Iconography, or the problem of representation

Michiel van Raaij

Herzog & de Meuron have proposed a new design for the Philharmonie in the Docklands of Hamburg. On top of an old warehouse they put two concerthalls (a big one, and a smaller one) plus an hotel that surrounds the Philharmonie.

The form of the building is an echo of the water. The glass facade reminds us (I think) of the transparancy of water.

The form of the building also looks a bit like an Ice-berg. But that would be just too ironic, since the Port of Hamburg is regularly visited by large cruise-ships - vessels with sizes that would even make the Titanic look 'small'...

Photo by: Cynthia Wilson

Feb 19, 06 7:43 pm
Michiel van Raaij

In the context of the post herefore it's funny that Neutelings Riedijk Architects actually build a 'shipwreck' in Utrecht: the Minnaert Building. I have never heard them talk about the building that way, nor have I ever recognized that analagy in the building, but the operators of the building tell the shipwreck-story to visitors.

Feb 19, 06 8:22 pm
Michiel van Raaij

I want to get back to the questions that j-turn posed:

1. We've all read reviews of contemporary buildings in which terms the "amorphous shapes" "biomorphic swoops" "a gleaming cristal" ... have all become totally worn out. How do we describe form or figuration simply in a time when architects are producing highly complex formed/ figured works? Is it ok for an architect to preempt having his project described in such banal terms by providing an easy alternative description?

2. To navigate contemporary media - big media that traffics in impact, image and fleeting glimpses - do architects need to invent a parallel or synthetic discourse? Look for example at how american political reporting has become complete disemboweled - does architectural discourse in its current labored, fetishistic mode, really stand a chance?

Both questions are essential to the birth of this discussion. I begin with the first question. I believe that the talking about iconography is connected to the maturing of blob-architecture. "Everywhere you see the same spaghetti", Ben van Berkel complained about the computer-architecture that he sees at every school he has educated. It's is exactly that: the blob-architecture tended too look... well like the other blob-architecture. How do you differentiate one blob from another? How do you distinguish one barba-pappa from another, except by color?
The application of iconography is about specifying the texture of the building and specifying the form of the building. The icon is a means to increase the specificity of the building. It's an extra parameter. It's extra design intelligence.

The second question is more difficult. Buildings are obviously represented by images, but that still is not that important -architecture is still about 3-d space. But there seems to be a connection between 3-d iconography and 2-d iconography. It's maybe a Deleuzian fold. A great example is the Allianz Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron: the building-skin is adopted as graphic logo for the stadium. 3-d fluidly becomes 2-d.
Whether or not architecture is an appropriate medium to compete in our image-culture with other media? I think architecture has to use it's disciplinary specificity to make architectonic icons. The adoption of Swiss Re building from Foster in Basic Instinct 2 or the Petronas Towers in Entrapment is just an illustration how these icons can operate in a more 3-d perception.
The iconography that is being applied in architecture therefore necessarily has to be three-dimensional, although it is presented in as a (flat) image.

Feb 19, 06 8:54 pm

i know this is a stupid question but what is a synthetic discourse?

dude, mike, i getcha. but you are reaching. glass is symbolic of transparency? the allianz is a symbol of, um...the allianz? i must be misunderstanding.

ben might be sick of spaghetti, but i doubt the addition of iconic talking points makes things better. i think he is rebuking the students for making the form and technology the end and means, and forgetting everything else that is important.

Feb 20, 06 1:51 am

So, are you saying that we should examine the image as a possible source for architectural form, RATHER than realities of construction, the experience of space or the reality of the surroundings (I don't mean the prevailing gnome culture of some cheese producing countries, but the surrounding built environment)?

The predicament of all blob stuff that resembles each other is not caused by a lack in a leading image (there is a long list of complex 3d-forms that are used as basis for most - images an icons in their own right presenting special conditions of space & time) - but because of a lack in understanding of the laws of nature and construction (or not caring) - or putting way too much emphasis on presenting some concept not suitable to be interpreted as architecture in the first place. It's a "school problem".

Colomina's writing on Corbusier's use of the image, marketing and architecture suggest a sensible link between these realms - keeping them separate, but enabling them to reinforce each other. Colomina has some nuanced views on the subject - recommended.

