Iconography, or the problem of representation


i hated po-mo when it was popular (and i was starting archi-school).

and this version is much worse because it is entirely irrelavant to the architecture in question.

when graves made a big fucking duck it was because he thought that big duck basically WAS the architecture, accessible, easy to GET by the public, and it was. The cheese factor didn't bother him, and apparently he still has an office but nobody cares; because cheese ages, and iconography is rooted to time far too firmly to become a style for more than 10 years.

but foa is adding images to ease the consumption of more sophisticated buildings. even if it isn't necessary. the terminal in yokohama is an amazing building (belgo and the rest? pretty mediocre) and no one needs to see a wave to improve that experience (and as i wrote above, i really do believe most japanese would find the link a turn-off). muscles? if you say so, but only for the culturally challenged? That seems to be the point, not actually making architecture, just explaining it after/before the fact so the regular folk can get behind it. how utterly condescending to begin with, and a dissapointing lack of confidence to boot. Think Zaha is gonna start selling her work the same way? drop schumacker and tell people her buildings are all about sex, supported by gratuitous graphics? god i hope not.

This whole pop-linking binge of alejandro's feels entirely gratuis, and that is why it doesn't work for me at all. At least with Graves and the pomo's there wsa a legitimate desire behind the imagery. Al is just trying to turn another trick.

Feb 15, 06 5:12 pm  · 


Feb 15, 06 7:59 pm  · 

cheese factor...LOL
never heard this expression before.

j-turn's reference to the Gurkin made me think of the Hague's city hall by Meier. It has several nicknames, the two most popular are:
-the hospital (het ziekenhuis)
-the ice-palace (het ijspaleis)

btw. Alejandro didn't show the wave image when i went to see him giving a lecture a few years ago. He did show some pictures of tiny japanese welders, the only people small enough to weld inside the some parts of the Yokohama terminal, which brings us back to van Egeraat's gnomes : )

Feb 15, 06 8:56 pm  · 

actually, now that you mention Meier:

although I'm not convinced that this point of view, AZP's, is particularly relevant to Architecture, as much as it is to marketing.

Feb 15, 06 9:18 pm  · 
Norman Blogster

I've read through this post a couple of times now and still can't believe that intelligent architect types take this thing called "iconography" seriously.

I think Helsinki's got it right - marketing. Which I don't have anything against. For cars. Or clothes. Or computers. etc. etc.
But not architecture.
Puh-lease don't tell me you're basing a design of a stadium on a bird's nest. Bird's nests are about warm, fuzzy, snuggly places where life is hatched. Stadia are about sporting competitions where thousands meet to view sparring warriors fight for supremacy. (And money.) You may as well base the design on a doughnut. I was going to upload an image of a pile of rubbish one of Gehry's recent piles. Which did actually look quite similar, and could have got my message across, but would have been unfair, because the Bilbao museum is one of the most inspiring pieces of architecture I have visited.

Why bother post-rationalising? Why not let the architecture speak for itself? Surely, everyone can appreciate beauty, subjective as it is. If you show a bird's nest, or a six pack, it looks like you're trying to either a) hide something, or b) say to the public that they're not smart enough to appreciate the incredible depths of your intellect that has produced such an architectural gem.

Another thing, while I'm here:
AZP's archibabble is the epitome of bollocks. Another attempt to hide something. Forgive me - I'm not cool, or trendy - just a bear with very little brain. But the greatest minds always make their thinking accessible to those not so fortunate in the brain department (eg Einstein & Feynmann in the much more inaccessible world of physics).

The Yokohama cruise terminal is amazing in its own right and needs no other explanation to get the message across. Ruben mentioned context/local references - that's what architecture's about for me. There's always a context, be it historical, theoretical, physical, whateveral. You can't design an icon - the term is bestowed by others over time.
If you try and design an icon, you're really designing an eye-con.

Feb 16, 06 7:56 am  · 
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

Holy Crap ... is it really 1972 again? I think Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown have just returned from Las Vegas. Oh, yeah, and they have something to say about all this ...

... learning from high culture does not remove the architect from his or her status in high culture. But it may alter high culture to make it more sympathetic to current needs and issues. Because high culture and its cubists (last year's variety) are powerful in urban renewal and other establishment circles, we feel that people's architecture as the people want it (and not as some architect decides Man needs it) does not stand much chance against urban renewal until it hangs in the academy and therefore is not acceptable to the decision makers. Helping this to happen is a not-reprehensible part of the role of the high-design architect; it provides, together with moral subversion through irony and the use of a joke to get to seriousness, the weapons of artists of nonauthoritarian temperament in social situations that do not agree with them. The architect becomes a jester

Irony may be the tool with which to comfort and combine divergent values in architecture for a pluralist society and to accommodate the values that arise betwen architects and clients.

