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5 What is Architecture? (Fragments of Notes to Students) Francesco Venezia 8 An Axis Between Earth and Sky A conversation Francesco Venezia (Naples) and Patrick Lynch (London), Augustâ€“November 2018 (translated by Sara Nosrini et al) 23 Treading Water on (Un)Common Ground: Revisiting Mitsein Nicholas Temple 33 Making Visible: The Renovation and Transformation of Ljubljana Castle Peter Youthed 44 The Garden Museum: An Idea About Landscape Alun Jones 58 An Unweeded Garden Tom McCarthy 61 A Plan for an English Parliament Lynch Architects 70 Porthgain David Evans 80 Poems Emily Hasler
Editor’s Letter Patrick Lynch
The Necessity of Ruins, JB Jackson claimed, lies in the fact that “there has to be that interval of neglect, there has to be discontinuity; it is religiously and artistically essential.” (Massachusetts, 1980, p.102). He continues: “... ruins provide the incentive for restoration, and for a return to origins. There has to be (in our new concept of history) an interim of death or rejection before there can be renewal and reform. The old order has to die before there can be a born-again landscape. Many of us know the joy and excitement not so much as creating the new as of redeeming what has been neglected... that is how we reproduce the cosmic and correct history.” Jackson was a literature graduate-cum-biker-cum Harvard GSD landscape school Professor, and a Catholic lay brother, janitor and expert on Roads (what he called with typical wry wit and his own curious mix of understatement and hubris, Hodology). He did not shy away, obviously, from the wide horizon; the deep pull of time; the cosmic scale; exaggeration as a literary device; litotes as a form of devotional tact (and this as something that really needed some help with its Service Game); advocate for the overlooked; epicurean of both/and; and moralist of twinned and exquisite contradictions. Jackson, like all really creative writers – that is, writers who think whilst writing – made writing and reading into a physical experience. He loved paradox; I think because it acknowledges the co-existence of things and the potential emergence of something new, or something new again. Writing about the mania for the recreation of the Civil War as full-on outdoor amateur theatrics in 1970s America, he dared to ask: “Are we perhaps trying to re-enact some ancient myth of birth, death and redemption?” And concluded that, anyway, regardless of anyone’s snobbery and academic disdain, “the past is brought back in all its richness. There is no lesson to learn, no covenant to honour: we are charmed into a state of innocence and become part of the environment. History ceases to exist.” (Ibid.) Ruins impact on the architectural imagination somewhat like an asteroid on a formal French Garden, or a fire on Table Mountain: undoing the neat lines of history and the taxonomic OCD of our potting shed sense of creativity – churning up and burning any self-contained idea of primitive or progressive, rendering teleology telluric. The Earth reasserts itself over distinctions between nature and culture, and every sort of attempt to escape the gravity of human finitude seems like some strange sort of confusion between body and mind; human and animal, us, and everything else here. Which is why the ruin imagination is one of the most, if not the most potent reminder that, as Tim Morton observes in Being Ecological (London, 2018, p.215): “You don’t have to be ecological. Because you are ecological.” In each of the projects and essays in this issue of the JoCA, as if in homage to Thomas Tranströmer’s Venetian ode to father-in-law and sonin-law Liszt and Wagner: “The ocean’s green cold pushes up through the palazzo’s floors.” (Sorrow Gondola No. 2, translated by Patty Crane). 3
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is an architect. Born in Merseyside, David studied architecture at University College London. Previously a director at EPR Architects, he joined Lynch Architects in 2010, where he is a director and an equity partner. David also teaches at University of Liverpool and is a professional qualification examiner at London Metropolitan University.
DAV I D E VA N S
All opinions expressed within this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily of the publisher. Editor: Patrick Lynch Designed by Emma Kalkhoven Printed by KOPA, Lithuania British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data. A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library. ISSN 2516-9165 No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher. Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the necessary arrangements will be made at the first opportunity. Thanks to all the contributors, and to Naimh Darlington and Sara Nosarini for help with this publication. Thanks to Jay Merrick for his editing skills. I M AG E C R E D I T S : Photographs of Francesco Venezia’s work are courtesy of the architect and ORCH orsenigo/chemollo (pg 19); photographs of the Garden Museum are by Anthony Coleman and Dow Jones; Ljubljana Castle by Ambient d.o.o. and Peter Youthed; photographs of the São Nicolau Baths are by Rory Gaylor; drawings of São Nicolau Baths were made by Patrick Lynch and Alun Jones’s students in Unit 2 at The Cass, 2010–11; photographs of Porthgain are by David Evans; photograph of Big Ben by Eva Stenram
Cover images: Ljubljana Castle by Ambient Previous spread: Francesco Venezia, Theatre in Salemi
E M I L Y H AS L E R
is a poet. Born in Felixstowe, Suffolk, she studied at the University of Warwick for a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing and an MA in Romanticisms. She now lives in London. In 2009 she won second prize in the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition. Her poems have appeared in various publications, including the Rialto, Poetry Salzburg, Warwick Review and Horizon Review, and have been anthologised in Dove Release, Birdbook, Clinic 2 and Herbarium. Her poems will also appear in The Salt Book of Younger Poets and The Best British Poetry 2011. She is a regular poetry reviewer for Warwick Review. The Built Environment was published by Pavilion Poetry (Liverpool University Press) in 2018. ALUN JONES
is an architect. Born in Wales, Alun studied architecture at Bath and Cambridge. A founding partner of Dow Jones Architects, which he runs in London with Biba Dow. Alun taught for a number of years at The Architectural Association, Kingston, and The Cass. The work of Dow Jones Architects has been widely published, and has received numerous awards. PAT R I C K
LY N C H
is an architect based in London. He studied at the universities of Liverpool and Cambridge, completing his PhD at The Cass with Peter Carl, Joseph Rykwert and Helen Mallinson in 2015. He has taught at The Architectural Association, the University of Cambridge, The Cass, and since 2016 has been a Visiting Professor at Liverpool University. He established Lynch Architects in 1997. Recipient of numerous awards, their projects have been widely published and exhibited at major events, including The Venice Biennale in 2012, the Irish pavilion at Venice in 2008, and the Milano Triennale in 2017. Patrick is the author of Civic Ground (2017), Mimesis (2015), and The Theatricality of the Baroque City (2011). TOM MCCARTHY
is a novelist whose work has been translated into more than twenty languages. His first novel, Remainder,
won the 2008 Believer Book Award and was recently adapted for the cinema. His third, C, was a 2010 Booker Prize finalist, as was his fourth, Satin Island, in 2015. McCarthy is also author of the study Tintin and the Secret of Literature, and of the essay collection Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish. He contributes regular-ly to publications such as The New York Times, The London Review of Books, Harper’s and Artforum. In 2013 he was awarded the inaugural Wind-ham Campbell Prize for Fiction by Yale University. He is currently a Fellow of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme. E VA S T E N R A M
is an artist. Born in Sweden, she grew up there and in London and the USA. A graduate of The Royal College of Art MA Photography course, Eva’s work has been widely exhibited and published. She currently lives in Berlin. N I C H O L AS T E M P L E
is an Australian academic and architect and is currently professor of architecture and Director of the Centre for Urban Design, Architecture and Sustainability (CUDAS) at the University of Huddersfield. He previously served as head of the School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln and was an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a Rome Scholar in Architecture at the British School at Rome, a Paul Mellon Rome Fellow and a Bogliasco Fellow and has collaborated on a number funded research projects on the history and theory of architecture and urbanism in Europe and China, most recently British Academy grants (‘Lorenzo Ghiberti’s 3rd Commentary’ and ‘The Temporality of Building: Architecture and Heritage in Europe and China’). He was shortlisted for the CICA Bruno Zevi Book Award in 2014 (Renovatio Urbis: Architecture, Urbanism and Ceremony in the Rome of Julius II, Routledge, 2011) and is chief editor of the Routledge Research in Architectural History series and coeditor of the Journal of Architecture. FRANCESCO VENEZIA
is an architect. Born in Lauro, near Naples in 1944, he qualified as an architect in 1970, following studies in the Faculty of Architecture at Naples University. Francesco immediately established his own practise in the city, and began to teach. Together with many other internationally renowned artists and architects, Francesco took part in the Gibellina reconstruction project following the Belice earthquake in 1968. His work there includes the Gibellina Museum, which contains fragments of the ancient Palazzo Di Lorenzo. Francesco became Professor of Architectural Composition at the University Institute of Architecture
in Venice (IUAV) in 1986. He has also taught at the Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne, Harvard GSD, and Mendrisio Among his most important works are: Piazza Marginale-Lancelotti in Lauro (1974-1976); Palazzo Di Lorenzo in Gibellina (1981-1987); A Secret Garden in Gibellina (1984-1987); University Library and Legal and Economic University Campus in Amiens (1993-1997); IUAV Material Testing Laboratory in Mestre (1995-2002); the exhibition “Gli Etruschi” at Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2000). In 1987 Francesco was commissioned by the Milan Triennale to represent Naples with the exhibition “Imagined Cities: A Trip to Italy – Nine projects for Nine Cities”, and coordinated, alongside Paolo Di Caterina, a critical survey of the Neapolitan region. In 1988 one of his projects – the museum at Gibellina – was shortlisted for the Mies van der Rohe Award. In 1997 he won the “Premio Internazionale Architettura di Pietra”, and in 2003 his project for IUAV Material Testing Laboratory in Mestre won “Premio Architettura Citta di Oderzo”, and was shortlisted for the Mies van der Rohe Awards. His writing and design work have appeared in numerous publications including: La Torre d’Ombra: Or The Architecture of Royal Appearances (1978); Gustavo Gilli’s monograph Francesco Venezia includes an introduction by Alvaro Siza (1988); Scritti Brevi (1990); Francesco Venezia: Ideas and Occasions (2006). Francesco is a member of the Academy of San Lucca, and in 2015 he was awarded the Career Gold Medal at the Milan Triennale. He continues to live and work in Naples. P E T E R YO U T H E D
is an architect. Born in London, Peter studied philosophy at Southampton before studying architecture at The Cass (winning the dissertation prize as an undergraduate, and then the prize for best diploma portfolio with Patrick Lynch and Alun Jones as his tutors). He worked in London for a number of years (at Jonathan Tuckey Architects and Lynch Architects), before establishing Studio Otamto in Warsaw in 2017. He co-curates the Building on the Built talk series and website, and lives in Warsaw with his young family.
What is Architecture? (Fragments of Notes to Students) Francesco Venezia 5
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Previous page: From top to bottom: G.B.Piranesi, Terme di Diocleziano, 1774, Windsor Hotel Madrid, after fire, 2005 This page: Maarten van Heemskerck,view of the new Basilica, 1535
There is no renewal in architecture without a relationship with the past, and without a deep knowledge of it; in architecture, much of the past is represented by the ruin. This process of ruination has, over time, taken parts of a building (those that represented the sensitivity of the period in which it was conceived), and given them a more universal meaning. One might call this a sense of the eternal present. It is what has survived the passage of numerous civilizations, and what remains has only the power of architectural form. The designer must be able to see the universal potential of the ruin, in order to revive it by creating new functions for its essential form. Whilst a ruin is what remains of an accomplished building, the unfinished is what remains of a completed project. Even the unfinished building contains a strong aesthetic value, because in its incompleteness it has the strength to affect us, and to achieve a new or different beauty.