Feb 20, 06 1:56 am

Helsinki - I think we're talking about treating the image with the same intensity we treat the "serious" stuff like "realities of construction, the experience of space or the reality of the surrounding." Anyway, I don't think the distinctiions are so clear - take the Gerkin in London - image, tectonic, structure are all intermeshed. You can't think about it catagorically.

Feb 20, 06 5:46 am

No, I get what you are saying - but i would argue that for an example the gherkins form is derived from sustainability, structural choices and the technical investigations that have been going on in Fosters office for years - not initially from the form of a phallus or whatnot. The relevant point in this argument, seems to me, to pinpoint the moment when the image enters the design-process. I have a feeling that the idea of using it as a driving force is not productive in a constructive way and actually it's just a stylistic po-mo flashback in new clothing (as has been suggested).

about the gherkin:
Natural structures seem often "elegant" (Brian Greene's term) and meaningful to the human eye - I think that's what makes the Gherkin striking and "iconic". It's not really similar to the kind of buildings that have been discussed here - sphinx-buildings etc.

Feb 20, 06 6:36 am

An additional thought: I think that often the image gets it's power of representation from it's opposition to issues of building. It is the expression that counters the pragmatic.

Feb 20, 06 7:56 am

Date: 2002.06.21

The forms don't bother me, and the method (i.e. using CAD, etc. software) doesn't bother me. What I think is wrong, however, is the hype, specifically, in this case, that all this is somewhat more authentic because it is more natural, more 'genetic' and therefore more correct. Where, in reality, it is all just more arbitrary.

I remember back in school where there had to be a reason for ones design, and the worst thing possible to be criticized for was for being arbitrary. I more or less had to comply then, but I know better now--for example, I venture to guess that most architectural clients are almost fully arbitrary, as is almost all of the architecture being built today--how else would you explain the way things really look out there.

arbitrary 1: depending on choice or discretion; specif : determined by decision of a judge or tribunal rather than defined by statute 2 a (1) : arising from unrestrained exercise of the will, caprice, or personal preference : given to expressing opinions that arise thus (2) : selected at random or as a typical example b : based on random or convenient selection or choice rather than on reason or nature 3 a : given to willful irrational choices and demands : IMPERIOUS b: characterized by absolute power or authority : DESPOTIC, TYRANNICAL

There really are no statutes of architectural design, except for building codes, and even they are not beyond being side-stepped, and there certainly is no definitive common ground as to what is good design and what good design isn't. So-called 'Genetic Architecture' is no better or worst an any other architecture available; right now it's just more trendy.

Teaching designers/architects (how) to be arbitrary might just be the real natural, rational thing.

--Stephen Lauf, A Quondam Banquet of Virtual Sachlichkeit: Part III, as yet unpaginated.

Feb 20, 06 9:48 am

Feb 20, 06 11:31 am

Wrong again Quondam!

Clients are not arbitrary - they measure their projects against issues such as resale value, market, operational considerations ...etc, not to mention zoning regulation, local political pressure, financing and leaseability.

And sometimes clients strategically seek to invest in iconic value or a project with "high imageability" - that's why Swiss Re hired an architect like Foster (as opposed to a more middle road corporate office), that's why they chose a visible site in an international city like London, that's why they put up the cash to build a giant pickle.

Feb 20, 06 11:39 am

Seeing sponges here reminds of a lot of pages within Projects for Prada.

It's interesting how certain material aspects of the OMA Prada store designs strove to reenact certain material aspects of store design models, particularly sponges.

Feb 20, 06 11:44 am

j-turn, give it up. All you seem to live for these days is to prove me wrong. Well, I'll write whatever I want to write regardless.

Clients arbitrate a lot of factors, they deal with everything from constraints to whims.

Feb 20, 06 11:53 am
Gabe Bergeron

An issue that keeps resurfacing here is the degree to which a project is made clear vs. ambiguous.

Thinking back to literature studies, the classics were characterised by multiple meanings and sufficient ambiguity to generate thought and discussion... perhaps the same goes for buildings.

The Holl sponge is a good example of oversimplification - the spaces are interesting, and the scale issues are fun in that optical illusion sort of way, but the project comes across as a one-liner. (and as an object without context - perhaps because a sea sponge has nothing in particular to do with the context?)