That was written in 1972. Has anyone ever considered that FOA's invocation of the "Hokusai Wave" is really just a big joke?

Feb 16, 06 8:20 am  · 

ditto on feynmann. his biography is pure gold.

mind you the idea that feynmann and einstein's main work was accesible is not entirely true. the mathematics is beyond most and only the thought experiments REPRESENTING them easy to get at.

Luckily architecture is not particle physics or string theory and doesn't need the dumbing down...;-) It would be funny if brian greene did a series on zaha though.

Feb 16, 06 8:20 am  · 
Norman Blogster

Smokety sm....
Nice point. Let's pass it onto the thread initiator - Michiel: Is the iconography you're talking about always ironic? Irony-ography perhaps? Or does it have a double-agenda? Is it the basis for a new socio-politico-architectural movement, or is it just a passing fashion to claim a few column inches? Do you think AZP is having a laugh (if so, with us, or at us)? What about Hedgehog and de Moron?

I'm sorry, I'm English.
I don't do irony ;)

jump: I agree with you - architecture isn't particle physics and doesn't need dumbing down. So it doesn't need these tenuous representations.

Feb 16, 06 9:23 am  · 

About the reference to Venturi & ScottBrown: as is indicated in the text, the ironic stance and borrowing from low sources was used at the time as a strategic way of fighting the "establishment" - at the time high-modernist formalism in its different incarnations. Also, there had to be a quite rigid mainstream to be used as a "backdrop" for the jokes.

Valid or not for the situation at hand: pluralistic and far from solid, the "ironic" stance has come to be something completely other than the "irony of the 70's".

And whatever the definition of irony, I can't see AZP practicing it.

Feb 16, 06 9:55 am  · 

I see AZP unwittingly practicing irony, however, in that he is being reenactionary without his really knowing it.

Look, it's another virtual museum of architecture!

Feb 16, 06 10:17 am  · 

I don't think AZP's after a neo-venturi-ism. It's not about irony and low-brow. I think the wave is more about turn-ons and low-res. Ultimately its about how to architects communicate to a public through media, not about how buildings communicate to occupants. Spin culture for designers.

Feb 16, 06 10:35 am  · 

Intentions are for the most part virtual, and subsequent reality for the most part manifests its own, separate history. And, speaking historically, AZP is definitely after "venturi-ism".

Even if AZP does not intend irony, that does not guarantee that irony then remains forever absent.

Feb 16, 06 10:51 am  · 
Michiel van Raaij

It is absolutely helpful to refer to Venturi & Scott Brown to develop this current idea of iconography further, although I disagree with the suggesion of Mr Smokes-a-lot (please care for your health!) that the Hokusai Wave is a joke. Alejandro Zaero-Polo is serious, this problem of representation is a serious issue. I agree that there is an element of irony in the use of iconography in the work of FOA, but it is a very different one than Venturi & Scott Brown. I will explain that.

Rem Koolhaas asked in his lecture to the students in the room which one of us thought Venturi & Scott Brown are still relevant, and only 4 or 5 people put their hands up. They have become completely irrelevant.

Dietrich Neumann last year stated in a lecture last year that Venturi & Scott Brown had betted on the wrong horse. Between 'the Duck' and 'the Decorated Shed' they chose the last one. But if you now visit Las Vegas, Neumann argued, you only see the Duck.

The decorated shed of VSB is explicitly ironic. It is low-culture and high-culture put together. It is Mies van der Rohe with advertising. The problem with this is that it is critical; critical to consumerism. The seperation between the high-culture Miesian shed, and the low-culture advertisement explicitly shows the -supposed- thinness of consumer-society. It is the misreading of Mies, that also K. Michael Hays is so good at (it goes to far to go into that now).

The projects of FOA, of Alejandro Zaero-Polo, are more advanced Duck's. In his text Alejandro even refers to the Duck when he states that his model is not that thin; the iconography is not skin-deep, but affects the whole building, the whole organization of the building.