W H AT I S A R C H I T E C T U R E ?
You will remember that in the first lesson the protagonists were ruins. I showed you, in the opening presentation of the year, two images, the images of two proud buildings, one ancient and the other contemporary, which had both suffered the outrage of the ruination. The first was a 16th century engraving of the Baths of Dicoleziano in Rome: centuries of fires, destruction, spoiling having reduced the grandiose fabric to a mutilated form, one completely devoid of coverings, decorations, furnishings, statues. But still so vital as to nurture generations of Renaissance architects; setting in motion a chain of artistic effort that Western architecture used as a resource up until the beginning of the 20th century. They had nourished the notion that there was even more to learn a ruin, than from the same building intact. Subsequently, the remains of the Frigidarium were transformed by Michelangelo into a basilica, the Basilica of Saint Mary of Angels and the Martyrs: it still lives, open today still to worship and mass public celebrations. The second image was an aerial photograph of the Windsor skyscraper in Madrid, immediately after a great fire: within a few hours it had been reduced to a tangled mess of beams and cast wires, a mountain of trash. How different the fate of this building appears from that of the other. Nothing is useful anymore. It’s ready to be dumped along with the rubbish bags that we put out on the street every day. Once architects planned “beautiful ruins”—and it was with a warning ninety years ago that Auguste Perret, magician of reinforced concrete, addressed his students: “always remember to design beautiful ruins.” Today we design “beautiful garbage”. We design buildings whose destiny is to increase, in large landfills, the mountains of rusty refrigerators, of broken cars. To those who are tempted to invoke the diversity of services that a building today requires (the solutions of the much-vaunted High Tech) almost to justify the ineluctability of the two different destinies, it is worth remembering that those bare mighty ruins illustrated in the sixteenth century engraving were what remained of a building that had provided “environmental services” for centuries. Imposing spaces, decorated with marble cladding, mosaics; thousands of statues and reliefs; surrounded by gardens with Nymphaeums, pavilions and exedras. All concealed and perfectly integrated into architectural structures, complex networks both for the inflow, circulation and outflow of hot and cold water. All of which fed giant tanks and pools, both for the conditioning of the environment with the production and circulation of hot air in ingenious interstitial voids: all done in order to maintain carefully calibrated and graduated temperatures between Trepidarium and Calidarium. A monument to the well-being of the three thousand bodies that moved about in those spaces each day, intertwined in the most various spatial and social relationships, in an area of 1,600 square metres! In comparison, today’s so called High Tech (false ceilings that hide a jumble of pipes, cables, nozzles, rock wool insulation, etc.), can only make us smile. But let’s go back to the ruins. The ruin has an important place in human experience and psychic life: it has a poetic nature. The ruin makes us travel with the mind; it makes us lose ourselves in a deep temporal perspective and with uncertain boundaries, feeds our need for infinity. A human infinity, of course, that would be better called “indefinite”. For this—and more—we love ruins. We are willing to travel long and
sometimes exhausting journey to see them. Five centuries ago, these journeys were a matter of months or years, entailed enormous hardships and dangers… all to admire ruins. The participants also commenced upon another voyage, the journey of the mind towards the ancients. Then there is—and we enter the field of our theme of the year—another event that shapes time by moving our mind, a complementary eventuality of the first. We start from a project, the completed project of a building, and we think that, due to the most diverse causes and vicissitudes, this project leads to an unfinished building. If we look around, the reality is full of unfinished buildings, buildings that have had a constructive affair in which, or because of the excessive ambition of the program— a building too big—or for unexpected events—a war, an invasion, a change political—or simply because the money had run out or the building materials had run out, there was an interruption of the construction site. These are complementary buildings to the ruins; they are the surviving part of a completed project. The ruin is what remains of a building; the unfinished building is what remains of a completed project. In both cases we are faced with something that is fragmented, mutilated. I would like to draw your attention to this point: both the ruins and the unfinished building contain a strong aesthetic value. We are not in the presence of a defeat of the original building or the original project. In their incompleteness, as fragments, they have the strength to move us, to achieve a new or different beauty. It’s like a broken shell; the inside, unveiled, allows us to discover a fascinating world. In architecture the same thing happens: a building that had to be covered remains uncovered, offering the image of open spaces, an unexpected and powerful image A building, of which only two or three bays are constructed having lost the original relationship between height and overall width of the building, appears a giant fragment. Then there is the unfinished as a suspension of construction, an interruption of the proliferation of non-strategic and therefore superfluous details (things that conceal, reduce and sometimes extinguish the expressive force of the construction and the structure). It’s a frequent situation in our work as architects. I know what it means, it’s happened to me more than once. You do a project, carefully articulate the parts and then: “No, we’re sorry. No, we must stop here”. We must stop here, but the project naturally had its own balance, which had cost us a lot of effort. We must then put into action—and quickly— the best resources of imagination, because the surviving part retains its fullness of use and, above all, its formal and artistic completeness. In other words, it manages not to appear to us as a defeat, but, on the contrary, as something that gains just where it has lost. On the other hand, the architect’s work is a fight against the unexpected, against accidents. The important thing is to train yourself to grasp, in incidents like these, a “poetic reaction”, one that translates damage to benefit. “And the more it benefits me where it hurts me,” Michelangelo says in one of his verses. We should keep this in our minds as a constant warning. One must also be able to resort to the extreme resource of reviving a project that has been refused—one which was not financed, put on hold, delayed for any number of reasons. And, ultimately, we need to keep in mind the idea that underpins a project, reviving it on another occasion if necessary. Often, the idea and the project have been waiting patiently for years. 7
An Axis Between Earth and Sky A conversation between Francesco Venezia (Naples) and Patrick Lynch (London), Augustâ€“November 2018 (translated by Sara Nosrini et al) 8
PAT R I C K LY N C H : Your work is strongly poetic and powerfully painterly, but also appears to be profoundly embedded in the lives of the people who live and work and play there. It often incorporates ruins, sometimes remaking them as part of a new composition, for example at La Casa di Lorenzo and The Secret Garden at Gibellina in Sicily. Could one call your architecture, or indeed all architecture, “a living ruin”?
“Rovina vivente” (living ruins) is a pleasant definition: subtract the ruin from an idea of the pathological condition of the building, from its terminal state. Many years ago—I was still a student—I came across two images of 16th century Rome. One illustrated the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian, the other, a nascent Saint Peter’s Basilica in construction: two images that appeared surprisingly equivalent to me. I thought about the traveller who, wandering in Rome in those years, would have the privilege to encounter, in a single day, the ruins of the Diocletian Baths, and re-encounter those same ruins in the grandiose Basilica under construction: a powerful idea of circularity. Had Michelangelo, in restoring the Frigidarium at the Baths of Diocletian through its transformation to a Christian Basilica, not preserved, with care, its state of ruin? An unmissable opportunity to affirm the “unfinished” as an expression of architecture at its highest level. The ruin is, so to speak, incorporated into the nature of the building since birth; it is consubstantial with it. I try to think about and design a building like a ruin, as a form devoid of all superfluous excesses that are imposed by practical and functional motives— things, that in practice are determined by need, in order to justify the economic burden of realisation, or of subsequent necessary transformations: the banality of what might be called “the content” is sometimes redeemed by the greatness of “the form”. The “content” sometimes is destined to vanish, and the building, when it has become a ruin, finally fully reveals the architectural idea behind it. FRANCESCO VENEZIA:
P L : I’m struck by the inherent theatricality of your work, for example in the Piazza at your home town of Lauro near Naples, and in the landscaped amphitheatre at the ruined Carmine convent at Salemi in Sicily. The theatre was a primary type in Roman culture, of course, and as such a sort of ruined, or half-finished house. In the Baroque period theatres became very obviously entwined with gardens (for example at Versailles, Dresden, and Vienna); in your architecture, ruins-gardenstheatres seem to be interchangeable, and to signify the potential of civic life in general today.
In 1962, I undertook a journey to Sicily, organised by my school. At Syracuse, I met my first theatre, the Greek Theatre. The opening of the Cavea, at the top, seals a Hypogaeic subterranean world, announced by the presence of the excavated spaces along the upper ring. From the bottom of the Latomie, the Orecchio di Dionisio, forming a unity with the upper cavity, entered my consciousness. I believe I have never been liberated from that potent image. I am led to imagining it present, operating in my work. The Teatrino di Salemi and the Teatro ai Ruderi di Gibellina are, to some measure, the secret reflection of those distant experiences. More generally, “theatricality”, the openings in a scene, are the motivation behind some of my works. Piazzo a Lauro acts as a device that opens the town to the scene of the hilly landscape covered in olive trees. The first act was the demolition of the wall, which impeded the view from the street. In Alcoy, in the project to renovate the quarter of Buidoli, three stepped Piazze protrude out into the landscape of mountains. In New York, in the project for a square at Battery Park, the long inclined plane concludes in a Loggia that frames the scene of the boats on the Hudson and, behind, the skyscrapers of New Jersey and the island of the Statue of Liberty: a large reclining body, almost a Sphinx, on which move the bodies of people. FV:
This page and opposite: Theatre in Salemi
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Playing an important role in all these examples is the management of gradients: inclined planes; creases; steps; topographic elements that render mutable the line of the horizon, linking the experience of space to the position of one’s eyes, things that “appear” or “fade” into view, and confer richness to one’s experience of space. La Casa Malaparte stages the horizon in a heroic manner. Marine horizon and roof-solarium horizon play together with our ascent and descent. It was an experience that, ten years after the one at Syracuse— it was 1973—has further enriched my education as an architect. P L : Alvaro Siza only wrote one book, and it’s about you (published by 2G in 1993). You both seem to me to share an interest in the relationships between sculpture and architecture. Could you say something about the role of sculpture in your projects? I’m thinking not only of your incorporation of contemporary artworks, but also the way the antique windows and columns at Gibellina take on the haunting power of fragments in your work. F V : I would like to offer a premise: sculpture is often an integral part of architecture. Sometimes statues enter as part of the tectonics, and also of the structure of the building. In one of my recent works, the preparation of the exhibition Pompei e l’Europa, I experimented again with the relationships between sculptural and architectonic space. I displayed the statue of Hippolyte Moulin, Trouvallie a Pompei, creating what I considered an appropriate spatial setting for it. The statue burst into the field of vision of the visitor, brandishing a protesting arm—the small, ancient sculpture newly rediscovered. The design alluded to the ancient house in which the discovery took place. The window is the dominant motif. Replicated in depth, it accentuates the appearance and re-appearance of the bronze figure, and its joyous dance-step. P L : You once wrote that “the best ideas come out of necessity”, and that the architectural task however is to establish itself in terms of “formal autonomy”. This suggests that design does not (and cannot?) begin with autonomous architecture, but grows out of the context of “many little problems”. These contextual issues must, however, become sublimated into an architectural idea you suggest. I see this tension displayed in your work in terms of geometry—which is often open-handed, playful, joyfully mimetic of topography; and in architectural figures—which are often somewhat silent and resolute, enduring, aloof even: is this the “resistance” that you speak of, the quality of “endurance” of buildings? F V : The content in architecture is often banal, or mostly transitory, because it is linked to customs; it necessitates practices destined to mature or disappear over time. Architecture that proposes to adhere slavishly to its content—to the idea that form follows function, as one would once have been said—is destined for a short life.