It's easy to critisize, but anyhow this is how it seems to me.

Feb 20, 06 12:03 pm


I will completely concede that at some point I have played with objects that have little if anything to do with the program in order to spur on new ideas for spaces in every project Ive worked on, and have had various successes and misgivings about the approach in the process. I think what this admits most is my deficiencies in intuitive, creative form-making. I dont think that the object's 'relevance' to a project really benefits the approach when used in this way, as whatever the manipulation in scale or abstraction may be, the resulting relationship between project and icon will almost always be trite, at best an effective commercial for a mediocre product. I will concede, to quondam, that there is an undeniably random process to the generation of any design, but I would argue that through the vast heaps of arbitrarily generated raw material, at a certain level a sincere level of scrutiny aught to be given in order to enact purposefulness in a design. To cast real human interactions with space and phenomena and other people with total disregard (ala eisenman) seems to me at best inefficient and missing in opportunities to affect people, and at worst may do arbitrary violence to important and valuable social qualities.

That being said, I do think there is uncapitalized potential there. To cast aside totally the tool of linguistics in architecture as an inevitable dead end is surely a mistake. The ways in which our eyes and minds connect up the new to the familiar has a huge potential to tap into the vast reservoir of human cultural associations, and has the potential at least to add new levels of story telling for users. The dangers here I think are the same as they are in poetry; falling into cliche, resting upon flat language, and fleeing into nonsense with no connection to authentic experience. One, I think, should just remain quite vigilant to manifest iconography in a way that is truly parallax and is composed of real, visceral phenomena. It should speak of relationships and not one-liners, and should be perceived directly by the user and play out unmistakably in their use of the building.

Anyway, this can prove quite difficult, but this has been my experience in any event.

Feb 20, 06 12:33 pm

eo, I can well appreciate all that you write above. A lot of it just rings true, and thus makes me think about the reality(?) that designing can be arbitrary as in willful and/or arbitrary as in decisive. Architects seem well capable of designing both ways.


Are sponges actually a very good symbol for Prada? After all, they do soak up a lot of consumer money.

Feb 20, 06 12:48 pm
and should be perceived directly by the user and play out unmistakably in their use of the building.

I think this is a particularly pointed statement in direct reference to the position of AZP, as presented above by Michiel.
Imaginative Perception is a wonderful aspect of experience, but it can't be forced or scripted in such a superficial way.

I picked up an older issue of Record today, as I often do, to read some story or commentary from the recent history (whether 6 months or 6 yrs past). Coincidentally, it contained a critique by Michael Sorkin, a rebuttal to a previous criticsm of Robert Campbell's.

The discussion was about MIT's recent works of architecture (Stata Center, Simmon's Hall) and a statement made by MIT president Chuck Vest, that buildings at the school "should stand for the ingenuity at work inside them."

One portion stood out in particular, perhaps not directly related to this discussion, but an interesting sidebar:

True, symbolism can be craven and dopey, and there are plenty of instances of poor and misleading translations of meaning into architecture. The Dr. Evil pinkie sticking up from the Freedom Tower to evoke a huge but expressively shriveled Statue of Liberty. The green roof on the Ford Rougge plant, a good idea transformed into a monument to craven hypocrisy and camoflage for the environmentally nefarious product being produced underneath it. And yes, we do seem to prefer the billowy, choose-your-own-metaphor abstraction of Gehry's undulating period to more literal ducks.

Architectural Record - June 2005

Feb 20, 06 1:02 pm

the first italic is a quote of oe, not Michiel.

Feb 20, 06 1:04 pm
job job

a good discussion, and one to which I hate posting late, but I've been away.

I suggest, Michiel, that you may see all this from a native (dutch) geography and are standing on a lineage of great, critical thought from diagramming, material re-invention/fetishization, and well-articulated modernism. Perhaps this is an emergence of image/icon informing architecture, or it's Zaera-Polo's systematic broadcast of aspects of Practice (what's next: how to use RFI's as Symphonic Allegory?) as a new Discovery.

A lot of your opposition is based on either a general dislike of Zaera-Polo or a polemical disagreement with the word iconography. It's been debated, by people much quicker than me, that sign, metaphor and meme is a poor dictate for design. A building like the Agbar tower gets cheapened when described as a 'geyser under constant pressure' - thankfully I am sure Nouvel doesn't believe his own celebrity machine otherwise his designs would quickly be reduced to irrelevant one-liners.