I would suggest that the difference between VSB and Alejandro Zaero-Polo is the difference between critical architecture and a more projective architecture. Alejandro calles his approach a 'projective strategy'. This is not a joke, it's a serious attempt to engage in the (kapitalist) systems of this globalized world.

On the side I can remark that I'm involved in the Projective Landscape Conference that is held 16/17 march 2006 in the Netherlands.

Feb 16, 06 12:07 pm  · 

I actually think that VSB are on the comeback trail. I know that they've been popping up as topics for seminars at GSD, and Beatriz is all into them too. So, it might be time to reread learning from las vegas.

An interesting/ gossipy angle on AZP's relation to the post-critical project is that Sarah Whiting isn't down with the Wave (should make for some fun times at Michiel's conference).

I think that irony is an overly abused mode of working with ideas of linguistics and communication. Rarely works - and so many people like quondam and alanis morrissette toss the word around without really knowing what it is. It's a compromised position at best - sort of like saying i'll play with this lowbrow stuff, its interesting, but i'm to aloof to actually be sincere about it.

AZP's position is great because he actually really gets into it. If architecture's going to be reduced to the sound bite - so be it, ride with it. I love that so many architects bristle at these ideas. Really architecture is part of commerce. Given that, how can we be effective?

Feb 16, 06 12:30 pm  · 
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

With regard to FOA:

La Villa Joyosa, Central Police Station = Building With Bullet Holes = Dumb Metaphor

BBC Music Box = Building with Screens = Dumb Metaphor

Sorry, but I don't think there's much to a discussion about iconography. The October crowd, back in the 80s, summarily exahusted ideas of iconography. So did Huyssen, Habermas, and Lyotard. Is FOA's iconography really that different from Aldo Rossi's notion of type? Do you really want to look at the significance of an FOA building beyond its image?

Feb 16, 06 1:47 pm  · 
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

Yes ... I too am ranting.

Feb 16, 06 1:48 pm  · 

Man, I hope Koolhaas could have asked a few more questions: for an example "is FOA still relevant?" and the like - you guys could have decided everything in the arch world just by voting about everything. awesome.

"gowing with the flow" sounds a lot like "giving up".
-> it's not about the "failed critical project" / "happily projecting into the future" - it's about giving up or questioning & improving the world where we live and practice. That doesn't happen by just going along the market-train.


Feb 16, 06 2:10 pm  · 
Ruben Molendijk

That Sarah isn't really down with AZP was apparent at her Berlage lecture a couple of weeks ago, where, with a somewhat wry smile, she regretted that AZP wasn't present (he's the dean and it is his lecture series) so there was no chance to argue with him.
Michiel likes AZP to be 'projective'. AZP himself very much wants to be. But Sarah en Bob Somol have coined that term and from her lecture, one could easily deduce that AZP is certainly not being 'projective' as Sarah and Bob have intended it.
Sarah tackled the subject of meaning in architecture and what 'projective practice' entails in that context. I won't summarise it here, but in the/her projects she showed, as well as in "The Doppler effect and other Moods of Modernism", she continuously demonstrated that here projetcs are projective in the sense that they speculate on/ project possible scenarios in a given context. It's very much about bringing people together in new ways and with unpredictable outcomes via spacial and textural effects. Yes, they work within and with the capitalist system, but they are aware of that. They wan't to steer these forces of consumerist society in subtle ways to create a somehow better situation.
I think I don't need to stress just how opposed this is to AZP's promo-talk. I do think that using an image for both representational and programmatic design could be interesting, but for me AZP never really pulls that of. He applies images post and pre design, but it seems more about making his architecture acceptable to a given audience than actually giving it any meaning. Again I ask myself: why must people live in palm trees and theaters look like cristals? Does he really think the audience is that stupid? And what if we were to build an entire village of palm trees? Or a whole assemblage of coconuts(fine organizational model with hard shell and fluid core!), coral reefs (what a modular set-up!) and the like? Would we then be intimately connected to our locale AND make smart designs or have we then ruined AZP's joke? (In the last case, we'd better hope he's deeply ironic) There's a difference between a house and a rock, between a church and a banana. There is a discipline and a discourse that are architecture's own. The public must not be thought of as too stupid to get that.
But, projective practice is certainly interesting and you should really check out .

Feb 16, 06 2:54 pm  · 

Right on.