Top: Sculpture of Hippolyte Moulin, National Archaeological Museum, Naples Bottom: Piazza at Lauro
AN AXIS BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY
This page: A Secret Garden at Gibellina
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Opposite: Casa Posillipo This page: XVII Trienna di Milano, 1987 (Section)
AN AXIS BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY
Conversely, after two thousand years, we are still enthusiastic about the idea of living in a Pompeian house. Why? Because in that house the atrium, abandoned by the life that took place inside it—the quotidian functions of cooking, of eating, of washing—has changed into a space in which that same everyday life is transformed into something pure and formal: into something immortal. Immortal is the nature of a space intended for imprisonment. Imprison the sun: the moving meridian of light that passes over the walls; imprison the rain; that volume of water that bursts through the Compluvium down into the Impluvium; imprison the sky; the moon and the stars framed in a high clear night sky. The domestic objects of the house’s previous life are transformed and made eternal by its marble substance. The marble Cartibulum takes the place of the wooden table, becoming almost an altar; the marble Puteal, takes the place of the little well from which the inhabitants once drew water. The atrium has become a domestic ‘Poema della Natura’. Parmenides seems to have been the ideal inspiration: metamorphosis and metaphor at work in the heart of an ancient Italian house. We are eternally condemned to return to that space. You taught at Venice for many years. Was the city and its architecture influential in your teaching and your own design work?
F V : Venice did not have any influence on my educational work. In general it is not the choice of an extraordinary place that conditions the quality and the result of the project. I don’t like to say to my students: “I give to you an extraordinary place in which to work”. Rather, it is the beauty of a project that redeems the banality of the place, or the stereotypical beauty of a place. I have only done one project for Venice, in 1988, when I was teaching in Genoa: it was an invited competition for the Padiglione Italia in the Giardini della Biennale. My project emphasised the
inherent nature of Venice as a city built on timber piles, and also its character as an oriental city. I have, however, realised a work in Mestre, the IUAV Material Testing Laboratory for the school of architecture of the University of Venice. The project reacts on the one hand to the extremely prosaic character of the area, il piazzale del Mattatoio di Venezia—the square of the Venice abattoir; and on the other hand, to the prosaic nature of the functional purpose and contents of the laboratory— an abattoir of samples and structural elements, tested for their performance and resistance. The fact that the laboratory is situated in a squalid context very close to the centre of Mestre, was not actually so negative. In spite of the unpromising point of departure for the project, the laboratory and courtyard presents itself with the character of a monument. Sometimes the power and beauty of a city reside in the disquieting co-existence of beautiful buildings and ugly buildings. Your Office is in Naples, a city that seems to be constantly in a complex state of renewal and ruination, of spatial inversions and material continuity, of an ongoing dissolution of hard borders between formal and informal structures. Walter Benjamin famously described Naples as “porous as a stone”. I perhaps foolishly imagine that this ambiguity must have influenced your aesthetic and your sense of time. Are you currently working on any new projects there? PL:
In forty years of professional practice there, I have designed and realised only one work in Naples—a very small house built on the rocks at Posillipo in 1990, above one of the many caves excavated to procure construction material. A small house, yet significant: it summarises and expresses, I would like to immodestly suggest, the fundamental character of Naples. Two years before the design of the house, I had curated the Neapolitan section of La Triennale di Milano (in 1988), entitled FV:
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“Le Citta Immaginate”, revealing the coexistence of two worlds. The first a quarry, mother of the second. It was a real privilege to have been able, with the small house at Posillipo, to offer a contemporary response to the historical formation of Naples. P L : Can you say something about your recent exhibition “Nature re-doubling as Reflection” at the Maxxi in Rome (2011)? Rather than re-presenting the ideas in your work, the illuminated object seemed to embody them. There was a dark, folded, horizontal plane, and a bright light source above this: a strong contrast between ground and sky. These archetypal situations recur in architecture. You seem to be interested in working within a form of tradition that is stripped of nostalgia and fear.
I tried to make a partial cancellation or negation of the interior of the space at my disposal, by highlighting some ingredients of the MAXXI building—spaces which, when isolated and decontextualised, acquire a different power. When I saw the imposing roof system— designed by Zaha Hadid to support potential structural loads and to provide illumination—my first thought was to isolate a small part of this, to ensure that only one beam and two rows of wings emerged from this enormous machine: to delineate the shape of a sort of fishbone.
I then lowered the height of the compartment, from 6 to 2.4 meters, squashing and compressing the exhibition space, in the spirit of the Quadro Nero by Lucio Fontana. The coal-coloured suspended ceiling transformed the profound height into a narrow and elongated well of light. At the top of the well, the fishbone-like strut is visible. On the floor, I placed a water tank, something that doubled, by reflection, the well of light. Two small islands joined the water tank. A large model of one of my projects opened as a book to reveal, in section, the subterranean spaces, and a naked boulder: two elements that allude to the presence of a landscape. A decision was made towards the end of the period of design work to introduce a suspended chrome steel tube, one that appears to fall from the summit of the skylight: almost as if to materialise an axis between the earth and the sky.
This page, left to right: Orecchio di Dionisio, Siracusa; IUAV Material Testing Laboratory, Mestre Opposite: Exhibition at The Maxi, 2011
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AN AXIS BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY
This page and opposite: Museum at Gibellina Following pages: IUAV Material Testing Laboratory, Mestre
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AN AXIS BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY
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AN AXIS BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY
Treading Water on (Un)Common Ground: Revisiting Mitsein Nicholas Temple
In a recently published article, entitled ‘Architecture as the Receptacle of Mitsein’, I attempted to convey the spatial implications of collective being as they relate to a philosophical dispute between Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas concerning the nature and meaning of mitsein (‘being-with’).1 A much-contested neologism, first brought to light in Heidegger’s Being and Time2, the term has subsequently been debated among philosophers and theologians.3 Key to Levinas’ criticism of Heidegger’s principle of mitsein is the apparent absence of an ethics of being in the world, with respect to our responsibility to fellow human beings. Levinas directs us to our ‘face to face’ contact with others, and ultimately with God, which engenders unconditional commitment without preconditions.4 This relationship, moreover, serves as a powerful ‘situational’ counterpoint to an alternative arrangement that has often been associated with the modern mechanised age—namely the ‘side by side’ relationship—that has also been (somewhat incorrectly) applied to Heidegger’s mitsein. In my essay, I posed the question of the spatial implications of this philosophical dispute, and what this can tell us about the role that architectural and urban settings play in reinforcing our relationships to others. The study focused on a specific event that took place in Florence in the early 15th century: a poetry contest that commemorated the completion of Brunelleschi’s dome for Santa Maria del Fiore—the Certame Coronario. A peculiar aspect of this event, which was, incidentally, organised by the great humanist and Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti, was its celebration of friendship, a theme that had resonance in the symbolism of the dome, as Alberti would later describe in his preface to the Italian version of his treatise on painting, Della Pittura.5 In the concluding part of the essay, I used a contemporary building, Peter Zumthor’s famous thermal baths in Vals, Switzerland, as a comparison to provoke an argument that the search for settings in the contemporary world, where we no longer have the kind of traditions of public ritual that existed in the past, requires a return to something fundamental; namely situations that are more visceral and less rehearsed, drawing upon an essentially phenomenological understanding of space as experienced in the intimacy of a public thermal baths. However, my choice of Zumthor’s building for this study was questioned by some readers, on the grounds that it was essentially “uncivic”, when compared to the settings traditionally associated with public spectacle in Renaissance Florence.6 I grant the obvious difference, but the criticism relates to a more critical issue that underpins the essay: that is, whether the kinds of alignments between
Opposite: São Nicolau Baths and Wash House in Porto
friendship and public (ritual) space that we see consciously invoked in Alberti’s contest in Santa Maria del Fiore and elsewhere in Renaissance Italy can find any equivalence in our age of mass social media, where forms of private ontology (reflected for example in domestic situations or in our reinforced personal spaces) serve as a refuge against the invasiveness of public interest. Increasingly in the digital world, notions of friendship, and their associations with mutual respect, companionship and even intimacy, are constructed in such a way that no physical contact need necessarily take place.7 Therefore, we are having to redefine the very meaning of friendship per se, as a relationship that can be sustained (remotely) by on-line exchanges alone. Related to this specific challenge are more general concerns highlighted in Richard Sennett’s seminal work The Fall of Public Man which explores the decline in public life and the cult of individualism in the modern age. As a consequence of this decline the very concept of ‘civicness’, and the civic realm are, at best, put into parenthesis; or, at worst simply denuded of any meaning or significance.8 Hence the idea of friendship as a ‘civic expression’ of mitsein, as we see clearly demonstrated during the Renaissance, prompts us to reconsider the role of architecture and urban space today as spatial registers of individual and communal bonding. Zumthor’s thermal baths are perhaps instructive at one level in this regard, in that the apparently random encounter of strangers within the intimate and visceral environment of communal bathing, particularly in the highly rarefied spaces of Zumthor’s thermal baths, offers scope for spatial relationships that are generally rare in the public domain today. Such experiences recall (albeit very distantly) the ‘civic’ bath buildings of the ancient world and, at another level, disclose a phenomenological perspective in which building interior, surrounding landscape and individual souls interact and impart traces for future potential ‘re-enactments’. This essay returns to some of the themes of that earlier enquiry, but develops them within the context of two important but inter-related observations: firstly, that the demise of public man which Sennett describes, and which formed the background to my earlier discussions of mitsein, was in many ways already anticipated during the early Renaissance; and that Alberti’s contest on friendship (when understood in the religious context of the Duomo) could in one sense be interpreted as a kind of testimony to a gradual shift towards an immanent world. Secondly, underlying my brief examination of the thermal baths by Zumthor is a more productive discussion concerning the ‘agonic’ and congenial associations of water with civic space (which relates to the ancient paradigms of the public bath building referred to earlier). Both observations could be said to literally and metaphorically converge in the present study of mitsein in ways that I hope are 23
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productive, giving further insight into our own modern world-view. To indicate the importance of the first observation, I begin with Dalibor Vesely’s assertion that there existed, even before modernity, a “slow perspectivisation of culture as a whole”9; that the invention of pictorial space in the early Renaissance (which Vesely considers as the first significant sign of the modern age) formed part of a more gradual process of change that began in the Middle Ages, with advances in the study of optics and a new understanding of the perceived concatenation of urban spaces in cities through civic/religious procession; and decisive in this process of perspectivisation was Brunelleschi’s famous perspective experiment outside the Duomo in the early 15th century, and Alberti’s subsequent codification of linear perspective in Della Pittura referred to earlier.10 In Alberti’s treatise, the sovereign gaze of the individual viewer is, for the first time, given explicit geometrical definition in relation to the perspective window and central vanishing point. The significance of this development in pictorial space, when considered in the context of mitsein, is best conveyed in the reaction of Nicholas Cusanus, a contemporary of Alberti and one of the leading thinkers of the 15th century. In his theological tract, De vision Dei (The Vision of God), Cusanus seems to take issue with Alberti’s earlier treatise, by arguing against the notion of an exclusively human (anthropomorphic) gaze that is autonomous from the surrounding world.11 Rather than being (seemingly) ‘monocular’, the vision that Cusanus promulgates is a shared exchange between individuals (in this case observant monks) and God through the agency of the allseeing gaze of Christ, represented in a religious icon. It is easy to see how this communal (embodied) understanding of vision relates to the phenomenological concept of mitsein, even allowing for the dispute between Heidegger and Levinas outlined earlier.12 Cusanus’s theology of vision acknowledged an older Medieval religious tradition and, at the same time, advanced a new perspective that sought to counter the insularity foreseen in Alberti’s pictorial frame, with its ultimate consequence of the modern ‘world-picture’.13 UCCELLO’S DILUVIO This brief outline of the disputes surrounding linear perspective, and their implications in the understanding of mitsein in the modern age, brings me to a fresco in Florence that casts some light on the second observation outlined above. My investigation of this fresco forms part of a larger study, to be published in a forthcoming book (Architecture and the Language Dispute: Artistic and Linguistic Debates in Italy from the 15th to the Early 18th Centuries). On 4 November 1966, a tragic event took place in Florence that was to change the city forever: the Arno River burst its banks and flooded the city, destroying thousands of artworks and killing over a hundred people. Among the many paintings that were salvaged from the polluted floodwater was a little understood, but celebrated, fresco in the Cortile Verde (‘green cloister’) in Santa Maria Novella, popularly known as the Diluvio (the Flood) by the great Florentine artist Paolo Uccello. Forming part of a larger fresco cycle of the Story of Noah, it is perhaps ironic that a fresco depicting the biblical Flood should be miraculously saved in these tragic circumstances, albeit with signs of more gradual deterioration (notably faded colour) resulting from environmental damage over time.
