arch is progressive construction!] Could it really be that the first ribbed cross-vaults ever were built in late antiquity? Do these vaults, built by ancient Rome's first Christian emperor, unwittingly and uncannily prophesies a whole new future era of Western architecture? [And is it possible that Helena, besides being the first master architect of Christianity, is also the world's proto-Gothic architect?]
Constantine converted to Christianity the night before the Battle at the Milvian Bridge (October 28, 312) which lead into the City of Rome. He saw a vision of the (Christ) Cross in the sky, and hence ordered his troops to paint the (Christ) Cross on their shields. Constantine was victorious over the usurpative emperor Maxentius, and on October 29 entered Rome in triumph. Constantine's mother, St. Helena, is most known for having discovered the True Cross in Jerusalem (most recently dated c. 324-25). If you asked me, I'd say the "signs" surrounding this incredible mother-son team are still appearing.

reenactment architectures
...the whole notion of reenactment itself, and how it differs from simulacra and plain memesis. The key factor is the "acting" out again of a prior event or situation, which is different from mere copying.

1999.06.24 21:17
research as design-talk?
Perhaps sometime in the future all architects will come to realize that software which is "customization-friendly" is more valuable than software that is "user-friendly".

1999.06.24 21:41
german tragic drama?
Has anyone on this list ever read Walter Benjamin's (1924-25) The Origin of German Tragic Drama?
I just started reading it yesterday (so far I've finished the "Epistimo-Critical Prologue").
I'm interested in what others here think about this work.
For those Deleuze fans on this list, it might interest you that Benjamin notes/references Leibniz's notion of monads. This seems to make sense since German tragic drama comes from the baroque era.
E.g., from the Prologue:
"The tendency of all philosophical conceptualization is thus redefined in the old sense: to establish the becoming of phenomena in their being. For in the science of philosophy the concept of being is not satisfied by the phenomenon until it has absorbed all its history. In such investigations this historical perspective can be extended, into the past or the future, without being subject to any limits of principle. This gives the idea its total scope. And its structure is a monadological one, imposed by totality in contrast to its own inalienable isolation. The idea is a monad. . . . "
Anyone here able to or care to explain 'monad'?

the rest of s+a
In 1984 I wrote, “I will be a fashion designer one day.” In 1999 Ben van Berkel wrote, “architects will be the fashion designers of the future.” Who is the more prophetic?

2000.02.03 11:43
an answer to "Now what?"
Hugh Pearman states and asks:
Such being the case, we can conclude that Decon has run out of steam as a manifesto-led movement, and we must look to its successor. Ideas, anyone?
Steve Lauf replies:
Is Decon the only thing to have run out of steam? Has the now pervasive and generally accepted way of looking at and being critical of architecture also run out of steam? For example, does moving from seeing Decon as reactionary to now (maybe) seeing the New Austerity as the latest reaction really convey a sense of meaning beyond the oscillations of fashion and trend? Has each new "critical" building become nothing more than the latest "creation" of the now global fashion show? Likewise, has the element of shock become ingrained within the (elite) architectural profession, the same way shock has become "stock-in-trade" in a good deal of high fashion? [I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the architecture that receives attention and the industry surrounding it being akin to the fashion industry, but I do think there is something wrong about not recognizing the phenomenon as such.]
Here's how I now look critically at architecture (and urban design) both currently and historically:
What architecture is extreme?
What architecture is fertile?
What architecture is pregnant?
What architecture is assimilating?
What architecture is metabolic?
What architecture is osmotic?
What architecture is electromagnetic?
What architecture manifests the highest frequencies?
What I've found so far is that some architectures fall straight into some of the categories above while some architectures are categorical hybrids. Here are some examples:
the Pyramids, Stonehenge, St. Peter's (Vatican), Bilbao(?) -- extreme, extreme architectures.
the Pantheon, Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, entry sequence of Schinkel's Altes Museum, Kimbell Art Gallery -- examples of the best osmotic architecture there is.
Classical Greek and Roman Architecture -- pure architecture of fertility.
the Hindu Temple -- the ultimate transcendence from an architecture of fertility to an architecture of pregnancy, whereas the Gothic Cathedral is an architecture of pregnancy, albeit virginal.
all of 20th century Berlin -- the metabolic (create and destroy and create and destroy and ...)
to understand architecture of assimilation, look at the Renaissance, but also look to early 20th century Purism to understand assimilation in the extreme, i.e., purge.
today's architectures are by and large assimilating and/or metabolic (contextual and/or 'deconstructivist'?).
you're very lucky if you ever see pure examples of electromagnetic or frequency architectures today because they are almost entirely architectures of the far off future.
There are many more examples to offer, but that's all for now.
In general, I see all architectures as reenactionary (as opposed to reactionary).
Architecture reenacts human imagination, and human imagination reenacts the way the human body is and operates. The human body and the design thereof is THE enactment. The human imagination then reenacts corporal morphology and physiology, and architecture then reenacts our reenacting imaginations.



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