Feb 16, 06 3:08 pm  · 
Michiel van Raaij

Haha, that is some rhetoric, Ruben. Although your exaggerations weaken your argument. What 'projective' is, or not, is open to debate. I -for now- like the position that Alejandro takes. Personally I think Somol and Whiting are much too critical. I like to illustrate that with some notes I made of the lecture of Somol at the Berlage and his discussion with Alejandro:

The Logo

Somol distinguishes:
I. Logo – graphic – shape
II. Icon - geometric – form

The logo has an abstract directness. Somol illustrates the power of the Logo by showing the picture of the project of OMA with Mau in Toronto; a text with a big green dot (logo for a park)
Without Mies’ liberating the surface one cannot imagine a Venturi. (Picture: ‘I am a monument’)

According to Somol the logo is something that addresses a public that already exists, while the logo is more ambivalent and addresses also possible other publics.

Somol says he sees himself as ‘neo-shed-ian’, while there are probably far more ‘neo-duck-ians’ around. Venturi is classical graphic.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas now is everything Venturi hated. Las Vegas now is mostly about landscaping and figural building. Las Vegas now is not about the vertical plane of the advertisements, but is a horizontal surface: the horizontal surface of the interiors; the horizontal surface of the landscape. Events are also held outside. Cars have been displaces by walkways.
The positive thing about Las Vegas according to Somol is that materially and ecologically everything is possible; a jungle in the desert, a frozen area with penguins, etc. (set aside the enormous waste it produces)
The negative thing about Las Vegas is that the abstraction has disappeared. Venturi’s project failed. The 60-ies casino’s had a chique. As a visitor one played a role. The casino’s now are thematised, Disney, that only confirms what you are - a tourist.

Somol notes that Eisenman and Krier look alike. Eisenman is a sort of Piranesi-Nolli, while Krier is a sort of Nolli-Piranesi.


Alejandro argues that icons (instead of logo’s) are projective and performative. Icons relate to the physical, have a higher material content. The icon is a diagrammatic sign, a diagrammatic essence. Somol responds by saying that the icon indeed sells better. The icon re-confirms the audience; it re-confirms the power. A logo projects alternatives for new audiences, for a new collective.

The difference between ‘cool’ and ‘hot’ has to be understood as the difference between ‘background-architecture’ and ‘foreground-architecture’. Somol loves the background architecture because it almost disappears in the city. If it isn’t beautiful it doesn’t matter that much because it will be just boring.
A foreground, hot architecture on the other hand stands up. When it isn’t beautiful, it will be very ugly and everyone will be constantly reminded by its ugliness. Somol notes that Gregg Lynn likes much more as he does – Gregg tolerates more – and therefore accepts hot architecture.

Feb 16, 06 4:14 pm  · 
Michiel van Raaij

A friend of me, asked me later about the statement of Somol whether or not the 'logo' must be interpreted as a distancing from capitalist-society, or not. That's an interesting point.

The projects that Whiting showed also stated that she tried to make an architecture that had not 1 meaning, but an architecture that had only ambivalence, that is open to interpretation, an architecture that is 'cool'. That sounds so Deleuzian! (So nineties!)

I tend to think that the ambition of Somol and Whiting cannot succeed. I just don't think you can make an architecture that is only ambivalence, an architecture that is 'open'.

For me architecture is about definition, about precision. About steering the representation.

Feb 16, 06 4:26 pm  · 

"Somol notes that Eisenman and Krier look alike. Eisenman is a sort of Piranesi-Nolli, while Krier is a sort of Nolli-Piranesi."

Yet neither Eisenman or Krier nor probably Nolli ever discovered a more than 250 year old secret Piranesi printing, ie, the two versions of the Ichnographia Campi Martii. I am postive of this because on 14 May 1999 I discovered that their are two versions of the Ichnographia Campi Martii, and thus changed Piranesian architecture history. Sorry, but I have to say that Somol's statement really just shows me how much he, et al, don't know here.

Sharpen up everybody on who is really "sort of Piranesi."

Feb 16, 06 4:46 pm  · 
the cellardoor whore

on one pole, it has always been that way with these 'data-grown' forms. They seem to be strung between a world that is of pure sequential consequence and another of formal allusion.
The latter emerging from the whimsical nudges ("shaping data" whatever that is) of the designer, like the ghostly imprints of someone who's happier with the idea of sequential consequence as a sculpting tool. This is where FOA beds Lynn. So to speak, this explains that ... i found it peculair that they found common grounds, but FOA is no image-fearing Pawson, even if their discursive 'dryness' does not seem to be synonymous with that of maya-churning 'erotics'. And in a way, it does signal a more populist sensibility creeping in.