I agree that using bifurcation as a design tool is interesting, I do not agree that making a building look like a sumac is a good idea. One is about performativity or behaviour, the other is about superficial representation.

Finally, why dumb down architecture at all? What better format to appreciate art than to see and learn about art. Huntley has a great chapter in The Divine Proportion that it takes education and dedication to appreciate mathematics - which is true for everything else, I suppose.

Feb 20, 06 2:35 pm

I think there's a lot of angst here (although not limited to this discussion) over producing architecture that is "merely" iconic or "merely" image (see Baird’s “Criticality and its Discontents”). It's perhaps a reasonable suspicion to have, but also a kind of standard knee jerk reaction that architects have to discourses that aren't somehow based in difficulty, abstraction or complexity (see Kipnis' on Herzog and deMeuron).

I see this discussion on icons and graphic metaphor belonging to a larger series of question in architecture related to image, fashion and ornament. These terms are all somewhat taboo in our field, but I'm not sure why. For example, we all know that ornament is a crime, but do any of us remember why?

In the 70's when the venerable old Greys reintroduced decoration and ornament to architecture they took great pains in stating that they weren't prettying up modernism, but rather, they were re-semantisizing it.

Are we missing potential here? In our time, we (as a society) have an incredible capacity to engage media and receive information from fashion and images. By engaging this now universal human capacity, architecture has the potential to foster multiple engagements and resonances between a public and a project.

I’d say, stop worrying about dumb architecture, mute architecture is the real problem.

Feb 20, 06 5:29 pm
“Commercialism is a threat to architecture.”

Diana Lewis at a lecture at UToronto AL&D

Feb 21, 06 9:00 am
Michiel van Raaij

AP, why is commercialism a threat to architecture? How exactly does commerce threaten architecture?
If you say that Alejandro Zaero-Polo is an effect of commerce, it's absolutely not true. Most of the projects FOA does are for public clients. Public!

Snowi, as I wrote before on this forum, I think iconography adds intelligence to architecture, instead of dumbening it.

I agree with j-turn that the discussion on iconography is related to taboo's in architecture. Critical architecture - critical to commercialism, captitalism, authority, etc, as K. Michael Hays for instance developes it, is about retreating in the autonomous shell of architecture. An architecture that is disconnected to reality. In line with Loos' argument against decoration, critical architecture IS very abstract.

But is abstraction a good thing?

Rem Koolhaas stated in his lecture that there's a difference between an 'intellectual on architecture' (Eisenman, Kipnis) and a 'public intellectual', as he himself tries to be. With AMO Rem tries to reconnect architecture to reality, wheras (critical) architecture retreats in autonomy, to -somehow- 'save' architecture. But Rem was confident that architecture survives.

Although Rem didn't agree with Alejandro that iconography is the right way to go, the work of OMA doesn't differ that much from FOA on the level of iconography. So, for now, it seems a plausable strategy.

I also want to say here is that there are two strategies away from the abstract architecture:
1. is to start from sculpture, think of Gehry, or Alsop.
2. the other is to start from the abstract plane and try to make form there, such as Herzog & de Meuron (vertical plane) or FOA (horizontal plane)

Feb 23, 06 11:34 am

I design a shoe and want it to look like a building .

Feb 23, 06 12:55 pm

^she said it, not me ;)

Feb 23, 06 12:57 pm

Also, i don't see or hear OMA coming from this point of view. I can't imagine Rem et al trying to sell a project with an image, other than that of the project itself. OMA's texts suggest to me that 'reality,' as you term it, is a part of their position in general, and an important aspect of their process of creating architecture. An architecture which is very abstract, and simultaneously very 'real.'

