peter's canon


"truth" is elusive and relative.

the doubt or question i think understood in the context of the times; Heliocentric Theory, and the idea that an artist would begin to formulate for the masses - perhaps future masses, given the predilection of the Catholic church to punish heretics - the beginnings of a discussion on God's role in the creation of man, it seems would be a rather indirect/direct way of doing that? i mean this painting is on the ceiling, you'd have to look towards the heavens, look and wonder right?

for me it seems to suggest a collision of old vs. new and perhaps the first true modern paradigm shift?

i think my position makes for an interesting story, until i put some real thought, and work into it, it remains a curiosity...of which i don't suppose there is any real merit, it just came to me that i think most people accept that God touched Adam, yet it either never happens or does happen, it's a moment in the becoming, and ultimately the most Baroque expression.

Aug 23, 08 12:50 pm  · 

'sesquipedalianism' is the most ironic word in the english language (and my favorite) , and certainly applies to this thread.

Aug 23, 08 1:57 pm  · 

That's the most talked about gap in the history of art. I don't know that I've ever heard it spoken of in the context of doubt: it's always about the spark or tension in the gap, as if touch was not needed, so a positive spin. Yes, you should follow up on that, by all means.

I haven't really responded to nocti's actual words above, more to his right to say them - truth be told, Eisenman's built work leaves me cold, much prefer his unbuilt early "drawings". But the recent comparison to Gehry is interesting. Nocti made some statements about Gehry not being as influential "in the history of how architects view architecture, much less significant" and "where his practice is, tectonically, very conscious , it is also, on par, largely unreflexive" and concludes that it is not that "interesting".

Shock Me had brought up a salient point (among many salient points) about Eisenman fitting in better in "higher" education. Having partaken in many discussion having to do with why some architects and artists are seen as more important than others, I would extend that to say that Eisenmann fits in better with critical discourse in general, and Gehry falls pray to a prejudice against "instinctual" and "unreflexive" creation. This was pointed out many years ago by Wolfe in the "Painted Word", where he stated that if not accompanied by the right words from the critical compound, one's work is not really "seen".

Gehry's aesthetics were largely formulated among a group of California sculptors. He's always stated that he responded to the creativity and immediacy of their approach. (and to head off the "architecture is not sculpture" protests, I'm just pointing out that his architecture shares some of the instinctual form making of that other field). In an academic setting, however, it is very difficult to teach and critique those qualities, whereas the work and words of Eisenmann, accompanied by other critical assesments, makes his approach very salable and teachable. It is hard to deny that this bias exists, and I think this condition, where words and critical discourse alone makes architect A's work more important than the "instinctual work" of architect B is what generates the angry responses seen on this thread.

In fact, nocti, just because "Gehry's sight is absolutely conventional. he is a practicing architect par excellence, but, one step removed from the actual architecture" does not then (necessarily) make his work less interesting (even if "one step removal" from the actual architecture is your particular interest) - and I will confess here that I think Gehry's approach has gotten repetitive. The large amount of words and theorizing by Eisenman and on Eisenman's behalf creates a sheer intellectual mass, but would not actually physically change the quality of his work, unless the quality were not in his work to begin with.

So when you throw such negatively spun words at Gehry's work such as "conventional", "unreflexive", and "uninteresting", my response would then be, well, to you.

Aug 23, 08 2:33 pm  · 

And since this thread is also largely about words:

con·ven·tion·al –adjective

1. conforming or adhering to accepted standards, as of conduct or taste: conventional behavior.
2. pertaining to convention or general agreement; established by general consent or accepted usage; arbitrarily determined: conventional symbols.
3. ordinary rather than different or original: conventional phraseology.

4. Art. a. in accordance with an accepted manner, model, or tradition.
b. (of figurative art) represented in a generalized or simplified manner.

I believe that at no time was Gehry's work that, although it is certainly now more accepted through sheer familiarity.

Aug 23, 08 2:44 pm  · 

Nice Emilio, very nice.