But i do not get what he means by indexical...being that an index is the sign of an object that is in direct relation to it ... and therefor indexicality is actually the least hermetic form of signification but instead thoughtlessly symptomatic. the smoke the fire, the weathercock the wind... indexical behaviour is informed by deadpan non-hermetic burns ur finger, u withdraw finger. What seems to be happening is that he champions one ofrm of signification over the others simply because it suits him then dismisses the other without really meaning anything by that dismissal except dismissal itself. And that analogy with written language...well essentially written language is just one form of semiotics is not so muxh an analogy as much as it is a a metonym. All in all, its sometimes intelligent sometimes moronic.

i side with Rem. He makes me wet and what a bright chap.

Feb 16, 06 5:14 pm  · 
Ruben Molendijk

I guess I do have a little demagogue inside of me...

I completely agree with you that Somol & Whiting are too critical, at least too critical to be anything really new. Just like every other critical architecture, they don't really accept capitalist society. That is, they don't accept it as something good, or at least only to a certain degree. They will cooperate, but only to steer the situation in a direction they see as desirable. And one can safely assume, in my opinion, that they are hinting at a more 'social' situation. For me, that's just critical architecture with low ambitions.
I also agree that 'projective practice/architecture" is not yet a well defined term (that's what the conference is all about), but as long as we're on the subject, we just as well use the phrase in terms of its original formulation, even if it's ambiguous and (too) vague.
A way forward could be (I'm speculating here) a complete acceptance of capitalist society, not in terms of a surrender but more like an embrace. To reconcile such a position with our conscience, this would be saying 'capitalism is liberating in its own right'. That is of course a very debatable suggestion, and one more at home with sociologists or historians.
I guess that there will always be a little moral alter-ego somewhere deep inside your conscience that urges you 'to leave this world a little better than you've found it' (or some other formulation that suits you). That's human, and it implies a critique on the current state of affairs. For me, a critical stance isn't that much of a problem. The real question is, wether we choose to completely go with capitalism to make a better world, because we see it as something positive, or, if we understand capitalism as a negative process, to go against it to make a better world.
I'll leave it at that, maybe I'm getting too much off topic.

Feb 16, 06 5:19 pm  · 
the cellardoor whore

now muslims around the world will boycott FOA products

Feb 16, 06 5:23 pm  · 

Don't ask me why, but I have this urge to ask how many others here know exactly what I mean by taking a piss while looking at water condensification on the pipe fittings leading down to the urinal. What a building, right?

Feb 16, 06 5:28 pm  · 


some crazy semantics going on now. when arguments get reduced to who is nolli-piranessi-ian and who is piranessi-nollian, it feels way too much like gulliver's travels (you know, with the egg and everything)...

sure is a good way to ignore answering a question through obfuscation, very rumsfield-ian really...

logo versus sounds like you can call whatever you want an icon or a logo depending on the point of view you have saddled up on. and it still doesn't get at the use of pop-imagery in architecture.

Feb 16, 06 7:24 pm  · 
Michiel van Raaij

Is that condensation indexical?

Feb 16, 06 8:18 pm  · 
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke


Feb 16, 06 8:27 pm  · 
Michiel van Raaij

An early example of iconography: Jorn Utzon's sails in Sydney

Feb 16, 06 8:29 pm  · 

flat to deep back to flat, just like that.

Feb 16, 06 8:35 pm  · 
the cellardoor whore

is it really? its a sail, its an arrangment of shells, an icon an unequivical resemblance or the capicity to allude to resemblances?Is there a complicit intention that limits interpretation or simply placing an object in the proximity of semantic erm..landslide - one way or the other? this is where we start to ask ..this project reminds me of 2 ducks getting it on..and then someone else says well, it looks like a beret...

if the former ( the classic idea) ...then the whole history of christian iconography is a faux pas, we don't really know what christ looked like...the chinese pig or the melodramatic pieta kodak moment..both can be similarly iconically not iconic. The resemblance is not of the object but of a multitude of resemblances (what we think christ should look like)....

there is something very naively overpowering about the icon, like hollywood movies (and no wonder mel gibson had the great idea of bringing them together). but behind that veneer of unified wow-ness is the patina of the human penchant to overdramatize its own signs and ways of signification. a facistic signification to be sure.