From several recent studies of the fresco cycle, in particular by Eugenio Marino and E.M.L. Wakayama, it is generally agreed that the Diluvio was painted specifically to commemorate an important event that took place in the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Novella over a number of years, which coincided with the poetry contest (Certame Coronario) in Santa Maria del Fiore referred to earlier.14 Adjacent to the Cortile Verde in the convent is a larger cloister that accommodated some palatial rooms along its perimeter (no longer in existence) which were at one time occupied by Pope Eugenius IV. Exiled from Rome, the Venetian pope was welcomed by Cosimo de Medici to seek refuge in Florence in 1434 during what was a particularly auspicious time. Despite the enormous political and theological challenges confronting the papacy during this period, following the disasters of the earlier Council of Basel (notably the disputes surrounding the Conciliar Movement and the installation of an ‘antipope’, Felix V), Eugenius was committed to reforming the Church. This entailed directly challenging the Council of Basel by seeking to reconcile the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, whose long-term differences centred around the dispute concerning the Filioque (or ‘double procession’ of the Holy Spirit). The pope’s ambition led to the establishment of a famous council, which originally took place in Ferrara only to be relocated to Florence (in the convent of Santa Maria Novella) from 1439 to 1443. It is likely that members of this Council of Florence, as it became known, from both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, also witnessed the Certame Coronario, giving rise to an interesting theological counterpoint to the debates surrounding friendship: some of the poetry entries to the contest granted individual relationships to Christ as the greatest friendship of all. The Cortile Verde no doubt served as an important processional route from the papal apartments to the basilica during the Council of Florence, and it is therefore understandable why the frescoes of the Story of Noah should be on the east wall of this cloister, next to the entrance to the basilica. Let us now consider the composition and iconographic content of the fresco. Of all the Old Testament narratives, the story of Noah’s Ark is perhaps the most celebrated in conveying the notion of collective salvation of all humanity and of the natural kingdom, and has been variously interpreted as an Old Testament precursor to Christian baptism. Unusually, two arks are represented in this fresco, each confronting the other on both flanks of the arched painting, delineating a perspectival wedged space in the middle of the fresco that extends without interruption to a horizon clearly visible between the two vessels in the background. Various interpretations have been made of this novel portrayal of the Flood; one interpretation, by Eugenio Marino, suggests that the Ark on the left, which extends further into the depth of the fresco (almost meeting the vanishing point of the painting), portrays the vessel during the Flood itself and was intended to express the precarious state of the Church at the time of the Council of Basel. The Ark on the right, on the other hand, is shorter in length and clearly shows a bearded Noah leaning out of an open portal in the side of the vessel: this represents the saved Ark after the Flood and symbolises the union of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches which, if only briefly, was the happy outcome of
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the Council of Florence. Importantly, members of the Council are highlighted in the lower fresco on the left, witnessing Noah’s offering of thanks. This alludes to the principle that the unification of both Catholic and Orthodox churches was the reward of human salvation after the Flood. More directly damaged by the 1966 floods, the lower fresco also contains a scene of the Drunkenness of Noah on the right, as well as an elaborate pergola shown in perspective in the central portion of the painting, festooned with grapes. In addition to representations of the Giganti and Noah in the Diluvio, the fresco also contains some gruesome scenes of devastation, including dead infants shown strewn on the ground after the subsidence of the Flood. What is particularly interesting about the Diluvio fresco is the treatment of the perspective, in which the extreme orthogonals are defined by the two arks. The directness of the perspective projection is almost without precedent in the early Renaissance, creating in the process a compressed wedged space in the central portion of the fresco which is populated by chaotic scenes of bodies and debris. Equally curious is the prominence given to the horizon, partly obscured by the turmoil of the tempest in which lightning, ominous grey clouds and uprooted trees complicate the landscape. Amidst this chaos is a figure, unperturbed by the events surrounding him, standing in the foreground in front of the Ark on the right. Popularly described as ‘Uomo-benedicente’ (man of blessing), the figure is shown in classical attire traditionally associated with an orator, an attribution that seems consistent with his hand gestures. As if narrating the events that are unfolding behind him, the figure seems nevertheless drawn into the fate that has befallen those souls who seek refuge within the Ark. This is expressed by the way he is shown ‘anchored’ to the scene; two hands of a figure emerge from below, out of the debris of the Flood, clasping the orator’s feet, while Noah’s right hand of benediction hovers above his head.
The identity of the orator has been variously interpreted as the antipope (Felix V), Eugenius IV and even Leon Battista Alberti, the latter probably on account of Uccello’s mastering of perspective in the fresco. However, these attributions are less than convincing. Yet the identity remains potentially significant, not just because it may help to clarify the iconographic content of the fresco, but because, more crucially it may tell us more about the context of the Council of Florence itself. I would argue that the person shown in this fresco is none other than Nicholas Cusanus. My reason for this choice is partly highlighted in a recent book by Karsten Harries, entitled Perspective and Infinity, in which the author provides a detailed account of Cusanus’s metaphysical theories in the light of a voyage he undertook across the Mediterranean.15 In order to persuade the Byzantine emperor (John VIII Palaiologos) and the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church (Joseph II) to attend the Council, Eugenius IV sent Nicholas Cusanus, along with a papal envoy, to Constantinople. Through Cusanus’s skills as a public speaker and theologian of great intellect, both emperor and patriarch agreed to accompany him on his return voyage to Italy. During his journey the ship on which the papal envoy was travelling witnessed a terrible storm that threatened the lives of those on board. It was during this perilous voyage, and Cusanus’s ‘revelatory’ experience of the horizon at sea, that the Cardinal was inspired to write what is arguably his greatest work, De Docta Ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’).16 This is a meditation on humanity’s finite relationship to God’s infinite presence, which became the basis of an important theological principle known as the ‘coincidence of opposites’. Cusanus’s theology of infinity was central in forming the foundations of his belief that perspective was essentially a meditative geometry concerning humanity’s relationship to God. It seems appropriate, therefore, that Cusanus should be represented in Uccello’s fresco of the Diluvio, serving at one level as testimony to his return voyage from Constantinople when the Cardinal contemplated the relationship between God and human finitude, themes that I believe are implicit in both the content and composition of the fresco. The short-lived success of the Council of Florence should not undermine the significance of this event in the history of the church, particularly against the backdrop of political and religious turmoil during the pontificate of Eugenius IV. The council affirmed the rewards of human reconciliation and cooperation (very much in the manner expressed by Sennett in his more recent book, Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation17), further underscored by the fraternal sentiments communicated at the concurrent Certame Coronario. In each case, architecture and urban space played a central role in facilitating union through religious and fraternal bonds. Noah’s Ark and the Biblical Flood provides, in this context, an enduring metaphor of collective human salvation framed by a new perspectival understanding of the world—and, indeed, of God.