Feb 23, 06 1:01 pm
job job

hello, no i believe that you stated somewhere (and i;m not going to scroll around looking - time is short right now) that this idea of iconography is used as a vehicle for promotion/explanation tool to an audience not architects, and someone - maybe you - devalued this as a marketing for 'broad appeal'.

my point is this - architecture described in a medium that is not architectural is in danger of misinformation. your dean makes this explicit in a little text paraphrased here: "they (in this case, deleuze derrida) don't deal with space, shape, materials or production technology" this also applies here, i believe; if the position of the message is not within a framework of arch., it is erroneous by its nature.

i hope this is coherent, i'm typing at 90mph

Feb 23, 06 1:16 pm

If you make something and try to make it look like something else on forehand in the eye of the beholder , it can never be any good because it will skip the mysterious field in the mind of good creation based on knowledge what has been and will be, you castrate yourmind before you know how nice it could have been , maybe if you had the talent.

Feb 23, 06 1:23 pm
Michiel van Raaij

Is a Greek Temple not architecture because the triglives refer to wooden beams or the top of a Corynthian refers to plants?
The first refers to (earlier) architecture, the second relates to something outside of architecture. Is that architecture of untalented people, Skunsk?

Feb 23, 06 1:35 pm

No ,but the Greek Temple as a whole refers only to itself.
And where did the wooden beams refer to?
And the plantrefering is only an (important) detail of the temple as a whole.

Feb 23, 06 1:44 pm

If you put the sphinx next to a commercial rather stupid building ,which in the dutch context is a little bit special but rigid.
The birds flew over the stadium and thought , let change the shape of our nest , so other birds will stay away.

Feb 23, 06 1:51 pm
job job

interesting about the acanthus leaves becoming corinthian capital, and the triglyphs's mimicry of early wooden construction technique. it's architecture, only because bannister fletcher will come back from teh dead to git me.

are you suggesting that ornament come into this now? it's becoming quite broad in scope now - i will defer my argument to gottfried semper

Feb 23, 06 1:54 pm
job job

uh, no fighting guys, this is one of the only challenging threads and i'd hate to see it descend to namecalling

Feb 23, 06 1:55 pm

It,s no namecalling to me , just a little bit of dutch sarcasm ( its an overcrowded country) .
I must admit that as an outsider ( non architect) I read the discussion (very interresting ) and I don't understand half of it but ask for permission to take part

Feb 23, 06 2:05 pm

In all the example pics here there is a makebelieve connection , and often one of the two makes itself look ridiculous .
If you seriously make the connection between the special' cockpitbuilding ', and say that the architect got his inspiration from the shape of the car the architect drives (which will be obsolete in a few years) , it is a make believe connection , which degrades the building .

Feb 23, 06 2:35 pm

to AP: In the New Yorker article about Rem, they described a speech he made to chinese students about the CCTV in which he claimed that the glass facades of the building will force a new openness onto the closed, censoring CCTV organization. I think this is very much in line with AZP arguement - he's creating a shorthand explanation. Obviously, we all know that it's more complicated than that.

and Snowi - wasn't Semper's arguement that all architectural ornament traces back to clothes and tapestries? I think Semper, in his time, was actually constructing an arguement very much like AZP's that locates architecture within a broader cultural production. Iconography, ornament and resonances are broadly cultural not strictly architectural.

Feb 23, 06 2:43 pm
the cellardoor whore

"Rather that embracing the contingent, ambiguous nature of shape as an alternative to the hermetcism of indexicality, we forecast the development of a discipline of form with a double agenda, operating simultaneously as an organizational device and as a communicative device"

so not embracing the solipsisitc form-4-form's sake...nor side with the function-4-function's sake ... but now the interesting bit..communicate what? and how? any effect propogated within the public space communicates to the public; architecture is de facto a communicative device. this double agenda is a reiteration...not a has always been about organization and conveying messages and this will be found in many other reiterations. the nuances in 'forecast' of a rhetoric of subversive newness, the future, a forthcoming rupture...seem pretty dated and worn out. is it approriate that the style of this manifesto-type reflects its content; namely, a bastardization between modernist and postmod paradigms. this also coming from the same party that used the rhetoric of critical thought to withdraw critical thought.
crrossref. with AZP's "What is an Architect in today's (2003) society""

"The question is how to overcome the operative paradigm that has come to dominates all disciplines and the intellectual or productive practices: the critical process. The solution perhaps lies within the interior of the construction process; to be able to construct sequences of micro-judgements that operate on very specific and concrete aspects of the project. To take down the great paradigms of references into chains of small local decisions in time and space, that we can realize without resorting to grand visions, or absolute references. "

if an icon is not the most absolute of references, then what is? there is a lax whimsy in the usage of semiotic parlance and even, in the first order, the lack of a coherent comprehension of the architectural-semiotic .

i sense a very easy-going amputation of the 'abstract' in this:

"In line with Loos' argument against decoration, critical architecture IS very abstract."

one can argue that decoration itself was the abstraction and had become a non visceral self porpogation of patterns and moulds, mathematical and irrelevant for the age. i also do not know what u mean by critical architecture, though i could know what you mean by critical discourse....