on par, with regards to iconic-pictorial depiction (and not the conveyed message) muslims have nothing to fear from danish caricatures..simply because they're not caricatures..they're cartoons. we also do not know what mohamed looked like..therefor the issue of semblance is a non-issue. that point made regarding language is really silly of AZP...really really silly. what is the difference between mohamed in words and mohamed in pictures? why is the koran not illustrated? can an icon not be present in and through text rather than image? im horny

Feb 17, 06 2:52 pm  · 

"can an icon not be present in and through text rather than image?"
below is a 'hilye i serif' a traditional calligraphic art work depicting the prophet mohammad's physical charecteristics in writing. IE; his head, eyes, hands legs etc. it is dated 1794 and there are many variations depending on the calligrapher and always depicting the similar features. iconic meanings get really complicated in islam and there are many scholars and books on it. quran itself is full of these calligraphic artworks and many times objects are shaped with writing. i think the french cartoonist new about this when he did a muhammad's portrait by writing it with words. his was the most interesting one among basically thrashy danish ones in recent cartoon fiasco.

Feb 17, 06 4:24 pm  · 

Yes, the day of the Vibrating Orb is definitely upon us. 'Nuff said.

Feb 17, 06 4:32 pm  · 

I just noticed that j-turns thinks I don't know what irony really is. I think that might just be the most ironic thing ever said about me.

How's this for iconic irony...

And here's a reenactment...

Look, that building has some great contemporary architecture on top of it!

Feb 17, 06 4:54 pm  · 

oh good lord. This exactly why I think irony is useless. I'd say that cartoon operates on a pun not irony, then you'll say i was being ironic by proving that i do know what irony is by pointing to an example that isn't ironic ... it just gets so silly.

Anyway, that aside, two questions I think the discussion hasn't touched on:

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?

Feb 17, 06 7:15 pm  · 

irony shmirony, it is a great point.

allusion to easily consumed objects (ok a bad pun) to sell architecture is not really meaningful as a method, especially when it gets as literal as a donut. though it is funny as hell, and great advertising. since alejandro seems to be saying the allusion is the end and the means and the justification for his design the argument just comes off as dumb, especially when reduced ad finitum absurdum to the ever popular donut building.

it is fine to start with whatever you want and finish with whatever you want and compare it to whatever you want, but selling it as a methodology or goal is sorta tedious;

that al comes up with graphic images to sell the projects is just business, like the joke movie pitch in hollywood (it's "star wars" meets "something about mary"). it isn't a way to ensure anything special and not really as important as michiel would like. I mean could you imagine if the sydney opera really DID look like a sail?

Feb 17, 06 8:09 pm  · 


Feb 17, 06 8:39 pm  · 

but jump, syndney opera looks a sail, as much as yokohama looks like a wave.

At FOA the metaphors usually come in the beginning to inform a geometric or material investigation, and at the client meetings. They're not really floating around in the internal discussion.

But you know, every architect makes corny analogies to sell a project. In the end, the reason that AZP's article ruffles so many feathers is that it exposes just how kitschy a lot of serious architecture is.

Feb 18, 06 6:35 am  · 

irony 2 a : incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: "Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated" (Richard Kain).

Last night I spent some time thinking about Le Corbusier's use of non-architectural imagery within Vers Une Architecture as a means to 'market' his case. And then I began to wonder if this method had been reenacted recently.

And yes there is a certain irony in utilizing common easily associated images to help execute and promote an architecture that otherwise strives very hard to be original.

What I like most about memory (ie, remembering, being reminded of) is that it is a seminal manifestation of reenactment.

seminal 2 : highly influential in an original way; constituting or providing a basis for further development: a seminal idea in the creation of a new theory.

take your pick...

Feb 18, 06 1:25 pm  · 

but j-turn, the ferry terminal absolutely looks nothing like hokusai's wave, nor any least i don't see it. i guess it is a bit like looking at clouds.

it is foa's best building still by far, (though i have been told arup tried to sue them for stealing the structural system, so maybe cecil's hand was in there too?)

the ferry terminal doesn't need the reference to a wave drawing by hokusai to be brilliant, and bjorn's opera house doesn't need anything to refer to but itself, whereas the donut is so important to, for example, the dubai sail...

my feeling is that when things go donut-shaped the architecture doesn't really benefit. this is of course my fuddy-duddy-ness speaking.

