Yale School of Architecture (Enrique)

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    Spectral Traces (Pt. II)

    By Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke
    May 11, '06 12:37 AM EST
    continued from a previous post.....

    Evans goes on to show that the intersecting skeins of ruled surfaces are indeed the generating principle at Ronchamp. The church is indeed composed of drawn lines.

    Except for those drawn on a small maquette, the lines comprising ruled surfaces exist only in drawings. A pilgrim entering the sacrosanct conchs at Ronchamp would never see a system of lines and surfaces weaving a delicate skein above his or her head. This is, after all, ineffable space -- a space that suggests the existence of the draughtsman's hand, a choros bounded by a network of intersecting lines in imaginary space.

    The chapel at Ronchamp is thus a farrago of contradictions. Le Corbusier may have designed his chapel with the modulor in mind, yet the modulor is only present in the way it is at the Unité d' Habitacion. And this creates further mysteries for the casual or serious student, for Le Corbusier did not outright reveal the existence of the modulor -- he challenged us to find the modulor within Ronchamp. The modulor is not obviously present, yet it is present in the spectral tracings of the ruled surfaces. And to further confuse and confound us, Evans points out that the ruled surfaces were present only at the drawing stage. Between the graphite tracings on the draughtsmen's boards to the markings of wood framework on the poured concrete surfaces at Ronchamp the spectral evidence lies. The choros at Ronchamp is thus not created by the drawing, nor is it defined by its surfaces. The building is read like a text. It is consumed inside-out. And it is only by looking at the drawings, mining the archive, and comparing such results with the physical, tangible Ronchamp that a reading of the chapel becomes possible. Ronchamp is thus a spacing, an area defined by contradictory interpretations:


    Authorship of Ronchamp is also a contentious issue. The chora, defined and analyzed through Eisenman's and Derrida's Chora L Works, materializes a series of contradictory readings. Such is the case when discussing Bernard Tschumi's Parc de La Villette:


    The two diagrams should not be construed as true Venn diagrams. In other words, the actual figure created by the colliding circles is not a space of inclusion, but rather it is a space of exclusion. The space is thus defined by contradictory phenomena. The contradictions regarding Ronchamp's authorship thus become evident as well:


    Was Le Corbusier the true author of Ronchamp? Did Iannis Xenakis' ruled surfaces "create" Ronchamp? The building is thus a result of conflicting personalities and design philosophies. It is the aggregate of absence, the literal and figurative void of exclusion that thus "created" Ronchamp.

    A building by Mies van der Rohe can be considered a mute entity. Crown Hall and the Seagram Building are laconic, ferrovitreous monuments. Their gun-metal surfaces and glass curtain walls only reflect a neighboring building. One sees endless, reflective permutations on the windows of a Miesian surface. Yet, as Ronchamp shows us, the expressionist béton brut hides more than reveals. Those "comic lines", the literal and figurative spectral traces woven into the building surfaces, are not obvious. And yet their meaning is profound. That the modulor was found not in a circumscribed, carved figure on the walls of Ronchamp, but rather in the mysterious, musical lines of Xenakis' ruled surfaces show Evans as a virtuouso historian. However, perhaps we should not consider Evans a virtuoso, for such a definition may negate the sense of unbridled wonder that permeates all his writings. It was after all Evans who chose to open the beginning of "Figures, Doors, Passages" with that most mysterious and inspiring of statements: Ordinary things contain the deepest mysteries.

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