Style has been something I have been interested in since before we published the University of Tennessee Journal of Architecture/vol.16 in 1995, entitled "Style."
This reminded me of another school journal, fromt he 1980s, however. I went to my bookshelf, and sure enough there it was, Precis, The Journal of the [Columbia University] Graduate School of Architecture and Planning, Volume 5 Fall 1984. The title/theme of this issue was "Beyond Style". I probably haven't read anything in this particular journal since the time it was published. Interestingly, some of the articles therein are by Daniel Libeskind, Robert Stern, Bernard Tschumi, among others. I think its actually worth another reading.
I wonder though what exactly is good about Paul Rudolph saying, "You see, I'm anti-style." I find this quotation actually peculiar, especially coming from an architect that came very close to manifesting a particular style of architecture via his own oeuvre. Personally, I would love to have/manifest my own particular style of architecture and art. I'll go so far as to say that indeed I sometimes manifested some works that appear to be particular to me, and hence a manifestation of my style. In much of my art (ie, collages and paintings), for example, I exploit seams, that is, I do not try to make my art seamless, plus I like to show all visible means of support, plus I virtually almost always go all the way to the edges, but never add a frame. What I see here as signs of a (personal) style are so because much art tries very hard to be seamless, hides the means of support, and is virtually always framed. Am I just being contrary? Perhaps, but, more to the point, I found a territory within art that is sparsely occupied, and, moreover, one that I found I'm very good in. Maybe the best thing about 'style' is that it offers opportunities where one might actually excell at something.
in "Beyond Style"
I spent a good bit of last weekend reading throughout Precis: Beyond Style (1985), and, as luck would have it, the articles by authors other than Stern and Libeskind were the most interesting and worthwhile.
"Building Metaphors" by Arthur C. Danto contained at least this one sentence which I had to repeat: "It is rather an architectural reenactment of a Renaissance reenactment of a dreamt classical city believed to be real, and because it is a city in connotation it can and does emblemize the city it is part of." Danto is referring to McKim, Mead and White's campus of Columbia University. Of course, I do not know the whole of architectural literature, but this quotation is the earliest direct connection between architecture (design) and reenactment that I come across thus far.
"On Style as Personal Expression" by Carlos Gomez de Llarena begins with: "Style, specifically the question of personal style, is hardly discussed today in architectural criticism and even less evident in teachings about architecture." Although I can't be at all certain, I imagine that the case of "personal style" is still the same today (ie, fifteen years since de Llarena's article.) I remember a woman, a fellow classmate in my first year design studio, who had an affinity for Art Nouveau, and she actually was able to apply an 'art nouveau' sensitivity to contemporary design projects. Of course, the woman was not exhibiting a solely personal style, rather I saw her as having found an affinity with the (established) style, and thus rendered application to her own designs. Further, of course, this woman's designs were consistantly chastised by the design critics. I hence always thought there might just be something terribly wrong about nipping creativity in the bud just because of "stylistic" differences. Anyway, de Llarena's article is a thorough analysis of (architectural) personal style and its more or less self-evident yet often denied implications.
"The Rise and Transformation of Modern Style: A Polemical History" by Edward Mendelson is a study of "High Modernism" versus "Low Modernism", and, although a little dated, nonetheless offers a neat way to dissect modernism. I now wonder if the term "Hyper Modernism" has yet been coined, that is, "beyond modern" as opposed to "post/after modern". I think a case can already be made for the classification of a Hyper Baroque, which is the European style corresponding to the century between roughly 1650 and 1750, and Hyper Size is perhaps the best description of what comes after S,M,L,XL.
Interestingly, in "Madness and the Combinative" Bernard Tschumi uses the word "hypertext" (which I'm guessing may have first been used within Tschumi's The Manhatten Transcripts, which I have not read). It was actually strange for me to see 'hypertext' associated with architecture fifteen years ago. It reminded me of the days (also fifteen years ago) when I used to regularly read The Face (a UK 'popular style' magazine). There were always lots of ads for new music CDs, mostly from groups or bands I never heard of. It never failed that when I looked through an issue of The Face that was a year old, I then recognized all the bands and music being advertised. The points being, introductions virtually always have a strong tint of foreign-ness, and it takes time for information to be assimilated. One of the reasons I like history is because you can often actually find those times when "traditions" first were foreign.