Feb 18, 06 7:27 pm  · 

jump -

arup may of tried to sue FOA over the use of folded plate structural system. But it wan't Cecil who came up with the system, it was, I believe, Ove Arup himself. And do you know what building he developed it for?

The Sydney Opera house!

In response to another point of yours. The building doesn't need the wave to be brilliant - yes absolutely. But, if AZP is to be believed, the wave analogy, although completely synthetic to the entire project and almost arbitrarily chosen in an act of despiration, helped sell the project. So there was a "need" for the wave.

And to quondam - what about Viollet le Duc using the analogy of bones, skulls and muscles to "market" his design ideas. Seems more pertinent to what FOA is doing.

I liked your dictionary definition for irony. But any one who's seen Reality Bites knew that already. Here's a reenactment:

Lelaina: I mean, can you define irony?
Troy: Its when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.
Lelaina: My God, where were you when I needed you today?

Feb 19, 06 10:50 am  · 
Gabe Bergeron

With Iconography, we face the same issues that marketeers face in consumer engagement. When we focus on the "sell" do we in fact make an idea/project more accessible? It seems to me that instead we create a dramatic experience that tends towards singularity and dismissal.

In other words (keeping the human tendancy toward cognitive organization in mind) when we attribute the theme of our work to a singular simple idea, we create an overpowring first impression that biases the viewer towards a shrug of the shoulders and a glance towards what's next.

With iconography we further the major problem of consumerism: that people are considered as things (reified) and their experiences and choices are reduced through packaging and sleek presentation of combinations of otherwise raw elements.

And in regards to the suggestion that this method makes high design more approachable by the general populace: It seems again that it simply gives one access point which, like a narrowing funnel, focuses the populace towards the most superficial of considerations, instead of welcoming the populace to the richness and depth of high design.

I wonder why AZP suggests that we avoid "falling back into the trap of the analagy of the witten language" - perhaps because he senses the undoing of his theory in this exploration.

Definitions (and icons) certainly help us to organize our perception of the world, but once we have created a box for this organization, it is easy to toss an idea into that box without further consideration.

Let's be careful about the sell - if we engage in making our projects iconic, we'd do well to associate that icon with signifcant depth - which suggests finding icons that are complex enough to evoke continued consideration. Is a wave enough? a muscle? a nest? a shoe?

Thanks to Michiel for an interesting discussion - there are lots of interesting and thoughtful responses here- fun to read and think about.

Feb 19, 06 11:44 am  · 
Bad Hair Day Architecture

Yeh, reality bites.

Venus Fly Trap Architecture

Gosh, reality really bites.

These are just two examples of how Quondam can help your architecture in today's chaotic world. Do you have ultra-original architecture that no one can easily understand? Then don't worry! Quondam can look at your project and within minutes provide you with the right visual formula to present your great design to the world.

Call 1-pic-pic-pics today!

Feb 19, 06 2:42 pm  · 

Uh ok - thanks for setting up a hotline and everything.

I'd ask quondam:

2. Without pasting an internet link, please describe what these images are. What are we meant to be seeing? How were they derrived? What organizational strategies are at work?

3. Condence that so that a news anchor on CNN could describe your project in 15 seconds.

Feb 19, 06 6:11 pm  · 

in response to Gabe's statement:

"It seems again that it simply gives one access point which, like a narrowing funnel, focuses the populace towards the most superficial of considerations"

What this statement assumes is that architects actually control that funnel. I’d say that they don’t, and actual opportunities to even see the narrow end of that funnel are rare.

Feb 19, 06 6:14 pm  · 

The images are jpg files depicting CAD 3d surfaces from an arbitrary viewpoint.

You are meant to be seeing CAD 3d surfaces from an arbitrary viewpoint.

Bad Hair Day Architecture is derived via a CAD program that generates a surface between any two provided lines.
Venus Fly Trap Architecture is derived via the ARRIS CAD area rotate surface generator command.

The organizational strategy here is one of unabashed arbitraryness.

Newsman says: Quondam, the first virtual museum of architecture online, will celebrate its 10th anniversary 21 November 2006. In the future, Quondam will go down in history.

Feb 19, 06 6:46 pm  · 

how old are you?

Feb 19, 06 7:00 pm  · 

who's asking?

Feb 19, 06 7:06 pm  · 
Michiel van Raaij
Neutelings Riedijk Architects

build five 'Spinxes' in Huizen, a small city near Amsterdam.

Feb 19, 06 7:28 pm  · 

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