One thing that crossed my mind last night was how, when I see the many studiy models of H&dM...

...and OMA...

...I'm reminded of the many study models produced by Gehry for the Lewis Residence...

(I may be stretching it, but...)
Gehry's method of design via innumerable study models seems to have become quite influential.

Aug 23, 08 3:16 pm  · 

I think that the usage of multiple study models, repeated ad infinitum, is a reflection of contemporary notions of representation. How an object can take any form, yet retain a defined purpose. Through modern technology, one truly can devise any form imaginable and then frankenstein the program, or purpose, into it. In some cases there is a deliberateness to this process, like in some of OMA's projects. While in many of Ghery's projects, the process is not deliberate and the form is completely separated from function. If we take Venturi's notion of "duck" vs. "decorated shed" and equate the "duck" with modernism (form follows function, the house as a machine, etc.) and the "decorated shed" with post-modernism, I think its fair to say in many respects Po-Mo never died, at least in Gehry's office.

Of course, I don't know that much about arch. history, but to me, much of what we may call contemporary is merely post-modernism liberated from historical and cultural references.

Aug 23, 08 3:31 pm  · 

And here I thought I might be stretching things a bit.

Aug 23, 08 4:26 pm  · 

Hey, like I said, i'm pretty ignorant about some things.

Aug 23, 08 4:40 pm  · 

Apurimac, you made some leaps in explaining design logic, characterized Koolhaas's and Gehry's method without at least some backup example, and then mixed historiographic metaphors.

If "multiple study models, repeated ad infinitum, is a reflection of contemporary notions of representation," then where do you think this process came from?

"How an object can take any form, yet retain a defined purpose. Through modern technology, one truly can devise any form imaginable and then frankenstein the program, or purpose, into it. In some cases there is a deliberateness to this process, like in some of OMA's projects. While in many of Ghery's projects, the process is not deliberate and the form is completely separated from function."
The negative conclusion here seems to be no different than the positive opening premise. And how do you gauge this deliberateness or lack of deliberateness?

The whole duck/decorated shed thing is now like an unfortunate abused child. Poor thing, it's still not left alone.

Aug 23, 08 5:01 pm  · 

Measuring the deliberateness of the study model process can be difficult. But when I see OMA turn a house into the Casa Da Musica, all their theory about "hyper-rationalism" seems thrown out the window. I can see hyper-rationalism occuring at Seattle Public Library, and to an extent CCTV, but much of their work to me seems post-rationalized. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter, the Icon has been created, whether it's creator intended an Icon or not.

The whole Duck/Shed argument has been abused, but how else do you explain Gehry's "plop" process? Wherein a piece of crumpled paper becomes "architecture"? For all his swirling forms, they mostly just become a kind of decoration on the outside of his buildings.

You were the one who initially connected FOG and OMA. I just thought it was interesting that so many projects these days done by avant-guarde architects mostly start as formal studies as opposed to programmatic ones. What has always confused me about OMA, is how blue foam=form=building, yet at the same time there is a usually a huge amount of diagrammed programmatic and contextual data to backup what initially started as a blue foam study model. Or is it vice-versa? Can it be both? I suppose it can.

Aug 23, 08 5:29 pm  · 
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

Doesn't OMA often start explicitly with programmatic studies?

Aug 23, 08 5:45 pm  · 

I imagine they would, but where do the mounds of study models come from? Or is there a hyper-rationalism present in each iteration of foam model? Is each foam model a programmatic diagram in itself? I know I keep asking all these questions instead of answering anything but there have been instances, Casa Da Musica being one of their most well known, where a set of study models that was deliberately made through rigorous programmatic analysis for one program (a house) were taken off the shelf and with a bit of tuning, became a concert hall. Where's the rationalism in that process? It seems highly arbitrary to me to do that. However with all that said, Casa Da Musica, from what the press says, is a successful building despite it's seemingly arbitrary beginnings.

Aug 23, 08 5:55 pm  · 

Architecture, an art that must submit to rational examination and defense -- or, to avoid defense, that must be presented as "rationality personified" ?