This page: Uccello’s Diluvio
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S Ã O N I C O L AU B AT H S A N D WAS H H O U S E , P O R T O The duplex themes (diluvial and perspectival) that underlie Uccello’s 15th century fresco, and their spatial, humanistic and theological contexts, provide a fertile historical counterpoint in which to revisit the issue of mitsein in contemporary architecture. The modesty of the building chosen for this study belies its richness and complexity. The São Nicolau Baths and Wash House is a small urban intervention in the Ribeira district of Porto. It was constructed in 1992 to a design by Paulo Providência. Close to the River Douro and in visible range of the basilica of St. Francis, the building is essentially buried beneath a flat terrain, with which it forms an integral part, making any sense of building boundary or its visible presence difficult to ascertain. This ambiguity provides a rich canvas on which to interpret the inter-relationships between the ‘lie of the land’, building use, materiality and orientation. On several fronts, the project provides an intriguing contemporary reference to investigate the notion of ‘being-with’ as an architectural issue; more implicitly ‘civic’ than Zumthor’s thermal baths (as I will explain), and yet drawing upon a common tradition of communal exchange through the immersive and ritual effects of water. Before examining the building, however, I would like first to quote a statement by the architect:
“There are works of architecture whose aurae seem to dissipate at the moment of materialization. And then there are others which gradually acquire an aura that was inchoate at the moment of their construction. Among the second group we might count Álvaro Siza’s tidal swimming pools at Leça da Palmeira Portugal (19611966), and Sigurd Lewerentz’s small Church of St. Peter in Klippan, Sweden (1962-1966). These are works that are apprehended by the experiences of visiting, by the body’s confrontation with their scale and materiality. Perhaps it is these works’ resistance to time, or their capacity to interpellate the observer (they devolve the gaze) — whether this results from the “here and now” of their construction or from a fracture, an insurmountable distance—which endows them with a specific presence.”18 Providência’s observations reveal much about his thinking of architectural design; that the significance of building relies in large measure on its repeated use and experience over time. It is ultimately the directness of this experience, in the capacity of buildings to “interpellate [bring into being] the observer” that ultimately conveys meaning to the user. Two issues emerge from these observations that are particularly germane to this study; firstly, that architecture is in every sense a ‘setting’ conducive for occasioning (whether mundane or special) and, in the process, provides a congenial background that bears witness to human actions variously traced in the fabrics of buildings. Secondly, in considering architecture as essentially self-effacing (rather than narcissistic), buildings “devolve” the gaze of the occupant in the way Providência implies. However, as I have already alluded to earlier, in the context of the perspectivisation of space, the idea of a selfeffacing role of architecture prompts consideration of our increasingly disembodied ‘ocular’ relationship to the world and the challenges that a new narcissistic subject brings to the built environment.19
Returning to the building in question, the ‘civic’ credentials of the São Nicolau Baths and Wash House are largely borne out by the contribution of the design to the urban context. Besides its functional aspect, largely occupying the subterranean level of the building, the roof (at street level) serves as a level public space, set against the natural incline of the site. Hints of the activities below are registered by projecting roof-lights at terrace level that also function as park benches. In addition to providing much-needed level terrain for public use (mostly as a children’s play area), the architecture has a specific social purpose. At a time when running water was still not available in all houses in the Ribeira district, the council put in place initiatives to create a public facility for both bathing and washing clothes. What has transpired from this initial provision of an essential service is that the building has become a vitally important social venue, even though running water has since been introduced in many of the houses in the district. In this very practical space the mundane activities of washing provide a convivial setting for gossip and neighbourly exchange. It is an example of how architecture can meaningfully serve as a ‘receptacle’ of mitsein, responding both to a larger ‘civic’ urban context and addressing a specific need that transcends mere utility. In a student study coordinated by Professor Patrick Lynch at London Metropolitan University, the distinctive architectural qualities of the building were highlighted and encapsulated in the following observation: “The playful activities of the children on the roof top are mirrored by the quotidian activities in the wash house below . . . [it] succeeds in providing intimacy as well as infrastructure to those who use it—a poetics of the everyday.”20 This relationship is skilfully managed by the architect by mediating the different spaces of the building (both internal and external) in relation to the changing levels of the surrounding terrain, in such a way that topographical mediation could be said to ‘speak’ of the building’s larger civic purpose. This is succinctly demonstrated by the articulation of the main entrance to the wash house which is at the lower level. Here, the naturally inclined external ground is inverted internally by a raked entrance floor, giving rise to a pincer effect of sloping planes registered at the door threshold. This arrangement moreover extends to the 27
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São Nicolau baths and wash house
Igreja de S. Francisco
Sé Cathedral and Bishops Palace
tectonic relationships between walls in the space, in which a chamfered external wall gives the effect of channelling visitors/users down to the entrance of the wash room itself, which is illuminated along its passage by a clerestory window at street level. The dynamics of this transitionary space contrasts with the more static rectilinear (centrally roof-lit) hall that serves as the main washing room, mirrored by the public terrace above, where water, light, human toil and juxtaposition of hard surfaces (slate/cast concrete) interact. Along the ‘processional’ passage to the wash room is a mural, commissioned by the local council, which forms an integral part of the project, amplifying the aquatic theme. The mural is in a recessed space, flanked by entrances to the shower-rooms, and depicts two bathers (male and female, whose locations signal the entrance doors to the flanking toilets and shower-rooms) shown diving into blue tinted water and descending below a horizon line. It is as if entering the subterranean space, you are inadvertently being submerged beneath the water level, reminding us perhaps of the proximity of the wash-house to the nearby River Douro. The diluvial effects of the mural, when experienced in the context of the subterranean wash house, inspired one student to envisage a future when the building itself becomes a ruin: “An imagined view of 28
São Nicolau baths and wash house
the future city of flooded Porto with the River Douro having burst its banks. A flaneur discovers an overgrown ruin of a deserted wash house, during the river Douro at low tide.”21 Depicted in a provocative sketch of a blackened, cave-like space framing a view of the light-drenched flooded river, the scene and its accompanying “flaneur” reminds us of Uccello’s fresco of the Flood, in which the humanist/ orator appears to narrate the biblical drama unfolding before our eyes. In each case, pictorial space, storytelling, and architectural setting provide the ingredients for a powerful depiction that merges reality with mytho-historic narrative. And in each case the differences in the nature and meaning of mitsein loom large; in the case of the biblical depiction in Uccello’s fresco, the scene commemorates a memorable event of cooperation and communal vision mediated through the figure of Cusanus (paralleling the celebration of friendship in the Certame Coronario). In the contemporary example, on the other hand, the communal setting of the wash house and its mural are fictively dismantled and become a silent ruin through the impact of the flooded river, in which only the solitary flaneur muses over a lost world. What remains in the debris is not even salvation itself, given the flaneur’s self-contained existence, and this perhaps affirms the narcissistic vision that Cusanus had sought to counter in his De Visione Dei.
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Previous page: Mural by unknown artist in the entrance of SĂŁo Nicolau Baths and Wash House This page and opposite: Drawings situating the Bath House on the quay in Porto
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Nicholas Temple, ‘Architecture as a Receptacle of Mitsein’, in Intersections of Ethos and Space, edited by Nikolaos-Ion Terzoglou, Kyriaki Tsoukala & Charikleia Pantelidou (London: Routledge, 2015), pp.138-49.
representation of the city emerges from the bottom of the gown (the oldest known view in fact of Florence), surrounded by the citizens of Florence, and importantly includes a view of the reconstruction of the basilica under Arnolfo di Cambio. The association of the new Duomo with the Madonna of Mercy could be said to be implicit in Brunelleschi’s design of the dome which is often interpreted as a pleated gown or a series of sails rising above the city. This meaning closely relates to the second association, described in Alberti’s Della Pittura, in which the dome casts a shadow over all of Tuscany. This gesture alludes to the idea of structure effectively being synonymous with Tuscan identity and importantly with its common unifying language (volgare) that binds the city and its region. This is reiterated in Alberti’s Italian version of Della Pittura, which he dedicates to Brunelleschi, and of course the Certame Coronario in the Duomo in which poems were recited in the Tuscan vernacular rather than in Latin.
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), pp.156-57. See in particular F.A. Olafson, Heidegger and the Ground of Ethics: A Study Mitsein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2000), esp. p76. This resonance could be said to have a double meaning which is worth summarising here; on the one hand, the rededication of the new Duomo to the Virgin Mary (from the earlier dedication of the Early Christian basilica to Santa Reparata), gave the basilica a new association with the Madonna della Misericordia (the Madonna of Mercy), an important symbol of Florence, in which the Virgin’s gown is traditionally represented protecting and embracing the city and its citizens. We see this in a celebrated fresco attributed to the Bernardo Daddi school and dated 1352, in the Bigallo orphanage, in which a
Of note is an exchange of emails with Peter Carl on this point.
See for example the bizarre claims of Margaret Wertheim about the apparent advantages developing relationships through cyberspace as opposed to the ‘real’ world. The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet (London: Virago Press, 1999).
Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (London: Penguin, 2003)
Dalibor Vesely, Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation: The Question of Creativity in the Shadow of Production (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2004), p110. See also my ‘Envisioning Geometry: Architecture in the Grip of Perspective’, in Graham Cairns (ed.), Visioning Technologies: The Architectures of Sight (London: Routledge, 2016), pp.21-35
Studies on Renaissance perspective are extensive. Perhaps the most authoritative remains Samuel Y. Edgerton, Renaissance Rediscovery of Linear Perspective (New York: Icon Editions, Westview Press, 1976). Hans Belting, Florence & Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), pp.221-27. This subject requires more extensive discussion than can be given here. On the specific issue of a phenomenology of vision, without doubt the most insightful study is Maurice MerleauPonty, Phenomenology of Perception (London, Routledge, 2013). For a general study of Cusanus’ philosophy see P. M. Watts, Nicolaus Cusanus: A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1982)
Eugenio Marino O.P., Il “Diluvio” Di Paolo Uccello in S. Maria Novella ed il Concilio di Firenze (1439-1443) (Pistoia: Centro Riviste Provincia Romana, 1992); E.M.L., Wakayama, ‘Per la Datazione delle Storie di Noè di Paolo Uccello: un’ipostesi di lettura’, in Arte Lombarda, Vol.61 (1982), pp.93-106.
Karsten Harries, Infinity and Perspective (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2002). See also my Disclosing Horizons: Architecture, Perspective and Redemptive Space (London: Routledge, 2007).
See Peter J. Casarella (ed.), Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance (Washington, D.C: Catholic University America Press, 2006)
Richard Sennett, Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation (London: Penguin, 2013)
Paulo Providencia, Architectonica Percepta: Texts and Images 1985-2015, Park Books, Berlin, 2016, p.1.
Belting, Florence & Baghdad, pp.227-38.
Porto: Centre and Peripheries, Diploma Unit 2, The Cass, self-published booklet, London Metropolitan University, 2010, p.74.
Porto: Centre and Peripheries, Diploma Unit 2, The Cass, self-published booklet, London Metropolitan University, 2010, p.83.
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Making Visible: The Renovation and Transformation of Ljubljana Castle Peter Youthed
As a half-century long restoration project draws to a close, the story of how Ljubljana’s medieval castle has been transformed from a run-down municipal housing complex into a state-of-the-art cultural venue, and how the team of Slovenian architects who envisioned this transformation fought to make a strong civic contribution to the Slovenian capital, deserves our attention. Ljubljana’s Castle Hill has been continually inhabited since at least 1200BC, its strategic position leading to the establishment of a permanent settlement on the banks of the Ljubljanica river below. From the 1300s onward the city served as an administrative capital under Habsburg rule until the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War. Ljubljana took on its still recognisably Baroque character following a devastating earthquake in 1511; and, following a second earthquake in 1895, extensive renovations were undertaken by architects influenced by the Viennese Seccession. In 1905, Ivan Hribar (1851–1941), the mayor of Ljubljana and a chief figure in the development of the Slovene national identity, successfully lobbied to buy the castle from the state with the intention of reclaiming it as a cultural asset for the nation. Slovenia was emerging culturally and politically from within the Austro- Hungarian Empire and Ljubljana, together with the castle site, was a key element in the embodiment of the nascent national identity. However, due to the pressing need to re-house the city’s residents following the earthquake, the castle site became essentially a slum neighbourhood which would later act as a fort and barracks, and would later be converted into a prison. Despite the occupation of the city during the Second World War, the architect Boris Kolbe (1905–1981) was able to begin renovation of parts of the castle in the 1940s but, at the end of the conflict, the castle was used as emergency housing and it wasn’t until 1962 that the castle ceased to be what was effectively a small residential quarter, and its residents were relocated to the city below. In spite of these utilitarian roles the castle remained important to the image and life of the city; it had been part of the city’s coat of arms for centuries, often featured in illustrations and vedute of the city, and acted as part of the picturesque background for several of the city’s urban settings, as it did in Jože Plečnic’s (1872–1957) remodelled Congress Square. Plečnic had long tried to integrate the castle with his plans for the city; he was himself the author of several proposals for the hilltop
