The Plays of Nicholas Breakspear

14 October

2013.10.14 13:04

...through a series of juxtaposed vignettes constituting... "a kind of mosaic, or better, a revolving stage that presents a multitude of scenes and characters which, taken together convey a sense of life of a given milieu and by extension give the tone of contemporary life generally."

As to MDRVD, the fact that connections to VSBA do exist, especially in the present-day architecture culture that assumes there to be no connection at all, is far more important than pointing out MDRVD's otherwise independence yet still working well within the architectural continuum. Villa VPRO, for example, is so far the most successful reenactment of Le Corbusier's Palais des Congres, and given that the Palais des Congres was a design for the European Parliament and VPRO is television station(?) offices, adaptive reuse is kind of already part of the design.

Is changing history the same as making history? I'd say the work of VSBA made history by their introduction of directions of architecture theory and practice other than the (then) status quo. Changing history is different and occurs in at least two different ways. History is changed when events are recorded and taught as history but are not really reflective of what actually happened, like the 'perversion' that Venturi feels happened to his theory, and inversely, history is changed when a discovery occurs that invalidates established certainties, like the discovery of there actually being two renditions of Piranesi's Ichnograhia Campus Martius.

Venturi and Rauch's 1978 BASCO Showroom (the big alphabet sign) was a true decorated shed design. The shed existed long before 1978; it was NORMANDY MART, a precursor "big box" discount market. Normandy went out of business and within a couple of years BASCO bought the property. Venturi and Rauch simply painted the entire existing huge shed a dark blue and added a free-standing sign in huge letters spelling BASCO across the front facing the Roosevelt (12 green lanes of traffic) Boulevard (and across the boulevard from the local NABISCO plant whose big alphabet sign across the top of the plant's ten story production tower was already long a "landmark" on the boulevard). By 1998, BASCO then (adapted to) BEST was sitting derelict for almost a decade, and suddenly by that autumn the sign was gone. I wound up being the one to tell VSBA and Venturi sent me nice but sad thank you letter.

The interesting thing here is that with the removal of the sign also came the removal of the architecture. The shed is still there and now a self-storage facility with even the once enormous parking-lot full of a dozen or so rows of more self-storage sheds. The predominate color now is a cheap looking turquoise.

"In Modern architecture we have operated too long under the restrictions of unbending rectangular forms supposed to have grown out of the technical requirements of the frame and the mass-produced curtain wall. In contrasting Mies' and Johnson's Seagram Building with Kahn's project for an office tower in Philadelphia it can be seen that Mies and Johnson reject all contradictions of diagonal wind-bracing in favor of an expression of a rectilinear frame. Kahn once said that the Seagram Building was like a beautiful lady with hidden corsets. Kahn, in contrast, expresses the wind-bracing--but at an expense of such vertical elements as the elevator and, indeed of the spaces for people."
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (New York, MoMA, 1966), p. 56.

"Yet in City Tower, Kahn no more succeeded in making strides in architectural structure than he had in the Art Gallery at Yale. He erroneously discussed the project in tectonics terms, justifying City Tower's form by arguing that it best expressed buttressing against wind stresses: "The mind envisions a construction of a building growing from a base crossing its members as it rises against the forces of the wind." Yet neither Tyng nor Kahn checked their wind-stress argument with a structural engineer, who would have told them that because of the forces of gravity, a tower rising in a more-or-less straight vertical is dramatically more efficient."
Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Louis Kahn's Situated Modernism (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001), p. 78.

"Yes, architects sometimes used to make stuff up just to justify (the shape) their designs."
"What do you mean 'used to'?"

"If you extrapolate [the] current situation and current trends and the way architecture is evolving, it's maybe slightly too strong to say that ultimately everything will be embedded in a casino."
Rem Koolhaas on The Charlie Rose Show March 25, 2002 42 minutes into the show.

"I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it might be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may be a sort of maze. . . . And, when one discusses an affair--a long, sad affair--one goes back, one goes foward. One remembers points that one has forgotten and one explains them all the more minutely since one recognizes that one has forgotten to mention them in their proper places and that one may have given by omitting them, a false impression. I console myself with thinking that this is a real story and that, after all, real stories are probably told best in the way a person telling a story would tell them. They will then seem most real."
Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier, 1915.

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