Is it any wonder that some will be accused of bullshitting ?

A way to avoid the trap, the apparent contradiction, is to "design rationally" -- as if one could or should attempt Art only after all the objective criteria have been satisfactorily addressed. And, when that seems not enough, the poor architect must put on his "meet-the-press" outfit and find ways to justify his artistic choices, in terms that make sense to the layman or (worse) the taxpayer.

Does anybody wonder why they drink ?

Aug 23, 08 6:45 pm  · 
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

aren't OMA just trying things to work out what the best solution is? isn't that a fairly common design strategy? It always takes me about a hundred tries before I get something right!

Aug 23, 08 8:36 pm  · 

Apurimac, I now better understand your intital post in that it is more a critical interpretation of current design tendencies rather than an address of Gehry's possible influence of these tendencies. I hear what you're saying.

Personally, I like seeing all the study model of various projects by various architects. I like it because it clearly demonstrates just how pliant architectural designing can be. And I seriously consider the notion that it may well be Gehry that best introduced architectonic pliancy to the profession.

Is architectonic pliancy in somewhat sharp contrast to Eisenman's method? Up to a certain point (in time) I'd say yes. And when Eisenman's work started exhibiting some measure of pliancy, that's where I start to see Gehry's influence.

Have Gehry's designs of late become somewhat predictable and/or seemingly uninspired? Perhaps the pliability metaphor applies here too; perhaps the pliancy has been lost for being stretched too much and too far.

agfa8x, another thing I like about all the study models is that so often almost any one of the models looks to an exciting and/or interesting building. And often too it is within the collection of study models that one finds the riskier designs. "Getting it right" isn't the only operation going on. There's also a having-to-let-go of good designs.

Aug 23, 08 9:06 pm  · 
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

i would suspect that the apparent determinism of eisenman's process conceals a much more pliant process. It appears to me that while Gehry is designing architectural form, Eisenman is designing architectural process.

Aug 23, 08 10:14 pm  · 

To suspect that Eisenman's process conceals a much more pliant process doesn't eliminate Gehry's already self-evident very pliant process. Gehry's entire oeuvre is evidence of a very pliant design process.

Has Eisenman really been designing a process? It looks to me more like he's been designing a determinism, and I am personally aware of an aspect of Eisenman's process that proves very inflexible.

Aug 23, 08 10:55 pm  · 
chatter of clouds


Why did you read those words as being negative? What I find interesting is after all what I find interesting in a specific manner and not what many others might find interesting. I have laid out the specific denominator for the usage of words like "conventional" and "unreflexive" and "uninteresting"; there is no mention of absolutes (granted I didn't say "gehry's work is not interesting when seen from that viewpoint"). As actual buildings, I find gehry's buildings, generally, more appealing ... but this says something else... i meantioned; above all, gehry's sight not work. Its akin to saying mies was a more interesting architect than scharoun, who made more delightful buildings.. As for the significance of gehry's work (in a larger sense than his sum of projects), the denominator was how 'architects view architecture' ...not from within the making of architecture specific (which is being discussed as another topic here), but a trajectory of an idea of architecture as much as architecture itself.
there are contemporary architects who, contrary to eisenman and rem, are not reknown for their written texts and yet who, and this might be just me writing this, provide an architectural view that exceeds instances of architecture. from the likes of dominique perrault and the somber facelessness of his architecture in a fast moving metropolis (where jean nouvel makes prettier buildings) , john pawson and an obsessive complusiveness to render architecture into a its own white de-cluttering device (silverstein makes gentler architecture on the eyes)...etc.

we have beeen able to critique, positively or negative, eisenman's work. we have called it stillborn, autistic, deterministic...we have only been able to do that because it asked to be critiqued. how can you go about critiquing gehry's sight? why critique? thats another thread.

Aug 24, 08 3:46 am  · 
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

'designing a determinism' is a good way of putting it.