site and had set the castle as a topic for his students.1 Plečnic’s proposal for the Slovene Parliament Competition, held in 1947, was to place the new chamber atop Castle Hill, envisioning the complex as a ‘Slovenian Acropolis’. His proposal involved the wholesale demolition of the castle and its replacement with a towering octagonal parliament building connected to the city below via a monumental flight of stairs. The structure would have been the crowning element in the series of urban axes he had designed, and partly realised, for the capital. However, when a second round of the competition was held it prescribed a different location for the parliament building and Plečnic’s grand, provocative vision for Castle Hill was passed over. However, he did complete a series of landscape interventions on Castle Hill, where a reconfiguration of the ruined fortifications at Šance, which began in the 1930s, created a scenic route connecting the castle, the city and walking trails that led out of the city. The work demonstrates a great economy of means; Plečnic used stone blocks, simple iron railings and even concrete sewer pipes to create a new recreational landscape that is spare and monumental. Unfortunately, the approach to the castle via Plečnic’s interventions is currently undermined by the presence of vehicle traffic and a small carpark next to the castle. As a semi-autonomous state within Tito’s Republic of Yugoslavia, the Socialist Republic of Slovenia was affected by the brief thaw in the political situation, characterised by the Prague Spring of 1968. Funds became available for large scale municipal projects and proposals were sought for the renovation of Ljubljana Castle, via a design competition. A self-confessed ‘modernist straggler’2, the architect Edo Ravnikar was 26 at the time of the competition. His father, Edward Ravnikar (1907–1993), was a key figure in Slovenian architecture, an architect whosework in shaping modern Ljubljana places him alongside the figures of Plečnic (with whom he studied) and Max Fabiani (18651962). Edo Ravnikar remembers that it was “a forward-looking period of political optimism which to the professional class felt as if a liberation was finally on its way. In mid-August, I remember it was the 21st because that was a week before the submission date, the radio announced that the Warsaw Pact [military forces] crossed the border . . . Reformist leaders were arrested, released, chastised and gradually deposed. My mind turns to that day whenever I remember this competition.” 33
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Despite the reversal of the short-lived thaw, the competition proceeded and Edo Ravnikar prepared and submitted what was to be the winning entry. Ravnikar completed the proposal himself but was joined soon after by architects Majda Kregar and Miha Kerin who, as the architectural bureau Ambient, were to lead the project over the following decades. Crucially, the competition process included the legally binding clause that the winners must execute the works. Given the relative inexperience of Ravnikar and the team, and the scope of the project which emerged, this clause provoked considerable controversy and, predictably, proved to be an absolutely critical tool in the team’s ability to pursue their professional duties. The head of competition jury was Francé Stele (1886–1972), a leading art historian of the postwar era in Slovenia, and a renowned critic whose interdisciplinary approach and influence went far beyond his academic role. A key aspect of the competition entry, and one Ravnikar says may have swayed Stele, was the submission’s emphasis on a completely frank assessment of the historical fabric. He says: “Our openly declared aim (upon insistence that great historical value was not the case) was to squeeze out every last bit of genuine merit, no matter how humble, an emphasis on the genuine, based on informed appreciation, as opposed to gushing about imaginary qualities of ramshackle remnants of never quite state-of-the-art, even at its best. Many of our provincial castles had better craftsmanship. I was naive enough, in my prime, to put that . . . into the technical document to the competition entry. But I also suggested how this handicap might be compensated.” Ravnikar’s answer to the ‘heritage deficit’ was grounded in his commitment to supporting the public and cultural programme sought
Above: C.F. Schinkel, 1803 Opposite:Cross section Lapidarium ABCM
by the competition brief. His strategic approach acknowledged two essential ‘sub- systems’ that would exist alongside the new public programme, namely the protected and restored historical fabric on the one hand, and the supporting technical infrastructure on the other. Despite the fact that, as the project began, it wasn’t known exactly what that cultural programme would entail, it seemed obvious to Ravnikar and the team that no serious ambition for the civic role of the castle would be possible without the effective emancipation of these two elements and that, therefore, the transformation of the complex would be wholesale. Furthermore, it was proposed to strictly separate the two ‘sub systems’; no utilities, plant, technical corridors or facilities would be placed within the restored castle wings and instead they would be placed within excavated, ‘sterile’ terrain below the castle courtyard. The team undertook to use every part of the revitalised castle for a publicly accessible programme, and reject any programme which entailed the closure of segments of the castle to the public. “Representatives of the professional public tirelessly attacked us,” remembers Majda Kregar3, “as if we were being too disruptive, claiming that it would be enough to simply patch up the castle a bit, make a restaurant and a small museum and [put] cobblestones in the courtyard . . . We were so convinced of the righteousness of our goal that we made a great effort of convincing each new mayor to ensure an understanding of our vision and the need to keep moving ahead with the set strategy. Thus, there were a number of interruptions, hearings and even lawsuits during this process. We got through them all, believing that we would be successful in the end.” The municipal administration changed every four years, explains Edo Ravnikar: “At their inauguration, each new set was instructed from above to get rid of us and our project. Efforts to comply consumed the first two years with activities aimed at our deposition. When it
dawned on them that this may not be as easy as the usual executions of party directives, and that they may go down as the one administration that left no imprint on the castle, they toed the line.” Ravnikar adds that, although the initial remedial works were naturally driven by necessity, the stripping back and the structural consolidation of the castle was all that they were practically able to proceed with, such was the resistance they encountered and the controversy that attended their work. These difficulties contributed to the frustrating stop-start rhythm to the programme and its funding, stretching the project’s timeline over the decades. Once the survey work and coordination of the remedial works was underway, the team were able to extend their strategic thinking beyond the scope of the initial competition and begin to grapple with the castle complex as a whole. Kregar remembers that: “We took joy and interest in analysing the building structure stone by stone, and in discovering the period of origin or rather the time in which individual architectural elements were created. By precisely probing the building structure we could create a plan showing the phases of growth of the castle. We then set priorities for the restoration”. For Ravnikar and the team, and their allies in the municipal and heritage authorities, this approach required the removal of extraneous elements which mostly originated during the castle’s period as a prison, and which obscured the deeper history of the complex. It also implied the preservation of those key layouts which indicated the primary patterns of historical inhabitation and use, such as the role of the enclosing defensive walls and the interventions that were made in the Baroque period. The improvisational nature of the remedial works led to some of the most compelling outcomes of the castle’s transformation. Ravnikar says that, “under the pretence that certain interventions were urgent and the easiest to sell in that way
was structural consolidation, which served our purpose of stripping the fabric to its sound core and down to the rock bottom . . . we [then] turned auxiliary construction . . . into architectural features.” An innovative technique was developed to secure the castle walls; new sub-foundations were created by drilling from the parapets down through the walls to the bedrock below and filling the newly created shafts with concrete. These voids were also utilised for concealing rainwater downpipes, lightning conductors and other services, preserving the brute appearance of the defensive walls. There was a need to secure some sections of the castle, which required excavations below the existing ground levels, partly through the removal of accumulated infill and partly through new excavations which revealed original foundations sitting on the bedrock of the castle hill. “This unearthing process enabled archaeologists to reach strata they could never access otherwise, and enabled them to form the collections now on display.” says Ravnikar. The newly created interstitial spaces form a covered route connected with the restored buildings and courtyard above. The work of supporting the upper levels and shoring up the excavations was accomplished using weathered steel profiles, as both permanent shuttering, subfoundation supports and threshold and connection details—a new architectural language inserted below the gothic and baroque orders above. Geological, archaeological and industrial in character, this part of the castle is presented as a Lapidarium, with archaeological fragments framed within the newly created, semi-external, almost labyrinthine public spaces. The Lapidarium is the arrival point for journeys made via the funicular railway designed by Ambient, and completed in 2006. It’s a supremely functional design, also executed in weathered steel, which provides level access and a dizzyingly swift ascent. The ride is a ‘jumpcut’ experience; rising from the city streets, momentarily glimpsing 35
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the forests and mountains encircling the city, and then arriving in the half-light of the foundations of the castle. To arrive this way is to enter like an archaeologist or medieval sapper, picking your way amongst the roots of the fortress as you make your way up to the courtyard, gain a profound sense of the castle complex as a whole. The work proceeded by incrementally establishing the two ‘sub systems’; the restored historical fabric and the inserted services facilities. The historical restoration focused on two key phases: “The first—defensive—phase . . . was presented as a whole, with all the walls renovated and supplemented only with those architectural elements for which we could find traces or residues. The second Baroque phase was similarly restored. All the later utilitarian additions from the period when the castle housed barracks and apartments were removed. Thus, the castle was made ready—cleared—to be a container wholly intended for public programming.” Static elements, including museum and gallery spaces for permanent and interactive exhibits, the gift shop and administrative accommodation, and the restored Baroque chapel and other spaces are supplemented by a series of flexible spaces that allows them to host a wide range of activities, from conferences and private hires through to large scale events such as visits by heads-of-state, music festivals, and national celebrations. The Palatine and Estate Halls, for which Ambient received the Plečnic Medal, are typical of these multiuse spaces, with lighting and scenery rigs that are reconfigurable and retractable. 36
Within the castle as a whole the sophistication of the detailing and choice of materials acts to reinforce the overall strategy; the visual suppression of technical services contributes enormously to the character of the spaces; and the programmatic flexibility has also been achieved without compromise. Given the layered quality of such a historical renovation this architectural sleight-of-hand is admirable. New elements, such as handrails, new doors and stairways are largely carried out in metal with stainless steel wire and weathered steel sheet, which sits well alongside the restored historical fabric; they blend in at the scale of the room, but are distinct at closer quarters. The exterior walls of the castle saw the refurbishment and reintroduction of many of the original vaulted openings. The development of precise mathematical modelling techniques to survey the surviving vaults, and the use of travertine, enabled the construction of new vaults without the use of mortar. The newly restored rooms and halls are largely formed by, or abut, the enclosing defensive walls; and the walkway around the ramparts has been comprehensively re-established and is now, in one form or another, visible and accessible from all of these spaces. Another unifying element was formed by the reinstatement of steeper pitches for the roofline of the castle; they now more closely resemble the earlier Gothic profile and this has removed the rather compressed, if not ‘sat-upon’ appearance of the castle following its conversion to a prison. The new roof tiles are cut-and-folded weathered steel, and this allows the complex geometry of the roof lines to be covered in a uniform manner, in spite of the phased restoration. The design
team developed a suite of three tile types in two widths, which could be used in all circumstances. Lightweight and requiring virtually no maintenance, these tiles also allowed the creation of new attic spaces within the roofs. The newly created roofscape, like the circular defensive wall-walk, helps to visually and experientially consolidate the restored castle.
for the creation of another multipurpose exhibition hall. Furthermore, the vehicle traffic which disrupts the tree-lined avenue leading up to the castle from Šance will be re-routed, and the pedestrian route re-established, strengthening the connection with Jože Plečnic’s landscaping and further embedding the castle in the life and image of the city.
A pair of wedding chapels is housed in one structure facing the courtyard. The use of contemporary materials and techniques here, including illuminated laser-cut wall panels and integrated LED lighting, make these rooms feel almost ethereal in comparison to the main body of the castle. In fact, the current appearance of these halls dates from 2014 when Ambient refurbished their own interventions, which dated back to the 1980s. Ambient’s approach was to take a critical attitude towards their own earlier work, while continuing to operate as custodians of the castle’s historical fabric. Ambient have now been involved in the refurbishment of Ljubljana Castle for over fifty years and the work they are due to complete in the next two years will see the revitalisation of the final sections of the castle. Happily, the current city administration has proved to be supportive and the project has suffered no significant delays in the last decade. This latest bout of activity will see the re-instatement of the original entrance to the castle. True to the spirit of original competition strategy, the existing sloping floor, made of historical construction infill and which takes you from the gate up to the level of the courtyard, will be replaced with a re-configurable ramp to allow
I am indebted to the hospitality and help of Martin Ravnikar and his parents Edo Ravnikar and Majda Kregar without whom this essay would not have been possible.
