10 March


I think the "human story," like the movement of the present, is essentially linear. The first humans were extreme, and the best examples of extreme architecture are the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge. Circa 550BC, humanity began to operate with a highly fertile imagination, and this "age of highest fertility" lasted till circa 770AD, at which time humanity's imagination became [additionally] pregnant. At the first trimester of pregnancy, circa 1500, humanity began to assimilate itself and its place in the universe. By 1700, the metabolic imagination began to work in conjunction with the assimilating imagination.

We are today still primarily a humanity operating in both an assimilating and metabolic fashion, and thus our architecture too is primarily both assimilating ("international") and metabolic (creative/destructive).

Of course, the "human story" continues, and to discern how it will continue, you just have to analyze the sequential slices of the human body starting at the lowest tips of the rib cage and moving upwards.

In his synopsis of Jenck's recent lecture, Stephen Marshall included the phrases:
"life cycles of cities," "cells must die periodically so that other cells--and the organism as a whole -- might live," "cities undergo phase changes."

The word that best describes these notions is metabolic -- metabolism is a duality whereby anabolism is creative metabolism and catabolism is destructive metabolism. The "design of" many cities today exhibit metabolic "operations" when both creative and destructive manifestations occur. Metabolism is perhaps the primordial duality, and, like all dualities, is difficult to resolve precisely because of its inherent opposing forces.
Hugh Pearman in two recent posts wrote:
"Architectural operating systems (as opposed to surface styling) are predominantly Gothic or Classical."
"What I called the 'architectural operating system' as a deliberate computer analogy--might clarify rather than confuse, for me if nobody else."

I suggest a wholly other batch of "architectural operating systems" that derive from the morphology and physiology of our own bodies, the machines that we are instead of the machines that computers are.

Some architectures are extreme.
Some architectures are fertile.
Some architectures are pregnant.
Some architectures are assimilating.
Some architectures are metabolic.
Some architectures are osmotic.
Some architectures are electro-magnetic.
Some architectures are total frequency.

Figuring out what buildings/architects fit in which category(s) may well be the ultimate architectural parlor game. (hint: Classical is high fertility and Gothic is early pregnancy)

Morphology, typology and topology each have their own distinct meanings.

Leave it to architects to screw up basic definitions and then think they invented something new.

If you ask me, less walls is just more windows.

"I think this room holds a portal to the fourth dimension."

I had very good reason for saying so, and the strangers I said it to agreed.

"In the summer of 1800, when the architect was away on his wedding trip, [John] Barber absconded, taking with him a considerable sum of money and all the most valuable office and personal papers."

And the John Barber Award for Architectural Deviance goes too...

"It would be more appropriate for us architects to shock the senses first - worry about style later."

Ah yes,

the Horse Radish House.

Last night and early this morning, I read Sarah Williams Goldhagen's "Something to Talk About: Modernism, Discourse, Style" (JSAH, June 2005), where she sets out the prospect of (historians) addressing "What was, or is, modernism in architecture?" by "conceptualizing modernism in architecture as a discourse centered on the problem of how the built environment should be constructed to grapple with and respond to, rather than reject or ignore, the complex phenomenon of modernity [thus repositioning] it as a broad, deep, fundamental, yet also explicable social and cultural formation." Basically, Williams Goldhagen wants to see [the history of] modernism in architecture include all the "other" designs (by modernist architects) that are not done in the generally accepted modernist style. The desire is for a more honest rendition of modernism in architecture, but, yet, there also seems to be a subliminal assumption that (the history of) modernism in architecture would likewise provide a full history of architecture of the last 100 years. Wouldn't the most honest history of (roughly speaking 20th century) architecture include all the styles designed/produced over the last 100 years?

To be continued...

Mar 10, 14 10:16 pm
chatter of clouds

quondam, but there will always be many histories ... some that are more honest and more precise -and perhaps far more elaborate, complex and paradoxical- than others and some that, in their concise and evocative dishonesty, propel their dishonesty forward into the future, creating more history. 

with time, i have come to find the 'relativity' of history (story-telling) not only only morally unethical but also intellectual unethical in that it is not true.

i say this while having in mind the region of the Levant which is - to a surprising degree- histories built upon false histories whereas the reality has always been far more complex and yet simple in that complexity affords  variety, sameness, polynymic  (having many names ie the existence of the same element under different guises and in different fashions - we see this in deities whether within one pantheon or cross-regionally) and  contrarily the mononymic that is used as a singular host guise by many different entities (for instance the name of a place that becomes the name of many different tribes having some connection to that place)and all this  without leading to exclusionary contradictions (that an intention to be simple and minimal in advance might well lead to). 

but i also suggest that, the more history impregnates itself with the details of its subject, the less it is portable. it would be like the Borges 1:1 scale map of the Empire. to some extent, history, in being pithy, is - lets try to conceive it in two different ways:

1- like the gesture drawing of a model rather than a point for point depiction of her or his corpus. this is a type of drawing used to capture the posture, conceptualizing the suggestive disposition of the model, fluid, read as one complete thrust within space (or time per history). in short, the content, the narrative, brings out a completely comprehensible movement 

2- drawing the outline approach that chooses significant points, connections and bases itself on proportions of one line to another. in is a staging, placing things in their context, proportioning them to each other.  

so, here, i suggest that perhaps this is also how the history of modernism (or indeed any history) is differenly portrayed between speaking  of a modernism as a recognisable movement that can be abstracted into a recognizable figure (and indeed, this is exactly what a gesture drawing is based on: re-cognition and not representation). and in that sense, projects and analyses are synthesized to project this sensibility  (for instance, people like charles jenks tend to do this, although I am not a fan of his)

and those who speak of  modernism as that outline that connects iconic points.

Mar 11, 14 12:17 am

t a m m u z, an article, at Dezeen yesterday, regarding Koolhaas and the curatorial intentions of the Venice Biennale 2014 is perhaps an interesting coincidence to the topic here:

The research-driven exhibition, entitled Fundamentals, will examine the essential elements of architecture and chart the emergence of a global architectural style. As well as encompassing the Arsenale and the Central Giardini Pavilion, this theme will extend to the 65 participating national pavilions for the first time in the biennale's history.

"After several architecture biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will look at histories, try to reconstruct how architecture finds itself in its current situation, and speculate on the future," said Koolhaas.

"With great courage and ambition, after having traced the history of modernity over the past 100 years to the present, he identifies and presents the elements that should act as references for a regenerated relationship between us and architecture," added Baratta.

For me, the main issue is the dissemination of histories, how the various 'narratives' are taught and/or used to create a common understanding of what and how things happened and ,like the biennale example above, thus also "speculate on the future." As you mentioned, the histories disseminated can be 'true' as well as 'false'. Is the common understanding of the history of 20th century architecture more true or more false? Is the common understanding a full picture of what actually happened when? Unfortunately, I think the common understanding is not all that it could be. In a sense, I would rather a 1:1 scale appraoch where the common understanding is more in tune with just how diverse each year of 20th century architecture (considered globally) actually has been. At this point, I can only begin to speculate what the future of architecture would be if architecture students were taught just how diverse 20th century architecture actually was. Will "the emergence of a global architectural style" to come out of the 2014 Venice Biennale be a true history? Or will it turn out to be yet another partial truth?

I just today borrowed Vidler's 2008 Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism (which I read most of like five years ago), and it seems important to read again in light o the topic here.

Mar 12, 14 4:07 pm

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