In light of Paul's "it's "la plus ça change, la plus c'est la même chose"--or "here we go again," the Fall 2000 issue of October 97 is a special issue on The Independent Group (the Smithson's, Hamilton, and more). So far I've only read Mark Wigley's "The Architectural Cult of Synchronization". Here's the opening of the essay:
"There is much talk of memory loss in architecture today. The symptoms are clear. Bodies now last longer than the buildings they occupy. Buildings no longer hold memory. Their memorializing function has been displaced by images. Buildings are at best fragile images, props in heterogeneous publicity campaigns. Digital archives have taken over the role of storing memory from solid structures. Collective memory is diffused across an invisible electronic landscape rather than concentrated in singular monumental objects.
Perhaps. But it should not be forgotten that the point has been made for a very long time now. The current apostles of the new faithfully but unwittingly reproduce old arguments. Remarkably little is added to the discussions of the 1950s and 1960s. . ."
The other articles include:
Beatriz Colomina, "Friends of the Future: A Conversation with Peter Smithson"
Julian Meyers, "The Future Fetish"
Isabelle Moffat, '"A Horror of Abstract Thought": Postwar Britian and Hamilton's 1951 Growth And Form Exhibit'
William R. Kaizen, "Richard Hamilton's Tabular Image
I also have to mention that Robert Venturi wrote "Diversity, Relevance and Representation in Historicism, or Plus ça Change. . . plus A Plea for Pattern all over Architecture with a Postscript on my Mother's House" in Architectural Record, June 1982.
irony and feeling
I like the second to last paragraph of Holl's "Phenomena and Idea":
"Easily grasped images are the signature of today's culture of consumer architecture. Subtle experiences of perception as well as intellectual intensity are overshadowed by familiarity. A resistance to commercialism and repetition is not only necessary, it is essential to a culture of architecture."
I like this paragraph because it exploses a significant part of the soft underbelly of what might, for convenience's sake, be called architecture's ongoing 'classism'. The 'racism' of Western architecture has already rendered substantial irreparable damage, ie, first via colonialism, and then via the International Style, and now architecture 'classism', which Holl provides a glimpse of so succinctly, is practiced as well as highly sanctioned. If it hasn't already happened, I think it's time someone started writing an 'equal-rights amendment' for architecture.
irony and feeling
To answer your question, I'm trying to come to grips with the notion of why European colonials didn't simply accept the architectures that were indigenous to the lands that they (the Europeans) colonized. I see this as a negative action because I think a case can be made that many of this planets indigenous architectures are now virtually extinct because of Western colonialism/imperialism. During the first half of the 20th century, while large parts of the world were still colonies of Europe, Western modern architecture or the International Style (again a term used more for convenience) continued the global domination of Western style and furthered the extinction of indigenous architectures.
As much as I like Classical Greek and Roman architecture and Modern architecture, I nonetheless see it as a tremendous loss to architecture in general that these styles are now so global at what seems to be the expense of so many other architectures. This is why I am less and less tolerant of architectural criticism/theory that goes to far as to say "this architecture here is good" but "that architecture over there is bad."
In a recent post, you mentioned that commercialism may be readily acceptable to the post W.W.II generations, but I have to wonder whether the end of colonialism and the US civil rights movement are a better benchmark for the acceptability of diversity in all its guises.
When I first thought up the quote, "The whiter humanity thinks, the more it manifests extinctions," I was thinking of architecture.
irony and feeling
And I think you assume too much that I'm being "post-modern". I was speaking about architecture [and] using other terms for convenience. Everything you said was about broader cultural issues, but you said nothing about the architectural issues I raised. You changed the subject.