Above: Chapel roof plan and section
Galusek L. & Rydiger M. (2006) Jože Plečnic: Architect and Visionary, Krakow, International Cultural Centre
Edo Ravinkar is quoted in this article from email correspondence with the author, January 2019
Majda Kregar is quoted in this article from email correspondence with the author, January 2019
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Opposite: Axonometric drawing Lapidarium KLMT This page: Plans of the various levels
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The Garden Museum an idea about landscape Alun Jones
“It is possible and useful to trace the internal histories of landscape painting, landscape writing, landscape gardening and landscape architecture, but in any final analysis we must relate these histories to the common history of a land and its society.” Raymond Williams, The Country and the City, 1973
The Garden Museum, in Lambeth, London, was founded in the early 1980s, when the church within which it housed, was saved from demolition by an enthusiastic devotee of the Tradescant family, who are buried in a beautifully carved tomb in the churchyard. John Tradescant and his son, also John, were 17th century plant collectors, and gardeners to Charles I, who travelled the world collecting new species to amuse their royal patron. Aside from plants, the Tradescants gathered a cabinet of curiosities from their travels, which they displayed at their home in Lambeth and made available to the public for a small entry fee. The cabinet, called The Ark, is considered by some to be the first public museum in Britain. On the death of John the younger, the cabinet became the property of their neighbour, Elias Ashmole, who freighted it to Oxford where it became the basis of his eponymous museum. The importance of the Tradescants in seventeenth century culture is manifest in their tomb which has, in bas-relief on its flanks, scenes from their travels and depicts wild animals, fictional beasts, ancient sites and architectural ruins as a metaphor for the frailty and decay of the human body. The tomb is an important piece of 17th century art and is cited as the first depiction of ruins in English art. Pepys described it in his diary, and its presence in the landscape of the churchyard is the reason why the Garden Museum is here. There has been a church on this site since the 10th century, predating Lambeth Palace with which the church shares a party wall. The current building comprises a 14th century tower and an 1856 rebuilding of the body of the church in the Gothick style. Having been a place of worship for over a thousand years the whole site is of significant archaeological interest and contains over 36,000 burials.Being an ancient parish church, the human remains are extremely significant as they represent a cross section of Society— and not just the well-fed monks normally found in monastic burial sites in the city. The church was founded on a sandy mound on the otherwise muddy and marshy banks of the Thames. In Tradescant’s time it was here that the horse ferry made its way across the wide, slow waters, and surrounding it was a predominantly pastoral setting of market gardens and agricultural cultivation, shown in Hollar’s The Prospect of Westminster from 1647, presumed by scholars to have been drawn from the tower of the church. The church occupies a threshold condition between the nature of the river, and the artifice of the market garden, a place between country and city.
Today, the church building finds itself framed by a shock of vegetation, which punctuates the dense urbanity of Lambeth. The churchyard is bounded by nine magnificent plane trees that stand like sentinels around the perimeter, and largely determine the landscape character of the site, while the churchyard ledger stones establish a particular grain to the ground beneath one’s feet. The Garden Museum started life as an institution that concerned itself primarily with the history of gardens. However, in 2008 Christopher Woodward was appointed director, and set about examining the modus operandi of the museum. In essence, his conclusion was that if you are interested in art you go to galleries to look at art; if you are an interested in architecture you go and look at buildings; and if you are a gardener, why would you go to a museum in the centre of London to understand gardens? His response to this question was to hold a design competition to make a temporary exhibition gallery where he could curate a programme of changing exhibitions, which would look at a wide range of garden related themes that would focus on design. By making the museum a centre for activities, rather than things, he could constantly renew the relevance of the institution and engage the museum in a broader conversation about the environment. More importantly, he could make it a living museum that would operate in the single tradition of culture that Raymond Williams describes. In parallel with the temporary exhibitions there would be a programme of lectures and events that would explore all aspects of design that overlap with gardens, thereby adding sets to the Venn diagram and expanding the audience. The idea of shifting the centre of gravity away from the world of things to a world of discourse and ideas was the aspect of the project that most excited us, and provided the basis of our design. Our competition entry proposed a two-storey building that would sit at the west end of the nave, made with cross-laminated timber, that would contain the temporary gallery at ground floor level and enable the permanent collection to be housed above it. The position of our building would open up the nave as a place for events, and the form of the building would create a back-drop to this activity. We are interested in ideas of character in architecture, and what this means in terms of tectonics and construction. The pivotal idea for the new galleries was a series of buildings surrounding a market square in a town. If the nave was to be used as a place for public discourse we needed to make the civic nature of this manifest by allowing the space to have a generosity and urban character. 45
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The timber structure weaves around the columns of the aisles and responds to the idiosyncrasies and geometry of the church building, setting up a deeply layered spatial experience that is made apparent by moving around the building. The success of the first phase, manifest in the increase in visitors, events and activities, precipitated a second and much larger design competition, with Lottery funding. This competition sought to address the practical issues of achieving more gallery space, an archive, larger education rooms, a café and proper back-of-house facilities; but it also needed to address the significant issue of the museum being hidden inside a church: the public needed to be more obviously aware of it. Our design has three components: the new galleries and archive are housed inside the church as a completion of the idea of the nave being a city of small buildings that accentuate the public nature of the activities that take place there; the back-of-house uses are hidden in a slot of land between the north wall of the church and the garden wall of Lambeth Palace; and the new education facilities and café are in the churchyard to the east of the church. This new garden building allows the museum to gain a public face and a presence in the city; but as it sits across the churchyard, a clear strategy concerning how architecture relates to landscape was required. Making a building that would cover one of the few green spaces in this part of Lambeth, and to do so in the name of the Garden Museum, was a problematic starting point. Allied to this were the constraints that arose from the listed building and its setting, which included the three individually listed tombs, the listed garden walls, the nine plane trees, the 36,000 bodies 1m below ground, a protected view of Lambeth Palace, and a set of geographic parameters established by the heritage stakeholders. We began by investigating the typology of the cloister garden, both for its literal appropriateness and regarding the capacity of a cloister to mediate a number of disparate activities at its edge. A hortus conclusus would place a garden at the heart of the Garden Museum, and provide an organising structure through which the potential conflict between architecture and landscape could be played out, to the benefit of both. The placement of the cloister garden on the site and the disposition of the buildings around it promotes the Tradescant tomb to the forefront of the project, and by controlling the degree of transparency of the enclosing buildings, a play of spatial depth and layering is achieved that accentuates the character of both landscape and architecture. Three bronze-clad pavilions around its perimeter organize the cloister. The two on the south, street side of the garden, house the small education room and café. They bookend the protected view of Lambeth Palace and create a window to the city through which also frames the Tradescant tomb. The third pavilion is placed along the length of the north side of the garden; it sits against the raw brick garden wall of Lambeth Palace, and houses the large education room. Between these pavilions, the cloister is glazed or left open to provide a café, an orangery for education events, and a potting shed. Where the new building touches the existing historic fabric of the church or the garden, natural light is admitted through the roof; these pools of light 46
orchestrate movement around the building and make visible the key moments of old and new, nature and artifice. The form of the pavilions is designed to frame particular views—both from inside the building, looking out, and also as you move around the exterior of the building and into the garden. The pavilions are extruded upwards to create large roof lights that provide time-specific pools of light within the interior, but also emphasise the composition of the public face of the building. The scale-like appearance of the bronze tiles refers to the multi-coloured, plate-like bark of the plane trees, which frame the views of the building. The shape and pattern of the tiles also encourages different degrees of patination to occur across the façade. The tiles nearest the street (and traffic pollution) are changing most rapidly, whilst those under the open cloister at the back of the site remain comparatively untarnished, which accentuates sense of spatial depth of the cloister garden. The planting to the cloister is by Dan Pearson, and has a layering of scale and chromatic intensity that compliments the structure of the architecture. The plants Dan has chosen reflect the ideas of the Tradescants: they are unusual varieties of familiar species and demand a closer look. The relationship between the fecundity of the planting and artifice of the building frames both the bustle of the city beyond and the tranquillity of the natural setting within. The architectural ambition for the new building was to make a range of rooms with distinct characters that are united by the common theme of the landscape. All of the rooms around the cloister open into the garden and have a distinct relationship to nature, of which they are a part, but also to the city, of which they are also a part. There is a deliberate obfuscation as to where inside and outside meet, what is enclosed and what not. The treatment of the ground is a crucial part of the idea of establishing nature as the generative idea for the building. The new ground is made of polished concrete, with the existing ledger stones set into the concrete, flush with the surface, and in their original locations. These ledgers drift across the floor at a slight angle to the geometry of the church and new building, and are allowed to drift from inside to out, room to room, and cross geographical boundaries into the garden. Treating the ledgers as a found condition of the ground ensures that the building sits delicately on the earth and brings the presence of nature in the city to the fore. Written in 1973 and arguably questioning the objectification of nature that modernism had precipitated, Raymond Williams’ The Country and the City is a review of how literature has depicted the relationship between country and city since the 16th century. He points out that the notional loss of countryside to the corruption of the city is a literary phenomenon that has been with us for the past four hundred years, and is not a modern or industrial revolution concept. He also argues that a cultural distinction between country and city is a false, and that both exist as parts of the same cultural tradition. By placing an idea about landscape both literally and metaphorically at the heart of the design, the Garden Museum seeks to articulate the fusion of country and the city, and show how understanding architecture as a condition of nature can make for better city.
