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    Frampton Comes Alive!!! (or: That Time of The Year Whereupon I Have Niklas Luhmann, Team 10, and Gary Numan on The Brain)

    Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke Sep 13 '06 1

    Yeah, the title. More on that later. But, I am finally getting into gear here in my final year of the MED program at Yale School of Architecture. And the thing that has really been keeping me occupied of late is class selection. Now, since I will be spending most of the year working on my contribution to the general discourse (I loathe that term --- for more about my research, go here or here), this means I am taking only two classes, with the balance being devoted to independent study credits.

    So, my first class is an advanced research seminar on the life and work of Jim Stirling. Taught by Kurt W. Forster (who gets my vote for the most dashing septugenarian ever) and Claire Zimmerman (who is a fantastic educator, thinker, and colleague), the class is really a type of long-due monographic project. Ostensibly, we will be peeking into the CCA's Stirling archives and help curate a potential exhibition of the the architect's work. Not only am I excited about taking a class about Stirling, but the prospect of contributing to a exhibition is indeed thrilling. The class will be a lot of work, but I think all of that is mitigated by the fact that we get to take the class in Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art, which is indeed a treat.

    My second class is taught by Henry Sussman, a visiting professor from SUNY Buffalo. Entitled Systems and Their Theory, this class looks at systems theory and theorists as a type of critical and aesthetic organizing principle. The syllabus is outrageous: Kant, Hegel, Kafka, Borges, Pynchon, Norbert Wiener, Gyorgy Kepes, Ludwig von Bertalaffy, John von Neumann, Niklas Luhmann, Proust -- this is going to be intense.

    So the idea is that these classes are related to my research. I will spare the details and also remind you all that there is a terrific exhibit here at the A+A Gallery called Team 10: A Utopia of The Present. This is the only North American showing of this traveling exhibit, which was organized by the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi), and it is a doozy. It is absolutely the best exhibit I'e seen in the space to date.

    And speaking of Team 10, Kenneth Frampton is coming to speak here next week about the post-CIAM collective. At Dean Stern's behest, a couple of students are selected to dine with the guest lecturer, and I am one of those. So, more on that after it happens.

    And on a more somber note, with all the exigencies and travails of school, the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks came and went quietly, but not without any resonance. This past Satruday, I accompanied my girlfriend to New York. And while riding in the Metro North, I kept listening to Gary Numan's 1980 album Telekon, especially the song, "We Are Glass":

    We are young we can break
    Watch us fall
    We can take some train
    Down to the sea
    We are glass, we are glass

    The song is pretty dated, but perhaps not as much as one would think. Behind the swirling analog synths and electric drum batteries, Numan's songs offer visions of a technologically-mediated dystopia. But it's Numan's fragile voice that gets me -- it sounds really vulnerable and human.

    I was at the World Trade Center on September 4, 2001. I stood there between the two mute buildings, looked up into the morning sky, and was overcome by a sense of reverse vertigo. I was immediately rendered small, humbled down to size. I guess that is one of things that really strikes me about the study of architecture -- how small we are comapred to the solid, towering structures, the oceanic swells of its history.

     

     
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