Can it get any colder here? Where's the snow? Honestly, it's very strange being here in the Northeast, especially when it is freakishly cold and when the lack of precipitation makes the dead, dormant grass look like tundra. I kinda wish I was back in Texas. Kinda.
The semester is chugging along, and much has happened since the last couple of installments. I should begin by telling you about my schedule this semester. Most of my schedule is occupied by independent study credits (thank you, thesis). But I do get to take one class, and this semester, I am taking Dietrich Neumann's Film Architecture
course. I absolutely adore the class, not only because of the subject matter (which is somewhat related to my thesis), but because the class occupies that odd middle ground between survey and seminar. I have been taking too many seminars of late, and I am excited to hear some good old-fashioned lectures. The class has everything you expect, and more. We've viewed some excellent films by Le Corbusier/Pierre Chenal as well as by Man Ray and Robert Mallet-Stevens. And it's interesting, because those movies that, on a cursory investigation, may not have architectural significance, actually are more relevant than you would believe. Take, for instance, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise
(1927). There is a very famous tracking shot towards the end of the film, and (as our instructor was saying), if you look through the windows of the tram, you will see elements of Weimar-era modernism (i.e. Siedlungen
), and, in a very European city square, there is a building that looks exactly like Erich Mendelsohn's and Richard Neutra's Verlagshaus Rudolf Mosse/Berliner Tageblatt
(the Rudolf Mosse Publishers Building), from 1921-1922 (see above
). The thing is, these constructed sets make their appearance in American theaters before the 1932 Modern Architecture (International Style) exhibition at MoMA. The idea here is that film is a polemicizing vehicle for modern architecture.
Our colloquium is chugging along as well. To refresh your memories, we've already had Neumann and DJ Spooky speak. Last week, we had Reinhold Martin, who is familiar to architecture audiences everywhere. Although Martin did not present on a specific type of representational format (i.e. films, novels. et cetera
), he delivered a sustained an passionate invective, straight up from his Harvard Design Magazine
, and Grey Room
writings. He did not lapse into a "critical versus post-critical" talk, but did present all his thinking within a larger, operative context. He talked about Buckminster Fuller's World Game
and the Vietnam War (from an upcoming article in New German Critique
), and how their respective representational strategies were literally that -- strategies. In other words, from Fuller's zero-sum Von Neumann-esque World Game, to the deployment of mechanized vision machines as weapons in Vietnam, risk became the ultimate form of visual representation. Great stuff, and we were all too happy to host him. Tomorrow, we have Karen Nakamura, an anthropologist who will lecture on anime, manga, and their relevance to urban subjects. More on that later.
And one last thing. Forgive the shameless plug. But this Saturday, February 10, I will be delivering a paper at the Annual Student Symposium of the New England Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (NESAH
). The event is at the Harvard GSD, in the Stubbins Room, and things start at 9:30am sharp.