THE GARDEN MUSEUM
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THE GARDEN MUSEUM
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THE GARDEN MUSEUM
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THE GARDEN MUSEUM
THE GARDEN MUSEUM
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An Unweeded Garden Tom McCarthy 58
In a famous essay published almost exactly a hundred years ago, the French poet Paul Valéry invokes a figure who for him embodies the spirit of Europe in the aftermath of World War One: Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Or, to be precise, the Hamlet of Act Five, Scene One, who mopes about a graveyard, contemplating skulls. For Valéry, Denmark’s ghost-plagued Elsinore now ‘stretches from Basel to Cologne, the sands of Nieuwpoort to the marshes of the Somme’, with the dispossessed intellectual prince reduced to sifting through the craniums—of Leonardo, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Marx and so on— from which the visions, now defunct, that birthed modern Europe were first hatched; picking them up and tossing them aside again, like empty sea-shells. If the analogy could suggest itself in 1919, to the pessimist it might seem all the more appropriate today, as great European Project that rose from the ruins of the Second World War, alongside its foundational ideals of openness, social democracy and international fraternity, itself starts to shudder (some would say crumble) under the dual blows of nationalist intolerance from within and targeted bombardment from without (Valéry’s Hamlet’s reflection that his old friend Rosenkrantz is now employed in ‘doing some murky work under a Russian pseudonym’ seems uncannily prescient). Certainly, in the immediate wake of 2016’s Brexit vote, acquaintance after acquaintance of mine turned instinctively in conversation to the same image as Valéry, picturing one of the catastrophe’s main architects, the ever-ambitious British prince-in-waiting Boris Johnson, gazing over the kingdom he seemed finally on the verge of inheriting, only to discover that he’d turned it into a graveyard of all hope and ambition in arriving at this moment. Johnson, like his leering co- conspirator Nigel Farage, first rose to prominence in the British public consciousness not by dint of any political achievements but rather by cultivating a joker-like persona, appearing on popular comedy television programmes and allowing the press to show him getting into a series of amusing scrapes and capers-about- town. What Valéry, for all his brilliance, forgets is that the one skull that Hamlet actually picks up is not that of a philosopher, or artist, or inventor, but rather that of Yorick, the court jester. If Johnson was playing Hamlet, then—as befits his Trump-like narcissism—the death’s head he was contemplating was his own. The figure of the clown, or ‘fool’, is an important one in Shakespeare. King Lear’s fool accompanies him everywhere; there’s Feste in Twelfth Night; Touchstone in As You Like It; Trinculo in The Tempest; and several more. The office carries with a dual function: that of (on the one hand) idiot, and (on the other) trickster (both these roles are embedded in the English word fool, which can serve as a noun—a fool, a stupid person—or verb—to fool or outwit someone). The gravedigger, living fool who unearths dead-fool Yorick’s skull for Hamlet, is simultaneously utterly uneducated and possessed of a verbal dexterity so sharp that Hamlet is ‘undone’ by it; he thus acts as a kind of double not only to Yorick, but also to Hamlet himself, who is beset by folly and constantly utters lines that are at once nonsensical and piercing in their elliptical incisiveness. One serial victim of Hamlet’s verbal sparring is the hapless minister Polonius, himself repeatedly denounced by Hamlet as a ‘fool’, and
traditionally understood by readers as a doddering dimwit (which is how he’s also played in theatrical productions of the work). But both Hamlet and Shakespeare’s interpreters are guilty of harbouring a too partial understanding of the fool-figure, of seeing no more than the stupid side. They do so to their own detriment, and even peril. I see Polonius as a crucial—and, in the strict contemporary sense of the term, intelligent—figure in the drama; and unpacking the role he plays might help us understand not only Hamlet but perhaps also our current political quandary a little better. Firstly, let’s cast aside any illusions that Shakespeare’s play conducts a historical or anthropological examination of some distant land called ‘Denmark’. As the German critic (and Nazi jurist) Carl Schmitt points out, Elizabethan audiences would instantly have seen in the captive-prince-with-murdered-father-and-complicit-mother plot a cryptic replay of a very British situation, with Hamlet himself serving as a coded version of James I, whose father had been killed in mysterious circumstances to which James’s mother Mary had quite possibly been party. England looms large on the play’s map: it is to England that the prince is sent for execution (‘Do it, England!’ Claudius urges maliciously); and England that is (half-)jokingly credited as the font and centre of all global folly—as the gravedigger quips, if Hamlet doesn’t recover from his madness in England it won’t matter, since ‘there the men are as mad as he.’ Reading the text now, the parallels seem no less striking. This most political of plays portrays a situation in which a previously rich and powerful country is reduced, as a result of a coup triggered by internal struggles among its own political class, to bargaining with its neighbours for the very trading and border privileges that it has just thrown away. The coup’s beneficiary, the usurping murderer Claudius, is at pains to paint his power-snatch as a legitimate and democratic occurrence, praising his court audience for ‘Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone/ with this affair along,’ much as Brexit’s orchestrators legitimise their sovereignty-grab by framing it as ‘the will of the people’. Claudius murdered Old Hamlet by pouring poison through his ear, and the symbolism of such an act is time and again stressed: what goes into the ear is words, and false, devious words (the fraudulent account of Old Hamlet’s death that’s propagated on Claudius’s behalf, or, we might add, the Brexit-advocates’ outright lies about immigration and the costs of EU membership) are toxic to the body politic: ‘so the whole ear of Denmark is by a forged process,’ notes Old Hamlet’s ghost, ‘rankly abus’d’. Ophelia claims ‘there’s tricks i’th’ world’; Hamlet tells Rosenkrantz at one point that ‘your news is not true.’ Misinformation, rumours and slanders billow and swirl about the public sphere, poisoning all reasoning and discourse; ‘dangerous conjectures’ form the very currency and content of all news. Of all the drama’s characters, it is Polonius who best understands this state of affairs; and Polonius, the utterly amoral being who has no problems dispensing moral platitudes when these suit his purposes, who best instrumentalises the condition, puts it to his— and the regime’s—use. Act Two sees him instructing a spy to gather information on his son Laertes by spreading ‘forgeries’ and ‘bait[s] of falsehood’ among the community of Laertes’s fellow students in 59
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Paris and then tracking the spread of these libels, seeing which of them gain purchase. It also sees him scanning private correspondence between his daughter and Hamlet, and observing the real-time interactions between them from a surveillance-nook, secreted behind a curtain, into which he also invites Claudius. In modern parlance, he’s the play’s Chief of Intelligence, propagating lies and sifting all communication: a kind of cross between Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica. There may be stupidity in his make-up; but this goes hand-in-hand with an understanding of the value of stupidity. Not for nothing are the millions of British voters in whom ‘patriotism’ could be triggered from troll factories in Russia now colloquially known as ‘Putin’s useful idiots’. Hamlet and Polonius may be enemies—indeed, the former will eventually slay the latter through a second curtain behind which the minister has hidden—but there’s one area in which their interests and sensibilities come into strange alignment: theatre. When a troupe of actors comes to Elsinore, Polonius and Hamlet chat lightheartedly about the elder’s days as a student thespian (he played Caesar); as they watch the troupe perform, they bond over their shared appreciation of the phrase ‘mobled queen’. Hamlet latches onto the actors immediately, seeing in them an opportunity to re-enact (just like Shakespeare’s play itself does) the father’s covered-up murder: by having them perform a regicide-play in front of the whole court, Hamlet confronts the political order with its own Unspoken, with explosive consequences. In doing so, he stakes a central claim for politically-engaged avant-garde art right down to our present era: to speak truth to power (the same license, interestingly, that’s granted to Lear’s fool). But Polonius, I’d suggest, senses the value in the players too, for quite different reasons. For him, the political order is already
theatre: an immersive spectacle in which fictions and plots reign, and ‘reality’ is a product of stage-management. If, as commentators Peter Pomerantsev and Adam Curtis have both recently suggested, the Kremlin puppeteer Vladislav Surkov, former theatre director—and Hamlet fan—who since 1999 has stage-managed much of Russian public life, even going so far as to create and fund opposing pressure groups who cancel one another out while spreading the appearance of democracy, embodies the global political logic of our era, then for his archetype and template we need look no further than Shakespeare’s puppet-master, Claudius’s right-hand man and Hamlet’s most sinister trickster-fool Polonius. Hamlet may cast around for metaphors for Elsinore’s environment, hitting on ‘prison’ and ‘unweeded garden’; but Shakespeare knows that it’s a theatre, and keeps letting his readers in on this. The play begins on a ‘platform’ (the castle’s rampart) and ends on a ‘stage’ (its scaffold)—the second of which, as Jaques proclaims in As You Like It, is Shakespeare’s preferred metaphor for the world tout court. In our world, as in Hamlet’s, we would do well to ask who’s lurking behind the stage’s decor, hidden by the curtain. At the same time, we should realise that this tendency can itself lead to the folly of paranoid, over-simplistic conspiracy theories. Perhaps no single puppeteer administers our era’s poison. In Shakespeare’s text, even Polonius fails to triumph. Hamlet’s end is pretty random, subject to a chain of chance events (ships crossing paths at sea, swords accidentally switching hands) beyond any manipulator’s control. Can what Ophelia calls ‘tricks’ take on a life of their own, independent of their authors? Where then does political agency lie? This play might not provide the answers, but it asks—stages—these questions. It should be noted, though, that it does not end happily for anyone.
Plan of Parliament
by Lynch Architects
“At the heart of this scene, a physically crumbling parliament building, half propped up by scaffolding. Unfolding inside on Tuesday night, a parliamentary procedural of quite staggering plotholes and continuity errors. Welcome to the Blunderdome.” – Marina Hyde, The Guardian 15th January 2019
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A P L A N F O R A N E N G L I S H PA R L I A M E N T
1. Cut out London
2. Rotate 20° from centre of London
3. Widen Thames
4. 1200mm ripples
“The conventions and culture of parliament have deepened the nightmare. The British way of doing politics is founded in the idea that power is a binary contest between two big and tribal parties. It is expressed in the very architecture of the chamber of the House of Commons that sits the two sides confronting each other two swords’ length apart.” – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer 13th January 2019
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A P L A N F O R A N E N G L I S H PA R L I A M E N T
“Down the corridor, as the Lords voted and debated, MPs in the Commons had had to abandon their afternoon sitting a couple of hours earlier as water poured into part of the chamber, the result of blocked gutters in a building in desparate need of renovation. The symbolism was lost on no one.” – Toby Helm, The Guardian 7th April 2019
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“...I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.” – Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2, William Shakespeare
A P L A N F O R A N E N G L I S H PA R L I A M E N T
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A P L A N F O R A N E N G L I S H PA R L I A M E N T
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Porthgain David Evans
It is undoubtedly because it lies in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park that the experience of encountering Porthgain is so arresting and powerful. Porthgain is set in, and exploits, a natural harbour, and as you turn in from the coastal path its man-made mass hits you head-on. It is instantly obvious that this was once a site of great industrial endeavour; vertiginous walls of brick speak of heavy labour and, though now slowly decaying, are probably still the tallest structures in the whole county; their scale is, at times, quite overwhelming, taking on the adjacent cliff faces, and dominating them. Now so quiet, Porthgain would once have been deafeningly noisy—the air filled with the sound of explosions which released the dolerite stone from the cliffs; crushers breaking it down to graded sizes; steam engines powering it on, with waterwheels to help cleave the slate, and then for railways, men and horses to move it all from quarry to hoppers and to the quay to be shipped. Constructed in the mid-19th century, the bricks walls formed a series of fourteen huge hoppers built directly into the cliff edges, each housing crushed dolerite road-stone into graded sizes, ready to be shipped away by either steam or sailing ships. A tunnel was cut through at harbour level, straight into the mine, allowing for direct connectivity. At its peak, 40,000 tonnes of stone were transported annually from Porthgain. Prior to that, somewhere in the region of 50,000 bricks a week were made here. Ultimately, Porthgain’s works were doomed to fail. Though many companies tried over the years to make a success of it, there were repeated bankruptcies—the final time being in 1931. And now Porthgain stands, silent and memorial, in the continuum of the world’s relics and grand ruins; and they seem, in my mind, to recall the pylons of Edfu in Egypt, or some of the crumbling temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. There are only a few boats and fishermen to be seen now at Porthgain, figures that emphasise the looming and abandoned physique of the historic buildings. Plans were made to convert these structures into holiday homes; fortunately, in my opinion, they were abandoned. Perhaps there is enough life here already; the fishing harbour, a row of workers housing, a restaurant and a pub where English is spoken in the summer, but where talk reverts to Welsh during the winter. The huge structures sit still and bear it all. Time has taken the industrial, added some decay, and morphed the tableau into something whose character seems either Picturesque or, perhaps more appropriately, Sublime.
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Poems Emily Hasler
T H E S TAT E M E N T
D U LW I C H P I C T U R E G A L L E R Y
Willis Towers Watson Building, Ipswich i.m. Zaha Hadid
He let the dead in and they sit slipped like a nose between the glasses’ bridge. Art and then a crypt. See this. See this.
ST UNY CHURCH AND THE LELANT H E R I TAG E C E N T R E F R O M T H E A I R
This—utterance… Amid cramped vernacular, barely articulated and lowly-risen, the lack of spontaneity, the lack of planning… It is—outstanding… It stands out. Press this cool glass on your sore eyes. It’s both vase and water. Also it is pancake and pan, sustaining through Februaries… I must—say something… Buildings force us into this, being such strident structures. We make our buildings and then our buildings make our sentences… I stand witness to—its vision… The green heart, the black core. Just offices. A swimming pool in the basement. It doesn’t work, of course…
It fit. Coolly lying they don’t fidget but sit sweatless like our fing -ers gripped. Design not effort. And all this lit through glass through bits that let must let the world in.
The church is sadly diminished for we were never meant to see it from above where none of the ramparts amount to anything where the roof is unembellished the windows dark seal-eyes and the graves as small and even as only a god could love.
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Issue three of the JoCA brings together a series of essays and visual essays that consider the theme of Ruin, or more precisely, the role of...
Published on May 4, 2020
Issue three of the JoCA brings together a series of essays and visual essays that consider the theme of Ruin, or more precisely, the role of...