I am not seeking apologies or ways to change the past. I just don't want to see present or future architecture's succumb to further "Western" theoretical dominance, especially against diversity.
You bring up assimilation, but you don't mention that the assimilation of colonialism was a forced assimilation. In architectural terms, the 'purism' of early modernism was/is a form of assimilation in the extreme, namely purge. Global assimilation is one of today's dominant cultural aspects, but extreme assimilation like that of the last century is not a lasting aspect of humanity.
Part of my thinking is also given as a kind of preparatory warning. With genetic engineering becoming more and more a common science, humanity will find itself in the next century or so having to think real hard about diversity and individuality. Some forethought in this area is certainly not going to hurt. Imagine what might happen if the genetic engineers of tomorrow were trained to design like today's architects.
(a poem) today
It is very
clear that the reality of architecture
today is that architecture
today is very diverse,
even hyper-diverse. There are
as many styles of
as there are styles of
as there are styles of
as there are styles of
design choices available
architect, musician, artist and writer are virtually infinite
today. This hyper-abundance
choice substantiates the reality
The hyper-diversity of relative reality is architecture today.
I see a real problem in your view in that you see diversity as an academic fad as well as something that I am latching on to because I want to see change happen. What I'm doing is trying to come to an understanding of the practice and manifestation of architecture as it exists today, and part of how I'm doing that is to look at trends both recent and older. I am interested in diversity actually because I have over the last few years become very interested in non-Western architectures. Additionally, I have been compiling a strict chronology of architecture on a complete global scale. Without the usual Western categorization of architectural history, it is very enlightening to collectively see exactly what architectures and styles were executed on this planet at any given time. For example, notice what Gothic cathedrals and what Hindu temples were built at the same time, or the temporal relation between Mayan and Romanesque architectures. Even regionally, look at the incredible diversity of architecture built within all of Europe between 1517 and 1636 when viewing on a year by year basis.
Tad said Paul said:
Being different is not the purpose of 'good architecture' nor a measure of 'good architects.
Does this mean that being the same is the purpose of 'good architecture' and the measure of 'good architects'? Or that being different is the purpose of 'bad architecture' and the measure of 'bad architects'?
I take the notion of 'being different' as antithetical to 'good architecture' as likewise being considered a sign that diversity in architecture is also antithetical to 'good architecture'? This make me ask then what and where is the coherence that constitutes 'good architecture' as it is executed on this planet today? To be specific, I am asking for 'concrete' examples that beyond any doubt clearly manifest the coherence of today's 'good architecture'. Actually, I'd rather address all of today's architecture, but I'm limiting my question to 'good architecture' to remain coherent with those that name coherence as 'good architecture'. Again, I'm looking for 'tangible' example of coherence, and will not accept answers that speak of a seeking of coherence because all that will tell me is that coherence is actually 'not there'.
I can point to one very good example of coherence in today's architecture, and, somewhat ironically, it is a coherence that began as a theory rejected by architectural education. I am speaking of BC's Architecture of Electricity thesis where electricity and electromagnetism are recognized as a manifestly pervasive architecture literally networked through all of today's architecture be it either 'good' or 'bad'. What I find fascinating about the architecture of electricity is that in so many infinite ways it is precisely electricity that engenders so much artistic diversity, especially today. And anyone who thinks the architecture of electricity is a subculture is making a mistake because thinking of the architecture of electricity as a hyper (ie, beyond) culture is already of a more correct understanding (but not necessarily of the best or conclusive understanding). Moreover, for those that might think the architecture of electricity does not constitute an architecture, let me remind you that if you are reading this on your computer screen right now, you are indeed experiencing one of the many diverse aspects of the architecture of electricity.
diversity and entropy
Is there a dominant architectural style today?
What is the dominant architectural style today?
Is the dominant style of architecture today (if there is one) a global or a
If there is no dominant architectural style today, does that then mean today's architecture is a diversity of behaviors?