Feb 23, 06 2:53 pm

yeah - cellardoor - there was a shift in AZP/FOA's thinking between those two articles. I think a constant between the two is an attempt to think about architecture without semiotics - or as he refers to it elsewhere - "the semantic nightmare".

Feb 23, 06 3:17 pm
the cellardoor whore

thats not the constant but the variable. the iconic is semantic. the actual constant is to pose FOA against a conjectured drift. being fashionably subversive so to speak.

and its like armani trying to be subversive, they're just too polite.

Feb 23, 06 3:29 pm

I don't think that the figural representations alejandro's talking about are nessesarily semantic. One could just as easily draw on associations that are haptic, formal or material that aren't linguistic in their nature. It points to a discussion of form that doesn't demand close, textual reading. Rosalind Krauss draws this distinction between sculptures of Rodin vs. those of Brancusi.

That's an interesting question: is image nessesarily linguistic or semantic? is form?

A relevant quote: AZP on OMA - "finally the purpose of form is provocation rather that mimesis"

Feb 23, 06 3:47 pm

cellardoor - i also don't believe that FOA's being subversive. Quite the opposite no? - they're showing what tactics they used to get big projects approved by the powers that be.

Feb 23, 06 4:01 pm

Milwaukee Art Museum:

Feb 23, 06 4:03 pm
job job

semper was writing in a time of crisis for architecture (the discovery of polychromy in buildings of antiquity) and his idea on the basic frame and woven cladding (my choice of word over tapestry, textile) was one of transformativity, or translation from one craft or trade to another. This surface is then a multi-nodal one, based on its material articulation. I would argue that ornament in this case is craft-oriented, and separate from the wider cultural aspects you (for j-turn) ascribe.

Loos is against its use as a societal anachronism, and a hindrance. his text flies everywhere - there's something about the flask of bourgeois man and a modern man, and it relies heavily on its provocative manifesto format. I can easily see why Jeanneret was the first to translate it into french for his l'esprit nouveau.

about 'the semantic nightmare': i predict that critical theory in a linguistic/semiology manner will return as machine code. consider - words as sign/meme/cultural marker have no better forum than in scripting language. values assigned can either be transient, absolute but never multi-layered (thank god). the internal logic is the sub-reality to which the output is relegated to image. or, what saussure realizes in structure/pattern of language is evident in recursive iterations of the same logic sequences.

architecturally, this may be a more robust form for representation as the product and premise are so closely joined. instead of cheap metaphors of gull wings, the performativity, or parameters that drive the profile can be gauged. of course, this further reduces the audience, but that's never been a problem. architecture has been subject not to mute building but elite imperialism

Feb 24, 06 9:21 am

snowi - to call semper's weave "woven cladding" is to put a big architectural clamp on it. I think that one can read Semper's tretise as an effort to point a shared primordial root for all artistic practices.

I'm intrigued by your latter points. Are you alluding to algorithmics here? Some of your arguments remind me of cybernetic/ systems theory models of communication. But I'm wondering what these "precise profiles" would be and look like.

The performativity arguement is tricky - recall that FOA were big advocates of performances over linguistics. At some point you are going to produce forms and images that will enter the messy realm of visual communication - which is where we find our selves now.

Feb 24, 06 10:18 am
job job

yes that's true but i remember that this treatise was the precursor to the werkbund and everything was related to everything else. I needed to frame it as a construction-specific idea.

Linguistics as design tool or critical theory is largely dated now, and discarded by many. Possibly because computation became widely available, but most likely because it was exhausted as a topic, and found to be indefensible. I still enjoy it as an academic subject, but would never begin design work using allegory, trope, phoneme.

the scripting as code is something i'm pursuing right now - the brief is scattered but writing about design is surely trumped by a writing that builds design. The better the writing, its logical clarity, its organization, the better its output. Coupled with rigorous build/fabrication constraints (something that was lacking in early 3d work), it gives me a lot to think about.