Aug 24, 08 6:19 am  · 

I am quite surprised by the many who have not recognized Gehry's influence. If anything, he joined and most clearly built a unity of modernist architecture as self referential practice of structure and the same as a flexible practice of hyper-noumena; that is to say a compound of the mineral tectonics of here-and-now and the sating buffet of architectonic plasma.
Modern architecture is fully present and wide awake, and all the quondam dreams and nightmares now manifest reality itself. Is not then a perscriptive therapeutic and/or pharmaceutical architecture surely to be marketed as well?

Aug 24, 08 8:43 am  · 

Shock Me, I couldn't have said it better myself. How's that, nocti?

"however, unlike rem and eisenman, gehry's architecture is, in the history of how architects view architecture, much less significant."

Even under the specific denominator "the history of how architects view architects", that would hardly be a positive assessment of Gehry. That assessment is not quite finished, however, since the history is still rather recent. (And Shock Me has proposed above an example of how Gehry's methodology and process may have already effected how architects make, and thus view, architecture...and if you say that does not fit your modifier than you are really splitting hairs).

But I think that you may not even be aware of the bias in your voice. In your last post, you continually oppose two types of architecture: Gehry more "delightful" than Eisenman, Scharoun more delightful than Mies, Nouvel prettier than Perrault. Your between-the-lines thesis is that buildings that are "intuitively" designed and give delight are ipso facto less "interesting": well, says you.

But your larger point is that Gehry - unlike some other architects who have not written much text (I also pointed out texts written about the architect, which give even more intellectual mass and cement someone's "influence") - does not "provide an architectural view that exceeds instances of architecture." This is an unproven statement. So because a general critique of Gehry has not been done, then it cannot be done? I think they have not been attempted for the same reason that Eisenman has caused the death of countless forests: an inherent bias to a certain type of critique, which I pointed to above, and a higher degree of difficulty in doing another type of critique.

A critique of Gehry on the same grounds as you speak of could be done, (but not by me right here, that IS another thread), delving into the processes that Gehry uses, which are very different than the ones Eisenman does, but are to me no less interesting. Why is an architecture about, say, points in space more "examinable" or interesting, and more applicable beyond given instances of architecture, than one based on, say, the forms of a fish? Maybe no real effort has been made to properly analyze the latter, instead leaving it to be labeled merely "delightful."

Aug 24, 08 2:38 pm  · 
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

intuition is just complex reasoning

Aug 24, 08 3:10 pm  · 
chatter of clouds

i've taken a whole day off to think about it during boring meetings. yes, i admit bias and i see emilio's and shock me's point. perhaps i only fell for the glamour of the crisis and not as well for the therapy (sm,ib). i also think sm,ib's idea of pliability is one such positive critique of gehry's work. to be quite honest, i wrote my last post half-knowing how biased i read off as being.

Aug 25, 08 2:46 am  · 

I fali to reconise the great idea of putting a tin hat onto a radisional building structure. I know that under the sheets are a fiddled mess of steel stringers , the bigger a building the more layers of steel rods put together with fittings, and a vaste of volumes while this is architecture as you picture it, not how you feel it.

Aug 25, 08 6:20 am  · 
Cacaphonous Approval Bot

god, are we done yet?

Aug 26, 08 8:34 pm  · 

In reference to the exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the "Frank O. Gehry: Design Process and the Lewis House", there is no mention in the information, but it is worth mentioning that Jeff Kipnis wrote and produced a film on this very same topic: "A Constructive Madness". the subtitle of the film is: "wherein Frank Gehry and Peter Lewis spend a fortune and a decade, end up with nothing, and change the world."

Gehry was not overly happy with the Kipnis film, as he felt it made him look too concerned with fees and whether he was wasting a client's money, and it obviously doesn't have slick, ego-warming feel of the Sidney Pollack film. nonetheless, it is a very good film by which to understand Gehry's design process.

not sure how available it is, but the out-of-date website for it is:

certainly worth viewing for a considered analysis of a single design.

Oct 25, 08 9:43 pm  · 

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