If diversity of behavior is today's architectural style, is it then necessary for diversity to succumb to a dominant style, or, is the notion of a dominant style always prevailing over a diversity of behavior actually a Western paradigm that is not necessarily global in application (anymore)?
Of course, if diversity of behavior were to become the dominant Western paradigm, then diversity of behavior would be the dominant architecture style (given the Western paradigm of a style that dominates).
My point all along has been that diversity is today's dominant architecture style on a global scale, and that this phenomenon within architecture reflects a general diversification of culture globally. And by diversification I mean "the act or policy of increasing the variety of products or manufactures." Culture, as the arts today plainly signify, is just as much a commodity (i.e., an economic good) as those things that come out of a factory or are raised on farms. In architecture it is worth noting that much of what constitutes actual buildings today first comes out of a factory. Architecture today is literally manufactured, and I cannot help but think that architectural aesthetics today is very manufactured as well.
"Since about 1960, Modern Architecture, or the International Style and its related models, has changed dramatically. It has evolved into a new style, a "Late" version of its former [or quondam] self, and, at the same time, has undergone a mutation to become a new species--"Post"-Modern. Such changes in architectural history have occurred before--Late-Minoan, Late-Gothic, Late-Baroque are all examples of historical periods when a previous style was exaggerated--and Late-Modern architecture also exaggerates the period it comes after, the Early- and High-Modern architecture produced from 1920 to 1960. By contrast, Post-Modern architecture is a more definite split from preexisting tradition, just as the Renaissance broke away from the Late-Gothic: but it is a selective, not total, rejection of the previous era. Post-Modern architects are trained, after all, by Modern architects, and they have to adopt contemporary constructional methods; so there are several important ways in which they too are an evolutionary species."
first paragraph of "The Evolution and Mutation of Modern Architecture" in Charles Jencks, Architecture Today, 1982 (published in Britain as Current Architecture).
but then again...
"An essential reason for using symbolism today is that it can provide a diversity of architectural vocabularies appropriate for a plurality of tastes and sensitive to qualities of heritage and place. This use suits the need to respond in our time to both mass culture and pluralistic expression. Today the world is at once smaller and more diverse, more interdependent yet more nationalistic; even small communities seriously maintain ethnic identities and carefully record local history. People are now more aware of the differences among themselves yet more tolerant of these differences."
Robert Venturi, "Diversity, releance and representation in historicism, or plus ca chance..." in Architectural Record, June 1982.
Philadelphia churches, etc.
I've done some book research on Philadelphia architecture up to 1900, and very few churches are in the books. I know of one 'Romanesque' Roman Catholic church (interior) in Jenkintown (which is just north of F.L. Wright's Beth Sholom Synagogue). I don't know the year, however. I imagine the type of information you're looking for actually requires a lot of "foot work".
It might interest you though, that prominant Philadelphia architect Frank Furness was somewhat influenced by Viollet-le-Duc. In 1868-69, Furness designed and constructed Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Philadelphia. It was an overly ornate building in the neo- Moorish/Romanesque style. Sadly it was demolished, but replaced with a new synagogue c. 1920s (that is still standing and still used as a synagogue) in a Deco-Byzantine style. I was inside Rodef Shalom for a service a few years ago (actually it was the first and so far only Jewish service I have attended). You can see images of Rodef Shalom in George Thomas et al, Frank Furness: The Complete Works (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996), pp. 150-1. I'm sure you can find the book in your university library.
FYI, Louis I. Kahn taught his masters architecture class within the Furness Library at the University of Pennsylvania. Kahn refused to teach within the then new (modern) facility of the Graduate School of Fine Arts. Kahn greatly admired Furness.
I hope I'm not repeating information you may already have.
Einstein Medical Center is on north Broad Street, and I was thinking that a ride up and down Broad Street would at least provide a true cross-section of Philadelphia architecture. There are still many huge churches on Broad Street, and several that may well relate to the 'style' you're interested in. The only immediate problem is that I don't offhand know the years of any of the churches. Rodef Shalom is also on north Broad Street, but closer to Center City.