Feb 24, 06 12:06 pm
the cellardoor whore

"I don't think that the figural representations alejandro's talking about are nessesarily semantic."
a semantic thing holds meaning, is meaningfull. a non-semantic thing does not and therefor cannot exist even imaginarily. the medium, be it linguistic or otherwise, is irrelevant as long as it communicates meaning. "semantics", on the other hand, is a disciplinary field that studies meaning in a text proper, therefor linguistic. a form cannot allude unless that allusion is, in the first place, semantical. please, no need for being ridiculous. its like you telling me your point is no point, but still pointful.

-"cellardoor - i also don't believe that FOA's being subversive. Quite the opposite no? - they're showing what tactics they used to get big projects approved by the powers that be."

no. their progenitors (hardly SOM, or KPF) were (not are), en masse,
the 'paper architects' generation. this relates to my point of using critical discourse to withdraw critical discourse... a postmarxist jargon put to work on a capitalist production line. a smiling adorno in a banker's suit.
the desired subversion is an inversion of a prior subversion. the armani analogy vis a vis the vivienne westwood. the hi-fi vis a vis the low-fi vis a vis yet another hi fi. it doesn't work simply because they have no humour. ... (now koolhaas is something else...bisexual...yummy...he is just so comedia del arte)

stop throwing those terms about like an unwashed tablecloth, its nauseatingly trivial ...chi chi architects..peef. really uncalled for.

- "semiology manner " why semiology not semiotics?why that choice? and the critical/semiolgy? how did you go about bridging that? lets go to the beginning then bambi...what is 'critical'?

Feb 24, 06 12:41 pm
Michiel van Raaij

An interesting note to the discussion is that there is currently some research being done about techniques to find related images; one enters an image, and a program looks through the internet for images that look alike. I don't know whether or not techniques like this are operational yet somewhere.

Feb 24, 06 12:45 pm
Michiel van Raaij

Semantics is about the meaning of language-constructions. Is iconography not about Semiotics, about the meaning of signs and symbols?

Iconography is not that singular as again and again is suggested in this discussion. Form never has a singular meaning. That Alejandro Zaero-Polo uses 1 image to conceptualize a project, does not mean that the project derives all its meaning from that image. Architectural form is always open to multiple interpretations, is -I would suggest- in its nature multiple. A building doesn't say 'I'm a wave', it just looks a lot like it. That the Milwaukee Art Museum of the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava would look like sailboats, as suggested by Superbeatledud, illustrates that. I would say that building uses the iconography of a bird that might spread its wings. Calatrava's fascination with the fysics of (human) skeletons backs that argument.

Feb 24, 06 12:52 pm
Michiel van Raaij

A building that actually uses the sailboat reference is obviously the Dubai Burj al Arab hotel.

Feb 24, 06 12:55 pm

Michiel - I liked your summary in the last post.

As we've seen here, and I've also witnessed elsewhere, people really seem to react quite negatively to this article. It's one of the most devissive pieces that I've come across recently - way more so that Whiting and Somol's "Doppler Effect".

Feb 25, 06 5:05 am

wow glad i came in today (not really)

Michiel, have you seen this book? It's not what you are talking about here, and the exhibition was terrible, but judging the images alone, do you think these visual metaphors enable design, or serve as rhetoric prop?

CellarDoorWhore - your last point must be addressed to me (that's fine - I mangle names all the time). The critical, secondo mei, is the distance between subject/object, but de-contextualized from hegelian end-of-history and Spirit. i'll speak simply - where a toolmaker gauges the efficacy of what is built, its material, ease-of-use, all that (the first urge for making the tool is best described by Goulthorpe: where the monkey goes mad for ants, develops x-ray clarity for the source of ants, and gets a stick to poke into the ant-hill). Where i declare it in my above post is first to draw similarity to a personal interest in computation and semiology/semiotics. I'm a designer first, not a programmer, but I certainly have freedom to use scripting not only as a tool, but to recognize its functional organization as a language. Are you really interested, or was that an opportunity to exercise snarkiness, Montesquare?

Feb 25, 06 8:36 am

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